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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Stories by Larry Brown:

John Thompson III reportedly leading candidate for Vanderbilt job

Vanderbilt logo

Vanderbilt is in the market for a new head basketball coach after firing Bryce Drew, and they may have a favorite to take the position.

According to Zagsblog’s Adam Zagoria, John Thompson III is the leader to become Vandy’s next head basketball coach.

JTIII, the son of former Georgetown Hoyas legendary head coach John Thompson, is serving as an assistant for USA Basketball. He began his head coaching career at Princeton, taking the Tigers to two NCAA Tournaments in four years.

From 2004-2017, Thompson served as Georgetown’s head coach. He took the team to the Final Four in his third season and to the tourney eight times overall, but he later became known for his early exits in the Big Dance. Following his Final Four appearance, his Hoyas never advanced beyond the second round of the tournament despite being no lower than a 6 seed.

Vandy is in need of a turnaround after a disastrous season. The Commodores went 9-23 including a horrendous 0-18 in SEC play.

Watch: Michigan players soak John Beilein after advancing to Sweet 16

Michigan continues to have the most fun in their locker room after victories.

The Wolverines defeated Florida 64-49 on Saturday to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. After the game, the players celebrated in their locker room and soaked coach John Beilein.

This is a tradition for Michigan. Two years ago after the Wolverines beat Louisville to advance to the Sweet 16, Beilein came out with a water gun to use on his players. He wasn’t as well-armed this time, but the celebration was just as fun.

Ja Morant, Murray State get shoutout from Ric Flair

Ric Flair

Murray State has a big advantage in the NCAA Tournament — and it’s not just because they have Ja Morant on their team. It’s actually because they have Nature on their side.

Ric Flair, The Nature Boy, gave Murray State and Morant a shoutout on Twitter Saturday.

Murray State is getting ready to face Florida State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. If they win, they would advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.

Maybe they just need to “woo!” it up in their pregame huddle and that will lead them to victory.

Watch: LSU’s Tremont Waters beats Maryland with last-second layup

LSU Tigers

It only took a few games, but we finally got a game-winning shot this March Madness.

LSU beat Maryland 69-67 in their second round NCAA Tournament game Saturday on a layup by Tremont Waters with just under two seconds left.

The layup broke a tie and ensured the game would not go to overtime. It also helped ensure LSU did not end up on the losing end after holding a big lead.

The Tigers lead the Terps by 15 three times throughout the game — once early in the first half, then late in the first half, and again early in the second half. But they lost the lead and even trailed Maryland with under two minutes to go until Skylar Mays made a couple of free throws and a 3-pointer to help them regain the lead.

LSU now reaches the Sweet 16 despite entering the Big Dance in turmoil amid the Javonte Smart and Will Wade issues.

LeBron James empathizes with lineup challenges Luke Walton faces

LeBron James

LeBron James hasn’t always given Luke Walton the support the coach could have used throughout the Los Angeles Lakers’ trying season, but he decided to offer some empathy on the night the team got eliminated from the playoffs.

The Lakers lost at home 111-106 to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night and were knocked out by D’Angelo Russell, the player they traded away. After the game, which saw LeBron’s 13-season streak of making the playoffs come to an end, James recognized just how tough it’s been on Walton and the coaching staff.

Rajon Rondo, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, LeBron and Lonzo Ball have missed significant action due to suspensions and/or injuries. The team has traded away players like Ivica Zubac and acquired Reggie Bullock, Mike Muscala and Tyson Chandler. There’s been a lot of turnover and inconsistency, and that’s a big reason why the season hasn’t gone to plan.

Once 20-14 after a Christmas victory over the Warriors, the Lakers were unable to stay afloat while James missed time due to a groin injury. Then they just totally collapsed in March and have gone 1-10 in the month, slipping to 31-41. They’re playing for a draft lottery spot at this point.

What does Walton have to show for it all? He’s probably going to be fired after the season.

Watch: James Harden works out in gym after 61-point game

James harden

How did James Harden celebrate his 61-point game on Friday night? By putting in more work.

Harden shared a video on Instagram after leading the Houston Rockets to a 111-105 win over the San Antonio Spurs that showed him working out. He was doing weight work and other exercises to work on his balance.

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The Buuzzer don’t dismiss you! #StayTheCourse

A post shared by James Harden (@jharden13) on

The Rockets have won 13 of their last 15 games, with Harden scoring at least 57 points in three of those contests. He’s now averaging an unreal 36.5 points per game and making it very difficult to go against him in MVP talks.

Houston was motivated by ‘grandpa’ slight about Kelvin Sampson

Kelvin Sampson

Houston came out on fire against Georgia State on Friday and made a statement early. It turns out there was a good reason for their inspired play.

The Cougars said after their 84-55 win over the Panthers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament that they were motivated by Georgia State coach Ron Hunter calling Kelvin Sampson “grandpa” throughout his press appearance on Thursday.

“The only thing I think Houston definitely has better, a much better coach. Their coach is so much better. I don’t know if I’m going to be in that game, I’m outmatched,” Hunter said Thursday via the Houston Chronicle. “Kelvin, he’s like my idol. When I was — I think when I was 10, he was 60 at that time. I really look up to grandpa. Grandpa has — he’s got a great team, been coaching longer. I will ask grandpa if I should call a timeout. I’ll ask him who I should start. If it’s four minutes to go in the game and we are winning, I will ask grandpa if it’s okay to finish the game and we can win because I don’t even know why we’re here but — no, they’ve done a great job.”

Regardless of whether or not Hunter was joking, Houston’s players took it as a sign of disrespect. That helped fire them up for the game and led to “retaliation,” according to Breaon Brady.

Hunter made clear after the game that he has nothing but respect for Sampson and was just having fun.

Even if he was having fun, Hunter might want to be more careful next time to make sure he doesn’t inadvertently fire up his opponent.

Fans captivated by photo of Zion Williamson celebrating RJ Barrett dunk

Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett aren’t just two star players on an outstanding college basketball team. They’re also really close friends and great supporters of each other.

In fact, during Duke’s win over North Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, a photo of Williamson celebrating a dunk by Barrett went viral. Two things stood out in the photo: just how absurdly high Williamson was above the ground, and how hyped he was for his teammate.

The photo led to some funny captions and alternatives:

It’s hard to beat those. It’s even harder to beat Duke.

The Blue Devils won 85-62, getting 25 from Zion and 26 from Barrett.