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Posts Tagged ‘CAL’

Simple Mistakes Costing 'Cats

Posted by naterb on January 22, 2009

A frustrated Russ Pennell during the Arizona/Arizona State game. Picture from azcentral.com

A frustrated Russ Pennell during the Arizona/Arizona State game. Picture from azcentral.com

The lights just got a lot dimmer for the Arizona Wildcats tonight as they notched their 8th loss in their first 19 games. The 11-8 mark that the ‘Cats will go to bed with tonight is their worst record after 19 games since Lute Olson’s first year at Arizona when they were 5-14. Not only is the low mark disappointing, but the Wildcats must now win 9 of their remaining 12 games to reach the magical 20th win that is considered the cost of an NCAA Tournament Ticket. Despite being feasible, that is no small task by any standards and will likely end up with their dancing shoes having NIT written on the label rather than NCAA for the first time in 24 years.

The Wildcats have lost three straight games, as well as losses to the four teams in the top half of the conference they have faced. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially considering how hard they’ve played only to have a questionable whistle play a deciding factor in their last two losses – against USC and last night against ASU. From an offensive standpoint, the Arizona State game was simply ugly. Too many turnovers, poor shooting, missed lay-ups, the whole-nine-yards. But for as bad as the Wildcats were offensively, the Sun Devils were right there with them. Read the rest of this entry »

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PAC-10 Picks: Week 4

Posted by naterb on January 21, 2009

For Current Standings check out the Pick ‘Em Page. Otherwise, let’s just get down to it, shall we?

NaterB’s Picks:

  1. Arizona over Arizona State – You should’ve read my preview by now giving the breakdown of the teams. I think Arizona needs this one too badly, and Hill poses to big of an inside advantage to stop. Arizona pulls out the home win – but not by much.
  2. UCLA over Washington State- Without Cowgill and Weaver this matchup doesn’t possess the intrigue it did the last two years. UCLA skates to an easy win.
  3. Stanford over Oregon- Oregon is too inexperienced and too unorganized to get their first PAC-10 win at Maples.
  4. CAL over Oregon State- Cal is experienced enough and are very well coached so the slow-down style of Oregon State won’t bother them much.
  5. USC over Washington- Washington has had an easy go of the conference so far. Things are about to get a lot tougher.
  6. UCLA over Washington- Getting swept at home hurts, but I can’t help but seeing it this week. Their best chance for a “W” is on Thursday against USC.
  7. Washington State over USC- This is my “upset” pick for the week. I don’t think USC is capable of handling a team that slows the game down like OSU and WSU.
  8. CAL over Oregon – This could be a fun game to watch – although it won’t be close. Both teams like to shoot the 3-ball. Oregon just isn’t as good or organized. Is Kent’s time drawing to an end in Eugene?
  9. Stanford over Oregon State- I already picked one upset this week, I’m not daring enough to go for two. Stanford at home is a tough win and will be too much for OSU – but I think it could get interesting.

The Others: (Remember the numbers represent the number of participants that picked each school)

Arizona State @ Arizona
Arizona State 4, Arizona 7

UCLA @ Washington State
UCLA 11, Washington State 0

Oregon @ Stanford
Oregon 2, Stanford 9

Oregon State @ CAL
Oregon State 0, CAL 11

USC @ Washington
USC 4, Washington 7

UCLA @ Washington
UCLA 9, Washington 2

USC @ Washington State
USC 10, Washington State 1

Oregon @ CAL
Oregon 0, CAL 11

Oregon State @ Stanford
Oregon State 0, Stanford 11

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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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Must Win Situation

Posted by naterb on January 17, 2009

Disclaimer: You may not like some of the parallels that I claim in the first two paragraphs. It sounds as if I’m really down on the ‘Cats right now. I’m not, and you’ll catch up with my thinking around the end of the second paragraph. So just strap in and grit out the Greg Hansen-esque comments for the time being.

Arizona and Oregon can both be trademarked with the same label this season – inconsistent. With young teams and inexperienced freshmen taking on major roles for a team, that is something that can be expected. You can argue all you want that Arizona has more realized talent than Oregon does, or that Oregon has more potential talent in their young players. You won’t get an argument out of me on either point, but to say that one team is better because of it is quite narrow-sighted. Yes, I did say it. Arizona is in the same boat as the #10 team according to my power rankings right now. That’s because both teams have struggled mightily with consistency because of inexperience.

The Wildcats are in a better position to turn it around this season because of their realized talent. But unless they manage to pull out a nice winning streak down the home stretch they may as well have finished 0-18 in the conference this season. I feel this dramatically about the ‘Cats situation because if you think this season was bumpy just wait until the rebuilding begins. Arizona is currently holding on to their NCAA Tournament hopes with a two-finger grip right now and without that bid this season will be a huge disappointment.

The Wildcats have two future NBA players, one a solid lottery pick the other needs to step up his performance to get back there, and are playing in a weakened conference with an easier SOS than in previous years. If they don’t make the NCAA Tournament I believe this team will have underachieved – freshmen and all.

 

What’s perhaps the most disappointing is the work that Russ Pennell & Co. have put into this team. They aren’t the greatest coaches in the world, and they’ve had their struggles. No one is arguing that. But they have done a fantastic job with this team considering the circumstances they have been handed. In an e-mail I received from Pennell last week he made me respect him as a person and a coach even more – even if the results aren’t what we as fans would want.

“I have enjoyed the tough challenge and hope to continue to lead in a positive way until my time here is finished. My main goal for all these players is to improve their overall skills and understanding of basketball. We may only have them for a little while, but we work with them like they are ours for years to come. I believe that is why they improve, because they know we care about them on and off the court. As a coach, you are a teacher and you want to influence those around you daily. Hopefully, we are living up to those standards.” – Russ Pennell

For me, that was more important in my analysis of an interim coach than his abilities with x’s and o’s. It shows class and a determination to do the job that is set out before him regardless of the circumstances. Pennell is taking this job personally, and seriously, and success is measured beyond wins and losses.

Unfortunately, this type of character doesn’t earn you an NCAA Tournament bid. X’s and O’s do that for you. So, the ‘Cats have found themselves with their backs to the wall and needing to scratch together a solid rest of the season. The must-win games started a few weeks ago, but with three losses in their past five games, and no true road wins – the ‘Cats absolutely must win tonight against USC.

With a loss, Arizona would be 11-7 overall with only 13 remaining games. That means Arizona would need to finish 9-4 the rest of the way out to reach the 20 that is considered to get you a dancing ticket. But even if Arizona is capable of finishing 20-11, they’ll need some additional signature wins to separate themselves from other teams vying for the same spot in the tournament. Those wins would need to be over USC, Washington twice, Arizona State at least once, and a win over CAL or UCLA at home.

The other problem that Arizona would face is a road loss today would put them 0-6 on the road with only five remaining road games. Of those road games there is only one chance for a noteworthy road win, which would be Arizona State in Tempe on Wednesday. At some point Arizona needs to prove they can win on the road against good competition.

So make no mistake about it, if Arizona doesn’t win against USC and put together a nice streak the rest of the way, it won’t make any difference if Jordan Hill is a lottery pick. We’ll be in the same spot as Oregon – without a dance ticket come march. A loss puts the Wildcats 3.5 games out of first place in the conference, and either 1.5 (with an ASU loss) or 2.5 (with an ASU win) games out of fourth place. Remember, most ‘experts’ and self-proclaimed ‘experts’ believe that only four PAC-10 teams make the tournament. So if Arizona is going to make it, they need to not only win, but they need to set themselves apart from ASU, USC, and Washington. That starts with winning tonight at the Galen Center.

Buzzer Beater Thought:

“That’s one of the things I want this team to understand: We’re not playing our best basketball now but that doesn’t mean we can’t at some point.” – Russ Pennell

And that point better be sooner, rather than later.

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PAC-10 Weekly Preview

Posted by naterb on January 14, 2009

PAC-10 conference play rolls on this week as the Arizona schools travel to visit the LA schools, the Oregon Schools host their neighboring Washington schools, and Cal travels to Stanford for this week’s rivalry match-up. After the week is through we should start seeing a clearer picture of how the conference shakes up with two of the top three teams facing off, a pair of middle-of-the-pack teams going head-to-head, and some of the bottom of the barrel teams matching up.

Arizona 11-5 (2-2) W2

Chase Budinger looks to continue to pull out of his shooting slump when the ‘Cats face UCLA and USC on the road this week. The ‘Cats will have to notch up their playing level as they’ve been inconsistent at best the past four or five games.

Arizona State 14-2 (3-1) W2

Arizona State’s claim to contend for the Conference Title is put on the line this week as they face off with UCLA, the pre-season favorite, at Pauley Pavilion. James Harden will keep them in the game, but they’ll need solid minutes from Pendergraph and at least one other player if they hope to pull off the tough road win.

USC 10-5 (1-2) L2

USC hopes to get back to their winning ways when Arizona State and Arizona pull into town this week. DeMar Derozan has started to step up, but even at home the Trojans will need more than a good freshman to propel them towards a sweep.

UCLA 13-2 (3-0) W9

The Bruins are looking to build on a nine-game win streak, and hope to protect their home court against the Arizona schools. Collison has been an absolute stud this season, and it should be interesting to see how they hold up in their toughest conference challenges yet this year.

Washington State 9-6 (1-2) W1

Washington State is looking to build upon their slight victory over the Cardinal last week. Fortunately they face off against an inexperienced Oregon team. But the interesting match-up will be when they face off against Oregon State who play a similar slow-down offense as the Cougars.

Washington 11-4 (2-1) L1

A tough triple-overtime loss to Cal hurts, but Washington should be ready to take it to the Ducks and the Beavers this week. Brockman could be in for a huge week as he faces off against the Ducks with an inexperienced big-man, and Oregon State with no true inside presence to speak of.

Oregon State 6-8 (1-3) L 2

The Beavers aren’t any more talented than they were last year – but they’re playing an offense more suited to their strengths. They’re organized and experienced. Playing at home might even give them an edge towards their second conference victory this week.

Oregon 6-10 (0-4) L4

The biggest question for the Ducks right now has to be when the veteran players are going to step up and lead this team. They’ve collapsed in big games thus far, and too much has been left on a great freshman in Michael Dunigan – who ironically is almost an after thought in the Ducks offense.

Rivalry Match-Up: CAL & Stanford

CAL 15-2 (4-0) W9

The Golden Bears are on a 9 game winning streak with solid conference wins over ASU, Arizona, and Washington. Now they travel across the Bay to play their rivals. It should be interesting to see Mike Montgomery back in Maples for the first time as an opposing coach this weekend.

Stanford 11-3 (1-3) L2

Stanford’s front court has been the marquis headliner for the Cardinal so far this year. They’ll get a huge test when they have to stop on Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle. This should be an interesting guard match-up with Stanford fighting an uphill battle – even at home.

Thursday’s Games:

Washington State @ Oregon State
Washington @ Oregon
Arizona State @ Southern Cal.
Arizona @ UCLA

Saturday’s Games:

Washington State @ Oregon
Arizona State @ UCLA
CAL @ Stanford
Arizona @ USC
Washington @ Oregon State

Posted in NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Are We Really This Bad?

Posted by naterb on January 3, 2009

Considering the fact that this is a post-game brief, you’d think I was talking about the Arizona Wildcats and their performance against CAL. You’d think I was talking about the fact the ‘Cats shot just over 21% from beyond the arc and turned the ball over twice as much as their opponent. You would think I was talking about how Russ Pennell couldn’t even come close to keeping up with the adjustments and tactical decisions by Mike Montgomery. You could think all of those things, but you’d be wrong.

Dear Band Wagon Fans...

What I’m talking about is the wishy-washy fans that have shown up. Fans that praise Pennell and want him to take over the program after the victories over Gonzaga and Kansas, but turnaround and want the guy gone when we lose to a prolific shooting team in CAL.

I’m talking about the fans that praise Jamelle Horne and Kyle Fogg and are ready to name them impact players after they post 23 points and 14 rebounds a game for three games, only to want them off the team or benched for the season following a bad performance.

I’m talking about the fans that before the season begins are proclaiming Chase Budinger first team PAC-10 and a Lottery Pick in the NBA draft, but have turned their backs on him when he’s lost his shooting stroke.

I am ashamed at some of the fans that are out there. It’s okay to be a skeptic it’s even okay to be a homer with rose-colored glasses. But it is completely ridiculously to be so spineless, so wishy-washy that the Wildcats are only as good as their last game. If you’re one of those fans, please, just jump ship now so the rest of us don’t have to listen to you any longer.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m in full agreement that Arizona’s performance last night was anything but stellar. Does one bad performance mean that this is a bad team? Certainly not, and I don’t believe it is fair to judge how good or bad these kids are based off of one game. After all, in two late December games, the ‘00-’01 Wildcats lost by 18 and the ‘92-’93 team lost by 15. You have to judge a team by their progression and performance over the course of a season (to be fully fair), or at the very least a month.

Think about it this way, how many of the tough games we’ve played this year do you think would turn out differently if there was a rematch? UAB and Gonzaga definitely would. Texas A&M most likely would. UNLV and Kansas probably would. At least with CAL we’ll get another chance. So chances are, Arizona isn’t really as good as they were when they beat Gonzaga and they certainly aren’t as bad as when they lost to UAB. They’re somewhere in the middle.

So, like I said, for all you wishy-washy fans, it’s time to grow a backbone or jump off the bandwagon because anytime you have as much inexperience as the Wildcats do, you are in for a bumpy ride.

UA @ CAL Recap:

The Good: Hill 18 points, 11 rebounds. Horne 10 points 7 rebounds.
The Bad: Kyle Fogg 0 points, 4 turnovers. Chase Budinger 4-16 shooting, 9 points.
The Ugly: 3-Point Shooting %’s : Arizona 23.1%, CAL46.7%. Turnover Differential: +6, A/TO ratio: 0.91

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, NCAA Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 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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