McDonald's Nuggets: UCLA's search, prediction update, more
Dan McDonald is back with his weekend primer, McDonald's Nuggets. This week’s edition addresses the UCLA hire, grades previous predictions, offers thoughts on the transfer process and more.
HOT TAKE: UCLA search not as bad as you might think
If you have seen or heard any college basketball media member addressing the UCLA coaching search, I guarantee you it’s been a negative take. If you have read my previous columns, you probably think I’m going to put the UCLA administration and boosters on blast. If you thought that, you would be wrong.
Swinging for the fences with John Calipari is what you should do at UCLA. What do you have to lose if it’s a leverage play by him? Nothing. Rick Barnes turned you down? Oh well, you went after another highly successful coach in a good spot that doesn’t want to move. I also have to assume behind the scenes there were other big-name coaches that turned down interest from UCLA. There is no harm in that.
For the reason I have mentioned in previous columns, I understand why these coaches stayed away from UCLA. It’s not as good of a job as most people would think. In the 21st century, the Bruins have only had one stretch of seasons where they were a real factor, and it was under Ben Howland. Cost of living in Los Angeles is really high, which isn’t a huge deal for a coach making millions, but it could be a problem for his staff. Word is UCLA doesn’t charter flights, which isn’t a huge negative, but it’s not great for a power conference school that views itself among the elites.
Ending up with Mick Cronin is a pretty good deal for UCLA. He’s been really successful at Cincinnati and he’s an upgrade over Steve Alford. That’s generally the goal of coaching search. It may not have ended up the way athletic director Dan Guerrero had hoped, but I hardly see it as a flop, even if it did last more than 100 days.
PREDICTIONS: Where I’ve been right - and where I’ve been wrong
Where I’ve been right: In my first column on Jan. 10, I predicted Virginia’s heartbreaks would be the fuel behind a Final Four run and potentially a national title. I doubled down on this right before the tournament started. I tripled down on this before the Final Four last week. Check.
At the beginning of February, I predicted at least 10 and as many 15 high-major coaching changes. I doubled down on this at beginning of March. We’re on pace to be closer to 15 before all is said and done.
I also predicted upsets in the early rounds to be minimal, and that was pretty accurate.
Where I’ve been wrong: I picked Anthony Edwards to win McDonald’s All-American Game MVP. Thanks a lot, Cole Anthony. While I was right on with picking Virginia to make a run, I was wrong on Houston. I thought the Cougars would make a Final Four run.
Still up in the air: I predicted that the ridiculous new recruiting calendar this year won’t last. Let’s check back in late July on this one.
I also predicted a nice run coming up for Washington. That’s one that will take some time to get an answer on.
I predicted Jordan Rawls to be a breakout star this summer in the 2020 class and to end up with a long list of offers.
Lastly, I have high expectations for Scottie Lewis in the long term, but we obviously won’t know about that for quite some time.
RECRUITING NOTE: Christian Keeling update
It should come as absolutely no surprise that Christian Keeling is a hot target for high-major programs all over the country. The 6-foot-4 graduate transfer shooting guard has averaged over 17 points per game all three seasons at Charleston Southern and also became a better three-point shooter this year, when he converted at a 38 percent rate.
The Augusta, Ga., native will be taking his first official visit to Georgia Tech this weekend. He will spend a second visit at Clemson next weekend. He has a meeting set up with Roy Williams and the UNC staff next week to determine for both sides if it is the right fit. Arizona, Butler, Georgia, Iowa State, Maryland, NC State, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and several others have been involved. Look for him to make a short list sometime after returning from Georgia Tech this weekend.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Virginia
How could we not go with Virginia? The 2019 NCAA Tournament was just an incredible run for Tony Bennett and his program, and a culmination of what has been an incredible stretch of great seasons that have unfortunately resulted in postseason heartbreak before this season. Ty Jerome was incredible in the Final Four. Kyle Guy could not have been more clutch to beat Auburn, and he was highly productive throughout the last three games of the tournament. And De'Andre Hunter in the second half and overtime in the championship may have vaulted himself into the top 5 in the upcoming NBA Draft. Congrats to Virginia.