UConn and Central Florida may not be eligible for the postseason, but it appears neither program will lie down and roll over for opponents this year.
The Huskies served notice on Friday, downing a ranked Michigan State squad in a marquee matchup at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The Knights and Bulls met in a slightly less exotic environment, on the USF campus in Tampa. The two will become regular foes in the Big East in the very near future, but this was an interesting taste of what lies ahead, as the Knights won handily, 74-56.
The USF Bulls are nominally the stronger team, though that perception may have been fueled by the postseason ban facing the Knights. UCF trotted out an experienced roster in front of a home crowd, led by junior guard Isaiah Sykes, who put up 26 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished out eight assists. Forward Keith Clanton chipped in 16, Virginia transfer Tristan Spurlock had 14, and Kasey Wilson joined the double-figure parade as well, adding 13. The Bulls had only one player in double figures: senior guard Jawanza Poland, who led all scorers with 22.
Both teams exposed potential weaknesses in the in-state rivalry game. Central Florida got only two points from the bench, which won’t fly all year long. South Florida showed an astonishing weakness on the interior, where Victor Rudd, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and Kore White are expected to flourish.
It’s early, but the Knights are letting America know that, post-season or no, they plan to show up.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.
Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.
“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”
While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.
Thursday afternoon marked the first time since Friday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino commented on the controversy that has taken his program by storm. Speaking with Terry Meiners of 840 WHAS in Louisville, Pitino discussed the escort scandal, what could have possibly led former staffer Andre McGee down the path he’s alleged to have taken in Katina Powell’s book and his future at Louisville.
The interview began with Meiners asking Pitino if it changed his thinking as to whether or not he needed to resign, which (as one would expect) Pitino shot down. Also discussed was the statement released by school president Dr. James Ramsey, which expressed support for athletic director Tom Jurich but did not mention Pitino at all.
“Well I can’t answer that, Terry,” Pitino said when asked why he wasn’t mentioned in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago Kentucky brought me in to make the program compliant to NCAA rules. (Then-Kentucky president) Dr. (David) Roselle and (then Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton thought I was the guy to come in and change around the images, change around the culture and add a lot of discipline to the program. And I did that.
“And then I came here to the University of Louisville, and if someone was five seconds late or not early consequences would be paid from a disciplinary standpoint,” Pitino continued. “This is obviously not a person being late, this is not about a person (not) working hard. This is about things that are very disgusting, things that turn my stomach, things that keep me up without sleeping.
“But unfortunately, I had no knowledge of any of this and don’t believe in it. It’s sickening to me, the whole thing. But I’m thinking of my 13 players, I’m thinking of our program, and I’m sorry that Dr. Ramsey did not think enough to mention me but that’s something I cannot control.”
Below is audio of the full interview, which ran just over 17 minutes in length.