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Duke’s Christian Laettner shouts out North Carolina’s Luke Maye on Twitter after winning jumper over Kentucky

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Duke and North Carolina don’t have much in common.

But the historic college basketball rivals now have the distinction of earning late Elite Eight wins over Kentucky that involved a No. 32 making the winning shot.

Blue Devil legend Christian Laettner is famous for his 1992 buzzer-beater over Kentucky in the Elite Eight and he made sure to give some love to North Carolina sophomore Luke Maye after his own Elite Eight shot knocked out the Wildcats.

Roy Williams ‘scared to death’ over Joel Berry II’s Final Four status after ankle injuries

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North Carolina is going to be extra cautious with junior point guard Joel Berry II during this week after he went to the locker room during part of the first half in Sunday’s win over Kentucky.

Consistently bothered by a sprained ankle during the NCAA tournament, Berry will rest a lot this week, according to North Carolina head coach Roy Williams as he is going to make sure his floor leader is as healthy as possible heading into Glendale.

“Right now I’m scared to death because I just don’t know,” Williams said to reporters about Berry’s Final Four status.

Without Berry in the lineup for part of the first half, North Carolina was able to sustain its lead on Kentucky as veteran backups like Nate Britt and Stillman White provided valuable minutes. Williams said in yesterday’s postgame that Berry actually sprained his right ankle during Saturday’s practice and hurt his left ankle during Sunday’s game against Kentucky.

Berry returned in the second half and finished with 11 points for the game as his health will be a major focal point for North Carolina’s title hopes this weekend.

No. 1 seed North Carolina outlasts No. 2 seed Kentucky to advance to the Final Four

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Luke Maye buried the game-winning jumper with 0.3 seconds left to help North Carolina advance to its second consecutive Final Four as the No. 1 seed Tar Heels outlasted No. 2 seed Kentucky, 75-73, during Sunday’s South Regional final in Memphis.

During the insane final 10 seconds of Sunday’s game, Kentucky freshman guard Malik Monk tied the game at 73-all with a heavily-contested three-pointer at the top of the key, only to see North Carolina’s Theo Pinson take the ensuing possession down the floor to find Maye for the game-winner on the left wing.

A reserve like Maye knocking down one of the biggest shots in North Carolina history is a huge reason the program was able to reach its twentieth Final Four. North Carolina has relied on many different members of its veteran team this season and its the reason the Tar Heels will face No. 3 seed Oregon next weekend in Glendale.

Heading into 2016-17, many were asking how North Carolina was going to replace Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson and not showing respect to the returning Tar Heel veterans who helped them to last season’s national-title game.

Many became enamored by Duke’s overall talent level and jaw-dropping freshman class. However, that Blue Devil on-paper greatness never materialized into anything more than a conference-tournament title.

It was easier to talk about Villanova’s chances to repeat or Kentucky’s new crop of All-Americans than it was to jump aboard the North Carolina national championship bandwagon this season. Even Kansas got more preseason national championship hype than North Carolina, and the Jayhawks have had a recent history of exits before the Final Four.

Through all of that, North Carolina has been the steady model of consistency in the ACC this season as they’re seeing a complete rotation of experienced veterans play with total confidence.

Justin Jackson has turned into a lock first-round pick and one of the country’s most lethal scorers on the wing, while junior point guard Joel Berry II is a premier floor leader on both ends. Last season’s interior depth that was a huge plus for the Tar Heels has remained even with Johnson’s departure. Seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks have both played in a lot of important games, while reserves like Maye and freshman Tony Bradley have contributed valuable minutes this season.

Even after the Tar Heels won the deepest league in the country by two full games during the regular season, it felt like other teams were getting more national title love since North Carolina exited the ACC Tournament early. The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was a bloodbath for the ACC that saw the league lose eight of its nine teams before the Sweet 16. North Carolina was just rounding into form to make another potential run at a title.

Who would have envisioned that North Carolina would be the favorite for the national championship entering Final Four weekend at any point this season? That’s what we’re looking at as we move to Glendale next week, and there were plenty of warning signs about this team’s greatness and ability to handle adversity during Sunday’s win over Kentucky.

North Carolina fans panicked in the first half when Berry went to the locker room to deal with a lingering ankle issue. The Tar Heels were able to withstand until Berry’s return later in the first half as reserves like Maye, Nate Britt, Stillman White and Bradley contributed enough to keep a lead in Berry’s absence.

Finding themselves down by five points late in the second half as Kentucky had all of the momentum, North Carolina’s offense didn’t resort to rushing into bad shots. Just like the Arkansas game in the second round, the Tar Heels regained the advantage in the final minutes by going on a 12-0 run at just the right time.

North Carolina’s defense was also consistently strong on Sunday as Jackson and Pinson were both standouts as perimeter defenders. After seeing Monk and fellow freshman De’Aaron Fox combine for 71 points during Kentucky’s December win over North Carolina in Las Vegas, Jackson helped contain Monk to 12 points on Sunday while Fox was limited to 13 points.

In the most important game of the season, the Tar Heels overcame their starting point guard not playing at 100 percent and rallied in the final five minutes to win against a top-10 team.

That being said, there are plenty of storylines to follow in the Final Four that are going to be more fun to track than the Tar Heels returning for a second straight year.

America loves the underdog story of No. 7 seed South Carolina. Gonzaga making it to the Final Four for the first time is another intriguing subplot. Oregon making the Final Four from the west coast means there are two teams trying to break the region’s title-less streak that has been around since 1997.

But it would be foolish to, once again, overlook North Carolina and everything they’ve accomplished to reach this point. Even Sunday’s hero, Luke Maye, went from being a player that Roy Williams wanted to be a walk-on to now having his own “Maye Madness” nickname.

Williams made the mistake of undervaluing his own player and it almost came back to bite him. It’s the same lesson America should apply when appreciating everything that North Carolina has done during back-to-back memorable seasons.

Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac declares for 2017 NBA Draft

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Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac has declared for the 2017 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-10 Isaac was a five-star prospect out of high school as he averaged 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. One of the most versatile defenders in the country, Isaac could protect the rim (1.5 blocks per game) and also switch out to the perimeter and cover smaller wings as well (1.2 steals per game). Also showing a solid skill level, Isaac shot 50 percent from the field, 34 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free-throw line.

That kind of versatility is what Isaac is banking on in the NBA Draft as he’s expected to be a top-15 pick. If Isaac can prove that he’s a reliable perimeter shooter then teams could be intrigued by him as a matchup nightmare in the front court.

Wagner leads No. 7 Michigan past No. 2 Louisville to advance to Sweet 16

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INDIANAPOLIS — Despite senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. finally coming back down to Earth, No. 7 seed Michigan remained red-hot with a 73-69 second-round upset win over No. 2 seed Louisville on Sunday in the Midwest Region.

Walton only went 3-for-13 from the field, and finished with 10 points, but he attacked the basket and made a tough, driving layup with Michigan only leading by two with 23 seconds left.

Although Walton couldn’t figure out his shot until late in the game, he was picked up in a big way by his Wolverine teammates — specifically the inspired play of sophomore big man Moe Wagner.

Finishing with 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting, Wagner was the interior force that the Wolverines needed to match up with Louisville’s bigs. Wagner is a talented perimeter threat for a big man but most of his damage came on the interior.

Winners of seven consecutive games, Michigan (26-11) is one of the most dangerous teams left in the Sweet 16, especially if Walton is able to get back on track. D.J. Wilson also added 17 points for Michigan while senior Zak Irvin also finished in double-figures with 11 points. Walton struggled to find his shot, but still contributed a solid overall floor game as he added six assists and seven rebounds while not turning the ball over one time.

Louisville (25-9) held the lead for the nearly the entire game until Michigan mounted its final charge. The Cardinals held a double-digit rebounding advantage (33-22) over Michigan but they couldn’t knock down perimeter shots as Louisville ended Sunday’s game at 25 percent (5-for-20) from three-point range.

Sophomore Donovan Mitchell paced Louisville with 17 points while Deng Adel had 16 points, including a huge first-half dunk on Wilson that had Banker’s Life Fieldhouse buzzing. Mangok Mathiang tallied 13 points in his final college game for Louisville

Michigan advances to face face the winner of No. 3 seed Oregon and No. 11 seed Rhode Island next week in the Midwest Region. The Wolverines winning also means at least three Sweet 16 teams for the Big Ten as Michigan joins Wisconsin and Purdue in the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend.

Washington hires Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins

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Washington is hiring long-time Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins to be the program’s new head coach, per a release from the school.

Hopkins has been with the Syracuse program for the last 20 years as an assistant coach after playing four years for the Orange from 1989-1993.

This move for Hopkins comes as a bit of a surprise since many expected that would be the coach to replace legendary Orange head coach Jim Boeheim when he retires.

Hopkins was even formally named the Syracuse coach-in-waiting in 2015 as he was expected to take over the Orange in 2018 after Boeheim retired.

“The University of Washington is such a unique place, with a world-class University, an exciting basketball history and unbelievable fan support,” Hopkins said in the release. “Together, I believe we can build something very special in Seattle, and I can’t wait to get started.”

“I can’t express enough thanks to Coach Boeheim for so many years of mentorship and guidance. The timing is right for me and my family to make this move.”

A native of Southern California, Hopkins was rumored for the USC head job a couple of years ago that went to Andy Enfield as he has flirted with Pac-12 head coaching jobs before.

As a West Coast native who has recruited at a national level while at Syracuse, Hopkins is an intriguing hire for the Huskies as he’ll be tasked with trying to keep Seattle kids home while also being in the mix for top national talent.

The situation at Syracuse has also taken an interesting turn since Hopkins no longer wants to replace Boeheim in 2018. It’s hard to say where the Orange will turn to now that Hopkins has set his own career path, but that future Syracuse job now becomes one of the subplots to keep an eye on over the next few months.

Hopkins replaces Lorenzo Romar at Washington after Romar was let go by the school this offseason.