Tag Archives: Dana O’Neil

Pac-12 Basketball Media Day: What I Did

I appreciate the opportunity to attend Pac-12 Basketball Media Day (#pac12hoops) provided to me by Rush the Court. It was a great experience and a fun day. To be honest, absolutely nothing was said the day long but – and you get the feeling everyone senses it – there’s a hovering excitement that this whole thing’s about to start. Like JENGA, no one is  going to come close to that linchpin block, sliding out a bunch of middle pieces and passing to the next. The boat shall not be rocked before the journey.

Except, I suppose, for Spencer Dinwiddie who dropped the saltiest line of the day when he said, “But we don’t view Arizona as the top, the cream, and everybody else in the rest.  We view ourselves as the cream and everybody else can fight for the rest of the spots.” SHOTS FIRED! Eh, not really. I actually appreciated it from the standpoint of leadership and culture and I’m going to elaborate on that later (next week amongst a lot of my previews).


And speaking of next week and all of my previews (and in the coming weeks leading up to 11/8),  I’m going to drop my team-by-teams, top backcourts and frontcourts, my predicted finishes, a new podcast with @spencerbsmith, and I don’t even know what else.

But for now, quick thoughts on each team after spending a little time with them yesterday:

Washington State: Ken Bone went in on just how deep the conference is and how the conference perhaps deserved the lashing it took for being so awful in year’s past but that those days are over. Well now his team is projected to finish last, so…

Oregon State:

Hey Dana….

Utah: Larry Krsytkowiak said that playing hard is a talent and while I really appreciate what he’s doing at Utah, saying that playing hard is a talent means you’re still not good. They’ll be better. But still not good.

USC: I didn’t realize there’s a little bit of twang to Andy Enfield. He played everything correctly in deflecting his UCLA comment but he’s sparked interest in USC basketball and, if nothing else, JT Terrell tells us that there’s “lot’s of people getting dunked on in practice.” Well practice does make perfect, JT, so carry on.

Washington: Lorenzo Romar was asked about impact newcomers to the conference and he talked about Aaron Gordon and Mike Moser. #AWKWARD. Aside from that he seemed very encouraged by Perris Blackwell – the transfer out of USF – who LoRo says is going to give them a low post presence they “haven’t had in years.”

Stanford: I asked Johnny Dawkins “You mentioned returning a lot of players and talent to this team, yet last year you finished 9‑9.  What might you see different this year, if anything?” I’ll mention that he’s returning 84% of his 2012-13 minutes played. He basically told me that they’re thinking about things differently. Dwight Powell told me the same thing, later. They went through SEAL training (like the Navy) and used the word synergy (so startup Stanford). My point here is…we’ll see, I might be selling.

That is me.

That is me.

ASU: Jahii Carson was much more thoughtful and articulate than I expected. Struck me as much more together than I expected and had some very high compliments to drop on his new running mate, Jermaine Marshall. I was also blown away by Herb Sendek’s hyperbole and quickness to jump into the national conversation. Dropped a lot of “best ofs” in the country/nation/game lines. Company man award for sure.

Colorado: Like I said, Dinwiddie dropped the bomb on Media Day by calling his own team the cream rising to the top. Why the hell not? It’s a shifting culture in Boulder and as my high school baseball coach taught us, once you start hoping, you’ve already lost. Sounds like Spencer’s a believer.

Cal: Someone asked Mike Montgomery how he would apprehend a thief if he were faced with a similar situation as Larry Krystkowiak when he tackled a bike snatcher. Montgomery said nothing about a two handed shove to the chest. And he talked a lot about how he likes having veterans (Solomon, Cobbs, Kravish) and tried to taper the expectations of Jabari Bird.

Oregon: Dana talked about a lot and even said he and his team should be practicing right then and not at Media Day. But he was there and someone asked a seventy-five word question about whether or not Oregon has a competitive advantage with Uncle Phil. Dana slowly, like only a mid-westerner can, said, “Well, we updated our arena.  I think we had the second oldest arena in the country.  We built an arena that’s very nice.” Really fair point there, Dana. He continued, “I think every university has benefactors that benefit their programs, athletically, academically.  Ours just happens to be someone that runs Nike.” That’s right! Everyone has boosters, how is this any different? He came full circle, “You know, we had an update because Mac Court was just really old.” Dana Altman, you are a smooth cat.

Arizona: One of these days Sean Miller is going to jump out of that humility suit of his and just throw down some heat…wait, he already did that:

UCLA: I think I got a good idea of what the Steve Alford era at UCLA is going to be like. He’s going to be a touch understated, predictable and solid. He looked the part in the sleekest suit of the day and he didn’t rock the boat. He dropped a Wooden reference and the word excellence. Like going down a checklist of how to be UCLA’s coach and not screw it up. He did just fine up there and he’s going to be a fine UCLA head coach. Is that enough?

Old or young, just be a good point guard

Many will tell you that winning college basketball has a lot to do with your point guard. After all, they’re the one handling the ball more often than not.

Dana O’Neil took a look at the position for the four preseason title favorites: UConn, Kentucky, Ohio State, and North Carolina. Each team is absolutely loaded with talent but also saddled with youth at the point. This, O’Neil points out, does not bode well for their title chances. There have been only six underclassmen floor generals to lead their team to a national championship in the last twenty years (Arizona’s Mike Bibby being one of them).

While I agree that experience at the helm is a great advantage, I don’t think youth is a death certificate. There are some omissions to O’Neil’s piece. For example, she fails to mention that Derrick Rose (UM), Darren Collison (UCLA), Mike Conley Jr. (OSU), Travis Walton (MSU) and Ronald Nored (Butler) were all underclassmen national runners up over the last six seasons. Championships are a terrific measure of success, but runner up ain’t too shabby and perhaps demonstrates that talent trumps experience.

Shifting from a national perspective to the West, the Pac-12 hasn’t quite followed the trend of the national champions. Of the last eleven conference champions (outright, not tournament) seven have been underclassmen, just two were seniors (Jerome Randall of Cal and Michael McDonald of Stanford), and one was the conference POY (Randall). Also of note, only one of these players (Luke Ridnour in 2003) was a lottery pick but five have played in the NBA. They may be young but they are talented.

Examining the crop of 2011-12 Pac-12 point guards shows us that we have an experienced group but not necessarily the most talented. There are six seniors and eight total upperclassmen. There are only two projected starting freshman (Josiah Tuner of AZ and Jahii Carson of ASU) but Carson has yet to qualify and hasn’t practiced with the Sun Devils. Although an argument can be made that Tony Wroten, Washington’s talented freshman, could be a starting point, I believe junior Abdul Gaddy is the lead guard for the Huskies. And while the league’s floor generals may be long in the tooth, they’re also short on accolades. Only Jorge Gutierrez received any conference recognition last season, making First Team All-Conference.

But per O’Neil’s logic, the Pac-12 is set up to have some pretty sturdy squads based on experience. Her fellow media-folk appear to agree. The Pac-12 media poll picked UCLA and Cal to finish first and second in the conference. Not coincidentally, these two teams are led by senior point guards.

Perhaps O’Neil says it best, “The special ones get it.” With the ball in their hand, they make their team better. So who, amongst the Pac’s point guards, gets it? Who’s going to lead their team better than the others? The young or the old? The wise or the green?

We’ll take a deeper look in the next few days as I breakdown each team’s point guard situation.