Daniel Martin

Wichita State

Wichita State’s run making big money for Missouri Valley

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Wichita State is making the Missouri Valley’s first appearance in the Final Four since Larry Bird and Indiana State made the same run in 1979. Aside from the free exposure that the journey is giving the school and the conference, the Missouri Valley is getting some good solid money from the NCAA.

The NCAA pays out money to conference based on the number of “basketball units” that a given league accrues over a six-year period. Forbes.com does a good job of explaining it in a recent piece on Wichita State:

A unit is earned for each game a conference member plays in the NCAA tournament, and the value of the unit escalates over the course of the afore-mentioned television contract. This year, one unit is worth approximately $250,000.

Note that each conference under this distribution system is assured of receiving at least 6 units annually (a scenario that would arise if a conference only placed one team in the tournament for 6 consecutive years, and their teams fail to win a single game).

With Wichita State making the Final Four and Creighton reaching the Round of 32, the Missouri Valley has cashed in with seven units so far in the 2013 NCAA tournament. That gives the conference earnings close to $1.75 million. For a mid-major conference, that’s a major pay day.

Part of that rise is likely attributed to more parity in college basketball, where an experienced non-BCS team has a chance against major conference schools who are stocked with younger talent.

For more on the economics of the NCAA tournament, click here from Forbes.com.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Louisville-Duke Preview: Legendary coaches and more with Final Four berth on the line

Louisville Cardinals players and coach Pitino celebrate basket agasint Syracue Orange during second half in Big East NCAA men's basketball game in New York
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Louisville came into the NCAA tournament as one of the country’s hottest teams and that hasn’t changed in its pursuit of the Final Four. Now, coach Rick Pitino and the Cardinals are one win away, impeded only by a long-standing symbol of college basketball supremacy, Duke. Can Coach K and the Blue Devils continue to run on the fuel of strong guard play into the Final Four? Check out a position-by-position preview below:

Guards

Duke point guard Quinn Cook has been much more of a facilitator than a scorer in three NCAA tournament games thus far. Through three rounds, he is averaging 3.7 points on 4-of-21 shooting from the floor, but also has 19 assists to just six turnovers. His ability maintain the pace Sunday will be key for Duke against a Louisville defensive attack that will want to speed him up and turn him over. If that cycle of turnovers to points starts taking hold for Louisville, we end up seeing stretches like in the second half against Syracuse in the Big East tournament title game.

On the other hand, both Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon have carried the offensive load. Curry went for 29 points in the win over Michigan State, while Sulaimon had 21 against Creighton and another 16 against the Spartans.

For Louisville, the major question facing Louisville coming into the tournament was whether or not Peyton Siva and Russ Smith would play like they did around this time last year or slump like we had seen at points during the season. Smith has been a consistent scorer through three games, while Siva has been steady. Siva needs to outplay Cook on Sunday.

Forwards 

Ryan Kelly has not been nearly as hot in the NCAA tournament as he was when he initially came back from injury toward the end of the season. His ability to stretch the floor from the power forward position makes it easier for Curry, Sulaimon, Cook, and Plumlee to create and get good shots for themselves. Will he turn it on today?

Louisville will have to counter with Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Blackshear, and Chane Behanan. If we add Luke Hancock into the mix of forwards, his ability to stretch the floor as Kelly does and hit from the outside adds another dimension to Louisville offensive attack.

Centers

Mason Plumlee versus Gorgui Dieng will be one of the better one-on-one post matchups we’ve seen in this tournament. Plumlee has been the senior centerpiece for Duke all season, while it has been striking to see the development of Dieng on the offensive end to be a passer and legitimate scorer to complement Louisville’s other pieces.

Dieng will need to be the presence in the paint that Michigan State lacked in its loss to Duke. His ability to deny and keep Duke’s guards away from the rim will be crucial on Sunday. If he can block shots and force Duke to take more jump shots than it is comfortable with, missed shots and run-outs added to turnovers would tilt the table in Louisville’s favor.

Tip off is at approximately 5:05 p.m. ET.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Top 100 guard Kendal Yancy-Harris commits to Texas

Rick Barnes
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Texas native Kendal Yancy-Harris will play college basketball in his home state, committing Saturday to coach Rick Barnes and the Texas Longhorns, he announced via his Twitter page.

Yancy-Harris is a 6-4 guard who committed to Southern California but rescinded his pledge after the Trojans fired coach Kevin O’Neill. He is regarded as a Top 100 player in the country and now joins two other guards, Isaiah Taylor and Demarcus Croaker, in Texas’ class of 2013.

With this commitment, Texas is getting a combo guard with size who will likely help to replace the void left by Sheldon McClellan when he decided to transfer earlier this month. Guard Myck Kabongo will likely also leave Austin in pursuit of a professional career. Yancy-Harris is the brother of former Oklahoma State guard Terrel Harris, who now plays in the NBA with the Miami Heat.

His size helps him to round out Texas’ guard-heavy recruiting class. He now complements Taylor and Croaker, who fill different roles in the back court.

Texas finished 16-18 this season, including 7-11 in the Big 12.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

For as good as the Big Ten was, Michigan is its last Final Four hopeful

Michigan v Indiana
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For as dominant as the Big Ten appeared to be throughout the conference schedule, generous in giving us marquee matchups every week, how could we have ended up here on the verge of a Final Four that doesn’t include a single team from the conference?

We began with the possibility of three or maybe even four Big Ten teams in Atlanta, but now it all comes down to one: Michigan.

The Wolverines are the conference’s last hope to have a representative in the Final Four after No. 2-seed Ohio State fell to No. 9-seed Wichita State on Saturday in the Elite Eight and both Indiana and Michigan State were knocked out in the Sweet 16.

There was a sense during the conference season that we could see a “Big Ten Effect” in the NCAA tournament that we seem to see with college football in the SEC. That “effect” is when all the teams from a particular conference beat up on each other throughout the regular season, but are stronger for it in the postseason.

It appeared to be coming true after the Round of 64 when the conference was 6-1, with only Wisconsin losing to Ole Miss. But then Illinois and Minnesota each lost their Round of 32 games. That led to the Sweet 16 losses mentioned earlier and Ohio State’s loss on Saturday, which leads us here. It is simply scheduling that led us here, with Michigan playing a day later than the Buckeyes, but the fact remains: there is only one team left standing from the Big Ten.

So what can the Wolverines do to beat Florida and advance to the Final Four?

Michigan comes into this game knowing that against a strong defensive team like Florida, they do not turn the ball over at a high rate. That should help to keep the Gators from flipping turnovers into points and getting out into transition offensively.

A major concern for Florida should be whether or not it can find a go-to scorer down the stretch and whether or not it can seal a game in the final minutes. With a team like Michigan that can get out on the run led by point guard Trey Burke and has three-point shooters like Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway, Jr., Florida will need to lock down defensively or leads can disappear quickly.

Coach Billy Donovan’s team showed it could come back from a major early deficit against a transition-oriented team after falling into a 15-4 hole against Florida Gulf Coast. The difference this time around will be that the Gators will likely not have the benefit of turning so many turnovers into points. Michigan will not turn the ball over at the same rate as FGCU.

Florida will want to exploit any weakness it can in the paint on both ends of the floor, which means Patric Young needs to be a presence in the paint against Mitch McGary. Michigan was able to neutralize Kansas’ advantage in that department in its Sweet 16 win.

Tip off is at 2:20 p.m. ET, followed by the day’s other Elite Eight matchup, Louisville-Duke, at approximately 5:05 p.m. ET.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Tubby Smith reportedly in consideration for Texas Tech coaching vacancy

Tubby Smith
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After dealing with the allegations of player mistreatment that surrounded former coach Billy Gillispie and enduring a 3-15 Big 12 finish this season, it appears Texas Tech might be going in another direction.

According to the Associated Press, Texas Tech is in talks with former Minnesota coach Tubby Smith to possibly bring him on board as the school’s next head coach. Smith was fired by the Gophers earlier this month after losing in the Round of 32 of the NCAA tournament to Florida.

Smith coached at Minnesota for six seasons, included in that were five 20-win seasons and three NCAA tournament appearances. This season the Gophers notched their first NCAA tournament win since 1997. That is the same year that the school made a Final Four, before it was wiped from the record books amidst an academic scandal.

According to the report, Smith could also be a candidate at New Mexico if the Lobos do not hire interim head coach Craig Neal. New Mexico is left without a permanent coach for the time being after Steve Alford left for UCLA on Saturday.

While Smith is in talks with Texas Tech, Minnesota continues its search for a replacement to fill the vacancy created by his firing. It was reported yesterday that former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders had turned down an offer, while targets that include VCU’s Shaka Smart and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg have both signed longterm extensions with their respective schools.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

FGCU’s Andy Enfield reportedly candidate for USC head coaching job

Andy Enfield
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Andy Enfield led Florida Gulf Coast on a surprise run in this 2013 NCAA tournament and is now visible on the national radar for schools looking to fill a coaching vacancy. Southern California, having fired head coach Kevin O’Neill during the season, is reportedly looking at Enfield, according to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports.

But Enfield’s career hasn’t begun with the sudden success of Florida Gulf Coast. From Wetzel’s report:

While Enfield, a former Florida State and NBA assistant coach has few recruiting ties to the West Coast, USC is intrigued by not only his success and potential, but his preferred uptempo style of play.

Enfield’s season with FGCU ended in the Sweet 16 with a loss to Florida. It remains to be seen whether USC would be able to pull him away from Florida Gulf Coast.

The Trojans watched crosstown rival UCLA hire New Mexico coach Steve Alford Saturday. USC has missed out on Memphis’ Josh Pastner, VCU’s Shaka Smart, Butler’s Brad Stevens, and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, all of whom were considered candidates and have decided to stay at their respective schools.

According to the report, Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins also remains a candidate for the job.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_