The student has become the teacher. Brad Underwood, who served on Bob Huggins' staff at Kansas State, led his team to another NCAA Tournament victory, and has set up a very rumor-filled off-season in Nacogdoches, Texas.
Stephen F. Austin used its defensive strength to overpower West Virginia, a team hardened in the Big XII, and advance to the second round with a 70-56 win. That is 21 wins in a row for the Lumberjacks, and if tonight was any indication, they have no signs of slowing down.
You couldn't find a matchup of two more similar coaches in this one if you had tried. Both men preach strong defense, both men require a lot of discipline from their teams. If you overlaid the stats that the two teams put up this season, it would be hard to tell that you were looking at two different teams.
But it was Stephen F. Austin that was able to exert its strength more Friday night. During the year, the Lumberjacks forced the greatest percentage of turnovers on defense, and that haunted the Mountaineers all game.
Stephen F. Austin forced West Virginia into 22(!!!) turnovers and more often than not turned those into points on the other end of the floor.
Here are three major takeaways from this game:
Ignore the shooting numbers when Stephen F. Austin takes the floor
The Lumberjacks shot just 30.9 percent from the floor, and if you saw that number for any other team, it would be a major sign that that team was the loser. Only Stephen F. Austin may be one of the few teams in the country that can win with just defense. Of course it helps when you have Thomas Walkup leading the offensive effort (more on him in a moment). But this team doesn't necessarily need to score a lot of points in order to win games, and that could be crucial moving forward. With the slow tempo that they play, every possession counts, and the Lumberjacks are just better at everyone else at taking those possessions away from their opponents (West Virginia was No. 2 in the country). Whether it is Notre Dame or Michigan facing up, they better be ready for a physical game and they better continue to excel at protecting the ball.
Brad Underwood is going to be a hot name this summer
There have already been rumors floated that Brad Underwood could be a fit at TCU. And that won't be the last rumor as coaching opening are starting to fall all over the country. This is a coach whose defensive style may not win over fans in every market, but there can be no denying the results. And Underwood doesn't come with all the baggage of Bob Huggins.
Truth be told, we wish he would stay at Stephen F. Austin forever, and make this a team to be feared for the next 10 years when their name shows up in the bracket, much like Gonzaga, or Wichita State.
So message to all those ADs out there: if you are going to come for Underwood, you better come prepared to give this guy a real shot, because you can see the results he can generate in the Southland and the NCAA Tournament. Don't put a short leash on him.
Although we would rather you didn't come at all.
Thomas Walkup, period.
This guy has been so good, they should just erect a statue for him on campus now. It doesn't hurt that with his beard and hair, he could stand in for the mascot. Heck, just name the stadium for him now, and put 10 statues to him out front. Yeah, he has been that good.
Walkup scored 33 points, including 19 from the free throw line as the defense swarmed to try and stop him. Plus he had the dagger 3-pointer to really seal this upset for the Lumberjacks. Add nine rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block; he did it all.
He may be undersized for the NBA, but tonight should show that he has the chops to play at the next level in some way. If smart scouts are watching, they saw some things that they know translate into scoring and wins in the League.
Stephen F. Austin will play against the winner of Notre Dame and Michigan on Sunday.