Jeff Eisenberg

  • Gonzaga's loss to BYU will likely cost it a No. 1 seed

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 6 hrs ago

    Gonzaga found one way to settle the debate over whether it deserves a No. 1 seed despite playing in a weaker league than the other contenders.

    The Zags suffered a 73-70 home loss to BYU on Saturday night that likely removes them from consideration barring a flurry of setbacks from other top teams.

    Though Gonzaga boasts a 29-2 record and quality non-league victories over SMU, St. John's, Georgia and UCLA, the Zags' eight top 100 RPI wins are the fewest among the nation's elite teams. That's not Gonzaga's fault since it did its best to assemble a formidable non-conference schedule, but it's a byproduct of playing in the RPI's ninth strongest league.

    Whereas it was easier to overlook the flaws in Gonzaga's resumé when its lone loss was in overtime at Pac-12-leading Arizona in December, a loss at home to a BYU team that was on the fringes of the bubble picture prior to Saturday changes that. The Zags can still get a No. 2 seed if they win the WCC tournament in Las Vegas, perhaps in the West if Arizona either ascends to the No. 1 line or suffers another loss or two and drops below Gonzaga in the pecking order.

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  • Defense propels Arizona to a win that could have big ramifications

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 7 hrs ago

    Three times in the final 75 seconds of the Pac-12's game of the year, Utah had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead.

    Seventh-ranked Arizona emerged with an enormous 63-57 road win and clinched at least a share of the Pac-12 title because each time its defense held. 

    Utah had to settle for an errant Brandon Taylor 3-pointer on its first chance since star Delon Wright gave up the ball early in the possession and was content to be a spectator. Wright did not make the same mistake on the Utes' second chance, but when the All-American candidate shed T.J. McConnell via a ball screen and attacked Kaleb Tarczewski off the dribble, the Arizona center was able to do enough recover quickly enough to contest his potential go-ahead layup at the rim.

    Arizona's victory gives it a two-game lead over the 13th-ranked Utes with two games to play, meaning the Wildcats (26-3, 14-2) can clinch an outright league title with a single win against either Cal or Stanford next week in Tucson. They're already guaranteed the No. 1 seed in next month's Pac-12 tournament by virtue of their season sweep of the Utes (22-6, 12-4).

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  • Dunk of the year nominee: Shaq Goodwin's off-glass alley-oop slam

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 9 hrs ago

    At the end of disappointing season in which his team isn't even in contention for the NCAA tournament, Memphis big man Shaq Goodwin is still running the floor hard. His reward Saturday night was to be on the receiving end of a SportsCenter-worthy alley-oop pass. Instead of attempting a contested layup late in the first half against Tulsa, Memphis guard Trahson Burrell spotted a trailing Goodwin out of the corner of his eye and lobbed a pass off the glass. The 6-foot-9 junior showed excellent recognition and finished the play with a two-handed flush. One of the reasons Memphis is only 17-12 is that Goodwin hasn't performed to his potential, but he enjoyed one of his better games of the season against Tulsa. He scored 17 points and pulled down six rebounds, but the Tigers blew a late lead in regulation and lost 74-72 in overtime.

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    Previous Dunk of the Year nominees:

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  • Wichita State clinches second straight Valley title in style

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 14 hrs ago

    Eyes pointed down court and right arm cocked behind his head, Fred VanVleet looked like a quarterback who had just spotted a receiver breaking free down field.

    The Wichita State point guard lobbed a length-of-the-floor pass to Tekele Cotton, who caught it, took one dribble and unleashed a powerful windmill slam that served as an ideal exclamation point for the Shockers' biggest victory of the season.

    By defeating Valley co-leader Northern Iowa 74-60 on Saturday afternoon at Koch Arena, Wichita State secured its second consecutive league championship and avenged its only conference loss of the season. The Panthers had throttled the Shockers last month in Cedar Falls to move into a first-place tie and set up a winner-take-all showdown in Saturday's regular season finale. 

    Transition buckets, unselfish passing and deadly perimeter shooting enabled Wichita State to become only the second Valley team to score more than 60 points against Northern Iowa this season. Baker led five players in double figures with 17 points as the Shockers shot 49.1 percent from the field and finished with 19 assists compared to only three turnovers.

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  • Bubble breakdown: NC State tumbles back to the bubble

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 16 hrs ago

    With less than three weeks remaining until Selection Sunday, the NCAA tournament bubble is beginning to take shape. Bubble Breakdown is the Dagger's daily look at the results that impact who's in and who's out.

    Maybe NC State only plays well when its backs are against the wall. Maybe NC State really enjoys visiting Dayton in mid-March.

    Whatever the reason, the Wolfpack seem to be drawn to the bubble like a magnet to steel.

    Only four days after a victory at rival North Carolina appeared to solidify NC State as an NCAA tournament team, the Wolfpack tumbled back toward the cutline with a humbling 79-63 loss at last-place Boston College. They never led the entire game and fell behind by as many as 23 points against an Eagles team that entered play with only one ACC victory and hadn't won a game in over a month.

    If NC State wins both those games and avoids a bad opening-round loss in the ACC tournament, it will likely wrap up a bid no matter how it fares in the ACC quarterfinals. If the Wolfpack suffer a loss in their next two games, merely making the ACC quarterfinals may not be enough to leave them feeling safe on Selection Sunday.


  • What to watch this weekend: Can Utah avenge its loss at Arizona?

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    The most action-packed day of the college basketball regular season could be Saturday if the most highly anticipated matchups live up to the hype.

    Arizona visits Utah with first place in the Pac-12 on the line. Northern Iowa and Wichita State square off in a winner-take-all Valley showdown. And unbeaten Kentucky faces maybe its toughest test in SEC play when 18th-ranked Arkansas puts its seven-game win streak on the line.

    Below is a look at those three games and some of the other noteworthy games from this weekend's slate:

    Other noteworthy games:

    North Carolina at Miami (Saturday, 2 p.m. EST): Having already dropped five of their last seven games to fall out of contention in the ACC, the Tar Heels head to Coral Gables to face a Miami team desperate for a big win to get it on the right side of the bubble. The Hurricanes desperately need the Angel Rodriguez who scored 25 points on Florida State on Wednesday night rather than the one shooting 21.4 percent over his previous 11 games.

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  • Northern Iowa's Ben Jacobson rescued a stranded driver

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Twenty minutes after her car slid off the road and into a snow bank on her way home from school Wednesday afternoon, Abby Young admits she was starting to become concerned.

    Her car was stuck. Her phone was dead. And the few drivers who passed her whizzed by without stopping.

    "I tried to shovel my car out of the snow, but I couldn't get it out," the senior at Cedar Falls High School said. "I was starting to get worried I was going to be there a very long time."

    Young indeed might have spent the whole afternoon by the side of the road had a man with a familiar face not driven up and asked if she needed help. When the man got out of his car, Young thought he looked a lot like Northern Iowa basketball coach Ben Jacobson. Once she noticed his pants had a UNI basketball logo on them, she was even more certain.

    A spokesman for Northern Iowa athletics confirmed Friday that Young's savior actually was Jacobson. The coach of the nation's 10th-ranked college basketball team alternated between shoveling snow away from the tires and trying to drive Young's car to freedom until he had successfully dislodged it.

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  • Special-edition Kingsford Charcoal bag trolls the NCAA

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Don't expect to see any Kingsford Charcoal signage during the NCAA tournament next month.

    The company likely killed all hope of that Thursday when it unveiled special-edition bags of charcoal trolling the NCAA.

    The image on the front of the bag is that of Ed O'Bannon, the former UCLA star who last August won a lawsuit challenging the NCAA’s unwillingness to pay athletes for the use of their names and likenesses. The bags also feature the hashtag #PayEd and the slogan "Lights 25% faster. Doesn't burn athletes."

    "Kingsford Charcoal has become one of the many companies to use the likeness of a famous amateur basketball player for marketing purposes during that mad, mad month of March," a press release revealing the limited edition bags read. Kingsford is just adding a surprising twist: the charcoal brand is actually going to pay that player— Ed O’Bannon— for placing him on the front of a limited bag of charcoal."

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  • Vanderbilt coach quickly apologizes for postgame incident

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Irate that guard Wade Baldwin had clapped in the face of an opponent just after time expired Thursday night, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings yanked the freshman out of the postgame handshake line and berated him for showing such poor sportsmanship.

    Stallings' message was spot-on. The way he worded it could have been better.

    TV microphones picked up Stallings profanely screaming at Baldwin "[expletive] apologize!" "don't do that!" and "I'll [expletive] kill you" after Vanderbilt's 73-65 victory at Tennessee. Stallings reiterated his disappointment in Baldwin in calmer fashion during his postgame news conference before quickly issuing a statement soon afterward apologizing profusely for what he said on the floor.

    While it's fair to wonder if Stallings would have been so quick to apologize had his words not made it onto the TV broadcast, it's also difficult to be too hard on him here.

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  • Michigan State pays for fouling on a three instead of fouling up three

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    One of the few complaints many Michigan State fans have about Tom Izzo is his disdain for the strategy of intentionally fouling when ahead by three points in the final seconds of a game.

    The foul the Spartans committed at the end of regulation Thursday night was probably not what their fans had in mind. 

    Instead of fouling to prevent the Gophers from having a look at a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation, Michigan State chose to defend straight up and then committed the ultimate sin. Gavin Schilling not only helped too far off Carlos Morris to recover, he also closed out too hard and fouled the Minnesota guard just after he released a left-wing 3-pointer to tie the game.

    Morris missed the go-ahead free throw with 2.2 seconds to go, but Minnesota emerged with a 96-90 victory in overtime. Fourteen of 20 free throw shooting during the extra session enabled the Gophers to finish off the upset and snap a 15-game losing streak in East Lansing that dates back to 1997.

    Izzo defended his decision not to foul that day and he did it again Thursday.

    Better to foul up three than to foul on a three.

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