UCLA fires Ben Howland

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Five years ago Ben Howland led UCLA to its third consecutive Final Four, including a national title game appearance in 2006. It seemed like UCLA had found the proper successor to Steve Lavin in Ben Howland. Tonight Ben Howland is no longer employed in Westwood.

Yahoo! Sports broke the story a few hours ago. The official announcement from UCLA on the dismissal of Ben Howland should happen during the next couple of days. Again this will be a case of the press release being out-dated and useless by the time it’s sent out. Then again, people knew Ben Howland was on the hot seat for some time.

Too many good players transferred. Too many subpar seasons. As AWFUL as UCLA looked in their opening round loss to the Gophers, they are college hoops blue blood, literally and figuratively. The UCLA fight song is still the Mozart Symphony #40 of college basketball. Expectations are always sky high in Los Angeles.

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UCLA super frosh Shabazz Muhammad declared ineligible

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UCLA super freshman Shabazz Muhammad has been declared ineligible to participate by the NCAA, the school announced before its season opener Friday night at Pauley Pavilion

Muhammad, the national high school player of the year last year and a possible top three pick in the next NBA Draft was found to have violated NCAA amateurism rules.

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The ‘David Kahn’ Era

David Kahn

When Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor named David Kahn the president of basketball operations, he expected to have a playoff-contending team by now. Instead, in his four years on the job he has made more trades than times Dwight Howard has changed his mind about being traded, drafted more point guards than an apartment complex could support, and traded away more draft picks than Jarrod Saltalamacchia has letters in his last name. And now, the T’wolves are in another transition of which I am about to get to.  [Read more…]

Nation’s #1 recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, narrows school choices down to four

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The Nation’s #1 recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, will not be staying at home to play college basketball this fall. Cross UNLV off his list, as the Las Vegas native now has his own set of final four schools left remaining for his services.Two of them will be competing this Final Four weekend as Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and UCLA remain in the mix.

On the day after he won the high school all-star week’s dunk competition, and on the eve of the McDonald’s All-American game, Muhammad talked about what each one has to offer.

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College Football 77 in 77: #69 UCLA Bruins

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As beautiful as the women and weather are in Westwood, California, that’s how ugly the passing game is. It’s unfathomable to think this college football program once produced Troy Aikman, Tommy Maddox, Cade McKnown, Jay Schroeder and Steve Bono when you consider the UCLA Bruins finished 116th in passing last year and 104th in scoring. The passing game was LAUGHABLY BAD.

So was the job security of the coaching staff. Bruins assistant coaches had a lot in common with “YouTube Sensation” Alexandra Wallace, the babe who posted idiotic racist Anti-Asian ramblings on in the internet a couple days after the tsunami in Japan.

Both were forced to leave UCLA after thoroughly showing the campus how much they suck at life.

By Paul M. Banks

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You Can Bid for the Center Court of UCLA Pauley Pavilion!

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This is a very rare opportunity indeed. The chance to bid on an important piece of college basketball history; a public auction for the original (1965-82) UCLA Pauley Pavilion center court section (jump circle). Bidding will be open to registered bidders on SCP Auctions on Friday, April 15 and conclude on Saturday, April 30.

Measuring 12 feet in diameter, this original round section of the Pauley Pavilion court was ground zero for one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports for 17 seasons. Home to UCLA athletic teams since 1965, the original court was the home of eight NCAA men’s national championship teams and the Bruins’ first women’s NCAA national championship team in 1978.

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Illini Derail Hoosiers, Continue to Enhance NCAA Profile

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Truthfully, if I again hear the words “enhance NCAA profile” or “NCAA profile needs enhancing” like there’s some sort of a erectile dysfunction drug to fix it, I’ll probably punch all the Viagra in the world. It’s getting out of hand people. Seriously.

But we’ve had to examine the profile of the Illinois Fighting Illini a lot these past couple of seasons. There’s been a lot (or, not a lot, if you prefer to look at it that way) to examine. It won’t be any different after their 72-48 win in their regular season finale against Indiana.

Without getting into major peripherals, the Illini are 19-12 overall, and 9-9 in the Big Ten. Prior to Saturday’s win, their KenPom ranking was 19th.

This season is no different, although it seems Illini fans everywhere now are talking about the Illini being “in” the dance and that all the work is done.

After dealing with this just one short season ago…I caution all Illini fans to tread carefully. [Read more…]

Timberwolves’ Kevin Love Rapidly Rising to Stardom

I “fearlessly predicted” back in October that Kevin Love would average 18 points and 13 rebounds. Oh how that has proven to be an understatement.

On the year Kevin Love is averaging 20 points per game, and 15.3 rebounds per game. Far higher than the “fearless” numbers that I predicted back in October.

On November 12 myself and a group of my friends headed to the Target Center to catch a Friday night Minnesota Timberwolves game. We went to the arena to celebrate a buddy of mine’s 24th birthday, but we left being a part of NBA History.

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Will the Bulls Draft a Backup Point Guard?

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By Paul M. Banks

If there’s one position the Chicago Bulls don’t have a pressing need at, it’s point guard. The incumbent starter, Derrick Rose is the only player on the roster even remotely close to developing into a franchise player, and (SAT scandals and gang sign gestures aside) is the guy to build the team around. But the Bulls might see backup Kirk Hinrich move on soon and in today’s NBA, the “Golden Age of Point Guards” that we currently live in, it’s good to have two reliable point guards.

As former UCLA point guard and current draft prospect Darren Collison said at the NBA Draft Combine: “This is the draft you want to be in right now if you’re a point guard. Everyone’s getting so much credit, from Jonny Flynn, to me, to Eric Maynor right on down the list because everyone knows they need point guards to win ballgames, to take that next step. And teams need a first string and a second string the whole game to be solid, and all the point guards in this draft have the potential to do that.”

For teams currently needing a point guard, this crop of prospects is deeper than any draft this decade, possibly all-time. It could produce a couple players with the same impact as current young NBA floor generals Rose, Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

On Tuesday, the Bulls looked at (among others) Maynor, Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague, Greece’s Nick Calathes, St. Joseph’s Tasheed Carr, the 5’6” David Holston from Chicago State and Bryan Mullins from Southern Illinois via Downers Grove High School.

UCLA’s second, and more hyped point guard prospect, Jrue Holiday has also met with the team and expressed a strong interest to join the team at combine media day. However, he should be long picked by the time the Bulls are on the board.

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Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, one of the hottest point guard prospects around, figures to likely be gone by the time the Bulls pick at #16 on June 25th, and long gone when the Bulls pick again at #26. However, he worked out for the Bulls, met with the front office and was extremely vocal about his desire to play for the Bulls at the NBA Draft Combine. Flynn told the media how much he enjoys the Bulls up-tempo system and their young nucleus. He also described his game:

“I think I have some characteristics of Chris Paul. His tenacity, he’s hard as nails, fiery, fires his teammates up, he really knows how to get his teammates in position to where they can score, where they don’t have to do much to score. Look at David West and Tyson Chandler; where would they be without Chris Paul?”

As much as the Bulls need a scoring big, as much as point guard is the team’s strongest position, they have needs at guard- especially someone to be a backup running the point and/or provide scoring at the off guard position given the (increasingly likely) case that Ben Gordon departs.

UCLA Pair Part of Point Guard Heavy Draft

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By Paul M. Banks and David Kay

In recent years, we have seen how drafting a point guard can help change the face of an NBA franchise.  Think of the impact Chris Paul has had on the Hornets, Deron Williams in Utah, Rajon Rando with the Celtics, or just this past year, what Derrick Rose brought to the Bulls.  If you are a team in need of a point guard this year, the crop of point guard prospects is deeper than any draft this decade, possibly of all time, and could produce a couple players who may have the impact of the aforementioned young NBA floor leaders.  Two prospects who play “the one” Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison played their college ball at perhaps the most storied of all programs, UCLA.

Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Jonny Flynn, and Stephen Curry join Holiday in a group of players that could be picked in the lottery to run the point at the next level.  That list doesn’t include Tyreke Evans who ran the point at Memphis, but figures to be a two guard in the NBA.  Add in the likes of Eric Maynor, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Nick Calathes, and Patrick Mills, and I have ten point guards being taken in the first round in my latest mock draft.  It’s possible that number could grow to as high as 12 if Holiday’s teammate Collison or Florida State’s Toney Douglas sneaks into the first round.
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Jrue Holiday

Despite grossly underachieving in his freshman year at UCLA, Holiday is catching the eye of many NBA teams.  Holiday was highly recruited coming out of high school, but played out of position with the Bruins, spending more time at the off-guard than the point since Darren Collison was already the squad’s established leader.  He struggled in Ben Howland’s offense which is more a grind-it-out style rather than an up-tempo system which would better fit Holiday’s game.  Still, based on his potential and athleticism, Holiday decided to declare for the draft and could possibly go as high as #4 to Sacramento. Playing at possibly the most high profile program of all may give Holiday an advantage over other rookies in adjusting to the bright lights of the NBA. “At UCLA you’re definitely an icon at school, around campus and pretty much everywhere you go because of the stature that UCLA has built, and it definitely prepares you for NBA life,” Holiday told me at the NBA Draft Combine.


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As for Collison, he would have been better off declaring for the draft after his sophomore or junior season when he was considered a possible lottery pick.  Returning to UCLA and putting together a less than stellar senior season really hurt his stock as he will most likely be taken early in the second round.  There is a chance that due to his experience, quickness, and shooting ability, he could end up being selected in the latter part of the first round. “I’m an unselfish teammate, I’ve never been on a team where it’s ‘I’ and we have to work around an individual. A team that takes me will get a great point guard because I’ve been in school for four years so I know what it takes to win at the second highest level and I’ve been to the final four three out of the four years,” Collison said at the NBA Draft combine.

Truly, this is the NBA’s Golden Age of point guards. Older veterans like Steve Nash, Tony Parker and Chauncey Billups are still in their prime or just slightly dropping off it. They’ll be remembered among the games’ all-time greats because they played in a era where young star floor generals like Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Derrick Rose also emerged. The Association’s talent level at the point will only increase with the ’09 draft class.

“This is the draft you want to be in right now if you’re a point guard. Everyone’s getting so much credit, from Jonny Flynn, to me, to Eric Maynor right on down the list because everyone knows they need point guards to win ballgames, to take that next step. And teams need a first string and a second string the whole game to be solid, and all the point guards in this draft have the potential to do that,” Collison said.

East Regional Bracket Breakdown

By: David K.

Overview: What stands out most about this regional, is the massive home-court advantage for (2) Duke and (3) Villanova.  You pretty much write in each team into the Sweet 16 since the Dukies play in North Carolina and Nova is in their home city of Philadelphia.  With Pittsburgh being the one seed, this is a fairly top heavy bracket.

Elite Eight Prediction: (1) Pitt beats (3) Villanova

Yes, my second all Big East Elite 8 match-up.  I have Pitt winning the entire tournament and have been on that bandwagon for the past few weeks.  The only thing that will stop them is if DeJuan Blair gets into foul trouble.  Pitt is 0-4 when Blair fouls out of a game.  Fortunately for them, there really aren’t a lot of big guys who will get in his way in this bracket.  Villanova has the best guard play in the country with Scottie Reynolds and the Corey’s (Fisher and Stokes.)  They go eight deep and their Sweet 16 match-up with Duke should be an absolute shoot-out.

Sleeper: (9) Tennessee

I like this Tennessee team, and not just because of Wayne Chism’s headband.  When their offense is clicking, they can put up points with any team in the country.  They tend to play out of control too often, but have the athletes and quickness to possibly upset Pitt in the second round.

Early Exit: (6) UCLA

The Bruins run of three straight trips to the Final Four will come to an end this year.  UCLA has a tough first round match-up against VCU who has experience in knocking off a major program two years when they upset Duke in the first round.  VCU’s point guard is Eric Maynor who will be a mid-first round pick and led VCU in that upset of Duke.  Even if UCLA escapes out of the first round, they get Villanova in their home city.  I am guessing there will not be a lot of Bruin backers making the long trip from Cali to Philly.

Most Intriguing First Round Match-Up: (7) Texas vs. (10) Minnesota

The Longhorns were a team I was very high on early in the season.  But A.J. Abrams has not been able to find his shooting touch and it has really hurt the Horns.  Minnesota surprised a lot of teams when they started the season 16-1.  But the Gophs finished the year 6-9 and were lucky to land a spot in the Big Dance.  Minnesota is at their best when their defense is suffocating and they are very deliberate on the offensive end (aka typical boring Big Ten ball.)  I think Texas wins if Abrams is able to find his stroke early

College Hoops 101

By David K.

Welcome to a weekly article at thesportsbank.net where I will give you the 101 on what has happened in the week of college basketball and what is to come in the days ahead.

Rewind

-It’s becoming obvious that Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin will undoubtedly win Player of the Year honors.  But the Sooners could actually complete the trifecta.  Jeff Capel has to be one of the top names for Coach of the Year and after what Willie Warren did Saturday night against Texas, he has to be a top contender for Freshman of the Year.  With Griffin out due to a concussion, Warren carried the Sooners on his back scoring 27 points in a five-point loss.  If the tournament started today, I would probably pick Oklahoma to win it all.

-A 22 point, 23 rebound performance against Hasheem Thabeet has thurst DeJuan Blair into the National Player of the Year discussion.  Blair absolutely owned the 7’3 Husky, as Thabeet fouled out in 23 minutes, finishing with just five points, four boards, and two blocks.

-ESPN’s Mike Patrick was off his game when calling Saturday’s Marquette-Georgetown game.  He constantly misidentified players, gave credit to guys who weren’t even on the floor, and kept calling MU “the Warriors.”  Seriously ESPN, hire me.  I am sane and actually watch college basketball.  (Yes, that shot could also be directed at Verne Lundquist and Brent Musburger, who I am convinced, takes naps during stretches of games that he is calling.)

-Penn State 38, Illinois 33. Yes, that was really a FINAL score.  (I’ll be shocked if Paul M. Banks does not edit this portion out)

My AP Top Ten (if I actually voted in the poll)

1. Pitt (25-2)
2. Oklahoma (26-2)
3. UConn (25-2)
4. North Carolina (24-3)
5. Memphis (24-3)
6. Louisville (21-5)
7. Duke (22-5)
8. Marquette (23-4)
9. Clemson (22-4)
10. Wake Forest (20-5)

Nipping on their heels:
Villanova (21-5)
Michigan St. (21-5)
Arizona State (21-5)
Missouri (23-4)

Fast Forward

Oklahoma at Kansas (Monday, 8:00 ESPN)
Missouri at Kansas (Sunday, 1:00 CBS)

First place is on the line in the Big 12 as OU and KU enter this game at 11-1.  Griffin is going to be a game-time decision due to the aforementioned concussion he suffered against the Horns.  Mizzou is right behind them at 10-2, making Sunday’s match-up in Lawrence just as important for the Jayhawks.

Penn State at Ohio State (Tuesday, 6:00 ESPN)
Loser’s bubble is likely burst.

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UConn at Marquette (Wednesday, 6:00 ESPN)
Marquette at Louisville (Sunday, 11:00 CBS)

All three of these teams and Pitt are in a logjam atop the Big East standings.  Some sort of separation has to come after this week.

Memphis at UAB (Thursday, 8:00 ESPN2)
So much for a re-building year for Memphis…  The Tigers have now won 18 straight, 53 consecutive Conference USA games, and could land a #1 seed on Selection Sunday.  UAB is in second in C-USA and must win this game if they want to be dancing.

With UCLA fading faster than Aubrey O’Day’s once promising career, the winner of this game takes control of the Pac-10.

The Drive to 225

To update my goal of watching 225 college basketball games this season…

Games watched through 2/22: 200

Games watched this past week: 13
Pitt at UConn
Texas at Texas A&M
Michigan State at Purdue
Wisconsin at Indiana
Washington at UCLA
Butler at Davidson
Marquette at Georgetown
Utah State at St. Mary’s

Oklahoma at Texas
Illinois at Ohio State
Wisconsin at Michigan State
Wake Forest at Duke
Arizona at Arizona State

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