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.

Best Match Ups During Opening Week of College Basketball


College Basketball begins tonight, but the first week can often be over-hyped, as it consists of many lopsided affairs. A lot of fans look forward to seeing new talent beat up on lesser opponents, but outside that the excitement begins with the championship games of the more prominent preseason tournaments. Don’t sleep on the first week this year however. There are a lot of good games between teams who should be playing come March. Here are eleven games to check out during week one.

Texas A&M vs West Virginia – Friday, November 10th

The season starts off with a Top 25 match up between the SEC and Big 12. Neither team will be at full strength due to suspensions. A&M will be missing future pro Robert Williams and JJ Caldwell and the Mountaineers will be without Esa Ahmad. West Virginia does have Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jevon Carter and Bob Huggins’s defense is always fun to watch. For A&M, you will see a lot of Admon Gilder, DJ Hogg and Paul Davis – their top three scorers from last year. Williams and Ahmad will be huge pieces for their teams this season, but there is plenty of talent without them.

Georgia Tech vs UCLA – Friday, November 10th

This game gained a little traction with the news of three UCLA players caught shoplifting while in China. This game would be great if Josh Okogie wasn’t suspended for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets still have All-ACC second team Ben Lammers, who should have another strong year. For UCLA, you will get your first look at new freshman Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes. Both players are replacing pretty highly touted freshman in their own right. This is a chance for Georgia Tech to get a resume boosting win on day one.

Yale vs Wisconsin – Sunday, November 12th

Yes, I’m including Yale in a best match up blog. Yale will be talented this year. The Bulldogs were a tournament team just two years ago, and could have been one last year if Makai Mason had not injured his foot early in the year. Yale now returns Mason, and three of their top four scorers from last year. Wisconsin will struggle some, but they still have All-American Ethan Happ. Expect this to be close and don’t be surprised if Yale wins.

Minnesota vs Providence – Monday, November 13th

Two of the most under-appreciated coaches in the country. Ed Cooley and Richard Pitino have built two strong teams. Minnesota, ranked 15th in the country, broke onto the scene last season, and return their two best players, Nate Mason and Amir Coffey. The addition of good recruiting class has the Gopher’s sights set on another NCAA tournament bid. The same can be said for Providence. The Friars return All-Big East player Rodney Bullock and are a seasoned club. Just like Minnesota, they have a very talented freshman to add to a deep team in Makai Ashton-Langford. Expect both these teams to be playing in March.

Butler vs Maryland – Tuesday, November 14th

This is another match up between two teams who will compete in the top half of their respective conferences. Butler returns their best player in Kelan Martin, and will have Kamar Baldwin back as well as supporting cast. The Bulldogs have a nice freshman guard in Aaron Thompson who will get his first real taste of college action against a tough Maryland team. For Maryland, they will experience life without Melo Trimble. Get to know their sophomore trio of Justin Jackson, Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan. These three will make this team go this year.

Indiana vs Seton Hall – Tuesday, November 14th

The Archie Miller era begins in Indiana this year. It will be a tough first year, as IU loses a lot from last year’s team. Look for Josh Newkirk and Juwan Morgan to become the go to guys this season. I also think Curtis Jones will give the Hoosiers so balance at the point guard position. For Seton Hall, this is a big year. The once heralded recruiting class of Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Kadeen Carrington have not reached senior year. Delgado is one of the best bigs in the country. He’s a double-double machine, plain and simple. The Pirates also have sharpshooter Myles Powell and a nice group of freshman to add to their veteran group. Expectations are high in Jersey.

Xavier vs Wisconsin – Wednesday, November 15th

We talked about Wisconsin earlier. If Yale isn’t a test for them, Xavier definitely will be. The Muskateers have one of the best guards in the country in Trevon Bluiett, and J.P. Macura is back for his senior season. The Big East has been Villanova’s conference to lose, but Xavier will look to have a say about that. New faces like Paul Scruggs and Naji Marshall will only add more weapons to a dangerous Big East team.

Virginia Tech vs St. Louis – Thursday, November 16th

This match up would be awesome next year; That’s not taking away from the one we have this year. Both teams have a lot of young talent and will use this year to gain some much needed experience in their conferences. Saint Louis has senior Davell Roby to lead their group of sophomore and freshman. Billiken fans will enjoy watching Jermaine Bishop for an entire season after medically redshirting, and will be introduced to freshman Jordan Goodwin. For Virginia Tech, they welcome freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Wabissa Bede. The two will join returning players such as Chris Clarke and Ahmed Hill, who both averaged 11 points a game last year.

Virginia vs VCU – Friday, November 17th

Tipping at 4P EST on Friday, this is the last game before first rounds of many opening tournaments start. Virginia got hit by the transfer bug, while VCU will have some nice transfer pieces eligible this year. You can always count on Tony Bennett’s team to be stout defensively, and a back court of Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome will be fun to watch for the Cavaliers. VCU loses a lot of scoring, but Justin Tillman and Jonathan Williams are reliable scorers. Transfers Kris Lane and Isaac  Vann both transferred from smaller programs, but will be contributors for VCU as well this season.

Champions Classic – Tuesday, November 14th

This needs it’s own section. It’s one of, if not the biggest non-conference event of the year. Four of college basketball’s blue bloods and four of the top five teams in the country this year. The 2017 Champions Classic has a little bit of everything.

Duke vs Michigan State – 7PM

Bagley vs Bridges. Krzyzewksi vs Izzo. Duke vs Michigan State. This match up features a deep and primed Spartan team versus a NBA bound Duke club. The Blue Devils are led by highly touted freshman Marvin Bagley, Trevon Duval and Wendell Carter. Oh, and who could forget Grayson Allen. Duke doesn’t have the deepest of teams, but their starting five is as good as it gets. Michigan State is the opposite. The Spartans have depth upon depth. They return a team that went through growing pains and injuries last season. They have future lottery pick Miles Bridges, they have great depth in the post and the have Tom Izzo. These are two teams expected to play deep into March.

Kentucky vs Kansas – 10:30 PM

Game two features Big Blue Nation and Rock Chalk. New year, same script for Kentucky, as they will lean on numerous McDonald All-American freshman to lead them through SEC play and into the NCAA Tournament. Different than most UK teams, John Calipari really doesn’t have an upperclassmen to lead his young team. As a result, don’t be surprised if it takes a little for Kentucky to click. Once they do though, players like Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo will be household names, if they somehow aren’t already. Kansas, like last year, will again rely on their guard play in 17-18. A small ball line up of Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Svi Mykhailiuk and LeGerald Vick will be utilized a lot. They have question marks upfront, but KU appears to be the favorite once again in the Big 12.

So there it is, a schedule to get you through week one of the college season. After these games, preseason tournaments will begin and there will be some great championship battles to look forward to. Just don’t look ahead too soon, or you may miss a couple of great games.

2017 -18 Pac 12 Conference Preview

It was a wildly successful year for the Pac-12 conference as a whole last year. Lonzo and Lavar Ball and Oregon’s Final Four run were big enough talking points. Add in Arizona and USC playing into the second weekend in March, and the conference showed why it is one of the best. This year will be another fight at the top, but there are several teams that will show much improvement from last year. Whoever wins this conference, will definitely have earned it.

Projected Finishes

  1. Arizona – If Sean Miller is going to get the Final Four monkey off his back, this is the year to do it. Arizona has potential POY candidate Allonzo Trier for a full season, and pair him with probable Top 5 pick DeAndre Ayton. The Wildcats start the year without Rawle Alkins, but will get him back just as conference play picks up. Arizona is a legit title contender.
  2. USC – If not for USC, Arizona would heads above the rest of the Pac-12. USC is talented too though, and have a front court that can go toe-to-toe with U of A’s. The Trojans have two legit 6’10 forwards in Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, both of whom are different types of players. Boatwright is more lethal on the wing, where Metu does most of his work down low. The Trojans had a very balanced scoring team last season, and I expect that to remain the same this year.
  3. UCLA – The Bruins will have new, exciting freshman on campus this year, as Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes will replace Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf. Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh are the leaders returning this season. Both players will be relied on heavily to lead UCLA through Pac-12 play and into March Madness.
  4. Oregon – The Ducks lost A LOT from their team last season. It is simply too much to replace in one year. Dana Altman does have freshman Troy Brown to help fill the scoring holes.While Ayton may be the most talented freshman, Brown could be the most exciting scorer.
  5. Stanford – Stanford returns All-Conference talent in Travis Reid,  who averaged 17 points and 9 rebounds last year. The Cardinals also bring back their second leading scorer Dorian Pickens, while adding top recruit Daejon Davis and redshirt freshman Kodye Pugh to the mix. Stanford could have the biggest turnaround record wise from season to season.
  6. Arizona State – Bobby Hurley’s rebuild is progressing slowly but surely. The Sun Devils return their top three leading scorers, including Shannon Evans, who just dropped 50 in an exhibition game. And to the mix some talented freshman such as Kimani Lawrence and Remy Martin and you can see ASU trending upward.
  7. Utah – The Utes don’t lose as much as Oregon number wise, but they it will seem that way as they feel the loss of Kyle Kuzma. While Kuzma continues his hot start to his NBA career, the Utes will lean on returners Justin Bibbins and David Colette.
  8. Oregon State – If Stanford is not the most improved team record wise this year, Oregon State will be. The Beavers will (hopefully) have a healthy Tres Tinkle and Stephen Thompson Jr., who missed last year with injury. Those injuries opened the door for Drew Eubanks and JaQori McLaughlin to have good seasons. If all four stay healthy and mesh together, Oregon State will have a lot more than one conference win.
  9. Colorado – Colorado is a very young team this year. Their roster consists of eight freshman, two of which were redshirts from last season. George King will have a nice year in his senior season, but this young group will have a rough welcoming to the Pac-12.
  10. Washington – Washington went out and got their head coach this off-season in Mike Hopkins. Now it is on him to turn this program around. Obviously Markelle Fultz is gone, but second leading scorer David Crisp returns. The Huskies also got great news when Noah Dickerson decided not to transfer out. These two are solid building blocks for Hopkins.
  11. California – It won’t be a great year for Cal, coming off an underwhelming year last season. They lose Jabari Bird, Ivan Rabb and Charlie Moore. Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee will man the middle and be the centerpiece, but there is just not much else surrounding him. It won’t help watching Cuonzo Martin coach his talented freshman over at Missouri.
  12. Washington State – If not for an injury riddled Oregon State team, Washington State would have finished last in the conference last season. The Cougars don’t have a lot coming in and see their leading scorer leave. That’s a bad equation for this year.

Andy Enfield has one of the deepest teams he’s ever be given at USC, it will be up to him to see how far they can go

Projected Awards

Player of the Year – Allonzo Trier (Arizona)

Trier was the Pac-12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player last year. He is the conductor for Sean Miller and Arizona team. He averaged 17 points per game in a shortened season for him last year. I don’t expect the addition of DeAndre Ayton to impact that much at all. When Arizona needs a bucket, Trier is going to be the guy.

Freshman of the Year – Troy Brown (Oregon) 

I think Ayton is the best player in the conference, and will show that on several occasions throughout the year. Brown however, has the best opportunity to put up monster numbers. This is not a Markelle Fultz/Washington situation; Oregon will be better than Washington was last season. If Brown leads in scoring and Oregon finishes in the top four, I think he should get FOY.

Coach of the Year – Andy Enfield (USC)

These season awards could be a complete sweet in favor of Arizona if Sean Miller has them playing to their massive potential. But USC is the other team that has Final Four potential in this conference. Enfield has plenty of tools at his disposal and if he pushes the right buttons, USC could make a deep March run and challenge Arizona at the top of the conference.

Stanford may not be Arizona or USC, but they do have one of the best players in the Pac 12 in Travis Reid

Projected All Pac-12 Teams

First Team 

Allonzo Trier – Arizona

Travis Reid – Stanford

Troy Brown – Oregon

Chimezie Metu – USC

Aaron Holiday – UCLA

Second Team

Tres Tinkle – Oregon State

DeAndre Ayton – Arizona

Bennie Boatwright – USC

Shannon Evans – Arizona State

Jaylen Hands – 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.

Five Games to Watch in this Year’s Pac-12

Pac-12 Basketball

With the recent release of the Pac-12 Conference’s schedule for the upcoming 2017-2018 season, let’s take a look at some of the more exciting matchups.

Oregon Arizona

1. Oregon @ Arizona (Week of Jan. 10)

Possibly the most anticipated game of the Pac-12 season, Oregon and Arizona ended last year as the conference’s co-champions. Needless to say, this game is a must win in the eyes of both teams; beyond the contest, each roster has something to prove. Arizona may be looking like the stronger team as the season approaches, but undoubtedly both squads return this year with depth, talent, and an itch to show who deserved the crown of the Pac-12 more last year.

USC UCLA

2. USC @ UCLA (Week of Jan. 31)

The classic Golden State matchup, USC v. UCLA never disappoints. USC may be looking forward to the matchup more so this year, now that Lonzo Ball’s dominance has moved just a short way down the road to the Los Angeles Lakers. However, with UCLA’s return of Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh, the Trojans will be no easy challenge to overcome. Bleacher Report preseason rankings finds USC at number ten, thanks to the return of Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Metu, and Shaquan Aaron. If USC has plans of joining the conference’s elite this season, beating rival UCLA is a good place to start.

UCLA Arizona

3. UCLA @ Arizona, USC @ Arizona State (Week of Feb. 7)

The combination of four powerhouse Pac-12 teams, not just two, highlights this week as one of the most anticipated of the season. While we know the talent that USC, UCLA, and Arizona will be returning is bound to be strong this season, ASU’s squad cannot be overlooked, and will certainly pose a threat to the Trojans, as USC heads to ASU’s home court. With one of the highest scoring backcourts in the Pac-12, the Sun Devils will utilize the ability of their combination of guards to score from the outside, as well as pester the Trojans with under the rim talent.

ASU Arizona

4. Arizona @ Arizona State (Week of Feb. 14)

More commonly known in the southwest as the Duel in the Desert, this fierce rivalry mirrors that of USC and UCLA. No matter what the difference in talent is between these two teams, this game will always be interesting. This year, fans are lucky enough to have two teams that are not worlds apart for the most part. Both sides have talented players returning, and neophytes waiting to be tested. Realistically, Arizona does have the better team–all the reason that their matchup away at ASU is just a bit more anticipated.

Stanford Cal

5. California @ Stanford (Week of Dec. 27)

Ok, so maybe people have their doubts about California; granted, they did have quote an exodus of talent at the end of last season. However, they have a lot of potential to be a good team if they use it correctly. A new head coach means a new coaching style, which means confusion for opponents. Playing against a new coach in college basketball can often leave teams just as baffled as playing against new players. Returning players include defensive threat Kingsley Okoroh, as well as Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee, whose scoring ability will have to be put to good use if Cal wants to see a chance at beating Stanford.

Twitter: @andrew_mck11