NCAA Basketball Tournament - Murray State v Marquette

Is Murray State an elite mid-major program, or just a good team?

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Isaiah Canaan has put Murray State on the map.

He’s an all-american, and generally speaking, when those kinds of talents role through college campuses in Kentucky, they are in Louisville and Lexington, not Murray.

The Racers have a strong program. They’ve won three straight conference titles — two of which came before Canaan was a famous face — and their win over Vanderbilt in the 2010 NCAA tournament came on a buzzer-beater by Danero Thomas in a season where Canaan was coming off of the bench.

The program has won before. Three of the last four coaches that have rolled through have gone on to bigger and better programs. Mark Gottfried has coached at Alabama and is now coaching NC State. Mick Cronin took over the Cincinnati program. Billy Kennedy is currently trying to make Texas A&M relevant in the SEC.

But the true mark of a successful mid-major program has nothing to do with great coaches and even less to do with landing an all-american every once in a while. To be coupled with the likes of Xavier and Butler and Gonzaga — to be the kind of program that’s considered a “high-major” despite their non-BCS conference locale — that team needs to remain nationally relevant after they lose their star players, not while they are the big men on campus.

And Murray State is doing that.

Canaan only developed into an all-american when the Racers lost two of their top three scorers and three starters heading into his junior year. That was the same time that Donte Poole, who had been a bit player four three seasons, developed into a guy that averaged 14.0 points.

Poole graduated after last season. So did Ivan Aska and Jewuan Long, meaning that Steve Prohm headed into this season without three of last year’s top four scorers. But this season, Ed Daniel has developed into so much more than simply being the guy with the awesome afro. He’s averaging 16.2 points and 10.9 boards, up from 6.8 points and 5.3 boards. Stacy Wilson is averaging 14.8 points, 4.6 boards and 3.5 assists as a senior after playing just over 10 minutes per game and averaging 4.3 points as a junior.

The best mid-major programs don’t rebuild. They don’t even reload. They simply have another kid in line, ready to step up and perform when it’s his turn.

If you really want a gauge of the kind of program that Murray State has, wait and see how they look when Canaan, Daniels and Wilson graduate after this season.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Former Wichita State assistant returns as a consultant

Chris Jans, Gregg Marshall
Associated Press
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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.


AUDIO: Rick Pitino discusses allegations, future at Louisville

Rick Pitino
Associated Press
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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.