Monthly Archives: February 2012

All Things UW from Montlake Madness: The Buck Stops at 151

There’s a big tilt tomorrow in Seattle as the Cats and Dogs square off with title implications and what I really want to call a win-and-in game. Would you expect anything less from these two? I love it. To gain a little perspective on all things UW I shot some very important questions over to Griffin at Montlakemadness.com. Griffin and crew do work and know that Husky program like you know where the best restroom in your office building is. Give ‘em a read and a follow.

Let’s kick this off with a little getting to know you:

PacHoops: All-time favorite Pac-12er?

Montlake Madness: All-timer? It’s hard not to choose Lew Alcindor. Perhaps the greatest of all time right there.

PH: All-time favorite Husky?

MM: Brandon Roy has a special place in my heart as he played while I attended UW and was a local Seattle guy. Nate Robinson is another player who is hard not to have as your favorite. To get the most “bang for my buck” out of this pick, I’ll choose Lorenzo Romar as he both played and coached here.

PH: Greatest sporting feat ever witnessed?

MM: It was 1995 and the Mariners tied the Angels for the AL West lead. They had a one game tiebreaker and Randy Johnson threw a complete game, 12 K, 3-hitter to send the M’s to the playoffs for the first time. I was 8.

PH: Greatest sporting feat ever accomplished?

MM: I played football at Bellevue High School up here in Washington and we played the 12-year (151 games) undefeated team from De La Salle in California my senior year and won. Easily the greatest single moment of my sporting life. I doubt anything will ever top that.

PH: Current favorite song?

MM: J. Cole – Rise and Shine. YouTube it and thank me later.

PH: OK, so now that we know everyone’s judged you, onto the Huskies. Like the rest of this league, it’s been up and down for Washington this year. Of late however, it’s been more up than down, what do you make of the 2011-12 campaign thus far?

MM: About par for the course in terms of the Pac-12 season. They are very young and lost a lot of valuable pieces from last year. The preseason did not go well at all with some terrible losses to teams like North Dakota State at home. That may come back to haunt them on Selection Sunday.

PH: They’re 4-4 on the road this year and 26-30 dating back to 2007. Comparatively, Arizona is 25-31 and UCLA 28-24 over the same stretch but Washington is ripped for being a bad road team. Are there teeth to that argument? Or does UW just have the reputation of a bad road team?

MM: UW has the reputation, at least up here, that they can’t win the “big ones” on the road. This year was the first win in Tucson in five years and I believe Romar only has one win at UCLA as well. This year’s team, especially, has struggled to find any sort of leadership or consistency while playing on the road.

PH: I need some help understanding recent LoRo quotes. Per a phone conversation Jon Rothstein had with the coach (which he disseminated on the twitter), Gaddy is the x-factor, Aziz is the first true post defender/rebounder the program’s ever had, and UW has yet to put together a 40-minute masterpiece this year. Your thoughts on these comments:

MM: I think Romar is dead on with Gaddy. The Huskies are a FAR better team when he’s playing well and setting people up. The issue is that he has rarely done it this year. Gaddy’s ACL injury from last year has him a step slow and his confidence has never rebounded either.

In terms of the Aziz comments, a certain Jon Brockman may have an issue with that. He was a terrific rebounder and defender but he was also only 6’9. Aziz is the first true “center” that Romar has had to play with and he creates mismatches that Romar has never been able to take advantage of before.

He’s definitely correct on the “40-minute masterpiece” part. Unfortunately, I don’t see this team ever “getting there” this year. The Huskies seem to always have streaks where they string together poor shots, turnovers, and defensive lapses every single game. Their ceiling is so high that every Husky fan sees the potential but it never materialized.

PH: I also need some help understanding the uber-talented Terrence Ross? Tony Wroten?

MM: Terrence Ross is an enigma. I think it’s safe to say that he has the most pure talent of anyone not named Joshua Smith in the league. He doesn’t yet have the killer instinct that all of the greats possess. In my opinion, he needs one more year in college to develop his confidence.

Tony Wroten is raw as raw gets. He’s got some elite weapons and has flashes of NBA-ready skills. His passing skills that he showed in high school have yet to adapt to the college game and, in kind, his turnover numbers are high. He is a very poor perimeter shooter which allows teams to play five feet off of him. NBA teams are still drooling over his potential and as much as I would love to see him return to Montlake next year, he will probably be a lottery pick this year.

PH: Where did “raise the roof” go?

MM: Haha. It went to Sacramento along with Isaiah Thomas. What should we bring back next? The Macarena?

PH: I read a scathing account of the Romar tenure and then a statistical rebuttal. As with all arguments, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle but which side of the LoRo fence do you sit on?

MM: I’m very pro-Romar. While his in-game philosophy may not be the best, he is probably the best human being that I have ever met. What he does for this community and his players is truly remarkable. People tend to forget how UW was never an annual Pac-12 title contender before he arrived and they still don’t have the alumni support like Arizona or UCLA. The question I always ask people is “Who should we hire instead?” They can never give a realistic answer that would be an improvement.

PH: You recently polled your readers about UW’s season and the Pac-12 to date, what’d you guys learn from that?

MM: Most surprisingly, to me at least, is that 15% of our fans think that this team would be better or no different if Tony Wroten wasn’t on the roster. I’m just shocked at that. I’m not sure if 15% of our readers are trolls, but I have heard from a vocal minority that some people believe this to be true. I think Arizona fans would greatly appreciate it if Wroten wasn’t on the Huskies after his block earlier this year.

PH: It’s been the best rivalry in the Pac for the past few years and Saturday’s noon tip should be no different (besides the fact that Arizona is oh-for-their-last-four in Seattle). How do you see this one shaking out?

MM: It’s been so hard to predict these Pac-12 games this year. Arizona is playing really well lately and both teams need this win if they want to keep pace with Cal at the top. I know that the Dawg Pack will be camping out for the game and it’s also Senior night for Darnell Gant as well as potentially the last game at home for Wroten and Ross. I’m going to predict a 5 point win for Washington as they will have the emotional edge, something they have lacked in many of their losses.

PH: Is the SLUT part of your commute?

MM: Only on the weekends. Go Dawgs!

And there you have it: Pacific Northwestern perspective from a man who once ended a 151-game win streak! I greatly appreciate Griffin and the Madness team for taking the time to answer my bonehead questions. Montlake Madness is a staple of my webtime and should be a part of yours, too. If you haven’t before and even if you have, get to Seattle in the summer as it’s the most beautiful summer city I’ve ever visited and there are a disproportionate number of blondes in that city.

Thanks fellas.

Week 8 Pac-12 Basketball Preview

Update Note: The Upton video had to be updated following YouTube’s removal of the video based on copyright issues. See below.

You know the drill. Get your Tucson news and another glimpse at this post at ryanrecker.com.

The preview missed USC’s visit to…well technically it was USC’s visit to USC to be hosted by UCLA. The game was played at the Sports Arena on USC’s campus. Josh Smith cooled off (4 and 5 in 11 minutes) and although I’ve made light (no pun) of his weight issues, I’m really hoping he’s taking himself seriously here. Could go on to do big things.

That said, I’ve been clear that we’re to the home stretch while everyone else has been clear there will be very few teams playing basketball beyond the Staples Center next month. Which means the Pac-12 seniors (a nearly undraftable lot) are playing their last bit of attended US basketball before moving on to either Europe or corporate leagues where middle aged white men boast about who they’ve recruited onto their team.

The games that shall be and one that was.

TV Complaint: It’s actually a full slate of televised games for just the second time this conference season (that I can recall) and even includes an out of conference awkward-off on CBS in which Steve Lavin faces his former employer in a battle of 111 visiting 133 (RPIs). If you’re one of those who looks back on the Lavin years as a disgraceful period in Bruin-lore, read this and then take a few minutes to yourself. I suppose, therefore, the TV Complaint is on behalf of the networks who picked a crummy game to push on wandering eyeballs. We could also just cyber high five to the fact that A) the Pac-12 broke ground on their network headquarters in SOMA just 2.4 miles from my BEDROOM B) more TV is coming your way as outlined by the Rumbling Buffalo, and C) the best games of the weekend will be significantly broadcast (AZ @ UW FSN Saturday, UO @ Cal CSNCA/NW Thursday). Even Colorado’s trip to Utah is on the national version of FSN. [insert link to funny meme here]!

Game of the Weekend: Ducks and Bears, Dogs and Cats. Oh man it’s a toss up. Pending Thursday’s results, these games both feature 1v2 and so it’s tough to call it. Washington and Arizona have had a fierce rivalry of late but it hasn’t been much of a battle when in Seattle (Cats are 0-4 last four trips). The Ducks were rolled last time they faced Cal and haven’t beaten the Golden Bears in six straight attempts. So let’s go to Ken Pomeroy, the guru of all things advanced statistics in college hoops. I, for one, am not a subscriber in fear of being swallowed by the predictive analytics and also because I really dig gut conjecturing. It ain’t reliable but it’s amusing to me and you’re here reading it so you find it not terribly offensive either. Digression. The fact of the matter is KenPom is well respected in the industry so we should use him, right? Of course. Cal rates 16th in his ratings – the highest in the Pac – with Arizona coming in at 39, UW at 67, and Oregon 88. Finding the average KenPom rating of the two matchups should demonstrate to us which game is more worthy of our viewership as it will undoubtedly fit the billing of GotW. By adding each opponents’ KenPom rating to the other and dividing by the number of game participants (2) we can conclude that the lower of the two numbers is our GotW, showcasing the best tandem of teams and, in effect, the match-up most deserving of our viewership. I’ve run the math and…ah dammit! Arizona-UW = 53. Oregon-Cal = 52. Watch ’em both.

Game to Avoid: Again, there’s a few games I want to throw in here but I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t rag on Stanford too much more (the missed-on-Lin dialogue has become exhausting), I figure we can just let Oregon State take Jared Cunningham away from us on their own without dogging them further, and USC – for as bad as they are – have had a pretty rough go of it in the luck department (definitely not a pun/football reference). The game to avoid is actually one you should seek out. ASU visits Pullman at 5pm on Saturday which is perfect timing for you to cozy up for a little Saturday pre-party nap. Craft yourself a little hot totty, slip into some sweats, kick your feet up and settle into the kinda hoops that will put you right to sleep. While you will be in front of the TV for it, you’re doing so with the end goal of avoidance. You, like Mikey, are the big winner.

Something to Prove: Another double whammy as the aforementioned Cats and Ducks both take a shot at the team ahead of them in the standings. Let’s start with the Ducks. Oregon takes to the Haas, facing a team whom they have not outscored in their last six meetings. But while Monty’s crew has owned this one, this will be the first time they’ve faced off with true title implications and a chance to dance in sight. A recent article out of Eugene also anointed Jorge the foregone POY. While there is no doubt a strong case to be made for the senior, a similar case could be made for the do it all EJ Singler and the killer Devoe Joseph. As I mentioned earlier, this could be it for some seniors and Joseph is indeed one of them. What better way for the outgoing stud to silence the Jorge chatter and drop the Bears in the standings than with a resounding W in Berkeley? On to Arizona. For all the rivalry talk and great games between Washington and Arizona, UW has won four of the last five. Coldblooded indeed. As seniors go, on some random message board at the start of the second half, I predicted the Kyle Fogg road show to close out the season and his career. This was coming on the heels of his tragic effort against UW in Tucson where he tried as hard as anyone and failed with equal magnitude. It hurt to watch. But since that game he’s been named POW and put up 17ppg, 4rpg, 2apg, 2spg, and – why not – 1.25 bpg. En fuego, as they might say in the desert, and the senior’s going to need to keep it up for the Cats to take down the Huskies in Seattle for the first time in Fogg’s four years and claim a share of first place. Big weekend for the Cats.

Something to Lose: Again I’d like to highlight that we’re in the home stretch with five teams in the hunt for the crown. Colorado clearly has the most to lose as they’re playing Utah and a loss would seal their fate. But keep in mind that they’re playing Utah. I’m going to call this one, second week in a row, for Cal who has precious momentum to lose. They haven’t skipped a beat since losing at home to Arizona (SMH gold out) but now host the Oregonians for a trap and a test. The trap is against a once-thought-to-be-good Beaver team that has previously beat the Bears. The test comes against the Ducks who will be the fourth toughest team the Bears will have faced by RPI standards. While I don’t think this weekend poses that much of a threat to the Monty Crew, it’s not one to take lightly. No weekend is at this point especially considering Saturday’s tilt will be the Bears’ final home game. Hip, hip, JORGE (and Harper)!

Weekend Youtuber: I was about to post a very clever song surrounding Linsanity and its affect on New York until I received a suggestion from my buddy Chris, “how about a 2 min vid that looks at kate uptons boobs?” I crowd sourced the suggestion on the twittersphere, seeking five votes to post Chris’ suggested YouTuber. Much to my surprise (sarcasm font) it didn’t take long to find the requisite five and so I present to you, Ms. Kate Upton:

 

You Know, Normal Saturday Night Stuff

En route, I received a text from my buddy Walter: “Dude, what are you up to tonight?”

“Normal stuff like a HS basketball game,” was my response. Walter went on to throw a party with a “fog machine, strobe light, and lasers!”

Because that’s normal, right? Yeah, both are a little odd and I guarantee you that four mid-20’s males never planned their Saturday night around any game I ever played in.

But that’s exactly what myself and three friends did last Saturday as we headed to Sacred Heart Preparatory for a game featuring Arch Bishop Mitty’s Aaron Gordon. This kid:

As you can tell, the hype is justified and this Bay Area recruit will not soon be overlooked a la the incessant and annoying discussion over who missed out on Jeremy Lin. The ensuing 32 minutes plus 4 overtime minutes were proof enough of Gordon’s talent.

When it comes to uber talents, the gymnasiums tend to fill quickly. Such was the case in 2006 when I saw two Chase Budinger games in San Diego and so we arrived about 50 minutes early to the Gordon show. You know what happens when you show up 50 minutes early to a High School basketball game? You watch a half of JV basketball.

That was weird.

Anyhow, the JV game wrapped and the Varsity squads took the floor. Mitty opened with a four corners drill and when that progressed into some complex variation of a layup line, Gordon opened with a failed but no less impressive reverse dunk in which he dropped the ball between his legs, somewhere down around his feet and powered the ball to the rim. His first move in the layup line equaled all the athletic moves I’ve ever made. Combined.

After a few other thunder moves, the entire officiating crew, took Gordon aside and they all laughingly discussed him no longer touching the rim. It was clear from early on that the emerging (arrived?) super star was a magnet, attracting any and all as new friends. The officials wanted to be his friends, the JV wanted to buddy up, the opposing parents palled around and took photos of their kids with him as they requested autographs of the 16-year-old.

One time a kid asked me for a high-five as I ran past during a half-marathon.

But I’ll cut to the chase. I’m no scout so you can read all about what Gordon is capable of at Scout, Rivals, and 247sports but I’d recommend just finding youtube videos of the kid. Wow. By the way, he’s a Washington lean with Arizona on their heels.

The aforementioned chase I’m getting to is simply the atmosphere of amateur, live basketball. It was raw and pure and fun to be a part. We waltzed into senior night. Do you remember your last home game in a HS uni?

It’s something special and Josh Fox made sure his senior night was indeed that. With just 5.7 ticks left, from just in front of their own bench, Sacred Heart drew up a cross court baseball heave of a pass to find Fox in the distant corner where the mop headed kid hit a flat footed three to tie the game.

Naturally, the home stands erupted as the game was headed to overtime. An extra period in which these final 40-seconds happened:

Gordon delivered, scoring his 27th and 28th points as the game expired. It was over and, the weirdest part of it all, while momentarily rejected, the kids were smiling no matter whether they were winners or losers. Because they were just that: kids playing basketball perhaps for the last time competitively in front of their friends and family, for their school.

The Gordon kid may go on to bigger things but it’s sometimes hard to say he’ll go on to better. It’s tough to beat that Fox shot but game winners are few and far between. No doubt a special moment for the 16-year-old. For everyone.

After all, it was just a fun Saturday night for a couple-a dude’s past their primes.

OK, now two final notes. First, the game footage came courtesy this article. Secondly, you have to look closely at this picture but please notice the keeper of the clock and why, despite 3 or 4 significant timekeeping blunders, no one was able to give her an earful like perhaps you can $30/game HS ref:

 

The Best College Basketball Player

He’s probably a head short or a step slow. Most likely he plays well below the rim and they use words like heady, gutsy, and probably erratic, too when describing his game. Toss inconsistent into the adjective heap while you’re at it. Mind you, he’s not bad.

He runs the show, you see. He’s that senior, the one who – when he’s not on your team and sometimes even when he is – seems to be playing his sixth year of eligibility. You hate him for that. You love him for that.

That’s the best player in college basketball.

Not the two-guard or the dominant center, the one-and-done or the guy waving the towel. My favorite is that senior guard, the one who’s got the ball in his hands making decisions for better or worse.

And you know the shot.

The outlet pass out of a defensive rebound finds him curling right around the free throw line. He’s dribbling up the floor and has space. The home court is loud, urging his team once down eleven who’s cut it to five with four to play. And now that guard, the one who for three-and-a-half years you’ve seen high and low, whom you’ve loved and hated, is streaking up the court.

On the night he’s a few for a lot. Fading more than striking, but the lead is back in sight.

He crosses mid court, the opposition scrambling to their defensive assignments. For the briefest of moments, the soft handed big man is open on the far block. A good – not even great – pass would find him available for an easy pair, further cutting the lead. But that’s not his play because the ball is in his hands, the crowd swelling, the defense on its heels.

And that’s when it happens.

Full speed, under some semblance of control that can’t be fully comprehend until you’ve attempted it on your own time, he pulls up, elevating for the jump shot that you discourage with every conservative bone in your fan body. You hate him for it. You love him for it.

The odds say the shot isn’t going to fall. There’s absolutely nothing right about it. But he took the shot and it gets through the rim faster than any coach could find a sub. You’re grabbing a stranger and screaming before you understand what just happened. The suited man on the opposing bench is calling timeout, the roof is now off the building and that guy, the one with the ball in his hands making decisions for better or worse, hit that shot.

For what’s better than the ill-advised momentum changer?

When he was on my team, he went by Jason Gardner, Steve Kerr, Nic Wise, Salim, Jason Terry, and Reggie Geary. And you hated him. When I hated him his name was Richard Midgley, Ryan Appleby, Stanford guards of the 90’s and early 00’s, Derek Glasser, Aaron Brooks, Luke Ridnour, Darren Collison, Cameron Dollar, Tyus Edney, and I’m no doubt missing others.

Yeah you cringed and smiled a little reading that list. That’s ok, I hurt compiling it. But these guys are a staple of college basketball, a reason this game is great. And don’t be confused. This is no tribute to the little guy. This is a commentary on the back breaker that no coach would coach and the shot we all secretly love. The reality television of jumpers.

So who’s that guy this year?

To date, I’ve seen Zeek Jones carry the Bruin burden and done so with onions. Garret Sim broke Arizona’s back out of the corner in Tucson as part of a senior campaign that has him leading the conference in eFG%. Carlon Brown and Nate Tomlinson have fired daggers in Boulder, including a Duck hunter moment against Oregon. Jorge has been the quintessential ill-advised firer carrying Monty’s crew into first while Kyle Fogg and Devoe Joseph are willing their teams to wins down the stretch. No name on this list will wow you or be called out by David Stern. But I guarantee you’ll be screaming one of these names at the small, outdated and cornered television in your go-to bar that writes you off as loyal so long as you run up an appropriate tab.

Of note, Aaron Bright is well on his way to this list although just a sophomore.

And so here we are at the stretch run. Just six games remaining in an unpredictable Pac-12 season and a point at which legacies will be cemented, hearts broken, and a pack of teams will vie for a shot to dance – one shining moment if you will.

Who’s going to be the guy?

Week 7 Pac-12 Basketball Review

This is also readable at the ever classy and heavily recruited ryanrecker.com.

It was a sad weekend as we saw another great performer taken before their time. Whitney Houston died in Los Angeles Saturday afternoon, the cause of death not yet known. What is known is that she could sing the hell out of a song.

On to basketball, as the weekend turns into a Monday, we’re left with no clearer picture of the title race. Washington managed a split but looked disappointing in accomplishing such. It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay that the Huskies got smacked as they still sit atop the conference. Then of course there was that Saturday hiccup in which Arizona – who I Will Always Love – nearly lost to Utah, Heartbreak Hotel if you’re a Ute fan. It was an abomination of a game but the completion of a home sweep for the Wildcats nonetheless. And speaking of Colorado, if they can’t win a game of significance on the road, well then How Will [We] Know?  Stanford’s ship is quickly sinking (another reference later), following a similar pattern to the previous three seasons of Dawkins ball, leading us to believe that perhaps this is just the Same Script, Different Cast in Palo Alto. In Howland-land, wherever that is, it’s been a steadily disruptive tale of average and a harsh reminder to Bruin Nation: Didn’t We Almost Have it All? Oregon’s season has been a surprising one, a collective effort in which Coach Dana Altman has managed to get the best of a lesser group. They seem to be making some late noise and for a shot to dance, they’ll have to do it All At Once. And if we’re discussing doing things in bunches, USC just keeps losing in bunches and KO is left to wonder, “Why Does it Hurt So Bad?” This deep into the season, with a conference record of 5-8 and an out of conference record of 10-2, Craig Robinson has discovered that the great Jared Cunningham is not All the Man [He] Needs and If I Told You That ASU was the only BCS conference team to not win back-to-back games this season, would you believe me? Up in Pullman, in the wake of losing Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto, Ken Bone and crew are still improving, Step By Step short Faisal Aden but with a hustling Brock Motum.

So while everyone else either beats up on each other or demonstrates gross mediocrity, Cal is left alone moderately comfortable about their spot in the tournament, a group that just Wants to Dance With Somebody.

The weekend that was.

Game of the Weekend: I guess it was Washington edging out the Beavers in Corvallis. I’d predicted, last week, that the GotW would be the Ducks and Dawgs and in its own right, that was a great game, especially if Oregon leverages that W into some sort of seven game mind-blowing tear or the converse happens to the Huskies. But both teams have played and won since so, like I’d previously said, it was just a game where the green team scored a helluva lot more points than the purple team. So back to the GotW debate. I don’t want to call what happened in Tucson Saturday morning the best of anything. Kudos to the Coach K of the West and his Utes for packing it in the arc and forcing Arizona to shoot their way to a win. But how can you call a game that was described as pathetic, a disaster, and disappointing the GotW? USC participation eliminates any game from GotW consideration, UCLA didn’t have a first-half assist against Cal who ho-hummed through the weekend as they should. The Utah-ASU game was on foxsportsarizona.com and I know you didn’t watch it, I didn’t watch it, so did it really happen? Colorado was matter-of-factly beat in Tucson and returned the favor in Tempe. The North Face Backpedalling and Wait for Next Year Bowl (WSU @ OSU) had two huge games from Brock Motum and Jared Cunningham (24/9 and 33/6/2, respectively) but was over in the first half and that same WSU team couldn’t muster up much against Dana’s Ducks a day later. So, if you were paying attention, I’ve talked all eleven of the twelve games out of GotW contention leaving us where we begrudgingly left off anointing Washington’s 75-72 victory over the Oregon State Beavers the Week 7 GotW. Congrats?

The Big Loser: Sure Stanford split in LA but I think the smoke and mirrors have vanished and we’re seeing what a Johnny Dawkins team looks like: defensively capable, offensively inept, mediocre. There’s been nominal progress in his four years at the helm and this season is beginning to look a lot like an Italian leisure liner: 2-5 in their last seven with their only wins coming against USC and ASU. They were The Biggest Loser in Week 5 and haven’t done much since. A week ago I was at Maples for the Arizona game and, for the second year in a row, left disappointed in the atmosphere. There’s no excitement surrounding the program and I’m curious as to what it’s going to take. Dawkins is about as no BS as they get and seems to fit the bill of a Stanford man – whatever that might be. But I can tell you Monty wasn’t and ain’t that exciting either. You know what is pretty cool though? Winning. Ask Harbaugh.

What We Learned: It’s practically March. You know, the month that hosts that big tournament where you win or go home? That one? The point here is the “win or go home” part. Arizona won this weekend, a trip to Washington is up next. The Huskies got smoked and then won in Corvallis, hosting the Zonies is next. Oregon won, Cal won, Colorado split. Those are the tangibles. It’s too deep into the season to worry pretty little heads about whether a team is too dependent on this, passive at that, or really good at those. Win or go home. I can’t get this off my mind because after Thursday night I was so disappointed in Romar’s Huskies. I thought they were poised to roll and then they did that? And when Arizona came out and nearly took the loss of losses – yeah I’m looking at you ASU and WSU – on their home court, I was immediately appalled. But if you’ll recall, life isn’t about what happens to you, it’s about how you respond. When the Wildcats lost to UW and lost Kevin Parrom for the season, they responded with four straight wins. When the Huskies got drubbed by Oregon, they responded by – as unimpressive as it was – beating Oregon State. Hell, the Huskies have responded to a home smack down at the hands of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits with a 10-3 conference mark. I’m most intrigued at how Sean Miller’s Wildcats respond to his public tongue lashing following that collective egg his team laid on Saturday. Will they get their first Washington sweep in seven years? A split? Get swept? How will Oregon respond to their recent successes? With three road games remaining each, how will the homer Buffs and Huskies fair? I could go on and on with questions – my mom just asked via text “Bon Iver won an award, do we like him?” – but the burning one is who’s going to win this thing? Who’s got enough in the tank to take this inaugural Pac-12 by the horns? It doesn’t have to be pretty, it’s just got to be a win.

Early Week YouTuber: No words.

Week 7 Pac-12 Basketball Preview

This post reads like a diamond looks at ryanrecker.com. You’ll recall Ryan is the one who did the dynamite podcast with Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel. Oh you don’t recall? Listen.

Seven to play and we’ve dropped one team – the UCLA Bruins – from title contention. If you’ll recall, two weeks ago we were faced with a feasible six-way tie atop the conference. This week’s fun fact – and I’ve stolen the odds makership from @sethkolloen and KenPom – lies with the 2.6% chance of a five-way first place tie. For your review:

So like I said, 2.6% chance, also known as slim and none. But hey, I still place a bet on my favorite roulette number once in awhile, too.

The schedule.

TV Complaint: A pair of blackouts (Cal @ USC, WSU @ UO) but let’s celebrate the fact that FSN is broadcasting a game online. Look, I won’t lie, I don’t hunt very hard for webcasts. The extent of my television research is on the Pac-12 website (probably a good resource, no?) and my Comcast remote. But this is the first I’ve seen, via the Pac-12 site, a game being aired on FOXsportsArizona.com so bravo to those guys followed by a swift “it’s about time.” The lines between television and web are swiftly being blurred (Hulu?) and it’s only a matter of time until sports catch up. But the fact remains, I’m still watching the best highlights via illegal youtube uploads. There’s a starving sports market out there and FSN is working at the pace of a Kevin O’Neill offense. Hustle up.

Game of the Weekend: With five teams in the thick of things, we could give the nod here to a couple of games. The Buffs in Tucson will be on ESPN and rematches a one-point game (join me on Kwarter to live chat this one) while Cal visiting UCLA intrigues me as the transplanted Bruins are undefeated at home. But Washington at Oregon is the GotW. Devoe Joseph is quietly putting together a POYish season and his Ducks are needing to hold serve at home after losing one to the beatable Beavers. Of course Washington’s road woes are no secret but maybe this is the year they shake that rep? And the Huskies are hot. Winners of five straight with all the confidence of a conference leader, why wouldn’t the Huskies make like dogs and mark their territory on that tree covered court? It’s a classic GotW: Ducks and Dawgs. Or something like that.

Game to Avoid: WSU at OSU. If this were a bowl game we’d call it The North Face Backpedalling and Wait for Next Year Bowl. Ken Bone’s Cougars aren’t getting any better without Faisal Aden. Sure he was grossly inefficient and they even played better in the games he didn’t appear in, but he gave this group a fighting chance (the Bay sweep!). Plus there’s the confounding Reggie Moore. Two years ago he was a legitimate candidate for FOY honors with Derrick Williams, it’s now been 747 days since he had a 20 point game. Of course that stat comes courtesy of this guy (in all seriousness, they do great work over at CougCenter). As for Oregon State, Craig’s team can beat anyone in the conference and have proven as much (UCLA, Cal, Oregon, OT loss in Tucson). But they’ve faded fast into irrelevancy. The wait-and-see portion hinges on the money-making prospects of Jared Cunningham. Dude’s good and according to Bozo, he should stay. Alas, these are two teams with little going the rest of 2012. Tune back in for the Pac-12 tournament when one of these two spoils someone’s season as well as my three-bid prediction. Speaking of the Pac-12 tourney, the Rumbling Buffalo literally played it out drawing names from a hat.

Something to Prove: Oregon’s season is on the line. They could easily be sitting next to Washington with a shiny 9-2 record but they dropped the ball at home against rival Oregon State and missed the ball in favor of Nate Tomlinson’s arm on the road at Colorado. Now they find themselves with the most difficult second half schedule (combined opponents’ record of 42-35, including UW, CU, Cal, Stan). Of course that treacherous route could be the rocky road to CBS airtime during the third month of the calendar year. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Ducks are hosting the Washington schools and beating UW would be huge for their end-of-season prospects. Losing to the Huskies wouldn’t be a terrible hit but at this point Dana’s Ducks can’t afford to stub their beak at home. Of course losing to WSU (the spoilers) would take all the life out of the swoosh.

Something to Lose: The presumed favorite, Cal Bears, will be in LA this weekend. Certainly not the most daunting of road trips as you’re only going to play in front of a combined 5,000 spectators. But UCLA has been tough at “home.” They’re 4-0 in conference with a 17-point average margin of victory. They may be out of shape, dysfunctional, and falling apart but that’s an impressive stat especially in light of the fact that they’ve played those four home games in two different venues (Anaheim and Sports Arena). And did you see Josh Smith’s week 6? Biggun went for 24/9 and 19/5 while playing 20+ minutes in back-to-back Pac-12 games for the first time this season. The Bears, short Richard Solomon are reliant on this matchup to not get Joshed:

David Kravish, meet Josh

Good luck. But this is about what the Cal Bears have to lose: steam. A presumed (soft) lock for the NCAA tournament, beating teams – home or away – with an RPI that reads like a healthy systolic blood pressure is required. Sure, beating the Bruins won’t be easy, but it’s imperative. Should Monty’s crew falter, they’ll find themselves in the center of the weekly WTF happened Pac-12 debate and onto Lunardi’s bubble. This weekend isn’t defining for the Bears, but it could be a deflating one.

Weekend Youtuber: I think I’ve cited the fact that there are seven games remaining three or four times in this post. In summary: it’s crunch time, the home stretch, the two-minute drill. Inevitably, someone’s gonna need these:

Q&A with AllBuffs.com: Fights, Bids, & Tempe

The good group over at allbuffs.com had a few questions for me heading into Colorado’s visit to Tucson Thursday night. We talked a little about kicking coaches, a little about a school in Phoenix, touched on the Buff’s chances to win less than a mile high, and broached a few other hoops related topics. As open conversations go, we learned I’m still not over Derrick Williams’ presence at Arizona.

Now I have no personal experience with this but you know how when you first get into prison you have to pick out the biggest, baddest MoFo in the joint and fight him? Yeah, everyone knows that. So you pick him out, pop him a couple times and likely find yourself abused. But it immediately gets you respect and out of trouble so long as you’re not a complete idiot.

That’s sort of what the AllBuffs guys have done. Check out their rivalry manifesto. I love it. They’ve picked the Arizona Wildcats and why not? New to the conference, they’re coming after the cream of the crop, the leaders of the Pac, the belle of the ball, the bee’s knees, the team with the most going for them. I mean, take a peak at this picture, which of these coaches do you think has the biggest, baddest, most MoFo of a program?

Yeah. I’d say you picked right Colorado.

Best of luck and thanks for talking Pac-12 hoops with me. I have got to get out to Boulder for a game soon because you may not be able to win at altitude, but you sure can party.

Week 6 Pac-12 Basketball Review

This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com.

Shake off your food, or otherwise, hangover, get your mind around the fact that this guy is an All-Time great, and don’t kick anyone that comes into your cube at “top-speed.” Now that I’ve talked you into embracing your Monday, realize that Selection Sunday (three teams) is just 34 days away.

The weekend that was:

Leader in the Clubhouse: If I’m not mistaken, for the first time this season there is  one team atop the Pac rankings: the Washington Huskies. They beat UCLA thanks in large part to Josh Smith’s lack of conditioning (plus a zone defense) and handled USC. Beating UCLA was huge for them. It may have been sloppy but wins trump aesthetics as the season is quickly wrapping up. Here’s some fun stats I came across on the twitter-sphere courtesy my buddies over at Montlake Madness: excluding the USC game (which should be exempt from most any statistical reporting), during UW’s four-game win streak into first place, Terrence Ross is scoring 18.3 points per second half compared to 3.0 points per first half. In addition, his shooting jumps 46% (19% to 65%) across halves. So while it sometimes feels like he disappears in a games, playing with the bravado of a Ryan Appleby talent as opposed to his own, the numbers don’t lie. Ross scored 10 of UW’s final 12 points over the final five minutes of the UCLA game, leading the Huskies back from a six-point deficit. Lots of people have talked about UW going as Tony Wroten goes, and while TW has played great, I repeat: numbers don’t lie. TRoss is going. The Huskies are rolling. Look out.

Game of the Weekend: Lotta candidates here. From Arizona holding on at Haas to UCLA closing out WSU to the Huskies finishing off the Bruins, there were great games abound. But the GotW was Colorado’s victory over the visiting Ducks. This was a back-and-forth battle that came down to controversy. Here’s the thing: you create your own luck. Nate Tomlinson certainly did, drawing a foul with 0.1 seconds remaining and the score tied, then hitting one of two free throws to seal the win. He was aggressive, made a play, won the game, next! But please do watch the video below and note Tomlinson’s acknowledgment of the official who made the call. Love it. It’s become increasingly apparent that unless you’re in black and gold, you ain’t winning at altitude (more on that later). Beating the Ducks was huge for Colorado. It gives them some breathing room as they head into a treacherous close to their season. They head to the road (2-4 on the road this season) for five of their final seven. It isn’t going to be easy the rest of the way but Colorado is a tough and gritty squad. Also, it’s time to start talking about Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker as conference FOY candidates.

The Big Loser: Oregon State’s been nothing short of disappointing since the opponents became conference foes. Sure, they split the Ski Trip, but they weren’t even competitive in their most important tilt (at CU) on the heels of their big three game win streak. I want to like Craig’s team, hell, they carried the torch of Pac-12 glory through the early season (Texas!) but the proverbial ball has been dropped and the First Seat is heating up. Robinson has now been at OSU for three-plus seasons and their win totals read a little something like this: 18, 14, 10, 13. The axe won’t be flailed this year, losing a coach is too expensive, but things need to brighten in Corvalis soon or we could see the first bit of Pac-12 Network basketball dollars going to use in the PNW.

What We Learned: There was a lot to learn this weekend. We’ll begin with the aforementioned “you can’t win at altitude,” referencing the growing meme. While it’s certainly a fun something for fans, it’s a lot realer than that. Boyle’s Boys are 31-3 at the Coors Event Center since Tad became head coach two years ago and are 7-0 in conference play this season. And this non-phenomenon has nothing to do with Boulder sitting 5430 above the sea and a whole lot to do with their talent, coach, and fan base. The Buffs, however, hit the road for five of their final seven, a stretch in which we’ll learn a lot about CU. Roll Tad. You know what else we learned? Jorge’s a hot head and Joe Pasternack has a bad scowl, but kickgate was non-news. Move on. Onto things like Arizona’s impressive Bay sweep. The ‘Cats handed Cal and Stanford their first conference home losses and looked the better team in doing it. In short order, Miller re-focused his group coming off that emotional home loss to UW and the end of Kevin Parrom’s season. The mercurial Josiah Turner is playing lock down defense and, while he’s not quite there offensively, has a second speed that is going to make ACE a lot of money on ankle wraps. Fun fact: Stanford scored as many points, 43, on Saturday, as former Arizona guard and Bay Area assassin (this and this), Momo Jones, scored individually for Iona Thursday night. One final point of learning: Josh Smith uses the regular season as his conditioning. Last season Smith and the Bruins were able to turn that into an NCAA Tournament bid. Not happening this time around. But check out his steady increase in output as the season progresses. He’s become consistently better as his conditioning improves, shocker right? Why he won’t get into shape prior to the beginning of a season is beyond me and beyond, more importantly and unfortunately, Ben Howland. Look at his 2010-11 output to see the same thing. Will he figure it out? Who knows but it’s too late this season to do anything beyond play spoiler.

Early Week Youtuber: I’ll open by apologizing that I can’t embed this video. This is a wacky ad – just watch it – but confirms that agencies and/or companies are moving away from making sense and selling random. Evidently its worked because I’m sharing with you their content. This video captures the randomness movement and serves as a convenient metaphor for a Terrence Ross game: mellow to bold. Enjoy.

 

 

Week 6 Pac-12 Basketball Preview

This post also reads well at ryanrecker.com. He’s just posted two new podcasts and was mentioned on Howard Stern. Big league.

BREAKING: Stanford’s remaining home games will be moved to the Palo Alto Elementary School on the courts behind the permanent trailer next to the warmer of the two drinking fountains. Maples Pavilion will be used to safeguard Facebook employee windfalls.

OK, on to less enviable topics. The second half is here and, are you ready for it? The second bit of major news I’m going to drop on you in five lines of blog? A bold prediction:

“The Pac-12 will have three teams in the NCAA Tournament.”
– Me, 2/2/12

Yeah, I said it and I can name names of the people who think I’m insane. But I think it’s going to happen. A few things are going to have to play out but they’re not entirely outlandish: Cal and UW repeat their first halves, Arizona/Colorado/Oregon jumps to 7-2 with a little run through Staples (not necessarily winning it all). But that’s it for prognostication for if we learned anything in the first half of this season, the Pac is un-Nostrodomis-able.

So allow us to tip this second half off with a full slate of games on both Thursday and Saturday. The schedule.

TV Complaint: The aforementioned full slate of classic Conference of Champions Thursday/Saturday games will include three blackouts (25%). While this continues to be frustrating, rest assured that the unviewable games are being delegated to the unviewables (ASU, Utah, USC) unlike the days when great games went unaired (Cal @ UW). But let’s run with the positivity bender dripping off my three-bid prognostication. Washington will be making their second straight appearance on ESPN Thursday night as UCLA comes for a visit and the games you’re going to want to see (AZ-Cal/Stanford, CU-Oregon) will be aired on the one and only Fox SportsNet. If the weather’s unfavorable, find yourself a cable, a cold one, and tweet me, I’ll be in Berkeley then Palo Alto.

Game of the Weekend: I think this one is an under-the-radar doozy. While everyone else is sleeping on the Pac-12 (or raining on it), Colorado and Oregon are legitimately fighting for a spot in the dance. The 6-3 foes (as of today and this entire segment may be for naught should either lose tonight), soundly in second place, have each sustained losses to the conference leaders and one lesser foe (UO lost to OSU at home, CU lost at UCLA), while maintaining an air of uncertainty about them. Can Boyle’s Boys win on the road? How far can Dana’s Ducks ride the hot hands of their seniors? Can either of these second year coaches really have this competitive of a team? So much questions and that is why they play the games. This particularly telling game will be played Saturday evening on the Root Network. It features two of my favorite players in the conference: Devoe Joseph and Carlon Brown. These two transfer seniors are playing like they’ve been in green/yellow and gold/black, respectively, for four years and are carrying their teams through bridge seasons. The under appreciated senior guard is perhaps my favorite position in sports and these two are about as fun as they get.

Game to Avoid: I’ve previously promised not to rain on the unviewables and seeing as how the majority of their games will not be on TV this weekend, I’ll pick on just one of the lowly three, ASU. But it shouldn’t be their fault that things, from an athletic standpoint, have fallen apart down on the farm. ASU should not bear the grunt for no one going to the Stanford-ASU game as no one goes to games down there. Uggh, it’s even frustrating to type it. Here’s the view from last year’s Arizona-Stanford game:

Where's Tiger?

And Arizona was good! Alas, if no one’s going to go to the game, then no one should watch the game. Toss in the fact that Stanford has lost three straight and is losing steam, I’d recommend passing on the Cardinal Thursday night.

Something to Prove: For all the noise they’ve made for not winning games, the UCLA Bruins have a shot to win a few additional games (preferably not at their makeshift homes) and make a little something of this presumably lost season. They’ll of course have to kickoff this half of the season on the road with all eyes on them. ESPN has picked up their game against Washington so there will be nowhere for big Josh Smith, the Bruins’ three point ineptitude, and lack of guard depth to hide. Not to mention the Huskies are playing some pretty solid ball these days. UCLA isn’t a miserably bad team, they’re just a team that doesn’t quite have an identity – the same holds true for much of this conference. But for the Bruins to indeed do something about their season with nine to play, they’re going to have to work for it. It’ll have to start on the road and what better place than Sea-town?

Something to Lose: The Block, Part II put UW back into the conversations they used to be a part of as one of the most talented teams in the conference if not coast. Have you seen Terrence Ross play? Did you notice the way Tony Wroten commands the floor? Woof this team is good and they’re hot as a pistol after leaving Tucson. But their season may still be a little bit like this tweet from their football coach. Odd, no? Alas, I’m buying Husky stock because they have a cakewalk of a second half schedule. They don’t play either of the Bay schools, already made the Ski and Desert trips, and play an unviewable or WSU or OSU in five of their final nine. So while I build ’em up, build ’em up, build ’em up, allow me to ask: am I setting them up for failure? Have they set themselves up for failure? He may have the court presence of a Greek God but Wroten can’t turn the ball over five times a game if he’s going to have the ball for more than a third of UW’s possessions. And Terrence Ross, the talent-of-talents, cannot disappear like he has. CJ Wilcox didn’t practice this week with a sore foot (he’d missed three games with the injury before playing in Arizona) but this team could use him back. Like I’ve said, this team ain’t bad – at all – but they’re still a LoRo team and a home split to the LA schools would not behoove the impression of Washington’s legitimacy and certainly not their resume. I’ll decide on some special award for the first team not named Utah to lose to USC.

Weekend YouTuber: Oh that furry little chubster is going to crawl out of his burrow and see something but it’s generally irrelevant because we’re here on the best coast and it’s probably sunny and warm where you’re at or sunny and ski-worthy. There may be just a single win over a top-50 RPI squad but at least we’re not in Pittsburgh. Plus, Bill Murray’s kid was on the Arizona staff for a bit. Everyone’s a winner when there’s more Bill Murray:



BB: Josiah Turner and the Cycles of the Moon

Josiah Turner committed a foul that appeared to cost Arizona a critical home game.

You’re familiar with the buildup – whiteout, ESPN, GameDay, first place on the line. A furious and late rally, capped by Solomon Hill’s 26th, 27th, and 28th points tied the game with nine seconds remaining. McKale was erupting. The Huskies were stunned. Game on.

We often refer to the end of a game, particularly a close one, as the waning moments of a contest. If you’ll recall elementary school astronomy, waning refers to the dwindling appearance of the moon; waxing the opposite. It’s an obvious metaphor, analogizing the shrinking moon to the shrinking clock.

The reality, however, is that these moments are everything but waning. Nothing is shrinking but the numbers on the clock. Beyond that, every play is enlarged, each bucket more important than the last. These are not waning moments, they’re waxing. They unfold in seemingly incomprehensible immediacy, waiting just long enough to discover the hero of this magnified flash. Or the scapegoat.

Therefore, following Hill’s game-tying three and as the Huskies inbounded the ball, it was clear that a play of game changing magnitude was forthcoming. Perhaps it would be a Washington drive and dish or another step-back jumper. Perhaps it would be a stop by the Arizona defense and a chance to win the game that looked all but over minutes prior. I was watching, you were watching, and we both knew something was going to happen at this most critical of junctures.

A foul.

Not the foul, just a foul. It was Turner’s attempt to make the big play, draw the charge on the rumbling CJ Wilcox to force a Washington turnover and subsequent Arizona game-winning possession.

In his effort, Josiah Turner failed. He sent Wilcox to the line for the game sealing free throws, the once deafening McKale crowd silenced. The moment could have swallowed Turner. It would have been understandable for him to wane, perhaps befitting of the mercurial freshman just one game removed from his temper-less ejection. Turner quite easily could have disappeared into the gravity of the instant.

He didn’t.

In five dribbles he took the ball the length of the court, made a move few others are gifted enough to even imagine, and got to the rim. The layup to tie the score for the seventh time that evening was vengefully blocked by Tony Wroten. Josiah Turner had failed for the second time in less than six-seconds of game play.

He didn’t.

In the waxing moments of that game Josiah Turner showed us all why every team in the nation wanted him to wear their jersey. He showed poise beyond his years and beyond his maturity level. The big point guard from Sacramento makes plays. He proved as much on Saturday and now, leading into a no less daunting weekend in the Bay Area, he’ll be asked to so once again. The ball in his hands, a part of the season on his shoulders, he’ll be asked to succeed.

He will.

This post can also be seen at pointguardu.com: your source for Arizona basketball and recruiting news.