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UK-Louisville Headlines – 3/29/12

Here’s the latest on Kentucky basketball’s “Game of the Century” featuring the Wildcats and Cardinals in Saturday’s national semifinals:

1.  Enjoy a comparison of John Calipari and Rick Pitino.

2.  Players from the 1983 UK-Louisville NCAA tourney matchup say this one’s bigger.

3.  Ex-South Carolina coach and Kentucky native Darrin Horn says both team will have to ignore the distractions this week.

4.  Here’s what was learned from the Cats’ December win over the Cards.

5.  Russ Smith is Louisville wild card…

6.  While Kentucky’s Anthony Davis earns praise for his low-key style.

7.  The fan battle in the Commonwealth is fierce and fun this week.

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KSU’s Martin Still Being Mentioned In Connection With The USC Job

Though the folks in Kansas don’t seem to be taking this one too seriously, people in the Palmetto State are still saying Kansas State’s Frank Martin might just wind up coaching in Columbia next season.

Three days ago, — the Rivals site covering Carolina — reported that K-State’s coach had “heavy” interest in the job vacated by Darrin Horn’s ouster.  The Kansas City media shrugged it off.

Wednesday, the same site reported that there had been contact between Martin and AD Eric Hyman and that “Martin is more than willing to come to Columbia.”

Today, there’s more speculation that Martin — who’ll be helping to cover the NCAA Tournament for CBS this weekend — could be high on Hyman’s list of candidates.  This writer says “Frank Martin apparently is a possibility.”

Meanwhile WSPA-TV in Spartanburg reports that Martin and Minnesota’s Tubby Smith “are primary targets in USC’s head basketball coaching search, according to the South Carolina News Network.” 

If Carolina lands Martin, you can color us surprised.  Martin is coaching in a basketball hotbed right now and making more than $1.5 million per season.  That deal runs through 2014-15, but he’s also in line — through contract stipulations — for an extension.

South Carolina’s job has been a Bermuda Triangle for coaches.  The SEC is about to become a 14-team league (read: harder to win) while the Big 12 has now become a 10-team conference (read: easier to win).  At Kansas State, there’s the shadow of Kansas to live under.  At Carolina, Kentucky and Florida are the big dogs.

Add it up and it would probably take a hefty bag of cash — maybe even a Hefty Bag of cash — to lure Martin to Columbia.  That or Martin could be hacked off enough at his current school’s decision to suspend a key player for an NCAA tourney game that he’s willing to bolt for any school making an offer.  We think that’s doubtful, but we don’t claim to know what goes on behind closed doors in Manhattan, Kansas.

Taking everything into consideration, we’re not saying Martin to Carolina couldn’t happen, but if it does you’ll know that USC’s Hyman will have done some seriously heavy lifting.

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USC’s Hyman Says Horn Fired Over Recruiting, Player Development, Lack Of Fan Support

South Carolina’s firing of Darrin Horn is currently taking place in Columbia but AD Eric Hyman (at left) has already made it clear why he decided to make a change:

1.  Horn’s recruiting wasn’t up to snuff.

2.  He failed to develop players.

3.  Fans had turned away from the program.

Hyman did, however, credit Horn for improving the program’s academic performance and for keeping his program off the NCAA hit list and his players out of jail.

But, “We have three of our four highly visible programs competing at a high level and we want our men’s basketball program to do the same thing.”

Hyman said that he is in a good position money-wise to make a good hire.  He said the new coach’s salary will be market-driven.  He also said the pool of candidates will be as wide as possible.

While saying that he wants to find a coach who can recruit and develop players, Hyman also stated that having a connection to the area will matter.  Cue more speculation about Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall.

Here’s a good wrap-up of what went wrong for Horn in Columbia.

South Carolina has released a statement
on the firing and it includes a comment from Horn himself.

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Recruit Wants Horn To Stay, But He’ll Stick With USC Either Way

Normally this type of story would go only on our Recruiting Page and not on the front page, but since Darrin Horn’s job security is a major topic this week, we’ll mention it here.

Tyrone Haughton — South Carolina’s lone signee for 2012 — has said that he hopes Horn will be back in Columbia next year.  But the 6-9 prospect from Miami has also made it clear he’ll at least give a new coach a chance… if AD Eric Hyman decides to nuke Horn and bring in someone new:

“I hope he’s staying because he’s a good man.  I honestly don’t know (what’s going to happen)…

I think I’ll stay with them because I like the town and everything.  My (high school) coach said stay with it and meet the new coach, and if you don’t like it, transfer.  I plan to enroll and honor my letter of intent.”

Haughton is a three-star forward according to’s rankings.

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SEC Headlines – 3/8/12 Part Two

1.  Can anyone — including Florida — challenge Kentucky this week in New Orleans?

2.  Here’s a breakdown of the Gators’ tourney chances.

3.  Georgia should be used to late night tip-offs by now.

4.  With 16 points against MSU tonight, Dustin Ware would join UGA’s 1,000-point club. 

5.  No surprise, the NCAA selection committee chair says Kentucky’s on its way to a #1 seed.

6.  Everybody seems to agree that the Cats look unbeatable right now.  (As a Patriots fan, I can looking unbeatable doesn’t mean you are unbeatable.)

7.  Joker Phillips says more NFL scouts at UK’s Pro Day proves the program’s improving.

8.  Embattled coach Darrin Horn wants his South Carolina team to ignore distractions this week.  (In New Orleans?  Obviously he’s never been to The Tropical Isle… or The Old Absinthe House… or…)

9.  Besides, Georgia’s 2008 team proved “anything is possible.”

10.  Nobody expected Tennessee to have an “excused absence” from the first day of the SEC tourney.

11.  The Vols want the chalk to win in all the other league tournaments this week.

12.  Vanderbilt fans want some March success from Kevin Stallings.

13.  It took him a while to learn it, but Vandy’s John Jenkins now sees that “the ball goes in more when I shoot good shots.”

14.  Missouri is gung-ho to join the SEC — ugly uniforms in tow — but are they ready for the transition?

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Martin Asks For Patience At UT

Looks like we could have dropped another coach’s name into our “patience” post from earlier today.  And this one’s smack dab in his very first season.

Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin — like Darrin Horn at South Carolina and Mark Fox at Georgia — is trying to rebuild a program.  Like Horn and Fox he’s trying to do so with a schedule that features two games per year against Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt. 

Not easy.

Last night, Martin’s Vols got clubbed by cross-state rival Vandy 65-47.  It was the latest down in a series of up-and-down efforts from UT.  At home, they’ve knocked off Florida, UConn and battled valiantly against top-ranked Kentucky over the past three weeks.  On the road, they’re oh-for-the-season. 

Tennessee’s coach is asking for a little perspective:

“You have to be patient.  They are getting better and making progress.  I don’t get caught up in the final score.  We played a physical, experienced team tonight.”

Ya know how to get fans riled up?  Have a coach say after an 18-point loss that he doesn’t get caught up in the final score.

As was the case with Fox and Horn, Martin took over a program with a number of issues — few scorers, no true point guard, little experience, in Martin’s case.  All deserve time to fix the woes of their programs.

But if Martin is telling people they have to have patience midway through his first year — when his team was already picked to finish 11th in a 12-team conference — it further reveals just how little patience there is to be found around SEC programs these days.

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UF, VU Take Care Of Business On The Hardwood; Fox, Horn

The SEC’s first “Super Tuesday” of the season has come and gone and the favorites easily took care of business.  Which is bad news for Darrin Horn and Mark Fox.

Florida 78, Georgia 48

So much for Bradley Beal’s slump.  So much for Florida not playing defense.  The Gators bounced back from a surprising loss at Tennessee on Saturday with a thorough beatdown of Georgia in Gainesville.  The Dawgs have now lost 10 straight at the O’Connell Center.

Beal — the top signee in the country — connected on 4 of 6 shots from 3-point range to tally 17 points.  He also added 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.

The Bulldogs fell to 0-2 in the SEC, 9-7 overall.  For Fox — who was hailed as a savior following his first season in Athens — the natives might soon start to turn restless.  The coach went 14-17 in Year One and then led UGA to the NCAA tourney with a 21-12 record last season.  But he’s now just 14-20 in SEC play and 18 of those losses occurred with NBA’ers Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie on his squad (holdovers from the Dennis Felton era). 

Fox deserves time to turn around a long-troubled program at Georgia, but dealing with SEC fans we’ve come to know one thing for sure: They have zero patience.

Vanderbilt 67, South Carolina 57

The sands in Darrin Horn’s coaching hourglass continue to run out at South Carolina.  Vanderbilt — behind 13 made 3-pointers — opened up a 24-point lead late before allowing the Cocks to notch the game’s final 14 points.

Bruce Ellington had 20 points to lead Carolina, but USC is now just 8-8 overall and 0-2 in the SEC.  Granted, they’ve opened against NCAA tourney sure-things Kentucky and Vandy, but blowout home losses like last night’s won’t help Horn keep his job at year’s end.

Meanwhile, after a so-so non-conference start to the season — due in part to injuries — the Commodores are off to a blistering start in league play.  Taking into account VU’s 65-35 demolition of Auburn on Saturday, Kevin Stallings’ team has won its first two SEC contests by a combined 40 points.  And as we noted above, the score at Carolina could have been worse.

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SEC Headlines – 12/5/11 AM Edition

1.  This writer says number-crunching is no way to determine a champion.

2.  Nick Saban says Alabama is “not going to apologize for being in the game.”

3.  Auburn will head to the Georgia Dome looking to end the season on a positive note.

4.  Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee has officially been named UAB’s new head coach.

5.  The Hogs are headed for a Top 10 showdown with Kansas State.

6.  Les Miles says the BCS got it right with Tigers-Tide II.

7.  Mississippi State has sold its allotment of 12,000 tickets to the Music City Bowl already.

8.  Ole Miss freshman Jarvis Summers scored 27 to lead the Rebels to a 72-70 win at Penn State yesterday.

9.  Will Muschamp said last night that his coaching staff is intact heading into the Gator Bowl with Ohio State… but strength coach Mickey Marotti is heading to the other sideline to be with Urban Meyer.

10.  The Outback Bowl will be a homecoming for Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Orson Charles.

11.  John Calipari says Terrence Jones played his best game against North Carolina on Saturday.

12.  South Carolina is headed to its best bowl game ever… the Capital One Bowl

13.  Needing a win, Gamecock basketball coach Darrin Horn got a big one against hated Clemson yesterday.

14.  Tennessee’s football program will face a painful offseason.

15.  Vanderbilt fans are being challenged to sell out the 61,000-seat Liberty Bowl.

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Spurrier “Disassociates” Columbia SportsWriter

Why now?

That seems to be the main question following a bizarre press briefing in Columbia, South Carolina today.  Rather than taking his normal seat behind the microphone for his weekly meeting with the local media, Steve Spurrier paced back and forth in front of reporters and said he was going to disassociate himself from The State’s lead sports columnist, Ron Morris.

“In 26 years as a head coach I’ve had two guys that didn’t write the truth that I had to disassociate with,” Spurrier said.

He said that he would refuse to take questions as long as Morris was in the press room.  When Morris stayed put, Spurrier left to do television interviews.  When he returned and found Morris still in attendance, Spurrier wrapped the media session before it started and several beatwriters were ushered to his office instead.

Speaking moments ago with Jay Phillips of WNKT-FM in Columbia, it was made clear to me that Spurrier’s timing caught everyone off guard.

First, a little history:

* All hometown columnists — rightly or wrongly — are lumped into one of two categories: homer or hater.  Morris is viewed by many Gamecock fans as belonging to the latter category.

* When Bruce Ellington joined the Carolina football team this spring, Morris wrote that his sources told him that Spurrier had poached the player from Darrin Horn’s basketball team.

* Spurrier has denied those charges as have Horn and Ellington.  Today, Spurrier called the Ellington column from this spring “completely fabricated.”

* Following Carolina’s upset loss to Auburn, Morris wrote that Spurrier made “poor decisions” that cost his team.

* On Sunday, his column was titled: “Offense better, but it was against Kentucky.”

The coach said today: “The criticism he shows me is fine, I don’t mind that.  I’m just not okay with stories that aren’t true.”  Uh, fine, but the story Spurrier claims is untrue was written in the spring.  (Morris — for his part — has stood behind the column, though he’s been asked by The State not to comment on Spurrier’s actions today.)

So why bring this back up?

Perhaps because Spurrier has and always will act like a bully.  When he’s winning, he’s more likely to throw barbs at others (ask Kentucky fans).  And when he’s losing, he pouts, goes quiet and often acts melancholy.

So is it possible Spurrier dug up an old column that’s still under his skin because he’s feeling 10-feet-tall and bulletproof thanks to a 54-3 whooping of a lesser foe on Saturday?  And because the same writer continues to fire barbs at him and his offense?  If you’ve followed Spurrier’s career, then you know that answer is yes.  It’s very possible.

Why else bring this back up now?  For those who feel that Spurrier was creating a distraction to focus talk away from Stephen Garcia’s dismissal — which was announced later — we’re not buying.

The Garcia situation is a guaranteed hot topic and no amount of smokescreens can keep that story off the front page.  (Click here for proof.)  By going after Morris, Spurrier simply created a second controversy for himself.

Below is the video of the coach’s comments:

What a silly way to handle this.  Six months after the fact.

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Two Carolina Guards Leaving Columbia

Two sophomore guards from the South Carolina basketball team plan to leave Darrin Horn’s program.  Ramon Galloway — who started on occasion and averaged about 10 points per game the last two years — and Stephen Spinella — who played in 15 games this season — will not be back in Columbia next season.

“As a staff we wish Ramon and Stephen the best in their futures, both as basketball players and young men,” Horn said.  “We’re committed to helping both of them continue their basketball and academic careers.  We appreciate what they brought to our program during their time at South Carolina.”

A release today said that Galloway would transfer while Spinella would “seek other opportunities.”  Asked after the SEC Tournament if he would be back, Spinella said that he would. 

Galloway — it’s rumored — was not thrilled with his role on Horn’s team.

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