Late Afternoon Snacks: St. Mary’s almost gave us our first upset of the tourney

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Game of the Day

No. 6 Memphis 54, No. 11 St. Mary’s 52: This was as close as we got to an upset, as the Gaels scored to close the gap to two with just seconds left, then alertly face-guarded the Tigers on the in-bounds pass, causing a turnover. Matthew Dellavedova got the final shot he wanted – a three pointer from the wing – but it was a little bit too strong. The Tigers were led by Joe Jackson’s 14 points, but serious concerns about their offensive prowess will come to a head as they advance to face Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans.

Meaningful Results

No. 3 Michigan State 65, No. 14 Valparaiso 54: The Spartans held Valpo stars Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk to ten points combined, and that was enough to get them to the next round. Crusaders Erik Bugg, Matt Kenney and Ben Boggs scored in double figures, but without big plays from their studs, Valpo was doomed. Keith Appling and company advance to face Memphis.

No. 6 Butler 68, No. 11 Bucknell 56: This was one of those games that attracted upset-seekers, but Butler played strong up front, getting a 14 point, 16 board double-double from Alex Smith in the post. Bucknell center Mike Muscala was decent, putting up nine points and hauling down ten rebounds, but that wasn’t nearly enough to power the Bison to the round of 32.

No. 9 Wichita State 73, No. 8 Pittsburgh 55: No, I will not call this an upset. I will admit that I didn’t expect it to be won quite so handily by the Shockers, who have a new tourney mantra: “play angry”. The inside-out trio of Carl Hall, Cleanthony Early and Malcolm Armstead worked well together in this one, as the more mobile team beat the bigger team. WSU’s three-point shooting – a miserable 10 percent on the day – could be a serious concern in the next round.

No. 4 St. Louis 64, No. 13 New Mexico State 44: 7’5″ Aggie Sim Bhullar was big on the boards, snagging 11 errant shots, but he was a bust in the scoring column, with just four points to his name. St. Louis, on the other hand, lived up to the hype we’ve been showering on them all week, clamping down defensively and following Dwayne Evans’ 24 points into the next round.

Starred

Derrick Nix, Michigan State: 23 points, 15 rebounds to help the Spartans advance.

Darryl Evans, St. Louis: Evans was the hero as the Billikens beat up on New Mexico State, but one gets the sense that he’s just one of several St. Louis players future opponents should be very, very scared of.

Joe Willman, Bucknell: Much credit due to Willman, who busted his butt trying to make up for Mike Muscala’s muted play. Willman’s effort is today’s example of valiant play even in defeat.

Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss: No, he hasn’t stepped foot on the floor yet, but Henderson won the pre-game press conference, and made some lifelong friends in the press corps. Read up, and root for this willing villain to survive and advance, just for the fun of it.

Struggled

Tray Woodall, Pitt: Not a good final career game for Woodall. He scored just two points and gave up five turnovers before leaving early with five fouls.

New Mexico State shooters: The Aggies hit just 27.9 percent from the floor, and 12.5 percent from deep. Even the freebies weren’t falling – NMSU hit just 61.5 percent from the stripe.

Will Bogan, Valparaiso: The Valpo starting guard was 0-3 on the day, scoring exactly zero points in 26 minutes.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.