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Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Coaching carousel zeroes in on Beltway


Quick hitters on this hump day:

• At this time, George Mason is a better job than George Washington. Mason has better facilities, a decent chance to be in the NCAAs every season and a conference (Colonial Athletic Association) that is competitive but winnable every season for a school like GMU. The CAA had three teams in the NCAA tournament this season and could be a multiple-bid league again next year with those three and Drexel in contention again. GW has to contend with Xavier, Dayton, Temple and Richmond in the A-10, let alone Rhode Island and UMass. The Colonials and Patriots (in suburban Fairfax, Va.) share the same D.C. market, but the relevance of GMU vs. GW isn't close. George Washington has had its moments, most recently during the Pops Mensah Bonsu era. But Mason has been much more consistent lately.

So now that both jobs are open it will be interesting to see who lands where and how much the pay scale differs. GMU athletic director Tom O'Connor has more experience in hoops than the new GW athletic director, former America East commissioner Patrick Nero. How they go about choosing their next coaches over the next week or so will be intriguing to watch.

• Vermont coach Mike Lonergan makes the most sense for GW with his ties to Nero from the league and his strong connection to the D.C. area after coaching at Catholic University. But making the most sense and actually being the next head coach don't always equate.

• If BYU does bring back Brandon Davies, I think it should be applauded for the way the school and Davies have handled the situation. Davies has been publicly classy, accepting responsibility for breaking the school honor code. And BYU didn't discard him, either, allowing Davies to be a member of the team, representing the program while cheering the Cougars from the bench. From a basketball standpoint, getting Davies back is critical for BYU to be a contender in the WCC next season with Gonzaga.

• Illinois announced Wednesday it is taking a trip to Italy in August. Don't underestimate how much these tours have helped teams over the years. Kentucky went to Canada last summer and John Calipari will be the first to say that the trip helped jump-start the team's Final Four run. It's amazing the Pac-10 once tried to get rid of these trips through NCAA legislation.

• The NCAA board of directors meet Thursday and will decide if the draft rule for underclassmen changes again and the early entry/withdrawal date will be on April 10, 2012.

• Ryan Harrow's transfer from NC State won't be a crushing blow. Harrow never lived up to the lofty expectations under Sidney Lowe. I remember talking to him after the home loss to Duke when he said he was a bit in awe of the Blue Devils. He might improve elsewhere, but he just didn't seem like the right fit for new coach Mark Gottfried.

• Florida State will make it into my revised top 25 after the final underclassmen decisions. The Seminoles probably should've been in the first one. ACC insiders are extremely high on FSU and for good reason since the team's two major losses -- Derwin Kitchen and Chris Singleton -- can be replaced. Because of a broken ankle, Singleton wasn't as much of a factor in the Sweet 16 run. And Ian Miller should do fine in replacing Kitchen at the point.

• Don't sleep on Virginia, either. Mike Scott will be back after an injury and that makes the Cavaliers a real threat to be in the top five in the ACC.

• The more I look at ACC rosters and who is returning, the more I like Miami under Jim Larranaga if the Hurricanes can keep Reggie Johnson from hiring an agent and leaving for the NBA.

• The early-entry departures from Texas and Kansas should be great news for Missouri. New coach Frank Haith has a real opportunity to legitimately come in and win the 10-team Big 12 if he holds the entire roster together -- which means getting Kim English and Laurence Bowers back to Columbia after testing the NBA waters.

• Two of the top three NBA draft picks could be two college players who played a combined 11 games. Kyrie Irving of Duke was limited to those 11 by a toe injury, while Kentucky's Enes Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA and never played a game.

• I like that San Diego is sticking by Bill Grier. Let him try to win games and decide his fate based on that and not whether he knew if a player shaved points. There was never any proof that Grier knew a thing about the point shaving. There is proof that USD has struggled mightily in the WCC the last couple of years, though. That part does need to get turned around.

• Had some internal discussions within ESPN about which teams will be good next season and there are plenty of mystery teams in power leagues. I mentioned a few in the ACC. Iowa State and Kansas State are the unknowns in the Big 12; Rutgers, West Virginia and St. John's in the Big East; Oregon in the Pac-12; Arkansas in the SEC; Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana in the Big Ten.

• The more I study Vanderbilt's roster, the more I like this team next season to challenge Kentucky for the SEC East title. Kevin Stallings should have a fantastic summer plotting how to coach next season's team with a trio of stars returning in Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli.

• The new player in the nonconference tournament bidding war is the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament at Paradise Island in the Bahamas. The Atlantis Hotel is offering quite a sum of money to buy the teams (at least $150,000 per school, according to sources). And the event is getting plenty of quality teams going forward. The inaugural eight-team event (Nov. 23-27) has Connecticut, Florida State, UMass, Utah, Harvard, UCF, Charleston and UNC Asheville. No television deal has been secured yet.