UCLA Week: Evaluating the Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on August 13th, 2012

There are no two ways around it, so we might as well get right to the punch: The past three seasons at UCLA, even with an NCAA Tournament appearance and win in 2010-11, is in the conversation for the worst stretch of three consecutive seasons in the history of the storied program. Aside from the transition at the end of the Steve Lavin era to the beginning of the Ben Howland era, you have to go back to Wilbur Johns in the World War II era for a string of three such poor seasons in Westwood. All that is bad enough, but if you consider where this program was at the end of the 2007-08 season, coming off three consecutive Final Fours and welcoming in the nation’s #1 recruiting class, such a precipitous fall was highly unlikely.

Kevin Love, UCLA

It Has Been Four Unsatisfying Seasons Since Kevin Love Helped UCLA Last Advance to A Final Four (Mark J. Terril, AP Photo)

So how did Howland and the Bruins go from being on the verge of ushering another great era of UCLA basketball to missing the NCAA Tournament in two out of three seasons? Much of it has to do with underachievement from that 2008 recruiting class. In the 2008-09 season, after future pros like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute departed early (a certain byproduct of the type of success the Bruins were having), the Bruins rode gutsy performances by veterans like Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya to a solid 26-9 overall record, but failed to win the Pac-10 for the first time in three years and were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in resounding fashion by a Villanova team that outhustled and outfought the Bruins. More ominous for UCLA was the fact that none of the highly-regarded freshman class made much of an impact that season. And despite point guard Jrue Holiday’s struggles as a frosh, he couldn’t get out of Westwood fast enough, declaring for the NBA Draft while averaging just eight points and four assists in his lone season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Merry Christmas: What’s In Santa’s Bag For Pac-12 Programs?

Posted by AMurawa on December 20th, 2011

It’s that time of the year where everybody is on the lookout for that one great gift for their friends and family. In the spirit of the season of giving, I’ve been racking my brain, trying to come up with the perfect gifts for all of the Pac-12 basketball programs. My good friend Mr. Claus is willing to help me out, and between the two of us, we think we’ve found just the right thing for everybody around the conference.

Arizona – Is it too much to ask for Derrick Williams back? Because he would go a long way towards curing the Wildcats’ ills up front. But since we don’t want to take Williams’ new contract or endorsement deals away from him, we’re going to have to settle on a babysitter for freshman point guard Josiah Turner. Just somebody who can make sure the kid eats his fruits and vegetables and gets to class and practice on time and in one piece, allowing Turner to simply focus on taking care of business at Point Guard U.

Josiah Turner, Arizona

Josiah Turner Has All The Physical Tools To Be Another Great Arizona Point Guard, But He Needs Help Clearing Up His Off-The-Court Struggles (photo credit: Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

Arizona State – All Sun Devil hoops fans want for Christmas is just one letter grade higher in one class on Jahii Carson’s transcript. The freshman point guard just missed getting a high enough score on his ACT exam to earn eligibility in Tempe, but just one point higher or one letter grade higher on his high school transcript would have made the speedy point ready to play. Santa has assured me that he’s found a minor discrepancy in Carson’s junior year Spanish class that could get him on the court immediately. Sure, Carson isn’t going to turn the Sun Devils into a Tournament team overnight, but they’ll certainly be a lot easier on the eyes.

California – Hey, it’s not much, but this wake-up call service we scored for roomies Allen Crabbe and Richard Solomon should save the Bears countless hours of missed practices and subsequent benchings. And we’re even throwing in a brand new icemaker, which should help Jorge Gutierrez heal up all those bumps and bruises he gets from diving all over the court.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences.

Standings

  1. California    (12-5, 20-9)
  2. Arizona State     (10-6, 20-9)
  3. Washington     (9-7, 19-9)
  4. USC     (8-8, 16-12)
  5. Arizona      (8-8, 14-14)
  6. UCLA     (8-8, 13-15)
  7. Oregon State    (7-9, 13-15)
  8. Stanford    (7-10, 13-16)
  9. Washington State    (6-10, 16-12)
  10. Oregon     (6-10, 14-14)

It may not have been the type of season that Cal head coach Mike Montgomery envisioned at the start of the year when his Golden Bears and their five returning starters were ranked in the top 15, but as the calendar page gets flipped to the only month that really matters in college basketball, his team has just finished clinching at least a part of the Pac-10 regular season title and the top seed in next week’s Pac-10 Tournament. What could be very interesting for the Bears, however, is a scenario that Montgomery has no interest in seeing happen: the Bears failing to win the Pac-10 Tournament and its automatic bid, leaving Cal — a team with an RPI in the 20s but no wins against top-50 RPI teams -– squarely on the bubble for NCAA at-large consideration.

Team Rundowns

  • California – The Bears wrapped up their portion of the Pac-10 title by sweeping the Arizona schools behind strong play from their seniors. Over the course of the weekend, the five Bear seniors (Jamal Boykin, Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Nikola Knezevic) combined for 129 of the 157 Cal points. Boykin led the way and took home Pac-10 player-of-the-week honors behind averages of 17 points and 8.5 rebounds. Cal still needs either a win at Stanford or a loss by Arizona State in one of their games against the Southern California schools to wrap up sole possession of the regular season crown.
  • Arizona State – The Sun Devils hung around for a half at Haas Pavilion on Saturday, but ice-cold second half shooting (just 7-26 from the field) and a complete inability to hit from range throughout the game (only 3-22 from behind the arc) doomed ASU. Only senior Jerren Shipp was able to get off against the Bears, hitting six of his nine shots (including two threes) for 14 points. Senior center Eric Boateng tied a Pac-10 record by hitting all 11 of his field goal attempts (on his way to 24 points) in their win over Stanford on Thursday. The Devils still have the inside track on the number two seed in the Pac-10 tournament, with a one-game lead over Washington.
  • Washington – The Huskies completed a season-sweep over intrastate rival Washington State on Saturday by getting out to a big first half lead (they led 35-21 at the half) and then fighting off a charging Cougar squad for a seven-point win. Sophomore point guard Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 22 points and junior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning continued his recent tear by adding 17 points and 12 rebounds. Bryan-Amaning has now averaged 13/7 over the past six weeks. Washington will head to the Oregon schools to wrap up their regular season, needing to win both games and get some help out of the Southern California schools in order to take over second place.
  • USC – Coming into the week, the Trojans still had an outside shot at winning the regular season Pac-10 title. Those hopes died Thursday night when they scored 12 points in the second half (6/25 FGs, 0/13 3s in the second half) against Oregon. The Trojans followed that up with a similar performance against Oregon State on Saturday, shooting just 25% from the field in the second half (and 29% for the game). Coach Kevin O’Neill will lose senior starters Mike Gerrity, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson off a team that has leaned heavily on its starting five, assuring that things will look different around the Galen Center next season.
  • Arizona – The Wildcats split their trip to the Bay Area this weekend, stealing a game from Stanford on Saturday on a 15-foot bank at the buzzer by freshman guard Lamont “Momo” Jones. Jones had a career high 16 points for the ‘Cats and fellow freshman Derrick Williams added 24 points to push Sean Miller’s club into a three-way tie in the middle of the conference. While senior point guard Nic Wise will be wrapping up his college career this weekend, the Wildcats boast a young team (five freshmen get playing time) that will likely be considered one of the early favorites in the Pac-10 next season.

  • UCLA – Senior day summed up the UCLA season pretty well. Before the game started, senior forward Nikola Dragovic, a couple of days after having his shoulder pop out against Oregon State, tripped over a basketball during warm-ups and sprained his ankle. And then, after battling back from a 10-point halftime deficit to tie the game late, sophomore point guard Jerime Anderson had two bad turnovers in the last minute and the Bruins sank back to .500 in the conference. Senior Michael Roll did go out in style, knocking down six three-pointers on his way to 25 points in his last regular season appearance in Pauley Pavilion.
  • Oregon State – The Beavers shot just 4-31 from 3-pt range this week, hit only 37% from the field, turned the ball over 30 times, and still got a split in Southern California when they forced 20 USC turnovers and held the Trojans to 29% shooting on Saturday. Senior guard Seth Tarver led the Beavs with 15 points in a game that was ugly enough to deserve special mention in a season of ugliness in the Pac-10. Oregon State still has a chance to finish the Pac-10 season at .500 with wins over the Arizona schools in the final weekend of the season.
  • Stanford – Despite senior Landry Fields’ strong last weekend in Maples Pavilion, the Cardinal dropped both games this week and are destined for a lower-division Pac-10 finish. Fields averaged 21.5 points and seven rebounds this week, but against the Sun Devils on Thursday he received very little help. Sophomore guards Jeremy Green and Jarrett Mann combined to score just six points on 2-15 shooting (and, to be fair to Mann, he only accounted for one of those field goal attempts – a miss). They both bounced back against Arizona on Saturday, going for 19 and 13 respectively, but the Cardinal lost a heart-breaker on a shot at the buzzer.
  • Washington State – The Cougars stumbled out of the gate on Saturday and by halftime were down 14 on Senior Night in Beasley Coliseum. But sophomore forward DeAngelo Casto led the Cougars on a second half run to get back in the game and even take their first lead of the game in the middle of the second half. However, the Cougars were unable to contain the Huskies’ Thomas late and the Cougs faded down the stretch. Casto wound up with 19/6, but the Cougs’ leading scorer, sophomore Klay Thompson, struggled all day, missing 12 of his 14 field goal attempts and turning the ball over five times. The Cougars will close the season with a road trip to Oregon.
  • Oregon – The Ducks went on the road to Southern California and swept UCLA and USC, breaking a five-game losing streak in a big way, and now have put themselves in position to climb out of the cellar with a strong closing weekend of the season, as the Ducks host the Washington schools while saying goodbye to senior Tajuan Porter as well as MacArthur Court. Porter averaged 22.5 ppg in the LA sweep and threw in seven threes in the win over the Bruins, leaving him just eight threes behind former Arizona star Salim Stoudamire for the all-time Pac-10 mark.
Share this story

ATB: Cornell Loses Its Way in the Phog…

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2010

The (Big) Red Scare. #1 Kansas 71, Cornell 66.  Normally, an early January game between a top-ranked Kansas squad and…well, pretty much any Ivy League school sounds about as thrilling as getting the measles twice.  Tonight was different.  Cornell came into Kansas’ dreaded Allen Fieldhouse already with a few wins over big-conference teams like Alabama, Massachusetts, and St. John’s.  They were riding the momentum of a ten-game winning streak and could boast a kid in Ryan Wittman who is nothing close to a kept secret any more.  Wittman (24/4/3 assts), a 6’6 long-range bomber averaging 19 PPG and 44% from distance, had appeared on various “best outside shooters” lists (including ours) and already had people wondering if Cornell was actually good enough to get in as an at-large team this year.  But this is no ordinary place or opponent.  This is Kansas, and this is Allen Fieldhouse, they of the 50-game home winning streak and current #1-ranking that, to be honest, hasn’t really been challenged yet.  It was close from the start; neither team led by more than three in the first half, and Cornell actually led at the break by that margin.  You still had the feeling, though, that this was one of those games in which Kansas would come out in the second half and end it early.  We’ve all seen this game before, right?  A team hangs around for a half by playing the best 20 minutes of basketball they’ve ever played, like Mike McD thinking he’s going to complete his run on Teddy KGB’s place.  We all know it’s a matter of time until Kansas turns over the two aces and sends whatever upstart they’re facing back to law school, a bratty Gretchen Mol, and Joey Knish’s delivery truck, right?  But when Cornell jumped on the Jayhawks to start the second half and extended their lead to eight, panic began to take root.  With Kansas up 53-47 with 9:45 left, the calls, texts, and more frequent network updates started.  When Kansas had still failed to reclaim the lead with under five minutes left, it was on.  Upset alert.  #1 is in trouble.  And it’s an Ivy League team. I mean, come on — ESPN even broke off of a DUKE GAME to provide bonus coverage!  Kansas, elevated by the home crowd, would eventually break free from Cornell’s expert control of the pace and take a 61-60 lead with 4:03 left, and you got the feeling that Cornell was done.  They would actually take the lead once more at 64-63 with less than a minute left, but Sherron Collins decided it was time to take over.  Handling the ball almost exclusively for Kansas, Collins (33/4/3) scored his team’s last eight points and four out of five FTs down the stretch.  Give Cornell credit for going for the kill, though.  Down 66-64, they found Wittman off a screen with 29 seconds left and he was never thinking about a two.  He would miss that three, and a later one to tie, and Kansas would eventually prevail.  This was probably the worst thing that could happen to the rest of the Big 12, since now Kansas has learned (if they weren’t aware before) not to take their position for granted, and they know there’s no such thing as a night off.  Coaches secretly love these close games early in the season because it empowers and tempers your squad, making them tougher for eventual tournament games.  As for Cornell…if the committee still considers “quality losses,” it doesn’t get much more quality than this one — to #1 Kansas, in their house, a 50-game home win streak on the line.  The Big Red will probably gain Top 25 votes from this, and it should actually help their curb appeal.  So, hands up, who wants to see Cornell opposite them as a first round opponent on Selection Sunday??  Yeah, we thought not.

Evan Turner Triumphantly ReturnsOhio State 79, Indiana 54.  OSU wasn’t going to lose this game at home regardless of whether Turner played or not, but his presence on the court was apparent in terms of inspiring confidence in his teammates and his ability to share the ball.  He played twenty minutes, contributed 8/4/5 assts while committing three fouls, but most importantly, he didn’t really appear rusty out there other than the first few sets.  The only thing that kept him from playing more than half the game was early foul trouble, but the most important takeaway from this blowout game was that it was obvious to anyone who has watched the Buckeyes play without Turner that everyone else appeared comfortable again.  Jon Diebler in particular was the primary beneficiary, as he had a 21/3 assts/3 stls night on 5-8 from three without having to worry about running the offense (along with William Buford) nearly as much.  Turner said afterwards that the eight-week prognosis originally suggested by OSU officials was a bit of a hedge, and he was only out of commission for 4.5 weeks, but all that matters now is that Turner is back in the lineup and OSU should be back in contention for the Big Ten title and the Top 25 in short order.

Unreal Score of the NightSeattle 99, Oregon State 48.  Right now Craig Robinson’s numbers are looking even worse than his brother-in-law’s, as Seattle — barely a D1 school, as a brand-new Independent — came into Corvallis and obliterated the Beavers in their own building.  A 58-21 second half is simply unconscionable for a Pac-10 team playing at home against a mid-major of any kind.  Seriously, even Gonzaga with Adam Morrison, Dan Dickau and Austin Daye all starting shouldn’t be able to do what the Redhawks did to Oregon State tonight.  Cameron Dollar should be proud of his team with road wins over Utah and OSU this season already, and circle 1/26 on your calendar as Seattle will visit crosstown rival Washington for another program-making shot at glory.  

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 12.22.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2009

  1. Matt Doherty appears ready to forgive and forget (mostly) his exit from North Carolina five years ago, but one quote in this probing article is revealing.  Speaking as to whether he was forced out because Roy Williams was ready to return to Chapel Hill, he said, “I don’t think that was the case.  But I also do know – I don’t think schools make changes like that without having feelers out there.”  Sounds like Doherty doesn’t believe himself.
  2. Doctors are shutting it down for South Carolina forward Dominique Archie yesterday, after realizing that his rehab would not allow him to return to full strength this season.  He injured the knee in a game against Miami (FL) four weeks ago and had not played since.  This will quite obviously hurt SC’s chances of getting through the rugged SEC East, especially considering the Gamecocks’ troubles on the glass (Archie was leading the team with 6.0 RPG).
  3. UCLA’s Nikola Dragovic pleaded not guilty yesterday to a charge of felony assault deriving from an incident outside a Hollywood (always up to no good) concert on October 28.  He is alleging self-defense for tackling a guy into a plate glass window which severed the man’s Achilles tendon.  Dragovic is averaging 8/6 for the struggling Bruins, but he has already served a two-game suspension as a result of this ongoing distraction.
  4. Remember this anecdote about Rob Senderoff, the assistant coach caught up in the Kelvin Sampson phone-call fiasco at Indiana, when Memphis gets its final ruling from the NCAA in a few weeks, or whenever.   Does anyone else feel that with Myles Brand not steering the ship that the NCAA is listing frightfully to starboard?
  5. First Laettner, now Bobby Hurley.  If we were Coach K or Grant Hill’s investment manager, we’d probably make sure that their financial tentacles never touch the Bluegrass State.  Those Kentucky people will get it back someway, somehow.  It, of course, meaning $946,961.58.
Share this story

Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2009

checkinginon

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big West and Pac-10 Conferences.

Sometimes it’s not so painful to watch a once proud and mighty warrior fall from grace, as it is bizarre.  You may be able to accept that nothing lasts forever, and that eventually the tide must turn. But it’s one thing to have a rebuilding year, and quite another to be a national laughingstock.  Yet, that term best describes the way that Pac-10 teams have performed so far in this early season. It also describes the way that the conference’s flagship program, the UCLA Bruins, has performed so far in this early season.  The Pac-10, we knew, was a conference in decline. But few predicted that the decline would be so far, so fast.

The conference’s two Top 25 teams have each suffered losses to unranked, seemingly-lesser teams.  The conference was soundly beaten in this week’s Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge, losing each of Thursday night’s three games. In fact, until late Friday, the Pac-10 Conference has not won a single game since Monday night, when Arizona State defeated 0-5 Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  Obviously it’s early in the season, and this is a conference that will play its best basketball later in the season, but the Pac-10 was considered mediocre among the power conferences this season and has instead looked dreadful, while the two teams that did possess national potential are obviously flawed and UCLA continues to trip all over itself. It’ll take a lot for the Pac-10 to rebuild its reputation this season, so let’s take a look at what’s transpired thus far.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Live: 76 Classic (Minnesota vs. Butler & UCLA vs. Portland)

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2009

RTCLive

The best preseason tournament begins today in Anaheim, CA, which is a bit of a shame because The OC isn’t exactly a hotbed of college hoops fans.  Nevertheless, the good news is that on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, ESPN and its family of networks will be carrying all of the games from the 76 Classic, and we’ll all be treated to a tournament that hosts four currently-ranked teams and anywhere from 6-8 likely NCAA teams next spring.  Our on-site correspondent, Ryan ZumMallen, will be performing RTC Live for us on Thursday and Sunday, but even we won’t ask him to live-blog every game.  So, for Thursday night, he will be covering the evening session games, starting with #22 Minnesota vs. #12 Butler and ending with Portland vs. UCLA.  The first game features a Minnesota team that has yet to be tested in three games against, well, nobody, and a Butler squad who shares an identical 3-0 record but has been in three relatively close games so far.  With the coaching going on between Tubby Smith and Brad Stevens on the sidelines, this should be a really good battle.  The late game features local favorite UCLA who is clearly trying to find its identity this season after losing so many stars the last two years (Nikola Dragovic will be back in action, however) vs. a Portland team that returns all five starters and has designs on overtaking Gonzaga for the WCC title this season.  The Bruins cannot afford another loss to a mid-major (Fullerton got them last week) and Portland could really use another RPI boost by defeating a Pac-10 team (they beat Oregon in their last outing).  All in all, it should be a great evening of hoops in the heart of Disneyland, and we invite you to join us instead of watching some terrible or lopsided football game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: Turkey Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2009

morning5

  1. It turns out that the layup-line injury to Texas guard Varez Ward suffered Tuesday night was indeed as bad as it looked.  He will miss the entire season with a ruptured quadriceps, and surgery is scheduled for next week.  It’s a tough break for Rick Barnes’ team, but the good news is that he’s loaded in the backcourt with J’Covan Brown, Avery Bradley and Dogus Balbay all currently vying for minutes, and Jai Lucas becoming eligible at semester’s end.   Texas will be fine.
  2. Bob Huggins announced on Wednesday that his star forward Devin Ebanks will make his debut in Thursday’s first round game at the 76 Classic against Long Beach State.  The world may never know what ‘personal issues’ struck Ebanks over the last week, but we hope that whatever it was it’s settled.
  3. On a related note, UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic has also been reinstated to play in Thursday’s 76 Classic by head coach Ben Howland, but he is not expected to start in James Keefe’s place just yet.
  4. Jeff Goodman totally one-upped us on our recent tour de basketball by ending up in San Juan, PR, but he shares with us ten things he learned on this road trip.   Major disagreement on one point, though.  We didn’t find Evan Turner to be all that inconsistent in NYC last week — after all, he had 49/25/10 assts in two games on 18-28 shooting.  We did have 14 turnovers, however, so we assume that’s what Goodman is referring to here.  Sure, he may struggle as a point guard at times, especially in terms of decisionmaking, but we’re really not seeing him having many struggles in terms of a player — his average game on a given night is still better than all but about ten players in the country, in our humble opinion.  And when he’s dialed in, we’re not sure there’s anyone better.
  5. One of our favorite annual columns from Seth Davis is when he predicts the top ten breakout sophomores for the upcoming season.  Last year he was right on the money with several, including superstars Jeff Teague, Kalin Lucas and Chris Wright.  This year’s column has a couple of interesting choices (Larry Drew II and Tony Woods come to mind), and we’re wondering how nobody among UCLA’s sophomore corps can be on the list, but it makes for interesting debate and discussion.

Finally, have a Happy Thanksgiving of Hoops, everyone!

Share this story

Morning Five: 11.25.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2009

morning5

  1. UCLA’s Nikola Dragovic plans to plead not guilty to his recent charge of assault stemming from an incident at a Hollywood concert in October.  According to his attorney, Dragovic was only defending himself against a drunken aggressor who had slapped his friend, and when he tried to leave, the lout followed him.  There’s no way to know what to believe here, other than what eyewitness (video) evidence brings to bear.
  2. USC’s depth problems continue as junior forward Kasey Cunningham fell awkwardly during a weekend game and tore his ACL and medial meniscus for the fourth time in his career.  Talk about snakebit.  Kevin O’Neill is down to six serviceable players including Marcus Johnson, a UConn transfer who sat out two games serving an NCAA suspension.  Any additional injuries for USC and the Trojans may need to have tryouts or draft some of Pete Carroll’s bunch over to the hardwood.
  3. Ohio State guard Walter Offutt announced that he will transfer at the end of this quarter, with his destination presently unknown.  The sophomore guard was expected to provide defensive minutes for Thad Matta’s short bench this year, but he didn’t see time in two games in New York last week, and could probably see the writing on the wall with most starters expected to return next year in addition to a strong recruiting class coming in.
  4. An interesting development that Mike DeCourcy discussed yesterday involves the curious recruitment of Enes Kanter, a 6’10 Turkish player who has signed with Washington for 2010.  A proposed NCAA rule (2009-22) would allow players such as those in Kanter’s position (having played in a professional league without taking payment) to play immediately, rather than taking a game-for-game penalty, as in the case of WVU’s Deniz Kinicli, who must sit the first twenty games of the season this year before becoming eligible.
  5. Did you ever wonder how we got to the current situation where Thanksgiving week has become wall-to-wall basketball with all these preseason tournaments (not a bad thing)?  Luke Winn has your answer in his usual well-written style.  Four letters come to mind — E.  S.  P.  N.
Share this story

Morning Five: 11.23.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2009

morning5

  1. UCLA’s Nikola Dragovic was arrested and subsequently suspended by head coach Ben Howland for felony assault stemming from an incident at a Hollywood concert last month.  This is the second physical-force-related arrest for Dragovic in the past two seasons, as he was also arrested on suspicion of shoving his girlfriend during an argument last year.  He was not prosecuted for that allegation, but we’re starting to have serious reservations about the talented Serb’s anger management.  UCLA is not off to a good start at all this season, including numerous injuries, a loss to Cal State Fullerton, and now an arrest to one of their top returnees all within the first five weeks.
  2. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird headlined this year’s inductees to the National Collegiate Hall of Fame, along with several other luminaries of the game, including former Michigan State head coach Jud Heathcote, Oklahoma star Wayman Tisdale, all-time NCAA leading scorer Travis Grant, former UCLA/UAB coach Gene Bartow, USA Basketball leader Bill Wall, and Walter Byers, the first executive director of the NCAA.
  3. To that end, here’s a Bird/Magic story you probably don’t already know.  From the KC Star, the two players were invited to compete on a World Invitational Tournament team coached by then-national championship Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall.  Astonishingly, both players were put on the second string by Hall, and shockers, neither of them particularly liked that.  Read about the whole story at the above link.
  4. A lot was written after the Syracuse second-half bombardment of North Carolina on Friday night, including here.  Some of the better pieces were from Jeff Goodman, Seth Davis, and Adam Zagoria.
  5. In case you missed it, the #1-rated power forward in the class of 2010, Tobias Harris, committed to Tennessee at the end of last week.  The 6’8 player who likes what Tyler Smith has been able to accomplish in Knoxville is the highest-rated player UT has ever signed.  He also considered Maryland, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville and West Virginia.
Share this story

RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Southwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South, Mid-South, Lower Midwest, Upper Midwest and Mountains) are located here.

It’s time for the ninth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of hot, dry, desert-y states known as the Southwest Region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Southwest Region (NM, AZ, NV, HI, southern CA)

sw_impact_players_v.2

  • Rihards Kuksiks – F, Jr – Arizona State. Advice to Pac-10 coaches writing up their scouting reports for when they go up against Arizona State this season: when Rihards Kuksiks enters the building, get a man on him. Don’t bother waiting until the game actually starts. You don’t want him getting comfortable, because he’s the kind of shooter who can change a game just that quickly. The guy can touch the ball a few times and the next thing you know you’re down nine before the first TV timeout. Or you get a little comfortable with your late-game lead and after Kuksiks gets a couple of touches the lead is gone and you’re wondering how time can tick so slowly. You want numbers? Fine. Kuksiks is third in terms of returning individual leaders in 3-point field goal percentage (44.3%) in the country among players who hit at least two threes a game and finished 8th in that category last year. A recent article on FoxSports.com by Jeff Goodman reveals some other incredible stats: in games decided by 2 points or less, Kuksiks shot 47% from behind the 3-point line; against ranked opponents he shot 46% from beyond the arc, and in the loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament’s second round last year, he put up his career high in points with 20, with 18 of those coming from long range. In other words, the man steps up during big games. If the numbers don’t interest you, then consider the fact that many of these threes are not from a hair behind the line. They are often from distance. And they are often clutch (ask Arizona about a couple of late ones he nailed in that February game last year). Most importantly, watch the form. It should be an instructional video. He gets good height on his jumper but doesn’t overdo it, and you can see how he gets his legs into the shot. He releases the ball out in front just a little bit, but then the follow-through is a perfect example of that “reach into the cookie jar” that basketball coaches start teaching kids from the moment they can lift a basketball. By the way, he’s 6’6 and more than happy to mix it up in the paint, if needed. My favorite bit about Kuksiks comes from an interview he did for a site called EuropeanProspects.com in which he was asked what kind of player he was. The first words out of his mouth? “I am a sharpshooter.”  This is confidence, not cockiness, from the big man from Riga, Latvia. But I think it’s just fine if there actually is a little cockiness there. Long-range shooters are like neurosurgeons. They’re often asked to do the most difficult things in their field…and if I get to the point where I need to depend on one, I want them a little bit cocky.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on the… Pac-10

Posted by nvr1983 on March 5th, 2009

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

News & Notes

  • Washington has clinched their first regular season Pac-10 title since 1985 and with a win against Washington State can clinch their first outright conference title since 1953.
  • Washington State’s first senior class of Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes, Caleb Forest, and Daven Harmeling is its first to defeat all nine Pac-10 rivals since 1989.
  • Darren Collison is shooting 91.8 percent (89-for-97) from the free-throw line this year good for second in the nation, and second on the UCLA all-time single-season chart.
  • It may not make Oregon feel any better, but Pomeroy College Basketball ranks Oregon’s schedule as the toughest in the nation.

Some three-point information

  • California still leads the nation in three-point accuracy, at 43.9 percent.
  • Junior guard Jerome Randle is two shy of the team record 68 set by Ryan Drew in 1990.
  • Theo Robertson has hit 52.2 percent of his three-point attempts this year which would be the highest in school history, and is first in California career percentage at 44.3.
  • Junior guard Tajuan Porter of Oregon is second all time in team history in three-pointers made with 269. The leader is Orlando Williams with 282.

Player of the week: Jon Brockman
Brockman scored 17.5 points per game and pulled down 10.5 rebounds in the two victories for Washington this past week. Brockman came up big in overtime against ASU scoring the first two baskets.

Honorable Mention
Freshman Klay Thompson scored 16.5 points per game this past week fueled in part by 7-for-15 shooting from three-point range. Thompson also pulled down seven rebounds in the victory over Arizona State. Darren Collison scored 14.5 points a game for UCLA in the past week when the Bruins bounced back with two wins. He also posted five assists a game. Arizona was winless this past week, but could not find much fault in Jordan Hill who averaged 21 points, and 9.5 rebounds per game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story