Tag Archives: Solomon Hill

BB: The Urgency Issue Addressing Itself

I’m excited.

And it’s not a new feeling. Since Sean Miller arrived in Tucson, expectations were tempered and then quickly elevated as he made an improbable run into the 2011 Elite Eight and that was awesome. I went to Anaheim to see Jamelle Horne’s three rim out. I walked out of that place with hope and excitement – amidst some hollow gut – for the future of this program.

Of course last year let some of the air out; but then the recruiting class and Lyons and the promise of veterans Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom, and we were back.

We all know this story and the subsequent 29 games that have transpired since. Expectations and hype are gone. Reality arrived.

Of late, the air has once again been let out.

But here’s the thing. I see an Arizona team that has struggled with urgency. A group that’s allowed itself to play from behind too often and now that’s burning them. Their early success in such situations, through the lead of calm veterans, perhaps earning them a level of comfort that grew too comfortably. Urgency has been the issue.

No more.

Saturday marks the beginning of the new season. The final act in what should prove to be a three part act: 14-0, 9-6, ?. This third act will not be lacking in urgency because there is nothing but urgency left.

On Saturday we will celebrate the careers of the first, four-year Wildcats of the Sean Miller era. They’ve endured the bumps and bruises of a budding program and will be just the second and third four-year seniors to participate only twice in the NCAA tournament (Kyle Fogg was the first). The theatrics of Senior Day should serve as a glaring reminder that this whole thing is finite. It doesn’t go on forever, you don’t get to connect over Patric Young or dismiss Chase Tapley or freeze up in LA and Colorado forever.

Urgency is the issue that has been addressed but not handled and now it’s going to be forced.

Solomon: You lose and it’s over.

Kevin: You lose and it’s over.

Mark: You lose and it’s over.

I know it means something to the fans, the legacy a player leaves behind, and this is the month when legacies are cemented. That Horne jumper I mentioned before? Had that thing fallen, it’s a whole different memory for the four-year contributor who always seemed to leave a lot to be desired.

And I imagine it means a lot to them. After all, they came to Arizona to compete for things they might not have otherwise competed for at another school. They wanted to finish with the best 18-game record. They want to run through a tournament in Staples (now the MGM). They want to hear their school’s name called on a Sunday. They want to win their last six games.

At this juncture, the legacy is beginning to spiral; taking a turn towards “what happened” and off of the road to “special.” Because something special is what we knew Arizona had – what that team knows they have – when this season started. A dyanmic front court with size and length and skill. A gutsy and tried play maker delivering arrogance to a group perhaps lacking just that. A spring loaded off guard capable of defensive havoc and highlight reel finishes. A veteran pair of point-forwards who have laid the red carpet for those to come.

But special can’t happen until the urgency of these finite moments is realized, embraced, and attacked. The Wildcats have been dropped into the deep end. Will the sink? Or will they swim?

Yeah. I’m excited.

Pac-12 Player of the Year: A VOTE!

Criteria for such an award are oft debated: Is it the best player? The most valuable player? The most impactful? What’s the breakdown of numbers vs. intangibles vs. wins? In the real world, the award is voted on by the coaches and sometimes they do things like award it to Jorge Gutierrez (career achievement?). Sean Miller recently said Larry Drew II would be his pick for POY. Against Arizona, Drew2 is averaging 11 points and 9 assists and is a convincing 2-0. Against everyone else it’s 7/7. So there’s that.

Whatever the case, it often boils down to a gut check; a conglomerate of components that make up a POY ripe for discussion, criticism, and debate.

To help you in determining the winner, I’ve pieced together my ideas of the top candidates with some of their numbers and of course left you a write in vote. Of note, the “Big Game Numbers (BGN)” are the players ppg/rpg/apg against the conference’s top four teams (Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, Cal).

Alas, without further ado and without prefacing much by way of candidate qualifications, the Candidates:

Allen Crabbe, G, California

AllenCrabbePOY

[Note: Open Crabbe snipped with shoving joke]. OK, that’s out of the way so we can get to his ears? Double joke fail? Crabbe has filled the tin with the best of them and been Monty’s rock all season long. He’s the safest pick amongst the field as he’s been the best player on a top team. His performance in Tucson (31/7/5 on 12-15 shooting) was likely the best game of the year.

  • 18.5 ppg , 6rpg, 2.6 apg
  • 109.6 ORtg (11) , 25.2% possessions used
  • 22.8 PER
  • 5.3 win shares
  • BGN: 18.6/4.3/2.6 (4-1)

Jahii Carson, PG, Arizona State

JahiiCarsonPOY

Please advice that the following is all nice things about Jahii Carson, alert his mother. ASU waited a long time (year plus) for this kid and he proved worth the wait. The native Phoenician has been a program changer (10 wins in 2011-12, 20 wins in 2012-13) in leading the Devils onto the NCAA bubble conversation (at least for more than a hot second). I have big respect for the effect he’s had on this program, but winning has got to count for something (a lower half finish ain’t great).

  • 17.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5 apg
  • 102.0 ORtg, 28.6% possessions used
  • 19.0 PER
  • 3.5 win shares
  • BGN: 17.6/4.2/4.3 (2-3)

Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA

ShabazzMuhammadPOY

Up in the air whether this guy would ever play in Westwood, he finally debuted in Brooklyn – adjacent the home of NBA headquarters; perhaps telling of the Gucci wearing small forward’s intentions. Alas, once both the hype and Shabazz settled, he proved one helluva basketball player. Similar to Crabbe, Bazz is susceptible to the mono-dimensional critique, yet another best-player-on-a-top team argument can be made for his candidacy.

  • 18.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.9 apg
  • 108.9 ORtg, 28.1% possessions used
  • 23.0 PER
  • 3.1 win shares
  • BGN: 16/5.8/1 (3-2)

Spencer Dinwiddie, PG, Colorado

SpencerDinwiddiePOY

Big guards cause havoc and The Mayor is no different. And he rocks a swag ‘stache. He’s a dynamic force on the offensive end, commanding the floor and getting in the lane at will, while defensively he’s capable of locking down smaller guards – which is generally most of them. And he rocks a swag ‘stache. The Buffs haven’t had quite the conference season they expected but they should be dancing in March and Dinwiddie is a major part of that. And he rocks a swag ‘stache.

  • 15.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.0 apg
  • 115.9 ORtg, 23.8% possessions used
  • 22.9 PER
  • 4.8 win shares
  • BGN: 14.4/2.6/3.8 (2-3)

Arsalan Kazemi, PF, Oregon

ArsalanKazemiPOY

Like Muhammad, this guy’s eligibility was in question. Unlike the Bruin, however, Kazemi was never seen in a cutesy satchel (no more backpack jokes); just a dirty stache (no more ‘stache jokes). Kazemi joined the Ducks and quickly started doing a lot of everything for them. He undoubtedly embodies the concept of guy that does the dirty work but that’s just what the Ducks needed. And he’s done it well. The following won’t WOW you until you get to the efficiency stuff. Wow.

  • 9.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.3 apg
  • 121.2 ORtg, 16.3% possessions used
  • 25.3 PER
  • 5.1 win shares
  • BGN: 9.8/10.8/.8 (2-2)

Solomon Hill, SF, Arizona

SolomonHillPOY

In a surprisingly long lineage of point-forwards at Arizona, Hill has endured the strangest of times at Arizona. But he’s done so to blossom into a tremendous talent and one that’s deserving of mention in such a candidacy. The data isn’t about to overwhelm you, but watch a game or two and the talent just may.

  • 13.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.7 apg
  • 112.9 ORtg, 21.6% possessions used
  • 20.2 PER
  • 4.3 win shares
  • BGN: 14.8/6/2.8 (0-4)

The Field

POYCandidates

Andre Roberson (11/12/2), CJ Wilcox (17/4/2), Carrick Felix (14/8/2), Roberto Nelson (18/3/2), Brock Motum (18/6/1)

Pac-12 Player of the Year

  • Spencer Dinwiddie (55%, 174 Votes)
  • Allen Crabbe (35%, 110 Votes)
  • Shabazz Muhammad (4%, 13 Votes)
  • Arsalan Kazemi (3%, 9 Votes)
  • The Field (3%, 8 Votes)
  • Solomon Hill (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Jahii Carson (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 318

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Anything but a Quiet Trip to UCLA

It was quiet-ish, by no means raucous, but banners speak louder than words and UCLA most certainly has that rack to hang their hat on. And believe me, they do. The arena and experience drip with Wooden and historical lore; from the statue that adorns the Pavilion concourse to the pyramids on the jerseys and the banners themselves, right down to the halftime honoring of the 1972 championship team (including two Arizona dads, Walton and Bibby), the UCLA experience comes right at you with a full dose of “Nana nana boo boo, we good.”

And with such comes a fan base leaving something to be desired in noise production and timeliness, a perceived arrogance marinated in the aforementioned lore. But it’s deserved. With regards to the timeliness, I will give a moderate hall pass as I was grossly reminded of Los Angeles’ infamous traffic and only wish it upon a handful of contemporaries.

But traffic was never an issue in arriving to Los Angeles.

Definitely no traffic issues getting there. Of slight concern was my aggression towards a piano bar 29th birthday party Friday night but ultimately that never proved a deterrent to departure but did ensure my ibuprofen consumption. Roommate Tim and I were out the door and into the Red Dragon by 5:45am and at Spencer’s door by 5:57am. Spencer would sleep for the better part of the next 393 miles.

DragonMorning

Good morning, Red Dragon.

We stopped briefly in Palo Alto to acquire our fourth companion, Justin, and breakfast at Starbucks. Then onward and southward. It was during this part of the trip that we learned Justin lives exactly one Prius tank of gas away from Venice Beach. We rocked the hell out of Songza playlists like “’90s Crowd Pleasing Hits,” “100 Worst Songs,” and “’90s One-hit Wonders,” and other songs of requisite road trip nature. We had an adult conversation about religion with references to sociology and general human nature while Spencer slept. We dissected the hell out of Arizona basketball – past, present, and future – and concluded that Johnny Dawkins is on the hottest seat in the Pac, what realistic expectations are for Beavers and Cougars, and whether or not we’d ever want to own a Ranch (the consensus was ownership without having to deal with horses). Spencer never snored.

In-n-Out was acquired just outside of Los Angeles – a road trip requirement – with the 80-degree weather being met with mixed reviews and begging the question of how any of us ever played High School baseball double headers in July in 104-degree Tucson summer heat wearing cotton socks, polyester pants and sliders, a jock strap, a cotton shirt, a mesh jersey and a hat. For the record, I loved the 80-degree heat.

Arrival at the hotel was familiar as we quickly learned that Venice Beach significantly parallels The Haight.

Arrival in Westwood would prove less simple.

Following back-to-back cabbies shaking us off like a 3-0 slider, we sat down to recuperate from the rejection at the local drinking establishment and conjure up a cab plan. Fortunately our waitress was kind enough to call us a cab. Unfortunately for her she’d attended Arizona State. We tipped her for the cab effort and gave our condolences on her adolescent decision.

At a cost of $40 covering just 6.6 surface street miles and 40 more minutes of asinine conversation, we arrived at the predetermined libation house, Barney’s Beanery, adorned in red as I explained to a young Wildcat (sub-six years old, not at the bar) why I’d just encouraged him and his family to Bear Down. Paying it forward I believe they call it. Drinks ensued with nary a word of trash exchanged as both Cats and Bruins alike lamented Ryan Kelly’s miss-less return (although I will fully admit it embodied everything I love about the drama of sport) amongst the pre-game anxieties.

Then we headed to Pauley.

I was intrigued to see the redesigned and modernized pavilion. Much had been made of the school’s investment in the old stadium (The Bruin Road Show) but perhaps the fellow behind me in line – who also noted I would be having to change my shirt upon entry to which I informed him of his probable disinterest in seeing me shirtless – said it best, “You can’t do a $100 million overhaul of a $5 million building.” So very LA to give a facelift to an aging wonder while ignoring innate flaws and failing to address intimacy. The 50+ year-old, on-campus gem was cleaned up, given a contemporary look and feel with a professional viewing experience. Aesthetically, it worked. But the stadium seating still begins a fair distance from court-side and the acoustics won’t quite aid an already peaceful audience. Which is the exact point my friend in line was making: Pauley was never a viewer’s dream, but at least now it looked nice.

Because whatever home court advantage you can conjure up has always come from what I’ve already mentioned: the banners, the history, the mystique and aura of the greatest program in the history of college basketball. So once inside the stadium, a fan of the sport, I had to look up and take in what no other school has accomplished. At halftime what other choice did I have but to applaud the 1972 NCAA Champion Bruins? Regardless my fan allegiances, bravo to a collection of athletes piecing together an undefeated thirty game season.

On.

But then it was game time and the ball was tipped (VANDROSS IS COMING!!!!) and in seventeen brief seconds Mark Lyons had gotten to the rack for two and it was on.

Game on.

Well Arizona would hold a lead for just 15 more seconds in this contest.

The Cats teased and toyed with a modest Arizona fan backing but ultimately didn’t have the defensive presence or ball maintenance (18 turnovers) to defeat a sound and beautifully point-guarded Bruins team. I left that remodel perhaps more impressed with Drew2 than upset with Mark Lyons’ decision making, Solomon Hill’s passive game, Nick Johnson’s shooting, Nick Johnson’s ball handling, Brandon Ashley’s disappearance, and Kaleb Tarczewski’s hands. OK, clearly I was a touch upset about a few things but just trust me when I say I was impressed with Drew2. It was senior night and he played like he was home.

And, at risk of jumping too far down Sappy Street, isn’t that what college is all about? He made kid decisions as a kid, quitting on his Tar Heel team and bolting without facing the music. And now he’s led the Bruins through what really had the foundation of becoming a tumultuous season. I mean really led and grew up. I admire that.

(Keep an eye out later this week and into next as some great bloggers guest on PacHoops with their own farewells to seniors across the conference. The LD2 one is great)

But the Cats gave it one last push. They showed that tardy fight that helped them to 14-0 with key victories over Florida and San Diego State. With 24-seconds remaining and the ball, Miller called timeout and I took a seat back in my chair; lightly rocking with a nod to my head and a pounding in my chest. I clapped hard twice because what the hell else do I have to contribute besides noise and the ball was in-bounded to Lyons.

The crowd rose to its collective feet.

Here came the high screen.

The noise level rose.

Into the lane went Lyons.

Time was evaporating.

A spin.

More than half the clock gone.

A forced shot.

The crowd was quiet-ish no longer.

And the game ended and the view obstructing railing no longer mattered. The banners waved a smidgen and the seats became a little less comfortable. Dammit.

It was a long walk back to Barney’s where we exhausted the house’s Fireball supply with one modest round for eight ailing Wildcats. The game was dissected extensively back at our hotel as Cast Away played in the background. Or maybe it was the foreground as Wilson was the closest thing to sports any of us could handle.

We took to the town, a somber albeit rallying group just looking for some fun. We found it in the form of a dance floor (and whiskey) at Circle Bar in Santa Monica. It worked and was highlighted by an impromptu dance-off. Mind you, none of us were involved, and for whatever reason when Dancer A cleared himself some space we paused our own moves to observe. At this point it wasn’t quite a dance-off, really more just some guy showing some pretty nominal moves. Dancer B took notice from the opposite corner of us and jumped right into this newly formed circle; all five-foot-six of him adorned in a kid’s batman costume. He moved quickly into some splits and other impressive things I can’t really describe. Dancer A took his turn until B returned to the center of the circle. He stood there, commanding the attention of A, and with his hand raised he counted down:

3…What the hell is he doing?

2…That cape is really small.

1…This better be goo—HOLY BALLS DID HE JUST DO A FLATFOOTED, STANDING BACKFLIP?!?!?

Indeed tiny Batman had just done a flatfooted, standing backflip as the place erupted. Dancer A tried his hand at redemption but to no avail. Because you can’t beat a flatfooted, standing backflip in a dance battle.

And you can’t beat a road trip with your best friends. You really cannot.

For the second time in less than a month I’d walked out of an opposing building wearing defeat in the form of an upset. Don’t care. I’m heading to Las Vegas to take my chances again. And amongst all the madness of the road trip we began conjuring plans to get our asses to Ann Arbor next fall for the front-end of the Arizona-Michigan home-and-home.

For the charge home we’d picked up one additional pal, Faisal, and some hangovers. Nothing some ’90s hits couldn’t cure. We discussed more nonsensical hypotheticals, what the TJ McConnell effect could be, and how we were going to make it back to LA for Arizona’s trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Being a fan is great.

And Spencer didn’t sleep a wink.

CrammedDragon

Beaten but not broken. But cramped.

For Comparison’s Sake: Nothing

A comparative analysis is a problem solving methodology used to minimize subjectivity and maximize objectivity. Exhibit A vs. Exhibit B. In the instance I was trying to use it last night – a circumstance in which I was trying to find some silver lining, some reason that it was OK for Arizona to have lost to the conference’s seventh place team by allowing them to shoot greater than 60% afield.

I present to you, Exhibit Michigan.

Wow losing to Penn State is bad and while it isn’t quite TCU, it sure ain’t good. And so you see you what I did there? In Arizona losing, I rationalized it – analyzed it comparatively, if you will – to other high major upsets. As if somehow Michigan’s loss from earlier in the night could vindicate the Wildcats.

Well that lasted less than a minute (s/o to my first) and I was brought back to thinking, picking, ignoring, lamenting, and generally agonizing over USC’s victory. On my mind was:

  • 89 points – Most points yielded this season by Arizona
  • -9 – Rebounding margin
  • 61.1% – USC’s shooting percentage, the highest of all-time
  • Cab or Ale – Wasn’t sure if it’d be Red Wine or Beer
  • 1.17 – Trojan points per possession

Over and over again I looked at the box score but couldn’t find much to make the confusion go away. For comparison’s sake, I was lost, and remain lost.

But the fact of the matter is, until that group of men and women sit inside a hotel conference room and pick a handful of teams to dance, comparison does no good. Arizona has got to do Arizona and they haven’t done that. Why has Sean Miller had to discuss defensive effort in his past umpteen pressers? Themes outside of winning are bad and, what’s worse, effort is a completely controllable component of one’s game.

Effort, in fact, has been a central cog to what we’ve seen Arizona face as the Pac-12’s most hunted team since the season began. And we knew that would be the case. They arrived as the hyped team and then won 14 straight, rising to third in the nation, and everyone wants a piece of that. It’s no surprise that teams show up with their best effort to play Arizona.

I’m just wondering when will Arizona show up with theirs?

BB: More Moments, This One the Choltender’s

As we celebrated McKale’s fortieth amidst tales of moments that filled Arizona’s home stadium, Angelo Chol had one of his own.

With Grant Jerrett out and the dynamic front court of the Stanford Cardinal imposing much of their will onto Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley, it was the intermittently used Chol who captured the opportunity to win. He doubled his previous biggest minutes output of the season in producing 6 points and 8 rebounds and disrupting the active Dwight Powell just enough to allow the Wildcats to pull away. Because without Chol there was no stopping that man.

It was his moment and he seized it.

Sean Miller would go on to rave of his back-up forward’s, back-up’s performance, going so far as to say had he not risen to the occasion it was “game over.” The Wildcats grew dependent on the ninth player off their bench and he delivered. That’s impressive and that’s special.

And so too is the season Solomon Hill is compiling. Which at this point has moderately gone without saying. Twenty second half points while also drawing defensive duties on the overpowering tandem of Huestis and Powell is damn impressive. That Lyons kid was special, too. Miller called it his best game as a Wildcat and you’ll hear no argument from me. He’s “turning the corner” as a point guard, Miller raved. A fact that is both special and frightening regarding the ever elevating ceiling of this team twenty-two games deep.

[This is the point in the post where I must say that Dwight Powell is unstoppable]

Indeed last night was a celebration of the moments we’ve enjoyed and the Wildcats have delivered for the past 40 years inside that stadium. And Chol and his teammates treated us to a few more, painting a clearer picture of what this team is capable of with its depth, fortitude, and leadership. A team unafraid of the moment.

And perhaps capable of a shining one.

Arizona at Oregon: Ducks and Cats on Top of Trees

The Wildcats are traveling to Eugene and Corvallis this weekend for the first time since the Pac became a twelver. In advance of this inaugural appearance inside Matthew Knight, the guys over at Addicted to Quack invited me onto their Podcast and didn’t ask me to ramble but I did all over this Wildcat team, the matchup with the Ducks, and even got me to speak about the Tempe school.

Listen to it with your ears.

And watch Thursday’s game with your eyes because it’s lining up to be a good one. While it seems the Cats may have lost some steam heading into this bout, I think the fact they stumbled through last weekend makes this game even more intriguing. There’s that common argument, maybe the most frustrating one in the world, that an undefeated team should lose a game here or there. You know, to keep their edge or whatever. If that’s indeed the case, what Arizona managed to do last weekend was lose without adding a loss to the record. No wonder they’re ranked as one of the most efficient teams in the nation!

The Duck’s could’ve added to the intrigue-meter by not losing at UTEP in an assortment of overtimes but hey, Chip Kelly’s coming back, so things aren’t at all bad in Eugene.

Interestingly, there isn’t much here by way of storylines between these two schools. Or at least not of a late. Dana Altman appears to be a polite man and Matt Court – as I learned on the ATQ podcast – has yet to meet it’s full  potential as a home court advantage. The Ducks’ old home was vicious. It’s been awhile since these two squared off as two formidable opponents.

For this one I’ve also stumbled across my inner stat geek which just adds to game anticipation (I see you @jgisland). Did you know that Arizona allows just 23% of the shots taken against them to be attempted “at the rim?” That’s fifteenth best in the nation at protecting the bucket from easy stuff like layups and dunks. Conversely, DYK that Oregon takes 40% of their shots from that very space Arizona does such a good job of keeping people away from?

Holy contrast Batman, we’ve got opposing styles!

Each of these squads is dedicated to their system, a tribute to the coaches and the number of transfers from their respective programs early in their tenures. Each has taken heat on that subject but that tends to be the reality of today’s college sport. And maybe they’ve missed on some recruits, which is a byproduct of rushed evaluations and the need for bodies during a regime change.

But that’s too far down the recruiting rabbit hole that I generally don’t venture down. Except the two times I went to see Chase Budinger and last year when I watched Aaron Gordon.

Anyhow, we’re prepped to have a good one. Some Cats and Ducks runnin’ around atop some trees.

Note: Stats from this article were courtesy of this ridiculously comprehensive site: http://www.hoop-math.com/index.html

 

Thirteen things to watch in the Pac-12’s ’13

Conference play kicks off tonight and I’ve compiled thirteen things to behold in ’13. From individual games to storylines, this is shaping up to be one helluva season – one far more fruitful and talented than what transpired last season.

I’ve no doubt missed things. Or left things off (have I tossed in the USC towel?). So catch these and chime in with others.

The List:

  1. Colorado at Oregon, February 7 – These two squared off thrice a season ago with CU squeaking out two, one-point victories (including in the Pac-12 tournament). Both seem to be on similar trajectories under third year coaches and this would appear to be a budding rivalry. Prediction: These squads split, holding court at home, and both dance. Andre Roberson gets the better of the Arsalan Kazemi but Tony Woods takes the pup, Josh Scott, to task. The outside shot the Buffs have of sweeping this one? Askia Booker gets DGAF hot in Eugene.
  2. Arizona at ASU, January 19 – I don’t think this stands to be much of a game but Jahii Carson recently anointed himself top-PG in the Pac and Mark Lyons caught wind of it. There was evidently some twitter back and forth culminating in Carson citing that the fifth year senior should already be in The League. Unfortunately, I’ll be on an airplane for this one. At least I’ll have a seatbelt on. Prediction: Mark Lyons gets into the chest – defensively – and head of Carson and though the freshman manages 14 points, he also has six turnovers in the Sun Devils’ blowout loss. Arizona avenges last season’s late loss in Tempe and some Wildcat, I’m unsure who, will dunk on Jordan Bachynski. Hard.
  3. Cal at Stanford, January 19– Any time Monty returns it has to conjure up the old days for Cardinal fans; although in my last two trips to Maples almost no one has been there. I mean, there was literally a kid sitting fully spread out icing his ankle in the student section when I was there in 2011. But despite that history, Stanford knocked off the Bears in the season’s final game to keep them from a conference championship. Revenge will be on mind. Prediction: The Cardinal win this one and sweep the season series and there’s a sudden and growing displeasure surrounding the Montgomery-era in Berkeley.
  4. Arizona at UCLA, March 2 – Just look at those names. It’s a sexy matchup. Of late, however, it’s been anything but attractive as the two programs have experienced some mediocrity and turmoil. That narrative is exhausted. The new narrative, for at least a brief while, was that each program was back. We know that story, too. And now, as conference play begins, there are even more questions swirling about Westwood while people are still waiting to see just how good these Wildcats are. However you slice, this game will not be short of intrigue. Game Day and I will be in attendance. Prediction: My buddies and I have an absolute blast taking LA by storm and while the Bruins absolutely have the talent to whoop Arizona, the long road to March will have worn on the Bruins and their six-ish-man rotation (Tony Parker will transfer). At that point the Arizona baby bigs will have come into their own and, while not dominant, are able to put up numbers on the Family Wear. Cats pass their final test en route to the Dance and just might break the Bruins’ back in New Pauley. I’ll clap seven times to that.
  5. UCLA – This stuff is fascinating. I’m serious. We make up the storylines and then they manifest themselves in the most complex of ways. Shakespeare himself wouldn’t take Howland off the hot seat, toss him back on, and then beat Missouri. It’s impossible to contextualize this group of Bruins and grossly confusing. Sometimes they play defense (Ben!). Sometimes they run-and-gun (McCray!). I suppose this is a team with that version of wild-eyed crazy you want nothing to do with because they’re capable of beating anyone (Mizzou), losing to anyone (Cal Poly), and everything in between. Prediction: The Bruins will have a respectable year but what they’re really looking for full-scale respect. Something they’ve lost over the past few years and while the talented pieces they can roll out may frighten you, there isn’t the appropriate air about the program. Howland will be dismissed and UCLA strikes out on their attempts at some high profile hires and ultimately lands on a very good hire who maybe doesn’t WOW the LA media but will win basketball games.
  6. POY Race – I kinda think last year the Pac-12 ought to have forgone this award. They awarded it to Jorge as a career achievement prize and good on him but it overwhelmingly highlighted the league’s down year. This season, we’re already staring down the barrel of some really talented and intriguing players. Brock is putting up better numbers than a year ago and Jahii Carson is doing some impressive things in Tempe. Allen Crabbe is scoring points like it’s going out of style and I’m curious what happens if Shabazz keeps up his current pace as we suspect he might. Interestingly, three of the top teams are ridiculously balanced in Colorado, Oregon, and Arizona. Each squad features holistic attack not necessarily dominated by a single, POY-esque player. The Ducks have six players averaging nine-or-more points per game! That’s to say, none of these contenders will likely feature a POY but should taste great success. Prediction: The POY will hail from the 3-5 place finishing team. That’s to say I think Crabbe, Adams, Muhammad, and perhaps a surprising Cardinal makes a run at it. Brock gets shut out of the POY race once again because he doesn’t have the pieces around him to garner such an award and Jahii Carson learns the same tough lesson. When the dust of the conference season settles, we’ll find that Crabbe is the POY amongst many deserving candidates.
  7. You! – Go to an away game. Wear your colors in the middle of enemy territory and have drinks in the localest of bars you can find. Don’t – I repeat DO NOT – be an asshole. Embrace the fact that they don’t like you and you them, don’t make it personal, and root like hell for your team to win so your chest can waltz out of there the puffiest its ever been. The roadies I’ve traveled to have been some of my favorites: surprising my brother in Seattle last year just in time to see Gonzaga take AZ behind the woodshed; both trips to Pauley with my dad while I was in college in which the ‘Cats were demolished; the lap we did around Wells Fargo as Miller’s first team beat the Devils by 19; my brother’s first trip to visit in SF and the triple OT thriller in Haas two years ago. Grab some friends, a couple of nosebleed tickets and make it happen. Holler at me if the Bay Area happens to be your roadie of choice. I’m there. Do the same for the P12 Tourney in Vegas. Prediction: A weekend plan gets cancelled as a Friday is winding down at a Friday pace. You gchat your buddy who says fuggit and you both hop in the car and head to the Bay. You shout at me and we take the City by storm before attending whichever of the Saturday matchups you prefer (Berkeley by BART, Palo Alto by auto). The game’s a blast because both of those schools are going to present formidable competition and then we return to SF and run back Friday. Then we do the same for 4 nights in Vegas in March.
  8. The Unknown – Are you kidding me? Something mind-blowing is going to happen this season and it’s going to shift a significant chunk of thinking. Could it be the red hot Cardinal? What about their complete implosion? I propose the same for Robinson and his Beavers in Corvallis. Warming seats and hot hands and we’ll get to see all of it. Literally all of it. Larry promised! Prediction: One of ASU, OSU, and WSU will finish amongst the Top-6; someone you didn’t expect to get fired, does; one team wins a game on a 45-plus foot buzzer beater; and…forget this! I can’t predict the unpredictable beyond predicting that something unpredictable will occur and then we can revel in it together because this is sport and it’s precisely why we watch. Long live competition.
  9. Brock Motum – Watch him because no one else is. This guy is a one man wrecking crew and there’s really no secret about it beyond being lost in the Pacific Northwest. He’s one of the most used players in the nation (ninth and seventh in % of possessions and shots) and has maintained the level of efficiency he wowed us with last season. Things are rough coming out of Pullman but Brock is to be celebrated. And feared. Prediction: The Aussie leads his team to a respectable finish and a healthy run through Vegas. Nothing too fancy but the Cougs overachieve and he provides us with a wealth of knowledge we can drop on unsuspecting persons when we’re subtly one-upping them with our sports knowledge. 2019 Him: Yeah, Ian Thorpe is probably the greatest Australian…. 2019 You: Sure the Thorpedo was grand but Phelps took him to task. Do you realize that Brock Motum twice lead the Pac-12 – that’s some 156 scholarship athletes – in scoring and never won a POY award. Once he dropped 88-points on Kevin O’Neill’s Trojans and then taught them how to surf. And wrestle a shark. What a guy. Guaranteed that’s a conversation you’ll have.
  10. Toasty Chairs – I’m very rarely going to be one to call for a given firing, but I also feel I understand the nature of this college sports thing and the inertia surrounding a Head Coach. That said, in order to keep things moving at both LA schools, a change may be in order. Those appear to be the most volatile right now but the success of teams in Seattle, Pullman, Corvallis, Palo Alto, and Tempe should be paid attention to. A level of expectations hasn’t quite been met or a time frame not exactly fulfilled and things could be getting a touch spicy in those spots. I really do not foresee much by way of coaching hunts (goodness those are exhilarating if it’s not your program) but should that lead seat inside Pauley Pavilion become available, expect some big changes across the Pac. Prediction: Los Angeles finds itself coachless. UCLA will enter a hunt that has the college basketball world – particularly the Pac-12 – holding its breath. UCLA’s hiring, if done right, will no longer allow Pac teams to meddle around like winning is a 55% of the time thing. The following year, 2013-14, will open many more seats. Also, when USC relieves Kevin O’Neill of his duties, there’s a chance they make a splash hire that would dramatically turn heads.
  11. The Networks – Take advantage of this new resource to us. The games will be televised and that’s awesome; but to be frank, it’s 2013, and I expect to be able to see any game I want. I think the beautiful advantage the Pac-12 Networks allots us is the full-tilt, 360-degree coverage. From all things digital and comprehensive, we’re exposed to how modern media should be handled: online, offline, and everything in between. But read PacHoops, too, k? Prediction: DirectTV deal gets done over the summer as the Pac-12 pushes a softer bargain and DirectTV succumbs to the concept that they’re slowly becoming irrelevant in the modern era of ubiquitous and free media and the cable/satellite monopolies become increasingly aware of their dwindling state.
  12. Who’s Number 2? – The conference is Arizona’s to lose and after them there’s a smorgasbord of teams vying for that second spot. I find Colorado, Oregon, and UCLA in no particular order to be the favorites for this spot. I’ve previously stated that Stanford would be that team but they just haven’t impressed enough to garner my faith. At one point I kinda dug Cal – but they lost to Harvard at home! Anyhow, it’s going to be a wide-open race and as we mentioned in point #8, anything could happen. Prediction: Colorado. But I’ll elaborate to the point where I say four Pac teams dance (Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA) with a pretty good shot at five dancing, the fifth being Stanford. I really think they have the most intriguing pieces; the next step will just be some consistency. I think that could come with extended PT for Aaron Bright who had been returning from injury in the midst of the Cardinal’s OOC.
  13. The Old Guys – I’ve been pumping the seniors’ agenda since before the season began and, to date, few have let me down. Solomon Hill has been playing the complete game we came to expect and Carrick Felix has been nothing short of fantastic; while Jio Fontan has left plenty to be desired and EJ Singler has been good, not great. Larry Drew II has been a pleasant surprise in Westwood and there’s Brock. But now we’ve come to their final conference season. The part of the schedule where players cement legacies, become legendary, and embark on a home stretch of effort. Prediction: I already stated that Brock will guide the Cougars to exceed expectations. I think Solomon Hill stays his current course and EJ Singler will have a big conference year (at least bigger than his 10/5/3). Unfortunately Jio is who Jio. LDII’s numbers are nice but they aren’t going to make a difference for the Bruins if Shabazz and Anderson are going to struggle. Some senior is going to piece together a stretch run a la Carlon Brown, Kyle Fogg, or Devoe Joseph from last year. I love it.

A Token Thanksgiving Post

Today is Thanksgiving, a day intrinsically if not by simple nomenclature, dedicated to the giving of thanks. Subsequently there is the annual onslaught of columns and lists proclaiming gratefulness for a slew life’s wonders.

At PacHoops, we’re not above that.

Because I’m thankful the season has begun and we get to see the coaches again. Their varied levels of animation while patrolling a sideline is amongst my favorite things to watch. From the progressive reddening of Kevin O’Neill’s face to Sean Miller’s cough and squat yelling to Dana Altman’s jacketless rants, I love it.

And I’m thankful, obviously, for the Pac-12 Network. While all of conference alignment is driven by the pigskin, the TV networks already aired the majority of football games. Now, we get all basketball games with relative ease. That’s hoops-on-hoops-on-hoops and so just as daylight saving’s brings my life into darkness, my evenings have been illuminated by Bay Area Comcast 823 (for HD) and 433/434 for less-than-impressive standard def. Seriously the 400s channels look like someone is streaming the stream from their iPhone. But, it is available and, yeah, I’m thankful.

Then there’s the players. I’ll start with the yougins because there’s been growing hype and now they’re playing and we’re discovering that perhaps Jordan Adams is a bigger talent than the rest of UCLA’s class, Arizona’s freshmen are indeed bigger than Jesse Perry, Josh Scott makes CU bigger than Roberson, and Jahii Carson is bigger than Sendek’s pace. I know it’s early but these pups have asserted themselves early, meeting the hype and perhaps surpassing the critical hype – that’s to say some fan bases have irrational hype. Example: I read one prediction that Arizona’s three freshmen bigs would average a combined 38/31. Not happening. But I’m thankful to see them and the others shoot for the moon.

And the seniors. Yeah, thankful for those guys as are the aforementioned freshmen. These guys are the load bearers, the ones who’ve been through the trenches, the morning weights, the late study halls, and the road trips to Pullman. They’re Pac-12 seniors – four underwhelming years out West – who know they’re role: To lead. Solomon Hill, Abdul Gaddy, Brock Motum, Scott Suggs, Carrick Felix, Jio Fontan, EJ Singler and others will be leaned upon to fulfill that role. Their teamates are thankful to have ’em; I’m thankful to watch.

I’m thankful the NCAA got its act together. As are UCLA, Oregon, and USC who can now roll out Shabazz, Kazemi, and Oraby to supplement their already solid lineups. I’m thankful Allen Crabbe is embracing his role as best-player-in-the-Pac, Dwight Powell is making the strides we’d projected, and Colorado won the Charleston Classic.

Oh goodness there’s so much more. The road games I’ll attend, the buzzers that will be beaten, the stories that will unfold, and the fun we’re going to have.

Now go eat some turkey and pour on some extra gravy for me.

Multiple Reasons for Optimism in the McKale Center

The glass has to be half full. It must with nary a game yet played. For such, over the next few days, I’ll be posting why each of the conference’s twelve teams have reasons to be optimistic.

  1. Big People – One season ago, the Arizona frontcourt was manned by a 6’7” and 6’6” tandem. Today the Wildcats’ lane will be occupied by nearly fourteen feet of human. A difference maker indeed and Sean Miller had this to say about it:
  2. Grad School – It’s not unprecedented but Mark Lyons’ transfer to Tucson from Xavier to begin graduate work and play basketball could wind up being cited as one of the most impactful transfers, ever. Hyperbole to be sure and the horse is well ahead of the carriage; but this smells a lot like Russell Wilson to Wisconsin for a Rose Bowl, the basketball version.
  3. Time – Kevin Parrom had a hellacious 2011-12 that he’s asked to not be asked about. We all know the story by now so now let’s celebrate that we’ll get to see a tough, fun, and now healthy basketball player thrive as a senior.
  4. Padded Chairs – Nearly everyone sitting on one was a four-star recruit or better and is going to make these Wildcats the deepest team in the conference if not the country.
  5. 1988 – This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Arizona’s first Final Four and one of the greatest teams in school history. That ’88 squad went on to win a gaggle of NBA Championships and included Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Kenny Lofton, Jud Bucheler, Tom Tolbert, and others.
  6. Zeus – Not the Greek God but if Kaleb Tarczewski erupts in season one, he may be considered one in Tucson. Seven-footers are good old fashioned difference makers. A monster season will have Zeus in the lottery and the ‘Cats playing deep into the Madness.
  7. Maturity – There may be young pieces, but this is a mature group lead by senior statesman, Solomon Hill. At Pac-12 Media Day Hill let everyone know how he’s embraced his role as leader, teaching the mature-beyond-their-years underclassmen of sacrifice and passing on the parties that are always going to be there. A subtle jab at the departed Josiah Turner? Whatever it is, the Wildcats are focused on winning.

BB: Josiah Turner and the Cycles of the Moon

Josiah Turner committed a foul that appeared to cost Arizona a critical home game.

You’re familiar with the buildup – whiteout, ESPN, GameDay, first place on the line. A furious and late rally, capped by Solomon Hill’s 26th, 27th, and 28th points tied the game with nine seconds remaining. McKale was erupting. The Huskies were stunned. Game on.

We often refer to the end of a game, particularly a close one, as the waning moments of a contest. If you’ll recall elementary school astronomy, waning refers to the dwindling appearance of the moon; waxing the opposite. It’s an obvious metaphor, analogizing the shrinking moon to the shrinking clock.

The reality, however, is that these moments are everything but waning. Nothing is shrinking but the numbers on the clock. Beyond that, every play is enlarged, each bucket more important than the last. These are not waning moments, they’re waxing. They unfold in seemingly incomprehensible immediacy, waiting just long enough to discover the hero of this magnified flash. Or the scapegoat.

Therefore, following Hill’s game-tying three and as the Huskies inbounded the ball, it was clear that a play of game changing magnitude was forthcoming. Perhaps it would be a Washington drive and dish or another step-back jumper. Perhaps it would be a stop by the Arizona defense and a chance to win the game that looked all but over minutes prior. I was watching, you were watching, and we both knew something was going to happen at this most critical of junctures.

A foul.

Not the foul, just a foul. It was Turner’s attempt to make the big play, draw the charge on the rumbling CJ Wilcox to force a Washington turnover and subsequent Arizona game-winning possession.

In his effort, Josiah Turner failed. He sent Wilcox to the line for the game sealing free throws, the once deafening McKale crowd silenced. The moment could have swallowed Turner. It would have been understandable for him to wane, perhaps befitting of the mercurial freshman just one game removed from his temper-less ejection. Turner quite easily could have disappeared into the gravity of the instant.

He didn’t.

In five dribbles he took the ball the length of the court, made a move few others are gifted enough to even imagine, and got to the rim. The layup to tie the score for the seventh time that evening was vengefully blocked by Tony Wroten. Josiah Turner had failed for the second time in less than six-seconds of game play.

He didn’t.

In the waxing moments of that game Josiah Turner showed us all why every team in the nation wanted him to wear their jersey. He showed poise beyond his years and beyond his maturity level. The big point guard from Sacramento makes plays. He proved as much on Saturday and now, leading into a no less daunting weekend in the Bay Area, he’ll be asked to so once again. The ball in his hands, a part of the season on his shoulders, he’ll be asked to succeed.

He will.

This post can also be seen at pointguardu.com: your source for Arizona basketball and recruiting news.