Penn State players react to hiring of Franklin

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Penn State players react to hiring of Franklin

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin is the third football coach in what for many Penn State football players will be four seasons and already has left a good first impression.

The 41-year-old Franklin, who spent three years resurrecting Vanderbilt's program and guided the Commodores to a 24-15 record, has been labeled a players' coach by a group of Nittany Lion players who have had an oversized dash of change and more than a pinch of adversity on their Penn State plate.

Franklin became Penn State's 16th coach on Saturday, replacing Bill O'Brien, who took over the NFL's Houston Texans after replacing the late Joe Paterno in 2012.

Franklin wasted no time getting acclimated. He lured in four recruits, glad-handed with fans at three Penn State winter sporting events and ultimately met his new football family on Sunday night.

"I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't a little crazy, watching it on TV and being home over break," offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach said Tuesday. "There was nothing we could do about it and we knew (athletic director) Dave Joyner would pick someone great. Coach Franklin is a real players' coach. He cares a lot about the team. That's something I really look forward to, building a relationship with him."

Penn State's roster remains relatively young, but players have survived more than one passing storm.

They dealt with the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal from which came harsh NCAA sanctions, the firing and then death of the legendary Paterno, the coming and going of O'Brien and Monday's announcement by veteran defensive line coach Larry Johnson that, according to various news reports, he was going to go to work for Big Ten rival Ohio State.

"Looking back on it we really have been through a whole lot," Dieffenbach said. "It builds character and builds strength. We want to win some games and we think Coach Franklin is the coach to help us do that."

Franklin has yet to officially name a coaching staff or training personnel, something the players are waiting on.

"We have a good group of guys and should be able to transition pretty easily," linebacker Mike Hull said. "You have to take everything with a grain of salt and keep moving forward. We've been through a lot, we don't have to change who we are. The thing you really need to do is establish yourself as a hard worker and just let your coaches know you're 100 percent dedicated to the team."

Maintaining that strong work ethic was part of Franklin's initial speech, according to defensive back Jordan Lucas.

"He (Franklin) introduced himself and said what an honor it was to be the coach here at Penn State," Lucas said. "The message he gave us is that we're going to outwork everybody and everybody is on board with it. We see his vision and we're going to work really hard to make that happen."

Sunday's team meeting was a welcome reunion, according to Dieffenbach.

"We walked in there and it was really like nothing had changed," he said. "Guys were having a great time. We joked about it. We missed each other. We couldn't wait to get back and be together. It's the sign of a tight-knit team. Team morale has never been higher. You have to build new relationships. Your job as a team is to buy in completely, 100 percent as team, and that's what we're going to do."

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Gonzaga reaches 1st Final Four; Oregon upsets Kansas

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Gonzaga reaches 1st Final Four; Oregon upsets Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tyler Dorsey poured in 27 points, Dillon Brooks added 17 and plucky Oregon ended Kansas' romp through the NCAA Tournament with a 74-60 victory Saturday night that gave the Ducks their first Final Four trip in nearly 80 years.

Dylan Ennis added 12 points for the Ducks (33-5), who took the lead with 16 minutes left in the first half and never trailed again, giving coach Dana Altman his first trip to the national semifinals.

They'll face the winner of Sunday's game between North Carolina and Kentucky in Glendale, Arizona.

Player of the year front-runner Frank Mason III had 21 points in his final game for the Jayhawks (31-5), who had rolled to the Elite Eight by an average margin of 30 points. But their dream season ended with a thud just 40 minutes from campus on a night where very little went right (see full recap).

Gonzaga beats Xavier to reach 1st Final Four
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points while orchestrating Gonzaga's efficient offense, and the Zags finally shook their overrated tag by routing Xavier 83-59 on Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time.

Gonzaga (36-1) has been dogged by criticism through the years despite winning consistently, in part for playing in a weak conference but also for never making the Final Four.

On the cusp of history, the Zags took it head on with a superb all-around game to give coach Mark Few the one missing piece of his resume.

Gonzaga found the range from the perimeter after struggling the first three NCAA games, making 12 of 24 from 3-point range. The defense, a soft spot in the past, shut down the underdog and 11th-seeded Musketeers (24-14) to win the West Region.

The Zags will face the winner between South Carolina and Florida in next week's Final Four in Arizona (see full recap).

Brawl breaks out in stands at Liacouras Center during celebrity game

Brawl breaks out in stands at Liacouras Center during celebrity game

A large fight broke out at a celebrity basketball game at Temple University’s Liacouras Center Saturday afternoon.

The game, which featured former Temple athletes as well as professional athletes including NFL player Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, began at 3 p.m. Saturday. At some point during the game, a brawl featuring several men, broke out in the stands. The fight lasted for more than a minute and a half before the men involved began to disperse.

There were no reported injuries and no arrests, according to a spokesperson for Temple University. Officials have not yet revealed what started the fight.