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Report: Ben Howland’s job is in jeopardy

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Tracy Pierson of BruinsReportOnline.com is as plugged into the UCLA program as any reporter in the country.

He’s the guy that broke the news that Joshua Smith will be transferring. He’s a voice that you can trust even if he’s speculating, because you can be sure that, somewhere in the UCLA hierarchy, that same speculation is happening.

Which is why I feel comfortable posting about the latest from Pierson, who, on Thursday, gave us a status report on the job status of Ben Howland.

And as you can probably imagine, it’s not all that promising. From BRO:

UCLA is currently leaning toward replacing Ben Howland as its head basketball coach, and he could be let go before the end of the season, according to sources.

There is also an indication that UCLA has taken preliminary steps in investigating potential coaching candidates.

[…]

Sources are indicating that booster and donation support of Howland has diminished considerably so far this season, and that has been critical in this development.

Frankly, none of this is a surprise. Howland is alienating boosters and coaching in front of sparsely populated crowds in the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion. Players keep transferring out of UCLA, which certainly isn’t a good thing considering that Howland has dealt with two major PR disasters in 2012: George Dohrmann’s article in SI chronicling everything that went on in the UCLA program during Howland’s tenure and the fact that everyone that follows college hoops believes that he, in some way, managed to circumvent NCAA rules to land Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson.

And, to top it all off, Howland is losing games to teams like Cal Poly.

At a place like UCLA, it simply doesn’t work like that.

And any scuttlebutt that says his job is in jeopardy is, frankly, not surprising.

The question that intrigues me more, however, is who will get the job is Howland is forced to step down. The Bruins are one of college basketball’s bluebloods; that job is, simply put, one of the best in the country. Would it be enough to get a guy like Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart to leave their current posts? Would the Bruins be able to lure in someone like Thad Matta or Mark Few? Would they look towards the NBA ranks for a replacement?

For now, that’s all speculation.

But the speculating won’t last long if Howland doesn’t turn things around this season.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

WATCH LIVE: Hofstra travels to Delaware on NBCSN

James Madison forward Yohanny Dalembert (40) prepares to shoot against Hofstra forward Rokas Gustys, behind, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Harrisonburg, Va., Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
(Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)
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Hofstra tries to keep pace with the conference’s elite as they travel to Delaware on Saturday afternoon. You can watch this CAA battle live on NBCSN at 5:00 p.m. EST.

The Pride (17-8, 9-4) are currently two games behind conference leader UNC-Wilmington and they’re trying to make a run to close out the season. Senior guard Juan’ya Green leads the Pride in points (17.7 ppg), assists (7 apg) and steals (1.8 spg) and he’s surrounded by a dangerous supporting cast.

Delaware (6-18, 1-12) had lost 15 consecutive games before beating Drexel in their last game. The Blue Hens have struggled in CAA play but Kory Holden (17.5 ppg, 4 apg) will try to help lead the upset.

These two teams met on Dec. 31 with Hofstra winning that one, 90-80, at home.

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

Michigan gets Caris LeVert back in a win over No. 18 Purdue

Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan (50) tries to steal the ball from Michigan guard Caris LeVert (23) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
(AP Photo/Tony Ding)
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Zak Irvin scored 22 points and Michigan’s outmanned front line held Purdue’s redwoods to just seven offensive boards, six second chance points and just 22 points in the paint as the Wolverines landed a critical, 61-56, win over the No. 18 Boilermakers.

Depending on who you listen to, Michigan entered the day, at worst, on the bubble and at best, in headed for the 8-9 game.

And they picked up a top 25 win.

So yes, this win was big for them moving forward.

But more important than the win itself was that Wolverine fans got a glimpse of all-american guard Caris LeVert. He played just 11 points and didn’t return in the second half, he didn’t score and he missed the only shot that he took, but LeVert took the court for the first time since Dec. 30th. That day, LeVert rolled his left ankle and most likely reinjured a foot that had had a broken bone surgically repaired twice in the last 20 months. Michigan never confirmed what the actual injury was and never gave a timetable for when he would be back in the lineup, which is what made his brief appearance so important.

LeVert isn’t done for the season.

And since the Wolverines managed to post a 9-4 Big Ten record with LeVert acting as little more than a spectator, they have a chance to make a run in the Big Ten tournament and get into the NCAA tournament.

That will happen with LeVert in the rotation and, if all goes according to plan, the starting lineup.

So even with a loss against Purdue, the Wolverines had a good day. Bolstering their NCAA tournament profile was an added bonus.