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Kyle Guy’s free throws push Virginia past Auburn and into title game

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MINNEAPOLIS — The confusion hadn’t even been cleared by the time Kyle Guy began to compose himself. While the thousands at U.S. Bank Stadium and millions watching at home tried to make sense of the final 1.6 seconds, Guy was steeling himself for the most important free throws of his life. Maybe the most critical ever in the history of Virginia basketball.

The whistle blew after Guy’s potential game-winning 3 missed the mark, and while it was initially unclear if that was signaling the end of the game or that Auburn’s Samir Doughty had fouled Guy, the Cavaliers junior looked as though he was mourning a loss. Instead, he was preparing to take the fate of a program in his hands and shoulder the weight of history.

“I put my face into my jersey, but that was me focusing,” Guy said. “I just literally told myself that we dream of these moments, and to be able to make one happen was special.”

Guy stepped to the line and swished three-straight free-throws, delivering Virginia into Monday night’s national championship game with a 63-62 win over Auburn as the Cavs continue to survive the NCAA tournament a year after suffering one of its most notorious exits.

“Every round we advance, and every round I say the same thing almost, and it feels a little bit sweeter, a little bit sweeter,” junior Ty Jerome said after his 21-point, six-assist, nine-rebound performance. “But to think this time last year we were starting our spring workouts, and to still be playing at this point in the season with, after tonight, one other team in the whole country on the stage that you dreamed about since you were a little kid, it’s an unreal feeling.

“We’re going to do everything we can to finish the job.”

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Virginia has the opportunity to win its first national title thanks to a former Indiana Mr. Basketball coming through in a moment dripping with tension, crushing in its pressure and enormous in its stakes.

“He’s built for that moment,” Virginia assistant Brad Soderberg said. “He lives for that stuff.”

There’s no one else Virginia would have wanted in that moment rather than the 82.5 percent free-throw shooter who was spent his three years in Charlottesville with a sense of confidence and self-assurance that radiates from him. He lives to define the moment rather than be controlled by it.

There, though, with 0.6 on the clock and his team down by two, Guy had three shots to chart the course of history. A year after 16th-seeded UMBC had shattered their season, Virginia now had blown a late 10-point lead to a five-seed with a national title game spot on the line.

Guy had three tosses to save Virginia.

“I was trying to look at my fiance. I couldn’t find her so I looked at my dad,” Guy said. “I got this. I looked at my future brother-in-law, he started smiling. I just smirked at him. I got this.”

That smirk gave way to two swishes. Tie game.

Then Auburn used a timeout, forcing Guy to contemplate the game-winner that lay before him on the other side of a huddle he ignored.

“I didn’t hear one word anybody said. I didn’t want any part of what they were talking about,” Guy said. “I just wanted to focus. I don’t even know what the plan was if I made it.”

His teammates saw Guy drifting from them, and kept their distance, secure in what his process would yield.

“Try to stay away from Kyle. Let him get his space, get in his own head. Don’t try to hype him up or anything,” Braxton Key said.

With the isolation of the free-throw line looming, Virginia left Guy alone.

“You don’t need to talk to someone like that in that moment,” De’Andre Hunter said. “He knows it’s a lot of pressure. You don’t need to add any more to it.”

With the biggest shot of his life forthcoming, Virginia offered no advice.

“He knew what he needed to do,” Jack Salt said. “He didn’t need me to tell him how to shoot free throws.”

There was nothing to say because Virginia knew what Guy knew.

“I wasn’t settling for two,” he said.

So guy walked back to the line, took a dribble, bent his knees and let the ball loose into history.

Swish.

“He was cold-blooded for that,” Mamadi Diakite said.

A dream delivered.

“To be able to go to the national championship off of that for these guys and coach (Tony) Bennett, I mean, I really don’t have the words,” Guy said. “We all practiced those shots as a kid. They were probably a little bit more spectacular than free throws, but whatever it takes to win.”

After Auburn could find no miracle in that last 0.6, made his way off the the floor and into history, taking a moment as he ran to put his hand to his mouth and blow a kiss toward the crowd. No doubt it hit its mark.

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

UNC women’s coach Hatchell resigns after findings from program review

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell had built a Hall of Fame career over more than three decades with the Tar Heels, including a national championship and becoming the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time winningest coach.

That tenure ended with her resignation after a program review found concerns over “racially insensitive” comments and pressuring players to compete through medical issues.

The school announced the 67-year-old Hatchell’s resignation late Thursday, along with findings from that external review conducted this month by a Charlotte-based law firm. Among the issues: a “breakdown of connectivity” between Hatchell and the players after 28 interviews of current players and program personnel.

The was enough to end Hatchell’s time in Chapel Hill, which began in 1986.

“The university commissioned a review of our women’s basketball program, which found issues that led us to conclude that the program needed to be taken in a new direction,” athletics director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement. “It is in the best interests of our university and student-athletes for us to do so. Coach Hatchell agrees, and she offered her resignation today. I accepted it.”

Hatchell — who has 1,023 victories, with 751 coming in 33 seasons at UNC along with the 1994 NCAA title — and her coaching staff had been on paid administrative leave since April 1. At the time, UNC announced the review amid player concerns to “assess the culture” of the program.

“The university will always hold a special place in my heart,” Hatchell said in a statement. “The game of basketball has given me so much, but now it is time for me to step away.”

In its release, UNC said the review found “widespread support” among three areas of concern, including the Hatchell-players connection.

The first centered on the racially insensitive comments, compounded by her failure to respond “in a timely or appropriate manner” when confronted by players or staff.

“The review concluded that Hatchell is not viewed as a racist,” the school said, “but her comments and subsequent response caused many in the program to believe she lacked awareness and appreciation for the effect her remarks had on those who heard them.”

Regarding injury concerns, the review reported frustration from players and medical staff with Hatchell’s “perceived and undue influence,” though medical staffers “did not surrender to pressure to clear players” before they were ready.

Wade Smith, Hatchell’s attorney, had defended her earlier this month by saying players had misconstrued comments she made as racist and that she wouldn’t try to force someone to play without medical clearance. That came after The Washington Post, citing unnamed parents of players, said complaints had been made about inappropriate racial comments and players being pushed to play while injured.

In a statement to The Associated Press at the time, Smith said Hatchell “does not have a racist bone in her body” and “cares deeply about (players’) health and well-being.”

Hatchell, who reached 1,000 wins in 2017, trailed only Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma in women’s Division I career victories. But there had been difficulties in recent years.

She missed the 2013-14 season while battling leukemia and undergoing chemotherapy. The program also spent several seasons under the shadow of the school’s multi-year NCAA academic case dealing with irregular courses featuring significant athlete enrollments across numerous sports, a case that reached a no-penalty conclusion in October 2017.

UNC returned to the NCAA Tournament this year for the first time since 2015 after upsets of top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 7 North Carolina State on the road, though her contract was set to expire after next season.

Hatchell said she will still support the school, including raising money for UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and advocating for gender equity issues.

“While this is a bittersweet day, my faith remains strong,” Hatchell said. “After the fight of my life with leukemia, I count every day as a blessing.”

St. John’s expected to hire Mike Anderson

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The coaching search St. John’s started earlier this month is coming to an end, and its finality looks to be as bizarre as the process.

The Red Storm are expected to hire former Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, a source confirmed to NBC Sports. Roger Rubin of Newsday was first to report the development.

Anderson has a perfectly respectable resume after eight years with the Razorbacks and five at Missouri over the last decade-plus, but his history doesn’t suggest why he’s a great fit at St. John’s, a smaller private school in New York City rather than two large public institutions in college towns. New York City is also considerably more northeast than both Fayetteville and Columbia.

St. John’s swung big in a way that made sense when it hired Chris Mullin four years ago. There were question marks given his lack of college experience, but given his status as a Red Storm legend and NBA pedigree – both as a player and executive – you could connect the dots to success, even if Mullin ultimately couldn’t do it himself.

This hire, however, doesn’t make much sense. Anderson just got fired for not progressing enough with Arkansas, a place he spent 17 years at under Nolan Richardson prior to becoming a head coach himself. He had serious legacy there, but it wasn’t enough to overcome just three NCAA tournament appearances and no Sweet 16s in eight years.

That’s the guy that is now, with no clear ties to either the Big East or St. John’s, going to reinvigorate the Red Storm program? Anderson might do it, I guess, but his selection only highlights what a botched search this has been. Bobby Hurley, Porter Moser, Ryan Odom and Tim Cluess all reportedly spurned interest, and it’s about as inarguable as inarguable gets that St. John’s should be a slam-dunk better job than Loyola Chicago, UMBC and Iona, while Hurley is the type of guy an athletic department goes out and gets done if it wants to show it really means business.

Instead, St. John’s search falls to Anderson, who probably won’t win the press conference and didn’t win enough at Arkansas.

Ayo Dosunmu returning to Illinois for sophomore season

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Wins have been few and far between in two seasons for Brad Underwood at Illinois, which makes Thursday’s victory all the more important.

The Illini got a major April boost with Ayo Dosunmu announcing he would return to Champaign for his senior season rather than heading to the professional ranks.

“I stayed home to help coach Underwood turn the Illinois program around,” Dosunmu said in a video released on social media. “We tasted some success, but we didn’t dance. And Illinois has to dance.

“We are building. We will be better. I will be better, and that starts now.”

Dosunmu averaged 13.8 points, 4 rebounds and 3.3 assists during his freshman campaign, which led to speculation he might be off to the pros, leaving Illinois without its most dynamic scorer and playmaker heading into a critical third season for Underwood, who is 26-39 overall and 11-27 in the Big Ten the last two years. Instead, he’ll be returning giving Illinois a second season with an intriguing young core that will likely be a trendy pick to make a significant jump up the B1G standings next winter.

Oklahoma State lands commitment from top-150 guard Chris Harris Jr.

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Oklahoma State is adding another top-150 piece to its 2019 recruiting class as Chris Harris Jr., a guard from Texas, pledged to the Cowboys on Thursday

“I will be committing to Oklahoma State University,” Harris announced via a video on social media.

The consensus three-star recruit picks Mike Boynton’s program over offers from the likes of Texas A&M, Baylor, Kansas State and Georgia Tech. The 6-foot-3 guard visited Stillwater officially late last month. He previously was headed to the Aggies, but was released from his National Letter of Intent after Billy Kennedy was fired in College Station.

His commitment gives Oklahoma State what is increasingly looking like a major recruiting class for Boynton, who has largely exceeded expectations during his short tenure with the Cowboys. Boynton has already secured commitments from top-75 wing Marcus Watson of Georgia and top-125 guard Avery Anderson III as well as three-stars Kalib Boone and Keylan Boone.

 

Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver declaring for draft

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Jarrett Culver made a reality Thursday what appeared inevitable. The Texas Tech sophomore is heading to the NBA.

The projected top-10 pick declared his intentions to enter the drat at a press conference in his native Lubbock just over a week after leading the Red Raiders to the national championship game.

“I will be declaring for the 2019 NBA draft,” Culver said to applause in a standing-room only crowd full of supporters.

It’s little surprise to see Culver become the second early-entry player under third-year coach Chris Beard after Zhaire Smith went one-and-done to the first-round last year. The 6-foot-5 Culver averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game last year while being named the Big 12 player of the year as Texas Tech split the regular-season conference title with Kansas State to put a stop to Kansas’ 14-year reign atop the league.

He could be picked in the top-three of the draft while the top-10 seems assured. He’s a proven scorer and two-way player, though NBA teams will have questions about his athleticism and 3-point shot.

His departure also means a huge reload is in order for Beard and Co., but that was the case coming off an Elite Eight trip in 2017, which Texas Tech followed up with a near-national championship earlier this month.