Losing IU-UK another step towards regular season irrelevance

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At the end of the day, it is pointless to blame anyone for the end — temporary or not — of the Kentucky-Indiana rivalry. John Calipari doesn’t want to play non-conference games in road environments. He just doesn’t, and he never will, and nothing that Tom Crean or Indiana or, well, anyone could tell him to change his mind. He’s concerned about one thing: the success of his program, and he’ll do whatever he can to help his program regardless of the costs to fans or the game as a whole.

Calipari does not back down. Ever. And in this case, he ran into another coach that simply was not going to be backed down or bullied. Tom Crean wanted this game played on home courts, and it didn’t matter if the first two games of the series were going to be played in Indiana. He wasn’t going to get pushed around by anyone, especially not the coach from down in Lexington.

Instead of working out a way to make this game happen, two stubborn, bull-headed (and successful) coaches refused to concede anything, and it cost us what could have turned into one of, if not the best regular season game of each and every season.

Think about it: Kentucky and Indiana have two of the nation’s largest and most passionate fan bases. They could play this game in Guam and it would sell out each and every season, regardless of how good the two programs are. What makes matters worse is that both UK and IU are currently peaking. Every preseason poll is going to have the two programs in the top three in the country, and the majority will have them No. 1 and No. 2. With the way Calipari recruits, Kentucky will always be in that position, but Crean has been bringing in his fair share of talent and has plenty committed to play for the Hoosiers in the future.

Kentucky and Indiana had the best finish of the 2011-2012 season in the best environment of the year (a game that just so happened to take place in December) before taking part in the 2012 tournament’s most entertaining game.

And therein lies the shame.

College basketball is dangerously close to becoming a three-week sport. The regular season already borderlines on meaningless for the majority of casual fans. Few pay attention to the games that are played in November or December. More start paying attention once football ends in early February.

One way to combat that problem is to schedule more marquee games early in the season, limiting the number of 40 point blowouts we see prior to conference play. But now, not only are we going to lose IU-UK, it also appears as if the UK-UNC series will end.

There is no requirement for these two programs to play. Calipari and Crean are allowed to run their programs in the best way that they see fit. But their inability to settle their differences is just the latest example of middle-aged men destroying some of college basketball’s biggest game.

Kansas and Missouri will no longer play thanks to Missouri’s departure for the SEC. Pitt and Syracuse heading to the ACC ends their rivalries against West Virginia and Georgetown. And now we lose UNC-UK and IU-UK. In a sport where marquee matchups are fairly rare, eight must-see games just got wiped from the schedule.

But hey, at least Rupp Arena and Assembly Hall will be sold out while Kentucky and Indiana beat up on Gardner-Webb and North Carolina-Central, respectively.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

VIDEO: Mixtape for Duke commit R.J. Barrett, potential 2019 No. 1 pick

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Last week, after the NBA draft officially concluded, we posted a mock draft for the lottery in 2019.

At the top of that list was R.J. Barrett, a Duke-commit and Canadian-native that has NBA scouts wowed and intrigued. This mixtape should give you a good feel for why.

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

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Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.

The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.

While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.

Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.

Nevada’s Josh Hall transfers to Missouri State

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Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.

The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.

Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.

Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Chris Webber accepts Jim Harbaugh’s invitation to be honorary Michigan football captain

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The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.

Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.

The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.

Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.

Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.

Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

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Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.