Merry Christmas: What’s In Santa’s Bag For Pac-12 Programs?Posted by AMurawa on December 20th, 2011
It’s that time of the year where everybody is on the lookout for that one great gift for their friends and family. In the spirit of the season of giving, I’ve been racking my brain, trying to come up with the perfect gifts for all of the Pac-12 basketball programs. My good friend Mr. Claus is willing to help me out, and between the two of us, we think we’ve found just the right thing for everybody around the conference.
Arizona – Is it too much to ask for Derrick Williams back? Because he would go a long way towards curing the Wildcats’ ills up front. But since we don’t want to take Williams’ new contract or endorsement deals away from him, we’re going to have to settle on a babysitter for freshman point guard Josiah Turner. Just somebody who can make sure the kid eats his fruits and vegetables and gets to class and practice on time and in one piece, allowing Turner to simply focus on taking care of business at Point Guard U.
Arizona State – All Sun Devil hoops fans want for Christmas is just one letter grade higher in one class on Jahii Carson’s transcript. The freshman point guard just missed getting a high enough score on his ACT exam to earn eligibility in Tempe, but just one point higher or one letter grade higher on his high school transcript would have made the speedy point ready to play. Santa has assured me that he’s found a minor discrepancy in Carson’s junior year Spanish class that could get him on the court immediately. Sure, Carson isn’t going to turn the Sun Devils into a Tournament team overnight, but they’ll certainly be a lot easier on the eyes.
California – Hey, it’s not much, but this wake-up call service we scored for roomies Allen Crabbe and Richard Solomon should save the Bears countless hours of missed practices and subsequent benchings. And we’re even throwing in a brand new icemaker, which should help Jorge Gutierrez heal up all those bumps and bruises he gets from diving all over the court.
Colorado – Santa is going to come through big time for head coach Tad Boyle and the Buffaloes, because wrapped up nice and tight under the tree is a commitment from Chris Thomas, a top 20 recruit in the 2013 class. Thomas, a spectacular scoring guard from Denver, paired with current freshmen Spencer Dinwiddie, Askia Booker and Damiene Cain and CU’s strong 2012 five-man recruiting class would make for a very strong 2013-14 squad. Yes, it is quite possible that Boyle and the Buffaloes would have to produce right away in that season (since Thomas may not be around much more than one year), but that’s a problem we’re sure they’d love to have.
Oregon – Okay, that dartboard with the picture of Jabari Brown taped to it? That’s just a gag gift. But the gift of a patient and understanding fanbase and administration will pay serious dividends for head coach Dana Altman. The fan boards are beginning to howl with the idea that there must be something wrong with Altman’s coaching style, given all the defections that have occurred in the Oregon program since he took over. With eight outgoing transfers since Altman was announced as head coach, including three after last year and another two in startling fashion in the early going this year, there is definitely some cause for concern. But the fact of the matter is, Altman can really coach. Last year’s Ducks had no business finishing anywhere higher than, well, tenth in a 10-team conference, and yet somehow they won 21 games and the CBI title. It may take Altman a few more years to round this roster into shape, but the patience will be well worth it.
Oregon State – I’m not exactly sure how this will get done, but Santa assures me that come Christmas morning, Jared Cunningham will wake up with an effective jumpshot and consistent range out to three. We’re not going to turn him into J.J. Redick or Jimmer Fredette or anything, but he’ll have the kind of jumper that will keep opposing defenders honest. Already an excellent slasher and playmaker on the offensive end, Cunningham’s ability to stick wide-open looks with regularity will give the Beavers a third legitimate three-point threat and will make him more or less a complete offensive player. Now, we’re going to have to get assurances from Cunningham that this newfound jumper doesn’t lead to an early entry to the NBA Draft, but with his jumper trending toward legitimacy, there’s no reason this OSU shouldn’t wind up in the NCAA Tournament.
Stanford – We know you guys have earned a bit of a break after dealing with finals for the last couple weeks, and we don’t mean to pile on anymore, but we got y’all another non-conference game against a likely NCAA Tournament team. We’ll let the exact opponent remain a secret for now, but after fading late in your biggest non-conference game against Syracuse, you’re primed to head to Pac-12 play with only wins over Oklahoma State and North Carolina State – two teams who are unlikely to earn invitations – to show for your 9-1 start. So, instead of spending the holidays safe and warm with your friends and family, we’re sending you back out on the road to face a Top 25 team in a hostile environment. But trust us, this will be good for you.
Utah – For Larry Krystkowiak and his bunch, there’s not much even Santa and I can do to turn this season around. But we do have the perfect gift for a team that has a bunch more losses on their way: patience and perspective. Okay, at first glance this may sound like the equivalent of giving a seven-year-old a package of new socks for Christmas, but the Utes are going to continue to see the number in their loss column skyrocket. So long as everybody in the program works on getting a little bit better and laying a foundation upon which to build future teams, at least the torture of Pac-12 road trips in the middle of February will have some significance.
UCLA – What do you get for the school that has everything? We’ll save the welcome mats and wine glasses for the Pauley Pavilion housewarming next year, and we may include the number of a good dietitian/trainer for Josh Smith on the card, but we’ve settled on a do-over on transfers Mike Moser and Matt Carlino. Moser transferred out of UCLA after a freshman season in which he played just 70 minutes, while luminaries like Nikola Dragovic, James Keefe, Brendan Lane and the recently departed Reeves Nelson racked up minutes ahead of him and head coach Ben Howland determined that he couldn’t find any minutes for him. Carlino transferred out in the middle of last year when it became clear that Howland had no use for him either. But with Moser now leading the nation in rebounding at UNLV and Carlino now eligible at BYU and making an impact in the backcourt, we’ll give the UCLA coach one more chance to see if either of those kids could help a floundering Bruin squad. Oh, and as an extra special gift, we’ll also offer our services as the writers of future press releases announcing outgoing UCLA transfers, so that they are no longer exactly the same (seriously, check out those links above; they couldn’t have moved some words around, maybe chose some different adjectives here and there?)
USC – This one’s gonna be tricky, but Santa assures me it can be done. Just for you, Trojans, we’re healing Jio Fontan’s knee well ahead of schedule. Already a tough defensive team, bringing the senior point guard back should vastly improve your offensive ability. Prior to Fontan’s knee injury on a summer trip to Brazil, Kevin O’Neill looked forward to pairing him in the backcourt with Maurice Jones, and now with him back, Jones will not have to play 40 minutes a game every night, but he’ll also no longer have to force up end-of-the-shotclock jumpers as a substitute for real offense. Better yet, Trojan basketball fans will no longer bleed from their eyes after sitting through an entire game. It may not be enough to get you an at-large bid, but at least you’ll have a puncher’s chance the rest of the way.
Washington – What’s a holiday shopping spree without a calendar? And for Lorenzo Romar and the Huskies, we’ve got an extra-special calendar, chock-full of nothing but Marches. No more of those pesky Decembers, replete with losses to South Dakota State and Nevada. No more Januarys and Februarys featuring repeated inexplicable road losses to conference foes with a mere fraction of the talent that the Huskies have. Nope, just jump straight ahead to March, rip through the Pac-12 Tournament, and get ready to make a run in the Big Dance.
Washington State – Okay, here’s the deal. We got you an eraser. Yeah, it doesn’t seem like much, but this is an extra special eraser that can wipe from history that loss to UC Riverside in the seventh-place game of the 76 Classic. You know, the game where you blew a 14-point lead with seven minutes left to a team ranked 289th out of 345 teams by Ken Pomeroy. In a season of inexplicable losses by Pac-12 teams, that one really stands out. Without that terrible, terrible loss (really, I could throw a couple more “terribles” in there and be well within reason), you wouldn’t have any really good wins on the season, but at least your losses would be reasonable.