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Saturday Recap: Deandre Ayton leads Arizona to Pac-12 title; Villanova, Virginia, Kansas win titles

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The talk of college basketball on Saturday night centered around the play of Arizona freshman center Deandre Ayton. The big man dominated the Pac-12 Tournament for the second consecutive night as Ayton finished with 32 points and 18 rebounds in a championship game win over USC.

A night after putting 32 and 14 on UCLA in a win, Ayton was just as ridiculous on Saturday as he went 14-for-20 from the field and scored on a number of high-level shots. Putting up his 23rd double-double of the season — tying him with Kevin Love for the Pac-12 freshman record — Ayton appears to be peaking at the right time as Arizona looks like a really dangerous team entering the 2018 NCAA tournament.

RELATED: All of Saturday’s Bubble Banter in one place


  • JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova: The NBCSports.com Player of the Year poured in 31 points as the Wildcats claimed an overtime victory over Providence for the Big East Tournament title. Brunson also finished with six rebounds and four assists.
  • ROB GRAY, Houston: Earning its biggest win of the season, Houston is headed to the AAC Tournament finals behind Gray’s 33 points in a win over Wichita State. Gray had a key steal and assist down the stretch as he was also 13-for-15 from the free-throw line.
  • TREY KELL, San Diego StatePumping in a game-high 28 points, the senior made numerous clutch shots down the stretch to help San Diego State secure another NCAA tournament bid in the Mountain West with a win over New Mexico. Battling injuries throughout the season, Kell picked a great time to have his best game of the year.
  • JON ELMORE, Marshall: The Thundering Herd are headed to the Big Dance for the first time in 31 years thanks to Elmore’s monster second half. The junior guard had 20 of his 27 points in the second half to lead Marshall to victory over Western Kentucky.


By claiming the ACC Tournament title over North Carolina, Virginia staked a firm claim as the No. 1 team in college basketball entering the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

In a year full of parity in the sport, the Cavaliers dominated the ACC throughout this season as they claimed the regular-season title and the conference tournament title. But can Virginia carry the momentum of that No. 1 status into a Final Four appearance?

CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on Virginia here.


The America East Tournament title game has become an underrated treasure in college hoops thanks to its early Saturday start time the day before Selection Sunday.

Saturday’s contest didn’t disappoint.

Jairus Lyles knocked in the game-winning three-pointer to lift UMBC to a road win over Vermont for the America East autobid. A tight back-and-forth game throughout, this game only adds to the legend of the America East title game as this will be a hard act to follow for next season.


Providence head coach Ed Cooley got so animated on the sidelines during the Big East Tournament title game that he split his suit pants.

This resulted in Cooley having to wear towels around his waist to coach the rest of the game in an overtime loss to Villanova.


Without starting big man Udoka Azubuike, Kansas was still able to outlast the field and claim the Big 12 Tournament title. The Jayhawks took down West Virginia in the finale as Malik Newman paced Kansas with 20 points.

Tennessee and Kentucky will meet for the SEC title on Sunday after the two teams earned blowout wins over Arkansas and Alabama.

Cincinnati will face Houston for the AAC title on Sunday after the Bearcats rallied to take down Memphis.

The Atlantic 10 title game will feature Rhode Island battling Davidson for the autobid. The Rams were able to outlast Saint Joseph’s for a three-point win while the Wildcats kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive with a win against St. Bonaventure.

Autobids were decided in a number of leagues on Saturday. North Carolina Central claimed the MEAC, Texas Southern won the SWAC, Montana won the Big Sky, Stephen F. Austin reclaimed the Southland, New Mexico State is back representing the WAC and Marshall is back in the field for the first time in 31 years by winning Conference USA.

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.”