LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Is Duke back?

Leave a comment

FRIDAY’S THINGS TO KNOW

Is Duke back?

The Blue Devils took advantage of Joel Berry II’s foul trouble by going on a 29-8 run en route to a 93-83 win over arch rival North Carolina in the ACC Tournament title game. Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen were all clicking. Harry Giles showed flashes of the potential he had when he enrolled in Durham. … Isn’t this what we’ve been waiting for from Duke all season long? If so, it couldn’t be happening at a better time. CBT’s Rob Dauster was in Brooklyn and had several takeaways from Duke’s massive comeback win.

Josh Hart made a late push for national player of the year with a 19-point, 10-rebound effort in Villanova‘s Big East Tournament semifinal win over Seton Hall on Friday night. The senior wing made key plays on both ends off the floor, none bigger than a putback lay-in in the final seconds, which ended up being the deciding bucket in a 55-53 win. He gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game after the Pirates led for more than 30 minutes. He and Jalen Brunson, Villanova’s other first-team all performer, scored the team’s final 19 points. The Wildcats are still in line to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

After a harrowing beginning to Michigan’s trip to the nation’s capital, it wouldn’t have been shocking if the Wolverines were one-and-dones in the Big Ten Tournament. However, Michigan has strung together consecutive wins in D.C., the most recent being a 74-70 overtime win over top-seeded Purdue in the quarterfinals. D.J. Wilson led with 26 points. CBT’s Rob Dauster has more here.

One of the concerns around Kentucky is how it will play when Malik Monk has an off-night. With Monk being limited to only two points, off 1-of-7 shooting, the rest of the Wildcat backcourt answered the call in an SEC Tournament win over Georgia. Isaiah Briscoe had 20 points, six rebounds and two assists. De’Aaron Fox also looked to be back in rhythm. CBT’s Rob Dauster explains why that’s important for Kentucky’s tournament hopes here.

Vanderbilt may have secured its berth in the NCAA Tournament by defeating No. 17 Florida for the third time this season. The Commodores outscored the Gators 14-4 in overtime to earn a marquee 72-62 victory.

STARRED

Semi Ojeleye, SMU — The American Player of the Year scored 17 of his career-high 36 points in the first half, building SMU a comfortable lead. While Mustangs got a scare from East Carolina, they move on to the AAC semifinals. Ojeleye also added 12 rebounds.

D.J. Wilson, Michigan — Back to wearing their regular uniforms, Michigan landed another victory in the Big Ten Tournament, defeating top-seeded Purdue in overtime to advance to the semifinals. Wilson had 26 points and eight boards, all while keeping All-American Caleb Swanigan in check. He had three blocks, none bigger than a rejection on Carsen Edwards which sent the contest to an extra frame.

Jack Gibbs, Davidson — For the sixth time this season, one of the nation’s leading scorers registered a 30-point game. Gibbs dropped 34 points in a win over top-seeded Dayton. The Wildcats advance to the A-10 Tournament semifinals.

Josh Hart, Villanova — The Big East Player of the Year made several key plays, as mentioned above, in a thrilling victory over Seton Hall. His 19 points and 10 rebounds not only serve as the latest proof that he could be the nation’s best player, but it keeps the Wildcats near the top of the list when the selection committee determines the No. 1 overall seed.

Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen, Duke — The trio combined for 62 points, off 17-of-32 shooting. Harry Giles also had an impactful 15 minutes, scoring six points and grabbing seven boards.

RELATED: Get caught up on all of today’s bubble action

REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Dillon Brooks was saddled with foul trouble, but No. 5 Oregon still held off Cal, 73-65, in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. Even though Cal was without Jabari Bird, who reportedly suffered a concussion, it bodes well for the Ducks to find a way to win when Brooks isn’t at his best. For Cal, this likely spells N-I-T.
  • No. 11 West Virginia scored only 16 first-half points, but rallied, and held on, in the second half against Kansas State. The Mountaineers won, 51-50, and advance to the Big 12 Tournament title game. K-State may have done enough with a win over Baylor on Thursday, but the Wildcats might have to sweat it out on Sunday.
  • No. 12 SMU, the top seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, nearly surrendered a 22-point lead, but held on to an 81-77 win over East Carolina in the quarterfinals. Semi Ojeleye had 36 points in the win.
  • Kyle Washington had 21 points, followed by Jacob Evans’ 20, as No. 15 Cincinnati rolled past Tulsa in the AAC quarterfinals.
  • It got closer than Mike Brey would have liked it to be, No. 22 Notre Dame is going to meet Duke the ACC Tournament title game after defeating No. 16 Florida State, 77-73, in the second semifinal from Brooklyn. Duke won the first meeting, led by a combined 56 points from Tatum, Allen and Kennard.
  • Playing its third game in as many days, fatigue may have caught up on TCU. The Horned Frogs trailed by double digits at half en route to an 84-63 loss to No. 23 Iowa State. Deonte Burton led the way with 22 points.
  • No. 24 Wisconsin defeated Indiana for the third time this season, ending the Hoosiers’ 2016-17 with a 70-60 victory in the Big Ten quarterfinals. The usual suspects led the way for the Badgers with Bronson Koenig scoring a game-high 16 points, followed by Ethan Happ with 14. Nigel Hayes was a rebound-shy of a double-double.
  • A 20-2 second half run propelled Northwestern to a 72-64 win over No. 25 Maryland. The Wildcats went on a 31-0 run in the previous round against Rutgers.

NOTABLE

  • The game of the night may have been in the WAC. In the semifinals, top-seeded CSU Bakersfield needed four overtimes to defeat Utah Valley, 81-80. How will the length of that game impact the Roadrunners in Saturday’s championship game?
  • Middle Tennessee State advanced to the Conference USA title game. The Blue Raiders need one more win, and they won’t have to worry about being left on the cutting room floor by the selection committee. The top seed in the C-USA will play No. 6 Marshall in the championship game.
  • Rhode Island, which sits squarely on the bubble in Pittsburgh, landed an A-10 Tournament quarterfinal win over St. Bonaventure behind 19 points and eight rebounds from Hassan Martin.
  • The top seed in the SWAC, Texas Southern, landed a 62-57 win over Grambling. The Tigers are one win away from their third NCAA Tournament appearance in the past four years.
  • Kevin Hervey scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in UT-Arlington‘s 71-54 win over Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt quarterfinals. The top-seeded Mavericks boast a win at Saint Mary’s this season. They could be a trendy pick for an upset if they reach the NCAA Tournament.
  • Top-seeded Akron is one step closer to an automatic berth, defeating Ball State, 74-70, in the MAC semifinals. The Zips were led by 19 points apiece from Isaiah Johnson and Antino Jackson.
  • Davidson upset top-seeded Dayton in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals. Jack Gibbs, all all-first team selection, came up big with 34 points. It was the sixth time this year he recorded a 30-point performance. Watch the highlights here.
  • New Orleans had a double-bye in the Southland Conference Tournament. After its first postseason win, the Privateers are halfway to an NCAA Tournament appearance. New Orleans, led by conference player of the year Erik Thomas’ 18 points, downed Sam Houston State by a dozen on Friday night.
  • North Carolina Central is one-win away from the program’s second NCAA Tournament appearance, as Eagles defeated Maryland-Eastern Shore, 77-49, in the MEAC semifinals. NC Central’s average margin of victory in the tournament is 31.5 points.
  • The second Big East Tournament semifinal of the evening, ending like the first: in the final seconds. After Xavier‘s Trevon Bluiett tied the score with a step-back three, Marcus Foster buried a triple with 8.3 seconds left to lead Creighton to Saturday’s title game.
  • Texas Southern and Alcorn State, the two top teams in the SWAC, meet for an automatic bid. Texas Southern won both regular season meetings by a combined seven points.

Stanford’s surprising mid-season turnaround continues with upset of No. 16 Arizona State

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Stanford earned a huge home win over No. 16 Arizona State on Wednesday night, taking down the Sun Devils for an 86-77 Pac-12 win.

The win for the Cardinal continues one of the best (and most surprising) turnarounds in the nation as Stanford is keeping pace with Arizona atop the Pac-12 standings. Now sitting at 5-1 in the conference, the Cardinal have won five consecutive games after sitting at 6-8 for the season following a loss to Cal. Stanford has picked off UCLA, USC and Arizona State since the start of 2018 while also sweeping the Washington schools on the road last week. Now Stanford is 11-8 overall while looking like one of the more dangerous teams in the Pac-12.

So how did this turnaround exactly happen?

Stanford figured things out with the mid-season addition of touted freshman forward Kezie Okpala. A bit of a late-blooming prospect coming out of high school, the 6-foot-8 Okpala was a high-end four-star recruit who had to sit out Stanford’s first 12 games this season due to academic complications.

During his final semester of high school, Okpala dropped below the threshold of what Stanford required in an AP calculus course while he tried to juggle the academic rigors of three AP classes. Stanford’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions notified Okpala of this and said they’d honor the original decision to admit him if he agreed to sit out of competition.

It was initially unclear if Okpala would play this season, but he’s figured out the academic side of things, and Stanford is very happy that he’s with them on the court. Since Okpala’s debut, the team has gone 5-2 with the freshman playing extended minutes in all seven contests. Okpala has even scored in double-figures in five of seven games he’s played in so far this season.

While Okpala actually had his worst shooting performance of the season on Wednesday in the win over Arizona State — finishing with four points on 1-for-8 shooting — his size and skill level on the wing (five assists) helped the Cardinal in other facets of the game. Outrebounding the Sun Devils, 44-30, while adding 13 offensive rebounds, Stanford has a long and athletic main lineup with Okpala in the mix.

Forward Reid Travis (18 points, 10 rebounds) remains one of the Pac-12’s most productive players after helping dismantle the Sun Devils with another double-double. Seniors like guard Dorian Pickens (19 points) and center Michael Humphrey (four points, five rebounds) are solid contributors. Freshman guard Daejon Davis (13 points, eight assists) is also seeing his play improve over time as he’s been picking things up lately as conference play gets going.

It might be too-little, too-late when it comes to Stanford’s NCAA tournament hopes after such a rough start. At least the Cardinal are showing plenty of fight now that they have their prized recruit in the lineup. Okpala’s return has given Stanford a major boost as the Cardinal look like a real threat with its rotation in place.

There’s still a long way to go before the Pac-12 conference race is decided. Stanford still has to prove this five-game winning streak isn’t merely a fluke like the half-court buzzer-beater that lifted them past USC. But the Cardinal has at least put themselves in the conversation among the league’s better teams. Nobody saw that coming a few weeks ago.

Wednesday’s Three Things To Know: No. 8 Texas Tech, No. 19 Seton Hall get dropped on the road

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The nights where there aren’t any marquee games are always the nights where college basketball goes absolutely batty.

Wednesday night was no different.

Here are the three things you need to know.

1. TEXAS TECH BLEW THE ADVANTAGE THEY HAD IN THE BIG 12 RACE

It’s a talking point that never really caught on, but prior to Wednesday night’s trip to Austin, No. 8 Texas Tech had the inside lane in the race for the Big 12 regular season title.

There is a clear-cut top four in the conference: Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and the Red Raiders. The way to win the league was simple: Beat the teams outside of the top four and protect your home court against the other three contenders. Entering Wednesday, Texas Tech and Kansas were sitting one game ahead of West Virginia, who had lost at home to Kansas, and Oklahoma, had lost on the road to Kansas State. Texas Tech already had a leg up on the Jayhawks as well, as they won in Phog Allen Fieldhouse earlier this year.

I would hesitate to call anyone a favorite in the Big 12 that isn’t named Kansas, but the Red Raiders had certainly put themselves in a position where they had the easiest path.

And then the Texas game happened.

Mo Bamba went for 15 points, 11 boards and five blocks and Kerwin Roach poured in 20 in a return to the lineup as Texas beat No. 8 Texas Tech, 67-58. We knew losses were likely coming for the Red Raiders – no one is going to make it through this league without taking some lumps – but it has to be frustrating that those losses came when the program had a chance to keep pace with Kansas.

Credit to Texas. Their defense played as well as it has in weeks, they showed some toughness to get the win against a physical Tech team and they landed a résumé win that should age well.

Texas Tech also did a really cool thing for Andrew Jones prior to the game.

2. SETON HALL GOT BLOWN OUT ON THE ROAD AND DESI RODRIGUEZ GOT BENCHED

Twice in the last eight days, No. 19 Seton Hall has lost by at least 17 points on the road after they fell, 80-63, at Creighton on Wednesday night.

Creighton is a good team. They were playing at home in an arena that routinely puts 17,000 butts in seats. When they get it going they are tough to beat, so there really isn’t all that much to be concerned about here in a vacuum.

But we’re not in a vacuum.

Creighton lost by 20 points at Marquette last Tuesday. Marquette is not as good as Creighton and they do not play in as tough of an atmosphere as there is in Omaha.

What’s worse, however, is that Desi Rodriguez – the guy that has probably been Seton Hall’s Player of the Year – played just six minutes. Here is Kevin Willard’s explanation:

“He had that look in his face where he just didn’t want to be out there. When he gets that way, you just got to let him regroup and refocus. And it just never happened.”

That’s probably a cover for something else, but the concern for Seton Hall fans was that Rodriguez was hurt.

Getting benched isn’t ideal. But it’s better than getting hurt.

3. ALABAMA ENDED NO. 17 AUBURN’S 14-GAME WINNING STREAK

But what is more impressive is that they did it without Collin Sexton, who was sitting out with an injury.

That is a massive win for the Crimson Tide’s NCAA tournament hopes, which our Scott Phillips detailed here.

No. 24 TCU snaps 3-game skid with 96-73 over Iowa State

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

FORT WORTH, Texas — Vladimir Brodziansky had 26 points and No. 24 TCU snapped a three-game losing streak with a 96-73 win over Iowa State on Wednesday night, when the Horned Frogs played for the first time without injured starting point guard Jaylen Fisher.

Alex Robinson, who started at point guard, scored eight points and had a school-record 17 assists for the Horned Frogs (14-4, 2-4 Big 12), who never trailed and shot 60 percent from the field. He had only one turnover in 38 minutes.

Brodziansky shot 11 of 13 for his third 20-point game in five games. JD Miller added 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting with five 3-pointers. Kouat Noi scored 16 points and Kenrich Williams had his eighth double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Donovan Jackson had 19 points for Iowa State (10-6, 1-5). Cameron Lard and Lindell Wigginton each had 16.

Fisher was scheduled to have surgery Thursday, two days after injuring his right knee during practice. The sophomore guard missed the team’s trip to Australia in August after tearing meniscus in his left knee during practice then, but was back for the start of the season after surgery.

Robinson’s 12th assist, surpassing his previous career high of 11, was on pass to Brodziansky for a slam dunk that made it 70-53 with 11:36 left before an Iowa State timeout. That was among many plays applauded by Fisher, who sat in a chair near the TCU bench.

TCU jumped out to a 14-4 lead in the game’s first 5 minutes, and led by as many as 17 in the first half.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa St.: Even while they shot 51 percent from the field (30 of 59), the Cyclones couldn’t gain any momentum coming off their first Big 12 victory Saturday against Baylor. Wigginton, the freshman who was the Big 12 newcomer of the week after games with 30 and 27 points last week, had only two points at halftime after he got two fouls in the first 9 minutes.

TCU: After so many close games, including consecutive overtime losses on the road last week, the Frogs finally had a game in which they didn’t have to press in the closing minutes. Their four Big 12 losses are by a combined 11 points, and their only previous conference win was by three points in overtime.

UP NEXT

Iowa St.: Another ranked opponent for the Cyclones, who host No. 8 Texas Tech on Saturday.

TCU: The Horned Frogs play three of their next four games on the road. They are at Kansas State (13-5, 3-3) on Saturday.

No. 14 Arizona overcomes slow start, runs past Cal 79-58

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

BERKELEY, Calif. — Deandre Ayton had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 14 Arizona overcame a slow, sloppy start to beat California 79-58 on Wednesday night.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 14 points with three 3-pointers during a decisive stretch spanning halftime as the Wildcats won their third straight since losing at Colorado on Jan. 6.

Dylan Smith made all four of his 3s and added 14 points and Allonzo Trier scored 15 as Arizona (15-4, 5-1 Pac-12) played without sophomore guard Rawle Alkins, held out as a precaution with what the school said was mild right foot soreness.

Justice Sueing scored 19 points to lead Cal (7-12, 1-5) but missed all six of his 3-point attempts for the cold-shooting Golden Bears, held to 35.3 percent and outrebounded 36-22. Don Coleman had 11 points but shot just 3 of 13.

Ayton made 9 of 11 shots and Arizona shot 62 percent, going 11 for 19 from deep.

Arizona connected on six straight 3-pointers from the 9:20 mark until 2:32 left before halftime to take control, three by Parker Jackson-Cartwright, then seven in all spanning halftime. Cal got within single digits, down by nine, for all of 17 seconds in the second half.

The Wildcats went four possessions until getting their first shot off while committing three quick turnovers and falling behind 6-0. They had turnovers on six of their initial nine possessions and 21 overall but still wound up shooting 70 percent in the opening half.

Arizona won its fourth straight in the series.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: The Pac-12’s top team from the free throw line, the Wildcats followed up a 34-of-37 showing at the line against Oregon last Saturday — the program’s first time at 90 percent or higher with at least 35 attempts since going 38 of 40 (.950) vs. Washington on Jan. 27, 2005, a span of 454 games — by shooting just 13 free throws and making six. Arizona came in shooting 85.3 percent at the line. … The Wildcats are 18-11 in Pac-12 road games played in the state of California under Sean Miller since 2009. Miller also is 12-4 vs. Cal.

Cal: Kingsley Okoroh, a 7-foot-1 center, scored 10 points to post his first game in double figures scoring since Nov. 16 against Wofford. … Cal has beaten ranked Arizona teams 11 times, including No. 1 four years ago at Haas Pavilion. While the Bears averaged 54.5 points over their recent road trip to Washington and Washington State last weekend, they hurt their chances with a 1-for-13 shooting performance from 3-point range but made 21 of 30 free throws.

UP NEXT

Arizona: At Stanford on Saturday afternoon.

Cal: Hosts Arizona State on Saturday night.

Holtmann makes Big Ten history as Ohio St. tops Northwestern

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
1 Comment

ROSEMONT, Ill. — Chris Holtmann became the first coach in 95 years to win his first seven Big Ten games as No. 22 Ohio State defeated Northwestern 71-65 on Wednesday night.

C.J. Jackson had 12 points, eight assists and three steals, Micah Potter scored 13 points off the bench, Jae’Sean Tate added 12 and Keita Bates-Diop had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Buckeyes (16-4, 7-0), who won their sixth straight overall.

Holtmann is the third Big Ten coach to win his first seven conference games, joining Wisconsin’s Walter Meanwell (1911-12) and Iowa’s Sam Barry (1922-23). Holtmann replaced Thad Matta, the program’s all-time wins leader, this season.

Vic Law scored 14 points and Scottie Lindsey added 13 for Northwestern (11-9, 2-5) as the Wildcats suffered their second straight double-digit loss.

Picked to finish 11th in the Big Ten in a preseason media poll, the Buckeyes have been the story of the conference so far this season.

Coming off successive routs of then-No. 1 Michigan State, Maryland and Rutgers, Ohio State led Northwestern by as many as 15 in the second half before holding off a late Wildcats charge.

Northwestern got within three at 68-65 on a 3-pointer by Lindsey with 43 seconds left, but Jackson sealed the the victory from the foul line.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: The Buckeyes won on the road without a big game from Bates-Diop. The reigning two-time Big Ten Player of the Week, Bates-Dio entered the game leading the Big Ten in scoring (20.3) and third in rebounding (8.8).

Northwestern: With four starters back from the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance, the Wildcats have fallen far short of expectations and are going to have turn things around in a hurry to make a case for another invitation to the dance.

UP NEXT

Ohio State: The Buckeyes host Minnesota on Saturday.

Northwestern: The Wildcats host Penn State on Saturday.