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Looking Forward: Who were the winners and the losers of the Coaching Carousel?

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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at who were the winners, the losers and the people that couldn’t move the needle during this year’s Coaching Carousel.

THESE ARE YOUR BIG WINNERS

MEMPHIS: To me, Memphis was easily the biggest winner of this year’s coaching carousel, and it’s not just because they hired Tubby Smith, which was arguably the best hire of the spring. Tubby has coached at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas Tech, and the only place that he didn’t significantly exceed expectations during his tenure was at Kentucky, where he won a national title, reached three more Elite 8s and notched five SEC titles in ten seasons. I wrote a column on it at the time. He’ll make Memphis relevant again, and not just in the AAC standings.

But the other part of it is that the Tigers got Josh Pastner’s contract off the books. Pastner was guaranteed more than $10 million over the next four years, which is too much money to just walk away from and, given the relationship between the Tiger fanbase and their former head coach, too expensive for the University to afford. When donors tighten the pursestrings and fans stop showing up to the games, it’s tough to bring in revenue. Memphis wasn’t the only winner in that deal …

JOSH PASTNER: … because Pastner needed a reboot about as badly as Memphis needed him gone. He had lost the fanbase in Memphis. They didn’t support the team, they didn’t support him and if he was going to coach for the rest of his contract, his life in town was going to be almost as miserable as his teams would be. Instead, he was given more than $1 million to go away, and by “go away” I mean become the head coach of Georgia Tech. So he got paid to leave Memphis for a program in a better conference and in Atlanta, a city that he had pulled two McDonald’s All-Americans out of. Not a bad deal.

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OKLAHOMA STATE: Like Memphis, Oklahoma State was dealing with a coach in Travis Ford that was losing games and, in the process, losing fans. What better way to invigorate a fan base than to hire a head coach that plays an entertaining style of basketball and just so happens to be coming off of a tournament run that saw him get No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin to within a miracle tip-in of the Sweet 16 in a season that capped a three-year run with three NCAA touraments, an 89-14 overall record and a staggering 59-1 league record. That’s what the Pokes got in Brad Underwood, who has Big 12 pedigree having coaching under Bob Huggins and Frank Martin at Kansas State. (More on that in a bit.)

VCU: Just one year removed from #ShakaWatch finally ending, as Smart took over at Texas for Rick Barnes, the Rams once again have one of the best up-and-coming young head coaches in the business in Will Wade. After phenomenal season winning 25 games, an Atlantic 10 regular season title and a first round game in the NCAA tournament, Wade was a favorite to replace Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt, in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Instead, he re-upped on an eight-year deal with VCU.

TEXAS TECH AND CHRIS BEARD: This was a match made in heaven. Beard, who just five years ago wasn’t even in the Division I coaching ranks, took Arkansas-Little Rock to the second round of the NCAA tournament in his first season with the Trojans and parlayed that into the UNLV job (for a week) and then the Texas Tech job. The Red Raiders lost Tubby Smith, who led them back to the NCAA tournament, but landed a guy that A) spent 10 seasons in Lubbock as an assistant coach and B) actually wants to be at Texas Tech, which he has called his dream job.

VANDERBILT: The Commodores needed to part ways with Kevin Stallings after nearly two decades. They did. And they replaced him with Bryce Drew, who had won four Horizon League regular season titles in five years, getting to the NCAA tournament twice. He was one of the hottest mid-major coaching names in recent years. There’s not much more to say than that.

JAMIE DIXON: Dixon went to 11 NCAA tournaments in 13 seasons with Pitt after taking over for Ben Howland, but in the latter years of his coaching tenure, the Panthers had plateaued. Thanks, realignment. Anyway, Dixon and Pitt needed to go their separate ways, and Dixon ended up getting the gig at his alma mater, TCU, which is a better job than people realize. Great facilities, donors with deep pockets, a highly-regarded athletic director and a spot in the middle of the fertile recruiting grounds of Dallas.

New UNLV men's basketball coach Marvin Menzies smiles during a news conference after the UNLV board of regents approved his contract, Friday, April 22, 2016 in Las Vegas. The boards voted 12-1 on Friday to approve a five-year, $3.75 million deal for Menzies. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP) LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
Marvin Menzies (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

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AND THESE ARE YOUR LOSERS

DELAWARE: It’s mid-May, nearly two months after former head coach Monte’ Ross was fired. The Blue Hens have not only not hired a replacement yet, they only last week hired the new athletic director that will be hiring said replacement. In the meantime, the program is down to just four scholarship players after their top six scorers all transferred. Good luck finding someone to take that job.

UNLV: I actually think that UNLV made a pretty good hire with Marvin Menzies. He’s a member of the Rick Pitino coaching tree that had a lot of success at New Mexico State and will come relatively cheap for a program that is more or less broke.

The problem is that their coaching search was embarrassingly public. It started with rumors that Rick Pitino was going to leave Louisville for Vegas. That didn’t happen. Then Mick Cronin deftly used the Rebels as leverage to get an extension out of Cincinnati. Chris Beard eventually took the job, but after it took more than a week for the Board of Regents to actually approve his contract, Beard ended up leaving for Texas Tech a week later. And all of that happened in a year where UNLV fired Dave Rice in January, roughly eight months after they extended him instead of looking for a replacement. And do you know who they could have hired last spring? Ben Howland.

There’s no way around it: UNLV’s search was an absolute embarrassment. It’s no wonder Menzies took over a team with just two scholarship players.

KANSAS STATE: I’m not saying that Bruce Weber deserved to be fired. He’s been to two tournament in four seasons in Manhattan. But he’s also 32-33 overall and 13-23 in the Big 12 the last two seasons. So there’s justification for a coaching change, especially when you consider that this was the year where Brad Underwood would be leaving Stephen F. Austin. Underwood is a Kansas State alum who spent six seasons as an assistant with Bobby Huggins and Frank Martin and won 89 games the last three seasons. He had all the makings of the man that would spark the resurgence of the Kansas State program.

Instead, Underwood went to Oklahoma State, a Big 12 rival. Weber is probably coaching for his job next season.

STEVE PIKIELL: I actually think Steve Pikiell is a really good coach. It took a few years, but he built Stony Brook into a mid-major powerhouse out of basically nothing. With so many key pieces graduating this year, it was his time to move on, so he took over at … Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights haven’t had a winning season since 2006 (shoutout to Quincy Douby), they haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1991 and, since their last tournament trip, they’ve finished with a .500 record in league play just twice. Never better than .500, and never better than fifth in their league standings.

And now they’re in the Big Ten, meaning that a team in a region where no one cares about college sports will be playing “local” rivals like Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue and Maryland. Good luck, Steve.

THESE HIRES? WELL … WHATEVER

STANFORD: On the one hand, the Cardinal made a needed change getting rid of Johnny Dawkins. That’s probably a good thing (more on that in a second). And they hired a guy in Jerod Haase who is from California and is a part of the North Carolina coaching tree. He spent four seasons at UAB, reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament with an upset win over No. 3 seed Iowa State in 2015 and winning the CUSA regular season title in 2016. It’s not a bad hire, but it’s hard to get overly excited about a guy that finished better than fourth place in a league like CUSA just once.

CENTRAL FLORIDA: UCF landed Johnny Dawkins, a member of Coach K’s coaching tree, after they fired Donnie Jones. But he’s also a guy that was run out of town by Stanford after eight disappointing seasons, one trip to the NCAA tournament and a pair of NIT titles. Just how invigorated can a fan base be by hiring someone else’s cast off?

PITTSBURGH: The same can be asked of Pitt. They got rid of Jamie Dixon, whose success with the Panthers had plateaued, for Kevin Stallings, who was pushed out the door by Vanderbilt because … his career had plateaued.

There’s also the issue of expectations here. Stallings has a very well-respected coach among the peers in his profession. Maybe he just needs to start over at a new school, but when Pitt fans are expecting Pitt natives Sean and Archie Miller to want to come home — and when local reporters are breaking “news” that it’s going to happen — anything less is going to be seen as a disappointment.

GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jackets ran into the exact same issue Pitt did. They fired Brian Gregory and landed Josh Pastner, who was no longer wanted at Memphis, when everyone was expecting athletic director Mike Bobinski to make a splash. He used to be the Xavier athletic director. You know who coaches at Xavier? Chris Mack! You know who else used to coach at Xavier? Sean Miller! You know who Sean Miller’s little brother is? Archie Miller!

There were all these connections, except none of them had any chance to happen. So while it feels like Georgia Tech got stuck with Pastner, in reality they picked a 38-year old that had been to four NCAA tournaments in his first five seasons as a head coach over Pat Kelsey, a former Xavier assistant that has yet to take Winthrop to a single postseason event in four seasons.

Trae Young’s turnover-plagued night costs No. 4 Oklahoma at Kansas State

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When Stephen Curry was a freshman at Davidson, in one of the first games of his college career, he turned the ball over eight times in the first half of a game at Eastern Michigan. Head coach Bob McKillop toyed with the idea of benching his star freshman, instead opting to turn him loose again in the second half.

Curry scored 13 second half points – to go along with five turnovers – and then went out and dropped 32 in his next game.

Those 15 points and 13 turnovers were his first career double-double, and I’m not sure that he’s slowed down since.

I say all that to say this: It is a minor miracle that the first time that Trae Young looked mortal came on January 16th.

No. 4 Oklahoma went into Manhattan on Tuesday night and got worked over by Kansas State. The Sooners ended up losing 87-69. They trailed by 14 points within the first 10 minutes of the game. Young finished with 20 points and six assists – numbers that would be phenomenal for literally any other point guard on the road in conference play – but he shot just 8-for-21 from the floor, finished 2-for-10 from three and turned the ball over 12 times.

12!

In a vacuum, this performance really wouldn’t be anything to worry about. Young is Oklahoma’s offense. When he has a bad game, the team is going to struggle. That’s the risk of relying this much on one player. It is that simple, and the idea that we should expect a freshman point guard to make it the entirety of conference play in a league as difficult as the Big 12 is ludicrous. He’s going to throw up a dud every now and again, and that’s what happened on Tuesday.

“I played terrible,” Young said. “I blame a lot of this loss on me.”

Where this becomes a concern for the Sooners is that the turnover problem that Young dealt with on Tuesday is not exactly an isolated incident. Young is leading the nation averaging 5.2 turnovers per game, and while that number is inflated by opportunity – Young plays in the nation’s third-fastest offense with the highest-usage rate we’ve ever seen in the KenPom era – his turnover rate of 19.2 is somewhat concerning. For comparison’s sake, Jalen Brunson’s turnover rate is 10.5. Joel Berry II’s is 11.7. Devonte’ Graham’s is 17.0.

The biggest worry is that the number keeps rising. Young has set a career-high in turnovers in each of the last two games, three of the last four games and four times total since the start of Big 12 play. There are a lot of good coaches, good teams and great point guards in the Big 12. Teams may have started to solve the riddle, which means that Lon Kruger and Young are going to have to start making some adjustments.

And that will come.

Kruger is one of the best pure basketball coaches in the business.

He’ll find an answer.

Which is why the most disappointing part about this loss is that it puts Oklahoma in a tough spot in regards to an outright Big 12 regular season title. With how strong the top of the conference is, losing games against anyone outside of the top four is a major disadvantage, and Oklahoma is now the only team amongst that group – West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas included – that has lost one.

But credit where credit is due: Bruce Weber put together a game-plan to stymie Young, got 24 points and five assists out of Barry Brown and 21 points, seven boards and seven assists out of Dean Wade.

The Wildcats kicked Sooner tail on Tuesday, and in the process, earned themselves a win that is going to carry quite a bit of weight on Selection Sunday.

Silva leads Gamecocks to 76-68 win over No. 18 Wildcats

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Kentucky coach John Calipari thought his freshmen looked like freshmen for the first time all season. South Carolina’s Chris Silva continued to look like a major force in the Southeastern Conference who led the Gamecocks’ dramatic second-half comeback against the Wildcats.

Silva tied his career high he set earlier this month with 27 points as South Carolina (12-6, 3-3 SEC) rallied from 14 points down in the second half to top No. 18 Kentucky 76-68 on Tuesday night.

Silva “was the difference,” Calipari said. “He manhandled everyone we put on him.”

It didn’t look like it would have an impact midway through the second half when Kevin Knox’s short jumper with 12:28 to go put the Wildcats ahead 54-40. But that’s when South Carolina, fueled by the powerful, 6-foot-9 Silva, got going and outscored Kentucky (14-4, 4-2) 36-14 the rest of the way to pull off the upset.

Silva had 12 points in that stretch to lift the Gamecocks.

As well as Silva played, Kentucky’s vaunted group of freshmen began trying to make the splashy, dramatic play instead of the smart one, Calipari said. As South Carolina gradually cut into the margin, the Wildcats shrunk from the challenge.

“All of a sudden, you’ve got a bunch of young guys that don’t know how to grind it,” Calipari said.

That was evident when Wesley Myers’ driving layup tied the game at 65-all and he followed that with a second straight layup for the Gamecocks’ first lead of the second half, this one ruled good when Kentucky’s Nick Richards was called for goaltending.

Maik Kotsar made four straight foul shots to give South Carolina a 71-67 lead and Kentucky could not respond.

“We weren’t listening to nothing the coaches were saying,” Knox acknowledged.

The Gamecocks broke a four-game losing streak to Kentucky, which managed just three points over the final 6 minutes.

South Carolina coach Frank Martin talked with Silva at halftime, urging him to go straight up and over Kentucky’s defenders instead of putting up shots away from the basket. “He told me to go strong and finish,” Silva said.

All the Gamecocks seemed to follow Silva’s lead.

“Our guys took ownership,” Martin said as the Gamecocks won for third time in four games after opening SEC play 0-2.

Frank Booker added 18 points for South Carolina.

Knox led Kentucky with 21 points. No other Wildcat had more than 10 points.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats had little consistency with their shooting touch. But their relentless style helped them claw back from an early 19-12 deficit to lead 37-34. The active Kentucky lineup pushed the pace and made the Gamecocks pay for putting them on the free throw line, going 17 of 22 in the first 20 minutes. Things changed down the stretch as Kentucky’s freshman-heavy team struggled to keep up with the Gamecocks. The Wildcats were just 6 of 14 from the free throw line after the break.

South Carolina: When the Gamecocks miss shots, they’re in trouble. After starting the game 7 of 9 from the field, South Carolina missed 18 of its final 21 shots of the opening half. That helped turn a seven-point lead into a 37-34 deficit at the break. Shooting woes have plagued the team much of the season. In fact, the Gamecocks shot just 27 percent from the field last time out and somehow pulled out a 64-57 victory at Georgia on Saturday. The Gamecocks shot just 37.1 percent in this win.

VANDERBILT’S DEBUT: Highly regarded 6-9 freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who was out with a left foot injury, finally saw his first action as he came in off the bench against South Carolina. And Vanderbilt was rusty after not playing this season. He missed his only attempt in the opening half and tipped in a ball for a South Carolina basket while fighting for a rebound. Vanderbilt finished with six points and five rebounds. “I thought he was pretty good first time out,” Calipari said.

KNOX’S STREAK-SAVING SHOT

The Wildcats were 1 of 11 on 3-pointers and the one made 3 by Knox ran Kentucky’s string of consecutive games with a basket from behind the arc to 1,031. Knox’s shot came with 7 minutes to go.

UP NEXT

Kentucky starts a two-game home stand against Florida on Saturday.

South Carolina faces its second straight ranked opponent in No. 21 Tennessee at home Saturday.

___

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

Tuesday’s Three Things to Know: Kentucky loses, K-State whips Oklahoma and UNC wins

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1. KENTUCKY FALLS AS JARRED VANDERBILT MAKES HIS LONG-AWAITED DEBUT

Having missed No. 18 Kentucky’s first 17 games due to a foot injury, Kentucky freshman Jarred Vanderbilt made his debut Tuesday night against South Carolina. While Vanderbilt showed some flashes of the skill that made him one of the top recruits in the 2017 class, it was clear that there’s a lot of rust to be shaken off. But the return of Vanderbilt was not enough to help Kentucky avoid defeat, as South Carolina picked up the 76-68 victory thanks in large part to Chris Silva.

Silva, who’s been thrust into a position of leadership due to how much South Carolina lost from last year’s Final Four squad, was the best player on the floor Tuesday night. Silva scored a game-high 27 points while also grabbing eight rebounds, shooting 9-for-17 from the field and 9-for-13 at the foul line. Outside of Nick Richards, who tallied 12 points and four rebounds before fouling out, Kentucky did not offer up much resistance in the paint and Silva made the Wildcats pay for it.

Add in the fact that both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (six points, six turnovers) and Hamidou Diallo (five points) struggled to get going, and the end result was the shorthanded Wildcats losing a game they led by 13 points with 13:25 remaining. In a game that lacked flow for significant stretches — the teams combined to attempt 74 free throws — Kentucky managed just four fast break points. And with the point guard play lacking sans the injured Quade Green, Kentucky couldn’t do enough offensively to close out the Gamecocks.

2. KANSAS STATE WHIPS NO. 4 OKLAHOMA

There’s no denying the fact that Oklahoma freshman point guard Trae Young is one of the nation’s best players, and an early frontrunner for national Player of the Year honors. That being said, the Sooners really need their best playmaker to get his turnover issues in check. After turning the ball over nine times in the Sooners’ overtime win over TCU on Saturday, Young racked up a stunning 12 turnovers in Oklahoma’s 87-69 loss at Kansas State Tuesday night.

Add in the fact that he shot 8-for-21 from the field in scoring his 19 points, and the end result was what is the worst night of Young’s freshman season. Give credit to Bruce Weber’s charges, especially Barry Brown Jr., for much of this as they were active defensively and got after Young all night long. Brown also scored 24 points and dished out five assists, with Dean Wade adding 21, seven boards and seven assists as Kansas State picked up its first win over a ranked team this season.

Our Rob Dauster has more on Young’s rough night here.

3. NO. 15 NORTH CAROLINA HOLDS OFF NO. 20 CLEMSON

Having never beaten North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Clemson dropped to 0-59 all-time as Cameron Johnson led five Tar Heels in double figures with 21 points. After shooting a combined 3-for-16 from three in the four games prior, Johnson was 6-for-9 from deep and 7-for-10 from the field overall. Johnson and Kenny Williams III combined to score 20 points in the first half, which helped North Carolina build a 15-point halftime lead despite Joel Berry II and Luke Maye both struggling offensively.

Berry and Maye would pick it up in the second half, which helped North Carolina hold off a Clemson team that made ten of its first 11 shots from the field. Marquise Reed tallied 21 points and Shelton Mitchell 18 for the Tigers, who shot better than 61 percent from the field in the second half. Clemson should be fine moving forward, but the big takeaway from this result is Johnson breaking out of his slump and showing just how valuable he is to North Carolina moving forward.

Cameron Johnson ending his slump is big for No. 15 North Carolina

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When it comes to the long-term hopes of No. 15 North Carolina, not only to win the ACC but to also be a national title contender, the play of veterans Joel Berry II and Luke Maye will be critical.

Rated among the best in the country at their respective positions, Berry and Maye entered Tuesday’s game against No. 20 Clemson averaging a combined 35.6 points per game.

Yet it would be two other Tar Heels, Kenny Williams III and Cameron Johnson, who combined to do the damage that dropped the visiting Tigers to 0-59 all-time in Chapel Hill. North Carolina won 87-79, holding off a Clemson squad that shot 61.3 percent from the field in the second half due in large part to the work done in the first half.

While both Maye and Berry II were kept quiet in the first half, Williams (12 points) and Johnson (eight) combined to score 20 points in the stanza. Johnson would finish the game with 21 points, the most that the Pitt transfer has scored in a North Carolina uniform, and Williams would add 15 as Roy Williams’ team moved to 4-2 in ACC play.

Berry (17 points, four assists), Theo Pinson (12 points, seven rebounds, six assists) and Maye (11 points, four rebounds, five assists) all performed better in the second half, making it possible for the Tar Heels to hang on despite being challenged by a team that made ten of its first 11 second-half shots.

Williams and Johnson have proven themselves to be capable supplementary scorers this season, with the former averaging just over 12 points per game on the season and the latter at 9.7. But in the case of Johnson, following up his 2-for-10 effort in Saturday’s win over Notre Dame by shooting 7-for-10 from the field (6-for-9 3PT) is a needed bounce-back effort.

Prior to Tuesday night, Johnson reached double figures just once in the four games prior (14 vs. Boston College) and shot a combined 3-for-16 from three. Getting Johnson back on track is a big deal for North Carolina, and if his performance against Clemson can serve as a spark that would certainly bode well for the Tar Heels moving forward.

A productive Johnson affords Roy Williams the luxury of playing a “small” lineup in which Johnson mans the four and Maye the five. This North Carolina team isn’t like past editions in the Williams era, as many of those squads possessed the ability to have two “true” big men on the court at all times. With the big men lost from last year’s national title team, it’s been Maye carrying much of the load with freshmen Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley both looking to work their way into the fold.

A consistent Johnson not only makes North Carolina better, but it’s also a necessity given the team’s available options.

As for Clemson, this game felt like one of the program’s best chances to finally pick up that elusive win in Chapel Hill. Brad Brownell’s group entered the game with a 15-2 record, and with the improvements both in the post (Elijah Thomas) and on the perimeter (Marquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell) this is a group that has some staying power.

But Reed, Mitchell and forward Donte Grantham got off to frigid starts, combining to score two points on 0-for-13 shooting from the field in the first half. Despite the first-half efforts of Thomas the hole was too deep to climb out of, with Clemson pulling to within two on multiple occasions in the second half. Reed got hot in the second stanza, finishing the game with 21 points, and Mitchell would add 18 points to the effort.

Now 1-1 halfway through an important four-game stretch — Notre Dame next, followed by a trip to Charlottesville to take on No. 2 Virginia — when it comes to their NCAA tournament seeding prospects, Clemson paid the price for its inability to knock down shots in the early going. But in their comeback, the Tigers put forth a performance along the lines of what they’ve managed to do for much of this season to date.

Unfortunately for Clemson, its supplementary scorers were unable to match the production of Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams III.

VIDEO: Kentucky coach John Calipari shows long-range skills during shootaround

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Kentucky coach John Calipari’s shooting touch is still there, even from long range.

The Hall of Famer proved that during Tuesday’s shootaround before the No. 18 Wildcats faced South Carolina in a late-evening Southeastern Conference contest. In a video posted on his official Twitter account, Calipari stepped up and drained a basket from center court to his players’ surprise.

The coach smiled as he walked off the court, showing the swagger and confidence he seeks from another young roster of freshmen and sophomores.

Then again, one key to a coach getting what he wants from players is showing them how it’s done.