Tag Archives: Mike Montgomery

cuonzo

And We’re Back: A Run Through Weekend Pac-12 Hoops

Nice to be back. I’m not about to walk us through my Friday night. I already exposed you to too much of my life in last week’s essay. So rather than tell you I absorbed pizza and beer and two screens worth of Pac-12 hoops, let’s just run through some astute observations and leap to gross conclusions about the season based off of one weekend. Rational? I just watched Interstellar so it’s all relative.

NorMAN Powell

I only watched the first half of UCLA’s Friday game because they won by 1000 and the opening minutes of Sunday’s because of 2 hours and 45 minutes of hoping Matthew McConaughey would run into Cyrus the big bull in Space. But when I was tuned in I saw Norman Powell – he who we know needs to be an Alpha Bruin – swallow a rebound, run coast-to-coast, absorb contact and finish with utter authority. He’s Cyrus the bull, taking 15 FTs en route to 25 points on Friday. He perhaps cooled off on Sunday but not much, still collecting 13 points. Continue reading

MikeMontgomery

Mike Montgomery Had One Losing Season. Ever.

Mike Montgomery retired on Monday. It was about thirty-two years after he began and in that span, only once (once) did a team he coached lose more games than they won.

Mike Montgomery is a winner. But you don’t need someone who never played for him and who spent most of his adolescence rooting against his best teams to tell you that. There’s a multitude of others willing to tell you that at the drop of a hat. I read tweets from Stanford Basketball and Cal administrators and reporters and Mark Madsen and the rest of the universe.

He had one losing season in his entire career.

He was (is?) the Pac-12 basketball ambassador. He leaves as a retread returns but Ernie Kent can’t and won’t hold a candle to what Montgomery accomplished in the basketball universe. And that’s not a knock on Kent. Perhaps the contrary. Montgomery leaves as the third most successful Pac-10ish coach of All-Time (behind just Olson and Wooden, good company). In just six seasons he’s Cal’s third winningest coach. He notched a Final Four, an impeccable air on nonchalance, and some of my favorite court-side manor:

Furthermore, he’s accomplished the greatest Cal troll job of All-Time. Every UC-Berkeley outlet has had to gush and effuse about the man’s career and, in doing such, has been forced to be highly complimentary of Stanford. Well played, Mr. Montgomery.

And did I mention he only ever had one losing season amongst thirty-two seasons? I did so I should tell you at least a little bit about it. The 1992-93 Stanford Cardinal. Consequently, it was the last time he wouldn’t participate in a post-season tournament. They beat only USC and Oregon in conference play and were led, in scoring, by Brent Williams. According to a LinkedIn search, Brent is now in either wealth management in Seattle or software development in the Bay Area. Your 92-93 Cardinal, folks.

But because this is March and emotions run high. Because we’ve already covered the McDermott story and the Bo Ryan story, I’ll close with the fact that he’s coached with his son, John, for the last six years. That’s something special. We both know it. I don’t know what’s next for either of these men but I know they’ve come to end of an exciting, unique, and bonding road.

I mean, every damn time this stuff gets me.

Congratulations to Mike Montgomery on a career well led.

Justin Cobbs Winner

Week 5 Pac-12 Hoops Review

I propose a study of the hematological anomaly that is Justin Cobbs. My hypothesis is that researchers would discover not a mixture of hemoglobin (red blood cells), leukocytes (white cells) and plasma, but rather ice water. Or something of that ilk. Inexplicably it is not blood delivering oxygen and nutrients through the body of Cobbs but the coldest water on record. This proposed study won’t soon fly with the Food and Drug Administration or Mike Montgomery, but it could shed light on how the senior from Los Angeles can hit fading jumpers with tenths of seconds remaining in the face of seven-foot behemoths. Seriously, ice, hielo, glace, 冰:

Leader in the Clubhouse: Once again we could award this to the 7-1 Arizona Wildcats who, despite sustaining their first loss of the season and news they’d have to make their run to Dallas without Brandon Ashley, are still playing the best defense in the country (unless it’s Justin Cobbs who has the ball). Context: These Wildcats are giving up just 86.7 points per 100 possessions in conference. The next best team, UCLA, yields 96.7 points per 100 possessions. The ten point difference between first and second is equal to the difference between second and ninth. Sean Miller coaches a defense of a different color. But we’re going to divvy the clubhouse leading love and this week’s leader was the Oregon State Beavers. Craig’s team defended Gil Coliseum from the Angelinos and put themselves surprisingly into third place (we’re ignoring the fact that it’s a five-way tie for third and that doesn’t include the two-way tie for second ahead of them). And defend they did. Despite being the 10th “best” defense in the conference, they limited the second best offense (UCLA) to just 67 points. For just the third time in conference play, they held a team to less than 1 point per possession (that includes a game against WSU, by the way). Yeah, I’m lauding the defensive efforts of a Craig Robinson team; the same team that conversely has the best in conference offense and who beat the aforementioned Bruins despite Roberto Nelson delivering the following pre-Super Bowl: 2-8, 12pts, 5r, 4a, 6TO. That was ten points off of his average and double his turnovers. I mean that guy ranks 16th in usage percentage yet the Beavers prevailed with him contributing five percentage points less than his normal usage. A team-ish effort.

Biggest Loser: I want to meet the VooDoo Witch who allowed Arizona to remedy their free throw issues in two-nights at the expense of a Nick Johnson’s jumper and Brandon Ashley’s bones? Not cool, but this is:

 

Of course beyond that I thought the Ski Skirmish on Saturday morning was going to be a back breaker one way or the other. Brandon Taylor wasn’t about to let that happen – ONIONS – but it unfortunately just falls into the growing lore of Utah’s road woes. My hypothesis won’t be proven until the Utes take the court again (Thursday hosting Washington) and I hope I’m wrong, but getting so close but so far can only sustain energy levels so long. For as much as we want to applaud the Utes – they’re climbing up KenPom’s ratings, they’re perceived as a tough out, Delon Wright is one of the five best players in the conference – the fact remains that they are 3-6 and 10th in the conference.

What We Learned: This weekend was further confirmation that winning on the road is a miserable task. So difficult, in fact, that Pac-12 road teams rank 26th amongst 33 D-1 conferences. Of the 54 conference games that have been played, just 17 have been won by the weary traveler. And this weekend did not deviate as only ASU and UCLA won outside of their respective homes with the former needing overtime to do it. Now this is an important point as we head into the second half of the season. There’s a log jam within the conference standings and someone is going to slip up. Additionally, what a scary proposition a Utah road win is!

In Defense Of: I’m going to do it here. I’m going to defend Stanford because they are 5-4 in conference and 14-7 overall with a nice win over UConn and a bad loss to Oregon State (despite everything I said above OSU is still barely in the KenPom and RPI top-100). That’s a resume in need of defending. It’s ain’t sexy in the eyes of the committee and I think this team is really taking note. Had you been in Maples last Wednesday you’d have seen a man possessed in Stefan Nastic. Dwight Powell, seemingly relegated to the role of facilitator on this team, scored 41 points this weekend. Josh Huestis flirted with back-to-back double-doubles against the desert schools. The theme I’m illuminating here is that these three seniors, half of Dawkins’ 2010 recruiting class without mentioning John Gage (116.7 ORtg on 14.7% usage), Anthony Brown (115.7, 18.2%), and the injured Aaron Bright. These seniors are beginning to realize their fleeting eligibility. This is a talented team and they have nine games to act like it. From my perch, they’ve already begun. But things aren’t about to get easy for them. They’ll kick off this latter half with three consecutive roadies beginning Wednesday at Cal and followed by a trip to Washington. It’s going to be tough to right this ship, but everything worthwhile is.

The YouTuber: Cobbs bookends this review:

Richard Solomon, Khem Birch

Cal Doing Big things with Improved Richard

The Golden Bears of Cal have jumped out to a 4-0 conference record. Three of those wins are on the road and I love road victories. I also love getting swept up in momentum and the promise of what could be despite a slight sample set. Hey, getting lost in the moment is part of being a fan. Beautiful, right?

But there might be something bigger than just a moment or momentum to what these Bears are doing. It might be worth thinking about it because:

Alas, we could have a full conversation about Gottlieb but that not the point although I think he did have a point with regards to their team.

I love Cal’s lineup and I said as much in October. Veterans, youth, big, small, shooters, bangers, these Bears have pieces that can do some of everything. The only question was would they show up? Namely, would Richard Solomon please stand up? He has.

Solomon has the eighth highest DR% in the nation – an increase of more than eight percentage points from last season. He’s improved his eFG% by more than 20% (48.1% to 58%). And he’s decreased the number of fouls he commits extrapolated across 40 minutes by 27% (5.2 down to 3.8). As I’ve said before, the immediacy of graduation can be a confidence stimulator.

And if tempo-free isn’t your thing, Solomon is averaging a double-double each night on the court (12/10) which naturally are both career-highs. And speaking of double-doubles, he’s recorded six of them this season. In 79 career games prior to this year’s 15 games, he recorded just two. To pile on, he’s doubled the number of basketballs he steals per game.

I also see it as no coincidence that amongst Cal’s four losses, Solomon didn’t play in two of them and in the other two he posted his worst and third worst ORtg games. Did I mention he’s improved his ORtg by 8%? Dick Solo is doing work.

Richard Solomon Tommy BoyFurthermore, if you’ve paid attention to the blog, you’d know I have something of a crush on hoop-math.com. It’s where I got to learn about things like:

  • Does [player] really hit that many jumpers?
  • What does “protecting the rim” really mean?
  • Where do babies come from?
  • How does [team] beat [team]? Or vice versa?
  • How do I appear as cool as Bond, popular as Gosling, and get JLaw’s attention?

Very important site that allows me to create awesome charts that my friend Jamie hates and others seem to like (tangent). What I mostly love about hoop-math is that it allows us to understand the obvious. More succinctly, it confirms our hypotheses that things like “taking more shots at the rim will increase your offensive efficiency.” Which is indeed a theory of mine and one of the first things I check when examining a player or team’s improvement or otherwise.

Well to this point we’ve discussed the gross improvement of a certain Cal Golden Center to which I present Exhibit Solomon:

Richard SolomonFirst, and to be honest, I’m still refining my Excel game so bear with me as our X-axis is devoid context (it’s last three seasons). Secondly, notice the correlation between Solomon’s shots at the rim (yellow) and that same season’s ORtg (navy). When he’s around the basket he’s more effective. Solomon is putting up the highest offensive rating of his career (apologies that hoop-math doesn’t go beyond the 2011-12 season) while putting up the most shots he’s ever taken at the rim.

Richard Solomon was going to be a big reason Cal did whatever they were going to do this season.

And thus far he’s been big.

 

 

Spencer Dinwiddie

Week 2 Pac-12 Hoops Review

I had a joke all lined up. I subtle jab to get our review going and remind everyone it’s just sports. But then Spencer Dinwiddie’s knee moved in a manner that would break his heart – and ours – and I didn’t feel like joking anymore. Because on the tail end of that bench, in Spencer’s red eyes, was a tragic reminder of why this is our favorite game. Sure basketball is grand but the collegiate version calls to us because we know what we have is brief – four years at best – and then it’s over. On to the next crop of kids wearing familiar colors and left to tell tales of the old days with delusions of grandeur. So when that brevity is cut further short by the body’s failures – sudden and unforgiving – it sucks. We selfishly lose out on the joy of watching our team be the best version of itself in their tiny window for success in that iteration. And then there’s the kid. The one who’d worked his ass off to get into the school, to get into the lineup, to get into the lore of this sport. The one with a mom. Maybe it is just sports but that’s not what breaks your heart about Dinwiddie’s tumble. It’s not that we won’t see him jump, pass, or shoot. It’s that he doesn’t get to.

Leader in the Clubhouse: Arizona remains the number one team in the nation and unblemished on their record. They are the definitive leader. But let’s talk about someone else this week namely the California Golden Bears. Here’s a team everyone except Doug Gottlieb has slept on and perhaps rightfully so. They then lose Jabari Bird and Ricky Kreklow heading into conference play where their first three games are on the road. So naturally they win all three of them. They are tres-and-oh and Justin Cobbs is the man. He’s scoring 19.3 conference points per game, grabbing 4.6 conference boards, and assisting on 8.3 conference baskets for his teammates. And one of those teammates is Richard Solomon who is playing like a man possessed by his seniority. This is his last hurrah and so he’s grabbing all of the rebounds (8th best DR%) and making all of the baskets (56.2% eFG up from 48.1% last year). In case basketball is new to you, when you have a point guard and a center playing well, you have a recipe for success. And Mike Montgomery has a degree from Hogwarts.

Biggest Loser: You can’t drop home games. I mean you can, it’s competition and so anything can happen but if you’re trying to win things like the conference you can’t lose at home. And winning on the road is really important because it’s really hard. Those red letters on the left link to an article I wrote about this very subject. We judge teams based on where they win or lose. I’m judging Oregon. They have not defended their homecourt or anyone for that matter. The points per possession they’ve given up in conference: .89, 1.28, 1.19, 1.21. They have little problems getting the buckets (7th best offense per ORtg) but if they’re going to be taken seriously on a national if not conference level, they’re going to have to start getting some stops.

What We Learned: Well not a whole lot more about Stanford who split their Oregon trip the way few teams will (lose in Corvallis, win in Eugene). Of course if this team’s season long improvement play (what they were going to do differently this year vs. last as told to me by Johnny Dawkins) was to think about the year differently, I’m curious what’s on their mind. They’ve started conference play 1-2 for the second straight year and have almost an identical 15 game record as last season (10-5 now vs. 9-6 then). Not so different as their ORtg and DRtg are also almost identical to the past, too. They’d also mentioned being mentally tougher (part of thinking differently) and thus winning close games. Well that’s kinda working as they squeaked out wins by 2 points at each of UConn and Oregon. Maybe we start a new segment in here that’s just called WHAT DOES THE STANFORD SAY? and then I just write or link to whatever I want and it’s wildly unpredictable and completely upsetting but you’re attracted to that instability by some unintelligible force that keeps telling you that they’ll change. Did I just describe my ex-girlfriend?

In Defense Of: I’ve been all over Utah lately and how interesting what they’re doing has been. What have they done? Well lost 3 of 4 conference games. That doesn’t sound all that interesting but perhaps lost amongst the excitement of their 11-1 start and their thrilling loss to Oregon is that the Utes never really were there. That’s to see, I wasn’t annointing them title contenders or March dancers but rather noting their marked improvement, their progress and the promise of what could be. They’re definitively not there yet. But like previously noted, winning on the road is difficult. Utah took to Oregon and left with two black eyes. But their eyes are blackened because they were in a fight, not because they got their asses whooped. They’ve now lost by a combined seven points and have held a second half lead in every one of their conference games. There’s a measurement on KenPom that looks at luck because sometimes you can’t win them all. I wrote about it with regards to Utah last year. Basically, the Utes are the 345th unluckiest team in the nation right now (see: Dotson, Damyean). They’re 1-3 but that doesn’t yet mean they’re bad. Utes, defended.

The YouTuber: Have you ever seen so much in 82 seconds?

 

SeanMillerESPN3

Fourteen Things to Watch in Pac-12 Conference Play

Conference play will tip tonight. That’s a fun fact to let sink and now’s a good time to let your loved ones know that Thursdays and Saturdays are booked (and the occasional Wednesday. And the occasional Friday. And the occasional Sunday. And all of March). I love conference play because it means something. A “good win” doesn’t just carry a nice perception, it moves you up the ladder. And we know that college basketball is all about getting to the top of ladders. With scissors.

Fourteen things to watch in this 2014 Pac-12 season:

  1. The Games and Stories – An elementary opening point for a ‘must watch’ list, but as we head into this most anticipated of Pac-12 conference seasons, I am acutely aware that I don’t want to watch Southern University play a ton of games. I’m not that stoked on seeing Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Weber State, or Evergreen State (St. Katherine, for that matter). And I mean no offense. I just don’t know them from Adam and I want the drama. I don’t care if UW and WSU rate outside the top-100 on KenPom. That’s the damn Apple Cup. USC is the 4th worst team remaining on UCLA’s schedule. BUT THEY’RE THE ONLY SCHOOL YAPPING AT UCLA. Suddenly we’re privy to subtext that wasn’t there when the opponents were [Directional] State Tech. Arizona is the top team, but Spencer Dinwiddie has already said he thinks his team is the cream of the crop. I have running bets about Arizona V. Oregon and I love the Arizona-Washington rivalry. Last time Cal and Stanford faced off, STANFORD’S ENTIRE ASSISTANT COACHING STAFF WAS EJECTED. Prior to last season, there hadn’t been an in-conference matchup of ranked teams since 2011. This year we’ve already got one in the first week (#10 Oregon @ #20 Colorado)…with more to follow! It’s conference time.
  2. Ben Carter – He has just three games under his belt (flipping shoe swag) and really just one of consequence. In that game – against BYU – he managed 4 points, 4 boards, 3 assists. Not quite Arsalan Kazemi yet not even close, either. But he’s long been considered a budding piece of what Dana Altman is trying to accomplish. And now’s the time. From a personnel standpoint, the Ducks can’t quite hit the boards the way they used to. Or rather, the way Tony Woods and Kazemi did. They’ve shifted from a top 10 defense to a top 10 offense. The best offensive team Dana Altman has ever coached. As we move forward, the emergence of a Robin to Mike Moser’s Batman could greatly benefit the Ducks.
  3. DaVonte Lacy – There aren’t going to be many reasons to watch Washington State so I present this guy:
  4. Washington’s Front Court… amongst so many other things in Seattle – Maybe there isn’t much to watch here as this team has become decimated through recruiting failures and injury (RIP Jernard Jarreau). Perris Blackwell is a fine player, but he’s one man. This is Romar’s worst defensive team since – well it’s literally the worst defense he’s ever coached. They rank 287th in defensive efficiency giving up 1.09 points per possession. Woof. Teams are shooting a 54% eFG against them, otherwise known as 318th best nationally. Double Woof. And that front court that doesn’t necessarily exist? Allowing 70% shooting at the rim. Teams are shooting 56% from 2-point range and I could go on but I won’t because as the Dawgs allow more and more points it raises more and more questions I don’t want to discuss about the health of Husky Hoops. So why watch? Because it could be something of a last hoorah.
  5. Oregon’s SOS – It has to improve. Or perhaps better said: it’s going to. They’ll play all of Arizona (State and the good guys) and UCLA twice while only escaping a visit from Colorado. Amongst KenPom’s top-25 teams, the Ducks have the 5th easiest schedule. Completely to their credit, they’ve handled that schedule. But as the going gets tough we’ll get to see whether or not this team will Win the Day.
  6. Cal’s Injury Bug – First they dropped two tough games without Richard Solomon in the lineup at the Maui Invitational. Then Kreklow and Bird sustained injuries and it’s pretty wide open as to when either of these two is coming back. You don’t need me to tell you that’s not good. I love Bird’s skill set and he carried the Bears through a few games earlier this year. They’ll now rely even more heavily on seniors Cobbs and Solomon as well as soph Ty Wallace and junior David Kravish. That’s a nice foursome, but nothing close to what this team is with Ricky and Jabari. Will their absence cost the Bears a chance to dance?
  7. The POY Race – I wrote really early in the year about this because why not? This is going to shake out to be a really great race because there are so many players that will be worthy of the title for so many different reasons. From Joseph Young who gets points like a Fuel Band to Kyle Anderson who does everything like a Swiss Knife,  how will voters (Pac-12 coaches) evaluate? Value (Nick Johnson, Anderson, Delon Wright, Mike Moser)? Skill (Young, Jahii Carson, Jordan Adams)? Whatever the case, it’s not going to be Jorge Gutierrez.
  8. Arizona’s Depth – Or lack thereof. They’re a damn talented team who then ranks 312th in percentage of bench minutes. The Pac-12 season is a grind and getting into the Yorks, Pitts’, and Korcheks of this lineup could help alleviate some of stress on the core-six. But it’s a really good core-six. One thing I’ve long been interested in – ever since he started the first game of the year – is the development of Gabe York. He wasn’t expected to be getting much tick – his defense a liability and a thorn in Miller’s side. But he’s shown some ability to defend but it’s his shooting ability (42% 3FG%) that I believe could make Arizona the hands down favorite to win this whole damn thing. But he’s not quite there yet. Conference play will be his chance to cut his teeth in some big games.
  9. Hot Seats – I hate this topic but it’s going to come up and as a given team maybe does worse than we might expect, there could be some seats warming up all over the conference. The influx of coaching talent across both football and basketball in the past 3 years has been impressive and if you’re not keeping up with the Joneses then you’re just losing sporting events. There are going to be a few ADs with tough decisions in the coming months. You already know which ones they are and so do they.
  10. Dunks
  11. Delon Wright and the Scorin’ Utes – Larry K’s team has exceeded the 120-point mark twice this season and they’re third in the nation in points per game (87.4). They’ve also played nothing short of a middle school schedule but that’s a whole different topic. Delon Wright has been an incredible addition to this team. He’s doing almost everything for them: 15/7/6, 138.3 ORtg. The obvious here is that I’m intrigued to see how he fairs against better competition; which begins tonight as he and the Utes host #10 Oregon and all of the guard talent in the world. The other thing to note about Utah here is that they have the fifth highest eFG% in the nation. Again, the schedule stuff, but at a certain point we have to appreciate that what Larry K’s team is doing is simply efficient. Excited to see how it translates. They’re 11-1.
  12. Jahii Carson – Because he’s Jahii Carson.
  13. #20 Colorado – The lede here is that they’re ranked and Tad’s making a name of this program and Spencer Dinwiddie is likely league-bound and then something else about Askia Booker putting up shots like a Tri-Delt. It’s all true. But let’s take a moment to think about Josh “Jelly” Scott as we head to conference play. The guard play in this conference is obscene. The Arizona bigs have been getting their love but how about Scott? Here are his numbers in Colorado’s last four games: 15 points and 11 boards. That’s a lot of everything you’d want from your big. He takes just 7 shots per game to get his points, which is grossly efficient. And this is the point in the blurb that I mention his free throw rate: 88.2. That’s a 147% increase over last season’s FTRate. He’s drawing greater than 6 fouls per forty minutes. Once perceived as soft, he’s banging his way to the free throw line and offensive success. Such a post asset is going to bode well for the Buffs as we make our way towards March.
  14. Vegas – Things happen there that should stay there. You know this and I know this and the Vegas travel bureau markets that. Certain things should stay there including the Pac-12 tournament. This will be year two of the three year contract that I fully expect to be renewed. But I don’t expect many teams to be sticking around Vegas. What I mean is I think there’s going to be a hearty number (seven) of Pac-12 teams leaving Vegas for the big dance. I also think this Pac-12 tourney is going to be as fun as it gets. Hoops on basketball on baskethoops.
Mike-Montgomery

Getting to know Cal: A balancing act

Cal has made the most buzz in their off-season not necessarily surrounding anything they’ve done. To address what they’ve done is to tell you they’ve compiled a sound team with compelling pieces up and down the roster. They’re maybe not deep but they’re balanced. I like Cal’s roster. But that’s maybe not why you’ve heard about them. No, you might’ve heard that Dough Gottlieb of CBS-lore has picked Cal as his 10th best team in the nation. Rush the Court asked how and I’m curious, too. But ultimately, that’s Doug’s prerogative and I don’t care that much. He’s the paid contrarian and I’m not even about to mention his brother being on Cal’s staff – though I just did. So with that out of the way, we’ll focus on whether these Bears can replace Allen Crabbe, the reigning POY; if balanced is enough; whether Richard Solomon can make the jump.

Why I love them: That balance I’ve been talking about? I’m really high on it and what’s more is they’ve got veterans in the right places and particularly in the two most important. You know about Mike Montgomery so allow me to get to the point: Justin Cobbs (see what I did there?!). He’s hit big shots and played in big games. He’s a senior at the most critical position in college basketball and one cannot begrudge the Bears that. It is their most endearing quality. But one senior does not a team make. No, filling out their back court is the highly touted Jabari Bird for whom Monty has been trying to taper expectations, “I don’t want to put expectations on Jabari.  I want him to develop, I want him to learn as a freshman.  Certainly coming in with the ability he has is going to give him a great opportunity, but the expectations is that he has a great freshman year and he helps us win basketball games.” Sure, Monty’s got a fine freshmen, but one freshman does not a team make (with apologies to ‘Melo). I’m not about to carry on with the different components that alone do not make up a team, but I will tell you that I’m a big Ty Wallace fan. He had a good freshman campaign and – if my calculations from a year ago stand true – he projects to have a much improved sophomore effort. The one additional thing that’s also got me high on this team is who Richard Solomon might become. He’s athletic and lengthy and we find him in his final season at Berkeley. How is he going to handle that urgency? If he manages to channel it into continued rebounding success (high OR and DR rates) and improved offensive output (just 55th in the conference in ORtg) then the Bears would seem to have further filled out an already nice lineup.

Why I hate them: OK so I like Richard Solomon. I want to believe that he’s going to have a big senior year – a fact I plan to expand upon in a later post. But if we’re looking at this team and its front court, we’re indeed left with Solomon and David Kravish. Sound players but with the body of work we’ve previously been presented with, I’m not about to consider this a Pac-12 contending front court. They’ve lost the Thurmanator who gave them big minutes when Solomon was in foul trouble (ranked 3rd to last in fouls committed/40 minutes) and I don’t foresee Kameron Rooks or Roger Moute a Bidias soon jumping into significant roles. Cobbs, Bird, Kreklow, and Wallace are going to win this team plenty of ball games, but it’s Solomon and Kravish who could help differentiate them.

Stat you need to know:

22

Percentage and number of three pointers that Ty Wallace hit last season for the Pac-12’s worst three point shooting team. I love Ty Wallace’s game but he needs to learn that his game isn’t to be firing from deep. In fact, see Exhibit Quotable…

Quotable:


Outlook: Maybe I don’t love this Bears team but there’s plenty here to like. I’ve discussed balance. That can cause problems for people; as does a Mike Montgomery defense. The Bears have had a top 50 defense in each of the last three seasons under Monty and project to have the 29th best this year per KenPom. Speaking of which, it might be worth noting that Ken rates Cal as the fourth best Pac-12 team and 36th in the nation. A season ago they wrapped the year rated 56th OR, twenty spots lower than they currently project. By my amateur math, this would suggest that the Bears are improved despite the loss of Crabbe. But enough quantitative predictions. I think Cobbs is senior enough to Dance with help from Bird and a much improved Ty Wallace (might be my favorite player in the league). And yes, in my final sentences, I’ll acknowledge that Cobbs suffered a foot injury. I don’t think this will prove a major set back. He ain’t missin much. Look at how cool new Haas is:

Haas Floor

 

Pac-12 media Day

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).

HERE ARE MY TEAM-BY-TEAM CAPSULES FROM MEDIA DAY WITH RUSH THE COURT

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….

ItWasme
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?

COYTrophy

Pac-12 Coach of the Year: A VOTE!

This may be the toughest of the awards to choose. I feel like so much of this pick gets set upon a team’s expectations which is so dramatically far from fair. A coach can do a very good job with a very bad team that just wasn’t very good (LoRo this year is a pretty decent example of that).

When I’m making a pick like COY, I like to look at the team’s general body of work and ask questions like: Did they get better? Did they win at home? Did they eek out a couple they maybe shouldn’t have? Did they lose games they shouldn’t? How did they respond to adversity? How much would I want to have a beer with this guy? Important stuff.

NOTE: I think image searching/trolling for pictures of Pac-12 coaches is in my top 17 things to do in life.

The candidates and then the field:

Dana Altman, Oregon

DanaAltmanCOY

Certainly when subscribing to the expectations-reality model, this guy is the guy. Picked to finish seventh, they’re now in the driver’s seat to finish first. That’s a big gap. But maybe he just straight up had that good of a team. Whatever. Point is, Dana has lead a group to sound play since November and done a masterful job in ensuring his team managed to weather the injury storm to Dominic Artis.

Ben Howland, UCLA

BenHowlandCOY

I think a lot of people are going to hate seeing his name on the COY list (I see you BruinsNation) but Ben’s group has rebounded moderately well from what was shaping up to be disaster of a distracted year: Josh Smith’s transfer, Shabazz’s eligibility, Shabazz’s back pack, Shabazz’s pink eye, UC-Irvine. So as this things piled up and the buzz around his job security came to a head, this team had every excuse to quit. Throw in the towel and just get to March. Well they haven’t quite done that and while there have been some ups and downs, Howland has done a fair job this season.

Bob Cantu, USC

BobCantu

Just as I commend Howland for not quite letting his team quit, so to must we comment the interim guy across town. Cantu took over a 2-2 squad from a coach calling his team “castoffs” and “rejects,” playing with a “chip on their shoulder.” I suppose the final justification comes in the fact KO was castoff himself which could easily could have become a quitting point. It didn’t Together – with his team – they became a whole new version of rejects (as I assume Cantu soon will be dismissed as interim HC) to battle for a top six finish. They beat UCLA in Westwood and soundly beat the Wildcats, letting everyone know, so long as you don’t quit, you Cantu!

Herb Sendek, Arizona State

spt-asumbkc 166503

The Sun Devils’ year may be coming to a tough close but there was nothing disappointing about the season the Herbivores pieced together. They out did any and all expectations and while I’ve previously stated I’m not a fan of the expectations-reality model of choosing a COY, in this case I think it’s fair. He added just one new component in Jahii Carson (Evan Gordon essentials fills a similar role to Trent Lockett) and then got the absolute most from 2011-12 underwhelming returners Jonathan Gilling, Carrick Felix, and Jordan Bachynski. Improvement is part of a coaches job and YoY the Devils did that.

The Field

COYCandidates

Tad Boyle, Mike Montgomery

 

Pac-12 Coach of the Year

  • The Field (48%, 11 Votes)
  • Dana Altman (35%, 8 Votes)
  • Bob Cantu (9%, 2 Votes)
  • Ben Howland (4%, 1 Votes)
  • Herb Sendek (4%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 23

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TheWire

Week 8 Pac-12 Hoops Preview

Here I sit. Sickly and playing semi-nurse to my roommate who’s just had his ACL reconstructed and who – in his post-surgical, in home state – has accumulated a viewing list the size of Washington State’s RPI (188). As I mentioned, I am under the weather and took a half-day from professional life to rehabilitate and help the roommate with nominal tasks suddenly turned difficult without the function of two knees (he sponge bathes himself).

And so, 181 PacHoops posts, two-seasons on pointguardu.com, 3/4 of a season on PacificTakes and Rush the Court, and 1/4 season on AZDesertSwarm I’ve finally turned the corner into true sportswriter-dom. I’m three episodes into The Wire. Yes, in this day and age it would seem one cannot truly comment on sports without having experienced this Home Box Office tour de force. I’ve just met Omar and I find McNulty equal parts frustrating and endearing, a confused character, flawed like and broken like so many cop protagonists before him (looking at you, John McClane). And while it is HBO programming without Allison Williams, it didn’t take long for us to get hooked.

All of that said, the chances that I make obscure references to this now dated show are slim so rest assured I will not go Whitlock on you. I have, however, thought seriously about likening each of your favorite Pac-12 teams to a GIRLS character. It’s going to happen.

Alas, as we hit the homestretch, like drug ring in the projects of Baltimore, teams will begin to rise to the top of the game while others…well…others will begin to drop like flies.

The weekend

GotW: Like Sex and the City this weekend doesn’t necessarily have any stunners, but there’s plenty of substance and couple of pretending divas. Take Washington @ Arizona. This game screams Samantha as it’s the two sexiest names squaring off on the slate but it’s really not attractive at all. Woof. Nah, the best looking of that cast was Charlotte, a simple beauty, nothing overwhelming but certainly good looking. Our simple beauty of this weekend? Cal’s visit to Eugene. The Bears are hotter than a Mike Montgomery timeout which actually deserves some additional commentary. While the shove worked and all the right things were said afterward, could the national commentary and hubub have turned to distraction? It’ll be interesting to see how they react as they take to the court in what will undoubtedly be a hostile environment. And, for the record, I’m not Miranda fan.

Game to Avoid: You ever seen Enlightened? It’s on the half-hour before GIRLS and each week we catch the final three minutes and it’s the most dramatic moments of the show but no one’s actually into the show and none of us have the slightest clue what it’s about or an interest in getting further involved. Sounds about how my Wednesday night is going to shape up as I’m not going to dedicate too much time the 7pm WSU @ ASU game while awaiting the 8pm tip of UW @ AZ. The lone Husky invited over to watch has already asked that we garner burritos during that hour.

Something to Prove: Slowly growing his worth as a Hollywood star, Vincent Chase finally made a name for himself as the centerpiece of Aquaman. This mega-blockbuster role is the career maker Chase had been searching for. Or was it? He wanted more, preferring to find his dream gig in Medellin; seeking to prove he was an artist and not just a pretty face. Well few are about to say much about the Sun Devils being a pretty face (maroon and piss), but we can consider their inflated win total appealing. Wins are sexy to the committee just as starring in a James Cameron movie is star igniting (Chase, Sam Worthington). But regardless of what your resume states, if it doesn’t have staying power it doesn’t have staying power. The Sun Devils have a key opportunity to prove their worth as a tourney team by holding court at home this weekend, taking greater steps to becoming the stars they want to be in March.

Something to Lose: As Larry David putzes around Los Angeles (and New York in his most recent season on Curb), he acts as if he has nothing to lose. Not a man on fire but a man devoid awareness to the greater context of social accord. It’s been with a similar disinterest for public opinion that the Cal Bears have played their way into Dance consideration. But as I said in the GotW preview, there’s growing opinion about all things Monty and his basketball program as some (if not many) are thinking he should not be coaching on the sidelines. This national conversation could quickly spiral into a distraction for a hot team, particularly considering he was “surprised at the legs” the story got. The fact of the matter is that there are TV cameras everywhere and anytime a 60+ shoves a twenty-year-old, it’s going to become a pretty, pretty, pretty big deal.

The YouTuber: I don’t even know…