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Beyond the arc: NCAA Tournament, New man at UConn, Penny Hardaway

News and notes from around the hardwood

UConn coaching change

Dan Hurley has been named the men’s basketball coach at UConn, the school announced Thursday. Hurley replaces Kevin Ollie after the Huskies suffered through a fourth subpar season.

Hurley weighed several offers from UConn, Pittsburgh, and an extension offer from Rhode Island. He took over at Rhode Island six years ago and built the program to NCAA Tournament appearances the last two years.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Duke vs Rhode Island Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported, “URI’s offer, per sources, was $2 million per year for seven years beginning in July 2019 with a commitment to build a basketball-only practice facility to be completed within the next two years, along with staff salary increases and the ability to charter for all away games.”

The talent level with the Huskies has been depleted by transfers and poor recruiting over the last few years. Ultimately, it was the tradition of the program that made the difference. UConn is the only program in the country that has won four national titles in the past two decades.

Oh, Sweet Sixteen

The NCAA Tournament is rolling into the third round beginning on Thursday. It’s a Sweet Sixteen unlike any others thanks to all of the upsets in the first two rounds. For starters, this is the first time in the history of the tournament where two No. 1 seeds, Virginia and Xavier, have failed to reach the Sweet Sixteen. UMBC became the first 16 seed to ever beat a one seed when they upset Virginia.

The craziness doesn’t stop with the number one seeds. The South Region saw the top four seeds depart the field while the West is missing four of the top six including one and two. The only region that held pretty close to form was the East with four of the top five advancing including Texas Tech.

It should be another great four days of basketball beginning with a 6:00 p.m. tip off Thursday in the South Region between No. 11 Loyola-Chicago and No. 7 Nevada. The Red Raiders take on No. 2 seed Purdue in Boston with tip off at 8:57 p.m. on Friday.

NIT

In the “other” postseason tournament, Baylor was sent packing last Sunday with a disappointing loss to Mississippi State, 77-78. Mississippi State went on to beat Louisville 79-56 last Tuesday and advance to the semifinals against Penn St. on Tuesday. The other Big 12 representative, Oklahoma State, fell to Western Kentucky 84-92 Wednesday night. Western Kentucky will play Utah in the other semifinal on Tuesday. Utah upset No. 1 seed Saint Mary’s College 67-58. Saint Mary’s College was the only top seed to play in a region final. Mississippi State, Penn State, and Western Kentucky were all No. 4 seeds in their respective regions.

Bye-bye classrooms

Two big name talents in the Big 12 announced they will be entering the NBA draft. Texas freshman center Mohamed Bamba announced Tuesday that he will enter the 2018 NBA draft. “After an incredibly rewarding year at the University of Texas, I will not be returning to school as I will be entering the NBA draft,” Bamba said in a statement.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Nashville Practice Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Bamba, a 7-foot center was one of the top college freshmen this season. He averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game. His blocks per game average was good enough for second nationally. He also recorded 15 double-doubles on the year including eight in an 11 game span. He’s considered to be a top-5 pick.

Oklahoma’s Trae Young also declared for the NBA draft on Tuesday. He told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, “I’ve been preparing most of my life to join the NBA, and that time has come for me now: After an unforgettable year at the University of Oklahoma, I will enter the June NBA draft and fully immerse myself in the pursuit of a pro basketball career.”

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Young led the Sooners to the NCAA Tournament by averaging 27.4 points, 8.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. His points and assists per game average led the NCAA. He is projected by most to be a late lottery draft pick. Possibly to the Chicago Bulls at number eight.

Penny Hardaway

Penny Hardaway agreed to a deal to become the next coach at Memphis and was announced as such at a news conference Tuesday. Hardaway is certainly a break from the norm as he has zero college coaching experience.

What Hardaway has is AAU and high school coaching experience. He just completed his third state title at Memphis East High this past weekend. The other thing Hardaway has is a treasure chest of talent dying to play for him at the collegiate level.

One such talent is point guard Alex Lomax. Lomax played at Memphis East High and Hardaway helped raise him since around sixth grade. The fact Lomax now wants to play at Memphis isn’t near as surprising as the circumstances in which he will be allowed.

You see, Lomax was committed to Wichita State. He had already signed his national letter of intent with them. But Shockers coach Gregg Marshall released him of his NLOI without penalty. Released him to a rival school within the conference.

Marshall commented about the release, “I have a lot of respect for Alex Lomax and his family. When they chose Wichita State in the fall, over several other very nice offers, my staff and I were honored. Obviously, we take commitments to the Shocker program very seriously, but this is a very unique situation where a young man’s mentor and coach since the fifth grade has become a Division I head coach. Allowing him out of his NLOI without any kind of penalty is the right thing to do at this time.” This is unquestionably the right thing to do, but it is almost never done.

Two other players seemingly destined for Memphis are James Wiseman and DJ Jeffries. Wiseman is a five-star recruit while Jeffries is a four-star. Both are 2019 recruits who are being recruited heavily by Kentucky as well.

It will be interesting to see the impact Hardaway will have on the program. It’s pretty apparent the impact in the short term, but the big question will be long term. How will he be able to recruit kids who are outside of his realm of influence when his local talent runs dry?