Also making return appearances after many years are Kent State, Nevada, and North Dakota
Duke shot 67 percent in the second half and a blistering 61 percent for the game, overcoming a very gritty effort by Notre Dame.
After the Fighting Irish briefly led with a little over 13 minutes to play, Duke simply was hot in shooting the rock. Duke broke North Carolina’s record of most ACC Tournament titles won with 20 in a nice 75-69 win.
Elsewhere, Villanova won over Creighton to win the Big East title in New York, while Iowa State shocked West Virginia to win the Big 12.
In the Southland Conference, host standing New Orleans came from behind to edge out Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 68-65 in overtime. UNO is headed back for the first time since the Internet’s early beginnings in 1996.
Also winners on Saturday night were Nevada winning for the first time in the Mountain West over Colorado State. The Wolfpack return for the first time since 2007.
Kent State is going dancing for the first time in almost a decade, 2008 to be exact knocking out Akron 70-65 in Cleveland. Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee State returns after achieving a 30 win season and New Mexico State again will represent the WAC thanks to getting by Cal State Bakersfield, the school that replaced the Aggies last year. Like the Golden Flashes, New Mexico State set a new school record with their 28th win.
Finally, UC Davis edged out UC Irvine in a close game 50-47 in Anaheim to claim the Big East. It was great to see longtime former Bradley Coach Jim Les smile again as we have our third different school reaching the Big Dance for the very first time.
New sheriff in charge for the Pac-12 and his name is Sean Miller
Arizona may stake claim to a number one seed in defeating Oregon for the Pac-12 crown at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Even bigger implications going forward for the Ducks is the loss of block machine Chris Boucher, who played through Friday’s semifinal in severe pain. Just before the final game, he was ruled out for the season due to tearing his ACL. Similar to the loss of Alec Peters sending Valparaiso’s chances of reaching the Big Dance down the tubes, this might be a crushing blow for the Ducks.
Illinois begins search for new coach
The news was confirmed on Saturday afternoon that John Groce was indeed fired after five mostly lackluster seasons in Illinois. Finishing a paltry 37-53 in Big Ten play, the Fighting Illini lacked a true spark unlike they did in the glorious Lou Henson years or even with Bruce Weber smiling his way towards the 2005 national runner up distinction.
Last time the key Athletic Department in Champaign/Urbana set up a short list of coaches in 2012, Mark Few of Gonzaga and Gregg Marshall of Wichita State came up but were never considered. It will be interesting to see what direction they go in trying to resteer the fan base of the Orange Krush.
Stay tuned to this blog during the spring for when the official hire to replace John Groce takes place.
In the meantime, six final bids are up in the hours leading up to the draw.
I will have that short blog up for you in a few hours. Please try to get some rest, realizing most of the nation will lose one hour thanks to the start of Daylight Savings Time.