Late Night Snacks: Cal Poly, Tennessee advance in NCAA tournament

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Towson 63, USC Upstate 60

It isn’t often that a game ends on a half-court shot as time expires, but that was the case in Spartanburg as Four McGlynn’s shot gave Towson the win in the CIT first round matchup. Jerrelle Benimon led the way offensively for the Tigers with 20 points to go along with nine rebounds and three assists, helping Towson come back from a 13-point halftime deficit. USC Upstate’s Torrey Craig, who accounted for 14 points and 12 rebounds in the defeat, leaves the school ranked in the top five in Atlantic Sun history in both points (2,128) and rebounds (944).

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) Midwest No. 11 Tennessee 78, Midwest No. 11 Iowa 65

Cuonzo Martin’s Volunteers took control of this one in the extra session, outscoring the Hawkeyes 14-1 in overtime to advance into the 64-team bracket where they’ll play six-seed UMass on Friday. Jarnell Stokes finished the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but the key in the second half was the play of Josh Richardson. Richardson gave the Volunteers a needed spark in the second half, and his 17 points helped supplement the efforts of Stokes and Jordan McRae (20 points). As for Iowa what’s been a very tough week for the program came to a difficult ending in Dayton, and they end the season having lost seven of their final eight games.

2) Midwest No. 16 Cal Poly 81, Midwest No. 16 Texas Southern 69

Make it four in a row for a team that just a week ago was 10-19, having lost nine of their last 11 regular season games. Chris Eversley scored 19 points and David Nwaba added 17 for the Mustangs, who will play one-seed Wichita State in St. Louis on Friday. As a team Cal Poly shot 56.9% from the field, making 64% of their shots inside of the arc against a Texas Southern team that struggled mightily defensively. Aaric Murray led the Tigers with 38 points.

3) SMU 68, UC Irvine 54 

For teams who fall short of their goal to reach the NCAA tournament, the question before they begin postseason play in another event is what their motivation will be. For SMU, it took awhile to get going against Big West regular season champion UC Irvine. But after sleepwalking through much of the first half Larry Brown’s team got going in the second, putting together a 23-7 run to take control of the game. Cannen Cunningham scored 17 points and Ben Moore added 11 for SMU, which will host LSU in the second round.

STARRED

1) Rayvonte Rice (Illinois) 

Rice accounted for 28 points, eight rebounds and two assists in Illinois’ 66-62 win over Boston University in the first round of the Postseason NIT.

2) Charles Mann (Georgia) 

29 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field, five rebounds and three assists in the Bulldogs’ 63-56 win over Vermont in the Postseason NIT.

3) Aaric Murray (Texas Southern) 

Murray shot 14-for-23 from the field, scoring 38 points in the Tigers’ 81-69 loss to Cal Poly.

STRUGGLED

1) Texas Southern’s other four starters

While Murray proved to be a handful for Cal Poly, the Mustangs were able to keep his fellow starters under wraps. Those four players combined to score nine points on 3-for-13 shooting.

2) Aaron White and Roy Devyn Marble (Iowa)

Marble’s jumper with 18 seconds remaining forced overtime, but overall it was a rough night for Iowa’s leading scorers. Marble and White combined to shoot 4-for-20 from the field, with the former going 3-for-15.

3) Jonathan Williams (Toledo) 

Shot 0-for-8 from the field in the Rockets’ 66-59 loss at Southern Miss in a Postseason NIT first round matchup.

NOTABLES

  • Kenneth “Speedy” Smith’s basket with 2.2 seconds remaining gave Louisiana Tech an 89-88 win over Iona in the Postseason NIT. Jaron Johnson and Kenyon McNeail scored 15 points apiece to lead five Bulldogs in double figures.
  • Playing without Richard Solomon, who was forced to sit due to a concussion, California advanced in the Postseason NIT with a 77-64 win over Utah Valley. David Kravish finished with 14 points, ten rebounds and five blocks.
  • Ya Ya Anderson scored 23 points and Javonte Green and R.J. Price added 20 apiece to lead Radford to a 96-92 win at Oregon State in the CBI. The Highlanders scored 57 points in the first half, and their win ends the college career of Roberto Nelson (26 points).
  • Kourtney Roberson scored 14 points and grabbed ten rebounds in Texas A&M’s 59-43 win over Wyoming, with the Aggies limiting the Cowboys to 16 first-half points.
  • D.J. Newbill scored 19 points and Brandon Taylor added 14 as Penn State moved one game closer to the .500 mark with a 69-65 win over Hampton in the CBI.
  • Evan Conti scored 17 points to help lead Quinnipiac to a tight 69-68 win over in-state rival Yale in a CIT matchup. Ousmane Drame added 12 points and 17 rebounds for the winners.
  • Jarvis Williams scored 20 points and grabbed ten rebounds in Murray State’s 66-63 win at Missouri State in a CIT matchup. Steve Prohm’s Racers are now 19-11 on the season.

VIDEO: De’Aaron Fox, Bam Adebayo inconsolable after Elite 8 loss

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Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox, the two freshmen on Kentucky’s roster that aren’t Malik Monk, were sitting next to each other in the locker room following Kentucky’s loss to North Carolina on Sunday night, and the Wildcat stars were inconsolable.

As weird as this may sound, and as tough as that video is to watch at times, I love it. The problem with one-and-done kids is that it, at times, feels like they’re mercenaries, that they are players that are strictly in college because they have to be, because they can’t make millions in the NBA yet.

Fox and Adebayo certainly do fall into that category, but it doesn’t come with the typical shortcomings.

They clearly care about their school, about their teammates and about that loss.

I’ve grown cynical, I guess, and while I’ll readily admit that video was too tough for me to watch in its entirety, it is refreshing to see just how much they care.

Even if they are only making a seven month stop over in Lexington.

VIDEO: Kentucky, UNC fans react to insane finish to Elite 8 game

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The finish last night between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Kentucky was one of the greatest and most exhilarating endings to a basketball that we’ve seen in the NCAA tournament.

It was capped by Luke Maye answering Malik Monk’s jumper with a jumper of his own, sending the Tar Heels to the Final Four for the second straight season.

That’s a roller coaster of emotions to go through in 10 seconds, and perhaps no one embodies that more than the dude in the No. 11 jersey here:

(Does anyone know him? Can we confirm he’s OK?)

Anyway, that emotion was nothing compared to what the Kentucky team went through. De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo were inconsolable in the locker room after the game:

North Carolina fans, however, were just a little bit happier:

Like his career, Frank Martin has built South Carolina from the ground up

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NEW YORK — It was after he finished watching South Carolina cut down the Madison Square Garden nets, after he had spent the better part of 30 minutes giving interviews on the court, after he was spotted by the CBS cameras, with a fist raised and tears pooling under his eyes, that the enormity of what he had just witnessed hit Darius Rucker.

“Gosh,” he said to everyone and no one in particular as he left the arena floor and made his way through the bowels of the Garden, “I can’t believe that just happened.”

The ‘that’ that Rucker, South Carolina’s most famous and, quite possibly, biggest fan, was referring to was a 77-70, come-from behind win over No. 4 seed Florida that jettisoned the seventh-seeded Gamecocks through the Elite 8 and into the Final Four. Prior to this season, the Gamecocks hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 13 years. They had been to four NCAA tournaments in the previous 43 seasons, and they had never won back-to-back tournament game.

As in not ever.

“We’re in the Garden, watching the Gamecocks play to go to the Final Four,” Rucker said. “If you’d have told me that ten years ago I’d have told you that you were on crack.”

That’s the program that Frank Martin inherited in 2012, when he left Kansas State following a falling out with his athletic director, John Currie. Like South Carolina, Kansas State was hardly considered a destination job when Martin was at the helm, but he was able to build off of a foundation created by Bob Huggins. Martin had been to four NCAA tournaments in five years with Kansas State when he made the decision to leave. Nothing is more important to Martin than loyalty. “He’s always had a core group of people that he’s counted on,” his agent, Bret Just, said, and Currie was not one of those people.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came during the 2012 NCAA tournament. Kansas State was a No. 8 seed, squaring off with No. 1 seed Syracuse when Martin was informed by Currie that Jamar Samuels, one of his best players, would not be allowed to suit up. The school had stumbled upon information that Samuels had received a wire transfer for $200 from his AAU coach, and he was going to be suspended.

And that was that.

Martin was off to South Carolina.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“It was a situation where we had to go,” associate head coach Matt Figger, who has been with Martin for the last decade, said, and it wasn’t exactly the easiest or smartest decision to leave. Most understood why Martin had to make the change that he made — he was offered a hefty raise and he had the chance to leave a place of employment where he did not get along with his boss — but it wasn’t as if Martin was climbing the ladder. If anything, South Carolina was a step backwards, as Martin took over a program with less pedigree and with a significant building job in front of them.

“I didn’t really know until I got into it. It was a much different deal. It looked easier on the surface than what it really was,” Figger said. “The best players transferred. Bruce Ellington, he’s with the 49ers now, he was the one guy that we could trust and he played football half the year. Couple of the guys that were the holdovers, I don’t think they believed in what our vision was. After a year, some of them left.”

“We had to start this from scratch.”

The process was slow in the early stages. Martin replaced Darrin Horn, who had won just 10 games and finished dead last in the SEC in his final season on campus, and didn’t post a .500 record until his third season in Columbia. Even then, that team went just 17-16. He won 15 SEC games in his first three years combined. After a late season swoon cost South Carolina a shot at the 2016 NCAA tournament, there was speculation that another year without a trip to the Big Dance could spell the end of Martin’s time with the Gamecocks.

“It was hard!” Martin’s wife, Anya, said. “You see he’s losing his hair. It’s all turning white. It was tough in the beginning. I had to ask him a couple of times, ‘Why here?’”

The easy answer is that it wasn’t Kansas State, but the truth is more complicated than that.

Martin is not a man that is afraid of a challenge. He’s not intimidated by a job that isn’t easy to do, not when you come from where he’s come from, when you’ve coached on the path that he has coached.

Martin got his first job when he was 12 years old, working at a Dairy Queen to help his mom pay the bills when his dad walked out on them. His coaching career started a year after he graduated high school, when he was just 19 years old.

“I tore my ACL the year before,” Martin said, “and my high school coach asked me to come help him, because the kids in the neighborhood respected me so much.”

He was nothing more than an assistant with the team at Miami Senior High School, helping out when and where he could, when the head coach of the JV team didn’t show up for work one day. Shakey Rodriguez, a legend in the Miami High School basketball community, told Martin he would be coaching that day, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“By his second season,” Martin’s mother, Lourdes, beaming as she held back tears of joy, said, “he was 22-0.”

Even as Martin was coaching, he was still working on the side, most famously as a bouncer in Miami’s nightclub scene. He needed a degree, so he took night classes at Miami-Dade College before enrolling part-time at FIU. His future was capped if he didn’t graduate.

“He made it out,” she added, holding on to her grandson to steady herself as the moment washed over her. “He had many, many jobs, and then God was up there and blessed him.”

Martin would go from the high school ranks to Northeastern, taking a paycut just to get his foot in the door. He spent four years as an assistant and met his wife — “My wife turned me down seven times to go out on a date,” he said. “Seven. Seven. And the day she made the mistake of going out on a date with me, I never let her go.” — before moving on to Cincinnati, where he joined forces with Bob Huggins, spending two seasons with the Bearcats before following Huggins to Kansas State. He replaced Huggins as Kansas State’s head coach a year after joining the program and just seven years after he joined the collegiate coaching ranks. He would take the Wildcats to more NCAA tournaments in his five seasons at the helm than they had been to in the previous two decades combined.

“Frank’s never steered away from a challenge as long as I’ve known him,” Anya said. “He’s overcome any obstacle in his way, just ‘I’m going to make it work.'”

“He’s a builder,” Just said.

And he’s done just that at South Carolina.

“I’m happy as any mom could be,” Lourdes said. “Speechless, but not all the way. I have to talk to him about my air ticket.”

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Martin spoke many times about the dream of leading this team to this moment, but he didn’t always believe that the dream of taking the Gamecocks to the Final Four was a realistic possibility.

“When we beat Duke, Frank said ‘Why not us?’” Figgers said, a motto that had become something of a rallying cry for the Gamecocks during the East Regional. “That’s the first time we really talked about [winning a title].”

The team and the coaching staff weren’t the only ones that never really gave this possibility much thought. College basketball at large — the fans, the media, opposing coaches — all had the same thought: “South Carolina in the Final Four? The same team that put up 86 points in four overtimes against Alabama? Lulz.”

They showed us.

Over and over again.

South Carolina’s star guard Sindarius Thornwell, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the East Region, mentioned in every press conference this weekend that no one paid attention to or respected the program prior to this run. Martin ranted earlier this year about the lack of local media coverage his team gets, particularly when they play on the road.

At this point in the season, most players get burned out of the media attention they get, answering the same questions over and over and over again.

I don’t blame them.

On Sunday evening, after spending 25 minutes up on the dais for a postgame press conference, Thornwell was finally en route back to the locker room to celebrate with his team when he was pulled aside by a television reporter that needed just a couple more minutes of his time.

Thornwell, decked out in a East Regional Champs shirt and hat with the remnants of a net dangling around his neck, didn’t mind.

“You gotta talk a lot,” Thornwell said, “when you win.”

Drake hires Furman’s Niko Medved to be new head coach

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Drake has hired Furman head coach Niko Medved to the same position, the school announced on Sunday.

The 43-year-old Medved has led the Paladins to back-to-back CIT appearances as he’s been the head coach there for four seasons. Also an assistant coach at Minnesota and Colorado State, Medved is a noted recruiter.

“I am ecstatic about the opportunity to be the next men’s basketball coach at Drake University,” Medved said in the release. “Drake University’s tremendous reputation partnered with its strong leadership and the thriving Des Moines community make this a special place.  I was born and raised in the Midwest and have so many strong roots in this part of the country.  My family and I can’t wait to get started.”

Medved was named the Southern Conference’s 2017 Coach of the Year for helping lead Furman to the regular-season title in the league.

The Bulldogs are coming off a last-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference as former head coach Ray Giacoletti was relieved of his duties in January. Drake only has one NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971 (coming in 2008) as the Bulldogs have struggled to remain relevant in a tough league.

VIDEO: North Carolina and Roy Williams dance in locker room after advancing to Final Four

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Watching Roy Williams dance never gets old.

The North Carolina head coach is taking his team back to the Final Four next weekend after the Tar Heels outlasted Kentucky in a thrilling South Regional final.

North Carolina is making its 20th appearance in the Final Four as they are going for the second consecutive season.