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Tuesday’s Things To Know: Kansas loses again, Nebraska losing luster and Kentucky ramping up

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It was a great night of hoops with a bunch of ranked teams on the road and plenty of important games for conference races and high-level NCAA tournament seeding. Here are the highlights from Tuesday’s action:

IS THE BIG 12 UP FOR GRABS?

We’ve been here before.

You tend to get repeats after 14 years, after all. That’s a lot of time to go without new material. There’s been mid-season cliffhangers before, only for the finale to finish the same. With Kansas winning the Big 12.

After the 11th-ranked Jayhawks lost their second-straight and third of four games in a 73-63 setback at Texas on Tuesday, maybe – just maybe – that teaser may actually foreshadow a different ending. Or death still waits for us all, taxes stay due April 15th and the sun will come up tomorrow to better illuminate Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.

But maybe not.

The evidence is starting to pile up that these Jayhawks may not have what it takes to extend the program’s run of Big 12 championships to 15 in a row. It starts with personnel.

Dedric Lawson is awesome. The Memphis transfer has absolutely lived up to the sky-high expectations that followed him from his hometown to Lawrence. He’s putting up 19.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor. He is exactly the caliber of player that Jayhawks so often have rode to a Big 12 championship – and more.

The problem seems to be everybody else.

There’s no Frank Mason, Josh Jackson, Joel Embiid, Devonte Graham, Wayne Selden, Andrew Wiggins, Svi Mykhailiuk or any of the multitudes of players that Kansas has had either as co-stars or members of a highly-capable supporting cast. Udoka Azubuike probably would have been that alongside Lawson in what would have been a monster of a frontcourt, but he’s on the bench with a season-ending wrist injury. Maybe Silivio De Sousa could have been that guy, but he’s in NCAA eligibility limbo.

Lagerald Vick has shown glimpses of being the type of player that can help lead Kansas, but he’s also prone to clunker performances and doesn’t have the take-over-the-game mentality of guys like Mason or Graham of recent years. Cal transfer Charlie Moore hasn’t provided the boost many expected while five-star freshmen Quinton Grimes and Devon Dotson have had their moments, but no one is going to be mistaking them for Duke’s freshmen foursome as the no-doubt, one-and-done, All-American freshmen they’d need to be to truly elevate the Jayhawks. Marcus Garrett, KJ Lawson and Mitch Lightfoot are hardly the answer for major production, either.

The pieces are there, though. Even considering Azubuike, we all looked at this roster in November and were enamored with the talent and experience. It could all still click into place. Would it really be all that surprising to see Grimes or Dotson mature into their five-star hype? Or Vick embracing his final months of college with improved consistency? The answer to that is not totally, but it doesn’t become more likely the longer Kansas languishes in this area between good and really good. Especially in the Big 12, where really good – and maybe great – is what it’s going to take to win the conference. Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State and maybe even Baylor look capable of pushing this thing to the brink.

Maybe Bill Self will solve the personnel shortcomings with scheme, finding a way to squeeze enough offense out of a team that isn’t particularly strong shooting 3s, taking care of the ball or hitting the offensive glass while making the defense truly elite. He’s done some remarkable work in his tenure at Kansas. Just look at last year’s Final Four team. Plus, all the Jayhawks’ losses have come on the road, so it’s possible the schedule is simply as big a part of this as anything.

Kansas’ streak has been in peril before. There have been true threats to their crown – they’ve even shared a couple during this run. The Jayhawks still have Allen Fieldhouse in their corner and the Big 12 always seems to cannibalize itself in just the perfect way to clear the path for Kansas. That’s probably what will happen again this season.

Right?

NEBRASKA IS FADING

It wasn’t too long ago that Nebraska was basking in some well-deserved spotlight. Tim Miles’ team started the season 11-2 with wins over Seton Hall, Clemson, Creighton, Illinois and Oklahoma State with its only setbacks coming on a neutral to Texas Tech and at Minnesota. Things looked to be good in Lincoln after a nice season a year ago was derailed by a Big Ten that wasn’t good enough to deliver enough quality opponents to help the Huskers’ NCAA tournament resume after a non-conference schedule that was highlighted – which feels like a generous designation – by a home win against Boston College.

It’s now starting to all fall apart.

The Huskers dropped their fourth straight and sixth of eight in a 62-51 loss to Wisconsin on their home floor to fall to 13-8 overall and 3-7 in the B1G.

The calendar hasn’t yet flipped to February, but it’s hard to view Nebraska at anything other than a critical juncture of their season. They’ve got the Illini in Champaign on Saturday followed by No. 21 Maryland at home and then No. 17 Purdue in West Lafayette. The schedule then eases up some with Minnesota and Northwestern at home before a trip to Penn State, but the homestretch looks daunting with Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa the final four games.

There’s opportunity there, but a much smaller margin for error than Nebraska would have liked given how strong its non-conference work was. If they can’t pull out of this nosedive, they’re looking at a fifth-straight year and sixth in seven without an NCAA tournament under Miles.

KENTUCKY IS A BUZZSAW RIGHT NOW

That embarrassing loss to Duke in the Champion’s Classic seems like a million years ago. At least all the takes about Kentucky taking a step back seem like they were about a different team.

The Wildcats won their seventh-straight game Tuesday, following up Saturday’s win over Kansas with an absolute beatdown of an 87-52 defeat of Vanderbilt. They shot 55.6 percent from the floor and connected on 10 of 17 (58.8 percent) from 3-point range. P.J. Washington had 26 points and 12 rebounds.

Kentucky has it absolutely rolling right now, beating good teams like Auburn, Kansas and Mississippi State while dominating inferior ones like Vandy. John Calipari’s teams have often had a knack for figuring things out around this time of the season, and suddenly the Wildcats are starting to look like they might be a part of that club.

Duke lands commitment from five-star forward Matthew Hurt

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For the fourth time in the last five years, Duke is tapping into that Minnesota pipeline to mine talent.

Following in the footsteps of Tyus Jones, Gary Trent Jr. and Tre Jones, Matthew Hurt, a 6-foot-9 forward and a top ten prospect in the Class of 2019, announced on Friday that he will be playing his college ball for the Blue Devils.

Hurt ultimately picked Duke over Kansas, but he was also pursued by the likes of Kentucky, North Carolina and Minnesota. He joins Vernon Carey, Wendell Moore and Boogie Ellis in Duke’s 2019 recruiting class.

Hurt is the perfect compliment to Carey, a powerhouse low-post force, and Moore, who is a talented wing. He has size and is extremely skilled, with the ability to stretch the floor out to 25 feet and the potential to be a dangerous face-up scorer, both in the mid-post and on the perimeter. He needs to get stronger and tougher, but that will come with time. As it stands, he’s the piece to the puzzle that Duke needed to add.

UNC women’s coach Hatchell resigns after findings from program review

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell had built a Hall of Fame career over more than three decades with the Tar Heels, including a national championship and becoming the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time winningest coach.

That tenure ended with her resignation after a program review found concerns over “racially insensitive” comments and pressuring players to compete through medical issues.

The school announced the 67-year-old Hatchell’s resignation late Thursday, along with findings from that external review conducted this month by a Charlotte-based law firm. Among the issues: a “breakdown of connectivity” between Hatchell and the players after 28 interviews of current players and program personnel.

The was enough to end Hatchell’s time in Chapel Hill, which began in 1986.

“The university commissioned a review of our women’s basketball program, which found issues that led us to conclude that the program needed to be taken in a new direction,” athletics director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement. “It is in the best interests of our university and student-athletes for us to do so. Coach Hatchell agrees, and she offered her resignation today. I accepted it.”

Hatchell — who has 1,023 victories, with 751 coming in 33 seasons at UNC along with the 1994 NCAA title — and her coaching staff had been on paid administrative leave since April 1. At the time, UNC announced the review amid player concerns to “assess the culture” of the program.

“The university will always hold a special place in my heart,” Hatchell said in a statement. “The game of basketball has given me so much, but now it is time for me to step away.”

In its release, UNC said the review found “widespread support” among three areas of concern, including the Hatchell-players connection.

The first centered on the racially insensitive comments, compounded by her failure to respond “in a timely or appropriate manner” when confronted by players or staff.

“The review concluded that Hatchell is not viewed as a racist,” the school said, “but her comments and subsequent response caused many in the program to believe she lacked awareness and appreciation for the effect her remarks had on those who heard them.”

Regarding injury concerns, the review reported frustration from players and medical staff with Hatchell’s “perceived and undue influence,” though medical staffers “did not surrender to pressure to clear players” before they were ready.

Wade Smith, Hatchell’s attorney, had defended her earlier this month by saying players had misconstrued comments she made as racist and that she wouldn’t try to force someone to play without medical clearance. That came after The Washington Post, citing unnamed parents of players, said complaints had been made about inappropriate racial comments and players being pushed to play while injured.

In a statement to The Associated Press at the time, Smith said Hatchell “does not have a racist bone in her body” and “cares deeply about (players’) health and well-being.”

Hatchell, who reached 1,000 wins in 2017, trailed only Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma in women’s Division I career victories. But there had been difficulties in recent years.

She missed the 2013-14 season while battling leukemia and undergoing chemotherapy. The program also spent several seasons under the shadow of the school’s multi-year NCAA academic case dealing with irregular courses featuring significant athlete enrollments across numerous sports, a case that reached a no-penalty conclusion in October 2017.

UNC returned to the NCAA Tournament this year for the first time since 2015 after upsets of top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 7 North Carolina State on the road, though her contract was set to expire after next season.

Hatchell said she will still support the school, including raising money for UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and advocating for gender equity issues.

“While this is a bittersweet day, my faith remains strong,” Hatchell said. “After the fight of my life with leukemia, I count every day as a blessing.”

St. John’s expected to hire Mike Anderson

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The coaching search St. John’s started earlier this month is coming to an end, and its finality looks to be as bizarre as the process.

The Red Storm are expected to hire former Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, a source confirmed to NBC Sports. Roger Rubin of Newsday was first to report the development.

Anderson has a perfectly respectable resume after eight years with the Razorbacks and five at Missouri over the last decade-plus, but his history doesn’t suggest why he’s a great fit at St. John’s, a smaller private school in New York City rather than two large public institutions in college towns. New York City is also considerably more northeast than both Fayetteville and Columbia.

St. John’s swung big in a way that made sense when it hired Chris Mullin four years ago. There were question marks given his lack of college experience, but given his status as a Red Storm legend and NBA pedigree – both as a player and executive – you could connect the dots to success, even if Mullin ultimately couldn’t do it himself.

This hire, however, doesn’t make much sense. Anderson just got fired for not progressing enough with Arkansas, a place he spent 17 years at under Nolan Richardson prior to becoming a head coach himself. He had serious legacy there, but it wasn’t enough to overcome just three NCAA tournament appearances and no Sweet 16s in eight years.

That’s the guy that is now, with no clear ties to either the Big East or St. John’s, going to reinvigorate the Red Storm program? Anderson might do it, I guess, but his selection only highlights what a botched search this has been. Bobby Hurley, Porter Moser, Ryan Odom and Tim Cluess all reportedly spurned interest, and it’s about as inarguable as inarguable gets that St. John’s should be a slam-dunk better job than Loyola Chicago, UMBC and Iona, while Hurley is the type of guy an athletic department goes out and gets done if it wants to show it really means business.

Instead, St. John’s search falls to Anderson, who probably won’t win the press conference and didn’t win enough at Arkansas.

Ayo Dosunmu returning to Illinois for sophomore season

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Wins have been few and far between in two seasons for Brad Underwood at Illinois, which makes Thursday’s victory all the more important.

The Illini got a major April boost with Ayo Dosunmu announcing he would return to Champaign for his senior season rather than heading to the professional ranks.

“I stayed home to help coach Underwood turn the Illinois program around,” Dosunmu said in a video released on social media. “We tasted some success, but we didn’t dance. And Illinois has to dance.

“We are building. We will be better. I will be better, and that starts now.”

Dosunmu averaged 13.8 points, 4 rebounds and 3.3 assists during his freshman campaign, which led to speculation he might be off to the pros, leaving Illinois without its most dynamic scorer and playmaker heading into a critical third season for Underwood, who is 26-39 overall and 11-27 in the Big Ten the last two years. Instead, he’ll be returning giving Illinois a second season with an intriguing young core that will likely be a trendy pick to make a significant jump up the B1G standings next winter.

Oklahoma State lands commitment from top-150 guard Chris Harris Jr.

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Oklahoma State is adding another top-150 piece to its 2019 recruiting class as Chris Harris Jr., a guard from Texas, pledged to the Cowboys on Thursday

“I will be committing to Oklahoma State University,” Harris announced via a video on social media.

The consensus three-star recruit picks Mike Boynton’s program over offers from the likes of Texas A&M, Baylor, Kansas State and Georgia Tech. The 6-foot-3 guard visited Stillwater officially late last month. He previously was headed to the Aggies, but was released from his National Letter of Intent after Billy Kennedy was fired in College Station.

His commitment gives Oklahoma State what is increasingly looking like a major recruiting class for Boynton, who has largely exceeded expectations during his short tenure with the Cowboys. Boynton has already secured commitments from top-75 wing Marcus Watson of Georgia and top-125 guard Avery Anderson III as well as three-stars Kalib Boone and Keylan Boone.