Monthly Archives: March 2019

Virginia’s buzzer-beater vs. Purdue to force OT in Elite Eight is March Madness’ greatest moment

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Mamadi Diakite is the hero that kept Virginia’s season alive.

Virginia kept its season alive by forcing overtime against Purdue with the first true buzzer-beater of the 2019 NCAA tournament.

After a missed free throw by Ty Jerome with 5.9 seconds left, Virginia guard Kihei Clark tracked down the ball and threw a no-look pass to teammate Mamadi Diakite, who hit a shot at the buzzer to force overtime.

This game has already been an instant classic because of incredible outside shooting — led by an NCAA record 10 three-pointers in regulation by Purdue star Carsen Edwards. Consider this game the definition of an instant classic.

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Davide Moretti led Texas Tech to the Final Four after his family flew in from Italy

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Two late 3-pointers helped Texas Tech to first Final Four in school history

Sophomore guard Davide Moretti got quite a surprise before the Sweet 16 when his family was flown in from Italy to watch him play. He has responded with a strong weekend in Anaheim to send Texas Tech to their first Final Four in school history.

Red Raiders coach Chris Beard asked Moretti to stand up in front of the team during a meeting on Wednesday, the day before Texas Tech’s tussle with Michigan. As Moretti was speaking, he noticed his mom and brother in the back of the room, followed by an emotional embrace.

Moretti’s family hadn’t seen him play since leaving Italy to play for Texas Tech last season.

The sophomore, the second-leading scorer for Texas Tech, responded Thursday night with 15 points in a route of Michigan. Then he continued it on Saturday, hitting a pair of three-pointers in the final four minutes, giving the Red Raiders some breathing room in what was a two-point game with Gonzaga.

Moretti scored 12 points against the Zags, and during the NCAA tournament he is averaging 12 points fueled by an otherworldly 64.7% (11-for-17) shooting from three-point range.

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How Texas Tech made the Final Four

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For the first time in program history, the Red Raiders are headed to the national semifinals.

Thanks to a 75-69 upset of top-seeded Gonzaga, the Texas Tech Red Raiders are the champions of the West Region and are headed to the Final Four for the first time in program history.

The ultimate breakthrough for Texas Tech comes just a year after the Red Raiders played in a regional final for the first time. In that 2018 Elite Eight game, they gave Villanova the toughest game the Wildcats faced on their way to a national championship.

Heading into 2018-19, there wasn’t much hope that Chris Beard could duplicate (or come close to duplicating) the level of success that he brought to the program in his first year on the job. He had lost five of his top seven scorers from the year before, including First Team All-Big 12 performer Keenan Evans, and No. 16 overall draft pick Zhaire Smith. And yet, here the Red Raiders are, now just two wins away from a national championship.

Who They Beat

First Round: Defeated (14) Northern Kentucky, 72-57

Second Round: Defeated (6) Buffalo, 85-65

Sweet 16: Defeated (2) Michigan, 63-49

Elite Eight: Defeated (1) Gonzaga, 75-69

How They Did It

To the surprise of no one, the core of Texas Tech’s run to the Final Four has been its defense. The Red Raiders aren’t just the best defensive team still standing, they’ve been the best defensive team in the country all season long.

On the year, Texas Tech has allowed just five opponents to score more than 70 points. In 12 games this season, they’ve held their opponents below 55 points. Their adjusted defensive efficiency rating of 84.3 on KenPom.com is easily the best in Division-I.

Somehow, Texas Tech has been even more stifling in the NCAA tournament. In round one, Beard’s team held a good shooting Northern Kentucky team to 57 points on 37.1 percent from the field. In round two, a Buffalo team that came in averaging 84.4 ppg on the season was held to a season-low 58 and shot 10 percent lower than its season average. In the Sweet 16 against Michigan, Texas Tech held the Wolverines to 1-of-19 shooting from three and just 44 total points, the lowest point total ever for a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament and the lowest point total ever by a Michigan team in the Big Dance. On Saturday, in a battle of the nation’s best defense vs. the nation’s best offense (Gonzaga), defense once again won out.

The Red Raiders can also score it a little bit. They made nine three-pointers against the Zags, and moved to 17-0 on the season when canning at least seven triples. Jarrett Culver (18.9 ppg) is an elite scorer and a near lock to be a top 10 draft pick. He has scored 16 or more points in all four of Texas Tech’s NCAA tournament wins.

How Can They Win It All?

There is a pretty solid chance that Texas Tech goes into next weekend with the worst national championship odds of any of the four teams left standing. They’ll be fine with that.

This is a team that got no preseason top 25 love (except from SB Nation) and was picked to finish seventh in the 10-team Big 12. “Everyone doubted us” is a war cry that feels hollow 95 percent of the time it’s utilized in the postseason, but it’s one that will be more genuine for Texas Tech than any of the other teams headed to Minneapolis.

Texas Tech has already met one of its potential Final Four opponents this season. The Red Raiders played Duke in a neutral site game at Madison Square Garden back on Dec. 20. The game was nip and tuck for 38 and-a-half minutes before the Blue Devils pulled away late for a 69-58 final score that doesn’t accurately tell the story of the contest. The two teams could meet again in the national semifinals if Duke is able to take care of Michigan State on Sunday.

The biggest reason to believe in Texas Tech’s ability to win the national title is Beard. Just three and-a-half years ago, the man had never coached a Division-I game. In his first season as a coach at the highest college level, he took Arkansas-Little Rock to the NCAA tournament and upset Purdue. In his first two seasons at Texas Tech, all he’s done is produced the two best seasons in the history of the program.

Three seasons, eight NCAA tournament wins, two regional finals, one trip to the Final Four. That’s not bad for anyone, let alone someone who was the head coach at Angelo State 48 months ago. At this point, doubt Beard at your own peril.

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The road to the Frozen Four

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The road to the Frozen Four begins now.

The 2019 NCAA men’s hockey tournament has a heavy NCHC feel at the top, with the top two seeds coming from the same conference.

Minnesota-Duluth is the defending champions and ranked second overall, after defeating St. Cloud State 3-2 in two overtimes on March 23. to capture the National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament title. St. Cloud State is the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, having lost just five games all season, having a 13-game unbeaten streak snapped with the loss to Minnesota-Duluth.

St. Cloud State is trying for its first Frozen Four appearance since 2013. Minnesota-Duluth is in the NCAA tournament for a fifth consecutive season, and has made the Frozen Four in the last two seasons.

Thirteen of the 15 games of the tournament will be televised by the ESPN family of networks, with every game available to stream online on Watch ESPN.

Format

The NCAA men’s hockey tournament is single elimination, with 16 teams split into four regions. St. Cloud State is the top overall seed in the tournament, and leads the West Region, in Fargo, North Dakota. The Midwest Region will be played in Allentown, Penn., with Minnesota-Duluth the top seed. Minnesota State is the top seed in the East Region, played in Providence. The Northeast Region will take place in Manchester, New Hampshire, with Massachusetts the top seed in that region.

The regionals will decide winners from March 29-31, with the top in each region moving on to the Frozen Four, which will be played April 11-13 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Teams

West regional

  1. St. Cloud State
  2. Denver
  3. Ohio State
  4. American International

Midwest regional

  1. Minnesota-Duluth
  2. Quinnipiac
  3. Arizona State
  4. Bowling Green

East regional

  1. Minnesota State
  2. Northeastern
  3. Cornell
  4. Providence

Northeast regional

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Clarkson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Harvard

Bracket & schedule

 Full bracket (PDF): NCAA

All times ET

Friday, March 29

Massachusetts 4, Harvard 0
Denver 2, Ohio State 0
Notre Dame 3, Clarkson 2 (OT)
American International 2, St. Cloud State 1

Saturday, March 30

Providence 6, Minnesota State 3
Minnesota-Duluth 2, Bowling Green 1
Cornell 5, Northeastern 1
Massachusetts vs. Notre Dame, 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Quinnipiac vs. Arizona State, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
American International vs. Denver, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

Sunday, March 31

Providence vs. Cornell, 4 p.m. (ESPN2)
Minnesota-Duluth vs. Quinnipiac/Arizona State, 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

Thursday, April 11

Semifinal 1, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
Semifinal 2, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Saturday, April 13

Championship game, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

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Bryce Harper’s first Phillies home run was a 465-foot upper decker

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It only took three games for Bryce Harper to produce a highlight reel moment for the Phillies. The star outfielder destroyed a baseball on Saturday, hitting a ball well into the second deck at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia.

Rocky Biddle served up the home run to Harper, who pummeled it 465 feet into the night.

FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE FEET.

The home run widened the Phillies’ lead over the Braves to 7-4, and earned the newly minted free agent a curtain call from the Philadelphia faithful.

Good news for Harper is that the Phillies retrieved the home run ball after the game. Maybe bad news for the fan who caught the 114 mph screamer though.

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Gulfstream Park Picks: 2019 Florida Derby Analysis

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One of the most important Kentucky Derby prepping race is upon us. This is an event that the racing world always looks forward to as the Florida Derby produces a ton of Kentucky Derby winners, the most recent in 2016 and 2017. Today’s edition of the Florida Derby is pretty wide open and should be […]

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