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#pounditFriday, January 22, 2021

College Basketball

Duke nixes non-conference games after losing two games

Mike Krzyzewski Coach K

Mike Krzyzewski is packing it in on the non-conference schedule this season.

Duke is 2-2 this season and has wins over Coppin State and Bellarmine, but has lost to Michigan State and Illinois. Following the loss to Illinois on Tuesday, Coach K questioned playing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, Alabama coach Nate Oats said he felt Krzyzewski’s comments were made because Duke has lost two games.

Later on Thursday, Duke announced they would not be playing any more non-conference games this season. Coach K explained why in a video posted on social media.

Duke had games against Gardner-Webb and Charleston Southern that will not be played.

Duke suffered its largest home non-conference loss during the 15-point defeat to Illinois. Coach K just wasn’t having that.

Photo: Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs via CC-BY 2.0

Nate Oats calls out Coach K over pandemic comments

Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats strongly disagrees with the comments Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made this week about playing amid the coronavirus pandemic, and Oats does not think it is a coincidence that Coach K shared his opinion after a loss.

After No. 10 Duke lost to Illinois by a score of 83-68 on Tuesday, Coach K called on the NCAA to reconsider whether continuing with the season is a good idea.

“I would just like for the safety, the mental and physical health of players and staff to assess where we’re at,” Krzyzewski told reporters, via ESPN’s Alex Scarborough.

Coach K cited the rise in COVID-19 cases across the country and said he feels the plan the NCAA has in place for the 2020-21 season is sloppy. He accused the organization of “plowing through” the schedule with a goal of playing as many games as possible. The five-time national champion indicated he believes reassessing the situation after a vaccine is distributed might be best.

Oats was asked on Thursday if he agrees with Coach K. He said he thinks Coach K would have a different opinion if 2-2 Duke hadn’t lost two non-conference games already.

“Do you think if Coach K hadn’t lost two non-conference games at home he’d still be saying that?” Oats asked.

Oats then said he thinks there would be “a lot lot more problems if we weren’t playing games.” You can hear his full remarks below:

“I’ve got three daughters. They need to be in school,” Oats continued. “Humans aren’t made to sit alone in isolation for weeks and weeks on end. We’ve gotta be careful with how we do life, but you’ve still gotta do life. A huge part of life for all these guys I’m coaching is being in the gym playing basketball. I think their mental health is in a much better spot playing basketball.”

In addition to losing to Illinois, Duke also lost to No. 8 Michigan State earlier in the year.

The NCAA has given no indication that the season will be canceled or put on hold. As of now, there are plans in place to hold the NCAA Tournament in a central location.

Video: ESPN announcer shows his home setup for calling basketball game in Miami

Remote broadcast

One ESPN broadcaster gave fans a look at his home setup ahead of his call for Tuesday’s Purdue-Miami basketball game.

In an effort to limit travel and virus exposure, not to mention bring down costs, some sports events have been broadcast by announcers working from home rather than in-person at the game venue. That was the cast for play-by-play announcer Kevin Brown, who shared his home setup.

Take a look at what it was like for Brown to call the game from his apartment:

It’s pretty incredible that a broadcast can be done that way fairly seamlessly. It’s also a tribute to our technological advances.

The quality of a broadcast isn’t nearly as good as when the announcers are in the arena, but for the situation, they’re doing a nice job.

Miami beat Purdue 58-54 to improve to 3-0.

UCLA lost basketball recruits over Under Armour sponsorship deal

UCLA Bruins logo

UCLA on Tuesday announced that they have reached a sponsorship deal with Nike’s Jordan Brand to outfit the school’s athletic programs. The Bruins made the deal after Under Armour backed out of its record $280 million contract with the school earlier this year.

Though losing the Under Armour money likely hurts, the Bruins may see some other benefits from the switch.

Men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin said on Tuesday that he was told by players that the program lost some recruits previously due to their shoe affiliation with Under Armour.

The reasoning may seem silly to the uninformed, but there is more going on. Yes, there may be an element of Under Armour shoes not being viewed as cool, but that’s not all. It has long been whispered — and it became more widely known recently — that recruits often have ties to shoe brands long before they arrive at college. In some cases, these affiliations can dictate what colleges a player chooses from. Players are often “influenced” to choose a college that is outfitted by the same apparel brand that outfitted their high school club team. The Under Armour affiliation for UCLA may have narrowed their player recruiting pool.

UCLA’s deal with Jordan Brand is for six years and was negotiated without much leverage since Under Armour is out, so you can figure they’re making less than they were before. If they gain a recruiting advantage though, that could help offset the monetary drop.

ESPN’s Dan Dakich takes shot at John Calipari

John Calipari

ESPN’s Dan Dakich seems to have a bone to pick with John Calipari, and he called out the Kentucky coach once again during a broadcast on Sunday.

Dakich was working the Cincinnati-Xavier game when the topic of Georgia Tech’s big upset over Kentucky came up. The Yellow Jackets beat No. 20 Kentucky in a stunning 79-62 blowout on Sunday. Dakich took the opportunity to needle Calipari about how he probably won’t ever schedule another game with Georgia Tech.

“If Cal loses this one, he’s going to start running out of opponents he won’t play,” Dakich said as Kentucky was trailing, according to Austin Nivison of 247 Sports. “He won’t play Indiana. They beat him. He won’t play Evansville. They beat him. He’ll never play Richmond again. He’s going to run out of opponents if he keeps getting beat in out of conference games.”

The implication, of course, is that Calipari becomes sour after the Wildcats are beaten by a non-conference opponent and avoids playing them again in the future. He has said Kentucky’s rivalry series with Indiana is not coming back, though his issue with the Hoosiers seems to be with their fans.

As Nivison noted, Dakich also called Calipari out last month when discussing scheduling. Dakich ridiculed the coach for “(making) it about him all the time” and taking attention away from his players.

Dakich has never been afraid to speak his mind, and that has resulted in him getting into spats with other prominent coaches in the past. Calipari probably won’t be thrilled with the analyst’s latest commentary.

No. 1 Gonzaga suspends team activities due to COVID-19

Gonzaga Bulldogs logo

First came the cancellation of Saturday’s anticipated game between No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor. Then came the news a day later that Gonzaga is suspending team activities.

The Bulldogs announced on Sunday that they are suspending activities due to COVID-19 within the program.

“Out of an abundance of caution and the well-being of student-athletes, in accordance with COVID-19 protocols Gonzaga has made the decision to pause men’s basketball competitions through December 14,” the school said.

Gonzaga had one player and one member of their traveling party test positive for the virus prior to Saturday’s scheduled game against Baylor, which led to the game’s cancellation. The schools plan to reschedule the game.

However, Gonzaga suspending team activities through Dec. 14 means its next four games are being canceled. That includes games against Tarleton State, Southern, Northern Arizona and Idaho. If Gonzaga resumes activities after Dec. 14, their next scheduled game would be Dec. 19 against Iowa in South Dakota. They are scheduled to host Northwestern State on Dec. 21.

Gonzaga is 3-0 this season with wins over Kansas, Auburn and West Virginia. They are ranked No. 1 in the AP poll.

Kentucky off to worst start ever under John Calipari after embarrassing loss

John Calipari

The Kentucky Wildcats are off to their worst start ever under John Calipari after an embarrassing loss on Sunday.

Kentucky lost to Georgia Tech 79-62 on Sunday to fall to 1-3 on the season, which is their worst start since Calipari took over in 2009. The loss also marked the first time Calipari was beaten by one of his former assistants (Josh Pastner). He was previously 17-0 against them.

The Wildcats committed 21 turnovers and allowed Georgia Tech to make 51.7 percent of their shots. The defeat was the third in a row for Kentucky, which also has lost to Richmond and Kansas.

“There’s a lot of stuff we’re working on and losing games makes it harder,” Calipari said after the game.

Not only is it embarrassing for Kentucky to be 1-3, but it’s not like the Yellow Jackets are a power house. Georgia Tech previously lost to Georgia State and Mercer this season.

Calipari answered questions for about six minutes after the game before cutting things short.

Kentucky started four freshmen in the game and they have a young team, but that’s not really new for Calipari. He’s used to seeing high turnover among his teams due to prospects entering the draft. He just needs to turn things around before it gets worse than a Billy Gillispie season.

Gonzaga and Baylor agree to reschedule game after COVID cancellation

Gonzaga Bulldogs logo

Saturday’s hotly anticipated matchup between the top two ranked teams in the country was abruptly postponed less than two hours before tipoff, but there is still hope.

Top-ranked Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor saw their game postponed on Saturday when two members of Gonzaga’s traveling party, including one player, tested positive for COVID-19. In a joint statement, however, coaches Mark Few and Scott Drew issued a statement vowing to try to reschedule the game.

It’s good news for basketball fans who wanted to see this. This looked set to be the early game of the season, and seeing it postponed is certainly disappointing.

Abrupt changes like this might end up being par for the course for college basketball season. Just ask this well-known coach.

Video: Marquette beats Wisconsin on incredible tip-in at buzzer

Marquette buzzer

Marquette beat Wisconsin 67-65 at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisc. on Friday night on a fantastic tip-in at the buzzer.

The teams were neck-and-neck for most of the contest, including over the final three minutes, where the score differential was never greater than two. Wisconsin took a 65-64 lead on Marquette with 5.8 seconds left on a slick shot by D’Mitrik Trice. However, there was enough time for Marquette to have an offensive possession.

D.J. Carton drove with the ball and Trice was called for a blocking foul with 0.9 seconds left, putting Carton at the line. He made his first free throw but missed the second. Luckily Justin Lewis was there for an incredible tip-in.

What a great play by Lewis to win it!

Both teams are now 3-1 following the Golden Eagles’ win.

Scottie Pippen Jr. seems annoyed with drama involving mother Larsa

Scottie Pippen Jr

Scottie Pippen Jr. has seen and heard plenty about the latest drama involving his mother Larsa, but the Vanderbilt star insists he is doing everything he can to tune it out.

Pippen Jr., the son of Larsa and Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, sent a somewhat cryptic tweet this week after rumors surfaced that his mother is dating Minnesota Timberwolves star Malik Beasley.

“Focused on myself and my goals. I’m not responsible for nobody’s actions. All good over here,” Pippen Jr. wrote.

Photos of Beasley and Larsa holding hands were published in late November. TMZ Sports reported on Tuesday that Beasley’s wife Montana Lao was “blindsided” by the photos and was expecting Beasley to be home for his birthday on Nov. 26. She said she was disappointed when he did not show up. Beasley tweeted an ambiguous message the day after the story came out.

Pippen Jr. is in his sophomore season at Vanderbilt. He scored 25 points in the Commodores’ win over Valparaiso on Friday night. The 20-year-old averaged 12.0 points per game as a freshman last season.

Larsa and Scottie got divorced in 2018, which was two years after Scottie filed and reportedly had concern about Larsa’s relationship with rapper Future. The two have three children together.

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