Pac-12 Weekly Five: 07.13.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on July 13th, 2012

  1. Every week in the middle of the summer, it is always a scramble to find interesting stories to write about for our Weekly Five, as college basketball-related news is often hard to come by. This week, however, was definitely not one of those weeks, as there has been plenty of news from around the conference. However, we’d gladly still be scrambling finding something to write about rather than have to write this. But, former Stanford captain Peter Sauer, who helped the Cardinal reach four straight NCAA Tournaments, including a run to the Final Four in 1998, died last weekend after collapsing while playing pickup basketball. He was just 35. It was an enlarged heart that likely caused the collapse, but Sauer also fractured his skull when he fell. While Sauer was never the main offensive threat for those fantastic Stanford teams, he was a scrappy and effective competitor who left his mark on most games he competed in and seems to have been nearly universally regarded as a great teammate. As a captain in each of his final two seasons on The Farm, he helped his talented Cardinal team to their first-ever Pac-10 title. He remained a part of their program even after graduation and was in attendance when the Cardinal took home the NIT title last March in New York. The Stanford Daily offers up a great eulogy for Sauer, departed far too early. Perhaps there is some small amount of solace in the fact that he died playing the game he loved, but for those of us who go out there whenever we get a chance and spend a couple hours a time or two a week balling it up with friends, this kind of thing hits close to home. You never know which runner in the lane will be your last. He leaves behind a wife and three kids, and our hearts go out to the family and friends he leaves behind.
  2. Unfortunately, that’s not the last death we have to report this week, as former UCLA wing Kenny Heitz died at the age of 65 on Monday after a long battle with cancer. Heitz may not be a familiar name to younger college basketball fans, but he was a key player on some classic Bruin teams. He was a member of the famous freshman squad of 1965-66 (including such names as Lew Alcindor, Lucius Allen and Lynn Shackleford – how’s that for a recruiting class!) that won the first game ever played in Pauley Pavilion, a 75-60 win for the precocious youngsters over the two-time defending national champion UCLA varsity team. He got run in each of his three varsity seasons, alternating between a starting role and one of the first guys off the bench, eventually earning Academic All-America honors as a senior. After graduating from UCLA Summa Cum Laude and Phi Betta Kappa, he went on to earn his law degree, with honors, from Harvard Law. Heitz is survived by his wife, three daughters and two granddaughters.
  3. Sticking on UCLA for a second and definitely turning to happier subjects, we got news from Chris Foster of The Los Angeles Times this week that Joshua Smith has lost 15 pounds and has recently been seen – get ready for this – sprinting and jumping while playing basketball. Now, it is certainly possible that the verbs “sprint” and “jump” are relative terms, and sure, 15 pounds off the 300-and-however-many pounds Smith was carrying last season is hopefully just the first leg of a longer journey, but this should count as good news for Bruin and college basketball fans. And, perhaps more importantly, for Smith. He is working with a nutritionist and says he has rediscovered his passion for the game. It’s all good to hear, but the fact is, we heard similar things last offseason. Until we see it on the court come November, Smith remains a serious question mark for UCLA.
  4. From one guy who has – to this point – squandered his talent, to another guy who seems well on his way to doing the same, Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports reported this week that former Arizona point guard Josiah Turner has decided not to play for SMU this fall in lieu of beginning his attempt at creating a professional career for himself. Turner was run out of Tucson in what he admits was a haze of alcohol and marijuana, but was granted a second chance by new SMU head coach Larry Brown. However, Turner decided this past week that instead of continuing his college career, he would pursue a professional career either overseas or in the NBA Developmental League, in hopes of landing in the league next season. Turner claims to have turned over a new leaf in the wake of a DUI arrest in Tucson in April, but he’ll have to prove to NBA scouts that he possesses more than just potential. So, the book closes on Turner’s underwhelming college career, with five double-digit scoring games, three games with five-or-more assists, and two suspensions.
  5. About a month ago when we did our first week-long look at a Pac-12 team, we were incredulous about Herb Sendek’s statement that Arizona State would “play as fast as anyone” in the conference. Sendek has since changed his tune somewhat, but still says that ASU’s goal will be to average 70 points per game this season, something that, as Doug Haller at The Arizona Republic points out, Sendek’s teams have never done at ASU. Still, despite the fact Sendek may have been overstating his original position, I think we can interpret all this talk as meaning that Sendek is ready to turn freshman point guard Jahii Carson loose whenever possible in the hopes of getting some easy baskets. There still will be plenty of halfcourt sets, but the Sun Devils will hope to take advantage of transition opportunities when available.
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Morning Five: 07.11.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 11th, 2012

  1. Everyone feel free to let out a big sigh… Former Arizona malcontent and SMU transfer Josiah Turner has decided to follow his dream to play in the NBA by forgoing college basketball in favor of taking a shot with the D-League or spending next season in Europe to hone his game for next year’s draft. As he put it in an interview with Yahoo Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg Tuesday, “In college, you get your degree and everything, but going pro is getting me closer to my dream and what I want to do in life.” Turner was set to become new head coach Larry Brown’s first big recruit at SMU, but for now it appears that he’s putting all of his eggs into a rather competitive basket. He admits that alcohol and marijuana contributed to his paltry stats (6.8 PPG; 2.4 APG) and disciplinary problems during his one year in Tucson, but he also says that his partying days are behind him and he’s matured from that experience. Will we ever hear from Turner again — is anyone willing to take the affirmative?
  2. It’s no secret that Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy is, much like us, a defender of the inherent value of the game of college basketball. His latest piece brings up an interesting fact that we weren’t aware of prior to reading it — of the 144 basketball players who will participate in the London Olympics later this month, no fewer than 46 of them (32%) spent time developing at US colleges. When you consider that the qualifiers range from Nigeria (Arizona State’s Ike Diogu) to Australia (St. Mary’s Patty Mills) to Great Britain (GW’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu) to Lithuania (Maryland’s Sarunas Jasikevicius) to the good ol’ USA (Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, and others), you quickly realize that for many countries the American college game has become an elite training ground for the world’s top amateur talent.
  3. We sadly mentioned in yesterday’s M5 the passing of Stanford’s Peter Sauer, which reportedly was caused by a condition associated with an enlarged heart. Today’s M5 brings even more bad news in that UCLA guard Kenny Heitz, a key member of John Wooden’s three-time national champions from 1967-69, passed away in Pacific Palisades at the age of 65. Heitz and Lew Alcindor were in the same class at UCLA (talk about fortuitous timing!) and their teams went a ridiculous 88-2 over their paired careers. Rather than pursuing a professional basketball career after graduation, the Academic All-American went on to Harvard Law School and became a top-drawer commercial litigation attorney in Southern California. Thoughts go out to his family, and we hope he rests in peace.
  4. Another member of the UCLA family, Josh Smith, is entering his junior season as a Bruin. His weight problem was a major distraction last season, as he often struggled to run the court two or three times without getting winded, and Ben Howland’s team suffered as a result. Peter Yoon of ESPNLosAngeles caught up with the talented but enigmatic center recently and discovered that Smith appears to finally be taking seriously the gifts of skill and size that have been given to him. Smith said that last summer he simply returned home to Washington state and goofed around with his free time, but this summer he has remained in Westwood and is working with a nutritionist who has helped him already lose 15 pounds and improve his conditioning. It certainly remains to be seen whether any of this will actually stick for Smith, as we feel like we’ve heard this before (not only from him but Renardo Sidney also comes to mind) and he needs to melt a lot more than 15 bills from his frame. But… and this is a big if… if Smith is in shape and the Wear twins are at all adequate, then Ben Howland will have the best frontcourt in America.
  5. It appears that the nation’s athletic directors are in a giving mood this month. Third year Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery received a revised seven-year contract that will pay him an average of between $1.6 to $1.9 million over that period, depending on whether he hits certain NCAA Tournament incentives. Keep in mind that, although McCaffery has certainly got the Hawkeye program heading in the right direction (from 11-20 his first year to 18-17 last season), he has yet to finish in the top half of the Big Ten nor done any damage nationally. This is a rather unbelievable deal for someone who has yet to even sniff the NCAAs in his time in Iowa City — but hey, we’re rooting for the guy to earn it. Good for him.
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Arizona Week: Q&A With Pachoops’ Adam Butler

Posted by AMurawa on June 29th, 2012

As we head toward closing out our coverage of the Arizona basketball program in our third of a summer-long series of in-depth looks at Pac-12 schools, we’re inviting Adam Butler of Pachoops back in to give us his thoughts on the big questions facing the Wildcats in 2012-13. Adam gave us a hand yesterday with our Burning Question of the week, and we hope to have him back from time to time to add his unique perspective. Without further ado, here’s what we came up with:

RTC: Let’s dig right in here Adam, starting from the top of the program. So, in 29 seasons since Lute Olson took over the Wildcat program, the team has missed the NCAA Tournament exactly three times: Olson’s first year, and then two of the three years under current head coach Sean Miller. Yet, it seems there is a confidence around the program that not only do they have the right coach, but that big things are on the verge of happening again in Tucson. Do you hold that view as well? And why or why not?

Sean Miller, Arizona

Arizona Has Missed The NCAA Tournament In Two Of Sean Miller’s Three Seasons In The Desert, But Arizona Fans Still Have Faith In Their Head Coach (AP Photo)

AB: Oh the Lute years were sweet. Arizona was no worse than a five-seed for 16 straight tournaments. Do you realize how awful March 2010 was for me? I literally fled the country. But I’ve digressed. Yes, I think Sean Miller is on the verge of very big things. He’s a phenomenal coach and has already demonstrated such in very short order. He took a bare cupboard and turned that into an Elite Eight; and before we get too far down the road talking about how that 2009 class fell into his lap, it did fall into his lap and those kids could’ve gone anywhere. But they chose Miller for a reason. And my impression of that reason is that he’s piecing together a very special something in the desert. I like to use Indiana’s rebuilding as a barometer and if you look at where they are following Kelvin Sampson bottoming them out, Tom Crean is in year five with the top team in the country in the preseason. Last season – year four – was their first taste of big success again. Arizona has essentially followed the same trajectory (2010-11 was a glorious anomaly), and finds itself with a very sound roster here in Miller year four and project to have a filthy year five. Here, let me pass you the Kool-Aid.

RTC: While the 2012-13 version of the Wildcats will have five returnees from last season, all of whom should get some run, it is a group of four highly touted freshmen and incoming transfer Mark Lyons who give the program the most cause for optimism. Let’s start with Lyons. He’s not a true point, is more of a shoot-first guy and his most recent head coach, Chris Mack, didn’t seem all that sad to see him transfer. Can he really be the type of point guard to help meld together some talented returnees with a frontcourt-heavy freshman class?

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Arizona Week: Running Down the Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on June 27th, 2012

The Wildcats return five players who earned 10 or more minutes last season and it is a good bet that each of those players will have at least as big a role in 2012-13, with a couple different players perhaps poised for breakout seasons. Today we’ll take a look at each of them, by order of last year’s scoring average, and try to peer into the near future for each of these guys.

  • Solomon Hill, Senior, Small Forward (13.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.6 APG) – In 2011-12, Hill led the Wildcats in rebounding and assists, was second in scoring, posted the highest field goal percentage and defensive rebound percentage, used the most possessions of anyone on the team, knocked down 37 three-pointers at a 39% clip, and did all of that in a highly efficient manner. In other words, the dude’s versatile. And, in a year where Arizona will be breaking in a one-season tire-patch of a point guard in Mark Lyons, a guy who has been known to fall in love with his own shot, Hill’s ability to play the point-forward position could be vital. Further, with a bunch of talented freshman bigs getting ready to make an impact in Tucson, Hill could be pushed out of the paint more, setting up camp more on the perimeter and at the elbows. If he can continue to improve his jumper as he has done, he could prove to be a matchup nightmare, capable of stepping out to hit the three, knocking down the pull-up off a couple dribbles, using a power move to get to the hoop, or feeding the bigs out of the high post. Really, while Hill definitely shone in his junior year, he could be primed to step it up even another notch in his final collegiate campaign. Throw in his ability as a vocal leader on a team with plenty of youngsters (he could, in particular, be a mentor for freshman big Grant Jerrett, who has some of the same skills that Hill possesses) and Hill could be one of the most important players to his team in the entire country.
Solomon Hill, Arizona

Solomon Hill is Arizona’s Most Versatile Player, And Could Be The Team’s Emotional Leader This Season (Ronald Martinez, Getty Images)

  • Nick Johnson, Sophomore, Shooting Guard (9.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG. 2.4 APG) – Johnson’s freshman season got off to a flashy start, with seven double-figure scoring efforts prior to New Year’s Day, copious amounts of highlight-reel dunks, solid defense, and a confident jumper. Unfortunately, once conference play rolled around, he struggled with his jumper (he shot 41.7% from three prior to January 1 and 28% afterward) and his confidence waned. Opponents began playing off him and daring him to shoot, and his entire game at both ends of the floor was negatively impacted by his shooting woes. Still, all things considered, it is hard to be anything but bullish about Johnson’s future. As athletic as any returning guard in the conference, Johnson’s got a strong first step, the ability to throw down a dunk in an opposing big man’s face, and a willingness to make the unselfish play when it presents itself. Add on the ability to be a lockdown defender and, so long as Johnson tightens up his jumper, he could be among the conference’s best players next year.
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Arizona Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on June 26th, 2012

Even at the start of last season, head coach Sean Miller knew that the 2012-13 team would be absent four seniors who had completed their collegiate eligibility (Jesse Perry, Kyle Fogg, Brendon Lavender and Alex Jacobson). But, given that Miller was welcoming in a strong four-man 2011 recruiting class and had already dialed in an elite 2012 recruiting class, the Wildcats still figured to be a deep and relatively young squad. However, as is so often the case these days in college basketball, half of last year’s four freshmen never stuck around long enough to see their sophomore seasons in Tucson, and would-be senior Kyryl Natyazkho also decided to forgo his final season of eligibility in pursuit of a professional career in Europe. As a result, instead of simply losing four players from last year’s team, there are a total of seven players who earned minutes last year who will not be in UA uniforms next season. We’ll look at all seven players below, roughly in the order of the degree to which they will be missed.

Kyle Fogg, Arizona

After Four Strong Years In Tucson, Kyle Fogg Finds Himself On Several All-Time Lists (John Miller, AP)

  • Kyle Fogg – Fogg came to Tucson in relative obscurity in the class of 2008, a late bloomer ranked as just the 64th best shooting guard in his recruiting class by ESPNU. Four ever-improving seasons later, Fogg bowed out while holding some pretty impressive spots on the all-time Wildcat lists. He’s fifth on the all-time list in games started and first in games played, fourth in three-point field goals made, and seventh in minutes played. He’s 22nd all-time on the Wildcat career scoring list, quite impressive given some of the elite players who have passed through this program. What’s more, he was a guy who was considerably better as a senior than he was as a surprising freshman who earned 24 minutes a game. The quiet freshman who was a recruiting afterthought turned into a great asset for his team by the time his impressive college career was up. He’ll be missed in Tucson.
  • Jesse Perry – Perry only spent two seasons in Tucson after transferring in from Logan Community College in 2010, but he was a solid contributor in his time with the Wildcats. After a relatively slow start, he turned up his game in time to help UA make its run to the 2011 Pac-10 title and the Elite Eight, then nearly doubled his output as a senior while upping his efficiency numbers too. Though undersized at 6’6” for a guy who was ostensibly a power forward, Perry was third in the conference in rebounding last season (7.5 RPG) and a key part of the UA attack. Luckily for Sean Miller and company, though, Perry’s loss will be mitigated by the arrival of three freshman big men ready to step into his role.
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Mark Lyons Could Be the Missing Piece For Arizona

Posted by AMurawa on May 8th, 2012

Despite the fact that Sean Miller had inked a top-three recruiting class, his roster at Arizona was lacking in one key area: point guard. However, this weekend’s news that Xavier transfer Mark Lyons had committed to Miller (for the second time – it was Miller who had originally recruited Lyons to the Musketeers) goes a long way toward not only clearing up the picture in the Wildcat backcourt, but putting the Pac-12 back on the map for the 2012-13 season.

With elite recruits along the frontline like Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, and Brandon Ashley and a group of talented returnees, there was already plenty of reason for Cat fans to be excited going into next year, but the huge hole at point guard left by consecutive offseasons during which the incumbent point guard transferred out of the program (Momo Jones last summer, then Josiah Turner this season) threatened to limit the upside of the roster. But, despite the fact that Lyons is by no means a true point guard, and he butted heads with Chris Mack (resulting in Lyons’ decision to leave the program) the graduating senior could be the missing piece for a season as the program waits on Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell to gain his eligibility in 2013-14.

Mark Lyons

Mark Lyons Gives The Wildcats A Much-Needed Option At Point (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Lyons is a scoring combo guard who spent most of his three seasons at Xavier playing off of the ball. However, he’s got the handle and presence to man the point full-time for the Wildcats and, for a team with a lot of nice pieces but no real go-to scorer, he will be able to fill that need as well. Lyons’ junior season at Xavier was marred by his involvement in the infamous on-court brawl with Cincinnati early in the year, but all told, it was by far his best season. He averaged 15 points, shot nearly 40% from deep and posted the best offensive efficiency rating of his career while taking a higher percentage of his team’s shots than ever before. He excels at getting into the lane and scoring on offense, while he is a pestering on-ball defender. At Arizona, however, he will need to prove that he can play with the ball in his hands on a regular basis and get his new teammates involved. He will have plenty of help in the ballhandling area from guards like sophomore Nick Johnson (who had appeared to be the frontrunner to take over the point guard spot despite his struggles in his handful of chances at that position in his rookie campaign) and Jordin Mayes, as well as point forward Solomon Hill, who led the Wildcats in assists last season, but Lyons has an ability to create for himself and his teammates that those others do not have.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 05.04.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on May 4th, 2012

  1. About a month into the offseason now, the incoming recruiting classes are just about set, while the comings and goings of Division I transfers are beginning to sharpen in focus. In the past week, we’ve learned that Washington State would be welcoming in former Iowa State center Jordan Railey, who saw limited time in his two seasons in Ames, but could be a factor up front for the Cougars in 2013-14. Utah will be the landing spot for Loyola Marymount graduate transfer Jared DuBois, who was a double-figure scorer in all of his previous seasons in Los Angeles (he redshirted his junior year after playing 175 minutes early prior to a season-ending injury). While DuBois can be a little wild at times, he should give head coach Larry Krystkowiak a sorely-needed offensive punch. Then there is former Tennessee forward Renaldo Woolridge (aka Swiperboy), who will spend his final season of eligibility at USC after graduating from the Knoxville school this spring. Reign of Troy expects Woolridge to step right into the starting lineup for Kevin O’Neill, but given his lack of accomplishments with the Volunteers and the influx of new talent for the Trojans, that may be overly optimistic. He should earn a significant spot in the rotation though.
  2. Meanwhile, a couple of outgoing transfers announced their landing spots, as Curtis Washington, formerly of USC, will head to Georgia State, while Arizona State refugee Kyle Cain will matriculate at UNC Greensboro, both becoming eligible in 2013-14. But the biggest name among outgoing Pac-12 transfers is Josiah Turner, heavily rumored to be heading to SMU and their new head coach Larry Brown, but who has not made any official announcement yet. Perhaps the decision was delayed some by the latest in a long line of bad decisions made by the talented youngster, as Turner was busted by university police last Thursday morning for a DUI, along with driving without a license, registration and insurance. After wasting a season in Tucson, it could be up to Brown to revive a once promising basketball career, but he’ll have to convince Turner to take his off-court life more seriously before any progress can be made. Percy Allen has a complete rundown of all the conference transfers.
  3. A couple conference schools landed more recruits this week, as Utah scored a commitment from swingman Dakarai Tucker this week, wrapping up an eight-man recruiting class (including DuBois) for the Utes. With four incoming freshmen to go with redshirt freshman Jeremy Olsen (back from a Mormon mission) and a pair of junior college transfers, hopefully Krystkowiak can begin to stem the tide of wild roster turnover every offseason in Salt Lake City. Likewise, in Eugene, Dana Altman scored a commitment from three-star wing Fred Richardson, a smart shooter who was considering a handful of other major conference schools. However, all is not done for Altman this year, as he continues to pursue top-ten recruit Anthony Bennett and four-star center Chris Obekpa, both of whom are still in the process of deciding where they will attend school.
  4. Last stop in terms of player movement: Mark Lyons, formerly of Xavier, is on the market and strongly considering Arizona as a landing spot for his final season of play next year. Lyons is also considering Kansas and Kentucky, but he will visit Sean Miller’s program this weekend. Lyons already knows Miller well, having been recruited to the Cincinnati school by him and having spent a redshirt season under the former head coach. Also, Lyons hosted current Wildcat wing Kevin Parrom when he took a recruiting visit to Xavier in 2009. Miller could sure use Lyons next season, as the Wildcats lack a clear answer at the point guard slot. While Lyons is a combo guard (at best), he is certainly a more obvious answer at the point than anyone else currently on the Wildcat roster.
  5. And lastly, speaking of Parrom, the Wildcat junior was named one of the winners of the 2012 Wilma Rudolph Award, an honor given to student-athletes who “have overcome great personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics.” Parrom was shot in the leg in September while visiting his mother at her home in New York City as she was trying in vain to fight off cancer. Parrom’s mother’s death just weeks later came on the heels of his grandmother’s death earlier last summer. And, as just the icing on Parrom’s difficult season, his year ended early when he broke his foot in late January and missed the rest of the team’s games. This is a deserving honor for the player who has had to deal with so much in the past calendar year.
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RTC 2012-13 Top 25: Post NBA Draft Deadline

Posted by KDoyle on May 1st, 2012

It’s never too early for these, right? We all love the debates, projecting who is too high or too low, and taking a closer look at the upcoming college hoops season — six months goes by quickly, promise. In quickly looking at the Top 25, one would surmise that having five of a team’s top players forgo the remainder of their college careers in favor of the NBA Draft would absolutely kill that team’s prospects for the upcoming season, but that is simply not the case for Kentucky. Last year’s National Champions check in at #2 in the Top 25, proving that John Calipari doesn’t rebuild, he reloads. It would not behoove us to let Kentucky steal the storyline, however, as Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers are the top dog in what looks to be a banner upcoming year. In what was arguably the most exciting and high-flying game of last year’s Tournament, the Hoosiers fell to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, but have nearly all the pieces back. Just two years ago this was a 12-20 team with no postseason experience, and now they are the top team in the land — according to our group of experts, at least. What a tremendous job Tom Crean has done. The usual Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…

Whether it is through an exceptional recruiting class, or an impressive finish to the 2011-12 season coupled with a strong nucleus returning, the following five teams surged upward—and for good reason:

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Morning Five: 04.30.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 30th, 2012

  1. Later today Southern Mississippi will introduce Morehead State‘s Donnie Tyndall as its next head coach. Tyndall, who led Morehead State to two NCAA Tournament appearances (including an upset over Louisville in 2011) in six season, is expected to sign a four-year contract at Southern Mississippi. He will be replacing Larry Eustachy, who took the school to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years this season before leaving to take over at Colorado State. Fortunately for Tyndall, Eustachy did not leave the cupboard bare as the Golden Eagles should have a very good team next season. We have not heard any word on potential replacements for Tyndall at Morehead State, but it seems like it would be a good location for a current assistant coach to step into his first head coaching spot.
  2. With all of the recent news surrounding transfers it was surprising to see that Duke transfer Michael Gbinije had decided to transfer to Syracuse. Although Gbinije, who saw little court time during his freshman year at Duke, will have to sit out a year, but the transfer is notable since he will be staying within the ACC with the Orange joining the ACC. Although we are sure that many of you out there are loath to hear the media heap any more praise on the Blue Devils we have to applaud their program for agreeing to do so or at least without all the fuss that other programs have created when a player tries to transfer.
  3. Wisconsin was one of the programs that found itself in the news over issues with a transfer (Jarrod Uthoff) recently and the person who was the symbol of the impeded transfer was Bo Ryan. While the ordeal was a bit of a public relations disaster for Ryan and Wisconsin and Uthoff will be leaving the school it seems like Ryan will be staying at the school through at least 2017 as the school gave him a five-year extension on Friday. Ryan, who has coached at Wisconsin for 12 seasons, has built the program into one of the premier programs in the Midwest and the entire country (probably a top 5 program if you ask Ken Pomeroy). We are looking forward to see what restrictions there are on Ryan if he wants to move to take another job.
  4. Renaldo Woolridge, best known for being the son of former NBA start Orlando and having produced music that pushed the boundaries of the NCAA rule book, will be transferring to Southern California and playing next season after playing three seasons at Tennessee. Woolridge has garnered quite a bit of attention for his musical exploits and his promotion of that music, but to date his production (never averaging more than 4.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13.6 minutes per game in any season) leaves quite a bit to be desired. Woolridge only has one season more at the collegiate level to make his mark on the court.
  5. What would a weekend be without a few idiotic run-ins with the authorities? This weekend’s “winners” are Josiah Turner and Pe’shon Howard. We will start with Turner, who decided to transfer from Arizona after a tumultuous freshman year. Turner was arrested this past week on suspicion of driving under the influence. The reports on the arrest do not provide further details including when the arrest happened, but it goes without saying that this will not help Turner in his search to find a program to transfer to although we suspect with his pedigree there will be plenty of Division I programs waiting with arms open for a player of Turner’s caliber. The details on Howard’s arrest are a little more clear as he was arrested at 2:35 AM on Sunday morning for his involvement in a fight out a restaurant in College Park, Maryland. Howard, who missed the last month of his sophomore season after tearing an ACL, was not directly involved in the physical altercation, but was involved verbally. Given the reports on the issue we doubt that Howard will get much more than a slap on the wrist from the Maryland coaching staff.
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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 04.18.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on April 18th, 2012

  1. Last time we did a Morning Five, we still didn’t know for certain the future whereabouts of Shabazz Muhammad. A week later, we’re still processing some of the additional recruiting news that has come in. The biggest news since the Muhammad announcement last week has centered around the Washington program. While Lorenzo Romar hasn’t signed any high school seniors for the 2012 class, he did get a commitment from Perris Blackwell, a transfer from San Francisco who will have one year of remaining eligibility beginning in 2013. Blackwell was a fixture in the USF starting lineup over the past three seasons, averaging 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds last year. Romar, however, struck out in his bid to convince 2012 center Robert Upshaw to sign with the Huskies, as the former Kansas State recruit chose his hometown Fresno State program over UW. However, there may be good news on the distant horizon, as the top recruit from the class of 2013, Jabari Parker, has Washington on his very short list.
  2. Arizona found out last week that freshman point guard Josiah Turner would be transferring out of the program, leaving Sean Miller without an obvious choice at the point for 2012-13. In an attempt to shore up that weakness, the Wildcats got a commitment from 2012 point Jacob Hazzard, who will join the program as a preferred walk-on, leaving UA with an additional unfilled scholarship for next season. Hazzard, the grandson of former UCLA star Walt Hazzard, shot over 40% from deep as a high school senior, but would be a long shot to become a significant factor for the Wildcats next season.
  3. Speaking of UCLA, their monster recruiting class may get bumped up a notch on Friday when big man Tony Parker announces his plans for college. The Bruins are considered the heavy front-runner for the 6’9”, 280-pound center from Atlanta, but his home-state school, Georgia, is still in the mix, along with Kansas, Duke and Ohio State. Why is UCLA considered the favorite to land Parker? Among other things, his former AAU coach, Korey McCray, was hired last summer by the Bruins as an assistant coach and one of his teammates with that AAU team, the Atlanta Celtics, was Bruin commit Jordan Adams. Also of note for the Bruins this week was the announcement that their game with Texas next season will be played at Reliant Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Houston Texans. The game is a return engagement from the Bruin/Longhorn matchup this year that was played at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, and it is expected to be a part of a two-game doubleheader, the other game of which has yet to be determined.
  4. Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak has been scrambling to find new players for his program to up the talent level in Salt Lake City, but this week he actually went out of his way to turn away a player. Krystkowiak asked commit Josh Hearlihy to withdraw from the National Letter of Intent he signed last November. Hearlihy was under no requirement to do so, but given his concern about not being wanted, he granted Krystkowiak’s request. Hearlihy missed most of his senior season in high school with a medical condition and the Ute head coach was concerned about his ability to be healthy, so now Hearlihy has to reconsider his potential options with very little time to spare.
  5. Lastly, NBC Sports’ Eric Angevine asks the question, “is Oregon ready to contend in the Pac-12?” Aside from the fact that Oregon was already in contention in the Pac-12 last season, it’s an interesting question. At first glance, a team that loses three of its top four scorers should have no business contending in a conference that should be quite a bit tougher next year, but anytime Dana Altman is prowling the sidelines, that team should not be counted out. This is especially so when he’s got a strong four-man recruiting class coming in. Still, while we expect the Ducks to once again overachieve in 2012-13, the discussion at the top of the conference should begin and end with UCLA and Arizona, with Stanford and potentially Colorado the best bets for sleeper contention.
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Pac-12 Comings and Goings: Shabazz Muhammad and Josiah Turner

Posted by AMurawa on April 12th, 2012

It was a big day of comings and goings in the Pac-12 on Wednesday as the picture surrounding the two historic basketball powers in the conference crystallized a bit. UCLA and its embattled head coach Ben Howland got a piece of great news as the nation’s #2 recruit – Shabazz Muhammad – announced his intentions to attend the school next year, while Arizona finally cleared up the status of freshman point guard Josiah Turner when it was announced he would be transferring out of the program.

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad Gives The Bruins Plenty Of Talent And Plenty Of Options

First, the Bruins. Despite UCLA’s struggles over the past three seasons (their 56-43 record since 2009-10 is the worst three-year record in program history since Wilbur Johns went 38-36 from 1945 to 1948 prior to the John Wooden era), Howland was able to add Muhammad to an already strong recruiting class that already featured the #5 recruit in the nation (according to ESPNU) – Kyle Anderson – and highly touted sharpshooter Jordan Adams. And, with the program still in hot pursuit of widebody Tony Parker, their haul could get even gaudier. Muhammad is an explosive offensive talent with the ability to throw down highlight-reel dunks with the best of them as well as knock down threes or score in a variety of ways in between. He will join a roster that features plenty of depth and versatility. Muhammad can play either the two or the three, and he is joined on the wings by returnees like Tyler Lamb and Norman Powell, a pair of nice pieces as well as Adams. Anderson as well can play the two or the three, but he is very adept with the ball in his hands and will play a part at the point, along with controversial North Carolina transfer Larry Drew Jr. And then up front, there are the Wear twins as well as big man Joshua Smith (although there is still a chance, somehow, that Smith could decide on his own or be encouraged to leave early), and perhaps Parker. In short, Howland has put together a ton of pieces in Westwood, but he’ll need to prove his ability to congeal those parts into a gestalt. Is Drew the answer at the point or can Anderson run the Bruin offense? Can Howland open up the offense enough to take advantage of Muhammad’s vast skills in the open court? Can Smith lose half a hundred pounds and be effective for 25 minutes a night? Can the Wear twins develop their offensive games and their defensive toughness? And can Lamb or Powell be counted on to knock down threes when called upon, or will Adams jump ahead of them in the rotation? There are plenty of questions to be answered at UCLA, but one thing is for certain: it should be fun to see it all play out.

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Morning Five: 04.12.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 12th, 2012

  1. Last night the college basketball world was hijacked by announcements from Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel about where they would he headed next season. The news from Muhammad’s camp leaked before he could announce that he was headed to UCLA while the news out of the Noel camp was a little bit of misdirection as initial reports suggested he was headed to Georgetown when in fact he was headed to Kentucky. While the decision by Noel may help decide next year’s national championship, Muhammad’s arrival in Westwood could help save Ben Howland’s job as he should make the Bruins one of the best teams out west the moment he steps foot on campus. Of course, if they are not…
  2. Let’s give it up for Gary Parrish, a voice of supreme reason. When Muhammad announced for UCLA last night, many college basketball fans around the country had trouble understanding why a top prospect would choose a program coming off a rough season where fan support is lukewarm at best rather than one of the more rabidly supported programs located in Lexington or Durham. But, as Parrish notes (and notwithstanding that two of the top 10 or so players in the NBA are Howland guys), the answer at least partially lies in the powerful influence that the major shoe companies have on elite prospects behind the scenes. Muhammad is an adidas guy and UCLA is an adidas program. But before anyone starts singing sour notes about this obvious example of subtle coercion, Parrish notes that it happens every single year with a number of top prospects. There’s perhaps no greater an example than NPOY and Final Four MOP Anthony Davis — a Nike kid who ended up at a Nike school just one recruiting season ago. If Parrish is reading this, we’d love to see a list of these ‘coincidences,’ from say, the last decade or so.
  3. We wrote Tuesday that Baylor had successfully played a compelling game of risk/reward in building its men’s basketball program to an elite level. The assumption underlying that thesis was that the NCAA would accept Baylor’s self-imposed penalties for exceeding mandated limits on phone calls and text messages to recruits from 2007-10 — the standard “probation” of recruiting restrictions as to time/place, loss of scholarships, etc. Sure enough, the NCAA did just that on Wednesday, accepting Baylor’s penalties and tacitly agreeing with our contention that the ends (recruiting enough studs to achieve two Elite Eights in three seasons) more than justify the means.
  4. So let’s get this straight… Colorado State reportedly offered its open head coaching job to former Oregon head man Ernie Kent earlier this week, but it was nixed by an unknown high-ranking school administrator. So the back-up plan became to hire the guy who was once photographed partying with students while at Iowa State? We don’t know what the real story is here, and no disrespect at all is intended to Larry Eustachy (who has clearly turned his life around by doing well at Southern Miss), but goodness, something doesn’t smell right in Fort Collins. For what it’s worth, Kent says he was never offered the job by CSU and therefore it could not have been rescinded, but he also clearly wants to get back into coaching and it wouldn’t help his prospects to cause a ruckus over this situation.
  5. Not every Pac-12 schools got good news on Wednesday. Well, Arizona got both good and bad news, with Sean Miller’s program announcing that two players were transferring in and two others were leaving after the semester. The headliner is that Josiah Turner, a former top 10 recruit from the class of 2011, is leaving Tucson for a destination unknown — his freshman season was marred by suspensions and inconsistent play at the point guard slot. Junior center Kyryl Natyazhko is also leaving Arizona, choosing to head back to Europe to pursue professional opportunities there. The good news it that the Wildcats will welcome Duquesne transfer TJ McConnell, a rising junior who averaged 11 points, six assists and four rebounds per game last season, and Matt Corcheck, a junior college transfer who will have three years of eligibility remaining. With Turner, Alex Oriakhi, Trey Ziegler and several others transferring this offseason, it’s a good year to have an extra scholarship lying around unused.
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