Weekend Preview: Duke-Cuse, Kansas-Texas, Arizona’s roadtrip highlight huge weekend

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 17 Duke at No. 2 Syracuse, 6:30 p.m.

Could this get any juicier? Let’s ignore, for a second, the fact that the team currently sitting in first place in the ACC will be taking on the team that may be playing the best basketball in the ACC. Let’s also ignore that this is the game between the biggest name in the ACC and the biggest name to join the ACC. Then we can also look past the fact that there are going to be somewhere around 35,000 people in the Carrier Dome to watch this game. Or Coach K vs. Boeheim.

Let’s focus, instead, on the fact this game will feature one of the nation’s three remaining undefeated teams taking on a team that features arguably the nation’s best player and just so happens to be well-suited to breaking down the Syracuse zone. Going beyond the multitude of story lines, the game itself should be fantastic.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 6 Kansas at No. 25 Texas, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

Kansas vs. Texas was the single biggest game in the Big 12 for a number of years, and it looks like it may be that way again this season. The Longhorns are much improved this year, defending as well as anyone in the Big 12 and getting enough out of their offense to slide into second in the conference standings. Texas might also be the best matchup of any Big 12 team with the Jayhawks given the size they have source: Getty Imagesinside to combat Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis. The problem? If the Andrew Wiggins that has scored 56 points in the last two games shows up, I’m not sure Texas has a chance.

FIVE MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON

  • No. 24 Ohio State at No. 14 Wisconsin, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: I’m not sure there are two teams in the country that need a win as badly as Ohio State and Wisconsin both need a win. Well, except for maybe …
  • Baylor at No. 8 Oklahoma State, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: … Baylor, who currently sits at 1-6 in the Big 12 with Kansas and Oklahoma as the next two games on their schedule. This is about as must-win as a game gets.
  • No. 23 Oklahoma at No. 16 Iowa State, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: If you’re looking for an entertaining basketball game, this is going to be it. Both teams spread the floor, shoot threes, play at a faster and struggle defensively.
  • Virginia at No. 18 Pitt, Sun. 12:30 p.m.: Duke and Syracuse are the trendy picks as the two best teams in the ACC, but Virginia and Pitt are both putting together strong cases. They need big wins to validate it, however. Saturday is their chance.
  • No. 10 Michigan at Indiana, Sun. 1:00 p.m.: Michigan is the hottest team in the country and currently sitting in first place in the Big Ten. Indiana? They desperately need to land a marquis win over someone like — oh, I don’t know — the Big Ten leader.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?

  • No. 11 Kentucky at Missouri, Sat. 1:00 p.m.: Kentucky is coming off of an embarrassing road loss at LSU. Missouri, who is better at home, just picked up a win at Arkansas. Will trends continue? The Tigers need this win if they are going to be a tournament team.
  • No. 22 Memphis at SMU, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: SMU is still in the hunt for the NCAA tournament spot, but losing to South Florida on Wednesday hurt. They need to pick up a win like this.
  • No. 15 Iowa at Illinois, Sat. 7:30 p.m.: Illinois’ season is almost over. Like Baylor, this is almost a must-win game. Iowa, on paper, is as good as anyone, but this is a team that has yet to prove themselves with a marquee win.
  • No. 21 UMass at St. Joseph’s, Sat. 6:00 p.m.: Based on the way that they’ve played over the last month, UMass is one of the most overrated teams in the country. They’ll visit St. Joe’s after losing at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday.
  • No. 1 Arizona at Cal, Sat. 10:30 p.m.: Arizona will put their undefeated season on the line against a good Cal team that desperately needs this win.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) There will be four games on the NBC Sports Network on Saturday:

  • 12:30 p.m.: George Washington at Dayton
  • 2:30 p.m.: George Mason at No. 19 Saint Louis
  • 4:30 p.m.: Drexel at Towson
  • 9:00 p.m.: Penn at Harvard

2) No. 4 Wichita State will once again put their undefeated season on the line as they host Evansville on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m.

3) No. 7 Michigan State will be without Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson on Saturday as they face Georgetown, which is key for the Hoyas. They don’t have much size inside and this will be a must-win game for them.

4) There are a couple of important bubble games on the schedule for the weekend:

  • Northwestern at Minnesota, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • Arizona State at Stanford, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • Arkansas at LSU, Sat. 5:00 p.m.
  • Boise State at UNLV, Sat. 8:05 p.m.
  • Tennessee at Alabama, Sat. 9:00 p.m.
  • Saint Mary’s at BYU, Sat. 11:00 p.m.

5) And who doesn’t love a good rivalry game?

  • Richmond at VCU, Sat. 11:00 a.m.
  • N.C. State at North Carolina, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
  • No. 9 Villanova at Temple, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

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: