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Florida gets stranded in St. Louis before NCAA Tournament

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — At least Florida coach Mike White could joke about his team’s predicament: Getting stranded about 900 miles from home after the Southeastern Conference Tournament because the team’s chartered airplane was on a military mission.

This was Arch Madness.

“Had a nice spring break up in St. Louis, fighting the cold weather,” White said Monday. “It’s crazy. We spent four nights in a hotel to play one game. If our guys aren’t rested for practice, I don’t know if we’ll ever be rested.”

The 23rd-ranked Gators found themselves stuck in Missouri following an 80-72 setback against Arkansas in the SEC quarterfinals. Then the waiting began.

Florida’s charter flight was called to the Middle East to assist troops, leaving players, coaches, staff, cheerleaders and band members stuck in a hotel for two extra days.

Given how Florida (20-12) performed defensively against the Razorbacks, maybe the biggest surprise is that White didn’t find a way to get his team to a gym for extra work.

The Gators finally got on a plane Sunday afternoon — about 40 hours after the game ended — but only after a few more delays. They had to wait for a rested flight crew, a mechanical repair and finally some deicing.

They were still on the tarmac when the NCAA Tournament selection show started, learning via social media they were a No. 6 seed in the East Region. On Thursday night, Florida will play the winner of St. Bonaventure (25-7) vs. UCLA (21-11) in Dallas.

“I would rather know who we’re playing and be able to spend three or four days prepping for that team,” White said. “That’s the (difference) between being 20th and 21st (in seeding).”

Florida has advanced to the Elite Eight in five straight NCAA Tournament appearances (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017), including last year’s run that ended one win shy of the Final Four. But this team is different from all those others, and not just because of its dozen losses and up-and-down ways.

“These guys aren’t really animated. Really, really nice guys. Too nice of a group, really,” White said. “I’d like to see this group one day tear up a locker room after we lose, but that’s not happening.”

White’s mostly introverted team has struggled to communicate on the court throughout the season. Even though the Gators improved on defense late in the season, their deficiencies were exposed against Arkansas.

That, coupled with having lost seven of 12 league games down the stretch, has few outsiders giving the Gators much of a chance to get past the opening weekend of the tournament.

White remembers the way his team found motivation in being pegged for an opening-round upset in 2017.

“We’ll use it again,” he said. “Who knows how much of a factor it will be with these guys? These guys are hard to tick off. My guys, I’m not sure I’ve found the button that produces a bunch of edge, but we’ll throw it at the wall, for sure.”

One thing the Gators have in their favor is a stacked backcourt. Speedy point guard Chris Chiozza and sharpshooters KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov give White plenty of scoring options and a number of guys who can be tough to prepare for and even more difficult to defend.

“Our backcourt gets a lot of headlines and deservedly so,” White said, recalling Chiozza’s running 3-pointer at the buzzer that beat Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden a year ago. “Chris Chiozza showed it last year — where single-handedly a guard can make a big play to propel his team.”

White also noted that Chiozza and his fellow guards also got outplayed by the Razorbacks.

The Gators dwelled on the loss for two days in St. Louis, but White has no idea if it will light a fire under his players in practice or, more importantly, in Dallas.

“This team doesn’t get really upset. I wish we would,” White said. “That’s consistently who this team’s been. I think that’s why you’ve got games where we look like a top-10 team and you’ve got games where we look like an NIT team. …

“But maybe,” he said, “we’ve got another positive chapter in us, where our urgency will pick back up.”

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.

Report: Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson suffers another fracture in foot

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Bonzie Colson rushed back from a broken foot to try and help his Notre Dame team get into the NCAA tournament this season.

They were bumped out of the field when Davidson upset Rhode Island and earned the Atlantic 10’s third bid to the league tournament. The Fighting Irish were NIT bound, and in their second round loss to Penn State late last week, Colson reinjured the left foot that held him out of action for eight weeks.

On Wednesday, Yahoo reported that Colson suffered another fracture in the foot.

“I’m sitting there and he’s limping off and I’m going, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” coach Mike Brey said after the game. “Everything we’ve been through? I thought we were out of the woods with him.”

There was a poignant moment at the end of the game.

Colson’s injury came during the third quarter. He returned to the bench at Purcell Pavilion with ice on his foot after going into the locker room. With 30 seconds left and a loss imminent, Colson walked right past Mike Brey, said “I’m going in”, and finished his college career on the court.

Colson is a potential second round pick. He was an all-american last year and a preseason selection this year. He was averaging 19.7 points, 10.2 boards and 2.2 blocks when he was injured.