Weekend preview: Gonzaga can’t figure out San Francisco on the road

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Who’s getting upset? No. 5 Gonzaga at San Francisco (Sat., 4:30 p.m. EST, ROOT):

History is suggesting this one.

Look at the past few years, and the Bulldogs have had an incredibly hard time traveling to War Memorial Gym. The last time they went there, they lost 66-65 last season. The time before that? A 96-91 loss in 2011. Before that? An 81-77 loss. In fact, the last time the Zags won at San Francisco was a 78-74 victory during the 2008-09 season. Not one player on the Dons roster has lost to Gonzaga at home. That’s kinda wild. In fact, this San Francisco team doesn’t have a senior on its roster.

This Gonzaga team, of course, is much better than the ones that visited before. Actually, it’s probably the best team since that one in 2008-09, they went to the Sweet Sixteen that season.

However, I’m a huge believer that mental obstacles exist and are just as tough to get over as physical ones.

UCLA transfer De’End Parker has done his thing since coming over, averaging 12.4 points per game. They’ll need big games from Cole Dickerson (14.6 ppg) and Cody Doolin (12.3 ppg). But the real task will fall on guys like Mark Tollefsen, who have to guard Kelly Olynyk in the paint.

The guard play could be somewhat even with Parker v. Pangos, but Gary Bell, Jr. against Cody Doolin is an interesting match-up to look out for.

Who else is on Upset Alert?

Oklahoma at No. 17 Oklahoma State (Sat., 1:30 p.m. EST, ESPN3): You never know what you’re going to expect in Bedlam. It’s a deeply-rooted rivalry with tons more on the line between the Cowboys and Sooners. I always feel like you can throw a lot of numbers out the window in a big rivalry game. Okie State is hanging in their for a spot in the Big Dance, the Sooners, after their big win over Kansas, are back in position to be on the bubble, which for a team with the recent trials that OU has had, is a great progress. A lot of that is owed the Lon Kruger. Romero Osby v. LeBryan Nash will be interesting, but who will guard Marcus Smart for Oklahoma? Figure that out, and do it, and the Sooners walk out of Gallagher-Iba Arena with a win. Though losing Buddy Hield will be a big problem for OU.

No. 25 Kentucky at Tennessee (Sat., 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS): This is a mental game for the Wildcats. All mental. Can they get past the fact that they’ve lost their best player and most influential court presence for the season in Nerlens Noel? Or will they fold. Kentucky was getting themselves back into the swing things after a conference swoon, then they never threatened at Florida, even before the Noel injury. Paging Willie Cauley-Stein. You have to guard Jarnell Stokes. Can you?

No. 24 Colorado State at Air Force (Sat., 4:00 p.m. EST, check listings): Psst, the Falcons are one of the better teams in the Mountain West Conference. The problem? NO ONE is talking about them at all. They’re 15-8, 6-4 in conference with wins over San Diego State, Wyoming and UNLV. Not sure what else they need to do to get into the conversation. Colorado State is coming off a draining victory over San Diego State. And Air Force is 6-0 at Clune Arena in-conference.

Follow David on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.