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UCLA hands No. 13 Arizona second-straight loss

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Arizona’s chances were dwindling.

The No. 13 Wildcats had very little chance to climb out of a 12-point hole with under two minutes to play on their home floor against UCLA, but stranger things have happened. If they were going to even start to mount an improbable comeback that would spare them from a second-consecutive loss, it had to start here with a defensive stop to keep the deficit where it was before trying to chip away at it.

UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday got the ball atop the key and began to back down on Arizona’s Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who offered little resistance as Holiday got closer and closer to the rim, one dribble at a time, until Jackson-Cartwright just gave, falling to the floor. Instead of just shooting it over the fallen Wildcat, Holiday spied Gyorgy Goloman alone in the corner after Arizona star center Deandre Ayton had made a truly half-hearted effort to help his prone teammate. Holiday fired out to the corner, Ayton simply watched and Goloman buried a three-pointer.

The dagger was delivered with such little resistance, summing up the Wildcats’ effort in a night when UCLA dominated play and claimed an 82-74 victory Thursday to bolster their own NCAA tournament resume while leaving Arizona perhaps as big of conundrum as there is in college basketball.

It’s just hard to make sense of Sean Miller’s team.

The Wildcats started the season under extreme duress with federal investigators knocking on their doors and arresting an assistant coach as part of their probe into corruption in college basketball. That was exacerbated by the news Rawlie Alkins would be out with a busted foot and then the disastrous three-game run in the Bahamas.

Then came a nine-game winning streak that was followed by a loss to Colorado which was followed by seven straight wins which have now now followed by losses to Washington in Seattle and the Bruins in Tucson.

It’s hard to keep up with Arizona. It’s even harder to feel confident about the Wildcats with the way they’re playing right now.

UCLA shot 51.6 percent from the floor and 45.8 percent form 3-point range. Six players scored at least nine points. Ayton somehow went just 7 of 19 from the floor despite never finding himself too far from the rim and had a plus-minus of -16. That’s borderline astounding for such a talented and potentially dominant player. On their home floor, Arizona just couldn’t land enough punches to even stagger UCLA. The Wildcats couldn’t muster a single run significant enough to make things interesting.

When things were at their most dire for Arizona, UCLA literally put them on their … let’s say hindparts.

Arizona’s defense is simply bad. They give up two many three-point attempts. They don’t turn people over, yet somehow a defense that isn’t at all aggressive puts opponents on the line at a high rate.

It’s just not a disciplined team on defense, and despite a prodigious scoring attack that is headlined by two of the 10-15 best players in the sport, that’s going to keep them inconsistent and it’s going to keep getting them beat.

Arizona began the season on the shortlist of teams that might be left standing in San Antonio come April, but the Wildcats are falling down on the job.

Even worse, they’re getting knocked over and not looking too eager to get back up.

Wichita State’s Landry Shamet out sick against Tulane

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Wichita State guard Landry Shamet will miss the Shockers’ game against Tulane on Wednesday night as he sits out due to illness.

Dressed in street clothes for the AAC conference clash, Shamet has put up All-American-caliber numbers for Wichita State this season as he’s putting up 14.7 points, 5.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Without Shamet in the lineup, it gives Samajae Haynes-Jones a potential shot at minutes as he’s fallen out of the rotation over the last several weeks. Wichita State is still heavily favored against Tulane at home on Wednesday but they have an important three-game stretch to close out the conference season. The Shockers have to go on the road to play SMU and UCF before closing out the conference slate with an important home game against Cincinnati.

Duke’s Marvin Bagley III out for the fourth straight game with knee injury

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Duke star freshman big man Marvin Bagley III will miss his fourth consecutive game on Wednesday night as he continues to battle a knee injury.

The 6-foot-11 freshman suffered a mild knee sprain in his right knee in Duke’s game against North Carolina on Feb. 8 as he’s missed the Blue Devils’ last three games — all wins. Bagley will miss Duke’s contest against Louisville on Wednesday as he’s also missed games against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Clemson.

Duke still has three regular-season games after Wednesday before the ACC tournament starts as Bagley still has plenty of time to heal and recover before the postseason begins.

Bagley is putting up 21.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for Duke this season as he’s a consensus top-five pick in most 2018 NBA mock drafts. Without Bagley in the lineup, Duke has continued to play well and win games as they’ve still had big man Wendell Carter to handle things on the interior.


Rick Pitino: ‘I had no knowledge’ of the violations that led to banner coming down

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Disgraced ex-Louisville head coach Rick Pitino spoke at a press conference in Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon and denied any knowledge of the violations that were committed by Andre McGee, any potential NCAA violations involving the recruitment of Brian Bowen and pushed for Louisville to file an injunction against the NCAA’s decision to remove the 2013 national title banner.

“I take full responsibility for everyone I hire,” Pitino said. “To say I’m disappointed with the NCAA ruling is a gross understatement.”

“I have apologized many times. I feel awful for what happened. I’ve run a clean program all my life. [Sitting where you are], I would agree with you. It looks bad. I’ve coached for 41 years. For 35, as a head coach, nothing has come up.”

Pitino went on to say that he “hired the wrong person” when he made the decision to bring McGee onto his staff. McGee is the one that was responsible for hosting the parties and bringing the strippers and sex workers to them.

“I had no knowledge of the reprehensible things that went on in that dormitory,” Pitino said. “Did a few of [my players] partake in parties they didn’t organize? Yes, they did. That had nothing to do with an extra benefit,” going on to add that attending these parties were not the reason that Louisville won the 2013 national title.

Pitino also denied any involvement in the recruit of Bowen, a five-star prospect that committed to Louisville in a deal that was supposed to get his family paid $100,000 from Adidas.

“In 40 years of coaching, I have never been involved, directly or indirectly, in any effort to pay any money or extend any improper benefit to any recruit or recruit’s family members or representatives,” he said.

Pitino said that he has not had any discussions about coaching again or looking for a job this spring, but he did say that he does “miss it.” He also urged the new University of Louisville administration to fight this decision in court, to file an injunction and do what they can to keep Louisville from having to sacrifice a national title banner.

No other Division I basketball program has ever had a national title vacated.

“The NCAA,” Pitino said, “cannot rewrite history by taking a banner down.

John Wall is heading back to school to get a business degree

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John Wall, the former Kentucky star that helped launch Coach Cal’s one-and-done movement in Lexington, is planning on using a piece of that $207 million contract extension that he signed last July for summer school.

“I’m going back to school this summer to get my business degree,” Wall told the Washington Post this week. “That’s what I’m focusing on. I promised my dad that.”

Wall’s dad died when he was eight years old, and anyone that knows his story knows that it hasn’t been the easiest path for Wall to get from that moment to this moment.

So good for John.


I do believe that it is important to educate yourself, even if that education is something as simple as learning how to run a business on your own.

But I also think that, in the larger context of basketball and, specifically, the one-and-done rule, this is important to note. Wall left school as a 19-year old, made a whole bunch of guaranteed money on his rookie deal, got more guaranteed money on his first contract extension and now is working under a contract that will pay him nine figures with a crooked number in front. Throw in endorsement deals, and by the time Wall hangs up his sneakers, he could end up banking close to half a billion dollars.

That’s more than enough money to be able to pay for three years worth of classes at Kentucky to finish his undergrad degree, get a master’s and become a PhD. For Wall, that financial hit would be like the financial hit you or I take for adding chips and guac at Chipotle. (But not queso. We pretend their queso doesn’t exist.)

My point is this: The time a person has to educate themselves never ends. The time that Wall, or any professional athlete, has to profit off of their ability does, and much sooner than most think.

So the next time you decide to criticize a player for leaving school early to chase their professional dreams or because they’re just looking to get paid or because they don’t care about education, just think about this.

USC guard to leave school, turn pro

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It appears that De’Anthony Melton’s college career has come to an end.

The 6-foot-3 shooting guard for the USC Trojans announced on Wednesday that he will be leaving school. Melton, a sophomore, was caught up in the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball and has not played in a game this season.

“I have reached a crossroads wherein I have decided to focus on honing my strengths and improving upon my weakness for competition at the next level,” Melton said in a statement.

And athletic wing with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, Melton averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 boards, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals as a freshman. He is considered a potential first round pick.