NCAA tournament Day 3 recap

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Player of the Day: Brady Heslip, Baylor: For all the talent and all the NBA potential on the Baylor roster, the kid that saved Baylor’s season was a guy that has been a perennial afterthought. He played on a loaded AAU team, transferred to Baylor after leaving Boston College and has been nothing but a role player in his time in Waco. Not on Saturday, however, as Heslip hit nine threes en route to 27 points to lead the No. 3 Bears to a 80-63 win over No. 11 Colorado. Heslip’s biggest contributions came in the first half, when he hit six of those threes and scored 18 of Baylor’s 37 points. The Bears led by just two points at the break.

They were good too:

Marquis Teague, Kentucky: Teague played the best game of his collegiate career, going for 24 points and seven assists as the Wildcats knocked off No. 8 Iowa State in impressive fashion, 87-71.
Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse: Christmas didn’t put up huge numbers, but he was a presence inside for the Orange on Saturday. They are going to need him to play up to his recruiting ranking if Syracuse hopes to avoid a disappointing tournament run.
Aaron Craft, Ohio State: Like Teague, Craft played his best game as a collegian on Saturday, finishing with 17 points, 10 assists and just one turnover as the Buckeyes advanced past Gonzaga.

Team of the Day: Louisville Cardinals: You have to be happy for this Louisville team. After everything they have been through this season — the losses, the injuries, the struggles of their best players — the Cardinals have persevered and are now playing their best basketball of the season. Led by Peyton Siva’s play in the clutch, the Cardinals advanced past New Mexico and have gone from a potential bubble team in mid-January to a Big East champion and a Sweet 16 member.

Shoutouts:

Syracuse Orange: Syracuse may have given up 8,000 offensive rebounds to Kansas State, but they also put together one of their best offensive halves of the season in the second half, steamrolling the Wildcats for 50 points.

Game of the Day: Indiana 63, VCU 61: This is the closest that we have come to a buzzer-beater in this NCAA tournament. The Rams blew a late lead to the Hoosiers, who were sparked by a pair of tremendous drives from Victor Oladipo, with just 12.7 seconds left on the clock, a 12 footer baseline jumper from Will Sheehy. At the other end of the floor, VCU got a good look at a three that would have won the game, but it bounced off of the front of the rim.

For the first time since 2002 and just the second time in 18 years, the Hoosiers are headed back to the Sweet 16, where they will get a rematch of their early season classic with Kentucky. I think it is fair to say that Tom Crean officially has this program back.

They’ve had better days: Vanderbilt Commodores: Jeff Taylor had nine points on 4-12 shooting. John Jenkins had 13 points on 3-13 shooting and missed a would-be game-winner. Festus Ezeli had 14 points and 11 boards, but he was also benched early in the game for a rules violation. The ‘Dores lost 60-57 to Wisconsin. Not exactly the way this group wanted to go out.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

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Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: