Deshawn Stephens, Chase Fieler

Previewing the South Regional: Is Dunk City’s reign over?

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Favorite: Florida

Are the Gators the best team left in the South? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does. What I do know, however, is that the Gators will play their first game in the regional against a team that finished in second place in the Atlantic Sun in Florida Gulf Coast. The Gators have the ability to overwhelm opponents, and I expect nothing less from them against FGCU.

That gets Billy Donovan’s club to the Elite 8, where I think that the Gators happen to matchup well with both Kansas and Michigan. Scottie Wilbekin is the kind of ball-hawk in the back court that can give Trey Burke trouble, and I just don’t see Kansas being able to break down the Gator’s defense with Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe running the show.

But they could also win: Michigan

Scott Van Pelt has a saying that he likes to use: How good is your good? When you are playing your best basketball, how good can your team be? We’ve seen how good the Wolverines can be when they start clicking. There’s a reason that they climbed all the way up to No. 1 in the country at one point this season. There’s a reason they ran both VCU and South Dakota State out of The Palace at Auburn Hills when Trey Burke didn’t play well in either game. The key? Glenn Robinson III. He’s played his best this season when going up against mediocre competition. John Beilein needs him to play his best if they are going to advance out of the South.

(Click here to browse through all of our Sweet 16 previews)

Most Important Player: Ben McLemore, Kansas

Glenn Robinson III might fit here as well, but we’ll go with McLemore since he’s not only a guy that many believe will be a top five pick in the draft, but he hands-down the most talented player on the Jayhawk roster. He’s also played terribly through two tournament games. He’s scored 13 points and shooting just 14.3% from the floor in those two games, including an 0-9 performance last Sunday when he scored just two points in the win over North Carolina. If he doesn’t get going, Kansas isn’t going to be making the Final Four.

Story line to watch: Florida Gulf Coast, obviously. Can they keep the dream aline? I know they beat Miami, Georgetown and San Diego State this season, but they also got swept by Lipscomb and finished second in the Atlantic Sun. They also spent the entirety of this week being besieged by a media crush that couldn’t get enough of Dunk City. Two weeks ago, they were a nameless group who happened to have a coach that married a supermodel. Now FGCU is a national sensation. With the media attention comes the pressure. How will the Eagles react to it?

Rank ‘em:

1. Florida
2. Michigan
3. Kansas
4. Florida Gulf Coast

And the winner is?: Michigan

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Wolverines pull it off. I think that Burke has a huge weekend, his supporting cast hits their threes and Mitch McGary continues his outstanding play in this tournament.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Hayes returning to Wisconsin for senior season

Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes celebrates with fans after an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa. Wisconsin won 67-59. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Wisconsin has cemented itself as one of the teams to beat in the Big Ten for the 2016-17 season.

Forward Nigel Hayes, the Badgers’ leading scorer and assist man, is withdrawing his name from NBA Draft consideration to return to Madison for his senior season, he told the Wisconsin State Journal on Tuesday evening.

Hayes declared for the draft last month, but did not hire an agent, taking advantage of new NCAA legislation that allowed him to attend the NBA Draft combine and workout for pro franchises. He was largely regarded as a fringe first-round prospect by draft observers.

His decision is a major boon for Greg Gard, who may have the Big Ten’s best team in his first full season at the helm after taking over for Bo Ryan in the middle of last season. Wisconsin had a major turnaround under Gard, which ultimately resulted in him moving from interim to full time. The Badgers were 7-5 when Ryan stepped down, but recovered by going 13-4 to end the season and make the Sweet 16. 

Now, the entirety of that team, headlined by Hayes, is returning for another year and almost assuredly will be a top-15 (or better) preseason pick. Michigan State will welcome in a dynamite recruiting class that features five-stars Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston, and Indiana should remain strong, but the Badgers, with some players having the experience of  playing in two Final Fours, could very well have the best roster on paper with its blend of talent and experience. Whichever team is pegged as the favorite, the top of the Big Ten is shaping up to be a fantastic race.

Illinois dismisses Kendrick Nunn

Illinois guard Kendrick Nunn (25) tries to go up for a basket against Indiana center Thomas Bryant (31) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at in Champaign, Ill., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Heather Coit)
(AP Photo/Heather Coit)
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Illinois announced on Tuesday that they have dismissed Kendrick Nunn from the basketball program.

Nunn was sentenced to community service after pleading guilty to a battery charge that stemmed from a domestic violence incident. He was alleged to have hit a woman in the head and pushed her to the ground before pouring water on her.

“We have made the decision to dismiss Kendrick Nunn from the men’s basketball team, effective immediately,” a statement put out by head coach John Groce and athletic director Josh Whitman read. “After extensive deliberation, we think it best for our program to reaffirm our core values of trust and respect, to send a strong message about what is acceptable behavior.”

Nunn averaged 15.5 points as a junior last season.

Delaware hires Martin Inglesby as head coach

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Joe Raymond, AP
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Delaware has finally hired a head coach, a little more than two months after Monte’ Ross was fired.

The man that earned the right of taking over a program with just four returning scholarship players is Martin Inglesby, a Notre Dame assistant that has been under Mike Brey’s tutelage for more than a decade. A source confirmed the news with NBCSports.com. Brey spent his first six seasons as a Division I head coach in Newark.

The reason that the search for a new basketball coach took so long is that the university was in the midst of looking for a new athletic director. Chrissi Rawak was hired as AD on May 13th, and one of her first orders of business was finding a replacement for Ross.

CBS Sports was the first to report Inglesby’s hiring.

Report: UCLA signs record apparel deal with Under Armour

(Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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The latest arms race in the collegiate ranks centers around apparel deals, and UCLA has reportedly signed the largest in the history of amateur athletics.

Under Armour will pay the university $280 million over the next 15 years, according to ESPN.com, in exchange for their athletes to work as unpaid models, turning Pauley Pavilion and the Rose Bowl into a runway for the athletic apparel company to hawk their wares.

Here are the details from ESPN:

At those numbers, the deal would be the largest in college football history. In January, Ohio State said its 15-year deal with Nike was worth $252 million. Texas signed a 15-year deal with Nike worth $250 million in October, and Michigan signed an 11-year deal, with a four-year option, that could be worth up to $173.8 million.

Landing UCLA only furthers Under Armour’s presence on the west coast. Their most famous client is Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.

Kentucky-Kansas headlines the 2017 SEC/Big 12 Challenge

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The Big 12 and the SEC announced the matchups for the 2017 SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Tuesday, and the highlight is, of course, Kansas and Kentucky.

The two schools, who played an instant classic in Phog Allen Fieldhouse last season, will square off in Lexington this season. If that wasn’t enough, Kentucky and Kansas are currently sitting second and third, respectively, in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25.

So that should be fun.

The game will be played on January 28th along with the rest of the matchups in the series. Those matchups are:

Texas at Georgia
Texas A&M at West Virginia
Florida at Oklahoma
Baylor at Ole Miss
Iowa State at Vanderbilt
Kansas State at Tennessee
Arkansas at Oklahoma State
Auburn at TCU
LSU at Texas Tech

To be frank, the rest of that schedule is not all that enticing. West Virginia should be a top 25 team, and they host a Texas A&M team that is talented but young. Florida and Georgia are arguably the two best non-Kentucky teams in the league, but they face off with a rebuilding Oklahoma and a young Texas squad, neither of whom are guaranteed to make the tournament.

The problem here?

Both the SEC and the Big 12 are likely going to be down this season, which puts a damper on just how excited we can get about this challenge.