Chris Udofia, Pierce Hornung

Pregame Shootaround 2.13.13: Two great rivalries highlight loaded slate

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Game of the Day: San Diego State at No. 24 Colorado State (10:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

This is a game that Colorado State really needs to win if they are going to bring home the Mountain West regular season title. While the Rams do get New Mexico at home, they still have road trip to UNLV, Air Force, Boise State and Wyoming. Putting themselves in a one-game hole behind the Lobos with that kind of schedule remaining would be tough.

The Rams also happen to matchup quite well with the Aztecs. Colorado State is big and physical and one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They’ll be going up against an SDSU team that’s perimeter oriented and currently dealing with injuries to their starting back court of Chase Tapley and Xavier Thames.

Part of what makes the MWC so entertaining this season is that the conference is so deep, and that, in turn, means that there really aren’t all that many bad losses to be had. But just because it’s not a bad loss doesn’t mean that the loss won’t hurt.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 6 Syracuse at UConn (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

This is a rivalry game, and rivalry games are always going to be difficult to predict. But there’s so much more to the story here. UConn, with everything that they’re dealing with as a program, has nothing to play for this season beyond pride and the chance to play spoiler. And there would be nothing that the Huskies would enjoy more than handing a loss to the Orange — the team that helped precipitate the downfall of the Big East, which leaves UConn as a team without a conference — that would knock them out of sole possession of first place in the Big East.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Creighton at Northern Iowa (8:00 p.m. ET)

Creighton needs a win. Badly. They’ve lost two in a row and four of their last seven games. Four of their next five games are on the road, and they close the season with a home game against Wichita State. That’s a long way from an easy schedule, but thanks to some question performances from Indiana State and Wichita State of late, the Bluejays still control their own destiny in the Missouri Valley. Win out, and they’re regular season champs. Sounds easy, but it won’t be. Northern Iowa has had a tough season, but Cedar Rapids is never an easy place to get a win.

Five Things to Watch For

1) North Carolina and Duke play tonight. We gave it the preview treatment here. I think the Blue Devils win easily. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2) Butler will be playing without starting center Andrew Smith as they take on one of the A-10’s biggest surprises in Charlotte. The Bulldogs cannot afford to lose a game and fall a game off the pace in the conference standings. (7:00 p.m. ET)

3) No. 22 Memphis has finally made their way back into the top 25, but the question is whether or not this team has really gotten better, or if they are simply feasting on the lesser competition in Conference USA. Want to prove it’s not the latter? Don’t lose league games you should win. (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

4) Believe it or not, a visit to Texas A&M may be the toughest game that Ole Miss has left on their schedule. And considering that they’re anything but a lock for the NCAA tournament at this point, the Rebels probably cannot afford a loss tonight. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

5) Oregon is 2-3 since losing Dominic Artis to a foot injury. Their first game without the freshman point guard was against Washington at home. The Ducks won. (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The Top 25

  • Nebraska at No. 1 Indiana (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • North Carolina at No. 2 Duke (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 3 Miami at Florida State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 6 Syracuse at UConn (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Charlotte at No. 11 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • No. 17 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • DePaul at No. 21 Notre Dame (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Central Florida at No. 22 Memphis (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • San Diego State at No. 24 Colorado State (10:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
  • No. 23 Oregon at Washington (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Other Notable Games

  • Delaware at Northeastern (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Akron at Eastern Michigan (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • Iowa State at Texas (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Creighton at Northern Iowa (8:00 p.m. ET)
  • Purdue at Illinois (9:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
  • West Virginia at Baylor (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.