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Mid-majors ready to crash the dance

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Beginning in September and running up until November 10th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 college hoops preview package.

It’s Ali Farokhmanesh.

It’s Dunk City.

It’s George Mason, Bryce Drew, Butler and Wichita State.

The NCAA tournament’s popularity and icon status is due in no small part to the success of the little guy.

The upsets and the stories that accompany them are what makes March magical.

Here are who you should expect to hear from, likely in dramatic fashion, in four months.

Jock Landale (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

1. St. Mary’s: As described elsewhere, for our purposes, we’re going to classify Randy Bennett’s Gaels as a mid-major. Whatever your thoughts on that, they’ve got a chance to have a breakthrough season this year. And more importantly than that, they have a team built for March.They’re experienced, with nearly everyone back from last year’s 29-win team while also adding fifth-year senior graduate transfer Cullen Neal. They shoot the heck out of the ball, having made nearly 40 percent of their 3s last year. Lastly, they have a game-changing talent in Jock Landale, one of the most productive and efficient offensive players in the country. It’s a profile that will not only rack up a ton of regular season wins, but one that can bulldoze its way to San Antonio.

2. Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies have experience and talent. They’ve got four starters back, headlined by Martez Walker and Jalen Hayes. Plus, Greg Kampe’s squad will be adding Kendrick Nunn, who averaged double figures in back-to-back seasons at Illinois before being dismissed from the team after a domestic violence arrest. Oakland should be plenty motivated after getting knocked out of the Horizon League tournament in their first game last season when they were riding a nine-game winning streak. Shooting could be an issue for Oakland, but the Grizzlies have the pieces to be dangerous to any high-major opponents that may come their way this spring.

3. Yale: After ending a 54-year NCAA tournament drought in 2016, the Bulldogs appeared as though they may go in back-to-back years, but a broken foot cost Ivy League player of the year Makai Mason the season and Yale it’s best chance at returning to the Big Dance. Mason is back, joining last year’s leading scorers Alex Copeland Miye Oni and making Yale a threat as a veteran team. Defending will likely be their biggest issue as the Bulldogs experienced major slippage on that end of the floor last year after being one of the better defenses in the country in their NCAA tournament season.

4. College of Charleston: The Cougars have been on a serious upward trajectory in the first three years of Earl Grant’s tenure and look poised to make another leap – into the NCAA tournament – in Year 4. Offense was a struggle at times last year for Charleston, but getting all its leading scorers back should help in that department. Defensively, the Cougars are constricting, both in terms of slowing the pace and offenses. Offense is a chore against them.

5. Vermont: The Catamounts bring four starters back from a team that went undefeated in the American East and gave Purdue problems in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Trae Bell-Haynes is the reigning conference player of the year and Anthony Lamb is going to be a real problem for teams after a freshman year in which he up 13 and 6 while shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. Vermont is balanced, talented and proven winners. That’s a recipe for March success.


1. UT-Arlington
2. Florida Gulf Coast
3. Grand Canyon
4. Belmont
5. Missouri State

VIDEOS: Villanova team bus stuck on icy roads trying to leave campus

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Villanova’s road to the Sweet 16 hit its roughest patch yet on Wednesday as the team attempted to leave campus for the team’s flight to Boston.

Since the Philadelphia area has been slammed with a snowstorm, the Wildcat team bus had issues leaving to get to the team’s chartered flight.

A struggle between team bus and ice ensued. The bus was delayed by 30 minutes before finally being able to leave.

Villanova continues its NCAA tournament journey on Friday when the No. 1 seed Wildcats play No. 5 seed West Virginia in Boston.

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.

Kansas State’s injured star hoping to play Thursday

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One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.

Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.

“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”

Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.

“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”

Arizona’s Sean Miller: ‘I am not a candidate’ at Pitt

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With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.

“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.

Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.

Maybe he wasn’t.

Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.

And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.

As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.