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Friday’s Things To Know: Thrillers in the ACC and Big East, lurking bid thieves and Minnesota advances

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Markis McDuffie, Wichita State

Duke’s Zion Williamson has a really good argument to be in this spot, as he went for 31 points and 11 rebounds and scored the game-winning basket in Duke’s ACC semifinal win over North Carolina. But since he was one of the choices Thursday we’ll spread the wealth a bit and go with Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie, who accounted for 34 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots in the Shockers’ 80-74 win over Temple.

There are two potential bid thieves lurking in the American, with both Wichita State and and host Memphis in the semifinals. And with Gregg Marshall’s group having won six straight and 11 of its last 13 games, Cincinnati will be dealing with a team that is playing its best basketball of the season at the right time Saturday afternoon.

FRIDAY’S BUBBLE BANTER

TEAM OF THE DAY: Minnesota

Facing Purdue for the second time in ten days, Richard Pitino’s team had the opportunity to strengthen its standing with regards to an at-large bid. The Golden Gophers did just that, beating the Boilermakers 75-73 to advance to the Big Ten semifinals where they’ll face Michigan Saturday afternoon. Jordan Murphy scored 27 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists, and Minnesota limited Carsen Edwards to 4-for-17 shooting from the field.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Andrew Nembhard, Florida

One of the bubble teams that improved its NCAA tournament profiles Friday was Florida, which beat top-seed LSU 76-73 in the first SEC quarterfinal of the day. Nembhard’s three-pointer with one second remaining, which came 13 seconds after LSU’s Naz Reid tied the game with a triple of his own, was the difference.

FRIDAY’S WINNERS

Florida State: Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles controlled the action for much of their ACC semifinal matchup with Virginia, winning by the final score of 69-59. Florida State controlled the glass, shot 57% from the field and its reserves outscored Virginia’s by a 28-8 margin. Regardless of what happens against Duke Saturday night, keep an eye on where Florida State is seeded on Sunday. This group can do some damage.

Duke: As noted above, Zion Williamson’s put-back was the difference in the Blue Devils’ thrilling win over North Carolina. But it’s worth noting that Duke received valuable contributions from Jordan Goldwire and Antonio Vrankovic when the game could have gotten away from them in the first half. For a team that isn’t the deepest, that could be the most important development moving forward.

San Diego State: For the second consecutive year Nevada has failed to reach the Mountain West final as the top seed, with Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs pulling away for the 65-56 win in Las Vegas. The Aztecs, who won the automatic bid last year, is now one win away from a repeat. Utah State, which whipped Fresno State in the other semifinal, will be the opponent. And if San Diego State wins, a bubble will burst.

Oregon: For all the jokes made about the Pac-12 possibly being a one-bid league earlier this season, the conference is now 40 minutes away from getting three teams in. Dana Altman’s Ducks outlasted 2-seed Arizona State 79-75 in overtime to advance to Saturday’s final, where top-seed Washington will be the opposition.

Iowa State: The Cyclones haven’t been the most consistent team this season, but Steve Prohm’s team advanced to the Big 12 title game with a 63-59 win over top-seed Kansas State. Marial Shayok scored 21 points and Michael Jacobson grabbed 16 rebounds for Iowa State, which will face three-seed Kansas Saturday night in Kansas City.

Michigan and Kentucky: Not only did both teams win their respective conference tournament openers in comfortable fashion, with the Wolverines handling Iowa and the Wildcats beating Alabama, both welcomed back key contributors that missed time due to injury. Michigan’s Charles Matthews played 25 minutes against Iowa, and while he didn’t shoot the ball well (1-for-9 from the field, five points) the redshirt senior’s defense was key. As for Kentucky, Reid Travis accounted for eight points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots in 23 minutes of action.

Rhode Island: The Rams’ dream of a third straight NCAA tournament appearance isn’t dead yet, as URI beat Atlantic 10 regular season champion VCU 75-70 in an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal. Another winner here: the Atlantic 10, which will be a two-bid league with VCU now in need of an at-large bid.

Admiral Schofield: Instead of listing Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard in the category below, we’ll be positive and list Schofield as a winner for what he did in the second half of the Volunteers’ 83-76 win over the Bulldogs.

FRIDAY’S LOSERS

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers’ stay at the Big Ten tournament came to an end Friday, as Tim Miles’ depleted team ran out of gas down the stretch in a quarterfinal loss to Wisconsin. And let’s just say that athletic director Bill Moos’ statement did not provide much in the way of clarity when it comes to Miles’ status moving forward. He’ll make a decision whenever Nebraska’s season comes to an end, as the team waits to see if it will receive an NIT bid.

Ohio State: Depending upon who’s asked the Buckeyes may have locked up an NCAA tournament bid with their second round win over Indiana on Thursday. Chris Holtmann’s team missed out on an opportunity to remove any doubt Friday, as it fell behind top-seed Michigan State by a significant margin before having its second half rally fall short. Ohio State may be in good shape, but the best thing for a bubble team at this point is to “live to fight another day.”

Temple: Could the American end up receiving five NCAA tournament bids? It’s certainly possible as Memphis and Wichita State are still alive. But Temple, which lost to Wichita State Friday night, will have an uncomfortable wait for Selection Sunday. And with this being Fran Dunphy’s final season at the helm, to not reach the Big Dance at this point would be crushing.

Xavier: The Musketeers survived Creighton on Thursday, and were just one stop away from knocking off Villanova in Friday’s Big East semifinals. But Eric Paschall’s follow tied the game in the final seconds of regulation, and Villanova would go on to win 71-67 in overtime. Travis Steele’s team missed out on what would have been a huge win for their NCAA tournament hopes, which could have used the boost.

Sam Houston State: The Bearkats entered the Southland tournament as the top seed after going 16-2 in conference play, with the league bracket advancing the team directly to the semifinals. Their hopes of an NCAA tournament bid slipped away Friday, as 4-seed New Orleans won 79-76 with Jorge Rosa scoring 18 points to lead the way. Sam Houston State’s loss also means that there’s one less available at-large bid in the Postseason NIT. New Orleans will face 2-seed Abilene Christian, which has yet to reach the NCAA tournament as a Division I member, in Saturday’s final.

The officials in the Seton Hall vs. Marquette game: Three ejections, 57 personal fouls, nine technicals and 85 free throws in a game the Pirates won 81-79. While the game didn’t lack for excitement, it was quite clear early on that the officials needed to do a bit more to keep things under control. They didn’t do that.

FINAL THOUGHT

Practically every year the conversation regarding the NCAA tournament bubble is that it’s the weakest that it’s ever been, and this year is no exception. One team that finds itself in the conversation for an at-large bid is Texas, which dropped to 16-16 with its Big 12 quarterfinal loss to Kansas Thursday night.

Shaka Smart’s team is 9-15 in Quadrant 1/2 games this season, with the Longhorns’ best win coming against North Carolina on a neutral court Thanksgiving night. Ranked 37th in the NET and boasting the fifth-toughest schedule in the country, there are some numbers that work in Texas’ favor. But with a .500 record and a strength of record ranking of 57, there are numbers that work against the Longhorns as well…as is the case for any team.

Will the selection committee make history and select an at-large team with a .500 record for the first time ever? Or will a team like a Belmont (5-3 vs. Quadrant 1/2) or UNCG (4-6), which put up gaudy win totals but also don’t have as many opportunities to pick up Quadrant 1/2 victories, hear its name called on Sunday? This is a question that comes up every March regardless of the metrics used, but the Texas question makes this year’s process even more interesting.

I’m betting that at least one of the exceptional at-large candidates that hail from non-power conferences will be sent to Dayton.

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.