NCAA Tournament

Carnahan Chronicles Radio: Sam Gardner of FOX Sports talks 1985 Villanova championship team

Three of the four NCAA Tournament games played in Jacksonville in the Round of 64 were decided by three points or less, highlighted by a memorable upset of No. 3 Baylor by No. 14 Georgia State.

Arkansas, North Carolina and Xavier also advanced and Sam Gardner of FOX Sports was there to see it all play out.

Gardner joined the show Saturday to talk about the start of the tourney. He also shared details about recent interviews he conducted with players and coaches from the 1985 Villanova men’s basketball championship team for an anniversary story that was published earlier this week.

Read about the improbable journey for that Villanova squad at FOXSports.com and keep up with Gardner on Twitter for more out of Jacksonville.

Duke legend Christian Laettner featured in new ESPN 30 for 30 film

Like most people with any amount of good taste in the early 1990s I grew up rooting against Christian Laettner and those Duke Blue Devil basketball teams. Yet for some reason my interest was peaked when anticipating the new 30 for 30 installment I Hate Christian Laettner.

Maybe it was the 90210 sideburns and haircut he sported that turned me off. Or maybe it was all that winning that Duke did. Whatever it was, the road down memory lane Sunday was a reminder of all the animosity we once shared for a player and program that appeared in four-straight Final Fours and won two national titles.

It’s not one of the better 30 for 30’s, considering the subject matter and that it’s narrated by Rob Lowe, but it’s a worthy look at what made one of the greatest college basketball players so polarizing among fans.

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Carnahan Chronicles Radio: Interview with North Florida basketball’s Romelo Banks

The University of North Florida basketball team is likely to be one of the only programs in the state taking part in the NCAA Tournament when the games tip off this week.

Among the players that helped the Ospreys earn an automatic bid by way of claiming the Atlantic Sun title is 6-foot-11 sophomore Romelo Banks, who played at both Liberty and Celebration high schools while growing up in Kissimmee, Florida.

Banks joined me on the show Saturday to talk about advancing to the NCAA Tournament, the passing of his mother at a young age to cancer and how he’s used her memory as inspiration throughout his academic and athletic career.

North Florida joined the Division I ranks just a decade ago and will play in the NCAA postseason for the first time under head coach Matthew Driscoll.

Carnahan Coverage: No. 22 UCF baseball pushing for first postseason trip since 2012

The UCF baseball team reached a regional championship game in 2012, capping a back-to-back run in the postseason with one of the strongest squads in recent memory.

A year ago the Knights lineup featured a majority of players new to the program, yet they barely missed out on being selected for the NCAA Tournament.

Entering this season UCF has just five players on roster from that 2012 team. But the experience this group garnered a year ago has them ranked No. 22 in the Baseball America preseason rankings.

I spoke with senior JoMarcos Woods and head coach Terry Rooney for the Orlando Sentinel this week about how valuable that experience will be this year. The Knights will face five teams this season that open ranked in the Top 25.

Hannah Plybon emerges from small town to captain of University of Akron women’s hoops team

(The following story is an alternate version of what will appear in the Jan. 9, 2014 edition of OrrViews in Orrville, Ohio)

ORLANDO, Fla. – It didn’t take long for Hannah Plybon to showcase the kind of impact she could have at the highest level of college basketball.

Hannah Plybon (left) earned as spot on the All-MAC Freshman Team a year ago.

Hannah Plybon (left) earned as spot on the All-MAC Freshman Team a year ago.

On the heels of successful runs in three different sports during her senior year at Orrville High School in Ohio, Plybon made an immediate impression on coaches and teammates upon her arrival at the University of Akron.

Plybon worked her way into the starting lineup as a freshman before her rookie season ever got underway, on a team featuring six seniors that had returned from a 23-win campaign.

Plybon has since blossomed into a leader at Akron, on a squad that opened the 2014-15 season by winning its first 10 games.

She’s now less than a year removed from being named to the All-MAC Freshman Team after starting 32 of 33 games for the Lady Zips, who qualified for the NCAA Tournament and won the Mid-American Conference for the first time in school history.

Not bad for someone hailing from small-town America, where the pride of being hometown to former college coach Bobby Knight and a jelly manufacturer is offset by two decades worth of factories closing shop and families relocating elsewhere.

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