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College Basketball
Florida powers eager for fresh NCAA start in Austin
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Florida powers eager for fresh NCAA start in Austin

Florida powers eager for fresh NCAA start in Austin
Florida center Patric Young (4), pursuing a rebound with Mississippi’s Murphy Holloway, knows his Gators must find a way to close out tight games if they want to advance in the NCAA tournament at Austin.

Florida powers eager for fresh NCAA start in Austin

Destination Austin

The NCAA tournament schedule at the Erwin Center:

Friday’s second round

2-Miami (27-6) vs. 15-Pacific (22-12), 1:10 p.m. (TNT)

7-Illinois (22-12) vs. 10-Colorado (21-11), 3:40 p.m. (TNT)

3-Florida (26-7) vs. 14-Northwestern State (23-8), 6:27 p.m. (TRU)

6-UCLA (25-9) vs. 11-Minnesota (20-12), 8:57 p.m. (TRU)

Sunday’s third round

Friday afternoon winners, time TBA

Friday night winners, time TBA

The Austin lineup for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Upper Midwest to the southern tip of Florida.

But as geographically divergent as it is, the gang of eight had one theme Monday as Austin-bound coaches and players addressed their local media: Forget the past, and concentrate on this week.

For fifth-ranked Miami, the premier team coming to Austin as the second seed in the East Region, that means not resting on its laurels. The Hurricanes, who face Pacific on Friday at the Erwin Center, are coming off their first ACC regular-season and tournament championships.

“We’ve got to turn the page,” coach Jim Larranaga said after Sunday’s conference title game. “When nonconference season was over, we turned the page. Regular season over, turn the page. ACC tournament is over; turn the page. One does not have anything to do with the next.

“We’ve just been through a grueling tournament. You have to rest your sword.”

Others Austin-bound have a strong desire to forget what just happened.

Florida, the South No. 3 seed, which will play Northwestern State on Friday, blew another lead in the SEC tournament final and was upset by Ole Miss. The Gators are 0-6 in games decided by six or fewer points.

“There’s plenty of games where we’ve had reasonable leads and there just seemed like a point where we went dead or allowed the team to come back with no resistance,” center Patric Young told reporters Monday. “It is fair to say that. It’s a problem with the team, something we’ve been trying to get fixed.

“We have to finish plays, keep that fire, stay alert for all 40 minutes. We give teams false hope they can come back and win it. That’s when they get on runs, and we have no answer for them.”

Minnesota, which will face UCLA here late Friday, started 15-1 but finished 5-11 in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten.

“It will be somewhat of a breath of fresh air,” Golden Gophers guard Austin Hollins said Sunday night. “We finally get away from the Big Ten. But at the same time, UCLA is a tough team. We can’t just relax because we’re stepping out of our conference.”

The Bruins need to put aside their disappointment over their sixth seed and trip to Austin.

“We hoped we were going to San Jose. That was our first choice because our fans could go to the game,” coach Ben Howland said Sunday. “Two other Pac-12 teams got to go to San Jose. Arizona is in Salt Lake. Congratulations to them.”

Forward Travis Wear reminded, “We were regular-season Pac-12 champs.”

Freshman star Shabazz Muhammad, whose next stop will be the NBA lottery, said the travel could have been worse.

“At least it’s not Philadelphia,” said the 6-foot-6-inch former McDonald’s All-American. “If we take care of business, it doesn’t matter where we’re playing.”

Shabazz, you’ll love Austin. Besides, of this group, only 14th-seeded Northwestern State is within 900 miles of the Texas capital.

Miami actually thinks it might have some good karma working with Austin.

The only time the Hurricanes have ever been to the Sweet 16, it was at the Erwin Center. They lost to a Bill Self-coached Tulsa team in the 2000 South Regional semifinals but enjoyed the ride.

“I didn’t know they’d ever made the Sweet 16,” said Miami senior Kenny Kadji, a 6-10, 242-pound forward. “Maybe Austin will be a good spot for us.”

Big 12 expatriate Colorado, which will play Illinois, is thrilled to be going to Austin … or anywhere.

“I was nervous watching the selection show,” forward Andre Roberson, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, said. “Our name didn’t turn up until late. I had flashbacks to two years ago, when we got left out.”

Roberson, who’s from Texas (San Antonio Wagner), is stoked.

“I’ll have lots of friends and family there,” he told reporters. “For me, Austin was the top choice.”

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  • After hours of negotiations that featured personal intervention by President Donald Trump, Republican leaders in the Congress were forced to back off a planned vote on a GOP health care bill, unable to find enough votes approve it and send it on to the Senate for further work. While House leaders said votes were possible on Friday, there was no final agreement to vote on, as more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus refused to get on board with a deal offered by the White House. “We have not gotten enough of our members to get to yes,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the chair of the Freedom Caucus. “I am still a no at this time,” Meadows told a crush of reporters. “I am desperately trying to get to yes.” Rep. Mark Meadows: “I am still a no at this time. I am desperately trying to get to yes” https://t.co/cQi0OGdJGY — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 23, 2017 Other Freedom Caucus members said very little as they exited a Congressional hearing room after a two hour meeting on the health bill, leaving Meadows to get out the message. “No comment,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). “Mark’s got everything,” referring to Meadows. “You know I’m not going express the substance of anything that we talked about in there,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said as reporters trailed him down the hall. Earlier at the White House, there had been optimism after a meeting between Freedom Caucus members and the President. Lengthy standing ovation from the Freedom Caucus when @POTUS walked into the Cabinet Room just now. Big momentum toward #RepealAndReplace. pic.twitter.com/N1FLGAVFMN — Cliff Sims (@CSims45) March 23, 2017 But, there was no deal.
  • Conservative Republicans opposed to the health care reform bill offered by their leadership have forced a delay in a vote on the measure, which was expected to happen Thursday. House GOP leadership announced they will push the vote back about 2:30 Central Time after a flurry of meetings between Republican members of the Freedom Caucus, moderates pushing the plan, and the White House. The delay is seen as a rebuke of the Trump administration, which has brought pressure to bear in an attempt to bring those more conservative members on board. Those Republicans opposed to the bill in its current form generally want deeper cuts in spending on the program. Some have called it “Obamacare Light,” and say it doesn’t offer enough substantial changes to current law. Those in favor of the bill argue it eliminates the mandate, and puts choice back in the hands of consumers. There’s no official announcement on when House Speaker Paul Ryan might try to reschedule a vote.
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