Saint Mary's, Purdue with something to prove

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Saint Mary's, Purdue with something to prove

NCAA scoreboard

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- No one is more excited about Purdue's NCAA tournament game against Saint Mary's than Robbie Hummel.

The Boilermakers' star is right back where he wants to be after missing the tournament the past two years because of two anterior cruciate ligament tears in his right knee.

No. 10-seeded Purdue (21-12) meets the No. 7 Gaels (27-5) on Friday in the Midwest Regional. Hummel is looking for a big finish to his career after returning to average 16.7 points and 7.1 rebounds this season while making first-team all-Big Ten.

"Sitting out the last two years, it's been frustrating," Hummel said Thursday. "It's made this time all the more special for me. When you miss something like that - where you've grown up watching the tournament and always wanting to play in it - it's disappointing to not be with your team."

RATTO: Saint Mary's no longer a Cinderella

Hummel and the Boilermakers are playing some of their best ball lately. The 6-foot-8 senior forward scored better than 21 points per game last month and the Boilermakers won six of eight before losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.

"He's had a long road and didn't get into rhythm shooting the basketball until February," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "You see all his hard work paying off and you feel good about him. He deserves to have this opportunity."

Hummel and his teammates will be facing a motivated Saint Mary's team. The Gaels reached the round of 16 two years ago but had to settle for an NIT bid last season.

"Our guys took that pretty hard," coach Randy Bennett said.

The Gaels, who swept the West Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles, are among only five teams to have won at least 25 games each of the last five years. They still have seven players from the 2009-10 team that put the school on the college basketball map.

"I think that experience will definitely help us down the stretch," senior forward Rob Jones said. "We need leadership, and also when it comes down to a tight game, we will have a lot of confidence in ourselves."

Purdue and Saint Mary's have never met. The Gaels, in fact, haven't played an opponent from the Big Ten since 1976.

RATTO: No 'chip' on shoulder of Gaels

Hummel earned all-Big Ten honors his freshman and sophomore seasons and was averaging 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds as a junior before he tore his ACL the first time on Feb. 24, 2010. Purdue still made it to the regional semifinals.

The Boilermakers figured to be a national-title contender in 2010-11, but Hummel tore the ACL again and missed the entire season.

Bennett gushed at his news conference Thursday when Hummel's name was brought up.

"First of all, he's a legend," Bennett said. "He must have a big heart. I don't know him that well. I just watch him compete. For him to come back and get his team back in the NCAA tournament ... he's got what you want and what it takes to be a special guy. I've heard about him for years and to finally see him up close is kind of fun, until tomorrow."

There were times earlier this season when Hummel let doubts creep into his mind about whether he would be as effective as he used to be.

"Will I be able to play at a high level again? Will I be able to just shoot the ball?" he said. "There were times that I was asking myself if I'll be on the court, or will our team be in (the NCAA tournament)?"

Hummel scored a season-high 29 points against Nebraska on Feb. 22, three nights after grabbing a season-high 15 rebounds against Michigan State.

There was no doubt Hummel had made it all the way back.
RATTO: NCAA Tourney denies SMC, Cal a Bay Area showcase

"Most guys will quit," Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson said. "You had to guess if he's going to be the same player, or does he want to get back out there? When I'm tired, if I'm nicked up, I look at what he's been through and tell myself you need to be out there giving your heart just because he's out there giving his, too."

If he takes Baylor job, Dykes will be graded harshly, his reputation at risk

If he takes Baylor job, Dykes will be graded harshly, his reputation at risk

Sonny Dykes, the defense-resistant head coach at California, is being hailed as not only the top candidate but the best fit for the vacated job at Baylor, which has been rendered an ethical cesspool by its repellent organizational dealings regarding a series of sexual assaults associated with the football program.

And good on him, if he wants to go, this being America and all. Cal probably won’t put up an enormous fight to retain him, and if he wants to return to his Texas roots, run a higher profile program in a more dynamic football conference, well, you can’t hate a man for climbing.

But this isn’t just a football job any more, and Dykes has to understand that treating it that way would represent failure.

Now Dykes could try to do as Jim Grobe, the interim coach who decided he didn’t want to keep the job, did, and try to keep a laser-like focus on the football. It is the safe thing to do, especially in a state in which football is more important than oil, spring football and even the daily insanity of its politics.

But Baylor has been a mess for too long as a result of its persistent mishandling and non-handling of the sexual assault scandal. It has become the touchstone by which the university is regarded, by outsiders, students and even present and potential football players. Baylor football may well be toxic for the next few years on a number of levels, and the only way for Dykes, or anyone else for that matter, to take the job and make it worth holding is to make transparency and zero tolerance the most important pillars of any new administration.

Business as usual just won’t cut it. Baylor has been crushed for business as usual.

So if Sonny Dykes is ready to meet that challenge in addition to the Oklahomas and Texas Techs and Kansas States that actually determine his employment, then by all means he has to rebuild trust in a school he has never worked at before. He has to clean up what he can of a colossal institutional mess. He has to make Baylor cleaner than clean, in face, in word and in deed.

Lack of naivete prevents us from ignoring the real reason he would be hired. He is being hired to win football games, and will be judged ultimately on that singular skill.

But to get into recruits’ homes, he has to show a devotion to be different than Baylor’s reputation. He has to repudiate some of the Art Briles era without doing it so stridently that he chases players away. He has to repudiate the culture of an administration that has been devoted then and now to keeping prying eyes away from their willingness to protect the brand at the cost of student safety. He has to be Forrest Gregg after the SMU death penalty of the 1980s, only he has to win quicker than Gregg because Gregg was hired to clean up SMU’s recruiting scandal while Baylor will have hired Dykes only to coach and mind his business.

And frankly, this seems like the type of task that will not serve Dykes well.

He will be pestered about a past that isn’t his, and “I’m sorry, I’m only here to talk about the future” answers won’t do. He will be nagged about the disarray of the program after the recruiting pipelines Briles created collapsed, and “We’re very happy with our class” declarations will ring hollow. He will be scrutinized for his decisions, and any player of his who falls afoul of either the law or human decency will label as part of the problem rather than the solution. His reputation is at risk here, and mistakes will be graded harshly.

Oh, and given the circumstances, his record will not immediately glow.

So maybe Baylor isn’t the job for him after all. Only he can know that, and only he can decide what job is the one for him. It’s pretty clear he is looking around for something a little less Cal, and while Baylor may not be the gem it once was, he may decide that home is too strong a lure, and fall in love with the idea of being the guy who steers the program out of its current shame and back atop the always disputatious Big 12 Conference.

Just so he knows what he’s in for if the rumors turn out to be true.
 

No. 12 Saint Mary's rides Hermanson's hot hand past Stanford

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USATSI

No. 12 Saint Mary's rides Hermanson's hot hand past Stanford

STANFORD -- Randy Bennett envisioned how good his team might be a month into the season, and then a month after that comes conference play, once Saint Mary's got everybody healthy and roles defined.

The 16th-year coach already realizes this group could emerge as one of his best yet - and he has had some talented teams tucked away in the East Bay hills.

"It's up there. We'll see," he said. "Potentially, yeah. Potentially we could be. We have to do it."

Even if he had to give the Gaels a little lecture about playing defense during halftime. They responded by running away from Stanford in the second half, with Calvin Hermanson scoring a career-high 25 points and knocking down a career-best seven 3-pointers in No. 12 Saint Mary's 66-51 win Wednesday night to stay unbeaten.

"I wasn't too happy with how we defended in the first half. I didn't think we played hard or smart defensively," Bennett said. "We missed shots but I wasn't worried about that. We can shoot. We just have too many good shooters."

Jock Landale had 13 points and eight rebounds while playing in foul trouble for the sharp-passing Gaels (6-0), who got eight assists from Emmett Naar and six from Joe Rahon.

Grant Verhoeven scored 12 points and Robert Cartwright added 10 for Stanford (6-2), which under first-year coach Jerod Haase is off to its best start in five seasons. The Cardinal began 10-1 in 2011-12.

Hermanson hit five of his 3s in the second half.

"We've got a lot of good shooters on this team and Calvin's one of the best ones," Rahon said. "It was an awesome show he put on at both ends of the floor tonight."

After Stanford pulled within 48-45 on two free throws by Cartwright, Hermanson and Kyle Clark hit consecutive 3-pointers and Saint Mary's took off with a 16-3 run.

Saint Mary's opened the second half on a 12-0 run, getting two quick layups from Landale and Naar's 3-pointer for a 38-30 lead at the 15:36 mark as Stanford missed its first seven shots after intermission. Sheffield hit a jumper at 15:14 for Stanford's first points.

The Gaels needed a strong start after the break to keep its impressive early record unblemished. The teams finished even on rebounds with 29 apiece, but Stanford went 3 for 12 from beyond the arc and shot 38.2 percent for the game to 55.1 percent by Saint Mary's.

"It's every coach's dream to have that many shooters and that many great passers on the floor at the same time. It's hard to guard it all," Haase said, noting, "They came out more enthused than we did."

Saint Mary's won its first five games by an average of 18 points. The Gaels are picked to win the West Coast Conference after sharing the regular-season title last season with perennial power Gonzaga.

The Cardinal, who lost 78-61 on Saint Mary's home floor in McKeon Pavilion last year, then hung tough until the Gaels' barrage of late 3s - and 11 of 27 from long range overall, 7 of 9 by Hermanson.

BIG TIP-INS

Saint Mary's: The defense held Stanford to 21 second-half points. ... Landale made 6 of 8 shots and is now 51 for 67 - a 76 percent clip. ... The Gaels had 21 assists on 27 baskets, giving them 120 assists on 176 field goals this season.

Stanford: Warriors owner and Stanford fan Joe Lacob sat courtside. ... Haase is 2-9 all-time against ranked opponents. ... The Cardinal dropped to 183-81 all-time against current members of the WCC. This was the first visit by a WCC team to Maples Pavilion since a win over Loyola Marymount on Dec. 17, 2014.

BAY AREA RIVALRY

This marked the 57th meeting between the programs.

Bennett always hopes to keep these series against Pac-12 neighbors Cal and Stanford going for his mid-major program.

"I appreciate Stanford playing us in this home and home. It's great for Bay Area basketball," Bennett said.

Haase is open-minded, too, if the scheduling works.

"I think it's good for the Bay Area," he said. "It's absolutely on the table and we'll continue dialogue."

UP NEXT

Saint Mary's: The Gaels have a lengthy layoff before hosting University of Texas at Arlington on Dec. 8.

Stanford: The Cardinal face back-to-back ranked opponents, traveling to face Haase's old Kansas team - ranked fourth - on Saturday.