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#pounditWednesday, January 19, 2022

College Basketball

Mick Cronin sounds off on UCLA’s ludicrous COVID policies

Mick Cronin in a suit

UCLA head coach Mick Cronin sounded off on Tuesday about his school’s ludicrous COVID policies with an indirect jab.

UCLA is among three schools in the Pac-12 that have self-imposed harsh restrictions regarding fan attendance at athletic events. The Bruins, along with USC and Stanford, are currently limiting fan attendance at sporting events to limited family members.

Cronin has been the coach of UCLA’s men’s basketball team since 2019. He wants to know why the Los Angeles Rams could have 80,000 fans in attendance for their playoff game on Monday night, while UCLA is not allowing fans. Both teams play in the city and their game venues are located 13 miles apart.

Cronin made his point as artfully as possible, saying it’s demoralizing to the players not to have fans.

The truth is the school’s policy makes no sense. What justification is there for UCLA and USC to exclude fans when the very city in which they play is allowing sporting events of 80,000 fans? Obviously the city isn’t concerned about one sporting event being a “superspreader” and straining the healthcare system. So what explanation do USC and UCLA have for their self-imposed restrictions?

Of course, UCLA is the same school that thought it would be fine to cancel on a bowl game just hours before kickoff. None of their policies or reasoning makes sense.

Maybe Cronin raising the point will get the school to reconsider.

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky basketball legend Joe B. Hall dies at 93

Former Kentucky basketball coach Joe B. Hall

Joe B. Hall, who won a National Championship as both a player and head coach at the University of Kentucky, has died at the age of 93.

The Kentucky’s men’s basketball program made the unfortunate announcement on Saturday.

“It is with great sadness we share the passing of the great Joe B. Hall,” the program tweeted. “Our hearts are with the Hall family. We love you, Joe B.”

Hall was one of just three men in college basketball history to play on and coach for an NCAA championship team (1949, 1978). He’s also the only person to do it for the same school.

After leaning of Hall’s death, current Wildcats coach John Calipari tweeted a rememberance.

Hall spent 13 years as Kentucky head coach, compiling 297 victories after taking over for Adolph Rupp, who led the program for an impressive 41 seasons. He was named National Coach of the Year in 1978 and SEC Coach of the Year four times (1973, 1975, 1978, 1983).

Following his retirement, Hall stayed close to the program. He regularly attended practices and games, and his statue remains in place in front of Wildcat Lodge, where the men’s basketball players reside.

Image: Former UK head coach Joe B. Hall celebrates his 90th birthday and is presented a cake by UK cheerleaders during the University of Kentucky men’s basketball game against UNC Greensboro at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, December 1, 2018.

Brad Underwood wanted Illinois fans to show up drunk and rowdy for game

Brad Underwood in Illinois gear

Brad Underwood knew that he needed the support of Illinois fans ahead of his team’s game against Michigan on Friday night. He also knew that having them a little boozy might help.

Underwood shared his request for Illini fans on Thursday, a day ahead of their game against the Wolverines. He politely asked the fans to enjoy “happy hour” before heading to the game

Underwood was careful with the way he worded his request, but it doesn’t take much to figure out what he meant.

It’s hard to know whether the fans made the difference, but Illinois won 68-53. They’re now 13-3 and 6-0 in the Big Ten this season. They have also won six games in a row. Maybe the pregame Happy Hours are helping the Illini develop a home-court advantage.

H/T Barstool Sports
Photo: Jan 11, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood watches action against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first half at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Walton has hilarious take on transfer portal

Bill Walton

Bill Walton has offered some incredible takes on a wide array of subjects over the years, and the Hall of Famer continued to deliver this week with his thoughts on the NCAA’s transfer portal.

Walton, who calls games for the Pac-12 Network, spoke about the transfer portal during Thursday night’s Oregon-UCLA game. He repeatedly referred to it as “the Tinder portal” and said athletes put their name in so coaches can swipe left and right.

The left and right swiping doesn’t actually happen, but that analogy isn’t all that unreasonable.

Walton is a national treasure. There’s never a dull moment with him, whether it’s offering his opinion on hot topics or calling his colleagues by the wrong name. It’s no surprise an old-school guy like him would have some issues with the “Tinder portal.”

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

CBS Sports Network has blunder at end of Colorado State game

Colorado State and Utah State

CBS Sports Network had a broadcasting blunder at the end of Wednesday night’s Colorado State-Utah State basketball game.

The Rams beat the Aggies 77-72 to improve to 12-1 on the season. But those wishing to watch the game on CBS Sports Network didn’t know Colorado State had won the game until a few minutes after it ended. That’s because the network’s feed froze at the end and went to commercial with 2.2 seconds left.

CBS Sports Network had just tweeted to promote people watching the end of the game. The replies on the tweet were not friendly.

What a bad time to have a broadcasting glitch.

Colorado State fans will be happy to know that the team got the win.

Miami’s Kam McGusty has mic-drop moment after game-winner upsets Duke

Kam McGusty looking on

Kam McGusty definitely won the night on Saturday.

The Miami Hurricanes guard hit a game-winner to upset the No. 2-ranked Duke Blue Devils on Duke’s home floor. McGusty drove down the lane and hit a tough lefty layup to give Miami the lead with 22.8 seconds left.

The Hurricanes held on for the victory, their first win over an AP Top 5 team since 2016 and their first win at Duke since 2015.

After the game, McGusty had a mic-drop moment.

“It shows the type of team we are,” said the senior guard of the upset victory, per Michael Yero of 305 Sports. “We love dog fights… We’re not the team to play with anymore. We’re the real deal.

“Not many people can say that they beat a blue blood in a game-winner,” McGusty added.

Miami’s win was their ninth straight, bringing them to 13-3 on the year.

As for Duke, it was just their second loss of the season (they fell to Ohio State in November). The Ohio State loss was on the road however while this loss came at home. That makes Miami’s win, courtesy of McGusty, the most impressive upset of the Blue Devils that we have seen since this one.

Photo: Dec 8, 2021; Coral Gables, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Kameron McGusty (23) stands on the court prior to the game against the Lipscomb Bisons at Watsco Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Chet Holmgren falling from top of draft boards?

Chet Holmgren points

Gonzaga has never had a player go No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft (their highest pick ever was Adam Morrison, who went with the third pick in 2006). It sounds like Chet Holmgren may continue that trend this year.

Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated reported this week that there is currently a two-person race for the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft between Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Auburn’s Jabari Smith, who have separated from the pack. Woo cited conversations with a wide range of NBA scouts and executives.

Woo adds that it is difficult to make the case for Holmgren, the Gonzaga center, to go No. 1 overall because of the upside that Banchero and Smith both have as offensive focal points. While he can score in the paint and hit jumpers, Holmgren is more of a complementary scorer. He averages fewer points per game than teammates Drew Timme and Julian Strawther.

The seven-foot Holmgren has still had a strong freshman season for the No. 4-ranked Bulldogs though, averaging 13.0 points and 8.4 rebounds a game on a very efficient 61.2 percent from the field. He is also one of the best interior defenders in the country with 3.3 blocked shots per game.

Along with Banchero, Holmgren had been considered one of the favorites to go No. 1 overall for much of the season. But we recently heard that Smith had been shooting up draft boards like a meteor.

Holmgren is obviously an excellent player and sounds the part of an elite NBA prospect too. But it now appears more likely that he goes with a mid-high lottery pick than at the very top of the draft.

Photo: Oct 31, 2021; Spokane, WA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs center Chet Holmgren (34) points to the guy he was covering during a game against the Eastern Oregon Mountaineers in the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center. Bulldogs won 115-62. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Coach K has words for Georgia Tech’s Michael Devoe

Coach K points

Coach K took issue with what he felt was some trash talk from an opposing player on Tuesday night.

Duke beat Georgia Tech 69-57 at Cameron Indoor Stadium to improve to 12-1. Late in the game, Yellow Jackets leading scorer Michael Devoe gestured towards the Duke bench. Coach K thought Devoe was pointing at him and chased down the Georgia Tech guard.

After the game, Devoe was seen talking with Mike Krzyzewski, seemingly to explain the situation.

Devoe told reporters after the game that he was talking to Duke’s bench, not Coach K, and that he explained that to the Duke coach.

Devoe felt Coach K took his message the wrong way.

Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner defended Devoe’s character. Pastner also acknowledged he did not know exactly what happened.

“Michael Devoe’s a really good kid, a good player. I don’t know what happened, but in the heat of the moment … you can’t do that. No player should ever talk to an opposing coach. I don’t know exactly what happened,” Pastner said.

There’s nothing wrong with Devoe getting heated and trying to compete with Duke. He scored 21 of his team’s 57 points and was fired up during the competition.

If Coach K’s recent history has taught us anything, it’s that he seems to enjoy confronting opposing players and lecturing them.

Becky Hammon reportedly accepts surprising head coach job

Becky Hammon

Becky Hammon reportedly has accepted a head coach job finally. But the job will likely surprise you.

Hammon reportedly is finalizing a deal with the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces to become the league’s highest-paid head coach.

Hammon, 44, is currently an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA. She has served as an assistant with the Spurs since 2014.

Hammon broke many barriers in the NBA. After Gregg Popovich was ejected during a game last year, Hammon became the first woman to serve as a head coach during an NBA game. She was the first female full-time assistant coach in the NBA.

In recent years, Hammon reportedly was considered a candidate for some NBA head coach vacancies. She even turned down some college jobs because she was believed to be waiting to ultimately become an NBA head coach. That is what makes her taking a job in the WNBA so surprising.

Maybe Hammon got the sense that becoming an NBA head coach wasn’t about to happen any time soon. A report in June suggested that might be the case. Or maybe Hammon feels she needs to have some success as a head coach somewhere before receiving serious consideration in the NBA.

The Aces have been coached by Bill Laimbeer since 2018, but he may move to another role within the organization to accommodate Hammon.

Photo: Kelley L. Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Rising SEC star could become surprise No. 1 pick in NBA Draft?

Jabari Smith Jr in his Auburn uniform

The debate over who will go No. 1 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft has largely been focused on Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren. One surprise freshman star could be crashing the party though.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported on Monday that Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. has entered the conversation to go No. 1 overall. O’Connor adds that Smith has even surpassed Banchero and Holmgren in the eyes of many scouts and executives around the NBA.

Smith, a 6-foot-10 forward, is the leading scorer for an 11-1 Auburn team, currently the No. 11 team in the country. He is averaging 16.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. Smith is also hitting 45.2 percent on three-pointers this season.

O’Connor adds that Smith’s father, Jabari Smith Sr., also played in the NBA during the early 2000s. Smith Sr. played in 108 games over four seasons in the league, including stints with Sacramento, Philadelphia, and New Jersey.

Playing for two top programs, Banchero and Holmgren have gotten most of the marquee exposure this NCAA season. But do not be surprised if Smith manages to leapfrog both of them at the next level to go first overall in the NBA Draft.

Photo: Nov 25, 2021; Nassau, BHS; Auburn Tigers guard Wendell Green Jr. (1) and forward Jabari Smith (10) celebrate the win against the Loyola Ramblers in the 2021 Battle 4 Atlantis at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports