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Late coach on minds

SAN JOSE, Calif. — New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies watched video of St. Louis all week, and a common theme kept showing up on every play he analyzed.

"You can see Rick Majerus all over them, throughout the fiber of how they play," said Menzies, who coached against Majerus' Utah teams while at San Diego State from 1999 to 2003. "There's no question that they're playing inspired by him, and especially on the defensive end."

More than three months since his death, Majerus' style still lives on through his players.

St. Louis will be looking to carry on the memory of the affable and animated coach in the way he so often made his mark in March: with a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The fourth-seeded Billikens must first find a way to get past 13th-seeded New Mexico State and 7-foot-5 freshman Sim Bhullar today.

"The way we play, we play 40 minutes, from the tip to the end with hard work and competitiveness of our team. That kind of spread from Coach Majerus," said G Kwamain Mitchell, the first player Majerus recruited to the school. "He's so competitive. He hated losing. And that's one of the things he preached and he coached. And he got everybody on the same page to coach and play the way that he does."

Majerus left the team before the season because of health concerns. He died of heart failure in December at age 64. There has been no drop in production from the team assembled by Majerus, who ended the school's 12-year NCAA Tournament drought last spring.

Jim Crews took over and led the Billikens to the Atlantic 10 regular season and conference crowns. St. Louis also has tied the 1988-89 team with 27 victories, including a school-record five wins against Top 25 programs.

NEW DEAL FOR ALFORD: Steve Alford loves New Mexico and New Mexico loves Alford. Those simple facts made the eve of the second round of the NCAA Tournament as good a time as any for the Lobos to announce they've given their coach a new, 10-year contract that could be worth up to $2 million a year counting base salary and bonuses. The deal calls for Alford, 48, to be in Albuquerque through 2023.

'CUSE INVESTIGATED: Syracuse has been under investigation for possible NCAA violations, mostly in its basketball program, for at least a year, according to cbssports.com and the Post-Standard of Syracuse. The newspaper reported that the investigation includes the handling of former player Fab Melo's academic eligibility. In 2012, the star center was declared ineligible for the NCAA Tournament days before it started. "Same story they had last year at this time," coach Jim Boeheim said. "I guess that's annual."

VETERAN VALPO: When 14th-seeded Valparaiso shoots to upset third-seeded Michigan State today, experience will be on its side even though the Spartans are in the tourney for a 16th consecutive year. The Crusaders start five seniors, two of whom are in their fifth season, and their nine-man rotation includes only upperclassmen. "It scares me a little bit," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

PRESIDENT'S BRACKET: President Barack Obama's bracket has Indiana winning it all, ESPN revealed. He predicted Louisville, Ohio State and Florida would round out the Final Four. On the women's side, Obama selected Baylor, California, UConn and Notre Dame to advance to New Orleans.

Late coach on minds 03/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 10:46pm]
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