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Texas Tech clamps down on Michigan to reach Elite 8

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Texas Tech is in the Elite 8 for the second-consecutive season.

The third-seeded Red Raiders absolutely dominated No. 2 Michigan in a 63-44 victory in Anaheim on Thursday to once again be on the doorstep of the Final Four.

Chris Beard’s top-ranked defense looked as formidable as ever as Michigan, a top-20 offense, had no answer for the Red Raiders’ scheme. The Wolverines shot 32.7 percent from the floor for the game and were an astonishing 1 of 19 from 3-point range – and that one make came with 21.8 seconds left in the game.

“I feel like we stayed true to ourselves. We played the defense we’ve been playing all year and their shots wasn’t going in,” Jarrett Culver said after the game. “We had urgency. We knew they had great players that could shoot the ball pretty well. So urgency and staying true to our defense.”

Michigan turned it over 14 times while making just 16 shots. Iggy Brazdeikis scored 17 points and had 13 rebounds in a rare bright spot on the night.

“Watching Michigan it’s been like a coaching clinic. I have an old school spiral that I used. Im not really an iPad guy. I have a red pen, black pen, old school spirals, and on the back of the page before I write notes for us basically to steal things from other people,” Beard said. “During the off-season I will go back and add things and my whole notebook is filled with red because Michigan is so well-coached and Coach Beilein does such a great job.

“We knew they were going to exploit our pick-and-roll switch and going inside and come out and do some things different and you just try and do things to help your guys and at halftime we made a few adjustments.”

The Red Raiders had never been to an Elite 8 in the program’s history, and now Beard has gotten them there twice in three years. He’s done it with two different rosters, too, with Culver really the lone holdover – and he was clearly the third option in 2018 behind Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith. It’s been remarkable work in Lubbock by Beard, who will almost certainly be mentioned among every top job that opens in the foreseeable future. He’s having that kind of success out in west Texas.

“You’ve got to give the guys credit. A lot has been made of the culture, but it’s these guys,” Beard said. “The first thing in recruiting is making sure they can play in the Big 12, and it’s a talent business. We do really good with guys that love to play. Last night we went to a local high school and got shots up and just played shooting games and stuff and some of the younger coaches on the stuff want to keep their legs. Is this too much? No, this is us.

“We made Jarrett Culver go to bed when we got back, but everybody loves to “hoop.” We have a culture that is based on guys that love the game and love each other.”

Culver finished with 22 points on 9 of 19 shooting while Davide Moretti had 15 and Matt Mooney 10.

It’s a disappointing out for the Wolverines, who looked like a favorite to return to the Final Four for a second-consecutive year after opening the season with 17-straight wins. Instead, they missed out on a Big Ten regular-season title, a conference tournament title and saw their season halted in the Sweet 16.

Texas Tech will face top-seeded Gonzaga – the No. 1 defense vs. the No. 1 offense – on Saturday with the winner moving on to Minneapolis.

“Their passion, their togetherness, their courage, thousand aggressive they are, at this point I’m a fan (of Gonzaga),” Beard said, “and here in the next hour or so I’ve got to flip that and start to get ready to try to prepare against them. I can say this early on no one has more respect for Gonzaga than I do personally and our program.”

2019 NCAA Tournament: Who do you want taking the big shot?

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March is all about buzzer-beaters. It’s what makes the NCAA tournament the most thrilling sporting event on the planet. So who is going to be making iconic moments this March? Here’s a list of candidates who might play themselves into the March Moments Hall of Fame.

Cam Reddish, Duke

The Blue Devils freshman hasn’t been the absolute knockdown shooter many envisioned he could be, but at 6-foot-8 there are few defenders that are going to bother him if he needs to get a 3-pointer off with the clock running down. Plus, there’s a track record.

Jordan Bohannon, Iowa

The Hawkeyes aren’t exactly entering the tournament on a heater, having lost five of their last six, but Bohannon has big-shot chops. He hit a game-winner with under a second to play to beat Northwestern and then a forced OT and an eventual win against Indiana later in February. Also worth noting his teammate, freshman Joe Wieskamp, hit this shot last month, so Iowa might have two guys that should be on this list.

Kyle Guy, Virginia

The junior guard is a killer. He’s incredibly confident and seems to thrive when the moment is biggest. He’s a relentless scorer who can hunt his shot and bail Virginia out of tough possessions. A 46.3 percent 3-point shooter, Guy is someone you want either with the ball in his hand or stalking the arc with the game on the line.

Jordan Poole, Michigan

We’ve entered the Titanic Music part of this post.

Ja Morant, Murray State

An athletic wonder, first-rate passer, solid 3-point shooter and devastating finisher, there aren’t many players across the country who you’d rather have the ball in their hands with the clock racing toward zero and a long summer break staring you in the face. The Racers are the rare mid-major that can count on a likely top-three pick taking the last shot for them in a close game. Not bad.

Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

The 6-foot-6 Culver can seemingly get any shot he wants, and he’s quite good at them all. He’s comfortable at every level, even if he’s not a great 3-point shooter. He can get to the rim either off the bounce or from the post, and he’s one of the country’s most talented scorers.

Tyler Herro, Kentucky

If you need a bucket at the end of the game, who better to call upon than a guy who, by his own telling, is actually a bucket.

It’s also good that he’s a knockdown shooter and a likely first-round pick.

 

2019 NCAA Tournament: Big men you need to know

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This might not be the Year of the Big Man, but the country has produced some really good ones this year.

There are some you know – there’s one everybody knows even if they’ve never even seen him play – and some you might not. T

hey are, however, all important to get acquainted¬†with when you’re filling out your bracket.

Zion Williamson, Duke

I feel like I don’t need to explain this one. Just spend a couple minutes watching Zion do Zion stuff.

Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga

The Bulldogs have the best frontcourt duo in the country, and it gets to be an embarrassment of riches if you factor in Killian Tillie, who has hardly played this season due to injuries. Both Hachimura and Clarke could be NBA draft lottery picks in a couple months, and they’re a big reason why the Zags once again secured a No. 1 seed and could be headed back to the title game. Clarke might be the best two-way player in the country, shooting 69 percent from the floor while swatting 11 percent of opponents’ shot attempts while he’s in the game while also being an elite rebounder with the ability to defend on the perimeter. Hachimura might be the better pro prospect with a little-used-but-effective 3-point stroke to go along with his athleticism and 6-foot-8, 230-pound frame. Together, it’s an incredibly formidable frontcourt.

Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan

The freshman from Ontario is a major reason while the Wolverines look capable of returning to the Final Four. He’s averaging 15.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per¬† game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. He’s not alone in the Wolverine fonrtcourt, though, getting help from 7-foot-1 junior Jon Teske, whose rebounding and shot-blocking are solid complements to Brazdeikis.

Luke Maye, North Carolina

Luke Maye wasn’t the first-team All-American type many thought possible this season, but he’s been really good for a No. 1 seed. The senior is averaging 14.7 points and 10.5 rebounds. He’s got tournament experience – NCAA tournament hero experience, no less. Oh, and championship experience. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him replicate both.

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

The Badger big man hasn’t been in the conversation for national player of the year for a lot of legit reasons, but his production would suggest he’s one of the country’s best players. He’s more central and critical to Wisconsin’s offense than nearly any other player for any other team nationwide, and he’s still incredibly productive and efficient. He’s a premier rebounding, a fantastic passer and assistman and a strong fundamental defender, even if his shot blocking isn’t high-level. Wisconsin’s supporting cast has been the question for much of the last two seasons – which included Wisconsin’s first missed NCAA tournament in two decades last year – but Happ is good enough to get the Badgers through tough spots. As long as he doesn’t have to shoot free throws, an area in which his percentage has plummetted from 64.3 percent as a freshman to 46.5 percent as a senior.

Cameron Jackson, Wofford

Wondering how Wofford got so much love this season? Well, they’re really good, for one, but Jackson is a huge part of that success. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Virginia native averages 14.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 1 block per game while shooting 58.1 percent from the floor. He’s a high-usage player and a very good rebounder that helps give the Terriers their bite.

Dedric Lawson, Kansas

This season was disappointing by the standards set by Kansas, which missed out on the Big 12 regular-season title for the first time in 14 years, but things didn’t totally crater largely because of Lawson’s excellence. The Memphis transfer averaged 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds along with 1.7 assists per game. He was the center of everything the Jayhawks did as they lost players to suspension, injuries and a leave of absence. If Kansas is going to go on a run, the Jayhawks are going to need someone like Marcus Garrett, Devon Dotson or Quentin Grimes to outpace their regular-season production, but Lawson will be the foundation that off of which they’ll build.

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder is one of the more physically imposing players in the country with the stats to back it up. He’s a high-level rebounder and a good shot blocker that figures to be a first-round pick come June. If he gets the ball around the goal, he’s probably scoring.

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota

The Big Ten’s all-time career rebounder, Murphy should surpass 1,300 career boards against Louisville on Thursday. He’s averaging 11.5 boards per game this season, doing most of his damage of the defensive end with a 28.5 rebounding percentage there. He’s a capable scorer at 14.5 points per game with a shooting percentage of 48.3 percent, but it’ll be his work on the glass that’ll help the Gophers try to win their first NCAA tournament game under Richard Pitino, against his father’s former employer, no less.

Darnell Cowart, Murray State

Ja Morant deservedly gets the headlines, but if the Racers make a play for the second weekend, it wouldn’t be surpringing to see Cowart, at 6-foot-8 and nearly 300 pounds, play a big part. He’s an elite offensive rebounder at 14.5 percent, and averages 10.4 points per game. Now, I did mention Morant, so by rule we have to take a moment to watch him dunk.

Nick Muszynski, Belmont

The 6-foot-11 freshman is both an excellent passer and solid shot blocker. He’s posting 2.2 swats per game along with 2.7 assists. Add that to his 61.4 percent field goal number, and he makes a pretty strong complement to Dylan Windler.¬†

Scottie James, Liberty

If James shoots it, it’s likely going in. As in an overwhelming likelihood. The Liberty big man is shooting 70.3 percent from the floor this season, top-15 in the country. He’s also a great rebounder, corralling 15.6 percent of his own team’s misses and 27.6 percent of his opponents’, both of which are top-25 numbers nationally.

Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky

The Horizon League player of the year is averaging 19.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game this season while shooting 38.4 percent from 3. The Norse’s upset chances likely hinge on how well he plays against Texas Tech.

 

NCAA Tournament 2019: Instant Analysis West Region

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The West Region has an intriguing draw with Gonzaga gaining the top seed and Michigan, a Final Four team from last season, getting the No. 2 seed. This region has some potential darkhorse Final Four team and some trendy potential upsets to keep an eye on during the first weekend.

The No. 1 seed is¬†Gonzaga. Despite a loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC title game, the Bulldogs still earned a No. 1 seed out west as they face the play-in winner between No. 16 seeds¬†Fairleigh Dickinson and Prairie View A&M.

It should be a matchup of a lot of length and athleticism when No. 8 seed Syracuse and No. 9 seed Baylor collide. The health of Orange star guard Tyus Battle (hip) and Bears senior guard Makai Mason (toe) could very well decide who advances in that one.

The best lead-guard matchup of the first round goes down in Hartford with No. 5 seed Marquette and All-American Markus Howard battling OVC champion and No. 12 seed Murray State and Ja Morant. The Golden Eagles struggled down the stretch in Big East play as they went from Final Four darkhorse into a potentially-popular first-round matchup.

ANALYSIS: East | South | West | Midwest

A dangerous¬†No. 4 seed could be¬†Florida State¬†as the Seminoles just knocked off Virginia in the ACC tournament over the weekend. Coming off of an Elite Eight appearance last season, the Seminoles could be a sleeper Final Four team out of this region. The Seminoles collide with No. 13 seed¬†Vermont, a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The America East champions had a beatdown of UMBC in the conference tournament title game.

After an impressive season in the MAC in which they became a consistent top-25 team, Buffalo gets a No. 6 seed. The Bulls could get a fascinating first-round matchup as they await the winner of the play-in game between No. 11 seeds Arizona State and¬†St. John’s. If the Sun Devils advance past Dayton, it’ll be a matchup of Bobby Hurley-coached programs as he left Buffalo for Arizona State a few years ago.

Texas Tech¬†earned the No. 3 seed out of the Big 12 following an impressive regular-season title. Although the Red Raiders made the Elite Eight last season, the roster is almost entirely different from last season. But the Red Raiders have a star in Jarrett Culver and the nation’s best defense.¬†Northern Kentucky, the No. 14 seed, draws Texas Tech after winning the Horizon League title.

Following a disappointing regular season,¬†Nevada¬†is a No. 7 seed facing No. 10 seed¬†Florida. The Wolf Pack had preseason top-10 hype but failed to deliver results in the regular season behind a loaded roster that is mostly in-tact from last season’s Sweet 16 team. The Gators needed some late wins this season to get in — most notably over LSU in the SEC tournament. Florida is dangerous but extremely inconsistent.

Rounding out the West is No. 2 seed Michigan as the Wolverines attempt to return to the Final Four. Guard Charles Matthews recently returned from injury as Michigan appears to be near full-strength heading into the Big Dance. The Wolverines face No. 15 seed Montana to open things up as the Grizzlies represent the Big Sky.

NBC Sports Top 25: The final power rankings of the college basketball season

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Yes, I’m the guy that still has Duke at No. 1. I explained why in detail last week, and I’m not going to do it again, especially now that it appears Zion Williamson will be back for the ACC tournament.

And just to make it clear: This does not mean that I believe Duke should be a No. 1 seed. I don’t. Losses, even if they come when a team is not at full strength, need to matter for things like NCAA tournament seeding. They don’t matter when it comes to how the industry — and me, specifically — rank which of those teams are the best.

Beyond that, there isn’t all that much to talk about in what will be the final top 25 of the 2018-19 season.

I bumped Texas Tech up to fifth after they won a share of the Big 12 regular season title. Outside of a three-week stretch in January when Jarrett Culver forgot how to shoot, the Red Raiders were the best team in that conference. With the way they are shooting and scoring the ball in the last month combined with that defense, they are very much a threat to win a national title.

One other thing that I’ll note here: I think there are three tiers at the top of college hoops. At the top is a healthy Duke, Gonzaga and Virginia. Right behind that trio sits North Carolina, Texas Tech, Tennessee and Kentucky. I think those seven are pretty clearly the top seven teams in the country, and one you get past them, it starts to get wild. Purdue, Kansas State, Michigan State, Houston, Michigan, Florida State, Nevada. I think there is an argument for all of these teams to be ranked in the back end of the top ten.

Anyway, here is my final Top 25 of the season:

1. Duke (26-5, Last Week: 1)
2. Gonzaga (29-2, 2)
3. Virginia (28-2, 3)
4. North Carolina (26-5, 4)
5. Texas Tech (26-5, 6)
6. Tennessee (27-4, 5)
7. Kentucky (26-5, 7)
8. Michigan State (25-6, 12)
9. Purdue (23-8, 9)
10. Kansas State (24-7, 10)
11. LSU (26-5, 11)
12. Houston (29-2, 12)
13. Michigan (26-5, 8)
14. Nevada (28-3, 15)
15. Florida State (25-6, 18)
16. Virginia Tech (23-7, 17)
17. Buffalo (28-3, 20)
18. Wofford (27-4, 22)
19. Wisconsin (22-9, 19)
20. Kansas (23-8, 16)
21. Marquette (23-8, 14)
22. Auburn (22-9, NR)
23. VCU (25-6, NR)
24. Mississippi State (22-9, NR)
25. UCF (23-7, 25)

Dropped Out: 21. Iowa State, 23. Villanova, 24. Cincinnati
New Additions: 22. Auburn, 23. VCU, 24. Mississippi State

No. 9 Michigan State rallies to beat No. 7 Michigan for share of Big Ten title

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Cassius Winston started slow and finished strong, scoring 23 points to help No. 9 Michigan State beat No. 7 Michigan 75-63 Saturday night.

The Spartans (25-6, 16-4 Big Ten) earned a share of the Big Ten title and top seeding in next week’s conference tournament.

The Wolverines (26-5, 15-5) will be seeded third in Chicago after falling to third place behind their rivals and No. 11 Purdue.

Winston was 1 of 8 before making five straight shots in the second half, including a 3-pointer to give Michigan State its first lead midway through the second half.

The Spartans then pulled away, winning easily in a game Michigan controlled for more than 20 minutes.

Winston made a layup with 5:58 left to cap a 25-4 run.

The Spartans trailed by six at halftime and by eight points early in the second half after Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis made a 3-pointer. The Big Ten freshman of the year candidate fouled out with 20 points and Jordan Poole scored just five of his 15 points in the second half.

Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman scored 17 points and blocked five shots. Kenny Goins had nine points and 16 rebounds while fellow senior Matt McQuaid scored nine points and played well defensively in their final home game at the Breslin Center, where they kissed the school’s logo at midcourt to follow a tradition Shawn Respert started in 1995.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Charles Matthews, who nearly 12 points a game, missed his third straight game. If the shooting guard can use the rest to be ready for the Big Ten and NCAA tournament, he can give the Wolverines a boost offensively.

Michigan State: Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo won his ninth Big Ten regular season title despite missing two of his best players, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford, due to injuries. Ward might be able to play in the conference tournament and likely can contribute a little at least in the NCAA tournament.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The third-seeded team in the Big Ten tournament will play the final game of the conference quarterfinals Friday night.

Michigan State: The first-seeded team will open the conference tournament quarterfinals on Friday afternoon.

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

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