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Coaches on the hot seat

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It’s never fun to put together any sort of “hot seat” list.

In an ideal world, every college basketball coach in America would win enough games, and do enough with their programs, to justify keeping them all around for another season. But there are over 350 head coaching jobs in a highly-competitive, multi-million dollar sport. That’s just not the way things work in sports.

So, every year, we go over some of the big-name head coaches who could be in trouble if they have a bad season. Many years, some of the coaches on this list make us look dumb by having a big season and effectively “saving” their jobs. Other times, we can already see a program trending in the wrong direction, and things just aren’t going to change.

The hot seat doesn’t have nearly as many names on it this year. There isn’t an FBI scandal to keep certain seats warm. And given a lot of the coaching turnover of the past few offseasons, there are still many coaches who are in their first two years on the job.

But here are some coaches to watch for this season as they try to do everything they can to build positive momentum going forward.

DO NOT SIT DOWN

Steve Alford, UCLA: Coming off of another disappointing season in which they barely made the First Four, the pressure is, once again, on Alford to win at UCLA. Other programs would kill to have three Sweet 16 appearances in five seasons. But things are done a bit differently at UCLA. That fanbase expects Final Four runs and national championships. So Alford’s five-year stretch isn’t exactly cutting it. Alford’s 67.2 percent winning percentage is the lowest of any UCLA coach since Walt Hazzard’s 62.1 percent winning percentage in 1948. When you also factor in the off-the-court incident in China, and Alford needs a good season from his talented team.

Ernie Kent, Washington State: In four seasons at the helm, Washington State has never won more than 13 games in a season as the Cougars are only 47-77 and 18-54 in Pac-12 play under Kent. While Kent deserves some slack for having to manage one of the toughest jobs in the country, he’s clearly not the right guy for the job. Recruiting buzz for Washington State is nonexistent. The team doesn’t look like a major competitor in a mediocre Pac-12 either. If Washington State has another abysmal season, it could be time for a change.

Richard Pitino, Minnesota: After building some positive momentum with an NCAA tournament appearance in 2017, Minnesota and Pitino saw all of that come crashing down last season. One of the most disappointing teams in the nation last season, the Golden Gophers finished 15-17 and 4-14 in the Big Ten after returning most of its roster from the year before. Pitino has also seen his fair share of off-the-court incidents during his time at Minnesota. His players faced sexual assault allegations and an arrest for domestic violence. Pitino’s original AD that hired him, Norwood Teague, has also been ousted amid his own sexual harassment scandal. If Minnesota doesn’t have a serious turnaround season then Pitino could find himself looking for another job.

THEY COULD USE A BIG YEAR

Dave Leitao, DePaul: The second time around at DePaul hasn’t been very kind to Leitao. Although Leitao found success with the Blue Demons in the early part of the century when they were in Conference USA, the unforgiving Big East hasn’t been nearly as reasonable. DePaul is 9-45 in Big East play during Leitao’s most recent three-year tenure as they have an abysmal 29-65 overall. A shiny, new downtown arena has helped the Blue Demons recruit reasonably well given their recent basement-dweller status. But Leitao needs to start winning actual games and making some form of postseason in order to turn the corner and take the next step.

Danny Manning, Wake Forest: It’s crazy to think that at this time last year, Manning had the momentum of an NCAA tournament appearance and a first-round draft pick in big man John Collins. This list goes to show that things can change very quickly in one year. After a hugely disappointing 2017-18 that saw them finish 11-20 and 4-14 in the ACC, Manning and the Demon Deacons find themselves near the bottom of the league. Wake Forest does have a very solid recruiting class coming in that could re-energize the program. But Manning only has one tournament appearance while going 20-52 in the ACC over his four-year tenure. The results need to be more consistent for Manning to stay at Wake.

Chris Mullin, St. John’s: St. John’s was hoping that this prized alum could help restore the program’s former glory. That hasn’t been the case. While Mullin and his staff have recruited some talented top-100 talents who have put up some decent individual numbers, the winning hasn’t followed. In three season, St. John’s is only 38-60 and 12-42 in the Big East during Mullin’s time in charge as they’ve been slightly better than DePaul during that stretch. There is no arguing Mullin’s impact on St. John’s as a player. He is probably the greatest player in program history. He just doesn’t look like the right guy to coach his alma mater.

Pat Chambers (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

JUST DON’T BE TERRIBLE, OK?

Pat Chambers, Penn State: The Nittany Lions just finished a solid season in which they won the NIT. It’s also very notable that Chambers is the only high-major head coach that is currently employed despite missing the last seven NCAA tournaments at their current job. With star guard Tony Carr leaving for the pros this offseason, the NCAA tournament might not be realistic for Penn State this season. Is that going to be an issue for Chambers as he was just starting to turn the corner with this group?

Fran McCaffery, Iowa: After eight seasons at the helm, it is going to take a lot for Iowa to move on from McCaffery. He’s a great basketball coach, and he has multiple high-caliber sons who will play for the Hawkeyes in the next few seasons. But last season’s disappointing 4-14 finish in the Big Ten has some fans getting restless. McCaffery only has three NCAA tournament appearances in those eight seasons at Iowa, as the fanbase would love more consistency. McCaffery has a lot of young talent at Iowa. Now is the time to turn that into yearly postseason trips.

Tim Miles, Nebraska: The Cornhuskers were actually one of the biggest surprise teams in college basketball last season, but they managed to come up short of the NCAA tournament. That means Miles has fallen short of the sport’s biggest stage in five of his six seasons as head coach. Nebraska is going to have reasonable expectations once again this season. As long as the Huskers don’t bottom out, and make the postseason, Miles should not feel any legitimate heat.

 

Lawson, Moore carry No. 1 KU to 89-53 rout of South Dakota

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Dedric Lawson had 16 points and 14 rebounds, Charlie Moore made six 3-pointers en route to 18 points, and top-ranked Kansas pulled away in the second half for an 89-53 victory over plucky but overmatched South Dakota on Tuesday night.

Freshman forward David McCormack added a career-best 12 points off the bench for the Jayhawks (10-0), helping to soak up minutes while Udoka Azubuike is sidelined with a sprained ankle.

Kansas has won 40 consecutive games in Allen Fieldhouse as the nation’s No. 1 team.

Stanley Umude scored a game-high 28 points to lead the Coyotes (6-6), who have never defeated a ranked team in seven tries. Tyler Peterson added 15 points, and leading scorer Trey Burch-Manning was held to two points on 1-for-5 shooting before fouling out.

Neither team was particularly good in the first half.

The Jayhawks struggled to stop South Dakota’s relentless backdoor cuts, and eventually Kansas coach Bill Self was so fed up with their defensive execution he started to burn timeouts.

Not that the Coyotes did much with all those easy looks. They committed 12 first-half turnovers, allowing the Jayhawks to slowly pull out to a 37-27 advantage at the break.

Most of the work was done without Lawson, who was forced to the bench with two fouls.

The Jayhawks’ dominant point forward joined Moore in helping the Jayhawks pull away in the second half. Lawson scored in the paint, Moore hit a 3-pointer and Lawson added a pair of foul shots to turn a 49-40 lead into a 56-40 lead with about 12 minutes to go.

The undersized Coyotes answered with a run of their own, but Moore and Lawson provided one more answer. Moore curled in his fifth 3-pointer, this time from the wing, and then took a run-out to the rim before dropping a pass to Lawson for an easy layup and a 66-47 lead.

The advantage only grew from there as Moore, a transfer from California who once scored 38 in a game as a freshman, and the massive McCormack continued to put together breakout games.

BIG PICTURE

South Dakota hung around long enough to keep Kansas on the edge, but the Jayhawks’ superior athleticism was evident. They were quicker in transition, better on the boards and were able to pull away when the Coyotes went cold from beyond the arc.

Kansas finally got an easy win after surviving nail-biters against everyone from New Mexico State and Stanford to Villanova and Tennessee. It was the first time all season that the Jayhawks put away a game in time to empty the bench in the final minutes.

UP NEXT

South Dakota hosts Southern Miss on Friday night.

Kansas visits No. 18 Arizona State on Saturday night.

Kevin Ollie alleges racial discrimination in new civil action against UConn

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Former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is heading to court with the school over alleged racial discrimination. In a report from the Hartford Courant, Ollie has filed a civil action alleging that the school illegally attempted to deter him from filing a racial discrimination complaint.

Submitted on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Ollie is claiming he was treated differently from predecessor Jim Calhoun, because Calhoun kept his job after receiving comparable recruiting violations.

Ollie was fired for those violations earlier this year as he’s been in a contentious back-and-forth battle with the school that has gone to court. The former head coach claims he informed UConn of his intention to file the complaint but the school said it would refuse to have a contractual-grievance arbitration process that would give Ollie the final $10 million on his contract.

Seeking an emergency injunction that would allow him to file the complaint while proceeding with an arbitration process.

UConn responded to the Courant on Tuesday through a spokesperson as they disputed Ollie’s account that race played a role in his firing.

“As UConn has stated from the outset, the university terminated Kevin Ollie’s employment due to violations of NCAA rules, pursuant to his employment agreement,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said. “Any claim to the contrary is without merit.”

Ollie’s attorney told the Courant that the hope is to file and stay with a racial discrimination complaint, which could be addressed after the arbitration.

From the sound of it, UConn and Ollie are going to be in court for quite a bit of time as this whole firing process has been difficult from the start.

No. 15 Buckeyes overcome slow start, rout Youngstown State

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kaleb Wesson had a career-high 31 points as No. 15 Ohio State overcame a terrible start and beat Youngstown State 75-56 on Tuesday night.

Wesson was dominating in the second half, scoring 26 points as the Buckeyes were again forced to win in come-from-behind fashion. The sophomore topped his previous career-best 22 points, achieved in Saturday’s game against Bucknell.

The Buckeyes (10-1, 2-0 Big Ten) shot poorly in the first half and were forced to rally against a mid-major opponent they should have handled easily from the beginning.

Ohio State trailed 25-22 at the half, but took the lead with a Wesson put-back three minutes into the second half and took control from there.

Luther Muhammad and C.J. Jackson each had 11 points for Ohio State, which has won three in a row after losing their only game of the season Nov. 28.

Darius Quisenberry had 17 points, and Naz Bohannon added 11 for the Penguins (5-9), who have lost five of their last six.

The first half was a nightmare for Ohio State. The Penguins went on a 14-2 run to open the game as the Buckeyes missed shot after shot. Ohio State shot 24 percent from the floor and 1 for 11 from beyond the 3-point line before intermission. The score was so close mostly because Youngstown State wasn’t much better, hitting just 33 percent of its shots.

Wesson took a seat with 5:40 left in the first half when he picked up his second foul and got his third early in the second half before going on a scoring tear.

BIG PICTURE:

Youngstown State: Took advantage of Ohio State’s poor shooting to lead the entire first half, but couldn’t keep up once Wesson and the Buckeyes got themselves unglued.

Ohio State: After nearly losing to Bucknell on Saturday, the Buckeyes took another opponent too lightly and were getting stung for a while. They are making too many mistakes against teams they should be dominating.

UP NEXT:

Youngstown State: Hosts Detroit Mercy on Dec. 28.

Ohio State: At UCLA on Saturday.

No. 2 Duke emerges from exam break to beat Princeton 101-50

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DURHAM, N.C. — A cold offensive start for second-ranked Duke on Tuesday night turned out to be a good sign for coach Mike Krzyzewski. That’s because his Blue Devils never let all those missed shots infect the team’s defensive focus.

RJ Barrett continued his rookie-season scoring rush, finishing with 27 points to help second-ranked Duke beat Princeton 101-50. Meanwhile, as the offense got rolling to hand Princeton its most lopsided loss in its program history, the defense finished with a bevy of steals, blocks and deflections to earn the approval of the Hall of Fame coach.

“We kept telling them: `Just don’t be down about the offense, you’re doing a good job, just keep shooting, keep doing it and don’t let it affect the defense,” Krzyzewski said.

“And they did. So that’s good.”

Consider it a lesson learned and applied for the freshman-led Blue Devils (10-1), whose high-flying offense has the potential to run past just about anybody. Yet this group has shown the ability to be a get-after-’em defensive team, too, with freshman point guard Tre Jones pressuring the ball surrounded by plenty of length and athleticism on the wings.

Krzyzewski wants his players to focus on the latter, knowing it’s likely a matter of time before any off-target shooting corrects itself. And that was obvious Tuesday as Duke opened its first game in more than a week due to an exam break by missing its first eight shots and falling behind 8-0.

Even more unusual of a sight on its famously hostile home court, the Blue Devils didn’t take their first lead until more than 14 minutes in.

“We were getting good shots,” Barrett said. “We just couldn’t make them.”

But after a steady start from the Tigers — who caught Duke with some early backdoor cuts — the Blue Devils scored on 10-of-11 possessions to close the first half, then on four more out of the break to take a 48-28 lead. Duke shot 64 percent after halftime as the game turned into a rout.

“Boy, that’s a really good team,” Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said. “They’re even better in person.”

Myles Stephens had 19 points for Princeton (5-5), which led 18-16 before Duke put together an 11-0 run to take over. Princeton shot just 30 percent for the game, including 8 of 36 (22 percent) after halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Princeton: Those opening few minutes had to be encouraging for the Tigers. They just didn’t have an answer once Duke’s shots started falling to pair with that defensive aggression.

“They got so many deflections, just stuff we hadn’t seen before,” Henderson said. “It’s a great lesson, that when you’re playing against the best, you have to be absolutely sharper than you’ve ever been.”

Duke: The Blue Devils hadn’t played since beating Yale here on Dec. 8, and it took a while for the offense to get into gear. Things went to script once that happened. Barrett came in averaging an Atlantic Coast Conference-best 24.2 points and finished 11 of 21 from the field while fellow rookie Zion Williamson (17 points, 10 rebounds) had another big game. Meanwhile, Duke’s defense had 12 steals, 14 blocks and 23 points off turnovers to go with a 50-25 rebounding advantage.

NEW RECORD

The 51-point margin surpassed Princeton’s previous worst margin of defeat of 45 points, set against Penn in December 1908.

CLOSING THE (BACK)DOOR

Duke quickly did a better job of closing off those backdoor lanes after Princeton got loose inside for easy early layups.

“Really that was just something we hadn’t worked on as much coming in,” said Duke forward Javin DeLaurier, who had six points and three rebounds. “Once we realized that was something they were going to try and hurt us with, guys did a good job of just making the adjustment, not contesting as much. And as soon as a guy was dribbling at you, expect the back door.”

UP NEXT

Princeton: The Tigers visit Lafayette on Friday.

Duke: The Blue Devils face No. 12 Texas Tech in New York’s Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

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

VIDEO: Backboard nearly takes out Zion Williamson on blocked shot

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Zion Williamson was almost taken out by a backboard as Duke played Princeton at home on Tuesday night. Playing at home, Williamson went for a block as his arm and face appeared hit the backboard and caused him to fall to the ground.

Williamson was okay, but the startling block is yet another freakish play that the freshman forward has made on the defensive end this season. Although mostly known for his dunks, Williamson is showing himself to be one of the scariest shot blockers in college hoops this season.

No. 2 Duke ran past Princeton for the easy home win.