USC announces first non-conference schedule of Andy Enfield era

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When USC athletic director Pat Haden made the decision to hire Andy Enfield as his new head coach there was a great deal of excitement amongst the Trojan faithful.

The program went through a tough season that included the firing of Kevin O’Neill, and the specter of hiring the man who gave birth to a brand of basketball that would earn the moniker “Dunk City” was seen as an encouraging step.

On Tuesday the school announced the first non-conference schedule of Enfield’s tenure, with games against Boston College, Long Beach State and Utah State sticking out as does an appearance in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The season opener certainly won’t be an easy one, as USC will open at new Mountain West member Utah State. Stew Morrill’s led the Aggies to at least 20 wins in every season he’s spent at the school with the exception of his first (1998-99). The Aggies finished the 2012-13 season with a record of 21-10 despite having to deal with multiple injuries throughout the course of the season.

USC’s home opener will be against Cal State Northridge, which also has a new head coach in Reggie Theus. The Matadors may have lost forward Stephan Hicks but they do have two established contributors in guard Josh Greene (14.5 ppg, 3.7 apg) and forward Stephen Maxwell (14.6, 8.3 rpg).

USC’s game against Boston College (December 8), which has the potential to be a much-improved team in the ACC, will be a homecoming of sorts for four players on the Boston College roster. Ryan Anderson, K.C. Caudill, Lonnie Jackson and Joe Rahon all hail from southern California.

According to the school there’s the potential for USC, which returns three key contributors in shooting guard J.T. Terrell, small forward Ari Stewart and center Omar Oraby, to play 11 games against teams that reached the NCAA tournament last season.

The Trojans will also incorporate four freshmen into the program, with Long Beach Poly forward Roschon Prince being one of the notable additions.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Gonzaga’s Mark Few named AP Coach of the Year

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Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has added to his program’s banner season with an individual award, being named AP Coach of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

Few led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four. The Zags enter the national semifinal with a 36-1 record. Up until Feb. 25, they were flirting with a perfect season. A loss to BYU is currently the only blemish on their season.

Few also won his 500th career game during the course of the 2016-17 season. Since 2014, two coaches from outside the major conferences have earned his honor. Gregg Marshall was named AP Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Shockers to a perfect regular season.

This was a very competitive race this season. Sean Miller lost two players expected to be key pieces this season — and had Allonzo Trier miss 19 games — but guided Arizona to the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Jay Wright led Villanova to another Big East title despite two cornerstone pieces — Ryan Arcidiancono and Daniel Ochefu — gone from last season’s national championship team. For a while, Baylor’s Scott Drew seemed to be the favorite. The Bears didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason top-25 poll but went on to earn a No. 1 ranking.

Few’s season continues on Saturday against South Carolina.

Frank Mason is named AP Player of the Year

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Kansas point guard Frank Mason III was named the AP Player of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

The senior floor general for the Jayhawks headlined the AP All-American team, which included UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Villanova Swingman Josh Hart, Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson.

Mason averaged 20.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shot 49 percent from behind the 3-point line during the 2016-17 season. He helped guide Kansas to its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

He becomes the fourth senior in a row to win the award, preceded by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminksy and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

He had previously been named player of the year by NBC Sports.

TJ Leaf declares for the 2017 NBA Draft

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UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.

This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.

The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.

CBT Fancast: Catching up with famous Final Four fans: Adam Morrison, Marcus Paige, Neil Everett

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For today’s episode, I spoke with the famous fans of the programs in the Final Four, from the greatest player in Gonzaga history to the almost-star of last year’s Final Four to the most famous dual Gonzaga and Oregon fan in the world.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game, but South Carolina head coach Frank Martin doesn’t seem too concerned.

“I’ve got a bug myself. Luckily I don’t have to play,” Martin said. “He had a little body temperature last night when we landed. And he was a little better this morning. But I kind of told our trainer, just feed him fluids, do what doctors do and let him rest rather than stress him right now. He’s our most intelligent player. And I don’t mean to say that demeaning the other guys. He understands basketball at a high, high level, he doesn’t need to be on the practice court to understand what we’re doing.”