- The Worldwide Cheerleader: ESPN and the College Football Playoff – Some very interesting food for thought especially for what I presume is a significant Pac-12 readership (clicking from here, that is). We’ve heard so much of the SEC hype and this spicy article begins to quantify that.
- Ranking the top teams in college basketball: 351 – 1 - Just read the logic behind what these two have developed in projecting this season. It’s a fascinating piece of work that Hanner and Winn have conspired to build here and I’m interested to see what the model spat out as our 2015 season. That said, I’m even further excited to be in New York City this weekend. And I’m even further excited that the season begins in two weeks.
- Being Bill Murray - His son, Luke, was a member of the Arizona staff for a short while. The Murrays hail from Illinois and I remember Bill being shown on TV, in attendance at the fateful 2005 Elite Eight. He was most certainly in an Illini hat. I don’t begrudge him that. I still hate that game, however. Anyhow, Murray attended a handful of games in Tucson and would wear a single, Arizona “A” eye black strip when in attendance. He’d don a visor as he was probably fresh off the golf course. I don’t have a story like the many noted in this article, but I wish I did.
I couldn’t do it. I’ve previewed eleven of the twelve teams in this conference but I knew that I couldn’t preview the Arizona Wildcats without egregious, alienating amounts of bias. I mean, I could do it, I’m just not sure you’d want me to. In a season like this I had to step back for fear of alienating you, my friends. So I asked – well – my friends to preview the Wildcats for us! Section by section, fellow interneters and real-life friends preview the 2014-15 Arizona Wildcats. The World According to You:
What exactly is a Giant Death Robot? Well, it’s the apex predator of the Civilization word of Sid Meier, a hulking killing machine noted for being ‘a towering mass of guns, rockets and futuristic death-rays.’ It’s also my pet name for the 2013-14 Arizona Wildcats. Considering how badly they thrashed my Buffs in three meetings, I’m possibly biased by circumstance, but that bunch certainly was a writhing machine of death for many of their opponents. The whole melange of destruction was based on a ferocious defense that stood as one of the best I’ve ever witnessed in person. They would expel all their energy by the Elite Eight, falling in overtime to Wisconsin, but I don’t necessarily hold that against them. Last season’s Tournament was especially bonkers, and Frank Kaminsky was born to give them fits. C’est la vie.
The trick then becomes, how does Sean Miller and crew reform the GDR after losing probably their two best players in consensus All-American Nick Johnson and athletic wunderkind Aaron Gordon? *laughs* Just kidding, there’s no trick, it’s just the typical tango of some elite returners and a top-5 recruiting class. I guess that’s life at the top…
Why Brad Loves Them (friend of the program):
I’ll leave that to Stanley Johnson:
“I love to win; that’s why I came to school here. I thought we have the tools to win and the people that are here love to win as well. I think winning is an attribute. It’s a mentality and it comes with competitiveness.”
He’s right. For his part, Johnson is the reigning California Mr. Basketball (succeeding Aaron Gordon) and has won 70 straight high school games. As for “the people that are here,” they won 33 games last year and lost just 5 – by a combined 12 points. Maybe a coincidence, but they didn’t lose a game until they they lost Brandon Ashley to injury – he was averaging 12 points a game. Arizona is starting three McDonald’s All-Americans. The other two have seven years of experience and 13 feet between them. Of those one was a Cousy Award finalist (best collegiate PG) as a junior, and the other is a 7-foot center who averaged 9 and 6 last year (in just 28 minutes). For depth, Arizona will sprinkle in a bench with another seven footer, a 39% 3-point shooter (and another one that might be better), a five-star PG, and the top JuCo player in the country. So, why do I love them? Because they’re climbin’ a ladder in Lucas Oil. Besides, I’m not the only one:
I see you Rondae #ShoulderShimmythempeoples
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) March 24, 2014
So, obviously there is a lot to like about this team. But my job isn’t to tell you why the Wildcats are so good. Adam can do that, or any number of the preseason publications can. I have been called upon to nitpick this team, and so I will direct you to their backcourt. Sure, it is a talented one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is one of the top groups of guards in the country towards the end of the year. But there are also a lot of fresh faces, and I’m not sure if the group will gel enough in time to perform at peak potential early on in the season when Arizona has to play against teams like Gonzaga, Michigan, or any number of the quality opponents out at the Maui Invitational. To be honest, I would rather have a duo of Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson to navigate my team through that challenging non-conference slate. That combo is the elite, experienced mix of players I want running my offense.
- “Tookie” Williams
Here is where I make my triumphant return to preview. I wanted to keep it brief and poignant. It’s me again.
Mountain High (best possible season):
Win their last six games and finish ninth in the Western Conference, 1.5 games out of the eight seed.
Rock Bottom (worst possible season):
You might not love it when your girlfriend, best friend, or really anyone around you over-plans. When they’ve buttoned up the schedule with everything dotted and crossed and you don’t have to do a thing but show up. It can sort of ruin the adventure. Larry Krystkowiak is not an adventurer. He took over this Utah program with a plan, a vision, for how he would build it up. He stuck to that plan and it’s now expected to pay off. Which is, of course, all a part of his plan. Look at the scheduling since he took over. The Utes played teams nicknamed the GeoDucks and a religious school out of San Diego which should be taken about as seriously as Hogwarts. We ripped them for their SoS while Larry K just stayed the course. And then last year happened and heads turned. Larry K has a plan, you guys. He scheduled the GeoDucks because that’s what his team could bear. Now? This year he’s taking his team to San Diego State, BYU, Las Vegas and Kansas. Delon Wright might be the best player in America if you listen to this guy and they have a crop of incoming kids that are not only good but local; a sign of sustainable and forthcoming success. And it’s all a part of the plan.
Why I Love Them:
- Pac-12 passes reforms for athletes – I’m on the fence with this stuff. On the one hand it feels like this is a good thing. Change from the norm – which doesn’t seem to be serving athletes well – should be a good thing. They’ll be granted things well beyond unlimited snacks as these Autonomous Five begin to reform for the self-proclaimed better. But at the same time, I don’t necessarily see the athletes being directly involved in these improvements. This remains a top down implementation and seems to be a means for the powers that be to maintain power. It’s a smart move. I’m just not entirely sure it’s going to be in the best interest long (long, long term I’m talking) term.
- The best 100 players in college basketball - This is 100 players ranked out of the more than 4800ish scholarship D-1 players. OF COURSE YOU’RE GOING TO DISAGREE WITH IT! Embrace that and appreciate the comprehensiveness of the list as well as the design. We live in an evolving world of web design and when something can be put together functionally and aesthetically, it should be celebrated.
- “If we run and they kill us, so be it. But we have to run now.” – This is a heavy read. The story of the Nigerian girls kidnapped six-months ago, this is powerfully written. It’s tone is simple which is fitting its subjects: these are just girls. And they were exposed to such horrors. If you have the time, read.
I haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point but I’d like to. By my peripheral understanding, however, and through some Internet investigation, I’ve come to find that a ‘tipping point’ can loosely be defined as “when something not previously popular becomes popularized, and how that came to be.” Which is about where I find Colorado Basketball. Previously, winning wasn’t the most popular activity in Boulder. Then they joined the Pac-12 (a behavioral change) and they started to try the winning thing on. Three straight years of 20+ wins and three consecutive NCAA tournaments, unprecedented in school history. But we’re at that moment, the season where something is going to feel different. Could this be when we begin to believe that Colorado Basketball is a winning brand of basketball and not just fluke run through the Pac-12 tournament and some luck on the recruiting trail (Spencer Dinwiddie + Josh Scott)? This year comes with expectations but also a lot of questions. We basically got to see this roster compete for the latter half of last season. Tad called it a “jump-start.” It wasn’t remarkable and that has some people, myself included, concerned. Are these expectations realistic? Achievable? What even are the expectations? I see this year as a tipping point because I want to know if winning has or will be popularized in Boulder. Jump start for what?
Why I Hate Them:
First off a big thanks to Rush The Court for the opportunity, again, to attend Pac-12 Media Day. Appreciate getting to go and their trust in me to cover the event.
For me, Media Day is about the experience. Larry Scott noted as much in his opening remarks, that it’s an opportunity for the student-athletes to do something they don’t necessarily always get to do. For Brandon Ashley, it was the chance to come home and answer to his mom. She asked the last question of the Power Forward, confirming that he was taking his vitamins and that he was ready for the season. You should’ve seen how Brandon beamed, smiled, and got embarrassed all at the same time. I call it 2015’s first shining moment. Continue reading
- Scared Sh*tless – Think about the last thing you did that really scared you. And I’m sorry to sound like a LuLu Lemon ad or a No Fear poster, but in all reality, what spooked you. I sat through Media Day and listened to Cuonzo Martin adulate on the necessity of being outside of one’s comfort zone. His presumed star, Jabari Bird, a player perhaps ideally shaped for his system, is being pushed, on the daily, to be outside of his comfort zone. Inside his comfort zone he’s safe. What’s outside that zone is unknown. It might be unsafe. I bet it scares Jabari to death. Cuonzo think that’ll make Jabari a better basketball player and I do, too. So what’s pushing you out of your comfort zone? I know I need to step out of mine. Let’s.
- Putting His Foot Down, Brandon Ashley’s Road to Recovery – I contributed to this story as I had the chance to sit with Brandon for a few moments on the Pac-12’s rooftop. Yes, the rooftop with views of all of San Francisco, AT&T Stadium included.
- Arizona picked to defend Pac-12 crown - The media submitted their votes and noted where they think everyone will finish. I’m submitting my votes to Rush the Court later next week and will post my entire ballot here. I might’ve said it last year but I want to ensure some semblance of accountability. As in, I’d like to revisit my preseason thoughts and how they measure up to the actual results in April. Shit, does this mean I’m now accountable?
I put a lot of credence in what Dan Hanner writes at RealGM. In his Pac-12 preview, he told us that Johnny Dawkins might have accumulated his best lineup yet (I kinda disagree) and that:
Dawkins actually has the worst track record of developing players on offense.
So if I’m piecing this together, then I’m noting that the Card lose two starters who were NBA draft picks including an All-Defense performer from the second best defensive team Dawkins has ever coached as well as their second leading scorer and is replacing them with two freshmen whom Dawkins will presumably struggle to teach offense? I like the roster, I’m just expecting a lot of…variance. Maybe that’s why Hanner notes that Dawkins has never finished better than 36th in scoring margin. F*cking math.
Why I Love Them:
- How Pandora’s data could help artists plan better tours and albums – This really interesting stuff but we’ve said that every time we’re confronted with a new data set. As previously noted, data is fantastic and becoming ubiquitous. We can and – almost – track everything. The question becomes what will we do with it? In this case, Pandora is suggesting that artists can improve their albums and tours, which makes this a very interesting case of data perhaps driving the creative process. Could information about Woodstock’s attendees affected Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner? No. That was just LCD. But Pop Music is most certainly formulaic. Pandora and the artists that adopt AMP could be making pop niches.
- Seat 21A - Choose happiness. I watched Game 1 of the World Series – coincidentally enough with a Medium editor – in a crowded San Francisco bar. It was comfortably crowded so I didn’t have to touch my neighbors but I was aware they were there. As the game got somewhat out of hand and the standing took a turn from the novel to the exhausting, Leah asked me, “Why isn’t anyone talking to eachother?” Sure I was talking to her and other friends were talking to one another, but why weren’t we making new connections? After all, isn’t that the reason for such a public watering hole? I chalked it up to safety, choosing not to seem weird or to not step out of our place. I could hear that group behind me discussing steroids in baseball. I had strong thoughts on the matter, agreeing with some of what I heard, disagreeing with more. But I didn’t join. I chose not to discuss. To be clear, I was content talking with Leah but I also understood her point: If sports is to bring us out and connect us, why don’t we connect? The next morning I read this piece and I think there are some parallels. Sports it a means to connect. So too is happiness. Choose it.
- Google Wants Inbox to Be Your Email System for the Next Decade – Just don’t touch my Gchat.
Tomorrow, for the third straight year, I will be attending the Pac-12’s Basketball Media Day. Can’t wait. In all honesty, it’s a little boring. I love the opportunity to go but there are platitudes abound. More gets said by the Guilty Remnant.
The fun part is reading between the lines. Like knowing Andy Enfield ripped UCLA and hearing him have to then praise UCLA. Or listening to Bob Dibler discuss Ed Rush and trips to Cancun. Basically, nothing will be said tomorrow that shocks us.
But what if it didn’t play out that way?
I’ve scripted the questions I’d like to ask and provided what I think coaches will respond with and what I wish they’d respond with. Continue reading