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Report: Nevada expected to hire former UCLA coach Steve Alford

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It appears that Steve Alford will stay out west as the former UCLA coach is expected to become the new head coach at Nevada.

According to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, Alford is in the midst of finalizing negotiations with the Wolf Pack.

Fired from UCLA this season after a disappointing 7-6 start, Alford made three Sweet 16 appearances in five full seasons as the Bruins’ head coach. But once Alford lost the fanbase with some disappointing seasons (based on recruiting and outside expectations) he never recovered as he was let go right before 2019.

Successful in the Mountain West before his UCLA tenure with New Mexico, Alford took the Lobos to the NIT or NCAA tournament in all six of his seasons as coach — including the NCAAs in three of the final four seasons.

Also spending time as head coach at Missouri State and Iowa, Alford has taken all four of his Division I programs to the NCAA tournament. Nevada will expect him to maintain the national status that head coach Eric Musselman achieved before taking the open job at Arkansas as the Wolf Pack have been a consistent top-25 presence the past few seasons.

Report: Arkansas expected to hire Nevada coach Eric Musselman

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Arkansas is expected to fill its head coaching vacancy by hiring Nevada’s Eric Musselman, according to multiple reports.

Musselman has helped lead the Wolf Pack to national prominence over the past four seasons as he led the program to three NCAA tournament appearances — including a Sweet 16 trip in 2018. Going 110-34 during his stint in Reno, Musselman has also spent time as a head coach in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.

Known for being a high-level recruiter who is willing to regularly stock his roster with transfers and graduate transfers, Musselman has done well to adapt to modern college basketball roster building during an era of high player turnover.

Building Nevada into a perennial top-25 team in a down Mountain West is no easy feat as Musselman deserves credit for taking the Wolf Pack back to previous heights.

Musselman will replace former head coach Mike Anderson as he made three NCAA tournament trips in eight seasons with the Razorbacks. While the former Nolan Richardson assistant played a style reminiscent of the old Arkansas national title teams, he never gained consistent footing in the SEC, or with the Arkansas fanbase.

NCAA Tournament 2019: Instant Analysis West Region

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The West Region has an intriguing draw with Gonzaga gaining the top seed and Michigan, a Final Four team from last season, getting the No. 2 seed. This region has some potential darkhorse Final Four team and some trendy potential upsets to keep an eye on during the first weekend.

The No. 1 seed is Gonzaga. Despite a loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC title game, the Bulldogs still earned a No. 1 seed out west as they face the play-in winner between No. 16 seeds Fairleigh Dickinson and Prairie View A&M.

It should be a matchup of a lot of length and athleticism when No. 8 seed Syracuse and No. 9 seed Baylor collide. The health of Orange star guard Tyus Battle (hip) and Bears senior guard Makai Mason (toe) could very well decide who advances in that one.

The best lead-guard matchup of the first round goes down in Hartford with No. 5 seed Marquette and All-American Markus Howard battling OVC champion and No. 12 seed Murray State and Ja Morant. The Golden Eagles struggled down the stretch in Big East play as they went from Final Four darkhorse into a potentially-popular first-round matchup.

ANALYSIS: East | South | West | Midwest

A dangerous No. 4 seed could be Florida State as the Seminoles just knocked off Virginia in the ACC tournament over the weekend. Coming off of an Elite Eight appearance last season, the Seminoles could be a sleeper Final Four team out of this region. The Seminoles collide with No. 13 seed Vermont, a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The America East champions had a beatdown of UMBC in the conference tournament title game.

After an impressive season in the MAC in which they became a consistent top-25 team, Buffalo gets a No. 6 seed. The Bulls could get a fascinating first-round matchup as they await the winner of the play-in game between No. 11 seeds Arizona State and St. John’s. If the Sun Devils advance past Dayton, it’ll be a matchup of Bobby Hurley-coached programs as he left Buffalo for Arizona State a few years ago.

Texas Tech earned the No. 3 seed out of the Big 12 following an impressive regular-season title. Although the Red Raiders made the Elite Eight last season, the roster is almost entirely different from last season. But the Red Raiders have a star in Jarrett Culver and the nation’s best defense. Northern Kentucky, the No. 14 seed, draws Texas Tech after winning the Horizon League title.

Following a disappointing regular season, Nevada is a No. 7 seed facing No. 10 seed Florida. The Wolf Pack had preseason top-10 hype but failed to deliver results in the regular season behind a loaded roster that is mostly in-tact from last season’s Sweet 16 team. The Gators needed some late wins this season to get in — most notably over LSU in the SEC tournament. Florida is dangerous but extremely inconsistent.

Rounding out the West is No. 2 seed Michigan as the Wolverines attempt to return to the Final Four. Guard Charles Matthews recently returned from injury as Michigan appears to be near full-strength heading into the Big Dance. The Wolverines face No. 15 seed Montana to open things up as the Grizzlies represent the Big Sky.

No. 14 Nevada rallies to beat Boise State in MWC quarters

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada got an early scare in the Mountain West Conference quarterfinals.

After trailing Boise State by 15 points in the first half, the Wolf Pack slowly responded. And not until the final minute of the game — did they feel comfortable.

Jazz Johnson scored 20 points, Caleb Martin had 19 and No. 14 Nevada rallied to beat Boise State 77-69 on Thursday .

Tre’Shawn Thurman added 17 points, and Cody Martin had 10 to help top-seeded Nevada (29-3) tie the school record for victories in a season. The Wolf Pack will face San Diego State in the semifinals Friday night.

Derrick Alston led Boise State (13-20) with 21 points, and Justinian Jessup had 18.

Boise State led 11-3 and had a 27-12 advantage with 7:37 left in the first half. The Wolf Pack opened 2 of 14 from the field.

“We stunk for the first 12 minutes of the game,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “It was hard to watch. I’d rather go the dentist and get some teeth pulled. But the thing with our ballclub is down 15, no panic. We’ve been in those situations where we’ve gotten down and figured away to come from behind on a big stage. At halftime, we got our minds cleared.”

Down 34-29 at intermission, Nevada shot 62 percent from the field in the second half, going 5 of 11 from 3-point range.

“In the three games we lost, we never found that spurt,” Musselman said. “Today, we found that spurt. I want to compliment (Boise State) coach Leon Rice, he had them over prepared. They didn’t back down.”

After the Wolf Pack took a 57-50 lead with 9:33 left, the Broncos went on a 10-0 run. Nevada took the lead for good on Cody Martin’s jumper with 3:37 left. The Wolf Pack slowly pulled away, converting all eight free throws in the final 51 seconds.

BOISE LOOKS TO FUTURE

The Broncos hung around thanks to 8-of-17 shooting from 3-point range and an 11-of-13 mark from the free-throw line.

“Nevada has big-time tough guys, big-time character,” said Rice, who now looks ahead to next season. “(As for the season), there were positives. A lot of teams would be able to do what went through. We got our hearts ripped out many times. We competed night in and night out. (Alston and Jessup) have some great days ahead of them. That’s a heck of a cornerstone going ahead.”

THE BIG PICTURE

Nevada: The comeback win was tied the team’s season mark from 15, also rallying against then No. 20 Arizona in December. Coach Eric Musselman is 6-2 in the MWC tournament.

Boise State: The Broncos are 8-51 against AP Top 25 teams. Marcus Dickinson had 12 points, while Zach Haney, who fouled out with 4:44 left, had 10.

UP NEXT

Nevada will face the San Diego State in the semifinals Friday. The Aztecs beat UNLV 63-55.

NBC Sports Top 25: The final power rankings of the college basketball season

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Yes, I’m the guy that still has Duke at No. 1. I explained why in detail last week, and I’m not going to do it again, especially now that it appears Zion Williamson will be back for the ACC tournament.

And just to make it clear: This does not mean that I believe Duke should be a No. 1 seed. I don’t. Losses, even if they come when a team is not at full strength, need to matter for things like NCAA tournament seeding. They don’t matter when it comes to how the industry — and me, specifically — rank which of those teams are the best.

Beyond that, there isn’t all that much to talk about in what will be the final top 25 of the 2018-19 season.

I bumped Texas Tech up to fifth after they won a share of the Big 12 regular season title. Outside of a three-week stretch in January when Jarrett Culver forgot how to shoot, the Red Raiders were the best team in that conference. With the way they are shooting and scoring the ball in the last month combined with that defense, they are very much a threat to win a national title.

One other thing that I’ll note here: I think there are three tiers at the top of college hoops. At the top is a healthy Duke, Gonzaga and Virginia. Right behind that trio sits North Carolina, Texas Tech, Tennessee and Kentucky. I think those seven are pretty clearly the top seven teams in the country, and one you get past them, it starts to get wild. Purdue, Kansas State, Michigan State, Houston, Michigan, Florida State, Nevada. I think there is an argument for all of these teams to be ranked in the back end of the top ten.

Anyway, here is my final Top 25 of the season:

1. Duke (26-5, Last Week: 1)
2. Gonzaga (29-2, 2)
3. Virginia (28-2, 3)
4. North Carolina (26-5, 4)
5. Texas Tech (26-5, 6)
6. Tennessee (27-4, 5)
7. Kentucky (26-5, 7)
8. Michigan State (25-6, 12)
9. Purdue (23-8, 9)
10. Kansas State (24-7, 10)
11. LSU (26-5, 11)
12. Houston (29-2, 12)
13. Michigan (26-5, 8)
14. Nevada (28-3, 15)
15. Florida State (25-6, 18)
16. Virginia Tech (23-7, 17)
17. Buffalo (28-3, 20)
18. Wofford (27-4, 22)
19. Wisconsin (22-9, 19)
20. Kansas (23-8, 16)
21. Marquette (23-8, 14)
22. Auburn (22-9, NR)
23. VCU (25-6, NR)
24. Mississippi State (22-9, NR)
25. UCF (23-7, 25)

Dropped Out: 21. Iowa State, 23. Villanova, 24. Cincinnati
New Additions: 22. Auburn, 23. VCU, 24. Mississippi State

Mountain West says court-storm not at fault in Nevada-Utah State dust-up

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Whatever the issues that led to the post-game issues Saturday between Nevada and Utah State, the Mountain West Conference is staying out of it.

The league conducted an investigation into the court storming at Utah State and the events in the handshake line and determined that it would be up to the two schools to determine if any further action should be needed, the conference announced Monday.

“After a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Saturday night’s incident, which included a review of numerous video clips from various sources and the collection of written statements from multiple individuals,” the conference said in a prepared statement, “the Mountain West has concluded the situation was not caused by the court rush.  There was a postgame management plan in place and it was executed successfully.

“Rather, inappropriate conduct by individuals from both programs in the postgame handshake line and subsequently in the locker room areas created the unfortunate circumstances.  The Conference office has had multiple communications with both athletics directors and has shared the findings of its review.  Each institution will be responsible for the determination and administration of what it deems appropriate disciplinary action for those involved.  It must be made clear unsportsmanlike and unprofessional conduct is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

After Utah State’s 81-76 upset of Nevada, a dispute in the handshake line spilled into the hallways of the arena and ultimately there was video of Jordan Caroline striking a glass case in anger.

Nevada coach Eric Musselman tweeted a statement in support of Caroline.