Pregame Shootaround 2.26.13: Three ranked teams on the road

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Game of the Night: No. 19 Memphis at Xavier (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Xavier is in a tough situation here. They desperately need to pick up this win if they are going to have any chance of making the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid, especially after blowing a 17 point second half lead against VCU on Saturday.

The problem, however, is that Memphis isn’t exactly safe as an at-large bid, either. Yes, they have a 24-3 record and have won a billion games in a row, but look at who they’ve beaten this season: Southern Miss and … Southern Miss again. Tennessee is the only other team the Tigers have beaten that sits in the top 70, although feasting on the likes of Ohio, Harvard, and East Carolina has netted them a grand total of nine top 100 wins.

A couple of losses down the stretch could hurt the Tigers. Given that it’s been a while since Memphis has been on national TV, this is an opportunity that the Tigers need to capitalize on. Like it or not, there is always going to be an “eye test” influence, a human element, in tournament selections. Make a statement, feel a bit more comfortable with were you’ll end up being seeded.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 1 Indiana at Minnesota (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Minnesota is reeling. They lost two in a row last week (both games by more than 20), four of their last five and eight of their last 11. All of a sudden, this looks like a team that may be playing their way off the bubble. Tubby Smith’s job is in jeopardy. It’s difficult to stress just how important this game is for the Gophers. They won’t have another shot at a marquee win. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that their season is on the line tonight.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Towson at George Mason (7:00 p.m. ET, CSN)

This should be a fun game in Fairfax tonight, as the Tigers and the Patriots are two of the more talented teams in the CAA. Towson is tied for second with Delaware, sitting a game in front of GMU in the CAA standings.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Alabama lost in triple-overtime to LSU on Saturday, which was yet another in a string of bad losses for the Crimson Tide this season. Combine that with a really week league schedule, and Anthony Grant’s club is in a ways from being in the NCAA tournament. Losing to in-state rival Auburn tonight could kill those hopes. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

2) Valpo currently holds a one game lead on Detroit in the Horizon League standings with just two games left to play. The Crusaders can clinch a share of the league title tonight against Youngstown State.

3) Tennessee has slowly but surely started to gain some momentum late in the year, winning their last five games. They have a lot of work to do to get into the conversation for an at-large bid, but knocking off No. 8 Florida at home would be a good start. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

4) No. 17 Wisconsin hosts Nebraska. There may not be 80 points total scored in this one. Be sure to check the box score tomorrow. (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

5) Wake Forest scored a huge upset on Saturday as they knocked off No. 3 Miami in Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons have been good at home this year. Can they pull off a road win against Florida State? A strong finish to the season may be what it takes to save Jeff Bzdelik’s job. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Top 25

  • No. 1 Indiana at Minnesota (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 8 Florida at Tennessee (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Nebraska at No. 17 Wisconsin (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • No. 19 Memphis at Xavier (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

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: