The off season in NCAA Basketball has had the focus not on the court but off the court on such things as assistant coaches including those at Arizona and USC who were charged by the FBI. The start of the season will be no different with the focus on alleged shoplifting in China and two teams missing the equivalent of a third team by suspension. As CBS explains it:
The first of the two bizarre stories to surface on Tuesday you likely ready about here, at CBS Sports, when my colleague, Gary Parrish, broke the story open about Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner and the former friend of Pastner's who's trying to derail his career. Ron Bell's personal revelation that Pastner wasn't treating him like a true friend sparked him to go public, admitting to extra benefits he provided to two currently suspended Georgia Tech players. Going off what's in Parrish's story, Pastner's going to keep his job -- but his reputation has been altered from what it was, say, 24 hours before that news coming to light. Undeniably.
Then, another bombshell. A college hoops-colored plume cloud from the other side of the planet. ESPN first reported Tuesday afternoon that LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA freshmen were arrested in China, allegedly for shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store that was located next to the UCLA team hotel.
UCLA, as cosmic coincidence would have it, is set to play none other than Georgia Tech on Friday, on the first day of college basketball's season. College basketball's news cycle just got dominated by two unrelated programs based on opposite coasts, whose teams are currently on the other side of the world. College hoops' crooked habits have gone global, and it's no joking matter. We can put the Georgia Tech story to the side for the time being. Pastner will likely comment on it before the team leaves China, then is sure to be questioned extensively early next week, once he returns to Atlanta.
This has become an infamous offseason. There is no scandal too taboo, no wrongdoing too unthinkable, no mistake unable to snake its way through the cracks. From unprecedented FBI investigations, to the firing of a Hall of Fame coach in Louisville. From a wannabe booster turning heel on a coach with a squeaky-clean image, to the son of one of the most polarizing parents in sports history potentially endangering his well-being by getting caught trying to rob a high-end designer store in -- again -- China.
Although this article is supposed to be the Georgia Tech preview a revised look and guess at the UCLA Depth chart is in order since three rotation players are ineligible for this game and who even knows when or if they play another game at UCLA. (italics is a secondary position for a player)
Point Guard: Jaylen Hands backup Aaron Holiday
Shooting Guard: Aaron Holiday backup Prince Ali
Small Forward: Kris Wilkes backup Alex Olesinski or Chris Smith then Prince Ali
Power Forward: G. G. Goloman, backup Alex Olesinski or Chris Smith then Kris Wilkes
Center Thomas Welsh, backup G.G. Goloman, then Alex Olesinski
Some quick notes on my best guesses here. The bolds are my “locks”. It really might not matter who is the point in the sense Holiday and Hands may be interchangeable in the backcourt. Although the 6’9” Chris Smith is listed as a guard and showed some nice handles, the reality is the only true backup guard is Prince Ali. The frontcourt is completely set with Cody Riley out.
The interesting thing about Riley being out is for the exhibition game he was our backup center because Jalen Hill was out. Thus realistically the backup to Welsh is our fourth string center. I have to believe GG will play for Welsh when he is out or if he gets into foul trouble as it is likely no one left has practiced Center this year and GG at least has some experience. The next part is where it gets interesting. If Wilkes gets in foul trouble during crunch time, we may go small with Prince Ali for the experience. Ali is no slouch and if the suspensions become permanent Ali may see big minutes as Wilkes may even play four with Ali at the three to get our best team on the floor.
However in non-crunch time how much do Smith and Olesinki play? Alex O has played SF and PF in limited minutes but has always been considered a three. Smith is technically listed as a guard but is 17 and raw. Both are going to play bigger roles than originally envisioned starting tomorrow.
As far as Georgia Tech they only have two suspensions but theirs are much more significant. While UCLA lost their backup frontcourt, Georgia Tech lost their starting back court. Josh Okogie was Tech’s leading scorer and Tadric Johnson was third leading scorer and a returning senior.
Their first exhibition game was ugly as a result. Georgia Tech lost to Georgia State in a game they shot 3-25 from three. That is not to say Georgia Tech is without talent. 6’10” Center Ben Lamars went 5-5 and is: “ a pre-season All-Atlantic Coast Conference choice and last year’s ACC Defensive Player of the Year, grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and blocked two shots.”
Lamars is not the only person to win ACC honors, Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner is the reigning ACC Coach of the year.
The point guard is Freshman Jose Alvarado. In his brief time Alvarado has really struggled from three going 1-14 in two games It will be interesting how UCLA defends a struggling shooting, inexperienced, freshman point guard.
The other starter at guard is a redshirt senior who has never averaged over 1.9 points a game, Corey Heyward. Heyward is not an offense threat either having never shot above 30.8% for a season in his career.
The other front court starting position are TBD. So far Pastner has went small in one game and big in the other.
The other starters are a combination of the following 6’9” freshman Moses Wright who struggled against Georgia State but dominated NAIA Faulkner. Wright is billed as a stretch four sort. Could trouble GG as he is an athlete. Evan Cole could also start who is a similar 6’9 player. Sophomore Justin Moore is less likely to start but will play and will be the third guard in a three guard lineup. Justin only attempted 10 threes last year and does not seem like a shooter (only hits 52% of this free throws.) The last potential starting big is also 6’9” Abdoulaye Gueye from Senegal. Guete is zero threat from outside and by that we mean anywhere not near the basket. He is 1-8 for his career from the free throw line.
To sum up UCLA has a huge advantage in the backcourt. In the front court Tech has a very good defense center who could trouble UCLA’s effort to get to the basket and be a force inside. After that UCLA has another huge edge in experience so this game should be a fairly easy win for UCLA. That said, UCLA has had little time to adjust to the surreal circumstances of losing three players while Georgia Tech has played two games without their starting backcourt.
It could be interesting but more likely the drama will remain off the court.