Rebounding proves critical in Southern Miss’ win over Louisiana Tech

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Thanks to conference realignment Conference USA has undergone a shift in identity on the basketball court. Gone are the days of Memphis dominating the league, and they’ve been replaced by a number of teams fighting to establish themselves as the “top dog” in the reconfigured Conference USA. Two of those teams, Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss, met in Hattiesburg on Sunday afternoon with the Bulldogs aiming to remain undefeated in conference play.

Michael White’s Bulldogs were playing their third game without the services of leading scorer Raheem Appleby, who’s expected to miss anywhere from six to eight weeks after suffering ligament damage in his left ankle. After picking up convincing wins over FIU and Tulane, Southern Miss represented Louisiana’s stiffest test to date in conference play.

And thanks in large part to the efforts of Michael Craig and Daveon Boardingham, Donnie Tyndall’s Golden Eagles were able to hand Louisiana Tech it’s first conference loss despite shooting 2-for-18 from beyond the arc as a team and Jerrold Brooks shooting 2-for-15 from the field..

Craig and Boardingham combined for 37 points (Boardingham- 20) and 18 rebounds (Craig- 12) to lead Southern Miss to the 80-71 victory, with the Golden Eagles’ work on the offensive glass and at the foul line making the difference. Southern Miss, who entered the game ranked 12th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, managed to rebound 47.5% of its misses and convert those opportunities into 22 second-chance points.

Louisiana Tech was unable to keep Southern Miss off of the glass, with Boardingham (six offensive rebounds), Craig (four) and Aaron Brown (three) combining for 13 of the Golden Eagles’ 19 offensive rebounds.

Also of note was Southern Miss’ ability to get to the foul line, as they outscored Louisiana Tech by 14 points (28-14) in this area. Boardingham and Neil Watson made eight free throws apiece, and with the Golden Eagles scoring nearly 29% of their points from the foul line per (sixth nationally) it comes as no surprise that they were able to take advantage of that aspect of the game.

Louisiana Tech didn’t execute as well as they would have liked offensively, but this balanced group finished the game with four scorers in double figures (Alex Hamilton led the way with 19) and shot 45% from the field without their best scorer. The Bulldogs’ problem on Sunday afternoon was their inability to keep Boardingham and Craig off the glass, and those extra opportunities proved to be the deciding factor.

Sunday’s outcome was simply the latest example of the fact that there isn’t much separating the top teams in Conference USA, with one undefeated team (3-0 Old Dominion) followed by six teams with one loss apiece. And in this new era of Conference USA basketball that lack of separation will likely become the norm, with the “little things” ultimately determining the champion.

CBT Podcast: 2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview, Picks and Predictions

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Sam Vecenie of the Athletic and the Game Theory podcast stopped by to chat with Rob Dauster about the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. The two went through each of the eight Sweet 16 matchups, detailing how each one of those eight games projects to play out and going over which lines — spread and over-unders — they like.

Dan Hurley will accept UConn head coaching position

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Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley will be the next head coach at UConn, replacing the 2014 national title winner, Kevin Ollie.

Hurley will be signing a six-year deal, according to multiple reports, that could be valued as much as $18 million. Hurley picked UConn over Pitt, who had also offered him a similar amount of money.

Hurley turned the Rhode Island program around during his six-year tenure, capped off with a pair of seasons where the Rams won a game in the NCAA tournament. UConn, which is one of the best jobs but has not been one of the best teams in the AAC in recent years, should be a place where he can continue to recruit talent. Under Ollie, the Huskies have been able to get players. The issue has been the performance and development of those players once they get to campus.

The Huskies finished 14-18 this past season.

Dan Hurley is the son of New Jersey high school coaching legend Bob Hurley and the brother of former Duke guard and current Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley.

VIDEOS: Villanova team bus stuck on icy roads trying to leave campus

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Villanova’s road to the Sweet 16 hit its roughest patch yet on Wednesday as the team attempted to leave campus for the team’s flight to Boston.

Since the Philadelphia area has been slammed with a snowstorm, the Wildcat team bus had issues leaving to get to the team’s chartered flight.

A struggle between team bus and ice ensued. The bus was delayed by 30 minutes before finally being able to leave.

Villanova continues its NCAA tournament journey on Friday when the No. 1 seed Wildcats play No. 5 seed West Virginia in Boston.

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.