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No. 4 Butler gets to the Sweet 16 with win over No. 12 Middle Tennessee

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The dream came to an end for No. 12 Middle Tennessee State on Saturday night, as the Blue Raiders fell to No. 4 Butler in the second round of Saturday night, 74-65.

After posting a statement win over No. 5 seed Minnesota in the first round of the dance, Kermit Davis’ club couldn’t quite get over the hump against Butler, who had an answer for every Middle Tennessee run.

Kelan Martin led the way for the Bulldogs, finishing with 19 points, six boards and four assists, while Andrew Chrabacsz chipped in 15 points, including the biggest shot of the game. Middle Tennessee answered Butler’s biggest lead of the game with a 9-0 run to get to within 59-56, but on the ensuing possession, Chrabacsz buried a three to push the lead back to six. Two possessions later hit knocked down two free throws, and on the possession after that, he was able to pass out of a trap to find Martin wide open under the rim.

Middle Tennessee never got within a single possession again.

That means that Butler will be in the Sweet 16 next weekend, playing the winner of tomorrow’s No. 1 North Carolina-No. 8 Arkansas game, and I’m not sure if anyone could have predicted that out of this Butler team back in October. The job that Chris Holtmann has done this season — hell, the job he’s done since he took over in October of 2014 for Brandon Miller — cannot be overstated. This team probably doesn’t have Sweet 16 talent. They probably don’t have top-half-of-the-Big East talent, but they not only finished the season in second in the conference, they swept Villanova and beat Arizona, Cincinnati and Indiana when Indiana was still good.

He’s done well enough with the Bulldogs that he’s either going to end up getting a bigger job — maybe Indiana? — or leverage that demand for a bigger contract, and neither of those things happen without a performance like this.

Back to Middle Tennessee, the run they were on was pretty incredible. Back-to-back second round appearances out of a single-bid conference is not an easy thing to do, and they did. That should be commended, even if we didn’t get to make a massive deal out of their trip to the Sweet 16.

Virginia, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, Vandy in NIT Tip-Off

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NEW YORK (AP) — Virginia and Vanderbilt will meet in one semifinal of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off on Thanksgiving Day at Barclays Center.

Rhode Island and Seton Hall face off in the other semifinal with the winners meeting on Friday, Nov. 24.

This is the third straight year the Tip-Off has been held at Barclays Center. Eventual NCAA champion Villanova won the event in 2015. All games will be televised on ESPNU.

Non-bracketed teams in the NIT Season Tip-Off who will play games at campus sites are: Austin Peay, Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Oakland City and UNC Asheville.

Miles Bridges explain why he returned to Michigan State

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Miles Bridges changed the landscape of the 2017-18 college basketball season on April 13.

The Michigan State forward spurned the NBA for another year in East Lansing. The decision not only meant that Bridges was a frontrunner for national player of the year, but solidified the Spartans as a national title contender.

But Bridges’ choice to return was still puzzling to many. The 6-foot-7 forward was projected as a lottery pick. Bridges explained his decision to Mike Decourcy of Sporting News in a story published on Thursday.

“He says, ‘You know what, Coach? I want to get better. I don’t want to be in the D-League. I’ve got buddies that are, and I just want to make sure when I go, I’m ready,’ ” Izzo recalled to Sporting News. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Done deal.’ For me, that was a done deal. It was a reasonable, sensible argument.”

Agents, friends, reporters, scouts, acquaintances, fans, strangers and family members — oh and, as we said, coaches — all had one opinion about how Bridges should spend the next year of his life. Miles had another, opposing, viewpoint.

Bridges told Decourcy that support came from his teammates, many of whom were returning to the team as well. Assuming the backcourt of Cassius Winston and Josh Langford make a leap forward, as well as incoming freshman Jaren Jackson providing an immediate impact, the Spartans’ title hopes could become a reality.

Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks as a freshman at Michigan State. He’s rated as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.

Four conferences sign on to basketball officiating alliance

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Four more Division I conferences will join a men’s basketball officiating alliance formed last year by the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association.

The Big South, the Ivy League, the Northeast and the Patriot League are joining ahead of the 2017-18 season, according to announcements from the leagues Thursday. The alliance launched last summer for conferences to work together on officiating matters and enhance training, development, recruitment, retention and feedback for officials.

John Cahill, the Big East’s supervisor of officials, and Bryan Kersey, the ACC’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, will continue to lead the alliance operations.

ACC commissioner John Swofford says the new additions to the alliance “provide an even greater opportunity to build chemistry and quality” across the officiating ranks.

North Carolina to unveil national championship banner in October

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The latest addition to the rafters of the Dean Dome will be unveiled this fall.

North Carolina will raise the banner for its 2017 national championship on Oct. 13, according to a report from Inside Carolina.

The event will coincide with the Tar Heels’ “Late Night With Roy” event that marks the public start to the season for the program and also serves, like many other top programs, as a recruiting tool.

North Carolina won its sixth NCAA national championship in April by defeating Gonzaga, 71-65, in Phoenix to avenge its last-second loss in the title game to Villanova the year prior. It was the Tar Heels’ first championship since 2009.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball highlights

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It was the most anticipated matchup of the summer.

Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball.

People were turned away at the door – and LeBron James reportedly came and went – as the gym reached capacity for SC Supreme’s 104-92 victory over the Big Ballers. That’s Williamson over Ball (LaMelo and LaVar).

The game was mostly spectacle, and you can see it’s top moments right here.