Former UCLA coach Ben Howland is Mississippi State's new coach

Mississippi State, which fired coach Rick Ray on Saturday, hires Ben Howland, who was fired by UCLA in 2013

Mississippi State has hired former UCLA coach Ben Howland to lead its basketball program. The university announced the hiring Monday night, and Howland will be introduced in a news conference on campus Tuesday.

Howland, 57, coached at UCLA for 10 years, leading the Bruins to three straight Final Fours from 2006 to 2008. But the team never made it past the second round of the NCAA tournament during the next five seasons and he was fired in 2013 despite winning the Pac-12.

Howland takes over for Rick Ray, who was fired Saturday after three losing seasons. Ray had a 37-60 overall record, including a 15-44 mark against Southeastern Conference competition.

Virginia's Bennett honored

Virginia Coach Tony Bennett was named coach of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Assn.

Bennett guided Virginia to a 30-4 record, including a 28-2 mark in the regular season. The award is based on the regular season. The top-seeded Cavaliers lost to Michigan State on Sunday in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

Bennett also won the award at Washington State in 2007 and is the ninth coach to win it twice. He and Roy Williams — who won with Kansas in 1990 and North Carolina in 2006 — are the only coaches to win the award at two schools.

TV ratings soar

The opening weekend of the NCAA tournament drew the highest ratings in 22 years for CBS Sports and Turner Sports. The networks said the weekend's third-round coverage across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV delivered a 7.3/16 overnight rating/share. That's a 7% increase from last year.

The four days of the men's tournament through Sunday also had the highest overnight ratings for CBS Sports and Turner Sports, averaging a 6.7/14. Those numbers are the best since the tournament expanded to its current television format in 1991. The overnight rating increased 6% from 2014.

Etc.

Indiana assistant Steve McClain, who has has 33 years of college coaching experience including the last five seasons on Tom Crean's Hoosiers staff, was hired as head coach at Illinois-Chicago. . . . B.J. Johnson, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward who left Syracuse last week in the wake of NCAA penalties levied against the program, reportedly will transfer to La Salle. He averaged 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds this season.

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