PAC-10 Basketball

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PAC-10 Preview

Posted by naterb on October 30, 2009

PAC-10 Basketball Outlook: 2009-2010

Despite the prognostications that the PAc-10 would have down years the past two season, six teams have earned NCAA Tournament bids each season, and have combined for three Sweet-16 finishes and one Final Four appearance.

But thanks to a mass exodus of talent (27 NBA draftees in three seasons), the four season streak of 60% of the conference in the NCAA tournament is in jeopardy, and it appears that the pundits prognostications will prove that the third time truly is a charm.

The biggest reason why the PAC-10 could suffer a down year isbecause of their youth and lack of qaulity veteran players. The PAC-10 lost ten players to the NBA draft in 2009, seven of which were first-round picks. If that’s not bad enough, only two All-PAC -10 players (Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle) return for a 2010 encore. Don’t take a down year for the PAC-10 to mean they won’t be competitive, however – afterall, this isn’t a “down year” in C-USA.

With a large influx of young talent, including four Top-25 recruiting classes (UCLA, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon State) according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, the PAC-10 as a whole is staving off the rebuilding process.

In the conference, only three teams can be considered to be on the rise though, while four teams have taken a steps back, with the remaining three managing to stay stagnant.

If the player changes aren’t enough to cause some concern for a lull in the overall performance of the conference, the coaching changes should. The conference continues to get its coaching make-over with three new coaches taking the sidelines this year, bringing the total to half the league in the past two seasons.

With all the changes occuring during the off-season, the conference will likely get off to a bumpy start, and fans everywhere will have to withhold judgement until the end of he season when the obstacles of coaching changes, and inexperience will have all been overcome.

The biggest key to be aware of in the conference is what team can get solid frontcourt play. If any team gets surprising dominance in their frontcourt, they could have a fast-track to the top of the conference since there is but a select few quality true big men in the PAC-10.

Coaching Changes

Arizona – It was an unfortunate end to a well respected and endeared coach, but it had to happen sometime. Arizona improves their situation as they were finally able to go away from the interim coaches and bring in Sean Miller. They dodged more than one bullet in the process though.

Washington State – The final day for Bennett in Pullman was rumored to have been on the horizon for over a year before he finally departed. His presence will be sorely missed by the Cougars, who managed to hire a solid replacement in Ken Bone. Unfortunately, the transitio nwill take a few years before the Cougars could become truly competitive again.

USC – The biggest losers in all of the off-season changes weren’t spared changes at coach either. Scandal, or rumor of one at the very least ran off Tim Floyd. To replace him they brought in the ever-wandering Kevin O’Neill who has limited success anywhere he goes.

Pre-Season Predictions

Standings

Team (Projected conference record) – compared to 08-09

  1. CAL (16-2) – Stagnant
  2. Washington (14-4) – Stagnant
  3. UCLA (12-6) – On the decline
  4. Arizona (11-7) – On the rise
  5. Oregon (10-8) – On the rise
  6. Oregon State (9-9) – On the rise
  7. Arizona State (6-12) – On the decline
  8. Washington State (5-13) – On the decline
  9. USC (4-14) – On the decline
  10. Stanford (2-16) – Stagnant

Player of the Year: Jerome Randle

Freshman of the Year: Abdul Gaddy

First-Team All-PAC-10                  All-Freshman Team

PG-Patrick Christopher  (CAL)         PG-Abdul Gaddy
SG-Jerome Randle  (CAL)                   SG-Trent Lockett
SF-Quincy Pondexter (UW)               SF-Tyler Honeycutt (UCLA)
PF-Joevan Catron (OU)                       PF-Reeves Nelson (UCLA)
C-Michael Dunigan (OU)                      C-Kyryl Natyazhko (UofA

Team by Team

Arizona Wildcats

Projected Finish: Home 6-3, Away 5-4, NCAA Tournament

The Big Question: Can the ‘Cats overcome the adjustment to their third coach in as many seasons, and in the process get impact play from former role palyers and incoming freshman to make it to their 26th consecutive NCAA Tournament?

Key Departures: Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, Zane Johnson
Key Additions: Kyryl Natyazhko, Solomon Hill, Lamont “MoMo” Jones

The priority for the Wildcats this year isn’t the NCAA Tournament – at least that’s what Coach Miller will say. I know it sounds wierd, but he’s actually right. The Wildcats will look bumpy in the early goings as they turn to Jamelle Horne, Kyle Fogg, and a strong recruiting class to fill more than the void left by the departures of Hill and Budinger.

With a new coach in Miller and  versatile backcourt, the ‘Cats have th epieces in order to make ap ush for their 26th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Of course, that depends on if Nic Wise decides to trust his teammates and showcase his decision making abilities instead of trying to get deep in the paint where he becomes turnover happy.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Projected Finish: Home 4-5, Away 2-7, None

The Big Question: Can the Sun Devils compensate for the loss of Harden and Pendergraph with a turn-around performance by Eric Boateng and a Freshman of the Year type performance from Trent Lockett?

Key Departures: James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph
Key Arrivals: Trent Lockett, Victor Rudd

This is going to be a grueling year for the Sun Devils who look to Rihards Kuksiks and Derek Glasser to be their “to-go'” guys. They still have talent and will be a steady-handed team with Glasser at the helm. But with the combination of athletics and talent failing to combine in one player, the Sun Devils will be looking to rebuild.

Sendek is a solid coach who will instill a game plan that pulls the advantage towards his players, so the Sun Devils will be in a lot of games even if they can’t close them out.

California Golden Bears

Projected Finish: Home 7-1, Away 7-1, NCAA Tournament

The Big Question: With no major changes to their lineup, can the Golden Bears rely on their experience and depth to avoid a late-season collapse circa ’08-’09, propelling them to the top of the conference in Mike Montgomerey’s second season in Berkeley?

Key Departures: None
Key Arrivals: None

When Patrick Christopher opted to stay in school, keeping the best 3-point shooting backcourt intact, the Golden Bears became an almost instant lock for one of the top two spots in the conference.

With more experience, look for guards D.J. Seeley and others to make greater impact as CAl avoids a late-season meltdown and cruisies their way through the conference and into the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon Ducks

Projected Finish Home 6-3, Away 4-5, NIT

The Big Question: Can Kent capitalize on the young talent in Eugene and restoring the Ducks to contention and save his job with one of the greatest single-season turnarounds?

Key Departures: Franz Dorsainvill
Key Additions: Jamil Wilson, E.J. Singler

Last year was an aberratio nfor a team with as much talent as the Ducks had on their roster – at least Ernie Kent hopes so. With players like Michael Dunigan, Joevan Catron, and Tejuan Porter the Ducks have too much talent to suffer like they did last year.

The main argument for another down-year is that losing, just like winning, becomes a habit. Lazy and carless play riddled the Ducks a season ago, but with Mike Dunlap courtside, the Ducks should be more disciplined – especially on the defensive end.

Oregon State Beavers

Projected Finish: Home 4-5, Away 5-4, NIT

The Big Question: After making significant strides last year, can the Beavers continue to surprise this season by jumping into the top five of the conference with addition of a Top-25 recruiting class?

Key Departures: Rickey Claitt
Key Arrivals: Roberto Nelson, Jared Cunning Ham

With how OSU has turned around in just one season under Craig Robinson, it is no wonder there is a strong recruiting pull in Corvallis now – being the POTUS’ brother-in-law aside.

After returning the majority of his roster from a season ago, and adding a Top-15 recruiting class, Robinson will look to push the tempo a little more tihs season as the Beavers are becoming continually more versatile under his watch.

Stanford Cardinal

Projected Finish Home 2-7, Away 0-9, None

The Big Question: Can the cardinal take a step in the right direction despite losing three of their five starters and a key bench player, or will they continue to suffer heavily for another year?

Key Departures: Kenny Brown, Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill, Mitch Johnson
Key Additions: Gabriel Harris, Andrew Zimmerman

If the below-average season for the Cardinal wasn’t bad enough last season, things are going to ge a whole lot worse as the Caridnal lost a majority of their starting lineup from a year ago and turn to a Santa Clara cast-off and role players to fill that gaping hole.

Barring the surprise development of a below-average role player to elite status, the Cardinal rely entirely on Landy Fields. Despite the conference being weaker than it has bene in recent memory, Fields isn’t capable of carrying the Cardinal past most of the teams in the conference.

UCLA Bruins

Projected Finish: Home 6-3, Away 6-3

The Big Question: Can the freshman and role players from the past two years turn the Bruins into a serious conteder again this year, or will they be like seven of the other teams looking for table scraps after Cal and UW have cleared through?

Key Departures: Alfred Aboya, Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, Jrue Holiday, James Diefenbach
Key Arrivals: Tyler Honeycutt, Brendan Lane, Mike Moser, Nelson Reeves, Anthony Stover

The Bruins lost too much to the draft and graduation this past off-season not to suffer a set back. Originally I didn’t expect the setback to be too severe, considering that players like Malcolm Lee and Michael Roll were capable of starting on most teams a year ago. Combine that with a Top-25 recruiting class and it appears the Bruins should be right back near the top again.

But the more I think about it, the less certain I am. Especially with the loss of 47.3 ppg, and 15.7 rpg.  That’s 62% of their scoring power, and 43% of their rebounding. In addition, the Bruins are now deprived of their veteren point guard and center and a constant playe-maker in Jrue Holiday. That’s just too much to compensate for in just one season.

In the end, the Bruins are still one of the top five teams in the conference, but rather than fighting to be one or two, they’ll be fighting to be anywhere from third to sixth.

USC Trojans

Projected Finish: Home 4-5, Away 0-9, None

The Big Question: It’s not really if, but how far will the Trojans fall without a premier freshman on the wing and no threat to speak of inside the paint.

Key Departures: Tim Floyd, DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett, Terence Green, Marcus Johnson, Keith Wilkinson, Their entire 2009 recruiting class
Key Arrivals: Kevin O’Neill – wow, that’s sad when he isn’t just a key arrival, but the only key arrival.

Gone are four of five starters, Time Floyd, ever-changing defenses and just about everything else that made the Trojans a force to be reckoned with last season. With O’Neill at the helm, the Trojans will be strictly a man-to-man defensive team that struggles with the few remnants left in the cupobard after a fall out of one of the worst scandals in recent recruiting.

they still have some talent left that is capable of an upset win or two, but don’t expect anything to come on the road as the Trojans don’t have the talent or power to outcoach or outplay anybody away from the Galen Center.

The Trojans mirror the Cardinal with one primary go-to guy in Dwight Lewis. But it’s going to be abumpy road for the Trojans this season, especially with NCAA sanctions looming in the near future.

Washington Huskies

Projected Finish: Home 7-2, Away 7-2, NCAA Tournament

The Big Question: Can the Huskies get enough production out of their frontcourt to overcome the Golden bears for a top spot in the conference or will the loss of Brockman be too much?

Key Departures: Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon, Artem Wallace
Key Additions: Abdul Gaddy, Charles Garcia, Clarence Trent, C.J. Wilcox

Abdul Gaddy was a heck of a pick up for Lorezno Romar who will have one of the best backcourts in the conference, if not the nation. The problem the Huskies face is their lack of aproven post player following the departure of Jon Brockman. Matthew Bryan-Amaning is solid, but has not bee relied upon heavily thus far. Bryan-Amaning has been solid in the role he has filled, and should be a confident pick for break-out player of the year with a more prominant role, but there will still be some drop-off.

The Huskies will be good and are the second-most picked team to win the conference. But the decline in the post presence, and less experience will leave them getting passed up by the Golden Bears for top honors.

Washington State Cougars

Projected Finish: Home 2-7, Away 3-6

The Big Question: Can Ken Bone capitalize on players like Klay Thompson to make this team a viable running team and prevent the Cougars from falling into the 8-10 spots in the conference?

Key Departures: Tony Bennet, Aron Baynes, Caleb Forrest, Daven Harmeling, Taylor Rochestie
Key Arrivals: Xavier Thames, Anthony Brown, Reggie Moore

Klay Thompson will fit nicely into the up-tempo pace that former Portland State coach Ken Bone will bring to Pullman, WA. Unfortunately, the Cougars have lost three signicant contributors from their team last year. While they did bring in a few nice recruits, they aren’t the caliber of players that have thee capability to compensate for the loss of players like Taylor Rochestie.

The loss of Bennett is huge, but the Cougars will rebound under Bone. It will be interesting to see how the old-style PAC-10 run-n-gun will play out with a majority of the teams switching to a defense-minded attack with emphasis on quality small forwards.

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Wildcats Network

Posted by naterb on July 15, 2009

The Tucson Citizen reported yesterday that a new “Wildcats TV Network” will begin broadcasting on September 5th with the Wildcats’ non-conference football match-up against Central Michigan. With negotiations failing between Fox Sports Arizona and the Wildcats, this was only a logical step. You can check out the details of how it will work here or watch it here.

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The Rivalry: Part II

Posted by naterb on February 21, 2009

When Arizona and Arizona State met up one month ago, the game ended in one of the most controversial calls we’ve seen in this rivalry in some time. While the call ultimately sealed the deal for the Sun Devils, to claim that it cost the ‘Cats the game would be pushing it too far. The Wildcats were plagued by simple, yet costly mistakes that set them in the position for a whistle to be capable of determining so much in the game. Frankly, if the Wildcats deserved to win that game they wouldn’t have been in that position.

 

Ironically, that is the last time the Wildcats have found themselves in such a position this season. During the past seven games the Wildcats have outscored their opponents by 8.2 points per game, and have eclipsed an average of 82.6 points during that time. They have also found themselves on the right end of the turnover battle while forcing opponents into 15.4 per game while committing 14.6 themselves.

 

If that’s not enough, it appears as though the Big Three are finally living up to their bidding with all three averaging between 19-21 points per game. But that’s not been all their scoring. They’ve seen significant impact from Kyle Fogg and Zane Johnson on both ends of the court. This team has been clicking on all cylinders the past seven games and look to continue when they travel to Tempe today to face the Sun Devils.

 

ASU has been on a bit of a tear themselves, with an active 4-game winning streak under their belts the Sun Devils have seen continued dominance from Harden and Pendergraph, and have been getting some big games from Derek Glasser and Rihards Kuksiks.

 

The keys to the game are the same as the last time out, but it can all be summarized to say that they simply need to avoid the simple mistakes that cost them just a few short weeks ago. The Sun Devils are fighting for a better seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the ‘Cats are fighting to secure their ticket. Both teams are within reach of the PAC-10 conference lead, and face the top-ranked Washington Huskies next week. Things are getting interesting in the conference, and this game is going to have hefty consequences for both teams.

 

Keys to the Game

Harden Up: James Harden is the driving force for the Sun Devils, if you can contain or limit his play-making ability you disable ASU’s offense. Arizona doesn’t have a defender capable of face guarding him and shutting him down the way that Tim Floyd and USC did, but they should be able to slow him down.

Win the Blocks: The inside battle will be key. Neither team has much (if any) quality depth in the frontcourt. So a lot of the rebounding responsibilities fall on the guards, and the Wildcats have to be ready to box out. They’ll also need to make it a pointed effort to get Jordan Hill active and involved early in the game.

Stick ‘em Up: The Wildcats need to get their hands up on shooters, especially Kuksiks outside the 3-point line. ASU doesn’t have many players that can create their own shot, so rotating in the zone and getting a hand in the Sun Devils’ faces will be crucial. If Arizona wants to pull out the home win, they’ll need to limit the number of open looks they give the Sun Devils.

Protect the Ball: The Sun Devils have the 2nd lowest turnover average in the conference with 12.4 per game (Arizona has 12.5) to go along with 6.6 steals. In each of their losses this season the Wildcats have turned the ball over more than their opponent and been outscored in points-off-turnovers by a significant amount.

 

For more on this rivalry, see my previous post with individual position break-downs.

http://sportscapsule.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/the-rivalry/

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PAC-10 Power Rankings: Week 4

Posted by naterb on January 25, 2009

pac10-power-rankings5

  1. Washington – Don’t expect the Huskies to stay in the top spot for too long, but after an impressive sweep of the SoCal schools they certainly deserve it. They have some very impressive wins in the first half of conference play.
  2. UCLA – You can’t fault the Bruins too much for a road loss in Seattle – especially considering they’ve had a problem playing there for some time now. They’ll be back on top before too long.
  3. Arizona State – I was going to drop them for their poor shooting and fortunate win against Arizona last week, that is until Cal lost at home to Oregon State. Don’t expect them to stay in this spot much longer. Read the rest of this entry »

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PAC-10 Player of the Week: Week 3

Posted by naterb on January 19, 2009

PAC-10 Player of the Week: DeMar DeRozan (USC)

WhileDeRozan’s total stats aren’t that impressive (32 points, 12 rebounds), DeRozan was largely responsible for holding James Harden to 0-8 and 4 points in a fantastic defensive effort. To me, that’s more impressive than Rochestie’s 44 points, 6 rebounds, and 14 assists against the Oregon schools. Partly because Rochestie did put those numbers up against the Oregon schools, and partly because to hold Harden to 0 field goals is unbelievably incredible.

Runner-Up: Kevin Brill (REF)

Brill almost single-handedly won the game for the Trojans on Saturday. He came up with the big play in a crucial moment that gave the Trojans the confidence and momentum they needed during the final 3:50 to pull out a 1-point home win.

Arizona Player of the Week: Chase Budinger

Budinger is officially out of his slump. After rough outing after rough outing, Budinger finally steps up big. He was the focal point for UCLA and USC defensively and still put up solid numbers against these kids. He gave us fans a glimpse as to why he was so highly touted coming in and why he’s projected as a first-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

Runner Up: Jordan Hill

Hill had a monster game against UCLA, and save but first half foul trouble he had a good game against USC as well.

 

 

 

 

Do you think Kevin Brill would’ve gotten this one right?

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PAC-10 Power Rankings: Week 3

Posted by naterb on January 19, 2009

pac10-power-rankings4

  1. UCLA (E)
    They made Arizona’s make-shift 1-1-3 zone look awful. They had an offensive explosion with five players reaching double-digit scoring. But losing at home against ASU in a game you controlled in the second half shows they aren’t as far ahead of the rest of the conference as they would hope.
    Last Week: W vs. Arizona 83-60, L vs. ASU 61-58
  2. CAL (E)
    With their first loss in conference play coming against a rival in a close game, you can’t fault CAL too much – especially when you went on the road for a game filled with more drama than any other rival game will contain this year. The game against UCLA is getting bigger and bigger each week.
    L at Stanford 75-69
  3. ASU (E)
    A win at Pauley is impressive. But as great as that was, the loss against USC was bad enough to keep them from moving past CAL. Losing by 12 to a defensive minded team exploited their lack of players outside of Pendergraph and Harden. Shut Harden down and they falter.
    L at USC 61-49, W at UCLA 61-58 Read the rest of this entry »

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PAC-10 Power Rankings – Week 2

Posted by naterb on January 12, 2009

pac10-power-rankings

1. UCLA (E)
UCLA has shown great guard play and have maintained the top position despite the drop-off in talent from the previous few years. They’re aren’t a lock for the conference title by any stretch, even if the conference is weaker this year.
Last Week: W. @ USC 64-60

2. California (E)
Randle and Christopher have been sensational. They even got some help from Robertson this week too. Winning a close game on the road is a solid way to boost your confidence. Watch out UCLA, CAL just might have the best backcourt in the conference.
Last Week: W @ WSU 57-50, W @ UW 88-85 (OT)

3. Arizona State (E)
ASU remains solid at home, and put on a defensive clinic against Oregon State. We’ll see how good they really are when they travel to Pauley on Thursday.
Last Week: W vs. OSU 69-38, W v. OU 76-58

4. Washington (E)
Washington got a monster week from Jon Brockman and Isaiah Thomas this week. Can’t fault them for a 3-point OT loss to the hottest team in the conference right now.
Last Week: W. vs. STAN 84-83, L vs. CAL 88-85 (OT)

5. Arizona (+2)
The Big Three are starting to show the minutes they’ve played and it’s resulting in a slump passing from player to player. Zane Johnson has stepped up and could earn himself a starting role in the next few weeks.
Last Week: W vs. OU 67-52, W vs. OSU 64-47

6. USC (E)
The Trojans are lacking a lot of chemistry and are paying the price in close games. A close loss to UCLA isn’t a big deal, but they lack too much chemistry to be considered a serious contender at this point.
Last Week: L vs. UCLA 64-60

7. Washington State (+2)
Rochestie stepped up big for the Cougars this week, and were fortunate not to be 0-3 to start conference play before finally hitting the road next week.
Last Week: L vs. Cal 50-57, W vs. Stan 55-54

8. Stanford (-3)
A pair of 1 point losses is tough. Their guards can’t carry them much longer.
Last Week: L @ UW 83-84, L  @ WSU 55-54

9. Oregon State (-1)
They got man-handled by ASU & UofA this week, but they are organized and playing hard. That Princeton offense keeps them closer than they probably should be.
Last Week: L @ ASU 69-38, L @ UA 64-47

10. Oregon (E)
If inexperience is bad, then these guys are awful. Catron and Porter were nowhere this past week. Is the team giving up on Ernie Kent?
Last Week: L @ UA 67-52, L @ ASU 76-58

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Coming Soon…

Posted by naterb on January 5, 2009

Throughout the course of a season I like to look ahead and figure out how things will play out for the remainder of the year, look at recruiting prospects, and the overall shape of the program as a whole. Without a head coach to take over the program the recruiting trail isn’t just cold, it is frozen, and because of the youth on the program it is currently impossible to gauge how the rest of the season will play out. Since there are more questions looking forward, I decided to look back over Olson’s tenure at Arizona and the program he had built. That line of thought is what brought me to this topic.

If I were called upon to make an All-Time Lute Olson Team (from Arizona only of course) who would I put on the team? Over the course of several days I thought about the players, their stats, accomplishments, and problems. There are so many great players who have sat under Olson’s tutelage, and it was hard to eliminate players. So here’s my criteria

Must have two years playing under Coach O (Sorry Bayless, Budinger, and Hill, you’re out)

Must have been a starter for a minimum of 2 years.

Can’t transfer away from the program or be kicked off the team (Sorry Joseph Blair, you wound up being too much of a head case for this team)

Only college performance is taken into consideration – post college career is irrelevant.

I set these standards out because I wanted guys that, for the most part, were representative of what Olson tried to instill in the program: a sense of class and hard work ethic. Also because I wanted to get the best talent possible that Olson has produced in an Arizona uniform.

The second part to it is that I wanted an “operational” team. I gave myself 12 roster spots, the same as any college program, and required that I have serviceable position players. You have to have a strong frontcourt, a great point guard, a 3-point specialist, and great wingmen.

To be honest, I found making a 12-man roster to taxing because I felt bad for leaving some great players off the All-Time list. To appease that I decided to create two separate teams and then produce an All-Time team from there. To split the teams up, I decided to go with an “Old School” team where players graduated or declared for the draft in 1996 or earlier and a “New School” team where players graduated or declared for the draft in 1997 or later. I decided on these years because if you take the graduating/draft declarations who had two years under Olson, this splits it almost down the middle.

Over the next few days (hopefully Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) I will reveal these teams. Please feel free to respond with your “Old School” “New School” and All-Time teams. I’m sure that there will be some differences, but I think this is a neat way to remember the great things that this program has seen. (And after getting swept in the Bay Area road trip, it may be a needed boost!)

 

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Game Recap: Arizona @ Stanford

Posted by naterb on January 5, 2009

Just a quick side note before I recap the Arizona/Stanford game:

One thing about me that you will learn, is that I always want to focus on the positive things surrounding the Wildcats. My main reason for doing this is because these kids on the floor are not paid professionals, and a majority of them will never make it to the professional level. Sure they’re being compensated by the University to play by getting their tuitions paid for in return of putting on that uniform. I know that there are a lot of fans and media members that don’t view it this way, but I do. Call it the silver-lining mentality or being an optimist if you like, but the bottom line is that there is almost always something positive to right about.

My tendency to focus on the positives in a game is really being challenged with the recap of this game. I owe it to you as a reader who is taking your time to get my opinion, and learn what transpired during the Wildcats’ game against Stanford. So I’ll try and focus on the good things as much as I can but it won’t be easy because this game was filled with a lot of bad performances.

-NaterB

Yeah, thats about right.

Yeah, that's about right.

The Wildcat’s 16-point loss to Stanford was the worst loss at Maples since February 7, 1983, a season before Olson arrived in Tucson and the ‘Cats went 1-17 in conference play. This is also the first time that the Wildcats have started the conference 0-2 since the ‘04-‘05 season when they opened with losses to ASU and CAL. The margin of defeat, while disappointing, isn’t nearly as discouraging as the performance by the Wildcats as a whole. Sure, Chase Budinger found himself with double-digits again, and the ‘Cats shot 48% while Stanford had 44%, and Jordan Hill and Nic Wise seemed to be able to score almost at will. So why was the performance so disappointing?

The ‘Cats never really showed up tonight, and failed to find any sort of rhythm all night long. They found early in the first half that they could score almost at will inside the paint as their first 10 points came from dunks, lay-ups, or short jumpers. Jordan Hill exploited the under-manned Stanford frontcourt to the tune of 13 points and 7 rebounds in the first half. Unfortunately, after the first half the ‘Cats stopped looking inside with Jordan Hill only getting four touches for four points in the second half. I’m not understanding how a team with a significant and distinct advantage would not use it, it simply boggles my mind.

Another missed opportunity was Nic Wise’s ability to get past any Stanford defender almost at will. Sure he went for 13 points in the second half, but he would only take advantage of his quickness every fourth or fifth possession. They ought to have kept running the same plays, Wise penetrating and finding Hill or getting a lay-up, until Stanford found a way to stop them. By going away from that and trying to get other players who are playing scared or are currently incapable of throwing it into the ocean, Arizona effectively gave up their advantage and handed the game to Stanford on a silver platter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing Stanford here, in fact despite Stanford appearing semi-lazy they still managed to fight of any attempts Arizona could muster by going on mini-runs to keep the game out of reach. They only shot 34.8 percent from beyond the arc, but it seemed like they would always hit them when the momentum would start to shift – and a ridiculous amount of them came from the corner. I commend Stanford on that, but also am appalled at Arizona’s lack of effort on the defensive end. It was down-right horrid.

The ugliest part of the game wasn’t the fact that they didn’t exploit their advantages, or shut clamp down the perimeter defense – even if Stanford did only shoot 34%. Simply put, the ugliest part of the game was that the Wildcats were playing outside of themselves and their roles, and they were playing frustrated tonight. While I commend Jamelle Horne for his hustle tonight, he reminded me of Jordan Hill because of the inexcusable fouls. Horne knew that Budinger was slumping and was attempting to step up and fill the void. Unfortunately, rather than sticking to what Horne does best, he tried to do too much and hurt the team by fouling out with nearly six minutes remaining.. Zane Johnson also played outside himself when he put the ball on the floor for consecutive plays and picked up an offensive foul.

When Budinger’s inability to score and be an offensive threat first started, players were playing within themselves and their capabilities. Horne posted a double-double, Fogg had a fantastic game, and everything was okay. Now as Budinger’s and the team’s frustration level is rising because of this slump, we’re seeing players trying to do too much and not combining hustle and effort with smart play. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed by Pennell and Co. in a huge manner, and for the time being “The Big Three” has become “The Big Two” and that’s something the Wildcats will only find limited success with.

The Good:

  • Jordan Hill tallies a double-double again with 17 points and 16 rebounds

The Bad:

  • Chase Budinger went 4-11 for 12 points
  • Jamelle Horne fouled out with nearly 6 minutes remaining.

The Ugly:

  • Arizona’s 19 turnovers, which ties a season high, led to 16 Stanford points
  • 8 Assists, 19 turnovers = 0.42 team A/TO ratio – that’s just horrendous team basketball.

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Recap, NCAA Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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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