Late Night Snacks: Villanova, Kansas, Kentucky all go down

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Marquette 74, No. 1 Villanova 72

The Golden Eagles were down by 15 at half to the nation’s top team, but closed out the game on a 19-4 run led by Duane Wilson and Katin Reinhardt. If I told you that duo was going to lead Marquette to a win over Villanova, would you have believed me? … Didn’t think so. We need to stop sleeping on this team.

In less than five days, Marquette has played its way into the NCAA Tournament field with a pair of signature wins.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 18 West Virginia 85, No. 2 Kansas 69:  After back-to-back losses, the Mountaineers responded in a big way with a double-digit win over the Jayhawks. This didn’t follow the typical ‘Press Virginia’ blueprint, but that’s what made it all the more impressive. Frank Mason III was held to a 12 points, needing a 15 shots to score his dozen.

Tennessee 82, No. 4 Kentucky 80: Tennessee snapped Kentucky’s seven-game win streak. The Wildcats were held in check in transition, while the Volunteers’ bench outscored Kentucky’s, 37-4. Robert Hubbs III and Malik Monk both led their teams with 25 points apiece.

Well this is one way to set up Saturday’s matchup with Kansas.

No. 12 Virginia 71, No. 12 Notre Dame 54: Shots didn’t fall early for Notre Dame, as the pack-line defense held the league’s best 3-point shooting team to 18 percent shooting from deep. London Perrantes scored 22 points and once again came up with timely shots.

No. 20 Purdue 84, Michigan State 73: Hot shooting couldn’t be sustained and Purdue’s frontline became too much for Michigan State’s shorthanded front court. Caleb Swanigan finished with another monster stat line: 25 points and 17 rebounds. Miles Bridges had a season-high 33 points.

STARRED

  • Katin Reinhardt, Marquette: The grad transfer scored 18 of his 19 points after halftime. Playing the role of point forward was even more important after Markus Howard struggled all night.
  • Donovan Mitchell, Louisville: The sophomore guard had 16 points at half. Pitt had 18 as a team. Mitchell’s career-best of 27 points included 6-of-8 from three.
  • Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: The 6-foot-9 sophomore recorded his 17th double-double of the season. The Boilermakers have played 21 games.

STRUGGLED

  • Pitt: Louisville throttled the Panthers, 106-51. It was the worst loss for the program in more than a century.
  • Deadspin: You made Ted Cruz likable. Enough said.

TOP 25

  • Bronson Koenig’s 20 points led No. 15 Wisconsin to an 82-55 win over Penn State. The Badgers are still the co-leaders in the Big Ten.
  • Behind 15 3-pointers, No. 23 South Carolina routed Auburn, 98-69. The Gamecocks, coming off a loss to Kentucky, is 6-1 in the SEC.
  • No. 22 Maryland was led by Melo Trimble’s 17 points in a 67-55 win over Rutgers. The Terrapins still share the top spot in the Big Ten standings with No. 15 Wisconsin.

NOTABLE

  • Akron (7-0 MAC) remained unbeaten in conference play with a 90-80 win over Western Michigan
  • The nation’s leading scorer, Marcus Keene, had 28 points in Central Michigan’s 82-76 win over Bowling Green.
  • St. Bonaventure came back from down 18 to defeat St. Joe’s, 67-63
  • Wichita State has won three in a row after an 87-45 victory over Southern Illinois
  • It’s fitting that on the day the school honored Steph Curry that Jack Gibbs recorded a 32-point outing. Davidson beat Duquesne 74-60
  • Syracuse is back to .500 in ACC play by beating Wake Forest, 81-76
  • Daryl Macon’s last second free throws capped a 15-point comeback as Arkansas topped Vanderbilt, 71-70
  • Matt Thomas hit seven 3-pointers en route to 25 points as Iowa State held off Kansas State, 70-65

Indiana hires Dayton head coach Archie Miller

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Indiana is expected to hire Dayton head coach Archie Miller, the school announced.

The deal will be for seven years, according to The Vertical. Miller had spent the last six seasons as the head coach at Dayton, getting to four straight NCAA tournaments, including the Elite 8 in 2014, while winning the last two Atlantic 10 regular season titles.

Miller had been targeted by seemingly every high major program with an opening since he reached the Elite 8, but similar to Shaka Smart when he left VCU, Miller simply waited for the right job to come long.

Indiana is the right job.

There had been some speculation that Miller wouldn’t want to take Indiana, that his dream job is Ohio State and that the idea of coaching in a fishbowl like Bloomington is not something that would be all that appealing to him. But Indiana is an elite job. It’s the kind of opening that happens once every four or five years, and if Miller had said no to the Hoosiers now, it’s very possible that an opportunity like this wouldn’t come along for years, if ever.

This hire is surprising, not because it’s the wrong hire — I think they got this right — but because Indiana actually made the right decision.

The overwhelming sentiment since Tom Crean was fired was that UCLA head coach Steve Alford would be named the next head coach at Indiana because the Hoosiers wanted an “Indiana Guy”. Alford was born in New Castle, he played at IU for Bobby Knight, he won a national title with the program. The goal was to get the Indiana fan base back, a fan base that was so estranged from the program that Indiana had to play an NIT game on the road as a higher seed because they were reportedly afraid of allowing ESPN’s cameras to see the empty seats.

But just because a hire appeases the fans doesn’t make it the right hire.

Miller was the right hire.

If they really want to get the fans back, winning is the best way to do it. Archie is as good of a bet to win at Indiana as anyone.

Elite 8 Preview: Saturday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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So Friday got good.

If Zak Showalter’s game-tying three and subsequent discount double-check wasn’t enough, we had Canyon Barry’s chasedown block and, well, this game-winner from Chris Chiozza.

And all that came after De’Aaron Fox took out what felt like a season’s worth of frustration out on Lonzo Ball.

What is on tap for tonight?

No. 1 GONZAGA (-8) vs. No. 11 XAVIER, 6:09 p.m., TBS: Someone is going to be making their way to the Final Four for the first time on Saturday night, as Xavier’s Chris Mack and Gonzaga’s Mark Few square off for the right to play on the final weekend of the season.

And in a way, this is the perfect Final Four game. Both the Zags and the Musketeers are basketball schools in basketball leagues. They come from outside the power structure and have head coaches that have spurned jobs from within the power structure to remain there. They are built for a run like this, even if they were both overlooked on the way here.

Xavier was obvious. Playing without Edmond Sumner and Myles Davis, the Musketeers just haven’t been the team that they were supposed to be this season. That’s why they lost six straight games in February, but things have turned around in March, as Trevon Bluiett has put the program on his back and willed them to the Elite 8. Gonzaga is the opposite. They went 29-0 to start the season, but they have yet to be accepted as a legitimate title contender by most of the people that watch the games.

My guess on Saturday night is that the Zags make their statement and emphatically get into the Final Four.

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-8)

No. 1 KANSAS (-7) vs.  No. 3 OREGON, 8:49 p.m., TBS: This matchup is a lot tastier on paper than it is likely going to end up being on the floor. As good as Oregon has been this season, they are, essentially, Kansas light. They play two lead guards together and they play small-ball, with a natural wing lined up at the four.

The problem?

The Kansas guys are just better. Josh Jackson is a better player than Dillon Brooks. His length and athleticism should give the Oregon star fits. Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham are better than whatever combination of Payton Pritchard, Tyler Dorsey and Dylan Ennis the Ducks opt to use.

And, for that matter, no team is playing better right now that they Jayhawks, who beat Michigan State by 20, Purdue by 32 and became the first team to score 90 points in their first three NCAA tournament games since 1995. I think that trend continues on Saturday night.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-7)

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

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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’

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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

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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.