Louisville Will Regret Firing David Padgett if They Can’t Land Chris Mack

David Padgett did not expect to be the head man at the University of Louisville this year. But as the saying goes, “Life comes at you fast.” In what was a whirlwind start to the college basketball season, Padgett found himself one seat further up the bench, as interim head coach for the Cardinals. He led the Cards to a 22-14 record, with a modest 9-9 in ACC play. Louisville missed the NCAA Tournament and lost to Mississippi State in the Quaterfinals of the NIT. One day later, the school parted ways with Padgett.

In the world of coaching rumors, Louisville and Chris Mack has been a steady one all season long. He appeared to be perfect candidate to take over the soon-to-be-vacant position. Mack is already the all-time winningest coach at Xavier, and won the Big East regular season this year. More importantly, with the off-court drama circulating the sport, he’s been thought to run a clean program. To Louisville, that may be the most important piece. Landing Mack isn’t a slam dunk, however. Xavier is his alma mater and pulling away from a program he has brought to the top of the Big East may not be easy, especially with the Cardinals looking at potential NCAA violations.

If Mack falls through, Louisville could find themselves in a bad situation. The coaching situation at Louisville is less than ideal. The Cards are still subject to NCAA penalty and they have the blackest of clouds hanging over their program after this year. That could result in loss of scholarships and possible tournament bans. The looming uncertainty is a tough thing for a coach in a good position, like Mack, to leave for.

Padgett did a great job given his circumstances. He took over a team right before the start of the season, that it’s best recruit right before the start of the season. He dealt with countless off the court issues as the season progressed and almost took Louisville to the NCAA Tournament. Not many first year coaches could have had the season he had given the situation. I get a school like Louisville wants a more established coach, but they may have let a good one slip away. At the very least, Padgett could have stuck around for two years to help guide the program through its NCAA penalties, then be re-evaluated.

I think some school should give Padgett his first real head coaching job. In his one season audition, he achieved more than most people thought. He deserves a chance to lead a team. As for Louisville, they better be very confident that they can land Mack. Dan Hurley could be an outside shot, but will likely stay in the Northeast, Tom Crean was already scooped up, and I can’t see Thad Matta wanting to walk into their situation. It could end up that Louisville just let go their best candidate.

5 First Round Games in the NCAA Tournament to Watch

It’s almost tournament time. While there are play-in games going on now, the Round of 64 games are yet to begin. Thursday and Friday are some of the most exciting days of basketball ever, and it’s hard to say otherwise. While every game is sure to be great, let’s look at five games that could be really fun to watch. Disclaimer: most 8/9 or 7/10 games are noteworthy since the seeds are so close. I only chose one of each to highlight. Another disclaimer: it’s March Madness, this list will not cover all the crazy that happens.

Kansas State vs Creighton

This game is interesting first and foremost for one reason: Marcus Foster. Foster, the star this year for the Blue Jays, started his career at Kansas State playing for Bruce Weber. He was one of the best players in the Big 12 as a freshman, but was dismissed from the team after a peculiar sophomore season. Since then Foster has found a new home at Creighton, where he leads the team with 20 points a game. He is easily the most important piece to their success, and will have a little added motivation in round one. Kansas State, meanwhile, finished fourth in a very strong Big 12. They will not be an easy task for Greg McDermott and his team. It looks as if Dean Wade and Barry Brown, their two best players, will be healthy enough to play. That’s a big boost of confidence for the Wildcats.

Kentucky vs Davidson

Kentucky is one of the hotter teams in the country right now after winning the SEC Championship.But let’s not overlook the fact that the Wildcats are the youngest team in the field. Enter Davidson. The Wildcats from North Carolina have all the right pieces to pull off a first round upset over Big Blue Nation. They have one of the best players, if not the best player, on the floor in Peyton Aldridge. He was the A10’s leading scorer at 21.5 points a game, while racking up almost 8 rebounds a game. They have a freshman talent of their own in Kellan Grady. A former Providence Jam Fest standout, Grady is a major talent of his own, going off for 20 or more 11 times this year. Lastly, they have the man on the sidelines, Bob McKillop, who has made a tourney run before. Don’t be surprised if it’s an early departure for Kentucky.

South Dakota State vs Ohio State

Ohio State enjoyed a surprisingly good season this year under first year head coach Chris Holtmann. The Buckeyes finished third in the Big Ten thanks to the All-American play of Keita Bates-Diop. The redshirt junior led Ohio State in points, rebounds, steals and blocks per game this season. There may not be a more important piece to any team than him. They’ll meet South Dakota State, who is in their second NCAA Tournament in as many years. Led by double-double machine Mike Daum, SDST is not unfamiliar with power conference opponents. The Jackrabbits had a non-conference schedule consisting of Kansas, Iowa, Wichita State, Colorado and Ole Miss. They’re battle tested and will not be intimidated by the Buckeyes

Oklahoma vs Rhode Island

The first game on Thursday is a great one. Everyone by now knows about Trae Young. The freshman, though struggling as of late, still finished the season leading the nation in points and assists per game. He and his struggling bunch of Sooners will have their hands full with a pesky Rhode Island defense. Led by Dan Hurley, the Rams are 15th best in the country in forcing turnovers. This will feature a great one-on-one match up between Young and Stanford Robinson, who averages over 2 steals a game for Rhode Island. After falling short in the A10 championship game, I expect Danny Hurley to have his team hungry and ready to play from the tip. I think Rhode Island could jump on a struggling Oklahoma team early and take control of this game for 40 minutes. It’s youth vs experience. Offense vs defense. Oklahoma vs Rhode Island.

Florida vs St. Bonaventure

Florida has been an odd team to follow this summer. In the non-conference, they had an awesome win over Gonzaga in the PK80. They lost to Duke in the championship in a game where they led most of it, only to surrender the lead late. Then they lost to Loyola-Chicago, but followed with a win over Cincinnati. It’s back-to-back stretches like that that sums up the season for the Gators. They can look really good, or they can look lost. That inconsistency opens up a chance for St. Bonaventure to make some noise. The Bonnies topped UCLA in a first-four game Tuesday night, with little production from their two best players: Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley. The two leading scorers combined for 6-28 from the floor. Another performance like that and Florida walks away winners, but I would not count on a performance like that again.

UConn Fires Kevin Ollie

The Kevin Ollie era is over at UConn. University department of athletics made a statement early this morning. In the statement, the department said “The University of Connecticut has initiated disciplinary procedures to terminate the employment of Head Men’s Basketball Coach Kevin Ollie for just cause.” 

Ollie was one of the hottest coaches in basketball just four years ago. After winning the National Championship, every level of coaching was an option for Ollie. He was heavily rumored around the Oklahoma City vacancy, but stayed at UConn. It has been downhill ever since for Ollie and the Huskies.

Ollie had a career record of 127-79 as the head coach at Connecticut, but UConn’s best finish in the AAC was third. The past two seasons Connecticut has gone 16-17 and 14-18. Ollie has seen players transfer from the program recently, and has not been effective in the recruiting landscape. It was beginning to feel more and more like change was needed.

One of the biggest issues for Connecticut is where do they go next? Ollie will surely be fine; With his NBA background he could serve as an assistant to a team next year. One name that will certainly be thrown around is Dan Hurley. Hurley had been nothing short of magnificent at Rhode Island and will surely be at the top of every team’s list. It will be interesting to see if UConn could sway him over URI, and the countless other schools that will come calling.

Time will tell how this works out for both sides. For now, UConn has been embarrassing for the better part of two seasons, new blood and a shake up was needed. This is March, right?

Louisville Basketball Forced to Vacate Wins

The hits keep coming for Louisville basketball. In what has been an emotional season thus far, the school announced today that they will be vacating their wins during the 2011-12 season through the 2014-15 season. That includes their National Championship in 2013. The school must also give back the NCAA money received through conference revenue sharing for its NCAA Tournament appearances in 2012-2015.

The announcement comes after the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee upheld their initial ruling on the sex scandal that broke in 2015 in which a former Louisville assistant coordinated stripper parties for recruits on campus. Louisville was appealing that the punishment put forward was too excessive for the crime. Little did they know, back then, that this would just be the tip of the iceberg.

This case was what sparked the dumpster fire that is Louisville basketball at the moment. It was the first step in Rick Pitino’s dismissal from the program. What was once a well-respected coaching career, with over 750 wins and a National Championship, is now tarnished with scandal and corruption, and no championship banner. The opinions and perceptions gravitating around Pitino as a coach have changed immensely over the past two and a half years since this story broke.

In total, the school will need to vacate over 120 wins, four NCAA Tournament appearances, two final four appearances. Louisville will also have to relinquish a Big East Conference tournament championship, AAC regular season and tournament title and ACC regular season/conference tournament championship. Think about that, they were in three separate conferences during this time. Now they basically were never a part of the AAC.

Vacating wins isn’t a huge punishment to a program. People don’t just forget the four seasons the Cardinals had. They won’t pretend Louisville lost to Michigan in the 2013 National Championship. It just adds more insult to injury when you couple it with everything that went on in the Fall. Louisville got caught paying a player, lost their Hall of Fame coach, and now got caught again with different recruiting violations.

The announcement leaves Louisville in even more of a hole than they were already in. Fighting for a NCAA berth, it adds a great amount of pressure on David Padgett and his players. Not to mention this FBI scandal news is still floating around out there. Padgett has done a good job given the circumstances this season, but there’s only so much outside attention a program can receive before it becomes too much.

This is obviously a lot for one program to go through, given that just a few months ago they were under heavy fire for paying Brian Bowen $100,000 to attend school. If you really want to clean up the game though, this has to be done. The NCAA needed to be firm on this if they want change. Corruption and scandals run deep in college basketball. There’s not going to be a clean, easy fix of it. Based on what was teased from this FBI report, Louisville won’t be the first team to vacate wins, they’re just the first.

Ranking James Harden’s 60 Point Triple Double All Time

Photo vis ClutchPoints.com

James Harden had himself a night last night in Houston. Without Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza, Harden recorded a 60 point triple-double against the Orlando Magic in a Rockets win. His final stat line was 60 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and 4 steals. Harden was the offense or Houston, and that doesn’t mean he was a black hole. He did take 30 shots, but he was 19-30 from the floor. That is efficient for that many shots. There have been some unbelievable performances in the NBA, but Harden’s 60 point, triple-double effort ranks second in the NBA, just behind Wilt.

This will probably be an unpopular opinion. And I am not downplaying some of the best individual efforts in NBA history. Kobe’s 81 was obviously amazing. David Robinson recorded a quadruple-double in points assists, rebounds and blocks. Shaq came close to a quadruple-double in an NBA Finals game. Speaking of Finals, Bill Russell had a 30 point, 40 rebound game. You could go on and on about the historical performances in the NBA, but James tops all them. Except for one.

Let’s make it clear, the Magic are bad. The opponent always gets brought up in big time performances like this, and rightfully so. The argument can be made that Bill Russell getting 30 points and 40 rebounds in Game 7 against the Lakers pulls a little more weight than a regular season performance against a bad Magic team. However, Harden didn’t have much help either. Paul and Ariza were out. Eric Gordon only played 10 minutes and left with an injury. That doesn’t leave the Rockets with much. A supporting cast of Clint Capela, Ryan Anderson and Gerald Green is equal to the team the Magic rolled out there.

The next argument is Kobe’s 81 point game. Harden scored 21 points less, so how could his game rank #2 all time? He had 11 assists to Kobe’s 2. If you want to nitpick, Harden was a tad more efficient, shooting 63% from the floor compared to Kobe’s 60. The big thing is the assists. Harden scored 60, but assisted on 26 more points. That made him accountable for 86 of Houston’s 114 points. What’s wild is that this wasn’t the most points he’s accounted for in a game. He’s two other 50+ point triple doubles in which he tallied a few more assists. It’s weird to call James Harden efficient, but 60 points on 63% shooting and 11 assists doesn’t say “forced.”

It also should be noted that the Rockets won. This doesn’t give Harden an advantage over any of the players noted above, as they all won too, but a loss would have tarnished the performance some. What’s crazy is that this is Harden’s third 50+ point triple-double. If he scored 59 points this would just be another tally on his resume. But because it’s 60, it has this allure. James Harden is one of the greatest offensive players in the NBA today. At his current rate, he could end up as one of the greatest offensive players in league history. This performance supports that.