The Dagger

  • Brad vs. the Book: Fade or follow Arizona in rematch with UCLA?

    Brad Evans at The Dagger 12 hrs ago

    Slaying the sportsbook is a monstrous task. Some days bettors take up residence in a penthouse suite. Other times, they curl up in the nearest ditch, shirtless. In an attempt to avoid complete destitution, I will post my picks, whether profitable or penniless, through the NCAA tourney. Check out Saturday’s selections below:

    Florida (23-5) at Kentucky (23-5)

    When the SEC behemoths squared off earlier this month in Gainesville Florida busted out the paddle and spanked Kentucky 88-66. At that time, however, Gators center John Egbunu sported a healthy knee. One torn ACL later and with revenge and a regular season title on the mind for Big Blue Nation, a different scenario may play out.

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

    The visitors may be bruised, but their toughness and resolve should keep the rematch competitive.

    Smart money says throw a few greenbacks on the Gators.

    Fearless Forecast: Kentucky 79 Florida (+4) 76

    UCLA (25-3) at Arizona (25-3)

    Fearless Forecast: Arizona (-3) 87 UCLA 81

    Baylor (23-5) at Iowa St. (18-9)

    Fearless Forecast: Iowa St. (-2.5) 70 Baylor 67

  • College basketball Power Rankings, Feb. 24: North Carolina surges, but are the Tar Heels No. 1?

    Henry Bushnell at The Dagger 20 hrs ago

    It only seems right that on the eve of the final February edition of The Dagger’s weekly power rankings, college basketball descended into chaos.

    And it only seems right that in a season more or less dominated by a dozen teams at the top of the sport, that chaos made the following question as difficult to answer as ever:

    Who is the best team in college basketball?

    It’s not a question that  requires an answer right now. But the tougher that answer is to come by, the more compelling the discussion. And the reason the answer seems so elusive is that the four teams in contention for that temporary crown have been on four very distinct trajectories.

    There is untarnished Gonzaga, who has rolled through the West Coast Conference with an average margin of victory of 28 points. The Bulldogs trounced poor San Diego 96-38 Thursday night, staking their claim to the top spot.

    These are your four. They are the four clear favorites for No. 1 seeds. They are the nation’s four best teams. So enough of the small talk. Who the heck is No. 1?

    2. North Carolina | 24-5 | KenPom: 5 | Last week: 6

    (All videos via WatchESPN)

    3. Villanova | 26-3 | KenPom: 2 | Last week: 1

  • At last, Arizona-UCLA will showcase both programs at their peak

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Arizona and UCLA are undeniably the Pac-12’s two flagship basketball programs, but here’s a strange fact about their fierce rivalry.

    For the past two decades, they’ve seldom been at their best at the same time.

    When Arizona was a fixture in the top 10 late in Lute Olson’s tenure, UCLA only sporadically played up to its talent level under Steve Lavin. When Ben Howland led the Bruins to three straight Final Fours by reinstilling defense and discipline, the Wildcats floundered in the midst of a tumultuous coaching transition. And by the time Sean Miller returned Arizona to national prominence, UCLA was already in the throes of an abrupt decline.

    That history of near misses is what makes Saturday’s showdown in Tucson feel so special. Finally, we get to see Arizona and UCLA square off with both at their peak.

    At stake is not only the Pac-12 title but also a bigger prize that could come with it. The three-way battle between Arizona, UCLA and sixth-ranked Oregon could also decide which team claims the conference’s highest NCAA tournament seed and lone spot in the geographically friendly West Regional.

    Not since 1999 have Arizona and UCLA met with both teams in the top 10.

  • Northwestern player's shoe-tying fiasco cost her team a basket

    Malika Andrews at The Dagger 1 day ago

    When you are receiving an inbound pass from your teammate, it probably isn’t the best time to tie your shoe.

    But that is exactly what Northwestern’s Ashley Deary in a game against Rutgers on Thursday night.

    Maybe not the best time to tie your shoe… #SCNotTop10

    A post shared by SportsCenter (@sportscenter) on Feb 23, 2017 at 6:58pm PST

    That stunt ended up costing Deary the possession, as Rutger’s Khadaizha Sanders was able to steal the ball and pass it up to Shrita Parker for an easy lay up. The Wildcats pulled off a 60-38 win, but the charade landed Deary on ESPN SportCenter’s “Not Top 10” list.

  • Locker room fight over music volume results in a University of Maine player breaking his jaw

    Malika Andrews at The Dagger 1 day ago

    A request to “turn the music down” escalated quickly in the Maine locker room on Feb. 14. What started as a request, ended up sending a player to the hospital with a broken jaw. His jaw had to be wired shut for six to eight weeks.

    A public safety officer from the University of Maine came to the locker room after an ambulance transported senior guard Marko Pirovic to the hospital where he had to have surgery on two bilateral fractures in his jaw. Initially, players told the coaching staff and the officer that Pirovic slipped in the shower and injured himself. However, in the officer’s report, it was noted that Pirovic’s hair was dry.

    The next day, after the team left for a game, an assistant trainer told the police that junior guard Wes Myers reported to head coach Bob Walsh that the slipping in the shower story was made up. In actuality, Myers punched Pirovic. Myers had asked Pirovic to turn off his music in the locker room and when Pirovic refused, Myers tried to force the music off.

     

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

    Henry Bushnell at The Dagger 2 days 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 2 days 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 2 days 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.

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

    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 2 days 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.

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

    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 2 days 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.