FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – Shaka Smart, Marquette’s freshman coach, is back in Texas, participating in this NCAA tournament with no doubt or pressure on his future.
That’s very different from last March, when Smart was still with the Longhorns. Just one week after his third straight loss in the first round of the NCAA, he left Texas to look for a new job in his home state of Wisconsin and has not coached another game at Lone Star State so far.
“I’m very grateful to be at Marquette. I’m grateful to everyone who makes our show what it is. Most importantly, our players,” Smart said Wednesday. “And I was also grateful to be in Texas. It was, you know, a phenomenal group of guys that I worked with. But that’s a thing of the past.”
Marquette (19-12), No. 9 in the Eastern Region, plays Thursday against North Carolina (24-9) in Fort Worth. That’s less than 100 miles from the Waco campus of Baylor, the first seed, and about 200 miles from the Austin campus, where Smart coached six seasons without a win in the NCAA tournament.
Texas fans were increasingly frustrated with Smart, who came from an impressive VCU career that included moving from the NCAA First Four to the Final Four in 2011. The Longhorns won a Big 12 Tournament championship last March that restored some hope. but then lost his first NCAA game as No. 3 seed to Abilene Christian.
The Golden Eagles only have two players with experience in NCAA tournaments, and that came with other teams: transfer guard graduate Darryl Morsell to Maryland in 2019 and 2021, and striker Kur Kuatha with Oklahoma last season.
North Carolina also has a first-year head coach in Hubert Davis, though he was a nine-year assistant to Roy Williams, whose last game was an 85-62 loss to Wisconsin, which was the only time his team had failed. participated in his 30 NCAA appearances. Do not pass the initial round.
“That left a bad taste in our mouths in all our mouths. And it’s something coach Davis pointed out earlier this week, and he just told us he’s not going to go down like that,” said junior coach Armando Bacot. “We all packed four or five clothes. So we don’t plan to go home early. “
The Tar Heels won their sixth national championship in 2017, the fifth since losing the 1977 title game to Marquette, who won their only championship in coach Al McGuire’s last game with a win over North Carolina.
Big ‘Dogs before
No wonder MEAC champion Norfolk State is one of the most disadvantaged heading into the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans have far exceeded many odds before.
Baylor is a 20 1/2 point favorite against the No. 16 team, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The Spartans were 21 1/2 points behind in the 2012 NCAA Opening Game as the No. 15 seed, when they won 86-84 over Missouri, the second seed.
The Spartans’ only other appearance in the NCAA was last season, when they won a First Four game against Appalachian State before losing to eventual national runner-up Gonzaga.
“I always talk to the guys when we beat Missouri in front of 18,000 fans, just shouting and applauding your name. And then last year we got to the bubble, and then there are 500 people in the first game, and then 5,000 people in the second,” he said. Coach Robert Jones, assistant to that 2012 disorder. “So you’re looking at me, like, this is the NCAA Tournament? Is this what it’s supposed to be? “.
Seventh seed Murray State has the second-longest winning streak in the country at 20, but the Racers will play for the first time in 12 days when they face San Francisco on Thursday night in Indianapolis.
Although the extended break raised doubts about the possible rust, Tevin Brown coach Matt McMahon did not ease the Racers ’(30-2) routine as he entered the game against the Dons (24-9).
“He’s always on the move, no matter if it’s the day before the game or two weeks before,” Brown said. “For us it was a question of who we played and when and where we were going to play. That was all we cared about, but as far as we were concerned, we weren’t really worried about that. “
Wildcats of all strength
Kentucky’s second seed faces St. Peter’s, ranked 15th, with the goal of regrouping after Tennessee’s defeat in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament that coach John Calipari called “a blessing.” The Wildcats had everyone healthy, but they had to finish both games. They threw only 34% against the Volunteers.
Calipari took advantage of overtime to subject his Wildcats (26-7) to a physical confrontation before heading to Indianapolis.
“We needed to get back to free and loose, and open up and play with each other, the roles of what we had to do,” he said. “My feeling was, and my thinking at the time, we can’t do it in the NCAA Tournament. We’re just dragging game by game, what we’ve been doing. I felt like we needed to go and we’re going to do this and, you know, here and there ”.
Baylor’s great man, Flo Thamba, first saw his sister in 10 years when he arrived from England for his senior day when the Bears played their last home game on March 5 against Iowa State.
On Thursday, her parents will appear to be playing a college game in person for the first time.
Thamba, who is 7 feet 5 feet tall, is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, grew up in South Africa, and also lived in England and France before coming to the United States. He said there are many emotions to know that his parents will be on the bench, and that can see him on a big stage.
“I picked up basketball at 11, I played a little bit. I started playing competitive basketball probably around the age of 14 or 15. I mean, for my parents, my family, basketball was something I did for fun.” said. “They never really knew all the seriousness until I got to the United States. And I was, like, going to college. They were, like, okay, having fun, playing basketball in college.”
East to west
Two games of the Regional East are played this Thursday in Portland, where UCLA, fourth seed (25-7) faces Akron (24-9) and Saint Mary’s (25-7), fifth seed, faces Indiana (21-13). the Hoosiers beat Wyoming 66-58 in a First Four game Tuesday night.
Smart return to Texas with no future questions
Source link Smart return to Texas with no future questions