Weekend Preview: Five storylines to follow

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Five story lines to follow this weekend

The Diamond Head Classic: This weekend will give us one of the better in-season tournaments of the year, as we could end up seeing Miami and Arizona play in a semifinal and San Diego State take on the Wildcats in the finals. Here’s Saturday’s Diamond Head schedule:

Sat. 4:00 p.m.: Ole Miss at Indiana State (ESPNU)
Sat. 6:00 p.m.: No. 18 San Diego State at San Francisco (ESPNU)
Sat. 10:30 p.m.: No. 4 Arizona vs. ETSU (ESPNU)
Sun. 12:30 a.m.: Miami at Hawaii (ESPNU)

Great individual matchups: There are some terrific games this weekend, as we already laid out for you. But in addition to those games, we will also be treated to some great individual matchups:

  • BYU will take on Baylor on Friday night, pitting Brandon Davies up against Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers. It shoud also be fun to see Brady Heslip and Tyler Haws have a shooting contest.
  • When Evansville plays Butler on Saturday afternoon, keep an eye on Colt Ryan of the Purple Aces. Butler may have Rotnei Clarke, but Ryan might be the best scorer on the floor.
  • UCSB’s Alan Williams has been a revelation on a team that’s been struggling early on this year. He’ll be going toe-to-toe with Leonard Washington.
  • Dayton and Murray State might have their day ruined. Well, the Flyers, at least, if Kevin Dillard, their star point guard, doesn’t get back from the back spasms that ended his night against Illinois State early. Murray State has a stud point guard of their own. Some kid named Isaiah Canaan or something.

Injuries ruining games: Kevin Dillard’s back spasms aren’t the only injury that could end up ruining a good game this weekend. St. Louis is taking on Loyola Marymount on Saturday afternoon, but since Kwamaine Mitchell isn’t back from his foot injury yet, we won’t see him against Anthony Ireland of LMU. Western Kentucky got smoked by VCU in large part because they were without their starting back court of TJ Price and Jamal Crook. They may turn the ball over 32 times against Louisville without those two. Marshall may have had a shot to upset Kentucky if Deandre Kane hadn’t broken his hand.

Tracking eligibility status: There are also a couple of eligibility cases to keep an eye on this weekend. Texas thought they lost Myck Kabongo to a season-long suspension, but they appealed to try and get their star point guard immediately eligible on Thursday night. Might he be in the lineup on Saturday at Michigan State? It’s a long shot. At Marquette, Buzz Williams got the news on Thursday night that Todd Mayo, OJ’s brother, would be eligible for the second semester after getting his academic issues taken care of. Is he the answer for a Golden Eagle team that has sputtered a bit early on this season?

UCLA playing for Ben Howland’s job?: The Bruins will take on Fresno State at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday night, and while the Bulldogs do have some young talent on their roster, they shouldn’t be any match for UCLA. But who knows, because if there’s anything we’ve learned about UCLA through the first month and a half of the season, it’s that we never really know what’s going to happen with them.

The most intriguing part of this game, however, is the fact that a report came out claiming that Ben Howland’s job is in jeopardy. That’s not a surprise, but according to BruinReportOnline.com, there’s a chance that Howland may not make it through the season. Look at the faces of the UCLA team during games. Watch the end of their bench on a big play. You tell me if it looks like that team is having fun out there. Are they going to care if Howland does get fired? Will they rally around their coach like UConn has rallied around Kevin Ollie?

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: