There’s no rush for a 12th Big East team, because it doesn’t improve much

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Today, Big East Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco told reporters that the conference is looking to add a 12th team after the recent losses of Boise State and San Diego State.

“We probably at some point will add a 12th team,” Aresco said. “We are going to have 11 when Navy comes in ’15. We’ll have 10 this year. There’s no urgency, but we think we’ll probably think about adding a 12th team.”

First of all, kudos to Aresco for not pushing the issue too much. He’s accepted they’re going to be at 11 for at least a season. In an age when teams and conferences are looking to move as quick as possible, sometimes patience can help out when making a move that, at least Aresco is hoping, will last a long time.

But no matter what you do, Mike, it will never be the same Big East.

Yes, it’s a take that has been echoed many times over for a year or so now. But it’s not just in the drive for a 12th team that makes me say this. It’s with the seemingly unabashed notion that the Big East can still be up with the rest of the college basketball  world — and really, the rest of the college sports world — that Aresco speaks of.

That’s the main reason I like the direction Aresco is taking. There’s no pressure to add the 12th team so quick, because plain and simple, there isn’t a 12th team that can truly improve the Big East’s stature going forward. At least not one that hasn’t left or isn’t already set to leave.

Looking at the possible candidates, it’s not exactly an easy pick. The team will probably come from Conference USA or even the MAC. Because conference realignment, in all its ridiculousness, has been predictable when it comes to where the new teams come from. The Big East is becoming Conference USA. Conference USA is becoming the Sun Belt Conference and so on. Everyone thinks they’re taking a step up, but they’re really just staying put, with a few new neighbors and a new conference logo attached to a few more dollars in their budgets.

Because that’s what it’s all about, more money in the budgets.

And I think Mike Aresco understands that. Whoever he gets, he believes that that program will benefit the Big East. He no doubt knows what he’s doing, so I’m willing to bet the yet-to-be-named 12th team will, at least to a certain degree, help the Big East stay relevant.

But there’s no way that any of the teams that departed or are departing the Big East can be replaced. So with that, Aresco is able to take his time. Watch the teams looking for an opportunity, and then invite the one with the best chance at helping the Big East stick around. Even if that means becoming Conference USA-plus.

David Harten is the founder of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

 

No. 7 South Carolina upends No. 3 Baylor to advance to the Elite 8

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NEW YORK — It was with a whipping and a whimper that Baylor’s season can to an end on Friday night.

The final two minutes of the game wasn’t actually a game. No. 7 seed South Carolina dished out a 70-50 beatdown that wasn’t in doubt after the Gamecocks used an 18-0 run at the end of the first half to turn a rock fight into statement, and for the final two minutes of the game, the Gamecocks and, eventually, Baylor dribbled out the remaining seconds before joining arms at center court for a postgame prater.

It’s the third straight year that Baylor has been bounced from the NCAA tournament by a team seeded lower than them. In 2015, it was R.J. Hunter’s heroics that knocked his dad off of a stool and sent No. 14 seed Georgia State into the second round of the tournament. In 2016, the Bears fell in the first round to No. 12 seed Yale, prompting one of the most memorable press conference moments in NCAA tournament history.

And on Friday night, it was South Carolina that sent the Bears into offseason hibernation.

It was a disheartening end to a season, a loss that will surely provide fodder for the people that traffic in ‘Scott Drew can’t coach’ jokes, the irony being that the 2016-17 season was definitive proof that Scott Drew is almost certainly better at his job than you are at yours.

“When you coach for a while and you make Elite Eights and Sweet 16, you kind of start taking it for granted that you will always be successful in March,” Drew said. “But it’s a good reminder to be here and know how hard it is.”

No. 1 North Carolina handles No. 4 Butler en route to Elite Eight

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North Carolina, the top seed in the South Region, led by as many as 20 en route to a 92-80 win over No. 4 Butler in the Sweet 16 matchup on Friday night at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.

The Tar Heels were led by 26 points, off 8-of-13 shooting, from junior point guard Joel Berry II. The 6-foot floor general had been hampered by an ankle injury through the first weekend. While he still seemed to favor that same ankle at times, his play was a big improvement on his 3-of-21 shooting through the NCAA Tournament’s first two rounds. Justin Jackson nearly matched Berry’s game-high with 24 points.

Andrew Chrabascz, in the final game of his four-year career at Butler, finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

North Carolina, the last of the ACC’s nine tournament bids, advances to the Elite Eight to face the winner of No. 3 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky. The Wildcats own a win over North Carolina, defeating the Tar Heels, 103-100, on Dec. 17 behind 47 points from Malik Monk.

Missouri lands No. 1 player in Class of 2017 as Michael Porter Jr. commits

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Missouri and new head coach Cuonzo Martin have landed the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 a week after he took the job as forward Michael Porter Jr. committed to the Tigers on Friday.

Formerly a Washington commit under now-fired head coach Lorenzo Romar, the 6-foot-9 Porter was released from his Letter of Intent this week and many believed he’d end up back at Missouri.

The Porter family lived in Columbia for many years as two of Michael’s older sisters play for the Missouri women’s team while Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant coach for the women’s team.

When Porter Sr. was hired to Missouri to be an assistant coach on Martin’s staff this week — after losing his assistant coaching job at Washington when Romar was fired — it all but sealed the deal that the Porters would return to Missouri and Michael Jr. would play for the Tigers.

Missouri might not be an NCAA Tournament team next season after struggling to an 8-24 finish and 2-16 record in the SEC. But Porter might be the most productive freshman entering college basketball next season as he has a chance to be dominant in the SEC.

Oklahoma State promotes assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach

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Oklahoma State has decided to promote assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach, the school announced on Friday.

Boynton was an assistant with the Cowboys under former head coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State to take the Illinois job last weekend. Also an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, South Carolina, Wofford and Coastal Carolina, Boynton is a native of New York City who played his college ball for the Gamecocks.

The hire of Boynton is surprising since he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience as it follows in the footsteps of Cal promoting assistant coach Wyking Jones earlier in the day. Boynton also notably won the job over broadcaster and former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb as Gottlieb interviewed for the job but wasn’t selected.

 

Rhode Island junior E.C. Matthews will return to school

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Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.