SAN DIEGO — The University of San Diego returned to the basketball court minus its head coach on Tuesday.
Lamont Smith remains on paid administrative leave after being arrested on domestic abuse charges Sunday in Oakland, California, hours after the Toreros defeated the University of San Francisco in their regular-season finale.
The Toreros (18-12), seeded No. 6, open against No. 3 seed BYU (22-9) in the West Coast Conference tournament on Saturday in Las Vegas.
In the wake of his arrest on domestic violence charges, the University of San Diego has placed men’s basketball coach Lamont Smith on administrative leave and initiated an investigation, the school announced Monday.
Smith, a former USD player who is in his third season as the program’s coach, was arrested Sunday for suspicion of domestic violence, assault with force likely to commit great bodily injury and false imprisonment. The woman suffered the injuries in a room at the USD team hotel. She was treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
Smith, 42, is married with two children.
“Everybody was shocked,” senior forward Cameron Neubauer said about his reaction after hearing of the incident. “It was tough to process, and it took a day or two to let things settle down. It was all over the media, and we’re not used to that.”
Assistant coach Sam Scholl was named to replace Smith as the acting head coach throughout the remainder of the season. The USD human resources department is conducting an investigation into the matter.
The Toreros were riding a high after they produced just their second winning season in 10 years. Then came word about the allegations against Smith.
“Over the last 48 hours there were a lot of emotions about the things that have been going on,” said Scholl, who has never been a head coach at any level. “But we have come together, and it has brought us really close.”
USD split its two games with BYU this season, winning the last matchup 75-62 on Feb. 17. The Toreros have to prevail again by distancing themselves from the distraction caused but their coach’s arrest.
“Our guys have to be able to keep their blinders on for Saturday because there is a lot of emotional noise,” Scholl said. “But you only get four chances in your career to play for an NCAA tournament bid, so we are focused on taking advantage of that opportunity.”
It won’t be easy.
“It’s a difficult situation; I was shocked along with everyone else,” junior guard Olin Carter III said. “I know it’s a hard time for everybody, but I’m just trying to get us ready for Saturday against a hard team in BYU. That’s going to be a tough game.”
Bubble Banter: Big night for Providence, Syracuse, Texas A&M
As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Wednesday.
It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:
Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus
The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.
TEXAS A&M (RPI; 24, KenPom: 29, NBC seed: 9): I’m still not quite sure how they pulled it out, but they did: Texas A&M won at Georgia on Wednesday night. Now if they can get past Alabama on Saturday, the Aggies should just about have a bid locked up. Even if they don’t, it’s hard to see how they end up falling out of the NCAA tournament field. Not only do they have five Quadrant 1 wins and seven more Quadrant 2 wins, but they have just one bad loss and they’ve beaten USC and Auburn on the road, Kentucky at home and West Virginia by 23 on a neutral floor.
NOTRE DAME (RPI: 69, KenPom: 30, NBC seed: Out): In theory, Notre Dame has no shot at the NCAA tournament this year. They’re 17-12 overall and 8-9 in the ACC with just two Quadrant 1 wins and three Quadrant 3 losses. But … they’ve played the last 15 games without Bonzie Colson and gone 6-9 in that stretch. It’s not exactly breaking news that having an all-american makes you a better team than not having an all-american. Here’s the problem: Notre Dame’s two worst losses of the season — Ball State at home, Indiana on a neutral — came with Colson healthy. I’m not going to count them out, not when they play at Virginia on Saturday and not when the ACC tournament is right around the corner, but the case for the Irish with Bonzie is not as strong as you might think.
PROVIDENCE (RPI: 42, KenPom: 73, NBC seed: 10): The Friars missed a chance to lock up a bid to the NCAA tournament by winning at Xavier, but that doesn’t really matter all that much. What was a killer tonight was that Minnesota, who was a top 15 team when they played Providence early in the season, got smoked by Rutgers in their Big Ten tournament opener. That means that the Golden Gophers are now a Quadrant 4 loss for the Friars, the third Quadrant 4 loss to their name. The saving grace for the Friars here is that they have beaten both Villanova and Xavier this season, but I would strong recommend beating St. John’s this weekend.
LSU (RPI; 89, KenPom: 67, NBC seed: Next four out): LSU lost at South Carolina. Any chance of an at-large is probably gone.
TEMPLE (RPI; 46, KenPom: 83, NBC seed: Out): Temple lost at UConn. Any chance of an at-large is gone.
SYRACUSE (RPI; 43, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Play-in game): The one thing that Syracuse could not afford to do in the final three weeks of the season was to lost at Boston College, but that is precisely what they did on Wednesday night. They have just a 2-7 record against Quadrant 1 — although their two wins are at Miami and at Louisville — and a pair of Quadrant 3 losses. I think they’re on the wrong side of the bubble as of today, but it’s close. Beating Clemson in the Carrier Dome this weekend would be massive.
CBT Podcast: ESPN’s Robbie Hummel joins the podcast to talk Big Ten and Matt Painter’s waffles
Former Purdue star and current ESPN and Big Ten Network broadcaster Robbie Hummel joined Rob Dauster to talk through the upcoming Big Ten tournament, the adjustment that comes with moving behind the microphone and what makes guarding Kevin Kevin Durant so terrifying. Robbie also has a terrific story about Matt Painter and waffles.
College Basketball Bid Thieves: What teams could steal a spot in the tournament from the bubble?
It’s pretty simple, really: A team that has no chance at earning an at-large bid winning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in a conference where there is an at-large team. If, say, neither Gonzaga nor Saint Mary’s wins the WCC tournament’s automatic bid, then that means that the WCC will receive three bids, or two at-large bids and one automatic bid.
That means there is one less spot in the at-large pool for the teams in the middle of the SEC, the Big 12 and the ACC.
Hence the term big thief.
Where are this year’s potential bid thieves coming from? Who should the teams on the bubble be wary of?
The Pac-12 is weird this year. Not only are there only two teams that can be considered a lock for the NCAA tournament at this point in the season, both of those teams — who were, at one point, ranked in the top five nationally this year — have fallen off a cliff. Arizona lost Allonzo Trier to a failed PED test and they may have lost their head coach in Sean Miller. Arizona State, on the other hand, has just lost. They’re 7-9 in Pac-12 play and seem to be headed for the 8-9 game in the Pac-12 tournament. That would mean that they would face-off with Arizona in the quarterfinals, assuming that Arizona can get a split at home against Stanford and Cal this weekend.
Put another way, it’s going to be much easier for a sleeper to make a run in the Pac-12 tournament than it will be in any other major conference tournament.
So who are the potential bid thieves here?
At this point, I think USC is going to be on the right side of the bubble. UCLA and Washington might be able to play their way into a bid without having to win the automatic bid. Leaving them out, I think OREGON and UTAH have both played well of late, while STANFORD has proven they have the ability to get hot and reel off four wins in a row. Frankly, I think you pencil the Pac-12 in for five bids and figure out who those five bids are on Selection Sunday.
The American has three teams at the top of the league — Cincinnati, Wichita State and Houston — that are locks for the Dance. They also don’t really have much in the way of a bubble team, unless you Temple is going to be able to make a run to the tournament.
What they do have, however, is SMU. Prior to Shake Milton suffering a broken hand and Jarrey Foster tearing his ACL, the Mustangs looked like a team that might be able to earn a tournament bid. Two weeks before Milton’s injury, he had 34 points in a win at Wichita State. They have not been the same team since, but Milton is the type of talent that could spark a run in a conference tournament. It’s also probably worth mentioning that TULSA, who looks like they will finish fourth in the league, had won six in a row prior to Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati. They haven’t lost a game that wasn’t a roadie against Wichita State or Cincinnati since Jan. 17th.
The Atlantic 10 may have just opened up that much more. Rhode Island, who looked like far and away the best team in the league, went out and lost by 30 points to St. Joe’s on Tuesday night at home.
Spoiler alert: St. Joe’s is not all that good this season.
At this point, I really only think that one of three teams can win the Atlantic 10 tournament this season — URI, St. Bonaventure and Davidson have been far and away the best teams in the conference during league play — but both URI and the Bonnies seem like they should be in come Selection Sunday.
That leaves DAVIDSON, who shook off a slow start to the season to really play some good basketball for the last month. The Wildcats have won seven of their last nine games, and those two losses came at URI and at St. Bonaventure in triple-overtime on Tuesday night. They are, as usual, an offensive juggernaut with talents like Peyton Aldridge and Kellan Grady on the roster, but what’s promising is that, in A10 play, they’ve been the league’s fourth-best defensive team; they were the second-best defensive team in league play prior to giving up 117 points to the Bonnies last night.
Bob McKillop’s club could end up making the Atlantic 10 a three-bid conference.
We know who the two best teams in the WCC are: Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga. That isn’t much of a secret at this point. And barring some kind of disastrous loss for the Gaels, both of them are locks for the NCAA tournament. They will also be on opposite sides of the bracket, meaning that there will be some opportunities for opponents to pick them off before the final.
The team to watch out for here is BYU. San Diego would have been a threat before their coach was arrested for domestic violence and San Francisco does have a win over the Gaels, but BYU is the only team in the league that is close to par with the Zags and the Gaels from a talent perspective.
As of now, the only team in the Mountain West that has any chance at an at-large bid is Nevada. BOISE STATE is on the fringes, but they missed their chance to add an elite win when they lost at home to the Wolf Pack, and since they are locked into theNo. 2 seed, they only way they’ll be able to do that in the MWC tournament is in the beat Nevada in the title game … and earn the automatic bid.
And that probably makes the Broncos the ultimate big thief. They’re a borderline top 50 team on KenPom with the best player in the conference — sorry Caleb Martin — on their roster in Chandler Hutchison.
But if you wanted to bet on where the bubble is going to lose a bid, the Mountain West is probably the safest best. The league doesn’t have the profile to actually carry more than one at-large team, but they do have some talent in the conference and teams that are unquestionably good enough to pick on Eric Musselman’s club. Let’s start with UNLV, who has quite a bit of talent — including future first round pick Brandon McCoy — and will be playing home games throughout the league tournament. They also won at Nevada (albeit while Nevada was injured) this month. WYOMING has one of the best one-two punches in the conference with Justin James and Hayden Dalton and they beat a full-strength Nevada team in Laramie earlier this year.
FRESNO STATE has some talent on their roster this year. SAN DIEGO STATE got Malik Pope back after he sat out for one game and they seem to have figured out that Jalen McDaniels might actually be their best player. Even NEW MEXICO has won some games this year.
The MWC tournament is going to be wild this year.
The big question here is whether or not you believe that Middle Tennessee State is actually an NCAA tournament team. They are 26th in the RPI, they have three Quadrant 1 wins this season while playing in a league that isn’t exactly loaded with talent and their one “bad” loss this season came at home against Belmont, who is 77th in the RPI; the cutoff for that being a Quadrant 2 loss is 75th in the RPI.
So let’s assume that the Blue Raiders are going to be dancing as long as they don’t lose to one of the dumpster fires that currently exist in CUSA. That leaves two legitimate bid thief candidates: OLD DOMINION and WESTERN KENTUCKY. WKU is loaded with high-major cast-offs like Darius Thompson (Virginia), Lamonte Bearden (Buffalo), Moustapha Diagne (Syracuse) and Dwight Coleby (Kansas and Ole Miss), while ODU is more balanced and better defensively. The Monarchs, however, have lost all three games they’ve played against WKU and MTSU this season.
Is Loyola-Chicago is deserving of an at-large bid? According to Bracket Matrix, they are the second highest-rated mid-major program. They also have a win at Florida and a top 35 RPI. But a 3-3 mark against the top two Quadrants and a pair of losses to teams outside the top two Quadrants is not ideal, particularly when you consider that they could end up taking another one if they don’t lose to either ILLINOIS STATE or BRADLEY.
VIDEO: Jacksonville State player surprised by mom he hasn’t seen in five years
Jacksonville State’s Nobertas Giga is a 6-foot-9 senior from Lithuania. He left his hometown in 2013 to come to the United States to play basketball in high school, and he hadn’t seen his mom since he left.
Until this week, when head coach Ray Harper surprised Nobertas by telling him he had to watch some film.
Dry not to let it get too dusty:
.@norbertasgiga thought he was meeting with the coaches to watch film when he arrived in Evansville for the @OVCSports Tournament. Instead, he got a surprise from someone he hasn’t seen since moving to the United States in 2013. pic.twitter.com/P0NELC0sRT