Bubble Watch: Who is still in danger of missing the NCAA tournament?

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It’s that time of the year again, which means that we are diving head first into our annual NCAA tournament bubble watch.

The way that I see it, there are 37 teams that can now be considered locks to be an at-large bid. They are listed as ‘IN’ in the conference by conference breakdowns below. Those 37 teams come from eight conferences, which means that, at most, eight of those 37 teams will be automatic bids.

RELATEDBubble Watch | Bracketology | Automatic Bids

Do the match, and that means that with the way things currently stand, there are 29 at-large locks, meaning that there are six available at-large bids to be earned and, by my count, 10 teams with a realistic shot of getting in. Then there are six more —  so 16 teams in total — that can either lock up or earn their at-large bid this week.

That’s how tight things are at the moment.

Dave’s latest bracket can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

So with all that in mind, let’s get into the full NCAA tournament bubble watch:



ACC BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Florida State, Duke, Louisville, Virginia

N.C. STATE (NET: 54, NBC: Play-in game): The Wolfpack picked up the win that they needed by beating Pitt (107) in the second round of the ACC tournament, setting them up for a date with Duke (6) and a chance to just about lock up their at-large bid. They have just four Quad 1 wins, and their 8-10 record against the top two Quads is nothing special. The good news is that Georgia Tech (72) is now a Quad 2 loss, meaning that the Wolfpack now have just the two Quad 3 losses. Their saving grace right now is that 22 point win over Duke in Raleigh, but the truth is that N.C. State is right on the cut-line. They are going to want to win a game in the ACC tournament, and potentially more, if they don’t want to sweat out Selection Sunday.


AMERICAN BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Houston

WICHITA STATE (NET: 41, NBC: First four out): The Shockers closed out the regular season with a win, picking off Tulsa (76) at home by 22 points. Wichita State is now 23-8 on the season, but they only have a pair of low-end Quad 1 road wins, Quad 2 wins over VCU (68) and Oklahoma (46) at home. They don’t have any truly terrible losses, but with just a single top 50 win on the season, I think the Shockers are going to have an uncomfortable Selection Sunday. The fact that they are 9-8 against the top two Quads without a bad loss — depending how you few Temple (116) on the road — is something of a saving grace at this point. I think they need to win a couple of games in the AAC tournament, but I do not see a way that they can get to Selection Sunday feeling comfortable because they cannot get a win against Houston until the title game. They will, however, get Cincinnati in the semifinals, which would likely be a play-in game.

CINCINNATI (NET: 51, NBC: 12): The Bearcats erased a big second half deficit and won on a tip-in at the buzzer at home against Temple (116) on Saturday, a bucket that saved their chances of actually getting into the NCAA tournament. Cincinnati has a pair of Quad 1 wins — Houston (20) at home and Wichita State (41) on the road — and a 9-6 record against the top two Quads. But they have also lost four Quad 3 games. Of note: They are listed as the American champions in Dave’s projection because he assumes the No. 1 seed is the champ until they get knocked out of their league tournament, but I think it is important to note here that both Cincinnati and Wichita State are right on the bubble cut-line. If things play out according to seed, they would get the Shockers in the semifinals. That would likely turn into a play-in game.

MEMPHIS (NET: 58, NBC: Next four out): Memphis lost at Houston (20) to close out the regular season, which means that the Tigers are going to have a lot of work to do in the AAC tournament if they want to be on the right side of the bubble on Selection Sunday. I think Memphis needs to win at least two games to really fell confident about a bid. They have three Quad 3 losses compared to just two Quad 1 wins. It’s doable, but they need to root for all the bubble teams ahead of them to lose.


ATLANTIC 10 BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Dayton

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 57, NBC: Next four out): The Rams avoided disaster when they beat UMass (136) by one on the road on Saturday. At this point, I do not see how the Rams can get an at-large bid without beating Dayton at some point during the Atlantic 10 tournament, but that won’t happen unless they play in the title game. On the other hand, it makes it more likely that they will not need to beat the Flyers in order to get it done.  They only have one Quad 1 win — at VCU (68) — and they also have a Quad 4 loss at Brown (224), and now that their NET is in the high-50s, they no longer have that to hang their hat on, either.

RICHMOND (NET: 38, NBC: First four out): The Spiders closed out their regular season with wins over Davidson (75) at home and at Duquesne (94). They are 3-4 against Quad 1 opponents With just a 6-6 record against the top two Quads. (It’s worth noting here that, as of this posting, Davidson is 75 in the NET. Richmond swept Davidson. The cut-off for Quad 1 road wins and Quad 2 home wins is 75. This is the problem with the sorting tools and relying only on the Quad 1 number. Davidson being ranked 75th and 76th is irrelevant in terms of how good they are, but it changes everything with Richmond’s profile.) They also have a Quad 3 loss, Richmond does not have any margin for error, not with so many teams on the bubble playing their win in over the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately for Richmond, they won’t play Dayton until the Atlantic 10 tournament title game, which eliminates their chance to land that elite win unless it earns them the automatic bid. On the other hand, it makes it more likely that they will not need to beat the Flyers in order to get it done.

SAINT LOUIS (NET: 49, NBC: Next four out): The Billikens are not that far away from the bubble after they won their last five games of the regular season. They are 2-5 against Quad 1 teams, 4-7 against the top two Quads and 15-8 against Quads 1-3. For comparison’s sake, Texas Tech is 10-13 against the top three Quads. Now, the difference is that Tech has some elite wins. Saint Louis won at Richmond (38) and at Rhode Island (57), but their wins over VCU (65) at home and at Kansas State (99) don’t look great. Throw in a Quad 3 loss to Duquesne (94) at home, and Saint Louis has some work to do. I think they need to beat Dayton in the semifinals to get in.


BIG 12 BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma

Texas Tech and Texas play each other in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament on Thursday, which essentially means that will be a play-in game.

TEXAS TECH (NET: 22, NBC: Play-in game): The Red Raiders could not find a way to get a win over Kansas (1) at home on Saturday afternoon, and that means that they are almost assuredly going to have a stressful Selection Sunday. Texas Tech is now 18-13 on the season, but they have just three Quad 1 wins. The win over Louisville (8) is going to hold up really well, and they did pick up a win over West Virginia (17) at home, but with just a 7-13 mark against the top two Quads, I think the Red Raiders are going to want to win at least one Big 12 tournament game. They are 10-13 against Quads 1-3, which is even more worrisome. It would be awfully surprising to see this group end up missing the NCAA tournament, but that might be where we are right now.

TEXAS (NET: 69, NBC: First four out): The Longhorns did all that work, winning five straight games to get themselves right into the middle of the bubble conversation, only to turnaround and get absolutely hammered by Oklahoma State (61) at home. It’s not the end of the world — it’s only a Quad 2 loss, after all — but Texas only has seven total Quad 1 and 2 wins. They do have five Quad 1 wins — including at Texas Tech (22) and Purdue (32) — but that probably won’t be enough. I think they need to win two games in the Big 12 tournament to really feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. One might get the job done, especially since they get Texas Tech in their opener.


BIG EAST BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Seton Hall, Villanova, Creighton, Butler, Providence, Marquette

XAVIER (NET: 45, NBC: Play-in game): The Musketeers lost the game that they couldn’t afford to lose, falling to DePaul in the first round of the Big East tournament, and suddenly this team looks like they are in some real trouble. Xavier has a weird resume. They are now 19-13 overall and 8-10 in the Big East, but they have just three Quad 1 wins and only one win over a top 35 team — at Seton Hall (15). They are 3-11 against Quad 1 opponents, but they make up for that with a 7-2 mark against Quad 2 teams, no bad losses and strong metrics. Their only loss to a sub-40 opponent came at Wake Forest (111). They are not in a comfortable spot.


BIG TEN BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Rutgers

Dave has Indiana as a No. 9 seed and Rutgers as the most comfortable No. 10 seed. For all intents and purposes, he is saying they are a lock. He is the best in the business at this, so I am going to listen to him. They are both in.


PAC-12 BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, USC, Arizona State

UCLA (NET: 76, NBC: 11): The Bruins are going to head into the Pac-12 tournament in something of a weird spot after losing at USC (43) at the buzzer on Saturday evening. The Bruins are now sitting at 18-12 on the season with a 12-6 record in the Pac-12 after a rough non-conference season. They have a brutal Quad 4 loss to Cal St. Fullerton (262) and a Quad 3 loss to Hofstra (118), but they also have six Quad 1 wins, including a sweep of Arizona (10) and Colorado (23), and a 9-10 record against the top two Quads. They should be in a good spot, but they are going to be one of the teams that will enter next week needing to win a game or two if they really want to feel good about their at-large chances. They’ll get the winner of Stanford and Cal in the quarterfinals.

STANFORD (NET: 30, NBC: Play-in game): The Cardinal missed on a massive opportunity to land a marquee win at Oregon (12) on Saturday, meaning they are heading into the Pac-12 tournament needing to add something to their resume. They are now 4-7 against Quad 1 opponents, 7-10 against the top two Quads. They also have a Quad 3 loss — at Cal (148) — to their name. It could be worse for Stanford, but I do believe they need to win at least one, and probably two, games in Las Vegas to avoid ending up on the wrong side of the bubble.


SEC BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Kentucky, Auburn, LSU, Florida

ARKANSAS (NET: 47, NBC: Off the bubble): Arkansas kept the dream alive with a win over Vanderbilt in the opening round of the SEC tournament. They have four Quad 1 wins, and while they don’t have any Quad 3 or 4 losses, they do have six Quad 2 losses. With just a 6-12 mark against the top two Quads, I can’t see Arkansas getting into the tournament without a pretty significant run in the SEC tournament. They get South Carolina today.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 50, NBC: Next four out): The Bulldogs kept the dream alive with a win over Ole Miss (86) in the last game of the regular season. They are currently sitting at 7-9 against the top two Quads with just two Quad 1 wins to go along with a pair of Quad 3 losses. The only team that they have beaten that is currently projected for the NCAA tournament is Florida (33).

TENNESSEE (NET: 63, NBC: Off the bubble): The Vols had some ground to make up heading into this game, and a chance to beat Auburn (35) at home was exactly what they needed to start doing that. But it didn’t work out that way. They lost by 22 points, and at this point I think Tennessee likely needs to either win the automatic bid from the SEC or make a deep run in the SEC tournament.


BUBBLE WATCH FOR EVERYONE ELSE

IN: San Diego State, BYU, Saint Mary’s

NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 36, NBC: First four out): Northern Iowa is in serious trouble now. The Panthers lost to Drake (167) by 21 points, and I’m not sure they did enough this season to be able to survive that loss. UNI has just one Quad 1 win — at Colorado (20) — and they beat South Carolina (63) on a neutral court, but they are 5-3 against the top two Quads. Now, after this loss, they have three Quad 3 losses. I want to see them get an at-large — every one of their non-Quad 1 losses is league game — but there isn’t much else here beyond simply having a 23-6 record. I want to see the Panthers get a shot in the tournament because I’ll always err on the side of the mid-major, but I think that’s a long shot.

The biggest issue is that they are going to be sitting around for a week, watching as the rest of the teams on the bubble go and take their shots at Quad 1 and 2 wins while avoiding the kind of bad loss that they took in their league tournament. We can argue about whether or not that is fair, but it is pointless at the end of the day. UNI probably has not done enough to get in.

2020 printable NCAA Tournament bracket

printable NCAA Tournament bracket
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Make sure you’re ready for the Big Dance and get your version of the 2020 printable NCAA Tournament bracket.

Click on the image to find the printable version.

If you would prefer to download the .pdf, that can be found here.

Dave Ommen’s latest bracketology can be found here. Rob Dauster’s Bubble Watch can be found here.

Selection Sunday is just around the corner, so for those of you that are interested in not only filling out picks after the official 2020 NCAA Tournament Bracket is released on March 15th, you can get started right here.

Print out the bracket, fill it in the way that you think it should be filled in and started getting yourself prepped for winning your office pool, your dorm’s contest or whatever other event you decide to enter.

It is never too early to get started!

Will you win your pool?

In the meantime, you can get yourself primed and ready for filling out your 2020 NCAA Tournament Bracket by reading through some of the content that we are currently churning out here at NBC Sports. Catch up on the latest Bracketology by clicking this link. Take a deep dive into the Bubble Watch by going here. Read through the current NBC Sports Top 25, the only Top 25 that you need to pay attention to, right here. Then make sure you know the latest for conference tournaments.

We have it all.

Selection Sunday for the 2020 NCAA Tournament is on March 15 (about 4 pm ET), while the games begin a couple days later. The First Four is on March 17 and 18 (which airs on TruTV), while the craziness of Round 1 starts on Thursday, March 19. The four networks that air those games are: CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV.

The Sweet 16 games begin on March 26 and will air on CBS and TBS. Elite Eight games start on March 28 and also air on CBS and TBS.

The Final Four, held in Atlanta this year, starts on Saturday, April 4. The National Title Game is Monday, April 6. All of those games air on TBS.

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Who are the real favorites to win a title?

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

This is the last time this season that you will see rankings in this space.

From here on out, it’s tournament basketball only, the best time of the year.

So in lieu of actually talking about rankings, I want to dive into the teams that I trust the most to be able to win six straight games after Selection Sunday.

And without question, the No. 1 team on that list is the No. 1 team in every ranking and metric that you will find on Monday morning: The Kansas Jayhawks. The reason is actually quite simple. With a new and improved Udoka Azubuike anchoring their frontline, the Jayhawks are the best defensive team in college basketball. Straight up. They are the best in the metrics, they are the best using the eye test and they are matchup proof given their ability to play small the majority of the time, play big when needed and the simple fact that they have two of the five best defenders in the sport in Doke and Marcus Garrett. Throw in Devon Dotson at the point, and there really isn’t anything this team is missing beyond some more reliable three-point shooting.

RELATEDBubble Watch | Bracketology | Conference Tournaments

And here’s the wild part: I think No. 2 on this list might actually be Michigan State. Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman are playing their best basketball of the season, and part of that is due to the fact that Rocket Watts and Aaron Henry are playing their best basketball of the season. The Spartans are no longer a two-man team. We’ve discussed this at length over the last two week, but I think we, the media — and me, specifically — completely underrated just how much the loss of Josh Langford would hurt with Matt McQuaid and Kenny Goins graduating. Michigan State had to integrate so many young pieces into their rotation, and doing so while Cassius Winston was dealing with the loss of his brother and Xavier Tillman was dealing with the birth of his second child was a lot for any program to handle.

But they’ve figured it out.

I don’t know that their ceiling is as high as some of the other teams on this list, but I’ve fully come around on the idea that they are more trustworthy than many of the teams that are ranked above them.

Take Gonzaga, for example. The Zags are very good, but there is absolutely no way that you can guarantee that Killian Tillie will be healthy for six straight games when he has to play two games in three days three times to win a national title. He is Gonzaga’s best player.

Then there is Dayton, who is an elite three-point shooting team that gets more layups and dunks than anyone because of it, but they have had their issues on the defensive end of the floor this season and their backcourt is made up of a bunch of small guards. What happens if they draw a team like Florida State, that can roll out an endless number of 6-foot-5 athletes that are elite on-ball defenders?

Baylor struggles too much to score for my liking. San Diego State seems to play great for 15-20 minutes every game, but like they spent too much time at Ballast Point the rest of the game. Creighton is at the mercy of an off-night. Kentucky may or may not have Ashton Hagans locked in. Duke can’t guard teams that spread the floor. Seton Hall’s superstar shot under 30 percent from three in league play. Oregon will go as far as their 6-foot point guard can carry them.

I could go on and on and on.

So I now this will make me sound stubborn and like a homer, but if I was power ranking teams that I thought were the most likely to win the national title without seeing a bracket first, Michigan State would probably be No. 2 for me.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



NBC SPORTS COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOP 25

1. KANSAS (28-3, Last Week: 1)
2. GONZAGA (29-2, 3)
3. DAYTON (29-2, 5)
4. BAYLOR (26-4, 2)
5. SAN DIEGO STATE (30-2, 4)
6. FLORIDA STATE (26-5, 10)
7. CREIGHTON (24-7, 12)
8. KENTUCKY (25-6, 6)
9. DUKE (25-6, 9)
10. MICHIGAN STATE (22-9, 21)
11. VILLANOVA (24-7, 14)
12. SETON HALL (21-9, 7)
13. OREGON (24-7, 13)
14. MARYLAND (24-7, 8)
15. LOUISVILLE (24-7, 11)
16. WISCONSIN (21-10, 18)
17. BYU (24-7, 17)
18. OHIO STATE (21-10, 15)
19. ILLINOIS (21-10, 19)
20. IOWA (20-11, 16)
21. VIRGINIA (21-7, 23)
22. MICHIGAN (19-12, 20)
23. HOUSTON (23-8, 22)
24. PROVIDENCE (19-12, 25)
25. UCLA (19-12, 24)

‘It’s very disappointing’: The number of black head coaches continues to fall at college hoops’ highest level

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He was just months into his first job on a college coaching staff, an assistant Director of Basketball Operations. That’s the bottom of the college coaching ranks, but for a basketball lifer who was trying to find his way after the ball had stopped bouncing, it was a foot in the door.

You don’t say no to that.

One night after a game, the DOBO — then a 20-something, African-American man — was cutting film when his head coach called. He was at a bar down the street and he needed someone to bring him his car. Not unusual. Chauffeuring the head coach around might as well be written into the assistant DOBO job description.

So he parks the car outside the bar and walks in. His head coach, who is white, is sitting at a table with a dozen of his white friends. One of those friends, a booster at the school, says, “Hey Coach, is this your new recruiter?”

“And everyone, including [my head coach], bursts out laughing,” the DOBO said. He did not want to be identified in this piece for fears that it could impact his ability to get hired in the future. “At that moment, I decided I would never be coined as a recruiter.”

That term — recruiter — is a code word in coaching circles, one with a negative connotation. It refers to the young, black assistant on a coaching staff who can relate to the black players a white head coach needs to win basketball games. It’s a label given to guys who walk into urban high schools and the living room of black families, that have the relationships that basketball programs need with high school and AAU coaches that allows them to bring talent onto a college campus.

Recruiting well isn’t the problem. The problem’s the insinuation.

Referring to a coach, particularly a black coach, as a recruiter implies that recruiting is the only reason they are on staff. They’re not there to develop players. They’re not there to scout or game plan. They’re not there to draw up practices plans, or to mentor the athletes on the roster, or raise money for the athletic department, or glad-hand administrators and boosters, or to evaluate which prospects should be offered.

They’re there to get the players they’re told to get.


Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton (Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As of the 2017-18 season, 53.6 percent of Division I men’s basketball players were black, up 0.6 percent from the previous season, according to data collected by Richard Lapchick, the director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. Those numbers only increase at the higher levels as the players get better. For example, nearly 80 percent scholarship players at major conference schools are black, according to a study done by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Of the 104 players that were named first, second or third-team all-conference in the sport’s seven biggest leagues last season — the ACC, American, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — 87 of them were black, or 83.7 percent. Of the 15 players that were named All-Americans last year, 13 — or 86.7 percent — were black.

Those numbers don’t come close to matching up with the number of black head coaches in the college ranks.

There are 353 Division I men’s basketball programs, and just 103 of them — or 29.2 percent — have black head coaches. When HBCUs are taken out of the equation, the number falls to 24.1 percent. In the sport’s Big Seven conferences, that number is 22.9 percent. Half of the head coaches in the Big East and the American are black, so when looking at just the Power Five leagues, the number is a paltry 13.8 percent. The Pac-12 does not have a single black head coach. The only black head coach in the Big Ten is Michigan’s Juwan Howard, who was hired in May after John Beilein left for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“It’s very disappointing that the numbers haven’t moved to a greater number of minority coaches faster,” said Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed.

It wasn’t always this way. In 2000, 25 percent of head coaches in the six major conferences — prior to Big East splitting from the American — were black. In 2010, the number was 24.7 percent. As recently 2005, 32.3 percent (22 of 68) of high major head coaches were black.

What makes these numbers even more jarring is the fact that, in those seven conferences, more than 59 percent of the assistant coaches are black. Every single one of those 87 programs has at least one black assistant coach, but they aren’t the ones that are getting the opportunities to be a head coach.

A number of coaches interviewed by NBC Sports mentioned the increase in how search firms are used during the hiring process as a reason for the decline in recent years. As one coach put it, “white presidents hire white search firms to hire white ADs who hire those same white search firms to hire white head coaches.”

Glenn Sugiyama, who is Asian, of DHR International is the only executive at a relevant search firm that is not white, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, a college basketball insider that has broken the majority of coaching hirings and firings this decade.

“When I first got into coaching, there was no such thing as a search firm,” said Tulane head coach Ron Hunter, a former president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. “There’s nothing wrong with the existence of search firms. What’s wrong is the process. They take a pool of people out of the mix.”

Hunter’s main quibble with search firms is that he believes they tend to skew away from black candidates, that they favor retreads and coaches that have a better resume than an assistant that has never been given a chance. “I don’t have the data,” Reed said, “but that is definitely a narrative and a conversation that you hear within our industry.”

Tulane’s Ron Hunter (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

What exacerbates the issue, coaches believe, is that ADs are more worried about the business and the bottom line than they are about whether or not they’re making the right hire. Part of the reason for this is that there has been a change in who lands in those leadership positions. In the past, athletic director roles were reserved for coaches that were tired of the coaching grind.

“Now there are more business people running athletic departments,” one high-major head coach said. “So it’s about the guy who speaks the best at a press conference, not necessarily the guy that can connect with the kids, work hard and have longterm success. What will help us look good in the moment.”

ADs often make the safe hire. Safe hires tend to be coaches with head coaching experience, and since the overwhelming majority of head coaches are already white, the retreads at major conference schools end up being those same white coaches, too. Some also feel there’s less leeway than their white counterparts have.

“They fired Tony Barbee in the middle of the night to hire Bruce Pearl with a show-cause,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton said. 

Largely, this is about perception.

“We talk about tournament resumes this time of year. What I would like to see is someone do blind resumes with assistant coaches [during the coaching carousel],” Reed said. “What was it about this resume that made you pick him over a person of color? You’ll find there are going to be a lot of African-American associate and assistant coaches that are as prepared as the guy that gets hired.”

Mike Pegues is the greatest player in the history of the Delaware basketball program. He was the school’s first player to be named first-team all-conference for three straight years. He was the program’s first conference Player of the Year. He still holds the Blue Hens’ career scoring record, and he played in two NCAA tournaments. He’s been on Chris Mack’s staff as an assistant coach at Xavier, one of the best incubators of coaching talent in college basketball, and Louisville since 2011, but when the Delaware job opened in 2016, he couldn’t even get an interview. The school’s final four were all white assistant coaches.

Another talking point: Black coaches must take tougher jobs than their counterparts to prove themselves.

Boynton, Wyking Jones and Maurice Joseph were all promoted from within the program as assistants to the head coaching position in the span of seven months, and it was lauded as a great opportunity for young, black coaches to prove their worth. At the time, however, there was concern that this could set back black men in the coaching profession because none of the three were hired into situations where success would be easy.

Jones was given two years to try and turn around a moribund Cal program. He was not successful. Joseph stepped into an incredibly complicated situation at George Washington. He was gone in three years. Boynton, who is still the lowest-paid head coach in the Big 12 after getting a substantial raise, is the only one left standing.


Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing and Lee Reed (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Perhaps the biggest complaint among coaches of color is the lack of diversity in the hiring process.

At Division I schools, just 15.6 percent of ADs are black, a number that drops to 10 percent once HBCUs are factored out, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s study. In the seven major conferences, only 11 of the 87 universities (12.6 percent) have a black AD. Just one of those 87 universities has a black president, Ohio State’s Michael Drake.

“People hire people that look like them,” Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing said. “It’s not necessarily racist. Most of the time you hire a person you can relate to.”

For Boynton, this really hit home when he was an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin. At the end of his first season in Nacogdoches, Texas, the school board invited the team to one of their meetings. Boynton was the only black person in the room who wasn’t a player.

“They thought I was a player,” Boynton said.

Two years later, when then-head coach Brad Underwood got offered the job at Oklahoma State, he asked Boynton if he wanted to takeover at SFA. “I can’t get that job,” Boynton said. He knew he didn’t stand a chance when he saw the candidate pool. Kyle Keller, Matt Figger, Chris Ogden.

“They were all middle-aged white guys from high-major programs. That’s what Brad was. Their profile was set,” he said. “Many times, you have to be so much better [if you’re black] to really get a fair shake at it.”

The goal, according to many of the coaches and administrators that spoke with NBC Sports for this story, is not to put black people in positions to solely hire black people. It’s to ensure that the people in a position of power have a broader understanding of their applicant pool.

“There is a distinct consciousness about remaining polished in a professional setting when you’re black,” said Joseph, now an assistant coach at Fairleigh Dickinson. “It goes beyond dressing appropriately and conducting yourself professionally. It’s changing your accent, tweaking your personality, fitting the standards.

“Almost like you need to put on a show or else you will be perceived poorly.”

Boston College athletic director Martin Jarmond (The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

There are steps being taken to change that. The Big East, a league where five of their 10 men’s basketball coaches are black, is developing a conference-wide plan to maintain a central database for young people that have worked for the conference and its member schools. The goal, according to conference commissioner Val Ackerman, is to create a centralized locale to find candidates for potential openings and for those candidates to learn about job opportunities.

Then there is the John McClendon Minority Scholarship. Named after the first black head coach at a predominantly white university, the McClendon Scholarship develops those pipelines by helping young people of color earn graduate and master’s degrees in athletics administration.

“The issue with minorities in sports is we need more pathways to get into the pipeline,” said Martin Jarmond, Boston College’s AD. A former team captain on UNC Wilmington’s basketball team, Jarmond was the youngest Power Five AD when he was hired by Boston College at 37 years old in 2017. He was the first black AD in school history.

“The more minority assistant and associate athletic directors there are, the more minority athletic directors there will be,” Jarmond said, adding that this cannot solely be an issue that is championed by black people within the industry.

“A lot of [coaches], when they’re looking for a young minority, will call me and ask,” said Providence head coach Ed Cooley. “The fact that you have to? Come on, man. You should know.”

“The bottom line is that too many times we put the impetus on black athletic directors,” Jarmond said. “There are white athletic directors that can do much more than I can to help minorities get opportunities in the pipeline. We’re going to keep talking about this until it’s a concerted effort by everyone. I didn’t get my chance solely because of black athletic directors. Joe Castiglione of Oklahoma has been so influential in my career.

“It needs to take root in more people across the board to invest in minorities.”


Oklahoma State’s Mike Boynton (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

What makes this all the more complicated is the tightrope black coaches are forced to walk.

Recruiting is incredibly important. Evaluating talent, doing the background research on who the players are as people, ensuring that it is the right fit on both sides, all of that matters. But if you cannot actually go out and bring the players you identify into your program, evaluation is relatively meaningless. And it’s also important to have diversity on a coaching staff. The majority of college players are black, and putting together a coaching staff that does not have anyone of color isn’t ideal.

Still …

“We get pigeonholed,” said Tulsa head coach Frank Haith. When Haith landed his first head coaching job at Miami, it was because the AD “wanted to hire the top recruiter in the country.” Haith had just finished putting together a recruiting class at Texas that included LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson and Mike Williams, all five-star prospects.

“I knew that was a big part of getting that opportunity,” he said.

The reason why, 16 years and three jobs later, he’s still a head coach is because he was prepared. Rick Barnes, then the head coach at Texas, allowed him to do more. Haith put together scouting reports. He did radio interviews. He did speaking engagements. He learned how to operate.

Every head coach interviewed by NBC Sports has a similar story.

When Boynton was a senior playing for Dave Odom at South Carolina, Odom made him give the opening statement for every postgame press conference. Cooley said he used to follow Skinner around as an assistant at Boston College to soak in how he interacted with reporters, administrators and opponents. Numerous coaches that spoke with NBC Sports said that they have made it a priority to attend as many meetings as possible with administrators, even if it’s just to observe.

“There’s no excuse not to take your career in your hands,” said George Washington head coach Jamion Christian, a 37-year old who is already on his eighth season as a head coach at his third program.

One of the issues that Christian identified was the amount of time that recruiters are asked to be off campus and on the road.

“You’re not at practice three days-a-week, so you’re not learning how to run a practice or how to run a program,” he said. “You’re not learning the ins-and-outs. When you get a [head coaching] job, are you prepared to succeed?”

The answer, Christian says, is to learn on your own. Read about the game. Watch video. Learn a new offense while on a flight. His goal is to one day establish a training center for assistant coaches that get put into this situation, a place where all of this can be drilled into coaches.

George Washington coach Jamion Christian (G Fiume/Getty Images)

“I only worry about perfecting my craft,” Tennessee assistant Kim English said, adding that he’ll use travel time to stay up to date on trends in the NBA and the Euroleague and that he’ll rewatch tape of every single practice “so I know our players inside and out.”

“You’re not going to [become a better coach] by being fake, and the people that you’re around will see it and know it.”

Another part of the problem, according to coaches, is the lack of advocacy and public pressure from outspoken and outsized personalities. John Thompson Jr. isn’t coaching anymore. Nolan Richardson has been out of the game for nearly 20 years. John Chaney is 88 years old. “Those guys carry so much weight in their voices, and we don’t have that in our group anymore,” Haith said.

The fall of the Black Coaches Association has hurt as well. During the 1980s and 90s, the BCA was “a vibrant force,” according to Lapchick, one that un-apologetically campaigned for minorities in the collegiate space. Richardson, Chaney and Thompson were all intimately involved in it.

“I was on the board,” Lapchick said. “Whenever there was an opening we would send a list of qualified candidates to the president and the athletic director with coaches of color that they should take a look at, including a bio and his experience. I don’t think anyone is doing that anymore.”

The other problem lies with the media. As one coach phrased it, “the Luke Yaklich phenomenon.”

Yaklich was an assistant coach hired by Michigan’s John Beilein to turn around their defense. In the two seasons that he was in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines finished second and third nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. The media — including this reporter, who was the first to write on Beilein’s new defensive coordinator — lionized Yaklich, who has since moved on to join Shaka Smart’s staff at Texas.

“What black coach has that ever happened for?” said the coach. “Luke Yaklich is this defensive genius. Then [Texas] goes and gets beat by [29] by Iowa State without Tyrese Haliburton.”



There wasn’t a single coach that spoke with NBC Sports on the record, off the record or on background that suggested that black coaches should be given opportunities simply because of the color of their skin.

“I don’t believe in handouts,” Hunter said. “I go back and forth on how I feel about affirmative action. Nothing should be given. But I believe in opportunity. Don’t lock us out of opportunity.”

Most of the coaches and administrators seemed to be against implementing something akin to the Rooney Rule in college athletics. Forcing people to make a hiring decision they don’t want to make will never be effective.

The answer is finding a way to ensure there is equal representation across the board, that there is a black voice in the room advocating for candidates of color just like there is a female voice in the room advocating for women.

“The NCAA runs a whole host of coach prep academies and leadership programming,” Reed said, “but this is not going to be a program thing. It’s going to be more about increasing awareness of the situation and letting people know the quality of [candidates] out there that could rise to the level of head coach.

“And then it’s going to take people having the courage to make that hire.”

“I don’t think it will ever be a 50-50 split,” said Cooley, “but we have to move the needle to give people that look like me, talk like me and comb their hair like me more chances.”

Bubble Banter: Providence, Texas land massive wins

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There is plenty of action happening on the bracketology bubble watch despite it being a relatively slow night for college hoops.

Dave Ommen’s latest bracketology can be found here. Rob Dauster’s Bubble Watch can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

Here is everything you need to know to.

THE BUBBLE WATCH WINNERS

PROVIDENCE (NET: 50, NBC: Play-in game): The Friars landed their fifth win over a ranked team in the month of February on Saturday as they went into the Wells Fargo Center and knocked off Villanova (12). This comes on the heels of beating Marquette (24) at home, Georgetown (58) on the road, Seton Hall (13) at home, Creighton (8) at home and Butler (21) on the road. Those are six Quad 1 wins. The Friars have three Quad 3 losses and a Quad 4 loss, but they now have a total of eight Quad 1 wins and six wins over top 30 teams. A 17-12 record is not ideal, and they could very well end up with 13 or 14 losses on Selection Sunday, but I think that Providence has to be in the tournament at this point. What a month for Ed Cooley.

TEXAS (NET: 64, NBC: Next four out): The Longhorns may have just played their way into the NCAA tournament. On Saturday, Shaka Smart took down the man that everyone is trying to fire him for as he led the Longhorns into Lubbock to take down Texas Tech (20). Five days ago, Texas took down West Virginia (17) at home. Those are the two best wins that the Longhorns have landed this season. As it stands, the Longhorns are sitting at 18-11 overall and 8-8 in the Big 12. They have four Quad 1 wins and a 6-11 mark against the top two Quads without a bad loss to their name. If they can get two more wins this season — they have at Oklahoma (49), Oklahoma State (70) and the Big 12 tournament left — I think they will be dancing. What a turnaround.

UCLA (NET: 76, NBC: Play-in game): UCLA picked up another enormous win on Saturday, as they beat Arizona (12) at home to move them into — get this — sole possession of first place in the Pac-12. Yes, UCLA has lost 11 games and yes, the Bruins have lost to Hofstra (122) and Cal St. Fullerton (267) at home. But they have now won seven straight games. They’ve won 11 of their last 13 games. They have swept Arizona and Colorado (22). They have six Quad 1 wins and a 9-9 record against the top two Quads. With a trip to USC (45) to close out the regular season, I think all the Bruins need to do is win one more game before Selection Sunday and they will be dancing. Incredible turnaround.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 49, NBC: 10): The Sooners are a step closer to punching their ticket to the NCAA tournament after winning at West Virginia (17) on Saturday. They now have five Quad 1 wins and a 10-11 record against the top two Quads. They’ve swept the Mountaineers and beaten Texas Tech (20) at home, and they don’t have anything below a Quad 2 loss. More importantly, this is the third road win on the year for Oklahoma. With two very winnable games left — Texas (94) and at TCU (96) — Oklahoma is right where they need to be.

N.C. STATE (NET: 57, NBC: First four out): The Wolfpack avoided disaster on Saturday, as they overcame a slow start and took down Pitt (112) at home. That would have been a Quad 3 loss for a team that is already sitting with three Quad 3 losses as well as four more losses to sub-70 teams on the road. That’s not good. But they beat Duke (6) by 22 points in Raleigh, which is just one of their five Quad 1 wins. They are 8-8 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents on the season. It’s worth noting that Markell Johnson, N.C. State’s best player, did not play in one of the three Quad 3 losses — Georgia Tech (78) — so that will be something to monitor for the Selection Committee.

USC (NET: 44, NBC: 10): The Trojans bounced back from a bad weekend in the mountains to knock off both Arizona (11) and Arizona State (44) this weekend. USC is now 21-9 on the year with a visit from UCLA (76) coming up next Saturday to close out the regular season. With four Quad 1 wins and a 10-8 mark against the top two Quads, USC is in a really good spot right now. I do think that they still have some work to do, however. They already have a Quad 3 loss this season, and given where UCLA (76) is currently sitting in the NET, losing to the Bruins at home would go down as a bad loss. Combine that with something silly in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament, and USC could find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble. That said, I think all it will take is one more win to get the job done.

MEMPHIS (NET: 62, NBC: Next four out): Memphis needed OT to get it done, but the Tigers knocked off Tulane (174) in New Orleans to get to 20 wins on the season. The Tigers still have just two Quad 1 wins compared to three Quad 3 losses, and they are still playing without D.J. Jeffries, but they have a chance because they end their season like this: Wichita State (48), at Houston (23). If they can win those two games and avoid taking a bad loss in the AAC tournament, then Memphis very well might hear their names called on Selection Sunday.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 39, NBC: 11): The Buccaneers survived Western Carolina (143) on Saturday and will now head into the SoCon tournament as regular season champs with a 24-4 record. They have a win at UNCG (73) and a win at LSU (33), but they do have an ugly Quad 4 loss to Mercer (197) at home. That is the killer. The Buccaneers can only lose to UNCG or Furman (66) in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that might be a bit of a longshot.

NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 43, NBC: 11): Northern Iowa took care of business at Drake (164), winning the Missouri Valley regular season title. UNI has a win at Colorado (22) and they beat South Carolina (64) on a neutral court, but they are 5-3 against the top two Quads with a pair of Quad 3 losses. I want to see them get an at-large — every one of their non-Quad 1 losses is a road game in league play — but I’m not sure they have done enough to beat out some of these power conference teams. My advice: win the auto-bid and make it easy on yourself.

RICHMOND (NET: 51, NBC: First four out): The Spiders avoided disaster by blowing out UMass (141) on Saturday. The Spiders only have one truly terrible loss to their name — Radford (162) got them on a neutral court — but with only three Quad 1 wins and a 4-6 record against the top two Quads, their margin for error is completely gone. I don’t think they can afford a loss to either Davidson (74) at home or at Duquesne (91).

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 54, NBC: First four out): The Bulldogs picked up a win at Missouri (88) on Saturday, which is not inconsequential. That’s a Quad 2 win, the fifth that Mississippi State has earned this season. They have a pair of Quad 1 wins and a 7-8 mark against the top two Quads, but with a pair of Quad 3 losses and exactly zero wins against top 30 opponents, the Bulldogs still have some work to do. The biggest issue right now is that Mississippi State doesn’t have a top 60 opponent left on their schedule during the regular season. They’re likely going to have some work to do in the SEC tournament.

… AND LOSERS

ARKANSAS (NET: 41, NBC: Next four out): The Razorbacks’ NCAA tournament hopes took a significant blow on Saturday, as they fell at Georgia (90). Arkansas is now 18-11 on the season with just a 6-10 record in the SEC. They have a pair of Quad 1 wins and a 5-10 mark against the top two Quads, but the more important record is this: They are now 17-5 on the season with a healthy Isaiah Joe. It will be very interesting to see how the selection committee handles Arkansas.

SOUTH CAROLINA (NET: 64, NBC: Next four out): This might be the end for South Carolina. The Gamecocks lost at Alabama (39) on Saturday, and while that is hardly a bad loss, it is the last Quad 1 opportunity on the schedule. Beating Mississippi State (54) at home or Vanderbilt (156) on the road isn’t going to change much. The Gamecocks are in trouble.

UTAH STATE (NET: 38, NBC: 11): Utah State took a loss that they could not afford to close out the regular season on Saturday night. They lost at New Mexico (158), their second Quad 3 loss of the season. That, in and of itself, is not a killer, but the fact that the Aggies have not beaten a top 30 team this season and only have two top 85 wins — Florida (32) and LSU (33) on neutral courts — is a bigger issue. At this point, I think that Utah State probably wants to win the Mountain West tournament if they want to feel good about where they are sitting on Selection Sunday.

Dayton beats VCU to stay atop Atlantic 10

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RICHMOND, Va. — Jalen Crutcher scored 18 points and No. 5 Dayton held off a late challenge and beat VCU 66-61 on Tuesday night, the Flyers’ 15th consecutive victory.

Obi Toppin added 12 points and Trey Landers 11 for the Flyers (24-2, 13-0 Atlantic 10). They were the highest ranked team ever to play on VCU’s home floor.

VCU (17-9, 7-6) closed to within one possession several times in the last seven minutes, the last on Vince Williams’ putback with 27 seconds left, but Dwayne Cohill made a pair of free throws with 22.4 seconds left and the Flyers held on.

NBC SPORTS BRACKETOLOGY

Nah’Shon Hyland led VCU with 18 points and Marcus Santos-Silva had 12 points and 17 rebounds, but VCU lost for the fourth time in its last five games.

The Rams used an 8-1 run to get within 52-50 with 6:18 left, but Dayton converted six of eight free throws to rebuild the lead to 58-51. Malik Crowfield’s 3-pointer and a free throw by De’Riante Jenkins pulled the Rams within 58-55, but Toppin scored inside and added a free throw.

BIG PICTURE

Dayton: The Flyers were shooting well about 50% for most of the game before a dry spell in the second half that included a pair of ill-advised 3-point tries by Crutcher and Landers. They finished 19 for 42, 45.2%.

VCU: The Rams played without point guard Marcus Evans, their top passer and No. 3 scorer. Evans aggravated a left knee injury in VCU’s loss to Richmond last Saturday.

UP NEXT

The Flyers are at home against Duquesne on Saturday.

VCU is on the road at Saint Louis on Friday.