Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Top 18 moments from 2018 NCAA tournament

1 Comment

Big Dance withdrawal already? Fret not, as you can relive all the madness here, with the top 18 moments of the 2018 NCAA tournament.

18. Zhaire Smith does a Zhaire Smith thing

The Texas Tech freshman very well could be the best dunker in the country. Stephen F. Austin would be available as character witnesses about his credentials. Not too many guys in the country are going to be dropping 360-degree alley oops in a tourney game.

17. McQuaid’s crazy bank

Michigan State made just 8 of 37 3-pointers against Syracuse as it saw its season end. One of those makes was really cool though. Matt McQuaid’s blocked-then-banked triple at the first-half buzzer was the rare highlight for the Spartans against the Orange.

16. Two posters for the price of one

Wright State may have only gotten a few hours in the NCAA tournament, but Tennessee gave them a pair of posters to take home with them courtesy of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield unleashing two viscous dunks in their opening-round matchup.

 

15. Rob Gray slays

The Houston star brought Houston back from the brink against San Diego State and became an insta-star of the tournament when he scored 39 points against the Aztecs. His entire performance will be etched in Cougar lore, but it’ll be his game-winner that gets remembered by the country.

14. Loyola’s run begins

It ended in the Final Four, but it began with a last-second 3-pointer to knock off sixth-seeded Miami in the first round. If not for that, Sister Jean would have never entered our lives, and we all would have been lesser for it.

13. Arizona’s bizarre season comes to a close

It was an exceedingly weird season for Arizona. Injury, allegations, PEDs, losing streaks and Deandre Ayton being awesome, plus plenty more, made for a you-can’t-turn-away year, but it also made for a lot of dysfunction. The fact that the Wildcats didn’t look too sad to see it all end as Buffalo absolutely whupped them wasn’t exactly surprising, but it was striking.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

12. Dan Mullen takes his shot at Wichita State

Sure, most of the the best shots and most explosive fireworks came on the floor during the tournament, but Illinois State coach Dan Mullen landed his own bit of pyrotechnics with a simple tweet chiding Missouri Valley Conference defectors Wichita State after the Shockers’ first-round upset loss.

11. Miles Bridges throws down

Sure, Michigan State’s tournament ended with a dud – well, actually it was just a bunch of bricks – but at least the Big Dance was treated to a Miles Bridges special when the Spartan sophomore unloaded a nasty tip dunk against Bucknell.

10. Cincy Stunner

When you’ve got a 22-point second-half lead, generally you win. When you’ve got that kind of advantage in the NCAA tournament, you hold on to it for dear life.

Unless you’re Cincinnati.

The Bearcats suffered an unconscionable combustion down the stretch against Nevada to cough up their huge lead and an amazing potential path to the Final Four when the Wolf Pack stormed back to end Cincy’s season in the tournament’s first weekend.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

9. “Overdose of swag”

Michigan found its way to the national title game, but needed Jordan Poole to bail them out of the second round with his buzzer-beater against Houston.

The shot prompted John Beilein to say Poole has an “overdose of swag,” which is honestly just about the most amazing compliment anyone has ever paid anyone ever.

8. Custer-beater

First it was Donte Ingram, then it was Clayton Custer. Loyola got a game-winner from the junior guard in the final seconds to earn its spot in the Sweet 16 and keep its magical Cinderella run alive for what would prove to be a Final Four season.

7. Leonard Hamilton is awkward

Maybe it’s just the age and culture we live in, but I feel pretty confident that the most memorable thing about Florida State’s Elite 8 tournament won’t be the fact that the Seminoles knocked off Xavier and Gonzaga to get there but rather the weird way in which Leonard Hamilton answered a pretty straight-forward and legit question about his team’s decision not to foul and extend the game in the waning seconds of its loss to Michigan.

6. Loyola’s second weekend

Clutch shots, unselfish play, Cinderella status and general likability made Loyola the darling of this year’s NCAA tournament. Whether it was a late 3 that lifted them past Nevada or the no-question-about-it handling of Kansas State to get to the Final Four, Loyola was just a ton of fun and looked the part of a national semifinalist.

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

5. Grant Hill becomes a meme

Luckily for Bill Raftery, breaking your glasses is a temporary problem. Unfortunately for Grant Hill, becoming a hilarious meme is forever.

4. Sister Jean mania

This tournament will be remembered for plenty of things. Just keep reading this list and you’ll find plenty of memorable moments. If, though, in 25 years we look back and think of a single person from this year’s tournament, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it was Sister Jean.

The 98-year-old nun and team champlain stole the show who her hoops knowledge, charm and wit.

3. Grayson Allen’s game-winner spins out

Grayson Allen nearly had his Laettner moment. The Duke senior’s shot that would have secured the Blue Devils’ spot in the Final Four with an iconic moment in a classic game simply just didn’t drop.

It was an amazingly apt end to a career that was incredible for plenty of reasons.

2. UMBC realizes the impossible

Everyone knew it had never been done. After 135 tries, the question became could it be done?

UMBC said yes.

The Retrievers became the first-ever 16 seed to upend a No. 1, with their shellacking of overall top seed Virginia in the first round. They won fans over with their play and fun Twitter account. What they really did, though, was make history.

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

1. Nova cuts down the net

Donte DiVincenzo was unstoppable offensively and a stopper defensively while Villanova won its second title in three years. It was a dominant run through the tournament for the Wildcats, who established themselves as an elite squad when the narrative for much of this season was that no such thing existed.

When the curtain came down on 2017-18, Villanova was the star of ‘One Shining Moment.’

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Xavier lands grad transfer forward Bernard

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Leave a comment

While many of the key contributors to a team that was Villanova’s greatest threat in the Big East return, Xavier has some holes to fill in the rebounding department. With James Farr and Jalen Reynolds both moving on, the Musketeers will have to account for the loss of their top two rebounders as the 2016-17 season approaches. Trevon Blueitt, who averaged 6.1 rebounds per game last season, is back, but others including Norfolk State transfer RaShid Gaston and Sean O’Mara will have to step forward for Chris Mack’s team.

Another option is 6-foot-5 forward Malcolm Bernard. Bernard, who played last season at Florida A&M after spending his first two seasons at Charleston Southern, announced Monday that he will join the Xavier program as a graduate student. He’ll be eligible to compete immediately as a result, with one season of eligibility remaining.

As a redshirt junior at Florida A&M Bernard averaged 14.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, doing the majority of his damage inside of the arc despite playing at a listed weight of just 195 pounds. Bernard also averaged 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game for the Rattlers in 2015-16. Adding a capable rebounder on the wing will help the Musketeers as they look to not only chase down the reigning national champions but also go further in the NCAA tournament than they did last season.

Xavier will return four starters from a team that won 28 games, and went 14-4 in Big East play, before losing to Wisconsin at the buzzer in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Michigan lands former Kentucky guard Matthews

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1 Comment

Having already received a commitment from four-star Class of 2017 shooting guard Jordan Poole, Michigan has added another perimeter prospect who could potentially help them on the court in 2017. NBC Sports confirmed Monday night that former Kentucky guard Charles Matthews has decided to transfer to Michigan. News of Matthews’ decision was first reported by ESPN.com.

Matthews, a Chicago native who played sparingly in his lone season at Kentucky, will have three seasons of eligibility after he sits out the 2016-17 campaign.

Matthews can spend the upcoming season enhancing his skill set while learning John Beilein’s offensive system, and he’ll do so practicing against upperclassmen such as rising senior Zak Irvin and rising junior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman. Matthews, who adds length and athleticism on the wing for Michigan, played just over ten minutes per game as a freshman last season.

With Kentucky bringing in another loaded recruiting class that included guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, as well as the return of Isaiah Briscoe, Matthews was facing another tough fight for minutes had he remained in Lexington for another season.

Before picking Michigan Matthews was also considering Xavier as a possible destination, and he visited both campuses this month.

Xavier reserve guard Larry Austin Jr. to transfer

AP Photo/Gary Landers
Leave a comment

Thursday morning Xavier head coach Chris Mack announced that sophomore guard Larry Austin Jr. has decided to transfer from the Big East program. The 6-foot-2 guard becomes the second player to decide to transfer since the end of the season, with forward Makinde London being the first.

Austin played just under ten minutes per game this season, averaging 1.8 points and 1.1 assists per contest in a backcourt that included Edmond Sumner, Myles Davis and J.P. Macura. And with all three due to return next season, Austin likely would have found the going tough with regards to earning more playing time.

Xavier is awaiting the decisions of Trevon Bluiett and Jalen Reynolds, with both currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process without hiring an agent. Should both return, the Musketeers will be viewed as the biggest threat to reigning national champion Villanova atop the Big East.

Seton Hall beats No. 5 Xavier 87-83 in Big East semifinal

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) Khadeen Carrington had 23 points and seven rebounds to lead Seton Hall to an 87-83 win over fifth-ranked Xavier for the Pirates’ first Big East Tournament title game appearance since 1993, 2 1/2 years before he was born.

Fellow sophomore Isaiah Whitehead added 20 points and eight assists in Friday’s semifinal as third-seeded Seton Hall beat the Musketeers for the second time in less than two weeks.

The Pirates face third-ranked Villanova in Saturday’s championship game.

Seton Hall led by as many as 17 points in the first half, beating the Musketeers to loose balls and converting steals into easy baskets. And when Xavier made a second-half run, Whitehead kept answering with big plays.

Angel Delgado scored 15 points for Seton Hall (24-8). Edmond Sumner led the second-seeded Musketeers (27-5) with 21 points.

With the score tied 13-13 just over seven minutes in, Derrick Gordon scored on two straight fast-break layups to spark a 21-4 Seton Hall run. After Carrington hit a jumper, the Pirates got two offensive rebounds on their next possession, with Michael Nzei slamming home the second. Moments later, Gordon’s steal led to a fast-break layup by Carrington, who then hit two consecutive 3-pointers.

Xavier went scoreless for three minutes during the spurt as Seton Hall, which is headed to its first NCAA Tournament in a decade, built a 34-17 lead.

Seton Hall scored 15 points off takeaways in the first half. The Musketeers had more turnovers (12) than field goals (nine) at the break.

Xavier had nine field goals in the first eight minutes of the second half and started to fluster the Pirates with its 1-3-1 zone. But the Musketeers never got within one possession thanks to Whitehead. He hit a 3-pointer after they pulled within five with more than 12 minutes left, and two possessions later, after Xavier had climbed within four, he spun through the lane for another clutch basket.

He then blocked the shot of Sean O’Mara, who is 6 inches taller, as Seton Hall started to pull back away, aided by missed four missed free throws by the Musketeers.

Xavier shot 8 of 30 on 3-pointers.

The Musketeers made a late run and had a chance to pull within four with 21 seconds left, but Kaiser Gates hit 1 of 2 free throws. They then nearly got a steal, but Gordon was able to corral the ball and was fouled.

Double technical fouls were twice called in the second half.

TIP-INS

Seton Hall: Gordon, the Pirates’ lone senior, is their only player who was born before their last Big East final appearance. He had 10 points and three steals Friday. … Seton Hall had a whopping 25 turnovers but shot 51.8 percent from the field and held Xavier to 34.9 percent.

Xavier: Myles Davis went down hard when he got his layup blocked early in the second half, but he came back in after a brief rest. … Actor Bill Murray, whose son Luke is an assistant coach for the Musketeers, again sat behind the bench in an “X” cap. … Xavier was seeking to reach the final for the second straight season.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall faces third-ranked Villanova in Saturday’s championship game.

Xavier appears headed to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

No. 5 Xavier advances to Big East semis with a 90-72 win

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) Trevon Bluiett matched his career high with 24 points and No. 5 Xavier dominated from start to finish in a 90-72 victory over Marquette on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

The Musketeers took advantage of foul trouble by Marquette star center Henry Ellenson to have a big advantage in points in the paint early and finished with a 42-32 difference.

Xavier (27-4) advanced to Friday’s semifinals to face the winner of third-seeded Seton Hall and sixth-seeded Creighton.

It will be the Musketeers second straight trip to the semifinals. They lost to Villanova in last season’s championship game.

JaJuan Johnson had 19 points to lead the Golden Eagles (20-13), who have reached the semifinals twice (2008, 2010) but they have never made it to the championship game. They beat St. John’s 101-93 in the opening round.

This was the third time Xavier beat Marquette this season with the first two both decided by eight points.

Xavier opened on an 11-2 run with Ellenson, the conference’s freshman of the year and its leading rebounder, picking up his second foul just 3 minutes into the game. He was taken out of the game but when Xavier started having its way inside and took a 15-4 lead, he was back with 14:20 left in the half. The Golden Eagles went to a 2-3 zone to try and keep him from picking up another foul but it didn’t work.

Ellenson, who finished with 14 points and three rebounds, scored eight straight points for Marquette as the Golden Eagles drew within 26-21. With 2:44 left in the half Ellenson and Bluiett got tangled up near midcourt and both went down to the court. An official review found that Ellenson tripped Bluiett and he was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul – his third.

Bluiett’s free throw and J.P. Macura’s 3 on the ensuing possession were part of a 13-0 run that gave the Musketeers a 43-25 lead and Macura hit a long 3 with 4 seconds left to give Xavier a 46-30 lead.

Xavier shot 59.4 percent (19 of 32) in the half while the Golden Eagles were 11 of 32 (34.4 percent).

The Musketeers opened the second half on a 10-3 run and the rout was on with Xavier leading by as many as 28 points. The closest Marquette got was 17 points.

TIP-INS:

Marquette: The Golden Eagles entered the game first in the conference in steals (7.8) and they are second in assists (16.3). … The 101 points against St. John’s in the opening round was the first time the Golden Eagles broke the century against a Big East opponent. They joined the Big East for the 2005-06 season.

Xavier: The Musketeers entered the game first in the conference in assists (16.4) and they are second in steals (7.2). … Myles Davis leads the Big East in free throw shooting percentage (85.9). … Seven players have led the Musketeers in scoring in at least two games this season. … Chris Mack was named national coach of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

UP NEXT:

Marquette: good enough for an NIT bid.

Xavier: faces the winner of Creighton-Seton Hall in the semifinals on Friday.