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2018 College Basketball Coaching Carousel: Ranking the 12 best hires from the spring of 2018

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As of today, the college basketball coaching carousel isn’t quite finished spinning — thanks at lot, Detroit and Chicago State — but for all intents and purposes, all the jobs that are nationally relevant are filled and have been filled for a couple of weeks, some for more than a month.

What that means is that it is time to look back on some of those big name coaching decisions. 

Who made the best hires?

Did anyone make a head-scratching decision?

Who is guaranteed success?

Who is locked into failure?

Here are the 12 best hires of the carousel.

THE NO-BRAINERS

1. CHRIS MACK, Louisville

For my money, Mack is one of the ten best coaches in college basketball. He’s young, he’s a high-level recruiter, he understands how to run a program in that part of the country, he’s dealt with a passionate fanbase at a basketball school. This was the hire, and Louisville got it done.

1a. DAN HURLEY, UConn

Another homerun hire, and this one coming at a discount of sorts. Hurley picked UConn over Pitt, who offered a more lucrative contract, and Rhode Island, who offered him an extension with a bigger dollar figure. Dan, the son of legendary high school coach Bob Hurley and the younger brother of Bobby Hurley, picked the Huskies in part because of the fact that they were another school in the Northeast and in part because of the pedigree that comes with the UConn brand.

Whether or not the Huskies can actually return to the glory of the Calhoun years is up for debate, but Hurley is the guy to do it. He’ll recruit better than Kevin Ollie did and he should be able to coach up the players he lands better than Ollie did the last four seasons. I don’t expect UConn to once again because a top 5-10 program in college basketball, but I do think that Hurley is the guy that can get them back to being a perennial top 25 team and an annual AAC contender.

(AP Photo/Stephen Dunn)

THESE ATHLETIC DIRECTORS EARNED THEIR SALARIES

3. PENNY HARDAWAY, Memphis

I do not know if Penny is going to be a good college coach. He was a good high school coach, a good AAU coach and a great college and NBA player, but that doesn’t always translate. What I do know is this: He is going to be able to recruit the city of Memphis, which is something that Tubby Smith, his predecessor, was not able to do, because he already is landing Memphis kids. Getting talent matters. I think Tubby Smith is a better basketball coach than Josh Pastner, but Pastner unquestionably had more success at Memphis than Smith did. Penny will get talent.

But more importantly, Penny has reinvigorated a fan base. Memphis fans want to root for talented, local players. They’re going to do that with Penny — who is a Memphis native and alum — recruiting the kids he coached at East HS and with Team Penny. Gary Parrish, a Memphis radio host, said on the CBT Podcast on Monday that Memphis has already brought in enough money through donations and ticket sales to pay Penny’s salary and Tubby’s buyout for a year. College sports in a business, and at Memphis, business is finally good again.

4. JEFF CAPEL, Pittsburgh

I think Capel is a good coach and a very good recruiter who doesn’t get enough credit for the job he did at VCU or at Oklahoma before everything blew up in his face post-Blake Griffin. He was overdue to get another shot at a high-major gig, and Pitt was able to land him.

But, if I’m being frank, his presence this high on this list has a lot more to do with the fact that I believe Pitt is a bad job in the midst of what is going to be a long and difficult rebuild. The Pitt basketball program has no pedigree outside of the years that Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon were on campus. They’ve been to seven Sweet 16s in program history, and five of them came in a seven-year period from 2002-09. That was when the Panthers, who have no recruiting base to speak of, were pulling kids out of New York City with the pitch of being able to play in the Big East.

Now?

They’re in the ACC. That sale isn’t going to work, which means that Capel has to find a way to convince players to join a program that went 0-18 in the ACC last season. I’m not sure Pitt is a top ten job in the ACC. And they landed Capel. Good for them.

5. ASHLEY HOWARD, La Salle

Ashley Howard is a Philly native and a former La Salle assistant that has spent all but one year of his post-high school life playing or coaching at one of Philly’s college basketball programs. He knows that city as well as anyone, and has spent the last five years as an assistant on the staff of the most successful program in college basketball during that time, Villanova. This was the guy that La Salle needed to get, and they got him despite the fact that the athletic department is not in great shape financially.

Jamion Christian (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

6. JAMION CHRISTIAN, Siena

Christian went to two NCAA tournaments in six seasons at Mount St. Mary’s, finding a way to stay relevant despite losing transfers to bigger programs. He just turned 36 years old and has a bright future in front of him in this business. He’s had other offers and turned down other jobs, and eventually a better program than Siena was going to smarten up and pull the trigger. What makes the hire even more impressive is that Siena made it happen in the wake of an ugly breakup with Jimmy Patsos. This is the kind of hire that is going to lead to Siena getting back to NCAA tournaments … and having to find another head coach in five or six years.

7. NIKO MEDVED, Colorado State

The Rams landed themselves one of the better young coaches in the country who is a former assistant with the program and they did it without having to break the bank. In four years, Medved built Furman from a program that was left for dead to a conference champ for the first time in 26 seasons. In one season at Drake, he turned the Bulldogs from a team that was expected to be a joke to one that went 10-8 in the league. He’ll have a similar rebuilding task on his hands in Fort Collins, but he should be up for it.

8. JOE DOOLEY, East Carolina

East Carolina is a terrible job. It’s that simple. Terrible. They’ve been to the NCAA tournament twice in program history, the last time coming in 1993. Dooley knows all about this. He was an assistant on staff when they made the 1993 NCAA tournament despite finishing below .500 and just 4-10 in the CAA. He was also the head coach at the program from 1995-99. The best he did was a 17-10 mark, finishing tied for third in the conference. Now, the Pirates are in the AAC, a league that isn’t great but is well above the level of the program. And they were able to land Dooley, a former Kansas assistant that had a ton of success as FGCU the last five years, despite the fact that he knew he was taking a terrible job. Good for them.

AP Photo/John Minchillo

FINE, IF UNINSPIRING

9. TRAVIS STEELE, Xavier

Let me be clear on this: I do not think Travis Steele was a bad hire. I think he’s going to win at Xavier. I think he’s going to keep that program in and around the top 25, if not competing for Big East titles. This was the right hire. But he was always going to be the guy. This is what Xavier does. They promoted Sean Miller after Thad Matta left for Ohio State. He turned into a top ten coach in the country. After Miller left for Arizona, they promoted Mack, and ditto. Steele might end up on that same path. I wouldn’t be shocked. I just think that it’s more impressive to make a good hire at a bad job than it is to make the smart decision to hire from within when it’s the obvious move and what your program does.

10. TOM CREAN, Georgia

It’s not that I don’t think that Crean, the former Marquette and Indiana head man, is a good coach — I do — it’s that this hire is kind of a weird fit. Crean has spent the majority of his coaching career in the midwest, even if he did end up recruiting nationally more than he did within state borders by the end of his time at Indiana. Recruiting Georgia, and specifically Atlanta, is complicated, but it can be quite fertile if done correctly. Figuring out how to navigate the state will be the key to whether or not Crean outperforms his predecessor, Mark Fox.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

11. KERMIT DAVIS, Ole Miss

Kermit Davis is a good coach that had a tremendous amount of success at Middle Tennessee State and is familiar with the recruiting waters he’ll have to wade in at Ole Miss. I’m just not sure that I see the logic in Ole Miss firing the most successful coach that the program has ever had only to go out and hire a guy that basically does the same thing, just at 58 years old instead of 50.

12. DAVID COX, Rhode Island

This was probably the right decision for URI to make, given that Cox should keep some of the talent on the roster from departing. But he’s also going to be a first-year head coach taking over for a guy that made a program without much history nationally relevant. Those are big shoes to fill. We’ll see how it plays out.

Ole Miss’ Brooks taken to hospital after seizure

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Ole Miss senior Rasheed Brooks has been taken to an Oxford area hospital during the Rebels’ game against Tennessee on Tuesday evening after suffering a seizure, the school said in a statement. He is in stable condition and undergoing further testing.

Brooks reportedly was taken by stretcher out of the arena after he collapsed during a timeout.

The game did commence following the incident, and Ole Miss eventually landed a come-from-behind win.

No. 12 Creighton lands come-from-behind win over Ole Miss

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Marcus Foster scored 25 points and Khyri Thomas chipped in 16 points of his own as No. 12 Creighton landed a come-from-behind win over Ole Miss in the title game of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, 86-77.

The Rebels were up by as many as 12 points in the second half before the Jays caught fire from deep – Creighton finished shooting 16-for-26 from beyond the arc – but the real difference came on the defensive end of the floor. The Bluejays finally started getting stops, and it’s not a coincidence that those stops came at the same time that they started clearing the defensive glass.

Ole Miss took a 46-40 lead into the break. With 15 minutes left in the game, a jumper from Cullen Neal gave Ole Miss a 59-51 lead. They mustered just 18 points the rest of the way. It’s also worth noting that Ole Miss grabbed 14 of their 17 offensive rebounds in the first 25 minutes; they finished with 20 second chance points.

The defense is going to be the key long-term for Creighton. This is easily the most athletic team that Greg McDermott has had in his time at Creighton – there’s probably an argument to be made that it’s the most talented as well, although that’s a different discussion for a different day – but what they have in shooting prowess and back court dominance they lack in true difference-makers defensively.

Deandre Burnett and Rasheed Brooks, who both had 22 points, are good basketball players – Burnett had 41 points in the opening game of this event – but they got anything they wanted in the first half on Monday night. It helped that they made seemingly all of the open shots that they got, and it also helped that Justin Patton, Zach Hanson and Toby Hegner looked helpless against Sebastian Saiz on the glass. Again, Saiz is a good player, but he should not have been able to dominate the glass like that against a team that’s many believe is a top 15-20 team in the country.

The Bluejays are going to score a lot of points this season. They have shooters everywhere on their roster, they have a group of guards that are as good as any in the country and they those guards thrive in transition and when their spacing creates driving lanes.

But their ceiling will be limited if they cannot get more consistent defensively.

On the other side, Ole Miss is a better basketball team than I thought they were. They may even be the second-best team in the SEC. Burnett is going to score a lot of points this season while Neal and Brooks seem like capable compliments in the back court. Throw in Saiz, who is as underrated as anyone in that conference, and this is a typically-good Andy Kennedy team.

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PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: South Carolina looks to remain undefeated

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Ole Miss at Memphis, 8:00 p.m.

One of the nation’s best scoring guards will be on display in this one, as senior Stefan Moody leads the Rebels up against Memphis. Moody’s averaging 24.1 points and 4.2 assists per game for Andy Kennedy’s team, and slowing him down is the primary objective of any team. Memphis will counter with a perimeter rotation led by senior Ricky Tarrant, and their top two scorers are forwards Dedric Lawson and Shaq Goodwin. Keep an eye on the free throw numbers in this one, as Memphis is one of the nation’s best when it comes to getting to the foul line (third in free throw rate).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: South Carolina at Clemson, 7:00 p.m.

Despite being 9-0 on the season, Frank Martin’s Gamecocks have flown under the radar nationally to this point in the season. They boast five double-digit scorers led by senior forwards Mindaugas Kacinas (13.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Laimonas Chatkevicius (13.0, 4.3), and freshman P.J. Dozier (8.1 ppg) will only get better with time. South Carolina’s gotten the job done thus far with balanced scoring an tough defense (opponents shot 39.9 percent from two), and that will need to be the case when they take on their in-state rival tonight. The Tigers are led by junior forward Jaron Blossomgame, who’s averaging 16.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and is shooting 57.6 percent from the field.

SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. A game that may float under the radar tonight is Southern’s trip to Ruston to take on Louisiana Tech. Eric Konkol’s Bulldogs are looking to rebound from a 19-point loss at Ole Miss, and they’ll do so against a team that has road wins over Mississippi State, Tulane and Wyoming. The tandem of Alex Hamilton and Eric McCree has been key for Louisiana Tech thus far.

2. BYU is back in action, taking on one of the early favorites in the MAC in Central Michigan. While CMU can put the ball in the basket their issue is defense, as they’re ranked 316th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Can they slow down Kyle Collinsworth and company?

3. Oregon hosts Long Beach State, with the 49ers having already been through a rigorous non-conference schedule. While they’re still awaiting the debut of the injured Dylan Ennis, Oregon’s received steady play at the point from sophomore Casey Benson. His numbers on the season: 31 assists and just two turnovers.

4. Wake Forest faces a Coastal Carolina team that’s expected to contend in the Big South, with Cliff Ellis’ team being a balanced group offensively led by guards Elijah Wilson and Shivaughn Wiggins. The question for the Chanticleers is whether or not they have the power inside needed to deal with Demon Deacon forwards Devin Thomas and Dinos Mitoglou.

5. Grand Canyon heads west to play San Diego State, and this could be a trickier game than one would anticipate. The Antelopes are 8-2 on the season, and the addition of guard Dominic Magee (29 points against Omaha) has given them another guard capable of putting points on the board. The Aztecs will defend, but can they produce enough on the offensive end? That’s been the question all season for them.

6. 8-1 Colorado takes on Nicholls State in a game they should win comfortably. Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes have turned things around after a disappointing 2014-15 season, and while senior Josh Scott has been the mainstay George King’s been good as well. The redshirt sophomore’s averaging 15.9 points per game, shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 48.8 percent from three.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Southern Illinois at Murray State, 8:00 p.m.
  • Texas State at Washington State, 9:00 p.m.
  • Louisiana at Pepperdine, 10:00 p.m.
  • Cal-State Fullerton at Oregon State, 11:00 p.m.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Monmouth picks up another quality win

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GAME OF THE DAY: Wisconsin 64, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 49

Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig scored 15 points apiece as Wisconsin beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 64-49. The Islanders shot 32.8 percent from the field and 4.-for-18 from three. But the drama came after the game, as head coach Bo Ryan announced that he’ll be retiring effective immediately. Associate head coach Greg Gard will take over in an interim role, essentially having four months to audition for the job full-time.

More on Ryan’s retirement can be read here.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 7 Duke 99, Georgia Southern 65: Playing without the injured Amile Jefferson, the Blue Devils took care of business at home with Brandon Ingram leading the way. Ingram, now starting at the four with Jefferson out, tallied 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead the way for Duke. As a team the Blue Devils posted an offensive rebound percentage of 57.9 percent, converting 22 offensive boards into 27 second-chance points. Ingram was one of five Blue Devils to score in double figures, with Grayson Allen added 18 points and Derryck Thornton Jr. 15.

Monmouth 83, Georgetown 68: King Rice’s Hawks shot 10-for-20 from three and limited the Hoyas to 32.8 percent shooting as they beat another power conference opponent. Je’lon Hornbeak led five Monmouth players in double figures with 18 points, and Monmouth now has wins over UCLA, Notre Dame, USC and Georgetown with the UCLA and Georgetown wins coming on the road.

More about this game can be read here.

Oregon 78, UC Irvine 63: Elgin Cook scored 26 points as the Ducks took care of the preseason favorite to win the Big West. Cook was one of five Oregon players to score in double figures, but it was their defense that made the difference. UC Irvine committed 22 turnovers, with Oregon turning those mistakes into 28 points. Just as important for Oregon: Dwayne Benjamin and Tyler Dorsey both played. Benjamin rolled his ankle in the loss at Boise State, and a knee injury sidelined Dorsey for the last two games. Now, they wait for Dylan Ennis to get completely healthy.

STARRED

Caris LeVert, Michigan: LeVert not only surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career but he also posted a triple-double in the Wolverines’ 77-62 win over Northern Kentucky. Thirteen points, ten rebounds and ten assists.

Brandon Ingram, Duke: Starting at the four in place of the injured Amile Jefferson, Ingram finished the 99-65 win over Georgia Southern with 26 points and 14 rebounds.

Cameron Ridley, Texas: The senior center accounted for 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks in the Longhorns’ win over Appalachian State.

STRUGGLED

Bradley Hayes, Georgetown: One of the most improved players in the Big East, Hayes struggled in the Hoyas’ loss to Monmouth. He grabbed ten rebounds but scored just one point, shooting 0-for-4 from the field.

Appalachian State from two: The Mountaineers shot 12-for-20 from three in their 67-55 loss at Texas. Why’d they score just 55 points? They shot 6-for-40 inside of the arc (Texas blocked 15 shots).

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Playing without Thomas Welsh (illness) and Prince Ali (bone bruise in knee), No. 22 UCLA held off Louisiana-Lafayette 89-80. Bryce Alford led the way with 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Shawn Long paced the visitors with 26 points and 16 boards.
  • No. 23 Cincinnati rebounded from its loss at No. 10 Xavier over the weekend by beating Norfolk State, 75-59. Farad Cobb scored 20 points and Gary Clark added 19 and seven rebounds for the Bearcats.

OTHER NOTABLE OUTCOMES

  • Ole Miss picked up a solid home win, scoring 99 points in their 19-point win over Louisiana Tech. Stefan Moody scored 29 points and Rasheed Brooks added 20 for the Rebels, who shot nearly 57 percent from the field.
  • Also of note in Michigan’s win over Northern Kentucky was the return of point guard Derrick Walton Jr. After missing the last three games with an ankle injury, Walton scored 16 points against NKU.
  • South Carolina moved to 9-0 on the season with a 79-54 win over Drexel. The Dragons trailed by four at the half, but making just one of their first 18 shots in the second half coincided with the Gamecocks taking control of the game. P.J. Dozier scored 16 points and Sindarius Thornwell 13 for South Carolina.
  • Alex Olah scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Tre Demps added 18 points as Northwestern rolled to a 78-48 win over Mississippi Valley State. The Wildcats are now 9-1 on the season.
  • Memphis survived a tough test from Southern, winning 72-67. K.J. Lawson and Trahson Burrell led a balanced offense with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Southern’s Jared Sam led all scorers with 26 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds.
  • In its first game since beating North Carolina over the weekend, Texas picked up a 12-point win over Appalachian State (67-55). Cameron Ridley finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Longhorns, who blocked 15 shots as a team.
  • Tied with VCU at 27 at halftime, Georgia Tech outscored the Rams 50-37 in the second half as they won 77-64 in Atlanta. Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 20 points for the Yellow Jackets, who are now 7-2.
  • Oklahoma State beat Longwood 73-55 in a game that was delayed 43 minutes due to electrical issues at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Leyton Hammonds scored a career-high 22 points in the win.
  • Marcus Allen scored 17 points and Dorian Pickens 16 as Stanford took care of DePaul, 79-60. The Cardinal shot 10-for-19 from three and outscored the Blue Demons 19-4 from the foul line.

NC State, Ole Miss among eight teams in 2016 Paradise Jam

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While the 2015-16 season has yet to get underway, some in-season tournaments have already begun the process of finalizing teams for the 2016-17 campaign. Wednesday evening the Paradise Jam revealed its eight-team field for the 2016 edition of the event, which is scheduled to be played November 18-21, 2016 at the University of the Virgin Islands.

NC State, which has reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last four seasons under head coach Mark Gottfried, is part of the event as are Andy Kennedy’s Ole Miss Rebels. Completing the field are Creighton, Loyola-Chicago, Oral Roberts, Montana, Saint Joseph’s and Washington State.

Of the eight teams just two have made prior appearances at the Paradise Jam. Phil Martelli’s Saint Joseph’s team finished fifth in 2009, with Ole Miss finishing third two years later. Washington State may have the most interesting connection to this tournament, however.

The father of forward Josh Hawkinson, who was the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player last season and will be a senior in 2016-17, created the Paradise Jam back in 2000. That should make for a fun return to the Virgin Islands for Josh next November. Nels Hawkinson is the executive director of Basketball Travelers, a company some may be familiar with as they’ve set up foreign tours for many college basketball programs over the years.

While NC State and Ole Miss are the lone teams in this field to reach the NCAA tournament last season, Montana is one of the favorites in the Big Sky entering the 2015-16 season and ORU is expected to be a factor in the Summit League. Scott Sutton’s Golden Eagles were picked to finish third in the Summit League preseason coaches poll.