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No. 3 Villanova routs No. 15 Xavier as Hart, Jenkins score 20 apiece

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Kris Jenkins hit four threes and scored a team-high 20 points to lead five players in double-figures as No. 3 Villanova made something of a statement with a 79-54 win over No. 15 Xavier.

The Musketeers took a 24-16 lead at one point in the first half, but Villanova responded with a 23-4 run at the end of the first half and the start of the second half to blow the game open. The game was never in doubt in the second half.

Here are four things we can take away from yet another dominant Villanova win in The Pavilion:

1. It’s never going to be easy to win in The Pavilion: If anyone not named Villanova is going to win the Big East this season, they’re probably going to have to win at Villanova, and if there’s anything that we’ve learned over the course of the last three-and-a-half seasons, it’s that winning in Philly is not an easy thing to do when you’re not playing the 76ers.

Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins have lost just seven Big East games in their careers; 14 games in total. Just two of those losses came at home, and both of those home losses came in the Wells Fargo Center – the NBA arena downtown – instead of the The Pavilion – the facility on campus. Villanova has never lost a home game out of conference, either, meaning that there is not a single player on Jay Wright’s roster that has ever lost a game in The Pavilion.

Xavier is a really good team, one that, with Myles Davis back in the lineup, has as much of an argument for being the second-best team in the league as Butler or Creighton.

And they still, for the second consecutive season, got utterly humiliated by Villanova in that building.

2. The Wildcats don’t need Josh Hart to play well to be great: Yes, Hart finished with 20 points, six boards and five assists, but the majority of his damage came after the game was more-or-less decided. I think even he would admit that he put up those numbers despite not playing his best basketball, and that’s a scary thing to think about with this team, because Josh Hart is the current leader in the clubhouse for the National Player of the Year award. On Tuesday night, it was Jenkins that carried the Wildcats early on, as he hit three of his four threes and sparked the run at the end of the first half.

And it was probably nice for Villanova fans to see Jenkins get into a rhythm again. After a somewhat slow start to the season, he’s hit for at least 20 points in three of the last four games and has at least three threes in all five of Villanova’s Big East games.

3. You can’t go small against Villanova: That’s their bread and butter. You don’t want to let them get their death lineup – Brunson, DiVincenzo/Booth, Bridges, Hart and Jenkins – on the floor without having to risk dealing with a big man on the interior. That’s precisely what Xavier did late in the second half, and it cost them. The Musketeers scored just 30 points in the final 28 minutes of the game, and on the night shot just 29.3 percent from the floor. Some of that are just the issues that Xavier has in their roster construction – we’ll get to that in a second – but much of that number is simply a result of Villanova’s effectiveness when they can switch every exchange without have to worry about Jalen Brunson ending up trying to guard a 6-foot-10 center in the post.

4. Xavier cannot fall into the trap of trying to be a three-point shooting team: They just simply don’t have enough good shooters to do it, but that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night in Philly. Xavier was 5-for-10 from three during the stretch when they opened up a 24-16 lead on Villanova. They finished the night going 6-for-32 from beyond the arc, meaning that in the final 28 minutes of the game, they shot 22 three-pointers and made just a single one.

That’s a problem. The return of Myles Davis – who was 0-for-4 in his first game back with the team after a 15-game suspension – should help solve that. His return should also help open up their half court offense as well, as he’s one of the best playmakers and facilitators on the roster. But his presence on the floor doesn’t change the fact that 28 threes were shot by his teammates.

And, quite frankly, if Xavier is going to try to win games that way, it’s not going to be all that effective.

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

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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: