Pac-12 M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 2nd, 2012

  1. Yesterday was Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day in San Francisco, and the big news out of the event was the release of the preseason media poll, which has Arizona slotted in the top spot, edging out UCLA by one point even though the Bruins received one more first place vote. California and Washington were the other two schools receiving first place votes, with the Golden Bears garnering three and the Huskies two. It’s hard to argue with the choices for the two top spots and bottom three (Washington State, Arizona State and Utah) in the conference, but places three through nine can certainly be debated. It appears as though Colorado and USC are being underestimated by the media; especially Tad Boyle’s team. The Buffaloes were grossly underestimated last year, picked to finish tied for 10th with Washington State in the preseason. Of course, that prediction was wrong. Sure, the Buffs lost Carlon Brown and a couple of other seniors, but Tad Boyle has dealt with bigger losses before and been just fine. As far as USC is concerned, perhaps some media members got too transfixed on the Trojans’ 6-26 record without taking into account all the injuries last year’s team had combined with all the impact transfers that will be suiting up for Kevin O’Neill this year. On paper, USC at least looks better than both of the Oregon schools.
  2. Nothing too revealing usually comes out of these conference media days, but there were a couple of interesting nuggets. As predicted, Craig Robinson’s relationship with Barack Obama and the upcoming election was a hot-button topic, and the Oregon State head coach had some fun with the media by saying it’s classified information where he will be on Election Night before revealing that he will be in Chicago… but not before a his team practices earlier in the day. He also gave praise to 6’7’’ freshman Jarmal Reid, who he says is a great defender and could play early and often this year. Another interesting playing tidbit came from USC head coach Kevin O’Neill, who said that walk-on Chass Bryan will get minutes as the backup point guard to Jio Fontan. Bryan stands at 5’9’’ and is on a Presidential Scholarship to USC, unrelated to his status on the basketball team. It looks as though the line of diminutive playmakers at USC will continue in some fashion beyond Fontan’s senior year. Bryan’s role has taken on a greater importance over the last couple of months after it was announced that Maurice Jones would transfer from the school. O’Neill still had nothing but kind words for Jones at Pac-12 Media Day, going a little out of his way to compliment him on what he did for the Trojans the past two years and saying he loved him as a person. This writer is still very curious as to what led to his suspension and subsequent departure, though.
  3. George Dohrmann recently caught up with former Arizona State Sun Devil Demetrius Walker for a Q&A for his blog. Now a part of the New Mexico Lobos, it looks as though Walker has found a niche in Albuquerque and is starting to live up to some of the highly unrealistic expectations placed upon him in middle school and high school. As Eamonn Brennan points out, it’s interesting to hear Walker talk more in terms of “we” than “me” as he attempts to turn the page on an AAU culture that built him up to larger-than-life proportions and nearly destroyed him. The knock on Walker at Arizona State was that he was just an athlete and had very limited basketball skills — namely a poor jump shot. Here’s to wishing the star of Dohrmann’s Play Their Hearts Out greater success in 2012-13, as his Lobos try to take down San Diego State and UNLV for a Mountain West Conference championship.
  4. More exhibition news to pass along as two Pac-12 teams kick off their exhibition slates this weekend. Tonight, Utah takes the floor against Simon Fraser University, the first non-US institution to be a full-fledged member of the NCAA. Not surprisingly, coach Larry Krystkowiak’s team was picked to finish last in the conference, but there are plenty of new faces on this team to give the Runnin’ Utes an intrigue factor heading into the start of the season. However, it doesn’t help that one of those transfers — Aaron Dotson -- is scheduled to be out until late November or early December with a stress fracture in his foot. At the very least, the Utes should do considerably better than the 3-9 record they posted in the 2011-12 non-conference slate. The Utes play two non-Division-I teams and do not face a team from another power conference at all this season. Their RPI will certainly take a hit, but I don’t think Krystkowiak is really concerned about that this year. The other Pac-12 exhibition game takes place on Sunday, when Stanford hosts UNC Pembroke. Certainly the Cardinal will have faced much stiffer competition on Thursday night when they played Saint Mary’s in a secret scrimmage, but this game will give Cardinal fans a first look at their team taking on outside competition. Both games are being streamed live on the Pac-12 website, so feel free (and the streams are free) to have a look for yourself online.
  5. Connor here, hijacking this final bit as Drew and I continue our season-long football prognostication contest. It was another gloomy Saturday for me last weekend, as Drew extended his lead to three games. The Jeykll and Hyde Golden Bears neglected to come through for the second straight week, and Oregon State’s upset at the hands of Washington made it a perfect day for Drew. I’ve still got five weeks to come back, however, so I’m taking it conservatively and only differing on one pick here in week 10. Things get going tonight in Berkeley, where California needs a win to keep its flickering bowl hopes alive. Even if they get past the Huskies, the Bears finish the year with a pair of top 15 opponents, making it unlikely their season will continue past November 17. Saturday gets off to a bit of a slow start with Stanford visiting Boulder and Washington State heading into the hornets nest that is Rice Eccles Stadium, but things really get going in the late afternoon. That’s when our game of the week kicks off in Los Angeles, as Oregon tries to keep its perfect season alive with its toughest task yet. We get treated to a tasty pair of nightcaps following that one, as the Wildcats visit UCLA and Sun Devils take on Oregon State. Enjoy your weekend; it’ll be the last before your tasked with balancing hoops and pigskin until December.
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Washington at California California California
    Stanford at Colorado Stanford Stanford
    Washington State at Utah Washington State Washington State
    Oregon at USC Oregon 42-38 Oregon 52-25
    Arizona at UCLA Arizona UCLA
    Arizona State at Oregon State Oregon State Oregon
Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SI Story Highlights UCLA’s Downfall Through Ben Howland’s Shameful Lack of Control

Posted by EJacoby on February 29th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

The historic UCLA basketball program is in a shocking lull right now, and Sports Illustrated magazine has an upcoming feature story on why it’s not just because of poor performance on the court. George Dohrmann’s piece has been released on SI.com for an early look, and it is a must-read for all the telling details and anecdotes about the Bruins’ culture from the past five seasons. We’ll give you our reaction to the investigative piece and why coach Ben Howland might not last another season in Westwood.

Here's The Magazine Title Page of the Upcoming Story in Sports Illustrated (SI App)

Mike Moser, UNLV’s star player and the nation’s sixth-leading rebounder; Chace Stanback, the Runnin’ Rebels’ second-leading scorer with the nation’s seventh best three-point shooting percentage; Drew Gordon, New Mexico’s dominant forward and double-double machine; and Matt Carlino, averaging 13.0 points and 4.7 assists for BYU. What do they all have in common? Each of these players was once a highly touted recruit for coach Ben Howland at UCLA before transferring from the program to become star players elsewhere in the West. The departure of these four players is one of the reasons why the Bruins currently sit in sixth place in a weak Pac-12, looking at missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years and just four years removed from a run of three consecutive Final Four appearances. The feature story in Sports Illustrated set for publication later this week details why these players left campus, what kinds of unfortunate treatment other former players received, and how UCLA has struggled so badly recently, referencing mainly the ignorance of head coach Howland towards detrimental player actions.

Dohrmann’s piece, which includes interviews with over a dozen former players and team managers, highlights a general culture of recent disarray surrounding the Bruins’ basketball program. Dohrmann’s interviewees offered “a detailed inside account of how seemingly minor problems, if left unaddressed, can quickly sabotage even a storied program led by one of the nation’s most respected coaches.” The piece details how Howland, though incredibly knowledgeable of the game, fostered poor relationships with his players both on and off the court. The coach ran practices with a double standard, often ridiculing lesser players for mistakes they made while letting similar errors slide when made by stronger players. The reason, as some in the article suggested, was that Howland was afraid of upsetting star players to the point that they might transfer or leave for the NBA as soon as possible. Off the court, players would go out of their way to avoid Howland, such as one player opting to take the stairs if he ever saw the coach waiting for an elevator.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: Leap Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 29th, 2012

  1. It’s the last day of February, a glorious time to be a college hoops fan, right? But for UCLA fans, not only are they on the verge of being on the outside looking in during the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, but Sports Illustrated today publishes an “extremely negative” article about the Bruin basketball program. Pulitzer Prize winner George Dohrmann – author of “Play Their Hearts Out”, among other things – will publish a piece today, which deals with the downfall of the program, from Final Four installation to Pac-12 also-ran. The bulk of the story deals with destructive behavior from a handful of players in UCLA’s 2008 and 2009 classes (most notably – surprise! – Reeves Nelson), but plenty of blame is laid at the feet of head coach Ben Howland for not dealing with that behavior promptly or fairly. The content of the article certainly didn’t live up to the fears that UCLA fans experienced on Tuesday, when they found out that Dohrmann, breaker of the Minnesota cheating scandal in 1999 and the Ohio State football scandal last season, was dropping a bombshell on the program, but certainly any negative article about the Bruins at this point is not a good thing for the long term prospects of Howland, already regarded as being potentially on the hot seat. Howland commented on Tuesday that he can’t talk specifically about former players, and that “everybody makes mistakes, I’m definitely not perfect” but that he thinks he has “for the most part” handled things correctly. We’ll have more on this story later today and in the future as events warrant.
  2. Sort of annoying that we have to deal with that kind of story right at the start of what should be about a month-long holiday for fans of the sport, so let’s try to wipe away that story by focusing on some good stories. And there may be no better story in the Pac-12 this year than Arizona’s Kyle Fogg. Fogg came from being an afterthought in the 2008 recruiting class, only signed by Lute Olson because the Wildcats were losing Jerryd Bayless after just one year, as well as a couple graduating seniors, and needed some “fresh blood.” Now, four years later, Fogg is well on his way to becoming an All-Pac-12 performer and he already occupies spots in several Wildcat career top ten lists.
  3. Another senior who has come from relative obscurity to claim a spot as one of the conference’s best players is Oregon senior guard Garrett Sim, who just got done torching in-state rival Oregon State, the alma mater of both of his parents, to the tune of 25 points on ten-of-14 shooting. And for one Duck fan, Sim is the perfect player for the home crowd to root for – not only effective, but eminently annoying to opposing teams and opposing fans. And yes, annoying is a good thing in this context.
  4. Sim has certainly turned it on as a senior, but California’s Jorge Gutierrez has got the whole “thorn in the side to opposing teams” thing down pat after four years of experience. Even as a freshman, Gutierrez’s relentless energy, hustle and defensive pestiness drove opposing fanbases crazy, but over the years, as the Golden Bear combo guard developed his game, he has earned grudging respect from up and down the conference. While just about every coach – save one – in the conference will be glad to see Gutierrez’s eligibility expire, we’ll certainly be missing a little fire in our game next season.
  5. Lastly, let’s jump up to Washington State for one last bit of finding that silver lining, because as Jeff Nusser at CougCenter points out, this year’s Cougar team actually improved offensively, despite the losses of Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto to the professional ranks a year early. Of course, what he fails to mention is that the WSU defense took a complete nose dive. They fell from 46th in the nation in defensive efficiency last year to 199th this year, propelled mainly by their inability to do anything particularly well on that end of the court; they’re in the bottom half of the nation in opponent’s effective field goal percentage and in forcing turnovers, while they’re not a whole lot better than that in hitting the defensive glass or keeping their opponents off of the free throw line.
Share this story