Are we seriously calling for Tubby Smith to be fired already?

7 Comments

Rodney Williams missed Sunday night’s game against Illinois, and it may have cost the Gophers a win.

Illinois big man Tyler Griffey snapped out of a shooting slump on Thursday against Indiana, and continued his hot shooting by knocking down four threes and scoring 16 points as the Illini overcame a 10 minute stretch to begin the game without hitting a field goal.

Griffey’s success was largely a result of the inability of Minnesota’s big men — Trevor Mbakwe, Elliot Eliason, Andre Ingram — to chase him around on the perimeter, and it’s difficult not to imagine Rodney Williams being able to stay with Griffey better.

Williams missed the game after tweaking his shoulder in practice on Saturday. Here are the deets, from Amelia Rayno:

Rodney Williams didn’t play at all after tweaking his left shoulder in yesterday’s practice. Williams said he thought he could play, at least some, but that the coaching staff made the decision to keep him out to ensure he didn’t make the injury worse. Williams said he will “definitely” be playing on Thursday, when Wisconsin will be at Williams Arena.

The good news is that Williams appears to be right that he’ll be playing on Thursday:

The bad news is that it has already cost Minnesota a game. The Gophers have now lost six of their last eight and are sitting below .500 in the Big Ten. They’re a long way from being anywhere close to the bubble, but Minnesota fans are starting to get fed up. There’s already one columnist calling for Tubby Smith’s job.

Personally, I think that’s silly.

Minnesota has lost at Indiana by seven, to Michigan by eight, at Wisconsin by one, at Michigan State by 11 and to Illinois by four during this stretch. Those are all tournament teams, and three of them are going to be in contention for top two seeds in the NCAA tournament. The only surprising loss came at Northwestern.

If the Gophers can avoid anymore surprising losses in Big Ten play, they’ll end the season at 9-9 in league play. That will likely slot them sixth, with wins over Michigan State and at Illinois. And they still have a chance to pull off upsets against Indiana and Wisconsin at home and at home Ohio State.

Let’s go back to November. Pretend I told you then that the Gophers would finish sixth in the Big Ten, earn a six seed in the NCAA tournament and notch a win over Michigan State, every Gopher fan would have been happy with that, right?

The bottom-line is this: Minnesota was over-hyped because they rolled through a non-conference schedule that looks less impressive now than it did at the time and because they picked up a pair of quality league wins early in conference play. I’ll take some blame for that, as I was fooled as well.

But at the end of the day, this is a team that doesn’t have a true point guard, relies on the offensive glass for much of their scoring and whose bench play resides somewhere between inconsistent and non-existent.

They aren’t at the same level as the teams at the top of the Big Ten. Tubby shouldn’t be fired because he had them playing that way for a couple of months. And he certainly shouldn’t be fired with the expectation of getting Shaka Smart to replace him.

Take a breath, step away from the ledge, and recognize the fact that, as the sixth-best team in the Big Ten, you’re currently in sixth-place in the league.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

LaVar Ball having ‘zero’ interaction with UCLA team bodes well for next season

Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images
1 Comment

With the NBA Draft looming in less than a month, the biggest talking point has been just how much of an impact LaVar Ball is going to have on his son, Lonzo’s, NBA career.

It’s a question worth asking given the, ahem, outspoken nature of the eldest Ball.

But in the collegiate ranks, that’s a question that’s been asked about UCLA regarding next season. While Lonzo and LaMelo, who is finishing up his sophomore season in high school, are the stars that get the majority of the attention, there is another Ball brother that will be enrolling at UCLA next season: LiAngelo.

LaVar has already said that he expect Gelo to be a one-and-done player, which may not jibe with how good Gelo actually is. He’s not Lonzo and he’s not LaMelo. He’s not a dynamic athlete or a lead guard. He’s a 6-foot-5, 200 pound shooter with limitless range but limited upside. There’s a reason Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect.

What’s going to happen when UCLA, a top 15 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25, doesn’t give Gelo Lonzo-esque minutes or shots next season? How will LaVar handle it if his second son is coming off the bench for the Bruins?

Steve Alford doesn’t seem concerned about it, telling a reporter from the LA Times that LaVar was “never at practice, never called me” and was around the team “zero.”

“I think all parents probably should know that moving on to the collegiate level anyway,” Alford said. “It’s not high school, it’s not AAU. Your son’s on scholarship; your son’s at UCLA getting an incredible opportunity academically and athletically.

“Playing time, shots, that kind of stuff — we don’t entertain some of those phone calls anyway. I never had any issues at all with LaVar.”

It will be interesting to see if that continues next season.

The Bruins have a chance to be pretty good. Maybe not quite as good as last season, maybe not a Pac-12 title favorite or even the best team in LA — USC is loaded — but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them end up as a top four seed in the NCAA tournament with Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh returning and Jaylen Hands headlining the recruiting class.

Will LaVar be able to handle UCLA’s success if it comes at the expense of his son’s?

NCAA: Former USF assistant provided extra benefits, lied to NCAA investigators

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
1 Comment

The NCAA has alleged that former South Florida assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided roughly $500 in impermissible benefits and initially lied to NCAA investigators about it, according to the Tampa Bay Times, who obtained the NCAA’s summary disposition report.

Oliver Antigua is the younger brother of Orlando Antigua, who was the head coach at USF until he was fired in January. Now an assistant on Brad Underwood’s staff at Oklahoma State, Orlando was not alleged to have committed an NCAA violation in the report.

Oliver is alleged to have provided the extra benefits to two student-athletes while they were being tutored by the sister-in-law of Gerald Gillion, a special assistant to Orlando who resigned last fall, four months after Oliver did. USF has already self-imposed a $5,000 and reduced their scholarships from 13 to 12, according to the report.

“The University of South Florida and the NCAA continue to work together to resolve the inquiry into violations of NCAA bylaws and university standards by a USF intercollegiate athletic program,” according to a statement released by the school. “USF anticipates having a final resolution with the NCAA sometime this fall. Until the process concludes and the matter is fully resolved, USF cannot provide further comment.”

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

Leave a comment

Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

1 Comment

Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

Leave a comment

The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.