Team of the week
Memphis: Won at UAB 70-65; beat Tulsa 75-53
If the theme of the final week of the regular season is to earn your way into the NCAA tournament, then the Tigers are doing their job.
Joe Murphy/Getty ImagesMemphis helped its bubble chances with wins over UAB and Tulsa to close the regular season.
Memphis couldn't afford one slip in its final two games against a pair of teams picked to be at or near the top of Conference USA. Knocking off UAB earlier in the week gave the Tigers a tremendous asset: a sweep of the Blazers, with a third matchup likely coming in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament in Tulsa, Okla.
If Memphis gets three wins over UAB, it would be hard to keep the Tigers out. They also delivered a knockout punch to Tulsa on Saturday. Maybe the Golden Hurricane can wake up and hold serve at home in the conference tournament. But the one-time favorites in this conference enter it on wobbly footing. Tulsa will also have to deal with a likely matchup against Marshall in the quarterfinals; not an easy draw, considering the Thundering Herd are playing quite well heading into the tournament after a convincing win over SMU in Dallas.
Maryland: The Terps won a share of the ACC title with a late-possession home win over Duke earlier in the week, and then took out the Sylven Landesberg-less Cavaliers at Virginia. Great week, tremendous season, and an effort from Gary Williams worthy of coach of the year honors.
Notre Dame: Like Memphis, the Irish had to win two games down the stretch to stay on the right side of the bubble. They did it by beating Connecticut at home and taking out Marquette on the road in a thrilling overtime win in which they were saved at the end of regulation with a 3-pointer off a loose-ball situation.
Purdue: There was reason to doubt the Boilermakers after an offensive struggle against Michigan State the previous Sunday in their first full game without Robbie Hummel. But Purdue won the games it was supposed to last week by beating Indiana at home and taking out a gritty Penn State team in State College.
West Virginia: Well, my original pick to win the Big East championship never settled its point guard situation, but still found a way to finish strong with a convincing win over Georgetown at home and then a thrilling comeback win over Villanova in overtime Saturday to give the Mountaineers some momentum and mojo.
Player of the week
Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia: He was "Big Shot" Butler, making a 3-pointer at the end of regulation and then a running shot to beat Villanova in Philadelphia on Saturday. Butler finished with 21 points in 43 minutes. He was actually only 3-of-10 from the field, but made two huge shots and was 13-of-14 at the free throw line. He also scored 22 points in an earlier win over Georgetown as the Mountaineers finished strong.
• Oregon coach Ernie Kent is adamant that he's not out. I'm not sure I've met another coach with as much passion about fighting off rumors about his job status.
If Kent is out, as has been widely reported, then the Oregon job becomes the highest-profile gig available. DePaul doesn't come close. Oregon is in a league with plenty of movement. The Ducks have been to two Elite Eights in the past 10 years. Oregon has a massive new state-of-the-art arena to play in next season, and has the financial backing of Nike.
The Nike angle will be the driving force in deciding who the next coach is, if Kent is indeed out. After the obligatory run at Gonzaga's Mark Few, the list of coaches the Nike/Oregon Ducks will go after likely includes Minnesota's Tubby Smith, Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon and New Mexico's Steve Alford, among a few others. Whether assistant Kenny Payne, who has been the team's lead recruiter, will stay is another interesting twist. The DePaul interim staff might be asked to stay on as well, which might not give much flexibility to hire a new staff to whoever takes both jobs.
But as enticing as the Oregon job could be, it still won't be the best gig in the Pac-10. That will fall to UCLA, and I would put the tradition and passion of Arizona and the recruiting bases at Washington and USC ahead of the Ducks. As long as Cal has a coach like Mike Montgomery heading the Bears, it's hard to doubt their staying power, either. This is not easy stuff. Oregon will have to find its way on a consistent basis whoever is chosen to lead the Ducks. This is of course assuming that the reports are correct and Kent is gone.
The other coaching jobs that will be interesting to watch in the next week are in the Big East (St. John's and Rutgers) and the SEC (Auburn). The telling detail in these cash-strapped times for higher education will be whether schools have the money to buy out coaches, not so much whether the firing is justified.