The Dagger

  • Bubble breakdown: Syracuse the big winner on a wild Wednesday night

    Henry Bushnell at The Dagger 19 hrs ago

    There is no more confusing team in college basketball than Syracuse, and thus it makes all kinds of sense that on one of the most confusing nights of college basketball this season, no team scored a more important win than the Orange.

    Jim Boeheim’s team had erupted back into NCAA tournament contention with a five-game win streak that spanned late January and early February and included wins over Florida State and Virginia. The Orange stood tall at 8-4 in the ACC, as firm a basis for a postseason campaign as any.

    But as Boeheim and his players retreated to their locker room Wednesday night, they did so with the prospects of a five-game losing streak hanging over their heads. They trailed Duke by eight in a matchup that was flanked by three losses on one end and a road trip to Louisville on the other. Their tournament outlook, though still auspicious, was being bombarded with doubt.

    The win doesn’t quite put a lock next to the Orange just yet. But it brings them pretty darn close to the tournament. It also established Syracuse, at least temporarily, as the biggest bubble winner of the second-to-last week of the regular season.

    This Week’s Bubble Winners

  • Another dramatic Dillon Brooks shot keeps Oregon in Pac-12 title hunt

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 19 hrs ago

    If Dillon Brooks wasn’t already in the running for first-team All-American honors prior to  Wednesday night, the Oregon forward probably should be now.

    Brooks spearheaded an impressive second-half rally at Cal and capped the comeback with his second buzzer-beating 3-pointer of the past two months.

    Even though Brooks has a reputation for clutch shots late in games, Cal did not send two players at him when he took a dribble handoff near mid-court with five seconds left in a tie game. Brooks made the Bears pay, creating space with a crossover dribble and then burying the game winner over Stephen Domingo’s outstretched hand to give Oregon a 68-65 road victory.

    HOW ABOUT THAT GAME-WINNING THREE?@OregonMBB's Dillon Brooks dropped a MONSTER three to claim the win over Cal! ???????????? pic.twitter.com/ciM98msHqJ

    — Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) February 23, 2017

    Two months ago, Brooks sank UCLA with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Now Brooks has done the same to Cal too.

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  • North Carolina pulls away from Louisville to seize control of ACC race

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 21 hrs ago

    Not long after tip-off of Wednesday night’s showdown between North Carolina and Louisville, the Dean Dome crowd howled with excitement.

    The final score of rival Duke’s buzzer-beating loss at Syracuse had just appeared on the video board.

    The roars at the Dean Dome only grew louder as the night wore on and North Carolina began to methodically impose its will. The eighth-ranked Tar Heels pulled away from seventh-ranked Louisville in the second half, cruising to a 74-63 victory that gives them control of the ACC title race.

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    With three games left in league play, North Carolina has finally gained the separation that no other ACC team has managed to achieve this season. The first-place Tar Heels (24-5, 12-3) hold a two-game advantage in the standings over second-place Louisville, Duke, Florida State and Notre Dame.

    North Carolina’s final three games of the season are at Pittsburgh, at Virginia and home against Duke. Two wins will deliver an outright ACC title for sure and perhaps a No. 1 seed as well.

  • Butler deals No. 2 Villanova first loss in on-campus home game in over four years

    Henry Bushnell at The Dagger 21 hrs ago

    The last decade of Butler basketball has featured a lot of giant slaying, a lot of record breaking, and a lot of expectation defying. The Bulldogs did all three of those things Wednesday night at Villanova.

    Butler, which came in as a 10-point underdog, knocked off the second-ranked Wildcats for the second time this season, this time with a 74-66 win in the Philadelphia suburbs. In doing so, the Bulldogs became the first team to beat Villanova at The Pavilion in over four years.

    After a sluggish first half that saw Butler take an early lead, Villanova opened the second half like the top-five team that it is. The Wildcats led by seven with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

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    But the Bulldogs roared back with a combination of defense and timely shooting. They held Villanova without a point for six-and-a-half minutes. They forced multiple turnovers, multiple missed 2s and multiple missed 3s.

    If this story sounds familiar, that’s because to some extent it is — in two different senses.

  • Louisville's Pitino exchanges heated words with UNC fans

    Malika Andrews at The Dagger 22 hrs ago

    Louisville’s Rick Pitino and UNC fans got into a heated exchange as the coach walked off the court during the No. 7 Cardinals game against the Tar Heels on Wednesday night. Sports Illustrated’s Jonathan Jones captured some of the interaction on video.

     

    Rick Pitino is very displeased with a UNC fan pic.twitter.com/z4bYUuyMw6

    — Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) February 23, 2017

    There is no clear consensus on what was said or what prompted the tussle, but ESPN’s Maria Taylor reported that the Pitino incident was caused by someone yelling, “Pitino, you suck!” Pitino had to be held back by coaches.

    Pitino addressed the interaction in his post-game press conference.

     

    Pitino on the exchange with a fan pic.twitter.com/gCQKiSaO6r

    — Brant Wilkerson-New (@BrantGNR) February 23, 2017

    No. 8 North Carolina escaped was a 74-63 victory.

  • John Gillon banks in buzzer-beater, Syracuse upsets Duke (Video)

    Henry Bushnell at The Dagger 23 hrs ago

    Syracuse’s back was against the wall. It came into Wednesday’s game against Duke having lost three in a row. It went into halftime down eight, and with a road trip to Louisville looming over the weekend, the Orange were staring a five-game losing streak in the face.

    Then came the comeback. Then came the hero.

    John Gillon banked in an off-balance, buzzer-beating 30-footer to beat the Blue Devils and likely send Syracuse to the NCAA tournament.

    [Tourney Pick’em is open! Sign up now | Bracket Big Board]

    Syracuse fans immediately filled the Carrier Dome court. Over 30,000 of them, packed to the ceiling in the upper deck, were in attendance for the showdown with Duke, and if given the choice, all of them probably would have found their way onto the floor to join the hundreds that did.

    Court Storm!!! pic.twitter.com/8FmsHJqxeh

    — Ahmed Fareed (@AhmedFareedCSN) February 23, 2017

  • 15 remarkable stats to put Kansas' Big 12 title streak in perspective

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 23 hrs ago

    At first, the streak was notable for the parade of exemplary individual talents that Kansas overcame. More recently, the overall quality of the Big 12’s top teams has posed the greatest threat.

    No matter what, one thing has always remained constant: The Jayhawks have always found a way to turn back all challengers.

    Kansas clinched at least a share of its record-tying 13th straight Big 12 title on Wednesday night with an 87-68 victory over TCU. The third-ranked Jayhawks (26-3, 13-2) now hold a three-game lead over Baylor, West Virginia and Iowa State with just three conference games left to play.

    UCLA is the lone team besides Kansas to ever capture 13 straight conference championships in a row, launching the run at the height of the John Wooden dynasty in 1967 and concluding it in 1979. Only Gonzaga (11), UNLV (10) and UConn (10) have even put together league title streaks that reached double figures.

    To put Kansas’ accomplishment into perspective, consider how different the world was before the streak started. In 2004, Friends aired its final episode, Lindsay Lohan was a beloved fresh-faced movie star and Janet Jackson taught us the phrase “wardrobe malfunction.

     

     

  • Former Penn State forward Joonas Suotamo is the new Chewbacca

    Matt Fortuna at The Dagger 1 day ago

    One of cinema’s iconic franchises will now carry a distinct hardwood flavor.

    Joonas Suotamo, a former Penn State basketball player,will play Chewbacca in the next Star Wars movie. Suotamo had doubled for Peter Mayhew, the original Chewbacca, in the 2015 movie “The Force Awakens.”

    Suotamo announced the news Tuesday on Twitter, saying he is ecstatic about the opportunity and that he hopes to make Mayhew proud.

    I'm ecstatic. It's official. And here is my statement to this terrific piece of news https://t.co/a1DPsNDb2P pic.twitter.com/r4EUZ2r17V

    — Joonas Suotamo (@JoonasSuotamo) February 21, 2017

    He, of course, closed with a *Wookie fist bump.*

    [Tourney Pick’em is open! Sign up now | Bracket Big Board]

    “He’s just a great kid. Super student. And was really into filmmaking while he was at Penn State.”

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  • Creighton suspends injured star Maurice Watson from team activities

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    When Creighton hosts St. John’s next Tuesday night in its final home game of the season, the Bluejays’ most heralded player will not participate in senior day activities.

    Injured point guard Maurice Watson has been suspended from all team-related activities for “alleged actions that are contrary to University policies and core values,” Creighton announced Wednesday.

    The Omaha World-Herald reported late Wednesday night that police are investigating Watson in connection with an alleged sexual assault that took place in Omaha earlier this month. No charges have been filed, according to the World-Herald, and Watson has not been arrested.

    “Creighton’s athletics program is based upon the Catholic, Jesuit mission of the university,” the school’s statement read. “Program officials, coaches and staff always strive to administer the program to the University’s highest values and standards.”

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  • How Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ developed into a paradoxical and underappreciated superstar

    Henry Bushnell at The Dagger 1 day ago

    With the sun still hiding below the horizon and the cold pinching at anybody who dared expose themselves to it, Ethan Happ would grab his fully-packed school bags, jump into his white Pontiac Grand Am, and begin his winter days. Before a basketball could be bounced, an engine had to be revved, an exhaust pipe had to belch, and the 17-year-old version of the Big Ten’s most intriguing player had to roll out into the early morning Midwestern darkness.

    And before he could do that, the night before, he had to compose a quick text message. A few miles away, the cell phone of Rockridge High School head basketball coach Toby Whiteman would beep. Ethan’s name would flash on the screen, and underneath it would be a short message:

    I’m coming by to get the keys tomorrow morning.

    Whiteman knew what the text meant. It wasn’t the first time he’d received it, nor would it be the last. He also knew all it needed was a quick response:

    You know where they are.

    ***

    He’s been doing it since elementary school adjourned in May or June and childhood summers commenced in Milan (pronounced MY-lan), Illinois, a small town near the Quad Cities that self-identifies as a village rather than a city.

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