Spencer Dinwiddie, Cory Jefferson

Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: Solid slate for College Hoops’ Opening NIght

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Colorado vs. No. 25 Baylor, 10:00 p.m. (FOX Sports SW)

The nightcap of the Tip-Off Classic at the American Airlines Center in Dallas should end up being the best game of college basketball’s opening night, and while that doesn’t sound like much — the No. 25 team in the country against an unranked team? What? — remember this: people are stupid for not ranking Colorado. Because they at, at worst, the third best team in a very good Pac-12. And Baylor? They’re the third-best team in the Big 12, trailing only two top ten programs.

The Bears have a loaded front line with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, which will give Colorado’s sophomore duo of Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson all they can handle. What will be interesting, however, will be to see how the Bears new point guard Kenny Chery, a promising JuCo transfer, handles being guarded by Spencer Dinwiddie. Stay up for this one. It’ll be worth it.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 19 Oregon vs. Georgetown, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

Yeah, this game lost some of its luster when Dominic Artis and Ben Carter went and got themselves suspended, but that doesn’t change the intrigue in this matchup. Oregon is a Pac-12 contender when they’re at full strength, and even with the suspensions, we’ll be getting our first look at Mike Moser and Joseph Young in green and yellow. The Hoyas have their own story line, as the always-out-of-shape Josh Smith looks to resurrect his career under John Thompson III.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Oakland at No. 12 North Carolina, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

I’m on record saying that I remain unconvinced of the Tar Heels being a top 15 team this season. I don’t think they have enough point guard play and I don’t trust their big men. They’ll also be without P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. Oakland isn’t exactly a powerhouse mid-major program this season, but they do have a young man by the name of Travis Bader who is on the brink of breaking J.J. Redick’s career three-point mark. Both of these teams LOVE to run the floor, which means that you need to hammer the over. Hammer it. And thank me later.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Louisiana Tech at St. Mary’s, 11:30 p.m.

Randy Bennett seems to lose a superstar every year, and the Gaels never miss a beat. So I’m probably not as concerned about the loss of Matthew Dellavedova as I should be. Stephen Holt will get first crack at point guard duties, and his matchup won’t be easy. Louisiana Tech is a pressing team, spending 40 minutes dogging opposing ball-handlers for 94 feet. Think VCU. Good luck, Stephen.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) No. 3 Louisville is the only top ten team that doesn’t take the court tonight. No. 4 Duke hosting Davidson (7:00 p.m., ESPNU) is probably the only team at risk of getting upset.

2) Maryland and No. 18 UConn square off at 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2) at the Barclays Center on Friday night. The Terps will be without starting point guard Seth Allen, but that may be an advantage. UConn’s one of the smallest teams in the country, with little talent up front and diminutive guards in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Maryland will be bigger and more physical at every position.

3) In the most intriguing clash of styles on opening night, St. John’s will take on No. 20 Wisconsin (Big Ten, 7:00 p.m.) in South Dakota. The Johnnies have a ton of talent and athleticism and some very good guards, but they are young and, frankly, it will be interesting to see if Steve Lavin can coach them. Bo Ryan’s club is typical Wisconsin with one notable exception: Sam Dekker is an all-american caliber talent.

Worth noting: the nightcap on the Big Ten Network will be Florida-Gulf Coast (#DunkCity!!!) tripping to Nebraska to open the Huskers new arena.

4) Two intriguing local battles: At 6:00 p.m., Providence and Boston College square off in a battle of two New England programs looking to make a push for the NCAA tournament. Weber State and BYU square off at 9:05 p.m. (BYUtv). Weber State is the favorite in the Big Sky, sending Davion Berry to matchup with scoring machine Tyler Haws.

5) Belmont visits Lipscomb in the Battle of the Boulevard at 7:00 p.m. Casey Alexander spent two decades as a player and coach at Belmont, Lipscomb’s hated rival. This is the first time he’ll be coaching against former mentor Rick Byrd.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • UNC-Asheville at No. 1 Kentucky, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • McNeese State at No. 2 Michigan State, 7:00 p.m.
  • UL Monroe at No. 5 Kansas, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Cal Poly at No. 6 Arizona, 10:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • UMass Lowell at No. 7 Michigan, 7:00 p.m.
  • Cornell at No. 8 Syracuse, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Mississippi Valley State at No. 8 Oklahoma State, 8:00 p.m.
  • North Florida at No. 10 Florida, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Illinois State at No. 14 VCU, 7:00 p.m.
  • Southern at No. 17 Marquette, 8:00 p.m.
  • Miami (OH) at No. 21 Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Drexel at No. 22 UCLA, 12:00 a.m. (Pac-12)
  • James Madison at No. 24 Virginia, 7:00 p.m.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Alabama vs. Oklahoma, 5:00 p.m. (FOX Sports SW)
  • TCU vs. SMU, 7:30 p.m. (FOX Sports SW)
  • Mercer at Texas, 8:00 p.m. (Longhorn Network)
  • Buffalo at Texas A&M, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

Washington State coach begins game on opponent’s bench

Ernie Kent
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In September, during the Coaches vs. Cancer Gala in Spokane, Washington, there was a live auction, which included the chance to be Idaho’s honorary coach for a regular season during the 2016-17 season.

Washington State head coach Ernie Kent’s $2,000 bid more than tripled the next highest bid, according to the Spokesman Review.

On Wednesday night, during Washington State’s game against the Vandals, Kent sat next to his counterpart on the Idaho bench.

Kent returned to his side of the court following the game’s first possession.

Behind 16 points from Ike Iiroegbu, the Cougars defeated the Vandals, 61-48.

 

Given Washington’s struggles, just how hot is Lorenzo Romar’s seat?

Lorenzo Romar
AP Photo/Stephen Brashear
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We tried to warn you what was coming on Wednesday night.

We tried to tell you just how bad things were for Washington right now, that, according to a coach that had faced the Huskies this season, “they were so ******* bad defensively” that “they looked like they hadn’t been coached.”

That’s not a good look for anyone, let alone a head coach that has missed the NCAA tournament the last five seasons despite having five first round picks come through his program during that time.

Which is why you shouldn’t have been surprised that the Huskies were gutted by No. 8 Gonzaga, losing 98-71 in a game that was never competitive at any point. And, given that Markelle Fultz, the potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, is on the Washington roster, it’s the nightmare scenario.

So.

We need to start talking about the elephant in the room, because there’s a lot to unpack here:

Just how hot is Lorenzo Romar’s seat?

RELATED: What has gone wrong with Washington this season?

The simple answer? Scalding. Romar is one of just three Power 5 head coaches that have missed the NCAA tournament for five straight seasons without having to find new employment. You don’t get six tournament-less years and survive, not at this level.

But there’s more to the conversation that simply relaying the number of first round picks he’s failed to get to the Big Dance.

Four of those five first round picks played in two different seasons, meaning that in the other three seasons, Washington was led by C.J. Wilcox, the No. 28 pick in 2014, and Nigel Williams-Goss. In 2011-12, Washington had Terrence Ross, then a sophomore, and freshman Tony Wroten on the roster. They started slowly out of the gate, going 7-6 in non-conference play, before winning the Pac-12 regular season title outright. They missed out on the NCAA tournament in large part due to the fact that the conference as a whole went 1-29 against the RPI top 50; only two Pac-12 teams earned bids that season. Ross and Wroten both left after the season.

The other year that Washington had two first round picks was in 2015-16, which both Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray shocked everyone by becoming one-and-done talents. Both were drafted almost entirely on potential; Chriss was clueless defensively, fouling out of 15 of the 34 games he played, while Murray’s jumper left him a long way away from impacting an NBA game. The conversation about this Washington team would be totally different right now if Fultz had those two on the floor with him.

Part of the reason those two were able to leave early was because of Romar’s coaching style – he lets his most talented players play regardless of whether or not they’re making mistakes – and in part because the 2016 draft was bad.

Romar is, in part, a victim of circumstance, even if he dug himself into this whole in the first place.

RELATED: For Michael Porter Jr., Washington was all about family first

Washington is still paying Romar a relatively small amount. After the 2010 season, when he led the Huskies to his third Sweet 16, Romar got a 10-year contract extension worth $1.7 million annually. It runs three more years after this season and comes with a $3.2 million buyout, which isn’t massive but is expensive for an athletic department that projected to operate at a $15 million deficit in 2016. Then you have to consider what it would cost to hire an upgrade on Romar.

For comparison’s sake, Tubby Smith made $1.8 million in 2015-16 at Texas Tech and got a raise to more than $3 million-a-year for the next five years at Memphis despite the fact that he wasn’t the guy the school initially targeted. But Brad Underwood will make $1.2 million a year for five years at Oklahoma State, which makes him the lowest-paid coach in the conference.

If new Washington AD Jennifer Cohen wants to hire a new coach, she’d certainly be able to afford a replacement that we be, at the least, a respectable name, but there’s no guarantee that a replacement is going to have any kind of success there. Romar is far and away the most successful coach Washington has ever had. He’s been to six NCAA tournament and three Sweet 16s in his 15 seasons. The Huskies reached the Final Four in 1953, and in the nearly 50 years between that day and the day that Romar was hired, Washington reached just six NCAA tournaments and two Sweet 16s.

Romar is not having the same level of success that he had when guys like Brandon Roy and Isaiah Thomas were on his roster, but Washington is still somewhat relevant due to the pros that are coming through Seattle. There’s no guarantee that any replacement will make Washington more likely to get to the NCAA tournament, but at least Husky fans get Markelle Fultz this season and Michael Porter Jr., a top five prospect and the son of current U-Dub assistant coach Michael Porter Sr., next season.

That’s certainly more enjoyable than rooting for, say, Washington State.

And it’s certainly a factor that Cohen has to consider. Porter clearly picked Washington because Romar, his godfather, is part of the family.

“As we continue to look where we’re going and where we think we can go and what our plan is, then I’ll have more information about it,” Cohen said at her introductory press conference. “But absolutely, I’m 100 percent behind him right now.”

And if Washington can’t get back to the Big Dance?

“We haven’t gotten to that point yet,” she said. “So we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

CBT Podcast: ESPN’s Dana O’Neil discusses her book about Villanova

Villanova head coach Jay Wright celebrates as he cuts down the net after the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game against North Carolina, Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. Villanova won 77-74. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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On today’s podcast, I was joined by ESPN’s Dana O’Neil, one of my personal favorite writers who has penned a book chronicling how Jay Wright was able to build the Villanova program into a national title winner.

Dana spent seven years as a beat-writer for the Wildcats before making the move to ESPN, and she has some great stories about how the book came together and, frankly, how that Villanova team came together.

It’s a little “Inside Baseball”, but it was a fun conversation about a book that you know is going to be really good.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

VIDEO: World War II Veteran play anthem on harmonica before Pearl Harbor Invitational

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Peter DuPre’, a veteran of World War II, opened last night’s Pearl Harbor Invitational between Seton Hall and California with a moving rendition of the National Anthem, which he played on his harmonica.

Amaker becomes winningest coach at Harvard after 74-66 win.

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tommy Amaker talks to Siyani Chambers #1 of the Harvard Crimson in the first half against the Michigan State Spartans during the Third Round of the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 22, 2014 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
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BOSTON (AP) Harvard’s Tommy Amaker still feels the influence that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski provided. It’s helped lead him through a successful coaching career.

Amaker became the winningest coach in Harvard history on Wednesday night when Chris Lewis scored a season-high 22 points and Seth Towns had 18 to lead the Crimson to a 74-66 road victory over local rival Boston College.

It was Amaker’s 179th win in his 10th season, moving him ahead of his predecessor, Frank Sullivan (178-245), who was the coach from 1991-2007.

“I’ll communicate with coach for sure,” Amaker said. “He has so many different guys that he likes to keep track of. I don’t want to be a burden in any way, but obviously his influence has been paramount. It’s been as big as it comes for me.

“I’ve always thought of him as an amazing teacher, leader. I’ve always tried emulate some of the things he’s taught through the years.”

A star guard with the Blue Devils from 1983-87, the 52-year-old Amaker felt he could take Harvard to a successful level that’s led to five Ivy League titles in the past six seasons.

“We always thought if we could build our basketball program to go along with the things that happen at Harvard, we would feel good about ourselves, and we’ve done that,” he said.

It was the third straight victory for Harvard (4-4).

Jerome Robinson led Boston College (4-4) with 25 points. A.J. Turner scored 13.

The Crimson looked dedicated to driving to the basket on most possessions from the start, collecting a number of easy looks when they shot near 60 percent in the opening minutes. It triggered a 13-2 spree that helped them open a 23-10 lead.

“The last couple of games I was encouraged of what we were doing defensively, but we took a step back,” BC coach Jim Christian said. “We’d played seven games. These guys have played a lot of minutes – bad defense is bad defense.”

The Crimson pushed their advantage to 39-21 after Bryce Aiken’s driving basket capped a 6-0 spurt.

The Eagles trailed by 19 points with just under 10 minutes to play, but made a late charge, closing the deficit to 69-60 on Robinson’s 3-pointer from the left corner.

Both teams then went nearly three minutes without a basket before Harvard closed it out.

BIG PICTURE

Harvard: The Crimson seemed to have figured out what type of team they have become after opening the season 1-3. They showed balance in a two-night span when they beat Northeastern on Tuesday and Boston College. On Tuesday, they scored only 18 points in the paint and they had 20 at halftime against the Eagles, finishing with 34.

“We’re constantly trying to preach that we set the tone and be the aggressor early,” Amaker said. “I just thought they responded very well and made the necessary plays.”

Boston College: The Eagles need to find some more consistent scoring to go along with Robinson. The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard entered the game second in the Atlantic Coast Conference, averaging 20.1 per game.

REFLECTION

“I’m very proud of that,” Amaker said of the milestone. “I’m proud of our program and our team.”

PERFECT TEST

The Crimson looked at playing consecutive nights as a warm up to how things will be in conference play, when schools mostly compete on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We approached these two back-to-back games how we’d see Ivy League play,” said point guard Siyani Chambers, who had 11 assists. “We’re trying to figure out who we are.”

SERIES

BC leads the all-time series 34-16 and had won the last two meetings after losing six straight.

The two schools first met in the 1905-06 season when Harvard won 42-6.

UP NEXT

Harvard: At Houston of the American Athletic Conference on Friday.

Boston College: Hosts Hartford from the America East Conference Friday.