'First Four' on TruTV may be brilliant move

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The NCAA must’ve wanted to avoid more outrage.

It tried to please everyone by settling on its format for the 68-team tournament next year. The “First Four” will feature the lowest seeds and the last at-large qualifiers in games that will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday before the Big Dance begins.

Tony Ding/AP

This year, that might’ve meant games between Virginia Tech and Illinois, or Minnesota and Mississippi State. Perhaps Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Winthrop, along with Lehigh and East Tennessee State would’ve faced off in the others. Is that better? Worse? Hard to say. Only thing for certain is that it lets fans watch more games. (So it’s not all bad, no matter the matchups.)

Whether you love it, hate it, think it’s lame, or think the solution was the only logical thing to do, there’s only one thing to do: Get used to it.

“You’re not going to come up with the perfect model,” outgoing committee chair Dan Guerrero said. “You’re not going to come up with a model that is going to appease every constituency out there. But we felt that this model provided the opportunity to do something special for the tournament.”

Many coaches are satisfied with the solution (though Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg is not one of them), which has its pros and cons – Matt Norlander does an excellent breakdown of ’em.

The strangest move may be where the games will be broadcast: TruTV. Yes, TruTV, formerly known as Court TV, the place I turned to in college to solve my insomnia.

I suppose that’s one way to boost the tournament’s “reach” among average viewers, given that TruTV is in roughly 93 million households, while ESPN and ESPN2 are both in about 100 million. College hoops fans will seek out the “First Four” games on a different network, while I doubt TruTV viewers would’ve changed to ESPN, which is where the play-in game has been shown the last few years.

To recap: The Big Dance expands to 68 teams in 2011 and features four first-round games that will be shown on a non-sports network. Times do change.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

Auburn suspends leading scorer Canty indefinitely

Auburn guard Kareem Canty (1) screams in pain after being fouled during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Auburn, Ala. Auburn won 75-70.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
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Prior to Auburn’s game at Georgia Saturday evening, head coach Bruce Pearl announced that leading scorer and starting point guard Kareem Canty has been suspended indefinitely.

Canty’s currently averaging 18.3 points per game and his abilities as a scorer and distributor have been key for the Tigers offensively. When Canty returns to the court remains to be seen, with Pearl noting that Canty may be able to return before the end of the season.

“Kareem has had some strong moments for our team this season,” Pearl said. “He has demonstrated that at the highest level of competition, he can win his matchup.

“However, his effort and attitude have been extremely inconsistent, which led to actions and behavior that are unacceptable. He will step away from the team for a while and may return later in the season. He is suspended indefinitely.”

According to the release Cinmeon Bowers will move into the starting lineup for Auburn, which is now 9-13 overall and 3-7 in SEC play. Auburn’s lost five straight and eight of their last ten games after losing by ten at Georgia Saturday night.

Without him more minutes are available to freshman New Williams, who played 22 minutes against Georgia. Bryce Brown started and played 18 minutes, with Devin Waddell playing 12 minutes off the bench.

Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis go crazy, No. 20 Kentucky beats Florida by 19

Kentucky's Jamal Murray (23) shoots near Missouri's Ryan Rosburg during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Jamal Murray scored a career-high 35 points and became the first Kentucky player to hit eight threes in a game since 2010.

Tyler Ulis had 18 points and 11 assists.

As a result, No. 20 Kentucky bounced back Tuesday’s loss to Tennessee — when the Wildcats blew a 21-point lead — as they blew out a good Florida team, 80-61. The final score doesn’t really do the beat down justice, either. Kentucky was up 24-5 seven minutes into the game. The Gators, who look like they may end up being seeded as high as the No. 6 line on Selection Sunday, never had a chance.

If Kentucky was trying to prove a point, they did. I’m not sure if Murray and Ulis make up the nation’s best back court in college basketball, but on Saturday, they looked like the best back court in the entire world. They were awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that they were responsible for 64 of Kentucky’s 80 points tonight.

And that’s where this win can be a bit concerning.

Look, the issue with Kentucky is that they don’t get near enough production out of their front court, and if the knee injury that kept Alex Poythress out of the lineup on Saturday ends up being at all serious, than UK’s most productive big will be out of commission. On Saturday, Kentucky’s front court — minus Derek Willis, who is more of a wing that’s been slotted at the four — finished with a grand total of 10 points, 15 boards and 12 fouls.

That issue isn’t going away just because Ulis and Murray played an unbelievable game against one of the nation’s top five defenses, according to KenPom.com. You don’t buy a house with termites just because you love the way that it’s furnished.

But what this performance shows you is what Kentucky’s ceiling is, what they are capable of on the night’s when their two stars play like stars.

If they get hot at the right time, they can beat anyone in March. Hell, this could be enough to carry them to the Elite 8, maybe further.

When those two can play that well in a season where there is no dominant team, you can’t really count anything out.

But it also means that Kentucky is capable of losing to anyone on any given night, and all it takes is one cold shooting night for Kentucky’s run in March to come to an early end.