Five Thoughts: Florida nation’s best team, UVA and ‘Nova’s weird profiles

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Florida may not be the new No. 1, but they’re the best team in the country: The Gators probably aren’t going to be. Indiana was ranked one spot higher than Florida and they are coming off of a week where they knocked off No. 1 Michigan and beat a conference rival on the road by 37 points. That, combined with the fact that the Hoosiers were the preseason No. 1 team in the country and now have sole possession of first place in the toughest conference in the country, is an easy way to get yourself a No. 1 ranking.

But that doesn’t mean the ranking will be correct.

Because as of today, Florida is the best team in the country.

Think about it like this: Louisville’s defense is allowing 0.822 PPP (adjusted) right now, which is equivalent to the most efficiency defense that we’ve seen in the Kenpom era* — Kansas in 2007. Florida’s defensive efficiency is 0.803 PPP (adjusted) right now, a number that drops to 0.779 PPP through eight SEC games. In simpler terms, if the season ended today, Florida would be the best defensive team of the past decade, and they do it playing man, zone and pressing, depending on who they’re playing.

But Florida also happens to be the nation’s second-most powerful offense, sliding in between Michigan and Indiana.

In other words, Florida is what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team.

(*The Kenpom era dates back to 2003.)

Someone explain Virginia to me, please: The Cavaliers are going to be the toughest bubble team to place this year, because they have one of the strangest profiles I’ve ever seen. Virginia is 15-6 on the season and 5-3 in the ACC, which puts them a game behind Duke in third place in the league standings. They have won all three of their games against the RPI top 50, including a win at Wisconsin, and are 5-0 against the RPI top 100.

But Virginia is only 99th in the RPI, because they’ve lost six games to teams outside the RPI top 100. Three of those losses came on the road in ACC play — Clemson, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest — while the other three losses came to teams from the CAA. One of those losses was to Old Dominion, who is 2-18 this season and winless in league play. They’re 324th in the RPI, making that easily the worst loss suffered by a potential tournament team this season.

Villanova will be the second weirdest profile: The Wildcats have a pretty standard middle-of-the-pack power conference profile. They’re RPI is in the 70’s. They’ve got five top 100 wins but a handful of bad losses — they were swept by Providence and lost by 18 to Columbia at home. They’ve currently lost five of their last seven games.

Those two wins? Against top ten teams Syracuse and Louisville. Because that makes sense.

Wisconsin’s free throw shooting: I think we can all agree that Ohio State has one of the nation’s best perimeter defenses while Illinois does not. And all it took was a week where Wisconsin played both teams to prove that to us. The Badgers lost to Ohio State on Wednesday 58-49 and didn’t attempt a single free throw in the game. That’s the first time that’s happened in the Bo Ryan era. Against Illinois on Sunday, the Badgers shot 42 free throws.

That makes sense, too.

Jarred Shaw stepping up for Utah State: We have to give some love to Utah State big man Jarred Shaw. The Aggies lost both Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin in the same half of the same game last month, which all but ended their chance at a WAC title this season. In the last three games, he’s averaging 21.7 points, 10.0 boards and 2.0 blocks while shooting 69.0% from the floor. USU is 2-1 in that stretch, with two road wins and a three point loss to league leader Louisiana Tech.

You can find Rob 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

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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: