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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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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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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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

Posted in NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball, Power Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 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 »

Game Preview: Oregon @ Arizona

Posted by naterb on January 8, 2009

It’s a fight for survival as both the Wildcats and the Ducks enter tonight’s game at McKale Center 0-2 in conference play. The Wildcats are favored by 11 over the 6-8 Ducks, but don’t let that deceive you. The Ducks are perfectly capable of stealing a road win in Tucson – especially if they’re clicking on all cylinders. With the rigorous schedule the Ducks have faced and the inexperience at nearly every position, the Ducks 6-8 record is understandable. But with the #8 schedule in the nation, it figures that the Ducks should have learned a lot during the off-season and could be ready to have it all come together.

Freshman Michael Dunigan is a beast on the low blocks for the Ducks – giving them their first true threat in the paint since A.D. Smith in 2000. Dunigan is currently averaging a modest 10.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. But anybody that is capable of throwing down 18 points and 7 rebounds against “Psycho T” (Tyler Hansborough) and UNC is a threat that must be given a healthy dose of respect.

Another sign that Oregon is finally putting it together is wingman LeKendric Longmire. During the final five non-conference games Longmire averages 12.8 points a game while shooting 58%.

Unfortunately, with the exception of erratic Tejuan Porter, scoring has never been the major issue. The Ducks have struggled mightily on the defensive end for the past few seasons and are currently allowing a conference worst 77.4 points per game, allowing opponents to shoot nearly 50% from the field and being out-rebounded by nearly 7 a game.

Keys to the Game:

  • Get Fired Up: This is a must win for the Wildcats after going 0-2 in the Bay Area. If they fall to 0-3 the chances of them making the NCAA Tournament go out the window. Their post-season is on the line, and they better play like it from start to finish.
    Projected Need: Score 15 points in the first 7 minutes.
  • All About the Little Things (I): The Wildcats have been terrible about getting after the little things. Securing the defensive rebounds (especially on the long-3), hustling for loose balls, making the extra pass, coming hard off screens, protecting the ball, etc.
    Projected Needs: Out-rebound the Ducks by 7. Have a T/O differential of -4.
  • All About the Little Things (II): Nic Wise and Tejuan Porter measure in under 6’ but both have the capability of getting to the rim or shooting the three. The momentum and course of this game will hinge on this match-up of undersized guards.
    Projected Needs: Wise 14 points, 6 assists, <2 turnovers
  • Michael/Jordan: Michael Dunigan and Jordan Hill is the second match-up to keep an eye on. Hill has the experience and is a better player, but at 250 lbs. Dunigan has the size to push Hill off the block a bit. Hill needs to take it to Dunigan early and often.
    Projected Needs: Hill – 18 points, 12 rebounds, Dunigan – Fewer than 14 points, 7 rebounds
  • Knew this was coming: Chase Budinger needs to find his rhythm again, and he needs Pennell’s help. Pennell should run some early set plays to get Budinger some good looks at the hoop or draw a foul and get to the free throw line. I can’t think of a more opportune time for Budinger to come out of his slump than against a team allowing nearly 50% from the field.
    Projected Needs: Budinger 40% from the field, 8 first-half points, 8 free throw attempts, 14 points

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New School All-Stars

Posted by naterb on January 7, 2009

 

Yesterday I featured the first segment, the “Old School All-Stars,” of a three-part series looking back at the many great players that have put on the cardinal and navy uniforms to play for Lute Olson. Below is assembled the “New School All-Stars,” players who graduated or declared for the NBA draft from 1997 through today. As you’re reading keep in mind the criteria. Oh yeah, and don’t forget – if you don’t agree with my starters, who I have on the team, or who I left off – let me know and tell me what you would change and why!

 

Mike Bibby
Mike Bibby

Point Guard:

Mike Bibby – Bibby was a sure-handed point guard for the Wildcats who came in with a great basketball IQ and was a respected floor general his freshman year. Bibby had the innate ability to hit the open man, get to the rim, and come up with a timely steal. The only thing lacking for him to be irrefutably the best point guard in UA history is two more years in cardinal and navy.

 

 

Shooting Guard: Miles Simon – Simon was not the most talented shooting guard to come through Arizona, and likely not even during the time period. But Simon was a hard worker and got the job done regardless. You can argue stats and abilities on this one all day long. Salim was a better shooter and more athletic, Adams, a SG/SF, was more athletic and a better defender. But the one thing you can’t argue is that when push came to shove if it needed to be done Simon did it. He had an uncanny knack for coming up with the big play. He was a positive influence on his teammates, and so much more. Simon’s immeasurable attributes far outweigh any stat or athleticism that could be argued against him.

 

Michael Dickerson

Michael Dickerson

Small Forward:

Michael Dickerson – This is one of my more controversial picks. Many people view Richard Jefferson as the best small forward during this time. Jefferson was good, but Dickerson was an out-right stud. Throughout his career Dickerson’s stats are far weightier than any other SF, Sean Elliott excluded. Dickerson frequently defended bigger players and had the capability of shutting down just about anyone he faced. If that’s not enough for you look at his ‘96-’97 stats. 18.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, and 1.1 spg. Those figures are made all the more impressive when you consider the fact that he played a lot of that season with a back injury which limited his ability.

 

 

 

Power Forward:

Michael Wright – Wright is the only true power forward that even qualifies during this time period, but that’s not the only reason he’s on here. Wright was a monster on the blocks. He was big used his size well, always knew were to be for the rebound, and could create his own shot on taller frontcourt players. He is the epitome of what a power forward should be. Strong, hard working, athletic, and a fighter.

 

 

Center: Channing Frye – When I think ‘Center’ I think of someone that can block or alter opponents shots so well that they don’t want to find the paint when they’re shooting. That’s exactly what Frye had the capability of doing. Frye was a long athletic center that could run with the guards on the team. Frye had the stats, the big game performances, and the abilities to put him in a rare class of great Arizona front court players.

Bench:

PG: Jason Terry – Lightning quick, aggressive defender, play maker, all the things you want out of a leader. His first two years Terry came off the bench as the 6th man. Anytime he entered the game it was an instant spark. Terry brought energy, hustle, and an extra gear that left opponents in the dust. I almost created a “Sixth Man” slot just to fit him in for his first two years alone. But Terry is a guy that belongs on this roster, period.

PG: Jason Gardner – Jason Gardner was a stat-junkies dream. He quietly put together solid game after solid game. He wasn’t flashy, cocky, or very loudly spoken. But he was the general for four years and because of it has the best stats of any point guard in Arizona history. That would almost make him a “no brainer” for the starting role, wouldn’t it? Not even close.

Sure Gardner’s numbers were good, and he was on the ‘01 team that went to the National Championship game. Here’s the rub though, Gardner, unlike Bibby played four years, not two – so if Bibby had stuck around for his whole education, do you honestly think that Gardner would still be the best statistically? The other issue I have is Jason Terry only started for two years, and was the sixth man for two as well. He’s another candidate that if he’d started four years things would’ve been different.

 

Simon, Dickerson, Bibby

NCAA Champs: Simon, Dickerson, Bibby

SG: Salim Stoudamire –

Salim was a lethal combination of speed, athleticism, and of course assassin-like shooting. Salim had such a lightning quick first step that if he wanted to get by someone it was almost guaranteed. He was so fast that the threat of him taking off made his jab step so effective that he would’ve had time to set himself before for a long three before the defense could recover. Olson claimed him as “one of the best guards he’s ever coached.”

 

 

SF: Richard Jefferson – I’m sure many of you would have RJ as a starter on this All-Star team, after all he’s an athletic freak of nature, can shoot, played tough defense, and was the all-around player. Jefferson was a walking ESPN Top 10 highlight reel.

SF: Hassan Adams – Hassan “Hot Sauce” Adams was vastly underrated in my mind. Adams did what a lot of the other small forwards on this list did, but he pretty much carried the entire team his senior season. He was athletic, a hard worker, and a defensive menace. Just about any time – the ‘05 loss to Illinois excluded – that Adams wanted to get to the rim, he did. The knock on Adams? He was a terrible three-point shooter.

SF: Andre Iguodala – The final wingman to get on this list that was strong, athletic and fast. Iguodala was a good rebounded, a solid defender, and could explode to the rim every time. He is the final wingman on the list because he only played for two years for the ‘Cats before taking off so Adams is ahead of him, and he couldn’t shoot from beyond the arc either, so RJ and Dickerson are ahead of him.

C: Loren Woods – As I said before about centers, I love a guy that is an defensive intimidator. Woods has the highest blocks per game average in UA history with 3.4 (in an Arizona jersey). During a game against Stanford at Maples he set the Arizona record for blocks in a half. The knock I have on Woods is that he frequently found himself out of position for rebounds and didn’t have the interior post moves that Frye, Wright, or Williams (see Old School All-Stars) had.

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Old School All-Stars

Posted by naterb on January 5, 2009

 When putting together an All-Star team, I wanted to make sure that each of the players had played under Olson for a minimum of two years, and had two years starting. I was a bit lenient on the starting role, so long as they were impact players. Obviously my first two selections were Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott. Kerr & Elliott were the surprise players that skirted under the radar and paid huge dividends for Olson and essentially put the Wildcats on the map.
For the criteria see “Coming Soon

 

Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr

 Point Guard – Steve Kerr: Kerr wasn’t the type of player that would break you down with his athleticism and footwork, but he was a hard-working and intelligent player. If you stuck strictly to numbers (11.2 ppg, 3.4 apg, and 2.2 rpg) Kerr isn’t the best point guard ever to step foot onto McKale center, but the impact he had on the program was by far the most significant. Kerr led the Wildcats to their first Final Four appearance and held the UA career 3-point percentage title until Salim Stoudamire broke roughly 15 years later.

“…he (Kerr) plays very well. He’s intelligent, shoots the ball well, and is a real leader on the floor.” – Lute Olson

Moment to remember: Four days after the assassination of his father, Kerr stepped onto the court to face ASU in Tucson. Kerr knocked down his first basket, a 25-footer, and went 5-7 from the field and 5-5 from the free throw line to lead the ‘Cats to a 71-49 route of their in-state rivals.

 

 

 

 

Damon StoudamireShooting Guard – Damon Stoudamire: Stoudamire was more of a point guard, but like many UA guards he played both positions. Stoudamire was a tenacious defender and lightning quick. Despite being undersized, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that if I were to choose a shooting guard, I would want Stoudamire because of his multi-faceted game. He could shoot (over 40% from beyond the arc), break down defenses with his dribble, and played great defense (1.7 spg).

 

“It was obvious Damon had been well coach. Anytime he stepped on a court he was immediately the leader… He was a human press breaker… Once he got a step on a defender, there was no way anybody was going to catch him.”

Sean Elliott
Sean Elliott

 

Small Forward – Sean Elliott:  Elliott was the first National Player of the Year (‘89) to come out of Arizona. Elliott was athletic, could shoot, and played solid defense. He was on the ‘88 Final Four team the season before leading Arizona to its first #1 ranking to close-out a season. That ‘89 team lost to UNLV on a buzzer beater in the NCAA Tournament. The two-time All-American and two-time PAC-10 Player of the Year is arguably the best UA player of all time. and was the All-time leading scorer for the University until Hasan Adams broke the record two years ago.

 

 Power Forward – Tom Tolbert:

I was ready to leave Tolbert off the list because of the problems that he had with Olson and because of incidents like hiding in a mall fountain to get out of running. But in the end, his performance and influence on the program is far too great. He was the guy that, although not the most talented, was a hard-nose player who fought it out during games. I’ll let this excerpt demonstrate the type of player that Tolbert was.

“Tom Tolbert injured his back so badly that we weren’t sure he’d be ready to play… While he played he obviously was hampered. In the first half against North Carolina he managed only one basket, one free throw, and one rebound. At the end of halftime I took him aside and asked him flatly, “Tom, do you really want to go to the Final Four?”

“Yes,” he said, “Yes, sir.”

“Then prove it.”

In the second half the endless battles we’d fought in practice pad off. In the first fourteen minutes of the second half Tolbert personally outscored North Carolina 16-12.”

Interesting Fact: Tolbert’s decision to back out of UNLV and commit to Arizona is was earned Olson the nickname “Midnight Lute.”

Center – Brian Williams (aka Bison Dele): Williams owns the record for best field goal percentage on the season (61.9%), and was a true center. He was hard nosed and big, one of the few true centers that attended Arizona, and arguably the best one of Olson’s tenure. He was the whole package that you want out of a center, big, tall, athletic, and could rebound and block shots with the best of ’em. Unfortunately, he is more known for his mysterious death/disappearance at sea.

Bench Players:

Reggie Geary – Geary was part of the inaugural three-guard lineup, and used his speed, athleticism and long arms to become a defensive menace to other teams.

“Reggie was 6’2” and some games he had to guard a 6’9” forward, but he had very, very long arms and was a great leaper so he could do it.”

Khalid Reeves: Reeves is the remaining guard in the inaugural three-guard lineup (with Geary and D. Stoudamire). Their speed and athleticism was a huge advantage. Frequently the taller guards and forwards were incapable of stopping them which forced teams into a zone. His numbers weren’t great, but he had a huge impact on the program.

Interesting fact: Reeves notified Olson of his commitment to Arizona while conversing through a bathroom stall during an All-Star tournament.

Kenny Lofton: Lofton wasn’t the most talented player for Olson, in fact there are some players that were left off this list that were probably more talented than Lofton was. But Lofton was high energy and a true competitor. He played hard and was lightning quick. I almost knocked him off the list because of his role in the UNLV upset of ‘89 (remember he was the guy that flopped and freed up Anderson Hunt for the game winning 3).

Chris Mills: Mills was a 2-year player for Arizona, after transferring from Kentucky in 1990 he was an instant impact player for Arizona. During his senior season he earned All-American accolades by averaging 20.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Mills also shot 48.4% from beyond the arc.

Jud Buechler: Buechler earns a spot because of his ability to do what the coaches wanted him to, when they needed him to. Perfect example of this is during a game against Iowa in 1987 Buechler came off the bench to replace Sean Elliott who had just fouled out, and hit four consecutive free throws to help the ‘Cats to a 66-59 win. Buechler’s ability to do this is the true definition of what the “Gumbies*” really were.

Ben Davis: Probably one of my more controversial picks for this team. Davis played for Arizona for only two years after transferring from Kansas and Hutchison Community College. Davis earns a spot on this team because during his senior season (95-96) he was the go-to guy. The three-guard lineup had disappeared, and Davis was Arizona’s primary weapon. He led the team with 14.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest and earned All-Conference accolades.

Anthony Cook – Cook has the best all around stats of any center or power forward before 1996. Cook was an honorable-mention All-American during his senior season (‘89) as he averaged 17.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and 2.5 bpg. The most impressive thing about it is that he was undersized for a center at 6’9” and 205 pounds. He would often face off against guys significantly larger than he was. Normally I’m not a big fan of undersized centers, but there’s not debating the fact that Cook got it done and for that, he jumps into the starting role.

 

* Gumbies:

“We’re the Gumbies because we do whatever Coach wants us to do. He bends us this way, he bends us that way. In practice we pretend we’re Iowa, or USC. We’re just disposable and totally manipulated. We’re the Gumbies.” – Bruce Fraser

The Gumbies consisted of Harvey Mason, Matt Muehlebach, Jud Buechler, Sean Rooks, Craig Bergman, Mark Georgeson, and Brian David, and Bruce Fraser.

**All quotes used in this article have been taken from Lute: The Seasons of My Life. If you have not read this book, it is a must-read for all Arizona Wildcats fans.  

Another Great moment in UA’s Old School Vault

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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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