Jim Boeheim’s latest attempt to downplay a Syracuse player’s NBA Draft stock is selfish

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source: AP
Syracuse freshman Chris McCullough (AP)

Jim Boeheim has seen his fair share of NBA-level talent. You don’t reach 950 wins and Hall-of-Fame status without pros.

But the Syracuse head coach is once again taking issue with recent suggestions that one of his players is a potential lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

And this time, Boeheim’s agenda seems very self-serving.

Talented and athletic 6-foot-10 freshman forward Chris McCullough is opening eyes with his strong start this season, as he’s averaging 15.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game on 58 percent shooting.

NBA scouts seem to have taken notice of McCullough’s early-season performances as well.

In a recent ESPN report from Chad Ford, the NBA Draft analyst mentioned how Syracuse’s latest talented freshman impressed NBA scouts and could wind up in the lottery of the 2015 NBA Draft:

“What intrigues scouts is what’s behind the numbers. McCullough has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, is an explosive leaper and is the rare big who can protect the rim on defense and stretch the floor on offense. He needs to add a lot of strength, but virtually every scout I spoke to who saw him play last week in New York came away feeling he’d be a lottery pick,” Ford said in the story.

After the Orange soundly defeated Holy Cross on Friday night, a game in-which McCullough put up a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds, Boeheim sounded off on Ford’s take and said his star freshman wasn’t a first-round pick.

According to a story from Syracuse.com‘s Chris Carlson, Boeheim had plenty to say.

“I’ve talked to 10 pro scouts,” Boeheim said on Friday night. “Not one of them thought that Chris McCullough was a first-round pick. So who he’s talking to? I have no idea. When you print that stuff, people read it. Parents read that.”

That wasn’t all Boeheim had to say on the matter:

“You keep looking at what Chris (SIC) Ford says,” Boeheim said. “He’s a smart guy. He knows exactly who is going to get drafted. This is what parents do. Parents quote to me all the time, ‘He’s in the top 10 of the draft board.’ Oh yeah? ‘He’s the 14th pick in the draft.’ Yeah?”

“Quote (from) last year,” Boeheim said. “Well, he’s in the top 10 in the draft board, that’s why he’s going to go. I said, ‘On whose draft board? ESPN?’ They do not have a team. They do not have a team at ESPN. That’s the kind of misinformation that gets kids thinking about things and parents thinking about things that make no sense, whatsoever.”

Ford isn’t the only NBA Draft analyst to have McCullough listed as a lottery pick. While Ford currently has him as the No. 11 player on his big board, NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith rates McCullough even higher, as the freshman checks in at No. 7 on his big board as of Nov. 27. NBA scouts that NBCSports.com has talked to also believe McCullough will be taken in the first round.

NBADraftBlog.com‘s Ed Issacson spoke with NBCSports.com on the rapid rise — and current stock — of McCullough and he also believes that the forward has first-round potential.

“I think he has the potential to be a late-lottery, mid-first rounder, though I haven’t seen him do enough this season yet to say it with more certainty,” Issacson said to NBCSports.com on McCullough. “Good skill and physical ability, but he needs to put it all together.”

That seems like a pretty fair assessment of McCullough, don’t you think? Not a sure-fire lottery pick, but a talented player with a very realistic chance of being a first-round pick.

So if Jim Boeheim spoke to 10 NBA scouts and they all said that his new, stud freshman wasn’t a first-round pick, then why do so many respected NBA Draft analysts and scouts seem to all publicly disagree?

Issacson brought up a valid point on how this process of gathering information all plays out.

“Here’s the catch with both Ford’s and Boeheim’s statements: They can both be true,” Isaacson said. “There are so many NBA scouts that you can find any opinion you want to fit.”

Looks to me like Boeheim is finding opinions that solely fit his agenda of winning basketball games for Syracuse.

Last year we saw something similar with Boeheim critiquing freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who went on to be selected No. 18 by the Phoenix Suns in the first round in the 2014 NBA Draft. Draft analysts also considered Ennis a potential lottery pick for much of last season after his strong leadership abilities and play helped the Orange to a 25-0 start. But Boeheim went on SportsCenter after Ennis declared for the draft and made some unflattering remarks about his point guard.

It was one thing to listen to Boeheim’s thoughts about Ennis, because what he said about him needing another year was truthful in many ways, but this latest spin on McCullough is just wrong and self-serving.

Let me make something clear: Boeheim should temper expectations about McCullough being in the lottery since these public opinions are accelerating at a rapid rate after only six college games. McCullough went from off-the-grid to smack dab in the middle of the radar of NBA people in the first few games of the season and that has to be alarming to Boeheim when he needs his star freshman focused on the current season. It doesn’t help that Boeheim is probably frustrated by an early entry process that has taken away Michael Carter-Williams, Ennis and Jerami Grant in the last few seasons. I get that.

But it’s a bad look if Boeheim spins this McCullough draft stock banter to only benefit him and his program. McCullough isn’t a first rounder? Of all of the public opinions being expressed by respected reporters, analysts and NBA scouts only Boeheim seems to publicly hold this line of thinking. And maybe he sees some behind-the-scenes things about McCullough that screams that he isn’t ready to leave after one year? Even so, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and right now the talk of “Chris McCullough: First-round talent” is blazing hot. His coach just doesn’t want to admit it and potentially lose another talented player to the pros.

Boeheim is paid to win basketball games and compete for national championships for Syracuse, but when a basketball player commits to playing for the Orange, they have aspirations of making money playing basketball as a career. He might be keeping it real by downplaying NBA expectations of his players, but in this case, it appears Boeheim is looking out for his own best interests instead of softening the expectations while promoting McCullough’s future.

There’s a way to delicately balance the ballooning NBA expectations of a 19-year-old kid while also promoting him as a future potential pro. Other coaches do it all the time, but Boeheim only appears to be seeking out opinions of those who agree with the agenda he wants to publicly express.

Three respected NBA Draft analysts, and multiple NBA scouts, are all on-record with the belief that McCullough is a future first-round pick but that’s not what Boeheim wants you to hear. Boeheim might be telling some truths in an attempt to help his own player, but he looks awfully selfish doing it.

Houston reaches No. 1 in AP poll for first time since 1983

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Make some room, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the top of men’s college basketball.

Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon took the Cougars to No. 1, the latest bunch led by Marcus Sasser and star freshman Jarace Walker took over the top spot in the AP Top 25. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily outdistancing second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.

“It’s not like we went online and applied for it and waited for a response back. We’ve been working for this,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four and Elite Eight trip the past two seasons. “But remember, it’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1.”

North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational to cede the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in its only game last week.

The last time the Cougars ascended to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when “The Glide” and “The Dream” along with coach Guy Lewis were the favorites to win it all. They rolled through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I’ve never been ranked No. 1,” said Sampson, now in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. “We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six straight years. We’re used to having a high level of success.”

Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia received two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after emerging from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th all the way to fifth and scooped up eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke at the Phil Knight Legacy tourney.

“Our guys are competitive. They’re fun to coach. They get along. They’re out there playing with purpose and that’s what you have to have,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 about this time last season.

“Early in the season, very few teams play with the purpose collectively,” he said. “I thought our guys played with a purpose.”

Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and U Conn climbed from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas fell from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.

There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.

Illinois was next followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth after their 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.

Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State in rounding out the poll.

RISING AND FALLING

Purdue made a rare 19-spot jump as the poll underwent a massive shakeup. UConn climbed 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee climbed nine and Alabama seven. On the flip side, the Tar Heels tumbled 17 spots, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga fell eight and San Diego State fell seven.

IN AND OUT

Despite all the movement, Iowa State was the only newcomer this week, checking in at No. 23 after beating Villanova and North Carolina before falling to UConn. The Cyclones replaced Iowa, which dropped out after a one-week stay following its loss to TCU in the title game of the Emerald Coast Classic.

CONFERENCE WATCH

There are six difference conferences represented in the first seven teams in the poll. The Big Ten leads the way with six in the Top 25 while the SEC has five and the Big 12 has four, though three of them are in the top 10.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Stanford, UConn next

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South Carolina remained the unanimous No. 1 choice in The Associated Press women’s poll, as the Gamecocks keep close watch on the foot injury of reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

The Gamecocks received all 29 first-place votes in the poll, a day after Boston left a game with her injury. Coach Dawn Staley said Boston was “questionable” going forward but added that the “team doctor wasn’t too, too concerned.”

South Carolina’s next game is at home against No. 15 UCLA.

Stanford remained No. 2 after cruising through a tournament in Hawaii. It’s the 618th appearance for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, tying the late Pat Summitt for most all-time. Summitt’s teams only missed being in the poll 14 times during her Hall of Fame career at Tennessee.

UConn, Ohio State and Indiana rounded out the top five.

The Huskies are one of four Big East teams to be ranked this week as Marquette entered the poll at No. 24. It’s the first time the Big East has four ranked teams since the conference realigned in 2014. The league is 56-14 so far this season, including going 8-2 against ranked teams.

“We’ve been trying to earn a little more respect,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of the Big East. “Tried to schedule tougher non-conference (games). ‘Nova’s playing people. Us going to the Bahamas was great. Creighton’s doing what they’ve been doing since last season. Getting some of those quality wins is everything.”

North Carolina moved up two spots to No. 6 after rallying to beat then-No. 5 Iowa State in the Phil Knight tournament. The Cyclones fell to eighth.

The Tar Heels visit the Hoosiers on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Indiana returns home after winning two games in Las Vegas at a subpar venue that lacked basic necessities.

Notre Dame remained No. 7 while Virginia Tech and Iowa finished off the top 10. At No. 9, Virginia Tech has matched its best ranking ever and is in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee fell out of the poll this week marking the 56th time in the 827-week history of the poll that the Lady Vols weren’t ranked. Kansas State also fell out with Gonzaga moving in at No. 23.

FALLING CARDINALS

Louisville dropped to 18th in the poll this week after falling to South Dakota State in the fifth place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. It’s the Cardinals lowest ranking since Jan. 11, 2016.

Louisville entered the top 10 in the preseason poll in 2017 and hadn’t been out since, a span of 98 consecutive weeks. It was the longest active streak.

“It’s a compliment to the consistency that we built here,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of being ranked in the top 10 for so long. “Obviously are goal would have been to stay in the top 10, but it’s a new team and growing.”

Edey scores 21 as No. 24 Purdue beats No. 8 Duke 75-56

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue shook off a slow start. When No. 8 Duke tried to rally in the second half, the Boilermakers finished strong.

Edey had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Purdue beat Duke 75-56 on Sunday in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Fletcher Loyer scored 18 points for Purdue (6-0), and reserve Caleb Furst finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel like we weren’t getting the looks we wanted early. As we settled into the game, we kept our poise and kept getting the shots that we wanted,” Edey said. “They were making some tough twos at the beginning of the game, shots we’re OK with all season.”

The 7-foot-4 Edey was 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line. He was named tournament MVP.

“They have the most unique player in the country,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Edey. “He’s a hard guy to prepare for because there’s nobody else like him.”

Duke (6-2) shot 36.2% (21 for 58) from the field. Tyres Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each had 14.

Ethan Morton had a steal and a dunk to help Purdue open a 58-41 lead with 15:37 left in the second half.

Duke countered with an 8-0 run, capped by two foul shots by Dariq Whitehead. But Furst made a layup and a jumper to help hold off the Blue Devils.

A hook by Edey and a 3-pointer by Loyer made it 68-56 with 5:03 remaining.

Duke got off to a 14-7 start before Purdue worked its way back into the game.

“I don’t feel like we came out bad today, but they matched our energy,” Edey said.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Newman pushed the Purdue lead to 46-28. A late run by Duke cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 46-35 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: It looked as if Roach had an issue with his left foot at one point, but he went back into the game. Scheyer said Roach had hurt his toe.

Purdue: Although neither team had great offensive games, Purdue was the better team from range. Purdue made seven 3-pointers to just two for Duke.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.

Purdue: Visits Florida State on Wednesday.

No. 18 Alabama beats No. 1 North Carolina 103-101 in 4 OTs

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Mark Sears had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, and No. 18 Alabama sent top-ranked North Carolina to a second straight loss with a 103-101 victory in a quadruple-overtime thriller on Sunday in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational tournament.

Jahvon Quinerly added 21 points off the bench for the Crimson Tide (6-1), who knocked off the top-ranked team for the first time since upsetting Stanford in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

“I was losing track of how many overtimes we were in there at the end,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “A lot of credit to our guys. I thought they showed a lot of character when we could have folded.”

Charles Bediako had 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, while Brandon Miller also scored 14 points.

Caleb Love led the Tar Heels (5-2) with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Armando Bacot contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds, and R.J. Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds in the second four-overtime game in North Carolina history. The other was a victory over Tulane in 1976.

“At the end of the day, Alabama made one more play than we did,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “I walked in the locker room and a number of the guys had their head down and I told them to pick their head up. I’m just as disappointed (as the players) in terms of the final outcome, but I couldn’t be any more proud about the way they competed.”

Bediako gave the Crimson Tide the lead for good on a layup with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime.

The Tar Heels, who lost to Iowa State in the semifinals, led by as much as eight in the second half before Alabama came back to tie it. The Crimson Tide retook the lead on a pair of free throws from Gurley with 2 minutes remaining, and later tied with another free throw from Sears with 51 seconds remaining in regulation.

Alabama starting forward Noah Clowney took a hard fall on a dunk attempt four minutes into the first half and had to be helped off the court. He did not return.

The Crimson Tide were 16 for 38 (42.1%) from 3-point range, with Sears making seven.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels figure to take a deep drop in the Top 25 poll.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide bounced back nicely following their loss to No. 20 UConn in the semifinals, beating a top-ranked team in the regular season for the first time since a 66-64 victory over eventual national champion Arkansas on Jan. 8, 1994.

UP NEXT:

North Carolina: The Tar Heels travel to Bloomington to face No. 11 Indiana on Wednesday.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide return home to face South Dakota State on Saturday.

Clingan lifts UConn past Iowa State for Phil Knight title

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Donovan Clingan had 15 points and 10 rebounds to power No. 20 UConn to a 71-53 win over Iowa State in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational on Sunday night.

Tristen Newton scored 13 points for the Huskies (8-0), who went 20 for 25 at the free-throw line. Alex Karaban and Andre Jackson, Jr. each had 10 points.

Osun Osunniyi led Iowa State (5-1) with 14 points. Tamin Lipsey had 12 points and Jaren Holmes finished with 11.

“They were the more aggressive team,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We wanted a physical game. We didn’t want a physical game with them getting the rebounds and then also us putting them on the foul line. Lesson that we’ve got to learn is we need to embrace being the aggressor at both ends of the floor at all times.”

The Huskies had more offensive rebounds (20) than the Cyclones had total rebounds (19), and capitalized on that disparity with 20 second-chance points.

“Those guys are tough,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “T.J.`s an excellent coach. They grind people up. To outrebound them, it just speaks to how tough we were.”

Clingan, who was named tournament MVP, scored eight points to help UConn to a 38-28 lead at the break.

Iowa State closed to 53-48 on Holmes’ 3-pointer midway through the second half. But Karaban made a 3 and a dunk, and Newton’s jumper made it 60-48 with 7:13 remaining.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies couldn’t have asked for a better showing in Portland, winning all three of their games.

Iowa State: The Cyclones picked up nice wins over Villanova and top-ranked North Carolina in the earlier rounds but ended with their first loss of the season.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies return home to face Oklahoma State on Thursday.

Iowa State: The Cyclones return home to face North Dakota on Tuesday.