(AP) Shaka Smart says he will stay at Virginia Commonwealth. Illinois had offered its coaching job to Smart, according to multiple reports. In a statement released by VCU on Wednesday, the 34-year-old Smart said: “I’m looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university.”
In Wednesday’s web links, BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart sends you to some of the best Big Ten spring football stories and offers his perspective on each one. Among the topics: Kirk Ferentz and his offense in need of a fix, a pair of receivers who need to prove something and an update on Maryland transfer QB Danny O’Brien, among other things. See the links, plus Dienhart’s take, in this post.
After a wild opening weekend, the Big Ten emerged with four teams among the remaining Sweet Sixteen. Today, we’ll preview the Thursday games, two of which are conveniently in the same regional. In Boston, it’s a four-team tournament with a Final Four spot on the line, and Big Ten teams are on both sides of the bracket. The other B1G Thursday participant will be Michigan State. We’ll delve into the Boston regional before previewing the Spartans’ path.
Indiana commit Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, a five-star point guard and the No. 17 overall player in his class, according to Rivals, had quite the (lucky) play in a recent state semifinal game for Park Tudor HS (Ind.). Let’s just say it was a heady pass, in that Ferrell left his feet, threw the ball off an opponent’s forehead, right to a teammate under the basket for an easy lay-up. Just as he planned it, right? Watch the video in this post.
Illinois is the midst of spring practice under first-year head coach Tim Beckman, who was hired from Toledo to take over for Ron Zook. Beckman’s goal: Lead the Fighting Illini to the Big Ten championship, which they haven’t won since 2001 under Ron Turner. Zook couldn’t do it, going 34-51 overall and 18-38 in the Big Ten with three bowl bids in seven seasons. He was dismissed after a bizarre 2011 that saw the Illini open 6-0, then lose six in a row before winning their bowl game.
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After six weeks of non-conference play, the Big Ten softball schedule opens this weekend for all 12 teams. Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Purdue all host conference-opening series this weekend.