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UCLA’s Steve Alford focused on team, not Indiana job opening

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UCLA coach Steve Alford says he’s focused on the NCAA Tournament, not the job opening at his alma mater Indiana.

Alford played four seasons in Bloomington and led the Hoosiers to the 1987 NCAA title under coach Bobby Knight. His name was among the first to come up when Indiana coach Tom Crean was fired on Thursday.

“That was 30 years ago,” Alford said at a news conference before his third-seeded Bruins face No. 14 seed Kent State on Friday night. “I was part of that. I stood on stage with a great group of guys and won a national championship. It’s my home state. I played there. So obviously, all that comes up.”

He’s coached at Southwest Missouri State, Iowa and New Mexico before joining UCLA in 2013.

“I love UCLA. I love Los Angeles,” he said. “You’re talking about arguably the greatest `brand’ anywhere on the planet, and we got things going at a very high level now and we’re very excited about it.”

Cincinnati steakhouse offers $1 million in steaks to students if NKU upsets Kentucky

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Cincinnati restauranteur Jeff Ruby is taking a high-steaks gamble on No. 15 Northern Kentucky in today’s game against No. 2 seed Kentucky.

He has promised every undergrad — all 15,000 of them — if the Norse knock off the Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA tournament today. It’s the first year where NKU is eligible for the NCAA tournament, and they qualified with the automatic bid in the Horizon League.

“Yes, this could get very expensive,” Ruby admitted to WLWT. “But it’s important to me to show support to our hometown organizations. NKU is a real asset to the community as they continue to produce extraordinary talented leaders for our region and beyond.”

Ruby’s steakhouse is less than eight miles from the campus, and the cheapest item on the menu is a $42 8 oz. filet mignon. This could end up costing him $1 million if the Norse pick up the win.

I hope all the free publicity he’s getting for his offer will be worth it.

Grayson Allen has ‘no regrets’ about returning for junior season

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I shouldn’t have to tell you that Grayson allen’s junior season has not gone the way that he has planned.

One year removed from averaging 21.6 points, 4.6 boards and 3.5 assists while shooting 41.6 percent from three and just six months removed from being named the NBC Sports Preseason Player of the Year, Allen is now coming off the bench for the Blue Devils, averaging just 14.1 points and shooting 36 percent from three.

He went from being a potential top 20 pick in the 2016 draft to likely looking at a spot in the mid-second round this year.

“I knew with the decision I made, once I made it, I was going to live with it,” Allen told ESPN on Thursday. “Obviously, I haven’t had the season I’d like to have. A lot of things out of my control happened. I didn’t know I was going to get injured three games into the year, reinjured later and all stuff happen in the middle.”

Allen has dealt with a myriad of issues this year. He’s right about that. He’s had ankle and toe injuries. He tripped another player and was suspended from the team over christmas break, missing one game. He had every play that he was involved in during the month of January scrutinized by everyone with access to the internet.

It hasn’t been easy.

“For me, I’m making best of the situation,” Allen said. “I didn’t come back for personal goals, I came back to be in the spot I am right now and trying to make another run for a national championship, and I’m still able to do that.”

“So there’s no regrets there.”

Coach K, Roy Williams once again voice opposition to N.C.’s ‘bathroom bill’

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Both North Carolina and Duke are spending this weekend in Greenville, S.C., as the No. 1 seed in the South and the No. 2 seed in the East, respectively.

That’s not where they were supposed to be.

They were supposed to be in Greensboro, N.C. That’s where the first round games for the 2017 NCAA Tournament were awarded, and that’s who the NCAA revoked the games from due to House Bill 2, a law that was passed in 2016 by a Governor, Pat McCrory, who lost his reelection bid.

The NCAA has made it clear that they will not host NCAA events in state with discriminatory laws on their books, and North Carolina is in real danger of losing out on NCAA tournament games until 2022. As you might imagine, the two Hall of Famers that benefit the most from the tournament taking place in North Carolina are not happy about this.

“It would be nice if our state got as smart and also would host not just basketball tournaments but concerts and other NCAA events,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “But maybe we’ll get there in the next century, I don’t know. We’ll see.”

“Look, it’s a stupid thing,” K said, when pressed on the issue. “That’s my political statement. If I was president or governor I’d get rid of it. And I’d back up my promises. As unusual as that might be. Anyway, I don’t want to get too political.”

“I’m very sad, very disappointed about the whole thing, which apparently is something that’s really, really hard to change,” UNC’s Roy Williams said Thursday.

Both coaches praised the hosts in Greenville, but playing a tournament in South Carolina is different from playing the event in North Carolina. And while the cynic in me can’t shake the idea that Coach K and Ole Roy are only bucking because this hurts their basketball programs, even if that is the case, the two most famous men in the state this side of Cam Newton are publicly railing against a law that goes well beyond what bathroom people are allowed to use; HB2 reversed a Charlotte ordinance that gave rights to gay and transgender people, it prevented city and county governments from setting minimum-wage standards for private employers and it put a limit the way that people can sue for discrimination.

Regardless of their motivation, isn’t it a good thing that two of the biggest stars in the state are pushing back against that?

USC team dedicated play-in game win to coach on late sister’s birthday

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Martin Bahar is a member of the USC Trojan coaching staff, and while his career is in basketball, his passion is a much more noble cause. Bahar and his family have raised more than $160,000 for cancer research in an effort to honor Bahar’s sister, Maddie, who was taken after a battle with the disease in 2009.

I told you that story back in October.

There’s a touching postscript to that tale that happened earlier this week.

Wednesday night would have been Maddie’s 34th birthday. USC also played a game that night against Providence in the First Four, a game that the Trojans won after erasing a 17-point second half deficit. Prior to the game, Bahar sent a text out to everyone on the the telling them that it was Maddie’s birthday.

“I’m just texting you not because I want to win tonight,” Bahar wrote, “but I want you guys to come out and have fun and give it your all. Live life like there’s no tomorrow and you can live with the results.”

The team did exactly that and they got the Bahars their win.

But the touching moment came after the game in the locker room. The team was waiting for Jordan McLaughlin to finish his on-court, post-game interview to really celebrate, the way every team does when they win an NCAA tournament game. When McLaughlin returned, everyone went nuts. Head coach Andy Enfield addressed the team, and that seemed to be the end of it.

It wasn’t.

“Jordan quieted everyone down,” Bahar said, “and said they wanted to dedicate this win the Maddie on her birthday. Everyone started crying and hugging. Obviously, that started with me crying.”

“It was the most touching moment of my career.”

To donate to the Bahar’s fundraising page, click here. To contribute to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, click here. To find a local Light The Night Walk, click here.

NCAA Tournament: Previewing Friday’s bracket action; picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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GAMES OF THE DAY

No. 7 Michigan (-2) vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State, 12:15 p.m., CBS: I have a feeling that this is going to end up being the best game of the afternoon, and I don’t know if it will be all that close. Both the Wolverines and the Cowboys have a star point guard – Derrick Walton vs. Jawun Evans — and both teams love to put up points while seeming morally averse to playing any kind of defense. Great guard play + elite offenses + bad defenses = aesthetically-pleasing basketball.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma State (+2)

No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Wichita State (-6), 7:10 p.m., CBS: This is a fascinating matchup, not only because of what Wichita State went through with the Selection Committee — they were vastly underseeded — and not only because that negligence from the committee means that a No. 7 seed is a six-point underdog in the first round, but because of Indiana. Both Gregg Marshall and Archie Miller are elite coaches outside the college basketball power structure, and both would be in the mix to get the Indiana job with Tom Crean gone. Winner moves to Bloomington?

PREDICTION: Wichita State (-6)

No. 6 SMU (-6.5) vs. No. 11 USC, 3:10 p.m., truTV: There are two things about this game that make it really interesting: This is rematch of a game played earlier this season where UCLA won, a game that very likely got USC into the NCAA tournament, but perhaps more interesting is the fact that this is the first game that SMU, one of the trendy sleeper picks in this year’s bracket, will play in front of the nation.

PREDICTION: SMU (-6.5)

No. 8 Miami (-2) vs. No. 9 Michigan State, 9:20 p.m., TNT: This is another matchup that should be all kinds of fun, as the floor will be stocked with high-end athletic talent. Miami’s perimeter players are far better than you think, but I don’t know if any on Miami will be an answer to Miles Bridges when he gets going.

PREDICTION: Michigan State (+2)

UPSETS BREWING

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Rhode Island, 4:30 p.m., TBS: This is one of my two favorite upset picks of the first round. (Middle Tennessee State was the other.) Rhode Island is a really talented team that has been battling injuries but it finally getting healthy at the right time. Creighton is slightly overseeded because they got credit for things that they did before Mo Watson was injured.

PREDICTION: Rhode Island (even)

No. 6 Cincinnati (-3.5) vs. No. 11 Kansas State, 7:27 p.m., truTV: I actually think that Bruce Weber’s club matches up pretty well with Cincinnati, although I fully expect Mick Cronin to have his boys ready to play. Jacob Evans vs. Wesley Iwundu will decide this.

PREDICTION: Cincinnati (-3.5)

No. 7 South Carolina (-1.5) vs. No. 10 Marquette, 9:50 p.m., TBS: This is a fascinating clash of styles. South Carolina is one of the nation’s elite defenses but is physically incapable of scoring at times. Marquette is lethal offensively and couldn’t guard a streetlight.

PREDICTION: Marquette (+1.5)

BLUE BLOODS IN ACTION 

On Thursday, both Gonzaga and Villanova, as No. 1 seeds, were pushed in the first half before pulling away in sloppy games in the second half. On Friday, the tournament’s five blue-bloods — plus Louisville! — all square against teams seeded 14 or lower. Do any of them have a shot?

  • No. 1 North Carolina (-27) vs. No. 16 Texas Southern, 4:00 p.m., TNT: No. 1 seeds have struggled twice in this tournament. I don’t think UNC will. PREDICTION: UNC (-27)
  • No. 2 Duke (-20) vs. No. 15 Troy, 7:20 p.m., TBS: Duke landed three come-from-behind wins last week in the ACC tournament. Hopefully they won’t fall behind by 15 in this one. PREDICTION: Troy (+20)
  • No. 3 UCLA (-18.5) vs. No. 14 Kent State, 9:57 p.m., truTV: Which UCLA shows up here? The only that can put up 120 points on anyone, or the one that doesn’t want to play any defense? PREDICTION: UCLA (-18.5)
  • No. 2 Kentucky (-20) vs. No. 15 Northern Kentucky, 9:40 p.m., CBS: I actually think NKU makes this into a slugfest, and I think they give Malik Monk some trouble. Kentucky wins, but NKU cover. PREDICTION: Northern Kentucky (+20)
  • No. 1 Kansas (-23.5) vs. No. 16 UC Davis, 6:50 p.m., TNT: It feels like the bigger story here is everything that is going on with Josh Jackson, whose name popped up in another legal incident on Thursday.
  • No. 2 Louisville (-19.5)vs. No. 15 Jacksonville State, 2:45 p.m., CBS: Ray Harper has had a ton of tournament success in his career. That run ends today. PREDICTION: Louisville (-19.5)

HOPEFULLY, IT’S CLOSE LATE

  • No. 3 Baylor (-12.5) vs. No. 14 New Mexico State, 12:40 p.m., truTV: New Mexico State is one of the best mid-major programs that you haven’t paid attention to. The Aggies went 28-5 this season. I don’t, however, think they have an answer for Johnathan Motley. PREDICTION: Baylor (-12.5)
  • No. 8 Arkansas (-1) vs. No. 9 Seton Hall, 1:30 p.m., TNT: This game should give us some fireworks as well, as Arkansas loves to press and run in transition while Seton Hall is loaded with athletes who are tough and play hard. It may not be pretty, but it will be exciting. PREDICTION: Seton Hall (+1)
  • No. 3 Oregon (-15) vs. No. 14 Iona, 2:00 p.m., TBS: We’re still waiting to see how Oregon is going to adjust to playing without Chris Boucher, and 15 points is a lot of points to cover for a team that may be trying to figure themselves out. PREDICTION: Iona (+15)