Andy Enfield risky choice for USC, but it’s worth the gamble

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Andy Enfield got hired by USC because he won two games in the NCAA tournament as a No. 15 seed.

There’s no disputing that.

If Georgetown had beaten Florida Gulf Coast, or if Dunk City had gotten slotted in Duke’s region instead of the Hoyas, Enfield would still be at Florida Gulf Coast. No one would know just how beautiful the school’s campus is. No one would have seen how much fun Enfield’s free-wheeling, up-tempo style of basketball is. No one would care about Enfield’s past employment on Wall Street or in the NBA.

Hell, no one would even know Enfield’s name. FGCU would simply be that team where the coach married a Maxim model, and even that would have been old news by now. Three weeks is an eternity in internet time.

But this happened. And this, too. And now Enfield is heading off to LA, where he’ll be adding another digit to his salary and moving from the Atlantic Sun to the Pac-12.

So yes, Enfield got a head coaching gig in the Pac-12 because he won two games in the NCAA tournament as a No. 15 seed. But before you go crushing this hire, there are two points that need to be made:

1) Enfield isn’t just a flash in the pan. He’s been at the NBA level. He owned his own company as a shot doctor. He was a shooting coach with the Milwaukee Bucks and a member of Rick Pitino’s staff in Boston. He has NBA connections. He was also an assistant coach at Florida State, which means he’s got experience recruiting to the high-major level.

Perhaps the most important thing to note here is that FGCU became a full-fledged Division I member on August 11, 2011. Within 15 months, Enfield had beaten Miami. Within 19 months, he had not only made the NCAA tournament, but he had reached the Sweet 16. Do you realize how difficult it is to start a program at the Division I level?

2) Enfield’s brand of basketball is fun. It’s fun to watch and it’s fun to play. And when you’re competing against the Lakers, the Clippers (Lob City) and UCLA for fans — both in the seats and eyeballs on TV — in a town like LA, where sports aren’t exactly a priority, you need something that will attract fans.

And recruits. Kahlil Dukes, a USC commit from Connecticut, is excited about Enfield’s arrival. I’m sure that there are some local kids that will enjoy Enfield’s style of play, as well, particularly when you consider that Steve Alford, who is Ben Howland 2.0, is coaching across town.

Is this hire a risk?

Of course it is.

Enfield’s hasn’t proven he can have sustained success. He doesn’t have any west coast connections. He finished second in the Atlantic Sun in the regular season. The last time that a hire like this was made, Providence canned Keno Davis in three years.

But I still like the move, especially when you consider that the job had already been turned down by the likes of Josh Pastner and Jamie Dixon. USC actually interviewed Tim Floyd; it’s not like they picked Enfield over Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens.

Enfield might be gone in three years. He may never get USC into the NCAA tournament. This hire could end up being a complete bust.

Then again, how did the Kevin O’Neill era work out?

USC isn’t a basketball powerhouse. They can afford a high-upside, risky hire.

Why not swing for the fences?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 7 South Carolina upends No. 3 Baylor to advance to the Elite 8

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NEW YORK — It was with a whipping and a whimper that Baylor’s season can to an end on Friday night.

The final two minutes of the game wasn’t actually a game. No. 7 seed South Carolina dished out a 70-50 beatdown that wasn’t in doubt after the Gamecocks used an 18-0 run at the end of the first half to turn a rock fight into statement, and for the final two minutes of the game, the Gamecocks and, eventually, Baylor dribbled out the remaining seconds before joining arms at center court for a postgame prater.

It’s the third straight year that Baylor has been bounced from the NCAA tournament by a team seeded lower than them. In 2015, it was R.J. Hunter’s heroics that knocked his dad off of a stool and sent No. 14 seed Georgia State into the second round of the tournament. In 2016, the Bears fell in the first round to No. 12 seed Yale, prompting one of the most memorable press conference moments in NCAA tournament history.

And on Friday night, it was South Carolina that sent the Bears into offseason hibernation.

It was a disheartening end to a season, a loss that will surely provide fodder for the people that traffic in ‘Scott Drew can’t coach’ jokes, the irony being that the 2016-17 season was definitive proof that Scott Drew is almost certainly better at his job than you are at yours.

“When you coach for a while and you make Elite Eights and Sweet 16, you kind of start taking it for granted that you will always be successful in March,” Drew said. “But it’s a good reminder to be here and know how hard it is.”

No. 1 North Carolina handles No. 4 Butler en route to Elite Eight

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North Carolina, the top seed in the South Region, led by as many as 20 en route to a 92-80 win over No. 4 Butler in the Sweet 16 matchup on Friday night at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.

The Tar Heels were led by 26 points, off 8-of-13 shooting, from junior point guard Joel Berry II. The 6-foot floor general had been hampered by an ankle injury through the first weekend. While he still seemed to favor that same ankle at times, his play was a big improvement on his 3-of-21 shooting through the NCAA Tournament’s first two rounds. Justin Jackson nearly matched Berry’s game-high with 24 points.

Andrew Chrabascz, in the final game of his four-year career at Butler, finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

North Carolina, the last of the ACC’s nine tournament bids, advances to the Elite Eight to face the winner of No. 3 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky. The Wildcats own a win over North Carolina, defeating the Tar Heels, 103-100, on Dec. 17 behind 47 points from Malik Monk.

Missouri lands No. 1 player in Class of 2017 as Michael Porter Jr. commits

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Missouri and new head coach Cuonzo Martin have landed the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 a week after he took the job as forward Michael Porter Jr. committed to the Tigers on Friday.

Formerly a Washington commit under now-fired head coach Lorenzo Romar, the 6-foot-9 Porter was released from his Letter of Intent this week and many believed he’d end up back at Missouri.

The Porter family lived in Columbia for many years as two of Michael’s older sisters play for the Missouri women’s team while Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant coach for the women’s team.

When Porter Sr. was hired to Missouri to be an assistant coach on Martin’s staff this week — after losing his assistant coaching job at Washington when Romar was fired — it all but sealed the deal that the Porters would return to Missouri and Michael Jr. would play for the Tigers.

Missouri might not be an NCAA Tournament team next season after struggling to an 8-24 finish and 2-16 record in the SEC. But Porter might be the most productive freshman entering college basketball next season as he has a chance to be dominant in the SEC.

Oklahoma State promotes assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach

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Oklahoma State has decided to promote assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach, the school announced on Friday.

Boynton was an assistant with the Cowboys under former head coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State to take the Illinois job last weekend. Also an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, South Carolina, Wofford and Coastal Carolina, Boynton is a native of New York City who played his college ball for the Gamecocks.

The hire of Boynton is surprising since he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience as it follows in the footsteps of Cal promoting assistant coach Wyking Jones earlier in the day. Boynton also notably won the job over broadcaster and former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb as Gottlieb interviewed for the job but wasn’t selected.

 

Rhode Island junior E.C. Matthews will return to school

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Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.