NCAA

Stanford sets sights on Minnesota, NIT Championship

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Stanford sets sights on Minnesota, NIT Championship

NEW YORK -- Minnesota coach Tubby Smith and Stanford's Johnny Dawkins ran into each other a few times recruiting Andre Hollins.The point guard from Memphis, Tenn., chose the Golden Gophers, and he's playing his best basketball deep into his freshman season, leading an injury-riddled team to the title game of the NIT - against the Cardinal. The schools face off Thursday night at Madison Square Garden."We want the ball in his hands because he's making very good decisions with it," Smith said Wednesday.

For third-seeded Stanford, there will be plenty of familiarity Thursday, too. The Cardinal played in the Garden in November, reaching the final of the NIT Season Tip-Off. They led Syracuse, which would go on to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, by six points with about 4 12 minutes left.But the Orange turned up the pressure, ending the game on a 15-3 run to win 69-63. Stanford saw convincing evidence in Tuesday's semifinal that it's come a long way since then, when the Cardinal wasted a big lead against Massachusetts but rallied to win."The same run was made, and we didn't respond the way we needed to," Dawkins said of the Syracuse game. "To see our growth in our young players that we were able to respond."
If their history in the Garden isn't enough motivation, the Cardinal received a pep talk from unexpected -- and feared -- guest. NFL linebacker Ray Lewis infused Stanford's locker room with energy when he told them, "If you aren't pissed off for greatness, that means you okay with being mediocre."
RELATED: Ray Lewis supporting Stanford in NIT
Sixth-seeded Minnesota's young players, Hollins included, have had to grow up in a hurry because of injuries to two key seniors: Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III. The Golden Gophers started three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior in Tuesday's semifinal against Washington.And yet Smith can credit good health for Minnesota's recent strong performances. Players such as Hollins, who was bothered by a sprained right ankle earlier in the season, are no longer nagged by various ailments, leading to more continuity at practice. Others are settling into new roles. Rodney Williams moved from small forward to power forward when Mbakwe was hurt early in the season, and he's averaging 20.8 points in his last five games compared with 10.9 for the first 32."Roles change daily for us with so many missed practices, missed games, and it's been tough," Smith said. "As a coach you want to know, and as players you want to know, their roles and their responsibilities, and they're not that clearly defined because of other extenuating circumstances."Stanford is young in that most important of places: the backcourt. Leading scorer Chasson Randle is a freshman, and sophomore Aaron Bright is the primary ball-handler.Winning the NIT last year was certainly a springboard to success for Wichita State - the Shockers earned a No. 5 seed in this season's NCAA tournament."Whenever you're invited to play in postseason, you get a chance to continue to develop your team, through practices, through just the ability to play in these one-and-done situations," Dawkins said. "I think there's something about that - it hardens you. It makes you a better team; it makes you a tighter unit."
The Associated Press contributed to this report

Pac-12 basketball teams near Barcelona terrorist attack safe

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AP

Pac-12 basketball teams near Barcelona terrorist attack safe

Men's basketball teams from Oregon State, Clemson and Arizona were staying at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain, near where a van drove into pedestrians on Thursday, but team officials said everyone was safe.

Spanish police have confirmed they are investigating the bloodshed in Barcelona's historic Las Ramblas district as a terror attack. The area is a popular summer tourist spot.

Tulane also was playing in Barcelona, but it was unclear if they were staying in the same hotel as the other teams.

Oregon State assistant coach Gregg Gottlieb posted to Facebook: "We are all luckily ok. Our hotel/restaurant is located right on Las Ramblas. This tragedy happened right in front of us as our team just sat down for pregame meal. Thoughts and prayers for all those that are were hurt."

The Beavers' game Thursday night was canceled. It was supposed to be the first of a five-game tour.

Clemson was scheduled to play Thursday night against a Spanish All-Star team.

"We've been in contact with our men's basketball program currently in Barcelona and the entire travel party is safe and secure. Their exhibition game for tonight has been cancelled and the team will return to Clemson as previously scheduled tomorrow morning. Our thoughts are with the people of Barcelona," the South Carolina school said in a statement.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that the three teams were staying in the same hotel.

"We are fine. Thankful to be safe and together," Brownell wrote.

Tulane athletic director Troy Tannen confirmed via social media that the Green Wave players and staff were safe.

Replying to a Twitter inquiry from a Portland television about whether the team was OK, Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle responded: "Yes we are, happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant, so senseless and sad! All accounted4."

Oregon State said it has not yet determined the remaining schedule for the team, which was supposed to be on the exhibition tour until Aug. 25.

A spokesman for Arizona said the Wildcats have canceled their third and final exhibition of their tour and "are currently working on travel plans to return home."

The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof

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USATSI

The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof

Your education dollars are always at work, so it is with pride and bewilderment that we report that the University of California’s incoming class (2021, for those few who can get out in four years) marched to Memorial Stadium and formed the world’s largest human letter.
 
It was . . . wait for it . . . a “C.” A 7,196-person-strong “C.”
 
But the school, as it occasionally does, missed a golden opportunity to seize a golden opportunity. All they needed to do was have a quick whip-round, get $55,586.44 from each and every one of the captives . . . er, students, and they could have wiped out their entire athletics deficit in one night.
 
You see, while forming gigantic letters is always fun (or as the kids used to say when double negatives didn’t mean voting, never not fun), Cal is staring at quite possibly the bleakest future a major athletic university ever has. The athletic department, whose chief officer, Mike Williams, has just announced his intention to quit, is over $400 million in debt between construction costs, ambition, shrinking allegiance and the absence of a Phil Knight-level sugar daddy to buy the pain away.
 
And before you blame Williams, he inherited this indigestible planetoid from his predecessor, Sandy Barbour, who grew it from her predecessor, Steve Gladstone, and hastened it from . . . well, you get the drift. 
 
Cal’s been blowing through money it hasn’t been taking in for years upon years, didn’t realize the deficit-cutting benefits of the Pac-12 Network (because they largely don’t exist), and the day of reckoning looms closer and closer, especially now that new chancellor Carol Christ (no apparent relation) described the deficit as “corrosive” and has insisted that the athletic department have a balanced budget by 2020.
 
In short, the school may only be able to afford a lower-case “C” before too long. Maybe in comic sans.