Tag Archives: CBS

My Trip to Ann Arbor, MI

Standing in the tunnel, just off of the Crisler Center floor outside the locker rooms, Greg Byrne was fulfilling the responsibilities of the coolest job in the world. Glad-handing friends of the program and telling people he didn’t remember that he most certainly remembered them, he stank of charm and victory. When it was my turn to shake the Athletic Director’s hand, I said, “Greg, I really like the sports.” He chuckled and told me he shared those sentiments and carried on through the crowd.

I most certainly do enjoy the sports, I confirmed as much by flying to Ann Arbor for 40 hours of collegiate fun. I also confirmed with the wait staff at Ashley’s on State Street that their establishment was indeed not named for Brandon Ashley who had just scored 18 non-Wolverine points that afternoon. I’m not sure I’m welcome back.

Crisler Center

What was further confirmed in Michigan was that these ‘Cats are deserving of their number one ranking. That they’re equal parts balanced, talented, tough, and fortunate. A special combination that suggests North Texas. They took every possible blow from a talented albeit youthful Wolverine squad and responded. As I’ve noted many times on PacHoops, it isn’t necessarily what you do but how you respond. As Arizona needed a moment – a stop, a basket, a something – they got it. I’ll note my two favorites:

  1. Cuffed by foul trouble and general bouts of ineffectiveness, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was not enjoying his time in Crisler. The new rules were being called to the T and RHJ had tapped a few too many players. Four to be exact. But with Arizona down a deuce and everyone beginning to recognize that the Wolverines might really knock #1 off, Nick Johnson found a streaking Hollis-Jefferson who found his way by a Wolverine, absorbed the harm, and finished. Perhaps it was the two points and/or extra point Brady Hoke couldn’t find but Hollis-Jefferson scored one basket on Saturday and it gave Arizona their first lead since early in the first half.
  2. I was tempted to tell someone – twitter or text or the guys next to me – but I thought the better. I wanted to see things play out, see the mettle of these Wildcats, before I started looking for pieces that might not be so obviously there. Because a season ago it Mark Lyons’ ball. Now I say that knowing it didn’t matter if there were 15 seconds or 15 minutes remaining but for better or worse, Mark and everyone else knew that he was going to be making the play in the moment. We loved him for it. We hated him for it. For my money Lyons was our guy and I liked it. Alas, I refrained from putting my thoughts into the public space. What I was thinking was that Arizona could really use a Lyons-type in these final two minutes. Where was the ball going to go? The Wolverines twice had gone to Nik Stauskas and that makes good sense because he’s good. I suggested Arizona try and steal him back to Tucson. They did not. But with the score standing about equal and the clock sprinting for zeros, where was the ball going to hang out? Arizona had run its offense deliberately for 38 minutes and with sound effectiveness. But could that work in the hectic moments of a monster game? Well what came to be didn’t necessarily surprise but rather should scare the hell out of the rest of everyone. Brandon Ashley took the ball at McGary feigned his way to the right, muscled McGary off, and banked in the Wildcats’ 64th and 65th points. Needing a basket, Arizona went to Brandon Ashley and he made a professional grade basketball play. I said that to the strangers next to me and was later informed by friends that they too immediately called it an NBA move. Now that’s coming from the kid that I’ve long thought whatever you get from him is icing on the cake. That’s not necessarily a knock on Ashley, but more a recognition of the consistent and solid output of Johnson and Gordon. Arizona’s third option became its go to option and he made a play that no other player on the roster could make.

It was a wonderful display of competition performed by the maize and red teams. John Beilein is a fantastic coach and Stauskas can play. I tend to take anything a fan base says about their own with a grain of salt but all of the “Glenn Robinson III is as talented as anyone” talk wasn’t hyperbole. UM fans are right that he could take games over – and he did such in the first half – with a more assertive mentality. McGary isn’t an All-American but Caris LeVert sure could be. The Crisler Center was beautiful and a great place to take in a ball game. It wasn’t the rowdiest place I’ve been but we were there for the wrong sport. I walked away understanding very clearly that we were at a football school. Had the game been next door and played by 11 players a side, 110,000 people would’ve showed up to watch outside through a miserable snow storm. Six total inches of snow fell during my stay. I asked countless locals how we could sneak into that stadium but eventually succumbed to the cold and liquor. We had a town to paint red.

But even with regards to that, we didn’t last long. Waking up at 830am local time (EST) equates to 530am home time (PST) and there just wasn’t enough gas in the tank. Bed was acquired by 11pm and I never made it to the famous Zingerman’s. We did make it, however, to Rick’s Friday night. The place was a riot. It smelled of college and if you don’t know what that means then go buy a 12-pack of cheap beer, cheaper whiskey, and a plastic bottle of vodka. Get some food coloring, seven-up and a colorful looking soda that’s definitely off brand. Do not spend more than $20 on these items and pour them all over the ground with remixed hip hop, your best dance moves, a crumpled one dollar bill, a shred of hope, some invincibility, and none of your maturity. If available, include vomit and sweat in this adulteration. For authenticity. Jump up and down on this in your oldest shoes with a hat on backward and that’s the smell of college. Rick’s was everything I’d been warned of. Who’s coming with me next weekend?

Rick's, Ann Arbor

Enter at your own risk.

Yes we got the full Ann Arbor experience and our team won, too. It was a great weekend and this flight I’m on right now hurts. Most specifically my head but I’ve got an Arizona shirt on and I couldn’t disagree with the man in the bathroom line when he told me “that Sean Miller has got one fine ball club over there.” I couldn’t disagree with him one bit.

Back to that tunnel. With Byrne all smiles and family members giddy to see their game winning sons, we just sort of hovered. Basking in victory and the excitement of it all, we heard a familiar voice from behind us, “Quite a turn out from you Arizona fans. Well done.” Well I like compliments so that’s nice. We turned to thank the voice.

“I’ll see you all in Dallas,” said Jim Nantz.

He might be right. Do they have Rick’s there?

College Basketball Season Starts Today

The ball is tipped and here we are.

Such are the words Luther Vandross will serenade on CBS in five short months. But before that, before there’s a basketball game inside a football stadium and Jim Nantz puns and the TBS guys speak college and Martha from accounting kicking the shit out of your bracket and nnnnnnnnapa know how and three hour lunches at Hooters on a Thursday and glass slippers and schools you’ve never heard of and schools you have heard of and Kansas losing early and March, there are games.

There are games and they start today from Tucson to Pyeongtaek and they’ll continue right on up to the aforementioned. Are you excited yet? I most certainly am. This should be the best Pac-12 we’ve seen since 2009 when six of ten were invited. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – though I think we see seven tiny dancers this season – as there remains all those damn games to be played.

And let’s watch them.

We can watch them together or apart. We can converse via twitter or not at all. Follow some of these people and tell them they’re right, wrong, or otherwise. Just don’t be a dick.

It’s sports.

It is November.

It’s college basketball.

The season begins now.

jonah-hill-excited

Larry Scott, two Ed Rush’s, Cancun, and 191-Words

A simple google search of Ed Rush’s name will result in nothing helpful with regards to basketball officiating. As it were, Ed Rush is also the name of a “jungle/techstep/neurofunk” DJ. His top song on Spotify is “Chubhub.”

This is likely not the man to have offered $5k cash or a trip to Cancun for actions against Sean Miller as reported by Jeff Goodman of CBS.

No, the man recently investigated by the Pac-12, Ed T. Rush, is the Head of Officiating for the conference. Per Goodman’s source, he offered these rewards to any official who “rang him up” or “ran him” during the Pac-12 tournament. Him referring to Sean Miller.

Now as this news hit the interwebs, I experience four stages of reaction in coming to my conclusions and feelings on the matter. I’ll walk you through my Monday afternoon:

Stage 1: Knee-jerk

Oh my. OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG. Wow. Whoa. Highlight-Control-C-Control-V-Gchat. Control-V-Tweet. Control-V-Personal-Book. Control-V-PacHoops-Book. Text. Text. Text. Text. Zero logical thought. OMGOMGOMGOMG. HEDIDTOUCHTHEBALL.

I assume my actions generated less than 1% of the post’s total view.

Stage 2: What’s this thing say exactly?

So then I read the whole thing. I learned that the Pac-12 “investigated” Head of Officiating, Ed T. Rush, and that an official anonymously made public comments made during this referees’ meeting. What was said was damning of an already poorly regarded officiating base, irresponsible for a man charged with upholding the integrity of sport, and threatened the sanctity of holding competitive athletics in Las Vegas (damn you!). “This,” I thought, “Is remarkably inappropriate and an obviously fireable offense. Ed T. Rush – because I have no beef with the neurofunk DJ – has no business in his current function. He clearly has a vendetta or grudge and an official’s office is no such place for those emotions to fester. What’s worse, what if there was a conspiracy to keep UCLA in the tournament? Emotion is one thing and excusable as human…but a SCANDAL! ARE WE LOOKING AT A SCANDAL?” Those were some of my thoughts.

And I have to imagine many of you shared these feelings and still do. Emotions ran high on the night of that technical – it’s even more well documented than the two points – and officiating has long been a point of contention in the Pac-12. Firing Ed T. Rush was a very rationale first thought. But…

Stage 3: What was this thing really saying?

So hold on, I think I needed to pause. Firing someone is a big deal and while I support just punishment, I’ve also come to learn that reactionary decisions are bad. Without this perspective I might have: No job, a child, debt, a graduate degree, things I can’t talk about because my mom might figure out how to use a computer this week, a piercing, more furniture off the street, JNCOs, an adult goatee, or an ASU fan.

Stepping back I noticed that this was a bullied subordinate attacking a man who “we’re all afraid of” under the conditions of anonymity. Suddenly this screamed of tattle tale and finger pointing. What’s more, who hasn’t suggested something astronomically preposterous in a work meeting? I once listed – from my first kill to the last – who I’d take out should the office ever enter a Hunger Games situation. That, in retrospect, was not my best work. This, in retrospect, is not Ed T. Rush’s best work.

If we’re to take the conference at it’s word, Rush’s comments were “in jest” and that everyone involved understood that these were “not serious offers.” No one wound up $5k richer. Michael Irving – the official who controversially T’d up Miller following this meeting – did not go to Cancun. An off the cuff remark that likely received chuckles was turned into a likely lucrative whistle blowing affair for one disgruntled man in stripes and jumped on by the media (understandably so).

During this stage of reaction I wasn’t excusing Rush’s comments but rather settling into the notion that these were words surrounding an official and an easy story to blow up. This angle also does not point fingers at Jeff Goodman for running with this story. It’s good stuff. But my grain of salt was growing…

Stage 4: My Take

In what was either a small windowless room in the bowels of the MGM Grand Garden Event center or a glorious conference room in the same venue, Ed T. Rush made a remark about one of the coaches that had rode his officials season long. An under-appreciated and intimidated official went to the media with it under the protection of anonymity following what would no doubt appear action stemming from that off-handed remark. The conference called it a joke and had addressed its inappropriate nature with Rush.

That’s the story we know.

The fall out, of course, is where the intrigue lies. Who’s getting fired? What’s the conspiracy? How much money was really exchanged? Did he touch the ball? Can I party with Irving at Señor Frogs?

Again, what we know is that Rush said something he undoubtedly should not have. We also have anecdotal evidence that Rush is a powerful man with capability of bullying people. Mark Cuban once said,

“Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen. His interest is not in the integrity of the game or improving the officiating, he #1 priority of Ed Rush is maintaining power.”

Officiating is both thankless and a grind. These officials are pining for games, overworked, and maybe not always assigned games based on skill but rather preference. The sarcastic commentary of a tyrannical boss, regardless his or her intent, can be interpreted in many ways. As a manager, Rush should have known better than to make such a comment. Stepping out of our basketball bubble – or even our sports bubble – a manager’s role, particularly on the eve of performance, is to coach, empower, and educate. Doubt should not be instilled in the minds of the team, no matter whether it’s sales, dance, bartending, or computer programming. You’re a leader, be better than the surface pettiness.

Back into our hoops bubble, these comments were made in the face of officials tasked with championing the law of sport. Now we do plenty of bitching at these men but we ultimately entrust them with the rules of the game. For the most part, they do a good job and are best appreciated when they are not seen.

Well, Ed T. Rush and Larry Scott, you’ve got the spotlight on them. All eyes.

And you dropped the ball. To dismiss this as a joke and that a couple conversations were had is unfathomably weak. I may be stepping into hyperbole but this is the very sanctity of sport. Rules – as we learned in kindergarten – are to be followed. If doubt creeps into the most basic and truest tenants of the game – that the rules must be followed – how do we trust any results?

It’s now undeniable that the playing field was not level for Arizona (NOTE: THAT GAME WAS NOT LOST ON THAT CALL) regardless of Rush’s intent.

For such, the spirit of competition deserves better than 191 inconsequential words of fluff. No. You nip this thing in the bud and you do not let it grow into the weed it could potentially become. It doesn’t matter what the investigation uncovered, this is bigger than whether Miller deserved a technical or not. This is the accountability of the stripes, the integrity of rules. Whether Irving’s actions were justified or not, Rush had planted this idea in his head. Inception, goes the dynamite. And regardless of Miller’s previous actions, leadership must be above such commentary in professional settings. Miller himself needs to be better than berating a Pac-12 employee in the halls.

So what we have here is a crummy situation. A comment that did not cost Arizona a basketball game (stop Jordan Adams already) but did put an entire conference’s officiating integrity in the limelight. The last thing they possibly needed addressed in the least convincing of manners.

What we needed was to believe that this was not sifting into the outcomes of the games which teams play to win, coaches coach to win, and fans cheer to win. To believe that these efforts are not for naught and that all participants can trust that the outcome was based off of the adherence and upholding of an established set of rules. To believe that when the final horn sounds, one team has prevailed over the other as the better of two competitors. Nothing else.

Following Monday’s Pac-12 statement and inaction, I don’t know if I believe.

BB: Arizona vs. Belmont. Goliath vs. David.

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.

Not here.

Week 10 Pac-12 Hoops Preview

El fin.

Well sort of. It’s like El Fin Eve. But then there’s that tournament in Vegas. And then the one all over the country. It’s so damn confusing. Or is it? Because for the first time this season games are going to start having some tangible outcomes. A win here means this there. A loss tonight means a game tomorrow. Or no games at all.

So sure, the fallout of it all is grossly complicated but we’re finally at the point where it all shakes out onto some staggered lines with the numbers 1-12 on the left and TBD team names on the right. And then it gets mad. In Vegas. Here is where I really wish I could find a clip of Chevy Chase just repeating “Vegas. Vegas. Vegas.” in slow motion in Vegas Vacation. You know the scene I just can’t find it on the YouTube. This one works, too.

But we definitely ain’t there yet. The weekend:

GotW: For the first time in GotW anointment history I’m calling a tie. First the games, then the caveat, then the explanation. Oregon @ Colorado, Thursday 7pm (this is mountain time for the first time for my Colorado friends), ESPN2. UCLA @ Washington, Saturday, 11am (this is PST), CBS. The caveat is UCLA beating WSU and the outcome of the former of the two listed games. And now the explanations. Oregon-CU is a revenge match of a game in Eugene that saved Colorado’s season as it was at risk of taking a really bad turn and that included an 8-0 run to finish the game. That’s the match-up intrigue. The ramification intrigue centers squarely on Oregon’s attempt to win a Pac-12 title. They need to sweep to ensure the 1-seed in Vegas. Big time. Meanwhile, up in Seattle, the Dawgs are looking to exact last-second revenge on the Bruins on CBS. How much do you love the CBS basketball jingle? Revenge is again the clear match-up intrigue. The ramification intrigue again centers on a title attempt. But what makes this one extra interesting is that UCLA could be playing knowing that a win allots them the conference crown all to themselves. Conversely, Washington knows that they could keep the hated Bruins from winning said title. If that’s the case and Washington wins, then Cal gets the 1-seed (assuming a win tomorrow against Stanford). Because that all makes sense.

Game to Avoid: Well this time of year it becomes impossible to avoid game as they are, A) Ubiquitous, B) Spicy, C) Awesome. But if you must, if the draw of college hoop in March is not enough to keep you away from – I dunno – responsibilities then I suppose it’d be pretty darn ok to skip Oregon State @ Utah. This one airs parallel to the aforementioned UO-CU GotW so I suppose you could just flip back and forth between the two. In which case, if those responsibilities are still looming, USC @ Washington State, late Saturday afternoon, is your best avoidance. There’s a bit at stake for USC (they could finish anywhere between 4th and 8th) but WSU doesn’t provide much by way of viewable product and you’ve already had a really busy viewing morning to that point. This is a 3:30pm tip and there will have already been four P12 games. But it’s also the last Pac-12 regular season game of the year (:().

Something to Prove: The Arizona Wildcats need to prove something to us. Are they the 14-0 team or are they the 9-6 team? They’re in the big dance, the Wildcats will be seeded relatively favorably, but should we be looking at them favorably? They’re an odd group because they have so many question marks heading into the final weekend of the season. I struggle to wrap my mind around what happens in their senior finale Saturday at home against ASU. They’ve previously dropped the ball in big, emotional conference tilts (both UCLA games, @Colorado) but they’ll have one final regular season opportunity to demonstrate some semblance of authority that’s been missing the conference season long. Can they do it?

Something to Lose: The UCLA Bruins have the easier of two final road weekend evils in playing UW and WSU as opposed to Oregon’s travels to Boulder and SLC. Which is to say that a loss at CU for the Ducks wouldn’t be a huge surprise (I in fact like the Buffaloes). Which is also to say that the Bruins have the better opportunity to sit alone atop the conference come Saturday afternoon. Which is to say – as the segment title suggests – the Bruins have something to lose. Which is to say that I think a conference title is something to lose. Which is to say….I got nothing left.

The Jam: “We the Common” by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.

The YouTuber: Only the title of this video applies to this time of year as many teams are on thin ice. After that, your guess is as good, if not better, than mine.