When Minnesota and UCLA meet Friday in the NCAA tournament, the winning coach just might put the loser out of his job. Call it a Texas showdown...
AUSTIN, Texas — When Minnesota and UCLA meet Friday in the NCAA tournament, the winning coach just might put the loser out of his job.
Call it a Texas showdown that could be the ultimate one-and-done.
UCLA’s Ben Howland and Minnesota’s Tubby Smith are facing intense speculation back home, and some nationally, that anything but a deep postseason run could cost them their jobs. Beating the other guy could help cool down their courtside seats.
It might seem odd that two coaches with long résumés of success would arrive at this point, particularly considering what their teams have accomplished this season. The Bruins (25-9) won the Pac-12 regular-season title to earn the No. 6 seed in the South Regional. The Gophers (20-12) are the No. 11 seed after earning just the 12th NCAA tournament berth in school history.
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Howland, who coached the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006 to 2008, didn’t want to talk about the speculation swirling about his future at a program he’s led for 10 years.
Howland’s problem is that UCLA, one of the blue-blood programs in college basketball, has been in a long drought of postseason success. The Bruins missed the tournament in 2010 and 2012 and haven’t made it past the first weekend since their last Final Four appearance in 2008.
UCLA suffered a blow to its NCAA chances last week when guard Jordan Adams, who averaged 15.3 points this season, broke his right ankle in the Pac-12 tournament. Howland called Adams his team’s best all-around player.
Smith left Kentucky in 2007 as fans there become impatient for another national championship that he couldn’t deliver. In his six seasons at Minnesota, the Gophers have won at least 20 games five times, but those haven’t included any big wins in the NCAA tournament. The Gophers also missed the tournament in 2011 and 2012.
Buffs on the rise
AUSTIN, Texas — For 50 years, Colorado could usually be dismissed as a program floating around the backwaters of college basketball.
Since coach Tad Boyle arrived in 2010, Colorado sure looks like a program on the rise. Boyle has led Colorado to the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1962-63, and the 10th-seeded Buffs (21-11) are a trendy early round upset pick when they face No. 7 Illinois (22-12) on Friday in the East Regional.
“We’re the pretty girl right now,” Colorado forward Spencer Dinwiddie said. “Everybody wants to pick us.”
At Maryland 62, Denver 52
Dez Wells scored 19 points for the Terrapins, who closed with a 23-4 run after trailing 48-39 with 9:15 left in the second-round game. Wells fueled the surge with nine points. It was the sixth game in 12 days for the Terrapins (24-12), who won’t play again until next week against either Alabama or Stanford. Chris Udofia scored 24 for the Pioneers (22-10).