Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb

The seven (plus one) best bracket tips for casual fans

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Hey-o, it’s Wednesday. How does your bracket look?

Time is ticking and, if you haven’t filled out your sheet yet, it’s likely because you’re waiting until the last possible moment to guess your way through the field.

If you need a little nudge, maybe some clarity on a few questions you may have, fear not, here are some good little tips to consider when filling out your bracket.

1) Don’t pick Indiana. Despite a mini-renaissance in Bloomington, the resurgence hasn’t carried too far outside of Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers best win on the road is over Purdue. Their best win outside of the state of Indiana is NC State. That’s not very impressive for a four-seed.

2) Winning your regular season conference title may not really matter, and neither is winning your conference title, but winning one of them does have a bearing on a team’s National Championship hopes. Nine of the last 13 winners have won their conference tournament, while a different variation of nine of the last 13 teams have won their conference’s regular season title. That means you almost must win something. Simply speaking: Duke, or even Ohio State are not winning this thing, but we’ll re-visit the Buckeyes in a moment.

3) Last season, UConn ran the table and won the National Championship as a three-seed , capping off an incredible 14-0 neutral court record. The performance got everyone thinking that winning in that sort of setting could be a good indicator of how a team will play in the NCAA Tournament. Here’s a look at every team’s neutral court record this season from Basketball State. Who does this make look good? Missouri, Vanderbilt and even Louisville. Conversely? Kansas, Memphis and Wichita State.

3) No 16-seed has beaten a one-seed, but 15s have beaten twos…just not in the past 10 years. Zero for their last 40, the unlikely 15 over a two is currently in its longest drought since the tournament expanded in 1985. Maybe their due, maybe their not, but streaks were made to be broken.

4) Consult KenPom.com. The national champion has finished either No. 1 or No 2 in his ranking algorithm in all but two seasons since the site was launched in 2003. With the two outliers being the 2011 UConn Huskies (Kemba Walker) and 2003 Syracuse Orange (Carmelo Anthony), the two anomalies were due primarily to one player catching fire and carrying his entire team. With this, I’m basically telling you to strongly consider Kentucky and Ohio State to play for the National Championship.

5) Some people may be looking at Florida as their deep Final Four darkhorse. Pump the brakes right now. No seven seed has ever made the Final Four since the tournament expanded. Sorry, Gators. Your swoon to close out the regular season doomed you, and everything is pointing in Missouri’s final to cruise through that pod.

6) North Carolina’s,  maybe even Florida State’s chances at making the Final Four are great based on history. Twenty-two of the last 28 Final Fours have included an ACC team. Yes, I know, Duke and the Heels are a big part of that, but if you are a numbers guy that has to make a few decisions easier for you. With the Midwest Region looking thin, and the East now wide open both teams have a good chance to win their region, but boy that potential Sweet 16 match-up between the Seminoles and Buckeyes could go either way.

7) Don’t get too crazy. In only five out of 34 cases has the total seed number of the Final Four 20 or more. Most recently was last year, which means that probably won’t happen again this season. Basically: select conservatively this season.

8) Pick Kentucky to win it all.

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

BYU adds commit for 2019

Dave Rose
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BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.

Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.

“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”

Lee chose BYU over offers from  Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.

His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky