Posted on: March 9, 2012 9:44 am
Edited on: March 9, 2012 10:10 am
By Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman
Illinois informed Bruce Weber early Friday that he will not continue to coach its men's basketball program, a source confirmed to CBSSports.com.
The news was first reported by the Champaign News-Gazette's Paul Klee.
Weber had a record of 210-101 while at Illinois. He made the championship game of the NCAA tournament in 2005 but failed to get the Illini to the NCAA tournament in two of his final three seasons. The Illini were 17-15 overall, 6-12 in the Big Ten this season. They lost to Iowa in Thursday's first round of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.
VCU's Shaka Smart is expected to top Illinois' wish-list of candidates.
Duke assistant Chris Collins, an Illinois native, could also be a possibility.
Weber probably won't be out of coaching long unless he chooses to be. Sources have told CBSSports.com that he'll likely be a target to replace Chris Lowery at Southern Illinois. Weber coached SIU for five seasons before replacing Bill Self at Illinois in 2003.
Posted on: March 8, 2012 4:24 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2012 10:37 am
By Jeff Goodman
NEW YORK -- We've been waiting for Syracuse to slip-up throughout the season, free-fall and spiral downward with all the off-court turmoil that has surrounded the program.
The Bernie Fine allegations, Fab Melo's suspension and the latest an NCAA investigation into the alleged cover-up of failed drug tests.
"These kids care about two things," Boeheim said after his team pulled out a 58-55 win over UConn to advance to the Big East semifinals. "How they play and where their girlfriend's are."
Maybe he's right.
This Syracuse team improved to 31-1 after the victory against an enigmatic, yet talented Huskies group.
Let's face it: This Orange group doesn't rank second when it comes to pure talent. In fact, it might not even crack the top five. But these guys have depth, chemistry and most importantly, tunnel vision.
"I don't pay it no mind," Orange sophomore guard Dion Waiters said. "I wasn't here for the drug stuff, the Fine stuff is out of our hands."
"We don't know anything about it," teammate Scoop Jardine added about the latest news.
I never gave the 'Cuse much of a chance to win the title. Not when this team goes up against Kentucky or North Carolina. But there's enough talent -- and these guys truly enjoy playing with one another. All you have to do is look at Jardine, spending most of his time on the bench in the second half against UConn, to become witness.
Jardine was busy smiling, laughing and cheering on his teammates, a far cry from the old Scoop - who would have been pouting and complaining about sitting on the bench.
"He's come a long way," Syracuse coach-in-waiting Mike Hopkins said. "He's become a great leader."
"The chemistry isn't even close to what it was here," Jardine said. "And I think I was a part of the problem in the past."
James Southerland, the team's ninth man in what's arguably the deepest rotation in the country, came through on Thursday with a couple of huge second-half shots to made sure the 'Cuse didn't leave New York City early in the Big East tourney. The team's leading scorer, Kris Joseph, struggled -- but there's enough overall talent that this team won't go down due to the issues of one guy.
These guys have come closer, Syracuse athletic director Darryl Gross, told me -- with all of the off-court issues that have surrounded the program.
Boeheim addressed Yahoo! Sports recent story that multiple former Syracuse players tested positive for drugs and the team still allowed them to play.
"This was reported it five years ago," he said. "We're waiting for them to finish the process."
Then Boeheim declined to be specific, moments later in the hallways of Madison Square Garden saying only that it's "been a long time." Later Thursday, ESPN reported that the NCAA issued a statement that said it "received a self-report from Syracuse University on October 27, 2010."
"None of this bothers our players, our team or me," he said. "None of this. If things were bothering us, we wouldn't be 31-1. Nothing bothers us."
Then Boeheim became Boeheim, jovial and sarcasm seeping through while talking to the media on Thursday afternoon in the post-game news conference. He made fun of Kris Joseph for his 1-for-8 performance with an injury to his non-shooting hand. Then he joked that Peyton Manning should come to the New York Jets.
"How Coach (Boeheim) has handled it all has made it a lot easier for all of us," Jardine said. "He's doing a good job and we're just going up and racking up wins."
"You don't get many opportunities to be on a team like this," Waiters added.
Not a 31-win team that has received more attention off the court than it has on it.
Posted on: March 8, 2012 11:22 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 11:23 am
By Jeff Goodman
NEW YORK - Stan Heath and South Florida hardly did it in picturesque fashion, but the Bulls knocked off Villanova for the third time this season and reached the 20-win barrier in the process.
That means South Florida won a dozen Big East regular-season games, finished fourth in the league and has now won 20. The Bulls have reached the Big East quarterfinals for the first time in school history. It should be enough to get into the NCAA tournament -- and is definitely enough to get Stan Heath off that dreaded hot seat.
Remember, this South Florida team was without its most important player, freshman point guard Anthony Collins, for the first five games of the season due to a hip injury -- including two losses to Old Dominion and Penn State. Gus Gilchrist missed three games -- including the loss to VCU. Jawanza Poland missed the first 11 games of the year due to a suspension (two games) and a back injury (nine games).
They aren't pretty to watch on the offensive end, but South Florida has won enough -- in arguably the top league in America -- to earn a spot whether the Bulls knock off Notre Dame on Thursday or not.
"Twelve wins in this league," Heath said when asked if he thought he team was in the field after the win over 'Nova. "I don't know. I don't know why we shouldn't be."
If there's an argument, it's that South Florida hasn't beaten enough of the Big East's big boys.
Remember, they drew Pittsburgh, Villanova and Providence as the teams they played twice in conference play this season. No one had a clue that Pitt and 'Nova would finish towards the bottom of the Big East.
But South Florida did take care of both Cincinnati and also beat Louisville at the Yum! Center down the stretch.
These guys may not pass the "eye test" in terms that they aren't exactly pleasurable to watch on the offensive end, but South Florida has done enough to warrant inclusion in the Big Dance.
Posted on: March 8, 2012 10:07 am
Not much of note went down on the first day of the Big 12 tournament. Texas A&M knocked off Oklahoma and Oklahoma State took care of Texas Tech.
Now's when it gets interesting.
Kansas and Texas are the two teams with the most to gain from the tourney. The Jayhawks can wrap up a No. 1 overall seed if they run through the tourney -- as has been the case each of the past two years.
Rick Barnes' young Longhorns are playing for their NCAA tournament lives, squarely on the bubble and likely needing a victory on Thursday against Transfer U. - Iowa State.
Teams like Missouri, Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State are all playing for seeding while Oklahoma State and Texas A&M will attempt to play the role of spoiler.
Now, let's look at Thursday's games in Kansas City:
Kansas (1) vs. Texas A&M (9). The Jayhawks have won eight straight Big 12 regular-season titles and the last two conference tourney crowns as well. Bill Self has arguably the nation's top player in Thomas Robinson, but the key for KU is the play of point guard Tyshawn Taylor. Texas A&M has had a rough season with the health issues of its coach, Billy Kennedy, and the injuries to the Aggies top player, Khris Middleton.
Missouri (2) vs. Oklahoma State (7). The Tigers have exceeded expectations this season under first-year coach Frank Haith, whose taken a veteran group and put them in position to receive a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. These guys have strong guard play -- led by Marcus Denmon and Phil Pressey. Oklahoma State has been disappointing, largely due to injuries and the erratic play of talented freshman Le'Bryan Nash.
Iowa State (3) vs. Texas (6). This is the most intriguing matchup of the day. Fred Hoiberg has done a terrific job assembling a team loaded with transfers and getting them to click. The Cyclones are led by Royce White, but have lost six straight years in the first round. Texas is down this season due to a lack of size and experience. J'Covan Brown is the star of the team, but he'll need help in order for the Longhorns to pull off the win. Rick Barnes will be without senior big man Alexis Wangmene, who dislocated his wrist in the regular-season finale and is done for the year.
Baylor (4) vs. Kansas State (5). There aren't many teams who possess more talent than Scott Drew and the Bears. Baylor jumped out of the gates strong, but have struggled in league play -- losing six times. However, four of the setbacks came against Kansas and Missouri. Perry Jones III needs to play with toughness because right now it's Pierre Jackson who is carrying the team, averaging 21.5 points over the past four games. Frank Martin's Wildcats are balanced and have won four of the past five against Baylor.
-- Jeff Goodman
Posted on: March 7, 2012 11:37 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 11:38 pm
By Jeff Goodman
Idaho State is expected to hire Montana assistant Bill Evans, sources confirmed to CBSSports.com.
Evans, who was the head coach at Southern Utah for 15 years, will replace Joe O'Brien -- who resigned after a 2-8 start this season.
A news conference is scheduled for Thursday.
Deane Martin had been the interim coach since O'Brien's resignation.
Evans has been on the staff at Montana, which advanced to the NCAA tournament on Wednesday night after beating Weber State in the Big Sky tournament title game. He also received his master's from Idaho State.
Posted on: March 7, 2012 11:27 pm
Wayne Tinkle's Grizzlies took down arguably the nation's top point guard, Weber State's Damian Lillard, to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.
This Montana-Weber State championship contest wasn't quite as electric as the last time the two teams met with everything on the line, when Montana's Anthony Johnson went for 42 points, but the result was the same.
Montana is led by junior guard Will Cherry, but Tinkle has plenty of weapons.
The Grizz had all five starters reach double-figures in the championship game. Sophomore Kareem Jamar and junior Mathias Ward, who each had 18 in the semifinal win, led Montana with 23. Cherry had 13, senior big man Derek Selvig had 16 points and nine boards and Art Stewart finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Grizzles, who won their first outright regular-season crown since 1991-92, trailed by five at the break -- but outscored Weber State, 54-30, in the second half to blow the game open.
Player to know: Will Cherry - The 6-foot-1 junior guard leads the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game, but he's versatile and is also one of the nation's top defenders. He’s topped 20 points on 10 separate occasions this season, and has dramatically improved his outside shooting since last season.
-- Jeff Goodman
Posted on: March 7, 2012 10:25 pm
By Jeff Goodman
NEW YORK - Seton Hall will have to sweat this one out on Sunday.
The Pirates missed out on a golden opportunity to punch their NCAA ticket with a 61-55 loss to Louisville Wednesday night in the Big East tournament.
"Nobody expected us have as much success as we had," Seton Hall senior big man Herb Pope said following the loss. "I think we should be in the NCAA tournament, but it's not up to me."
The game wasn't just important for Pope and fellow senior Jordan Theodore and their chances to get into the Big Dance, but it also could be important for Kevin Willard. Seton Hall didn't get to the NCAA tournament last season and, after losing Pope and Theodore after this season, it would be a stretch to think the Pirates can get there a year from now.
Which means Willard could go into his fourth season without an NCAA tournament berth on his resume.
But the flip side is that Willard and the Pirates get in this season -- and it certainly gives him more security going forward.
Willard has done an impressive job getting this team in position to be considered for an at-large berth. He's been integral in the maturity of Pope -- and has a group loaded with five freshmen, two sophomores and two guys sitting out via transfer. Seton Hall has won 20 games -- which bodes well since 147 of 152 Big East teams with 20-plus victories have earned a spot in the field.
The Pirates have wins against Georgetown, UConn and West Virginia. They also have losses to DePaul, Rutgers and Villanova.
"It's really tough for me and Herb to have to leave it up to the selection committee on Sunday," Theodore said. "We wanted to go out there and prove a point, and we came up short tonight, so it's a tough one."
Now Seton Hall becomes scoreboard watchers, checking to see how Miami and N.C. State fare in the ACC, whether Northwestern can do anything of note in the Big Ten tourney -- and what happens out west in the Pac-12 with the likes of Cal and Washington.
"We'll just go to church and hope and pray," Pope said.
Posted on: March 7, 2012 5:52 pm
By Jeff Goodman
Ashton Gibbs was about as stand-up as it gets.
"It's been a rough season from beginning to end," Pittsburgh's senior guard said after the Panthers were knocked out of the Big East tournament by Georgetown on Wednesday. "A lot of it has to do with me not living up to expectations."
"I didn't live up to it," he added. "I did a bad job leading this year and it clearly showed."
But let's be honest. It was far more than just Gibbs not performing up to his potential.
"This team lost a lot," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "We've been able to overcome it in the past. We weren't able to do it this year."
Three years ago, Dixon lost his top three players -- Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields. Pittsburgh wound up winning 25 games the next season and finished 13-5 in Big East play.
The Panthers have been a rock in the Big East since Dixon followed his former boss, Ben Howland. No program has had more success in league play over the past 11 years. There's the 290-87 overall mark, the 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and the 20 Big East tournament victories. The Big East tourney titles in 2003 and 2008.
That's why everyone penciled Pittsburgh into the league title race and handed the Panthers a spot in the Top 25 prior to the start of the season despite losing Brad Wanamaker, Gary McGhee and Gilbert Brown.
But this year's edition is now 17-16 overall and finished 5-13 in the Big East - likely headed to the NIT.
"It's obviously something I didn't even think about," Gibbs said. "I wouldn't have believed it in a million years that we wouldn't make the NCAA tournament at the end of the season."
"But we'll play in NIT if we get invited," he added. "If not, we'll move on."
Gibbs' leadership -- of lack thereof -- was a piece. So was the injury sustained to starting point guard Travon Woodall which kept him on the sidelines for 11 games. There was the transfer of highly touted big man Khem Birch after the first semester and also numerous injuries to senior Nasir Robinson, Gibbs and others.
"It all started with me not being the senior leader," Gibbs said.
Noble, but not entirely accurate.