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Who are athletic directors looking to hire under the pressure of a fan base that had likely been clamoring for change? Is it an under-the-radar but well-respected assistant from a major program? Or could they, in fact, be wooed by the sparkle of a mid-major coach who appears to have a world of promise after leading his small program on a Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament?
That is the topic Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis explored in an interview Tuesday on The Dan Patrick Show, days after UCLA fired head coach Ben Howland and Minnesota fired head coach Tubby Smith.
There is a certain degree of instant gratification that comes along with chasing the hottest commodities. In this go ’round of the coaching carousel, that is likely Butler’s Brad Stevens and VCU’s Shaka Smart, perhaps with Memphis’ Josh Pastner added in for good measure. Athletic directors will try to score early points, regardless of whether or not that is the best long-term fit for the program. As Davis terms it, “winning the press conference.”
Not to say Stevens and Smart in particular are not quality coaches, but there is a difference between a secure mid-major job with a near guarantee of an NCAA tournament every season and taking a job like the one at UCLA. Smart and Stevens can do no wrong at their respective schools right now. The recruiting pipeline continues to pump in talent that can developed over a full four-year collegiate career and there is less overall media attention.
In moving to a job like UCLA, there will be an initial honeymoon period, but eventually any coach hired will be subjected to the same level of scrutiny that got Howland fired after three Final Fours in Westwood.
So the question some coaches will have to answer in the coming months is: will it be worth it?
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
This post will be updated throughout the night.
Butler (KenPom: 41, RPI; 67) at Seton Hall (KenPom: 31, RPI: 37), 6:30 p.m.
LSU (KenPom: 53, RPI: 76) at South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 28), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Wisconsin (KenPom: 51, RPI: 62), 7:00 p.m.
Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 48, RPI: 30) at George Washington (KenPom: 71, RPI: 34), 7:00 p.m.
Missouri at Vanderbilt (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58), 9:00 p.m.
No. 14 Iowa State at Texas Tech (KenPom: 59, RPI: 51), 9:00 p.m.
Michigan (KenPom: 46, RPI: 56) at Minnesota, 9:00 p.m.
Washington (KenPom: 80, RPI: 57) at Utah (KenPom: 44, RPI: 16), 9:00 p.m.
San Diego State (KenPom: 65, RPI: 47) at Fresno State, 11:00 p.m.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: LSU at South Carolina, 7:00 p.m.
LSU attempts to stay atop the SEC standings when they travel on the road to face South Carolina. The Gamecocks have been very tough at home this season and they’re trying to form a potential four-way tie in the conference standings if they’re able to win this one (and Texas A&M wins tonight). It will be intriguing to see how Ben Simmons fares against South Carolina’s stingy defense.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: Saint Joseph’s at George Washington, 7:00 p.m.
An important game in the Atlantic 10 as Saint Joseph’s heads to the Smith Center to play surging George Washington. The Colonels have won three straight games as they try to stay with VCU and Dayton and make a move to tie the Hawks in the league standings. CBT’s Rob Dauster will be in the building for this one, so make sure to follow him on Twitter for updates.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- No. 21 Baylor will have a tough one in the Big 12 when they go on the road at Kansas State. The Wildcats just knocked off Oklahoma and the Octagon of Doom is a very tough place to play, even if Kansas State is struggling in the standings.
- No. 16 SMU will try to stay in the lead in the American as they host Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane could really use a road win like this for its postseason chances.
- An intriguing Pac-12 contest tips as Washington heads to Utah. The Pac-12 standings are a mess right now, but these two teams still have a chance to make one final move for the regular season title if they start building momentum now.
- In the SEC, Alabama hosts No. 15 Texas A&M, a team that has lost three of its last four games. The Aggies will be favored in this road contest, but this one could be interesting because of Avery Johnson’s unique connection to Texas A&M. Avery Johnson Jr., a transfer guard sitting out this season at Alabama, played for the Aggies last season, so he could have some useful tips for his dad on slowing down Texas A&M’s potent offense.
- No. 20 Providence will be looking for revenge when they head to Milwaukee to face Marquette. The Golden Eagles currently sit eighth in the Big East standings, but they did win on the road by a point over the Friars earlier this season.