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NCAA Basketball News and Notes: March 15, 2019

Zion Returns

After weeks off with a knee sprain, freshman superstar Zion Williamson made his triumphant return on Thursday in the ACC Tournament against the Syracuse Orange. It did not take long for him to show that he was feeling pretty good, either. In the first half alone, Williamson had 21 points and 9 rebounds. As Duke raced to a 34-28 halftime lead, Duke quickly showed how it is a whole new team, particularly in the interior, with Zion in the lineup. For the night, Williamson ended with 29 points and 14 rebounds as Duke beat the Syracuse Orange, 84-72. Most impressive was the fact that he went a perfect 13 for 13 from the floor. In addition to Williamson, RJ Barrett added 23 points and 6 rebounds. Franklin Howard scored 28 points in the loss for Syracuse.

With Duke’s win, the most interesting part is the matchup that is now brewing for the semi-finals, Duke versus North Carolina. Before Thursday, the last time Williamson played was the first minute of the first game against North Carolina before blowing through his shoe and hurting his knee. After losing that game and the rematch without Williamson, it will finally be the Duke-North Carolina matchup that we have all hoped for. It is already a foregone conclusion, but if Zion comes up big in March, it will be an absolute lock that Zion will be the number one pick in the NBA draft.

Speaking of the ACC Tournament, it has been all chalk thus far as the semi-finals will feature the one seed (Virginia) versus the four seed (Florida State) while the number 2 seed (North Carolina) will take on the number 3 seed (Duke). For Virginia, they beat North Carolina State easily on Thursday, 76-56. Kyle Guy had a great night for the Cavaliers scoring 29 points and adding 3 assists and 4 rebounds. For Florida State, they just barely squeaked by the Virginia Tech Hokies, 65-63. Devin Vassell led the way for the Seminoles with 14 points. We already mentioned Duke’s score, but North Carolina easily beat Louisville, 83-70. Coby White (19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) and Luke Maye (19 points, 9 rebounds) led the way for North Carolina.

Shocker In WCC Championship

It is definitely March Madness. While stunners generally seem to be a regular thing in the postseason, not too many people could have anticipated the outcome of the WCC championship game. The No. 1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs not only lost to the unranked St. Mary’s, they were blown out. The final score was 60-47. That is right, Gonzaga, the top-ranked offense in the nation, was held to just 47 points. While Gonzaga had already sealed their ticket to the NCAA tournament, this loss could have huge ramifications on seeding. Will they still be considered a number one seed or will this loss cause them to tumble in the seeding? One thing is for sure, if Gonzaga plays like they did against St. Mary’s in the NCAA tournament, it might not matter what seed they are because they likely won’t last long.

Gonzaga Not The Only Team To Be Upset

While Gonzaga might have been the most shocking upset, they certainly weren’t the only ones. On Thursday, No. 7 Texas Tech was upset in the Big 12 tournament by West Virginia, 79-74. One of the favorites in the Big 12 Tournament going into it, the Red Raiders were upset by the number 10 seed in the conference. Emmitt Williams Jr. led the way for West Virginia with 28 points and 8 rebounds while Jarrett Culver led the way for Texas Tech with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Once again, Texas Tech will be in the NCAA tournament although this may hurt their seeding like Gonzaga’s loss did. Furthermore, it puts a little bit of doubt into a good team at the wrong time of the year.

Washington State To Make Coaching Change

As teams start to call it a season, schools have to make decisions on their coaches and whether they are heading in the direction they hope to. For Washington State, they have decided a different way is best for the school. On Thursday, they fired coach Ernie Kent. As it currently stands, Washington State and UCLA are both looking for new coaches, and they certainly won’t be the last as others are expected to follow suit.

LSU Coach Wants To Return To Sidelines

Speaking of coaches, LSU’s coach, Will Wade, says that he would like to return to the sidelines for the Tigers. He is currently serving a suspension as he is being investigated for making offers to possible recruits to play at LSU. It is believed that the player that is specifically being referred to is freshman Javonte Smart. While he has declined to be interviewed by both the NCAA and his own school, there certainly is drama clouding the situation. On the one hand, he has not officially been found guilty of anything; on the other hand, he technically hasn’t denied the allegations either. For his team, though, No. 9 LSU will be playing in the SEC Tournament starting on Friday against either Arkansas or Florida.

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