Posted on: November 14, 2011 7:34 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 7:34 pm

Reeves Nelson's status with UCLA in question?

By Jeff Borzello

Considering it’s only November, most thought things at UCLA couldn’t get much worse after the Bruins lost to Loyola Marymount and then Josh Smith so kindly referred to the Lions as “straight bums.”

Apparently, things could definitely get worse.

Reeves Nelson, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder last season, is meeting with head coach Ben Howland Monday afternoon to discuss his future with the team.

“I still take it as he’s part of the team,” Smith told the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve talked to him, but there’s not really any information to tell me where he’s leaning. I want him to stay.”

When asked if Nelson would suit up for the Bruins on Tuesday night against Middle Tennessee State, Howland was noncommittal.

“I can’t comment any further until I sit and talk to him,” Howland said.

According to the newspaper, Nelson was visibly frustrated during the loss to Loyola Marymount in the opener. He finished with 13 points and eight rebounds in the defeat.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: November 14, 2011 4:09 pm

Lazeric Jones is already the key for UCLA

By Jeff Goodman

UCLA's frontline is loaded, but it won't matter if Lazeric Jones doesn't perform.

Case in point: the Bruins loss to Loyola Marymount in the season-opener. Yes, the same LMU team that followed up with a setback to Middle Tennessee State.

The Wear Twins combined for 24 points and 13 boards in their debut back home - and Reeves Nelson was solid with 13 points and eight rebounds.

But it's tough to win without guard play.

Lazeric Jones was just 1-for-11 for three points. He had three assists and three turnovers in 32 minutes.

Then you've got big man Josh Smith, who wasn't very bright with his post-game tweet disrespecting LMU after he had just put up five points and four boards in 16 minutes.

Maybe we overrated UCLA. Again.

Sure, Nelson and Smith (when he gets in shape) are a potent duo up front - and the Wear Twins, while certainly not saviors, will help Ben Howland and the Bruins.

But a backcourt of Lazeric Jones and Tyler Lamb may not be enough.

This team won't endure the same start as the 2009-10 team did when it began the season with a loss to Cal State Fullerton and found itself 2-6 after setbacks to Portland, Butler, Long Beach State, Kansas and Mississippi State.

But I'm also not convinced this group measures up to the one that went 23-11 a year ago.

Not unless Jones steps up.

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 13, 2011 9:07 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 7:52 am

Arizona's Parrom makes unexpected return Sunday

By Jeff Goodman

Kevin Parrom went through a pair of practices this weekend, well-ahead of schedule, but he still wasn't sure when he'd make his return to the court. There was optimism he'd be back for this week's 2K Sports Classic back home in New York.

Then Sean Miller informed the Arizona junior, who was recovering from a gunshot wound and also the loss of his mother weeks ago, on Sunday afternoon that he would make his season debut hours later against Ball State.

"The highlights were playing before the game and I spoke to my mother," Parrom said. "I said a quick prayer and then heard a voice. She told me to go out and play hard."

Parrom's mother passed away from cancer on Oct. 17.

That's exactly what Parrom did - and it helped inspire his teammates to a come-from-behind victory against Ball State.

"It felt great," Parrom told CBSSports.com following the 73-63 win. "I'm obviously not 100 percent, but it was just good to get out there and help contribute."

When Miller gave him the green light at shootaround earlier this afternoon, Parrom figured he'd probably get a handful of minutes.

"I didn't expect to play 18 minutes," said Parrom, who estimates he's about 75 percent of the way back. "I just went out there and played hard and tried to be a leader. I wasn't really looking to score."

Parrom wound up scoring six points, grabbing four rebounds, dishing out two assists without committing a single turnover.

"Part of my rehab was getting out there and playing," he added.

It was the ultimate therapy.

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Posted on: November 12, 2011 11:37 am

Josh Smith thinks LMU are "straight bums"

By Jeff Borzello

Not only did UCLA lose by double digits at home to Loyola Marymount last night, Bruins center Josh Smith apparently thinks the Lions are not very good at basketball.

Following UCLA’s 69-58 defeat, Smith tweeted: “Just lost to some straight bums lol…” The tweet has since been taken down, but Rob Duaster at Ballin’ is a Habit made sure to save it.

Last year, Loyola Marymount struggled through an injury-plagued season, going just 11-21 overall and 2-12 in West Coast Conference play. However, with most of their players healthy – Drew Viney didn’t play – the Lions were able to knock down 67 percent of their 3-point attempts en route to the victory.

Smith, who has problems with his weight and consistency in the past, came off the bench to rack up five points, four rebounds and three fouls in 16 minutes. Considering he was supposedly playing against “straight bums,” it looks like Smith hasn’t matured much from last season.

UCLA has a fairly young team this year, and Smith was expected to take a big step from last season. When healthy and in shape, Smith is one of the most talented big men in the country. However, that hasn’t happened too often before.

Smith finished last season with a bang, but bringing it every night was an ongoing issue. He picked up three fouls in 23 of 33 games last season, and only averaged 21.7 minutes due to conditioning.

If Smith wants UCLA to make a run to the NCAA tournament this season, he needs to mature on and off the court.

The Bruins face Middle Tennessee State next; I wonder what Smith thinks of them. 

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 9, 2011 12:23 pm

Sean Miller brings surprising No. 1 class to UA

By Jeff Goodman

Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett.

Three of the elite big men in the entire country, all headed to the same place.

Tucson, Arizona.

A decade or so ago, this would hardly be newsworthy. Lute Olson was doing this sort of thing all the time, plucking the best of the best - especially on the west coast.

But Arizona hasn't been, Arizona, for a while now.

That's set to change with Ashley, Tarczewski and Jerrett - in addition to consensus Top 50 guard Gabe York - all signing with Sean Miller's Arizona Wildcats.

Ashley checks in at No. 3 overall in our rankings, Tarczewski is at No. 5 while Jerrett (No. 23) is also a legitimate McDonald's All-American candidate.

This is a class that stands at numero uno right now - without any question or hesitation - and it's also one that no one expected out of Miller when took the job a couple years ago.

Miller was an east coast guy who had virtually no recruiting ties west of the Mississippi, but he's been able to make inroads in California - and that's a state that has been primed to invade lately with the inability of Ben Howland to secure elite local talent and the hesitation of Kevin O'Neill to go after (or secure) potential one-and-done guys.

Sure, Miller was fortunate that USC let Derrick Williams out of his letter of intent and ended up in Tucson. He was lucky that he was able to persuade former Xavier signee Kevin Parrom to come with him to Arizona.

But this was a program with as much instability as any in the nation a few years ago.

It appeared to be in the same realm as Indiana, a major rebuilding process that could take years for it to be nationally relevant again.

Now Miller, just two years removed, is beating Kentucky and Phil Knight, I mean Oregon, for studs like Ashley. He got John Calipari twice this year and also nabbed Tarczewski over Kansas and North Carolina.

That's mind-boggling.

However, the most shocking aspect of his current class is that the 7-foot Tarczewski committed with Ashley and Jerrett already in the fold. This could be the most talented trio of big men in the country in any one spot a year from now - and we haven't even touched on current Arizona freshmen Angelo Chol or Sidiki Johnson - both big men who cracked the Top 100 in the previous recruiting class.

With this group that will ink in the early signing period, Miller has put Arizona back where Olson had it in his heyday.

Just imagine a starting unit of sophomore guards Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson in the backcourt with a healthy Parrom or Solomon Hill (both will be seniors) on the wing and some combination of Ashley, Tarczewski and Jerrett up front. Then you'll have guys like Johnson, Chol and York coming off the bench.

That's a team that can compete for a league - and likely even a national - championship.

Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: November 8, 2011 1:54 pm

Bryce Drew's symbolic first game as Valpo coach

By Matt Norlander

In a formal setting, last night was not the first time Bryce Drew had ever acted as a head coach. During Valparaiso’s foreign trip in 2010, father (Homer Drew) let son run the team. It was prep for the job he’d have one day, even if both men weren’t sure when or if they would certainly happen.

Monday night, the college basketball season began, and Bryce Drew was labeled in the scorebooks for the first time, officially, as a head coach. His Valpo team fell 73-64 to No. 16 Arizona, at Arizona. Drew wore that dapper jacket as means of tribute. That hue of blue is the official color of the fight against prostate cancer—exactly in the way pink has become synonymous with battling breast cancer—and so Drew wore it to honor his father, who is battling prostate cancer; his mother, who is battling bladder cancer; and the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament, which Valpo is coincidentally a part of this season.

The assistants wore light blue ties. Drew wanted to get the team to wear light blue undershirts to go with the uniforms, but apparently they didn’t all get the right sizes, so the squad will don that look in its first home game next week. The school will also be selling the shirts to raise money in the fight against cancer.

Finding that specific kind of jacket was a tough task. Drew said folks in the program eventually corralled one via online purchase. As for his family, “They’re both doing a lot better,” Drew said. He talked to Homer before and after the game.

“They really wanted to be here, but couldn’t make it so they had to watch it back home,” Drew said. “It’s nice to have my mom and dad both be at home now.”

He wasn’t nervous either. Said with all the prep and march on toward the first night of the season, it was more focus, then excitement just a few minutes before game time. Outside of the shirt-size mishap, Drew said the game and experience as head coach didn’t offer up any surprises. The 37-year-old coach was most impressed by Arizona’s quickness, specifically at guard.

“Yeah, they are so quick. I love their two freshmen guards, (Nick) Johnson and (Josiah) Turner,” he said. “I think they’re going to be very good for them this year.”

But what about Arizona’s primary weakness? Sure it’s a ranked team right now, but I and many others see some flaws with this group. Drew’s take: “I think he (Sean Miller) needs to get those guys experience. He just has a lot of young guys that need playing time. As a coach, we try to speed that process up, but it takes time.”

Valpo hung around with Arizona for most of the first half; Drew said a stretch in the second half that was rife with turnovers is when it got away from his guys.

“When you play a team like that you don’t have a large margin of error,” Drew said. “But we fought through, and I want to say the last six minutes we outscored them by 11. And also, the second [weak area] for us was our 3-point shooting. We didn’t shoot the way we wanted to.”

Drew said his team won't be 3-point-minded this year, that it will always look to adjust on offense to what the defense is providing. After the game, he spoke with his dad, and it was casual, he said. Wasn't this big thing or huge conversation. The day had finally come for Bryce to take the reigns from Homer. Mom and Pop always in mind, he's now officially started manning the program his way.

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 8, 2011 9:19 am
Edited on: November 8, 2011 9:57 am

Arizona's Johnson knows it'll take time

By Jeff Goodman

Nick Johnson knows it'll take time.

Not just for him, but for the entire Arizona team.

Arizona's talented freshman may have said the words "one day and one game at a time" four or five different occasions last night following the Wildcats season-opening 73-64 victory against Valparaiso.

This will obviously be a completely different team without Derrick Williams.

"Anyone can be the leading scorer or rebounder," Johnson said.

"We understand we'll go through growing pains," he added. "We've already gone through some with the exhibition loss, but luckily it didn't count on our record. However, it definitely counted in our minds."

Johnson finished with 14 points and six assists in his debut - and Arizona was led by senior Kyle Fogg, who went for 16 points.

Jesse Perry went for a double-double (14 points, 10 boards), Solomon Hill had eight points and freshman point guard Josiah Turner struggled and finished with seven points.

"He was a highly ranked guy coming in," Johnson said of Turner. "Point guard it the most difficult position on the floor. He has to know everyone's spots and also be a leader. He has a big weight on his shoulders, but it'll click for him soon."

Turner isn't the only player with an adjustment. Virtually the entire team is in a different role - and after a somewhat lackluster first half against Valpo, Arizona's defense clamped down the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half.

"We locked down," Johnson said. "Until the last four minutes or so - when we gave up a few 3's."

Johnson maintained the same philosophy that his coach has been preaching in the preseason. This team may not look the same in the middle of Pac-12 play as it does right now.

Arizona is hopeful that Kevin Parrom will be back on the court sometime next month - and also that Turner will make major strides. However, in the meantime, it's Jordin Mayes that gives this Wildcats team the best opportunity to win.

At least for right now.

And down the road? Who knows.

"Last year they clicked at the right time," Johnson said. "We're hoping maybe we can do something like that."

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 7, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 11:39 am

Naismith Preseason Top 50 - Early Edition

By Jeff Goodman

The Naismith Preseason List will be released this afternoon, but CBSSports.com has obtained a bootleg copy of it (OK, not really - but that sounds cool).

Anyway, the major difference between the Naismith and the Wooden (and why I prefer the Naismith) is that it includes freshmen.

There were seven frosh on the Preseason list: Three from Kentucky (Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague), Brad Beal (Florida), Andre Drummond (UConn), Quincy Miller (Baylor) and Austin Rivers (Duke).

Two teams - North Carolina and Kentucky - have four players on the list. UConn, Ohio State and Vandy each have a trio.

Here is the complete list:


Tim Abromaitis, F, Sr., Notre Dame
Harrison Barnes, F, Soph., North Carolina
Will Barton, G, Soph., Memphis
Brad Beal, G, Fr., Florida
William Buford, G, Sr., Ohio State
Aaron Craft, G, Soph., Ohio State
Anthony Davis, F, Fr., Kentucky
Marcus Denmon, G, Sr., Missouri
Andre Drummond, C, Fr., UConn
Festus Ezeli, C, Sr., Vanderbilt
Ashton Gibbs, G, Sr., Pittsburgh
Michael Glover, F, Sr., Iona
Drew Gordon, F, Sr., New Mexico
Draymond Green, F, Sr., Michigan State
JaMychal Green, F, Sr., Alabama
Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Soph., Michigan
Elias Harris, F, Jr., Gonzaga
John Henson, F, Jr., North Carolina
Tu Holloway, G, Sr., Xavier
Robbie Hummel, F, Sr., Purdue
Joe Jackson, G, Soph., Memphis
John Jenkins, G, Soph., Vanderbilt
Orlando Johnson, G, Sr., UC Santa Barbara
Darius Johnson-Odom, G, Sr., Marquette
Perry Jones III, F, Soph., Baylor
Terrence Jones, F, Soph., Kentucky
Kevin Jones, F, Sr., West Virginia
Kris Joseph, F, Sr., Syracuse
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, Fr., Kentucky
Jeremy Lamb, G, Soph., UConn
Kendall Marshall, G, Soph., North Carolina
Ray McCallum, G, Soph., Detroit
Doug McDermott, F, Soph., Creighton
Khris Middleton, F, Jr., Texas A&M
Quincy Miller, F, Fr., Baylor
Reeves Nelson, F, Jr., UCLA
Andrew Nicholson, F, Sr., St. Bonaventure
Alex Oriakhi, C, Jr., UConn
Austin Rivers, G, Fr., Duke
Thomas Robinson, F, Jr., Kansas
Terrence Ross, G, Soph., Washington
John Shurna, F, Sr., Northwestern
Peyton Siva, G, Jr., Louisville
Josh Smith, C, Soph., UCLA
Jared Sullinger, C, Soph., Ohio State
Jordan Taylor, G, Sr., Wisconsin
Jeffery Taylor, G/F, Sr., Vanderbilt
Marquis Teague, G, Fr., Kentucky
Patric Young, C, Soph., Florida
Tyler Zeller, F, Sr., North Carolina
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com