So this happened and no one really foresaw it. Quickly after losing to Arizona Steve Alford got to campaigning and evidently it worked. An eleven seed suggests they were pretty squarely in the dance according to the committee who said the Bruins passed the “eye test.” I get it. I also get that they’ve played absolutely no one over their final five games suggesting that the committee believes their losing effort to Arizona was eye pleasing enough. This selection has no one happy but you know what? #BackThePac. Because, quite frankly, the Bruins have talented enough players to be tournament disruptive.
The second day of Pac-12 hoops was chalk. The day following the near advancement of the 12, 11, and 10 seeds we saw – pretty definitively – the 1, 2, 3, and 4 seeds move to the semis. I suppose that makes sense. The bad teams got beat by the good teams and one of the really good teams brought a whole lotta friends.
Day 2: Continue reading
With the end approaching, I’m curious if that means we begin to see true colors. Careers are winding down and the significance of everything is seemingly magnified. And for as much as we want to believe that a mid-January game holds equal bearing to a late-February contest, we just know that’s not the case. Furthermore, the calendar changed. It’s March, the universal excuse for madness to ensue. So naturally Arizona won another Pac-12 Title. Who’s ready for brackets?
They are Pac-12 basketball. It’s basically the Conference of Champions because of UCLA. For an entire season they alchemized the “C” on all jerseys to commemorate 100 national titles (Internet Fun: find the best line in this confirming article). UCLA – with Arizona on its heels – is the torchbearer of Pac-12 basketball.
But UCLA’s not there right now. And although they’ve fallen on tougher times we won’t let that diminish this rivalry. GameDay recognizes, why shouldn’t we? UCLA may have dropped what appeared to be a quintessential trap game (ASU is actually pretty good even if their student paper concedes on court success for off court fun), but the Bruins are also 4-1 against Arizona in the last five meetings.
A rivalry it is. Everything we need to know about UCLA:
Because I left my ID in my running shorts I was forced to fly standby to Seattle. In order to arrive by the 6pm tipoff, I needed someone also headed to Seattle to pass in the last second on their seat. Turns out that happens a lot. I made the flight. Basketball-wise, have the Bruins really jumped into the Dance? Do the Cardinal not want to dance? Can Zack LaVine fly? Do you think Kevin O’Neill saw 50 Shades? March approaches and it’s going to be tough to find two-and-a-half hours to watch both parts 1 and 2 of the SNL 40 special.
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.
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
Below you will find my submission to the Rush The Court Pac-12 All-Conference Voting. I’m not sold on this being a great Pac-12 but it isn’t 2012, either. Furthermore, run through that list of All-Conference performers. There’s plenty of heat in there. I had to keep Askia Booker, Shaq McKissic, Brandon Taylor, Andrew Andrews, Xavier Johnson, David Kravish, and other quality ball players off of that list. Nevertheless, here’s how I see things shaking out.
Wanna talk about it? COME AT ME BRO!!!!! [twitter link]
Can we just have a moment of silence – for ourselves of course – because we don’t get to watch Slo-Mo and Jordan Adams anymore? I’m gonna. [pause. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.]. Thanks.
And now, what’s left in Westwood that wasn’t drafted in the first round, I know nothing about. Steve’s kid (it’s Kory pictured above) is still here and Norman Powell returns and I’m very familiar with the name Tony Parker. I just have no idea what this version of TP is going to do on a nightly basis. Steve said that Tony needs to get pissed off. To pile on, there’s only nine of these guys on scholarship. Projected-to-contributes Jonah Bolden (PF, #25 2014 per Scout) and Jon Octeus (PG, 110 Ortg/22% poss, 13/5/2) were deemed academically ineligible; Bolden can stick around the program and practice but Octeus just wasn’t let into the school. UC schools have really tough standards and only let the best-of-the-best into their establishments. I know from experience (#GoTritons). But of the remaining nine on schollie, there’s reason for optimism. It’s a brand new roster of unproven talent (as noted, we know nothing about them). This is now officially Steve Alford’s UCLA.
Why I Love Them:
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.
- 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.
- $40M – That’s how far under budget the new Pauley Pavillion project was. That’s damn impressive. Yay California state projects!
- 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.
- Five – The max number of timeouts Howland can call per game. Had to.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The point of this site has never been to deliver you overwhelming statistical analysis. That’s me being honest and directing you to the likes of Ken Pomeroy and Luke Winn or some of my go to pals, @jgisland and @ontheproviso.
These are gentlemen who excel at Excel. Knuckles.
Me? I’m really damn good at watching the game and knowing that four points per game is fewer than fourteen. A regular Bill James here folks!
But let’s focus a touch deeper. I’ve always been curious about when a player makes his biggest leap. When he goes from scrub to star, role player to role model.
And this has piqued my interest because the Pac-12 has some interesting pieces getting older. Players who’ve performed well or hardly at all to date and I want to know – essentially based on anecdotal evidence (i.e. what I like to call tempo-full stats) – who we can expect big things from? Who’s going to make that leap to leader and usher his team from a Pac-12 team to the Pac-12 team.
To examine such, I compiled an arbitrary list of 21 Pac-12 players who participated in at least three seasons. The list itself was fun to build. Example: Did you know Brian Scalabrine went for 14/6/2 in 31mpg as a pup? That’s ridiculous. Do you know what Colorado fans would give to get that from Josh Scott? Or what UCLA fans would do to get those minutes out of Josh Smith – a top-5 offensive player in the conference? Alas, not every incoming player will put up White Mamba numbers but that’s what we aimed to look at here.
I was disappointed to find that there weren’t ORtg numbers going as far back as I’d like so I ran with good old fashion points/rebounds/assists and gut analysis. That’s to say, I built the spreadsheet and looked at the numbers and thought, “Yeah, those look better than those,” then highlighted the year in which the player’s numbers took the biggest jump.
I won’t spend any more of our time explaining the holes in this study and so without any further ado, the spreadsheet:
From this chart we find that 14-of-21 three year players showed their most dramatic statistical jump (most notably in points per game) from their freshman to sophomore year. Five players had their biggest jump from sophomore to junior and two players leapt into their senior year. One player had an arguably lesser sophomore season. Three players had arguably lesser years as juniors.
That’s the black and white look.
The Second-half-of-the-Wizard-of-Oz look (colorful) directs me to the Pacific Northwest and Abdul Gaddy. With this now senior, we find that his numbers didn’t quite high jump from FR to SO, but they did improve (4/1/2 to 9/3/4). But what I found most interesting is that his ORtg jumped 40 points – from 85 to 125. Ok, ok, it’s not fair to just throw ORtg stats into the equation all of a sudden but 40 is significant. It’s also not fair that Gaddy only played 13 games while recording that 125. But I’m not gunning for a Nobel Prize here.
I am, however, interested to see that guys like Patrick Christopher took his freshman year to develop into a consistent player. Dude put up essentially the same, very solid numbers for the three years following his debut at Haas. As did Arron Afflalo, the infamous Lukes, Channing Frye, and Darren Collison. Some terrific Pac participants.
What this says to me is that, above all else, players grow in confidence. Sure their minutes grow but I keep coming back to Gaddy and his improved output as an offensive player. He just became better at being a basketball player. He didn’t necessarily do more, he just did it better.
The numbers can also show us that this perceived confidence comes at different times. Look at Quincy Pondexter and Jerome Randle.
QPon perplexed and frustrated Husky fans during his tenure in Seattle but when push came to shove, he had a dynamic senior season. That’s the kind of stuff I love. That’s the fairytale stuff when the beleaguered vet wills his team to big things. He followed no traditional path but when you record 19/7/2 and lead your team to the school’s fifth sweet sixteen, you figured it out. And in the nick of time.
As for Randle – the conference’s POY in 2010 – he appears to have been the perfect recruit. He incrementally improved every year, stayed four seasons, and lead the school to a conference championship. What more could you ask for? OK, a national championship I suppose, but Randle did work year-in-year-out and it showed.
But I’ve been sidetracked from the topic at hand – biggest statistical leaps – and what we can learn from my spreadsheet.
My conclusion to this conundrum is that players make their biggest leap – as I suspected – from their freshman to sophomore season. Again, I’ll make no bones to the arbitrary nature of this analysis but I like my answer.
And you should be encouraged by my findings if you’re a fan of any of the following programs:
- Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie are two of the first names that come to mind as I looked over these numbers. This tandem put up 9/3/1 and 10/4/2, respectively, and will only have their 2012-13 roles grow in the absence of Nate Tomlinson and Carlon Brown.
- At this point you know he can hop and defend and heard rumors he can shoot. But this is the year that all of those things should come together for Nick Johnson (9/3/2), Arizona’s presumed starting two-guard. He played confidently (reason #1 for anyone’s improved anything) in the Red-Blue scrimmage and is poised to shine.
- What I like most about David Kravish (7/6/1) – and what I think is the most significant marker of his forthcoming FR-SO explosion – is he played his best ball when the Bears lost Richard Solomon. He closed the season averaging 8 & 6 in Solomon’s absence, including an 18 rebound performance at USC. Confidence gained as a successful contributor and the return of Solomon should allow the lanky big to thrive.
- So…it’s going to be a tough one in Pullman unless this guy – DaVonte Lacy (9/2/2) – takes the leap. But he’s a got a great mentor as Brock Motum blew up into arguably the most efficient player in the universe (SO-JR). With Reggie Moore gone, Lacy is going to have plenty of chances to show off just how well his summer workout routine worked.
And that’s just to name a few.
I’m not mentioning the likes of Chasson Randle (14/3/2) orByron Wesley (10/5/2); two very interesting players. Randle is going to be good – scary good – and so I’m not going to bother reiterating that. Wesley is no doubt solid but finds himself in a completely revamped lineup and while my “study” took into account exactly zero extenuating circumstances, Wesley is playing in an extenuating circumstance.
I’d also keep an eye on Norman Powell (5/2/1), Angelo Chol (2/2), Stefan Nastic (2/1), and Jonathan Gilling (7/2/2); players with emerging roles on each of their respective teams.
Look, this conference is back. The stage is set for a lot of this talent to emerge and if you look at the crop of sophs in the league compared to what their predecessors have accomplished, it’s my impression that the good kind of parity is back.