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.
Big announcement from WANE this week in that we’re headed to a Pacific Northwest near you. As you can imagine, these sad homers dive quickly into a discussion of Arizona’s weekend neglecting (to begin) buzzer beaters in Haas, UCLA and Duck bubble talk, Adam as a ‘scout’ but get their wits about them to go on some exciting tangents. Good pod.
Also, if you’d like to subscribe to WANE on iTunes THIS IS WHERE YOU SHOULD CLICK.
WANE (and on SoundCloud):
They’ve won fewer games than the year prior for three consecutive years. The recruiting has gone stagnant; they literally had no 2012 class. Last season was the worst defense (104.5 Drtg) that LoRo has ever put on a court. The program’s struggles are quantifiable if not palpable. Average attendance at Hec Ed since 2011 has grossly declined: 9650, 8785, 7937, 6582. It’s fair to say the seat is warming. But I see a light from within this tunnel. Look at this year’s roster. It’s not soon to wow you but it’s balanced and youthful and projects. And then you note that Washington already has commitments from four 4-star recruits in 2015 and one 5-star in 2016. Encouragingly, two of those ‘I-do’s’ have come from local kids. I see a light. But for this season, I think we’re still in the tunnel.
Why I Love Them:
I take Bay Area Rapid Transit to work. Daily. It’s the screaming, clothed monster that moves passengers to and from Milbrae/SFO through the City then trifurcates into the East Bay. I get on at 16th and off at San Bruno. I have eight stops to read things on my phone – six if having cell service is required.
And so I fill my inbox with emails to myself with a subject line of “read” and a link to an article. These articles are collected throughout the day. Sent to me by many sources and discovered in many mediums. I crush these articles during said commute. I’m a slow reader but I can usually get about three articles read in a day while on the train – round trip.
Thus the genesis of “THREE FOR BART.” This is PacHoops’ latest – if not first – franchise in which I drop three thought provoking and (very) loosely Pac-12 basketball associated articles on you for our daily reading pleasure. I use “daily” hesitantly because I’m a dude and the profile says I’m supposed to fear commitment. But I’m going to try. This is for us, however you commute or whenever you can read.
Send me any good stuff that you come across please. Submit it all: blogs, Forbes, NYT, NPR, local, international, video, photo, tweet. It’s all fair game: pachoops25 at gmail dot com or @pachoopsab.
I want to connect us to intelligent stuff.
Maybe we’re not the best fans in the nation, but we can certainly be the smartest and most well informed fans, leaving the tree poisoning, car burning, and player provocation for elsewhere (but if you happen to be a bag man, I’d love to hear your stories off of any semblance of a record).
Without further adieu, our first Three For BART:
(Note that I’ve been sitting on this concept awhile so the article won’t always be timely but always relevant. Or at least I’ll demonstrate the relevance. Or you’ll tell me otherwise. It’s gonna be great):
- Jamal Crawford Is Trying to Keep Seattle’s Basketball Dreams Alive – This dropped over a month ago on Grantland but it’s stuck with me as a grassroots effort to get basketball thriving once again in Seattle. Have you noticed Washington lately? Me either. And when you did notice them they were plucking up talent from their backyard. No longer. But with the efforts of Crawford and other influential Seattlites (Steve Ballmer?) there’s a budding resurgence. And suddenly LoRo has three top-100 2015 commitments.
- A Financial Model Comparing Car Ownership with UberX (Los Angeles) – As the pretense of this franchise is commuting, I felt this would be a worthy inclusion. Kyle Hill (author) studies whether or not UberX can be cheaper than car ownership. He’s trying this in Los Angeles which I find interesting because the West Coast boasts it’s wide open planes and space. It was built out not up. Is commuting everyday by bike always feasible? Can UberX be your daily? I dropped my car and while I’m not financially savvy enough to account for the cost differentials, I’m fairly certain I pay less (and drink more). Furthermore, outside the box thinking is always welcome on PacHoops which is why I’ll forever be agitated and impressed with Tony Bennett’s Washington State tenure. He flipped the run-n-gun model of Pac-12 basketball and won. The Taxi companies, however, are far more than agitated by peer-to-peer. And certainly not impressed.
- Croke Park Lights up as sport and theatre collide – This is an Irish sportswriter’s account of Saturday’s Central Florida-Penn State tilt in Dublin. It is beautifully written in a unique voice that most certainly waxes poetic about American Football. You’ll love it because you love sports and he romanticizes the theater of sport. You’re a fan of that, right (COUGH oneshiningmoment COUGH)?
With the NBA draft on Thursday, and a smattering of Pac alumni (well sort of alumni, they’re seemingly all early entries presumably taking ongoing coursework to ensure no APR hits), I thought it’d be worth posting a wordy piece I’d researched and wrote a year ago.
Per data collected by the Emory Sports Marketing group, amongst Pac-12 schools, Washington and USC were the most efficient at fulfilling living room promises of NBA paydays. Hoop dreams, as it were, are best suited for downtown Los Angeles and Seattle. Who knew?
I certainly didn’t, though I’ve long been aware of the conference’s ability to produce NBA talent. Since 1980, the Pac-12 has produced the second most draftees amongst the Big 6 conferences (Big-12 is not listed on that link as they really only began their existence in 1996-97. Since their inception, however, they’ve produced just 4.6 draft picks per season as compared to 6.4 or greater in each of the other five. Thus, it’s safe to assume they wouldn’t have flirted with second place. Just not enough Jayhawks and Longhorns.
From such bulk data we can make broad, surface conclusions that the Pac-12 has indeed produced talent. That’s clearly a lot of NBA players and tells us something about the quality of players the conference recruits, develops, and gets placed into NBA jobs. I suppose that’s what college is all about – job placement – right?
Of course the number itself doesn’t really say much. Wouldn’t it make sense for the late-Big East with its umpteen constituents to have produced the most NBA players by the simple fact that they have more players? That would seem to make the most sense but it’s not the case as they’ve produced the fifth most draftees (a reason I think the BE was overrated on the whole as a basketball conference but that’s a totally different conversation).
And so we’re presented with Emory’s study; a snapshot into how well a school (we begin to diverge from specific conferences) operates as a job placement service. They used the Rivals recruiting rankings beginning with the 2002 class and attributed weights to a given star rating observe efficiencies. The algorithm:
(# of NBA Picks) /(Weighted Recruiting Talent**)
**Weighted Recruiting Talent = Sum of draft probability
5-star = 0.51, 4-star = 0.13, 3-star=0.03, 2-star=0.008, unranked=0.004
Plug and chug to find that Washington and USC have done the best job (aka most efficient job) at transforming high school talent into NBA draft picks. While Arizona and UCLA have produced 40% of the conference’s draft picks since 1980, they evidently haven’t been as efficient at it (at least since 2002).
There are, of course, some innate issues to this study which they directly address. They essentially make no bones about the fact that the summarized data limits our ability to “draw deeper thoughts.” From a data standpoint we’re dealing with just a very small sample size. Having examined recruiting classes since 2002, we’re really only exposed to 7 classes that have completed their four years and become draft eligible; or at least had their hand forced into eligibility after receiving the maximum four years of instruction and coaching. The 2010 class and beyond could still be selected in June of ‘14 (though good luck cracking that draft class) and have an effect on these efficiencies.
Additionally, one could argue that Arizona and UCLA – two schools with renowned recruiting prowess – are at a statistical disadvantage considering their success at recruiting higher rated recruits. What’s more, their historical success can often skew recruiting rankings. A fringe three-star with a UCLA offer can suddenly find himself a four-star recruit with three-star talent and thus a lower probability (0.03 Weighted Recruiting Talent) of ever being drafted. While it is the responsibility of those respective coaching staffs to improve players, it is not their role to assign recruiting rankings. They’re just supposed to win with the players who signed “yes.” Nevertheless, it was Washington and USC who turned out the most efficient.
Statistically speaking, I’ll struggle to find the answer. As the Emor-ites stated, this is summarized data that won’t quite allow us to dive deeper. Recruiting rankings are no exact science, but they also don’t often lead us wildly astray. No doubt the success of three-stars Derrick Williams and Russell Westbrook hold significant weight in this efficiency rating; but so too might the disappointing careers (otherwise read: undrafted) of former five-stars Mustafa Shakur, JP Prince, Jawann McClellan, and Josiah Turner. And it’s also worth noting the number of efficiency draining four-stars from the conference’s power schools who have gone undrafted: UCLA has seen nine four-star prospects go undrafted since 2002 while Arizona has four such draftless wonders (and five undrafted five-stars).
As the “bluebloods” have managed to allure more highly rated talent (or seen the inflation of their recruits’ star rating) they’ve also managed to have 21 kids drafted since 2002 (18 per the study which does not include the 2013 draft). And I recognize that Washington has had more draft picks over this time period than Arizona but within the overall context of NBA products, Arizona’s had the most draft picks (OK tied for the most) of any college program since 1988. Finding that the Wildcats are the 11th most effective at getting kids drafted is surprising. For a brief comparison, within the scope of Emory’s project, Arizona has recruited the second most four- and five-star players (23). UCLA took the top spot (26) while the Huskies were third (20).
Equipped with that, two things become evident:
- It makes sense that the schools bringing in the most highly rated prospects have produced the most NBA picks
- Arizona must suck at developing talent and/or evaluating it (along with Rivals).
The first point here is sort of a numbers game, similar to the aforementioned Big East thought. Each of UCLA, Washington, and Arizona indeed had the most players drafted since 2002. USC, our second most efficient school, had the fourth most draftees. Bring in better players and they’re likely to get drafted. Sweet.
The second point, however, allows us to see more clearly how Arizona rated at the tail end of this study. They gathered up a ton of talent but it didn’t seem to go anywhere (except perhaps Europe). In fact, from 2002-2013, Arizona failed to make even one Final Four. A feat they’d accomplished four times in the 14 years prior. UCLA attended three. Worth noting, in Arizona’s defense, is the fact that over a critical four-year span (2006-2010) overlapping this study’s data range, Arizona had four different head coaches. They subsequently had little continuity to player development and recruiting.
Nevertheless, Arizona didn’t get many of its kids into the league.
So what did the Husky and Trojan staffs recognize that perhaps others didn’t? How’d they effectively place their players in NBA jobs? These aren’t the first two schools that come to mind when thinking about the Pac-12 and the NBA but that’s how it shook out. Something has made them unique within the context of this evaluation. What?
Recruiting is a natural starting point to understand their success. And seeing as how Washington “won” I began in Seattle.
In the first 30 years of the McDonald’s All-American game, only three Seattle prep stars were burger all-stars. Since 2004, however, there have been nine such heralded players. The area, despite losing their Sonics, has produced oodles of basketball talent. In examining the number of NBA players from Seattle (and we’ll use the greater Seattle area here) there are 28 such players. We again find ourselves staring at summarized data but for the sake of context, those 28 NBA players are more than the total number of NBA players produced by the States of Arizona and Colorado…combined.
Indeed the Emerald City has produced and that would seem convenient for the local college, wouldn’t it? As mentioned, there have been nine McDonald’s All-Americans from the Seattle area since 2004. Four of them stayed to play at HecEd. And if you bothered to read the previously linked Sports Illustrated article (linked again for your convenience) you’d have learned that there is a supportive culture surrounding prep basketball in Seattle. Those who make it return to help those trying to make it. Such nurturing could get a kid to stick around.
And so they have.
Of the nine players drafted out of Washington since 2002, six of them were from Seattle. Additionally, one of the picks was from Portland a convenient two-ish hours away and a city devoid a college team. So if you’re counting, 77% of the players drafted out of the University of Washington have been local kids. You think that proximity has something to do with talent evaluation? Or how about relationship building, trust, familiarity, comfort, ease-of-transition, and everything else that pertains to the success of a young man?
As for USC, half of the group drafted out of the Galen Center (and the Sports Arena until 2006) were LA locals. To drop more summarized data on you, there are 92 NBA players from Los Angeles; which doesn’t include the greater LA areas of Long Beach (13), Inglewood (9), Compton (8), or Hollywood (5).
And perhaps adding fodder to this localization fire would be USC’s coaching turnover during the 2002-13 time period. There have been three different men in charge; which doesn’t include the two interims who led for brief spells during the 2004-05 and 2012-13 seasons. They’ve also endured NCAA sanctions. Little surrounding the Trojan program would suggest developmental success. Remember when we blamed some of Arizona’s efficiency struggles on their coaching gaffes? USC suffered/incurred similar yet still managed to efficiently get kids selected. Local ones at that.
Which of course begs intrigue into Westwood. The other school in Los Angeles of basketball note – UCLA – finished fifth in the efficiency rankings. They too had access to LA’s finest and managed to get eleven of them snatched up by NBA teams. During the greatest stretch of UCLA basketball since the Wooden era (Howland’s three straight Final Fours) he was rolling out rosters packed with Angelinos: Afflalo, Shipp, Collison, Farmar, Roll, Mata-Real, Westbrook, Bozeman, Hollins. These were kids who grew up on UCLA. And then nine of them went League. The Bruins had nine locals drafted amongst their eleven draftees, 82%. A number that parallels that of Washington’s local draft rate (77%).
(Fun fact break: UW and UCLA have also combined to win six conference titles since 2002)
Returning to the draft, over the same stretch, Cal developed four recruits into NBA-level talents; three of whom were from the Bay Area. Cal was the third most efficient per Emory. Need more? Here is a list of Arizona natives who became Wildcats since 1984: Sean Elliot, Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, Jerryd Bayless. All lottery picks. As it were, All-American, Nick Johnson, will likely be the first Arizona raised Arizona Wildcat to not be a lottery pick. Nevertheless, Johnson received a call from Sean Miller in April of 2009 expressing his interest in his talents. It was Sean Miller’s first day on the Arizona job.
This is not to say that collecting local talent is a one-way pass to collegiate success and subsequent NBA paychecks. Certainly not as recruiting becomes increasingly national and international. Both Oregon State and Washington State have found success recruiting in Australia (Gary Bennett and Saint Mary’s, too). Of course both WSU and OSU just fired their coaches in the past two months so there’s that. Though also worth noting is that Ben Howland’s burning of LA recruiting bridges ultimately cost him his LA job.
The ultimate takeaway from this study might boil down to the basic Real Estate tenant of location, location, location. After all, home is where the heart is. And if your heart is set on the NBA, it would seem your best (most efficient) means of getting there would be staying right in your own backyard.
With the regular season now wrapped and the Pac-12’s seniors having played their final home games, we’re taking a tour across the conference and bidding this group of seniors farewell.
People love tragedies. We may act like we don’t, but we do, or we at least find tragedy stories engrossing and sports fans are no different. We don’t love, but are fascinated by the stories of people who had it all and either threw it away or lost it tragically. Case in point, Len Bias and Ben Wilson provided two of the most popular documentaries in the 30 for 30 series 25 years after their passing.
One of the most common and modern Greek tragedies that exists in the world of college sports right now is the 5-star, future All-American recruit who fails to live up to expectations, but particularly those that flame out in spectacular fashion. It seems that if you aren’t going to live up to expectations that it is, in the words of Neil Young, better to burn out than fade away. But what happens to those that fade away? What is their story?
I don’t know if I could think of a better athlete that exemplifies the idea of fading away as opposed to burning out than Abdul Gaddy.
I’m sure no one, absolutely no one, needs to hear about Gaddy’s hype coming out of high school by comparing his position ranking when compared to John Wall’s, but as pretty much every Pac-12 basketball fan knows, he was a big time recruit and to sum it up simply, he didn’t really pan out, but he also wasn’t a bust. It’s kind of hard to carve out an identity as a journeyman player in a sport that only gives you four years, but that’s kind of what Gaddy is. He is kind of like a college version of what Kenny Anderson was in the NBA and for as much scrutiny as he has faced from Husky fans for his inability to become just a little bit less good than the aforementioned Wall they all should have an appreciation for him.
In the transfer-happy world that college basketball has become, it now seems like every player, especially a 5-star type recruit, who isn’t immediately crowned a star at his respective school is out the door to another almost immediately. I’m sure there were numerous times when Gaddy could have done this and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were times when he really thought about doing this, and who could blame him?
But he didn’t.
For whatever reason, good or bad, he stuck it out in Seattle and when this season likely ends for the Huskies early in the NIT or in one of those god awful tournaments that begins with the letter C, Gaddy’s meaningful basketball career will almost assuredly be over and unlike most players who had careers like his, he will be largely remembered by Husky fans and probably not positively.
But I don’t really think that is fair, especially if you think of it this way.
Of the six five-star-caliber players ever signed by Washington, I would say that Gaddy has had the third-most overall valuable career for the Huskies – behind Jon Brockman and Quincy Pondexter but ahead of Tony Wroten, Spencer Hawes and Martell Webster who never even ended up playing. Maybe I am just searching for ways to sugar coat Gaddy’s career, but the truth is that because of the NBA, Gaddy actually was fairly decent when compared to the other most hyped players that the Huskies have signed.
With all of this said, there is some tragedy in Gaddy’s story and it took place in January of 2011 when he tore his ACL and knocked himself out for the rest of the season. He was arguably performing about as well as he had throughout his entire career and was fitting into the role that fit him best. As a distributing point guard for superb talents like Isaiah Thomas, Terrence Ross and Mathew Bryan-Amaning (Okay, not all superb talents) that could mask his scoring inabilities. The Huskies were rolling and one would have to wonder if having a healthy Gaddy on that team would have pushed the Huskies to a better regular season record and further in the NCAA Tournament in which they were knocked out by North Carolina in a heartbreaker.
So there you go, Gaddy’s story does kind of fit into the neat package that we crave so much and assuredly will gorge on in many segments during the tournament in between the same insurance company and AT&T commercials that are shown repeatedly.
There’s a big tilt tomorrow in Seattle as the Cats and Dogs square off with title implications and what I really want to call a win-and-in game. Would you expect anything less from these two? I love it. To gain a little perspective on all things UW I shot some very important questions over to Griffin at Montlakemadness.com. Griffin and crew do work and know that Husky program like you know where the best restroom in your office building is. Give ‘em a read and a follow.
Let’s kick this off with a little getting to know you:
PacHoops: All-time favorite Pac-12er?
Montlake Madness: All-timer? It’s hard not to choose Lew Alcindor. Perhaps the greatest of all time right there.
PH: All-time favorite Husky?
MM: Brandon Roy has a special place in my heart as he played while I attended UW and was a local Seattle guy. Nate Robinson is another player who is hard not to have as your favorite. To get the most “bang for my buck” out of this pick, I’ll choose Lorenzo Romar as he both played and coached here.
PH: Greatest sporting feat ever witnessed?
MM: It was 1995 and the Mariners tied the Angels for the AL West lead. They had a one game tiebreaker and Randy Johnson threw a complete game, 12 K, 3-hitter to send the M’s to the playoffs for the first time. I was 8.
PH: Greatest sporting feat ever accomplished?
MM: I played football at Bellevue High School up here in Washington and we played the 12-year (151 games) undefeated team from De La Salle in California my senior year and won. Easily the greatest single moment of my sporting life. I doubt anything will ever top that.
PH: Current favorite song?
MM: J. Cole – Rise and Shine. YouTube it and thank me later.
PH: OK, so now that we know everyone’s judged you, onto the Huskies. Like the rest of this league, it’s been up and down for Washington this year. Of late however, it’s been more up than down, what do you make of the 2011-12 campaign thus far?
MM: About par for the course in terms of the Pac-12 season. They are very young and lost a lot of valuable pieces from last year. The preseason did not go well at all with some terrible losses to teams like North Dakota State at home. That may come back to haunt them on Selection Sunday.
PH: They’re 4-4 on the road this year and 26-30 dating back to 2007. Comparatively, Arizona is 25-31 and UCLA 28-24 over the same stretch but Washington is ripped for being a bad road team. Are there teeth to that argument? Or does UW just have the reputation of a bad road team?
MM: UW has the reputation, at least up here, that they can’t win the “big ones” on the road. This year was the first win in Tucson in five years and I believe Romar only has one win at UCLA as well. This year’s team, especially, has struggled to find any sort of leadership or consistency while playing on the road.
PH: I need some help understanding recent LoRo quotes. Per a phone conversation Jon Rothstein had with the coach (which he disseminated on the twitter), Gaddy is the x-factor, Aziz is the first true post defender/rebounder the program’s ever had, and UW has yet to put together a 40-minute masterpiece this year. Your thoughts on these comments:
MM: I think Romar is dead on with Gaddy. The Huskies are a FAR better team when he’s playing well and setting people up. The issue is that he has rarely done it this year. Gaddy’s ACL injury from last year has him a step slow and his confidence has never rebounded either.
In terms of the Aziz comments, a certain Jon Brockman may have an issue with that. He was a terrific rebounder and defender but he was also only 6’9. Aziz is the first true “center” that Romar has had to play with and he creates mismatches that Romar has never been able to take advantage of before.
He’s definitely correct on the “40-minute masterpiece” part. Unfortunately, I don’t see this team ever “getting there” this year. The Huskies seem to always have streaks where they string together poor shots, turnovers, and defensive lapses every single game. Their ceiling is so high that every Husky fan sees the potential but it never materialized.
PH: I also need some help understanding the uber-talented Terrence Ross? Tony Wroten?
MM: Terrence Ross is an enigma. I think it’s safe to say that he has the most pure talent of anyone not named Joshua Smith in the league. He doesn’t yet have the killer instinct that all of the greats possess. In my opinion, he needs one more year in college to develop his confidence.
Tony Wroten is raw as raw gets. He’s got some elite weapons and has flashes of NBA-ready skills. His passing skills that he showed in high school have yet to adapt to the college game and, in kind, his turnover numbers are high. He is a very poor perimeter shooter which allows teams to play five feet off of him. NBA teams are still drooling over his potential and as much as I would love to see him return to Montlake next year, he will probably be a lottery pick this year.
PH: Where did “raise the roof” go?
MM: Haha. It went to Sacramento along with Isaiah Thomas. What should we bring back next? The Macarena?
PH: I read a scathing account of the Romar tenure and then a statistical rebuttal. As with all arguments, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle but which side of the LoRo fence do you sit on?
MM: I’m very pro-Romar. While his in-game philosophy may not be the best, he is probably the best human being that I have ever met. What he does for this community and his players is truly remarkable. People tend to forget how UW was never an annual Pac-12 title contender before he arrived and they still don’t have the alumni support like Arizona or UCLA. The question I always ask people is “Who should we hire instead?” They can never give a realistic answer that would be an improvement.
PH: You recently polled your readers about UW’s season and the Pac-12 to date, what’d you guys learn from that?
MM: Most surprisingly, to me at least, is that 15% of our fans think that this team would be better or no different if Tony Wroten wasn’t on the roster. I’m just shocked at that. I’m not sure if 15% of our readers are trolls, but I have heard from a vocal minority that some people believe this to be true. I think Arizona fans would greatly appreciate it if Wroten wasn’t on the Huskies after his block earlier this year.
PH: It’s been the best rivalry in the Pac for the past few years and Saturday’s noon tip should be no different (besides the fact that Arizona is oh-for-their-last-four in Seattle). How do you see this one shaking out?
MM: It’s been so hard to predict these Pac-12 games this year. Arizona is playing really well lately and both teams need this win if they want to keep pace with Cal at the top. I know that the Dawg Pack will be camping out for the game and it’s also Senior night for Darnell Gant as well as potentially the last game at home for Wroten and Ross. I’m going to predict a 5 point win for Washington as they will have the emotional edge, something they have lacked in many of their losses.
PH: Is the SLUT part of your commute?
MM: Only on the weekends. Go Dawgs!
And there you have it: Pacific Northwestern perspective from a man who once ended a 151-game win streak! I greatly appreciate Griffin and the Madness team for taking the time to answer my bonehead questions. Montlake Madness is a staple of my webtime and should be a part of yours, too. If you haven’t before and even if you have, get to Seattle in the summer as it’s the most beautiful summer city I’ve ever visited and there are a disproportionate number of blondes in that city.
This post can also be found at ryanrecker.com where you can also subscribe to some great podcasts by Ryan, the Sports Director at KVOA-TV in Tucson, AZ.
So the burning question is: will there even be games this weekend in the Pacific Northwest? Or at least Washington State, that is. Incredible snow and ice storms have been blasting the Apple State so much so that both UW and WSU have cancelled classes. The games, however – as of this writing – were still set to be played.
In other news, two more critical players are no longer rostered: Josh Watkins of Utah and Richard Solomon of Cal. Watkins was Utah’s only leading scorer at 15.6 ppg and had already been suspended once this season. In summary: he Nelsoned. Solomon is also a previously suspended player (who in the Pac-12 isn’t?) but his season ending violation was academic. The Bears are going to need to get Harper Kamp going in Solomon’s absence. He was their leading rebounder.
On to the games:
TV Complaint: Three blackouts this weekend, two of which “feature” Washington State. Tonight’s Arizona-Utah game is broadcast-less which is justifiable, right? Seeing as how Arizona draws twice as much as the average Pac-12 school (13,639 vs. 6836). So there will be plenty of viewership. Fail. Unless of course you’re in Tucson, it’s on TV there. To address the Cougar fiasco, there are two possible reasons:
- The TV providers recognize that most Cal and Stanford fans (both playing at WSU this weekend) are tech/web savvy and very involved in SOPA/PIPA activism. Amidst gross confusion during a desire to appease the Bay Area fan bases, the providers blacked out TV for these games instead of web based coverage.
- The current Pac-12 TV deal is insufficient.
The rationale for said non-broadcasts is for you to decide. I don’t care which you pick I just know you’re not going to watch. It would have been fun to watch Brock Motum battle a deep Stanford front court. Pity. There’s also no network game following a week in which Arizona and Oregon faced off on CBS.
Game of the Weekend: If the game is played (snow), tonight’s tilt featuring Cal and Washington is a no doubter. The Huskies are terribly difficult to figure out but one thing’s for certain (unless of course they’re playing South Dakota State): Romar wins at home. Speaking of LoRo, the tenth year coach has come under some heat this season and I think you should read this (against) and this (for) when formulating your opinions. Very good work there, but back to the hoops. Cal is playing some great basketball but is now short their top rebounder. UW is looking to assert itself as legit contenders particularly as their early loss to Colorado is looking more-and-more excusable. I’ve read a lot of different pieces arguing which UW player their season will follow. Some say Tony Wroten. Others say Terrence Ross. Reality is the Huskies need both of them to be productive team players especially in the absence of CJ Wilcox. The sharpshooter averaging 15.5 ppg (second most on the team) went down last weekend with a fractured foot. So if this game means UW is showing they can take the next step and sit atop the conference, the converse holds true for Cal. If they can get out on the road and beat UW in Seattle, then Cal is leaps and bounds the conference favorite. One last note: the UW Dawg Pound is one of the toughest student sections in the conference if not nation. The UW students are snowed in and won’t be attending class today. I’m just saying, rowdy could happen.
Game to Avoid: I hate to pick on the Utes and Sun Devils (ok, I don’t mind picking on the Sun Devils) but their game on Saturday has got to project as one of the worst BCS conference games this year. They rank 321 and 172, respectively, in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings and each is now missing their leading scorer – plural in ASU’s case. Maybe the silver lining is that ASU has played progressively better with the loss of more and more players. This week it’s Trent Locket, the point-everything for Herb Sendek is out at least Thursday against Colorado and questionable for Saturday. His return would no doubt be a boost for ASU but who knows? Utah, of course, will be short Jiggy Watkins and basically the Utes are at rock bottom. Best of luck to Coach Krystkowiak.
Something to Prove: I don’t want to dedicate this entire preview to Washington but they really do have the most to prove this weekend. With the conference elite visiting their most friendly of confines, a sweep would put the Huskies in sole possession of first place and demonstrate their legitimacy. It would no doubt get a lot of people talking about how good they are or could be. It’d also get them talking about the enigmatic nature of this conference. Aside from the Huskies, Arizona and Colorado have a huge match-up on Saturday. Both teams are 3-2 (pending Thursday’s results) and are having opposite seasons: Arizona is falling while the Buffs are rising. Sweeping the Ski Trip won’t necessarily validate the Wildcats, but it will give them some momentum and confidence before a four game stretch against the Washingtons and the Bay schools. Sweeping the Arizona schools would validate Tad Boyle’s group as, if nothing else, a very fine ball club despite preseason expectations.
Something to Lose: Last week’s team du jour, the Oregon Ducks, got some national ink from Andy Katz, proposing their candidacy as Pac-12 champions. The attention was deserved and Oregon is good. They’ve been the toughest road team in the conference which bodes well for their title run. But, like all contenders, they’re going to have to win at home. They’ll host the LA schools this weekend and while USC possess little threat, UCLA is frightening. They’re intermittently talented and big and you just never know what you’re going to get. But back to Dana’s Ducks. They’re intriguing. This weekend will go a long way in showing how good they are but with all eyes on the team du jour, a hiccup could be costly – particularly against USC (a warning for all teams).
Weekend YouTuber: We’re all well aware that the Pac-12 is in a sorry state of basketball affairs. But at least none of your teams made this list. Just notice how powerful you feel when you say Bruin, Husky, Cougar, Wildcat, or Trojan. Just makes you want to mean mug. Grunt and chest bump. Of course the Honey Badger used to be bad ass, too:
I’ve made no bones about it: I am a University of Arizona Wildcats fan.
Have been since the day I was born and will be until the day I die. The McKale Center is Mecca; Lute Olson, god; Elliot, Kerr, Reeves, Stoudamire, Simon, Bibby, Dickerson, Terry, Gardner, Stoudamire, Budinger, disciples.
I love nothing more than attending a game at McKale, cheering on the ‘Cats amongst 14,000 fellow fans, rising to our feet as the game ebbs, screaming as the moment begs.
That said, some of my fondest Arizona memories are on the road. Traveling with a finite but dedicated group of Wildcat aficionados, proudly donning the Cardinal and Navy into hostile territory.
I’ve done this in arenas from New York to Los Angeles, seen blow out wins and blow out losses, made new friends and enemies. I even once got to watch UA hoops at noon and football at six, both live in Vegas, for my brother’s 22nd birthday.
One of the best times I ever had was in Tempe, January 2010. Arizona was in the midst of their worst season in 25 years and ASU was in the midst of their best run in those same 25 years. James Harden was a season removed from the Herbivores and Arizona finally had a non-interim head coach. A head coach who I would later ask:
Coach Miller, you’ve coached with and for Herb Sendek. Now, I was in Tempe two-years ago when you beat that school by 19 and I just want to know: was that as much fun for you as it was for me?
Miller of course had a very PC answer. Divulging very little of his fiery, competitive demeanor at an Arizona Athletics fundraiser hosted by the Bay Cats at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. I wrote about that great night in Tempe, read it here.
But the best game, the greatest moment on the road, was 2006 in San Diego.
I’d bought the tickets via SDSU the day they became open to the public – that is to say months in advance. Had I any foresight I would have swooped up the max allotment and made myself a pretty penny for a collegian. Alas, hindsight is always 20-20.
Attending the Chase Budinger homecoming would be my Dad, his best friend, and me, all coincidentally sitting next to the entire Budinger family along with a stadium full of Arizona fans (Zonies love San Diego and any excuse to get over there).
If you’ve never been to Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl (formerly Cox Arena), it’s a scene. They have a raucous and famously crude student section (who like all San Diego sports fans really only show up when it’s a big game, if at all) and is designed in a deep, pit fashion. There are no seating rings to the arena, just vertical seating bearing down on the court. To summarize: loud.
At the time, Arizona was a team that rolled teams like the Aztecs and did just that – often heading to the bench to deafening “U-OF-A” chants, the game culminating with an Arizona victory, 69-48.
My mild mannered father and I were enjoying the game, commenting on Marcus Williams’ need to play consistently hard, Budinger’s upside, Jewann McClellan’s sneaky athleticism, and what Mustafa Shakur was supposed to become. On the road, with your team rolling an inferior opponent is convenient and nice and not a time for you to start chirping.
Unless of course a bandwagon SDSU “fan” conveniently at the game to see Lute Olson’s Wildcats decides he needs to start the chirping.
Such became the case for us. Amidst a big Arizona run, one that essentially put the game away in the first half, with my Dad and me and three-quarters of the stadium on their feet cheering Steve Fisher’s forced time out, a San Diego weather fan turned to us and with a hideous scowl and the conviction of a person at his first basketball game turned to us and scathed, “GO HOME!”
Now let me go back to what I’d said earlier, about how my Dad is mild mannered. That’s an understatement. The dude is constantly cool, calm, and collected, a brilliant lawyer, with an answer to any and every problem. But amongst all of my grossly intelligent father’s talents, quick wit and humor are not his strong suits. Hence, neither is significant trash talk. He’s often left that to his two boys, the younger of which (not me) can be hellacious in an opposing arena.
But on this night, with my old man visiting one of his favorite cities, watching his favorite team with his childhood best friend who had gone to blows at my Dad’s defense on more than one occasion as grade schoolers and with his favorite son (yeah, I said that), well, my Dad overcame all of his innately trash talk prohibitive characteristics to provide the single greatest moment in trash talk history.
With the aforementioned San Diego State Bandwagoneer standing a row below us, scowling up and reveling in his mediocre Aztec glory at his witless “GO HOME,” and before I could get anything out regarding SDSU’s lack of relevant athletic anything or welcoming him to his first game, my father promptly and matter of factly, in a perfect tone of equal parts arrogance, certitude and go-fuck-yourself, told said Aztec: “Your lesson’s not over yet.”
My jaw hit the floor as the trash offender meekly turned around to take in the rest of the one-sided game, unsure how to handle the lesson he’d just received. It’s actually taken a few years for me to absorb the magnitude of that moment and just how perfect it was. If hyperbole will allow me, I’ve never been more proud of my Pops.
My immediate and distant futures undoubtedly contain road trips to many more Arizona games, hopefully being highlighted by attending a game on a Monday night in April. This weekend I’ll be in Seattle, once again attending an Arizona road game as part of a bigger celebration of my brother’s birthday. No doubt we’ll have a phenomenal time, remind a few Zags that Cinderella’s slipper can’t be that comfortable for that long, and hopefully not forget our winter coats.
But while I always have a great time watching the ‘Cats, that evening in San Diego will always be tough to top.