02-19-2017  8:03 pm      •     
McMenamins

The Big East was a bust. The Jimmer lived up to the hype. There are plenty of 10s, 11s and 12s left in the bracket, along with a handful of talented freshmen and a few familiar faces from Tobacco Road.
The second week of the NCAA tournament will be sprinkled with the typical blend of favorites and underdogs, the familiar and the obscure, with a notable lack of Big East flavor in that mix. The Skanner News Video: March Madness

The conference that placed a record 11 teams into the 64-team field ended up with only two among the last 16.
"The Big East is overrated and after Notre Dame loses tonight, it's just going to be another feather in my cap," said opinionated analyst Charles Barkley, a few minutes before the second-seeded Irish took the court against No. 10 Florida State.
Notre Dame lost 71-57.
Joining FSU among the double digits were a pair of No. 11 seeds, Marquette and Virginia Commonwealth.
Marquette defeated Big East rival Syracuse to set up a meeting with North Carolina. VCU will play Florida State in the first 10 vs. 11 matchup in tournament history.
There was a 12 seed, Richmond - a program that made its name pulling upsets in the '80s and '90s and is at it once again. The Spiders will be the underdogs once again when they play the Jayhawks.
"It's not as much the seeds. It's players," Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Speaking of players, it's hard to take your eyes off Jimmer Fredette of Brigham Young. He's the nation's top scorer and he scored 66 points over two games to lead the Cougars to the regional semifinals for the first time in 30 years.
"It was very important," Fredette said after BYU defeated Gonzaga on Saturday to move on. "It was one of my goals coming into this season. I wanted to get to the second weekend and so did this team, so it's extremely important."
Third-seeded BYU will play No. 2 seed Florida in the Southeast regional. It's a rematch of their first-round game last year, won 99-92 by BYU.
In the other Southeast game, it will be No. 8 Butler vs. No. 4 Wisconsin. The Bulldogs beat the biggest Big East bust, top-seeded Pittsburgh, and are still in line to reprise their magical run to the national final last year.
Butler coach Brad Stevens said he spoke with point guard Ronald Nored, a key component in last year's success.
He "came up to me and said, 'Coach, I've played in 10 NCAA games and nobody has ever picked us to win,'" Stevens said.
Such is life in America's biggest office pool.
Led by freshman center Jared Sullinger, Ohio State was one of three top-seeded teams to advance. In the East region game opposite Carolina-Marquette, the Buckeyes will play No. 4 Kentucky, coached by John Calipari, who is trying to join Rick Pitino as only the second coach to lead three programs to the Final Four. The Wildcats are young, led by three freshman: Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb.
"If the choice is talent or experience, I'm taking talent," Calipari said. "Then, you can blame me for us not winning. But I'm taking talent. That's just how I've been throughout my career."
Duke has a good blend of talent and experience in its quest for a repeat. The Blue Devils, the top seed in the West, will play No. 5 Arizona, back in the tournament after missing one season following a record stretch of 25 straight appearances. Sean Miller now roams the sideline that Lute Olson used to own and has the Wildcats into the second weekend for the fifth time in the past decade.
The other West game pits No. 3 Connecticut against No. 2 San Diego State - one program with tons of history against another with virtually none.
UConn showed no ill effects from its five-game-in-five-night run to the Big East Conference championship. Jim Calhoun's Huskies won their two games by an average of 20, including a 69-58 victory over conference rival Cincinnati.
San Diego State is coached by Steve Fisher, he of Fab Five fame with Michigan a few decades back. His new program won its first two NCAA tournament games this weekend. The Aztecs and BYU gave the Mountain West the same number of teams in the final 16 as the Big East.
"To finally achieve this goal, it feels special," guard D.J. Gay said. "Not just for this team, but for the city of San Diego. This is a place that we haven't been before. But to finally reach it, it feels amazing."

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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