Arizona Shows Off Its NCAA Tournament Credentials

Posted by Kenny Ocker on February 3rd, 2013

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a journalist based in the Northwest who filed this story after Arizona’s win against Washington State in Pullman on Saturday night.

Halfway through its Pac-12 schedule, Arizona looks like a team prepared to make an impact come March. The Wildcats have wiggled their way back into a tie for the Pac-12 lead with Oregon despite losing in Eugene in mid-January. The one other loss came at home to UCLA two weeks later, but neither snowballed for Arizona. Instead, the Wildcats have run straight through everything that could have derailed the momentum they built up in the non-conference season with wins over Florida, Miami and San Diego State. Even on the road against Washington State, two days after a last-possession win against Washington, with Kevin Parrom ejected for elbowing Cougars guard DaVonte Lacy in the first half and star senior guard Mark Lyons picking up three first-half fouls, Arizona barely blinked, taking a 40-26 lead into halftime in Pullman, which led to a 79-65 win.

Solomon Hill had six three-pointers in the first half to lead Arizona back into a tie for first in the Pac-12.

Solomon Hill had six three-pointers in the first half to lead Arizona back into a tie for first in the Pac-12.

But what makes Arizona so good? Is it having senior leadership? Is it having a talented offense? Is it having a stingy defense? It seems to be all of those things. On a night where Lyons picked up four fouls by the 17-minute mark of the second half and Parrom was booted, fellow senior Solomon Hill filled in the gap for Sean Miller’s squad with six three-pointers – including a three-quarter-court heave at the halftime buzzer – finishing with 18 points. For the season, the trio is averaging around 36 points per game and are three of the Wildcats’ top four scorers, along with sophomore guard Nick Johnson. Arizona’s offense is one that benefits from its best-in-the-conference free-throw shooting, especially thanks to the fouls drawn by ball-handlers Lyons and Johnson, who can get into the lane at will. Once they get there, they capitalize at a team-wide 75 percent rate. That, combined with strong offensive rebounding, leads to the conference’s most efficient offense, despite average two-point and three-point shooting and pedestrian turnover numbers. Where the Wildcats stand out most is on the defensive end. They force turnovers on nearly one in five opponent possessions, allow 40 percent shooting and clear the boards better than anyone in the Pac-12. Johnson’s quick hands lead to more than two steals per game, and Hill averages just more than a steal per game.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2013


  1. Since the firing of Kevin O’Neill on Monday morning, coaches on the hot seat are on the minds of many around the conference. Bud Withers of The Seattle Times points to Craig Robinson, Johnny Dawkins and Ken Bone as the three remaining Pac-12 coaches most likely to be relieved of their duties following the season, and one of the factors that could play a part in their departures is the relative disinterest of the fan bases, especially at Stanford and Washington State, where small crowds have become a theme. Of note is that Ben Howland is missing from Withers’ list, but rest assured, barring a deep run in the NCAA Tournament (meaning at least past the first weekend), Howland’s position will be reevaluated once the season ends.
  2. Continuing to mine that O’Neill theme, the Arizona Daily Wildcat has a piece about how the state of UA basketball could have been much different had previous events turned out differently. To begin with, O’Neill was the interim head coach at Arizona when Lute Olson took his leave of absence in 2007-08, and, were it not for a change of heart on Olson’s part, the plan was to make O’Neill the head man when Olson retired. When that plan fell through, O’Neill wound up free to take the USC job when Tim Floyd abruptly resigned in the wake of recruiting allegations. And, in that whole regime change, guys who had been committed to USC, namely Derrick Williams and Momo Jones, wound up de-committing and instead enrolling at Arizona, became key cogs in the 2011 Elite Eight team. Solomon Hill was also at one point committed to Tim Floyd and USC, but he backed out of that and switched his allegiance to Arizona prior to the coaching change. In short, were it not for a couple simple twists of fate involving O’Neill, the present face of Arizona basketball would look significantly different.
  3. Aside from that, you know, we actually had some games in the conference tonight. Where Wednesday games were sort of a one-off rivalry-game-only type of thing in the past, these are a regular occurrence every week this year. It takes some getting used to, sure, but really, basketball spread out more evenly through the week? I ain’t complaining. Washington State kicked things off last night by raining down fire from deep on Utah on the way to the Cougs’ first conference win of the season. Coug Center’s got your round-up of all the action, including Mike Ladd’s career night. It’s worth noting that Ladd is starting to pick up the pace offensively and it is he, rather than more popular possibilities like DaVonte Lacy or Royce Woolridge, who has stepped up as the second option on this team behind Brock Motum. Ladd has now scored in double figures in five straight games, averaging better than 16 points per night over that span.
  4. As Sabatino Chen’s desperation three-pointer banked in at the buzzer at the end of Colorado’s conference opener, it appeared that the Buffaloes were ready to be a serious contender for the Pac-12 title. Almost literally since that exact moment, not much has gone right for CU. Moments later, that shot was perhaps erroneously waved off. Soon thereafter the Buffs folded in overtime of that game. And since that night, they’ve proceeded to drop three of their next four, stumbling to a 1-4 conference start, including last night’s 10-point loss at Washington. But, while Colorado gets much of the attention for their sudden failures, the Huskies are out to a surprising 4-0 conference start. But, as Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times notes, while past Husky teams have made their mark with style and flair, this vintage of UW is getting it done with grit, hustle and smarts. And, perhaps not coincidentally, they’re overachieving this year, as opposed to their almost annual recent underachievements.
  5. Lastly, on a day that wasn’t all that great for Oregon sports, there was bad news for the basketball program as well when it came to light that the prep school that 2013 recruit Cristiano Felicio is currently attending may be under scrutiny for its legitimacy as an educational institution. And, the crazy part about this story is that may not be the worst part about it. Aside from possibly being little more than a scam perpetrated on talented basketball players, the president of the school is under investigation for physically abusing some of the schools players by subjecting them to “hands and feet bound with zip ties” and “clothes pins attached to their nipples.” Yikes.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 18th, 2012


  1. Yesterday was Monday, meaning a pair of new polls were released to lift fans from their post-weekend doldrums. Arizona was of course the highlight for Pac-12 fans, coming in at number four in the AP and fifth in the coaches poll. The argument could be made that there were four Mountain West teams better than the top Pac-12 team at most points in 2011-12, so that shows you just how far the top-tier of our conference has come in a year. The Wildcats are one of just seven undefeated teams ranked in the Top 25. The only other team without a loss is Wyoming, who comes in at #29 in the AP and #30 in the coaches.
  2. Washington State coach Ken Bone has reinstated sophomore guard Brett Kingma following a possession of marijuana arrest and subsequent suspension in late October. The Cougars could certainly use some assistance from Kingma, as DaVonte Lacy has been the only reliable scorer in the Coug backcourt. Kingma was a freshman at Oregon in the 2011-12 season, but transferred within the conference after playing just 9.8 MPG that season. He was arrested in the middle of preseason camp on possession of “several grams” of marijuana, as well as exhibiting the effects of consuming alcohol in a public place.
  3. After taking a 10-day break for Finals, Utah will return to the court tonight to face SMU. Head coach Larry Krystowiak and the Utes focused on a few different items during the layoff, with an emphasis coming in taking care of the ball and rebounding. They’ve turned the ball over at a clip of 14.4 miscues per game, including 17 in their odd, previous meeting with the Mustangs. SMU dropped Utah by a score of 62-55 in that one, but Krystowiak and company will have a chance to avenge the loss in a conference play-like second game of a home-and-home.
  4. UCLA got a nice surprise on Monday morning when former Bruin great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke to the team during its shootaround. Coach Ben Howland asked the all-time scoring leader in the NBA to speak to the team after taping an interview for a local news program. The current Bruins exclaimed that it was an “eye-opening experience” and a clear reminder of the legacy the UCLA program holds. The Bruins, who have started the season a disappointing 7-3, host Long Beach State tonight.
  5. It may seem silly to think about for a team ranked as high as Arizona is, but Pac-12 fans always seem to cringe nowadays when a trap game arrives on the schedule. The Wildcats are doing the best to avoid that situation, quickly getting back to business to prepare for tonight’s meeting with Oral Roberts. The game comes sandwiched in between last Saturday’s thriller against Florida and a trip to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic, where the Cats could face a pair of high-profile teams in Miami (FL) and San Diego State. But first up are the Golden Eagles, a team that won 27 games a year ago. As the article points out, ORU faces its own challenges preparing for the match-up, having to shake off both mental and physical rust that comes from not playing a game in nearly two weeks.
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Pac 12 M5: 12.12.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on December 12th, 2012

  1. Before Sean Miller‘s head coaching career started, he was a part of a group of successful assistants at Xavier under Thad Matta, who is now the current head coach at Ohio State. Several of these assistants like Miller are now head coaches and include John Groce at currently undefeated Illinois as well as Alan Major at currently undefeated Charlotte. Miller noted that all the coaches learned so much from Matta, but most important was the ability to bring out the best in a team by making sure that everyone is enjoying themselves throughout the entirety of the season.
  2. Ben Howland has a career 211-99 record at UCLA and has enjoyed considerable success, but this year the Bruins’ poor start can be attributed to three mistakes. Howland has played the Wear twins too much, and although he gives them constant praise, the reality is that the David and Travis Wear have their limitations on defense and have no consistency on offense — Travis has only put up 14 points in his past two games while David has put up a total of four. Howland also hasn’t found the right fit for freshman Kyle Anderson. With Larry Drew II handling the point guard duties, UCLA hasn’t been able to run a successful offense with Anderson playing off the ball. Lastly, even with the #1 recruiting class this season, Howland has failed to find his staple of tough interior defenders such as previous Bruins Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alfred Aboya, and Lorenzo Mata-Real, any of whom UCLA could so desperately use this season.
  3. Washington is scheduled to play Seattle University this Thursday, but the Huskies are likely to be without freshman point guard Andrew Andrews as he is still suffering from a sprained ankle. Andrews is currently averaging seven points and 3.3 assists per game this year and Washington could use his help with Lorenzo Romar’s team continuing to struggle as evident by their recent home loss to Nevada and their near home loss to Cal State Fullerton in the past two games.
  4. With the early dismissal of Reggie Moore from Washington State this year, Ken Bone knew he would need a replacement at point guard and has turned to sophomore Royce Woolridge to handle the position. But it’s been senior Mike Ladd who has taken the reins in recent games. Bone praised Ladd, but said that the duties will continued to be shared regardless. Additionally, Bone has been pleased so far this year with star player Brock Motum’s improvement on the defensive end as he has become much better defending the post.
  5. Last year, the Pac-12 only had two NCAA Tournament teams in Cal and Colorado who were unable to advance past the round of 32, but esteemed bracketologist Joe Lunardi came out with his latest mock yesterday and he had six Pac-12 teams currently invited into his field of 68. Arizona was a three seed, Colorado was a seven seed, Cal was a nine seed, Oregon was a ten seed, and UCLA and Stanford were twelve seeds. Although it’s only December and things will certainly change in the next three months of action, it’s still impressive to see the Pac-12 putting half its teams in the draw considering the conference’s recent inability to get more than a couple into the NCAA Tournament.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2012

  1. Gonzaga’s last second win over Washington State on Wednesday night goes down as one of the best games of the young season so far, and while Ken Bone and the Cougars aren’t big on the concept of the moral victory against a bitter rival, there are some good things they can take away from that game. First and foremost, their stars stepped up in a big way. Brock Motum and DaVonte Lacy combined for five threes in a four-and-a-half minute stretch to bring the Cougs back from an 11-point deficit to tie the game and set up the final scramble. And if WSU has any plans to turn around a slow start to the year, it will need to be on the backs of those two. The other big thing is that, while this team will be without a traditional point guard the whole year, Bone seems to have cobbled together a workable solution. Mike Ladd seems to do most of the play-making in the halfcourt set, but guys like Royce Woolridge, Dexter Kernich-Drew and Lacy have all pitched in and assembled a good point-guard-by-committee group that is doing an excellent job limiting turnovers and getting WSU into their sets. It was bumpy at the start of the year, but the Gonzaga loss proved to me, at least, that the situation is workable.
  2. Meanwhile, Utah, another team expected to finish near the bottom of the conference, was able to come up with its best performance of the year in blowing out Boise State. On a night when the Utes honored former head coach Rick Majerus prior to the game, Utah center Jason Washburn said “we felt like Coach Majerus was with us all night; he was right on the bench with us, smiling down.”  Washburn went 6-of-6 from the field to pace an incredibly hot shooting night for the Utes, in which they shot a ridiculous 78.8% eFG. Block U calls the win the best by the program in the last four years, and, although I could nitpick, it is being taken as a sign by the Ute faithful that Larry Krystkowiak has got this ship headed in the right direction.
  3. We’ve talked a lot about Mark Lyons over the last few days, and Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News has his own take on his transition to the point, which includes the unconvincing argument of “hey, they’re beating a lot of bad teams by a lot of points!” But, DeCourcy does make the point that Lyons is never really the sole ballhandler on the floor for Arizona and that Sean Miller is quite pleased with Lyons’ production. I would maybe go even one step further and say that, while Lyons is the closest thing to a point guard on the team, very rarely is he tasked with being the initiator of the halfcourt offense, a role that just as often falls to either Solomon Hill or Nick Johnson. Lyons may spend a bit more time with the ball in his hands this year than he did last year playing with Tu Holloway at Xavier, but really, Miller hasn’t exactly tried to rebuild Lyons from the ground up.
  4. Even with UCLA’s struggles out of the gate, Shabazz Muhammad still thinks his team is going to make an impact in the Pac-12 this season, even if it has been relegated to sleeper status by their early losses. He told the Petros and Money show on Fox Radio on Wednesday how he feels about the rest of the season. But, the big takeaway from Muhammad’s comments (other than the overwhelming use of the word “really”) may be that Ben Howland has “become a players’ coach.” Muhammad ties that comment to the change that encourages the team to get out in transition more, and it is true that UCLA’s averaging about three more possessions per game this year than last, but certainly Howland is still trying to figure out the sweet spots on both ends of the floor for this team.
  5. Another team that has earned the title “sleeper team” in the Pac-12 is Oregon, off to a 7-1 start behind the production of an all-freshman backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. While senior leader E.J. Singler is quick to praise his younger players, Dana Altman, ever the coach, sees the need for better consistency and better shot selection out of the backcourt duo. Still, he sees them as key cogs in the long-term plans for the Ducks. And, an already deep and talented team expects to get even deeper and more talented, when freshman Arik Armstead is expected to join the team in January. Armstead, a defensive tackle for the Ducks football team, won’t join the team until after Oregon’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl (January 3 against Kansas State) and it’ll take some time for him to get into basketball shape and learn the ins and outs of the teams’ sets, but he’s been spending a bit of time working with team managers. Just how much of an impact he’ll have is unknown, especially with a now deep Ducks big man rotation, but you can never have too much talent, can you?
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A Spin Around The Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2012

Now that we’ve got games coming fast and furious, every team around the conference has a story to tell, and often we don’t have time to get to them all. So, in the interest of checking in semi-regularly with every team, we’re going to take a quick spin around the conference and check the temperature of each team, beginning with the spots that have gone the most terribly wrong and working backwards to the success stories.

UCLA – More or less a co-favorite heading into the season, the Bruins are likely the biggest story going in the Pac-12 right now – and not for anything good. Sunday night’s blown 18-point second-half lead en route to a loss to Cal Poly is one (terrible, horrible, atrocious) thing, but the fact that this team is doing this kind of thing with a the level of talent they’ve got is unforgivable. If Ben Howland is going to stick with more or less this personnel in his rotation (you know, the Wear twins, Larry Drew and a pair of wings), he’s gotta just break down and play a ton of zone. Really, this will do two good things: (1) minimize the effect of this team’s low level of overall athleticism, and (2) give them plenty of work on their zone offense in practice, something they desperately need. The other thing that absolutely has to happen for UCLA to even get within shouting distance of its potential ceiling is to find a way to get Kyle Anderson comfortable in this offense, and really that means putting the ball in his hands and letting him create, at least in the halfcourt. Drew has been excellent running the show and in no way should be scapegoated for UCLA’s struggles, but this team needs Anderson to be a factor and, while he’s shown his versatility, his defense has been bad, his shooting has been worse, and he hasn’t done enough elsewhere to make up for those serious drawbacks. There is still plenty of time for this team to turn things around, but UCLA fans have rightly run out of patience with Howland and are demanding immediate success. If this team doesn’t get drastically better, the big story come March will be whether UCLA’s legacy will be enough to pull either Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens away from their current jobs.

Kyle Anderson, UCLA

Ben Howland Needs To Find a Way To Get Kyle Anderson Comfortable, Or He’ll Be Looking For A New Job

Washington – The thinking at the start of the year was that maybe, minus a pair of talented but conflicted wings, the Huskies could be a textbook example of addition by subtraction. Minus Terrence Ross and especially Tony Wroten Jr., the remaining members of the team would know and accept their roles better. Well, somebody forgot to tell guys like Desmond Simmons, Jernard Jarreau and Martin Breunig that a big part of their roles would be to clean the defensive glass. While the Huskies have more or less won the battle of the boards against lesser teams, versus Ohio State and Colorado State they were dominated – in fact, against the Rams, the Huskies actually grabbed fewer defensive rebounds than CSU grabbed offensive boards. Sure, it sucks that Shawn Kemp Jr. went down with an injury just before the start of the year, but either Jarreau or Breuning needs to be ready to step in and do some of the dirty work, lest they be not asked back next season.

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Rushed Reactions: Texas A&M 55, Washington State 54

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2012


Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. He filed this report from the consolation game of the Edward Jones CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City.

Three thoughts from Texas A&M’s one-point victory in the consolation final against Washington State.

  1. Wazzou Defense Improves, But It’s Still Incomplete: Washington State’s defense held tight in a see-saw battle that saw ten ties and eight lead changes, but couldn’t hold on its final possession, as Texas A&M guard Elston Turner sank a three from the top of the key to send the Aggies back to Lubbock with a 56-54 win (more on him later). The Cougars were especially strong in the backcourt, frustrating Texas A&M into bad shots throughout the game. After getting blown away by the Jayhawk offense on Monday, Ken Bone‘s team did a much better job on short rest, but the Turner’s game-winner proves the importance of playing tight defense each trip down the floor. Washington State’s rebounding must also improve, especially on the defensive end as the Cougars allowed the Aggies to clean up 13 of their 33 misses.
  2. The Turners Hold The Keys To A&M’s Season: The aforementioned Elston Turner shook off a cold shooting night to deliver when his team needed him the most. As one of the senior leaders of an otherwise young team, Turner will have to lead by example, and that means stepping up and maintaining poise even when things aren’t breaking right. Turner had missed 11 of his first 12 shots on the night, but kept his confidence on the final possession. Ray Turner bounced back from a passive game Monday, leading the Aggies with 14 points and eight rebounds Tuesday, three of which came on the offensive glass. The Aggies are at their best when the Turners are clicking, as they did in the early part of the second half. Trailing by five at intermission, Texas A&M went on a 13-5 run, and the Turners were responsible for 11 of those 13 points.
  3. Dexter Kernich-Drew Emerges Off The Bench: If the Cougars’ defensive effort tonight proves to be an aberration, WSU can take solace in the potential of the Australian sophomore to compensate with smooth outside shooting. Kernich-Drew scored 13 of his game-high 16 points in the second half, and hit four of seven from distance, his last three coming from NBA range. The Aggies and Cougars traded buckets throughout the second half down to the very last possession, and Kernich-Drew was right in the thick of it as his contributions kept the Cougars close. Wazzou was much more balanced offensively tonight, with Kernich-Drew, Mike Ladd, Brock Motum, and D.J. Shelton each chipping in. As its defense develops, it will be up to scorers like Kernich-Drew to keep Washington State in games.
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Rushed Reactions: #12 Kansas 78, Washington State 41

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2012

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and correspondent. He filed this report from the second semifinal of the Edward Jones CBE Hall of Fame Classic Monday night.

Kansas throttled the Cougars in an even more impressive fashion than was expected coming into Monday night. Some key takeaways:

  1. Message Received By Jayhawks After Early Bumps: There’s no shame in losing to Michigan State on a neutral floor in Atlanta, but the Jayhawks needed an injection of tough love from Bill Self after falling behind to Chattanooga at home later that week. KU responded in the second half last Thursday and kept the momentum rolling from the opening tip against Washington State Monday night. The Jayhawks shot their way to a 50-point first half with a scorching 64% clip from the floor. Kansas clicked on the glass as well, rebounding five of its nine misses for an incredibly efficient start. Staked to a 29-point lead at the intermission, Self substituted freely throughout the second half, and as a result, his most important players should benefit from the rest with a one-night turnaround. In addition, the extra reps for players like Anrio AdamsAndrew White and Naadir Tharpe will serve the team well in the long run.
  2. Role Players Emerge For Kansas: While it wasn’t surprising to see KU perform well in front of a de facto home crowd, not many predicted the role Travis Releford would play Monday. The senior came into tonight’s contest shooting a bone-dry 26.1% from the floor, but made his first six shots, including a pair of threes, on his way to a game-high 17 points against the Cougars. Defensively, Kevin Young made good on his first start as a Jayhawk. The senior transfer starred alongside Jeff Withey and the two combined to fluster Wazzu in its attempts to penetrate. For KU to keep a lock on its conference championship streak, it needs consistency from its complementary players in addition to Withey and Elijah Johnson, who are expected to lead the team on a regular basis.
  3. Washington State Has Too Many Leaks For Ken Bone To Plug: Beating Kansas in its second home is a tall order for any team, but Washington State’s failure to make the game competitive at any point can’t bode well for Bone’s future in Pullman. While his portrayal of a disciplinarian in removing Reggie Moore from the team in September was admirable, Bone has struggled to pick up the pieces. Based on the combined 7-25 shooting night from Wazzu’s backcourt on Monday, the early returns in the quest for help can’t be much more discouraging. Brock Motum‘s international flavor at center is unorthodox enough to throw opposing big men off their games, but if no other threats emerge for Washington State, teams will simply continue to double Motum, knowing they can hedge away from other personnel. Coaches express emotions in several ways, but all Bone could do was shake his head as he watched Kansas make shot after shot. While it’s not advisable to make too much out of one bad game, Bone needs to find answers if his team is to make a run at a postseason tournament bid. The Pac-12 has climbed back to respectability, but Wazzu is still groping for the light switch.
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How Hot Is That Seat? The Pac-12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2012

After a year like the Pac-12 had last year, with the conference champion missing the NCAA Tournament and – oh, nevermind, I don’t need to run down the litany of lows the conference went through last year – it was bad. But, somehow, amidst all the 6-26’s and 31-point home losses to Cal State Fullerton and 20-point home losses to Middle Tennessee, every single Pac-12 head coach returns to his spot on the bench this season, the first time since 2001-02 that every one will do so. But, before we all get too comfortable with this admittedly quite fine selection of coaches, it is worth understanding that the odds are very much against a similar thing happening next year. We’re definitely in an era in college athletics where memories of good times don’t last very long and expectations for each and every season are high. Up and down the conference this season, you’ll find head coaches with make-or-break seasons ahead of them. Last week, CBS released its list of 12 coaches across the nation who find themselves on the hot seat going into the season, and six of those guys will be prowling the sidelines in the Pac-12. Below, we’ll take a look at each head coach in the league and rank just how hot that folding chair on the sidelines is getting for them, from scalding hot down to icy cold.

  • Ben Howland, UCLA – Scalding. Last year was pretty bad. Back-to-back losses to start the season to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee are never good. The Reeves Nelson embarrassment at the start of the year (really, how did he ever think it would be okay to let Nelson fly out to the Maui Invitational on a separate flight?) was one thing, but it blew up into a huge story when George Dohrmann and Sports Illustrated broke down the dysfunction in the program. Sure, there were some circumstances that were less than ideal last year, including playing away from home in the creaky old Sports Arena, but excuses like that don’t fly just two years after a 14-18 season in Westwood. Those three straight Final Fours are not too far back in the rearview mirror, and yeah, the nation’s best recruiting class will definitely help things, but if somehow this thing blows up in Howland’s face this year, we’ll have a nationwide search for the next UCLA basketball coach to write about come March.
Ben Howland, UCLA

Despite Three Straight Final Fours Earlier In His UCLA Career, Ben Howland Needs A Big Year To Hang On To His Job (Jamie Squire, Getty Images)

  • Herb Sendek, Arizona State – Scorching. There isn’t a ton of basketball success in the history books at Arizona State, but when the Sun Devils reeled in the perpetually underrated Sendek from North Carolina State six seasons ago, it seemed like a big score for ASU. Three straight 20-win seasons followed and the Sun Devils were even scoring big-time recruits (see James Harden and Jahii Carson). But two seasons ago, the wheels came off amidst injuries, poor play from seniors, and youngsters who weren’t quite ready. Last year, the whole dang car went in the ditch. But, somehow in the middle of last year’s 10-21 season, then-Athletic Director Lisa Love extended Sendek’s contract by a couple of years. Well, ASU’s got a new AD in Steve Patterson ready to put his stamp on his department. And if Sendek’s youngsters don’t show some serious improvement this year (which, given the low standards and new talent, shouldn’t be that hard to do), Patterson may get his chance to remake the basketball program.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 22nd, 2012

  1. We’re still three weeks out from actual basketball games taking place, but more and more it is starting to feel like this is just not going to be UCLA’s year. Aside from the NCAA investigations into recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, the cheap accusations of cheating by certain unnamed media outlets, and the legitimate questions about how some of these pieces fit together, the Bruins are also starting to see some injuries accrue. The newest Bruin laid up is junior forward David Wear, who sprained his right ankle in a practice yesterday, joining junior guard Tyler Lamb (arthroscopic knee surgery) in the infirmary. Of course, the glass-half-full view of this situation could be that it is much better to have these types of things happen now than in February or March. As it is, a simple sprained ankle could just mean a bit of a rest for Wear until the seasons kicks off on November 9.
  2. It didn’t take long for the newest Cougar, Oregon-transfer Brett Kingma, to pick up on how things are done in the Washington State basketball program; early Saturday morning, the sophomore guard was arrested by Pullman police for marijuana possession and “minor exhibiting the effects of having consumed alcohol in a public place” – an oddly specific and yet still confusing charge. Now, we understand there isn’t always a whole lot to do in Pullman, but the marijuana busts for WSU’s basketball program are getting ridiculous. In recent years, off the top of my head, Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto have all been busted for pot. There are two ways for Cougar head coach Ken Bone to deal with this: (1) mostly ignore, offer an obligatory slap on the wrist and pray that Initiative 502 passes, or (2) make an example of Kingma by kicking him off the team. I’m certainly not saying the second option is necessarily the best approach, after all, really what is this arrest about – a college kid was walking home drunk after a Friday night partying and happened to have some dope on him. Stop the presses, right? But the fact of the matter is, this constantly happening in Bone’s program is becoming a black eye.
  3. Arizona unveiled the 2012-13 version of its basketball team to its fans on Sunday afternoon with their annual Red-Blue game. Prior to an intrasquad scrimmage, the school honored its 1988 Final Four team and members of the current team got to meet and learn from previous Wildcat greats like Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler. The game itself was less of a no-defense All-Star game than a hard-fought scrimmage, but Nick Johnson (who our own Parker Baruh nominated as the Pac-12’s breakout player) got hot, hitting four threes and finishing with 20 points to lead all scorers while also chipping in four assists. New Wildcat point guard Mark Lyons also added four assists, while senior wing Kevin Parrom added four three-pointers of his own. Arizona Desert Swarm has some video highlights of the game and the surrounding festivities. But perhaps the biggest part of the day was UA hosting at least eight recruits, including Aaron Gordon, whom Sean Miller (and other coaches around the country) seriously covet. Given that the 2011 version of the Red-Blue game helped the ‘Cats land Kaleb Tarczewski, the game is becoming a way of tying the great history of the program to its bright future.
  4. Arizona wasn’t the only school holding events for their fans this weekend. Stanford held its Friday Frenzy event on, when else, Friday evening, featuring its annual Cardinal-White scrimmage, a dunk contest, and various other events. Oddly enough, the winner of the dunk contest wasn’t even a member of the basketball team, as senior All-American high jumper Jules Sharpe took home the title, edging out junior forward Josh Huestis. As for the scrimmage, junior forward Dwight Powell (our Kevin Danna’s pick for the Pac-12 breakout player) led all scorers with 19 points, getting it done not only from the perimeter but also on the block. It was sophomore guard Chasson Randle, who had 16 points on seven-for-nine shooting, however, who had the last laugh, leading his Cardinal team to an eight-point win over Powell’s White squad.
  5. Lastly, Arizona State’s Maroon-Gold scrimmage was Saturday afternoon, giving Sun Devil fans their first chance to see the long-awaited debut of freshman point guard Jahii Carson. Early reports are that, behind Carson, ASU looks like it may live up to Herb Sendek’s promises of a drastically increased tempo. Carson led all scorers with 18 points in the game, while newly eligible transfer Evan Gordon also impressed. The game featured three different 10-minute periods, with Carson splitting time on each team over the course of the scrimmage, but one good takeaway for how important he’ll be to ASU is the fact that whichever team he was on wound up winning each of the three different periods.
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