by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

We’re less than a week away from the Final Four; our previews of Saturday’s Louisville-Kentucky and Kansas-Ohio State matchups will appear in our weekend edition, available Thursday night.

In the meantime, as in most college hoops seasons, the coaching carousel begins to spin wildly at the end of the campaign. It’s no different this March, although there are few “prime” jobs that have opened, at least yet; Illinois and Mississippi State appear to be the plum assignments on the market (at least at the moment), with South Carolina also seeking to fill its job. Mostly, however, the openings are in the mid-major ranks.

The dominoes, however, could begin to fall at any moment, should the Fighting Illini, Gamecocks, or some other school pluck an existing head coach from another higher-profile job. Following is a quick rundown of college hoops coaching openings (some of those jobs already having been filled) since the end of the regular season.

Air Force...The Falcs, who dismissed HC Jeff Reynolds in the middle of the MWC campaign, gave the full-time assignment to Dave Pilipovich, the popular assistant coach who had been promoted to the top spot on an interim bases after Reynolds’ ouster.

Brown...Well, we might as well mention the Ivy league openings, too! The Bears’ program has been on a steep descent since Craig Robinson left for Oregon State four years ago, and successor Jesse Agel was dismissed after Brown’s just-completed 8-23 mess. One of Robinson’s assistants at Oregon State, Doug Stewart, a Brown alum and having worked on Robinson’s staffs at the Providence school before heading to Corvallis with Michelle Obama’s brother-in-law, is an early favorite. Another name to watch is that of Glenn Miller, a former Penn HC and current UConn assistant. Others who could be getting a look from the lower levels are Stonehill HC Dave McLaughlin and Rhode Island College HC Bob Walsh, while assistants Mike Martin (Penn) and T.J. Sorrentine (an Agel assistant with the Bears) could also get consideration.

Canisius...The Buffalo-based Metro-Atlantic school dismissed Tom Parrotta after a disappointing 5-25 mark that included a 1-17 MAAC record. It’s been a while since the Golden Griffs have won, but it can be done in Buffalo (remember when John Beilein had competitive teams once upon a time?). Word has it that former St. Bonaventure and recent Rhode Island HC Jim Baron is at the top of the Griffs’ list, with the aforementioned Bob Walsh from Div. III Rhode Island College, and Norfolk State’s Anthony Evans, also likely in the mix. UPDATE: Canisius hired Jim Baron March 29.

Central Michigan...Ernie Zeigler was let go at the conclusion of the Chips’ 11-21 season; we’re assuming his high-scoring son, 6-5 sophomore Trey, with a team-best 15.8 ppg in 2011-12, likely leaves Mt. Pleasant, too. Reportedly on the radar of AD Dave Heeke are a couple of former head coaches including Todd Lickliter, a current Miami-Ohio assistant who won at Butler but didn’t at Iowa, and Jim Boylen, dismissed last year at Utah. Dane Fife, a former Michigan player and current assistant on John Beilein’s Wolverine staff, could also get a look, as might Steve Schmidt, the successful coach at Mott Community College in nearby Flint, and ex-Drake and Provcidence HC Keno Davis. UPDATE: CMU hired Keno Davis April 3.

College of Charleston...Bobby Cremins’ retirement has created an opening at one of the most desirable SoCon locations, with winning tradition dating to the John Kresse years, a loyal support base, and a charming locale in Charleston. Regional sources say Cougar assistant Mark Byington, who filled in this past season when Cremins took a medical leave of absence, is the favorite. Others who could become involved are Barclay Radebaugh, the HC at crosstown Charleston Southern; Anthony Johnson, a C of C grad who spent 13 years in the NBA; Steve Robinson, the former Tulsa and Florida State HC now on Roy Williams’ North Carolina staff; and perhaps Darrin Horn, recently dismissed at South Carolina but whose tenacious defensive style worked very well a few years ago at Western Kentucky. UPDATE: Charleston hired ex-Tulsa HC Doug Wojcik on April 3.

Colorado State...The Rams’ job has opened after Tim Miles took the Nebraska position last week (more on that in a moment). Mountain West sources believe AD Jack Graham could stay in-house with the replacement and go with either of Miles’ assistants, Craig Smith or Niko Medved (both of whom likely to follow Miles to Lincoln if they don’t get the appointment at CSU). Other alternatives could be St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlop, with extensive background in the West; Weber State HC Randy Rahe; Montana HC Wayne Tinkle; Denver HC Joe Scott; UT-Arlington HC Scott Cross; Kansas assistant Joe Dooley; or Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti, formerly HC at Eastern Washington and Utah.

Duquesne...The Dukes dismissed HC Ron Everhart after the just-concluded 16-15 season on The Bluff, which wasn’t good enough for Iron Dukes backers who still dream about a return to glory. Ironically, Everhart pulled himself out of discussions with Penn State a year ago when the Nittany Lions were looking to fill their opening. Sources say 31-year-old Andy Toole, the HC at nearby Robert Morris, is high on the Dukes’ list. Loyola-Maryland’s Dancin’ Jimmy Patsos, who just took the Greyhounds into the NCAA Tourney, could get a look as well. A few high-profile assistants might be on the Duquesne radar; Orlando Antigua, who played locally at Pitt and is currently on John Calipari’s Kentucky staff; Brandin Knight, another alum of the crosstown Panthers and currently on Jamie Dixon’s Pitt staff; and Darren Savino, who knows the northeast like the back of his hand and is currently Mick Cronin’s top aide at Cincinnati.

Illinois...At the moment, probably the top available job after Bruce Weber’s expected ouster at the end of the regular season. Athletic Director Mike Thomas was reportedly under pressure to hire a minority candidate (one of whom never having led the Fighting Illini basketball or football programs) in Champaign-Urbana, but struck out in his pursuit of Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart. Thomas could still make a run at Kansas State’s Frank Martin, of Cuban descent, although Big Ten sources now say that Ohio’s John Groce has moved to the front of the queue after steering the Bobcats into the Sweet 16. Also having said “no thanks” is Butler HC Brad Stevens, who regional sources don’t expect to leave the Bulldogs for several years, and only then for a special opening like Indiana or Duke. UPDATE: Illinois hired John Groce on March 29.

Miami-Ohio...The retirement of cagey Charlie Coles was met with sadness around the college hoop world and in TGS offices; a finer fellow you will not find on the sidelines. The RedHawk job is regarded as a good mid-major one, however, and some quality candidates are in the queue, including the aforementioned Todd Lickliter, who joined Coles’ staff prior to the 2011-12 campaign and sustained a run of success at Butler in the middle of the last decade before moving to Iowa. Others could include another Miami assistant, Jermaine Henderson; Indiana assistant Tim Buckley, Ohio State assistant Jeff Boals; and Arizona assistant James Whitford.

Mississippi State...Rick Stansbury’s resignation caught no one by surprise in SEC circles who suspect that he was not-so-gently nudged out in Starkville. Early, it was rumored that UTEP HC Tim Floyd, with connections in the region, would be a likely target, but sources say Floyd remains loyal to the Miners and the Don Haskins legacy and at this stage would likely only leave El Paso for the job at LSU, which isn’t available at the moment. Now, sources say to keep an eye on Southern Miss HC Larry Eustachy, who has rehabilitated his own career and just steered the Golden Eagles into the NCAA Tourney. Insiders also say to keep an eye on Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne, who has close ties to William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley, now a Nike (?) consultant. Sources say the others who could be in the mix are Murray State HC Steve Prohm, Oral Roberts HC Scott Sutton, Mississippi Valley State HC Sean Woods, Tennessee State HC John Cooper, Middle Tennessee HC Kermit Davis, Marshall HC Tom Herrion, and perhaps a couple of assistants, Marcus Grant (from Stansbury’s MSU staff) or Robert Kirby (now at Georgetown). UPDATE: MSU hired Clemson asst. Rick Ray on April 3.

Nebraska...The Cornhuksers, who jettisoned Doc Sadler after their last-place finish in their maiden voyage in the Big Ten, hired Colorado State’s Tim Miles as the replacement last week. Some have wondered why Miles might want this very tough assignment at the ultimate football school playing in a rugged league filled with likely Hall of Fame-bound coaches. But Miles was never going to be a hotter commodity than right now after leading the Rams to the NCAA Tourney, and with a deal calling for $1.4 million per year in Lincoln over five years with “risers” of $75K each season and a rollover for a sixth year, it’s no wonder he left Fort Collins.

Rhode Island...The Rams canned Jim Baron after the just-completed 7-21 season in Kingston and have hired Wagner HC Danny Hurley, one of the famed Hurley family from New Jersey who steered the Seahawks to a 25-6 record this season.

SMU...The Mustangs, one year from a move to the Big East, let go of Matt Doherty after the just-completed 13-19 campaign in Dallas. Sources in the Metroplex say that the school might be willing to pull out all the stops and bring in a new big-name coach before making the conference switch in 2013-14, and have suggested that Harvard’s Tommy Amaker could be on the radar. Amaker’s wife, however, is on the Harvard faculty, and sources suggest a move to Dallas would be unlikely. Another target is said to be Marquette HC Buzz Williams, a Texas native, although Williams took himself out of consideration for the Oklahoma job a year ago that eventually went to Lon Kruger for north of $2 million per year. Unless the Ponies are ready to offer more money, we doubt Williams considers the move. More realistically, sources say SMU is probably going to be targeting a couple of nearby coaches, North Texas’ Johnny Jones and UT-Arlington’s Scott Cross, plus perhaps Valpo HC Bryce Drew, UT-San Antonio HC Brooks Thompson, ORU HC Scott Sutton, Murray State HC Steve Prohm, and maybe a few assistants that would include Kansas’ Joe Dooley, Texas’ Russ Springmann, or Marquette’s Tony Benford.

South Carolina...One of the prime openings on the table this offseason, the Gamecocks are looking to start over after Darrin Horn’s regime never took flight in the four years since he moved from Western Kentucky. The Cocks apparently first targeted Wichita State HC Gregg Marshall, who succeeded at nearby Winthrop before heading to the Wheatshockers, but Marshall has reportedly said no thanks. Marshall is getting paid better than seven figures at one of the premier mid-major jobs in the country with a passionate support base, so he’s not in any hurry to leave Wichita. With VCU’s Shaka Smart (who turned down NC State a year ago) also unlikely to move, USC has now reportedly set its sights on K-State’s Frank Martin, who has developed an impressive recruiting pipeline to remote Manhattan. A longshot who could enter the mix is Minnesota’s Tubby Smith, who could be enticed by a move back to his native South where he enjoyed past successes, not to mention getting out of the rugged Big Ten. South Carolina could also pay enough to get Tubby interested in leaving his current gig that rewards him at nearly $2 mill per year. An even longer shot might be Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings, although Stallings is not reportedly looking to leave Nashville, and in-league raids are frowned upon. The Gamecocks did this once upon a time to Vandy, however, when heisting Eddie Fogler out of Nashville in the early ‘90s. SEC sources also say the school might send a trial balloon the way of Harvard’s Tommy Amaker. UPDATE: South Carolina hired Frank Martin on March 27.

Southern Illinois...After canning Chris Lowery following another disappointing season, Carbondale sources say the Salukis are prepared to go back to the future and offer the job to former HC Bruce Weber, recently dismissed at Illinois. The job is reportedly Weber’s if he wants it, sources say. If Weber doesn’t bite, look for SIU to turn its attention toward a handful of assistants, including Miami-Ohio’s aforementioned Todd Lickliter, Butler’s young (even younger than Brad Stevens) Matthew Graves, Indiana’s Tim Buckley, Kansas' Barry Hinson, or Vanderbilt’s pair of Dan Muller and David Cason. UPDATE: SIU hired Barry Hinson (also formerly the HC at Missouri State) on March 28.

Tulsa...The Golden Hurricane somewhat surprisingly dumped Doug Wojcik, David Robinson’s onetime college teammate at Navy, after a 17-14 campaign. Early reports had the school interested in onetime HC Tubby Smith, but with Tubby making close to $2 mill per year at Minnesota and with Tulsa’s hoop revenues down almost 50% in the past seven years, there’s no way the Golden Hurricane could afford to bring back Smith. More realistically, expect Tulsa to look across town to Oral Roberts (where the Golden Hurricane once found Bill Self) and perhaps tab Golden Eagles’ HC Scott Sutton. Others reportedly on the radar are UT-Arlington HC Scott Cross, UT-San Antonio’s HC Brooks Thompson (a grad of nearby Ok State), Valpo HC Bryce Drew, and Vandy assistants David Cason and Dan Muller. UPDATE: Tulsa hired Kansas asst, Danny Manning (yes, that Danny Manning) on March 29.

UAB...The classy Mike Davis was terminated in brusque fashion despite a Big Dance berth last year and four straight 20-win seasons prior to this year’s 15-16 mark in rebuild mode. Needless to say, some in the region were a bit stunned at UAB’s move (which was reportedly due to lower ticket sales and attendance), and as usual wonder about the decision-making at the school, which remains under the thumb of “big brother” in Tuscaloosa. Reportedly on the Blazer radar include North Carolina assistant Jerod Haase, current UAB assistant and onetime Florida International HC Donnie Marsh, Div. II Alabama-Huntsville HC Lennie Acuff, Div. II Montevallo HC Danny Young, nearby Samford HC Jimmy Tillette, Rick Pitino’s son and current Louisville assistant Richard Pitino, and Arkansas assistant T.J. Cleveland. UPDATE: UAB hired Jerod Haase n March 27.

As always, stay tuned...

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