LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Is Duke a No. 1 seed?

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SATURDAY’S THINGS TO KNOW

No. 14 Duke won four games in as many days to win the ACC Tournament championship. Did the Blue Devils go from the No. 5 seed in the ACC Tournament to the fourth No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? CBT’s Rob Dauster explains why it’s likely to happen on Selection Sunday.

No. 1 Villanova defeated Creighton, 74-60, in the Big East Tournament title game behind 29 points from Josh Hart. It’s the second time in the past three years that the Wildcats are dual-Big East champs. The reigning national champions Villanova has the best chance to repeat since Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford won back-to-back at Florida a decade ago. So, why has that storyline flown under the radar all year. CBT’s Rob Dauster was at the Garden to offer up his thoughts on ‘Nova.

Sure, No. 23 Iowa State didn’t have to face Kansas or Baylor in the conference’s postseason tournament, but there’s no denying that the Cyclones are arguably the nation’s hottest teams. Iowa State have won nine of 10, and avenged that only loss in that span by defeating No. 11 West Virginia, 80-74, in the Big 12 Tournament championship game in Kansas City on Saturday night. The Cyclones scored 80 points, off 54 percent shooting, against Press Virginia.

STARRED

De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky: The speedster scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half to fend off a good fight from Alabama. Malik Monk also shook off a two-point effort the previous day with a 20-point performance.

Josh Hart, Villanova: This week in New York City, Hart made a late case for the nation’s player of the year. In a championship game win, the senior wing went for 29 points and grabbed six rebounds. He becomes only the third player in the Big East history — joining Patrick Ewing and Peyton Siva — to win multiple Big East Tournament MVP honors.

Myles Stephens, Princeton: The first-ever Ivy League Tournament game was a thriller. Undefeated Princeton, playing essentially a road game against Penn in The Palestra, sent the game to overtime and kept the Tigers’ tournament hopes alive with a tip-in with 5.3 seconds remaining in regulation. Stephens had 21 points and 10 boards in the overtime victory.

Jaylin Walker, Kent State: The sophomore had himself a week in Cleveland. A day after hitting the game-winner in the semifinals against Ohio, Walker set a career-high with 30 points (18 coming after halftime) in a win over top-seeded Akron.

Derrick Walton, Michigan: The senior point guard has led he Wolverines to the Big Ten Tournament title game behind his 29 points, nine assists (one turnover), five rebounds and two steals in a semifinal win over Minnesota.

REST OF THE TOP 25

No. 7 Arizona made its case for the No. 1 seed in the West Region with an 83-80 victory over No. 5 Oregon. The Wildcats led by as many as 14 in the second half before the Ducks rallied. Allonzo Trier, who ended with 23 points, helped secure the win from the free throw line.

No. 12 SMU went on a 14-3 second-half run to cruise to its 15th straight victory, advancing to the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship game with a 70-59 win over Central Florida.

The Mustangs will meet No. 15 Cincinnati, who held off a comeback from UConn, after leading by 12 at halftime. After several threats from the Huskies, the Bearcats finally put the game away at the line en route to an 81-71 semifinal victory.

Playing its third game in as many days may have done Northwestern in, as No. 24 Wisconsin rolled past the Wildcats, 76-48, and into the Big Ten Tournament title game. Nigel Hayes had 18 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Ethan Happ with 16.

NOTABLES

  • Princeton and Yale will meet in the first Ivy League Tournament championship game at The Palestra.
  • Texas State defeated UT-Arlington by 20 to advance to the Sun Belt Conference title game. UT-Arlington was the top-seed and had a double-digit win over Saint Mary’s in Moraga. Many thought the Mavericks could be a Cinderella this March.
  • Bubble teams across the country are happy VCU knocked off Richmond in overtime of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament semifinal.
  • However, the A-10 could still get three bids in the NCAA Tournament, if Rhode Island wins on Sunday against VCU. The Rams entered the day as one of the “First Four Out.” Perhaps a win over Davidson sealed the deal.
  • Moses Kingsley recorded a double-double 12 points and 13 rebounds in Arkansas‘ 76-62 SEC Tournament semifinal win over Vanderbilt. The Razorbacks have looked good in Nashville this week.

AUTOMATIC BIDS

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.