LaVar Ball claims he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one; reveals son Lonzo faced NCAA investigation

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LaVar Ball is back at it again.

The father of UCLA star freshman Lonzo Ball, and younger brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball of Chino Hills High School, has been known to make some outlandish statements regarding his kids before.

But LaVar’s latest interview with Josh Peter of USA Today Sports might take the cake.

In the profile, Ball states that he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one in his prime with some ridiculous quotes.

“Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one,’’ Ball said to Peter in the profile.

“I would just back (Jordan) in and lift him off the ground and call a foul every time he fouls me when I do a jump hook to the right or the left,” Ball said. “He cannot stop me one-on-one. He better make every shot ’cause he can’t go around me. He’s not fast enough. And he can only make so many shots outside before I make every bucket under the rim.”

Maybe the most enlightening bit to come from Ball’s interview is the revelation that the NCAA investigated Lonzo Ball and the Big Baller Brand, the Ball family’s clothing line.

LaVar said that last February, UCLA asked him to take down a photo of Lonzo from the Big Ballers Brand website because he might face eligibility issues. It turns out it was a rival school that called about the potential violation.

“I was going to tell them, Big Ballers style, see if you can go win this (NCAA) tournament without my son,” Ball said to Peter. “I said, ‘Let me tell you guys something right now, If I come down there, it ain’t going to be about no complaints. I’m coming down to get my son.’ And that’s when they was like, ‘LaVar, it wasn’t us. It was USC.’ ”

The Trojans are the ones who notified UCLA of Lonzo’s photo on the website, according to Peter’s report. USC sports information director Tim Tessalone acknowledged that the Trojans were also involved as they notified UCLA of the photo. Lonzo’s photo has since been taken off the website.

The NCAA even released a statement on Saturday saying that Lonzo Ball won’t face any sanctions, which carries some significance since LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball are both verbally committed to the Bruins in future years.

Lonzo Ball is an expected top-five pick in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft as he was the nation’s leader in assists per game this season. UCLA is a No. 3 seed in the South Region as they open with No. 14 Kent State.

UCLA lands four-star Class of 2017 forward Cody Riley

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UCLA continues to stockpile local talented players as the Bruins landed a commitment from four-star power forward Cody Riley on Friday.

The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Riley is considered the No. 34 overall prospect on Rivals in the national Class of 2017 as he’s a productive combo forward who can score or rebound. Bursting on the national recruiting scene early in his high school career, Riley is an undersized four, but he’s a skilled passer who hits the glass hard and can score on putbacks around the basket. Riley should give the Bruins a capable rebounder and frontcourt piece.

Riley joins five-star guard Jaylen Hands, four-star forward Jalen Hill and three-star guard LiAngelo Ball in UCLA’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts. The Bruins under Steve Alford have done a great job of keeping California talent home as all four of those players hail from the Golden State.

Wooden Legacy bracket announced

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Thursday morning the match-ups for the 2016 Wooden Legacy were announced, an eight-team event that includes programs such as UCLA, Dayton, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. Of the eight teams in the field just two made NCAA tournament appearances last season, Dayton and Texas A&M. Both were eliminated by eventual Final Four participants, with Dayton falling to Syracuse in the first round and Texas A&M losing to Oklahoma in the Sweet 16.

The Wooden Legacy will run from November 24-27, with each team being guaranteed three games and the event taking a day off Saturday, November 26. The first two days of games will be played at Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton, with the final round scheduled for the Honda Center in Anaheim.

There will also be one unbracketed game in the Wooden Legacy, with UCLA hosting CSUN Sunday, November 13 at Pauley Pavilion.

Thursday, November 24 (all times Eastern)
2:00 p.m.: Texas A&M vs. CSUN
4:30 p.m.: New Mexico vs. Virginia Tech
8:30 p.m.: Dayton vs. Nebraska
11:00 p.m.: Portland vs. UCLA

Friday, November 25
3:00 p.m.: Consolation #1
5:30 p.m.: Semifinal #1
9:30 p.m.: Consolation #2
Midnight: Semifinal #2

Sunday, November 27
2:00 p.m.: 5th Place Game
4:30 p.m.: 3rd Place Game
8:30 p.m.: Championship Game
11:00 p.m.: 7th Place Game

Top 2018 prospect trims college list to six

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As one of the top players in high school basketball regardless of class, 2018 forward Marvin Bagley III doesn’t lack for attention on the recruiting front. But even with many high-major programs looking to land his commitment, and there’s being two years before he’ll set foot on a college campus, Bagley has decided to narrow the focus on his recruitment down to six schools.

Thursday evening the Sierra Canyon (California) HS student announced via Twitter that Arizona, Arizona State, Duke, Kentucky, Oregon and UCLA are the six programs that remain in contention for his commitment.

The 6-foot-10 forward is currently ranked tops in the Class of 2018 by Rivals.com, and this has remained the case despite the fact that California transfer rules kept him off the court at Sierra Canyon this school year. In early January Bagley made the move to Sierra Canyon from Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix, only to be declared ineligible to compete this season by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).

Bagley played his freshman season at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, Arizona, leading the program to a 34-1 record and a Division I state title in 2014-15.

Bagley’s performed well on the Nike EYBL circuit for the Phoenix Phamily program, and obviously his status during the high school season did nothing to deter the college programs looking to sign him. There’s still a long way to go in Bagley’s recruitment, but his announcement Thursday provides a little more clarity to the situation.

Video credit: Rivals.com

Looking Forward: Which programs are on the rise as we head into 2016-17?

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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some programs on the rise heading into next season.

Virginia Tech: Buzz Williams’ second season in Blacksburg proved to be more successful than many expected, as the Hokies won ten ACC games (20 overall) and played in the Postseason NIT. What can they do for an encore? In all honesty the pieces needed for the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007 are in place, with six of their top seven scorers from a season ago due to return led by forward Zach LeDay and guard Seth Allen. Expecting the Hokies to contend for the ACC title may be a bit much, but it’s fair to expect them to work their way into the Top 25 and the NCAA tournament in 2016-17.

Creighton: The Bluejays, picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll, nearly played its way onto the NCAA tournament bubble thanks to a much-improved big man in Geoffrey Groselle, transfer Maurice Watson Jr. and Cole Huff, and guard Isaiah Zierden. Groselle’s gone, but given the combination of returnees and the addition of former Kansas State guard Marcus Foster the Bluejays could be in line for another leap forward. The key for Greg McDermott’s team will be the return of Watson, who’s going through the NBA Draft evaluation process.

Wisconsin: At one point last season the Badgers were 9-9 overall and 1-4 in Big Ten play, with it appearing highly unlikely that Greg Gard would have his interim tag removed. But Gard’s team turned things around, winning 22 games and reaching the Sweet 16. Provided Nigel Hayes, who’s currently going through the NBA Draft evaluation process, returns to school the Badgers will be on the short list of Big Ten title contenders. Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ lead four other starters who will be back, and Andy Van Vliet (who the NCAA sidelined for last season) will help in the front court as well.

USC: The Trojans’ progression was a year ahead of schedule, as after producing consecutive 12-win seasons they earned an NCAA tournament berth in Andy Enfield’s third season at the helm. USC does have some questions in the form of guard Julian Jacobs and forward Nikola Jovanovic both going through the NBA Draft process, but if both return the Trojans will be a contender in the Pac-12. Jordan McLaughlin, Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu are among the returnees for a team that could return five of its six double-digit scorers — Katin Reinhardt being the lone departure — from last season.

UCLA guard Bryce Alford, center, attempts to move the ball past Kentucky guard Charles Matthews, right, as Jamal Murray, left, helps defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
UCLA guard Bryce Alford (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

UCLA: Staying in Los Angeles, this is a big year coming up for Steve Alford. The Bruins were a major disappointment last season, but the combination of some key returnees and a recruiting class led by Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf should propel UCLA back into the Pac-12 and national conversations. Ball should be handed the keys to the show from the start given his abilities at the point, which should result in plentiful scoring opportunities for the likes of Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton and Thomas Welsh. How good this team can be will depend on two things: how well the pieces mesh, and an improved commitment on the defensive end.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs reached the Sweet 16 last season, but the way in which they got there wasn’t what we’ve grown accustomed to with regards to Mark Few’s program as they needed the WCC automatic bid to ensure a spot in the field. Even with the departures of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga has the tools needed to be better in 2016-17, as a backcourt that made strides as the season progressed will be a year older with Josh Perkins and Silas Melson leading the way. Also, Przemek Karnowski will be back on the court after missing last season with a back injury.

Florida State: Leonard Hamilton received some good news, as both Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes decided to return after briefly flirting with the NBA Draft. They’ll be asked to lead the way for a team that adds a solid recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American Jonathan Isaac, and putting points on the board won’t be much of an issue. If they can get back to defending at the level we’ve come to expect from Hamilton-coached teams, Florida State can make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012.

Rhode Island: Dan Hurley’s Rams began the 2015-16 season viewed as a team that could contend in the Atlantic 10. Then the injury bug hit, with E.C. Matthews being lost to a torn ACL and multiple key contributors (including Hassan Martin) missing time throughout the course of the year. URI’s healthy again, and with Four McGlynn being the lone major contributor out of eligibility 2016-17 should see the Rams rebound and make a run at the Atlantic 10 title.

Pac-12 Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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The expectation entering the season was that there were at least five teams capable of winning the Pac-12. Sure enough many of the expected contenders remained a factor for a significant portion of the season, with Oregon eventually rising as the class of the conference. Dana Altman’s Ducks went undefeated at home in Pac-12 play and finished above .500 on the road, which is generally a good formula to at the very least contend for a conference title. The play of Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and company may make Oregon the favorites in Las Vegas, but they’ll have plenty of challengers as well.

Utah has the conference’s Player of the Year in sophomore center Jakob Poeltl, Arizona and California both have talented rotations and teams such as Colorado, Oregon State, USC and Washington are all capable of making a run as well. As of right now the Pac-12 could be a seven-bid league depending upon not only what happens in Las Vegas but also in other conference tournaments across the country. This much is certain: given how balanced and talented the league is, whoever cuts down the nets Saturday night will have been pushed to their limit.

The Bracket

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When: March 9-12

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 12, 10:00 p.m. (FS1)

Favorite: Oregon

The Ducks may have just a seven-man rotation, but it’s the versatility within that group that makes them so difficult to deal with. Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin are three forwards who can play just about anywhere on the floor. Freshman Tyler Dorsey can play either guard spot, and big man Chris Boucher is a 6-foot-10 senior who can score in the paint and also on the perimeter.

Both Boucher and Jordan Bell run the floor like gazelles and are incredibly active defensively, and point guard Casey Benson’s improved throughout the course of the season. They’ll score points thanks to the talent and Dana Altman’s offensive schemes. But if Oregon can make things happen defensively and get out in transition, they’re an incredibly tough team to beat.

And if they lose?: Utah

Utah’s rise from team that appeared to be headed towards the NCAA tournament bubble to second place in the Pac-12 is due in large part to the development of their perimeter rotation. Brandon Taylor’s embraced the facilitator role down the stretch, and Lorenzo Bonam’s made strides as well. The Runnin’ Utes can surround elite big man Jakob Poeltl with shooters, thus keeping the spacing that ultimately produces quality shots on a regular basis. Utah ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage defense and fourth in three-point percentage defense, and even with the occasional offensive issues they’ve been solid defensively.

Other Contenders:

  • Arizona: The Wildcats are still formidable, even with the end of their streak of two straight Pac-12 regular season titles. Gabe York’s been on fire of late, and with Ryan Anderson and Allonzo Trier leading the way Sean Miller’s team doesn’t lack for talent either.
  • California: The Golden Bears were the team many were waiting for to get going, and down the stretch they did. The return of Tyrone Wallace helped, and they’ve got two of the nation’s top freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. But they’ve had their issues away from Berkeley, so we’ll see what they can do in Las Vegas.

Sleeper: USC

The Trojans have struggled a bit down the stretch, losing six of their final eight games of the regular season. That being said, USC’s offensive balance and tempo could lend itself to a run in Las Vegas. Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs make up a very good point guard duo, and the Trojans have capable scoring options both in the front court and on the perimeter (six players averaging double figures). They’ll need to keep the turnovers to a minimum, but Andy Enfield’s team is one to keep an eye on.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Colorado: The Buffs are in the field. But a loss to a bad Washington State team could make the wait more nerve-wracking than it should be.
  • Oregon State: The Beavers may have been overlooked by some when it comes to their NCAA tournament hopes. Beat Arizona State, and that should be enough.
  • USC: The Trojans arrive in Las Vegas in solid shape to land a bid. Avoiding a bad loss against UCLA in their tournament opener should be enough to make them feel comfortable.

Pac-12 Player of the Year: Jakob Poeltl, Utah

Poeltl was the preseason pick for the award, and despite Utah’s occasional issues on the perimeter he’s been very consistent for Larry Krystkowiak’s team. In conference play Poeltl averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, shooting a Pac-12 best 62.4 percent from the field.

Pac-12 Coach of the Year: Dana Altman, Oregon

Three times in the last four seasons Altman’s won this honor, with this most recent award being for leading the Ducks to a regular season Pac-12 title. Oregon navigated injuries early in the season, most notably the loss of the player expected to run the point in Dylan Ennis, and found their groove in conference play when all healthy pieces were back in the fold. And in a season in which road teams had an incredibly hard time picking up wins on a consistent basis, Oregon was one of two teams to sweep two Pac-12 road trips this season (Utah being the other).

First-Team All Pac-12:

  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah(POY)
  • Andrew Andrews, Washington: Andrews has been the unquestioned leader for a very young squad, and in conference games he averaged 22.3 points (first in Pac-12) and 5.1 assists (third) per game.
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State: Payton’s was named the league’s best defender for a second straight year, and there’s also his versatility. The senior ranked in the top ten in the league in rebounding (ninth), assists (first), steals (first) and assist-to-turnover ratio (third), and 11th in scoring.
  • Dillon Brooks, Oregon: As good as Brooks was as a freshman, he was even better this season. Averaging 17.1 points per game in Pac-12 play, Brooks was a serious contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
  • Ryan Anderson, Arizona: In his lone season on the court for Arizona, the Boston College transfer averaged 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest. He was one of two Pac-12 players to average a double-double in conference play (Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson).

Second Team All Pac-12:

  • Jaylen Brown, California
  • Rosco Allen, Stanford
  • Dejounte Murray, Washington
  • Elgin Cook, Oregon
  • Josh Scott, Colorado

Defining moment of the season: Oregon ends Arizona’s 49-game home win streak

CBT Prediction: Oregon’s the pick here, but it would not be a surprise if any of the top four teams left Vegas with the crown.