Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Arizona Wildcats’

Pac-10 Week in Review (Nov. 17- Nov.25)

Posted by Patrick on November 26, 2008

http://obscuresportsquarterly.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/pac103.jpg

Here is how the Pac-10 teams have fared thus far:

Arizona: 3-1 (3-1 this week)- I feel terrible for any Wildcats fan after that disaster against UAB. I don’t understand how a team as talented as Arizona and with some very experienced players can let that happen to themselves. So, they don’t take the trip to Madison Square Garden, but Arizona still showed a solid effort in a close win against Santa Clara, and if things go their way should be 5-1 heading into the game away at Texas A&M next week.

Wildcats Player of the Week: Chase Budinger- 23.5 points 5.3 rebounds 2.8 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/30 vs. Northern Arizona, 12/2 vs. Loyola Marymount

Arizona State: 3-0 (2-0 this week)- James Harden is proving why is one of the best players in the nation, putting up 33 points against Pepperdine on Monday night. Arizona State also had a signature win on the road against San Diego State earlier in the week. The Sun Devils will continue to benefit from a pretty easy schedule, except the Anaheim Classic this week which features Wake Forest as another top team in the field.

Sun Devils Player of the Week: James Harden- 25.5 points 8.5 rebounds 2.5 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/27-11/29 Anaheim Classic (First game vs. Charlotte)

California: 4-0 (3-0 this week)- California has four players that are starting to emerge as leaders on the roster: Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson, and Jamal Boykin. The Golden Bears have taken advantage of an easy schedule so far, but now they have six games in a row against formidable opponents.

Golden Bears Player of the Week: Jerome Randle- 18.3 points 5.3 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 at UNLV, 12/3 vs. DePaul

Oregon: 3-2 (2-2 this week)- Oregon lost to Oakland (Mich.) for the second straight year, but rebounded nicely with a convincing win over Alabama in the first round of the Maui Invitational. The Ducks still have problems with ill-advised shots, but they are young and freshman center Michael Dunigan is showing that in a few seasons he may be the best big man in the Pac-10.

Ducks Player of the Week: Michael Dunigan- 15.5 points 8.5 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 vs. Texas, 12/3 at Utah

Oregon State: 0-3 (0-2 this week)- Oregon State continues to prove that they are the worst team in the Pac-10 by far with losses to Yale and Howard. To the Beavers credit, they played a very tough game against Nevada. It should be expected that with a new coach, players that are not as talented will have trouble adjusting to the different situation.

Beavers Player of the Week: Josh Tarver- 17 points 4 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 Montana State, 11/30 at Fresno State

Stanford: 2-0 (1-0 this week)- I still don’t know what we should expect from the Cardinal this season because they haven’t played good competition. Anthony Goods put on a show against Cal State Northridge, and Lawrence Hill and Mitch Johnson are following suit, playing great basketball. However, before they play a tough team it will be hard to know how they’ll fare in conference play.

Cardinal Player of the Week: Anthony Goods- 25 points 5 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/26 vs. Air Force, 11/29 vs. Colorado

UCLA: 3-1 (1-1 this week)- The Bruins were exposed by Michigan in New York. UCLA has no dominant inside presence and it will be tough for them to adjust because in the past three seasons they have always had a powerful big man. They play at Texas next Thursday and it will be interesting to see if they have recovered from the Michigan loss.

Bruins Player of the Week: Darren Collison- 14.5 points 5 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/29 Florida International

USC: 3-2 (2-2 this week)- Wow, what happened to Southern California in Puerto Rico? Two losses to teams that were not picked to finish high in their conferences, and giving up big leads at halftime. I was skeptical about this team at the beginning of the season because I didn’t think they played team basketball, and they don’t. The Trojans need to play together if they want to make it back to the NCAA tournament.

Trojans Player of the Week: Taj Gibson- 17.2 points 12.7 rebounds

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 vs. UT-Martin, 12/1 vs. San Francisco

Washington: 2-3 (2-2 this week)- The Huskies have really proved me wrong. I thought that Jon Brockman could lead this team back to the NCAA tournament, but it looks almost as if Washington is worse than last season. Quincy Pondexter is doing nothing on the offensive end, and the defensive play of the entire team is lacking tremendously.

Huskies Player of the Week: Isaiah Thomas- 15.2 points 4.2 assists

This Week’s Slate: 11/29 vs. Pacific

Washington State: 4-0 (3-0 this week)- The Cougars are blowing out teams with their tremendous defensive play, and I think that Wazzu is the sleeper in this conference. Aron Baynes is one of the best defensive big men in the country, and freshman Klay Thompson is fitting in very nicely to the system. Though they have played some bad competition, I think they will continue to win their non-conference games leading up to the conference season.

Cougars Player of the Week: Klay Thompson- 13.6 points

This Week’s Slate: 11/28 vs. Mississippi State, 12/2 vs. Idaho State

Pac-10 Team of the Week: California Golden Bears

Pac-10 Player of the Week: James Harden, Arizona State

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November 19: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 19, 2008

Davidson Oklahoma Basketball

Some thoughts on the top games from ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon that concluded last night:

UAB-Arizona: Can it possibly get any more chaotic for this Arizona program? After weeks of frustration from players (like star forward Chase Budinger, who even mentioned the word “depressed” in an interview) and Wildcat fans following the abrupt resignation of longtime coach Lute Olson, the team finally had a chance to bring smiles to the faces of their loyals. You’ve probably heard/watched what happened- a tremendous comeback tied the game at 71 with under ten seconds to play when Arizona’s Kyle Fogg inexplicably fouled UAB’s Aaron Johnson, thinking the game was tied even though there’s a gigantic scoreboard in the middle of the arena. Luckily for Fogg, Johnson missed the front end, but Arizona’s Nic Wise misfired on a game-winning jumper on the Cats last possession. Overtime, right? Instead, Jamelle Horne unbelievably decides to intentionally foul UAB’s Paul Delaney heaving a desperation halfcourt attempt, thinking the game was tied. That’s right, they made the same exact mistake again. This time it cost Arizona the hard fought contest and a trip to Madison Square Garden for two next weekend. I didn’t realize the coaching inexperience would rear its ugly head that early. Sure, the onus is ultimately on the players that committed the bone-headed fouls. But if Lute Olson is on that bench, do you think this happens? Methinks it doesn’t.

Davidson-Oklahoma: The game of the night and the most entertaining college hoops game of the year, all things considered. Raucous environment, star players, top-25 squads, Fran Fraschilla and a trip to New York on the line. Stephen Curry will end up winning National Player of the Year. All in all, Oklahoma’s Tony Crocker, Austin Johnson and Willie Warren didn’t do a terrible job guarding the screen-searching Curry, and Stephen didn’t even have a vintage shooting night and spent the second part of the first half in foul trouble. Remarkably, he still managed to score a career high 44 points on 12/29 shooting, 6/15 from deep and 14/14 from the stripe. And that’s not even vintage Curry. Led by Curry and key threes from Brendan McKillop and Will Archambault, Davidson battled back after falling behind 61-40 following a Cade Davis three from the corner. After a Curry triple, Davidson was down just three with 56 seconds left before key free throws from Davis and a clutch offensive board from Blake Griffin iced the contest and sent the Sooners to New York next weekend. Griffin was sensational in three areas- defending Andrew Lovedale, rebounding on both ends of the floor (21 rebounds) and bringing constant energy and production for Oklahoma (24 points). The lone achilles heel for Griffin is free throws. He responded by hitting 11 of 12 and icing the game for OU. Worth noting freshman Willie Warren is a sensational player. He has tremendous shooting range and athleticism; he just needs to work on keeping his head on straight at all times and avoiding stupid fouls, ultimately costing him what should have been a 30-point performance.

Kentucky-North Carolina: This was supposed to be the marquee matchup of the early part of the season, with College Gameday in the house and the two winningest programs in NCAA history doing battle. There’s no need to overanalyze this one- Carolina dominated thoroughly from the tip jumping out to a 17-4 lead and never really looked back. Deon Thompson has stepped in beautifully for Hansbrough, scoring 20 on 10/14 shooting and grabbing 9 rebounds last night. He’d probably be considered one of the top forwards in college basketball if he played for a program where he’d receive more touches in the paint. They’ll need Thompson to continue his production with freshman Tyler Zeller likely out for the season with a broken left wrist. Ty Lawson really struggled shooting the basketball, but he exploited Kentucky’s main weakness: the point guard position. And you wonder why Patrick Patterson isn’t touching the rock more? DeAndre Liggins and Michael Porter are decent players and they’ll surely develop as the season stretches into SEC play, but to throw them into this environment against a speedy Lawson and improved (looks that way early) UNC defense is plenty to ask. Billy Gillispie could certainly use Derrick Jasper right now. And a few sleeping pills.

Richmond-Syracuse: Eric Devendorf looked uncomfortable in a shaky first half for Syracuse, committing unusual traveling violations and turning the ball over with frequency while it appeared the Orange might once again falter early to an Atlantic-10 opponent at home. In the second half, the Spiders cooled down from the outside and Devendorf looked like his old self- draining clutch threes, penetrating for acrobatic layups and teaming with Jonny Flynn to provide all of Cuse’s offense. Flynn ended up with 27 points, 5 assists, 3 turnovers on 8/15 shooting and Devendorf 22 on 8/12 shooting. Even if they’d been upset, Syracuse is going to Kansas City for the CBE Classic next week.

St. John’s-Boston College: The Johnnies did a nice job keeping this game close, frequently getting inside on the soft BC interior defense for easy buckets. Tyrese Rice and Vermont transfer Joe Trapani ultimately stepped up late for the Eagles, who will face Purdue next weekend in the Preseason NIT semifinals. Rice is a special talent- pure outside shot, quickness to the rim, outstanding vision setting up teammates for layups, clearly the emotional leader- and willed his team to victory. St. John’s showed that they’re a very weak outside shooting team. Big East teams will likely utilize that soft man-to-man that Massachusetts employed on Memphis in their game, daring the Red Storm to take mid-range jumpers and turn around to collect the clank. I don’t see them finishing last in the conference, though.

Arizona State-San Diego State: The Aztecs jumped out to a 15-2 lead after a Kyle Spain three early in the first half, but the Sun Devils chipped away and played their usual fierce defense to hold San Diego State to just 52 points on the road in an impressive road victory. ASU tied the game at 44 with a Rihards Kuksiks three with 6:04 to go and Harden, who played with a stomach virus, provided them with the lead with a trey on the next possession. Arizona State only took 13 shots in the second half and made nine of them, including five from deep. That’s efficiency, folks. With the news that Alex Stepheson’s waiver was denied by the NCAA today, the Devils look like the clear second best team in the Pac-10 behind UCLA (as of now).

Bobby Knight: I only caught a few minutes of his performance on College Gameday last night and it wasn’t pretty. First of all Bob, don’t look like you’re being tortured. Try smiling once in a while, try looking at your fellow analysts when they’re talking, and don’t fuss around with a pen by your nose the entire telecast. It’s already a joke that you spend your entire coaching tenure bashing the media and then you decide to join the fray after an abrupt retirement, but at least try to not look miserable. How much are they paying you, Bob? You seem like an absolutely insufferable human being that likes spending his entire time lecturing others. I really wish ESPN would just let you disappear. I really do. I don’t care if he has 900 wins and knows basketball. The Rece-Hubert-Jay-Digger four man crew was just fine with me.

Other Top 25 Action:

  • #8 Texas dominated Tulane 76-51 behind a balanced scoring attack; Damion James with 16 and 8
  • #10 Purdue had no trouble with Loyola (IL), playing their usual dominant defense in a 78-46 triumph
  • #11 Gonzaga cruised 80-46 over Idaho with Austin Daye (16/7) providing another solid effort
  • #20 USC rode Taj Gibson (22 and 10 on 9/20) to a 73-60 win over a pesky New Mexico State squad
  • #22 Wisconsin took care of SIU-Edwardsville 88-58 behind 19 points from sophomore Jon Leuer
  • #24 Kansas unveiled their championship banner then cremated FL Gulf Coast 85-45; Collins with 25

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day- Blake Griffin, Oklahoma: 25 points, 21 rebounds, 7/11 FG, 11/12 FT, 3 assists

On The Tube Tonight

  • Niagara @ Villanova- 7pm (ESPNU)
  • Nebraska @ TCU- 8pm (CBS College Sports)
  • Emporia State @ Kansas State- 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Northern Iowa @ UIC- 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Florida A&M @ Alabama- 9pm (ESPN FC)

Posted in The Day After | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Pac-10 Preview Roundup

Posted by Patrick on November 9, 2008

Links to my other posts: 1.UCLA, 2.Arizona State, 3.Washington, 4.USC, 5.Arizona, 6.Washington State, 7.Cal, 8.Stanford, 9.Oregon, 10.Oregon State

First Team:

James Harden (G-Arizona State)

Darren Collison (G-UCLA)

Jon Brockman (F-Washington)

DeMar DeRozan (G-USC)

Chase Budinger (F-Arizona)

Second Team:

Jrue Holiday (G-UCLA)

Taj Gibson (F-USC)

Jeff Pendergraph (F-Arizona State)

Aron Baynes (C-Washington State)

Patrick Christopher (F-Cal)

Third Team:

Quincy Pondexter (F-Washington)

Mitch Johnson (G-Stanford)

Derek Glasser (G-Arizona State)

J’Mison Morgan (C-UCLA)

Daniel Hackett (G-USC)

Player of the Year:

1) James Harden, Arizona State

2) Jon Brockman, Washington

3) Darren Collison, UCLA

Defensive Player of the Year: Darren Collison, UCLA

Breakthrough Player of the Year: Derek Glasser, Arizona State

Freshman of the Year: DeMar DeRozan, USC

Coach of the Year: Herb Sendek, Arizona State

Dark Horse Player: Tajuan Porter, Oregon

Dark Horse Team: Washington State

NCAA Teams: 5

NIT Teams: 3

CBI Teams: 1

Top Five Games:

1. Arizona State at UCLA (1/17)

2. UCLA at USC (1/11)

3. Arizona State at Washington (2/26)

4. USC at Arizona State (2/15)

5. USC at UCLA (2/4)

The SEC Preview will be up at some point this week. Oh yeah, and there is a college basketball game tomorrow night, in case your wondering.

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Pac-10 Preview (#6-#4)

Posted by Patrick on November 4, 2008

The teams that are in the “middle of the pack” in any conference are sometimes the most dangerous. They’re often overlooked, but they still have the talent to upset some of the best teams (example: almost Cal over UCLA last season). Here are the schools that could make some noise in the Pac-10 and maybe even the nation, yet they could also find themselves in the NIT/CBI in March.

6. Washington State Cougars– Coach: Tony Bennett (3rd year)

Backcourt: Taylor Rochestie will be running the offense in Pullman, which should run pretty smoothly. Rochestie is a great outside threat, shooting over 40% from three last season. He reminds me a lot of Derek Raivio, a great player at Gonzaga. On top of being a great shooter, he also plays great defense. Mike Harthun was a huge recruit for the Cougars, and should fit in nicely at shooting guard. It will be interesting if he can play “Cougar-level” defense, but what we do know is that he can get to the basket and finish.

Frontcourt: Aron Baynes anchored this team last season, and will probably do the same in 2008. His inside presence is unlike many in the Pac-10; he has a huge frame and has a relentless knack for the ball. I think its easy to say that Washington State will go as far as Baynes takes them. Devin Harmeling will have an expanded role in the offense this season, and despite being 6’7” he shoots the ball relatively well. Klay Thompson was the top recruit in Bennett’s 2008 class, and should make an immediate impact at small forward.

Bottom Line: A team that plays defense as well as Washington State could go very far this season, but like most Pac-10 teams they are missing something, and that something is depth. Once Baynes comes out of the game, whether it be because of fouls or just rest, they don’t have a player that can fill in on offense or defense. Teams will probably attack the basket early to try and get Baynes some cheap fouls, and Bennett needs to recognize that. It will be interesting to see how one of the top coaches in the nation deals with a team that doesn’t have much depth.

Starting Lineup:

PG-Taylor Rochestie (Sr.)

SG- Mike Harthun (Fr.)

SF- Klay Thompson (Fr.)

PF- Devin Harmeling (Sr.)

C- Aron Baynes (Sr.)

Projected Post Season Tournament: NIT

Key Games: Baylor (12/6), Gonzaga (12/10), Washington (1/3), at Arizona (1/31), Arizona (2/26)

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5. Arizona Wildcats-Coach: Russ Pennell (1st year)

Backcourt: After losing two amazing point guards in the offseason (Jaryd Bayless and Brandon Jennings), Nic Wise (pictured above) gets the honor of being Arizona’s floor general. People may not know Wise very well, but he is a tremendous player that can shoot the three and find people on the court. Freshman Brendon Lavender will be a key addition to this roster, and if he can score like Arizona recruited him to do so, then the Wildcats could be in very good shape this season.

Frontcourt: Chase Budinger needs no introduction. Everyone that has watched college basketball the past two seasons knows that he is one of the top players in the game. Besides Budinger, Jordan Hill is the most experienced frontcourt players that the Wildcats have. While Hill can score with the best, he got into foul trouble last season (averaged over three fouls per game), limiting his minutes on the court.

Bottom Line: This team has had very rough off-season. Losing their best player to the draft, having their best recruit leave for Europe, and having three different coaches in three seasons. Russ Pennell has a great team to work with, but it will be a very tough job and in order to get this team to play to its potential he needs veteran leadership from the likes of Nic Wise, Jordan Hill, and Chase Budinger. Arizona has the talent to win the Pac-10, but do they have the desire?

Starting Lineup:

PG- Nic Wise (Jr.)

SG- Brendon Lavender (Fr.)

SF- Chase Budinger (Jr.)

PF- Jordan Hill (Jr.)

C- Jeff Withey (Fr.)- may transfer

Projected Post Season Tournament: NCAA

Key Games: at Texas A&M (12/5), Gonzaga (12/14), Kansas (12/23), Arizona State (1/21), UCLA (2/14), at Arizona State (2/22)

https://i1.wp.com/i.a.cnn.net/si/2007/writers/seth_davis/02/13/hoop.thoughts/t1_floyd.jpg

4. USC Trojans– Coach: Tim Floyd (4th year)

Backcourt: Once again USC has a freshman phenom that will lead their team to the promised land. This year it’s DeMar DeRozan, and he may even be better than O.J. Mayo. He has the ability to take over games and may be the most athletic guard in the nation. Having Daniel Hackett at point guard is going to help this team tremendously because he is one of those players that you want to have the ball in key moments. Dwight Lewis will also anchor the Trojans strong backcourt.

Frontcourt: Taj Gibson has been a star for USC since he arrived on campus, and this season should be no different. Gibson loves to eat up rebounds and will be the backbone of this basketball team. Gibson also plays great defense, but like many big men runs into foul trouble and for USC to be an elite team they need Gibson on the court. Junior Alex Stephenson (if his waiver is accepted to play this season) and senior Keith Wilkinson will be the duo trading off time at the other forward spot.

Bottom Line: USC is a great team and could very easily contend for a Final Four, but last season it seems that this team doesn’t take care of the ball and had trouble controlling their star players. If DeRozan listens to the coaching staff and plays team basketball he could lead them very far (like Derrick Rose), but if he doesn’t USC will be another one-and-done in the tournament.

Starting LIneup:

PG-Daniel Hackett (Jr.)

SG- Dwight Lewis (Jr.)

G/F- DeMar DeRozan (Fr.)

F- Taj Gibson (Sr.)

F- Alex Stephenson (Jr.)- waiver under review

Projected Post Season Tournament: NCAA

Key Games: at Oklahoma (12/4), UCLA (1/11), at UCLA (2/4), at Arizona State (2/15)

Posted in Conference Previews | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Abdul Gaddy Commits To Washington

Posted by Zach on October 29, 2008

Following Lute Olson’s abrupt resignation as Arizona head coach last week, point guard Abdul Gaddy has found a new home- the University of Washington.

The highly touted 6’3 guard out of Tacoma will stay in his home state and play for Lorenzo Romar’s Huskies. The decision came late Tuesday night and was originally reported by Scout.com, with multiple sources confirming the commitment this afternoon. To have Gaddy rescind his LOI to Arizona and opt for a rival Pac-10 school must be devastating for Wildcat fans. It may also save Washington coach Lorenzo Romar’s job following a few years of mediocrity. Landing the second best high school point guard in the nation should help.

Olson’s stroke in this past year ultimately led to his resignation just a week into practice and caused three top-100 recruits- Gaddy, Solomon Hill and Mike Moser- to all de-commit and search for new schools. There is a strong rumor that Hill, a Los Angeles native, will commit to Southern California, adding another former Arizona signee opting for a Pac-10 school. Olson’s resignation should have major lingering effects. As if losing Brandon Jennings to Europe wasn’t bad enough.

Gaddy should be Washington’s best player the moment he arrives at campus. He has tremendous point guard instincts similiar to Derrick Rose. His feel for the position is off the charts and can anchor a Washington program in need of a backcourt leader since the departure of Brandon Roy. Most expected Gaddy to head to UCLA when he de-committed from Arizona, but Washington ended up landing the ultra-talented guard.

Posted in Quick Posts, Recruiting | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Olson Tainting His Own Legacy

Posted by Zach on October 24, 2008

It’s a difficult task to question Lute Olson’s accomplishments during his coaching career at Arizona. A national title, numerous lottery picks, Sweet 16’s and Pac-10 titles galore. Trophies, pennants and shiny awards nobody in Tuscon could have ever dreamed of when Olson arrived from Iowa City in the mid-80s. Olson belongs in the conversation with Hall-of-Famers like Coach K, Boeheim, Calhoun, Pitino, Knight, Williams and Izzo in the discussion over the best NCAA basketball coach of the last 20 years. Nobody is denying that. Nobody is trying to deface his proud accomplishments.

Yet it’s hard to sit back and accept this next bizarre chapter in Lute Olson’s strange exit from Arizona as just another legend passing the torch. Much like other coaching greats who have departed under shady circumstances, namely Bob Knight (more than once) and Eddie Sutton, Olson seemingly leaves his program in a state of turmoil. His exit proved less than graceful. His decisions over the last two years have hurt the Arizona program rather than kept it on the winning track.

A brief timeline: Olson stunningly steps down as Arizona head coach prior to last season and names Kevin O’Neill his successor without guaranteeing a return, Olson announces prior to the Pac-10 Tournament that he will return to the sidelines next year, prompting an enormous distraction, O’Neill then angrily departs for the Grizzlies and his entire coaching staff needs to be replaced, Chase Budinger is convinced Olson is now in good health and decides to return because he wants to play for Lute another season, Olson ducks out of practice Monday, remarking he is “just sick,” ESPN learns mid-Thursday that Olson has retired without the players and prominent administration ever hearing of such news.

Now Arizona is left with an interim coach in Russ Pennell who most recently was an AAU coach in Phoenix and formerly worked for the Arizona State coaching staff before being let go. Quite a resume to be leading the Arizona Wildcats. Meanwhile, assistant Mike Dunlap, who was originally reported to be taking over for Olson, turned down the job because he wanted long-term security while Arizona looks to go after Gonzaga coach Mark Few or Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon. I have a hard time believing either of them will leave comfortable situations for what could end up being the next Indiana sans the major violations.

Rather than exiting gracefully from Tuscon with his head held high and the program in workable shape, Olson takes off with Arizona under a coach with no experience, a team completely confused and angry over their coach suddenly deciding to retire, and two top-50 recruits in Abdul Gaddy and Solomon Hill who will likely de-commit and look elsewhere. If Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill depart for the NBA early like we all expect next June, this program could be headed for a spell of turmoil and irrelevance.

Surely, Olson dealt with difficult family and health ordeals over the last 12-24 months. Leaving the Arizona program under the tutelege of O’Neill may not have gone over well with many Wildcat fans, but as long as Olson got his well-being taken care of in time for 2008-09, the problem would be solved. Now, with practice just beginning and Arizona looking to return to prominence in the Pac-10, their legendary coach, one that promised to return this season and lead the march to glory, has ducked out, replaced by an AAU coach from Phoenix and fired Arizona State assistant. If an Arizona fan is looking for the nearest bridge, I don’t necessarily blame them.

In an age where athletes and coaching legends just cannot quit, Olson has quit in the worst way possible. No private meeting telling his players the news and giving specifics on why he’s leaving, instead a leaked news report and word of recruits’ fathers receiving word prior to Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill. No organized departure this summer before practice and leaving the program plenty of time to recover for this season, just a stunning and sudden retirement with three weeks remaining before the season begins.

Whether or not Lute Olson accomplished the unthinkable at Arizona during his illustrious term at head coach, nobody can deny the last two tumultious years of his tenure have been more problematic than graceful.

Posted in Coaching, Features, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Report: Lute Olson Steps Down

Posted by Zach on October 23, 2008

The coaching turmoil continues down in Tuscon.

Just months after interim coach Kevin O’Neill took off and weeks after longtime coach Lute Olson remarked that he was “excited to get on the court,” reports from ESPN.com and a source close to Dick Vitale have told him Olson has stepped down and will not coach the Arizona Wildcats this season. This seems to be confirmed by a report in the Arizona Daily Star that the fathers of two prized class of 2009 Arizona recruits, Abdul Gaddy and Solomon Hill, have received the news of Olson stepping down. Hill’s father says blatantly that he was told it’s “official” and “Lute is out.”

On the other hand, Arizona spokesperson Tom Duddleston said Thursday morning he has not been informed of the Olson resignation and he was even told “no way” by other working at the school regarding the report. Reporters contend they felt Olson was completely in good spirits coaching the team Monday, but fell ill on Wednesday and was forced to miss practice. Those close to the program insist he was “just sick” and it was nothing to be overly concerned about.

If the report is true, Arizona assistant coach Mike Dunlap would take over the head coaching duties on an interim basis. Obviously, it’s much too early to speculate on the status of both Gaddy and Hill, whom the Arizona program are likely reaching out to at this point in hopes of keeping them on board. Olson, 74, took a leave of absence last season and was expected to return to the bench this year in full strength for the entire season.

This entire operation has been botched. How do two fathers of Arizona recruits know the news, ESPN gets a gift-wrapped scoop on the news….yet prominent players like Jordan Hill and some administration have no idea where this story is coming from. It would have been wise to hold a team meeting this morning to alert the Wildcats and let the entire staff know before this leaked out (I know, easier said than done) rather than have members of the team “not knowing a damn thing” and spending the entire day thinking Lute Olson was their coach when I heard the news around 11:30 AM central time.

If Olson has officially retired, his finished resume is quite impressive: 1997 National Title, 781-280 record, 5 Final Fours, 23 consecutive NCAA appearances, 11 Pac-10 titles. Not to mention turning around an Arizona program that was a complete afterthought before he arrived in the mid-80s. He’s recruited and coached such household names as Mike Bibby, Damon Stoudamire, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson and Steve Kerr. Even at his old age, he was able to lure Brandon Jennings to Arizona, whom many believed was the best guard in the class of 2008.

UPDATE: Scavening around the series of tubes for more Olson news and reactions. The most interesting summation came from Rush the Court, who showed that Olson, well, may be a tad overrated, at least in terms of NCAA Tournament accomplishments. In fact, most of the time he underachieved.

Here’s the article:

As stated above, Arizona has gone to five Final Fours under Lute Olson.  Here are the NCAA Tournament seeds for those years – #5, #1, #2, #4, #2 (avg. = 2.8).  Arizona also received five #1 seeds during Olson’s tenure.  Here’s the result for those five Tourneys – F4, S16, E8, R32, E8 (avg. = 2.6 games won).  When Lute was expected to go to the F4, he went once; when he was not expected to go, he went four other times.  This quick examination of the numbers confirms what we wrote last year when we surveyed the top overachieving and underachieving programs of the 64/65-team era of the NCAA Tournament.  From 1985-2007, Arizona averaged a #4.1 seed in the NCAAs.  The historical model suggests that Arizona should have won 44.1 NCAA contests over this period – the Cats won 39, which means they ‘underachieved’ by nearly five Ws, and therefore puts UA in terms of performance in the bottom third of schools with greater than eight appearances over the era.  The most obvious examples of this phenomenon were first-round upsets in 1992 (#3 UA loses to #14 ETSU), 1993 (#2 UA loses to #15 Santa Clara), and 1999 (#4 UA loses to #13 Oklahoma).  Even Olson’s most talented and decorated team, the 1998 #1 Wildcats led by Mike Bibby and Jason Terry, had a major letdown in the E8 against #3 Utah, getting run out of the gym by 25 points.

Posted in Coaching | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Summer Pac-10 Report

Posted by Tommy on August 15, 2008

While my colleagues are out east in DC, I’m going to go out west and preview the Pac-10 from my computer at home. The Pac-10 lost a lot of talented players to this year’s NBA Draft such as Kevin Love, Brook and Robin Lopez, Ryan Anderson, Jerryd Bayless, OJ Mayo, Russel Westbrook, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Kyle Weaver, Malik Hairston, DeVon Hardin and Maarty Leunen. Despite the loss of talent, the Pac-10 is still going to be a great conference to watch especially because there is such a level playing field. UCLA will in all likelyhood be at the top of the Pac-10 once again but after the Bruins there is a pack of 6 or 7 teams that will beat up on each other, and that is why I give this year’s version of the conference the nickname the “Pack-10”.

Arizona: After a dissapointing 7th place finish in the Pac-10 last season, the Wildcats will try and return to the top of the Pac-10, a familiar place for Zona. Unfortunately, the Cats have a void at the point guard position due to the departure of Jerryd Bayless and the decision of Brandon Jennings to play professionaly in Europe instead of coming to Tucson. Nic Wise, along with other role players from last year’s team, will have to shoulder much more of the scoring load if the Cats are to succeed. Jeff Withey and the incoming freshmen are going to have to help Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger out on the offensive end, otherwise Hill and Budinger will have to do a majority of the scoring. I don’t think Arizona is going to improve too much on their 8-10 record in the Pac-10 this season and will likely ride the bubble all year long. Right now I’d have to say they’re bubble-out but maybe they could ride their SOS to another tournament bid.

Arizona State coach Herb Sendek pleading to a ref

Arizona State: Last year Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils burst onto the scene by beating their in-state rivals Arizona twice and by upsetting Stanford, but only to get their bubble bursted at the last minute. Stars James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph return to Tempe along with guards Ty Abbot and Derek Glasser to show the nation what they’re capable of. The Devils will be much improved this year and will avenge last year’s snub with a 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

California: Cal is going to see their fair share of struggles this season with the departure of leading scorer Ryan Anderson to the NBA. The scoring is going to have to come from the guards Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle who are the only two double digit scorers returning to this year’s team. Cal will be near the bottom of the Pac-10 once again and will most likely end up participating in the CBI.

Oregon: After signing coach Ernie Kent to and extention through the 2012-13 season, they obviously see Kent as the right guy to lead Oregon back to the top tier of the Pac-10. Unlike Arizona State, the Ducks made it into the field of 65 with a 9-9 record in the Pac 10 but lost in the first round to Mississippi State.  The Ducks don’t have the talent to make it back into the tournament again this year because of the departure of leading scorers Malik Hairston and Maarty Leunen as well as Bryce Taylor. Tajuan Porter is the only returning double digit scorer and will have to use his 5’5″ frame to carry this Oregon squad. Joevan Catron, who averaged 8.8 PPG and 5.7 RPG last year, will be the go-to guy in the frontcourt. These young Ducks don’t have the firepower to compete in the Pac-10 and it will take a couple of years until they return to the NCAA tournamnet.

Oregon State: Coming off a 6-win season, the Beavers don’t have too high of expectations for the 08-09 season. They were winless in the Pac-10 last year and will likely be the bottom team in the Pac-10 once again. The versatile guard/forward Seth Tarver will be the go-to guy for OSU, while his brother Josh will play a supporting role along with Lather Wallace and OmariJohnson. The Beavers will be relatively young and will experience plenty of growing pains with the stiff Pac-10 competition, but could improve in the coming years. As of right now they won’t get a sniff of any postseason, not even the CBI.

Stanford: This year’s Stanford squad is going to look much different after the departures of the Lopez twins along with frontcourt-mates Taj Finger and Fred Washington. They’re presence in the paint is going to be missed throughout next year. New coach Johnny Dawkins is going to have a rough first year with his 9-man roster which has nobody over 6’9″. However, they do have two senior leaders in the backcourt in Mitch Johnson and Anthony Goods as well as senior wing man Lawrence Hill. Dawkins has shown he can coach under-sized teams as the right-hand man to Coach K at Duke, but will have a lot to prove in his first job as a head coach. The Cards are going to have to play terrific defense if they want to near the top of the Pac-10 again this season. It’s hard to say what the Cards will do as far as postseason goes but I think Stanford will make the tournament as a 8 or 9 seed.

UCLA: After losing Kevin Love and Russel Westbrook to the #4 and #5 picks as well as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Lorenzo Mata-Real, one would think that Ben Howland and the Bruins would have lowered expectations for this season. Think again. Howland brings in the best recruiting class in the nation for 2008 which includes Jrue Holiday, J’Mison Morgan, Malcolm Lee, Drew Gordon and Jerime Anderson, all 4 or 5 star recruits. In addition, Darren Collison and Josh Shipp return for their senior seasons in hopes to make another deep run into the NCAA Tournament. Once these freshmen mature, the Bruins have a good chance of making yet another Final Four run.

USC:Tim Floyd has done a great job with the Trojans thus far especially in the recruiting aspect. Last year Floyd brought in superstar freshman OJ Mayo but was a one-and-done as he went third in this year’s NBA Draft. Now Floyd has brought in the McDonald’s All-American Dunk Contest winner and another likely one-and-done player in Demar DeRozan. DeRozan will be the main offensive threat for the Tojans and will be supported by Daniel Hackett, Taj Gibson and Dwight Lewis. The Trojans have another good lineup for the 08-09 campaign and could be one of those teams to battle in the pack of the Pac-10.

Washington: The Huskies, who went 7-11 in Pac-10 play last year, return some of the same faces to this years team and hope to improve on their record from last year. The main man for the Huskies will be big man Jon Brockman who can put up 19 PPG and grab 12 RPG over the course of next season. Quincy Pondexter, Justin Dentmon and Matthew Bryan-Amaning are the returning players that will play supporting roles for Lorenzo Romar. The Huskies also have a pretty impressive incoming freshman class with names such as Elston Turner Jr, Scott Suggs, and Isaiah Thomas (no, he isn’t Zeke’s son but has drawn some comparisons with his explosiveness). I really like the play of Brockman and if he gets strong support, the Huskies could be a tournament team but like some other teams in the Pac-10 they’ll be riding the bubble.

Washington State: Two years ago, coach Tony Bennet brought WSU from the depths of the Pac-10 and made them a nationally recognized team. Now, with the graduation of Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill the Cougars will struggle a bit. Having low pre-season expectations from the media hasn’t stopped coach Bennet from doing well before, so I expect the Cougs to be competing in the pack of the “Pack-10”. Aron Baynes, Daven Harmeling, and Taylor Rochestie will be the veteran leaders for WSU and will uphold coach Bennet’s style of hardnosed defense and offense that uses plenty shot clock. Tony Bennet brings in a top-10 small forward in freshman Klay Thompson as well as a couple of other freshmen that can contribute right away. Even though they aren’t the best team on paper, the Cougersare going to frustrate opponents with their great defense and I think could win a game or two in the NCAA tournament.

Predicted Pac-10 Standings w/ Postseason

  1. UCLA – NCAA
  2. Arizona State – NCAA
  3. Stanford – NCAA
  4. USC – NCAA
  5. Washington – NCAA (bubble)
  6. Washington State – NCAA (bubble)
  7. Arizona – NIT (bubble)
  8. Oregon – NIT
  9. California – CBI
  10. Oregon State – none

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Tuesday News and Notes

Posted by Zach on July 29, 2008

– Arizona is making news around the recruiting trail, both favorable to Lute Olson and potentially damaging. The good: Zona received a commitment from Solomon Hill, a 6’6, 195 pound California wing ranked in the top 100 by Scout.com. Hill is an excellent ball-handler with versatility and the ability to play multiple positions. For Hill to become a top-flight player for Arizona, though, his shooting needs to improve. The bad: the #33 player in the nation Greg Smith, a 6’8 power forward from Fresno, de-committed to the Wildcats and instead joined the Bulldogs. Nope, not Georgia or Gonzaga- his hometown Fresno State Bulldogs. Smith marks the best recruit Fresno State has ever reeled in. Smith told Fresno’s Scout.com page that “it was a soft verbal (to Arizona)” and his “heart was with Fresno State.” Arizona is in the running for the second ranked point guard in the nation, Abdul Gaddy, and could be leading, neck-and-neck with Memphis at this point at the top.

– The first round contests for the Old Spice Classic were announced this morning, and Maryland fans have to be feeling very slighted. The Terrapins will have to play Michigan State in the first round, the Spartans being a potential top-10 team and Big Ten title contender. On the same side of the bracket, Gonzaga takes on Oklahoma State, setting up a possible Michigan State-Gonzaga game in the semifinals. On the other side, Georgetown plays Wichita State and Tennessee gets dangerous Siena. The Spartans will most likely have to beat Maryland, Gonzaga and Tennessee to win the tournament title in what should prepare them sufficiently (and more) for the conference slate.

– Richmond lost its best player for the season on Monday. 6’8 forward Dan Geriot, who could have been one of the top players in the A-10 this campaign, tore his ACL in a summer league game in Philadelphia and will miss the entire season. Geriot averaged 14.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG for the low-scoring Spiders as a sophomore last season.

– Indiana extended Tom Crean two more seasons on top of his current deal. The program admires the fashion in which Crean took a devastating situation and is beginning to turn it around. At the recent NCAA committee hearing, Indiana was handed another violation that could result in penalties: a “failure to monitor” charge to the extensive Kelvin Sampson troubles list. The Hoosiers return just one player from last season’s disappointing campaign.

– West Virginia junior guard Joe Mazzulla, who experienced a breakout last few games for the Mountaineers in the NCAA Tournament, was arrested Monday night, along with teammate Cameron Throughman, with aggravated assault, underage drinking and hindering apprehension at a Pirates-Rockies game in Pittsburgh. The players argued with police when asked for an ID, and when resisting, Mazzulla accidentally punched a police officer. While they should face more disciplinary action from the team, if you know anything about Bob Huggins, I wouldn’t expect much.

– Finally, just wanted to point out this good article from Andy Katz regarding the Wake Forest situation. This team has a lot to look forward to. Jeff Teague and James Johnson are outstanding sophomores and the recruiting class new coach Dino Gaudio was able to reel in is phenomenal. Expect a great season in Winston-Salem in honor of fallen coach Skip Prosser.

Also: Ra’Sean Dickey has left to play in Europe and Texas A&M-CC committed nine NCAA violations.

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Monday News & Notes

Posted by Zach on July 14, 2008

-Tim Floyd can breath a sigh of relief as stud incoming freshman Demar DeRozan has been cleared to play by the NCAA after receiving a qualifying ACT score. If he hadn’t qualified, a trip to Europe with Brandon Jennings may have followed. DeRozan was Scout’s 6th ranked player in the nation but his stock is flying right now. He was recently invited to the LeBron James Skills Camp and has the most NBA potential of any incoming freshman. He’s the one newcomer I’m most looking forward to seeing this season. USC has a great chance to contend in the Pac-10 with favorites UCLA and Arizona State, led by Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett and DeRozan. FOX Sports also reports they’re in the running for UNC transfer Alex Stepheson.

Lute Olson lashed out at the one-and-done rule the NBA and NCAA have instituted for players guaranteeing each prospect have one year in “college.” Olson, who recently saw his most prized signee Brandon Jennings depart for Europe rather than play at Arizona, said clearly he would not sign any one-and-done players in the near future. Sure, Lute. This will last about six months. Olson proposed a deal where high school kids can enter the NBA straight out of high school, but if they opt for college, they have to stay for two or three years. I can see the reasoning behind this only if we start to see more and more players go to Europe to the point where it gets out of control. Then reform is needed.

– News from the CBS camp: Billy Packer will no longer be the lead announcer for college basketball and the NCAA Tournament. In fact, he’ll no longer be with the network at all. Packer always was a bright and intelligent basketball mind, but came across as arrogant and I never enjoyed him calling the biggest hoops games of the season. I was especially put off when he admitted in front of a camera he didn’t even enjoy sports anymore. Clark Kellogg will now be the lead analyst alongside Jim Nantz, with a rumor circulating that Greg Anthony will replace Kellogg in the studio with Seth Davis and Greg Gumbel. Big ups to CBS for making a much needed transition in their college basketball coverage.

– Andy Katz had some good conversations with Georgetown head coach John Thompson III and NC State coach Sidney Lowe about their chances in 2008-09. Thompson didn’t express too much remorse about losing Vernon Macklin to Florida (somewhat hurtful loss) and Jeremiah Rivers to Indiana (not much of a loss at all) because of the instant replacements in freshmen Greg Monroe and Henry Sims, along with a healthy Chris Wright taking over guard duties. Thompson expecting immediate contention in the loaded Big East may be too much to ask; I see them as a middle-of-the-pack team. Sidney Lowe says last year’s disappointing campaign was marked by a lack of a true point guard and the decline of junior forward Brandon Costner, who saw his PPG go down nearly eight points. Costner and McCauley need to step up as seniors for the Wolfpack to contend.

– Some dates to circle for big games: UCLA will play a home game against Notre Dame in a battle of top ten teams on February 9 in the thick of conference season, and will play @ Texas on December 4 as part of the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood series. Missouri, who lost guard Keon Lawrence to Seton Hall, will also be a part of the Puerto Rico tournament with Memphis, USC, Xavier and Virginia Tech. Oklahoma will face USC at home on December 4, also. Kansas State, who added UConn transfer Curtis Kelly, will play @ Michigan State and @ Arizona.

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