Monthly Archives: January 2012

Week 5 Pac-12 Basketball Review

This post can also be seen at ryanrecker.com. Worth the visit if you like a good podcast or some legit prose. Ryan is the Sports Director at KVOA-Tucson.

The Pac-12 finally got their marquee non-conference win. Granted, it didn’t involve a basket or a ball or even a scoreboard. Arizona outdrew both the ACC (Florida State) and Big East (Pitt) combined in ESPN College GameDay attendance. BOOM! Put that in your calculator and RPI it!

Leader in the Clubhouse: This is a tough one to call so let’s talk it out:

Cal has the track record and has consistently looked like the team to beat
But Washington marched into Tucson and left with a win
But Cal just beat the Huskies in Seattle
But Washington couldn’t hold court against the Jackrabbits
But Cal has lost to the Cougars and Beavers
But Washington has the tougher SOS
But Cal has the higher RPI

Back-and-forth to be sure and I ultimately give the edge to Cal here, but the point isn’t the aforementioned bolds and italics. The point here is that halfway through the Pac-12 season I think the cream has finally risen to the top. Or, perhaps better said, the pretenders are showing their true colors. Allow ourselves some optimism and we’ll call it the former but whilst on the topic of true colors, UW showed theirs. By wrecking the whiteout, UW finally got that road win so many of us needed to see in order to take the HecEd homers seriously. The proverbial corner turned, Romar’s squad has pieced together what I’d call a nice in-conference resume. There’s still half-a-schedule to play but at 7-2, both the Huskies and Bears can rightfully claim to be the conference’s elite. These two, unfortunately, won’t tip off again this season (unless it’s in the Staples Center) and that’s really a shame because the one time they did it was a helluva game. Shout out here to USC for winning their first conference game.

Game of the Weekend: The Block, Part II OR The Foul, Part II. What do you want to call it? Presumably the former if you’re a Husky, the latter a Wildcat – you’ll recall this. While Tony Wroten’s block may not have had quite the drama of Derrick Williams’ a year ago, it was no less game saving and no less gigantic. The man-amongst-boys freshman may have efficiency, turnover, and overuse issues, but he owns the lead on a quickly improving if not good team and made the play of the game as the final buzzer sounded. Of course – and we’re back to asking if you’re a Husky or a Wildcat – the play of the game could also have been the blocking call with just over five seconds remaining in the newly tied game. There’s no doubt it was a foul but why did Josiah Turner need to try and draw a charge there? Freshman mistake? Lost in the moment? Did he just Horne-it? Whatever it was, it put the Huskies at the line for a chance to seal the victory which CJ Wilcox did. Cold blooded, if you will. But I need ask no question regarding your allegiance when I tell you that this was a terrific basketball game and fit the billing of the GOtW. Perhaps lost amidst the hectic finish to this game was Solomon Hill’s night. He missed two shots and took eighteen. Sweet efficiency did he have a ballgame finishing with 28 and 11, his third straight double-double. Also, Terrence Ross: good.

The Big Loser: A case could be made here for a number of teams: Colorado seemingly can’t get over the hump and win on the road; Oregon lost at home to Oregon State; Stanford and Arizona have dropped to 5-4; WSU lost to ASU; Utah lost to USC. Looking back over that list I’m reminded that we’d previously said we were going to be optimists in this post so I won’t mention the foul stench of sub-mediocrity. I digress and move on to my final answer: Stanford. Sure they lost on the road in a rivalry game but this team is offensively inept and it’s beginning to glare. They’ve lost three straight in which they’re shooting a cringe-worthy 36% from the field and 19% from distance, a shot the Cardinal rely far too heavily upon to shoot so poorly. I’d love to give Johnny Dawkins’ crew the benefit of the doubt and excuse this losing streak to playing on the road, but that’s too many excuses for a team that played a non-non-conference schedule. I’m selling my Cardinal stock but investing in their classmates.

What We Learned: Sometimes life just isn’t fair. You’ll recall that Arizona junior, Kevin Parrom, was shot in the hand and leg while visiting his dying mother on the heels of losing his grandmother? Yeah, that month occurred this past summer and the road back has been a long one for Parrom. But he was back. The Wildcats’ spark plug understandably needed more time than perhaps fan patience would allow but he was back, averaging 9/5/3 in the three games leading up to Saturday’s whiteout, demonstrating the complete and gritty style he’s come to be known for. And in that game, in leading the Wildcats to a halftime lead, the junior put up 7/3/2 in just ten minutes of play. Kevin Parrom was indeed back. But when the second half began, Kevin wasn’t back. He wasn’t on the court, he wasn’t on the bench. Nothing was said by the ESPN crew and when the cameras finally found him, he was wearing a boot. You see the human foot accounts for about one-eighth of the bones in an adult – a significant number in the grand scheme of things and subsequently an increased probability of breakage. Basic math, right? The odds played out on Saturday and Kevin Parrom’s season was declared over. A broken foot to blame. Grandmother, mother, mortality; no, life isn’t always fair. But maybe to break Kevin Parrom you must actually break him. Incapacitate him so he can’t be the heart-and-soul of a basketball team, recover from heartache amongst teammates and family, or play the game he loves. Nope. Not breaking Kevin Parrom can break Kevin Parrom. Just ask him.

Early Week YouTuber: This happened.

 

BB: Prognostication as a Friday Winds Down

Friday’s aren’t the most productive days if we’re talking about gainful employment.

If we’re talking about post-Thursday night hoops talk and pre-Saturday hype, Friday’s are phenomenal. I got into more than a few conversations on Twitter and gchat about Arizona’s great performance Thursday, classic UW-AZ moments, perspective and fandom, and how depleted USC is (could be saving KO’s job). I even garnered directed trash talk.

Lots going on.

But it was all highlighted when my diatribe go-to, Brad, dropped this little prognostication bomb:

Brad:  ah
well shit
here is what’s going to happen

 me:  hit me
 Brad:  Arizona is going to win by 3 tomorrow on a last second three point shot by nick johnson
the crowd is going to go fucking nuts
Shabazz is going to grab the PA mic and announce he is coming to UA
at which point the whole crowd will strom the court and chant UA UA UA UA
then arizona will run the table
lock up the top seed in the P life P 12 tournament
run the table
beating Cal by 22 in the final for good measure
blow everyone’s hair back by picking up a 5 seed because they lit it up in a show made for TV on national tv tomorrow
boom.
sew it up.
the leftovers are in the fridge and the jello is jigglin!
Enjoy GameDay Arizona fans.

Week 5 Pac-12 Basketball Preview

This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com. His latest podcast is with ESPN 1490’s Jody Oehler, who makes a very fair criticism’s of Sean Miller. Check it out.

The unfortunate reality is the Pac-12 is gaining steam as a one bid league. Woof.

We head into hump weekend as we’re half way to the Staples Center and some sort of separation needs to occur. It just has to. Someone must assert their place atop this conference. It’ll happen? Right? And now I’m begging.

Allow me to spell out a feasible weekend scenario for you. Stanford beats Cal in Berkeley; OSU beats Oregon in Eugene; UW and Colorado split on the road (Arizona and LA, respectively); Arizona sweeps at home. It could occur, yeah? Two rivalry games in which anything can happen, road splits, home sweeps. Feasible.

That scenario would leave us with a six-way tie for first place. I bold and italicize that because I only have three  font options here and the third is strike-thru. There is no other way to demonstrate the absurdity of a six-way tie halfway through conference play.

Alas, the schedule.

TV Complaint: This week I’m going to dish some broadcast props. Colorado’s visit to USC will be shown on USCTrojans.com. For $5 you can watch the game or sign up for an extended plan and subsequently more games. This certainly works for a growing and excitable CU basketball community and no doubt for the entirety of Arrogant Nation. Not all of us necessarily have uber-dishes are exuberant cable packages, but we do have access to the interwebs and whatever it can broadcast. Thinking free-er picture, the worldwide leader is headed to Tucson. The doors of McKale will open at 6am PST as Jay, Rece, Digger, Hubert, and the College GameDay crew host their weekly show and game of the week. The Wildcats are putting on their second annual whiteout against UW aired on ESPN prime time. Any publicity is good publicity and the worldwide leader is amongst the most self-serving. For such, expect to hear a lot of great things said about some not-so-great Pac-12 teams in order to garner some interest in the prime time tip.

Game of the Weekend: Well if ESPN is going to call it theirs then I have to call it mine. The Washington Huskies travel to Tucson for the national broadcast, a battle of two teams that continue to search for their identities. UW may be the more talented group – Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten can be filthy good – but Arizona is deeper. With the Wildcats returning to the friendly confines and a raucous crowd, freshman Nick Johnson will be looking to get back on track. In conference play, the pup is shooting 50% at home compared to a putrid 38% outside of the 520 and he seemingly disappeared inside of the Coors Center last Saturday. Of course the freshman to pay attention to is Tony Wroten. The Husky lefty can fill it up and undoubtedly plays a vital role in the Dawgs’ success but has an unfortunate knack for turning the ball over. His 78 turnovers are the eighth most in the nation. This is a terrific rivalry game and Arizona AD, Greg Byrne, has done a tremendous job in promoting it as such. While we can toss out the idea that both teams need this game to be taken seriously (no Pac-12 team received even a single vote in either poll), both teams need this win to take themselves seriously. Arizona is 4-3 without having beaten any of the top eight teams in the conference (pending tonight’s WSU game) and UW hasn’t A) won in Tucson since 2006 B) won much of anything outside of Seattle under Romar. If nothing else, like I said, UW-AZ is a terrific watch. Exhibit A. Exhibit B.

Game to Avoid: Maybe the best part about the aforementioned six-way tie scenario is that seven of this weekend’s ten games involve a “contender.” That leaves us Utah @ UCLA, WSU @ ASU, and Utah @ USC as the only meaningless ball games. I hate that this section is quickly becoming a rain-on-USC/ASU/Utah section but these are three of the worst teams in all of college basketball. That said, let’s not lose track of the truth that UCLA is mentioned here. Their 2011-12 woes are well documented and there’s no need to rehash. My latest Westwood/Anaheim/Watts concern is stemming from Ben Howland’s press conference. Read his quotes on Josh Smith (here and here). All I hear are excuses and for a kid who already struggles to get it together, Howland sounds like an enabler. I don’t like that. I don’t agree with that and for such I think we can finally stick a real fork in the Bruins’ season. Hosting the woeful Utes (despite coming off a blowout win) is not worth your time considering it wasn’t worth Smith’s time to get in shape.

Something to Prove: Stemming from that little UCLA rant I think it’s the Colorado Buffaloes who have the most to prove this weekend. I’m fascinated by this team and truly think they’re legit contenders. As such, the Buffs should be expected to sweep this weekend in Los Angeles. USC is awful and UCLA has a fork in their side making it arguably the easiest weekend for any of the “contenders.” But these are also only the third and fourth road games for Boyle’s Boys – a team that is just 2-5 when not playing at the Coors Center. I’m high on Oregon right now because they’ve been winning road games and for a conference whose home teams are 33-11, winning on the road becomes the un-equalizer. CU is playing as good as anyone at home, let’s see what they can do on the road. Vegas doesn’t think much of them as they’re just a half-point favorite tonight (at USC) and I can’t imagine they’ll be favored on Saturday. But Vegas, Shmegas. The trick is believing you’re good and I think Tad Boyle has Spencer DinWiddie and the rest of the Buffs believing.

Something to Lose: They’re not holding on to much but the Arizona Wildcats are hosting and really cannot afford a split. Their 4-3 record is nothing short of disappointing but, what’s worse, it’s starting to look fitting. If everyone else is winning at home, so too should the Wildcats if they want to win this up-for-grabs conference. As we’ve already put a fork in UCLA , a split or worse this weekend – while no one is technically ever out of this race – would probably take Arizona out of serious contention and nowhere near the bubble they’re lingering on in some discussions. But, because they are still on some bubbles, this weekend is huge for the Wildcats. It was in fact this very ESPN, whiteout, UW game last year that catapulted Derrick Williams into the national spotlight – perhaps costing Arizona his presence on this roster. The UW game is no doubt recognized as significant. But – like I just did – Arizona cannot overlook a suddenly sultry WSU Cougar team. Faisal Aden can’t miss – or is at least shooting FTs like he’s Derrick Williams – and Brock Motum can cause problems for that small AZ roster. I can’t imagine Ken Bone’s team would have a problem playing spoiler. Bear down or bow out.

Weekend YouTuber: I keep saying it along with everyone else: the Pac-12 is not good and if our six-way first place scenario plays out, well … oh man. It’s like the Pac-12 barely knows what it’s doing. It’s bad. But it’s not this bad:

 

 

Oscar Nominees Annnounced Amidst Tumultuous Pac-12 Season

Today the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced.

Like the Pac-12, it hasn’t been the best year for film and the nominations demonstrate this much. No single movie has swept us off our feet, excited us to conversation, pushed us to the floor with laughter, or changed our thinking. Just as no team has wowed us on the basketball court, no motion picture will escape 2011 an epic (the Harry Potter series did end, though).

But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been entertained. It doesn’t mean we don’t watch or enjoy ourselves or have our emotions tugged at. Whether we’re fans or theatergoers, we appreciate the experience and the event of it all.

I have not seen all nine of the Best Picture nominees (5-of-9), but it is a goal of mine to do such. I have, however, watched a lot of Pac-12 hoops and I will now attempt to briefly analogize the Oscar nominees to Pac-12 contenders.

  1. The Artist” – While the Oregon State Beavers kicked their season off loud, they find themselves in conference play a lot like this film: unable to speak. In this silent film, the protagonist (Craig Robinson), amidst fears he’ll lose his acting job with the nearing arrival of talking pictures, clings to a young up-comer (Jared Cunningham) to carry him through.
  2. The Descendants” – This is the story of a supposed to be wealthy, happy, and successful man living in paradise (Hawaii). We quickly learn that looks can be deceiving and at the end of the day, life is what we make it. The Washington Huskies are arguably the most talented Pac-12 team but everything is not well in Seattle. They may have a roster with Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, but that alone won’t lead to success or happiness.
  3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” – A tale of discovery amidst loss, the Oregon Ducks lost two supposedly vital cogs (Barron, Brown) but have found their way to the top of the conference standings. In the movie, our young protagonist loses his father in the 9/11 attacks, enduring pain en route to self-discovery.
  4. The Help” – This is a tale of hard work, courage and defying the establishment. While the “help” of this small Mississippi town were supposed to shut up and do their jobs, they conspired to tell their stories, rise up and have their voices heard. As the newcomer Colorado Buffaloes were picked to finish eleventh in the conference, they too have worked hard and asserted themselves as equals amongst the conference elite.
  5. Hugo” – An orphaned boy finds himself adventuring through Paris, clinging to the past left to him by his late-father. The Washington State Cougars were orphaned by their best player, Klay Thompson, when he bolted early to the NBA. Like Hugo, the Cougars were left a broken memory (Hugo: automaton, WSU: Faisal Aden) of their former lead. Both protagonists seek how to get their bequeathed goods to work.
  6. Midnight in Paris“- A movie that encourages us to appreciate the present and not cling to the past, longing for a better time. Woody Allen directs a beautiful movie and tells a wonderful story, teaching a lesson the Arizona Wildcats could learn: it is best to recognize that which you immediately have, while not letting the past stifle your growth.
  7. Moneyball” – Stoic, straightforward, and raw, this movie tells the less than exciting but powerful story of the Oakland A’s. Like Johnny Dawkins and his Stanford Cardinal, there’s little substance or flash to the movie but the most is made of what there is. Making the best of the least available worked for the A’s and now the Cardinal. Also an obvious Bay Area parallel.
  8. The Tree of Life” – This movie received big hype with its big stars and artsy overtones but then obtusely disappointed. It’s essentially a convoluted self-indulgence for writer/director Terrence Malick. Like the UCLA Bruins, it’s ultimately much ado about nothing and a humungous let down. No synopsis necessary.
  9. War Horse” – California Golden Bears. Analogy impossible, but read on.

As research for this post I had to read some synopses of these films. Like I said, I’ve seen five of the nominees and really enjoyed them, save “The Tree of Life” which I thought was terrible. The most memorable part of that viewing experience was when the movie stopped about two-thirds of the way through. Because the movie was so convoluted I sincerely thought it was the ending. Alas, it was not and the old, grumpy usher entered the theater to see what had happened. When a patron asked what the deal was, the elderly usher quietly replied, “Oh shit,” before slinking back to the projection room. The movie resumed and we all got free ticket vouchers. The only good thing to come of that film.

But I’ve digressed. Back to my research.

I was familiar with most of the stories and, quite favorably, the movies paralleled the Pac-12. Until I got to number nine, “War Horse.” I hadn’t the slightest clue what the movie was about and gained no perspective from the IMDB summary. So, I went to gchat and asked Brad who had seen it and had this to say:

Brad: drunkard dad goes to market to buy work horse for failing farm falling behind on rent to land lord
dad gets into bidding contest for a thoroughbred horse and pays too much for a fine horse they dont need
boy/teenager
becomes strangely obsessed with the horse
it’s supposed to be heartwarming boy loves pet (like old yeller or something)
but the boy is too old for that, and it seems weird
what kind of boy loves a horse?
anyway, i digress
after horse nobly plows the field and saves the farm

 me:  (this is hilarioius)
 Brad:  the father is eventually forced to sell the horse to the army for the war effort
World War 1
where a calvary is still used
well i guess the key to the story is
at some point when the boy is training the horse at the outset
he develops a hand whistle to call the horse
that is supposed to be unique
you realize right away that after the horse gets lost in the war
the boy and hte horse will be reunited via this hand whistle
and in fact, this is exactly what happens
but first
you have to sit through a steven spielburg (sp?) of recycled cliche disney nonsense
where you are following the story of a horse and his interactions with various persons affected by the war
most notably a young girl who also falls in love with the horse
eventually the horse escapes the german bondage of halling massive artillery
and goes on some overly dramatic gallop across war torn trenches of world war one
only to wind up stuck in barbed wire in the middle of no mans land (between the trenches)
and foster a momentary peace between the german and british forces to set the horse free
it’s at that point the boy is blinded by mustard gas
and then finds his horse via the handwhistle
somehow having fostered such a relationship with his horse that he knows him without being able to see him
anyway, the blindness recedes
and he goes home to a sunset/sappy ride home to his farm
on the horse
and embraces his father
movie sucked
Such was my research regarding the Oscar nominated film, “War Horse.”

 

Week 4 Pac-12 Basketball Review

This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com, the blog of podcaster extraordinaire and face of KVOA-TV sports, Ryan Recker.

If you need a metaphor for this year’s Pac-12, I present to you Chip Kelly.

Seriously though, if you’re a fan and you’ve been paying attention, nothing that happens in this conference should surprise you anymore. By that logic, things are following suit and by that logic we’re being treated to a pretty good Pac-12 season. While the basketball hasn’t been the prettiest, this weekend’s slate lived up to the billing of “moving day” in that there were some phenomenal games: AZ-CU, Cal-UW, UCLA-OSU, WSU-Cal.

But if Saturday was indeed “moving day” then we would have awoke Sunday with some clarity on league leadership and not had six teams within a game-and-a-half of first place. And who knows, maybe Kyle Williams wouldn’t have had to relive the 2009 Territorial Cup (joking aside, read this on Williams. Sports!).

Keep watching as this week the Pac-12 will make a rare appearance on the worldwide leader.

Leader in the Clubhouse: I seriously contemplated just filling this section with a single question mark. But I didn’t so I’m going to say it: Oregon is the best team in the Pac-12 right now. Sure, Cal is the most complete team but the loss of Richard Solomon, while it didn’t effect them (THURMANATOR!) against UW, his absence was felt against a much lesser Washington State squad. So Oregon it is. Sure they’ve lost to Cal but Cal’s pretty good. You know who isn’t that good? Oregon State and Washington State, the two teams the Golden Bears have fallen to. In doing a quick resume scan we note that Oregon’s five losses have come against teams that rank, on average, 43rd in KenPom’s ratings (the worst of which was UW). Cal’s five losses have come against an average rating of 50th (worst being WSU). And the Ducks have been winning on the road, always a sexy attribute in the eyes of the selection committee. But maybe resume’s are a moot point for this conference? In this week’s ESPN bracketology, the Ducks are excluded in lieu of Stanford, and Cal is a nine seed. In Rush the Court’s bracketology, only Cal is making the tournament. Look, Cal is the best representative but they have holes and as of right now, Oregon is playing the best and has the most favorable stretch of games (OSU followed by the Ski Trip). Plus they have got to leverage some of the Kelly returning excitement.

Game of the Weekend: I mean, if last week I’m going to pick Cal @ UW as the Game of the Weekend and it turns into a 69-66 thriller in which the Huskies had a drawn up shot to tie it as time expired, then I’m obviously going to re-point out that I was right. Cal lived up to their hype as the top team in this conference (at least until Saturday rolled around) and led throughout much of this contest. Abdul Gaddy reemerged in CJ Wilcox’s absence – a good sign for the now shorthanded Huskies – and Aziz N’Diaye took advantage of the undersized Bears. Alas, they didn’t get the W and Cal did. The Bears however needed a huge performance from walk-on Robert Thurman. The junior forward scored 16 points and grabbed 7 boards in a career high 21-minutes en route to occupying Jeff Goodman’s twitter avatar. If the Bears need the Thurmanator to play like that to remain the conference favorites, I’m not loving their chances. And if the Huskies can’t beat the Solomon-less Bears at home, I’m not loving their chances. But this isn’t a prediction section it’s a recap section and it was a helluva game that very few got to see on TV.

The Big Loser: UCLA. They were swept at the Oregon schools for the first time since 2004 and looked meek in doing it. But calling the Bruins this weekend’s biggest loser pertains to far more than bounce passes and jumpers. The sweep got BruinNation fired up (these guys spit fire) to the point that they laid out a succession plan for Ben Howland. Then, in a poll of their readers, 45% felt Howland has not earned the right to remain head coach. What’s worse is that even the reportedly mild-mannered and team first, Anthony Stover, is frustrated with Howland. The under-used center tweeted an article calling for him to receive more playing time (sorry I couldn’t find the link). It’s been discussed quite a bit how much this program has struggled and perhaps this weekend was the straw to break the camel’s back. Against Oregon, they were up thirteen at the half and playing well. In the second half, the Ducks tied the game up in less than five minutes and then won it down the stretch. It’s indeed a sorry state of affairs in Westwood/Watts/Anaheim and possibly only getting worse. I’d also like to give a shout out to ASU in this section as they lost to Utah by 21 and produced both Kyle Williams and Billy Cundiff (2009 MBA program graduate).

What We Learned: Well if Faisal Aden is making shots then that WSU team ain’t too bad. The senior guard blew up for 57 points on the weekend and shot 65% in doing such. He also fired up a Jared Cunningham-esque 20 FTs, connecting on 19 of them (Cunningham has shot the second most FTs in the nation). He’ll no doubt be named the POW as the Cougars swept the Bay schools. I unfortunately don’t think we learned a ton this weekend outside of the fact that Richard Solomon’s absence is going to hurt the Bears. Here’s a few bulleted thoughts:

  • Arizona so glaringly has no go-to player that they couldn’t settle on anyone to take the final shot Saturday at Colorado. They dribbled out the final thirty seconds before air balling a desperation three. Having used their final time out with more than two-minutes remaining, Sean Miller was unable to draw up a play the Wildcats so painfully needed.
  • Stanford may play a very tough, extended defense, but that doesn’t necessarily translate on the offensive end. They averaged just 66 ppg this weekend and are relying heavily on the three pointer – a shot they’ve taken more often than any other Pac-12 team and made at the fourth worst rate 34%.
  • THURMANTOR!
  • Colorado runs a staunch defense and has a legit shot to win this thing. They’ll host the Bay schools and their remaining toughest road swing is to Oregon. They still have to play at UCLA (worth reporting?) and at Arizona but with Carlon Brown filling it up, the Buffs have to like their chances.
  • Harper Kamp did not step up in Richard Solomon’s absence (see the aforementioned Robert Thurman). He averaged 10/3 for the weekend. Decent, but I maintain that Monty and Crew will need more from the AZ native if they’re going to make a big run at this.

Early Week Youtuber: Forever we’ve heard about how soft Pac-12 officials are. That there’s no bruising out here on the West Coast and fouls thirty-five feet from the basket are as abundant as gold circa 1949 . Well he may not be particularly hard, but check out this zebra:

Prompt Pontification: On the unpredictable Pac-12 while glaring at the Big East (briefly)

When the buzzer sounded at Gill Coliseum and Thursday’s Pac-12 slate was complete, I noticed a lot of buzz, once again, surrounding the ups and downs of the Conference.

Yes, yes. Washington State had an explosive second half and UCLA lost, but ask yourself: were you really that surprised? Was UCLA losing to a hungry and beleaguered Oregon State team who’d previously beat the same Texas Longhorns that UCLA was handled by? Was it that upsetting that a Stanford team that struggles offensively couldn’t quite keep up with the 38th most accurate shooting team in the nation (47% FGs for WSU) and red hot Faisal Aden?

Beyond that, the conference held suit and further beyond that, who wants this stuff to be predictable? Sure, we’d all appreciate a better brand of basketball on the Left Coast but there’s a reason the games are played.

You want to talk unpredictability? How about UConn’s 4-3 Big East start or Pitt’s 0-6 run? Those Huskies were once ranked 4th in the nation and the Panther’s 11th. For a “basketball conference” the BE sure could be more “predictable.” 11-8 South Florida is tied for third? And don’t get me started on two-for-eleven into last year’s sweet sixteen.

But enough finger pointing.

Unpredictable is the nature of sports and I say carry on Pac-12! For all its roller coaster faults, there is still a definitive team to beat (Cal), a large group of contenders nipping at their heels (Stan, UW, UO, CU, UA, UCLA), and an upset minded duo (OSU, WSU). Nice little recipe for an enjoyable conference season.

So while it may be an easy complaining point, the reality is, you’re going to tune in to the games, especially if they unfold like the OSU-UCLA game. That was a very well played, fun game to watch. Both teams shot 58% from the field and outside of Howland spending his last timeout with 11 minutes remaining and a few stretches of back-and-forth slop, it was solid. Bravo Bruins and Beavers.

When discussing the nature of the conference and last night’s games, a buddy of mine coined Saturday’s games “moving day” for a lot of teams. Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, and Washington are playing each other in critical games. That’s the six, aforementioned teams nipping at the heels of Cal. And they’re playing eachother!

Moving day indeed. And then of course there’s just going to be next weekend.

Unpredicatable, crazy, awful, painful, embarassing. Call it what you will but I’m going to watch because when it’s all said and done, someone’s gotta win this thing and subsequently go dancing.

And dancing is what it’s all about.

Andre Roberson and Jordan Bachynski (courtesy of @jlucas4092 and the team at allbuffs.com. Good CU stuff):

 

Week 4 Pac-12 Basketball Preview

This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com where you can also subscribe to some great podcasts by Ryan, the Sports Director at KVOA-TV in Tucson, AZ.

So the burning question is: will there even be games this weekend in the Pacific Northwest? Or at least Washington State, that is. Incredible snow and ice storms have been blasting the Apple State so much so that both UW and WSU have cancelled classes. The games, however – as of this writing – were still set to be played.

In other news, two more critical players are no longer rostered: Josh Watkins of Utah and Richard Solomon of Cal. Watkins was Utah’s only leading scorer at 15.6 ppg and had already been suspended once this season. In summary: he Nelsoned. Solomon is also a previously suspended player (who in the Pac-12 isn’t?) but his season ending violation was academic. The Bears are going to need to get Harper Kamp going in Solomon’s absence. He was their leading rebounder.

On to the games:

TV Complaint: Three blackouts this weekend, two of which “feature” Washington State. Tonight’s Arizona-Utah game is broadcast-less which is justifiable, right? Seeing as how Arizona draws twice as much as the average Pac-12 school (13,639 vs. 6836). So there will be plenty of viewership. Fail. Unless of course you’re in Tucson, it’s on TV there. To address the Cougar fiasco, there are two possible reasons:

  1. The TV providers recognize that most Cal and Stanford fans (both playing at WSU this weekend) are tech/web savvy and very involved in SOPA/PIPA activism. Amidst gross confusion during a desire to appease the Bay Area fan bases, the providers blacked out TV for these games instead of web based coverage.
  2. The current Pac-12 TV deal is insufficient.

The rationale for said non-broadcasts is for you to decide. I don’t care which you pick I just know you’re not going to watch. It would have been fun to watch Brock Motum battle a deep Stanford front court. Pity. There’s also no network game following a week in which Arizona and Oregon faced off on CBS.

Game of the Weekend: If the game is played (snow), tonight’s tilt featuring Cal and Washington is a no doubter. The Huskies are terribly difficult to figure out but one thing’s for certain (unless of course they’re playing South Dakota State): Romar wins at home. Speaking of LoRo, the tenth year coach has come under some heat this season and I think you should read this (against) and this (for) when formulating your opinions. Very good work there, but back to the hoops. Cal is playing some great basketball but is now short their top rebounder. UW is looking to assert itself as legit contenders particularly as their early loss to Colorado is looking more-and-more excusable. I’ve read a lot of different pieces arguing which UW player their season will follow. Some say Tony Wroten. Others say Terrence Ross. Reality is the Huskies need both of them to be productive team players especially in the absence of CJ Wilcox. The sharpshooter averaging 15.5 ppg (second most on the team) went down last weekend with a fractured foot. So if this game means UW is showing they can take the next step and sit atop the conference, the converse holds true for Cal. If they can get out on the road and beat UW in Seattle, then Cal is leaps and bounds the conference favorite. One last note: the UW Dawg Pound is one of the toughest student sections in the conference if not nation. The UW students are snowed in and won’t be attending class today. I’m just saying, rowdy could happen.

Game to Avoid: I hate to pick on the Utes and Sun Devils (ok, I don’t mind picking on the Sun Devils) but their game on Saturday has got to project as one of the worst BCS conference games this year. They rank 321 and 172, respectively, in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings and each is now missing their leading scorer – plural in ASU’s case. Maybe the silver lining is that ASU has played progressively better with the loss of more and more players. This week it’s Trent Locket, the point-everything for Herb Sendek is out at least Thursday against Colorado and questionable for Saturday. His return would no doubt be a boost for ASU but who knows? Utah, of course, will be short Jiggy Watkins and basically the Utes are at rock bottom. Best of luck to Coach Krystkowiak.

Something to Prove: I don’t want to dedicate this entire preview to Washington but they really do have the most to prove this weekend. With the conference elite visiting their most friendly of confines, a sweep would put the Huskies in sole possession of first place and demonstrate their legitimacy. It would no doubt get a lot of people talking about how good they are or could be. It’d also get them talking about the enigmatic nature of this conference. Aside from the Huskies, Arizona and Colorado have a huge match-up on Saturday. Both teams are 3-2 (pending Thursday’s results) and are having opposite seasons: Arizona is falling while the Buffs are rising. Sweeping the Ski Trip won’t necessarily validate the Wildcats, but it will give them some momentum and confidence before a four game stretch against the Washingtons and the Bay schools. Sweeping the Arizona schools would validate Tad Boyle’s group as, if nothing else, a very fine ball club despite preseason expectations.

Something to Lose: Last week’s team du jour, the Oregon Ducks, got some national ink from Andy Katz, proposing their candidacy as Pac-12 champions. The attention was deserved and Oregon is good. They’ve been the toughest road team in the conference which bodes well for their title run. But, like all contenders, they’re going to have to win at home. They’ll host the LA schools this weekend and while USC possess little threat, UCLA is frightening. They’re intermittently talented and big and you just never know what you’re going to get. But back to Dana’s Ducks. They’re intriguing. This weekend will go a long way in showing how good they are but with all eyes on the team du jour, a hiccup could be costly – particularly against USC (a warning for all teams).

Weekend YouTuber: We’re all well aware that the Pac-12 is in a sorry state of basketball affairs. But at least none of your teams made this list. Just notice how powerful you feel when you say Bruin, Husky, Cougar, Wildcat, or Trojan. Just makes you want to mean mug. Grunt and chest bump. Of course the Honey Badger used to be bad ass, too:

BB: Andy Katz and the Seven Year Project

It seems like ages ago that the Arizona basketball program was in shambles. Seeking their fourth coach in as many years, then AD, Jim Livengood had been thrice spurned (Calipari, Pitino, Floyd). And not only were they out a coach, there wasn’t much of a roster, either. The 2008 class was thin and the 2009 class? Non-existent.

The cupboard bare, the coaching hunt fruitless, things looked bad in Tucson.

It was then that Andy Katz said it. The senior college basketball writer for the worldwide leader proclaimed the rebuilding job at Arizona a seven year project. The declaration provided Wildcat nation with a lifetime of message board fodder and ensured Katz would forever be buying his own drinks in Tucson.

Wildcat fans were livid. Citing Arizona’s seat amongst the elite collegiate programs, draft picks, national prestige, and pride there was no way in a frozen desert it would take seven years to be good again.

Then Sean Miller signed, Tim Floyd resigned, the twelfth ranked recruiting class fell into Arizona’s lap, and Derrick Williams happened. In just his second year, Sean Miller had the seven-year project one shot from the Final Four. Arizona fans couldn’t serve the crow to Katz fast enough.

But what if Katz was right?

Or at least half right. Today we find ourselves looking at a less-than-talented Arizona squad playing mediocre basketball in a bad conference. This is the type of season that Miller was supposed to be coaching through in year three. This is normal when the aforementioned recruiting blunders and institutional mayhem set back a proud, elite quarter century of basketball.

But normal is not befitting fandom.

So Katz has taken heat at the cost of perspective. The reality is Arizona won the lottery with Derrick Williams and timed their brief demise just perfectly with the dramatic decline of Pac-12 basketball. The whole picture actually supports the fan’s view but Katz’s point isn’t a relative one. Sure, Arizona is back when compared to the rest of the conference. They’ve won a conference title and are back in the tournament. So if you’re truly satisfied with a five seed riding the coattails of a miracle player and following that year up with a “competitive,” you should be leading the charge against Katz.

But if your barometer is UNC, Kansas, Kentucky, and the nation’s other elite programs, the school’s Arizona was once synonymous with, then you can understand Katz’s perspective and the current state of Wildcat affairs.

Take the example of Kyle Fogg. For all of his hard work and perimeter defense, Fogg is not the type of talent that has the sixth most starts in school history. That would place him between Channing Frye (13 ppg/7 rpg/1 apg) and Salim Stoudamire (15/2/2) on the U of A career starts list with an outside shot of sitting alongside Anthony Cook (12/6/1). Fogg’s numbers (8/2/2) are comparable to Chris Rodgers (6/2/2), Jamelle Horne (6/4/1), and Isaiah Fox (3/3).

Stretch comparison? Perhaps, but none of these players are particularly relevant to Wildcat lore and Kyle Fogg will be; a strong indication of the program’s failures in the past seven-plus years. And be clear, by no means am I hanging any of Arizona’s woes on Fogg. He’s a tremendous role player. But he is a significant indication of the rebuilding that was and is in order, not a four year starter at Arizona.

Miller has done a better job than anyone could have imagined – Katz has to top that list – and certainly sped up this rebuild. Just look at his 2012 recruiting class. Arizona is going to be good – very good – but last year was an anomaly. Derrick Williams doesn’t fall into your lap very often. It’s taken three hard working years to secure that 2012 class and more work will come to secure the ’13, ’14, and beyond classes. That work will soon manifest itself on the court.

Until then, remember that Arizona is not trying to be the best team in the Pac-12. They’re trying to be the best team in the country and that’s not going to happen in two seasons. This is a program still rebuilding.

It just may be built in a little less than seven years.

Week 3 Pac-12 Review

This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com. Ryan is the Sports Director at KVOA-TV in Tucson, AZ, produces some great podcasts, knows Arizona sports inside-and-out, and votes for the Heisman.

Once again the home teams – for the most part – won for the locals and moved the Pac-12 season along at an unshocking pace. There was a fight but then a bunch of uncompetitive blowouts. So much for parody. Until of course next Thursday rolls around and once again anything can happen. Stay tuned to your local Root TV network.

Here is one thing to keep in mind as your squad battles along: the top four finishers in the conference receive a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. A small but potentially dance inducing fact in this lesser conference year. The weekend:

Leader in the Clubhouse: Sure, Cal and Stanford sit atop the conference at 5-1 each and Washington – despite seemingly no consistency – is 4-1. But this weekend may have proven that the Oregon Ducks are for real. Their sweep of the Arizona schools was the most impressive feat of the weekend, befitting the team du jour title. At 4-2, Dana Altman’s team has lost only to Washington and Cal and is about to host three straight, winnable games (the LA schools followed by OSU). If Devoe Joseph can continue piecing together his dark horse POY candidacy, Eugene could wind up playing host to both the football and basketball conference titles. And with toughness above talent likely the key to winning this talent thin conference, Dana’s Ducks may be on to something as the only team with three road victories. I won’t go so far as to call this group favorites, but they’re a far more intriguing team than the previous flavor of the week, Colorado, and certainly tougher than the road weary Washington Huskies. My advice? Don’t sleep on the Ducks.

Game of the Weekend: Two desperate teams – Arizona seeking its identity, OSU just a win – needed extra time and some restraints to figure things out. The game culminated in a shoving match after Kyle Fogg was lightly fouled by Jared Cunningham and Fogg felt obligated to let Cunningham know he had also made the basket. Beyond that, it was a thrilling Arizona victory; a game in which Brendon Lavender – a 10.6 minutes per game type player – needed to shoot 5-6 from three-point range for the Wildcats to even have a chance. It was the Beavers second straight OT game, this one following their four-OT loss to Stanford. OSU continues to be a mystery after entering conference play as an intriguing two-loss team. They now find themselves 1-5 with losses to ASU and WSU and as the only team to beat Cal (handily at that). Confounding indeed.

The Big Loser: As previously mentioned, winning the 2012 conference title is going to take some toughness. And by toughness I don’t mean shoving matches when you’ve already wrapped up the game. By toughness, I don’t mean finding yourself down 17 at home before you decide to play defense. So, who showed the least toughness this weekend? The Arizona Wildcats. Their melee showed glaring insecurities and their loss to Oregon showed gross passivism. Sean Miller’s group continues to play sans identity and it looks as if everyone’s waiting around for someone else to do something about it. Most telling of Arizona’s woes has been their reliance on the three ball. The Wildcats fired up 39 long balls this weekend and have shot the most in the conference and 89th most in the nation. For no better way to put it, that’s mid-major territory and not where Arizona wants to be. The Wildcats will need to answer some questions quickly as they head into a difficult three week stretch of games.

What we learned: This conference is starting to take shape. There’s an elite class (Cal, Stanford); an OK-I-see-you class (Washington, Oregon); a work-yet-to-do class (Arizona, UCLA, Colorado); a whose-season-can-we-ruin class (WSU, OSU); and then there’s ASU, USC, and Utah. While Oregon may have shown the most toughness, Washington isn’t going to fade away that fast and Terrence Ross isn’t about to forget how to hoop (30 and 14 this weekend). Cal won a game (home against Colorado) that they had almost no business winning but still managed to; it was championship stuff. Because much of the weekend followed suit, there weren’t necessarily amy outliers by which to make conclusions. Josh Smith didn’t have a particularly big game (6pts, 5rbs) but then again he didn’t need to. Tony Wroten still didn’t hit his free throws (7-13); Brock Motum remains a dark horse conference POY (17/2/2); and ASU got better with less (Trent Lockett left the game with an injury). It is worth mentioning that just because Colorado was blown out by Stanford, it is not an indication of the direction of their season. Their performance at Cal was sufficient to say this group is real and essentially legitimizes the ski schools as a trip not to be taken lightly.

Early Week YouTuber: OK, so there wasn’t much exciting going down on the court in the Cities of the Pac. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen elsewhere:

 

Cal is the favorite, CU is real, and Other Haas Discoveries

I went to the showdown at Haas on Thursday night with a good crew and discovered a few things.

  1. Cal is not a basketball school
  2. Colorado is for real
  3. Soft pretzel trumps nachos
  4. The best Haas Pavilion parking spot
  5. Andre Roberson will be drafted in 2013

It was indeed a great night and now I’ll elaborate, discovery-by-discovery.

1. Cal is not a basketball school – Granted, it was a late start (8pm) but it was also the Thursday before a three day weekend so who was really going to get any work done Friday? Haas got to about 65% capacity with first place on the line and rarely recognized their cheering moments. The crowd’s greatest effort to get into the game came with a West-to-East: “GO!” … “BEARS!” call and response. This got the volume up and the fans approaching vertical but it also came as Allen Crabbe toed the line at a critical juncture in this battle of conference leaders. Bad timing if you ask me. But the Cal fans were comfortable and looked good. Thusly fulfilling the goal of the arena/pavilion’s namesake, Walter A. Haas, Jr. the philanthropic San Franciscan who ran Levi Strauss for some twenty years. However, I firmly believe that Monty will begin putting butts in the seats just like Haas made butts look good in jeans. He’s got a good thing going in Berkeley and it’s a fan base that I believe wants to erupt.

2. Colorado is for real – In an interview with Jeff Eisenberg, Tad Boyle said he wanted his team to play defense and rebound to remain atop the conference. He didn’t mention that he wanted to shoot the ball well or not turn the ball over – both of which his team didn’t do Thursday night. Getting back to the his remarks, Boyle’s Boys play some tight defense and move well. It may not be the prettiest brand of basketball but Carlon Brown has some skills and there is a supporting group there understanding their supplementary roles to the Brown-show. Andre Roberson fills in nicely for any defensively minded team as he’s incredibly versatile on that side of the ball. I like that the Buffs are making the Ski Trip a lot more than a bunny slope and I think – particularly considering their forthcoming recruiting class – that Colorado is for real for 2012 and beyond. Welcome to the conference.

3. Soft pretzel trumps nachos – This may be a given but when your diet for the day consisted of coffee, a scone, animal crackers, and some beers, soft pretzel definitively trumps nachos. The key here, of course, is to garner a bite-for-cheese agreement. If you can pull this off – and I did – you’re in the money. This purchase got me through to the post game meal at Triple Rock Brewery; a must if you’re ever in Berkeley and a need if you haven’t eaten all day. Try the A-B-S burger and the IPA. Legit.

4. The best Haas Pavilion parking spot - Not telling.

5. Andre Roberson will be drafted in 2013 – Sure, this too may be a given but to see him in person is to see what scouts talk about when they talk about length. He can grab anything. The lanky sophomore swallowed fourteen boards and guarded nearly every position on the floor. Athleticism for days. He had a tip dunk where he appeared to hover for half the shot clock awaiting the ball out of the cylinder (debatable whether he waited long enough but filthy nonetheless). He highlighted his night, however, late in the second half with a drawn up isolation play from the wing. The Buffs cleared out and Roberson used a jab then drive for an easy layup. It was impressive and demonstrated just what how high a ceiling he has. His shot is less than pretty but he has time still (I did say 2013, yeah?). Worth noting in this section is the block Carlon Brown put on the Bears during a fastbreak. There unfortunately isn’t any footage I could find (someone in this league has gotta get ranked) but anytime someone gets pinned above the square it’s gotta get mentioned.