Loyola and Kansas State Barely Survive, While Michigan and Florida State Dominate


Snow Patrol, song “Don’t Give In” from the album Wildness

Single was released a few hours before the tip-off in Atlanta

To be released May 25, 2018

Magical Ride For Loyola-Chicago Continues

With Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt comfortably perched high above Philips Arena (not the Mercedes-Benz Stadium as I mistakenly mentioned on last Tuesday’s podcast), she watched her Loyola Ramblers hit their first two shots before Nevada stormed out to a 20-8 lead during the first half.  Then, Loyola woke up by holding the Wolf Pack scoreless for the last 7 minutes and 55 seconds as the Ramblers took a 28-24 into the halftime locker room.  A 20-4 run helped boosted Loyola’s confidence big time.

Loyola stormed out with more layups in the second half and grabbed a 10 point lead at 57-47 before Nevada had to call time out.  In this game of runs, Nevada stormed back one last time on a 12-2 run.  Cody Martin’s basket tied the score at 59 all with 4:06 to play.  Thankfully, Loyola Head Coach Porter Moser kept preaching the same things to his players–drive to the basket, make the extra pass, and make the defense commit.  His players bought his message, and boy did they ever deliver in front of a nationwide audience watching on CBS.  46 points in the paint proved to be a key stat as the Ramblers kept pounding the ball inside, and Nevada was unable to find a similar spark like they did in their 22 point comeback on Sunday against second seeded Cincinnati.

In the final seconds, Loyola found their third consecutive different hero in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.  This time, it was Marques Townes who nailed a three point shot with 6.3 seconds left that turned out to be the game winner.  Caleb Martin for Nevada hit a three of his own, but Nevada had only committed six team fouls in the second half and Loyola was able to successfully run out the clock.  The improbable 69-68 win sends the Ramblers to their first Elite Eight since winning it all way back in 1963.  Ironically enough, four living members of that championship team had front row seats to the action on Thursday night:  John Egan, Jerry Harkness, Les Hunter, and Rich Rochelle.  If you were listening closely to the on-court microphones, it was Harkness himself saying, “We need a stop.  We just need a stop.”

Loyola moves to 31-5 on the season, while Nevada bows out at 29-8.  The Wolf Pack will lose four seniors to graduation, but don’t count them out for 2019–twins Caleb and Cody Martin will be back as part of a core of four guys trying to navigate their way through the always tricky Mountain West Conference.

An amazing game again by an amazing group of guys, likewise the nightcap down in “Catlanta” proved to be just as good.

A First in NCAA Tournament History

For the first time ever in NCAA Tournament history, there will be a 9 seed playing an 11 seed as a trip to the Final Four will be at stake.

Kansas State was able to weather off some final desperate shots and made some key free throws down the stretch to upend Kentucky and their heralded freshman class by a score of 61-58.  Xavier Sneed led the way with 22 points, but it was Barry Brown Jr. converting on a left handed scoop shot with 18.4 seconds left which proved to be the deciding basket.  It will be Head Coach Bruce Weber’s third appearance in the Elite Eight, having taken Kansas State there in 2010 and Illinois when they easily dumped Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois back in 2005.

For Kentucky, P.J. Washington had 18 points while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 15 and Kevin Knox chipped in with 13.  A last second three attempt by Quade Green fell harmlessly to the left side of the rim and did not go in.  I guess UK Coach John Calipari’s comment on Wednesday about his players hoping not to be “drinking the poison” did not go over well, unlike when Alabama football coach Nick Saban used a similar comment to get his players psyched up last fall en route to another CFP championship.

Even Dean Wade played eight minutes during the first half and scored four points.  He was not supposed to play, but he did and we will see if Coach Weber gives him more playing time against the upstart Loyola Ramblers.  Loyola shot 18 of 24 in the second half, so watch to see what kind of spacing Loyola plans to do against the Wildcats.

Bottom line, it should be a really fun game to watch on Saturday, tip time slated for 6:09 p.m. Eastern time on TBS.

Meanwhile, in Lipstick City Los Angeles–it felt like the Joker was playing the role of The Banker (if people remember the great NBC game show Deal or No Deal) and offered a very low sum of money.

Michigan and Florida State Romp, Look Very Impressive In Winning Easily

Michigan used the three point shot and hit them with reckless abandon, nailing 10 in the first half alone as Texas A&M’s big men were basically “Lost In Translation” to the tune of a 52-28 bloodbath by the time the halftime buzzer sounded.  The second half was no different as Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman had himself another excellent all-around game scoring 24 points to go along with 5 rebounds and seven assists in a whopping 99-72 decision in Big Blue Nation’s favor.

Michigan shot 62 percent from the field, as Moritz Wagner played another splendid game chipping in with 21 points and three rebounds.  For the Aggies, Tyler Davis had 24 points in a losing cause while Robert Williams had 12 and Admon Gilder finished up with 10.

The Wolverines will take on another 9 seed on Saturday, as Florida State completely shredded the once vaunted Gonzaga offensive attack and wore down the Bulldogs in an impressive 75-60 victory.  It will be Florida State’s first trip to the Elite Eight since 1993.  The Seminoles were led by Terance Mann, who torched Gonzaga scoring 18 points in 34 minutes.  Gonzaga has lost three straight times in the NCAA Tournament to ACC schools and finishes their season with an impressive 32-5 record.  Corey Kispert had 18 points off the bench to lead the ‘Zags, while holdovers from the 2017 Final Four squad of Josh Perkins was held to only nine points, the normally reliable Johnathan Williams registered 8 points on the evening, and finally Silas Melson had seven points.  Gonzaga saw their 16 game winning streak snapped in the process.

In the West Regional Final on Saturday, it will be whichever team is the first to score 80 points will win.  This will be a track meet type of a game.

Dan Hurley Hired To Take Over For Kevin Ollie at UConn

Rhode Island will have to find a new person to man the bench as Dan Hurley leaves after six years at Rhode Island to take over at UConn, where Kevin Ollie occupied the bench in both Hartford and Storrs each of the past six seasons.  Hurley led the Rams to two straight Atlantic 10 titles and a pair of consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament.  ESPN analyst Dan Dakich mentioned on the SC:6 program that “he is a perfect fit” for UConn going forward as far as recruiting is concerned.  The last time that the UConn Huskies failed to reach the Big Dance in consecutive years, you have to go back to the end of the last century, during the years 1998 and 1999 when they were sent to the NIT on both occasions.

See you later on Friday, as we look forward to four more games in simply nice Omaha and snowy Boston.




David Padgett Shown The Door at Louisville

Taking over for embattled Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino, Interim Coach David Padgett (four year player for the Cards between 2005 to 2008) basically took over a team clearly in transition at Louisville.

A few weeks after the sex scandal heard around the world which cost the Louisville Cardinals everything associated with their 2013 national championship run, they still finished 20-13 in the regular season.  They managed to beat Northern Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State in the NIT’s before losing Tuesday night at the KFC Yum! Center to Mississippi State.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, Louisville decided again to start over from Square One.  How they will recover long term from the sex scandal, one from the outside can only wonder–when could the good times return to campus?

Xavier Head Coach Chris Mack is in line to possibly take over the Cardinals.

In other coaching news, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway promised Memphis fans during his introductory press conference on Tuesday that his Tigers will try to get “no losses”.  Problem is, Coach Penny–every team suffers at least one loss.  Nice try, in the shadows of Graceland.  But, just like recently fired coach Tubby Smith–who was let go after two years, Memphis officials got “All Shook Up” in the current area of college basketball’s “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Finally, take Arizona’s Sean Miller off the list as a possible replacement for Kevin Stallings at Pittsburgh.  No word anywhere from Twitter yet on who might be taking over for the Pitt Panthers.  Coach Miller released a statement on Wednesday denying a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report that said an interview was in the works.

Please continue sending special prayers to Bonzie Colson

More bad luck has followed the ACC Preseason All-American from Notre Dame in former forward Bonzie Colson.  He injured his leg again during the St. Patrick’s Day loss at home to Penn State in the NIT Second Round.  Sure hope he gets well in time to hopefully impress NBA scouts.  Most draft experts see him bunched up along with the likes of recent college departures like Mo Bamba from Texas and the first player ever to lead the nation in points and assists in the same season, Oklahoma’s Trae Young.

My Sweet 16 Preview

A Mix Of Bluebloods And Some Mid-Majors Still Alive

As has been the case during this 2017-2018 season, the teams that mesh well and play together collectively as a team will find the true path to success.

For five teams left in the field, they managed to stay alive thanks to some heady guard play, rock solid defense–and in some cases, divine intervention.

And that is where I begin, in the South at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta…which is the same site that CBS will greet us 10 1/2 months from now in the biggest game of the year, aka Super Bowl LIII.

Nevada had a few key pieces missing and their bench has been nearly depleted.  Quite the opposite though is happening for Loyola-Chicago.  On the same day that I typed this blog–Lollapalooza announced their 2018 lineup for early August at steamy Grant Park.  A similar revival involves the Ramblers, which have been labeled as the miracle workers of this tournament–thanks to a pair of last second shots.  I like Loyola in this game, due to the fact Porter Moser’s team enjoys passing the ball a lot and they had the third highest field goal percentage out of the 351 schools in the nation during the regular season.  IMHO, I think it will come down to see how the Ramblers’ reserves handle Nevada’s defense.

The second game has proven coach Bruce Weber (who once guided Illinois to a final game appearance against North Carolina in 2005) of Kansas State against Kentucky.  John Calipari’s team has undergone a resurgence in the last three weeks, as the youngest team in Kentucky basketball history is finally finding ways to finish at the rim.  They may be a small step behind the likes of De’Aaron Fox or Anthony Davis from years past, but don’t count UK just yet.  Thanks to having the top four seeds losing for the first time since seeding began in 1979, it is now Kentucky’s tournament to lose.  Kansas State made some rare history in this computer era, that they became the first school since Illinois State in 1984 to win both of their first two tournament games by scoring less than 50 points each time.

Out West in Lipstick City, TBS returns to Los Angeles and will have some pretty sexy matchups that should be worth taking a peek.  First up is Michigan against Texas A&M.  The Wolverines have the outside shooters, and the Aggies have the big men to clog up Wagner in the middle.  My question is, can Michigan Head Coach Jon Beilein spring the bench loose, just in case if any of the starters struggling on the floor?

The second game has Gonzaga taking on Florida State, who survived a gritty Second Round game against top seed Xavier.  I have liked Gonzaga before, and there is pretty much no stopping this Bulldogs train with their 2017 national championship runner up appearance to back on.  Expect both games to possibly be decided in the final minute, if not overtime.

No Rest For The Mountaineers Or Their Fans

Last year, West Virginia had to leave early to avoid a Nor’Easter storm prior to the first and second rounds that took place in Buffalo, New York.  On Tuesday, West Virginia smartly decided to arrive in Boston in an attempt to beat the fourth and latest winter storm of the season–which is battering the Eastern Seaboard from Washington to the south, up past Philadelphia and New York, and scurrying toward the East Regional site in Boston.

At least, Bob Huggins will get a chance to give his team more time to prepare for top seed Villanova.  For Jay Wright, he took his Wildcats to Boston and won the East Regional in 2009.  Villanova made special history last week, when they won their 32nd game for the fourth straight season–that is a new NCAA record that not even the great John Wooden UCLA team from the late 1960’s/early 1970’s never achieved.

For West Virginia, their plan is to access with the press and hope Jalen Brunson commits a lot of turnovers in the back court.  The problem is, Villanova like Butler is one of the few teams that can be relatively successful against that ball-hawking type of defense.  Two contrasting styles of Villanova’s high powered defense against West Virginia’s stellar defense–it will be interesting to see how that game plays out on Friday.

The nightcap on TBS has Purdue taking on Texas Tech.  With Isaac Haas, Purdue wins in a blowout.  But since Haas is out with the forearm injury he suffered in the first round while trying to grab a defensive rebound against Cal State Fullerton in Detroit, I expect the Red Raiders will have a plan to try and limit the touches of both Carsen and Vincent Edwards.  Even second round hero Dakota Mathias told Andy Katz on the BTN podcast on Monday that his team has to “play smart” and rebound the ball on both ends in order to have a chance.

Finally, CBS will have the Midwest Regional taking place for the first time ever in Omaha, Nebraska.  Top seeded Kansas plays Clemson in game one, and after the Tigers thoroughly dismantled Auburn on Sunday, will the Tigers have one more great game left in them?  Perhaps football coach Dabo Sweeney should give the players a special pep talk, because whatever he says works so well on the gridiron–could it reap similar dividends playing 94 feet instead of 100 yards?  For Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk, they need to figure out De’Vonte Graham can get off his shooting slump.  During the first two rounds in Wichita, he had some good lucks–it was just the simple fact that the shots were not falling.  I still think Kansas playing closer to home should yield more fans and in the end, their overall style of play should create a comfortable distance so they wouldn’t have to sweat too much come the second half.

Game two should be a real barnburner, a donnybrook so-to speak.  Two Basketball Hall of Fame coaches meet again as Duke plays Syracuse for the first time at the Big Dance since the Blue Devils edged out the Orange in the 1998 Sweet 16 round.  Duke is still the favorites in this game, and rightfully so–but the Orange are relishing this equivalent of the NFL wild card scenario in riding the hot hand.  We all can recall in 2016, Syracuse was a 10 seed.  I was one of those bloggers that echoed the same thoughts that most of the media was saying then and again repeated here in 2018 that the Orange deserved to be playing in the NIT and not in the NCAA’s.  But, Jim Boeheim’s legendary 2-3 zone is causing fits for their opposition yet again.  I would not be at all surprised if Duke somehow succumbs offensively like Michigan State last Sunday in their second round upset at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.  However, the difference is pretty easy to find here–Duke has Marvin Bagley III and Grayson Allen and Syracuse does not.  At least, Coach K has this to bank on forever–Saturday’s win over Rhode Island in the Pittsburgh pod gave him 1,099 career wins which broke a tie with the late, great Pat Summitt of Tennessee women’s fame for the most victories by any head coach, man or woman in NCAA Division I history.

Hope this preview gets you all up to speed, as I plan to do one nightly blog from Thursday through Sunday once all of the games have been completed.  Please enjoy the rest of your day.  As I often have found out about the Sweet 16/Elite Eight rounds, this is the stage where the contenders meet the pretenders.  We will see who wins out and earns the trip to tour the Riverwalk and play in San Antonio at the Final Four come Easter weekend.


East Regional Restores Order

All Top Four Seeds Emerge, While The Other Three Regions Become Free-For-Alls

West Virginia earned their third Sweet 16 berth in four years with a resounding 94-71 over the Thundering Herd of Marshall.  Talk about getting lots of frequent flier miles–from San Diego on one end of the coast, they have to head over 3,100 miles north and east for their next game on Friday–featuring another meeting with their former Big East rivals of the top seed Villanova in Boston (please see the TV schedule below).

Speaking of Boston, that is where Purdue will be going after surviving the 2018 edition of the Hoosier Heartland battle 76-73.  The Boilermakers were up by 10 and appeared to have won, but Butler chipped away and managed to get as close as two before Dakota Mathias converted on a three point shot with 14.2 seconds left.  Kelan Martin tried to match it at the other end, but was denied and the Boilers moved on to meet the 3 seed of Texas Tech on TBS Friday evening.

Butler still managed to get one final chance after a missed free throw from P.J. Thompson.  However Kamar Baldwin’s half court heave nearly hit the rim as the buzzer sounded.

Besides Florida State, Nevada Came Back To Win

The Wolf Pack rallied from 22 points down with 11 minutes to go, after Josh Hall’s offensive rebound and putback with 9.1 seconds left in Nashville stunned the second seeded Cincinnati Bearcats by a final of 75-73.  Next up for the 7 seed is a date with the other group of Destiny’s Darlings–the Loyola Ramblers of Chicago to lead off CBS’ coverage on Thursday from the Super Bowl LIII city of Atlanta.

The other final score of note was Clemson pounding Auburn 84-53, but the game was not even that close.  For the first time since 1997, the Tigers basketball team will be going to the Sweet 16.  Led by Gabe DeVoe, Clemson acted at times like the football team and scored in bunches.  A 25-4 run to close out the first half erased most doubt and sets up a pretty interesting showdown with Kansas Friday night in Omaha, Nebraska.  Clemson hit on 48 percent of their shots, while Auburn was simply awful, going 17 for 66 (25.8 percent) for the game.

Start Planning For The Sweet 16 Games

The final time where multiple games will be playing opposite each other.

As I usually say, Two Games/Two Sites/Two Different Channels.

I will preview these games in my next blog, along with a short podcast on what to expect either on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Here is the schedule, with all games heard on the TuneIn app, search for Westwood One:


7:07 p.m., CBS: No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (Brian Anderson, Chris Webber, Lisa Byington) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

7:37 p.m., TBS: No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas A&M (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Dana Jacobson) at Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Approx. 9:37 p.m., CBS: No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State (Anderson/Webber/Byington)

Approx. 10:07 p.m., TBS: No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Florida State (Harlan/Miller/Bonner/Jacobson)


7:07 p.m., CBS: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Clemson (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson) at CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Nebraska

7:27 p.m., TBS: No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 West Virginia (Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce) at TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Approx. 9:37 p.m., CBS: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 11 Syracuse (Nantz/Hill/Raftery/Wolfson)

Approx. 9:57 p.m., TBS: No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (Eagle/Spanarkel/LaForce)



UPSET ALERT: The Second Number One Seed in Xavier Is Sent Packing

Florida State Storms Back To Stun Musketeers, Head to Los Angeles

Xavier had this game won, plain and simple in Nashville.  But the Seminoles had other ideas on Sunday night.  Their shocking 75-70 win knocks out the second Number 1 seed in this 2018 Tournament.

It was one year ago today, that Second Round game was all Xavier over Florida State by a score of 91-66.  Boy, how things can change.

The Seminoles lead the Tomahawk Chop Nation west to Lipstick City, Los Angeles for a West Regional semifinal matchup on Thursday against the defending national runners-up in Gonzaga.

Braian Angola led the way with 15 points, six rebounds, and three assists.  Xavier was led by J.P. Macura’s 17 points, while Karem Kanter had 15.



The Clock Struck Twelve on the UMBC Retrievers

Unlike in February 1980, when the United States men’s Olympic hockey team came from behind to beat Finland for the gold medal, the shots were simply not falling for the UMBC Retrievers on Sunday night at the South Regional in Charlotte.

Kansas State pulled away with one minute to go on a baseline leaner, just as the shot clock buzzer sounded.  What was for a good chunk of the second half had a 38-37 score, the final ended up being 50-43.  Just for good measure, the basket by the Retrievers did count just before the final buzzer.

Years from now, I am pretty positive that bloggers, media members, and other scores of sports historians will document this run by the America East champions and what things they did to bring notice to their school.  No doubt in my mind, I am sure ESPn is probably working up a new 30 For 30:

“What if I told you…that the first number 16 seed to knock out the top overall seed in the country had a game plan to rewrite history?  The Retrievers of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County for one glorious night became the biggest giant killers of college basketball.”

What a run, but Kansas State heads to Atlanta to take on the 5 seed of Kentucky.

Two more games to go to wrap up this second round:
in Nashville on TNT, Xavier is about to pull away from Florida State after it was only a two point game at halftim.

Finally in San Diego on TBS, old foes Marshall and West Virginia are squaring off.  That game has been nip and tuck after the Thundering Herd went off to a 9-2 lead early in the contest.

I will provide a brief report once that game goes final and talk about Nevada’s last second surprise victory over Cincinnati.  See you all in a bit.

UPSET ALERT: Texas A&M Hands North Carolina Only Their Second NCAA Loss While Playing In State

Defending Champions Pummeled Thanks To Excellent Shooting

The 86-65 final in Charlotte was another mind boggling game, as the defending champions of North Carolina will be unable to repeat for failing to get out of the second round.

Even though three quarters of my bracket is officially busted with only Villanova as the final piece still standing, this tournament has been wacky and unpredictable at best.  Four Aggies starters finished in double figures, led by T.J. Starks with 21 points in 33 minutes.  Tyler Davis had 18, while D.J. Hogg had 14, and Admon Gilder chipped in with 12.

For the game, Texas A&M shot over 50 percent from the floor (31 of 60), 10 of 24 from behind the three-point arc.  North Carolina was only 26 of 78 (33.3 percent), including a woeful 6 of 31 from long distance.  Joel Berry II in his final game led the Tar Heels in a losing cause with 21, while 2017 Elite Eight hero Luke Maye finished with 13.  North Carolina finishes a rather topsy turvy season at 26-11.

Another key to the Aggies resurgence was their defense, 8 total blocks in the game–while UNC had zippo, zero, zilch as this was the worst NCAA Tournament loss for North Carolina since being whipped by Arkansas 96-73 as an 8 seed in the Midwest Region in 1990.

Next up for the Aggies in the Sweet 16 round Friday night in Los Angeles is the 3 seed of Michigan.

I will chime in again if UMBC decides to keep playing the role of Cinderella.
Enjoy the game on truTV.