News, Notes and Highlighted Games – Tuesday, March 14

Jon Teitel’s Interviews:

Vanderbilt’s SF Luke Kornet – CLICK HERE
North Dakota Asst. Coach Jeff Horner – CLICK HERE
New Orleans Head Coach Mark Slessinger – CLICK HERE
New Orleans PG Christavious Gill – CLICK HERE
Florida State SG Terence Mann – CLICK HERE
Oklahoma State SF Leyton Hammonds – CLICK HERE
Northern Kentucky Head Coach John Brannen – CLICK HERE
Iona SG E.J. Crawford – CLICK HERE
UNC-Wilmington SG Chris Flemmings – CLICK HERE
South Dakota PG Michael Orris – CLICK HERE
Florida Gulf Coast PG Brandon Goodwin – CLICK HERE

Jon Teitel’s Big 10 Photo Essays:
Day 3 – CLICK HERE
Day 2 – CLICK HERE
Day 1 – CLICK HERE

For the Hoops HD NCAA Tournament Preview Podcast – CLICK HERE

Tonight, the 2017 NCAA Tournament will kick off in Dayton with a pair of opening-round matchups. Mount St. Mary’s and New Orleans will tip off prior to 7 PM and Kansas State-Wake Forest will be the nightcap. Tonight will also be the opening night for the NIT and CBI tournaments as well.

– There was one vacancy in the coaching carousel filled yesterday – Grant McCasland will become the new head coach at North Texas after a 1-season turnaround at Arkansas State. There will also be vacancies at Duquesne and Seattle since Jim Ferry and Cameron Dollar were both relieved of their duties.

– We also expect Brian Gregory to be named head coach at South Florida as well. We’ll let you know once that becomes official.

– The CIT also kicked off last night with the 2nd annual John McLendon Classic between Liberty and Norfolk State. Liberty won 73-64 to advance to the 2nd round thanks to Ryan Kemrite’s game-high 30 points.

NCAA TOURNAMENT

MOUNT ST. MARY’S vs. NEW ORLEANS (6:50 PM, TruTV). Both the Mountaineers and the Privateers won their respective regular season and conference tournaments in the Northeast and Southland Conferences, respectively. The winner travels to Buffalo to play Villanova on Thursday.

PROVIDENCE vs. USC (app. 9:20 PM, TruTV). The Trojans seemed to be the most tenuous selection of the last 4 teams in the field, although they will have a chance to justify their selection tonight. The Friars had won 6 straight games prior to losing their Big East tournament opener, but they appear to be more battle-tested than USC at this stage.

NIT

(8) UNC-GREENSBORO at (1) SYRACUSE (7:00 PM, ESPN). The Spartans got an auto bid to the NIT by virtue of a share of the SoCon regular season title and the top seed in their conference tournament. Syracuse ended up in the NIT thanks to their lack of significant wins away from home despite some sterling victories in the Carrier Dome. Fortunately for Syracuse, they will not have to leave the Carrier Dome for the first 3 rounds of the NIT, nor would they have to leave the state of New York should they advance to the NIT Final 4.

(5) OLE MISS at (4) MONMOUTH (7:00 PM, ESPN3/WatchESPN). For the second year in a row, the Monmouth Hawks will be playing at least one game at home in the NIT following a disappointing exit in the MAAC Tournament. The Rebels quietly put together a decent showing in SEC play and have shown they can hang with the big boys earlier in the year with a close loss at home to a then-Top 5 team in Baylor.

(7) VALPARAISO at (2) ILLINOIS (7:15 PM, ESPN2). Valparaiso is, in a manner of speaking, the defending NIT champions. However, they will be without the services of star player Alec Peters for the remainder of the season. Illinois stumbled badly enough late in the year to the point that they fired John Groce 24 hours before the NCAA Selection show (when they were thought to at least be a candidate Under Consideration).

(7) OAKLAND at (2) CLEMSON (8:00 PM, ESPNU). Oakland is another team that got an auto-bid to the NIT after a stunning loss to Youngstown State in the Horizon League tournament. They have actually been a better team away from home than in their home state of Michigan. Clemson ended up in the NIT after a dearth of close losses, home away and neutral courts this season.

(3) INDIANA at (6) GEORGIA TECH (9:00 PM, ESPN). Despite being a higher seed, Indiana will actually be hitting the road for their NIT opener at Georgia Tech. While they badly stumbled in the middle of Big 10 play, they did manage a few decent wins against Northwestern at home and at Ohio State before losing in the Big 10 Tournament. The Yellow Jackets have been a very tough team to beat at the Thrillerdome – ask North Carolina and Notre Dame.

(5) CHARLESTON at (4) COLORADO STATE (9:00 PM, ESPN3/WatchESPN). Both the Cougars and Rams came up 1 game short of making it to the NCAA Tournament after losing in their respective conference championship games. Charleston hits the road after playing the CAA Tournament in their home city and Colorado State returns home after an epic court storm following their last regular season home game against Front Range rival Wyoming.

(6) RICHMOND at (3) ALABAMA (9:15 PM, ESPN2). Alabama actually comes into this game with a little momentum after scoring a win against South Carolina in the SEC Tournament (and actually swept the Gamecocks in both games this season). Richmond also had a win in the A-10 Tournament before falling to VCU in the A-10 semifinals.

(6) BOISE STATE at (3) UTAH (10:00 PM, ESPNU). This was thought to be a reloading year for the Utes, and while they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, they were still a tough out at home in Pac-12 play this year. They did beat USC at home. Boise was also a contender for the Mountain West regular season title and also scored a nice win at home against SMU, but they fell off the map after being swept by Nevada in the regular season.

(8) CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD at (1) CALIFORNIA (11:15 PM, ESPN2). We can only hope that Bill Walton [Sorry, it is Roxy Bernstein and Miles Simons] will be on the call for this one in Berkeley tonight. Despite winning against a USC team on the road earlier this season, the Bears ended up in the NIT instead with other crushing losses in the Pac-12. Bakersfield got an auto-bid to the NIT thanks to their regular season championship in the WAC.

CIT

ST. FRANCIS UNIVERSITY-PA at JACKSONVILLE (7:00 PM, Facebook Live). The Red Flash were invited to the CIT after advancing to the championship game of the NEC where they lost at Mount St. Mary’s. They did get a very thrilling victory at Wagner along the way. The Dolphins finished 6th in the Atlantic Sun, so I can only guess they were willing to pay the entry fee to host at least one CIT game this year.

HOUSTON BAPTIST at CAMPBELL (7:00 PM, Facebook Live). Buoyed by a surprise run to the Big South championship thanks to wins over UNC-Asheville and Radford, the Camels bring the Chris Clemons show back to Buies Creek for at least one more night in March. The Huskies were also a pleasant surprise in the Southland this season and were actually seeded 4th in the Southland conference tournament.

CANISIUS at SAMFORD (7:30 PM, Facebook Live). Reggie Witherspoon did a decent job in his first season at Canisius after taking over for the retired Jim Baron. They will be playing at a Samford team that was an early season contender in the SoCon before falling prey to the likes of UNC-Greensboro, Furman and East Tennessee State.