Figuring out the Pac-12 race after No. 1 Arizona, which lost at California on Saturday night, has been a difficult task to this point in the season. While the Golden Bears and UCLA have been locked in a struggle for second place in the Pac-12, there are five other teams within a game of those two teams. UCLA’s game at Oregon State on Sunday afternoon represented an opportunity for the Bruins, with a win giving Steve Alford’s team sole possession of second place and placing them just a game out of first.
Unfortunately for UCLA, the combination of their worst offensive performance in conference play and Oregon State freshman guard Hallice Cooke resulted in a 71-67 defeat. Cooke scored a career-high 20 points (14 in the second half) on 7-for-9 shooting, leading five Oregon State players in double figures.
Craig Robinson’s team hasn’t been the most consistent group but they don’t lack for talent, with Roberto Nelson, Eric Moreland, Angus Brandt and Devon Collier the leaders on most nights. On Sunday Cooke and Moreland (11 points, 14 rebounds and five assists) proved to be especially problematic for the Bruins, who had to navigate an 0-for-9 afternoon from Jordan Adams and 38.6% shooting from the field as a team.
UCLA nearly stole this one too, with their move out of the 2-3 zone and into a trapping defense unsettling Oregon State down the stretch. But they were unable to get over the hump offensively, with Adams’ frustrating day being capped by a dubious offensive foul call with 15 seconds renaming and UCLA trailing by just one point. Much of what UCLA does depends upon the effectiveness of Adams and Kyle Anderson, with Adams being their most productive perimeter scorer and Anderson being the versatile option who can score and make sure his teammates get quality looks as well.
Anderson finished with 18 points and nine rebounds but dished out just two assists, with the struggles of his teammates obviously impacting the assist count. UCLA can adjust on days in which their supporting cast struggles, but this isn’t the case when it comes to Adams and the inconsistency of those other players is the reason why. Adams struggled against Oregon State, and the end result was UCLA’s failure to cement its status as the second-best team in the Pac-12.
And given the unknown status of Arizona’s Brandon Ashley, UCLA entered Sunday with a great opportunity in front of them even without a second meeting between the two teams on the schedule. The Bruins didn’t take advantage of this, and they’ve only got themselves to blame.
Create controversy. Profit from controversy.
It’s not an especially new or original strategy, but it’s one that LaVar Ball continues to try to exploit.
The infamous basketball dad is at it again, looking to capitalize on the uproar/kerfuffle/news cycle/debate/ickiness he created when he belittled FS1’s Kristine Leahy, telling her to “stay in your lane” on multiple occasions when claiming the Big Baller Brand didn’t need to market to women.
Well, they are now, with a nod to Ball’s proclamation, selling “STAY IN YO LANE” tees, for both men and women.
Marketing misogyny. Isn’t that nice.
It’s clear that LaVar Ball isn’t going to shy away from the public spotlight anytime soon, especially with eldest son Lonzo looking destined for the Lakers and middle son LiAngelo set to join UCLA, and he’s going to do his best to use that light to push the BBB franchise that scared away the world’s biggest apparel companies.
This plan has no mystery, subtlety or taste. Which might as well be the Big Baller Brand slogan.
Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.
Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.
The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.
Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.
Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.
Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.
Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.
The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.
Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.
The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.
The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.
Wednesday, though, they got some good news.
McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.
Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.
The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.
The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.
The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.
Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.