Marching to Vegas: This Is Our Game of the Year?

Posted by AMurawa on March 2nd, 2013

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.

Early on we dubbed this thing the Game of the Year. It was the conference’s two most storied programs set to square off on ESPN in the season’s waning moments with what was presumed to be title implications and a possible top NCAA seed on the line. It was UCLA. It was Arizona. Muhammad. Lyons. Anderson. Hill. With all the perspective of zero games played, this had “Game Of” written all over it; after all it was the necessary return to glory for the Conference of Champions perhaps still reeling from last season’s abomination. Well now it’s here and it sure doesn’t seem that sexy. One team will host with an underwhelming albeit sound 21-7 record wearing a home loss to Cal Poly amidst ambiguous rumblings surrounding the future of their head man. The other enters Pauley with lauded victories from what seems a season past but with just one win over a top-five Pac-12 team while looking the part of effortless softies. No, the aforementioned would not suggest this is anyone’s Game of the Year and certainly not as the producers of the game have hyper-hyped their prime-er time game featuring Duke and Miami.

When Arizona and UCLA Meet On The Hardwood, Pac-12 Basketball Fans Watch

When Arizona and UCLA Meet On The Hardwood, Pac-12 Basketball Fans Watch

This is an improved year by way of Pac-12 product but hasn’t quite lived up to its moderate hype. The conference held its first game featuring ranked opponents (#21 Oregon @ #24 UCLA, 1/19) since March 2009; but that cannot be the barometer by which we measure the conference’s success. It’s in fact a touch embarrassing and we should probably not mention it again, like walking into the women’s restroom. The collective RPI has hovered in the #6 range throughout the year which isn’t great but it’s certainly an improvement. Last year the conference sat in ninth, easily last amongst the power conferences. I mean, the conference champion wasn’t invited to the NCAA Tournament, do I really need to demonstrate that last year was bad again?

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Pac-12 M5: 10.29.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on October 29th, 2012

  1. The beginning of the regular season is 11 days away, so that means exhibition season is starting to heat up. Oregon takes the court tonight against Concordia, a game that was originally scheduled for November 1 before the Pac-12 Media Day was announced for that day (all coaches have to attend Media Day, so the game was pushed up three days). While E.J. Singler will reportedly miss the game with tendinitis in his knees, the exhibition will be a good opportunity for Dana Altman and staff to see how the eight newcomers (or seven, with Arsalan Kazemi’s status for this season still up in the air as he hopes to be granted a hardship waiver) look in game action. The one most likely to make the biggest impact is Dominic Artis, a four-star recruit out of famed Findlay Prep. Although Jonathan Loyd is still on campus, Artis has the tools to be the next in line of dynamic smaller guards for the Ducks, following in the footsteps of Aaron Brooks and Tajuan Porter. In somewhat related exhibition news, Western Washington lost an exhibition at Duke by a score of 105-87. Remember, the defending Division II national champion Vikings made Washington sweat out an 88-78 decision in favor of the Huskies after the game was tied three times in the final 10 minutes. Not that the transitive property is ever accurate in sports, but if Washington won beat Western Washington by 10 and Duke won by 18… Also, the Blue Devils’ victory was much more of a rout, as the game was never closer than 11 points in the second half.
  2. After supposedly being suspended for academic reasons for the 2012-13 season, former USC Trojan Maurice Jones declared his intentions to transfer. Well, the diminutive guard has made his decision, announcing that he will be taking his talents to Ames to play for Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State Cyclones. According to the Ames Tribune, Jones will enroll at Iowa State for the spring semester and can suit up to play in a game for the Cyclones at the conclusion of the fall 2013 semester, which will be somewhere around mid-December, as a junior. Jones figures to be the second straight transfer to run point for the Cyclones, as former Michigan State Spartan Korie Lucious will quarterback the offense for his last year of eligibility in 2012-13. What is perhaps most interesting from the article, however, is that Jones claims he was not academically ineligible for the upcoming season, rather saying he was suspended from USC for a year for a matter unrelated to his grades. Since neither Jones nor the USC sports information department will comment on the real reason for his suspension at USC, it makes one wonder what actually happened there.
  3. Late last week, the NCAA released its annual report of graduation rates for all sports (you’ll have to fill in the appropriate drop-down menus to see the report on Pac-12 men’s basketball), and Stanford led the Pac-12 with a graduation success rate (GSR) of 91 percent, followed by Oregon (85 percent) and the Washington schools (both at 78 percent). Bringing up the rear was USC, which checked in with a GSR of 43 percent. Nothing too shocking from this report, as Stanford usually finds itself at or near the top of the conference list in GSR, but it was a pleasant surprise to see Oregon tie the Cardinal for the best federal graduation rate (90 percent) in the Pac-12. On the glass-half-empty side of things, it’s disconcerting to see California, a school with a great academic reputation, not duplicating that educational success with its athletes. The Golden Bears are tied for 10th with Oregon State with a GSR of 50 percent. With the figures based on entering classes from 2002 through 2005, this academic mediocrity largely didn’t happen under Mike Montgomery’s watch, so there is certainly potential for that percentage to shoot up over the next couple of years.
  4. Also a little bit of old news, but the preseason AP Top 25 Poll came out just after the Friday M5, and, like the USA Today Coaches Poll, it features two Pac-12 teams: Arizona at No. 12 (the Wildcats are ranked 11th in the USA Today Coaches Poll) and UCLA at No. 13. The “others receiving votes” list was a little less kind to the Pac-12, as Stanford only received two points, down from seven in the USA Today poll. With the conference coming off such a down year, having two teams ranked in the middle of both top 25 polls is as good as it was going to get for the Pac-12, but Stanford, Cal, Colorado, USC, and maybe even Washington might have a legitimate shot to get into the rankings at some point this year. And, if everything goes according to planned and all NCAA hurdles are cleared, the Pac-12’s two ranked teams just might be making a push for Atlanta in the spring.
  5. Lastly, UCLA unveiled its new statue of John Wooden in front of the new and improved Pauley Pavilion last Friday. The bronze statue of Wooden stands eight feet tall and weighs 400 pounds. As our Andrew Murawa wrote leading up to the statue unveiling, this should be a time to celebrate UCLA basketball with the renovation of Pauley Pavilion and a star-studded recruiting class coming to campus, even if two of the biggest pieces of that class still are not cleared by the NCAA. From a conference perspective, a strong and healthy UCLA only helps the Pac-12 and its perception around the country, making that Legends Classic in Brooklyn (where UCLA will face Georgetown and possibly preseason top-ranked Indiana) all the more important.
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UCLA To Unveil Wooden Statue Today In Advance Of Pauley Re-Opening

Posted by AMurawa on October 26th, 2012

With all the talk of NCAA investigations into eligibility and preseason injuries and whether or not the head coach is on the hot seat, it is easy to forget that this is actually a really exciting time for UCLA basketball. Aside from landing the top recruiting class in the nation and the expectations that the 2012-13 vintage of the team could be something special, the larger picture is of a program moving back into its historic arena after a dismal year on the road. The whole year will be an opportunity for Bruin fans from far and near to head back to Westwood and check out the new Pauley Pavilion and the new team. And there to greet them in the North Plaza in front of the gleaming new entrance to Pauley will be a brand new statue dedicated to the legendary but humble face of the program, John Wooden. Later today, UCLA will unveil the statue of its former head coach in a ceremony attended by members of both the Wooden family and the Pauley family.

John Wooden, UCLA

UCLA’s Unveiling Of The Wooden Statue Today Serves As A Great Lead-Up To Next Week’s Pauley Pavilion Re-Opening

The unveiling of the statue will lead smoothly into homecoming week for the Bruins, culminating in the Bruins’ football game with Arizona next weekend. But more importantly for basketball fans, it will lead into Pauley Opening Madness next Friday evening, an event which will not only be the grand official re-opening of the facility, but will also serve as the Bruins’ unveiling of their basketball team for their fans (technically, the event will showcase all five teams that call Pauley home – the men’s and women’s basketball teams, men’s and women’s volleyball and gymnastics), with an open practice highlighted most entertainingly by a dunk contest (albeit without Shabazz Muhammad, likely the team’s best dunker), as well as several giveaways for students. Personally, I could take or leave most of these Midnight Madness and open scrimmage events, but the event coupled with a chance to take a look at the new arena and the new Wooden statue make for a draw for fans and a way to get the notoriously staid fan base excited for the upcoming season.

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Morning Five: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 12th, 2012

  1. Several years ago we posted a column talking about the remarkable recruiting run that John Calipari was putting together in his first year at Kentucky. At the time we questioned if a group including John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe represented the greatest recruiting run in modern history. Now we are beginning to think that the debate is over as Calipari has redefined the entire concept of recruiting with his one-and-done program. On Thursday Calipari added top 10 prospect James Young to a class that is shaping up to be among the best classes ever — the Wildcats already have commitments from three of the top seven players in the Class of 2013, according to RSCI Hoops. If he grabs another player or two at the top of this class, there won’t be much to question — what Calipari has managed to do over the past few years in Lexington on the recruiting front is truly extraordinary.
  2. The NCAA has received quite a bit of criticism over the years for a variety of inane rules including the infamous ban of cream cheese on bagels. Yesterday, John Infante appeared to uncover another addition to that list of inane rules with an apparent ban on the use of Instagram filters based on a posting on the NCAA’s site. The rule appears to have been intended to prevent schools from creating images where the player was in their uniform or anything of that nature, but after a public outcry over the absurdity of the rule, the NCAA released a statement clarifying its position by saying that Instagram’s filters were not banned. We still are not sure why this rule needed to be implemented unless the NCAA was worried about schools trying to create a false impression of their student body or something along those lines.
  3. The start of the season is just around the corner and Luke Winn is here to get you ready with his preseason Power Rankings, which for our money is the best nationally-focused column out there. This version is a little light on statistics — likely related to the fact that no games have been played yet — but there are still a few valuable nuggets in the article. His top two teams won’t surprise anyone, but his third choice is likely to cause fits of apoplexy in the Research Triangle Park area. Frankly the offseason has been so devoid of this type of analysis that we will gladly take it and look forward to seeing Winn’s work again this season as the numbers come in for him to compile and put into an easily understandable format.
  4. It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who follows this sport that Big 12 coaches on Thursday almost unanimously chose Kansas to win the Big 12 championship again. The only reason the Jayhawks didn’t get all 10 votes is because Bill Self wasn’t allowed to select his own team — he chose Baylor instead. KU and the Bears were followed on the list by Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas State, and West Virginia. Picking against Kansas in the Big 12 is a little bit like picking against Usain Bolt in the 100 meters sprint, but even with the heart-and-soul losses that the Jayhawks took this offseason, the rest of the league still doesn’t look better. Maybe if Missouri was still around — a big maybe — but with the even more significant losses at Baylor and the uncertainty surrounding Myck Kabongo at Texas, we really can’t blame any of the voters in this instance.
  5. This season carries a lot of weight for the UCLA basketball program. The roster is talented, Pauley Pavilion is renovated, and expectations are through the roof. In an attempt to tie things completely together right before what Bruins fans hope is a dream season, the school plans on unveiling a John Wooden statue in front of Pauley Pavilion on October 26. The bronze statue of the Wizard of Westwood was made possible through a large donation from benefactors Jim and Carol Collins, and was constructed by Blair Buswell, a Utah sculptor who has created numerous busts of famous sports figures over the years. The unveiling will occur as part of UCLA’s “Welcome Back Pauley Week,” a week-long celebration of the re-opening of the historic on-campus arena, and we can think of no better way to honor the 10-time national champion than this.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 11th, 2012

  1. Arizona State’s media day was on Tuesday, and as always, the ASU sports information department does a great job of getting their information out there. As ASU’s director of media relations Doug Tammaro put it, he’s got over 5,000 words on the Sun Devil basketball team, with tons of quotes from head coach Herb Sendek and players Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon. Given the fact that the team is coming off back-to-back subpar seasons (22-40 in the last two years), the Sun Devils have a lot to prove, but just reading through the enthusiasm that Sendek has about this collection of players and the confidence that Carson has in himself and his teammates, it isn’t that hard to envision this team overachieving its way into an upper-division conference finish. A lot would have to break right for that to happen, and the team needs to break through the Murphy’s Law culture that has seemingly taken hold in Tempe, but this ASU team should be an interesting watch all year long.
  2. Elsewhere in Tempe, Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic published an interview with ASU sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling on Sunday, and it too paints a picture of a Sun Devil squad ready to surprise people. Gilling, who came out of nowhere to start 18 games for the team and score in double figures eight times in conference play (quite an accomplishment as no better than a third option on a low-scoring team), looks around the roster and sees far more threats to give the opposition problems. Beginning with Carson and Gordon, but also extending to rapidly improving big man Jordan Bachynski and another incoming transfer in Bo Barnes, Gilling sees a completely different team. And, once again, we’ve got testimony from inside the program that Sendek’s promises for a more uptempo approach, including significantly more man-to-man defense, are not just lip service.
  3. Up in Pullman, Washington State is ready to plow ahead without the services of recently dismissed point guard Reggie Moore. Moore was head coach Ken Bone’s first recruit to WSU, but there is no use looking back now for him; he needs to begin to plan for the season without an obvious true point. At first glance it appears that it will be a point-guard-by-committee approach, with sophomore combo guard DaVonte Lacy, Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge, senior wing Mychal Ladd and sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew all potentially chipping in to help get the Cougars into their offense. And, while we’re on Wazzu for a second, be honest, how many of you knew that former Oregon wing Brett Kingma landed in Pullman? Clearly, some of you did, but somehow this completely escaped my attention. It’s a good get for Bone, even if his freshman year in Eugene was a little bumpy and even if he’ll lose a year of eligibility by transferring within the conference.
  4. UCLA’s media day was yesterday, but it was significantly less revealing, if only because the biggest question about the Bruins’ season – if and when Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson will be declared eligible – remains presently unanswerable. So much so that UCLA had their vice chancellor of legal affairs, Kevin S. Reed, monitoring the press conference so that schools officials could remind the media whenever necessary that they wouldn’t be answering any questions about the NCAA review of Muhammad and Anderson’s eligibility. On a brighter note, however, it was announced that Pauley Pavilion is not only really, really close to being a completed project, but it is also a project that came in $44 million under budget. So, you know, the next time you’ve got a project that is gonna run you some nine-digit dollar amount, I believe UCLA’s got a contractor they can recommend.
  5. We’re back to the gridiron tonight with a less-than-stellar Thursday night affair between Arizona State and Colorado, and that means it is time for Connor and I to renew our prognosticating battle. I made up another game on Connor last week when USC bounced back from a rough start to pull away from Utah in the second half. Last week’s results leave Connor at 35-13 for the year, while I’m two games back at 33-15. Below are this week’s picks, with our predicted scores for our game of the week (Stanford at Notre Dame) in bold.
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Arizona State at Colorado Arizona State Arizona State
    Utah at UCLA UCLA UCLA
    California at Washington State Washington State California
    Oregon State at Brigham Young Brigham Young Oregon State
    USC at Washington USC USC
    Stanford at Notre Dame Notre Dame 38-31 Notre Dame 19-13
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Baby Bruins v.2: Comparing UCLA’s Situation Now to Top-Ranked Class of 2008

Posted by EJacoby on April 25th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

With the news on Monday that top unsigned big man Tony Parker is headed to UCLA next season, the Bruins now have a super-stacked recruiting class for next year that should give Ben Howland’s squad a great chance to become elite right away. Recall that last week we discussed that bringing in an elite recruiting class doesn’t necessarily result in program success, with one of the highlight examples being Ben Howland’s #1 class of 2008 Bruins. That UCLA team brought in the top recruiting class and also had some returning veteran talent, but the team badly failed to meet expectations (some of the roots of UCLA’s transgressions were recently highlighted in a popular Sports Illustrated article in late February). Fair or unfair, the 2012 class and next year’s team is going to have to deal with comparisons to those 2008 Baby Bruins, at least until it starts to win. This time around, though, their coach’s job is on the line too. Let’s take a quick look at how the two classes and situations match up, and why UCLA fans should have no reason to expect a repeat performance this time around.

Now That Tony Parker Signed with UCLA, the Bruins Have Huge Expectations Again (Photo: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Back in 2008, UCLA was coming off of three straight Final Four appearances, one of the best runs of team success of the past decade for any program. Bringing in the top recruiting class that offseason was no surprise, and that group of freshmen was expected to continue the long tradition of winning in Westwood. Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee, and Drew Gordon were part of a group of five top-50 recruits who were quickly dubbed the Baby Bruins, players who “were famous before they played a game,” as the SI report claims. The freshmen also got to play alongside some returning veterans, most notably senior All-American Darren Collison. But UCLA was unable to win with this group right away that season nor during the next four years. Instead of stacking up Ws and bringing home banners like the previous groups led by Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo and Kevin Love, the Baby Bruins never made the Sweet Sixteen in four years and failed to make the NCAA Tournament twice. The disastrous chemistry on the team throughout this period led to players fighting and transferring, and it all ended up in far more losses than anyone expected. UCLA entered this offseason really in need of a talent (and attitude) infusion.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 3.13.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 13th, 2012

  1. After at least a week, and more likely months of conjecture, it’s official: the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament is head to Las Vegas. In a news conference schedules for this afternoon, the conference will officially announce the move of their season-ending even to the MGM Grand Garden for at least the next two years. For the past 11 years, the tournament had been held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but attendance and fan interest in that event has waned over the years, in part due to the decline in talent in the conference, but also, perhaps, due to the venue. The move to Las Vegas means that Sin City will now host four different conference tournaments, with the Pac-12, Mountain West and WAC all going on at the same time, with the West Coast Conference tournament taking place the week prior. Great. Just what I needed. Another reason to go to Vegas in March. Although the prospect of a Vegas summit for hoops fans is pretty enticing.
  2. It began yesterday, but in case you missed it, we are now officially in that time of year where you have to check the news daily for stories about coaches and players perhaps on the move. With the relatively new opening for head coach at Nebraska, and with current Oregon coach Dana Altman’s ties to the state (he was born in Crete, NE and was the head coach at Creighton, in Omaha, for 15 years), rumors are already swirling that a change may be afoot in Eugene. Altman, however, has been quick to shoot those stories down, saying he is “the coach at Oregon.” While that may not be the strongest possible affirmation of Altman’s intent to stay with the Ducks, it will have to do for now. But the fact that Nebraska has recently sunk a ton of money into its basketball program and that Altman is a Nebraska native should leave Duck fans on edge until that Husker job is filled.
  3. Sticking with the Oregon program for a bit longer, they received bad news today when it was learned that former coach Dick Harter died at the age of 81 on Monday. Though he only coached the Ducks for seven years (1971-1978), he left an indelible mark on the program. Perhaps the high point of his career was ending UCLA’s 98-game winning streak at Pauley Pavilion in 1976, but he built a reputation for his team’s defensive excellence. His “Kamikaze Kids” never won a Pac-8 title (Harter coached before the Arizona schools were added to the conference), but they helped continue the tradition of McArthur Court being an intimidating place for opposing teams to play. Future Oregon head coach Ernie Kent was among Harter’s key players, as was future New York Knicks head coach (and NBA executive) Stu Jackson.
  4. In an announcement that surprised exactly no one, Sean Miller confirmed on Monday that freshman point guard Josiah Turner will not play again this season for Arizona, after being suspended indefinitely prior to the Pac-12 Tournament last week. The only real question remaining surrounding Turner is whether he will ever wear a Wildcat uniform again. Last week’s suspension was Turner’s third disciplinary action in his brief career in Tucson. Miller left the door open for a possible return for Turner next year, saying “I’m not telling any player on our team that he doesn’t have the option to come back, but it’s more about the path Josiah wants to go from this point forward that will determine whether he’s at Arizona or whether he would choose to have a new beginning.”
  5. Let’s wrap up the Morning Five on a positive note: Colorado’s season continues. After taking home the Pac-12’s automatic bid in their first year in the conference, the Buffaloes move on to Albuquerque on Thursday to face UNLV. Though they’ll be an underdog, this is very much a game that the Buffs can win. And head coach Tad Boyle is not content to stop there: “We’re not going to be just happy to be here,” he said. “We’re playing for a national championship.” I appreciate the sentiment, but a win over UNLV on Thursday makes for an excellent season for the Buffs. A further surprise over (potentially) Baylor on Saturday is gravy, while any further advancement is pie-in-the-sky madness. But, stranger things have happened.
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UCLA’s Bruin Road Show: An Early Assessment

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He filed this column after Texas’ win over UCLA Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles.

Things have been tough enough for the UCLA basketball team this season, without having its home court conspire against it. But, that’s exactly what happened Saturday afternoon as the Bruins hosted Texas at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, one of the temporary homes for UCLA this year as venerable old Pauley Pavilion undergoes much-needed renovations. Just after the under-four minute media timeout, as Longhorn forward Alexis Wangmene headed to the free throw line to shoot the front-end of a one-and-one, the entire arena was plunged into relative darkness due to an area-wide power surge. At that time, the Bruins were up 30-19 and had turned in its best 16-minute stretch of the season. Guards Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson had knocked down some threes. The Wear twins had been hitting the glass and scoring inside. And perhaps most importantly, the Bruins had been diving after loose balls, scrapping for every rebound, and defending like crazy, keeping the quicker Texas guards out of the lane – just generally outworking them to that point.

The LA Sports Arena Serves as UCLA's Home Venue This Season

Over the next 13-plus minutes, as the lights slowly reset to full-power, Texas had a chance in their huddle to start over. “We had a chance to regroup,” said the Longhorns’ freshman point guard Myck Kabongo. “Thank god for those lights. It was a turning point.” Despite, as one fan yelled out just as play resumed, “the greatest icing ever,” Wangmene hit both his free throws and the Longhorns played the final four minutes of the half with a new zeal. Kabongo in particular was like a different player, easily getting penetration against UCLA guards and finding open teammates, notching his first three assists of the day on Texas’ last four possessions of the half. By the intermission, UT has posted a quick 9-4 mini-run and cut the Bruin lead, which had been double-digits most of the first half, to just six. From there, the second half was a mere formality. Texas posted a 75% effective field goal percentage in the second half, the talented but confounding UCLA frontcourt duo of Joshua Smith and Reeves Nelson combined to play just four minutes, and Texas outscored UCLA 50-29 after the power outage.

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UCLA Will Take To The Road As Pauley Pavilion Gets a Facelift

Posted by AMurawa on October 25th, 2011

Something unique to keep an eye on this year is UCLA, one of the teams on the short list of conference favorites, playing all of its games away from the friendly confines of Pauley Pavilion this season as the venerable old place gets a much-needed facelift. The Bruins will play home games in three different Southern California arenas this year, including 14 home games just down the street from the campus of their crosstown rival, USC, in the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The Sports Arena was the old home of the Trojan basketball program before the Galen Center opened in 2006 (as well as the old home of the Los Angeles Clippers prior to the Staples Center) and it will most often be the Bruins’ home away from home this year, including a game on February 15 when they’ll host USC. UCLA will also play a game at the Citizen Business Bank Arena in beautiful downtown Ontario when they open the season with a trip inland to host Cal State San Bernardino in an exhibition game. They’ll also play four games at the Honda Center in Anaheim, including two conference games against Arizona and Arizona State. The game against Arizona will be played under the banner of the Wooden Classic, which has in the past been a two-game event on a December Saturday featuring two inter-conference games.

UCLA fans Will Have Plenty to Cheer About at the New Pauley Pavilion.

As for Pauley Pavilion, a college basketball landmark housing 11 national championship banners, it is badly in need of a facelift. Opened in 1965 on the heels of John Wooden’s first two championships at the school, the facility featured limited restrooms and concession stands, narrow concourses, and, perhaps worst of all, a large open area behind one of the baskets that kept fans in the end zone away from the action. The renovation will add a new entryway outside the arena, and inside there will be new concourses, restrooms, concession areas, a scoreboard, and a new LED ribbon board, not to mention a new section of seats behind the basket.

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #30 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 4th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight.  We’ve captured the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration.  For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click hereEnjoy!

#30 – Where The Ghost of Wooden Closes Out Pauley Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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ESPN’s Toughest Arenas Survey: Analyzing Coaches’ Responses

Posted by rtmsf on September 7th, 2011

ESPN.com had an interesting series of stories that went up today regarding various folks’ favorite college basketball arenas to visit and the toughest ones to play in.  As always when you read blurbs of primary source information, it’s enlightening to see the reasoning behind their choices.  For example, we never knew that NC State’s old home was such an ACC snake pit, but ESPN commentators Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis both independently cited Reynolds Coliseum as the toughest arena they ever played in. Davis even claimed that he never scored “on the opposite basket away from our bench in the first half” due to the flustered situation he found himself in all four years he visited Raleigh.

A number of media types also weighed in with their favorite places to experience a game, and several of the old faithfuls represent well here — Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium (3 votes), Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse (2 votes) and the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden (2 votes) — along with a few other tried-and-trues including Oklahoma State’s Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stanford’s Maples Pavilion, Penn’s Palestra, and UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion (1 vote each).  But it was the list provided by Dana O’Neil (excellent usage of “sepia,” by the way) from her interviews of several head coaches back in July on the recruiting trail that really caught our eye. First, here’s her list:

Fifteen prominent coaches chose nine different arenas between them.  Three of those are already retired to the dustbin of history, and three others are clearly a personal house of horrors to specific coaches.  Not many people in this business will choose a place like Murray State Arena over somewhere like the Kohl Center or Breslin Arena, but Big Ten coach Bruce Weber did.  The remaining joints are again places we’re all familiar with as incredibly difficult to walk out with a win, but we quickly noticed that there was something peculiar about the responses among O’Neil’s interviewees.  Take a closer look — of the 15 coaches, only one of them gave an answer that includes a site where his team must regularly play games.

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The Week That Was: Feb. 15-21

Posted by jstevrtc on February 22nd, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor 

Introduction

Monday’s Syracuse-Villanova and Kansas-Oklahoma State games kicked off Judgment Week at ESPN, and TWTW has no idea what that exactly means. Are our opinions (or “judgments,” if you will) supposed to be dramatically altered based on this week’s outcomes? Syracuse’s win over ’Nova doesn’t mean they’re no longer a flawed team that’s capable of looking great one night and mediocre the next. And barring any game-changing injury, you shouldn’t think differently about a squad based on a couple of games at the end of February. You are who you are at this point — no extra judgments are necessary. So why does ESPN feel the need to dub almost every week now? Just stop at Rivalry Week. Sometimes games are just games, they don’t need any extra labels. There’s only one real judgment to be made this week — Battle: Los Angeles looks like a god-awful movie. 

What We Learned

Smith And the Devils Are Back On Top of the Polls, But It Means Less At This Time of Year

We thought that Tristan Thompson was just speaking for Texas when he said that the Longhorns would prefer not to replace Kansas as the No. 1 team in the next AP poll — turns out he was expressing the sentiments for just about every possible No. 1 team in the nation. On Saturday #4 Pittsburgh went down at St. John’s, followed by #2 Texas at Nebraska, and then on Sunday #3 Ohio State lost at Purdue. ESPN Stats & Information said it was the first time that the #1-4 teams in the ESPN/USA Today poll all lost in the same week since 2003 — yikes. But this isn’t the first week that we’ve seen this level of attrition in the polls; remember, it was just a few weeks ago that 13 of the AP’s Top 25 lost and half of the top 10. So who deserves to be #1 now? Duke got the nod on Monday, but do the Blue Devils deserve to be vaulted all the way from #5 to the top? In all honesty, you could probably just put the top six teams on a dartboard (top seven if you want to include BYU who got two first place votes), close your eyes, throw your dart, and there’s your #1 team. Not that it matters — during the season #1 in college hoops has always felt like a superficial title to TWTW. What’s really important is who’s in position for a #1 seed. It’s not important to determine who’s #1 now. The competition to watch is the race to distinguish between teams #4 and #5.

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