Sunday’s Pregame Shootaround: Michigan State-Ohio State rematch, Wichita State eyes 34-0

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 22 Michigan State vs. Ohio State, 4:30 p.m. (CBS)

The Spartans were the top-ranked team in the nation for several weeks earlier this season. Michigan State is now toward the bottom of the top-25 with a rivalry game against Ohio State rounding out its regular season on Sunday. Can Sparty prove its recent slide was just a hiccup in what could be another deep tournament run for Tom Izzo.

It won’t be easy though. Michigan State had to hold off Ohio State in overtime, after blowing a double-digit lead, back on Jan. 7. The Buckeyes have lost back-to-back Big Ten games. A win here could potentially bump Ohio State into a tie for fourth place with Nebraska in the conference standings, depending on how the Cornhuskers fare with No. 9 Wisconsin on Sunday.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 7 Syracuse vs. Florida State, 2 p.m. (ESPN3)

Previous No. 1 Syracuse has lost four of five games. The Orange are averaging 68.1 points per game this season, but in their last nine games they are under that total. To make matters worse, Cuse faces a tough Florida State defense on the road on Sunday afternoon. The Seminoles are fighting to get on the right side of the bubble with a week before Selection Sunday.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: No. 2 Wichita State vs. Indiana State, 2:05 p.m. (CBS)

The Shockers are looking to continue their pursuit of perfection, entering the NCAA tournament with a 34-0 record if they can get past Indiana State in the Missouri Valley Conference championship game.

MORE: Our latest bracket projections — is your team in?

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) The Colonial Athletic Association semifinals are on NBC Sports Network:

  • Northeastern vs. Delaware, 2:30 p.m.
  • William & Mary vs. Towson, 5 p.m.

2)  Winthrop and Coastal Carolina battle for a bid to the NCAA tournament in the Big South final at noon.

3) Can Dunk City make a return trip to the Big Dance? We’ll find out this afternoon as Florida Gulf Coast takes on Mercer in the Atlantic Sun championship game.

4) Nebraska has not lost a game at home in its last seven tries. An eighth straight home victory will greatly improve the Cornhuskers tournament chances as they welcome in Wisconsin.

5) The Atlantic 10 tournament is shaping up to be a wild one. Saint Louis and UMass go head-to-head in Amherst with a preview of what’s to come next week in Brooklyn.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • No. 5 Virginia vs. Maryland, noon (CBS)
  • No. 17 Saint Louis vs. UMass, 2 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

NOTABLES:

  • Canisius vs. Iona, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Albany vs. Vermont, 5 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Penn State vs. Minnesota, 5:15 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
  • Boston College vs. N.C. State, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • Quinnipiac vs. Manhattan, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Hartford vs. Stony Brook, 7:15 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Georgia Southern vs. Wofford, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Western Illinois vs. South Dakota State, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN3)

John Calipari reminds Kentucky fans to remain classy in defeat

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Before traveling to Phoenix for the Final Four festivities, Kentucky head coach John Calipari used his Twitter account in an effort to diffuse the anger members of Big Blue Nation have directed at a referee following a heartbreaking loss in the Elite Eight.

In the days following the season-ending loss to North Carolina, some fans — not all — have harassed official Jim Higgins. They’ve flooded the Facebook page of his roofing business, leaving negative reviews and lowering his company’s star rating. Some have gone even more extreme, going as far as sending death threats over the phone.

Based on the replies, some have received the message. Others haven’t. The latter, despite it being a small but vocal group, can, unfortunately, paint a fan base with a broad brush.

Mark Emmert: NCAA Board of Governors to meet ‘in the next few days’ to determine N.C.’s tournament standing

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Late on Wednesday night, the state of North Carolina reached an agreement to repeal the controversial and discriminatory House Bill 2 law, which is commonly known as the bathroom bill.

The NCAA had given the state a deadline of Thursday morning to make a change in this law or they would miss out on hosting NCAA tournament game until the 2022 season, so it’s not hard to connect the dots here. The pressure the NCAA asserted on the state helped create a change.

The question is just how much of a change, as many believe that the repeal does not do enough to change what is discriminatory about the law.

“What distinguished North Carolina,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said, “there were four distinct problems that the board had with that bill, and they removed some of them but not all of them. If you removed two or three of them, is that enough?”

The NCAA Board of Governors have stretched out the process of determining future tournament sites as far as possible, Emmert said, meaning that a decision on this new bill will be made soon.

“Because this happened on such short notice, we have to find a time to get together with the board, and that will probably happen in the next few days,” Emmert said, and in those meetings, the board “will determine if this [new] bill is sufficient change.”

“I’m personally very pleased they have a bill to debate and discuss. Hopefully we can be in a place where we can announce the board’s decision early next week.”

Gonzaga’s Mark Few named AP Coach of the Year

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Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has added to his program’s banner season with an individual award, being named AP Coach of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

Few led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four. The Zags enter the national semifinal with a 36-1 record. Up until Feb. 25, they were flirting with a perfect season. A loss to BYU is currently the only blemish on their season.

Few also won his 500th career game during the course of the 2016-17 season. Since 2014, two coaches from outside the major conferences have earned his honor. Gregg Marshall was named AP Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Shockers to a perfect regular season.

This was a very competitive race this season. Sean Miller lost two players expected to be key pieces this season — and had Allonzo Trier miss 19 games — but guided Arizona to the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Jay Wright led Villanova to another Big East title despite two cornerstone pieces — Ryan Arcidiancono and Daniel Ochefu — gone from last season’s national championship team. For a while, Baylor’s Scott Drew seemed to be the favorite. The Bears didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason top-25 poll but went on to earn a No. 1 ranking.

Few’s season continues on Saturday against South Carolina.

Frank Mason is named AP Player of the Year

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Kansas point guard Frank Mason III was named the AP Player of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

The senior floor general for the Jayhawks headlined the AP All-American team, which included UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Villanova Swingman Josh Hart, Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson.

Mason averaged 20.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shot 49 percent from behind the 3-point line during the 2016-17 season. He helped guide Kansas to its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

He becomes the fourth senior in a row to win the award, preceded by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminksy and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

He had previously been named player of the year by NBC Sports.

TJ Leaf declares for the 2017 NBA Draft

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UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.

This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.

The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.