No one told Wisconsin they weren’t supposed to be this Final Four’s Team of Destiny


INDIANAPOLIS — Never in college basketball history have we seen the hype machine reach the levels it did in the six days between the end of the Elite 8 and the start of the Final Four.

Tom Izzo and Coach K squaring off. Kentucky vs. Wisconsin, again. Jahlil Okafor and Karl Towns and Frank Kaminsky. A Final Four in which Bo Ryan can be called the “worst” of the four coaches still working.

And, to cap it off, the seemingly inevitable meeting between Duke and the 39-0 Wildcats on Monday, a battle between the nation’s two most high-profile programs and coaches with nothing but a national title and undefeated season on the line. It’s the matchup that everyone — from casual fans to North Carolina and Louisville — wanted to see, and once Kentucky had completed their second comeback of the night, using a 16-4 run to take a 60-56 lead with five minutes left, it looked like that’s precisely what we were going to get.

Then, those shot clock violations happened.

And Sam Dekker’s three went down.

And, suddenly, Wisconsin had themselves a 71-64 win and a date with Duke with a title on the line.

Press row was abuzz, as every hack with a press pass pounded out words on their keyboard, trying to do justice to what may just end up being the greatest game they ever cover. Kentucky’s pursuit of perfection was the single-biggest story of the 2014-15 season, and all it took was those final five minutes to turn the previously unbeatable Wildcats to 38-and-Done. If the Badgers go on to win on Monday, Saturday’s game will assuredly be mentioned in the same conversation as Duke’s win over then-undefeated UNLV in the 1991 Final Four and Team USA’s win over Russia in hockey in the 1980 Olympics: semifinal wins that no one ever remembers happened in a semifinal.

It’s just … no one actually told Wisconsin they weren’t supposed to be able to win. The Badgers weren’t celebrating the way their fans were. In the locker room after the game, there were plenty of smiles, but that was about it. No dancing. No partying. As assistant coach Greg Gard put it, “no one got Gatorade dumped on them,” because as incredible as that win was, it really didn’t mean anymore to the Badgers than the win over No. 16 Coastal Carolina three weeks ago did. It was just another step in the process of trying to win a national title.

As long as the nets in Lucas Oil Stadium are still dangling off of the rim, the Badgers have not yet accomplished what they set out to do.

“We’ll enjoy it for a little while here tonight, but we know what’s in store on Monday night,” Gard added. “They were pretty quiet [when they got back to the locker room]. They celebrated out on the court because of the moment and the environment.”

“They know. They know we’ve got one more game to accomplish our goal.”

The difference lies in how Wisconsin viewed this Kentucky team. The media, the fans, everyone outside of that Badger locker room, we all saw the Wildcats as this force of nature, this team with more size than most NBA teams and, arguably, more future NBA players than the other three teams in Indianapolis combined. But it was more than that. The Wildcats almost felt like a team of destiny. Not only were they insanely talented, but they were winning — escaping? — each and every time they got tested. Ole Miss couldn’t beat them when they had a shot to win at the end of regulation. Texas A&M couldn’t, either. LSU had them down six late in the second half and missed a three at the buzzer that would have won the game. Georgia had them down late in the second half. Notre Dame was up six with five minutes left.

And every time, Kentucky found a way to win.

It wasn’t so much that Kentucky was unbeatable, it was that the Wildcats, despite their youth and despite the constant, and usually erroneous, criticisms of their head coach’s ability as an in-game tactician, always made the plays they needed to make to get to the next game with a zero on the right side of their record.

40-0 was inevitable.

That’s how the rest of the country saw it, anyway.

But not Wisconsin.

“Obviously, they were undefeated,” Bronson Koenig said, “but we didn’t look at their record or anything like that.”

“We’re not surprised we were in this situation,” Dekker said. “This is something we’ve been talking about since day one this season.”

The Badgers didn’t look across the court and see a juggernaut. What they saw was a team that, a year ago, beat them by a single point thanks to an Aaron Harrison 25-foot three that barely missed being blocked by Josh Gasser.

“What do you mean we’ve done something that nobody’s ever done?” Ryan asked a reporter in response to a question on Saturday night. “It’s a nice feeling to know that you’ve got a chance. A little bit better than Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber. There were times where it was a million-to-one, but not this time.”

This is who Wisconsin is. All week long — all tournament and all season long, really — they’ve become that lovable group of nerds that talk non-stop about Super Smash Bros and FIFA, the guys that went viral because they’re obsessed with the NCAA-provided stenographers. They’ve talked all week long about how they can goof off and joke around and act like your typical frat boys until that ball gets rolled out.

Maybe they just didn’t realize they weren’t supposed to be the team of destiny in this Final Four.

“I’m going to tell a little bit of a story here,” Kaminsky said at the press conference, a story that perfectly sums up who this Badger team is. “I was playing FIFA in the room, you know, we had so much time today, one of my buddies from back home came and we were talking, Alex Flood. He said if I had 20, Sam had 16 or 18, Nigel would have 12, and either Bronson or Josh would add 10 or 12, we would win by seven points, that’s exactly what happened.”

“It’s just too weird not to bring up, how the game ended, how the numbers worked out, it was perfect.”

Texas’ Arterio Morris plays amid misdemeanor domestic violence case

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AUSTIN, Texas — In a season when Texas fired coach Chris Beard after a felony domestic violence arrest, it has allowed a reserve guard to keep playing while he awaits trial on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Second-seed Texas has advanced under interim coach Rodney Terry to the program’s first Sweet 16 since 2008, and the Longhorns play No. 3 Xavier in Kansas City, Missouri.

Arterio Morris, a freshman who was one of the top recruits in the country last year, was initially scheduled to stand trial March 29, three days before Final Four weekend. Denton County prosecutors were granted a delay to an unspecified date.

Beard was fired Jan. 5, about three weeks after he was arrested on suspicion of a felony charge of choking his fiancée in a fight during which she also told police he bit, and hit her. She later recanted the choking allegation and the Travis County district attorney dismissed the case, saying prosecutors were following her wishes not to got to trial and that the charge could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Morris is charged with Class A misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury to a family member, which in Texas includes dating relationships. It stems from a June 2022 confrontation in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The charge carries penalties ranging from probation and fines to up to a year in jail if convicted.

Morris’ attorney, Justin Moore, said the charges against Beard and the player are different.

“(Beard) was charged with a felony family assault,” Moore said. “That was far more serious as to what Arterio was alleged to have to committed. We maintain Arterio’s innocence.”

According to police, the ex-girlfriend said Morris grabbed her arm and pulled her off a bed, and later pulled the front of her sports bra, causing an injury to her neck and shoulder area. Police reported seeing a sizable bruise or scratch.

Texas officials declined comment. Beard said before the season that school officials he would not identify determined the freshman could play this season.

Moore defended Texas officials’ decision to not suspend Morris.

“I do believe Texas has taken this seriously. They’ve also allowed Arterio to enjoy his due process rights,” Moore said.

Morris has played in all 36 games this season, although his minutes and have been limited on a senior-dominated team. He averages nearly 12 minutes and 4.7 points per game. His biggest moment was a soaring alley-oop dunk against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.

Attempts to reach Morris’ ex-girlfriend through family members were not successful. According to online records, prosecutors sought the trial delay to “procure witness availability.” Prosecutor Jamie Beck did not immediately return messages.

Wichita State hires ORU’s Paul Mills to lead program

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Wichita State hired Paul Mills away from Oral Roberts to turn around its languishing program, landing what has been one of the hottest names among mid-major coaches.

The 50-year-old Mills led the the Golden Eagles to two of the past three NCAA Tournaments, engineering upsets of Ohio State and Florida as a No. 15 seed in 2021 before going 30-5 this past season and losing to Duke as a No. 5 seed.

He replaces Isaac Brown, who was fired after three seasons as the Shockers slowly slipped toward mediocrity.

“My family and I are extremely excited about being a part of Wichita State,” said Mills, who will be introduced during a news conference at Charles Koch Arena. “The rich history, winning tradition and unbelievable community support will keep us working on behalf of the greatest fans in all of college basketball.”

Mills got his break in coaching when he joined Scott Drew’s first staff at Baylor in 2003, working alongside future Kansas State coach Jerome Tang in helping to turn around a program that had been mired in controversy. Mills stayed for 14 years, helping to reach seven NCAA Tournaments, before replacing Scott Sutton at Oral Roberts before the 2017 season.

Mills went just 11-21 each of his first two seasons in Tulsa, but the seeds of a turnaround had been planted, and the Golden Eagles have not had a losing season since. The biggest step came two years ago, when Mills led Oral Roberts to the Sweet 16 of an NCAA Tournament played entirely within an Indianapolis “bubble environment” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Golden Eagles slipped to 19-12 the following year before winning 30 games and the Summit League title this past season, when they were led by high-scoring guard Max Abmas, an honorable mention All-American selection.

“Paul Mills’ heart for people, passion for life and approach to the development of young people and programs is energizing,” Wichita State athletic director Kevin Saal said in a statement. “He aligns with Shocker Athletics’ core values, facilitates a first-class student-athlete experience and fuels broad-based competitive excellence.”

The hiring of Mills comes as the Shockers try to position themselves at the forefront of a new-look American Athletic Conference. Perennial powerhouse Houston is joining Central Florida and Cincinnati in leaving for the Big 12 after this season, and six new schools are due to arrive from Conference USA for the start of next season.

Wichita State, a power under Ralph Miller and Gene Smithson in the 1960s, returned to prominence when Mark Turgeon took over in 2000. But it was under Gregg Marshall, who resigned in November 2020 amid allegations of verbal and physical abuse of players, that it began to soar. The Shockers advanced to the Final Four in 2013, finished the regular season unbeaten the following year and at one point went to seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

Brown, who was Marshall’s top recruiter, led them back to the NCAA Tournament in his first year. But the Shockers were just 15-13 last year and 17-15 this past season, leading Saal to decide that a coaching change was necessary.

Turns out the answer Saal was looking for was just a few hours south at Oral Roberts.

Arizona State extends Bobby Hurley through 2025-26 season

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State agreed to a contract extension with head coach Bobby Hurley that runs through the 2025-26 season.

The deal announced on Tuesday is subject to approval by the Arizona Board of Regents. Hurley’s previous contract was set to expire after next season.

“Coach Hurley has made our program relevant nationally with many significant wins and an exciting style, along with a firm commitment to the academic success of our student-athletes,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “He has made it clear to us that he wants to be here and we have done likewise with him. We share a strong confidence in the present and future state of Sun Devil men’s basketball.”

Hurley led the Sun Devils to 23 wins this season and their third trip to the NCAA Tournament the last five times it has been played. Arizona State beat Nevada in the First Four before losing to Texas Christian on a last-second shot last Friday.

The Sun Devils have won at least 20 games four of the past six seasons. They are 141-113 in eight seasons under Hurley.

Mark Campbell new TCU women’s coach after taking Sacramento State to NCAA

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Mark Campbell was hired as TCU’s women’s basketball coach after the former Oregon assistant took Sacramento State to its first NCAA Tournament in an impressive and quick turnaround.

Sacramento State was coming off a 3-22 season when Campbell was hired two years ago. The Hornets won 14 games in Campbell’s first season, and then made another 11-win improvement this season while finishing 25-8 with Big Sky regular-season and tournament championships.

During his seven seasons on Oregon’s staff before that, the Ducks had some of the nation’s top recruiting classes. That included Campbell recruiting Sabrina Ionescu, who became the AP player of the year in 2020 before she was the first overall pick in the WNBA draft.

Campbell replaces Raegan Pebley, who stepped down after nine seasons as TCU’s coach with a 141-138 record. The Horned Frogs were 8-23 this season, including 1-17 in Big 12 play during the regular season.

TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati described Campbell as an elite recruiter and program builder.

“Similar to his success at Sacramento State, he was instrumental in Oregon quickly becoming one of the nation’s most successful programs, reaching their first NCAA Elite Eight and then Final Four,” Donati said.

The Frogs haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2010. That was their ninth NCAA appearance, all coming in a 10-season span without making it past the second round.

Boston College extends Earl Grant through 2028-29 season

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BOSTON – Boston College coach Earl Grant has agreed to a two-year extension that will keep him under contract through the 2028-29 season.

Grant took over as Eagles coach prior to the 2021-22 season and finished 13-20. Boston College went 16-17 this past season, but it had three wins over nationally ranked teams for the first time in 14 years.

“My family and I have enjoyed being a part of this amazing community,” Grant said in a statement. “Boston is a great city and we are glad to call it our home. I am thankful for the efforts of my staff to help move the program forward.”

The Eagles finished 9-11 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, their most wins in the league play since 2010-11. Quinten Post also became the first Boston College player to be named Most Improved Player.

In announcing the extension, athletic director Blake James expressed optimism about the direction of the program.

“Earl has done an outstanding job leading our men’s basketball program over the last two seasons and we are looking forward to him doing so for many years to come,” James said.