Bright future evident after SMU’s blowout win over No. 7 Cincinnati

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Nick Russell finished with 15 points and Nic Moore chipped in with 14 as SMU picked up their biggest win in the Larry Brown era on Saturday night, smacking around No. 7 Cincinnati in Moody Coliseum and eventually winning 76-55.

The Mustangs held Cincinnati to 35.4% and 4-for-22 from three, which isn’t exactly a shock given how inept the Bearcats can be on the offensive end of the floor when Sean Kilpatrick is having an off-night and how improved SMU is on that end of the floor; they’re 17th in defensive efficiency this year, as opposed to 151st last season. What was surprising, however, is that SMU managed to shoot 54.3% from the field against a Bearcat D that had built a reputation as one of the toughest and most physical in the country.

It was a beatdown.

SMU was clearly the better team on this night, and it wasn’t even close.

It was the third time that SMU has beaten a ranked team on their home court, which is probably the best sign of just how far this program has come under head coach Larry Brown, who is more than a decade or two past the age where you’re still celebrating birthdays with numbers. Moody was sold out on Saturday night in a game on national television in front of a student section that could only be described as raucous.

The biggest hurdle Brown had to clear at SMU was fan apathy. He’s done that, fielding a team full of transfers that will likely see their first national ranking in almost three full decades on Monday morning.

Here’s the crazier part, however: this was supposed to be the year before the year. Next season, SMU has the nation’s top point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, coming into the program to join a team that will basically bring everyone back next year. Keith Frazier, the all-american wing that Brown brought in from the Class of 2013, still hasn’t reached his potential.

Most importantly, SMU had their biggest win in decades in their best performance of the season in front of a terrific college basketball environment all while a ridiculous amount of local high school talent was in attendance: Elijah Thomas (No. 9 2015), Jawun Evans (No. 59 2015), Matt McQuaid (No. 58 2015), Austin Grandstaff (No. 32 2015), King McClure (No. 14 2015), Admon Gilder (No. 123 2015), Terrance Ferguson (No. 10 2016), P.J. Washington (2017).

The state of Texas has as much hoops talent as anywhere in the country right now, and those players have to go somewhere. Rick Barnes of Texas hasn’t seemed to care about recruiting in recent summers. Scott Drew has brought in some talent to Baylor, but his teams — and players — always seem to underachieve. Texas A&M isn’t relevant right now. Neither is Texas Tech and Houston.

That leaves SMU.

Where a hall of fame coach with impressive NBA credentials is already winning games and already has a McDonald’s all-american this season with another on the way.

Who knows how long Brown’s coaching career actually lasts, and speculating about a group of uncommitted high school juniors would be getting way — WAY — ahead of myself.

But right now, the pieces are in place for Brown to turn SMU into a powerhouse in the AAC.

I guess that was a pretty good hire after all.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game.

Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen to declare for NBA Draft

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Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen will announce today that he is declaring for the NBA Draft and signing with an agent, according to multiple reports.

The program is holding a press conference for Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.

Markkanen is a 7-footer from Finland that averaged 15.6 points this season while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc. He’s projected as a top ten pick, and his size and versatility should make him a valuable piece given the way that the NBA is trending.

There is very little surprise with this decision. The expectation always was that Markkanen would be gone after one season.

The news was first reported by Scout.com.

Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller at Dayton

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Dayton has hired Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller as head coach, the program announced on Thursday.

“Anthony Grant is a proven winner with the highest integrity,” Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “He has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level. I welcome Anthony to our staff and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to aggressively pursue graduating student-athletes, winning conference championships and advancing in the NCAA tournament. He is absolutely the right coach.”

Grant is a Dayton alum. He spent 12 years as Billy Donovan’s assistant coach before finally landing a head coaching gig at VCU. After three seasons with the Rams, he took over at Alabama, where he was fired in 2015.

Grant has spent the last two years with Donovan as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I am honored and humbled to be the head coach at the University of Dayton,” Grant said. “It’s a great responsibility to take over at an institution that is so well-respected. Anyone you talk to in college basketball would say our program is a successful one, but the potential is here for so much more.”

North Carolina ‘repeals’ HB2 to satisfy NCAA, anti-LGBTQ discrimination remains legal

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Late on Wednesday night, literally hours before an NCAA-imposed deadline that would have prevented the state of North Carolina from hosting any and all NCAA tournament events until at least 2022, the lawmakers in the state announced that they have reached an agreement to repeal House Bill 2, a discriminatory law that is commonly known as the bathroom bill.

The question now is whether or not this repeal will be enough to satisfy the NCAA, who was one of a handful of businesses that pulled out of the state due to HB2. According to the AP, more than $3.7 billion in revenue will be lost over the next decade as a result.

The issue with HB2 isn’t just that it makes it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. That gets the headlines, but the real damage done by this law is that it curbs legal protections for the LGBTQ community by banning local governments from passing laws to make discrimination illegal for at least three years.

From the New York Times:

Gay rights advocates were harshly critical of the bill. Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said that the compromise would leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with no statewide anti-discrimination ordinance and no ability to seek such protections from local government for a number of years.

“What that means for the L.G.B.T. community is that we continue to be boxed out of nondiscrimination protections,” she said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of the gay rights group Equality North Carolina, said that the proposal “keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law.”

From the Charlotte Observer:

“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”

The NCAA had pulled first and second round games from Greensboro for this year’s tournament, instead allowing Greenville, South Carolina, to host the games. That’s significant because the NCAA, in 2002, pulled all events from that state because they flew the confederate flag on the statehouse grounds. The flag came down in 2015, and the NCAA rewarded the state with games; it’s hard not to see that as a statement to North Carolina.

In this year’s tournament, No. 2 seed Duke lost a game to No. 7 seed South Carolina in a game that was played in South Carolina instead of in North Carolina. The location wasn’t the only reason Duke lost that game, but you’ll have trouble convincing me that quasi-home court environment didn’t play a role.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.