Monthly Archives: December 2012

USC Playing & Losing a Tough Schedule

The band of castoffs was to be playing with a chip on their shoulder. From transfers to the healed, Kevin O’Neill’s squad came into this season as the great unknown. As such, they became the hipster pick – cool because is wasn’t cool – to make some noise in the conference. I picked them to finish as high as fourth!

Well the season’s now begun and the Trojans already have as many losses as their football team (too soon?). They sit at 3-5 and haven’t looked quite like a top team in the Pac. Jio’s still finding his sea legs, JT Terrell is shooting and not making, Aaron Fuller’s role is diminished, and defensively the team isn’t quite there yet. But the primary concern is their record.

These guys have played a hellacious schedule begging the question: Why?

I get it. That’s why we play. I love competition and why compete if you’re just lining them up to knock them down? What does Usain Bolt learn about himself by racing grandma even with a cheetah taped to her back? We challenge ourselves to learn and grow. To that effect I applaud the Trojans’ effort.

But at what point does it become masochism? Why play the country’s toughest schedule to bury your season before it begins? SOS is only a factor of RPI and RPI is only a factor of the selection committee’s. The group that ultimately holds the fate of 37 teams.

Because that’s what college hoops becomes: A beauty pageant to ensure you’re invited to The Dance. Playing and winning a tough schedule is like nailing the talent portion of the pageant. Playing and getting annihilated through a tough schedule? This:

Unfortunately, KO’s group is heading down the path of the latter.

But the course will toughen them and come Pac-12 time, there will be little that surprises this team. I’m just curious if they won’t already be broken.

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

Starting yesterday, I’ll be doing a weekly wrap up (<– that’s the wrap up, FYI) of the Pac’s goings on at AllBuffs, the best Colorado fan site I’ve ever known and home to friends. Allow me to tell you more about it.

The Colorado Buffaloes won the inaugural Pac-12 tournament, garnering the conference’s 2012 automatic bid and did the conference proud in The Dance. That late season run culminated in Buffs Madness this past October and the raising of the banner.

A sweet, sweet reward for a sweet, sweet first season in the Pac. Consequently it’s a sweet reward I’ve witnessed twelve times as a Wildcat fan if we’re talking regular season champs, four times if we’re just talking conference tournaments. Hell, once if we’re talking National Titles. Oh, wow, that didn’t take long for me to digress. But the Buffs did beat my ‘Cats twice that year and for that my hat is tipped and, as they say, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Before you get too crazy and think I’m changing allegiances, NEVER. I’m always going to be an Arizona fan. Fear not – or really think whatever you want – that’s my team, never going to apologize for it.

But just as last season was the Pac-12’s inaugural season, so too was it PacHoops’ first. My debut post was viewed just once per WordPress analytics. I kept at it – as I still do today – writing and refreshing that analytics page, giddy the day I exceeded ten views without writing about Arizona and posting it to my own Facebook page (I have like trillions of Wildcat fans as friends on The Book).

Then one day I had a handful of referral traffic from a site I’d never visited. I clicked and saw my blog had been linked to; it was AllBuffs! From there I received some occasional linkage and eventually I was reached out to by my now good friend, James (Goose on the boards). He’d emailed me on the gmail account I’d set up for my blog strictly because that’s what you do when you start a blog. Or at least according to the article I’d read about starting a blog told me to.

He’d written to ask me – me – to answer some questions about Arizona leading up to the Buffs and Wildcats’ meeting in Tucson. This is what transpired. From there, James and I continued to talk and together we spawned the Pac-12 Coaches Death Match. This proved quite popular and, above all else, a ton of fun. James and I continue to discuss Pac-12 basketball and, frankly, all subjects under the sun, but lots and lots of basketball.

I’ve met others from AllBuffs and you know who you are. It’s been a fun ride to date and I don’t expect that to change. The community is fantastic and they’re the right kinda fans. I dig it and eagerly anticipate my first trip to Boulder for a game. Been staring pretty hard at the Valentine’s day tilt…

So tune into AllBuffs for some Pac-12 wraps and some good banter. They’ve got a budding basketball program over there that they’re damn proud of and have a lot of reasons to be. Just ask them about Josh Scott.

Mark Lyons is Not Struggling. Niet.

Over the weekend the Arizona Wildcats took Texas Tech behind the woodshed and beat them. It’s the same treatment, to date, they’ve been giving to the nation’s 294th toughest schedule.

Yes, these ‘Cats have played no one. Their “toughest” game to date was arguably that Red Raiders squad and they were 4-0 against the worst schedule in the country. In and of itself, Arizona’s woeful schedule is a conversation. But these opponents were pieced together by design, a component of the rebuilding Sean Miller had to do when he inherited a near disaster of a program. In the coming years, there will be marquee games littering the November and December slate before embarking upon an increasingly competitive Pac-12 season.

Whilst on this cake walk, the Arizona dialogue has not been able to evolve much beyond speculation and hype. The freshmen are good, Nick Johnson has improved, Solomon Hill is doing his thing. Pretty much nothing new.

And so now I’m starting to see people harping on Mark Lyons’ struggles. This is trolling. This is hunting for a conversation. It’s straight Limbaugh, Cowherd, Bayless – creating controversy out of thin air. I read about it in the Arizona Daily Wildcat and the Arizona Daily Star. To this I say NIET! No struggling. Struggling to me would mean bad things are happening and I don’t see much negative in the cardinal and navy jersey number two. Now to be fair, each of these pieces have elements of praise for Lyons’ performance but I question what the barometer is. If Josiah Turner set the Arizona PG bar, Lyons is a legend. If Damon Stoudamire set it, well, Lyons has some work to do. Alas, to say the senior has struggled is far from realistic.

Has he turned the ball over? Absolutely. His turnover rate is hovering just below 30% and that’s not good and I’m not going to dwell there.

Because did you know Mark Lyons has the 69th highest effective field goal percentage in the nation? The number itself is 63.8%. Remember Derrick Williams and how we lauded his efficiency? Williams’ eFG% was 65%. How’s that for efficient company? And so while Lyons has been inefficient taking care of the ball, when he does hang on to it, he’s doing good things. Efficiency is a mark of how well you repeatedly do something. I’ll argue Mark Lyons is an efficient winner.

It’s been no secret that he can score and is it really a requirement that a point guard lead the nation in assists? I don’t think so. I think he’s supposed to facilitate the offense. Arizona is the eighth best offensive team in the country (as determined by KenPom’s AdjO). To that point, Arizona on the whole is bigger than its parts. As a team, the Wildcats assist on 65% of their made field goals. If passing is what you want, you’re getting it. Maybe not from Lyons as much you’d like but then it simply becomes a semantics conversation. True point guard, two guard, slasher, combo guard; call him whatever you want. I’m going to call him good.

These are some gaudy numbers I’ve thrown out here in an argument that is really in its infancy. Arizona could open a trendy, chic pastry shop called Walk with all the cupcakes they’ve got. The sample set is minimal and can really only be used to begin letting us examine trends. To that, I’ll say its fair to notice Lyons’ turnovers.

But to say he’s struggling is an overstatement and undeserving.