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NCAA Tournament Sunday Recap: Louisville, Duke get upset, North Carolina, Kentucky survive

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Saturday gave us two of the best games of the tournament, with No. 8 Wisconsin upsetting No. 1 Villanova and No. 5 Iowa State erasing a 19-point second half deficit only to give the game right back to No. 4 Purdue.

Sunday hasn’t disappointed either, as the day was chock-full of upsets, dogfights, highlights and last-second shots.

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

No. 2 Duke is heading home. The Blue Devils got run out of Greenville by No. 7 South Carolina, as the Gamecocks scored 65 second half points in an 88-81 win on Sunday night. It was a fitting ending for a team loaded with talent that was never quite able to put it all together, as they were more or less punked by a tougher, more physical South Carolina team in what amounted to a road game.

The best game of the day was the nightcap in Indianapolis, as No. 2 Kentucky avoided a late-game collapse and locked up No. 10 Wichita State on the final two possessions of the game. There was so much to love about this game, from the Wichita State revenge factor to the battle between De’Aaron Fox and Landry Shamet to the way that Gregg Marshall schemed Malik Monk into a limited role. What was even better was that the game came down to a final possession, and while it was a low-scoring, defensive slugfest, it was a hell of a game to watch. Defense doesn’t have to be ugly.

The ride isn’t over yet for No. 7 Michigan, as the Wolverines came from behind to beat No. 2 Louisville and get to the Sweet 16. The most impressive part of the win is that Michigan did it while star point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who has ben one of the best players in the country over the course of the last six weeks, finished with just 10 points on 3-for-13 shooting. The Wolverines were involved in a plane crash earlier this month, and ever since then, the narrative that this is a Team of Destiny has ben bandied about. That should stop, because the Wolverines aren’t a Cinderella. They’re just damn good.

With the loss, the ACC — the ‘best conference in the history of conferences’ —  is now down to just two teams left in this tournament, No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Duke, while the Big Ten — which was maligned all year long — has three teams in the Sweet 16, including the two teams that beat No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Louisville.

The team that Michigan will play in the next round, No. 3 seed Oregon, came very close to getting upset as well. The Ducks erased an 11-point second half deficit, knocking off No. 11 Rhode Island thanks to a Tyler Dorsey three with 36 seconds left in the game. URI had a couple of shots to tie the game on the final possession, but they couldn’t connect.

No one in the tournament has been more impressive throughout the first weekend than No. 1 seed Kansas, who pulled away from No. 9 Michigan State down the stretch and ended up sending the Fighting Tom Izzos home with a 20-point loss.

No. 1 seed North Carolina was not impressive, however, as the Tar Heels blew a double-digit lead and very nearly lost to No. 8 seed Arkansas on Sunday evening. The Tar Heels were down 65-60 with three minutes left, but used some sterling defense and a 12-0 run down the stretch to pull away with the win. The question with this team is defense and toughness, and while that was something of an issue late in the first half and early in the second half, the Tar Heels made the plays they needed to make down the stretch to win it.

Terry Maston and Johnathan Motley combined for 38 points and 19 boards as No. 3 seed Baylor survived an upset bid from No. 11 seed USC to get back to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time under Scott Drew and the first time since 2014. And while No. 3 seed UCLA struggled in the first half, Lonzo Ball did all the things that his Daddy keeps telling us he can do in the second half and carried the Bruins past No. 6 Cincinnati.

SATURDAY’S BEST

Tyler Dorsey, Oregon: Dorsey not only scored 27 points on 9-for-10 shooting against Rhode Island, but he had five boards, three assists and two steals, in addition to, you know, a game-winning jumper.

Moe Wagner, Michigan: The German important scored 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting as the Wolverines knocked off No. 2 seed Louisville to get to the Sweet 16. Just don’t call them the ‘Team of Destiny’.

Josh Jackson, Kansas: Jackson had a team-high 23 points as the Jayhawks beat No. 9 seed Michigan State.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.