- Angels and Angels: Lauren Hill, Mountain Ridge High, and the American Myth of Sportsmanship – This was was particularly current to me (although the almost week late linkage) because of I piece (possibly long form) I’m drafting. What is the role of sport? To teach or to entertain? We’ve so muddled the two and I appreciate Charles PIerce’s simplification of it here. It’s not the complex unless we make it so.
- Obama’s net neutrality push cheers some, riles others – Is that the least shocking title to a political article you can imagine? Coin tossed, could land heads or tails. Howland calls timeout, followed by media timeout or another timeout. Girlfriend makes plan, will be late or tardy. Nevertheless, net neutrality is an issue that can and/or will affect all of us. ISPs hold significant power and as we’re on the verge of significant changes to the way we intake media – between NetFlix and HBO Go and everyone else including Amazon becoming streaming services as well as content providers – a la carte is not far away. Let’s hope we’ll have the chance to afford it.
- Miller Continues to Work on Rotation – Find the quote in here that’s very telling. I think it’s the one where Miller basically says how many guys he’s going to play this season but maybe I’ve been wrong all summer long. Who knows? Anyhow, he brought Stanley Johnson off the bench in his first-ish college game and went deep into that bench for the exhibition. Based on performance, I’m sticking with my semblance-of-depth prediction. This is a six-man work horse.
Had the President addressed the State of the Pac-12 (SOTP) I think he would have had a difficult time explaining it. Particularly to a democratic nation. After all, the Pac-12 right now resembles an oligarchy. Anyhow, that’ll do for the politics speak unless you want to watch COTUS react to FOTUS and LeBron. Anyhow, this is the last weekend of the first half and we’ll finish it in February which is four weeks away from March and :). Yeah, an emoji. Gameday is following me to Boulder and, to my Colorado readers and my Washington readers, good luck.
GotW: There are some good ones on the slate. I think Arizona has one of its toughest tests at Cal on Saturday (#ImGoing) and I think the Rocky Mountain Riot – or the Snow Fight, or the Ski Skirmish, or the Mountain Melee, or the Rocky Rumble – is huge (Saturday 11am PST)! Utah hasn’t won on the road and really needs to pick one up because the “awww! they played really tough” dialogue is fulfilling for only so long. At a certain point they’re going to have to fill the win column before they’re forced to think they suck (they don’t). Meanwhile, the Buffs need a win to convince themselves they’re capable of doing such without Spencer Dinwiddie. But that’s not even the GotW! I’m picking UCLA @ Oregon (Thursday 6pm PST) as the GotW because UCLA is the real deal and Oregon used to be. This is a great opportunity for the Ducks to get their mojo back – I mean their real mojo – because Illinois is now just slightly worse than Georgetown who’s just slightly worse than Mississippi. Let’s call it “How Dana got his grove back?”
Game to Avoid: I understand the expansion of the schedule to Wednesday-Sunday; but maybe, just maybe, we avoid Superbowl Sunday? This year, tipping off pre-noon and right about the time we’re exploring prop bets about seeing Bruno Mars’ exposed-yet-not nipple, UCLA will be tipping off against Oregon State. The interesting thing, however, is this is probably a very watchable game. UCLA on the road is anything but a sure thing and Oregon State is enigmatic and a possible Sunday spoiler. Furthermore, I know you’re going to be in front of a TV. Therefore, this game very well may be un-avoidable. Instead I’m going to say that you should avoid USC at Oregon State because it’s at the same time on Thursday (6pm PST) as UCLA at Oregon and that’s some must watch right thurrrrr (aforementioned GotW).
Something to Prove: Last week the Oregon Ducks had something to prove and split their trip to Washington. I don’t entirely know if that’s necessarily proving anything but it did end the losing streak. They remain in the conversation of dancing teams with a top-50 KenPom and RPI. But now’s their chance to actually prove something. The UCLA Bruins – in the aforementioned PacHoops GotW – will pay a visit to The Matt as the highest rated team (21st in KP) the Ducks will have played since last March. Whoa! Things aren’t dead for the Ducks – not by any means – but at 2-5 with no wins at home Dana’s boys are going to have start taking care of business at some point. How Dana got his grove back!
Something to Lose: I’m split here. On the one hand we have the Arizona State Sun Devils. This is a team that dropped their first conference game to UW at home then seemed to fall off the radar. Since then they’ve dropped games – on the road! – to Arizona and UCLA, aka the conference elite. In some regard, that’s excusable. But the Herbivores are in the Bay Area this weekend and that can be one of the toughest road trips going. They get swept and we’re looking at a sub-.500 conference team. It might be split-or-go-home time. Then there’s my other team with something to lose. The Arizona schools are tough and pose a great threat to most any squad. Thus, the California Golden Bears are faced with tough home task. The expectation is obviously to win – or at least a split since they’re playing #1 – but the formula that USC used to whoop Cal is a familiar one to ASU. Pe’Shon Howard (12/6/10) at the point and Nikola Jovanovic (23/2) as a scoring big could resemble something of a Carson/Bachynski combo. Precedent set.
The YouTuber: I hope this is happening right now as you read this:
It’s become the chic pick. Nine of twelve CBS experts have picked it. The President picked it. Gottlieb, Davis, and others made such a selection.
This afternoon, inside Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah, David will be introduced to Goliath. The fans lingering from earlier games and the fans who have arrived early for later games will cheer loudly for David. Amongst all of the 6 vs. 11 and 5 vs. 12 match ups, this is the only one that features power conference vs. mid-major (we can ignore 5 UNLV vs. 12 Cal). And for such, the world thinks the Belmont Bruins will upset the Arizona Wildcats.
They’ll tell you that Arizona yields a tremendous amount of three-pointers; that their perimeter defense has disappeared as they give up those threes at a 36% clip. They’ll remind you that they’ve closed the season with a less than stellar 9-7 record (the same record the 1997 Arizona Wildcats closed their regular season with) including an abysmal loss to USC in which they allowed the Trojans to shoot greater than 60% afield. Undoubtedly someone will bring up Mark Lyons’ shot selection and the lack of depth at the guard position. Someone’s going to call the freshmen a disappointment and yet another will mention that Arizona has not beaten a Bruin this season.
And these “outside the box thinkers?” They’ll cite Ian Clark’s dagger-like precision from deep. Did you know this kid drops threes easier than it is to see through a pair of LuLu Lemon leggings? He connects at a 46% clip from deep and at a 54% clip overall. He’s an efficient scorer: 4th nationally in eFG% at 67% which is a higher eFG% than Derrick Williams’ 65% in 2011. Yes, Ian Clark out-efficients even Arizona’s #23. And as a team, those same thinkers will expand, the Bruins make threes. They shoot 40% of their shots from there and make 38% of them. “How’s that match up with that porous Wildcat perimeter?” they’ll laud. Stylistically, it might appear, Belmont was built to upset these Wildcats.
Not so fast my friend.
These Bruins are small. Their largest contributor is 6’7 240lbs Trevor Noack. Trevor, who basically runs the five for the Bruins, is roughly the same size as Arizona’s starting three, Solomon Hill (6’7” 220lbs). Arizona’s five is 7’ 260lbs. In the business, we call that a mismatch. The Cats, of course, roll out three others bigger than Trevor. They also have Nick Johnson, currently playing the roll of antidote to opposing facilitators. The last two players Johnson has defended (Spencer Dinwiddie and Larry Drew II) combined to shoot just 4-17. No doubt Mr. Clark is eager to meet him. Or the most recent incarnation of Arizona’s defense which has allowed ASU, Colorado, and UCLA to shoot 30% from out there.
What’s more about the three-point conversation is that while Belmont takes 40% of their shots from out there – obviously a significant portion of their offense – the Wildcats limit opponents to just 30% of their offense from deep. The Bruins shoot ’em, the ‘Cats limit them.
And on the reverse side of that coin, the Wildcats are no three-point shooting slouches themselves. They take 38% of their shots from there and make 36% of them. Not. Too. Shabby. Especially considering these Bruins (who do force turnovers at a high rate which can pose a problem for the TO-prone Cats) yield 37% of their opponents’ offense beyond the arc. That, my friends, would seem to play directly into Wildcats paws.
Additionally these Wildcats can rebound whereas Belmont…not so much. They’ve got the 217th best OR% and yield – defensively – the 262nd highest OR%. Arizona, with its size and propensity to board, will have their fill of second chance opportunities. Possessions, my friends, will win basketball games. Especially considering Arizona scores about 1.13 points on each of them (compared to Belmont’s defense which yields about 0.94ppp).
Ultimately, this is nothing more than a chic pick.
Arizona is the better team. They’re bigger, faster, and stronger. Belmont is intriguing and no doubt good, they garnered a better seed than 20% of the dancing Pac. But they’re just that, David. Arizona is Goliath, swatting aside the flung rock intended to drop them (this is more than a metaphor, by the way; Belmont shots are blocked at an 11.5% rate, 34th worst in the country).
None of which, of course, is to dismiss the magnitude of any game in this cherished tournament. No at all. Arizona will be approaching this game with the respect it deserves. The hype, however, has muddled the facts; a fair conclusion when all eyes are on the opportunity to steal a few bucks from one’s cube mate in the office challenge.
But I’d say look elsewhere to steal a win. Not this Arizona team against this Belmont squad. Not in Salt Lake. Not when “my man…he’s never coming back here” is in play. Which is to say one should not underestimate the power of the career finality staring down Parrom, Hill, and Lyons.
Some Goliath will fall today. A David in some arena will sling a rock that strikes him ‘tween the eyes, dropping the bigger opponent in shocking and wild fashion.
I couldn’t quite give this one an un-biased spin so I asked my buddy Brad to craft this here tourney preview. Full disclosure, he’s 110% Wildcat.
Not too long ago, Arizona was projected as the top seed in the West region. Arizona stumbled to the finish line and enters the tournament as a 6 seed, having split their last 10 games. However, this is still a team that started 14-0 and knocked off Florida–the best team in the country. Arizona has also played some of its best basketball over the last 4 games and seems to have patched up its shoddy three point defense. The question for Arizona, and its fans, is which team will show up: the team that started 14-0 and played inspired defense over the last two weeks; or the team that found a way to lose to USC? The experts are counting on the latter, as Belmont is the chicest upset bid in the entire draw (9 of 12 CBS Experts pick Belmont, as did The President). Only one way to find out: let’s dance!
Why I like them: Sean Miller. Sean Miller coached teams do well in tournaments: he has coached in the NCAA Tournament 5 times and been to the second weekend 3 times. More importantly Arizona is loaded with talent. The team sports a group of freshman that comprised a top 5 recruiting class and is collectively playing their best basketball of the season right now. Additionally, Arizona starts three seniors who all have aspirations of playing professional basketball. The most encouraging reason to like the Wildcats is that in the past three games, they’ve held opponents to 12-39 (30 percent) from behind the arc–six points lower than their season average 36 percent. Bottom line: Arizona has the talent, the coach, the experience and the pedigree to beat any team on any given night.
Why I don’t like them: They allowed teams to shoot threes at a 36 percent clip this year; that’s good for 276 best in the country. (Belmont has two senior guards that shoot over 40 percent from three, and one–Ian Clark–is the best 3 point shooter in the nation). After starting 14-0, Arizona only managed to beat one team (Colorado) in the top half of the Pac-12 conference the rest of the way. To make matters worse, reliable Senior’s Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons shot the three at a less than 30 percent clip the last ten games of the season; while playmaker Nick Johnson disappeared for the month of February and most of March. Bottom line: Arizona has played inconsistently and shown an ability at times to lose to any team on any given night.
Poetic Justice: Kevin Parrom endured a tragic and well documented year that saw him lose his grandmother and mother to cancer and then endure recovering from a gun shot wound. He chose not to redshirt just so he could keep his mind on basketball and now he leads his team on a special tournament run. Mark Lyons came here for one season: to win. And so he does and Sean Miller’s first recruiting class leaves their mark on the program.
Best possible scenario: Arizona’s defense shows up and their size and athleticism overwhelms Belmont. In a second round tossup Mark Lyons is lights out from behind the arc, and Arizona prevails in a close game against a talented New Mexico squad. In the Sweet 16 Arizona gets some help from Iowa State who shoots lights out from three in the first two rounds, knocks off Ohio State, and then goes cold against the Wildcats. Finally, Arizona’s length gives Kelly Olynyk fits in the Elite 8, and Grant Jerrett plays the game of his life, as the Wildcats head to the Final Four. Sean Miller’s first. Ultimately, the Wildcats run out of steam in the national semi-finals but, man, what a run.
On Tuesday, President Obama addressed the Nation in his annual State of the Union. He touched on the pertinent subjects surrounding the goings on of our country and how he, as our elected leader, intends on solving or improving them.
But at it’s crux, at the core of what our President implored congress and this nation to do, was to grow a “rising and thriving middle class.” And then he looked right into the camera and subsequently the souls of Bob Cantu, Herb Sendek, Tad Boyle, Johnny Dawkins, Lorenzo Romar, and Mike Montgomery. After all, these are the heads of the middle-class as we know it. For therein lies five teams log jammed between three 8-3 squads and three 2-9 squads.
Yes, here is the middle class with four weeks remaining that will indeed have its opportunity to rise and thrive, grow and taste success beyond a brief weekend in Vegas. Anyone can afford that. Because no one wants to leave Vegas a complete loser.
The weekend that will be and some additional worthy reads:
- I’m going to Boulder and answered some Q’s about it on the terrific Buffs blog The Rumblings of a Deranged Buffalo by @RumblinBuffalo
- Wed/Thursday game snippets at PacificTakes. Some interesting games.
- Got on the Podcast again with the Addicted To Quack guys, @atqdave and @mattdaddysblog. I really enjoy talking hoops with these guys.
- A few more AZ-CU thoughts about home vs visitor and I mention taquitos. Twice.
**Please note: The above is the first ever reference of Barack Obama and the Pac-12 without mention of Craig Robinson. I’ll take your applauds at the conclusion of the performance.
GotW: Absolutely it’s the game I’m attending. I wouldn’t catch a flight to the haunted DIA or think really hard but not do anything about shelling out $25 more for additional leg room because I’m 6’5″ or troll message boards if I was traveling to OSU-WSU, would I? Never. So yeah, the GotW is Arizona’s visit to Colorado and my attendance. And while my attendance is generally a recipe for GotW, this game has all the ingredients to be great. First of all, Arizona is pissed. Or at least should be. They got beat soundly by Cal and allowed them to shoot 60%. That’s bad and the Cats would appear to have something to prove (see below). On the other bench is Tad Boyle and his replay beliefs. This man thinks replay should be gone and if he’d had his way in 2012 – or even these convictions back then – his team would have one additional win. Sorry I’m not sorry. Ask any Buffalo about it, they’re just now moving past as they’ve won five of six and looking for that revenge. Will they get it? Time will tell. Going to get loud in the Keg.
Game to Avoid: Last week it was a pair of 2-7 teams and this week it’s a pair of 2-9 teams. Oregon State’s visit to Pullman comes with about as much hoopla as my second beer on a Friday night: It has to happen to get on to better things. I have a built in excuse to miss this one (flying to Denver), what’s yours?
Something to Prove: The Arizona Wildcats dip into hostile waters as the highest ranked team in the conference and as (per KenPom) the favorites. But something doesn’t feel right. They dropped the ball against Cal (already mentioned) and, amongst all Top-10 teams, have taken the most heat as an underserving team. The questioning of Arizona has some merits but at the end of the day, they’re 20-3 against the 10th toughest schedule in the nation. But such a record against such competition suggests there might be another level. Something bigger than losses to Cal and squeaking through much of their Pac-12 season. But here they are now. This trip to Colorado can be a message sending game in which Arizona reasserts itself in the face of adversity as the conference’s top team. Time to prove.
Something to Lose: Arizona State faces a tough roady as Utah is very capable of holding holding court (these two went to OT in Tempe) and Colorado is a very good team, particularly on their home floor. The Herbivores pieced together a phenomenal first half but a handful of road hiccups this week could really set them onto the wrong foot heading down the four week stretch to Vegas. The logjam of teams nipping at ASU’s heels (CU, Stan, Cal, USC) is playing some formidable ball and could quickly make moves up the standings, especially if ASU stumbles this weekend.
The YouTuber: I’m just noting here that Stanford has the lowest field goal percentage in the conference…
Well I missed the week three review. My bad, team. I was in DC getting my America on and attending the Inauguration ceremonies. I did have my Pac-12 feelers on and caught a glimpse of the First Coach in his orange and black scarf. You know what they say about coaches? ABR: always be recruiting.
But you know what else I saw? Lupe Fiasco sing 40-consecutive minutes of the same mildly anti-it’s-unclear-exactly-who/what song at a cozy open bar event. Have you ever seen a B-star get defiant then forcibly removed from a stage? Let me rephrase: have you ever seen a B-star get defiant then forcibly removed from a stage at an open bar event? It’s awesome. So awesome that I’d later get into a dance battle in which I displayed my jestful breakdancing moves as a retort to my competitor’s back handspring. So there was that.
Oh, and of all the planes in the SWA fleet, brother and I wound up on what I think is the only one without WiFi and could not stream the Arizona-ASU game. We were 35,000 in the air and anxiously predicting outcomes. We decided to watch Seven. I won’t go into the details of when we turned our phones on, but let’s just say if it’d been a race amongst the other patrons, we’d have won.
That’s the longwinded version of why I missed the review and why I’m a day late on this preview. Here I can do a brief review with emojis:
🙂 Oregon and Utah
🙁 Washington, Oregon State and Cal
The day-late preview:
Game of the Week: I really don’t feel that bad about missing Wednesday’s games with this preview. I mean, that two gamer featured an average RPI of 109. So back to the best game of this week, I’m not going to pick Arizona and UCLA. I just sincerely think Arizona is too big for this game. I don’t even mean that size wise – seriously, UCLA is 7th to Arizona’s 10th in effective height. No. At 16-1 and rolling, Arizona is beyond the emotional game standpoint. They’re playing to make statements now and UCLA just doesn’t bring enough to the table to merit the emotions of a rival. To me, the biggest game of the weekend is Stanford at Colorado. Here’s a pair of underachievers with a lot of games left to play but not a lot of time to figure it out. A win in this game could be just the momentum each needs to get the ball rolling again. Of course this is big kid competition and not everyone is going to walk away with a ribbon. Home has long been kind to Colorado but Stanford is one of just a handful of teams (five I believe?) to win at the Keg since Tad Boyle started there. And when the Cardinal won there, they rolled, 74-50.
Game to Avoid: The more I watch WSU the more I find them to look lost. Sure they rained threes to keep Oregon at bay for a good chunk of the game Wednesday night, but when it came down to the stretch run, when things like execution and discipline are important, the Cougars fell apart. Point being, Ken Bone’s now 1-5 crew will head to Corvallis to see who will become a two-win team. I have better things to do on my Saturday afternoon.
Something to Prove: I think both Colorado and Stanford have a lot to prove, but that’s more of a week-in-week-out thing moving forward. They’re in trouble. ASU, however, has started conference play quite nicely and have got to feel good about their 3-2 conference start and overall 14-4 mark. But now they host the upstart (can we call them that?) Trojans who seem to be playing loose and fearlessly – a scary combination – and the talented Bruins. UCLA is a good team and has a chance to win every time out. If ASU wants to contend, they’ll need to win this game. I find this an intriguing matchup with some pretty similar pieces and, for all my eviscerating of them, it’s still UCLA and a game that can be pretty easy to get up for. Which of course leads us back to the Trapjans (that’s my new nickname for USC). They’re the wildcard in all of this and will cause fits for many teams. But ASU has the opportunity this weekend to prove they’re more than a hot start and a weak schedule.
Something to Lose: I really could pick from any team not in the top or bottom three. It’s long been discussed what a toss up the middle of this conference would be and that assumption is being validated just three weeks deep. However, I’m picking Washington here, which might be cheating because I’m doing such after they already lost and have now done such for two consecutive games and have now done such against winless teams. Whatever good spirits the Huskies may have garnered with their nifty road start will evaporate with an ugly showing in Oregon. Sure, there’s no shame in losing to the Ducks, but three game losing streaks aren’t good.
The YouTuber: I present to you…Lupe Fiasco. #FiascoFiasco
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Vazannion – Not sure who will be under center but, come on, you know you’re a little pumped for the Civil War.
- 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.
- Can’t Get Enough – He’s gone and this was two years ago but it’s still dirty