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Florida’s John Egbunu out for the season with knee injury

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Florida announced on Wednesday that John Egbunu will be out for 10-12 months after suffering an ACL tear in Tuesday night’s win at Auburn.

Egbunu is averaging 7.8 points, 6.6 boards and 1.5 blocks for the Gators, who are sitting in first place tie in the SEC with Kentucky and South Carolina.

This is a brutal blow, as Egbunu is a shotblocker and a defensive menace that anchors the nation’s fifth-best defense. He is a piece they could not afford to lose.

NC State’s Mark Gottfried faces turmoil over job status

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It started with a report from WTVD in Raleigh on Monday night.

Mark Gottfried, the head coach at N.C. State since 2011, will be fired at the end of the season. He was lucky to survive Wake Forest’s 88-58 beatdown of the Wolfpack on Saturday, the report said. Next came a story from the Sporting News, who reported via a source that the process of reaching out and gauging the interest of candidates has already begun. Next up was ESPN saying that Gottfried’s tenure with the Wolfpack would come to an end if he doesn’t right the ship and make a run late in the season.

Gottfried has been to four NCAA tournaments and two Sweet 16s. But he went 16-17 last season and could end up with a worse record this year despite adding Dennis Smith Jr., Omer Yurtseven, Terry Henderson and Torin Dorn. His contract only plays him $760,000 a year for the next three years, a more than manageable sum.

As a source told NBC Sports, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

“Right now, our focus and my focus with our team is getting it ready to play against North Carolina and at the same time, I still believe in our team,” Gottfried said when facing the media on Monday afternoon. “I believe we’ve shown at times how good we can be and my hope is we can turn this around and figure out how to get into the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in sixth years. That’s where I am; that’s where I am personally.”

“Mark Gottfried remains our head coach, and we are all focused on our next opponent,” added Fred Demarest, N.C. State’s senior associate athletic director. “To suggest we have reached out to any other coach is both incorrect and blatantly irresponsible.”

All of this is happening as N.C. State gets ready to host North Carolina, a team that beat them by 51 points in the Dean Dome earlier this season.

What a time to be a Wolfpack fan.

Frankly, none of this is all that uncommon. This is how the process works. Dozens of programs around the country are doing the exact same due diligence as we speak. Someone connected to the university – maybe a booster, maybe a decision maker in the athletic department – reaches out to the agent or a friend of a coach they may be interested in pursuing to see whether or not it would be worth their time to do so. They do it now so that details can be worked out if there is a point in time where a chance is going to be made.

Time is of the essence in these matters. The longer you wait to make a change, the more likely it is that the guy you want will have found a job. The longer it takes to make a hire, the worse it looks for the university. Did they whiff on the guy they wanted? Do people keeping telling them no? Did Gary Williams badmouth the AD to everyone within shouting distance?!?

The difference here is that it is all playing out in the public’s view.

The Wolfpack have unquestionably underperformed this season. They have the talent to be a top six team in the ACC. They have the talent to get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. They’re 14-12 overall, 3-10 in the ACC and, as Wake Forest’s Keyshawn Woods put it, “We knew if we got up early on them, they was going to quit.”

Gottfried has turned around disappointing seasons before, it’s something of his M.O., but it shouldn’t shock you that N.C. State is preparing for what appears to be the inevitable.

Villanova to renovate Pavilion

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Villanova will begin a comprehensive $60 million renovation of the Pavilion with the work beginning in June.

Upon completion the 31-year-old on-campus facility will officially be named the Finneran Pavilion.

There are still several matters yet to be finalized, including season ticketing options, the final design and the full schedule for the 2017-18 season. Although the full schedule has yet to be confirmed, the majority of the men’s home games will be played in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center and the women’s home games will be held on campus in the Jake Nevin Field House.

Coach of the Year Power Rankings: Miller, Drew, Wright and Few lead the way

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1. Sean Miller, Arizona: Let’s think about this for a second. As of today, Sean Miller has Arizona sitting in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, a league that counts three top ten teams as members, despite the fact that there are very few people that would think that the Wildcats are the best team in the conference (that would be Oregon) or the most dangerous team in the conference (hello, UCLA). And he’s doing that despite the fact that his best player, Allonzo Trier, missed the first 19 games of the season, his star recruit, Terrence Ferguson, went pro in Australia and last year’s star recruit, Ray Smith, tore his ACL for the third time. Should I mention that the Wildcats have as many question marks at the point guard spot as any elite team in the country, or that they rely heavily on a pair of freshmen – Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins – who can be labeled somewhere between inconsistent and erratic?

2. Scott Drew, Baylor: The Scott Drew Coach of the Year Campaign has hit a bit of a snag in the last three weeks, as the Bears have dropped two games off the pace in the Big 12 after losing three of their last five games, but that really shouldn’t put too much of a damper on what Drew has done with this group this season. Baylor is still a No. 1 seed in spite of their recent slump, and a win over Kansas on Saturday puts them right back into the Big 12 title race. Drew is doing all of this with a team of juniors and seniors, none of whom were considered program-changing talents when they got to school. Do people still think Scott Drew can’t coach?

3. Jay Wright, Villanova: Can the reigning national champs have a coach in the running for Coach of the Year? Yes, they can, when you consider that Villanova lost arguably the two most valuable players from last year’s team, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, and seem likely to end up playing this season without Phil Booth, who scored 20 points in the national title game. Should I mention that Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed in Saturday’s bracket reveal despite the fact that they start either Darryl Reynolds or Eric Paschall at center?

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4. Mark Few, Gonzaga: I don’t care how good you are supposed to be or what the caliber is of the league that you play in, if you make it through an entire season undefeated, you belong in the conversation for National Coach of the Year. If you do it with a team that lost Domas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer, where your top five scorers played a total of six games your team last season, you deserve to be near the top of that list.

5. Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech: No one expected Georgia Tech to do much of anything this season. Avoiding the ACC basement probably would have been considered a successful season. Instead, the Yellow Jackets are 15-10 overall and 6-6 in the ACC with wins over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame, and if the NCAA tournament started to day, they would be in it.

6. Bill Self, Kansas: Self has the Jayhawks primed to win their 13th straight Big 12 title despite everything his team has gone through this season. They Udoka Azubuike for the season with a wrist injury, meaning that Landen Lucas is the only effective big man on their roster. Carlton Bragg Jr. has been a bust in between his two suspensions. The Jayhawks seem morally opposed to playing defense despite, which has a lot to do with the fact that the two mid-major recruits starting in their back court are the only two lead guards on the roster. This wouldn’t rank as one of Self’s best coaching performances – he has had a lot of those – but that shouldn’t diminish what he’s done with this team.

MORGANTOWN, WV - JANUARY 24:  Head coach Bob Huggins of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts to a call in the second half during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at WVU Coliseum on January 24, 2017 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Bob Huggins (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

7. Bob Huggins, West Virginia: Huggins lost his leading scorer, his second-leading scorer and leading rebounder and the point-man in his press in the offseason and … the Mountaineers got better? Press Virginia has been more effective this season than in any season past, and if they hadn’t choked away a lead at Kansas on Monday night, he might be getting more attention for it.

8. Chris Collins, Northwestern: Collins is on the verge of doing something that no one has done in the history of college basketball: Get Northwestern into the NCAA tournament.

9. Mike White, Florida: Who had Florida as a team that could contend with Kentucky for the SEC title this season? Anyone? Bueller? That’s exactly where Mike White has this group in his second season at the helm.

10. Mike Brey, Notre Dame: Brey isn’t quite at the level of Bo Ryan and Tony Bennett just yet, but he’s quickly reaching the point where, when predicting how good the Irish will be, it’s less important to look at who the team lost than it is to simply recognize the fact that Brey is on the sideline. Two years ago, he lost Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton and made it back to the Elite 8. Last offseason, Demetrius Jackson left and Zach Auguste graduated, and Notre Dame is right in the thick of the ACC title hunt.

NC State running out of time to turn around ACC slide

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The season is getting away from North Carolina State.

The Wolfpack entered Atlantic Coast Conference play with the potential to mature into a scary March matchup. Instead, North Carolina State is near the bottom of the league, losing by lopsided margins and creating uncertainty about the future of sixth-year coach Mark Gottfried entering Wednesday’s rivalry game against No. 10 North Carolina.

“I don’t know that I’d ever use the word desperate,” Gottfried said after Tuesday’s practice. “I don’t think there’s any question your backs are pinned up against the wall. We’ve been there before, since I’ve been here. But in the past our teams have always played its best basketball at the end. We’ve always done that.

“Now, we’re running out of time and we’ve got to do it and it’s got to happen for us.”

No one expected this from the Wolfpack (14-12, 3-10 ACC). N.C. State had an overhauled roster that included the addition of potential one-and-done point guard Dennis Smith Jr., but the team picked to finish sixth in the 15-team ACC is ahead of only one team in the standings – a Boston College squad that beat the Wolfpack last month.

More alarming is the way N.C. State has gotten there.

There was a 107-56 loss against the league-leading Tar Heels (21-5, 9-3) in Chapel Hill, the second-worst margin of defeat in program history. A 25-point loss at Louisville. A 24-point loss at Florida State.

And last weekend, there was an 88-58 loss at bubble team Wake Forest, an ugly afternoon that included senior center BeeJay Anya jawing multiple times with heckling Demon Deacons fans behind a nearby baseline.

Afterward, Wake Forest’s Keyshawn Woods added a stinging critique that the Demon Deacons “knew if we got up early on them, they was going to quit.”

On Tuesday afternoon, UNC point guard Joel Berry II echoed that even as he tried to say Wednesday would be a tougher matchup.

“We can’t go out there and think they’re going to lay down like they laid down the first time,” Berry said.

N.C. State has lost four games by at least 24 points for the first time since the 1993-94 season after having just three such losses in Gottfried’s first five seasons combined.

“We’re there to compete and we’re going to compete tomorrow, too – no matter what anybody says and anybody on the outside,” sophomore Torin Dorn said. “We’re worried about in-house and fixing the things we need to fix and being focused for the game.”

Offense generally hasn’t been a problem, and Smith has been a brilliant individual talent who has become the first player in league history to have two triple-doubles in conference play in the same season. He was dominant with 32 points in the Wolfpack’s 84-82 win at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 23, the program’s first win in the famously hostile building since 1995.

But N.C. State hasn’t won since, losing five in a row.

The biggest culprit for N.C. State’s troubles has been defense. It ranks 216th nationally in KenPom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings (106.8 points allowed per 100 possessions), the worst in the ACC and better than just five teams from power-5 conferences.

Gottfried inherited a program that had missed the NCAA Tournament in the 15 of 21 years since the Jim Valvano era, then got the Wolfpack to four straight NCAA bids – including a pair of Sweet 16 appearances. But last year’s team stumbled with a shorthanded roster, and this year’s descent seems to be picking up speed with only five ACC games left.

“That’s been a tough thing for us at times, where we allow adversity to kind of steamroll us and it gets worse,” Gottfried said. “And that’s happened too many times. And in those games where we’ve had lopsided losses, at the end of the day that’s my responsibility.

“We’ve got to figure out how to get our team more consistently to handle adversity.”

 

Florida’s John Egbunu sustains knee injury against Auburn

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AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Florida center John Egbunu left the Auburn game in the first half with a knee injury.

The 15th-ranked Gators announced on Twitter that Egbunu wouldn’t return in the second half of Tuesday night’s game. He had 10 points and four rebounds before going down hard battling for a rebound midway through the half.

The 6-foot-11, 255-pounder came in averaging 7.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots. Egbunu ranks in the Top 10 in the Southeastern Conference in both rebounding and blocked shots.