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PAC-10 Pick 'Em: Week 3

Posted by naterb on January 15, 2009

Picks Week 3

NaterB’s Picks:

Washington State over Oregon State
Washington over Oregon
USC over Arizona State
UCLA over Arizona
Washington State over Oregon
UCLA over Arizona State
Cal over Stanford
Arizona over USC
Washington over Oregon  State

Rather than posting each individuals picks, I have opted for posting the number of people who have picked each team in a given game. If you are interested in viewing the individual picks, check out the Pick ‘Em Threads on cbssports.com

Washington State @ Oregon State
WSU – 8, OSU 1

Washington @ Oregon
UW 6, OU 3

Arizona State @ USC
ASU 7, USC 2

Arizona @ UCLA
UCLA 9, UofA 0

Washington State @ Oregon
WSU 5, 4

Arizona State @ UCLA
ASU 1, UCLA 8

Cal @ Stanford
CAL 6, Stan 3

Arizona @ USC
UofA 6, USC 3

Washington @ Oregon StateU
W 9, OSU 0

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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.

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Cop-Out Coach

Posted by naterb on January 11, 2009

 

Oregon State Coach Craig Robinson is tossed with a little over two minutes remaining in an eight-point game. With a game that close, I can’t help but ask myself, “Why on earth did he do that? What was he thinking?!” The Beavers were out-shooting the Wildcats on the night. In fact, the Wildcats were so bad during the second half that during the final 6 minutes of the game they had more points from the free throw line (eight) than from the field (six). So with the Beavers down 8, controlling the tempo of the game, and the Wildcats having a horrible half shooting, why did Robinson get himelf thrown out of the game by complaining about a loose-ball foul? 

What set me off?” said Robinson, repeating a post-game question.

“When my two guys fell down and there was no call, that’s what set me off. … and I think the fouls were 15-4 (OSU had 15) when I left.

“That was the point at which I wanted our guys to know that I wasn’t allowing them to get pushed around any longer. I wanted to sort of stand up for them.”

Okay Coach, I can respect that, especially since the Wildcats had 5 fouls on the night compared to the Beavers’ 16. But it just doesn’t sit right with me. Why? Because when a team has 16 team fouls it means that they aren’t moving their feet, establishing position, and tend to be reaching. In short, they aren’t hustling and are getting beat to loose balls, rebounds, and facing a team that is playing hard.

My suspicion was further confirmed when I read what Daniel Deane had to say about the technicals.

“They (the refs) didn’t call anything, so it wasn’t a push,” he said. “We were playing hard. They were playing hard. It was an intense game. Emotions were flying around. … me and (Johnson) both went hard for the rebound, and a couple of their players went hard, too. That’s about it.”

Bottom line, Robinson’s actions got him kicked out of a close game, and cost the Beavers any chance they had left. Sometimes a coach finding themselves watching the rest of the game from the locker room can ignite a team. If that was his intent, it backfired. The Beavers would not score again after Robinson’s ejection. Next time coach, instead of getting on the refs, try getting on your players a little more about moving their feet and boxing out instead.

All Quotes taken from: Oregon Live - Coach Rob pulls a Rasheed 

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Pac-10 Picks

Posted by naterb on January 8, 2009

 

Each week during PAC-10 conference play on cbssports.com a group of 40 people participate in a PAC-10 Pick ‘Em league. Every week I will report the picks of 10 UA fans, an Oregon Duck fan, and myself. The members I have selected are well respected members in the cbssports.com community, and are typically able to put aside their bias and homer-ness. I will keep a running tally on the “Pick ‘Em” page and report results after the final game every week.

Enjoy the picks, if you want to play, head over to cbssports.com and check out the Arizona Wildcats message board

Week 2 Games:

  1. CAL @ WSU
  2. OU @ UA
  3. OSU @ ASU
  4. STAN @ UW
  5. OU @ ASU
  6. OSU @ UA
  7. STAN @ WSU
  8. UCLA @ USC

NaterB’s Picks:

  1. CAL – They’re too athletic and too well coached for Washington State.
  2. UA – In a game both teams must win, I’ll take the home team.
  3. ASU – OSU snuck up on USC, don’t expect that to happen on the road in Tempe.
  4. UW – Jon Brockman & Co. will prove too efficient in the paint to be stopped.
  5. ASU – I hate pickin’ the Ducks to go 0-4 to start conference play, but they simply don’t have an answer for Harden.
  6. UA – Jordan Hill and Co. should be able to get the ‘Cats to .500 in conference with this one.
  7. WSU – I’m just not a believer in Stanford, especially on the road against a methodical WSU team.
  8. UCLA – It comes down to coaching and team play, and UCLA has the advantage in both.

TheWedge: 1. WSU, 2. UA, 3. ASU, 4. UW, 5. ASU, 6. UA, 7. CAL, 8. WSU, 9. UCLA
Hosh: 1. WSU, 2. UA, 3. ASU, 4. STAN, 5. ASU, 6. UA, 7. CAL, 8. WSU, 9. UCLA
AZCATSFAN: 1. CAL, 2. UA, 3. ASU, 4.UW,  5.ASU, 6. UA, 7. UW, 8. WSU, 9. UCLA
Diggory Huffle: 1. CAL, 2. UA, 3. ASU, 4. UW, 5. ASU, 6. UA, 7. CAL, 8. STAN, 9. UCLA
Badgers: 1.CAL, 2. UA, 3. ASU, 4. UW, 5. ASU, 6. UA, 7. UW, 8. STAN, 9. USC
Arizona91: 1. CAL, 2. UA, 3. ASU, 4. UW, 5. ASU, 6. UA, 7. CAL, 8. STAN, 9. UCLA
Anaheim Angels: 1. WSU, 2. UA, 3. ASU, 4. UW, 5. ASU, 6. UA, 7. UW, 8. WSU, 9. USC
KDEEZY: 1. CAL, 2. UA, 3. ASU, 4. STAN, 5. ASU, 6. UA, 7. CAL 8. WSU, 9. UCLA
azwildcat: 1. CAL, 2. UA, 3. ASU, 4. STAN, 5 ASU, 6. UA, 7. CAL, 8. WSU, 9. UCLA
n8dawg3333: 1. CAL, 2. UA, 3. ASU, 4. STAN, 5. ASU, 6. UA, 7. UW, 8. STAN, 9. UCLA
Duckbill30: 1. CAL, 2. UA, 3. ASU, 4. UW, 5. ASU, 6. UA, 7. CAL, 8. STAN, 9. UCLA

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Players of the Week

Posted by naterb on January 5, 2009

This is a new thing for me, so if you have any ideas as to how to make this better, I’m all ears, but without further delay, here are the PAC-10 Player of the Week and the Arizona Player of the Week.

PAC-10 Player of the Week:  James Harden

Harden filled up the stat sheet this week with one double-double (17 points, 10 assists – against Stanford), and averaging 21.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and 6 apg. The all-around numbers are what set him ahead of players like Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, teammate Jeff Pendergraph, and Jordan Hill.

Best Game: @ CAL: 26 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists

Runner Up: Jordan Hill

Jordan Hill

Jordan Hill

Arizona Player of the Week: Jordan Hill

Hill averaged 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. A double-double average is a great way to turn yourself into a Lottery Pick for the NBA. If Harden’s stats weren’t so outrageous across the board, Hill would’ve claimed both Arizona Player of the Week and PAC-10 Player of the Week.

Best Game: @ Stanford 17 points, 16 rebounds

Runner Up: Nic Wise

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Game Preview: Arizona @ CAL

Posted by naterb on January 2, 2009

Warning: Today’s game against CAL will have enough history, drama, anticipation and anxiety that drinking super-caffeinated beverage that you are currently holding to your lips must be considered dangerous to your health. The Surgeon General has issued no such warnings, but trust me when I tell you that combining the two will be hazardous to your health. Side effects may include:

  • Mental breakdowns
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Heart attacks
  • The uncontrollable urge to jump out of your over-used recliner every time Arizona makes a basket in the final five minutes causing panic and fear for others within hearing distance.
     

Entering conference play the Wildcats have shown tremendous growth and player development during their OOC (out of conference) games. We’ve seen from nauseating plays to marvelous performances, and heart-breaking losses to spectacular victories. More importantly we’ve seen the transformation of Kyle Fogg and Jamelle Horne into impact players. But there is still a laundry list of unanswered questions and hurdles that still loom in the path of the ‘Cats. The only thing that is certain about Arizona’s Conference Opener against CAL is that they will have their first opportunity to provide answers to the questions.

The first question that Arizona needs an answer to is can they win on the road? In an uncharacteristic OOC schedule the Wildcats found themselves at on the road for only two of their nine games. With few opportunities to win on the road, and both occasions producing a loss, the ‘Cats have already been dubbed a team that can’t win on the road.

I don’t believe this is the case. Both losses came against more experienced teams in Texas A&M and UNLV. The fact that Arizona jumped out to an early lead and led until the final 30 seconds of the game is an indication that they weren’t playing scared, but fell victim to a more experienced squad on the road. During the second road trip to UNLV the found themselves pitted up against the toughest defensive team they’ve faced this year – and the Rebels just happened to be having their break out game this year. Neither of those situations are easy ways to pick up a road win. Because of that, I believe that the lack of a road win for this squad has more to do with limited opportunity and not capability.

Despite the fact that Arizona has dominated this conference match-up recently, with a 16-2 record since 2001, winning at Haas Pavilion will not be an easy task. While it is important to note that both of the losses came on the road at Haas Pavilion and CAL is 8-0 at home this season, there are bigger obstacles and facets to this game that trouble me. That leads me to the next question that Arizona has to find an answer for. Can Arizona’s defense step up and shut down  the prolific 3-point shooting of the Gold Bears?

For the season as a whole, Arizona has defended the perimeter very well by limiting opponents to 33.5% from beyond the arc. But in their three losses Arizona has allowed average 3-point shooting teams to hit marks of 43.3% (UAB), 45% (TxA&M), and 45.2% (UNLV). Not a single team averages above 35% on the season from beyond the arc. Defending the perimeter against CAL is a much more daunting task. The Golden Bears lead the nation in three-point percentage with an amazing 50.6% from beyond the arc. Arizona is going to have to step out on Jerome Randle (32-57), Theo Robertson (24-39), and Patrick Christopher (13-36).

My third question I mentioned in my entry “Shooting Problems & Muscle Strains.” This is a three-part question. First, can Chase Budinger break out of his recent shooting funk, or will he return to his previously lethargic shooting performances from his freshman and sophomore years? Secondly, will Jordan Hill’s leg be healed enough for him to suit up? If you haven’t realized how important Hill’s floor presence is to this team, suffice it to say he is the key that unlocks the offense and deadbolts the defense. Finally, if either of the questions are answered “no” then can the rest of the ‘Cats step up enough to get the win? Recently, the ‘Cats have seen amazing decision making by Nic Wise whose play has been drastically better since the loss at UNLV. More importantly, we’ve seen Jamelle Horne and Kyle Fogg blossom into impact players for this team. If Budinger or Hill are incapable of overcoming their problems, all three of these players will need to step up in a big way.

A Few Twists:

As I stated before, CAL is the best three-point shooting team in the nation. What I didn’t mention is that Arizona is the second-best three-point shooting team that drops them in at a clip of 43.5 percent. If that doesn’t heighten the importance for both teams perimeter defense, perhaps this will: On the season CAL has been limiting opponents to 32.1% from beyond  the arc, but in their two losses they allowed Florida State to shoot 41% and Missouri to shoot 46.2%.

The return of Mike Montgomery on the opposing bench is what has my interest piqued the most. Remember, the last time Arizona faced a Montgomery-led team was February 7, 2004. The #12 Wildcats traveled to Maples Pavilion in to face the second-ranked Cardinal. My narration can’t do justice to this so click play on the video below and you’ll see one heck of an ending.

Not only do I find it interesting that the last time Arizona faced off against Montgomery was on the road in the Bay Area against an evenly matched opponent, but I’m anticipating this to be the first thriller of many thrillers to come in this series.

Breaking Down CAL:

Team MVP: Jerome Randle – 19.5 ppg, 4.8 apg, 56% 3-pt
Other CAL features:
Theo Robertson 12.1 ppg, 61.5% 3-pt shooter
Patrick Christopher 14.0 ppg, 36.1 3-pt shooter
Jamal Boykin 9.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg
Everyone else: 17.6 ppg, 14.5 rpg

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Lessons From a Coach

Posted by naterb on January 1, 2009

It’s funny, every year starting around December 28th people start talking about the New Year.  A buzz of excitement begins as the idea of changing a simple number on the calendar means that some big changes are going to happen in the coming year. People will resolve to lose the 25 pounds by doing something they couldn’t do – putting down the donuts and getting in the gym –  since mid January of last year when they broke their 2008 resolution of losing 25 pounds. For some they believe that the new year will bring them fortuitous financial endeavors, or that special someone, or a resolution to their many problems.

Whatever they’re hoping for, it’s typically not something tangible, and is a lot to expect from a clock turning from 11:59 pm on December 31, 2008 to 12:00 am on January 01, 2009.  A clock can’t change you, can’t make you better. That takes self-determination and understanding of your position in life. Need an example? Bruce Pascoe brings one to you in his coverage of Jay John in this New Year’s Day’s paper.

I know what you’re thinking, I said I was covering Arizona Basketball and I’m bringing up an article about Jay John?! It doesn’t fit. Actually, it does. John is a class-act who is doing things the right way, and has a lot of Tucson ties. He was born in Tucson, graduated from the UA and was an assistant coach for the UA, and various other schools within the PAC-10. But I’m not going to repeat to you what you can learn on wikipedia, or in Pascoe’s article.

What interested me about this story is Jay John is a guy that is doing it right. After failing to make Oregon State a competitor in the PAC-10 and each year perpetually getting worse, John had decided that he needs to take a step back and become a coach again. I like this, not because I think John should be an assistant coach, but because he’s not pounding the same pavement hoping for a different result. He’s going back to the basics, so to speak.

In doing so, John has shown that he is a self-aware man who is willing to do what it takes to succeed in the long run. He takes a disappointing situation and uses it to better himself. Clearly, John realizes that it takes time, determination, and a process that doesn’t happen just because the calendar changes from December to January.  Therein lies the biggest tie to the present-day Arizona Wildcats program, and a big lesson that Jim Livengood can learn from.

If there is one thing that is certain, 2009 will bring a different head coach to the Arizona basketball program. As fans, we may like the direction that the coach takes the program or we may not. But one thing is for certain, things will change. It is up to Livengood to make the proper decisions and to ultimately hire the new coach that will bring about these changes. My hope in all of this is that Livengood looks at what Jay John has done, and takes a few pointers as to what a good program coach looks like.

Lesson One: It’s all about the students and the school.

I don’t want a guy like Billy Donovan who had a few great recruiting classes, won the National Championship and nearly bailed on the program. I don’t want a guy like Reggie Theus who had a few successful years at New Mexico State, and bailed on the team to try his own agenda. I don’t want that because that is somebody that isn’t here for the program, but for self promotion. And if Arizona basketball is going to transition from the Lute Olson era to a new one and continue its tradition of success, while it’s all about the coach, the coach can’t be about himself.

Lesson Two: Make the Adjustment

Ever heard the quote “Chaos is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result”? Many coaches fall into this habit. They have a certain style for their recruiting, coaching, game plan, and how they make decisions in life. Livengood needs to look carefully at the wake that potential coaches have left. Do they ruin programs or run them into the ground? Do they have problems with personnel or players? Is there signs of growth after failure or do they stick with their “plan”?

I don’t want a coach like Kevin O’Neill who has been bounced from job to job and ultimately run off from 3/4 of them because of his attitude. I don’t want a coach like him because he can only coach to his strengths and not the strengths of the team.

Third Lesson: Know when to pull the trigger

Jay John knew he had an opportunity to become a head coach with Oregon State – granted he failed to be successful in the long run – but at least he knew when to make the jump. Had he stayed at Arizona he probably would’ve become entrenched as an assistant his whole life. He saw an opportunity, took a risk, and went for it. Livengood has to know when to pull the trigger on hiring a new coach. Make sure you’ve got the right guy for the job, and pull the trigger – don’t just take the first coach that shows interest. Set your goals and go after them, but be ready with a “plan B” if that should fail.

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Shooting Problems & Muscle Strains

Posted by naterb on December 31, 2008

After one of their best performances in a 17-point win over Kansas two days before Christmas, Arizona seemed to be putting all the pieces together. Budinger was quiet offensively, which is a concern, but Jamelle Horne and Kyle Fogg both stepped up big. Arizona was making great strides towards being truly ready to compete for a PAC-10 crown.
A week later, Jordan Hill misses an insignificant game against Weber State from the Big Sky Conference. It was prevalent how important Jordan Hill is to the Wildcats. The ‘Cats failed to find offensive consistency, and weren’t able to pressure the Wildcats of Weber State on the perimeter. Even still, I wasn’t too concerned because I figured that Pennell was taking a precautionary measure to give Hill’s leg time to fully heal. That was until I read this excerpt in the AZ Daily Star.
UA center Jordan Hill did not practice Tuesday and remains day-to-day with a muscle strain in his lower left leg, according to UA spokesman Richard Paige.
Hill hurt the muscle in practice Saturday and did not play Monday against Weber State, though Pennell said he is likely to play against the Bears.
It wasn’t a huge concern for me that he didn’t play in a game, but missing practice leading into PAC-10 play concerns me. Hill needs to be ready to perform as Arizona makes a trip to the Bay Area in hopes of their first road win of the season. CAL is a very good team that is well coached, and Stanford is always a tough road win.
My concern is heightened by the fact that Chase Budinger has been in a shooting funk recently. Budinger is 4-for-23 in the last two games. Even though Horne and Fogg stepped up in the Kansas game, Arizona had Hill on the floor. If Arizona faces off with CAL, Stanford, or any other team in the PAC-10 that doesn’t have a wood eating mammal for their mascot without Hill in the lineup and Budinger having an off night it will likely result in a loss.
I don’t mention this because I want to be an alarmist, or because I’m lacking faith in these kids. But this is a young team with two of it’s three key players inactive or ineffective heading into conference play. Hill will return, and if Pennell is right it will be just in time. Budinger will eventually break out of his shooting slump, but in the mean time, and in the long run as well, the ‘Cats need Jamelle Horne and Fogg to continue to build upon their recent efforts.

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