The Morning Mix

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The big news of the day is that Big East commissioner John Marinatto is stepping down at the request of the school presidents. He was in charge of the conference for just three years, after being voted in by a unanimous decision, yet spent much of his time dealing with conference realignment. While he wasn’t the primary problem the Big East had to deal with, his reign did symbolize a problematic era. The Big Lead puts it best: He was not a good commissioner. A good person, yes, but not a good commissioner

– The Wall Street Journal reacts to the change. As does Pat Forde

– Matt Norlander is right, the next commissioner has to be of the “basketball-first” mindset

The timeline of Marinatto’s reign as Commissioner of the Big East

– +100 to Voodoo Five for their fantastic “Office Space” reference

– We still don’t know if Jim Calhoun will return to the sidelines for UConn next season, but the school is assuming that he will be. The school also refuses to tag anyone as “coach in waiting”

– A cute baby in Louisville posed for a remake of Anthony Davis’ “wingspan portrait”

– Some terrible news out of Southern California. Former-UCLA Bruin Gavin Smith,  the father if current-USC forwaqrd Evan Smith, has gone missing and has not been seen in a week

Andy Glockner provides a succinct recap of the off-season coaching carousel

– Early Monday afternoon, Jeff Goodman wrote that the Illinois State paper The Pantagraph was reporting that the school would name assistant coach Rob Judson as their new head coach, replacing Tim Jankovich, who left to take the “head coach in-waiting” job at SMU. But late Monday night, news broke that Illinois State would in fact hire Vanderbilt assistant Rob Muller, a former redbird player

– Indian’s Matt Roth, a fifth year senior guard who led the Hoosier’s in 3-point shooting, is without a scholarship for next season. Jerod Morris explains why Roth’s scholarship should not be in question

– I always love it when a school rewards a scholarship to a player for hard work and effort. Montana is doing just that with walk-on forward Nick Emerson

– John Calipari addressed the criticism of his nontraditional scheduling that he is imposing for next season. As you may have already heard, the Wildcats won’t be playing Indiana or North Carolina in non-conference affairs. As Andy Katz explains in “The Daily Word”, Calipari is looking to establish more neutral-site games. Despite the lack of big time games, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhardt is confident that Rupp Arena will host at least one marquee non-conference game

– If there is one thing we can be sure of with Calipari’s fresh squad next season, it’s that they will play great defense

– As discussed in the previous weeks and months, it would make sense for CAA schools like VCU and George Mason to make the leap to the Atlantic-10. But in order to do so, they would have to be willing to spend a lot more money

– Anthony Bennett narrowed down his list to just Oregon and UNLV. Eamonn Brennan details the impact he would provide at the two schools

– The Ivy League is looking to improve its public profile, and will sign a major network deal with the NBC Sports Network. John Templon of Big Apple Buckets wonders what the league’s  next step is

– The Big-XII has verbally agreed to a new ESPN/Fox deal

– Former-Marquette commit Aaron Durley has decided to attend TCU. With Trent Johnson at the helm, the Horned Frogs will look to make an improvement both on the court and on the recruiting trail

– Tulsa-transfer Jordan Clarkson, who was initially given stringent transfer-restrictions, has decided to attend Missouri. He will be the fifth transfer to join the program since Frank Haith took over in 2011

– Former-Ohio State guard Jordan Sibert will transfer to Dayton

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

Rob Carr/Getty Images
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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: