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.

Gonzaga’s Mark Few named AP Coach of the Year

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Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has added to his program’s banner season with an individual award, being named AP Coach of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

Few led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four. The Zags enter the national semifinal with a 36-1 record. Up until Feb. 25, they were flirting with a perfect season. A loss to BYU is currently the only blemish on their season.

Few also won his 500th career game during the course of the 2016-17 season. Since 2014, two coaches from outside the major conferences have earned his honor. Gregg Marshall was named AP Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Shockers to a perfect regular season.

This was a very competitive race this season. Sean Miller lost two players expected to be key pieces this season — and had Allonzo Trier miss 19 games — but guided Arizona to the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Jay Wright led Villanova to another Big East title despite two cornerstone pieces — Ryan Arcidiancono and Daniel Ochefu — gone from last season’s national championship team. For a while, Baylor’s Scott Drew seemed to be the favorite. The Bears didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason top-25 poll but went on to earn a No. 1 ranking.

Few’s season continues on Saturday against South Carolina.

Frank Mason is named AP Player of the Year

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Kansas point guard Frank Mason III was named the AP Player of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

The senior floor general for the Jayhawks headlined the AP All-American team, which included UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Villanova Swingman Josh Hart, Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson.

Mason averaged 20.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shot 49 percent from behind the 3-point line during the 2016-17 season. He helped guide Kansas to its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

He becomes the fourth senior in a row to win the award, preceded by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminksy and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

He had previously been named player of the year by NBC Sports.

TJ Leaf declares for the 2017 NBA Draft

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UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.

This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.

The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.

CBT Fancast: Catching up with famous Final Four fans: Adam Morrison, Marcus Paige, Neil Everett

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For today’s episode, I spoke with the famous fans of the programs in the Final Four, from the greatest player in Gonzaga history to the almost-star of last year’s Final Four to the most famous dual Gonzaga and Oregon fan in the world.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game, but South Carolina head coach Frank Martin doesn’t seem too concerned.

“I’ve got a bug myself. Luckily I don’t have to play,” Martin said. “He had a little body temperature last night when we landed. And he was a little better this morning. But I kind of told our trainer, just feed him fluids, do what doctors do and let him rest rather than stress him right now. He’s our most intelligent player. And I don’t mean to say that demeaning the other guys. He understands basketball at a high, high level, he doesn’t need to be on the practice court to understand what we’re doing.”