Bill Frieder on the Gaels, Mountaineers, Utes and OU-Texas

02/24/2016

Boxed Out 800Where were you in 1995? Well, I was coaching Arizona State and going to the Sweet Sixteen, but that also was the last time St. Mary’s swept Gonzaga. Congratulations to Randy Bennett on a job well done. Yes, the Gaels have work to do to make the NCAA Tournament and there is no guarantee an at-large bid will come if they need one, but the job he has done is incredible. Australian sophomore Emmett Naar is averaging 13.4 points and nearly seven assists while classmate Calvin Hermanson is averaging more than 11 points a game. The Gaels return almost their entire lineup next year, so Coach Bennett is working on something special. It closes versus Santa Clara and at San Francisco and then has an out-of-conference game with surging Grand Canyon before the WCC Tournament. It’s hard to remember the last time SMC didn’t have a good team; Bennett’s teams have won 20 games in nine straight seasons.

A Mountaineer of a man

Is the most underrated coach in college basketball in the past 25 years Bob Huggins? Jaysean Paige dropped 34 – the most in Mountaineer history off the bench – in West Virginia‘s 97-87 win over Iowa State to give Coach Hugs his 786th career win. Huggins tied Lefty Driesell and Cliff Ellis for ninth place among NCAA Division I coaches. At 21-7 and with three games left, WVU is in great position for a high seed. Huggins has six players averaging at least nine points per game and the team as a whole grabs 10 steals per game on average with nine players in a solid rotation. Coach Huggs was 27 when he became a collegiate head coach at Walsh University in 1980. Think about that… In 1980, the NCAA Tournament was five years away from going to 64 teams. That is how long this guy has been winning. He might have another Final Four team this season.

The other Coach K

Next time you hear a fan get frustrated by a coach struggling in his first year, give them two words: Larry Krystowiak. The other Coach K went 6-25 and 15-18 in his first two years at Utah, including 8-28 in Pac-12 play. He has posted at least 20 wins in each of the past three seasons and the Utes could win the Pac-12 and reach the Final Four. Austrian Jakob Poeltl recorded the 11th and 12th double-doubles of his sophomore campaign to earn his fourth Pac-12 Conference Player of the Week award as the Utes became the first Pac-12 team this season to complete two road sweeps in conference play with the wins in Los Angeles. Utah won at UCLA for the first time since 1961 and then ended USC’s 16-game home win streak. Poeltl is the Pac-12’s leader in field goal percentage (.668) and is second in scoring (18.1 ppg), third in rebounding (9.0 rpg) and seventh in blocked shots (1.4 bpg). They have a big man, they have experience and they have athleticism…the Utes are the real deal.

Hook ’em vs. Boomer Sooner

I look forward to watching Oklahoma at Texas Saturday. You talk about two coaches who are getting it done despite different backgrounds. The contrast is amazing. In 1976-77 Lon Kruger was in his first year of coaching, working as an assistant at Pittsburg State. In April of 1977 Shaka Smart was born. Different eras, but it doesn’t matter. They respect the game, work hard and recruit like crazy. The football rivalry has taken a step back, but the basketball rivalry is very good right now.

– Bill Frieder

Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of NCAA Basketball. In his weekly blog Boxed Out, Bill scours the box scores to bring you interesting stories from the world of college basketball.

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