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UCLA releases 2017-18 non-conference schedule

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UCLA released their non-conference schedule over the weekend, and the Bruins put together a schedule that is about as good as you can expect from a team of their caliber.

Steve Alford’s club will kick off the season in China, taking on Georgia Tech in Shanghai on Nov. 10th. After a pair of buy games at home, they’ll head to Kansas City for the Hall of Fame Classic, where they will play two games against Baylor, Creighton or Wisconsin. After another four buy games, the Bruins make a return trip to Ann Arbor to take on a Michigan team that will be pretty good before hosting a Cincinnati team that should be a top 20 team and, eventually, heading to New Orleans to play Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic.

Is this a great non-conference schedule?

No.

I’d love for them to avoid playing four of their six games against high-major opponents on neutral floors, and I would love even more for UCLA to avoid playing seven buy games.

That said, this is what teams have to do in order to meet the bottom-line asked of them by athletic directors. The Bruins play six high-major opponents, and all six could end up being in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid on Selection Sunday; Kentucky, Michigan, Cincinnati and Baylor could all end up being preseason top 25 teams.

This is about par for the course, and par isn’t bad.

Here is the full schedule:

Nov. 10 vs. Georgia Tech, Shanghai, China
Nov. 15 Central Arkansas, Pauley Pavilion
Nov. 17 South Carolina State, Pauley Pavilion
Nov. 20-21 at Hall of Fame Classic (Baylor, Creighton, Wisconsin), Kansas City, Mo. (Sprint Center)
Nov. 26 UC Irvine, Pauley Pavilion
Nov. 29 CSU Bakersfield, Pauley Pavilion
Dec. 3 Detroit Mercy, Pauley Pavilion
Dec. 6 Montana, Pauley Pavilion
Dec. 9 at Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Dec. 16 Cincinnati, Pauley Pavilion
Dec. 19 South Dakota, Pauley Pavilion
Dec. 23 Kentucky, New Orleans, La. (Smoothie King Center)

Kentucky, then Duke: Utah Valley opens with a brutal back-to-back

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OREM, Utah (AP) — Utah Valley is calling it perhaps the toughest 24 hours of basketball in NCAA history.

The Wolverines say they will play at bluebloods Kentucky and Duke on back-to-back days to open the season. They’ll visit Rupp Arena in Lexington on Nov. 10, then head to Cameron Indoor Stadium to play the following day.

In announcing the games Thursday, coach Mark Pope says it “is what college basketball is supposed to be.”

The brutal back-to-back games create a couple of homecomings for the coaching staff. Pope played at Kentucky in the 1990s and helped the Wildcats win the 1996 national title under Rick Pitino. Assistant Chris Burgess played two seasons at Duke in the late ’90s.

In Chris Holtmann, Ohio State landed the coach they should have wanted all along

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After all that, after Ohio State fired the best coach in the history of the program, missed on some names you didn’t think that they would miss on and learned the hard way that having a coaching search play out in the middle of June in the public eye can lead to some embarrassment, the Buckeyes got the man that they should have targeted all along.

Chris Holtmann, the new Ohio State head coach, is what Thad Matta was 13 years ago, when he was the new Ohio State head coach.

Holtmann is a little older than Matta was at the time, and Matta had a little more success at Butler and Xavier than Holtmann had at Gardner-Webb and Butler, but they really aren’t all that different. Neither coach has an ego that needs to be stroked. They aren’t attention whores, which is the perfect demeanor for a basketball coach to have on the campus of a football school. Both have a reputation for “doing it the right way”; it’s silly for anyone to out-and-out say that any coach doesn’t cheat, but talk to people in recruiting circles and you’ll have a hard time finding anyone to tell you that either Matta or Holtmann are doling out Ricky Roe duffel bags to every recruit that visits campus.

But the most important part here is that both Matta and Holtmann are terrific coaches. Matta never got the credit he deserved for being great at his job. Before arriving at Ohio State, he went to four NCAA tournaments — winning at least a game every year — and won his league three times in the four years that he was a head coach. The only year he didn’t win his league was when he went to the Elite 8 with Xavier in 2003. From 2006-2012 at Ohio State, he won five regular season titles, four tournament titles and reached two Final Fours and one national title game.

Holtmann hasn’t won a league title yet, but he did turn Gardner-Webb around, taking them from the Big South basement to a second-place finish in his third season. His time at Butler, however, should not in anyway be underestimated. Remember, for a second, where the Bulldogs were four years ago, when Holtmann arrived on campus as an assistant coach on Brandon Miller’s staff. Brad Stevens had just left the previous July to take over the Boston Celtics, four months after Butler had finally joined the Big East. In Miller’s one season as head coach, the Bulldogs went 14-17 and finished just 4-14 in the league.

     RELATED: Who should Butler target to replace Holtmann?

Then, in October of 2014, Miller took a leave of absence from the program that he would never return from.

Holtmann stepped in and immediately turned the program around. Butler went 23-11 in his first season, 22-11 the year after and 25-9 this past season. They’ve been to the NCAA tournament and won a game in each of the last three years, and next year’s team, which is coming off of a Sweet 16 appearance and a second-place finish in the Big East, may enter the year in the preseason top 25.

The program is recruiting at levels that we’ve never seen it recruit at. They’re rightfully sitting near the top of a league that includes programs like Villanova and Xavier. If Ohio State hadn’t come along and scooped him up, there’s no reason to think that Holtmann couldn’t have won a Big East title with the Bulldogs at some point in the near future.

Even without Holtmann at the helm, Butler still may be able to make that happen.

And that’s because Holtmann ushered them out of the darkness and into a new era for Butler basketball.

That should never get overlooked, and there’s only one reason to think that he may not be able to do for Ohio State what he did for Butler: recruiting.

Recruiting players to Butler and recruiting players to Ohio State is a different ball game. He’ll mostly be targeting the same regions — his bread-and-butter with the Bulldogs was Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, but he pulled kids out of Rhode Island and Georgia, not to mention that he tapped into the transfer market effectively — but he’ll be trying to get a different caliber of player. Recruiting at that level is not always clean, and there are few that believe he will resort to that in Columbus.

You can win at Butler by finding the kids that want to play for you, whether it’s because they’re from Indiana, they love the coaching staff or they were under-recruited, overlooked and accurately evaluated by your staff. If Holtmann can do the same for the Buckeyes, then Ohio State should be right back in the mix at the top of the Big Ten sooner rather than later.

Butler’s Chris Holtmann to be named new Ohio State coach

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Butler’s Chris Holtmann and Ohio State have agreed to terms for Holtmann to replace Thad Matta as Buckeye head coach.

The deal is for eight years for more than $3 million annually, according to ESPN.

An official announcement is expected shortly.

Holtmann has spent the past three seasons as the coach of the Bulldogs and the past four seasons with the program. He was hired as an assistant under Brandon Miller after three years as the head coach at Gardner-Webb, eventually becoming the interim coach during Miller’s leave of absence.

Butler has been to the last three NCAA tournaments and, this past season, reached the Sweet 16 after finishing second in the Big East. The Bulldogs looked to be a borderline preseason top 25 team next year.

Ohio State’s search appears to have ended in less than a week. The Buckeyes initially were linked with some big names — Arizona’s Sean Miller, Indiana’s Archie Miller, Xavier’s Chris Mack, Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan — and then saw both Chicago’s Fred Hoiberg and Creighton’s Greg McDermott turn down the job. According to sources, Holtmann was targeted early on in the process, but after initially being passed over things progressed quickly after McDermott turned down the job on Thursday morning.

Who are the candidates to replace Chris Holtmann at Butler?

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On Friday morning, Ohio State finally landed their guy.

Butler head coach Chris Holtmann agreed to an eight-year deal worth nearly $25 million to replace Thad Matta as the head coach of the Buckeyes.

Now, Bulldog athletic director Barry Collier finds himself in a tough spot. We’re just five weeks away from the start of the July live period and he is without a head coach, which is the third time in the last four years that he’s found himself forced to making a coaching decision in an awkward time in the college basketball calendar. In 2013, Collier hired Brandon Miller in July after Brad Stevens accepted the Boston Celtics job. A year later, in October, Collier, a former Butler coach himself, hired Holtmann as an interim coach following Miller’s leave of absence.

One thing to not about the Butler job: not only is it around a top 25 close in the sport, it’s a great stepping-stone job. The last four Butler head coaches that did not leave due to health reasons were Thad Matta (Ohio State by way of Xavier), Todd Lickliter (Iowa), Stevens and Holtmann.

So who will Butler target this time around?

Micah Shrewsberry, Boston Celtics: It’s not a secret that Butler like to keep it within the Butler family when it comes to making coaching decisions, and Shrewsberry certainly falls under that umbrella. He spent three seasons as a Butler assistant when Stevens was the head coach, helping lead the Bulldogs to both national title games, before moving onto Purdue and, eventually, the Celtics with Stevens. It is thought that Shrewsberry would have Stevens’ endorsement, and that still carries weight at Butler. Shrewsberry was a candidate for the UMass opening earlier this spring.

Lavall Jordan, Milwaukee: Jordan is a Butler grad that spent three years as an assistant with the Bulldogs before following Lickliter to Iowa. He spent six years on John Beilein’s staff with Michigan before taking over at Milwaukee this past season. The Panthers went just 11-24 this season, but they came within one game of reaching the NCAA tournament as they advanced to the Horizon League title game.

Terry Johnson and Ryan Pedon, Butler: Both Johnson and Pedon are assistants on Butler’s staff, and Collier has a reputation for giving his current assistants a shot at interviewing for coaching openings. Johnson has been on staff for 11 years while Pedon joined the program two years ago from Illinois. Mike Schrage, Butler’s third assistant, joined the program last spring after spending time at Stanford and Duke.

Michael Lewis, Nebraska: Lewis is a former star at Indiana — he held the program’s assist record until Yogi Ferrell broke it — that was a high school star in the state. He spent time on Bobby Knight’s staff at Texas Tech before a five-year stint as an assistant with the Bulldogs. He left Butler for Nebraska prior to last season.

Matthew Graves, South Alabama: Graves spent 13 seasons as a staffer at Butler, spanning the tenures of Matta, Lickliter and Stevens, before taking over at the head coach at South Alabama in 2013. He hasn’t had much success with the Jaguars — he’s never won more than 14 games or had a winning record in league play — and that may drop him down the list.

Ronald Nored, Long Island Nets: It’s a long shot — Nored is just 27 years old — but he was a Stevens favorite as a player on both of Butler’s Final Four teams that has bounced around the coaching ranks ever since. He spent a year in high school, time as an assistant in the D-Leauge and on Steven’s Boston staff as well as a year with Northern Kentucky before he took over Brooklyn’s D-League team prior to last season.

Creighton’s Greg McDermott turns down Ohio State job

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Creighton head coach Greg McDermott has turned down Ohio State after being offered the head coaching job.

“I’m blessed and honored to be the coach at Creighton,” McDermott said in a statement released on twitter, “and am looking forward to many more great years in Omaha!”

The two sides met on Wednesday, NBC Sports has confirmed, and one source said that McDermott was the only coach University officials met with on Wednesday. ESPN first reported the meeting between the two sides.

McDermott has spent the last seven years coaching Creighton after spending four seasons with Iowa State and five years at Northern Iowa. He’s had something of an up-and-down career — thriving at UNI and struggling with Iowa State before twice building top ten caliber teams with the Bluejays — but some of his success has been the direct result of his gene pool. Doug McDermott, Greg’s son, helped lead Creighton into a new era in the Big East while winning National Player of the Year honors.

McDermott has an overall record of 207-175 and 90-118 in conference with an 0-4 NCAA tournament record in his time as a head coach without Doug on the floor, although that postseason performance is skewed by the fact that this year’s Creighton team, the best team that he’s had as a head coach, was derailed by a torn ACL suffered by his star point guard Maurice Watson in January.

McDermott was not the first person on Ohio State’s list. Xavier head coach Chris Mack released a statement on twitter announcing his intention to remain in Cincinnati, while both Sean and Archie Miller quickly saw their names removed from contention.

Current Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg was linked with the opening, but he released the following statement to the Chicago Tribune: “Anytime your name is associated with great job, it’s an honor. But I’m head coach of the Bulls and have no intention of leaving.”

According to sources, Butler’s Chris Holtmann removed his name from consideration on Tuesday, although recent developments have brought him back under consideration.

A source told NBC Sports that Eddie Fogler of Folger Consulting is helping Ohio State with the search.