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2018 College Basketball Coaching Carousel: Ranking the 12 best hires from the spring of 2018

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As of today, the college basketball coaching carousel isn’t quite finished spinning — thanks at lot, Detroit and Chicago State — but for all intents and purposes, all the jobs that are nationally relevant are filled and have been filled for a couple of weeks, some for more than a month.

What that means is that it is time to look back on some of those big name coaching decisions. 

Who made the best hires?

Did anyone make a head-scratching decision?

Who is guaranteed success?

Who is locked into failure?

Here are the 12 best hires of the carousel.

THE NO-BRAINERS

1. CHRIS MACK, Louisville

For my money, Mack is one of the ten best coaches in college basketball. He’s young, he’s a high-level recruiter, he understands how to run a program in that part of the country, he’s dealt with a passionate fanbase at a basketball school. This was the hire, and Louisville got it done.

1a. DAN HURLEY, UConn

Another homerun hire, and this one coming at a discount of sorts. Hurley picked UConn over Pitt, who offered a more lucrative contract, and Rhode Island, who offered him an extension with a bigger dollar figure. Dan, the son of legendary high school coach Bob Hurley and the younger brother of Bobby Hurley, picked the Huskies in part because of the fact that they were another school in the Northeast and in part because of the pedigree that comes with the UConn brand.

Whether or not the Huskies can actually return to the glory of the Calhoun years is up for debate, but Hurley is the guy to do it. He’ll recruit better than Kevin Ollie did and he should be able to coach up the players he lands better than Ollie did the last four seasons. I don’t expect UConn to once again because a top 5-10 program in college basketball, but I do think that Hurley is the guy that can get them back to being a perennial top 25 team and an annual AAC contender.

(AP Photo/Stephen Dunn)

THESE ATHLETIC DIRECTORS EARNED THEIR SALARIES

3. PENNY HARDAWAY, Memphis

I do not know if Penny is going to be a good college coach. He was a good high school coach, a good AAU coach and a great college and NBA player, but that doesn’t always translate. What I do know is this: He is going to be able to recruit the city of Memphis, which is something that Tubby Smith, his predecessor, was not able to do, because he already is landing Memphis kids. Getting talent matters. I think Tubby Smith is a better basketball coach than Josh Pastner, but Pastner unquestionably had more success at Memphis than Smith did. Penny will get talent.

But more importantly, Penny has reinvigorated a fan base. Memphis fans want to root for talented, local players. They’re going to do that with Penny — who is a Memphis native and alum — recruiting the kids he coached at East HS and with Team Penny. Gary Parrish, a Memphis radio host, said on the CBT Podcast on Monday that Memphis has already brought in enough money through donations and ticket sales to pay Penny’s salary and Tubby’s buyout for a year. College sports in a business, and at Memphis, business is finally good again.

4. JEFF CAPEL, Pittsburgh

I think Capel is a good coach and a very good recruiter who doesn’t get enough credit for the job he did at VCU or at Oklahoma before everything blew up in his face post-Blake Griffin. He was overdue to get another shot at a high-major gig, and Pitt was able to land him.

But, if I’m being frank, his presence this high on this list has a lot more to do with the fact that I believe Pitt is a bad job in the midst of what is going to be a long and difficult rebuild. The Pitt basketball program has no pedigree outside of the years that Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon were on campus. They’ve been to seven Sweet 16s in program history, and five of them came in a seven-year period from 2002-09. That was when the Panthers, who have no recruiting base to speak of, were pulling kids out of New York City with the pitch of being able to play in the Big East.

Now?

They’re in the ACC. That sale isn’t going to work, which means that Capel has to find a way to convince players to join a program that went 0-18 in the ACC last season. I’m not sure Pitt is a top ten job in the ACC. And they landed Capel. Good for them.

5. ASHLEY HOWARD, La Salle

Ashley Howard is a Philly native and a former La Salle assistant that has spent all but one year of his post-high school life playing or coaching at one of Philly’s college basketball programs. He knows that city as well as anyone, and has spent the last five years as an assistant on the staff of the most successful program in college basketball during that time, Villanova. This was the guy that La Salle needed to get, and they got him despite the fact that the athletic department is not in great shape financially.

Jamion Christian (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

6. JAMION CHRISTIAN, Siena

Christian went to two NCAA tournaments in six seasons at Mount St. Mary’s, finding a way to stay relevant despite losing transfers to bigger programs. He just turned 36 years old and has a bright future in front of him in this business. He’s had other offers and turned down other jobs, and eventually a better program than Siena was going to smarten up and pull the trigger. What makes the hire even more impressive is that Siena made it happen in the wake of an ugly breakup with Jimmy Patsos. This is the kind of hire that is going to lead to Siena getting back to NCAA tournaments … and having to find another head coach in five or six years.

7. NIKO MEDVED, Colorado State

The Rams landed themselves one of the better young coaches in the country who is a former assistant with the program and they did it without having to break the bank. In four years, Medved built Furman from a program that was left for dead to a conference champ for the first time in 26 seasons. In one season at Drake, he turned the Bulldogs from a team that was expected to be a joke to one that went 10-8 in the league. He’ll have a similar rebuilding task on his hands in Fort Collins, but he should be up for it.

8. JOE DOOLEY, East Carolina

East Carolina is a terrible job. It’s that simple. Terrible. They’ve been to the NCAA tournament twice in program history, the last time coming in 1993. Dooley knows all about this. He was an assistant on staff when they made the 1993 NCAA tournament despite finishing below .500 and just 4-10 in the CAA. He was also the head coach at the program from 1995-99. The best he did was a 17-10 mark, finishing tied for third in the conference. Now, the Pirates are in the AAC, a league that isn’t great but is well above the level of the program. And they were able to land Dooley, a former Kansas assistant that had a ton of success as FGCU the last five years, despite the fact that he knew he was taking a terrible job. Good for them.

AP Photo/John Minchillo

FINE, IF UNINSPIRING

9. TRAVIS STEELE, Xavier

Let me be clear on this: I do not think Travis Steele was a bad hire. I think he’s going to win at Xavier. I think he’s going to keep that program in and around the top 25, if not competing for Big East titles. This was the right hire. But he was always going to be the guy. This is what Xavier does. They promoted Sean Miller after Thad Matta left for Ohio State. He turned into a top ten coach in the country. After Miller left for Arizona, they promoted Mack, and ditto. Steele might end up on that same path. I wouldn’t be shocked. I just think that it’s more impressive to make a good hire at a bad job than it is to make the smart decision to hire from within when it’s the obvious move and what your program does.

10. TOM CREAN, Georgia

It’s not that I don’t think that Crean, the former Marquette and Indiana head man, is a good coach — I do — it’s that this hire is kind of a weird fit. Crean has spent the majority of his coaching career in the midwest, even if he did end up recruiting nationally more than he did within state borders by the end of his time at Indiana. Recruiting Georgia, and specifically Atlanta, is complicated, but it can be quite fertile if done correctly. Figuring out how to navigate the state will be the key to whether or not Crean outperforms his predecessor, Mark Fox.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

11. KERMIT DAVIS, Ole Miss

Kermit Davis is a good coach that had a tremendous amount of success at Middle Tennessee State and is familiar with the recruiting waters he’ll have to wade in at Ole Miss. I’m just not sure that I see the logic in Ole Miss firing the most successful coach that the program has ever had only to go out and hire a guy that basically does the same thing, just at 58 years old instead of 50.

12. DAVID COX, Rhode Island

This was probably the right decision for URI to make, given that Cox should keep some of the talent on the roster from departing. But he’s also going to be a first-year head coach taking over for a guy that made a program without much history nationally relevant. Those are big shoes to fill. We’ll see how it plays out.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Maui finals set; TCU upset; Texas Tech gets impressive win

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College hoops had some intriguing tournaments happening on Tuesday night as events like the Maui Invitational, Cayman Islands Classic and the Hall of Fame Classic continued. A top-25 team also fell to a team who had never defeated a ranked opponent as Tuesday saw a sizable upset.

1. Duke and Gonzaga advance to the Maui Invitational finals

The Maui Invitational continued on Tuesday as the semifinals commenced with some entertaining affairs.

In the opening contest, No. 1 Duke outlasted No. 8 Auburn despite some stretches of sluggish play. Freshmen R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish paced the Blue Devils with 18 points each while fellow freshman Zion Williamson chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds.

CBT’s Travis Hines is in Maui and covered this one, as he goes much more in-depth here.

The second game featured a second-half comeback from No. 3 Gonzaga as they heated up to pull away for an 91-74 victory. The Bulldogs found themselves down at the half, and trailing 50-37 in the second half, before turning on the jets and having a great second half.

Rui Hachimura paced the Gonzaga offense with 24 points while Zach Norvell Jr. heated up after a horrible first half to finish with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Duke and Gonzaga will play on Wednesday night in the Maui title game as that will be one of the must-see non-conference games of this season.

2. TCU played with fire (again) and finally got burned

TCU has been banged up at the start of the season. The No. 18 Horned Frogs are playing without guard Jaylen Fisher while forward Kouat Noi made his regular-season debut on Tuesday after missing the first three games of the season.

So it makes sense why TCU has struggled to put away buy-game opponents at home to start the season. Cal State-Bakersfield almost stunned TCU to open the season. Fresno State was beating the Horned Frogs at halftime. The Horned Frogs rallied to win both games.

The sluggish early play finally caught up to Jamie Dixon’s ballclub on Tuesday night as the Horned Frogs fell to Lipscomb, 73-64. Although TCU is banged up to start the season, they start the season with six straight home games against winnable opponents. Even though they’re not yet at 100 percent, this is still not the type of loss that the Horned Frogs are looking for at this point in the season. Noi will undoubtedly give TCU a boost when he’s back up to speed. He didn’t look like himself on Tuesday. But this kind of loss still shouldn’t happen for a top-25-caliber team.

TCU’s first major opponent of this season is a road game at SMU on Dec. 5. They host USC right after that. The Horned Frogs have some work to do before then if they want to get those non-conference wins before Big 12 play.

3. Texas Tech dismantles Nebraska in front of Patrick Mahomes Jr.

Earning an impressive neutral-court win in Kansas City, Texas Tech used its stifling defensive effort to take down Nebraska, 70-52, in the final game of the Hall of Fame Classic.

Playing in front of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes Jr. (a Red Raider alum), Texas Tech was able to hold Nebraska’s offense to 35 percent shooting as a veteran Huskers team never sustained a rhythm after a strong start.

From there, Jarrett Culver (26 points) and Matt Mooney (15 points) heated up and carried Texas Tech’s offense in the second half. Even though the Red Raiders sustained some significant losses from this offseason, it looks like Chris Beard’s trademark toughness and defensive attitude is resonating with this year’s group. Not a lot of people counted on Texas Tech to be any sort of major threat in the Big 12, but I wouldn’t want to face them based on the way they’ve started this season.

Lipscomb stuns No. 18 TCU 73-64 for 1st win over Top 25 team

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Garrison Mathews had 23 points, Kenny Cooper scored 17 with a couple of breakaway layups off steals and Lipscomb held on to upset No. 18 TCU 73-64 on Tuesday night, giving the Bisons their first win over a Top 25 team.

Lipscomb (4-1), the ASUN Conference preseason favorite, had been 0-13 against ranked teams since 2006. All of those losses were by double digits.

Alex Robinson had 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for TCU (3-1), which lost a November game for the first time since 2015. The Horned Frogs’ 18-game winning streak during the month had been the second-longest among Division I programs, behind only Virginia’s 21 in a row.

The Bisons built a 12-point lead before Mathews rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Kouat Noi that would have tied the game with just more than a minute left. Mathews then made a 3 at the other end.

Cooper’s steal and layup in the opening seconds of the second half put the Bisons ahead 31-30, and they never trailed again. He did it again just over two minutes later.

TCU had a 30-29 halftime lead after Robinson was able to hit an off-balance 3 from the top of the key to beat the shot clock in the closing seconds of the first half.

Kendric Davis had 14 points for TCU, and JD Miller added 11.

Rob Marberry scored 13 points for Lipscomb.

BIG PICTURE

Lipscomb: The Bisons were down 22-8 midway through the first half before tying it with a 16-2 run that included 10 straight points. Cooper started that spurt with a layup and 3-pointer.

TCU: Point guard Jaylen Fisher played his first game since January. He made his season debut after recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. But he was scoreless on only one shot while playing seven minutes in the first half, and had two fouls. Noi also played his first game. He had been sidelined because of a right knee issue.

UP NEXT

Lipscomb plays the third of five consecutive road games Saturday at Morehead State in Kentucky. The Bisons, who played their first three games at home, don’t play at home again until Dec. 9 against Navy.

TCU gets a break for Thanksgiving before resuming a six-game homestand to start the season. The fifth game is Monday night against Eastern Michigan.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Top-ranked Duke dispatches No. 8 Auburn, 78-72

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LAHAINA, Hawaii — Bruce Pearl spent the early part of the week telling everyone how he was concerned that his team wouldn’t belong in the field of the Maui Invitational when Auburn was announced back in 2016.

The Tigers have certainly proven those fears unwarranted, but they also just helped Duke make the case that no one may belong on the same court as them this winter.

Duke was undeniably brilliant again, this time in perhaps its most difficult test yet against the talented and experienced Tigers, who proved to be no match in the Blue Devils’ 78-72 win in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.

It wasn’t a perfect performance by Duke, but that makes it even clearer how far ahead they are the rest of the country. It doesn’t take the Blue Devils’ best to clearly be better than a top-10 team full of veterans on a neutral court.

The final score didn’t indicate the space between Duke and Auburn. The Tigers made big shots and came up with huge plays. The Blue Devils shrugged every single one of them off, and countered with something even stronger.

“We threatened them,” Pearl said, “but they were never scared.

The Tigers – who 22 points from Jared Harper, 17 from Austin Wiley and 16 from Bryce Brown – didn’t shake Duke, but they showed yet again how far they’ve come in Pearl’s five seasons.

“When I talked to (tournament director) Dave Odom several years ago about trying to get Auburn in the field,” Pearl said Sunday, “he was honest with me. He said, ‘Coach, the program just isn’t up to snuff. I don’t know that you’re going to travel and be competitive.’

“I was so glad that we were able to travel and we are competitive, able to represent Auburn here and the SEC.”

It was evident when Duke blasted Kentucky that their ceiling was special, but what they did to Auburn in the Lahaina Civic Center was something different. The Blue Devils didn’t just blow out a talented but inexperienced team like John Calipari’s. They handled the defending SEC champs, a team with pros and vets, without really even hitting on all cylinders for 40 minutes.

We saw it for a bit at the outset, when the Blue Devils overwhelmed Auburn to get out to a 17-point lead.

“Duke got whatever they wanted early,” Pearl said. “Duke’s start says something about the fact that those four freshmen are a lot more mature than (most freshmen).”

But then Auburn did what good, seasoned teams do. They fought back. They threw everything they had at Duke, which never found that same level of play where they lived early the rest of the game.

Still, it didn’t matter because R.J Barrett, Cam Reddish, Zion Williamson and Tre Jones are not only a wildly talented assortment of freshmen but a mature one. A group that doesn’t rattle. A quartet that is, as Krzyzewski said Monday, is “over themselves. It’s not about them. They’re very secure, and they have been parented well, they have been coached well, and so they understand being part of something bigger than them, but still being really good.”

Duke is going to go as far as those four take them, and they look equipped for the long haul.

“Those four guys are really good now,” Pearl said. “It’s a special group.”

It also helps when the forgotten fifth guy is a junior who himself is a former five-star recruit capable of flirting with a triple-double on a stage like this. Marques Bolden – remember him? – put up 11 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks.

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“This is the first year he’s been healthy the whole time,” Krzyzewski said. “So he has continuity of preparation, shape, and it’s a big thing. It’s a big thing. He’s made the most of it. He’s really gotten in great shape and he’s taken great care of himself and as a result he’s good.”

So where does this Duke team go? There is so much season left, and they’ve already exhibited a level of hoops we rarely see from any team in any season, let alone a freshmen-led team in November.

“It’s got to be fun for them,” Krzyzewski said. “I’ll do everything I can not to let them think that everything is won in November or December. But what we need to do is just use the season to get better and don’t worry about, no one gives a trophy for who is No. 1 in November, December, January or February. Even March. And don’t play for things that the outside wants you to play for. Play for what you want to play for and that’s fun, getting better.”

Things may change over the course of the next month. There could be injuries or whatever else that derails seasons. The biggest threat to Duke, though, seems to be complacency. Not because they’re freshmen or because they’ll settle on a sense of entitlement, but because they’re really, really good and the season is long. Complacency is just natural.

The bar to clear for Duke is a national championship. That’s probably true every year given the legacy and the continuous talent in Durham, but with this group it’s hard to see even a Final Four or runner-up finish as something to celebrate given just how damn good they look.

So maybe they should go for something more.

Kentucky’s 2014-15 team showed a team with a special core of freshmen and a supporting cast of veterans can get to at least the precipice of a perfect season. How is this group, with potentially the top three picks in June’s NBA draft, another first-rounder at point guard and plenty of experience around them, any different? Why shouldn’t this be the team that matches that 1976 Indiana team helmed by Coach K’s one-time boss, Bob Knight?

That would keep things fun.

“You look at our league, we’re going to be in a lot of games,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re going to get beat.”

Maybe they won’t, though.

Maybe this season will be as special as those freshmen.

Maybe this season will somehow add something Coach K is missing from his legacy.

No. 23 Ohio State starts slowly but beats Samford 68-50

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Don’t flinch.

That was the message Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann had for his young Buckeyes, trailing for the first time at the half against undefeated Samford after shooting just 37.5 percent from the field.

Those words provided the necessary motivation, as Kaleb Wesson scored 17 points and Keyshawn Woods added 14 to help No. 23 Ohio State beat scrappy Samford 68-50 on Tuesday night for its fifth straight victory to begin the season.

Ohio State seemed out of sync from the opening tip, with Holtmann benching four starters for being late to “game-day preparation,” according to the school. Samford shot 50 percent in the first half and led 32-29 at the break.

“I thought in the first half we couldn’t have stuck to our game plan any better than what we did,” Samford coach Scott Padgett said. “We made shots, so we were able to get in our press, which then slowed down the tempo of the game, and kind of brought it to a grinding halt.

“Watching them on film, that was the only way I thought we had a chance.”

Momentum shifted with 16:27 remaining, when C.J. Jackson dove into the stands to save a ball headed out of bounds, starting a relay from Luther Muhammad to Woods that ended with Andre Wesson hitting a 3-pointer.

The play seemed to spark Ohio State (5-0), which went on a 21-3 run that sealed the win. The Buckeyes shot 50 percent from the field in the second half to 24 percent for Samford (5-1).

“I think it was a momentum play, for sure,” Holtmann said. “It was a fantastic series of saves by (Jackson) and Luther, and Key was somehow involved. I had my eyes shut for most of it.

“It was a fantastic hustle play that I think was critical. It fired up our crowd.”

Junior guard Myron Gordon led the way for the Bulldogs, shooting 6 for 8 in the first half and finishing with 18 points.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State came in ranked for the first time this season but had to fight hard for the win.

Samford is rebuilding after losing 10 players, including all five starters, from last season’s 10-22 team. But the Bulldogs showed they have the talent to keep pace for a half with a nationally ranked Big Ten opponent.

PLAN B

Both teams had to make do without much from their leading scorers. Jackson, who averages 12.8 points per game, shot 2 for 11 and finished with eight points. Samford center Ruben Guerrero averages 17 points but had just two against Ohio State.

HE SAID IT

“There is so much social media. If I get 15 points tonight the whole world is going to know on social media and I am going to get 2,500 likes and all this stuff. Because of that, kids care about it more now,” Padgett said. “They want to get that attention through social media. Now, all of a sudden, it’s a little harder to get them to care about the name on the front, not the name on the back.”

TIP-INS

Ohio State signed three Top 50 recruits Tuesday, as Alonzo Gaffney, E.J. Liddell and D.J. Carton all inked national letters of intent. … Ohio State is 19-1 vs. the teams that currently make up the Southern Conference. … The Bulldogs have lost seven of their last nine road games. … Samford is off to its best start since the 1996-97 season.

UP NEXT

Samford: Makes the last stop on a three-game road trip Friday night at Fort Wayne.

Ohio State: Looks to extend its season-opening win streak to six games at sold-out St. John Arena on Friday night against Cleveland State, which lost at home to Samford by 13 points Sunday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Five-star guard Anthony Edwards reclassifying to 2019

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Five-star shooting guard Anthony Edwards announced his intention to reclassify from the Class of 2020 into the Class of 2019 on Tuesday.

The Atlanta native was one of the major breakout players of last summer, as Edwards earned rave reviews nationally with his strong play. Edwards is such a major talent, that upon moving up to 2019, 247Sports immediately put him as its new No. 1 prospect in the class.

The move is also good for college basketball fans. Because Edwards has the kind of scoring package and athleticism that will make him one of the must-watch freshmen of next season. Edwards joins a Class of 2019 group that doesn’t have a lot of star power and must-see talents. After averaging over 20 points per game in the Under Armour Association this summer, Edwards became one of the hottest recruits in the country.

Edwards told Evan Daniels of 247Sports that Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan State and North Carolina are the five schools currently prioritizing him — as he hasn’t set any official visits yet. With his ability to easily play above the rim, or knock down deep perimeter shots, Edwards is going to be one of the major recruiting attractions of this spring.

Since he’s jumping into the recruiting process so late, we probably won’t have a decision for quite some time. But once Edwards joins the college ranks next season, he’ll likely be generating headlines from the moment he starts playing.