The Right Hoops Fit

Hawgs Illustrated's Dudley E. Dawson takes a look at what happened Thursday night and Friday - or in some cases what didn't happen - with candidates being mentioned for the vacant Arkansas head basketball coaching job.

Depending on the person you talked to, listened to or read on Friday, Missouri head basketball coach Mike Anderson is on the verge of being named head coach at Arkansas – or is not even in consideration.

That's how diametrically opposed the speculation was on a Friday when Marquette's Buzz Williams certainly put in a strong exhibit A on why he should be considered for any opening he might have interest in.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long was in Tulsa (where there was an NCAA Regional) on Friday, but most certainly was not in Washington, D.C., watching Anderson's team on Thursday night as was rumored.

In fact, Long - who was not available for comment publicly - was at Bud Walton Arena along with a small crowd watching the Lady Razorbacks' WNIT victory over Lamar.

He also did not have a 10:30 p.m. "rumored" press conference Friday night in Cleveland – either the large city in in Ohio or the small one in Oklahoma – as speculation reaches ridiculous levels.

"Can you believe some of this stuff?" one source said Friday afternoon. "I fully expect somebody to bring up Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers as candidates next."

Actually Jackson – the Los Angeles Lakers' coach – was brought up on a writer's list Friday morning although he was listed as a long shot.

You think?

Also tossed out by national bloggers on Friday were former Kansas and NBA head coach Larry Brown and current UCLA head coach Ben Howland.

What is for sure is that Williams' 11th-seeded Marquette team (21-14) looked solid in defeating sixth-seeded Xavier 66-55.

Williams was asked at the post-game press conference Friday night about how it looks like his team buys into every thing he is preaching.

"Well, I don't mean this in an arrogant way, and I don't mean this in a condescending way: I think the meaning has to be deeper than winning and losing," Williams said. "And I know we're all here because it's the greatest tournament in the world. But I have to be accountable that the daily message of our team is deeper than winning and losing.

"…And so for us to be on this stage, I'm not -- I am happy we won -- but I'm just as happy for their growth as humans," Williams added. "Because someday they're going to be your age and what are they going to be doing? So I hope that what I'm doing on a daily basis in our culture is helping prepare them for when they're your age or my age."

A big key was the Golden Eagles defense holding Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Tu Holiday to just five points.

That tough defense brought on a strange comparison by TNT broadcaster and former NBA player Kenny Smith.

"Marquette is physical, they are in your face and they have an in your face backcourt," Smith said. "…You ever go to Europe and sometime they talk to people and sometimes they get a little bit closer and invade your personal space when they talk to you? Just a little bit. We in America we look (at them). That's Marquette. They invade your personal space when they guard you on the defensive end."

Marquette now advances to play Syracuse on Sunday.

There were a few candidates in Tulsa that have at least been mentioned in connection with the Arkansas job in Memphis coach Josh Pastner and former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie.

Arizona eliminated Memphis while Gillespie, who used to have Williams on his staff at Texas A&M, was on hand as a fan.

Tulsa is also where Anderson played his college basketball and his wife still has family there.

Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon, another coach thrown in the mix, is now done with his season after Florida State downed the Aggies 57-50 in Chicago.

Sources indicate that Turgeon is locked in at A&M and not looking to move.

"It was an amazing accomplishment that we were in this tournament," Turgeon said of his team's season. "We earned it. I even thought we earned a little bit of a higher seed; we didn't play like that today. Finished third in our league, a good league, won a lot of games, executed, showed a lot of toughness."

Kansas State's Frank Martin, yet another coach said to be on Arkansas' list, will lead his Wildcats against Wisconsin on Saturday.

K-State whipped Utah State 73-68 on Thursday.

"Obviously, happy with the win, but fortunate to have gotten one," Martin said. "I'm real proud of the way we played in the first half, but after our season and all of our growth, a little disappointing that we reverted in the second half to the mistakes we made early in the year. This time of season, you win, you get a chance to win and hopefully we can refocus."

VCU's Shaka Smart, whose 11th-seeded team won a First Four game earlier this week, took out sixth-seeded Georgetown 74-56 on Friday night in Chicago.

The Rams will face Purdue on Sunday.

Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, who has also been mentioned, denied interest in the Arkansas job on Friday and said he has been approached about an extension.

The Bearcats eliminated Missouri on Thursday and play UConn on Saturday.

"I don't know where that cropped up," Cronin said. "I want to be the coach at Cincinnati. I think everybody knows what I want to do. I've never made that a secret."

Wichita State's Gregg Marshall and his Shockers will play at Virginia Tech in the NIT Sunday morning at 10 a.m.


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