Late Night Snacks: Indiana mounting a late charge towards the bubble?

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GAME OF THE DAY: Clemson 77, Maryland 73 (2OT)

With both teams looking to keep alive incredibly slim hopes of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, the Terrapins and Tigers needed ten extra minutes to determine a winner. Clemson would pull out the win in the end, with a Demarcus Harrison three with 1:08 remaining in the second OT giving them the lead for good. K.J. McDaniels finished the game with 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead the way for Clemson, while Seth Allen paced Maryland with 20 points.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) Indiana 72, No. 22 Ohio State 64

Could Indiana, a team that really didn’t accomplish a great deal during non-conference play, be mounting a late rally to join the bubble discussion? A question that seemed absurd just a week ago is now valid after the Hoosiers picked up wins over No. 20 Iowa and No. 22 Ohio State this week. Will Sheehey followed up his 30-point game against Iowa with 19 points and six rebounds on Sunday, and Yogi Ferrell scored 20 points to lead the way. Indiana’s chances of reaching the NCAA tournament remain slim but in the Big Ten they won’t lack for quality opportunities, whether it’s in their final two games of the regular season (vs. Nebraska, at No. 16 Michigan) or in the conference tournament.

2) No. 3 Arizona 79, Stanford 66

The Wildcats wrapped up the outright Pac-12 regular season title, and outside of a second-half stretch in which the Cardinal cut a 20-point Arizona lead down to 11 Sean Miller’s team played very well. Aaron Gordon tallied 19 points and 15 rebounds to lead five Wildcats in double figures. Arizona defended well, getting out in the open floor after forcing Stanford turnovers in the first half, and they once executed well offensively for the third consecutive game. Arizona certainly looks to be hitting its stride at the right time.

3) No. 20 Iowa 83, Purdue 76

The Hawkeyes went with more full-court pressure defensively and the move paid off, with Purdue committing 16 turnovers on the afternoon. Roy Devyn Marble led four players in double figures with 21 points and as a team Iowa racked up 17 assists with just five turnovers. Defending in the half court remains an issue for Iowa, with Purdue shooting nearly 60% from the field in the second half. With this being the case, not to mention Iowa’s depth, could we see more pressure looks from the Hawkeyes down the stretch?

STARRED

1) Bryant Mbamalu (Louisiana) 

Mbamalu scored 32 points (10-for-19 FG) and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 102-76 win over South Alabama.

2) Sean Armand (Iona) 

Armand racked up 21 points (7-for-12 FG), nine rebounds and nine assists in Iona’s 97-81 win over Rider.

3) Aaron Gordon (Arizona) 

19 points (8-for-13 FG), 15 rebounds and two assists in Arizona’s 79-66 win over Stanford.

STRUGGLED

1) Billy Baron and Zach Lewis (Canisius) 

The Golden Griffins’ starting backcourt shot a combined 4-for-20 from the field in Canisius’ 68-63 loss at Manhattan.

2) Jay Hook (Tulane) 

Shot 2-for-11 from the field, finishing the Green Wave’s 73-47 loss at FIU with five points and seven rebounds.

3) Aaron Craft (Ohio State) 

Shot 2-for-11, finishing Ohio State’s 72-64 loss at Indiana with seven points, six rebounds and four assists.

NOTABLES

  • No. 14 Wisconsin won its seventh consecutive game Sunday, beating Penn State 71-66 with Josh Gasser scoring 15 points and Ben Brust adding 14.
  • Darrun Hilliard scored a career-high 26 points to lead No. 8 Villanova to a 73-56 win over Marquette, the Wildcats’ 26th win of the season.
  • St. John’s avoided what would have been a bad loss, beating DePaul 72-64. D’Angelo Harrison led the way with 25 points and ten rebounds.
  • Maurice Creek scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead George Washington to a 66-58 win over George Mason.
  • Marist blew out Quinnipiac 103-72, and that result combined with Manhattan’s 68-63 win over Canisius makes Steve Masiello’s Jaspers the two-seed in next week’s MAAC tournament.
  • Vermont capped its regular season with a 92-82 overtime win at Binghamton, finishing 15-1 in America East play. If the Catamounts can win two games in Albany next week and reach the tournament final, they’ll be the hosts.
  • Three of the top four teams in Conference USA (Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss and Tulsa) all won on Sunday, meaning that there’s still a four-way tie for first (Middle Tennessee’s also 12-3) with one league game remaining.
  • Florida State kept alive its NCAA tournament hopes with an 81-71 win over Georgia Tech.
  • No. 25 New Mexico shot 57.7% from the field in the second half as they turned a 14-point first half deficit into a 72-58 win at Nevada.
  • After failing to score a single point in the first meeting between the two teams, Jordan Adams scored 24 points and grabbed five rebounds in UCLA’s 74-69 come-from-behind win over Oregon State.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

Gonzaga passes the title of best program without a Final Four to Xavier in win

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In 1999, Gonzaga was not yet “Gonzaga”.

A No. 10 seed in just their third NCAA tournament, the Zags won three games against high-major competition, coming within a possession of reaching the Final Four in a loss to No. 1 seed UConn.

UConn, at that point, was one of the best programs in the country under Jim Calhoun, but the knock on the Huskies at that point was that they couldn’t win the big one. They had been to three Elite 8s and three more Sweet 16s in the previous eight seasons, but it wasn’t until they knocked off that Gonzaga team that they finally were playing on college basketball’s biggest stage.

For 18 years, Gonzaga tried and failed to get to a Final Four, becoming one of the nation’s premier basketball programs without having the postseason success to legitimize themselves in the eyes of idiots around the country. That ended on Saturday night in San Jose, as No. 1 seed Gonzaga ended No. 11 Xavier’s thrilling run to the Elite 8 and passing on the torch that UConn passed to them.

Xavier can now claim the title of the best basketball program that has yet to make a Final Four, which is both a compliment and a curse.

The Musketeers have been to the NCAA tournament 25 times since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985. They’ve been to nine Sweet 16s and three Elite 8s. They had a winning record in NCAA tournament play until Saturday’s loss and now lay claim to the title of the team with the most NCAA tournament wins without an appearance in the Final Four.

Xavier is going to get there eventually. Chris Mack is one of the best coaches in the business. Hell, if Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner both return to school, it could very well be next season that they snap that streak. It’s coming at some point.

I don’t even think it’s an insult to say this about Xavier. I don’t think it’s a shot at the program or the coaches that have come through it. Getting to the Final Four is hard. Bill Self is a lead-pipe lock to be a Hall of Famer, and he’s been to just two Final Fours in his career. He’s 2-7 in the Elite 8, and if Derrick Rose could make his free throws, the discussion of just how good of a coach Self is if he can’t win a title would be raging with the Jayhawks flaming out of the tournament on Saturday night.

But as with Gonzaga and UConn before them, Xavier is going to have that monkey on their back every time they suit up in March.

VIDEO: Tyler Dorsey hits dagger after dagger in upset of Kansas

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Tyler Dorsey is building himself quite the reputation for being a big-shot maker.

He hit the game-winner that got Oregon to the Sweet 16. He hit two threes at the end of the first half to push Oregon’s lead to 11 points over Kansas. And he hit this three, the dagger through the heart of Kansas:

Dorsey finished with 27 points. He’s scored at least 20 points in every game since the NCAA tournament began.

No. 3 Oregon heading to first Final Four in 78 years

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Oregon, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, made what looked to be a smooth path to Phoenix into a bumpy road. But after 78 years, the Ducks are going back to the Final Four, defeating No. 1 Kansas, 74-60, in Elite Eight on Friday night in Kansas City.

Everything went right for the Ducks in the first half. Josh Jackson was called for two fouls in the less than three minutes. The Jayhawks were limited in transition. Tyler Dorsey’s two 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds gave them a double-digit lead at halftime. Oregon stretched it to as many as 18 in the second. Kansas couldn’t buy a basket from three (a far cry from the 3-point barrage it put on Purdue two nights earlier). When the Jayhawks drove to the basket, it was Jordan Bell (11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks) who either blocked or altered their shots.

However, the Ducks not only left the door open for the Jayhawks, they held it open. Kansas’ comeback attempt was a mix drink that was equal parts KU putting the clamps on defensively, Oregon playing a bit of hero ball, and the Ducks playing not to lose instead of to win. Up six with less than two minutes remaining, and Dorsey (27 points) buried a dagger 3-pointer that all but sealed the win — and a spot in next week’s Final Four — for the Ducks.

Oregon will play the winner of the South region, which will either be No. 1 North Carolina or No. 2 Kentucky on Saturday.

 

VIDEO: Jordan Bell’s spectacular chase-down block

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Oregon big man Jordan Bell has been the best player on the floor for the Ducks against Kansas, totally changing the way that Kansas wants to play with his defense.

As of the time of this posting, he had nine points, 11 boards, seven blocks and three assists, but his impact is not solely limited to the shots he swatted — every Kansas player that gets into the lane is very aware of the fact that Bell is lurking around the rim.

The thought of him changes shots.

The best block he’s had today came midway through the second half, when he snuffed out a dunk attempt from Landen Lucas with an impressive chase-down block:

No. 1 Gonzaga reaches first Final Four with win over No. 11 Xavier

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It took 18 long years, but after Gonzaga exploded onto the national scene with a Cinderella run that came one possession short of the Final Four in 1999, after the program followed up that run with back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16 as a double-digit seed, after 19 straight trips to the NCAA tournament marred by moments of unfathomable heartbreak, the nation’s preeminent mid-major success story is finally headed to the Final Four.

What will the ‘Gonzaga is overrated’ crowd say now?

Armed with a roster that included a pair of blue-chip guards in their back court, a trio of high-major transfers and a McDonald’s All-American and future first round pick coming off the bench, Mark Few knocked off No. 11 seed Xavier, 83-59, on Saturday night to win the West Region and punch his first ticket to the final weekend of the college basketball season. Nigel Williams-Goss led the way with 23 points, eight boards and four assists and Johnathan Williams III, who was named the region’s Most Outstanding Player, added 19 points and nine boards as Gonzaga buried 12 threes and jumped out to an early lead they would never relinquish in a game that never felt like it was in doubt.

And with that, the monkey on Mark Few’s back is now gone.

“It means everything that we could deliver for guys like this,” Mark Few said after the game. Few had been the winningest NCAA tournament coach without a Final Four on his résumé. “They believed in us when they came. This is what we wanted to do and set out to do, and these guys were unbelievable. I could not be happier for all these guys, all our former players and all of Zag Nation.”

Whether or not that monkey was deserved is a fair question to ask. Gonzaga has had an incredible amount of success in the NCAA tournament. They’ve won at least one game in 16 of the 19 NCAA tournaments, including this year, that they’ve been a part of, including five of the six years in which they were a double-digit seed. In 13 of the previous 18 NCAA tournaments they played in, they advanced as far or further than their seed suggested they should have. Only five times did they lose to a team that was seeded lower than them. They’ve won 17 WCC regular season titles and 15 WCC tournament titles during that span.

What they’ve done, the consistency of the success that they’ve had, is not something done easily.

And it’s not something that should be overlooked when you consider where this program was in the early 90s. When Few was hired as an assistant coach in 1990, Gonzaga was thought of as the worst job in the WCC. The program, located in Spokane, Washington, which isn’t exactly a hotbed for recruiting, had never been to an NCAA tournament. The school didn’t even have a weight room for the team.

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

“Players would sign out sweats and jerseys at the beginning of every school year and turn them back in nine months later,” wrote Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg earlier this week. “Sneakers were the only gear players received new, but obtaining a fresh pair typically required proving the old ones had a hole in the bottom.”

Within five years, Gonzaga was in the NCAA tournament. Within nine years, they had won the league and reached the Elite 8. Within 15 years, the school opened up a sparkling, $25-million, 6,000-seat arena, chartering flights for road games and recruiting trips.

Today, Gonzaga is arguably a top ten program in the sport

It is, quite literally, college basketball’s best rags-to-riches story.

They shouldn’t need this to justify their standing in the sport. Few shouldn’t need this to legitimize himself as something more than a coach feasting on a conference that can’t compete.

“My legacy is I guess built on a lot of other things,” Few said on Friday. “It’s built on the respect my players have for me and how they feel about they were treated and coached and developed and all that.”

“I’m schlepping along right now like vastly far behind my father who is 54 years a Presbyterian minister, man. He’s saved thousands of souls. He’s helped hundreds and thousands of people through all their tough times, you know. And that’s kind of the legacy that I’m looking at.”

But that’s not how our sport works.

March means everything.

If you can’t win on the biggest stage, if you don’t have that level of success when all eyes turn to college basketball, then everything you did during the previous four months is written off.

It’s not fair.

But that’s just how it is.

And now, nearly two decades removed from their introduction into the national consciousness, Gonzaga’s detractors no longer have that leg to stand on.