Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2013
- The likely brief Bob Cantu era begin at Southern California last night and, while his Trojans showed plenty of resiliency in sticking around with Oregon and fighting back from a late ten-point deficit to have a chance (okay, more like four chances, three of them point-blank) in the waning moments to win or send the game to overtime, his first game of his interim stretch still goes down in the record book as a loss. For the Top 25 Ducks, they escape the trap game in advance of this weekend’s more celebrated match-up with UCLA, but of concern is their seemingly newfound ability to take comfortable late-game leads and turn them into significantly uncomfortable late-game battles. Certainly much of that has to do with their freshman backcourt, but if UO wants to compete seriously for a Pac-12 title, they need to begin closing games more effectively.
- Earlier, up town a piece, UCLA was displaying a similar trait, although nowhere near as dramatically. For at least the fourth time in their five Pac-12 wins, the Bruins surged out to a comfortable lead, only to ease off the gas and let an overmatched opponent back into the game, this time against Oregon State. With the Ducks waiting on Saturday, that will not be an option. Aside from the game, there were other big goings-on at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night, as Jamaal Wilkes became just the eighth player to have his jersey retired at UCLA. On hand for the festivities were other such Bruin luminaries as Bill Walton (who handled the color duties for the ESPN broadcast), Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Mike Warren and Marques Johnson.
- The Oregon/UCLA game isn’t the only big-time Pac-12 game this weekend, as Arizona and Arizona State will square off in the battle for the Grand Canyon State Saturday as well. After ASU experienced a couple of very down years, they’re back in the mix in the conference, and their improvement on the defensive end is a large reason. Almost completely forsaking the match-up zone of the past, Herb Sendek has turned his team loose in man-to-man defense with athletic perimeter guys like Jahii Carson, Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon harassing ball-handlers and Jordan Bachynski cleaning up anyone that siphons through.
- Washington maybe the biggest story in the early going of conference play off of four straight wins to open Pac-12 in surprising fashion. Ben Knibbe of the UW Dawg Pound writes that the difference between the currently streaking Huskies and the team that lost to Albany and Nevada is that they’re finally beginning to play man-to-man defense at the level expected of Lorenzo Romar-coached teams. Part of that is due to veterans completely buying in, part of it is due to great team chemistry, but whatever the cause, so long as the defense remains a priority, expect the Huskies to keep on winning.
- We started the week with the Kevin O’Neill news, and its been a constant theme all week, so we might as well wrap it up by touching on it one last time. Pat Haden told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that not only is USC ready and willing to spend what it takes to land a big-name coach, but that he’s already had contact with people who are potentially interested in the job. But we’re all just going to have to wait and see what happens, because as Haden acknowledged, the guys that he is after aren’t going to be ready to commit to USC until after their NCAA Tournament runs are complete.
Posted by rtmsf on September 10th, 2012
- The biggest news from the weekend was without question the bombshell that dropped Friday that former Duke forward Lance Thomas is being sued by a New York City jeweler who caters to professional athletes for an unpaid debt of $67,800 — credit that was extended to Thomas upon a down payment of $30,000 and purchase of several items during December of his senior season. This is the same senior season that led to Duke and Mike Krzyzewski’s fourth national championship won over upstart Butler; the same senior season where Thomas started in most of the Blue Devils’ games and contributed five points and five rebounds in roughly 25 minutes per game. Right now, there are more questions than answers — where did Thomas get such a large sum of money to make the down payment? Why would a jeweler give a college student of marginal skill such exorbitant credit? What happened to the jewelry, and did anyone at Duke see him wearing it? Right now, all we know is that the NCAA and Duke both say that they are aware of the issue, but you’d better believe that a nation full of fans of schools other than Duke will be watching this one very, very closely.
- Of the six power conferences, the Big East has without question been the one most expendable because of its relative lack of marquee football programs. In an effort to keep up with the Joneses, it has expanded its gridiron presence to include schools from all four US time zones which hasled to understandable mockery over the word “East” in its moniker. Last week former interim commissioner Joe Bailey stated at a sports business conference that the league was investigating a name change to better fit its new national geographic presence. Within minutes of this news releasing, Twitter had a field day making fun of it, no doubt sending current Big East commissioner Mike Aresco into panic mode. Putting the matter to rest on Saturday, Aresco said that there are no plans to change the name, citing “tremendous brand equity” in the conference’s geographic misnomer. Let’s hope for Aresco’s sake that the equity he refers to is more Apple than Enron.
- The third buzzworthy item from the weekend related to a comment made by NCAA executive VP for championships, Mark Lewis, late last week. In a conversation with ESPN.com, Lewis said he pulled out a US map and openly wondered why the population-heavy east and west coasts were effectively shut out of the possibility of hosting a Final Four because there are no domed stadiums located in those areas (every Final Four from 1997 to present has been in a dome). The eight existing viable locations — Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and St. Louis — are generally found in the nation’s mid-section, far from the media hype machines located along the seaboards. The primary impact, of course, would be on the ticket market. Domes are set up to hold upward of 70,000 fans, whereas traditional basketball arenas top out in the low 20,000+ range. We’ve been to a number of Final Fours over the years, and in general have to agree with Mike DeCourcy who argues that the buzz and energy of the building filled with that many people surpasses the tradeoff of a more intimate environment. As a compromise position, we’d offer this suggestion — limit the regional rounds to traditional arenas only, allowing the NBA cities located up and down both coasts regular hosting opportunities; but keep the Final Fours in the dome environments, allowing huge fanbases as well as the general public a reasonable chance to experience one of the great spectacles in all of sports.
- As we inch closer to the 2012-13 season, UNLV basketball continues to receive positive attention. The Runnin’ Rebels are loaded with talent and expectations are sky high in the desert. With good attention and expectations comes demands, and the Nevada Board of Regents made an effort to keep head coach Dave Rice happy by approving a raise to a base salary of $600,000 and an extension through the 2016-17 season. Rice’s first season featured the emergence of star forward Mike Moser and a 26-9 overall record although it ended prematurely in the Rebs’ first game of the NCAA Tournament. Next year’s team will add star recruit Anthony Bennett and transfer Khem Birch to bolster the front line along with Moser, making UNLV a chic preseason pick to make a run at the 2013 Final Four.
- The 2012 Basketball Hall of Fame class was inducted on Friday night, and as always, college basketball was well-represented. The biggest name from our game was Virginia’s three-time NPOY Ralph Sampson — for those of you under 40, read that part in italics again — a player who was so utterly dominant during one of the most talented eras the sport has ever seen that his NBA career (only four All-Star appearances) pales in comparison. Other college stars of note were UCLA’s Jamaal Wilkes (two-time first-team All-American), UCLA’s Don Barksdale (second-team All-American), Reggie Miller (two-time first-team Pac-10), Iowa’s Don Nelson (two-time All-American, although he was selected for his coaching), Bradley’s Chet Walker (two-time All-American), New Mexico’s Mel Daniels (second-team All-American) and referee Hank Nichols. An interesting non-basketball-playing inductee was Nike CEO Phil Knight, whose impact on the sport through his sneakers and corollary marketing efforts have been incalculable.
Posted by AMurawa on April 4th, 2012
- With the college basketball now, sadly, in the books, things are about to slow down here just a bit. But, we’re still going to keep you up to date on the Pac-12 as the interminable offseason rolls on. While we may not have Morning Fives on a regular basis, we will crank them out from time to time when we have Pac-12 hoops related content. Beginning this afternoon, we will begin posting report cards for each conference teams, and throughout the summer we’ll keep you posted on what these teams will look like in the future. And, we will hopefully toss in some fun little things from time to time as well.
- The most important Pac-12 news of the last couple days is Tony Wroten’s decision to forgo his final three seasons of collegiate eligibility and enter the NBA Draft; he’ll hire an agent, precluding any chance of a change of heart. Coupled with the graduation of senior Darnell Gant and the previous decision of Terrence Ross to go pro, Washington will lose a shade over 52% of their scoring from this year’s team. Still, Lorenzo Romar will get senior guard Scott Suggs back from a redshirt season due to injury, while redshirt freshman point guard Andrew Andrews, who sat out last season year due to the combination of Wroten and Abdul Gaddy already locked in at the point, should be ready to make an immediate impact. As for Wroten, projections on his draft status show him currently a late first round pick, but he’ll need to impress between now and the June draft in order to secure first round status and the guaranteed contract that goes with it.
- Utah fans got news on Wednesday of another outgoing defection, as it was announced that freshman forward George Matthews would be transferring out of the program, making him the fifth player to transfer out since the end of the season. Matthews was the most highly regarded of last year’s six-man recruiting class, but he struggled with injuries in the offseason and was never truly healthy this season. Still, this is not exactly a blow to Utah’s plans. They needed to cull the flock a bit in order to make room for next year’s incoming recruits, and, really, this roster needed to be remade in a bad way. Part of that remake is the addition of 5’9” point guard Brandon Taylor who’ll join the team next year as a freshman and have a chance to compete for starters’ minutes from day one.
- While here on the second day of the offseason, it still seems quite a long way away, little by little we’re hearing about games being scheduled for next year. On Wednesday word filtered down that UCLA would be playing San Diego State in the Wooden Classic on December 1. While this is not official yet, it marks a couple of interesting occasions. First, and perhaps foremost, it represents the return of the Wooden Classic to a weekend non-conference game for UCLA early in December, rather than the thrown-together Thursday night conference matchup with Arizona that took place last year. Hopefully there will be another interesting game of some sort on the same card as the SDSU/UCLA game and the event to honor one of college basketball’s most enduring icons will be on safe footing against. Secondly, it also marks the first time these two teams will have met in the Steve Fisher era with the Aztecs and the first time since 1991. With SDSU welcoming in some high profile transfers and UCLA potentially sporting one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, this could be a game to watch in next year’s non-conference slate.
- Lastly, on Monday the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced their 2012 inductees, and a couple of Pac-12 players were on the list – UCLA’s Jamaal Wilkes and Reggie Miller. While both are probably more well known for the exploits at the professional level, each excelled with the Bruins. Wilkes won two championships under John Wooden (‘72 and ‘73) and was twice a first-team All-American (’73 and ’74), averaging 15 points and 7.4 rebounds per game over his three-year career in Westwood. Miller certainly didn’t have anywhere near the team success that Wilkes did with the Bruins (although he did lead UCLA to the first-ever Pac-10 conference tournament title in his senior year), but was a spectacular talent, averaging almost 24 points per game over his final two seasons.