Merry Christmas From the Pac-12 Microsite

Posted by AMurawa on December 25th, 2012

In lieu of a Christmas Morning Five, we send you to the best that the Pac-12 (and Mountain West) have to offer, in the form of a late Christmas Day battle between two of the best basketball programs west of the Rockies: San Diego State and Arizona.


Tipping off at 7:30 PM PST, a pair of top 20 teams will square off in a battle that we’ve been anticipating for months. Friend and frequent contributor, Adam Butler of Pachoops, has all the preview you need.

Aside from that, enjoy your holiday, however you may celebrate it, and join us back here on Wednesday morning as we start to count down the days to conference action.

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Marching to Vegas: Joshua Smith Will Not Be Joining Us

Posted by AMurawa on November 30th, 2012

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

With news of Josh Smith’s departure earlier this week, UCLA’s departure numbers since their 2008 Final Four has reached 11 players. Just a week earlier, teammate Tyler Lamb left the team as well. Now I’m not going to turn this into a “UCLA has transfer issues” column. There are thousands of those across the interwebs for three years now. No, college basketball has a transfer issue and the spotlight just shines brightly on UCLA because they’re arguably the greatest program in the history of the game. For that reason, the spotlight shines brighter and it’s quickly turning into an interrogation lamp as Ben Howland has to answer spicier and spicier questions about his spiraling program. I know I’ve already spent an M2V piece examining the state of this program but these days it appears about as volatile and complex as Paula Broadwell’s “unprecedented access.”

Joshua Smith, UCLA

Joshua Smith’s Mid-season Departure Again Shines The Spotlight On Ben Howland And Begs The Question, “What’s Going On?” (Gary A. Vasquez, U.S. Presswire)

So with Smith’s departure we’re disappointed. I wrote about it on my blog, how Josh Smith is our selfish tragedy because we choose to believe we’d never let that happen to us. Me? Squander innate NBA talents? Never! But that’s the thing: Leaders are there to lead and while success is driven from within, great leadership helps you find that desire deep inside your gut. Thus the question is now perpetually being brought up – Bruins Nation kills it – as to what’s going on in Westwood? Stemming from the theories proposed by Bruins Nation, the one that strikes me as most poignant is that it is well-documented that playing for Ben Howland is joyless. Now this didn’t come to me as a tremendous surprise, A) I’ve watched Howland teams for years now and see it myself, and B) I’ve heard rumblings of such. Not a shocker. But Josh Smith’s transfer, among so many of the others, really brought to light the fact that this is a significant concern. Winning masks most everything but at the end of the day, this is a game being played, shouldn’t it be fun? Go ahead and call me an idealist because I most certainly am. I choose to believe my superstars are playing for championships not contracts and kids stay in school a year longer because they love the experience. That’s how I see sport.

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Stanford Week’s Burning Question: Is Dawkins’ Seat Warming Up?

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 21st, 2012

Pachoops’ Adam Butler joins us once again to chime in with his thoughts on our Burning Question. This is now his fourth straight appearance after giving us answers on the programs of Arizona, USC, and Washington. As for Stanford’s question, here goes:

Stanford made the NCAA Tournament in 13 out of 14 seasons before current head coach Johnny Dawkins took over in 2008-09. In his four seasons on the Farm, Dawkins has yet to lead the Cardinal back to the Big Dance, which has dropped the program down a step in terms of national prominence. How many more times can he go without dancing before his seat begins to heat up?

Dawkins Needs To Bring Stanford Back To National Prominence In A Hurry (credit: Danny Moloshok)

Connor Pelton: It’s tough to stand out and become a prominent team nationally in college basketball. In college football, an average fan will watch roughly 70 out of 125 FBS teams play at least one game throughout the season. That number is about the same for college basketball, but  it’s out of 345 Division I teams. If you think of it as a huge pie, there are about 30 large slices, 40 medium slices, and the rest are crumbs. Stanford used to be one of those coveted large slices, one that would without a doubt hear their name called on Selection Sunday year in and year out. But since Dawkins has taken over, the Cardinal have taken a step down to just one of the medium slices. Fans around the nation know who they are, but they don’t care enough to stay up until Midnight (on the east coast) to watch them play. The same goes for recruits, and if you find yourself in one of those six or seven-year droughts without going dancing, your four- and five-stars are going to become twos and threes.

With that said, Dawkins was able to pump some life into a program that was a little sleepy by winning the NIT Championship last season. That will buy him some time, if only because he can point to it and say, “Hey, we’re on the road back to success.” But if he doesn’t get back to the promised land within the next two seasons, it might be time to move on in Palo Alto.

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USC Week: Q&A With Pachoops’ Adam Butler

Posted by AMurawa on July 7th, 2012

As we go to wind down our coverage of the USC basketball program, we head back to Adam Butler of Pachoops for the second straight week for his perspective on the Trojan basketball program. Like me, Adam is pretty optimistic about the Trojans’ chances of a major bounce-back this season, although if anything he’s even hotter on SC than I am. Here’s our brief conversation on the immediate future for this new-look club.

RTC: My god, the Trojans were bad last year. But was there anything that happened that could bode well for the future for this team?

AB: The season ended. That was the best possible thing that could’ve happened to that team. That and time to pass as injuries healed and redshirts expired allowing this roster to almost completely re-emerge as one of the most intriguing teams in the conference. I mean, six win teams really have only one place to go.

Dewayne Dedmon

Seven-footer Dewayne Dedmon Could Be A Game Changer For The Trojans

RTC: Four different players suffered season-ending injuries last season. Three of them – Jio Fontan, Aaron Fuller and Dewayne Dedmon – return this year. Of those three, who is most important to USC’s success this season?

AB: I’m a big Jio Fontan fan, particularly on a Kevin O’Neill team. Fontan is a dynamic ball handler and all of that ball control offense that KO runs lends itself to needing a solid point. Look at what Maurice Jones was asked to do last season. Fontan is going to do that but at a higher level. I’m tempted to call him a darkhorse POY candidate and won’t be surprised to at least see him on the conference First Team. But of course any time you can run out a seven-foot athlete, it’s hard not to pay some attention to him. Dewayne Dedmon is probably the game changer for this team – as quality bigs tend to be. The combination of sound PG play and an improved Dedmon is going to make a trip to LA not a lot of fun.

RTC: Along with the players the Trojans get back from injury, they welcome four Division I transfers: J.T. Terrell and Ari Stewart from Wake Forest, Eric Wise from UC Irvine and Renaldo Woolridge from Tennessee. How good is that group of transfers and which of those four will play the biggest role for USC?

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Arizona Week: Q&A With Pachoops’ Adam Butler

Posted by AMurawa on June 29th, 2012

As we head toward closing out our coverage of the Arizona basketball program in our third of a summer-long series of in-depth looks at Pac-12 schools, we’re inviting Adam Butler of Pachoops back in to give us his thoughts on the big questions facing the Wildcats in 2012-13. Adam gave us a hand yesterday with our Burning Question of the week, and we hope to have him back from time to time to add his unique perspective. Without further ado, here’s what we came up with:

RTC: Let’s dig right in here Adam, starting from the top of the program. So, in 29 seasons since Lute Olson took over the Wildcat program, the team has missed the NCAA Tournament exactly three times: Olson’s first year, and then two of the three years under current head coach Sean Miller. Yet, it seems there is a confidence around the program that not only do they have the right coach, but that big things are on the verge of happening again in Tucson. Do you hold that view as well? And why or why not?

Sean Miller, Arizona

Arizona Has Missed The NCAA Tournament In Two Of Sean Miller’s Three Seasons In The Desert, But Arizona Fans Still Have Faith In Their Head Coach (AP Photo)

AB: Oh the Lute years were sweet. Arizona was no worse than a five-seed for 16 straight tournaments. Do you realize how awful March 2010 was for me? I literally fled the country. But I’ve digressed. Yes, I think Sean Miller is on the verge of very big things. He’s a phenomenal coach and has already demonstrated such in very short order. He took a bare cupboard and turned that into an Elite Eight; and before we get too far down the road talking about how that 2009 class fell into his lap, it did fall into his lap and those kids could’ve gone anywhere. But they chose Miller for a reason. And my impression of that reason is that he’s piecing together a very special something in the desert. I like to use Indiana’s rebuilding as a barometer and if you look at where they are following Kelvin Sampson bottoming them out, Tom Crean is in year five with the top team in the country in the preseason. Last season – year four – was their first taste of big success again. Arizona has essentially followed the same trajectory (2010-11 was a glorious anomaly), and finds itself with a very sound roster here in Miller year four and project to have a filthy year five. Here, let me pass you the Kool-Aid.

RTC: While the 2012-13 version of the Wildcats will have five returnees from last season, all of whom should get some run, it is a group of four highly touted freshmen and incoming transfer Mark Lyons who give the program the most cause for optimism. Let’s start with Lyons. He’s not a true point, is more of a shoot-first guy and his most recent head coach, Chris Mack, didn’t seem all that sad to see him transfer. Can he really be the type of point guard to help meld together some talented returnees with a frontcourt-heavy freshman class?

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