Patrick Ewing returns to his alma mater, becomes Georgetown Head Coach

Was major factor in leading Hoyas to three NCAA title game appearances during his four years, winning it all in 1984 over Houston

The man who put the face on Georgetown basketball during their true heyday in the early to mid 1980’s is returning home.

Patrick Ewing has agreed to be the new Georgetown head coach, this news coming Monday afternoon from ESPN, CBS Sports, and other broadcast plus several online media outlets.

The 2008 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inducteee, Ewing has spent the last 15 years as an NBA assistant, most recently in Charlotte.  He was an 11 time NBA All-Star, all with the New York Knicks.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.  A formal press conference will be announced soon.  Ewing replaces John Thompson III, the grandson of the legendary coach during his time while as a student.

North Carolina Overcomes Sluggish Shooting to Barely Escape Oregon

Second semifinal decided by four missed free throws from North Carolina

Yes, my online friends–you read that secondary byline correctly.  As anemic as the shooting was early on, North Carolina started out 3 of 12 shooting.  Oregon on the other hand wasn’t that much better going at a rather paltry 4 of 7 clip from the floor.  North Carolina failed to get inside, since Oregon’s defense managed to cut off many passing lanes early in the game.

Both teams struggled to score as it was tied at 11 in the under 12 minute TV time out–UNC shooting a rather horrible 3 of 17 at this point, with Oregon shooting only 40 percent themselves at 4 of 10.

With 3:43 left in the first half, Oregon took their largest lead at 30-22.  However, the Tar Heels went on a 17-6 run to close the half and just like with Gonzaga earlier–UNC scored the last seven points of the half to take a 39-36 halftime lead.

It got worse in the University of Phoenix Stadium, as PA announcer Gene Honda’s microphone was not working for several minutes at the start of the second half.  The crowd of 77,612 (the second largest crowd behind the 2009 Final Four at Ford Field in Detroit) instead heard the CBS call of Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, and Bill Raftery being piped inside the stadium in addition in all of the concourses and bathrooms.

Dylan Ennis had 10 to lead the Ducks, while Kennedy Meeks came up with some huge plays for Roy Williams when his team needed them the most, leading all scorers with 18.  Joel Berry II appeared to have both ankles working fine on the floor and did not show any ill effects from his pair of injuries during the South Regional Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds had only five points.

The key stat in this game was the turnovers, Oregon had 12 while North Carolina coughed up the ball only five times in the first 20 minutes.

The overall shooting was definitely not something to write or text home about:

UNC was 8 of 27, 2 for 8 on three-pointers, for Oregon was 10 of 22, but 4 of 8 on threes.

While the PA’s microphone was being worked on at press row, Justin Jackson made his presence felt hitting a trey with 17:09 to play which increased the Tar Heels lead to 46-38.

The closest Oregon managed to get in the first part of the second half was a Tyler Dorsey three to cut UNC’s lead to four.  A Jordan Bell layup with 79 seconds left to play in regulation trimmed the lead again to four, with UNC leading 75-71.

The final minute brought some rather bizarre theater

In the first 39 minutes, Oregon’s big guns of Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks were a combined 4 for 21 in shooting from downtown.  Most of them, they had good looks but were not able to go down.  Others were caused by defensive pressure as North Carolina’s ability to hawk the ball proved to be the ultimate difference.

However, the Ducks were not going to quack away quietly.  A Dorsey three point attempt curled around the front of the rim once, then the back rim twice, then around the front right side of the rim a second time before finally settling in to trim UNC’s lead to 77-74 with 42 seconds left.

Theo Pinson missed a jumper for the Tar Heels that could have iced the game.  Instead, Jordan Bell corralled the rebound and guard Payton Pritchard nearly walked with the ball twice (once in the backcourt and again trying to pivot as if he was going to shoot a three for the tie).  As it turned out, Keith Smith made a wide open layup to trim North Carolina’s lead once more to 77-76 with 5.8 seconds left.

Then, the unthinkable happened.

Kennedy Meeks missed on a pair of throws.  Oregon failed to secure the rebound.  The Ducks immediately fouled Joel Berry II.  Berry missed both of his free throw attempts, but Oregon again wasted the final four seconds failing to foul as Meeks grabbed the final rebound and smartly passed the ball towards mid-court to end it.

The final stats from this rather anemic shooting performance, as both teams shot less than 38 percent for the game:

Kennedy Meeks made some unique history with scoring 25 points, 10 rebounds, and shooting over 80 percent for the game (11 out of 13), becoming the first player since Sam Perkins did it for the Tar Heels in 1982.  The list from national semfinals past also includes Michael Jordan in 1982, Bill Walton in 1973, and Oscar Robertson in 1962.

Also enjoying a nice game for the Tar Heels was Justin Jackson, who finished up with 22 points.  Oregon was led by Tyler Dorsey with 21 hard earned points and Dylan Ennis chipped in with 18.  Dillon Brooks was held to only 10 points to go along with six rebounds.  Even without injured Chris Boucher, Jordan Bell led everybody with 16 rebounds in a losing cause.  The benches were not much of a factor, but second chance points tilted the balance of the game in the Tar Heels favor–with UNC winning that battle by a very wide margin, 16 to 4.  Another telling stat was UNC dominated the offensive glass by a 17 to 12 total.

North Carolina’s close shave 77-76 national semifinal win sets up an epic battle for Monday night, which Yours Truly Online predicted when the brackets were released.

I had both Gonzaga and North Carolina playing for the national title:).

One other piece of hoop related news worth sharing:

Basketball Hall of Fame class announced on ESPN2

Earlier in the day, the 2017 Basketball Hall of Fame Class was announced in Dallas for ceremonies to be held in September at Springfield, Massachusetts.  Congratulations to some very popular names for getting inducted, from the likes of Bill Self, Head Coach of Kansas, Muffett McGraw, longtime Women’s Head Coach at Notre Dame, Rebecca Lobo from the 1995 UConn Lady Huskies championship team, Tracy McGrady of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, one-time Indiana high school and ABA Pacers legend from the early 1970’s, George McGinnis, and the architect behind the Chicago Bulls dynasty winning six NBA titles during the 1990’s, the longtime former General Manager (1985-2003) who died recently who had his legendary battles with the media, Jerry Krause.

Pair of Number 1 seeds will duke it out for the 2017 title

Will Gonzaga become the first true mid-major to cut down the nets since the all-legendary first black squad to win it all, the former Texas Western (now UTEP) way back in 1966, or will Roy Williams make it number five for his alma mater and his third since coming back as Head Coach?

One key statistic to chew over while watching Monday’s edition of The Price is Right:  Gonzaga is the fourth team since 1985 to enter the title game with one loss.

On Monday night at 9:20 p.m. Eastern time on CBS (remember that the pregame show starts 30 minutes earlier than in years past at 8:30, instead of 9 p.m.), the overall number 3 and 4 seeds will compete for the 2017 National Championship.

Hope to see you all then.  Thanks for sticking with me on this April Fool’s Day 2017, otherwise known as Super Saturday 2017 in my world.

Please have a good night and pleasant hoop dreams, everybody.

Gonzaga Outlasts Gutsy Effort from South Carolina, Advances to National Championship Game

Gonzaga is first mid-major to play for national title since Indiana State and Larry Bird accomplished the feat when they beat DePaul in 1979

Gonzaga started out hot in the first 2:02 of game action at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  Jumpers by Nigel Williams-Goss, Johnathan Williams, and Przemek Karnowski gave the Bulldogs an early 6-2 lead.

Duane Notice then scored 5 straight for South Carolina, with his three from the left wing gave the Gamecocks a short-lived 7-63 lead at the 17:34 mark.  A Zach Collins dunk off a nice feed from Karnowski gave the ‘Zags an 8-7 lead with 16:28 to go in the first half.

Notice definitely served up notice to the nation and the world with drilling his second trey at the 15:32 mark.  Nearly 90 seconds later at the 13:57 mark, Silas Melson came off the bench and hit a three of his own.  Gonzaga by this point was shooting 6 of 10 from the floor, the Gamecocks a paltry 4 of 11 for 36.4 percent.

Melson’s second trey at the 11:53 mark extended the Gonzaga lead, but after a Hassani Gravett steal, Gravett went coast-to-coast for a layup to trim the Bulldogs lead to 20-18 with 10:59 to go.

Karnowski’s layup at the 9:15 mark pushed the lead up to 22-18 in favor of Gonzaga.  But Gonzaga was in foul trouble and put South Carolina in the single bonus with 8:53 remaining in the first half (six team fouls).  The Gamecocks then went through a cold stretch missing six straight shots before P.J. Dozier came to the rescue with a spinning layup to make the score 24-21, again in favor of Gonzaga.

Sindarius Thornwell, nicknamed “Sin City” by Scott Hood of GamecockCentral.com on Twitter, felt 100% after taking antibiotics since he missed practice due to flu-like symptoms on Friday.  His first points in the Final Four came from the free-throw line to tie the game at 26 with 6:25 left in the opening half.

Jordan Mathews the next time down the floor hit a three-pointer, then Goss converted on an layup–all in a 22 second span.

With less than five minutes left in the first half, Chris Silva of South Carolina attempted to go airborne for a dunk.  Karnowski on his way down got poked a bit on his right eye and laid face first on the floor in pain.  P.J. Dozier then fed Justin McKie to tie the game again at 31.  But the bigger concern was about Karnowski’s health.

According to CBS Sports sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson, his vision was slightly affected as he was seen headed back to the locker room.  Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few told Wolfson at halftime,

“Yeah, he got poked in the eye pretty good.  They’re checking on it right now. Hopefully we can put a protective contact (lens) it or something.”

Prior to the injury, Karnowski was 4 of 7 shooting and had four rebounds.  Gonzaga went on a 15-4 run in the last 5:13 of the first half to lead at halftime 45-36.

It was the most points that the Gamecocks gave up in the first half during this NCAA Tournament, with the previous high of 40 in the Sweet 16 round against Marquette.

However, the ‘Zags showed no urgency in the final 14 seconds of the half as a Silas Melson three came after the buzzer.

Gonzaga shot 19 of 33 for 57.6 percent, while South Carolina was 13 of 35 for 37.1%.

Three-point shooting was relatively even, Gonzaga going 5 of 9 while South Carolina was 5 of 6 from behind the arc.  Goss had 12 to lead all scorers, while Justin McKie had 8 points off the Gamecocks bench, 5 short of his career high.  Sadly, he would not score the rest of the way.

In the second half, South Carolina started out cold offensively hitting only 1 of 6 from the floor in the first four minutes.  Goss nailed another three to extend Gonzaga’s lead to double digits at 52-41 with 16:47 to go.  Karnowski committed his third foul with 14:49 to play.

Then the run began for South Carolina.

Duane Notice made a layup with 14:03 to go, then a Zach Collins layup ballooned Gonzaga’s lead to 54-43 with 13:30 to play.

Chris Silva then made a layup and 1 of 2 free throws with 10:39 to go.  A few minutes later, P.J. Dozier made a jumper with 10:02 to play, Thornwell finally nailed a 3 with 9:37 left and Dozier made another jumper with 9:15 to go to trim Gonzaga’s lead to 65-61.  Silva made a pair of free throws with 8:29 to go, then another Dozier jumper tied the game at 65 with 7:41 left in regulation.

Karnowski showed any ill effects from his eye injury and it pushed Gonzaga to a three point lead with under three minutes to go at 71-68.  Sindarius Throwell made 1 of 2 from the free-throw line with 3.9 seconds to go, but Killian Tillie made both of his attempts from the charity stripe with 2.2 seconds left and the game ended with Gonzaga emerging unscathed with a hard-fought 77-73 national semifinal win.

Nigel Williams-Goss had the game of his life to date, scoring 23 points (9 of 16 shooting) to go along with five rebounds and six assists.  Zach Collins had 14 off the bench, as Gonzaga’s bench outscored South Carolina by a 22-14 margin.  Collins joined Danny Manning of Kansas in 1988 and Anthony Davis of Kentucky from 2012 as the only guys to have at least 10 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks in a national semifinal game.  Karnowski had 13 and Mathews had 12 to lead a balanced attack again for the Bulldogs.

South Carolina’s miracle run came up a bit short and they were led in scoring by P.J. Dozier with 17 points and 9 rebounds.  Sindarius Thornwell started slow, but finished his college career with 15 points to go along with five rebounds.  Chris Silva had a matching double-double, 13 points and 13 boards.

Gonzaga cooled off a bit to still finish shooting 48.3 percent shooting and held the Gamecocks to 37.9 percent shooting for the game.  Three-point shooting was the difference, as Gonzaga made 47.4 percent of their attempts from long distance, while South Carolina only made 35 percent with that longer background found in NFL stadiums.  Another telling stat was that Gonzaga made 45 percent of their contested shots, while South Carolina was just over 30 percent of shots that had defenders rubbing leather all over that orange colored ball.

Gonzaga becomes the first true mid-major to play in the national championship game since tiny Indiana State located in Terre Haute, Indiana led by Larry Bird when they won their first 35 games of the season in 1978-79 with their last victory coming at the buzzer to dethrone DePaul, one of the favorites that year to win it all.

The Bulldogs will play for the title Monday night against the winner of the 3 seed from the Midwest in Oregon and the top seed from the South in North Carolina.

See you later on tonight with a recap from Game Two.

All-Time NCAA Record Stops at 111 Straight Wins, UConn Loses In Overtime at Women’s Final Four

Game winning shot occurred in overtime, all-time record finally halted at 111

“It showed how far the women’s game has come.”
2017 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, 1995 UConn graduate and ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo on SportsCenter

April 1, 2017

UConn trailed by 16 at one point (29-13 with 7:37 left in the second quarter) and suffered their largest halftime deficit of eight points during their National Semifinal on Friday at the America Airlines Center in Dallas.  In fact, the once dominant Lady Huskies trailed for 31 minutes and 14 seconds out of a possible 45 minutes.

Mississippi State guard Morgan William was blocked on her attempt at the end of regulation and the score tied at 60.  She may have gone only 6 for 17 with 13 points, but it was her jumper on the right side of the lane just before the buzzer sounded that took down the longest winning streak in women’s (or men’s) college basketball history.

Final score was Mississippi State 66, Connecticut 64, as the Lady Huskies’ attempt to become the first school to win five straight championships goes down the drain (and pretty much most of ESPN’s ratings leading up to the first Chicago Cubs regular season baseball game opening defense of their 2016 World Series title).

Their last loss for historical purposes was also in overtime on November 17, 2014 at Stanford.

Under Geno Auriemma and all of the success he has enjoyed in his over 20 plus years as the Head Coach at UConn, his teams have lost all four times when they played in overtime during the NCAA Tournament.

The other first-time finals participant was determined earlier on Friday night after South Carolina upended perennial Final Four contender Stanford 62-53 in the first semifinal.  On Sunday, April 2, South Carolina dominated from start to finish and ended any dreams Mississippi State might have had in winning it all.  The final score ended up being in double digits, but I am sure the ESPY’s come July 12 will chronicle this upset for as long as they are still broadcasting sports, through whatever medium people choose to consume their sports news.

American Audiences Came Close to Having ESPN Instead of CBS Carrying The NCAA Tournament

In a rather fascinating article on the sports media website Awful Announcing on March 17, Ken Fang detailed how close CBS came to possibly losing out in 2010 to ESPN the rights to carrying the NCAA Tournament each March:

http://awfulannouncing.com/cbs/looking-back-ncaa-cbsturner-partnership-began.html

The closest anyone can hear Dick Vitale is if you live in a foreign country and have ESPN International as one of your cable channels.  Otherwise, do what I do and wait until sometime after the Final Four is behind us for another year and see the entire broadcast of all three games on YouTube.

 

 

 

Dayton chooses Anthony Grant as Head Coach

Played for Flyers during the 1980’s, was recently an assistant coach with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder

On Thursday, University of Dayton Vice President/Director of Athletics Neil Sullivan announced a replacement for Archie Miller as Dayton’s new men’s basketball coach.

In a press release on the Dayton Flyers athletic web site, Sullivan mentioned:

“Anthony Grant is a proven winner with the highest integrity.  He has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level. I welcome Anthony to our staff and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to aggressively pursue graduating student-athletes, winning conference championships and advancing in the NCAA Tournament.”

Grant spent the last two years as an assistant to Billy Donovan at Oklahoma City of the NBA.   Prior to that, Grant spent nine years as head coach at Alabama and VCU and 13 other seasons as a Division I assistant coach.  His teams made the NCAA Tournament three times and six other times appeared in the NIT.  His overall coaching record is 193-110 (.637).

Grant also returns home to his alma mater, where he is a 1987 graduate.  A four year letterwinner, he started for the Flyers in his final three years.  He averaged 11.6 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game in 105 games played, while playing in two NCAA Tournaments and in the NIT one other year.

He was the Flyers’ co-captain and was also named the White-Allen Most Valuable Player as a senior.

Grant is only the 20th coach in Dayton’s history, but just the seventh coach in the last 70 years.  In the modern era, Grant is only the second Dayton grad to coach the Flyers.  The first was his former head coach, College Basketball Hall of Famer Don Donoher who patrolled the sidelines between 1964 to 1989.

In six years at Alabama, Grant amassed a record of 117-85 (.579) while guiding the Crimson Tide to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, their first tournament berth since 2006.  He also took Alabama to the NIT on three occasions.

Prior to Alabama, the Miami, Fla. native spent three seasons as head coach of VCU where he led the Rams to a 76-25 (.752) record and three consecutive Colonial Athletic Association Championships. VCU went to the NCAA tournament twice and had an impressive 45-9 mark in CAA conference games.  He was the main reason why Florida repeated in 2006 (where he began at Florida in 1996) and 2007 with the players he helped develop and recruit.

Dayton returns seven players from their Atlantic 10 championship winning squad.  Only time will tell if they will be back on the bubble again in ten months.

Some Brief Thoughts on Repeal of Parts of the LGBTQ Law in North Carolina

On Wednesday, North Carolina State legislators finally began taking steps to repeal parts of the bathroom bill (HB2, or commonly known as LGBTQ).

ESPN and other media outlets reported on Thursday that NCAA President Mark Emmert will sit down with the Board of Directors sometime next week to discuss whether or not North Carolina will be back hosting NCAA Championship events in the future.

A South Region pod is on the maybe list for March 16 and 18 (Friday/Sunday) in 2018, slated for the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.

Only time will tell if that venue will actually host men’s basketball First and Second Round games next year.