Aaron Gordon

Late Night Snacks: UK loses, Arizona survives, and Naadir Tharpe awakens

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 1 Arizona 72, Michigan 70

The Wildcats held off Michigan in a thriller in Ann Arbor to kick off Saturday afternoon’s action. Glenn Robinson III was dominant in the first half, scoring 16 of his 20 points, but he was shut down by Aaron Gordon in the final 20 minutes. Brandon Ashley led the way with 18 points.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 18 North Carolina held off No. 11 Kentucky 82-77, getting . It was the third win for North Carolina over the nation’s consensus top three teams in the preseason. Who saw that coming? The key for the Heels was the play of J.P. Tokoto and James Michael McAdoo, as Raphielle Johnson wrote here.

2) Naadir Tharpe finished with eight points and nine assists and Joel Embiid went off for 18 points and four blocks in one of his most impressive performances of the season as No. 13 Kansas put a thorough beating on New Mexico in the second half of an 80-63 win.

3) The biggest winner of the day may have been Notre Dame, who desperately needed the win they picked up against Indiana. The Irish have a lot of kinks they need to work out, not the least of which is Eric Atkins’ struggles. But this is a team with quite a bit of talent, one that has enough back court talent to make some noise in the ACC this season.

STARRED

1) Tekele Cotton finished with 19 points, five boards, four assists and two steals as No. 12 Wichita State beat Tennessee 70-61. One sequence where Cotton blocked a shot and finished an and-one at the other end changed the game.

2) Stephen Holt finished with 24 points and six assists to lead St. Mary’s to a win at Boise State.

3) Ryan Harrow went for 33 points as Georgia State picked up a win they badly needed over Old Dominion.

STRUGGLED

1) VCU scored just 20 first half points and shot 36.9% from the floor as they lost at Northern Iowa 77-68 on Saturday. The biggest culprit? Briante Weber, who shot 2-for-11 from the field.

2) Cincinnati got worked over by archrival Xavier despite 20 turnovers by the Muskies and just eight points and five fouls from Semaj Christon.

3) Utah beat BYU 81-64. Matt Carlino’s 3-for-15 performance without any assists wasn’t much better than the 6-for-22 that Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth combined to shoot.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith each had 18 points in a win for No. 3 Ohio State over North Dakota State.
  • No. 4 Wisconsin shot 60.5% from the field and 9-for-15 from three in a blowout win over Eastern Kentucky.
  • No. 5 Michigan State is banged up, which is why I’m not terribly concerned about their close win over Oakland on Saturday.
  • Russ Smith had 14 points and 10 assists to lead five players in double-figures as No. 6 Louisville beat Western Kentucky.
  • Le’Bryan Nash seems to be embracing his role as the No. 3 option, but he was a star on Saturday, finishing with 22 points and 10 boards in No. 7 Oklahoma State’s win over Louisiana Tech.
  • A late 11-0 run spurred No. 15 Oregon to a 71-64 win over Illinois.
  • Augustine Rubit went for 35 points, but it wasn’t enough for South Alabama to pull off the upset against No. 20 Gonzaga.
  • Cady Lalanne led five players in double-figures with 17 points in a win over Northern Illinois for No. 22 UMass.

NOTABLES

  • Jordan Adams had 18 points in a win for UCLA over Prairie View A&M.
  • Kellen Dunham stayed hot, hitting for 25 points in a win over Purdue.
  • Marshall Henderson moved into the starting lineup for Ole Miss on Saturday, finishing with 15 points (on 11 shots) and five assists without a turnover.
  • Pitt improved to 9-0 on the season with a 91-73 win over Youngstown State.
  • Richard Solomon finished with 17 points, 14 boards, three steals and two blocks in a win over Fresno State.
  • Five players scored in double-figures as Marquette put up 86 points in a win over IUPUI.
  • T.J. Warren is one of the best scorers no one is talking about. He went for 29 on Saturday.
  • Toledo is still undefeated as well, knocking off Sam Houston State.
  • Jordan Woodard scored 24 points to lead Oklahoma to a win over Tulsa and his brother, James.
  • Princeton erased an 18 point deficit in the final 6:34 of regulation to knock off Penn State in overtime.

Federico Mussini goes coast-to-coast, beats buzzer with and-1

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Chris Mullin the head coach of the St. John's Red Storm gives instructions to Federico Mussini #4 during the game against the  Xavier Musketeersat Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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St. John’s capped the first half with a 6-0 run.

Sophomore guard Federico Mussini went coast-to-coast to beat the buzzer, and draw the foul, as the Johnnies went into the break up 42-33 on city rival Fordham.

The 6-foot-4 guard had gone cold during a five-game stretch, but since Thanksgiving he’s scored in double figures in four consecutive games, including on Thursday night.

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.