Saturday, March 10, 2018

Cal State Fullerton: 2017-18 Big West Men's Basketball Champions

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Kyle Allman scored 26 points, and Khalil Ahmad added 23 to lead Cal State Fullerton to a 71-55 win over UC Irvine Saturday in the Big West Tournament championship.

Allman was in a groove all game and had a glorious, two-handed breakaway dunk with 4:29 left to put the exclamation mark on the game. He made his first four 3-point attempts. That gave the fourth-seeded Titans a 65-49 lead. When he was at the free-throw line at the end of the game, Titans fans chanted "MVP! MVP!"

Allman made 8 of 16 shots.

Cal State Fullerton won the Big West tournament for the first time since 2008, making the Ttians' upcoming NCAA Tournament appearance the first in a decade and first under coach Dedrique Taylor.

After going scoreless in the semifinals, UC Irvine's Evan Leonard scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half.

Both teams suffered from poor shooting in the first half. The Titans shot 25.9 percent from the field and the Anteaters 30.3 percent.


Lakers rookie guard Lonzo Ball sat courtside for the championship game. Ball played high school basketball with UC Irvine forward John Edgar Jr. and Fullerton guard Austen Awosika at Chino Hills (California) High.


Cal State Fullerton: The Titans made their mark this season by beating top seed UC Davis three times this year, including the Big West semifinals.

UC Irvine: As UC Santa Barbara coach Joe Pasternack said, the Anteaters are the "gold standard" of the conference. Even with a young team, the Anteaters advanced to the Big West Tournament final, so the future should be bight.


Cal State Fullerton: The Titans are battle-tested, winning close games in the quarterfinals and semifinals to get to the championship but controlled the tournament championship most of the game.

UC Irvine: The Anteaters are putting themselves in good position in the offseason. They played for the tournament championship for the second consecutive season but lost both. The Anteaters have also played for the tournament title for the fourth time in six years.

New Mexico State: 2017-18 Western Athletic Men's Basketball Champions

LAS VEGAS -- Even with three different coaches in three years, New Mexico State keeps making NCAA Tournament appearances.

In the offseason, Chris Jans took over an already successful Aggies program after Paul Weir left for instate rival New Mexico. One year earlier, Marvin Menzies left for UNLV.

Jans got things organized during the season and rolling late as his Aggies once again won the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship Saturday night with a 72-58 victory over upstart Grand Canyon at the Orleans Arena.

Zach Lofton scored 21 points, AJ Harris had 20, and Jemerrio Jones added 15 points and 18 rebounds to help New Mexico State win its fifth straight WAC Tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament berth.

"We're going dancing," Jans said. "This was quite the journey. Hired a great staff and had to go to work everyday. Summer and fall were rough. There was lots of back and forth. We had to get on the right page. This group likes each other."

Jones was named tournament MVP. He had a tourney record of 55 rebounds in three games, while the previous record was set in four games with 53 by Boise State's Jason Ellis in 2005.

"I thought Zac would get (MVP)," Jones said. "I don't care about that. All I want to do is win."

The top-seeded Aggies (28-5) have won eight of their 13 appearances in the WAC Tournament.

"I don't care what seed they give us," said Jans, whose program has lost its last nine NCAA Tournament games, dating back to 1993. "This time, we have an experience bunch. They seed us where they seed us. Our guys are going to fight and be a tough matchup for anyone."

Alessandro Lever had 19 points to lead third-seeded Grand Canyon (22-11). Keonta Vernon had 17 points, while Casey Benson had nine points and seven rebounds for the Lopes, who were seeking their first NCAA Tournament appearance in its first year of postseason eligibility after being in Division I for five years.

"It wasn't our night. It wasn't our time." Grand Canyon coach Dan Majerle said. "I'm really, really proud of them. We've been waiting five years. It was a great year for our guys. We played real hard. We know what it's like to be here. Now there's something at the end (of the season)."

LOPES RALLY, AGGIES RALLY: After leading 36-22 early in the second half, the Aggies' lead was cut to 50-47 with 9:14 left. But New Mexico used a 6-0 run to keep distance from the Lopes the rest of the way.

The Lopes built their largest lead at 16-12 as both teams struggled offensively for the first 16 minutes. The Aggies responded with a 22-6 run, aided by four 3-pointers, two by Lofton. That run carried early into the second half.

"To credit them, we had a defensive breakdown (late in the first half)," Majerle said. "You have Jones, you have Lofton, and you have Jones going to get every rebound. Hats off to them. They have some really good players."

The Aggies swept the regular season, including winning at Grand Canyon 74-70 exactly one month ago.

New Mexico State: The Aggies are now 18-2 all-time at the Orleans Arena. .. Lofton also made the WAC All-Tournament team. . Lofton was ecstatic in the postgame press conference. "I'm so happy I came here," he said. "I didn't expect us to be that good. We had new hurdles, everything worked out."

Grand Canyon: The Lopes started 1 of 9 from 3-point range. ... Before Saturday, the Lopes defense has been key to their run, ranking fourth in the country in effective opponent field goal percentage at 43.7 percent. ... Lever and Vernon both made the all-tournament team. ... Grand Canyon may get an invitation from a smaller pay-to-play tournament. "It's something we have to talk about," Majerle said. "It will be more for our young guys."


New Mexico State: The NCAA Tournament.

Grand Canyon: Wait for an invitation to a smaller tournament.

Texas Southern: 2017-18 Southwestern Athletic Men's Basketball Champions

HOUSTON -- Texas Southern started out 0-13 this season. Didn't win a game until Jan. 1. Never beat a nonconference opponent.

Who cares? The Tigers are going to the NCAA Tournament.

Trayvon Reed had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Demontrae Jefferson added 15 points and Texas Southern downed top-seeded Arkansas-Pine Bluff 84-69 Saturday in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.

"We all came together at the right time, we all made a decision that winning basketball games were more important than anything else," coach Mike Davis said. "So being 0-13, it only bothered other people."

Texas Southern (15-19) earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.

This is the Tigers' fourth appearance in the last five years. They're the only team since 1985 to reach the NCAA Tournament after starting 0-13.

"I can't wait for tomorrow," Davis said. "Let's get this selection Sunday going."

Last season, Texas Southern was ousted in the first round by eventual national champion North Carolina.

"I went last year and we came up short to North Carolina," Jefferson said. "I'm just trying to remain focused and know that this is just the beginning of the true March Madness."

Texas Southern will try and be the first team from the SWAC to win an NCAA Tournament game since 2010, when Arkansas-Pine Bluff beat Winthrop in the opening round.

"This year no matter who it is, we've got guys who can score points," Davis said. "We've got guys that can play. They don't fear anyone. We went to Kansas and Kansas beat us and all those teams beat us. But it wasn't like we were in the locker room shaking with nerves. We went out there and played our best basketball."

The Tigers also lost to Gonzaga and Clemson this season, and twice fell to Arkansas-Pine Bluff (14-20).

Trailing by nine at halftime, the Golden Lions closed to 57-55 with 11:05 left.

Texas Southern stayed in charge, and kept the lead from the foul line.

Jefferson scored six of the final 11 points for the Tigers, all on free throws. He finished 11 of 11 from the line.

"I didn't shoot the ball well in the SWAC Tournament," Jefferson said. "It was just trying to stay locked it. I couldn't really think about the makes and misses. Just taking the shots my team needed me to take, which were free throws tonight. So it was just get up there and knock those down for the team."

Arkansas Pine-Bluff struggled at the start and fell behind 22-11 midway through the first half.

"It's hard, especially playing against an outstanding team like Texas Southern that shot the ball extremely well tonight," Arkansas-Pine Bluff coach George Ivory said. "At the end of the day you can't beat a team that's shooting 59 percent from the field. It's very tough."

Golden Lions star Martaveous McKnight, the SWAC Player of the Year, didn't score until 9:38 before halftime. He finished with 17 points.

"Just look forward to the next play, forget the play before," McKnight said. "Keep believing in my teammates and keep playing. I don't think about it too much."

Christian Robertson also scored 17 points in the loss.

"I think the guys came back out in the second half and picked it up and they played well," Ivory said. "We had a couple of chances, had some miscues, but overall very proud of this team for what we've accomplished this year. We look for bigger and better things next year."

Stephen F. Austin: 2017-18 Southland Men's Basketball Champions

KATY, Texas -- Stephen F. Austin has become accustomed to earning the Southland Conference's NCAA Tournament berth.

"They are the Kentucky of the Southland Conference," Southeastern Louisiana coach Jay Ladner said.

And after earning their fourth trip to the tournament in five years, the Lumberjacks aren't happy with just getting in.

T.J. Holyfield had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Stephen F. Austin rallied for a 59-55 win over Southeastern Louisiana in the Southland championship on Saturday night.

"It's exciting to be back in the tournament," said Holyfield, who was voted the tournament MVP. "Coach talked about he wants to coach the best team, and I feel we have to win a certain amount of games to do that, and we have to win a couple games in the tournament to do that."

Ivan Canette added 10 points for SFA (28-6), which earned its fifth NCAA Tournament appearance and fourth in the last five years after missing last season. The Lumberjacks shot 42 percent from the field and hit seven of 15 3-pointers.

"We haven't done anything," SFA coach Kyle Keller said. "Tonight, we won the tournament, but these guys are thirsty to do more. ... Our season is starting."

Joshua Filmore had 14 points, and Marlain Veal added 12 points, six rebounds and five assists for Southeastern Louisiana (22-11), which had its nine-game winning streak snapped.

"We just didn't execute," Veal said. "We didn't trap as much."

The Lions are still looking for their second NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2005.

After two free throws by Veal gave the Lions a 51-49 lead, Kevon Harris hit a 3-pointer to give SFA a one-point lead with 3:21 left.

"I just try to play with confidence," Harris said. "I stepped up and made a big shot."

Filmore missed a 3-pointer on the Lions' next trip down the floor, and John Comeaux hit one of two free throws to give the Lumberjacks a 53-51 lead with 2:24 left.

Southeastern Louisiana committed turnovers on its next two possessions, and Holyfield hit a layup with 1:08 remaining to up the Lumberjacks' lead to four. Filmore hit two free throws with 54 second left to cut the lead to two.

"Once we got ahead of them, all the pressure got on them," Keller said.

Canette missed a free throw but got his own rebound and hit a layup with 39 seconds left to up the lead back to four, but Veal hit a layup eight seconds later to cut the lead to two. Ty Charles connected on two free throws with 20 seconds remaining, and after Eddy Polanco missed a jumper with 10 seconds left, the Lumberjacks got the rebound to seal it.

Trailing by 14, the Lions responded with a 22-2 run to take a 49-43 lead on a Joshua Filmore 3-pointer with 5:45 left. Filmore hit three 3-pointers during the run. The Lumberjacks responded with six straight points to tie it at 49 on a layup by John Comeaux with 3:51 remaining.

"We had an opportunity to win leading by six," Ladner said. "They made some tough plays and some big shots at critical times. They deserved to win."

The Lumberjacks took a 32-25 lead into halftime behind seven points apiece from Shannon Bogues and Holyfield.


Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks had a chance to put it away early in the second half when they took the 14-point lead, but SFA went cold from the field, hitting one field goal over a 12-minute span. The Lumberjacks responded with a 16-6 run to end the game. SFA out-rebounded the Lions 34-27 and held a 16-2 edge in second-chance points.

Southeastern Louisiana: The Lions had the momentum with five minutes left and a six-point lead, but they could not keep it up. The Lions got eight points from their bench -- all from Jordan Capps -- and cooled off in the second half, shooting 37.5 percent after shooting 55 percent in the first half. The Lions also committed 15 turnovers.

"We turned it over a few critical times there," Ladner said. "Too many offensive rebounds and putbacks. That ended up being the big difference."


"To win a championship, to win in March, you have to win the paint. You have to dominate points, rebounds. The physicality of your team -- I don't care how big you are -- the will of your team has to overcome the other opponent no matter who they are." -- Keller.


Joining Holyfield on the tournament team were Veal and Polanco as well as SFA's Shannon Bogues and Sam Houston State's Josh Delaney.


Stephen F. Austin: Awaits its NCAA Tournament opponent.

"I really don't care who we play," Keller said. "We have seen enough styles that we aren't changing. We are going to be who we are that someone's going to have to adjust to us."

Southeastern Louisiana: Earned an automatic berth into the NIT after winning the regular-season championship.

Arizona: 2017-18 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Champions

LAS VEGAS -- Deandre Ayton dribbled through the sea of red-and-white confetti, bobbing and weaving past cheerleaders and fans. The Arizona big man came upon a security guard, dropped a spin move that left both smiling and headed to the locker room.

Ayton's night at the Pac-12 championship was just as smooth a ride.

Ayton had 32 points and 18 rebounds in one of the most dominating performances in Pac-12 Tournament history, leading No. 15 Arizona to its second straight title with a 75-61 victory over Southern California on Saturday night.

"The dominance he just put forth, if there's another player better, I'd like to meet him," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "He put his team on his back, played the right way and absolutely was a one-man wrecking crew."

Ayton put on a show along The Strip, bouncing back from a nervous Pac-12 opener against Colorado with two dominating games.

The Bahamian big man had 32 points and 14 rebounds in a semifinal win over UCLA and knocked the Trojans (23-11) around like bowling pins in the championship game. Ayton made 14 of 20 shots from the floor and all four of his free throws to lead Arizona (27-8) to its ninth Pac-12 title.

"I was a little starstruck, I wasn't ready, rushing all of my shots against Colorado, not taking my time," said Ayton, who matched the Pac-12 freshman record set by UCLA's Kevin Love with his 23rd double-double. "Coach told me to face up, see what the defense is giving me and that's what I did."

USC gave Arizona trouble with its zone at times and had a decent offensive night. The Trojans just had no answer for Ayton.

"I don't think you're going to stop a guy like that, so we just have to try to do our best to contain him," said Nick Rakocevic, led USC with 13 points. "Although he went off tonight.

Both teams fought through adversity to reach the title game.

Arizona was twice entangled in a federal investigation into shady recruiting practices. USC was named in the probe as well, leading to sophomore De'Anthony Melton to be ruled ineligible this season.

The Trojans also have played without Bennie Boatright since Feb. 15, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury, and backup point guard Derryck Thornton missed the semifinals due to an illness.

In the title game, USC had success getting into the lane and with its pick-and-roll on offense while giving the Wildcats trouble with its zone.

Arizona had success getting to the offensive glass -- eight in the first half -- and by getting the ball to Ayton, who had 13 points and eight rebounds by halftime.

USC led 33-30.

"We had a three-point lead at halftime in a Pac-12 championship," USC coach Andy Endfield said. "That's what you play for, that's what you dream about."

But Ayton continued to be a nightmare in the second half and USC went down a big man when Chimezie Metu picked up his fourth foul with 12 minutes left.

Arizona took off from there -- literally.

Rawle Alkins brought the pro-Arizona crowd to a roar with a two-handed dunk over Elijah Stewart and Ayton followed with another dunk to make it even louder, putting Arizona up 53-46.

Ayton kept dunking and the crowd kept roaring until the confetti cannons went off.


USC: likely locked up a spot in the NCAA Tournament after its semifinal victory, but might sweat a little on Selection Sunday

Arizona: looking like one of the nation's best teams at just the right time and should get a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.


Alkins' dunk over Stewart caused maybe the loudest of the night in T-Mobile Arena and still had Arizona's players talking long after the game.

"It took me a few seconds to realize what happened," Arizona center Dusan Ristic said. "It was one of the best dunks I'd ever seen in my life."


USC: will play in the postseason, hoping it will be in the NCAA Tournament.

Arizona: will play in the NCAA Tournament, most likely as a high seed.

San Diego State: 2017-18 Mountain West Men's Basketball Champions

LAS VEGAS -- San Diego State's Trey Kell has been battling injuries throughout the season, missing parts of eight games through mid-February.

So, when a New Mexico player kneed him in his lower leg during the Mountain West Conference tournament championship on Saturday, he wasn't surprised.

He also wasn't coming out of the game.

Kell scored 11 of his game-high 28 points down the stretch to lead San Diego State to an 82-75 come-from-behind victory over the Lobos.

"I felt like I was rolling at the moment, I saw that we were down about six or something like that, so for me, coming out because of an injury wasn't an option," Kell said. "I didn't want to go home. It's just as simple as that."

Instead, Kell and the Aztecs (22-10) are headed to the NCAA Tournament with the league's automatic bid.

San Diego State also got 16 points and five rebounds from Malik Pope and 12 from Devin Watson.

"New Mexico was the one team I didn't want to play in this thing early," first-year San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. "(Coach) Paul Weir has done a great job with that team, they've gotten so much better and a team on an eight-game winning streak played a team on a seven-game winning streak -- it was the kind of game I thought we would see, right down to the end."

New Mexico closed the regular season on a five-game win streak before beating Wyoming by 10 and Utah State by 15 en route to the championship game.

There were 11 lead changes and six ties in a game that saw the Aztecs improve to 15-5 at the Thomas and Mack Center over the past four seasons.

Since losing six of eight in January and February, San Diego State is riding a nine-game win streak into the Big Dance, its longest since winning 11 in a row during the 2015 season. During the nine-game win streak, the Aztecs are winning by an average margin of 13.3.

"We were just tired of losing," Watson said. "We knew we had too much potential to be losing games like that. And mentally from then to now, I feel like we're on a whole new level."

After San Diego State opened the second half by hitting 5 of 6 and 8 of 13, the Lobos found a rhythm and connected on 5 of 7, and used a 21-10 run to take a 63-57 lead with 7:35 left in the game.

Playing in a record 10th Mountain West tournament championship game, the Aztecs weren't ready to concede.

Kell hit a pair of free throws, Jeremy Hemsley buried his first bucket of the game -- a 3-pointer -- and reserve Max Montana completed a four-point play after being fouled on his trey, igniting a 15-2 run. Suddenly, San Diego State was back in front, 72-65 with 3:57 remaining.

Ranked fifth in the nation in 3-pointers made per game (11.1), New Mexico was 8 of 24 from beyond the arc. But while San Diego State was making its big push, the Lobos missed their final seven from long-range.

"They were fortunate enough to make a couple of shots and get on a run," said a stoic Antino Jackson, who led five players in double figures with 17 points. "And we didn't make shots."

The Lobos (19-15) also got contributions from Anthony Mathis, who had 13, Joe Furstinger with 12 and Troy Simons and Sam Logwood, who each had 11.

"They deserve to win the championship, and they did," said New Mexico coach Paul Weir, also in his first year with the program. "Unfortunately for me and for us, that means the end of an amazing run with a tremendous group of young men that I'll never forget. I wish I could give them a different ending because they worked so hard and they gave so much and you always -- like your kids -- want to reward them for things like that Unfortunately I couldn't reward them tonight. And you have to give San Diego State credit for that."


New Mexico: Junior Anthony Mathis, who ranks third in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage with a 49.5 clip from long range, and ranks third all-time on the school's single-season list for 3-pointers made with 98, was 2 of 7 from long range.

San Diego State: The Aztecs overcame their postseason woes against New Mexico, which came into the game sporting a 4-1 mark against San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament and 2-1 when the teams met as members in the Western Athletic Conference tournament.


New Mexico: Will hope to get a call from a lower-tier postseason tournament.

San Diego State: Will play in the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina Central: 2017-18 Mid-Eastern Men's Basketball Champions

NORFOLK, Va. -- North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Moton looked at his phone and couldn't help but laugh.

Early this season, when the Eagles were struggling on defense and incorporating freshmen into the lineup, his phone was pretty quiet. But on Saturday, it was blowing up with congratulatory text messages after the Eagles used a late 11-0 run to break a 58-all tie and beat Hampton 71-63 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Association championship.

"This championship is different," Moton said, because it was unexpected. "To be honest, a lot of people gave up on this team."

The championship -- and automatic NCAA Tournament berth -- is the second in a row and third in five years for the Eagles (19-15).

"We've created the standard at North Carolina Central and I'm proud because these guys and the other guys in the locker room, they upheld that standard," Moton said.

Pablo Rivas had 22 points and the Eagles took command after neither team scored for more than two minutes.

"We just started coming up with some stops," said Rivas, whom Moton described as his best player, and who agreed to come off the bench after starting just one game.

Jordan Perkins added 13 points and nine assists and John Guerra scored 12 for the Eagles, including a pair of 3-pointers early in the second half. The junior had arrived at Scope Arena for the start of the tournament earlier in the week having made just five 3s all season.

"They had some guys that we kind of dared to make plays and they made them," Hampton coach Ed Joyner Jr. said.

The loss came in the Pirates' final MEAC game because they are moving to the Big South next season.

Malique Trent-Street scored 15 points to lead the Pirates (19-15), who also were seeking their third MEAC title in five years. Instead, as the regular-season champions, they are assured a spot in the National Invitation Tournament.

"The NIT is cool, but we wanted to leave the MEAC with the championship," Trent-Street said.

Akim Mitchell and Greg Heckstall each added 11 points for the Pirates, who made just 4 of 18 3-point tries (22.2 percent).

A 3-pointer by Kalin Fisher pulled Hampton even at 58-all with 4:24 to play, but the Pirates didn't score again until Trent-Street's layup with 18 seconds to go.

"I stayed up all night trying to develop a game plan because the first time we played them, that didn't work," Moton said, referencing an 86-70 home loss to the Pirates on Feb. 5.


N.C. Central: The Eagles have made winning a habit in recent years, and did so this year with two freshmen -- Reggie Gardner Jr. (11.0 ppg) and Jordan Perkins (8.3 ppg, 5.4 apg) -- figuring prominently in the backcourt. They combined with veterans Raasean Davis, Rivas and Guerra to make NCCU a dangerous team to take lightly in the postseason.

Hampton: The Pirates were sloppy with the ball in the closing minutes, ruining their chances at a victory in front of a partisan and pro-Hampton crowd. The Pirates also got little help from their bench, which was outscored 28-9 by the NCCU reserves.


N.C. Central will head to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in five years.

The Pirates' loss means the NIT is their consolation prize.

Buffalo: 2017-18 Mid-American Men's Basketball Champions

CLEVELAND -- Handed a pair scissors, Buffalo coach Nate Oats began climbing a ladder to cut down another championship net.

As he rose above the floor, the fans below him chanted: "Five more years! Five more years!"

The Bulls are back on top, and they just might stay there for a while.

Wes Clark scored 26 points, Nick Perkins added 16, including a big 3-pointer in the final three minutes, and Buffalo won its third Mid-American Conference championship -- and the league's automatic NCAA bid -- in four years on Saturday night with a 76-66 victory over a Toledo team missing its top player.

The top-seeded Bulls (26-8) were the MAC's best team all season, and it was no different inside Quicken Loans Arena, where Buffalo won its three games by an average of 14.

"We know how to play the game," said Buffalo guard Jeremy Harris.

Buffalo's recent supremacy under Oats in the cutthroat conference hasn't been done since Kent State won titles in 1999, 2001 and 2002, a Golden Flashes team that came within one win of the Finals Four.

These Bulls may not get that far, but with depth, toughness and a shoot-now-ask-questions-later offense, they're a handful for anyone and Buffalo has a program to be reckoned with.

"People want to go where you get to go to the NCAA Tournament," said Oats, who signed a five-year contract extension on Thursday. "Kids want to go to the NCAA. I want to coach them."

Toledo gave Buffalo all it could handle despite playing without star senior guard Tre'Shaun Fletcher, who sat out with a left knee injury suffered in the quarterfinals. Fletcher was the league's top player this season, and his absence made things even tougher on the second-seeded Rockets (23-11), who couldn't end their 38-year NCAA drought.

"We knew this wasn't going to be as easy as people thought," said Oats, who took over Buffalo's three years ago when Bobby Hurley left for Arizona State. "We knew they would fight without Fletcher."

The Rockets fought and never let the Bulls get too far away, and when freshman Marreon Jackson nailed a 3-pointer with 4:50 left, Toledo had pulled even at 63-all.

But the tourney-tested Bulls, led by Clark a Missouri transfer who was academically ineligible last season, went on a 9-0 run, highlighted by the beefy 6-foot-8 Perkins drilling his line-drive 3-pointer.

Clark was named the tournament's most valuable player after finishing 10 of 15 from the field with five rebounds, four steals and three steals.

Before the game, Oats pulled aside Clark, who played for him at a Michigan high school, and told him that it was up to him to get the Bulls back in the NCAA field.

"I told him, `You gotta play in this thing," Oats recalled. "He made sure we did."

Jaelan Sanford scored 20 and Jackson 13 for the Rockets, who sorely missed Fletcher in the game's waning moments. Toledo missed three straight 3-pointers during Buffalo's big run.

"We're disappointed because we feel we are the better team," Sanford said. "We feel we should have won even without Tre. We have Tre, player of the year, different ballgame."


After re-injuring his knee in the opening minute Friday, Fletcher sat on the bench in street clothes before the game. As his teammates warmed up, Fletcher dribbled a ball between his legs with little expression on his face. It had to be a helpless, crushing feeling for the senior, who averaged 18 points and 8.0 rebounds this season.

However, for Toledo's biggest game, he could only offer vocal and moral support.

Coach Tod Kowalczyk said Fletcher could be back for the NIT, and that the Rockets have earned the right to keep playing.

"I'd like to think that our league is going to fight, scratch and claw to get into that tournament," Kowalczyk said. "We deserve it. We deserve to play in the NIT."


While regarded as one of the nation's most competitive conferences, the MAC hasn't had much NCAA success in recent years. The league is 0-5 in the Tourney since Ohio advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2012.

Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher would like to see that slide end, and see the league well represented in other tournaments.

"Obviously, we want somebody in the NCAA Tournament to win some games," he said. "We'd like to see somebody in the NIT. With regard to the CBI and CIT: If teams want to continue playing, I hope they get the opportunity. I guess I wouldn't put a number to it."


Toledo: A likely NIT bid.

Buffalo: Will make its third NCAA appearance. The Bulls lost to Miami in 2016.

Marshall: 2017-18 Conference USA Men's Basketball Champions

FRISCO, Texas -- The long wait is over for Marshall after all those long shots by Jon Elmore.

Elmore scored 20 of his 27 points after halftime, with a Conference USA championship-game-record seven 3-pointers, and the Thundering Herd are going to their first NCAA tournament since 1987 after a 67-66 win over Western Kentucky on Saturday night.

"We earned it. We fought all year long," said Elmore, with a cut-down net draped over his shoulder.

After coming so close last year, losing in the C-USA title game, Elmore kept hitting long 3s in the second half for the Herd (24-10). He made six of his 3s after the break, including 11 straight points in a span of just more than two minutes.

"We talked about it before the season this year. We were thinking back about just how the season ended, just the feeling in the locker room," Elmore said. "Everybody's heads were down, people were crying, you could have heard a pin drop in there. ... We didn't want that again."

This time, tournament MVP Elmore described what he called an awesome scene with 70-year-old coach and Marshall alumnus Dan D'Antoni jumping around with his players.

"You can tell I'm happy. I'm happy for these kids, I'm happy for this school," said D'Antoni, the self-proclaimed country boy who wears T-shirts under his jacket while coaching. "A long time coming."

The Herd had a 67-55 lead when Elmore made his last 3 with 3:40 left. Western Kentucky (24-10) then scored the game's last 11 points before missing two shots in the final 20 seconds. Jannson Williams got the final rebound and managed to call timeout while falling to the court with 7.3 seconds left.

The Hilltoppers, with 10 wins against teams who have won at least 20 games, missed a chance to get back to their first NCAA tournament since 2013. Instead, they wait to see if they get an NIT bid.

"If you leave anything NCAA tournament in the committee's hands, you're in trouble. You have to win. Marshall won. They took it out of anybody's hands," WKU coach Rick Stansbury said. "I'm comfortable and confident that our team has done enough and deserves an NIT berth for sure."

Ajdin Penava added 16 points and nine rebounds for Marshall, who went into the tournament as the No. 4 seed.

Justin Johnson led WKU with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Josh Anderson and Lamonte Bearden both had 13 points.


Marshall: The Herd were in the Southern Conference when they went to their last NCAA tournament 31 years ago. ... D'Antoni is a Marshall alumnus, and the brother of Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, who was at the game since his NBA team was in town to play the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.

Western Kentucky: Freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth took a shot to the face while going for a rebound on the opening possession, and Stansbury said it's likely that the freshman broke his nose again. Hollingsworth, who was averaging 13.5 points a game, was 0-for-5 shooting and had two free throws while playing 35 minutes.

"He's a tough young man," Stansbury said.


Marshall became the 11th different school to win the C-USA title game in the league's 23 years.


The Hilltoppers wait to see if they will play another game this season.

For the first time in 31 years, the Thundering Herd will be watching on Selection Sunday knowing they're in the NCAA tournament and waiting to see who will be their first-round opponent.

Montana: 2017-18 Big Sky Men's Basketball Champions

RENO, Nevada -- Three straight nights, three consecutive comebacks and the Montana Grizzlies are Big Sky Conference champions and heading to the NCAA Tournament.

Michael Oguine scored 21 points and top-seeded Montana rallied to an 82-65 victory over Eastern Washington in the Big Sky title game on Saturday night.

The Grizzlies trailed 40-29 at halftime, but outscored the Eagles 53-25 in the second half, spurred by an unrelenting defense that had 18 stops in 19 possessions in one extended stretch.

"You saw a group slow down a very explosive offensive team," Montana coach Travis DeCuire said. "For us to hold them to 36 percent in the second half and outscore them by 26 points, that's defense."

Oguine, the tournament's MVP, had only 3 points in the first half, but said the defense helped turn his game around.

"Defense is contagious," he said. "(My teammates) started getting stops and I started to get back in my rhythm."

The Eagles led for much of the first half and went ahead 50-43 after a 3-pointer by Mason Peatling with 14:30 left. The Grizzlies scored the next 11-points as part of a 25-8 run that put them up 75-58 with 2:30 remaining. Oguine scored 15 of the 25 points in the stretch.

Ahmaad Rorie had 15 points, Bobby Morehead scored 12 and Fabijan Krslovic had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Montana (26-7), which is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years.

Montana hit 17 of its 27 shots (63 percent) in the second half, including 6 of 12 3-pointers.

Jacob Davison had 16 points and Bogdan Bliznyuk and Pleating scored 15 each to lead Eastern Washington (20-14).

The third-seeded Eagles hit 53 percent of their shots in the first half (16 of 30), but struggled from the field in the second half, hitting only 5 of 15 shots, including 1 of 7 3-pointers.


Eastern Washington: Faces an uncertain postseason future.

Montana: Awaits its NCAA Tournament seeding.

Villanova: 2017-18 Big East Men's Basketball Champions

NEW YORK -- As confetti fluttered down on a court still simmering from an epic title game, Jay Wright wrapped his arms around several Wildcats. While his current crop of stars got ready to climb a ladder and snip the net again, Wright celebrated with NBA All-Star Kyle Lowry and a slew of other former players who had sat behind the bench in a scene that bridged the start of Villanova's ascent into a powerhouse with this season's Big East Tournament champions.

"I wanted them to be up there and a part of it," Wright said. "I wanted our young guys to see how much pride they take in them and in following them."

They could follow Villanova straight to the Final Four.

Mikal Bridges scored 25 points and hit two 3-pointers in overtime to lift No. 2 Villanova to a 76-66 win over Providence in the Big East title game Saturday night.

The Wildcats (30-4) won their second straight Big East Tournament and third in four years (losing in the 2016 final). They put a bow on a fantastic season that should have them earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Villanova had rolled to a pair of dominant victories in the tourney and held off a pesky Providence team that finally wilted late in its third straight overtime game.

The fifth-seeded Friars (21-13) rallied in the second half from another double-digit hole and seemed set to pull off one more upset and earn the automatic NCAA berth. Providence erased a 17-point deficit in the second half to beat top-seeded Xavier to reach the final. With one stunning rally on its resume, Providence nearly made it two.

Kyron Cartwright hit a jumper with 1:38 left that tied the game at 58 and Alpha Diallo scored on a driving layup with 40 seconds left for a 60-58 lead.

Big East player of the year Jalen Brunson tied it for Villanova with two free throws.

Providence missed a last-gasp shot at the buzzer.

Bridges, who scored 25 points, opened overtime with a 3 and hit another that helped stretch the lead for good. Brunson tied a career high with 31 points on an emphatic dunk that sent the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy.

Brunson proved his worth as the best in the conference. He hit four 3s and made 12 of 23 overall from the floor, showing on the national stage why he's a candidate for national player of the year.

"It's an amazing environment and sometimes you can crumble," Brunson said. "Sometimes things don't go your way, but how are you going to respond to that? I've been a part of great teams with great leaders who've responded to different situations that have helped me through this process."

Ed Cooley coached Providence in the second half with a towel fashioned into a skirt and tucked in his waist after his pants split.

"When I sat down, I felt the great breeze in the crack," he said.

The side-splitting fashion statement almost worked as a rally towel.

Cartwright put Providence's comeback in overdrive when he hit a 3 that made it 51-46 and had Cooley smiling and clapping on the sideline. He loved it even more when Cartwright came right back and hit another 3 that pulled the Friars within two.

Drew Edwards flexed his biceps when he was fouled on a tying basket and had the crowd chanting "Let's Go Friars!" headed into a timeout. He sank the free throw to give Providence its first lead of the game, 52-51.

The Wildcats snatched the lead back and Bridges buried a 3 from the top of the arc that sent the team bench to its feet. Brunson was whistled next time down for an offensive foul and Wright twirled and stretched his arms toward the sky in protest.

"It was old school Big East," Wright said.

Providence kept on coming.

The Friars had defeated three top-five teams this season and were soaring following overtime victories against Creighton and the Musketeers to reach the final. The Friars are the first team in the Big East Tournament to play three straight overtime games.

"It told me my team is tough, resilient, passionate," Cooley said.

Diallo led Providence with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Cartwright scored 19.


Providence: The Friars need some rest following a grueling weekend in New York.

Villanova: The Wildcats are the best in the Big East. What else is new?


Providence: The Friars are headed to their fifth straight NCAA Tournament. Since its trip to the Final Four in 1987, Providence had made only six tourney appearances from 1988 to 2013.

Villanova: The Wildcats should be a No. 1 seed in the tournament. They lost on the opening weekend in 2014, 2015 and 2017. In 2016? They won the national championship.

Kansas: 2017-18 Big 12 Men's Basketball Champions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Devonte Graham ripped off the shooting sleeve he was wearing and tossed it into the crowd, then took the two-time Big 12 defensive player of the year baseline for a pullup jumper.

Talk about unflappable.

Unstoppable, too.

The league's player of the year finished with 18 points and 13 assists, most of them during the decisive second half, and Graham led ninth-ranked Kansas to an 81-70 victory over Jevon Carter and No. 18 West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament championship game Saturday night.

Malik Newman added 20 points on his way to tournament MVP, and freshman Silvio De Sousa had 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting in place of injured big man Udoka Azubuike, lifting the Jayhawks (27-7) to their 11th tournament title and a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

It was the second time in three years they've beaten West Virginia (24-10) for the championship.

"We just locked on and starting plays and kept competing, and it was just fun. It was fun to be out there," Graham said with a smile. "It helped that we were able to make shots."

Modest understatement there. The Jayhawks shot 72 percent from the field in the second half, and 56 percent for the game, while going 15 of 27 from beyond the 3-point arc.

"They have a lot of guys who can make shots," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "Let's be honest, all of those guys out there, if they're not McDonald's All-Americans it's because they're from another country. They have good players and their guy can coach, you know?"

Daxter Miles Jr. hit five 3s and had 25 points to lead West Virginia, which has lost the last three Big 12 title games. Sagaba Konate added 18 points while Carter, the best defender in the league, finished with 17 points and nine assists.

West Virginia still has not won a postseason league tournament since the Big East in 2010.

"They just did a real good job of knocking down shots," Carter said. "Seemed like every shot they put up, it went in. When we went cold, they kept hitting."

The Mountaineers controlled most of the first half, picking and choosing when to employ their full-court press. And they caught a break when Mykhailiuk and Mitch Lightfoot picked up two fouls apiece, allowing Konate to score nearly at will in the paint.

Then the Mountaineers' big fella picked up his second foul and took a seat on the bench.

The Jayhawks roared back to briefly tie the game, and trailed 34-33 at the break after De Sousa threw down an alley-oop dunk in transition in the closing seconds of the first half.

One of the hallmarks of Kansas over the years, especially under Bill Self, has been tenacious half-court defense -- and the Mountaineers shredded it early in the second half. They scored their first eight possessions, and Miles' layup gave them their biggest lead at 51-43 with 15:08 left.

From there, the game turned into a back-and-forth prizefight: Kansas scored 10 straight, West Virginia answered with eight in a row and the Jayhawks responded with 10 more.

"They got control of the game. We made a run. They got control in the second half, we made a run," Self said, "and that was the difference. When they had a chance to distance themselves we got back in it, and we played almost flawless down the stretch."

The Jayhawks' last run was part of a larger 17-3 charge to finally take control.

Graham capped it with his fadeaway baseline jumper over Carter -- after shedding a bit of clothes -- and a 3-pointer from the wing that made it 73-66 with 3:49 to go.

West Virginia got it to 76-70 on Carter's two free throws moments later, but Miles missed a 3-pointer and Carter missed a circus-style layup, then turned the ball over with a minute left.

That allowed the Jayhawks to seal their latest Big 12 championship from the foul line.

"We had open shots, didn't make them. They had contested shots, made them," Huggins said. "If they can do that for three weeks, they could win a national championship."


Azubuike will be evaluated again Sunday, and Self expressed hope that he would be ready for the Jayhawks' NCAA Tournament opener. The 7-foot sophomore hurt a ligament in his left knee during practice Tuesday, but he appeared to be moving well with a brace on before the game.


West Virginia will be happy to play someone other than Kansas in the NCAA Tournament. Not only have the Mountaineers struggled against the Jayhawks in Kansas City, they were swept in the regular season -- blowing a big second-half lead during the game in Lawrence.

Kansas got a big lift from De Sousa, who joined the team after graduating from high school in December. The 6-foot-9 forward grew by leaps and bounds during his time at Sprint Center, making the Jayhawks an even scarier proposition in next week's NCAA Tournament.


West Virginia and Kansas head home to rest before Selection Sunday. The Big 12 could get anywhere from five to nine teams into the dance, with the Jayhawks a likely No. 1 seed.

UMBC: 2017-18 America East Men's Basketball Champions

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Jairus Lyles was determined to come up with a different ending for UMBC.

Lyles improvised in the final moments and hit a long 3-pointer with less than a second left, lifting Maryland Baltimore County over top-seeded Vermont 65-62 Saturday in the America East championship game.

"I waved off the last play from the bench, tried to get me some space and take the shot to end the game," Lyles said.

Second-seeded UMBC (24-10) had lost 23 straight times to the Catamounts over the last 10 years, including twice this season by a combined 45 points. But with Lyles scoring 27 points, the Retrievers rallied to earn their first NCAA Tournament trip since 2008.

Vermont (27-7) led 57-48, but didn't make a basket in the final 8:21.

"Obviously, it did not finish the way we want," Vermont coach John Becker said.

Lyles went 5-for-7 from 3-point range. He tied it with a deep 3 with 1:01 to go, setting up his final shot.

"This is a dream come true. I grew up watching Adam Morrison of Gonzaga and Steph Curry play for Davidson in the tournament, and now to get to play for it is awesome," said K.J. Maura, who added eight points for UMBC.

Tre Bell-Haynes scored 18 for the Catamounts, which went 17-1 against America East opponents this season.

"Vermont is the gold standard in the America East. They have the tradition that we want to create at UMBC," coach Ryan Odom said.

Lyles scored 15 points in the first half and closed the period with a late 3 for a 37-35 edge. Vermont responded on the defensive end to start the second half, holding the Retrievers to just two baskets on their first 15 tries over the first 12 minutes.

Three free throws by Everett Duncan and a three-point play by Bell-Haynes capped a 12-3 run that put Vermont ahead 47-39. The Catamounts led by nine several times in the second half.

Peyton Henson scored 14 points, Ernie Duncan added 10 and Drew Urquhart had seven and 10 rebounds for Vermont.


Vermont: Outrebounded UMBC 32-26, but committed 13 turnovers leading to 23 points for the Retrievers.


UMBC: Will find out Sunday where it will play in the NCAA Tournament. In the Retrievers' only other appearance, they lost to Georgetown 66-47 in 2008.

Vermont: Missed a chance to clinch its second straight trip to the NCAA tourney. The Catamounts lost to Purdue 80-70 last year.

Virginia: 2017-18 Atlantic Coast Men's Basketball Champions

NEW YORK -- Kyle Guy, Devon Hall and No. 1 Virginia completed one of the most successful seasons in the storied history of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball, beating No. 12 North Carolina 71-63 in the tournament championship game Saturday night to finish 20-1 against league competition.

The top-seeded Cavaliers (31-2) set a school record for victories and won the ACC Tournament for the second time in five seasons under coach Tony Bennett, and third time overall. With plenty of their fans packing Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Cavaliers beat sixth-seeded North Carolina (25-10) for the second time this season and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Tar Heels in ACC Tournament play.


Guy, the tournament MVP, scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half and Hall added 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. Ty Jerome had 12 points, six assists and six rebounds for Virginia, which will certainly enter the NCAA Tournament as the top overall seed.

Not bad for a bunch that started the season unranked and was picked to finish sixth in the ACC. With no one-and-dones and no lock NBA lottery picks, the Cavaliers dominated the ACC with efficiency and tenacity. They went 17-1 in the regular season, the one loss by one point in overtime, and finished in first by four games.

"This is one of the most connected groups I've ever coached," Bennett said.

Virginia held the Tar Heels scoreless for five minutes and took a 58-49 lead on De'Andre Hunter's baseline fadeaway with 3:32 left. North Carolina snapped the drought with a 3-pointer by Luke Maye, who scored 20, but Jerome nailed a 3 out of a timeout to restore the nine-point lead.

UNC, playing in its record 35th ACC championship game, never got closer than five again as Virginia closed it out from the free-throw line. The Tar Heels played about as well as any team has this season against the best defensive team in the country, shooting 40 percent and committing only nine turnovers. In the regular season, the Tar Heels managed only 49 points and 29 percent shooting, while committing 19 turnovers in a loss at Virginia.

The Cavaliers played defense with their offense, turning the ball over just four times and allowing the fast-paced Tar Heels just two fast-break points.


North Carolina: UNC won three games in four days in Brooklyn and might have played its way into a high enough seed -- probably a No. 2 -- to open the NCAAs in Charlotte. The Tar Heels are 33-1 in NCCA games played in their home state.

Virginia: In nine seasons in Charlottesville, Bennett has built one of the most successful programs in the country on a foundation of slow-paced but precise offense and sound and suffocating defense. When he climbed the ladder to cut down the last piece of string holding up the nets at Barclays, Virginia fans filled the arena with chants of "To-ny! To-ny!"


The ACC Tournament heads back to North Carolina after a two-year stint in New York City, but expect it to be back sooner rather than later. Maybe even as soon as 2022, when the arena is free and the ACC has no plans booked.


Both teams will head home and find out their NCAA Tournament destinations.