We have a new Florida State this year, but will they be improved?

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BROOKLYN – Florida State’s venture into ACC relevancy the last four seasons has centered around their front court. Big bodies; athletic shot-blockers; tough, physical, grind-you-down defense.

You should know the names: Solomon Alabi. Chris Singleton. Ryan Reid. Most recently, Bernard James, a 27 year old veteran who was, quite literally, a man amongst boys. For the past four seasons, every athletic trainer in the ACC has known that a trip to Tallahassee meant packing extra ice packs and advil for the trip home.

The Seminoles are a much different team this season, however, and it’s not necessarily because they lack size. Boris Bojanovsky is 7-foot-3. Michael Ojo is 7-foot-1. Kiel Turpin, who starts at center, is 7-foot. But what all three of those guys have in common is that they are young, raw, and not quite ready to compete at this level. In 61 combined minutes in the first two games, they had a grand total of three rebounds. The seven rebounds they added in Friday’s 88-70 win over BYU wasn’t really an explosion in production.

This season, Florida State’s strength is on their perimeter, and it starts with Michael Snaer.

Snaer isn’t exactly a secret at this point in his career. He was a McDonald’s All-American in high school. He was Florida State’s leading scorer last season. As a senior, he was named an NBCSports.com Preseason First-Team All-American, thanks to his three-point marksmenship, his penchant for clutch buckets and the fact he’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the country.

But Snaer’s got plenty of help this season.

Talented junior Ian Miller is finally ready to play an entire season, and freshman Devin Bookert, who the Florida State coaching staff loves, looks to be recovered from a preseason knee injury that kept him out of action for about three weeks. That trio combined for 45 points, 11 assists and 16 boards in Friday’s Coaches vs. Cancer semifinal matchup, finishing 15-24 from the floor and 9-14 from three. That kind of efficiency isn’t likely to be repeated on a nightly basis, but BYU is a good basketball team; this isn’t a bad indicator of how good that group can be.

“They’re really skilled on the perimeter,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “In the past you see a front line that’s really athletic and dominant, but their guards are really terrific.”

Throw in Montay Brandon — a 6-foot-7 slasher that is versatile enough that Hamilton used him at the point late in the game, although that resulted in BYU making a run down the stretch to cut into a lead that bordered on 30 — and a pair of quality forwards in Okaro White and Terrence Shannon, and the Seminoles have a chance for success with their rebranded roster.

They do have some issues that need fixing. The 20 turnovers they had on Friday are way too many, even if they were augmented by 20 assists. And the 22 offensive rebounds they gave up are unacceptable. But when taken in concert with the increased pace that Florida State is playing at this season — they had 74 possessions in their first two games, one of which was a loss to South Alabama, and 71 in the win on Friday — you can see the shifting tides.

Florida State’s a new breed this season.

They’re running the floor, they’re spreading the court offensively, they’re shooting threes and, perhaps most importantly for their fans, they are scoring a lot of points.

Whether or not that turns into wins and a trip to the NCAA tournament, we are yet to see.

But if they continue to play like they did on Friday, I don’t think it will be much of a problem.

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: