Jim Larranaga

Miami’s tallest addition continues to dominate the glass during Spain trip

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The biggest difference for Miami in 2013-14 was the fact that six of the top seven players from a team that won the ACC in 2012-13 were gone, and one area in which Jim Larrañaga’s team was affected was on the backboards. After ranking second in the ACC in rebounding margin in 2012-13 the Hurricanes were a middle of the pack team in that regard last season, ranking seventh in the conference in rebounding margin, offensive and defensive rebounding percentage (conference games only).

With Miami’s depth improving the expectation is that the Hurricanes will be a better team in 2014-15, but most of the attention has been paid to the perimeter with Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez eligible and talented freshman JaQuan Newton joining the program. Yet through the first two games of their tour of Spain, it’s become quite obvious that there’s a front court addition worth paying attention to as well.

His name: Ivan Cruz Uceda, who’s enjoying a homecoming of sorts given the fact that the 6-foot-10 power forward is a native of Madrid. Cruz Uceda played at Harcum College in Pennsylvania last season, and he’s put up some impressive rebounding numbers for the Hurricanes this week.

In Miami’s 77-66 win over Albacete on Sunday, McClellan led the way offensively with 24 points with Cruz Uceda managing to corral 13 rebounds to go along with eight points, two assists, two blocked shots and two steals. The 13 rebound performance comes on the heels of Cruz Uceda’s 17-rebound performance in Miami’s win over Eurocolegio Casvi on Friday night, and if he can continue to hit the boards hard when the regular season begins that would provide Miami with a much-needed boost.

At the end of last season the Hurricanes bid farewell to three of their top four rebounders, with junior Tonye Jekiri (5.5 rpg in 2013-14) being their leading returnee in that department. With that being the case Cruz Uceda and freshman Omar Sherman, who’s averaging 6.5 rebounds per game on the trip, are important figures moving forward.

Miami has more options after needing to slow things down to account for their lack of depth, and that should lead to a better 2014-15 for Larrañaga’s Hurricanes.

Nigel Hayes’ comment on basketball brands hits on greater point

Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes (10) drives on Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Madison, Wis. Hayes had a team-high 21 points in Wisconsin's 79-68 win. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
AP Photo/Andy Manis
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Much is made about the ball when it comes to how the sport of basketball is played and rightfully so, as the ball is the most important piece of equipment. Different brands have different characteristics, and with college basketball programs being able to pick the ball they use for home games there are adjustments to be made during the season.

Wisconsin will play at No. 2 Maryland Saturday, meaning that in the days leading up to the game the Badgers needed to get used to the Under Armour basketball. The brand became a conversation point in the aftermath of Maryland’s win over No. 4 Iowa last month, with the Hawkeyes (while not blaming the ball for their loss) made note of the differences between the Under Armour ball and the Nike ball they use for their home games.

Thursday Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes offered up his observations on the basketball while also pointing out (albeit sarcastically) the goal of intercollegiate athletics.

“It’s definitely different,” Hayes said. “Personally, we don’t like it too much. I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever. But that’s the way this amateur sports league is set up. We’re supposed to be having fun, but all the money is in these basketballs that colleges play with. But it’s an amateur sport, we’re just here for fun. It’s not really that serious. So I guess any ball should be OK.

“Maybe we should have a universal ball like the NBA. You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings. But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal — it’s the student education and experience that you get — we play with a million different basketballs.”

Hayes makes a good point here, and in regards to the NBA all hell would break loose under similar circumstances (remember the leather vs. microfiber composite controversy in 2006?). If these games are solely about fun and the college experience, wouldn’t having one ball used by all schools better fit that mission? This isn’t the biggest of deals when it comes to “amateur” athletics, as different basketball brands have been used for years.

But Hayes was able to take this situation and work it into the discussion of the goals of intercollegiate athletics. Is it about the experience? Or does the ability to profit, be it through a minor move such as using a particular ball or the more impactful step of moving from one conference to another, take precedence? Given the shifts that have occurred in college sports in recent years, it’s quite apparent that the search for additional revenue streams has won out.

Hayes did note that neither he nor his teammates would make excuses, saying that the team would simple “have to get used to” the unfamiliar basketball according to the Wisconsin State Journal. In the end, this was a good use of sarcasm by Hayes to make a greater point about the collegiate athletics machine he and his teammates are but minor parts of.

Marquette fan sends Providence money for missed free throw

Providence's Kris Dunn reacts to his shot during the first half of an NCAA basketball game against Villanova, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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It goes without saying that sports can inspire some interesting promises, from players and coaches guaranteeing victory to fans making statements that hinge on the outcome of a particular game or play (see: tattoos celebrating a team’s triumphs before they’ve even won the game in question). For one Marquette fan, the need for Providence’s Kris Dunn to miss a free throw during Wednesday night’s game (which Marquette won in overtime) inspired him to make a promise that he intended to keep.

Jamey Schilling took the approach of yelling that he’d pay Dunn $10 if he missed the free throw. Sure enough Dunn missed the shot, and Schilling made good on his promise. But with players themselves unable to receive such funds due to NCAA rules, Schilling sent the check to the Providence athletic department.

Schilling’s gesture did not go unnoticed by Marquette either, as the school sent him a gift card to use in the Marquette Spirit Shop.

H/T For The Win