The RTC Interview Series: Pac-12 Preview with Don MacLean and Miles Simon

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2013


Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the Pac-12, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two Pac-12 experts in Pac-12 Network analyst and former UCLA star, Don MacLean, and ESPN analyst and former Arizona star, Miles Simon. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Rush the Court: Arizona is the overwhelming preseason favorite in the league. What is it about Sean Miller’s team that has expectations so high in Tucson?

Don MacLean: The talent level there is very high. Sean Miller has brought in some very high-level recruits. Aaron Gordon brings another dimension for the team with his great athleticism and versatility to play inside and on the perimeter. T.J. McConnell is going to be great for the team. I worked the exhibition game last week and I was really impressed by McConnell. I think he is really good. He is the first true point guard that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. When you have all that talent, you need a pass-first guy to spread the ball around. From what I have seen, McConnell seems to be that guy. Sean Miller is also a great coach. With this roster, the depth that the team has, and Miller’s coaching, I think it is warranted to put Arizona as the best team in the league right now.

Miles Simon: Sean Miller obviously brought in a tremendous recruiting class. Getting Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Elliott Pitts to come in is a good place to start with this team. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is going to be an excellent addition for the team at point guard. When you look at this team, it is just so long and athletic. I think defensively, this might be the best group that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. There are just so many positives with this team going into the season.

RTC: Oregon made a surprise trip to the Sweet Sixteen last March after pulling off upsets over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. Gone from last season’s team are Arsalan Kazemi and E.J. Singler, but the Ducks did secure the services of UNLV transfer Mike Moser. With Moser joining a team that has the talented backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning, should Dana Altman’s squad take a step forward in the Pac-12 this season and should another NCAA Tournament run be expected?

MacLean: You can never expect an NCAA Tournament run, but I think the team should be just as good. Do not forget that Oregon also added Joseph Young, the transfer from Houston. Adding Mike Moser as a fifth-year guy is an important piece and Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson will be better as second-year players. With what Dana Altman does with his style of play and the way he changes up defenses, I think the Ducks will be as good as they were last season.

Simon: I think Oregon will get back to the NCAA Tournament. It really has some nice pieces, but when you lose guys like Arsalan Kazemi, E.J. Singler, Tony Woods and Carlos Emory, you are losing what was the heart and soul of your team. A lot of leadership and toughness left with those guys. If Mike Moser is able to return to where he was with UNLV two years ago, he will be excellent. The backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson should be explosive and one of the best in the league. Johnathan Loyd is the third guard and he has some experience because he had to play a lot when Artis was injured last season. When you consider these pieces, this is a team that should get back to the NCAA Tournament and finish in the top half of the Pac-12.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.06.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 6th, 2013

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  1. Arizona received a big boost Tuesday when sophomore stretch forward Zach Peters was cleared by medical personnel to begin practicing with the Wildcats. Peters transferred from Kansas last November before playing a game with the Jayhawks but was sill waiting on clearance after suffering multiple concussions while in Lawrence. The addition is an important one for head coach Sean Miller. Peters is a big body that has the ability to shoot the ball from the outside, and he’ll likely be called upon to fill the absence left by Grant Jerrett. Arizona is losing its top four three-point shooters from the 2012-13 campaign, so there is certainly more than enough room for another shooter on the roster. Peters will open the season behind Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, and Aaron Gordon on the depth chart, but expect him to play solid minutes once he gets a couple weeks of practice in with the Cats. They open the season Friday night at home against Cal Poly in a game to be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
  2. The guys over at Building the Dam met in roundtable form last weekend to discuss what excites them, worries them, and their expectations heading into Craig Robinson‘s sixth season at Oregon State. The return of senior center Angus Brandt is definitely high on the list for excitement in Corvallis after the Aussie missed the majority of last season with a torn ACL suffered against Purdue. As RVM points out, however, there are plenty of question marks with this team, beginning with the fact that there is no proven point guard on the roster.
  3. Andy Enfield takes over at USC after the Trojans finished last year with a 14-18 record, its second straight losing season. Conquest Chronicles previews the 2013-14 team in this piece, focusing on the biggest offensive threats and the keys to getting back to relevance out west. All signs from preseason camp seem to point to the Trojans adjusting well to Enfield’s up tempo, high-flying system, but producing results early on against a challenging non-conference schedule will be difficult. They open the season Friday night at Utah State, and before the month ends they will face Villanova, and possibly, #5 Kansas, in the Bahamas. Keying the offense will be senior guard J.T. Terrell, whose ability to take, and make, tough shots will be of great value for Enfield and company. Expectations are small for this team, but I wouldn’t count a coach like Enfield out at any time.
  4. UCLA put a bow on its exhibition season Monday with a 109-79 win over Cal State San Marcos. Everything went through a slimmer and quicker forward/center Tony Parker as the sophomore finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Parker dropped about 20 pounds over the summer and is playing with more confidence, and if the early signs prove to hold true throughout the season, he is a legit post threat in the Pac-12. The Cougars held tough with UCLA for about 12 minutes, and actually only trailed by two just over halfway through the first half. A quick scoring burst later in the half put any thoughts of an upset to bed, and Steve Alford‘s team ended up cruising to the 30-point win. Next up for them is a visit from Drexel late Friday night to start the regular season.
  5. Sophomore Jahii Carson and Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall will be the leaders of Arizona State‘s deep backcourt unit this season. That much you probably know. But there are four other guards on the roster that will don the maroon and gold this season, and House of Sparky breaks down that depth in this preview. Redshirt freshman Calean Robinson will run the offense when Carson leaves the court, and he may be the most intriguing Sun Devil behind Carson. Arizona State meets Maryland Baltimore County to open the season Sunday evening at Wells Fargo Arena.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 1st, 2013

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  1. Earlier this week, we spent the better part of a Morning Five poking around the state of Oregon. Today, we’re gonna spend most of our time in Los Angeles, where  Steve Alford got his recruiting mojo going on Thursday when five-star recruit Kevon Looney made a verbal commitment to the Bruins. With the UCLA frontline undermanned in 2014-15, Looney’s choice of the Bruins over other big-time programs like Duke, Florida, Michigan State, Tennessee and Wisconsin is a huge boon to the program. ESPN’s scouting report on the big man is glowing: a combo forward who can hit the three, score off the bounce, and pound the boards. Still, after Alford previously got burned when Trevon Blueitt backed out of his commitment to UCLA, just remember that nothing is set in stone until that letter of intent gets signed.
  2. And as Isaac Hamilton proved to UTEP, even a signed letter of intent doesn’t exactly seal the deal. Hamilton, a four-star wing in the 2013 class, was originally the centerpiece of Tim Floyd’s recruiting class in El Paso. But Hamilton second-guessed that decision over the summer and decided that he didn’t want to play at UTEP after all. Floyd refused the youngster’s request to back out of his commitment, but Hamilton petitioned the NCAA for immediate eligibility after he chose UCLA for his college. Hamilton’s petition was rejected on Thursday, meaning that not only will he be ineligible to play for the Bruins this season, but he’ll lose a year of eligibility. He’ll get to practice with the squad this year, but will be relegated to scout team action.
  3. Wrapping up the news at UCLA, the Bruins got their season underway on Wednesday night with an exhibition game against Cal State San Bernardino. Despite playing without senior forward Travis Wear, who is sidelined, perhaps for up to a month, due to surgery to remove his appendix, the Bruins rolled to an easy 30-point win. Jordan Adams returned from his broken foot to lead all scorers with 25 points, while David Wear filled in ably for his brother with a 12-point, 13-rebound double-double. Tony Parker, who will team primarily with David Wear to make up for Travis Wear’s absence, had 10 points, three blocks and three boards. Meanwhile, Kyle Anderson’s debut as the Bruin point guard began with 10 points, 10 boards and five assists along with three turnovers.
  4. We’ll stop over across town before we leave LA, as ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil profiles Andy Enfield and the new USC basketball program. For a guy with a business background, Enfield is not only talking about Xs and Os with the Trojans, but about branding and selling a hip and exciting style of basketball to potential recruits. He did that and more at Florida Gulf Coast with a school that completely lacked a brand prior to last season’s Dunk City run, so Enfield sees his job at USC as different, but perhaps easier, than the task he undertook at FGCU.
  5. Lastly, here’s your reminder to flip the calendar and realize that next week at this time, we’ll be preparing to dig into our first weekend of college basketball. As such, let’s take a peek at the AP Top 25 basketball poll, released yesterday to, well, OK, nobody really cares all that much about polls in a sport where we actually decide the champion on the court of play. But, still, Top 25. Arizona leads the way for the conference, checking in at #6 overall, while Oregon checks in at #19, a few spots ahead of UCLA at #22. Four other Pac-12 schools were in the “others receiving votes” category (Colorado, Arizona State, Washington and Stanford), while California, which Doug Gottlieb notoriously had as his #10 team in the nation, was curiously absent.
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20 Questions: Who Will Have More Long-Term Success in Los Angeles, Alford or Enfield?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 28th, 2013

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Let’s get right to the point: The narrative since USC hired Andy Enfield and UCLA hired Steve Alford back in the spring is that USC made a bold, imaginative hire and that UCLA struck out. And just about everything that has happened since those hires were announced have reinforced that storyline. Alford struggled through his opening weeks, getting repeatedly hammered for his handling of a sexual assault case involving one of his players at Iowa 11 years early, before finally apologizing more than a week after his first press conference at UCLA. Meanwhile, Andy Enfield was appearing on The Tonight Show, chumming around with Jay Leno and Charlie Sheen and discussing, among other things, his supermodel wife. While Enfield was putting together a superstar group of assistant coaches, Alford put together a less buzzworthy staff. And when the two coaching staffs went head to head in the recruitment of local point guard Jordan McLaughlin, it was USC that came out on top, reinforcing the story that it was USC that was the hip and happening program while UCLA was trailing far behind. Even a seemingly innocuous mid-practice comment from Enfield earlier this month made the news cycle and reinforced the idea that UCLA was old and boring: “If you want to play slow, go to UCLA.”

The Start To The Andy Enfield Era At USC Has Gone Beautifully

The Start To The Andy Enfield Era At USC Has Gone Beautifully

So clearly, USC has all the momentum, UCLA is about to take a dive, and the next thing you know, the Galen Center will be the basketball mecca in Southern California, right? Well, not so fast. Because while this has been, without a doubt, a strong offseason for USC and a poor one for UCLA, here are the two teams’ records since those hires were made: USC: 0-0, UCLA: 0-0. And when games tip off next week, UCLA is expected to be one of the best teams in the Pac-12 and a national Top 25 team, while USC is picked to finish right around the bottom of the conference standings. Enfield and the Trojans will need to prove that they can sustain forward momentum while likely disappearing from the national conversation and playing in front of sparse crowds. Meanwhile, the Bruins will find themselves in high-profile games like their battle with Duke at Madison Square Garden or their lone 2014 regular season game against Arizona in Pauley Pavilion. Or any number of other Pac-12 games that are expected to have an impact on the conference race.

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Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: UCLA and USC

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 23rd, 2013

October is here, and that means we are just weeks away from real, live basketball games. In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’re going to break down all 12 non-conference slates over the next couple of weeks. Up next; the Los Angeles schools.

Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.

UCLA

Cream of the Crop: vs. Duke (#1) in New York City, at Missouri (#36)

Any time you’ve got an exhibition game against Duke in Madison Square Garden the week before Christmas on ESPN, you’ve got a real nice start to your schedule. Sure, the name of the event — the Carquest Auto Parts Classic — could use some work, but this is a game that will draw in fans, should help both teams in terms of building a resume, and will be a great barometer for where both squads stand in advance of conference play. Plus, Jabari Parker vs. Kyle Anderson? Um, yeah. We’ll want to watch that. Throw in the Bruins’ return trip to Missouri to reprise last year’s classic in Pauley Pavilion and, even though the Tigers aren’t as highly regarded this season, that’s a nice pair of games at the top of the schedule there. The problem is, this pair needs some company; but instead, the rest of the UCLA schedule is littered with more than a couple yawners.

Kyle Anderson, UCLA

Kyle Anderson And The Bruins Will Get A Mid-December Showcase Game Against Duke. (AP)

Solid Names: vs. Nevada (#173) in Las Vegas, vs. Northwestern (#168) in Las Vegas, vs. Weber State (#85), vs. Alabama (#60)

Maybe there’s some bad luck mixed in here. Nevada is normally a pretty good program, but they’re in the midst of a downswing. Northwestern has been on the verge of decent recently, but with new head coach Chris Collins now in town, the Wildcats are in the midst of a rebuilding (well, honestly, we could probably drop the “re-“) phase. And Alabama, a stout defensive team since Anthony Grant took over, will probably again lack offensive punch, with Trevor Lacey bolting from the program. That leaves Weber State, a team that has developed into a nice Big Sky program, but one who is by no means a match for the power of a UCLA program. Really, of this group, it is Weber State with the best chance to make the NCAA Tournament this season. But in the long haul, while none of these games will really kill UCLA’s RPI numbers, not a one of these is expected to be the type of win that the Bruins can point to on Selection Sunday in support of a favorable seed.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.22.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 22nd, 2013

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  1. Instead of an exhibition game or two, the USC‘s men’s and women’s teams announced yesterday they’ll be hosting the “Trojan Tipoff” on Sunday morning. The day will open with a FanFest, which includes a meet and greet with Trojan coaches and players, but the highlight will be the intrasquad scrimmages that come later in the day. It will be the first glance at the new-look Trojans, now under the guidance of uber-promoter Andy Enfield. Hopefully SC provides some type of streaming for the event for us out-of-towners interested to see how Dunk City looks on the west coast. The men’s team opens the season November 8 at Utah State, in a game to be televised by CBS Sports Network.
  2. Across town, the fallout continues from Enfield’s “If you want to play slow, go to UCLA” comment made last week. First year Bruins head coach Steve Alford issued another denial to the quote on Monday, pointing out that his teams at New Mexico were always first or second in scoring in the Mountain West. He also said that while there are no problems between he and the other new coach in Los Angeles, he understands that there is a rivalry between the schools. Before the session was over, however, Alford couldn’t resist getting a low-key shot in at the Trojans. “You look at history and tradition, UCLA and USC, there is quite a bit of difference there.”
  3. Some leftovers from Thursday’s Pac-12 Media Day, as Arizona Desert Swarm sat down with junior guard Nick Johnson recently. Johnson discusses playing in the backcourt with point guard T.J. McConnell, how he handles game-by-game expectations, and the Wildcats’ hidden shooting ability at the three and four spots, among other things. Johnson averaged 11.5 PPG for Arizona last season in over 30 MPG, and if the Wildcats are to live up to the expectations being put upon them in the preseason, he will need to contribute double figures again. Even more important will be his perimeter defense, which gave a huge lift to Arizona at times last season. His pressure and ability to get his team out on breaks energized things whenever the offense struggled. Johnson and the Cats will open regular season play against Cal Poly on November 8.
  4. This is the year that Larry Krystowiak will need to show some of the strides Utah has been making, this being his third year at the helm and the Utes’ third in the Pac-12. He thought that the best way to get started on that this offseason was to get in better shape, and the Deseret News reports that his team has more or less accomplished that. Post players Jordan Loveridge, Renan Lenz, and Marko Kovacevic have lost about 20 pounds each as Krystowiak is looking for more active players inside. As far as the guards go, Brandon Taylor and Parker Van Dyke are no longer two of the smallest players in the conference, with each gaining around 15 pounds over the summer. On the court, Krystowiak reports that the Utes are having “spirited and competitive” practices so far this fall. They will have their annual “Night with the Runnin’ Utes” on Wednesday evening of this week.
  5. Tad Boyle‘s Colorado team has developed a reputation as one of the best teams in the league at taking charges, and Boyle worries that the Buffaloes will be at a disadvantage this season with the NCAA’s new rules on how to interpret the violation. Bobby Dibler, the Pac-12’s new coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, broke down the guidelines at Media Day last week and said that he expects more blocks to be called this season. The modification states that once an offensive player has started an upward motion with the ball, the defender can not move into that player’s path or it will be a blocking foul. This is a welcome change after many players had became masters of sliding under a player already in mid-air to draw the charge. As probably expected, Boyle is not a big fan: “We’re going to have to adjust, but I don’t like the rule.”
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Pac-12 Team Preview: USC Trojans

Posted by AMurawa on October 21st, 2013

Today we begin unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

USC Trojans

Strengths. Energy and experience. New head coach Andy Enfield brings to the program a swagger that has been largely missing from this USC program about as long as guys like Daniel Hackett, Taj Gibson and Demar DeRozan have. He’s trying to carve out an identity for the Trojan basketball program as a fun place to play and a fun team to watch. And while guys like Jio Fontan, Eric Wise, Dewayne Dedmon and Aaron Fuller are now gone from the program, Enfield does have a crew with a decent level of experience. J.T Terrell, the team’s leading returning scorer, newly eligible point guard Pe’Shon Howard, and seven-footers Omar Oraby and D.J. Haley are all seniors – and seniors who have been around the block a time or two. Throw in Byron Wesley in his third season on the USC campus and there’s a quality bunch of players who know their way around major college basketball.

J.T. Terrell Is Just One Of Four USC Seniors With Plenty of Experience

J.T. Terrell Is Just One Of Four USC Seniors With Plenty of Experience

Weaknesses. How well does this roster fit the style? Enfield’s going to have this team running and throwing lobs and shooting threes regardless, but ideally he would have an efficient pass-first point guard who could be the floor general, a role Howard was unable to fill in his previous stop at Maryland. To go alongside that distributing point, Enfield would love to throw in a couple of mobile bigs who love getting up and down the floor, something Haley may be able to do well, but something Oraby certainly is not known for. Running the wings for Enfield’s offense would be a couple of prolific three-point shooters, rather than guys like Terrell and Wesley, a pair who are primarily known, respectively, for their lack of shot selection and defensive intensity. Still, some of the younger guys on this squad, like freshmen wings Roschon Prince and Kahlil Dukes, or European bigs Strahinja Gavrilovic and Nikola Jovanovic, or even young point guard Julian Jacobs or Chass Bryan, could carve out roles that could earn them long-term run under Enfield.

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If a Coach Says Something Interesting at a Media Day, Does It Make a Sound?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 18th, 2013

There is nothing quite like media day season, is there? Well, okay there is, but amidst all the generic answers and meaningless chatter are tiny, real pieces of actually interesting information – I swear. In case you haven’t spent the week sifting through sound bites and press releases, here are a few of the more noteworthy revelations from recent media days in the AAC, ACC, and Pac-12.

No Speed Limit At USC -- If You Want To Play Slow, Andy Enfield Thinks You Should Head Across Town

No Speed Limit At USC — If You Want To Play Slow, Andy Enfield Thinks You Should Head Across Town

Let’s start out west. While some may have been disappointed by the lack of intra-LA fireworks at Pac-12 media day, we’re going to count the continued discussion of the UCLA-USC “rivalry” as a step in the right direction. Earlier in the week, Andy Enfield was quoted as saying “we [USC] play uptempo basketball here – if you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” He took a predictable shot at softening the blow of those words on Thursday, but let’s focus instead on his tacit admission that the quote is real. Sarcastic or not, those words exited his mouth. Steve Alford played nice and refused to bite in response to the comment, but you better believe that the architect of those grinding, tough New Mexico teams would love nothing more than a snail-paced 65-35 beat-down of his cross-town foes come January 5. The tempo clash will be a constant subplot to the rivalry as long as these two coaches are at the helm, and despite the niceties of yesterday’s media day, don’t expect Enfield’s declaration to disappear from memory anytime soon.

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Andy Enfield is Winning News Cycles at USC, But Will He Win Games?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 17th, 2013

You don’t have to know the 5 from the 405 from the 110 to know that USC and UCLA don’t much get along. They’re two institutions of higher learning located about 14 miles (which equates to what, an hour or so?) apart in a city that can often take or leave college athletics. Proponents of one university will talk up all the positives about their preference while detailing all the negatives about the other, but without a doubt, from athletics to the arts to academics, each school measures itself against the other. Hell, even neuroscience labs are fair game for the rivalry. There’s the Coliseum and Pauley Pavilion. John Wooden and John McKay. John Wayne and Jackie Robinson. Arthur Ashe and Jerry Buss. Not to mention all those Heisman trophies and all those basketball national championship banners.

Andy Enfield's Mid-Practice Comment Landed Squarely, Painting USC As The Exciting Los Angeles-Area College Basketball Program (Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports)

Andy Enfield’s Mid-Practice Comment Landed Squarely, Painting USC As The Exciting Los Angeles-Area College Basketball Program (Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports)

But therein lies the rub. Just like UCLA has regularly been considered the little brother on the football side of the equation, USC basketball has always taken a backseat to the hoops program uptown. And when you’re a new head coach for the Trojans basketball program, your goal is to catch up with and eventually surpass the Bruins. All of which is preamble to say that while things certainly haven’t been especially friendly between the two programs since Andy Enfield was hired at USC and Steve Alford was hired at UCLA back  in the spring, the arms race between these two just ramped up a little more yesterday when Jeff Faraudo quoted Enfield thusly: “We play up-tempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” Shots fired.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.17.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 17th, 2013

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  1. Good morning and welcome to Pac-12 Media Day. A coach and a player from each of the 12 schools will all be assembled at the Pac-12 Studios in San Francisco today to be grilled by Pac-12 writers from up and down the west coast, including our own representative in Adam Butler. We’ll have plenty of interesting stuff coming your way from this event, but if you’d like to follow along, the conference has set up a live stream for you to watch as each team gets their time on the podium.
  2. One thing you can be sure new USC head coach Andy Enfield will be questioned about today is the line that he used to get his players running in practice, as reported by Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News: “We play uptempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” It’s a great line to be sure, one that the national media picked up on immediately and, aside from the immediate fact that it probably reinforced his overall objective to his team, it also serves as further notice to future recruits, the national basketball populace and certainly to that team in the nicer neighborhood uptown, that the Trojans and their brash new coach aim to be the basketball team in Los Angeles. We’ll have more on this later today.
  3. Yesterday we pointed you to some fine position-by-position breakdowns of the Washington roster. Today, we send you to the start of a similar rundown of the California squad by Scott Chong at California Golden Blogs. Last week he kicked off the series with a look at the wings on that squad, a group highlighted by highly-anticipated freshman Jabari Bird. Despite the fact that the Bears are tasked with replacing Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe, Cal fans have reason to be confident that Bird and company can keep things going strong in Berkeley. Check back with them regularly to see the rest of the series.
  4. It’s no secret that one of the big storylines for Oregon and head coach Dana Altman is the success they are having with transfers, having ridden players like Tony Woods, Arsalan Kazemi, Devoe Joseph and Olu Ashaolu to year-by-year improvement in Eugene. But there’s another aspect to that storyline and a tie between those last two players we mentioned and another pair of senior transfers – Jason Calliste and Richard Amardi – who hope to make their marks in their lone seasons with the Ducks. You see, all four of those guys – Joseph, Ashaolu, Calliste and Amardi – are natives of Toronto who spent time in the Grassroots Elite AAU program. Aside from becoming a home for transfers, Altman has also turned his program into a welcome landing spot for Torontonians.
  5. Lastly, a quick check in on some recruiting news, as Michael Humphrey, a raw top-100 2014 power forward has made visits to three Pac-12 campuses to date. But now, according to Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star, Humphrey has narrowed his list down to just two schoolsArizona and Stanford. Humphrey told Pascoe that he is “in love” with both schools, but expects to come up with a decision sometime soon after he spends his official visit in Tucson this weekend.
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Morning Five: 10.17.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2013

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  1. As we mentioned yesterday, Wednesday was the day that four major basketball conferences, all of their own independent accord, decided, “hey, let’s dominate the news cycle for our basketball product by competing for attention with three other competitors, even though we could have easily chosen any of a number of other days during the month of October! Brilliant!” Sometimes the ruling parties of this sport really make you wonder. Alas, the ACC, AAC, Big East and SEC all held their media events yesterday, providing us with a steady stream of quotes, notes, predictions and controversy throughout the day. You’ll get better coverage of the details of each of those leagues at each of our microsites (excepting the SEC, which relaunches next week), but for now, here are some of the things we learned. ACC: Jim Boeheim says the only thing Syracuse fans will miss is the Big East Tournament; AAC: Commissioner Mike Aresco says no-way, no-how to paying players. Big East: Are the biggest celebrities in this league Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson?  SEC: Kentucky’s best player is James Young? The SEC will continue with its two-day event in Birmingham today, and the Pac-12 will hold its one-day media event in San Francisco as well. The Big 12 and Big Ten will follow with theirs over the next couple of weeks.
  2. The best quote of the day, however, didn’t come from one of the roughly 50 coaches assembled yesterday at the various conference media days. It came from USC’s Andy Enfield, who exhorted his team during a recent practice by telling the Trojans, “We play up-tempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” Perhaps not since the days of Shaq and Kobe trashing each other through Jerry Buss has the City of Angels heard such a fine display of braggadoccio. Given that it’s coming from a brash young coach who quite literally was making a CPA’s salary somewhere on the gulf coast of Florida one year ago, even better. The two schools have never liked one another, but sometimes the crosstown rivalry got lost in the football vs. basketball focus of each. It would be nice to see the rivalry heat up with two cocky new coaches in town ready to trade barbs back and forth for the better part of the next decade. The Pac-12 microsite has a fantastic piece coming later today on this topic, and we highly encourage you to check it out in a few hours. Meanwhile, do you think the west coast media will bring up this quote to Steve Alford and his counterparts later today?
  3. Jumping back to the media days, all four leagues released their preseason choices to win the conference races and the standard other superlatives we typically expect this time of year. In the ACC, Duke was picked first with Syracuse’s CJ Fair chosen as the top player; over in the AAC, it was Louisville and Russ Smith. In the new-but-not-improved Big East, Marquette was the choice, with Creighton’s Doug McDermott as the player of the year. In the SEC, Kentucky and Julius Randle were the selections. From our perspective given what we know about these sorts of things, the media will be lucky if even half of these choices come in by March — there’s just too much variability and unpredictability at the conference level to make sterling predictions like these. The closest might be McDermott in the Big East, so long as he’s healthy all season, and Louisville to win the AAC. Beyond that? It’s hard to say anything is a lock.
  4. There was a period in the mid-1990s when Georgetown basketball, so feared and despised by so many in the 1980s, became the coolest thing around, in a retro sort of way. Sporting some of the best college basketball uniforms ever produced and an electrifying backcourt led by the unguardable Allen Iverson and his sidekick, Victor Page, the Hoyas became everything they hadn’t been during the previous era: fun, fast and perimeter-oriented. Bubba Chuck, of course, went on to an MVP award and great riches in the NBA, but Page, the Big East Tournament MVP in 1996 and Big East scoring champion in 1997, was never able to get there. As a result, Page has spent much of the last two decades in and out of correctional institutions for a series of petty and serious crimes, the most recent of which, a brutally violent assault against a Maryland woman, was described by Nathan Fenno in the Washington Times as the product of “one wasted opportunity after another.” Page has been charged with 33 crimes in the last 42 months (guilty of six, including the assault, for which he was sentences to 10 years in prison), but the clear lesson here is that young players with all the talent in the world still need to have realistic backup plans. Education, work, whatever. Because if there’s nothing else to live for, that allows the darkness to creep in.
  5. After that one, let’s finish today off with a good story. In an era of coaches working themselves to the bone with all the different CEO aspects of running a Division I college basketball program, the New York Times‘ Zach Schnobrun writes about the youngest D-I coach in the country, Wagner’s 29-year old Bashir Mason. Mason, it turns out, is finishing up a Master’s in elementary education at the school and the second-year head coach must complete 220 hours of classroom instruction to earn the degree. As a result, he spends five mornings and one afternoon a week at a local elementary school, working through reading comprehension and other practical exercises with kids who are too young to recognize that their teacher is a bit of a local celebrity. It’s a story about persistence and follow-through, and it’s one that Mason deserves to have heard. Here’s hoping that his team listens to him as intently as his six-year old students do — they’ll assuredly learn a thing or two about discipline and hard work.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.15.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 15th, 2013

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  1. We talked about the Arizona Red-Blue game yesterday, but while some exciting newcomers made their Wildcat debut at that event, one piece in particular still awaits his clearance. Zach Peters did not play in the intrasquad scrimmage, still sidelined as a matter of safety as the Kansas transfer works through the aftermath of five concussions over a 15-month period. While Sean Miller and the Wildcat program remain hopeful that Peters can turn into an impact player as a stretch-four on the potentially outside-shooting-starved squad, they’re making sure to bring him along in small steps, meaning that they won’t rush him back. Thus far, while Peters is practicing with the team in certain drills, he has not yet been cleared for actual contact.
  2. Speaking of contact, we’re going to step outside the strict bounds of the Pac-12 to check in with Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy, who is prematurely complaining about an officiating point of emphasis for this season, the attempt to penalize defenders for using their hands. This point of emphasis came down from the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, asking officials to call more fouls when a defender keeps a hand on an opponent, when a defender puts both hands on an opponent, or when the defender uses the arm bar. In the Pac-12, a conference that will share officiating oversight with Eustachy’s Mountain West this season, expect this new emphasis to have the biggest impact on programs like Washington, Oregon and Cal, three teams known for their aggressive, physical defense.
  3. Down in Los Angeles, there are a couple of new coaches in the city. Steve Alford replaces Ben Howland in the hot seat at UCLA, and there will be immediate expectations for a team that returns all but two contributors from last season. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports has five big questions for Alford to answer in his first season, but for my money the biggest question is related to his first one regarding Kyle Anderson. Rothstein asks if Anderson can guard small forwards, and while that is certainly a big part of the question marks surrounding Anderson, it is not the full story. Thus far, it appears Anderson is leading the competition to man the point on offense for the Bruins and, after playing off of the ball for most of his freshman campaign, it remains to be seen just how well the UCLA offense can click with the deliberate (the nickname Slo-Mo is not meant to be sarcastic) but talented sophomore manning the helm.
  4. Across town, new USC head coach Andy Enfield is continuing his hot start. He’s already lured in some transfers and beaten those hated Bruins in the battle for Jordan McLaughlin’s commitment, and he shows no signs of slowing down by notching another commitment this weekend. This time it was 6’10″ center Jabari Craig, an athletic center who, while raw offensively, could contribute immediately next season on the glass, in transition, and challenging shots in the middle.
  5. Lastly, we’ll head out to Utah where senior Renan Lenz has apparently jumped to the head of the class in the battle to replace Jason Washburn in the middle. After a disappointing first year in Salt Lake City in which the JuCo transfer earned only 8.6 minutes per game, Lenz has cut 20 pounds, tightened up his body, and improved his athleticism and speed. While guys like Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor are expected to take on the biggest roles in scoring the ball for the Utes, Lenz could turn into a solid contributor by running the floor and doing much of the dirty work in the halfcourt.
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