Pac-12 Early Entry Decisions: Winners and Losers

Posted by AMurawa on April 28th, 2014

With Sunday night’s early-entry deadline come and gone, programs have now gotten past one potential source of damage to their rosters. Kids can still announce their transfers or get in trouble or get hurt, so the names on these rosters can still remain in a state of flux, but below we’ll discuss the winners and losers in the conference after the going pro pothole has passed.

Winners

Arizona – It’s not often that you can call a team that lost two players to early entry a winner, but the fact is, the Wildcats lose Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson, but guys like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley passed on the temptation of the NBA to return for another year in the desert. Of the two who left, there was little surprise, as Gordon is a sure-fire lottery pick while Johnson played well enough this season to probably maximize his attractiveness to NBA scouts (he’s projected as a second-rounder). Meanwhile, Hollis-Jefferson in particular was a serious threat to leave early, with a likely first-round selection awaiting. However, with his return to Tucson, he’ll have a chance to not only improve his draft stock, but also keep the Wildcats near the top of the national conversation.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's Decision to Return To School Keeps Arizona Among The National Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s Decision to Return To School Keeps Arizona Among The National Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Oregon – Joseph Young considered forgoing his final season of eligibility for a run at the NBA dream, but the 6’3” shooter likely got word back from scouts to return to school, work on his ballhandling and start playing some defense. As a result, Young will again be a part of what should be a high-flying Duck offense and have a chance to legitimately work himself into NBA Draft consideration next season.

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Pac-12 Post-Mortems: Arizona

Posted by AMurawa on April 25th, 2014

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Arizona.

What Went Right

With freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson stepping into roles as big-time contributors right away, with Nick Johnson taking his game to a higher – and more consistent – level, with sophomores Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Gabe York making huge strides in their second seasons, and with T.J. McConnell tying everything together as the team’s consummate floor general, this vintage of the Wildcats came together about as well as Sean Miller could have hoped. Sure, there was plenty of talent on this team. But what made this group a great unit is their ability to function together seamlessly. Defensively, they always had one another’s backs, combining to form the year’s most fearsome defensive squad. And on the offensive end, everybody bought into their roles and found ways to complement each other. Indeed, this 2013-14 group of Wildcats exemplified the word “team” as well as any college basketball squad in the country.

The 2013-14 Wildcats Exemplified The Word Team (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

The 2013-14 Wildcats Exemplified The Word Team (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

What Went Wrong

A whole lot went right in Tucson this season, but if we wanted to pinpoint one thing that went wrong, we’d jump straight to February 1st in Haas Pavilion, where in the opening minutes of a clash with California, Ashley landed awkwardly following a shot and wound up with a broken foot that ended his season. While Miller was able to rejigger his lineup on the fly and keep the Wildcats among the best teams in the nation, there will forever be questions about what could have been without that simple twist of fate in Berkeley.

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Ten Most Pivotal Moments of the 2013-14 Season

Posted by Bennet Hayes on April 16th, 2014

Within every 40 minutes of college basketball, there is a moment or two that sets a tone, shifts momentum, or otherwise dictates the game’s final result. If we think bigger picture, we’ll notice that the five-month college basketball season is also shaped by a number of similarly formative moments. We may not always know their full significance at the time, but these moments conspire to transform the course of a season. In 2013-14, these were those 10 moments – some occurring inside the lines, others far away from the hardwood – that proved most pivotal to the season’s final snapshot.

UConn Felled Florida Back In December In What Would Turn Out To Be The First Installment Of Many  Napier Clutch Shots

UConn Felled Florida Back In December In What Would Turn Out To Be The First Installment Of Many Napier Clutch Shots

  • 10. Tyler Ennis Downs Pitt at the Horn (February 12). The Syracuse freshman’s memorable game-winner extended the Orange’s inspiring perfect start, but might it have ended up wounding both teams? Pitt would never really find its way over the hump, while Syracuse’s continued chase of perfection may have shielded a few critical flaws that would later cause its sharp downfall.
  • 9. Scottie Wilbekin Returns From Five-Game Suspension (November 25). A solid performance (12 points, seven assists, three steals) in a rout of Atlantic Sun also-ran Jacksonville was just the beginning of a redemptive season for Wilbekin, who overcame offseason turmoil to become the unquestioned leader and MVP of a team that, for the better part of 2014, played at a far loftier level than any other squad in the country.
  • 8. Wichita State Comes Back Against Missouri State (January 11). Shockermania hadn’t yet grown into the hysteria it would become, but Wichita State overcame a 19-point second half road deficit in the most improbable of their season-opening 35 victories. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 25th, 2014

morning5

  1. Syracuse fans might not be happy about it, but yesterday ACC commissioner John Swofford said that the ruling on the C.J. Fair charge play was a “judgement call” and would not be reviewed formally by the conference. Seth Davis talked to Tony Greene, the official in the middle of the controversy, and while Greene would not directly discuss the call it appears that he feels that he made the right call. The more interesting part of Greene’s comments are that when Fair got the ball Greene was already anticipating the drive and possible contact. Some might consider that being well-prepared, but others might view it as making a judgment before the play actually happens.
  2. At this point we have heard enough about this call and Jim Boeheim‘s reaction to it discussed to the point where we probably won’t even read another column about it, but the one thing that we are interested and haven’t heard discussed much is how people would have reacted if it had been Fair reacting the way that Boeheim did. This is something that we mentioned earlier this year when Fran McCaffery threw his temper tantrum and it is something that was touched upon during yesterday’s CBS College Basketball podcast: we tend to let college basketball get away with worse public behavior than nearly any other  sporting figure. Next time you are at a college basketball game take a little time to watch how the coaches are reacting and if you are close enough listen to what they say (cover the ears of any young children nearby). Can you imagine any other situation in which that behavior is acceptable?
  3. Speaking of Fran McCaffery, he is the latest coach to tell his Iowa players to get off Twitter at least for the rest of the season. Some might paint this as McCaffery joining the ranks of Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo in their general distaste for the platform, but it is more likely a reaction to Zach McCabe‘s tweet in response to some critical fans. As we said before we don’t agree with the idea that players cannot handle the “pressure” of social media, but when your players cannot act appropriately on the platform you are forced to step in.
  4. We are getting to the point in the season where some fan bases are looking forward to offseason so the head coaches of their teams can be fired. Dan Hanner took a more nuanced look at how long coaches typically last utilizing a Kaplan-Meier survival curve. His analysis suggests that coaches are most likely to get fired after three seasons so if your least favorite head coach is not there yet you might want to temper your hopes. Hanner also takes a look at which coaches might be most likely and least likely to be fired this off-season so if you are hoping for your coach to be fired it is definitely worth checking out.
  5. Following the loss of Brandon Ashley some analysts essentially wrote Arizona off as a national title contender. We even remember hearing that one Pac-12 coach reportedly said that the Wildcats were a Sweet 16 team without him. Nobody would argue that Arizona is not worse without Ashley in the lineup, but the question is how much worse are the Wildcats. We cannot necessarily look at their offensive and defensive numbers in the two periods because the post-Ashley period has been so brief that we do not have reliable sample sizes to work with so Ken Pomeroy took a look at how they performed as a team overall after Ashley was injured compared to their expected and it turns out that they were not that far off. Now this should obviously be interpreted with a somewhat similar caveat about sample size, but it shows that the Wildcats overall performance during this brief stretch might be closer to being a national title favorite than some people are giving them credit for.
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Breaking Down the Seven Pac-12 Teams with Tournament Hopes

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on February 24th, 2014

Way back before the start of the season, I made the bold prediction that seven Pac-12 teams would wind up in the NCAA Tournament. Some three months later, we’re looking at six teams that can be confident in packing their bags for the Big Dance, while that lucky number seven is still a strong possibility. After a busy week in the conference, below we’ll go through the teams that still have NCAA at-large aspirations, checking in on where they stand both on the court and in terms of their NCAA hopes.

It Has Taken Some Time For Arizona To Recalibrate, But The Talent Level Here Is Still Great (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

It Has Taken Some Time For Arizona To Recalibrate, But The Talent Level Here Is Still Great (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

Arizona – On Wednesday night, as UCLA was putting the hammer down at California and Arizona was getting fortunate bounces in order to pull out a win at Utah, the sentiment that “UCLA is the best team in this conference” was not an insane statement to make. The Bruins’ impressive collection of talent is congealing nicely in time for the sport’s money month, but remember that Arizona is continuing to rack up wins, starting to adjust to playing without Brandon Ashley, and is still one of the best and most versatile defensive teams in recent history. That isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Sean Miller’s club will continue to make things very difficult for its opponents’ attempts to put the ball in the bucket (only four times in 27 games have they given up more than one point per possession), while their offense will readjust to life without Ashley. This team doesn’t have the offensive upside that it had with their 6’9” big man in the lineup, but things are beginning to get recalibrated, as their 88-point explosion against Colorado on Saturday evening showed. Sure, the Buffaloes are a bad defensive team right now, but that was still the best any team has performed against them all season. The Wildcats just took them apart, getting buckets in transition, getting easy looks at the rim in the halfcourt, and even knocking in eight threes (at a 47% clip) to dominate the Buffs. Oh, and you want one more statistic that sums up just how thoroughly the Wildcats broke Colorado’s spirit? There were about 20 times in the game when, following a Buffaloes’ made basket, the Wildcats took at least 10 seconds off the shot clock. The Wildcats’ eFG% in those 20 possessions? 84.4%, per the great website hoop-math.com. So, basically, Colorado scored, Arizona brought the ball upcourt, worked its offense, and regularly negated the Buffaloes’ previous score. Demoralizing.

NCAA Seeding Outlook: Arizona is still very much in the conversation for a #1 seed, and its remaining schedule is favorable (Cal/Stanford, at Oregon/Oregon State), with every remaining game winnable. Questions about depth may make Arizona something other than the favorite to win the Pac-12 Tournament, so let’s chalk them up for a loss at some point in Las Vegas. And let’s say they go 3-1 in their remaining regular season games. That puts them at something like 28 or 29 wins against four losses, but with all four coming without Ashley. One could see an argument for dropping them to a #2 because of it, but odds remain strong that these Wildcats are a #1 seed come Selection Sunday.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.19.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 19th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. So, late on Monday night I am navigating my way through the college basketball hub on ESPN.com, and I find this piece with different writers making predictions for the rest of the season that will either make them look smart or stupid. About a quarter of the way down the page is the headline “Take notice of the champs… and Oregon State“. John Gasaway’s “prediction that will make him look stupid” is centered around the Beavers upsetting UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament championship, giving the program its first trip to the Big Dance since 1990. Stupid or not, a prediction is a prediction, and Oregon State fans will take it. Also included in this predictions post is C.L. Brown’s prognostication that Arizona will not receive a one seed for that NCAA Tournament. With four of its final six on the road and its performance without Brandon Ashley not exactly inspiring, this isn’t a bad pick.
  2. Joe Lunardi released his latest edition of Bracketology on Monday, and the Wildcats remain as a #1 seed in his projections. UCLA follows as a #5 seed, and then four Pac-12 teams (Stanford, Arizona State, California, and Colorado) are represented on the #9 and #10 lines. John Templon released his NIT projections as well earlier this week, and Oregon, Washington, Oregon State, and Utah appear in that field.
  3. Shortly after we talked to you on Monday morning, both the AP and Coaches polls were released and saw Arizona drop two spots to #4 after falling at Arizona State last Friday. The only other team to appear inside the Top 25 were the Bruins after their sweep of Colorado and Utah, but both Arizona State and Cal appear in the “Also Receiving Votes” section. Click here to check out Rush the Court‘s weekly rankings, where the Cats once again appear at fourth, the Bruins take 22nd, and Arizona State comes in at #29.
  4. Stanford guard Aaron Bright will be transferring to St. Mary’s and be eligible to play immediately next season in Moraga. The senior appeared in seven games this season for the Cardinal before dislocating his right shoulder during a late November practice. In order to be able to play immediately, Bright has to find a graduate degree program that is offered by St. Mary’s and not by Stanford. According to this tweet, the Gaels have at least three of those; Kinesiology, an MA in Leadership, and an MFA in Creative Writing. Oh, and Australian Basketball Recruiting.
  5. I must warn you, the next link is a bit disturbing. Coaches at both Arizona and Arizona State are proposing the ridiculous notion that Pac-12 court rushes be prevented, possibly by as soon as next season. Sean Miller thinks the situation is a threat to the visiting team’s safety and inconveniences them when trying to get back to the locker room after the game is over. My thoughts? Who cares if you have to wait by the bench for a few extra minutes after the buzzer sounds? Have security in place like the ACC does to surround the staff and players, and let the kids have their fun on the floor.
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Pac-12 Roundup: Week 14

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) and Drew Murawa (@AMurawa) on February 18th, 2014

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the 14th week of Pac-12 basketball. 

Power Rankings (as voted upon by Connor Pelton and Andrew Murawa)

T1. Arizona State (19-6, 4 Points). Comment: “Is Arizona State even an accredited university? Or is it like DeVry?” – Jordan Majewski (@jorcubsdan)

T1. UCLA (20-5, 4 Points). Comment: “UCLA student section chanting “one more year” to Zach LaVine. I’m guessing NBA scouts want in on that chant too.” - Drew Murawa (@AMurawa)

T1. Arizona (23-2, 4 Points). Comment: “He touched the rim. RT @jskarp Sean Miller should be a delight after this game.” – Kevin Danna (@Kevo408)

Senior Guard Jermaine Marshall Celebrates After Knocking Off #2 Arizona On Friday (credit: Matt York)

Senior Guard Jermaine Marshall Celebrates After Knocking Off #2 Arizona On Friday (credit: Matt York)

4. Colorado (19-7, 5 Points). Comment: “Someone is SKIing in Los Angeles right now.” – Adam Butler (@pachoopsab)

5. California (17-8, 8 Points). Comment: “California escapes for an 80-76 overtime win in Pullman and avoids losing to the two worst teams in the conference.” - Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28)

T6. Oregon (16-8, 14 Points). Comment: “You want to know how well Oregon is playing? I don’t even have anything bad to say about Waverly Austin.” – Matt Daddy (@mattdaddysblog)

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Pac-12 M5: 02.17.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 17th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. With wins over Marquette, Colorado, California, and Arizona, Arizona State and head coach Herb Sendek think the Sun Devils are an NCAA Tournament team. They currently boast a Top 30 RPI rank, putting them on the right side of the bubble at the moment. The schedule doesn’t get any easier, however, after topping second-ranked Arizona. Four of their final six regular season games will be played away from Tempe, and the two at home are both against teams that currently sit in the top half of the Pac-12 standings.
  2. Oregon used two huge separate runs of 20-2 and 12-3 to propel itself to a Civil War victory on Sunday afternoon against Oregon State, keeping the Ducks slim hopes of dancing alive. The Ducks came out white hot, hitting their first seven attempts from behind the three-point arc. The Beavers did a good job of battling back to keep the game tight but could never get the deficit to below two. 
  3. Oregon is currently not even in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament following its 4-8 start to Pac-12 play, but that can change with a 5-1 finish to the season. Arizona is still a #1 seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of Bracketology, but the Wildcats need to show that they can win on the road without Brandon Ashley in order to stay there. UCLA is the second highest ranked team in the conference, coming in as a #6 seed, and in an interesting twist, the #10 seed line is chalk full with Pac-12 teams. ColoradoArizona StateCalifornia, and Stanford are all ten seeds in Lunardi’s projections, with the Buffaloes being listed as one of the last four teams to receive a bye.
  4. The Buffs dropped four out of their first five games after losing their best player, Spencer Dinwiddie, to a torn ACL on January 12 at Washington. Since then, however, Colorado has turned the tables and won four of its last five games, lifting them to the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Andy McDonnell takes a look at how it is settling into life without Dinwiddie in this piece. The Buffaloes have had to rely on some young guys, namely forwards Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson, to get back to their winning ways, and the production will need to continue this week against the Arizona schools.
  5. This feature takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon, who is widely projected as a lottery pick for the 2014 NBA draft. The praise comes despite some massive struggles from three-point range and the free throw line, where the forward is shooting at 30 and 40% clips, respectively. His strong defensive fundamentals and high athleticism more than make up for his recent shooting struggles in the eyes of professional scouts, however, and as long as he continues to work on his shot, he will be selected high in late June.
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Pac-12 Roundup: Week 13

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on February 12th, 2014

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the 13th week of Pac-12 basketball. 

Power Rankings (as voted upon by Connor Pelton, Andrew Murawa, and Adam Butler)

Arizona is once again the unanimous number one in our weekly power rankings, but no team beyond them is completely agreed upon. Check the results below to see the jumbled mess that is the Pac-12.

Sophomore Forward Xavier Johnson Averaged 23.5 PPG And Propelled Colorado To A Weekend Sweep (credit: Ron Chenoy)

Sophomore Forward Xavier Johnson Averaged 23.5 PPG And Propelled Colorado To A Weekend Sweep (credit: Ron Chenoy)

  1. Arizona (23-1, 3 Points)
  2. Arizona State (18-6, 7 Points)
  3. UCLA (18-5, 8 Points)
  4. Colorado (18-6, 14 Points)
  5. Stanford (15-7, 15 Points)
  6. California (15-8, 18 Points)
  7. Utah (16-7, 20 Points)
  8. Oregon State (13-10, 25 Points)
  9. Oregon (15-8, 27 Points)
  10. Washington (13-11, 30 Points)
  11. Washington State (9-14, 33 Points)
  12. USC (10-13, 35 Points)

Best Game – Oregon @ Arizona: While Arizona State saw one game go to overtime and another featuring a 23-point comeback, the excitement on Thursday night in Tucson was unmatched throughout the league in week 13. Desperate for a win, Oregon came out firing on all cylinders, answering each of #2 Arizona’s mini-runs and eventually taking a 38-37 lead into the locker room at the half. The Ducks opened up a lead as big as seven in the second half but went dry down the stretch, an all-too-familiar scene for their fans. The Wildcats outscored the visitors 13-7 in the final five minutes to escape with a 67-65 win, lifting them to a 22-1 record on the season. Junior guard Nick Johnson led all scorers with 18 points in the victory, while Joseph Young and Jason Calliste paced Oregon with 14 apiece. With the sweep of the Oregon schools, the Cats remain as a solid one seed, while Oregon’s winless trip to the desert puts them on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. With its high RPI, Oregon can still steal an at-large bid, but it needs to find a way to pull out these close games in the final month of the season. Five of its eight losses have come by four points or less, with four coming by two.

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Pac-12 M5: 2.12.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 12th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. So, after a week without Brandon Ashley, one thing has become pretty clear for Arizona: Odds are good that the injured big man will be back for his junior campaign in the desert. He told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman recently that it is very likely he’ll be back in Tucson next season instead of pursuing an NBA career, but for head coach Sean Miller, a guy who has seen his fair share of players leave early, he’s not taking anything for granted. The coach, player and his family plan on gathering together after the season to discuss the big man’s future, however, and the decision then may turn out differently.
  2. One interesting bit out of the Wildcats’ Sunday evening win over Oregon State was the contribution of little-used senior guard Jordin Mayes, who earned just five minutes of action but may have put in his application for future minutes with a nine-point outburst in that limited time. With Miller claiming to already trust Mayes defensively and that seventh and/or eighth spot in the rotation available, it’s possible that the stretch run of Mayes’ Wildcats career could be more impactful than previous results had led us to believe.
  3. Utah also has a player who was formerly on the outs now competing for a bigger role in junior wing Princeton Onwas. After his friend and position-mate Ahmad Fields began to earn a bigger role at the expense of his minutes, Onwas returned to practice with a new focus and set about regaining a larger role. Early results are good, as he earned 25 minutes against Washington and harassed C.J. Wilcox into an off night followed by a highly efficient 10 points on seven field goal attempts in 13 minutes against Washington State on Saturday night.
  4. Tomorrow night Colorado visits UCLA and head coach Tad Boyle is particularly concerned about Bruins junior guard Norman Powellwho had a big second half in UCLA’s win over USC on Saturday night. Powell is the team’s best perimeter defender, its most ferocious dunker, and an emerging all-around offensive force. Boyle recognizes that without the Buffs’ best perimeter defender in Spencer Dinwiddie, Powell’s athleticism and skill will make him someone of whom his team is going to need to pay extra attention.
  5. Another UCLA wing who has raised eyebrows this season is freshman Zach LaVine. But after a fantastic start to the season that had some calling him an immediate lottery pick, the exciting wing has settled back to earth. His three-point shot is beginning to fall a little less frequently (he’s 2-of-11 in the past two weeks); teams are realizing he’s not much of a threat off the bounce; and he’s even started to blow some occasional dunks. Is it still a surefire certainty that he’s NBA-bound after a single season in Westwood? On upside alone, you’ve got to figure he’s gone. But in a year with a deep draft, maybe LaVine wants to return to work on his handle, half-court game and other weaknesses in order to ensure a lottery pick next year? Possibly, but the smart money is still on a rather brief stay with the Bruins.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.10.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 10th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. The Marcus Smart incident wasn’t the only negative fan-related problem from this weekend, as the Pac-12 had one of its own. According to reports from the Oregon basketball staff and members of the team, an Arizona State student spit on Oregon assistant coach Brian Fish and trainer Clay Jamieson following that game. University police witnessed the event, followed the Ducks to their locker room and discussed the incident with the Ducks’ staff, but they declined to press charges. According to Fish, the team was also spit on at halftime heading to the visitor’s locker room via a ramp that bisects the Arizona State student section. As college basketball fans, we certainly love the fact that fans are passionate about the game, but we would hope that people have reasonable boundaries. But, knowing full well that all fans won’t always respect those boundaries, and knowing even better that college-aged students will have even further problems with them, schools and their arenas need to do their best to protect the opposition. Odds are good that the location of the student section at Arizona State will be reconsidered, not that a change in that area will prevent all fan abuses in the future.
  2. As for the game on the court, Sun Devil senior center Jordan Bachynski was the key to a weekend sweep of the Oregon schools. Averaging 21.5 points, 12 rebounds, and eight blocks (!!!!!) on 15-of-20 from the field and 13-of-16 from the free throw line, he dominated the paint against the undersized Ducks and even against the talent Oregon State frontline. On a weekend where he became the conference’s all-time leader in blocked shots, Bachynski had his best all-around back-to-back pair of games in his career in Tempe.
  3. Meanwhile, brother Dallin Bachynski is getting the job done up the road a spell for Utah. Together with sophomore center Jeremy Olsen, Bachynski has helped to give the Utes a toughness inside to pair with the talented wing players who have more regularly been the stars. Against Washington State on Saturday night, Olsen and Bachynski combined for 20 points and 11 boards in a dominating win that has the squad now within a game of .500 in conference play. They’re still a longshot, but the Utes have at least kept alive the hope of an NCAA bid this season.
  4. UCLA, meanwhile, looks like a team that is headed to an NCAA Tournament berth, but they’re still a team that is in need of a good old-fashioned paint-peeling half-time dress-down like the one head coach Steve Alford gave them against USC on Saturday night. After an uninspiring first half, the Bruins were down six and clearly not playing to the best of their abilities. But, a 10-0 run out of the halftime locker room, turned into a 27-6 run and UCLA coasted over an overmatched Trojans team from there.
  5. Lastly, with Arizona now shorthanded without Brandon Ashley, a key for head coach Sean Miller from here on out will be the ability to manage minutes, conserve energy and wisely use his main six players. Sunday night in a blowout against Oregon State, each of the starting five played between 28 and 31 minutes, with Gabe York and Elliott Pitts combining for another 37. They’ve now got a full four days to recover before they face Arizona State on Friday night, then another four days before they travel to Utah, but it will be interesting to see not only how Miller manages his team’s game minutes, but its workout minutes off of the court.
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#rushthetrip Day Two: Exhilaration and Apprehension as McKale Center Watches Cats Escape

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 7th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

West of Lawrence, Kansas, there may be no better home court than either of the two I visited to start this trip. The folks at UCLA, Gonzaga and Utah State might all have reasonable gripes (especially Bruins fans) with that assertion, but back-to-back nights at The Pit and McKale Center is about as good as college basketball can get. Some 450 miles separate the two universities, so six hours of driving (which included a successful journey through Truth or Consequences, New Mexico) brought me to Tucson to watch Arizona host Oregon.

There's No Doubt About It -- Arizona's McKale Center Is One Of College Hoops' Grandest Stages

There’s No Doubt About It — Arizona’s McKale Center Is One Of College Hoops’ Grandest Stages

The obvious storyline entering last night’s game was how the Wildcats would bounce back from not only their first loss of the season, but also the season-ending injury suffered last weekend by Brandon Ashley. Not surprisingly, the hoops-savvy McKale faithful were keyed in on Ashley’s absence (and its impact) throughout the evening. It began in pregame warmups, when Ashley’s crutch-waving at midcourt fomented the student section into a moderate frenzy, and continued when his replacement in the starting lineup, freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, received the loudest ovation of any Wildcat during introductions.

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