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No. 3 Kansas upends No. 4 Baylor

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Landen Lucas hit two free throws with 11.5 seconds left to cap a game-ending, 8-0 run as No. 3 Kansas all-but clinched the outright Big 12 regular season title in Waco on Saturday, winning 67-65.

Frank Mason III played one of his best games of the season, finishing with 23 points and eight assists, consistently getting to the foul line on an afternoon where the rest of the Jayhawks roster wasn’t scoring the ball all that effectively. He was 7-for-12 from the floor and 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.

Johnathan Motley had 19 points, nine boards and four assists for the Bears, but he finished just 8-for-21 from the floor with six turnovers. Lucas, who had eight points, eight boards (seven offensive) and three blocks on the afternoon while playing 31 minutes with four fouls, did an excellent job of keeping the Baylor all-american in check.

With the win, Kansas moved three full games in front of Baylor for first place in the Big 12 with four games remaining, meaning that the Jayhawks have all-but locked up their 13th straight Big 12 regular season title.

Here are

1. If Baylor can’t beat Kansas at home, just how worried should we be about the Jayhawk front line?: I’m not sure there is a title contender that relies on more heavily on pounding the rock into the big boys on their front line more than Baylor does. Wisconsin might. Maybe Purdue, as well. Ethan Happ and Caleb Swanigan are Player of the Year candidates and they are decidedly low-post threats, but Baylor is right there in that conversation.

There’s a reason that Motley is Baylor’s all-american candidate. That’s who Scott wants to get the ball to, and we saw it on Saturday. He took 21 shots, he had four assists and he had six turnovers. Factoring in offensive rebounds and free throws, that’s roughly 30 of Baylor’s 65 possessions, or 46.2 percent, that Motley had a hand in.

In theory, that would be a bad sign for Kansas, right? We all know the issue with this team: Lucas is the only big man on the roster that is ready for the level of basketball that we saw on Saturday. Carlton Bragg Jr. may be, but playing him at the five, totally out of position, has hurt his confidence enough as it is. Dwight Coleby may or may not actually be healthy. Mitch Lightfoot is young. Udoka Azubuike’s season is over. And yet, it was Lucas who was the most impressive big man on the floor. His ability to wall up and defend without fouling while also getting to the offensive glass – again, without fouling – is the difference between Kansas being good and Kansas being disappointing.

Which brings me back to the initial point: If Kansas isn’t affected by their lack on interior depth playing on the road against a top five team, when are they going to be affected by their lack of interior depth?

Yes, I know, Kansas is one sprained ankle or a couple of bad whistles away from being without Lucas, but it’s not like you can plan for that. They’re probably screwed if Mason or Josh Jackson sprains an ankle in the tournament just like UCLA is screwed if Lonzo Ball twists an ankle and Kentucky is screwed if Malik Monk fouls out of a game with 10 minutes left.

As far as the things that you can plan for, Kansas looks better than fine.

2. Kansas is the most battle-tested team in America: The Jayhawks have won 12 games in the Big 12. Nine of them are by seven points or less. Seven are by five points or less. They came from 14 points down in the final three minutes to beat West Virginia. They won at Baylor in a game they trailed by 12. They beat Kentucky on the road by six points. They beat Duke by two. They lost to Indiana in overtime.

Some of that is luck – Svi’s travel against Kansas State, the legal illegal screen at Texas Tech – but a lot of it is some combination of talent, mental toughness and Bill Self. The bottom-line is this: No one will be more prepared to handle a close game in March than Kansas because no one has been through more this season than the Jayhawks.

3. Turnovers, transition defense killed Baylor: That’s where this game was lost. The Bears were up by 12 late in the first half and had control of the game early in the second half, but six turnovers in the first ten minutes of the second half helped turn things around. At one point, Kansas went on an 11-0 run to turn a six-point deficit into a five-point lead, and that run was almost entirely a result of the Kansas transition game.

Turnovers have been an issue for this team all season long, which is what happens when your starting point guard is a converted shooting guard. On the season, Baylor ranks 287th nationally in turnover percentage, and on Saturday, they turned the ball over on 16 of their 65 possessions, just under 25 percent.

4. Scott Drew probably got the last play wrong, which is why people make ‘Scott Drew can’t coach’ jokes: I don’t know what was drawn up on the final possession by Baylor. I wasn’t in the huddle. What I do know, however, is that after Drew called a timeout with 8.5 seconds left to draw up a play, the ball ended up in Manu Lecomte’s hands.

Lecomte has been one of the more clutch players in the country this season, but today was different because Lecomte had hurt his leg earlier in the game and did not have much burst. He was limping around on defense and sent two jumpers careening off the back board earlier in the half. The final possession of the game ended up with Lecomte taking an off-balance 18-footer between two Kansas defenders, a shot that never really had a chance.

It’s plays like that that get people making jokes about Drew and his ability to coach, which isn’t entirely fair. Everyone gets it wrong from time to time, especially when Bill Self is the man on the other sideline, and it doesn’t take into account the fact that the Jayhawk defense took Baylor out of what they wanted to do. He’s a favorite for National Coach of the Year, but people still make those same, played out, can’t coach jokes. If you’re wondering why, there you go.

5. 13 straight Big 12 titles: It’s not officially official yet, but it’s done.

13 straight.

There are going to be kids heading to high school next year that have never known a world where Kansas hasn’t won the Big 12 regular season title.

NTSB cites mechanical issue in Michigan plane incident

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YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) A preliminary investigation into the runway accident involving a plane carrying the Michigan men’s basketball team cites a mechanical problem.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday issued an update about the March 8 crash at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti Township, near the Ann Arbor school. The aborted takeoff caused extensive damage to the aircraft but only one minor injury during evacuation.

The report does not list a likely cause of the incident, but it says flight data recorder shows the right elevator – the primary mechanism controlling an airplane’s pitch – didn’t move during the attempted takeoff.

The plane carrying 109 passengers and seven crew members skidded 1,000 feet past the runway. The team was headed to Washington, D.C., for the Big Ten Tournament. They flew the next day and won the tournament and are now in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Butler, Purdue use true grit to get programs into Sweet 16

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Coach Matt Painter kept believing in his team even as he watched Purdue fritter away a 19-point lead.

He did, after all, recruit these players to excel in tough times. And he did spend two years using the lessons from consecutive overtime losses in the NCAA Tournament to show his team what it took to survive in March.

So when the Boilermakers steadied themselves, retook the lead and reached their first Sweet 16 in seven years, Painter wasn’t surprised. He simply knew the Boilermakers, finally, were tough enough.

“No question, having that grit back after not having it for a couple of years helps,” Painter said. “We put a lot of skill on the court, but we also have guys who are competitive.”

Painter, after all, grew up a fan of former Hoosiers coach Bob Knight, went on to play for Gene Keady and then served on Keady’s staff briefly before succeeding his former coach.

Experience has taught Painter just how delicate it can be to find the proper balance.

After finishing last in the Big Ten in 2013-14 with guys who were content to rely more on their athleticism than mental toughness, Painter changed course.

He brought in gritty overachievers who embraced old-school principles built on effort and led Purdue to its first outright conference title since 1996. Nothing reinforced those beliefs more than last weekend’s comeback against Iowa State.

“Leads are blown throughout March Madness, which is all about close games. I always tell the guys, `If it’s not a blowout, then it is a close game,”‘ junior forward Vince Edwards said Monday. “We have learned to be able to take a run – like Iowa State’s – and be able to withstand it.”

The best teams always do, which is why fourth-seeded Purdue will now face top-seeded Kansas (30-4) in one of Thursday night’s Midwest Regional semifinal games .

Finding players who are the right fit is a challenge for every coach and program.

At Butler, it’s a tradition that has been passed down through nearly a half-dozen coaches over a span of two decades. Former coach and current athletic director Barry Collier started the process by turning the Bulldogs from perennial also-ran into a regular conference contender and NCAA Tourney hopeful.

Thad Matta and Todd Lickliter kept the momentum going before taking other jobs, and Brad Stevens perfected the script as the Bulldogs posted consecutive national runner-up finishes.

Things didn’t always go smoothly. Fans still remember watching the Bulldogs blow an upset against Florida in the 2000 tourney and the inexplicable 2002 tourney snub.

Eventually, though, those painful moments gave way to a litany of program-defining memories.

Against Louisville in the 2003 tourney, a teammate handed his dry shoes to the late Joel Cornette so Cornette could help close out an upset against Louisville in 2003. In the 2010 title game, junior center Matt Howard had the foresight to set a pick and give Gordon Hayward a clean look on his half-court heave that just missed.

The next year, Howard managed to draw a foul in the waning seconds against Pittsburgh to keep Butler’s postseason run alive.

“The stories are unbelievable,” point guard Tyler Lewis said. “That was a special group because they really made the community believe Butler was not just some small school. Butler was a school you didn’t mess around with.”

Stevens and his predecessors moved the school up the pecking order by recruiting late-bloomers or players who were often overlooked by bigger schools. They asked them to play selflessly, a style that defines The Butler Way.

While that philosophy worked well in the Horizon League and the Atlantic 10, Chris Holtmann needed to make some adjustments to thrive in the stronger Big East. Holtmann has recruited better athletes and is looking for more physical players, but the same basic philosophy hasn’t changed.

“I think it (toughness) has been valued here at a really high level, from those who came before me,” Holtmann said. “I just hope I’m doing my job to carry it on.”

The good news is he hasn’t had do too much.

Here, players like leading scorer Kelan Martin don’t complain about coming off the bench if asked. Grad transfers like Avery Woodson and Kethan Savage are both happy to help any way they can in their first and only NCAA appearance.

And it will be that way again when fourth-seeded Butler (25-8) tries to upset top-seeded North Carolina (29-7) in the South Region on Friday night.

“What makes us so tough is that we believe in each other,” said Lewis, who started his career at North Carolina State. “It’s an honor putting on this Butler uniform because it reminds us of what the guys did that came before us.”

Sweet 16 Preview: Thursday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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The Sweet 16 kicks off on Thursday night, and the games are going to be terrific.

Oregon-Michigan should be thrilling, Gonzaga-West Virginia is a fascinating contrast of styles and Kansas-Purdue features arguably the two best players in college basketball.

Oh, and then there’s Arizona-Xavier, with Sean Miller and Chris Mack doing battle.

For an in-depth look at each region, check these out:

SWEET 16 PREVIEW: Midwest | West | South | East

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 7 Michigan (-1.5), 7:09 p.m. (CBS): So this run that Michigan on, is it a fluke?

Frankly, I don’t think that it is. Derrick Walton has been awesome for the better part of two months while Michigan’s perimeter shooters have always been shooters and the duo of D.J. Wilson and Mo Wagner are legit. I honestly do not believe that the Wolverines are a team of destiny after the plane crash. They are just really good and a perfect roster for John Beilein to tinker with.

That’s why they’re favored on Thursday night. But here’s the thing … Oregon is pretty good themselves. Dillon Brooks is going to be guarded by a big man, which should be a matchup that Brooks can take advantage of, and Tyler Dorsey has been playing terrific basketball since the start of the Pac-12 tournament.

If you like small-ball, spread-the-court basketball, you’ll love this game.

PREDICTION: Michigan (-1.5)

No. 1 Gonzaga (-3) vs. No. 4 West Virginia, 7:39 p.m. (TBS): On paper, I think Gonzaga should win this game. They have a good back court in Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins, a pair of talented point guards that have won a lot of games in their career. Gonzaga is also the best defensive team in the country. So if they don’t turn the ball over against West Virginia’s press and they make it difficult for West Virginia to score in the half court and get into their press, they should be able to win this thing, right?

Well, maybe not.

My concern with Gonzaga is game-pressure. They didn’t handle it well down the stretch against BYU in their one loss of the season, and I’m not convinced that they win that second round game against Northwestern if the officials don’t blow the goaltending call. How are they going to handle an endless wave of Mountaineers in their face?

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-3)

No. 1 Kansas (-5) vs. No. 4 Purdue, 9:39 p.m. (CBS): More than any other game this weekend, I’m fascinated to see how these two teams decide to try and play each other. Kansas has, essentially, one big man that Bill Self can trust, and he’s going up against a Player of the Year candidate in Caleb Swanigan and one of the best big men in the country at drawing fouls in Isaac Haas. Will Self double-team Swanigan knowing that Purdue may be more effective offensively when Swanigan can find shooters out of the double-team, or will he risk Lucas getting in foul trouble by trying to guard Swanigan one-on-one?

Then, at the other end of the floor, how will Purdue deal with the Kansas back court? Frank Mason III, the NBC Sports National Player of the Year, and Devonte’ Graham are a nightmare for anyone to deal with, let alone a team that struggles against penetrating guards and that lacks rim protection. It should be a fascinating coaching battle.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-5)

No. 2 Arizona (-7.5) vs. No. 11 Xavier, 10:09 p.m. (TBS): On paper, Arizona should be able to handle a Xavier team that doesn’t have Edmond Sumner or Myles Davis. That said, as we all know, Chris Mack and Sean Miller are very close and used to work together. Mack knows everything that Miller is going to do and vice versa. I think this game will be a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair that comes down to the final minutes.

PREDICTION: Xavier (+7.5)

Shayok and Reuter transferring from Virginia

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Virginia announced the departure of two players Wednesday.

Marial Shayok and Jarred Reuter will both transfer out of the program, the school said.

“Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future.”

Shayok, a a 6-foot-5 junior, played 20.9 minutes per game last season for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor. The Ottawa native started 23 games in three seasons with Virginia.

Reuter played a minimal role for the Cavaliers, averaging just 10.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Wake’s Collins declares for NBA draft without hiring agent

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest’s John Collins is entering the NBA draft but will not hire an agent and is keeping open the option of returning to school for his junior season.

In a statement Wednesday announcing the decision, Collins said he wants “to make an informed decision about what is best for my future.”

Collins is a 6-foot-10 forward who as a sophomore blossomed into one of the best big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was voted to the Associated Press all-ACC team.

He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, putting together a string of 12 consecutive 20-point games late in the season.

His progression was a big reason why the Demon Deacons earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Kansas State beat Wake Forest in the First Four.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org