Monthly Archives: November 2012

Our Selfish Tragedy, Josh Smith, Leaves UCLA

I don’t fault Josh Smith for not wanting to be an elite basketball player.

That just very well may not be his bag. Sure he has a skill set to be great but does that mean he has to polish them? Does the fact that we see the potential of a dominant center mean Josh Smith needs to become such? No.

What’s had us up in arms about Smith’s tenure at UCLA is the fact that he tried it all on for size. He committed to the effort – in theory by joining the team – and never got around to the work. Because good things don’t happen simply because you start them. They happen because you finish them.

What Josh Smith wants is not what I want.

When I was nineteen I was going to be a Major League pitcher. Not nine, nineteen. Let’s just say that for me to have AJ Burnett’s stuff, I might not ever have a first born (I still don’t have a first born but that’s becomes a conversation about maturity and responsibility best had with my grandmother who may or may not disapprove of my lifestyle). Alas, I peaked at 88mph and that – like most good American boys – was in high school. I recounted some of those glory days this past weekend at home for Thanksgiving and then got back to my day job. Nine-to-five like so many others. I’m not ashamed of that; but I still wish I’d gotten that golden touch – like innately wearing PF Flyers – to get me past that glory days hump.

I never got it. Josh Smith did.

But here’s the thing, success is an internally driven outcome. I’m not going to be great – truly great – because you told me to. If I’m going to dominate computer programming, change the world of code, it’s going to be because I love that stuff. I have some natural talents and I expand on those (full disclosure I know nothing about programming or code or java or anything). The work is fun – or at least rewarding – because I know where it’s taking me. And if I’m not doing it for me? I’m taking short cuts and I’m happy with pretty-goods and that-ain’t-bads.

In Smith’s case, we call it a tragedy and that’s fair. By the standards of men who can’t fathom doing half the things he’s capable of, the tale of Josh Smith is tragic because we are the same men who can’t fathom forgoing such intrinsic skill. And that’s a selfish tragedy.

That’s not to excuse declining production and an inability or lack of desire to get in shape. When you sign up to play basketball at UCLA – or anywhere for that matter – you’re committing to something bigger than yourself; being game ready is imperative, expected, and required. When you’re not, people notice. When you’re annually not prepped, people get upset. Or worse yet, disappointed, and therein lies my point. We’re jealous of what Smith could have been and disappointed he didn’t want what we wanted. He is our selfish tragedy. The guy we’d never let ourselves be.

Additionally, it becomes a failure of the collective. From Coach Ben Howland to whoever has surrounded Smith, the young man has not been set up for success. At least by the possibly and likely unfair expectations of bystanders such as myself. Such as scouts, coaches, players, you.

Smith’s transfer is a terrific study in motivation. No one was going to push him to succeed unless he wanted to be successful. I won’t venture to know who or what surrounds him, but I can’t imagine there were many people sincerely in his court; perhaps overwhelmed by enablers or clingers-on reminding him he was above the requisite work. He’s not and none of us are. To lose the pounds, you have to put in the time whether you’re a D-1 athlete or trying to look good for bikini season, you’ve gotta do you.

And Josh Smith didn’t. His production suffered and reputation disintegrated. My hope is that he does figure what he wants out. Is that an NBA career? Maybe and that’s on the radar. If I’m him, I get my ass to Houston and hire John Lucas (The Sports Whisperer) and get me into shape, physically and mentally. But again, that’s me still trying to pitch game 7 of the World Series. Not Josh Smith. I suggest this because, optimistically speaking, he now finds himself with a world of possibility. He can literally go anywhere and do anything.

I hope he does what he wants.

Josh Scott Makes Things Better

Make no bones about it, last night was a scare for Buffs nation amidst a week of turmoil in Boulder. What with Jon Embree being fired after two failed seasons and Bill McCartney ranting on it, hoops-Texas Southern was to be a welcome distraction.

Instead it appeared to involve a distracted Buffaloes squad. Their first contest as a ranked team since 1997 did not go as planned. Perhaps it was the football turmoil or the new found hype or a Thanksgiving hangover, whatever it was, the Buffs weren’t sharp. But they won and we won’t dwell on the details. If that’s my team, I get them in a dark room, re-watch the game, turn the lights on and rhetorically ask, “Is that the team you want to be?” Then go back to business as usual.

And speaking of business, Josh Scott is taking care of his (in case you were wondering that will be the main focus of the rest of this post).

Over the summer I’d speak at length with friends about the expectations of freshmen bigs. They’re always lofty expectations because size is an unteachable asset and to acquire such for your basketball team is a gift. Ask Sean Miller if he’ll ever have a team with a 6’7″ center again and he’ll likely slap you. So when the heralded Scott committed to CU, expectations, curiosity, and excitement piqued.

At AllBuffs, my pal James, got comprehensive about it. He went through the last three recruiting classes, picked out each of the Top-50 bigs then examined their numbers. As it were, 8 and 5 was the average output (check out the full analysis). This, in my opinion, is a reasonable expectation for a pup center and frankly very helpful to any basketball team.

Josh Scott – six games deep – is putting up 15/7. If diesel stats (that’s what we’re calling per game stats) don’t do it for you, then let’s get sabermetric or advanced, whatever it’s called on a basketball court. Scott’s ORtg is 120.4 (high), his TO% is 11.2 (low), FTRate 74.1 (very high), and his rebound (offensive and defensive) are competitive (particularly on the O side). That’s a lot of advanced statistics and if you’re anything like me, you need it translated. Allow me:

  • High ORtg: Give Josh ball, Josh score ball
  • Low TO%: Give Josh ball, Josh keep ball
  • High FTRate: Give Josh ball, Josh shoot FT (and makes at a 75% clip)
  • High Rebound %: Ball shot, Josh grab ball more than you

Clearer now? It is for me in understanding that Josh Scott has been a colossal part of CU’s early success. He’s exceeded the Top-50 expectations to date and if that’s to be our barometer, we would expect to see Scott come back down to earth.

Josh Scott won’t be coming back to earth because he’s on another planet. Am I raising expectations? No. He’s already met the cap on that and I expect him to continue to improve and I expect him to have some bad games. He’s a freshman and he’s a human and he’s the lone formidable big on the Buff’s roster. There will be a game in which the foul monster swallows him. Whatever. In six competitive games, he’s displayed an ability beyond his years and that’s got to have Tad and others smiling.

Hell, I asked Andre Roberson what kind of impact Josh would have on his game and he told me, “Scott’s going to take a lot of pressure off of me. He’s a great scorer…there’s going to be a lot of help for me on the inside.” Hold up. Did the country’s best rebounder and one of its top athletes just say he’s got more help? Sans help Roberson put up 11 and 11. With help? He’s just going to get better.

Josh Scott makes things better.

So Texas Southern happened; but it was a win now in the rear-view mirror. It won’t be mentioned on Selection Sunday and it will be used as a reminder of what happens when you play like a lollygagger.

A Token Thanksgiving Post

Today is Thanksgiving, a day intrinsically if not by simple nomenclature, dedicated to the giving of thanks. Subsequently there is the annual onslaught of columns and lists proclaiming gratefulness for a slew life’s wonders.

At PacHoops, we’re not above that.

Because I’m thankful the season has begun and we get to see the coaches again. Their varied levels of animation while patrolling a sideline is amongst my favorite things to watch. From the progressive reddening of Kevin O’Neill’s face to Sean Miller’s cough and squat yelling to Dana Altman’s jacketless rants, I love it.

And I’m thankful, obviously, for the Pac-12 Network. While all of conference alignment is driven by the pigskin, the TV networks already aired the majority of football games. Now, we get all basketball games with relative ease. That’s hoops-on-hoops-on-hoops and so just as daylight saving’s brings my life into darkness, my evenings have been illuminated by Bay Area Comcast 823 (for HD) and 433/434 for less-than-impressive standard def. Seriously the 400s channels look like someone is streaming the stream from their iPhone. But, it is available and, yeah, I’m thankful.

Then there’s the players. I’ll start with the yougins because there’s been growing hype and now they’re playing and we’re discovering that perhaps Jordan Adams is a bigger talent than the rest of UCLA’s class, Arizona’s freshmen are indeed bigger than Jesse Perry, Josh Scott makes CU bigger than Roberson, and Jahii Carson is bigger than Sendek’s pace. I know it’s early but these pups have asserted themselves early, meeting the hype and perhaps surpassing the critical hype – that’s to say some fan bases have irrational hype. Example: I read one prediction that Arizona’s three freshmen bigs would average a combined 38/31. Not happening. But I’m thankful to see them and the others shoot for the moon.

And the seniors. Yeah, thankful for those guys as are the aforementioned freshmen. These guys are the load bearers, the ones who’ve been through the trenches, the morning weights, the late study halls, and the road trips to Pullman. They’re Pac-12 seniors – four underwhelming years out West – who know they’re role: To lead. Solomon Hill, Abdul Gaddy, Brock Motum, Scott Suggs, Carrick Felix, Jio Fontan, EJ Singler and others will be leaned upon to fulfill that role. Their teamates are thankful to have ’em; I’m thankful to watch.

I’m thankful the NCAA got its act together. As are UCLA, Oregon, and USC who can now roll out Shabazz, Kazemi, and Oraby to supplement their already solid lineups. I’m thankful Allen Crabbe is embracing his role as best-player-in-the-Pac, Dwight Powell is making the strides we’d projected, and Colorado won the Charleston Classic.

Oh goodness there’s so much more. The road games I’ll attend, the buzzers that will be beaten, the stories that will unfold, and the fun we’re going to have.

Now go eat some turkey and pour on some extra gravy for me.

Righting the Ship that Hasn’t Sailed

Yesterday, over at Rush the Court, I snapped a little bit at the Washington Huskies. I’d just watched them lose to the University of Albany, a team that hadn’t beaten a BCS team since before the Washington administration. Do you get that reference? There was no presidency prior to George Washington. There’s been no prior Albany over BCS school moment.

OK, so it happened. Amidst the fire there’s plenty of truth to what I said about the Huskies not the least of which is that there’s still so much time left in this season. I could talk to you about their opportunity to right the ship but their ship’s barely out of the marina so why bother?

I bothered because this is what happened last year; early and significant losses to insignificant opponents cost the Huskies a spot in the dance. Once is a mistake, an arguable anomaly. Twice? That’s a habit and habits are bad when they consist of losing to teams in the America East.

And it appears that UCLA is doing their darndest to make a habit of struggling, at home, against inferior Southern California competition. Last year it was a losing effort against Loyola Marymount. This year it was a victory (I will not call it a winning effort) in overtime by a single point to UC-Irvine. But here I go again, picking on these teams I expect more of, playing the role of armchair hypocrite who just a week or two ago was sick of expectations and predictions.

How can I help myself? The games have begun and I’m worse than a mean girl judging the new kid. Because there are twelve new kids and that’s part of the beauty of college sports, right? The turnover gives us hope or anxiety and – particularly in the early goings – we begin to develop the true expectations of this year.

And that’s what’s bugged me about the UW hiccup and UCLA struggle. I don’t want to see these two struggle anymore. I’m a fan of the game and if I’m watching some one hundred Pac-12 games this year, I want to see the best quality product. And the brand new immediacy of that product – a combination of the season beginning and P12 Networks’ access – has me overwhelmed and, frankly, disappointed in these two programs for the time being.

But as we began, the ships have just raised anchor and are raising their sails. The wind has yet to blow and there’s only a course planned out, not yet traversed.

Multiple Reasons for Optimism in Gill Coliseum

The First Program is in a critical year. CRob hasn’t filled lofty expectations but he has delivered the school’s first winning season since what feels like the Lincoln administration. Some good pieces there in Corvallis. Smile.

    1. Oh Come On – Half the questions asked of Craig Robinson at Media Day were surrounding last Tuesday (hint: election night). Well Barack Obama (aka Robinson’s brother-in-law) was re-elected President and that’s got to make this program happy.
    2. Hearts Out – It’s what Roberto Nelson did according to George Dohrmann in his book, Play Their Hearts Out, and he’ll need to continue to do so for the Beavers to have any success this season.
    3. Wee Man – Ahmad Starks ain’t big. He’s listed at 5’9” on the school’s website and if you’ve ever been a part of filling out an info sheet, you know that listed height and weight is inflated. Irrelevant. He can play. Coach Robinson says that he alone could replace Jared Cunningham’s 18ppg but they won’t necessarily need that of him. He’ll play a very sound point for OSU.
    4. Vazannion – Not sure who will be under center but, come on, you know you’re a little pumped for the Civil War.
    5. Timber – Robinson has called this his “best front court” since arriving in Corvallis. Let’s discuss: Devon Collier, Angus Brandt, Joe Burton, Daniel Jones, and a slew of sizable newbies. There’s experience and versatility there and my-oh-my does Collier have a chance to break out this year. DYK he quietly went for 14/6 last year? Solid.
    6. Can’t Get Enough – He’s gone and this was two years ago but it’s still dirty

The Weekend Review: Week 1 in the Pac-12

Unblemished. Let’s revel in this first weekend’s perfection because it’s never bad to see an empty L’s column. After what we endured as Conference-o-Champion fans a season ago, we deserve this moment of loss-less glory.

And welcome back. It’s been a second and it sure was nice to gander at my phone Friday night and see this:

Don’t judge the edge network, I was well en route to a seaside cabin built in 1967 by my buddy’s grandparents and where progressive thinking grandparents hand build cabins, the cell towers don’t tend to follow. Happy birthday, Seth.

But how’s about that TV deal, eh? Look, it’s flawed and it’s not going to deliver games to the backs of our retinas a la 007 or Ethan Hunt, but it got me a Colorado-Wofford game and an Oregon-NAU game i otherwise never would’ve seen. I got Arizona without hunting down obscure channels or pirated radio feeds or making backroom deals at bars I don’t want to be in. That network is a glorious work in progress and no matter what it’s better than FSN.

And now, three brief paragraphs into the first Weekend Review, it’s time to get over that unblemished record. It’s not going to stay that way and we need to see some RIP boosters. Just because Charleston Southern and NAU can keep games against Arizona and Oregon tight into the final minutes doesn’t mean anyone’s accomplished anything. This is the time of year where teams cut their teeth against opponents with numbers next to their name and in hostile environments. This is when you begin earning your cupcakes because you’ve garnered a four-seed and they’re a thirteen. But fear not, that will get going shortly as a handful of squads tip off in tournaments this week.

The season has begun!

Leader in the Clubhouse: I’m not going to spend much time on this section early in the year as it’s all speculation. If indeed this conference is a two horse race featuring UCLA and Arizona, UCLA did more to impress between the two. So, one game deep, UCLA is the best team in the Pac-12. But – food for thought – Oregon State is the only 2-0 team? Next subject.

Game of the Weekend: Tough here. There was nothing particularly riveting about this slate of games. No Major-on-Major action or even Major-on-Intriguing-Mid-Major action. Arguably the marquee game was Oregon State hosting New Mexico State which turned into somewhat of a ho hum affair in which Ahmad Starks fulfilled his coaches promise that he could single-handedly replace Jared Cunningham’s scoring. The wee PG dropped 33/5/5, including four steals. But I must award this to someone so I’m going to go ahead and give it to the Pac-12 Conference. The GOtW, in Week One, is awarded based on the fact that there were indeed games. 13-0.

The Big Loser: No one lost and one weekend in I refuse to call anyone a loser. Except, maybe, Colorado football [sad face].

State of the Conference: Here’s a new section stemming from the company line every coach took at Pac-12 Media Day. Sean Miller went so far as to lay out his cheering plan, “I can remember a long time ago when I played, I would always cheer against the teams in our conference because I didn’t want them to do as well as us.  And those days have ended a long time ago.” So Sean’s a fan of the Conference but so is every other coach. They each talked about depth, improvement, etc. It was like they were Larry Scott’s Pac-12 Promotoinal Pinocchios; the Triple P’s. They did well because I gobbled it up, hook-line-and-sinker. But I’ll keep beating the dead horse and remind us all while pinching myself, the actual games are being played now and that’s the true measure of the company improvement line.

Favorite Stat Line: Another new section for the new season, I wanted to take a peak around the league and highlight that which statistically impressed. This week there were a lot of candidates. I’ve already mentioned Ahmad Starks’ 33 point effort and I really liked that the most important piece of Stanford’s success, Dwight Powell, dropped a cool 27 points. Gotta shout out to Colorado’s freshman behemoth, Josh Scott, and his 14/6 while shooting 10/11 from the stripe. Also receiving votes would be the least heralded of UCLA’s freshman class, Jordan Adams, going off for 21/7 in leading the Bruins in New Pauley. Not receiving votes was Josh Smith’s 5/5 or Devon Collier’s 0/1/1 foul out against NMSU. Sigh. No, my favorite stat of the weekend was ASU’s 79 point outing. This is a big year for the Herbivore who’s been cited as the owner of the warmest seat in America. He’s promised a faster offense and in game one, against Who-Really-Cares-U, the Sun Devils scored 79 points – a total they surmounted just twice last year. This energized pace, arguably lead by Jordan Bachynski’s flirtation with a triple-double, sparked the yet-to-be-viral meme, #HustlinHerbs. As I’ll expand in the next section, this is just one game against grossly inferior competition, but the Devils’ pace is something we’re already keeping an eye on and they seem to be taking it seriously.

What We Learned: Absolutely nothing. This opening weekend’s schedule was built to go undefeated. This isn’t synchronized swimming where style counts. It’s basketball, wins and losses. Everyone won and that’s the Week One take away. A few things have piqued my interest but I’m really going to try my darnedest to draw zero conclusions from this weekend. If business was taken care of, then we tip our hats and read up on the next game otherwise we’ll lose our minds (just wait for the YouTuber below). If we do get weird, I’d pick apart the fact that Arizona played like their 2011-12 selves or Devon Collier’s performance or start to call Bachynski, Bogut. Nope. Can’t let that happen. But after that keep it in your pants rant, isn’t it fun to have things to discuss? It’s tangible, it’s there, I can see it and formulate opinions based on fact and not speculation. Fans: We are better than the stock market.

The YouTuber: Does Warcraft make everything funnier? Keep a level head and Roll. Damn. Tide.

Multiple Reasons for Optimism in Matt Court

The Oregon Ducks head into Dana Altman Year Three with some optimistic pieces. Perhaps the most intriguing of which is not yet on their team. (See item 5 after reading 1-4 and then read numbers 6 and 7).

  1. Uncle Phil – Duh.
  2. Goldie Locks – Look, he cut them off and I can’t get over that but I’ll have to. I also can’t get over the fact that a lot of this squads success lies squarely on the shoulders of EJ Singler. That’s probably a good thing. He’s a returning All-Conference performer and, traditionally, seniors are awesome.
  3. Woods – No, I’m not talking about the floor which is grossly distracting on a non-HD broadcast (see ya FSN). I want to ask: What if 6’11” Tony Woods figures it out? He’s got oodles of potential, maybe this is the year he breaks out?
  4. Football
  5. Fingers Crossed – Oh man does this squad want Arsalan Kazemi to be cleared by the NCAA. The dude was a 12/10 producer (that’s a double-double if you’re counting at home) and there were talks of a C-USA POY candidacy. He’s also the first Iranian born D-1 hooper. Nice little resume this guy’s built.
  6. Art Is – Yes, art is beautiful and so is Dominic Artis’ game. The freshman point has lead the Ducks in scoring in each of their exhibition games and will be looked upon to fill the voids of Garrett Sim and Devoe Joseph (I loved Devoe). His emergence will be critical to Duck success.
  7. Au Revoir – Lotta transfers out of Eugene in Dana’s first two years. Now that’s to be expected – to an extent – with coaching turnover but now’s the time to start getting serious. For sustained success, Oregon is going to have to build around those who stick around and fill in with some talented newcomers (see: Artis, Dominic). Rebuilding year-in-year-out is too difficult at the major level.

Multiple Reasons for Optimism in Haas Pavilion

The Cal Bears lost their heart and soul and the theme of 2012-13 could be trying to find a replacement for Jorge’s heart. But Allen Crabbe’s really good so…

  1. Crabbe Cakes – This is the year. It’s his team and he’s really good at basketball and I want to see Allen Crabbe do insanely awesome things on the court. He can.
  2. Cobbs Salad– He’s better than Jorge. Boom, I said it and the numbers have my back.
    Cobbs Jorge
    ORtg 112.9 103.6
    eFG% 50.8 47.9
    Arate 29.5 25.2
  3. Skipper – Mike Montgomery is the winningest coach in the Pac-12 because he’s a really good coach. He’s reason for optimism every time a Cal team takes the floor.
  4. Grades – Richard Solomon’s got good ones! Or at least passing ones and Monty thinks the experience has matured him. So you’re telling me Cal has a mature, athletic, 6’10” big man to play in front of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs?
  5. Bak Bak – The name.
  6. Robert Thurman – The Thurmanator. This nickname was confirmed to me by Allen Crabbe.
  7. My Broken Record – If you follow this blog, you’re going to quickly find out just how much I love college seniors. There’s so much romanticism to their play, their mortality revealed, everything left on the floor. Look, I’m going to get hyperbolic with it. Every time. Brandon Smith has a shot to be that guy for these Bears. He’s played in a multitude of roles from starter to scrub and now is his time to be the glue that makes this team come together.

Multiple Reasons for Optimism in Maples Pavilion

The Stanford Cardinal are coming off an NIT championship which, as you’ll learn below, is a good thing heading into 2012-13. Read on…

    1. Points – There are two very good point guards manning the backcourt for Johnny Dawkins. The tandem of Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle lit it up in the NIT, putting up a combined 31ppg in that run. I don’t expect them to slow. At all.
    2. Confidence – Dwight Powell has got it. He’s had talent but now he’s got the all-empowering confidence according to Bright. To be talented and know it can often lead to big seasons. Stay tuned.
    3. Greatness – They’re pissed off for it.
    4. Knitting – Last year they won the NIT! In my unscientific study of NIT success and how it translates into future success (or otherwise) I found that, over the past five seasons, 70% of NIT champions made it to the NCAA tournament the following season. Auspicious start to 2012-13!
    5. Quintessential – Brevin Knight, Chris Hernandez, Arthur Lee, Mitch Johnson. No, I’m not listing pests – well, I am but they’re the good kind. Stanford has had no shortage of very solid point play over the years and this year is no difference. Aaron Bright should handle the bulk of the true point duties and he’ll be aided by POY candidate, Chasson Randle. That what we call a backcourt.
    6. Smiles – Johnny Dawkins doesn’t do a lot of it and so I imagine – beyond lots of basketball IQ – they brough this guy on staff:
    7. Hype – There’s some intrigue and hype around this team and hopefully that translates into two things, 1) wins, 2) butts in Maples. That place was rocking when those Monty teams were great. Its intimate atmosphere is conducive to only one audience and that’s a raucous one. Otherwise Maples just looks like a sorry high school gym and no one likes that. Endowment or otherwise.