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Fran McCaffery’s controversial Iowa contract extension gets an explanation

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Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery was in the news last week after signing a contract extension to stay in Iowa City.

While McCaffery has helped rebuild the program with three NCAA tournament appearances in eight years, the Hawkeyes have struggled this season when they were expected to at least be competitive in a down year for the Big Ten. The extension — which was signed, in secret, on Nov. 29 — grants McCaffery a pay increase, additional years and a buyout number that makes a lot of Iowa fans uncomfortable.

McCaffery originally had a buyout of $4.6 million if he were to be fired this spring. With the new extension, McCaffery’s buyout jumped to to $10.2 million and $9 million after next season. The buyout numbers stay relatively high for the next few seasons thereafter.

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta cleared up some of the misconceptions about McCaffery’s contract extension this week in an interview with Chad Leistikow the Des Moines Register. Since Barta believes that McCaffery aligns with the school’s goals and future plans, he wanted to make sure he secured his head coach with additional job security. Barta also said that McCaffery received interest from multiple Power 5 programs for his services and that also helped Iowa make the decision on the extension.

“When I hired him, he re-energized a broken program. He’s a tireless recruiter. He’s done a great job in recruiting,” Barta said.

“When I find somebody who matches our culture and is a proven winner and proven that they care about our student-athletes graduating, et cetera, I want to lock them in for a long time, because I want them to stay.”

The secretive nature of the extension — which was revealed publicly thanks to a FOIA request — also irked a lot of Iowa fans. Barta explained that he had a handshake deal in place with McCaffery this summer, but he wanted to wait to publicly announce the extension until after the season to avoid any in-season conflicts. Since Barta was dealing with some personal medical issues late last year, the contract extension couldn’t properly be announced before the season.

“Many times, when we announce coaches’ contracts, it’s for recruiting. In this case, we didn’t need an advantage in recruiting. Recruiting’s been going fine. So I made the decision to wait until the end of the season, knowing full well … it could get out during the season,” Barta said. “I hoped that it would be after the season — not because I’m worried about how we’re playing. But I just did not want to have this conversation in the middle of the season. But it is what it is. And there was no conspiracy.

“I could’ve announced it. I chose not to. There’s really nothing in it to hide. It’s fair for people to criticize.”

Iowa might have given McCaffery a ton of buyout money for the next few seasons, but the Hawkeyes also have a young team with more recruiting reinforcements on the way. In the Class of 2018, Iowa has a top-50 prospect in Joe Wieskamp committed while McCaffery’s two sons, Connor and Patrick, should also both join the program in the next few years. Both McCaffery sons are also four-star basketball prospects — although Connor only played sparingly during his freshman season this year while dealing with an ankle injury and lingering issues thanks to mononucleosis.

The buyout numbers are gaudy, and Iowa hasn’t given fans a lot of confidence with its play this season, but McCaffery at least deserves some of the benefit of the doubt until he plays through next season with nearly the same roster. If that group also underperforms next season, then the Hawkeyes might have a huge issue on their hands.

(H/t: Chad Leistikow, Des Moines Register

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.

Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. returning to school

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Nebraska received some important news on Friday night as senior guard James Palmer Jr. will be back for next season.

The 6-foot-6 Palmer had tested the NBA draft waters, but he decided to return to the Cornhuskers. After putting up 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season, Palmer is expected to be an All-Big Ten candidate once again this season. Palmer shot 44 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range last season.

After transferring in from Miami, Palmer became the Huskers’ go-to scorer last season in helping Nebraska to a 22-win season and NIT appearance.

With Palmer back, Nebraska will have some legitimate expectations for the upcoming season, especially if the team’s second-leading scorer, Isaac Copeland Jr., also returns from the NBA draft process.