AP Photo/Raymond Thompson

Four takeaways from No. 1 Baylor suffering its first loss to No. 10 West Virginia

2 Comments

Baylor is now 0-1 as No. 1.

The top-ranked Bears were dominated by No. 10 West Virginia, 89-68, on Tuesday night in Morgantown in the program’s first-ever game being ranked No. 1 as they left Gonzaga as the country’s lone undefeated team.

West Virginia dominated for long stretches, but really put the Bears away in the second half, outscoring them 50-36. Press Virginia forced 29 Baylor turnovers.

Here are four things we learned from the game:

1. West Virginia is some bad dudes: I say that with the utmost respect, and certainly mean it as a compliment. West Virginia basketball is a 40-minute all-out assault. Forcing 29 turnovers from the nation’s No. 1 team is incredible. The Mountaineers’ intensity, aggressiveness and physicality makes them a nightmare for any team to play.

It also might be time to start looking at West Virginia as national title contender. As of this writing Tuesday evening, they’ve got a KenPom top-five offense and defense. The Mountaineers are shooting it better than other iterations of Bob Huggins’ Press Virginia teams, and that makes them dangerous.

They’ve now beaten Virginia by double-digits on the road and the country’s No. 1 team by 21 at home. That’s what Final Four teams look like.

2. This doesn’t really change anything about Baylor: Yes, the Bears are ranked as the No. 1 team in the country, but they were definitive underdogs in Morgantown. Getting beat in the WVU Coliseum, even by 21 points, doesn’t expose them as frauds or invalidate their heretofore perfect start.

It does, though, illustrate some weaknesses they have Outside of Manu Lecomte, the Bears’ ballhandling is pretty shaky and that’s what led to a lot of their troubles. You can’t be iffy with the ball against West Virginia and expect to keep it close, let alone leave with a win.

The Bears also didn’t respond well to the physicality of the game, either. West Virginia is just going to out-tough a lot of people this year, but Baylor just couldn’t respond at all. That’s a little concerning, but not by itself a major indictment given, as previously noted, West Virginia is some bad dudes.

3. The Big 12 is going to be a grind: The ACC probably has more really good teams, but the Big 12 is going to be an absolute monster for teams to navigate this season. West Virginia lost on the road to Texas Tech, which hasn’t finished higher than seventh in the league since Bob Knight was the coach, and then turned around and smashed No. 1 Baylor. There doesn’t look to be any gimmes in the league, especially when the likes of Oklahoma and Texas might be the weakest in the league.

Coming into the year, the thought was the Big 12 was going to take a step back. It’s clear that’s not the case.

4. Get rid of the hanging-on-the-rim technical foul: It’s time, right?

Daxter Miles, Jr. got tagged with a T for pulling himself up on the rim some on a tip-dunk that put the exclamation point on the evening in a statement performance by West Virginia. It looked awesome and was awesome. So, of course, Miles got penalized for it with a technical foul and some less than happy words from Huggins.

The spirit of the rule has its heart in the right place to preserve sportsmanship, but in 2017, it feels a little antiquated. For a sport that needs as much pizzazz and buzz as possible, adding a little extra flair to a dunk isn’t a bad thing.

Saddling a guy with an extra foul and giving the opposition free throws seems like overkill as a punishment anyway. If a team sees a guy swinging on the rim, get the ball and get down the floor for a transition opportunity. That seems like punishment enough.

And as an avowed #TeamTrashTalk member, I can only heartily endorse a player emphasizing the awesomeness of his dunk.

Ban the hanging-on-the-rim technical.

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

Leave a comment

Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

2 Comments

UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

2 Comments

Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
8 Comments

NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

Rob Carr/Getty Images
1 Comment

Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: