Well, the entire college basketball season comes down to this weekend’s Final Four. Of course, there’s plenty more going on in the college basketball world outside of those four lucky teams. Let’s catch up on everything you need to know about the Final Four and all of the other college basketball headlines from the past week.
Just a couple of days after being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky and coach John Calipari agreed to an extension that will guarantee Calipari spends the rest of his career with the Wildcats. The new deal is constructed in a way that makes it applicable until Calipari retires and then makes him an ambassador for the university. Prior to the deal, UCLA reportedly offered Calipari the job in Westwood at a price of $48 million over six years. However, Calipari says his “lifetime extension” with Kentucky had nothing to do with outside influences.
Going Out the Right Way
After 33 seasons as the head coach at Belmont, head coach Rick Byrd is retiring. Byrd took over the Bruins in 1986. At the time, they were still competing at the NAIA level. He’s built the program into one of the best mid-major programs, leading them to eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Byrd and Belmont finally got their first tournament win this season, knocking off Temple in the tournament’s First Four. He retires with 805 career wins, 12th all-time among Division 1 coaches.
Less than two weeks after agreeing to an extension to stay at Buffalo, Nate Oats announced he’s leaving western New York to become the head coach at Alabama. Oats is replacing Avery Johnson, who parted ways with the school after the season. He has led Buffalo to the Round of 32 the past two seasons and three NCAA Tournament appearances during his four-year tenure.
As expected, Nebraska has hired Fred Hoiberg as its new coach after firing Tim Miles after the season. Hoiberg was on the job market after being fired by the Chicago Bulls in December. He was actually born in Nebraska, so taking over the Cornhuskers is a homecoming of sorts for him. Hoiberg is also returning to the college game after a five-year stint at Iowa State from 2010 to 2015 that included four trips to the NCAA Tournament and one Sweet 16 appearance.
West Coast Rebuild
Cal-Berkely has found their new basketball coach, and it’s Mark Fox, who is best known for his stint at Georgia. Fox was let go by the Bulldogs following the 2018 season. In his nine seasons at Georgia, he took the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament twice, but just once in his final seven seasons there. He now takes over a program that was 8-23 and 3-15 in the Pac-12 this past season.
Up the Ladder
Washington State also filled its head coaching vacancy this week by hiring San Francisco’s Kyle Smith. This will be a big step up for Smith, who has led San Francisco to three straight 4th-place finishes in the West Coast Conference The Dons were also runners-up in the CBI tournament last season. Prior to that, Smith had a six-year stint at Columbia that ended with a CIT championship in 2016. However, this is his first job in a major conference, and he’ll take over a program that was 11-21 this past season and hasn’t had a winning season since the 2011-12 campaign.
The biggest coaching news of the week broke Wednesday morning with reports of Buzz Williams leaving Virginia Tech for Texas A&M. Williams has been linked to the job ever since the Aggies fired Billy Kennedy following the season. He’s a Texas native who got his start as an assistant at Texas-Arlington and Texas A&M-Kingsville in the 90s. From 2004 to 2006, he was an assistant at Texas A&M and is now heading back there. In his 11 seasons between Marquette and Virginia Tech, Williams has taken his team to the NCAA Tournament eight times, including four trips to the Sweet 16.
A number of players have already announced their intentions to leave college and declare for the NBA Draft. Over the past week, Shamorie Ponds of St. John’s, Jaylen Nowell of Washington, Talen Horton-Tucker of Iowa State, Nasir Little of North Carolina, Bol Bol of Oregon, and Miye Oni of Yale are among the players who have announced their intentions to enter the draft. As underclassmen, they have until May 29 to change their minds and return to school, but only if they don’t hire an agent.