Pregame Shootaround 2.19.13: MSU-IU, VCU-St. Louis highlight loaded slate

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Game of the Night: No. 1 Indiana at No. 4 Michigan State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

We already gave this game the full-post preview treatment. Get your popcorn ready.

Who’s Getting Upset? No. 5 Florida at Missouri (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

If you look at Kenpom’s numbers, Florida has been the best team in the country this season. But there are two factors in that equation that must be accounted for: 1) Their two best wins were blow-outs that came at home back in November; 2) Their only two notable road performances have been a 25 point win at Florida State, who isn’t a tournament team, back on December 5th and the torching they took at Arkansas earlier this month.

Now, Florida heads off to Columbia where they’ll be taking on a Missouri team that has Laurence Bowers back, is playing better basketball than they were a few weeks ago, and has proven to be a much better team at home than on the road. The Tigers desperately need a big win, not necessarily for their tournament chances but for their confidence and to keep the doomsday theorists at bay.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: No. 24 VCU at St. Louis (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

The Atlantic 10 isn’t a mid-major league, so spare me the angry comments. But this is the kind of matchup that deserves some extended discussion. You’d be hard-pressed to find two teams that play more opposing styles, but nonetheless, these two teams are essentially sitting in a tie for first place in the conference. (Technically, VCU has a one game lead in the win column.) The Rams like to press, thriving on their ability to force turnovers and turn those turnovers into layups and three-pointers. St. Louis is a is more of a halfcourt team, one that can be downright stingy defensively.

They execute in the half court and are a nightmare to try and score on when their defense gets set. VCU cannot score when forced to go against set defenses. This should be a fun battle.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Utah State heads to BYU to take on the Cougars in a game that was postponed due to the heart attack suffered by Danny Berger of USU in a practice earlier this season. This is an intense rivalry — as they all are in the state of Utah — but some of the luster as been lost as Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin’s injuries have had an effect on how good the Aggies are. (9:00 p.m. ET)

2) Wichita State and Indiana State square off in a huge battle in the Missouri Valley. ISU won at Wichita State by 13 points earlier this season and hasn’t lost at home since Dec. 1st. But the Sycamores have also struggled of late, losing their last two games and falling into a position where they are nearly out of the bubble pictures without a win over the Shockers. WSU currently leads Creighton by a game and ISU by two games in the MVC standings. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

3) San Diego State has dropped two in a row and five of their last nine in Mountain West play. They are all but out of the MWC race, but beating Wyoming at home would help keep them out of the bubble picture. (10:00 p.m. ET)

4) There are four notable bubble battles in the ACC tonight. Florida State at NC State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Maryland at Boston College (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3), UNC at Georgia Tech (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3), and, most importantly, Virginia at No. 2 Miami (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

5) Southern Illinois has been the ultimate spoiler in the MVC race this season. The travel to Omaha to take on Creighton tonight. (8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Top 25

  • No. 1 Indiana at No. 4 Michigan State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Virginia at No. 2 Miami (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Duquesne at No. 15 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • No. 17 Marquette at Seton Hall (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 24 VCU at St. Louis (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

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

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: