▪ After Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina advanced to the Sweet 16, Southeastern Conference basketball kept the momentum going into the early part of the week.
LSU hired Will Wade as its new head basketball coach. In two years at VCU, Wade took the Rams to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments and reached the second round last year. The energetic 34-year-old should breathe new life into the moribund Tiger program.
The addition of Wade to 40-year-old Mike White at Florida and 42-year-old Bryce Drew at Vanderbilt gives the SEC three of the brightest young coaches in the business.
(Sorry, John Calipari, didn’t mean to make you feel old.)
Robert Williams announced his return to Texas A&M for his sophomore season. The 6-foot-9 forward was considered a potential lottery pick this year. Reportedly, Williams believes he isn’t mature enough yet for the NBA. His goal is to be the No. 1 overall pick. Surely, A&M coach Billy Kennedy was thrilled with Williams’ decision.
Cuonzo Martin is back in the SEC. The East St. Louis, Ill., native and ex-California coach was introduced Monday as basketball coach at Missouri. Martin was 63-41 in three seasons at Tennessee before leaving Berkley. His head coaching career began at Missouri State. He’s another welcome SEC re-addition.
▪ The SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Jan. 28 hinted success to come. The two conferences split 10 head-to-head games. Not only does the SEC have three teams in the Sweet 16, the Big 12 has three (Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia) as well.
▪ Basketball talk has overshadowed Kentucky baseball’s eight-game win streak. New coach Nick Mingione’s club swept three from Texas A&M in College Station over the weekend. It followed with a 4-3 win over Western Kentucky on Tuesday to complete a two-game sweep of the Hilltoppers. Now 16-6, UK plays host to Ole Miss for a Thursday-Friday-Saturday series at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
▪ I missed most of last Sunday’s freak show in the stands. I sat in front of Lynn Marshall, wife of Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall and noted extrovert. Silly me, I watched the game. I needed eyes in the back of my head.
One detail doesn’t add up: Why was Mrs. Marshall asked to leave her seat after UK-Wichita State when that was the final game of the day in Indianapolis?
▪ In John Calipari’s eight years at UK (so far), he’s been to six Sweet 16s, five Elite Eights, four Final Fours and two national championship games. He’s won one title. In the same time period, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has been to five Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights, two Finals Fours and two national championship games. He’s won two titles.
▪ Sweet 16 teams that shot 50 percent or better from the floor in the first two games: Baylor, Kansas, UCLA and Xavier.
▪ Sweet 16 team that held its first two opponents under 40 percent shooting from the floor: Kentucky.
▪ All-tournament team through the first two rounds: Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett, 50 points first two games; South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell, 43 points first two games, 24 in upset of Duke; Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen, 36 points in two games. 11 rebounds against St. Mary’s; Florida’s Devin Robinson, 38 points and 18 rebounds first two games; Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo, 28 rebounds first two games.
▪ I picked Duke to win it all. There’s your disclaimer. Here are my Sweet 16 picks: Florida over Wisconsin and South Carolina over Baylor in the East. Kansas over Purdue and Michigan over Oregon in the Midwest. North Carolina over Butler and UCLA over UK in the South. West Virginia over Gonzaga and Arizona over Xavier in the West.
▪ Updated Final Four: Florida, Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona. North Carolina snips the nets.
▪ If Donovan Mitchell returns, Louisville could be pre-season No. 1 next season. If ...
▪ The website College Basketball Talk ranked Kentucky-UCLA as the best of the eight Sweet 16 games. And it’s not even close. Can’t wait.
▪ Final thought: LaVar Ball is best ignored.
Kentucky vs. UCLA
When: Friday, 9:40 p.m. ET approximate
Where: FedEx Forum in Memphis
TV: CBS (WKYT) with Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson
Radio: UK Network (WLAP-AM 630 and WBUL-FM 98.1) with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt