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Hoops Notebook

BOZICH | Kenny Payne chatter; Indiana's challenge; Coach K's tree

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- We have officially entered the period of wall-to-wall college basketball. Feel free to fist-bump the next person you encounter.

As I write this notebook, I am channel-surfing from Clemson vs. Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament to Marquette vs. Georgetown in the Big East Tournament.

There are games. There NCAA Tournament implications. And there are sideline storylines.

Perfect time for a college basketball notebook.

*Kenny Payne is slightly more than a half-year into a career change, transitioning from John Calipari’s right-hand man at Kentucky to a top assistant coach with the New York Knicks.

Payne disagrees, strongly, with the narrative that one reason for Kentucky’s slide this season has been his absence from the bench in Lexington.

He might be right. But many disagree, crediting Payne for being the go-to guy for players that struggled at UK. Payne was regularly there with an encouraging word or the patience to listen. Players like Julius Randle and Karl Anthony-Towns swear by Payne’s ability to coach big men.

Payne is part of a coaching and administrative change that has the Knicks (19-18) pursuing their first winning season since 2013.

But ... Payne will be 55 in November. A head coaching job has long been one of his goals.

The college grapevine has been connecting these dots for weeks: The wise guys believe DePaul will make a coaching change after the Blue Demons exit the Big East Tournament.

Dave Leitao’s program has finished last or tied for last in the league for five consecutive seasons. DePaul hired DeWayne Peevy from Kentucky to become the school’s athletic director last year.

Peevy knows what Payne can do. DePaul looks like a perfect spot for Payne to get his long-delayed opportunity.

Stay tuned.

*You know the numbers about Indiana’s performance in the Big Ten Tournament. They are horrible. The Hoosiers have never won the event — and only advanced to the championship game one time.

Bob Knight nearly threw a chair when the Big Ten belatedly copied the Atlantic Coast Conference format and added a postseason tournament in 1998 as a revenue maker.

You have to give the Hoosiers credit: They have always performed as if they didn’t want to be there. IU’s Big Ten Tournament record since 2014 is a robust 3-6.

But there is another nugget to remember when IU plays Rutgers at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in their Big Ten Tournament opener: Rutgers won at Indiana, 74-70, on Jan. 24. The Scarlet Knights beat the Hoosiers, 74-63, on Feb. 24 at Rutgers.

Rutgers joined the Big Ten for the 2014-15 season. How many times have the Scarlet Knights defeated a Big Ten opponent three times in one season?


*Whatever happened to Marquette — and Mike Krzyzewski Coaching Tree?

Back in the day when Rick Pitino was at Louisville and either Mike Deane or Tom Crean coached Marquette, games between Marquette and Louisville were an annual delight.

Marquette was rolled out of the Big East Tournament by lowly Georgetown, 68-49, Wednesday in Madison Square Garden. The loss dropped the Golden Eagles to 13-14 — with a team that has added five recruits with 4-star ratings the last two seasons.

This is year seven for Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski. He has made two NCAA Tournaments without winning a game.

It’s been a choppy winter for guys on the Coach K Coaching Tree.

Chris Collins finished 12th in the Big Ten at Northwestern. Mike Brey drew increased grumbling at Notre Dame. Bobby Hurley’s team flopped at Arizona State. Jeff Capel finished 11th in the ACC at Pittsburgh, where two of Capel’s top recruits left the program last month. Johnny Dawkins went 10-11at Central Florida.

Coach K turned 74 in February. The Blue Devils might have to look outside the Brotherhood for his successor.

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