Tag: Arizona

2018-2019 Pac-12 Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

Jaylen Hands, UCLA

Preseason All-Conference Team:

Bennie Boatwright, USC

Noah Dickerson, Washington

Jaylen Hands, UCLA

Tres Tinkle, Oregon St

Kris Wilkes, UCLA

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

Kevin Porter Jr., USC

Projected Order of Finish:

1. UCLA

Head coach Steve Alford has the unenviable task of trying to navigate the harsh and unrealistic UCLA fan base. His seat is as hot as it gets and he’ll probably need to make it to the second weekend to save his job. The backcourt trio of sophomores Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes and junior Prince Ali will be one of the best in the country. Freshman center Moses Brown will be tasked with being the defensive anchor. There’s plenty of talent here, but the Bruins will have to keep the noise away.

2. Washington

No one expected the Huskies to be as good as they were last season, but they managed to find themselves to the bubble. This season should see the Huskies become one of the best teams in the Pac-12. Senior forward Noah Dickerson is a true low-post scorer that will be tough for anyone to guard. Throw in the 2-3 zone and the combination of a true star plus style of play can lead Washington to a Pac-12 title.

3. Oregon

The Ducks missed the tournament last season after making a Final Four run the year before. The talent here this season is impressive. Junior guard Payton Pritchard and senior forward Paul White return along with a top 5 recruiting class featuring Bol Bol and Louis King. Texas A&M-CC Ehab Amin will also be able to produce right away as well for this Pac-12 title contender.

4. USC

Injuries never allowed the Trojans to meet their full potential last season, but there is enough talent here to get back to the tournament. The frontcourt is set with senior Bennie Boatwright and junior Nick Rakocevic. Junior guard Jonah Matthews will also be a key contributor. However, the Kevin Porter Jr. is the wild card here. The possible one-and-done prospect could be enough to make USC a truly dangerous team.

5. Arizona St

The Sun Devils started out the season as hot as any team in the country as they climbed all the way to a top-5 ranking. People will remember them for faltering down the stretch just as much. Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice are gone from that team. Sun Devil fans should not fret though as sophomores Romello White and Remy Martin return along with newcomers, transfer Rob Edwards and freshmen Lugentz Dort and Taeshon Cherry.

6. Oregon St

Head coach Wayne Tinkle did the impossible by getting this program to the NCAA tournament in 2016. The past two years have been less than stellar. There is talent with The Thompson brothers in the backcourt and the coaches son, Tres Tinkle, in the frontcourt. The Beavers will be a middle of the pack Pac-12 team and, with the right victories, can get into the bubble conversation.

7. Colorado

Head coach Tad Boyle is one of the most underrated coaches in the country so there is no concern whether this team will be competitive. The backcourt of sophomore McKinley Wright IV and senior Namon Wright will be among the best in the Pac-12. Sophomore Tyler Bey and junior Lucas Siewart will be important to just how good this team can be.

8. Arizona

Outside of Louisville, no team was tied up in the middle of the FBI investigation as much as Arizona. That cloud will remain over the program for the foreseeable future. That plus having to replace DeAndre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins and Dusan Ristic will prove to be tough for head coach Sean Miller. Transfers Chase Jeter and Ryan Luther will have to hit the ground running as will freshmen Brandon Williams and Devonaire Doutrive.

9. Utah

The Utes are in a transitional period as a program as head coach Larry Krystkowiak attempts to get his team back to the tournament. Senior guard Sedrick Barefield returns to try to help move the program forward. Freshmen Both Gak and Timmy Allen are the future of the program, but they’ll have to be prepared right away.

10. Stanford

Injuries took a huge toll on the Cardinal last season and then Reid Travis transferred to Kentucky. Now head coach Jerod Haase is back to square one. Sophomores K.Z. Okpala and Daejon Davis return with other young pieces like sophomores Kodye Pugh, Oscar da Silva and freshman Jaiden Delaire. Stanford is at least a year away.

11. Washington St

This is the single toughest job in a power 5 conference. Head coach Ernie Kent knows this now as his time is running out in Pullman. Making matters worse is Malachi Flynn’s transfer to San Diego St. If Kent is to get out of this hole, he’ll need his numerous about of juco transfers to mesh and be productive.

12. California

Head coach Wyking Jones is having difficulty keeping his best players from transferring. The roster this year is young and needs a few years for seasoning. It’s going to be tough this season for Jones as his team struggles with an improving Pac-12.

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BRACKETOLOGY: Sunday March 11, 2018 AM (Welcome UMBC, NC-Central, Texas Southern, Kansas, San Diego St, Villanova, Buffalo, Montana, Virginia, Marshall, Stephen F. Austin, Arizona, New Mexico St, CS Fullerton)

This bracket is good for games through 3/10

Last Four In: Arizona St, Florida St, Oklahoma, Baylor

Last Four Out: USC, Middle Tennessee, Saint Mary’s, Louisville

Next Two Out: Notre Dame, Syracuse

SOUTH

1.Virginia(ACC)16.LIU-Brooklyn(NEC)/North Carolina Central(MEAC) Charlotte

8.Butler9.Texas A&M

5.Texas Tech12.Marshall(C-USA) Dallas

4.Houston13.South Dakota St(Summit)

6.Rhode Island11.Baylor/Florida St Detroit

3.Michigan St14.Wright St(Horizon)

7.Kansas St10.St. Bonaventure Nashville

2.Tennessee15.Iona(MAAC)

WEST

1.Xavier16.Radford(BSouth) Pittsburgh

8.Virginia Tech9.Missouri

5.Wichita St12.New Mexico St(WAC) San Diego

4.Arizona(P12)13.UNC-Greensboro(SoCon)

6.Miami(FL)11.Oklahoma/Arizona St Boise

3.Michigan(B10)14.Bucknell(Patriot)

7.Nevada10.Creighton Charlotte

2.North Carolina15.Harvard

MIDWEST

1.Kansas(B12)16.Georgia St Wichita

8.Providence9.NC State

5.Ohio St12.San Diego St(MWest) Boise

4.Gonzaga(WCC)13.College of Charleston(CAA)

6.Arkansas11.Texas Wichita

3.Purdue14.Montana(BSky)

7.TCU10.UCLA Nashville

2.Duke15.UMBC(AEast)

EAST

1.Villanova(BEast)16.Cal St Fullerton(BWest)/Texas Southern(SWAC) Pittsburgh

8.Alabama9.Seton Hall

5.Kentucky12.Buffalo(MAC) San Diego

4.West Virginia13.Murray St(OVC)

6.Clemson11.Loyola-Chicago(MVC) Dallas

3.Auburn14.Lipscomb(ASun)

7.Florida10.Oklahoma St Detroit

2.Cincinnati15.Stephen F. Austin(Southland)

Duel in the Desert: Arizona St vs. Arizona Preview

 

Arizona St and Arizona are preparing to play perhaps the biggest regular season game in the history of the rivalry. That’s because the preseason top-5 Wildcats are rolling again while their opponents, the Sun Devils, are the talk of the college basketball world.

Over the past thirty-plus years, Arizona has been one of the marquee brands in college basketball. Arizona St, on the other hand, has had specific years where it’ll surprisingly pop up and make the tournament, but it has never been able to sustain success.

This year’s game is different. Both teams are playing well especially on offense. They both rate in the top-ten in adjusted offensive effiency.

The Sun Devils will be led by probable All-American senior guard Tra Holder, who’s averaging 21.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He’s been aptly supported by his backcourt mate senior Shannon Evans II, who’s averaging 17.8 points per game and 4.7 assists.

Those two have been paramount in helping the Sun Devils to shock the nation this season. They not only beat Xavier and Kansas away from home, but they made it look easy. They blew out Xavier by 16 in Las Vegas in late November. Then, earlier this month, beat Kansas by 10 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse – becoming the first nonconference opponent to win at Kansas since San Diego St on Jan. 5, 2014.

Arizona on the other hand, had a dubious start to its season as it lost all three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas during Thanksgiving week. Since then, the Wildcats seem to have fixed their problems and have their glue guy, sophomore guard Rawle Alkins, back from injury.

Junior guard Allonzo Trier lead the Wildcats in scoring with 21.2 points per game. He’s the one in the 1-2 punch that also features freshman center Deandre Ayton, who’s averaging 19.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.

What will be the difference? I believe it will be Ayton. In neither of the Sun Devils’ wins over Kansas or Xavier did they have to match-up with a presence like Ayton. Freshman forward Romello White and junior forward De’Quon Lake provide a solid presence in the frontcourt, but the physical Ayton, the future lottery pick, is a totally different animal.

Add that with Arizona at home, neither team being great defensively, and it being New Year’s Eve and I have the Wildcats in a 92-88 win over the Sun Devils.

 

 

Wildcat Bounceback

 

Ayton Alabama
Arizona forward Deandre Ayton (13) throws down a dunk on Alabama forward Donta Hall (0) in the first half of their game at McKale Center, Saturday, December 9, 2017, Tucson, Ariz.
Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

 

By the time we got to the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, the world was asking what was wrong with Arizona. The Wildcats dropped all three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis including a 25-point loss to Purdue.

After four straight wins, including three over tough opponents, those fears have been assuaged a bit.

The Wildcats, frankly, looked like they were wilting under the pressure of the FBI investigation that has cost them their top recruiter. It is an investigation that the program and administration has not really addressed in public. All that anyone will admit is that the school has hired a firm to investigate the charges.

It looked like it may have still been hovering over the Wildcats in their Dec. 2 game at UNLV. They found themselves down 11 at halftime, but stormed back to force overtime. They eventually won 91-88 behind 29 points by junior guard Allonzo Trier and 28 by freshman center Deandre Ayton.

On Tuesday, Arizona met Texas A&M on a neutral court in Phoenix. It was the best team it had faced all year and it had to dig deep for a 67-64 win. The Wildcats were able to get to the free-throw line in the second half – making 20 of 24 while putting forth one of their best defensive efforts to pull out the win.

Saturday, the Wildcats hosted another probable NCAA tournament team in Alabama and Trier and Ayton once again led the charge as they combined for 54 points in the Wildcats 88-82 victory. Buoyed by the return of sophomore guard Rawle Alkins, who was playing his first game of the season after nursing a foot injury, the Wildcats outscored the Crimson Tide 50-42 in the second half to secure the win.

Arizona still has a three non-conference tilts remaining, including a home game versus UConn, before conference play starts with a bang with Arizona St. If the Wildcats are able to win all four of those then they’ll be firmly back in the conversation for national title contenders. That is, if they aren’t put on probation.

 

 

 

Devils Love the Fire

 

Bagley Florida
(Jaime Valdez – USA TODAY Sports)

 

This weekend, the Duke Blue Devils won the Motion bracket of the PK80 invitational. What’s interesting is how they won.

Duke was down by at least seven in each of the wins, including being down 17 with 10 minutes remaining in their 87-84 championship win over Florida. It was an impressive show of resilience from a pretty young team.

That young team (more on that below) may now firmly be the favorites for the national title after beating Florida and Michigan St in the first month of the season.

National Player of the Week: Marvin Bagley, III, Duke.

Bagley was dominant in Portland last week as he averaged 27.3 points and 15 rebounds per game to spur Duke to the title. He has shown early on that the hype around him is legit and that he is a legitimate National Player of the Year Candidate.

Stock Up: Washington St. How about the Cougars? Washington State won the Wooden Legacy tournament in Southern California – beating 3 teams that many believe are bubble teams at the very least. This is a huge development for the Pac-12 and that program that hasn’t been the same since Tony Bennett left for Virginia.

Stock Down: Arizona. Wow. If there was any team that the FBI investigation appears its taken its toll on its the Arizona Wildcats. They lost all three game in the Battle of Atlantis and weren’t competitive in the their 89-64 lost to Purdue. It’s an embarrassing performance for a program under the microscope.

Stock Up: Division I basketball in the state of Nevada. Both Nevada and UNLV are undefeated and have looked impressive doing so. The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels  destroyed Utah by 25 on Thanksgiving in a clear sign that head coach Marvin Menzies has it turned it around. Meanwhile Nevada has already beaten Rhode Island and Davidson. It looks like those two could be making the Mountain West at least a two-bid league.

Stock Down: Trying to win a game with three players. It’s almost impossible, but Alabama came close. After a scuffle when it’s reserves left the bench, a foul out and an injury, the Crimson Tide was forced to finish its game against Minnesota with just three players. The crazy thing is that after all that happened, Alabama actually cut into the lead. Still not recommended.

This Week’s Top 25:

1.       Duke

2.       Kansas

3.       Michigan St

4.       Villanova

5.       Miami

6.       Texas A&M

7.       Florida

8.       Minnesota

9.       Notre Dame

10.   Virginia

11.   Wichita St

12.   USC

13.   Gonzaga

14.   Kentucky

15.   Cincinnati

16.   North Carolina

17.   Rhode Island

18.   Seton Hall

19.   Xavier

20.   West Virginia

21.   Louisville

22.   Alabama

23.   Baylor

24.   TCU

25.   Arizona St

 

BRACKETOLOGY: Sunday March 15, 2015 AM (Welcome Albany, UAB, Hampton, Harvard, Wyoming, Iowa St, Villanova, Buffalo, Notre Dame, Stephen F. Austin, Eastern Washington, Arizona, UC-Irvine, New Mexico St)

Last Four In: Mississippi, Indiana, Boise, Temple

Last Four Out: Miami(FL), Colorado St, Illinois, Tulsa

This bracket is good for games thru 3/14

MIDWEST

1.Kentucky16.Robert Morris(NEC)/Lafayette(Patriot) Louisville

8.Ohio St9.St. John’s

5.SMU12.Wyoming(MWest) Portland

4.Utah13.Valparaiso(Horizon)

6.Michigan St11.Davidson Columbus

3.Notre Dame(ACC)14.Belmont(OVC)

7.Xavier10.Purdue Omaha

2.Iowa St(B12)15.Georgia St

WEST

1.Wisconsin16.Coastal Carolina(BSouth) Omaha

8.Cincinnati9.VCU

5.Providence12.Boise St/Indiana Seattle

4.Oklahoma13.UC-Irvine(BWest)

6.Georgetown11.Temple/Mississippi Louisville

3.North Carolina14.UAB(CUSA)

7.West Virginia10.BYU Portland

2.Arizona(P12)15.Texas Southern(SWAC)

SOUTH

1.Duke16.North Florida(ASun)/Hampton(MEAC) Charlotte

8.Iowa9.Georgia

5.Arkansas12.Buffalo(MAC) Jacksonville

4.Baylor13.Northeastern(CAA)

6.Wichita St11.Stephen F. Austin(Southland) Pittsburgh

3.Maryland14.New Mexico St(WAC)

7.San Diego St10.Oklahoma St Seattle

2.Gonzaga(WCC)15.North Dakota St(Summit)

EAST

1.Villanova(Beast)16.Manhattan(MAAC) Pittsburgh

8.Dayton9.NC State

5.Louisville12.Wofford(SoCon) Jacksonville

4.Northern Iowa(MVC)13.Harvard(Ivy)

6.Oregon11.LSU Columbus

3.Kansas14.Eastern Washington(BSky)

7.Butler10.Texas Charlotte

2.Virginia15.Albany(AEast)

Gael Force Wind

Photo by Tod Fierner

Two years ago Saint Mary’s shocked the country in the NCAA tournament when, as a No. 10 seed, it upset Richmond and Villanova on its way to the Sweet 16.  If the Gaels shock anyone in the tournament this year then it’s because of negligence because they might be the best team on the West Coast.

The Gaels are currently undefeated in the West Coast Conference, including an impressive 3-0 over Gonzaga and BYU.  In those three wins, the smallest margin of victory was 14 points.

Leading the Gaels is Australia native Matthew Dellavedova who played a key role in that Sweet 16 role two years ago as a sharpshooting roleplayer.  He’s still a sharpshooter, but now he’s one of the best guards in the country.

Complimenting Dellavedova is Rob Jones who’s averaging a double-double with 14.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.  This is a dangerous team and clearly a top-25 squad.

Stock Up: Florida St. Earlier in the season it looked like the Seminoles were in serious trouble of making the tournament.  However, they turned it around and are looking like legit contenders for the ACC regular season championship.  More than the wins over North Carolina and Duke; the Seminoles are staying focused and taking care of the Maryland’s and Wake Forest’s of the world.  That shows staying power at the top of the conference.

Stock Down: Pac-12.  The conference has been struggling for a few years now, but at least last year it had a few good teams.  This is the worst I’ve seen a power conference.  This week I only have one Pac-12 team in the bracket and that’s a shame.  UCLA is down, Arizona is struggling.  Those are the two bell cows for this league and it won’t get back right until they do.

Stock Up: Notre Dame. Mike Brey might be doing it again.  People seem to count his teams out every year yet he manages to get them going again.  The Fighting Irish are in a three-way tie for third place in the Big East with Georgetown and South Florida due to a three-game winning streak over Syracuse, Seton Hall and Connecticut.  Notre Dame is young and lacking star power, but make no mistake about it, its ready to make another run at the Big Dance.

Stock Down. A-10 contenders.  What’s going on in the Atlantic 10.  St. Joseph’s, St. Louis, Dayton, Xavier and Temple are all taking turns proving that they can’t handle success.  Despite impressive non-conference resumes, none of them seem to want to win the regular season conference title.  This has resulted in a three-way first place tie between Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure and La Salle.  Stretch run in the A-10 looks to be fun, but it may not be pretty.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: BYU, Arkansas, Colorado St, Alabama
Last Four Out: UCF, Washington, Wyoming, Mississippi

Good for games through 1/29

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.UNC-Asheville/Mississippi Valley St Louisville

8.Wichita St9.Illinois

5.Gonzaga12.Seton Hall Portland

4.Florida St13.Oral Roberts

6.Mississippi St11.Minnesota Albuquerque

3.UNLV14.Akron

7.Louisville10.Xavier Albuquerque

2.Baylor15.Montana

WEST

1.North Carolina16.Texas-Arlington/Stony Brook Greensboro

8.California9.Notre Dame

5.Wisconsin12.Alabama/BYU Portland

4.Marquette13.Long Beach St

6.Virginia11.Dayton Nashville

3.Vanderbilt14.Davidson

7.Michigan10.Connecticut Omaha

2.Kansas15.Long Island

EAST

1.Syracuse16.Bucknell Pittsburgh

8.Southern Miss9.Kansas St

5.San Diego St12.Purdue  Nashville

4.Florida13.Iona

6.Murray St11.Massachusetts Columbus

3.Michigan St14.Nevada

7.West Virginia10.Iowa St Greensboro

2.Duke15.Belmont

MIDWEST

1.Ohio St16.Norfolk St Pittsburgh

8.Temple9.Memphis

5.Georgetown12.Colorado St/Arkansas Columbus

4.St. Mary’st13.Middle Tennessee St

6.Indiana11.New Mexico Louisville

3.Creighton14.Cleveland St

7.Harvard10.Cincinnati Omaha

2.Missouri15.George Mason

In Graphical Form