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Saturday, July 22, 2017

College Basketball

Kanye West was ‘super-friendly’ with UCLA basketball team in visit

Kanye West

UCLA’s basketball players had a pair of surprise visitors to their summer basketball workout.

Kanye West and 2 Chainz made an appearance at the workout, and West, at the very least, was happy to greet the players.

A UCLA spokesperson told CBS Sports’s Gary Parrish that West had been playing in the gym before UCLA’s players arrived, and greeted them when they did.

“A lot of our guys listen to his music, so it was a cool thing for them,” the spokesperson said. “We sometimes get celebrities on our campus, and you never know how they’re going to be. But, honestly, Kanye was super-friendly with our guys. I was impressed.”

It’s no secret that Kanye loves his basketball. He does have a reputation for being a bit surly sometimes, though, so it’s good that the UCLA players got a cool experience out of it.

Jim Boeheim rips ‘idiot’ Tom Crean over draft criticism

Jim Boeheim

Jim Boeheim on Thursday ripped former Indiana coach Tom Crean for his draft-night criticism of one of Boeheim’s former Syracuse players.

Orange forward Tyler Lydon was taken in the first round by the Denver Nuggets, No. 24 overall. Crean, who was fired by Indiana, served as a draft analyst on The Vertical’s draft night show. He didn’t think much of the Lydon pick.

“I don’t think he’s that good,” Crean said on the show, via Syracuse.com. “I think he plays hard, I think he tries hard, I don’t think he’s soft. But I don’t think the shot is there. I don’t think the mobility. Guys like him, who are they going to guard? And who are they going to separate from?”

Despite his criticism of Lydon, Crean did praise Boeheim and the job he does with grooming players in his program. That didn’t matter much to Boeheim, who called Crean an “idiot” in response Thursday.

“He’s an idiot,” Boeheim said from the SU Athletics’ No-Huddle Tour, via Syracuse.com. “He said he’s not a good shooter. Freshman, sophomore year he shoots 40 percent from 3. That’s pretty good for a young player. I think he had the best shooting statistics at the combine, I think, of all the big guys. He shoots it. That’s what he does. It just shows the ignorance and not doing the work, the research, the background check. He’s athletic and can do a lot of other things but he can really shoot.”

This is the exact reason why draft analysts don’t go out on a limb very often. You’re critical of a player and you get this kind of backlash. And then of course Crean is an easy target since he was fired by Indiana.

Time will tell who was right about Lydon.

John Calipari vehemently denies Knicks rumors

John Calipari

John Calipari may be halfway across the planet, but it still didn’t take him long to respond to the rumors linking him to the New York Knicks.

Thursday afternoon, ESPN’s Ian Begley reported that a Calipari rep expressed interest in the Knicks’ presidency job on behalf of the coach.

Kentucky was asked to comment on the report and said Calipari was in Egypt for the FIBA World Cup and unavailable to comment.

Two hours later, Calipari woke up to the rumors and shot them down via Twitter:

This game is all too familiar for the successful Kentucky coach. His name gets linked to an opening and he quickly denies interest. Back in February, the rumors tied him to the Pelicans and his former player, Anthony Davis. This time it’s the Knicks.

Report: John Calipari expressed interest in Knicks presidency

John Calipari

Maybe the itch to compete in the NBA still hasn’t escaped John Calipari.

ESPN New York’s Ian Begley reported on Thursday that Calipari’s people reached out to the Knicks to express interest in their presidency.

Begley says the Knicks do not have interest in Calipari at the moment. Though it is unconfirmed, Begley presumes Calipari would be interested in a dual-job of coaching the Knicks in addition to leading the team’s front office.

The Knicks have a vacancy after firing Phil Jackson on Wednesday following three years under his leadership. GM Steve Mills is currently leading the team. Isiah Thomas has already shot down rumors about a potential return to the Knicks, while Begley has mentioned the team is interested in Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti for the job.

Calipari is one of the best coaches in college basketball and has been at Kentucky since 2009. He still may have an urge to return to the NBA and reshape his legacy after a largely unsuccessful tenure as head coach of the Nets from 1996-1999.

De’Aaron Fox went off against UCLA to ‘shut LaVar Ball up’

De'Aaron Fox

The outstanding Sweet 16 contest between UCLA and Kentucky in March was highlighted by De’Aaron Fox’s memorable 39-point game in the Wildcats’ 86-75 win over the Bruins. Fox thoroughly outplayed his Bruins counterpart Lonzo Ball in the game on both ends of the floor. Now the former Kentucky guard says part of his motivation that game was to shut LaVar Ball up.

In a profile on Fox published by SI’s Andrew Sharp Thursday, Fox explained his mindset ahead of the UCLA tournament game.

“Kill mode all the time,” Fox said of his mindset for that game. “Shut Lavar Ball up.”

LaVar Ball, of course, is Lonzo’s outspoken father, who made noise all throughout UCLA’s season about how good his son is and how great of a pro he’ll become. That certainly helped lead Fox to put together a monster game against the Bruins.

Ball and Fox are competing to go higher in the draft, and the Lakers are said to have interest in both players at No. 2 overall.

But what this story shows us is there is yet another reason to have some caution about drafting Lonzo. Not only can his father be a pain in the rear to deal with, but LaVar’s big talking ways also puts a bulls eye on his son’s back and has the unintended consequence of bringing out the best in opponents.

John Calipari opposed to 20-game league schedule, blames TV networks

John Calipari

The ACC has decided to increase the number of in-conference games a team has to play each season, and other conferences are considering doing the same. According to John Calipari, that is going to hurt the sport of college basketball.

With ACC teams set to play 20 in-conference games as opposed to 18 starting in 2019, Calipari believes fans are going to be robbed of some marquee matchups. He blames the television networks for that.

“They need more inventory for their own network so you just play more league games and then you have more inventory for your network to put on,” Calipari said Tuesday, via the Currier-Journal. “Hopefully in our case in this league (the Southeastern Conference) we stay where we are and if we don’t, we’ll make it work.”

Like they did with the SEC Network a few years back, ESPN has announced it will launch the ACC Network by August 2019. The Big Ten, which also has its own network owned by FOX Sports, is also leaning toward increasing its number of in-league games to 20 per season.

“What you do is, you take away some of those kind of games that have been good to us,” Calipari said. “North Carolina, for example: If they go to 20 games we won’t have any more series with North Carolina, so I’m not for it.”

Calipari added that increasing the number of in-conference games would prevent teams from improving their schedule the way they see fit.

“I think teams can use those last two games to put their own schedule together,” he said. “If you need a tougher game, if you have a rivalry game, if you need an easier game, if your team needs a team they can beat or a team they’re challenged by, if they need a road game, you can do it with those two games.”

Having matchups like Kentucky-North Carolina taken off the regular season college basketball slate would be a disappointment. Some of the most exciting games of the year happen when teams from different conferences square off, so we’re with Calipari on this one. Unfortunately, money talks.

Chris Holtmann reportedly favorite for Ohio State job

Chris Holtmann

The news on Ohio State’s coaching search has been moving rapidly.

First it was reported the team was interested in the Chicago Bulls’ Fred Hoiberg, then Creighton’s Greg McDermott was the next target, and now it’s being reported that Chris Holtmann is the favorite to land the Buckeyes job:

Holtmann, 45, has been the head coach at Butler since 2014. He has gone 70-31 in three seasons with the Bulldogs, reaching the NCAA Tournament all three years, and the Sweet Sixteen last season.

Prior to Butler, Holtmann was the head coach at Gardner-Webb.

Ohio State is looking for a new coach after Thad Matta stepped down on Monday.

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