NCAA tournament

Former coach at LaSalle-Peru, Joliet West takes head coaching job at UIC

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USA Today

Former coach at LaSalle-Peru, Joliet West takes head coaching job at UIC

UIC hired its next head coach this week as Luke Yaklich returns home to Illinois to take over the Flames.

There's a lot to like about the 43-year-old Yaklich when it comes to this hire for UIC. A native of Illinois who spent time here as a high school coach at LaSalle-Peru and Joliet West, Yaklich's basketball journey makes him the perfect candidate for UIC at this particular point in time.

Being familiar with the area as a former high school coach and assistant coach at Illinois State will certainly help with recruiting and other facets of the job. But it's Yaklich's ability to take UIC to the next level defensively that makes him the perfect hire.

Yaklich turned into a star assistant coach over the past four seasons. He was often utilized as a defensive coordinator at his various stops. Going from Illinois State, to Michigan, to Texas over the past four seasons, Yaklich was responsible for four consecutive top-25 defenses, according to KenPom.

Although Steve McClain won at least 16 games in each of the past four seasons, the Flames could never reach their ultimate goal of the NCAA tournament. UIC hasn't reached March Madness since 2004. The past four seasons, UIC's best defensive team was only No. 107 in the country. 

McClain's teams had plenty of scoring pop and talent. Getting crucial stops could be difficult for the Flames.

While it may take some time for UIC to jump into the nation's top 50 in defensive efficiency, Yaklich has a successful defensive track record at the mid- and high-major levels.

Illinois State's dominant defense in 2016-17 was No. 19 in the country as the Redbirds just missed the NCAA tournament. Yaklich was then hired away to Michigan. In Ann Arbor, Yaklich helped an offensive-minded program under John Beilein become elite defensively.

The Wolverines advanced to the national title game and Sweet 16 in Yaklich's two seasons. Michigan had the No. 3 defense and No. 2 defense, respectively. 

At Texas, the Longhorns maintained the No. 24 defense in the country this season despite a talent drain that saw freshman center Jaxson Hayes leave for the NBA Draft to be picked in the top ten by the New Orleans Pelicans. 

UIC will need to figure out some other areas if they are to make it back to the NCAA tournament. Yaklich will need to hire a staff familiar with the local recruiting landscape. A sound offensive mind or two wouldn't hurt either.

But the defensive pedigree and player development track record has been there for Yaklich at multiple stops over the past four seasons. Now with a chance to run his own program, Yaklich is an exciting hire for UIC during an offseason in which college basketball's coach carousel isn't seeing a lot of movement. 

NCAA cancels men's and women's basketball tournaments due to COVID-19 

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USA TODAY

NCAA cancels men's and women's basketball tournaments due to COVID-19 

In response to COVID-19, the NCAA announced Thursday they've officially canceled the 2020 men's and women's basketball tournaments.

"Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships," the NCAA said in a statement. 

"This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities."

There briefly was hope the tournaments could go on without fans, but as the circumstances around the coronavirus grow, it became clear cancelation was inevitable and the only reasonable option.

Thirteen conferences had already canceled their conference tournaments at the time of the announcement. This includes the A10, AAC, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, MAC, Pac 12 and SEC.

Sports Talk Podcast: Early tournament reaction, Bulls win second straight

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Podcast: Early tournament reaction, Bulls win second straight

Hub Arkush, Chris Bleck and Gabe Ramirez join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Bradley gives Michigan State a huge scare. Tom Izzo gets angry. And did Bradley help its brand by hanging with the Big Ten champs?

12:20- The Bulls win their 2nd straight game to avoid getting closer to the Bottom 3 in the NBA standings. Are they better off focusing on player development instead of trying to get better lottery odds?

19:00- Ichiro retires in his home country. Will he be a unanimous Hall of Famer?

21:30- Will Eloy Jimenez be able to handle the pressure that will come with his new contract?

25:30- Will the Cubs get in on extension season and extend either Kris Bryant or Javy Baez soon?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: