#rushthetrip: Wrapping Up 12 Games, 17 Days and 5,476 Miles on the Road

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on February 25th, 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.

They say that all good things must come to an end, and so is the case for my 17-day journey through college basketball’s Western lands. Large cities and small towns alike took turns as temporary homes, while the miles of passing scenery morphed from desert to snowy mountains and back to desert again, with plenty of change in between. The whirlwind ride reinforced the breadth of variety in the towns, arenas, and fan bases that stand behind Divison I’s basketball programs — only further mythologizing the notion of a “typical college town.” They make you work out West (note to future college basketball road trippers: the Heartland will be far kinder to your car’s odometer), but the payoff was worth every exhausting mile. By the numbers and some personal favorites, here’s the story of my trip.

Opening Night Was The Highlight Of This Trip, When The Pit Proved Worthy Of It's Elevated Standing Among The Home Floors Of College Hoops

Opening Night Was The Highlight Of This Trip, When The Pit Proved Worthy Of It’s Elevated Standing Among The Home Floors Of College Hoops

#rushthetrip, By The Numbers

  • Days: 17
  • States: 10
  • Games: 12
  • OT Games: 3
  • Miles Driven: 5,476
  • Distance from Tucson, AZ, to Spokane, WA: 1,494 miles
  • Tickets Received: 2
  • Biggest Arena: BYU (capacity of 20,900, sixth in D-I)
  • Smallest Arena: Sacramento State (capacity of 1,200, 348th in D-I)
  • Most Points (Individual): Stephen Madison, 42 (Idaho)
  • Smallest Margin Of Victory: 1, Boise State over New Mexico
  • Largest Margin Of Victory: 15, Gonzaga over Pepperdine
  • Best Team (by KenPom ranking): Arizona (#1)
  • Worst Team (by KenPom ranking): Southern Utah (#351)

#rushthetrip Favorites

Best Venues

  1. The Pit, Albuquerque, NM
  2. Marriott Center, Provo, UT
  3. McKale Center, Tucson, AZ

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USC Week: A State Of The Program Address

Posted by AMurawa on July 7th, 2012

We’ve been all around the USC program in the past week, but we’ve got time for one more post. At the end of every week we like to take a step back and look at the overall state of the program – not just how the team performed last year or is expected to perform next year, but what the long term prognosis for the program is. And with USC, much like it has been with their basketball program for some time, the future is cloudy. As we pointed out in the first post of the week, it has been 26 years since the Trojans earned a piece of the Pac-10 title and 51 years since they won a conference title outright (back when there were only four other teams competing in their conference). By comparison, in that same time frame the Trojans have won six national titles in football and vacated another one. It’s absolutely no secret that the importance that the athletic department puts on the success of their basketball program pales in comparison to the football program. Heck, basketball probably isn’t even a second fiddle to football, as numerous other programs around the SC campus have won multiple national titles (baseball, for instance, has won nine national titles since the basketball program last won a conference title outright; men’s water polo has won seven national titles; and men’s tennis has won 16). Let’s call basketball the gong at the back of the orchestra.


The Basketball Program Runs Far Behind Other USC Athletic Programs, Including Their Iconic Football Team

One thing USC’s basketball program does have going for it that it hadn’t had in the past is a beautiful on-campus arena in the Galen Center, which opened in 2006. A definite upgrade from their previous home – the decaying publicly owned Los Angeles Sports Arena – the Galen Center jumps right onto the list of the nicest Pac-12 venues and gives SC a clear recruiting boost. When it opened, there was talk of a newfound commitment to the basketball program around Heritage Hall, and the arrival of O.J. Mayo on campus a year later certainly instilled a level of excitement around the Trojan basketball program that hadn’t really been felt since the days of Harold Miner. But, after three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament under Tim Floyd, any momentum the program had built up was flushed away in controversy, as stories of payments from Floyd to Mayo surfaced, Floyd then resigned in disgrace, and USC self-imposed sanctions on its hoops program, including a one-year ban on any postseason play.

While all of that could go down as just an isolated incident related to one bad egg as head coach, its overall impact may be bigger. The Trojans were on their way to becoming regular NCAA Tournament participants, and had a bead on a strong incoming 2009 recruiting class including future Pac-10 Player of the Year Derrick Williams that surely would have extended USC’s success out a couple more years. Regardless of the history of the program, if SC had been able to string together six or seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances, that could have started a positive feedback loop, setting up USC as a legitimate and attractive landing spot for elite basketball recruits.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.01.11 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 1st, 2011

  1. We start in Los Angeles, where Baxter Holmes takes a look at Shabazz Muhammad’s unofficial visit to USC over the weekend. Muhammad attended the Stanford-USC football game Saturday night and also went to Sunday’s “Salute to Troy” basketball luncheon at the Galen Center. The article also features many quotes from Muhammad’s dad, Ron Holmes, who played wing for the Trojans from 1981-85. “He really enjoyed himself,” said Holmes, but also added, “Sometimes he’ll like one school more than another, sometimes that changes constantly.” This does sound like wishful thinking on the parts of USC and Holmes, but it certainly isn’t a bad thing for the Trojans. If SC were to land Muhammad, the Trojans would be stacked in 2012. Both Maurice Jones and Jio Fontan would return at the guard position and center Dewayne Dedmon is back as well. Add Muhammad to that mix and you have a team that could easily compete for the Pac-12 title. For additional reading, make sure to stay tuned as Drew Murawa will highlight Muhammad’s status with Pac-12 schools later today.
  2. It seems as if every site/blogger on the web has college basketball previews going up right now, and to be honest, the Pac-12 ones just aren’t very good. However, Fox News’ (who knew?) look at the Pac-12 is surprisingly thorough and is a must read if you are looking for a quick capsule on any Pac-12 team. They have California winning the Pac-12 regular season championship, but they are picking Washington to win the conference tournament. With Washington’s depth they are a good pick to win the Pac-12 Tourney, but I doubt they finish fourth in the regular season as they are predicting.
  3. While Muhammad is waiting until the spring to announce his decision, Bishop Gorman (NV) teammate Rosco Allen decided to end the suspense regarding his commitment. Allen announced that he was going to Stanford and intends to sign on Nov. 9. The Cardinal beat out UNLV and North Carolina for the 6’9″ forward who is also great in the classroom. Allen will most likely back up current Stanford forwards Anthony Brown and Dwight Powell next year.
  4. In more commitment news, St. Mark’s (MA) center Kaleb Tarczewski verbally committed to Arizona over Kansas yesterday. Many people thought that Tarczewski would be a lock to go to KU, but Sean Miller and the Arizona staff kept after him. “I had great programs and great coaches recruiting me.” “It just felt right at Arizona,” Tarczewski said. I’m guessing weather played a factor as well. Would you rather go to Lawrence or Tucson after living in Massachusetts all your life? The only current center that will be on Arizona’s roster next season is junior Kyryl Natyazhko, so Tarczewski will be battling him for the starting spot next fall.
  5. If you’d like to see a list of all Pac-12 commitments so far, Percy Allen has one put together. Allen also ranks each team, has a small breakdown of their class so far, and recaps a crazy recruiting week in the Pac-12. He has Arizona ranked #1 in the conference right now after the Wildcats have pulled in three ESPN five stars, including Findlay Prep (NV) star Brandon Ashley. Says Allen, This class is loaded with three players in the top 10 on ESPN’s list. Coach Sean Miller is rebuilding a dynasty in the desert.”
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Pac-12 Team Previews: USC

Posted by AMurawa on October 28th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

USC Trojans

Strengths.  Defense. In Kevin O’Neill’s first two years at USC, his teams have ranked 2nd and 28th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. While the Trojans will not look like what O’Neill expected them to look like even a few months ago, you can expect them to be similarly stingy on the defensive end. With 7’0” sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon an intimidating shot-blocking presence inside, O’Neill could play 7’1” James Blasczyk alongside him and Iowa transfer Aaron Fuller, an athletic combo forward who is capable of guarding multiple positions, at the three. And freshman wing Byron Wesley could be the Trojans’ defensive specialist for years to come. And while 5’7” point Maurice Jones is capable of being taken advantage of in the halfcourt, he’ll cause his share of problems for opposing ballhandlers in the open floor.

Weaknesses. If defense is the strength, is it too broad to say that offense will be this team’s weakness? Well, it will be. With senior point guard Jio Fontan out for the season with a torn ACL, the Trojans are left with no one who is an obvious choice as a go-to scorer. Jones is lightning quick and a streaky shooter, but no one expects him to carry this offense. Freshman guard Alexis Moore will play alongside Jones, and while he is a natural scorer, he could stand to work on his jumper and his shot selection. And Fuller, although a versatile forward, gets by more on grit and toughness than a refined offensive game. It seems like every offensive possession could be a struggle for the Trojans.

Maurice Jones

Maurice Jones May Be Small In Stature, But He'll Need To Be Big For The Trojans

Nonconference Tests.  USC plays in the Las Vegas Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend for the first big tests of their season, when they face UNLV in the opening round before playing either South Carolina or preseason #1 North Carolina in the second round. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier from there as they travel to Minnesota early in December before hosting New Mexico, Georgia and Kansas at the Galen Center throughout the month.

Toughest Conference Stretch.  It’s a brutal end to the season for USC. They host California and Stanford early in February, then play three straight road games against UCLA (although that “road” game is literally just down the road from USC’s campus) and the Arizona schools, before wrapping up the season with the Washington schools visiting Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »

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