Cooley: “We’re excited” about move away from Big East

Leave a comment

The seven Catholic, basketball-only schools within the Big East recently announced they’ll be breaking away from the league in the future, and on Monday, one of those coaches spoke his piece about it.

Providence’s Ed Cooley, currently in his second season as Friars head coach, gave his opinion of the move to Chip Brown on Sirius XM’s College Sports Nation. Needless to say, Cooley is like many of the coaches that are involved in this mass exodus from the Big East. He agrees something had to be done.

The Friars are currently 7-2 and are expected to contend in the Big East.

“I’m not privy to a lot of those conversations; that’s at a different level.  The preliminary conversations I’ve had with [PC President] Father Shanley and [athletic director] Bob Driscoll, was, they’ve seen the landscape change years ago.  And when you look at, just recently, with Rutgers leaving, then Louisville leaving, I think enough was enough.  It’s unfortunate, as I said earlier today, that football has dominated the landscape of college athletics and, I mean, there’s a lot of reasons for it.  And because we’re a basketball only school as far as the elite high level, I’m pretty sure our presidents got together and said, ‘Let’s go in a different direction.’  The Big East was changing every single day.  There were nontraditional schools being invited and I’m pretty sure it just wasn’t in the best interests of them all.  But we’re excited.  We’re real excited about the direction. I don’t know what’s going to happen from here, I just know it’s going in a different direction. And Providence College has solidified itself as far as what we’re doing to be a powerful player in whatever league we’re going to be in.”

So, Cooley’s happy. I don’t have a problem with that. And also, kudos to him for recognizing, for better or worse, that football is king in this discussion. It’s just a fact some coaches have a hard time grasping. He continued.

“We’ve been a proud, proud member of the Big East, being one of the original schools.  And we’ll miss that.  We’ll miss the challenges of Connecticut, Syracuse, we’ve had some great battles with them through the years.  But I think everybody has to be realistic with the changing culture of athletics.  If you don’t change you are going to get left behind.  And whatever new rivalries will come up, we’ll embrace those.  I know our fan base is excited about it [and] our alumni are excited about it and we’re going to try to do the best we can.”

This is one of the more genuine statements I’ve heard from a coach regarding this situation. Cooley recognizes the past, but knows the times change. The collegiate landscape isn’t the same as it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. We all hurt when we see things we love end or become altered, and we can either, in this case, fight a losing battle to stay together or move on and try to improve. Cooley recognizes the seven non-Football Bowl Subdivision schools saw that and had to make the move.

I never really had an opinion on the latest round conference realignment. I’ve become numb to it. Tell me when it’s over. But this is inevitable. Good that Cooley and the other schools are helping themselves instead of trying to funnel water out of a sinking ship.

David Harten is a sportswriter and college basketball blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

Eric Espada/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?

North Carolina’s Luke Maye declaring for NBA draft without hiring agent

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina junior Luke Maye has declared for the NBA draft but isn’t hiring an agent.

The 6-foot-8 forward was a third-team Associated Press All-American after averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds. He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most improved player after increasing his scoring average by 11.4 points from his sophomore to junior seasons.

Coach Roy Williams says in a statement that it’s ”a great opportunity” for Maye to work out for NBA teams and get feedback on what to improve in his game.

The deadline for college players to declare early for the draft was Sunday night. Players who don’t hire an agent can maintain their college eligibility as long as they withdraw by May 30, which is 10 days after the NBA draft combine.

Gonzaga star undergoes surgery on his shoulder

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The most important players for Gonzaga heading into the 2018-19 season will have an offseason dedicated to rehabilitation.

Josh Perkins, Gonzaga’s starting point guard, underwent surgery on Friday to repair a shoulder that he injured back in December. According to the Spokesman-Review, Perkins expects to be healthy and ready to play by the start of next season.

Perkins averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 assists during the 2017-18 season despite playing through those shoulder issues. After December’s win over Washington, a game in which Perkins left wincing in pain and clutching his shoulders, Perkins said “Just popped out a little bit. It’s not very strong right now, but everything is good.”

For my money, Perkins is the player that is going to be the x-factor for the Zags next season. They have a terrific front court with Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie returning, and with the likes of Zach Norvell and Corey Kispert back, there is plenty of talent on the wings. Perkins, the senior point guard, is the blue that is going to be needed to hold it all together.

Gonzaga is a top five team heading into next year. They have national title aspirations. Perkins might end up being the guy that determines whether they live up to those goals or get knocked out of the field in the Sweet 16.