Theus waiting for right college opportunity

February, 4, 2009

Quick hitters for Wednesday:

• Former Sacramento Kings and New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus is primed to return to the college scene for the right opportunity. Theus hasn't talked to Arizona -- yet -- but he is on the Wildcats' list, according to a few sources. Theus would potentially be an interesting hire for Arizona. He has a star personality and knows the summer scene/AAU circuit in Southern California and Las Vegas extremely well. He's connected and would immediately give Arizona a name replacement for Lute Olson/Russ Pennell. Theus could also be in play for Georgia if the Bulldogs are looking for star power. But Theus is much more plugged in out West. Theus isn't ruling out a return to the NBA, either. So far, he has been watching tons of games and trying to line up the right situation to pursue. Listen to my interview with Theus on Wednesday's podcast for more information. If there are reservations about the NBA versus college, it is that NBA jobs aren't likely to be with teams that are ready to win. The turnaround for a college job, Arizona or Georgia, may be only a year or two away.

• Suddenly, San Diego State is now the new favorite in the Mountain West. With the Aztecs' overtime win over UNLV Tuesday night, SDSU moved to 6-2 in the MWC.

• South Carolina's Devan Downey was sensational with the long bombs in the loss to Florida Tuesday night. But that was a must-win for UF, considering the Gators had already lost to South Carolina and Tennessee.

• What about Jerel McNeal for Big East Player of the Year? I said it in the preseason on our ESPNU "Inside the Polls" show and was wondering if I made too much of a reach then. McNeal scored 26 for the Golden Eagles on Tuesday to help Marquette remain undefeated at 9-0 in the league.

• Northern Iowa clearly has the good vibe in the Missouri Valley after a last-possession win over Bradley Tuesday on a 3-pointer by freshman Johnny Moran. The Panthers are now 11-1 in conference play.

• Purdue's staff was pleased that the Boilermakers took Ohio State to overtime Tuesday without Robbie Hummel. Hummel has a stress fracture in his back and hasn't practiced in three weeks. He will be game-to-game, day-to-day for the rest of the season. Purdue plays Illinois on Sunday, and Hummel will be a game-time decision. Hummel missed the loss at Penn State on Jan. 6, too. His game is a physical one, so he's got to be rested before he throws his body around yet again. So far, Hummel is going to try to rest in between games with surgery not an option. Apparently, this is very tough on Hummel since he desperately wants to be on the court. The Boilermakers got a much-needed lift from JaJuan Johnson, who scored 30 points in the loss to the Buckeyes (making 10 of 11 free throws). The game Sunday at Illinois is the end of a four-of-five-game stretch on the road. Purdue is 3-1 in those four games. It ends the season with five of eight games at home, with one of the road games at struggling Iowa.

• What is more surprising? Michigan State losing at home to Penn State and Northwestern this season or Kentucky losing two straight SEC games at Rupp Arena?

• UConn's staff is trying to make sure Hasheem Thabeet isn't passive in the first half of games. Thabeet doesn't want to get two fouls early and sit. The UConn coaches have noticed that he is much more aggressive in the second half. If he can put together an aggressive beginning to match his ending, then the Huskies feel they've got a somewhat unstoppable force in the paint who can mess with plenty of shots. The staff is also thrilled with the energy Kemba Walker is delivering off the bench. Walker is pushing enough to get a few fast-break baskets when he enters the game.

• The impact of losing Marcus Ginyard (foot injury) will be hard to measure for North Carolina because the Tar Heels had him for only three games. So, it's a bit difficult to say what kind of effect Ginyard's absence has on the team since he hasn't been a major player. But at least one ACC coach says that Ginyard was the most selfless player on the team, willing to sacrifice points and production for whatever UNC needed. He is viewed as the Tar Heels' top defender, and a defensive stopper might be what they're lacking (if you want to pick on something). If Ginyard does get a medical redshirt and comes back for a fifth season, he would certainly be a quality bridge to a younger team with the departure of Tyler Hansbrough. Suspending Will Graves for the rest of the season (he's still allowed to practice despite the violation of team rules) will also remove a tough forward from the bench. Graves wasn't a star, but he seemed to know his role. The Tar Heels still have eight quality players who can win the title, and that may be all they need to win six games in March. But this was a team that went even deeper when Tyler Zeller was contributing early in the season. Carolina has come back to the pack as one of the elite group of teams. That's not a far drop, but it's a slight dip nonetheless.

• UTEP's Stefon Jackson became Conference USA's all-time leading scorer last Saturday against Southern Miss, breaking the 2,017 scoring record set by South Florida's Altron Jackson (when the Bulls were in the league). Jackson now has 2,035 points. He scored 29 points in the win over the Golden Eagles. Jackson has had 13 games of 20 or more points this season, including 44 in a loss at Santa Clara. The 6-foot-5 senior guard has a legit shot to be the C-USA Player of the Year.

Meanwhile, UTEP coach Tony Barbee said former Louisville center Derrick Caracter hasn't been a problem in practice so far. He said the knock on Caracter's character was that he was lazy. "He's a good kid; he's not a criminal. He's just been a bit lazy,'' Barbee said. Barbee recruited Caracter out of high school when Barbee was an assistant to Memphis' John Calipari. Caracter has been practicing with the Miners and will be eligible (assuming he is academically eligible) on Dec. 12, 2009 of next season. He would have three semesters of eligibility remaining. Barbee said a big man like Caracter is a great get for a program like the Miners (but that's assuming he ends up playing for UTEP).

• Miami hosts Wake Forest on Wednesday night. It then goes to Duke over the weekend. That means by Monday, Miami will have played four of the five teams that have been ranked No. 1 at one point this season -- Connecticut (in the Virgin Islands), at North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke. Pitt is the only team that's been ranked No. 1 that the Canes haven't played.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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