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Wednesday’s Things to Know: Bizarre double ejection in UConn/Tulsa; Iowa State, Kansas State earn huge Big 12 wins

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After Tuesday night’s craziness in college hoops, things were bound to slow down on a Wednesday that only featured a few intriguing conference games. Of course, things got weird with a double head-coach ejection in the American while the Big 12 had some enticing contests.

UCONN’S DAN HURLEY AND TULSA’S FRANK HAITH HIT WITH DOUBLE DOUBLE-TECHNICALS. YOU READ THAT RIGHT. 

Strange ejections went down in the American on Wednesday night when UConn head Dan Hurley and Tulsa’s Frank Haith were both kicked out — as they were trying to shake hands to make amends for an argument. The bizarre incident occured one day after Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin was ejected, as the American has a lot of incidents like this being talked about lately.

Tulsa ended up holding on for the close 89-83 win as Jeriah Horne dropped 27 points.

Both head coaches released statements after the game, as well as the officials, as this will surely be talked about among sports talking heads for all of Thursday.

IOWA STATE WIN AT No. 8 TEXAS TECH AFTER LOSING TWO STRAIGHT

After dropping two straight games in which they had a chance to win late, a young Iowa State team showed rapid maturation in an important 68-64 win over No. 8 Texas Tech.

Falling to Baylor and Kansas State, the Cyclones avenged those losses and even held everything together once Texas Tech made a late rally. Getting multiple important stops and doing just enough offensively to finish the job, this is a great job by Iowa State to win an important Big 12 road game while staying right in the mix of a very crowded Big 12 race.

Now that unbeaten Texas Tech has fallen, every team in the Big 12 has lost at least one game in conference play as a deep conference looks like it’s going to be a bloodbath once again.

KANSAS STATE BLOWS OUT No. 20 OKLAHOMA IN NORMAN

Perhaps more than any other team going on Wednesday night, Kansas State needed a win to help its cause. With the Wildcats right on the bubble for a handful of NCAA tournament projections, an opportunity for a road win against another ranked team would be huge.

After knocking off Iowa State on the road the last game, Kansas State earned its second straight Big 12 road win over a ranked team with a convincing 74-61 win over the Sooners. The back-to-back road wins are the first true road wins of the season for the Wildcats — who appear to be gaining confidence.

Senior guard Barry Brown Jr. poured in 25 points — his third straight outing of at least 23 points — to pace the Kansas State offense as he’s looked like a consistent go-to scorer in recent wins.

UConn’s Hurley, Tulsa’s Haith ejected after confrontation ‘escalated by the officials’

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The UConn and Tulsa game turned into a mess on Wednesday night after a bizarre incident in which both head coaches, UConn’s Dan Hurley and Tulsa’s Frank Haith, were ejected after a pair of double technicals were issued..

As seen in the video below, the two coaches got into a verbal argument over a foul call. That resulted in the duo both receiving a technical foul. Then things got strange. As Hurley and Haith appeared to be mending fences with a handshake with official Pat Adams seemingly in control of the situation, another official — Marques Pettigrew — cam in from the other side of the floor and each coach received a second technical foul. It is the first double head coaching ejection in the American.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Hurley told reporters after the game. “It was surreal, I would say.

“Watch what happened on TV. It’s very clear. I was talking to the official, and then I was engaged by someone on the other sideline. They said my name, in my direction, so I turned and looked [with] kind of a look of surprise.

“I’ve known Frank for a very long time — probably 15, 18, 20 years, back to when I was a high school coach and he recruited my players. I feel as though that situation escalated because of the officials and the way they handled the situation.”

Haith agreed.

“I don’t feel like it was to that level,” he said. “There was competitive conversation. I didn’t know the both of us got a first technical. I would have hoped it would have been handled a lot differently.”

“That was embarrassing,” Hurley added. “It’s embarrassing for the conference, for both me and Frank, and on the heels of last night, it’s not a good look for our league. It’s just very disappointing the way that thing was handled.”

This comes on the heels of Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin getting ejected on Tuesday night as the conference appears to be on a hot streak with tossing coaches. Cronin acknowledged that he had never been ejected from a game before.

It is the second time that Hurley has been ejected in his first season at UConn. He was also tossed in a loss to Iowa in Madison Square Garden earlier this season.

Checking in on 2018’s biggest college basketball coaching hires

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We are now nearly two months into the college basketball season, with non-conference play just about done and the league schedule coming up on the horizon.

With that in mind, it is a perfect time to check in on how some of the biggest coaching hires around the country are doing. 

CHRIS MACK, Louisville

It’s hard to argue with the work Mack has done early on this season. The Cardinals are sitting at 9-3 on the season. They’ve knocked off Michigan State in overtime, a marquee win that is going to be at the top of their NCAA tournament resume three months from now. They won at Seton Hall, a pleasant surprise out of the Big East that could end up getting to the NCAA tournament. Their three losses have come against Tennessee, Marquette and at Indiana, all of whom are on track to go dancing; Tennessee and Marquette could win their league.

Mack could very well get this group to the NCAA tournament, and that’s to say nothing of just how good his recruiting class is coming in next season. Louisville fans are going to be very, very happy with this hire.

DAN HURLEY, UConn

In UConn’s third game of the season, the Huskies went into Madison Square Garden and knocked off then-No. 15 Syracuse. That was awesome. Since then, they’ve gotten smoked by Iowa and Villanova, lost at home to a mediocre Arizona and dropped a game in New Jersey to a really good Florida State. The 9-4 start is better than what was expected, but it’s also been something of a mixed bag.

That said, UConn is playing a new, more entertaining brand of basketball. Hurley has reinvigorated the fanbase. He’s recruiting his tail off. UConn is probably headed to the NIT, but I don’t think UConn fans are going to complain.

PENNY HARDAWAY, Memphis

The Tigers are 7-5 on the season, which is just about where we thought they would be heading into the year even if it is somewhat disappointing. The Tigers had a chance to knock off LSU on the road, Charleston and Texas Tech on a neutral court and whiffed.

But this isn’t the year that really matters, not when Penny has a young team that is going to be stocked with local talent — James Wiseman anyone? — in the coming years. The thing that matters is that he is selling out FedEx Forum again, and that’s not something that happened in recent seasons under Tubby Smith.

TOM CREAN, Georgia

Crean’s Bulldogs have not been great, but they have probably been better than what their record is. Their first three losses come on the road or neutral floors against good teams. They were up 18 points at home against Arizona State before they lost that game. They are coming off of a win at Georgia Tech, which is more about bragging rights than a resume, but a win is a win is a win. It will take time, but the early returns could certainly be worse.

JEFF CAPEL, Pitt

The Panthers haven’t really done anything this season besides land a win over Saint Louis on a neutral court. They lost at Iowa and at West Virginia. They lost to Niagara. Their two best wins are against Atlantic 10 teams. But coming off of a winless ACC season, they are 9-3 on the season. It’s hard to complain too much about that.

TRAVIS STEELE, Xavier

Steele has finished his first non-conference season, and it certainly could have been worse. The Musketeers beat just about every team they were supposed to beat, including a win over Illinois on a neutral floor. The problem is they didn’t really beat anyone of note and lost all five games against teams with a shot at an at-large — Wisconsin, Auburn, San Diego State, Cincinnati and Missouri. The silver lining is that all five of those losses came away from the Cintas Center.

KERMIT DAVIS, Ole Miss

Are the Rebels a team that we need to keep an eye on? They are currently sitting with a 9-2 record and just one non-conference game left on their schedule. They’ve beaten Baylor on a neutral, won at Illinois State and picked off a good San Diego team. Their only two losses came at Butler and against Cincinnati on a neutral court.

BEST OF THE REST

For the most part, taking over a new job is never going to be an easy endeavor. There’s usually a reason the jobs open up in the first place, and it’s not normally because the coach that was there the previous season was hired by a bigger school.

Here are four names off the beaten path that are excelling in their first year at a new program.

DARIAN DEVRIES, Drake: Devries walked into a pretty good situation. He took over for Niko Medved, a notorious program builder that was in charge for just one year before taking Colorado State, and has thrived. Drake is 10-2 on the season after wins over a pair of good teams in New Mexico State and San Diego in the Las Vegas Classic. With the Missouri Valley wide open this season, the Bulldogs are a team to keep an eye on.

JUSTIN HUTSON, Fresno State: We all thought that San Diego State would be the threat to Nevada in the Mountain — and they might be — but on paper, Fresno State is one of the two teams (we’ll get to the other in a second) that looks capable of picking off the conference’s headliner. The Bulldogs are 9-2 on the season with wins over Cal, Northwestern and Weber State, and they are still missing their best player, Deshon Taylor.

SAM SCHOLL, San Diego: Things were going better for the Toreros if they had pulled off the overtime win against Drake on Sunday night, but they couldn’t get it done. They’re now 10-4 on the season, but their first three losses came against Washington, Ole Miss and Oregon.

CRAIG SMITH, Utah State: The Aggies are the other Mountain West team that we need to keep an eye on. Off to a 9-3 start under Craig Smith, USU has a nice win over Saint Mary’s and a good mid-major foe in UC Irvine. There was a chance that the Aggies could earn an at-large bid, but they whiffed on chances against Arizona State, BYU and Houston.

Villanova tops UConn at MSG to end surprising losing streak

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NEW YORK — Eric Paschall scored 21 points, Phil Booth had 18 and the national champion Villanova Wildcats avoided their first three-game losing streak in nearly six years with an 81-58 win over Connecticut on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

The Wildcats (9-4) had been reeling with consecutive losses at college basketball’s most renowned venues; against Penn at Philly’s Palestra and to No. 1 Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. The Huskies seemed primed to make it three straight holding a 36-35 lead at the Garden, where the Wildcats celebrated the last two Big East Tournament titles.

Unlike their recent defeats when they wilted down the stretch, Villanova flashed the horsepower of old and unleashed a 19-0 run that sent fans into a frenzy. Joe Cremo hit three 3s during the spurt that made it hard to believe this was the same program that already matched the season loss total from each of the last two seasons.

Cremo stepped into the starting lineup when Collin Gillespie was forced out with a head injury. Cremo, a graduate transfer from Albany, made the most of his new role.

So did Jahvon Quinerly.

Quinerly, a top-rated high school recruit who originally committed to Arizona, has had a baffling freshman season. He struggled to get off the bench and missed a game with an injury. Quinerly played only seconds against Penn and was benched against Kansas days after writing an Instagram post criticizing his own program. He turned social media outbursts into highlight-reel bursts against the Huskies (9-4).

Quinerly shot an airball and threw a pass straight into UConn’s hands in the first half that might have earned him a spot on the bench had Gillespie not been out. He hit a 3 in the first half and scored six points. He had the game’s spotlight “drive of the game” with a midcourt steal during the 19-0 run that he fed to Booth for an easy basket.

He seemed at ease with the pressure off — when a corner 3 rattled around the rim before it trickled out, Quinerly smiled at the oh-so close attempt. He had 10 points in a season-high 24 minutes.

The Wildcats hadn’t lost three straight since January 2013 against Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Providence in the last season of the old Big East. The Wildcats have won two national titles since then and a loss here or there had seemed more like a minor inconvenience. But after losing four stars from last year’s title team to the NBA, Villanova has struggled, though three losses have come to Top 25 teams.

Christian Vital hit four 3s and scored 18 points for UConn. The Huskies had won two straight under first-year coach Dan Hurley.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: Is Quinerly a permanent rotation player or was this a one-game wonder? More games like this one, and Quinerly may be the ball-handling guard who can create from the perimeter the Wildcats need.

UConn: Hope a 10-day holiday break can get them ready for American Athletic Conference play.

THE TRILOGY

The former Big East rivals wrap up their three-year series with a game next season in Philly.

Kevin Ollie alleges racial discrimination in new civil action against UConn

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Former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is heading to court with the school over alleged racial discrimination. In a report from the Hartford Courant, Ollie has filed a civil action alleging that the school illegally attempted to deter him from filing a racial discrimination complaint.

Submitted on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Ollie is claiming he was treated differently from predecessor Jim Calhoun, because Calhoun kept his job after receiving comparable recruiting violations.

Ollie was fired for those violations earlier this year as he’s been in a contentious back-and-forth battle with the school that has gone to court. The former head coach claims he informed UConn of his intention to file the complaint but the school said it would refuse to have a contractual-grievance arbitration process that would give Ollie the final $10 million on his contract.

Seeking an emergency injunction that would allow him to file the complaint while proceeding with an arbitration process.

UConn responded to the Courant on Tuesday through a spokesperson as they disputed Ollie’s account that race played a role in his firing.

“As UConn has stated from the outset, the university terminated Kevin Ollie’s employment due to violations of NCAA rules, pursuant to his employment agreement,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said. “Any claim to the contrary is without merit.”

Ollie’s attorney told the Courant that the hope is to file and stay with a racial discrimination complaint, which could be addressed after the arbitration.

From the sound of it, UConn and Ollie are going to be in court for quite a bit of time as this whole firing process has been difficult from the start.

Big East Commissioner hints at potential expansion

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The Big East made an important move for the conference’s future over the weekend by securing another 10 years at Madison Square Garden for the league’s annual conference tournament.

While the new iteration of the basketball-only Big East isn’t as deep or talented as its predecessor, having the iconic Garden to host the league’s postseason is a huge part of the Big East’s identity. The conference might not be as strong top-to-bottom as the ACC or the Big Ten in most years. But March wouldn’t be March in college hoops without the Big East Tournament in the Garden.

The timing of the Big East’s extension at MSG also gave league commissioner Val Ackerman the chance to address some questions — including some talk of potential league expansion. Adding members has always been a touchy subject for the 10-team conference, since all of the schools have a very specific profile while all being basketball-focused schools.

But UConn always gets brought up with regard to the Big East — as the AAC has never felt like a natural fit for the Huskies. There are also other schools probably doing whatever they can for a shot at playing the Big East’s conference schedule and national television deal. The league itself has been coy about adding other teams until Ackerman spoke this weekend.

By noting that the Big East has the capability of adding more teams, the league could be making a push at adding one or two more teams. Now that other basketball conferences are going to 20-game league schedules, the Big East is only at 18 with a true round-robin schedule already in place. They could add another team and upgrade the conference schedule to more games if they decided to do so.

So it’ll be fascinating to see if the Big East tries to enter the college arms race from a basketball perspective. I’m sure UConn fans would love to see their school make the jump back into the league. It’s just hard to speculate where things stand so early in the process.

(h/t: Bobby Reagan, Barstool Sports)