The Big Ten tournament will be played in Washington D.C. this season, meaning that the favored Purdue Boilermakers will essentially be playing in No. 3 seed Maryland’s backyard. The intrigue here, however, may actually be with the teams on the bubble, where Iowa and Illinois will be looking to play their way onto the right side of the bubble. Both teams probably need two wins to feed good about their chances.
North Texas announced on Sunday night that head coach Tony Benford has been fired.
“After spending this season evaluating our men’s basketball program, we have determined that a change in leadership is necessary,” athletics director Wren Baker said in a release sent out by the program. “Tony and his staff have worked tirelessly for five seasons to help our student-athletes grow academically, socially and competitively. I am appreciative of those efforts. However, I believe we can compete for championships and, unfortunately, we have fallen short of those expectations. This is a highly attractive job that is located in one of the most talent-rich areas of the country and, in my opinion, the best region of the country to live in. I couldn’t be more excited about the future of the program.”
Benford was 62-95 in five seasons with the Mean Green, going 30-60 in league play and failing to finish above .500 in any year with the program. This past season, UNT went 8-22 and failed to qualify for the Conference USA tournament.
Conference: Atlantic Sun
Coach: Joe Dooley
Record: 26-7, 12-2 (1st)
Ratings and Rankings:
– Kenpom: 112
– RPI: 91
– AP/USA Today: N/A
Seeding: FGCU’s RPI and a win over UT Arlington might be enough to get FGCU up to the 14 seed line.
Names you need to know: UCF transfer Brandon Goodwin is the best player on FGCU. He leads the team is scoring (18.2 points) and assists (3.9 apg) and is second in rebounding (4.7 rpg). But there is talent up and down this roster. Zach Johnson and Christian Terrell are both talented guards, Demetris Morant and Marc-Eddy Norelia are the kind of long, lanky athletes you expect out of a #DunkCity team, and Rayjon Tucker might be the best athlete in college basketball.
Stats you need to know: FGCU’s reputation is as an uptempo, run-and-gun team, but that’s not really who they are this season. They rank 296th in tempo and 224th in three-point shooting, but they pound the offensive glass and thrive on their ability to get the ball into the paint, off the bounce or off of a post touch.
Big wins, bad losses: FGCU’s best win on the season came against another mid-major powerhouse in UT Arlington. It’s their only top 100 RPI win on the season. The Eagles do have some bad losses, however, falling to the likes of Georgia Southern, Lipscomb and South Carolina Upstate at home.
How’d they get here?: FGCU steamrolled their way through the Atlantic Sun tournament, taking down a North Florida team that was led by Dallas Moore, the best player in the conference, in the title game.
Outlook: I’m wary of picking teams to upset top three seeds in the NCAA tournament when they struggle to shoot the three because, as you’ll hear a million times over the course of the next month, that’s the great equalizer. But I will say this: FGCU has been to the tournament in three of the last five years, they won’t be overwhelmed by the moment and they have enough guys on their roster that played high-major basketball before that they should know what to expect against a team from a bigger league. Stranger things have happened.
How do I know you?: Well … this:
Yeah, we’re going to need more angles of that:
Kim Anderson has been asked to step down as the head coach at Missouri.
“This decision has been very difficult for me personally because of the tremendous respect I have for Kim,” Missouri AD Jim Sterk said in a statement. “I know how hard he and his staff have worked to turn the program around over the last three years, however, the lack of on-court success has resulted in a significant drop in interest surrounding our program, and we could not afford for that to continue another year.”
He is expected to coach the team during the SEC tournament.
This decision is not much of a surprise, as Anderson’s Missouri teams have not had any success in his three seasons at the helm. They lost at least 20 games every year, including a 7-23 mark in 2016-17. Anderson is 26-67 and 8-46 in the SEC in his three years with the Tigers, and he never won a road game as the Missouri head coach. Anderson inherited NCAA violations stemming from the Frank Haith era, as his program was docked two scholarships and two official visits during his tenure. There is currently an ongoing investigation into academic fraud among a number of sports on the campus.
Missouri has already started in on the process of finding a replacement for Anderson, and they will be hiring Daniel Parker’s search firm, according to sources.
The obvious target for the Tigers is California head coach Cuonzo Martin. Martin is a native of Saint Louis that had quite a bit of success at Missouri State before taking over at Tennessee. Another name that will be tied to the Missouri opening is Lorenzo Romar, the head coach at Washington Romar is the godfather of Michael Porter Jr., a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft. Porter’s father was hired by Romar as an assistant coach this season, and prior to moving to Seattle, the family had spent years in Columbia, Missouri. Porter Jr.’s aunt, Robin Pingeton, is the head coach of the Missouri women’s team, and the two eldest children in the Porter family play on the Missouri women’s team.
Missouri is an interesting job. There is a talent base to recruit from — Otto Porter, Michael Porter Jr., Bradley Beal, Jayson Tatum, Roosevelt Jones, Alec Burks, Patrick McCaw and Ben McLemore are all from Missouri — and there is a fan base there that cares about basketball. It’s also in the SEC, a league where finishing in the top three is never all that far away. That could be enough to draw the interest people currently at another job: Baylor’s Scott Drew, Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams and USC’s Andy Enfield are among the names that sources have linked to Missouri. Oklahoma State’s Brad Underwood, who has the Cowboys headed to the NCAA tournament, is another interesting name, mainly because he’s severely underpaid by OSU.
The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds you see below come from.
This post will be updated throughout the day.
Iowa (RPI: 71, KenPom: 68, first four out): The Hawkeyes did what they needed to do to be able to play themselves into at-large consideration. They won their last four games, which includes games at Maryland and at Wisconsin, and picked off Penn State at home in the Big Ten finale. The Hawkeyes probably sit on the wrong side of the bubble as of today, and if they sit on the right side of the bubble, it’s only barely. They have five top 50 wins and three top 30 wins, but none of those are top 20 wins. They have two road wins against top 40 opponents and a home loss to Omaha. The point that I’m trying to get at is that Iowa would do well for themselves to win a couple of games in the Big Ten tournament this week.
No. 21 Wichita State (RPI: 42, KenPom: 11, No. 11 seed): The Shockers won the Missouri Valley’s automatic bid. The biggest question now is whether or not the Shockers are going to get stuck in the No. 11 seed range. This team ranks 11th in KenPom. If they are a No. 11 seed, they could very well end up being favored in both their first round game against a No. 6 seed and a potential second round game against a No. 3 seed.
Illinois State (RPI: 31, KenPom: 42, No. 12 seed): The wait now begins for the Redbirds. Illinois State lost in the Missouri Valley title game, putting them squarely on the bubble and in very real danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament. Here’s the situation as it stands: Illinois State has just one top 80 win, which came against Wichita State. In fact, the Shockers are the only top 80 team that Illinois State has played this season, and they went 1-2 in those three games, losing by a combined 61 points in the two games outside of Normal, Il. They have a win over New Mexico, which doesn’t mean all that much, and they swept Southern Illinois in three games. That’s the third-best win in the league, but it’s barely a top 150 win.
I want the Redbirds in the dance over someone like Vanderbilt or Iowa, but I just don’t think they have a real chance at this. It’s going to be a very, very long seven days for the Redbirds, who are going to watch bubble teams across the country improve their résumés while they can do nothing but watch the highlights on TV.