Pac-12 Weekly Five: 09.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on September 7th, 2012

  1. The big news around the Pac-12 this week continues to be the eligibility status of UCLA’s highly-touted freshman class. Depending on who you believe, some combination of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker are being investigated by the NCAA for potential amateurism problems. UCLA claims that Parker has been cleared, while the other two are still a work in progress, while CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman insists that Parker is still a subject of an NCAA inquiry. We’ve known about the issues with Muhammad for some time, but the Anderson issue – related to his connections with Thad Foucher, a sports agent – is a new one. But all of this, coupled with CBS’ anonymous cheap shots at UCLA and Ben Howland, have already cast a pall over the Bruins’ season. With the most talent assembled in Westwood since the days of Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook, it was expected that UCLA was ready for a bounce-back year, but now it remains to be seen when, and if, this group of freshmen will ever play a game together. This situation continues to evolve, so keep an eye on this.
  2. Across town, it wasn’t a great week for the Bruins’ rivals either, as USC’s athletic department took another hit with further allegations of players receiving impermissible benefits. RTC’s Chris Johnson took a look at the problems around both Los Angeles-area campuses, but that was not the only blow to the Trojans, as would-be-junior point guard Maurice Jones was declared academically ineligible for the 2012-13 season last weekend. Jones led last year’s injury-riddle team in minutes played (approaching 40 minutes per night), shots attempted and possessions used last year, but seemed primed to take a step back into a supporting role this year with the return of senior point guard Jio Fontan from last year’s ACL injury. Instead, head coach Kevin O’Neill will again go to battle minus the services of one of the guys he had been counting on. Jones will stick around in school and hopefully get his grades up in order to resume his USC career in the 2013-14 season, with two years of eligibility remaining then.
  3. Just about two weeks ago, Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek was left in a lurch when two assistants – Scott Pera and Lamont Smith – departed for similar jobs at other institutions (Penn and Washington, respectively). At such a late date, and with such an important season ahead of the Sun Devils, that could have been a crushing blow to ASU’s chances this season. However, Sendek bounced back strong, coming up with a pair of excellent hires to fill the vacancies, as it was announced on Wednesday that Eric Musselman and Larry Greer would be welcomed aboard. As Matt Norlander writes, this was a serious score for Sendek. With his back against the wall, Sendek was able to land two experienced coaches with fine resumes. Musselman has twice been an NBA head coach, was an NBA D-League Coach of the Year, and has been an NBA assistant coach under such luminaries as Hall of Famer Chuck Daly, current Celtic head coach Doc Rivers (then with Orlando), and current Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger (then with Atlanta). Greer was a long-time college assistant (with Wright State and Boston U.) before joining the Houston Rockets as a scout last year. It remains to be seen how these guys will do on the recruiting trail, and they’ve certainly got some catching up to do as the start of practice looms little more than a month away, but given the time constraints, Sendek hit this one out of the park.
  4. Speaking of hitting one out of the park, California scored big this week as well when what had long been rumored came to pass: Jabari Bird, the 20th rated recruit (according to ESPN) in the 2013 class committed to Mike Montgomery and staff. Better yet, Bird has announced his plan to help out the Cal coaching staff by trying to convince fellow ’13 recruits Aaron Gordon (ESPN’s #6 recruit) and Marcus Lee (ESPN’s #27) to join him in Berkeley next season. Washington remains the favorite to land Gordon’s services, and Cal is but one of several options for Lee, but if Bird can help Cal land those two guys, the Golden Bears will be rather formidable next season. As it is, Bird, a 6’6” shooting guard with great athleticism, three-point range and a ton of upside, is a good start to an important class for the Bears.
  5. Lastly, it’s that time of year again where Connor and I get to exchange our weekly football picks. Last week, Connor picked up where he left off last season: namely, roughing me up a bit. I completely whiffed on picking Washington State to upset BYU, then missed it by this much when I went out on a limb to pick Toledo ruining RichRod’s opener in the desert. So, as it is Connor’s got a two-game lead on me just one week into the season. But have no fear, I’ll begin my comeback this week. I hope. In a good week of games around the conference, our game of the week this week is Nebraska visiting the Rose Bowl to face UCLA (if only because I’ll be in attendance), while other intriguing match-ups like Arizona/Oklahoma State, Wisconsin/Oregon State and LSU/Washington will be sure to keep us entertained as well. Picks below, with our game of the week prediction in bold:
Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
Utah at Utah State Utah State Utah
Eastern Washington at Washington State Washington State Washington State
Sacramento State at Colorado Colorado Colorado
Southern Utah at California California California
USC at Syracuse USC USC
Wisconsin at Oregon State Wisconsin Wisconsin
Fresno State at Oregon Oregon Oregon
Washington at LSU LSU LSU
Nebraska at UCLA UCLA 23-14 Nebraska 27-20
Duke at Stanford Stanford Stanford
Illinois at Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
Oklahoma State at Arizona Oklahoma State Oklahoma State
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Morning Five: 09.04.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 4th, 2012

  1. Here’s hoping everyone had a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend, wherever you may have spent it. By now, most colleges are back in session, and the weeks leading up to Midnight Madness (October 12 this year) are often fraught with tales of players getting into all sorts of trouble as the combination of free time and warm weather results in a devilish concoction — let’s cross our fingers that the next six weeks are clean. One player who recently found himself unjustifiably in hot water to the point of school expulsion (at least according to an Ohio grand jury) is Xavier’s Dez Wells. The rising sophomore star spent his holiday weekend flying around and visiting potential new schools — specifically, Oregon, Memphis and Maryland — according to several published reports. Earlier contenders Louisville, Ohio State and Kentucky had been removed from his list for various reasons, and it now appears that Mark Turgeon’s program may be the clubhouse leader as Wells is expected to make his decision in coming days. According to the Washington Post, Wells’ trip to College Park seemed to produce a level of excitement that he didn’t experience (or at least, share) while touring the others. Regardless of where he ends up, that program will receive an unexpected yet instant infusion of talent into its backcourt.
  2. This UCLA situation involving its top recruiting class remains interesting. We mentioned in yesterday’s M5 that the big news over the weekend involved the NCAA investigating potential violations in the recruitments of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker. Athletic director Dan Guerrero fired back at this report on Monday, suggesting that such an investigation is “misleading and inaccurate” but offering little in the way of specific details beyond the simple statement that two Bruin players had yet to receive their amateur certification. A separate Monday report from Peter Yoon at ESPNLosAngeles stated that the two players not yet certified are Muhammad and Anderson (interestingly, Parker has been cleared, according to his source). Whether something substantive actually sticks to one or both of these elite recruits certainly must have UCLA fans nervous right now — the program’s resurgence depends almost entirely on the NBA-quality talent that these two are bringing to Westwood. If they are not available in 2012-13, UCLA likely drops from a top five team to a top 35 team, and Ben Howland’s job would correspondingly be in jeopardy.
  3. No doubt Howland’s blood pressure has risen over the last few days, and with good reason — acting as CEO of a major college basketball program is a stressful job. This is especially true in the midst of a crisis, such as the strong likelihood of a player mutiny that could threaten one’s reputation as well as his employment. Billy Gillispie, as we all now, has been hospitalized since Friday in a Lubbock hospital, and he is not expected to leave the premises soon as he receives ongoing treatment for high blood pressure. An early-morning episode Friday where his BP spiked to “dangerous” levels left the second-year head coach feeling the “worst” he’s ever felt. Presumably aware of what faces him once he returns to campus — to be certain, nothing short of a serious inquiry into how he runs his program — the salve for his long-term health might be to stay in the hospital for as long as possible. We certainly wish him the best in recovery on both his medical and professional counts.
  4. Some vacant assistant coaching positions were filled over the holiday weekend on both coasts, as Arizona State added two new members to Herb Sendek’s staff and Steve Lavin brought on a former one of his players to assist him at St. John’s. As Andy Katz notes on regarding ASU’s new hires, Sendek is clearly trying to make a bold statement in bringing former Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors head coach Eric Musselman in addition to Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach Larry Greer into his program. Three thousand miles away in Queens, Lavin hired former UCLA point guard Darrick Martin to help him with recruiting and coaching up their backcourt. Martin played under Lavin — then an assistant to Jim Harrick at UCLA — in the early 90s, leaving the program as the then-all-time leader in assists and steals before moving on to the NBA for 15 years. He also has ties to the NYC area, having played prep basketball across the Hudson River at Bob Hurley’s famed St. Anthony’s program in the mid-1980s.
  5. It’s not often that the media publishes an in-depth report essentially stating that nothing happened, but that appears to be the case with the bizarre yet compelling story that San Diego State‘s best-ever 34-3 season in 2010-11 was targeted by those involved with the University of San Diego point-shaving scandal as another viable option. FBI agents who at the time were monitoring the key individuals associated with the USD case were also keeping a very close eye on a number of SDSU players — and when we write “close eye,” try this on for size — several players were subjected to “physical and electronic surveillance, GPS tracking devices on cars, phone logs, infiltration of the team by an undercover agent, even recruitment of a player to be a confidential informant.” Uh, yeah — that’s serious stuff. Thankfully, the outcome of all of this surveillance was the aforementioned ‘nothing’ — whether because SDSU players from that illustrious season were never actually approached by point-shavers, or because they were smart enough to turn down those doing the asking — we’re not sure. Still, the FBI never accused any Aztec players of wrongdoing, and the school has been adamant in stating that none of its players were involved in any of the shenanigans that went on across town. Crazy story.
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