Tag Archives: Josh Smith

JoshSmith

Our Selfish Tragedy, Josh Smith, Leaves UCLA

I don’t fault Josh Smith for not wanting to be an elite basketball player.

That just very well may not be his bag. Sure he has a skill set to be great but does that mean he has to polish them? Does the fact that we see the potential of a dominant center mean Josh Smith needs to become such? No.

What’s had us up in arms about Smith’s tenure at UCLA is the fact that he tried it all on for size. He committed to the effort – in theory by joining the team – and never got around to the work. Because good things don’t happen simply because you start them. They happen because you finish them.

What Josh Smith wants is not what I want.

When I was nineteen I was going to be a Major League pitcher. Not nine, nineteen. Let’s just say that for me to have AJ Burnett’s stuff, I might not ever have a first born (I still don’t have a first born but that’s becomes a conversation about maturity and responsibility best had with my grandmother who may or may not disapprove of my lifestyle). Alas, I peaked at 88mph and that – like most good American boys – was in high school. I recounted some of those glory days this past weekend at home for Thanksgiving and then got back to my day job. Nine-to-five like so many others. I’m not ashamed of that; but I still wish I’d gotten that golden touch – like innately wearing PF Flyers – to get me past that glory days hump.

I never got it. Josh Smith did.

But here’s the thing, success is an internally driven outcome. I’m not going to be great – truly great – because you told me to. If I’m going to dominate computer programming, change the world of code, it’s going to be because I love that stuff. I have some natural talents and I expand on those (full disclosure I know nothing about programming or code or java or anything). The work is fun – or at least rewarding – because I know where it’s taking me. And if I’m not doing it for me? I’m taking short cuts and I’m happy with pretty-goods and that-ain’t-bads.

In Smith’s case, we call it a tragedy and that’s fair. By the standards of men who can’t fathom doing half the things he’s capable of, the tale of Josh Smith is tragic because we are the same men who can’t fathom forgoing such intrinsic skill. And that’s a selfish tragedy.

That’s not to excuse declining production and an inability or lack of desire to get in shape. When you sign up to play basketball at UCLA – or anywhere for that matter – you’re committing to something bigger than yourself; being game ready is imperative, expected, and required. When you’re not, people notice. When you’re annually not prepped, people get upset. Or worse yet, disappointed, and therein lies my point. We’re jealous of what Smith could have been and disappointed he didn’t want what we wanted. He is our selfish tragedy. The guy we’d never let ourselves be.

Additionally, it becomes a failure of the collective. From Coach Ben Howland to whoever has surrounded Smith, the young man has not been set up for success. At least by the possibly and likely unfair expectations of bystanders such as myself. Such as scouts, coaches, players, you.

Smith’s transfer is a terrific study in motivation. No one was going to push him to succeed unless he wanted to be successful. I won’t venture to know who or what surrounds him, but I can’t imagine there were many people sincerely in his court; perhaps overwhelmed by enablers or clingers-on reminding him he was above the requisite work. He’s not and none of us are. To lose the pounds, you have to put in the time whether you’re a D-1 athlete or trying to look good for bikini season, you’ve gotta do you.

And Josh Smith didn’t. His production suffered and reputation disintegrated. My hope is that he does figure what he wants out. Is that an NBA career? Maybe and that’s on the radar. If I’m him, I get my ass to Houston and hire John Lucas (The Sports Whisperer) and get me into shape, physically and mentally. But again, that’s me still trying to pitch game 7 of the World Series. Not Josh Smith. I suggest this because, optimistically speaking, he now finds himself with a world of possibility. He can literally go anywhere and do anything.

I hope he does what he wants.

The Weekend Review: Week 1 in the Pac-12

Unblemished. Let’s revel in this first weekend’s perfection because it’s never bad to see an empty L’s column. After what we endured as Conference-o-Champion fans a season ago, we deserve this moment of loss-less glory.

And welcome back. It’s been a second and it sure was nice to gander at my phone Friday night and see this:

Don’t judge the edge network, I was well en route to a seaside cabin built in 1967 by my buddy’s grandparents and where progressive thinking grandparents hand build cabins, the cell towers don’t tend to follow. Happy birthday, Seth.

But how’s about that TV deal, eh? Look, it’s flawed and it’s not going to deliver games to the backs of our retinas a la 007 or Ethan Hunt, but it got me a Colorado-Wofford game and an Oregon-NAU game i otherwise never would’ve seen. I got Arizona without hunting down obscure channels or pirated radio feeds or making backroom deals at bars I don’t want to be in. That network is a glorious work in progress and no matter what it’s better than FSN.

And now, three brief paragraphs into the first Weekend Review, it’s time to get over that unblemished record. It’s not going to stay that way and we need to see some RIP boosters. Just because Charleston Southern and NAU can keep games against Arizona and Oregon tight into the final minutes doesn’t mean anyone’s accomplished anything. This is the time of year where teams cut their teeth against opponents with numbers next to their name and in hostile environments. This is when you begin earning your cupcakes because you’ve garnered a four-seed and they’re a thirteen. But fear not, that will get going shortly as a handful of squads tip off in tournaments this week.

The season has begun!

Leader in the Clubhouse: I’m not going to spend much time on this section early in the year as it’s all speculation. If indeed this conference is a two horse race featuring UCLA and Arizona, UCLA did more to impress between the two. So, one game deep, UCLA is the best team in the Pac-12. But – food for thought – Oregon State is the only 2-0 team? Next subject.

Game of the Weekend: Tough here. There was nothing particularly riveting about this slate of games. No Major-on-Major action or even Major-on-Intriguing-Mid-Major action. Arguably the marquee game was Oregon State hosting New Mexico State which turned into somewhat of a ho hum affair in which Ahmad Starks fulfilled his coaches promise that he could single-handedly replace Jared Cunningham’s scoring. The wee PG dropped 33/5/5, including four steals. But I must award this to someone so I’m going to go ahead and give it to the Pac-12 Conference. The GOtW, in Week One, is awarded based on the fact that there were indeed games. 13-0.

The Big Loser: No one lost and one weekend in I refuse to call anyone a loser. Except, maybe, Colorado football [sad face].

State of the Conference: Here’s a new section stemming from the company line every coach took at Pac-12 Media Day. Sean Miller went so far as to lay out his cheering plan, “I can remember a long time ago when I played, I would always cheer against the teams in our conference because I didn’t want them to do as well as us.  And those days have ended a long time ago.” So Sean’s a fan of the Conference but so is every other coach. They each talked about depth, improvement, etc. It was like they were Larry Scott’s Pac-12 Promotoinal Pinocchios; the Triple P’s. They did well because I gobbled it up, hook-line-and-sinker. But I’ll keep beating the dead horse and remind us all while pinching myself, the actual games are being played now and that’s the true measure of the company improvement line.

Favorite Stat Line: Another new section for the new season, I wanted to take a peak around the league and highlight that which statistically impressed. This week there were a lot of candidates. I’ve already mentioned Ahmad Starks’ 33 point effort and I really liked that the most important piece of Stanford’s success, Dwight Powell, dropped a cool 27 points. Gotta shout out to Colorado’s freshman behemoth, Josh Scott, and his 14/6 while shooting 10/11 from the stripe. Also receiving votes would be the least heralded of UCLA’s freshman class, Jordan Adams, going off for 21/7 in leading the Bruins in New Pauley. Not receiving votes was Josh Smith’s 5/5 or Devon Collier’s 0/1/1 foul out against NMSU. Sigh. No, my favorite stat of the weekend was ASU’s 79 point outing. This is a big year for the Herbivore who’s been cited as the owner of the warmest seat in America. He’s promised a faster offense and in game one, against Who-Really-Cares-U, the Sun Devils scored 79 points – a total they surmounted just twice last year. This energized pace, arguably lead by Jordan Bachynski’s flirtation with a triple-double, sparked the yet-to-be-viral meme, #HustlinHerbs. As I’ll expand in the next section, this is just one game against grossly inferior competition, but the Devils’ pace is something we’re already keeping an eye on and they seem to be taking it seriously.

What We Learned: Absolutely nothing. This opening weekend’s schedule was built to go undefeated. This isn’t synchronized swimming where style counts. It’s basketball, wins and losses. Everyone won and that’s the Week One take away. A few things have piqued my interest but I’m really going to try my darnedest to draw zero conclusions from this weekend. If business was taken care of, then we tip our hats and read up on the next game otherwise we’ll lose our minds (just wait for the YouTuber below). If we do get weird, I’d pick apart the fact that Arizona played like their 2011-12 selves or Devon Collier’s performance or start to call Bachynski, Bogut. Nope. Can’t let that happen. But after that keep it in your pants rant, isn’t it fun to have things to discuss? It’s tangible, it’s there, I can see it and formulate opinions based on fact and not speculation. Fans: We are better than the stock market.

The YouTuber: Does Warcraft make everything funnier? Keep a level head and Roll. Damn. Tide.

UCLA

Multiple Reasons for Optimism in Pauley Pavilion

The UCLA Bruins have a fascinating 2012-13. I, for one, cannot wait to see what this team does because there are so many story lines I don’t know where to begin. Alas, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  1. Home – After the Road Show last year in which the Bruins played home games at both the Anaheim’s Honda Center and the Sports Arena, they’ll return home the Pauley Pavillion. The miserable days of home games on USC’s campus are over and the days of playing games in an outdated and spectator un-friendly Pauley are, too.
  2. $40M – That’s how far under budget the new Pauley Pavillion project was. That’s damn impressive. Yay California state projects!
  3. Norman – At media day, Howland told us that Norman Powell would be a guy who’s going to surprise us with his progress. That’s something the Bruins really need. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen talent progress within this program and Powell doing such could mean there are some improving pieces to what’s already solid talent in Westwood.
  4. Five – The max number of timeouts Howland can call per game. Had to.
  5. Healthy Competition – There are some talented big bodies in this frontcourt. Each of Tony Parker, Josh Smith, and the Wear family comes in at 6’10” and that depth should help them to A) beat other teams, and B) make each other better. Perhaps the best news? Reeves Nelson will not hit them.
  6. Clearance – After so much discussion surrounding whether or not he could play, Kyle Anderson has been cleared by the NCAA and will get a full freshman campaign. Howland has said he can play every position on the floor and that he’ll be asked to do a little bit of everything.
  7. Interest – There’s going to be plenty of people interested in the how the Bruins rebound from the tumultuous year that was 2011-12 and how coach Howland recaptures his group. But I want to talk about the low interest rate at which UCLA borrowed for the Pauley makeover. The down economy has rates at an all-time low and UCLA got in on that. As the economy recovers and interest rates return to gaudy levels, the Bruins will sit back in their beautiful new arena knowing they’re paying pennies on the dollar. Yes, I discussed this extensively with Ben Howland. No joke.

On Zombies, Breakups, and the Big Question

Whenever you’re coming out of a bad relationship, there’s always that period of Zombiedom. You’re incapable of completing your own sentences, rattling off an occasional snarl or groan; unmotivated to do anything but perhaps consume ramen, breakfast burritos, or other easily prepared meals; taking to the bottle at times not generally designated for the bottle while destroying the comedy and romance sections of Movies OnDemand.

It is not a Top of the Mountain period.

There were peaks to that relationship, like when you first met in that coffee shop or at the concert of each of your favorite band. When you first kissed or when your overwhelmingly shallow roommate approved of her Facebook pics. Oh there were good times.

But then it didn’t work.

Continue reading

Week 8 Pac-12 Basketball Preview

Update Note: The Upton video had to be updated following YouTube’s removal of the video based on copyright issues. See below.

You know the drill. Get your Tucson news and another glimpse at this post at ryanrecker.com.

The preview missed USC’s visit to…well technically it was USC’s visit to USC to be hosted by UCLA. The game was played at the Sports Arena on USC’s campus. Josh Smith cooled off (4 and 5 in 11 minutes) and although I’ve made light (no pun) of his weight issues, I’m really hoping he’s taking himself seriously here. Could go on to do big things.

That said, I’ve been clear that we’re to the home stretch while everyone else has been clear there will be very few teams playing basketball beyond the Staples Center next month. Which means the Pac-12 seniors (a nearly undraftable lot) are playing their last bit of attended US basketball before moving on to either Europe or corporate leagues where middle aged white men boast about who they’ve recruited onto their team.

The games that shall be and one that was.

TV Complaint: It’s actually a full slate of televised games for just the second time this conference season (that I can recall) and even includes an out of conference awkward-off on CBS in which Steve Lavin faces his former employer in a battle of 111 visiting 133 (RPIs). If you’re one of those who looks back on the Lavin years as a disgraceful period in Bruin-lore, read this and then take a few minutes to yourself. I suppose, therefore, the TV Complaint is on behalf of the networks who picked a crummy game to push on wandering eyeballs. We could also just cyber high five to the fact that A) the Pac-12 broke ground on their network headquarters in SOMA just 2.4 miles from my BEDROOM B) more TV is coming your way as outlined by the Rumbling Buffalo, and C) the best games of the weekend will be significantly broadcast (AZ @ UW FSN Saturday, UO @ Cal CSNCA/NW Thursday). Even Colorado’s trip to Utah is on the national version of FSN. [insert link to funny meme here]!

Game of the Weekend: Ducks and Bears, Dogs and Cats. Oh man it’s a toss up. Pending Thursday’s results, these games both feature 1v2 and so it’s tough to call it. Washington and Arizona have had a fierce rivalry of late but it hasn’t been much of a battle when in Seattle (Cats are 0-4 last four trips). The Ducks were rolled last time they faced Cal and haven’t beaten the Golden Bears in six straight attempts. So let’s go to Ken Pomeroy, the guru of all things advanced statistics in college hoops. I, for one, am not a subscriber in fear of being swallowed by the predictive analytics and also because I really dig gut conjecturing. It ain’t reliable but it’s amusing to me and you’re here reading it so you find it not terribly offensive either. Digression. The fact of the matter is KenPom is well respected in the industry so we should use him, right? Of course. Cal rates 16th in his ratings – the highest in the Pac – with Arizona coming in at 39, UW at 67, and Oregon 88. Finding the average KenPom rating of the two matchups should demonstrate to us which game is more worthy of our viewership as it will undoubtedly fit the billing of GotW. By adding each opponents’ KenPom rating to the other and dividing by the number of game participants (2) we can conclude that the lower of the two numbers is our GotW, showcasing the best tandem of teams and, in effect, the match-up most deserving of our viewership. I’ve run the math and…ah dammit! Arizona-UW = 53. Oregon-Cal = 52. Watch ‘em both.

Game to Avoid: Again, there’s a few games I want to throw in here but I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t rag on Stanford too much more (the missed-on-Lin dialogue has become exhausting), I figure we can just let Oregon State take Jared Cunningham away from us on their own without dogging them further, and USC – for as bad as they are – have had a pretty rough go of it in the luck department (definitely not a pun/football reference). The game to avoid is actually one you should seek out. ASU visits Pullman at 5pm on Saturday which is perfect timing for you to cozy up for a little Saturday pre-party nap. Craft yourself a little hot totty, slip into some sweats, kick your feet up and settle into the kinda hoops that will put you right to sleep. While you will be in front of the TV for it, you’re doing so with the end goal of avoidance. You, like Mikey, are the big winner.

Something to Prove: Another double whammy as the aforementioned Cats and Ducks both take a shot at the team ahead of them in the standings. Let’s start with the Ducks. Oregon takes to the Haas, facing a team whom they have not outscored in their last six meetings. But while Monty’s crew has owned this one, this will be the first time they’ve faced off with true title implications and a chance to dance in sight. A recent article out of Eugene also anointed Jorge the foregone POY. While there is no doubt a strong case to be made for the senior, a similar case could be made for the do it all EJ Singler and the killer Devoe Joseph. As I mentioned earlier, this could be it for some seniors and Joseph is indeed one of them. What better way for the outgoing stud to silence the Jorge chatter and drop the Bears in the standings than with a resounding W in Berkeley? On to Arizona. For all the rivalry talk and great games between Washington and Arizona, UW has won four of the last five. Coldblooded indeed. As seniors go, on some random message board at the start of the second half, I predicted the Kyle Fogg road show to close out the season and his career. This was coming on the heels of his tragic effort against UW in Tucson where he tried as hard as anyone and failed with equal magnitude. It hurt to watch. But since that game he’s been named POW and put up 17ppg, 4rpg, 2apg, 2spg, and – why not – 1.25 bpg. En fuego, as they might say in the desert, and the senior’s going to need to keep it up for the Cats to take down the Huskies in Seattle for the first time in Fogg’s four years and claim a share of first place. Big weekend for the Cats.

Something to Lose: Again I’d like to highlight that we’re in the home stretch with five teams in the hunt for the crown. Colorado clearly has the most to lose as they’re playing Utah and a loss would seal their fate. But keep in mind that they’re playing Utah. I’m going to call this one, second week in a row, for Cal who has precious momentum to lose. They haven’t skipped a beat since losing at home to Arizona (SMH gold out) but now host the Oregonians for a trap and a test. The trap is against a once-thought-to-be-good Beaver team that has previously beat the Bears. The test comes against the Ducks who will be the fourth toughest team the Bears will have faced by RPI standards. While I don’t think this weekend poses that much of a threat to the Monty Crew, it’s not one to take lightly. No weekend is at this point especially considering Saturday’s tilt will be the Bears’ final home game. Hip, hip, JORGE (and Harper)!

Weekend Youtuber: I was about to post a very clever song surrounding Linsanity and its affect on New York until I received a suggestion from my buddy Chris, “how about a 2 min vid that looks at kate uptons boobs?” I crowd sourced the suggestion on the twittersphere, seeking five votes to post Chris’ suggested YouTuber. Much to my surprise (sarcasm font) it didn’t take long to find the requisite five and so I present to you, Ms. Kate Upton:

 

Week 7 Pac-12 Basketball Preview

This post reads like a diamond looks at ryanrecker.com. You’ll recall Ryan is the one who did the dynamite podcast with Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel. Oh you don’t recall? Listen.

Seven to play and we’ve dropped one team – the UCLA Bruins – from title contention. If you’ll recall, two weeks ago we were faced with a feasible six-way tie atop the conference. This week’s fun fact – and I’ve stolen the odds makership from @sethkolloen and KenPom – lies with the 2.6% chance of a five-way first place tie. For your review:

So like I said, 2.6% chance, also known as slim and none. But hey, I still place a bet on my favorite roulette number once in awhile, too.

The schedule.

TV Complaint: A pair of blackouts (Cal @ USC, WSU @ UO) but let’s celebrate the fact that FSN is broadcasting a game online. Look, I won’t lie, I don’t hunt very hard for webcasts. The extent of my television research is on the Pac-12 website (probably a good resource, no?) and my Comcast remote. But this is the first I’ve seen, via the Pac-12 site, a game being aired on FOXsportsArizona.com so bravo to those guys followed by a swift “it’s about time.” The lines between television and web are swiftly being blurred (Hulu?) and it’s only a matter of time until sports catch up. But the fact remains, I’m still watching the best highlights via illegal youtube uploads. There’s a starving sports market out there and FSN is working at the pace of a Kevin O’Neill offense. Hustle up.

Game of the Weekend: With five teams in the thick of things, we could give the nod here to a couple of games. The Buffs in Tucson will be on ESPN and rematches a one-point game (join me on Kwarter to live chat this one) while Cal visiting UCLA intrigues me as the transplanted Bruins are undefeated at home. But Washington at Oregon is the GotW. Devoe Joseph is quietly putting together a POYish season and his Ducks are needing to hold serve at home after losing one to the beatable Beavers. Of course Washington’s road woes are no secret but maybe this is the year they shake that rep? And the Huskies are hot. Winners of five straight with all the confidence of a conference leader, why wouldn’t the Huskies make like dogs and mark their territory on that tree covered court? It’s a classic GotW: Ducks and Dawgs. Or something like that.

Game to Avoid: WSU at OSU. If this were a bowl game we’d call it The North Face Backpedalling and Wait for Next Year Bowl. Ken Bone’s Cougars aren’t getting any better without Faisal Aden. Sure he was grossly inefficient and they even played better in the games he didn’t appear in, but he gave this group a fighting chance (the Bay sweep!). Plus there’s the confounding Reggie Moore. Two years ago he was a legitimate candidate for FOY honors with Derrick Williams, it’s now been 747 days since he had a 20 point game. Of course that stat comes courtesy of this guy (in all seriousness, they do great work over at CougCenter). As for Oregon State, Craig’s team can beat anyone in the conference and have proven as much (UCLA, Cal, Oregon, OT loss in Tucson). But they’ve faded fast into irrelevancy. The wait-and-see portion hinges on the money-making prospects of Jared Cunningham. Dude’s good and according to Bozo, he should stay. Alas, these are two teams with little going the rest of 2012. Tune back in for the Pac-12 tournament when one of these two spoils someone’s season as well as my three-bid prediction. Speaking of the Pac-12 tourney, the Rumbling Buffalo literally played it out drawing names from a hat.

Something to Prove: Oregon’s season is on the line. They could easily be sitting next to Washington with a shiny 9-2 record but they dropped the ball at home against rival Oregon State and missed the ball in favor of Nate Tomlinson’s arm on the road at Colorado. Now they find themselves with the most difficult second half schedule (combined opponents’ record of 42-35, including UW, CU, Cal, Stan). Of course that treacherous route could be the rocky road to CBS airtime during the third month of the calendar year. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Ducks are hosting the Washington schools and beating UW would be huge for their end-of-season prospects. Losing to the Huskies wouldn’t be a terrible hit but at this point Dana’s Ducks can’t afford to stub their beak at home. Of course losing to WSU (the spoilers) would take all the life out of the swoosh.

Something to Lose: The presumed favorite, Cal Bears, will be in LA this weekend. Certainly not the most daunting of road trips as you’re only going to play in front of a combined 5,000 spectators. But UCLA has been tough at “home.” They’re 4-0 in conference with a 17-point average margin of victory. They may be out of shape, dysfunctional, and falling apart but that’s an impressive stat especially in light of the fact that they’ve played those four home games in two different venues (Anaheim and Sports Arena). And did you see Josh Smith’s week 6? Biggun went for 24/9 and 19/5 while playing 20+ minutes in back-to-back Pac-12 games for the first time this season. The Bears, short Richard Solomon are reliant on this matchup to not get Joshed:

David Kravish, meet Josh

Good luck. But this is about what the Cal Bears have to lose: steam. A presumed (soft) lock for the NCAA tournament, beating teams – home or away – with an RPI that reads like a healthy systolic blood pressure is required. Sure, beating the Bruins won’t be easy, but it’s imperative. Should Monty’s crew falter, they’ll find themselves in the center of the weekly WTF happened Pac-12 debate and onto Lunardi’s bubble. This weekend isn’t defining for the Bears, but it could be a deflating one.

Weekend Youtuber: I think I’ve cited the fact that there are seven games remaining three or four times in this post. In summary: it’s crunch time, the home stretch, the two-minute drill. Inevitably, someone’s gonna need these:

Week 6 Pac-12 Basketball Review

This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com.

Shake off your food, or otherwise, hangover, get your mind around the fact that this guy is an All-Time great, and don’t kick anyone that comes into your cube at “top-speed.” Now that I’ve talked you into embracing your Monday, realize that Selection Sunday (three teams) is just 34 days away.

The weekend that was:

Leader in the Clubhouse: If I’m not mistaken, for the first time this season there is  one team atop the Pac rankings: the Washington Huskies. They beat UCLA thanks in large part to Josh Smith’s lack of conditioning (plus a zone defense) and handled USC. Beating UCLA was huge for them. It may have been sloppy but wins trump aesthetics as the season is quickly wrapping up. Here’s some fun stats I came across on the twitter-sphere courtesy my buddies over at Montlake Madness: excluding the USC game (which should be exempt from most any statistical reporting), during UW’s four-game win streak into first place, Terrence Ross is scoring 18.3 points per second half compared to 3.0 points per first half. In addition, his shooting jumps 46% (19% to 65%) across halves. So while it sometimes feels like he disappears in a games, playing with the bravado of a Ryan Appleby talent as opposed to his own, the numbers don’t lie. Ross scored 10 of UW’s final 12 points over the final five minutes of the UCLA game, leading the Huskies back from a six-point deficit. Lots of people have talked about UW going as Tony Wroten goes, and while TW has played great, I repeat: numbers don’t lie. TRoss is going. The Huskies are rolling. Look out.

Game of the Weekend: Lotta candidates here. From Arizona holding on at Haas to UCLA closing out WSU to the Huskies finishing off the Bruins, there were great games abound. But the GotW was Colorado’s victory over the visiting Ducks. This was a back-and-forth battle that came down to controversy. Here’s the thing: you create your own luck. Nate Tomlinson certainly did, drawing a foul with 0.1 seconds remaining and the score tied, then hitting one of two free throws to seal the win. He was aggressive, made a play, won the game, next! But please do watch the video below and note Tomlinson’s acknowledgment of the official who made the call. Love it. It’s become increasingly apparent that unless you’re in black and gold, you ain’t winning at altitude (more on that later). Beating the Ducks was huge for Colorado. It gives them some breathing room as they head into a treacherous close to their season. They head to the road (2-4 on the road this season) for five of their final seven. It isn’t going to be easy the rest of the way but Colorado is a tough and gritty squad. Also, it’s time to start talking about Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker as conference FOY candidates.

The Big Loser: Oregon State’s been nothing short of disappointing since the opponents became conference foes. Sure, they split the Ski Trip, but they weren’t even competitive in their most important tilt (at CU) on the heels of their big three game win streak. I want to like Craig’s team, hell, they carried the torch of Pac-12 glory through the early season (Texas!) but the proverbial ball has been dropped and the First Seat is heating up. Robinson has now been at OSU for three-plus seasons and their win totals read a little something like this: 18, 14, 10, 13. The axe won’t be flailed this year, losing a coach is too expensive, but things need to brighten in Corvalis soon or we could see the first bit of Pac-12 Network basketball dollars going to use in the PNW.

What We Learned: There was a lot to learn this weekend. We’ll begin with the aforementioned “you can’t win at altitude,” referencing the growing meme. While it’s certainly a fun something for fans, it’s a lot realer than that. Boyle’s Boys are 31-3 at the Coors Event Center since Tad became head coach two years ago and are 7-0 in conference play this season. And this non-phenomenon has nothing to do with Boulder sitting 5430 above the sea and a whole lot to do with their talent, coach, and fan base. The Buffs, however, hit the road for five of their final seven, a stretch in which we’ll learn a lot about CU. Roll Tad. You know what else we learned? Jorge’s a hot head and Joe Pasternack has a bad scowl, but kickgate was non-news. Move on. Onto things like Arizona’s impressive Bay sweep. The ‘Cats handed Cal and Stanford their first conference home losses and looked the better team in doing it. In short order, Miller re-focused his group coming off that emotional home loss to UW and the end of Kevin Parrom’s season. The mercurial Josiah Turner is playing lock down defense and, while he’s not quite there offensively, has a second speed that is going to make ACE a lot of money on ankle wraps. Fun fact: Stanford scored as many points, 43, on Saturday, as former Arizona guard and Bay Area assassin (this and this), Momo Jones, scored individually for Iona Thursday night. One final point of learning: Josh Smith uses the regular season as his conditioning. Last season Smith and the Bruins were able to turn that into an NCAA Tournament bid. Not happening this time around. But check out his steady increase in output as the season progresses. He’s become consistently better as his conditioning improves, shocker right? Why he won’t get into shape prior to the beginning of a season is beyond me and beyond, more importantly and unfortunately, Ben Howland. Look at his 2010-11 output to see the same thing. Will he figure it out? Who knows but it’s too late this season to do anything beyond play spoiler.

Early Week Youtuber: I’ll open by apologizing that I can’t embed this video. This is a wacky ad – just watch it – but confirms that agencies and/or companies are moving away from making sense and selling random. Evidently its worked because I’m sharing with you their content. This video captures the randomness movement and serves as a convenient metaphor for a Terrence Ross game: mellow to bold. Enjoy.

 

 

Week 5 Pac-12 Basketball Preview

This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com. His latest podcast is with ESPN 1490’s Jody Oehler, who makes a very fair criticism’s of Sean Miller. Check it out.

The unfortunate reality is the Pac-12 is gaining steam as a one bid league. Woof.

We head into hump weekend as we’re half way to the Staples Center and some sort of separation needs to occur. It just has to. Someone must assert their place atop this conference. It’ll happen? Right? And now I’m begging.

Allow me to spell out a feasible weekend scenario for you. Stanford beats Cal in Berkeley; OSU beats Oregon in Eugene; UW and Colorado split on the road (Arizona and LA, respectively); Arizona sweeps at home. It could occur, yeah? Two rivalry games in which anything can happen, road splits, home sweeps. Feasible.

That scenario would leave us with a six-way tie for first place. I bold and italicize that because I only have three  font options here and the third is strike-thru. There is no other way to demonstrate the absurdity of a six-way tie halfway through conference play.

Alas, the schedule.

TV Complaint: This week I’m going to dish some broadcast props. Colorado’s visit to USC will be shown on USCTrojans.com. For $5 you can watch the game or sign up for an extended plan and subsequently more games. This certainly works for a growing and excitable CU basketball community and no doubt for the entirety of Arrogant Nation. Not all of us necessarily have uber-dishes are exuberant cable packages, but we do have access to the interwebs and whatever it can broadcast. Thinking free-er picture, the worldwide leader is headed to Tucson. The doors of McKale will open at 6am PST as Jay, Rece, Digger, Hubert, and the College GameDay crew host their weekly show and game of the week. The Wildcats are putting on their second annual whiteout against UW aired on ESPN prime time. Any publicity is good publicity and the worldwide leader is amongst the most self-serving. For such, expect to hear a lot of great things said about some not-so-great Pac-12 teams in order to garner some interest in the prime time tip.

Game of the Weekend: Well if ESPN is going to call it theirs then I have to call it mine. The Washington Huskies travel to Tucson for the national broadcast, a battle of two teams that continue to search for their identities. UW may be the more talented group – Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten can be filthy good – but Arizona is deeper. With the Wildcats returning to the friendly confines and a raucous crowd, freshman Nick Johnson will be looking to get back on track. In conference play, the pup is shooting 50% at home compared to a putrid 38% outside of the 520 and he seemingly disappeared inside of the Coors Center last Saturday. Of course the freshman to pay attention to is Tony Wroten. The Husky lefty can fill it up and undoubtedly plays a vital role in the Dawgs’ success but has an unfortunate knack for turning the ball over. His 78 turnovers are the eighth most in the nation. This is a terrific rivalry game and Arizona AD, Greg Byrne, has done a tremendous job in promoting it as such. While we can toss out the idea that both teams need this game to be taken seriously (no Pac-12 team received even a single vote in either poll), both teams need this win to take themselves seriously. Arizona is 4-3 without having beaten any of the top eight teams in the conference (pending tonight’s WSU game) and UW hasn’t A) won in Tucson since 2006 B) won much of anything outside of Seattle under Romar. If nothing else, like I said, UW-AZ is a terrific watch. Exhibit A. Exhibit B.

Game to Avoid: Maybe the best part about the aforementioned six-way tie scenario is that seven of this weekend’s ten games involve a “contender.” That leaves us Utah @ UCLA, WSU @ ASU, and Utah @ USC as the only meaningless ball games. I hate that this section is quickly becoming a rain-on-USC/ASU/Utah section but these are three of the worst teams in all of college basketball. That said, let’s not lose track of the truth that UCLA is mentioned here. Their 2011-12 woes are well documented and there’s no need to rehash. My latest Westwood/Anaheim/Watts concern is stemming from Ben Howland’s press conference. Read his quotes on Josh Smith (here and here). All I hear are excuses and for a kid who already struggles to get it together, Howland sounds like an enabler. I don’t like that. I don’t agree with that and for such I think we can finally stick a real fork in the Bruins’ season. Hosting the woeful Utes (despite coming off a blowout win) is not worth your time considering it wasn’t worth Smith’s time to get in shape.

Something to Prove: Stemming from that little UCLA rant I think it’s the Colorado Buffaloes who have the most to prove this weekend. I’m fascinated by this team and truly think they’re legit contenders. As such, the Buffs should be expected to sweep this weekend in Los Angeles. USC is awful and UCLA has a fork in their side making it arguably the easiest weekend for any of the “contenders.” But these are also only the third and fourth road games for Boyle’s Boys – a team that is just 2-5 when not playing at the Coors Center. I’m high on Oregon right now because they’ve been winning road games and for a conference whose home teams are 33-11, winning on the road becomes the un-equalizer. CU is playing as good as anyone at home, let’s see what they can do on the road. Vegas doesn’t think much of them as they’re just a half-point favorite tonight (at USC) and I can’t imagine they’ll be favored on Saturday. But Vegas, Shmegas. The trick is believing you’re good and I think Tad Boyle has Spencer DinWiddie and the rest of the Buffs believing.

Something to Lose: They’re not holding on to much but the Arizona Wildcats are hosting and really cannot afford a split. Their 4-3 record is nothing short of disappointing but, what’s worse, it’s starting to look fitting. If everyone else is winning at home, so too should the Wildcats if they want to win this up-for-grabs conference. As we’ve already put a fork in UCLA , a split or worse this weekend – while no one is technically ever out of this race – would probably take Arizona out of serious contention and nowhere near the bubble they’re lingering on in some discussions. But, because they are still on some bubbles, this weekend is huge for the Wildcats. It was in fact this very ESPN, whiteout, UW game last year that catapulted Derrick Williams into the national spotlight – perhaps costing Arizona his presence on this roster. The UW game is no doubt recognized as significant. But – like I just did – Arizona cannot overlook a suddenly sultry WSU Cougar team. Faisal Aden can’t miss – or is at least shooting FTs like he’s Derrick Williams – and Brock Motum can cause problems for that small AZ roster. I can’t imagine Ken Bone’s team would have a problem playing spoiler. Bear down or bow out.

Weekend YouTuber: I keep saying it along with everyone else: the Pac-12 is not good and if our six-way first place scenario plays out, well … oh man. It’s like the Pac-12 barely knows what it’s doing. It’s bad. But it’s not this bad:

 

 

Week 3 Pac-12 Preview

So we’ve kicked off another weekend of Pac-12 performances with a shaky UW home outing against crosstown rival Seattle U and their rounding coach, Cameron Dollar. It was a three-point game with as little as 1:27 left but winning is winning and the Pac-12 has put hefty beer goggles on the eye ball test so we’ll agree to just add it to the “W” column and move on. Next.

The schedule.

TV Complaint: As well as I can see, it appears every game this week will have television representation. That is something to celebrate but begs the question: what the hell is Root TV? I’ve seen it peppered all over the TV schedule and when googling said network (can we call it that?) it’s a page 2 result. But here’s what I managed to find out. Root TV is the renamed network of Fox Sports Northwest. Of course, right? Regardless, I don’t get it on my cable package which I just realized popped out of the introductory rate and is running us $150/month. So I pay an arm and a leg for regional broadcasting of University of San Francisco games. The same USF holding a win and OT loss to Pac-12 beaters, Northern Arizona and Loyola Marymount. Am I the big winner? No. We’re all still subjected to FSN or whatever name they want to call themselves. Losers, every last one of us.

Game of the Weekend: Presumed favorite hosts first place team. This is an obvious choice until you plug in the names. While Cal (presumed favorite) will likely play in a majority of the league’s intriguing games this season, did you think Colorado would exclusively hold first place? Ever? Anyhow, this game takes top billing because we’re going to get to see what the Buffs are made of – more on that later. For the meantime, let’s mention that this league is Cal’s for the taking. As we mentioned last week, holding serve at home is imperative and Monty’s crew is as prepped as any to do such. Important is the healthy return of Richard Solomon. The sophomore big has been sidelined for two of Cal’s four losses and played just eleven minutes in another (yes, he played in the Mizzou blowout). The Bears don’t seem to have much issue on the perimeter (I’d take Jorge, Crabbe, and Cobbs for my squad) and lead the conference in A/T ratio (1.6), but rank 9th in conference play in rebounding percentage; just two percentage points ahead of ASU who has played two conference games with only six scholarship players. So back to Solomon, a dude averaging 6.6 boards per game, the Bears could use him because, in case you hadn’t noticed, Andre Roberson is a vacuum (11.7 rpg). But regardless of advanced or remedial stats, I cannot see the Bears losing this one.

Game to Avoid: Don’t watch Washington State’s visit to Seattle. Sure it’s a rivalry game but why tune in to watch Tony Wroten dribble around or Faisal Aden miss shots? The Huskies have the 292nd best assist rate in the NCAA and turn the ball over at an 18% clip (274th in the country). HOLY BLACK HOLE, BATMAN! To address Aden, I present to you this EXCLUSIVE from CougCenter. Toss in that the game will overlap in part with the Packers-Giants game and I ask, why waste your Sunday evening? Look, I’m as big a Brock Motum fan as there is but he’s not worth the price of admission. You know who is? The guy once thought to be the best player in the conference, Terrence Ross. Well right now he’s the third best player on his team so I’m going to hold out until Ross decides to show up. When he does, it’ll look something like this. Oh, it also would be nice if Abdul Gaddy did more in his 33mpg (12.4 PER vs. average of 15).

Something to Prove: The Colorado Buffaloes have painted a target on their chest and let’s see how they wear it. They travel to the Bay Area for the toughest Pac-12 trip of the season and their first road games of the conference season. The Buffs also started 3-0 in Big-12 play last season before losing seven of the following nine. Could Boyle’s boys learn from last year’s flop? That streak likely cost CU a chance to dance and no doubt that was bitter. While this team was picked to finish eleventh (still could) in the conference, they currently sit atop it. Heavy weighs the crown and it will be interesting to see how the Mile High Hoopers handle Bay altitude. If they’re indeed going to focus on defense and rebounding – and they have in collecting these last three wins – someone’s going to have to fill it up on the other end. Enter, Carlon Brown. The red hot senior is as good as anyone; shooting 60% from the field in Colorado’s last six games (all at home, mind you). So, let’s see how he and his teammates handle the road.

Something to Lose: If we’re indeed going to annoint a weekly team du jour (contradictory, I realize, between english and french but you get my point), last week it was UCLA for their sweep of the Arizona schools. For such, UCLA finds itself in an intriguing trap game against USC. It’s one of those games they’re supposed to win but no one will bat an eye if they do. However, should they lose, well, the program is back in shambles as Howland remains bereft of his team’s attention continuing the Bruin spiral into out-of-Pauley obscurity culminating in the joint firings of Howland and Guerrero. Also, USC isn’t good. Let’s get that straight. But they play a style of basketball that no doubt keeps them in games and could emerge as a major thorn for a team (UCLA) that has had some focus issues. To boot, the Bruins have lost four of the last five to Kevin O’Neill’s scoreless wonders. The best news for the Bruins is that Josh Smith recently ran three miles according to Coach Howland and the Galen Center is just one-half mile from the Sports Arena. Run Josh, run!

Weekend YouTuber: Some would argue that the Pac-12 is in a free fall. I’d remind you that both Arizona has the top recruiting class in the nation with UCLA and Colorado rolling in at 15 and 25, respectively. The Bruins could quickly shoot up those rankings should they garner a long anticipated commitment from top recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, but free falling doesn’t look that bad, right?

Worst SI Cover Jinx. Ever.

And here it is:

The man who donned the cover of Sports Illustrated’s college basketball (regional) preview is no longer on a college basketball team. Reeves Nelson has been indefinitely suspended (for the second time) from the UCLA basketball team by head coach Ben Howland.

On paper, Nelson won’t be missed. The enigmatic junior was averaging just 5.7 points and 4.5 rebounds and had played just 22 minutes in the Bruins’ last two games. He’d missed practices, team flights, and the point.

It’s not as if the writing hasn’t been on the wall. Prophetically, in this LA Times piece, Howland acknowledges that Nelson’s behavior has been “totally uncharacteristic of what [Howland] want from a UCLA basketball player representing this history and tradition.” Howland continued, “It’s something that is going to be dealt with when we get together again. It’s been an ongoing problem the past two years which has gotten worse.”

It appears they’ve gotten together again. It appears it’s been dealt with.

And what I want to believe is that more than just a malcontent has been dealt with. That Howland and his Bruins are turning the corner onto Winning Street and getting back to the place where UCLA is the spot. Where the Bruins are feared, not laughed at; proud, not embarrassing; winning, not losing.

But – and I refer back to the LA Times article – Howland sounds like a defeated man. His quotes lack urgency, his actions lack decisiveness, his team lacks heart. The sour faced coach comes across as hoping, fingers crossed, as his under-skilled, overweight band-o-Bruins go through the motions of a 2011-12 season.

On Josh Smith, “We had high expectations for him, but he didn’t do the work necessary in the off-season to be in the condition necessary.”

This is a player in your program. There are expectations and there is work. One is tangible.

On turning things around, “I believe we’ll be competitive in every game.”

Winners do and losers hope. Has it really come to a belief in effort?

With this suspension, I hope Howland takes himself seriously. To steal from the NCAA, he’s lost institutional control and needs to get it back. It starts with accountability. Reeves doesn’t want to be a team player? Then no team. Smith doesn’t want to get into basketball shape? Then no basketball.

I hope Howland can once again find the bite with all that bark.

If he doesn’t, UCLA fans can look forward to another thrilling coaching hunt – because the football one is going so well.

As for the tattoed bandit? Who knows. He’s packed a lot of baggage at this point and likely wont end up on another college campus. His NBA prospects are bleak at best and he ain’t winning any beauty contests.

Ultimately, you hope for the best for the young man. We’ve all lost our way before – not necessarily in the fish bowl of major college athletics. He has lessons to learn, the kind often learned in team sports. He’s had opportunity on top of opportunity to figure it out, to grow up and thrive in an excellent basketball environment.

That opportunity has been squandered.

And it’s not the SI cover’s fault.