There's no timetable for the construction of a Gophers basketball practice facility, which could cost $20 million, athletic director Joel Maturi said Friday.

But school officials have met with architects to create a design for the proposed building, he said. 

The university's lack of a practice facility has been one of the key issues fueling rumors about Gophers coach Tubby Smith.

Oregon has contacted Smith about its vacancy, according to a person familiar with the situation. The school's Nike-supported athletic programs have some of the best facilities in the country.

The Gophers have one of the oldest basketball venues in college basketball, while other programs have built new arenas and/or practice facilities in recent years.

That puts the Gophers at a disadvantage with recruiting because basketball practice facilities have become the norm, Maturi said.

"Those people, like us, that have older venues … there are some disadvantages," Maturi said. "There is a challenge there." 

Maturi said Smith has been involved in the planning process, which is "right on schedule."

But this concept started in 2007, when Smith took the job and asked Maturi to build a practice facility.

A weak economy and ongoing fundraising for TCF Bank Stadium and a baseball stadium have hampered the school's fundraising plans for a basketball facility. The practice facility will be privately funded.

Maturi said he's still confident that Smith will remain the school's men's basketball coach, despite rumors linking him to other programs. But he said he can't worry about the possibility.

"I get a little bit frustrated," Maturi said. "I understand that Tubby is attractive, as he should be. ... There might be some advantage, in his mind, to other places. But I don’t know that."

-The Sweet 16 has certainly lived up to its name so far. If you missed the Xavier-Kansas State game Thursday night, then you should go to the CBS website and watch it.

What a thriller. Xavier's Jordan Crawford made a lot of money in three NCAA tournament games. When I talked to him at the Milwaukee regional last week, he said he wasn't thinking about the NBA. Wonder if he's changed his mind in recent days.

Butler didn't play a great game and still pulled out a victory over Syracuse. Playing without injured starting center Arinze Onuaku affected the Orange's performance. But give the Bulldogs credit for responding to Syracuse's late charge.

The Bulldogs stumbled early in the season, losing to Clemson, Georgetown, Minnesota and UAB in their nonconference season. But they haven't lost since Dec. 22.

I talked to one of Gordon Hayward's family friends about a month ago. He said Hayward planned to return for his junior season. If he does return, Butler will have another opportunity to make a run, except the Bulldogs won't sneak up on anyone.

But I still think there's a good chance Hayward will test the NBA waters, especially after scoring 17 points in Thursday's win over Syracuse.

Kentucky had more trouble with Cornell than I expected. But the Wildcats also showcased their best quality: versatility. They're one of the few programs in this tournament that can adjust to any style. Can't wait to see West Virginia v. Kentucky Saturday.

I think Northern Iowa, St. Mary's, Duke and Ohio State will complete the Elite Eight field Friday night.

-The Gophers' admittance to the NCAA tournament was questioned a few weeks ago. But it's hard to argue against that bid now. Illinois and Virginia Tech, the two teams that felt snubbed by the selection committee, didn't even make the Final Four of the NIT.

Plus, the Gophers defeated four Sweet 16 squads.

-Gophers assistant Vince Taylor is a candidate for the openings at UNC-Wilmington and UNC-Charlotte, according to people familiar with the situation.

Taylor, 49, has been a candidate for other jobs in recent years, too. He was one of the top candidates for the Western Kentucky gig two years ago.

Smith gave him a huge public endorsement during the NCAA tournament last week. Maybe that will help him earn a head coaching position after years as an assistant with some of the top programs.







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Source: Georgia Tech, Oregon associates contact Tubby Smith

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Source: Tubby Smith hasn't spoken to Oregon, plans to stay at the U