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No. 16 Vols beat Georgia 66-61, win share of SEC title

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee won a share of the Southeastern Conference title and then showed off the chip it has worn on its shoulder all season.

“Not bad for a team picked 13th,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said to a raucous sellout crowd Saturday as the 16th-ranked Volunteers prepared to cut down the nets after their 66-61 victory over Georgia.

The SEC’s preseason media poll had Tennessee finishing 13th out of 14 teams in the conference. Tennessee (23-7, 13-5 SEC) instead shares the league championship with No. 14 Auburn, which was picked to finish ninth.

Admiral Schofield scored 23 points as the Vols came from behind and closed the game on a 9-0 run. The Vols said those gloomy preseason forecasts made this championship particularly sweet.

“It’s always fun to have the last laugh,” Schofield said.

Because Auburn won 94-84 at Tennessee on Jan. 2 in their lone regular-season matchup, the Tigers (25-6, 13-5) get the No. 1 seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament that starts Wednesday in St. Louis.

Tennessee still was in a jubilant mood after grabbing a piece of its first league title since 2008 and tossed cups of water on Barnes as he entered the locker room after the game.

Vols forward Grant Williams said Tennessee always knew it could win a league title, even when nobody else considered it a realistic possibility.

“We didn’t really pay attention to any of those (preseason) rankings,” Williams said. “We might have used it now and again for motivation, but throughout the year we knew it was a different type of environment, a different team that we were playing with.”

The Vols have won four straight and 11 of their last 13. Tennessee’s latest victory ended Georgia’s five-game winning streak in this series.

It didn’t come easily.

After trailing by as many as 11, Tennessee pulled ahead for good at 62-61 when Jordan Bowden sank two free throws with 1:01 left.

Georgia’s Tyree Crump tried passing in the paint to SEC scoring leader Yante Maten on the Bulldogs’ next possession, but Tennessee’s Kyle Alexander stole it. Schofield then hit a jumper with 18 seconds left to make it 64-61.

William Jackson II missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Schofield made two free throws with 0.4 seconds left to close the scoring.

“That was a great college basketball game,” Barnes said. “It’s sad that somebody had to lose. I love the way our guys fought there at the end and got it done.”

Williams scored 22 points for Tennessee, which went on its 9-0 run after he fouled out. Maten scored 18, Rayshaun Hammonds had 12 and Jackson had 10 for Georgia (16-14, 7-11).

Maten shot 1 of 9 and had just six points in the second half. Georgia coach Mark Fox noted the SEC player of the year candidate wasn’t as effective after taking a hit to the jaw area in the second half.

“He’s with the doctor now, so I think it probably obviously had some impact,” Fox said, “but I don’t want to take anything away from Tennessee’s team.”


Georgia: The Bulldogs grabbed a double-digit lead by shooting 7 of 12 from 3-point range in the first half, but they went just 1 of 6 from beyond the arc in the second half. Georgia entered the night having made just 31.8 percent of its 3-pointers to rank 13th in the SEC.

Tennessee: Lamonte’ Turner was scoreless for the first 29 1/2 minutes but made three huge shots down the stretch. Turner’s first 3-pointer tied the game at 49-all. His second one put Tennessee ahead with 6:23 left for the Vols’ first lead since a 5-0 run to open the game. His third and final 3-pointer started the 9-0 spurt that closed the game.


The sellout crowd was unhappy with the officiating all night. A water bottle was even tossed onto the court after Williams fouled out with 3:33 left, causing Barnes to grab a microphone and remind the crowd to avoid that type of behavior.


NFL offensive rookie of the year and former Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints was in the crowd and drew a standing ovation when he was introduced during a first-half timeout.


Tennessee’s late-season surge should enable the Vols to move into the top 15.


Georgia: The Bulldogs are the 12th seed in the SEC Tournament that starts Wednesday in St. Louis.

Tennessee: The Vols are the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament and won’t play until Friday’s quarterfinals. They will face either No. 7 seed Mississippi State or No. 10 seed LSU.

The end was disappointing, but Kentucky’s season outpaced all expectation

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In yet another example of what makes March Madness the greatest and most unpredictable sporting spectacle on the planet, Kentucky’s run to the Sweet 16 this season is going to be looked at as a disappointment.

Who saw that coming back in January?

Who thought that this team had second weekend potential when they were in the midst of the first four-game losing streak of John Calipari’s tenure in Lexington?

And please, show me who, at that point in time, predicted that Kentucky media would be calling a loss in the Sweet 16 “the worst loss” in the Calipari era back when there were actual discussions being had over whether or not the Wildcats were going to get into the NCAA tournament?

It’s amazing how quickly the tide turns in college basketball

Kentucky lost on Thursday night. The fifth-seeded Wildcats fell to the ninth-seeded Wildcats of Kansas State in a game that turned into drama-filled slugfest down the stretch. The final score was 61-58. Kentucky had two shots at the end of regulation to force a tie or take the lead. They also gave up an offensive rebound to a 6-foot-3 no-name with 40 seconds left that led to the game-winning bucket.

The narrative is going to be that Kentucky choked this game away, that their inability to run offense — and P.J. Washington’s free throw yips — cost them the Final Four that seemed a given Thursday morning and a pipe dream on Selection Sunday.

The truth is that Kentucky was a flawed basketball team that got hot at the right time before running into a team that executed a game-plan to perfection while getting the benefit of a couple of bounces and whistles going their way.

And let me be perfectly clear: In no way, shape or form am I saying that Kentucky or Big Blue Nation should be happy with this loss. It should be disappointing. It should hurt — more so for the players than the fans, but whatever. The bracket broke perfectly for them. Everyone in their region was a cinderella. We weren’t wrong in thinking that Coach Cal’s kids were the heavy favorites to get to San Antonio out of Catlanta.

But we need to say that while also acknowledging this: There is a reason that Kentucky was a No. 5-seed this season.

This was a flawed basketball team.

They were young. They didn’t have enough shooting. Their offense was entirely too predictable, even when they were winning. If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox weren’t carrying the load for them on that end, they didn’t really have anywhere to turn. And on Thursday night, they ran into a team that had the personnel and a game-plan to take away Kentucky’s two go-to guys.

Kansas State is not overly talented, but what they have in abundance are tough, athletic and older guards that are going to put in a shift on the defensive end of the floor. Kentucky fans may not know who Barry Brown is, but I guarantee you that fans of every Big 12 team can tell you just how good he can be. I guarantee that coaches in the Big 12 can tell you just how annoying their guards are, and those little guards played that role to perfection.

To put it another way, it wasn’t a fluke that Gilgeous-Alexander struggled to make plays off the dribble the way he has for the last two months of the season. It wasn’t an accident that Kevin Knox struggled to find a way to get the looks he had become accustomed to getting coming off of Kentucky’s circle sets.

And in a 40 minute basketball game, when one team matches up well with another, something as simple as Xavier Sneed catching fire and Washington going 8-for-20 from the foul line will get you beat.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Because the real point that I am trying to make here is that this particular Kentucky team just wasn’t all that good. They were young. They were injured. They had their flaws masked by the improvement of a couple of kids who played out of their minds for long stretches of the season, and I just don’t think that’s something that should be overlooked.

Maybe this is just my mindset as a fan. I enjoy the ride more than I need to celebrate the ending. Give me a reason to tune in every game. Make me excited to have the monotony of a week broken up when the ball tips. I’m good.

And I think this Kentucky team accomplished just that.

But two weeks ago, no one thought this team had a shot of getting to the Elite 8. Two months ago, every Kentucky fan would have taken a trip to the second weekend in a heartbeat.

The ending sucked.

No doubt about it.

But this team kept fighting and kept improving and, in the end, lost because someone took makeup remover to the cosmetics that Calipari applied.

Be disappointed, but don’t lost sight of the big picture.

VIDEO: Townes’ late 3 seals Loyola’s win over Nevada

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Nevada was faced with a dilemma. The Wolf Pack were down just one possession – just one point – and were on defense with with a five-second differential between the game and shot clocks.

Foul and extend the game or play it out and hope for a stop?

Nevada opted to play it straight-up, and Loyola hit them with the worst-case scenario – a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock.

The 3-pointer from Marques Townes made it a two-possession game and the clock all but ruled out the possibility for two possession.

And that’s why Loyola is now in the Elite Eight.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Saturday’s tip times, TV channels, announcer pairings

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Half the spots in the Final Four are up for grabs Saturday. Be sure you know where your TV needs to be before the nets are cut down.

Atlanta: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington

  • 6:09 p.m. – No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 11 Loyola, TBS

Los Angeles: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson

  • 8:49 – No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 9 Florida State, TBS

VIDEO: This is the shot that ended Kentucky’s season

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Barry Brown has spent all season being underrated.

And Kentucky found that out the hard way on Thursday night.

This bucket with 18 seconds left gave Kansas State a lead they would never relinquish in a win over Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Florida State advances past Gonzaga to Elite Eight

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Florida State was an afterthought heading into the season in an ACC that was as loaded as it was top-heavy.

They were a No. 9-seed in the NCAA tournament in part because they were able to pick off North Carolina and Clemson at home by a combined three points.

They needed three overtimes to hold off Miami and Syracuse at home. They needed a win over Boston College on Senior Night to avoid heading into the ACC tournament with a losing record, and they ended up going and losing in the first round of the ACC tournament to a Louisville that never really sniffed the bubble and parted ways with their interim head coach as soon as their NIT run ended.

They were almost universally picked to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Missouri because everyone knew Michael Porter Jr. was back and secretly hoped that the potential top five pick might actually make some noise as a collegian before his run came to an end.

The Seminoles have been written off and ignored for the entire college basketball season.

And now they are a win away from the Final Four.

Terance Mann scored 18 points and Florida State held fourth-seeded Gonzaga to 35 percent shooting as the Seminoles advanced to their first Elite 8 since 1993 with a 75-60 win on Thursday night. The Seminoles will advance to take on No. 3-seed Michigan with a trip to the Final Four on the line. They have not been to a Final Four since 1972, which was the last Elite 8 before their last Elite 8.

Put another way, the program that has been ignored all season long has been to precisely one Elite 8 since 1972.

That’s a long time to be irrelevant.

So I guess it’s time that we all started to pay attention.

And here’s the interesting part of this: The Seminoles are actually a fun team to watch this year. This is not the kind of grind-it-out Florida State teams that we have become accustomed to with Leonard Hamilton at the helm of this program. They don’t try to play as many enormous human beings at one time as they can. Florida State plays a lot of small-ball. They have a lot of physical, athletic and switchable defenders. They press. They try to force turnovers. They get out and run in transition. They have a couple dudes; Mann and Braian Angola and M.J. Carter. They’re not exactly VCU and they’re not exactly West Virginia and they’re not exactly last season’s South Carolina, but there’s a little bit of all of them there.

And that’s what did Gonzaga in.

The Zags entered this game short-handed, as their starting five-man Killian Tillie was unable to go due to a hip injury that he aggravated during warmups, but that would not have made all that much of a difference in the Staples Center.

The issue was guard play.

Florida State’s pressure simply overwhelmed Gonzaga’s guards. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Zach Norvell were a combined 10-for-36 from the floor and had a nightmare-of-a-time trying to get the ball into the lane. The Zags committed 13 turnovers, trailed by 12 within the first ten minutes of the game and never really made a run keeping this thing within striking distance.

If there was an issue with Tillie being out, it came when Gonzaga tried to space the floor.

The Zags were playing without enough shooters, particularly in the front court. That clogged the paint and made it difficult for the likes of Johnathan Williams III and Rui Hachimura to get some space down there to operate. Perhaps the most telling stat on Thursday — more than Gonzaga’s 34 percent shooting or the 5-for-20 that they shot from three — was that the Zags were 8-for-27 on layups on the night.


For 27.


And it makes me wonder just how Michigan is going to be able to handle this group, but that’s neither here nor there.

We’ll get to it in time.

For now, it is time for the Seminoles and their fans to basket in this moment.

They were right, we were wrong.