Notes and tidbits from around the NCAA Tournament on Friday:
IZZO: SOME ONE-AND-DONES GETTING BAD ADVICE
Tom Izzo is the first to admit that if a basketball player with enough talent to be considered a “one-and-done” wanted to come to Michigan State, he would welcome him with open arms.
That said, Izzo has concerns for players who are advised to leave college early and don’t make it in the NBA.
“Like everything else in the world, smoking cigarettes was cool, then after research of years and years and years, it develops lung cancer,” Izzo said at a press conference Saturday. “So we change our thoughts. We have not researched where a large majority of these guys that come out early (are). … Some day, 10 years from now, there’s going to be a study of how many kids came out and ended up on the streets. That’s the crime of this whole thing.”
Izzo said if he was a kid in that situation he would enjoy the college experience.
“God, I would die to go back to college,” Izzo said. “You know, I really would, too. I think like a lot of my former players that are in the NBA, it’s a job. It’s a nice job, but it’s a job. College isn’t a job and I think so many kids are missing out. So I would take a completely different approach — not what’s best for the NBA, not what’s best for the college, what truly is best for the kid and how can we work around it.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the decision is out of the hands of college coaches.
“It really doesn’t matter what I would want, it’s what the players’ union and the NBA would decide on,” Krzyzewski said. “The NBA would like two years. And the counsel for the players’ union came out a couple weeks ago… and said that it didn’t seem like they wanted the same thing. They would even like kids to come right out of high school. We just have to adapt to whatever’s going to happen with the NBA and the players’ union.”
— Steve Reed
KENTUCKY’S CAULEY-STEIN SETS ‘SHINING MOMENT’ BAR HIGH
If Kentucky wins the national championship, the Wildcats’ “One Shining Moment” may have already happened.
Late in the first half, after Cincinnati’s Quadri Moore missed a 3-pointer, Kentucky got the rebound and rushed down the floor. Devin Booker passed it to Tyler Ulis on the wing, who hit Willie Cauley-Stein cutting through the lane.
Cauley-Stein went up with two hands and brought down a slam on top of Moore, in what is sure to be a highlight of the tournament. Moore was called for the foul, and Cauley-Stein made the free throw. See the sequence here: https://youtu.be/By-P9uHmnbU .
ARKANSAS ATHLETIC DIRECTOR JET-SETTING
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long is spending nearly as much time in the sky this weekend as he is watching the Razorbacks.
Long, known to many across the country for his role as the chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee, has kept a busy schedule the last few days while keeping up with Arkansas’ men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament teams.
His four-day itinerary:
— Flew to Jacksonville to watch the No. 5 seed Arkansas men defeat Wofford on Thursday.
— On to Waco, Texas, on Friday to watch the 10th-seeded women defeat Northwestern in their opening game.
— Back to Fayetteville on Friday afternoon to watch the Arkansas baseball team play LSU that night.
— Return to Jacksonville today to watch the men take on North Carolina tonight with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line — returning to Fayetteville afterward.
— Back to Waco and back as the women prepare to face second-seeded Baylor on Sunday afternoon.
The tournament appearance is the first for Arkansas’ men since 2008, while the women earned their first appearance in three years under first-year coach Jimmy Dykes.
DON’T FALL, RON HUNTER!
Get ready, chair. Georgia State coach Ron Hunter is back in action on Saturday night.
The coach who’s needed assistance to get around and taken the two biggest stumbles of March Madness is getting reinforced seating for his team’s game against Xavier with a Sweet 16 spot at stake.
The cut foam and tape concoction doesn’t exactly look like surefire protection for Hunter, whose emotional reactions to his team’s biggest moments has made him one of the biggest stars of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
But his school says the chair is NCAA-approved to help Hunter as he coaches while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon.
Hunter rolled out of the locker room Sunday with two cameras following him, smiling and greeting a small group of journalists then rolling toward the court.
Going up a ramp they have for him to roll up, Hunter turned to the Georgia State fan section and raised his right hand to wave. He was rewarded with the loudest ovation of pregame.
The 50-year-old Hunter was hurt initially while celebrating his team’s Sun Belt Conference title last weekend, instantly becoming a fan favorite.
He followed up that fall with another tumble when his son, R.J., hit a winning 3-pointer to lead Georgia State past No. 3 seed Baylor in their opening game. He fell out of his chair, then wasn’t able to get up in a moment that his son later teased him about.
KANSAS-WICHITA STATE FLASHBACK: BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS
Kansas and Wichita State will be playing for the first time in 23 years when they meet Sunday in Omaha, Nebraska, with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line.
The drought had been even longer the last time they met in the NCAA Tournament.
The two schools separated by just over 160 miles had not played since 1955. But they found themselves facing off in the Superdome in New Orleans on March 20, 1981, with a spot in the regional finals up for grabs. The Shockers were the sixth seed, the Jayhawks the seventh seed, and the game turned out to be just as close.
The Shockers were trailing 65-62 when Mike Jones hit a long jumper with less than a minute to go. At the other end of the floor, Jayhawks star Darnell Valentine missed an easy layup that would have the iced the game in the days before 3-pointers.
Wichita State got the ball back and tried to get it to Cliff Levingston or Antoine Carr, their star forwards. But with the Jayhawks sagging into the lane to take away the post, the ball ended up with Jones once again. A role player all season, he unloaded from about 25 feet with a couple of ticks on the clock.
The soft swish of nylon was heard all the way back in Kansas.
“I don’t think he scored another basket the rest of the tournament,” Valentine recalled in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday. “I mean, he made the difference.”
The game was intriguing for another reason: Valentine and Carr, who would both go on to play in the NBA, had played together in high school at Wichita Heights.
“It was one of those times where you kind of think in your mind, ‘What if we would have played together? What would it have been like,” Carr told the AP. “You kind of think about those things, go back and forth, and then you realize all those things don’t matter.”
Valentine and Carr are still close friends. They still talk every once in a while. And you can be sure they still care about their alma maters, each planning to hole themselves up in front of the television on Sunday to watch the No. 2 seed Jayhawks play the No. 7 seed Shockers in their first NCAA Tournament matchup since they were on the floor together.
“I still think we were the better team,” Valentine said, chuckling. “But hey, they played better than we did that game. That’s all that counts.”
Follow all the ins and outs behind the scenes of the NCAA Tournament brought to you by Associated Press journalists on Inside the Madness: http://collegebasketball.ap.org/blog/ap-now-inside-madness
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