Getty Images

No. 1 Florida, Scottie Wilbekin cruise to win over No. 9 Pitt


Scottie Wilbekin finished with 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot down the stretch, as the South’s top seed, Florida, knocked off No. 9 seed Pitt, 61-45, to become the first team officially in the Sweet 16.

The Gators will take on the winner of tomorrow night’s game between No. 4 UCLA and No. 12 Stephen F. Austin.

If you were looking for a blueprint for what makes Florida so dangerous, you got it on Saturday. The Gators were downright menacing defensively, particularly at the start of the first half. Pitt shot just 37.1% from the floor, scored all of 45 points and hit 4-for-17 from beyond the arc on a night where the Gators committed just seven fouls the entire game.

Playing stifling defense without committing fouls is not an easy thing to do.

On the other side of the floor, the Gators struggled a bit early on, but they finally got into a rhythm in the second half. Florida committed six turnovers in the game and didn’t commit one in the second half until they dribbled out the shot clock up 16 on their final possession of the game. And as has been the case all season long, the difference-maker down the stretch was Wilbekin, who hit a series of ridiculously tough runners to keep the Panthers at bay. There may not be a player in the country that is as good as Wilbekin with the ball in his hands in crunch time, and I have the feeling that, at some point in the later rounds, that’s going to save the Gators.

But here’s what’s scary: think about what Florida can be if they start hitting their jump shots. On Saturday, the Gators were just 5-for-20 from beyond the arc. On Thursday, they shot just 3-for-12 from deep.

It’s not like they don’t have shooters. Michael Frazier II is as good as anyone in the country. Wilbekin can hit threes. Dorian Finney-Smith is streaky, but he can hit four or five in a given night when he gets it rolling.

Florida is as good as anyone in the country when their shots aren’t dropping.

When they are, they’re near-unbeatable.

As an aside, this is the fourth straight season that the Gators have made the Sweet 16. Patrick Young, Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather have all reached the Sweet 16 in every year they’re been in college. They’ve actually reached three Elite 8s as well, but they’ve never made the Final Four.

Is this the year they break that barrier?

Jalen Coleman-Lands cleared to practice

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Jarrod Uthoff #20 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defends against Jalen Coleman-Lands #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

When Illinois takes on Southeast Missouri State in the opener of the 2016-17 season, the Fighting Illini should have it’s starting backcourt out on the floor.

According to Jon Rothstein, Jalen Coleman-Lands has been cleared for all basketball activities. The sophomore two-guard has been recovering from a broken bone in his right hand.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.

Coleman-Lands will team up with Tracy Abrams, a point guard who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing the past two seasons due to injuries.

This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.

The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.

NBC Sports projected Illinois to finish eighth in the Big Ten this season.

Curtis Jones jumps over Tom Crean

Tom Crean
Leave a comment

Indiana held its annual Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night.

One of the highlights from the team’s dunk contest was when freshman guard Curtis Jones jumped over Indiana head coach Tom Crean.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a newcomer us his coach as a dunk contest prop. Last week, Rawle Alkins cleared Arizona head coach Sean Miller en route to a reverse jam.

Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.

WATCH: Edmond Sumner take off from the foul line

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers dunks the ball during the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Edmond Sumner is a big reason why Xavier is likely going to be a preseason top-10 team.

On Saturday night, during Musketeer Madness, Sumner won the team’s dunk contest when he took off from the foul line.

Sumner defeated freshmen Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin. J.P. Macura, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year, took home the honors last year.

The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore is coming off a debut season in which he averaged 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

WATCH: Duke goes crazy for Chase Jeter’s bottle flip

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Chase Jeter #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on in the second half against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The bottle flip has become an international sensation in recent months.

It’s as simple as it sounds: flipping a water bottle in the air, attempting to have it land upright.

Duke sophomore forward Chase Jeter, in front of 9,300-plus fans, successfully pulled off the bottle flip on Saturday night at Duke’s Craziness.

Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.

Auburn to honor Charles Barkley with a statue

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04:  Former NBA player and commentator Charles Barkley looks on prior to the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.

The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.

“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”

Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.

His number 34 is retired at Auburn.