Rob Dauster

VIDEO: Wake Forest hits most casual 80-footer of all-time

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Greg McClinton hit the most casual 80-foot heave of all-time on Wednesday night.

After Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams called a time out with 1.1 seconds left to draw up a play going the length of the court, the ball was thrown away and McClinton answered with this:

Coach K on Grayson Allen: Injury has ‘affected his performance’

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We’ve reached the point in time where it is fair to wonder just how much Grayson Allen is going to be contributing to the Blue Devils the rest of the season.

Wednesday was his worst game of the season, and it wasn’t even close. He played just 12 minutes, he missed all four of the shots that the took and he went scoreless. He also picked up a technical foul for slamming the ball on the floor.

That happened in Duke’s opening game in the ACC tournament — in a year where Allen was the preseason National Player of the Year, no less — and it capped a streak where Allen had averaged just 8.0 points in the six games that he had played in since putting up 25 points in a win over North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium. He shot 26.4 percent from the floor in those games and just 9-for-34, or 26.5 percent, from three.

“When you don’t practice at the speed and with the reps that you normally do,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Duke’s 79-72 win over Clemson,” it affects your performance. And it has with him.”

“I think the injury is a huge part of it because he has not been able to really go after it in practice, and he’s lost his timing, his rhythm. Even today, what did he take? He took four shots, but the two threes he took were right on target, but they were a little bit short. We got to get him going.”

The injury that Coach K is referring to? An ankle injury that he hasn’t been able to shake, one that has kept him out of practice, out of rhythm and sapped him of the explosiveness that made him so hard to guard. In his stead, Frank Jackson has now started four straight games and, after dropping 20 points against Clemson, is averaging 18.3 points in that stretch.

But Duke is just 2-2 in those four games. They’ve gone just 5-3 since Allen’s slump started after winning seven straight games.

It begs the question: Why is Grayson playing right now? Were those 12 minutes he played today really worth it? The Blue Devils play again tomorrow against Louisville, and if they win that, they play again the next day against North Carolina. If Allen’s ankle isn’t healthy, if he’s too banged up to practice, does it make sense to run him out in back-to-back days in Brooklyn when A) Frank Jackson is out here balling and B) Duke has more important things to play for, like Final Fours and national titles?

In other words, why would you play Allen at less than 100% now when he can take this time to get healthy for the Big Dance?

He needs to get into a rhythm, yes, but a healthy Grayson trying to find his stroke is better than an injured Grayson that is half the player he can be.

Forget NCAA’s early rankings, tourney committee starts over

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The NCAA selection committee has started sorting out which teams will appear in the NCAA Tournament field on Selection Sunday. Just don’t expect it to simply be an update of the top seeds announced last month.

“We are starting anew, meaning today is a restart of our season-long evaluation of teams,” selection committee chairman Mark Hollis said during a Wednesday teleconference. “It’s not a refresh of the work we did nearly four weeks ago.”

The committee began what Hollis called “Day One of Selection Week” from New York, four days before the field of 68 is announced. That comes roughly a month after the NCAA released in-season preliminary rankings of the top 16 seeds for the first time, which listed Villanova as the overall No. 1.

Hollis, Michigan State’s athletic director, noted roughly 1,300 games have been played since the NCAA followed the College Football Playoff’s lead by releasing in-season rankings Feb. 11. He said committee members were submitting their first ballots to vote teams into the field Wednesday afternoon.

“We still kind of term it as the PSAT, where what we’re starting today at 1 o’clock is the SAT,” Hollis said of last month’s rankings. “This is the real test.”

The first rankings of the top four seeds in each region had Kansas, Gonzaga and Baylor joining Villanova as No. 1 seeds. Three Atlantic Coast Conference teams – North Carolina, Louisville and Florida State – joined Oregon as No. 2 seeds.

Of that group, the top-ranked Jayhawks and second-ranked Wildcats still look solid for a No. 1 seed. The fourth-ranked Zags, who enter the tournament at 32-1, are still contending for a top seed as well, though the No. 9 Bears likely have slid off that line entering this week’s Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri.

The sixth-ranked Tar Heels were the top No. 2 seed last month and are contending for a No. 1 entering the ACC Tournament after winning the regular-season race by two games.

“If you watched the CBS show, you saw me crumple up a sheet of paper at the end of the show,” Hollis said. “That was the end of that process from the committee’s perspective.”

 

Ohio State AD expresses confidence in hoops coach Matta

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio State is sticking with coach Thad Matta.

Athletic director Gene Smith said in statement Wednesday that Matta, the most successful basketball coach in the school’s history, has job security despite a second consecutive disappointing season that will end with the Buckeyes missing the NCAA Tournament.

Smith says in the statement: “While we are not currently where we aspire to be with our performance on the court, Thad understands better than anyone that component has to improve. I am confident in his leadership to return the program to the winning ways that we have all enjoyed during his 13-year tenure.”

The Buckeyes are 17-14 as they head to the Big Ten Tournament, where they play Rutgers on Wednesday night in Washington.

 

Bubble Banter: Syracuse, firmly on the bubble, plays waiting game

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The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. That is where the seeds listed below come from. 

This post will be updated throughout the day.

LOSERS

Syracuse (RPI: 75, KenPom: 44, No. 11 seed): The Orange are now officially on the bubble, and depending on who you talk to, this team may be on the wrong side of the bubble. Here is where they currently stand: The Orange are 18-14 on the season and sit at 75th in the RPI. They have beaten Florida State, Duke, Virginia, Wake Forest and Miami this season, but every one of those wins came at home. The Orange, on the season, are just 2-11 away from the Carrier Dome, with those wins coming against Clemson and N.C. State, who combined for nine ACC wins all year long. And that’s before you factor in that the Cuse have four losses to sub-100 teams, including to a bad UConn team, at Boston College and at home against St. John’s by 33 points.

Head coach Jim Boeheim told reporters after the game that “it doesn’t matter what I think” about his team’s at-large chances, and proceeded to lay out every argument why the Orange should get in: the Orange have three wins against teams that were in the top 10 when they beat them, or as Boeheim put it, “We have better wins than we had last year”; winning on the road in the ACC is hard, proof being that three ACC tournament teams have just three road wins and North Carolina, who won the league, is just 5-4 on the road; “We finished seventh, tied for seventh,” Boeheim said. “Other conferences are talking about getting 60 percent of their teams in the tournament. If we’re the best conference in the country, we should get more than 50 percent of teams in the tournament.”

There are some valid arguments there.

Syracuse certainly has a case to be in the dance.

But they better root against every bubble team and hope that Middle Tennessee State wins the Conference USA tournament, because all those losses — the bad ones and all the ones away from home — are enough of a stain that the Orange are anything-but a lock.

Wake Forest (RPI: 31, KenPom: 30, no. 11 seed): Wake is going to be a very interesting case on Selection Sunday after losing to Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament on Wednesday. They’re 19-13 on the season and played one of the 20 toughest non-conference schedules in the country. They played five true road games before ACC play started and lost three of those games. The problem is that the Demon Deacons have just three top 50 wins and only a single top 40 win, but it just so happens that top 40 win came over Louisville.

Wake challenged themselves. They played at Richmond and at UNC Greensboro and at Charleston; high major programs don’t do that all that often. They’ve beaten an elite team and they have nothing that can be termed a bad loss on their résumé. I think Wake gets in, but I think it’s going to be a sweat for them this week as they watch every other bubble team get chances to collect wins.

Clemson (RPI: 63, KenPom: 35, bubble): A win over Duke on Wednesday afternoon would have given Clemson a fighting chance at a bid if they could pick off Louisville in the quarterfinals. Clemson lost by seven.

WINNERS

Cal (RPI: 55, KenPom: 55, next four out): The Bears tried to but they couldn’t quite lose to Oregon State on Wednesday night. That means they advance to face Utah in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The Bears need to win that game and beat Oregon in the semis to have a real shot at being an at-large team.

Xavier (RPI: 32, KenPom: 43, play-in game): Xavier beat DePaul on Wednesday night, setting themselves up for a “win and you’re in” game on Thursday against Butler in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.

USC (RPI: 39, KenPom: 61, play-in game): USC survived Washington, meaning that the Trojans will have a chance to lock up their at-large bid on Thursday against UCLA in the Pac-12 quarterfinals.

Thad Matta: Opposing coach ‘told a recruit I was dying’

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There has been some talk in coaching circles that Thad Matta’s tenure with Ohio State may be coming to a close soon. He hasn’t had the kind of success that you would expect out of Ohio State in the last few years, and whenever that happens, the rumors pop up.

Earlier this week, there were reports that Matta would be returning to coach the Buckeyes for the 2017-18 season. During a recent press conference, talking about his health and the concerns about his job status, Matta put the rumors of his impending departure to rest, while also telling a story about just how badly negative recruiting works.

“Somebody told a recruit I was dying,” Matta told reporters. “Swear to God. Not that my foot doesn’t lift, that I was going to die. It’s a tough business I’m in here.”

That’s … pretty impressive, actually.

And takes some stones.

Hard to believe that anyone wanted Mark Titus this badly.