NCAA Basketball News and Notes: March 27, 2019

Joshua Clarke

Well, we’ve all had a few days to recover from the madness that is the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Of course, we have just one more day to prepare for the start of the Sweet 16. Let’s get caught up on all of the tournament-related news, as well as everything else making headlines in college basketball this week.

It’s Been a While

Ja Morant and Murray State won’t be playing in the Sweet 16 after losing to Florida State in the Round of 32. However, Morant put his stamp on the tournament with a triple-double in his team’s first-round win over Marquette. In that game, Morant racked up 17 points 16 assists, and 11 rebounds, the first triple-double the NCAA Tournament has seen since Draymond Green did it in 2012.

Staying Home

For the second straight weekend, the Florida State Seminoles will be playing without forward Phil Cofer. The senior sat out last week’s action with a foot injury and then found out after the team’s win over Vermont in the first round that his father had passed away. He stayed with the team during their win over Murray State in the second round before returning home to Georgia on Sunday accompanied by FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton and an assistant coach. Cofer decided to remain with his family in Georgia rather than travel with his teammates to Anaheim to face Gonzaga on Thursday. His father’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday, and the Seminoles are dedicating the rest of their season to Cofer and his father.

A Little History

If it feels like there’s a little less madness this March, you’re right. This year’s tournament made history by being the first ever in which all 16 teams that were betting favorites in the Round of 32 won their game. There were three other years when 15 of the 16 favorites won, but this is the first time every favorite won, although not all of them covered. What we have now is every 1, 2, and 3 seed still alive, plus two 4’s, one 5, and 12-seeded Oregon.

Up in the Air

After sitting out the first two games of the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky forward PJ Washington’s status for the Sweet 16 is still up in the air. Washington has had the cast on his foot removed, but whether he’ll be able to move well enough to play remains to be seen. Washington is the team leader in both scoring and rebounding, so it’s vital that the Wildcats have him at this point in the season. Kentucky will play Houston on Friday and may have a potential showdown with North Carolina if they win. But it’s hard to imagine the Wildcats winning two games this weekend without Washington.

The Unemployment Line

The list of fired coaches continued to grow after the start of the NCAA Tournament. Let’s check out some of the coaches who are now looking for a new job.

Not surprisingly, Vanderbilt’s Bryce Drew was let go after the Commodores went 9-23 and 0-18 in the SEC this season. Drew had some bad luck this year, as his team started 4-0 before 5-star freshman Darius Garland suffered a season-ending injury. On the other hand, he was just 40-59 in three seasons at Vanderbilt.

Elsewhere in the SEC, Alabama and Avery Johnson mutually agreed to part ways with four seasons left on his contract. In his four seasons at Alabama, Johnson led the Tide to one NCAA Tournament appearance, settling for the NIT the other three seasons.

Yet another SEC team fired their coach this week when Mike Anderson was let go at Arkansas. A former Arkansas assistant under Nolan Richardson, Anderson returned to the Razorbacks in 2011. But in eight seasons, he took Arkansas to the NCAA Tournament just three times, never getting them past the first weekend.

Nebraska is moving on from Tim Miles after seven lackluster seasons. The Cornhuskers have gone to the NIT the last two seasons, which is a slight improvement from previous years. However, Nebraska’s only NCAA Tournament appearance under Miles came in 2014. According to reports, Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is the school’s top target to replace Miles.

Wyking Jones is out at Cal after just two seasons in charge. The Golden Bears were 16-47 and 5-29 in Pac-12 play in those two seasons. Jones failed to build upon the success he and Cal had when he served as an assistant under Cuonzo Martin from 2015 to 2017.