Syracuse's Malachi Richardson (23) drives past Virginia's Anthony Gill (13) during the second half of a college basketball game in the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

No. 10 Syracuse rallies from 16-point deficit to stun No. 1 Virginia

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CHICAGO — Syracuse trailed No. 1 seed Virginia by 16 points early in the second half of Sunday’s Midwest Regional final and looked like they were about to get blown out. After shooting only 30 percent in the first half, the Orange gave up an Anthony Gill dunk on the first possession of the second half and Virginia had all of the momentum. A 16-point deficit against a slow-tempo team like Virginia can seem insurmountable.

Then freshman Malachi Richardson took over.

The McDonald’s All-American shook off an 0-for-5 first half to finish with 23 points as his personal 7-0 run gave Syracuse the final push they needed to shock the Cavaliers. Syracuse held Virginia to only four points the final 7:34 of the game as the No. 10 seed Orange advanced to the Final Four with a 68-62 win.

Richardson is a talented wing scorer who got off to a sluggish start on Sunday. After an early turnover in which he tried to take Anthony Gill one-on-one and stepped out of bounds instead of passing to an open Trevor Cooney, Richardson got chewed out during the ensuing television timeout by the Syracuse coaching staff and was benched. The poor first half continued after Richardson re-entered the lineup and couldn’t get going.

At halftime, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim singled Richardson out in front of the entire locker room and let the freshman know that the Orange needed more from him to reach the Final Four.

“He does it in front of everyone,” Richardson said of Boeheim’s message to him with a laugh.

Richardson responded by knocking down tough 3-pointers, attacking the basket and making hustle plays that kept possessions alive.

“Coach Boeheim kind of got on me a little bit and I knew I had to pick it up for my teammates,” Richardson said. “We couldn’t go out how we were going out. We were already down and I just wanted to help out.”

Not only did Richardson have a big second half in the biggest game of the season, he also did so against Virginia senior Malcolm Brogdon, one of the nation’s best perimeter defenders. After burying a stepback 3-pointer to give the Orange a 62-58 lead with 4:40 left, Richardson screamed as the Syracuse faithful reached a deafening pitch. Suddenly, a 15-point Syracuse deficit with 9:33 left had been erased and Richardson was slamming the door with big play after big play.

“Mali likes the crowd, he likes the stage. He likes to play on a big stage,” Syracuse assistant Adrian Autry said. “You never worry about him too much. Sometimes he does need something like Coach did to him. ‘Hey, come on! Let’s go. We need you to wake up. Make simple plays, not hard plays,’ whatever it may be. And he got going.”

Richardson getting going wasn’t the only change from the first half for the Orange. After coming back to beat Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 by incorporating a full-court press, the Orange used it again to speed up Virginia’s tempo and force bad looks. The press forced Virginia into a lot of uncomfortable offensive possessions and it once again changed the course of the game.

For a program known for sticking almost exclusively with a 2-3 zone, Syracuse is probably playing in the Final Four next weekend because of its full-court press.

“We talked about it halftime that we were going to go to it at some point,” Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara said of the press. “Coach usually has a pretty good feel for when to use it. What it did is it got us aggressive in transition offensively and now we started getting some stuff to the rim. Once we started pushing their defense back, Mali hit a couple of difficult looks.”

After blowing the lead, Virginia still had a chance to tie, trailing 65-62, with the shot clock turned off, but Devon Hall missed a clean 3-point look from the left wing as Tyler Lydon (11 points, six rebounds) snared the defensive rebound and iced the game at the free-throw line.

Senior Michael Gbinije finished with 11 points and six assists while junior forward Tyler Roberson added 10 points and eight rebounds for the Orange.

London Perrantes buried five first-half 3-pointers to pace the Cavaliers’ offense with 18 points — with all of his points coming on the long ball. Brogdon struggled to generate offense as he went 2-for-14 from the field. Although he struggled from the floor, Brogdon managed to get to the free-throw line seven times (making all of them) and finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in his final college game.

Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey each added 10 points for Virginia, who finishes the season at 29-8.

Not many expected the Orange (23-13) to be in the NCAA tournament to begin with after losing in the opening round of the ACC tournament (as a No. 9 seed), but Syracuse has made the most of its opportunity in the Big Dance. The Orange’s zone defense has looked very good over the last two weeks, and the changeup to the full-court press has been effective in escalating things quickly for Syracuse.

For Syracuse to reach the Final Four a year after the program’s self-imposed postseason ban shows that they’re already way ahead of where they should be after the scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions. Many shrugged when the Orange beat two double-digit seeds to reach the Elite Eight, but for Syracuse to eliminate a Virginia team that beat them 73-65 on January 24 shows how much they’ve improved over the last few months.

“It was a great comeback, one of the best I’ve coached in, any team I’ve had, in terms of you’re playing, I think, a great team,” Boeheim said. “Virginia has beaten us 15 points three straight times, and they were 15 points up today. They’re a hard team to come back against, and these guys just made some unbelievable plays. They deserved to win this game.”

When the game concluded, former Syracuse players like C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis and Rakeem Christmas took the floor to share in the celebration. The moment was special for Christmas, in particular, since he was a senior on last season’s team that was banned from playing in the postseason.

After clipping off his piece of the net, Orange senior guard Trevor Cooney jogged across the floor and gave a hug to Christmas. The former teammates weren’t able to play in the NCAA tournament together last season, but Cooney feels like Christmas and his inspired play last season helped the Orange reach the Final Four this season.

 

“Those guys all paved the way for us here. We learned so much from those guys. I learned a lot from [Rakeem] about how to be a leader and how to step up my senior year. Those things have paid off for us now.”

Bubble Banter: California, TCU and Syracuse with critical games tonight

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10:  Ivan Rabb #1 of the California Golden Bears stands on the court during a quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament against the Oregon State Beavers at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 10, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. California won 76-68.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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The latest NBC Sports bracketology can be found here. That is where the seeds you see listed below come from. 

This post will be updated throughout the night.

STILL TO PLAY

Vanderbilt at Tennessee (RPI: 50, KenPom: 42, first four out), 6:30 p.m.

Michigan (RPI: 52, KenPom: 27, No. 10 seed) at Rutgers, 6:30 p.m.

No. 10 Duke at Syracuse (RPI: 84, KenPom: 48, first four out), 7:00 p.m.

Pitt (RPI: 59, KenPom: , next four out) at Wake Forest (RPI: 40, KenPom: 31, next four out), 7:00 p.m.

TCU (RPI: 54, KenPom: 43, play-in game) at No. 3 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

Southern Illinois at Illinois State (RPI: 36, KenPom: 50, No. 12 seed), 7:00 p.m.

Saint Louis at VCU (RPI: 26, KenPom: 41, No. 9 seed), 7:00 p.m.

Xavier at Seton Hall (RPI: 47, KenPom: 59, play-in game), 7:00 p.m.

Texas A&M at Arkansas (RPI: 33, KenPom: 51, No. 9 seed), 8:30 p.m.

No. 6 Oregon at Cal (RPI: 39, KenPom: 47, No. 10 seed), 9:00 p.m.

Oklahoma State at Kansas State (RPI: 51, KenPom: 28, No. 11 seed), 9:00 p.m.

Providence (RPI: 69, KenPom: 58, first four out) at No. 23 Creighton, 9:00 p.m.

Man arrested for selling fake Duke-UNC tickets

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 09:  Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels throws the ball in against the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 9, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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A man was arrested in Durham on Feb. 9th, the day of the Duke-North Carolina game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, for selling counterfeit tickets to the game, according to the Durham Herald-Sun.

The man, a 24-year old from Ft. Myers, Florida, named Andrew Frank Arvai, was busted in a sting that was set up by someone that had bought fake tickets from Arvai before.

From the Sun:

DPD spokesman Wil Glenn alleged that Arvai placed an ad on Craigslist for the tickets and set up a meeting with a ticket broker from stubhub.com at Northgate to sell the tickets to the Feb. 9 game.

Glenn said the broker had purchased tickets from Arvai in the past and the Feb. 9 transaction was a sting. The broker called mall security and alerted a police officer that he was going to meet the scalper, who he accused of selling phony tickets.

According to Durham jail records, he was charged with four counts of scalping tickets, four counts of counterfeiting a trademark and four counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.

Louisville-North Carolina, Duke-Syracuse preview features two matchups of Hall-of-Famers

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 29:  (R-L) Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels smiles as he talks with head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals during the 2008 NCAA Men's East Regional Final at Bobcats Arena on March 29, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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No. 7 Louisville at No. 8 North Carolina, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)

There are six active Hall of Fame head coaches in the collegiate ranks today. Four of them are coaching tonight. Two of them will be squaring off with each other in the Dean Dome in what promises to be a terrific games with a ton on the line.

The Tar Heels are currently sitting all alone in first place in the ACC, a game ahead of Duke and Louisville. A win on Wednesday would put UNC in a position where it seems very unlikely that they’ll finish behind Louisville and, barring upset losses at either Virginia or Pitt, given them a chance to lock up the outright ACC regular season title when they host Duke in the season finale. An ACC regular season title might be enough for the Tar Heels to lock up the No. 1 seed in the South. That would be a nice present, even if the games aren’t going to be played in state.

The game itself should be fascinating. Rick Pitino is one of the greatest defensive coaches to ever live, as his team’s have been in the top five of KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings each of the last seven seasons and nine of the last ten years. The question with his group is going to be whether or not they are able to score enough points to keep pace with the Tar Heels, who feature ACC Player of the Year favorite Justin Jackson alongside a big, veteran front line and a point guard in Joel Berry II who is the engine of that fast break.

  • PREDICTION: UNC’s ability to get to the offensive glass combined with the presence of Jackson, who has been unstoppable in ACC play, is enough to get the Tar Heels to cover (-5.5)
SYRACUSE, NY - FEBRUARY 14: Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange shakes the hand of Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils after the game on February 14, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Duke defeats Syracuse 80-72. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY – FEBRUARY 14: Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange shakes the hand of Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils after the game on February 14, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Duke defeats Syracuse 80-72. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Four more games to watch

  • No. 10 Duke at Syracuse, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN): The other two Hall of Fame coaches in action tonight square off in the Carrier Dome in front of what could end up being as many as 30,000 Syracuse fans. It’s a must-win for the Orange, who are still in the NCAA tournament picture despite a 16-12 record and a trio of horrid losses. PREDICTION: I think Syracuse wins outright, so I’m on the Orange (+4)
  • Minnesota at No. 24 Maryland, 8:30 p.m. (BTN): Maryland’s bid for the Big Ten regular season title isn’t completely shot, but the Terps are a game behind both Wisconsin and Purdue. They need this win, but the Gophers have proven to be tough, better than we’ve expected. PREDICTION: Maryland (-4.5)
  • No. 22 Butler at No. 2 Villanova, 9:00 p.m. (FS1): It seems like Butler hasn’t been right for weeks, and tonight they make the trek to Philadelphia to face off with the Wildcats. They play in The Pavilion, and no one on this Villanova team has ever lost a game in that building. PREDICTION: Villanova (-10)
  • No. 6 Oregon at California, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2): This is a game that Cal desperately needs, not because the Bears are in real danger of missing the NCAA tournament but because they need an elite on their profile to avoid getting stuck somewhere in that 8-9 game. PREDICTION: Oregon (-4)

VIDEO: Frank Martin hides in shirt to duck politics question, then delivers eloquent answer

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South Carolina head coach Frank Martin was asked at a Monday media session how he would feel if, after his team won a national title, one or more of his players decided against visiting the White House with the team.

Martin is the son of Cuban exiles and grew up in Miami. When the question was prefaced with, “Since it’s President’s Day I think I can ask this,” Martin hid in his shirt, and while his reaction was funny, his answer was actually pretty enlightening and typical Frank Martin.

(If you cannot watch the video, the text is below):

“I haven’t thought about it,” Martin said when his head finally emerged from within his shirt and after a good 15 seconds of contemplation. “Probably not. Probably not I haven’t agreed with every President that’s been in the White House in my lifetime. But I love this country and what our government stands for as a whole. I’ not going to judge our country based on who I like and don’t like. I think we do an injustice to young people when we make them think this country is run by one person.”

“I think it’s an injustice. Any time we take a stand against one person — we can do whatever we want to here, I’m not trying to tell people how to do things, you’re asking my my opinion and I’m sharing it with you — I think we do an injustice. The beautiful thing in this country is that we all have different voices and we can all express our voices and our views. I think I would be disappointed if any of our players chose not to attend. If they were adamant about it, I wouldn’t force them to go. I’m not going to put their scholarship on the line and make them do something that they feel that strongly about. But I would let them know as their coach, a guy that tries mentor them and try to educate and try to prevent that from happening. But at the end of the day, they’re human beings and they don’t live in a country where you’re forced to do what you don’t want to do.

“I’d be OK coaching somebody that would be against. I would just be disappointed in their unwillingness to understand that their country has moved forward. Contrary to what the media wants us to get us believe, we haven’t moved backwards, we’ve moved forward in the last 50 years. Since my family arrived in this country, this country has moved forward. Does it move forward at a great rate, great pace, is it perfect? No. But it’s moved forward.”

“For us to act like one person runs or controls the decision of this country is false. It’d be a disservice to what this country stands for, what we’re about and my love for the opportunity this country has given me for me to get selfish because of my personal views on one person and not be supportive of the thing as a whole.”

No. 11 Kentucky struggles before putting away Missouri

LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 21:  Bam Adebayo #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the first half at Rupp Arena on January 21, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Kentucky won. That’s probably all the Wildcats need to take away from their time in Columbia, Mo.

Eleventh-ranked Kentucky defeated Missouri, 72-62, in a game that was an absolute slog for the Wildcats until the final minutes offered them some separation and reprieve from the feisty but undermanned Tigers.

Missouri led throughout much of the first half, but never held an advantage after halftime. Still, the Tigers were there lurking closely for much of the final frame, something their 7-20 record would suggest they were incapable of, even at home against Kentucky on a night where the Wildcats were about as sharp as the shape of basketball itself. Which is to say, not sharp at all.

Bam Adebayo was an absolute force on the interior for Kentucky. The freshman big had 22 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the floor and a 10 of 13 mark from the free-throw line. He also had 15 rebounds and three blocks. Missouri, like plenty of other teams before them, had no answer.

The question, though, for Kentucky this night was what kept De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk from being productive? The pair struggled from start to finish, combining to go 8 of 22 overall and 2 of 7 from deep along with five turnovers. Making matters even worse was Isaiah Briscoe’s night. He shot it fine (4 of 6) but had six turnovers in 23 minutes.

It just wasn’t pretty for the Wildcats.

Overall, Kentucky went 5 of 18 from deep and had 17 turnovers, allowing one of the SEC’s cellar dwellers to make things interesting until the Wildcats were able to put the Tigers at arm’s length in the final few minutes.

It’s certainly not an inspiring performance from Kentucky, but against Missouri on the road, it’s not exactly surprising to seem them come with something less than their best. It can probably be excused to circumstance rather than anything more serious.

For Missouri, it was a missed opportunity to add some sort of silver lining to yet another dismal season under Kim Anderson. The third-year coach probably wouldn’t have improved his job prospects much with a win over Kentucky – things have been too bad for too long for one game to move the needle – but it still would have been nice for Missouri after so much misery, you know? But, alas, the game ended like most of them have for the Tigers in recent years, with a loss.

Now, Kentucky heads into Saturday’s matchup against No. 13 Florida with the regular-season SEC title – and some pride – on the line. The Gators whipped the Wildcats by 22 in Gainesville earlier this month, and both teams will enter Rupp Arena with matching 13-2 SEC records.

Both teams will have two games remaining after Saturday, but it would appear to mere formalities for both. Whoever wins Saturday almost certainly will win the conference outright.