Posted by AMurawa on June 8th, 2012
- A former Pac-12 great is back home, as 2000 Stanford graduate Mark Madsen is returning back to the Farm to become an assistant coach. Madsen was a member of the 1998 Cardinal team that made the Final Four (the first Stanford team to advance that far since the NCAA championship team of 1942), before going on to play nine seasons in the NBA. He’ll take over the spot vacated by Dick Davey, who retired in March. Madsen will work with post players and give current head coach Johnny Dawkins’ staff a tie to the most successful stretch of basketball in the modern history of the program. We’re just guessing that Madsen isn’t going to moonlight as a dance teacher at Stanford.
- Oregon fans got bad news yesterday when it was confirmed that sophomore guard Brett Kingma, a sharpshooter who saw limited minutes and limited success as a freshman, would be transferring out of the program. In the wake of the Ducks losing both starting backcourt players from last year, Kingma appeared set for a bump in minutes, but instead he’ll choose to sit out a year and likely take a step down in competition for the remainder of his college career. While it is certainly well within Kingma’s right to find a place more suited to him, this once again appears to be a case of a youngster making a rash decision early in his career as a result of limited playing time. With Kingma’s decision, now three out of four members of Dana Altman’s 2011 recruiting class have left the school before their sophomore seasons.
- Arizona’s 2012-13 schedule is rapidly rounding into shape, as they announced an agreement with UTEP this week for a home-and-home series that will begin on November 15 at the McKale Center. The second half of this series won’t take place until 2014-15 in El Paso. With this announcement, the Wildcats have just one remaining open spot on their 2012-13 schedule, which is expected to be another home-and-home series, this one with a power conference school that will begin on the road. With games at home against Long Beach State, Southern Miss, Florida and Oral Roberts already on the schedule, along with a trip to Clemson and visit to the Diamond Head Classic over Christmas weekend, the ‘Cats certainly shouldn’t be hurting for chances to pad their non-conference resume.
- Sticking around in Tucson a bit longer, Wildcat head coach Sean Miller won the “Shots From the Heart” championship, a free-throw-shooting contest between NCAA Division I head basketball coaches in support of the American Heart Association and the Skip Prosser Foundation. Miller won the final round of the competition by knocking down 24 of 25 attempts in the final round, defeating Detroit head coach Ray McCallum who made just 21 of his 25 attempts. Over the six rounds of the tournament, Miller made 145 of his 150 attempts, good for 96.7%, an absurd number. If you want to congratulate him, or see if he can drop some free throw shooting tips on you, hit him up on his new Twitter account which he just began a few weeks back.
- Lastly, this week ESPN unveiled its list of the most attractive coaching jobs in college basketball, broken down by conference. In the Pac-12, there certainly weren’t a ton of surprises, with UCLA, Arizona and Washington taking the top three spots, but there are definitely some areas to quibble with their rankings. First and foremost, the idea that Utah is the third-worst position in the conference is absurd. For a school in a basketball-crazy state with a sparkling reputation at lower levels, you have to think the Utes should be near the top half of the conference, certainly ahead of a USC job where, although there are plenty of recruits to choose from in the local area, the Trojan basketball team will always play second fiddle to the crosstown UCLA program, not to mention the Trojans’ storied football program.
Posted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2012
- Without doing the math and coming up with an exact number, it’s easy to say that somewhere in the neighborhood of 330-340 teams in the NCAA’s Division I will end their basketball season with a loss, either in their conference tournament, the NCAA Tournament, or one of the three other postseason tournaments (to get the exact number, you’ve got to figure in the fact that half of the Ivy League school can potentially end the season with a win since they don’t have a conference tourney, plus D-I independents without a tourney as well). Monday night’s winner in New Orleans will obviously have the most to crow about, but the winners of the NIT, CBI and CIT tournaments will all head to the offseason on an upbeat note. And, despite all their struggles this season, Stanford claimed one of those slots on Thursday night, taking it to Minnesota at Madison Square Garden en route to a 24-point win in the NIT Final. Freshman guard Chasson Randle and sophomore backcourt mate Aaron Bright led the way with 15 points apiece, sending assistant coach Dick Davey off to retirement with a win.
- Tonight, Washington State will attempt to be another of those small number of teams to go out with a win, as it faces Pittsburgh in the third game of a three-game CBI championship series. While it is a battle for little more than 101st place, it is still important for the players, and even for some fans, as this article from CougCenter so aptly points out. However, for the third time in as many games, it appears WSU will have to go forth without its best player, Brock Motum, who will likely miss his third straight game after spraining an ankle two minutes into the CBI semifinal game last week. While Motum is doubtful, there is slightly more hope on the Pitt end that their best player, senior guard Ashton Gibbs, will return from his ankle sprain to take part in the final.
- Last summer, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott led the way to a major score for the conference, earning a $3 billion deal with ESPN and Fox for the rights to football, basketball and even Olympic sports throughout the conference. Still, Scott thinks that there is more to be had, calling college football, at least, undervalued. And, given that the big money available to football allows the Pac-12 to create an environment where 180 conference basketball games will be aired on a national basis, not only is there potentially more money to come for athletic departments around the country, there is more exposure available for basketball and other sports.
- We talked about this possibility the other day, but apparently Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell has narrowed his list of possible destinations to Virginia and Arizona. Though those schools could not be more different from each other, the point guard has eliminated all other schools from contention. McConnell made a trip to the Charlottesville campus last week and will visit Tucson next week, but the Wildcats should be considered the strong favorite for a couple reasons: First, while Virginia has sophomore Joe Harris firmly entrenched at the point guard spot for the next couple years, Arizona is wide open; and, McDonnell’s family has been friendly with the family of Wildcat head coach Sean Miller for some time. Pencil McDonnell in as a Wildcat, eligible in 2013-14.
- Lastly, on the heels of Washington’s elimination from the NIT on Tuesday night, the next big question in Huskyland is the fate of freshman guard Tony Wroten and sophomore wing Terrence Ross. Both are widely projected to be first round NBA draft picks should they choose to enter this year’s draft, but Wroten in particular could very well slip into the second round and non-guaranteed contract territory. In preparation for the big decisions ahead, both players are awaiting feedback from NBA personnel and will face something of a formality in an NCAA-mandated April 10 deadline to announce their intentions, but in fact they will have until the NBA’s official deadline of April 29 to figure out their next step. Unfortunately for both, the NCAA’s guidelines don’t provide the ability for potential prospects to work out for NBA teams prior to making their decisions. It remains to be seen whether such a setup allows for either more or less bad decisions in regards to early entry.
Posted by AMurawa on March 26th, 2012
- The Pac-12 in the NCAA Tournament may be a distant memory, but conference teams continue to play on in lesser postseason tournaments. Washington State kicks off a three-game series for the championship of the CBI tournament tonight against Pittsburgh, but will likely have to do so without its most valuable player, Brock Motum. Motum sprained an ankle early in the Cougars’ semifinal game against Oregon State last week, but his teammates were able to step up and cover for him. While he is questionable for tonight’s game, head coach Ken Bone claims that there is a stronger chance that he’ll be able to return for Wednesday night’s game in Pittsburgh.
- Meanwhile, Washington heads back to Madison Square Garden for the third time this season as the Huskies face Minnesota in the NIT semifinals on Tuesday night. The first time UW played at MSG this season, freshman guard Tony Wroten put on a show for a national audience, scoring 24 points, including 14 in the final 10 minutes as he tried to will his team back into the game. Now, after a disappointing end to the Huskies’ NCAA Tournament chances when Wroten missed multiple free throws down the stretch of a Pac-12 tournament game, he is back to reprise his starring role in one of the nation’s best basketball arenas. And it is possible, given Wroten’s chances of becoming a high draft pick in June’s NBA Draft, that his time in the spotlight as a collegiate player will be book-ended by appearances in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
- Stanford is the other Pac-12 team still alive, also in the NIT semifinals, facing Massachusetts on Tuesday night. This will also be the Cardinal’s third appearance this season at Madison Square Garden too, after they beat Oklahoma State and dropped a tight game to Syracuse at the Garden in the Preseason NIT during Thanksgiving weekend. But Stanford is also in the news lately because head coach Johnny Dawkins is reportedly a possible candidate for the head coaching job at Illinois. Dawkins denies the reports, but with Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens having already turned down the Illini, Dawkins is supposed to be considered along with Leonard Hamilton, Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant for the position.
- Elsewhere around the Cardinal program, with associate head coach Dick Davey retiring at the end of the season, should Dawkins return (which, really, is to be expected, not only because Illinois can probably find someone better than him for their position, but also because he would probably rather be at Stanford that in Champaign), he’ll need to fill a spot on his staff. And, among the candidates for that seat is former Cardinal star Mark Madsen. Madsen has limited coaching experience, and Dawkins can certainly find somebody with a more solid resume, but the case can be made that snapping up Madsen now would be good for the Cardinal program in the future.
- Lastly, we missed this back at the start of March, but California will be among the eight teams playing in the 2013 Maui Invitational. The Golden Bears will join Syracuse, Baylor, Gonzaga, Arkansas, Dayton, Minnesota and, host Chaminade in Maui in November 2013. It’s too early to prognosticate the strength of any of those teams, but Syracuse, Baylor and Gonzaga have been consistently solid in recent years, while the Bears could feature Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon as seniors, with David Kravish as a junior.
Posted by AMurawa on March 8th, 2012
- Yesterday was the first day of the Pac-12 Tournament, and we’ll have plenty of separate coverage of the games throughout the weekend, so in the Morning Fives, we’ll focus on more of the “newsy” side of things, both at the tournament and elsewhere. For instance, likely the biggest news of the day yesterday was the news that Arizona had left point guard Josiah Turner behind on their trip to Los Angeles, and that Turner would be suspended indefinitely. Turner had previously been suspended for a game against Florida on December 7 and had also been benched at the start of a game against Duquesne on November 9. The loss of their starting point guard doesn’t help the Wildcats’ chances this weekend, especially in what seems to be a must-win scenario for UA’s NCAA Tournament chances. In Turner’s absence, Nick Johnson is expected to take over the bulk of the minutes at the point, with Brandon Lavender potentially moving into the starting lineup. Sophomore Jordin Mayes, who has only played eight total minutes in the last eight games, in part due to a foot injury, will also be counted on to cover some of Turner’s minutes. In Sean Miller’s comments on the suspension, he noted that “the standards of our program will not be compromised under any circumstances,” a comment that seems particularly meaningful in the wake of the recent UCLA story.
- Speaking of UCLA, in one of the oddest stories I’ve heard recently, sophomore center Joshua Smith was benched for the first half after missing the team bus from the team hotel to the Staples Center. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, consider that the team is staying in a hotel across the street from the Staples Center, and that Smith actually walked from the hotel to the arena (as every other team participating in the event does) and was at the arena and in the locker room prior to everybody else on his team. Given that Smith could use all the cardiovascular exercise available (even if it is just walking a block), this seems like a case of head coach Ben Howland going out of his way to lay down the law in the wake of last week’s article, even in a situation that may well not have called for it.
- UCLA wound up winning its opening game over crosstown rival USC, mercifully ending the Trojans horrific 6-26 season. Normally, when a coach suffers through a season like that, it’s curtains. USC head coach Kevin O’Neill, however, expects to back. Athletic director Pat Haden has repeatedly made it clear that the combination of O’Neill trying to dig out from under the turmoil that previous head coach Tim Floyd left the program in and the astounding number of injuries the Trojans have suffered this year makes for extenuating circumstances. With everybody on the team returning next year and a handful of reinforcements on the way, the Trojans could be primed for a big turnaround next year.
- Stanford associate head coach Dick Davey announced on Tuesday that he will be retiring from coaching at the end of the year. Davey, the former head coach at Santa Clara and a four-time Coach of the Year in the West Coast Conference, plans to spend more time doing things like “fishing in Hawaii.” Yeah, that’s a no-brainer, coach. We think you’ve earned it.
- In other assistant coaching news, Oregon State associate head coach Doug Stewart is expected to be among the candidates to replace Jesse Agel, who was fired on Monday, as head coach at Brown. Stewart played at Brown from 1991-94 and was a captain there, and he and Agel were both assistants to current Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson when he was the head man at that school. If Stewart does leave, Robinson will need to rework his staff in advance of next year, a season that could be a make-or-break year for him in Corvallis, a season in which just about everybody from this year’s team returns.