The Morning Mix

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Did you have a good weekend? I was in College Park, Md. on Saturday night. I went for the basketball and stayed for the riots.

Ready for another crazy week of college hoops?

Let’s hit the links.

Monday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – No. 21 Notre Dame @ No. 16 Pittsburgh
7:00 p.m. – Hofstra @ Drexel (NBC Sports Network) 7:00 p.m. –
7:00 p.m. – Norfolk State @ Hampton
7:00 p.m. – Bucknell @ Lehigh
9:00 p.m. – West Virginia @ No. 10 Kansas State
9:00 p.m. – Rutgers @ Villanova

Read of the Day:
John Feinstein provides some quality insight on the path being charted by the members of the Catholic-7. Georgetown President Jack DeGioia is playing a key role in the formation of the new basketball conference and schools like Detroit-Mercy could be targeted for admittance. (Washington Post)
 
 
Top Stories:
Hard work pays off for Terrapins in 83-81 victory over No. 2 Blue Devils: Maryland had five days to prepare for their biggest home game of the season. During those five days Mark Turgeon tested his team mentally and physically. It paid off on Saturday night against Duke.

Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy dances late in Saturday’s win at Air Force:Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy decided to show off some of his dance moves late in the Rams’ 89-86 win at Air Force, much to the chagrin of the Air Force student section.

Temple survives UMass, are tournament hopes still alive?Following an 83-82 road win over the Minutemen on Saturday, the Temple Owls keep NCAA tournaments hopes alive after doing its best to ruin them with a 84-83 home loss to Duquesne on Thursday night.

No. 3 Miami survives despite Clemson neutralizing Shane Larkin: IT wasn’t pretty, but Miami earned the victory they travelled to Clemson to obtain, defeating the Tigers 45-43.

Providence is on their way back to national relevancy: After beating No. 21 Notre Dame 71-54 on Saturday afternoon, the Providence Friars have now won four straight in the Big East, which includes a 54-50 win over then-No. 17 Cincinnati. Providence is still at least a year away, but the improvement of this team is inarguable.

Doug McDermott scores 2,000th career point, joins Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson: McDermott scored his 2,000th career point Saturday in a win over Evansville, becoming just the third player in Missouri Valley history to reach that milestone through three collegiate seasons.

Iowa creeps onto NCAA tournament bubble after win over Minnesota: Iowa has lost a handful of close games this season in Big-Ten play, but that has become the nature of the Big Ten. It is the nation’s deepest conference top to bottom, but after a dominating 72-51 win at home over Minnesota Sunday, Iowa is creeping into the conversation for the NCAA tournament.

VIDEO: John Calipari tees off on his team after 30-point loss at Tennessee: Kentucky was run out of the building by Tennessee over the weekend, losing by 30 in the Wildcats’ worst game since the season-ending injury to Nerlens Noel. Coach Cal was not pleased with his team’s effort.

P.J. Hairston, North Carolina get key win over Virginia to hold ground in ACC race: P.J. Hairston and North Carolina’s up-tempo offense were too much for Virginia in a 93-81 victory on Saturday. Hairston scored 29 points, which included 6-of-12 shooting from three-point range.
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– A lot of great content in the latest installment of the “Pick ‘n’ Roll, including the art of the the buzzer-beater. (ESPN)

– Mike DeCourcy reviews the upcoming week takes a look at the marquee matchups in front of us. (Sporting News)

– You can understand why members of Big Blue Nation may have issues with the one-and-done rule following the injury to Nerlens Noel. But then again, this what they’ve signed up for, isn’t it? (A Sea of Blue)

– Mike Krzyzewski was dismissive of the notion that Maryland is a rival of Duke, take a jab at Big-Ten move. (Sporting News)

– Arizona State got a must-win victory on Saturday, knocking off Colorado at the buzzer. Doug Haller looks back at the scene in Boulder. (AZ Central)

– Miami’s 45-43 victory at Clemson last night was the lowest-scoring ACC game in the shot clock era. (D1sCourse)

– Eric Prisbell debates the possibility of the SEC being a one-bid league. Florida is the only lock at this point and Missouri, the team’s second best team cannot win on the road. Selection Sunday could be interesting for the SEC. (USA Today)

– The Wisconsin Badgers did not look like an NCAA Tournament team back in mid-December. But like he does year in and year out, Bo Ryan has his Badgers squad flying under the radar and in position to win the Big-Ten championship. (Fox Sports Wisconsin)

– Apparently there was an altercation between a UTEP fan and a member of the Central Florida basketball team. The incident took place immediately following the Knights 73-58 loss in El Paso. (Orlando Sentinel)

– Rutgers head coach Mike Rice has had a difficult year. His program hasn’t made great strides in getting out of the Big East cellar, and his struggles this season were highlighted by his 3-game suspension for anger-related therapy. How much longer does Mike Rice have at Rutgers? (On The Banks)

– If Detroit-Mercy does join the Catholic-7 at some point, would Oakland be considered to replace them in the Horizon League? Oakland previously inquired about acceptance following Butler’s departure, but Detroit-Mercy helped to block their entry. (Oakland Press)

– Could Siena be another possible candidate for Catholic-7 expansion? (Albany Times Union)

– Clemson University is conducting a feasibility survey to determine whether a new basketball arena would be economically beneficially to the athletics program and university. (Post and Courier)
 
 
Odds & Ends:
– Marshall Henderson delivers the soundbite of the season following the Rebels’ overtime win over Georgia. This kid is awesome. (Alabama.com)

– A college coach in Canada sank a half court shot earning a student free tuition. (Yahoo Sports)

– A wrap up of the tops plays from the weekend in .GIF form. Carlos Emery’s dunk is hysterical. He dunks so frequently that this is actual now considered a jump shot. (College Hoops Journal)

– The video won’t embed properly, so click the link to watch Ryan Evan’s killer one-handed putback jam for Wisconsin on Sunday. (Bucky’s 5th Quarter)
 
 
Video of the Day:
Maryland fans dial up a tag team Harlem Shake flash mob. It was Glorious. Bonus points if you can find me on press row. (Washington Post)


 
 
Dunk of the Day:
Oh look, Ben McLemore doing something that you and I can’t even do in our dreams. (ESPN)


 
 
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Like his career, Frank Martin has built South Carolina from the ground up

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NEW YORK — It was after he finished watching South Carolina cut down the Madison Square Garden nets, after he had spent the better part of 30 minutes giving interviews on the court, after he was spotted by the CBS cameras, with a fist raised and tears pooling under his eyes, that the enormity of what he had just witnessed hit Darius Rucker.

“Gosh,” he said to everyone and no one in particular as he left the arena floor and made his way through the bowels of the Garden, “I can’t believe that just happened.”

The ‘that’ that Rucker, South Carolina’s most famous and, quite possibly, biggest fan, was referring to was a 77-70, come-from behind win over No. 4 seed Florida that jettisoned the seventh-seeded Gamecocks through the Elite 8 and into the Final Four. Prior to this season, the Gamecocks hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 13 years. They had been to four NCAA tournaments in the previous 43 seasons, and they had never won back-to-back tournament game.

As in not ever.

“We’re in the Garden, watching the Gamecocks play to go to the Final Four,” Rucker said. “If you’d have told me that ten years ago I’d have told you that you were on crack.”

That’s the program that Frank Martin inherited in 2012, when he left Kansas State following a falling out with his athletic director, John Currie. Like South Carolina, Kansas State was hardly considered a destination job when Martin was at the helm, but he was able to build off of a foundation created by Bob Huggins. Martin had been to four NCAA tournaments in five years with Kansas State when he made the decision to leave. Nothing is more important to Martin than loyalty. “He’s always had a core group of people that he’s counted on,” his agent, Bret Just, said, and Currie was not one of those people.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came during the 2012 NCAA tournament. Kansas State was a No. 8 seed, squaring off with No. 1 seed Syracuse when Martin was informed by Currie that Jamar Samuels, one of his best players, would not be allowed to suit up. The school had stumbled upon information that Samuels had received a wire transfer for $200 from his AAU coach, and he was going to be suspended.

And that was that.

Martin was off to South Carolina.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“It was a situation where we had to go,” associate head coach Matt Figger, who has been with Martin for the last decade, said, and it wasn’t exactly the easiest or smartest decision to leave. Most understood why Martin had to make the change that he made — he was offered a hefty raise and he had the chance to leave a place of employment where he did not get along with his boss — but it wasn’t as if Martin was climbing the ladder. If anything, South Carolina was a step backwards, as Martin took over a program with less pedigree and with a significant building job in front of them.

“I didn’t really know until I got into it. It was a much different deal. It looked easier on the surface than what it really was,” Figger said. “The best players transferred. Bruce Ellington, he’s with the 49ers now, he was the one guy that we could trust and he played football half the year. Couple of the guys that were the holdovers, I don’t think they believed in what our vision was. After a year, some of them left.”

“We had to start this from scratch.”

The process was slow in the early stages. Martin replaced Darrin Horn, who had won just 10 games and finished dead last in the SEC in his final season on campus, and didn’t post a .500 record until his third season in Columbia. Even then, that team went just 17-16. He won 15 SEC games in his first three years combined. After a late season swoon cost South Carolina a shot at the 2016 NCAA tournament, there was speculation that another year without a trip to the Big Dance could spell the end of Martin’s time with the Gamecocks.

“It was hard!” Martin’s wife, Anya, said. “You see he’s losing his hair. It’s all turning white. It was tough in the beginning. I had to ask him a couple of times, ‘Why here?’”

The easy answer is that it wasn’t Kansas State, but the truth is more complicated than that.

Martin is not a man that is afraid of a challenge. He’s not intimidated by a job that isn’t easy to do, not when you come from where he’s come from, when you’ve coached on the path that he has coached.

Martin got his first job when he was 12 years old, working at a Dairy Queen to help his mom pay the bills when his dad walked out on them. His coaching career started a year after he graduated high school, when he was just 19 years old.

“I tore my ACL the year before,” Martin said, “and my high school coach asked me to come help him, because the kids in the neighborhood respected me so much.”

He was nothing more than an assistant with the team at Miami Senior High School, helping out when and where he could, when the head coach of the JV team didn’t show up for work one day. Shakey Rodriguez, a legend in the Miami High School basketball community, told Martin he would be coaching that day, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“By his second season,” Martin’s mother, Lourdes, beaming as she held back tears of joy, said, “he was 22-0.”

Even as Martin was coaching, he was still working on the side, most famously as a bouncer in Miami’s nightclub scene. He needed a degree, so he took night classes at Miami-Dade College before enrolling part-time at FIU. His future was capped if he didn’t graduate.

“He made it out,” she added, holding on to her grandson to steady herself as the moment washed over her. “He had many, many jobs, and then God was up there and blessed him.”

Martin would go from the high school ranks to Northeastern, taking a paycut just to get his foot in the door. He spent four years as an assistant and met his wife — “My wife turned me down seven times to go out on a date,” he said. “Seven. Seven. And the day she made the mistake of going out on a date with me, I never let her go.” — before moving on to Cincinnati, where he joined forces with Bob Huggins, spending two seasons with the Bearcats before following Huggins to Kansas State. He replaced Huggins as Kansas State’s head coach a year after joining the program and just seven years after he joined the collegiate coaching ranks. He would take the Wildcats to more NCAA tournaments in his five seasons at the helm than they had been to in the previous two decades combined.

“Frank’s never steered away from a challenge as long as I’ve known him,” Anya said. “He’s overcome any obstacle in his way, just ‘I’m going to make it work.'”

“He’s a builder,” Just said.

And he’s done just that at South Carolina.

“I’m happy as any mom could be,” Lourdes said. “Speechless, but not all the way. I have to talk to him about my air ticket.”

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Martin spoke many times about the dream of leading this team to this moment, but he didn’t always believe that the dream of taking the Gamecocks to the Final Four was a realistic possibility.

“When we beat Duke, Frank said ‘Why not us?’” Figgers said, a motto that had become something of a rallying cry for the Gamecocks during the East Regional. “That’s the first time we really talked about [winning a title].”

The team and the coaching staff weren’t the only ones that never really gave this possibility much thought. College basketball at large — the fans, the media, opposing coaches — all had the same thought: “South Carolina in the Final Four? The same team that put up 86 points in four overtimes against Alabama? Lulz.”

They showed us.

Over and over again.

South Carolina’s star guard Sindarius Thornwell, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the East Region, mentioned in every press conference this weekend that no one paid attention to or respected the program prior to this run. Martin ranted earlier this year about the lack of local media coverage his team gets, particularly when they play on the road.

At this point in the season, most players get burned out of the media attention they get, answering the same questions over and over and over again.

I don’t blame them.

On Sunday evening, after spending 25 minutes up on the dais for a postgame press conference, Thornwell was finally en route back to the locker room to celebrate with his team when he was pulled aside by a television reporter that needed just a couple more minutes of his time.

Thornwell, decked out in a East Regional Champs shirt and hat with the remnants of a net dangling around his neck, didn’t mind.

“You gotta talk a lot,” Thornwell said, “when you win.”

Drake hires Furman’s Niko Medved to be new head coach

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Drake has hired Furman head coach Niko Medved to the same position, the school announced on Sunday.

The 43-year-old Medved has led the Paladins to back-to-back CIT appearances as he’s been the head coach there for four seasons. Also an assistant coach at Minnesota and Colorado State, Medved is a noted recruiter.

“I am ecstatic about the opportunity to be the next men’s basketball coach at Drake University,” Medved said in the release. “Drake University’s tremendous reputation partnered with its strong leadership and the thriving Des Moines community make this a special place.  I was born and raised in the Midwest and have so many strong roots in this part of the country.  My family and I can’t wait to get started.”

Medved was named the Southern Conference’s 2017 Coach of the Year for helping lead Furman to the regular-season title in the league.

The Bulldogs are coming off a last-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference as former head coach Ray Giacoletti was relieved of his duties in January. Drake only has one NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971 (coming in 2008) as the Bulldogs have struggled to remain relevant in a tough league.

VIDEO: North Carolina and Roy Williams dance in locker room after advancing to Final Four

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Watching Roy Williams dance never gets old.

The North Carolina head coach is taking his team back to the Final Four next weekend after the Tar Heels outlasted Kentucky in a thrilling South Regional final.

North Carolina is making its 20th appearance in the Final Four as they are going for the second consecutive season.

2017 NCAA Tournament Final Four schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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National Semifinals– Saturday, April 1

6:09 p.m. EST, CBS, Glendale
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Approximately 40 minutes after conclusion of first game, CBS, Glendale
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

VIDEO: The insane final 10 seconds of North Carolina’s win over Kentucky

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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North Carolina and Kentucky ended in legendary fashion on Sunday.

After freshman Malik Monk buried a heavily-contested three-pointer to tie the game at 73-all for Kentucky with under 10 seconds left the Tar Heels didn’t use a timeout as Theo Pinson found forward Luke Maye for the game-winning jumper.

These 10 seconds will go down as one of the greatest finishes in NCAA Tournament history.