Rob Dauster

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Elijah Stewart three gives No. 11 USC a win over No. 6 SMU

2 Comments

No. 11 USC led for a grand total of 50 seconds against No. 6 SMU on Friday afternoon, but boy, were those 50 seconds important.

For the second straight game, the Trojans erased a double-digit deficit to advance in the NCAA tournament, erasing SMU’s 12-point first half lead and, eventually, getting to the second round of the NCAA tournament with a 66-65 win.

Bennie Boatwright gave USC their first lead of the game with 1:47 left, but just 14 seconds later, SMU responded with a three from Shake Milton to take the lead back. Elijah Stewart capped off USC’s come back with 36 seconds left on the clock, burying a three from the corner and sending the Mustangs, a team that just about everyone had advancing past No. 3 seed Baylor and into the Sweet 16, home with an upset loss.

In addition to the game-winning shot, Elijah Stewart scored 22 points, leading the way for the Trojans. Chimezie Metu and Boatwright both added 14 points in the win.

With the win, USC advanced to the second round of the tournament after playing in the First Four. Since the First Four was implemented in 2011, there has been at least one team in the second round of the tournament that played in the First Four.

SMU took control early on the back of Semi Ojeleye, who finished with 24 points and 10 boards, but USC switched to a zone in the second half that took the Mustangs totally out of what they wanted to do. It wasn’t the best zone you’ll ever see, but it sure was effective, as the Trojans head SMU to just 27 second half points.

There was some discussion about the final possession of the game for SMU. After USC missed a front-end, SMU very nearly dribbled out the entire and settled for a tough layup that Shake Milton missed. Ojeleye never touched the ball on the final possession. In hindsight, I’m sure that the SMU coaching staff wishes they used one of their three timeouts, but I’m not sure that they would have gotten a markedly better shot even with the chance to draw something up.

They got their second-best player attacking the rim, nearly finishing and potentially drawing a foul. That’s more or less what you want in that situation:

N.C. State to hire Kevin Keatts

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Leave a comment

N.C. State has agreed to a deal with UNC Wilmington head coach Kevin Keatts to replace Mark Gottfried as the Wolfpack head coach, sources confirmed to NBC Sports.

Keatts, a former assistant with Louisville, as spent the past three seasons at UNCW, going 72-28 in those three seasons and winning at least a share of the CAA title all three years. Keatts reached two NCAA tournament, losing first round games by single-digits both years.

The news was first reported by ESPN.

This is an excellent hire by the Wolfpack, as Keatts was arguably the hottest mid-major name on the market. He’s an excellent recruiter and has proven himself as an in-game tactician, but he also can develop talent and work boosters. He should be able to find some success in Raleigh.

That said, the job that he takes over is never going to be easy. He’s at the third-best program in his neighborhood and may not be at a top half of the ACC job, but he’ll be coaching a program whose fan-base believes that they should be competing for conference titles and Final Fours the way that North Carolina and Duke are. There are expectations there, and those expectations aren’t going to be easy to fulfill.

That said, Wolfpack fans are never going to have to worry about whether or not their team will play hard, which was an issue for that program the last two years. I’m not ready to predict that Keatts will get N.C. State to the point that they are winning ACC titles — that conference is loaded — but getting that program back to respectability is the baseline for Keatts.

POSTERIZED: SMU’s Semi Ojeleye takes liftoff

Leave a comment

SMU’s star forward Semi Ojeleye taught USC a thing or two about why it’s a good idea to box people out, especially when those people happen to be 6-foot-7 athletic marvels that will be first round picks in the NBA Draft:

There is one saving grace for the Trojans: No one jumped, so this poster didn’t end up quite as bad as it could have been.

That’s something, at least.

No. 3 Oregon’s best lineup still intact without Chris Boucher

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Playing just their second game without starting center Chris Boucher, No. 3 seed Oregon advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, 93-77, surviving a No. 14 Iona team that proved to be a tougher out than it looked like they would be.

The Ducks will face the winner of No. 6 Creighton and No. 11 Rhode Island on Sunday.

Oregon jumped out to an 18-point halftime lead and were up by as much as 26 points in the second half before the Gaels scrapped back. Dayshonee Much scored 15 points and Jordan Washington shook off an ankle injury to add 20 points as Iona got within 13 points on a couple of different occasions.

But the story of this game was Oregon, their dominance despite playing without Boucher, who tore his ACL during the Pac-12 tournament last week.

The guy that took Boucher’s minutes was Kavell Bigby-Williams, a JuCo transfer and 6-foot-11 native of England that has played 14 minutes in each of the last two games, but the biggest difference between Oregon now and Oregon when they had Boucher available seems to be a shift to small-ball. The lineup that Dana Altman started featured Payton Pritchard, Dylan Ennis and Tyler Dorsey in the back court with Dillon Brooks at the four and Jordan Bell at the five, and considering how effective and efficient the Ducks can be with that group on the floor, losing Boucher doesn’t seem like it is going to be a death blow to their national title hopes.

Bell is a sensational defender and a ridiculous athlete in the front court; he had 17 points and 10 boards Friday and should be able to man the paint for the Ducks as long as he stays out of foul trouble. Oregon doesn’t lose floor-spacing with four guards out there, and there’s an argument to be made that Brooks is at his most effective when he plays as Oregon’s small-ball four.

I would stop short of saying that Oregon is better without Boucher, because his ability to block shots and hit threes is a unique skill set that lets Oregon space the floor without losing rim protection or rebounding. When they have to go to a big lineup, it’s better to have Bell and Boucher on the floor than Bell and Bigby-Williams.

But I also think that Oregon’s best lineup is the lineup that they started tonight.

And with a tournament draw that likely keeps the Ducks from having to face a team that can overpower them in the paint until a potential Final Four matchup with North Carolina, they are in a pretty good spot.

VIDEO: Jawun Evans hits NCAA tournament’s first buzzer-beater to … cover spread?

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We got another addition to the worst beats in the history of NCAA tournament gambling on Friday.

To give you an idea of why gambling on sports is the worst thing in the entire world — or the greatest thing ever, depending on who you were on — taken Jawun Evans’ final shot here in today’s Oklahoma State-Michigan game.

The line in this game was Michigan (-2.5), which, for those of you that haven’t been corrupted by gambling yet, means that you are better on whether or not you think Michigan will win by more than 2.5 points or not. After two D.J. Wilson free throws put Michigan up by four points, Jawun Evans hit a meaningless three at the buzzer that made the final score 92-91, covering the spread and ruining the afternoon for anyone that bet on Michigan and giving a gift to those that had their money on Oklahoma State:

Evans shot looks an awful lot like one of the most famous bad beats in sports history, when Chris Duhon banked in a 30-foot runner at the buzzer of Duke’s loss to UConn in the 2004 Final Four. The Huskies had erased an eight-point deficit in the final three minutes to take the lead.

No. 3 Baylor’s size overwhelms No. 14 New Mexico State

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
1 Comment

It took 20 minutes for Baylor to wake up, but once they did, it was over.

The No. 3 seed Bears got 21 points from Al Freeman and 19 points from Terry Maston, both of whom came off the bench, as they knocked off No. 14 New Mexico State, 91-73, in an East Region first round game in Tulsa on Friday. Mason and Freeman scored 25 of those 40 points in the first half, and the Bears needed every one of them; New Mexico State took a 40-38 lead into the break as Baylor’s all-american center Johnathan Motley finished the first 20 minutes with just four points, one board and two fouls.

In the second half, however, Baylor’s talent took over.

Motley finished with 15 points, nine boards, three assists, two blocks and just those two fouls and Jo Lual-Acuil added 16 points. All told, Baylor’s top three front court players finished with a total of 50 points.

And at the end of the day, that’s what Baylor is going to have to do to be able to make a run in this event. They don’t have great guards and they aren’t a great three-point shooting team, but they are big, they are athletic and they are willing to pound the ball into the paint.

The Bears will advance to the second round of the tournament, where they will get a date with either No. 6 seed SMU or No. 11 seed USC on Sunday.

That game will create a quite interesting story line for Baylor, as head coach Scott Drew has had his named linked with a number of high-major jobs that are currently open. The Baylor brand is not exactly something that a coach wants to be attached to right now, and if there are good jobs available, it may make sense for Drew to chase them. As much success as Drew has had Baylor, he’s made that job appear to be better than it really is.