When most people plan a weekend in Puerto Rico, they plan to visit a couple of colonial forts, catch some rays and maybe, if they’re very nerdy like me, check out the giant radiotelescope at Arecibo. Travis Ford and his Oklahoma State Cowboys may very well do some of that stuff, but they won’t put on the flip flops until they’ve gotten everything they can out of Pistol Pete’s butt-kicking boots.
The Cowboys were chosen third in the preseason Big 12 poll, but they have a golden opportunity to do something Kansas and Baylor — the programs chosen first and second — have not done. They can emerge from the very early gauntlet with a spotless record and a marquee win over a ranked opponent if things roll their way this afternoon. Granted, they have to play superlative ball to take down the No. 6-ranked NC State Wolfpack, but that scenario seems much more believable after the 62-45 pasting they laid on a talented Tennessee team in Friday’s semis.
It took Phil Forte free throws in overtime to get past Akron in the first round in Puerto Rico, and the Cowboys were expected to struggle without injured big man Jean-Paul Olukemi, but stellar play from the backcourt has kept Oklahoma State on an even keel. Philip Jurick was a serviceable option in the middle against Tennessee, but the trio of LeBryan Nash, Markel Brown and Marcus Smart did it all, combining for 47 points and an impressive 22 rebounds in the win over the Volunteers, who missed the tenacious play of Jeronne Maymon.
NC State is rather a different animal. Kenpom.com rates the Wolfpack’s interior defense 18th-best in the nation, and the perimeter defense is top-100 caliber. Overall, OSU’s defense is rated even better, but the Cowboy scoring attack has been a bit flaccid thus far. Without scoring big men, it may well be too one-dimensional to compete with the uber-talented Pack. But Travis Ford’s team is talented, hungry and seems to be gelling under tough circumstances rather than wilting and making excuses.
There may be plenty of empty seats in the Coliseo de Puerto Rico when the game tips at 6:30 pm tonight, but mainlanders should head for the nearest TV. At bare minimum, you’ll have a courtside view of the Markel Brown show. And who knows? You might see a Big 12 challenger emerge.
Sam Vecenie of the Athletic and the Game Theory podcast stopped by to chat with Rob Dauster about the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. The two went through each of the eight Sweet 16 matchups, detailing how each one of those eight games projects to play out and going over which lines — spread and over-unders — they like.
Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley will be the next head coach at UConn, replacing the 2014 national title winner, Kevin Ollie.
Hurley will be signing a six-year deal, according to multiple reports, that could be valued as much as $18 million. Hurley picked UConn over Pitt, who had also offered him a similar amount of money.
Hurley turned the Rhode Island program around during his six-year tenure, capped off with a pair of seasons where the Rams won a game in the NCAA tournament. UConn, which is one of the best jobs but has not been one of the best teams in the AAC in recent years, should be a place where he can continue to recruit talent. Under Ollie, the Huskies have been able to get players. The issue has been the performance and development of those players once they get to campus.
The Huskies finished 14-18 this past season.
Dan Hurley is the son of New Jersey high school coaching legend Bob Hurley and the brother of former Duke guard and current Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley.
Villanova’s road to the Sweet 16 hit its roughest patch yet on Wednesday as the team attempted to leave campus for the team’s flight to Boston.
Since the Philadelphia area has been slammed with a snowstorm, the Wildcat team bus had issues leaving to get to the team’s chartered flight.
A struggle between team bus and ice ensued. The bus was delayed by 30 minutes before finally being able to leave.
Villanova continues its NCAA tournament journey on Friday when the No. 1 seed Wildcats play No. 5 seed West Virginia in Boston.
Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.
The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.
Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.
“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”
The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.
Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.
Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.
“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”
Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.
In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.