Devonte’ Graham was so good this week.
It really, truly cannot be overstated.
Let’s start with Monday night, when he spent 40 minutes — excuse me, 35, that was the only game in a month he hasn’t played 40 minutes — chasing around Trae Young while putting up 23 points and seven assists in a 104-74 win over the Sooners.
That was good.
Saturday was better.
Graham finished with 26 points and four assists, including a pair of insanely tough buckets in the final minutes, as the Jayhawks went into Lubbock and picked off No. 6 Texas Tech.
And with that, Graham avoided the indignity of being the first point guard in 14 years to play for Bill Self at Kansas and not win a Big 12 regular season title. Because the Jayhawks — despite all of the troubles that they have had this season, from Billy Preston to front court depth to the homecourt losses — won at least a share of the Big 12 title with two games remaining.
Once again, Kansas owns the best league in the country.
Just like they always have.
THE ALL-‘THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM
- MARKIS MCDUFFIE, Wichita State: McDuffie finally looked like the guy we waited all season for. He had his two biggest offensive outbursts of the season, first going for 15 points against Tulane and then following that up with 26 points in a win at SMU.
- WENDELL CARTER, Duke: Grayson Allen is back to being himself and Marvin Bagley is just plain old back, but Carter has been pretty good, too. Last week he averaged 17.0 points, 9.5 boards, 5.0 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2.0 steals. Not bad.
- ELIJAH BROWN, Oregon: Oregon had their best weekend of the year, beating Arizona and Arizona State. Brown had 19 points in the win over ASU and then went for 30 points as Oregon erased a double-digit deficit in an OT win over Arizona.
- CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue: Playing without Vince Edwards, Purdue did everything they could to put themselves in a position to win a share of the Big Ten title by winning at Illinois and beating Minnesota. Carsen had 40 in the win at Illinois.
- GRANT RILLER, Charleston: Riller scored 59 points in two games this week and, in his last four games, is averaging 29.8 points. The Cougars won a share of the CAA regular season title.
BOSTON — It is always just a matter of time before the avalanche comes.
And when it does, you better hope that lead you have is big enough to withstand what’s coming.
For No. 5-seed West Virginia, it was not. With 11 minutes left on Friday night in Boston’s TD Garden, the Mountaineers led 60-54 and had seemingly wrestled control of the game from the No. 1-seed in the East Region. Less than five minutes later, after the Wildcats hit four of their next five threes, Villanova had taken a 76-66 lead by going on a 22-6 run, and West Virginia was never able to recover.
Jalen Brunson led the way for the top-seeded Wildcats with 27 points and four assists while Omari Spellman finished with 18 points, eight boards and three blocks and Mikal Bridges chipped in with 16 points despite playing relatively poorly — by his standards — on Friday.
With a 90-78 win, Villanova advanced to the Elite Eight and a date with the winner of tonight’s game No. 2 Purdue-No. 3 Texas Tech.
That’s the way that it works with this Villanova team. Armed with the most potent, high-volume three-point shooting attack in college basketball — maybe in the history of college basketball — fans of their opponents are just waiting for the inevitable.
On Friday night, Villanova shot 13-for-24 from three, which is damned-impressive and exactly what we expect at the same time, but the game was won during that five-minute surge when West Virginia just didn’t have an answer.
Villanova took the lead on West Virginia and turned the tide of momentum with a pair of emphatic dunks in transition.
It started with Omari Spellman, who had an unbelievable sequence, spiking a shot into the floor before throwing down a put-back dunk all over a defender:
A couple of possessions later, Eric Paschall finally did the impossible.
He dunked on Sagaba Konate:
I am having way too much fun at this game.
OMAHA, Neb. — Once Kansas found its stride, Clemson had little chance of keeping pace – even after a late stumble.
The No. 1 Jayhawks ran away from the No. 5 Tigers with a second-half flurry that powered them to a 80-76 victory Friday night at CenturyLink Center to put them in the Elite Eight on Sunday against either Duke or Syracuse.
Kansas moves on to the Midwest Region final on the back of a second-half offense that Clemson had nearly no success in slowing until the final minutes, when the Tigers turned a 20-point laugher into a six-point nail-biter.
Malik Newman paced Kansas with 17 points while Devonte Graham 16 and Udoka Azubuike 14 and 11 rebounds.
Clemson got 31 points from senior Gabe DeVoe, but there just wasn’t enough help around him for the Tigers to keep things competitive after the Jayhawks hit them with three-consecutive 3s in the opening minutes of the second half to open up a 20-point lead.
Clemson was already hanging on by a threat after it shot just 35.7 percent from the floor and committed eight turnovers. DeVoe’s 12 first-half points kept the Tigers afloat, but they never enjoyed a lead before halftime.
The Jayhawks, meanwhile, had five players score at least six points in the first half, including 10 from Azubuike, Their usual strengths – 3-point shooting (4 of 13) and Devonte Graham (1 of 7) – were absent in the first half, but Clemson was unable to take advantage as Kansas continued to get quality looks inside and stops on defense.
The Jayhawks previously played Syracuse in December, beating the Orange by 16 on a neutral floor in Miami. They haven’t faced the Blue Devils, though they have already shared a building with them once this year in the Champion’s Classic. Kansas topped Kentucky, 65-61, while Duke defeated Michigan State, 88-81, that November night in Chicago.
There really is nothing better in this world than seeing someone who is typically a great dunker take flight to try and dunk on Sagaba Konate of West Virginia, because it never, EVER ends well for the dunker.
See: Bridges, Mikal:
Speaking publicly for the first time about head coach Bruce Pearl, new Auburn athletic director gave his embattled head coach a vote of confidence.
Greene was on an in-house podcast produced with the voice of Auburn sports, and was asked about Pearl’s standing in a pod that lasted less than five minutes and felt more like a press release than anything else.
“He’s been a tremendous blessing for the Auburn family,” Greene said. “The FBI investigation is a long process. We’re going through that process to make sure that we, as a university, are doing what it is that we’re supposed to do to comply. Coach Pearl has been excellent in that regard and I look forward to continuing to work with him as we continue to do the very best to support he, his staff and the student athletes of Auburn University.”
This is the first time since former assistant coach Chuck Person was arrested that a member of the Auburn athletic department had spoken so positively about Pearl. In the fall, Auburn’s president Steven Leath lamented Pearl’s lack of cooperation in the investigation, but just last week released a statement saying Pearl is “working with university officials as part of our due diligence.” Pearl said after his team’s 84-53 loss to Clemson in the second round of the NCAA tournament that he would like to return.
There has been speculation that Pearl’s job was in jeopardy ever since Auburn was mixed up in the FBI’s complaint. Two players were forced to sit out this entire season after the FBI alleged they had received money funneled through Person from a runner for an agent and a financial advisor.
“One of the challenges that we have facing the industry is college basketball,” Greene said. “We want to make sure we work incredibly hard to clean up the game, to make it as pure as it can possibly be so that our student-athletes can enjoy the intercollegiate athletic experience. one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that the state of college basketball is not in a good place right now and I’m a little bit disappointed that auburn is involved in that, but that doesn’t take away from the excellent job that Coach Pearl has done.”