Pregame Shootaround 12.5.12: Battle in Sunshine State highlights Wednesday’s action

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will be posted at 2 p.m. ET and lay out a preview for the slate of games that night. We’ll take a look at some key match-ups and important games, as well as make some predictions and point out what you need to watch for. Take a look below at today’s edition:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published half an hour prior to tip-off of the day’s first game.

Game of the Day: No. 6 Florida vs. Florida State

With the way Kentucky’s season is shaping up, those who chose Florida to win the SEC are looking pretty smart right now. The Gators are undefeated and have won their six games by an average of 25 points per contest. They feature a good backcourt/frontcourt balance between Kenny Boynton/Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young/Erik Murphy/Will Yeguete, which makes them difficult to defeat. Mike Rosario, the Rutgers transfer, has also been a key contributor.

Florida State entered the season as a fringe Top 25 team, but lost its opener to South Alabama and comes into Wednesday night’s game on a two-game losing streak after losses to No. 21 Minnesota and unranked Mercer. Guard Michael Snaer is key to the Seminoles’ success. In their wins, Snaer is averaging 17.5 points and shooting 46 percent from the floor. In their losses, he is averaging just 9.7 points and shooting just 27 percent from the floor.

Who’s getting upset?: Memphis against Ohio

Take one team that has fallen out of the Top 25 after a disappointing start the season and welcome a reigning Sweet 16 team and what do you get? The possibility for an upset at FedEx Forum tonight.

Guard D.J. Cooper is one of the most underrated playmakers in the country, averaging 14.7 points and 7.3 assists per game this season.The Bobcats’ biggest weakness this season has been on the boards, but they shoot a high percentage and are in the Top 60 in the country in scoring.

Memphis guard Joe Jackson was criticized after his seven-turnover performance against VCU in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but, to his credit, has bounced back since. He is averaging 14.0 points and 5.5 assists in his past two games, both Memphis victories.

Mid-Major Match-Up of the Day: Penn State vs. La Salle (NBC Sports Network)

This is technically a mid-major vs. high-major match-up, but a few big wins for the Explorers make this one worth tuning in to. La Salle began its season with a win over a tough Delaware team, then followed that up with an overtime win over Villanova two weeks later. This game loses a bit of its intrigue because of the season-ending injury to Penn State guard Tim Frazier, but D.J. Newbill will still have his hands full with Explorer guards Tyreek Duren and Ramon Galloway.

Five Things to Watch For:

1) The Battle for the Sunshine State is on Wednesday, as No. 6 Florida takes on Florida State. See above for a full preview. I’m most interested to see Michael Snaer against this strong Florida lineup.

2) Why is no one talking about New Mexico? The 18th-ranked team in the country is perhaps overshadowed by San Diego State and UNLV in the Mountain West, but is undefeated so far. They take on USC Wednesday

3) Gonzaga has likely been the most impressive mid-major so far this season. Ranked at No. 10 in the country, Elias Harris & Co. get a shot at Washington State Wednesday night.

4) Fran Dunphy has his Temple Owls off to a 5-0, but they have their first match-up against a BCS opponent Wednesday night against Villanova. Nothing like a Big 5 game in early December.

5) Boise State narrowly lost to Michigan State, then beat No. 11 Creighton. They carried some of that Bluejay momentum to beat Seattle, and now they take on Utah. Will the Broncos end up being a surprise team this season?

The Rest of the Top 25:

No. 6 Florida vs. Florida State (see above)

No. 10 Gonzaga vs. Washington State

No. 18 New Mexico vs. USC

No. 19 Michigan State vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

No. 23 Oklahoma State vs. South Florida

Other Notable Games:

Tennessee vs. Virginia

West Virginia vs. Marshall

Temple vs. Villanova

Colorado State vs. Colorado

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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: