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#pounditWednesday, January 19, 2022

College Basketball

UCLA coach has funny quote about his team’s bad defense

Mick Cronin

The UCLA Bruins have started out hot this season, winning each of their first three games. That streak includes a victory over then-No. 4 Villanova on November 12, but don’t expect a positive spin from head coach Mick Cronin.

UCLA has surrendered just over 71 points per game on average this year, including 79 in a victory over Long Beach State on Monday night. Following the win, Cronin shredded the defensive performance with a pretty funny line.

“This game is not gonna ease my pain of horrendous defense, but you’ve got to give those guys credit for scoring,” Cronin said, via Sports Illustrated. “If I had a pair of sneakers, I think I could score on some of our guys tonight and I turned 50 this summer.”

Asked specifically what led to a better defensive performance in the second half, Cronin again pulled no punches.

“I would say they maybe they ran out of gas. Right now, defensively, I don’t like one thing we’re doing on the ball or off the ball or talk in transition,” Cronin added.

On the plus side of things, the Bruins have averaged nearly 94 points per game over their first three. And that’s a good thing, says Cronin, because it’s the only way they’re going to win.

“We better (score). We better,” he said.

If UCLA doesn’t improve defensively, the good vibes generated from beating Villanova will only last so long.

“I mean, I know everybody’s happy we beat Villanova but the game was at home. To me, that game shouldn’t have even come down the way it came down. We’ve got a lot to learn,” Cronin said. “(The defensive play is) completely unsustainable. Completely. You cannot win on the road if you don’t defend. You’ve got no chance on the road if you can’t defend.”

The 3-0 Bruins will get a couple days off before hosting North Florida (0-4) on Wednesday night.

NBA star gave UC Riverside pep talk before upset victory

Chris Paul Suns

UC Riverside’s huge upset of Arizona State on Thursday had an assist from one of the NBA’s leading stars.

Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul spoke to the UC Riverside team for 45 minutes on Thursday prior to the Highlanders’ 66-65 upset win over Arizona State. It came about because J.P. Moorman II played on Paul’s grassroots CP3 All-Stars squad in North Carolina, and considers Paul a friend and mentor. With Moorman and the Highlanders in Phoenix to face the Sun Devils, Moorman reached out and asked Paul if he’d be willing to speak to the team before the game.

“It kind of worked out where I hit him up when we landed and asked him what he had going on after his game and he told me he was going to [STK Steakhouse] and asked if I wanted to come,” Moorman said, via Myron Medcalf of ESPN. “I told him to hit me in the morning and maybe you could come by and speak to the team. He said, ‘All right, just let me know where you’re staying.’ The rest is history.”

Paul spoke for 45 minutes about tricks and tools he’s used to find success in his career. The surprise energized the team ahead of what turned out to be an upset win.

Perhaps the best part? It was Moorman who made the dramatic 70-foot shot to seal the upset. Between that and bringing in Paul, he was definitely the MVP of the day.

Video: UC Riverside upsets Arizona State on amazing buzzer-beater

JP Moorman makes a shot

UC Riverside upset Arizona State on Thursday night on one incredible buzzer-beater.

The Sun Devils were leading the Highlanders 65-63 with 1.7 seconds left. UCR was taking the ball out from under their basket and had the length of the court to go for a close shot at the basket.

They ended up heaving a shot from nearly 3/4 court … and making it:

Unbelievable! That was J.P. Moorman II who made the shot.

Moorman had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the win. He was also 4-for-8 on three-pointers, with none more impressive than that one.

Here is another look at the play, only this has a great angle that shows the fan reactions:

Video: Villanova’s elevated court had students so fooled

Villanova fans trip floor

Villanova’s odd court setup at Finneran Pavilion had students so fooled on Friday night.

Villanova held its annual “Hoops Mania” basketball kickoff event for students on Friday.

There were player introductions, and a short men’s intrasquad scrimmage followed by a 3-point shooting and dunk contests were planned.

But it wasn’t the scrimmage nor the dunk or 3-point shooting contests that drew attention. Rather, it was a video of students repeatedly tripping over the elevated court while trying to rush the floor that went viral.

Take a look:

@spicynachodip1

Watch the line ##villanova ##hoopsmania ##offset

♬ original sound – spicynachodip1

That’s just cruel.

So few people realized they needed to step up. And nobody was looking at the person in the front of them to see what had gone wrong! What a calamity.

Mark Few arrest video shows Gonzaga coach not cooperating with police

Mark Few

Gonzaga men’s basketball coach Mark Few was arrested for driving while under the influence back in September, and he was not all that cooperative with police during the incident.

Few was suspended for two exhibition games and Gonzaga’s season opener against Dixie State after he was arrested in Idaho over Labor Day Weekend. The 58-year-old refused a field sobriety test after he was pulled over, telling police that the tests are “totally subjective” and that his previously sprained ankles would prevent him from completing one properly.

You can see the body camera footage below, which was obtained by TMZ.

Few seemed to repeatedly forget that the arresting officer asked him to keep his hands out of his pockets. He looked annoyed that the officer kept reminding him. He also asked to call his attorney multiple times. A breathalyzer test revealed that his blood alcohol content was much higher than the legal limit.

Few entered a plea agreement earlier this month. He must pay a $1,000 fine and complete a community service program. He will also have to take a drug and alcohol course and have an ignition interlock device in his car for a year.

Few has been the head coach at Gonzaga since 1999. He was an assistant there for more than a decade prior to that. He has an overall record of 630-124 and took the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament final last year.

Bob Huggins wants huge change that would end NCAA Tournament

Bob Huggins at the podium

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins thinks college basketball’s power conferences need to embrace a controversial but financially rewarding idea.

Speaking at Big 12 Media Day on Wednesday, Huggins advocated for the sport’s elite conferences to break away from the NCAA and form their own tournament in order to earn a greater share of the profits.

“They’re doing it in football,” Huggins said, via Myron Medcalf of ESPN. “Why wouldn’t they do it? The presidents and athletic directors that have all the juice, why wouldn’t they do it? Makes no sense why they wouldn’t do it. I think it’s more ‘Why wouldn’t they?’ than ‘Why would they?’ And then, the other people, they can have their own tournament.

“Those Cinderella schools are putting 200 people, at best, in their gym. We’re putting 14,000.”

If you’re a stakeholder with one of these programs, the idea makes sense. The NCAA has an $8.8 billion TV deal for March Madness, and a good portion of that does trickle down to conferences and schools. However, Huggins’ concern is that much of the basketball money ends up being spent on football programs due to college football’s greater reach and viewership. A breakaway tournament, at least in Huggins’ mind, would ensure greater financial relevance and a bigger share of the financial pie for the schools involved.

Fans, however, would take some convincing. A playoff was an easy sell in college football because of the unpopular BCS system. College basketball already has a system that lets smaller teams earn the chance to compete, and sometimes beat, bigger schools. Those games have produced some of the tournament’s most memorable moments. Taking that away would likely be hugely unpopular. After all, few people have major complaints with the existing format of the NCAA Tournament.

Photo: Oct 20, 2021; Kansas City, MO, USA; West Virginia coach Bob Huggins during the question and answer session during the Big 12 Basketball Tipoffat T-Mobile Center. Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Dick Vitale announces he has been diagnosed with cancer again

Dick Vitale

Dick Vitale revealed back in August that he was cancer-free after previously being diagnosed with melanoma, but unfortunately the college basketball legend is battling another health issue.

Vitale, 82, announced in a statement through ESPN on Monday that he has been diagnosed with lymphoma. He said his doctors believe the diagnosis is unrelated to the melanoma, which was removed from above his nose and “totally cleared.” Vitale said the treatment for lymphoma will be much more difficult but that he is optimistic it will be managed thanks to early detection.

“The plan is to treat my lymphoma with steroids and six months of chemotherapy,” Vitale said. “The medical experts tell me it has a 90-percent cure rate. They say I can continue to work so I will have to manage my work schedule around my chemo schedule as they will monitor my test results along the way.”

Vitale said he draws motivation from children he has met and spent time with over the years who have battled cancer.

“In my battle, I think of all the Courageous kids that I have gotten to know and I want all of them to know (after watching their battles with their cancers and handling the chemo/radiation) they inspire and motivate me to take on this biggest fight I have ever faced. I WILL DO EVERY THING IN MY POWER TO WIN THIS BATTLE!” he said.

After he spent several years as a high school and college coach, Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons for one season in 1978-79. He then went to work at ESPN and called the network’s first college basketball game in 1979.

Vitale is an incredible ambassador for college basketball and remains as enthusiastic about the sport as ever. He signed his most recent contract extension with ESPN earlier this year. Hopefully his treatments won’t keep him from doing what he loves all that often.

Eric Musselman oozes swag in great airplane video

Eric Musselman airplane

Eric Musselman was a home run hire for Arkansas. The Razorbacks coach seems to know it.

Musselman shared this video on his Twitter account Wednesday. The video shows him exiting a private plane in sunglasses, white shoes, and a red suit. Musselman oozes swag as he struts down the stairs and onto the ground.

So what was he feeling so smooth about?

Arkansas on Wednesday landed a commitment from 5-star guard Nick Smith Jr. Smith is from the class of 2022 and expected to eventually be a first-round pick in the NBA. He’s a big-time commitment for Arkansas.

Musselman is entering his third season at Arkansas. The team has gone 45-19 in his two seasons, including a run to the Elite Eight last season. Musselman got a contract extension in April and appears to be just getting going with the Razorbacks.

Donovan McNabb’s daughter announces college commitment decision

Donovan McNabb

Donovan McNabb’s daughter Lexi inherited her mother’s and father’s athletic genes, and the University of Buffalo is set to reap the benefits.

Lexi McNabb, a guard at Seton Catholic High School in Chandler, Ariz., announced on Monday that she has accepted a scholarship offer to play basketball at Buffalo. She made an official visit to the school over the weekend with her family, according to Rachel Lenzi of The Buffalo News.

Donovan also shared the news on social media:

“Happy to announce that my baby girl @lex.m5 has committed to @ubathletics. Proud father and great staff. We’re back in Upstate NY. Let’s Go,” McNabb wrote.

Raquel Nurse McNabb, Lexi’s mother and McNabb’s wife, was also a star athlete. She played point guard at Syracuse from 1994-1998, which was around the same time Donovan was the quarterback for the Orange.

Lexi averaged 13.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.8 assists in 21 games during the 2020-21 season. She helped Seton Catholic win back-to-back Class 4A championships in Arizona.

Fab Five to be reunited at Chris Webber’s Hall of Fame induction

Chris Webber

Chris Webber is preparing to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, and it appears the honor has served as a catalyst for the Fab Five to put their differences aside.

In an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic this week, Webber said the Fab Five is “back together” and revealed that his former Michigan teammates will be in attendance in Springfield, Mass., on Saturday.

“You’re going to see us together a lot. I’m very happy that those guys are coming to the Hall of Fame to be with me. … I am Michigan, they are Michigan, any alumni, they are Michigan,” Webber said. “You’re going to see a lot of us, starting with the football game in a couple weeks. It’s definitely a process, a healing process and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”

Webber said he feels he is part of the Michigan basketball program because Juwan Howard, another member of the Fab Five, is the head coach. He said Howard being successful with the Wolverines is the priority for the Fab Five and that “everything else will fall into line.”

A Michigan official told Charania that Webber is welcome back with the program and that the school wants to formally honor the Fab Five at some point. Webber said he would love that but emphasized that the focus should be on Howard and the current Wolverines team.

“I would love for us to have everything, from retirement banners to all of that great stuff. But I feel good right now that they have a hell of a leader (in Howard),” Webber said. “I think all those things come in due time, but I’m sure he’s got work to do getting his guys ready because he’s going to get that championship that we didn’t. Oh, wait, did I say that? Did I put that pressure on him? Oh, well, he can handle it.”

Webber hinted in a separate interview this week that his issues with Jalen Rose are not totally resolved. It appears the two have come a long way, however. They shared an awesome moment on live TV earlier this year when Webber was announced as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame class.

It took Webber several years to make the Hall of Fame, and many believe he was snubbed for so long because of his involvement in the NCAA scandal with Ed Martin at Michigan. Webber was estranged from Michigan and his former teammates for quite some time, and Rose spoke out in favor of him reconciling with the school back in 2018.

There may still be some issues for Webber, Rose and other members of the Fab Five to work through, but it is clear Michigan wants to acknowledge the team as an important part of the school’s history. It is only a matter of time before that happens.