For the fourth-ranked Wichita State Shockers, Saturday’s game against Evansville represented a stiffer test than some may have realized. Marty Simmons’ Purple Aces beat the Shockers twice last season, and despite the graduation of Colt Ryan (he scored 29 in the win at Wichita State) Evansville had another capable scoring guard in D.J. Balentine.
Balentine had it rolling early and so did his teammates, as Evansville made its first eight shots from the field and led by 15 points (29-14) with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half. The Purple Aces were finding their desired spots offensively, with Balentine scoring 13 of those 29 points, and Wichita State didn’t defend at the level we’ve come to expect from them either.
That changed however, with Gregg Marshall’s Shockers ramping up the defensive intensity and forcing multiple turnovers to turn that 15-point deficit into a six-point lead at the intermission. And in the second half Wichita State kept its foot on the gas, leading by as many as 19 points before winning 81-67. The Shockers were balanced offensively, with Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet scoring 14 points apiece and Cleanthony Early (13 points) and Tekele Cotton (12) reaching double figures as well.
But the story from this one was Wichita State’s defense, with the Shockers displaying both ends of the spectrum on Saturday afternoon. When they’re struggling defensively, and this would be the case with many teams across the country, Wichita State looks vulnerable. But when they’re at their best defensively, attacking teams and “playing angry,” scoring points on Wichita State becomes an incredibly difficult task. After their hot start Evansville would finish the first half with ten turnovers, and Wichita State scored nine points off of those mistakes.
Now Wichita State hits the road for arguably their two toughest Missouri Valley Conference games, as they’ll face Indiana State and Northern Iowa over the next week. And if Wichita State is to take care of business they’re going to need to be consistent defensively. Do that, and regardless of what outsiders may think of their schedule the Shockers have the potential to be a special team.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.