Nick Johnson finished with 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting and Kaleb Tarczewski added 16 and eight boards as No. 1 Arizona survived a furious UCLA comeback, winning 79-75 in Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night.
Johnson’s work wasn’t limited to the offensive end of the floor, either. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard spent a lot of time locking horns with Jordan Adams, UCLA’s leading scorer that finished just 4-for-15 from the floor. He doesn’t get the publicity that some of the other players across the country — or even in his league — get, but Johnson is very much a candidate for first-team all-america.
And Arizona continues to play like arguably the nation’s best team.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some flaws that need to be addressed.
The biggest concern is obviously their free throw shooting. The Wildcats are hitting just 68.1% of their free throws and missed a number of big ones down the stretch that allowed UCLA to erase a 13 point lead in the final ten minutes. Aaron Gordon is the biggest offender, as he’s hitting just 44.9% from the charity stripe, struggling enough that opponents have started fouling him intentionally to make him earn the points.
Turnovers also could end up being a problem down the road. The Wildcats aren’t awful when it comes to protecting the ball, but teams that can force turnovers do force turnovers against Sean Miller’s club. Arizona had 17 on Thursday night.
I’m not concerned about UCLA’s offensive rebounding effort on Thursday night — UCLA had 16 of them — because the Wildcats are one of the nation’s best rebounding teams. I’m not all that worried about their depth, either, because good college teams don’t need to go more than seven deep. And the concern about their perimeter shooting? Johnson, Gordon, Brandon Ashley and Gabe York are all shooting between 36.5% and 43.4% from three. They’ll survive.
But those turnovers and those free throws are issues that Sean Miller will want to address.
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 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.
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.
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.
North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.
On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.
What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.
“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”
“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”
The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.
A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.