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College Basketball has Cancer

Posted by naterb on January 16, 2009

 Over the past couple of years, the bloodline of College basketball- the recruiting of new players – has been tainted by a cancerous disease that is grotesquely deforming the sport. With media attention on the NBA and NCAA basketball, the focus is more on program success rather than player success. The result of which is an increase in athleticism and flashy plays while the average basketball IQ is taking a sharp downturn. The symptoms of this cancer are evident – an increase of early departures, especially one-and-done players, increased player transfers, players opting to play overseas (e.g. Brandon Jennings), etc. These symptoms lead to an increased level of uncertainty for programs nationwide when consistency and high standards for success are at an inflated premium.

Despite the microwave effect that the NBA’s age restriction has had on this growing problem over the past two years, it was none-the-less an unavoidable consequence of any competitive sport plastered on a national scene. As the promotion of college and professional basketball grew through media coverage and promotion, the sport gained in popularity leading to a larger player pool and effectively parity within the sport. The mid-major schools, like Gonzaga for example, have tightened the gap between themselves and the dominant programs in the nation and are now gradually being expected to perform to the same level as perpetually successful programs like UNC, Duke, UCLA, and Kansas on a yearly basis.I don’t believe that most of the mid-major programs will be able to live up to this expectation the way that Gonzaga has over the past 5+ years, but it does make the NCAA Tournament more interesting when they do. Despite the growing parity within the sport, the expectations of the big schools to dominate mid-majors and punching exit tickets for teams who earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament have remained virtually unwavering. Conference success has taken a back-seat to not only making the NCAA Tournament but finding oneself in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight every year. Such expectations – even for schools like UNC, Duke, UCLA, and Kansas – are lofty and mostly unobtainable which heightens the pressure for coaches.

Is your coach trying to get this kid to sign a Letter of Intent?

Is your coach trying to get this kid to sign a Letter of Intent?

 

In response to the increased pressure for continual success, we have seen coaches continue to exploit or discover new recruiting methods to maintain their edge. Some coaches directly violate the recruiting regulations set by the NCAA Committee, while others simply look for loopholes within the regulations. The NCAA has taken direct and deliberate action to resolve one of their recruiting loopholes by extending the age at which a student becomes an actual collegiate prospect. Previously students became prospects during ninth grade, but because of the NCAA’s inability to regulate and monitor junior high basketball camps seventh graders are now considered prospects. (Click here for more information on this)

 

I like that the NCAA is taking this step to negate an unfair recruiting advantage; which was essentially exploiting seventh and eighth grade players, but it’s not a fix all. This isn’t the first time someone has begun the recruiting process prior to a student-athlete becoming an official prospect, and it certainly won’t be the last. At what point will it stop? Fifth and sixth grade when school-organized athletics really begins? First grade when kids can participate in pee-wee basketball leagues? No, I don’t see six-year-olds being recruiting by Tim Floyd either, that’s not the point.

 

 

The point is that attempting to set a “magic number” on when a player officially becomes a prospect isn’t enough. The NCAA is taking some honorable steps, but until they change their approach when it comes to the recruitment of young players problems will continue to surface. The resolution, therefore lies in finding a balance between permitting programs to scout players during the AAU circuit and team sponsored basketball camps and permitting active recruitment of those prospects. Until then less-than-honorable coaches will continue to recruit under the age limit without repercussion just to gain an edge.

For more information on the NCAA’s rules and regulations regarding the recruitment of players click here.

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Blogs Around the PAC-10

Posted by naterb on January 13, 2009

One of my brother’s favorite sayings is “Opinions are like a**holes – everyone’s got one and they all stink.” Normally, I agree with him 100%, but my experience today has me questioning the accuracy of that statement. The problem is that I’m finding plenty of a**holes, but very few opinions. I’ve spent the day trying to find PAC-10 blogs that have some bite to them. Some sort of opinion about the teams. I like what I’ve seen on Rush The Court – although they just do brief check-ins on the conference as a whole. What I’m really looking for is an opinionated blog about each individual team.

Now, I want somebody with an opinion. If I wanted an AP recap, or to hear what the newspaper or a major sports website had to say, I’d go there. I don’t’ need to have you (BS Sports) copying it and referencing it on a blog. I want to hear what an educated fan has to say about the team. Here’s the best of what I could find so far. If there is anyone that knows of a good blog for any given PAC-10 team, shoot me a message and I’ll check it out.

Keep in mind, I have only taken cursory glances at these blogs this week since I’ve been spending most of my time trying to sift through the junk blogs that are watered down versions of cbssports.com, espn.com, foxsports.com, etc.

Hopefully, from here on out I will be able to highlight some of the best opinions and interesting topics from around the league. As I get better blogs, or fill in the blanks (Washington, Stanford) this should become a more interesting topic. For now, here’s the best of what I’ve found.

PAC-10: Rush The Court – Like I said before, these guys focus on NCAA Basketball as a whole, but do weekly check-ins on each conference. They provide a nice Ranking with some evidence and some opinion. When you want a quick overview on the conference as a whole, this is a good place to start.

Arizona State Sun Devils: Check out Pitchforknation.com and wireddevils.blogspot.com. I would give the edge to Wired Devilsif you are looking for college news as PFN seems to focus on more player follow-up and football than anything to do with college basketball.

CAL Golden Bears: I like what Bear Talk does. You get a good dose of news, but they throw in some good opinion as well. Probably one of the better blogs that I’ve found for any conference team.

I also like what I’m seeing over at California Golden Blogs.com as well, but there seems to be less opinion and more reporting there.

And if that’s not enough CAL for you, here’s there’s some good analysis – at least for their game against Washington – at http://bearsnecessity.com

 

Oregon Ducks: A good site is addictedtoquack.com  they’ve got some Power Rankings, some reporting, and some opinion on there. All the elements that I believe a good blog ought to have.

I thought that I might have found something when I came across ducksattack.com, but it seems as though they are more content with finding AP releases or other news reports than reporting how they see it. But it may be worth a look anyhow.

 

Oregon State Beavers: Building the Dam is surprisingly one of the better PAC-10 basketball blogs. I guess your team doesn’t need to be very successful for you to have a good blog? There are a few mistakes, like calling Budinger an inside player, but the guy is headed in the right direction.

Stanford Cardinal: I couldn’t find a single blog about the Cardinal that wasn’t just compiling news stories. How sad. I guess they teach too much intellectualism over at Stanford so people forget how to have an opinion. But lack of creativity from the Cardinal should be no surprise, afterall they do have that stupid tree as a mascot.

UCLA Bruins: I was amazed at how hard it was to find a good UCLA basketball blog. I found a plethora of article gatherers, but spent a terrible amount of time looking for an opinion. Does the LA smog kill brain cells or something? Eeesh. Eventually I found Bruins Nation and was relieved that there was someone that wasn’t content with just referencing other people’s work.

 

 

 

 Washington State Cougars: The Coug Center is great. These guys do it right. You’ve got some current news, some opinion, analysis, and some articles referencing previous players.

Washington Huskies: I’ve found plenty of blogs. But they were all either promoting AP sources, or belonged to a paid journalist from one of Washington’s newspapers. I don’t want a paid columnist, I want a fans opinion.

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, PAC-10 Basketball, Sports: General, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Game Preview: OSU @ UA

Posted by naterb on January 10, 2009

Even if the Beavers fail to beat another opponent for the rest of the season they can have a successful season. Craig Robinson’s and OSU’s goals are modest this season – 1) Improve upon their 0-18 conference record from a year ago. 2) Show growth as a team every game. By those standards, the Beavers have already had successful season. Don’t expect them to stop there, however. After the USC game, the Beavers are starting to believe that they can contest and beat anybody in the conference. That’s a big change from a year ago.
Calvin Haynes has been a monster off the bench with 15.7 ppg and should find himself with a starting role in the near future.

Calvin Haynes has been a monster off the bench with 15.7 ppg and should find himself with a starting role in the near future.

Craig Robinson has changed a lot of things in Oregon State since his arrival in Corvallis – even if the overall record and box scores don’t show it. The Beavers are still giving up more points than they score on a nightly average, they still have the 2nd worst turnover rater in the conference, and have been out-rebounded by over 3 boards a game. But there is a swagger that can be seen in their step now. A sign of confidence and a glimmer of intensity that was lost during Jay John’s final season. The players are buying into Robinson’s Princeton style offense and are getting better with every game – evidenced by the fact that they closed out their non-conference schedule by winning four of their final five games before pulling off the upset over USC.

 Perhaps the result of those games not only has to do with Robinson, but the impact of Calvin Haynes. After being academically ineligible for the fall semester, Haynes had played during the last seven games and has become the teams leading scorer with 15.7 a contest – that’s 8th in the PAC-10. Haynes has been coming off the bench for the Beavers since his return, but considering his scoring average and that he’s the 2nd best 3-point shooter on the team, he should be starting soon enough. Haynes is an impact player that believes in Robinson and his system. Things like that are what have the Beavers heading in the right direction after truly hitting rock-bottom a year ago.

The Beavers’ new swagger and confidence has them believing they can contend with any team in the conference and win, which means teams can no longer sleep on the Beavers. Despite the swagger and effort these kids have and the trust they’re putting into Robinson, the USC win will continue to prove as the exception rather than the rule. After all, you don’t go from 0-18 to competing for the PAC-10 title by changing your coach and bringing in three recruits.

The Beavers are still being out-rebounded by over 3 a game, outscored by 1.5 a game – against mediocre competition, and have a negative-four turnover ratio. The results have improved slightly, but are still comparable to a year ago. But the swagger is new. The confidence is new. And the style is new. The Beavers are pointed in the right direction already, and its been less than a year.

Key’s to the Game:

 

  • Improve the Defense: The Ducks believed they could get a shot off anytime they wanted against Arizona – and that’s something that needs to change if they hope to compete with UCLA, CAL, and ASU for the conference title. The Beavers are not a solid 3-point shooting team, but are good enough. Even Roeland Schaftenaar can pop out and knock down the occasional three-pointer.
    Projected Need: Force the Beavers into 14 or more turnovers while shooting less than 40% from the field and beyond the arc.
  • Get an Education: Nic Wise needs to get his head up and see the floor again. During the last two games Wise has had a significant increase in over-penetrating and not reacting to the collapsing defense quick enough. The result has been a lot of offensive fouls and excessive turnovers. I would like to see Wise, for the time being, scoring less and focusing more on his assists and turnovers.
    Projected Need: Wise 7 assists, 2 or fewer turnovers
  • Chase Budinger: Budinger got it going within 8 feet against Oregon, but that’s not enough for me to believe he is out of his slump yet. Budinger needs to continue to be aggressive and get to the rim. But I’d like to see more of those long-range shots starting to drop too. Budinger has had one good game, but I believe it takes two back-to-back to really break a slump. Time to break it, Budinger.
    Projected Need: Budinger 40+% shooting, 6 free throw attempts, 3 3-pointers, 16 points
  • Jordan Hill: For the first time since the Gonzaga game, Hill failed to record a double-double against Oregon. Keep in mind he was only 1 point away as he was hustling and playing hard, despite the ‘Cats not looking to get the ball to him. The Beavers have several big bodies to throw at Hill which should make it difficult, but they aren’t much more than big bodies. Hill should be able to dominate inside
    Projected Need: Get Hill 12 good looks at the basket. Just 12. He’ll do the rest I have no doubt.

 

 Princeton Offense: Every now and then it helps to have a refresher – and for some they’ve never learned – so I’ve posted two links found on ESPN about the fundamentals of the Princeton Offense. It has been split into two sections, the low block and the high post. Includes some good visuals as well. I hope that at least one person can find them useful.

Part 1 (The Low Block)
Part 2 (The High Post)

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Preview, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball, Sports: General | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

All-Time Lute Olson Team

Posted by naterb on January 9, 2009

 

 

oldschoolnewschoolAfter trimming down roughly 25 years of rosters into two separate 12-man rosters, I had a tougher task of combining the teams into one team and cutting half the players. The criteria of Old School and New School All-Star teams has been thrown out the window because it is time to produce the All-Time Lute Olson Team. By now you should be familiar with the criteria, but I feel it is important to reiterate one of them – that the team has to be realistically functional. I can’t have 12 backcourt players on this roster, nor can I have half of the team be frontcourt players. So I’m sure that there will be a fair deal of disagreement on who gets in and who sits out. That’s okay, once again tell me what you like and what you would change and why.

 

All-Time Lute Olson Team

Starters:

Point Guard: Steve Kerr – How can you not start Steve Kerr? He performed so many heroics in an Arizona jersey and faced the most amount of adversity any college player has ever seen. He was an incredibly smart player and a prolific three-point shooter. To not start Kerr would be an injustice.

Shooting Guard: Damon Stoudamire – If you’re looking for a guy that could do it all as the off-guard look no further than Damon Stoudamire. Lightning fast, aggressive, and a big time play-maker.

Small Forward: Sean Elliott – Elliott was the key to the success of ‘88. He was arguably the best prospect Arizona has ever had, at any position. You can tell me that I’ve made a bad call on point guard, shooting guard, or any other position – but if you tell me I blew this one you are in serious need of a shrink evaluation.

Power Forward: Channing Frye – Yes, I know Frye wasn’t actually a power forward in his time at Arizona, but he was better than any power forward on the list. So I would go with two starting centers on this list. Frye was an amazing shot blocker who could run the court. Matched with his offensive skill set there’s no doubt in my mind that Frye deserves a starting spot.

Center: Brian Williams (aka Bison Dele) – This could be the most debated pick, but Williams was the epitome of a true center. He was big, strong, and was an intimidator inside the paint. Williams gets my vote as the best center in Arizona history.

The Bench:

PG: Mike Bibby – If it weren’t for Kerr, I would start Mike Bibby because he had the most complete all-around game of the group of point guards. Bibby could shoot, make the amazing pass, create his own shot and apply great pressure on the defensive end. Not to mention in his freshman year he guided and directed the Wildcats to their NCAA Championship in 1997.

PG: Jason Terry – Terry was a maniac at Arizona. He had so much speed and intensity that no team could ever match it. When he was coming off the bench it was almost an instant momentum boost. If he was starting you knew the entire team was going to play hard while he was on the court. And who could forget those ‘Cats’ socks up to his knees?

SG: Miles Simon – I said it before, Simon wasn’t the most talented player ever to suit up for Olson, but he was perhaps the luckiest. Simon always found a way to get it done, even if it was luck sometimes. When you’re going for an NCAA Championship luck does have something to do with it, and Simon was lucky (think ¾ court buzzer beater vs. Cincy).

SF: Michael Dickerson – I am a huge Dickerson fan. He played smart, played hard, and was a great defender. He was a streaky shooter because of his delivery, but when he was on he was down-right lethal. I just wish that his chronic health problems wouldn’t have forced him to leave the NBA early.

SF: Chris Mills – How can you argue with the stats and the job that he did at Arizona? Earning All-American and All-Conference accolades, shot nearly 50% from beyond the arc, and tallied 16.5 ppg during his tenure at Arizona.

PF: Ben Davis – Davis didn’t have the career numbers that some of the other players had, not even some of the ones that were left off this team. Davis did lead the team in scoring and rebounding during his senior season and was the go-to guy that year. His ‘go-to’ status is what puts him on this list above some of the players who were left off.

C: Loren Woods: Woods has the highest blocks per game average of anyone. Tally that with his 14.4 cumulative points per game, it would be an injustice to leave Woods of this team.

 

Last Players Cut (No particular order): Michael Wright, Salim Stoudamire, Richard Jefferson, Anthony Cook, Tom Tolbert

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball, Sports: General | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Oregon's Inexperience Leads to Cats Win

Posted by naterb on January 9, 2009

 

 

Budinger dunks over Michael Dunigan

Budinger dunks over Michael Dunigan

Michael Dunigan turning his back on Chase Budinger during a first-half in-bound play is the epitome of what is wrong with the Ducks this season. The Ducks aren’t a bad team with players who have no business competing in the PAC-10. By-and-large, however, they are a team filled with young players who have been thrust into key roles too early in their college careers. The Wildcats exploited this and despite their less-than-stellar performance rode it on their way to a 67-52 route of the Ducks at McKale Center.

The Good:

Russ Pennell and the Wildcats did a nice job of getting Chase Budinger good looks at the basket by having him along the baseline and making strong cuts towards the basket. The result was several dunks, lay-ups, and short-ranged jumpers. Budinger was also found in transition on numerous occasions. I’m not ready to declare Budinger out of his slump as of yet, especially in light of his 1-5 shooting from beyond the arc, but the quality looks he got against the Ducks is a great way to help him find his rhythm again. The mental lapses by Budinger, as well as the over-flow mentality onto the rest of the team seems to have dissipated as the ‘Cats regained some of that swagger and confidence back throughout the game.

The biggest indicator of the teams reaction to Budinger starting to come out of his slump is Jamelle Horne. Following one of his worst performance of the year (2 points, 5 fouls, 19 minutes), Horne returned to progressing as an offensive weapon and impact player with 15 points and 4 rebounds while playing 36 minutes. I believe the reason for this is because Horne was playing within himself and making good decisions rather than trying to do too much to compensate for Budinger’s slump.

A few other things I was impressed with was Arizona’s ability to counter the tempo and defensive changes that Ernie Kent and the Ducks threw at the ‘Cats. There were a few lapses and mistakes caused by these changes, but on the whole the Wildcats did a nice job of transitioning from one look to another. I was also impressed with Zane Johnson’s first-half performance off the bench. Johnson, who has seen inconsistent minutes for the ‘Cats, came in and grabbed 2 rebounds while posting 7 points over a stretch when the ‘Cats had begun to stagnate. With some more experience and progression I can see Johnson turning into a great role player like Michael Roll for UCLA.

The Bad:

Jordan Hill did not record a double-double since December 14th against Gonzaga. Considering the defensive efforts of the Ducks and Michael Dunigan, I can’t blame Hill on this. Hill still had a solid game with 9 points and 12 rebounds, but expect more defensive focus on Jordan Hill for the rest of the season. The reason Hill’s failure to reach a double-double lands in the “Bad” category has nothing to do with the effort he made – after all he didn’t hurt the team by finding himself in foul trouble or missing open looks. The problem I have is that when teams focus on Hill defensively, the Cats need to run some set plays to get Hill the ball deep in the paint where even the best center in the nation can’t stop him.

Kyle Fogg’s performance, however, is a result of his own doing. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not down on the kid, he had an off game which is to be expected from a freshman responsible for a big role. Fogg had several mental lapses leading to turnovers or fouls and failed to become an offensive threat against the Ducks.

The Ugly:

Nic Wise tops the charts of the ugly factor. The Wildcats were less than stellar in protecting the ball, and Wise was the core reason for this. Wise had 7 of Arizona’s 17 turnovers, and many of them were due to over-penetration and offensive fouls. Wise was also caught off guard by in-prompt-to traps across half court by the Ducks. As a veteran point guard, Wise needs to be prepared for these types of traps and be ready to hit the open man as he sees the trap coming at him. With such a sloppy performance by Wise, Arizona was fortunate that they weren’t facing a team clicking on all cylinders.

In conjunction with Wise’s 7 turnovers, the Wildcats committed 17 team turnovers. The Wildcats were fortunate that the Ducks weren’t able to capitalize on the turnovers the way that CAL or Stanford did. But the turnover situation has to be a major concern for the coaching staff. Since the Kansas game the Wildcats have seen their turnover rate rising as they’ve averaged 15.25 turnovers a game and have committed more turnovers than their opponent in the previous 3 games.

Back to the Ducks:

I was very impressed with the talent and glimpses of what the future holds for the Ducks. There were several points where the Ducks upped the defensive pressure resulting in nine steals and a few second-half mini-runs. A big concern for the Ducks has to be Tejuan Porter. Porter needs to be the leader on this team since Catron is completely unproven, but Porter is extremely inconsistent from game-to-game. With Porter being a focal point for the Ducks offense, they will see erratic scoring and inconsistent play from the entire team until he plays with consistency or another player steps up as the leader.

Despite foul trouble thanks to freshmen inexperience, Dunigan has the looks of a future stud for the Ducks. Ernie Kent would be wise to recruit complimentary players to Dunigan’s game as he will be one of the leading centers in the PAC-10 after the departures of Jordan Hill and Jon Brockman.

Game Highlights Video (Including the inbound play where Dunigan turns his back on Budinger)

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Recap, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball, Sports: General | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What Type of Sports Fan Are You?

Posted by naterb on December 26, 2008

One of the greatest things about sports are the fans. You’ve got the fans with too little shirt and too much mid-section, the crazed college students, season ticket holders, casual fans, avid fans, the guys with signs that have acronymns spelling out the broadcast channel, reserved alumni, and so many more that I have barely made a scratch in the surface. Despite the fact that fans have many ways of showing their enthusiasm for their team, I have ultimately come to the conclusion that there are really only two types of sports fans.

First there are those that love the efficient, calculated, talented teams that near perfection and want to see the dynasties rekindled. Then there are the fans that love the drama, suspense and excitement of the underdog pulling off the cinderella story and beating the proverbial Goliath.

The Perfectionist:This type of sports fan enjoys watching teams like the Patriots go 18-0, and even if they don’t like the team will pull for them to get that final win. They like watching teams like the Spurs be consistent, effecient teams that make few mistakes, and they are always there in the end fighting for the next ring to put on their hands. They have a great appreciation for the art, strategy, and talent required to play the game.

Typically these fans perfer to watch the NBA instead of the NCAA Tournament. They like baseball more than football, and on occassion might carry their own score card. If this were a personality, they would be most like a “Type A” personality. They attend games in polo shirts and slacks, or wearing shorts if it’s hot outside. But for the most part it’s about the science and the art that is the game.

The Cinderella Man:  This type of fan likes to watch George Mason dance it’s way through March on a Cinderella story that lands them in the Final four, even if they couldn’t tell you what the mascot is or what city they call home. This fan enjoys watching teams like Arizona beat 3 #1 seeds on the way to the National Championship, or the Colorado Rockies make the World Series. And of course, they really love it when teams like the Giants pull of the upset against a team like the Patriots looking for perfection. The trick plays of Boise State are a dream come true. It’s about the stories, about the small market team pulling off the win. It’s about the Cubbies winning after 99 long, desperate years filled with Blunders and Bartman’s. These are the crazy fat guys in Green Bay who don’t wear shirts in 8 degree weather. The loonies who paint not just their faces, but their entire body or wear costumes.

These fans love the NCAA Tournament where anything can happen. They thrive on overtime, and if their team isn’t playing will pull for the underdog just as feverishly if it were their al ma mater.  These are the “Type B” sports personalities.

So what kind of fan are you? Type “A” or “B”? Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle… but chances are, you can tell by whether you prefer NCAA Basketball of NBA Basketball.

As for me, give me Cinderella!

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