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Saul Phillips

North Dakota State’s Saul Phillips named new Ohio head coach

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North Dakota State head coach Saul Phillips led his Bison to the Round of 32 in the program’s second NCAA tournament appearance since 2009. That success comes at a price.

Just past midnight, following a pair of Final Four games, a report surfaced that Ohio University will name Phillips as its new head coach.

“I am extremely excited about the future of Ohio basketball and I am elated to have a chance to add to its rich tradition,” Phillips said in a statement. “This is an outstanding university in a terrific community. I share the vision of the administration as to what the enormous potential is of this storied program. I simply cannot wait to start working with our players and helping them reach their potential. I want our fans and my players to know that I will pour maximum energy and enthusiasm into Bobcat basketball.”

Phillips comes from the Bo Ryan coaching tree, and this offseason, following an upset win over No. 5 seed Oklahoma, had been rumored to be in contention for openings at Washington State, Marquette and Tulsa.

He will be taking over for Jim Christian, who replaced John Groce as head coach of the Bobcats for two seasons. On Thursday, Christian accepted the Boston College job.

In six seasons at North Dakota State, Phillips compiled a 118-71 record. He will take over an Ohio team, that won 25 games in 2013-2014, finishing third in the MAC East Division.

Harvard releases 2013-14 schedule

Jonah Travis, Tommy Amaker
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In the most highly anticipated season in Harvard basketball history — in fact, perhaps in Ivy League history — where there is already speculation of the Crimson beginning the season ranked in the Top 25, all but winning the Ivy League, and even making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, the pressure is also at an all-time high for Tommy Amaker.

Now in his seventh season in Cambridge, Amaker has brought Harvard from the basement of the Ivy League to the top of college basketball. Whether you like it or not, Harvard will be a story for the entire season. A big part of that story obviously revolves around who they play. Earlier today, Harvard released their schedule.

It is a solid schedule as a whole with games against several good teams, but it is by no means a rigorous schedule. At first glance, there projects to only be one team ranked in the Top 25 to begin the season on it, and that is Connecticut — Colorado is on the slate as well, but they are a fringe Top 25 squad.

The preceding two teams highlight the schedule, but a home game with Boston College — a team that Harvard has beaten five straight years, if you can believe it — provides Harvard with an opportunity for a quality win as the Eagles will be much improved this year.

Where Harvard got unlucky was with the field in the Great Alaska Shootout — a tournament that has gone down in quality over the years. They play what will be a good Denver team in the opening round, but quality wins after that may be hard to come by after as the remaining six teams in the field are relatively weak, save for Indiana State (Alaska, Green Bay, Indiana State, Pepperdine, TCU, and Tulsa).

Amaker spewed nothing but coach-speak commenting on the schedule:

We are excited about the schedule we have put together for this coming year. Our non-conference schedule will provide us with many opportunities to improve as a team before beginning another competitive Ivy League campaign. We look forward to getting the season underway.

A team’s resume is everything come NCAA Tournament time, and Harvard will need schools like Denver, Vermont, and Boston University to be Top 100 RPI teams at season’s end to help bolster their resume. Wins over teams outside the Top 100 won’t exactly impress the NCAA Selection Committee.

Boston College and Connecticut to meet in 2K Sports Classic

BC, UConn
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There is little love lost between the Boston College and Connecticut athletic programs.

When Boston College left the Big East for the ACC in 2005, then Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun made it known he would refuse to play the Eagles as long as he was running the show in Storrs, saying: “We won’t play BC after they leave here. I have no desire to play Boston College. Not for the fact that they are leaving but how they did it. I will not play Boston College as long as I’m here.”

Then, last year when the landscaping of college athletics was changing with seemingly a new school every week leaving one conference for another, Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilipo was very clear making it known he didn’t want Connecticut in the expanded ACC: “We didn’t want them in. It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team.”

Two of the most high-profile athletic programs in New England, it would be nice to see this rivalry rekindled. Maybe the tournament organizers at the 2K Sports Classic thought along these same lines as the schools have been paired with each other in the 2K Sports Classic with the game being played on November 22nd at Madison Square Garden.

The schools haven’t played on the hardwood since January of 2005, a 75-70 win by Boston College.

As reported by Ed Daigneault of the Republican-American:

The Huskies and Eagles have not played since the latter departed for the ACC, but the animosity between the two schools appears to have lessened with new athletic directors in charge at both places. Indications are that UConn and BC are likely to resume their rivalry in basketball and football on a more regular basis, though a source said it may be more difficult to resume things quickly in football because of the long-range nature of football scheduling.

This is a good thing for New England college basketball.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Big name candidates for UMass Lowell head coaching job

Al Skinner
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As UMass Lowell makes the transition to Division I, they will be doing so with a new head coach. In April, former UML coach Greg Herenda accepted the head coaching job at Fairleigh Dickinson replacing Greg Vetrone.

Herenda built the River Hawks into a strong Division II program compiling a record of 95-54 in his five seasons at the helm, including four straight tournament appearances. But, Division I is a different animal. UML is set to join the America East conference and will have to wait four years to become eligible for postseason play—similar to what Bryant University went through when making the move to the Northeast Conference.

In a report from the Lowell Sun last week, there are several big name candidates that are being targeted for the job: former big-time college coaches Al Skinner and Jim O’Brien, current Williams College coach Mike Maker—who was recently a candidate for the head coaching position at American University—and former Kentucky star and Louisville assistant Walter McCarty.

It’s hard to say if one of the candidates has emerged as a favorite, but former Rhode Island and Boston College coach Al Skinner may fit the description as outlined by UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan:

“We’re looking for folks with an outstanding track record, and with Division 1 experience. We’ve heard from coaches with experience at top-notch programs, and young and hungry assistants from Division 1 programs. I have been impressed with the caliber of coaches that we’ve received interest from.”

It is commonly known that there is little love lost between Skinner and Boston College who didn’t part ways on the friendliest of terms, but it’s hard to deny Skinner’s track record. Compiling a 247-165 record at BC cannot be discounted, nor can his seven NCAA Tournament appearances in a nine year span.

What about Jim O’Brien? Also a former Boston College coach who had much success in the mid-90s, but left for Ohio State where he took the Buckeyes to the Final Four in 1999, which they later vacated due to NCAA violations committed by O’Brien. O’Brien was eventually fired by Ohio State, but has been the head coach at Emerson College since 2011.

“Other notable names rumored to be in the mix for the UML job include current Emerson College and former Boston College and Ohio State coach Jim O’Brien, Williams College coach Mike Maker, Northeastern assistant Pat Duquette, Florida Atlantic assistant Mike Jarvis II, and former NBA veteran Walter McCarty.”

Another name to keep an eye on is current Central Connecticut assistant and former Holy Cross and College of Charleston assistant Sean Ryan. In an earlier article from the Lowell Sun, Ryan is “very interested” in the job:

According to a source, Ryan is “mustering a ton of support” among fans, alumni and others invested in the UMass Lowell men’s basketball program. The source also said that Ryan views UML as a “destination job, and a great opportunity.”

Ultimately, it comes down to the direction UML wishes to head in: a proven Division 1 head coach who’s demonstrated the capability of running a successful program, or a hot up-and-coming a coach who will bring the necessary energy to transition the program up a level.

Seeing that it’s already mid-May and UML is without a coaching staff in place with practices beginning in just over four months, expect a coach to be named in the coming weeks.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Olivier Hanlan misses free throw in final second, Miami escapes with win at Boston College

Durand Scott
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Durand Scott fouled Boston College freshman Olivier Hanlan behind the three-point line with 0.5 seconds remaining and the Eagles trailing by three, 60-57, giving him an opportunity to tie and send the game to overtime.

Hanlan hit the first two but missed his final shot, allowing Miami to escape with a 60-59 victory in Chestnut Hill, Mass., Wednesday night.

Miami continued to play without the services of big man Reggie Johnson, who has been out of the Hurricane lineup since the middle of December. The win lifts Jim Larranaga’s team to 13-3 overall and 4-0 in the ACC.

Miami led by as many as six points with 15:07 to play in the second half after a Scott jumper, but fell victim to 14-3 run over the next five minutes that allowed Boston College to pull ahead.

Scott was injured at two different points Wednesday, once hurting his an elbow that forced him to sit out, then later suffering what appeared to be an abdominal injury. Both were minor enough to allow him to finish the game. He ended up with 15 points.

Boston College squandered the seven-point lead it held with 7:11 remaining in the second half, due mainly to Kenny Kadji and Trey McKinney Jones, who combined for 14 points in those final seven minutes.

Hanlan finished with 17 points to lead Boston College, along with Lonnie Jackson’s 16.

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

How could Hurricane Sandy affect the start of the season?

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The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy wrote a piece on how the Hurricane Sandy is affecting some of the college basketball programs on the east coast.

Among the big-time and big-conference teams, he writes Penn State, VCU and Villanova are preparing for some harsh times. Hofstra as well.

But thinking further, could the storm greatly affect the start of the season?

Teams in New York City are the ones that look to be heavily impacted with the eye of the storm headed for The Big Apple, such as Long Island, the heavy favorite to repeat as Northeast Conference champions, St. John’s, Fordham, MAAC contender Manhattan — which could end up being the hardest-hit program — and the already-mentioned Hofstra. Rutgers isn’t far from there as well. Also, the city of Boston seems to be getting lost in this storm shuffle, taking a huge brunt of this storm. That means teams like ACC bottom-tier player Boston College could be made to adjust, Holy Cross and America East elite Boston University are in the way. The teams in the Big 5 in Philadelphia are also obviously in the path, such as the aforementioned Villanova, LaSalle, Temple, St. Joseph’s and Penn.

From what the weather folks are saying, this storm isn’t crazy strong, but it’s ability to stir up the ocean and the major metropolitan areas it’s hitting have everyone preparing for the worst.

With exhibition games starting soon around the nation, teams don’t necessarily have to worry about totally altering their schedules, but with this storm looking to cause a lot structural damage and flooding, meaning repairs to college campuses and athletic facilities.

With the hurricane less than two hours from landfall in the northeast, it’s certainly possible we could see some exhibition and possibly some early-season non-conference games moving around, depending on the severity of the storm.

You always hope and pray for the best. And as long as all people involved are accounted for, having to play games in different venues is a small price to pay.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.