Arizona froze out Lauri Markkanen in final 11 minutes of Sweet 16 loss to Xavier

The future NBA lottery pick wasn’t a part of Arizona’s late game offense in a loss to Xavier.

Arizona big man Lauri Markkanen is going to be a top-10 pick in June’s NBA draft. The freshman from Finland just turned one of the greatest shooting seasons college basketball has ever seen from a 7-footer. He’s one of the most unique weapons in the sport, and a big reason why Arizona found itself in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night against Xavier.

Unfortunately for Arizona, it decided to abandon Markkanen when it needed him most. Markkanen did not attempt a shot in the last 11 minutes of the second half as 11th-seeded Xavier pulled off an improbable 73-71 upset of the second-seeded Wildcats.

Markkanen played all 40 minutes on Thursday and finished with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field. His three ball was off the entire night, finishing only 1-of-6 from deep.

Still: this is a player who averages 15.6 points per game on 42 percent three-point shooting. He’s also a matchup nightmare at 7-foot with the ability to shoot over any defender. Instead of using Markkanen as a pick-and-pop ace, Arizona let its guards dictate the end of the game.

To be fair, teammate Alonzo Trier had it going

The sophomore guard scored 19 points and just rimmed out a three-pointer that would have advanced the Wildcats to the Elite 8. Trier scored seven unanswered points in crunch time to give Arizona a 64-61 lead with just over five minutes left.

It would have been wise for Trier to look for Markkanen, though. While the sophomore guard shot 6-of-11 in the second half, he was just 8-of-19 from the field overall.

But other guys also got touches before Markkanen

While Markkanen stood idly for the game’s final 11 minutes, every other player on the floor took at least one shot.

Trier put up eight of them and made five. But Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic each took and missed a shot. Kadeem Allen scored five points down the stretch but missed a game-tying layup in the final 30 seconds.

In the game’s final minute, both Allen and Ristic missed game-tying two-point jump shots.

Markkanen’s been frozen out of the game plan before.

The talented freshman has taken fewer than 10 shots 16 times this season. He only got six clean looks in Arizona’s second round win over Saint Mary’s, but converting on nine-of-10 free throw attempts gave his numbers a boost.

You just wouldn’t expect the team to go away from its versatile scorer for such a long period of time. Not in a decisive Sweet 16 game against an underdog Xavier team.

Markkanen also allowed the game-winning bucket

Markkanen on the defensive end is about the NBA equivalent to Ryan Anderson. He’s not a defensive plus by any means, but that’s the price you pay for 7-foot sniper. Still, history shows it’s hard to keep a player engaged defensively if he’s not involved on offense.

Markkanen got sealed on the Musketeers’ game-winning play.

Xavier big man Sean O’Mara sealed Markkanen out and had incredible position for an open layup. O’Mara only averages six points for the Musketeers this season. Even he got a look at the rim.

This will be Markkanen’s last game as a college player. It’s not the way he wanted to go out. Arizona will again have a stacked team next year led by the No. 1 recruit in the country, center DeAndre Ayton.

Perhaps this will be a lesson the Wildcats can use going forward: when you have a unique big man at your disposal, don’t forget about him in crunch time.

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March Madness live online: All the ways you can stream the 2017 NCAA tournament

Because TV is so yesterday.

There was a time before time when you couldn’t watch all of the NCAA tournament games. When dinosaurs roamed the earth, the tourney was only watchable via the draconian means of one television channel that would do whiparound coverage.

Then we got March Madness on Demand in the early 2000s, and if your dial up wasn’t awful then you could watch the games, that is as long as long as there wasn’t too much of a spike in viewership.

MMOD is expected to attract one of the largest audiences in the history of live streaming events on the Internet. Capacity will be available to provide millions of video streams over the course of the Tournament. However, to manage a massive anticipated peak in demand during Thursday and Friday, March 16 and 17, access to the MMOD video player will be carefully managed using a “virtual waiting room.” When demand exceeds peak capacity — and this scenario is expected to occur — virtual lines will form.

But we are now in the golden age of watching television on literally anything other than a regular set-top box, and there are more ways than you can shake a stick at to do so. Congrats, friends. We’ve made it to March Madness.

You can watch on your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, although watching on a watch may not be the most optimal experience.

CBS All Access will stream 24 games on its platform.

Amazon devices will have streams you can access on Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire Tablets

Roku players and TV models are good to go, as are Microsoft Windows 10 mobile, desktop and XBox One.

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College football coaches can be kicked out of games now. Let’s guess who’ll be 1st!

A few of us drafted a list of 22 candidates. Who should be included?

Before the 2016 season, the NCAA decreed that any football coach who receives two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls in a single game will be ejected, bringing football more in line with other collegiate sports.

Though some coaches got rang up in 2016, nobody doubled down and landed the proverbial red card. But it’s gonna happen at some point. And it might be the sport’s first major-level coach ejection, other than the 1970s rampages by Ohio State’s Woody Hayes, who often drove officials to drastic measures.

So! A few of us decided to make a game of it. We had a two-round fantasy draft, with a randomized order and snake format. If you want to back a pick or add a name, throw it in the comments and receive glory once it happens.

The rules:

  • Entire coaching staffs count, but not analysts or strength coaches or members of Bama’s secondary, tertiary, or alternate-dimensional coaching staffs, for example. So if a defensive line coach somehow pulls off an ejection, that counts for his head coach. If an emergency judgment call needs to be made as to whether a coach counts or not, we will convene an independent council and invite public comment.
  • If 2017 blesses us with the first-ever coach ejection and that coach happens to be on this list, whoever picked that coach wins. This includes comments.
  • The prize: self-esteem.
  • If we already have a first-place finisher, but — by some miracle — another coach manages to get ejected twice, we will create an Anger Hall of Fame and enshrine both.
  • All other rules will be made up as needed.

Also, a few observations on our selections:

  • These are all pretty good picks. Lots of previous unsportsmanlike penalties, several hot seats, and plenty of high-stakes opportunities.
  • Almost the entire SEC East is represented, save Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason and Missouri’s Barry Odom.
  • With Muschamp, Kiffin, Fisher, Dantonio, McElwain, and Smart, almost all of Nick Saban’s adult sons are here, but not Saban himself. Many of us reasoned that no official would actually have the willpower to eject this generation’s greatest coach, no matter how volatile the sidelines get.
  • Incredible value pick: Pelini at 15. If this rule had been in place in 2015, he would’ve been ejected against North Dakota State. So yes, he’s still got it, despite moving down to FCS.
  • Two Petrinos!
  • Selectors whose entire rosters will meet this year: Bill (Tennessee-Kentucky), Richard (South Carolina-Georgia), and Spencer (Michigan State-Michigan).

We didn’t pick many non-FBS coaches. Surely we’ve overlooked some stupendously mad coach in Conference USA or the SoCon or what have you. Please add candidates in the comments.

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Duck Hunt would have been so much better if you could play as Randy Johnson

It’s been 16 years since Randy Johnson vaporized a bird, so we reinvented the classic game. 

Randy Johnson accidentally killed a bird while pitching 16 years ago today. To remember the moment, SB Nation has recreated the game Duck Hunt with a much better, more dependable, character:

We think this is a much better version than the original.

Johnson has kept good humor about the incident, making the logo of his photography company a dead bird.

But we know the bird is up there somewhere, haunting him every day.

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March Madness odds 2017: UCLA, Florida both small Sweet 16 favorites for Friday

UCLA vs. Kentucky and Wisconsin vs. Florida both have tight betting lines.

The Kentucky Wildcats are 13-0 straight up over their last 13 games played. The Wildcats hope to extend that winning streak and earn a trip to the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight with a win over the UCLA Bruins this Friday night.

No. 2 seed Kentucky is a 1-point underdog at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. This will be just the third time since the start of the 2014/15 season that Kentucky has been a betting underdog, with the Wildcats going 0-2 SU and against the spread in the last two instances.

The Wildcats survived a tough test against a No. 10 Wichita State squad that many believe should have been seeded much higher, coming away with a 65-62 win as 3-point favorites. Kentucky is 9-3 SU in its last 12 games against Pac-12 opponents.

The Bruins seemed to have lost a bit of momentum in the Pac-12 tournament with a weak win over USC and a double-digit loss to Arizona, but they’ve looked sharp early in the NCAA tournament.

No. 3 UCLA earned a 97-80 win over Kent State in the first round and beat a tough No. 6 Cincinnati team 79-67 as 4-point favorites on Sunday. Now the Bruins turn their attention to Kentucky, who they own a 5-1 ATS record against in the last six meetings between these two teams with a 3-1 SU record in the last four.

As well, the No. 4 Florida Gators are a 1.5-point favorite against the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers.

Florida has been dominant as a small favorite in recent seasons with a 7-0 SU and ATS record in its last seven games as a favorite of 1.5 points or less per the OddsShark College Basketball Database. Like UCLA, Florida ended the regular season on a low note before bursting onto the scene in the tournament, following up an 80-65 win over East Tennessee State with a 65-39 blowout over Virginia.

Wisconsin was the only team able to send a No. 1 seed home before the Sweet 16, upsetting Villanova 65-62 as 5.5-point favorites. With that win, the Badgers improved to 5-1 SU and ATS over their last six games. The Badgers are 22-5 SU and 18-9 ATS in their last 27 games played in the month of March.

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West Virginia’s chaotic final possession was March Madness at its worst

The Mountaineers mismanaged their final possession against Gonzaga and lost because of it.

The West Virginia Mountaineers had the Gonzaga Bulldogs on the ropes. The Mountaineers patented full-court trap defense rattled the Gonzaga guards. West Virginia was owning the glass. When Jevon Carter hit back-to-back three-pointers to put WVU ahead 58-55 with under two minutes left, the ‘Zags appeared to be on life support.

Gonzaga would wrestle back the lead with under a minute left on a crazy sequence that ended with a Jordan Mathews three-pointer. The Mountaineers still had one chance left, their ball, down three, 38 seconds on the clock. The game would be decided on this final possession.

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the final possession was a disaster. It was a clinic on exactly what not to do in late-game situations. Even with the help of two offensive rebounds, West Virginia couldn’t get a single decent shot with nearly 40 seconds on the clock.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s take this one by one:

West Virginia had plenty of time to go for two

If the Mountaineers went quickly, they would’ve had enough time for a two-for-one. Instead, the WVU guards cradled the ball and didn’t even think about attacking until 12 seconds had ticked off the shot clock.

Carter began his first serious probe with 25 seconds remaining. He took the ball to the right wing, charged at Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss and fired a step-back three-pointer with a hand in his face.

Air ball.

Fortunately, the ball landed in the hands of teammate Daxter Miles Jr. Could Miles have tried to go up with the rebound right away? It would have been a tough shot, but there was still enough time for WVU to get two points and start sending Gonzaga to the line.

Instead, he kicked out immediately. His intent was to pass the ball as soon as he caught it:

The ball went back to Carter, who again tried to play the hero. It didn’t work out any better the second time.

Carter faked left, went right, then took a hard dribble back and to his left again. He hoisted a deep three-pointer with 16 seconds left. This was the toughest shot of the entire sequence, and there was absolutely no need to force it in this situation:

The ball barely grazed the rim, but West Virginia came down with it again. This time Nathan Adrian grabbed the rebound out past the three-point arc. Again, the ball went to Carter, this time with 12 seconds on the clock.

Carter took a few steps back toward halfcourt and reset the offense. Adrian came to set a screen to his right, and Lamont West had another screen right behind him.

Carter tried to use the screens, but he was bottled up by the Gonzaga defense. Perhaps he could have made the pass to Adrian — a capable three-point shooter — for a last second look at a three. Instead, he held the ball himself:

The possession looked dead at this point, but Carter had to do something. He did a quick half-spin and a quick crossover to give himself some breathing room. He didn’t take a shot though.

Instead, as the Gonzaga defense collapsed on him, Carter passed to Miles with a second left. There was nothing he could do at that point:

Miles took a shot that was nowhere close. It might not have counted even if it went in.

Game over. The ‘Zags keep dancing.

West Virginia had Gonzaga in this game

Williams-Goss might have played his worst performance of the season. The ‘Zags struggled to hit free throws down the stretch. All WVU had to do was act with urgency and get a good look at the basket when it got the ball with 38 seconds left. The defense could have taken it from there.

Instead, Carter tried to play hero ball and failed spectacularly. This is what he said after the game:

Maybe he should have thought of that the first time.

It’s worth noting that Carter was spectacular in this NCAA tournament. He finished with 21 points and seven rebounds on Thursday. There was no way West Virginia would have had to a chance to win this game without him. For most of the night, he looked like the only Mountaineers player who could score.

Carter also had 24 points on 15 shots against Notre Dame in WVU’s Round of 32 win. West Virginia isn’t here without him.

The clock management late in the game simply left a lot to be desired, though. It’s amazing that West Virginia coulda/shoulda won a game when it shot 26.7 percent from the field and 21.7 percent from three. The game was still right there for the taking at the end.

The lesson: Hero ball is rarely the answer. We’ve seen lots of bad possessions in the final seconds of close games during this NCAA tournament, but West Virginia just left us with the most memorable disaster.

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