Southeast Regional breakdown, team capsules


Who wins, who’s overrated and what’s the best game? I’m here to help.

Here’s a regional breakdown and team capsules for the Southeast. Enjoy.

Underrated: Utah State
The Aggies got a 12 seed despite a sweep of the WAC regular-season and conference tournament titles, 30 wins, an RPI of 16 and a rating of 16. That is far from a 12 seed. This isn’t anything new for Utah State, which received a 12 seed after winning 27 games last season.

Their reward? Facing a physical Kansas State squad that played its best basketball late in the season after underperforming amid Final Four expectations. The Wildcats are talented and tough. Too bad for Utah State.

Overrated: Florida
The Gators have a gaudy profile — 26 wins, 8th in the RPI, an SEC regular-season title — but play more like a 4 seed. They don’t shoot well and can be soft inside on defense. With either UCLA or Michigan State awaiting in the second round, Florida might be exposed.

Most likely first-round upset
Poor St. John’s. Back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2003, but senior forward D.J. Kennedy won’t be available because of an ACL injury. That opens the door for Gonzaga to pull off the 6-11 upset.

The Zags (24-9) will have some trouble checking powerful guard Dwight Hardy, but that’s about it. Besides, Mark Few’s team is due for a little March magic.

Best matchup: No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Belmont
There aren’t two more different teams in matched up in the field. The Badgers play slow, work every possession and rely on their two stars, Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, to do most of the scoring. The Bruins use a fleet of players — five in, five out — and force teams to play fast, and force them into mistakes.

Which style wins? Wisconsin was overwhelmed in its first-round matchup vs. Cornell last season, but that was because the Big Red got smoking hot from outside. But it’s foolish to overlook Belmont, which has won 30 games and boasts impressive tempo-free numbers. This one’s beyond compelling, it’s must-see

Impact player
Hmm. Tough call. There’s Taylor, Leuer, Hardy, Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas, Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen and Utah State’s Tai Wesley, but there’s really only one choice.

Jimmer Fredette.

BYU’s senior guard leads the nation in scoring, jaw-dropping shots and almost carried the Cougars to the Mountain West tournament title by scoring 52 vs. New Mexico and 30 against San Diego State. For BYU to reach the second weekend — let alone the Final Four — Fredette will have to be spectacular. And defenses know it. Should be memorable.

Champion: Pitt
The region’s top seed benefits greatly by having the weakest 2 seed (Florida), the most vulnerable 3 seed (BYU) and a plodding 4 seed (Wisconsin). That sets up Jamie Dixon’s team for a breakthrough run to the Final Four, a first for the coach and the school’s first since 1941.

Pitt (27-5) will have some detractors because it lost its opening Big East tournament game, but remain a team with an elite offense and an underrated defense. Scorers? Rebounders? Floor leaders? The Panthers have it all.


No. 1 Pittsburgh Panthers

Location: Pittsburgh.

Conference: Big East

Coach: Jamie Dixon

Pre-tournament record: 27-5, 15-3

Best wins: Texas, Syracuse, (twice), West Virginia (twice)

Surprising losses:Tennessee (at home)

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Brad Wanamaker, junior guard Ashton Gibbs, senior forward Gilbert Brown, senior center Gary McGhee.

Full team roster

Strengths: Rebounding, shooting, ball-handling, help defense.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, free-throw shooting.

Outlook: Forget the Pitt clichés of tough defense and an offense that relies on gritty guards. This is the nation’s best offense. (The defense isn’t bad either, but we’ll get to that.) The Panthers run superb offensive sets to create shots for Gibbs and Wanamaker (who may be the most underrated player in D-I). If they miss, guys like McGhee, Brown and Dante Taylor grab the rebound and score. If that’s not enough, Pitt rarely turns the ball over on offense. Anyone who says Pitt doesn’t score enough points to win the national title doesn’t know what they’re talking about. If there’s a concern for the Panthers, it’s that they don’t have a lockdown defender who’s able to take an opposing scorer out of the game. Their help-defense is good, but can be burned at times (ask Ben Hansbrough). Still, things are lining up for Pitt to reach the Final Four for the first time since ’41. They’ll rarely have a better path.

No. 2 Florida Gators

Location: Gainesville, Fla.

Conference: Southeastern

Coach: Billy Donovan

Pre-tournament record: 26-7, 13-3

Best wins: Kentucky, Florida State, Xavier, Vanderbilt (twice)

Surprising losses: Jacksonville, Central Florida, South Carolina

Team stats

Key players: Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, senior forward Chandler Parsons, junior guard Erving Walker.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, perimeter defense.

Weaknesses: Free-throw shooting, ball-handling, 3-point shooting.

Outlook: It’s tempting to say Florida worked out the kinks from a rough non-conference schedule that included some odd losses (Jacksonville at home?) and blowouts (Ohio State). So go ahead and take that leap. They have the conference player of the year in Parsons, two quick, athletic guards in Walker and Boynton and a pair of hardworking forwards in Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin. The Gators were mighty good during SEC play, matching Kentucky for the lead in efficiency margin. That’s impressive given how poorly they shoot from outside and that they don’t get to the free-throw line very often. It’s good to be cautious, but this team has performed well enough time and time again that the Sweet 16 seems inevitable. But any further than that and you’re getting greedy.

No. 3 BYU Cougars

Location: Provo, Utah

Conference: Mountain West

Coach: Dave Rose

Pre-tournament record: 30-4, 14-2

Best wins: San Diego State (twice), Arizona

Surprising losses: New Mexico (twice)

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Jimmer Fredette, senior guard Jackson Emery, junior forward Noah Hartsock .

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, ball-handling.

Weaknesses: Offensive rebounding, forcing turnovers.

Outlook: BYU has the nation’s leading scorer in Fredette, excellent spot-up shooters in Emery and Abouo and a skilled forward in Hartsock. They shoot 37 percent from beyond the arc and get more than 30 percent of their points from 3s. But with the dismissal of center Brandon Davies – their most reliable post player and leading rebounder – they’ve become one-dimensional and unable to rebound. That means Fredette is being asked to do more, the other shooters have defenders paying closer attention and if nobody is hitting, BYU is in trouble. Can Fredette shoot them into the Sweet 16?

No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers

Location: Madison, Wis.

Conference: Big Ten

Coach: Bo Ryan

Pre-tournament record: 23-8, 13-5

Best wins: Ohio State, Purdue, Illinois

Surprising losses: Penn State (twice)

Team stats

Key players: Senior forward Jon Leuer, junior guard Jordan Taylor

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, defensive rebounding, not committing turnovers.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, perimeter defense.

Outlook: Wisconsin hasn’t missed the NCAA tournament in 10 seasons under Ryan. Yet the Badgers have made the Sweet 16 only once. Why? Look at it two ways: They’ve either hit hot teams (Cornell, Xavier and Davidson) or they’ve underperformed all those years. It’s probably a little of both, mixed in with their style of play. When Wisconsin’s ball-control offense is on, it’s deadly. All-Big Ten players Leuer and Taylor are great shooters and key an attack that prizes ball movement, precise passing and screens to work for good shots. The Badgers rarely push the pace, mostly because they’re focused on squeezing every possible possession for as many points as possible. And on defense, foes usually get one shot. However, the slow pace allows opponents to stay in games and if Wisconsin’s not hitting shots, it doesn’t have the defensive firepower to create turnovers. It’s a great team, but one that doesn’t have any margin for error in a tournament.

No. 5 Kansas State Wildcats

Location: Manhattan, Kan.

Conference: Big 12

Coach: Frank Martin

Pre-tournament record: 22-10, 10-6

Best wins: Kansas, Texas, Gonzaga

Surprising losses: Oklahoma State, Colorado (twice)

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Jacob Pullen, senior forward Curtis Kelly, sophomore guard Rodney McGruber.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, 3-point shooting, interior defense.

Weaknesses: Sloppy play, fouling, free-throw shooting.

Outlook: Here’s a puzzling team. Kansas State entered the season as a Final Four contender, hit a stretch where it was 2-5 in Big 12 play, then won seven of its last eight games to close the regular season. Then it lost to Colorado in the Big 12 tournament. Who knows what awaits the Wildcats? They’ve had two forwards leave the team, dealt with tantrums from Pullen and Kelly, only to jell in February. They’re a brutal team to play. Few teams are more physical on defense, or crash the offensive boards more. When Pullen’s shot is falling, they’re worthy of the Elite Eight. But if he’s off a step, they’ll be gone by Sunday.

No. 6 St. John’s Red Storm

Location: Queens, N.Y.

Conference: Big East

Coach: Steve Lavin

Pre-tournament record: 21-11, 12-6

Best wins: Duke, Pitt, Notre Dame

Surprising losses: St. Bonaventure, Fordham

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Dwight Hardy, senior forward Justin Brownlee, senior forward D.J. Kennedy.

Full team roster

Strengths: Defensive pressure, ball-handling.

Weaknesses: Perimeter defense, 3-point shooting, fouls.

Outlook: The Red Storm are back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2002. Serendipitously, that also was the last time coach Steve Lavin was in the NCAA tournament. UCLA fired Lavin in ’03, he spent the years in-between in TV, then returned in time to lead senior-laden St. John’s to a stupendous season. That’s kismet. Question is, can St. John’s keep it rolling? Few teams can boast of such highs – Duke, Pitt and Notre Dame – and lows. There’s little doubt the Red Storm possess the talent to reach the Sweet 16, especially when Hardy’s on a roll. But when the defense becomes too aggressive and players get into foul trouble, or when their shots aren’t falling, they’re vulnerable. Be wary of being too confident in St. John’s.

No. 7 UCLA Bruins

Location: Los Angeles

Conference: Pac-10

Coach: Ben Howland

Pre-tournament record: 22-10, 13-6

Best wins: BYU, St. John’s, Arizona

Surprising losses: Montana, VCU

Team stats

Key players: Freshman center Josh Smith, sophomore wing Tyler Honeycutt, junior guard Malcolm Lee, sophomore forward Reeves Nelson.

Full team roster

Strengths: Interior defense, offensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, ball-handling, 3-point shooting.

Outlook: UCLA has run the gamut this season. It opened 3-4, beat BYU shortly after that, stumbled to start Pac-10 play, went on a tear, then lost two of its last three. The Bruins have decent talent and play hard, but lack the defensive nastiness of Howland’s Final Four teams from a few years ago. They don’t have any good on-ball defenders and are OK on the boards, but make up for it by being physical inside. Smith is big, Nelson is tough and Honeycutt leads the Pac-10 in blocks. Everything on offense depends on Smith. When he’s on, he’s impossible to stop – ask Kansas – but he’s often plagued by foul trouble and dumb plays. Honeycutt can score, but is inconsistent, which speaks to the Bruins’ issues at scoring from anywhere besides the key. If UCLA reaches the Sweet 16, it’ll be because they outhustled two opponents.

No. 8 Butler Bulldogs

Location: Indianapolis

Conference: Horizon League

Coach: Brad Stevens

Pre-tournament record: 23-9, 13-5

RPI: 35

Best wins: Florida State, Washington State

Surprising losses: Evansville, Youngstown State

Team stats

Key players: Senior forward Matt Howard, junior guard Ronald Nored, junior guard Shelvin Mack.

Full team roster

Strengths: Defensive rebounding, ball control, 3-point shooting.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, fouling, interior defense.

Outlook: This isn’t the same Bulldogs team that made a run to last year’s title game. Sure, they play the same way – deliberate, with an emphasis on high-percentage shots or 3-pointers and preventing opponents from getting second-chance points – but don’t have a standout talent like Gordon Hayward anymore. The odds of them reaching the second weekend? Slim. That said, Butler will be a tough, tough opponent. Howard’s an efficient scorer, sophomore center Andrew Smith is an improving talent, while Mack and Nored are gamers. Butler will keep the game close and be in it at the end.

No. 9 Old Dominion Monarchs

Location: Norfolk, Va.

Conference: Colonial Athletic

Coach: Blaine Taylor

Pre-tournament record: 27-6, 14-4

Best wins: Xavier, George Mason

Surprising loss: Delaware

Team stats

Key players: Senior forward Frank Hassel, junior swingman Kent Bazemore, senior guard Ben Finney.

Full team roster

Strengths: Rebounding, shot blocking and rebounding. Also, rebounding.

Weaknesses: Turnovers, perimeter shooting and defense.

Outlook: The Monarchs aren’t great shooters, but it doesn’t really matter. They lead the nation in offensive rebounding, grabbing 45 percent of their misses. Hassell and Finney are the guys who do most of the work, along with junior forward Chris Cooper. They also snare three of every four missed shots by opponents. Combine that proficiency with their deliberate style and it’s little wonder ODU’s a formidable team. Last year, they stunned Notre Dame in the first round as an 11 seed. This season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Monarchs in the Sweet 16, but that would take more than just great rebouding against a team like Pitt. ODU would need to catch fire from outside.

No. 10 Michigan State Spartans

Location: East Lansing, Mich.

Conference: Big Ten

Coach: Tom Izzo

Pre-tournament record: 19-14, 9-9

Best wins: Purdue, Wisconsin, Washington

Surprising losses: Iowa, Michigan (twice)

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Kalin Lucas, junior forward Draymond Green, freshman guard Keith Appling, junior forward Delvon Roe.

Full team roster

Strengths: Defensive rebounding, interior defense.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, perimeter defense, shooting.

Outlook: Three weeks ago, it didn’t look like the preseason No. 2 would get in. But then Lucas took over on offense, the defense picked up and the schedule allowed for some confidence-building games. A win over Purdue in the Big Ten quarterfinals? Didn’t see that coming. But before anyone starts thinking about Izzo’s team pulling off a third-straight run to the Final Four, consider this: It’s not the typical Spartans team that grabs every rebound and scores when it needs to. It’s good on the defensive glass, average on the offensive and can hardly shoot. Part of that is related to inconsistency from Summers and a dearth of perimeter players. Lucas thrives as a high-possession, mid-range scorer, while Appling’s still finding his niche in an increased role. Green’s a great all-around player but is limited in his offensive ability. That said, their draw (UCLA and probably Florida) makes a Sweet 16 run a strong possibility.

No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs

Location: Spokane, Wash.

Conference: West Coast

Coach: Mark Few

Pre-tournament record: 24-9, 12-3

Best wins: Marquette, Xavier

Surprising losses: at San Francisco, at Santa Clara

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Steven Gray, senior center Robert Sacre, sophomore forward Elias Harris.

Full team roster

Strengths: Rebounding, interior defense.

Weaknesses: Perimeter defense, sloppy play.

Outlook: These Zags play defense. And sometimes, they play offense, too. Behind the 7-footer Sacre, the Bulldogs allow opponents to make just 42.8 percent of their 2-pointers, far below the D-I average. Sacre and Harris also are behind their solid offensive shooting, though both tend to struggle against foes of similar size and skill. Gray is the playmaker, but his inconsistent shooting prevents him from being a reliable offensive threat. The wild card is freshman David Stockton, who’s played more and more as the season closed. He’s small, but an effective offensive leader and has a knack for making big plays.

No. 12 Utah State Aggies

Location: Logan, Utah

Conference: Western Athletic

Coach: Stew Morrill

Pre-tournament record: 30-3, 15-1

Best wins: St. Mary’s, Long Beach State

Surprising loss: Idaho

Team stats

Key players: Senior forward Tai Wesley, junior guard Brockeith Pane, senior guard Brian Green.

Full team roster

Strengths: Defensive rebounding, challenging shots, shooting.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, athletic teams.

Outlook: The Aggies have crushed WAC foes the last three seasons, racked up 87 wins and always feature an efficient defense or offense. (This year, it’s the defense.) So will this be the season they finally win a tournament game? It will depend on the matchup. Both BYU and Georgetown beat Utah State, but the Aggies ripped Long Beach State, the Big Sky champs. Much depends on how effective the 6-7, 240-pound Wesley is inside. He’s their go-to guy on offense and a good rebounder and shot-blocker to boot. He’s flanked by experienced guards who take care of the ball, but also don’t force many turnovers. Keeping a team like Kansas State off the boards will be tough, but ensuring their guards can handle the Wildcats’ pressure will be even tougher. This is a rough go for a team with 30 wins.

No. 13 Belmont Bruins

Location: Nashville, Tenn.

Conference: Atlantic Sun

Coach: Rick Byrd

Pre-tournament record: 30-4, 19-1

Best win: East Tennessee State (twice)

Surprising loss:Lipscomb

Team stats

Key players: Sophomore guard Ian Clark, junior forward Mick Hedgepeth, senior guard Jordan Campbell.

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, offensive rebounding, depth, pressure defense.

Weaknesses: Occasional sloppy play, foul prone.

Outlook: Belmont’s sure to be a popular pick to pull off an upset or two, and with good reason. Any time a team wins 30 games and sweeps its conference’s regular-season and conference tournament titles by an average of 16.4 points per game, it must be awfully good. The Bruins do it by playing a ton of guys in their up-tempo, pressure scheme that uses five-man platoons. When the starters get tired, Byrd replaces them with five fresh guys. As a result, they force more turnovers than all but one D-I team and get good looks at the basket (they make 52.4 percent of their 2s). When they do miss, they grab 40 percent of their misses. Belmont has size (Hedgepeth and junior Scott Sanders are both 6-9), so they won’t be overmatched against most NCAA tournament teams. Don’t be surprised to see them in the Sweet 16.

No. 14 Wofford Terriers

Location: Spartanburg, S.C..

Conference: Southern

Coach: Mike Young

Pre-tournament record: 21-12, 14-4

Best win: George Mason

Surprising loss: Cornell

Team stats

Key players: Senior forward Noah Dahlman, senior guard Cameron Rundles, senior guard Jamar Diggs.

Full team roster

Strengths: 3-point shooting, offensive rebounding, ball-handling.

Weaknesses: Defense.

Outlook: When the Terriers made the NCAA tournament last season for the first time, it was because of their defense. This year, credit the offense. They don’t play any faster, but have the effective combination of Dahlman inside – the team’s leading scorer is also one of the nation’s most efficient at it – and a brigade of 3-point shooters outside. Rundles, junior Brad Loesing and junior Kevin Giltner all make at least 41 percent of their attempts beyond the arc, while Diggs can hit from pretty much anywhere. But before you go picking Wofford to pull off an upset, consider the defense. It struggles in essentially every area and is the main reason why a host of non-conference foes like Minnesota, Clemson, Xavier and South Carolina beat Wofford this season.

No. 15 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.

Conference: Big West

Coach: Bob Williams

Pre-tournament record: 18-13, 8-8

Best wins: UNLV, Long Beach State

Surprising losses: Cal St. Fullerton, Cal St. Northridge (twice)

Team stats

Key players: Junior guard Orlando Johnson, junior guard James Nunnally.

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, interior defense.

Weaknesses: Ball-handling, rebounding, perimeter defense.

Outlook: If you’ve seen the Gauchos play, you’re probably wondering: How did these guys lose so many games with Johnson and Nunnally? Join the club. They’re two of the conference’s top players, guys who can create their own shot, finish when needed and shoulder the offensive load. Well, for whatever reason, it never quite clicked. UCSB lost by double digits twice to Big West regular-season champ Long Beach State before Johnson went off for 28 in the conference title game and the Gauchos won. Now they’re back in the tournament for the second straight year. Last season, they were throttled as a 15 seed by Ohio State. Expect more of the same this time around. UCSB’s hot streak isn’t going to last.

No. 16 Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans

Location: Little Rock, Ark.

Conference: Sun Belt

Coach: Steve Shields

Pre-tournament record: 19-16, 7-9

Best win: South Alabama

Surprising loss: Tulsa

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Solomon Bozeman, senior guard Alex Garcia-Mendoza, freshman guard Daylon Guy.

Full team roster

Strengths: Ball-handling, 3-point shooting.

Weaknesses: Rebounding, defense.

Outlook: The Trojans pulled off a surprising run in the Sun Belt title tournament for the automatic berth. Behind Bozeman’s heroics – he averaged 22 points in the tournament, including the game-winner vs. North Texas — they’re off to the Big Dance for the first time in 21 years. They won’t be around long to enjoy it, though. Little Rock can hit the 3 and has good guards, but doesn’t have the defense to make enough stops against a top seed.

No. 16 UNC Asheville Bulldogs

Location: Asheville, N.C.

Conference: Big South

Coach: Eddie Biedenbach

Pre-tournament record: 19-13, 11-7

Best win:Coastal Carolina (twice)

Surprising losses:South Carolina Upstate, High Point

Team stats

Key players: Junior guard J.P Primm, junior guard Matt Dickey, junior guard Chris Stephenson.

Full team roster

Strengths: Forcing turnovers, blocking shots, getting to the free-throw line.

Weaknesses: 3-point shooting, defensive rebounding, turnovers.

Outlook: A surprise out of the Big South, Asheville got hot late and beat regular-season champ Coastal Carolina twice in a week. The Bulldogs heavily rely on Primm and Dickey for a chunk of minutes and outside shooting, though neither is particularly deadly from beyond the arc. When Asheville’s defense is clicking, forcing turnovers and getting easy baskets as a result, they’re a pesky team to beat. But don’t expect miracles in the NCAA tournament. This is a team that lost to Ohio State by 47 points earlier this season.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

FAU holds off Nowell and K-State to reach 1st Final Four

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Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Alijah Martin, Vlad Goldin and ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic became the first and lowest-seeded team to reach this year’s Final Four as the Owls withstood another huge game by Kansas State’s Markquis Nowell to beat the Wildcats 79-76 on Saturday night.

FAU (35-3), making just its second appearance in the NCAA Tournament, won the East Region at Madison Square Garden and will head to Houston to play the winner of Sunday’s South Region final between Creighton and San Diego State.

In one of the most unpredictable NCAA Tournaments ever – all four No. 1 seeds were out by the Elite Eight – the Owls from Conference USA typified the madness.

“I expect the prognosticators to pick us fifth in the Final Four,” fifth-year FAU coach Dusty May said.

The winningest team in Division I this season had never won an NCAA Tournament game before ripping off four straight, all by single digits, to become the first No. 9 seed to reach the Final Four since Wichita State in 2013 and the third to get that far since seeding began in 1979.

Nowell, the 5-foot-8 native New Yorker, was incredible again at Madison Square Garden, with 30 points, 12 assists and five steals, coming off a Sweet 16 game in which he set the NCAA Tournament record with 19 assists. He didn’t get enough help this time.

Nae’Qwan Tomlin was the only other player in double figures for Kansas State (26-10) with 14 points. Keyontae Johnson, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, fouled out with nine points.

Martin scored 17 points, including a huge 3 down the stretch, the 7-foot-1 Goldin had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Michael Forrest made four clutch free throws in the final 20 seconds for the Owls, who held steady as the Wildcats made a late push.

Cam Carter made a 3 from the wing with 22.8 seconds left to cut FAU’s lead to 75-74 and Kansas State fouled and sent Forrest to the line with 17.9 seconds left. The senior made both to make it a three-point game.

Nowell found Tomlin inside for a layup with 8.6 seconds left to cut the lead to one again, and again K-State sent Forrest to the line. With 6.9 remaining, he made them both.

With no timeouts left, Nowell rushed down the court, gave up the ball to Ismael Massoud outside the 3-point line, and never got it back. FAU’s Johnell Davis swiped it away and time ran out.

“It was trying to get Ish a shot,” Nowell said. “Coach wanted to Ish to set the screen, and I waved it off because I felt like on the right side of the court, that’s where Ish hits most of his shots. And they closed out hard to him, and he didn’t get his shot off.”

Nowell was named the most outstanding player of the region, but FAU turned out to be the best team. As the Owls built their lead in the final minutes, Kansas State fans who had packed the building became anxiously quiet and the “F-A-U!” chants started to rise.

The Owls rushed the floor to celebrate a historic moment for the school. FAU didn’t even have a basketball program until the late 1980s and has only been in Division I for the last 30 years.

“I’m living the dream right now,” Forrest said.

FAU held up to Tennessee’s bully ball in the Sweet 16 and dropped a 40-point second half on the best defense in the nation to eliminate the Southeastern Conference team.

Against one of the Big 12’s best, FAU dominated the boards, 44-22, and became the first team from C-USA to reach the Final Four since Memphis in 2008.

The Owls aren’t hanging around much longer. They’re moving to the American Athletic Conference next season. But first: a trip to Texas.

Miami coach Jim Larrañaga asks for transparency on NIL deals

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Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Miami coach Jim Larrañaga wants to know how much money athletes at other schools are making through name, image and likeness deals.

It’s only fair, he said, since no school has had the values of its athletes’ deals publicized more than Miami.

“I think everybody should be transparent,” he said at a news conference Saturday ahead of his team’s NCAA Tournament Midwest Region final aganst Texas. “Why is it hidden behind the curtain? Why? You can go on a website and check out anybody’s salary in the NBA.

“There are a lot of schools that do the same thing we do. We just don’t know about it because it’s not public knowledge. Why not? Why are we afraid of sharing that information?”

Larrañaga said full disclosure is important for competitive reasons and also so the NCAA or Congress can have more information at their disposal when, and if, they bring clarity and uniformity to NIL rules.

Nijel Pack’s two-year, $800,000 contract with Miami booster John Ruiz is the most publicized NIL deal since the NCAA began allowing college athletes to make money off their popularity. ACC player of the year Isaiah Wong’s $100,000 deal with Ruiz also became public knowledge.

Though the terms of twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder’s deals have not been publicized, the two reportedly have made millions of dollars during their time playing women’s basketball at Fresno State and now Miami.

Larrañaga said television networks, shoe companies, universities, athletic directors and coaches make lots of money off college sports and that the athletes deserve a cut.

“I hope they get as many great deals as they can because I think eventually they have to learn how to handle money,” he said. “So at their young age, if they learn it, maybe they’ll find out. I don’t know how many of these guys are spending every cent they get, but I know a lot of NBA guys did that and ended up bankrupt. I think that’s a learning experience. That’s why you’re in college anyway.”

There have been concerns raised that publicizing the amount of money athletes make could cause jealousy and splinter locker rooms.

Larrañaga said NIL hasn’t changed the dynamic, as far as he’s concerned.

“These guys have to get along on the court and off the court,” he said. “If you can’t handle that as a coach, you probably couldn’t handle it when a guy was complaining about playing time or ‘I didn’t get enough shots.’”

Wong disputed a report last year that, upon learning of Pack’s deal, he threatened through his agent to transfer if his NIL deal wasn’t beefed up.

Larrañaga said he’s seen no problems between the two.

“They hit it off day one,” he said. “Why? Because they love playing basketball.”

Jordan Miller vouched for his coach, especially when it comes to Pack’s deal.

“At the end of the day, he’s our teammate, and everybody’s happy for him,” Miller said.

Larrañaga said he couldn’t speculate on whether athletes would be paid as employees of universities some day.

For now, the most important thing is to set firm guidelines for NIL and to make sure athletes are educated about how to manage their money.

“Guys like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and LeBron (James), they make life-changing money, life-altering money,” Larrañaga said. “These young kids, they might not get that chance beyond this. So they need an education about it.”

Texas blows out Xavier 83-71 for spot in NCAA Elite Eight

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Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tyrese Hunter scored 19 points, Marcus Carr and Christian Bishop added 18 apiece, and second-seeded Texas rolled to an 83-71 victory over No. 3 seed Xavier on Friday night to reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years.

Playing most of the way without ailing star Dylan Disu, the Longhorns – the highest seed left after No. 1s Alabama and Houston lost earlier in the night – built a 42-25 lead by halftime. They quickly pushed it past 20 before cruising the rest of the way into a matchup with fifth-seeded Miami on Sunday night for a spot in the Final Four in Houston.

Sir’Jabari Rice had 16 points and Timmy Allen added 11 for the Longhorns (29-8), who kept Souley Boum and the rest of Xavier’s perimeter threats in check while making life miserable for Jack Nunge down low.

Adam Kunkel hit five 3-pointers and led the Musketeers (27-10) with 21 points. Nunge scored 15 but needed 19 shots to get there, while Colby Jones also had 15 points. Boum didn’t hit a field goal until early in the second half and finished with 12 points.

The job the Longhorns did in shutting down Xavier was merely the latest example of some masterful work by interim coach Rodney Terry. The longtime assistant took over in December, when Chris Beard was suspended and later fired over a since-dropped domestic violence charge, and Terry has not only kept the season from falling apart but sent his team soaring.

Things won’t get any easier against Miami, which romped to an 89-75 win over the Cougars.

And especially without Disu, who led the Longhorns to a Big 12 tourney title and earned MVP honors on the same floor just over two weeks ago, and who’d been dominant through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Disu tried to play through a left foot injury that the Longhorns had successfully kept secret Friday night, but he lasted only a couple of minutes before limping off the floor and straight to the locker room. When he returned to the bench, he was wearing a big walking boot, a black hoodie and a grim expression.

Relegated to a 6-foot-9 cheerleader, Disu at least had plenty to celebrate.

Carr got the Longhorns off to a fast start, spinning through the lane like a Tilt-A-Whirl for tough buckets at the rim, and even knocking down a spinning, desperation 3 as the shot clock expired. And when Musketeers coach Sean Miller traded out a man-to-man defense for a zone, the Longhorns began to pound the ball to Bishop in the paint.

With dozens of family and friends on hand, the Creighton transfer from the Kansas City suburb of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, went to work. Bishop threw down one dunk on Carr’s alley-oop lob, then slammed down another a few minutes later.

By the time Allen banked in a half-court heave, the Longhorns had established a 42-25 halftime advantage – and had to be redirected from the Xavier tunnel, where they were busy celebrating, toward their own locker room.

Xavier tried to creep back a couple of times, but the Longhorns never allowed their lead to sniff single digits. And that gave Terry, who returned to Texas after head coaching jobs at Fresno State and UTEP, a chance to breathe deeply and enjoy the moment.

The 54-year-old from the small Texas town of Angleton was on Rick Barnes’ staff the last time the Longhorns reached the Elite Eight, back in 2008. He was on the 2003 staff that guided them all the way to the Final Four, too.

Now, he’s one step away from taking Texas on another improbable trip to college basketball’s biggest stage.

Creighton ends Princeton’s March Madness run with 86-75 win

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Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Creighton used its size, 3-point shooting and a swarming second-half defense to end the March Madness run of Princeton, beating the 15th-seeded Tigers 86-75 on Friday night in the Sweet 16.

The sixth-seeded Bluejays (24-12) advanced to their first regional final since they were part of an eight-team NCAA Tournament in 1941. Creighton will play No. 5 seed San Diego State in Sunday’s South Region final, with each team seeking its first Final Four.

Ryan Kalkbenner, the two-time Big East defensive player of the year, scored 22 points to lead the Bluejays to their sixth win in seven games. Baylor Scheierman made five 3s and finished with 21 points.

“Kalk, he impacts us at the rim on both ends of the floor and defensively provides so much for us,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I thought he really got going late in the first half and carried it over to the second half. Baylor just plays at every level. He can make the mid-range. He shoots the 3. He sees the floor incredibly well, and believe it or not, he’s become a pretty good defender.”

The Tigers (23-9) were led by Ryan Langborg with 26 points and Ivy League player of the year Tosan Evbuomwan with 24 points, six rebounds and nine assists.

Princeton shook up brackets everywhere by beating No. 2 seed Arizona in the first round, then blew out seventh-seeded Missouri last weekend in Sacramento, California.

Playing in its first Sweet 16 since 1967, Princeton was hoping to become the first Ivy League champion to make the Elite Eight since Penn’s Final Four run in 1979, the first Tigers squad to reach the Final Four since Bill Bradley led them there in 1965, and the second straight No. 15 seed to play in a regional final. Saint Peter’s last year became the first 15 seed to achieve that feat.

Princeton’s offense bore no resemblance to the back-cutting, deliberate style that defined the late Pete Carril’s coaching tenure. Instead, the Tigers went toe to toe against Creighton’s fast-paced offense until they stalled out at the start of the second half.

Creighton used a 9-2 run to take 56-45 lead, a four-minute stretch during which Princeton coach Mitch Henderson called two timeouts and Evbuomwan drew his third foul.

The Bluejays just wouldn’t stop. When Princeton cut the deficit to 61-52, Creighton answered with seven more points and the Tigers couldn’t get closer than seven points after that.

“Princeton’s really good at establishing their pace, so you’ve just got to take them out of it,” Kalkbrenner said. “Their whole goal is to take us out of our pace.”

After beating North Carolina State and third-seeded Baylor in Denver last weekend, drawing confidence from not needing oxygen masks like their opponents, Creighton eliminated the suddenly popular Ivy Leaguers. Now, the Bluejays are one win away from the national semifinals.

“It’s been amazing, it’s been a dream come true. This is why I came to Creighton in the first place, to make a run with this group of guys,” Scheierman said. “It’s just been an incredible experience. I’m looking forward to continuing that on Sunday.”

Miami beats No. 1 seed Houston; all four top NCAA seeds out

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Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nijel Pack and Miami hit shots from near and far against the stingiest defense in the country to beat Houston 89-75 on Friday night in the Sweet 16, leaving the NCAA Tournament without a single No. 1 seed among its final eight teams for the first time since seeding began in 1979.

Miami (28-7), only the fifth team this season to score at least 70 points against Houston (33-4), will play second-seeded Texas or No. 3 seed Xavier in the Midwest Region final for the chance to go to the Final Four.

About 30 minutes before Houston’s loss, top overall seed Alabama fell to San Diego State in Louisville, Kentucky. Fellow No. 1 seeds Purdue and Kansas lost during the tournament’s first weekend.

The fifth-seeded Hurricanes reached a regional final for the second straight year just a few hours after Miami’s ninth-seeded women’s team hung on to beat Villanova and advance to the Elite Eight for the first time. Miami and UConn are the only schools with teams remaining in both tournaments.

This is the first time in three years Houston didn’t make it to the Elite Eight.

The Cougars simply couldn’t stop a multifaceted Miami offense led by Pack’s 3-point shooting. He had season highs of seven 3-pointers on 10 attempts and 26 points.

Isaiah Wong’s mid-range game helped get the ‘Canes out to a fast start, and he finished with 20 points. Jordan Miller hurt the Cougars with his penetration and had 13 points, and Norchad Omier was his usual rugged self under the basket while recording his 16th double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

It resulted in a heartbreaking end for a Cougars team that was in the Sweet 16 for a fourth straight time, had won 15 of its last 16 games and had the season-long goal of playing in next week’s Final Four in its home city.

Miami coach Jim Larrañaga, much to his players’ delight, busted out dance moves in the locker room befitting a 73-year-old man harkening to the disco era. Then Wooga Poplar and Joseph Bensley joined him up front for an impromptu line dance.

Larrañaga will seek his first Final Four with Miami and second overall – he took George Mason there as an 11 seed in 2006.

Miami used a 16-5 run spanning the halves to go up by double digits, with Omier’s three-point play and Jordan Miller’s short bank-in with the left hand making it 47-36 and forcing Houston coach Kelvin Sampson to call timeout less than two minutes into the second half.

Houston battled back to make it a two-point game, but then Pack made three 3s and Miller and Wooga Poplar hit one each to fuel a 16-2 run that put the Canes ahead 70-53. The lead grew to as much as 17 points, and Houston never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.

There was no denying it was Miami’s night after Houston made a mini run with under five minutes to play. With the shot clock running down, Omier was forced to put up a jumper just inside the free-throw line. It bounced off the front of the rim, then the backboard, then the front of the rim again before dropping through. A minute later, Houston’s Jarace Walker missed from point-blank range.

Walker led the Cougars with 16 points. Jamal Shead added 15 and All-American Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark had 14 apiece for the Cougars, who shot just 37% overall and 29% from distance.

Houston – which came into the game as a 7.5-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook – found itself behind at half for the second straight game after the Hurricanes played their sharpest half of the tournament.

Miami turned the ball over just once the first 20 minutes, converted Miami’s six turnovers into 15 points and shot 6 of 14 from distance against the second-best 3-point defense in the country.

Pack made four of them, and all were timely. His first three gave Miami leads and his fourth broke a 31-all tie.