Ben Howland

UCLA rebounds from early-season woes to claim Pac-12 title

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After UCLA lost at home to Cal-Poly, we were all ready to send Ben Howland off to the broadcast booth.

Things still didn’t look so swell even after Shabazz Muhammad finally became eligible when Tony Parker  seemed to indicate that he was not entirely happy at UCLA.

Howland might be excused for asking “How you like me now?” today, after his team stayed the course, found some momentum, and nailed down the Pac-12 regular season title, winning 61-54 at Washington to finish the season 23-8 (13-5) and ranked No. 23 in the nation.

The circumstances of the win seemed to vindicate Howland’s decision to build his team around transfers and freshmen, a choice that seemed absurd when the season began. Against Washington, much-maligned former Tar Heel Larry Drew II made a crucial layup late, and frosh Jordan Adams came up with a steal and free throws down the stretch to slam the door. Shabazz Muhammad, who may be auditioning for his NBA close-up as we speak, was the leading scorer with 22 points.

Poise – a word not easily applied to the Bruin program over the past couple of years – won the day, and the season, for UCLA. The Bruins got it done when it mattered most, on the same day when Oregon choked away a shot at the title by losing to cellar-dwelling Utah.

Winning with freshmen and transfers might be John Calipari’s calling card at Kentucky, but he’s got competition from Westwood this year. Veteran play from Drew at the point makes UCLA – a 6-seed in Dave Ommen’s latest bracket predictions – a fair bet to move up the national rankings and the seed lines if they can hold serve in the Pac-12 tournament.

Could a top-4 seed be in the offing for the team that lost to Cal Poly this year? If so, they’ve earned it.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Florida Gulf Coast’s Demetris Morant out 3-4 months

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Florida Gulf Coast redshirt junior forward Demetris Morant is expected to miss the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery last week to repair a stress fracture in his right shin, the school announced on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 4.5 points, 4.4 blocks and 1.3 blocks per game in 33 appearances (18 starts) for the Eagles during the 2014-15 season.

“This is obviously an unfortunate setback for Demetris, but it was a procedure that needed to be done,” Florida Gulf Coast head coach Dooley said in a statement. “We decided it would be best to have it completed now to hopefully get him back for A-Sun play. It’s an opportunity now for other guys to step up in his absence, and I have confidence they’ll get the job done.”

The Eagles have the top frontline in the Atlantic Sun, one that returns Marc-Eddy Norelia and Filip Cvjeticanin, a 3-point shooter who missed all of last season recovering from back surgery. VCU transfer Antravious Simmons becomes eligible in the second semester.

Florida Gulf Coast begins the 2015-16 season on Nov. 14 against Ohio.

Bill Self on Cheick Diallo: ‘It may be a couple of more weeks’

2015 McDonald's All American Game
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Cheick Diallo is currently practicing with Kansas, but his eligibility still remains in question.

On Monday, Kansas head coach Bill Self appeared on “The Border Patrol” on WHB-AM 810 and was asked to update the status of his freshman big man.

“He’s been cleared to practice,” Self told hosts Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty. “(His status) is depending on what they find throughout from the information we submit to them whenever we get it all together.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it all be together?’ Well there’s a lot of reasons why. It’s because they told us recently some things that they just wanted. Instead of just throwing it to them piece by piece, they requested we to just submit it all together, so it may be a couple of more weeks before we’re able to submit everything when you’re talking about getting information from schools in Mali and everything like that.

“But we hope in two weeks, maybe three weeks, before we have a definite answer. But right now, Cheick is like everybody else. He’s practicing.”

Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward from Mali is allowed to practice with the Jayhawks, but has been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center despite enrolling in classes over the summer and earning six credits. Self anticipated this would be a long process, but has remained confident Diallo, the top-5 recruit in Class of 2015, will eventually be cleared to play this season.

For three years, Diallo attended Our Savior New American School in Centereach, New York, which is currently under NCAA review. In September, Pitt freshman Damon Wilson, Diallo’s teammate at OSNA, was cleared to play.

Kansas opens the season on Nov. 13 against Northern Colorado.