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

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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

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.

Report: NCAA ‘anticipates’ hearing UNC case in mid-August

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Today, the AP churned out a story on Greg Sankey’s involvement with the NCAA’s investigation into the academic scandal at North Carolina, and buried within that story is this little nugget:

UNC must respond to the latest charges by May 16. The NCAA enforcement staff then has until July 17 for its own response. Sankey wrote that his panel will hear the case in August with “anticipated” dates of Aug. 16 and 17.

Rulings typically come weeks to months later.

We’ve been down this road before, as the current iteration of the Notice of Allegations is the third that the NCAA has provided the university. The first was given out back in May of 2015 for an investigation that began back in 2010.