Grab your flasks, Arizona fans, because this is about to get depressing. You’ve been warned.
And for anybody else: Accept you accomplished how barbarous the NCAA clash has been to Arizona over the accomplished 12 years?
I apperceive — every aggregation has its affection ripped out in the tournament. Villanova and Iowa State consistently end up arena the closing civic best in the aboriginal rounds. Roy Williams can’t exhausted Kansas. Texas A&M had the Darrel Mitchell bomb, the Acie Law absent layup followed by a actor Memphis abhorrent rebounds, the UCLA drudge job on Donald Sloan, and CHRIS F’ING KRAMER all appear in a amount of bristles years. In a four-year stretch, Gonzaga had that archetypal double-overtime accident to Arizona aback Blake Stepp had shots to win at the end of adjustment and in both OTs, a two-point accident to Texas Tech, and THE d that comes to apperception aback you anticipate of Gonzaga’s clash disappointments. Ohio State’s aftermost six March Madness losses accept appear by a accumulated 14 points. You could apparently do this for a ton of teams.
I’ll do it with Arizona. (Go avant-garde and booty addition swig, Zona fans.) Aback accident the 2001 civic championship d to Duke, Arizona has been to the Elite Eight four times. Anniversary cruise concluded with a one-possession accident in which Arizona had the final possession. In 2003, the 1-seed Wildcats absent to Kansas by three aback Jason Gardner’s agony 3 hit the aback of the rim. In 2005 … um … yeah. In 2011, Derrick Williams and Jamelle Horne anniversary absent appropriate looks at what would’ve been game-winning 3-pointers in the Cats’ accident to closing civic best UConn. Finally, there was aftermost season’s one-point accident to Wisconsin aback Nick Johnson couldn’t get a attempt off at the buzzer. Four trips to the Final Four on the line, four alone backing to end the game, and four losses by a accumulated seven points, with two advancing in overtime. Oof.
All signs point to this year actuality the one aback Arizona bucks the trend and gets Sean Miller to his aboriginal Final Four. Alike if that doesn’t happen, though, the Pac-12 projects as a stronger appointment than we’ve apparent in contempo years. Arizona is the alone accessible civic appellation contender, and Utah is the alone added aggregation to able the AP preseason Top 25, but the Pac-12 should be added advancing than East Coasters apparently affliction to admit. UCLA, Colorado, and Stanford all attending acceptable abundant to win at atomic one NCAA clash d this season. Throw in wild-card teams like Cal (Cuonzo Martin has some aptitude to assignment with), Oregon (assuming it still has bristles acceptable players appear March), and Washington (Lorenzo Romar has a abeyant first-round aces in his backcourt, so there’s no way he’ll spiral that up, right?) and it’s absurd to apathy the Pac-12 as aloof “Arizona and some added teams.”
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1. Arizona2. Utah3. UCLA
Get accessible to accept this baffled into your aerial for the aing bristles months: “Kentucky has the centermost and best accomplished aggregation in America, but Arizona has the best starting five.”
That’s absolutely true, by the way. Kentucky’s 10 best players are abundant bigger than any added team’s 10 best, but I’m appealing abiding that basketball is played with alone bristles guys from anniversary aggregation on the cloister at one time. And if we’re attractive at aloof the top bristles players, no affairs can blow the acquaintance and aptitude of T.J. McConnell, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, and Zeus “Zeus” Zeuszeuski. So, which affairs added — accepting the best abyss or accepting the best starting five?
If you apprehend my SEC preview, you apperceive I’m not a accepter in the army barter arrangement John Calipari has said he’ll use at Kentucky. I anticipate it’s aloof archetypal Cal business spin: It’s no abstruse that Kentucky is the abode to be in academy basketball. But now we accept so abundant aptitude that I can’t accumulate anybody blessed unless I use this army system. It’s crazy, but what abroad can I do?! IT’S SO HARD BEING SO GOOD, YOU GUYS! Chances are, the army plan will be asleep by the end of January. I wouldn’t alike be afraid if Cal beneath his circling to eight or nine players by the time March Madness formed around.
But let’s pretend that Kentucky’s army action will aftermost until April, and that Calipari will accept 10 players all logging about 20 account per game. Let’s additionally accept that Arizona’s starters all boilerplate about 30 account a game, with Gabe York and Elliott Pitts agreeable the actual minutes. Which aggregation has an advantage?
Well, in the aftermost 30 years, seven teams accept won civic titles by arena alone bristles players 15 or added account in the championship game: 1985 Villanova, 1987 Indiana, 1990 UNLV, 1992 Duke, 1994 Arkansas, 2006 Florida, and 2010 Duke. Meanwhile, no aggregation in the aftermost 30 years has alike attempted to comedy nine or added guys 15-plus account in the appellation game, let alone do that and win a civic championship. And alone one aggregation in that amount — 1997 Arizona — has won the appellation d by arena eight players 15 or added minutes. This agency that abridgement of abyss won’t be as big a botheration for Arizona as it’s actuality fabricated out to be and that Kentucky’s 10-deep agenda won’t be a abundant advantage for the Wildcats.
Of course, Kentucky admirers apparently accept that aloof proves this year’s aggregation is appropriate — they could be the aboriginal modern-era civic champions to go 10-deep. Maybe. For now, I’m balustrade with history: It’s bigger to accept the best accumulation of bristles players than to accept the centermost team. Kentucky is crazily accomplished and deserves its no. 1 ranking, but don’t let all of the advertising advancing out of Lexington fool you — this year’s civic appellation isn’t necessarily Kentucky’s to lose.
Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Utah should accept its best aggregation aback Andrew Bogut’s 2005 Sweet 16 heyday. And these Utes may alike be the best aback the 1998 aggregation with Michael Doleac, Andre Miller, and Hanno Mottola, who absent Keith Van Horn to the NBA the year afore and were bristles account abroad from academy basketball’s best notable Ewing Theory case aback Cincinnati in 1961. The Utes acknowledgment their top six scorers and their top four rebounders, and they absent alone one amateur (Princeton Onwas) who averaged added than 15 account per d aftermost season. Best importantly, the Utes acknowledgment dark-horse civic amateur of the year applicant Delon Wright. I apperceive it’s adamantine to accumulate all the amateur in ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon straight, but amuse accomplish abiding you don’t absence Utah at San Diego State. I don’t appetite to blast my arch adjoin a bank all year as I recruit cartage for the Delon Wright bandwagon.
The chase for third in the Pac-12 this division is a toss-up. Stanford allotment three starters from aftermost year’s Sweet 16 team. Colorado’s alone accident is Spencer Dinwiddie, and the Buffaloes played the added bisected of aftermost division afterwards him anyway. (Then again, the Buffs were 9-9 afterwards Dinwiddie, or 9-10 if you calculation the d in which Dinwiddie tore his ACL, aback they were acceptable aback he got afflicted but concluded up accident by 17.) I like UCLA to accomplishment third, though, because I accept in Norman Powell and Tony Parker, and because Kevon Looney is the best recruit in the country that cipher is talking about.
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Here’s the account of players who averaged 15-plus points, five-plus rebounds, five-plus assists, two-plus steals, and one-plus blocks per d in all of D-I basketball aftermost season:
I’ll accept it’s not adamantine to appear up with a set of ambit that makes any amateur assume way bigger than he absolutely is. But I don’t anticipate that applies in this case, aback these are major, aboveboard statistics with analytic blow points, and not aloof Wright’s stats. Those stats, by the way, were 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game.
The alone four added players who were alike aing to these metrics aftermost division were Marcus Smart, Elfrid Payton, Shabazz Napier, and Kyle Anderson. All four were first-round picks in the 2014 NBA draft, and Payton has emerged as an aboriginal amateur of the year contender. Go avant-garde and assumption which of those players has a agnate anatomy blazon to Wright’s 6-foot-5, 190-pound frame. Here’s a hint: It’s not the able-bodied (Smart), the abbreviate and quick guy (Napier), or the alpine and angular guy (Anderson).
What I’m accepting at actuality is this: Aftermost season, Delon Wright was arguably a bigger adaptation of Payton, a amateur abounding NBA assemblage apprehend to argue for amateur of the year honors. If he can advance his alfresco attempt — he attempt aloof 22 percent from the 3-point band aftermost year — he will be aloft boilerplate at every distinct absolute affair a amateur can do on a basketball court. If you’re a fan of the banal “He does aggregate abbreviate of demography the tickets and affairs the popcorn!” band that some commentators use, I advance you DVR a lot of Utah games.
By the way, now seems like a acceptable time to acknowledgment that Wright’s assembly aftermost year came in a ample year for Pac-12 backcourt talent. Anderson, Zach LaVine (lottery pick), Jordan Adams (first-round pick), Nick Johnson (Pac-12 POY), Justin Cobbs, C.J. Wilcox, Jahii Carson, and Roberto Nelson were all in Pac-12 backcourts aftermost division and accept all aback confused on from academy basketball.
The Delon Wright appearance is about to leave the station. This is your final warning.
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Stanley Johnson is a apprentice who was advised a action lock afore arena a distinct d of academy basketball. You apperceive how I handle these cases by now — let’s see what the aboriginal mixtape we acquisition on YouTube tells us about him:
Ummmm … Arizona is abacus THAT to a aggregation with a chief point bouncer and the best frontcourt in academy basketball?!?!
I’m abiding ESPN has a acumen for baronial Johnson seventh in the chic of 2014. But angelic balls, did you see the explosion? Did you see the handle? Did you see the stroke? DID YOU SEE EVEN FIVE SECONDS OF THAT BECAUSE I DID AND I’M CONFUSED AS TO HOW THERE COULD HAVE BEEN SIX BETTER HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS THAN JOHNSON. Unless every added comedy of Johnson’s career that didn’t accomplish it assimilate his mixtape is him benumbed over his own feet, I’m baffled as to why there isn’t added advertising for him.
You apperceive what — don’t acquaint me why. I don’t appetite to apperceive what Johnson’s flaws are. I don’t appetite to appear bottomward from the aerial that mixtape aloof put me on. I’d rather aloof dive headfirst into the Stanley Johnson acquaintance than accomplish an a decision. So go avant-garde and dribble over Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kelly Oubre, and Cliff Alexander. I’m demography out a added mortgage on my abode so I can buy added shares of Stanley Johnson stock.
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I’m academic that best anyone who’s not a religious addict of Pac-12 basketball doesn’t apperceive abundant about Xavier Johnson (who, coincidentally, played aerial academy brawl with Stanley Johnson, although they aren’t related). I mean, Colorado wasn’t absolutely a covering aggregation aftermost season. Sure, the Buffaloes were good, but not acceptable abundant for accidental admirers to pay absorption to their fourth-leading scorer. And Johnson was inconsistent afore Spencer Dinwiddie’s abrasion in January. So during the aboriginal bisected of the season, alike aback a Colorado d affronted the accepted public’s interest, there was no cogent what affectionate of achievement they would see from Johnson.
But already Colorado absent Dinwiddie, Johnson became a altered player. He best up for Dinwiddie’s alone scoring amount with an added three believability per game. But it wasn’t that he was aloof added advancing — he additionally became abundant added consistent. In Colorado’s aboriginal d afterwards Dinwiddie, Johnson denticulate aloof two points. Afterwards that, the alone added time Johnson didn’t accomplishment in bifold abstracts for the blow of the division was aback he went 1-for-10 adjoin Arizona. He ability accept brought that on himself by adage that the Cats “[weren’t] that good” afterwards Colorado’s aboriginal affair with them.
Once Colorado’s ablaze went down, Johnson seemed to aloof relax and comedy basketball, and he had a aplomb — and maybe alike a assurance — that wasn’t there previously. The Buffs should accomplish the NCAA clash this division with Josh Scott and Askia Booker arch the way, but if Xavier Johnson plays as able-bodied as he can, Colorado ability alike be the second-best aggregation in the Pac-12.
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Hang on. I charge to backpack my car absolute quick so I can jump in and hit the gas afterwards I address this. I appetite to be out of Ohio by the time the mob forms alfresco my house.
All right, actuality we go: T.J. McConnell is a bigger adaptation of Aaron Craft.
Aaaaaand now I can never go aback to the abode I aloof took out a added mortgage on so I could buy Stanley Johnson stock. Apparently didn’t anticipate that one all the way through.
As a above Ohio State walk-on, I affiance I’m not aggravating to addition my believability by delivery an assessment that will be abhorred in Columbus. I candidly anticipation McConnell was a added polished, added complete adaptation of Craft aftermost season. Maybe this is because McConnell’s teammates were assorted NBA players and Craft’s were Lenzelle Smith and LaQuinton Ross. We’ll never know. (I absolutely anticipate both Craft and McConnell would’ve been bigger off alone if they’d switched teams.) But it’s fair to say that McConnell is alone a hardly worse apostle than Craft was, while McConnell’s abhorrent d is far added avant-garde than Craft’s was.
This is account acquainted because Craft came abundant afterpiece to authoritative an NBA agenda this year than every non–Ohio State fan expected. It agency that in the appropriate situation, McConnell could acquisition his way into the league. He’s as acceptable a ambit apostle as you’ll acquisition anywhere in America, and he’s got abundant cloister vision. He still needs to advance his shooting, however. For Arizona to win a civic appellation this season, McConnell has to shoot added and shoot better.
Don’t get me amiss — McConnell is able of animadversion bottomward shots. Arizona didn’t absolutely charge his scoring aftermost season; he could comedy the role of facilitator and shoot aback he was larboard open. This season, though, he needs to be a scorer. Between Stanley Johnson and Brandon Ashley’s acknowledgment from injury, the Wildcats can accomplish up for the accident of Aaron Gordon, but Arizona will await on McConnell, Gabe York, and Elliott Pitts to alter Nick Johnson’s scoring.
Even added importantly, McConnell is the Arizona ambit amateur who’ll be alleged aloft to accommodate the affluence that Nick Johnson brought to aftermost year’s Cats. McConnell has to be the adept bouncer who takes over at the end of aing games. Aback Arizona finds itself in a do-or-die bearings with time active out, Sean Miller has to be able to put the brawl in McConnell’s easily and apperceive that McConnell is activity to … able-bodied … abort to get a attempt off afore the buzzer, I guess? You apperceive what I beggarly — Nick Johnson was the affection and body of Arizona. McConnell has to be that guy for this year’s team, which agency he can’t artlessly let the d appear to him anymore. He needs to accomplish his attendance acquainted on both ends of the floor. He’s already a abiding affair on defense. Arizona admirers are acquisitive his breach isn’t far behind.
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This is a anticipation added than a absorption on aftermost season. Sure, some Oregon admirers accept Joseph Young attempt too abundant aftermost year and point to the Ducks activity 1-4 in amateur in which Young denticulate 29 believability or added as proof. I’ll accede it would be able to see Young get his teammates activity afore attractive for his own shots. But he’s a 6-foot-2 bouncer who attempt 48 percent from the field, which is addition way of adage he has a abiding blooming light. You can maybe accountability him for advancing up abbreviate in big spots, but at that point you’re aloof nitpicking. Young has becoming the appropriate to booty big shots that would accord best coaches aneurysms.
So why do I anticipate Young will be maddening to watch this season? Because Oregon has a depleted roster, with about three healthy, acceptable players to alpha the season. Young averaged 12.6 shots per d with Mike Moser, Jason Calliste, Damyean Dotson, Johnathan Loyd, and Richard Amardi on his team. All of those guys are gone and accept taken a accumulated 1,181 attempt attempts with them. Shoot, aback you agency in all of Oregon’s departures, there are 1,379 abstract attempt attempts up for grabs this year. This is Young alive up in the boilerplate of the night aloft acumen that he could justifiably shoot 20-plus times a d in 2014-15:
If Oregon has any achievement of authoritative the NCAA tournament, Young will charge to access absolute Jimmer approach and jack shots anytime he’s accidentally open. This should advance to a agglomeration of ballsy moments, but it will additionally advance to alike added moments like the end of the Wisconsin game.
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Let’s get this straight: Frank Haith didn’t cull a Cuonzo Martin. Martin pulled a Haith. Haith’s move from Missouri to Tulsa was such a atrociously ablaze “eff you” to Missouri that he deserves to accept the action called afterwards him. Haith pulled a continued con on Missouri fans, giving them decidedly abundant highs followed by gut-wrenching lows that larboard them calling for his head. And all along, Haith was aloof ambience his allurement by arena the blank victim who didn’t deserve this because — BECAUSE HE WAS NATIONAL COACH OF THE YEAR IN 2012, DAMMIT! WHY DOES EVERYONE FORGET THIS? HE’S A GOOD COACH! THIS IS SO UNFAIR, YOU GUYS!
And then, in a achievement of genius, appropriate as the Mizzou mob accomplished accumulation hysteria, Haith alone the allurement (and apparently said, “Gotcha, bitch!”) as he gave Columbia the deuces in favor of Tulsa. I don’t alike affliction that I’ve already accounting about Haith in my AAC preview. For the move he pulled on Mizzou, he deserves to be accounting about afresh and again. I shouldn’t address about annihilation abroad the blow of the season. Aloof one cavalcade afterwards addition on Haith’s awful okeydoke. Let’s booty addition attending at Haith signing his Tulsa contract:
I will never get ailing of that.
Anyway, Martin’s move to Cal doesn’t bout what Haith pulled off, but it was bland nonetheless. Abounding admirers were afraid that Martin would bond on Tennessee afterwards he led the Volunteers to the Sweet 16 aftermost season, but it seems as if Martin’s abandonment had continued been in the works. Tennessee admirers were consistently a little affronted with the hiring of Martin, what with him not actuality Bruce Pearl and everything. Afresh Martin didn’t do abundant to win admirers over aback the Vols absent the NCAA clash in anniversary of his aboriginal two seasons as arch coach. Finishing with an 11-7 almanac in the SEC aftermost year closed his fate.
But afore Martin got the boot, he had a little Haith abracadabra up his sleeve. First, his aggregation fabricated a abruptness Sweet 16 run that was one comedy abroad from actuality an Elite Eight run. Then, appropriate as some Vols admirers were alpha to think, OK, maybe he deserves anoth— Martin cut in with, “LOL NOPE!” and took off for Cal. But the ability of it was that he waited until Auburn had already assassin Bruce Pearl, acceptation that the Tennessee admirers who started a address to accompany aback Pearl couldn’t get their wish, and now they would accept to acclamation for Donnie Tyndall, a drillmaster who is aloof as ambiguous as Martin and who, ohbytheway, is actuality advised for NCAA violations.
It’s account pointing out that Martin isn’t necessarily a acceptable coach. Tennessee was advantageous to accomplish the clash aftermost season, and Vols admirers bethink the common bad losses and boneheaded decisions from Martin’s tenure. But I’m not absolutely accessible to aing the book on him and say he’s bad, either. Maybe a beginning alpha at Cal is what he needs. Or maybe he’ll attempt aloof as abundant in Berkeley as he did in Knoxville. Time will tell.
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Lorenzo Romar is the best basketball drillmaster the University of Washington has anytime had. This is his better problem. Because Romar congenital the affairs up from around nothing, the academy basketball apple pays added absorption to Washington than we contrarily would. And aback we attending carefully at Washington, we see that the Huskies generally assume like they’re underachieving. We apprehension that Romar has had seven first-round picks appear through his affairs and that every aggregation he has accomplished had at atomic one of those picks in the lineup. We apprehension that every aggregation Romar has accomplished except this year’s band has had assorted approaching NBA players on it. And we apprehension that Washington, beneath Romar, is aloof 8-6 in the NCAA tournament. He has never fabricated it to the Elite Eight, and he’s never gone to four afterwards NCAA tournaments.
We additionally apprehension that if Washington were to absence this year’s NCAA tournament, it would be the fourth afterwards division in which the Huskies haven’t gone dancing. That would be the longest clash aridity in Romar’s career. As of today, Washington seems absurd to accomplish the 2015 clash field. So the pressure’s on Romar. I agnosticism his job is alike affectionate of in jeopardy, and it shouldn’t be, but that’s not the point. The point is that I’d like to see a Washington aggregation overachieve for a change. I’d like to see Romar pale his affirmation as Washington’s best drillmaster anytime because he’s a absolutely acceptable drillmaster and not because Washington aloof hasn’t had abundant basketball success through the years. My assumption is that Huskies admirers wouldn’t apperception this either.
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Let’s aloof account aggregate that’s happened during Oregon’s offseason to appraise how the Ducks went from an NCAA clash aggregation that started aftermost division 13-0 to area they are now.
Here are the 12 scholarship, non-redshirt players on Oregon’s 2013-14 team: Jalil Abdul-Bassit, Richard Armandi, Dominic Artis, Waverly Austin, Jason Calliste, Ben Carter, Elgin Cook, Damyean Dotson, A.J. Lapray, Johnathan Loyd, Mike Moser, and Joseph Young.
Armandi, Austin, Calliste, Loyd, and Moser all graduated. In April, Carter transferred to UNLV and Lapray transferred to Pepperdine. In May, Artis, Dotson, and Brandon Austin (who had transferred to Oregon from Providence center through aftermost season) were all kicked off the aggregation in acknowledgment to ual-assault allegations. That leaves us with this roster: Jalil Abdul-Bassit, Elgin Cook, and Joseph Young.
Jordan Bell is acceptable for the Ducks afterwards redshirting aftermost season. Dwayne Benjamin and Michael Chandler both transferred to Oregon from inferior colleges. And Oregon’s recruiting chic brought in Casey Benson, Ray Kasongo, JaQuan Lyle, Ahmaad Rorie, and Dillon Brooks, which leaves the agenda attractive like this: Jalil Abdul-Bassit, Jordan Bell, Dwayne Benjamin, Casey Benson, Dillon Brooks, Michael Chandler, Elgin Cook, Ray Kasongo, JaQuan Lyle, Ahmaad Rorie, and Joseph Young.
But wait, there’s more! Abdul-Bassit and Cook were arrested on annexation accuse in September. Meanwhile, Kasongo was denied acceptance to Oregon and has aback transferred to juco assertive Southern Idaho. Lyle was additionally denied admission, but he’s accepted to try to accept afresh in December. And as if all of that weren’t enough, Chandler — the alone Oregon amateur larboard who weighs added than 225 pounds — is alone indefinitely with a knee injury. Abdul-Bassit and Cook won’t absence any amateur over the annexation adventure because the amount has been “handled internally.” This, of course, is aloof addition way of adage that Oregon would be royally busted if Abdul-Bassit and Cook couldn’t play. Afterwards them, the account of advantageous and acceptable scholarship players would attending like this: Jordan Bell, Dwayne Benjamin, Casey Benson, Dillon Brooks, Ray Kasongo, Ahmaad Rorie (all of whom accept never played a minute of D-I basketball), and Joseph Young.
So, yeah, Young is activity to boilerplate a billion shots per game.
1. Will Steve Alford assuredly see his dream appear accurate by fielding a starting calendar that’s absolutely composed of his sons?
2. Will USC be acceptable abundant for Katin Reinhardt to affirmation the appellation of best hated amateur in the Pac-12?
3. Is Jamal still a affair in Tucson? And if he is, can we accomplish abiding he’s arresting on TV every d so he can be the Marlins Man of Arizona?
4. Bill Walton: abundant analyst or greatest commentator?
5. Two months afterwards the Pac-12 absent Ken Bone, Wayne Tinkle was assassin at Oregon State. Is “everyone knows you accept to lose your Bone afore you can Tinkle” the best antic that can be fabricated here?
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