March 11 Bracket: Louisville reclaims No. 1 seed

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In November, the Louisville Cardinals were projected to be a No. 1 seed when the NCAA tournament began.  Now, less than a week until Selection Sunday, the Cardinals have reclaimed their spot on the top line.  Louisville sits as the fourth No. 1 seed, heading to the South Region.  Duke (East), Indiana (Midwest), and Gonzaga (West) are in front of the Cards.  The race isn’t over, though.  Kansas, Georgetown, New Mexico, and a second Big Ten team could still claim one of the top spots.  It’s going to be an important week for both the top and bottom of the bracket.

Speaking of the bubble, Kentucky is the final at-large team on the board today. They are joined in the First Four by Saint Mary’s, La Salle, and Iowa State. The margin between these teams, and those around them, is minimal. If we see an upset or two this week, the last few spots could change several times between now and Sunday. Which conference tournaments are most likely to produce a surprise winner?  On the surface, it looks like the Atlantic 10, SEC, or the Pac-12.  While Memphis has dominated Conference USA, the Tigers haven’t wrapped up the automatic berth.  Any stumble would likely claim an at-large spot.

As for seeding, the middle of the bracket is an interesting adventure. One could almost throw names in a hat (for say, seeds 7-10) and line them up that way. Again, we could see some shifting on those lines, both due to resume adjustments and for geography. For all practical purposes, teams in the 8/9 games are essentially the same.  Enjoy the final ride to March Madness.

UPDATED: March 11, 2013 | 12:00 pm ET

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc). Records are for games against Division I teams only.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • La Salle vs. Kentucky | South Region
  • Iowa State vs. Saint Mary’s | East Region
  • Norfolk State vs. LIBERTY | Midwest Region
  • Southern vs. LIU-Brooklyn | South Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTWashington, DC MIDWESTIndianapolis           
Philadelphia Dayton
1) Duke 1) Indiana
16) Northeastern 16) LIBERTY / Norfolk State
8) Memphis 8) Missouri
9) Illinois 9) Cincinnati
San Jose Austin
5) UNLV 5) Saint Louis
12) Saint Mary’s / Iowa State 12) BELMONT
4) Marquette 4) Oklahoma State
13) Valparaiso 13) Akron
Austin Lexington
6) Butler 6) UCLA
11) Oklahoma 11) Temple
3) Florida 3) Miami-FL
14) HARVARD 14) S.F. Austin
Auburn Hills Philadelphia
7) CREIGHTON 7) Colorado State
10) Villanova 10) Minnesota
2) Michigan State 2) Georgetown
15) Vermont 15) Iona
SOUTH – Dallas WEST – Los Angeles
Lexington Salt Lake
1) Louisville 1) Gonzaga
16) Southern / LIU-Brooklyn 16) Western Kentucky
8) Oregon 8) NC State
9) Wichita State 9) San Diego State
Kansas City San Jose
5) Wisconsin 5) Syracuse
12) La Salle / Kentucky 12) Louisiana Tech
4) Kansas State 4) Arizona
13) Bucknell 13) Davidson
Dayton Auburn Hills
6) Pittsburgh 6) Notre Dame
11) Tennessee 11) Boise State
3) Ohio State 3) Michigan
14) FLA GULF COAST 14) South Dakota State
Salt Lake Kansas City
7) VCU 7) North Carolina
10) California 10) Colorado
2) New Mexico 2) Kansas
15) Long Beach 15) Montana

NOTES on the BRACKET: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Indiana, Gonzaga, and Louisville. Next in line: Kansas, Georgetown, New Mexico, and Michigan State.

Last Five teams in (at large): Boise State, Iowa State, Saint Mary’s, La Salle, Kentucky

First Five teams out (at large): Virginia, Baylor, Middle Tennessee, Alabama, Iowa

Next Five teams out (at large): Massachusetts, Arkansas, Xavier, Southern Miss, Air Force

Breakdown by Conference …

Big East (8): Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Villanova

Big Ten (7): Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois

Mountain West (5): San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State, Boise State

Pac 12 (5): Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, California

Big 12 (5): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State

Atlantic 10 (5): Butler, VCU, Temple, La Salle, Saint Louis

ACC (4): Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Miami-FL

SEC (4): Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky

Missouri Valley (2): CREIGHTON, Wichita State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

Conference USA (1): Memphis

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … BELMONT (Ohio Valley), Bucknell (Patriot), Western Kentucky (Sunbelt), South Dakota State(Summit), Valparaiso (Horizon), Davidson (Southern), Louisiana Tech (WAC), Niagara (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Akron (MAC), FLORIDA GULF COAST (A-Sun), HARVARD (IVY), Long Beach (Big West), Northeastern (Colonial), Vermont (American East), Montana (Big Sky), Norfolk State (MEAC), LIBERTY (Big South), LIU-Brooklyn (NEC), Southern (SWAC)

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.