Ever since Thad Matta and Sean Miller shared a tiny office at Miami of Ohio nearly two decades ago, the coaches' friendship has survived...
LOS ANGELES — Ever since Thad Matta and Sean Miller shared a tiny office at Miami of Ohio nearly two decades ago, the coaches’ friendship has survived job changes, practical jokes and a few hundred bucks in unpaid lunch tabs.
They’ve worked together and recruited against each other. They’ve shared scouting tips and sought job advice. They even briefly lived under the same roof with their entire families.
“I wouldn’t be here today without him,” Miller said. “I learned a lot from him, enjoyed being around him when we worked together, and we remain very good friends.”
They remained close after their teams faced off in a memorable Ohio State victory over Xavier in the NCAA tournament six years ago, and they’re still close heading into their next meeting Thursday at Staples Center, when the second-seeded Buckeyes (28-7) meet Miller’s Arizona Wildcats (27-7) in the West Region semifinals.
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“I don’t like the fact that we’re playing, but I’m happy as can be for him,” Matta said.
The winner gets much more than bragging rights between best friends: While nobody in either uniform would suggest this game is the true regional final, both teams realize the winner of this meeting between powerhouse basketball schools will be a strong favorite to make the Final Four. With underdogs La Salle and Wichita State playing the late game, Ohio State and Arizona are the only seeds in the top eight left in the regional.
“We’re not caught up in the sexiness and all that,” Arizona guard Mark Lyons said. “I feel like my teammates are handsome, but that’s (beside) the point.”
Both teams have a mix of veteran talent and emerging youngsters, leading to a few marquee positional matchups that are tough for both coaches to predict.
in UCLA job
LOS ANGELES — UCLA said it is looking for a coach to enhance its winning culture. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said he’s the man.
Abdul-Jabbar, certainly in the conversation over the greatest basketball players of all time, said he wants to be considered for the Bruins job, replacing fired Ben Howland.
“Like all Bruin supporters,” Abdul-Jabbar said, “the recent trend at our school hasn’t made me happy. The players don’t seem to be learning how to play, and haven’t been graduating. We can do better.”
Abdul-Jabbar, who will turn 66 on April 16, said he has “reached out” to UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, “and hopefully, I can get a chance to make my case.”
Iowa 75, at Virginia 64
Roy Devyn Marble scored 24 points and Iowa ended Virginia’s 19-game home winning streak with a victory in the NIT quarterfinals, earning the Hawkeyes (24-12) a trip to Madison Square Garden. Justin Anderson scored a career-high 24 points to lead Virginia (23-12).
BYU 79, at Southern Miss 62
Tyler Haws scored 25 points, Brock Zylstra added 23 and Brigham Young cruised into the semifinals. The Cougars (24-11) will next face Baylor. Southern Miss (27-10) lost at home for just the second time in two seasons.
At Baylor 79, Providence 68
Pierre Jackson had 20 points and 13 assists in his final home game as Baylor beat Providence. Cory Jefferson added 26 points for the Bears (21-14). Bryce Cotton scored 23 points for Providence (19-15).
• Shaka Smart and Virginia Commonwealth have agreed in principle to a deal to keep the coach at the school, athletic director Ed McLaughlin said.
• Memphis coach Josh Pastner agreed to terms on a contract extension. Terms weren’t disclosed.
• Oklahoma forward Amath M’Baye said he is giving up his senior season and will enter the NBA draft. North Carolina State junior point guard Lorenzo Brown also reportedly will enter the draft.