Rob Dauster

Sweet 16 Preview: Breaking down what’s left of the South Region

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The South Region will kick off the 2016 Sweet 16 action, as No. 2 seed Villanova and No. 3 Miami matchup in a battle of Final Four head coaches; Jim Larrañaga went in 2006 with George Mason while Jay Wright was there in 2009 with his Scottie Reynolds-led Villanova team. The nightcap in Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center will feature the No. 1 overall seed Kansas Jayhawks squaring off with No. 5 Maryland, as Bill Self and Mark Turgeon renew a rivalry that stems from Turgeon’s Big 12 days at Texas A&M.

Here is everything you need to know about the South Region:

KEY STORYLINES

  1. Can Kansas live up to the hype?: Bill Self has a national title and a Final Four on his rèsumè. The former came in 2008, when Mario Chalmers’ three and a slew of missed Memphis free throws earned him a ring in overtime. The latter came in 2012, when he rode Thomas Robinson’s coattails to the national title game. But the Jayhawks have won 12 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles, which is why two Final Fours and five first weekend exits in that timeframe makes people question Bill Self’s ability in March. Like the Jayhawks were in 2010, when they got Farokhmaneshed, the Jayhawks are the No. 1 overall seed and considered a favorite to win the title. Can they get it? Can they at least get to Houston?
  2. Will the real Maryland ever stand up? Or is this just who they are?: That’s basically been the story all season long with this group, right? They have as much talent as anyone in the country, but they just cannot find a way to get the pieces to work together. We see it in flashes: the first half against South Dakota State, that 14-0 run against Hawai’i. But that’s all we get from them. Flashes. At what point do we just accept that this is who Maryland is? Or will they eventually prove us wrong?
  3. The monkey is off of Jay Wright’s back. So … what now?: Villanova had lost in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament the past two seasons as a No. 2 and a No. 1 seed. They also lost in the first weekend in 2010, when Omar Samhan took the world by storm. This year, Villanova shook off that curse in impressive fashion, whipping Iowa into submission. So … where do the Wildcats go from here? Is a trip to the Sweet 16 enough to prove to people that their three-year run of dominance over the Big East means they’re really, really good, or will Villanova always be overrated until they get to another Final Four?

WHY THEY’LL GET TO THE FINAL FOUR

No. 1 Kansas: For my money they’re the best, and most trustworthy, team left in the NCAA tournament. They may not have the ceiling of, say, Maryland or North Carolina, but you’re never going to see their floor, so to speak. They have four guys that can take over a game and beat you, headlined by Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham, two former mid-major recruits that have turned themselves into the nation’s most underrated two-way back court. You can’t game-plan to slow down one guy, because if you build your defensive game-plan around stopping, say, Perry Ellis, you’ll give Wayne Selden, Mason and Graham will find room on the perimeter to beat you. A punch does the most damage when you don’t know where it’s coming from.

No. 2 Villanova: People love to crush Villanova because of their league affiliation and the struggles that they’ve had in the postseason. I get that. But remember, this is a team with a senior point guard in Ryan Arcidiacono and a senior center in Daniel Ochefu anchoring the team. Jalen Brunson is a freshman that has the poise of a senior while Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are impact guys off the bench. And then there is Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart, two matchup problems at the forward spots that make the Wildcats really hard to guard, especially with the way that Jenkins is currently playing.

No. 3 Miami: The Hurricanes are as big and athletic as anyone left in the tournament. Sheldon McClellan is one of the nation’s most underrated talents, Tonye Jekiri anchors a big and physical and old front line that understands their roles, and Jim Larrañaga is one of the best coaches in the country at fitting his offense and his players together. When Angel Rodriguez plays the way he did on Saturday — 28 points and three assists against Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker — they can beat anyone in the country.

No. 5 Maryland: I’d make the argument that Maryland is the most talented team left in the NCAA tournament. Their entire starting lineup could end up cashing an NBA paycheck at some point in their professional careers. Look at it on paper: Of the teams left in the tournament, which front court would you take over Jake Layman, Robert Carter and Diamond Stone? Which back court is definitively better than Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon? And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that Trimble has been one of the best big game and big moment players in the country for the majority of his career. They should be a real title contender.

Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)
Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)

BUT THIS IS WHY THEY WON’T

No. 5 Maryland: The Terps haven’t played up to their talent level for a consistent or extended period of time yet this season. They almost gave away their first round game against No. 12 South Dakota State and really only played well for a three-minute second half stretch against Hawai’i in the second round. Why, if this has been an issue all season long, should we believe that they are going to find answers against the best team in college basketball on Thursday night?

No. 3 Miami: Angel Rodriguez. He’s an inconsistent as he is talented. Even in that game against Wichita State, when he played so well, he finished with seven turnovers, five of which came in a four-minute first half stretch that allowed Wichita State to get back into it. This group does have the horses to get to the Final Four, but the question of whether or not they can trust Angel Rodriguez to carry them there is valid.

No. 2 Villanova: This is just not a team with an elite level of athleticism. Josh Hart is the exception. He’s as strong, explosive and tough as anyone left in the event. But beyond that? Kris Jenkins has to be hidden at times defensively. Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson are big guards and savvy offensively but they can struggle at times when they have to guard quicker players. And the one thing about the teams in the South Region — they all have quality back courts, and all of those quality back courts include a pair of quick, talented guards.

No. 1 Kansas: The Jayhawks don’t have a star. Sometimes, that’s a good thing, because it means that you don’t know who is going to be their go-to guy in a given game or on a given possession. But it’s also nice to have that star power that you know you can rely on to carry your team if things get tough. To me, Frank Mason is that guy for Kansas, and as good as Frank Mason has been, is he good enough to be that guy for a team that’s going to win a national title? He might be. But we won’t know the answer to that for another two weeks.

THE X-FACTORS

  • Angel Rodriguez: Read this. It will explain it all.
  • Kris Jenkins: When Jenkins is scoring and shooting the way that he has over the course of the last month, Villanova is a nightmare to try and defend. He’s hit at least two threes in each of the last ten games and scored at least 15 points in nine of them. Good luck trying to guard him and Josh Hart with a big lineup.
  • Melo Trimble: Trimble is one of the nation’s best clutch performers and as good as anyone in ball-screen actions. You want him with the ball in close games, except … for the last month he’s really struggled shooting the ball. Maryland has to have good Melo to have any shot of beating Kansas.
  • Landen Lucas: Lucas has been a revelation for the Jayhawks, providing them with something of an anchor on their front line. His size allows them to better matchup against big men like Diamond Stone or Robert Carter or Tonye Jekiri or Daniel Ochefu or … you get the point. He’s the presence we thought Cheick Diallo would be.

CBT PREDICTION: Kansas wins. Kansas is barely challenged.

Former Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins to be hired at UCF

Johnny Dawkins
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Former Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins has landed a new job a week after getting fired.

Dawkins will be the next head coach at UCF, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. ESPN.com previously reported that Dawkins was expected to be hired by the university.

UCF fired Donnie Jones earlier this month after six seasons with the program.

Dawkins had been the head coach at Stanford for eight seasons, but he was fired after being unable to get the Cardinal back to the NCAA tournament after reaching the Sweet 16 in 2014. He’s a former point guard and assistant coach at Duke, and the connection here is that UCF’s AD is Danny White, one of the sons of Duke AD Kevin White.

Memphis reviewing possible AD, coach conflict of interest

FILE - In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Memphis head coach Josh Pastner, left, watches from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tulane in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference men's tournament in Orlando, Fla. Memphis is sticking with coach Pastner even though the school missed the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season, the school announced Friday, March 18, 2016.. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Memphis is launching an investigation into whether athletic director Tom Bowen had a conflict of interest while negotiating basketball coach Josh Pastner’s 2013 raise and contract extension.

University President David Rudd said in a statement Tuesday the school is “aware of the accusations” and is “retaining an outside source to conduct the review.”

The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal first reported the investigation, noting that Pastner and Bowen were once both represented by Joey McCutchen’s NextLevel Sports. Bowen told the newspaper he ended NextLevel’s representation in 2012.

Pastner received a raise from $1.7 million to $2.65 million in 2013. Under terms of that raise, Memphis would have owed Pastner $10.6 million if it had fired him this month.

Rudd and Bowen issued a joint statement Friday saying Pastner would be retained.

Cat Barber to declare for the NBA Draft.

(AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman)
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N.C. State point guard Cat Barber will put his name into the NBA Draft and sign with an agent.

The Wolfpack junior told Pack Nation in a text message about his decision to move on.

“I feel like it’s time for me to move on and take my game to the next level,” he wrote. “I want to be able to provide for my family. I enjoyed my time at NC State. I want to thank my coaches for giving me the opportunity. Most importantly I want to thank my teammates and the fans. I want everyone to know I gave it 100% every night. I will forever be a part of WPN.”

Barber could have elected to not sign with an agent and worked out for NBA teams and attend the NBA Combine before deciding to stay in or withdraw from the draft while retaining his eligibility under new NCAA legislation. Initially, that appeared to be his plan, but instead, he’s charging forward to the professional ranks.

Barber had a tremendous junior season for N.C. State, averaging 23.5 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 boards, but he’s projected as a mid-to-late second round pick.

Providence Kris Dunn is off to the NBA

Providence guard Kris Dunn (3) drives to the hoop past Butler forward Roosevelt Jones (21) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game  Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
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Kris Dunn is headed off to the NBA, a decision that should not surprise anyone.

He’ll be signing with an agent, according to ESPN.com.

Dunn returned to Providence last season in order to earn his degree. The redshirt junior did just that, and while he’s leaving school with a year of eligiblity remaining, he’s now completed his fourth season in college; Dunn redshirted his freshman season due to surgery on his shoulder.

As a junior, Dunn averaged 16.4 points, 6.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds, and while he shot an improved 37 percent from three, although he still committed 3.5 turnovers per game.

The Friars went 23-10 on the season before losing to North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Wilkins, Collins headline college hoops Hall of Fame class

FILE - This is a Sept. 29, 2014, file photo showing Atlanta Hawks Vice President of Basketball Operations Dominique Wilkins posed at the NBA basketball teams media day, in Atlanta. Georgia standout Dominique Wilkins and Doug Collins of Illinois State headline the eight-member class that will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Georgia standout Dominique Wilkins and Doug Collins of Illinois State headline the eight-member class that will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November.

Wilkins played three seasons for the Bulldogs before embarking on a standout NBA career, making nine All-Star games while playing for the Hawks, Clippers, Celtics, Spurs and Magic.

Collins scored 2,240 points during his three-year career with the Redbirds, and was the No. 1 pick in the 1973 draft. He was a four-time All-Star before beginning a long career as a coach.

Joining them in this year’s class are DePaul’s Mark Aguirre, Kansas State’s Bob Boozer, LaSalle’s Lionel Simmons and UCLA star Jamaal Wilkes, along with coaches Hugh Durham and Mike Montgomery.

The induction ceremony is Nov. 18 in Kansas City.