Morning Five: 05.01.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 1st, 2014

morning5

  1. Yesterday was a surprisingly busy day on the coaching carousel. The big news came out late last night when Southern Mississippi filled its coaching vacancy by hiring Doc Sadler. The Southern Miss spot opened up when Donnie Tyndall moved to Tennessee, but he did leave a fairly good program for Sadler as the team went 56-17 in the past two seasons although they did not make the NCAA Tournament either season. Sadler compiled a 149-107 record at UTEP and Nebraska, but was fired in 2012 at Nebraska after going 12-18. It was just yesterday that the job was reportedly offered to Brad Underwood, who “decided” to stay at Stephen F. Austin just a few hours before the Sadler hiring was announced so we suspect that his decision may have been impacted by Southern Mississippi’s decision. The other announcement was that Tom Izzo intends to stay at Michigan State rather than pursuing a NBA job. In our opinion, this really isn’t particularly newsworthy although with coaches of Izzo’s caliber we always assume that some NBA team will have interest in Izzo. While Izzo stated that he plans on staying at Michigan State he noted that if the right offer comes up he might reconsider and he did mention the Lakers as such a job. And Mike D’Antoni did resign yesterday…
  2. It wasn’t that long ago that Rick Barnes was on the “hot seat”. After a surprisingly good season last season, Barnes appeared to be in good shape heading into next season with most of last year’s team returning. On top of that, he added Myles Turner, who committed to Texas yesterday essentially ending this recruiting season (at least for high school recruits). Turner, the consensus #2 recruit in the class of 2014, announced that he was heading to Texas in a press conference that was televised on ESPNU. For a more thorough breakdown of what Turner’s commitment means, check out Jeff Borzello’s excellent breakdown.
  3. We aren’t sure if one coach needs to replace another on the hot seat, but if he does then we would nominate Mark Turgeon. He already lost three players to transfer this off-season (more on one below) and now according to some reports both Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell have both asked for their release from the program. Maryland is denying these reports, but if true we cannot imagine how much longer Turgeon can stay on board. It is too late in the coaching carousel cycle for the school to get rid of him and look for a new coach and with their upcoming move to the Big Ten they need some stability, but they need to be looking in another direction. Last season, Allen averaged 13.4 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds per game while Mitchell averaged 6.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. If they do leave, Maryland will have lost five of its top eight players from last season to transfer.
  4. With most of his production from last year leaving and an undistinguished freshman class coming in we knew that Craig Robinson needed to do something significant if he wanted to keep his job. It appears that he has in the transfer market. Yesterday, Maryland transfer Nick Faust announced that he would be headed to Oregon State. Faust, who averaged 9.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2 assists per game, will have to sit out this season and has one more year of eligibility left. According to reports, Oregon State is also active in reaching out to several other prominent transfers. This method probably isn’t what Oregon State needs for long-term success, but it might be enough to let Robinson keep his job for a few more years.
  5. Danny Manning hasn’t had his first practice at Wake Forest, but his tenure is already off to a rough start. Yesterday, Shelton Mitchell, the team’s top incoming recruit, received his release from Wake Forest. Mitchell, a four-star point guard, is recovering from an ACL tear is reportedly still considering Wake Forest, but is keeping his options open now that Jeff Bzdelik, the coach who recruited him, is no longer there. At this point, the only class of 2014 commit that Manning has is two-star shooting guard Rondale Watson. Manning might turn out to be a better coach than Bzdelik, but with that recruiting class it will be very hard to prove it in the ACC.
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Morning Five: 06.03.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 3rd, 2013

morning5

  1. It is hard to believe that Rutgers could appear more out of touch with reality than they have been in the wake of the Mike Rice scandal, but new senior vice president and general counsel John Farmer Jr’s letter defending Julie Hermann might be a new low. In the letter Farmer compares the accusations of abuse against Hermann to accusations of marijuana use by Bill Clinton. What Farmer’s argument essentially boils down to is that the claims against Hermann are from her distant past and are of questionable validity much like the allegations that were made against Bill Clinton before the 1992 election. If the ridiculous comparison was not enough to make you aware that Hermann was keeping her job, Farmer closes by saying “She starts June 17. Period.” That may be true given how out of tune the Rutgers administration is to public perception, but don’t be surprised if Hermann is given less leeway for any future mistakes.
  2. Yesterday, the Pac-12 released an independent review of officiating for the Pac-12 Tournament that determined its officials acted appropriately (full report here). The entire investigation stems from a report that Pac-12 head of officials Ed Rush had offered a bounty (reportedly a free trip) to the official who gave Arizona head coach Sean Miller a technical. That revelation and the fact that Miller was given a technical, which was considered very strange before the reports about a bounty and may have affected the outcome of the game, eventually led to Rush’s resignation a few days later. The report’s conclusion was that Rush’s statements were not taken literally by other officials and did not affect the integrity of the game and the Pac-12 considers the matter closed. What remains to be seen is how Pac-12 officials will officiate Arizona games next season with this scandal still hanging over them (the Pac-12 may consider the case closed, but we can assure you that the fans do not feel that way).
  3. Houston‘s hopes of making its program nationally relevant again were dealt a big blow as director of basketball operations Michael Young announced that he was leaving the school after refusing a reassignment within the program and he will be taking his son Joseph Young, the team’s leading scorer, with him. Michael, who played for Houston’s famed Phi Slama Jama teams, had been serving as director of basketball operations, but had recently signed a new contract that reportedly offered him the same pay, but with a role in community service instead. According to the school, Michael had accepted his new position, but something changed in the past week. The big question now is what happens with Joseph and whether the NCAA will give him a waiver based on his father’s decision to leave the school since the other players who were granted such waivers were fired while Michael decided to walk away from the program.
  4. It was just a year ago that Shabazz Muhammad was considered a can’t miss prospect and one who could help lead UCLA back to glory even if only for his one season in college. Then came questions about his eligibility that was followed by up-and-down play where he showed flashes of brilliance, but never lived up to the hype. The latest twist in the Muhammad saga is that his father is now under house arrest after being charged with running a mortgage scam. Ronald Holmes, Muhammad’s father, is accused of obtaining “mortgage loans by fraudulent means to buy houses” and now the government is seeking to collect $2.5 million from him. As the article notes this is not the first time that Holmes has been accused of such an act. And if you were wondering $2.5 million would be right around Muhammad’s salary for his first two seasons (before taxes) based on where he is projected to be selected.
  5. You probably will not notice either decision next season, but a pair of moves involving two assistants coming to and leaving Kansas could have a big impact in the coming years. The decision by Iowa State to hire Doc Sadler probably will not make much of an impact on the Hawkeyes next season, but it does set up Sadler for a potential return to take over a new team in the near-future. Sadler’s two previous stops were at Nebraska (101-89) and UTEP (48-18) so it would seem like he would be an attractive candidate for almost any mid- or lower-tier program. Sadler’s move was actually part of a series of moves involving Kansas where Sadler was Director of Basketball Operations as the school brought in Jerrance Howard to replace Joe Dooley who left to take over a Florida Gulf Coast. The addition of Howard may actually be more important for the school as they are looking to Howard to help build on their recruiting as Cooley departure would have left a void in the program.
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Big 12 M5: 03.26.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 26th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. The search has begun for Texas Tech‘s next head basketball coach, but this is hardly a typical situation. One of the top candidates for the job is, um, the guy who coached the team this year. Chris Walker won only 11 games at the helm with the Red Raiders this season, but the league’s coaches praised him often for the way he dealt with the aftermath of the Billy Gillispie fallout. It would be silly to judge Walker based solely on his performance as an interim, so you’d have to think he’ll at least get a fair shot at landing the full-time position. The other names listed in the early portion of the search are, at the very least, intriguing: Scott Sutton (Oral Roberts), Doc Sadler (current Kansas staff member and former Nebraska head coach), Steve McClain (former Wyoming head coach and highly-regarded, longtime assistant currently with Indiana) and Barry Hinson (Southern Illinois). Sutton’s probably the best candidate of those choices, but he seems to have made a lifestyle choice to stay at Oral Roberts. Sadler didn’t fare well at Nebraska, McClain’s tenure at Wyoming ended poorly, and Hinson’s team finished in last place in the Missouri Valley this season. Surely, other names will emerge. You would have to hope so.
  2. Imagine this: Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, and Le’Bryan Nash playing another year together in Stillwater. Banners would be hung. Numbers might be retired. Championships might be claimed. But for that to happen at Oklahoma State, the trio would need to skip the NBA Draft this summer. That might be a tough proposition. Smart’s projected as one of the top picks in the 2013 NBA Draft. Brown’s considered a first-rounder. And Nash might be a second-rounder. If for some reason they did all return, we’re talking about a team with limitless potential. “It’ll be scary,” Nash told The Oklahoman. 
  3. Texas had a bad season. Then it played in the CBI and lost to in-state opponent Houston. Rick Barnes obviously wasn’t very happy, so when reporters asked him whether he would ever consider scheduling the Cougars during the regular season, he took a bit of an elitist tone. He said he’d only play them at home in Austin, which is unfortunately a sentiment you often hear muttered by power-conference college basketball coaches. The aforementioned link is pretty snarky and critical, but it has a point. Teams like Texas often say they have nothing to gain by playing a team from a perceived “lesser” conference on the road, but it makes life impossible for non-BCS schools in terms of scheduling. It hurts potential rivalries, kills fan interest, and deprives people of solid basketball during non-conference play.
  4. Sorry, awkward teenagers in Lawrence, Kansas: your middle school dance has been cancelled during the Kansas Jayhawks’ Sweet 16 game against Michigan. Probably a good idea, since there surely wouldn’t have been anybody there. Now, they will need to make sure they don’t reschedule the dance for Sunday, when a possible Elite Eight game could be played. Oh, and don’t schedule it for April 6 or April 8, either. You know, just in case.
  5. We leave you on one final note: former Kansas State basketball player Dick Stone has passed away. He was a star in the 1950s, but at the age of 78, he was killed on Thursday in Florida when a man driving a pickup truck swerved into his parked car. Very tragic and very sad, and not the best way to end the Morning Five.
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Big Ten Summer Check In: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Posted by jnowak on August 1st, 2012

Nebraska was expected to be a bottom-feeder in the tough Big Ten in its first year as a member and, quite frankly, the Huskers didn’t disappoint. Nebraska finished the year last in the conference, tied with Penn State, and enjoyed just 12 wins overall. But plenty has changed since March. The Huskers have made improvements to their facilities and, most importantly, have made a change at the top by bringing in former Colorado State coach Tim Miles. The biggest question is: How will Nebraska adapt after one year in the conference? Can they take what they learned in their freshman season and make the necessary adjustments and improvements for their sophomore campaign? Only time will tell, but it all starts in the summer.

Can Nebraska do better than one big win this year? (J. Hannah/LJS)

  • Evaluating Last Year: Nebraska was a weak team in a relatively weak conference before coming to the Big Ten, where it was an equally weak team in a much stronger conference. It didn’t help that the Big Ten was at its best last season, but that means it can only get easier for the Cornhuskers the rest of the way… right? Maybe. The Huskers played a decent non-conference schedule — with USC, Oregon, Wake Forest, Creighton and Central Michigan on the slate — but really hit a wall in Big Ten play. Their best win of the year, by far, was at home against Indiana on January 18, and the Huskers dropped nine of their last 10 contests. Basically, any season in which the head coach is fired afterward can’t be considered much of a success.
  • State of the Program: The only place to go is up. And it seems that things are pointed in that direction, despite NU’s recent history. Doc Sadler was at the helm for six seasons (five of them in the Big 12) without leading the Huskers to the NCAA Tournament once, but Miles, who took Colorado State from 7-25 in his first season in 2007-08 to 20-12 last year, could be a difference-maker. He also has the benefit of the brand-new $18.7 million, 84,000-square foot Hendricks Training Center, which has new practice gyms, locker rooms and team rooms for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. It’s already helped to land some transfers, including Terran Petteway (Texas Tech) and Walter Pitchford (Florida), who will sit out this season but can practice with the club and should provide a lift down the road. Nebraska may not have performed well in recent years but there’s a clean slate in Lincoln and plenty for Miles to work with to attract potential recruits and fans. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 06.15.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 15th, 2012

  1. You’re probably reading this post approximately 8-12 hours after textapocalypse went into effect in college basketball last night. As the midnight bell tolled, a new NCAA rule went into effect allowing coaches to bombard high school sophomores and above with as many phone calls and text messages that they can muster. You might recall that one of the very first posts on this venerable site back in 2007 suggested that the NCAA’s decision to ban text messages in light of news that Billy Gillispie (then at Kentucky) was knocking out 8,000 messages a month was a good idea. Even in those short five years, how people communicate with one another has changed significantly (texting has essentially replaced phone calls between young people), but that doesn’t mean that middle-aged coaches will do any better with it now than they did then. One thing is certain — with social media like Twitter and Facebook today existing side-by-side texts on everyone’s smart phone, there’s bound to be lots of texting hilarity that will ensue from just the auto-correct function alone.
  2. Cincinnati and Xavier decided on Thursday that all the on-court fun the players have had at the Crosstown Shootout (now re-branded as the Crosstown Classic – lolz) in recent years shouldn’t be limited to the student-athletes punching each other on the floor. With the choice to move the game to a neutral site downtown and tickets split down the middle, this two-year move will allow fans to get in zip each other up while enjoying the game from the stands. Look, we understand the logic behind moving the game away from home sites where the vitriol heaved upon the visiting team produces a volatile situation, but is college basketball turning into a sport where only games at neutral sites are those worth having? Between the Kentucky-Indiana ridiculousness and now this, we have to wonder if the sport is losing one of the very things that makes it special (home-and-home rivalry games). What’s next — Duke and Carolina on a Charlotte/Greensboro/Raleigh rotation?
  3. It didn’t take long for former Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler to find a landing spot. Kansas announced on Thursday that Sadler, who has a 149-107 record as a Division I head coach, would take over as the Jayhawks’ Director of Basketball Operations. He replaces Barry Hinson, who left KU after the season to become the new head coach at Southern Illinois. Sadler continues a trend of high-major college coaches keeping their name fresh in the industry by taking assistant positions when they come available. For example, former Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey is currently an assistant at Florida, biding his time until another choice job comes available and an AD is willing to take another chance on him.
  4. Speaking of the Gator program, Florida fans received some excellent news on Thursday when Virginia Tech forward Dorian Finney-Smith announced that he would transfer to Gainesville in light of Seth Greenberg’s firing. Finney-Smith joins Damontre Harris as transfers heading south to play for Billy Donovan, giving the two-time national champion head coach a leg up already on his 2013-14 roster. The 6’8″ player averaged 7/7 last year in 30 minutes per game for Virginia Tech, but he clearly needs to spend the off year working on shot selection (33.2%) and bulking up. Finney-Smith is already an elite per-minute rebounder, but with another 30 pounds on his frame he could easily average double figure boards in two years for the Gators.
  5. The biggest knock on Bruce Weber at Illinois was his recruiting (or lack thereof), especially in the talent-rich Chicago area. As the new head coach at Kansas State, he faces a more difficult recruiting situation in that the nearest major city is Kansas City, a town not exactly known for its prep basketball talent in the same sense as the Windy City. As a result, Weber went on record Thursday stating that he plans to branch out to more places, even as many as all places. Well, except the West Coast. Weber said during a Big 12 coaches’ teleconference that he wants to recruit the Midwest, Texas, the East Coast, and of course, Chicago. All we can think is that Illinois fans must be snickering in their cereal this morning.
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Big Ten Weekly Five: 06.14.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on June 14th, 2012

  1. The NBA pre-draft combines are in full swing. Illinois’ Meyers Leonard continues to impress the scouts and is consistently shooting up the draft boards. Despite playing a handful of minutes as a freshman, he had a great sophomore season when he averaged 13.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and had a few jaw-dropping blocks to amount to 1.9 rejections per game. Leonard may not have the true post moves to become a dominant scorer at the next level but his physical attributes (7’1″, 250 lbs.) and work ethic are good enough to work as a defensive presence in the NBA. Leonard tries to model his game after defensive studs such as Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler, which is a very reasonable comparison for somebody whose offensive game continues to evolve.
  2. More on the NBA Draft, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger seems to be a consensus lottery pick, but may not be picked in the top five this year. A year ago, he was projected that high after his freshman season but he came back instead to lead the Buckeyes to the Final Four. Sullinger’s scoring remained the same between both seasons (17.5 PPG as freshman to 17.2 PPG as a sophomore) but he was able to improve his rebounding to 10.2 per game and show range in his jump shot after returning to Ohio State. Despite the drop on the draft boards, Sullinger has no regrets about coming back to Columbus. It is still unclear whether Sullinger is a true power forward in the NBA, but adding range to his game along with his tremendous intensity on the court should indicate to several NBA teams that he will improve over the years.
  3. Wisconsin fans can’t wait to see incoming freshman Sam Dekker in action. The 6’8″ forward is the reigning Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin and has been named to the USA Men’s Basketball under-18 roster. Most freshmen that begin their careers in Madison don’t come in with several accolades but Dekker is certainly an exception. If Ben Brust and Josh Gasser can try to take over point guard duties in the absence of Jordan Taylor, Dekker combined with Ryan Evans should form a formidable frontcourt next season for Bo Ryan.
  4. Both Big Ten coaches who were let go after last season have a new home in the Big 12. Bruce Weber took the job at Kansas State but he has company from former Nebraska coach Doc Sadler now at Kansas. Sadler is the new Director of Basketball Operations in Lawrence and replaces Barry Hinson who took the head coaching job at Southern Illinois University this offseason. Sadler was 101-89 at Nebraska but the newest addition to the B1G decided to take a new direction by letting him go last season. Sadler coached in the Big 12 for a few seasons and his experience ought to help Bill Self continue Kansas’ unparalleled dominance in the conference.
  5. Speaking of Bruce Weber, he would have needed a few big men on his roster if he would have stayed at Illinois. Current Illinois coach John Groce considers size a high priority as well and he recently received a verbal commitment from Maverick Morgan, a prep center from Ohio. Morgan is a 6’10″ center who is ranked #148 by Rivals as he enters his senior season this fall. Groce’s offense at Ohio has revolved around guards such as D.J. Cooper but Morgan along with current sophomore Mike Shaw will have to play a key role in rebounding, especially during the Big Ten campaign.
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Big 12 Weekly Five: 06.13.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on June 13th, 2012

  1. With the NBA Finals at the forefront of our sport right now, it’s easy to forget the series between Oklahoma City and Miami actually has a bit of a college flavor to it. We are all focused on the individual matchup between Kevin Durant and LeBron James, but Durant has an even more familiar foe on the opposing Heat bench: Dexter Pittman. Pittman and Durant entered Texas as a part of the same 2006 recruiting class for Rick Barnes, and Pittman said this week he credits Durant for helping to build the Texas program. Since Durant left after that magical 2006-07 season — a year Pittman hardly saw in action on the court — the two were not exactly the Bash Brothers in Austin. But Pittman went on to have a very successful career after Durant’s departure, losing an unbelievable amount of weight over the course of four years to eventually develop into a pro player.
  2. The Darrell Williams saga rages on. The Oklahoma State forward, charged on five counts of both rape and battery, has now seen his trial delayed until July 9. That’s only a week later than it was supposed to begin, but it’s been a long time coming for Williams. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Oklahoma State originally suspended Williams after the event became public and he will remain off the team until the legal system sorts itself out.
  3. When Frank Martin left Kansas State for South Carolina, he left behind a budding star in Rodney McGruder. McGruder’s over it, though: Read as he describes the process of Martin’s departure. It is refreshing to see a player stay loyal to his school no matter the circumstances, but it has to be hard for McGruder to adjust to an entirely new system as a senior. Especially in this instance, Martin had such a unique style of coaching and motivating, that it will be a challenge for Bruce Weber to replace that. And that goes for all the players he inherits, not just McGruder.
  4. Remember Doc Sadler? That guy who coached Nebraska as recently as, um, a few months ago? Well, the fired Cornhusker is now expected to join Bill Self‘s staff at Kansas as the director of basketball operations. That may not sound very enticing because it’s not technically an assistant coaching position, but it worked out for the last guy. Barry Hinson, after his firing from Missouri State, joined Self’s program as the director of basketball operations and then got a job at Southern Illinois this spring. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal when you think about it. Spend a little time learning under one of the best coaches in the game then use that knowledge and the connections to get another job.
  5. Staying with coaching hires in the Big 12, Texas Tech has also added Jeremy Cox to its staff as an assistant. He’s a Billy Gillispie guy, having coached under him at both Texas A&M and Kentucky. The man he replaces, Jeff Kidder, left for a job as a high school coach, so it’s a good opportunity for Cox. Interestingly, he comes to Tech from Nebraska, where he worked under Sadler.
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Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Nebraska

Posted by jnowak on June 4th, 2012

Welcome to the Big Ten, Cornhuskers. It was not the easiest season for Nebraska to join the ranks of the conference, and the results were apparently not what the school had in mind, as Doc Sadler was fired after season’s end and Tim Miles brought in to lead the team next year. But it’s hard to fault the squad too much coming into the conference in one of its strongest seasons in years. Nebraska really held its own through a pretty formidable non-conference schedule, before struggling (as expected) through conference play. Let’s take a closer look at the year that was:

Beating Indiana qualified as the highlight of Nebraska's season. (J. Hannah/LJS)

  • In a nutshell: It was bound to be an adjustment for Nebraska, coming over to the Big Ten from the Big 12, and it certainly was. Senior Bo Spencer was really the Cornhuskers’ only consistent scoring option (leading the team in points with 15.4 PPG) for the worst scoring offense in the conference (60.9 PPG) and the second-worst field goal percentage defense in the Big Ten. They couldn’t rebound on the offensive end, turned the ball over too much, and weren’t great from three-point range, but hey… the Huskers led the conference in free throw shooting percentage. So there’s that.
  • Overachievement: For arguably the worst team in the conference to knock off one of the best, just about everything has to go right. That it did on January 18 when the Huskers upset Indiana in Lincoln, 70-69. Nebraska got Indiana at a bad time — it was the Hoosiers’ third straight loss and they were struggling mightily on the road — but it gave the Nebraska students something to savor in their first year in the conference (see photo above). Spencer was fantastic, with a game-high 23 points, and four Huskers scored in double figures, to Indiana’s two. The biggest bonus came on the bench, where Dylan Talley and Jorge Brian Diaz combined for 20 points, 13 rebounds and just two turnovers. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 16th, 2012

  1. The Pit has been good to Wisconsin. The last time the Badgers played here — where they beat Montana on Thursday to advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament — they advanced to the Final Four, in 2000. The Badgers did everything expected of them in order to win — made their 3s, got production out of Jordan Taylor and defended well. Can The Pit offer up a little more good karma in their Saturday game against Vanderbilt?
  2. Everyone knows how important Jordan Taylor is to the Badgers’ success, but how about a guy off the bench? FOXSports.com‘s Jesse Temple took notice of Rob Wilson, who had a breakout game during the Big Ten Tournament and has proven to be a valuable spark for Wisconsin as a key reserve. “It’s a lot of attention, but nothing’s really changed,” Wilson said. “I faced everything the same like I have.”
  3. Want to know the latest on the Nebraska coaching search? You’ll know, and we’ll all know, as soon as they know. The people in the know in Lincoln say mum’s the word when it comes to the search for Doc Sadler‘s replacement, and they aren’t expected to make any comments about it until the search is complete. Danny Manning, Scott Spinelli and Ben Howland have all been linked to the position, but it seems we aren’t going to get much more than that at this point.
  4. Don’t forget, there are Big Ten teams in action outside of the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern is prepping to play Washington on Friday, after both teams narrowly missed the Big Dance. For the Wildcats to keep up with the high-powered Huskies, Northwestern will need maintained production from JerShon Cobb. He is averaging 18.7 PPG over Northwestern’s last three, and he’s shooting 66.7 percent in those contests.
  5. Ohio State has had its lulls this season, but a lot of how the team plays depends on the play of All-American center Jared Sullinger. FOXSports.com‘s Zac Jackson says Sullinger is playing his best basketball right now, peaking at just the right time, and that could mean trouble for whomever gets in the Buckeyes way down the stretch in the East regional of the Big Dance.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.14.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 14th, 2012

  1. UCLA made it official on Tuesday: Ben Howland will be back as the Bruins’ head coach in 2012-13. After missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years and suffering through the aftermath of a critical Sports Illustrated article, there was some question. But, athletic director Dan Guerrero decided that he deserved another chance. The father of elite 2012 recruit Shabazz Muhammad issued a statement of his own, expressing his support for the decision and confirming that his son is still very much considering UCLA. Bruins’ fans did find out that one of their own would be laving early, however, as Brendan Lane, a little used reserve forward, would be transferring elsewhere next season as a graduate transfer, making him eligible immediately. No possible landing spots have been discussed, but Lane is considering downshifting to a mid-major program.
  2. Across town, it’s been known for some time that USC head coach Kevin O’Neill would be back next season. And, with players back from injury along with newly eligible transfers, the Trojans should be much better. Still, O’Neill understands that better is a matter of degrees, and mere improvement over this year’s 6-26 record is not enough. The challenge is clear; much like Howland’s UCLA team, O’Neill’s squad will likely need to go to the NCAA Tournament in order to save the head man’s job.
  3. The Pac-12 held a press conference on Tuesday to officially announce the move of the conference tournament to the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. While they become the fourth conference to hold its year-end tournament there, it is the first to actually have the event at a location on the Strip. Going forward, the event will be televised by a combination of ESPN, Fox and the Pac-12 Network, with ESPN and Fox alternating rights to the event every year. ESPN and Fox will each carry one quarterfinal game, one semifinal game and the championship game, with the Pac-12 Network carrying the remaining games.
  4. NIT play kicked off last night, and three different Pac-12 schools were in action. And, unlike real life, the fantasy world of the NIT is kind to the Pac-12, as all three schools won and advanced. Washington shook off a sluggish first half to knock off Texas-Arlington behind 23 points from Terrence Ross; they’ll face Northwestern in an interesting game that nobody will pay attention to on Friday night. Oregon hammered LSU by 20 with Devoe Joseph continuing his excellence (25 points); they’ll face Iowa on Sunday. And Stanford used a big second half to pull away from Cleveland State as they had ten different players score in an eventual 11-point win. The Cardinal will face the winner of tomorrow night’s Ole Miss/Illinois State matchup.
  5. Lastly, while Oregon fans enjoyed the win tonight, the idea that head coach Dana Altman may not be long for Eugene continues to gain steam. Altman and his wife still live in Nebraska, where he was born, raised and coached at Creighton until two years ago, and with the Huskers looking for a new head coach in the wake of Doc Sadler’s firing, he’ll certainly be among the first people called by NU athletic director Tom Osborne. Osborne and Altman developed a relationship when they were both at Creighton, and at the very least, Altman would listen to offers. George Schroeder at the Register-Guard is convinced that Nebraska is still a “dead-end job,” but with a brand-new practice facility and a brand-new arena, they have facilities at least on par with what Altman currently has in Eugene. In short, while nothing is set in stone, Duck fans would be wise to accept that there is at least a significant chance that they’ll be looking for a new head coach this offseason.
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Morning Five: 03.12.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2012

  1. The decision by Illinois to fire Bruce Weber  (his press conference reaction here) was probably the most speculated on move this season, but when the school did so it was met with swift reaction. The most notable was Michigan State coach Tom Izzo who said that he and his wife shed tears over the firing although we aren’t clear if they were actual or symbolic tears. The firing was also probably the most significant so far this season as it opens up one of the premier jobs in the country, which could lead to a cascade of movement on the annual coaching carousal.
  2. After putting up with three seasons of relatively futility this was supposed to be a glorious March for Verdell Jones, but those dreams came to a crashing halt as he tore his right ACL during Indiana‘s win over Penn State. The loss of Jones, who finishes his career at #23 on the all-time scoring list at the school, appears to have hit the Hoosiers hard and will make their path through the South Region even more difficult. The Hoosiers have the talent to cover up for Jones over brief periods of time, but the experience he gained from his 103 starts will be hard to recreate late in games.
  3. Over the next three weeks you are going to be seeing plenty of video of Christian Laettner, but the one thing you would see or hear mentioned much is that the Duke great will appear in court this week along with his former teammate Brian Davis in the ongoing case regarding loans they took out on real estate investments. Looking through some of the names involved in this case (including Johnny Dawkins) this could turn into a college basketball media circus as more details come out.
  4. While Weber garnered the majority of the headlines over the weekend, two more coaches were fired over the weekend. At NebraskaDoc Sadler was fired after going 12-18 this season leading Tom Osbourne, the school’s athletic director, to decide to move in a new direction. Meanwhile, Tulsa fired Doug Wojcik, who was the school’s all-time leader in wins, citing a 35% decline in season ticket sales among the reasons. To us, the biggest reason for his firing and the one that probably most directly impacted season ticket sales was the lack of a NCAA Tournament appearance in seven seasons despite a 139-89 record including two 25-win seasons.
  5. We tried to keep the selection of NCAA Tournament teams out of this Morning Five, but Miami and Durand Scott would not let us. Late on Friday, the school announced that the NCAA had declared Durand ineligible for taking impermissible benefits. The time of the suspension, the third for the Hurricanes this season (all for different players), could not have come at a worse time for the team as they were just about to play a game against Florida State, which they lost. Although we cannot definitely say that they would have made the NCAA Tournament had they won that game, they were one of the first four teams left out and a win over a team that would have been a #5 seed at worst probably would have put them over the top. Instead, they are let with nobody to blame, but themselves (and possibly their former head coach).
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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.10.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 10th, 2012

  1. The Bruce Weber era at Illinois is over. So what comes next for the Fighting Illini? As Loren Tate points out, In a lot of ways this group is in trouble next year. Everything from a depleted up-and-coming junior class to this group’s 3-point shooting talent leaves a lot of doubt for the 2012-13 season. The job should draw the attention of some high-profile names, but the new head coach will have a tough hill to climb.
  2. Speaking of Weber’s fate, there’s one big-name coach in the conference who isn’t pleased about how it all went down. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo held nothing back when voicing his displeasure about Weber’s firing after the Spartans’ win over Iowa on Saturday. “My wife and I shed a tear this morning over it,” Izzo said. “And it was half for Bruce and half for my profession.”
  3. Bruce Weber was not the conference’s only casualty on this Black Friday. Nebraska‘s Doc Sadler was fired on Friday, after Nebraska finished tied with Penn State for last place in the conference this year. It was the Cornhusker’s debut season in the Big Ten, but athletic director Tom Osborne made it clear he wants to see the program head in a different direction.
  4. One positive that really emerged at the end of Iowa‘s season was the strong play of senior Matt Gatens, whose career came to an end on Friday in Indianapolis. Gatens scored just 10 points in the game, after being bothered by the Spartans’ defense throughout and not taking his first shot until 10 minutes and 37 seconds were left in the first half. He finishes sixth all-time on Iowa’s scoring list with 1,621 points after averaging 15.7 PPG this year.
  5. If you’re drawing up a game plan to beat Wisconsin, how much energy would you typically pour into defending Rob Wilson? From this point forward, probably a little bit more than before. The senior, who averaged 3.1 points per game entering Friday’s quarterfinal, dropped a cool 30 against Indiana to power the Badgers to the semifinals. “Needless to say we had a player who was in a zone,” said coach Bo Ryan. Ya think?
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