PAC-10 Basketball

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Posts Tagged ‘UCLA’

One Less Big Man

Posted by naterb on December 2, 2009

If things weren’t bad enough for the Bruins this season, breaking news makes the teams outlook even worse.

Forward/Center Drew Gordon will be transferring away from UCLA at the winter break, and is no longer a part of the Bruins team. This, apparently is by mutual agreement.

“After several discussions with Drew, we both have decided that it is in the best interests of our program and Drew that he continues his career at another school.” -Ben Howland

Some may take this as a sign of the rats jumping ship from a Bruins team that has struggled immensely already this season. That is wrong on two accounts. First, the Bruins are likely to turn the season around, and secondly this wasn’t a surprise to Howland and Co. which means that it was an internal issue.

According to Andy Katz over at ESPN, the issue was Gordon’s attitude being viewed as “detrimental” to the team.” I don’t see any other explanation for the departure, and Gordon clearly wasn’t happy with things in UCLA – particularly Ben Howland.

At this point, Gordon has not announced his destination, though San Diego State has been rumored. I believe it would be more likely he would wind up at UNLV who are in desperate need of inside rebounding presence. One way or another, it could be interesting to see where Gordon winds up – but I doubt it except for the team that gets him.

As for the Bruins, they now face replacing their third-leading scorer (11.2) and second-leading rebounder (5.3). That is a big hole to fill, and one that could have given them an advantage in a conference that is thin in the middle.

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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 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?

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball, Player of the Week | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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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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

Posted by naterb on January 6, 2009

 

Every morning you can pick up your local newspaper or go online to any major sports website and look up the current standings in the PAC-10. If you were to do that any time before this Thursday here’s what you would see:

1. UCLA 2-0

2. CAL 2-0

3. Washington 1-0

4. Stanford 1-1

5. ASU 1-1

6. USC 1-1

7. OSU 1-1

8. WSU 0-1

9. Arizona 0-2

10. Oregon 0-2

 

Darren Collison
Darren Collison

But standings at this point in the conference season don’t mean anything. Do you honestly believe that Oregon State is better than Arizona, Oregon or Washington? As conference play wears on the standings will be perpetually more revealing as to how each of the teams stack up. Now, I know this is impossible, but it would be nice if the media had some way of reporting how the teams are really stacked up, and not just by their record. So I’ve decided to pick up there and every week I’ll break down the PAC-10 and rank them against one another. Enjoy!

 

  1. UCLA – It’s no surprise that they stand on top of the conference after the opening weekend. Shipp and Collison were impressive this weekend on the road.
  2. CAL – Their sweep of the Arizona schools is more impressive than UCLA’s conference wins, but it’s too early to use that as a bearing point right now. Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher are a great one-two punch and have Cal vying for the top position in the PAC-10.
  3. ASU – A 30 point win over Stanford at Maples? Even if Stanford is down this year, that’s still impressive. CAL exploited their weaknesses and showed that ASU needs another offensive weapon.
  4. Washington – Defeating your in-state rivals on their floor is always a great way to start conference play. The Huskies have seen continued production from Jon Brockman, Isaiah Thomas, and Justin Dentmon. If they want to stay ranked this high, they’ll need Quincy Pondexter to step up.
  5. Stanford – That 30 point loss at home was embarrassing, but they bounced back and controlled their match-up with Arizona, even on an off night. Their lack of interior presence will become problematic over the course of conference play. They over-came it this weekend, so until their style falters this is where they belong.
  6. USC – Winning on the road in the PAC-10 isn’t easy, period. But to be the team that snaps Oregon State’s 17-game losing streak is downright embarrassing. The Trojans have more problems than a tough road loss to a bad Oregon State team. They have an athletic and talented roster, but they aren’t playing as a team. They’ll continue to struggle until the players view the team as more than a yield sign into the NBA.
  7. Arizona – Going 0-2 to start conference play is never good. But for a young team whose leader is struggling you can’t fault them too much. Things should be okay in Arizona once Budinger finds his way out of this wicked slump. Until then, all talk of contending for a tournament bid should be silenced.
  8. Oregon State – It must feel great to get that monkey off their back, especially against a team that was picked to finish in the top four of the conference. Has the new coach breathed life into these kids, or was this simply a flash in the pan?
  9. Washington State – Their off-season losses are grossly apparent. It wasn’t the fact that they lost their rivalry game at home that has them ranked so low. It’s the fact that an average Washington team flat out toyed with them. Rochestie, Thompson, and Baynes need to step up in a big way or this is going to be a long season.
  10. Oregon – What’s worse than starting conference play 0-2? Doing that on your home court. The Ducks should be fine as long as Ernie Kent can get the freshmen up to speed. It will be another up and down season for the Ducks though.

 

Alright, I admit it… I’m a stat junkie. I get excited looking at a box score. I like seeing a player putting up 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists more than seeing a guy go for 30 points. Why? Partly because I like seeing all the little boxes with something filled in – might be some form of OCD – but mostly because I value the complete game more than a scorer any day. But stats can only tell you so much. While they can give you an idea as to how a player or team performed, they aren’t definitive. The same can be said of Conference standings.

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