College Basketball Nation: Matthew Dellavedova

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Josh Pastner walked out of the tiny Memphis locker room late Thursday afternoon, saw the crowd of media waiting and tried to gather them in a huddle.

The 35-year-old appears forever happy, working through media lines and all over the Palace of Auburn Hills the past two days. Since he took over at Memphis for John Calipari four years ago, he had won 105 games and done almost everything he needed to so Memphis would remain at its previous level.

[+] EnlargeJosh Pastner
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsMemphis' Josh Pastner directs his team during the second half against Saint Mary's in what would be his first NCAA tournament win as a head coach.
Except win a game in the NCAA tournament.

Pastner tried to not make a big deal of his Tigers holding on to beat Saint Mary’s 54-52, yet his team understood the implications. The players had heard all about the one thing Pastner hadn’t done.

“It’s a major monkey off his back in the grand scheme of things, but right now he’s thinking to the next game,” senior forward Ferrakohn Hall said. “Definitely a big deal, going to the tournament three years in a row and not being able to get over the hump and now you can; it’s a great achievement.”

It is an achievement the Memphis players took personally. They knew they were still a good team -- 31 wins this season and counting after winning 25-plus games the prior two seasons -- but in past years, they couldn’t replicate their regular-season success.

And it almost happened again, as Memphis had a 15-point lead in the first half dwindle to two with 1.9 seconds left. Point guard Joe Jackson had lost the ball, giving Saint Mary’s one final chance to send Memphis home for the third straight year without a win.

Saint Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova took the ball on the wing and attempted a 3-pointer.

"It came off, and once it left, I knew it was long," Pastner said. "So it was good. It was a good win.

"... I was totally at peace. I really was. You might not believe me, but I was. I really was at peace.”

As it sailed over, Pastner and his players stayed calm. They had waited three seasons for this moment, to say they won an NCAA tournament game.

The players talked about it in huddles during Thursday’s game. They constantly reminded each other of the importance of getting past this, of being able to finally reach the second game in the NCAA tournament.

"We've been here with him, so we say, 'We. It’s a we thing,'" Hall said. "The whole staff and team, everyone in our locker room -- it’s the thing we definitely have talked about.

"It's a group thing. It’s pretty much understood. Even in the huddle, we'd say, 'Let’s get past this. Let's get over this hump.'"

Pastner’s players understood. As they left the locker room, just after Pastner came out of it himself, D.J. Stephens yelled out, "Congrats, Coach." And Pastner smiled.

Then Stephens gave Pastner what he might have wanted to hear the most: “We ain’t done yet.”
DAYTON, Ohio -- Middle Tennessee knew it. Saint Mary's knew it, too. In a world of advanced statistics and granulated scouting reports, even the most rudimentary preparation could tell you a very obvious thing about the Gaels coming into Tuesday night's First Four matchup in Dayton: Matthew Dellavedova was off.

Typically a 38-percent shooter from beyond the arc, Dellavedova spent the final week of the Gaels' pre-Dance season clanging one long-range shot after another. Zero for seven against Santa Clara. One for seven against San Diego. Zero for four in another lopsided loss to rival Gonzaga. All told, he finished WCC competition a whopping 1-of-18 from 3-point range, and Saint Mary's finished WCC play with its most important offensive option wielding just a fraction of his considerable abilities.

On Tuesday night, playing for a spot in the NCAA's 64-team "second round," Dellavedova's long-range drought lasted exactly three minutes and 2 seconds.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Dellavedova
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportMatthew Dellavedova's 22-point, 6-rebound, 4-assists effort sent Saint Mary's into the Round of 64.
The scoring drought was over. So too was Middle Tennessee's first foray into the NCAA tournament in 24 years.

By the final buzzer, Dellavedova had gone 5-of-7 from 3-point range and 7-of-14 from the field, finishing with 22 points, six rebounds and four assists, leading the Gaels to a 67-54 win over the Blue Raiders. Now he's got a chance to knock off No. 6 seed Memphis on Thursday, when the tournament begins in earnest.

"The whole thing is, can he shoot it?" Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said. "You can just sit over there and watch him play. I know [Saint Mary's coach] Randy [Bennett] has got to love that. He just puts guys in different spots. He sees it as good as anybody.

"He's big, strong and he can still a run a team," Davis said. "But he hadn't made those plays from the perimeter. When he does that, he may be the best point guard in college basketball."

That may be a bit of hyperbole from a recently vanquished opposing coach, and Trey Burke may beg to differ, but the praise isn't that far off. Dellavedova, a beloved senior whose career has coincided with the program's first WCC regular-season titles (in 2011 and 2012) and tournament titles (in 2010 and 2012) since 1997 and its first Sweet 16 appearance (2010) since 1959. The Australian native and 2012 Olympian is the Gaels' all time leader in points, assists, games started, games played and free throw percentage.

And -- oh by the way -- 3-point shots. And 3-point makes.

"You just get too many shots up for them not to go in," Dellavedova said.

In other words, 1-of-18 was less a great disturbance in the Force than a minor fluctuation to be ignored; a selective piece of data that would regress eventually to the mean. Now that it has, Dellavedova and his teammates, who have spent the past two days in a whirlwind of last-minute travel arrangements, can focus on knocking off Memphis in Auburn Hills on Thursday.

There are some minor similarities between Middle Tennessee and Memphis, namely the athleticism at every position and the desire to score in transition, but Memphis is a bigger, better, NBA-talent-loaded version of the Blue Raiders, coming off a perfect 19-0 run through the Conference USA regular season and tournament.

Memphis coach Josh Pastner will no doubt keenly watch Davis' strategy for slowing Dellavedova in the second half. It included a trapping 1-3-1 zone and eventually switching to tight man-to-man defense and hard-hedged screens -- all during a stretch that saw the Blue Raiders close Saint Mary's second-half lead to just three. Stephen Holt and Beau Levesque combined for 31 points and 10 rebounds, which helped relieve the pressure in the rare moments when Dellavedova was hassled into an unfavorable pass. The undersized Gaels will have replicate that effort and then some against Memphis to avoid being overwhelmed by the Tigers' speed and size.

"With Memphis, it's pretty much the same game plan," Bennett said. "You have to take the transition away from them, to see if you can do that, which is the No. 1 thing we did tonight."

And having the same Dellavedova as Tuesday night -- with that game-changing shooting in the quiver next to all the other arrows -- won't hurt, either.

"We're not going to win games like this if Matt doesn't shoot it well," Bennett said. "Or at least shoot it decent."

DAYTON, Ohio -- Quick reaction to Saint Mary's 67-54 win over Middle Tennessee on Tuesday night:

Overview: It was fitting: While much of the nation's attention was turned to Robert Morris' thrilling buzzer-beater win over Kentucky, two of the nation's more overlooked tourney-worthy teams -- one from the West Coast Conference, the other from the Sun Belt -- met here in the UD Arena. With Twitter buzzing about the NIT (really, the NIT!), Middle Tennessee and Saint Mary's scrapped with a bid to the proper 64-team NCAA tournament field on the line.

And one of the nation's most underappreciated players simply wouldn't be denied.

As he has all season, Saint Mary's guard Matthew Dellavedova carried the Gaels to a victory. He finished with 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc with 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and nearly 40 minutes of conducting his teammates like Tom Cruise in "Minority Report."

Middle Tennessee was often up to the task, and was impressively athletic and lightning quick from end to end. But the Gaels' steady stream of offense was enough to get them past play-in stage -- or the "First Round," if you're feeling generous about the NCAA's odd naming conventions -- and through to a matchup with No. 6 seed Memphis Thursday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Turning point: Despite Saint Mary's eventual tally, the Gaels struggled on offense in the first half, shooting just 9-of-25 from the field. Fortunately, Middle was even worse, hitting just 8 of 25 shots overall and just 2 of 8 from 3, and Saint Mary's took a 29-20 lead to the half.

The Blue Raiders came out in the second half with their favored 1-3-1 half-court trapping zone, but the Gaels were ready -- on Monday, Dellavedova included it in the very short list of things he knew about MTSU coming in -- and he mostly shredded it. A pair of 3s later (including one ice-cold standstill shot from the wing), Saint Mary's led 39-28.

That's when Blue Raiders coach Kermit Davis abandoned the zone look, inserted guard Tweety Knight into the game, assigned Knight to Dellavedova alone, and told his players to hedge every ball screen to force Dellavedova to give up the ball. This worked, and as the rest of the Gaels missed shots or occasionally coughed it up, MTSU came roaring back into the game 41-38. It looked like a turning point; instead, it was the high-water line. Beau Levesque made a pair of free throws and a layup, Stephen Holt finished an interior bucket, Dellavedova found Mitchell Young with a sweet no-look pass that sent the entire Middle Tennessee defense in the wrong direction and he knocked down an open 3 to bring the lead to 52-42. The Gaels would cruise from there.

Key player: Of course, it would be foolish to consider Saint Mary's a one-man team. Dellavedova is the engine that makes the Gaels run, but Stephen Holt is an aggressive penetrator, offensive rebounder and the secondary ball handler when Randy Bennett moves Dellavedova off the ball. Levesque was crucial, too.

Key stat: The Gaels, thanks in large part to Dellavedova's 5-of-7 mark, made 8 of their 14 3-point field goal attempts Tuesday night.

What's next: Middle Tennessee ends another excellent season under Kermit Davis 28-6. The Gaels survive and advance, and will play Memphis in Auburn Hills, Mich., on Thursday.
Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action. On Tuesday, it's the First Four in Dayton, Ohio.

No. 16 North Carolina A&T vs. No. 16 Liberty, 6:40 p.m. ET, truTV

Here’s the bad news. The winner of this First Four matchup will face Louisville, the top overall seed in the tournament, on Thursday in Lexington, Ky. So it’s like, “Hey, you win!” quickly followed by, “And you kind of lose, too.” But a win is a win. And both teams can snap their lengthy droughts in the NCAA tournament.

Neither team has ever won an NCAA tournament game. So tonight will be a first for one of these squads. North Carolina A&T has been to the Big Dance nine times but not since 1995. Liberty has gone twice (1994, 2004).

So history is certainly on the line.

Liberty will represent the Big South even though the Flames finished the regular season with a 6-10 conference record. They’ve lost 20 games. But they won the conference tourney. And that’s what matters. John Caleb Sanders has one of the best names in the entire tournament, and he leads the Flames with 14.2 PPG.

The Aggies of North Carolina A&T are on a four-game winning streak. They’ve forced turnovers on 23.7 percent of their opponents’ possessions per Ken Pomeroy, 20th in the country. But that number is inflated by the level of competition the Aggies have faced in the MEAC. But their defensive aggression could be the difference in this matchup.

No. 11 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 11 Middle Tennessee, 9:10 p.m. ET, truTV

Some people questioned the Blue Raiders’ inclusion in the field of 68. They lost two games in the weak Sun Belt conference and they failed to win their conference tournament. But they’ve also won 28 games. That includes a win over SEC tourney champion Ole Miss.

They’re ranked 20th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy.

And the Blue Raiders have the poise, experience and talent to pull off a VCU-like run in the NCAAs. Plus, they’re going to play with a chip on their shoulder because so many folks have doubted them.

But advancing past Saint Mary’s won’t be easy. If Gonzaga were in a different league, the Gaels would be the undisputed kings of the West Coast Conference. The Zags have defeated Saint Mary’s three times this season. The Gaels also have losses to Pacific, Georgia Tech and Northern Iowa. A BracketBusters win over Creighton was impressive.

The jury is still out, however, on the Gaels. Is this a program that’s just been misjudged based on its losses to the No. 1 team in America? Or is this a squad that’s as average as its nonconference losses suggest that it is?

We’ll find out soon. Matthew Dellavedova (15.8 PPG, 6.4 APG) is a magician with a basketball. But the Blue Raiders’ pressure could make the Australian star and his teammates disappear.

Yes, that was corny. I know. Enjoy the tournament.
I know the feeling. You’re nervous. You know the big names -- Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke -- but who’s this Nate kid I keep hearing about? Let me help you. Here are 10 mid-major stars who could really mess up your bracket in the coming days.

Mike Muscala (Bucknell) -- The Muscala Monster is a dangerous creature. The Bison are capable of upsetting Butler in the second round Thursday in Lexington because they’re led by one of America’s most underrated stars. He scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a two-point loss to Missouri in January. Muscala (19.0 PPG, 11.2 RPG) dropped 18 points in a win against NCAA tourney participant La Salle in December. He’s finished with 25 points or more in 10 games. He also has the strength of 10 men. Not really, but he’s legit and more than prepared to help Bucknell ruin brackets worldwide.

[+] EnlargeNate Wolters
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsCan Nate Wolters and South Dakota State upset Michigan in the NCAA tournament's second round?
Nate Wolters (South Dakota State) -- He plays with a chip on his shoulder. Few Division I schools sought his services when he was a high school standout in St. Cloud, Minn. Every season since, however, Wolters has proven he was clearly overlooked. He led the Jackrabbits to their second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance via a silky game that’s caught the attention of NBA scouts. He’s one of the nation’s most explosive offensive performers. Wolters (22.7 PPG, 39 percent from the 3-point line) recorded a Division I-high 53 points in a Feb. 7 win against IPFW. He’ll make Thursday’s matchup against Michigan in Auburn Hills interesting.

Will Cherry (Montana) -- Damian Lillard is arguably the top player in the NBA’s rookie class. When he was a Big Sky star at Weber State, Cherry was his top adversary. The senior is known for his defensive prowess (1.9 SPG), but he’s a talented offensive player, too. Cherry is averaging 13.9 PPG for a Montana team that will face Syracuse in San Jose on Friday. The Grizzlies don’t have top scorer Mathias Ward, who is out for the season with a foot injury. But Cherry is a proven leader. He’s tough, too. He missed a few games in early March after aggravating a foot injury that cost him the first few months of the season. But he hasn’t shown any signs of regression since his return.

Siyani Chambers (Harvard) -- The West Region is probably the easiest region. With Gonzaga as the 1-seed, it just seems more wide open than the other three. So expect the unexpected. Harvard could spur some madness in its second-round matchup against New Mexico in Salt Lake City on Thursday. The Lobos are the better team. But the Crimson have overcome adversity to reach this point. Stars Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry left the team prior to the season because of an academic scandal. Chambers (12.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, 44 percent from the 3-point line), just a freshman, helped Tommy Amaker’s squad recover from those losses and earn another automatic berth with its second straight outright Ivy title.

Matthew Dellavedova (Saint Mary’s) -- The senior was a member of the Australian national team in the London Olympics. He’s struggled in his past two games, but Dellavedova will be ready for the NCAA tourney. The Gaels will face Middle Tennessee in Dayton in the First Four on Tuesday night. If they get past the Blue Raiders, they’ll see Memphis in the next round. Dellavedova (15.8 PPG, 6.4 APG, 38 percent from the 3-point line) is not just recognized as a mid-major star. He’s one of the best point guards in America, regardless of level. He’s talented and experienced. And he might help the Gaels nullify your bracket.

Jamal Olasewere (LIU Brooklyn) -- I don’t think we’ll see the first 16-over-1 upset. But if it is to happen, I pick the Blackbirds to pull off the feat. Why? Because Olasewere (18.9 PPG, 8.5 RPG) is a tough matchup for any team in the country. The 6-foot-7 forward is active inside, and he’s efficient in transition. The Blackbirds must get through James Madison in the First Four in Dayton on Wednesday. If they do, they’ll see Indiana on Friday in Dayton. If something crazy happens, Olasewere will certainly be involved.

[+] EnlargeLamont Jones
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY SportsSenior guard Lamont Jones, who is averaging 23.0 PPG, will have Iona prepared to face Ohio State.
Lamont “Momo” Jones (Iona) -- Iona is second in America with an average of 80.7 PPG. Jones, who started his career at Arizona, is the catalyst for the Gaels’ offense. He’s averaging 23.0 PPG, third in the nation. He’s recorded 30 points or more in six different games. He’s certainly a potent performer who guides a Gaels squad that can score in bunches. Iona, however, is facing one of the hottest teams in America right now. Ohio State has won eight games in a row, a streak that the Buckeyes capped with a Big Ten tournament title in Chicago on Sunday. But the Gaels play fast (17th in adjusted tempo per Ken Pomeroy). And their defense is porous. Still, Iona can overwhelm teams with its high-powered offense. That’s what makes its second-round matchup against Ohio State in Dayton on Friday so intriguing.

Ryan Broekhoff (Valparaiso) -- The 6-7 forward from Australia cracked ESPN's "SportsCenter" recently when his buzzer-beating 3-pointer knocked UW-Green Bay out of the Horizon League tournament. He’s one of the top mid-major players in the country. Broekhoff is averaging 15.9 PPG and 7.3 RPG for a Crusaders squad that will face Michigan State on Thursday in Auburn Hills. The atmosphere will favor the Spartans, but Valpo will be tough. The Crusaders are a versatile team with an offense that’s ranked 44th in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. And Broekhoff is the key to that success.

Doug McDermott (Creighton) -- The Bluejays might be the most dangerous 7-seed in the field. They certainly hit a few bumps during Missouri Valley Conference play. Overall, however, they’ve been one of the top mid-major programs in the country. They have wins against Wisconsin, Arizona State, Akron and Cal. They lead the nation with a 50.8 percent clip from the field. Their defense is suspect (78th in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy). But McDermott, their leader, is a legit star. He’s averaging 23.1 PPG and 7.5 RPG. He could really go off in the Big Dance. First, he has to lead his team through a tough opening-round matchup against Cincinnati in Philly on Friday. Creighton is definitely a sleeper in the Midwest Region.

Ian Clark (Belmont) -- On paper, there’s a lot to like about Belmont. The Bruins are a strong squad that’s faced some of the best teams in the country in nonconference matchups. Belmont can beat Arizona in the second round Thursday in Salt Lake City. And a Sweet 16 run isn’t a crazy concept for this veteran squad. Clark (18.1 PPG, 46.3 percent from beyond the arc) is just one of the weapons that the Wildcats will have to neutralize when the two teams meet. He’s a stud who could really disrupt brackets throughout the country.

Saddle Up: Minnesota is in trouble

February, 14, 2013
Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action.

No. 20 Wisconsin at Minnesota, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: At some point tonight, Bo Ryan will scream at an official in response to a call he doesn’t like. At some point tonight, Minnesota fans will probably yell something that rhymes with “Duck the Badgers!” Why? Because these two teams don’t like one another. And this is what happens when Wisconsin travels to the Barn. But I’m not sure the stakes have ever been higher for Gophers coach Tubby Smith in a Wisconsin-Minnesota matchup. His program is struggling. There’s a very negative vibe about his job status swirling around the Twin Cities. This is a legitimate must-win situation for the Gophers (17-7, 5-6 Big Ten), who have lost six of their past eight games. Wisconsin, however, is climbing. The Badgers have won four of their past five and re-entered the Big Ten title conversation. The champion of the Big Ten could end the season with three or four conference losses, so Wisconsin (17-7, 8-3) doesn't have much room for error. It’s essentially also a must-win for a Badgers team that still has to face Ohio State and Michigan State before the end of the regular season.

St. John’s at No. 12 Louisville, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Anything could happen in this matchup, right, with two teams that are often unpredictable? St. John’s will be facing the Cardinals without coach Steve Lavin, who lost his father, Albert “Cap” Lavin, last weekend. The Red Storm are coming off Sunday's lopsided 77-58 loss at Syracuse. And every night, St. John’s (15-9, 7-5 Big East) is fighting for its NCAA tournament future. This is a team on the bubble. A win against Louisville could pay big dividends on Selection Sunday. But Lavin’s squad tends to excel only in spurts. There’s nothing sexy about this Red Storm program based on the numbers alone. It is, however, an athletic, talented crew that can contend with the Big East’s best. Chris Obekpa is the top shot-blocker in the country (4.3 bpg).

But Louisville is one of the worst matchups for this young group. The Cardinals are first in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. They’re experienced at every position, but they don’t always play like the more mature group. Take Saturday, for example. A team that should have finished off Notre Dame instead suffered a five-overtime loss. It was thrilling for fans, but the truth is Louisville should have won in regulation. The drama was unnecessary. But the drama -- as Louisville fans know all too well -- was not that foreign for Russ Smith and Co.

No. 5 Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s, 11 p.m. ET, ESPN2: This is the only team that can stand in Gonzaga’s way. In the West Coast Conference, it’s Gonzaga ... and everyone else. Maybe. The Gaels put up a fight in the first matchup between the teams (an 83-78 loss for Saint Mary’s on Jan. 10) even though Matthew Dellavedova went 4-for-15 from the field. They haven't lost since, winning nine straight. They’re ranked fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. Gonzaga, however, is ranked fourth. This is a battle between a pair of offensive powers, and this is a true rivalry. Saint Mary’s earned both the conference and postseason tourney titles last season. If the Zags win tonight, then they’ll likely regain the WCC crown. But it will not be easy. There's too much on the line in this rivalry matchup.

Elsewhere: No. 9 Arizona at Colorado features a Buffaloes squad that has won five out of six. Arizona has not been invincible. The Wildcats suffered a 77-69 loss to Cal on Sunday that created more uncertainty about Arizona’s status in the Pac-12. The loss makes UCLA-Cal more interesting, too. Does any team want to win this league? If so, please stand up.

Numbers to Know: Wednesday recap

January, 17, 2013
Player of the Night – Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s
First, watch this. But Dellavedova’s night was more than an improbable buzzer-beater. He finished with 18 points and eight assists, as Saint Mary’s edged BYU 70-69 in Provo. Of those points, 16 came in the second half, including six in the final two minutes. Dellavedova, Michgan’s Trey Burke and Baylor’s Pierre Jackson are the only Division I players averaging 17 PPG and 6 APG.

Freshman of the Night – Semaj Christon, Xavier
Add Christon to the list of Wednesday’s heroes. His floater with 4.8 seconds left gave Xavier a 66-64 win at Saint Bonaventure. He finished with 19 points and a career-high 10 assists. Christon is the only freshman to reach both of those totals in a game this season. Christon and Arizona State’s Jahii Carson both rank among the top 15 freshmen in scoring and assists.

Stat Sheet Stuffer – Mike Muscala, Bucknell
A candidate for this section whenever he plays, Muscala’s line was particularly impressive in a 73-59 win over Colgate. He finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, seven blocks, four assists and two steals. No one has reached all of those levels since Minnesota’s Joel Przybilla in 2000 against Iowa. The last senior to do it? Tim Duncan.

Scorer of the Night – Maurice Kemp, East Carolina
Kemp scored a career-high 30 points in the Pirates’ 89-78 win over Houston. That performance makes him Conference USA’s scoring leader at 18.3 PPG. His 13 field goals were the most by an East Carolina player since 2007.

Bench Player of the Night – Michael Carrera, South Carolina
Carerra scored 21 of his career-high 23 points after halftime to lead the Gamecocks to an 82-73 road overtime win over LSU. That’s the most points for a South Carolina player off the bench since LeRon Williams had 25 in 1998. He’s also the first South Carolina player with 20 points and 10 rebounds off the bench since Rolando Howell in 2001.

Tyler Haws' shot: Never forget

January, 17, 2013
There is a decent chance you were sleeping when Saint Mary's guard Matthew Dellavedova hit the buzzer-beater of the season to knock off BYU in Provo on Wednesday night. If that is the case, you should watch the video now:

I mean … what a shot, and what a play. Dellavedova somehow creates enough momentum with the catch and dribble to get to 40-ish feet within 2.5 seconds, at which point he euro-steps a defender, hops, double-clutches, hangs, and hits, followed by what must have been the single most ecstatic few seconds of his life. That celebration! Delly marches down the opposing team's floor, screaming and fist-pumping in a gym full of wailing white-shirted souls, not at all unlike that classic Michael Jordan-Cleveland Cavaliers finish. If heaven is real, and you get to choose your own adventure, I think most basketball players would sign up for this portion of the festivities.

But I have to say, watching the final few possessions of that game, I feel especially bad for BYU forward Tyler Haws. Because his might have been better.

Of course, Haws' shot wasn't actually the game-winner. But as you saw on the video, on the penultimate possession, the Cougars got the ball to Haws on the wing with about 7 seconds left. He probably caught the ball too far away from the hoop, honestly, especially with his back to the basket. Instead of panicking, though,he doesn't hesitate for more than a second. He doesn't even try to face up. Instead, he brings his right leg through, which gets him close enough to the lane to make his first step with his left. He does, and then Haws lands again on his right -- the wrong foot for the shot, by the way -- then starts falling away and twisting in midair while two Gaels defenders reach out in desperation. And the thing is just … buckets.

When you make a shot like that with 2.5 seconds left, nine times out of 10 you win the game. Actually, correction: According to Ken Pomeroy's math (his win probability scores track these sorts of things, naturally) you win that game *9.5* times out of 10. Plus, I'd guess that given the type of shot Dellevadova took, it might even be higher than that. You simply don't see too many double-clutch 40-footers go down.

Haws' shot was clinical and polished and just like, have this -- honestly, it reminded me of Dirk Nowitzki. Dellevadova's, mind-blowing though it was, was a kiss from the basketball gods.

I like them both equally. Considering what Dellevadova did Wednesday night ... yeah. What a finish.

Video: Saint Mary's buzzer-beater

January, 17, 2013

After Tyler Haws' basket with 2.5 seconds to play gave BYU a two-point lead, Matthew Dellavedova's deep 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted Saint Mary's to a 70-69 victory.

Numbers to Know: Weekend recap

January, 7, 2013
Player of the Weekend – Trey Burke, Michigan
Burke scored 19 points to go with a career-high 12 assists in the Wolverines' 95-67 win over Iowa. He became the first Big Ten player with 12 assists and one turnover or fewer in a conference game since Drew Neitzel in 2006. Over the past seven seasons, the only other players with 19 points, 12 assists and one turnover or fewer in a conference game were Kendall Marshall and Acie Law IV.

Scorer of the Weekend – Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
Olynyk scored a career-high 33 points to go with 10 rebounds in Gonzaga's 81-74 win at Santa Clara. He became the first Gonzaga player to reach both of those totals in a game since Ronny Turiaf in 2004. Coming off a redshirt season, Olynyk has been a breakout player for the Bulldogs, scoring in double figures in 12 of his 13 games. Olynyk went 12-for-15 from the field in this one, and currently ranks third in the nation with a 67.5 field goal percentage.

Stat Sheet Stuffer – D.J. Cooper, Ohio
Cooper handed out a career-high 17 assists in Ohio's 94-57 win over Marshall on Saturday. He also added 12 points, six rebounds and four steals. Cooper joins Courtney Pigram (2007) as the only players to reach those totals in a game in the past 15 seasons. Cooper now has 811 career assists, which puts him on track for a top-10 all-time total. Matthew Dellavedova (645) is the only other active player with 600.

Strange Stat Line – Quinn Cook, Duke
Cook went scoreless on 0-for-11 shooting from the field, but managed 14 assists in Duke's 80-62 win over Wake Forest. The last player with more assists in a scoreless game was Charlotte’s DiJuan Harris (15) in 2009. Cook came two assists shy of Bobby Hurley’s school record. But he also became the first Blue Devil to go 0-for-11 or worse from the field since Dahntay Jones in 2003.

Bench Player of the Weekend – Rion Brown, Miami (FL)
Brown scored a career-high 22 points off the bench in Miami's 62-49 win at Georgia Tech. That’s more than he’d scored in the previous four games combined. It’s the most points for a Hurricane off the bench against a Division I opponent since Marcus Barnes had 24 against Connecticut in 2001.

Freshman of the Weekend – Javan Felix, Texas
The Longhorns came up short in overtime against Baylor, but that shouldn’t diminish Felix’s performance. He finished with 26 points, nine assists and only one turnover. The last freshman to do that in a game was Chris Paul in 2004.

Numbers To Know: Wednesday recap

December, 6, 2012
Player of the Night – Jerrelle Benimon, Towson

Jerrelle Benimon’s career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds led Towson, a team that went 1-31 last season, to a win over Vermont, the preseason favorite in the America East. The transfer from Georgetown will face his old team on Saturday. The Tigers snapped a 27-game road losing streak, picking up their first win since December 2010 at La Salle.

Stat Sheet Stuffer – Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s

Matthew Dellavedova scored 31 points and added seven assists, as the Gaels beat Drake 88-73. He’s just the third West Coast Conference player with 30 points and seven assists against a Division I team in the past 15 years (Manny Quezada and Dan Dickau). Not all of his numbers were great though. Dellavedova also committed nine turnovers, the most for any Saint Mary’s player in at least 15 years.

Bench Player of the Night – Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga

Kevin Pangos was the hero of Gonzaga’s 71-69 win over Washington State, but Kelly Olynyk kept them in it. He scored a career-high 22 points, all coming in the second half. He went 10-for-12 from the field after halftime, and accounted for half of Gonzaga’s second-half points. At 9-0, Gonzaga is off to its best start since joining Division I.

Freshman of the Night – Jahii Carson, Arizona State

Jahii Carson scored 20 points and added five rebounds and six assists, as the Sun Devils beat Hartford 71-63. He’s just the sixth freshman with a 20-5-5 game this season. Carson currently ranks fourth among freshmen in scoring (18.3 ppg) and sixth in assists (5.3). Those averages stack up nicely to one of the greatest seasons for a Pac-12 freshman point guard. Terrell Brandon averaged 17.9 ppg and 6.0 apg for Oregon in 1989-90.

Ugly Stat of the Night - Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee failed to score 40 points for a second straight game, falling to Virginia 46-38. It’s the first time the Vols have been held under 40 in consecutive games since February 1946. It’s also the first time since 1943 that Tennessee has lost back-to-back games while failing to score 40.

DIRECTV Classic primer

November, 21, 2012
Don't be fooled by the name; this is not a new tournament. It is merely a repackaged Anaheim Classic that is no longer leaving naming-rights sponsorship money on the table. This would normally be the part where we criticize soulless corporate sports sponsorship ... but, I mean, it's the Anaheim Classic. Surely we can find a better target for our outrage.

Anyway, let's talk about this basketball tournament, huh?

The basics: Nov. 22-25, Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, Calif.

The set matchups (Nov. 22): Pacific vs. Xavier, 2 p.m. ET; Drexel vs. Saint Mary's, 4:30 ET; Rice vs. Georgia Tech, 9 ET; Drake vs. Cal, 11:30 ET.


Xavier: Major caveat alert: I could make a reasonable argument for Saint Mary's, Cal or even a banged-up Drexel, because I'm not really sure there is one clear favorite in this group of teams. But if I have to pick, I suppose I'll take the squad that shut down Butler just one week before Butler beat Marquette and drilled North Carolina in Maui. The transitive property is a fickle siren, but this early in the season it has to mean something.


Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's: The Australian Olympian and four-year senior is the undispusted leader of this Gaels team in ways both measurable and otherwise, and his offensive output will be (as ever) a huge key to his team's chances of getting out of Anaheim with three consecutive wins.

[+] EnlargeDee Davis
Frank Victores/US PresswireSophomore guard Dee Davis has thus far ably filled holes left by departures at Xavier.
Allen Crabbe, California: One half of Cal's two-headed returning scoring tandem (the other being fellow guard Justin Cobbs), Crabbe is essential to California's hopes of replacing Jorge Guiterrez and Harper Kamp and still making a run at the top of the revamped Pac-12.

Dee Davis, Xavier: It's early yet, but sophomore guard Davis appears to be just the latest in the Musketeers' long line of starter-minutes-ready young players to emerge after former stars depart. Through three games (including the aforementioned Butler romp) Davis is averaging 15.3 points and 6.7 assists, with a 132.2 offensive rating.

Frantz Massenat, Drexel: The Dragons suffered a big-time loss this week when guard Chris Fouch lost the rest of his season to ankle surgery, but the good news is that Massenat -- a versatile point guard who drives, dishes and shoots with near-equal skill -- remains.

Kammeon Holsey, Georgia Tech: When Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory dismissed Glen Rice Jr. in mid-March, he not only made a statement about the importance of attitude and chemistry in his program. He also left Holsey as his only notable returning scorer. Thus far, Holsey has delivered, though this tournament will be the Yellow Jackets' first real test, and we'll see if they'll be more than an ACC punching bag this season.


Is Xavier for real? The Musketeers were written off at the start of this season, and understandably so -- Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease graduated, Dez Wells was (possibly wrongly) kicked out of school, Mark Lyons transferred to Arizona, and what remained were guys most hoops fans had never heard of. So the Musketeers were picked to finish ninth -- ninth! -- despite the fact that this program has missed exactly one Sweet 16 (2011) since 2008. When Xavier tossed Butler around in the Musketeers' home opener, the write-offs looked premature. But now, outside of their own building, the young Musketeers have a real chance to prove they're not going anywhere.

Is Cal a Pac-12 contender? The Pac-12 was bad last season. We've established this ad nauseam (especially for Pac-12 fans, I'm sure) throughout the past 12 months. But for as bad as the league was, on a per-posssesion basis Cal was perfectly respectable (and pretty clearly the best team in its league), even if that respectability didn't always translate into wins. Despite the turnover, would you bet against Mike Montgomery making a run at the top of a still-volatile league this season? I wouldn't.

Does Saint Mary's miss Rob Jones? Jones was a drastically underrated player last season. Not only was he a versatile scorer, but his rebounding anchored the Gaels on both ends of the floor, particularly on defense, where he posted the nation's 16th-best defensive rebounding rate. Forward Brad Waldow is the chief successor to Jones, and will have to have a nice season for Saint Mary's to wrest another West Coast Conference title away from a very good Gonzaga team.

Is Drexel still Drexel? Bruiser Flint's team was brutally close to an NCAA tournament appearance last season, and had a fair quarrel when all was said and done. With all but one starter returning, and a Virginia Commonwealth-less Colonial Athletic Association, this season was set up as a redemption campaign. It has not gone as planned. The Dragons lost their first two games (to Kent State, which is a bad loss, and Illinois State, which is a good one) and then lost Fouch to a season-ending injury soon thereafter. A title run in Anaheim -- or at least a couple of resume wins, beginning with Saint Mary's -- would be a nice way to get this season back on track.

Who's the upset candidate? There are some solid teams in this field, but no truly great ones. Which means we could see a few wacky results. That Rice-Georgia Tech game is anyone's guess, and who knows what happens if either of those teams get hot? What if Drake springs an upset on Cal? In a week in which Texas lost to a Division II team and another dude scored 138 points, I'm not discounting any possibilities.


First round: Xavier over Pacific; Saint Mary's over Drexel, Georgia Tech over Rice; Cal over Drake.

Semifinals: Saint Mary's over Xavier; Cal over Georgia Tech.

Championship: Saint Mary's over Cal.
Editor's note: This list includes only those we've seen play in college before -- in other words, no freshmen. For Eamonn Brennan's list of the nation's 10 best rebounders, click here.

1. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: The Racers senior has posted a double-figure scoring average in each of his three seasons. In 2011-12, he poured in 19 points a contest for a squad that went 31-2. Even more impressive is that Canaan shot 45.6 percent from beyond the arc while ranking first in the Ohio Valley Conference with 98 made 3-pointers. A preseason All-American, Canaan is generously listed at 6-foot-1, but he’s likely an inch or two shorter. He makes up for his lack of height with upper-body strength that makes him deadly on NBA-range 3-pointers and hard to stop when he’s slashing to the basket.

[+] EnlargeBurke/Hardaway
AP Photo/Tony DingTrey Burke (3) and Tim Hardaway Jr. return this season to form a formidable pair for Michigan foes.
2. Trey Burke, Michigan: The Wolverines became Final Four contenders when Burke announced he’d return for his sophomore season instead of entering the NBA draft. Along with a team-high 14.8 points, Burke led Michigan in assists last season with 4.6 per game. That number should increase with the addition of players such as forward Mitch McGary and the maturation of Tim Hardaway Jr., Jordan Morgan and others. Like Canaan, Burke is a member of the preseason All-American squad. He has a lot on his shoulders as the Wolverines prepare for one of the most highly anticipated seasons in two decades.

3. Pierre Jackson, Baylor: Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller were all selected in the NBA draft. But the Bears never would’ve won a school-record 30 games and reached the Elite Eight if not for Jackson, who led Baylor in points (13.8) and assists (5.9) while shooting 82.2 percent from the foul stripe. There aren’t many guards in America as quick as Jackson, who brought a swagger and toughness to a squad that had long been considered soft. The Big 12’s preseason player of the year, Jackson must step up his leadership even more as the Bears attempt to incorporate freshmen such as Isaiah Austin and Rico Gathers into the rotation.

4. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s: After honing his game at the Australian Institute of Sport, Dellavedova arrived at Saint Mary’s three years ago with the poise and fundamental skills of a college veteran. As a junior last year, he sparked the Gaels to the WCC regular-season and conference tournament titles and was one of 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top point guard. He is one of just two returning college players to participate in last summer’s Olympics, where he competed for Australia in London.

5. Peyton Siva, Louisville: The Big East preseason player of the year made major strides in his game at the perfect time last season and helped the Cardinals reach the Final Four. Siva battled an ankle injury during the winter and lost confidence in his jump shot. He made just 40.2 percent of his field goals on the season and connected on just 24.6 percent of his 3-point attempts. But by March he had settled down and improved his decision-making while continuing to play well on the defensive end. If Siva, who is a tremendous leader, continues to perform at that level (or higher), there is no reason this Louisville team can’t win a national championship.

6. Aaron Craft, Ohio State: Jared Sullinger and William Buford received most of the notoriety, but the Buckeyes never would’ve reached the Final Four last season if it wasn’t for Craft. And they certainly wouldn’t be opening the 2012-13 campaign with a No. 4 national ranking if they didn’t still have Craft as their leader. A junior, Craft is regarded as one of the top on-the-ball defenders in the nation. Maybe the best. His assists numbers (4.6 per game) last season were strong but not gaudy. Still, Craft limits his mistakes and is a true floor leader, which will be important as the Buckeyes try to move on after losing two of their top three scorers. An interesting tidbit on Craft is that he’s the only scholarship player on Ohio State’s roster who hails from Ohio.

7. Phil Pressey, Missouri: The SEC preseason player of the year may have more upside than any player on this list and could easily be ranked No. 1 by the end of the season. He and Jackson are probably the top two players in America at beating an opponent off the dribble, drawing a help defender and then dishing to an open teammate for an easy basket. He’s the main reason Missouri averaged a Big 12-best 80.4 points per game last season. Along with becoming more of a vocal leader, Pressey needs to improve offensively. He’s not an excellent shooter, and it certainly hasn’t mattered on the Tigers, who are loaded with guys who can score. It’s usually just easier for Pressey to defer. But if things change and he elevates that facet of his game -- especially if he does it consistently -- he could become the best point guard in America.

8. Lorenzo Brown, NC State: NBA scouts love the frame on the 6-foot-5, 190-pound Brown, who played a huge role in the Wolfpack’s somewhat surprising run to the Sweet 16 this past spring. Brown averaged 12.7 points and 6.3 assists on the season. Brown’s length helped him lead the ACC steals with 1.8 per game. Like Pressey, the junior still has an incredibly high ceiling and could make a tremendous leap this season both in terms of production and leadership. Remember, Brown played off the ball as a freshman, so he’s spent only one full season as a college point guard.

9. Ray McCallum Jr., Detroit: This might be McCallum’s last season at Detroit, where he plays for his father. The former McDonald’s All-American propelled the Titans to the NCAA tournament as a sophomore in 2011-12, when he led his squad in points (15.4), assists (4.0) and steals (1.6). McCallum’s biggest problem as a sophomore last season was his poor showing from beyond the arc. He connected on just 30 of his 125 attempts from 3-point range (24 percent). If he can improve in that area and continue to play with the same kind of passion and intensity that has defined his first two seasons, McCallum may be in the NBA a year from now.

10. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: It’s a shame Wolters doesn’t play in a bigger conference with more television exposure, because he’s one of the most enjoyable players to watch in all of college basketball. The 6-4 Wolters averaged team-highs in points (21.2), rebounds (5.1) and assists (5.9) to lead his squad to its first NCAA tournament appearance. He’ll be one of four returning starters for a South Dakota State squad that’s picked to win the Summit League.

Honorable mention: Mark Lyons, Arizona; Tim Frazier, Penn State; Vincent Council, Providence; D.J. Cooper, Ohio; Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Editor's note:’s Summer Shootaround series catches up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For more on the WCC, click here.

The most important player for each team in the conference ...

BYU: Matt Carlino
The former UCLA transfer showed flashes of a bright future in his partial first season with the Cougars. But as BYU's lead guard in 2012-13, he'll need to raise his own offensive game another step, while working in plenty of touches for forward Brandon Davies and bound-to-be-rusty Tyler Haws.

[+] EnlargeElias Harris
AP Photo/Kevin P. CaseyThis is the year for Elias Harris to live up definitively to the recruiting hype at Gonzaga.
Gonzaga: Elias Harris
With emerging junior Sam Dower and highly touted freshman Przemek Karnowski, the Zags are at no loss for frontcourt talent in 2012-13. So why is Harris their most important player? Because this is -- or at least should be -- his team, the last chance for one of Gonzaga's biggest-ever recruits to punctuate a hot-and-cold career.

Loyola Marymount: Anthony Ireland
Ireland is without question LMU's best player, and he's also its most important, a point guard who averaged 16.1 points and 4.9 assists per game last season. After the unexpected loss of would-be senior Jarred DuBois to transfer (Utah), Ireland will have to do even more.

Pepperdine: Jordan Baker
Baker, whose freshman season was full of promise and frustration, is important both now and in the future as Pepperdine -- which finished just 4-12 in the WCC last season in the first place -- looks to recover from the losses of leading scorers Taylor Darby and Corbin Moore.

Portland: Ryan Nicholas
Portland won just seven games last season and then lost its point guard, Tim Douglas, who led the team in usage rate before transferring. That means even more will be expected from Nicholas. The 6-7 forward led the Pilots with 11.5 ppg and 7.6 rpg last season and might need to up those totals even more as a junior.

Saint Mary's: Brad Waldow
We know what we're going to get from this team's best player, guard Matthew Dellavadova, but we don't know what to expect from his supporting cast now that seniors Rob Jones and Clint Steindl have graduated. Waldow averaged 8.1 points and 4.4 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game as a freshman, with an offensive rating of 121.8. More minutes and touches should lead to more production, particularly on the boards, something the Gaels will desperately need.

San Diego: Johnny Dee
Dee showcased huge potential in 2011-12, including (but not limited to) his 30-point outburst against Pepperdine in the WCC tournament. Fellow sophomore guard Christopher Anderson will be crucial too, but Dee has the makings of a star.

San Francisco: Cody Doolin
When you lose this many players (nine) in one offseason, your most important player becomes anyone with a warm body. But Doolin and fellow junior Cole Dickerson stuck around, and both will have to take on major roles in the wake of all those defections.

Santa Clara: Kevin Foster
Foster was en route to a solid if unspectacular individual 2011-12 before being suspended for the final 12 games of the season. But the 3-point gunner is back for his senior year and should be the focus of the Santa Clara attack.

Previewing Omaha: Evening games

March, 16, 2012
OMAHA, Neb. -- Here’s a quick rundown of what to look for in Friday’s afternoon games in Omaha.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s (27-5) vs. No. 10 Purdue (21-12), 7:27 ET

For Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett, Thursday’s shootaround at the CenturyLink Center was gratifying for two reasons. His Gaels are back in the national spotlight -- and Bennett caught a glimpse of a celebrity.

“He’s a legend,” Bennett said of Purdue’s Robbie Hummel. “I’ve heard about him for six years. I finally got to see him up close.”

Bennett was only halfway kidding.

Hummel, after all, has garnered national public sympathy after missing the past two NCAA tournaments because of knee injuries. The fifth-year senior -- who didn’t play at all last season after tearing his ACL on the first day of practice -- is hoping his return to the postseason isn’t short-lived.

“Sitting out the last two years ... it’s been frustrating,” said Hummel, who averages 16.3 points. “I think it’s made this time all the more special for me. I think we’re all excited to be here and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

The Boilermakers face a tough task in their first game.

Saint Mary’s became the first team in 11 years other than Gonzaga to win the West Coast Conference title outright. The Gaels, who reached the Sweet 16 in 2010, are led by point guard Matthew Dellavedova. The Cousy Award finalist is the school’s all-time assists leader. He averages 15.6 points.

Things appeared bleak for Saint Mary’s after a 14-point loss at Murray State in a BracketBusters game Feb. 18. But Bennett’s squad bounced back with four straight wins to end the season.

Saint Mary’s, which is comprised largely of Australian players, has won 25 or more games in each of the past five seasons. On Friday the Gaels will attempt to beat a Purdue squad that has won its past 13 games in the round of 64.

“They’ve got a lot of depth, a lot of talented guys,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We’re going to have our hands full.”

Players to watch:

Robbie Hummel, Purdue -- The senior’s 16.3-point scoring average is a career high, and so are his 7.1 rebounds per game. He's averaging just 10.6 points in his past three contests.

Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s -- One of the more fundamentally sound point guards in the country averages 15.6 points and 6.4 assists.

Rob Jones, Saint Mary’s -- The senior forward is a bit undersized at 6-foot-6, but you’d hardly be able to tell by looking at the stat sheet. Jones averages 14.8 points and 10.7 rebounds.

No. 2 Kansas (27-6) vs. No. 15 Detroit (22-13), 9:57 p.m. ET

For all the thrills they’ve experienced in the regular season, the Kansas Jayhawks still have painful memories from their past two NCAA tournaments.

More than the defeats, it’s who the Jayhawks lost to that has been hard for Bill Self’s team to stomach.

Two years ago it was Northern Iowa. Last season, Virginia Commonwealth.

When Kansas drew No. 15 seed Detroit in the round of 64 in this year’s tournament, more than a few fans feared that another upset loss to a mid-major team could be in store.

“We didn’t come to play,” point guard Tyshawn Taylor said of the past two years. “We thought if we just showed up, we’d beat those teams.”

The Jayhawks probably don’t have that opinion of Detroit, which features a McDonald’s All-American in Ray McCallum Jr. and a pro-caliber center in Eli Holman, who began his career at Indiana.

The Titans, who earned an automatic bid by beating Valparaiso by 20 points on their home floor, may be the most talented No. 15 seed in the history of the tournament. Seven of their 13 losses came without Holman, who was suspended for the fall semester.

Holman will be one of the main players charged with defending Big 12 Player of the Year Thomas Robinson, who averages 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds. He certainly sounded confident when asked about the matchup earlier in the week.

“Robinson?” Holman said. “I can handle Robinson. He has to handle me.”

Detroit head coach Ray McCallum -- the father of the star point guard -- said the last thing his players intended to do was disrespect Kansas.

“I think some of those comments have been exaggerated,” the coach said. “We’ve been a team that hasn’t bragged or boasted about anything. Some of the things in print, I scratch my head, like 'Where did that come from?'

“I don’t think [it’s] arrogance. We’ve got great respect for their team. We know they’re truly one of the best. We’re going to have to play our best game of the year to win.”

Players to Watch:

Thomas Robinson, Kansas -- The first-team All-American and Wooden Award candidate has gone from a nonstarter to one of the best players in America. The NCAA tournament will likely mark the final time he will be in a Kansas uniform, as he’s expected to enter the NBA draft.

Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas -- Not many point guards in the country were as good during the second half of the season as Taylor, who led the Jayhawks in scoring in Big 12 play. The senior is a fourth-year starter

Ray McCallum Jr., Detroit -- The son of the Titans’ head coach averages 15.6 points per game but shoots just 25 percent from beyond the arc. He chose Detroit over schools such as Kansas, Florida and UCLA.