Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Only on AP: Women’s hoops explores changes to NCAA tourney

Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) College women’s basketball is exploring ways to change the format of the NCAA Tournament, including moving the Final Four back a week to avoid overlap with the end of the men’s tournament.

In a survey given to the conferences and obtained by The Associated Press, the women’s basketball oversight committee laid out a few potential changes that wouldn’t take place until 2019 at the earliest. The date change would put the women’s Final Four on the same weekend as the Masters.

The committee is asking the schools and conferences for feedback on several alterations, including having the opening round at 32 sites and having the second round and regionals played at the same location. Moving the Final Four would add a bye week to the tournament schedule.

“The survey has a variety of implications,” NCAA vice president for women’s basketball Anucha Browne said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s an opportunity to see if the current format is where we should stay or look into doing something different. We want to talk to the practitioners on campus – the senior women’s associates, the coaches, we hope there is some feedback from the student athletes. Student athlete input is pretty important.”

The surveys are due on Dec. 2, and oversight committee chair Jean Lenti Ponsetto, who is the athletic director at DePaul, said that it would take a while to digest the information.

“For sure it’s going to take us a couple meetings to work through all the details without having a good idea what the results are going to look like,” she said.

Browne and Ponsetto both stressed that it would be nearly impossible for anything to change in the immediate future because regional sites and Final Four locations are already locked in through 2018, including with a new Friday-Sunday setup for the Final Four beginning in 2017.

“I think there seems to be a perspective in membership that we need to do something in women’s basketball. The championship isn’t broken and women’s basketball is in a good place,” Browne said. “We want to deliver a strong crowd and going to a Friday-Sunday format this year will be an opportunity to see how that plays out.”

Shifting the entire tournament back to avoid a bye week wasn’t discussed on the survey. That’s not a proposition that coaches would enjoy.

“I like playing the following weekend,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of the current format. “At the same time, I see what we’re trying to do. What’s best for women’s basketball for attendance? That’s my only issue with that move. It’s a big break. That would be the biggest break in the entire season, including Christmas. We don’t have a break that long at any time when the season starts up. It would be something completely different.”

Expanding to 32 teams hosting in the first round would potentially help expand the women’s basketball fan base by allowing more schools to have tournament games on campus.

“If you’re right on that bubble line, that’s a great opportunity to host games,” Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference commissioner Rich Ensor said. “That’s a good way of growing the game.”

The downside of having 32 first-round sites would be the travel cost. Those are a big reason why the women’s NCAA Tournament is operating at a deficit, according to Browne.

“It’s the highest revenue producing sport for women. If you take travel out of it, it’s doing extremely well,” Browne said.

The women’s tournament travel party, including the band and cheerleaders, is the same size as that of the men’s NCAA Tournament. The NCAA is estimating on the survey that going to 32 first-round sites and the revised regional format would increases costs between $1.2-1.4 million.

ESPN, which broadcasts the NCAA Tournament, was opposed to most of the changes in the survey because of costs and feasibility.

“Our research has shown that moving the NCAA women’s Final Four to Masters weekend would negatively impact ratings, and would cause a loss of the cross-promotional benefits of the men’s Final Four,” said Carol Stiff, ESPN’s vice president of women’s sports programming.

According to the survey, ESPN estimates that viewership could drop 30 percent if the Final Four is moved back. The network, which has been the exclusive home to the championship since 1996, also was against the idea of having 32 first-round sites.

“With the bracket being released on selection Monday, we expressed to the NCAA that it would be extremely challenging, if not impossible, for us to secure all the necessary resources in such a short time frame if the first-round games were expanded to 32 sites,” Stiff said.

Most of the ideas were originally discussed in a “White Paper” put together by Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman in 2013 on the state of women’s basketball.

Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

Leave a comment

N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

1 Comment

LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

Leave a comment

Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

Leave a comment

A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

Leave a comment

With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.