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No. 1 Virginia cruises past Pitt, secures outright ACC title

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PITTSBURGH — No. 1 Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright with a 66-37 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Freshman guard De’Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) with 14 points in a game that didn’t take big offensive efforts from Virginia’s regulars. Of the five starters, only guard Ty Jerome exceeded his season average with 13 points.

The game was never competitive, as Virginia started on an 8-0 run and Pitt didn’t make a field goal until Jared Wilson-Frame hit a 3-pointer at the midway point of the first half.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett rested most of his regulars in the second half. Reserve Nigel Johnson added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Pitt had next to no presence inside. The Panthers were outscored 28-8 in the paint and out-rebounded 36-24. Seven of Pitt’s 11 made field goals were from beyond the arc.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia: The Cavaliers got a big scare when leading scorer Kyle Guy left the game and headed to the locker room about three minutes into the second half. Guy returned to the bench but did not re-enter the game. He finished with three points in 19 minutes.

Pitt: The first-half performance was historically bad in several ways. Pitt’s 4.5 percent shooting from the floor was the lowest field-goal percentage in a half for the team, breaking the mark of 12.5 percent set against Rutgers in 2012. It was Pitt’s fewest points scored in a half since 1952.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Will visit Louisville on Thursday. The Cavaliers have beaten the Cardinals in five straight meetings.

Pittsburgh: Finishes its season at Notre Dame on Wednesday. Pitt has already been assured of finishing in last place in the ACC.

DeVoe’s 25 leads No. 15 Clemson to 75-67 win over Georgia Tech

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Brad Brownell drew up the first play of Saturday’s game to get an open 3-pointer for Gabe DeVoe, partly as a way to thank the senior for four good years.

It also served as a catalyst for the 15th-ranked Tigers as they ended a three-game losing streak.

DeVoe scored 25 points, making four of his seven 3-pointers, to lead Clemson (21-7, 10-6 Atlantic Coast) to a 75-67 win over Georgia Tech.

Shelton Mitchell returned after missing two games for the Tigers, and his presence helped DeVoe get his stroke back. Mitchell added 14 points and took away some of the defensive pressure on DeVoe, who had shot 2 of 14 on 3s in the past two games.

“His speed in transition really opens up the offense a lot — allows me to get easy looks,” DeVoe said.

The Tigers ended the game on a 29-14 run after leading scorer Josh Okogie picked up his fourth foul for the Yellow Jackets (11-18, 4-12) with 11:44 to go.

Georgia Tech missed 11 of its last 12 shots and turned the ball over four times in the final seven minutes to lose their seventh straight game and 11th of 12.

The Yellow Jackets shot 50 percent (9-of-18) on 3-pointers — their best outing of the ACC season — but missed 13 layups, including four while Clemson went on a 14-0 run that turned a 61-55 deficit with 5:43 to go into a 69-61 lead in the final minute.

“We don’t have any margin for error to miss the layups we missed,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Clemson led by as much as 10 early in the first half but allowed Georgia Tech to rally. The Yellow Jackets took a 58-47 lead with 10:28 left in the game.

“We were ready to play. We were sharp,” Brownell said. “But we also wanted it to be easy once we had that lead.”

DeVoe’s 25 matched the career high he set on Jan. 28 in a 72-70 win at Georgia Tech. His final basket Saturday came as he dribbled for about 20 seconds at half court as the clock went under a minute and then buried a 25-footer as the shot clock wound down.

SNAKE-BITTEN YELLOW JACKETS

Pastner described his team as snake-bitten twice after the game. He was talking about missed shots that rolled out, but also some calls that left three of his starters with four fouls for the final five minutes in a rotation that goes just seven deep because of injuries.

Okogie scored 22 points and hit his first eight shots, but missed his last four field goals in the final 17 minutes of the game as his fouls mounted.

Pastner wanted to look at video of the fouls. He thought the second foul on Okogie could have been a block and the third a jump ball. But the fourth on a DeVoe drive was the killer, the coach said.

“Whether he fouled him or not, he’s got to be smarter. I’d rather just let the guy score at that point. We need you in the game. You can’t even get yourself into a gray area,” Pastner said.

TIRED TIGERS

Brownell said starters Marcquise Reed and David Skara looked a step slow.

“I’ve got to really evaluate this the next couple of days. We’re not going to win as a tired team. Our guys have really put in a lot of effort,” Brownell said. “We just looked a little spent.”

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: The Tigers are trying to hang onto something rare for them — a bye into the ACC quarterfinals by finishing in the top four in the standings. With the win, Clemson is guaranteed to be at least tied for fourth place with two games to go. In the 12 seasons since the ACC expanded beyond nine teams, Clemson has started the tournament in the quarterfinals just twice, in 2008 and 2011.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets are locked in to play the first day of the ACC tournament, meaning they will need to win five games in five days. Also, without a miraculous season-ending tournament run, the Yellow Jackets will have their eighth losing record in the past 13 seasons.

No. 8 Kansas clinches 14th straight Big 12 regular season championship with win at No. 6 Texas Tech

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The streak is still alive.

Devonte’ Graham scored 26 points and made two critical, tough shots in the final minute as No. 8 Kansas clinched a share of the Big 12 title by going into Lubbock and knocking off a shorthanded No. 6 Texas Tech, 74-72.

Svi Mykhailiuk added 21 points for the Jayhawks, who put to rest all the concern that this would be the year that the streak came to an end with a week left in the regular season.

If there was ever going to be a season where the streak came to an end, this looked like it would be the one. Just two weeks ago, after Kansas lost by 16 points at Baylor on the same day that Texas Tech beat Kansas State by 20 in Manhattan, Texas Tech say in the driver’s seat. They were a game up on the Jayhawks with six to play and a home game against Kansas left on the schedule. For a team that was, at the time, ranked in the top six on KenPom, that was a dream scenario, one that was set aflame by an unfortunate case of turf toe.

Keenan Evans, a front runner for Big 12 Player of the Year and by far the best offensive weapon on the Texas Tech roster, landed funny late in the first half of a game at Baylor a week ago Saturday, slamming his toe into the court and severely hobbling himself. He did not play in the second half at Baylor. He did play in the last two games, 56 minutes combined, but he was not the Keenan Evans Big 12 fans have come to know and hate. He shot 2-for-13 from the floor and missed all seven of his threes. He scored eight total points.

The Red Raiders, as you might imagine, lost all three of those games.

And with it, any chance of ending the Jayhawks’ streak and, in turn, becoming one of the best college basketball stories this decade.

All is certainly not lost for Chris Beard’s club.

For starters, Zach Smith is back. You may not know that name because he is a glue guy for a team that is not exactly a blueblood, but he’s one of the most important pieces on that roster. He’s a freak of an athlete at 6-foot-8, a guy that can provide Beard with versatility defensively and energy on the offensive glass. There were people around that program that would tell you the reason they took a swoon early in league play was that Smith got injured.

With him back in the mix, Texas Tech is only going to get stronger defensively, and they are already one of the nation’s five-best defenses. They are not, however, great offensively, which typically would be a concern. The numbers bear it out: It is far more difficult to win a title being an elite defensive team that is just good on the offensive end of the floor than vice versa, but what makes me believe in the Red Raiders is Evans. If anyone can pull a Shabazz or a Kemba in this year’s tournament, it’s a (healthy) Evans.

So don’t stop believing, Lubbock.

As far as Kansas is concerned, what else is there to say about this team by now?

The Big 12 is the best conference in college basketball.

The best.

I’m not sure there is really a way to dispute that.

And this iteration of the Jayhawks? They’re not great, at least not when it comes to the way we typically view a Kansas team. They lost Billy Preston to an eligibility issue. They had to enroll Silvio De Sousa a semester early just so they have more than two front court players on their roster. They don’t have anything close to a small-ball four on the roster. They’ve lost in Phog Allen Fieldhouse three times this season, twice by double-digits. Malik Newman has had stretches where he’s been terrible. Same with Lagerald Vick. Marcus Garrett and Mitch Lightfoot took some time to get acclimated to the minutes they were being asked to play.

Despite all of that, Kansas, with two games left in the regular season, has already clinched a share of the conference regular season title.

And as long as they don’t get swept by Oklahoma State at home and at Texas in the final week of the season, they will win yet another outright Big 12 regular season title.

This may very well be the best coaching performance of Bill Self’s career.

Deandre Ayton eligible to play for Arizona, family ‘disgusted’ by allegations

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Arizona announced on Saturday afternoon that Deandre Ayton will be eligible to play the rest of the season. The Wildcats play at Oregon on Saturday night.

On Friday night, ESPN reported that Sean Miller was caught on a wiretap during the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball discussing a $100,000 payment to secure the services of Ayton.

The conversations that were intercepted were between Miller and Christian Dawkins, a former runner for ex-NBA agent Andy Miller. According to ESPN, when asked by Dawkins if he should work through former Arizona assistant coach Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson to finalize a deal, “Miller told Dawkins he should deal directly with him when it came to money.”

Miller will not be coaching for Arizona tonight.

A lawyer representing the Ayton family released a statement on their behalf on Saturday night prior to tip-off, saying that they are “outraged and disgusted” by the reports that “falsely implied [Ayton] had any involvement in illegal or prohibited activities.” According to the family, Ayton was interviewed by the FBI “more than six months ago” and told them that he “never discussed or solicited payments” from any schools or shoe companies.

Sean Miller’s contract with Arizona pays him $5 million more if he’s fired for cause

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Following a bombshell report from ESPN on Friday night that Sean Miller is caught on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for superstar recruit Deandre Ayton, the Arizona head coach will not be coaching the Wildcats on Saturday night when they play at Oregon.

It seems as if Miller’s tenure in Tucson is coming to an end, which puts the University into a weird position. According to ESPN, the way that Miller’s contract is written, if he is fired for cause, he will receive twice as much money in a buyout — $10.3 million vs. $5.15 million — as he would receive if he was not fired for cause.

The reason for this?

According to Forbes, it appears to simply be a mistake that was made by Arizona when drafting the contract. In a section titled “Termination by University Without Cause; Liquidated Damages”, the contract states clearly that he’ll be entitled to receive 50 percent of his base salary for each year left on his contract. But in the section discussing what happens if Miller is fired FOR cause, the contract reads that “the University’s sole obligation to Coach shall be the payment of his Base Salary” for each year left on the contract.

His full base salary.

No agent in their right mind is going try and sneak something like that into a contract with a school because no school is going to be dumb enough to agree to put a clause like that in the contract. It is, quite literally, an incentive to break rules in order to get fired for cause.

What does that mean?

Well, Miller is probably not going to be fired for cause.

And if he is, he’ll double the amount of money that he’ll have to toss into his bank account while he figures out what the next move for him will be.

Arizona’s Sean Miller will not coach Saturday night

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Arizona head coach Sean Miller is not expected to be on the sidelines coaching for Arizona on Saturday night as they play at Oregon.

Miller was reportedly caught on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to secure the services of potential No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton. The conversations that were intercepted were between Miller and Christian Dawkins, a former runner for ex-NBA agent Andy Miller. According to ESPN, when asked by Dawkins if he should work through former Arizona assistant coach Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson to finalize a deal, “Miller told Dawkins he should deal directly with him when it came to money.”

“I believe it is in the best interest of our team that I not coach the game tonight,” Miller said in a statement. “I continue to fully support the University’s efforts to fully investigate this matter and am confident that I will be vindicated. For now, my thoughts are with our team. They are a great group of young men that will support each other and continue their pursuit of winning a Pac-12 championship.”

Ayton will be eligible to play tonight.

Arizona is already playing without Allonzo Trier, who tested positive for a PED for for the second time in his career. He was suspended prior to Thursday night’s game at Oregon State.

Richardson was fired by Arizona after he was caught up in the original FBI complaints in September. He had worked for Miller for 10 years at Xavier and Arizona. He was alleged to have accepted $20,000 in bribes to steer players to Dawkins and another financial advisor.

Ayton committed to Arizona in September of 2016. He is currently averaging 19.6 points and 10.9 boards for No. 14 Arizona and is considered by many to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Miller denied any knowledge of a scheme to pay recruits to enroll at Arizona in October.

There has been speculation all season long that Arizona’s ties to this investigation could cost Miller his job.