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Big East dominance and other assorted notes ...



A full week into college basketball's postseason tournaments, the Big East had a ridiculous 14 men's and women's basketball teams still playing entering Thursday night's games, and the conference continued to showcase its depth and strength with five wins Thursday night.

The biggest, of course, were men's top seeds Connecticut and Pittsburgh advancing to the Elite Eight, with third-seeded Villanova joining them with a convincing upset of Duke. Louisville and Syracuse play Friday, and Notre Dame is in the NIT semifinals, and as strong as it seems to have six of 16 remaining men's teams, there were even more basketball teams on the women's side Thursday.

USF coach Jose Fernandez noted after his team's 74-57 win against Mississippi -- the fourth by a Big East team against an SEC team this postseason -- that the conference had eight of the 32 remaining teams in the NCAA and Women's NIT.

"That's a fourth," Fernandez said. "The Big East got seven (NCAA bids), ACC got seven, SEC got seven. There's one SEC team left in the tournament and one ACC team left in the tournament (the Big East has four). It speaks for itself how strong this league is and how many teams are left."

The Big East has two teams left in the WNIT's remaining eight -- St. John's and Marquette lost Thursday night, leaving USF and Georgetown, who could meet in the semifinals. The Bulls, by the way, play Sunday at 1 p.m. at St. Bonaventure, which rallied to beat Wisconsin on Thursday.

-- Joining the football team this spring as a part-time strength and conditioning coach is former Miami Hurricanes defensive end Thomas Carroll, who took a medical redshirt as a freshman on the Hurricanes' 2001 national championship team and helped Miami to Big East championships in 2002 and 2003. Carroll started 30 games at Miami and ranks among the school's career leaders with seven fumble recoveries.

-- Another potential addition to the coaching staff: Leavitt can hire a defensive graduate assistant and move Jared Davis into a "program coordinator" role as offensive GA Mike Lube did, and one possibility for that job is Mario Smith, who played two seasons as a free safety at Kansas State when Leavitt was co-defensive coordinator there. Smith had two interceptions in the 1995 Holiday Bowl, Leavitt's final game before becoming head coach at USF, and went on to be a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 1996. He owns a share of the Big 12 record with a 100-yard interception return against Missouri in 1996.

Smith has spent the last seven seasons as an assistant at his alma mater, Miami's Monsignor Pace High School, including the last two as Pace's defensive coordinator. Pace, of course, had three players sign with USF in February -- cornerback Kayvon Webster, receiver Sterling Griffin and receiver Derrick Hopkins -- all three played as defensive backs under Smith. Pace head coach Alvin Slaughter said Thursday that Smith was "a possibility" for the USF job, but nothing had been finalized yet.

-- Local radio personality and former Florida and Bucs linebacker Scot Brantley was at Thursday's practice, along with his brother, John, who played quarterback at Florida. Scot, an All-American at Florida, talked with USF's linebackers during practice and with Leavitt afterwards.

-- Basketball update: Former USF coach Robert McCullum, who reportedly interviewed for the opening at Tennessee State on Tuesday, won't be getting the job, according to's Jeff Goodman, who reports that Auburn assistant John Cooper will get the job. (But can he beat Michigan?)

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 6:11pm]


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