Petco Park latest baseball venue to try college basketball

Bill Walton spearheading effort for weeklong festival culminating with basketball game on infield of San Diego Padres home stadium

While most people will be shopping until there’s no tomorrow in the first days of December, a really cool thing is going to be taking place shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in San Diego.

Led by 1974 UCLA graduate and super loyal Grateful Dead fan Bill Walton, he will be volunteering his time in youth clinics, community league games, some high school games, and other charity games all leading up to San Diego battling San Diego State on Saturday, December 5.

The game will take place at 5 p.m. Eastern time and will utilize primarily the area directly in front of the third base dugout, as both baskets will be used just in front of third base and the right field foul line.  The scorer’s table will be normally where the pitcher’s mound is.

According to the report on CBSSports.com from September 23, expect a bigger announcement that possibly a top flight program such as Arizona or Gonzaga could provide the opposition in December 2016.

More details about the event can be found here:

http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/eye-on-college-basketball/25313380/padres-petco-park-bill-walton-hosting-weeklong-basketball-festival

SMU to be banned from 2016 postseason play

Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown will also be suspended

What swift timing again by the NCAA.

According to reports led by Jeff Goodman of ESPN, the SMU Mustangs will not be eligible to compete in the 2016 NCAA or NIT postseason tournaments.

An NCAA investigation stemming from January was found to have some rules violations, according to the report that the NCAA will fully release later today.

Coach Brown will also be suspended for 30 percent of his team’s games (or about a third of the regular season).

For those fans not in the know, the violations stemmed from the time when former assistant coach Ulric Maligi and another unnamed person connected to SMU’s program helped Keith Frazier with his coursework.  Frazier is a former McDonald’s All-American.  Maligi left SMU in January while Frazier ended up missing the second half of this past season after being declared ineligible. Frazier is currently in good standing on the team roster.

The ESPN report also mentioned that SMU will lose nine scholarship trips over the next three years.

This is nothing new for Coach Brown.  He had to deal with similar violations many years back while coaching both at UCLA and at Kansas.

Raining threes of a different sort

While most of America was watching the opening games in the NFL…

For the third time in the last four years, Kentucky has put on an alumni basketball game at famed Rupp Arena.  Call it your basic glorified pick-up game.  And it was sold out just FYI, 23,000 strong to be precise.

After watching the clips, look out for DeMarcus Cousins possibly raining threes:

http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/eye-on-college-basketball/25301620/more-than-23000-pack-rupp-arena-for-kentucky-north-carolina-alumni-exhibition-game

The funds helped out both schools for programs that need lots of financial help.  It also established some additional needed funds for the new Dean Smith award, of which I spoke about recently in this blog space.

At the bottom of this particular article is a video done by some of the players.  Very interesting hearing their thoughts, especially considering the general fact that most of today’s marquee players usually stick around for one or possibly two years while enrolled in school:

http://collegebasketball.nbcsports.com/2015/09/14/uk-unc-charity-alumni-game-raises-1-5-million/

Couple that with John Calipari being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this past Friday night only speaks more volumes to what the man has truly accomplished.  If you get some time, please check out his induction speech–very humble and heartfelt, especially when talking about his family and every player that he coached from the UMass and Memphis days, along with his current crop at Kentucky.

An honor well deserved.

Gonzaga readies themselves again for another Top 4 seed, and it isn’t even October yet

Talk about clever non-conference scheduling, so put down that egg nog and take a brief break from wrapping your holiday presents

Since 1999, Gonzaga has the mid-major pedigree most other similar schools like Valparaiso, Bucknell, Belmont, and Davidson have all tried to emulate.

Even with longtime head coach Mark Few turning down many lucrative offers to either coach in more established programs or even turning down the NBA, all fans and supporters of Gonzaga share that common bond, that knack of winning curing all ills.

Similar to what the Atlanta Braves did for so many years in baseball, their season would not be deemed a success until they won the World Series.  Many times during the 1990’s, they climbed the summit but were turned back except in 1995.

Albeit the one home loss to BYU stung in the fact that they were not awarded the Number 1 seed in the West Region but instead were sent packing with Duke as the Number 2 seed in the South.

With the schedule released on September 3, NBCSports.com briefly touched on some of the highlights and why they usually join the likes of Villanova, Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, Kansas, and Kentucky as those schools looking to earn the proper stature needed to convince the Division I Basketball Committee to earn again another Top 4 seed come next March.

Even though the ‘Zags will miss tremendously guards Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley, they have plenty of reinforcements in terms of both experience and pure talent in the front court with former Duke player Kyle Wiltjer, along with Przemek Karnowski and Damontas Sabonis (the son of Basketball Hall of Famer and 1992 Olympian Ardonyis) returning to The Kennel.

Come the week of Veteran’s Day, the Bulldogs will have their lid lifter overseas in Okinawa taking on Jamie Dixon and Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Classic on November 13.  During Thanksgiving break, they will take part in a holiday tournament in the Bahamas, with Washington being their first opponent at the Battle 4 Atlantis with UNC Charlotte, UConn, Michigan, Syracuse, Texas and Texas A&M completing the field (please read my thoughts on that and other preseason holiday tournaments in a prior blog below).

December will find The Kennel rocking against battled tested Pac 12 foes in Arizona (December 5) and UCLA (December 12), and they’ll play new coach Rick Barnes and Tennessee in the annual “Battle in Seattle” on December 19. The Bulldogs open WCC play four days before Christmas as Pepperdine looks to crash the party with their top three scorers returning for another chance at redemption.  Gonzaga’s final non-conference game won’t be played until February 13, when they will visit SMU in one of two true road games they’ll play outside of West Coast Conference play.

Couple that with the always right there BYU team and you never know what wrinkles St. Mary’s, Santa Clara, or San Diego may have on their minds.

Something else to think about as we are less than seven weeks before my Third Annual 2015-2016 Season Preview.

Thanks so much for reading.

SEC Big 12 Challenge Schedule announced

One marquee matchup and possible bubble games abound, and the best part–all of the games will be in one day.

The schedule for Saturday, January 30, 2016:

Vanderbilt at Texas (Noon ET, ESPN or ESPN2)

West Virginia at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN or ESPN2)

Tennessee at TCU (2 ET, ESPN2)

Ole Miss at Kansas State (2 ET, ESPNU)

Texas Tech at Arkansas (4 ET, ESPNU)

Georgia at Baylor (6 ET, ESPN2)

Oklahoma State at Auburn (8 ET, ESPN2)

Kentucky at Kansas*

Oklahoma at LSU*

Iowa State at Texas A&M*

* “No earlier than 2 ET, no later than 7 ET,” per release by both league offices. Those three games will be televised by ESPN.

Speaking of Florida, the O’Connell Center will get a major facelift

Similar to what Illinois is doing this November, most of the key renovations down in the indoor version of “The Swamp” will take place after this coming season.  That means the Gators will be playing in other arenas up and down the Sunshine State until the new arena is built and ready for action.

Georgetown legend George Thompson to receive inaugural Dean Smith Award

File this under the “How Cool” department:

CBSSports.com posted on Wednesday afternoon some key details of what the United States Basketball Writers Association mentioned as the 1984 National championship coach will be honored in person “at a dinner in Chapel Hill on November 10th.”

The article talked about this dinner serving two major purposes, both of which were paramount during the legendary North Carolina coach’s leadership which led to two national titles of his own (with more than a little luck involved) in 1982 and again in 1993.

The dinner will also have an auction, as all proceeds will go towards the Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund, a charity which, “provides financial assistance for undergraduate students from low-income families and enables professionals in education and social work to pursue advanced degrees.”

Thompson and Smith went as far back as the 1960’s when Thompson was a coach for St. Anthony’s School in Washington, DC and most of his players were recruited by Dean Smith.

Later, ABC Sports would capture Team USA claiming their first Olympic basketball gold medal since 1968 in Mexico City as the 1976 team easily won gold–Smith was head coach and Thompson was his right hand man.  This was around the same time the country was captivated by the former Bruce Jenner winning the Olympic decathlon.

“There was no one in basketball I loved or respected more than Dean Smith…There was never anyone like him.”

Longtime former Georgetown head coach John Thompson in comments found on a press release sent by the USBWA.

Nice honor, long overdue for one of college basketball’s pioneering coaches.

I am sure that it will be quite an event to see.  Sure hope someone can upload some highlights to YouTube if and when that time comes.

Something Worth Reading: The Many Facets Of Kentucky Coach John Calipari

Called by some media members as the most polarizing figure in college basketball since Bobby Knight angrily roamed the sidelines for the Indiana Hoosiers, there is no question that Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari lets people know what really is on his mind.

Whether it is recruiting, the changing of the rules, or just his definition of what “student athletes” should be and what is it basically a construed term with all of the influx coming out of Mark Emmert’s office at the NCAA Headquarters in Indianapolis, John Calipari will take his place among the sport’s giants when he is inducted on September 11 into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts–an honor well deserved if you asked this blog reporter.

Veteran writer Mike DeCourcy from The Sporting News composed this excellent five-part series which can be found starting at:

http://www.sportingnews.com/calipari/success

The articles are broken down into five individual chapters:

  • Success:  After leaving the former New Jersey Nets when his team was squashed 3 games to none by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls during the first round of the 1998 NBA Playoffs, he finds his truer calling in the college ranks.
  • The Salesman:  Wooing people to the Kentucky brand and making his coaching staff believe in him and his philosophies
  • The Target:  Always a lightning rod of controversy, Calipari is definitely no stranger to using words differently than many heads of state.
  • The Citizen, visiting people in hospital rooms where normally he would be at the NABC annual coaches dinner during the week of the Final Four.
  • The Strategist:  Looking back at the decisions he made that cost UMass a trip to the 1992 East Regional final, won by Kentucky before losing probably the greatest game in NCAA Touranment history with Duke’s Christian Laettner finishing a perfect 10 for 10 from the field and 10 for 10 from the charity stripe in a dramatic overtime win which propelled the Blue Devils to win back-to-back titles.  There are also some tidbits on the Derrick Rose-led Memphis Tigers when they squandered a six point lead late in regulation, only to be passed up by Lionel Chalmers and the rest of the hungrier Kansas Jayhawks to claim the 2008 National Championship in San Antonio.

There are also some corresponding videos on each page.  Definitely great holiday reading if you get the time this upcoming holiday weekend, as I began to wrap my mind a bit on the ACC schedule being released for the first two plus months of 2016.

Two nights before the first-ever prime time Super Bowl Media Day, Jim Boeheim will return to the bench as Syracuse hosts Georgia Tech.  And North Carolina’s schedule in February will be very difficult if they wish to grab one of the four number one seeds come Selection Sunday.

Please have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.