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Thursday’s College Basketball Recap: Porter, Jr. returns, Sexton soars and Duke/UNC set for Round 3

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He didn’t make the game-winning shot, but Kamar Baldwin set it up. And he had an otherwise monster night.

The Butler sophomore scored 32 points on 12 of 20 shooting, had four rebounds and three assists to help the Bulldogs secure a 75-74 win over Seton Hall in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.

Down a point with just 12 seconds to play, Baldwin went the length of the floor, getting to the rim and getting a good look at a layup that would have put Butler up one. Well, Baldwin’s attempt spun out, but he’d drawn enough defensive attention to free up Tyler Wideman on the offensive glass. Wideman’s put-back put the Bulldogs into the Big East semis.

Baldwin’s breakout game has to be a welcome sight for LaVall Jordan’s team as Baldwin had struggled to score in recent weeks. He’d broken double-digits just once in the last four games and was averaging just 8.75 points per game over that same stretch. Getting Baldwin right would help the Bulldogs keep playing awhile longer.


  • THEO PINSON, North Carolina: The Tar Heel senior had 25 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals and UNC ran away from Miami. Pinson’s big night is a big reason why we’re all getting treated to Duke/North Carolina, Round 3.
  • MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke: It would be easy to make the case for Bagley as the player of the day after he put up 33 points and 17 boards as the Blue Devils styied Notre Dame’s tournament hopes. The freshman was everywhere doing everything.
  • JEVON CARTER, West Virginia: Not only did he drill a 60-footer before halftime, Carter also had 18 points, 11 assists and six steals and West Virginia advanced to the Big 12 semis.
  • MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova: He put 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists on Marquette as Villanova smashed the Golden Eagles by 24.

BUBBLE BANTER: Everything that happened on the cut-line


Alabama entered SEC tournament play on a five-game losing streak and in serious need of a victory to keep its NCAA tournament footing steady. Collin Sexton delivered that victory and snapped the streak thanks to not only his 27 points, but his coast-to-coast sprint for the game-winning scoop-and-score before time expired.

Alabama helped itself as much as any other team in the country to reverse course on the season-ending slide the Crimson Tide were mired in. Plus, they – well, Sexton – did it in a really cool way. For that, they’re the team of the day.


It wasn’t the most compelling basketball of the day, but Michael Porter, Jr.’s return to the floor for the first time since his two-minute debut in November’s season-opener is one of the biggest stories in the sport.

It didn’t really go great, as Porter, Jr. struggled in the Tigers’ two-point loss to Georgia.

The biggest issue for Missouri wasn’t the loss – they’re securely in the tournament – but that they won’t get any more live competition to try to bring Porter, Jr. seamlessly into the fold before they start playing again with their season at stake. It’s a gamble not only for Porter to play, risking injury and draft status, but also for Missouri to try to bring him in at this late juncture to a team that was already pretty good without him.

But when given the option of playing with a top-five talent or not playing with a top-five talent, there’s really no choice to make. Missouri would have liked a longer dress rehearsal, though.


Xavier figuratively smacked St. John’s 88-60, and then apparently the two teams tried to do the same literally.

A bit of a brouhaha broke out at Madison Square Garden after the game due to some handshake-line drama, apparently, and then a St. John’s player allegedly tried to make his way into the Xavier locker room to continue the fracas.

WTF indeed.


Louisville just couldn’t best Virginia this season. The Cardinals fell to the Cavaliers for the third time this season, 75-58, and will now have to await an uncertain future on Selection Sunday.

The idea was that Middle Tennessee State would cruise to a Conference USA title and become again a popular bracket buster after another strong season. Southern Miss had other ideas, bouncing the Blue Raiders from the CUSA tourney and maybe the field of 68.

Desmond Bane forced overtime with his 3-pointer at the buzzer but TCU couldn’t close the deal in overtime as Kansas State moved on to a semifinals matchup with Kansas with a 66-64 win.

Malik Newman scored a career-best 30 points and Kansas finally defeated Oklahoma State in its third try this season.

Late run sparks Villanova past West Virginia, into Elite Eight

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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.

VIDEO: Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall with mammoth dunks for Villanova

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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.

No. 1 Kansas into Elite Eight with win over No. 5 Clemson

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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.

VIDEO: Mikal Bridges tries to dunk on Sagaba Konate, gets denied

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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:

Auburn AD Greene gives Bruce Pearl a vote of confidence

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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.”