Posted by AMurawa on December 10th, 2012
- Following this first weekend where the college basketball didn’t pale in comparison to the college football schedule, we start our week not recounting some of the action on the court, but rather action on a picket line. On Saturday, The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (now there’s a phrase I never expected to type out for the Pac-12 Morning Five) declared a strike against the Pac-12 Network and set up picket lines at USC, Arizona State, Oregon State, Oregon and Washington for those days’ games. The IATSE complaint centers on the fact that the Pac-12 Network has, in some markets, used non-union crews, and that employees on those crews don’t receive the benefits that union employees receive, such as higher wages, benefits and other protections. The Pac-12 issued a statement in response saying that it “respects an individual’s right to decide whether to be represented by a union” and not a whole lot else. Coupled with the conference’s impasse with DirecTV over carriage of their network, this is another bump in the road for the fledgling network. But, I gotta admit, the Pac-12 Networks are really cool. Just for instance, on Saturday you could have turned on the Pac-12 at 11 AM for Cal State Northridge and Arizona State and watched basketball straight through until the USC/Minnesota game wrapped up around 9:30 PM. And, something similar is on tap for next week.
- On to actual on-court action, brave basketball fans who showed up at Reliant Stadium for UCLA and Texas may have reason to go on strike against the sport after the two huge programs put on a horrendous display of basketball in front of a largely empty stadium. As Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports writes, the game may have set the record for most empty seats at a basketball game. The game was played at the home of the NFL’s Houston Texans and was capable of fitting some 43,000 fans. Let’s just say that the announced attendance (which was apparently an imaginary figure) missed that mark by somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 people. Why this game was scheduled at that location, I’ll never be sure. There was certainly no chance in hell that, even if UCLA had been playing well, the Bruins were going to bring any significant number of fans to Houston. And Texas, well, you guys know you do have a perfectly good Erwin Center that, even with its 16,000-some capacity would likely not have been filled for this game. As for the game itself, well, let’s just say Texas missed two point-blank layups on breakaways and neither of those likely qualify as the low point in this game.
- From one monstrosity to another, for those of you who maybe thought that Washington getting back the services of Scott Suggs and Shawn Kemp Jr. would help turn this team’s season around, consider Saturday night’s loss at home to Nevada the cold water to the face to dissuade you of that illusion. The Huskies have now lost three home games to increasingly bad competition and, while Lorenzo Romar isn’t about to let his team give up, this looks to be headed to a lost season that will put 2007-08’s 16-17 campaign to shame. There were some extenuating circumstances Saturday night, as Abdul Gaddy was abused regularly by Nevada’s Deonte Burton early in the game and picked up three early fouls on a night when Andrew Andrews was out with injury, leaving the Huskies without a true point guard for 10 minutes, but that’s mere explanation rather than excuse. The schedule eases up significantly between here and a December 29 date with Connecticut, but this group is far away from congealing into a quality basketball team.
- After knocking off Boise State last week, Utah had a great chance on Saturday night to not only exceed last year’s win total, but also knock off in-state rival BYU to seal up a phenomenal week for the program. At the under-eight timeout, the Utes had a six-point lead, the Marriott Center was quiet and Utah looked to have the Cougars right where they wanted them. But then a pair of Matt Carlino threes and a Craig Cusick three as a chaser brought things back to reality. The Utes wound up scoring just one field goal in the game’s last 11 minutes, turned the ball over seven times and let a very winnable game slip away. But if you take a step back and look at the season as a whole, especially in contrast with last year, it is clear that progress is being made.
- Around the college basketball world, we’re into the dreaded time known as Finals Week, where the number of watchable games dwindles to a trickle. But, in the state of Oregon, both Pac-12 schools have wrapped up their exams and are ready to focus on basketball. Oregon’s finals were last week and they celebrated their first day of winter break with a demolition of Idaho State. But, rather than pick up on a whirlwind of cross-country travel in search of games, the Ducks will hunker down for a week, try to clean up some of the mistakes that Dana Altman has seen and prepare for next Saturday’s game against Nebraska. Meanwhile, Oregon State is on slightly different schedule. Having wrapped up their finals, the Beavers crushed Grambling State on Saturday in a game that was drastically different than its first game back from finals last year. But up next for OSU, rather than spend a week practicing in Corvallis, they’ll head up north to face Portland State on Wednesday night.
Posted by AMurawa on October 8th, 2012
- We’re back to do the Morning Five five days a week again, with an eye towards games tipping off just over a month from now. However, for many Pac-12 fans around the country, the question of how and where to watch many of the basketball games this season remains a big question mark. The Pac-12 Networks have been live for months now, but many television viewers, particularly customers of the nation’s largest satellite television provider, DirecTV, are still shut out. The conference and DirecTV have been going back and forth since late August over terms of a proposed deal, but with football season chugging along and basketball on its way, it appears likely that DirecTV is ready to be stubborn as long as necessary in the hopes that the Pac-12 caves. Jon Wilner is as good of a go-to guy as there is on this topic, and he not only sees through DirecTV’s fact-challenged statements and loaded proposals, but fully expects that any changes to the situation are not readily approaching. In other words, if you’re a Pac-12 basketball fan and you’ve still got DirecTV, it is time to explore other options.
- After Reggie Moore’s promising freshman season, it looked like Washington State was not going to skip a beat after the graduation of Taylor Rochestie. However, after lackluster sophomore and junior campaigns that failed to ever show serious improvement over his rookie year, Moore was dismissed from the Cougar basketball team, as we detailed a couple weeks back. To put a bow on Moore’s WSU career, the mercurial point guard sent a statement to columnist Vince Grippi at The Spokesman-Review, owning up to an unnamed “costly mistake” that led to his dismissal and apologizing to the university and its fans. He’s still in school working towards a degree, with eyes on a future in basketball at some level. These kinds of things always have that bittersweet feel to them. On one hand, you hate to see a collegiate career end like this, but on the other, given the fact that Moore has had some disciplinary problems during his time at Pullman, you hope he uses this event as a wake-up call to get his act together. He’s been a frustrating player to watch over the last couple of years, but at this point, I’m sure there are many Pac-12 fans, including this writer, who are hoping for Moore to make the best of a bad situation.
- Another veteran Pac-12 player’s senior season is over before it even began. In Thursday’s Morning Five we mentioned that 7’6” center David Foster of Utah reinjured the same foot that kept him out of action last year and will have to undergo surgery that will keep him on the sideline again this year. But, rather than disappear into the ether, on the sidelines is exactly where Foster will stay. Citing the strong chemistry between the largely new roster in Salt Lake City, Foster will sit on the bench during games and do whatever he can to help out the young team, albeit in a non-playing role. Foster still hopes to have his foot recover well enough so that Utah’s all-time lead in blocked shots can pursue a professional basketball career overseas.
- We’ll have a more comprehensive recruiting post later in the week, but we wanted to mention Tad Boyle’s latest signings at Colorado. After getting a commitment from 6’5” three-star wing Tre’Shaun Lexing at the end of September, last week Boyle got a commitment from 6’8” power forward Dustin Thomas out of Texarkana, Texas. Thomas is a four-star talent according to ESPN, a skilled big man capable of playing the pick and pop game or defending and rebounding inside. Along with guard Jaron Hopkins, these two make for a strong three-man class already for the Buffs, which is getting to be a habit for Boyle. Boyle credits the fact that he has been able to consistently send guys off from Boulder to play professionally as part of the reason for his recent success on the recruiting trail. With former Buff Alec Burks entering his second season in the NBA and with six of the seven graduating seniors over the last two years playing professionally somewhere (the lone non-pro is Trey Eckloff, who is pursuing a law degree), Boyle can certainly sell the fact that four years in Boulder preps basketball players for professional careers.
- Lastly, it was announced last week that former UCLA great Bill Walton has agreed to a book deal. The book will be named Back From the Dead, and knowing Walton’s history, not only in Westwood, but including his high school career in San Diego, his injury-riddled professional career including a tumultuous time in Portland and his off-the-court adventures in and around the counterculture, this is going to be a must-read. Pac-12 fans will get plenty of chances this season to reacquaint themselves with Walton, as he has agreed to work with both ESPN and the Pac-12 Networks in doing color commentary on Pac-12 games.
Posted by AMurawa on February 16th, 2012
- Larry Scott has made quite a splash in his two-plus years in his current job. Aside from being partially responsible for making the Pac-10 obsolete and ushering in the era of the Pac-12, he helped the conference ink a huge new television deal with ESPN and Fox that made presidents, trustees and other administrators all up and down the conference very happy. That television deal begins next year, and as part of it, the conference will be unveiling a Pac-12 Network, and we got some more details on Wednesday about how that will look when the conference held the groundbreaking ceremony for the network’s future studios. There will be one national channel and six regional channels, and together they will air approximately 850 live events next year, including every football game and every men’s basketball game that does not appear on other national networks (i.e., ESPN or Fox). Additionally, all of those games will be available on mobile devices. Now, we just need to get some recruits into these schools so we’ll have some significantly more watchable games.
- Case in point: I write about Pac-12 basketball, I live in Los Angeles, I love college basketball rivalry games and I may or may not have had a rooting interest in the UCLA/USC basketball game on Wednesday night. But rather than being excited about watching the game, I took a look at it from time to time, merely out of a sense of duty. And the fact that I put my precious eyes in the precarious position of having to watch that mess should show just how dedicated I am. UCLA led the whole way, building its lead as high as 23 points in the second half, before fading back into a 10-point win. Still, despite the lopsidedness of the game, head coach Ben Howland never really called off the dogs, playing just seven players the whole way. The Bruins dominated on the glass (41.2% OR, 88.2% DR) and were led by the Wear twins, who combined for 30 points and 24 rebounds, each registering a double-double. And, Maurice Jones is still gunning away: 3-for-11 tonight.
- As we head down the stretch, we start saying goodbye to seniors, little by little. For Washington’s Darnell Gant, his final homestand of his career comes this weekend, as the Huskies finish the season with three straight road games. Gant has been in Seattle for five years now, after taking a redshirt his first year under Lorenzo Romar. But after an inauspicious beginning, Gant has the opportunity to become the first player in Washington history to go to four NCAA Tournaments. While he came into college dreaming of an NBA future, those plans are a longshot now. However, Gant already has a diploma in his pocket, earning a performing arts degree last June and could have another type of entertainment career ahead of him.
- Just like the Huskies, every other team in the top five of the conference standings have two home games and three road games remaining on their schedule. And fans of each team are probably all coming up with some sort of formula that will not only put that team in NCAA Tournament contention, but also give them a chance to take down the regular season title. For Colorado, that formula begins with a win at Utah on Saturday. While the Buffaloes have struggled on the road this year, that is a very winnable must-win game. For there, CU returns home, where they are 7-0 in conference, to host California and Stanford. Beating the Golden Bears will be tough no matter where they play, but the Buffs will need to extend their home record to 9-0. To this point, all of this is very reasonable; where Tad Boyle’s club will need to break form is in the final week of the season, when they’ll have to travel to the Oregon schools to wrap up the year. Winning at a lower division team like Oregon State in the final game of the season is very doable, leaving the game on March 1 at Oregon as the lone game where the Buffs would need to significantly overachieve to get the job done.
- Lastly, while Arizona is by no means giving up on the rest of the season, they are already making plans for the offseason: namely, the Bahamas. Schools are allowed to take an exhibition tour once every four years, and Sean Miller is planning to take his Wildcats on a short trip to the Bahamas in August. While the team will only play a handful of games there, the major bonus for the squad is the additional practices and extra time together than the team will get to experience. With a group of four talented freshmen coming in next season and needing to be merged with a team that will be missing three senior contributors on this year’s team, the offseason trip should make the Wildcats that much more difficult to handle next year.
Posted by AMurawa on November 22nd, 2011
- The Pac-12 announced their weekly honors on Monday, just as we here at RTC did, and clearly the choice this week was a no-brainer as Jared Cunningham nabbed his first conference Player of the Week honor. For the week, Cunningham was 24-41 from the field and 38-47 from the line in two games, setting a career high with 35 points against Hofstra and then breaking it the next time out with 37 against Texas. But back to that free throw number again – 47 free throws attempted over three games! While Cunningham has not been a consistent jump shooter over his career, he has been solid from the line (77.9% last year). If he can continue to get to the line with anything approaching that regularity, he’ll be a conference player of the year front-runner.
- Oregon State took Vanderbilt, the #17 team in the country according to RTC’s latest poll, down to the wire Monday night at the final of the Legends Classic in New Jersey. However, a Brad Tinsley jumper with five seconds remaining put the Commodores over the top and left Beaver fans cold. Vandy senior forward Jeffery Taylor harassed Cunningham all game long, limiting him to just nine field goal attempts, five trips to the line and nine total points, while forcing seven turnovers. Sophomore forward Devon Collier continued his strong early season efforts with 19 points, five rebounds and four blocks, but sophomore point guard Ahmad Starks went a little nuts, hoisting 20 shots on his way to 16 points. Nevertheless, OSU proved its mettle, showing that they are able to hang with Top 25 teams and looking for all the world like a potential NCAA Tournament team. Of course, there are still almost four months to Selection Sunday, so Craig Robinson’s team will need to continue to improve.
- Bummed that you had to hunt around to find that OSU game on television tonight? Well, this is the last year you will have to do that. The Pac-12 is in the final year of its current television contract, with its new multi-billion dollar agreement kicking off next year that will include a national network and six regional networks. The Pac-12 promises that every football and men’s basketball game will be televised nationally, meaning that next year if you’re just dying to watch Morgan State at USC on a Tuesday night in November, you will be able to find that game somewhere..
- After four games, USC is 1-3, despite the fact that they have held its first four opponents to 55.2 points per game, 31.3% shooting from the field (and to get a little bit more righteous with advanced stats, a 36% effective field goal percentage and 0.87 points per possession). However, the Trojans are lagging far behind on the offensive end, posting an eFG% of 41.2% (good for 291st in the nation), just 54.2 points per game (327th in the nation), 0.85 points per possession and an offensive efficiency rating that places them 274th in the nation. Obviously, head coach Kevin O’Neill is quite pleased with the defensive end of the court, calling it “about as good as it can be” and “some of the best in the country,” but they’ll need to come up with some kind of answers on the offensive end in order to start turning those losses into wins.
- The season isn’t even two weeks old, and already we’ve had a boatload of behavioral problems around the conference. There are the ongoing issue with Reeves Nelson (who had one points in 11 minutes in UCLA’s unimpressive Maui Invitational win against Chaminade), the defection of Oregon’s stud freshman Jabari Brown after just two games, and some immaturity with Arizona freshman point guard Josiah Turner that led to him being benched for the Wildcats’ third game. Well, apparently Turner’s problems aren’t the only ones in Tucson, as it was announced on Monday night that Sean Miller had suspended freshman center Sidiki Johnson indefinitely for violations of team policy. Luckily the Wildcats have plenty of depth, so Miller feels free to lay down the law with his freshmen, a step I wish more coaches would take.