Russell Turner has reportedly turned down a job offer and will remain the head coach at UC Irvine.
Janis Carr of the Orange County Register reported on Sunday night that Turner had turned down the George Mason vacancy. George Mason relieved Paul Hewitt of his duties after four seasons, compiling a 20-42 record in the last two years as the program has shifted to the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Turner, in his fifth season at UC Irvine, led the Anteaters to the NCAA tournament, nearly upsetting No. 4 Louisville in the Round of 64.
UC Irvine has won 20 or more games in each of the last three seasons under Turner. While they graduate two starters, the Anteaters return 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye along with second-leading scorer Luke Nelson and Alex Young.
Names you need to know: F Will Davis II (12.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg), C Mamadou Ndiaye (10.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), G Luke Nelson (10.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.0 apg), G Alex Young (9.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.6 apg)
Stats you need to know: The Anteaters have been good defensively, as teams are shooting just 39.3 percent on the season, UC Irvine does its best work inside of the arc with teams shooting 42.3 percent on two-pointers, and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise as the Anteaters have two players in the 7-foot-6 Ndiaye (2014) and Davis II (2013) who have won Big West Defensive Player of the Year during their respective careers. As for the offense, UC Irvine is shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc and they also take care of the basketball with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.23.
Tendencies: Offensively the Anteaters have two capable playmakers in Nelson and Young, although Nelson is the one expected to do more scoring, and both value the basketball. Davis, who has the ability to step out and hit mid-range shots, leads the team in field goal attempts but the Anteaters have 11 players who have attempted at least 93 shots on the season. Defensively they’re going to play zone, which is to be expected of a team that has two 7-footers (Ndiaye and 7-foot-2 Ioannis Dimakopoulos) and another big man who is 6-foot-10 in Mike Best (6-foot-10 John Ryan is out with a foot injury). They don’t turn teams over, but they do force them to take challenged shots.
Big wins, bad losses: UC Irvine’s best non-conference win came on a neutral floor, as they beat Green Bay December 22 in Las Vegas. One week later the Anteaters lost by two in overtime at Oregon, and they were also competitive with No. 5 Arizona for most of their meeting in Tucson in mid-November. As for losses, UC Irvine lost by a point at Morgan State in mid-December, and outside of a loss at UC Riverside none of their conference defeats were particularly bad.
How’d they get here?: After losing two of their final three regular seasons games (to UCSB and UC Davis) the Anteaters won three straight in Anaheim, avenging regular season losses to UC Riverside and UCSB in the first two round before beating Hawaii 67-58 in the title game. The Rainbow Warriors did Irvine a favor in their semifinal, beating a UC Davis team that swept UC Irvine during the regular season.
Outlook: This team has the potential to fluster an opponent, due to their zone defense and the size they have on the inside. Ndiaye is a matchup teams don’t encounter much in college basketball, and the guards are good enough to make the plays needed to win games.
How do I know you?: You’ve likely heard about Ndiaye given the fact that he’s the tallest player in college basketball. But he’s developed into a player Irvine can throw the ball to in the post and count on him to score at a solid clip. This program has never been to the NCAA tournament, and among their famous alumni are actor Jon Lovitz and Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.
Arizona, Michigan State headline 2015 Wooden Legacy field
Thursday afternoon the Wooden Legacy was one of two early-season events to announce its field for next season, with traditional powers Arizona and Michigan State being part of the 2015 field.
Joining the Wildcats and Spartans in the field are Boise State, Boston College, Evansville, Providence, Santa Clara and UC Irvine. Of the eight teams in the field three reached the NCAA tournament last season, with Arizona and Michigan State reaching the Elite Eight and Providence dropping an exciting game to North Carolina in the Round of 64.
UC Irvine, which gave Arizona a run for its money Wednesday night, is the preseason favorite to win the Big West and Boise State was picked to finish second in the Mountain West.
The Wooden Legacy will be held November 26, 27 and 29, with the first two days of action being played on the Cal-State Fullerton campus. All four games on November 29 will be played at the Honda Center in Anaheim.