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Bet on NCAA long shot retrieves big payday for UMBC fans

Eric Barger figured he was throwing his money away when he and a group of friends bet on a No. 16 seed to upset a top-ranked team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But the group’s $800 bet on the University of Maryland-Baltimore County men’s basketball team paid off big when the Retrievers shocked No. 1 Virginia 74-54 on Friday.

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No. 16 seeds had been 0-for-135 against No. 1s, but UMBC’s win was lucrative for Barger and friends, who cashed a $16,800 winning ticket at The Venetian in Las Vegas, ESPN reported. 

"I go with my boys to Vegas every tournament, and we did pretty well on Thursday," Barger told ESPN. “Me and my buddy Dan went to UMBC, so we spent all day talking up how much we were going to bet.”

Barger said he did not think he had a winning ticket.

"We, of course, thought we were throwing our money down the drain," Barger, 42, told ESPN. “We expected to be down pretty quickly, but we hung in there, and they won by 20. It was surreal.”

Feeling lucky, Barger said he and his friends took $200 each out of their winnings and gambled it on a game of roulette. Their number hit, so they collected an additional $1,900, ESPN reported.

Barger said his group will bet on UMBC again in the Retrievers’ game Sunday night against Kansas State.

“With odds at about 5-to-1, we'll have at least a couple hundred on the game,” Barger told ESPN. “How could we not?"

Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt:  5 things to know

It’s hard to call Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt an overnight sensation. After all, she’s been following basketball at Loyola University-Chicago for more than a half century and said she saw the Ramblers win the NCAA title in 1963. But thanks to television, the internet and social media, the 98-year-old nun has become a media darling.

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With victories against Miami and Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament, the Ramblers are hoping for more spiritual guidance when they face the winner of the Cincinnati-Nevada game in next week’s Sweet 16.

Here are some things you might not have known about Loyola-Chicago’s inspirational leader.

Praying for victory: As the basketball team’s chaplain since 1994, Sister Jean begins every prayer the same way: “Good and gracious God.” But if you’re thinking she does not invoke the deity for a little help to win, think again. “I ask God to be especially good to Loyola so that, at the end of the game, the scoreboard indicates a big ‘W’ for us,” she told The New York Times. She ends every prayer with an emphatic “Go Ramblers.” Judging from some of the shots Loyola-Chicago has been burying during this tournament -- Clayton Custer’s game-winner against Tennessee comes to mind -- these prayers have been answered so far.

She’s a Hall of Famer: Loyola-Chicago inducted Sister Jean into the athletic department’s Hall of Fame in 2017, making her the 173rd member to be enshrined. Born in San Francisco in 1919, Sister Jean played basketball in high school.

Good scouting: Every season, Sister Jean researches the boxscores of upcoming opponents, using her sharp eye for detail to point out flaws in the Ramblers’ next foe. Coach Porter Moser found a manila folder on his desk on his first day as coach, according to Sister Jean had compiled a scouting report on the Ramblers to help the new coach.

“She lights up every room she goes into.” Moser told the Times. “She’s always smiling. She has an energy about herself. I connect with that.”

She has her own bobblehead: Loyola-Chicago held a bobblehead promotion night for Sister Jean in 2011.

Super sneakers: Sister Jean has a pair of maroon-and-gold Nike sneakers that she wears during each game. Two names are stitched on the sneaker’s heels: “Sister” on the left heel, and “Jean” on the right.

It’s been quite a ride for Loyola-Chicago, which has knocked off two highly touted program. Now, the Ramblers will have to go against Sister Jean in the Sweet 16: She picked the Ramblers to lose in that round.

March Madness 2018: Michigan beats Houston, buzzer with last-second miracle by Jordan Poole

The game between Michigan and Houston on Saturday night was an absolute battle.

>> NCAA Men’s tournament 2018: Time, channel, odds for March Madness

Neither offense could get going, as the Wolverines shot 35 percent from the field, while the Cougars shot 37 percent. With less than four seconds remaining, Michigan trailed 63-61 with the ball.

Then, the magic happened. You’ve seen this already, but that’s OK. It’s worth seeing again.

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Freshman Jordan Poole nailed a 3-pointer as time expired to send the Wolverines to the Sweet 16. It was Poole’s second made 3-pointer of the game as he finished with 8 points.

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Michigan as a team shot 8-of-30 from behind the arc on the night. Houston missed two free throws on the other end of the court to lead to Poole’s game-winner.

Michigan will face the winner of North Carolina-Texas A&M.

Little Caesars honoring bracket-busting win with free pizza

If you’re crying in your beer after the University of Maryland-Baltimore County became the ultimate bracket buster in the NCAA Tournament on Friday night, take heart. There is a free pizza waiting to ease your sorrow.

Little Caesars is honoring UMBC’s 74-54 victory against Virginia -- the first time a No. 16 seed has defeated a No. 1 seed -- with a free lunch combo on Monday, April 2.

The $5 Hot-N-Ready Lunch Combo will include four slices of pepperoni pizza and one 20-ounce Pepsi product per family, the company said in its promotional release. Orders must be made between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time. An important point: the order must be placed by 1 p.m. The rules in the promotion state that even if you were in line at 1 p.m., if the order has not been placed it will not be honored. In other words, arrive early. 

Here are the details of the deal. You can read the full terms and conditions here.

'Gonzaga Grandma' celebration goes viral

March Madness has only just begun, and already there is an internet sensation: the Gonzaga Grandma.

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Fourth-seeded Gonzaga squeaked past UNC-Greensboro 68-64 Thursday afternoon and did not clinch the victory until freshman guard Zach Norvell Jr. hit a 3-point shot with 20.8 seconds remaining to snap a 64-64 tie.

After the basket, the TNT cameras caught an elderly woman in the Gonzaga cheering section celebrating by pointing her arms to the sky, mouthing the words “Thank you, Father.”

It was a heavenly way for the Bulldogs to avoid an upset. The Gonzaga Grandma’s reaction quickly went viral:

NCAA Tournament: Tennessee ends Wright State’s season

A Wright State team built on defense was done in by a bigger, stronger and faster one Thursday as Tennessee overpowered the Raiders in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The Volunteers held WSU to its lowest point total of the season and largest margin of defeat in a 73-47 triumph in a South Region game at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

“You can’t play as poorly as we did offensively and win an NCAA tournament game, not against a team like Tennessee,” Raiders coach Scott Nagy said. “We’ve been in some games like this where we’ve played poorly offensively and won, but you’re playing Tennessee, that just isn’t going to happen.”

›› PHOTO GALLERY: See pictures from Wright State-Tennessee game

The loss ends the winningest Division I season in WSU history at 25-10, while the Volunteers (26-8) advance to face the winner of Thursday’s second game between No. 6 Miami and No. 11 Loyola-Chicago.

The Raiders’ first trip to the NCAA tournament in 11 years started poorly and only got worse against one of the top defenses in the country.

With senior guard and leading scorer Grant Benzinger in a shooting funk and freshman center Loudon Love on the bench with trouble for most of the first half, WSU missed 14 of its first 17 shots to fall behind 21-8. And the Raiders recovered.

›› ARCHDEACON: Losing seasons at SDSU made Nagy a better coach, dancer

Benzinger ended his college career with just five points on 2 of 16 shooting, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range.

The Volunteers held him scoreless over the final 24 minutes.

“You’re going to have games like that,” Nagy said. “Grant has had people sticking to him all year, so I don’t think that was any different. I don’t know what to tell you. He just had a tough game offensively.”

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Everyone in green did as the Raiders made just 19 of 60 shots, including 4 of 21 from 3-point range against a Tennessee defense that also recorded six steals, six blocks and a 44-32 edge in rebounds.

“We felt coming in that Wright State would be as difficult a team as we’ve played all year in terms of the way they move without the ball,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Defensively we were really pretty good today against a team that’s not a very easy team to guard.”

UT sophomore guard Lamonte Turner, the SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year, came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points, while junior forward Admiral Schofield posted 15 with a game-high 12 rebounds. Sophomore forward Grant Williams, the SEC Player of the Year, added 14 points and nine boards while playing a big role in getting Love into foul trouble.

›› Ryan Custer-inspired mantra fits Wright State to a T

The Raiders trailed by 11 at halftime, but the Volunteers opened the second half on a 14-4 run to coast into the second round.

Love led WSU with 12 points and nine rebounds, while freshman forward Everett Winchester added 11 points, eight of which came in the first half to keep the game from turning into a blowout earlier.

“Tennessee is really physical on defense,” Winchester said. “They’re in the lanes. They attack the ball. And they just pressure a lot. I think we had some pretty good looks out there. We just couldn’t knock down shots.”

As disappointing as the loss was, Nagy said it shouldn’t detract from a record- and barrier-breaking season.

›› RELATED: Revitalized WSU women open WNIT play at Toledo

But getting that message through to the players proved to be as tough as fighting through the Tennessee defense.

“I’ve had to give that speech 23 times now because I’ve ended every one of my seasons with a loss,” Nagy said. “It’s hard for the kids to hear right there. It doesn’t matter what you say to try to make them feel better, they don’t feel better at that point.

“I think as time goes on, they’ll be able to look back and see what a special season this was,” he added. “One thing I told them is that I haven’t enjoyed every team that I’ve coached, but I really enjoyed these guys. This team has been a joy to coach, and for as thin as we were and as young as we are, we accomplished so much.”

Wright State to face Tennessee in NCAA Tournament first round

Wright State will be a No. 14 seed in the South Region and face third-seeded Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday in Dallas. The game will tip at 12:40 p.m. on truTV.

A crowd of 750 packed the Student Union on the WSU campus for a watch party with the team as the Raiders (25-9) found out where they will be going and who they will be playing in their first NCAA tournament since 2007.

RELATED: WSU players recall NCAA Tournament memories

ARCHDEACON: WSU legends weigh in on this year’s team

RELATED: Mike Hartsock’s podcast with Wright State’s Loudon Love

“This is great, but this needs to be a habit,” Nagy told the crowd. “I honestly didn’t expect this kind of turnout. It’s a little bit overwhelming, but we’re so pleased that you came.

“As we get ready to see where we go and who we play, our expectations are that we will go and win that basketball game.”

›› RELATED: Mike Hartsock talks to WSU freshman Loudon Love on his podcast

Tennessee (25-8) had won six in a row before losing to Kentucky 77-72 in the SEC championship game Sunday afternoon. This will be the 21st NCAA tournament appearance for the Volunteers, and first since they advanced to the Elite 8 in 2014.

It will be the first meeting between Wright State and Tennessee.

The winner advances to play play the victor of the game between No. 6 Miami, Fla. and No. 11 Loyola-Chicago, a team Wright State played in the season opener in Chicago on Nov. 10. The Ramblers won 84-80.

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The Raiders, who earned the Horizon League automatic bid Tuesday with a 74-57 victory against Cleveland State in the championship game, are in the tournament for just the third time in school history.

“There was an article where Thomas Walkup from Stephen F. Austin said, ‘There are two types of teams in the tournament — teams that are just happy to be there, and teams that are ready to take it by storm,” WSU senior and leading scorer Grant Benzinger said. “We intend to be the latter.”

Selection Sunday -- What to know

March Madness is upon us, and there will be a few new wrinkles when the 68-team field is announced Sunday evening.

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The “March Madness Selection Show” will begin at 6 p.m. ET, and for the first time in many years it will not be broadcast by CBS. TBS will get the honors this year, and also will televise the Final Four for the first time.

Some of the drama will end early. For the first time, teams that made the field will be announced in alphabetical order. That means that if your team is on the bubble and is not announced, then you can skip the rest of the show unless you are interested in the entire bracket and the seedings.

This is a departure from going through every bracket and listing the teams at an agonizingly slow pace.

Bracket seedings will follow, so get out your pens and put on your bracketology caps.

Providence basketball coach splits pants during intense Big East final

During Saturday’s Big East basketball tournament championship game at Madison Square Garden, Providence coach Ed Cooley refused to throw in the towel.

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He needed it because he ripped his pants.

During the second half of the game, eventually won 76-66 by Villanova in overtime, Cooley had a wardrobe malfunction and had to wear a towel around the back of his pants, ESPN reported.

“When I sat down I felt the great breeze in the crack,” Cooley laughed. "My pants ripped."

Villanova coach Jay Wright said he didn’t notice the towel.

“I didn't know until (Big East commissioner) Val Ackerman told me after the game when we were up on the stage,” Wright said. “So I never knew it. I didn't see it.”

Wright confessed that he would be stumped if his clothes ripped during a game, ESPN reported.

“I don't know what I would do, man,” he said. “I think I would try to fake like it didn't happen and hold my coat over it, I think. Thank God I haven't had that yet.”

Cooley wore a sweatsuit for the postgame news conference, ESPN reported. He said he was proud that his team never threw in the towel against Villanova.

“I'm pretty sure some of you are surprised the game was played the way it was, because everybody thought the Friars were going to come in here and lay down,” Cooley said. “No way, man. That team got fight. They've got passion, and we believe.”

Wright State beats Milwaukee to reach Horizon League final

Wright State will play for the Horizon League championship Tuesday night after beat Milwaukee 59-53 Monday night in a sloppy semifinal game at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.

The second-seeded Raiders (24-9) will face No. 8 Cleveland State, which upset No. 4 Oakland in Monday’s first semifinial.

WSU freshman Loudon Love had 18 points and 12 rebounds, while freshman Jaylon Hall added 12 points, including four free throws in the final minute.

The Raiders won the game at the other end of the court, holding the Panthers (16-17) to 31.7 percent shooting (20 of 63)

Mark Hughes spurred the defensive effort, blanking Milwaukee’s Brock Stull in the second half. Stull, who had a career-high 25 in Sunday’s quarterfinal win against UIC, had 11 points in the first half but was 1 for 4 after the break.

Jeremiah Bell, a second-team all-league pick, scored a game-high 22 points, but they came on 8 of 24 shooting.

The Raiders only shot 33.3 percent (18 of 54) and trailed by as many as six in the first half, but WSU went into halftime on a 9-2 run for a 27-25 lead and never trailed in the second half.

The 24 wins set a Division I program record for WSU.

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