Tag Archives: NIT

Cal, Utah, Oregon State: In A Tournament

It wouldn’t be the preeminent Pac-12 basketball blog if we didn’t get a chance to examine every post season team’s fortunes. Here we get two NIT previews and a CBI preview that digresses into commentary on Andy Enfield.

The not in tournaments:

#2 California Golden Bears

Opening Remarks: I was inside a raucous Haas Pavilion as Justin Cobbs drifted into the left corner, towards the baseline and Kaleb Tarczewski rolled with him. Cobbs elevated, the seven-footer elevated, and the shot was purely released. Cobbs wound up a heap on the ground, the fans wound up a mess on the court, and the Bears wound up in the NIT. That’s not how the story was supposed to end but that’s how it did. The inconsistencies caught up with them and they closed the season losing eight of their final twelve. That’s not a dancing tune and this is a frustrating NIT bid. In 2012 I watched as Kyle Fogg – an Arizona senior I saw grow, develop, and grind into an first-teamer – accepted a bid into the NIT. He handled it by scoring just 5 points on 2-5 shooting inside the McKale Center. He lost, his final game as a Wildcat, to Bucknell. In Tucson. The point here is that Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon have tasted sweet tournament success. They danced each of the past two years and are just a year removed from giving Syracuse all they could handle. And now they’ve drawn a home game against Utah Valley, KenPom’s 198th best team, on the same floor that they beat an undefeated and #1 ranked Arizona team. It’s a different stage.

First Opponent: So you’ve heard of Utah Valley

So yeah, that happened. They also don’t shoot the ball and are going to make an effort to score inside the arc with the 333rd slowest offense in the nation. This offense is actually pretty impressive considering they take such a deliberate amount of time and conjure the 13th best A/FG ratio in the country. This suggests that their patience pays off. But not that much. They’re still the 209th most efficient offense. Cal should roll and throw zero basketballs at anyone in doing such.

Stories: The NIT committee doesn’t have the same undisclosed and denied sense of drama that the NCAA committee has. I mean, what do you want me to tell you? There was some sort of sick conservatism joke being played on Cal within their quad? They play a school from Utah with a potential second round game against Arkansas or Indiana State? I don’t suspect that to be the case but I also don’t see the Bears staying very long in this tournament. That’s not an indictment on their talents, but rather a recognition that they’ve already the filet, they don’t want the chuck.


  • Win the National Invitational. They’re still good enough to make a run like that.
  • Out before first tip on Wednesday

#5 Utah Utes

Opening Remarks: Whereas an NIT invite was a let down for Cal, Utah has been on a different trajectory. No one has asked Utah to do anything except join the Pac-12 since 2009. Pardon, they went to the Sun Bowl, but I think we’re walking in stride here. It hasn’t been the sexiest three seasons in the Conference of Champs for the Utes. So garnering this invite was a big deal no matter how illegal what Arizona did to them is in Utah. Now, did I think they’d be a higher seed? Yes. Did I think they’d get to host a game? Yes. Neither is happening for the Utes. But sometimes, when you haven’t really demonstrated a track record of success (in recent history! I know all about Utah as the 11th winningest program) you don’t get treated preferentially. So, they’ll travel to win this thing.

First Opponent: Utah will return to the Bay Area to face the St. Mary’s Gaels. The first thing I want to note is that the last time they traveled to the Bay (2 weeks ago) they beat Cal for their second road win (big accomplishment) and gave everything they had for 39 minutes and 30 seconds to Stanford. Mal-execution cost them the Bay sweep but the overarching sentiment here is that the Utes set a precedence for A) Winning on the road which they had not done all season, and B) Winning in the Bay area. Moraga, CA is just 13 miles from Berkeley. This is familiar territory for the Utes particularly considering they’re basically playing a slightly better version of Washington State: slow as a turtle, threes like preschool. Of course WSU beat Utah which is seemingly inexcusable and perhaps an aberration. That weekend sweep in Washington were the Utah’s only losses to non-tournament teams. Enough revisionism. You knew I wasn’t going to get through a Utah bit without mentioning shots at the rim, right? St. Mary’s allows the 214th highest percentage of shots at the rim (38.8%). Hello, Delon.

Stories: The tale here is that Utah is in the post-season. Here is a program trajectory graph I created used highly advance statistical models to understand what Larry Krystkowiak is trying to do:

UtahBasketballOh, that’s just wins you say? Well I’ve long said it’s my favorite statistic and it doesn’t lie very often. Utah is headed in the right direction, a post-season invite is proof of it. A five seed in the NIT is proof they hadn’t been in the right direction. But that’s what March is for. Prove somebody wrong.


  • Second Round – Look, they’ve had problems traveling. So going from the Bay, back to SLC, to Minnesota doesn’t exactly sound like an auspicious position to be beating the tournament’s #1 seed.
  • First Round – Lose to what’s a pretty decent little SMC team.

#1 Oregon State

Opening Remarks: The Beavers are going to pay $35k to host their first round game. Is this basically the plot premise of Her? This is their fourth time in the CBI. They won it in 2009 and lost in the semifinals to Washington State in 2011. All of these stats I had to look up because I really don’t know anything about the CBI and it will probably remain that way. I’ll peripherally keep an eye on the Beavs but this could be the extent of it. My eyes are on North Texas.

First Opponent: This tournament puts a new spin on the phrase “cost of winning” as advancing means OSU will pay $50k to host the quarters; $75k to host the semis. Whatever the case, the Beavers have drawn Radford who has the 329th best defense in the nation. Oregon State has the 49th best offense. Plus, it’s Radford and what I really want to do is mix in a Tim Floyd wakes up in El Paso reference because UTEP is in the CBI and USC isn’t. But Andy Enfield is still waking up in Los Angeles and so is Isaac Hamilton (albeit UCLA not USC).


  • Tournament champions. They’re one of just two high major teams, they’ve won it before, and they’re a senior laden squad. Probably should win it.
  • Participation?

What I Was Doing During the NIT Semis

Instead of watching the NIT I went to the Air Sex Championships and watched drunkards faun climax on a stage to R&B jams while either taking themselves far too seriously (so uncomfortable) or performing with a hint of jest befitting an event called “Air Sex.” It was a show about pretending to be a part of a bigger act than they actually were a part of.

So while I was at said show, a pair of Pac teams took to Madison Square Garden in their respective NIT semifinals. Stanford prevailed, defeating UMass while the Washington Huskies’ season came to an accordingly odd close. It was a show about pretending to be a part of a bigger act than they actually were a part of.

Yeah. Air Sex and NIT Hoops because sometimes you just can’t perform.

I won’t go into elaborate sexual analogies, likening Washington or Stanford’s time in the NIT to a night at the bar, their subsequent efforts with variedly intoxicated coeds, or even expand much on them as Air Sex participants. But as I watched awkward gyrations, discomforting facial expressions, and hysterical adult reenactments of Goldy Locks and the Three Bears while also checking these game scores on my phone, I couldn’t help but recognize the fact that neither of these parties were in the “Big Dance.”

Because that’s the end goal, right? The real deal.

Washington made a run of it, strengthening my belief in Romar as a motivator of talent. It didn’t last long enough (pun) however, and Tuesday served as a Husky microcosm, highlighting what plagued them all year: effort, intensity, turnovers, depth. It was no doubt a difficult pill to swallow for the Washington faithful, but you can only fake it so long. Husky hearts were broken on that Sunday, lightly resuscitated in hosting and beating Oregon, then laid to rest by Minnesota.

As for Stanford, their path to the NIT was a touch different from being labeled the first ever major conference champ not to receive an NCAA invite. Perhaps this motivates them differently and if you saw some of the Air Sex participants you’d realize that this show very well may have been the closest they’d been to the real deal in awhile. Kinda like Stanford’s eight year hiatus from the NCAAs. So yeah, Stanford is into it. They’ll play tomorrow for an NIT championship and as I explained at Pacific Takes, making it to the NIT finals is a fortuitous sign. By my math, Stanford has a 70% chance of making next year’s NCAA tournament. Probably better than Andrew Zimmerman’s odds at the bar:

Andrew Zimmerman

The Cardinal and Huskies and Air Sex participants performed with variable motives, histories, and results. None had the chance at the real thing. And there’s a takeaway here: Getting close to the main event can be a lot of fun and say a lot about you.

But there’s nothing like the Dance.

Seriously though, if an Air Sex show comes to your town, it’s worth your time. Find it.

Dendrophilia-lite: Stanford to the Final Four

Shhh. No body mention it but the Pac-12 just got two teams in the Final Four.

Before you get too far, allow me this: SEMANTICS! The Final Four is the Final Four is the Final Four and the Pac will have represented 33% of the available FF spots in post-season play. Hell, both Washington schools are in a Final Four – WSU in the championships!

And now let me back down to earth.

Washington and Stanford made the NIT Final Four while Washington State defeated Oregon State in the CBI Final Four. But I want to focus on Stanford, namely because we know all about UW and I know literally nothing about the CBI.

Stanford put Nevada in their place as a mid-major and has surprisingly rolled their way into NYC. Once in the Big Apple they’ll have another opportunity to put the little guy in his place against UMass. Whodathunkit?

After all, this is the group that jumped out to a 12-2 record and promptly fell on their face during conference play; finishing the season a yawnable 8-8 and raising questions about what it means to be a Johnny Dawkins squad. They were the “biggest loser” in two of the final three Weekend Reviews, including once for an astronomical loss at Utah. But, as we believe here at pachoops, it doesn’t matter how you start or middle, it matters how you finish.

And the Cardinal, apparently, are not ready to return to class contrary to popular Stanford stereotyping.

With Aaron Bright playing like a seasoned veteran (19ppg, 4apg in the NIT); Chasson Randle filling the cup like a Lopez twin (19ppg last eight games); Josh Owens refusing to finish his five-year career quietly (12 & 9 in the NIT); and the rest of the Cardinal faithful filling roles like Oompa Loompas, it’s no wonder Stanford finds itself playing in Madison Square Garden (even the stats agree).

The biggest question around this team has long been where would the offense come from and, of late, they’ve managed. Which is about all you need to do when it comes to win-or-go-home season.

Now in the coming days I plan to present some NIT research proving my hypothesis that NIT finalists carry their successes into the following season (NOTE: this is still a hypothesis for which I plan to exact the scientific method). Examining this Stanford team and assuming my hypothesis, they’re poised to do exactly that. Aaron Bright is a solid play making guard, they have a bevvy of big, athletic, active bodies, and, mark my words: Chasson Randle is a stud.

I’m not going out on any limb here telling you he’s good. It’s been a fact for awhile. But if you’ve ever seen the kid play, you understand he could be special. I’d say he reminds me of Allen Crabbe – big freshman year with high sophomore expectations – but Randle creates far better than Crabbe. He’s [insert scout adjectives here] and then some. I’ll stop before hyperbole sets in.

So say what you will about the Pac, but there’s still a heartbeat. An opportunity to create a shining moment, hoist a trophy on the heralded hardwood of basketball’s Mecca, Madison Square Garden.

Oregon-UW was a Throwback Game as Good as March Gets

That was some March basketball.

And I’m not going to let you call me crazy because Tuesday’s Oregon-Washington game was as good a game as you’re going to see this time of year. Two teams took the court wanting nothing more than to beat their opponent. That’s what college basketball is all about; that’s competition at its finest.

And did you watch?

It was terrific. Terrence Ross played like the league-bound talent he is and Tony Wroten was bigger than the other kids and Abdul Gaddy conducted like the ballyhooed point guard he is. On the flip side of the equation EJ Singler was as well rounded and tough as a Dukie, Olu Ahsalou was unstoppable, and Tony Woods approached flawless.

The unfortunate difference maker? Garret Sim and Devoe Joseph combined for a pedestrian 7-24 shooting night and that kinda breaks my heart.

I’m a sucker for seniors. That guy – I wrote all about it last month – who hits the shot he shouldn’t, makes the plays others couldn’t; and draws the charge others wouldn’t. The kind of plays that Joseph and Sim made all year long for an improved and solid Oregon squad.

On this night they simply didn’t have it while the Huskies did. Such is basketball; such is March; such is life. Washington heads to New York as the Ducks return to Eugene, their season complete after a terrific five month run. Back to the game.

The Huskies were terrific out of the gate, quickly building a lead in transition and off of Duck turnovers; staples of LoRo-ball. But Oregon quacked right back, taking a lead with the score in the teens that they wouldn’t yield until the second half when some combination of defense and a too much individual creating began. But that just may be what you do when Terrence, Tony, and Devoe are on the floor.

It worked for the purple team.

And perhaps my favorite part of this game? The pace. It was some old school Pac-10 action: fast, pressing, offensive, and athletic. Loved it. It’s like the weather. I’d rather it be in the 80s than the 50s. It was simply put: good basketball. Or at least my favorite kind of basketball.

Many have and will rip this league. It wasn’t a great year, a fact we’re all beyond well aware of by now.

But Tuesday night was as good as it gets.

BB: The Heart that Stayed in Staples

Looks like I wasn’t the only one who needed a minute.

It appears as if that shot put of a three-point attempt as time was preparing to expire at Staples was the last of what Kyle Fogg had to give. His five-shot effort in Round 1 of the NIT was tragically indicative of a man who’d lost the will to fight.

And it sucks.

For all the work he’d put into this season – taking 1000s of shots, lifting to exhaustion, growing into a leader – to come down to an unglamorous, two-thirds capacity, National Invitational game broadcast by a ring bearing Wildcat had to feel like defeat before the tip.

Which is odd for the kid who took what appeared to be a season ending gut punch from Washington and channeled it into a 7-2 close and a Pac-12 Tournament Championship game appearance; asserting himself as the heart and soul of this team.

Then there was that championship game. Another gut punch, a two-point defeat with the season in the balances. In January, the pain quickly manifested as effort, because there was still work to be done, goals accomplished, and games to win.

The second blow to the belly came later, with little season remaining. And what can you do when that punch simultaneously rips your heart out?

I unglamorously watched the Bucknell Blunder alone, horizontally on my couch, drink(s) in hand, donning similar – if not identical – attire to Josiah Turner. My enthusiasm for that game essentially matched the Wildcats’ despite both of our best efforts to get behind this new experience. I exchanged texts with eight different friends surrounding the strangeness of the event. Fogg took five shots, none for the first fifteen minutes of the game. It was the fewest shots he’d attempted and points he’d scored (5) since that very Washington game two months ago.

And to be clear, I’m making no excuses. Bucknell was terrific in exploiting Arizona’s glaring weaknesses and playing the role of “better team.” It was a game they were better prepared for, wanted more, and deservedly won.

But boy, oh boy is it tough to give effort when your chest cavity is devoid its pacemaker. That Colorado effectively ended Arizona’s season and Kyle Fogg’s career. The senior had so courageously become the centerpiece of this team, setting the tone for what very nearly was an all-time memorable final twelve games.

But it didn’t end that way and the Wildcats couldn’t advance without their heart, as he no longer had his.

Washington’s NIT Challenge? Themselves.

I know I’ve spoken on it before, but success is best defined by how you react, how you respond, to the bad stuff. Did you learn? Will you grow? Can you get better?

And now I also ask: How will Washington respond? They’re riding a painful two game losing streak and are wearing the hat of first ever major conference champ not to dance.

That sucks and could prove defining for a very solid basketball program. I mentioned at Pacific Takes following UW’s loss to Oregon State that Romar’s quotes were indicative of his team and his program’s mentality. That’s to say they were hopeful.

When you’re in the business of controlling your own destiny, as in playing games with a tangible outcome of winners and losers, hope is about as good as losing. Sports require a level of knowing and confidence that you will get it done. And for that, I’m greatly encouraged by Tony Wroten’s recent quotes.

“Yeah we’re going to treat this like it’s the national championship. Obviously it’s not what we wanted, but since we’re here we’re going to deal with it and play like we are in the national championship.” (via Percy Allen)

Who doesn’t want to win a national title? And while the NIT certainly plays little brother to the NCAAs its still a tournament, a series of games where a champion will be crowned and there’s something to be said for that. There’s also something to be said about competing, particularly if you’re wearing a Washington jersey right now.

Knowing full well that they controlled their own destiny into the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies showed up flat as backboard to Staples, promptly finding themselves in a thirteen point hole. A deficit that proved insurmountable but now we’re left to wonder, what are the Huskies really needing to surmount?

If it’s themselves they must overcome, Wroten’s quotes (and read the whole thing for more evidence) indicate that he and his team are prepared for the challenge. And it’s long been discussed that this is a very talented team, why not prove it now? Know you can, then do.

For that, I expect Washington to be playing in Madison Square Garden.

If they’re not up to the challenge, it will be very interesting to see what direction the program heads.

For a good preview of Washington’s Round 1 NIT game, read the coverage over at Montlake Madness.

BB: Full NIT Support Because it’s like Batman

I needed a minute.

You know, a hot second to recompose, figure out what the hell was going on because this is foreign to me. I’m twenty-seven years old and have only once experienced a March sans the cardinal and navy (2010). That was a tough one but 15-14 teams don’t get At-Larges so I had a lot of time to prep for that (I’m also talking like 3 years as the whole damn program was bottoming out).

So, now I find myself here.

I don’t know what channel NIT games are on, which days they’re played, or if they’re even scored the same way. What the hell does the bracket look like? Do they even have those? Has anyone, anywhere, ever taken a three-and-a-half-hour lunch break at Hooters to watch the NIT? I’m left wondering if maybe we can get Gus Johnson to call one of the games or at least have Jim Nantz to glance at it. Do the letters actually stand for something? Does the winner get a Shining Moment or is it just a “We’re #65” tee? Does Luther Vandross give a shit?

This feels like the ultimate “if a tree falls in the forest” scenario.

But I’m going to get behind this. I could do some kNITting. Because life is about growth. Our greatest moments, grandest achievements, our championships, are the collective of our reactions to the things we may not like.

Take Batman for example. How full rock bottom was that fool at the end of the Dark Knight? All of Gotham thought he’d just killed Harvey Dent, his vigilante justice no different than the crime lords in a city lawlessness. Batman had to go away before he rose again.

And I know you’ve watched that trailer. Are you effing kidding me? Not only is that movie about to be other worldly bad ass, but Batman comes back stronger than ever – completing our metaphor – the hero we’ve adored, need, and cherish.

So hell yeah I’m going to kNIT.

Bring on the Bucknell I-don’t-care-who-your-mascot-is’s. The ‘Cats will take care of Kansas’ unfinished business. Oral Roberts? Sounds like something I’d look up on Urban Dictionary and get grossed out by (alas, it is). Nevada? I’ll pass and roll right on to Tahoe, uh-thanks. Stanford and Cleveland State? Rolled and stomped. Illinois State? It won’t even come down to playing them but the lop sided score they’d be subjected to would likely cause the Red Birds to fire their coach then holler at the recently unemployed Bruce Weber who’d then write a book about it. Mississippi? Any team that’s sustained a three game losing streak to Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee State, and Dayton will get beat.

Anyhow, that’s what they call “Region 4” and I don’t quite know what else to make of it.

I took my minute to recover, found the silver lining, and grabbed me some knitting needles and one of these (that looks so weird). It’s disappointing and monumental to not dance but like Harvey Dent said, “The night is darkest before the dawn. Bear down.”

Or something like that.