Russell Turner, Will Davis II

UC Irvine, head coach Russell Turner agree to five-year extension

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After making their first Big West tournament final appearance since 2008 this past spring, the UC Irvine Anteaters enter the 2013-14 season as the preseason favorite to win the conference and make their first NCAA tournament appearance as a Division I member. Armed with key returnees such as forward Will Davis II and guard Alex Young and a talented crop of newcomers, head coach Russell Turner has the pieces needed to make good on the preseason attention.

On Thursday the school signed Turner to a five-year contract extension through the 2017-18 season.

“I am pleased with the direction of our men’s basketball program under the leadership of Coach Turner,” Athletic Director Michael Izzi said in the relase. “Russell and his staff have recruited quality student-athletes who are outstanding representatives of the university.

“They have generated a great deal of interest and excitement for our program on campus and in the community.”

In addition to that title game appearance the Anteaters picked up the program’s first postseason tournament victory in nearly three decades, as they beat High Point in the first round of the Tournament. UC Irvine enters the 2013-14 season as arguably the nation’s biggest team, with three players being at least seven feet tall and freshman Mamadou Ndiaye being 7-foot-6.

And in freshman guard Luke Nelson the Anteaters add an experienced guard with international experience, as he averaged 19 points per game for England’s Under-18 team at this summer’s U-18 European Championships. With the amount of talent on campus fans are hopeful that Turner and company can reach the Big Dance.

“I’m incredibly appreciative, along with my family, for the commitment that Mike Izzi, Chancellor Drake and many others have made to our program, staff and team. We’re excited for the start of the season, the program’s future and the possibilities that we can have together.”

UC Irvine opens the regular season at home on Friday night against Fresno State, and with games against Washington, California, Oregon and Arizona State they’ll have some opportunities to boost their regional/national profile before starting Big West play in January.

PHOTO: Ohio State’s new LeBron James shoe display

during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.
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Ohio State has capitalized on its close relationship with NBA superstar LeBron James over the years and now has a new shoe display that should come in handy during recruiting.

The Buckeyes put out a tweet late this week with the display, calling themselves “THE LeBron school.” While this is something small, recruits like that the Buckeyes are tied into the best player in the world and it’s cool to them that Ohio State gets some exclusive gear.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.