Looking Forward: Who were the winners and the losers of the Coaching Carousel?

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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at who were the winners, the losers and the people that couldn’t move the needle during this year’s Coaching Carousel.

THESE ARE YOUR BIG WINNERS

MEMPHIS: To me, Memphis was easily the biggest winner of this year’s coaching carousel, and it’s not just because they hired Tubby Smith, which was arguably the best hire of the spring. Tubby has coached at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas Tech, and the only place that he didn’t significantly exceed expectations during his tenure was at Kentucky, where he won a national title, reached three more Elite 8s and notched five SEC titles in ten seasons. I wrote a column on it at the time. He’ll make Memphis relevant again, and not just in the AAC standings.

But the other part of it is that the Tigers got Josh Pastner’s contract off the books. Pastner was guaranteed more than $10 million over the next four years, which is too much money to just walk away from and, given the relationship between the Tiger fanbase and their former head coach, too expensive for the University to afford. When donors tighten the pursestrings and fans stop showing up to the games, it’s tough to bring in revenue. Memphis wasn’t the only winner in that deal …

JOSH PASTNER: … because Pastner needed a reboot about as badly as Memphis needed him gone. He had lost the fanbase in Memphis. They didn’t support the team, they didn’t support him and if he was going to coach for the rest of his contract, his life in town was going to be almost as miserable as his teams would be. Instead, he was given more than $1 million to go away, and by “go away” I mean become the head coach of Georgia Tech. So he got paid to leave Memphis for a program in a better conference and in Atlanta, a city that he had pulled two McDonald’s All-Americans out of. Not a bad deal.

     RELATED: Eight programs on the rise | And seven on the decline

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     RELATED: Next year’s Breakout Stars

OKLAHOMA STATE: Like Memphis, Oklahoma State was dealing with a coach in Travis Ford that was losing games and, in the process, losing fans. What better way to invigorate a fan base than to hire a head coach that plays an entertaining style of basketball and just so happens to be coming off of a tournament run that saw him get No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin to within a miracle tip-in of the Sweet 16 in a season that capped a three-year run with three NCAA touraments, an 89-14 overall record and a staggering 59-1 league record. That’s what the Pokes got in Brad Underwood, who has Big 12 pedigree having coaching under Bob Huggins and Frank Martin at Kansas State. (More on that in a bit.)

VCU: Just one year removed from #ShakaWatch finally ending, as Smart took over at Texas for Rick Barnes, the Rams once again have one of the best up-and-coming young head coaches in the business in Will Wade. After phenomenal season winning 25 games, an Atlantic 10 regular season title and a first round game in the NCAA tournament, Wade was a favorite to replace Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt, in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Instead, he re-upped on an eight-year deal with VCU.

TEXAS TECH AND CHRIS BEARD: This was a match made in heaven. Beard, who just five years ago wasn’t even in the Division I coaching ranks, took Arkansas-Little Rock to the second round of the NCAA tournament in his first season with the Trojans and parlayed that into the UNLV job (for a week) and then the Texas Tech job. The Red Raiders lost Tubby Smith, who led them back to the NCAA tournament, but landed a guy that A) spent 10 seasons in Lubbock as an assistant coach and B) actually wants to be at Texas Tech, which he has called his dream job.

VANDERBILT: The Commodores needed to part ways with Kevin Stallings after nearly two decades. They did. And they replaced him with Bryce Drew, who had won four Horizon League regular season titles in five years, getting to the NCAA tournament twice. He was one of the hottest mid-major coaching names in recent years. There’s not much more to say than that.

JAMIE DIXON: Dixon went to 11 NCAA tournaments in 13 seasons with Pitt after taking over for Ben Howland, but in the latter years of his coaching tenure, the Panthers had plateaued. Thanks, realignment. Anyway, Dixon and Pitt needed to go their separate ways, and Dixon ended up getting the gig at his alma mater, TCU, which is a better job than people realize. Great facilities, donors with deep pockets, a highly-regarded athletic director and a spot in the middle of the fertile recruiting grounds of Dallas.

New UNLV men's basketball coach Marvin Menzies smiles during a news conference after the UNLV board of regents approved his contract, Friday, April 22, 2016 in Las Vegas. The boards voted 12-1 on Friday to approve a five-year, $3.75 million deal for Menzies. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP) LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
Marvin Menzies (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

     RELATED: Looking Forward Big 12 | ACC | A-10 | Big East | Big Ten

AND THESE ARE YOUR LOSERS

DELAWARE: It’s mid-May, nearly two months after former head coach Monte’ Ross was fired. The Blue Hens have not only not hired a replacement yet, they only last week hired the new athletic director that will be hiring said replacement. In the meantime, the program is down to just four scholarship players after their top six scorers all transferred. Good luck finding someone to take that job.

UNLV: I actually think that UNLV made a pretty good hire with Marvin Menzies. He’s a member of the Rick Pitino coaching tree that had a lot of success at New Mexico State and will come relatively cheap for a program that is more or less broke.

The problem is that their coaching search was embarrassingly public. It started with rumors that Rick Pitino was going to leave Louisville for Vegas. That didn’t happen. Then Mick Cronin deftly used the Rebels as leverage to get an extension out of Cincinnati. Chris Beard eventually took the job, but after it took more than a week for the Board of Regents to actually approve his contract, Beard ended up leaving for Texas Tech a week later. And all of that happened in a year where UNLV fired Dave Rice in January, roughly eight months after they extended him instead of looking for a replacement. And do you know who they could have hired last spring? Ben Howland.

There’s no way around it: UNLV’s search was an absolute embarrassment. It’s no wonder Menzies took over a team with just two scholarship players.

KANSAS STATE: I’m not saying that Bruce Weber deserved to be fired. He’s been to two tournament in four seasons in Manhattan. But he’s also 32-33 overall and 13-23 in the Big 12 the last two seasons. So there’s justification for a coaching change, especially when you consider that this was the year where Brad Underwood would be leaving Stephen F. Austin. Underwood is a Kansas State alum who spent six seasons as an assistant with Bobby Huggins and Frank Martin and won 89 games the last three seasons. He had all the makings of the man that would spark the resurgence of the Kansas State program.

Instead, Underwood went to Oklahoma State, a Big 12 rival. Weber is probably coaching for his job next season.

STEVE PIKIELL: I actually think Steve Pikiell is a really good coach. It took a few years, but he built Stony Brook into a mid-major powerhouse out of basically nothing. With so many key pieces graduating this year, it was his time to move on, so he took over at … Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights haven’t had a winning season since 2006 (shoutout to Quincy Douby), they haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1991 and, since their last tournament trip, they’ve finished with a .500 record in league play just twice. Never better than .500, and never better than fifth in their league standings.

And now they’re in the Big Ten, meaning that a team in a region where no one cares about college sports will be playing “local” rivals like Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue and Maryland. Good luck, Steve.

THESE HIRES? WELL … WHATEVER

STANFORD: On the one hand, the Cardinal made a needed change getting rid of Johnny Dawkins. That’s probably a good thing (more on that in a second). And they hired a guy in Jerod Haase who is from California and is a part of the North Carolina coaching tree. He spent four seasons at UAB, reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament with an upset win over No. 3 seed Iowa State in 2015 and winning the CUSA regular season title in 2016. It’s not a bad hire, but it’s hard to get overly excited about a guy that finished better than fourth place in a league like CUSA just once.

CENTRAL FLORIDA: UCF landed Johnny Dawkins, a member of Coach K’s coaching tree, after they fired Donnie Jones. But he’s also a guy that was run out of town by Stanford after eight disappointing seasons, one trip to the NCAA tournament and a pair of NIT titles. Just how invigorated can a fan base be by hiring someone else’s cast off?

PITTSBURGH: The same can be asked of Pitt. They got rid of Jamie Dixon, whose success with the Panthers had plateaued, for Kevin Stallings, who was pushed out the door by Vanderbilt because … his career had plateaued.

There’s also the issue of expectations here. Stallings has a very well-respected coach among the peers in his profession. Maybe he just needs to start over at a new school, but when Pitt fans are expecting Pitt natives Sean and Archie Miller to want to come home — and when local reporters are breaking “news” that it’s going to happen — anything less is going to be seen as a disappointment.

GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jackets ran into the exact same issue Pitt did. They fired Brian Gregory and landed Josh Pastner, who was no longer wanted at Memphis, when everyone was expecting athletic director Mike Bobinski to make a splash. He used to be the Xavier athletic director. You know who coaches at Xavier? Chris Mack! You know who else used to coach at Xavier? Sean Miller! You know who Sean Miller’s little brother is? Archie Miller!

There were all these connections, except none of them had any chance to happen. So while it feels like Georgia Tech got stuck with Pastner, in reality they picked a 38-year old that had been to four NCAA tournaments in his first five seasons as a head coach over Pat Kelsey, a former Xavier assistant that has yet to take Winthrop to a single postseason event in four seasons.

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.