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Saturday, March 24, 2018
Men's College Basketball
Florida State vs. Michigan 8:49 (EDT) Preview

Florida State takes aim at third-seeded Michigan


Friday, March 23 at 9:02 PM (EDT)

LOS ANGELES -- Upstart Florida State does not have a go-to guy, per se, as much as go-to cohort. Michigan operates in a somewhat similar fashion, although it will bring the more recognizable names into the Elite Eight matchup between the two schools Saturday.

Nothing summarizes ninth-seeded Florida State's NCAA roll more than this -- the Seminoles (23-11) have received 118 points, 59 rebounds and 22 assists from their reserves while getting past Missouri, No. 1 seed Xavier and No. 4 seed Gonzaga.

Third-seeded and No. 7-ranked Michigan (31-7) also spreads things around, especially on the perimeter, although athletic big man Moe Wagner and point guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman are usually at the fore.

The Wolverines will be taking a 12-game winning streak into the West Regional final Saturday, their longest since they went 16-0 to open the 2013 season, the last time they reached the Final Four.

Florida State had lost three of four and five of eight before its NCAA Tournament run behind a group that includes senior starters Phil Cofer and Braian Angola, junior starter Terance Mann and bench contributors such as junior P.J. Savoy, sophomore Trent Forrest and redshirt freshman Mfiondu Kabengele.

"We win games by committee," Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We might have five guys to start, but they may not be the same five that finish. We believe in that philosophy. It doesn't really seem to matter with them who is playing as long as we are winning. This is a bunch of guys that are connected.

"We in the ACC, there are a lot of one-and-dones (players) and McDonald's All-Americans ... we feel that we can compete if we have a number of guys contributing night in and night out."

With its 75-60 victory over Gonzaga, Florida State has beaten three straight higher seeds to reach its third Elite Eight, and its first since 1993. The Seminoles will look to make their first Final Four since 1972, when the Ron King/Reggie Royals team lost to the Bill Walton/Jamaal Wilkes/Henry Bibby UCLA team in the title game.

With Florida State and Kansas State advancing Thursday, there are two No. 9 seeds in the Elite Eight for the first time in NCAA tournament history.

"It's interesting that we probably are the only ones (who) believe we are capable of doing this," Hamilton said. "We're always the underdog. We're clawing and scratching and scratching and clawing, just trying to put ourselves in position where we feel we are capable of going.

"Our youthful inexperience has raised its ugly head several times, and it cost us. But we've maintained a level of confidence that if we just keep learning, keep growing, keep maturing, we can put ourselves in this position."

The 6-foot-5 Forrest had seven points, six rebounds and six assists against Gonzaga, bringing his tournament totals to 29 points, 17 rebounds, 17 assists and nine steals in 81 minutes. The 6-8 Kabengele had four blocks Thursday and has seven in the tournament.

Mann scored 18 points against Xavier, the only Seminole in double figures, and said the strained hamstring that made him questionable for the 75-70 victory over the Musketeers on Sunday was no longer an issue.

"We're 18 strong and we really don't care," Angola said.

After escaping on Jordan Poole's 3-pointer after the buzzer -- the shot was released before the buzzer and went through the rim just after -- in a 64-63 victory over No. 21 Houston last Saturday, the Wolverines blew out Texas A&M 99-72 on Thursday with 14 3-pointers, one short of a season high. They shot 61.9 percent from the field, the best of any NCAA Tournament team so far.

Abdul-Rahkman (24 points) and Wagner (21) led five Michigan players in double figures. Abdur-Rahkman made four threes, the 6-11 Wagner had three and 6-8 Duncan Robinson had two as the Wolverines reached the Elite Eight for the third time in six seasons. They have not lost since falling to Northwestern 61-52 on Feb. 6.

"We knew we could pick and choose our spots on offense," Abdur-Rahkman said.

Wagner, a native of Berlin, Germany, said he spoke to his family after the game and that a tavern in his neighborhood showed the game on TV.

"I think we are a very confident team and that's all that matters," Wagner said. "We've been playing within ourselves all year. Looking at the game plan, trying to execute that. I think we've been believing all year that we can beat anyone if we play our best basketball."

Both teams stress defense. Michigan is ranked third in defensive efficiency in the rankings. Florida State, ranked 44th, has 27 steals and 19 blocked shots in the tournament.

"Their defense is terrific." Michigan coach John Beilein said of the Seminoles. "They prioritize it, and they have great length to do it. It's a challenge. We pride ourselves on not turning it over."


Central Michigan vs. Liberty 2:00 (EDT)
Loyola Chicago vs. Kansas State 6:09 (EDT) Preview

History will be made when Kansas State, Loyola-Chicago square off


Friday, March 23 at 8:52 PM (EDT)

History will be made when Kansas State and Loyola-Chicago tip off their Elite 8 game on Saturday. For the first time in NCAA Tournament history, a No. 9 seed will face a No. 11 seed for a spot in the Final Four.

While the fan bases are caught up in the moment, nobody from either team is allowing outside distractions into the picture.

"I emphasized to these guys they've really got to kind of block out everything that's going on around them and really focus on preparing for Loyola," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "We can't worry about what happened yesterday, can't worry about next week. We've got to take care of business right now."

Coach Porter Moser of Loyola-Chicago (31-5) concurred.

"When we got into the tournament, we didn't want to just be here," he said. "It's just kind of the way they are. Trust me, they're bouncing around like little kids. They're so excited. But they just have this edge to them that they believe and they want more, they want more. They enjoy the moment."

These two programs have some connection. Two of Loyola's stars are from the heart of the recruiting territory for Kansas State. Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson both attended Blue Valley Northwest High School in the Kansas City suburbs. They have a lot of friends who attend Kansas State.

"Me and Ben both know a lot of people from our high school that go to K-State," Custer said. "We have a lot of friends that go there, people who we were really close with in high school. Yeah, we've definitely gotten some texts and calls from people who go to K-State for sure.

"I think they're kind of pulling for us, just because of our relationship. At least I hope they are. They might be saying that to my face. I don't know if they actually believe it or not. But yeah, it's all good natured."

Richardson said he's received a lot of texts as well.

"You know, I got a couple that were like, cheering for you to win this game, but if K-State wins, then I don't know if I can pull for you, joking around," Richardson said. "But it's all in good nature. We get a lot of good support from back home, and it's been really good to see all the people reaching out to us."

Weber knows that there are some connections, but he's more worried about the skills of the Loyola players than he is where they're from.

"I told the guys, you can't look at the name (Loyola), and you can't look at the league," he said. "You've got to look at the team. They're a good team. They beat Florida at Florida earlier in the year. They beat Tennessee, who won the SEC. They beat Miami out of the ACC. So they've got to be pretty good, and they're hot. They play together. They've got some young guys that have really stepped up."

The same is true for Kansas State (25-11). With no scholarship seniors on the roster, K-State depends on youth. With junior forward Dean Wade hobbled with a foot injury, the Wildcats play small, often with four guards in the lineup.

Barry Brown, Cartier Diarra and Kamau Stokes all start and all have the ability to play the point. It makes defending the Wildcats more difficult.

Late in Thursday's victory over Kentucky, Kansas State had five players on the floor under 6-foot-4, while the shortest player for Kentucky was 6-6. But, as the old saying goes, you can't measure heart.

"They like to get up-and-down, use their length and athleticism just to get easy run-outs and dunks and kind of make a lot of flashy plays," Wildcats guard Barry Brown said of taking advantage of Kentucky's size. "But we knew with our principles and the things we learned since I've been here my freshman year, defensive-wise, that we could guard anyone, no matter the height differential or the weight and size.

"We knew that just being in the gap, helping each other, helping a helper and rebounding would be a big task, and we were able to go out there and do it."


Friday, March 23, 2018
Men's College Basketball
Syracuse 65 vs. 69 Duke Final Recap

Duke turns back Orange 69-65, sets up matchup with Kansas

By ERIC OLSON - AP Sports Writer

Saturday, March 24 at 1:33 AM (EDT)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) All that talk about busted brackets and the maddest March ever - not happening in the Midwest.

What started as a chess match turned into a free-throw-shooting contest. When it was over, Duke won.

Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr., made four clutch free throws down the stretch to help Duke hold off Syracuse 69-65 and land the Blue Devils in a 1 vs. 2 regional final against Kansas.

''A great game to win, a very difficult game to lose,'' Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Freshman Marvin Bagley III scored 22 points to help Krzyzewski's second-seeded Blue Devils (29-7) pull away from Jim Boeheim's Orange - the last at-large team to make it into the field, and one looking for a near-repeat of two seasons ago when it made the Final Four as a 10 seed.

This year, Syracuse (23-14) was an 11, but in an NCAA Tournament turned upside down, the Elite Eight already has one of those - Loyola-Chicago in the South.

Syracuse is no typical 11, and this was a zone-centric battle of wits between two of the most renowned coaches in the game.

No lead ever reached double digits, and not until Trent Jr. swished two from the line with 6.3 seconds left was the game sealed for Duke, which is one win away from taking Krzyzewski to his record 13th Final Four. He currently shares the record of 12 with John Wooden.

Early in the second half, Krzyzewski did something Wooden never would've dreamed of: He tore off his jacket and threw it to the floor, calling a timeout after Syracuse scored two quick baskets to trim its deficit to three.

''It set the tone for me,'' said Coach K, who has two freshmen, Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., who will likely be NBA lottery picks later this spring. ''You could see. I coach `em, so I could see, they were real young. They had young looks. Thank goodness they got out of it.''

The teams went back and forth, trading alley-oop dunks and 3-pointers until the end-game played out with 21 seconds left.

Syracuse fouled Allen, who went to the line for a 1-and-1 and calmly sank both to push the lead to 67-62. Syracuse scored, then fouled Allen again, and he missed the front end. Leading by three, Duke intentionally fouled Tyus Battle, who made only one of his two free throws to cut the deficit to two with 7 seconds left.

Syracuse closed by fouling Trent Jr., who sealed it by improving to 33 of 34 from the line in the last five minutes of games this season.

''I thought coming into this game Duke was playing at a tremendously high level,'' Boeheim said. ''We started out playing as well offensively as we have in a long time. We hit a little dead spot at the end of the first half that we couldn't quite come back from.''

Bagley III scored 13 of his 22 points and had all eight of his rebounds in the second half. Seven of those boards were on the offensive end and led to second-chance baskets.

''We turned the ball over a little too much in the first half,'' said Battle, who led the Orange with 19 points. ''We got it together in the second half and took care of the ball a little better, moved the ball better and got it into the middle.''


Syracuse's 2-3 zone causes problems for almost every opponent, but Duke found holes, throwing lobs behind big men in the middle for layups and dunks. Meanwhile, Allen was quick to shoot the 3 in the second half. All but one of his 15 attempts from the floor were from 3. He went 3 for 14 from behind the arc and finished with 15 points.


''Battle is one of the best players in the country...He's a big-time player. I love Tyus,'' Coach K said. ''I love their team. I love their coach even more. He does such a great job with them.'' But when asked about Kansas, Krzyzewski demurred, saying it was out of respect for Syracuse and his good buddy, Boeheim. Krzyzewski said he'll talk KU Saturday.


Syracuse: Even if Battle declares for the NBA draft as an underclassman, the Orange probably returns everyone else in their seven-man rotation, and they bring in a top-20 recruiting class that includes two top-50 prospects.

Duke: The Blue Devils have won three of five all-time meetings against Kansas in the tournament, most recently in the 2003 Sweet 16.


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Texas Tech 78 vs. 65 Purdue Final Recap

Beard, Texas Tech oust Purdue 78-65 in NCAA East Region

By JIMMY GOLEN - AP Sports Writer

Saturday, March 24 at 1:32 AM (EDT)

BOSTON (AP) Chris Beard did it to Purdue again.

The Texas Tech coach knocked the Boilermakers out of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, this time leading the third-seeded Red Raiders to a 78-65 victory to advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time in the basketball program's 93-year history.

''We just made the - what's it called? The Great Eight?'' Beard asked his players at the postgame news conference.

''Elite,'' guard Keenan Evans corrected him.

''The Elite Eight our second year together,'' said Beard, who was with Arkansas-Little Rock when it beat Purdue in the first round of the 2016 NCAA tournament. ''Why shouldn't we? We've got a great university. We play in the best league in college basketball. We've got really great players. We're blessed to be here, but I think we've earned the right to be here.''

Evans had 12 of his 16 points in the second half, when Texas Tech scored 11 in a row to pull away. The Red Raiders (27-9) will play on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four against No. 1 seed Villanova, which advanced earlier Friday night with a 90-78 victory over West Virginia.

''They've been the No. 1 team the whole season and are great all-around,'' Evans said. ''They have a great point guard and great bigs that can shoot the ball, so we will just have to get back in the film room and study up on them and get some rest.''

Beard is in his second year in Lubbock after leaving Little Rock, which he left shortly after leading the Trojans to a double overtime upset over fifth-seeded Purdue two years ago. This one wasn't close, thanks to a 52 percent second-half shooting percentage and a 34-30 rebounding edge.

''Completely different game, different teams,'' Beard said, noting that four Red Raiders scored in double figures and another had nine points. ''It's our formula. It's not a secret.''

Second-seeded Purdue (30-7) was hoping to join Villanova in the Elite Eight, getting 30 points from Carsen Edwards and 12 points and 13 rebounds from Vincent Edwards.

But Beard was in their way again.

''We really played in spurts today, just really never got that consistency,'' Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said. ''They're a very talented team, very athletic team, very well-coached, good defensive team, and they obviously got the best of us today.''

Texas Tech trailed for most of the first before scoring the last 10 points of the half to turn a five-point deficit into a 30-25 lead. The Red Raiders led 58-55 with 5:44 left when Evans hit two free throws and then a three pointer to start an 11-0 run that put the game away.

''I guess we can use it (as motivation), this feeling here,'' Carsen Edwards said. ''To have this feeling here, you learn from it to not have it again.''

Purdue center Isaac Haas, the team's No. 2 scorer and rebounder, could only be a cheerleader - and a one-armed cheerleader, at that. After breaking his right elbow in the first-round game against Cal State-Fullerton, he tried to convince Painter he could play; the Purdue engineering department even pitched in, designing a special brace for his right arm.

But Haas remained on the bench, replaced by Matt Haarms, a redshirt freshman who at 7-foot-3 measures an inch taller but at 40 pounds lighter is hardly the force under the basket of that his senior teammate has been.

Haarms finished with four points and three rebounds.

''I hate to see great players not be able to play late in the season,'' Beard said. ''So we feel for Purdue not being full-strength.''


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Clemson 76 vs. 80 Kansas Final Recap

Sanity check: Kansas holds on for 80-76 win over Clemson

By LUKE MEREDITH - AP Sports Writer

Saturday, March 24 at 1:38 AM (EDT)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) For the third year in a row, Kansas made it through the Sweet 16 - although not before Clemson tried its hardest to add another wild chapter to an already unbelievable tournament.

The top-seeded Jayhawks brought at least a temporary halt to the insanity of this March, withstanding a ferocious rally by fifth-seeded Clemson on Friday for a too-close-for-comfort, 80-76 victory.

Malik Newman led the Jayhawks (30-7) with 17 points in a one-time runaway that got much closer and, quite frankly, won't mean much to KU fans if their team can't finish the job in the Midwest Region final Sunday. The Jayhawks will play Duke in what will be the nation's only 1 vs. 2 regional final; the Blue Devils beat Syracuse 69-65.

As a top seed the last two seasons, Kansas made it through the regional semifinals, only to flop a game shy of the Final Four both times. In fact, this marks the sixth time Bill Self's team has been seeded first since KU won it all in 2008; the Jayhawks haven't made the Final Four one of those times.

''I think about it all the time. I just told the guys in the locker room...this year, we've got to get over the hump,'' said senior Devonte' Graham, who had 16 points.

Still, it could've ended on Friday - in horrifying fashion - after Clemson stormed back from a 20-point deficit that stunned a crowd filled mostly with fans from Lawrence and surrounding areas, which are only a few hours from Omaha.

''We just kind of played not to lose down the stretch,'' Self said.

Clemson trailed 62-42, but climbed to within six with 2:27 left. Graham's offensive rebound after a Svi Mykhailiuk miss at the 1:57 mark allowed the Jayhawks to run almost a minute off the clock.

Kansas didn't score after Graham's rebound, and the Tigers got the next board for a chance to cut it to a one-possession game. But Shelton Mitchell and Gabe DeVoe each missed from beyond the arc. From there, Kansas overcame a dogged Clemson press just long enough to ensure that the Tigers couldn't pull any closer until the tail end.

DeVoe had a career-high 31 for Clemson (25-10), which couldn't replicate the magic it showed in beating Auburn by 31 to reach its first Sweet 16 in 21 years.

''We didn't have our best game. Sometimes that's not easy to keep fighting like that,'' Clemson coach Brad Brownell said.


Clemson had scored five straight points to cut KU's lead to 35-27 late in the first half when Elijah Thomas, after a review, was called for a flagrant foul. Silvio De Sousa knocked down the free throws, Lagerald Vick buried a 3 and Kansas cruised into halftime ahead 40-27. Vick, Newman and Graham then opened the second half with 3s to extend the lead to 20.


One of the most encouraging signs for Kansas was that it jumped ahead by 13 at halftime despite a 1-for-7 start by Graham, the Big 12 player of the year. Big man Udoka Azubuike looked strong in his first start of the tournament with 14 points and 11 rebounds in a tournament-high 25 minutes.


What a wild 12 months it's been for Brownell, the Clemson coach. He entered the season on the hot seat after six straight seasons without even making the NCAA Tournament. But the Tigers reached the regional semifinals for the first time since 1997 even after losing Donte Grantham, arguably their best player. The big question next is whether 2017-18 will prove a one shot wonder or the start of something big in the Upstate. Clemson has spent money on facilities to become a basketball school - but will it ever get out of the shadow cast by Dabo Swinney's football team?


For the final 12 minutes, Clemson played like the team that throttled Auburn to earn a crack at the Jayhawks. The Tigers didn't turn it over once down the stretch, and they finished 14 of 19 at the free throw line - which was a strong point all year. But while Kansas hardly looked like a No. 1 seed down the stretch, it did improve to 25-1 this season when leading at the break.


Azubuike finished with his sixth double-double of the season. His presence forced Clemson to give more space to KU's shooters, who went 10 of 22 on 3s.


''This is the team everyone would have thought ... would not be in this game. We've got a legitimate shot to go to San Antonio. I think we'll play with no `what ifs.' I think we'll be loose,'' Self said.


Kansas came in as a 4 1/2-point favorite - a number that didn't look to be in play ... until it was.


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West Virginia 78 vs. 90 Villanova Final Recap

Villanova back in Elite 8 as 3s spoil W. Virginia pressure

By KYLE HIGHTOWER - AP Sports Writer

Friday, March 23 at 11:55 PM (EDT)

BOSTON (AP) Villanova's 3-point party rolled past the intense pressure of West Virginia to bring the Wildcats to the doorstep of another Final Four two seasons after winning a national championship.

The top-seeded Wildcats continued their outside feast in the NCAA Tournament, downing the fifth-seeded Mountaineers 90-78 on Friday night to earn their second trip to the regional finals in three seasons.

Jalen Brunson led Villanova with 27 points and Omari Spellman had 18 with eight rebounds as Villanova overcame the West Virginia press by hitting 13 of 24 shots from 3-point range.

Daxter Miles had 16 points to lead West Virginia. Jevon Carter and Sagaba Konate added 12 each.

Villanova (33-4) has now made 44 3-pointers for the tournament. The outside barrage helped the Wildcats overcome 16 turnovers and played into their Sweet 16 plan for their opponents nicknamed ''Press Virginia'': Attack the stifling defense head-on.

''What a game, man. I hope that looked as good as it did from the bench, man,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said. ''That was the most physically demanding, mentally draining 40 minutes we've played in a long time. They are so relentless.''

The Wildcats struggled at times, especially in the first half, but dug out of a six-point hole in the second half with an 11-0 run.

The Mountaineers (26-11) stayed close throughout, ramping up the pressure and making Villanova play faster than it wanted to early. But foul trouble throughout the second half was too much for West Virginia to overcome after it gave up the lead.

Carter was called for his third with 17:33 left in the game. That was followed by Miles being whistled for his third and fourth fouls over a two minute stretch that sent him to the bench with 15 minutes remaining.

Coach Bob Huggins said the fouls ''absolutely'' stifled the Mountaineers' ability to keep pressure on Villanova.

''When the whistle keeps blowing it really takes away your aggression,'' he said.

West Virginia adjusted for a while, taking advantage of a more than three-minute Villanova scoring drought to take a 60-54 edge with just over 11 minutes left.

But Villanova heated up again. Its 11-point run was capped by a thunderous block and dunk on the other end by Omari Spellman that pushed the Wildcats back in front 65-60.

The Wildcats kept the momentum going, stretching the lead to 76-66 on a 3-pointer by Brunson.

''The deeper you go, the better the teams are going to be,'' Brunson said. ''For us, most importantly, nothing changes no matter who we play, where we play, what time we play. We play every game like it's our last.''

West Virginia never got closer than 4 points the rest of the way.

''I felt like we gave it everything we had,'' Carter said. ''We just didn't make shots tonight and Villanova did.''

Villanova led 44-42 at the half after a fast-paced opening 20 minutes. Brunson led all scorers with 16 points in the half, with West Virginia getting 11 points from Daxter Miles.

The Wildcats came out firing, connecting on their first seven field goals. They handled the Mountaineers' pressure well early. But the Wildcats had three turnovers over a 65-second stretch during an 8-0 Mountaineers run that put them in front 33-30.

Wright said he never lost faith in his team.

''I just looked at Jalen, Mikal (Bridges) and Phil (Booth) and I could see in their eyes we were good,'' he said.


West Virginia: It's a tough loss for the Mountaineers, but it doesn't diminish the incredible effort by a senior class that reached the Sweet 16 three times in four years.

Villanova: The Wildcats are primed for another title run with their talent led by player of the year contender Brunson, the experience of the 2016 title and the lessons learned from early tournament departures in several years, including a second-round loss to Wisconsin last year.


The Wildcats' 13 3-pointers give them 432 for the season, putting them 11 away from a Division I record. VMI hit 442 3-pointers in 2006-07.


Despite the outcome, Carter said he is proud of his classmates' four-year run. Friday's game marked the 10th career NCAA Tournament game for Carter and Miles - tying them for the most in school history.

Carter said the tournament will always mean a lot to both of them.

''It's everything. Everybody is in tune with March Madness. I feel like it's bigger than the NBA playoffs,'' he said. ''Anything can happen in March. ... Unfortunately we lost in the Sweet 16.''


Villanova awaits the winner of Texas Tech and Purdue in Sunday's regional final.


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