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Villanova eviscerates Oklahoma, advances to the title game with 44-point win

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HOUSTON — It started exactly the way you would have expected it to.

It started with Buddy Hield, by far the biggest attraction in a Final Four that isn’t exactly brimming with star power, doing exactly the thing that Villanova had spent the last five days telling their guys not to let him do.

It started with Hield isolated top of the key. It started with two hard dribbles to his left. It started with a step-back jumper, a rhythm three, a bucket and a 3-0 lead for the Sooners.

“I could have killed Ryan,” Villanova assistant coach Ashley Howard said, chuckling, of star guard Ryan Arcidiacono. “When you get out there in the game you’ve got to get a feel for him. He adjusted. All our guys adjusted.”

That would be the last time that Hield, one of just four players in the last 40 years to enter the Final Four averaging more than 25 points, would look comfortable on the NRG Stadium court, as Villanova put on the single-most dominating Final Four performance in the history of the sport.

They won 95-51, the 44-point margin the largest in the history of the Final Four. Those 95 points are the most anyone’s scored in the Final Four in 13 years. They shot 71.4 percent from the floor, as Villanova became just the second team in Final Four history to shoot better than 70 percent from the floor, although their 35-for-49 performance paled in comparison to the 22-for-28 shooting (78.6%) that the 1985 iteration of the Wildcats posted in their title game win over Georgetown. As a team, Villanova shot 11-for-18 from three. They scored 1.484 points-per-possession. Oklahoma’s last lead was at 17-16. Villanova went on a 12-0 run then, pushed their lead to 16 points in the first half and, after Oklahoma got to within 54-41 early in the second half, used a 25-0 run to push their lead to 38 points. In total, the Sooners were outscored 68-27 over a 26-minute stretch.

Man, what?

Is this real life?

A performance like that is impressive when the top teams in the country are squaring off with their buy game opponents. In a game like this? In the Final Four? Against a top ten team that rosters the nation’s best scorer? That’s quite literally never happened before, and it very well may never happen again.

It was the totality of the beatdown that was striking, and not just because it was the exact opposite of what happened in Hawai’i back in December, when Oklahoma beat the Wildcats by 23 points.

Villanova ripped Oklahoma’s soul out of their chest, chewed it up and spit it out in a bag that they put on Old Man Clemons porch and lit on fire. They broke Oklahoma. The Sooners were done midway through the second half.

“With 12 minutes left, Coach told us to quit looking at the score and keep playing,” Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler said. “That’s not a good sign right there.”

I’m sure someone is going to criticize Oklahoma for that, but can you really blame them? It was quite evident at that point that Villanova wasn’t going to be blowing that lead. Hield, Spangler, Isaiah Cousins. Those three guys are seniors. They knew their career was over, that this was the last time that they’d be playing with this group of guys, that their final college basketball memory would be playing out the clock of a humiliating mollywhopping in what may be the biggest game that they’ll ever play in.

You can only fight but so hard for a lost cause.

“I feel bad for Oklahoma,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “We’ve all had those nights.”

Josh Hart led six players in double-figures for the Wildcats, finishing with 23 points, eight boards and four assists. He was 10-for-12 from the floor and had a series of back-breaking buckets early in the second half that helped to put the game away. Kris Jenkins chipped in with 18 points while Ryan Arcidiacono added 15 points and three assists.

The most impressive part of the win, however, was the work that Villanova did against Hield. He finished the night shooting 4-for-12 from the floor and 1-for-8 from three, scoring nine points. Before the first TV timeout, four different Villanova defenders had been matched up with Hield. By the 13-minute mark, Kris Jenkins and Phil Booth had gotten their shot as well.

Villanova was constantly changing looks defensively, and not just with the guys they had guarding Hield. Villanova cycled through all of their different defensive looks at least twice in the first half, using everything from a 2-3 matchup zone and a 1-2-2 zone press to a switching man-to-man and a straight man-to-man with a guard denying Hield the ball.

“Just credit to them, what they was doing,” Hield said. “Made it tough on me. Throwing a bunch of bodies at me. Just couldn’t get it going.”

It wasn’t all on Hield, either. Combined, Hield, Cousins and Jordan Woodard scored 36 points — fewer than Hield had on his own in the Elite 8 — on 10-for-36 shooting while hitting just 5-for-22 from three. Villanova’s team defense was just too much for the Sooners guards to handle. Cousins couldn’t get any penetration, Woodard didn’t get any clean looks outside of a four-minute stretch early in the second half.

We’ve said it all season long: Oklahoma doesn’t have a way to win games when their guards aren’t hitting shots, and while the severity of the loss is striking, the fact that it played out the way that it did shouldn’t be overly surprising.

“They just dictated on both ends of the floor,” Lon Kruger said. ‘They were great. We didn’t respond very well to it.”

“We got whipped in every way.”

NCAA makes Johnny Juzang eligible at UCLA for next season

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LOS ANGELES — Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang can play basketball for UCLA this winter.

The NCAA on Wednesday approved a transfer waiver of the year in residence requirement, which typically forces a transfer to sit out one season before becoming eligible. As a result, Juzang is eligible to play what will be his sophomore season in 2020-21.

“We’ve very excited that Johnny will be able to play for us next season,” coach Mick Cronin said. “Johnny is a talented player who can definitely make an impact for us.”

Juzang started two of 28 games for Kentucky as a freshman. He averaged 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds. At Los Angeles’ Harvard-Westlake as a junior, he averaged 23 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists.

Juzang joins fellow guard Jaylen Clark from Rancho Cucamonga, California, in next season’s recruiting class. Clark averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a high school senior, leading Etiwanda to a 30-4 record and a berth in the CIF-SS Open Division regional final.

The Bruins recently lost out on guard Daishen Nix from Las Vegas. He had signed a national letter of intent with UCLA in November, but decommitted in April to sign with the G League. He was Cronin’s first signing since being named the Bruins’ coach a year ago.

Bobby Hurley accused Arizona State AD in booster scandal

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley sent an email to Ray Anderson about a booster scandal last season alleging the Arizona State athletic director minimized sexual harassment allegations by the wives of three athletic staff members in response to allegations made against Bart Wear.

In the email obtained by Yahoo Sports, Hurley accused Anderson on Dec. 8 of disregarding the safety of and showing no sensitivity toward the women.

“I feel like I’ve been lied to,” Bobby Hurley wrote in regards to the booster scandal.

Hurley also accused Anderson of coming up with a numeric scale to judge the harassment claims by the women, including Hurley’s wife, Leslie.

“You have chosen to create your own numeric scale on what sexual assault mean(s) which is disturbing,” Hurley wrote.

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Anderson responded by telling Hurley his email includes false and baseless allegations.

“Your approach here is puzzling,” Anderson wrote.

In a statement released by the program on Wednesday night, Hurley said, “my relationship with Athletic Director Ray Anderson today is strong. We will work together, alongside my outstanding coaching staff, toward the continued success of Sun Devil Men’s Basketball.”

Arizona State previously had an outside investigation conducted into the school’s booster scandal that determined booster Bart Wear subjected the three women to unwelcome comments and physical contact. In February, the school acknowledged to Yahoo that the situation could have been handled more quickly after waiting months to investigate.

The school canceled Wear’s season tickets and warned him security may remove him from the premises if he attends any future Arizona State events.

Houston’s White out for year after injuring knee in workout

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HOUSTON (AP) Houston forward Fabian White Jr. will have knee surgery this week and miss this season after injuring himself in a workout.

White was working out on his own this week when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees, an injury a spokesman for the school said was confirmed by an MRI on Tuesday.

White was one of two players on the team to start all 31 games last season, and he averaged 9.3 points and 5.5 rebounds.

White will redshirt this season and have one year of eligibility remaining to play in the 2021-22 season.

“I feel badly for Fabian,” coach Kelvin Sampson said. “He had worked really hard to have a great senior season. Our thoughts are with him and his family, and we will do all we can to help him recover and have a great senior season in 2021-22.”

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

Georgetown transfer Mac McClung commits to Texas Tech

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Texas Tech landed a commitment from Mac McClung on Wednesday.

McClung is a transfer from Georgetown where he averaged 15.7 points and 2.4 assists in 21 games during an injury-plagued sophomore season. He was considered one of the best available transfers on the market.

“It was a number of events that made me feel I had no choice but to transfer from Georgetown,” McClung said when he opted to leave Georgetown. “I really wanted to stay, but things throughout my career made me realize that I couldn’t. I’m looking for a place I can call home. A place I can be part of a family and help them succeed.”

That statement is important. McClung is going to be applying for a waiver to get eligible immediately, and nowhere in there is a reference to actual basketball when it comes to McClung’s decision to leave the Hoya program. The last year has been a dramatic one for Georgetown. In November, two players – James Akinjo and Josh LeBlanc – left the program hours before NBC broke the news that LeBlanc and teammates Galen Alexander and Myron Gardner had restraining orders filed against them by a pair of female Georgetown students. McClung spent the season in and out of the lineup with a foot injury that was sustained in practice in February.

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The goal for Texas Tech is to use McClung — in 2020-21, not 2021-22 — in large part to replace what they lost when Italian native Davide Moretti made the decision to sign with an agent and turn pro in Europe.

And despite what some critics will tell you, it makes sense.

On both sides.

McClung can get a bucket. That’s what he does better than anything else. He broke Allen Iverson’s Virginia state scoring record. He can go, and Texas Tech badly needs players that can go out and get a bucket.

His issue is on the defensive end of the floor. He barely tried to play defense for the Hoyas, and outside of Virginia, there is not place in the world where playing passive defense is more unacceptable than at Texas Tech.

Put another way, if McClung wants to be anything more than a YouTube channel, he needs to learn to guard. At Texas Tech, he won’t play unless he does. And Texas Tech needs someone that can get them buckets.

How can any place be a better fit than that?

‘Voluntary’ workouts are normal for college athletes

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Last week, the NCAA announced that basketball and football players would be able to return to campus on June 1st, pending conference and state approval, to participate in voluntary offseason workouts with teammates.

It’s spawned a conversation about the return to normalcy and how college sports can make their COVID comeback. Our Corey Robinson made the point on All Things on Friday that the voluntary workouts that he participated in while a member of the Notre Dame football team were “mandatory optional,” meaning that they were voluntary in name only. The players were expected to be there and participate, even if it cut into their summer vacation.

How this plays out in the coronavirus era is an entirely different conversation, one with too many caveats to for people that are suffering from quarantine brain. For example, while the NCAA is pulling back on their restrictions, the schools and their athletes are still subject to conference rules — the SEC will be opening things up on June 1st, while the Pac-12 is waiting until June 15th — and state laws. Ohio has re-opened, while New Jersey is still very much limiting what can and cannot open. A return will be different for Ohio State and Rutgers, who are both part of the Big Ten.

And that’s only part of the complications involved.

New York City is the epicenter of the outbreak in a country that has been hit the hardest by this virus. Will coaches want to bring players that live in the city during the offseason back onto campus and risk infection? Will players that live with at-risk relatives be forced to return home?

The other side of it, however, is that as states open up, as local gyms open up, these athletes are going to want to get back to their routine. They are going to want to get back into shape. If you think that you have taken lockdown hard, imagine being a finely-tuned athlete that is told to stay out of the gym and off the basketball courts for two months. Those guys are going to jump at the chance to start playing again, and if the option is to workout at the local Lifetime Fitness or have them back onto campus, where access to weight rooms is monitored and sanitizing can be done more often, the answer is clear.

Allowing athletes to workout on campus during the summer may actually be the safer option.

Let me preface what I’m about to say with this: Moving towards a return to sports is a good thing for our country. We need signs that we can get back to a regular life at some point. We need hope. We need something to look forward to, and for many, that is watching — or playing — college athletics. There are so many unknowns that a slow, cautious return might be what works.

That said, the number of questions that are still left unanswered is mystifying.

For starters, who is going to play to test all of these college football and college basketball players? Who is going to pay to test all the people they come into contact with on a daily basis? All the professional sports teams that have returned or are preparing to return have rigorous testing procedures in place. College sports doesn’t. Those pro athletes will be kept in a bubble. They are going to be quarantined. College athletes will be on campus. All it takes is for one member of a football or basketball team to decide that it’s OK to hit a party where someone is asymptomatic to mess everything up.

And what happens when they do? Will that player go into quarantine? Will everyone that he or she has been practicing against go into quarantine? Will the teams they played in recent days go into quarantine? Will they be allowed to play road games if someone in the program tests positive? Will other campuses want to risk an outbreak just so they can get the ticket revenue from a 1/3-full stadium?

What about the coaches that are 70-plus years old?

Hell, what about all of the college basketball players from overseas? Are we ever going to see them in a college hoops uniform again?

Here’s the biggest question, however: College campuses have started to announce their new schedules for classes, and many of them are starting early and ending early, right around Thanksgiving, due to concerns about a second wave coming this winter. November is when college basketball season is supposed to start. Are we going to play a full season in the throes of a second wave?

The question of whether or not these workouts are actually voluntary is hardly the question I would be asking if I’m a college sports fan right now.