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Insane cowbell player takes over NCAA Tournament

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff March 23, 2014 06:18 PM

You may not care if you're from Syracuse or Wichita or Amherst (definitely not if you're from Chestnut Hill), but look just past all the upsets in the NCAA Tournament this weekend and you'll find the most spectacular cowbell player ever.

The dude plays in the Stanford band, and Stanford knocked off Kansas Sunday, so it must be working.

Report: Jim Calhoun may be interested in BC job

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff March 21, 2014 12:31 PM

Forget Tommy Amaker, is Jim Calhoun in line to become the next Boston College men’s basketball coach?

ESPN.com reported on Friday that the former UConn coach has interest in filling the vacant position in the wake of the school firing Steve Donahue earlier this week. Calhoun, a native of Braintree, hasn’t coached since 2012, the year he stepped down from his longtime position at Connecticut with a broken hip.

Calhoun, who is the special assistant to UConn athletic director Warde Manuel, recently told ESPN that he was in good health and wouldn't rule out a return to coaching. When reached for comment on Friday morning, Calhoun declined to talk specifically about any interest in the BC job. However, he did not rule out his interest in returning to the sidelines.

"I would not be opposed to talking to anyone about basketball," Calhoun said.

The 71-year-old Calhoun is 873-380 in his collegiate career, one of eight Division 1 coaches in NCAA history to have won more than 800 games.

Harvard gets a 12-seed, UMass a 6-seed in NCAA Tournament

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff March 16, 2014 06:26 PM

amakerncaa.jpg Tommy Amaker's Harvard team won its third straight Ivy League crown this season.

Four New England teams learned their NCAA Tournament seeds and opponents Sunday evening (Sorry Taylor Coppenrath fans, Vermont didn't make it this year).

Harvard, Providence, UMass, and UConn all landed safely in the field of 68. In something of an oddity, three of the teams ended up in the East region. Here's where each ended up:

Harvard: No. 12 in East, will face No. 5 Cincinnati.
UMass: No. 6 in Midwest, will face winner of Iowa/Tennessee
Providence: No. 11 in East, will face No. 6 North Carolina
UConn: No. 7 in East, will face No. 10 Saint Joseph's

The winner of Harvard-Cincinnatti would face the winner of the matchup between No. 4 Michigan State and No. 13 Delaware. The Crimson (26-4) became the first team to punch their ticket to the tournament two weeks ago, when they beat Yale on the road to clinch the Ivy League championship.

UMass is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998. If UMass wins, a second-round matchup would pit the Minutemen against No. 3 Duke or No. 14 Mercer.

The tournament kicks off Tuesday and Wednesday with games in Dayton, Ohio narrowing the field to 64 teams. The real madness begins Thursday, with second-round games starting at noon and extending into Friday. By next weekend's end, we'll be down to the Sweet 16.

You can view the entire NCAA Tournament bracket, in printable form, here.

Starting Monday, you can enter Boston.com's bracket challenge in both the standard format and by round.

Material from the Globe's Julian Benbow and Michael Whitmer was used in this report.

Watch: Jabari Parker dunks on Virginia

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff March 16, 2014 03:12 PM

Keep rooting for those ping pong balls, Celtics fans.

Sully's Court: Previewing Big 10 tournament and more

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff March 12, 2014 11:03 AM
Previews of tournaments that begin Thursday

Big Sky Conference
(All games in Ogden, Utah)

Favorite: Weber State. The Wildcats have the home-court advantage but it was an unusually balanced season in the Big Sky so Weber is no lock. There is no Damian Lillard on the roster but Davion Berry averages nearly 20 points per game.

Contenders: North Dakota, Northern Arizona, Montana. These three finished in a tie for second but only Montana was able to beat Weber State.

Longshot: Northern Colorado. The Bears also hold a victory over Weber State and were a contender until a late-season losing streak.

Prediction: Weber State

Big Ten Conference
(All games in Indianapolis)

Favorite: Michigan. The Wolverines overcame an injury to center Mitch McGary mostly because of the tremendous play of guard Nik Stauskas who become a tremendous all-around player.

Contenders: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa. The one team I’ve left out is Nebraska because the Huskers did most of their damage at home. These four teams are all capable of winning the tournament.

Longshot: Minnesota. The Gophers have the potential with the Hollins brothers (OK, they’re not related just both from Tennessee) leading the way.

Prediction: Michigan State

Big West Conference
(All games played in Anaheim, Calif.)

Favorite: UC Irvine. The Anteaters come at opponents in waves with as many as 10 players seeing action. Defense is the key as they hold opponents to 37 percent shooting. They also have the tallest player in the nation in 7-6 Mamadou Ndiaye who averages three blocked shots per game.

Contenders: UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State, Hawaii. Santa Barbara has been the most consistent team in this league the last few years while Long Beach is a cut below its usual standard. Hawaii can win this but the Rainbows traditionally don’t fare well on the mainland.

Longshot: Cal State Northridge. The Matadors are coached by former NBA star Reggie Theus and hold a victory over Irvine.

Prediction: UC Santa Barbara

Sun Belt Conference
(All games in New Orleans)

Favorite: Georgia State. The Panthers are a Sully’s Court favorite especially R.J. Hunter, the son of coach Ron Hunter, who’s capable of some big offensive explosions. They also have Kentucky castoff Ryan Harrow. The Panthers finished five games ahead of everyone else in the standings.

Contenders: Western Kentucky, Louisiana. The Hilltoppers finished second in the standings but were only 4-4 in their last eight. The Ragin’ Cajuns had a tough schedule playing (and losing to) Louisville, Baylor and Arkansas.

Longshot: Troy. The Trojans were only 11-19 and 6-12 but they hold the only victory over Georgia State.

Prediction: Georgia State

Sully's Court: Previewing ACC, Big East, A10 tournaments and more

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff March 11, 2014 10:59 AM

Previews of conference tournaments that begin Wednesday

American Athletic Conference
(All games in Memphis)

Favorite: Cincinnati. The Bearcats are a rugged, aggressive bunch who fear no team. They did lose at home to Louisville late in the season, but hold two victories over Memphis.

Contenders: Louisville, SMU, Memphis, UConn. Louisville, the defending national champion, has been playing much better of late and has to be rated a co-favorite. SMU has played most of its best games at home, and the same is basically true for UConn. Memphis obviously has the home court, which makes it dangerous.

Long shot: Temple. It’s big an uncharacteristically horrible year for the Owls but they’ve still have a great coach and a top-notch shooter in Dalton Pepper. Still, it would be a huge surprise.

Prediction: Louisville.

Atlantic Coast Conference
(All games in Greensboro, N.C.)

Favorite: Virginia. The Cavaliers are the favorite team of Sully’s Court, a group that plays together on both ends of the court. They are not overly talented, but they are well coached and play smartly.

Contenders: Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse. Duke has improved steadily this season behind freshman Jabari Parker. A Duke-Virginia final would be tremendous. North Carolina has also played well after underachieving for most of the season, but it didn’t play well in the regular-season finale at Duke. Syracuse is tough to figure, but it looks like the Orange have peaked.

Long shot: North Carolina State. The league’s best player, T.J. Warren, would have to carry the Wolfpack to the title himself.

Prediction: Virginia.

Atlantic 10
(All games in Brooklyn)

Favorite: Saint Louis. The Billikens like to control the pace and smother teams with great half-court defense. It’s worked well for most of the season, but after winning the regular season title, they have the look of a team that’s peaked (very much like Syracuse).

Contenders: VCU, George Washington, UMass. VCU needs its full-court press to be effective because it doesn’t have many skilled offensive players. If you haven’t seen Briante Weber play defense, you should. He’s the best defender in the country. George Washington has been the surprise of the year, and the Colonials need big man Gary Larson to play as well as he did earlier in the season. UMass has the best player in the league in point guard Chaz Williams. In this evenly balanced league, it’s tough to eliminate Saint Joseph’s and Dayton as contenders too.

Long shot: LaSalle. Last year’s Sweet 16 team had a big win in the season finale, winning at Saint Joseph’s. If they can solve some shooting woes, they’d be dangerous.

Prediction: UMass

Big East Conference
(All games in New York)

Favorite: Villanova. The Wildcats are a tremendous unit that plays together, and coach Jay Wright has numerous offensive options. They’re not the biggest team around, but Sully’s Court loves big man JayVaughn Pinkston, who is a beast around the basket.

Contenders: Creighton, Providence, Xavier. Creighton has the national player of the year in Doug McDermott and they’ve beaten Villanova easily twice. It’s one of the few blemishes on Villanova’s season. Providence’s Bryce Cotton (21.7 ppg) is a machine. His minutes per game are 41.1, he never comes off the court, and he’s relentless at all times. Perhaps the most overlooked player in the country. Xavier finished the season with two losses, but the Muskies are still capable.

Long shot: Saint John’s. Steve Lavin’s team has been inconsistent all season, but the highs are good enough to win this, especially on one of its home courts.

Prediction: Creighton

Big 12 Conference
(All games in Kansas City)

Favorite: Kansas. The Jayhawks won the regular-season title with an incredibly young team, but will be playing without freshman center Joel Embiid (who they’re hoping to get back for the NCAAs). It makes them vulnerable.

Contenders: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Iowa State. All of these teams (plus a few others) have a chance in this well-balanced league. Oklahoma doesn’t stack up talent-wise, but the Sooners have the best coach in Lon Kruger. Oklahoma State has the best player in Marcus Smart and the Cowboys seem to have finally overcome his mid-season suspension and the fallout of the incident where he pushed a fan. Texas has been a surprise all season, but looks like it has flattened out. Iowa State is highly entertaining, but is suspect at big moments.

Long shot: West Virginia. The Mountaineers looked like they were going to finish at the bottom of the league at one point, but improved remarkably and even beat Kansas in the regular-season finale.

Prediction: Oklahoma State

Mountain West
(All games in Las Vegas)

Favorite: San Diego State. This is the best defensive team in the country. If coach Steve Fisher had more offense, he'd have a Final Four team.

Contender: New Mexico. This is really a two-team league and it should come down to San Diego State and New Mexico. The teams split during the regular season with each winning on its home court.

Long shot: UNLV. The hometown advantage could be enough for the Rebels.

Prediction: San Diego State.

Pacific 12 Conference
(All games in Las Vegas)

Favorite: Arizona. The Wildcats are a national championship contender and proved during the regular season that they were the dominant team in the league.

Contenders: UCLA, Oregon. UCLA coach Steve Alford has mixed veterans with talented freshman (including his son Bryce) with great success. Oregon was great early, slumped, and has rallied. What I like most about them were the uniforms they wore at home in upsetting Arizona – with 1970s-type lettering under the school name.

Long shot: California. The Bears always frustrate their fans by coming up small in big situations, but that doesn’t mean they can’t put together several victories in a row to win this.

Prediction: Arizona

Southeastern Conference
(All games to be played Atlanta)

Favorite: Florida. The Gators are the best team in the country right now and the favorite to win the national championship. They have dominated the league all season, with the best example Saturday when they toyed with Kentucky.

Contenders: Kentucky, Georgia. Based on the last two seasons, I’m wondering if Coach Cal is rethinking this one-and-done stuff. The Wildcats are wildly talented, but they haven’t proven they can compete with Florida. Georgia stunningly finished third in the league, a great coaching job by Mark Fox.

Long shot: Mississippi. Sully’s Court would love to see Marshall Henderson average 30 per game and pull off the upset.

Prediction: Florida.

Southland Conference
(All games in Katy, Texas)

Favorite: Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks are 28-2 and have won 26 straight games. Defense, rebounding, and offensive balance are the keys.

Contenders: Texas A&M Corpus Christi, San Houston State. It’s doubtful anyone can derail Austin, but these are the second and third best teams in the league.

Long shot: Northwestern State. The high-scoring Demons could surprise.

Prediction: Stephen F. Austin.

Sully's Court: Previewing Conference USA tournament and others

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff March 10, 2014 11:55 AM
Conference tournament previews (For tournaments that begin Monday and Tuesday)

Conference USA
(all games at UTEP)

Favorite: Louisiana Tech. The Fightin’ Malones are a lukewarm favorite in a well-balanced league but overall they’ve had the best season and can use their pressing, running game to win the title.

Contenders: Southern Mississippi, Middle Tennessee, Tulsa, UTEP. Southern Miss and Middle Tenn are both obvious threats as they were part of a four-way tie for first along with La Tech and Tulsa. Tulsa has overachieved under coach Danny Manning (Yes, that Danny Manning) but I think the Hurricanes are a cut below. UTEP has a chance because the tournament is played on its home court.

Longshot: East Carolina. The Pirates have some talent, especially shooter deluxe Akeem Richmond, and could catch fire and pull off the upset.

Prediction: Louisiana Tech

Mid-American Conference
(first round at campus sites, all other games in Cleveland)

Favorite: Toledo. The Rockets, led by point guard whiz Juice Brown, served notice early this season by winning at Boston College and they’ve kept it up all season. The MAC was evenly matched, however, and this tournament won’t be easy.

Contenders: Buffalo, Western Michigan, Akron. Behind first-year coach Bobby Hurley (yes, that Bobby Hurley), Buffalo had a shockingly good season and won the East Division. Western Michigan surged in the second half to tie Toledo for the West title. Akron is always superbly coached by Keith Dambrot.

Longshot: Ohio. Guard Nick Kellogg, son of CBS announcer Clark, played on two NCAA tournament teams and is capable of leading the Bobcats to the upset.

Prediction: Toledo

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
(all games in Norfolk, Va.)

Favorite: North Carolina Central. The Eagles are on a 17-game winning streak and only lost one conference game. Plus they hold regular-season victories over NC State, Old Dominion, and Winthrop. Right now, they’re looking look a 15 seed and they are definitely capable of an upset.

Contenders: Hampton, Norfolk State, Morgan State. Hampton and Norfolk, while not on a home court technically, it’s the general area so it’s an advantage.

Longshot: Coppin State. With coach Fang Mitchell on the bench, Coppin is always a threat.

Prediction: North Carolina Central.

Southwestern Athletic Conference
(all games in Houston)

Favorite: Southern. The Jaguars have had success with great defense (opponents shoot 37 percent) and tough rebounding (plus four rebounding margin)

Contenders: Texas Southern, Alabama A&M. Texas Southern, coached by former Indiana coach Mike Davis and led by former LaSalle and West Virginia player Aaric Murray, will only have a short drive to the Toyota Center.

Longshot: Mississippi Valley State. The Delta Devils have a win over Southern this season.

Prediction: Texas Southern

MIT men topple top seed WPI in NEWMAC semis

Posted by Craig Larson, Globe Staff March 1, 2014 03:53 PM
WORCESTER -- The task, as MIT junior Matt Redfield noted, was fairly simple: win or go home.

The Engineers, 17-8 during the regular season, must win the NEWMAC tournament to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Division 3 tournament. That task started with a 64-56 win over Emerson Wednesday night, and continued with Saturday's semifinal matchup against top seed, and host WPI.

And there, on the court at Harrington Auditorium, MIT played with the poise, toughness, and efficiency of a squad determined to play another day, taking down WPI with a second-half surge that resulted in convincing 64-46 victory. MIT will play Springfield, which prevailed over Babson, 85-77 in OT, in Sunday's final at 1.

WPI, the defending conference champion, swept the regular-season series, 59-47 and 64-52. But it was MIT, in one of its best shooting performances of the season (55.8 percent, 7 of 10 on triples), that controlled the tempo, and the boards throughout.

Redfield, a lanky 6-foot-8 forward from Los Altos, Calif., was a force in the paint, supplying 14 points on 7 of 12 shooting in 38 minutes while dominating the glass with 14 boards, 13 at the defensive end.

"We focused on group rebounding, box out and get to the glass," said Redfield, the anchor for an MIT defense (the best in D3, allowing 55.2 points per game) that limited WPI (22-4) to a season-low in points, on 30.4 percent shooting.

Sophomore wing Justin Pedley (game-high 16 points) drained three of his four 3-point attempts. And sophomore point Ryan Frankel supplied 15 points, including a trey that triggered an 11-2 run to start the second half as MIT (19-8) broke away from a 29-all tie.

"We knew that it would be one and done," said Redfield. "These two games, it's win or go home."

His coach, Larry Anderson, proud of his team's effort, and their work in the paint (a 24-14 edge, after WPI had ruled the previous meeting, 44-16) said "they are not afraid there is no tomorrow."

Jack Parker has number retired by BU

Posted by Globe Staff February 28, 2014 09:08 PM

Jack Parker, who stepped down as Boston University’s hockey coach last March, became just the second person to have his number retired by the team during a ceremony after the first period of Friday’s Hockey East matchup against Northeastern at Agganis Arena.

Parker’s No. 6 — which he wore as a player at BU — was raised to the rafters.

The first BU Terrier so honored was Travis Roy, whose No. 24 was raised to the rafters in the fall of 1999. Roy was in attendance for the event, as were many of Parker’s former players and staffers.

Parker’s accomplishments include three NCAA championships (1978, 1995, and 2009), 11 conference titles, and 21 Beanpot crowns.

Parker won the Spencer Penrose Award as NCAA Division 1 Coach of the Year on three occasions and retired with 897 victories, third all-time among Division 1 coaches and the most of any college hockey coach at the same institution. He holds the record for NCAA Tournament appearances with 24.

Parker said it was ironic that his number was retired because he was against any numbers being retired, with the exception of Roy.

“We never retired any numbers at BU because I thought it was great for somebody else to wear [another great player’s] number,’’ he said. “So it’s going against my rule to have it done.’’

Parker said his number wasn’t being retired because he was a great player at BU prior to the start of his coaching career.

“I really think the reason I kept my job so long was because we had great players,’’ he said. “The only reason why we had so many great players is we had so many great assistant coaches here.

“Players make programs and I was blessed to have a lot of great players here. I know that’s the reason why I’m standing here. It’s really something special for me to have my number retired with Travis Roy.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

UMass football releases 2014 schedule

Posted by Staff February 28, 2014 03:31 PM

The University of Massachusetts released its football schedule for this fall, and it won't be an easy one.

The Minutemen, who went 1-11 in 2013, will host Boston College and Colorado — both at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough — before visiting Vanderbilt and Penn State, then getting into Mid-American Conference league play.

Homecoming is set for Sept. 27 vs. Bowling Green. When UMass hosts Ball State Nov. 12, it will be the Minutemen's first nationally televised game since 2007. The game will air on ESPN2 or ESPNU.

The schedule:

Aug. 30, vs. Boston College (Gillette Stadium)
Sept. 6, vs. Colorado (Gillette Stadium)
Sept. 13, at Vanderbilt
Sept. 20, at Penn State
Sept. 27, vs. Bowling Green
Oct. 4, at Miami (Ohio)
Oct. 11, at Kent State
Oct. 18, vs. Eastern Michigan (Gillette Stadium)
Oct. 25, at Toledo
Nov. 12, vs. Ball State
Nov. 18, at Akron
Nov. 28, vs. Buffalo

The Nov. 12 and 18 games will be played at 8 p.m. The start times for the rest are to be determined.

Sully's Court: John Wooden bio is top-notch work by Seth Davis

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff February 28, 2014 11:16 AM

I just finished the John Wooden biography, “Wooden, a coach’s life,’’ by Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS TV and it is tremendous. Exhaustively researched and well written, Davis said on Twitter that it took him four years to complete. It was worth the effort, especially for those of us who love college basketball. He provides a complete picture of Wooden as not only one of the great coaches of all time but a man with great attributes and some troubling flaws. His career is meticulously recorded from his high school playing days until his death. Sometimes you think you know a lot, but after reading this, I realized how little I knew about Wooden and about certain aspects of college basketball. Some were mundane such as UCLA’s first national championship team playing in a gym smaller than some Indiana high schools; some were large such as Wooden’s changing story about his retirement.

Three people stood out for me, three people I knew nothing about before I read the book.

1. Nicolas McKay was a Presbyterian minister from Crawfordsville, Ind. who traveled to Springfield, Mass. to study under James Naismith. He learned the new sport of basketball and took it back to Indiana. You could say he’s one of the reasons for the sport’s popularity in that state. Among McKay's first students was Ward Lambert, who would eventually become the coach at Purdue, where he coached Wooden. It’s Wooden’s direct link to the inventor of the game.

2. Jerry Norman played for Wooden at UCLA and was his assistant when the big winning started. Davis makes the case that Norman was the responsible for inspiring Wooden to install the full-court press that fueled the first national championship. He was also the recruiter who gathered all that talent. Wooden never gave Norman credit for that and he eventually left coaching.

3. Valorie Kondos Field is the women’s gymnastics coach at UCLA and she became one of Wooden’s best friends in his final years. An unexpected, sweet friendship captured in heart-warming style by Davis.

That’s just a little bit of what this book reveals. It’s just an outstanding biography and a must read.

Now, for a change of pace, I’m going to read Dan Wetzel’s biography of Jerry Tarkanian. It’s a few years old but I’ve never read it. Oh yeah, Tarkanian is definitely in the Wooden book too.

Games I’d like to see this weekend:


UMass at Dayton: The Minutemen seem to have their mojo back but this is a tough place to play. Dayton is coming off an awful outing at Saint Joseph’s; there’s a lot at stake. I’d be surprised if UMass won.

Miami of Ohio at Buffalo: I haven’t seen Buffalo, but the Bison are coached by Bobby Hurley (it’s his first season) and they are a surprising 17-8. Should be 18-8 after this.

Cincinnati at UConn: This will go down to the wire, but I’ll take the home team. Hopefully, the Huskies have recovered from their home loss to SMU.

Vanderbilt at Tennessee: Rivalry game with Tennessee’s NCAA hopes at stake. Vols have been good at home and should prevail.

Louisville at Memphis: Not sure how many more times these old rivals (from many different leagues) will play with Louisville heading to the ACC. I can’t go against Louisville after that gritty win at Cincinnati.

Missouri State at Wichita State: Perfection will continue.

Auburn at Alabama: What if Alabama tries a shot from half-court but it’s short and an Auburn player catches it and throws it at the other basket and it went in to win the game?

Saint Joseph’s at Saint Bonaventure: St. Joe's has been hot and has fought its way into the NCAA field, but the trip to Olean is always difficult. They still need this one to stay in the bracket.

LSU at Florida: I can’t imagine the Gators losing at home, but LSU is no pushover.

Texas at Oklahoma: A football rivalry that means something in basketball for a change. Sooners have to have this one.

Syracuse at Virginia: UVA can take control of the ACC with a win. The Cavs are a Sully’s Court favorite and I foresee a big win (not points wise, big in importance) here.

BC at Wake Forest: A game the Eagles can and should win.

Creighton at Xavier: There aren’t that many games left to see Doug McDermott play.

Minnesota at Michigan: The Gophers firmly on the bubble could really use this one; not sure it’s achievable.

Western Michigan at Toledo: The Rockets have sputtered and Western is surging. Good time for Toledo to rebound.

Saint Louis at VCU: I can’t explain Saint Louis’ loss to Duquesne. I saw the last 10 minutes and the Dukes really played hard and deserved to win. I’d expect a rebound for the Billkens who will once again try to slow the pace. Halfcourt vs. Havoc.

Robert Morris at Wagner: BobMo is the best team in the NEC again.

Iowa State at Kansas State: This time, the Cyclones will show they can win on the road. Minimum one overtime.

Kansas at Oklahoma State: I almost want to guarantee an Okie State victory. If not, I may have to anoint Kansas a Final Four team despite their youth.

Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s: Zags are slipping (although they beat Pacific Thursday night) and now go into the dangerous gym.


Marquette at Villanova: I haven’t seen Nova in a while. I think the Wildcats are a Final Four possibility and I want to see if that’s still true.

Canisius at Manhattan: A critical MAAC game plus a chance to see Billy Baron light it up one more time. He should be first team All-American.

Stanford at Arizona: If the Wildcats hammer Stanford, we’ll know their all the way back from their brief slump.

Notre Dame vs. BC could be a Hockey East playoff preview

Posted by Andrew Mahoney, Boston.com Staff February 28, 2014 08:17 AM

It's the final weekend of the regular season for Hockey East, and there is much at stake. The top five teams will secure first round byes, with the top four getting home ice for the quarterfinal round. Only five points separate spots two through eight.

One of the more intriguing matchups will be on Saturday afternoon when Notre Dame travels to Chestnut Hill to take on first place Boston College. The Fighting Irish have 19 wins, but their dismal showing in league play (8-9-2) has them tied for eighth and on the bubble with regard to the NCAA tournament.

In order to reach 20 wins this weekend, they will have to hand the Eagles their first loss since Thanksgiving weekend. BC has gone 17-0-2 in that stretch and is ranked No. 1 in the country. There is a very real possibility that this will be a preview of a quarterfinal series two weeks from now.

With 23 points, No. 7 UMass-Lowell is clinging to second place in league play as it travels to Vermont for a pair of games. The River Hawks were on the verge of being swept by BC last weekend, but scored twice in the third period of the second game to salvage a 2-2 tie and retain sole possession of second place. The Catamounts are tied with Notre Dame with 18 points and are hoping to better position themselves for the league tournament.

No. 9 Northeastern is in third place with 22 points and faces a Boston University team that would love to play spoiler. It's been a tough season for the Terriers, who have just three conference wins.

BU may get an extra surge of inspiration as it will be retiring former coach Jack Parker's No. 6 jersey during the first intermission of Friday night's game at Agganis Arena. The two teams cap the home-and-home series Saturday night at Matthews Arena. The Huskies are hoping to cement their position for an NCAA bid.

Maine is in fourth place with 21 points, and will host No. 12 Providence for a pair of games. The Friars are just one point back. Both teams are on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. A strong showing this weekend by one of these teams would certainly boost their playoff hopes.

New Hampshire, which also has 20 points, is another team on the bubble and is on the outside looking in. The Wildcats appear to have a chance to really make up some ground with a pair of games at last place Merrimack.

The bottom six teams will play in the first round next weekend. It will be single elimination, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals, and the losers done for the season.

Sully's Court: Dinner with Joe Lunardi + rising and falling

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff February 24, 2014 09:59 AM

I had dinner with Joe Lunardi, the original and still the best Bracketologist, last week and it was a fascinating hour for those of us obsessed with the NCAA tournament. A lot of people are obsessed with it including coaches like the one who with a losing record in his league who called Lunardi recently to try to convince him his team belonged in the bracket. Lunardi’s projections are objective and interpretive in that he tries to anticipate what the selection committee would do. He’s right about 99 percent of the time and he had bad news for that coach. Off the top of his head he told him that teams with losing records in their leagues have only made the tournament twice. Teams also consult him on scheduling because he has figured out the best path to the tournament after years of crunching the numbers. The numbers are with him at all times in his laptop including his S curve which his ESPN editors have now changed to seed rankings. I never miss it when he puts a new bracket on the site.

Five rising:

Baylor: The Bears seemed dead and buried after losing eight of nine but then came a victory in double overtime over Kansas State, an overtime victory over Oklahoma State and a big win at West Virginia which gives them a four-game winning streak (along with a win over last-place TCU) and renewed hope for an NCAA bid.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels are finally playing up to their talent as they made a strong statement by beating Duke Thursday and have won nine in a row.

North Carolina Central: Incredibly, the Eagles have a six-game lead in the MEAC. They’ll still have to win the conference tournament. When they do they’ll be a candidate to upset a higher seed; they’re looking like a 15. Right now, they’re on a 13-game winning streak.

Western Michigan: The Broncos have won seven in a row plus they have victories over Toledo, Ohio and Akron which makes them a contender in the MAC Tournament. Toledo is still the standout in the MAC but the tournament should be hotly contested in Cleveland.

Vermont: After losing to Stony Brook the Catamounts have won eight in a row and are 13-1 in America East with Stony Brook heading to Burlington this Thursday night.

Five falling:

Citadel: Pat Conroy, one of my favorite authors, once wrote a book called “My Losing Season’’ (I’d highly recommend it) about playing for the Citadel. Here’s another losing season. The Bulldogs have lost 17 straight and are 4-25 overall.

Gonzaga: The Zags are having some problems and lost two in a row for the first time this season when they got beat by BYU and San Diego. For San Diego, it ended an 11-game losing streak against Gonzaga. I love the Zags’ talent but I don’t like them to go far in the tournament.

Northwestern: After briefly showing some signs of life in January, the Wildcats have sunk back toward the bottom of the Big 10 with a five-game losing streak.

Southern Cal: Andy Enfield probably thought his first season wouldn’t be easy but he couldn’t have thought it would this bad. The Trojans have lost eight in a row and 13 of their last 14. That makes them the worst team in the Pac 12.

Southern Utah: Back in 2001 Southern Utah gave BC all it could handle in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling 68-65. Now? This might be worst team in the country at 1-24 overall and 0-16 in the Big Sky.

Wake Forest: The Deacons showed some promise early in the ACC season by beating North Carolina and North Carolina State. Things have changed. They lost to the Tar Heels 105-72 Saturday and now have a seven-game losing streak.

This week’s George Mason (best mid-major): Wichita State. The Shockers are the first team to start 29-0 since Illinois in 2004-05. There are two regular-season games left, Bradley in Peoria, Ill. and Missouri State in Wichita.

This week’s Final Four: Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, Louisville. Syracuse has been asking to be upset for a few weeks and it finally happened against BC; then they lost a tough one to Duke. I don’t have confidence that the Orange are a Final Four team so I’ve dropped them out. Louisville proved they’re back playing their best by their victory at Cincinnati. As far as the final call in the Syracuse-Duke game. Jim Boeheim had every right to be upset. C.J. Fair practically jumped out of bounds to avoid the contact and made an incredible shot. It should have been a good basket and a free throw for Fair. That being said, Boeheim’s team still had a chance with 10 seconds left and he threw it all away with his tantrum. Imagine if one of his players did that.

This week’s national champion: Arizona

Harvard looks to snap 'baffling' losing streak at Princeton

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff February 22, 2014 04:47 PM


When Harvard coach Tommy Amaker counts up all the losses the Crimson have taken at Princeton, all he can do is scratch his head.

Going back to 1985, the Crimson have dropped 24 straight to the Tigers.

"It’s baffling,” Amamker said.

Trying to put a finger on exactly what the jinx is for the Crimson at Jadwin Gymnasium isn’t easy.

"I’m sure, being that it’s been forever since we’ve won there, I’m sure we can point to a lot of things,” Amaker said.

Which is why, even after thumping Penn Friday for their third straight win and setting up a chance to sweep Penn and Princeton for the first time in Harvard’s 103-year hoops history, Amaker didn’t want to jump the gun going into Princeton Saturday night.

After taking the first three games from the two teams that have historically been the gold standard in the Ivy, Amaker was asked what it meant for a Harvard program that’s taken the mantle in recent years. Knowing the Crimson's toughest game was still ahead of them, he chose to save his answer.

“I’d like to think that maybe after tomorrow night I could answer that question even better,” Amaker said. “But I do recognize the greatness of those two teams and the history of this program and they should be applauded for it.”

Going into the weekend, the Crimson were as aware of their losing streak at Princeton as anyone. But as they push through a stretch of four straight road games, they figured it was best not to get ahead of themselves. Sweeping the Penn-Princeton roadie was hard enough.

“It’s easy to look ahead to that game and slip up,” senior guard Brandyn Curry said after the Penn win.

But once Penn was out of the way, its was clear how much winning at Jadwin meant to Harvard.

In Curry’s time at Harvard, he’s swallowed three single-digit losses.

"This is a huge weekend, man,” Curry said. "Us, the seniors on this team, nobody’s ever won at Jadwin before. I know the history where Harvard’s never swept. But not even sweeping, we’ve just never won at Jadwin at all. So more than anything, we want that really bad."

Coming off a 10-point win over Dartmouth, Princeton’s sitting fifth in the Ivy. Its 72.9 points a game is a hair ahead of Harvard for the best in the league. The two teams are also neck and neck in shooting percentage (Harvard 45.8, Princeton 45.6) and they’re among just three teams in the Ivy with a positive turnover margin.

Last month, it took a 24-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist, 3-steal night from Wesley Saunders for the Crimson to hold off the Tigers 82-76.

Amaker doesn’t expect it to be an easier Saturday. History’s taught him better.

"They’ve had very good teams,” Amaker said. "It’s just weird that it’s been that way in terms of us going in there, but they’ve been very good as well."

Rivard, Crimson prep for Penn

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff February 21, 2014 05:56 PM


PHILADELPHIA -- The last time Quakers saw the Crimson, Laurent Rivard showered them with six 3s and his 22 points on the night helped the Crimson cruise to an 80-50 win.

In his four years at Harvard, Rivard’s made a habit of doing a rain dance on Penn. In seven career games against the Quaker’s, Rivard he’s shot an absurd 47.6 percent (20 of 42) from deep.

On the year, Rivard’s knocked down 58 3s so far, shooting 40.6 percent, and Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said every one he knocks down is like a boost for the Crimson.

“It really gives us a shot in the arm and it gives us a confidence that we gain from it,” Amaker said.

As the Crimson continue their four-game road trip Friday night at the Palestra, Rivard is sitting on 265 career 3s — the most in Harvard history and fourth all-time in the Ivy League annals.

He’s slowly creeping up on Princeton sharpshooter Douglas Davis for third place (276), and there’s a good chance he’ll gain ground against the Quakers.

He’s knocked down at least two 3s in five of his seven career games against Penn. Only once has he gone without draining one from deep. That was in 2012 when he went 0 for 5 from range and the Crimson still pulled out a 56-50 road win.


A huge part of the Crimson’s early success came down to two things, Amaker said.

Their bench and their balance.

When injuries hit, it took a toll on both. Jonah Travis missed the first Penn-Princeton weekend with a concussion and Agunwa Okolie sat out those games plus the next one against Brown with knee issues.

But they both returned last weekend against Columbia and Cornell and their presence restored some order to the Crimson rotation. Okolie scored six points and grabbed three boards in nine minutes of a blowout over Cornell. Travis quietly slid back into his role as the glue guy, chipping in eight minutes against the Big Red.

“I think with Jonah and Agunwa being out for us, it hadn’t helped us certainly,” Amaker said. “I think having those guys back in the flow is different and I think you’re seeing us showcasing a little bit of how deep we can go. It’s not only having them out there but they’re playing well for us. They’re giving us good minutes."


Despite going 9-22 last season and 6-8 in the Ivy League, when the votes came in for the Ivy League preseason poll the Quakers were considered the second-best team in the conference behind the unanimously-favored Crimson.

But so far, the season hasn’t played out the way the Quakers had hoped. For all he’s done Despite dropping last year’s meeting in Philly, the Crimson have won four of the past five at the Palestra.

They started the season 2-10, going on a seven-game losing streak that shot an early hole in their season. Then earlier this month, as they struggled through start of the Ivy slate, they lost freshman guard Matt Howard to a broken foot.

They’re giving up the second-most points in the Ivy (75.8) and committing by far the most turnovers (16.4).

“They’re certainly dangerous and capable with Hicks and two inside guys. We’re always watching film thinking how are we going to guard these guys.

Sully's Court: Big weekend for big games, starting with UMass-VCU

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff February 21, 2014 11:48 AM

Games I’d like to see this weekend (there’s way too many good ones)

Friday (Strangely, there’s some good games)

Mercer at Florida Gulf Coast: The two best teams in the Atlantic Sun, one of them likely to be in tournament. Have to see if Gulf Coast is still as entertaining as last season. Somehow I doubt it.

VCU at UMass: Great matchup of pressing, uptempo teams. Chaz Williams will win this game for the Minutemen. VCU lacks offense. If the havoc press doesn’t work, they’re going to struggle.

Iona at Rider: I haven’t checked in on the high-flying Gaels in a while; they should win easy here and probably crack 100.


Louisville at Cincinnati: This could be the end of Rick Pitino’s “beard.’’ Maybe not (he says he won’t shave until his team loses again) Despite the home court I feel Louisville will assert itself in what should be a physical game (isn’t it always when Cincy’s involved).

Wisconsin at Iowa: Third place in the Big 10 is a stake but more than that, these are two teams that will most likely play a close game. Iowa still isn’t dominant at home so the Badgers have a chance.

BC at Miami: Can the good feelings continue? For Steve Donahue’s sake, I hope so.

Florida at Mississippi: The No.1 ranking is at stake for the Gators but this won’t be easy. I imagine that Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson, the unhinged one, will launch about 20 three-pointers. Whether they go in or not will decide game.

St. John’s at Villanova: The Redmen have really improved but this will be their reality check.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma State: Marcus Smart returns and the Cowboys end their losing streak.

Notre Dame at Virginia: Sully’s Court favorite, the Cavaliers, will win easily at home. I just like to watch their unselfish play.

Kansas State at Oklahoma: The usual tough Big 12 matchup, minimum of one OT.

LaSalle at Richmond: The Spiders will try to get back on the bubble against a challenging opponent.

LSU at Kentucky: LSU is inconsistent; needs a great road victory. The Lexington, Ky. AAU Playaz might be rounding into a team. If they are, they’ll win this easily.

UCLA at Stanford: I find the Bruins really entertaining; close to Virginia as a Sully’s Court favorite. A victory here would complete a Bay Area double.

Minnesota at Ohio State: The Gophers are sinking toward the NIT; a road victory here would revive bubble talk. It’s not impossible.

UTEP at Southern Mississippi: Two of the top teams in Conference USA. Slumping Southern Miss needs this to get stay in the race for first place. Plus the Eagles are home.

Ohio at Akron: A good, old-fashioned MAC matchup. Both are quality teams.

Syracuse at Duke: The Orange inexplicably lost to BC but then again they’ve been asking to be upset. Duke lost at Carolina Thursday night. I can’t imagine the Dookies losing this one in Cameron.

Texas at Kansas: If the Jayhawks win this home game, they’ll have a three-game lead in the Big 12. Impressive especially considering how young they are. Texas has overachieved all season; love their overlooked freshman point guard Isaiah Taylor. He’s a handful off the dribble; if he could only shoot.

Drake at Wichita State: Countdown to perfection. If Ole Miss could upset Florida, the Shockers might be No. 1 next week.

George Washington at Saint Louis: A high-level A10 game but Billkens will be tough to beat at home.

San Diego State at New Mexico: Here’s an upset that’s bound to happen. Lobos will win in the Pit.


Bucknell at BU: The Terriers close in on Patriot League title

Michigan State at Michigan: Big 10 title up for grabs.

SMU at UConn: The Mustangs are good but they’ve yet to prove themselves outside of Dallas. I don’t expect them to start now.

Providence at Butler: A road win the Friars must have.

Florida State at Pitt: Pitt’s at home, they’ll win.

Playoff positioning up for grabs in Hockey East

Posted by Andrew Mahoney, Boston.com Staff February 21, 2014 08:58 AM

With just two weeks left in the college hockey regular season, the action is really starting to heat up as teams try to position themselves for the Hockey East tournament. The weekend series that may have the biggest playoff implications appears to No. 15 Maine heading to No. 9 Northeastern for a pair of games at Matthews Arena.

The Black Bears are tied for third place in Hockey East with UNH with 20 points. Northeastern is just one point behind with 19 points, but both the Huskies and Maine have two games in hand on UNH.

Maine is coming off a sweep of Merrimack last weekend, which helped the Black Bears climb in the standings. Northeastern bounced back from losing to No. 1 Boston College in the Beanpot championship by jumping out to a 5-1 lead over UMass, then holding off a furious rally by the Minutemen to get a 5-4 win and two points.

Speaking of the top-ranked Eagles, they have a home-and-home series with No. 7 UMass-Lowell. Usually a matchup between the first and second place teams in Hockey East would be the top story, but with 31 points, BC is running away with the league title. The Eagles clinched the top spot by traveling to Vermont and sweeping the Catamounts last weekend.

Senior captain Patrick Brown continued his solid play, following up his two goal performance against Northeastern in the Beanpot championship with two more goals at Vermont, and was named the league's player of the week.

The Eagles have not lost since Thanksgiving weekend, and will face a UMass-Lowell team that, with 22 points, is trying to hold on to second place. The River Hawks have played well in recent weeks and hope to regain the form that led them to being crowned Hockey East champions for last year's regular season and tournament.

Other matchups this weekend include Boston University traveling to Notre Dame. With 14 points, the Fighting Irish could use a sweep at home to try climb out of eighth place, while BU wants to avoid the league cellar. Also tied for the eighth spot is Vermont, which heads to last place Merrimack for a pair of games. Rounding out the schedule is sixth-place Providence (16 points), which has a home-and-home series with UMass.

BC upsets undefeated Syracuse ... did that just happen?

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff February 20, 2014 09:01 AM

If you live anywhere in the Northeast, there's a good chance you're surrounded by cranky Syracuse fans this morning. And as anyone who didn't go to the school knows, the only thing worse than cranky Syracuse fans is happy Syracuse fans.

Boston College alumni, however, are riding high after BC's shocking 62-59 win over the previously unbeaten and No. 1 Orange, at the Carrier Dome no less. Boston College (7-19, 3-10 Atlantic Coast Conference) had lost five straight. The 'Cuse had been pulling wins out of their you-know-whats, but it was hard to argue with their record. BC took a little shot at their rival with the following tweet Thursday morning:

Around the 'ole 'Net, reaction was expectedly jubilant on the BC side. In particular, several pointed out the poignancy of the win in the wake of the death of longtime basketball media contact Dick Kelley.

Kelley's funeral was Tuesday and the Eagles, who often visited his apartment, were wearing ‘‘DK’’ patches on their uniforms.

In general, Syracuse fans seemed resigned to their team losing a game at some point. But to Boston College?? ESPN Fantasy writer Matthew Barry said the team might have been looking ahead to Saturday's matchup with Duke.

Harvard point guard Siyani Chambers named among finalists for Cousy Award

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff February 17, 2014 08:08 PM

Just glance quickly at the list of the 23 finalists for this year's Bob Cousy Award for the nation's best point guard, and you'll find some of the familiar faces.

Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart. North Carolina's Marcus Paige. Connecticut's Shabazz Napier. UMass's Chaz Williams.

Thumbnail image for chambers.jpg

Chambers is just the third Cousy finalist from an Ivy.

But also on the list is Harvard's 6-foot, 170-pound speed car Siyani Chambers. His 4.3 assists a night is the second-best clip in the Ivy, his 11.0 points a night make him the Crimson's second-leading scorer and his all-around skills as Harvard's floor general have helped push the Crimson to a 20-4 start.

Even if he's only a sophomore, Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said Chambers deserved to be included among an elite fraternity of players at his position this season.

"I'm really happy for him and proud of him for being on that very short list," Amaker said. "You think about all the really good point guards in the country and to have that dwindled down into 23 and to have him as one of them, that's a strong statement."

That list gets even shorter when you look at the number of Ivy League point guards to ever land on it. Before Chambers, the only other Ivy League players to be named Cousy finalists were Penn's Zach Rosen in 2012 and former Crimson star Jeremy Lin in 2010.

"I think he's deserving of that kind of recognition," Amaker said. "I think he's performed and played at a level that is deserving of the opportunity that he's receiving. And I think when you look at our program and our team, I think those layers are also factors into the selection."

For Chambers, the honor was humbling, but with Harvard just a half game ahead of Columbia and Yale, he was more focused on the Crimson's two road games this weekend against Penn and Princeton.

"It's an honor to be on the list, to be recognized like that," Chambers said. "Right now we're worried about getting two wins this weekend and just trying to go as far as we can. I feel honored to be a part of the list."

Sully's Court: Canisius's Baron, Georgia State's Hunter look like NBA players

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff February 17, 2014 09:31 AM
NBA draft talk usually centers on this season’s freshman class – Andrew Wiggins and his buddies. No doubt Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker or Kentucky’s Julius Randle will be the top selections in the draft. But we’d like to offer up two players I think will play in the NBA, but right now excel at the true mid-major level: Billy Baron of Canisius and R.J. Hunter of Georgia State. Baron plays for his father, Jim, at Canisius. He originally played one season at Virginia, then transferred to Rhode Island to play for his father. Unfortunately, his father was fired, but he recovered quickly and got the job at Canisius. The NCAA granted Billy a waiver so he could transfer again.

He’s been killing it all season, averaging 24 points while hitting 47 percent of his shots overall and 44 from three. A lot of those threes are from long distance, too. In a televised game this season, he promised the announcers before the game that he would make a shot while his feet were on the logo at center court. It was a large logo, but the fact is he did it. He also leads his team in assists and the Griffins are contending for the MAAC championship.

The only game I’ve seen Hunter play, his team unfortunately lost. It wasn’t his fault as he scored 26. At 6-5, he’ll be a guard in the mold of Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors. He’s a little skinny and spends most of his time on the perimeter. His shooting percentage is 47 overall and 42 on threes. He makes 88 percent of his free throws. The most interesting part of his game is how the ball goes through the net when he makes a shot. It barely moves. You might think of him as a tall Stephen Curry. He’s only a sophomore, so it’s unknown if he’ll declare for not.

Larry Bird’s records: Keeping in mind that all of The Legend’s records were set in three years and before a three-point line, it’s still interesting to note that Doug McDermott of Creighton passed him on the all-time scoring list Saturday. McDermott noted the three-year, three-point difference himself in his postgame press conference. Also, Indiana State point guard Jake Odum is six free throws from tying Bird’s school record of 542.

Five rising:

Grambling: The school that once produced Willis Reed has been beset with big problems because of scholarship limitations imposed because of academic failures. The Tigers have endured some horrible losses this season by huge margins. Finally, something positive happened when they beat Alcorn State 95-80 to end a 45-game Division 1 losing streak. They followed that up with a road loss to arguably the best team in the SWAC, Texas Southern, and it was only a three-point setback.

Holy Cross: The Fighin’ Shaughnessys seemed like a non-factor a month ago. Suddenly, they’ve won nine of 10 (the only loss was at American) and are now snugly in the third place in the Patriot League and have to be viewed as a threat in the conference tournament. They will be favored in the next three before finishing the season against BU in Worcester March 1.

Iona: Earlier this season, I wrote off the Gaels as a contender in the MAAC. They’ve changed my mind with some great play in the league. They’ve won nine in a row and are a league-leading 14-2 in the MAAC. As usual, they do it in entertaining fashion, averaging 83.8 points per game. The MAAC tournament will be played in Springfield March 7-10.

Louisville: Rick Pitino is having fun. Yes, it’s true. “ Let’s grow beards until we lose,'’’ Pitino told his team. ‘‘It’s the first time in my life I'm trying to grow a beard. It’s the first time I looked in the mirror and saw multifaceted hair coming in different colors. We want to have some fun right now. Hopefully, we can get on a streak and grow some full beards.’’ So far it’s a four-game winning streak, but Cincinnati looms dead ahead this Saturday. The Cardinals are trying to work their way back into the national championship discussion.

St. John’s: Hollywood Steve Lavin’s team started by losing its first five Big East games, but now stands 7-6 in the conference and has won eight of its last nine games overall after spanking Georgetown at Madison Square Garden Sunday night. The Redmen also broke a 16-year drought on the road against Seton Hall, winning their first road game in the series since Feb. 15, 1998.

Five falling (non-Oklahoma State division):

DePaul: The Blue Demons are winless in six games since Cleveland Melvin had 25 points in an 84-74 loss to Xavier on Jan. 20 in his final game with DePaul. The senior forward averaged 16.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in 20 games this season, but was dismissed from the team for undisclosed reasons. Things are going from bad to worse. Overall, the Demons have lost eight in a row and 11 of their last 13.

Indiana: The Hoosiers were hapless in losing to arch-rival Purdue 82-64 in West Lafayette. They’ve now lost three straight since upsetting Michigan. Some rivalry notes: Purdue ended a four-game losing streak; it was the first time since 1965-66 that both teams entered the game with sub-.500 records through 11 games. The two tied for last place in that season.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have lost seven straight, including a home game to Georgia, 75-55, after taking a 22-8 lead. Then they barely competed against Auburn Saturday.

San Jose State: The Spartans’ first season in the Mountain West could not have gone any worse. They’ve lost 13 in a row and lost to Wyoming Saturday while scoring only 38 points on 13-for-46 shooting. They have two home games left, against Utah State and Fresno, both chances to end the skid.

TCU: Hard to believe that the Frogs were once 9-3. Then the Big 12 conference season started and so did the losing. The streak hit 12 straight with a loss to Kansas Saturday.

The week’s George Mason (best mid-major): Wichita State. The Shockers were challenged by Evansville Sunday, but once again they combined skill and smarts to pull out the victory.

The week’s Final Four: Arizona, Syracuse, Wichita State, Florida

This week’s national champion: Arizona

News, analysis and commentary from the following Boston Globe and Boston.com writers:

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