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Texas Tech lands critical upset of No. 4 Baylor

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Keenan Evans scored 21 points and Niem Stevenson added 19 points, six boards and five assists as Texas Tech vaulted themselves back into the NCAA tournament picture with a 84-78 win over No. 4 Baylor in Lubbock on Monday night.

Terr Maston led the Bears with 22 points and Manu Lecomte chipped in with 16 points. Jonathan Motley played one of his worst games of the season, going scoreless in the first half and finishing with just 11 points to go along with four turnovers.

Here are three things to take away from this game:

1. We got a little glimpse of Baylor’s back court depth issues: Baylor went on the road to a tough opponent and lost. That’s not the end of the worth, particularly when you consider that Motley didn’t play well and Lecomte, who is supposed to be this team’s leader and star point guard, fouled out with more than eight minutes left after picking up a technical foul arguing an illegal screen.

(That, frankly, is unacceptable for a redshirt junior.)

The Red Raiders beat West Virginia in that gym. They lost to Kansas by one point after Kansas got the benefit of a no-call on what looked like a moving screen on the game’s final possession. Their RPI is in the mid-90s, but their KenPom ranking is in the low-40s, which should tell you that the Red Raiders have been on the wrong end of some tough losses.

So, again, losing at Texas Tech hardly tells us that Baylor cannot win a national title.

What it does show us, however, is that when Lecomte isn’t out there, Baylor’s back court really isn’t all that scary. Granted, they were without Al Freeman on Monday, but Freeman isn’t exactly Dennis Smith Jr. There probably won’t be many games where Lecomte is fouling out with eight minutes left, but it is something to keep an eye on.

2. Let’s talk about that Texas Tech at-large bid: The Red Raiders just landed a win over the No. 1 team in the RPI. That will, unquestionably, help them climb in the RPI; there has never been an at-large bid for a team with an RPI anywhere near 90.

The key, however, is going to be what they do over the course of the next ten days. During that stretch. the Red Raiders play at West Virginia, Iowa State at home and at Oklahoma State. As it currently stands, Texas Tech has four top 50 wins, but all of them came at home and they have just five total top 100 wins thanks to a non-conference SOS that ranks 336th. Throw in losses to Texas and Oklahoma, which weigh down a résumé, and Chris Beard’s club still has a lot of work to do to get themselves in a position where an at-large bid is a realistic possibility.

Because as of today, it’s not.

3. What does this mean for the Big 12 title race?: At the time of this posting, Kansas and West Virginia are still playing. But at it currently stands, this loss drops the Bears two games off of the pace Kansas is currently setting. Even if the Mountaineers manage to pull off a win in Phog Allen, it would mean that the Bears whiffed on another opportunity to pull even with Kansas in the standings. Remember, Baylor hosts Kansas on Saturday. That game could have been a battle for sole possession of first place in the Big 12.

Late run sparks Villanova past West Virginia, into Elite Eight

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BOSTON — It is always just a matter of time before the avalanche comes.

And when it does, you better hope that lead you have is big enough to withstand what’s coming.

For No. 5-seed West Virginia, it was not. With 11 minutes left on Friday night in Boston’s TD Garden, the Mountaineers led 60-54 and had seemingly wrestled control of the game from the No. 1-seed in the East Region. Less than five minutes later, after the Wildcats hit four of their next five threes, Villanova had taken a 76-66 lead by going on a 22-6 run, and West Virginia was never able to recover.

Jalen Brunson led the way for the top-seeded Wildcats with 27 points and four assists while Omari Spellman finished with 18 points, eight boards and three blocks and Mikal Bridges chipped in with 16 points despite playing relatively poorly — by his standards — on Friday.

With a 90-78 win, Villanova advanced to the Elite Eight and a date with the winner of tonight’s game No. 2 Purdue-No. 3 Texas Tech.

That’s the way that it works with this Villanova team. Armed with the most potent, high-volume three-point shooting attack in college basketball — maybe in the history of college basketball — fans of their opponents are just waiting for the inevitable.

On Friday night, Villanova shot 13-for-24 from three, which is damned-impressive and exactly what we expect at the same time, but the game was won during that five-minute surge when West Virginia just didn’t have an answer.

VIDEO: Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall with mammoth dunks for Villanova

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Villanova took the lead on West Virginia and turned the tide of momentum with a pair of emphatic dunks in transition.

It started with Omari Spellman, who had an unbelievable sequence, spiking a shot into the floor before throwing down a put-back dunk all over a defender:

A couple of possessions later, Eric Paschall finally did the impossible.

He dunked on Sagaba Konate:

I am having way too much fun at this game.

No. 1 Kansas into Elite Eight with win over No. 5 Clemson

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OMAHA, Neb. — Once Kansas found its stride, Clemson had little chance of keeping pace – even after a late stumble.

The No. 1 Jayhawks ran away from the No. 5 Tigers with a second-half flurry that powered them to a 80-76 victory Friday night at CenturyLink Center to put them in the Elite Eight on Sunday against either Duke or Syracuse.

Kansas moves on to the Midwest Region final on the back of a second-half offense that Clemson had nearly no success in slowing until the final minutes, when the Tigers turned a 20-point laugher into  a six-point nail-biter.

Malik Newman paced Kansas with 17 points while Devonte Graham 16 and Udoka Azubuike 14 and 11 rebounds.

Clemson got 31 points from senior Gabe DeVoe, but there just wasn’t enough help around him for the Tigers to keep things competitive after the Jayhawks hit them with three-consecutive 3s in the opening minutes of the second half to open up a 20-point lead.

Clemson was already hanging on by a threat after it shot just 35.7 percent from the floor and committed eight turnovers. DeVoe’s 12 first-half points kept the Tigers afloat, but they never enjoyed a lead before halftime.

The Jayhawks, meanwhile, had five players  score at least six points in the first half, including 10 from Azubuike, Their usual strengths – 3-point shooting (4 of 13) and Devonte Graham (1 of 7) – were absent in the first half, but Clemson was unable to take advantage as Kansas continued to get quality looks inside and stops on defense.

The Jayhawks previously played Syracuse in December, beating the Orange by 16 on a neutral floor in Miami. They haven’t faced the Blue Devils, though they have already shared a building with them once this year in the Champion’s Classic. Kansas topped Kentucky, 65-61, while Duke defeated Michigan State, 88-81, that November night in Chicago.

VIDEO: Mikal Bridges tries to dunk on Sagaba Konate, gets denied

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There really is nothing better in this world than seeing someone who is typically a great dunker take flight to try and dunk on Sagaba Konate of West Virginia, because it never, EVER ends well for the dunker.

See: Bridges, Mikal:

Auburn AD Greene gives Bruce Pearl a vote of confidence

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Speaking publicly for the first time about head coach Bruce Pearl, new Auburn athletic director gave his embattled head coach a vote of confidence.

Greene was on an in-house podcast produced with the voice of Auburn sports, and was asked about Pearl’s standing in a pod that lasted less than five minutes and felt more like a press release than anything else.

“He’s been a tremendous blessing for the Auburn family,” Greene said. “The FBI investigation is a long process. We’re going through that process to make sure that we, as a university, are doing what it is that we’re supposed to do to comply. Coach Pearl has been excellent in that regard and I look forward to continuing to work with him as we continue to do the very best to support he, his staff and the student athletes of Auburn University.”

This is the first time since former assistant coach Chuck Person was arrested that a member of the Auburn athletic department had spoken so positively about Pearl. In the fall, Auburn’s president Steven Leath lamented Pearl’s lack of cooperation in the investigation, but just last week released a statement saying Pearl is “working with university officials as part of our due diligence.” Pearl said after his team’s 84-53 loss to Clemson in the second round of the NCAA tournament that he would like to return.

There has been speculation that Pearl’s job was in jeopardy ever since Auburn was mixed up in the FBI’s complaint. Two players were forced to sit out this entire season after the FBI alleged they had received money funneled through Person from a runner for an agent and a financial advisor.

“One of the challenges that we have facing the industry is college basketball,” Greene said. “We want to make sure we work incredibly hard to clean up the game, to make it as pure as it can possibly be so that our student-athletes can enjoy the intercollegiate athletic experience. one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that the state of college basketball is not in a good place right now and I’m a little bit disappointed that auburn is involved in that, but that doesn’t take away from the excellent job that Coach Pearl has done.”