The Pac-12 Season: It’s Been A Wild Ride So Far

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 25th, 2014

Well, at long last, after an up-and-down season, we can probably pretty safely say: The Pac is Back! Fully buying into the fact that NCAA Tournament performance alone does not equate to the quality of a conference, it is still fun to have three teams dancing in the second week of the tourney. The last time our fair conference had as many teams in the Sweet Sixteen was back in 2008, when it was still just the Pac-10 and also the last time a conference team made the Final Four (UCLA). Between 2009 and 2012, a total of just three teams made the Sweet Sixteen over that four-year span. Things finally ticked up last year with Oregon and Arizona representing us well, and now, we’re back to the promised land. So, how did we get here? Let’s take a quick look back and see.

Pac-12First, I want to admit that I’ve jumped on and off this bandwagon several times this season. Back in the preseason I made the call of seven Pac-12 teams getting invited to the NCAA Tournament and Stanford advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. The former prediction just missed, but the latter actually came true. Still, no use in me taking credit (or blame, for that matter) for either, because god knows I’ve tried to walk both of those back time and again. In early February, I was sitting through a UCLA blowout of Colorado in Pauley Pavilion and began a post (that I never got around to finishing) writing off the concept of seven Pac-12 NCAA Tournament teams entirely, and making the argument that the conference was closer to winding up with just three teams in the field. So there’s that.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 1st, 2013


  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’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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Mark Lyons Could Be the Missing Piece For Arizona

Posted by AMurawa on May 8th, 2012

Despite the fact that Sean Miller had inked a top-three recruiting class, his roster at Arizona was lacking in one key area: point guard. However, this weekend’s news that Xavier transfer Mark Lyons had committed to Miller (for the second time – it was Miller who had originally recruited Lyons to the Musketeers) goes a long way toward not only clearing up the picture in the Wildcat backcourt, but putting the Pac-12 back on the map for the 2012-13 season.

With elite recruits along the frontline like Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, and Brandon Ashley and a group of talented returnees, there was already plenty of reason for Cat fans to be excited going into next year, but the huge hole at point guard left by consecutive offseasons during which the incumbent point guard transferred out of the program (Momo Jones last summer, then Josiah Turner this season) threatened to limit the upside of the roster. But, despite the fact that Lyons is by no means a true point guard, and he butted heads with Chris Mack (resulting in Lyons’ decision to leave the program) the graduating senior could be the missing piece for a season as the program waits on Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell to gain his eligibility in 2013-14.

Mark Lyons

Mark Lyons Gives The Wildcats A Much-Needed Option At Point (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Lyons is a scoring combo guard who spent most of his three seasons at Xavier playing off of the ball. However, he’s got the handle and presence to man the point full-time for the Wildcats and, for a team with a lot of nice pieces but no real go-to scorer, he will be able to fill that need as well. Lyons’ junior season at Xavier was marred by his involvement in the infamous on-court brawl with Cincinnati early in the year, but all told, it was by far his best season. He averaged 15 points, shot nearly 40% from deep and posted the best offensive efficiency rating of his career while taking a higher percentage of his team’s shots than ever before. He excels at getting into the lane and scoring on offense, while he is a pestering on-ball defender. At Arizona, however, he will need to prove that he can play with the ball in his hands on a regular basis and get his new teammates involved. He will have plenty of help in the ballhandling area from guards like sophomore Nick Johnson (who had appeared to be the frontrunner to take over the point guard spot despite his struggles in his handful of chances at that position in his rookie campaign) and Jordin Mayes, as well as point forward Solomon Hill, who led the Wildcats in assists last season, but Lyons has an ability to create for himself and his teammates that those others do not have.

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