Wichita State Shockers head coach Marshall directs his team against the La Salle Explorers in their West Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Los Angeles

Is Gregg Marshall the coaching carousel’s greatest catch?


We’ve been hearing all week long about how young coaching stars Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens and Josh Pastner are signing big contract extensions and “turning down” open jobs at Minnesota, USC and UCLA.

(UPDATE: Sources are reporting that Steve Alford of New Mexico has accepted the UCLA job.)

I get it. Youth is attractive. It’s marketable. Athletic Directors are having visions of locking up a young star for decades. But the greatest catch may be too busy prepping for his next game to take their calls. Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall is already 50, and he’s taken longer to build his way up to this Elite Eight at a rather unassuming Midwestern school. But that’s exactly why Marshall may be the right guy for a power program with an image to protect.

Ever heard of Winthrop? If you’re a college basketball fan, you have, and that’s because of Marshall. He turned an invisible Big South school into a seven-time NCAA tournament bid-winner, and finally broke through with a win over Notre Dame in 2007. With Winthrop.

That was enough to get him the shot at Wichita State, when a flashier guy with more big-time contacts might have landed in a larger media market. The Shockers may have been the perfect team for Marshall, though. In taking over from Mark Turgeon – now at Maryland by way of Texas A&M – Marshall got a shot at a humble, hardworking program from a city with a chip on its shoulder. Wichita State has long chafed at the higher grade of attention paid to the state’s other DI programs – Kansas and Kansas State – and have searched for opportunities to show up their Big 12 rivals.

Well, guess who’s still dancing?

The parallel is clear. Marshall is overshadowed by his younger, more recognizable peers. Wichita State wants to be recognized as a top basketball program in its own home state, at the very least. Both have shone through to a place where all eyes are upon them, starting tonight at 7:00 pm ET.

Marshall has shown that toughness and poise can trump blue-chip flash. He has shown that he has the fortitude to roll up his sleeves and build a program that wins, no matter where he is. He did it at Winthrop, he’s done it at Wichita State, and he can do it in Los Angeles or the Twin Cities.

That is, of course, assuming he even wants to. The guy’s pretty picky about where he calls home. And he’s definitely not ready to talk about his next job when there’s still work to be done this weekend, and possibly the next.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

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Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how CBSSports.com summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told CBSSports.com Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.