Posted by Connor Pelton on November 8th, 2011
- We begin in Tucson, where Arizona got the regular season started with a 73-64 win over Valparaiso. After a mediocre exhibition season, this was a fine win to open up the year for the Wildcats. Kyle Fogg broke out of his shooting slump with 16 points, but the surprise of the night was freshman Nick Johnson. Johnson continued to outperform freshman teammate Josiah Turner with 14 points and six assists, while Turner had a lackluster seven points and one assist. Turner got the start,but it is becoming more evident from head coach Sean Miller that Johnson will be the second guard in the lineup in crunch time. Matching Johnson’s 14 points was senior forward Jesse Perry, but even more impressive was the ten rebounds he collected. Up next for Arizona is a visit from Duquesne on Wednesday night.
- There is a serious lack of power in the Pac-12 this year after many stars left last season. As Patrick Finley points out, the top seven scorers in the league last year are now gone, not to mention eight out of the nine best rebounders. But while you may see less highlights on SportsCenter because of it, the lack of star players and exceptional talent could make for one of the best Pac-12 championship races in recent history. “I don’t know if there’s a team to beat,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar told reporters. When you look at it, five teams (California, Arizona, Washington, UCLA, and Oregon) could all make a serious push for the conference crown. There will surely be upsets along the way as well, considering that the next tier of teams (Oregon State, Stanford, and Colorado) have enough talent to also compete night in and night out.
- If you were ever wondering how to build a basketball dynasty, Greg Hansen has laid out the steps that former Arizona coach Lute Olson used to take the Wildcats from conference cellar-dweller to national powerhouse. Included is everything from “playing nonconference road games,” to “acknowledging the fans,” to “running an up-tempo offense.” This is truly a great read for all Pac-12 fans, whether you want to take the trip back to memory lane or look to the future and see if your team is navigating the right steps on the road to a future dynasty.
- CBSSports has compiled its annual list of the Top 100 Best Players, and the Pac-12 is represented with a total of nine players at #’s 23, 24, 42, 46, 47, 49, 77, 85, and 88. Topping the Pac-12 portion of the list is Washington guard Terrence Ross. With the departure of Isaiah Thomas from Seattle, Ross is going to play a huge role in both the Husky offense and defense this year. Directly behind him is UCLA forward Reeves Nelson, who had a ridiculous 14 double-doubles last season. Nelson is both a threat from the perimeter and low post, making him a nightmare for opposing defenses. At #42 is a surprise pick, Bruin center Joshua Smith. Smith can certainly score, but constant foul trouble does not make him a Top 50 player in my mind. Josiah Turner, Jorge Gutierrez, Jabari Brown, Allen Crabbe, Jared Cunningham, and Trent Lockett round out the Pac-12′s representation on the list.
- Arizona State will be looking to change the attitude around the program when they take the court on Friday to open up the regular season. The Sun Devils have not won a postseason game of any kind since 2009, which was also the last time they went to the NCAA Tournament. While 2009-10 was supposed to be a rebuilding year, expectations were higher going into last season. Instead the Devils finished 12-19, last in the Pac-10, reviving old doubts about the program and the direction in which it was headed. We live in a world of “what have you done for me lately,” so the lack of NCAA Tournament appearances has coach Herb Sendek on the hot seat. “That’s definitely not what I expected, to be a junior (without) having played in an NCAA Tournament,” guard Trent Lockett said, reiterating the point. The Sun Devils will begin their quest back to relevancy when they take on Montana State at Wells Fargo Arena Friday afternoon.