Getty Images

Saturday’s Things To Know: Zion’s acrobatics, Markus Howard goes bonkers, Kansas State to win the Big 12

1 Comment

PLAYER OF THE DAY: Markus Howard, Marquette

Howard finished with 38 points on Saturday afternoon, shooting 13-for-24 from the floor and 5-for-11 from three, as the Golden Eagles knocked off Villanova, 66-65, to remain within a game of first place in the Big East regular season title race. This was the third time in the last four games that Howard has reached 30 points, and the fifth time this season he’s scored at least 37 points in a game.

TEAM OF THE DAY: TCU Horned Frogs

There was no bigger winner on the bubble on Saturday than TCU, who went into Ames and landed themselves a top 15 road win by knocking off Iowa State. The game wasn’t all that close, either. A 22-2 first half run put TCU in front, and the Cyclones never really threatened in the second half. Entering the weekend, TCU was slotted in a play-in game in the latest NBC Sports bracket. This is the kind of win that can bump them up a full seed line.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Parker Van Dyke, Utah

UCLA somehow managed to find a way to blow a 22-point second half lead to Utah, and they did it in the most dramatic way possible:

EXTRA ONIONS: Luke Maye, North Carolina

Coby White led the way with 33 points and six assists, but it was Luke Maye’s jumper at the end of regulation that allowed the Tar Heels to avoid an embarrassing home loss to what may be the worst team in the ACC this season, Miami:

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST WINNERS

KANSAS STATE, BIG 12 FAVORITE: Kansas State rolled into Baylor in a battle for first place in the Big 12, and thanks in part to some injuries to Makai Mason and King McClure, they left with a 70-63 win. With Iowa State taking a home loss to TCU a couple of hours earlier, it means that the Wildcats are now two games against of Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas in the loss column. Who saw that coming?

NEVADA’S REVENGE: The last time we saw Nevada and New Mexico play, the Wolf Pack suffered their only loss of the season … an 85-58 humiliation at the hands of the Lobos. On Saturday, Eric Musselman’s team hosted New Mexico and made a statement of their own, getting revenge and winning the season series by two thanks to a 91-62 smackdown.

CLEMSON AND TCU: TCU was the biggest winner of the day on the bubble, but Clemson landed a monster win of their won. The Tigers entered the day on the bubble despite the fact that they had not yet earned a Q1 win, and then they turned around and picked off a Virginia Tech team that is sitting in the top ten in the NET.

JON TESKE: After Ethan Happ tore up Michigan in the first five minutes of Wisconsin’s visit to Ann Arbor, Teske did a terrific job slowing him down. Happ had just four points on 2-for-9 shooting in the second half as the Wolverines knocked off Wisconsin, 61-52.

THE HYPE FOR KENTUCKY’S UPCOMING WEEK: The Wildcats held of a scrappy Mississippi State team, 71-67, thanks to 23 points from P.J. Washington and some timely buckets from Tyler Herro. This sets the table for a week that might determine the SEC regular season champion: Kentucky hosts both LSU and Tennessee. The Vols hold a one game lead in the standings over both teams.

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST LOSERS

ALL OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Duke made 13 threes.

13!

The result was a resounding win in Charlottesville over the Wahoos, a performance that made a very, very good Virginia team look rather pedestrian. If Duke is going to shoot anywhere close to this well the rest of the season, then we might as well give them the national title now and find something else to do for the next two months.

DE’ANDRE HUNTER’S THREE-BALL: That thing vanished:

PHIL BOOTH’S DECISION MAKING: I don’t think that the Villanova star has made the wrong decision at any point this season … until he had a chance to ice the Big East regular season title. Markus Howard left the ball, Booth had a lane and he dribbled into trouble, ending the game:

Look at this screenshot:

Booth has to be able to score that. He’ll regret this in film tomorrow.

IOWA STATE: The Cyclones had a chance to remain just a game off the pace in the Big 12 regular season standings, and what did they do?

They lost at home to TCU in a game that they never really threatened. That just can’t happen if you want to have any chance to win the Big 12.

LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals blew a 10 point and eventually lost on the road to Florida State in overtime.

FINAL THOUGHT

I know that the big talking point with Gonzaga right now is that Killian Tillie is out and that they cannot win the title now.

I think that’s stupid.

Gonzaga did not have Tillie when they beat Duke in Maui. They have cruised through a better-than-it-looks WCC with Tillie playing very limited minutes to date. They did not have Tillie when they beat Saint Mary’s, the second-best team in the league, by 48 freakin’ points on Saturday night.

Depth matters when it comes to injuries, foul trouble and getting 5-on-5 reps in practice. Depth does not matter all that much come March, especially when the position that Tillie plays is currently occupied by two of the ten best big men college basketball has to offer in Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke.

Hell, I would go as far as to say that Gonzaga’s depth is on full display because they are still very much in the national title hunt despite the fact that Tillie — who is very, very good — has basically had a lost season.

Duke lands commitment from five-star forward Matthew Hurt

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

AP Photo/Gareth Patterson
2 Comments

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

Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
Leave a comment

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.