March madness — for the players?


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Duke's Zion Williamson (1) goes up to dunk against Florida State during the first half of the NCAA college basketball championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Duke's Zion Williamson (1) goes up to dunk against Florida State during the first half of the NCAA college basketball championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)


Marquette guard Markus Howard, center, drives to the basket against Georgetown forward Josh LeBlanc, left, and guard Jagan Mosely, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)


Murray State's Ja Morant gets past Jacksonville State's Ty Hudson during the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Men's Basketball Championship at the Ford Center, Friday, March 9, 2019, in Evansville, IN. (Greg Eans/The Messenger-Inquirer via AP)


NCAA Tournament primed to top itself again

By JOHN MARSHALL

AP Basketball Writer

Wednesday, March 20

The NCAA Tournament somehow seems to be getting better every year, almost as if each bracket is extending from the previous one.

Last year was one of the maddest of Marches, starting with Maryland-Baltimore County becoming the first No. 16 seed to beat a 1 — poor Virginia — to Loyola-Chicago taking Sister Jean all the way to the Final Four.

Surely it can’t get any better, right? Don’t bet against it.

To get you ready for what’s sure to be another memorable March— well, after the first two First Four games — we’ve got a rundown of some things to look for:

TOP TEAMS

Duke. No. 1 overall seed is knocking down its 3s, everyone else could be playing for second.

Virginia. Still plays great D, has a guy named Guy who’s a star, and redemption on its mind after last year’s early flameout.

North Carolina. Ol’ Roy has the type of team that could win another national title.

Gonzaga. The Zags may have more talent than the national title-game team of two years ago. They also have Killian Tillie back.

Michigan State. Sparty won the difficult Big Ten tournament and March is Izzo time.

STAR PLAYERS

Zion Williamson, Duke. More powerful than a locomotive, able to leap taller defenders with a single bound.

Markus Howard, Marquette. Like points? He’s got a lot of ‘em. Had 53 in one game this season, 40 in one half of another.

Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga. Watched the 2017 national title game from the bench. Could be cutting down the nets this year.

Ja Morant, Murray State. Ya, Ja is going to dunk on someone no matter how long the Racers are in the bracket. Book it.

Grant Williams, Tennessee. Was the SEC player of the year in 2018, expanded his game this season.

Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech. A projected top-10 NBA pick, he carries the offense for the defense-minded Red Raiders.

GREAT GAMES

Murray State vs. Marquette, West Region. Ja Morant vs. Markus Howard? All day, every day.

Louisville vs. Minnesota, East Region. Sure, the NCAA Tournament selection committee didn’t purposely match Richard Pitino against the school that fired his dad.

Oregon vs. Wisconsin, South Region. If you like low-scoring games, this one’s for you. First one to 50 wins.

Buffalo vs. Arizona State. The Sun Devils still have to get past St. John’s in the First Four, but Bulls coach Nate Oats facing Bobby Hurley, his former boss, will be fun. Well, maybe not for them.

Syracuse vs. Baylor, West Region. The Orange’s zone is tough to decipher. The Bears can hang with anyone.

CINDERELLA POTENTIAL

Buffalo. The Bulls pulled off an upset after beating Arizona in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Pretty much everyone is back.

Murray State. Any team with Ja Morant has a chance to make a deep run.

UC Irvine. The Anteaters not only have the best nickname in the bracket, they play superb defense and have won 16 straight games.

Saint Mary’s. The Gaels knocked off Gonzaga in the WCC title game. All you need to know.

Belmont. The Bruins (finally) have one NCAA Tournament win under their belt. They have the tools to earn some more.

LESSER-KNOWN STARS

Fletcher Magee, Wofford. Being on balance means nothing to Magee. He can hit 3s from a unicycle.

Dylan Windler, Belmont. Beat you off the dribble, beat you from the arc, rebounds, too.

Sam Merril, Utah State. Mountain West Conference player of the year is a huge reason the Aggies are in the bracket.

CJ Massinburg, Buffalo. Points, rebounds, assists, steals — he does it all.

Miye Oni, Yale. Former DIII recruit has turned himself into an NBA prospect.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

OtherWords

It’s March Madness. Unionize the NCAA!

“Student-athletes” make billions for others while putting their own futures at risk.

By Brian Wakamo | March 19, 2019

When Zion Williamson’s foot broke through the sole of his Nike shoe on February 20th, the sporting world stood still.

The consensus number one player in college basketball was playing in the biggest game of the season — North Carolina versus Duke — and suffered his startling injury in the opening minute. Williamson’s sprained knee cost Nike $1.1 billion in stock market valuation the next day.

The injury came on the doorstep of March Madness, the NCAA’s most profitable event of the year — to the tune of $900 million in revenue.

Despite the billions riding on his performance, the NCAA insists that athletes like Williamson are “amateurs” — student-athletes there only for the love of the game. It forbids them to make money off their performance, even as they support an industry worth billions. Duke alone makes $31 million off its basketball program.

Williamson has been a force of nature this season, captivating audiences and NBA scouts alike. Enticing those NBA scouts is the only way this 18-year-old can build his own future career — and any sort of injury imperils that future.

High-level “student-athletes,” after all, don’t get to spend much time being students.

They’re supposed to only spend 20 hours a week on sports-related activities. In reality, they spend around 40 hours on practice alone. Schoolwork falls by the wayside, so many schools have outside tutors do the players’ schoolwork and by create classes-in-name-only where the only requirement is to turn in a paper.

A few years ago, some former athletes at the University of North Carolina sued the school and the NCAA, claiming they’d been denied a meaningful education. It’s hard to argue with that.

The athletes, in exchange for scholarships, give these schools their lives and put their health at risk. Concussions of football players have sparked lawsuits, and an injury like Williamson’s could cost a player millions in the professional leagues. If they can’t go pro — and their education didn’t do them any favors — what option do they have?

That risk is where the travesty lies. These thousands of athletes who play in the NCAA are often not allowed to enjoy the benefits of the schools they attend (and enrich). If they’re not able to make use of their education, they should be paid for the work they put in.

When college sports revenues are as high as they’ve ever been, the failure to pay the athletes is absurd — but not surprising.

Inequality of all kinds is on the rise, and the gap between the top and bottom of the pay scale is the highest since the Gilded Age of the early 1900s. The NCAA not allowing athletes to be paid — or even sign autographs for money! — is an extension of an economy where unions are busted and people have to work three jobs to make ends meet.

It needs to change. College basketball players are on average worth $212,080 to their program, much more than the cost of their scholarships.

Schools should pay these athletes a share of the revenue their sport brings in. And the NCAA needs to, at the very least, allow for these people to make money selling autographs or appearing at sports camps.

Just as importantly, athletes should be allowed to unionize their teams and fight for their own rights.

Billions of dollars are going to be spent on betting on March Madness games. CBS and Turner paid around $19 billion for the television rights to the tournament. And over $1 billion in advertising is spent on the tournament.

This event is all about the money. We should spread it around to the people who make it worthwhile.

Brian Wakamo is a researcher on the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Temple’s Dunphy begins last go-around at First Four

By JOE KAY

AP Sports Writer

Monday, March 18

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Fran Dunphy stood courtside with arms crossed, clutching a sheet of notes in his left hand, as the Temple Owls made layups to start practice. The school fight song played over the public address system at the University of Dayton, a place where the 70-year-old coach has known heartache and exhilaration over the years.

This visit is special. For Dunphy, it’s a one-and-done First Four.

The Owls coach is retiring after the season, though he’s loath to consider what it’ll be like without the recruiting and the games and the tournament pressure. Whenever Temple (23-9) is finally finished, Dunphy will hand the program over to Aaron McKie, a former Owls star who is now an assistant coach.

Dunphy coached 17 years at Penn before replacing John Chaney at Temple in 2006. The pass-the-torch moment could come on Tuesday night against Belmont (26-5), or it could come deeper in the NCAA Tournament. With all the uncertainty, there’s no time to feel nostalgic.

“To be honest with you, I think the nostalgia will hit me sometime in mid-April when I was going to go on a recruiting mission and I don’t — things like that,” Dunphy said. “But I think at this point you’re so busy and so caught up in what is happening in the moment.

“So you don’t have much time or desire to think about yourself in this situation.”

The bigger concern is trying to figure out how to slow a Belmont team that averages 87.4 points per game and gives up 73.9. The Bruins got an at-large bid after losing the Ohio Valley Conference title game to Murray State. They present an unusual matchup on short notice.

“We’re in a cram session,” Dunphy said. “I was never a good student, so I didn’t do a lot of cramming back in the day. That’s what we’re doing now. You don’t sleep too much and you’re fired up.”

Someday, he’ll miss that part, too.

Some things to watch as the tournament gets started in Dayton:

GRADING ON A CURVE

Fairleigh Dickinson coach Greg Herenda realized that some Dayton students were participating in the media interviews Monday and complimented them on their appearance and their energy. Herenda compared himself to an adjunct professor and gave them all an “A” for their presentation.

“I’m a 58-year-old man, and I was your age, and I’m just telling you: Man, if you’ve got a dream you just follow it,” he said. “And it’s not about talent, it’s about heart. It’s about desire. And it’s about perseverance.”

Fairleigh Dickinson (20-13) faces Prairie View A&M (22-12) in the First Four opener Tuesday night. Eleven months ago, Herenda was heeding his own advice about perseverance. He was in intensive care for eight days with blood clots in his thigh and abdomen.

“It’s not me,” he said. “It’s the people at the hospital, my family and my team that brought me back to this point. … Quite honestly, they were an inspiration for me.”

THIRD TIME’S THE …

North Carolina Central (18-15) is in Dayton for the third straight year, facing North Dakota State (18-15) on Wednesday night. North Carolina Central lost to UC Davis 67-63 in Dayton in 2017 and to Texas Southern 64-46 last year. The winner faces top overall seed Duke.

PAC-12 TIME?

UCLA and Arizona State lost at the First Four last year, leaving the Pac-12 with only one team in the main draw: Arizona, which lost to Buffalo in the first round. Just like that, it was Pac-It-In time for the league. Arizona State (22-10) is back in Dayton, set to play St. John’s (21-12) on Wednesday night in the final game of the First Four. Pac-12 regular season champ Washington plays Utah State in Columbus on Friday, and tournament champion Oregon faces Wisconsin in San Jose on Friday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Trio of top seeds puts ACC in the spotlight

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Sports Writer

Monday, March 18

The Atlantic Coast Conference comes into the NCAA Tournament with three No. 1 seeds.

Putting three teams in the Final Four is a different matter.

The last time one league had three teams in the national semifinals was 1985, the year the field expanded to 64 teams. Georgetown and St. John’s arrived as Big East behemoths, only to be upstaged when conference rival Villanova took the title.

The ACC’s top-seeded trio this year is Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. The last time three No. 1 seeds won their regionals was in 2015, when Kentucky, Duke and Wisconsin did it.

Only one other time has a league gotten three No. 1 seeds. In 2009, Louisville, Connecticut and Pittsburgh did it for the Big East. Connecticut lost in the national semifinals, while Louisville and Pittsburgh went out in the Elite Eight. None of those teams are in the Big East anymore.

Here are a few more things to watch in the NCAA Tournament:

—REGIONAL OF CHAMPIONS: If the seeds hold, the Sweet 16 in the Midwest Regional could be quite a spectacle. Top-seeded North Carolina, second-seeded Kentucky and fourth-seeded Kansas would all end up in Kansas City. Even third-seeded Houston has some history to offer, having made the national title game twice during the 1980s.

With UCLA out of the picture this year, Kentucky’s eight titles are the most by any team in the field. North Carolina is second with six. Those teams have met in the regional finals twice in the past eight years, with Kentucky winning in 2011 and North Carolina in 2017.

Kentucky beat Kansas in the national title game in 2012. And of course, if North Carolina faces Kansas in the Sweet 16, that would pit Tar Heels coach Roy Williams against his former team — with plenty of Jayhawks fans in attendance to welcome him back.

—FAMILIAR FOES: Williams vs. Kansas can’t happen until the regional semifinals, but there are some intriguing potential matchups earlier than that. Duke and North Carolina Central, which are both located in the same city, could meet in the round of 64 if N.C. Central wins its First Four matchup with North Dakota State. Michigan will open against Montana, the same team the Wolverines beat to begin the tournament last year.

There are eight Big Ten teams in the field, and three of them are in the bottom half of the East bracket. Second-seeded Michigan State could face 10th-seeded Minnesota in the second round.

Buffalo would face its former coach if Bobby Hurley can guide Arizona State past its First Four matchup with St. John’s. If Duke meets Central Florida in the second round, Mike Krzyzewski would be up against UCF coach Johnny Dawkins. Dawkins was a star for the Blue Devils when they made their first Final Four run under Krzyzewski in 1986.

And of course, there’s the matchup between Minnesota and Louisville in the first round. The Gophers are coached by Richard Pitino, the son of former Louisville coach Rick Pitino.

—FIRST TIMERS: Gardner-Webb and Abilene Christian will make their first appearances in this tournament, and they’ll have their work cut out for them against top-seeded Virginia and No. 2 seed Kentucky. Two other teams snapped droughts dating to last century: Colgate made the field for the first time since 1996, when Adonal Foyle was there. Prairie View is in for the first time since 1998.

None of those four teams have won an NCAA Tournament game, and there are nine others also trying for a first victory: Belmont, Central Florida, Fairleigh Dickinson, Iona, Liberty, N.C. Central, Northern Kentucky, UC Irvine and Wofford. Of that group, Iona has the worst record at 0-12, and the Gaels are up against North Carolina this time.

Whoever wins the First Four matchup between Belmont and Temple could become a feel-good story. Belmont is an at-large selection from the Ohio Valley Conference that is winless in seven NCAA Tournament tries. Temple is coached by Fran Dunphy, who is stepping down at the end of the season. Dunphy has won only three NCAA Tournament games in 16 previous trips.

—IN THE NORTH: The Final Four is in Minneapolis this year, and Duke can hope that’s a good sign. The last two times the Final Four was held there — in 2001 and 1992 — the Blue Devils won it all.

The title game was also in Minneapolis in 1951, when Kentucky beat Kansas State for the championship.

Duke’s three other titles all came in Indianapolis.

—PLENTY OF SKEPTICS: There was some talk that the Pac-12 could be a one-bid league this year, but Oregon won the conference tournament, and Washington and Arizona State made it in off the bubble. The question now is how long that trio will be around.

Arizona State is playing in the First Four, and the other two teams are the lower seeds in their openers: 12th-seeded Oregon against fifth-seeded Wisconsin, and ninth-seeded Washington against eighth-seeded Utah State. The conference hasn’t put a team in the title game since UCLA in 2006 and hasn’t won a title since Arizona in 1997.

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Ohio introduces alum Jeff Boals of Stony Brook as coach

ATHENS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio has introduced Jeff Boals as its new basketball coach, hoping the Bobcats’ former captain he can revive a team that went 14-17 this season.

He succeeds Saul Phillips, whose contract was not renewed. Phillips went 81-77 overall and 40-50 in the MAC over five seasons.

Boals was hired Sunday and resigned after three years at Stony Brook. As a player, he led Ohio to the NCAA Tournament in 1994. Boals worked as an assistant at the school before spending seven seasons as an Ohio State assistant. He also has been on the staffs of Marshall, Robert Morris and Akron.

Boals went 55-41 in three seasons at Stony Brook, going 24-8 this season and 12-4 in the America East Conference. The second-seeded Seawolves were upset in the first round of their tournament.

Boals inherits an experienced roster, which includes forward Ben Vander, the MAC’s Freshman of the Year.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

Cincinnati defeats Houston 69-57 for AAC title

By CLAY BAILEY

Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — With conference player of the year Jarron Cumberland running the show, No. 24 Cincinnati pulled away to win its second American Athletic Conference Tournament.

Cumberland had 33 points and eight rebounds as No. 24 Cincinnati won its second straight AAC tournament title, defeating No. 11 Houston 69-57 on Sunday.

“Jarron was off the charts,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said, later adding: “Jarron is superhuman.”

Cane Broome finished with 15 points and Tre Scott added 12 for Cincinnati (28-6), who had lost to Houston twice during the regular season, including 85-69 March 10 at Cincinnati. This time was different as the Bearcats shut down Houston’s offense.

“We’ve had three terrific games with Cincinnati, at our place, at their place and (Sunday),” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Obviously, that’s a difficult team to beat three times, especially over the course of five or six weeks.

“Watching how they played today, you can see how well we played the other two times when we beat them.”

In the second half, Houston shot a mere 27.8 percent, including making 3 of 18 from 3-point range. That provided Cincinnati, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, the opportunity to build a double-digit lead – a margin that reached 15 three times in the final seven minutes.

Sampson said he could tell Cronin had the Bearcats “really ready to play. You could tell they had a little bit of an ax to grind.”

Cronin had noted after Cincinnati’s semifinal win over Wichita State that the Bearcats rarely lose to a team three times in a season — another point of motivation for his team, along with holding the tournament trophy.

After Sunday’s victory, the Cincinnati coach said the championship win gives his team a hint of the things necessary if they are to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and with an emphasis on the thin margin between winning and losing.

“You’ve got to be hard to beat,” Cronin said. “You can’t (miss) layups. You’ve got to block out. You can’t make dumb fouls and you try to maximize your potential on offense.”

Armoni Brooks led Houston (31-3) with 17 points and Corey Davis added 12 for the Cougars, who were the tournament’s top seed.

While the Bearcat defense stifled Houston shooting in the second half, Cincinnati put the ball in the hands of Cumberland, voted the tournament’s most valuable player, and he responded with 20 second-half points. Cumberland made 7 of 14 shots after halftime and also was 6 of 9 from the free throw line.

“Cumberland hit some tough shots,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “He hit some really, really tough shots.”

Houston got in trouble early in the second half when two quick fouls sent forward Breaon Brady to the bench with four fouls. About the same time, Fabian White went to the bench holding his right wrist.

At that point, the Bearcats were taking the lead to 15 points and really weren’t threatened the rest of the way.

“We would have liked to have won,” Sampson said, later adding: “I’m not going to spend two minutes thinking about this game. I’m just excited about what’s coming up.”

BIG PICTURE

Cincinnati: Cumberland, who was limited to only 11 points in a semifinal win over Wichita State, had surpassed that at halftime with 13 but was still struggling from the field. After halftime, he took over the game as the Bearcats extended the lead.

Houston: The Cougars suffered through 35 percent shooting in the first half. Brooks made five of the nine Houston field goals in the half. But things got worse after halftime as Houston had trouble converting shots and could never really cut into the Cincinnati lead. Injuries and foul trouble only made things worse

UP NEXT

Cincinnati: The Bearcats are a seventh seed in the South Region and play Iowa, the region’s No. 10 seed on Friday in Columbus, Ohio.

Houston: Earned a third seed in the Midwest Region and will play Friday against No. 14 seed Georgia State.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Duke’s Zion Williamson (1) goes up to dunk against Florida State during the first half of the NCAA college basketball championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122533083-d19b0bd30f6d4d1889bc010249019a55.jpgDuke’s Zion Williamson (1) goes up to dunk against Florida State during the first half of the NCAA college basketball championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Marquette guard Markus Howard, center, drives to the basket against Georgetown forward Josh LeBlanc, left, and guard Jagan Mosely, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122533083-efcb45e97228477cbc0bded4511b6dce.jpgMarquette guard Markus Howard, center, drives to the basket against Georgetown forward Josh LeBlanc, left, and guard Jagan Mosely, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

Murray State’s Ja Morant gets past Jacksonville State’s Ty Hudson during the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Championship at the Ford Center, Friday, March 9, 2019, in Evansville, IN. (Greg Eans/The Messenger-Inquirer via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122533083-c465f1b76f464dc5bd2112a421da0dbf.jpgMurray State’s Ja Morant gets past Jacksonville State’s Ty Hudson during the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Championship at the Ford Center, Friday, March 9, 2019, in Evansville, IN. (Greg Eans/The Messenger-Inquirer via AP)
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