The Morning Mix

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Wednesday night chaos has become a weekly occurrence this season. Penn State shocked the world, getting their first Big-Ten win of the season, beating No.4 Michigan. Georgetown got their first win inside Gampel Pavilion, needing Otto Porter heroics to defeat UConn in double-OT. Texas rallied back from a 22-point deficit to defeat Oklahoma. Arizona lost to USC, and Chane Behanan almost killed Worrel Clahar.

As you can see, we have a lot to get to.

So let’s hit the links.

Thursday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – No. 16 Ohio State @ Northwestern
7:00 p.m. – Detroit @ Temple
8:00 p.m. – Utah State @ No. 25 Louisiana Tech
9:00 p.m. – No. 3 Duke @ Virginia
11:00 p.m. – No. 2 Gonzaga @ BYU
11:00 p.m. – Oregon State @ No. 24 Oregon

Read of the Day:
A phenomenal feature on cardboard big heads. Yep, your read of the day is about cardboard big heads. But seriously, it’s written by George Dohrmann, the author of “Play Their Hearts Out”, so you know it’s good stuff. Read it. (Sports Illustrated)
 
 
Top Stories:
Otto Porter delivers again in 2OT win over UConn (VIDEO):Georgetown trailed Connecticut by seven points in double overtime, 78-71, with 2:03 to play. But Otto Porter scored five of the final seven points, including the game-winning layup with nine seconds remaining.

No. 4 Michigan upset by Penn State, how worrisome is their defense? Teams that struggle with defensive efficiency don’t often survive March Madness very long. Prior to giving up 84 points against then-0-13 Penn State, the Wolverines ranked 42nd in defensive efficiency. That’s not good if you want to contend for a National Championship.

Akron takes control of the MAC with thrilling, OT win over Ohio: The Akron Zips extended their NCAA-leading 19-game win streak last night, defeating the 2012 MAC Champions 88-81 in one of the best seasons of the game. It was high-major #MACtion.

Just how good is New Mexico? Is a No. 1 seed in their future? Potentially: With three games left in regular season play, the Lobos have a stranglehold on the Mountain West Conference championship. But just how good is this New Mexico team? With all the movement within the top-10, a No.1-seed come March isn’t out of the question.

Louisville’s Chane Behanan delivers the most violent dunk of the season (VIDEO): Unquestionably the most violent display of posterization I have ever seen. Just watch.

Bubble Banter: Who helped their tournament chances?Creighton, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Boise State all kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive with wins last night.

Bubble Banter: Who hurt their tournament chances? Oklahoma, Wichita State are all watching tournament bids slip by the wayside.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Fairleigh Dickinson will reportedly fire coach Greg Vetrone at end of season. (College Basketball Talk)

– A proposal to build a statue of Terrapin-great Len Bias at a local high school has been withdrawn because of concerns that it would send the wrong message to students. (Washington Post)

– The status of UNLV forward Anthony Bennett is day-to-day as he continues to deal with shoulder pain. (Las Vegas Sun)

– Florida has dealt with the injury bug all season. On Wednesday, all three banged up Gators, Will Yeguete, Michael Frazier and Casey Prather were cleared to practice again. The Gators will need a healthy squad if they want to contend in March. (Alligator Army)

– Iowa State police are investigating death threats made against Kansas guard Elijah Johnson following his heroic performance against the Cyclones on Monday. (Wichita Eagle)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Oh look, ANOTHER opinion piece about how college basketball sucks. Thanks but no thanks. (Virginia Pilot)

– Coaches want to control the game, which is why we are seeing less possessions and lower scores. (Post and Courier)

– Thanks to the Mountaineers loss to Baylor last night, Bob Huggins is one loss away from securing his first regular season losing record since 1985. (Eye on College Basketball)

– At the beginning of the month, back when TCU defeated Kansas, I broke down the top-ten upsets of the season. Penn State’s upset win over No. 4 Michigan last night is definitely worthy of a top-5 slot. (Eye on College Basketball)

– An updated look at the entertaining race for the Big-Ten Championship. Five teams still have a shot at winning the regular season title. (Inside the Hall)

– C.J. Moore attempts to explain why Kansas’ Ben McLemore has avoided clutch moments on the road. (Bleacher Report)

– Wanna know how I know Wednesday was bonkers? USC beat Arizona. Nobody saw that coming. (CBS Local Los Angeles)

– There is a strong debate forming about whether or not Gonzaga should be a No.1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The last “mid-major” to do so was John Calipari’s Memphis team in 2008. How do the two squads compare? (Eye on College Basketball)

– A day after Coach-K said he was finished coaching Team USA basketball, Jerry Colangelo says that talk will have to wait. (ESPN)

– Maryland guard Seth Allen was almost forced to quit basketball after injuring his elbow in a 2007 bike crash. (Baltimore Sun)

– Oklahoma blew a 22-point lead with seven minutes remaining against Texas. Yeah, the Sooners might have a few issues. (Cream and Crimson Machine)

– According to an AP report, Miami booster Nevin Shapiro gave $170,000 in impermissible benefits to Hurricane players, recruits, coaches and others between 2002 and 2010. (Yahoo Sports)
 
 
Tweet of the Day:
Kentucky sophomore Ryan Harrow, formerly of NC-State, on his senior teammate Julius Mays, also formerly of NC-State AND Wright State. We all kid, but six years of college would have been awesome. (H/T @ThomasBeisner)

 
 
Video of the Day:
Here’s the deal. I’m sick of the Harlem Shake and so are you. But this rendition from the Oakland Golden Grizzlies is just so hilarious, I had to share. The story behind the making of the video is just as funny. Seriously, I wouldn’t do this too you unless it was legit. This is legit. (Oakland Press)


 
 
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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.