Jeff Eisenberg

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of the Dagger. Prior to joining Yahoo! Sports in Feb. 2010, Eisenberg worked for 4 1/2 years at The Press-Enterprise covering everything from UCLA basketball, to USC football, to the Los Angeles Lakers. If he's not watching basketball, you'll usually find Eisenberg enjoying the California sunshine, sampling craft brews or cooking on the grill.

  • Duke's forgotten freshman helps carry the Blue Devils to a title

    INDIANAPOLIS — One month into his debut season at Duke, freshman guard Grayson Allen could feel himself slipping into what he calls spectator mode.

    He was only playing a handful of minutes in most games and twice he hadn't even gotten off the bench at all. As a result, the former McDonald's All-American spent long stretches of games sulking on the bench instead of concentrating on how he could contribute in limited minutes.

    "I did get down on myself and I think that hurt me," Allen said. "I wasn't expecting to get in and I was acting like I wasn't part of the team on the bench. I was just watching. Eventually [Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski] sat down with me and told me not to just work toward next year. He told me to stay ready because my time was this year."

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    Never has Krzyzewski spoken truer words than those. This season indeed was Allen's time, even if the phenomenally talented freshman had to wait until Duke's

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  • Unlikely freshmen carry Duke to its fifth national title

    INDIANAPOLIS — Their deficit had ballooned to nine early in the second half. Their star player was saddled with foul trouble. Their ears were ringing from the roars of the red-clad pro-Wisconsin crowd.

    This could have been the point in Monday’s national title game when the enormity of the situation swallowed Duke’s freshmen whole. Instead it proved to be their finest moment.

    Duke's Grayson Allen drives to the basket ahead of Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky. (AP)Duke's Grayson Allen drives to the basket ahead of Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky. (AP)Duke’s four freshmen combined to score all of the team's 37 second-half points, including 29 in the game's final 13 minutes, as the Blue Devils rallied to claim Mike Krzyzewski’s fifth national title with a 68-63 win over fellow No. 1 seed Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium. And while stars Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor played a part in the comeback, it was two other freshmen who carried Duke down the stretch.

    Twenty-three of the combined 39 points Duke guards Grayson Allen and Tyus Jones scored Monday night came during those final 13 minutes.

    "We were dead in the water," Krzyzewski said. "We were nine points

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  • Four keys that could determine Monday night's title game

    INDIANAPOLIS — If the final game of the college basketball season couldn't feature Kentucky taking aim at the sport's first undefeated season in 39 years, the matchup we have instead is one heck of a consolation prize.

    On one side is Big Ten champion Wisconsin, which bested Kentucky in the national semifinals to move to within one win of its first championship since 1941. On the other side is fellow No. 1 seed Duke, which has steamrolled less formidable competition to earn a shot at its fifth national title under Mike Krzyzewski. 

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    The matchup features college basketball's two premier big men, two of the sport's best coaches and four prospects who will likely be taken high in the first round of June's NBA draft. Here's a look at four factors that could decide the outcome:

    1. Who wins the Okafor-Kaminsky matchup?

    One was the No. 1 overall player in his recruiting class since he entered high school and received

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  • Paul George returns to thunderous cheers from Pacers fans

    INDIANAPOLIS — As Paul George glided down the right side of the floor late in the first quarter with nothing but open court between him and the rim, fans throughout Bankers Life Fieldhouse rose in anticipation of something memorable.

    They were hoping for a jaw-dropping dunk to confirm one of the NBA's best players was on his way to regaining the explosiveness that was a hallmark of his game before he broke his right leg in gruesome fashion last August. What they got instead was George botching an uncontested layup and smiling sheepishly afterward.

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    "That's why I'm happy I chose to come back now and get some games under my feet, so I can eliminate those mistakes going forward," George said. "It was an embarrassing moment, but I'm happy to be embarrassed at this time."

    Clunky moments were as frequent as flashes of George's former All-Star form during his first game back Sunday night, but his mere presence

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  • Andrew Harrison apologizes for expletive, slur directed at Frank Kaminsky

     

    An open microphone and a frustrated Andrew Harrison made for a dangerous combination Saturday night.

    When a reporter asked Karl-Anthony Towns what made Frank Kaminsky so difficult to defend in Wisconsin's 71-64 victory over the previously undefeated Wildcats, Harrison appeared to mutter "F--- that N----" under his breath at the mention of the Badgers forward. Harrison tweeted an apology early Sunday morning and said he'd spoken to Kaminsky.

    Harrison's words were immature and

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  • Wisconsin ends Kentucky's bid for an undefeated season

    INDIANAPOLIS — They stood in stunned silence in the Kentucky student section, some with hands clasped atop their head and others with their tear-stained faces buried in their shirts.

    So many times this season the undefeated Wildcats escaped with victories in games just like this one, games they trailed deep into the second half. This time the team that seemed destined never to lose ran out of late-game magic.

    Kentucky overcame a nine-point first-half deficit and an eight-point second-half deficit in a classic national semifinal against fellow No. 1 seed Wisconsin, but the Wildcats went cold at the worst possible time. They only scored four points after they built a four-point lead with more than six minutes to go, enabling Wisconsin stars Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky to rally the Badgers for a stunning 71-64 victory.

    "You have to give Wisconsin credit," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "They did to us what we have done to teams. I'm going to look at the tape. There's some things I

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  • Duke smothers Michigan State with its suddenly tough defense

    INDIANAPOLIS — The biggest reason Duke is one win away from Mike Krzyzewski’s fifth national championship isn’t Jahlil Okafor’s low-post scoring, Justise Winslow’s forays to the rim or Quinn Cook’s 3-point shooting.

    Hard as it may be to believe, it’s defense that is fueling the Blue Devils.

    A Duke team whose season-long weakness had been its inability to string together stops suddenly has improved dramatically in the NCAA tournament. The Blue Devils spotted Michigan State an early eight-point lead and then smothered the overmatched Spartans the rest of the night, rolling to an 81-61 victory in Saturday’s first national semifinal.

    In the final 16 minutes of the first half and the first two minutes of the second, Duke outscored Michigan State 36-11, forced nine turnovers and held the Spartans to anemic 3-of-21 shooting. By the end of that stretch, the Blue Devils led by 17 points and could already start looking ahead to Monday’s title game against either fellow No. 1 seeds Wisconsin or

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  • Three keys for Wisconsin and Michigan State to pull off upsets

    For Kentucky and Duke to meet for the national championship on Monday night, they will have to thwart the upset bids of a pair of capable Big Ten underdogs. 

    Ultra-efficient Wisconsin has been one of the nation's best teams all season thanks to a versatile frontcourt that is a matchup nightmare for most opponents. Surging Michigan State is peaking at exactly the right time thanks in part to the brilliant play of guard Travis Trice.

    Here's a look at what the Badgers and Spartans must do to win Saturday night. Wisconsin is trying to end Kentucky's bid for an undefeated season and avenge its one-point loss to the Wildcats in last year's Final Four, while Michigan State is hoping to extend its improbable run and move one win closer to Tom Izzo's second national championship.  

    THREE KEYS FOR WISCONSIN

    1. Shoot well from behind the arc

    What makes Wisconsin a challenging matchup for Kentucky's vaunted defense is that the Badgers start five players who are dangerous from behind the arc. Sam

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  • How Tom Izzo always gets his teams to peak in March

    INDIANAPOLIS — Two months into a season that had not started like he had hoped, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo grew fed up with the way his team ended huddles after every practice.

    He prohibited the Spartans from chanting "Indy" for the rest of the season in order to reinforce that they weren't playing with the effort or attention to detail needed to contend for a Final Four.

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    "That motivated us a lot," Michigan State guard Bryn Forbes said. "Knowing he thought we weren't playing as well as we needed to be to get to Indianapolis, that just pushed us to work harder. I think that changed all of us for the better."

    Stories like that demonstrate how Izzo has forged a reputation for having a magic touch in March. He has a remarkable knack for finding innovative ways to get his teams to peak in time for college basketball's most important month.

    When Michigan State meets Duke on Saturday night, it will be Izzo's seventh

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  • Justin Jackson's return bolsters already loaded North Carolina

    At a time when numerous prospects unlikely to be selected in the first round are turning pro, one with first-round potential made a savvy choice to return to school.

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    North Carolina's Justin Jackson announced his decision Wednesday, gambling that he can solidify himself as a first-round pick as a sophomore while also participating in what could be a memorable season for the talent-laden Tar Heels.

    Jackson's return gives North Carolina a chance to return every key player from this past season when the Tar Heels won 26 games and reached the Sweet 16. Second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Brice Johnson could conceivably still turn pro, but leading scorer Marcus Paige has already implied that he will return and nobody else is expected to leave.

    North Carolina would be a lock for the preseason top 10 and a strong candidate for the preseason top five if it indeed returned everyone. The one stumbling block could be

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