A day after scoring 27 points and hitting the game-winning buzzer-beater for the Crimson Tide as they knocked off Texas A&M in the second round of the SEC tournament, Collin Sexton out-did himself.
Alabama’s dynamic point guard finished with 31 points and seven boards, shooting 10-for-16 from the floor and 6-for-8 from three, as the Tide outscored in-state rival and top-seeded Auburn 50-22 in the second half of an 81-63 win.
And suddenly, an Alabama team that entered the SEC tournament having lost five straight and played their way directly onto the bubble’s cut-line looks like not only a lock for the NCAA tournament but one of the teams that you do not want to see in your region if you are a No. 2 or 3 seed.
Because that’s where they are trending right now.
As things currently stand, Alabama is probably tracking towards being a No. 11 seed that misses the play-in game. They have seven Quadrant 1 wins — including three wins against the SEC co-champs Auburn and Tennessee — and an 11-11 record against the top two Quadrants. But they also have three Quadrant 3 losses, and unless they win the SEC tournament, they are going to enter Selection Sunday with 15 losses to their name.
That’s a lot of losses, and while the selection committee hasn’t always put the most weight into how many games that a team loses during the season, it is something that has to be considered. Take, for instance, Vanderbilt last year. They were 19-15 on Selection Sunday with a handful of really nice wins and they ended up
in a play-in game as a No. 9 seed.
Alabama might be able to sneak their way into a bye, but either way, the truth is this: With the way that Sexton is playing right now and with the amount of talent that is on that roster, they are the team that all the No. 2 and 3 seeds are going to be hoping that they avoid, because they certainly have the ability and the star power to make it to the second weekend.
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.”