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Introducing Cinderella: The Iona Gaels are headed to the NCAA tournament

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Conference: Metro Atlantic Athletic

Coach: Tim Cluess

Record: 22-12 (12-8 T-3)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 119
RPI: 100
AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: With an RPI hovering around the triple-digits, look for the Gaels to be seeded 14th or 15th.

Names you need to know: Jordan Washington has helped fill the void left play star A.J. English, by putting up 17.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He’s shooting better than 50 percent from the field and gets to the line a ton. Jon Severe is the Gaels’ sharpshooter, converting 43.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Sam Cassell, Jr. and Rickey McGill are both double-figure scorers.

Stats you need to know: Few teams center their offense around a player like Iona does around Washington. He’s scored more than a fifth of the team’s overall points and shoots 36.1 percent of the team’s shots when he’s on the floor, which ranks fifth in the country, per KenPom.

Big wins, bad losses: The Gaels bested Nevada on a neutral in November, but were bested by Delaware, Fairfield, Quinnipiac and Rider, who all are slotted outside the KenPom 200.

How’d they get here?: Iona rolled Rider in its first postseason game and then outlasted Saint Peter’s in the semis. The Gaels avoided MAAC top seed Monmouth after the Hawks lost to four-seed Siena. The title game was a classic with both Iona and Siena trading big shot after big shot before the Gaels came out on top in overtime, 87-86.

Outlook: This Gaels team doesn’t feel as dangerous as last year’s team that was a trendy upset pick that ultimately couldn’t escape the first round, but they do have a go-to player in Washington and a supporting cast capable of getting buckets. It’s hard to escape the 14 or 15 line, but Iona’s got some chops and Tim Cluess is coaching in his fourth NCAA tournament.

How do I know you?: The Gales were the team last year that denied the Monmouth bench mob from an NCAA tournament experience, besting the Hawks, 79-76, to earn their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2013.

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.