Category Archives: Pac-12

powell-dwight-randle-stanford

A Sweet Preview and Some PacHoops Art

I’ve been to Honda Center a handful of times. Most notably when it was called The Pond and we were all Might Ducks fans. Classic. For now, however, I want to discuss what I expect the gym to look like on Thursday when I’m there. It will be full of Badgers, Aztecs, Wildcats, and then the Baylor Bears. Here is my rendition of what the inside of Honda Center will resemble:

HondaCenter

Inside the Honda Center

Tell me I’m wrong?

 

Arizona v Colorado#1 Arizona vs. #4 San Diego State

Storyline: I love what Arizona has a chance to do here (shocker, right?). Should they advance to do what KenPom says they have the second best odds to do, Arizona would have beaten both SDSU and Gonzaga in doing such. Fitting. Last year the Zags were the first Western-based one-seed since UCLA in 2008. They were bounced like Shockers (round of 32). As for the Aztecs - between 2009 and a December 2012 loss to Arizona – SDSU won seven straight games against Pac-12 schools. They haven’t lost to a California based school in something like two Steve Fisher lifetimes (42+ games to be more exact). The Pac-12 was simultaneously doing things like not sending their conference champion to the NCAA tournament and so SDSU and Gonzaga were staking legit claim to the crown of West Coast hoops. But then Arizona beat SDSU in Hawaii (as far West as it gets) and again this past November. Arizona is reestablishing itself as the coast’s elite, San Diego State is trying to win the MWC’s first Sweet 16 game since 1991 (of current MWC members). I like the Wildcats’ pursuit of big things.

Style to keep an eye on: Look, let’s make no bones about it: San Diego State struggles to score. As in their offense ranks just a spot ahead of Northern Colorado and below Northwestern State. #GillingIt. They shoot the 304th ‘best’ FG% on their 2pt jump shots. This does not bode well for them. Arizona’s #1 rated defense is going to force them to take a lot of these shots. Their defense – as we’ve discussed – is predicated on forcing this shot and they do it better than anyone else in the country. So if you want me to run the math for us, I will: Arizona is going to force SDSU to take a ton of shots they don’t make. That’s a rock and a hard place framing that Aztec. And they really do themselves any favors. SDSU is already offensively inefficient and they assist on the third lowest percentage of FGs in the country. For a bro school, they’re really not being bros. Share the rock.

Match up to keep an eye on: Sean Miller doesn’t think there’s a “better guard in the country.” Never mind that his own off-guard is an All-American, Miller effused about Xavier Thames. And rightfully so. He’s putting up 27 per tournament game and draws fouls at a nearly 60% rate. Trouble with a capital DEPTH ISSUES FOR ARIZONA. But this is our match up section. That All-American we mentioned? He happens to be really good at guarding big guards no matter their skill set. Ask Jordan Adams, Roberto Nelson, Chasson Randle, Justin Cobbs, or Xavier Thames. Last time around, Thames got his points (note that aforementioned foul line) but he had to work for it; shooting 5-16 and just 3-12 from inside the arc. As noted, Thames is hot and the Aztecs have needed about every one of his buckets. The game hinges on his play.

Norman Powell, Xavier Talton#4 UCLA vs. #1 Florida

Storyline: The Gators have eliminated UCLA in three of their last six NCAA tournaments. That’s interesting by itself but now let’s note that one of those eliminations came in the national title game and another came in the national semifinal (Final Four if you need an assist). Florida won back-to-back titles and UCLA watched Ben Howland lose his team, program, and eventually his job. We could play the Sliding Doors game and note the ‘what ifs’ but that’s just mean (Like I don’t dwindle on Tim Floyd or Kevin O’Neill thoughts as an Arizona fan). This one means something to the UCLA community no matter who struts that sideline.

Style to keep an eye on: All of it. UCLA wants to get shots up, owners of the 15th shortest possessions in the country. Conversely (a key word as we walk through this match up) Florida forces teams to take the 2nd longest possessions in the country. The Bruins do one helluva job stealing the ball and turning that into transition offense. I writed all abouts it. They’ve got the 4th highest steal rate in the country feeding the 39th highest percentage of transition offense. The converse? Florida’s offense has a very mediocre steal rate (ranks 188th) but have the 13th best transition defense. Are you with me here? These two have very opposing styles which makes for one terrific match up. It projects to be a lot like the Pac-12 championship game which was phenomenal. Hooray the March sport!

Match up to keep an eye on: I’m going to list a few because I’m interested in this. First, Kyle Anderson and Will Yeguete. Few people can stop let alone slow, Slo-Mo. He’s too big for traditional guards, too crafty for bigs, and too good for the rest of the floor. Will Yeguete, however, may have the guile (read: size and athleticism) to contain the point-forward-center-wing. Yeguete is Florida’s 6’8″ garbage man. A crazy thought if you consider just how much dirty work a guy has to do in order to be considered the guy that does the dirty work on a Billy Donovan team. He just might be dirty enough to stop Anderson. Conversely (I’m using it again), there’s nothing dirty about Michael Frazier’s jumper. It’s a thing of beauty. He connects on 44% of his threes and Shot Analytics went ahead and reminded us just how good he is (spoiler: quite good). And UCLA’s defense poses the match up here. They allow the fourth highest percentage of shots to come from distance. Me thinks Michael is going to get some looks. Also, I’ve got to mention the transition D (Florida) vs. transition O (UCLA), again. SUCH A GREAT MATCH UP THAT I’M NOT GOING TO GET TO WATCH WITH THE SAME TIP TIME AS AZ-SDSU. Uggggh.

Stanford v Connecticut#10 Stanford vs. #11 Dayton

Storyline: Three weeks ago Stanford was dead to rights. They had just lost at home to Colorado on a weekend that probably couldn’t see them lose at home to Colorado. And then, on the season’s final Saturday, I was looking up at the television to see Utah with the ball down a point, with a shade less than a shot clock of time remaining, and presumably a play drawn up to sink Stanford’s dancin’ chances. Evidently the Utes didn’t have a play as they dribbled everywhere and eventually off themselves and Stanford won. And they’ve subsequently beaten Kansas, too. Yup, the Kansas Jayhawks lost to Johnny Dawkins’ Stanford Cardinal. The Card have now claimed two of their four biggest wins since joining the biggest stage. So what’s beating KenPom’s #44 team, Dayton (rated below ASU and Utah)? Let’s just say the Stanford Cardinal – dead to rights, playing for their coach’s job – have a very legitimate shot to be playing for a Final Four against a team (UCLA) they’ve already beaten. Think about that. And why the hell not? Stanford beat Kansas - Kansas – without making a single three pointer! The Jayhawks hadn’t limited an opponent to zero 3-pointers since 11/26/2010 when Ohio went 0-18 and Kansas won 98-41. Reread that score. A week later the Jayhawks did the same thing to North Texas as they went 0-12 and Kansas won 93-60. Stanford went 0-9 from deep and beat Kansas.

Style to keep an eye on: Don’t expect Stanford to win going oh-fer from distance this time. Not necessarily because of Dayton – they actually defend the three quite well – but because of the law of averages. Alas, this game won’t soon hinge on the three pointer. This is a game Stanford should win. They’re the bigger, stronger, faster kids who just beat – arguably – the biggest, strongest, fastest team. They’re playing as good of defense as they have all season (0.85 ppp in the tournament) and it really doesn’t matter what they’re doing offensively if they can do that. Similarly, Dayton has been playing sound defense, allowing teams under 0.9 ppp in the tournament. Granted, they’ve upset Syracuse and Ohio State who are (were?) more defensively than offensively oriented, but that shouldn’t take away from their defensive efforts. Meanwhile, the Flyers haven’t particularly scored it well. They are well below their average offensive efficiency in the dance. This could come down to a battle of who can out ugly the other, garnering a few easy baskets off turnovers or offensive rebounds (looking at you Josh and Dwight, though the O-boards aren’t Stanford’s game). I’ve been saying it for awhile, that I’m no longer concerned with pageantry, but if you need to see something that looks good, avert your eyes from this game.

Match up to keep an eye on: The best match up here is Stanford staring down the barrel of Father Time. I’ve spoken about it all over the place – how this is Johnny Dawkins’ group of seniors that stayed. I could note Devin Oliver, Dayton’s stretch-ish four. A 6’7″ 39% 3FG% who is still taking 36% of shots at the rim and leading the team in rebounding…and assists. A similar player to Dwight Powell in that versatility. But at this point, it’s all about Stanford. It doesn’t matter who they’re playing. They are on their last legs. A team on some semblance of a mission to play one more game together. And then another. And another. Until there just aren’t any more games to play.

Hooray the March sport, indeed.

mascot_finals

Pac-12 Mascots Death Match: The Finals

If I had a dollar for every time this week that I heard “I pick my bracket based on how the mascots would fight each other” then I would’ve hosted my own $8 bracket challenge. I CREATED THAT PREMISE FOR YOU RIGHT HERE! Granted, I would probably be beating them in any bracket challenge as it were. I’m winning.

And so too are Ralphie and Butch.

Which is a fascinating championship. Here we have what seemingly amounts to the quintessential anthropomorph – an adorable and hugable Cougar who gloriously plays up that lovable side to the extent that he has ‘hey girl‘ photos and a grossly formal Wikipedia page. Meanwhile, Ralphie is celebrated for her definitive realism, a literal charging buffalo onto the field of battle. For all of Butch’s sweetness, Ralphie matches it in raw American.

Here we are at the championship, two contrasting styles who’ve arrived through voluminous support, charm, and probably some Francis Underwood. Ralphie (not Chip) has received 1074 votes. Butch has received 1084. This is the championship we need and deserve.

The ‘Ship:

RalphieButch

#5 Ralphie (not chip) vs. #11 Butch

Round 1 (255 votes):
Chip from Ben Burrow of Rumblin Buff: I guess, ostensibly, I’m supposed to be talking about Chip, our Mickey Mouse with horns made available for the kiddies.  However, if you’re going to talk University of Colorado athletics, there is only one mascot that matters – the ton of rampaging bison known as Ralphie.  Often a source of confusion, let me confirm that Ralphie is, in fact, a female.  It’s an important distinction, because, if we were to let a male bison loose, death would ensue; after all, a buffalo is an unstoppable goring machine when pissed off.  With the lady involved, we’re only talking serious bodily harm, if you’re lucky.  So, come at me with your anthropomorphic plush toys.  I got a frickin’ buffalo, and you don’t.
Round 2 (199 votes):
Ralphie (not Chip) from Ben Burrow of Rumblin Buff
Well, I guess Ralphie thundered past poor old Traveler.  My condolences to the family of the deceased, but the glue factory’s quota must be met!  Now onto Oskie, which, as far as I can tell, is some kind of pervert bear.  Now, I don’t know about you, but if given the choice between the noble symbol of the American West and furry bait for Chris Hansen, I’m taking the buffalo.  Free choice, and all, but I think we all know the right choice here.
Semifinals (620 votes)
Ralphie 
from Ben Burrows of Rumblin’ Buff
Thankfully, someone called the cops on Oski, and he’s off to enjoy the the fruits of our judicial system, saving us all another uncomfortable second under his perverted gaze.  Ralphie, as she is wont to do, just keeps thundering forward, onto the semifinals and a date with Wilbur the Wildcat. The first thing I see when I look at Wilbur is his stupid hat. (Seriously, a hat?)  What does that signify to me?  Domestication. This Wildcat is ‘wild’ no longer.  He has given up his natural advantages for the comfort of human society.  What a loser.  Ralphie, on the other hand, remains a buffalo, yearning to stampede and conquer the plains.  Her handlers?  A mere annoyance; she only tolerates their presence out of pity.  Given enough reason, she’s off to the races, God knows where to.  Meanwhile, there’s Wilbur, on the couch with his hat, watching the television.  Domestic and boring.  What. A. Loser.  Give me the buffalo and freedom.
Round 1 (119 votes):
Butch
from Michael Preston of Coug Center: He looked more badass before his costume change (made in the name of safety) but Butch T. Cougar is still all that embodies WSU. The dude rides an ATV at full blast onto the field before a football game for cripes sake. He has been known to photo bomb even the most carefully planned sorority pose picture and he isn’t shy about acting his age…which we don’t know but we assume he’s in his rambunctious teenage years. More important than any of that is how much he’s beloved by every single WSU fan from ages 3 to 103. He’s one of the best known mascot in the country for a reason: everyone, even visiting fans, want a picture with the gregarious fella with the long tail. Do you see any other Pac-12 mascot pop up on your Facebook feed as often as him? I didn’t think so.
Round 2 (445 votes):
Butch
from Michael Preston of Coug Center: Butch T. Cougar has advanced to the second round past some shrubbery which is somehow the mascot for a school who takes their nickname from a color. He faces off now against a solar being from the underworld of some kind and all I know about those creatures is that they go to the South looking for spirits to extract from country singers. Butch embodies everything about a mascot you should love. He’s beloved my children and their grandparents who all want a picture with what is arguably the most recognizable mascot west of the Mississippi. He combines the perfect about of ferocity and loveable-ness. He shows up in more pictures with alumni than any other mascot in the conference and there’s a reason for it: WSU is extremely proud of their mascot. Bonus info: the T. in Butch T. Cougar stands for…anyone, anyone?…”The”. So…there’s that too!
Semifinals (520 votes)
Butch from Yours Truly
Look at me. It’s been noted that I rub elbows with Gosling and could wear a suit like Clooney. But instead I run with Pirates. Like that brand of being that does as they wish and leaves no survivors. Have you ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean? Only Brad Pitt (Troy) and Johnny Depp have flipped the script from damsel trying to kill him to…well you know where this is going. Look, the “T” is an abbreviated definite article (the). Butch abbreviates the simplest of words because he doesn’t need you worrying your pretty little heads with too much.  When Butch wears ‘sex panther’ it works 100% of the time. He is, Butch T. Cougar.

#5 Ralphie (not Chip) vs. #11 Butch T. Cougar

  • #11 Butch T. Cougar (57%, 1,718 Votes)
  • #5 Ralphie (not Chip) (43%, 1,300 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,018

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Kansas Stanford

Three Pac-12 Teams Are So Sweet

Pretty good time to be a Pac-12 blogger if you ask a Pac-12 blogger. Three teams are tasting the sweetness of March while another three ended their seasons. And even two of those defeats were in spectacular fashion. Actually, all three of the departed left in spectacular fashion – Colorado’s case was just a little…different than the others?

General Thoughts: If this doesn’t stir up some dust in whatever room you’re in then I’m not entirely sure we’ll get along.

mcdermott1This is real life Field of Dreams but on a basketball court without racist ghosts. This is life’s simplest and universal beauty – father, son, ball – on the biggest stage we can conjure. They both called it special and I’d venture to call it perfect. Thank you, McDermotts.

And while we’re on the topic of perfection, Wichita State-Kentucky. That ranks amongst the greatest games I’ve ever seen played. I hate that we think this somehow legitimizes or otherwise the Shockers. One game does not define a team or a season. It doesn’t define a conference or a schedule. But it can tell you a helluva lot about what’s underneath a jersey. That game was all guts. It was onions and stones and ice. If WSU was going out it was tooth and nail. If Kentucky was going out it was as the team we thought they’d be. And if you still need rationalization for the legitimacy of Wichita State, I challenge you to find a better game Kentucky has played all season. It took a roster of 4-7 first round draft picks playing their best game of the season to knock those kids off. Read this. That game was everything we could’ve wanted. Yeah, I wanted banked threes and Cleanthony steal-n-dunk and that Young three. Perfect. Also, how wrenching is 35-1? Can’t even imagine.

This:

#1 Arizona Wildcats

You guys want to talk about Arizona’s free throws? Yeah, me either. I’m off the pageantry wagon. This is the time of year when you survive and advance. Survival isn’t about looking cute, it’s about not dying. Aron Ralston cut his own god damn arm off to not die. He drank his own piss. So if Arizona beats a sixteen seed by 9 and misses a handful of free throws in doing, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Because they could also turn Gonzaga over on nearly 30% of their possessions and thunder their way into the Sweet Sixteen. We know what teams can and can’t do at this point. Arizona can roll you and wants to:

“I don’t like the term `survive and advance,’ “ Gordon said. “I like the term `dominate and advance.’”

#4 UCLA Bruins

I could dive into the Bruins’ two wins – look into the terrific play of Jordan Adams and what an ex-factor Norman Powell is. I could note that UCLA is yielding less than 1 point per possession. The kind of defense the supplements perhaps the most high octane offense remaining in this tournament. Could get into some Steve Alford love as he heads to his second ever Sweet Sixteen (kudos). But ultimately UCLA’s games were uninteresting, only briefly competitive, and played against Tulsa and a school seemingly named after a Wrestler and TV character (though 32-3 is a very impressive season). I’m passing on all of that and ignoring that this is a review because I’m so excited for that UCLA-Florida game on Thursday. The Bruins are on a three game March losing streak to the Gators. The Bruins are a phenomenal offensive team. The Gators are a phenomenal defensive team. Will Yeguete guarding Kyle Anderson. The Wear family guarding Patric Young. Gimme this game.

#10 Stanford Cardinal

Johnny Dawkins going full Steve Lavin on us I see. But credit where it’s due: our guy, JD, outcoached Bill Self. He has the talent to do it but to exact a plan that gets Andrew Wiggins just six shots and four points is impressive. It was the second fewest shot attempts he’d take on the season. Sunday was not coming up Wiggins though I watched some of the weirdest basketball transpire in that game. There was a sequence where it seemed Stanford committed four straight turnovers and gave up three offensive rebounds in the process of trying to break KU’s press. Kansas came out of that sequence with no points and Stanford managed an Anthony Brown breakaway layup plus harm. Johnny Dawkins did well but Kansas was not meant to win that game. Also, I can’t tell if I love or hate the fact that Robbie Lemons – a walk-on with the 2010 class of Powell, Huestis, etc. – gets crunch time tick. I suppose it’s growing on me because it’s March and my emotions are heightened and so I’m really hooked on this idea of the underdog. Besides, there’s so much fun to be had with his last name. Because when life hands you lemons, you beat Kansas and go to the Sweet Sixteen.

#7 Oregon Ducks

Close only counts in horse shoes, hand grenades, and meeting Jennifer Lawrence, but man was that one close. The Ducks looked the better team for much of that game and delivered blows, absorbed blows, and came up just short. Joseph Young was terrific and it was a treat to watch Jason Calliste and Mike Moser – the traveled and hungry seniors – refuse to let their careers end. It unfortunately came down to another senior exacting his own will to not retire, Ben Brust. We already talked about learning about what’s underneath the jersey – guts and heart – and these Ducks were all of that across the season’s final month-and-change. That was one helluva run.

#8 Colorado Buffaloes

I mean…tough. We knew it was a mis-match and that things really weren’t stacking up in Colorado’s favor. But that was rough. Pittsburgh did and got whatever they wanted, the Buffs seemingly took it, and went back to Boulder in lopsided fashion. I ultimately think it’s a great learning experience for the program. I thought CU was given something of a favorable seed for their accomplishments over the past few years. A perhaps earned honor but one that could bite them in the ass. And it did. But like I said, learning experience. The tournament is never given to you. No matter whether you’re playing a sixteen or a one, sixty-eight teams are here to compete. If you’re not ready, that can happen to you. There is plenty of good hoop ahead for this Colorado program, the Pitt game was not a set back, but a warning flare that this is some very real stuff.

#10 Arizona State Sun Devils

You all know how I pretty much don’t like this school. I’m from Tucson and grew up understanding that we hate the Sun Devils. But this? I can probably joke about it in a few months – maybe years – but can’t right now. This image is every reason why we love this tournament. No, not because it’s ASU losing, but because the thousand words this picture tells us is the thousands of hours that went into even getting into that moment. To have your career leading shot blocker have one more opportunity to dismiss a game winner; to furiously come back from down a dozen. All of these opportunities for shining moments. And sometimes it doesn’t shine.ASU-bench-reaction-to-loss-to-Texas-720x375

Jermaine Marshall

Pac-12 Team-by-Team: One Final 2d Round Preview

Games tip shortly and what do we need? More data and charts! I took one more run through each of the Pac-12 teams and highlighted a statistic or philosophy central to their success – or otherwise – and how their forthcoming opponent(s) might behoove or limit that skill.

The Madness:

#1 Arizona Wildcats

When Arizona found its Christ Air 720, they put themselves back into the national title conversation. They only stepped out for a second, but jumped back in the ring with outings at Colorado (1.33ppp) and against California (1.28) and Stanford (1.18). Transition offense. Since that game in Boulder, the Wildcats have been getting 23.6% of their offense by Christ Air. Their season average of 21.1% ranks them 151st nationally. That upgraded version – 23.6% – would rank them 92nd. So who in the West Regional is liable to let these Cats run? Let’s look:

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As we see here, Wisconsin might be the most susceptible to the Christ Air attack. But that may be a little too far ahead of ourselves. Anaheim isn’t far from San Diego, but it’s pretty far from San Diego if we’re step-in-step right now. Weber State does a good job of limiting this, actually third best in the region, and as they are Arizona’ first opponent, they’re worth noting. Interestingly enough, Arizona’s first weekend opponents all do a pretty fair job of limiting transition work. They each do this by also not crashing the offensive glass. Each of these opponents ranks greater than 200th in OR%. In short, these guys shoot and get back on defense – a similar strategy to Cal (207th in OR%, 53rd in transition D). The benefit to Arizona is they already rebound the ball well defensively and they don’t necessarily need Christ Air to win. But it sure helps.

#4 UCLA Bruins

The mid-range game seems to be a lost art. Not in Westwood, it isn’t. Awhile back we examined how Kyle Anderson affects the game. In that study we didn’t report on it – focusing on the rim – but Anderson takes the most shots in the 2-pt jumper range amongst all of the players studied (5.9/game). He was the fourth most effective at creating offense in that range as nearly 55% of his 2-pt jumper possessions result in a score. As the PG of this team, Anderson sets a mid-range tone for this team. Wanna see?

ShotAnalytics

Thanks to the genius of Dylan Burrkhardt’s brand new site, Shot Analytics, we can see just how dominant Anderson is in the mid-range. What does it mean for Bruin opponents? We’ll keep it brief and look just at their possible weekend foes:

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In looking at this, I have two quick reactions: 1) Good luck, Tulsa, and 2) Gimme that VCU-UCLA matchup for all of the reasons and then some.

#7 Oregon Ducks

Here is my Mid-Major with a budget. The team that lives by the three and dies by it, running into the NCAAs on an 8-1 streak and connecting on greater than 47% of their threes in those wins. And it didn’t matter who they were playing! Arizona allows the 308th most offense from 3-point territory. Ducks didn’t care and made 10 threes, just the seventh team to make reach double digit threes in five years against Arizona. They shoot to win. But once again, let’s ask: Who’s going to let ‘em?

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If you hadn’t been paying attention, please note that there will be a lot of points scored in this Oregon-BYU game. The Ducks take 33.1% of their offense for deep and make the 19th highest percentage of them (39.1%). Live and die and it appears the Cougars are going to be willing to give the Ducks their chance. In beating BYU earlier this year, Oregon was 10-32 from deep. Because of BYU’s pace, Oregon will have plenty of chances to make every varietal of basket. But let’s jump ahead to Wisconsin. Bo Ryan predicates his defense on not letting teams shoot three pointers. That 25.3% 3FG/FGA rate ranks sixth in the nation. The Badgers’ haven’t allowed 30% of offense to come from deep in five years. But here’s the thing, Oregon doesn’t care. They didn’t when Arizona came to town and they won’t should they earn the opportunity to play the Badgers. Live and die.

#8 Colorado Buffaloes

This is the worst matchup in the second round. I calculated it by seeding standards and Jason sort of calculated it by scouting standards. I note that he only ‘sort of’ did because he didn’t break things down for all 36 opening games. It doesn’t necessarily look good for Colorado. But let me give you the silver lining. Pittsburgh takes the 272nd longest possessions in D-1 basketball. Subseqently they play the 293rd fewest possessions per game. This game projects to have just 63 possessions per KenPom. But did you know, the Buffs are 5-2 in games played to the tune of 63 possessions or less. Such a pace of game suggests an opportunity for Colorado to keep the game close, an opportunity for a last shot. Of Pitt’s 34 games, 15 were decided by 6-or fewer points (thanks, Jason). Keep it close – as Tad’s methodology tends to dictate – and the Buffs could have a chance to advance. Where they’ll likely meet Florida who is even slower than Pitt! But even better on offense and defense. And they’ll all be in Orlando. And they are the odds on favorite to win everything. G’luck.

#10 Arizona State Sun Devils

He might not always play well, but when he does, he’s the Pac-12′s defensive player of the year. Big Jordan Bachynski man’s the paint for ASU and is their primary rebounding option. As a team they’re generally pretty poor, ranking 339th in OR% and just 116th in DR%. Texas, meanwhile, is the sixth best offensive rebounding team in the nation. Let’s examine how ASU faired against the Pac-12′s top 3 offensive rebounding teams:

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Red indicates games in which the Devils held the opposition below their in-conference OR%; yellow indicates games in which Bachynski was held below his normal DR%. Turns out, rebounding is a team effort. It would also seem that when the Sun Devils come together to collectively rebound, they’re pretty successful; 2-1 to be exact with the outlying loss – in Tucson – coinciding with the fourth worst defensive effort by the Devils (1.2 ppp). Now a six game sample set doesn’t indicate much, but if I’m going to take anything away from this, it’s that the Devils seem to bode better by limiting offensive boards, and Jordan Bachynski is just a cog in that machine. Also note that he’s not generally in the best position to rebound as he’s often in position to block shots. Those swats are recovered by his teammates or himself – all Devils however you slice it – 43.2% of the block. If they can manage to keep the Longhorns to fewer second attempts, then the Devils have a better chance at keeping Texas below 1ppp – a feat the Devils managed in each of their four wins against tournament teams.

#10 Stanford Cardinal

In that same post where Dylan notes Kyle Anderson and UCLA’s mid-range mastery, he also notes Stanford’s mid-range misery. Hoop-math, where I would’ve found this information, suggests that the Cardinal aren’t half bad; taking 38.8% of their shots there and making 40.4% of them. My guess is that this FG% is inflated with closer-to-the-rim-than-expected data drawn from play-by-play game logs (Shot Analytics reported 24% FGA and 35% FG%). That’s fine. What Dylan presents is derived from Synergy Sports which is taken from reviewed game film. Papa like and papa trust. Alas, what this overwhelmingly demonstrates to me is the individualized style of ball Stanford plays. The Cardinal rank 290th in percentage of made shots that are assisted; 281st on 2pt jumpers. Meaning these are shots the Cardinal are creating. Comparatively, UCLA’s mid-range game is fed by execution. Nearly 50% of their 2-pt jumpers are assisted (22nd best). So how does this translate into the weekend? New Mexico allows the 10th lowest FG% from 2-pt range in the nation (29.9%). That’s data derived from hoop-math which we assume already has an inflated 2-pt FG%. Now consider that teams are shooting below 30% from Stanford’s favorite spot against New Mexico and further consider that our story assumes that’s an inflated number. Stanford might have to find another way to score.

mascot_semis

The Pac-12 Mascots Death Match: Semis On!

With four remaining we find ourselves a few firsts. Wilbur and Ralphie feature the first rematch – in some regards – that we’ve ever seen in a death match. Which is actually completely contradictory because intrinsic to a ‘death’ match is that someone dies and is no longer. Perhaps our matches aren’t so morbid? Whatever the case, when the coaches squared off, our championship bout saw Whooping narrowly edge the Colorado Cranium, 440-403. Lofty numbers that were Butch T. Cougar nearly beat. But seeing as this is a tournament, survive and advance is all that matters. Butch, Wilbur, Joe Bruin, and Ralphie have survived. They’ve advanced.

The Semis:

#1 Wilbur vs. #5 Ralphie

Two years ago, this was our title match. Look. At. Those. Punims.

MillBoyle

Wilbur from Roommate Pete of That Poor Architect
Wilbur ‘Fists-of-Furry’ Wildcat – He doesn’t roam the open range, don tribal headdresses or eat his weight in fresh water salmon. Nor does he traverse the Iditarod, chase after younger men or sit motionless and dormant in a Northern Californian forest. He won’t protect you from STD’s, quack at your principal or build you a dam, and he most certainly won’t prance around with a pitchfork wearing red and yellow tights calling himself ‘Sparky.’  Wilbur Wildcat won’t do any of these things because Wilbur Wildcat ain’t no paperback bitch. The man in the navy blue cowboy hat will hunt with guile in grassy lowlands, perch confidently atop desert mountains, and sit comfortably and notoriously atop the Sonoran Desert food chain. Wilbur don’t mess around, and neither do his Wildcats.

Ralphie from Ben Burrows of Rumblin’ Buff
Thankfully, someone called the cops on Oski, and he’s off to enjoy the the fruits of our judicial system, saving us all another uncomfortable second under his perverted gaze.  Ralphie, as she is wont to do, just keeps thundering forward, onto the semifinals and a date with Wilbur the Wildcat. The first thing I see when I look at Wilbur is his stupid hat. (Seriously, a hat?)  What does that signify to me?  Domestication. This Wildcat is ‘wild’ no longer.  He has given up his natural advantages for the comfort of human society.  What a loser.  Ralphie, on the other hand, remains a buffalo, yearning to stampede and conquer the plains.  Her handlers?  A mere annoyance; she only tolerates their presence out of pity.  Given enough reason, she’s off to the races, God knows where to.  Meanwhile, there’s Wilbur, on the couch with his hat, watching the television.  Domestic and boring.  What. A. Loser.  Give me the buffalo and freedom.

#1 Wilbur vs. #5 Ralphie

  • #5 Ralphie (not Chip) (56%, 642 Votes)
  • #1 Wilbur (44%, 501 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,143

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#2 Joe Bruin vs. #11 Butch

ButchBruin

Joe Bruin from Luc of The Stoop Kids
After a comfortable rout over Puddles in the last round, it’s onward and upward for Joe Bruin. I mean did you see that game Saturday afternoon? If there was ever a time to be coming into one’s own, this is really it. Joe’s hot at the right time, and won’t think twice about bowling over the Wildcats as they confusingly bear down before him. Ralphie has the awesome sprint across the field thing, but if we’re talking death match, Joe will be feasting on Rocky Mountain Oysters once he’s through with the Buffs. The Cougs had an impressive showing in the last round, and were even rumored to knock off Joe in some faraway locale a few weeks ago, but memory is short and time will prove that their last meeting was an aberration. Joe’s poised for the big stage, and ready to bring home Championship #110 to Westwood.

Butch from Yours Truly
Look at me. It’s been noted that I rub elbows with Gosling and could wear a suit like Clooney. But instead I run with Pirates. Like that brand of being that does as they wish and leaves no survivors. Have you ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean? Only Brad Pitt (Troy) and Johnny Depp have flipped the script from damsel trying to kill him to…well you know where this is going. Look, the “T” is an abbreviated definite article (the). Butch abbreviates the simplest of words because he doesn’t need you worrying your pretty little heads with too much.  When Butch wears ‘sex panther’ it works 100% of the time. He is, Butch T. Cougar.

#2 Joe Bruin vs. #11 Butch

  • #11 Butch (64%, 520 Votes)
  • #2 Joe Bruin (36%, 289 Votes)

Total Voters: 809

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CraigRobinson

Cal, Utah, Oregon State: In A Tournament

It wouldn’t be the preeminent Pac-12 basketball blog if we didn’t get a chance to examine every post season team’s fortunes. Here we get two NIT previews and a CBI preview that digresses into commentary on Andy Enfield.

The not in tournaments:

#2 California Golden Bears

Opening Remarks: I was inside a raucous Haas Pavilion as Justin Cobbs drifted into the left corner, towards the baseline and Kaleb Tarczewski rolled with him. Cobbs elevated, the seven-footer elevated, and the shot was purely released. Cobbs wound up a heap on the ground, the fans wound up a mess on the court, and the Bears wound up in the NIT. That’s not how the story was supposed to end but that’s how it did. The inconsistencies caught up with them and they closed the season losing eight of their final twelve. That’s not a dancing tune and this is a frustrating NIT bid. In 2012 I watched as Kyle Fogg – an Arizona senior I saw grow, develop, and grind into an first-teamer – accepted a bid into the NIT. He handled it by scoring just 5 points on 2-5 shooting inside the McKale Center. He lost, his final game as a Wildcat, to Bucknell. In Tucson. The point here is that Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon have tasted sweet tournament success. They danced each of the past two years and are just a year removed from giving Syracuse all they could handle. And now they’ve drawn a home game against Utah Valley, KenPom’s 198th best team, on the same floor that they beat an undefeated and #1 ranked Arizona team. It’s a different stage.

First Opponent: So you’ve heard of Utah Valley

So yeah, that happened. They also don’t shoot the ball and are going to make an effort to score inside the arc with the 333rd slowest offense in the nation. This offense is actually pretty impressive considering they take such a deliberate amount of time and conjure the 13th best A/FG ratio in the country. This suggests that their patience pays off. But not that much. They’re still the 209th most efficient offense. Cal should roll and throw zero basketballs at anyone in doing such.

Stories: The NIT committee doesn’t have the same undisclosed and denied sense of drama that the NCAA committee has. I mean, what do you want me to tell you? There was some sort of sick conservatism joke being played on Cal within their quad? They play a school from Utah with a potential second round game against Arkansas or Indiana State? I don’t suspect that to be the case but I also don’t see the Bears staying very long in this tournament. That’s not an indictment on their talents, but rather a recognition that they’ve already the filet, they don’t want the chuck.

Best/Worst:

  • Win the National Invitational. They’re still good enough to make a run like that.
  • Out before first tip on Wednesday

#5 Utah Utes

Opening Remarks: Whereas an NIT invite was a let down for Cal, Utah has been on a different trajectory. No one has asked Utah to do anything except join the Pac-12 since 2009. Pardon, they went to the Sun Bowl, but I think we’re walking in stride here. It hasn’t been the sexiest three seasons in the Conference of Champs for the Utes. So garnering this invite was a big deal no matter how illegal what Arizona did to them is in Utah. Now, did I think they’d be a higher seed? Yes. Did I think they’d get to host a game? Yes. Neither is happening for the Utes. But sometimes, when you haven’t really demonstrated a track record of success (in recent history! I know all about Utah as the 11th winningest program) you don’t get treated preferentially. So, they’ll travel to win this thing.

First Opponent: Utah will return to the Bay Area to face the St. Mary’s Gaels. The first thing I want to note is that the last time they traveled to the Bay (2 weeks ago) they beat Cal for their second road win (big accomplishment) and gave everything they had for 39 minutes and 30 seconds to Stanford. Mal-execution cost them the Bay sweep but the overarching sentiment here is that the Utes set a precedence for A) Winning on the road which they had not done all season, and B) Winning in the Bay area. Moraga, CA is just 13 miles from Berkeley. This is familiar territory for the Utes particularly considering they’re basically playing a slightly better version of Washington State: slow as a turtle, threes like preschool. Of course WSU beat Utah which is seemingly inexcusable and perhaps an aberration. That weekend sweep in Washington were the Utah’s only losses to non-tournament teams. Enough revisionism. You knew I wasn’t going to get through a Utah bit without mentioning shots at the rim, right? St. Mary’s allows the 214th highest percentage of shots at the rim (38.8%). Hello, Delon.

Stories: The tale here is that Utah is in the post-season. Here is a program trajectory graph I created used highly advance statistical models to understand what Larry Krystkowiak is trying to do:

UtahBasketballOh, that’s just wins you say? Well I’ve long said it’s my favorite statistic and it doesn’t lie very often. Utah is headed in the right direction, a post-season invite is proof of it. A five seed in the NIT is proof they hadn’t been in the right direction. But that’s what March is for. Prove somebody wrong.

Best/Worst:

  • Second Round – Look, they’ve had problems traveling. So going from the Bay, back to SLC, to Minnesota doesn’t exactly sound like an auspicious position to be beating the tournament’s #1 seed.
  • First Round – Lose to what’s a pretty decent little SMC team.

#1 Oregon State

Opening Remarks: The Beavers are going to pay $35k to host their first round game. Is this basically the plot premise of Her? This is their fourth time in the CBI. They won it in 2009 and lost in the semifinals to Washington State in 2011. All of these stats I had to look up because I really don’t know anything about the CBI and it will probably remain that way. I’ll peripherally keep an eye on the Beavs but this could be the extent of it. My eyes are on North Texas.

First Opponent: This tournament puts a new spin on the phrase “cost of winning” as advancing means OSU will pay $50k to host the quarters; $75k to host the semis. Whatever the case, the Beavers have drawn Radford who has the 329th best defense in the nation. Oregon State has the 49th best offense. Plus, it’s Radford and what I really want to do is mix in a Tim Floyd wakes up in El Paso reference because UTEP is in the CBI and USC isn’t. But Andy Enfield is still waking up in Los Angeles and so is Isaac Hamilton (albeit UCLA not USC).

Best/Worst:

  • Tournament champions. They’re one of just two high major teams, they’ve won it before, and they’re a senior laden squad. Probably should win it.
  • Participation?
March Madness

Half the Pac Dances: Previewing It All

Let’s just get this part out of the way: here is a printable bracket. Now how about it? We’re here, March, with half the conference of champions dancing. That’s the most since 2009 (when it was the Pac-10) but let’s not harp on circumstance.

Madness:

#1 Arizona Wildcats

Opening Remarks: For one reason. That’s what I said this season was about in November and that’s what it’s about today. It’s been no secret that this would be Sean Miller’s best team and it has not disappointed. Of course this is the point in the year when it becomes lasting disappointment – the kind that scars and hurts like the pretty girl’s “I have a boyfriend.” But there’s that instance that she says “yes” and so we love this tournament.  After losing to UCLA in the Pac championship game (his third such loss in five years), Miller had this to say:

If we won this championship, it’s about next week. If we lost this championship, it’s about next week.

Next week is now and the selection committee seems to have given Arizona a pretty favorable draw.

First Opponent: First up are the Weber State Wildcats who will try to become the first ever 16-seed to beat a one. SPOILER: They won’t but so much Wildcats. Weber State is a pretty classic profile of the David mold: good at threes (14th best 3FG% in the nation), slow (272d adjusted tempo), and offensively carried by one dude (Davion Berry has near top-50 usage). I probably don’t need to explain why Arizona will win but if you really need one, it’s because Weber State’s best defensive attribute (of which they have few) is that they limit threes. To which the Arizona varietal of Wildcats will kindly oblige, not shoot, and likely dunk. Yes, the Ogden based Wildcats stand little chance but I wish them luck as my boss hails from Ogden. Oh, and I’m far from buying this Oklahoma State hype.

Stories: It remains one of my all-time favorite times as a fan. We were buried deep in the guest bedroom of my parents house. Eight of us surrounding a shitty television by even the standards of a household that didn’t have cable until just a year prior. But it was the television we needed. And with every Wildcat success, a new superstition was born. There was face paint, squatting positions, gestures, noises, assigned seats, reassigned seats, and yelps until we willed Blake Stepp’s gimme out of the hoop and into Luke Walton’s arms. Rick Anderson would later call it the greatest game he had ever played in. Arizona had beaten Gonzaga in thrilling double-overtime fashion. The stage is set, let’s run it back.

Best/Worst:

  • National champions. It’s that or bust.
  • Third round. I’ve been dogging Oklahoma State but any team with a first round point guard in this tournament stands a chance.

#4 UCLA Bruins

Opening Remarks: Well now that the Bruins are a four-seed, me lauding them as a top-15 talented team doesn’t really mean much. The committee’s megaphone is greater than mine and means a lot more. Good work, guys. Further, the Bruins have the deadliest back court in the country. But y’all know this (aside from the Cougars AMIRIGHT?!?). But did you realize that UCLA has never lost a tournament game (of any non-preseason variety) when both that horrifying backcourt has been intact. Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are undefeated when playing together in tournament games (5-0). This is the champion of the championship we needed and deserved; a nomination that drew some debate on the twitter. The primary argument being big dance success is where the real ‘respect’ is earned. I can’t disagree with that.

First Opponent: I don’t think these Tulsa Golden Hurricanes are version of Danny and the Miracles. Led by Kansas great, Danny Manning, the Golden Hurricanes (GH moving forward ’cause that’s a lot of letters) are a pretty tough defensive squad. They’re top 30 in defensive efficiency and while you might see this as a strength, I don’t. Arizona, the best defense in the world, couldn’t stop these Bruins. The Wildcats were about to have to shoot their way to victory and nearly did (with a wildly improved defensive effort in the second half). Tulsa touts just an average offense which should allow an opportunistic UCLA defense to get enough stops to outscore the GH. Plus, who the hell guards Kyle Anderson? No seriously, I pose this question to the entire nation.

Stories: Unlikely but worth noting, New Mexico is in this region. An Alford-UNM matchup wouldn’t occur until the elite-eight but wouldn’t that have some heat. I mean, just imagine the Bruins Nation reaction to that loss. And speaking of potential melt downs on a certain web site, run through this scenario: a second round matchup of UCLA and VCU. Shaka Smart was on fans’ shortlist of UCLA head coaching candidates. Could a UCLA win here finally get people on the Alford train? It’d be second sweet-sixteen and most certainly his first when he was expected to get there. Of course, the converse…? And if we’re going to harp potential match ups, let’s look at the most likely. How sweet would a UCLA-Florida sweet-sixteen game be? Two of those three great Howland Final Four teams were dismissed by Billy D’s dominant Florida squads. They’d go on to win back-to-back titles. UCLA would fire Howland. This iteration of the rivalry would be awesome, featuring a top offense (UCLA) versus a top defense (Florida) and I imagine it’d play out a lot like the Pac-12 title game which was just fantastic. Hooray sports!

Best/Worst:

  • Final Four. They have the guard play and talent to pull it off.
  • Third round. VCU poses a unique threat and Steve Alford has only been out of the first weekend once.

#7 Oregon Ducks

Opening Remarks: I saw the quote via twitter and can’t find the link to it so I’ll paraphrase Johnathan Loyd’s quote:

We’re very thankful to be in this position, a month ago this wasn’t a possibility.

That’s the absolute truth. And as I watched him and his squad streak into the Dance, I can’t help but think they could make some noise. The swag they re-generated in winning all those games didn’t disappear in one fell swoop from the Bruins. It’s still there, this team can shoot with anyone in the nation, and on a given night can outscore just about anyone. If Oklahoma State can garner as much Cinderalla attention as they’ve received, why not Oregon?

First Opponenet: If NC State was unanimously the most shocking invite, BYU has got to be the second most startling. They were in just 89 of the 100 brackets aggregated at BracketMatrix which was the second fewest to the Wolf Pack who were in just two of the 100 brackets (the aggregated total may have changed since publish). Alas, this doesn’t change the fact that Oregon will indeed be playing the Cougars so let’s make a Vegas line out of it: Over/under 20,000 points in this one? These two have already played one game this season and combined for 196 points. Hell, they combined to score 28 points in the five minute overtime. BYU’s offense is faster than a message board thread turning weird, quicker than a live-look in at a 16-seed’s second half lead. The Cougars gets shots up like spring break. They score the third most points per game in the country. Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino (the Cougar backcourt) do a great job of getting up and down the floor, leading the third highest percentage of transition offense in the nation. Oregon, meanwhile, takes the 25th highest amount of shots in transition, score the 11th most points per game, and 12th most efficient offense going. Want to see some kids run around a basketball court? Tune into this.

Stories: I think the Ducks outscore BYU and have a shooter’s chance to knock off Wisconsin. The Badgers are touting what everyone keeps calling the “best Bo Ryan offense ever.” Isn’t that any oxymoron? My point is that Oregon has a shot (pun) at their second straight sweet sixteen which could potentially have them facing the Creighton Blue Jays, Dana Altman’s old school. An establishment he never took to the Sweet-16. So this would play out like one of those awkward times when you run into your ex-girlfriend while you’re on a date at the ballet but the ex was always pissed you would never take her to the ballet. Hey, new girl gets new things. Rest assured, break ups happen for a reason.

Best/Worst:

  • Elite eight. They can out offense just about anyone but they’re not beating Arizona again.
  • Second round. Live by the three; die by it.

#8 Colorado Buffaloes

Opening Remarks: My gut was that I kind of liked what I saw for the Buffs. They were playing Pittsburgh who I’ve long sensed has a propensity to not score and who ultimately hadn’t really played anyone all season. But we can discuss that next. Now let’s just note and appreciate that Colorado has made three consecutive NCAA tournaments. Arizona and UCLA haven’t done that. This isn’t the team the Buffs thought they’d be this time of year but the fact of the matter is the Buffs are doing plenty of believing. I sincerely think they made this tournament because they believed they were supposed to and so they did. That reads pretty simplistic but this invitation is a very strong indication of Colorado’s culture shift.

First Opponent: So as I noted, my gut thought this was a good matchup. My research doesn’t really support that. First of all, it’s in Orlando. That’s clear across the country for Tad’s crew which is hurdle number one. Secondly, Pittsburgh is efficient on both sides of the ball, a pretty well rounded team. The Buffs, meanwhile, haven’t broken the 1.00 point per possession barrier in more than month (2/16 at USC, the conference’s worst defense). But the Buffs can defend and the Panthers take their sweet offensive time (271st in average  possession length). If Colorado stands a chance, it’d be in forcing those long possessions into some uncomfortable looks, create some bad shots, board like Buffaloes, and get run out on those D-boards.

Stories: I haven’t really found anything too interesting about where Colorado stands today. They’re a little bit over-seeded all things considered but they’ve also been shipped across the country to play in a quadrant built as Gator bait. But maybe getting an eight is a hat tip to the direction of the program? That’s something to smile about and hope for the best. In the meantime, Daytona Beach is supposedly a great Spring Break spot.

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. They can squeak past Pitt particularly if Pitt allows the game to be close. But Florida in Orlando?
  • Second round. They could also not squeak past Pitt.

#10 Stanford Cardinal

Opening Remarks: They made it! It only took six years for Johnny Dawkins to do what Dana Altman did in year three, Sean Miller and Tad Boyle did in year two, and Steve Alford did in year one.   Hell, Herb Sendek did it in year three. Quite the leash but NIT titles evidently buy you time in Palo Alto. The invitation came through, no matter how you want to criticize, and sometimes that’s all that matters.

First Opponent: They draw the New Mexico Lobos. One thing I did hear Doug Gottlieb quickly note on the Selection Show was that UNM struggles with the stretch four. I have no idea how to quantify this other than to note that UNM was 2-1 against SDSU who seems to have an entire roster of stretch fours. Well so too does Stanford, as Gottlieb’s proclamation would seem to be a great scenario for Huestis and Powell. But I think the main reason Gottlieb was suggesting this was because the Lobos do a generally good job of keeping teams away from the rim. Teams 32% of their offense from beyond the arc against UNM – the 19th highest percentage in the country. Good news for Stanford! Despite all of their size, they love going nowhere near the rim, content taking the 294th lowest percentage of rim shots. It’s from mid-range and out where Stanford can cause damage (I see you Anthony Brown) and New Mexico might let them.

Stories: Honestly, what more do you want beyond the fact that this team is in the tournament? More? OK. Well I’m kind of intrigued by the idea that this New Mexico team used to be Steve Alford’s. What if they make it further than UCLA? What if every team with a loose affiliation with UCLA (Iowa, UNM, VCU, Boston Celtics) makes it further? I’ve wildly digressed but I’ve struggled to dramatize this Stanford team all season. They do such a good job of it themselves. So maybe if I say enough bad things about Stanford, like how they’re not the best corner-back in the game, maybe Richard Sherman will come get them all pissed off for greatness?

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. They have the size and pieces to get past New Mexico but not Kansas (of course it is Kansas in March).
  • Second round. Many think that UNM is under-seeded which doesn’t bode well for the Cardinal.

#10 Arizona State Sun Devils

Opening Remarks: James Harden isn’t about to walk through that door, but even he couldn’t get the Sun Devils out of the first weekend. Nope, ASU’s season is perennially over by mid-March. They were the last Pac-12 announced, the selection committee with a cruel jest certainly not saving the best for last. They did, however, manage to escape a play-in game which I think is a good thing. And while Harden isn’t walking through that door, Jahii Carson most certainly is. He’s their must watch TV and March is must watch television. In skimming this amusing tourney guide, I was intrigued to find out that Jahii averages 20.8 points in 30 career neutral court games. That’s neat.

First Opponent: Rather than break down my thoughts on Rick Barnes and that beacon of mediocrity, let’s highlight Isaiah Taylor. I’ve only seen a handful of Texas minutes played this season but he was about as exciting a guard as I saw play all season. He did as he pleased in games against Kansas (23 points) and Iowa State (26 points). His FTrate is a threatening 58% which ASU doesn’t do a particularly good job of limiting. But what’s most interesting about this shifty little guy, is that he takes just 5.4% of his shots from deep. This means, Taylor is breaking down defenders and getting to the rim. And who’s he going to meet at the rim? Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan Block-chynski. In general, there isn’t too much that jumps off the page about either of these teams offensively. I kind of like the idea of it becoming a battle of best players and ASU actually has the best player in this one. They also have Jonathan Gilling.

Stories: Steve Patterson isn’t the most well liked guy but neither are Texas or Arizona State. Patterson, naturally, just left ASU after less than two years in Tempe to be the AD in Austin. In trying to learn more about this, I came to find out that ASU president, Michael Crow, was upset about Patterson’s departure. And then I got to the line in the article where they noted that Crow was paying him about $450k and Texas was offering $1.4M. Are you kidding me Michael? I’d cheer Rick Barnes results for $1.4M a year, too.

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. It’s Rick Barnes in March and ASU has one of the best players going. But ASU-Michigan is not a match up I like if we’re looking for ways the Sun Devils advance.
  • Second round. Texas ain’t bad.
SeanMillerSquat

Our Final Pac-12 Game: Arizona. UCLA.

Here it is and I’m excited like Sean above. Our final Pac-12 game of the year and it involves the two most successful programs in conference history. It’s the title game that we need and deserve. All the season long we proclaimed that the Pac was back and for years now I’ve lauded that the return of these two programs would be paramount to this return to glory. In the past handful of years, you’d be hard pressed to find a better Pac-12 season, a better crop of talent and teams, than this 2013-14 group.

And it all comes down to UCLA and Arizona. Color me tickled!

Rather than dive into the history of these two (35-40 UCLA advantage) let’s stay in the present and look at what a fun matchup this is on paper. It’s the league (and nation’s) top defense against the league’s top offense (14th in the nation). Fire and ice.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 8.11.41 AM

 

We’ve discussed a good chunk of this but here it is visually. Arizona’s entire defense is built to force teams to shoot the high-risk, low-reward two-point jumper. Notice about that 51.9% of shots against the Wildcats are of this variety. Well 40.4% of the time, when UCLA is taking that variety of shot, they’re making  it. That’s the 29th best clip in the land and third best in the Pac-12. I’ve long been a fan of UCLA’s mid-range game – namely Anderson and Adams with spattered frustration at the Wears’ ability to hit that shot. Kyle takes nearly 60% of his shots there and makes 46% of them. Apologies because I can’t contextualize it but that’s the highest such FG% on the team. The D-1 average is 35.7%.

In January against the Wildcats, UCLA’s rim/2/3 shooting breakdown looked like this:

Rim: 24.6%                2pt: 55.4%           3pt: 20%

If you need a reminder as to what the AZ defense forces, it’s: 21.2/51.9/26.9. You get what the Wildcats allow you. The catch here – and it’s why I showed you UCLA shooting percentages – is that UCLA can make these shots. They’re a terrific shooting team and will not shy away from what they’re given. Or what they take.

The Bruins have the 4th highest steal percentage in the nation which they use to get moving. A little more than a quarter of UCLA’s offense comes in transition (27.2%). That the thirty second highest such percentage in the nation. They rank sixth in the nation in percentage of first FGAs coming off of a steal. Jordan Adams is UCLA’s All-Time single season steals leader. Theft is a significant part of their game and in January, UCLA stole the ball 12 times from Arizona and forced 17 turnovers – easily the most steals any team has collected against AZ. You saw that the Wildcat defense got what it wanted, but UCLA’s defense fed its offense.

Of note, in Arizona’s last eight games, TJ McConnell – Arizona’s point guard – has 47 assists to just 8 turnovers. More fire. More ice.

And now you see why I’m fascinated by this game. I was back then (STATS and Q&A) and now – with the stakes at their highest – I can’t wait for 3pm. I could dive further into this, but it’s 70-degrees here in San Francisco and if I’m going to be in a bar all afternoon, I gotta get outside.

HeTouchedTheBall1-560x290

tony parker

A Review & A Preview: Expect the Unexpected

The combined score differential yesterday was 75 and no one saw that coming. Noting such would suggest that it wasn’t a great day. Ben told me he felt gypped. Free throws aside, Utah didn’t score for 692 seconds. Oregon missed all of the threes and the Pac-12′s defensive player of the year? Good job and good effort. Stanford posted the highest offensive efficiency against the Sun Devils of anyone this season. You can also read that as ASU’s worst defensive effort.

Point being, yesterday was March. We asked for the unexpected and we got it. Utah had lost 10 games prior to Thursday by a combined 41 points. Then lost by 32. Oregon and UCLA had previous battled to the tune of even double overtime and last second Wear. Wasn’t Thursday’s case. Oregon had been shooting 47% from three in their previous nine games. Shot 30% last night. ASU’s defense.

And with that context, our worst game was Cal-Colorado (not our worst game). These two played almost the identical game as they did on Saturday, so much so that Colorado scored the exact same number of points in regulation (59). Cal couldn’t quite get there so, naturally, they lost. Justin Cobbs had two chances at Cobbsicles but missed. I hate watching seniors lose.

So we asked for the unexpected and we got it. We asked for the dramatic and the final shots and we got it. Pretty nice little Thursday.

PREVIEWS!

There are two games before it comes to fruition and I’m a big fan of this:

But there are two games. Arizona will attempt to achieve the double trifecta – defeating a team three times in one season – which I cannot confirm as a first or not. However you slice it, the assumption is that it’s difficult but then Arizona beat Utah by 32. I suppose there’s a precedence both ways. However you slice it, Colorado has won three of four (all wins coming by a score of 59-56, odd) and is playing about as Colorado as it gets: effective and opportunistic offensively (transition, Josh Scott, and hot shooting), solid defensively (0.91 ppp allowed in Vegas). But solid and effective aren’t enough to beat what appears to be the most focused Arizona has been all season. Utah looked the Wildcats in the eyes and Medusa turned them to stone. Colorado tried that once, too. Didn’t work out too well (-27 at home).

The evening slate pits Stanford and UCLA. They split the season series, holding home court in both instances. We could rattle off more speak of Stanford’s seniors or UCLA’s transition game, but these are topics we’ve exhausted. What we need to note here is that the games they split, were both rather lopsided. In Westwood, the Bruins won by 17. In Palo Alto, the Cardinal won by 9. Now margin of victory doesn’t always tell us much but – as we noted at the top of this page – it may be fair to expect something lopsided. If these two have played two games that they each ran away with, who’s to say we won’t see a tight one tonight? I’m not opposed. KenPom predicts it at as a 76-75 game, Bruins edge. Tony Parker went off in blowing out the Cardinal. Can he do that again? Stanford shot 62% to beat the Bruins. Can they do that again?

I predict more of exactly what we want: college basketball in March.

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The Pac-12 Mascots Death Match: Round 2 Commenceth

I’ll be blunt: round 2 got delayed in the excitement of sports. Sometimes big fights get put on hold for other stuff. And sometimes other stuff gets put on hold for big fights. We’re back in action with some fresh perspective on the first rounders and some new names. The top seeds in the game. But first we must note, and hope, for the best for Ms. Adamson. Does she realize she dove into a DEATH MATCH?

 

ROUND TWO COMMENCETH:

#1 Wilbur vs. #8 Swoop

WilburSwoopWilbur from Roommate Pete of That Poor Architect
Wilbur ‘Paws” Wildcat – When the kitties down south are surveying the court after a 10-0 run capped off by a Rondae ‘he-looks-so-out-of-control-he-must-be-in-control’ Hollis-Jefferson posterization, they look no further then everyone’s favorite ferocious Wildcat, Wilbur to turn up the volume. His antics are cheeky and his hijinx unrivaled, “Paws” would spurn his own mascot gf Wilma if it meant raising the McKale Center roar just one more decibel. He’ll kiss babies and pose for pictures. He’ll put a cactus up your ass if you ask him nicely.  The heart of the most raucous crowd west of the Mississippi has a name. That name is Wilbur and you WILL hear him roar.

Swoop from Leah Beckmann of All of the Internet and long-time friend of the program who, like many other such friends, doesn’t pronounce pac-hoops, but rather pa-choops
The hawk. This hawk, Swoop. This is the name of the ferocious skybeast who lords over all with a fistful of knives and a piercing, fearsome shriek. It roams unrestrained; the hawk has no master, the hawk knows no cage.  Imagine you’re a cat. You’re dead. Imagine you’re a tree. You’re clawed. Imagine you’re a horse? You’re pecked. Imagine you’re a beaver or a duck with a poncy little maritime fettish (Why that duck wearin a sailor outfit with no pants?). You my friend, are DEAD.

#1 Wilbur vs. #8 Swoop

  • #1 Wilbur (54%, 115 Votes)
  • #8 Swoop (46%, 99 Votes)

Total Voters: 214

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#4 Oski vs. #5 Ralphie (not Chip)

OskiRalphieOski from Nick Kranz of California Golden Blogs
Why is Oski a badass? Confidence. Pretty much every single other mascot in the Pac-12 is the same. An anthropomorphic animal hyped up on some form of stimulant, wearing a football or basketball jersey depending on the season. They’re all the same, they’re all boring, they are all overcompensating for a lack of confidence or past failures in their youth. Oski don’t care. Oski doesn’t need to convince everybody he’s awesome by pretending he’s on the team or by waving his arms like a drug addict. He’s calm, composed, and dapper. But when push comes to shove he’ll take down a tree or throw a cake at Gary Payton’s mom. Don’t mistake a calm attitude and classy style with a fear of doing what needs to be done.

Ralphie (not Chip) from Ben Burrow of Rumblin Buff
Well, I guess Ralphie thundered past poor old Traveler.  My condolences to the family of the deceased, but the glue factory’s quota must be met!  Now onto Oskie, which, as far as I can tell, is some kind of pervert bear.  Now, I don’t know about you, but if given the choice between the noble symbol of the American West and furry bait for Chris Hansen, I’m taking the buffalo.  Free choice, and all, but I think we all know the right choice here.

#4 Oski vs. #5 Ralphie (not Chip)

  • #5 Ralphie (not Chip) (84%, 199 Votes)
  • #4 Oski (16%, 37 Votes)

Total Voters: 236

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#2 Joe Bruin vs. #10 Puddles

JoePuddlesJoe Bruin from Luc of The Stoop Kids
To the Oski lovers out there eager to point out that Joe Bruin is his younger brother; of youthful, bear-cubbish disposition, let’s be real. Oski may have a few years on Joe, but by the looks of it, Oski stopped hitting the gym after graduation, has put on a few pounds, and now rocks a baggy mom-cardigan to hide his ever-expanding gut. Joe, on the
other hand, is eternally in the prime of his youth, filling out his Bruin jersey nicely
but appearing generally more kid-friendly than the open-mouth graphic bear head
of UCLA Bruin logos past. I digress. We’ve all watched Planet Earth late at night over
many cups of noodles, and you’ve seen what a bear does to salmon in a river. While
there may not be any fish mascots across the PAC-12, it’s not hard to imagine the
fate of a duck, beaver, etc. in the clutches of the Mighty Bruins. As for the Trees, we
thank you for your services. And no matter the outcome of the fight, Joe gets to go
home with Josie, which makes him the real winner here.

Puddles from Yours Truly
Many of these commendations have noted the ability of the anthropomorph to woo a woman. Above notes Josie and Butch has a ‘Hey Girl’ campaign. SportsCenter even once showed Bucky the Badger lusting over Wilma (Wilbur’s girl). I’m not above that. Puddles is the appetizer to the entree, the aperitif to the amuse bouche, the foreplay to…look at this point if you don’t know that I’m talking about the Duck cheerleaders then you’re not paying attention to me and you’re not paying attention. You can go home with another anthropomorph – they have conventions for that – and that’s your prerogative. No judgement, bro. I just set my sights a little higher. Quack with me now.

#2 Joe Bruin vs. #10 Puddles

  • #2 Joe Bruin (58%, 143 Votes)
  • #10 Puddles (42%, 105 Votes)

Total Voters: 248

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#3 Sparky vs. #11 Butch

SparkyButch Sparky from [went unclaimed so I'm just going to note the below tweet from someone who was trolling my tweets about Vegas and favorited something of mine and then I discovered this gold]

Butch from Michael Preston of Coug Center
Butch T. Cougar has advanced to the second round past some shrubbery which is somehow the mascot for a school who takes their nickname from a color. He faces off now against a solar being from the underworld of some kind and all I know about those creatures is that they go to the South looking for spirits to extract from country singers. Butch embodies everything about a mascot you should love. He’s beloved my children and their grandparents who all want a picture with what is arguably the most recognizable mascot west of the Mississippi. He combines the perfect about of ferocity and loveable-ness. He shows up in more pictures with alumni than any other mascot in the conference and there’s a reason for it: WSU is extremely proud of their mascot. Bonus info: the T. in Butch T. Cougar stands for…anyone, anyone?…”The”. So…there’s that too!

#3 Sparky vs. #11 Butch

  • #11 Butch (94%, 445 Votes)
  • #3 Sparky (6%, 26 Votes)

Total Voters: 471

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