Pregame Shootaround 2.8.13: Harvard, Princeton look to remain undefeated in Ivy League

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Game of the Night: Harvard at Cornell (7:00 p.m.) 

This has the potential to be a big night in the Ivy League, with Harvard (4-0) and Princeton (3-0) two games up on their closest conference foe in the loss column. If both win their games and Yale beats Penn in Philadelphia the Crimson and Tigers would be up three games and essentially make the Ivy a two-team race. But that will be easier said than done for Harvard, who visits Cornell and needs to be wary of the Big Red. Wesley Saunders and Siyani Chambers have led the way for Harvard, who had four starters reach double figures in a double-overtime win over Brown last Saturday.

The key for Cornell? Defending the three-point line. Big Red opponents shoot 37.0% from beyond the arc and Harvard enters tonight’s contest hitting 41.5% of their attempts. Shonn Miller (10.1 ppg) is the lone Cornell player averaging double figures but with seven players averaging at least six points per game the Big Red will look to rely on their offensive balance.

Who’s Getting Upset? Utah State (at San Jose State. 10:00 p.m.)

The Spartans lost by just six at Utah State on January 11 and that was without the services of James Kinney (suspension) while Preston Medlin (25 points) and Kyisean Reed were both available for the Aggies. With Medlin (broken wrist) and Reed (torn ACL) out, San Jose State is capable of ending its seven-game losing streak. One thing they have to do is account for Utah State forward Jarred Shaw, who has averaged 21.3 points and 10.0 rebounds over the last three games. D.J. Brown and Chris Cunningham performed well in the Spartans’ 66-63 loss to Idaho but shooting 8-of-24 from the foul line as a team will result in a loss more times than not.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: UNC-Asheville at VMI (7:00 p.m.; ESPNU) 

Two Big South contenders meet in Lexington, with the Bulldogs leading the North Division and VMI a half-game out of first in the South. Forward Stan Okoye (20.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg) leads the way for VMI, who averages 74.2 possessions per 40 minutes according to UNC Asheville isn’t far behind (70.3 possessions/40), with guards Jeremy Atkinson and Keith Hornsby (the son of Bruce) leading the way offensively. Keep an eye on the second-chance points in this one. VMI grabs 13.3 offensive rebounds per game but allows opponents to rack up 14.0 per contest, and this is an area that UNC Asheville may be able to take advantage of.

Five Things to Watch

1) Princeton looks to extend its 20-game Ivy League home win streak tonight when they host Brown (7:00 p.m.) at Jadwin Gym. This is the fifth time in the history of Jadwin that the Tigers have run off a streak of at least 20 straight Ivy home victories.

2) Siena will once again be shorthanded, as they take on Loyola (MD) without forward Brett Bisping (illness). And starting point guard Evan Hymes was dealing with a sinus infection in the days leading up to this contest, which will feature a front court battle between the Saints’ O.D. Anosike and the Greyhounds’ Erik Etherly.

3) Winter Storm Nemo has already resulted in one schedule change, as Harvard will visit Columbia on Sunday afternoon as opposed to the traditional Friday/Saturday night Ivy League weekend.

4) Northern Kentucky looks to move into a four-way tie for third in the Atlantic Sun tonight when they visit Lipscomb. The Norse are in their first season as a Division I member, and they’ve performed well in their new conference to date.

5) Columbia looks to rebound from an 0-2 weekend, in which they lost games at Penn and Princeton by a total of ten points. The Lions host Dartmouth, who is just 1-8 on the road this season.

Other Notable Games 

Brown at Princeton (7:00 p.m.)

Northern Kentucky at Lipscomb (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3)

Siena at Loyola (MD) (9:00 p.m.; ESPNU)

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

2018 NCAA TOURNAMENT: Fans guess location of Sweet 16 schools

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People in Times Square were quizzed on the location of the schools in the Sweet 16 and some guesses were pretty entertaining.

Another offseason of NBA talk begins for stunned Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky coach John Calipari will take a few days before having a series of offseason meetings with his young team about their futures after an earlier-than-expected exit from the NCAA Tournament.

Calipari said he isn’t sure whether many of his talented freshmen and sophomores might return next season, or declare for the NBA draft.

“Until I sit down with all the guys, talk and see where they are with things and where their families are, I have no idea,” Calipari said.

They’re conversations Calipari knew were upcoming, just not this soon.

The fifth-seeded Wildcats could not take advantage of a clearer path to the Final Four paved by early round upsets of the South Region’s top four seeds. Kentucky fell 61-58 to No. 9 seed Kansas State in a Thursday night regional semifinal in Atlanta.

The disappointing season-ending defeat in which the Wildcats struggled to make shots typified the season for Calipari’s youngest group since his 2009 arrival in Lexington.

Kentucky (26-11) began the season ranked fifth in the Top 25 before dropping and eventually falling out. An up-and-down final month included four consecutive losses, the longest skid in Calipari’s nine-year tenure with the Wildcats.

They responded by playing some of their best basketball, winning four of their final five regular season games and rolling to a fourth consecutive Southeastern Conference Tournament championship as the No. 4 seed.

Kentucky’s quick improvement stoked hopes of a deep NCAA Tournament run and perhaps playing for a ninth national championship next weekend in San Antonio, Texas. That expectation will remain as long as Calipari continues recruiting highly touted prospects.

Despite the early tournament exit Calipari said he took satisfaction in getting the Wildcats to play their best in the postseason.

“Individually and collectively, this was a rewarding year for me,” Calipari said. “I wish it could have ended in another week, but for me to see how individual players got better, for me to see how this team came together, for me to see (forward) Jarred (Vanderbilt) in, Jarred out, all the stuff that went on with injuries, they hung in there and played a bunch of freshmen. I thought they really performed.”

Calipari now moves on to offseason discussions to see which freshmen return and to what extent he must retool — again.

Kevin Knox, Kentucky’s leading scorer at 15.6 points per game, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are projected as first-round NBA draft choices and possible lottery selections. Forward PJ Washington has also generated first-round consideration.

Hamidou Diallo — a redshirt freshman guard who nearly entered last year’s draft pool despite not playing at Kentucky — improved his prospects in the tournament and has been mentioned as a first-round possibility. Jarred Vanderbilt made his Kentucky debut in January after missing 17 games with a left foot injury and showed promise as a rebounder, only to sustain an ankle injury that sidelined him for the postseason.

Sophomores Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones improved but could return along with guard Quade Green and forward Nick Richards. Freshman guard Jemarl Baker recently began working out after having left knee surgery last fall. Sophomore forward Tai Wynyard played sporadically before being suspended for the second half of the season.

As he routinely does, Calipari will encourage his entire roster to work out with NBA clubs to explore their options. Then the coach will explore his options.

Dan Hurley calls coaching UConn a dream and destination job

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STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Dan Hurley says he has landed at his dream coaching destination.

Hurley was introduced Friday as the University of Connecticut’s 19th men’s basketball coach, replacing Kevin Ollie, who was fired earlier this month amid an NCAA investigation and after a second consecutive losing season.

The 45-year-old Hurley, who left Rhode Island after six years and two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, has agreed to a six-year incentive-laced deal. He will have a base salary of $400,000 but will make at least $2.75 million in his first season, with supplemental income from media fees, speaking appearances and other perks. He could make up to $3.5 million in the contract’s final year.

He also has a chance to earn up to another $1 million a year for reaching certain athletic and academic goals.

But Hurley said the decision to come to UConn was not about money. It was about the opportunity to take the helm of a “storied program” that has won four national championships over the past 20 years.

“It’s a place that I always hoped I’d have a chance to coach and it’s like a dream come true,” he said.

Hurley, who played against the Huskies at Seton Hall in the 1990s, regaled the media with stories of being schooled on the court by the likes of Ray Allen and Chris Smith. Hurley said he modeled his coaching style in large part after UConn’s former Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, and plans to bring back that hard-nosed “championship culture.”

“For me, that centers around being the hardest working, hardest playing team in the country,” he said. “That’s our goal from when you see us opening night in November. The product you see on the court, there’s not going to be a more connected team. There’s not going to be a harder playing team. There’s not going to be a team in the country that is more committed to winning.”

Hurley said he shared that vision earlier Friday in a meeting with UConn’s players. He said he hopes to have most of them back next season, telling them they can leave behind a much different legacy than they have now.

The Huskies went 14-18 this past season and 16-17 in 2016-17 after going 30 years without a losing season.

Junior guard Jalen Adams said he hasn’t made a final decision about his future, but was impressed with Hurley and happy with the hire.

“I know a lot of guys at URI and all of those guys rave about him, talk about how he’s a great guy and a great coach and he pushes you to the limits,” Adams said. “I think that will be great for me personally and I think it will be even better for our whole team. I think our team just needs to be pushed and needs someone who will demand them to be a champion.”

David Benedict, UConn’s athletic director, said there was never a question of whether the school would have the resources to hire a top head coach, and said it did not have to raise additional money from donors to fund Hurley’s contract.

He said there was a brief conversation with Hurley about the NCAA investigation, but it never became a roadblock to the hire. Hurley has the right, under the deal, to extend his contract by an additional year if the school receives sanctions such as a reduction of scholarships.

Benedict declined to discuss Ollie’s decision to appeal his firing “with cause,” which could impact whether UConn will have to pay more than $10 million left on the former coach’s contract.

“Obviously, we wouldn’t have done something that we didn’t feel was within our right to do,” Benedict said.

Former Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore, who was a longtime assistant of Calhoun’s at UConn and was on Hurley’s staff at Rhode Island is expected to join Hurley in Storrs. Kevin Freeman, UConn’s director of basketball administration, was the only member of Ollie’s staff to attend the news conference.

Hurley said he plans to fill out his staff with a diverse group of coaches who can help him recruit in the mid-Atlantic region.

Hurley is the son of Hall of Fame New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley Sr. and the brother of Arizona State coach Bob Hurley. He said his last name has always been a recruiting asset in the Northeast.

“Coaches, families trust us with their kids because of the legacy my father has left as a Hall of Famer, but also as a community person who stands for the right things,” Hurley said. “I think nationally with the brand and our name, we could do a lot of good things.”

LaSalle parts ways with longtime head coach Dr. John Giannini

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La Salle announced on Friday that they are parting ways with head coach John Giannini.

Giannini had been the head coach of the program for 14 seasons, amassing a record of 212-226. Before taking over at La Salle, he spent seven seasons as the head coach at Rowan and eight seasons coaching at Maine.

“Today Bill Bradshaw and I mutually agreed that La Salle University could benefit from a new voice in leading the program,” said Dr. Giannini. “It is difficult to admit this but I have given every effort possible for success and I have received nothing but support and encouragement from Bill and President Hanycz. Greater things may be accomplished for this storied program and great university with the approach of a new coach. I am forever grateful, especially to my loyal staff and dedicated student-athletes. I look forward to my next challenge and La Salle’s future success.”

Kentucky clarifies ‘false reports’ they did not shake Kansas State hands after loss

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After Kansas State knocked off Kentucky in the Sweet 16, the purple Wildcats alleged that the blue Wildcats did not shake their hands after the game.

“They didn’t shake our hands,” Kansas State junior guard Amaad Wainright told ESPN last night. “It’s sorry.”

“They know what they did.”

Kentucky bristled at the allegations.

“They were turned and celebrating, so I walked off,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “There was no disrespect for anything. It’s just that they were celebrating, and I was happy for them.”

“My team’s not like that. There’s no disrespect in any way. They beat us. They deserved to win the game.”