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Michael Phelps joins 'Curtain of Distraction' complete with Speedo, medals

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Michael Phelps is still making his mark on the sports world, but it’s not in the pool this time. 

Michael Phelps joined Arizona State's "Curtain of Distraction" at Thursday night's ASU game against the Oregon State Beavers.

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Phelps came out wearing a gold T-shirt and black pants, but quickly lost both, eventually showing off six-pack abs, a Speedo and his gold Olympic medals stacked around his neck, ESPN reported.

The "Curtain of Distraction" is a group of students from Arizona State University who try to distract opposing teams during free throws.

And distraction may be Phelps' middle name. Oregon State's Stephen Thompson Jr. missed both of his free throws, The Washington Post reported.

The Sun Devils went on to win 86-68.

Police officer's impromptu national anthem performance goes viral

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When a snowstorm prevented the scheduled national anthem performer from arriving at a college basketball game in time, organizers scrambled to find a replacement.

They didn’t have to look far.

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West Virginia University police officer Carlton Smith stepped in to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the West Virginia-Kansas game at the WVU Coliseum on Jan. 12.

He didn’t have time to warm up or practice, but he still blew away the crowd with his stellar performance.

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, it wasn’t Smith’s first public performance or his first time attempting the national anthem. He’s performed it live at area sporting events. His golden voice earned him a ticket to Hollywood on “American Idol.”

Still, Smith says he always gets nervous before performing, and the anthem is a difficult song to pull off successfully.

Smith’s performance has gone viral, and has been seen over a half-million times on YouTube.

Kid with winning NCAA bracket donates Xbox One to charity

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Sam Holtz is the 12-year-old boy from Illinois who made headlines this week after it was revealed that his NCAA bracket had tied for best in the ESPN.com tournament challenge.

To put that in perspective, there were a total of 11.57 million entries, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Holtz’s accomplishment was special, especially for a young fan.

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But it was his age that created a problem when it came to claiming the official prize. The contest rules stated that participants needed to be 18 or older to be eligible for the grand prize of a $20,000 Best Buy gift card and a trip to the 2015 Maui Invitational. While Holtz had used his father’s email address to enter the contest (with his father’s consent) the 12-year-old was ineligible to receive any official prizes.

When Best Buy heard about the predicament, the company stepped up and presented Holtz with a $1,000 store gift card.

Holtz bought an Xbox One for himself, and with the leftover funds, donated a game system to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The middle school student said he chose that particular charity because of his cousin Alec, who received a wish from the foundation and who eventually overcame his life-threatening condition.

Sam Holtz is 12 years old and finished tied for first place out of 11.57 million entries in ESPN’s Tournament...Posted by Best Buy on Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lauren Hill, teen battling brain cancer, dies

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An Indiana teen who inspired many as she took to the basketball court as she battled brain cancer has died.

Lauren Hill, 19,  made national headlines in November when she played her first NCAA basketball game for Mount Saint Joseph University in Ohio, in what was called "One Last Game, WRTV reported.

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Hill was told that the aggressive cancer would take her life by Christmas.

According to the Sporting News, Hill was diagnosed in December 2013 with DIPG.  She wanted to play one last game, or her first college game before the illness would take away her balance and basketball ability.

She played what was supposed to be her last game on Nov. 2 in front of a packed house.  The game had been rescheduled from mid-November to early in the month as her illness got worse.  The game was originally an away game against Hiram College, but the NCAA and Hiram College agreed to move it up and to Xavier University, to handle the expected crowds, the Sporting News reported.

Hill started and scored the game's first and last baskets.  She was able to appear in a few other games, but left the court and was named an honorary coach on Dec. 19.  She was also named to an all-conference team and received an honorary doctorate, the Sporting News reported earlier this year.

Off the hardwood, Hill helped raise more than a million dollars in her Layup4Lauren fundraiser, WRTV reported.

She recently set a new goal of raising $2.2 million for research and  treatment of DIPG, WTHR reported.

<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/lauren-hill-teen-battling-brain-cancer-dies/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/lauren-hill-teen-battling-brain-cancer-dies.js?header=false&amp;border=false"></script>[View the story "Lauren Hill, teen battling brain cancer, dies" on Storify]

Duke survives thriller against Wisconsin to win NCAA title

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Two offensive powerhouses collided, but only one was left standing. The Duke Blue Devils have defeated the Wisconsin Badgers to win the NCAA Championship.

The Blue Devils beat the Badgers 68-63 led by a strong performance from Tyus Jones, who dropped 23 points and hit 7-for-7 from the free-throw line. He scored 19 of Duke's 37 second half points.

With the victory, coach Mike Krzyzewski's young squad captures the school's fifth NCAA men's basketball title — all under his direction. That ties the school with Indiana and North Carolina for third on the all-time list behind Kentucky with eight and UCLA with 11.

>> NCAA Championship: Fans, foes react to Duke's win

That's not to take anything away from Wisconsin. The Badgers rolled through earlier rounds with stellar performances from breakout sharpshooter Sam Dekker and Player of the Year front-runner Frank Kaminsky.

Plus, years from now, this season's Badgers class will likely still be remembered as the team that stunned the basketball world by spoiling the Kentucky Wildcats' chances at a perfect season in the Final Four.

>> PHOTOS: Duke wins 2015 NCAA title

As for the Blue Devils, the team swept through the NCAA Tournament with high-powered offense, led by a strong backcourt and one of the most dominate players in the paint, Jahlil Okafor. 

But, surprisingly, it was also their tough defense that really helped them coast to the championship.

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The victory also marks the first time Coach K and the Blue Devils have ever knocked off a No. 1 seed to win the NCAA title. Over the past three decades, the team failed four times in the same situation.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Wake / CC BY 3.0.

NCAA Championship: Fans, foes react to Duke's win

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Duke defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 68-63 on Monday to win their fifth national title in men's basketball.

Click here or scroll down to see how celebrities, fans and foes reacted on social media.

>> PHOTOS: Duke wins 2015 NCAA title

>> STORY: Duke survives thriller against Wisconsin to win NCAA title

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<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/celebs-fans-and-foes-react-after-duke-wins-ncaa-ch/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/celebs-fans-and-foes-react-after-duke-wins-ncaa-ch.js?header=false&amp;border=false"></script>[View the story "Duke wins NCAA Championship; fans and foes react" on Storify]

These coaches are no strangers to the Final Four

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After a wild weekend of nail-biters, overtime thrillers, a borderline unhealthy amount of screen time for avid fans and general, well, March Madness, the NCAA tournament Final Four is set.

Three No. 1 seeds will vie for the national title: Kentucky, Wisconsin and Duke — and the one underdog that has pretty much busted most of America's tournament brackets: No. 7 seed Michigan State.

Each of these teams has different strengths: Kentucky has the best defense in the league, whereas Wisconsin has the most efficient offense, just to use one example. But they all have at least one thing in common: coaches with great legacies, especially when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.

All totaled, teams coached by Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, John Calipari and Bo Ryan have made an astonishing 25 trips to the Final Four.

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Three of the four are listed in the top 20 among coaches for Final Four appearances, nestled alongside some prestigious company like John Wooden and Rick Pitino, the latter falling short of his eighth appearance after an overtime loss Sunday.

With Duke's victory over Gonzaga, Coach K. also cements himself right next to Wooden at the top of chart.

The two coaching greats are now tied for the most Final Fours among head coaches in NCAA history with 12 each.

As for Coach K.'s next opponent, Michigan State's Tom Izzo isn't doing too shabby himself.

As USA Today's Chris Chase points out, since 2000, Izzo's Spartans have stormed through the first four rounds of the tournament more times than any other coach in college basketball — at a rate of just about every other year.

However, where he goes from there is a bit suspect. Excluding his championship run in 2000, "Izzo’s teams are 1-6 in the Final Four." So, Chase wonders, "Is it fair to say that Izzo’s teams have had Final Four quantity, not quality?"

But chief among the coaches remaining in this year's Big Dance is arguably the most the gifted recruiter in college basketball — and he visits our TV screens in April yet again.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has lead the Wildcats to the Final Four in four of the last five years. And, he does it usually with an entirely new cast of top talent, as most guys enter the NBA draft after a year of college ball.

As Business Insider points out, "Calipari is basically playing a team full of NBA rookies, which is just far too much talent for most schools to compete against."

We'll see which two of these coaches will move on to this year's championship game when Wisconsin battles Kentucky and Michigan State takes on Duke in Indianapolis next Saturday.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Wake / CC BY 3.0.

Rick Barnes through the years

Dean Smith's estate sends letters, $200 checks to 180 former UNC players

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Letters and checks for $200 were sent to 180 players who played for Dean Smith, according to a trustee for Smith’s estate.

 The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill coach died Feb. 7 at the age of 83.   Smith was the head coach of the Tar Heels from 1961-1997, retiring with 879 wins and two national championships.   The letter was sent Monday to all former basketball lettermen who played for Smith.   A message sent with the checks read: “Each player was important and special to Coach Smith, and when he prepared his estate, Coach Smith wanted to reach out to each of his lettermen.”   A notation on each $200 check read, "Dinner out."

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