Bill Walton isn’t a fan of UCLA head coach Ben Howland

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For those who watch college basketball on a regular basis, last night’s contest between Washington and UCLA simply served as more evidence to the fact that color commentator Bill Walton is not a fan of UCLA head coach Ben Howland.

During one exchange between Walton and play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch, as noted by Adam Zagoria of SNY, the Hall of Famer who played at UCLA for John Wooden stated that things would be different if he were in charge.

Pasch: “OK, well, that’s obvious. How do you play better basketball?”

Walton: “Better style.”

Pasch: “Alright, so, is that the coach? Is that the players?”

Walton: “It’s the coach.

Pasch: “So you’re not a Ben Howland fan?”

Walton: “No.”

To Pasch’s credit he followed up with asking Walton whether or not Howland’s time in Westwood was running out, which is when Walton noted that things would be different if he were the one in charge.

Does that mean he would fire Howland if in the position of athletic director Dan Guerrero? He didn’t come out and use those words, but how different can things be without making such a move?

There’s no doubt that UCLA, who moved to 17-6 overall and 7-3 in Pac-12 play with the 59-57 win over the Huskies, has some talented players led by freshman Shabazz Muhammad. But what they don’t have is depth.

The decisions of Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith opened things up in regards to guys getting more playing time, but it also left the Bruins with a rotation that at best has seven players. Freshman forward Tony Parker, who struggled with various injuries early in the season, still has not reached the point where he can contribute on a consistent basis.

Yet even with this lack of depth UCLA is averaging 71.3 possessions per 40 minutes, a number that ranks 26th nationally and first in the Pac-12 according to statsheet.com. That likely leads to the way in which Howland uses his timeouts, looking to conserve the legs of his most important players (four starters played 30 minutes or more last night), which has been another point of contention for Walton.

The Bruins are right in the thick of the Pac-12 race but there’s been the prevailing feeling that this group has “underachieved.” Maybe people have been spoiled by two things in evaluating this group: how dominant Kentucky’s youngsters were last season, and by how dominant Coach Wooden was during the glory years in Westwood.

With a second game against first-place Arizona in early March (UCLA won the first game in Tucson) the Bruins could very well end up winning the Pac-12, and there’s the NCAA tournament ahead of this group as well. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for some folks.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

Sex assault count dropped against ex-Creighton player Watson

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree sexual assault charge against former Creighton point guard Maurice Watson after questions arose about the accuser’s story.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Friday that his office had dropped the felony charge, filed earlier this year when a 19-year-old woman accused Watson of assaulting her early Feb. 4 at a party in an Omaha home. Watson has denied that allegation.

The 24-year-old Watson pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor assault for an encounter the same night with a different Creighton student, who said Watson touched her thigh and tried to make her touch his genitals. Watson was sentenced to the five days he’d already served in jail.

Watson was a senior when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, just days before the party.

Storm damage forces Paradise Jam out of Virgin Islands

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MIAMI (AP) — The Paradise Jam basketball tournament will not be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

The tournament will be played in the U.S., with a new site expected to be announced by Sept. 29.

The Paradise Jam field this year includes Wake Forest, Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer and Quinnipiac, and each of those schools was given the chance to bid for the right to host the tournament.

Tournament officials say they looked at multiple other options, such as moving to another island and using a cruise ship for accommodations, before deciding to move the event to the U.S.

For now, the tournament is scheduled to be played from Nov. 17-20.

Kentucky lands commitment from five-star point guard

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Kentucky landed a commitment from Immanuel Quickley on Friday night, a top ten prospect and arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2018.

Quickley picked the Wildcats over Kansas, who he visited earlier this month, and Miami, who he was scheduled to visit before Hurricane Irma struck south Florida.

The 6-foot-3 point guard is the first commitment in the class of head coach John Calipari, and it really comes as no surprise. He’s been considered a Kentucky lean for months, and Quickley played for Calipari on the USA U19 team during the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

While Quickley has the size and the build – he’s 180 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms – of some of Kentucky’s former elite point guards, he’s not the same kind of point guard as, say, De’Aaron Fox or John Wall. He’s more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, and while his long strides allow him to get out into transition, he’s not the finisher at the rim that those two were. What he is, however, is an intelligent player. He’s good in ball-screens, he’s an excellent passer and facilitator and he is a good enough shooter that he forces defenses to stay honest. He also has the potential to be a plus defender given his physical tools and the fact that he’ll try on that end of the floor.

Where this commitment gets interesting is the current point guard in Kentucky’s back court, Quade Green. Green was a five-star recruit in his own right, but he’s not quite built as a potential one-and-done prospect. Calipari has maneuvered through two point guards in the past, and each of the last five national champions have played major minutes with two point guards on the floor at the same time, but if Green is back next season that will be something to monitor.

That, however, is a long ways away.

What matters now is that Kentucky has gotten this commitment out of the way, and it paves the way for them to also receive a commitment from Zion Williamson. There has long been talk of those two attending college together, and with Quickley on the board, that likely keeps Kentucky in the driver’s seat as they pursue the South Carolina native.

If Kentucky can also wrangle a commitment out of R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, that would likely be the end of the discussion of whether or not Duke has surpassed the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.

Five-star forward King picks Oregon

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Oregon has nabbed one of the top players in the 2018 class.

Louis King, a top-20 forward, committed to Dana Altman and the Ducks on Thursday via a video on social media.

“It’s been a tough, strenuous process,” King said, “but today makes all of that worth it. I’ve been blessed with great opportunities.”

The 6-foot-8 New Jersey native selected Oregon over other finalists Seton Hall, NC State, Purdue and Kansas.

“I would like to thank each of them for all the time and effort they put into my recruitment,” King said. “I would like to thank my coaches and my teammates that have pushed me and helped get me to this point in my career. My friends for all their love and support, but most of all I would like to thank my family, who has been by my side through it all.”

King is Altman’s second commit in 2018, joining four-star big man Miles Norris, a top-75 recruit in the class. It’s the beginning of what could be an absolutely dynamic class for Oregon, which still has two scholarships remaining.

“Out of all of my schools I felt like it was best for me and my family,” King said to MADE Hoops. “Coach Altman said that I would have the ball in my hands throughout the season. When I get there, it will be an easy adjustment for me with how I handle rock and get my teammates open. Our goal is to win a national championship next year.”

 

Four-star forward Miller Kopp commits to Northwestern

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Northwestern has a second four-star recruit in its 2018 class.

The Wildcats received a commitment from Miller Kopp, a 6-foot-6 forward, on Thursday, he announced via social media.

“I built a really strong relationship with (coach) Chris Collins and I fell in love with the campus,” Kopp told Scout. “I knew it would be a nice campus and have that stuff, but I think me and him are wired the same way. II think that his personality fits mine and I think we complement each other. I’m definitely excited to be able to go to a program on the rise and be able to make some history.”

Kopp picked the Wildcats over offers from Georgetown, Butler, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. The Houston native is ranked in the top-100 of his class by most recruiting services.

He gives Collins and the Wildcats an exceedingly strong 2018 class, which already featured four-star guard Pete Nance of Ohio along with three-star recruits Jordan Lathon and Ryan Young. It represents a major leap forward for Northwestern. It would appear that the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance last March has brought momentum to the recruiting trail.