Posts tagged: Basketball

Pac-10 Basketball Preview – USC Trojans

By Sam Saig, November 16, 2009 2:23 pm

State of the Program

On March 22nd 2009, Michigan State narrowly edged USC in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans would go on to play for a National Championship, while the Trojans remarkable March run came to an end. Then things got bad…

First, at the Trojans season ending banquet (March 31st) head coach Tim Floyd implored the superstar trio of DeMar DeRozan, Daniel Hackett, and Taj Gibson to stay at ‘SC for a potential Final Four run the following season. Less than a day later, Floyd was in Tucson, Arizona rubbing elbows with ‘Cats AD Jim Livengood. Needless to say, after that debacle the three ‘SC superstars swiftly decided to turn pro.

But the worst was still to come. I won’t go through the painful summary, but here is a quick chronological recap using key terms: Louis Johnson, Rodney Guillory, alleged $1,000 envelope, NCAA investigation, “lack of institutional control”, ‘Zona raid of ‘SC recruits.

Pretty tumultuous off-season to say the least, but the show must go on and it will now be directed by journeyman Kevin O’Neill. O’Neill knows a thing or two about coaching a program through chaotic times (2007-08 UA), and now the seasoned 52-year old will try to do it again. As mentioned earlier, the Trojans were decimated by de-commits during the last recruiting cycle, but there is still enough talent left on the roster for O’Neill to keep this team competitive in 2009-10.

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Pac-10 Basketball Preview – Washington State Cougars

By Sam Saig, November 14, 2009 1:56 pm

State of the Program

“This is something I anticipated could one day happen. I just knew he was the type of superstar coach that could end up in our league. But we’re both competitors and we’ll be trying to do everything we can to help our respective teams win when we play each other” – Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar on WSU hiring Ken Bone

Washington State lost a rising star in the coaching profession to the University of Virginia…. but have the Cougars hired another one? The departure of Tony Bennett brought an end to an era in Pullman–an era full of winning, defense, NCAA tourney runs, defense, Taylor Rochesite, and defense.

Now this Wazzu program will move in an entirely different direction. New head coach Ken Bone brings an up-tempo style that places a heavy emphasis on the transition game. The 51-year old coach from Seattle (WA) also brings an impressive track record with him, as he took each of his last two Portland State teams to the NCAA Tournament.

Bone respects the style that the fans in Pullman have come to expect over these last six years (going back to Dick Bennett), but he also believes that his brand can be just as successful: “It’s a different style. Their defense, their offense, their transition defense, it all fit together the way they wanted to play. What we want to do is good, but it should look a little quicker”.

The Cougars return a couple of all-conference caliber players, but they also lost three valuable contributors (Rochestie, Aaron Baynes, and Caleb Forrest). It will therefore be interesting to see how deep Bone’s debut squad is, especially if WSU expects to play up-tempo right away.

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Pac-10 Basketball Preview – Arizona State Sun Devils

By Sam Saig, November 9, 2009 7:05 pm

State of the Program

Like almost every other Pac-10 team this season, Arizona State will be searching for a new identity. The Sun Devils enter the 2009-10 season without two of the best players in program history. G James Harden and F Jeff Pendergraph accounted for 34.6 PPG, 13.8 RPG, and 5.1 APG per game last season, but both are now in the NBA.

Will ASU be able to survive without the superstar duo? I believe the answer is yes for one simple reason: Herb Sendek. Sendek has proven that his Devils can compete against anyone because of a deliberate offense and meticulously crafted zone defense. Aside from Pendergraph and Harden, ASU returns every major contributor from last season’s NCAA Tournament team. The challenge this year will be incorporating a talented freshman recruiting class into Sendek’s complicated system.

While this ASU team won’t have an All-American guiding it, the squad appears to be deeper and more talented from top to bottom than it has been in quite some time. Sendek has raised the profile of the program with newfound exposure (NBA Draft picks, NCAA Tournament Birth, 3rd place finish in Pac-10, 2nd place finish in Pac-10 Tourney) and a brand new practice facility (Weatherup Center).

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Pac-10 Basketball Preview – Oregon Ducks

By Sam Saig, November 8, 2009 6:37 pm

State of the Program

The 2008-09 season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Oregon Ducks, but did anyone really see 8-23 (2-16 in Pac-10) coming? Certainly last season was one of the most disappointing of head coach Ernie Kent’s career, however most prognosticators do not foresee a repeat scenario in 2009-10. The Ducks are young, but the talent in Eugene is top notch, and a middle of the conference finish is more than achievable. In fact, the Ducks could end up being one of America’s most improved teams by season’s end.

For Oregon to meet expectations in 2009-10, improvement MUST be made defensively. The Ducks gave up 76 points per game, good enough for dead last in the Pac-10 and 314th nationally. Poor fundamentals were a big part of the problem, which is what prompted Kent to hire one of the best assistant coaches in college basketball, Mike Dunlap. Under Dunlap’s guidance the Ducks should be considerably more organized on defense.

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Pac-10 Basketball Preview – Oregon State Beavers

By Sam Saig, November 7, 2009 8:41 pm

State of the Program

Only one team in the history of Pac-10 Men’s Basketball has gone winless in conference play: the 2007-08 Oregon State Beavers (6-25, 0-18 in Pac-10). That’s right, just two years ago the folks in Corvallis watched in horror as their team wound up in the wrong section of the record book.

The season was so dreadful, that former head coach Jay John became the first coach in the history of OSU athletics to be fired mid-season (John was let go after 6-12, 0-6 record). Interim head coach Kevin Mouton could fare no better, and athletic director Bob De Carolis knew he needed to hit a home run with his next hire or the program might not recover. A handful of big name coaches immediately tuned the job down, likely due to the enormous rebuilding project that was necessary.

While Oregon State may have missed out on the “name” coaches, De Carolis hit a monstrous home run nonetheless. Forget that Craig Robinson is Barack Obama’s brother-in-law (though recruiting has certainly been affected in a positive way), as more importantly, he is one heck of a basketball coach. Needless to say, what Robinson did last season with OSU was nothing short of remarkable. The Beavers finished the season 18-18 (7-11 in Pac-10) and won the CBI championship.

So the question is, can Robinson’s Beavers take the next step this season? Many prognosticators believe a top-3 conference finish is a realistic possibility, as virtually every major contributor from last season returns (G Ricky Claitt being the exception). If the gifted freshman class is as good as advertised, this OSU team will have a real chance to meet those high expectations.

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Pac-10 Basketball Preview – UCLA Bruins

By Sam Saig, November 5, 2009 7:01 pm

State of the Program

A new era begins for UCLA basketball this season. For the first time in four years, the Bruins will be without the fantastic trio of Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, and Alfred Aboya; a group that helped UCLA reach three final fours. Head coach Ben Howland will also have to replace first round pick Jrue Holiday, who declared for the NBA Draft after one season in Westwood. While Holiday may have underachieved last season, he was a shutdown defender who could have seamlessly offset the loss of Collison at point guard.

Despite all of the key departures, this is still UCLA. Howland has stockpiled excellent young talent at all positions, and if everything comes together, the Bruins will contend for another Pac-10 title. Certainly the expectations are lower for this team, but if you believe in Ben Howland’s coaching ability, then you should believe in the 2009-10 Bruins.

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Pac-10 Basketball Preview – Washington Huskies

By Sam Saig, November 3, 2009 4:16 pm

State of the Program

The Huskies are coming off of their first outright Pac-10 title since 1953, and I don’t think it will take another 56 years before they win their next one. Pac-10 Coach of the Year Lorenzo Romar has assembled another tremendous squad this season, and there is no question that the Dawgs are capable of repeating as conference champions.

Having said that, two key members of the 26-9 (14-4 in Pac-10) title team are gone, and neither will be easy to replace. F Jon Brockman and G Justin Dentmon were two of the biggest reasons the Dawgs won the Pac-10 last season. Not only was Brockman a double-double machine (averaged 14.9 points, 11.5 rebounds last season) during his celebrated career, but he was also the heart and soul of the program. As for Dentmon, he was the Pac-10’s Most Improved Player last year, and his scoring ability (14.4 PPG), leadership, and penchant for hitting clutch shots will be sorely missed.

I credit Lorenzo Romar for being able to reload every season even as the program loses one “irreplaceable” player after another (Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Jon Brockman etc.). As long as Romar is at the helm, the state of this program will always be strong.

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Pac-10 Basketball Preview – Stanford Cardinal

By Sam Saig, November 1, 2009 10:22 am

State of the Program

Stanford will be entering year two of the Johnny Dawkins era, and the longtime Duke assistant is coming off an up and down debut season on the Farm (20-14, 6-12 in Pac-10). Dawkins will certainly have his work cut out for him in 2009-10, as three of the program’s most consistent performers over the last four years (G Mitch Johnson, G Anthony Goods, F Lawrence Hill) have all departed. Now Stanford must find a way to replace 36.4 points per game as well as invaluable leadership and experience (all three played vital roles on the Sweet Sixteen team from two years ago).

Like many teams in the Pac-10, the rebuilding Cardinal will be searching for their identity this season. Two starters return, but will quality depth surface?

The answer to that question will likely define how this season plays out in Palo Alto. Unfortunately, the early prognosis is looking bleak. Here are the brutal facts as we get closer to the start of the season: G Jeremy Green or F/C Josh Owens, two key components of Dawkins lineup, have recently been ruled out indefinitely.

Green was suspended following an arrest on suspicion of felony domestic violence and it is unclear if he will be cleared to rejoin the team. Owens is being examined for an undisclosed medical condition, and while it is also possible that he could be cleared to play, his father has this to say about the condition: “Keep Joshua in your prayers, he’s hanging in there”.

As if that wasn’t unfortunate enough, the Cardinal will also be without the services of promising freshman forward Andy Brown, who is out for the year with a serious knee injury. This Stanford team was thin on proven players to begin with, but the potential losses of Green and Owens would be devastating.

Assuming the news is as bad as it looks, only six scholarship players will play in the season opener against San Diego (the rest of the roster are walk-ons). One thing is for sure; the resiliency of this Stanford team will be fully tested during the 2009-10 season.

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Pac-10 Basketball Preview – Cal Bears

By Sam Saig, October 31, 2009 5:26 am

State of the Program

Before the 2008-09 season started, many wondered what new head coach Mike Montgomery (the winningest coach in Stanford men’s basketball history) could bring to a Cal Bears team that was coming off of a pedestrian 17-16 season. Certainly Monty brought a proven track record (minus that disastrous two-year stint with the Golden State Warriors of course), and his connections to the Bay Area made hiring him that much easier. Still, it remained to be seen if he could take Cal to the next level.

Fast-forward a year and that question looks like it has already been answered in the form of a 22-11 record (3rd in Pac-10 at 11-7) and an NCAA Tournament birth in 2008-09. Montgomery, a four-time winner of Pac-10 coach of the year, lit a fire under the Bears from the first day of practice, and Cal went on to play some of the most entertaining, high-octane, and always offensive basketball of any team in the conference. Monty had the Bears looking more like the Phoenix Suns (circa 2005), as Cal led the nation in three-point field goal percentage while always pushing the tempo.

Now the question becomes, what does Montgomery have in store for year two? The expectations couldn’t be higher in Berkeley, as many feel this team can win a Pac-10 title. Every major contributor from last year’s team returns (save Jordan Wilkes I suppose), so Haas Pavilion should be rocking from November to March.

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Pac-10 Basketball Preview – Arizona Wildcats

By Sam Saig, October 24, 2009 2:57 pm

State of the Program

This past spring, the future of Arizona’s tradition-rich basketball program, as we have come to know it, was in serious jeopardy. Big name coaches were turning the UA job down left and right, and no episode was more embarrassing than the Tim Floyd fiasco.

The momentum that interim coach Russ Pennell left the program with in March (run to the Sweet Sixteen) died quickly, and A.D. Jim Livengood was getting desperate to find Lute Olson’s long-term replacement.

Enter Sean Miller.

Could Miller have done a better job righting the ship so far? In a couple of months, the highly successful coach from Xavier re-energized the fan base and quickly assembled an elite recruiting class full of blue-chippers. Certainly, there will still be growing pains in Tucson, as the roster for ‘09-10 is full of uncertainty (particularly in the frontcourt) and the schedule is extremely challenging. But at long last, ‘Cats fans can close the door on the “Interim Era” in Tucson, and now it’s “Miller Time”.

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Pac-10 Basketball Early Previews – Washington State Cougars

By Ross Williamson and Dave Consolazio, July 29, 2009 1:35 pm

The 2008-2009 basketball campaign for the Washington State Cougars ended in bittersweet fashion but the 2009-2010 season seems to be shaping up rather nicely. The Cougars finished last year with a 17-16 record and a loss to St. Mary’s in the NIT. Senior guard Taylor Rochestie (who graduated in the fall) was an All Pac-10 contributor and lead the team in points per game with 13.2 and assists per game with 4.5.

With Head Coach Tony Bennett’s departure to Virginia, the Cougars will have a new look this season, and they believe they have the right guy for the job in Ken Bone. Bone was most recently at Portland State, where he coached for 4 seasons and took the Vikings to the NCAA tournament in both of his final two seasons there.

Ken Bone brings tournament experience and the appropriate leadership needed to bring a group of rising stars to their potential, which could mean making noise in the Pac-10 and the NCAA tournament in the near future. Some of those stars that will need to make an impact this season and build on last year’s success are Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Costo.

Klay Thompson takes the shot

Klay Thompson takes the shot

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Pac-10 Stars of the Future: Tyler Honeycutt

By Sam Saig, July 1, 2009 12:59 pm

Tyler Honeycutt

Height: 6-7
Weight: 185
Position: Small Forward
High School: Sylmar High School (CA)
Pac-10 School: UCLA
Arrives: 2009-10
Class Ranking: 28th Overall, 4th ranked small forward

“Tyler Honeycutt is a very versatile athlete. He is a good shooter, he’s good at scoring off the dribble and is a good passer. He is also an outstanding rebounder and has a lot of potential.” – UCLA head coach Ben Howland

Pac-10 Basketball Early Previews – Washington Huskies

By Marcelo Figueroa and Dave Consolazio, June 30, 2009 2:31 am

After finishing last season with a record of 26-9 and winning their first outright Pac-10 title since 1953, the Washington Huskies are one of the preseason favorites to make a run at the crown again in the 2009-2010 season. This is largely due to Washington’s abundance of returning players. While the absence of Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon will certainly be felt, the Huskies hope that their young core of talent can persevere.

Coach Lorenzo Romar has done a nice job putting this team together. Isaiah Thomas was the team’s leading scorer in his freshman campaign last season, averaging 15.5 PPG. He will look to build on his experience and should continue to be a scoring threat this season. Quincy Pondexter took a big step forward in translating his potential into on-court success for the Huskies last season, as he averaged over 12 PPG and almost 6 rebounds per contest and had some of his strongest games down the stretch.

Quincy Pondexter gets his props

Quincy Pondexter gets his props

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NBA Draft Pac-10 Players Review

By Sam Saig, June 26, 2009 7:54 pm

The Pac-10 was well represented in Thursday night’s NBA Draft with nine of the 60 picks made hailing out of the conference (including three of the top 10). Here is our analysis of those nine Pac-10 draftees.

Player: James Harden, Shooting Guard, 6-5, 222
School: Arizona State
Drafted By: Okalahoma City Thunder, 3rd Overall

Analysis: Both the Thunder and James Harden were winners Thursday night. Harden will join former UCLA standout Russell Westbrook in the backcourt next season. Some prognosticators thought PG Ricky Rubio would be the pick, but Thunder management believes in Westbrook’s ability to run the point. The addition of Harden solidifies a young and talented core for Oklahoma City. Harden’s basketball IQ is off the charts and he can score in a variety of ways, averaging 20.1 points per game last season (as well as 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists). He has a prototypical body for a shooting guard, and plays an unselfish brand of basketball that makes everyone around him better. Harden may be the most NBA-ready player in the entire draft. The Pac-10 Player of the Year for 2009 will join Westbrook and forward Kevin Durant on one of the NBA’s most exciting young teams.

James Harden makes his move

James Harden makes his move

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Pac-10 Basketball Early Previews – Oregon State Beavers

By Marcelo Figueroa and Dave Consolazio, June 24, 2009 10:18 am

Last year, the Oregon State Beavers had a season that everyone around the conference (and beyond) had to take notice of. Coming off of an awful season in which the Beavers went 0-18 in conference play, the team from Corvallis went 7-11 in Pac-10 play in the 2008-2009 season and finished 18-18 overall. What a turnaround. This was their best finish since Gary Payton’s senior season of 1989-90.

Coach Craig Robinson brought something the team desperately needed after two decades of bottom dwelling; a sense of pride and a sense of responsibility.

This all started at Pac-10 media day before the start of last season, when he told the media that his team would have morning workouts that began at 5:30am. When asked what would happen to players who didn’t show up, Robinson simply replied, “No one is making them come here. If they don’t want to be here, they don’t have to be.” This mentality and work ethic was engrained in his players since his arrival, and it has shown in their performance on the court.

Coach Craig Robinson addresses the media

Coach Craig Robinson addresses the media

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