First Weekend Superlatives: MVP, Best Dunk, Best GIF

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FIRST WEEKEND MVP: Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast

This pick was easy, really. The FGCU point guard is the engine that makes Dunk City run. In wins over No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State, Comer averaged 11.0 points, 12.0 assists and 4.0 boards, setting the table for each and every one of those ridiculous alley-oops that his lanky and athletic front court finished for him. Perhaps more incredibly, he finished with just five turnovers 64 minutes despite throwing some ridiculously difficult passes. The Eagles want to get out and run the floor. They want to score in the 70s and the 80s and they want to be the Greatest Show in March. Comer is the guy that allows them to do just that.

All-First Weekend Team:

  • Khalif Wyatt, Temple: Wyatt couldn’t lead his Owl team out of the first weekend, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort: he went for 31 points against both No. 8 NC State and No. 1 Indiana.
  • Vander Blue, Marquette: Vander Blue had 16 points and a game-winner in a win over No. 14 Davidson, then finished with 29 and four steals, sparking the Marquette comeback, as the Golden Eagles knocked off Butler.
  • Ramon Galloway, La Salle: Galloway led the Explorers from the First Four to the Sweet 16 by averaging 21.3 points. 4.0 boards, 3.7 assists and hitting 12 threes.
  • Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon: Kazemi averaged 10.0 points, 16.5 boards and 2.0 blocks as Oregon knocked off both No. 5 Oklahoma State and No. 4 St. Louis on the way to the Sweet 16.
  • Jeff Withey, Kansas: Withey was the best player on the floor for Kansas in a win over WKU and then turned into a dominating force on both ends in the second half rout of North Carolina. He averaged 16.5 points, 11.0 boards and 6.5 blocks in the two games.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMANCE: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State

The opening round was supposed to be highlighted by Nate Wolters vs. Trey Burke, but Wolters picked an awful time to have a terrible game. He finished with just 10 points on 3-14 shooting as the Jack Rabbits lost to No. 4 Michigan 71-56. Ironically enough, Wolters may have actually helped his NBA cause with that performance, as he did a solid enough job defending the National Player of the Year Trey Burke.

BEST GAME: No. 3 Marquette 59, No. 14 Davidson 58

For all the talk about how boring the first day of the tournament was, it did provide us with our best game of the first weekend. Marquette, one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, avoided elimination by hitting three threes in the final minute to shave down a Davidson lead. Then with less than 10 seconds left, Davidson was up 58-57 and simply had to try to drain the clock, but managed to turn the ball over, setting up this final possession from Vander Blue:

MOST OVERHYPED GAME: No. 4 Michigan 78, No. 5 VCU 53

This was supposed to be a thrilling matchup between Havoc and the nation’s best point guard, but it turns out that Havoc couldn’t hang. The Rams were shredded by the Wolverines, who eventually stomped every last ember of VCU’s will in a thorough whooping of Shaka Smart’s crew.

WHO WAS UNDERSEEDED?: No. 12 Oregon

The Ducks suffered half of their losses this season with Dominic Artis out of the lineup. They were coming off of a Pac-12 tournament title. They were a top ten team in the country before Artis went down with his foot injury. And for all of that work, the committee gave them a No. 12 seed? Oregon proved them wrong, beating both No. 5 Oklahoma State and No. 4 St. Louis in impressive fashion while advancing to the Sweet 16.

WHO WAS OVERSEEDED?: Everyone in the MWC?

For a league that generated so much hype during the season, it’s a surprise that there will not be a single member of the Mountain West in the NCAA tournament’s second weekend. Boise State lost in the play-in game and Colorado State got bounced in the round of 32 by Louisville. That’s understandable. But No. 5 UNLV lost in the opening round to No. 12 Cal, No. 3 New Mexico was upset in their first game by No. 14 Harvard and No. 7 San Diego State became the second victim of Dunk City.

BEST DUNK: Comer-to-Fieler vs. Georgetown

There were about 25 options from FGCU alone, but between the moment, the unexpected nature and the fact that Chase Fieler had his hand above the square … yeah, this was incredible:

WORST DUNK: Chane Behanan vs. North Carolina A&T

This is about as embarrassing as it gets:

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BEST SHOT: Aaron Craft’s game-winner

This was the closest thing we had to a buzzer-beater during the first weekend:

BEST GIF: Julian Gamble, photobomb

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BEST PICTURE: The Wat-swat

Christian Watford’s block on Anthony Lee may have saved Indiana from getting eliminated in the round of 32:

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(Image via Terry Gilliam / McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

Lawson, Moore carry No. 1 KU to 89-53 rout of South Dakota

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Dedric Lawson had 16 points and 14 rebounds, Charlie Moore made six 3-pointers en route to 18 points, and top-ranked Kansas pulled away in the second half for an 89-53 victory over plucky but overmatched South Dakota on Tuesday night.

Freshman forward David McCormack added a career-best 12 points off the bench for the Jayhawks (10-0), helping to soak up minutes while Udoka Azubuike is sidelined with a sprained ankle.

Kansas has won 40 consecutive games in Allen Fieldhouse as the nation’s No. 1 team.

Stanley Umude scored a game-high 28 points to lead the Coyotes (6-6), who have never defeated a ranked team in seven tries. Tyler Peterson added 15 points, and leading scorer Trey Burch-Manning was held to two points on 1-for-5 shooting before fouling out.

Neither team was particularly good in the first half.

The Jayhawks struggled to stop South Dakota’s relentless backdoor cuts, and eventually Kansas coach Bill Self was so fed up with their defensive execution he started to burn timeouts.

Not that the Coyotes did much with all those easy looks. They committed 12 first-half turnovers, allowing the Jayhawks to slowly pull out to a 37-27 advantage at the break.

Most of the work was done without Lawson, who was forced to the bench with two fouls.

The Jayhawks’ dominant point forward joined Moore in helping the Jayhawks pull away in the second half. Lawson scored in the paint, Moore hit a 3-pointer and Lawson added a pair of foul shots to turn a 49-40 lead into a 56-40 lead with about 12 minutes to go.

The undersized Coyotes answered with a run of their own, but Moore and Lawson provided one more answer. Moore curled in his fifth 3-pointer, this time from the wing, and then took a run-out to the rim before dropping a pass to Lawson for an easy layup and a 66-47 lead.

The advantage only grew from there as Moore, a transfer from California who once scored 38 in a game as a freshman, and the massive McCormack continued to put together breakout games.

BIG PICTURE

South Dakota hung around long enough to keep Kansas on the edge, but the Jayhawks’ superior athleticism was evident. They were quicker in transition, better on the boards and were able to pull away when the Coyotes went cold from beyond the arc.

Kansas finally got an easy win after surviving nail-biters against everyone from New Mexico State and Stanford to Villanova and Tennessee. It was the first time all season that the Jayhawks put away a game in time to empty the bench in the final minutes.

UP NEXT

South Dakota hosts Southern Miss on Friday night.

Kansas visits No. 18 Arizona State on Saturday night.

Kevin Ollie alleges racial discrimination in new civil action against UConn

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Former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is heading to court with the school over alleged racial discrimination. In a report from the Hartford Courant, Ollie has filed a civil action alleging that the school illegally attempted to deter him from filing a racial discrimination complaint.

Submitted on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Ollie is claiming he was treated differently from predecessor Jim Calhoun, because Calhoun kept his job after receiving comparable recruiting violations.

Ollie was fired for those violations earlier this year as he’s been in a contentious back-and-forth battle with the school that has gone to court. The former head coach claims he informed UConn of his intention to file the complaint but the school said it would refuse to have a contractual-grievance arbitration process that would give Ollie the final $10 million on his contract.

Seeking an emergency injunction that would allow him to file the complaint while proceeding with an arbitration process.

UConn responded to the Courant on Tuesday through a spokesperson as they disputed Ollie’s account that race played a role in his firing.

“As UConn has stated from the outset, the university terminated Kevin Ollie’s employment due to violations of NCAA rules, pursuant to his employment agreement,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said. “Any claim to the contrary is without merit.”

Ollie’s attorney told the Courant that the hope is to file and stay with a racial discrimination complaint, which could be addressed after the arbitration.

From the sound of it, UConn and Ollie are going to be in court for quite a bit of time as this whole firing process has been difficult from the start.

No. 15 Buckeyes overcome slow start, rout Youngstown State

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s first half against mid-major Youngstown State was a train wreck. But then the No. 15 Buckeyes managed to get back on track with their game plan — primarily getting the ball inside to Kaleb Wesson.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore took control in the second half, scoring 26 of his career-high 31 and rallying Ohio State to a 75-56 rout of the Penguins on Tuesday night.

“When you got a guy like Kaleb Wesson, he’s a load,” Youngstown State coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “I think he makes the game easier for coach (Chris) Holtmann and the other four players who are out there playing with him. He’s a monster.”

The Buckeyes (10-1, 2-0 Big Ten) shot poorly in the first half and again were forced to rally against an opponent they should have handled easily from the beginning.

Ohio State made just 7 of 29 shots from the floor in the first half (24.1 percent) and trailed 25-22 at the intermission before Wesson and his teammates got themselves going offensively. The game stayed close in the first half only because Youngstown State didn’t shoot much better.

“We had some good looks, but I don’t think we imposed ourselves offensively in the first half,” Holtmann said.

Wesson had a put-back to give the Buckeyes the lead three minutes into the second half and they rolled from there, shooting 70.4 percent after the intermission.

Luther Muhammad and C.J. Jackson each had 11 points for Ohio State, which has won three in a row after losing their only game of the season Nov. 28.

Darius Quisenberry had 17 points, and Naz Bohannon added 11 for the Penguins (5-9), who have lost five of their last six.

Youngstown State shot just 36.4 percent for the game.

BIG PICTURE:

Youngstown State: Took advantage of Ohio State’s poor shooting to lead the entire first half, but couldn’t keep up once Wesson and the Buckeyes started scoring in the second.

“That was as an efficient a half as I’ve seen,” Calhoun said. “We just had no answer.”

Ohio State: After nearly losing to Bucknell on Saturday, the Buckeyes took another opponent too lightly and were getting stung for a while. They are making too many mistakes against less-talented teams.

“We really have a long way to go, and I’m certainly concerned,” said Holtmann, who blamed it on a lack of maturity.

“At halftime the older guys, the leaders kind of got into us, saying we weren’t playing with a purpose,” Wesson said. “We were out there playing possessions just to play, because we had to.”

WESSON RISING

Wesson recorded career highs in scoring in each of the past two games. He had 22 in the 73-71 win over Bucknell on Saturday.

But he only had five in the first half Tuesday and sat out for the last bit with two fouls.

“I had to regain my focus, and I had to get chewed out a couple of times (at the half),” he said. “It’s not something I expect to happen, but sometimes when you get chewed out, it just lights something in you. I feel like when that happened to me, I had to step up.”

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS

Wesson’s older brother Andre, an Ohio State forward, lost two teeth and chipped another on Saturday when a Bucknell player fell on him and his face made hard contact with the court.

Andre Wesson is scheduled to have dental work on Wednesday, but started against Youngstown State, picking up four points and five rebounds.

UP NEXT:

Youngstown State: Hosts Detroit Mercy on Dec. 28.

Ohio State: At UCLA on Saturday.

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

No. 2 Duke emerges from exam break to beat Princeton 101-50

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DURHAM, N.C. — A cold offensive start for second-ranked Duke on Tuesday night turned out to be a good sign for coach Mike Krzyzewski. That’s because his Blue Devils never let all those missed shots infect the team’s defensive focus.

RJ Barrett continued his rookie-season scoring rush, finishing with 27 points to help second-ranked Duke beat Princeton 101-50. Meanwhile, as the offense got rolling to hand Princeton its most lopsided loss in its program history, the defense finished with a bevy of steals, blocks and deflections to earn the approval of the Hall of Fame coach.

“We kept telling them: `Just don’t be down about the offense, you’re doing a good job, just keep shooting, keep doing it and don’t let it affect the defense,” Krzyzewski said.

“And they did. So that’s good.”

Consider it a lesson learned and applied for the freshman-led Blue Devils (10-1), whose high-flying offense has the potential to run past just about anybody. Yet this group has shown the ability to be a get-after-’em defensive team, too, with freshman point guard Tre Jones pressuring the ball surrounded by plenty of length and athleticism on the wings.

Krzyzewski wants his players to focus on the latter, knowing it’s likely a matter of time before any off-target shooting corrects itself. And that was obvious Tuesday as Duke opened its first game in more than a week due to an exam break by missing its first eight shots and falling behind 8-0.

Even more unusual of a sight on its famously hostile home court, the Blue Devils didn’t take their first lead until more than 14 minutes in.

“We were getting good shots,” Barrett said. “We just couldn’t make them.”

But after a steady start from the Tigers — who caught Duke with some early backdoor cuts — the Blue Devils scored on 10-of-11 possessions to close the first half, then on four more out of the break to take a 48-28 lead. Duke shot 64 percent after halftime as the game turned into a rout.

“Boy, that’s a really good team,” Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said. “They’re even better in person.”

Myles Stephens had 19 points for Princeton (5-5), which led 18-16 before Duke put together an 11-0 run to take over. Princeton shot just 30 percent for the game, including 8 of 36 (22 percent) after halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Princeton: Those opening few minutes had to be encouraging for the Tigers. They just didn’t have an answer once Duke’s shots started falling to pair with that defensive aggression.

“They got so many deflections, just stuff we hadn’t seen before,” Henderson said. “It’s a great lesson, that when you’re playing against the best, you have to be absolutely sharper than you’ve ever been.”

Duke: The Blue Devils hadn’t played since beating Yale here on Dec. 8, and it took a while for the offense to get into gear. Things went to script once that happened. Barrett came in averaging an Atlantic Coast Conference-best 24.2 points and finished 11 of 21 from the field while fellow rookie Zion Williamson (17 points, 10 rebounds) had another big game. Meanwhile, Duke’s defense had 12 steals, 14 blocks and 23 points off turnovers to go with a 50-25 rebounding advantage.

NEW RECORD

The 51-point margin surpassed Princeton’s previous worst margin of defeat of 45 points, set against Penn in December 1908.

CLOSING THE (BACK)DOOR

Duke quickly did a better job of closing off those backdoor lanes after Princeton got loose inside for easy early layups.

“Really that was just something we hadn’t worked on as much coming in,” said Duke forward Javin DeLaurier, who had six points and three rebounds. “Once we realized that was something they were going to try and hurt us with, guys did a good job of just making the adjustment, not contesting as much. And as soon as a guy was dribbling at you, expect the back door.”

UP NEXT

Princeton: The Tigers visit Lafayette on Friday.

Duke: The Blue Devils face No. 12 Texas Tech in New York’s Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

VIDEO: Backboard nearly takes out Zion Williamson on blocked shot

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Zion Williamson was almost taken out by a backboard as Duke played Princeton at home on Tuesday night. Playing at home, Williamson went for a block as his arm and face appeared hit the backboard and caused him to fall to the ground.

Williamson was okay, but the startling block is yet another freakish play that the freshman forward has made on the defensive end this season. Although mostly known for his dunks, Williamson is showing himself to be one of the scariest shot blockers in college hoops this season.

No. 2 Duke ran past Princeton for the easy home win.