When the word Syracuse popped up on the bracket for the first time, most of the so-called experts were crying “foul,” not shouting “Final Four.”
So much for that.
Coach Jim Boeheim’s “I Told You So” tour travels to Houston as 10th-seeded Syracuse became the fourth double-digit seed to reach the Final Four.
Syracuse will be joined by a blue blood (North Carolina), a scrappy squad with no stars (Villanova) and the team with the Tournament’s best player in Buddy Hield (Oklahoma).
Though it’s been hard to find many genuine surprises in this, a season full of unpredictable twists and turns, Syracuse making the Final Four certainly would fit that category. This was a program under duress, one that lost Boeheim for nine games while he served punishment for NCAA violations.
This was a program that gave St. John’s one of its eight wins; a program that dropped five of six heading into Selection Sunday. Hardly any bracketologist had the Orange making it into the field of 68. The NCAA selection committee didn’t agree.
And shortly after Syracuse beat Dayton in the first round, Boeheim was at his cranky best, saying, anybody “that said we didn’t deserve to be in obviously doesn’t know anything about basketball.”
Western Kentucky officials put their men’s program in the hands of Rick Stansbury, who spent the last couple seasons as an assistant at Texas A&M after more than two decades at Mississippi State.
“I’m not here to rebuild or change the culture,” he said. “We have a winning culture.”
Stansbury, 56, is 293-166 in 14 seasons, all at Mississippi State. He replaces Ray Harper, who resigned after going 89-64 in four-plus seasons.
... Coming off his first season as a Division I coach, Chris Beard is leaving Arkansas-Little Rock after one season to take over at UNLV.
Beard, who led the Trojans to their first Tournament win in three decades, replaces Dave Rice, who was fired in January.
... Former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. is taking his first college coaching job at Tulane, joining a program that has languished at or below .500 for most of the past two decades.
LSU junior guard Tim Quarterman is leaving with one season of eligibility remaining to enter the NBA.
... Florida guard DeVon Walker has decided to transfer for his final year of eligibility. He graduates in May.
News wire services contributed
Tip-off: Saturday and Monday, NRG Stadium Houston
TV: TBS, TNT and TRU
■2 Villanova (33-5)
vs. 2 Oklahoma (29-7),
■1 North Carolina (32-6)
vs. 10 Syracuse (23-13),
Monday, April 4 final: 9 p.m.