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NCAA tournament breakout star Jordan Bell will be remembered for costly missed boxouts


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jordan Bell has been perhaps the most productive and consistent player in the 2017 NCAA tournament. The Oregon junior center emerged as a breakout star in March when regular starter Chris Boucher went down with a torn ACL right before the tournament started.

Many people wrote off Oregon’s chances at making a deep tournament run when Boucher was lost with his season-ending injury. Bell quickly made people forget about the injury with double-doubles in four of five tourney games while helping carry the Ducks to the Final Four.

But for as good as Bell has been over the past few weeks, he’ll forever be associated with the final six seconds of North Carolina’s 77-76 win over Oregon in the second national semifinal on Saturday night.

With Tar Heels big man Kennedy Meeks shooting free throws with a one-point lead, the Ducks just needed a couple of misses and a big defensive rebound to get one more chance to tie or win the game. Meeks did his part by missing both free throws, but the second miss was back-tapped by North Carolina’s Theo Pinson, as he out-jumped Bell for the rebound. Tar Heel point guard Joel Berry II ended up with the ball and was fouled with four seconds left.

Once again, Berry did everything he could to help Oregon stay in the game by missing both free throws but Bell was again outrebounded after missing a boxout — this time by Meeks.

Bell was so emotional after the loss that he buried his head in his hands in the corner of the court for a good 20 seconds as the magnitude of everything that had happened finally hit. With tears in his eyes and his voice barely reaching a whisper, Bell recounted his version of the final six seconds as cameras and reporters surrounded his locker.

“The first one, he just out-jumped me,” Bell said of Pinson’s back-tap. “He wanted it more. I guess…”

“I thought I had the second one, then [Meeks] just took it from me.”

“If I had just boxed out… I had two opportunities. People can tell me whatever they want, but I lost the game for us.”

Bell’s blunders on the defensive glass are going to be remembered by many as one of the primary reasons that Oregon was eliminated from the Final Four. It should also be noted that Bell had another productive night, finishing with 13 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks, when other key players Oregon like Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey couldn’t get much going offensively. Brooks and Dorsey combined to go 5-for-22 from the field on Saturday as Oregon was 7-for-26 from three-point range.

The other Ducks were quick to come to Bell’s defense when asked about the missed defensive rebounds.

“They told me it wasn’t my fault and that it didn’t come down to one play,” Bell said.

“He’s been playing great for us. He’s been snatching those boards. We felt that we should have boxed out and gotten one of those rebounds,” Dorsey said. “But without him, we wouldn’t be in this position. So, you can’t look at that and say it was the key to the game because it wasn’t. There were other opportunities before that. We just didn’t capitalize. But it hurts him a lot that he didn’t get that rebound because he’s been doing that this whole tournament.”

People will likely forget that Bell had a key offensive putback off of an Oregon missed free throw late in the Sweet 16 win over Michigan. Or that Bell was the most dominant player on the floor against No. 1 seed Kansas in the Elite Eight when he had 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks.

Bell might have blamed himself for the loss but it’s not his direct fault that Oregon is out of the NCAA tournament. Anyone who watched the Ducks take bad shots down the stretch time-after-time against North Carolina can attest to that. But, fair or not, people will remember Bell’s missed boxouts more than anything else he accomplished in the 2017 NCAA tournament.

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.

Kansas State’s injured star hoping to play Thursday

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One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.

Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.

“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”

Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.

“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”

Arizona’s Sean Miller: ‘I am not a candidate’ at Pitt

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With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.

“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.

Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.

Maybe he wasn’t.

Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.

And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.

As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.

Report: Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson suffers another fracture in foot

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Bonzie Colson rushed back from a broken foot to try and help his Notre Dame team get into the NCAA tournament this season.

They were bumped out of the field when Davidson upset Rhode Island and earned the Atlantic 10’s third bid to the league tournament. The Fighting Irish were NIT bound, and in their second round loss to Penn State late last week, Colson reinjured the left foot that held him out of action for eight weeks.

On Wednesday, Yahoo reported that Colson suffered another fracture in the foot.

“I’m sitting there and he’s limping off and I’m going, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” coach Mike Brey said after the game. “Everything we’ve been through? I thought we were out of the woods with him.”

There was a poignant moment at the end of the game.

Colson’s injury came during the third quarter. He returned to the bench at Purcell Pavilion with ice on his foot after going into the locker room. With 30 seconds left and a loss imminent, Colson walked right past Mike Brey, said “I’m going in”, and finished his college career on the court.

Colson is a potential second round pick. He was an all-american last year and a preseason selection this year. He was averaging 19.7 points, 10.2 boards and 2.2 blocks when he was injured.