LaVar Ball is back in the news this week after Charles Barkley was quoted ripping the father of Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo for the braggadocious way that he speaks about his three sons.
“Just because you say some s—, doesn’t make it right,” Barkley said, according to the Sporting News. “He’s gonna be better than Steph Curry? That’s what he said. Steph Curry has won a couple MVPs, he’s pretty good. Man, let me tell you something. That’s that AAU s—. You can’t say a guy is going to be better than Steph Curry, a guy who has played 30 college games. I know you can be proud of your son, but at some point, it becomes stupidity.”
Ball went on The Undisputed on Tuesday and, while he wasn’t directly responding to Barkley’s comments, he did answer questions about whether his comments about Lonzo being better than Steph Curry was going too far.
“No. On the fact that I have the utmost confidence in what my son does,” Ball said on The Undisputed. “And just because I say he’s better than somebody, who cares. I believe it. I don’t care what nobody else says. You can judge on your own.”
He’s got a point.
“I know what work my boy put in for me to say that,” Ball added. ‘Just because someone else has titles, I’m not disliking Steph Curry or nothing. What he’s done for himself, that’s for him. But I know what my boy’s all about. Lonzo was the best player in high school. He was the best player in college. You think he’s going to get to the pros and be like, ‘I made it to the pros, now I can be average?'”
When asked if he thinks he’s putting too much pressure on his sons, Ball answered, “First of all, your pressure and our pressure are two different things. There’s no pressure in sports. It’s entertainment.”
Tom Moore and Quinnipiac have parted ways after 10 seasons, the school announced on Tuesday.
Moore went 162-146 in his tenure with the Bobcats, but he was just 19-42 over the course of the last two seasons. After posting winning conference records in each of his first seven seasons, Moore’s teams went just 22-38 in MAAC play the last three years.
“After reviewing the last two seasons and talking with Coach Moore, I have decided that a change in leadership of the men’s basketball program is needed for it to move forward in meeting our goals,” Quinnipiac athletic director Greg Amodio said in a statement. “We are grateful to Tom Moore and his staff for their commitment to our program over the past 10 years. We appreciate all that he has done for the University in guiding his student-athletes’ performance on the court and in the classroom.”
The school has hired DHR International search firm to assist in finding a new coach.
March Madness 2017: SEC Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards
Malik Monk is hardly a perfect basketball player. He doesn’t rebound well. He’s not a great passer. He’s not a great defender. He’s a streaky shooter. But he’s also the single-scariest scorer in college basketball this season because of his ability to erupt. He had 31 second half points to beat Georgia in overtime and 30 second half points to beat Florida, a win that gave Kentucky the SEC title.
SEC Coach of the Year: Mike White, Florida
The Gators finished the season at 24-7, and it might have been better had their starting center and the anchor of their front line, John Egbunu, not torn his ACL. Florida looks to be in line for a top four seed on Selection Sunday, but they are a top ten team according to KenPom, which was not something that was expected of this group prior to the season. White’s ability to turn this team into a defensive powerhouse has been impressive.
Malik Monk, Kentucky (POY)
De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky: Fox might be the bet pro prospect on this list. That said, he hasn’t played his best basketball for a while as he’s dealt with knee, ankle and virus issues.
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina: Thornwell finished the season averaging 21.2 points, and he’s arguably the best on-ball defender in the league.
J.J. Frazier, Georgia: I think you can make the argument that Frazier was the best point guard in the SEC this season. He’s been unreal since Maten went down with an injury.
Yante Maten, Georgia: Maten was playing sensational basketball before he went down with a knee injury a couple of weeks ago. The Bulldogs need him back.
Is anyone really surprised that the Wildcats are the pick to win the SEC tournament? Not only are the the most talented team in the SEC, they won the regular season title by two games. The key here, however, is going to end up being De’Aaron Fox, and not just for this tournament. Malik Monk’s ability to take over a game is the reason that Kentucky can make a Final Four, but unless Fox is back to being the guy he was at the start of SEC play, it’s hard to picture Kentucky winning four straight in March.
And if they lose?: Florida Gators
If you subscribe to the idea that KenPom is the best way to measure how good a team is, then Florida would actually be the favorite to win the SEC tournament. I wouldn’t go that far, but I don’t think it was a fluke that the Gators beat Kentucky by 22 points in Gainesville. They are athletic and a nightmare defensively, but the loss of John Egbunu to a knee injury is a brutal blow to their ceiling.
South Carolina: For my money, the Gamecocks are the third-best team in the SEC, but the drop-off from the top two to them is dramatic. The problem? Frank Martin’s team just cannot score.
I actually think the Commodores are dangerous in this event. They’ve won six of their last eight and eight of their last 11 games to get into tournament contention, they swept Florida and they spread the floor and shoot a lot of threes. When those threes are going down, they’re not an easy team to put away.
The Bubble Dwellers:
Vanderbilt: The Commodores are an interesting test case. They’re going to have 15 losses in they don’t win the SEC autobid, but they have two elite wins (Florida sweep), five top 50 wins, ten top 100 wins and played the nation’s most difficult non-conference schedule. As the No. 7 seed, I think they need to win at least two games — Texas A&M and Florida — to get in.
Defining moment of the season: Pick your favorite Malik Monk eruption. Personally, my favorite is the 30 second half points he scored to beat Florida without De’Aaron Fox on the floor:
CBT Prediction: I fully expect Kentucky to get the job done in Nashville.
1. Will there be a No. 1 seed from Pac-12?: The battle for the top seed coming out of the Pac-12 is going to be fascinating.
For starters, all three of the favorites — No. 1 Oregon, No. 2 Arizona and No. 3 UCLA — have similar enough résumés that the results of the Pac-12 tournament will likely determine which of those three is going to get the top seed coming out of the conference. That’s significant because all three of them are locks to be top four seeds, but the way that the bracketing rules are written, there can only be one team per league in the top four seeds of a specific region. That means only one of these four teams will be given the right to be in the West Region, where they will play in Sacramento the first weekend, San Jose the second weekend and, if they make it that far, Phoenix for the Final Four.
They would never have to leave the Pacific time zone, and they’d end up with Gonzaga as the other top two seed in their region.
That’s a much better than flying back East to face off with Villanova in New York or Kansas in the Midwest.
But there’s more to it than that. Because if, say, UCLA or Arizona wins the title, and they do it while picking off the other top three teams on the way, there’s a chance that the Pac-12 champ could end up being the No. 1 seed out West, particularly if Gonzaga finds a way to lose to Saint Mary’s on Tuesday night.
No one at the top of any league has more on the line this week than the teams at the top of the Pac-12.
2. So what do we do with the Big East’s bubble teams?: There are four of them right now, and surprisingly enough, Xavier may be the most interesting case. It’s been more than a month since the Musketeers beat anyone other than DePaul. They’ve lost six of their last seven games, they are playing without star point guard Edmond Sumner and their 19-12 record puts them in a position where they aren’t a lock.
That said, three of those six losses came without Trevon Bluiett, and he’s back on the floor and healthy now. How the committee evaluates Xavier will be almost as fascinating as how the committee evaluates the three Big East teams that feasted on the Musketeers, and Creighton, after those two former Big East title contenders lost their star point guards. Marquette beefed up their résumé with four wins against those two teams post-injuries. Seton Hall won two, and also owns a win over South Carolina, which came without USC’s best player on the floor. Providence beat both Creighton and Xavier after the injuries.
Those wins — well, those injuries — are what put seven Big East teams in a position to get into the Big Dance. Does the committee consider that at all?
3. Can De’Aaron Fox get it going again?: To me, that’s the most important part of the SEC tournament for Kentucky. Sure, it would be nice if they can bring home a trophy, but their ceiling as an NCAA tournament title contender is limited as long as Fox is playing the way that he’s been playing the last month. He’s dealt with some ankle and some knee issues, and he got sick last month. While his raw numbers haven’t taken a massive hit, anyone that’s watch the Wildcats play knows that he hasn’t been the same guy that he was earlier in the year.
Kentucky needs Fox to get back to being the guy that was playing like a first-team all-american for the first half of the season, because Malik Monk isn’t going to be able to carry this team for four, or five, or six games all by himself.
4. Does anyone make a job-saving run through their league tournament?: The way I see it, there are probably three coaches that are more or less coaching for their jobs this week: Kansas State’s Bruce Weber, Clemson’s Brad Brownell and Illinois’ John Groce. To say nothing of how dumb it is to determine how you’ll invest millions of dollars in the future of your basketball program based on one week of hoops at the end of a five-year tenure, those are three men that entered this season with their seats hot, needing a tournament trip to potentially save their job.
Those aren’t the only potential openings that will be interesting for some of the best and brightest mid-major coaches to track. Tom Crean and Indiana have a love-hate relationship that dates back years, and it’s never a surprise when his name shows up on lists like this. Tim Miles hasn’t gotten Nebraska back to the tournament in a few years, and while he has a promising young team and packs Nebraska’s home gym every single night, there seems to be some pressure on him this spring as well. And then there is Georgetown, where the fanbase has already turned on John Thompson III, who essentially has a lifetime
5. Might the Big 12 only get five teams in?: For all the talk about how good and how deep the conference is, there’s a chance that the conference could only end up getting five teams into the tournament. Six seems like the max, considering just how far off the bubble TCU and Texas Tech currently are. Even Kansas State, who appears to be one of the first four teams out as of now, has some work to do before they can be considered a lock.
The talk all season long was about how the Big 12 is the best conference in the country because of the depth and the balance, but can it really be the best league if half the field gets in when, say, the Big East and the ACC are sending better than two-thirds of their league teams to the dance?
6. Will the ACC get to 11 bids?: That would tie the record set by the old Big East for the most tournament bids ever for a single conference, and there’s a chance that the ACC can get there. It would require both Syracuse and Wake Forest to win a game or two in Brooklyn this week, but that’s mostly as a precaution; neither team can really afford another bad loss to their name.
Georgia Tech is the more interesting case. The Yellow Jackets have some good wins this year, but they’ve amassed quite a few losses and haven’t done much damage away from home. If they are going to get to the NCAA tournament, my guess is they need three wins: beat Pitt in the opener, get past Virginia in the second round and then pick off Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.
7. Does any Big Ten team emerge as a threat this month?: The Big Ten is such a weird league this year. The bottom isn’t as weak as it has been in past seasons, and, depending on what Illinois and Iowa do this week, they could end up sending as many as nine teams to the Big Dance.
But is anyone in the league actually good enough to get to the final weekend of the college basketball season?
The conference has been defined by mediocrity this year. Wisconsin has lost five of their last six games and struggled to put bad teams away before that. Michigan State is you, obliterated by injuries and lacking size. Maryland has Melo Trimble, but their youth shines through too often. Ohio State and Indiana are in down years. Michigan and Minnesota look dangerous, but they look more like Sweet 16 threats than Final Four contenders.
The saving grace may end up being Purdue, but the Boilermakers hardly seemed dominant in the league this year.
Will anyone step up this week?
Georgia AD issues statement in support of coach Mark Fox
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Georgia’s athletic director showed his support for embattled coach Mark Fox on Tuesday.
Greg McGarity took the unusual step of issuing a statement rebutting a report by Yahoo Sports that Georgia was evaluating possible candidates to succeed Fox.
McGarity’s statement said “we are NOT in the process of exploring our options to replace Mark Fox. We look forward to Mark leading our program next year and all of our efforts are centered on postseason play.”
Fox is in his eighth season as Georgia’s coach. The Bulldogs head into the Southeastern Conference Tournament with an 18-13 overall record and 9-9 mark in league play.
Georgia is still hopeful of landing an NCAA bid, but most projections have them missing out on the tournament for the sixth time in Fox’s career. The Bulldogs likely would need an upset of No. 9 Kentucky in the SEC Tournament to have any shot.
With a team featuring high-scoring Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, the Bulldogs came into the season with high expectations.
But a series of close losses turned up the heat on Fox, who also had to deal with losing Maten to a sprained knee three weeks ago.
Despite the setbacks, Georgia did finish the regular season on a bit of a roll, winning five of its last seven games. Fox said Maten could return if the Bulldogs made the NCAA Tournament, but the forward’s status this week is uncertain.
Georgia opens the SEC against Tennessee on Thursday. If the Bulldogs win that game, they would advance to face top-seeded Kentucky, which has won eight in a row, in the quarterfinals.
McGarity had previously declined to comment on Fox’s future, saying he wouldn’t discuss the coach or his team until after the season.
That changed Tuesday.
“It’s unfortunate we need to respond at this time,” McGarity said in his statement, “but it was necessary to quiet these unfounded rumors.”
Fox, who previously coached five years at Nevada, has a record of 144-116 with the Bulldogs, including a 70-68 mark in SEC play.
Georgia has made only two NCAA appearances during Fox’s tenure, losing in the first round in both 2011 and 2015. The Bulldogs also have been to the National Invitation Tournament twice, going out each time in the second round.
The Pac-12 Player of the Year award had a bit of controversy to it, as Dillon Brooks received the honor from the league despite the fact that he was injured and played poorly during the early part of the season. My best guess: He got the nod over Ball because he was much better during conference play than he was during the season at-large, and the Pac-12 almost never gives their award to a freshman.
Which is silly to be, because I didn’t think that there was any doubt that Ball was the best player in the league this season. He led the nation in assists, he jump-started the most dangerous offense in the country and he turned UCLA into a title contender. He unselfishness permeated the roster. Numbers don’t show you that.
Pac-12 Coach of the Year: Sean Miller, Arizona
Miller was actually my pick for National Coach of the Year. He took a team that lost Ray Smith, Terrence Ferguson and, for 19 games, Allonzo Trier to a Pac-12 regular season co-championship while relying on three freshmen, including two — Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins — who are consistently inconsistent.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA (POY)
Dillon Brooks, Oregon: Brooks totally changes that Oregon team offensively, and he made three game-winners during the regular season.
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona: Markkanen was the steadying for on the Arizona roster that needed it through some trying times in December and January.
T.J. Leaf, UCLA: Leaf was an unexpected gift for the Bruins this season, providing them an elite stretch four on a team that thrives playing uptempo small-ball.
Markelle Fultz, Washington: I normally don’t like giving first-team all-league honors to a guy from a bad team, but Fultz was just so good this year.
The Ducks caught a break getting the No. 1 seed — they held the tiebreaker over Arizona thanks to their win over the Wildcats — which means that they won’t have to play another one of the elite teams in the conference until the title game. If seeds hold, Arizona and UCLA will square off in the semifinals. Oregon also has the benefit of having Dillon Brooks on their roster. I don’t know if there’s anyone in the league I’d want taking a big shot more than him.
And if they lose?: UCLA Bruins
I actually think UCLA is the best team in the league. When they play their best basketball, I am not sure there is another team in the country that can beat them. Their best occurs when they actually are getting stops, and the Bruins have proven in recent games against Arizona and Oregon that they can get stops when they have to.
Arizona Wildcats: Sean Miller is the best coach in the league and he has as much talent on his roster as any team in the country. Allonzo Trier and Lauri Markkanen will carry the Wildcats, but they are going to be at their best when Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins show up. That’s never a guarantee.
Sleeper: USC Trojans
The Trojans have a little UCLA in them. They play fast, they shoot a lot of threes and they have terrific point guard play. The Trojans are also going to be playing for their tournament lives. No matter the bracket you look at, USC ends up someone on the list of last four in or last eight in.
The Bubble Dwellers:
USC: The Trojans have to win at least one game in the dance, and if they want to avoid sweating out championship week, they are probably going to want to beat not only Washington in the first round but UCLA in the quarterfinals as well.
Cal: The Bears need quality wins. I think that the lack of depth in the league means Cal needs to get to the Pac-12 final to be able to make up the ground to get an at-large bid.
Defining moment of the season: Dillon Brooks’ game winner against UCLA in Eugene was the sign that Oregon is back:
CBT Prediction: UCLA cuts down the nets in Las Vegas, beating Arizona and Oregon to get there.