Monthly Archives: October 2012

BB: New Season. Same Story.

One year ago, Solomon Hill had 16 points, 6 rebounds and an assist. Nick Johnson scored 18 points. In a combined 22 minutes, Jordin Mayes and Angelo Chol filled the stat sheet to the tune of zero points, one rebound, and two assists. And the team? They lost to D-II Seattle Pacific, 69-68.

What a difference a year makes. Or does it?

Those Wildcats were the preseason #16 team in the nation, boasting the fourth best recruiting class in the country, and expectations were high. Sky diving high and then the parachute just never released, the ‘Cats didn’t dance and the roster got another revamp; three more premature departures and three seniors were replaced by five highly touted newcomers.

And with the new came…expectations. These Wildcats are ranked twelfth in the pre-anything-played rankings and boast the third best crop of pups in the nation. If last year’s expectations were sky diving high, this year the expectations are Felix Baumgartner high. People are tossing around phrases like “top-10” and “anything but elite eight is a disappointment” as well as mentioning winning some Monday night game in early April.

People think the Wildcats are going to be good. I think the Wildcats are going to be good. People thought New Coke was going to be good. I thought Terminator Salvation was going to be good.

The hype isn’t doing it for me anymore. I’ve seen the team play now; streamed it one gorgeous Sunday afternoon from my brother’s couch and I saw that the freshman class indeed does not consist of Duncan, Howard, and Bosh. They’re just Jerrett, Tarczewski, and Ashley.

But that’s not bad.

Because tonight’s their first taste; our first taste. They’ll enter McKale to more traditional fanfare than a Red-Blue hype game. There won’t be pyrotechnics or the 1988 team and their harem of NBA championship rings. And don’t get me wrong here. It is McKale so it’ll be one of the best atmosphere’s in the country but the true beauty of tonight is that it all starts to become real. You no longer have to like both teams.

Tonight is the trailer to a season full of hope and excitement and all things that make up a Spring narrative. We’ve spent a summer conjecturing, debating, and sweating the smallest of news. Soon enough we’ll be engulfed in the reality of all we tried to prognosticate.

This year, the Seattle Pacific University Falcons are the tenth ranked D-II team in the nation. They return four contributors and undoubtedly are feeling lofty expectations. I expect them to have a very respectable season. We’ve already discussed where the Wildcats stand a year later.

And the four that lost to SPU – indeed the Arizona returners who lost an exhibition game – find themselves in a similar situation to one year ago against Humboldt State.

My lone expectation? That they play the game.

Lazy, Desert Town Preview: USC at Arizona

Zack Jerome, a friend, previewed the USC-Arizona game. He’s good, hell with a pen as he’ll tell you. The following is my Arrogant Game Preview rebuttal:

Our first interaction was a hug.

I’d walked into the bar, crowded with the familiar home-for-the-holidays crew, and was introduced to this Angelino. At the time he was the boyfriend of a high school friend. Today he is her husband, founder of Arrogant Nation and that evening he was hugged by me because that’s what we do in a lazy, desert town.

That’s what Tucson is. It’s not Los Angeles and it’s not supposed to be. We’re drier than Seattle, lower than Boulder, less techy than the Bay, bigger than Eugene, Pullman, and Corvallis. We sure as shit ain’t Tempe.

Huge buildings in Tucson!

You see, we’re a happy bunch and we want to have a good time. So much so that sometimes we’ll even come onto the field before the game is over! I mean, who doesn’t want to party with Jeremiah Masoli? And our all-time winningest coach? Dude is renowned for being a sweet old man. We found him in Hawaii. A good man, Dick Tomey was celebrated for losing during his tenure at San Jose State. God bless him.

John Mackovic.

Of course there’s the whole never-been-to-a-Rose-Bowl thing. But let me ask this: why would I want to go to Pasadena for New Years? In Tucson it’s 75 and sunny and we can golf or hike or jump in our own swimming pools or lotion our hands because it’s so effing dry. Get up at 4am to sit in miserable traffic to watch a goddamn flower parade? No thank you. I’ll take Bud Nitros on the couch with the door to the porch open. And because I’m home visiting, my mom will probably even go pick up my Chad’s Choice from Beyond Bread.

Hell with a pen, Zack? I’m self-deprecating on a QWERTY.

But it’s not all fun and games in Tucson. We’ll fire your basketball coach and gladly take Derrick Williams off your hands (don’t be surprised, you knew it was going to come down to basketball – I mean, the football locker rooms are in McKale). And we’ll take coaches who turn down the head job at Alabama and talk with a drawl and spread the shit out of a football field.

Look, Rich is our kinda guy. He’s the lowest profile, high profile guy you can find. Check out Tucson. Seriously, check it out. It’s the thirty-third most populous city in America. But you’d never guess that and you’d never guess that RichRod was once the hottest name in coaching. In his introductory press conference, guns blazing, he declared, “Why not Arizona?” We ate it up.

Why not Arizona?

We leave the arrogance to the big city because we’ve got saguaros to maintain and we check our shoes for scorpions. We watch basketball in March and embrace all of the UC rejects who don’t want to go to Tempe. Do you know why Jerry Bruckheimer (UA grad!) keeps making mega movies for USC kids to hold boom mics in? Because it’s hot as hell in Tucson during the summer and what the hell else are we going to do?

Back to the hug.

It was unexpected for Zack and unexpected that I’d smell deceased bear on his coat when I embraced him. But embrace I did because that’s how it’s done in a lazy, desert town. We welcome – contrary to state legislation – any and all and will raise a cup of bourbon or whatever you like to celebrate competition and sport. SPORTS!

Good luck, Zack. You’re the best. And watch this:

statistics

Sophomoric Stats: A Look at When Players Make the Leap

The point of this site has never been to deliver you overwhelming statistical analysis. That’s me being honest and directing you to the likes of Ken Pomeroy and Luke Winn or some of my go to pals, @jgisland and @ontheproviso.

These are gentlemen who excel at Excel. Knuckles.

Me? I’m really damn good at watching the game and knowing that four points per game is fewer than fourteen. A regular Bill James here folks!

But let’s focus a touch deeper. I’ve always been curious about when a player makes his biggest leap. When he goes from scrub to star, role player to role model.

And this has piqued my interest because the Pac-12 has some interesting pieces getting older. Players who’ve performed well or hardly at all to date and I want to know – essentially based on anecdotal evidence (i.e. what I like to call tempo-full stats) – who we can expect big things from? Who’s going to make that leap to leader and usher his team from a Pac-12 team to the Pac-12 team.

To examine such, I compiled an arbitrary list of 21 Pac-12 players who participated in at least three seasons. The list itself was fun to build. Example: Did you know Brian Scalabrine went for 14/6/2 in 31mpg as a pup? That’s ridiculous. Do you know what Colorado fans would give to get that from Josh Scott? Or what UCLA fans would do to get those minutes out of Josh Smith – a top-5 offensive player in the conference? Alas, not every incoming player will put up White Mamba numbers but that’s what we aimed to look at here.

I was disappointed to find that there weren’t ORtg numbers going as far back as I’d like so I ran with good old fashion points/rebounds/assists and gut analysis. That’s to say, I built the spreadsheet and looked at the numbers and thought,  “Yeah, those look better than those,” then highlighted the year in which the player’s numbers took the biggest jump.

I won’t spend any more of our time explaining the holes in this study and so without any further ado, the spreadsheet:

From this chart we find that 14-of-21 three year players showed their most dramatic statistical jump (most notably in points per game) from their freshman to sophomore year. Five players had their biggest jump from sophomore to junior and two players leapt into their senior year. One player had an arguably lesser sophomore season. Three players had arguably lesser years as juniors.

That’s the black and white look.

The Second-half-of-the-Wizard-of-Oz look (colorful) directs me to the Pacific Northwest and Abdul Gaddy. With this now senior, we find that his numbers didn’t quite high jump from FR to SO, but they did improve (4/1/2 to 9/3/4). But what I found most interesting is that his ORtg jumped 40 points – from 85 to 125. Ok, ok, it’s not fair to just throw ORtg stats into the equation all of a sudden but 40 is significant. It’s also not fair that Gaddy only played 13 games while recording that 125. But I’m not gunning for a Nobel Prize here.

I am, however, interested to see that guys like Patrick Christopher took his freshman year to develop into a consistent player. Dude put up essentially the same, very solid numbers for the three years following his debut at Haas. As did Arron Afflalo, the infamous Lukes, Channing Frye, and Darren Collison. Some terrific Pac participants.

What this says to me is that, above all else, players grow in confidence. Sure their minutes grow but I keep coming back to Gaddy and his improved output as an offensive player. He just became better at being a basketball player. He didn’t necessarily do more, he just did it better.

The numbers can also show us that this perceived confidence comes at different times. Look at Quincy Pondexter and Jerome Randle.

QPon perplexed and frustrated Husky fans during his tenure in Seattle but when push came to shove, he had a dynamic senior season. That’s the kind of stuff I love. That’s the fairytale stuff when the beleaguered vet wills his team to big things. He followed no traditional path but when you record 19/7/2 and lead your team to the school’s fifth sweet sixteen, you figured it out. And in the nick of time.

As for Randle – the conference’s POY in 2010 – he appears to have been the perfect recruit. He incrementally improved every year, stayed four seasons, and lead the school to a conference championship. What more could you ask for? OK, a national championship I suppose, but Randle did work year-in-year-out and it showed.

But I’ve been sidetracked from the topic at hand – biggest statistical leaps – and what we can learn from my spreadsheet.

My conclusion to this conundrum is that players make their biggest leap – as I suspected – from their freshman to sophomore season. Again, I’ll make no bones to the arbitrary nature of this analysis but I like my answer.

And you should be encouraged by my findings if you’re a fan of any of the following programs:

Colorado:

  • Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie are two of the first names that come to mind as I looked over these numbers. This tandem put up 9/3/1 and 10/4/2, respectively, and will only have their 2012-13 roles grow in the absence of Nate Tomlinson and Carlon Brown.

Arizona:

  • At this point you know he can hop and defend and heard rumors he can shoot. But this is the year that all of those things should come together for Nick Johnson (9/3/2), Arizona’s presumed starting two-guard. He played confidently (reason #1 for anyone’s improved anything) in the Red-Blue scrimmage and is poised to shine.

California:

  •  What I like most about David Kravish (7/6/1) – and what I think is the most significant marker of his forthcoming FR-SO explosion – is he played his best ball when the Bears lost Richard Solomon. He closed the season averaging 8 & 6 in Solomon’s absence, including an 18 rebound performance at USC. Confidence gained as a successful contributor and the return of Solomon should allow the lanky big to thrive.

Washington State:

  • So…it’s going to be a tough one in Pullman unless this guy – DaVonte Lacy (9/2/2) – takes the leap. But he’s a got a great mentor as Brock Motum blew up into arguably the most efficient player in the universe (SO-JR). With Reggie Moore gone, Lacy is going to have plenty of chances to show off just how well his summer workout routine worked.

And that’s just to name a few.

I’m not mentioning the likes of Chasson Randle (14/3/2) orByron Wesley (10/5/2); two very interesting players. Randle is going to be good – scary good – and so I’m not going to bother reiterating that. Wesley is no doubt solid but finds himself in a completely revamped lineup and while my “study” took into account exactly zero extenuating circumstances, Wesley is playing in an extenuating circumstance.

I’d also keep an eye on Norman Powell (5/2/1), Angelo Chol (2/2), Stefan Nastic (2/1), and Jonathan Gilling (7/2/2); players with emerging roles on each of their respective teams.

Look, this conference is back. The stage is set for a lot of this talent to emerge and if you look at the crop of sophs in the league compared to what their predecessors have accomplished, it’s my impression that the good kind of parity is back.

Being a Fan and Always Abiding Rule #1

I think I’ve made it clear – and if I haven’t please take note – that as fans, we have nothing to do with the outcome of games that dictate our emotions.

That, by definition, is insane. It’s unhealthy and not conducive to mature relationships and whatever other highly-appropriate babel an MD would tell you regarding your very UN-codependency on the success of another team.

But that’s of course why it’s so perfect and wonderful to be a fan. And that’s why I had a nice little Q&A with Jack Follman. Jack is a fellow PacificTakes writer and just so happens to be a Washington Huskies fan.

This is a fan base I’m a fan of. They live in a beautiful and intelligent city. They’re a bright and supportive fan base with good perspective about them. I dig the Dawgs.

But they’re playing the Wildcats and so I want the Huskies to lose. Badly.

Here’s the football Q&A Jack and I did as a preview to Saturday’s match-up. And note that I love this kinda stuff. It’s like the political debates with even more cattiness. Seriously, how many other debate forums allow you to use actions from 1997 as indictments of one’s superiority over another (additionally note when discussing 1997 with a UW fan, I’ll gladly mention the “Leap by the Lake” and that little thing we like to call the 1997 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship).

This is the fun stuff. It’s why I love going to an opponent’s arena and going HAM – win, lose, or draw – while always abiding by life rule #1: DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE. Which is loosely defined.

BB: Brian Jeffries Inducted into Arizona Broadcasters Hall of Fame

Today, Brian Jeffries was inducted into the Arizona Broadcasters HOF. I deserved honor for a tremendous talent. My congratulations are extended to you, The Voice of the Wildcats.

To be honored by peers is arguably the most humbling of gestures. For colleagues to acknowledge your talents, contributions, and efforts is about as good as it gets and Brian Jeffries is about as good as it gets.

And I won’t venture to know him personally. I’m no peer or colleague of his although when I was living in Tucson I was radio terror. I won drive time commuter contest awards including, but not limited to: tickets to The Shins, two pairs of Suns tickets, Wildcat basketball tickets, two pairs of nominal concert tickets, a book about the movie Juno, four tickets to the Tucson Children’s Museum, a massage, and more. Additionally, as a therapeutic release, I’d call Jody Oehler’s sports radio show.

Shoot, I’ve digressed.

Hall of Fame honors are flattering, no doubt, and Jeffires is every bit deserving. He’s broadcast Wildcat football, basketball, and baseball games since 1986, gracefully and artfully depicting more than 2500 Wildcat games. Thrice he’s called, “The Arizona Wildcats are National Champions.” Never – unfortunately – has he announced, “And the Wildcats are headed to the Rose Bowl.”

I’ll forever appreciate his patience with Lute’s “umms” and how impressed I always am with his delivery of the post game stats. I can’t hear his voice without getting shivers down my spine in anticipation of the next play.

He’s an eternal attachment to Arizona sports and I appreciate that.

I also appreciate this, from the press release issued by the ABA:

Yes, donkey basketball which you can watch here:

So, Brian Jeffries, congratulations and thank you for always going to and letting me know what the ‘Cats looked like on their trips to Pullman or Corvallis when Fox Sports wouldn’t. Thanks for the many calls and the many more to come.

And if you (reader now) aren’t familiar, here’s a tribute you can watch which is un-embedable by YouTube user request.

Pac12.basketball.practice

College Basketball is Here. Right?

If we were to have a preseason montage in the mold of One Shining Moment it’d be full of dudes lifting weights and sprinting and sweating and academically qualifying and shooting mundane jumpers against brooms.

And I’d watch the hell out of it.

Ok so that’s not going to get produced unless Kickstarter makes an accounting error and my grandma’s $25 dollar check gets deposited as $25k. If that does happen, can someone please drop me Vandross’ digits? I got a montage to make.

It’s here. Your team will soon be practicing like a Rich Rodriguez off-season workout and you couldn’t be more upset with the pundits’ preseason evaluations; you’re higher on your freshman class’s upside than Vitale on Duke (unless you’re Washington who’s devoid any pups); you’re scrounging the interwebs for sources on team chemistry and you’ve evaluated the best road games to attend and booked a hotel block in Vegas for early March.

But I struggle with this Friday.

It’s practice. Bounce passes and defensive drills and whistles and laps. There isn’t a scoreboard telling me my team is better than yours; the ultimate reason I’m a fan. Sure, I could attend a practice and tell you that guard X looks tough on defense and forward Y appears really bulked up. But until whatever happened since the last buzzer sounded in March manifests itself in Novermber, it’s all speculation. Because even Yi Jianlian’s chair looked filthy in practice.

And I’ve thought a lot about what this Friday means. Is it the beginning of the season? Sorta. I’m still going to be watching football all day Saturday. In moments of off-season jubilation I’d hashtag question #IsItNovemberYet - a meme I didn’t realize had political connotations. So there has got to be a reason I wasn’t curious whether or not it was October.

Well my curiosity rests around November because I want ball games and competition and all of the storylines to unfold. I want to see Sean Miller and Ken Bone in suits, not sweats. I want to see Ben Howland call a timeout. I want to see Tad Boyle killing large game animals. God dammit, I want to see Johnny Dawkins smile.

I get none of that on October 12 (but my birthday is the 14th so I’m definitely getting new clothes – thanks, Mom – and the sappiest damn card – love you too, Pops).

But you know what we do get on 10/12? We get a taste. Just the slightest morsel to chew on for one more month but it’s finally something tangible. It’s like shaking your gifts the night before Christmas to see what’s inside (someone confirm this for me? I’m Jewish). That first official practice is our first opportunity to stop reading about 2016 recruits and start fathoming real things like tempo-full and tempo-free stats. Oh, and wins. Because that’s all that really matters, right?

We’re not there yet. We’ve just arrived at Oz’s emerald gate and now the little guy’s just got to let us in. But that’s pretty damn close.

And I’ll be sure to let y’all know if my Kickstarter funding comes through.

 

October Madness & Why We Love One & Done

I’d just turned on my car after leaving a rec league basketball game when I heard the radio voice tell me, “And Jim Leyland appears headed to his second consecutive championship series.” This made sense to me. Scherzer had been utterly dealing and the A’s very well may have been over matched in the series.

Now mind you, at this point I knew nothing of the score, assuming the Tiger’s were rolling. It wasn’t until after the commercial break and half-way home did I learn it was still a 3-1 ballgame. “OK, the A’s managed to keep it close,” I thought.

Single. Double. Double. Parallel park. Traffic dodge. Bag toss. TV on.

I’d been yipping and shouting alone in my car – a pedestrian indeed gave me a weird look which I inherently returned because it was your typical SF transient doing something odd – as Oakland mounted its comeback.

Coco then singled in the game winner, the Coliseum erupted, and I danced in some manner. It was October baseball at its finest. Magic.

It reminded me of why we love this stuff.

I’m not particularly an A’s fan – I own their green hat and no other MLB paraphernalia – but is there anything better than a team with their back up against the wall and prevailing? Here was a team with no other option than to win and they did. A tale not specific to these A’s, just the universal appeal of fighting to survive.

Sure we all bitched about the one game playoff for the Wild Card slot but it gave us the one-and-done appeal. Win or go home. It’s like that 68 team basketball tournament in March.

Dammit I love this stuff.

I’ve long since fallen out of love with my first love of baseball; but I will never lose my love for October. Or March.

My favorite part in the terrific documentary Four Days in October about the Red Sox’ epic defeat of the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS is a snippet of an interview with Spike Lee. He’s asked about game seven and how this sorta stuff correlates to his job as a filmmaker (paraphrasing), “Movies are fake. This kind of drama you can’t make it up. It’s why sports are perfect.”

Indeed they are and when the work of a year winds down to a single pitch, swing, shot or to whatever other minutiae you’d like to break down the difference between winning and losing, it’s real and pure. As real as it gets.

And today we’ll be treated to it. A pair of games (A’s – Tigers, Giants – Reds) in which all four teams will be fighting for survival. It’s going to be a near impossible work day. It’s going to be fun.

Long live backs against walls. Long live one-and-done.

Oh, and the road to March begins tomorrow. No big deal.

A Touch of Kindergarten’s About Me & Football

My football career never took off because I’m a narcissistic, attention whore and so I became a pitcher. Later I would start a blog.

On pitching, it’s the embodiment of an egomaniac. The phrase “ball in his hands” stems from the position and there’s a reason that on a scorecard, the pitcher is position number one. He’s always center stage, the game doesn’t start until he’s ready, and all eyes are on him.

A blog is just a twenty-first century name for “house of narcissism.”

So back to the football. As a 6’2″ 210lbs (there’s a reason my brother refers to those days as “Fadam”) freshman in high school benching 65lbs and squatting 115lbs, Coach Brunenkant was excited to have an offensive lineman project. I was in his Beginning Weights class at 11am on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays and for a block period on Wednesdays and was getting the full sale to block in his offense.

I was not going to play O-Line. Ever.

Despite getting to school early and doing things like read books and talk to no one, I was longing for the limelight. To pitch in October, my team’s world series fate in my hands, I idolized the Jack Morris’ of the world. Gutsy performers who took the team on their back, willing them to victory.

And then I played freshman tennis because the baseball coach was too frightening.

Eventually I’d get over that – I’m still terrified of the man – and letter a few times on the diamond, winning two conference titles, garnering one state runner-up appearance (this guy hit a 2-run homer in extras to beat us that I still don’t think has landed) and a few individual awards. It was fun and I hadn’t had to block anyone.

So now that we’ve loosely made our way back to football and not once mentioned basketball (which begins in just nine days, how excited are you?), allow me the point.

Football, despite my lack of desire to play it, is glorious. It’s the best hangover cure since the breakfast burrito and plays the glorious role of the dangling carrot getting you to the weekend. Have you ever tailgated? There’s not much else to say.

It’s a game centered around fandom and I love that.

As they have for eons, people come together to cheer on the successes of others. Their adopted group driving towards a collective goal of victory. And I’m fascinated by the emotional attachment we can grow to the wins and losses of something we have absolutely no control over. It’s bass ackwards but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So now that we’ve covered my narcissism, shyness in high school, and why I love football, I’ll mention that I’m channeling the football spirit into some football writing over at Pacific Takes. I’m primarily covering Arizona’s season, the roller coaster that it is. I talk a lot about the program’s changing culture and I mention this Rodriguez guy a lot.

Here’s my latest where I talk about digging holes, ketchup, and burying trees.

On the basketball front, I’m giddy. The season is just around the corner and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been meandering around town with a good day buzz going and stopped to fully nerd out with someone in a “[insert college here] Basketball” shirt to talk upcoming season.

Let’s get ready cause it’s going to be a fun one.