2018 NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 betting odds and national title futures

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With four more top threes falling out of the NCAA tournament on Sunday, here are the updated national title futures and betting odds in the NCAA tournament.

Odds via VegasInsider.com

Villanova: 4/1
Duke: 6/1
Michigan: 8/1
Kentucky: 8/1
Kansas: 10/1
Gonzaga: 12/1
Purdue: 15/1
West Virginia: 22/1
Texas Tech: 25/1
Nevada: 100/1
Texas A&M: 100/1
Loyola Chicago: 100/1
Clemson: 125/1
Kansas State: 125/1
Syracuse: 125/1
Florida State: 150/1

UConn puts Final Four beatdown on Miami 72-59

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HOUSTON (AP) Nobody was guarding UConn’s best player. So Adama Sanogo spun the ball to get his fingers just right, set his feet behind the 3-point line and splashed in the shot. Then, less than a minute later, he did it again.

It was as much basketball clinic as highlight video – and all of it perfectly fitting for the Huskies, who are methodically steamrolling through a March Madness bracket that has been a free-for-all everywhere else.

UConn doled out another drama-free beatdown Saturday, getting 21 points and 10 rebounds from Sanogo to dispatch Miami 72-59 and move one win from the school’s fifth national title.

“There’s a lot of teams that want to play Monday,” Sanogo said. “It means a lot to us.”

Jordan Hawkins overcame his stomach bug and scored 13 for the Huskies, who came into this most unexpected Final Four as the only team with any experience on college basketball’s final weekend and with the best seeding of the four teams in Houston – at No. 4.

Against fifth-seeded Miami, they were the best team on the court from beginning to end. Starting with three straight 3s – one jumper from Hawkins and two of those set shots from Sanogo – UConn took a quick 9-0 lead and never trailed.

“This is something that I worked on all summer, especially shooting,” Sanogo said.

On Monday in the title game, the Huskies will face San Diego State, which became the first team to hit a buzzer-beater while trailing in a Final Four game for a 72-71 victory over Florida Atlantic. UConn was an early 7 1/2-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

“They’re one of the best teams in the country,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said of the Aztecs. “And I think it’s fitting that both of us kind of earned our way into this title game.”

But while the early game was an all-timer, the nightcap was simply more of the same from the Huskies (30-8).

The 13-point win was UConn’s closest since the brackets came out. The Huskies are the sixth team since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to reach the title game with five straight double-digit victories. It’s an impressive list of behemoths with a knack for closing: Four of the first five went on to win the championship.

Some thought Miami (29-8), with the nation’s fifth-ranked offense and four players who have scored 20 points at least three times this season, might be the team to slow this Huskies juggernaut. Not to be.

Isaiah Wong led the ’Canes with 15 points on 4-for-10 shooting. Harassed constantly by Sanogo, 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan and the rest of Connecticut’s long-armed, rangy perimeter players, Miami, which came in with the nation’s fifth-best offense, shot 25% in the first half and 33.3% for the game.

“Obviously what we tried to do not only didn’t work, I couldn’t even recognize it,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “Offensively we were out of sync, but defensively we were too.”

Not that UConn was all boring. The Huskies enjoyed their own sort of buzzer-beater in the form of a 3 from Alex Karaban that sent the Huskies jogging into the locker room with a 13-point lead at halftime.

They built it to 20 before the first TV timeout of the second half. By then, Jim Nantz, calling his last Final Four, could start saving his voice for Monday.

Miami did get it under double digits a few times, but this never got interesting.

Not helping: Hurricanes guard Nijel Pack missed about five minutes after managers had trouble locating a substitute for a busted shoe. Pack finished with eight points, and Jordan Miller, who hit all 20 shots he took from the floor and the line in Miami’s Elite Eight win, went 4 for 10 for 11 points. Only one Miami player made more than half his shots.

“I’m a defensive guy first and foremost,” Hurley said. “I just love the way we guarded them. They’re one of the best offenses in the country, and we really disrupted them.”

UConn had five blocks, including two from Sanogo, and 19 assists, led by eight from Tristen Newton – both signs of the sort of all-around effort the Huskies have been putting in since the start of February, when they began the bounce back from a six-loss-in-eight-games stretch that halted their momentum.

That cold stretch is a big reason they were seeded only fourth for March. Now, it’s April and the number UConn is thinking about is “5” – as in, a fifth title that will come if it can keep this up for one more game.

“Maybe it was a little bit delusional,” Huskies guard Andre Jackson Jr. said, “but we always knew we were the best team in our mind.”

AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Dream season ends for FAU in 72-71 Final Four loss to Aztecs

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HOUSTON (AP) FAU’s debut at the Final Four ended in the most excruciating manner imaginable.

The Owls led for the last 27 minutes, 25 seconds of Saturday night’s game against San Diego State, only to watch their dream of a title become a nightmare when Lamont Butler’s jumper went through the net at the buzzer to give the Aztecs a 72-71 victory.

The Owls made school history by getting here, only to walk off the court in shock as the Aztecs bounced around in celebration.

“I was in shock when the buzzer went off,” said FAU’s Nick Boyd.

Florida Atlantic’s players smiled and many danced on the bench during a second half in which it appeared they’d move within one win of a title no one could have seen coming.

Instead they ended up with a loss that nobody will ever forget.

Butler’s shot goes into the March Madness annals, alongside Jalen Suggs’ long-range buzzer-beater for Gonzaga two years ago in the national semifinal, and even something that happened on this very floor the last time the Final Four was Houston in 2016: Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater to win the title for Villanova.

Which means FAU will be remembered alongside UCLA and North Carolina as victims of some of the most crushing last-second losses this tournament has seen.

For so long, it didn’t look like it would go that way.

Jalen Gaffney made a 3-pointer to put the Owls ahead 26-24 with 7:25 left in the first half. FAU didn’t trail again until the buzzer.

The Owls were up by 9 with 11 minutes to go after testing San Diego State’s vaunted defense like no one had in this tournament before the Aztecs started chipping away at the lead.

The Aztecs got within 2 for the first time with about 10 minutes to go and tied it with 4 1/2 minutes left.

Giancarlo Rosado put the Owls back on top with a fadeaway jumper seconds later, but they didn’t make another field goal until Alijah Martin’s layup made it 71-68 with 45 seconds left.

Jaedon LeDee hit a jumper to cut FAU’s lead to 1 with 36 seconds left.

Johnell Davis missed a layup with nine seconds left that would have padded the lead.

Nathan Mensah grabbed a rebound before Butler’s jumper swished through the net at the buzzer to end this Cinderella’s dream season.

AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Clark, Iowa end perfect South Carolina season in Final Four

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DALLAS – Caitlin Clark overwhelmed the reigning champions with another sensational game, scoring 41 points to help Iowa spoil South Carolina’s perfect season with a 77-73 victory on Friday night in the Final Four.

The spectacular junior guard set a record for the highest-scoring semifinal game and became the first women’s player to post back-to-back 40-point games in the NCAA Tournament. She now has the Hawkeyes in a spot they’ve never been in before – one victory away from a national championship.

They’ll have to beat another SEC team to do that as Iowa (31-6) will face LSU in the title game on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers beat Virginia Tech in the other national semifinal.

It’s the Tigers’ first appearance in the title game as Kim Mulkey became the second coach to take two different teams to the championship game.

Thanks to the spectacular play of Clark and the historic year by South Carolina, this was one of the most talked about and highly anticipated matchups in women’s Final Four history,

The game lived up to the hype surrounding it- the best player vs. the best team – much to the delight of the sellout crowd of over 19,000 fans.

Coach Dawn Staley and South Carolina (36-1) had won 42 in a row, including last year’s championship game.

This was Iowa’s first appearance in the Final Four in 30 years. The last time the Hawkeyes advanced this far was 1993 and C. Vivian Stringer was the coach of that team that lost to Ohio State in overtime.

Clark wowed the crowd that included Harper Stribe, a young fan of the team who has been battling cancer. She was featured in a surprise video that informed the Hawkeyes’ star that she was the AP Player of the Year.

Trailing 59-55 entering the fourth quarter, South Carolina scored the first five points to take the lead. Clark answered right back with two deep 3-pointers and an assist to Monika Czinano to give the Hawkeyes a 67-62 lead.

South Carolina got within 69-68 on Raven Johnson’s 3-pointer before Clark got a steal for a layup with 3:32 left. Neither team scored again until star Aliyah Boston was fouled with 1:37 left. She made the second of two free throws.

Clark then scored another layup on the other end out of a timeout to make it a four-point game. After a layup by Zia Cooke made it a two-point game with 58 seconds left, the Hawkeyes ran the clock down with McKenna Warnock grabbing a huge offensive rebound off a Clark miss with 18 seconds remaining.

Clark hit two free throws after South Carolina fouled her with 13.5 seconds left. They were her 38th and 39th point, moving her past Nneka Ogwumike for the most points scored in a Final Four semifinal game.

After a putback by Johnson with 9.9 seconds left got the Gamecocks within 75-73, Clark sealed the game with two more free throws.

As the final seconds went off the clock Clark threw the ball high in the air and galloped around the court.

The loss ended a spectacular season for the defending champion Gamecocks, who were trying to become the 10th team to go through a season unbeaten.

Cooke led the Gamecocks with 24 points. Slowed by foul trouble, Boston had just eight points and 10 rebounds as the Hawkeyes packed the paint, daring South Carolina to shoot from the outside.

The Gamecocks finished 4-for-20 from behind the 3-point line and couldn’t take advantage of their 49-25 advantage on the boards that included 26 offensive rebounds.

Mulkey, LSU women rally in Final Four, reach first title game

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DALLAS – Kim Mulkey is back in another national championship game, this time taking the flagship university from her home state there for the first time.

It took LSU only two seasons to get there with the feisty and flamboyantly dressed coach, and a big comeback in the national semifinal game that was quite an undercard Friday night.

Alexis Morris scored 27 points and had two of her misses in the fourth quarter turned into putback baskets by Angel Reese in a big run as LSU rallied to beat top-seeded Virginia Tech 79-72 in the first semifinal game.

“I’m never satisfied. I’m super-excited that we won, but I’m hungry,” said Morris, who jumped on a courtside table and fired up LSU fans after the game. “Like, I’m greedy. I want to win it all so I can complete the story.”

Reese finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds for LSU (33-2), which will play in the national title game Sunday against the winner of the highly anticipated matchup between Southeastern Conference foe South Carolina or Iowa in the other semifinal.

“It’s like a dream. It still hasn’t hit me that I’m at the Final Four,” said Reese, the transfer from Maryland who carries the nickname, ”Bayou Barbie.” “I’m just not even believing this right now. It’s crazy how much my life has changed in one year.”

Mulkey – in a carnation pink top this time – won three national titles in four Final Four appearances over her 21 seasons at Baylor. She is only the second coach to take two different teams to the national championship game. The other is C. Vivian Stringer, who did it with Cheyney in the inaugural 1982 women’s tournament and Rutgers in 2007.

“I came home for lots of reasons,” Mulkey said. “One, to some day hang a championship banner in the PMAC (Pete Maravich Assembly Center). Never, ever do you think you’re going to do something like this in two years.”

LSU made five national semifinal games in a row from 2004-08 – the only times the Tigers had made it this far. They lost each of those years.

The Tigers had to dig deep for this one, with neither team backing down.

Trailing 59-50 after three quarters, LSU went ahead with a 15-0 run over a five-minute span. The Tigers led for the first time since late in the first half when Falu’jae Johnson had a steal and drove for a layup to make it 64-62.

Reese had six points in that game-turning spurt, including a basket after Morris’ attempted 3-pointer clanked off the front rim. Reese had a second-effort follow of her own miss after rebounding another shot by Morris.

Elizabeth Kitley, the 6-foot-6 senior, had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Virginia Tech (31-5), the Atlantic Coast Conference champion that was in the Final Four for the first time. Georgia Amoore and Kayana Traylor each had 17 points, while Cayla King had 14.

Amoore set a record for the most 3-pointers in a single NCAA Tournament with 24, though she had a tough night shooting – 4 of 17 overall, including 4 of 15 from beyond the arc. She passed Kia Nurse’s record 22 set in the 2017 tourney for UConn, which lost in the national semifinals on the same court. Arizona’s Aari McDonald had 22 in six NCAA tourney games two years ago.

The big run for LSU came right after Amoore made her last 3-pointer with 7:52 left for a 62-57 lead. The Hokies didn’t make another basket until King’s 3 with 1:19 left.

“I think we had a few crucial turnovers as well as missed box-outs where they scored on second-chance opportunities,” Traylor said. “I think that’s just what it came down to really.”

Morris had opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer for LSU, then had a driving layup before Reese had a layup after a steal by Johnson. That quick 7-0 run prompted a timeout by Hokies coach Kenny Brooks.

“They hit a couple of shots, gave them a little bit of momentum. They hit a 3 right off the bat … kind of changed the momentum,” Brooks said. “They were aggressive in the passing lanes. But they also were a little bit more aggressive down low.”

Virginia Tech had ended the first half with its own 11-0 run to lead for the first time, at 34-32 on Traylor’s driving layup with 53 seconds left.

But it was the Tigers who led for 17:55 of the first half with the Hokies getting off to a slow start shooting – they missed eight of their first nine shots – that an LSU cheerleader had an assist even before they officially had a shot.

King was charged with a turnover on a ball that hit the rim and bounced over the top of the backboard and got stuck there. With encouragement from officials and others at that end, a male cheerleader lifted up a female cheerleader, who knocked the ball down.

Gradey Dick to leave Kansas for NBA draft after one season

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas sharpshooter Gradey Dick is entering the NBA draft after one season with the Jayhawks.

The 6-foot-8 guard announced his decision in a social media post Friday.

Dick started all 36 games for the Jayhawks and averaged 14.1 points while shooting better than 40% from 3-point range. He made 83 3-pointers, a program record for a freshman.

Kansas lost to Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, with Dick scoring just seven points in his finale.