SAN ANTONIO — The Latest on the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament (all times local):
NCAA leaders expect to receive recommendations for reforming college basketball in late April and have pledged to quickly implement changes while preserving amateurism as currently defined.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said during his annual state of the association news conference ahead of the Final Four that the commission on college basketball, led by former Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice, will present its report to the Division I Board of Directors and the NCAA’s Board of Governors on April 25.
As usual, Emmert drew a line at any suggestion about paying college athletes. He and University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, the chairman of the Division I board, also pushed back against the idea of allowing athletes to be compensated by outside sources, such as endorsement deals.
Kaler called such a model “a slippery slope.”
Villanova junior Jalen Brunson joined a prestigious list of players who have been named The Associated Press men’s college basketball player of the year.
Brunson was presented with the trophy Thursday, two days before his Wildcats face Kansas in the national semifinals.
The list of past AP national players of the year include some of the sport’s all-time greats, including Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan, LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal, North Carolina’s Michael Jordan, Virginia’s Ralph Sampson, Indiana State’s Larry Bird, UCLA’s Bill Walton, LSU’s “Pistol” Pete Maravich and UCLA’s Lew Alcindor.
Brunson called being a part of that list “really humbling and it’s something I can’t even really put into words.”
But while he noted he’ll cherish that honor forever, he says that is “the last thing on my mind” with Villanova set to play Saturday.
Michigan big man Moritz Wagner knows his sneakers are on their last legs, especially since his teammates are constantly heckling him about how ugly they are.
Needing more room for an ankle brace, Wagner is forced to wear solid black Air Jordan 11 Retros rather than the newest blue and maize Nike sneakers that his teammates have. Wagner has two pairs of the black sneakers, but he’s ready to dump both sets.
Wagner says he’s taking heat for the retros. “But as you can see, I have this nasty brace that doesn’t fit into normal Jordans that we get. So, I wear old Jordans with the tongue so there’s more room in them,” he said.
Wagner will gladly continue to wear the ragged sneakers for two more games, though, as the Wolverines seek their second men’s basketball national championship. Well, Wagner is hoping the sneakers can make it through two more games.
“They’re nasty,” Wagner said. “I will be so happy when the season is over. I can throw them away or keep one as a memory, but they won’t make it longer than that. They are ready to fall apart.”
Udoka Azubuike’s mom will get to see him play for the first time since he left Nigeria six years ago.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas said Thursday that Azubuike’s mother, Florence, had her visa approved, clearing the way for her to watch her son play for Kansas against Villanova.
Azubuike, a sophomore center for the Jayhawks, left home in the ninth grade to play basketball in the United States. He has not seen his mother in person since then.
“It’s going to be an emotional moment for me,” Azubuike said.
The NCAA provides a $3,000 stipend for families to travel to Final Four games and Kansas officials have been working to get Florence a passport and travel visa so she could watch her son play at The Alamodome on Saturday.
The Nigerian government approved her visa on Thursday, paving the way for a long-awaited reunion.
“We want to win the game, but is winning the game more important than to make sure there’s not a little distraction for Doke? Of course not,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “It will be worth it. Can you imagine, you’ve never seen your son play basketball and the first time you do it is in front of 70,000 people at this thing? I can’t even imagine what’s going to be going through her mind.”
Virginia coach Tony Bennett and his players have moved past the shock of their improbable loss to UMBC. Now it’s about building off lessons learned.
Bennett was named The Associated Press men’s college basketball coach of the year on Thursday. He attended a news conference in the Alamodome and was presented with the trophy, then fielded questions about a 31-win season that included a dominating run through the Atlantic Coast Conference but ended with the first 16-vs-1 upset in NCAA Tournament history.
Bennett says he still appreciates the full year of success that the Cavaliers had before the UMBC loss. He also says noted that guard Ty Jerome recently sent a text message with a simple message: “Coach, this is now part of our story. And we get to respond to it the way we want.”
The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers know they will not keep advancing simply because they’re a nice story.
Center Cameron Krutwig says the team is wary of falling into what he calls “The Cinderella Trap.”
“I don’t think we’re going to fall into the Cinderella Trap, where we just walk out there and something magical is going to happen, and we’re going to win,” he says. “We’re going to have to go out and play well and execute.”
Loyola-Chicago is the fourth 11 seed in the history of the tournament to advance to the Final Four. The previous three — LSU (1986), George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011) have all lost in the national semifinal.
The Ramblers play third-seeded Michigan on Saturday night.
CBS Sports is bringing in some famous faces tied to each of the Final Four schools for its team-specific telecasts of the games.
NFL kicker Jay Feely and CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta will do analysis and reporting for their alma mater, Michigan.
The broadcast teams announced Thursday go with broadcasts of the Final Four that are geared toward fans and alumni interested in each team. They’ll be broadcast on TNT and TruTV while the main games will air on TBS.
Loyola-Chicago has Jerry Harkness, the captain of the school’s 1963 title team.
Kansas is bringing in alum Rob Riggle, the actor and comedian known for playing a Las Vegas cop in “The Hangover.” Also serving as an analyst is Scott Pollard, who played for the Jayhawks and won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2018.
Randy Foye will do analysis for the Villanova telecast, 12 years after being selected as an AP All-American. He played in the NBA for 12 years.
The Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago might not feel like such underdogs at the Final Four while they’re rolling around in their custom-painted bus. The 11th-seeded upstarts got a red-carpet arrival in Texas alongside powerhouses Kansas, Villanova and Michigan.
The teams still contending for the NCAA championship are practicing at the Alamodome on Thursday, while players and coaches from each team hold court with reporters.
NCAA President Mark Emmert will also hold his state of the association news conference. He has promised that changes are coming to a sport that has been enveloped in a corruption scandal all season.
The Associated Press also plans to announce the winners of player and coach of the year for both men’s and women’s hoops.
More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org ; https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 and https://www.podcastone.com/ap-sports-special-events