Pac-12 M5: 04.05.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 5th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Pac-12 coordinator of officials Ed Rush resigned on Thursday after it was revealed he put a bounty on Arizona head coach Sean Miller during last month’s Pac-12 Tournament. Multiple officials said that Rush offered $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if any official gave a technical to Miller during the tourney. The Wildcat coach ended up receiving his first T of the season in UA’s semifinal against UCLA, a game the Wildcats lost by two points. Conference commissioner Larry Scott announced earlier in the week that Rush’s comments were made “in jest” and that he wouldn’t be fired because of them. But after much national scrutiny and heat, Rush took care of things himself and avoided what would have likely been a mutiny among Pac-12 referees.
  2. Although an official announcement will not come until Monday, former Oregon State point guard Gary Payton will be elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame this year. While in Corvallis, Payton was named the Sports Illustrated college basketball player of the year in the 1989-90 season. He also holds the Seattle SuperSonics’ franchise records in points, assists, and steals, and finished his career as a nine-time NBA all-star.
  3. Coming as a bit of a surprise yesterday was news coming out of Los Angeles that  UCLA has extended athletic director Dan Guerrero‘s contract through 2019. The extension comes on the heels of Guerrero’s hiring of new basketball coach Steve Alford, who comes from New Mexico fresh off a 29-6 record. He will receive $734,774 in base pay, with a 5% raise each year of the contract. Bonuses tied to academic and athletic achievements will also be available.
  4. Speaking of Alford, he’s got until April 29 to pay a $1 million buyout to New Mexico. Alford had just agreed to a new 10-year deal with the Lobos that would have been worth around $2 million a year. Under the new agreement, if Alford took another job prior to April 1, 2015, he or his new employer would owe the school $1 million. As the article states, UCLA officials said that Alford is responsible for the buyout, but that UCLA would help him work out the details.
  5. Jeff Goodman and CBS Sports released its initial list of postseason transfers from around the nation yesterday, and four of the 100 who were revealed will be leaving a Pac-12 institution. Junior shooting guard Jeremy Adams will be leaving Tad Boyle and Colorado, while Washington sophomore Martin Bruenig, who would have been in line for an increase in minutes in 2013-14, will also be departing. The other pair of transfers are freshmen; Kaileb Rodriguez of California and Justin Seymour of Utah.
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Steve Alford To UCLA: More Of The Same?

Posted by AMurawa on March 31st, 2013

Less than a week after he removed Ben Howland from his job as the UCLA head coach and after taking on a couple of strikes with his top two candidates, athletic director Dan Guerrero dug in and roped a solid line-drive single in hiring former New Mexico head coach Steve Alford. It is in no way a home run hire, but it is a workmanlike chance at bat. Maybe it turns into a forgettable event if there are strikeouts and pop-ups down the road, but if Alford and UCLA play their cards right, maybe this single is the start of a big inning.

The Hiring Of Steve Alford May Not Be The Home Run UCLA Fans Hoped For, But It Could Be The Start Of Big Things (AP)

The Hiring Of Steve Alford May Not Be The Home Run UCLA Fans Hoped For, But It Could Be The Start Of Big Things (AP)

To begin with, let’s put this idea of “UCLA should have just kept Howland” to bed. That was not an option, a change had to be made; it was a matter of finding the best possible new coach for the program, not a matter of finding a better coach than Howland. But, there are plenty of areas in which Alford compares negatively with Howland. For instance, it is true that Howland had more success in his brief pre-UCLA career (four years at Pitt, five at Northern Arizona) than Alford has had in his 18 years at his three previous stops. Despite getting to the NCAA Tournament three times at both Iowa and New Mexico, the only time Alford has made the Sweet Sixteen was in his final season at then Southwest Missouri State (now just Missouri State). Even more disturbing, that record comes despite some regular season success that four times earned him a five-seed or higher. So yeah, for a UCLA program that prizes success in March far more than success in the regular season, Guerrero just hired a guy with a shakier postseason record than Howland or his predecessor, Steve Lavin, who was fired after reaching five Sweet Sixteens in seven seasons.

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A Pair Of Job Openings In Southern California

Posted by AMurawa on March 23rd, 2013

When UCLA bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in convincing fashion to Minnesota, the Ben Howland era in Westwood ended along with the Bruins’ season (an official announcement is expected in the next couple days). Meanwhile, across town, USC’s first target for their open head coaching position, Pitt’s Jamie Dixon, signed an extension with his current school, effectively eliminating him from contention for that job. With all other coaches in the conferences expected back next season (Stanford has announced that Johnny Dawkins will return, and it looks like Ken Bone will return to Washington State, though no official announcement has been made), we’ll take a quick look at those two jobs and try to read the tea leaves a bit as to what the future may hold.

Ben Howland, UCLA

Despite Early Success, Ben Howland’s Time As The UCLA Coach Has Ended (Jamie Squire, Getty Images)

While UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero made no decisive comment following the game Friday night (“We’ll take stock in the next couple of days and talk like we always do with all coaches,” he said), expectations are that sooner rather than later we’ll have an announcement that the partnership between Howland and UCLA will end. And, regardless of whether Guerrero has an improvement lined up, this is a move that has to be made – for both parties. The relationship has soured, the fickle UCLA fan base has abandoned ship, West Coast recruiting has largely dried up, Howland seems to have compromised his principles, and, the kiss of death, Bill Walton has weighed in heavily in favor of a change at the top of the program. The excitement of three straight Final Four trips from 2006-08 is a distant memory. Howland is still a very good coach, but he’s not a very good coach going forward for UCLA and it is time for both sides to move on.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.14.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 14th, 2012

  1. UCLA made it official on Tuesday: Ben Howland will be back as the Bruins’ head coach in 2012-13. After missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years and suffering through the aftermath of a critical Sports Illustrated article, there was some question. But, athletic director Dan Guerrero decided that he deserved another chance. The father of elite 2012 recruit Shabazz Muhammad issued a statement of his own, expressing his support for the decision and confirming that his son is still very much considering UCLA. Bruins’ fans did find out that one of their own would be laving early, however, as Brendan Lane, a little used reserve forward, would be transferring elsewhere next season as a graduate transfer, making him eligible immediately. No possible landing spots have been discussed, but Lane is considering downshifting to a mid-major program.
  2. Across town, it’s been known for some time that USC head coach Kevin O’Neill would be back next season. And, with players back from injury along with newly eligible transfers, the Trojans should be much better. Still, O’Neill understands that better is a matter of degrees, and mere improvement over this year’s 6-26 record is not enough. The challenge is clear; much like Howland’s UCLA team, O’Neill’s squad will likely need to go to the NCAA Tournament in order to save the head man’s job.
  3. The Pac-12 held a press conference on Tuesday to officially announce the move of the conference tournament to the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. While they become the fourth conference to hold its year-end tournament there, it is the first to actually have the event at a location on the Strip. Going forward, the event will be televised by a combination of ESPN, Fox and the Pac-12 Network, with ESPN and Fox alternating rights to the event every year. ESPN and Fox will each carry one quarterfinal game, one semifinal game and the championship game, with the Pac-12 Network carrying the remaining games.
  4. NIT play kicked off last night, and three different Pac-12 schools were in action. And, unlike real life, the fantasy world of the NIT is kind to the Pac-12, as all three schools won and advanced. Washington shook off a sluggish first half to knock off Texas-Arlington behind 23 points from Terrence Ross; they’ll face Northwestern in an interesting game that nobody will pay attention to on Friday night. Oregon hammered LSU by 20 with Devoe Joseph continuing his excellence (25 points); they’ll face Iowa on Sunday. And Stanford used a big second half to pull away from Cleveland State as they had ten different players score in an eventual 11-point win. The Cardinal will face the winner of tomorrow night’s Ole Miss/Illinois State matchup.
  5. Lastly, while Oregon fans enjoyed the win tonight, the idea that head coach Dana Altman may not be long for Eugene continues to gain steam. Altman and his wife still live in Nebraska, where he was born, raised and coached at Creighton until two years ago, and with the Huskers looking for a new head coach in the wake of Doc Sadler’s firing, he’ll certainly be among the first people called by NU athletic director Tom Osborne. Osborne and Altman developed a relationship when they were both at Creighton, and at the very least, Altman would listen to offers. George Schroeder at the Register-Guard is convinced that Nebraska is still a “dead-end job,” but with a brand-new practice facility and a brand-new arena, they have facilities at least on par with what Altman currently has in Eugene. In short, while nothing is set in stone, Duck fans would be wise to accept that there is at least a significant chance that they’ll be looking for a new head coach this offseason.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.01.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 1st, 2012

  1. With the big Sports Illustrated critique of Ben Howland’s handling of the UCLA program dropping on Wednesday, it was a day heavy on reaction to that story. First and foremost, UCLA officials, including Howland, athletic director Dan Guerrero and chancellor Gene Block all responded with disappointment to the article. Howland responded by taking responsibility for the program and noted that he would make whatever changes needed to be made, but Guerrero held out the possibility, in a separate teleconference, that he might not have the coach back to make those changes, saying that he will reassess the situation after the season. Both admit that some mistakes were made within the program, but Guerrero says that by and large, these were isolated incidents restricted to just a few players.
  2. A handful of former UCLA players responded to the article by coming to the defense of their old coach. Lorenzo Mata-Real described Howland as a demanding coach who was there for his players when they needed him and who did well to prepare them for life after college. Michael Roll placed the blame at the feet of the handful of players who “didn’t want to do what was necessary to win.” And even Josiah Johnson, who left the program furious at Howland for having slashed his minutes as a senior, now says that his coach was just trying to foster an environment of accountability.
  3. Lastly, while there was plenty of concern that the negative press surrounding the program might negatively affect recruiting, key recruits confirmed their continued interest in UCLA. Top five recruit Kyle Anderson, who has already signed a letter of intent with UCLA, reaffirmed his commitment to the program on Wednesday, while the nation’s #2 recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, confirmed that UCLA was definitely still in the mix. However, Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, did mention that the issues could be concerning when the final decision is made. More importantly, on the Muhammad trail, was a bombshell on Wednesday that the NCAA is looking into potential eligibility issues with the recruit. Muhammad has had connections with a couple financial advisers – Benjamin Lincoln and Ken Kavanaugh – and that both men may have given improper benefits to the high school senior. It is alleged that Lincoln paid for some of Muhammad’s unofficial visits to college campuses, while Kavanaugh helped fund his AAU team. The NCAA has alerted all of the schools who are still actively recruiting Muhammad, that although they are free to continue doing so, he may wind up ineligible to compete at the college level. While this story may not get the national run that the SI piece did, in the end, it may be more damaging to Howland’s future.
  4. Enough on UCLA for now, onto Washington and their chances of earning an at-large bid on Selection Sunday. In his weekly Bubble Watch, Andy Glockner took a look at recent teams with similar profiles to the Huskies’ and found that half of the six he looked at did not receive an invitation. Of the six teams he looked at, only one was from a BCS conference – California in 2010. That year the Golden Bears won the conference title with a 13-5 record, but had no top 50 wins and just three against the top 100, similar numbers to what the Huskies will have next Sunday. However, unlike the Huskies, that Cal team had an RPI of 20, significantly better than Washington’s will be.
  5. Two years ago, after Washington State finished their season at 16-15, the program turned down an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational – that third postseason tournament that began in 2008. This year, however, head coach Ken Bone is already making it clear that should the CBI come calling for the Cougars (who are currently 14-14 on the season), they’ll be more than happy to listen. Part of the reason the team turned down the invitation in 2010 was that the team was worn down at the end of the year and didn’t have the passion to continue playing. But this year, on a team that expects to have six significant contributors back next year, the team is still working hard and the extra stretch of the year would give their younger players a chance to continue developing. Now, it’s just a matter of Washington State finishing strongly enough to catch the eye of the CBI.
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Contrary Opinion: UCLA Story Salacious, But Nothing New Here

Posted by AMurawa on February 29th, 2012

Yesterday about this time, when news broke that George Dohrmann would be publishing a “highly negative” piece about the UCLA basketball program, there were plenty of people who immediately expected the worst. I, for one, figured that today I’d be writing about potential NCAA violations and speculating on who may be the next basketball coach for the Bruins. While the Sports Illustrated piece is certainly not something that is going to be framed and hung on the wall in Ben Howland’s office, compared to those previous expectations, Bruin fans can take a deep breath and relax. Sure, there are loads and loads of very unflattering portraits of former and current players, and mostly of Howland, but still the most damning fact against Howland is a 14-18 record in 2010 and a 16-13 record right now; this Dohrmann piece just explains how the program got to that point. And while there are plenty of salacious details and anecdotes, none of them really change what we already knew about the UCLA program before yesterday.

Ben Howland, UCLA

Ben Howland Was Painted In An Unflattering Light, But There Were No Great Revelations (Kelvin Kuo/US Presswire)

At the bottom of this piece, the finger points squarely at problems with a couple of recruiting classes — the groups of 2008 and 2009. The 2008 class featured guys like Jerime Anderson, Drew Gordon and J’Mison Morgan, while the 2009 class ominously included Reeves Nelson, but also Anthony Stover, among others. There are allegations of drug use among these players (and other players on recent UCLA teams), but the bottom line problem was Howland’s inability to sufficiently discipline these players for their numerous missteps. The poster child here is, of course, Nelson. There are stories seemingly by the barrelful about how bad of a teammate he was. After 2010 recruit Matt Carlino sustained a concussion early in his freshman year causing him to miss time, Nelson repeatedly railed on him for being soft, called him “concussion boy” and went out of his way to instigate contact with Carlino during practices, eventually helping to drive Carlino out of the program. Nelson also had repeated altercations in practice with another eventual UCLA transfer, Mike Moser. There are reports of Nelson abusing people all over the Bruin program, from student managers all the way up to assistant coaches. And all that is just scratching the surface of what is in the article, knowing full well that there are plenty of incidents that didn’t make the piece and never even reached Dohrmann’s ears. And, until this season, Howland did nothing about it.

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The Sun Belt Is Tired Of Gettin’ Pushed Around

Posted by jstevrtc on October 27th, 2010

Having had sand kicked in its face for long enough, the Sun Belt Conference has taken a long, cold look at itself in the mirror, and decided that it’s time to hit the gym.

On Monday, the conference announced that it planned to implement rules designed to increase the conference’s RPI rating. Specifically, the Sun Belt will mandate that its member basketball schools must only schedule non-conference opponents that, as ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported, have a “three-year combined power rating within the top 150,” and/or teams that ended the previous season with an RPI within the top 150. The scheduling of games against non-Division I teams will be forbidden, and programs must constantly endeavor to average an attendance that surpasses the national average of 5,038 fans per game (as Katz reports, the Sun Belt brass are planning to help with this). The theory is that this scheduling upgrade en masse will raise the Sun Belt’s conference RPI and, in doing so, might lead to more than the single auto-qualifier each year in the NCAA Tournament, or at least a higher NCAA seed for the conference tournament winner. This would seemingly lead to other positive effects that all conferences love, like rising attendance at games, an increased television profile, and — to put it frankly — more respect. The rules outlined above will take effect starting in the 2011-12 season.

Troy's New Trojan Arena Will Seat Just Over 5,200 Hoops Fans

The Sun Belt is certainly ripe for a drastic self-determined change, meaning one that’s not being executed just to keep the conference alive. The great Sun Belt schism happened in the off-season of 1991, when most of the conference’s members bolted for other leagues and the remaining schools had to merge with the American South Conference to keep the Sun Belt in existence.  Since that time, the Sun Belt has had more than one representative – its conference tournament winner — in the Big Dance exactly three times: 2008 (#10 South Alabama, at large; #12 Western Kentucky, auto), 1994 (#11 Western Kentucky, at large; #11 Louisiana-Lafayette, auto), and 1993 (#7 Western Kentucky, auto; #8 New Orleans, at large). Note that long drought, there — the span from 1995 to 2007 represents thirteen consecutive tournaments in which the Sun Belt was a single-bid league. And they logged only one win in that interval (#8 Western Kentucky def. #9 Michigan, 1995). In terms of actual conference RPI, the Sun Belt finished last year at its 10-year nadir of 22nd out of 32 conferences, averaging a year-end rank of 17.5 over that time period.

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Opening Round Questions Still Unanswered

Posted by jstevrtc on July 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Committee met this week in Chicago, and the biggest item on their agenda was to decide on the format of the new 68-team tournament. In deciding to expand from the 65-team tournament, which has been the rule for the last ten years, to 68 teams in time for the 2011 tournament, the NCAA has committed itself to four opening round games.  The questions of who will play in those games, however, and where those games will take place, among other logistical issues, are still to be decided. While it doesn’t look like a decision will be announced this week, outgoing committee chairperson and UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero has spelled out three possible options for who will compete in the opening round games:

  1. The teams that would be the 16th and 17th seeds in a bracket, or those teams seeded at spots 61 through 68 in the overall field — likely teams from the historically one-bid conferences,
  2. The last eight non-automatic qualifiers or the teams generally referred to as bubble teams — generally teams from a mixture of BCS leagues and mid-major conferences, or
  3. Some combination of the first two options, with the most talked-about scenario being the last four bubble teams playing in a couple of games and the lowest seeded automatic qualifiers (seeds 65-68) playing in the other two.

While it is still within the realm of reason that additional options could arise (maybe the lowest seeded automatic qualifiers each match up against one of the bubble teams), the answer will likely be one of the three options above. And, frankly, option three is a bit of a copout, so the decision between options one and two comes down to something of a battle between the big power conferences and the less influential conferences that nonetheless make up the bulk of Division I. And neither side wants to play in those games.

Should a conference champ be sent to an opening-rounder and have a better chance to make more money, or should their performance be rewarded with a spot in the main draw?

“I think that if you are an automatic qualifier, you should not be in a play-in game,” said Winthrop head coach Randy Peele when we talked with him earlier this week, and he’s had experience with the opening round game as the coach at a school that has now appeared in two opening round tournament games, including last season’s loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  Peele’s sentiment was echoed by Michael White, the Associate Athletic Director for Communications at East Tennessee State University. “For teams like ours that come out of a league with one tournament bid, and to have to earn it by winning our conference tournament, we don’t want to have to be sent to a play-in game.”

Even the term “play-in game,” used in reference to the single opening round game played in Dayton for the last ten years, is a divisive one. The NCAA has gone to great lengths to make sure that game was referred to as the “opening round game,” despite it commonly being referred to by fans and media as the play-in game. “The way the NCAA markets the first day is critical,” said ETSU’s head coach Murry Bartow. “They shouldn’t be marketed as play-in games, where you’re not even in the tournament until you win that game.”

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07.25.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on July 25th, 2008

Some things we’ve missed while lounging in a pool of indignant contempt (and mineral hot springs)with Lute Olson, Kevin O’Neill and friends the past few weeks…

  • It’s Extension Season! - Davidson’s Bob McKillop (3 more yrs until 2015-16), UCLA’s Ben Howland (7 yrs at approximately $2M per until 2014-15), Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl (1 more yr until 2013-14, but with a raise that will average out to $2.3M per over that span), Notre Dame’s Mike Brey (2 more yrs until 2014-15), Temple’s Fran Dunphy (2 more yrs through 2013-14), and Oregon’s Ernie Kent (3 more yrs until 2012-13) all got their wives a new car last week.
  • UCLA’s AD Dan Guerrero is the new NCAA Tournament Committee chairman for 2009-10.   Expect UCLA to play in Pauley and the Staples Center during its first four rounds that year.
  • Tim Floyd breathed a sigh of relief when he learned last week that Demar DeRozan passed the ACT and will be eligible next season for his Trojans.  DeRozan is a likely 1-and-done, which means Lute Olson has vowed to not recruit players like him for the rest of his career (still feeling the burn of Jennings and Bayless, Lute?)
  • Gonzaga forward and RTC fav Austin Daye both tore and didn’t tear his ACL at the Lebron Skills Camp recently.  He should be ok for the upcoming season. 
  • Welcome to the Kyle Taber Hoosiers.  Speaking of which, ex-Hoosier Jordan Crawford is transferring to Xavier. 
  • Memphis guard Doneal Mack has decided to return to Calipari’s squad after all – he had previously stated that he was transferring to the University of FEMA New Orleans. 
  • This is interesting.  Georgia Tech center Ra’Sean Dickey has decided to forgo his senior season so that he can begin his professional career in Ukraine?  Wow, thie Euro thing is starting to heat up, eh?
  • The fall of former Florida gambler guard and gunner Teddy Dupay is now complete.  He was recently charged with rape, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping of a Utah woman, according to court documents. 
  • It’s sayonara to the Top of the World Classic in Alaska.
  • The extremely poorly situated Kentucky Basketball Museum closed its doors in the face of large financial losses. 
  • We wanted to get a take in on the Brandon Jennings Experiment, as articulately described by N-Bug upon BJ’s announcement that he’ll spend his “1-and-done” year playing in Europe.  Generally, we think this will be a disaster and wouldn’t be surprised if Jennings absolutely submerges his draft stock during the season (that is, until he returns next spring and excels in the 1-on-1 workouts given by teams).  Gottlieb nailed it when he pointed out that EuroLeague ball is of a much-higher quality than what Jennings probably thinks it is (and certainly well above college hoops).  Lots of risk of exposure here for Jennings.  Bad decision. 
  • Gary Parrish makes a compelling point about the inherent conflict of interest in referees working for schools calling games on international trips and scrimmages, then turning around and calling games for those same teams during the season.  As you may recall, we wrote exactly a year ago that the Donaghy situation happens way more than anyone thinks, and this is just another loophole that encourages it. 
  • Maybe we’re cynical, but there has to be a Shawn Kemp is Broke story somewhere in this tender piece by Luke Winn.
  • Davidson’s Stephen Curry has noticed that his life has changed after his spectacular March run.
  • Where does Super Mario’s shot rank in the all-time great NCAA shots pantheon?  His former teammate Sherron Collins won’t have to worry about watching the highlight from the pokey, as prosecutors stated there was not enough evidence to substantiate allegations against him stemming from an alleged incident in an elevator with a woman on the KU campus. 
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