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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Pac-12 Mount Rushmore

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2012

The history of this conference is pretty lopsided. UCLA has won 11 national championships while all the other schools in the conference combine for five titles with no other school winning more than one. UCLA has been to 18 Final Fours; Arizona and Utah are a distant second with four appearances. As such, you can expect the faces on the Pac-12 Mount Rushmore to be heavily skewed to the blue and gold. In fact, the argument could be made that the Bruins deserve all four spots on the monument to Pac-12 basketball. But, since the Arizona schools joined the conference in 1978, things have tightened up considerably, as UCLA has only won a single national title since then, appearing in just five Final Fours. Still, this is a monument to the history of the sport, and there is little doubt that you can name the first three names on this list without giving it another moment’s thought; they are icons of the game we love. And really, the fourth spot here seems to be a no-brainer also, although there are some interesting people that finish just off the mountain. To the list:

  • John Wooden, Coach, UCLA (1948-75) – As the head coach at UCLA for 27 seasons, the Wizard of Westwood’s teams of the sixties and early seventies have become the gold standard by which other great sports dynasties are judged. There are the ten championships in the course of 12 years, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. There are four perfect 30-0 seasons included in that span and a NCAA record 88-game winning streak. Still, aside from all that, Wooden is known not just as a great basketball coach, but as a great teacher. His Pyramid of Success is more of a life lesson than anything specific to basketball and he was known for his inspirational lectures and sayings which apply not only to success in basketball, but success in life.
  • Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Center, UCLA (1966-69) – During Alcindor’s three seasons at UCLA, his team won 88 games, lost just two and took home three straight national championships. He was literally a game-changing athlete (the NCAA banned the dunk in 1967 in part due to his dominant use of the shot) who won the National Player of the Year award in both his sophomore and senior seasons (Elvin Hayes won in 1968) and was the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament in all three of his seasons. Alcindor played at a time when freshman were ineligible for varsity competition, but in 1966 Alcindor led the UCLA freshman team to a 75-60 victory over the varsity team in an exhibition to open Pauley Pavilion. More than forty years after he played his final collegiate game, Alcindor is still widely regarded as the greatest college basketball player of all time. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC’s Mount Rushmore – Top Four (And More) Most Significant People in College Basketball History

Posted by EJacoby on February 20th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

As we celebrate President’s Day on this Monday, it’s a good time to reflect back on the significant accomplishments of George Washington and the other great leaders of our country’s 236-year history. That got us to thinking: Who are the most significant people in the history of college basketball? The game is not quite as old as the United States of America, but there are many options to choose from in a sport that’s over 100 years old, from prodigious coaches to superstar players. In the end, we determined that no single player, in a maximum of four years of eligibility, has had as much impact on the sport as any of the four coaching legends that we selected. Head coaches are responsible for shaping the lives of hundreds of players during their tenure and thus have a greater opportunity to impact the game than anyone else. Here’s a look at the accomplishments of four of the all-time great coaches in college basketball history that compose our RTC Mount Rushmore (these are in no particular order):

Mike Krzyzewski – You may not be able to spell or pronounce his full last name, but ‘Coach K’ is one of the first names that comes to mind when discussing the greatest coaches in basketball history. Krzyzewski became the all-time winningest Division I men’s basketball coach when he recorded his 903rd victory to surpass his former coach at Army, Bobby Knight, earlier this season. Coach K has been at Duke since 1980 and has led the Blue Devils to four National Championships, 11 Final Fours, and 12 ACC regular season titles. He also coached the USA Olympic ‘Redeem Team’ in 2008 to a gold medal. Mike Krzyzewski was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001, still remains the head coach of one of the top contenders in the country every year, and doesn’t appear to be calling it quits anytime soon.

Adolph Rupp - A man known for his obsession with winning, Adolph Rupp is perhaps the single most successful head coach in NCAA history, statistically speaking. Rupp is fifth on the all-time men’s coaching wins list (876 victories), and he did it with the second-best winning percentage of all time, at 82.2%. Rupp spent his entire 41-year coaching career at Kentucky, where he guided the Wildcats to six Final Fours and four National Championships. His tournament records could have been even more impressive if it wasn’t for his team’s two-year hiatus from the postseason in the 1952-53 and 1953-54 seasons. Rupp also led UK to 27 SEC regular season titles in 41 years and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame while still coaching in 1969. Shortly after he retired, Big Blue Nation named their home court after him, and Rupp Arena remains one of the historic landmarks in college basketball today.

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Morning Five: 03.16.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2011

  1. Every year there are a few lucky individuals who beat the odds and end up on top of national pools through a variety of reliable methods (based on team color, mascots, or personal allegiance) for picking their bracket. Other individuals get their brackets analyzed just because of who they are. Two individuals who fall in that latter category are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Barack Obama. While James and Wade announced their brackets already (picking Ohio State and Marquette, respectively), President Obama will reveal his on the noon edition of SportsCenter today although it has already been revealed that he has gone with chalk again selecting all four #1 seeds to make it to Houston.
  2. If you are looking for a more intellectual way of filling out your bracket we highly suggest that you check out the latest from Luke Winn who goes through each region looking at the offensive and defensive efficiency stats for the top four seeds in each region with a particular focus on the top seed in each region.
  3. For nearly every event there is an individual who spends most of their time ripping apart the way things are because they prefer the way things were. Despite being one of the most beloved events in American sports the NCAA Tournament is not immune to this phenomenon as Michael Wilbon uses his new platform on ESPN.com to take plenty of shots at the NCAA and college basketball in general. Wilbon actually used the same exact argument(s) on both PTI and The Tony Kornheiser Showso much so that it feels like certain passages are lifted directly from one of those appearances. Or is it the other way around? While Wilbon makes a few valid points (who wouldn’t love to have had John Wall or Blake Griffinhang around for all four years?) he lacks any reasonable arguments for how to turn things “back to the way they were” without infringing on the liberties of the individual players that he defends so vigorously on-air. What drives us even more crazy is the argument by Jay Bilas that so many 11+ loss teams making the field is clear evidence that this is the weakest field ever. It seems pretty clear to us that Bilas hasn’t been spending much time in court (and if he has his clients probably haven’t been winning much) as that argument would fall apart in any Logic 101 class. Let’s just move on…
  4. Most of the news in the past few days has been about the NCAA Tournament and coaching firings, but we also expect to see quite a few fairly big names transfer schools. These are often hyped recruits who failed to live up to expectations and are looking for a fresh start. In other cases it is a player who performed well at a smaller school and is looking to try his talents at a higher level of college basketball. Sam Maniscalco appears to fall into the latter category. Although he will graduate from Bradley in May, the 6′ guard, who averaged 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season still has another year of eligibility left. Following the firing of coach Jim Les10 days earlier, Maniscalco opted to transfer to Illinois although he refused to explicitly state that as the reason. Maniscalco’s toughness and experience could be a big boon for Bruce Weber, who will enter next season without an experienced point guard following the graduation of the enigmatic Demetri McCamey. Maniscalco is expected to be eligible to play for the Illini next season because he will be transferring into a master’s program at Illinois.
  5. For those of you who have a few extra dollars, you may want to keep your eyes out for an upcoming auction that will feature the original round center section of Pauley Pavilionthat was used between 1965 and 1982. During that period UCLA won 8 men’s national championships. The section is currently owned by a UCLA alum and was signed in 1998 by John WoodenKareem Abdul-Jabbar Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Sidney WicksWalt Hazzard, and many other UCLA legends. The auction is expected to run between April 15th and 30th (likely found on the company’s website at that time) with the majority of the proceeds going towards medical research.
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Past Imperfect: The Reign of Doughnut Man

Posted by JWeill on February 3rd, 2011

Past Imperfect is a new series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBoss) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the sine-wave career arc of Doughnut Man.

It’s still one of the NCAA tournament’s most indelible moments: disheveled Princeton coach Pete Carril grinning in disbelief moments after his backdoor-cutting Tigers stunned defending national champion UCLA in the first round of the 1996 NCAA tournament. Replayed over and over through the years, the moment resonates because it captures the essence of what college basketball’s great March tradition is all about: little guy beats big guy, Cinderella at the dance, etc. But lost in all those good vibes for the white-haired coaching legend is that the other side in that game, the losing coach seen congratulating Carril on his career-defining victory, in its own way represents college basketball, too. In many ways, perhaps more so.

Pete Carril and Sydney Johnson celebrate the win over UCLA.

No one fathomed at the time that the upset loss would be Jim Harrick’s last as head coach of the UCLA Bruins. A year removed from the school’s first national title in two decades, flush with a contract extension, with a bevy of blue chip recruits on the verge of replenishing his team’s talent level for years to come, Harrick looked to have it all working. Then, in the course of a few months, it was all over. Harrick was out. Assistant Steve Lavin, with no head coaching experience at all, was in as interim coach.

How did it all go south so quickly? The answer is a tale of two coaches, of lies and deception, of risks taken and undying myths writ large. It’s an ugly story, without much grace and lacking humility. It is, in short, the story of college basketball at the highest levels.

*      *      *

It is amusing now to go back and look at statements of outrage former coach Jim Harrick made about his abrupt dismissal by UCLA in 1996. At the time, Harrick was the man who’d brought UCLA back from the ether. The West Virginian had been all smiles hoisting the national championship trophy along with Ed O’Bannon, Tyus Edney and the victorious Bruins. And rightfully so. Harrick had taken a job a slew of previous coaches had tried to tame and done the only thing he’d been hired to do: win a national title again. Favorite sons Walt Hazzard, Gary Cunningham and Larry Farmer didn’t do it. Future coaching legends Gene Bartow and Larry Brown couldn’t do it, either. But the onetime UCLA assistant – the guy who never even played college basketball – did it. And he did it his own way, with style.

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Yeah, You Might Be Better than a UCLA Player

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2008

Imagine that during your senior year of high school, you manage to scrape and claw your way onto the varsity basketball team.  You sit the bench, but you’re the first number called by the coach in most games, and you provide leadership, hustle and smarts in the twenty games you see action for your 26-2 conference championship team.  But a D1 collegiate prospect you’re assuredly not – your 3.4 ppg and 2.5 apg averages don’t even rise to the level of your GPA (4.3).  So you send your college applications out like everyone else in the Class of 2008, and the year of varsity hoops is but one of your many extracurriculars that you hope will give you an edge in the process.  Good fortune intervenes as you are accepted into your dream school, and before you know it, you’re not only on the varsity of a national powerhouse team coming off of three straight Final Four trips, but sitting on the bench in uniform alongside several HS all-americans and actually seeing a minute-plus of playing time in a real game against a Big East opponent (he missed his only three, by the way). 

John Wooden with great-grandson Tyler Trapani

John Wooden with great-grandson Tyler Trapani

Preposterous?  Nah.  Meet Tyler Trapani, UCLA’s walk-on seventeenth man, who also happens to be the great-grandson of a rather illustrious presence around Westwood – John Wooden.   Normally, we’d be up in arms over this clear case of nepotism, but actually, we don’t have any problem with this story.  As Ben Howland said in a recent AP report, he’s just acting as a caretaker for Coach Wooden’s program, and it’s not as if Trapani’s presence on the team otherwise injures any current Bruin’s standing (apparently, for most games he sits in the stands in street clothing). 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As part of the Wooden Classic festivities against Depaul on Saturday, the elder Bruin coach was there when Trapani (#4) played for ninety glorious seconds.  Given that the current walk-on Bruin once as a child told his great-gramps that he already knew how to shoot the ball when “Papa” was trying to correct his form, what was the WoW’s take on his 6’0, 185-lb. scion’s all-around game? 

He’s a little heavy-footed, but he works hard for a young fellow just starting college.  He doesn’t have the quickness for changing direction that I always like to have.

Translation: I was too busy recruiting players like Lew Alcindor, Sidney Wicks, Walt Hazzard, Bill Walton, Marques Johnson, et al., than to go after slow-as-molasses chumps like you.  Still love ya, though, kid. 

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