Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 15th, 2013
- With the start of the early signing period well underway, we’re going to spend almost all of this morning’s rundown on recruiting. And to kick things off, not only did Arizona have a big night on Thursday by getting a hard-earned victory over a tough San Diego State team, but they heard whispers of some very good things for the future as well. Stanley Johnson, a top-10 recruit out of Mater Dei in the greater Los Angeles area, will announce his decision on where he will attend school next season and the rumors are that Johnson will select Arizona over competitors like USC and Kentucky. With four-star guys Craig Victor and Parker Johnson-Cartwright already committed, Sean Miller’s got the beginnings of another phenomenal class.
- On the other side of the things, Oregon State is struggling through a rough start to the season, but Beaver fans not only can celebrate the signing of a new recruit, but this specific recruit – junior college transfer Gary Payton II – offers up ties to the most recent glory days of the basketball program in Corvallis. While “The Mitten” doesn’t have the accolades that “The Glove” brought to OSU, he is a strong defender like his father and will provide some excitement for the Beavers next season. Meanwhile, there are three other recruits who have already verbally committed to Oregon State who may sign in the coming days. The big question that remains is whether head coach Craig Robinson will still be around to enjoy the fruits of his recruiting labor.
- Up in the Bay Area, both Cal and Stanford have signed highly regarded recruits. Mike Montgomery signed four-star point guard Ahmaad Rorie, who had committed to the Golden Bears almost two years ago, while Stanford inked five-star power forward Reid Travis, who just committed to the Cardinal last week. Johnny Dawkins still has a couple four-star recruits in point guard Robert Cartwright and center Michael Humphrey who have already verbally committed, but they still need to make it official. And then, of course, we’ll need to see if Dawkins is still around to welcome them into Palo Alto next season.
- Let’s switch from NorCal to SoCal to check out what USC and UCLA got done yesterday. Trojan head coach Andy Enfield signed three players, including big guys Malik Price-Martin and Jabari Craig along with four-star point guard Jordan McLaughlin, all of whom will be significant upgrades in terms of players who fit in with the style of play that Enfield wants. Expect these three to get big roles early for the cardinal and gold. Meanwhile, across town, Steve Alford signed Kevon Looney – a five-star power forward –and Hungarian power forward Gyorgy Goloman, who is spending 2013-14 at a prep school in Florida. Looney, in particular, is a big-time get for UCLA.
- Lastly, we’ve got football again tonight. And, while we’ve got sufficient focus on basketball this time of year, we’ll be sure to take a couple breaks this weekend to keep our eye on some exciting Pac-12 football. Connor and I continue our battle for prognosticating supremacy, and we’re in a tight contest. Last week we both went 4-1, with Connor eking out a fun one when Arizona State knocked off Utah, and me riding Myles Freaking Jack !!!!! (yes, I believe those exclamation points are now officially a part of his name) to a UCLA win over Arizona (although I was wishing I was watching a UCLA/Arizona basketball game the whole time). On the season, Connor’s still got a one-game lead on me, with him checking in at 58-15 and me at 57-16. Our game of the week comes tonight, when Washington and UCLA meet up at the Rose Bowl (a 6:00 PM football game at the Rose Bowl on a Friday night? Yeah, calling that thing half full at kick-off will be extraordinarily optimistic). I’m leaving the Bruins bandwagon to hop on Bishop Sankey and company, while Connor’s going with the Bruins at home.
Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 15th, 2013
- We talked about the Arizona Red-Blue game yesterday, but while some exciting newcomers made their Wildcat debut at that event, one piece in particular still awaits his clearance. Zach Peters did not play in the intrasquad scrimmage, still sidelined as a matter of safety as the Kansas transfer works through the aftermath of five concussions over a 15-month period. While Sean Miller and the Wildcat program remain hopeful that Peters can turn into an impact player as a stretch-four on the potentially outside-shooting-starved squad, they’re making sure to bring him along in small steps, meaning that they won’t rush him back. Thus far, while Peters is practicing with the team in certain drills, he has not yet been cleared for actual contact.
- Speaking of contact, we’re going to step outside the strict bounds of the Pac-12 to check in with Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy, who is prematurely complaining about an officiating point of emphasis for this season, the attempt to penalize defenders for using their hands. This point of emphasis came down from the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, asking officials to call more fouls when a defender keeps a hand on an opponent, when a defender puts both hands on an opponent, or when the defender uses the arm bar. In the Pac-12, a conference that will share officiating oversight with Eustachy’s Mountain West this season, expect this new emphasis to have the biggest impact on programs like Washington, Oregon and Cal, three teams known for their aggressive, physical defense.
- Down in Los Angeles, there are a couple of new coaches in the city. Steve Alford replaces Ben Howland in the hot seat at UCLA, and there will be immediate expectations for a team that returns all but two contributors from last season. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports has five big questions for Alford to answer in his first season, but for my money the biggest question is related to his first one regarding Kyle Anderson. Rothstein asks if Anderson can guard small forwards, and while that is certainly a big part of the question marks surrounding Anderson, it is not the full story. Thus far, it appears Anderson is leading the competition to man the point on offense for the Bruins and, after playing off of the ball for most of his freshman campaign, it remains to be seen just how well the UCLA offense can click with the deliberate (the nickname Slo-Mo is not meant to be sarcastic) but talented sophomore manning the helm.
- Across town, new USC head coach Andy Enfield is continuing his hot start. He’s already lured in some transfers and beaten those hated Bruins in the battle for Jordan McLaughlin’s commitment, and he shows no signs of slowing down by notching another commitment this weekend. This time it was 6’10″ center Jabari Craig, an athletic center who, while raw offensively, could contribute immediately next season on the glass, in transition, and challenging shots in the middle.
- Lastly, we’ll head out to Utah where senior Renan Lenz has apparently jumped to the head of the class in the battle to replace Jason Washburn in the middle. After a disappointing first year in Salt Lake City in which the JuCo transfer earned only 8.6 minutes per game, Lenz has cut 20 pounds, tightened up his body, and improved his athleticism and speed. While guys like Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor are expected to take on the biggest roles in scoring the ball for the Utes, Lenz could turn into a solid contributor by running the floor and doing much of the dirty work in the halfcourt.