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The Morning Dish – Saturday, April 1, 2017

April 1, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

The Final Four is here, with the national semifinals ahead on Saturday. Before that, however, we had the business of two other tournaments having their championships decided on Friday night.

And then we had a result elsewhere that can only be described as shocking.

The streak is over. The UConn women’s team had won 111 consecutive games, including four national championships, with a fifth straight being a foregone conclusion. Mississippi State, however, had other ideas. Yes, Mississippi State, who lost by 60 to UConn a year ago.

The Lady Bulldogs battled the Lady Huskies into overtime, and the game was tied in the final seconds. Morgan William, who had just made a big defensive play, had the ball, drove in, stopped from around the elbow, and hit a jumper as the buzzer sounded to give the Lady Bulldogs a 66-64 win in the national semifinals.

The Lady Huskies had not just won 111 games in a row. They had won consistently in dominating fashion, with an average margin of victory being well over 30 points per game. They have taken on all comers, though they lost some natural rivals when the Big East broke up. There was debate about whether or not this is a good thing for basketball, including the women’s game.

And Geno Auriemma was everything you could hope in defeat. There was no disparaging his players or the other team.

“When it went in,” Auriemma said of the game-winning shot, “it was almost like, Of course, of course, it’s going to go in. She’s had an amazing run so far.”

He closed with some perspective – something he has never lost.

“Look, nobody’s won more than we’ve won. I understand losing, believe it or not. We haven’t lost in a while, but I understand it. I know how to appreciate when other people win.”

Tournament Roundup

First up on the men’s side was the CBI, which went to a third and deciding game as has happened often. Only twice in the ten-year history of the event has the championship not gone to a third game. Unlike last year, where the third game was an overtime thriller, there was little drama in this one, as Wyoming jumped out early and led by 19 at the half en route to an 83-59 rout of Coastal Carolina. Wyoming held Coastal Carolina below 34 percent from the field and won the turnover battle by giving the ball away just seven times, and Hayden Dalton came off the bench to lead the way with 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Home court advantage ruled in this three-game series, and in a big way as the Chanticleers won the opener by 10 before the Cowboys won both games in Laramie by 24 points.

After that, it was on to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament title in Corpus Christi, and that one provided a little more drama. Host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi led by as many as 12 in the first half and still led by two at the break. For much of the second half, the Islanders seemed to always have an answer to keep a little distance between themselves and St. Peter’s, leading by as many as eight. The Peacocks finally got enough momentum to take the lead over 11 minutes in, and they led by three with under a minute to go.

St. Peter’s committed a cardinal sin of defense, fouling Cole Martinez while shooting a three-pointer. Martinez had made another three-pointer seconds earlier, and he made all three shots to tie the game at 61 with three seconds left. St. Peter’s then threw a long pass and called timeout, then Trevis Wyche was fouled after another inbounds pass with less than a second to go. He made the first free throw and miss the second, and a long heave came up well short of the basket, giving St. Peter’s a 62-61 win and the CIT championship.

Perhaps most impressive of all is that St. Peter’s won three CIT games on the road, including the title game. All three of those wins were by five points or less. The only home game was their semifinal win on Wednesday night.

Quadir Welton took home MVP honors with another double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds to lead the way for St. Peter’s.

 

Side Dishes

A late-night development came out of Albuquerque as New Mexico has fired head coach Craig Neal after four seasons at the helm. A former assistant to Steve Alford, he was bumped up to the top spot after Alford went to UCLA. His tenure started well, as the Lobos went 27-7 in 2013-14 but have trended downward ever since, going 49-45. The Lobos were expected to contend in the Mountain West this season, but were never the same after blowing a home game to Nevada and finished fifth in the conference.

UNCW will hire C.B. McGrath to take over their program, tabbing a guy who has been in the state for a while. McGrath is in his 14th season on the staff at North Carolina, having followed Roy Williams to Chapel Hill from Kansas. He will step into a good situation, as UNCW has won three straight CAA regular season titles and two straight tournament titles. We continue to track all coaching changes for you right here on Hoopville.

Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett is entering the NBA Draft without an agent, which he did a year ago before returning. The junior played well in the absence of Edmond Sumner, when the Musketeers really needed him, which helps, but a deeper draft does not. We continue to track all early entrants to the NBA Draft for you right here on Hoopville.

It hasn’t been the best week for UConn, and that continued on Friday as top recruit Makai Ashton-Langford requested a release from his National Letter of Intent. The move comes just days after assistant coach Glen Miller departed, with former Washington assistant Raphael Chillious taking his place, and that followed news of big man Steven Enoch and guard Vance Jackson transferring. Ashton-Langford is one of the better point guards in the class, and the Huskies aren’t very deep on the perimeter, so this hurts them.

In the Reese’s College All-Star Game, George Washington forward Tyler Cavanaugh had 19 points and 14 rebounds to lead the East to a 121-90 blowout of the West.

Multiple reports have surfaced indicating that Wichita State may leave the Missouri Valley Conference for the American Athletic Conference. Sports Illustrated has reported that the talks are in an advanced stage, with a move only possible after next season as it is likely too late to leave for the 2017-18 academic year. We’ll have more on this a little later in the day.

 

Tonight’s Menu

The national semifinals are upon us, with the winners advancing to play Monday night. Both games are nationally televised on CBS.

  • First, at 6:09 p.m. Eastern, South Carolina takes on Gonzaga.
  • About 40 minutes after the first game, Oregon takes on North Carolina.

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