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


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

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. This. 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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