Viewer’s Guide: Ranking the Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchups

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The Big Ten and the ACC announced the matchups for this year’s Big Ten/ACC challenge, and since we know you like to set your schedule seven months in advance, here is a guide to which of the 12 games you need to watch:

Only miss these games to see the birth of your FIRST child:

1. Michigan at Duke: The Wolverines may be losing Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., but they return enough talent — including Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III — that they will be a top ten team when the preseason rankings come out. Duke loses quite a bit of talent as well, but with the recruiting class they have coming in, headlined by Jabari Parker, and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, the Blue Devils have a chance to be scary good. The biggest question: who will guard McGary?

CBT Pick: Duke

2. North Carolina at Michigan State: Michigan State became a serious national title contender when they got word that both Adreian Payne and Gary Harris will be returning to school this season. UNC lost Reggie Bullock to early entry, but with James Michael McAdoo and PJ Hairston back, the Tar Heels still have plenty of weapons. Two legendary coaches heading up two Final Four contenders. A rematch of the 2009 national title game. Yeah, that will be fun.

CBT Pick: Michigan State

3. Indiana at Syracuse: Another rematch, this time from last year’s Sweet 16, when Tom Crean’s high-octane offense couldn’t figure out their way through the Syracuse zone. Let’s see how the Hoosiers will handle it now that their four most dangerous offensive weapons are gone. On another note, Syracuse will host Indiana, Duke and UNC this season. Not a bad home slate for Orange fans.

CBT Pick: Syracuse

You can miss these for a hot date, but they have to be at least a nine and NOT already your significant other:

4. Notre Dame at Iowa: The Hawkeyes are going to be a good team next season. Their front line of Aaron White, Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury is going to sneak up on a lot of people, and Mike Gesell should have a big sophomore year. But the Irish bring back quite a bit as well, including an excellent perimeter attack — Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, Patrick Connaughton, and Cameron Biedscheid.

CBT Pick: Iowa

5. Maryland at Ohio State: The Buckeyes are going to be an interesting team to keep an eye on next season. If they can find a guy to step up and be a go-to scorer, they’ll have a chance to compete in the Big Ten. The Terps lose Alex Len, but Mark Turgeon has some talent on his roster, and they’ll finally have a true point guard with Roddy Peters joining the fray.

CBT Pick: Ohio State

6. Wisconsin at Virginia: This will be a classic ‘close games are not always good games.’ Wisconsin and Virginia both like to slow the game down, which doesn’t exactly make for great entertainment. But both teams should be in the mix at the top of their respective leagues, and Wisconsin will be looking for vengeance for the loss they suffered at home last season. Sam Dekker vs. Joe Harris will be fun.

CBT Pick: Wisconsin

You can play bridge with your Grandmother, just make sure you have the game on in the back ground:

7. Penn State at Pitt: Penn State actually will have some quality perimeter play and might be able to give a good Pitt team a fight next season. I wouldn’t complain if the Nittany Lions became relevant and this turned into a rivalry.

CBT Pick: Pitt

8. Florida State at Minnesota: The Gophers should have some good guards on their roster, which should make them an entertaining watch under Richard Pitino. And Florida State? Well, there’s a chance they have Andrew Wiggins.

CBT Pick: Florida State

You know what? Go ahead. Take a nap. Or play FIFA. Or do whatever. I won’t even be mad:

9. Boston College at Purdue: BC is an intriguing team, as some of their young talent will be reaching veteran status this year. Purdue is still going to be in rebuilding mode, but Ryan Anderson vs. AJ Hammons should be fun.

CBT Pick: Boston College

10. Illinois at Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech should be better this season while Illinois will likely be in a bit of a rebuilding mode. This is the kind of game the Jackets need to win to start being taken seriously.

CBT Pick: Illinois

11. Northwestern at NC State: The Wildcats have never made the tournament and are dealing with a coaching change this season, while NC State lost a ton this offseason and will chock full of young talent. How well has Gottfried handled young talent in his career?

CBT Pick: NC State

12. Miami at Nebraska: Nebraska is still a couple of years away from Tim Miles making them relevant, and Miami loses everyone from last season and will be in major rebuilding mode, even if Angel Rodriguez gets immediately eligible.

CBT Pick: Miami

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: