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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

Report: North Carolina won’t attend White House

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After capturing a national championship earlier this year, the North Carolina men’s basketball team will not be visiting the White House, a North Carolina spokesman said to Andrew Carter of the The Charlotte Observer.

Although the Tar Heels were invited to go to the White House from the staff of President Donald Trump, the team couldn’t figure out a date that worked.

“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” North Carolina team spokesman Steve Kirschner said to Carter. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”

According to Carter’s report, Kirschner also said that North Carolina players, “were fine with going.”

With Trump’s recent comments towards NFL players and the national anthem and his Saturday morning tweet at Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the President with regards to athletes over the past 24 hours.

Although the timing of this may seem like North Carolina is making some sort of political statement, the school is downplaying any sort of politics by focusing on the bad timing.

Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer

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Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.

“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?

Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.

Four-star 2018 forward Ian Steere decommits from Creighton

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Creighton took a big hit to its recruiting efforts late this week as Class of 2018 forward Ian Steere is decommitting from the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Steere’s decommitment was first reported by Julius Kim of Elevate Hoops.

The 6-foot-8 Steere is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals as he is coming off of a very solid spring and summer playing with Team Charlotte in the Under Armour Association. A plus athlete who isn’t afraid to bang on the interior, Steere showing an improving skill level throughout the spring and summer as he could see his recruiting soar after opening things up.

According to a report from Jon Nyatawa of the World-Herald, one of the reasons that Steere is opening up his recruitment is his desire to be closer to his native North Carolina. With so many top programs looking for quality help on the interior, it’ll be interesting to see which programs jump in and try to recruit Steere the second time around.

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.

Ohio State snags third 2018 commitment in a week with four-star guard Luther Muhammad

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Ohio State continued a strong week on the recruiting trail on Friday night by landing a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Luther Muhammad.

Regarded as a four-star prospect, the 6-foot-4 Muhammad is a tough and rugged perimeter defender who can attack the basket. Also showing some ability to play on the ball as a secondary handler, Muhammad is a very solid addition to Ohio State’s recruiting class since they need to overhaul their roster under new head coach Chris Holtmann.

Muhammad is the third player to commit to the Buckeyes in the Class of 2018 this week as he joins four-star forward Jaedon LeDee and three-star guard Duane Washington in the current Ohio State recruiting class. Since Washington is a three-point threat and Muhammad is more of an off-the-bounce specialist, the two guards are a good start for Ohio State in this class as they will likely try to find a true floor leader to play with them on the perimeter.