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Washington hands No. 2 Kansas its first loss


Whatever else Mike Hopkins picked up after over 20 years under Jim Boeheim, the man learned how to play a zone.

The former Syracuse coach-in-waiting guided Washington to executing the zone defense to stifle, discombobulate and generally flummox second-ranked and heretofore undefeated Kansas in a 74-65 win over the Jayhawks in Kansas City.

It really was an impressive sight to see Washington’s rather bold gameplan be played to near perfection and for Kansas to seem so utterly unable to deal with a zone that was giving them free reign inside but chasing them off the 3-point arc.

The Jayhawks’ flagrant weakness right now with Billy Preston sidelined and Silvio De Sousa not yet in Lawrence is the interior play. Udoka Azubuike is a legit five-man, but in the old-school mode that needs a dynamic passer or floor-spacer next to him in the frontcourt.

Against the Huskies’ zone, it was 6-foot-5 LaGerald Vick manning the high post.

It was a relatively high-risk play by Hopkins and Washington as Vick has playmaking ability and heaps of athleticism. It worked for Washington, though, because Vick looked completely uncomfortable having the offense run through him in the middle of the zone more often than not.

Vick scored 28 points, but needed volume to get there, going 12 of 23 from the floor. He posted seven assists, but had four turnovers. Those are good-to-very good numbers, but only when their devoid of context. Washington was begging Vick to tear them apart. They were giving him space and opportunity to put up monster numbers. The Huskies essentially played a shift – playing the percentages that Vick wouldn’t be able to beat them. He proved them right in a way that the Kansas City Star’s Jesse Newell put perfectly:

Vick was able to get his, but only to a level that Washington was comfortable with in their gameplan. They bet he couldn’t go completely wild, and that wager proved correct.

Washington’s decision-making was no doubt based largely not only on Kansas’ lack of a big man who could carve them up comfortable in a high-low game against the zone, but because the Huskies had to keep Kansas’ shooters in check. The Jayhawks came into the night ninth in the country shooting 43.5 percent from 3-point range. Devonte Graham, VIck, Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk all shoot better than 40 percent from distance on the year.

Against Washington, the Jayhawks made just 5 of 20 (25 percent) from 3-point range.

It was jarring to see how frequently Kansas just looked unable to solve the zone when Washington had already given them the answer with the way they essentially allowed Vick space to operate. The Jayhawks just couldn’t crack it consistently enough. That’s the brilliance of the move, too though, as forcing the Jayhawks to play through Vick means they weren’t playing through Graham. The preseason All-American took only eight shots and made just one in 40 minutes.

It may not be a blueprint other programs will be able to totally replicate to bottle up Kansas, but it certainly gives them something to think about. It also makes Preston’s return or De Sousa’s arrival that much more pressing. Putting some size in the center of that zone would change the math on how teams could employ it.

Kansas’ weakness this season was clearly its roster construction. Washington was just the first team that was able to fully exploit the vulnerability.


Dan Hurley will accept UConn head coaching position

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Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley will be the next head coach at UConn, replacing the 2014 national title winner, Kevin Ollie.

Hurley will be signing a six-year deal, according to multiple reports, that could be valued as much as $18 million. Hurley picked UConn over Pitt, who had also offered him a similar amount of money.

Hurley turned the Rhode Island program around during his six-year tenure, capped off with a pair of seasons where the Rams won a game in the NCAA tournament. UConn, which is one of the best jobs but has not been one of the best teams in the AAC in recent years, should be a place where he can continue to recruit talent. Under Ollie, the Huskies have been able to get players. The issue has been the performance and development of those players once they get to campus.

The Huskies finished 14-18 this past season.

Dan Hurley is the son of New Jersey high school coaching legend Bob Hurley and the brother of former Duke guard and current Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley.

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.”