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.

NCAA: Former USF assistant provided extra benefits, lied to NCAA investigators

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The NCAA has alleged that former South Florida assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided roughly $500 in impermissible benefits and initially lied to NCAA investigators about it, according to the Tampa Bay Times, who obtained the NCAA’s summary disposition report.

Oliver Antigua is the younger brother of Orlando Antigua, who was the head coach at USF until he was fired in January. Now an assistant on Brad Underwood’s staff at Oklahoma State, Orlando was not alleged to have committed an NCAA violation in the report.

Oliver is alleged to have provided the extra benefits to two student-athletes while they were being tutored by the sister-in-law of Gerald Gillion, a special assistant to Orlando who resigned last fall, four months after Oliver did. USF has already self-imposed a $5,000 and reduced their scholarships from 13 to 12, according to the report.

“The University of South Florida and the NCAA continue to work together to resolve the inquiry into violations of NCAA bylaws and university standards by a USF intercollegiate athletic program,” according to a statement released by the school. “USF anticipates having a final resolution with the NCAA sometime this fall. Until the process concludes and the matter is fully resolved, USF cannot provide further comment.”

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.