Late Night Snacks: No. 6 Villanova wins Big East regular season title

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Northwestern State 119, Central Arkansas 102

Central Arkansas scored 52 points in the first half and 50 in the second…and still lost by 17 points. Why? The Demons scored 72 points in the second half, shooting 70.3% from the field and assisting on 19 of their 26 made field goals. Northwestern State also forced 13 turnovers in the second half, converting those opportunities into 23 points. Jalan West scored 26 points and Zikiteran Woodley added 24 for Northwestern State, which locked up the four seed in next week’s Southland tournament.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) N0. 6 Villanova 77, Xavier 70

From the Xavier angle this result represents a missed opportunity to further solidify their standing with regards to the NCAA tournament. As for the Wildcats, Jay Wright’s team wins the Big East regular season title outright for the first time since 1982. Darrun Hilliard continued his solid play by scoring 19 points, and the victory keeps the Wildcats in contention for a one-seed in the NCAA tournament. This is one of the best teams in the country, and Jay Wright’s done an outstanding job with this group.

2) No. 22 Michigan State 86, No. 24 Iowa 76

The big news for the Spartans: Keith Appling knocked down some shots. Appearing more confident Appling scored 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting, and Travis Trice scored 17 points off the bench. As for Iowa the night was a frustrating one, as they once again struggled to string together stops. Michigan State shot 58.3% from the field, and if the Hawkeyes don’t find away to get better defensively they won’t be in the NCAA tournament very long.

3) No. 15 Cincinnati 97, No. 20 Memphis 84

On Senior Night the Bearcats senior starters did as they’ve done all season long: they led in regards to both the numbers and the intangibles. Sean Kilpatrick scored 34 points, Titus Rubles 24 and Justin Jackson added 13 to go along with nine rebounds, three assists and three steals. Cincinnati can win a share of the American Athletic Conference title with a win at Rutgers on Saturday. As for Memphis, the Tigers struggled defensively and as a result they’re locked into the 4/5 game in next week’s conference tournament.

STARRED

1) F Brandon Edwards (UT-Arlington)

33 points (13-for-16 FG), 19 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in the Mavericks’ 87-86 win at Troy.

2) G Antoine Mason (Niagara) 

38 points (13-for-19 FG), six rebounds and four assists in the Purple Eagles’ 78-76 win over Marist in a MAAC tournament first-round game.

3) G Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati) 

34 points (11-for-18 FG) and three assists in the Bearcats’ 97-84 win over No. 20 Memphis.

STRUGGLED

1) Northwestern and DePaul

Both Chicagoland-area teams were bad in home losses. The Wildcats fell to Penn State 59-32, and DePaul lost to Butler 79-46.

2) G Ledrick Eackles (McNeese State) 

Eackles missed all 11 of his field goal attempts in the Cowboys’ 67-51 loss at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

3) ShawnDre’ Jones (Richmond)

Shot 1-for-11 from the field in the Spiders’ 56-50 loss to VCU, finishing with three points, two assists and five turnovers.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

  • Atlantic Sun: FGCU, Mercer set up title game rematch
    Last season FGCU began its run with a win in the A-Sun title game on Mercer’s home floor. This year the Bears will aim to return the favor, with the top two seeds winning semifinal games at home. FGCU outlasted ETSU 69-64, and Mercer needed double-overtime to beat USC Upstate 78-75.
  • MAAC: Desi Washington victimizes Fairfield again
    Both regular season meeting between Saint Peter’s and Fairfield ended on Desi Washington three-pointers, and Washington did it again as the Peacocks eliminated the Stags, 65-62 in overtime. The other winners on day one were Niagara (over Marist) and Rider (over Monmouth).
  • MVC: Loyola-Illinois knocks off Bradley
    The Ramblers are now 1-0 all-time at “Arch Madness” by virtue of their 74-72 win over Bradley. Milton Doyle’s three-pointer as time expired was the difference. The other winner on opening night was Evansville, which will take on No. 2 Wichita State after beating Drake 69-61.
  • OVC: Seeds hold to form in the quarters
    After picking up wins on day one Tennessee Tech and Southeast Missouri State looked to pick up a second win, but both fell short. Morehead State eliminated Tennessee Tech, with Angelo Warner scoring 23 points in their 76-61 win over the Eagles. And SEMO fell 84-76 to Eastern Kentucky as Corey Walden led the victors with 17 points.
  • WCC: Lower-seeded teams win on day one
    With the opportunity to take on top seeds Gonzaga and BYU on the line, Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount advanced in Las Vegas. The Broncos beat WCC tournament debutant Pacific 81-64, and they’ll take on Gonzaga Saturday. As for the Lions, they’ll look to duplicate their run to the WCC semifinals last season by beating BYU after coming back to beat Portland 67-64.

NOTABLES

  • Conference USA finished its regular season with a four-way tie for the regular season crown, with Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss and Tulsa all finishing 13-3 in conference play. How they’ll be seeded in the conference tournament: Louisiana Tech gets the top seed, followed by Tulsa, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss.
  • Western Kentucky clinched the second seed in the Sun Belt with a 75-72 win over Louisiana. George Fant scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half to help the Hilltoppers hold off the Ragin’ Cajuns, who were led offensively by Elfrid Payton (31 points, 13 rebounds and three assists).
  • North Carolina Central concluded its 15-1 run through the MEAC with a 76-70 win at Norfolk State. Jeremy Ingram scored 19 points to lead the Eagles, who are 25-5 overall.
  • UC Irvine maintained its hold on first place in the Big West with a 62-44 win at Cal-State Fullerton, guaranteeing themselves at least a share of their first conference title in 12 years.
  • Jordan Adams scored 31 points to lead UCLA to 91-82 win at Washington. While the Bruins are locked into the two-seed in next week’s Pac-12 tournament, they’re still playing to improve their NCAA tournament seeding.
  • Southern Utah ended a 31-game losing streak against Division I opponents with a 77-71 win over North Dakota.
  • Portland State beat Weber State 66-59, limiting the Wildcats to 17 points in the first half. The win was a big one for the Vikings, one of five teams competing for the final three spots in next week’s Big Sky tournament.
  • VCU moved to 11-4 in Atlantic 10 play with a 56-50 win at Richmond, keeping alive their hopes of winning a share of the conference title. They’ll need help in the form of another Saint Louis loss, however.
  • Stephen F. Austin moved to 17-0 in the Southland with an 83-72 win over Oral Roberts. Thomas Walkup led three Lumberjacks in double figures with 16 points.

Wake’s Collins declares for NBA draft without hiring agent

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest’s John Collins is entering the NBA draft but will not hire an agent and is keeping open the option of returning to school for his junior season.

In a statement Wednesday announcing the decision, Collins said he wants “to make an informed decision about what is best for my future.”

Collins is a 6-foot-10 forward who as a sophomore blossomed into one of the best big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was voted to the Associated Press all-ACC team.

He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, putting together a string of 12 consecutive 20-point games late in the season.

His progression was a big reason why the Demon Deacons earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Kansas State beat Wake Forest in the First Four.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

Porter, Jr. will ask for Washington release

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There may be an overwhelming assumption on where Michael Porter, Jr. – and his father – will ultimately end up, but the five-star recruit is said publicly that he see his re-recruitment process through.

Porter, Jr. said in a teleconference Wednesday that he will ask for his release from Washington, and his father, a former Huskies assistant, has been offered a job at Missouri by new Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin.

“Right now I’m just trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter Jr. said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I plan to get my (national letter of intent) from Washington back and just go from there, not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore, but I just want to get it back and weigh my options.”

The prevailing thought has been that the Porters will ultimately land in Columbia, where they have significant history.

Still, it would appear at least publicly that Porter, Jr., a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, will weigh his options in at least the short-term.

Calipari signs two-year extension with Kentucky

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Kentucky continues to take care of John Calipari.

The Wildcats coach has received a two-year extension, keeping him under contract in Lexington through the 2024 season, the school announced Wednesday.

The contract will pay Calipari $7.75 million next season and increase to $8 million per season thereafter.

“John has achieved consistent championship-level performance at Kentucky,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “No one in America is better suited for everything that comes with being the coach here. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community and in college basketball.

“We have been blessed to have him and Ellen here for the last eight years and we are blessed they will continue to call Kentucky home.”

Not only does the deal extend Calipari, but it continues to keep Kentucky competitive with the NBA, which would seem to be the only outlet that would even potentially tempt Calipari away from Kentucky. An NBA franchise would have to make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league to even match Kentucky financially.

Of course, given that Calipari has spurned interest from the league since returning to college in 2000, it seems unlikely that financial considerations would be the lone or heaviest variable in making a decision to move on.

Certainly, Calipari has an excellent thing going at Kentucky as the premier recruiting program in the country that has enjoyed serious success on the court, culminating in a 2012 national title and a 38-0 start to the 2015 season before a loss in the Final Four.

“The last eight years at the University of Kentucky have been a terrific ride,” Calipari said in a statement. “This extension shows our full commitment to each other. I believe this school is the gold standard and I’m so thankful and blessed that this university has given me this opportunity at this point in my career.”

The Wildcats face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

Louisville’s Mitchell declaring for draft, won’t hire an agent

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Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell is the latest to decide to see what the NBA might offer.

“I have decided to test the waters and not hire an agent!” Mitchell wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday. “I am excited to work out this summer for teams and hopefully participate in the NBA combine! I want it to be clear I have not decided to leave Louisville!”

Mitchell, who is expected to be joined by dozens of players, is taking advantage of new NCAA rules that allow him to work out for teams and attend the NBA draft combine before making a decision on whether to remain in the draft and return to school.

Players have until May 24 to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

Mitchell averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a sophomore, shooting 40.8 percent overall and 35.4 percent on 3-point attempts.

The 6-foot-3 guard is projected as a potential first-round pick, but should he return, the Cardinals would project as one of the top teams in the country with nearly the entire core returning from this year’s 25-9 squad.

Moe-mentum: Wagner stands tall for Sweet 16-bound Michigan

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Ask Moe Wagner who he looked up to when he was younger, and suddenly the Michigan big man’s fiery demeanor makes a little more sense.

“Kevin Garnett was always my biggest idol, even though our play isn’t really similar. Just the way he brings intensity and energy to his team,” Wagner said. “That always was something that really impressed me.”

Now Wagner is providing his own emotional leadership to a Michigan team that has become one of college basketball’s most remarkable stories this March.

The Wolverines have won six in a row since they were involved in a plane accident on the eve of their Big Ten Tournament opener.

After winning that conference tourney, they opened the NCAAs with victories against Oklahoma State and Louisville – with Wagner scoring 26 points in the win over Louisville that sent Michigan to the Sweet 16.

The 19-year-old Wagner is in his second season with the Wolverines. He showed some promise in 2015-16, but averaged only 8.6 minutes a game as a freshman. He’s been a starter the whole way this season, teaming up with D.J. Wilson to give Michigan some unexpected production in the frontcourt.

The Wolverines entered the season with high hopes thanks to the presence of seniors Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin.

The 6-foot-11 Wagner has made them even tougher to defend. The sophomore from Berlin is averaging 12.2 points a game, and unlike Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan – two of Michigan’s top big men of the recent past – Wagner is a threat from beyond the arc. He’s made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts in 2016-17, putting even more pressure on opposing teams.

An expressive player on the court, Wagner admits he’s still learning how to keep his emotions under control.

Coach John Beilein says Wagner can be hard on himself, but he has an upbeat attitude the Wolverines can appreciate.

“I don’t want to rob him of his energy and his passion,” Beilein said. “If you heard him in timeouts – I mean, he is really into it. And it’s encouraging things he’s saying.”

The key for Wagner is to stay on the court. He’s been whistled for 100 fouls this season – no other Michigan player has more than 80 – and he picked up two in the first 3:11 when the Wolverines faced Oklahoma State in their NCAA Tournament opener Friday. Wagner played only 14 minutes in that frenetic game, which Michigan won 92-91 .

Against Louisville in the round of 32 , Wagner went 11 of 14 from the field and kept his poise after being called for his second foul late in the first half.

“He’s always just been an excited guy – play hard and play with a lot of passion,” Walton said. “I don’t think anything has changed. I think he’s just channeling it a little better.”

The seventh-seeded Wolverines face third-seeded Oregon on Thursday night in a regional semifinal. Michigan has won seven in a row, a streak that began with the team’s last game of the regular season.

What happened next is well documented. The day before its opening game in the conference tournament, Michigan’s plane slid off the runway .

There were no serious injuries, and the Wolverines arrived in time to play. Then they won four games in four days to take the title.

Now, Michigan is two victories away from an improbable Final Four appearance. If the Wolverines actually make it that far, Wagner will be a big reason why – and he’ll probably be as excited as anyone.

“One of my youth coaches actually used to say that I was somebody who, like, sees the basketball court as a stage and really enjoys it,” Wagner said. “Last year, I started to understand what that actually means, and kind of embraced that this year. That’s just me. I really love it. I really enjoy it.”