The Little Dances: Championship Week Day 13 Peview

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The NCAA Tournament doesn’t get going until March 19, but for the real college hoops fans, the days leading up to Selection Sunday is when the madness really begins. Over the next two weeks teams will fight for the postseason lives. Bubbles will burst and tickets will be punched, and Cinderellas will be born. This is the real March Madness.

Today is the day we bid farewell to the past and welcome in the madness. It’s Selection Sunday, the most joyous and painful day of the season. But before the brackets are released, the final four automatic bids need to be distributed.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Here’s what to watch for on Sunday.

Game of the Day: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
The final game in what has been arguably the greatest Big Ten season of the past decade will be decided by two finalists that not many expected to make it to Chicago. But both teams are deserving of playing for the opportunity to cut down the nets. This will be a low-scoring, beat ’em up, drag ’em out slugfest. But Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz are all big-game players. After this game finishes, Selection Sunday ceremonies commence.

– Watch this too: North Carolina vs. Miami
A win over the Tar Heels today would be the third of the season for Miami and would give them their first ACC tournament championship in school history. North Carolina enters the contest having won eight of their last nine games. A win would be vindicating for the Tar Heels, who were written off half way through the season for not having the chemistry or personnel to compete at a high level.

Player to Watch: Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
College basketball’s resident bad boy has the Rebels one win away from a NCAA tournament appearance. Ole Miss desperately needs this win, as they still sit firmly on the tournament bubble. Henderson has scored 50 points through the first two SEC tournament games, and is averaging 24 ppg over the past four games. If Henderson can lead the Rebels to a SEC tournament championship, his perceived status as being a loose cannon will largely be forgotten and he will etch his name into college basketball lore.

He’s good too: Dwayne Evans, Saint Louis
The junior forward has scored 49 points in the Billikens first two Atlantic 10 tournament games and will be called on to handle a brunt of VCU’s havoc defense on the interior. But Evans does more than just score. He’s a defensive stalwart and a unusual match-up assignment for defenses. Saint Louis is playing their best basketball of the season, and its due largely to the play of Dwayne Evans.

Sunday’s Schedule:

Atlantic Coast Conference Semifinals
1 p.m. – North Carolina (3) vs. Miami (1)

Atlantic 10 Conference Semifinals
1 p.m. – VCU (2) vs. Saint Louis (1)

Big Ten Conference Semifinals
3:30 p.m. – Wisconsin (4) vs. Ohio State (2)

Southeastern Conference Semifinals
1 p.m. – Ole Miss (3) vs. Florida (1)

You can find Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.