VCU Rams head coach Smart talks with guard Johnson during the final seconds of their third round NCAA tournament basketball game against Michigan in Auburn Hills

It’s now time to see what program tries to pry Shaka Smart from VCU


On Saturday afternoon, Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams were knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Michigan, meaning that his offseason has officially begun.

And what’s an offseason for Shaka Smart with all kinds of speculation about when he’ll be leaving VCU and where he’ll be headed.

In 2011, it was NC State that came calling and got shot down. In 2012, it was Illinois that courted Shaka, and again, he turned down their higher profile conference and a pay raise.

So who will it be this year?

USC currently has an opening, although many expect that gig to end up in the hands of Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon. It’s also tough to imagine Smart turning down NC State and Illinois only to settle for the second most prestigious program in Southern California.

What about UCLA? The same folks predicting Dixon to USC are guessing that Ben Howland will be out as Bruins head coach, and it’s only every so often that the head coaching position at one of the Blue Bloods comes open. Will that be enough to lure Shaka away from VCU’s Richmond campus?

I don’t know. No one does. I don’t even think that Shaka has thought about at this point, to be honest with you. He’s been focused on the whole “VCU in the NCAA tournament” thing.

But the bottom-line is this: it’s going to take a lot more than a pay-raise to get him. There’s going to have to be more at stake than the simple promise of playing in a bigger conference. Because Shaka makes plenty of money where he is. He’s a legend at VCU. He brought Havoc to the program. He’s got as much job security with the Rams as any person in any profession in the country. His day-to-day stress isn’t worrying about whether or not a booster is going to try to force him out; it’s whether he’ll be done watching tape and recruiting to get home in time to tuck his daughter into bed.

UCLA had seven head coaches in the 28 years before Ben Howland was hired, and he may get fired despite winning the Pac-12 regular season and taking the Bruins to the Final Four three times in his tenure.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Syracuse wins, Miami loses, Valentine is nation’s best?

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(This will be updated throughout the day.)

GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 74, No. 25 Texas A&M 67

The Orange got 20 points from Michael Gbinije and 15 points and five assists from Trevor Cooney as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Friday afternoon. We wrote on this game earlier. Are the Orange for real this year?


Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 32 points, nine boards, six assists

No. 3 Michigan State beat Boise State 77-67 in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy out in California, but the result of that game is less important than the result of Valentine’s night. A night after notching his second triple-double of the season, Valentine took over another way on Friday, hitting five straight threes in the span of about five minutes to put the Spartans up double-figures in a game they were struggling to take control of.

In three games against high-major competition, Valentine is now averaging 30.0 points, 10.7 boards and 9.3 assists. He has been, unequivocally, the best player in college basketball this season.

No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 17 UConn 70: Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made some big plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs held on to win a game they led by as much as 21 in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-best 17 points for Gonzaga, which finished third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rob Dauster wrote more about the Bulldogs and their second-half performance here.

Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60: Not only did the Shockers drop their second straight at the AdvoCare Invitational, but they also saw Anton Grady leave the game on a stretcher after being involved in a scary second-half collision. He was awake and alert shortly after leaving the court. While the Shockers’ losses to USC and Alabama don’t help them from an NCAA tournament standpoint, the bigger issue is the team’s health.


Quincy Ford, Northeastern: Not only did he score 24 points in the upset win over No. 15 Miami, but he hit the game-winning jumper, too. Video here.


Wichita State’s bigs: Five of them (Anton Grady, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wakumota, Eric Hamilton) finished a combined 3-for-21 from the floor with 14 points and 14 fouls. Wakumota shot one of the worst threes you’ll ever see with Wichita State down 62-60 with 10 seconds left.

Grady suffered a scary neck injury late in the game, but early reports sound positive.


  • Jamal Murray went for 21 points and three assists without a turnover at No. 1 Kentucky rolled over South Florida. The big question: How bad is Tyler Ulis’ elbow injury?
  • Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both had 13 points as No. 8 Villanova knocked off Georgia Tech to win the Preseason NIT, 69-52.
  • No. 23 Xavier raced out of the gates against USC and led by as much as 32, going on to win 87-77 in Orlando. Trevon Bluiett led four Musketeers in double figures with 16 points and James Farr added 12 to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.


  • Stanford finished third at the Preseason NIT with a 69-66 win over Arkansas, closing the game on a stunning 21-1 run. Rosco Allen scored eight of his career-high 25 points during that run, and Marcus Allen’s goal-tended layup with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead for good.

Good luck Goodluck: UNLV’s Okonoboh to transfer

Goodluck Okonoboh
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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UNLV sophomore Goodluck Okonoboh is transferring out of the program, a source told

The 6-foot-10 center was the No. 31 recruit in the Class of 2014, but he never was able to find a place in the UNLV rotation. He averaged 2.9 blocks as a freshman, but is a career 34 percent free throw shooter that never proved he could be more than just an athlete.

With Ben Carter getting eligible and UNLV landing Stephen Zimmerman this season, Okonoboh’s minutes dried up. He played just 19 minutes total against UCLA and Indiana.