UCLA Notches Resume Win in CBS Sports Classic

It’s been a roller coaster season for UCLA, and it’s only December. The Bruins stole headlines right out of the gate on their opening season trip to China, when three of their players were arrested for shoplifting. Weeks later they were back on the front pages when Lavar Ball pulled his son LiAngelo out of school. That headline isn’t necessarily the worst news for Steve Alford. Through all the off the court drama however, the Bruins struggled to find that signature win on the court. Until Saturday, when UCLA beat #7 Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic.

Prior to Saturday’s win, UCLA had been 0-3 in “resume boosting” wins this year. They gave up 100 in a loss to Creighton, blew a 15 point lead at Michigan, and lost by double digits to Cincinnati. UCLA was a game away from going into conference play with their best non conference win coming against South Dakota (12-4). And they only won that game by three, at home.

That changed Saturday. The day after announcing full season suspensions for Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, UCLA came out and played the best game of their season. Aaron Holiday and Kris Wilkes were sensational, and the Bruins put together a complete game to beat Kentucky on a neutral court in New Orleans. Holiday and Wilkes each scored 20, and senior Thomas Welsh also chipped in 13 and 11 rebounds. The win moved UCLA to 9-3 heading into Pac 12 play.

It’s rare that wins in December are called monumental, or significant. However, this UCLA win is definitely important for Steve Alford and company. The Bruins roster is shorter than expected with the suspensions of Riley and Hill, two freshman who were expected to be contributors to a team that lost a bulk of it’s production last season. As a result, UCLA has had to adjust on the fly. This worked against lesser opponents, but against NCAA caliber teams, it was not good enough to win.

This weekend however, UCLA put it all together. Their senior leaders led, their un-suspended freshman shined and the result was a win over the #7 team in the country. The upset showed what UCLA needs this season to compete with the top competition. Their stars need to play at a high level consistently, and role players need to step up. An easy task? No, but it’s doable. The season is still young.

For Kentucky, the loss only add question marks to a team that was filled with them. Will this young team find consistency? Do they have a point guard who can run the show? Can someone make outside shots? They are no doubt a talented and athletic group. They got up and down against UCLA, and Hamidou Diallo excelled. But in tight games, they’ve shown carelessness with the ball and, outside Kevin Knox, an inability to make shots from outside. SEC play will be a test for John Calipari this year.

Conference play starts this week. Both the SEC and Pac 12 are filled with teams that can enhance both teams’ resumes. We learned from Saturday that Kentucky may still have a few question marks heading into SEC play. On the other hand, UCLA may have found momentum as they get ready for Pac 12 action.


4 Flaws Behind Lavar Ball’s Big Baller Brand League

Stop me if you’ve head this before: Lavar Ball is in the news. The self proclaimed Big Baller announced this week he will be launching his own professional league for high school players who do not want to attend college for a year. The league would ideally, in Ball’s eyes, consist of ten teams, with eight players each. Each player would make anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.

Like most things that come out of Lavar’s mouth, the league was heavily criticized by the basketball world. First off, I know this is just a ploy to get his two other sons playing in a “professional” league on American soil. That said, I don’t think the idea is a crazy one, but I do think there are flaws in the way from making this league a hit. Let’s look at four reasons the Big Baller League won’t work out.

Competition Level

Ball says this league is designed to jump start players’ careers. He thinks it will be easy to attract talent, but I disagree. Playing in the BBB League won’t be much different than playing in high school. More often than not, the best prospects already face off either in high school tournaments and showcases, or on the AAU circuit. If the best high school players go to this league, we’re not seeing if they are ready for the next level. The point of going to college is to see if a freshman is able to play at the speed of the college game, against older, more mature competition.

G League/One-and-Done Rule

Another factor is the progress the NBA is making in their developmental league, as well as their openness to altering the one and done rule. For one, if Adam Silver decides to eliminate the rule, Lavar’s league loses all excitement around it. He would not attract the top talent, that top talent would go to the league. It would be near impossible to field 80 players that would make fans excited. In addition, the NBA has gone to great lengths to develop to G League into a place where players can grow and mature, while being close to a NBA franchise. The players may not have the exposure of a prime time college game, or even Lavar’s league, but they are working with a NBA franchise. That cannot be topped in terms of developing.

Roster Size

Another thing to consider is the size of every team. Eight players is not enough to field a basketball team for a season. If we’re playing glorified pick up games from week-to-week then sure. But if this is going to be an actual league for players to showcase themselves, it needs to be legitimate. To play at an elite level, you need to be able to rotate more than eight players on a given night. What happens with foul trouble? Eight is not enough, and I don’t think he will be able to field ten teams of ten.

College Coaches

The last reason Lavar’s league won’t work for the premiere prospects is the knowledge they can learn from college coaches. Would Joel Embiid have developed so quickly had he not gone to Bill Self’s School of Bigs? Would the BBB League really get players more ready for the NBA than John Calipari does? Does anyone in the BBB League have the wealth of knowledge ¬†that Krzyzewski, Izzo, Boeheim, Beilein and Williams do? The answer is no. Maybe you’re not making the money (save your pay for play jokes) but you can’t put a price on playing for a Hall of Fame coach before you go to the NBA. In many cases, playing for them will only help you make more money in the long run.

Lavar Ball is a marketing genius. He convinced people to buy a pair of sneakers for $500. He is literally talking his sons, and his brand, into existence. His idea is not insane by any means. Is the BBB League better than playing in, I don’t know, Lithuania? Absolutely. But for the real blue chip players, there are better options and better ways to market yourself to NBA teams. Lavar Ball is definitely the type of guy capable of running a league. However, that league is probably closer to the XFL than any league for high school basketball prospects.

Lavar Ball at it Again: Pulls LiAngelo From UCLA

Lavar will be Lavar. News broke today that LiAngelo Ball will not return to the UCLA men’s basketball team. Reports indicated that Lavar Ball pulled his son from school due to his suspension on the team. The suspension of course, stems from the shoplifting incident that took place in China just a few weeks ago.

This decision is only surprising in the sense that it took this long to happen. There was no way Lavar was going to let his son sit on the bench all year long, no matter what he did. This is the same guy who is home-schooling his youngest son because he does not agree with the coaching. He’s the guy who can be seen publicly criticizing the Los Angeles Lakers players and coaches on any given night. What gave you any indication that he was going to let Steve Alford get away scot-free? This is the Ball family, negative publicity cannot happen ever.

Big news for LiAngelo, but what about his brother?

I think this story actually makes things more interesting for LaMelo Ball. He’s being home-schooled, and cameras follow him at every tournament he plays in. I can’t help but think that LiAngelo’s departure is some long con so LaMelo can decommit from UCLA. A lot can change in for a high school athlete in four years. The way recruiting is now, being committed to a school for four years prior to enrolling is unheard of. LiAngleo was not a one-and-done player. He was going to be at UCLA when LaMelo was finally able to enroll. It would be an awkward situation for LaMelo to decommit if LiAngelo were apart of the UCLA program.

This is strictly speculation, but with Lavar Ball you truly cannot rule anything out. With LiAngelo withdrawing from school, it is assumed LaMelo will decommit eventually as well. If this happens, it will bring an interesting twist to his recruitment. There is no word currently on where LiAngelo will end up. LaMelo could follow him, or Lavar could put him on his own path. Only time will tell, but for now, we’ll keep talking about Lavar, LiAngelo and zero minutes he played at UCLA.

LaVar Ball is Bad For Basketball

At first, the theatrics were amusing. The proclamations, the interviews, thew swagger. It was enjoyable. But at a certain point, enough is enough. Lavar Ball is bad for basketball. With his oldest son in the NBA, and his middle son enrolled at UCLA, Lavar Ball has decided to focus on his youngest son. It was recently announced that LaMelo Ball would be removed from school to train with his Dad for two years before attending college.

At a time when college basketball recruiting is under its biggest microscope, the Ball family is going completely off the map. Instead of playing in premier high school events, LaMelo Ball will be training. While one side can argue that Ball doesn’t have anything to prove, as he is already committed to UCLA, one also has to see how bad this looks. This move was made so LaMelo could train more, it keeps him from getting exposed for the next two years. It avoids negative criticism is Chino Hills were to underachieve, and it helps keep bad LaMelo highlights off the internet.

Lavar Ball has been quoted many times saying he loves the attention. As a businessman he is pulling all the right strings with the media to keep his Big Baller Brand relevant. Lonzo was able to play and succeed through the circus, but with two years of high school left, it will be tough for LaMelo. While the negative social media may disappear, the spotlight is going to be enormous once he walks onto UCLA campus.

Lavar Ball isn’t afraid to take a shot. This shot is just one of many that seemingly mocks basketball. This move says the his son doesn’t need anyone but him to succeed. And while there’s no problem betting on yourself, what happens when it’s time for college? Do they decide to skip another year and train some more? Does Steve Alford put up with this nonsense for two more years?

Lavar Ball mocked sneaker brands with his Big Baller Brand. He mocked the entire game by saying he was better than Michael Jordan, joke or not. And not he’s taking a shot at high school athletics and recruiting with this home-schooling. Lavar Ball may be a good businessman. He did get people to pay ridiculous prices for shoes after all. But Lavar Ball is bad for basketball.