Rob Dauster

Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma listens to a question during a news conference at the women's Final Four in the NCAA college basketball tournament Monday, April 4, 2016, in Indianapolis. Connecticut will play Syracuse in the championship game on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

UConn coach Auriemma hospitalized with undisclosed illness

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STORRS, Conn. (AP) UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma has been hospitalized with an undisclosed illness.

The school released a statement saying the 62-year-old Auriemma had boarded a plane Saturday morning at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, but decided to deplane because he was not feeling well.

The school says he was taken to a hospital for observation and is resting comfortably.

The Hall of Fame coach guided the Huskies to an unprecedented 11th national title this month. But, he missed the victory parade in Hartford last weekend and did not accompany the team when it was honored by lawmakers at the state Capitol this week, because he was feeling ill.

He attended the WNBA draft Thursday, but did not speak with reporters.

Auriemma is 955-134 in 31 seasons at UConn.

Cinderellas: Nothing in college basketball compares to Leicester City

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When we’re talking about the greatest Cinderella story in college basketball history, the name that most people are going to cling to is Butler.

You remember those Bulldogs, right? They made it to back-to-back national title games out of the Horizon League, and on paper, that sure makes them seem like an underdog, right? But the thing you have to remember about those Butler teams: They had two players on their roster — Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward — that spent this season as starters for the Utah Jazz, and they were coached by Brad Stevens, the man who somehow got the Boston Celtics to the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.

So I’m not sure I can call them a Cinderella.

I will, however, call the 2006 George Mason team that made a Final Four a Cinderella just like I will call the 2011 VCU team that reached the Final Four (from the First Four!) a Cinderella. VCU, at that point, was a really good mid-major program in the CAA, not an Atlantic 10 powerhouse. Mason was actually VCU’s rival in the CAA at the time, and the year they got the Final Four most believed they didn’t even deserve to get into the tournament. Period!

But neither of them are my favorite Cinderella.

The best?

#DunkCity.

FGCU become the seventh No. 15 seed to upset a No. 2 seed in the first round back in 2013, and they then became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. They did so by beating down both Georgetown and San Diego State, to the point that they were showing off with alley-oops with a couple of minutes left in the game:

Awesome. I loved every second of it.

And it pales in comparison with the run that Leicester City has been on this season. The Foxes are currently up seven points on Tottenham with five games left in the season, which is a nearly* insurmountable hole to dig out of.

It’s impossible to make a direct comparison between Premier League soccer and college basketball simply because the structure of the two sports are so different. But think about it like this: Coastal Carolina somehow gets a spot in the ACC and goes on to win the league’s regular season title by three full games. Leicester was 5,000-to-1 to win the league before the season, the same odds that British sportsbooks were giving gamblers that wanted to bet on Elvis being found alive.

And therein lies the biggest difference. What Leicester is doing is not a “Cinderella run”. Being a Cinderella implies that you aren’t the best team, that you can lightening in a bottle, pull off a couple of upsets against the biggest names in the sport and find yourself on a stage you never imagined you would be on.

Leicester is the best team in the Premier League, and it’s not all that close.

So they aren’t a Cinderella.

But they are likely* to end up being the most unlikely champion and the most amazing story in sports in my lifetime. You can watch their title chase on Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m. on NBCSN or the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

*(I say “likely” and “nearly” because, as a Spurs supporter, I’m quite certain that Tottenham will end up winning the league. We got ’em right where we want ’em.)

More issues come to light in Milwaukee athletic department after broadcaster’s retirement

2381_wisconsin-milwaukee_panthers-primary-2011
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Bill Johnson retired last night.

If you don’t know the name Bill Johnson, you probably aren’t a fan of Milwaukee Panthers basketball. Johnson was the play-by-play voice of the basketball team for the last 16 seasons before announcing on Instagram that his tenure is over.

Normally, a random play-by-play guy for a mid-major program retiring wouldn’t be anywhere near newsworthy, but this one is. Because Johnson went out in a blaze of glory, napalming every bridge he had left at the university.

You can read the post in all its glory here. The highlights? [All SIC]

  • “I would say it’s taking the last life boat off the Titanic, but that would be unfair to the crew of the Titanic.”
  • “Never have so many competant, talented people been run off by such a talentless group of entitled beaurocrats. No matter how much the coaches, players, and support staff care, they can’t overcome incompetent administrators. UWM leads the world in incompetent administrators.”
  • “Should Amanda Braun turn down an AD job just because she’s horribly under qualified? Hell no. She’s a bad AD, and a deplorable human being, but those are the cards she’s been dealt.”

Yeah.

It was good.

And it matters, because if (when?) this goes viral, it may actually expose some of the shenanigans that have been going on in the Milwaukee athletic department. For example, when new head coach Lavall Jordan was hired, it came after another candidate — former Iowa State assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger — was reportedly told that he would get the job and to start preparations for an introductory press conference.

When former head coach Rob Jeter was fired, the team was notified via a group-text, when they were told to check their email. That came after athletic director Amanda Braun refused to allow the team to participate in the CBI or the CIT even after a donor had reportedly offered to pay for the costs of the tournament. Sources told NBCSports.com that the program was unable to take an international trip over the summer for the same reason.

And now?

A state senator is getting involved in the mess, posting a series of negative tweets aimed at Braun. She also showed up at the press conference announced JEter’s dismissal and asked Braun the following question: “Do you feel like a lot of your decisions actually created the sabotage of the athletic department and of Coach Jeter’s ability to be even more effective?Because he was as effective as his predecessor.”

Lavall, you really want to walk into that, bro?

Ex-UNLV coach Chris Beard to replace Tubby Smith at Texas Tech

Arkansas Little Rock head coach Chris Beard reacts after his team draws a foul against Iowa State during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game Saturday, March 19, 2016, in the NCAA Tournament in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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A week after the ink dried on the contract that Chris Beard signed with UNLV, he’s off to Texas Tech to replace Tubby Smith.

Smith left Tech on Thursday to replace Josh Pastner at Memphis.

“Coach Beard has informed me he intends to pursue the men’s basketball head coaching job at Texas Tech,” athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said in a statement released on Friday afternoon. “This unprecedented move is extremely disappointing to the President and I, for our program and to our fans. Pur search process allowed us to developp a deep pool of qualified candidates, from which we will select a great coach who really wants to be here and who will honor his commitments in leading the Runnin’ Rebels.”

Beard, who went 30-5 and upset No. 5 seed Purdue in the first round of the NCAA tournament in his first season at Arkansas-Little Rock, spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach at Texas Tech under both Bob Knight and Pat Knight. When his UALR team played in Lubbock back in December, he had this to say about the area.

“People ask me all the time where I’m from,” Beard said. “I moved around a lot as a kid, and I’ve coached a lot of different places, but Lubbock’s the longest I’ve ever lived somewhere, 10 years. And two of my three daughters were born here. It was a little bit emotional. I’d be lying if I said anything different.”

Beard’s daughters currently live in Abilene, which is about a two-hour drive from Lubbock.

Beard’s contract with UNLV has a $1 million buyout, which could just about be covered by the buyout that Memphis has to pay Texas Tech for the right to hire Smith. He currently has a five-year deal with UNLV that is reportedly worth $4.5 million. Tech will reportedly pay Beard roughly twice that amount. Without question, this is a better situation for Beard and his family. It’s perhaps the best possible situation for Beard to be in in this profession, and while it’s a bad look to bail on UNLV this quickly, before you criticize him too harshly think about whether or not you’d leave a job in the span of a week for double-the-pay and the chance to be close to your kids.

For me, it would be a no-brainer, and that’s before you consider the fact that Texas Tech is unequivocally in a better position right now. They are coming off of a trip to the NCAA tournament while UNLV has two scholarship players on the roster for next season, depending on who remains in the NBA Draft.

And therein lies the issue for UNLV, who will be looking to hire their fourth head coach in the last three months. Friday is the start of the first April Live Period and two days after the start of the spring signing period. It took 11 days for the Board of Regents to approve Beard’s contract after a prolonged coaching search. Now they’re looking at having to do it all over again during the time that the Rebels might actually be able to fill in a roster that is quite literally void of enough players to field a team?

This is not a good situation for UNLV to be in.

South Florida dismisses second-leading scorer from the program

South Florida forward Chris Perry waits for play to resume late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Cincinnati, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 50-45. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
(AP Photo/Al Behrman)
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South Florida has dismissed Chris Perry from the program, head coach Orlando Antigua announced on Thursday.

“We have standards and expectations at USF and everyone will be held accountable to them,” Antigua said in the release. “I appreciate Chris’ contributions to our program and wish him the best. I’m excited about the team we have returning and the newcomers we have joining us for next season. We have talented players in our program that are working hard to achieve our goals.”

Perry is a 6-foot-8 junior from Florida. He averaged 10.1 points and 6.6 boards this past season.

Earlier this spring, Antigua dismissed sophomore Roddy Peters, a former top 25 recruit that averaged 9.8 points and 3.5 assists, from the program.

The Bulls went 8-25 this past season, finishing just 4-14 in the AAC.

Vanderbilt junior center Damian Jones entering NBA Draft

Damian Jones (AP Photo)
(AP Photo)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Vanderbilt junior center Damian Jones is bypassing his final year of eligibility to enter the NBA Draft.

School officials announced Jones’ decision Thursday.

The 7-foot, 245 pound Jones was All-Southeastern Conference first-team as a sophomore and junior. He ranked 24th all-time scoring 1,313 points and is second in career blocks with 167. He ranked second with 1.69 blocks per game in his career, and Jones was third all-time shooting 56.6 percent for his career.

Jones thanked his teammates and Vanderbilt in a statement. But he says he’s looking forward to the chance of playing in the NBA.

He becomes the second Vanderbilt player to forego his eligibility and enter the draft. Guard Wade Baldwin IV announced his decision last week.