Pac-12 Basketball Fantasy League Voting: Semifinal #2

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 26th, 2012

Our last semifinal pits two seed Adam Butler (Pachoops) up against the fourth seed, Connor Pelton. Below are the rosters, followed by commentary from the respective owner:

Adam Butler

  • Head Coach – Ralph Miller, Oregon State
  • Guard – Damon Stoudamire, Arizona
  • Guard – Mike Bibby, Arizona
  • Guard – Michael Dickerson, Arizona
  • Guard – Salim Stoudamire, Arizona
  • Forward – Sean Elliott, Arizona
  • Forward – Ed O’Bannon, UCLA
  • Forward – Shareef Abdur-Rahim, California
  • Forward – Chris Mills, Arizona
  • Center – Todd MacCulloch, Washington
  • Center – Bison Dele, Arizona

Adam’s Take:

Oh, pardon me! I was still chuckling at Connor’s lineup. Allow me to explain.

Indeed, a team centered by Steve Johnson is a formidable one. Anyone who shoots 75% from the floor for a season must be taken seriously. Conversely, anyone who looks like Sideshow Bob should not. That’s Robin Lopez. Besides, Todd MacCulloch just set the high score on The Simpsons: Pinball in Springfield at six different Canadian bars, and somewhere a piece of Lopez dies.

Moving our way out of the deep frontcourt we can look at the forwards on Team Pelton. I’m inclined to dismiss Jon Brockman because hustle only counts in real basketball. In fantasy drafts, hustle is just cute. Which is why I suppose Klay Thompson gets a fantasy nod because numbers count in fantasy ball and softness is cute. Please, Chris Mills just sneezed to block a Thompson jumper. I of course have love for Richard Jefferson, but if you’re a forward from Arizona and your name isn’t Elliott, you’re still not going to win this one. The fourth opposing forward’s name is Kiki, in which I rest my case.

Guard play, as you noticed, is Team PacHoops’ strength and not Team Pelton’s. Sure, there’s some talent, but no rings. I thought college hoops was all about solid guard play. You’re telling me none of these guys could garner one championship? Wait, wait, between these four guards they mustered at best a Sweet Sixteen? Woof (not for you, IT). Reggie and Chauncey appeared in the NCAA Tournament just once each? Does Spike Lee know this? None of that sounds fun. Fun sounds more like never missing an NCAA Tournament and winning it all. That’s who I like on my team. Got ‘em.

At the helm, Ralph Miller Court sits inside of Gill Coliseum. I can give that and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s indisputably the most badass possible thing to have a coliseum with your name on it. But look, I know you saw Batman Begins and if you didn’t, well, you’re missing out. Point being, Bruce Wayne didn’t just become Batman. He needed mentorship to become the fearless defender of Gotham he would become. Enter Ra’s Al Ghul, the sensei who salvages Wayne from a Chinese prison. Protégé, meet mentor. But the relationship goes sour and the two part ways; Wayne to his seemingly playboy life, Al Ghul to what appeared to be his death (theme?). Alas, the end of the film gives us Al Ghul’s villainous return to Gotham and Batman’s heroic and final takedown of the mentor. In the ultimate flipping of the script, Al Ghul and all his wisdom and skill is no match for the noble monster he created.

So, what the hell am I getting at? I’m saying that if the greatest hero (or certainly superhero trilogy) of our time could defeat his mentor, so too can Ralph Miller and defeat his Oregon State predecessor, Slats Gill. Miller won more games and was twice National Coach of the Year. Goodness I love me some Ws.

Have I made a stretch here? Perhaps. But you also just got to read college hoops and Batman so you’re welcome. Vote PacHoops.

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Pac-12 Basketball Fantasy League Voting: Round One, Game Four

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 10th, 2012

Our final matchup of the first round pits the two seed, Adam Butler (Pachoops), up against seventh seeded Andrew Murawa. The winner of this one is off to the semifinals, where it will meet Connor Pelton’s team in the semifinals.  Below are the rosters, followed by some commentary from the respective owners:

Adam Butler

  • Head Coach – Ralph Miller, Oregon State
  • Guard – Damon Stoudamire, Arizona
  • Guard – Mike Bibby, Arizona
  • Guard – Michael Dickerson, Arizona
  • Guard – Salim Stoudamire, Arizona
  • Forward – Sean Elliott, Arizona
  • Forward – Ed O’Bannon, UCLA
  • Forward – Shareef Abdur-Rahim, California
  • Forward – Chris Mills, Arizona
  • Center – Todd MacCulloch, Washington
  • Center – Bison Dele, Arizona

Adam’s Take:

My team. Well they call it Point Guard U for a reason so I went ahead and gobbled up three of the great ones and one of the best off-guards they produced. Yes, I have an all Arizona backcourt and you can go ahead and call Team PacHoops a group of homers. Do it. And that backcourt is supplemented by three more Wildcats and a dallop of other insanely talented Pac-12 players. Know that Team PacHoops houses seven Pac-10 Player of the Year Awards; six NBA lottery picks, three NCAA titles; two Wooden Awards; and a HOFer.

Look at you, you’re impressed already and I haven’t even told you that Salim Stoudamire is practically at the end of my bench, or that Chris Mills is going to struggle to get minutes; or that the worst my starting forward could be is a ninth pick in an NBA Draft; or that our coach, Ralph Miller, is one of just 73 men to win more than 600 games on a college basketball bench.

Need more? Todd MacCulloch not only was twice named First Team All-Pac, but he’s also a pinball champion. That’s right, the big Canuck has long been a pinball wizard and last October he won his first tournament (the Pinball Expo in Chicago), earning his bad self $3,000. Sean Elliott – the two time Pac Player of the Year, Wooden Award winner, and the first golden child of Arizona – roundhouse kicked debilitating kidney disease right in the jaw and said, “Nah, bro. I’ma go ahead play again.” The first major athlete to return ever from a kidney transplant.

After all, this team wasn’t built on talent alone.

But there’s plenty of it. And so I’ll toss the rock to Mike Bibby or Damon Stoudamire – whoever coach Ralph feels is going to be better suited to start – and let them deliver it (or score) to the silky smooth likes of Michael Dickerson and Elliott or the power and grace of Mills, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and Ed O’Bannon. Holding down the lane will be big Bison Dele right along with Todd the pinball maestro. All beautifully orchestrated by coach Ralph.

Vote for Team PacHoops because you know it’s the right team to vote for and it’s going to make you feel good to choose a winner.

A pinball champ.

(Note from Connor: To see Adam fully breakdown each position on his fantasy roster, click here for the guards, here for the forwards, here for the centers, and here for the head coach.)

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Arizona Week’s Burning Question: What To Make Of Mark Lyons?

Posted by AMurawa on June 28th, 2012

In this week’s Burning Question, along with the usual suspects from your friendly neighborhood RTC Pac-12 microsite, we’ve invited Adam Butler of Pachoops to weigh in on this week’s big question about the Arizona program. Without further ado, here it is:

Mark Lyons arrives in Tucson, along with a heralded freshman class. In the absence of other enticing options at the point guard, can Lyons earn a spot among the great names in Point Guard U’s history? Or is he merely a stopgap solution on the way to something else?

Mark Lyons, Arizona

We Know Some Of What Mark Lyons Can Do, But Can He Run A National Championship Contender? (Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)

Adam Butler: As stop gaps go he’s certainly a better option than Curtis Painter but let’s dive deeper. The kid’s already been to four NCAA Tournaments and three Sweet Sixteens; he’s won three conference titles (counting his redshirt season) and twice been an All-Conference performer. His resume speaks for itself as he’s coming off a 15/3/3 season. But here’s what you aren’t going to read in his player bio: he’s playing for the coach he initially committed to; he’s finally getting a shot to prove he’s a worthy PG; and it’s his last opportunity to demonstrate that he’s not a disruptive malcontent. So what am I getting at? It’s do or die for Mark Lyons who controls his own destiny into PGU-lore. He and Arizona have somewhat serendipitously found one another in their respective time of point guard need and I have to think both parties will thrive. By some accounts Lyons is going to step onto this roster as the most talented player and – as previously stated – he’s stepping onto a pretty talented one. But what I believe makes Lyons more than a stopgap player is the toughness, swagger, grit, that je ne sais quoi that was so glaringly missing from the Wildcats’ 2011-12 team; an imperative component to any Sean Miller squad. Because of this I think Lyons’ role is bigger. He’s some version of a tone setter, helping to re-cement exactly what Arizona Basketball is. Of course all of my aforementioned high reward doesn’t come without high risk. He very well could be a disruptive malcontent on a formative and youthful team. His immediate emergence as starter and primary ball handler could cause discontent amongst the returners. His ballyhooed toughness may upset a team perceived as soft. So as all things high risk/high reward go, we’ll wait and see. Should be a good watch.

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Arizona Dominates Duke To End Their Dreams Of Repeating

Posted by nvr1983 on March 24th, 2011

It was a defeat that was notable not only for when it happened, but also how it happened. Duke entered their game against Arizona as 9.5-point favorites and were widely expected to make a trip to Houston with a chance to defend their championship especially after UConn knocked off San Diego State, which had been considered the strongest threat to the Blue Devils as a de facto home team. Instead the Blue Devils were dominated by the Wildcats in a way that few had envisioned as possible.

 

Williams and the Wildcats soared over the Blue Devils (Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

After the Blue Devils went into halftime with a 44-38 lead despite a phenomenal first half from Derrick Williams (25 points and 5 rebounds in the first half alone) most analysts expected them to gradually pull away in the second half as Kyrie Irving appeared to be playing like his pre-injury self and Kyle Singler appeared to be playing like the All-American that the media had pegged him as coming into the season. Instead the few Arizona fans who made the trek to Anaheim were treated to some of the best basketball a Wildcat team has played since the days of Miles Simon and Mike Bibby. In the first half it appeared as if Williams would have to carry the load for Wildcats, but his teammates were more than capable of assisting their superstar in the second half as they carried the load scoring 48 of the team’s 55 points in the 2nd half after only scoring 13 of the team’s 38 in the first half. Led by 20 points from Lamont Jones and n will be 13 points from Solomon Hill the Wildcats appeared as if they could do no wrong and dominated every facet of the game in the second half not only outscoring the Blue Devils by a remarkable 22 points (55-33), but also dominating the boards by a margin of 25 to 9.

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Morning Five: 09.29.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 29th, 2010

  1. And so it begins…  Michigan State’s Korie Lucious will miss two to six weeks as a result of knee surgery to repair a small meniscus tear in his left wheel.  It’s a relatively minor injury that Lucious should expect to be recovered from prior to the Spartans’ home opener versus Eastern Michigan on November 12, but MSU fans have to wonder when the nagging injuries with their players will end.  It seems that over the last few years Tom Izzo’s team has often represented the walking wounded, which makes you wonder how good the two-time defending Final Four squad could be if they were ever playing at 100%.
  2. Stony Brook got terrible news earlier this week when forward and America East POY candidate Tommy Brenton dislocated his knee during workouts, an injury that may result in him missing the entire 2010-11 season.  Brenton, at only 6’5 and 210 pounds, might just be the best inch-for-inch rebounder in the nation — he averaged 8.9 RPG his freshman year and 9.6 RPG last season despite his smallish stature.  According to Ken Pomeroy’s database, he corralled over a quarter of the available defensive rebounds while on the floor last year, and you’ll note that he kept great company with many names of players much bigger than he.  Huge loss for the Seawolves if Brenton is indeed out for the year.
  3. The Eric Bledsoe saga is officially, finally and mercifully over.  Yesterday the NCAA confirmed that there is no further cause to keep the inquiry open with no new high school transcript generated for the former Kentucky guard.  Procedurally, this is the correct call — the NCAA doesn’t need to get into the business of sniffing around the transcripts of players certified by their local school boards, especially well after the fact as in this case.  But from a eyebrow-arching perspective, the whole thing smells like corruption and rot gone unpunished.  We tweeted it out on Friday, and we’ll repeat it here — had someone like Larry “Mr. Fix-It” Webster been around to change seventeen of our twenty-four recorded grades in some of our own (ahem) lesser-performing classes, those Stanford and MIT applications we so carefully drew up may not have ended up in the circular file so quickly.
  4. Fanhouse has been churning out some great original content lately, and this article looking at the Second Generation Team is no exception.  They created three teams of historical players who were second-gen guys, including such stalwarts as Jalen Rose, Mike Bibby, Kevin Love and Stephen Curry.  It was also great to see a little dap come our way based on previous criticism of their exclusion of Arkansas stud Scotty Thurman from their College Forever team; they included Thurman on this team (his father was Lavell Thurman from Grambling), and agreed with our indelible memory of the silky smooth guard as an “absolute assassin!”  Great job, fellas.
  5. You might recall a couple of weekends ago that several coaches gathered together to roast Bob Huggins in Morgantown.  One of those coaches, Duquesne’s Ron Everhart, managed to hurt himself while he was trying to spoof Huggins’ widely-reported fall the WVU coach suffered earlier this summer in Las Vegas.  It wasn’t just a strain or a pull either — he broke his toe!  We’re not sure we’ve seen a greater case of the basketball Weauxfgods pre-emptively smiting down someone in quite some time.  Here’s the video link (start at the 1:30 mark).
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A 1997 Jayhawk Finally Hits A Three, But It Is Waived Off

Posted by nvr1983 on January 25th, 2010

College basketball fans over the age of 20 undoubtedly remember the 1997 Kansas Jayhawks, a team that was 34-1 (its only loss coming on the road at rival Missouri) heading into its Sweet 16 match-up against a 21-9 Arizona team. That Jayhawk team was coached by Roy Williams (back when he was known for his inability to win the big game) and featured Jacques Vaughn, Raef LaFrentz, Scot Pollard, and a talented sophomore named Paul Pierce. Coming into the game the Jayhawks were heavily favored with good reason having compiled that record despite having Vaughn sit out most of their non-conference schedule with an injury.

As you know things didn’t work out Roy’s Jayhawks. That night Lute Olson and the Wildcats pulled off one of the great upsets of the decade. In retrospect, looking at the talent on the Arizona team it shouldn’t have been that shocking since the underdogs had the eventual tournament MOP (Miles Simon) along with future NBA stars (Jason Terry and Mike Bibby). Still at the time the result shocked the nation. Despite a valiant effort from Pierce who had 27 points (on just 13 FG attempts) and 11 rebounds, the Jayhawks needed a flurry of late 3s to cut into the Wildcats lead. After Bibby hit a couple of late free throws to extend the lead to 3, the Jayhawks were forced to attempt several desperation 3s to try and force OT.

When LaFrentz’s 3 from the corner fell short Roy Williams was dealt one of the most devastating losses of his career. To this day, many Kansas fans still have a hard time getting over the game. Ironically Roy may have had the one player capable of hitting a 3 to earn a trip to the Final Four sitting on his bench. . .

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Pac-10 Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 9th, 2009

Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

Pac-10 Final Regular Season Standings
1. Washington 14-4, 24-7
2. UCLA 13-5, 24-7
3. Arizona State 11-7, 22-8
4. California 11-7, 22-9
5. Arizona 9-9, 19-12
6. USC 9-9, 18-12
7. Washington State 8-10, 16-14
8. Oregon State 7-11, 13-16
9. Stanford 6-12, 17-12
10. Oregon 2-16, 8-22

Player of the Year: James Harden
The third sophomore in Pac-10 history to win player of the year. The others were Jason Kidd (1994) and Mike Bibby (1998). Harden is also the third ASU player to win it following Ike Diogu (2005) and Eddie House (2000).

Freshman of the Year: Isaiah Thomas
Thomas set the freshman scoring record for Washington with 477 points and is the fourth Husky to win the award.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #12: Mario Miracle

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

The Mario Miracle  (submitted by Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports.com)

The Kansas Jayhawks had let me down too many times before.  Even as they romped through the 2008 NCAA Tournament field to face Memphis in the title game, visions of Arizona in 1997, Hakim Warrick’s freakish length in 2003 and Bucknell in 2005 danced in my head.  I mean, I was expecting national championships in those years.  Mike Bibby single-handedly made me question the meaning of life at the age of 12.

From This...

From This...

I’d been scorned too many times to get my hopes up as Kansas continued to win last season.  And win, and win.  I was cautiously optimistic heading into the title game, even after the Jayhawks’ romp of UNC in the game prior.  I thought we’d need a miracle.  Sure enough, Memphis gave us that by bricking free throws like it was in fashion.  Down three, I watched in horror as Sherron Collins dribbled down the court (his ball-handling has always terrified me) and found Mario Chalmers, who launched an impossible three-pointer from twenty-five feet out.  This was the point where Memphis was supposed to grab the rebound and celebrate.  But the universe felt my pain, it too had suffered long enough from the Jayhawks’ constant teasing.

...to This.

...to This.

The shot went in, and I screamed like a banshee.  I didn’t care that the game was about to go into overtime.  We beat fate.  We’d already won.

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UNC: Let’s Not Go Sucking Each Other’s [redacted] Just Yet

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2008

Yeah, like most everyone else, we’re equally in awe of what Carolina has been able to do thus far in the season.  We are on record saying that the Heels wouldn’t be able to get through a pretty tough first month of the season without taking an L due to the loss of Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Hansbrough to injuries, and we couldn’t have been more wrong.  The Heels have been nothing short of awesome through the first quarter of the regular season, beating eight opponents (two of which were in the preseason top 10) by an average of 30.4 points per game.

Their offensive and defensive stats are through the roof thus far.  They average nearly 100 pts per game (97.0), shooting 51% from the field and 41% from three.  They are #2 nationally in points per possession (1.207) and percentage of trips where they score at least a point (59.7%).   They share the ball amazingly well (#2 nationally in assists – 21.7) and have a preposterous nearly 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (1.87).  The Heels also rebound with the best of the country (#8 nationally) and play defense with abandon (holding opponents to 37.3% shooting and forcing 19 turnovers per game – 14th nationally).   Put simply, this team is playing GREAT basketball.

The Heels are Posterizing Everyone in Their Path

The Heels are Posterizing Everyone in Their Path

photo credit:  Jim Hawkins/AP

So the question is begged – why do we need to finish out the season if we know that Carolina is far-and-away the best team?  Well… because it’s still early.  December 5th is a light year away from April 6th in college basketball time, and  a lot can and will happen in the interim.  Other teams will improve, and UNC, while looking indomitable at this point, could eventually suffer from the fatigue of increasing pressure to win every game and/or simply a rough night in March.  That’s the beauty of our game.  Short of a major injury, we can rest assured that the Lakers and Celtics will more than likely be back in the NBA Finals due to the sport’s seven-game series playoff format.  But in a one-game situation in the NCAA Tournament, much like the World Cup and NFL Playoffs, an inspired underdog can accomplish the unthinkable and take down the seemingly unbeatable favorite (witness last year’s Super Bowl for just such a recent example).

For proof of this, let’s take a walk down memory lane for a brief history lesson.  Below are a handful of teams who, like this year’s Tarheels, were seemingly invincible for the entire season.  That is, until they ran into a plucky team who had enough heart and made just enough plays in the right moments to block the favorite’s manifest destiny.

  • 1984 UNC (28-3, 15-1 ACC) - We can start with a former version of the Heels.  Bob Knight’s Indiana team shot 65% from the field (69% in the second half) to take down Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins’ Heels in the second round of the NCAAs.  To this day, old-time Heels fans lament an injury to Kenny Smith’s wrist that limited his effectiveness in the postseason.  UNC had only a 1-pt loss at Arkansas and a 2-pt loss to Duke in the ACC Tourney prior to the NCAAs.  Of the 28 victories, only four were by single-digit margins.  This team was nasty.
  • 1985 Georgetown (35-3, 17-2 Big East) – We still can’t fathom how this absolute beast of a defending national champion with Patrick Ewing and Reggie Williams lost to Villanova in the greatest upset in NCAA Tournament history.  Still, they did, as Villanova hit a ridiculous 79% from the field against a defensive dynamo that regularly held teams well under 40%.
  • 1987 UNC (32-4, 16-1 ACC) - UNC, led by all-american Kenny Smith and super-frosh JR Reid, lost in the regional finals to Syracuse by 4 pts, in a game where Derrick Coleman and Rony Seikaly destroyed the Heels on the boards to eke out the victory.  Their only other losses were at UCLA (5 pts), at Notre Dame (2 pts) and in the finals of the ACC Tourney vs. NC State (1 pt).  While not as dominant as the 1984 version, this team was everyone’s choice to win the national title.
  • 1991 UNLV (34-1, 20-0 Big West) - The best team we’ve ever seen that didn’t win the national title.  Simply an astonishing combination of talent and experience on the cusp of the early-entry era.  Duke, who had lost by 30 in the NCAA Final to this same team one year prior, became Duke on this night – roaring back behind Mr. March, Christian Laettner, to win the game in the final minutes 79-77.  UNLV, who placed all five starters on the all-Big West team (four 1st teamers), had beaten its opponents by an average of 27.5 pts per game coming into the national semis, including a whipping of #2  Arkansas at the old Barnhill Arena by a score of 112-105 (the final was much closer than the game actually was).
  • 1997 Kansas (34-2, 18-1 Big 12) – We still contend that this was Roy Williams’ best team (even better than the 2005 UNC national champions).  A two-pt double-OT loss at Missouri was the only blemish on a near-perfect season until upstart and eventual national champion Arizona, led by Mike Bibby and Miles Simon, pulled off an 85-82 upset in the regional semifinals of the NCAAs.  Raef Lafrentz, Paul Pierce and Jacque Vaughn led a balanced attack that absolutely devastated most of its oppenents, many of whom were ranked (9-1).
  • 1999 Duke (37-2, 19-0 ACC) – With the possible exception of 2006 UConn (who we find overrated), this was the last college team that was absolutely loaded with A-grade NBA talent. The lineup featured two NPOYs (Elton Brand, Shane Battier) in addition to draftees Will Avery, Trajan Langdon and Chris Carrawell.   Future all-star Corey Maggette came off the bench.  Only four teams all season were able to stay within 10 pts of the Devils, who crushed teams by an average of 24.6 points per game.  Had this team won the title game against UConn, it would have been on the short list of greatest teams in the modern era.
  • 2002 Duke (31-4, 16-3 ACC) - This team didn’t have the outrageous statistical profile of its predecessor three years prior, but it was the defending national champs and boasted Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Carlos Boozer in a balanced attack that seemed destined for back-to-back titles.  That is, until this team’s only bugaboo, FT shooting (68.9%) popped up to bite them in the Sweet 16 against Indiana.  Two one-pt losses, a three-pt loss and a 14-pt loss to national champion Maryland were the only blemishes on this team’s resume.

So there you have it.  Our memories don’t go back further than the 80s, but we’re sure there are probably some other great historical examples of this phenomenon.  Leave them in the comments if you wish.  Of course, there are just as many (if not more) dominant teams that actually got it done and won the national title – which one will the 2008-09 Tarheels become?  To answer that question is why we will continue to watch.

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Lute Olson’s Legacy

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2008

Now that we’ve had a little bit of time to digest the news of Lute Olson’s retirement from Arizona after 24 seasons, it’s time to take a look at his legacy.  Lute wore his humanity on his sleeve for the past year or so as he’s piloted the usually steady Arizona ship into some rough waters through a minefield of health issues, marital problems, leadership changes and various other snafus.  But for the previous 34 years of coaching, Olson has consistently fielded talented teams that were a threat to win it all.  Consider the following accomplishments of a first-ballot HOF career:

  • 781-280 (.736) in 34 seasons as a head coach
  • 3 losing seasons in 34 years
  • 1 National Championship (1997)
  • 5 Final Fours (1980 – Iowa; 1988, 1994, 1997, 2001 – Arizona)
  • 15 Sweet Sixteens
  • 45-27 (.625) NCAA Tournament record 
  • 23 consecutive NCAA appearances (1985-2007)
  • 11 Pac-10 titles
  • 2 National COY Awards (1988, 1990)

Photo Credit (Tucson Citizen)

Olson’s numbers place him in an elite group of one-title coaches, including contemporaries Jim Boeheim, Tubby Smith, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, and Gary Williams.  The one thing, however, that separates him from those other names is that each of those coaches entered programs as new coaches where basketball was already an established way of life.  In Tucson, Lute Olson IS Arizona basketball. 

When Lute Olson stepped off the plane from the icy midwest in 1983, he encountered sunshine, babes and bikinis, but also an Arizona program that was so far off the map in terms of basketball success, you needed a magnifying glass to find it.  In the 78 previous years of its existence, the program had managed to make it to three NCAA Tournaments (1951, 1976, 1977) and three NITs (1946, 1950, 1951).  The combined NCAA record of those teams was 2-3, with both wins coming in the 1976 tournament (two upsets over Georgetown and UNLV to reach the Elite Eight).  The combined NIT record was 0-3, which meant that, upon Lute Olson’s arrival, the Wildcats had enjoyed only a single year (1976) in its basketball history with postseason wins of any kind.  To make matters worse, the team that Olson inherited was coming off the absolute worst year in the history of the program (4-24, 1-17 in the Pac-10). 

To say that Olson built the Arizona program up from the ashes insults the concept of fire.  After one mediocre year in 1983-84 (11-17), Olson found the mojo that he had utilized during previous stints at Long Beach St. (24-2) and Iowa ( 168-90), and set off onto the triumphant career in the desert that we’re talking about today.  The key, of course, was recruiting, and Lute mined the west coast hoops hotbeds (especially SoCal) on an annual basis, and it showed on the court.  Prior to Lute’s arrival in Tucson, Arizona had produced one first-round draft pick (Larry Demic in 1979).  Beginning in 1989 with the transcendental Sean Elliott, Olson put 13 first-rounders and 17 second-rounders into the NBA Draft, including such fantastic pros like Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson, and Andre Iguodala.  By the time Lute got it really going in the mid-90s, Arizona had become a chic destination school for America’s blue chippers, and he was able to recruit nationally – Jason Gardner (Indianapolis) and Loren Woods (St. Louis via Wake Forest) from the 2001 runner-up team come to mind, but there were many others.  Let there be no question – Arizona basketball wouldn’t exist on the national stage were it not for Lute Olson.  Here’s his crowning moment. 

 

There’s no doubt that Lute was a tremendous program-builder, teacher and recruiter, but if we had to pick one criticism of his illustrious career, it would be that his teams sometimes appeared to lose focus and/or lack motivation.  Maybe it was the laid-back lifestyle of Tucson or simply something about the kids Olson tended to recruit, but in our view, it is somewhat telling that he won his sole national championship in 1997 with a #4 seed.  Don’t take that the wrong way – that was a SICK team that just hadn’t come together until very late in the season (and we had the privilege of watch cut down the nets).  But they were an underdog in each of their three games against #1 seeds Kentucky, UNC and Kansas, and we always felt that Lute relished and managed the underdog role a little more than he was able to do so as the favorite.  Let’s make the case statistically.

As stated above, Lute Olson has gone to five Final Fours.  Here are the NCAA Tournament seeds for those years – #5, #1, #2, #4, #2 (avg. = 2.8).  Arizona also received five #1 seeds during Olson’s tenure.  Here’s the result for those five Tourneys – F4, S16, E8, R32, E8 (avg. = 2.6 games won).  When Lute was expected to go to the F4, he went once; when he was not expected to go, he went four other times.  This quick examination of the numbers confirms what we wrote last year when we surveyed the top overachieving and underachieving programs of the 64/65-team era of the NCAA Tournament.  From 1985-2007, Arizona averaged a #4.1 seed in the NCAAs.  The historical model (above) suggests that Arizona should have won 44.1 NCAA contests over this period – the Cats won 39, which means they ‘underachieved’ by nearly five Ws, and therefore puts UA in terms of performance in the bottom third of schools with greater than eight appearances over the era.  The most obvious examples of this phenomenon were first-round upsets in 1992 (#3 UA loses to #14 ETSU), 1993 (#2 UA loses to #15 Santa Clara), and 1999 (#4 UA loses to #13 Oklahoma).  Even Olson’s most talented and decorated team, the 1998 #1 Wildcats led by Mike Bibby and Jason Terry, had a major letdown in the E8 against #3 Utah, getting run out of the gym by 25 points.  What were we saying about focus and motivation?

(Photo Credit: Tucson Citizen)

It’ll be sad to see Lute Olson go.  Even last year, when Kevin O’Neill was busily turning Arizona into Tennessee ca. 1998 (ugh), we still thought the Silver Fox would make his way back to the sidelines again.  You could always count on Olson teams to have athletes who made the game fun to watch.  If his medical problems are serious enough to warrant missing another season, then he probably is making the right decision in riding off into the desert sunset.  Best of luck to him and his family. 

Now, about that Bob Knight looking to get back into coaching thing…  what odds did we lay?  10:1?  Associate coach Mike Dunlap is expected to take over the reins on an interim basis. 

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NBA Playoffs – JV Conference Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2008

It seems like the general consensus among NBA analysts is that this will be Boston vs. Detroit in the conference finals unless Lebron goes off for an entire series. I’m hoping to provide a little more insight than that with a preview of each opening round series and brief predictions of what I think will happen for the rest of the conference playoffs. I won’t expound upon the later rounds in great detail as I’ll probably mess up my first round picks making the subsequent previews meaningless.

First Round
#1 Boston vs. #8 Atlanta: This series looks like the biggest mismatch in the 1st round. Boston won all 3 games this year including the last when they sat the starters for the 4th quarter and still managed to win handily despite the fact that Atlanta actually needed the game to help get them into the playoffs. I don’t think there is any question that Boston will win the series easily. The only question I have seen by any analysts will be whether the Hawks will manage to win a game (most analysts don’t think they will). The more interesting thing is the individual match-ups:

PG: Rajon Rondo vs. Mike Bibby: This will be our first good look at Rondo against a quality PG in a playoff series. While Bibby isn’t the same player he was back around 2000 when he was the only Sacramento King who would take (and hit) big shots against the Lakers. It seemed like Bibby was ready to become a star at that point, but he never did. Rondo should have his hands full in this match-up individually, but the Celtics overall advantage is so great that it should actually serve as a great introduction to the playoffs for Rondo. If he struggles, the Celtics should be able to overcome it that night and if necessary they can always rely on Sam Cassell for short periods of time.

SG: Ray Allen vs. Joe Johnson: This match-upprobably has the most star power with 2 All-Stars battling. Johnson, who started his career in Boston before being traded during his rookie season, could give Allen a hard time throughout this series. If Atlanta is going to win a game, Johnson will have to dominate Allen for a night (along with Bibby winning his match-up against Rondo/Cassell).

SF: Paul Pierce vs. Josh Smith: Pierce is certainly the better player in this match-up (he deserves consideration for one of the All-NBA teams), but Smith’s length and athleticism make this an interesting match-up. Smith may also have to help on KG, who will be killing Marvin Williams.

PF: Kevin Garnett vs. Marvin Williams: To be honest, I haven’t seen Williams play much since his days at UNC. He seems to be putting up decent numbers, but this is a really bad match-up for him against Garnett, a MVP candidate. KG’s team playoff troubles and inability to hit the big shot has been well-documented, but that won’t come into play this series.

C: Kendrick Perkins vs. Al Horford: This is probably the only match-up that Atlanta has a decided advantage in with Horford, who will likely finish 2nd to Kevin Durant in ROY voting. Even though he is still the weak link in the starting line-up, Perkins has evolved into a decent NBA center, which might say more about the level of NBA centers in the league than it does about Kendrick’s game. I’m interested to see how Horford’s game has changed since he left Gainesville.

-Prediction: Celtics in 4. None of the games will be close.

#2 Detroit vs. #7 Philadelphia: The veteran Pistons team should win this series pretty easily in 4 or 5 games. The Pistons match-up well against the Sixers 2 best players (Andre Miller versus Chauncey Billups and Andre Igoudala versus Tayshaun Prince). The only real question is how intense the Pistons will be as they have a tendency to take games off even in the playoffs.

-Prediction: Detroit in 5. Philadelphia has a surprisingly tough team, but Detroit is too good to blow this series especially since the Sixers don’t have a Lebron-type player to win the series by himself.

#3 Orlando vs. #6 Toronto: Although the NBA experts have been ripping the Eastern Conference first round match-ups, I have to say that this series and the Cleveland-Washington series could be very interesting. Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh are obviously the marquee stars here, but both teams have good players at the other positions. It will be interesting to see which of the other players (Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, T.J. Ford, Jose Calderon, and Rasho Nesterovic) in this series step up and make themselves household names (outside of basketball junkie circles).

-Prediction: Toronto in 6. In such a close series, I’m tempted to go with the home-court. However, in this case I’m going with the relative experience of the Raptors to win a couple of the close games and close out the series in Toronto.

#4 Cleveland vs. #5 Washington: It appears like this is the only first round series in the Eastern Conference that the mainstream media cares about. It seems like the media is focusing on the Wizards (DeShawn Stevenson and Gilbert Arenas) calling out Lebron. However, there are a bunch of other interesting things about this series: (1) Can Washington finally beat Cleveland having lost to them the last 2 years in first round? (2) Can Agent Zero control his ego enough to play a supporting role? (3) Can Lebron win another series with a horrible supporting cast? Our answers: No. No. Yes.

Prediction: Cleveland in 7. I think that Washington is the better team, but Cleveland has Lebron. Ever since the Detroit series it appears that Lebron has decided to start taking over games (not counting the Finals last year that nobody watched). In the end, it will be Lebron (and David Stern’s refs) pushing the Cavs into the 2nd round.

I’ll make longer posts for the later rounds when the match-ups are set. For now, I’ll just stick with predictions.

Second Round
#1 Boston vs. #4 Cleveland: Celtics in 5.
#2 Detroit vs. #6 Toronto: Detroit in 6.

Conference Finals
#1 Boston vs. #2 Detroit: Celtics in 7.

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Where are they now? (Championship Edition)

Posted by nvr1983 on March 24th, 2008

We found an interesting piece in ESPN.com’s Daily Dime last week. They decided to list players from recent championship teams that are still in the NBA. They happened to miss a few players who we added. We might have missed a player here and there. If we did, leave a comment with an update on their status since it’s hard to keep track of all these leagues around the world.

You may notice that the number of NBA superstars from championship teams has decreased in recent years with the exception of Carmelo Anthony. We feel it is pretty clear that this is becasue a lot of guys who are NBA stars decided to skip college or not stay around long enough to win a title. We’re pretty sure Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Dwight Howard (he would be a senior now!) would have affected the NCAA tournament a little.

The list:
2006-07 Florida: Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, & Chris Richard.
-All of the UF guys seem like they could end up being solid pros. Even Richard who is spending time in the NBDL could end up being a decent bench guy. Horford has exceeded expectations and is challenging the much more hyped Kevin Durant for Rookie of the Year honors. The real question is whether any of them other than Horford will become stars in the league. Noah and Brewer have a chance, but we aren’t sold on them yet. We think Noah will end up being a solid contributor if he can keep his mouth shut.

2005 North Carolina: Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton, Sean May, & Marvin Williams
– All of the Tar Heels have turned into respectable NBA players, which isn’t surprising to anybody who say this team play. May hasn’t played this year due to injuries, but was putting up respectable numbers when he was healthy. Felton and Williams are definitely the studs of this group although McCants does show flashes of brilliance up in Minnesota not that anybody sees the Timberwolves play.

2004 Connecticut: Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone, & Charlie Villanueva
– While this group has turned out 3 solid NBA players (Okafor, Gordon, and Villanueva), we get the suspicion that none of these guys will turn into the superstars they were expected to be. It seems hard to believe that a lot of people thought Orlando made a mistake drafting Dwight Howard ahead of Okafor in 2004. However, this is a solid group of pros that will probably end up being the equal of the last 2 championship teams (UNC and UF).

2003 Syracuse: Carmelo Anthony & Hakim Warrick
– While Melo has lived up to the hype and is a perennial All-Star, it appears that Warrick is going to stay in the 10 PPG and 5 RPG range, which is probably worth a $8 mill/yr contract or a max contract if Warrick can wait for an offer from Isiah. Having seen this team play at the East Regional in Albany that year, this is one of our favorite championship teams particularly because they were the last team that was a big surprise winning the tournament. We knew that Gerry McNamara’s game wouldn’t work at the NBA level, but we always liked him and often thought that he was closer to Jameer Nelson in college than a lot of analysts were willing to admit.

2002 Maryland: Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, & Chris Wilcox
– The players from this team, which won the ugliest Final 4 in recent memory, have done just about what we expected as pros. Dixon has been a solid player who is often underappreciated by his team and has floated around the league but contributed everywhere he has gone. Steve Blake has provided solid if unspectacular point guard play and won a starting job in Portland for a time over the uber-hyped Sebastian Telfair. Wilcox has been somewhat of a disappointment. He puts up solid numbers, but has never turned into the star that his athletic ability suggests he could be. Of course, he was the same way in college so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

2001 Duke: Shane Battier, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, & Mike Dunleavy
– It amazing that on this team with several college superstars (including Jason Williams), that Boozer turned out to be the stud of the group. While Casey Sanders’s lack of development forced him to play the center position more than he probably should have, he was a guy who was routinely abused by Brendan Haywood. Somehow, Boozer grew a pair of huevos; so much so that he stabbed a blind man in the back. Just imagine what Boozer could have become if he had stayed in Cleveland to play with Lebron James. Battier, Duhon, and Dunleavy are all solid NBA players even if they haven’t lived up to their draft status (Dunleavy) or hype (Duhon-“What a man!”). To be fair, Battier was selected after Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry, so maybe he wasn’t taken too early. The most disappointing thing about this group is that we never got to see what Jason Williams could have become. Although he struggled adjusting as a rookie with the Bulls, he showed flashes of brilliances including a triple-double against a still-in-his-prime Jason Kidd.

2000 Michigan State: Charlie Bell, Morris Peterson, & Jason Richardson
– Jason Richardson has put up solid numbers even if we have a hard time considering him a star. He’s a phenomenal athlete who has never really made the transition to the superstar (except in fantasy basketball) that many projected for him. Morris Peterson had a solid run as a consistent double-figure guy in Toronto before going to New Orleans this year. As for Bell, we never expected much out of him, but he has had a nice little career and actually averaged 13.5 PPG last year. That championship team’s heart and soul was Mateen Cleaves who had a couple of nice seasons where he was one of the top cheerleaders in the league particularly when he was on the Kings. However, he never stuck and according to Wikipedia he is now playing for the Bakersfield Jam of the NBDL.

1999 Connecticut: Richard Hamilton & Jake Voskuhl
– This team, which we ranked as the best team of the past 10 years, knocked off an unbelievably loaded Duke team that might have been in the top 10 of all-time had they won that night in St. Petersburg. While Hamilton has been an excellent NBA player and one of the few guys in the league who can hit a mid-range jumper, the rest of this team has been a disappointment. We had no idea that Voskuhl was still in the league and barely noticed him when we knew he was in the league. The team’s other star Khalid El-Amin played for a short time in the NBA before finding his way to the CBA and Ukranian Basketball League before end up with Türk Telekom B.K. of the Turkish basketball league. We weren’t able to find much information about Ricky Moore, the star of the title game. We’re assuming that he had a rather undistinguished career after that night in St. Pete.

1998 Kentucky: Nazr Mohammed & Jamaal Magloire
– The Wildcats, who weren’t expected to win the title this year, were fueled by a big comeback against a very young Duke team in the South Regional finals. Looking back at this team’s roster, we couldn’t see anybody else on this team making a big impact in the NBA. Magloire had a run from 2002-2006 where he averaged around 10/10 and made an All-Star team (more the result of the lack of centers than his exceptional play) while Mohammed has had a slightly less distinguished career. His most notable achievement was helping the San Antonio Spurs win the 2005 NBA Championship (with an assist from Isiah Thomas).

1997 Arizona: Mike Bibby & Jason Terry
– Both Bibby and Terry have had excellent careers as was expected for them coming out of college. The more intereresting story is that of the team’s star Miles Simon. Simon was never considered a top NBA prospect, but we at least expected that he would stick around the league because he could make plays. Instead he spent a year in Orlando then traveled across the globe, before ending up in the CBA where as his Wikipedia page states he became “the most decorated player in CBA history”. Not exactly what we expect out of the MOP.

1996 Kentucky: Antoine Walker, Derek Anderson & Nazr Mohammed
– This was likely the last of the all-time great teams. This team was incredibly deep with 6 guys who had significant NBA careers (including Tony Delk, Ron Mercer, and Walter McCarty). This team just crushed the teams they played utilizing Pitino’s press with their superior talent and athleticism. None of the players ever became a superstar, but all of their studs had solid NBA careers including a handful of All-Star appearances and awards. We’ll leave Rick Pitino’s stint in Boston for another post.

1995 UCLA: N/A
– This team didn’t really have as many superstars as other championship teams did, but they played very well together finishing an impressive 32-1. They had 2 first-round picks (Ed O’Bannon and George Zidek) who had short-lived NBA careers. The team’s other stars were Tyus Edney, Toby Bailey, and Charles O’Bannon, but none of them ever did anything notable in the NBA.

1994 Arkansas: N/A
– Nolan Richardson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” team used a late Scotty Thurman rainbow 3 to knock off Grant Hill’s Duke team, which basically consisted of Hill and a bunch of nobodies. Corliss “Big Nasty” Williamson had a nice career first in Sacramento then in Detroit even winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2002. Thurman ended up leaving school early, going undrafted, and playing in the CBA.

1993 UNC: N/A
– This team didn’t really have any guys we considered potential NBA All-Stars back in 1993. Of course, we were 10 at the time and were already learning to hate the Tar Heels. We’ll let you look at the starting lineup and make up your mind: Eric Montross, Brian Reese, George Lynch, Donald Williams, and Derrick Phelps. Not exactly a murderer’s row of talent there. To be fair, Montross, who hails from the same high school as Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. (Lawrence North in Indianapolis), was selected 9th overall by the Celtics and had a decent rookie season before falling off the map. George Lynch was also considered a solid prospect coming out as 12th overall to the Lakers. He only had a mediocre pro career never averaging over 8.6 PPG and his main NBA achievements on Wikipedia are wearing 3 numbers (#24, #30 and #9) while with the Lakers and being traded to the Grizzlies to clear up cap space (and buffet space) for some guy named Shaq. Phelps played briefly in the NBA. And when we say briefly we mean 3 games and 1 shot, which he missed. Donald Williams, who is best remembered for being the MOP and having a huge game against the Fab 5 in the title game, spent his professional career floating around every league on the planet except for the NBA. The more interesting thing is that the Tar Heels actually had more talent the next year when they added Jerry Stackhouse and a young Rasheed Wallace (who in a sign of things to come got tossed from the McDonald’s All-American game) to this nucleus. However, the 1994 team never really came together and lost to Bill Curley and the Boston College Eagles, which was famously captured on this SI cover.

1991-92 Duke: Grant Hill
– Along with the 1996 UK team, Christian Laettner’s Blue Devils were the last of the teams that we consider truly great. To consider how big/great this team was, you have to remember that before this team, Mike Krzyzewski’s boys were the lovable losers who couldn’t win the big one despite multiple Final 4 trips. After this team, Duke became Duke. This team was really built around their 3 superstars: Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill. Everyone knows their college accomplishments: Laettner (#12 on ESPN’s list; maybe the top college player since 1990); Hurley (NCAA all-time assist leader); and Hill (also led Duke to the title game with a YMCA team around him in 1994). Laettner actually had a decent pro career, which most people would realize if he hadn’t been so great in college or if he wasn’t the most hated college player of all-time (multiply Joakim Noah by 100 and you get Laettner). His career highlights include an All-Star appearance as well as being an original Dream Teamer (ok, I can’t type that with a straight face). Hurley was selected 7th overall by Sacramento, but had his career derailed early with a car accident (signs of things to come for another great Duke point guard). However, we don’t think he would have ever become a great NBA PG as evident by how Jason Kidd destroyed him in the 1993 NCAA tournament. Hill actually had the best NBA career of the bunch and was considered one of the top 5-10 players in the league before multiple foot/ankle injuries eventually turned him into a shell of the player that he once was. Antonio Lang was taken 29th overall by Phoenix, but never did much in the pros. Brian Davis played a season in the NBA before floating around the basketball planet and settling on running a Duke-based group that tried to buy the Memphis Grizzlies with Laettner (the deal fell through). Thomas Hill (best known for being the guy crying after Laettner’s 1992 East Regional shot) was drafted 39th overall by Indiana, but never played in the NBA as he played in the Australian National Basketball League for a few years.

That’s all I have on these guys/teams. If you have any more information or comments, feel free to leave them in the comment section.

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