Rodney McGruder

Late Night Snacks: Gators go cold again; unbeatens fall

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Game of the Night

No. 12 Missouri 82, No. 10 Illinois 73: Phil Pressey shot 2-18 and still led the Tigers to their fourth straight victory in the annual Braggin’ Rights game. His eleven assists found the hot hands, which belonged largely to Laurence Bowers (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Alex Oriakhi (13 and 14). Jabari Brown logged his first start of the year, putting up 18 points. The Illini lost their first game of the season, falling to 12-1.

Meaningful Results

Kansas State 67, No. 8 Florida 61: Poor shooting from the backcourt kept the Gators on the slide began at Arizona last weekend. Starters Mike Rosario, Kenny Boynton and Scotty Wilbekin combined to shoot 10 of 31 from the floor and 2 of 12 from deep in a game that Florida never led in the second half.

Indiana State 87, Ole Miss 85 (OT): Ole Miss isn’t exactly a powerhouse right now, but they came to Hawaii sporting an 8-1 record and reasonable expectations of being able to handle a middle-of-the-pack MVC team. That didn’t happen, as Manny Arop (27 points) led five Sycamore starters into double figures. Junior Marshall Henderson had a 27 point night for the losing team.

No. 11 Cincinnati 68, Wright State 58: Wright State led this game 28-22 at the half, and Cincy looked like it might be vulnerable to the malaise that hit other undefeated teams like Syracuse and Illinois today. But the Bearcats clawed their way back into the game in spite of terrible shooting from the floor, riding JaQuon Parker’s 21 points to a 12-0 mark.

Virginia Tech 66, Bradley 65 (OT): Erick Green scored 31 points — a new career high — including the game-winner in this tight contest.

Starred

Kalif Wyatt, Temple: Hard to argue with 33 points, 15-15 from the line, and an upset of the previously undefeated No. 3 team in the country.

Ben McLemore, Kansas: DeShaun Thomas got all the ink at the beginning of the season, but McLemore proved to be the best player on the floor when Kansas visited Columbus. The freshman went home with 22 points, 6 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal and a block, as well as a couple more of the above-the-rim dunks that are becoming his calling card.

D.J. Cooper, Ohio: The Bobcats were facing one of the worst teams in Division I, so Cooper didn’t have to do much scoring. Instead, he decided to indulge in the spirit of the season and gave out gifts to his teammates in the form of 14 assists, tying his season high. And he did it in just 23 minutes of floor time.

Struggled

Luke Hancock, Louisville: At the beginning of the season, Hancock was generally regarded as the missing piece in a possible national title picture for the Cards, thanks to the 50% shooting mark he brought with him as a transfer from George Mason. Forget about being a missing piece, Hancock is just missing this season: missing the basket, missing in action, you name it, he’s missing it. In a 78-55 rout of Western Kentucky, Hancock tallied zero points, one assist and two turnovers in 16 minutes of play.

Florida’s gunners: Last week, the Gator shooters confined their worst shooting to the ends of halves. Against K-State, they couldn’t find the range all night, not that it stopped them from banging away. As a team, the Gators were 5 of 19 from behind the arc; a tidy 26.3%.

Houston’s Health & PE Center: The bucolically-named venue played host to the worst game of the night. Florida International put up 48 points and Texas Southern managed just 45. Texas Southern’s 83% from the free throw line would have been the stat of the night, except that closer inspection reveals that the Tigers were only awarded six charities all night long, making five.

Federico Mussini goes coast-to-coast, beats buzzer with and-1

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Chris Mullin the head coach of the St. John's Red Storm gives instructions to Federico Mussini #4 during the game against the  Xavier Musketeersat Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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St. John’s capped the first half with a 6-0 run.

Sophomore guard Federico Mussini went coast-to-coast to beat the buzzer, and draw the foul, as the Johnnies went into the break up 42-33 on city rival Fordham.

The 6-foot-4 guard had gone cold during a five-game stretch, but since Thanksgiving he’s scored in double figures in four consecutive games, including on Thursday night.

Washington State coach begins game on opponent’s bench

Ernie Kent
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In September, during the Coaches vs. Cancer Gala in Spokane, Washington, there was a live auction, which included the chance to be Idaho’s honorary coach for a regular season during the 2016-17 season.

Washington State head coach Ernie Kent’s $2,000 bid more than tripled the next highest bid, according to the Spokesman Review.

On Wednesday night, during Washington State’s game against the Vandals, Kent sat next to his counterpart on the Idaho bench.

Kent returned to his side of the court following the game’s first possession.

Behind 16 points from Ike Iiroegbu, the Cougars defeated the Vandals, 61-48.

 

Given Washington’s struggles, just how hot is Lorenzo Romar’s seat?

Lorenzo Romar
AP Photo/Stephen Brashear
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We tried to warn you what was coming on Wednesday night.

We tried to tell you just how bad things were for Washington right now, that, according to a coach that had faced the Huskies this season, “they were so ******* bad defensively” that “they looked like they hadn’t been coached.”

That’s not a good look for anyone, let alone a head coach that has missed the NCAA tournament the last five seasons despite having five first round picks come through his program during that time.

Which is why you shouldn’t have been surprised that the Huskies were gutted by No. 8 Gonzaga, losing 98-71 in a game that was never competitive at any point. And, given that Markelle Fultz, the potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, is on the Washington roster, it’s the nightmare scenario.

So.

We need to start talking about the elephant in the room, because there’s a lot to unpack here:

Just how hot is Lorenzo Romar’s seat?

RELATED: What has gone wrong with Washington this season?

The simple answer? Scalding. Romar is one of just three Power 5 head coaches that have missed the NCAA tournament for five straight seasons without having to find new employment. You don’t get six tournament-less years and survive, not at this level.

But there’s more to the conversation that simply relaying the number of first round picks he’s failed to get to the Big Dance.

Four of those five first round picks played in two different seasons, meaning that in the other three seasons, Washington was led by C.J. Wilcox, the No. 28 pick in 2014, and Nigel Williams-Goss. In 2011-12, Washington had Terrence Ross, then a sophomore, and freshman Tony Wroten on the roster. They started slowly out of the gate, going 7-6 in non-conference play, before winning the Pac-12 regular season title outright. They missed out on the NCAA tournament in large part due to the fact that the conference as a whole went 1-29 against the RPI top 50; only two Pac-12 teams earned bids that season. Ross and Wroten both left after the season.

The other year that Washington had two first round picks was in 2015-16, which both Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray shocked everyone by becoming one-and-done talents. Both were drafted almost entirely on potential; Chriss was clueless defensively, fouling out of 15 of the 34 games he played, while Murray’s jumper left him a long way away from impacting an NBA game. The conversation about this Washington team would be totally different right now if Fultz had those two on the floor with him.

Part of the reason those two were able to leave early was because of Romar’s coaching style – he lets his most talented players play regardless of whether or not they’re making mistakes – and in part because the 2016 draft was bad.

Romar is, in part, a victim of circumstance, even if he dug himself into this whole in the first place.

RELATED: For Michael Porter Jr., Washington was all about family first

Washington is still paying Romar a relatively small amount. After the 2010 season, when he led the Huskies to his third Sweet 16, Romar got a 10-year contract extension worth $1.7 million annually. It runs three more years after this season and comes with a $3.2 million buyout, which isn’t massive but is expensive for an athletic department that projected to operate at a $15 million deficit in 2016. Then you have to consider what it would cost to hire an upgrade on Romar.

For comparison’s sake, Tubby Smith made $1.8 million in 2015-16 at Texas Tech and got a raise to more than $3 million-a-year for the next five years at Memphis despite the fact that he wasn’t the guy the school initially targeted. But Brad Underwood will make $1.2 million a year for five years at Oklahoma State, which makes him the lowest-paid coach in the conference.

If new Washington AD Jennifer Cohen wants to hire a new coach, she’d certainly be able to afford a replacement that we be, at the least, a respectable name, but there’s no guarantee that a replacement is going to have any kind of success there. Romar is far and away the most successful coach Washington has ever had. He’s been to six NCAA tournament and three Sweet 16s in his 15 seasons. The Huskies reached the Final Four in 1953, and in the nearly 50 years between that day and the day that Romar was hired, Washington reached just six NCAA tournaments and two Sweet 16s.

Romar is not having the same level of success that he had when guys like Brandon Roy and Isaiah Thomas were on his roster, but Washington is still somewhat relevant due to the pros that are coming through Seattle. There’s no guarantee that any replacement will make Washington more likely to get to the NCAA tournament, but at least Husky fans get Markelle Fultz this season and Michael Porter Jr., a top five prospect and the son of current U-Dub assistant coach Michael Porter Sr., next season.

That’s certainly more enjoyable than rooting for, say, Washington State.

And it’s certainly a factor that Cohen has to consider. Porter clearly picked Washington because Romar, his godfather, is part of the family.

“As we continue to look where we’re going and where we think we can go and what our plan is, then I’ll have more information about it,” Cohen said at her introductory press conference. “But absolutely, I’m 100 percent behind him right now.”

And if Washington can’t get back to the Big Dance?

“We haven’t gotten to that point yet,” she said. “So we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

CBT Podcast: ESPN’s Dana O’Neil discusses her book about Villanova

Villanova head coach Jay Wright celebrates as he cuts down the net after the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game against North Carolina, Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. Villanova won 77-74. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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On today’s podcast, I was joined by ESPN’s Dana O’Neil, one of my personal favorite writers who has penned a book chronicling how Jay Wright was able to build the Villanova program into a national title winner.

Dana spent seven years as a beat-writer for the Wildcats before making the move to ESPN, and she has some great stories about how the book came together and, frankly, how that Villanova team came together.

It’s a little “Inside Baseball”, but it was a fun conversation about a book that you know is going to be really good.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

VIDEO: World War II Veteran play anthem on harmonica before Pearl Harbor Invitational

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Peter DuPre’, a veteran of World War II, opened last night’s Pearl Harbor Invitational between Seton Hall and California with a moving rendition of the National Anthem, which he played on his harmonica.