Monthly Archives: January 2012

BB: Derrick Williams is Gone, Time to be a Team

This post can also be found at pointguardu.com

A puzzling Arizona season manifested itself in the closing moments of the Wildcats’ overtime win against Oregon State.

The scuffle was instigated by an aggressive and agitated Kyle Fogg who quickly backed off and disappeared from the melee. It was then propagated by Solomon Hill who demonstrated the most interest in the bout but was ultimately a non-factor. Others attempted to make their way into the shoving match, but were unable to make an impact. Then, when the dust settled, it was Kyryl Natyazhko who was ejected.

Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like the 44 minutes of basketball leading up to the events on the baseline? Perhaps the UCLA game? SDSU, Gonzaga, or Mississippi State?

Much has been made of this team’s lack of a go-to player and the Oregon State game confirmed that the 2011-12 Wildcats do not have one. There are some talented pieces to Sean Miller’s roster but no one individual can be consistently relied upon.

Perhaps this group is playing with the ghost of Derrick Williams; waiting for their knight in shining armor to bail them out of any and every circumstance. The vicious forward undoubtedly played the go-to role and it was going to be difficult to replace him regardless of how good Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, and the rest of the freshman class were. Attack was his default mode and it showed as he led an underwhelming Arizona team to the Elite Eight. And while having a go-to player is not imperative, it’s certainly an advantage and a pressure release for a team’s perhaps less talented players.

But Arizona’s victory confirmed another thing about these Wildcats: the sum can be greater than the parts.

On Thursday, it was Brendon Lavender, scoring 15 of his 18 points in the second half of the critical home win; supplementing the efforts of his teammates. Before that, Jordin Mayes, Jesse Perry, Hill, Fogg, and Johnson have each played the lead but not without significant other contributions. There certainly have been flashes of individual brilliance amongst this group, a positive indication that this team can do things.

But the ultimate success of this group will be their ability to overcome a lack of nightly individual output and play significant team basketball; particularly in a season featuring lineups centered by the 6’6” Kevin Parrom and absent of a scorer in the teens. The team ability and concept are there, the consistency is yet to come. Coach Miller called the Oregon State victory the “best game of the season.”

And at this critical juncture in the Wildcats’ season, the Wildcats could be gelling at just the right time.

With their toughest games yet to come, Arizona still controls their tournament destiny. To ensure they’re indeed dancing, the ‘Cats will have to continue to shake the ghost of Williams and continue to improve as a team. Growing on their “best game of the season.”

When Kyle Fogg chirped at Jared Cunningham and Solomon Hill jumped into the raucous and Kyryl Natyazkho was ejected, some individual faults may have been exposed. But look more closely and you’ll notice it was sixteen Wildcats the Beavers had to deal with.

Not one.

 

Week 3 Pac-12 Preview

So we’ve kicked off another weekend of Pac-12 performances with a shaky UW home outing against crosstown rival Seattle U and their rounding coach, Cameron Dollar. It was a three-point game with as little as 1:27 left but winning is winning and the Pac-12 has put hefty beer goggles on the eye ball test so we’ll agree to just add it to the “W” column and move on. Next.

The schedule.

TV Complaint: As well as I can see, it appears every game this week will have television representation. That is something to celebrate but begs the question: what the hell is Root TV? I’ve seen it peppered all over the TV schedule and when googling said network (can we call it that?) it’s a page 2 result. But here’s what I managed to find out. Root TV is the renamed network of Fox Sports Northwest. Of course, right? Regardless, I don’t get it on my cable package which I just realized popped out of the introductory rate and is running us $150/month. So I pay an arm and a leg for regional broadcasting of University of San Francisco games. The same USF holding a win and OT loss to Pac-12 beaters, Northern Arizona and Loyola Marymount. Am I the big winner? No. We’re all still subjected to FSN or whatever name they want to call themselves. Losers, every last one of us.

Game of the Weekend: Presumed favorite hosts first place team. This is an obvious choice until you plug in the names. While Cal (presumed favorite) will likely play in a majority of the league’s intriguing games this season, did you think Colorado would exclusively hold first place? Ever? Anyhow, this game takes top billing because we’re going to get to see what the Buffs are made of – more on that later. For the meantime, let’s mention that this league is Cal’s for the taking. As we mentioned last week, holding serve at home is imperative and Monty’s crew is as prepped as any to do such. Important is the healthy return of Richard Solomon. The sophomore big has been sidelined for two of Cal’s four losses and played just eleven minutes in another (yes, he played in the Mizzou blowout). The Bears don’t seem to have much issue on the perimeter (I’d take Jorge, Crabbe, and Cobbs for my squad) and lead the conference in A/T ratio (1.6), but rank 9th in conference play in rebounding percentage; just two percentage points ahead of ASU who has played two conference games with only six scholarship players. So back to Solomon, a dude averaging 6.6 boards per game, the Bears could use him because, in case you hadn’t noticed, Andre Roberson is a vacuum (11.7 rpg). But regardless of advanced or remedial stats, I cannot see the Bears losing this one.

Game to Avoid: Don’t watch Washington State’s visit to Seattle. Sure it’s a rivalry game but why tune in to watch Tony Wroten dribble around or Faisal Aden miss shots? The Huskies have the 292nd best assist rate in the NCAA and turn the ball over at an 18% clip (274th in the country). HOLY BLACK HOLE, BATMAN! To address Aden, I present to you this EXCLUSIVE from CougCenter. Toss in that the game will overlap in part with the Packers-Giants game and I ask, why waste your Sunday evening? Look, I’m as big a Brock Motum fan as there is but he’s not worth the price of admission. You know who is? The guy once thought to be the best player in the conference, Terrence Ross. Well right now he’s the third best player on his team so I’m going to hold out until Ross decides to show up. When he does, it’ll look something like this. Oh, it also would be nice if Abdul Gaddy did more in his 33mpg (12.4 PER vs. average of 15).

Something to Prove: The Colorado Buffaloes have painted a target on their chest and let’s see how they wear it. They travel to the Bay Area for the toughest Pac-12 trip of the season and their first road games of the conference season. The Buffs also started 3-0 in Big-12 play last season before losing seven of the following nine. Could Boyle’s boys learn from last year’s flop? That streak likely cost CU a chance to dance and no doubt that was bitter. While this team was picked to finish eleventh (still could) in the conference, they currently sit atop it. Heavy weighs the crown and it will be interesting to see how the Mile High Hoopers handle Bay altitude. If they’re indeed going to focus on defense and rebounding – and they have in collecting these last three wins – someone’s going to have to fill it up on the other end. Enter, Carlon Brown. The red hot senior is as good as anyone; shooting 60% from the field in Colorado’s last six games (all at home, mind you). So, let’s see how he and his teammates handle the road.

Something to Lose: If we’re indeed going to annoint a weekly team du jour (contradictory, I realize, between english and french but you get my point), last week it was UCLA for their sweep of the Arizona schools. For such, UCLA finds itself in an intriguing trap game against USC. It’s one of those games they’re supposed to win but no one will bat an eye if they do. However, should they lose, well, the program is back in shambles as Howland remains bereft of his team’s attention continuing the Bruin spiral into out-of-Pauley obscurity culminating in the joint firings of Howland and Guerrero. Also, USC isn’t good. Let’s get that straight. But they play a style of basketball that no doubt keeps them in games and could emerge as a major thorn for a team (UCLA) that has had some focus issues. To boot, the Bruins have lost four of the last five to Kevin O’Neill’s scoreless wonders. The best news for the Bruins is that Josh Smith recently ran three miles according to Coach Howland and the Galen Center is just one-half mile from the Sports Arena. Run Josh, run!

Weekend YouTuber: Some would argue that the Pac-12 is in a free fall. I’d remind you that both Arizona has the top recruiting class in the nation with UCLA and Colorado rolling in at 15 and 25, respectively. The Bruins could quickly shoot up those rankings should they garner a long anticipated commitment from top recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, but free falling doesn’t look that bad, right?

Pac-12 Week 2 Review

I should just have wordpress auto-populate the following lede for any and every weekend review I post:

Predictably unpredictable, the Pac-12 Conference season trudged on like the Man and the Boy in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: navigating an apocalyptic world while clinging to the slightest shred of belief that they, themselves are “good.”

But despite the current onslaught of one-bid league talk and point-and-giggles, it is what it is and your team’s got a shot so long as they’re not a Ute, Trojan, or Sun Devil. And ultimately, having a shot is what it’s all about.

Also bear in mind that Tim Tebow never beat a Pac-12 school (irrelevant that he never played one).

Leader in the Clubhouse: Colorado, duh. The Buffs sit atop the conference standings as the only undefeated team. Of course they’re also the only team that has yet to play a road game but that shouldn’t take anything away from Tad Boyle’s group. Few people want to or will hop on this band wagon, but it is worth noting that Colorado has won their three conference games by an average margin of 23 points. They may not be the favorite but the Ski Trip cannot be taken lightly anymore.

Game of the Weekend: Well this one’s easy. Stanford and Oregon State’s quadruple overtime thriller takes the cake. Watch some exciting stuff here. This was a grossly painful loss for the Beavers who’d kicked their weekend off right with a solid win over Cal and a shot at making it a brutal weekend for the Bay Area schools as Stanford had lost on Thursday. Alas, it wasn’t in the cards (pun!) and Craig Robinson finds himself in an unfortunately familiar position at the bottom of the Pac. But 11th place is new so that’s kinda cool?

The Big Loser: The Washington Huskies took the Pac-12’s innagural ski trip to swiftly demonstrate to everyone just how disappointing they are. After an exciting sweep of the Oregon schools and a moderate return to the hype machine, Lorenzo’s team caught an edge (ski reference!) and face planted in front of the hot ski instructor on work exchange from Switzerland. And now I’ll return to the afore-used “disappointed.” I want more from this Huskie team. I’ve been a bit down on them for awhile and Romars roller coaster season’s have been frustrating to watch during these down years of Pac hoops. The talent has been there and it comes as no surprise to me that his teams have played well in tournaments (back-to-back Pac-10 tournament titles and a Sweet Sixteen). I therefore wouldn’t be shocked, in the least, to see this team playing its best ball when their back is against the wall. It’s just too bad that’s what it may take.

What We Learned: I think I’ve been saying it for a bit in some capacity but let’s make it traceable: an 8-1 home record and 5-4 road record will win this conference. That’s 13-5, you’d have beaten every team at least once, and hopefully swept Utah, USC, and ASU. A loss to any of those three schools very well could be the kiss of death but my overarching point is teams must follow the current pattern and win at home. The home team is 14-6 thus far with Utah and USC accounting for three of those losses (ASU has yet to play at home which is probably OK because no one is going to attend anyway: 4805 average attendance). I saw someone dropped the stat that there were only four BCS schools with losing records at this point in the season. Our aforementioned cellar dwellers accounted for 75% of that foursome. Look, it’s going to be a long season for any and all of the Pac-12 schools but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an intriguing aspect to the whole thing. The beauty of college basketball is that you can play your way into that mad little event in March and then anything can happen. Just ask Shaka Smart or Bill Self. Or Tim Tebow.

Start Your Week YouTuber: Hey, just like a Pac-12 home team, all he does is win, win, win…

Pac-12 Week 2 Preview

The opening/New Year’s weekend went unpreviewed but I’ll make no apologies for not caring much about less-than-exciting group of games while I sipped Tecates and had staring contests with Mexican sunsets. That said, with a little mileage now, this thing is starting to develop some story lines. Read on and here’s the schedule.

TV Complaint: Three of this weekend’s twelve games will not be televised. This segment of course debuts the day after the 2012 Pac-12 football schedule was announced and that every game will be nationally televised. That said, Cal @ OSU, ASU @ USC, and WSU @ Utah will only been seen by those in attendance. So what if the Sun Devils and Trojans will battle to a zero-zero tie and Utah could be playing with the guy in your chem lab. The point is: it’s 2012 and all major conference games should be broadcast in some capacity. The major crime this week is not getting to see what should be a great matchup between Jorge Gutierrez and Jared Cunningham in the un-aired Cal-OSU game.

Game of the Weekend: I’ve struggled to call this one but, based on the fact that there isn’t much at stake so early in the conference season, I’m going to go with the historical matchup: Arizona @ UCLA, 8 pm, FSN. I know, I know much has been made of the Bruins decline and they’re just 7-7 but there’s still something compelling to these two teams facing off. They’ve combined to win 21 of 31 conference titles and the only two national titles in that span. A heated rivalry has developed between the two on and off the court as Miller and Howland aren’t the best of pals and the Wildcats have swooped up some of Southern California’s top talent during this current Bruin dry spell. Speaking of dry spells, Arizona is just 2-10 in their last six trips to LA (both schools) getting smoked a few times in Pauley. But this matchup isn’t in Westwood and Sean Miller’s group has been playing well of late. Pay attention as UCLA is still a one point favorite.

Game to Avoid: Let’s take a frat/sorority theme to this one which may be too easy but we’ll roll with it. As STD rates sky rocket in Tempe, this could be the best chance for the Sun Devils to get anywhere near a Trojan. ASU has been giving the ball up like drunk Thetas, committing 16.5 turnovers per game, while not being a bro and playing wing man – just 12.1 assists per game. Meanwhile the Trojans simply don’t score (I’m aware of the innate pun here but there’s no other way to put it). KO’s squad is amongst the slowest and lowest scoring teams in the nation, averaging just 60.5 possessions per forty minutes and 54.5 ppg. The good news is everyone already knows the Kappa Omega’s (KO = Kevin O’Neill’s) don’t throw a good party (they all go to the Lamda Kappa/LK/Lane Kiffin parties) and just 3,838 attendees are averaged in the Galen Center. Ultimately, Fox Sports finally got one right and this one won’t even be aired. So really my advice is just don’t go to Watts for a 7:30 tip.

Something to Prove: The Oregon State Beavers waltzed into conference play looking pretty, pretty, pretty good. A two loss team with the conference’s marquee win 🙁 over Texas, the First Team had momentum and appeared poised to get rowdy. They were promptly swept, convincingly, by the Washington schools to kick off their conference season. If Craig Robinson wants to A) prove his worth as a coach B) avoid a campaign job, and C) actually finish with a +.500 conference record for the first time since unknown, he and his team need to hold serve this weekend. Not only are these two games they need to win, but it will go a long way in asserting themselves as legit contenders. Sure, the Bay Area schools are the toughest visitor/road trip in the conference this year, but in this down season, winning at home is vital. The Beavers missed their shot at stealing a road game in Pullman and frankly have a pretty tough start to their conference schedule. But no more excuses. Is it Beaver time or could this early weekend spoil any hopes of post-season play? I also can’t get over the fact that no one outside of Corvallis, Oregon (CORVALLIS, OREGON) will get to watch Jorge Gutierrez and Jared Cunningham. Outrageous.

Something to lose: Washington was last week’s team du jour, convincingly sweeping the Oregon schools at home. Standout freshman, Tony Wroten Jr. called their 19 point loss to South Dakota State as the needed “wake-up call” for this team. Wroten certainly awoke last week, going off for 22/7/5 in the sweep and being named the POW. But where’s Terrence Ross? Can Wroten carry this team? Could a Lorenzo Romar team conjure up some consistency? Still many questions here as UW heads to the Rockies – the first team to be hosted there in conference play – for a trap weekend. Washington should roll through these matchups, particularly Utah, but the Colorado game concerns me. Tad Boyle doesn’t have an atrocious team in Boulder and should the Huskies overlook this group, it would go a long way in legitimizing everyone’s concerns about UW.

Weekend YouTuber: My roommate wound up partying (true story) with this sweet angel on New Years. You should, like such as, enjoy and recall that the original objective of the Pac-10 was to be the “Ivy League of the West.”

Utah Might Hold Tryouts, Pac-12 Rock Bottom?

It’s become an incessant drone, talk of how bad the Pac-12 is. Every weekend conjures up a new batch of columns, tweets, comments, and call-ins about the lack of talent, poor coaching, ugly losses, etc.

We’re well aware of it and now news that Utah – the 336th best team of 345 D1 teams per Ken Pomeroy – will be considering open tryouts for its depleted roster breaks.

Appalling, right? Embarrassing, horrendous, turn-your-head-pretend-to-be-on-your-cell-phone-I-don’t-know-them bad. At times it’s seemed like no one wanted to win a game, then it seemed like no player wanted to stay on a team, and now this? Have we reached rock bottom?

Nah. This is awesome.

This is a shot for some weekend warrior to hammer out two-and-a-half months of hard work and have access to world class facilities and an experience of a lifetime. It’s like all the girls on The Bachelor bubbling over with excitement at their eight-or-so weeks of love hunting, except this is real and no one is going to tell you you’re not pretty.

Are you kidding me? A few lucky (dare I say “talented”) souls could join a major conference, revenue sport with a shot at traveling to the west coast’s most coveted locations, all the while escaping preseason conditioning?

This is a win-win situation unless of course you’re a ski bum. But even then there isn’t any snow yet so why not hoop it up?

Utah's Sigma Phi Epsilon Sand Volleyball Champs - the future of Utah basketball?

There will be SWAG, prestige, tutors, meals, women, girls, boosters, travel, trainers, highs, lows, losses (you’re playing for Utah), bruises, and – perhaps tops – you can drop the “I played in college” line. That card plays.

And kudos to Coach Larry for addressing his team’s needs. He’s promoting on-campus interest in the program he’s building and perhaps making it really mean something to be a Utah Ute.

I don’t believe this is a publicity stunt like UCLA’s marriage proposal fail. Open tryouts aren’t unprecedented, if not standard. A google search for “open basketball tryouts” yields tryouts at four different schools; two of which are in major conferences.

Hell, ESPN even broadcast Bob Knight’s Knight School, a six-episode series documenting the tryout of sixteen Texas Tech students trying to walk-on for the Red Raiders. A 2006-07 team that would finish 21-13, lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and be Knight’s final, full season.

While none of the google searched tryouts or Knight School were mid-season tryouts (desperate times, desperate measures), they were cries for help.

So even without a shot at being aired on the worldwide leader and getting screamed at by the most notorious screamer in college basketball history, I’d still go lace ’em up and head out to the Utah tryouts. Why not? You only stand to gain.

And you just might have the experience of a lifetime.