Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein celebrates after defeating the Florida Gators in their South Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Arlington

John Beilein, a throwback head coach in the Final Four

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Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino are living legends.

Boeheim is a hall of famer with more than 900 wins and a career that has spanned five decades, with Final Fours coming in four of them. Rick Pitino has taken three different programs to the Final Four, he’s won a national title and he put together arguably the best college basketball team of all-time.

Then you have Gregg Marshall, a coach that built a powerhouse at Winthrop, leaving to take over at Wichita State, where he has built the Shockers into the best program in the Missouri Valley that’s not leaving for the Big East next season. Oh, and despite his success, he not leaving, either. At least not for Minnesota or UCLA or USC or any of the other high-major jobs that were available this offseason.

And through all of that, would you believe that the most interesting head coach in this Final Four is, without a doubt, John Beilein?

Think about this: he began his coaching career at Erie CC and spent four years there. Then he went to Nazareth, a D-III school, where he got his big break, or so he thought, when he was offered the head coaching job at LeMoyne, which is better known as that random D-II team that knocked off Syracuse in an exhibition game a few years back. From there, it was to Canisius and Richmond before finally landing a job at a high-major program when he was hired by West Virginia. After leading the Mountaineers to an Elite 8 and a Sweet 16, Beilein was hired to rebuild Michigan, and he’s done just that.

On Sunday, the Wolverines blew out No. 3 Florida to advance to Beilein’s first career Final Four.

The man he out-coached to get there? Billy Donovan, who has two national titles to his name. That was after Beilein beat Bill Self, another national title winner and a coaching legend in the making. Just to get to the second weekend, Beilein had to beat Shaka Smart, who got to a Final Four at the age of 33. Beilein is 60.

In fact, Beilein made it out of a region that featured 10 Final Four coaches, five of whom — Self, Donovan, Tubby Smith, Roy Williams and Steve Fisher — have won a national title.

The best part? None of it seems to affect him.

“I said yesterday in the press conference, you know, it’s great to be in the Final Four, [but] if we had never made it, it’s not the reason that I’m coaching,” Beilein said on a teleconference on Monday. “The reason we’re coaching is about the student athletes, the relationships, the overall excitement we have of seeing young men grow in every way.”

He’s always going to be the same guy, the same ol’ ball coach running the same ol’ offense and using the same ol’ push mower to cut his own grass:

The guy still cuts his own lawn, with a humble mower, 40 minutes, back and forth making sure the lines are precise.

“Yes, he mows his own lawn on a push mower,” said son Patrick, who played for his dad at West Virginia, assisted him at Michigan and is now in the family business as the head coach at West Virginia Wesleyan. Well, John cuts it, unless Patrick or one of his brothers is home to do it. The coach is still there to monitor the process, of course.

“He’ll say, ‘Patrick, look at how your lines are,’ ” the son laughed. “That’s just how he was raised. He was taught to do things by himself.”

Beilein’s a throwback.

It’s something we all should appreciate.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

BYU adds commit for 2019

Dave Rose
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BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.

Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.

“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”

Lee chose BYU over offers from  Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.

His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky