Marching to Vegas: Channeling Bill Walton, While Breaking Down The Halfway Mark

Posted by AMurawa on February 8th, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Halfway. The point in a journey when both the finish and start are equidistant and so there is no use in turning back. Onward we go because it’s a journey and, intrinsic to such, there is discovery. A path to the best version of ourselves so that at the conclusion we are prepared; ready for life beyond exploration. But as I said, we’re not there yet. Not even close. Our March to Vegas is no sinusoidal function. It’s exponential growth – rising, rising, rising – to what should culminate into something jaw-slacking, head scratching, and cold blooded. I know you believe me here because I know you were watching last night. You saw Larry Drew II drop the Dawgs and Roberson shock the Ducks and Cobbs give the Devils all they could handle. Pac-12 fans: Who’s got it better than us?

Bill Walton - So Bad, He's Good?

Bill Walton – So Bad, He’s Good?

Maybe Adam's Been Listening To Too Much Bill Walton; Maybe We All Have (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

Maybe Adam’s Been Listening To Too Much Bill Walton; Maybe We All Have (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

Back to this march, the one dragging us to 3/10 and a conclusion on Vegas seeding. That – as proven by Thursday’s games – will be a treat, a delightful treat, chock full of – are you ready for this word? – madness. Yup, I said it, madness. Get excited. And I’m getting ahead of myself because indeed this is a journey to the end. After all, one week ago Oregon was in the Top-10 and asserting themselves an unstoppable force. Today? Well now they find themselves in a three game rut with a broken point guard whose Duckpact (that’s what I call an impact player on Oregon’s roster) is becoming increasingly ominous. To say that Dana Altman and his team miss Dominic Artis would be to Kate Upton is cute. But things will be ok in Eugene.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.07.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 7th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. The Pac-12 week got started last night with a couple games, the headliner of which was the conference’s hottest team, Stanford, heading to Tucson to face the conference’s highest ranked team, Arizona. In advance of the game, the Wildcats got some bad news when it was announced that freshman forward Grant Jerrett would sit out the game as a precautionary measure due to some foot pain. Almost unbelievably, in sitting out, he became Arizona’s first player to miss a game this season due to injury. As for the game, the ‘Cats got away with running their thin front court out there, even as fellow freshmen Brandon Ashley fouled out in just 13 minutes and Kaleb Tarczewski was ineffective in 13 minutes of his own. In place of the three freshmen, sophomore big Angelo Chol got his most run of the year, playing 24 very effective minutes and grabbing a career-high eight boards as the Wildcats pulled away from a game Stanford team late. Chol probably earned himself some more minutes in the future, although Jerrett should be available to play on Sunday, per Sean Miller.
  2. The other game Wednesday night took place in Corvallis as Oregon State took out some of their frustrations on Utah in an 18-point win as Roberto Nelson and Joe Burton each continued their streaks of strong offensive basketball of late. But even with that win, Oregon State’s now 2-7 conference mark has some people claiming that head coach Craig Robinson is on the hot seat. While I would agree that now there are legitimate questions as to whether Robinson is the right guy to take this program to the next level, something drastic would have to happen for Robinson to not be coaching the Beavers next season. And, regardless of the current floundering state of the program, Robinson has given this program an identity that it didn’t have when he took over for Jay John. At some point, that’s going to have to translate into wins and a competitive Pac-12 team, but Robinson is in no immediate danger.
  3. As for Utah, as Pachoops’ Adam Butler wrote, despite their struggles this season and the occasional blowout, this is one of the unluckiest teams in the country, an idea substantiated by Ken Pomeroy’s luck measurement. While the Utes’ 10-12 record isn’t going to impress anybody, consider the fact that, putting aside their three blowout losses in conference, they’ve lost the remainder of their conference games by an average of less than a single old-fashioned two-point field goal. If and when the Utes’ begin to make better luck for themselves or get the fortunate bounce here or there that turns a one-point loss into a one-point win, the Utes could be in position to make some noise.
  4. Circling back around to that Arizona/Stanford game again, the Bill Walton Pac-12 bus tour dropped Grateful Red off in Arizona this week where he, among other thing, tipped off ESPN viewers to a little known basketball rule whereupon, if you hit anybody on the court in the face with the ball, he owes you a six-pack. I’m personally going to see how that flies on the playground this weekend. Elsewhere in the Grand Canyon State these past few days, Walton spent some time talking to students at both Arizona State on Tuesday and Arizona on Wednesday. And, at Arizona State, he spent about an hour talking to the Sun Devil basketball team and then later spent time talking to Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski one-on-one.
  5. Lastly, in recognition of national signing day in college football yesterday, we take a look at USC’s current recruiting status in… basketball? Actually, despite the fact that the Trojans are currently a team without a coach, USC’s presently has enough commitments to rank in the top 40 nationally in recruiting. However, that could still change because their top recruit, Kendal Yancy-Harris, the #77 player in ESPN’s top 100 list, has eased off of his commitment somewhat and is now considering ten other teams. Yancy-Harris may yet wind up in South L.A., but we won’t be sure until USC decides who their next coach is.
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VIII

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 4th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. remembering just how bad of an announcer Bill Walton is during the Washington-Arizona game on ESPN, and coming to the incredible conclusion that he might be even worse at college than he was with the NBA. In a two-hour span Bill managed to explain what a disgrace UCLA basketball is, mention Reggie Miller Night at Pauley Pavilion 10 (10!!) times, called a Seattle high school coach in attendance one of the great human rights leaders (no qualifications needed!) and declared one 20-second stretch “the worst possession in the history of Washington basketball.” Other comments may or may not have included forays into the Grateful Dead and Google Earth, but it was hard to catch it all. God bless crazy old legends who can still go on TV and say whatever crosses their mind.

Bill Walton - So Bad, He's Good?

Bill Walton – So Bad, He’s Good?

I LOVED…. a prime time top-5 Big Ten match-up that didn’t disappoint. Be honest – if I told you two premier Big 10 teams were facing off, you’d predict a final score of 53-50 (OK fine, 59-56). The point is, in past years these games have tended to earn a 9.5 on the snoozer scale and reinforced the conference’s slow, methodical, offensively-challenged reputation. Thus, an 81-73 Indiana win was a refreshing foray into the 21st Century and a boost of confidence that one of these teams will be in my Final Four bracket come March.

I LOVED…. Miami backing up its Duke win with very legit road win against an N.C. State team that refuses to conform to society’s expectations and beat teams that it actually should. For Miami, they definitely keep their current label as a dangerous, well-coached team that could be a sleeper pick in March. For State? Well, at some point you might just have to stop convincing yourself that they’re going to change.

I LOVED…. the completely-terrible-idea-should-have-just-dribbled-out-the-clock-but-got-excited-and-gave-the-losing-team-motivation-for-revenge dunk by Indiana’s Victor Oladipo. Also, if you’re looking for this year’s most ridiculous athlete, he might just be it. Check out this almost alley-oop that would have gone down as one of the year’s best slams.

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College Basketball By The Tweets: Bill Walton, Northern Illinois and the Rise Of Marshall Henderson

Posted by Nick Fasulo on January 30th, 2013

bythetweets

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Bill Walton Comedy Hour

There’s almost nothing better then the glee and unbridled joy Bill Walton spews into his microphone when calling a basketball game. Formerly an NBA-only announcer for ESPN, Walton has resurfaced this season calling Pac-12 games for the Worldwide Leader, and we’re all better for it. He’s a bit kooky, sure, but what’s most enjoyable about Walton is his unique ability to criticize and praise a player or coach with a positive tone of voice. Take Ben Howland, for example. While he’ll say it with a smile on his face, Walton is quick to judge the coach of his alma mater, and it was never more prevalent than last Thursday during the Bruins’ game against Arizona.

Drink. Drank. Drunk. Thanks, Bill.

Duke Gets Wrecked By Hurricanes

It feels like it happened eons ago, but we can’t forget that the Blue Devils were embarrassed by Miami last week, potentially turning Coach K’s team in to national championship pretenders and Jim Larranaga’s team into real ACC contenders.

You used to laugh at him, but perhaps an injury to one of Duke’s best players will define his worth as he watches from the sidelines.

Since Ryan Kelly went down with a busted foot, the Blue Devils are 2-2, and while that shouldn’t change the magnitude of the victory for The U, the annual rules of court rushing were brought to the Twitter table from the moment the game was all but over.

We all have our opinions on when this student celebration should and should not be warranted, but much like your fantasy football team, nobody else really cares to hear about it.

The Week of Marshall Henderson

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ACC M5: 12.19.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 19th, 2012

morning5_ACC

  1. Wilmington Star News: North Carolina State entered this season as the favorite to win the ACC, but a few shaky games and some tough losses gave fans reason to doubt if this team could live up to its lofty expectations. Now, dodging the question of whether or not these expectations were ever reasonable, the Wolfpack is starting to look like a real contender. In a victory Tuesday night over Stanford, the team’s four core veteran starters all scored over 15 points and looked cohesive. Though NCSU’s vaunted freshman class was mostly quiet while the veterans did their thing, the signs are clear that this squad could be very good by the time March rolls around.
  2. Fayetteville Observer:  Mark Gottfried has given his team quite a bit of UCLA flavor, drawing upon his experience as an assistant coach for the Bruins for nearly 10 years, but the rest of the staff brings over some of that same culture. Director of Operations Jeff Dunlap played for UCLA, as did the Director of Player Development Larry Farmer. Of course, while Dunlap played during Gottfried’s time in Los Angeles, Farmer represents a different era. His teams went 89-1 and won three NCAA titles as a player on the legendary John Wooden squads that featured Bill Walton and Sidney Wicks. Farmer would later coach at UCLA for a few seasons in the 1980s, but those seasons naturally pale before his place as a player on the greatest dynasty in men’s college basketball. I can’t speak for how effective Farmer is or will be at developing NC State players, but if his talent is anywhere close to his acumen in telling stories about partying with Bill Walton, then he will definitely be a substantial resource.
  3. Washington Post: Very quietly, the Maryland Terrapins have put together a nice 9-1 record, blemished only by a surprisingly close season-opening loss to Kentucky. Now, granted, since that game, the caliber of competition that Maryland has been playing has been somewhat lacking, yet a win over a George Mason team that beat Virginia, a blowout victory over Northwestern, and a collection of convincing landslide wins over the likes of Monmouth and South Carolina State paint the picture of a team that could be very good. Alex Len has gone from unknown foreign prospect to one of the top prospects in the NBA draft, yet, somehow, Maryland remains unranked. It’s a small thing, and something that doesn’t really concern the team that much, but don’t be surprised when Maryland starts popping up in the polls sooner rather than later.
  4. ESPN: Dexter Strickland was never a point guard. In high school he played at the wing and, in his own mind, he was always a combo guard. Yet in his college career at North Carolina, Strickland has often been used at the point, spelling Larry Drew II, Kendall Marshall, and now Marcus Paige as needed. Somehow, the defense-and-dribble-drive focused guard became a true point guard, and so far this season, Strickland ranks fourth in the ACC in assists per game. Though he still plays the bulk of his minutes at shooting guard, a combination of experience and a more cerebral  approach to the game have made him one of the better distributors in the conference, and an asset to the Tar Heels as a second ball-handler and playmaker alongside the freshman Paige.
  5. Syracuse Online: Michael Gbinije had a very brief career at Duke before transferring to Syracuse. Yet, because of the strange alignment of this particular historical moment, namely both Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim passing the 900-win threshold and the weirdness of conference realignment, means that Gbinije will have managed to play under the two winningest coaches in college basketball history as soon as Boeheim passes Bob Knight. He is also notable (or he will be notable) as being the only player in history to play on two separate ACC teams once Syracuse arrives in the league next season. I wouldn’t say this really means anything in particular, but it’s a nice weird footnote.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.12.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 12th, 2012

  1. The Pac-12 men’s basketball season got off to an inauspicious start before the first night of games even finished. It wasn’t because of a loss to a low-major school, though; rather, UCLA freshman sensation Shabazz Muhammad was ruled ineligible  before the Bruins took the court for their Pauley Pavilion opener against Indiana State (an eventual blowout victory). The relationship between financial advisor Benjamin Lincoln and the Muhammad family was not deemed to be close enough to warrant Lincoln paying for Muhammad’s visits to Duke and North Carolina. Baxter Holmes of the L.A. Times further reported that Muhammad could miss the first 10 games of the season before he is cleared to compete, according to NCAA reinstatement guidelines. While it certainly isn’t great news, there is perhaps at least a little more clarity on when Muhammad can play and, more importantly, that eventually he can play. If the L.A. Times article is correct, then Muhammad will at least be able to suit up for a couple of non-conference tilts before the Pac-12 slate gets underway in January. However, this means that he won’t be available for arguably the Bruins’ most important non-conference stretch in the Legends Classic against Georgetown and potentially Indiana.
  2. While Arizona State got off on the right foot with a 15-point victory over Central Arkansas on Saturday, the Sun Devils received some not-so-nice news when it was officially declared that freshman guard Calaen Robinson would not play this year. While the three-star recruit wasn’t nearly as highly touted as Jahii Carson, this is now two years in a row that an Arizona State freshman has had to sit out his first year in Tempe. No official reason was given for the decision, but Doug Haller of AZ Central reports that school police had confirmed they were investigating a matter that involved the freshman Robinson (no charges had been filed). He wouldn’t have started, but he could have added some depth in the backcourt with his reported quickness, good defense and nice shooting touch.
  3. On the bright side of things, the Pac-12 survived the first weekend of competition without suffering a bad loss. There were a couple of hairy moments (namely, Arizona sweating one out against Big South favorite Charleston Southern and the end of the Oregon State-New Mexico State game), but with it all said and done for the weekend, the Pac-12 is one of just two conferences in all of Division I (the Big 12 being the other) that can claim to be perfect through three days. And sure, the conference probably only beat three teams that have a chance of sniffing the RPI Top 100 (Stanford over USF, UCLA over Indiana State and Oregon State over New Mexico State), but it’s the first step in the right direction for a conference that has had such a bad competitive reputation around the country over the last three seasons.
  4. The best thing about the 2012-13 season is that you will have plenty of opportunities to watch Pac-12 basketball thanks to the advent of the Pac-12 Networks, which is set to broadcast 150 games, including eight Pac-12 Tournament contests. Bill Walton writes as much in his season primer for the Pac-12 website, sounding exuberant and hyperbolic as always. Out of all the talent hires the Pac-12 Networks made, signing up Walton was probably their best decision. Hearing the former UCLA great call somebody the best inbounds passer or best player at boxing out others in the conference will bring a smile to many a face all over the country. The dividends have already paid off, as we have seen all but UCLA on the Networks and all 12 teams have made a television appearance in the first weekend of play.
  5. A little bit of recruiting news came out late last week when Schuyler Rimmer announced that he was committing to Stanford. A 6’10’’, 255-pound center (according to his Scout profile), Rimmer will give the Cardinal another big body down low, something that looks like a necessity after watching Stanford give up 13 offensive rebounds to USF on Friday night. Originally a Florida commitment, the Orlando prospect becomes the third Stanford recruit in the Class of 2013, following in the footsteps of twin guards Marcus (a top-100 recruit) and Malcolm Allen out of Las Vegas. Of course, the Cardinal aren’t done on the recruiting trail as they hope to land the second-biggest fish in the pond in Jabari Parker, who at last word was likely to make a decision in December.
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Pac-12 M5: The Halloween Edition

Posted by KDanna on October 31st, 2012

  1. Happy Halloween, everyone. Arizona will treat its fans to an exhibition against Humboldt State tonight at the McKale Center. Exhibitions are usually for the die-hards, but probably more than a few casual fans will make their way over to the Tucson campus to catch a glimpse of the third-ranked recruiting class in action for the first time against somebody other than themselves. One question surrounding this class is whether it will be able to live up to the hype better than last year’s class. Remember how highly touted the trio of Nick Johnson, Josiah Turner and Angelo Chol were? All signs point to Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley  and Gabe York as able to deliver in a bigger way this season, but one can never be 100 percent certain until they perform in a game. This contest will also provide Wildcat supporters with a first look at point guard Mark Lyons in an Arizona uniform, as the mercurial senior averaged 15 points per game last year at Xavier. It’s also worth mentioning that the Wildcats lost their exhibition opener last year to Seattle Pacific, but I find it hard to believe that a similar result will be produced against Humboldt State on this night.
  2. The NCAA approved tougher sanctions against those programs and coaches who buck the NCAA law. A couple of the more striking provisions are that NCAA violators who are found to be in “serious breach of conduct” could potentially suffer similar punishments to the one handed out to the Penn State football team (a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine). Also, if an assistant coach commits a serious violation, the head coach must be able to prove that he or she was unaware of the assistant’s actions; if not, the head coach could be suspended for anywhere from 10 percent to the entire season. All changes will go into effect starting August 1, 2013. While the coaches who are quoted in the various articles seem to be largely in favor of these tougher sanctions, it obviously still remains to be seen how effective these changes will be. As has been the case throughout history, cheaters will find a way to continue their cheating ways. Hopefully these tougher penalties will accomplish the NCAA’s and everyone’s goal of a markedly cleaner collegiate athletics scene.
  3. Another day, another CBS Sports list. On Tuesday, it was the top 50 shooters in the country, a list that made space for three current Pac-12 players: Washington’s C.J. Wilcox (No. 11), California’s Allen Crabbe (No. 12) and Stanford’s Chasson Randle (No. 41). Additionally, former Husky and current Texas A&M Aggie Elston Turner made the cut at No. 19. No real gripes here, but perhaps Aaron Bright was also deserving of a nod, especially considering his play during the 2012 NIT, a five-game run that earned him NIT Most Outstanding Player honors. What’s noteworthy with this list is that 35 of the 50 players come from non-power conference schools, including representatives from Texas Pan-American and Texas Southern. For those not curious enough to check out the list, former Razorback-turned-Butler Bulldog Rotnei Clarke holds down the top spot.
  4. Earlier this week, ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan released his top 10 rebounders in the country, and Colorado’s André Roberson topped the list. We’re probably a little biased here at the Pac-12 microsite because we get to see Roberson play so often, but there’s no faulting Brennan for this selection. Roberson is an elite rebounder thanks to his hops, long arms and overall very high basketball IQ. There were spots during last year’s Pac-12 Tournament where Roberson looked like a future lottery pick, especially when he started to knock down a few threes. He certainly has that kind of upside, and big things are expected again of the only guy in the Pac-12 to average a double-double last season. There were no freshmen in Brennan’s top 10, but Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett of Arizona both made his “freshmen to watch” mentions.
  5. Lastly, the Pac-12 announced its talent lineup for the Pac-12 Networks’ men’s basketball coverage for the upcoming season. Headlined by Bill Walton, other analysts include Don MacLean, Ernie Kent, Lenny Wilkens and Detlef Schrempf. The play-by-play lineup doesn’t necessarily include as many big names, but all are very good broadcasters and will not disappoint viewers. The most famous of the play-by-play guys is probably Ted Robinson, a two-time Emmy winner who has done just about every sport imaginable. Overall, it’s a very intriguing lineup of broadcasters and it should keep Pac-12 Networks broadcasts for men’s basketball entertaining.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 8th, 2012

  1. We’re back to do the Morning Five five days a week again, with an eye towards games tipping off just over a month from now. However, for many Pac-12 fans around the country, the question of how and where to watch many of the basketball games this season remains a big question mark. The Pac-12 Networks have been live for months now, but many television viewers, particularly customers of the nation’s largest satellite television provider, DirecTV, are still shut out. The conference and DirecTV have been going back and forth since late August over terms of a proposed deal, but with football season chugging along and basketball on its way, it appears likely that DirecTV is ready to be stubborn as long as necessary in the hopes that the Pac-12 caves. Jon Wilner is as good of a go-to guy as there is on this topic, and he not only sees through DirecTV’s fact-challenged statements and loaded proposals, but fully expects that any changes to the situation are not readily approaching. In other words, if you’re a Pac-12 basketball fan and you’ve still got DirecTV, it is time to explore other options.
  2. After Reggie Moore’s promising freshman season, it looked like Washington State was not going to skip a beat after the graduation of Taylor Rochestie. However, after lackluster sophomore and junior campaigns that failed to ever show serious improvement over his rookie year, Moore was dismissed from the Cougar basketball team, as we detailed a couple weeks back. To put a bow on Moore’s WSU career, the mercurial point guard sent a statement to columnist Vince Grippi at The Spokesman-Review, owning up to an unnamed “costly mistake” that led to his dismissal and apologizing to the university and its fans. He’s still in school working towards a degree, with eyes on a future in basketball at some level. These kinds of things always have that bittersweet feel to them. On one hand, you hate to see a collegiate career end like this, but on the other, given the fact that Moore has had some disciplinary problems during his time at Pullman, you hope he uses this event as a wake-up call to get his act together. He’s been a frustrating player to watch over the last couple of years, but at this point, I’m sure there are many Pac-12 fans, including this writer, who are hoping for Moore to make the best of a bad situation.
  3. Another veteran Pac-12 player’s senior season is over before it even began. In Thursday’s Morning Five we mentioned that 7’6” center David Foster of Utah reinjured the same foot that kept him out of action last year and will have to undergo surgery that will keep him on the sideline again this year. But, rather than disappear into the ether, on the sidelines is exactly where Foster will stay. Citing the strong chemistry between the largely new roster in Salt Lake City, Foster will sit on the bench during games and do whatever he can to help out the young team, albeit in a non-playing role. Foster still hopes to have his foot recover well enough so that Utah’s all-time lead in blocked shots can pursue a professional basketball career overseas.
  4. We’ll have a more comprehensive recruiting post later in the week, but we wanted to mention Tad Boyle’s latest signings at Colorado. After getting a commitment from 6’5” three-star wing Tre’Shaun Lexing at the end of September, last week Boyle got a commitment from 6’8” power forward Dustin Thomas out of Texarkana, Texas. Thomas is a four-star talent according to ESPN, a skilled big man capable of playing the pick and pop game or defending and rebounding inside. Along with guard Jaron Hopkins, these two make for a strong three-man class already for the Buffs, which is getting to be a habit for Boyle. Boyle credits the fact that he has been able to consistently send guys off from Boulder to play professionally as part of the reason for his recent success on the recruiting trail. With former Buff Alec Burks entering his second season in the NBA and with six of the seven graduating seniors over the last two years playing professionally somewhere (the lone non-pro is Trey Eckloff, who is pursuing a law degree), Boyle can certainly sell the fact that four years in Boulder preps basketball players for professional careers.
  5. Lastly, it was announced last week that former UCLA great Bill Walton has agreed to a book deal. The book will be named Back From the Dead, and knowing Walton’s history, not only in Westwood, but including his high school career in San Diego, his injury-riddled professional career including a tumultuous time in Portland and his off-the-court adventures in and around the counterculture, this is going to be a must-read. Pac-12 fans will get plenty of chances this season to reacquaint themselves with Walton, as he has agreed to work with both ESPN and the Pac-12 Networks in doing color commentary on Pac-12 games.
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Morning Five: 08.30.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2012

  1. Is before college football kicks off too early for the 2012-13 All-America team to come out? Not if you’re the bible of preseason college basketball, the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. Chris Dortch, its longtime editor-in-chief, tweeted out the annual’s five selections for next season’s individual honors. The recipients are Florida State’s Michael Snaer and Louisville’s Peyton Siva at the guard slots, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas as the forwards, and Indiana’s Cody Zeller at center (the cover featuring all five players is shown here). We’ll break these selections down a little more later today but some notable omissions on the first team are Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, Michigan’s Trey Burke, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, North Carolina’s James McAdoo, and NC State’s CJ Leslie, among many others.
  2. Speaking of college football, tonight represents the start of the gridiron season as we head into Labor Day Weekend. And as everyone reading these words knows, Labor Day Weekend represents the beginning of fall. And fall means Midnight Madness really isn’t very far away — 43 days to be exact. Many schools have had their events scheduled for a while, but Pittsburgh has decided to shake the negativity off of last year’s disappointing season by doing something completely different. The Panthers have not hosted a Madness event since 2003, but to celebrate the school’s 225th anniversary and Homecoming weekend, Pitt is planning on building an outdoor “arena” and holding court under the stars. In the case of rain or a particularly bad cold snap (not unheard of in western Pennsylvania that time of year), the event will move indoors. But given the huge success of last year’s Carrier Classic playing a real game streetball style, we hope that this thing goes off without a hitch. Maybe someday this trend will result in real games hosted from Rucker Park to the Venice Beach asphalt — all the guys who grew up watching the And-1 mix tapes can dream, right?
  3. It’s not very often, well, ever, that we get a tip about something called the “Jewish Dwight Howard.” Yet that very email dropped into our inbox yesterday and, sure enough, Northwestern announced on Wednesday that it was adding a preferred walk-on by the name of Aaron Liberman to its roster. The 6’10” big man hails from California but spent last year in Israel, and will now join a Wildcat front line that boasts five players 6’8″ or bigger. Despite choosing to walk on for Bill Carmody, he received interest from a number of schools including Boston College, USC, Pepperdine, and Yale. Whatever the case, we can’t wait to see Liberman, replete with his yarmulke on top of his head, enter a game next season. Let’s hope that his college career turns out a little better than Tamir Goodman, the “Jewish Jordan,” did 10 years ago.
  4. While on the subject of big men, we realize that this is not going to be a popular position for many basketball fans, but the Pac-12 Networks announced its hoops schedule of over 150 games next season along with the caveat that Bill Walton will return as a color analyst after two years away from the business. He will also do some Pac-12 games for ESPN from time to time. Love him or hate him, Big Red has a certain giddy excitement and accompanying way with words that is utterly unique to him and him alone, and for that reason, we’re excited to have him back in the fold. Now… about figuring out where on our cable package the P12 Network actually resides…
  5. Indiana’s Tom Crean took a considerable amount of heat earlier this week for his (mis)handling of scholarships that resulted in fifth-year senior Matt Roth losing his scholarship from the school. With a top recruiting class entering Bloomington, Roth ended up as the odd man out heading into next season. But in an interview that Roth gave to Peegs.com earlier this week, Roth quite clearly stated that he had no hard feelings against Crean and had been completely aware dating back to the end of last season that losing his spot was a distinct possibility. While it’s great that Roth feels like he was informed, that doesn’t make Crean’s decision to recruit over him any more tolderable. Yes, college basketball is big business, and yes, players are not guaranteed four-year scholarships… but, does that make it right? Every coach in America gets 13 scholarships to play with — if he can’t win with 12 spots filled with elite talent, he’s not going to win.
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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 07.20.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on July 20th, 2012

  1. Last year, the Pac-12 and the Big Ten announced plans to enter into a scheduling partnership with each other, with each school in each conference expected to play one annual game against the opposing conference in football and basketball. However, as has become the norm, football had to ruin everything for the basketball side of things. With the Pac-12 committed to a nine-game football schedule, and with teams on both sides wanting the freedom to schedule a sufficient number of cupcakes, the conferences found out that they just couldn’t get things done and scrapped their plans for a scheduling partnership. Unfortunately, the basketball baby got thrown out with the football bathwater, as plans to increase games between the two conferences in roundball have been scrapped as well. This is why we can’t have nice things.
  2. After several years of debilitating spinal problems, former UCLA great Bill Walton will be back behind the mic for ESPN this fall, calling an as-yet-undetermined number of Pac-12 games next season. Five years ago he collapsed due to his spine problems and thought that his “life was over.” But, after several successful surgeries, Walton is back up and ready to start over. While he’s not everyone’s cup of tea as the color man, he cracks me the hell up and certainly never takes himself or the game more seriously than it needs to be taken. Welcome back Bill!
  3. It was a great year for recruiting in the Pac-12 as UCLA and Arizona both scored top five recruiting classes in 2012. But the 2013 class is even more highly regarded and Pac-12 teams are involved with numerous highly-ranked recruits. One of the best of those, San Jose’s Aaron Gordon, confirmed yesterday that Arizona and Washington are his top two choices, with speculation running rampant that it is Washington’s race to lose. The Huskies remain in the hunt for other elite recruits like Jabari Bird and Isaac Hamilton and head coach Lorenzo Romar has staked a lot on landing a big recruiting class in 2013.
  4. The Pac-12’s crown jewel of that 2012 recruiting class is UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, but his Bruin career got off to a rough start as he sprained his ankle playing in a pickup game following his very first workout with the team. Muhammad has been sitting out ever since, but is expected back in action in plenty of time to take part in the team’s August trip to China. That’s key, since head coach Ben Howland has been pointing toward that trip as a chance to jump start the year and get his new pieces all on the same page prior to the start of the regular season.
  5. We’ve discussed that Utah recently released an underwhelming 2012-13 non-conference schedule, but for head coach Larry Krystkowiak, that schedule is all part of a rebuilding process. After a 6-25 year, the Utes are still in the middle of remaking their roster in order to get back to a place where they can compete at a high level again. Despite a host of new players, nobody sees the Utes’ current roster consisting of guys who are going to do that. But with the chance to score some early victories against manageable competition and develop some confidence in their young roster, Krystkowiak and company hope that this weak schedule will get the Utes off on the right foot. Meanwhile, the Utes have committed to restarting their series with Utah State in 2014 after two years off, but Krystkowiak hasn’t been shy about admitting that he’d rather skip the dangerous Aggies whenever possible. However, he did suggest the possibility of a four-team tournament at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City featuring the four Division I programs in the state: Utah, Brigham Young, Utah State, and Weber State. Yes, please.
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Pac-12 Basketball Fantasy League: Recapping Round One

Posted by Connor Pelton on June 2nd, 2012

In an attempt to pass time throughout the long summer months without basketball, eight Pac-12 writers will be attempting something different this offseason. Beginning this week, the following Pac-12 writers (in first round drafting order) will participate in a fantasy style snake draft of the all-time Pac-12 players and coaches:

1. Andy Wooldridge (Building the Dam)
2. Jack Follman (Pacific Takes)
3. Ben Knibbe (UW Dawg Pound)
4. Connor Pelton (Rush the Court)
5. Drew Murawa (Rush the Court)
6. Mark Sandritter and Jeff Nusser (CougCenter)
7. Adam Butler (Pachoops)
8. David Piper (Addicted to Quack)

The purposes of the fantasy league are: (1) to determine the top 80 players and eight coaches to have ever played/coached for a current Pac-12 school, and (2) to have fun and pass time throughout the long summer months without anything but MLB and soccer. The only guidelines for the draft are that a coach must have been a HEAD COACH at a current Pac-12 school to be eligible, while players have had to PLAYED at a current school to be eligible. After the draft, all eight teams will be placed into a bracket and will advance based on a vote by you, the readers. So far, one round of the draft is complete. We recap it below.

Round One

#1 (Andy Wooldridge) – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Lew Alcindor, Center, UCLA

No question on this one. Two-time Player of the Year, three-time First Team All-American, three National Championships, and three NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player awards make Abdul-Jabbar/Alcindor an easy choice at number one.

Lew Alcindor is Our Overall #1 Pick

#2 (Jack Follman) – Bill Walton, Center, UCLA

Walton’s accomplishments are very similar to that of Abdul-Jabbar’s. Walton was named Player of the Year twice, was a three-time First Team All-American, and won a pair of National Championships. While Jabbar was a no-doubter at number one, Walton was the easy second choice.

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Pac-12 Mount Rushmore

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2012

The history of this conference is pretty lopsided. UCLA has won 11 national championships while all the other schools in the conference combine for five titles with no other school winning more than one. UCLA has been to 18 Final Fours; Arizona and Utah are a distant second with four appearances. As such, you can expect the faces on the Pac-12 Mount Rushmore to be heavily skewed to the blue and gold. In fact, the argument could be made that the Bruins deserve all four spots on the monument to Pac-12 basketball. But, since the Arizona schools joined the conference in 1978, things have tightened up considerably, as UCLA has only won a single national title since then, appearing in just five Final Fours. Still, this is a monument to the history of the sport, and there is little doubt that you can name the first three names on this list without giving it another moment’s thought; they are icons of the game we love. And really, the fourth spot here seems to be a no-brainer also, although there are some interesting people that finish just off the mountain. To the list:

  • John Wooden, Coach, UCLA (1948-75) – As the head coach at UCLA for 27 seasons, the Wizard of Westwood’s teams of the sixties and early seventies have become the gold standard by which other great sports dynasties are judged. There are the ten championships in the course of 12 years, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. There are four perfect 30-0 seasons included in that span and a NCAA record 88-game winning streak. Still, aside from all that, Wooden is known not just as a great basketball coach, but as a great teacher. His Pyramid of Success is more of a life lesson than anything specific to basketball and he was known for his inspirational lectures and sayings which apply not only to success in basketball, but success in life.
  • Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Center, UCLA (1966-69) – During Alcindor’s three seasons at UCLA, his team won 88 games, lost just two and took home three straight national championships. He was literally a game-changing athlete (the NCAA banned the dunk in 1967 in part due to his dominant use of the shot) who won the National Player of the Year award in both his sophomore and senior seasons (Elvin Hayes won in 1968) and was the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament in all three of his seasons. Alcindor played at a time when freshman were ineligible for varsity competition, but in 1966 Alcindor led the UCLA freshman team to a 75-60 victory over the varsity team in an exhibition to open Pauley Pavilion. More than forty years after he played his final collegiate game, Alcindor is still widely regarded as the greatest college basketball player of all time. Read the rest of this entry »
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