NBCSports.com Bracketology: Kansas, Iowa, and San Diego State climb bracket ladder

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Kansas is among the top movers in this week’s bracket projection.  The reasons are pretty clear: two quality road wins and an overall schedule ranked No. 1 in the nation. Those types of statistics always play well on Selection Sunday.

In the span of a week, the Jayhawks won road games at Oklahoma and Iowa State – sandwiched with a lopsided home victory over improved Kansas State.  It’s mid-January and KU already has seven wins against Top 50 teams (RPI – through Monday, January 13).  Thus, Kansas finds itself as a No. 2 seed in today’s update.  Also worth noting: the Jayhawks’ four losses are by a combined 17 points and only one of those – San Diego State – occurred in the past month.

Which brings us to SDSU – another of the recent seed climbers.  San Diego State followed up its monumental victory at KU by handling Boise State at home and Air Force on the road.  The Aztecs are 5-0 away home.  None bigger than the one in Lawrence.

Iowa vaulted up the seed list after an impressive win at Ohio State.  The somewhat undervalued Hawkeyes are 12 points from a perfect season – having lost only on a neutral court to Villanova, at Iowa State, and at Wisconsin.  If there is a knock on the Hawkeyes’ resume, it’s an overall weakish non-conference schedule.  How that affects Iowa’s final seeding remains to be seen.  Continuing to win league road games will erase much of the concern.

Let’s also mention Cincinnati.  The Bearcats have won eight straight.  The most impressive victory in that streak was a 16-point road win at Memphis.  UC has moved from a potential bubble team to No. 19 on the current s-curve.

Other than rising Virginia – and to some extent Oklahoma after its home win over Iowa State – there hasn’t been a lot of movement around the bubble.  If you check last week’s bracket, the names appear much the same – perhaps in a slightly different order.  Arkansas is the first team out in today’s update.  The Razorbacks continue to struggle on the road – a problem that has plagued them in recent years.

It’s still a little early to be overly concerned with conference standings but there are some potential pitfalls ahead.  Take, for example, North Carolina.  The Tar Heels are 0-3 in ACC play after their loss at Syracuse.  This week’s game with Boston College is huge – which is followed by a trip to Virginia and a home date with Clemson.  It’s time for UNC to make a u-turn or risk falling out of the Field.  Despite three quality wins, a 1-5 league mark would put UNC on an uphill climb toward tourney selection.

UPDATED: January 14, 2014

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings with RPI as a tiebreaker for teams with the same number of losses. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc).

Several new bracketing principles were introduced after last year’s tournament. You can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Stanford vs. Texas | Midwest Region
  • George Washington vs. Tennessee | South Region
  • WAGNER vs. UNC-ASHEVILLE | East Region
  • SOUTHERN vs. HAMPTON | West Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

WESTAnaheim EAST New York                              
San Diego Buffalo
1) ARIZONA 1) SYRACUSE
16) HAMPTON / SOUTHERN 16) WAGNER / NC-ASHEVILLE
8) Virginia 8) California
9) Dayton 9) Kansas State
Spokane Raleigh
5) Michigan 5) MASSACHUSETTS
12) GREEN BAY 12) HARVARD
4) SAN DIEGO ST 4) Ohio State
13) BELMONT 13) AKRON
Orlando San Antonio
6) Pittsburgh 6) New Mexico
11) VCU 11) Illinois
3) Iowa 3) Baylor
14) DELAWARE 14) NO COLORADO
St. Louis Buffalo
7) Creighton 7) Missouri
10) GONZAGA 10) Connecticut
2) KANSAS 2) VILLANOVA
15) IPFW 15) MERCER
SOUTH – Memphis MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Milwaukee Milwaukee
1) MICHIGAN STATE 1) WISCONSIN
16) DAVIDSON 16) STONY BROOK
8) Florida State 8) Xavier
9) UCLA 9) North Carolina
San Diego Raleigh
5) CINCINNATI 5) Memphis
12) LOUISIANA TECH 12) Stanford / Texas
4) Colorado 4) Kentucky
13) NEW MEXICO ST 13) MANHATTAN
Spokane San Antonio
6) Oregon 6) Duke
11) Tennessee / Geo Washington 11) Georgetown
3) Iowa State 3) WICHITA STATE
14) S.F. AUSTIN 14) UC-IRVINE
Orlando St. Louis
7) Saint Louis 7) Louisville
10) Oklahoma 10) Minnesota
2) FLORIDA 2) Oklahoma State
15) BOSTON UNIV 15) GEORGIA STATE

NOTES on the BRACKET: Arizona is the overall No. 1 seed followed by Syracuse, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.

Last Five teams in (at large): Georgetown, Tennessee, Geo Washington, Stanford, Texas

First Five teams out (at large): Arkansas, SMU, NC State, Arizona State, Wake Forest

Next five teams out (at large): LSU, Indiana State, Notre Dame, Indiana, Providence

Breakdown by Conference …

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

Big 12 (7): Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas

Pac 12 (6): Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, UCLA, California, Stanford

ACC (6): Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida State, Pittsburgh, Virginia

SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee

Atlantic 10 (5): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, Dayton, Geo Washington

American (4): Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut, Cincinnati

Big East (4): Creighton, Georgetown, Villanova, Xavier

Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State

Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … Louisiana Tech (C-USA), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Georgia State (Sun Belt), Boston University (Patriot), IPFW (Summit), Green Bay (Horizon), Davidson (Southern), New Mexico State (WAC), Manhattan (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Akron (MAC), Mercer (A-Sun), Harvard (IVY), UC-Irvine (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Stony Brook (American East), Northern Colorado (Big Sky), Hampton (MEAC), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Wagner (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.