Josh Pastner will be more than just a recruiter. Give him time.

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It’s official: Memphis head coach Josh Pastner is an elite recruiter.

Not that there was much doubt heading into this summer. His first recruiting class (the Class of 2010) with the Tigers included three five-star recruits and two four-star recruits. He landed three kids from Memphis (Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford and Tarik Black), a top ten player from Baltimore (Will Barton) and a McDonald’s all-american from Georgia (Jelan Kendrick). He brought in another five-star Memphis native (Adonis Thomas) in 2011, and followed that up by landing Shaquille Goodwin, Damien Wilson and Geron Johnson this year while managing to convince both Jackson (transfer) and Thomas (NBA Draft) to stay at Memphis.

His 2013 recruiting class could end up being the most impressive of his tenure. As of now, he has four top 100 recruits in line to enroll at Memphis next fall — Nick King, Markel Crawford, RaShawn Powell and Kuran Iverson, a skilled, 6-foot-9 small forward from Connecticut that ranks in the top 30 nationally and committed on Tuesday.

King and Crawford are from Memphis, Powell is from Florida and Iverson is from up in Big East country, which means that not only is Pastner able to tap into the faucet of talent in his own backyard, he’s now proving he can go and get players on a national scale.

So where are the wins?

That 75-29 overall record is nice until you consider that it has come during a stretch where Memphis should be far and away the best basketball program in Conference USA. John Calipari had more than half that many in the 2008 season that was wiped off the books. He also went his final three years with the Tigers without losing a conference game. Pastner is 36-12 in his first three years with one league title and a pair of tournament titles.

Again, that’s good, but given the talent he has at his disposal and the talent level of Conference USA, I think it’s fair to say those results are somewhere in the ‘mediocre to solid’ range.

The number that is more frustrating to Memphis fans is zero. As in, the number of NCAA tournament wins Pastner has in his first two seasons with the Tigers. There are plenty of programs and coaches that would be ecstatic with two straight NCAA tournament appearances. No one in Memphis things they fall under that umbrella.

Criticism of Pastner’s coaching ability is fair. But there are a couple things that need to be kept in mind before doing so:

He’s young: Pastner took over this program as a 32 year old first-time head coach. The same way that a hot-shot, rookie point guard needs time to learn how to run an NBA team, Pastner needs time to develop his ability to coach a team. In-game adjustments, perfecting a system, game-planning, motivational pregame speeches, everything. Pastner’s been training himself to be a head coach since he was a walk-on on Arizona’s 1997 national title team, but “training” and “doing” are two different things. This may be the last year where it’s ok to say that he deserves the benefit of the doubt, but … Pastner still deserves the benefit of the doubt.

He didn’t start with much: The Tigers were an NIT team in Pastner’s first season, but where would they have been without Eliot Williams? If you’ve forgotten, Williams transferred out of Duke and was granted immediate eligibility at Memphis due to a health issue of a family member. He was a first round pick that averaged 17.9 points and 3.8 assists. Without him, do the Tigers make the postseason? With Wesley Witherspoon, Roburt Sallie, Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp? I’m not so sure.

He’s getting better: In 2010-2011, Pastner had a team full of 18 and 19 year-olds playing for their hometown team in city that idolizes high school and college hoopers. Getting that group to come together and make a run through the league tournament and earn an at-large bid — they finished fourth in regular season play — was impressive. What was more impressive was what he did with last season’s Memphis team. After 11 games, the Tigers were 6-5 and coming off of a hideous performance against Georgetown in Washington DC. I wrote this about them at that point. There were Memphis fans calling for Pastner’s job. And all they did the rest of the year was win 20 of their last 23 games and head into the NCAA tournament as a trendy sleeper pick to make a run.

Those tournament losses were bad breaks: Down by two with five seconds left in the game, Wesley Witherspoon had his shot blocked by Derrick Williams on a play that very easily could have been called a foul. That’s how close the Tigers were to going to overtime. In the 2012 tournament, Memphis caught a terrible break by drawing an eight seed and getting matched up with a very good St. Louis team that matched up with the Tigers perfectly. Bad luck is not an excuse, but eventually Memphis will catch a break.

Memphis has a veteran group this season with a head coach that is coming into his own. So be patient, Memphis fans. You’re in good hands as your team makes the transition to the Big East. And given the way that last season ended, you may not even need to wait until you make that jump for your NCAA tournament run.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Reports: Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley mulling UConn, Pitt options

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Even before Rhode Island’s NCAA tournament came to an end Saturday in the Round of 32 against Duke, speculation was running wild about the future of Rams coach Dan Hurley.

Stay or go. If it’s go, where to?

There was no clarity, but maybe some progress Monday.

Both Connecticut and Pittsburgh, the prime candidates to pry Hurley away from Rhode Island, spoke with the coach, but no decision had yet been reached, according to multiple reports.

Hurley was set to meet with Rams athletic director Thorr Bjorn on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Heart Connecticut Media’s Jeff Jacobs reported that UConn was “closing in on an agreement” with Hurley but that Pitt was continuing its pursuit.

Hurley has led the Rams to the NCAA tournament the last two years and signed a seven-year contract with Rhode Island worth approximately $1 million per year last off-season. UConn was paying Kevin Ollie, who led the team to the 2014 NCAA title before being fired after this season, an average of $3 million per season while Kevin Stallings reportedly was due a buyout of nearly $10 million when he was fired by Pitt this season.

What Hurley will have to weigh beyond the financial circumstances will be his ability to win at either UConn or Pitt, should he decide to move on from Rhode Island.

Ollie – well, really Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright – showed you can win a national title out of the AAC at UConn. The league adding Wichita State only strengthens that point. Pitt, meanwhile, may be a tougher job now than it was when Jamie Dixon had it rolling since their move from the Big East to the ACC.

CBT Podcast: Recapping the first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament

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Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic joined Rob Dauster for an epic, two-hour podcast on the first weekend of the tournament. It was so good that we had to split the podcast into two parts. On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the South and West Regions, from Sister Jean to UMBC to Nevada’s comebacks to Kentucky’s chances at a Final Four.

On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the East and Midwest Regions, from Villanova and Duke steamrolling to Michigan State collapsing to Syracuse and Clemson and Texas Tech and Purdue. It’s all in there.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Eight viral heroes from first weekend of March Madness

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One of my favorite parts of the NCAA tournament is seeing who comes out of nowhere to turn into a viral celebrity during this month of madness.

By my estimation, we had eight true candidates for the award of March Madness Viral Celebrity of the Year. Here they are:


He was more fired up for Houston’s success in the tournament than any Houston fan in the history of basketball in the city of Houston.


Jordan Poole is spelled a lot like Jordan Peele, which inevitably led to people tweeting at Peele instead of Poole. Peele’s thank you tweet was a highlight of the first weekend.


Having to answer questions from a bunch of reporters after suffering the most humiliating moment of your life is not an easy thing to do. Having to answer ridiculous and stupid questions could be intolerable, which is why I loved Ty Jerome’s response to a stupid question he was asked:


I loved seeing Robert Williams’ teammate do a panotmine windmill in the background while Williams was throwing down a windmill in real time on Providence:


Nevada head coach Eric Musselman has led his team to the Sweet 16, cussed on live television and gone shirtless to celebrate with his team, but the star of the Musselman family is his daughter Mariah:


He really does have great hair:

2. @UMBCAthletics

This dude lived the dream of every twitter user out there. When your shot is there, you have to take it.


Mic drop:

VIDEO: Eric Musselman celebrates Nevada win without a shirt

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Nevada head coach Eric Musselman went shirtless to celebrate his team’s come-from-behind win over No. 2 seed Cincinnati on Sunday.

I guess this is better than dropping F-bombs live on national TV. Maybe that’s why they had Steve Lappas talking over him …

Penny Hardaway to be named next Memphis head coach

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The worst-kept secret in college basketball no longer appears to be a secret: Penny Hardaway is going to be the next coaching at the University of Memphis.

ESPN is reporting that a deal has been agreed upon. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is reporting that Penny was waiting for his season to end with East High School before he made anything official. NBC Sports can confirm that an announcement is expected to be made early this week, likely as soon as Tuesday, to introduce the former Memphis and NBA star as Tubby Smith’s replacement.

The truth, however, is that we all knew this was what would be happening the second that Memphis formally fired Tubby Smith. Hell, we knew it a month before that decision was made final. This was always how it was going to play out.

What’s interesting to me is now the discussion of whether or not Penny will be able to handle being a Division I head coach, because it’s been hit or miss with basketball programs hiring legends of their past. Chris Mullin and St. John’s hasn’t exactly gone to plan but Fred Hoiberg was quite successful at Iowa State. Kevin Ollie won a title with UConn then fell off a cliff. Patrick Ewing’s start wasn’t great, but he was better than expected.

Where does Penny fall on this scale?

Well, let me just drop this section of a column from Geoff Calkins in here:

Hardaway isn’t a guy who woke up one morning and decided he’d like to be a Division I head coach. He’s not a former player who got bored with retirement and decided he’d like to do something other than play golf.

Hardaway started coaching at middle school. Middle school! Because an old friend needed some help.

Then he built one of the best AAU programs in the country. Then he spent years coaching a high school team.

Does that sound like someone who doesn’t want to roll up his sleeves and do the work? Does that sound like someone who is just in it for the glory and the glitz?

The truth is, if it weren’t for Hardaway’s iconic stature, he might be characterized as a grinder, as a guy who worked his way up from the lowest levels of basketball on the strength of his relationship with the kids.

I think that this is going to work out for both Penny and Memphis, especially if Penny hires a staff that can help him with the intricacies of running a college basketball program.