Many would say the most important contest taking place Saturday night in Raleigh was the game between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 9 Providence. But a few more might suggest that the real battle came at halftime, when the pep bands of those schools competed in an epic dance off. TBS only showed a small sample during their broadcast, but we've collected as much evidence of the rhythmic clash as we could find.
Ballyhooed freshmen likely to spend less than a year on campus are often described as soulless mercenaries just using college as a mandatory training ground before they sprint to the NBA draft.
Whether it’s due to general antipathy for John Calipari or envy over the Wildcats’ continued ability to churn out lottery pick after lottery pick, Kentucky freshmen are particularly maligned.
After Saturday’s second-round elimination at the hands of Indiana, freshman Jamal Murray didn’t look like a guy who was interested only in training for the draft. The five-star shooting guard from Toronto broke down in front of his locker, stating that his play wasn’t enough to down the Hoosiers.
For members of Big Blue Nation looking for a silver lining to Saturday’s darkness, Murray didn’t completely close the door on returning for his sophomore year despite his status as a lottery pick lock.
The deadline for early entry to the NBA draft is April 24.
More NCAA tournament
Your browser does not support iframes.
St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli was feeling pretty good on Friday night, as his team had just survived a thrilling matchup with Cincinnati to advance to the second round. He wasn’t the only one in Spokane, Washington in a relaxed mood. Near the end of his press conference he playfully interrupted a question from reporter Sean Kramer to make sure the freelance writer was OK.
“You all right? You need like a cushion or anything?” asked Martelli. “I've never been in a press conference where the guy has his feet up on the chair in front of him.”
“I’m just naturally comfortable,” said Kramer.
“This is like the West Coast. We're liking it. I'm cool.”
“Welcome to the Pacific Northwest,” greeted Kramer.
“Thank you,” said Martelli, before asking another question. “Appreciate that. Do they sell marijuana in this town?” “Yes, actually. You might want to keep your team in the hotel.”
Marijuana became legal for those 21-and-over in the state of Washington in December 2012 after Iniative 502 was supported by 56 percent of voters in that year's election.
Kramer gave the coach a Twitter shoutout for the etiquette lesson.
NEW YORK — The period of time between Isaiah Whitehead’s lay-up hitting the rim and the moment it finally fell through provided time for ample reflection. Time for the whistle to blow, a foul on Villanova’s Kris Jenkins, who had been fantastic all second half. There was time for Wildcat fans to hold their breath, wondering if their furious rally that had earned them a two-point lead would be for naught. There was time for Seton Hall fans to reflect on the twenty-odd years that had passed since the last time they had claimed a Big East Tournament title.
When the clock unstuck, the ball dropped and Madison Square Garden lost its mind. When Whitehead hit the free throw to push Seton Hall ahead, it got even louder, the go-ahead point in the Pirates’ 69-67 victory.
“This is one of the main reasons I chose to stay home," said Whitehead after the game. "Just so my friends and family could see me play as much as possible and having them in the crowd and really cheering me on and seeing me hold up the trophy at the end. It's like picture-perfect."
His counterpart on the Wildcats agreed.
NEW YORK — Behind the skills of their New York-raised backcourt of Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington, the Seton Hall program is reaching heights the program hasn’t seen in decades.
The Pirates advanced to the Big East Tournament final with a sloppy, contentious 87-83 victory over Xavier that saw a combined 41 turnovers and four technical fouls. The Pirates ran away from the Musketeers early and held on down the stretch, taking a 41-30 halftime lead and never allowing it to get closer than four in the final twenty minutes. To build the margin at the break, Seton Hall leaned on Carrington (14 first-half points) and Xavier mistakes (scoring 15 points off 13 Musketeer turnovers). Xavier couldn’t find the range all night, shooting just 35% from the field and missing 10 of 27 free throws attempts.
“This is what we came to Seton Hall for,” said Carrington after the game. “This is what we talked about before we even came here, getting Seton Hall back on the map back to where it was. I think we're doing a great job of it right now.”
NEW YORK — Coming into the season, Providence knew what they had with Kris Dunn, the reigning Big East Player of the Year and a likely top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. But after that, the big question was who could step up to replace graduating senior LaDontae Henton as Dunn’s running mate.
The answer – all season, and especially at the Big East Tournament Thursday afternoon – was Ben Bentil.
The sophomore forward dropped 38 on Butler, leading the Friars to a 74-60 win and into the conference semifinals for the third consecutive year. With two more games like this, Bentil will be able to add some more hardware to his list of 2016 accolades, which already include a Big East scoring title (22.9 points per game in conference play), the league’s Most Improved Player award and unanimous selection to the All-Big East First Team.
“From the beginning of the season coach told me I’m going to be a match-up nightmare,” said Bentil after the game. “I let that sink in. I did. I tried to take advantage of whoever was on me, I tried to make the best out of it.”
“Congrats to Ben. He did an amazing job.”
Bentil’s big game despite Butler’s commitment to trying anything to slow him down.
NEW YORK — The top-seeded Villanova Wildcats knocked off Georgetown 81-67 in Thursday's first Big East Tournament quarterfinal, but further March success will likely hinge on the how quickly the ankle of Daniel Ochefu heals.
The senior is the potential No. 1 seed's rock in the middle, averaging 11 points on 62 percent shooting to go with eight boards and a block and a half per game. Against the Hoyas on Thursday he started but played just 13 minutes, missing both of his field goal attempts and failing to collect a single board.
"He couldn't practice yesterday, so we don't know," said Wildcats head coach Jay Wright after the game. "He tried a little bit. I think it got tweaked again. He tried. He gave us everything we got. We have to try to rest him up and see if we can get him feeling better tomorrow."
The Wildcats will face the winner of Butler and Providence at 7:00 p.m. ET Friday night.
NEW YORK — One year after a March to forget, Villanova and head coach Jay Wright finally broke through in the Big East Tournament.
The Wildcats downed Xavier 69-52, winning the program’s second Big East Tournament title, the first coming in 1995. The victory was the Wildcats’ 15 th straight, and when combined with a 32-2 record, a regular season title and a 12-1 record against teams in the RPI Top 50, they have essentially locked up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
NEW YORK — Xavier hasn’t had it easy and it certainly hasn’t been pretty, but in their second year in the Big East they’re heading to the tournament final.
The No. 6 seed Musketeers upset No. 2 seed Georgetown 65-63 in the semifinals, surviving after nearly blowing a 20-point second half lead. Backcourt mates Dee Davis and Myles Davis sunk four free throws in the final ten seconds and Chris Mack’s strategy of fouling the Hoyas before they could get a three off worked.
Xavier led 53-33 with 7:53 remaining when Georgetown’s Jabril Trawick stepped to the line and split a pair of free throws. He missed the second, and in the scrum for the ensuing rebound, Xavier sophomore Jalen Reynolds committed a technical. That sparked a 24-6 Hoya run over the next seven minutes, capped by a Paul White three with 24 seconds remaining to make it 59-57. Hoya guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s layup made it a one-point game with 14 seconds left, but Xavier made enough free throws to reach the tournament final and defeat Georgetown for the third time this season. The game was so tight, the video board operator at Madison Square Garden initially had their graphics wrong after the game’s conclusion:
NEW YORK — The postseason has not been kind to Jay Wright as of late.
After his Villanova Wildcats reached the Final Four in 2009, they had won a grand total of four tournament games coming into the 2015 Big East Championship. There were Big East wins over Rutgers (2012) and St. John’s (2013) and two 15-seeds vanquished in the NCAAs, and that quartet is the sum of five years work.
This year looks to be different. In the first of four Big East quarterfinals, the Wildcats sliced and diced Marquette, winning 84-49 for their 13th straight victory.
The Golden Eagles went on an early run to make it 18-16, but the Wildcats responded with a 17- 0 surge of their own, putting the game out of reach and managing their way through a second half that was more obligatory than competitive.Villanova tied a Big East record with 17 made threes on one end and forced 22 turnovers on the other, all with Ryan Arcidiacono scoring only five points.
Steve Wojciechowski’s first season as Marquette head coach came to an inglorious 13-19 end, but the future is bright for his program, as he’s set to bring in a top-ten recruiting class headlined by five-star big Henry Ellenson.