Tag Archives: Sean Miller

Team Enters

BB: Our 2013-14 Arizona Wildcats

I’m always pretty honest here. I don’t love ASU and, despite being 6’5″, I’ve only dunked a handful of times. Fastballs don’t translate into verticals. And so to get my mind around, and my heart into, re-examining this season – if not that game – I needed some time. A passage of moments to absorb everything that was our (my) last five months. Because my team didn’t win and because they were supposed to. Because I watched a season, five months, rest confidently in the hands of Nick Johnson. And then the season didn’t quite make it out of his hands. To tell you that I didn’t hurt sitting in section 407, row B, seat 4, alongside my brother, would be a Badger faced lie. I hurt, alongside a fan base starving to be in North Texas, watching the most exciting iteration of their team – our Wildcats – fall one point short. Pain.

And in this afternoon there will be departures and returns. Perhaps some coaching changes down the line. New developments that might further dictate our feelings about those five months.

But for now, take a walk with me. Certainly not a run because a run might not let us appreciate things, the actual path. By running, we might get stuck with a singular memory of a ball, in hand, with a backlit backboard, and the wrong score. A run would neglect to recall how we got to Anaheim. So let’s walk. Walk to appreciate how we got there and because sometimes it helps to slow things down, make sure that this blog post doesn’t become one big :(. Also, my middle name is Walker. Fun fact.

Like any walk, I suppose we’d have to begin by getting off the couch. Of course that’s where it all began for me. I was amongst the more than 18,000 streaming a basketball scrimmage on a Saturday afternoon in October. On that day, TJ McConnell played defense. Yes, I was ecstatic to watch a 6’1” Pittsburgher play practice defense. A skill he’d assert 39 more times for my viewing pleasure.

But that was just a practice. We needed, craved, the real thing. And soon thereafter, by a convergence of love, convenience, and coincidence, I celebrated the first two games of the season and my dear friend’s wedding. In Tucson. God bless Sunday weddings in November.

Of course the Cal Poly game left something to be desired. The Mustangs (who would eventually win one NCAA tournament game) made eleven three-pointers and raised questions about whether or not the 2012-13 three-point defense was an anomaly or a trend. The Wildcats would go on to allow the 12th lowest percentage of threes in the nation. Opponents would make just 32% of whatever they got.

But Gabe York started, Kaleb Tarczewski grabbed zero rebounds, Jordin Mayes played 4 minutes to turn the ball over 3 times, and the team shot 56% from the line. Was this game foretelling? No, the next game was. An assertion of strength, execution, and we-are-better-than-you up and down the McKale floor.

The tone was set. Arizona would be the most exciting, defense oriented, pace conscious team there could be. At least that’s what we wanted. But their mettle was yet to be tested. Not even a win in San Diego meant enough. A stage, The World’s Most Famous Arena, was the only place to do it. So they went to Madison Square Garden, forced Jabari Parker into what would be the second worst offensive performance of his collegiate career (by ORtg), and left their scent all over the right coast. Early the following week, Carolina would win in East Lansing.

Four days later, Arizona was the number one team in the country. Back.

What do you think of our walk so far? Months of speculation about whether these Wildcats could shoot, lead, or get over their youthful hump had manifested into the nation’s top team. And it was fun. Validation of the previous tribulations that had seemingly set the program back. Number one again.

But this was December. Who cares about rankings – let alone college basketball – in December? The Wildcats had yet to take their toughest trip of the season, a frigid journey to Ann Arbor. I would join them. It become the upset dujour that weekend and perhaps deservedly so. Michigan was a talented squad playing at home. They’d go on to win the B1G and finish a dagger away from their second straight Final Four. Against Arizona, they led for more than 32 minutes. But Arizona won, Brandon Ashley was the best player on the floor during a game featuring countless NBA bound talent, and shit got real. Jim Nantz told me he’d see me in Dallas. I’m serious. The questions weren’t about whether the roster could do this or that, tt became, “Are they the best Arizona team, ever?” Jim fucking Nantz, you guys! And oh was it fun.

There were these:

aaron-gordon-vs-ucla-b

And this:

Rondae Dunk

And more:

aaron-gordon-double-clutch-reverseThere was a game that Washington State scored 7 points in an entire half. They scored just 0.46 points on each of their 54 possessions; twenty-five collective points from a high-major, Division-1 basketball team. That’s what Arizona was going to do to you.

And then these guys came up to see me. My team! Their first trip to the Bay Area in two years and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. My brother was going to be in town! The Wildcats! What a weekend.

But then it all changed.

The prohibitive favorites, winners of 21 straight and the top team in the land for eight straight weeks (a school record), lost in Berkeley. Sure the score read 58-60 and the court was preemptively rushed. How can an Arizona fan get pissed about that? Irrelevant. It all changed on February 1st when Brandon Ashley broke his foot. At the time, we couldn’t really speak of it. The foot failed but the team would not. Adjustments had to be made because there was still season to be played and we had to see Jim in Dallas. We’re on a walk here, right? Brandon couldn’t walk. It all changed.

And I buried that change, still absorbed by the narrative of January 31st, not February 2nd. Prohibitive favorites and now who knows what? Somberly, we left Haas that night with what felt like a season in flux. A proverbial tipping point. But the season couldn’t be buried in one podiatric misfortune. Onward the Wildcats would go. The feeling was buried. The season endured.

Exhibit A was a two-point home win over Oregon. Exhibit B was a hohum dismissal of the Beavers. The next two games would see the Wildcats in three overtimes, escaping with just one win. They lost in Tempe.

It all changed on 2/1 and whatever we buried was soon to bubble up. The aforementioned post-Ashley exhibits were less than encouraging and Colorado’s Keg was looming. Arizona had never won in Boulder as members of the Pac-12. Regardless, my buried feelings and tempered expectations flew to Boulder. With a busy mind, it wasn’t clear to me what would happen. I should have known better:aaron-gordon-dunk-gifColorado didn’t record a field goal for the game’s first ten minutes and Arizona won by 27. And then they won by 28 and then 13 and again we could believe. We could slip back into Goliath’s slippers and feel good in them.

There was a forgettable trip to Oregon before a defensive tour d’force through the MGM Grand Arena. Utah was throttled and Xavier Johnson – who once noted that the Wildcats “weren’t that good” – would make just 5 of 21 shots against the Wildcats after that January remark. And this:

Aaron Gordon BlockThen the Pac-12 championship game – Arizona and UCLA – was every bit the heavy weight battle it was supposed to be. The Pac-12 deserved and needed it. The Bruins punched first, taking it to Arizona’s top rated defense like no other team all season. The Wildcats, however, shot back. Raining from beyond the arc before settling into their more typical defensive effort. But when push came to shove – and it did – Jordan Adams hit the biggest shot. UCLA was your 2014 Pac-12 Tournament Champions. He didn’t touch the ball.

To this point I haven’t mentioned the walk we were on. It had a title, or at least I had one for it, “The Road to Dallas.” But this is the hardest part of the walk. The path narrows and the way more treacherous. Sudden death is a possibility. Sudden death is a reality. This is the NCAA tournament. You know all of this and when Arizona’s name was called on Sunday, you contemplated how you’d get to San Diego, Anaheim, and Dallas. I did. We toed the waters but never hesitated to jump in. Bring on the challenge.

And a challenge it is. Littered with hyperbolic prose surrounding its uncertainty and glass slippers. Goliaths enter and one exits. But you – we of the red shirts – were behind Goliath. The Wildcats were going to win this whole fucking thing.

And then they didn’t.

I had charged down Interstate-5 with my buddy, Jamie – a lifelong Badger, brilliant hoops mind, sports enthusiast, and beer drinker – for Thursday’s games. My brother was flying into LA to join. Jamie and I crashed at a friend’s Wednesday night, worked from Westwood the morning of, and then invaded the Honda Center. For Jamie, the early game was a breeze. Wisconsin was on to Saturday’s game faster than you could say ‘On Wisconsin.’

The Wildcats then took Thursday’s court and Nick Johnson scored 15 points in the games final 2:45. He made all of the free throws everyone thought the Wildcats would miss to send them packing from this tournament. The dismissal of SDSU evoked little sympathy. Self inflated with a brotastic following dripping with little brotherdom, I couldn’t have ushered them out any faster. And they were removed from the game’s hallowed event by the right  team. The Aztecs gave the West coast a go and the big kids will take it from here. Kthanksbye.

Which of course brings us to Saturday and me next to my brother at the tops of our chairs and lungs. The game itself could be dissected; examined for the minutiae of +/- data, offensive and defensive efficiencies, and probability charts. Ultimately, on the grandest stage where only one advances by any means possible – survival – the Badgers bettered the Wildcats. By one point. It needn’t be pretty, you just need to have the extra point.

For Arizona, they didn’t have the extra point. That’s the hurt stuff.

The kind of stuff that doesn’t let you appreciate an Aaron Gordon overtime three-pointer. He of the comically broken shot stepped into a three in the biggest game of his life. Onions. All the game long nothing would fall for the superfrosh. So naturally he grabbed 18 rebounds – nearly a quarter of all available boards in the game – and stuck that three.

It hurts and you maybe don’t get to remember when all seemed wrong, when the Arizona offense was operating at a second grade level, why not Jordin Mayes? He was there for the offensive rebound and the lay-in with sixty seconds left. In the three years of data I can access (hoop-math), it’s Jordin’s only career putback.

That immediate pain might not allow the opportunity to appreciate a moment like TJ McConnell and Nick Johnson hugging at mid-court. I can’t finger the exact situation but into a timeout, deep in the contest with the outcome in the balances and punches being thrown back and forth, the Wildcat backcourt embraced in the middle of the Honda Center. It was the kind of scene you expect to see with a Luther Vandross backdrop. Shit, I thought it meant they weren’t going to lose.

SPOILER: They did.

I’m late on all of this but I needed to get away from the suddenness of zeros and no more games. As noted I’m honest on here and the flurry of “UCONN!?!?!?!?! REALLY!?!?!?!?” texts into and out of my phone was…abundant? Ubiquitous? Fiery? And all of that heat was promptly followed by an outpouring of everything we couldn’t discuss after 2/1. A date we won’t forget and can’t neglect in reviewing, even appreciating, this season. Goliath down a peg.

Which is the end of our walk. A saunter through five of the most exciting and unique months of fandom I can recall. We felt promising optimism and crippling defeat. I saw triumphant revenge, fierce confidence, and assertions force. We hoped, believed, and hurt. We did it together and that’s the overarching importance of sport. 2013-14 was section 407 with my brother; the living room with my best friends;  a bar with countless strangers; every arena I entered. In taking this walk, it’s my hope that you remember where you were and who you were with for each of the shining moments that were this season.

Those illuminated flashes that define our favorite game are brief because they’re shared. If 68 enter and only one leaves, then we have to believe in those shining moments. We can share those and remember when.

The first games begin in November with the promise of a whole season with anticipation for the unexpected and hopeful before us. And then we get caught in a sprint. Running to March in search of the shining moments that just might not come. Everything changed on 2/1 and maybe that’s OK? Maybe it’s not. It’s OK to remember, just don’t get stuck in Haas.

And remember this walk, and all the fun you had watching the 2013-14 Arizona Wildcats Men’s Basketball team.Team Enters

March Madness

Half the Pac Dances: Previewing It All

Let’s just get this part out of the way: here is a printable bracket. Now how about it? We’re here, March, with half the conference of champions dancing. That’s the most since 2009 (when it was the Pac-10) but let’s not harp on circumstance.

Madness:

#1 Arizona Wildcats

Opening Remarks: For one reason. That’s what I said this season was about in November and that’s what it’s about today. It’s been no secret that this would be Sean Miller’s best team and it has not disappointed. Of course this is the point in the year when it becomes lasting disappointment – the kind that scars and hurts like the pretty girl’s “I have a boyfriend.” But there’s that instance that she says “yes” and so we love this tournament.  After losing to UCLA in the Pac championship game (his third such loss in five years), Miller had this to say:

If we won this championship, it’s about next week. If we lost this championship, it’s about next week.

Next week is now and the selection committee seems to have given Arizona a pretty favorable draw.

First Opponent: First up are the Weber State Wildcats who will try to become the first ever 16-seed to beat a one. SPOILER: They won’t but so much Wildcats. Weber State is a pretty classic profile of the David mold: good at threes (14th best 3FG% in the nation), slow (272d adjusted tempo), and offensively carried by one dude (Davion Berry has near top-50 usage). I probably don’t need to explain why Arizona will win but if you really need one, it’s because Weber State’s best defensive attribute (of which they have few) is that they limit threes. To which the Arizona varietal of Wildcats will kindly oblige, not shoot, and likely dunk. Yes, the Ogden based Wildcats stand little chance but I wish them luck as my boss hails from Ogden. Oh, and I’m far from buying this Oklahoma State hype.

Stories: It remains one of my all-time favorite times as a fan. We were buried deep in the guest bedroom of my parents house. Eight of us surrounding a shitty television by even the standards of a household that didn’t have cable until just a year prior. But it was the television we needed. And with every Wildcat success, a new superstition was born. There was face paint, squatting positions, gestures, noises, assigned seats, reassigned seats, and yelps until we willed Blake Stepp’s gimme out of the hoop and into Luke Walton’s arms. Rick Anderson would later call it the greatest game he had ever played in. Arizona had beaten Gonzaga in thrilling double-overtime fashion. The stage is set, let’s run it back.

Best/Worst:

  • National champions. It’s that or bust.
  • Third round. I’ve been dogging Oklahoma State but any team with a first round point guard in this tournament stands a chance.

#4 UCLA Bruins

Opening Remarks: Well now that the Bruins are a four-seed, me lauding them as a top-15 talented team doesn’t really mean much. The committee’s megaphone is greater than mine and means a lot more. Good work, guys. Further, the Bruins have the deadliest back court in the country. But y’all know this (aside from the Cougars AMIRIGHT?!?). But did you realize that UCLA has never lost a tournament game (of any non-preseason variety) when both that horrifying backcourt has been intact. Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are undefeated when playing together in tournament games (5-0). This is the champion of the championship we needed and deserved; a nomination that drew some debate on the twitter. The primary argument being big dance success is where the real ‘respect’ is earned. I can’t disagree with that.

First Opponent: I don’t think these Tulsa Golden Hurricanes are version of Danny and the Miracles. Led by Kansas great, Danny Manning, the Golden Hurricanes (GH moving forward ’cause that’s a lot of letters) are a pretty tough defensive squad. They’re top 30 in defensive efficiency and while you might see this as a strength, I don’t. Arizona, the best defense in the world, couldn’t stop these Bruins. The Wildcats were about to have to shoot their way to victory and nearly did (with a wildly improved defensive effort in the second half). Tulsa touts just an average offense which should allow an opportunistic UCLA defense to get enough stops to outscore the GH. Plus, who the hell guards Kyle Anderson? No seriously, I pose this question to the entire nation.

Stories: Unlikely but worth noting, New Mexico is in this region. An Alford-UNM matchup wouldn’t occur until the elite-eight but wouldn’t that have some heat. I mean, just imagine the Bruins Nation reaction to that loss. And speaking of potential melt downs on a certain web site, run through this scenario: a second round matchup of UCLA and VCU. Shaka Smart was on fans’ shortlist of UCLA head coaching candidates. Could a UCLA win here finally get people on the Alford train? It’d be second sweet-sixteen and most certainly his first when he was expected to get there. Of course, the converse…? And if we’re going to harp potential match ups, let’s look at the most likely. How sweet would a UCLA-Florida sweet-sixteen game be? Two of those three great Howland Final Four teams were dismissed by Billy D’s dominant Florida squads. They’d go on to win back-to-back titles. UCLA would fire Howland. This iteration of the rivalry would be awesome, featuring a top offense (UCLA) versus a top defense (Florida) and I imagine it’d play out a lot like the Pac-12 title game which was just fantastic. Hooray sports!

Best/Worst:

  • Final Four. They have the guard play and talent to pull it off.
  • Third round. VCU poses a unique threat and Steve Alford has only been out of the first weekend once.

#7 Oregon Ducks

Opening Remarks: I saw the quote via twitter and can’t find the link to it so I’ll paraphrase Johnathan Loyd’s quote:

We’re very thankful to be in this position, a month ago this wasn’t a possibility.

That’s the absolute truth. And as I watched him and his squad streak into the Dance, I can’t help but think they could make some noise. The swag they re-generated in winning all those games didn’t disappear in one fell swoop from the Bruins. It’s still there, this team can shoot with anyone in the nation, and on a given night can outscore just about anyone. If Oklahoma State can garner as much Cinderalla attention as they’ve received, why not Oregon?

First Opponenet: If NC State was unanimously the most shocking invite, BYU has got to be the second most startling. They were in just 89 of the 100 brackets aggregated at BracketMatrix which was the second fewest to the Wolf Pack who were in just two of the 100 brackets (the aggregated total may have changed since publish). Alas, this doesn’t change the fact that Oregon will indeed be playing the Cougars so let’s make a Vegas line out of it: Over/under 20,000 points in this one? These two have already played one game this season and combined for 196 points. Hell, they combined to score 28 points in the five minute overtime. BYU’s offense is faster than a message board thread turning weird, quicker than a live-look in at a 16-seed’s second half lead. The Cougars gets shots up like spring break. They score the third most points per game in the country. Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino (the Cougar backcourt) do a great job of getting up and down the floor, leading the third highest percentage of transition offense in the nation. Oregon, meanwhile, takes the 25th highest amount of shots in transition, score the 11th most points per game, and 12th most efficient offense going. Want to see some kids run around a basketball court? Tune into this.

Stories: I think the Ducks outscore BYU and have a shooter’s chance to knock off Wisconsin. The Badgers are touting what everyone keeps calling the “best Bo Ryan offense ever.” Isn’t that any oxymoron? My point is that Oregon has a shot (pun) at their second straight sweet sixteen which could potentially have them facing the Creighton Blue Jays, Dana Altman’s old school. An establishment he never took to the Sweet-16. So this would play out like one of those awkward times when you run into your ex-girlfriend while you’re on a date at the ballet but the ex was always pissed you would never take her to the ballet. Hey, new girl gets new things. Rest assured, break ups happen for a reason.

Best/Worst:

  • Elite eight. They can out offense just about anyone but they’re not beating Arizona again.
  • Second round. Live by the three; die by it.

#8 Colorado Buffaloes

Opening Remarks: My gut was that I kind of liked what I saw for the Buffs. They were playing Pittsburgh who I’ve long sensed has a propensity to not score and who ultimately hadn’t really played anyone all season. But we can discuss that next. Now let’s just note and appreciate that Colorado has made three consecutive NCAA tournaments. Arizona and UCLA haven’t done that. This isn’t the team the Buffs thought they’d be this time of year but the fact of the matter is the Buffs are doing plenty of believing. I sincerely think they made this tournament because they believed they were supposed to and so they did. That reads pretty simplistic but this invitation is a very strong indication of Colorado’s culture shift.

First Opponent: So as I noted, my gut thought this was a good matchup. My research doesn’t really support that. First of all, it’s in Orlando. That’s clear across the country for Tad’s crew which is hurdle number one. Secondly, Pittsburgh is efficient on both sides of the ball, a pretty well rounded team. The Buffs, meanwhile, haven’t broken the 1.00 point per possession barrier in more than month (2/16 at USC, the conference’s worst defense). But the Buffs can defend and the Panthers take their sweet offensive time (271st in average  possession length). If Colorado stands a chance, it’d be in forcing those long possessions into some uncomfortable looks, create some bad shots, board like Buffaloes, and get run out on those D-boards.

Stories: I haven’t really found anything too interesting about where Colorado stands today. They’re a little bit over-seeded all things considered but they’ve also been shipped across the country to play in a quadrant built as Gator bait. But maybe getting an eight is a hat tip to the direction of the program? That’s something to smile about and hope for the best. In the meantime, Daytona Beach is supposedly a great Spring Break spot.

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. They can squeak past Pitt particularly if Pitt allows the game to be close. But Florida in Orlando?
  • Second round. They could also not squeak past Pitt.

#10 Stanford Cardinal

Opening Remarks: They made it! It only took six years for Johnny Dawkins to do what Dana Altman did in year three, Sean Miller and Tad Boyle did in year two, and Steve Alford did in year one.   Hell, Herb Sendek did it in year three. Quite the leash but NIT titles evidently buy you time in Palo Alto. The invitation came through, no matter how you want to criticize, and sometimes that’s all that matters.

First Opponent: They draw the New Mexico Lobos. One thing I did hear Doug Gottlieb quickly note on the Selection Show was that UNM struggles with the stretch four. I have no idea how to quantify this other than to note that UNM was 2-1 against SDSU who seems to have an entire roster of stretch fours. Well so too does Stanford, as Gottlieb’s proclamation would seem to be a great scenario for Huestis and Powell. But I think the main reason Gottlieb was suggesting this was because the Lobos do a generally good job of keeping teams away from the rim. Teams 32% of their offense from beyond the arc against UNM – the 19th highest percentage in the country. Good news for Stanford! Despite all of their size, they love going nowhere near the rim, content taking the 294th lowest percentage of rim shots. It’s from mid-range and out where Stanford can cause damage (I see you Anthony Brown) and New Mexico might let them.

Stories: Honestly, what more do you want beyond the fact that this team is in the tournament? More? OK. Well I’m kind of intrigued by the idea that this New Mexico team used to be Steve Alford’s. What if they make it further than UCLA? What if every team with a loose affiliation with UCLA (Iowa, UNM, VCU, Boston Celtics) makes it further? I’ve wildly digressed but I’ve struggled to dramatize this Stanford team all season. They do such a good job of it themselves. So maybe if I say enough bad things about Stanford, like how they’re not the best corner-back in the game, maybe Richard Sherman will come get them all pissed off for greatness?

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. They have the size and pieces to get past New Mexico but not Kansas (of course it is Kansas in March).
  • Second round. Many think that UNM is under-seeded which doesn’t bode well for the Cardinal.

#10 Arizona State Sun Devils

Opening Remarks: James Harden isn’t about to walk through that door, but even he couldn’t get the Sun Devils out of the first weekend. Nope, ASU’s season is perennially over by mid-March. They were the last Pac-12 announced, the selection committee with a cruel jest certainly not saving the best for last. They did, however, manage to escape a play-in game which I think is a good thing. And while Harden isn’t walking through that door, Jahii Carson most certainly is. He’s their must watch TV and March is must watch television. In skimming this amusing tourney guide, I was intrigued to find out that Jahii averages 20.8 points in 30 career neutral court games. That’s neat.

First Opponent: Rather than break down my thoughts on Rick Barnes and that beacon of mediocrity, let’s highlight Isaiah Taylor. I’ve only seen a handful of Texas minutes played this season but he was about as exciting a guard as I saw play all season. He did as he pleased in games against Kansas (23 points) and Iowa State (26 points). His FTrate is a threatening 58% which ASU doesn’t do a particularly good job of limiting. But what’s most interesting about this shifty little guy, is that he takes just 5.4% of his shots from deep. This means, Taylor is breaking down defenders and getting to the rim. And who’s he going to meet at the rim? Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan Block-chynski. In general, there isn’t too much that jumps off the page about either of these teams offensively. I kind of like the idea of it becoming a battle of best players and ASU actually has the best player in this one. They also have Jonathan Gilling.

Stories: Steve Patterson isn’t the most well liked guy but neither are Texas or Arizona State. Patterson, naturally, just left ASU after less than two years in Tempe to be the AD in Austin. In trying to learn more about this, I came to find out that ASU president, Michael Crow, was upset about Patterson’s departure. And then I got to the line in the article where they noted that Crow was paying him about $450k and Texas was offering $1.4M. Are you kidding me Michael? I’d cheer Rick Barnes results for $1.4M a year, too.

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. It’s Rick Barnes in March and ASU has one of the best players going. But ASU-Michigan is not a match up I like if we’re looking for ways the Sun Devils advance.
  • Second round. Texas ain’t bad.
Nick Johnson POY

Pac-12 Conference Awards: Traditional Ones

I submitted the following to the Rush the Court Pac-12 Microsite for conference awards. The conference released theirs as voted on by smarter men – the coaches – than I. Let me tell you, picking these sorts of things is tough. Do you realize how stacked the Pac-12 backcourts are? Damyean Dotson, Jason Calliste, DaVonte Lacy, TJ McConnell, etc. aren’t even noted here. Alas, this was my ballot. Then, if you bear with me to the end of the post, I was passed along my preseason All-Conference picks. How’d I do?

All-Conference Teams/POY: A list of the top 15 players which was used to calculate the first, second, and third teams. I listed Johnson first as he is my Pac-12 Player of the Year.

  1. Nick Johnson (POY)
  2. Kyle Anderson
  3. Delon Wright
  4. CJ Wilcox
  5. Aaron Gordon
  6. Jordan Adams
  7. Jahii Carson
  8. Justin Cobbs
  9. Joseph Young
  10. Chasson Randle
  11. Josh Scott
  12. Byron Wesley
  13. Dwight Powell
  14. Mike Moser
  15. Jordan Bachynski

COY: Sean Miller - Big hat tip here to Tad Boyle and Larry Krystkowiak with a mention of Herb Sendek and Steve Alford. Tad kept his team together in the face of a terrible injury and Utah was the most competitive  8-10 we’ve seen in a long time. Herb finished third so he gets noted and I continue to be impressed with Alford’s adjustment to the cards he was dealt (he created a transition monster which is like no other team he’s coached). But Miller wins my COY because, well, for most of the season the Wildcats were the best team in the country, they’ve continued to play fantastic defense (best in the country and easily the best in the conference), and he’s reinvented his offense following the loss of Brandon Ashley for the season.

Newcomer of Year: Delon Wright - Maybe my favorite player in the league but in all likelihood he’s my second favorite (I see you Nickie J). Now the reasons I chose to Johnson for POY was because he was the lead for his team. Delon Wright can do that, too. He’s a jump shot away from being unstoppable. He effects the game on both sides of the ball and is a huge reason for Utah’s first 20-win season in forever.

All-Freshman Team/FOY: Naturally, Aaron Gordon is my FOY.

  1. Aaron Grodon (FOY)
  2. Nigel Williams-Goss
  3. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
  4. Zach LaVine
  5. Bryce Alford

All-Defensive Team/DPOY: Johnson gets my vote for dPOY as well.

  1. Nick Johnson (dPOY)
  2. Aaron Gordon
  3. Josh Huestis
  4. Jordan Bachynski
  5. Delon Wright

Sixth-Man: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – It made sense for him to move into the starting lineup until it made more sense for him to continue to come off the bench.

Most Improved: DaVonte Lacy – What this guy did in 2013-14 goes overlooked because of an injury at the beginning of conference play and who he plays for. But the junior improved in nearly every offensive category. A glance:

Ortg %Poss eFG% TS% Stl% FT% FG% 3FG%
2014 112.1 27.5 54.4 60.1 2.4 82.8 42.8 38.6
2013 105.8 20.4 52.8 56 1.9 68.8 41.1 37.7

Favorite Player of the Year. A player who didn’t get votes for any of the other positions but, for whatever reason, ya just really think he’s great. My pick:

Askia Booker – He isn’t the best player on this team. He’s neither the most efficient (Dinwiddie), effective (Scott), or dynamic (Johnson). But he just might be the most important player for the Colorado Buffaloes. Despite all of those things other players are, Booker still leads the team in usage for two consecutive seasons. He frustrates you because of this but it comes with a confidence and swagger that Colorado needs. Booker has been on campus for three years now and Colorado will now have gone to three consecutive NCAA tournaments. Furthermore – and this probably sealed it as my favorite – he’s adjusted his game since Spencer Dinwiddie went down with injury. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Booker is the hero Colorado deserves and needs.

Pre-Season Picks - These are the picks I made and submitted to the All Buffs team. I like the make up of my first team. That group collectively had about a second team performance, however. If I’m playing GM, I still like that team a lot so long as my coach doesn’t relegate Powell to point-forward duties. No facilitating. Just banging.

All-Conference:

  1. Jordan Adams
  2. Jahii Carson
  3. Spencer Dinwiddie
  4. Mike Moser
  5. Dwight Powell

Conference Standings: This is why I love baseball. Two-of-twelve success is only a three game slump. Not a complete disaster.

  1. Arizona
  2. Oregon (UCLA)
  3. Colorado (ASU)
  4. UCLA (Cal)
  5. Cal (Colorado)
  6. Stanford
  7. ASU (Oregon)
  8. Washington (Utah)
  9. Oregon State (Washington)
  10. Utah (Oregon State)
  11. USC (WSU)
  12. WSU (USC)
Oregon Court Storm

Week 10 Pac-12 Hoops Review

I’ve been pumping this “weird things in March” dialogue because it’s pretty central to why we’re such big fans of college basketball. We watch this month through a different lens with even the minutiae dramatized. But Saturday did happen. A regular season finale that saw two overtime games, the Bay schools win by a combined two points, #3 go down, and a good old fashioned whooping in the Palouse (hint: UCLA scored 55 points). Prior to that day I was pretty caught up in the sudden winning ways of road teams. A deviation from the Pac-12′s norm. So naturally Saturday saw a home sweep but not without the aforementioned drama and March. Don’t you love it? And don’t you hate Daylight Savings?

Leader in the Clubhouse: I’ll take this thing back to the hottest team model in order to effuse on the run the Oregon Ducks are on. They were dead. Essentially written off, lingering only because at one point they were ranked tenth in the nation and their collapse was a fun fact you could toss around with other topsy turvy teams like Baylor and Oklahoma State. But then they won one. And another. And another. And now it’s seven straight including a road win at UCLA and the biggest win of their season, Arizona. The Oregon Ducks will be in the NCAA tournament. They’re playing their best ball of the season right now and are only the seventh team to ever hit 10-or-more threes against a Sean Miller, Arizona team. The Ducks make threes at an elite level (38.9% 3FG% is 25th best in the nation and Calliste and Young have made 125 total threes at a combined 45% clip. wow) which has led me to call them a “Mid-major with a budget.” Living and dying by the three is a tried and true method to winning games and certainly tournament success. During their seven game win streak, the Ducks are shooting 44% from distance. Of course mixing in some defense doesn’t hurt. And by some I really mean a literally just a little. Their defense over this seven game win streak has been actually worse than their season average. The Ducks’ season long defensive efficiency is 99.6. During this streak it’s 101.8. The thing to note, however, is 101 is better than the 119 efficiency they posted during their previous 5 game losing streak. All of that said, and however they’re doing it, they’ve collected seven straight of my favorite stat as we head into the post-season. The portion of the year where the only choice is to streak.

Biggest Loser: Vegas is set. The seedings are done and games will soon commence. I don’t really have the need to pick a biggest loser because upon commencement of said games, everyone has an equal shot. Clean slate. Unless of course:

Tough. Sometimes the narratives write themselves.

What We Learned: It’s over. Beds have been made and teams are now sleeping in them. Some more comfortably than others but there are now 108 games in the rearview mirror and it looks something like this:Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 6.17.51 PM

In Defense Of: My prediction of seven Pac-12 teams in the NCAA tournament. As we headed into Saturday’s slate, my prediction looked shaky. I wasn’t sure things would or could play out in the necessary fashion for everyone to survive the bubble. We are, of course, a week away from Selection Sunday when predictions of invitations will no longer be relevant. But as we sit today – with Colorado showing well in the Bay, Cal and Stanford narrowly avoiding sweeps, and Oregon beating Arizona – the Pac is a very real candidate to see more than half its members dancing. Now I certainly felt it would be a more convincing seven teams when I made this guess four months ago. But, as noted, this is how they’ve made their beds.

The YouTuber: Let’s just blame it all, everything.

AG_Scream

Fun Facts on the Pac-12′s Penultimate Day

This weekend we’ll spring our clock’s forward which is something I don’t generally like. But think of it this way: we’re one hour closer to the tournaments! But before that, we must get through tomorrow’s regular season finale. There are still infinite permutations of what seed which teams will garner for Vegas and I’m not going to break it down. It’s insane. On Monday we’ll have our All-Conference teams announced and the madness will begin. Or has it already begun? The calendar turned three months old last Saturday and the Pac has been anything but predictable. Utah won on the road. USC won.

We’ve got one day left, here’s a quick run through some fun facts of what you can expect to see, not see, or prepare for:

  • Oregon State hasn’t been swept on the weekend at home this season. Doesn’t bode well for ASU keeping the three seed
  • The Pac-12 has a road winning percentage of 67%. Since March, Pac-12 that home win percentage is 45%. Doesn’t bode well for Stanford, Oregon, Washington, Oregon State, Cal, or Washington State.
  • The last time the Wildcats won in Eugene it was called Mac Court and the Pac-12 was a twinkle in Larry’s eye. Oregon has since built an entirely new arena. Doesn’t bode well for the Wildcats.
  • The last time I went to a Colorado-Cal game, Cal’s best player went 2-17 and still won. Doesn’t bode well for Justin Cobbs or Colorado.
  • Utah hasn’t won consecutive road conference games since visiting TCU and Wyoming in February 2009. Doesn’t bode well for the Utes.
  • In two hosting events of the Colorado Buffaloes, Cal has yielded an average of 49 points per game or 0.77 points per possession. Doesn’t bode well for the Buffs.
  • Dwight Powell, Josh Huestis, Stefan Nastic, John Gage, and soon-to-be-fifth-years Aaron Bright and Anthony Brown are all celebrating their senior night in Palo Alto, Saturday. Doesn’t bode well for the Utes.
  • USC is playing a game. Doesn’t bode well for the Trojans.
  • Arizona is +74 in scoring differential when playing a team for the second time this season (5-1). Doesn’t bode well for the Ducks.
  • I have an Arizona-Oregon bet with Matt. It’s cumulative points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks of Aaron Gordon vs. Mike Moser. The first match up lead to an underwhelming 16 (Moser) vs. 14 (Gordon). I’m not winning right now and Moser is averaging 18 & 11 during this 6-game winning streak by the Ducks. Doesn’t bode well for Adam.
  • There are six Pac-12 games to behold on Saturday. Bodes well for us.

What did I miss?

wane

WANE: End of the Year Awards

I honestly think that – despite all of the talent in the Pac-12 – Spencer and my First Team All-Conference Team would be, at best, a bubble team. Listen to agree with our selecting ineptitude. That said, our team would certainly have Delon Wright on it. No questions asked. It’s maybe not the best team, but it’s a really hard choice!

 

The Table: (but really our notes on awards which are incomplete and scatter brained)

Conference Awards:

First Team:

PG: Chasson Randle, Jahii Carson, Justin Cobbs

SG: Nick Johnson, C.J. Wilcox

SF: Aaron Gordon, Delon Wright, Josh huestis

PF: Dwight Powell, Jordan Loveridge, Kyle Anderson

C: Kaleb, Josh Scott, Richard Solomon

POY:
Kyle Anderson
Chasson Randle
Nick Johnson
Roberto Nelson
CJ Wilcox
Delon Wright

Defensive POY:
Nick Johnson
Jordan Bachynski
Jordan Adams
Aaron Gordon

 

Newcomer of the Year:
Aaron Gordon
Zach LaVine
Jermaine Marshall
Joseph Young

Coach:
Sean Miller
Steve Alford
Herb Sendek
Tad Boyle
Larry Krystkowiak (**We admittedly didn’t discuss him on the podcast)

Game of the Year:

Oregon @ UCLA (the wears almost do it game)
Arizona @ Cal (the cobbs game)
Oregon @ Utah (the dunk game)
Utah @ Colorado?
Arizona @ UCLA
Arizona @ ASU
Oregon @ ASU
ASU @ Cal
Arizona @ Stanford
UCLa @ Stanford

Performance of the Year:
40 by Jahii (<thought about that but non-con)
AG 19 and 16.

The “Brock Motum” Aussie of the Year:

Angus Brandt
James Hunter
Dexter Kernich-Drew

Name of the Year:

Angus Brandt?
Wannah Bail
Beau Gamble
Schuyler Rimmer
Omar Oraby

cate-blanchett-thumbnail-2-8685

Week 9 Pac-12 Hoops Review

If I’m ever given the opportunity to accept an award with a microphone and an audience, may I please have the charisma, confidence and composure to pull off a “hashtag suck it.” Bravo, Cate Blanchett. Anyhow, we’ve got one of twelve seeds locked up for Vegas and I’m getting the itch to go. Is there a chance we get the Hollywood elite to pass the hat for PacHoops? 

Leader in the Clubhouse: A few teams made some nice statements with regards to the big tournament and seeding for the littler tournament but the Arizona Wildcats became the 2014 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Champions. It is the school’s twenty-sixth conference championship and the fist of three nets the team set out to cut. They’ve also sealed the conference title in sizzling hot fashion. The points per possession differentials across their last three games: .19, .41, .41. They’re destroying people as their defense is the best in the country and they’ve rediscovered their athletic ways on the break. In their last three games, the Wildcats have taken 25.5% of their shots in transition. Their season average has been 21.1% (171st in the country). We wondered how this team would adjust to life without Brandon Ashley and there you have it. Faster, similarly defensive, and hotter than a pistol in the game’s most important month.

Now with regards to how this section has played out through other portions of the season, I feel it necessary to note that Oregon achieved a road sweep this weekend. I don’t care, not in the least, that Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams didn’t play. Oregon needs to stockpile wins at a point in the year when those opportunities are becoming sparse. Additionally, after a tough ski trip, the Sun Devils bounced back and destroyed the Bay schools. Big weekend for them to get back on track.

Biggest Loser: I was tuned into both the Oscar’s and the UCLA-OSU game because who isn’t into drama? I was loosely preparing to anoint the Bruins the biggest loser should they absorb a home sweep. Alas, that was never the case so this week’s biggest loser is, right here in my backyard…THE BAY AREA SCHOOLS! Sure winning on the road is tough but neither team even bothered to show up. They were collectively outscored by 71 points, an average 17.8 points. The Arizona schools shot 50.2% from the field this weekend which – for those of you short on math – means they made more shots than they missed. With both Stanford and Cal looking to bolster their resumes, they didn’t.

What We Learned: I already mentioned it – Arizona’s transition offense – but let’s re-discuss this. After Ashley went down and the Wildcats dropped two of four and nearly another pair to Oregon and Utah, they seemed to be the dead elite walking. And then something clicked and they showed us all just how good they can be again and it looks like this:

In Defense Of: Steve Alford’s temper

howland-jacket-throw1

The YouTuber: I. Hate. L. G.

T+J+McConnell+Arizona+v+Michigan+3g0ON-Gbffzl

Where They Affect the Game: TJ McConnell

It should be obvious that this is going to center around the rim. It’s my favorite. But what sets TJ McConnell apart from the other guys we’ve discussed (Anderson and Wright), is that we”ll wind up talking about the guys around him. After all, he’s got an NBA front court to dish to.

And dish he does. McConnell is fourth in the conference in assist rate and third in assists per game. Further, and I apologize for being unable to contextualize, he’s collecting these dimes just 27.6% of the time in transition. That’s the lowest number (aside from Justin Cobbs) amongst Pac-12 point guards that I glanced at. This is a significant number because no matter how often you want to get in transition, the majority of your offense is going to come in a half court setting. As the offense’s facilitator and someone collecting as many assists as he does, McConnell’s ability to facilitate offense for his friends is impressive. It’s a tribute to his understanding and execution of the team’s principles and the talented pieces around him.

When crunching all of the rim success numbers, it was McConnell that lead the conference (amongst the players I studied) in success at the rim:

Player % poss resulting in rim score % poss resulting in play at rim Success % at Rim
TJ McConnell 44.25 49.84 88.79
Nick Johnson 28.04 32.18 87.13
Delon Wright 50.65 61.23 82.71
Kyle Anderson 33.57 41.64 80.63
CJ Wilcox 21.80 27.25 80.00
Pe’Shon Howard 38.34 48.54 78.99
Nigel Williams-Goss 26.17 35.09 74.59
Askia Booker 29.00 38.95 74.45
Justin Cobbs 29.93 40.62 73.68
Brett Comer (2013) 51.18 72.47 70.63
Roberto Nelson 26.96 40.43 66.67
Chasson Randle 20.96 33.14 63.25
Jahii Carson 24.86 40.06 62.05

Nearly 90% of McConnell’s possessions at the rim are successful. He was making the third most assists at the rim per game (2.72) despite having the fewest possessions (8.59) per game. Aside from the ridiculous Delon Wright, McConnell accounted for the highest percentage of rim scores. I love that. Kaleb Tarczewski, Aaron Gordon, and every other Wildcat loves that. Arizona, in fact, is second in the nation in FG% at the rim (74.1%). They don’t take the most shots there (31.6% of the offense is good for 300th in the nation) but when they do, they’re making it:

See what I mean? The word facilitate means to “make something easier” and so it appears TJ McConnell makes scoring easier for his sometimes scoring inept team.

Now look at Arizona’s last two offensive explosions. In those two games, McConnell has assisted 16 times and turned the ball over just once. The above tells us that his team easily scored when he passed them the ball. The turnovers suggest the other team isn’t getting an opportunity to easily score, forcing teams into a half court setting against the Wildcats in which they have the second best non-transition defensive eFG%. Good luck. In a moment of inspiration and wanting-to-copy-cat-a-great-mind, I saw Luke Winn’s power rankings in which he notes Fred VanVleet’s protection services. He notes VanVleet’s propensity to not turn the ball over and a few wildly impressive 5 game stretches (most notably a 30:1 A:T ratio in late December to early Jan). Wichita State’s facilitator protects the ball and dishes to his playmakers and they haven’t lost. Which – for a Pac-12 blogger – begs the question: Do TJ McConnell and other Pac-12 points offer similar protective services?Assisters

This is a pretty interesting graph in that everyone seems to have taken a pretty significant dip as they began to face off against one another in conference play. Look at the downward trend beginning right around games 10-13.

And then there’s McConnell. The lead man at Point Guard U with a violent uptick as we head into the game’s most critical month. Is it a sign of things to come? As that’s a rolling five game average, it would suggest so.

In the meantime:

The Keg

Treated Right and Swiping Right in Boulder

We were perusing the upper bowl of the Coors Event Center during halftime of Saturday’s Arizona-CU game when what I can only assume was an undergraduate encouraged me to “leave [my] f**cking stadium.”

But to say I was mistreated in Boulder would be a gross exaggeration. Quite the contrary. In fact, my favorite team in the world won by 27, shot 60%, garnered 1.32 points per possession, yielded no baskets for more than 10-minutes, held Xavier Johnson to 1-10 shooting, Jacob Hazzard got involved, and Aaron Gordon:

Aaron Gordon Dunk CU

I had little to say to that kid. I declined his invitation carried on to my seat and then the rest of the night transpired. We’ll skip the basketball for now and I’ll go straight to a big shout out to the fine gentlemen who recognized me at Absinthe. I can only hope that the DJ has changed tunes by now and I thank you boys for the drinks.

And I thank you, Boulder, for another glorious trip. I beg an answer as to how I entered the Dark Horse (and its appropriate bathroom) in a T-shirt and jeans and exited to snow? Do the Wildcats bring the snow? We all know they brought the heat but was it snow, too? Alas, I saw old friends and new and a loud, involved crowd. On the latter, speaking bluntly, that crowd had little to cheer Saturday night. The aforementioned successes of my Wildcats gave them nothing to make noise for and Tad Boyle himself said they deserved more. But the effort those fans gave was impressive. It was deafeningly loud and while the Wildcats had an answer for each of their roars, the loyal Buffaloes responded with great support for their seniors, sending Ben Mills and Beau Gamble off in deserving senior fashion. Furthermore, Ben Mills’ family lead the Harlem Shake.

photo(8)I booked things at the wrong Marriott but we got little else wrong that weekend. Once again the Shady Pony (I like this nickname) treated us right and then it was off to The Sink and a conglomeration of drinking establishments that saw us have a ball and a dance event. It’s what running around a college town is about. And when the night was down and the sun up, stories were shared, the game relived and brunch was had with the most dense number of attractive people I may have ever seen. Bravo, Highland Tap and Burger. The DJ was a heavy touch but the clientele made up for the noise. Good burger.

If I rode in your car, thanks for that.

As for the basketball, I’ll take the perspectives of two people. First, Tad Boyle. From his seat and in his shoes I’m torching that game tape. There’s nothing to look at and nothing to learn. An opposing team shot 60% in your house, there was poor effort, poor execution, and a general abandonment of the game plan. Address these items (defense on screens, 4 transition shots, general effort, etc.) and move along. No sense in dwelling.

Our second perspective shall be my own. I’ve already discussed some of the more impressive notes from Arizona’s game above and in yesterday’s review. Arizona’s tour d’force was an announcement of sorts but I was most impressed by the Wildcats’ bench. As I walked the upper loop, dismissing vitriolic requests of departure, I overheard rather valid commentary about CU’s position (down just 6) considering the half they’d just played. I mean, they’d started the game 0-14 from the field and to be down six was something of a miracle. Or at least a whistle. Because in a span of twenty game seconds, each of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (5:12), Kaleb Tarczewski (5:04), and Aaron Gordon (4:52) picked up their second fouls. The Buffs were down twelve and Arizona was left to a lineup with a local from Tucson (Matt Korcheck) and a kid named Pitts. Before you could say CUnit, Colorado had rattled off seven straight. Five point game. Arizona timeout

Gordon and Tarczewski wouldn’t play the rest of the half if memory serves me correctly but the Wildcats would give up no further real estate during that final 4:37 of the half. It was this critical juncture, a moment when the most hostile crowd was itching to blow the Keg’s roof off, when a multitude of infrequently used players responded to their coaches plea to defend and opportunistically score. They did, like a set up man getting the ball to Mariano, they weathered that storm. And when the closers came in – again, after it was requested I get the f*** out – well they only missed four more shots.

Of final note, a closing observation, I saw a familiar application in use in front of us about mid-second half. The game was getting out of hand but in this young patron’s hand was a phone and an app and photos and swipes. Yes, I witnessed in-game-Tindering and the most notable was a a photo peruse of what appeared to be rather attractive lady. Photo 1 seemed adequate so he sauntered to the second. Attractive women plus child. Right swipe. App closed. Back to the game.

For you, Boulder, I’d swipe right.

Boulder The Keg

 

TJ McConnell Team

Week 8 Pac-12 Hoops Review

If I was the selection committee of college basketball road trips I’d give the Pac-12 the number one overall seed and then anoint them the champion and let everyone else battle it out. How many other conferences offer Gameday worthy basketball and Olympic worthy skiing in the same weekend? The Pac-12 is a destination. Good weekend.

Leader in the Clubhouse: Just as UCLA was creeping into things and Colorado had rattled off four in a row and ASU knocked Arizona seemingly down a peg, the Wildcats went ahead and flexed everything, destroyed Colorado by 27 on the road and shot 60% in doing such (the highest FG% allowed by CU since 12/22/2010). Their defense was its standard great self, limiting the Buffs to 32% shooting. Colorado didn’t garner a FG for the game’s first 10:07. Meanwhile, UCLA lost at Stanford and ASU won nothing and Colorado was on the wrong end of red Saturday night. But this section is less about others and all about the Wildcats. There are but two weekends remaining and they’ve built themselves a two game lead and could clinch this week. The team’s first goal of the season has been to win a Pac-12 regular season title and sweeping the Ski Schools was a huge step in moving towards that goal. And that’s just the numbers of it. Because those other teams were sneaking into the conversation and because it looked as if the Wildcats were reeling. After beating Utah in overtime on Wednesday, Sean Miller felt that just getting the win would be good for his team’s psyche. Then Saturday night happened and it was as if the Wildcats were reminding everyone exactly who they were: the best team in the country.

Biggest Loser: I’ll struggle to note that ASU was the biggest loser because winning on the road is a very difficult task. Last week we noted Stanford was our BL but it wasn’t really a fitting title for them. This section, however, is beginning to take the form of a power ranking where I’m not soon to rain on a cellar dweller but rather note the team that did the least to A) Impress us, B) Improve their NCAA tournament chances. If we’re taking that approach to dolling out this recognition, ASU would seem to fit the bill. Their three headed monster (Bachynski, Marshall, and Carson) combined to shoot 27% for the weekend (17-62). That’s not a recipe for dancing. Moving forward, expect to hear a lot of talk about that Arizona win when you hear about the Devils’ resume.

What we Learned: We certainly confirmed once again that winning on the road is difficult but we’d learned that a long time ago. So for the second week in a row I’m struggling to realize what it is we might’ve learned we’re 8 weeks into the conference season and nearly four months into the whole damn thing. It’s hard to recognize any new truths. But then, this morning, I saw this tweet and I realized we did have something to learn:

Utah has sustained heartbreaker after heartbreaker. The luck thing (again) but I keep expecting to see this team finally fold. They give Arizona everything they can and more – are a missed free throw away from knocking them off – yet come up short. In some regards it would be excusable for them to collapse. At any moment. They don’t and they haven’t and Larry K has a lot to do with that. After barely eclipsing 50 regulation points on Wednesday the Utes quickly dispelled any semblance of a let down and double up ASU, 51-26, in the first half. That’s an impressive level of maturity, discipline, and focus befit a team possibly capable of a Pac-12 tournament run:

But I’ve also got to make note of this so that it’s on the record: Oregon. That might be all I have to say about that but the Ducks are looming in the 35-45 RPI range (sweet bubble) and still have games against UCLA, AZ, and ASU remaining. They are the winners of three straight and Mike Moser scored 41 points this weekend. So what I’m saying is that I’m just saying: Oregon. Also, Stanford. Third in the conference, winners of three straight, and playing like the group of seniors that realizes they’re seniors. That said, should the Cardinal finish third in the conference with a sound 12-6 record, is Chasson Randle (18/4/2) a POY candidate?

In Defense of: I need an excuse to mention TJ McConnell’s weekend. Because so often, as the calendar turns to this time of year and the games turn to CBS, the importance of guard play gets magnified. They have the ball most regularly and there’s a reason TO% is a part of the Four Factors. Now allow me to show you what TJ did this weekend in a pair of critical road games with his team seemingly in a tailspin and the conference’s top spot on the line:

20 points, 16 assists, 0 turnovers, 2 wins

His running mate, Nick Johnson, also added 35 points on the weekend but McConnell’s play – I mean ZERO turnovers – was the stuff of special. It’s long been said what a critical piece he is to the Arizona puzzle and this weekend may have been the greatest example of just that.

Also, quick defense of UCLA. They stomped all over Cal on Wednesday and it was equally as impressive as Arizona’s win at Colorado. Haas was loud and ready for that game and the Bruins did as they pleased from wire-to-wire. They lost on Saturday but such is travel. UCLA is still a very good, very scary team.

The YouTuber: Oldie but a goodie and if you haven’t ever seen it, you’re welcome: