Weight concerns behind Phelps return - Moyes, Woodward and the doomed presentation - David Moyes 'livid' at Manchester United treatment after 10 months characterised by poor communication and difficult relationships Cubs lose to Diamondbacks 7-5 on Wrigley's 100th (Yahoo Sports) - Fittingly, the Chicago Cubs marked Wrigley Field's 100th birthday with a loss - a dramatic, error-filled one, at that. One out from victory, the Cubs allowed the Arizona Diamondbacks to rally for five runs in the ninth inning in a 7-5 loss Wednesday. After an error by shortstop Starlin Castro, Martin Prado hit a two-run single off Pedro Strop (0-2), Miguel Montero had a tying single against James Russell and Aaron Hill followed with a two-run triple off Justin Grimm. Still, the Cubs are 4,076-3,621 (.530) during the regular season at Wrigley, according to STATS, and 7-20 in the postseason. Perez help Rangers sweep A's with 3-0 win (Yahoo Sports) - Martin Perez pitched his second consecutive shutout to extend his scoreless innings streak to 26 and the Texas Rangers wrapped up a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics with a 3-0 victory Wednesday. Donnie Murphy homered and Michael Choice scored one run and drove in another for the Rangers, who moved a half-game ahead of Oakland in first place in the AL West with their first sweep of the A's since August 2011. Perez (3-1) outpitched Sonny Gray (3-1) in a heralded matchup of emerging stars, allowing just three hits and two walks in his first start since throwing a three-hitter against the White Sox for his first career shutout. Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field (Yahoo Sports) - ''Happy Birthday, Wrigley Field,'' it read. Exactly 100 years after the Chicago Federals pounded the Kansas City Packers in the first game at the famed ballpark, Wrigley was the scene of a joyous birthday bash on Wednesday afternoon. Banks and other Hall of Famers such as Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Andre Dawson were on hand, and so were Bears greats Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers. The Cubs and Diamondbacks went retro, wearing throwback 1914 jerseys, and the famed scoreboard listed Kansas City and Chi-Feds in their place. Trump 'relieved' by first-round win - Judd Trump delivers a scathing assessment of his own form after scraping through the first round of the World Championship. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson to divorce wife (Yahoo Sports) - Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has announced that he and his wife Ashton are divorcing. Wilson made the announcement in a statement released by the Seahawks on Wednesday. He says decisions like this are not easy and respectfully asks for ''prayers and understanding and privacy during this difficult time.'' The pair married in January 2012 after he finished his college career at Wisconsin and before he was drafted by the Seahawks. The couple had been visible at Seahawks events for his first two seasons in the league. C Johnson, F Poythress returning to Kentucky (Yahoo Sports) - LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky's frontcourt will bring back size and experience next season after freshman center Dakari Johnson and sophomore forward Alex Poythress announced they would return. Benzema gives Real Madrid 1-0 win over Bayern (Yahoo Sports) - Karim Benzema scored in the 19th minute to give Real Madrid a 1-0 win over defending champion Bayern Munich on Wednesday night in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal. Madrid got its goal on a counterattack when Cristiano Ronaldo found Fabio Coentrao speeding down a flank. Coentrao crossed for Benzema, who tapped the ball past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from 4 yards. Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas denied substitute Mario Goetze in the 84th. Real Madrid 1-0 Bayern Munich - Karim Benzema's goal gives Real Madrid the advantage as holders Bayern Munich lose semi-final first leg in Spain.

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Dakari Johnson's return makes Kentucky's loaded frontcourt even more crowded [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 23, 2014, 4:18 pm]
Kentucky already was certain to have the nation's deepest, most formidable frontcourt when forward Marcus Lee and center Willie Cauley-Stein announced they were returning earlier this month.    Now that forward Alex Poythress and center Dakari Johnson announced Wednesday that they'll also be back, it begs the question whether there's such a thing as too much frontcourt talent. Kentucky will boast three 7-footers on next year's roster: Projected 2015 first-round picks Cauley-Stein and Johnson and 2014 McDonald's All-American Karl Towns, Rivals.com's No. 11 prospect. Throw in skilled 6-foot-10 McDonald's All-American forward Trey Lyles, a 6-foot-7 projected second-round pick in Poythress and an underutilized 6-foot-10 former top 30 recruit in Lee, and it's easy to see how John Calipari could be hard-pressed to find enough minutes to satisfy everyone. One key for Kentucky this offseason will be Poythress improving his jump shot and ball handling skills sufficiently so he can play almost exclusively small forward next season. That would help fill the perimeter void for Kentucky if the Harrison twins turn pro later this week and alleviate some of the logjam in the frontcourt. Even if Poythress shifts to the perimeter though, the remaining five big men would still only be splitting up 80 minutes among themselves. On one hand, Kentucky will always have the size to defend the paint and to batter teams in the low post and on the offensive glass. On the other hand, whether it's Lee, Johnson or one of the freshmen, one highly talented potential NBA prospect is probably going to fall to that fifth big man slot and find themselves playing very sparingly.  Johnson's return suggests he's confident that will not be him. His size and strength gave him a chance to be selected in the late first round or early second round had he turned pro, but he could climb draft boards next season if he develops his offensive repertoire and receives enough playing time to showcase it.  "After l

Alex Poythress becomes the latest pro prospect to return to Kentucky [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 23, 2014, 12:00 pm]
For a program known for putting players in the NBA as quickly as possible, Kentucky sure has an awful lot of pro prospects returning next season. Sophomore forward Alex Poythress became the third likely draft pick to pass on NBA riches for now when he announced Wednesday he will instead come back to Kentucky. Earlier this month, both near-certain first-round pick Willie Cauley-Stein and potential second-round pick Marcus Lee both revealed that they too intend to return to the Wildcats. Keeping Poythress another year is not as big of a surprise as Cauley-Stein's return because the 6-foot-7 forward was likely to slip to the second round after an up-and-down sophomore season. He came off the bench to average 5.9 points and 4.5 rebounds, showing elite athleticism in bursts around the rim but also disappearing for long stretches too. “Playing in the NBA has always been a dream of mine, but I want to make sure that I’m NBA-ready before I make that jump,” Poythress said in a school-issued news release. “By coming back, I’ll be so much closer to earning my degree in business and it will give me another year to prepare my game and my body for the next level.” With Kentucky loaded in the frontcourt thanks to the return of Lee and Cauley-Stein, the potential return of 7-foot Dakari Johnson and the arrival of highly touted freshmen Karl Towns and Trey Lyles, Poythress' role next season will probably be at small forward. To thrive in that role, he needs to improve his perimeter game, especially his 24.2 percent 3-point shooting and his 62.5 percent foul shooting.  Whether Poythress plays a key role or a complementary role as a junior probably depends on both his own development and whether the Harrison twins decide to return for their sophomore seasons or not. Kentucky will be loaded at guard if the twins return and could potentially start a three-guard look with the twins and freshman wing Devin Booker. Conversely, the Wildcats would likely start freshman Tyler Uli

Can a fresh start at Georgia State help Indiana transfer Jeremy Hollowell finally thrive? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 23, 2014, 9:13 am]
Georgia State coach Ron Hunter has an intriguing philosophy toward recruiting. Unlike most coaches who only pursue prospects they believe they have a chance to land out of high school, Hunter will also woo players he realizes are far more likely to initially sign with major-conference programs. His thought is that could pay off at a later date if the prospect eventually transfers in search of more playing time or a fresh start. "If you don’t do that, there’s no way to win these days." Hunter told Georgia State's official athletics site in a Q&A last year. "It didn’t used to be that way when I first got in this business, but now that’s a big part of it. So you have to recruit kids the first time around knowing you won’t get them, but then you might get a chance the second time." Hunter's approach worked in Georgia State's favor once again Tuesday afternoon when ex-Indiana forward Jeremy Hollowell committed to the Panthers. The 6-foot-8 sophomore will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after he sits next year. The addition of Hollowell adds to Georgia State's burgeoning reputation as a mecca for high-major transfers in need of a second chance. Ex-Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow, former Virginia Tech forward Manny Atkins and onetime USC big man Curtis Washington helped Georgia State go 17-1 in the Sun Belt last year before falling to Louisiana-Lafayette in the conference tournament championship game. Their success helped Hunter land former Louisville guard Kevin Ware a few weeks ago before netting Hollowell on Tuesday. The addition of Hollowell could be huge for the Panthers if a fresh start helps the Indianapolis native tap into his potential the way he couldn't in Bloomington A top 50 recruit when he graduated from Lawrence Central High in Indianapolis in 2012, Hollowell played sporadically in two seasons at Indiana, starting 15 games this past season but seeing his production and playing time dwindle late in the season. He averaged a modest 5.7 poi

John Thompson III expects eligible Josh Smith to help Georgetown next season [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 22, 2014, 4:39 pm]
A lot can happen between these spring days with the school year winding down and the start of the college basketball season in November, but Georgetown fans have to be encouraged that head coach John  Thompson III believes he will have a big weapon back next season. Thompson told CBSSports.com he anticipates senior big man Josh Smith returning to the Hoyas' lineup after missing about two-thirds of this season when he was declared academically ineligible in January. The former McDonald's All-American has never consistently lived up to what many believed was NBA potential during the first stages of his career at UCLA or in the year he has been with the Hoyas. Conditioning always has been an issue for Smith who is listed at 6-foot-10, 350 pounds on the Georgetown roster. Yet he has shown flashes of remarkable skill for a man his size which is why Thompson was eager to have him last season and why Georgetown helped Smith successfully petition for immediate eligibility following his transfer from UCLA. Smith scored in double figures in seven of the 13 games he played last season before being ruled ineligible. He did not register a double-digit rebounding performance. Thompson got nearly 50 percent of the scoring from guards Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. But Smith still finished the season as the third leading scorer at 11.5 points a game and getting him back in the mix along with a freshman class that includes four top-100 recruits should help the Hoyas improve. - - - - - - - Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

A bleak situation gets worse for Oregon State with Hallice Cooke transferring [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 22, 2014, 12:10 pm]
Three days after Oregon State's NCAA tournament hopes ended last month with an opening-round Pac-12 tournament loss to rival Oregon, guard Hallice Cooke expressed frustration at the Beavers' place in the national pecking order. "Smh I gotta know what that NCAA tourney feels like ASAP," he tweeted. "There's nothing more important than the NCAA tourney." Perhaps that tweet helps explain to an extent why Cooke is reportedly leaving Oregon State after just one season in Corvallis. With leading scorers Roberto Nelson, Angus Brandt and Devon Collier graduating and fellow starter Eric Moreland unexpectedly turning pro a few weeks ago, the Beavers don't appear to have much hope of ending their 24-year NCAA tournament drought anytime soon. Cooke's departure is especially damaging for Oregon State because he would have been the Beavers' best returning player next season as just a sophomore. As a freshman, the 6-foot-3 combo guard averaged 8.2 points and 2.6 assists and shot 45.6 percent from behind the arc, supplanting junior Challe Barton in the starting lineup early in Pac-12 play. Losing all five starters from a team that finished 16-16 last season will make it even more difficult for Oregon State coach Craig Robinson to silence critics who have questioned why he still has his job. Robinson is the only power conference coach still in search of his first NCAA tournament berth despite entering the seventh year of his tenure. Hired to resuscitate a program that went winless in Pac-12 play the year before he arrived, Robinson initially improved the talent level at Oregon State but failed to parlay that into on-court success. The Beavers have yet to make an NCAA tournament or NIT appearance under Robinson and have finished better than eighth in the Pac-12 only once in six years. With most of the talent Robinson assembled now gone, Oregon State seems poised to battle with Arizona State and Washington State next season to avoid the Pac-12 cellar. The leading returning scorer for

Louisville sees its future as ACC releases conference pairings for next two years [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 22, 2014, 11:02 am]
Louisville knew competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference would be considerably tougher than its only season in the American Athletic Conference, and now it knows just how tough it will be in its first season in the ACC in 2014-15. The ACC released the conference schedule for the next two seasons in men's basketball on Tuesday and Louisville will face former Big East partner Pitt, defending conference champ Virginia, Miami and perennial power North Carolina twice each. The Cardinals will host Duke along with Clemson, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and North Carolina State. They must go on the road to face Florida State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Boston College and Syracuse. There will be 15 teams in the conference next season playing an 18-game league schedule. Each team has two permanent rivals that it faces home and away each season. It also faces two other teams home and away on a rotating basis. Each team plays five opponents at home only and five on the road only also on a rotating basis. Duke and Syracuse will play twice again next season after producing two of the most memorable games of this season in Syracuse's first season in the ACC. North Carolina must face Duke, Syracuse and Louisville twice each, but it has a manageable group of road-only games against Miami, Clemson, Wake Forest, Pitt and Boston College which evens out the difficulty a bit. Florida State appears to have the least daunting group of opponents it must play twice with Pitt as the heavyweight in a group that also includes Miami, Clemson and Virginia Tech. Here is a look at how things set up in the ACC next season via the conference website. Boston College: 2014-15 Home/Road: Syracuse, Notre Dame, Miami, Pittsburgh Home: North Carolina, Wake Forest, NC State, Virginia, Louisville Road: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Duke, Virginia Tech  Clemson: 2014-15 Home/Road: Florida State, Georgia Tech, NC State, Notre Dame Home: North Carolina, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Syrac

Donnie Tyndall has the personality and coaching acumen to succeed at Tennessee [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 21, 2014, 10:38 pm]
Rehiring Bruce Pearl wasn't an option for Tennessee since he had already landed the Auburn job by the time Cuonzo Martin found the fresh start he was looking for at Cal six days ago.  Instead the Vols did the next best thing, nabbing an up-and-coming coach who possesses some of the same qualities Pearl had when he came to Tennessee from Wisconsin Milwaukee in 2005. Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall reached an agreement in principle Wednesday night to become Tennessee's next coach, according to reports from ESPN.com and CBSSports.com. Neither Tyndall nor a Tennessee official returned messages from Yahoo Sports seeking confirmation. Like Pearl, Tyndall has a larger-than-life personality capable of luring recruits and energizing a football-first fan base. Like Pearl, Tyndall won big in two lower-profile jobs before before making his major-conference debut at Tennessee. And like Pearl, Tyndall favors full-court pressure, though his teams have traditionally played at a much slower tempo than Pearl's Tennessee teams did.  The quality that probably made Tyndall most attractive to Tennessee, however, is one Pearl did not share. Tyndall has a network of recruiting contacts in the South, having recruited to an SEC program as an LSU assistant, worked in the state of Tennessee as an assistant at Middle Tennessee and thrived as a head coach at Morehead State before leaving for Southern Miss two years ago.    Tennessee hired Tyndall after reportedly swinging and missing on some more high-profile candidates and failing to reach an agreement with Louisiana Tech coach Michael White. Nonetheless, Tyndall is still a very solid hire even if he isn't as big a name as a Gregg Marshall or Shaka Smart or he lacks the pedigree that White has as the son of Duke's widely respected athletic director. Hired in 2006 to overhaul a Morehead State program that went 4-23 the year before he got there, Tyndall led the Eagles to the NCAA tournament his third season and had them in contention every

Eight high-profile programs are in the running for coveted USC transfer Byron Wesley [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 21, 2014, 2:34 pm]
Unwilling to finish his college career without ever playing in the NCAA tournament and unsure rebuilding USC would improve enough to be in contention next season, Byron Wesley decided to transfer last week in hopes of latching on with a winning program. So far it appears the 6-foot-5 senior-to-be will have plenty of options. Dozens of high-profile coaches from across the nation have called to express interest in Wesley during the past week alone. He is still in the process of setting up in-house visits for later this week but he has tentatively whittled his list to eight prestigious programs: Cincinnati, Baylor, Indiana, Providence, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State. "It's really exciting," Wesley said. "I didn't get to go through this experience when I was in high school since I committed so early to USC my junior year. Now that I'm really getting a chance to hear from a lot of the schools I always dreamed of going to, it's a blessing." The torrent of interest in Wesley is no surprise considering he is coming off a strong junior season and he will likely be eligible immediately at whichever school he chooses. Wesley, who averaged a team-high 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds for USC this past season, is on pace to earn his psychology degree this summer and would not have to sit out a season if he is able to graduate.    It may take Wesley a few weeks to select a new school because he plans to use this week's set of in-house visits to help him determine which schools he wants to go see in person. Wesley said he has no favorites at this early stage in the process, but his father gives a slight nod to Gonzaga, Pittsburgh and Michigan State at this stage because those three schools are best set up to win next season and have playing time available.   "My favorite right off the top is Gonzaga," Byron Wesley Sr. said. "They have a lot of seniors back next season and speaking with the coaches I know they have a need for his skill type. "I think Pitt is

Five schools with the most at stake as the NBA early-entry deadline approaches [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 21, 2014, 11:50 am]
A handful of top prospects are still weighing their options in the week leading up to Sunday's deadline for players to submit their names to the NBA in order to enter the draft. Here's a look at the five schools with the most at stake the next six days: 1. KentuckyUndecided players: Andrew Harrison, G, Fr.; Aaron Harrison, G, Fr.; Dakari Johnson, C, Fr.; Alex Poythress, F, So.Outlook: Nobody has more at stake the next few days than Kentucky because the Wildcats have four key players still weighing their options. Though Willie Cauley-Stein is returning, James Young is NBA-bound and Julius Randle is expected to announce he's leaving Tuesday, the Harrison twins, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress have yet to reveal their plans. The most important decisions for Kentucky are those of Andrew and Aaron Harrison simply because the Wildcats have a greater need on the perimeter than in the paint. Sophomore Dominique Hawkins and newcomers Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker would likely share the majority of the playing time in the backcourt were the Harrisons to leave. Andrew and Aaron Harrison arrived at Kentucky viewed as likely one-and-done lottery picks, but their erratic freshman seasons diminished their stock enough to have them pondering a return. Cauley-Stein's return surely complicated the decision for Johnson a bit. He's a potential first-round pick despite playing 14.1 minutes per game as a freshman and he'd now be fighting for frontcourt minutes again with Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee and incoming freshmen Karl Towns and Trey Lyles were he to return.  2. MichiganUndecided players: Mitch McGary, F, So.Outlook: Jordan Morgan has graduated. Jon Horford is transferring. That means Michigan's frontcourt will be bereft of returning big men unless Mitch McGary decides to return for his junior season. A potential first-round pick had he left after his freshman season, McGary's stock took a hit as a sophomore thanks to a back injury that waylaid him for the final 3 1/2 months. He coul

Kentucky fan fulfills pledge to tattoo Willie Cauley-Stein's face on his body [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 21, 2014, 7:07 am]
When Willie Cauley-Stein announced last Monday evening he was returning to Kentucky rather than entering the NBA draft, the 7-foot sophomore didn't just bolster an already formidable Wildcats frontcourt next season.  Cauley-Stein also ensured one Kentucky fan would be making an appointment with a tattoo artist.  Michael Gray, a resident of Richmond, Ky., tweeted last Monday morning that if Cauley-Stein came back for his junior season, he'd tattoo the center's face on himself prior to the start of the new season. When Cauley-Stein responded to Gray's tweet asking him to put it in writing, the Kentucky fan responded succintly, "Word is bond." It would have been easy for Gray to laugh off his tweet as a joke once Cauley-Stein revealed his surprising decision to stay in school despite being a near lock to be selected in the first round of the draft. Instead Gray tweeted Cauley-Stein that he planned to fulfill his promise.  "Man of my word," Gray wrote. "Looks like I need to be setting up an appointment." Sure enough, Gray visited Quality Custom Tattoos in Somerset, Ky. on Saturday. Not only did he put Cauley-Stein's face on his body as promised, the tattoo he chose turned out to be big enough to cover most of his lower right calf. “Some people on the Internet said it didn’t look like him but it’s a stencil directly of a picture," Gray told WKYT on Sunday. "I was really happy, it looked really good.” Gray, of course, is not the first Kentucky fan to make headlines for a tattoo this spring. Tyler Austin Black, a 22-year-old machinist from Richmond, Ky., took a leap of faith when times were bleakest for the Wildcats, tattooing"2014 Nati9nal Champions" alongside a UK logo on his right calf. Kentucky nearly made him prophetic, going from an underachieving No. 8 seed all the way to the national title game before falling to UConn. Gray's tattoo is downright normal by comparsion. Austin-Black's is a reminder of a championship that never happened. Gray's is a reminde

Scheduling concessions to Gonzaga leave Washington State fans disgusted [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 19, 2014, 12:13 pm]
Buried in the middle of a lengthy story in the Gonzaga student newspaper earlier this week was a tidbit that had Washington State fans snarling with anger. The annual matchup between the Zags and Cougars will take place at Spokane Arena next season even though Gonzaga hosted last year's game and the schools have traditionally alternated home games since the series restarted in the mid-90s. What further reporting from the Spokesman Review uncovered is that Gonzaga balked at extending the series as a home and home. To prevent the rivalry from going on hiatus, Washington State athletic director Bill Moos agreed to a three-year contract in which the first game was at Gonzaga last November, the second will be at Spokane Arena next season and the third will be in Pullman the year after that. It's easy to understand the frustration of Washington State fans at that arrangement. Though both teams play occasional home games at Spokane Arena, the venue is a 90-minute drive from Washington State yet is within walking distance of the Gonzaga campus, essentially making a matchup there an extra home game for the Zags.   What Washington State fans aren't taking into account, however, is that Gonzaga has earned the right to make such a demand. Though the Zags may play in a lesser conference, they are clearly the superior program at the moment.  Gonzaga has evolved from mid-major darling to national power under Mark Few, reaching 16 consecutive NCAA tournaments, earning its first-ever No. 1 seed in 2013 and returning enough talent to likely begin next year in the preseason top 20. Washington State meanwhile has fallen off the national radar since Tony Bennett left for Virginia in 2009, going 80-86 overall and 29-61 in Pac-12 games in five seasons under Ken Bone before replacing him with former Oregon coach Ernie Kent last month. Since the improving but still second-tier WCC is a drag on Gonzaga's RPI numbers each year, the Zags have to counteract that by playing as challenging a n

The stormy relationship between Frank Haith and Missouri ended via text message [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 18, 2014, 2:58 pm]
The more details emerge about Frank Haith's stormy tenure at Missouri, the more it resembles the average high school relationship. They first got together against the advice of peers who insisted Haith wasn't good enough for the Tigers. They endured three chaotic, drama-filled years together. And they broke up abruptly in the most impersonal, awkward manner possible.  Missouri athletic director Mike Alden told reporters in Columbia on Friday afternoon that Haith indicated he  was leaving for Tulsa via text message earlier in the morning. Haith insisted during his introductory press conference at Tulsa that he'd tried to reach Alden by phone before informing his boss he was leaving by text.  It's a shame we'll probably never see that text exchange because the possibilities are hilarious.  Haith: Off to Tulsa :) Sorry the last two years didn't go better. Tell the players I'll miss them. Alden: Tulsa?!? LOL. Are their games even on TV? Enjoy obscurity, bro. Though publicly Alden was complimentary of Haith and insisted he enjoyed working with him during his news conference, many at Missouri believe the coach did the Tigers a favor leaving for a less high-profile job rather than staying for a fourth season. His departure enables Missouri to begin its rebuilding process a year ahead of schedule rather than having to make a decision whether to retain Haith after the 2014-15 season. When Missouri hired Haith three years ago after a failed bid to pluck Matt Painter from Purdue, many Tigers fans didn't exactly embrace the move. They launched phone and email campaigns urging the school's board of curators not to approve Haith's contract, noting his 43-69 record in ACC play at Miami and his one NCAA tournament berth since 2004. Haith temporarily quieted his critics by leading a group of seniors who had underachieved the previous year under Mike Anderson to a 30-win season, but an opening-round NCAA tournament loss to 15th-seeded Norfolk State undid some of the good will he

Proposed rule change would prevent hardship transfers from gaining immediate eligibility [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 18, 2014, 9:42 am]
Amid complaints regarding the process of obtaining hardship waivers, the NCAA's Division I leadership council recommended a policy change on Friday intended to eliminate the criticism. The proposed rule change would give athletes who transfer due to difficult life or family circumstances an extra year to complete their four years of eligibility but would strip them of the right to apply for immediate eligibility at their new school. Those athletes would instead have to sit out a full year before competing for their new school the way other transfers do. The extra year of eligibility would likely only come into play in rare cases when an athlete transfers because of a hardship and has already used a redshirt year previously. In such situations, athletes would not forfeit a year of eligibility while sitting out after transferring because they would have six years to play four seasons instead of five. “We hope this change will encourage student-athletes who must transfer based on hardships to focus on the circumstances prompting the transfer during their first year and adjust to their new school, while giving them a season back to complete their eligibility,” Amy Huchthausen, America East Conference commissioner and chair of the Leadership Council subcommittee, said in a release. The reexamination of the transfer policy comes in response to intense scrutiny in recent years regarding how the NCAA determines which transfers are worthy of hardship waivers. Many have complained that athletes abuse the spirit of the policy by embellishing a family tragedy in an attempt to gain immediate eligibility at their new school. Athletes who transfer because of insufficient playing time or issues with their coach will try to convince the NCAA that the real reason their changing schools is to be closer to an aunt or uncle who is ill. At the same time, inconsistent decisions from the NCAA have also been a source of frustration. Trey Zeigler received immediate eligibility at Pittsbu

Duke's Jabari Parker makes the prudent choice to enter the NBA draft [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 17, 2014, 11:00 am]
The tantalizing notion of close friends and fellow Chicago natives Jahlil Okafor and Jabari Parker playing together at Duke next season will not come to fruition.  Parker is leaving a year too soon. The national freshman of the year announced Thursday that he is forgoing his final three years of eligibility and entering the NBA draft, a decision that has been anticipated since before he ever donned a Duke jersey. Parker detailed his thought process in an essay published by SI.com, explaining that the lure of chasing a title with Okafor and the rest of his Duke teammates next season wasn't strong enough to overcome his desire to begin his NBA career.  "Ultimately, I boiled my decision down to two simple questions," Parker wrote. "Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow as a basketball player? Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow and develop off the court? The answer to both questions is undeniably the NBA. "My father, Sonny, played in the NBA. I know firsthand that the career span of a pro basketball player is finite. The lucky ones play until their mid-30s. With that perspective, I shrink my professional career with each year that I remain in college. It's ironic, but true." Though Parker's passion for college and the imminent arrival of a top-ranked recruiting class led to speculation he could buck conventional wisdom, the 6-foot-8 forward's decision ultimately was fairly clear-cut. His polished, versatile, NBA-ready offensive game makes him a near-certain top five pick and a candidate to unseat Kansas freshmen Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid at No. 1 To understand the risks for a potential top five pick returning to school, Parker needs only to study the example of the last player to do so. Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart jeopardized his draft stock during a trying sophomore season in which he shoved a fan, earned a reputation for flopping, struggled to knock down jump shots and f

Nick Johnson chooses turning pro over chasing a title at Arizona [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 15, 2014, 5:02 pm]
Of all the college prospects weighing whether or not to enter the NBA draft this spring, Nick Johnson had one of the most difficult decisions. No matter what he chose, the Arizona star had to make a sacrifice. If he stayed for his senior season at Arizona, there was a very good chance Johnson's stock would level off or even diminish. Not only would it be tough for Johnson to duplicate his All-American-caliber junior season with Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sharing playing time at wing, he also would have little chance to prove to NBA scouts he could play point guard with T.J. McConnell returning. At the same time, leaving Arizona meant missing out on a season that had the potential to be special. Were the Wildcats to have McConnell at point guard, him, Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson at wing and Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski anchoring the frontcourt, they probably would enter the season no worse than the co-favorites to win the national championship. Ultimately, Johnson pondered the pros and cons for two weeks before his decision crystallized in his mind the past few days. He and freshman forward Aaron Gordon jointly announced on Tuesday afternoon that they're both forgoing their remaining college eligibility and entering the NBA draft. "I had to sit down and think about myself and see what's best for me," Johnson told reporters in Tucson on Tuesday. "Although there's a huge chance of being a great team next year with the components we would have had coming back, I just had to make the best choice for myself." It's a testament to the recruiting efforts of Sean Miller and his staff that Arizona can survive the loss of Johnson and Gordon and not miss a beat. With six of last season's top eight players expected back and a top recruiting class headlined by Stanley Johnson and Craig Victor arriving, Arizona should begin next year no worse than third or fourth in most preseason polls. Whereas Gordon's decision was clear-cut since he's a near-certain lott

Cuonzo Martin was wise to leave Tennessee, but was Cal smart to hire him? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 15, 2014, 12:33 pm]
At the same time as Tennessee was fighting to scrape together enough wins to make the NCAA tournament in late February, a petition with more than 30,000 signatures circulated the internet urging the Vols to bring Bruce Pearl back after the season. Those Tennessee fans won't get Pearl but they will get a new coach. Cuonzo Martin is leaving Tennessee after three seasons to replace the newly retired Mike Montgomery as head coach at Cal. Martin led the Vols on a surprise run to the Sweet 16 last month after narrowly slipping into the NCAA tournament as a No. 11 seed. Leaving Tennessee now is a shrewd move by Martin because he was in a tough spot following the most successful coach the Vols had ever hired. In six seasons in Knoxville, Pearl led Tennessee to six straight NCAA tournaments, ascended to No. 1 in the nation briefly in 2008 and reached the Elite Eight in 2010. Martin was never fully able to escape Pearl's shadow and win over the Tennessee fan base while leading the Vols to a pair of NITs prior to this year's NCAA tournament run.  Worse yet, the pressure was likely to intensify on Martin given that Pearl is back in the SEC at Auburn and that the Vols are probably headed for a rebuilding year next season. Four of Tennessee's five leading scorers are leaving including graduating senior Jordan McRae and NBA draft-bound junior Jarnell Stokes. Judging by the reaction of the outgoing Tennessee players, they clearly understand and even empathize with their coach's decision to bolt. Tweeted McRae, "Can't treat people any kind of way and expect good in return." Added Jeronne Maymon, "Not even surprised... It was just a matter of time! #RESPECT" It's clear Martin wanted out of Knoxville considering he was heavily involved in the Marquette search before the Golden Eagles went with Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski instead. The bigger question is whether Cal is making a wise choice hiring a coach with minimal recruiting ties to the West Coast.  Martin grew up in Saint L

Willie Cauley-Stein's surprise return bolsters already strong Kentucky frontcourt [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 14, 2014, 5:53 pm]
The last image of Willie Cauley-Stein on the Kentucky bench won't be with an electric blue flower-print button-down shirt underneath his jersey. Cauley-Stein announced Monday evening that he is passing on the chance to enter the NBA draft and intends to be back in uniform at Kentucky next season. The 7-foot center averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks this past season before suffering what turned out to be a season-ending right ankle injury against Louisville in the Sweet 16 and sitting out the remainder of the NCAA tournament. “I’m proud to say I’m coming back for my junior year,” Cauley-Stein said on Twitter. “I still have an empty spot to fulfill and in no rush to leave the best fans in the USA!” The return of Cauley-Stein is nearly as big a surprise as Louisville's Montrezl Harrell announcing he intends to come back to school earlier in the day. Like Harrell, Cauley-Stein was a projected first round pick with a chance to go as high as the late lottery. Whereas Harrell's return shores up a position of weakness for Louisville, Cauley-Stein's return further bolsters a position of strength for Kentucky. Between Cauley-Stein, sophomore-to-be Marcus Lee and incoming freshmen Karl Towns and Trey Lyles, Kentucky will have at least four former McDonald's All-Americans 6-foot-9 and taller next season. And the frontcourt would only get stronger if 7-foot freshman Dakari Johnson and 6-foot-8 sophomore Alex Poythress were also to come back.  What will be interesting to see is whether Cauley-Stein's return influences Johnson's decision. Would Johnson return when there's the potential he could see even less playing time than a year ago? And will Calipari be able to keep that stable of big men happy when there's only so much playing time to go around? Regardless, the bigger question for Kentucky remains the backcourt. If James Young and the Harrison twins turn pro as expected, the Wildcats will rely heavily on a pair of freshmen. Small but jet-quick Tyle

Early departures of Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant will force Syracuse's freshmen to step up [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 14, 2014, 1:40 pm]
What happens when the three leading scorers are removed from a Syracuse program that already struggled to generate enough offense late last season? We're about to find out. Syracuse announced Monday that sophomore forward Jerami Grant will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and declare for the NBA draft. His decision ensures Syracuse will lose the core of this past season's 28-win team since All-ACC forward C.J. Fair is graduating and standout freshman point guard Tyler Ennis is also entering the NBA draft. The departure of Grant is not a huge surprise since he showed enough promise while averaging 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds this past season to intrigue NBA scouts. Even with an inconsistent jump shot and little in the way of a back-to-the-basket game, Grant is a likely first-round pick this June thanks to his explosive athleticism, impressive wingspan and ability to make an impact on the glass and finish around the rim.  Syracuse's chances of contending in the ACC next season took a significant hit with the loss of Grant considering how strong Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisville all should be. In reality, it will be an accomplishment for the Orange to merely crack the top five in the league standings and comfortably return to the NCAA tournament for the seventh straight season. The only double-digit scorer who will return from this past season is guard Trevor Cooney, a catch-and-shoot specialist who slumped badly in late February and March and still doesn't create much off the dribble even at his best. The Orange do not have a proven replacement for Ennis at point guard, nor do they have much depth or scoring punch in the frontcourt. Either Duke transfer Michael Gbinije or incoming top 50 recruit Kaleb Joseph will be the heir apparent at point guard, with Joseph likely to be given every chance to win the job. Cooney and sophomore Tyler Roberson are the favorites to start at wing, with Gbinije serving as a sixth man for a second straight year.  

Montrezl Harrell's return makes Louisville a threat to win the ACC next season [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 14, 2014, 11:36 am]
Had Montrezl Harrell entered the NBA draft this June as expected, Louisville likely would have begun the season on the fringes of the preseason top 25. Instead the 6-foot-8 forward is returning for his junior season, giving the Cardinals hope of contending in their debut season in the ACC and reaching a third Final Four in four seasons. Harrell announced his surprising decision to stay in school on Monday via Twitter. Wrote the sophomore in a tweet that included a picture of himself in a Louisville uniform., "Been on my mind heavy but I love the feeling of being a Louisville Cardinal [and] I will be wearing this for the next year." The return of Harrell is a surprise because he likely would have been selected in the middle of the first round had he turned pro. He averaged 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds during a breakout sophomore season and tallied double-doubles in six of his final 11 games, helping Louisville finish 31-6 and reach the Sweet 16. Louisville's frontcourt was supposed to be a concern next season with Chane Behanan at Colorado State and Stephan Van Treese graduating, but Harrell's return solidifies that unit considerably. He and raw but promising center Mangok Mathiang would likely start, with Wayne Blackshear probably sliding down to power forward sporadically and heralded freshmen Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku supporting that group off the bench. The backcourt promised to be a strength for the Cardinals no matter what Harrell did. Though Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Kevin Ware are all leaving, Louisville remains well-stocked on the perimeter with point guard Chris Jones returming, breakout candidate Terry Rozier likely to step into a starting role and four-star point guard Quentin Snider and talented wing Shaqquan Aaron set to arrive. Making an immediate splash in the ACC still won't be easy for Louisville with Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia each poised to be strong again next season. Nonetheless, the return of Harrell gives the Cardin

John Calipari reveals the famous 'tweak' that sparked Kentucky's March revival [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 14, 2014, 9:26 am]
The infamous "tweak" that John Calipari credited for Kentucky's stunning postseason reversal of fortune not surprisingly turned out to be a pretty simple coaching adjustment.  Calipari revealed Monday that he merely simplified the game for point guard Aaron Harrison before the SEC tournament and told him to worry less about scoring and more about distributing. "I was trying to make the game easier for Andrew," Calipari told CBS This Morning on Monday during an interview promoting his new book. "I got tapes of Deron Williams, who averaged nine assists throughout his career in the NBA. We had a game where he had 11 assists and I showed Andrew and I said, ‘Look at this. Let’s watch. Would you have passed or shot?’ He said, ‘I would have shot.’ ‘Would you have passed or shot?’ Well, Deron was throwing balls to everybody. "And so I said, ‘Monday, you will not shoot one basketball. You will pass. We’re going to run less plays. You will create shots. We will chart. We’re not telling our team.’ He comes in and has 26 assist attempts. Twenty-six assists that Monday. I’m mad the whole practice because it’s changed my team. Why didn’t I do it earlier? And then I apologized to him, I apologized to the team and I said, ‘I messed this up, make me look good now.’" The "tweak" has been the subject of much discussion because Calipari refused to reveal what he had altered during Kentucky's run from a No. 8 seed to the national title game, nor would he allow his players to speak about it. How much the "tweak" truly made a difference is debatable, but Harrison's assist numbers did increase in the postseason. In nine SEC tournament and NCAA tournament games, Harrison averaged 11.0 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 turnovers. He had averaged 3.5 assists per game before the SEC tournament, though his points per game (10.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio were virtually identical before and after. In reality, the biggest impact of the "tweak" was surely psychologic

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