Jerian Grant, D’Angelo Russell headline guards to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

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After Shabazz Napier helped lead No. 7 seed UConn to a national championship last year, guards are all the rage in the NCAA Tournament this year. “Who is the next Shabazz Napier?” is a question that has been frequently asked leading into the 2015 NCAA Tournament. We might never get a performance to match Napier’s incredible run last March, but there are plenty of exciting guards playing this March, and the top four didn’t play in the NCAA Tournament last season.

There are plenty of guards who could have been included on this list, (let us know in the comments section) but we’re going to look at the players most vital to team success and a potential deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

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1. Jerian Grant (Notre Dame): Without Grant last season, who missed the second half of the season with academic issues, the Irish were a mediocre team. Now that the senior has returned, Notre Dame won the ACC conference tournament and enter as a very intriguing No. 3 seed. The 6-foot-5 Grant averaged 16.8 points, 6.6 assists and 3 rebounds per game. He also has the best dunk of the college basketball season.

2. D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State): Before we begin talking about the best backcourt NBA Draft prospect in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, I want you to watch some of Russell’s ridiculous passes. Besides his breathtaking vision and passing ability (5.1 assists per game), the 6-foot-5 McDonald’s All-American is averaging 19.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He can hit shots from anywhere (41 percent 3-point). Watching Russell’s unique style will be a lot of fun when he goes against VCU’s “Havoc” in the Round of 64.

3. Kris Dunn (Providence): The 6-foot-3 Dunn has battled injury the last two seasons, but now the basketball world is seeing what made him a McDonald’s All-American in 2012. Electric with the ball in his hands, Dunn is probably the most fun to watch after snaring a rebound and going coast-to-coast with his speed and open-floor ability. The turnovers will drive some crazy (4.1 per game) but those come in-part because Dunn is trying to make some highly difficult plays. Dunn averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game this season.

4. Delon Wright (Utah): One of the best in college hoops at working pick-and-rolls, the younger brother of NBA veteran Dorell Wright is having a fantastic senior season. The 6-foot-5 Wright averaged 14.9 points, 5.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game this season and, like Dunn, has the potential to make thrilling plays going coast-to-coast with the ball in his hands. Wright can also elevate in traffic and finish above the rim.

5. Buddy Hield (Oklahoma): Many view Oklahoma as a darkhorse Final Four pick and one of the nation’s premier two-way guards is a big reason why. The 6-foot-4 junior averaged 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in winning Big 12 Player of the Year honors this season. Hield is also regarded as a clutch performer and had a game-winning tip against Kansas this season.

READ MORE: Ranking the field | Eight teams that can win | Perfect bracket pool

6. Melo Trimble (Maryland): Some have called the freshman McDonald’s All-American underrated, but we at CBT admired Trimble’s play enough to make him a third-team All-American this season. The 6-foot-2 freshman is one of the game’s best closers thanks to his 86 percent free-throw shooting and he’s also putting up 16.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for the resurgent Terps.

7. T.J. McConnell (Arizona): We hear the phrase “true point guard” thrown around quite a bit in the basketball world and the 6-foot-1 senior fits that bill. McConnell is the undisputed leader of the No. 2 seed Wildcats and averaged 9.8 points, 6.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. The senior also is a pest on the defensive end, averaging 2.1 steals per game, and is the main setup guy for Arizona’s talented roster.

8. Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia): When Justin Anderson went down with injury it looked like Virginia might be in trouble. Thanks to the elevated play of the 6-foot-5 Brogdon, the Cavaliers kept winning a lot of games. The junior first-team All-ACC selection led Virginia in scoring at 13.9 points per game and also had 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Brogdon also doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. He’s made buzzer beaters and shoots 87 percent from the free-throw line.

9. Marcus Paige (North Carolina): It wasn’t the best regular season for the 6-foot-1 junior, but Paige has the potential to take the Tar Heels on a run here if he gets going. A third-team All-ACC selection this season, Paige 13.9 points, 4.6 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. Paige has a propensity to make tough shots and opposing defenses always have to track his whereabouts closely.

10. Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga): The 6-foot-2 senior is actually averaging a career low 11.5 poins per game this season, but it’s because he’s doing such a tremendous job of setting up his teammates. Pangos averaged a career-high five assists per game as a senior and elevated his already stellar shooting splits (46% FG, 44% 3PT, 83% FT). He’s the type of player who can run off multiple 3-pointers in short order.

Six More to Keep in Mind

  • Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova)
  • Ron Baker (Wichita State)
  • Quinn Cook (Duke)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Villanova)
  • Monte’ Morris (Iowa State)
  • Juwan Staten (West Virginia)

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark wins AP Player of the Year

caitlin clark
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS — Caitlin Clark has put together one of the greatest individual seasons in NCAA history with eye-popping offensive numbers.

Iowa’s junior guard, though, saved her best performance for the game’s biggest stage, recording the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA history to get Iowa to the Final Four for the first time in 30 years.

Clark was honored Thursday as The Associated Press women’s basketball Player of the Year. She received 20 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. Voting was done before March Madness began.

“It’s a huge honor,” Clark said. “I picked a place that I perfectly fit into and that’s allowed me to show my skill set. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mean something. It’s not the reason you play basketball, it’s just something that comes along with getting to do what you love.”

The Iowa coaching staff surprised Clark by sharing that she won the award while they were visiting the Iowa Children’s Hospital – a place near and dear to her. It also has huge ties to the Hawkeyes athletic department.

They put together a video of some of the children in the hospital congratulating Clark on an outstanding season, and in the middle of it, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder popped on the screen to tell her she won.

“I’m there for inspiring the next generation and being there for the people that you know are going through a hard time,” said Clark, who grew up in Iowa. “Being able to give joy to people that watch you play and watch your team play is amazing.”

She averaged 27.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds during the season to help Iowa go 26-6. Clark has 984 points, the sixth-most in a season by any player in Division I women’s history. She also has over 300 assists.

“She is spectacular. I don’t know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court,” Bluder said.

Next up for the Hawkeyes is undefeated South Carolina in the national semifinals. The Gamecocks are led by Aliyah Boston, last season’s winner of the award. She garnered the other eight votes this season.

“There’s so many great players, more than just me and (Aliyah),” Clark told the AP. “You can go on and on and list the tremendous players. I think that’s really good for our game when there’s a lot of great players. That’s what is going to help this game grow more than anything else.”

Whether it’s hitting deep 3s from the Hawkeye logo at home games, hitting off-balance game-winning shots or throwing pinpoint passes to teammates for easy baskets, Clark has excelled on the court this year to get Iowa to a place it hasn’t been in a long time.

“It’s funny, because the better the opponent, almost the better she plays,” Bluder said. “It’s like she locks in on those, when we’re playing against Top 25 teams. That’s when her statistics even go up even more, against great opponents.”

Clark is the second Iowa player to win the AP award in the past few seasons, joining Megan Gustafson who won it in 2019.

UCLA guard Jaylen Clark declares for NBA draft

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES – UCLA guard Jaylen Clark has declared for the NBA draft, weeks after a leg injury forced him out of the season’s final six games.

The junior from Riverside, California, announced his plans on his Instagram account Wednesday.

“Thank you to UCLA and coach (Mick) Cronin for believing in me,” Clark’s post read. “I’d like to announce that I am declaring for the 2023 draft.”

Clark didn’t indicate whether he would hire an agent ahead of the June 22 draft or retain his remaining eligibility. He has until May 31 to withdraw and be able to return to Westwood.

He suffered a lower right leg injury in the regular-season finale against Arizona on March 4. Clark averaged 13 points and six rebounds while starting 29 of 30 games. He led the Pac-12 in total steals with 78, tying for third all-time in single-season steals for the Bruins.

He was a second team All-Pac-12 selection, was named the league’s defensive player of the year and made its five-man All-Defensive Team.

AP college basketball: and and

Penn State hires VCU’s Rhoades as men’s basketball coach

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Penn State hired VCU’s Mike Rhoades on Wednesday as its men’s basketball coach, bringing in the Pennsylvania native to take over a program coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than a decade.

The Penn State board of trustees approved a seven-year deal worth $25.9 million for Rhoades, who is from Mahanoy City in eastern Pennsylvania.

Just a few hours after Rhoades was named at Penn State, VCU hired Utah State coach Ryan Odom to replace Rhoades.

Rhoades replaces Micah Shrewsberry, who was hired away by Notre Dame last week.

Shrewsberry, an Indiana native, was at Penn State for two seasons. The Nittany Lions went 23-14 this season, reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and won an NCAA game for the first time since 2001.

Rhoades, 50, was 129-61 in six seasons at VCU, including three NCAA Tournament bids. He also spent three seasons at Rice, going 23-12 in the final year with the Owls before returning to VCU.

He was an assistant at the Richmond, Virginia, school from 2009-14 under then-head coach Shaka Smart.

Odom was 44-25 at Utah State in two seasons, with an NCAA Tournament appearance this season.

He previously spent five seasons at Maryland-Baltimore County, going 97-60. In 2018, Odom’s UMBC team became the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament when it beat Virginia.

Temple hires Penn State assistant Fisher to replace McKie

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

PHILADELPHIA – Temple named Penn State assistant Adam Fisher just its fifth coach since 1973 on Wednesday.

Fisher’s goal will be to turn around a program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2019.

Fisher replaces Aaron McKie, who was transferred out of the coaching job earlier this month after four seasons and a 52-56 overall record with no tournament berths. McKie is now a special advisor to the athletic department.

Fisher takes over a team in flux with six players in the transfer portal. Temple has yet to find any steady success in the American Athletic Conference.

Fisher spent eight years as an assistant with Miami before he joined Micah Shrewsberry’s staff last season at Penn State. Shrewsberry has since moved on to Notre Dame.

“I am confident we have found the right person to lead Temple men’s basketball,” athletic director Arthur Johnson said. “We look forward to welcoming coach Fisher to the Temple community and returning to the NCAA Tournament under his leadership.”

Fisher also worked as a graduate manager at Villanova under Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright from 2007-09.

The Owls have traditionally given their coaches significant time on the bench, though McKie’s tenure was the shortest since Ernest Messikomer from 1939-42. The next five coaches all lasted at least 10 seasons, notably Hall of Fame coach John Chaney’s tenure from 1982-2006.

Cal hires Mark Madsen as basketball coach

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BERKELEY, Calif. – California is hiring a former Stanford star to revive its struggling basketball program.

The Golden Bears announced Wednesday that Mark Madsen was signed to replace the fired Mark Fox following the worst season in school history.

“We conducted an exhaustive search, and one name kept rising to the top – and that’s Mark Madsen,” athletic director Jim Knowlton said. “Mark is a person of high character, high energy, high intensity, and he’s done it the right way. He’s intense. He’s passionate. He loves his student-athletes, and he loves competing. We want an ambassador for this program who is going to make us proud and develop our young men – both on and off the court. I am absolutely thrilled that Mark will lead our program into the future.”

Madsen played at Stanford under Mike Montgomery, who later coached at Cal, from 1996 to 2000 and helped the Cardinal reach the Final Four in 1998.

After a nine-year playing career in the NBA that featured two titles as a backup on the Lakers in 2001-02, Madsen went into coaching.

He spent time in the NBA’s developmental league and a year at Stanford before spending five seasons on the Lakers staff.

Madsen then was hired in 2019 to take over Utah Valley. He posted a 70-51 record in four years with a 28-9 mark this season before losing on Tuesday night in the NIT semifinals to UAB.

“Having grown up in the area, I have always admired Cal as an institution and as an athletic program, with so many of my teachers, coaches and friends impressive Cal graduates,” Madsen said. “We will win with young men who have elite academic and athletic talent and who will represent Cal with pride.”

Madsen is the third prominent coach to flip sides in recent years in the Bay Area rivalry between Cal and Stanford. The Cardinal hired former Cal quarterback Troy Taylor to take over the football program last season and Bears women’s basketball coach Charmin Smith played and coached as an assistant at Stanford.

Madsen is faced with a tough task, taking over a program that went 3-29 under Fox and set a school record for most losses and worst winning percentage in a season.

Cal went 38-87 during Fox’s tenure, ending his final season on a 16-game losing streak. Fox’s .304 winning percentage ranking second worst in school history to predecessor Wyking Jones’ 16-47 mark (.254) in the two seasons before Fox arrived.

The Bears haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2016 and haven’t won a game in the tournament since 2013 under Montgomery.

Adding to the issues for Fox was the complete lack of interest in the program. Cal’s home attendance averaged just 2,155 this season for the lowest mark among any team in the Power 5 or Big East. That’s down from an average of 9,307 per game in Cuonzo Martin’s last season in 2016-17 and from 5,627 the year before Fox arrived.

Cal had the worst winning percentage among any school in the six major conferences during Fox’s tenure. The Bears also were the lowest-scoring team (62.4 points per game) in all Division I under Fox and had the worst scoring margin of any major conference team under Fox.