- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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1. Conference USA will take 15 of its 16 teams to El Paso now that Florida International has been banned for the 2014 postseason because of a poor APR score. New FIU coach Anthony Evans knew this could occur. CUSA coaches and athletic directors had just recently voted at the league meetings to send all 16 teams to the conference tournament. Teams will now slide up in the tournament seeding based on where FIU finishes. The league will likely only play three games on the first day of the tournament on Tuesday for seeds 10-15. The top four seeds will get a double bye.
2. Providence College coach Ed Cooley said he called as many schools as possible and could not schedule a home-and-home game out of the region. Providence has consistently had issues trying to get games, regardless of who their head coach is. There have been a few series with schools like Alabama and Texas, due to the connection of former coach Rick Barnes. PC also had one with Wichita State. That's why Cooley had to think out of the box with the new 18-game, round-robin Big East schedule. The Friars play Boston College at home, go to UMass (because Cooley said he was convinced the Minutemen would be a high RPI game), play Kentucky at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and have the annual series with Rhode Island (this time in Kingston). They will also play in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, against Vanderbilt and with La Salle as a possibility in the second round (Explorers play Morgan State). Maryland is on the other side of the bracket (with Northern Iowa as another player on that side). The Friars reached the NIT quarterfinals before losing to Baylor. Kris Dunn and Bryce Cotton give the Friars a shot to get back to the postseason and Cooley did a solid job of building a legitimate schedule to make the Friars potentially matter in March.
3. Memphis coach Josh Pastner knew when he took over for John Calipari he had to manage his staff as effectively as he did the team. He hired veteran head coach Willis Wilson. He later added former teammate Luke Walton during the lockout and also hired Damon Stoudamire. Stoudamire left and Pastner went back to his alma mater and hired former teammate Jason Gardner, who had been an assistant at Loyola. Gardner was on the 2001 national runnerup Wildcats and was one of the most competent four-year point guards in the last 14 years. He should immediately help the youthful backcourt for the Tigers. He's a winner and was a tough, rugged point guard. Meanwhile, Missouri coach Frank Haith added former Drake coach Mark Phelps on his staff. That gives Haith another former head coach on his veteran staff to go along with former DePaul and Virginia coach Dave Leitao.