No. 2 Villanova, Jay Wright return to the Final Four with win over No. 1 Kansas

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The concern with Villanova was that, eventually, the Wildcats were going to regress back to the mean.

There’s no way that they would be able to hit 11 threes a game throughout the tournament, right? It wasn’t possible for them to shoot 53.2 percent from beyond the arc for three more games, was it?

As it turns out, our suspicions were correct.

No. 2 seed Villanova shot just 40.4 percent from the floor and 4-for-18 from three, and it didn’t matter. The Wildcats beat No. 1 seed Kansas — the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament — 64-59 to advance to their first Final Four since 2009.

The Wildcats advanced on the strength of their defensive effort, forcing 16 turnovers and holding Perry Ellis, who was averaging 23.0 points in the tournament, to just 1-for-5 shooting on Saturday night. Much of the credit for that defensive effort falls on the shoulders of Kris Jenkins. Jenkins is a guy that is known for his ability on the offensive end of the floor. Entering Saturday night, he had hit at least two threes in his last 11 games, scored at least 15 points in 10 of those 11 and went for 20+ in six of those 10. He wasn’t, however, a noted defender.

But he was the guy tasked with slowing down Ellis, and he did just that. Ellis had no points, two fouls and four turnovers at halftime while Jenkins led the Wildcats with nine points and three assists. Jenkins finished with 13 points, as did Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono, but none of them played all that well. Arcidiacono was more or less taken away by Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham while Hart missed four straight shots in the final four minutes.

What may be more fascinating is that part of me feels like Kansas gave this one away. Wayne Selden wasn’t ready to play. He airballed two threes in the first half and had another hit the opposite side of the back board early in the second half. He scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half, but he was 0-for-6 from three and missed a pair of threes in the final minute that could have changed the outcome of the game.

And that’s before you factor in Devonte’ Graham’s critical turnover (foul?) with less than a minute left.

It begs the question: At what point are we allowed to criticize Bill Self for his lack of tournament success?

The man has won 12 straight Big 12 titles. There’s no question that he’s one of the best coaches in the college game today. If he retired this second, he’d be in the Hall of Fame and no one would even question it.

But he’s only been to the Final Four twice in his career — winning the 2008 national title — the same number of times that he’s failed to get to the Final Four as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, as his Jayhawks were this season.

(For comparison’s sake, in seven of the 12 years since the No. 1 seeds were ranked the No. 1 overall seed has reached the Final Four. Three times — 2007 Florida, 2012 Kentucky and 2013 Louisville — the No. 1 overall seed won the national title. Kansas is the only program to twice fail to get to the Final Four as the No. 1 overall seed.)

And then there’s the five NCAA tournaments in his time at Kansas where Self has failed to get out of the first weekend or the six Elite 8 games that he’s lost.

So while it’s impossible to argue with his credentials, there is some wiggle room here, and this year’s team may be the perfect example. Look, there are no future first round picks that play for the Jayhawks this season. Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden will probably be second round picks. Maybe Frank Mason, too. But overall, there’s a real lack of NBA talent on this roster, which is part of what made Self a trendy pick for National Coach of the Year.

He won the toughest conference in college basketball, one that plays a true Round Robin schedule, by two full games with these guys? That’s damned impressive.

But he got picked off in the dance by a lower-seeded team on a night where his guys either A) had an off-night or B) choked.

It’s fascinating, really.

That said, it’s really not about Bill Self tonight.

The story is about Jay Wright, who is headed back to the Final Four after a seven-year hiatus, one where a lot of people began to question whether or not he really had what it takes to be an elite coach at this level.

Three times in six years between this Final Four and his last Final Four, Jay Wright lost in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament as a top two seed.

I’d say that monkey is officially of his back.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.