Just one day after Stephen F. Austin’s season came to an end with a one-point loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament, the program will be looking for a new head coach.
Monday evening NBCSports.com confirmed that Brad Underwood would be leaving the Southland Conference school for Oklahoma State, where he’ll fill the vacancy left by the departure of Travis Ford. Oklahoma State made the news official shortly thereafter. Underwood leaves SFA after three incredibly successful seasons at the helm, which produced three trips to the NCAA tournament and two victories.
Underwood’s teams compiled an overall record of 89-14 in three seasons, which includes a 59-1 record against Southland competition. In the 2014 NCAA tournament SFA knocked off VCU before falling to UCLA, and in this year’s event the Lumberjacks soundly defeated No. 3 seed West Virginia in the first round.
Given his accomplishments at SFA and work as an assistant under Frank Martin at Kansas State, it was only a matter of time before high-major programs called for Underwood (who’s a K-State alum). Oklahoma State finished the 2015-16 season with a record of 12-20, and while Ford did lead the program to five NCAA tournament appearances the program hasn’t been to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament since 2005 under Eddie Sutton.
The team was hit hard by injuries, and with guards Jawun Evans and Phil Forte expected back Underwood will have some players to work with in Stillwater next season.
News of Underwood’s hiring was first reported by CBSSports.com.
Northern Iowa escapes Stephen F. Austin in overtime thriller, snaps home winning streak at 34
Less than 15 hours after No. 8 Florida’s 33-game home-winning streak came to an end at the hands of rival Miami, Stephen F. Austin had its 34-game home-winning streak snapped, as Northern Iowa, Wichita State’s chief competition in the Missouri Valley Conference, went in to Nacogdoches, Texas and left with a huge, 79-77 non-conference win in overtime.
The early contender for game of the tipoff marathon saw 11 ties and 23 lead changes, five of which happened in the final four minutes of the extra frame.
The wild sequence picked up with under two minutes to play with Northern Iowa up 74-72 a Seth Tuttle and-1. On the next possession, the Lumberjacks reclaimed the lead with a deep ball from Connor Brooks. Wes Washpun followed with a layup. On the next play for the Jacks, Jacob Parker was rewarded for saving a Clide Geffrard airball with a baseline layup to put Stephen F. Austin up 77-76.
Paul Jesperson’s shot with just over 30 seconds to play ended up being the decisive bucket, as Stephen F. Austin missed a good look from three from Thomas Walkup. Northern Iowa left the door open after Washpun split a pair of free throws, but as seen in the video above, Floyd’s layup took an unfriendly roll off the rim.
Walkup and Demetrius Floyd both had 20 for the Lumberjacks. Parker added 15. Marvin Singleton was one of five Panthers in double figures, leading the way with 15. Tuttle went for 13 points and eight boards while Deon Mitchell went for 14 and Washpun and Wyatt Lohaus chipped in 11 apiece.
Northern Iowa finished 16-15 (10-8 MVC) last season, but Ben Jacobsen returned more than 90 percent of his scoring and rebounding for this season. If the Panthers wanted to make a push for a second bid to come out of the Missouri Valley, they’re off to a good start. Stephen F. Austin was a No. 12 seed that reached the Round of 32 in the last season’s NCAA tournament, and is expected to be back in the field this March in Brad Underwood’s second season.
Jacobsen’s team will look to pad its non-conference resume with an upset over tournament-caliber teams like No. 15 VCU (Dec. 13), Iowa (Dec. 20) and Richmond (Nov. 30). But two games they’ll have circled on their schedule: Saturday, Jan. 31 and the regular season finale on Saturday, Feb. 28. At home and on the road against No. 11 Wichita State.
“This is a great job,” Price said in a statement. “From a recruiting standpoint, we are in a great location — within a 250 mile radius you can find talented players. From an academic standpoint, Lamar can challenge any school in the country. We have some really good professors and an excellent administration. There is a sense of family here, and unless you are a part of Lamar you just won’t understand it.
“My family and I have grown to love the Beaumont area. We have met some wonderful people, are part of a wonderful church and this is a great place to live. I truly love this university. It has given me the opportunity to grow professionally as a coach and an administrator.”
This will be his fourth head coaching job after roaming the sidelines at the University of New Orleans (1994-1997), Memphis (1997-1999) and McNeese State (2001-2006). Price has compiled a combined 168-131 record in those three stints.
The Cardinals are 7-54 (4-32 Southland) in the last two seasons. Price was 1-4 as an interim coach.
As we get closer to March, Southland leader Stephen F. Austin might be one of the scarier teams a program could potentially face in the NCAA Tournament.
At 25-2 — and 14-0 in the Southland with a three-game lead — the Lumberjacks have won 22 consecutive games and are winning by an average of 13.8 points per game in conference play while playing with a balanced attack.
Stephen F. Austin has five players averaging at least 10 points a game and all five of them shoot at least 31 percent from the three-point line, while four of them are above 33 percent.
But the shocking part about their success? The Lumberjacks are playing under first-year coach Brad Underwood — a longtime assistant at Kansas State and a year at South Carolina under Frank Martin — and lost three seniors that were regular contributors last season.
Underwood credited the team’s unique bond and work ethic for the win streak.
“They’ve been very receptive to listening, very receptive to the work ethic we’ve required and when you have a senior leader who is also your hardest worker, that is a bonus from day one,” Underwood said to College Basketball Talk last week. “And that’s helped with the winning streak. We’ve developed a tough mentality. That’s one of the thing’s I’m most proud of is the road winning streak. These kids have been able to be resilient and tough-minded and this is an extremely hard-working group.”
The senior Underwood is referring to is Desmond Haymon, a 6-foot-3 guard that doubles as the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.9 points per game.
“Just an extremely high-character guy,” Underwood said. “There’s no question that no matter what Desmond does in life he’s going to be successful because he has great character and great passion. He’s not afraid to tell other guys to step up and tell the young guys and challenge them to work.”
Stephen F. Austin’s offensive balance has been great for a first-year coach like Underwood to work with.
“It’s probably helped us more than any one thing. We’re basically a position-less team,” Underwood said of the balance. “My power forward can play the point for us. My five man is our best three-pointer shooter, statistically. They can all pass it, they can all dribble it. It’s probably as good a passing team as I’ve been apart of.”
The defense for the Lumberjacks has also been surprisingly good despite their lack of size. Jacob Parker is the team’s tallest starter at 6-foot-6 and is also the team’s best three-point shooter, but Stephen F. Austin relies on getting heavy pressure on the perimeter.
“One thing I’ve learned from Hugs and learned from Frank (Martin) is on the defensive side of things,” Underwood said of his team’s pressure. “I can’t play backline defense with this team and expect to win. We don’t have the roaming presence in terms of tremendous size. We pressure and we get out and deny. Our point guard Trey Pickney is just as good an on-the-ball defender as I’ve been around and we try to take other team’s first options away.”
With the Lumberjacks on a 22-game winning streak, a potential NCAA Tournament bid has come into question. Stephen F. Austin lost to Texas and East Tennessee State on the season and don’t have any marquee wins over tournament competition. That makes their Southland Conference tournament win vital for a league that is definitely a one-bid league.
“You have to win your (conference) tournament,” Underwood said. “If that means that’s in the cards for us and we’re able to do that, I think we become a team that not a lot of people want to play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In the meantime, we’re not worried about that. This team deserves what we’re getting. All of our fans, and administration should be proud of this winning streak. Winning is hard. We’re a team that is very grounded in terms of our general approach.”
After two-plus seasons at Lamar, head coach Pat Knight, son of the Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight, was fired by the university on Sunday morning, according to a report from ESPN’s Andy Katz.
The Cardinals are 2-11 in the Southland Conference and lost to Northwestern State, 87-67, on Saturday; the team’s fourth straight defeat.
“I was told last night to meet with the president and the AD this morning at 10 a.m.,” Knight told Katz on Sunday afternoon after confirming the news. “I knew it. There’s no talk. They said they want to go in a different direction. We struggled for two years. It’s all based on the record. It’s part of the business.”
Pat Knight took over the program in 2011, and led the Cardinals to the 2012 NCAA Tournament in that first season, before losing to Vermont in a play-in game in Dayton. Knight made news late in that campaign when he went on an epic post-game rant following a 62-52 loss to Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 22.
During that press conference, he stated, this was “worst group of seniors right now that I’ve ever been associated with”. Following that outburst, the then-17-11 Cards won six straight games, including the Southland Conference tournament.
However, it has been downhill since that late-season run into the NCAA tournament. Lamar went 3-28 last season, and 25 games into this season the team had matched that dismal win total from the previous season with a 3-22 record. Knight took over for his father for final 11 games of the 2007-2008 season at Texas Tech after Bob Knight suddenly resigned. In three-plus seasons with the Red Raiders, Knight went 50-61.
Lamar, currently half a game out of last place in the Southland Conference, has five games remaining in the regular season. The Cardinals begin the post-Pat Knight era on Saturday at home against Sam Houston State.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.
During a three-year run atop the Summit League, Scott Sutton racked up some pretty impressive wins. He’s not about to let anyone, least of all his young Oral Roberts basketball squad, forget about it.
In the ’05-’06 season, ORU drubbed Southern Cal by twenty points. The next year, Sutton took his charges into Lawrence, KS and left with a stunning 78-71 upset of No. 3 Kansas on his resume. In ’07-’08, Oklahoma State and crosstown rival Tulsa felt his wrath.
In each of those seasons, the Golden Eagles went to the NCAA tournament as low-seeded auto-bid winners, and lost handily to power programs.
Then mid-major reality set in. Sutton’s team never lost more than five league games in any season since then, but losses in the Summit tourney left them outside the Big Dance, peering in. To add insult to injury, the far-flung Summit League kept adding ever more distant members, forcing the Golden Eagles to spend an unsustainable amount of money on the travel budget. When the opportunity came to join the Southland Conference a season ago, it was a fiscal no-brainer. The team never has to leave red-dirt country during conference play, and has the same single shot at making the NCAA tournament, so why not?
“It did make it a little bit easier, because you don’t have to worry about going up north and getting stuck in airports because of weather,” Sutton said. “Now we end up driving five or six hours for a lot of our trips. It has also allowed us to recruit south Texas and New Orleans more, which is great.”
For Sutton and the Golden Eagles, getting that auto bid and a long-awaited return trip to the NCAA tournament has to be paramount. Nonetheless, wouldn’t a couple more marquee non-conference victories be nice? Especially if they teach David how to beat Goliath in March?
Sutton certainly isn’t ducking his opportunities. This year’s ORU slate is pretty brutal before New Year’s Day. November takes them to play at Tulsa again, then to the Little Apple to face Kansas State. Then it’s at St. Louis and at Wisconsin. In December, they visit Final Four darling Wichita State and swing on by Baylor to close out the year. For a lesser coach with a lesser team, it could be soul-crushing.
“We’re not quite as young as we look on paper,” Sutton warned. “This group ought to be able to withstand that schedule, and it’ll make us tougher and better.”
Sutton knows what he’s doing. He’s always got those wins in Lawrence and Stillwater to drag into the pregame talk, and you can bet he’ll point to future foe Gregg Marshall’s Shockers as evidence of the power of positive mid-major thinking.
“We’ve won a bunch of those games,” he said.”We mention them a lot, and it gives our guys confidence.”
He’ll have some decent size, led by Utah transfer Shawn Glover, and he’s always done a great job of coaching up the players who come to play for him in Tulsa. The news that Missouri State transfer and Tulsa native Drew Wilson will be immediately eligible to play after applying for a hardship waiver was more good news. Throw in former Arkansas commit Dederick Lee and the Eagles have the look of a long-term contender.
“The Sutton name is good throughout Arkansas, because of my dad,” the ORU coach said, harkening back to the eleven quality years and a Final Four appearance his legendary father brought to the Razorbacks program in the 1970’s. “Dederick committed to Arkansas early, and when he decommitted, we jumped all over him. He likes that he has a chance to come in and be an impact player right away.”
Sutton expects senior forward Glover to challenge for league POY honors, and he likes the way his recruiting classes are layered behind the big man. With point guard Jabbar Singleton leaving his hometown of New Orleans to team up with fellow freshman Lee in the backcourt, the future looks bright for the Golden Eagles.
The Southland is forewarned, for sure. But those giant programs with Final Four aspirations had better look out for Oral Roberts in November and December as well.
If all goes as planned for Sutton and Company, March could spell even more trouble for the nation’s bluebloods.