Pregame Shootaround 12.19.12: Twelve Top 25 teams in action Wednesday night

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will 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. 11 Cincinnati  vs. Xavier

The Crosstown Classic is back this year after last year’s match-up was scarred by an ugly brawl that erupted in the game’s final seconds. NBCSports.com took a look at that earlier today, but both teams are looking to turn the page from last season’s blemish. The tables have turned in the poll since last season, too, with No. 11 Cincinnati facing the unranked Musketeers. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright will be important for the Bearcats. Keep an eye on freshman Semaj Christon for XU.

Despite not having one singular, dominant rebounder, the Bearcats rank No. 1 in the country in rebounding. That helps them toward averaging the sixth-most points per game in the country.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Temple against Canisius

With Billy Baron putting up a lot of points, the Golden Griffins have been an upstart in the MAAC this season. They score a lot of points as a team, too, and their weakness, rebounding, isn’t exactly Temple’s strength. I don’t know who I’d take in an actual fight between an Owl and a Golden Griffin, but I’m taking Canisius in this one.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: South Dakota State vs. Belmont

This isn’t the first time Belmont has been a part of the Mid-Major Matchup of the Day, and it likely won’t be the last. But the Kerron Johnson-Nate Wolters pairing Wednesday night is too good to pass up. Wolters has become something of a folk hero since the later part of last season, while Johnson still remains under the radar to many.

Both teams rank in the Top 75 in scoring nationally, so look for a lot of points Wednesday night.

Five Things to Watch

1. The Cincinnati-Xavier rivalry features contrasting backcourts. One, Cincinnati’s Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick, is older and experienced, where Xavier’s in young, Semaj Christon and Dee Davis.

2. It’s a Pitino-Pitino match-up when No. 5 Louisville and Rick Pitino take on Florida International and first-year head coach Richard Pitino. The younger Pitino came to FIU after serving on his father’s staff at Louisville.

3. The No. 1 Duke Blue Devils return to the floor for the first time in over a week, 11 days after defeating Temple. They take on Ivy League foe Cornell at Cameron Indoor.

4. There is still no word from the  NCAA on Texas point guard Myck Kabongo, meaning that he likely won’t play when the Longhorns meet No. 23 North Carolina Wednesday night. Texas is 6-4, but ranks 270th in the country in points per game.

5. Very few people are talking about Iowa State. All I’m saying is, you ought to keep an eye on them. The Cyclones rank in the Top 10 nationally in scoring and rebounding, Top 30 in assists, and Top 85 in FG percentage. They take on UMKC Wednesday.

Rest of the Top 25

No. 1 Duke vs. Cornell (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 5 Louisville vs. Florida International (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 6 Indiana vs. Mount St. Mary’s (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 8 Florida vs. Southeastern Louisiana (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 11 Cincinnati vs. Xavier (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2) (See Above)

No. 14 Gonzaga vs. Campbell (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)

No. 16 New Mexico vs. New Mexico State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 17 Creighton vs. Tulsa (8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 21 UNLV vs. Northern Iowa (10:00 p.m. ET)

No. 22 Notre Dame vs. Kennesaw State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 23 North Carolina vs. Texas (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 24 Oklahoma State vs. Texas-Arlington (8:00 p.m. ET)

Other Notable Games

Virginia vs. Morgan State (7:00 p.m. ET)

Clemson vs. Coastal Carolina (7:00 p.m. ET)

Illinois State vs. Dayton (7:00 p.m. ET)

Oregon vs. UTEP (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Murray State vs. Arkansas State (8:35 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

West Virginia vs. Oakland (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Pittsburgh vs. Delaware State (7:00 p.m. ET)

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

Indiana hires Dayton head coach Archie Miller

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Indiana is expected to hire Dayton head coach Archie Miller, the school announced.

The deal will be for seven years, according to The Vertical. Miller had spent the last six seasons as the head coach at Dayton, getting to four straight NCAA tournaments, including the Elite 8 in 2014, while winning the last two Atlantic 10 regular season titles.

Miller had been targeted by seemingly every high major program with an opening since he reached the Elite 8, but similar to Shaka Smart when he left VCU, Miller simply waited for the right job to come long.

Indiana is the right job.

There had been some speculation that Miller wouldn’t want to take Indiana, that his dream job is Ohio State and that the idea of coaching in a fishbowl like Bloomington is not something that would be all that appealing to him. But Indiana is an elite job. It’s the kind of opening that happens once every four or five years, and if Miller had said no to the Hoosiers now, it’s very possible that an opportunity like this wouldn’t come along for years, if ever.

This hire is surprising, not because it’s the wrong hire — I think they got this right — but because Indiana actually made the right decision.

The overwhelming sentiment since Tom Crean was fired was that UCLA head coach Steve Alford would be named the next head coach at Indiana because the Hoosiers wanted an “Indiana Guy”. Alford was born in New Castle, he played at IU for Bobby Knight, he won a national title with the program. The goal was to get the Indiana fan base back, a fan base that was so estranged from the program that Indiana had to play an NIT game on the road as a higher seed because they were reportedly afraid of allowing ESPN’s cameras to see the empty seats.

But just because a hire appeases the fans doesn’t make it the right hire.

Miller was the right hire.

If they really want to get the fans back, winning is the best way to do it. Archie is as good of a bet to win at Indiana as anyone.

Elite 8 Preview: Saturday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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So Friday got good.

If Zak Showalter’s game-tying three and subsequent discount double-check wasn’t enough, we had Canyon Barry’s chasedown block and, well, this game-winner from Chris Chiozza.

And all that came after De’Aaron Fox took out what felt like a season’s worth of frustration out on Lonzo Ball.

What is on tap for tonight?

No. 1 GONZAGA (-8) vs. No. 11 XAVIER, 6:09 p.m., TBS: Someone is going to be making their way to the Final Four for the first time on Saturday night, as Xavier’s Chris Mack and Gonzaga’s Mark Few square off for the right to play on the final weekend of the season.

And in a way, this is the perfect Final Four game. Both the Zags and the Musketeers are basketball schools in basketball leagues. They come from outside the power structure and have head coaches that have spurned jobs from within the power structure to remain there. They are built for a run like this, even if they were both overlooked on the way here.

Xavier was obvious. Playing without Edmond Sumner and Myles Davis, the Musketeers just haven’t been the team that they were supposed to be this season. That’s why they lost six straight games in February, but things have turned around in March, as Trevon Bluiett has put the program on his back and willed them to the Elite 8. Gonzaga is the opposite. They went 29-0 to start the season, but they have yet to be accepted as a legitimate title contender by most of the people that watch the games.

My guess on Saturday night is that the Zags make their statement and emphatically get into the Final Four.

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-8)

No. 1 KANSAS (-7) vs.  No. 3 OREGON, 8:49 p.m., TBS: This matchup is a lot tastier on paper than it is likely going to end up being on the floor. As good as Oregon has been this season, they are, essentially, Kansas light. They play two lead guards together and they play small-ball, with a natural wing lined up at the four.

The problem?

The Kansas guys are just better. Josh Jackson is a better player than Dillon Brooks. His length and athleticism should give the Oregon star fits. Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham are better than whatever combination of Payton Pritchard, Tyler Dorsey and Dylan Ennis the Ducks opt to use.

And, for that matter, no team is playing better right now that they Jayhawks, who beat Michigan State by 20, Purdue by 32 and became the first team to score 90 points in their first three NCAA tournament games since 1995. I think that trend continues on Saturday night.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-7)

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.