2016-17 College Basketball Coaches on the Hot Seat

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The hot seat is a difficult place for head coaches to be, but it’s not a death-knell for anyone’s tenure within a program.

For the last three years, the man at the top of the NBCSports.com Hot Seat list managed to hold onto his job for at least another year. Rick Barnes got Texas back to the NCAA tournament in 2014 before eventually parting ways with the Longhorns in 2015. Mark Turgeon and Melo Trimble brought Maryland back to national relevancy with a terrific year in 2014-15 and Tom Crean’s Big Ten regular season title got him some relief from the Indiana fan base this past year. 

If there is someone that would fall into that category on this year’s list, it is probably Steve Alford, who has drawn the ire of the UCLA fan base but who has a roster talented enough to get the Bruin faithful to chill out.

Here are the high-major head coaches whose name you could hear pop-up during the Coaching Carousel this spring.

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DO NOT SIT DOWN

Johnny Jones: Jones hasn’t been horrible at LSU. He is 80-51 overall, he reached the NCAA tournament in 2014-15 and he’s never finished below .500 in the SEC. The latter could easily change this year, which is a problem considering that the biggest red flag with Jones is that LSU perennially feels like an underachiever. Last season, he had No. 1 pick Ben Simmons averaging 19 points, 12 boards and five assists and couldn’t get to the NCAA tournament. That’s a bad look.

Kim Anderson: Anderson has six SEC wins in his two years as the head coach of the Missouri Tigers. He’s 19-44 overall, and given the amount of turnover within the program – 11 of the 12 players in the 2013 and 2014 Missouri recruiting classes have transferred or been dismissed from the team – it doesn’t look at if this year will be much different. Throw in a new athletic director, and the former Division II national title-winner has an uphill battle to climb.

Richard Pitino: Part of Pitino’s issue is that he hasn’t been winning. After an NIT title in his first year, he finished 10th in the Big Ten during his second season and went 8-23 and 2-16 in the league last season. That’s bad, but what makes the situation all-the-more dire is that his program has dealt with a myriad of off-the-court issues of late. Sexual assault allegations. Arrests for domestic violence. The Gophers even had a player’s phone get hacked and a sex tape involving multiple team members get released onto social media. Should I mention that the AD that hired him – Norwood Teague – was fired amid a sexual harassment scandal?

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Richard Pitino (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Richard Pitino (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Orlando Antigua: In two seasons at USF, Antigua is 17-48 overall and just 7-29 in the American, and it doesn’t look like the Bulls will be much better this season. If that wasn’t enough, the NCAA is investigating an academic matter that already cost Oliver Antigua, Orlando’s brother, his job as an assistant coach.

Jim Christian: Building a program up from the bottom of the ACC is not an easy thing to do, particularly when you’re Boston College. The Eagles are a college program in a pro sports town in a conference that’s centered 850 miles to the south. I get it. But the Eagles are 20-44 under Christian and 4-32 in ACC play, having lost to 20 consecutive ACC opponents. The only reason BC’s record isn’t uglier is that the Eagles somehow won four straight games to close out the 2014-15 regular season. Can Christian survive another year where his best player’s best memories of playing in the program involve going out to eat?

THEY REALLY NEED A BIG YEAR

Steve Alford: A good year for most programs is probably defined as finishing in the top third of the regular season standings, earning a tournament bid and picking up a win against the program’s biggest rival. That’s not a good year at UCLA. That’s essentially what Alford did for his first two seasons with the Bruins, and that didn’t prevent him from drawing the ire of the influencers in that fanbase despite the fact that he’s recruiting as well as anyone on the west coast.

Coming off of a 15-17 season with a team that has an ideal combination of quality veteran players and super-talented freshmen with a chance to make the jump to the NBA, the Bruins, on paper, look like Pac-12 title contenders and a team that can get to the Final Four. Alford needs this team to be nationally relevant come March or he’s going to see more airplane banners and billboard trucks calling for his ouster.

John Groce: Groce went to the NCAA tournament in his first season with the Illini in 2012-13, but he’s missed the tournament the last three years and has still never recorded an above-.500 season in Big Ten play. He’s been on the wrong end of some injury luck, however, and he actually has a team capable of making a run at an NCAA tournament berth. Throw in some recruiting momentum in the state, and Illinois seems to be trending in the right direction, at least for now.

POSITION RANKS: Lead Guards | Off Guards | Wings | Big Men

John Groce, (AP Photo/Robin Scholz)
John Groce, (AP Photo/Robin Scholz)

Pat Chambers: This will be year six for Chambers in Happy Valley and the best that he’s been able to muster is a 10th place finish in the league and a 7-11 conference record. That said, his best year with Penn State was last season and he’s managed to put together a couple of quality recruiting classes in a row. Six straight years without an NCAA tournament berth is difficult for any coach to overcome in a Power 5 conference, but at a program like Penn State – where basketball isn’t exactly the school’s focal point – trending up may be enough to get him one more year.

Mike Anderson: A longtime Arkansas assistant in the Nolan Richardson years, the plan was for Anderson to take over and bring back the glory years. In the five seasons he’s been in charge, the Razorbacks were nationally relevant just once, a run to the 2015 NCAA tournament’s second round. He has a chance to be very good with this group, led by seniors Moses Kingsley and Dusty Hannahs, but Anderson may need to return to the dance if he’s going to keep his dream job.

Bruce Weber: Weber took over for Frank Martin at a time when Kansas State had grown into national relevancy. He reached two straight NCAA tournaments to start his tenure, but has since gone 32-33 and just 13-23 in the Big 12. This year he has the pieces to make some noise in a league that’s wide-open after Kansas. Will anything short of a trip back to the tournament be enough to stave off a job change?

Jeff Lebo: Lebo has been at East Carolina for six years and has not made an NCAA tournament. In two seasons in the American, he’s 26-39 and just 10-26 in league play. The Pirates basketball program was not exactly a selling point in their pitch to the Big 12.

JUST DON’T BE TERRIBLE, OK?

Tim Miles: This is Miles’ fifth season at Nebraska. He’s only had one year with less than 18 losses and more than six league wins. That was in 2013-14, when the Huskers reached the NCAA tournament. He lost Shavon Shields and Andrew White this offseason. The Huskers are certainly back in a rebuilding mode, but they were also 10th nationally in attendance in 2015 and 11th in 2016. He’s one of college basketball’s most likable characters, popular with the media and still selling tickets. Be better than Rutgers and Minnesota, don’t get fired. It’s a mantra everyone in the Big Ten can live by.

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Lorenzo Romar: Romar hasn’t had a problem landing talent at Washington. He has had five players picked in the first round in the last five years. The issue has been winning: he hasn’t reached the NCAA tournament in any of those five years, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll dance this year even with potential No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz on the roster. But there’s more: Romar has landed a commitment from Michael Porter Jr., a top five player in the Class of 2017, and hired Michael Porter Sr. as an assistant coach. Will that be enough to save his job if Fultz isn’t enough to get the Huskies back to playing in March?

Brad Brownell: It’s been five years since Brownell has gotten Clemson into the NCAA tournament, but this may be the year that he gets it done. As a member of a loaded ACC, he has a couple of critical transfers getting eligible and got a boost when Jaron Blossomgame opted to return to school for his senior season.

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.