Thursday, April 29, 2010

68 Is Enough

NCAA Tournament's proposed expansion to 68 would have got Seth Greenberg and Virginia Tech in if the idea was pushed through for this past season, but better late than never. (Photo courtesy of Washington Post)

It's been brought up throughout the season, especially during last month's NCAA Tournament, and continues to be a key topic in the offseason; one that many coaches are in favor of for better or worse. However, what looked like total chaos has been scaled back to some degree, as the NCAA Tournament's expansion to 96 became 68, barring any votes against the measure. The new procedure will be instituted beginning next season.

While it remains to be seen how the three newcomers to the "Big Dance" will have to earn their way in, one idea particularly stands out after it was brought to my attention this past February by Jim Hoffman, the compliance officer in the athletic department at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. While I was there as the public address announcer for a St. Francis women's basketball game, Hoffman discussed the possibility of expansion with me pregame, and shared the vision of adding three extra 16 seeds, thus opening the door for three additional play-in games.

This would be a win-win situation for everyone involved; as you would now have 37 at-large bids into the tournament, which would help power conferences such as the Big East and ACC to continuously send eight teams into the field in any given season; while simultaneously affording smaller conferences the exposure of playing a nationally televised game in the NCAA Tournament should they be selected as a 16 seed. In addition, should one of these schools win their play-in game, they could sell it to prospective recruits. Honestly, who would be unfazed by someone saying "We won an NCAA Tournament game?" In addition, ESPN (who currently owns the broadcast rights to the lone play-in game) and either TBS/TNT would benefit from adding a prime-time tournament game to their schedule, and would more than likely see a ratings increase as a result.

There has also been talk of adding four more 12 seeds, but if the selection committee and NCAA officials are looking for a formula that will be beneficial to everyone, three extra play-in games would be the best thing for everyone.

Pope Rushed To Hospital After Collapse

Seton Hall forward Herb Pope was taken to hospital after collapsing in practice yesterday. The sophomore has entered the NBA draft, but has yet to hire an agent. (Photo courtesy of Newark Star-Ledger)

The struggle continues to mount for Seton Hall.

After going through a tumultuous offseason, one that saw head coach Bobby Gonzalez lose his job and three players declare for the NBA draft, (although none have signed with agents) the Pirates were dealt another blow as sophomore forward Herb Pope collapsed during practice yesterday afternoon and was taken to St. Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey.

Pope, who has until May 8th to decide whether or not he will remain in the draft, just completed his first season at Seton Hall after transferring from New Mexico State.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jordan Not Rutgers' Knight In Shining Armor

Former 76ers head coach Eddie Jordan, who once played for Rutgers, has declined opportunity to be next coach of Scarlet Knights, who have yet to hire a replacement for Fred Hill. (Photo courtesy of

When Fred Hill officially resigned as head coach at Rutgers, the search to replace him centered on three names, with a former player that led the Scarlet Knights to their most recent Final Four appearance included within that trio. About a week later, that triumvirate of candidates has been narrowed down to two; with former Rutgers player and recently dismissed Philadelphia 76ers coach Eddie Jordan withdrawing his prospective candidacy from the job just days before a scheduled meeting with Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti.

Jordan supposedly declined the position to remain within the coaching ranks in the NBA; and with his departure from the Rutgers coaching search, a report by Brendan Prunty of the Newark-Star Ledger now has the Scarlet Knights zeroing in on either former Manhattan and St. John's coach Fran Fraschilla, or current Robert Morris head man Mike Rice, who was linked to the Seton Hall opening before the Pirates decided to hire Iona's Kevin Willard as the successor to Bobby Gonzalez.

Whoever takes over the Rutgers program will inherit a team that will lose the services of leading scorer Mike Rosario, who recently transferred to Florida, thus forcing him to sit out the 2010-11 season. Forward Dane Miller will likely be the team leader next season, as he comes off a stellar freshman campaign.

St. Francis Lures Braica Back To Brooklyn

Glenn Braica, once an assistant at St. Francis, is now the head man at the Brooklyn school, replacing Brian Nash. (Photo courtesy of

After Norm Roberts was unceremoniously dismissed as head coach at St. John's on March 19th, few thought Roberts and any of his three assistants would catch on at a Division I program shortly thereafter. Today, a former opponent of St. John's that conducts its business in the same city made sure to disprove that theory, as former Roberts assistant Glenn Braica was announced as the new head coach at St. Francis College.

A former teammate of Roberts at Queens College, Braica comes to the Terriers after spending six seasons on the bench as an assistant coach with the Johnnies. He will replace Brian Nash, who unexpectedly resigned earlier this month, and will be introduced at the Brooklyn campus in an 11:30 a.m. press conference Thursday morning.

Braica is no stranger to St. Francis, having been a former associate head coach under Ron Ganulin, who preceded Nash at the helm of the Terriers. He is also the second new head coach in the Northeast Conference; joining Danny Hurley, the former St. Benedict's Prep head coach who filled the vacancy at Wagner College in Staten Island, replacing Mike Deane.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hill Resignation Now Official

Rutgers and Fred Hill end their long-standing dispute with Hill accepting a buyout tonight. (Photo courtesy of The Sporting News)

After two weeks of standing still, Rutgers and Fred Hill have finally come to an agreement, leaving the Scarlet Knights without a head coach and Hill free to look for employment elsewhere.

The Newark Star-Ledger's Tom Luicci reported earlier tonight that the buyout Hill accepted is between $800,000 and $850,000. Hill officially resigned after four seasons at the helm at Rutgers, and will be replaced on an interim basis by assistant coach Darren Savino while athletic director Tim Pernetti begins a formal process to replace Hill. Rumored targets include Fran Fraschilla and Jim O'Brien, as well as Eddie Jordan, who was recently fired by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Hill, who was initially offered a $600,000 buyout, was at the center of an incident involving a profanity-laced tirade directed toward an umpire at a Rutgers baseball game. Hill's father, Fred Sr., is the Scarlet Knights' baseball coach. After the verbal altercation, Pernetti advised Hill Jr. to stay away from Rutgers baseball games, only to discover that the coach watched a game from his car two days later.

Movin' Out

One day after Mike Rosario made headlines transferring to Florida, Greg Monroe becomes latest player to leave Big East, bolting Georgetown for the NBA draft. (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Immediately following Duke's national championship win over Butler, fans of the Big East Conference sized up the prospects of all 16 schools for the 2010-11 season, and Georgetown was one of the more popular choices at the top of what is arguably the best conference in the nation. With guards Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark coming back to join center Greg Monroe, all eyes would soon be fixated upon the Hoyas going into November.

Now, you can cross one name off that list, as Monroe announced Saturday that he would forgo his two remaining seasons at Georgetown to sign with an agent and enter June's NBA draft. Monroe, who is widely projected to be selected within the top ten, had previously said he would stay in school following the Hoyas' shocking loss to Ohio University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the allure of playing professionally and the contract that comes with it proved to be too much for Monroe to pass up.

Monroe's departure does not take Georgetown off the list of strong Big East teams next year, but it does make the conference wide open as far as who could potentially cut down the nets at Madison Square Garden next March in the Big East tournament. The New Orleans native is also not the only high-profile Big East player who will be playing elsewhere as former Rutgers guard Mike Rosario officially announced his intent to transfer to the University of Florida. Rosario will sit out the upcoming season before becoming eligible to play for Billy Donovan starting in the 2011-12 season. He will have two years of eligibility with the Gators.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spartan Backcourt Returns To The Battlefield

After advancing to their second consecutive Final Four, Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers will look for the trifecta as they return to Michigan State for their senior seasons next year. (Photo courtesy of

Every Michigan State player that has stayed all four years under head coach Tom Izzo has made at least one Final Four. This afternoon, two of Izzo's juniors announced they will stay in school in the hopes of making their third Final Four together.

After the Spartans' surprise run to the Final Four, guards Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers both decided to return to East Lansing for their senior seasons as they attempt to deliver Sparty its first national championship since 2000. Michigan State has already made two consecutive trips to the national semifinals, losing to Butler two weeks ago after falling to North Carolina in the title game the previous season. The two will join Chris Allen and Korie Lucious among the incumbents in the Spartan backcourt, which has become a more cohesive and improved unit since losing Drew Neitzel and Travis Walton to graduation in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

For Lucas, the move was expected after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in Michigan State's second-round NCAA Tournament win against Maryland. However, for Summers, who shares an apartment with Lucas, the move came as somewhat of a surprise given his dominant play in the "Big Dance," where he was named the Midwest Regional's most outstanding player. "Durrell could have left for sure," said Lucas of his backcourt partner's draft prospects. "But we both talked about coming back to win a national championship and to graduate."

Some die-hard Spartan fans may be sensing the possibility of history repeating itself, as Lucas and Summers made the same decision Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson made twelve years ago. After guiding Michigan State to Izzo's first Final Four in 1999, Cleaves and Peterson both came back for their senior seasons. The result is well-documented, as the two led Sparty to its second national title and first since 1979. Said Summers of this significance: "We want to follow the same path Mateen and Morris did."

Michigan State will return nine of its top ten players, the lone exception being Raymar Morgan, who graduates next month. "We can put our group down as one of the best in Michigan State history and make our own footprints in the sand," said Durrell Summers.

Deciding to stay in school is the first step on the beach of success for Lucas, Summers, and the Michigan State program going forward into the 2010-11 season.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Open Mike

Mike Rosario officially gets his release from Rutgers, becoming the latest domino to fall for Scarlet Knights, who are still dealing with fallout surrounding head coach Fred Hill. (Photo courtesy of Newark Star-Ledger)

It's been said that "April showers bring May flowers." So far, the Rutgers basketball program is in the midst of an April it would like to forget.

After the incident surrounding head coach Fred Hill's obscenity-laced tirade at an umpire during a Scarlet Knights baseball game; not to mention defying an order by athletic director Tim Pernetti to stay away from the field, another black eye has formed in Piscataway, as star guard Mike Rosario has officially been granted his release from the program, thereby allowing the sophomore to transfer to another school; where he will have two years of eligibility after sitting out the 2010-11 season no matter where he ends up.

Rosario, who made history as the first McDonald's All-American to sign with the Scarlet Knights after being recruited out of St. Anthony's High School in Jersey City, led Rutgers in scoring during both of his seasons in the Garden State. However, home cooking couldn't keep Rosario from leaving, as Bobby Hurley Sr., who coached Rosario in high school, told the Newark Star-Ledger's Brendan Prunty that "the losing was something that was hard on him."

A story written by SNY's Adam Zagoria sheds some light on where Rosario could end up. Zagoria was told that Rosario would not be permitted to transfer to another Big East school, nor to a program that plays Rutgers next season. Rosario is still looking at North Carolina, Southern California, Kansas and Florida as possible destinations, and reports have also indicated Michigan State and Arizona as being in the mix for his services.

Rutgers has still yet to officially separate themselves from Hill, as the disgraced head coach has yet to accept the well-documented $600,000 buyout offered to him shortly after the baseball incident. Hill is expected to appeal any decision to fire him, and could sue the university if the appeal is denied.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hill Saga Still Unfolding

Fred Hill remains twisting in the wind after being told he will not return at Rutgers, who has offered a buyout that the head coach has yet to accept. (Photo courtesy of Newark Star-Ledger)

Rutgers could finalize today what has been known for several weeks already, as head basketball coach Fred Hill is expected to be terminated "for cause" once the coach and athletic director Tim Pernetti agree to a buyout.

The Scarlet Knights went 47-77 in four years under Hill, who was offered a $600,000 settlement by the university. Hill has refused to accept the buyout, and although he could be dismissed today, the separation of coach and program may not become official right away, due to legal complications.

Rutgers is reportedly looking at Fran Fraschilla and Jim O'Brien as their top candidates to replace Hill once his firing becomes official.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Scarlet Knights Going Down Hill Fast

Fred Hill is now on his way out as Rutgers head coach just weeks after being given a vote of confidence by athletic director Tim Pernetti, this after shouting profanities at an umpire during a Rutgers baseball game last weekend. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

You are a winner if you had all three New York-area Big East basketball programs firing their head coaches after this season, as Rutgers' Fred Hill will become the latest victim of the ax after his well-documented harangue at an umpire during a Scarlet Knights baseball game last weekend.

The incident was not enough to save Hill's job, which appeared to be on solid ground after a meeting last month with athletic director Tim Pernetti that was positive enough to justify bringing Hill back for a fifth season. Hill will officially be fired "for cause," similar to Lane Kiffin's 2008 dismissal as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, guiding the Scarlet Knights to a 47-77 record in his four years at the helm after replacing Gary Waters following the 2005-06 season. A buyout has been extended to Hill, but Rutgers has yet to receive a response.

According to SNY's Adam Zagoria, a source close to the situation told Zagoria that Hill had little to no control over the team by season's end last year, stating that there was "not a single guy in that locker room that likes or respects him." Zagoria is also reporting that the Scarlet Knights are interested in former Manhattan and St. John's coach Fran Fraschilla, who turned down an offer to coach Iona to remain at ESPN. Other rumored candidates include Rhode Island's Jim Baron, Fran Dunphy of Temple, and Dino Gaudio, who was let go yesterday at Wake Forest despite taking the Demon Deacons to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Whoever takes the Rutgers job is facing a situation that is only getting worse. Besides the Hill incident, star shooting guard Mike Rosario is expected to get his release from the program either today or tomorrow, and could make a visit to one of the schools he is interested in transferring to this weekend. The sophomore from Jersey City is reportedly looking at Florida, USC and Michigan State as possibilities.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rosario To Transfer From Rutgers?

After this weekend's incident involving head coach Fred Hill, Rutgers star guard Mike Rosario is open to transferring aftet two seasons leading the Scarlet Knights. (Photo courtesy of Newark Star-Ledger)

Even though it only got one team into the Final Four, the Big East continues to grab attention and headlines as we shift into college basketball's offseason, and most of the news revolves around the teams that were unsuccessful in postseason play.

After St. John's made headlines with the hiring of Steve Lavin as its new head coach, followed by West Virginia's appearance in the Final Four, the Big East is once again in the news, as Rutgers guard Mike Rosario is "considering" transferring from Piscataway, according to a report published last night by SNY's Adam Zagoria on his blog.

The story on indicates that Rosario is awaiting the fallout from an incident this past weekend involving Scarlet Knights head coach Fred Hill, who launched a tirade containing a few profanities at an umpire during a Rutgers baseball game this past weekend, perhaps coming to the defense of his father, Fred Sr., who is Rutgers' baseball coach. It remains to be seen as to whether or not Hill violated any terms of his contract, and the situation is being investigated by athletic director Tim Pernetti. Should Rosario decide to leave Piscataway, a family friend of Rosario narrowed down the sophomore guard's choices to Florida, USC and Michigan State. Rosario denied all reports when contacted by the Newark Star-Ledger, including one in which he felt playing at Rutgers was "hindering" his chances of becoming an NBA player.

Rosario's possible departure would be a major blow to the Scarlet Knights if it happened, as the team's leading scorer would join sophomore forward Pat Jackson as former Knights players. Jackson announced last month that he would not be back. In addition, power forward Gregory Echenique, who came into the Rutgers program with Rosario last year, has already transferred to Creighton, and incoming recruit Gil Biruta from St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey, has asked to be released from his letter of intent, which would free him to sign with any other program.

Born Ready To Go Pro

Lance Stephenson, shown here during his days at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, has announced his decision to leave Cincinnati after just one year to enter NBA draft. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

Add another name to the long list of one-and-done college basketball players, only this one may not be on the level of players the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant just yet.

In a surprising announcement this morning, Lance Stephenson has announced that he will forgo his three remaining years of eligibility at the University of Cincinnati to enter the NBA Draft this June, and according to the Cincinnati sports information office, will hire an agent; thus ending the much-hyped Brooklyn native's college career.

"I fully understand and support his decision to continue his development as a professional," said Bearcats coach Mick Cronin after speaking to Stephenson and his family. "We appreciate his efforts on the floor and in the classroom at UC and wish him all the best as he pursues his goals as a professional."

Stephenson, who attributed the decision to being able to provide financially for his family, was named the rookie of the year in the Big East last season; and was the Bearcats' leading scorer, averaging 12.3 points per game. With Stephenson now leaving, both of Cincinnati's leading scorers will not be back next season, as senior guard Deonta Vaughn will graduate next month.

Stephenson is also the third notable Lincoln alum to try his luck in the NBA, joining Stephon Marbury, who was selected fourth overall in 1996 after one year at Georgia Tech, and Sebastian Telfair, who was a lottery pick in 2004 after making the jump from high school.

DePaul Hires Oliver In Unexpected Twist

After waiting over a month to fill their head coaching vacancy, DePaul has finally done so, hiring Oliver Purnell away from Clemson. (Photo courtesy of

DePaul University has finally ended the coaching carousel in the Big East, several months after they started it by dismissing head coach Jerry Wainwright halfway through this past season. The Blue Demons named Oliver Purnell as their new coach yesterday, and the 56-year-old who has gone to six NCAA Tournaments in his career now faces the task of resurrecting a program that has gone 1-35 in the Big East over the last two years.

"It's a super job," said Purnell, the former head man at Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton, and most recently, Clemson. "They are very, very committed to restoring a tradition." Purnell, who replaces interim coach Tracy Webster, comes into Chicago on the heels of taking the Tigers to three straight NCAA Tournaments. However, he has never advanced into the second round at any time in his career.

The move by DePaul, who will pay Purnell just over $2 million a year for seven years, comes one week after fellow Big East schools Seton Hall and St. John's introduced their new head coaches last Wednesday. The Pirates hired Kevin Willard to replace Bobby Gonzalez, while St. John's made a splash nationwide by luring former UCLA coach and ESPN/ABC analyst Steve Lavin back to the bench to succeed Norm Roberts.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jersey Boy Hurley Finds His Way Across River

Danny Hurley leaves success at St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey for a challenge on a higher level, accepting the vacant head coaching job at Staten Island's Wagner College. (Photo courtesy of Newark Star-Ledger)

The chorus of a 1990 song by Bruce Hornsby says: "Well, I know some fine day, you will find your way, across the river." Two decades later, the lyrics are coming to fruition for Danny Hurley, a man who had spent most of his adult life in the Garden State; first as a player at Seton Hall, then as an assistant coach at Rutgers before becoming the head man at St. Benedict's Prep, a high school he had eventually built into a national powerhouse.

Now, the 37-year-old Hurley is taking his 223-21 lifetime record at St. Benedict's over the Outerbridge Crossing into Staten Island, where he heads into New York City as the new head coach of Wagner College, replacing former coach Mike Deane. Deane, also the head man at Marquette, Siena and Lamar once upon a time, was fired after finishing just 5-26 at the helm of the Seahawks.

As reported this afternoon by Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star-Ledger, Hurley's older brother Bobby, best known for winning two national championships playing for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, will be joining him on the bench as an assistant. Bobby also played briefly in the NBA for the Sacramento Kings before injuries derailed his career.

Sometimes You Just Need A Hug

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins shows his soft side while tending to star forward Da'Sean Butler moments after the senior tore his ACL in the Mountaineers' Final Four loss Saturday night against Duke. (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports)

Genius, and college coaches for that matter as well, are often classified as being misunderstood. After Saturday night's NCAA Tournament national semifinals, one can undoubtedly say the same about each of the coaching quartet in Indianapolis, but none more than Bob Huggins of West Virginia.

That's because Huggins, who has a perceived gruffness about his West Virginian persona, broke his fabled character midway through the second half of the Mountaineers' loss to Duke Saturday night, tending to senior forward Da'Sean Butler after he collided with Duke's Brian Zoubek while driving to the rim. An MRI later revealed Butler had torn his ACL and sprained the MCL in his knee, and the pain was evident on the star's face as he lay in agony on the hardwood at Lucas Oil Stadium.

In West Virginia's postgame press conference, Butler answered every question posed to him by the media during the session, and defended his coach, who stayed with Butler on the floor after the injury to provide arguably the most memorable image of this year's tournament up to this moment. Butler revealed that Huggins had told him it "wasn't his fault" and not to be sorry because he (Huggins) loved him. Butler leaves Morgantown as the third-leading scorer in Mountaineer history, trailing only Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley.

West Virginia may have lost the game; but the ability of its star player to not break down and its coach, known affectionately to many as "Huggy Bear," to offer words of encouragement during a difficult time in the life of a young man, makes the Mountaineers champions in ways that most of us never can hope to imagine.