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NCAA tournament breakout star Jordan Bell will be remembered for costly missed boxouts

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jordan Bell has been perhaps the most productive and consistent player in the 2017 NCAA tournament. The Oregon junior center emerged as a breakout star in March when regular starter Chris Boucher went down with a torn ACL right before the tournament started.

Many people wrote off Oregon’s chances at making a deep tournament run when Boucher was lost with his season-ending injury. Bell quickly made people forget about the injury with double-doubles in four of five tourney games while helping carry the Ducks to the Final Four.

But for as good as Bell has been over the past few weeks, he’ll forever be associated with the final six seconds of North Carolina’s 77-76 win over Oregon in the second national semifinal on Saturday night.

With Tar Heels big man Kennedy Meeks shooting free throws with a one-point lead, the Ducks just needed a couple of misses and a big defensive rebound to get one more chance to tie or win the game. Meeks did his part by missing both free throws, but the second miss was back-tapped by North Carolina’s Theo Pinson, as he out-jumped Bell for the rebound. Tar Heel point guard Joel Berry II ended up with the ball and was fouled with four seconds left.

Once again, Berry did everything he could to help Oregon stay in the game by missing both free throws but Bell was again outrebounded after missing a boxout — this time by Meeks.

Bell was so emotional after the loss that he buried his head in his hands in the corner of the court for a good 20 seconds as the magnitude of everything that had happened finally hit. With tears in his eyes and his voice barely reaching a whisper, Bell recounted his version of the final six seconds as cameras and reporters surrounded his locker.

“The first one, he just out-jumped me,” Bell said of Pinson’s back-tap. “He wanted it more. I guess…”

“I thought I had the second one, then [Meeks] just took it from me.”

“If I had just boxed out… I had two opportunities. People can tell me whatever they want, but I lost the game for us.”

Bell’s blunders on the defensive glass are going to be remembered by many as one of the primary reasons that Oregon was eliminated from the Final Four. It should also be noted that Bell had another productive night, finishing with 13 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks, when other key players Oregon like Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey couldn’t get much going offensively. Brooks and Dorsey combined to go 5-for-22 from the field on Saturday as Oregon was 7-for-26 from three-point range.

The other Ducks were quick to come to Bell’s defense when asked about the missed defensive rebounds.

“They told me it wasn’t my fault and that it didn’t come down to one play,” Bell said.

“He’s been playing great for us. He’s been snatching those boards. We felt that we should have boxed out and gotten one of those rebounds,” Dorsey said. “But without him, we wouldn’t be in this position. So, you can’t look at that and say it was the key to the game because it wasn’t. There were other opportunities before that. We just didn’t capitalize. But it hurts him a lot that he didn’t get that rebound because he’s been doing that this whole tournament.”

People will likely forget that Bell had a key offensive putback off of an Oregon missed free throw late in the Sweet 16 win over Michigan. Or that Bell was the most dominant player on the floor against No. 1 seed Kansas in the Elite Eight when he had 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks.

Bell might have blamed himself for the loss but it’s not his direct fault that Oregon is out of the NCAA tournament. Anyone who watched the Ducks take bad shots down the stretch time-after-time against North Carolina can attest to that. But, fair or not, people will remember Bell’s missed boxouts more than anything else he accomplished in the 2017 NCAA tournament.

Miller Time: Indiana coach cashes in with $24 million deal

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — New Indiana coach Archie Miller will make $24 million under his seven-year deal — and potentially even more in bonuses.

Miller accepted the job in March, but the athletic department didn’t announce details of the contract until Tuesday.

He will receive a base salary of $550,000 per year and $1 million in deferred income each season. Miller also will receive an additional $1.85 million in outside marketing and promotional income — and will get a $50,000 per year raise each year through March 2024.

Miller can earn a $250,000 bonus for winning a national championship. He can earn an additional $125,000 for a Big Ten regular-season title, reaching the Final Four and producing multiyear Academic Progress Rate scores over 950.

Utah, BYU rivalry back on after one-year hiatus

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The BYU-Utah annual rivalry series will be back on this season after taking a one-year hiatus last year.

For just the second time since 1909, the Utes and the Cougars did not play in 2016-17 after Utah head coach Larry Kyrstkowiak asked for a one-year cooling off period stemming from an intense and emotional game against BYU in 2015-16. In that game, then-freshman Nick Emery was ejected as a result of this punch that he threw:

The last time those two teams did not play was due to World War II.

The game will be played at BYU on Dec. 16th.

Utah will also play Utah State this season, the first time that they have played the Aggies since 2011.

 

California bans state-funded travel to eight states; does it affect college hoops?

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A new California law could end up causing a headache for the sports teams for public universities in the state.

Because of recently-added laws that are perceived as discriminatory against the LGBT community, California has now banned travel to eight states: Texas, Alabama, Kentucky and South Dakota join a list that already includes Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The law states that contracts that were signed before Jan. 1st, 2017, are exempted and can be fulfilled, but there’s not guarantee that will be the case in the future.

“Moving forward, the athletic department will not schedule future games in states that fail to meet the standards established by the new law,” a UCLA spokesman told the Sacramento Bee. That said, the university does not use state funding for travel sports teams as it currently stands, and the goal of the law to avoid “spending taxpayer dollars in states that discriminate,” according to California’s Attorney General.

On the college basketball side of things, the biggest question mark here is whether or not this law will prevent teams from playing in the NCAA tournament if they are sent to a site in one of those eight states. Next season alone, there are first weekend sites in Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee, not to mention the Final Four taking place in San Antonio. The location for many of those events were determined prior to January 1st.

“We are generally not going to deny student-athletes the opportunity to compete in the postseason,” a UCLA spokesman told NBC Sports.

The next question then becomes whether or not regular season travel will be allowed. Earlier this year, Cal dropped out of talks with Kansas about a potential home-and-home series due to this law, and if regular season travel is not allowed, it would mean that Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville and Wichita State, along with Kansas, are not allowed to be visited by California public schools that need state funding to travel. A request for a clarification on the legality of college sports teams traveling to those states has been filed with the Attorney General by Fresno State, whose football team is headed to Alabama for a game this year.

Travel for recruiting is also a question that needs to be answered, but at the highest level of the sport, that is typically funded by boosters.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.