Posted on: May 24, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2011 12:46 pm

Nkereuwem Okoro advancing recruitment


Posted by Jeff Borzello

Rumors swirled on Tuesday that rising senior Nkereuwem Okoro was on the verge of a commitment.

Sources told CBSSports.com that Okoro could be ready to commit to Iowa State at any moment. Okoro, however, denied it.

“No it’s not [true],” Okoro said. “I haven’t committed yet."

The 6-foot-4 2012 prospect from St. Raymond’s (N.Y.) listed offers from Pittsburgh and Seton Hall, in addition to the Cyclones. Arizona, St. John's and Xavier have shown interest in Okoro at one time or another. 

“I don’t have a timeline,” Okoro said. “I don’t know where I want to commit as of right now.”

Okoro is a strong, hard-working swingman who prefers to score from the free-throw line and closer. He can score from the mid-range and also finishes well in the paint. Defensively, he’s outstanding, using his non-stop motor to make plays at that end of the floor.

While he might not be ready to make a decision just yet, Okoro knows what he is looking for in a school.

“My relationship with the coaching staff and how I comfortable I feel about the school,” he said.

Photo: Johnny Jungle 

Posted on: May 14, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: May 14, 2011 1:35 pm

Recruiting Notebook: Griffin is a two-sport star

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Watching Derrick Griffin run the floor and grab alley-oops – over and over and over – you would think he doesn’t even hesitate when going up for a dunk.

Interestingly, the 6-foot-6 forward from Terry (Tex.) does have second thoughts the split-second before he skies over defenders.

“Sometimes, I do get nerves,” Griffin said.

Of course, those thoughts quickly dissipate, turning into a confidence where he knows he can out-leap nearly any opponent.

“Then I just jump,” Griffin said. “If it’s there, I’m going to get it.”

Teamed with two top-10 prospects in twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Griffin was the one who stole the show at last weekend’s Nike Baltimore Elite Invitational. He wowed the crowd with one-handed finishes, alley-oops when he rose high above the rim and big-time blocks on the defensive end.

Although he can certainly make an impact at the next level in basketball, Griffin is also a stud football player. As a wide receiver, Griffin reportedly caught 18 touchdown passes, proving to be an impossible match-up with his athleticism and strength.

Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, Oregon, Kansas and USC have already reached out to the sophomore for both sports.

He has not made up his mind as to which sport he will play in the future, but Griffin knows his development might be better suited for the hardwood.

“If I get taller, I’m going to play basketball,” he said.

Lee to take it to the next level

Britton Lee understands.

The Roman Catholic (Pa.) sophomore knows he’s 5-foot-10 and isn’t yet a pure point guard or a big-time shooter. He knows he has room to improve and has a lot of work to do in order to reach his goals.

“I need to work on my jump shot, need to work on my handle,” Lee said.

With that said, Lee also envisions himself as a major conference player.

“I think I can go high-major,” he said.

For now, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Xavier and Niagara are showing varying levels of interest.

Other Notes:

- The U-16 group of the Team Final AAU program is one of the top groups in the country, although they also play up an age group in a few tournaments. In addition to Lee and high-major prospects Austin Colbert, Rondae Jefferson and Davon Reed, head coach Rob Brown also has plenty of other players at his disposal.

Yosef Yacob, a 6-foot point guard from Archbishop Carroll (Pa.), is hearing from Canisius, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s and Drexel. Yacob is long and an effective facilitator.

Johnnie Davis might be undersized at 6-foot-4, but the Neumann-Goretti (Pa.) forward is productive. Davis is hearing from schools like Niagara and George Mason, but also has high-majors like Pittsburgh tracking him.

- At the Nike Baltimore Elite Invitational last weekend, the New Jersey Playaz should have run roughshod over Threat 220. One player wouldn’t let that happen, though: Junius Thomas.

Thomas, a 6-foot-5 forward from Anacostia (D.C.), was outstanding. He blocked shots, finished above the rim, dominated the glass and single-handedly kept an undermanned Threat team in the game. While they eventually lost, Thomas might have been the most impressive player all game.

If he can get his academics in order, he has the potential to be at least a mid-level player. Thomas did mention hearing from St. Bonaventure and Clemson

Photo: iHigh.com 

Posted on: May 11, 2011 3:33 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 4:20 pm

Sophomore Austin Colbert gets taste of U-17 level


Posted by Jeff Borzello

HAMPTON, Va. – Growing up, it’s always fun to hang out with the older kids a little bit, but everyone seems more comfortable with people their own age.

For Austin Colbert, it is the same way in AAU basketball.

Colbert is arguably the best player in the Team Final AAU program, but the sophomore admittedly struggled playing with the U-17 team.

“They were all in my grill, as far as being stronger and defending me,” Colbert said at the Southern Jam Fest last weekend.

Moving back down to his natural age group, the young power forward looked more relaxed and was able to showcase his full skill set.

“It’s a little bit easier than playing with the 17s,” Colbert said. “I’m real comfortable, we’ve played together before.”

Despite that, Colbert said he enjoyed playing up a level because it gave him a chance to go against the best of the best in the class of 2012.

“It’s good for exposure,” he said. “We get to see where we compare against some real talented players.”

Colbert, a 6-foot-9 prospect from St. Patrick (N.J.), has been ranked among the top players in his class for a few years. He is very long and athletic, showing the ability to run the floor and finish in transition. Colbert is an outstanding shot-blocker who can also guard players off the dribble due to his lateral quickness.

In order to become more attractive at the next level, Colbert is expanding his game to the perimeter. He showed off his outside jumper and spent time around the arc.

“I want to move out a little bit, try to be a three,” Colbert said. “I’m athletic, I can stretch out and guard four of five positions.”

As far as recruiting, Colbert named a top five of Seton Hall, Xavier, Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Oklahoma.

“I want to go to a running school with a good coach,” he said.

By then, expect Colbert to fit right in with older players. 

Posted on: April 19, 2011 10:37 pm

Gibbs set on staying in the draft

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Despite all the stars forgoing the NBA draft and returning to college, one player seems set on keeping his name in the pool.

Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs, who decided to test the waters three weeks ago, told CBSSports.com on Tuesday night that he is 100 percent staying in the draft.

“When I entered the draft, I entered to get drafted,” Gibbs said.

When he announced on March 28 that he was entering the draft, he said that he was leaning towards leaving school.

That sentiment apparently hasn’t changed.

“I feel like I can play on that level and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs, a 6-foot-2 combo guard, averaged 16.8 points and 2.8 assists this past season, shooting 49 percent from 3-point range. He helped lead Pittsburgh to a Big East regular-season championship and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

When we spoke to him after his initial declaration, he said it would take a lot for him to return to the Panthers.

“Bad news from the NBA,” Gibbs said in late March. “As far as not going first or second round.”

Most mock drafts don’t project Gibbs to be chosen, but he would not comment on the feedback he has received from the NBA so far.

Said Gibbs: “Right now I’m just focused on training and getting better.”

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 5, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 5:30 pm

Counting down the top 10 moments

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Monday night’s title game between Connecticut and Butler ended the 2011 NCAA tournament on a somewhat sour note, as Butler had a historically bad shooting night and neither team was particularly impressive for 40 minutes. This year’s Big Dance, though, was a lot more than just the national championship game. The Final Four was the most unpredictable in history, with zero No. 1 or No. 2 seeds reaching the national semifinals for the first time ever. Two mid-majors reached Houston, including one that would not have been included in the NCAA tournament last season. There was Cinderella runs, upsets, buzzer beaters and outstanding individual performances – everything you could ask for in an NCAA tournament. When we reflect on the 2011 NCAA tournament, what moments will stand out? Here’s one man’s take.

10. John Calipari and DeAndre Liggins: The battle between Kentucky and North Carolina in the Elite Eight was one of the best games in the NCAA tournament. Big baskets by both teams, trash-talking from players, intensity all over the place. Up one with 35 seconds left, Kentucky’s DeAndre Liggins knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a four-point lead they would never relinquish. Liggins went over to head coach John Calipari, who hugged Liggins and gave him a kiss. Kentucky was going to the Final Four.

9. First day finishes: The first Thursday of the NCAA tournament is always must-see basketball. Last year was arguably the greatest first day in history, but 2011 gave it a run. Within the first seven games of the day, we had Butler senior Matt Howard’s game-winning layup against Old Dominion; Temple’s Juan Fernandez’s leaner to beat Penn State; and Richmond’s Kevin Anderson’s running fallaway with 18 seconds left to clinch a win over Vanderbilt. There were two other buzzer-beaters in that first set that we’ll get to in a bit.

8. Derrick Williams’ block: Similar to what he did against Washington in the regular season, Arizona forward Derrick Williams saved the Wildcats’ win against Memphis with his block of Wesley Witherspoon in the final seconds. It seemed as if Witherspoon had an open lane to the basket, but Williams stepped over from the other side of the basket to send Witherspoon’s shot the other way. Arizona would escape, 77-75.

7. Bradford Burgess’ layup: Down one with the ball under Florida State’s basket with 7.1 seconds left in overtime, everyone was curious what Shaka Smart was going to design. Bradford Burgess slid to the basket, though, getting a perfect pass from Joey Rodriguez and beating Derwin Kitchen for a game-winning layup. Florida State would fail to get a shot off at the other, allowing VCU to win, 72-71, and advance to the Elite Eight.

6. Title game guards: Connecticut’s Kemba Walker and Butler’s Shelvin Mack knocked down too many big shots throughout the tournament – we could make a top 10 of plays by just Walker and Mack. Walker scored 33 points against Cincinnati, 36 against San Diego State and hit a clutch step-back jumper against Arizona to help get the win against the Wildcats. On the other side, Mack simply refused to miss in the final minutes of games. He knocked down a huge 3-pointer against Florida with 1:21 left to give Butler a lead, then went on a tear against VCU in the national semifinals.

5. Demonte Harper’s jumper/Kenneth Faried’s block: This was another one of the fantastic finishes from the first Thursday. Trailing by two in the final seconds, Morehead State’s Demonte Harper hit a pull-up jumper from the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left to give the Eagles a one-point lead. At the other end, Louisville’s Mike Marra seemed to have an open 3-pointer to win it – but Kenneth Faried skied out and blocked the shot, preserving the first round’s biggest upset.

4. VCU beating Kansas: Everyone knew VCU needed to play the perfect game to beat Kansas. Well, the Rams weren’t exactly perfect – and they still managed to win by double-figures. They became the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four, but they were the first team that needed to win five games in order to get to the national semifinals. Just three weeks earlier, people had been complaining that VCU was even in the NCAA tournament – Shaka Smart and company proved everyone wrong.

3. Arizona vs. Texas ending: Talk about a change of emotions. Texas led Arizona by two in the final 15 seconds, when Derrick Williams was blocked by Tristan Thompson. Jordan Hamilton called timeout when he picked up the loose ball. On the ensuing inbounds, Cory Joseph was called for a five-second violation – although the five seconds were only about four and change in reality. Arizona would throw it in to Derrick Williams, who finished a 3-point play to give the Wildcats a one-point lead. J’Covan Brown missed at the other end – Arizona would survive. Again.

2. Brandon Knight’s game winners: Both of Brandon Knight’s last-second shots could be top-five moments. In the second round, Knight drove the lane and made his only basket with 2.0 seconds left to hold off upset-minded Princeton. Knight was at it again in the Sweet 16. Facing top-seeded Ohio State, Kentucky was tied in the final 10 seconds. Knight drove past Aaron Craft and pulled up from the right elbow, knocking down a jumper with 5.4 seconds left to give Kentucky the win.

1. Pittsburgh vs. Butler ending: As soon as it happened, everyone knew it would be the defining moment of the 2011 NCAA tournament. Andrew Smith gave Butler a one-point lead with 2.2 seconds left on a layup. On the ensuing desperation play, Pittsburgh’s Gilbert Brown was bumped out of bounds by Shelvin Mack. Brown went to the free-throw line, making the first. He would miss the second free throw, with the rebound falling in the arms of Butler’s Matt Howard. When Howard tried to turn and heave it towards the other end, Pitt’s Nasir Robinson barreled into him, committing a foul 90 feet from the basket. Howard would hit the game-winning foul shot and send top-seeded Pitt packing.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 28, 2011 1:57 am

Southeast wrap-up: The best and worst of 15 games

Posted by Matt Jones

In the history of the NCAA tournament, there are very few accomplishments that match what Butler pulled off this weekend in New Orleans. With their victory over Florida, Butler is now going to back to back Final Fours, an utterly unbelievable feat for a program that lives outside of the BCS power conferences.

When Brad Stevens’s group made it to the national championship game last season, it was considered by most to be an exceptional Cinderella run, brought about by a unique combination of a NBA lottery pick leader, outstanding clutch play and a run of good fortune. But now, after four consecutive thrilling wins that will send Butler to Houston for another go-around on college basketball’s biggest stage, such simplistic reasoning will no longer suffice.

With the win on Saturday, Butler basketball has shown that it deserves to be seen as one of the top ten current basketball programs in the country. It is only one of those types of programs that can lose a player like Gordon Hayward to the NBA draft and then come back and contend immediately again. Teams like Kentucky, Duke, UNC and Kansas are used to seeing superstars leave, and then immediately reloading. Now we must put Butler in that same group.

This year’s Butler group is now realistically on the brink of winning a national championship. Matt Howard’s last second win over Old Dominion got the tournament off to a rocking start and showcased just how clutch a performer the senior has been throughout the course of his career. The upset over Pittsburgh produced the most shocking ending of March, and removed the biggest obstacle to a second Final Four run. 

And then in New Orleans, the Bulldogs came to play, but not as the upstart from a small conference seeking to shock the world. Rather, they were the cool, calm and collected team that had been there before and could handle the moment. The Bulldogs handled their business from the opening tap in the Sweet 16 against Wisconsin and then were the more poised team down the stretch against a veteran Florida team who they rattled in the final minutes. 

Butler now goes to Houston with a chance to win the whole thing. It will be favored against VCU in the national semifinal and in a one game scenario against either Kentucky or UCONN, the Bulldogs would once again have a chance to shock the world. What Butler has accomplished is unheard of in modern college basketball and it may not yet be over.

Regional MVP: Shelvin Mack: Since Butler turned around its performance midway through the season, Shelvin Mack has been the driving force in big moments. Saturday’s final versus Florida was no different, as Mack scored 27 points and hit a number of crucial shots. Mack may be the most clutch performer left in the NCAA tournament and he showcased in New Orleans that he could be the most underrated perimeter player in America.

All-Regional team

C Vernon Macklin, Florida
F Matt Howard, Butler
F Alex Tyus, Florida
G Shelvin Mack, Butler
G Kenny Boyton, Florida

Game to remember: Butler 71, Pittsburgh 70. This is a game that will be remembered for a long time and could define these programs for years to come. Butler’s win allows the Bulldogs to lay claim to one of the great accomplishments in recent college basketball history. While Pittsburgh’s loss means that Jamie Dixon will not yet be able to get rid of the stigma of having never made a Final Four. Add to it, the bizarre late foul calls and the Nasir Robinson pain of costing his team the game late, and this will be one of the 2-3 most remembered games of the tournament.

Game to forget: Wisconsin 72, Belmont 58.  It happens every year. One trendy upset pick comes into the tournament and lays a total egg, making everyone who talked about them all week look silly. This year’s team was Belmont, who most thought had earned respect through its demolition of the Atlantic Sun and thus respect was given before playing against a slow team from the Big Ten. But that slow team controlled tempo, used its dominating size and the game was a dud. Never listen to the 4-13 pick that is trendy...it rarely works.

Biggest disappointment: St. John’s. It was a great regular season for Steve Lavin’s club and a late injury did temper expectations. But after the senior-laden squad did so well, the Johnnies fans wanted more than simply a harsh defeat to Gonzaga. Lavin will have St. John’s back sooner, rather than later. But a better showing this year was expected.

Best individual performance in a losing effort: They don’t get much better than the show Jacob Pullen put on for Kansas State in its 70-65 loss to Wisconsin. Pullen willed his team to the tournament towards the end of the season and then showcased all of that same desire in his two games. 38 points against Wisconsin was part of one of the great tournament performances so far, win or lose.

Most memorable moments:

  • Matt Howard makes a great putback at the buzzer to get March Madness off to a great start. We knew the tournament was back in session. 
  • Michigan State put forth an amazing comeback, down 25 late, but coming back and only losing by two. It was a miserable performance up until the end, but Tom Izzo teams can never totally be counted out.
  • Any time Jimmer Fredette plays, it is worth watching. He ran out of magic against Florida, but in the first two games, his deep threes were quite a sight.
  • The late fouls by Shelvin Mack and Nasir Robinson in the Pitt-Butler game won’t soon be forgotten and ignited a debate on the roll of officials at the end of games.
  • How can a team like Gonzaga look so dominant against St. John’s and then so terrible against BYU? Every game is different.
  • Billy Donovan coached well all tournament...until the end. I still do not know what the offensive gameplan was at the end of regulation or in overtime versus Butler.

Team to watch out for next year: This was a senior-laden bracket, with most of the best teams losing most of their best players. But there were some signs that UCLA could get out of its recent funk. Josh Smith is fun to watch and is able to do some amazing things in the paint. If Ben Howland can keep everyone around, the Bruins will join Arizona at the top of the Pac 10 once again next year.

Posted on: March 19, 2011 10:41 pm

Video: Butler upsets Pitt amid controversy

Posted by Eric Angevine

Butler, man.... Butler. They're becoming the miracle children of college basketball. Credit experience, or inside play or even Brad Stevens' glasses, but these guys turn it on in the postseason.

In upsetting the No. 1 Pitt Panthers today, the Bulldogs reached the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in program history. For a team that had to win the Horizon League auto-bid to get to the Big Dance a year after reaching the final game, the breaks just keep falling their way.

Some viewers questioned the officials' decision to call either of the two late fouls in such a close game, but league supervisor of officials John Adams appeared on CBS shortly after the game ended and assured viewers that the fouls were properly called.

The bigger question, and the one both head coaches will no doubt hammer their kids with in the future is "what the heck was anyone doing fouling in either of those scenarios?" Butler had the lead with 2.2 seconds left, and should have been playing D and forcing a tough jumpshot. After the missed free throw, the odds of Matt Howard doing anything but heaving the ball in the air were pretty much nil, so why foul him?

Then again, that's March Madness for you.

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Posted on: March 16, 2011 3:26 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 12:32 pm

Your Thursday NCAA tournament viewing guide

Posted by Matt Jones

Thursday begins the best four days of sports television viewing of the year. From noon until night fall on Sunday, nonstop hoops action hits the television set and true fans know that our attention can be placed in no other endeavor. Those of us experienced from the past know that it is a marathon, not a sprint. Racing out to an early start and consuming games with friends, food and other spirits can make what should be four full days of action, end up in early evening crashes that do no one any good. Thus it is important to plan a schedule as to how you will attack the greatest four days in sports television viewing.

This year, planning is even more important than in the past. Because of the new CBS/Turner deal, EVERY game will be available on your home cable package at any point. This will revolutionize your tournament experience and give you the chance to catch all of the action at any point. But it will also raise the possibility of sensory overload if you don’t attack the day with a plan. Thus I will give you a guide to each day’s action here on CBSSports.com, to maximize your enjoyment and minimize your headache. 


The action begins at 12:15 pm in Tampa, as West Virginia takes on Clemson (CBS). This is a good early focus of your attention, if for no other reason than to get some chuckles at the “dress” apparel Bobby Huggins is using for his 2011 tournament debut. Stay with this game until 12:40 pm and then flip the channel over to Butler vs Old Dominion (TruTV), one of the best games of the day and a battle of talented mid-major powers.

1 PM

We are still rolling with Butler-Old Dominion, only pausing to hear whatever funny comments Charles Barkley might make at halftime of the West Virginia game. At 1:40 pm, Louisville takes on Morehead State (TBS) in a game that could end up being the first major potential upset of the day. Make sure to watch the tip of this game, just to get a glimpse of Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried, the nation’s leading rebounder and a future NBA first round pick.

2 pm

This is where it starts to get confusing. You need to go back to CBS to see the end of the West Virginia-Clemson game, which is likely to go down to the wire. As that game is ending, Temple will tip versus Penn State (TNT). This is the first completely missable game of the day and should be your priority only if you live alone. As soon as WVU and Clemson finish, go back and catch the end of Butler and ODU, to watch the late game heroics of Shelvin Mack. When that game ends, its time to flip to Kentucky vs Princeton (CBS), which will tip at 2:45.

3 pm

You have a chance to breathe for the next 30 minutes or so as you keep partial track of Louisville-Morehead State and the UK-Princeton games. Pittsburgh begins against UNC-Asheville at 3:10 pm (Tru TV), but like with Penn State and Temple, can be but far on the backburner and might even be a good chance to call your mother, who you don't talk to nearly enough.

4 pm

If Penn State and Temple hasn’t bored you to tears, watch the final minutes while preparing for potentially the most exciting game of the afternoon, Vanderbilt vs Richmond at 4:10 (TBS). Kevin Stallings may have the most underrated team in the tournament but also has a history of losing to lesser teams in March. With the only other game to start this hour being San Diego State vs Northern Colorado (TNT), Vanderbilt vs Richmond can be your focus until the evening sessions begin.

5 pm

While watching Vanderbilt and Richmond, explain to your significant other that you do have time to have dinner with her/him for 45 minutes between 6:15 and 7 pm. Say this with a smile and a look of understanding that lets him/her know that while you do love them, priorities are priorities. Plus you can even suggest that the fact you are leaving during the San Diego State/Northern Colorado game showcases how much you love her/him. Just don’t also add that it is the worst game of the day.

7 pm

With four games tipping this hour, it is now upon you to decide which game will hold your interest. Florida goes up against UC Santa Barbara at 6:50 (TBS), which is only interesting if you are an emo kid with an affection for the stylings of the long-haired Chandler Parsons. BYU plays Wofford and gives you a chance to drool a bit over the Jimmer show at 7:15 pm (CBS). UCONN plays Bucknell at 7:20 pm (TNT), which won’t matter unless Kemba Walker doesn’t make the team bus. Thus your primary focus should be on Wisconsin and Belmont at 7:30 (Tru TV), which is the best chance to get a shocker in the evening sessions. No game is a bigger contrast of styles and TruTV may see record ratings as it goes to its climax.

8 pm

Flip back and forth between the best games, pausing at times to make sure your family members are still alive and haven’t left you lying in your own pool of saliva on the couch. Also try to watch any interplay between Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Greg Anthony and Seth Davis, while wondering just how much they have to be making fun of Seth when the cameras are off.  “Come on guys....just give me back my notes....please...Greg Gumbel never used to do this!”


As the final games of the night begin, be prepared to use the remote heavily.  All four games have potential for excitement and the schedule makers did none of us any favors by bumping them all in the last session.  9:20 pm will see Michigan State go against UCLA (TBS) in the biggest name matchup of the first round. I think if the Spartans win this one, Tom Izzo could have another late tournament run in him making this game will be fascinating from Tampa.  Two teams from the extreme different poles of the country face off at 9:45 pm as St. John’s goes up against Gonzaga (CBS). Steve Lavin and Mark Few combined have under five strands of hair move during the course of a day and will play an entertaining offensive game in Denver. Cincinnati and Missouri tip off at 9:50 pm (TNT), in the battle of teams with very little national respect from the pundits. And the final game of the night is between Kansas State and Utah State at 10 pm (Tru TV), two teams that have the potential to make a deep run or flameout in round one.  All four matchups are good and all four could have close finishes, meaning the order of importance will solely be dictated by score. This is the time of night when a person should have on the CBSSports.com live chat to know where the action is at any given point.

By midnight EST, all the games will be nearing completion and you can get ready to do it all over again on Friday. The best action on Thursday is to start and end the day, with games being a little less glamorous in between. But as a true fan, you will watch all of it and if you are like me, have even learned what channel “Tru Tv” is in anticipation. This is the time of year that we college basketball fans dream of. Use the guide above and attack it wisely. We still have three more days to come.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com