College Basketball Notebook
The college hoops notebook …
RICHMOND, Va. ó With chants and cheers, more than a thousand fans gave VCU a spirited send-off to college basketballís Final Four.
Fans waved black-and-gold bandannas and held up ěGo Ramsî signs as the players and then coach Shaka Smart filed into buses Wednesday on campus for the trip to Houston. Their quixotic season continues Saturday when they play Butler.
VCU President Michael Rao greeted each player as he entered the bus and embraced Smart, who is leading the Rams to their first trip to the Final Four.
Asked what he told the players, Rao said he asked them how their classes went this week.
Eleven police motorcycles led the team buses from the campus to the Richmond airport for the flight to Texas.
COLUMBIA, Mo. ó For a school that makes no secret of its desire to join college sports’ elites ó and its willingness to spend freely in that quest ó Missouri’s weeklong search for its next men’s basketball coach is off to a rocky start.
Matt Painter’s decision Wednesday to remain at Purdue has the Tigers dealing with Big Ten-style rejection for the second time in less than a year. Missouri strongly considered ditching the Big 12 Conference last summer to join an expanded Big Ten. The Big Ten instead opted to invite Missouri’s conference rival Nebraska, leaving Missouri and the remaining members of a whittled-down Big 12 scrambling to survive.
After losing Mike Anderson to Arkansas on March 16 despite offers of a new contract and $2 million annual salary, Missouri athletic director Mike Alden hoped to make a splash with Painter, his top target.
SALT LAKE CITY ó BYU guard Jimmer Fredette is the 2011 Adolph Rupp Award winner as National Player of the Year.
The Cougar senior led BYU to a 32-5 season and to the NCAA’s round of 16. He had the highest scoring average in the nation (28.9) and shattered Danny Ainge’s school career scoring mark, finishing his career with 2,599 points after scoring a school-record 1,068 points this season.
NIT FINAL TONIGHT
NEW YORK ó Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall bristles when he hears the term “mid-major” applied to his team, even though he understands where people are coming from.
“There is not a lot that is mid-major about these guys,” Marshall said.
The Shockers have yet another opportunity to prove that Thursday night, when they face top-seeded Alabama in the NIT championship game. It’s the first of two eventual title games that pit teams from smaller leagues against those from the major conferences.
Butler and VCU meet in the Final Four in Houston on Saturday, with the winner facing UConn or Kentucky ó a pair of traditional basketball powers ó for the national championship.
“I like to refer to our situation as a non-BCS program,” Marshall said of the conferences that belong to football’s Bowl Championship Series. Wichita State is part of the Missouri Valley Conference, and doesn’t even have a football program anymore.
“There are a lot of major programs that would like these guys,” Marshall said. “Generally we recruit players who, in two or three years, the BCS folks will turn and go, ‘How did you get them?’ You just have to develop young athletes who have that potential.”
WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. ó Former Vanderbilt assistant King Rice was officially introduced as the next coach at Monmouth, N.J., on Wednesday.
Rice, a former point guard at North Carolina, helped lead the Commodores to the NCAA tournament four times in his five seasons, and will now take over a program that went 9-21 this year.
“I am going to start very quickly at trying to get Monmouth back to the top of the NEC,” Rice said. “When I met the guys this morning, they greeted me the right way, and I think that, with their cooperation and if they welcome our staff early enough, I think we can have success early.”
BOSTON ó Boston College junior Reggie Jackson has made himself eligible for the NBA draft. But the 6-foot-3 guard says he won’t hire an agent, so he could remove his name from the list and return to school.
Jackson averaged 18.2 points.
UTAH HALL OF FAME
SALT LAKE CITY ó Luther “Ticky” Burden and Wat Misaka are among those being inducted into the University of Utah Hall of Fame.