Saturday, March 11, 2017

UC Davis: 2016-17 Big West Men's Basketball Champions



ANAHEIM, Calif. -- UC Davis is going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

Brynton Lemar scored 20 points to lead the second-seeded Aggies to a 50-47 victory Saturday night over UC Irvine in the Big West championship game.

In the regular-season finale between the teams just a week ago, UC Irvine routed UC Davis 79-49. What a difference seven days can make.

The Anteaters won the Big West and the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament. And this matchup was very much like a home game for UC Irvine as its campus is 15 miles from Honda Center. But Irvine was cold from the field at the start and Luke Nelson, the Big West player of the year, couldn't get untracked. Nelson finished with a team-high 14 points.

UC Davis transitioned to Division I status in 2004 and joined the Big West in 2007. A decade later, the Aggies are in the NCAA Tournament.

New Mexico State: 2016-17 Western Athletic Men's Basketball Champions



LAS VEGAS -- New Mexico State overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half to defeat Cal State Bakersfield 70-60 on Saturday night and win the Western Athletic Conference Tournament title for the fifth time in the past six years.

The Aggies (28-5) used a 21-2 run in the second half after Bakersfield (22-9), the WAC regular-season champion, took a 39-26 lead.

But New Mexico State went on a 3-point binge, getting long-distance baskets from Ian Baker and Chancellor Ellis to pull the Aggies into a 41-41 tie. Ellis' 3 with 9:11 left put New Mexico State ahead for good.

Eli Chuha led New Mexico State with 16 points, and Baker had 15, including going 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.

The Aggies were 6 of 12 on 3-pointers in the second half.

Dedrick Basile scored 17 points to lead Cal State Bakersfield, which might have worn down after playing a four-overtime game the night before, beating Utah Valley 81-80. It held a 29-20 lead at halftime and seemed comfortably in front.

Bakersfield's tenacious defense allowed the Roadrunners to pull away in the first half, holding the Aggies to just two baskets in the first 17 1/2 minutes of the game and forcing 12 turnovers in that span. Meantime, the Roadrunners made 12 of 25 shots and had nine steals.

But New Mexico State stormed back in the second half, using its big run to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

BIG PICTURE

New Mexico: This win might have been sweet revenge for last season's WAC title game. The top-seeded Aggies lost at the buzzer when Basile made a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

UP NEXT

New Mexico State: The Aggies earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and await to see Sunday where they'll be headed.

Cal State Bakersfield: The Roadrunners will wait to see if they get an at-large berth Sunday for the NCAA Tournament.

Arizona: 2016-17 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Champions



LAS VEGAS -- Allonzo Trier scored 23 points and hit four free throws in the final 17 seconds, helping No. 7 Arizona outlast No. 5 Oregon 83-80 on Saturday night in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game.

Arizona (30-4) lost a lopsided game at Oregon earlier this season on a barrage of 3-pointers by the Ducks. The Wildcats were better defensively while building a 14-point lead and shot 58 percent to hold off Oregon's second-half charge.

Next up for Arizona: A possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon (29-5) got bad news before tipoff, learning senior forward Chris Boucher is out for the season with a torn ACL sustained in the semifinals against California.

The Ducks struggled in the first half before rallying in a dazzling second half by both teams.

Dillon Brooks carried Oregon through the early struggles and finished with 25 points. Tyler Dorsey added 23.

Oregon ran over Arizona in the team's only meeting during the regular season, hitting 16 3-pointers in an 85-58 victory that was never close.

The Wildcats got one dose of payback in the Pac-12 semifinals by avenging an emotional regular-season loss to No. 3 UCLA and were hoping to do it again against the Ducks.

Oregon had a setback before the game even started with the loss of Boucher, the versatile 6-foot-10 forward who was the team's third-leading scorer and the Pac-12's leading shot blocker.

Arizona took advantage of Boucher's absence by attacking the rim, hitting 13 of 26 shots to lead 35-29 at halftime.

Brooks carried the Ducks almost by himself, scoring 17 first-half points. Unlike the game in Eugene, the Ducks struggled from the perimeter, going 1 of 8 from 3-point range.

Arizona continued to hit shots and disrupt Oregon's offense, pushing the lead to 14 in the opening 4 1/2 minutes of the second half.

The Ducks finally started to hit shots and disrupted Arizona's offensive with full-court pressure, cutting the lead to 60-56 midway through.

Oregon kept hitting shots, but so did Arizona to keep its slim lead. The Wildcats missed four free throws in the final minute to allow Oregon to pull within two, but Trier sealed it with his free throws.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona took down top-10 teams in consecutive games and is playing well at both ends of the floor at just the right time.

Oregon is still a dangerous team, as this game showed, but the loss of Boucher could be huge for its hopes of a deep NCAA Tournament run.

UP NEXT

Both teams should be high seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

New Orleans: 2016-17 Southland Men’s Basketball Champions



KATY, Texas -- Tevin Broyles had 15 points, including five in overtime, and New Orleans held off Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 68-65 on Saturday night to win the Southland Conference championship game and advance to its first NCAA Tournament since 1996.

Erik Thomas had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Christavious Gill and Michael Zeno scored 10 apiece for New Orleans (20-11), which earned its fifth trip to the NCAAs and its first 20-win season since 1996-97.

The Privateers shot 42 percent and won despite going 15 of 27 from the free throw line.

Rashawn Thomas had 22 points and seven rebounds, Cole Martinez added 15 points and Joseph Kilgore scored 13 for Corpus Christi (20-11), still looking for its second NCAA Tournament appearance. The Islanders shot 47 percent from field and hit 15 of 19 free throws.

Nevada: 2016-17 Mountain West Men's Basketball Champions



LAS VEGAS -- Nevada is king of college basketball in the Silver State.

Jordan Caroline had 23 points and 10 rebounds as Nevada beat Colorado State 79-71 on Saturday in the Mountain West Conference championship game to earn its first NCAA Tournament berth in 10 years.

The top-seeded Wolf Pack (28-6) claimed the league's automatic bid and took home their first conference tournament title since 2006, when they were in the Western Athletic Conference. They received an at-large invitation to the NCAAs the following season.

A decade later, Nevada has finally punched its ticket to return -- three days after the worst season in UNLV history ended.

"It's a great feeling winning it anywhere, knowing we have an automatic bid to go to the Dance," Caroline said when asked about winning the tournament inside the Thomas and Mack Center, UNLV's home arena. "I wanted to help my team any way I could to get to the tournament. Not just scoring -- any way I could."

Caroline was chosen tournament MVP after compiling 55 points and 28 rebounds in three games.

Gian Clavell scored 30 points for No. 2 seed Colorado State, which was seeking its first Mountain West title since 2003. Prentiss Nixon added 23 points, and Emmanuel Omogbo had 10.

After squandering a 16-point lead and allowing the Rams to tie the game midway through the second half, Nevada used an 11-3 run during a five-minute stretch to build another cushion while Colorado State (23-11) missed eight consecutive field goal attempts.

The Rams pulled to 66-65 when J.D. Paige hit a 3-pointer with 2:32 left, but they never managed to tie the score again.

"At halftime we talked to the team and we all discussed -- we knew that they weren't going to go away, that they would compete and make a run," Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. "They're tough-minded and can compete. I'm proud of the way we defended and rebounded, especially when we struggled to score at times and they went on their scoring run."

Marcus Marshall added 21 points and was 12 of 15 from the free throw line down the stretch for Nevada, which went to the line 35 times to 11 for Colorado State.

Nevada got 25 of its 39 points in the second half from the foul line.

At the start, Nevada scored the first nine points en route to building a 16-point advantage with balanced scoring across the board.

The Wolf Pack, who shot 9 of 24 (79 percent) from the field in the second half of their semifinal win over Fresno State, carried the momentum into the championship game, hitting 58 percent (19 of 33) from the floor in the first half.

Caroline found his stroke early against the Rams, making his first four attempts. As a team, the Wolf Pack hit nine of their first 14 shots from the field while building a 19-10 lead.

The Rams put together a mini-run of their own and cut the deficit to four at the 8:02 mark. But Nevada's depth was too much, as it outscored Colorado State 25-17 to close the half and head into the locker room with a 44-32 lead.

"This is a special group that I will always remember," Rams coach Larry Eustachy said. "I can't speak for Gian or Emmanuel, but I don't think we want to stop playing. I think we want to keep this group together as long as we can. I would assume we're in the NIT, and we're anxious to see what happens there, and how far we can advance."

It marked the eighth time the top two seeds met for the Mountain West title. The second seed won the previous seven matchups.

BIG PICTURE

Colorado State: Clavell surpassed 1,000 career points. He came into the game needing 11 to reach the milestone.

Nevada: After struggling through their worst first half of the season, scoring a mere 21 points on 23 percent shooting in a semifinal win over Fresno State, the Wolf Pack have shot 42 of 79 (53 percent) from the field, including 15 of 47 (41 percent) from 3-point range, in their last three halves of basketball.

THE CODE TO THE DANCE

Musselman said a security code for the door to the room where team meetings are held has been the same since the first meeting of the season: 3-12-17. "Because that's the day of Selection Sunday," he said. "And it's been that way for 11 months, basically, where every time they walk in that locker room they had to put that code in. ... This was our goal from Day One."

RICE'S SWEET RETURN


Nevada assistant coach Dave Rice brings an NCAA Tournament pedigree to the bench for the Wolf Pack. Rice was fired by rival UNLV last season -- three games into conference play -- but was hired by Musselman last April. Rice, a member of UNLV's 1990 national championship team, took the Runnin' Rebels to the NCAA Tournament in his first two seasons as coach, but did not make the postseason in his last two.

UP NEXT

Colorado State: The Rams might be on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament. If they don't, they expect to receive an NIT bid.

Nevada: Will find out Sunday where it is headed in the NCAA Tournament.

Kent State: 2016-17 Mid-American Men's Basketball Champions



CLEVELAND -- There was nothing easy, nothing routine about Kent State's trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The Golden Flashes took the toughest road possible.

Jaylin Walker scored 30 points, Jimmy Hall added 19 and sixth-seeded Kent State earned its first NCAA berth since 2008 by beating rival Akron in the Mid-American Conference championship game Saturday night to cap a six-day stretch as mad as March can get.

Since Monday, the Golden Flashes took down the nation's leading scorer in overtime, knocked off the two-time defending tournament champions and then beat the top two seeds in 24 hours to win the title.

And if that wasn't enough, they have bragging rights over their hated next-door neighbors who now have to watch them play in the NCAAs.

"This really happened?" said Walker, the tournament MVP. "Our dreams really came true?"

Believe it, Kent State

Coming together when it mattered most, the Golden Flashes (22-13) completed their remarkable journey by beating the top three seeds -- Buffalo, Ohio and Akron -- in succession to win their sixth conference title. They barely advanced to Cleveland, needing overtime to edge 11th-seeded Central Michigan in the opening round.

But Kent State found its groove inside Quicken Loans Arena and will enter the NCAA field as a team to keep an eye on. The Golden Flashes are athletic, play solid defense and in Hall have one of the most underrated players around.

"We knew if we played Kent State basketball that we would be able to do this," an emotional Hall said. "It feels amazing."

Isaiah Johnson scored 24 and Jimond Ivey 18 as the top-seeded Zips (26-8) had their postseason dreams dashed by their bitter rivals, who ended their 30-game home winning streak just 22 days ago and handed them their second straight loss in the final.

"I feel sick for our guys because they had a terrific season and that's just the reality of this league," Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. "If you have an average night when it really matters, the regular season kind of goes out the window. I'm a big boy, I can take it, but I really feel bad for all the work our guys put in because we just can't go to the Big Dance.

"They made all the plays in the last eight minutes. We didn't, and just feel bad for our kids."

The third game in three weeks between the schools separated by 11 miles lived up to its reputation as the MAC's best and fiercest rivalry. Underscoring the competitiveness, Kent State leads the all-time series 75-73.

Trailing much of the game, Akron, which will likely have to watch the NCAA Tournament at home, pulled even at 49-all with nine minutes to go on a 3-pointer by Josh Williams.

But Kent State wasn't going to be denied as Walker, the fearless sophomore guard from Detroit, scored six points during a 10-0 run that put the Golden Flashes in control.

Following the game, Kent State coach Rob Senderoff was rattling off Hall's accomplishments, unaware that Walker was selected MVP.

When the final horn sounded, Hall, who was in foul trouble in the first half, flung the ball toward Kent State's basket before climbing over a row of chairs and press tables to hug his mom in the stands.

It was a passionate outpouring by Hall and all the Golden Flashes, who had their ups and downs during a season that isn't over.

"Everything just came out," Hall said of seeing his mom. "I wanted to thank her for having me, raising me and believing in me."

Kent State has a few more believers.

TOUGHER SCHEDULES

MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher thinks the league's schools need to do a better job scheduling outside the conference to build resumes and make them more attractive for multiple NCAA bids.

The conference hasn't had two teams make the NCAA field since 1999.

"It's who you play and who you beat," he said. "We've got to move that needle up. You've got to go out and figure out a way to get it done."

BLOOD LINES

Dambrot is from a rich basketball background.


His uncle, Irwin, played for the 1950 City College of New York team that won both the NCAA Tournament and NIT in the same season -- the only school to pull off that double-double. Irwin Dambrot was also chosen MVP of that NCAA tourney and selected in the first round by the New York Knicks in the NBA draft.

BIG PICTURE

Kent State: It was a nice turnaround for the Golden Flashes, who started 1-4 in conference play and missed getting a first-round bye because of a home loss to Akron on March 3.

Akron: The Zips have won at least 21 games in 12 straight seasons under Dambrot, something only accomplished during that span by Gonzaga, Kansas and Duke.

UP NEXT

Kent State: The Golden Flashes will watch Sunday's NCAA selection show to see where they're headed.

Akron: An NIT bid is likely for the regular-season conference champions.

Middle Tennessee State: 2016-17 Conference USA Men’s Basketball Champions



BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Giddy Potts and Middle Tennessee both reached the big 3-0 in timely fashion.

Potts matched his season high with 30 points to lead Middle Tennessee to win No. 30 and its second straight Conference USA Tournament championship with an 83-72 victory over Marshall on Saturday night.

Potts scored seven straight points to help the Blue Raiders (30-4) pull away with a late 15-5 run and reach that milestone win for the first time.

"For us to be able to do that in the fashion we did it, it really speaks volumes about our team and what we had to go through over the season and not just being satisfied with what we did last year," Middle Tennessee senior Reggie Upshaw Jr. said.

The Thundering Herd (20-15) pulled within two points at 53-51 with 12:51 left before Potts and Middle Tennessee answered with what proved the decisive run.

Potts, the tournament MVP, made three 3-pointers and grabbed eight rebounds for Middle Tennessee while making seven of eight free throws. League player of the year Jacorey Williams, an Arkansas transfer and Birmingham native, added 17 points and Upshaw scored 15 and had eight boards.

Potts drew some motivation from being relegated to third-team all-conference status.

"We were talking about that the whole week," he said. "(Teammates) were telling me I've just got to come out and play my game and I'd be MVP."

CJ Burks led Marshall with 16 points. Stevie Browning finished a strong tournament with 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He had 78 points in four games.

Austin Loop got all 12 of his points on four 3-pointers. Jon Elmore, the league's leading scorer, had 12 points despite 2-of-9 3-point shooting. Adjin Penava had 10 points.

"I don't think we shot as well as we usually do," Elmore said. "The whole tournament we've been kind of burning the nets down and making everything. We started out slow and still didn't shoot very well for us at all."

The Blue Raiders had a 13-point lead cut to 40-32 by halftime. Browning punctuated the half with a contested 3-pointer with 5 seconds left for Marshall and added another in the final second.

"This team kicked the car on down the road a little bit," third-year Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said. "We got 20 wins and were in the finals of the conference and started out at rock bottom. The hardest part is taking a program that's maturing and playing one that's mature."

BIG PICTURE

Marshall: defeated two of the top three seeds to make the title game, and was seeking its first NCAA Tournament bid since the 1986-87 season. ... Missed its first 10 3-point attempts after setting a school and C-USA tournament record with 19 makes in a semifinal win over Louisiana Tech. Finished 10 of 32 from beyond the arc.


"For the first 13 minutes, we guarded about as well as we can guard," the Blue Raiders' Davis said. "We made them take tough shots."

Middle Tennessee: reached 30 wins for the first time. ... Made 30 of 56 shots (53.6 percent). ... Outrebounded Marshall 41-35.

TECHNICALLY SPEAKING

D'Antoni drew a technical foul with 5:12 left protesting a foul call against Penava. Potts made one of two technical free throws to push the Blue Raiders' lead back to double digits. Upshaw, who drew the foul, made both of his attempts from the line.

UP NEXT

Marshall hopes for an NIT berth to extend the season and careers of three senior starters.

Middle Tennessee awaits its NCAA Tournament destination after arriving in Birmingham with an already-strong RPI of 37. "Our team thinks we've got a lot of basketball left and that's going to be our mindset this week," Davis said.

North Dakota: 2016-17 Big Sky Men's Basketball Champions



RENO, Nev. -- North Dakota senior guard Quenton Hooker remembers how tough it was to lose to Weber State as a freshman in the 2012 Big Sky Conference Tournament.

He also remembers it as a sophomore and as a junior.

"Ever since my freshman year, they've always been the team to knock us out," Hooker said. "I remember seeing them celebrate in their home gym. I remember leaving and thinking, `I want that. We want that. This program deserves that.' It took some ups and downs. but to do that (win the championship), it really is special."

Top-seeded North Dakota beat Weber State 93-89 in overtime night to win the Big Sky Conference Tournament championship and get the program's first NCAA Tournament berth.

Since joining the Big Sky in 2012, North Dakota (22-9) has had its chances to win the tournament and make the NCAA Tournament, but Weber State (19-13) always stood in the way.

North Dakota rallied with a 20-9 run to force overtime after falling behind 72-61 with 7:26 left.

Geno Crandall's layup with 7 seconds tied the game at 81.

In the extra period, Crandall and Hooker combined for 10 of North Dakota's 12 points.

"They've knocked us out of this tournament every year, so it's just a day for us to exercise our demons," North Dakota coach Brian Jones said.

Center Conner Avants added 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting, and Corey Baldwin scored 10 points. Jeremy Senglin led the third-seeded Wildcats with 26 points. Kyndahl Hill added 21 points and 12 rebounds.

"It's exciting," Weber State coach Randy Rahe said. "It's what you play for. You play all season to try to get there (the championship game). We've won our share. We've lost our share. If you get there enough times, you're not going to win them all."

Senglin passed Bruce Collins (1976-1980) for the most points in Weber State history (2,030).

UP NEXT

Weber State: The Wildcats hope to get into the NIT or another lesser tournament.

North Dakota: The Fighting Hawks are headed to their first NCAA Tournament.

Villanova: 2016-17 Big East Men's Basketball Champions



NEW YORK -- The final buzzer sounded on Villanova's decisive win over Creighton in the Big East title game, and it was time for the Wildcats to celebrate.

Only they didn't. A few hugs, a couple of high-fives. That was it.

If there had been no Big East champion signs to hold up or hats to wear, you might have thought Villanova had just beaten DePaul in an early-January conference game.

"We have more work to do. A lot better we can get," senior forward Darryl Reynolds said. "You come down a bit quicker because you realize you have so much more work to do than celebrating completely. We're excited, but we understand we have more work to do."

If there was any remaining doubt, Villanova erased it on Saturday. The Wildcats are dialed in for a repeat run to the national championship.

They bounced back from Friday's close semifinal win over Seton Hall with an impressive 74-60 effort against a hot Creighton team. Josh Hart had 29 points and six rebounds as he continues his late push toward national player of the year honors; Jalen Brunson finished with 17 points and five assists; and Kris Jenkins buried two early 3-pointers en route to 14 points.

Villanova's Josh Hart had 29 points and six rebounds against Creighton in the Big East title game, but the Wildcats didn't spend much time celebrating. David Hahn/Icon Sportswire

With the win, Villanova enters the NCAA tournament with the fewest losses (three) of any reigning national champion since Duke in 2001-02.

But while all the talk outside the program is about the Wildcats having a chance to be the first repeat champion since Florida in 2006 and 2007, the players insist it's not even on their mind.

"We don't talk about it," Reynolds said. "We were the champions last year. This year, if we won again, that's two different trophies. Nobody can take what we did last year from us. You can move forward and free your mind and realize that last year was last year. We gotta take care of business this year."

Seriously? Never discussed?

"You just said it," Jenkins said. "That's the only time it's been mentioned."

Although Villanova's 31-3 record looks near flawless, the Wildcats are still fine-tuning for the three weeks ahead. Coach Jay Wright experimented with a variety of different lineups and defenses during the week in New York, utilizing jumbo lineups with four frontcourt players on the court at the same time and switching to zone defenses more often to throw a wrinkle at opponents.

Hart, Brunson and Jenkins are the mainstays, but Wright wants to make sure he has a few more tricks up his sleeve in the NCAA tournament. Freshman big man Dylan Painter was the newest change, as he played a season-high 22 minutes against St. John's on Thursday with Mikal Bridges sidelined due to a stomach virus.

Combined with Eric Paschall and Donte DiVincenzo off the bench, Painter gives Wright his deepest rotation of the season -- at the right time.

"Those guys have really developed into big-time players," Wright said. "So it gives us a good eight-man rotation now, which is very important, especially this time of year."

This week in New York refocused Villanova. The Wildcats hadn't really been tested in a couple of months. There was the home loss to Butler a few weeks ago, but aside from that, they hadn't had a win by fewer than 11 points since Feb. 1 against Providence. And then on Friday, Seton Hall jumped on them early and had the lead late, but Hart and Brunson made big plays to get the win for Villanova.

If Villanova is to go on and reach the Final Four, it will look back at that victory as a turning point.

"It was a wake-up call on our attitudes and our habits," DiVincenzo said. "We know if we have one of those slip-ups in the NCAA tournament, a great team is going to get us."

So where might Villanova slip up in the next couple of weeks? The big three of Hart, Brunson and Jenkins are in sync, depth has been addressed, focus and complacency are no longer issues.

Villanova will enter Sunday as the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and a favorite to win the national championship. It will have a favorable geographic path, heading to Buffalo and New York, before the Final Four.

There's the elephant in the room, though. Pressure.


Villanova, after years of being overlooked regardless of regular-season performance, is the hunted. If there's a team prepared to handle it, though, it's the Wildcats. They have the experience of winning a title, and with four straight regular-season championships, being in everyone else's crosshairs isn't a new feeling.

"We got a target on our back throughout the whole year," sophomore forward Bridges said. "No. 1 team in the country, teams bringing their best, reigning national champs the whole year. No pressure, we just know we gotta bring it."

Make no mistake, Villanova is locked in for the next three weeks.

"I feel like we're getting better at the right time," Jenkins said.

And that's a scary thought for the rest of the country.

Iowa State: 2016-17 Big XII Men's Basketball Champions



KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Steve Prohm hadn’t even yet helped cut the net from the rim Saturday night, and already the Iowa State coach was thinking about the next challenge.

“The NCAA tournament is totally different,” Prohm said over the cheers of some 15,000 ISU fans who packed into the Sprint Center on Saturday night as the Cyclones beat West Virginia 80-74 to secure the Big 12 tournament title.

“The biggest thing I’m going to do tomorrow is get them refocused. Let them enjoy tonight and then get focused and stay humble, so we can try to win games in the tournament as well. Because when this team’s good offensively, I think we’re very, very tough to beat.”

Iowa State played better than good offensively in Kansas City -- it was great. The Cyclones shot 54.2 percent Saturday against the Mountaineers’ aggressive defense, less than 1 percentage point below their rate from the first two games, victories over Oklahoma State and TCU.

Iowa State improved to 9-1 in the Big 12 tournament over the past four seasons. This victory marked its third tournament championship over that time. Success in Kansas City is not the problem.

This Big 12 tournament title is the third in four seasons for Iowa State senior Monte Morris (11), but he and the Cyclones haven't advanced past the Sweet 16 in any of those years. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It’s winning consistently in the subsequent games that proves troublesome for the Cyclones. They’re 4-3 in the NCAA tournament since 2014 and last advanced past the Sweet 16 in 2000.

As Prohm said, the NCAA tournament presents a different kind of challenge than this little trip to Kansas City.

But what if doesn’t?

A peek at the NCAA tournament bracket shows regional games March 23 and 25 at the Sprint Center. There would exist no better place for Iowa State to clear that next hurdle than at its home away from home, though it’s likely too much to ask for the selection committee on Sunday to position the Cyclones for a return trip.

Regardless, an opportunity awaits. Iowa State starts four senior guards: Big 12 tournament MVP Monte Morris, Deonte Burton, Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas.

They combined for 53 points as Iowa State beat WVU for the first time in three tries this season, and they hold the key to success for the Cyclones next week and beyond.

“We’ve still got a month or so together,” Thomas said amid confetti and hand slaps after the buzzer.

A month? That’s a lofty expectation, indicative of the Cyclones’ collective mindset after much of their veteran core endured a first-round loss to UAB on the heels of a Big 12 tournament title in 2015.

“We won this same tournament, and the next week of our lives was miserable,” Morris said. “So that’s definitely in our seniors’ heads. We’ve just got to keep everyone together. That’s our job, us being seniors.”

Despite the electric atmosphere for Iowa State in Kansas City, Thomas said the Cyclones don’t want to remember Saturday as “the highlight of our season.”

“You can’t stay on this high for too long,” he said. “Losing in the first round, that taste, that’s something you don’t forget. I still have nightmares about that game.”

Last year, the Cyclones, as a No. 4 seed, beat Iona and Little Rock before losing to Virginia. In 2014, they fell in the Sweet 16 to eventual national champion UConn.

Before Saturday's victory, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi slotted the Cyclones as a No. 6 seed. Seemingly, at 23-10, Iowa State can’t rise above the fourth line.

It likely makes for a difficult road, not that any are easy in March.

“We can’t be complacent,” Burton said. “We have to be as hungry as we [were] coming here. That’s the biggest thing: just not losing the ‘want’ to win, the ‘will’ to win.”

Seems that the Cyclones, without much prodding from Prohm, have decided not to celebrate this championship for long.

Prohm finally got his turn on the ladder, holding his son, Cass, who turned 2 on Saturday, in his left arm as he cut the final strand of the net with his right hand. The Iowa State band serenaded Cass with a playing of “Happy Birthday.”

It was a party, for sure.

But when Prohm -- in his second season at Iowa State after four at Murray State -- left the court, his message quickly grew clear.

“There is more story to write,” he said. “That’s what I told them in the locker room. Stay humble. Do the right thing, and let’s get ready for next week.”

Duke: 2016-17 Atlantic Coast Men's Basketball Champions



NEW YORK -- Jayson Tatum took over in the final three minutes, making key plays on both ends of the floor, and No. 14 Duke became the first team to win the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament with four wins in four days by rallying to beat No. 22 Notre Dame 75-69 on Saturday night.

The freshman forward finished a spectacular week in Brooklyn with 19 points and eight rebounds for the fifth-seeded Blue Devils (27-8). Duke won its first ACC Tournament championship since 2011 and its 20th overall, most in league history.

Bonzie Colson was a beast for third-seeded Notre Dame (25-9), with 29 points and nine rebounds.

The Blue Devils came from double digits down in the second half to beat both No. 10 Louisville and No. 6 North Carolina to get to the finals at Barclays Center and then came from eight back with 11:35 left to defeat the Irish.

Tatum made a running hook to give Duke a 65-62 lead, but Colson's 3-pointer with 2:25 left tied it.

Tatum hit one of two free throws to put Duke back in front, then came through with the play of the night. Or make that, the plays of the night.

He blocked Steve Vasturia's drive to the hoop and then went coast to coast for a layup to make it 68-65 with 1:33 left. Matt Farrell pulled Notre Dame within two with a couple of free throws before Tatum showed off another skill, driving and dishing to Matt Jones for a 3 to make it 71-67 with 50 seconds remaining. It was Jones' only basket of the game.

Tatum then all but sealed it, getting behind the defense on in inbounds pass from Jones for a slam while being fouled. Tatum completed the three-point play for a 74-69 advantage with 25 seconds left.

Luke Kennard had 16 points for Duke and was selected tournament MVP, but it was really Tatum's time to shine. He scored 69 points in the first three games.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils started the season No. 1 in the country for the eighth time and will head to the NCAA Tournament as ACC Tournament champions for the 20th time. What has transpired in between for the Blue Devils has been anything but routine.

There was Grayson Allen's suspension for tripping an opponent and the intense scrutiny on him that has followed. Coach Mike Krzyzewski missed seven games early in the conference season to have back surgery. Soon after he left, the Blue Devils lost three of four to start 3-4 in ACC play. The nadir was the program's first loss to North Carolina State at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995.

After that game there was a report by ESPN that Coach K, still recovering, held a meeting at his home with players, and forbade them to use their locker room or wear Duke gear. Who knows whether there was a direct correlation, but Duke won seven straight from that point on.

Allen then hurt his ankle and the Blue Devils finished the regular season losing three of four. They came to Brooklyn as the fifth seed and a flawed team.

Now it all seems to be coming together.


Notre Dame: The Irish can look no further than their 6-for-25 performance from 3-point range to explain why they came up short. VJ Beachem and Farrell each went 1 for 6. That's a tough way for a team that usually shoots 39 percent from 3 to win.

UP NEXT

Duke: How far will the Blue Devils' late surge push them up the NCAA seed chart? A No. 1 seed has never had as many as eight losses.

Notre Dame: Another NCAA Tournament awaits the Irish. They have reached the round of eight the last two years.

Texas Southern: 2016-17 Southwestern Athletic Men’s Basketball Champions



HOUSTON -- Unlike the rest of the conference tournament championship games across the country, an NCAA Tournament berth wasn't on the line in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

With Alcorn State being ineligible for postseason play, the meeting between the Braves and the Texas Southern was just for the conference tournament title.

Kevin Scott had 15 points and 12 rebounds and top-seeded Texas Southern beat Alcorn State 53-50 on Saturday.

"Very difficult to get up for a game knowing you're already qualified for the NCAA Tournament," Texas Southern coach Mike Davis said. "Very challenging but they stepped up to the plate. Ugly game for both teams but we're excited to be in the NCAA Tournament."

The Tigers (24-11) won the title for the third time in the last four years.

Tournament MVP Marvin Jones added 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and Demontrae Jefferson had 13 points for Texas Southern.

"It feels unbelievable," Jones said. "I feel numb. It's just a blessing. When you're going through things in your life and you have downfalls, you just have to find that faith in yourself and God. I just took that and I ran with it. Just being here sitting in front of you guys is normal because I already picture myself doing this."

Reginal Johnson led Alcorn State (18-14) with 16 points, and Denel Dulin had 12.

Jefferson scored Texas Southern's final five points, hitting a 3-pointer with 1:06 left for a 51-47 lead.

"It was huge because the first two games we played with them we had a tip-in with 0.8 seconds to go up two and to play overtime at our place," Davis said. "To be in the situation where we are up four points, making it a two possession game it gave us a little confidence."

Alcorn State's A.J. Mosby had a wide-open look for a tying 3-pointer with six seconds left, but it rattled out and Texas Southern got the rebound to secure its ninth straight victory.

"I wanted to put the ball in A.J. Mosby's hands," Alcorn State coach Montez Robinson said. "He's normally, percentage wise, our best shooter from behind the arc He had a solid look, it actually went in and came out. You couldn't have asked for a better shot, better execution from your guys. One of those situations where the ball was at a bad angle."

The third meeting of the season played out just like the previous two, which Texas Southern won 67-65 and 94-88 in overtime.

Texas Southern took a 10-2 lead, with Scott and Jones scoring eight points.

Shooting 42.6 percent from the field in the opening half, the Tigers were able push their lead up to as many as 10 at multiple points. Alcorn State struggled, going 8 of 28 in the first half.

Down 37-31 with 10:37 left in the game, Alcorn State had a 12-5 run to take a 43-42 lead, the first of the game for the Braves with 5:34 left.


"We started out slow," Robinson said. "I thought our legs got up under us and we were able to flow into our offense and do what we needed to do. We guarded the crap out of them, I thought it was one of our best defensive games that we've had all year It's really tough when these guys have done everything you've asked them to do."

With 4:20 left, Scott buried his lone 3-pointer, giving Texas Southern the lead for good. Scott scored nine of his 15 points in the second half.

The trio of Jefferson, Scott and Jones scored 42 of Texas Southern's 53 points. The Tigers shot 39.2 percent from the field, while Alcorn State was at just 33.3 percent.

Texas Southern is 0-6 in NCAA Tournament play.

"I want to get it to the point where people expect us to go play in the Final Four," Davis said. "No one thinks that way. Everybody thinks, you're in the NCAA Tournament, feel good about it, go next week and play well. Make us proud. Making me proud is playing for the national championship."

North Carolina Central: 2016-17 Mid-Eastern Men's Basketball Champions



The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference had a new champion crowned on Saturday afternoon. The No. 1-seeded North Carolina Central beat No. 2 Norfolk State 67-59 in the MEAC Conference tournament championship game.

Things were tight in the first half, with North Carolina Central heading to the locker room trailing 38-35 at halftime. The Eagles had an impressive defensive effort in the second half, holding the Spartans to just 21 points, including an 11-minute scoring drought that ended with three minutes left in the half.

The Eagles’ offense was led by senior guard Patrick Cole, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on the day. Cole is North Carolina Central’s leading scorer, averaging 20 points per game.

With the victory on Saturday, North Carolina Central has officially punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament, just the second time in school history the team has made the tournament. The last time the Eagles made it to the tournament was in 2014, and they lost in the second round that year.

The No. 1-seeded North Carolina Central got past Bethune-Cookman and Maryland-Eastern Shore in the first quarter and semifinal rounds to advance to the championship game. Norfolk State, on the other hand, survived a tough South Carolina State team, needing overtime to get the 93-88 victory in the first round. The Spartans beat the No. 11 seed Howard in the semifinals to advance.

Hampton, the conference’s reigning champion from 2016, entered as the No. 4 seed. The Pirates lost to Maryland Eastern Shore 68-66 in the quarterfinal round, finishing their season with a 14-16 overall record.

Vermont: 2016-17 America East Men's Basketball Champions



BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Payton Henson scored 17 points, Anthony Lamb had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Vermont beat Albany 56-53 on Saturday to win its sixth America East Conference Tournament.

It was the 21st straight victory for Vermont (29-5) -- the longest streak in the nation -- and the Catamounts will make their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2012. It's the longest winning streak in the 117-year history of the program, topping 18.

Vermont overcame a nine-point, second-half deficit and Henson's 3-point play with 39 seconds left broke a tie at 52. Down by three with 0.3 left, Albany's David Nichols intentionally missed his second free throw and the ball was deflected out of bounds.

Trae Bell-Haynes added eight points, five rebounds and four assists for Vermont, but he was held to 2-of-11 shooting. The Catamounts were just 33.3 percent from the floor.

Travis Charles led Albany (21-13) with 16 points and Nichols 14.