NCAA Tournament
NCAA Tournament

Pitt will likely need to build an entirely new roster when they hire a new coach as up to eight players have reportedly asked for a release to transfer.

With the Panthers recently firing head coach Kevin Stallings after a winless ACC campaign, many of the players on Pitt’s roster are hoping for a fresh start, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

Among the players involved include talented freshman Parker Stewart, potential graduate transfer Ryan Luther, and four more players from Pitt’s freshmen class — Terrell Brown, Marcus Carr, Khameron Davis and Shamiel Stevenson. Sophomore Kene Chukwuka and junior guard Malik Ellison are also reportedly asking for a release — although Ellison’s case is unique since he transferred in from St. John’s last season and redshirted this season.

Prized recruit Bryce Golden, a three-star power forward, has also requested his release to look for another school — leaving Pitt with no current incoming recruits for next season.

If all eight players, and Golden, decide to leave, it essentially leaves Pitt with three players left on the roster for next season. It’s hard to say if those three players are even locks to stay with the Panthers given the turnover the past few weeks. While having an empty roster, and no head coach, is pretty alarming for an ACC program, it also gives the new head coach a clean slate to immediately begin rebuilding.

I wouldn’t expect Pitt to have any kind of competitive team in the ACC next season, but they could still manage to land some intriguing spring signings who will earn most of the minutes for next season. This is going to be a long and hard rebuild for the Panthers.

Nevada erased a 14-point second-half deficit and made all six of their field goals in overtime as the No. 7-seed Wolf Pack landed a thrilling win over No. 10 Texas, 87-83.

Kendell Stephens led the way with 22 points for Nevada while Caleb Martin added 18 points, nine of which came in the overtime, to go along with 10 boards and five assists for the Wolf Pack, who won their first NCAA tournament game since 2007. They will advance to take on No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round on Sunday afternoon.

Matt Coleman led Texas with 25 point and four assists while Kerwin Roach II added 26. Mo Bamba had 13 points, 14 boards and three blocks, but he fouled out on the final possession of regulation on a questionable call, one that put Jordan Caroline on the free throw line to force OT.

Texas may have a legitimate beef when it comes to the calls that were made against Bamba. His last two fouls were questionable at best, and it meant that he was not on the floor in overtime. If we’re going to be fair, Bamba probably would not have helped against Caleb Martin when he’s making the shots that he made in the extra period, but he might have been able to help Texas keep pace.

But it is what it is.

We move on.

Next up, this Nevada team is going to be an interesting matchup for Cincinnati, who was one of just three teams in college basketball that were rated higher defensively than the Texas team that Nevada just put 87 points on. If you like teams that spread the floor, put the ball in their stars hands and let the talent make plays, you are going to love watching this Nevada group.

What they do best was on display in the second half.

It started with Stephens, who his four of his five threes in the second 20 minutes. Cody Martin, Caleb’s twin, added 15 points, six assists, four boards and four blocks during the comeback. When they get to making threes like they did in the second half, Nevada is a tough team to slow down, and Cincinnati may find out all about that on Sunday.

Jevon Carter’s solid all-around effort helped pace No. 5 seed West Virginia to a 85-68 win over No. 12 Murray State in the East Region on Friday afternoon.

The senior guard and third-team All-American finished with 21 points, eight assists and six steals as his stellar play on both ends of the floor was a huge factor for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia (25-10) also had solid games from Teddy Allen (16 points) Sagaba Konate (14 points) and Esa Ahmad (12 points) as they shot 51 percent (32-for-62) from the field.

Murray State (26-6) had a monster performance from senior big man Terrell Miller Jr., as he finished with 27 points and 17 rebounds. But with Miller battling second-half foul trouble and Murray State star guard Jonathan Stark struggling for offensive consistency, the Racers couldn’t gain traction after falling behind early.

After averaging 21 points per game in each of the past two seasons, Stark was held to only nine points on 1-for-12 shooting on Friday. Carter and the Mountaineer defense never left him alone. Even with West Virginia going to its usual full-court trap, they paid special attention to Stark to make sure he never got loose for any clean looks.

West Virginia moves on to play No. 13 seed Marshall in the second round in East Region after the Thundering Herd pulled off an upset over No. 4 seed Wichita State earlier on Friday. The in-state rivals haven’t played for the past two regular seasons as things have been publicly testy between Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins and Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni.

It will be fascinating to see if the bad blood and intensity between the two coaches spills to the players on the floor. The matchup between Carter and Marshall junior guard Jon Elmore should also be one of the best to watch in the 2018 NCAA tournament. Elmore is coming off of a 27-point performance in the win over the Shockers as he’ll have to score against Carter, arguably the nation’s best on-the-ball perimeter defender.

We saw what West Virginia and Carter just did to a 20-point scorer in Stark on Friday as they’ll try to limit Elmore on Sunday.

Kamar Baldwin finished with 24 points, nine boards and five assists while Kelan Martin added 27 points of his own as No. 10 seed Butler found a way to turn a rout into an exciting basketball game.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-2 led less than seven minutes into the first half and advanced to the second round of the tournament, and a date with in-state rival and No. 2 seed Purdue, with a 79-62 win over Arkansas, but the game was no where near as simple as it sounds.

Arkansas, after trailing by 19 points in the first half, used a 16-0 run to take a 29-27 lead. Butler would again jump out and take control early in the second half, but another surge pulled them within three — 53-50 — midway through the half. Butler was able to withstand both runs from Arkansas, which is not surprising given the nature of that program, and it’s a good sign as we move into the second round.

Butler will get another shot at Purdue on Sunday. The first time these two teams faced off, the Boilermakers picked up an 82-67 win. But this time around, Purdue will be without star center Isaac Haas, whose fractured elbow will keep him out for the rest of the tournament. This opens the door for the Bulldogs, who actually matchup pretty well with the post-Haas Boilermakers.

There’s nothing better than an in-state rivalry game in the NCAA tournament, but perhaps the real talking point here is the job that has been done by the current and the former Butler head coaches. Chris Holtmann left the Bulldogs in June to take over at Ohio State, and he has the Buckeyes in the second round of the NCAA tournament after winning Coach of the Year in that league. No one thought that team had a prayer of getting to the Big Dance, and Thad Matta was fired because the team wasn’t going to be good enough for Ohio State standards.

And LaVall Jordan?

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He wasn’t exactly walking into the easiest situation to take over, either. They were losing three starters and a coach that many thought of as one of the sport’s up-and-coming stars.

Both men are in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

How many people saw that coming?

Wichita State’s stunning loss to No. 13 seed Marshall was the big early storyline of Friday afternoon’s NCAA tournament action.

The Shockers failed to reach the Round of 32 for the first time since 2012 as the Thundering Herd won their first NCAA tournament game in program history. Marshall guard Jon Elmore became an early NCAA tournament darling as many fans were excited to see another No. 4 seed lose in the first round.

Illinois State head coach Dan Muller was also happy to see Wichita State fall in the upset.

As former conference rivals in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Redbirds were constantly trying to overtake the Shockers for league supremacy and the Valley’s NCAA tournament autobid. Muller is also one of the more vocal coaches in the country when it comes to social media. He pleaded with power conference teams for a home-and-home series for Illinois State and got it thanks to an impassioned rant on Twitter. Muller has never been afraid to voice his opinion.

And now that Wichita State moved out of the Valley and into the bigger, multi-bid American Athletic Conference this season, Muller was more than delighted to take a jab at the Shockers after the NCAA tournament loss to Marshall.

With Loyola taking down No. 6 seed Miami for an upset win on Thursday afternoon, Muller had additional confidence knowing the Missouri Valley Conference already won a game in the Round of 64. Loyola’s win means the Missouri Valley Conference is headed to the Round of 32 for the seventh consecutive year.

Most of those Valley NCAA Tournament wins came from Wichita State’s dominant run over the last several years. Muller appears optimistic that the Valley is going to be fine without its former powerhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self told reporters that he hopes he can get “15 or 20 minutes” from sophomore center Udoka Azubuike against Seton Hall on Saturday.

Azubuike missed the Big 12 tournament following an MCL sprain, and in the Jayhawks’ first round game against Penn, he played all of three minutes.

“He practiced today,” Self said. “We went for an hour, and he was out there the majority of the minutes and actually looked pretty good. Timing may be off a little bit, and conditioning, but we certainly — unless there’s some form of setback — we certainly anticipate him being available tomorrow in a way that you can actually play him to try to win the game.”

Azubuike’s presence will be important against a Seton Hall team that features Angel Delgado, a preseason all-american, at the five. Mitch Lightfoot was terrific in the NCAA tournament opener in Azubuike’s stead, finishing with nine points, 11 boards and three blocks. Freshman Silvio De Sousa played just 10 minutes against Penn, but he had 16 points and 10 boards in the Big 12 title game win.