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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

College Basketball

Geno Auriemma offers to work for free amid UConn budget crisis

Geno Auriemma

The state of Connecticut is attempting to make major cuts to the University of Connecticut’s state funding, and women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is not having it.

Auriemma, who is due to make $2 million next year, launched an impassioned defense of the university and the progress it has made since his arrival amid a proposed budget that would slash the school’s operating budget by $300 million.

“Some things you can’t quantify its worth,” Auriemma said, via Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant. “I do know what it is worth to people living in Connecticut trying to run a business who want kids to stay here after they graduate. UConn graduates come out as a skilled workforce. Yet every time you pick up the paper another company is leaving the state.

“This doesn’t mean [UConn] shouldn’t be free from cuts. That’s unrealistic. We also don’t have the massive endowments of University of Texas and Michigan. I’m just saying one of the first places people always look on a budget crisis is cutting education. Grade school. College. Bloated budgets! We’re wasting money. That may be true in some cases. Even one of the legislators said, ‘A lot of people up at UConn are getting paid a lot of money.’ Like that’s a mortal sin.”

In response to that, Auriemma offered to work for free if it would help preserve other educational or athletic programs at the school.

“I’ll tell you what. I’ll work for free next year,” Auriemma said. “I’ll give up what the state pays me, what the taxpayers are paying me, but guess what? I pay my taxes and I don’t care how much money it costs for me to have good schools where I live in Manchester. My [adult] kids don’t go to school there. I can afford it. I want to be proud of our town’s education system. Why is it that older people turn their back on education when somebody paid for their kids when they were in school? We’ve lost sight of what we have to do for other people.”

Auriemma is a brash and outspoken defender of UConn. Saying it and doing it are two entirely different things, but he certainly sounds serious.

Zion Williamson spotted at South Carolina game with Frank Martin

Zion Williamson

After their surprise run to the Final Four last season, is South Carolina now becoming a coveted destination for elite recruits?

Top prospect Zion Williamson was spotted at South Carolina’s football game against Kentucky on Saturday with head basketball coach Frank Martin, per Kevin Bilodeau of Live 5 News.

The 17-year-old Williamson, who is ranked No. 2 in the 2018 ESPN 100, has already become something of a household figure with his high-flying ways.

South Carolina may not have the brand name value of Duke, Kansas, UCLA or some of the other schools that Williamson has also been visiting with. But the fact that the Gamecocks are even getting into the room with blue-chippers like Williamson bodes rather well for the future of their program.

Rick Pitino predicts changes to NBA one-and-done rule

Rick Pitino

Louisville coach Rick Pitino remembers the days of high school basketball players skipping college to go straight to the NBA — and he predicts that those days will soon return.

In an interview with Marty Smith of ESPN, Pitino said that he expects the NBA to lower its age minimum — currently at 19 — to once again allow high school stars to go directly into the NBA draft.

“When I was at Kentucky I had seven high school basketball players told me they were coming, and instead they went to the pros out of high school,” Pitino said. “And by the way, I think that rule’s going to change back to that. I think high school players are going to be able to go pro again. I think the commissioner’s probably going to do it within two years.”

Pitino didn’t seem to have any evidence to back this up, just a feeling. He is likely right that a change is coming as far as the age limit goes, but if it’s up to Adam Silver, that threshold will go up, not down.

Marvin Bagley officially cleared to play immediately at Duke

Marvin Bagley

Marvin Bagley III committed to Duke as a class of 2017 recruit last month, but he still needed approval from the NCAA to be able to play immediately. The 18-year-old received it on Friday.

Duke basketball announced on Twitter that its top recruit has been given the green light.

Bagley averaged 24.6 points and 10.1 points per game as a senior at Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth (Calif.) after sitting out his junior year due to transfer rules. He had previously spent his freshman and sophomore years in his home state of Arizona.

While it’s still early to say how Bagley will perform at the next level, many expect him to be the top overall pick in next year’s NBA Draft. If you want to know how much hype is surrounding the 6-foot-11 big man, just look at how Duke’s championship odds were affected when he announced his commitment.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus wants to be less of a story at Northwestern games

Julia Louis-Dreyfus went viral during the NCAA Tournament earlier this year for being a normal mom, and she is hoping she can cheer just as loudly next season without drawing so much attention.

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Louis-Dreyfus said she was stunned to see herself plastered all over the internet after Northwestern made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The only thing the five-time Emmy winner cared about was watching her son have fun.

“The whole thing was just [mind-blowing] — we couldn’t believe any of it,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “It’s such a good team, they’re such great kids, and my son’s having a gas, so, I mean, what more could you ask for? … I wish they hadn’t put me on the Jumbotron so much because you’re really there just as a mom!”

It’s easy to understand why it is so fun to see a talented actress we have all watched countless times in shows like “Seinfeld” and “Veep” turn into a typical basketball mom. Any parent would have been a fanatic during Northwestern’s tournament run, so why should Elaine Benes be any different?

Personally, we were thrilled that Northwestern’s success resulted in Louis-Dreyfus sending one of the funniest NCAA Tournament tweets of all time. That said, you can understand why she doesn’t want to take any of the spotlight off the team.

Danny Ferry explains decision to let Duke unretire his No. 35 jersey for Marvin Bagley

Marvin Bagley

After nearly three decades of hanging in the rafters at Duke, Danny Ferry’s No. 35 jersey is coming out of retirement for star freshman Marvin Bagley III. Now Ferry is explaining why he offered his blessing.

In an interview with Hank Tucker of Duke’s student newspaper The Chronicle earlier this week, Ferry opened up about his decision to allow the jersey to come down for Bagley, who wore the number in high school.

“[Associate head coach] Jeff Capel and I had talked about it a while ago, at which time I offered and said I was totally fine with it at some point if they needed to use one of the retired jerseys,” said Ferry. “I’m very proud my jersey will still be hanging in Cameron, but I’m most attached to what is best for Duke and the basketball program.

“Speaking pragmatically, with so many retired jerseys and the great tradition that hopefully continues, this was going to be an issue going forward for the school at some level,” Ferry continued. “For it being a high-quality player and a high-character kid, it certainly makes decisions like this easy.”

Ferry, who went to a lengthy NBA career and a three-year stint as Atlanta Hawks GM, was one of the more storied players in Duke basketball history. A four-year guy, Ferry was a two-time ACC Player of the Year and a two-time All-American selection as well as Naismith College Player of the Year in 1989.

Tucker notes that the Blue Devils have retired 13 jersey numbers in the history of the program, but this is the first time ever that a number has been brought out of retirement. Nevertheless, with how drastically Bagley’s commitment has improved Duke’s title odds, it makes sense for him to be the trailblazer.

Duke’s odds to win title skyrocket after Bagley commitment

Coach K hair

If you’re a sports bettor, hopefully you got your money in on Duke to win the 2018 national championship prior to Monday, because the price just went up.

High school star Marvin Bagley III announced on Monday night that he was reclassifying to the class of 2017 and that he would play for Duke.

In response to the news, one Las Vegas sportsbook instantly made the Blue Devils 3:1 favorites to win the title, a spike from where they began in April at 12:1.

Bagley, who played last season at Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, Calif., is viewed as the No. 1 recruit in this year’s class, and a strong contender to be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Some believe the 6-foot-11 forward may be the most valuable player coming out of high school since LeBron James.

Bagley’s reclassification still needs to be approved by the NCAA. If the move is approved, Duke will end up with a good shot at winning their second championship in four years.

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