Last year's Final Four darling does it again

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Last year's Final Four darling does it again

From Comcast SportsNet
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Shaka Smart and Co. pulled off the first major surprise of the NCAA tournament. Yep, VCU is back again. Bradford Burgess hit a key 3-pointer with 1:33 left and the 12th-seeded Rams held off Wichita State 62-59 on Thursday night. Smart was one of the tournament's biggest stars last year when he coached VCU to victories over Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas, making the Rams just the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four. The run ended when they lost to Butler in Houston. This VCU team moves on to a matchup with fourth-seeded Indiana (26-8), which advanced to Saturday's game with a 79-66 victory over New Mexico State at the Rose Garden. "We have different guys doing different things than last year's team," Burgess said. "We want to make our own mark on this year's tournament." Still, there are already similarities to last year's run. Just take a look at the last few frantic minutes of this one. With 12 seconds left and the Rams clinging to a 62-59 lead, Smart was so animated during a timeout that he swooped down on his team at midcourt and started strategizing. The intense huddle was eventually brushed back to near the bench by the referees, but the Rams (29-6) came out of the timeout and buckled down defensively, hurrying Wichita State center Garrett Stutz's errant 3-point attempt before the final buzzer. "Our guys did a good job executing our defensive plan," Smart said of those final seconds. "They didn't get a good look at a 3, and that's what won it for us." The Rams led by as many as 13 in the second half, but Wichita State (26-6) closed to 54-53 on Stutz's layup with 5:39 left. Troy Daniels hit a 3-pointer for the Rams, and Joe Ragland answered with his own for the Shockers. Toure Murry made a 3 that gave Wichita State the lead, but Burgess came back with his big shot to give the Rams a 60-59 edge. Darius Theus then tacked on a runner before Stutz's last-chance attempt was off. "I was kind of the last option on top, and VCU read the play well," Stutz said. "By the time I got the ball I knew there wasn't enough time to go for a two. Couldn't have been more than 2 or 3 seconds left." Said VCU guard Rob Brandenberg: "Everybody was on the same page that last (defensive) play." Burgess finished with 16 points, and Theus and Daniels had 10 points apiece for the Rams, who edged Drexel 59-56 in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament final to make it to the NCAAs. Because of their unexpected run last season, the Rams were expected to give the Shockers trouble. Even President Barack Obama picked them to advance. Ragland finished with 15 points after getting off to a slow start. "They obviously pressured the ball and the first half we didn't handle it as well as we should have," Ragland said. "The second half we handled it pretty well and had a chance to win the game." Wichita State was ranked No. 18 in the final The Associated Press poll. The Shockers won the regular-season title in the Missouri Valley Conference, but lost to Illinois State in the semifinals of the conference tournament. It was the first NCAA tournament appearance for Wichita State since 2006, when it advanced to the regional semifinals. There were lots of missed shots on both sides early, but Rob Brandenberg hit a 3-pointer to put VCU in front 17-13 midway through the first half. Wichita State put together an 11-0 run to make it 24-21 with 5:27 left. Carl Hall capped the surge with a layup. Treveon Graham broke the VCU scoring drought with a jumper and Burgess added a 3-pointer, sparking a 13-1 run that lifted the Rams to a 34-25 lead at the break. Burgess scored 13 points during a dominating first half, except for an errant 3-pointer that fell far short of the basket. Virginia Commonwealth stretched the lead to 41-29 after Brandenberg's layup. His jumper a short time later gave the Rams a 46-33 lead, but Ben Smith had a layup before David Kyles scored five quick points to trim VCU's lead to 46-40. Ragland, who was quiet most of the first half, made a 3-pointer with 7:23 left and Stutz tapped in a shot to get Wichita State within one at 54-53. "They came at us with kind of a dose of our own medicine and pressed us," Smart said. "I thought it gave us troubles for part of the second half but we hung in there and made all the big plays in the end."

Denzel Washington liked Bulls' Denzel Valentine's name, so the actor tracked him down

Denzel Washington liked Bulls' Denzel Valentine's name, so the actor tracked him down

What happens when you share the same name as Denzel Washington? You get tracked down by him.

After Denzel Valentine was selected by the Bulls in Thursday's NBA Draft, Washington made it a mission to find the Michigan State product.

"I actually talked to him," Washington told TMZ. "I talked to him. I tracked him down cause how many Denzels do you meet?"

We assume not a lot of them, but the actor is probably a reason that there are more Denzels in this world. At least that's the case with Valentine, who was named after his father's favorite actor.

Washington's three Golden Globes and two Academy Awards are a few of his honors throughout his acting career.

Maybe Valentine could follow his footsteps and help deliver some hardware for the Bulls in the future.

Tune in to CSN Chicago or catch a live stream on CSNChicago.com at 11 a.m. as GM Gar Forman and head coach Fred Hoiberg introduce Denzel Valentine to the Bulls.

Big Ten vs. SEC: Penn State adds future games against Auburn

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Big Ten vs. SEC: Penn State adds future games against Auburn

Penn State is upping its strength of schedule ... come 2021.

The Nittany Lions announced a home-and-home series with Auburn on Monday, with games slated for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Penn State will play host to Auburn on Sept. 18, 2021, and then travel to take on the Tigers on Sept. 17, 2022.

Not only will these games be the first regular-season meetings between the two schools, they will be the first two regular-season games Auburn has ever played against a Big Ten opponent.

Penn State has played Auburn twice in bowl games, winning the 1996 Outback Bowl and losing the 2003 Capital One Bowl.

"We are thrilled to be adding Auburn to our future football schedules," Penn State athletics director Sandy Barbour said in the announcement. "This is a great intersectional matchup, and there will be significant interest from alumni, fans and students of both schools to be a part of the electric atmospheres on both campuses. I am very appreciative of (Auburn athletics director) Jay Jacobs’ interest and efforts in making this home-and-home series a reality."

The Lions also announced Monday future non-conference games with Ball State and Buffalo for the 2019 and 2021 seasons, respectively.

Penn State's non-conference schedule could use a shot in the arm following the conclusion of the current decade. The highlight of the next four seasons' slates is an annual meeting with in-state rival Pittsburgh, not a bad team by any stretch but not a team such as the attention-grabbing Auburn, which is just two seasons removed from an appearance in the national championship game. The Lions also have future non-conference series scheduled with Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

The future games also provide a Big Ten-SEC matchup fans and observers always seem to crave, particularly when played between two higher-caliber programs. There are only 10 other regular-season meetings between Big Ten and SEC teams currently scheduled: this season's opener between Wisconsin and LSU, a Michigan-Florida tilt in 2017, a 2017-2018 series between Purdue and Missouri, a 2018-2019 series between Michigan and Arkansas, a 2019 game between Purdue and Vanderbilt, a home-and-home between Nebraska and Tennessee in 2026 and 2027 and another Purdue-Vanderbilt showdown all the way in 2029.

Bulls' Jimmy Butler named to Team USA for Rio 2016 Olympics

Bulls' Jimmy Butler named to Team USA for Rio 2016 Olympics

Jimmy Butler officially has been named to the Team USA basketball roster and will compete in the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Bulls announced Monday.

Butler reportedly accepted the invitation to compete last week and will mark the first member of the Bulls to compete in the Olympics since Scottie Pippen in 1996.

Butler is one of 10 players on the roster who will compete for Team USA in the Olympics for the first time. The only returning members from the 2012 Gold-medal team are Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony; Anthony also won Gold in 2008, and could become the first player ever to win three gold medals in basketball.

Joining Butler, Durant and Anthony in Rio will be Kyrie Irving, Harrison Barnes, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Paul George, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and DeAndre Jordan.

Though Team USA is still the prohibitive favorites to win gold for the third straight Summer Olympics, the team is void of some of the NBA's best current players including LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Jordan is the only member of this year's All-NBA First Team on the Olympic roster.

Butler will compete with Team USA for the first time, but he's no stranger to USA Basketball. A groin injury prevented him from participating on the Team USA Select Team in 2014, but he was named to the USA Basketball roster the following summer. He was named one of 30 finalists for a spot on the Olympic roster in January.

Butler's inclusion on the team was no surprise after he averaged 20.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists for the Bulls a year ago. He also added 1.6 steals per game and was named to the All-NBA Defensive Second Team for the third consecutive season. Butler's passing improved as much as any aspect of his game this past season, and he averaged 6.1 assists per game after the All-Star break. That will come in handy in Rio, as Irving and Lowry are the only two true point guards on the roster.

Butler will be one of two Bulls competing in this summer's Olympics. Their second round pick, small forward Paul Zipser, is a member of the German national team and will compete for his country. Pau Gasol, who spent two years with the Bulls and will opt out of his contract this summer, will compete for the Spain national team, which won silver medals in 2008 and 2012.