By JOSH NEWMAN
Special to ZAGSBLOG
It’s very early in the process, but the plot is already thickening as the University of South Florida searches for a new head coach.
After CBSSports.com reported on Saturday that Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello had emerged as a serious candidate for the position, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino and Florida head coach Billy Donovan both endorsed Gators assistant coach John Pelphrey for the job.
Pelphrey, who played for Pitino at Kentucky from 1989-92, holds a 149-125 coaching record in nine seasons between South Alabama and Arkansas from 2002-11. He was fired as Razorbacks head coach in 2011 after going 18-13, at which time he was hired by Donovan.
BUFFALO — The time Shabazz Napier spent grimacing in pain on the bench only seemed like an eternity to UConn fans.
In actuality, UConn’s star guard only missed 37 seconds of game action after a leg injury he called “excruciating.”
As soon as he re-entered the game, Napier swooped toward the basket with the ball and flung up a layup high off the window to put the Huskies up by nine points.
When it was over, Napier had another brilliant game with 25 points, hitting 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, 5 rebounds and 3 assists as No. 7 UConn ousted No. 2 Villanova, 77-65, to propel the Huskies to the Sweet 16 of the East Region at Madison Square Garden. UConn will meet the North Carolina-Iowa State winner on Friday in New York.
“Napier was just awesome,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose team finished at 29-5, leaving Creighton as the lone Big East team in the tournament.
BUFFALO — Duke sophomore forward Rodney Hood and Ohio State junior forward LaQuinton Ross are both leaning towards entering the NBA Draft, sources told SNY.tv.
Ross could announce on Monday after meeting with Ohio State coach Thad Matta, one source said.
The 6-foot-8 Hood is projected to go at No. 16 by DraftExpress.com, while the site has the 6-8 Ross at No. 48.
Chad Ford of ESPN.com has Hood at No. 15 and Ross in the first round at No. 28.
BUFFALO — The ball left Tyler Ennis’s hand and seemed right on line for a game-winning 3-pointer….until it hit the back iron and bounced out.
Ennis had made so many clutch baskets for Syracuse all season, and in this game, too, he carried them to the brink of a dramatic victory, scoring their last 11 points of the game. But the freshman from Brampton, Ontario missed the final two jumpers of his freshman season — a 15-footer that would’ve put the Orange ahead and a 3-point attempt that might’ve won it — and the Orange ended their season suddenly and stunningly, falling to Dayton, 55-53, in a second-round South Region game at First Niagara Center.
“It felt good when it left my hands,” Ennis said quietly in a corner of the Syracuse locker room of the 3-point shot.
Kentucky already has its hands full with an undefeated Wichita State team on Sunday.
Now they may have to without injured freshman point guard Andrew Harrison, who suffered a hyperextended right elbow in Friday’s win over Kansas State and had his elbow wrapped in ice after the game, according to the Courier-Journal
“It’s pretty sore,” Harrison said Saturday, according to the newspaper “It’s day by day. Hopefully I can go tomorrow. We have so much talent on this team. It’s not just me. People can take my spot.”
ESPN.com reported that Harrison said he planned to play.
“Yes, sir,” he said. “Coaches told me to do whatever I can do. I’m going to go out and do everything I can.”
By JOSH NEWMAN & ADAM ZAGORIA
After winning the MAAC Tournament and taking reigning national champion Louisville to the limit in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday evening, Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello has emerged as a serious candidate for the head-coaching vacancy at South Florida, Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com is reporting.
According to Parrish, among the influential people supporting Masiello’s candidacy is Tampa resident and Outback Steakhouse co-founder Chris Sullivan, a close friend of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino.
According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, Masiello asked Pitino, “What do you think (about the USF job)?”
Florida State has released junior college power