Marching to Vegas: How Can UCLA Find It’s Way?

Posted by AMurawa on October 19th, 2012

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Midnight’s madness has come and gone and so it begins. Or something like that. There still aren’t games or standings but there’s optimism and the knowing that those eternally glorious things are soon to come. And with season’s beginning there’s new dialogue. From transfers to healed wounds to recruiting classes and seniors, the Pac-12 dialogue hasn’t necessarily centered on last season’s monstrosity but rather the potential for a return to glory. Or at least something resembling such.

Howland Has Loads of Talent Now, But Is It His Kind of Talent? (credit: LA Times)

The unfortunate twist is the immense questioning of the prognosticated success in Westwood. Here is a program that needs no introduction but gross amounts of explanation and dissection when examining their current state. I could rattle off the tribulations of the recent past but that’d feel like piling on which I’d feel is unfair considering the optimism surrounding this program in light of their 2012 recruiting haul.

[Enter: ominous cloud]

But that’s right, we’re all too familiar with the investigative cloud hovering over new Pauley and the once glowing forecast of the 2012-13 Bruins. Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson continue to be investigated by the NCAA. You don’t need me to tell you that this is not good news considering much of UCLA’s projected success was centering on these young talents, particularly Muhammad. As the investigation drags on (ask Jahii Carson about timelines on such matters), the ominous cloud grows darker. How long will Anderson (he who faces the less stiff allegations) be held out? Is Muhammad done for the year? How big of a distraction is this to the team? Then of course we could question just how good the current, confirmed roster is. Has Larry Drew II matured? Will Josh Smith ever realize his potential? What sort of progress have Tyler Lamb (now injured) and Norman Powell made? Are the twins capable of being difference makers or are they role players?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Weekly Five: 04.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on April 27th, 2012

  1. For the second straight week, the lead story in our Weekly Five is a UCLA recruiting coup, as the Bruins added to their already impressive class by signing 6’9” center Tony Parker – the #20-ranked recruit in the 2012 class – beating out schools like Ohio State, Duke and Parker’s home-state Georgia for his services. After the bizarre 45-minute press conference to announce his choice, ESPNU bumped UCLA’s class up to the top-ranked class in the nation (at least for now, pending other decisions — such as the #7 recruit, Anthony Bennett, possibly choosing Kentucky). One of the controversial parts of Parker’s commitment to the Bruins was his ties to assistant coach Korey McCray, who was hired by head coach Ben Howland last year. That move wound up paying off, as both Parker and former teammate on the Atlanta Celtics, Jordan Adams, wound up committing to UCLA to rejoin McCray. Regardless, the Bruins now feature a deep and talented squad that will not only be on the short list of favorites in the Pac-12, but should be a Top 10 team nationally and a legitimate threat to advance to Howland’s fourth Final Four in his tenure. There are a handful of storm clouds on the horizon though, as Shabazz Muhammad’s eligibility still needs to be sorted out and Kyle Anderson may be on the verge of thumb surgery, a procedure which could keep the point forward sidelined for much of the summer before his freshman season. Elsewhere on the Bruin front, the school announced an agreement for a home-and-home series with Missouri beginning next season at Pauley Pavilion, renewing a matchup that was made famous by an NCAA Tournament classic.
  2. Washington also just announced a new series with an inter-regional rival with whom they’ve had a couple of Tournament classics, agreeing to begin a two-game series with Connecticut next year (starting the series at either Gampel Pavilion or the XL Center). The Huskies of the Big East will repay the favor to the Huskies of the Pac-12, visiting Seattle in 2013-14. Normally, this would seem to be a game to wait for, but given UConn’s ineligibility for next year’s NCAA Tournament and the mass defections that have come along with that, UW could in good position to score an early road win next season.
  3. From the northernmost end of the conference to the southernmost, Arizona had some good news pop up on their radar in their search for a stopgap solution at the point guard position, when it was announced this week that Xavier combo guard Mark Lyons would be transferring out of the program and, provided he completes his coursework in time to graduate this summer, could be eligible to play next season. Given Lyons’ ties to current Arizona head coach and former Xavier head man Sean Miller, Tucson is the early favorite to earn his services although his plans are still up in the air. While Lyons is definitely not a true point guard, he is a capable ballhandler that would give the ‘Cats plenty of scoring punch in the backcourt. There was some uglier news out of the Zona program last weekend when outgoing senior Jesse Perry was arrested and charged with felony domestic violence last weekend. Perry maintains his innocence, but this type of story is never welcome news.
  4. A couple Pac-12 schools landed some other transfers this week, as Arizona State inked Valparaiso forward Richie Edwards and Oregon got a commitment from junior college transfer Coleton Baker. Edwards will have one remaining season of eligibility with the Sun Devils beginning in 2013-14, while Baker will give the Ducks a scoring threat at guard to help replace Devoe Joseph. Meanwhile, we learned the landing spot of outgoing USC transfer Alexis Moore this week, as he announced that he would be heading east to play for Penn, with eligibility starting in 2013-14.
  5. Lastly, in Boulder at the start of the week, Colorado head coach Tad Boyle and athletic director Mike Bohn showed up at a local watering hole to mingle with and congratulate the “OG 50,” a group of 50 students who started a renaissance of the C-Unit – the CU student section – that supported the Buffs from their opening exhibition game against Fort Lewis all the way to their eventual exit against Baylor in Albuquerque in the NCAA round of 32. Bohn promised the group a seat at any Buffaloes home game in the future after the group helped the team outperform expectations all season long, including running through four games in four days in Los Angeles at the Pac-12 Tournament to capture the conference’s automatic bid.
Share this story

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.
Share this story