2009 Recruiting is Complete

Arizona’s much-maligned recruiting class, prior to Sean Miller taking the reins, is now complete with the addition of Derrick Williams.

Lance Stephenson and Jarrid Famous, we hardly knew ya.

With the committment of Jones and Williams, Miller rounds out a now-top 10 class for 2009 that includes:

Kyryl Natyazhko (C/PF)
Solomon Hill (SF/SG)
Kevin Parrom (PF/SF)
Lamont Jones (SG/PG)
Derrick Williams (PF/SF)

Every position is deep now. There are two options for PG after returner and All-American candidate Nic Wise in Garland Judkins and Jones. SG goes three deep with Kyle Fogg, then Brandon Lavender and Hill or Jones. SF has multiple options, starting with Hill, and then going through Parrom, Williams, and DJ Shumpert. PF is rock steady with Jamelle Horne, followed by Natyazhko, Parrom, and Williams, and the C position is anchored by Natyazhko and Alex Jacobson, with Horne being able to run the C if Miller goes small.

Miller will run, and run a lot, and his players will all see significant minutes – almost 20+ a game for everyone except Wise, who you can count on being around 30+ a game. This team will create matchup problems for everyone in the Pac-10 except UCLA, and even then the Bruins must be a little worried that this young Wildcat team somehow, some way, is now loaded and deep with talent at every position.

Wise and Horne will be the leaders on this team, and you know that these Wildcats will be a huge threat to win the conference now – a 26th straight run to the NCAA Tourney is almost a given, since a top-3 finish in the conference literally guarantees a berth.

Down at Tempe Normal, Herb Sendek and the rest of Sun Devil Nation must be wondering “How on earth could this have possibly happened?” They had four straight wins over Arizona – granted, they were over non-Lute Olson-coached teams – and it looked like they were going to become the new king of the hill in the state. Instead, Arizona turned the tables and now has not only the upper hand coaching-wise, but the talent to go with it. It’s a proven fact that Sendek is simply not an elite coach. He’s a good coach, maybe borderline great, but he’s not elite. Miller, however, has already proven he’s elite. In fact, Miller is already mentioned in several pundits’ top 30 coaching lists in the country.

All that’s left is now to look forward to the start of the basketball season. Jarrid Famous can stay at South Florida – hope he’s happy to be a bottom feeder for the remaining two years of his college career, because South Florida isn’t going to do anything in the Big East anytime soon. Lance Stephenson? Well, if he doesn’t sign with Memphis (and Josh Pastner could really use the help), then he will most likely end up in Europe. Good luck with that.

Either way, the 2009 Wildcats are complete!

A Haberdashery of Notes

Yes, I know what a haberdashery is. I just wanted an excuse for a new usage of it.

The Phoenix Coyotes are staying put – at least for the upcoming 2009-10 season. After that, however, who knows. The biggest rumor circulating is that potential purchaser Jerry Reisendorf would buy the NHL franchise and then apply to move it to Las Vegas for the 2011-12 season. Sigh – again, the Coyotes’ PR department has stated the team has lost money every year since moving to the Valley in 1996. You know what? Put a winning team on the ice and you’ll get fans in droves. And if you wouldn’t isolate the team in BFW Glendale, you would’ve had more fans to begin with.

The Suns are exploring options for trading Shaquille O’Neal to Cleveland for basically nobody (really, Rasheed Wallace’s contract, which would be bought out, and Sasha Pavlovic’s contract, which would also be bought out). Here’s my concern – the Suns in the three games under Alvin Gentry with Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash, and O’Neal managed to completely blow out opponents, scoring close to 140 ppg. Everyone knew that the Suns were an injury away from playoff contention, and O’Neal would have been unstoppable in the playoffs against the Lakers. Why would the Suns trade O’Neal at this point when they would have a full season under Gentry, who has shown he is able to combine not only the historic run-n-gun that Nash and Stoudemire prefer, but also the slow-em-down, post-up that O’Neal prefers. If purely from a financial standpoint, I think an O’Neal trade is prudent.

For the UA Wildcats, there are still reports out there that Lamont “Momo” Jones is still considering Arizona after being released from his LOI at USC. Other reports also have Florida and Memphis in the mix for Jones’ services. While Jones is a gifted athlete, I question why his presence is necessary on the Wildcats’ squad, now that Nic Wise has confirmed his return for his senior season and the fact that there are possibly three 4-star quality PG’s available in the class of 2010 (Naadir Tharpe, Ray McCallum, and Gary Franklin), making Jones quite expendable. Jones’ best bet, ironically, would be to suit up for Josh Pastner at Memphis, where he would get some immediate playing time, if that’s what he’s after – but if he’s really after competition and wants to learn under Wise and Miller, then Arizona is the place to be.

Also, the University of Maryland announced that they are no longer pursuing Lance Stephenson for their men’s basketball team. Some pundits believe (including yours truly) that this is because Greivis Vazquez pulled out of the NBA Draft to return to Maryland. Thus, Stephenson’s choices have been narrowed now to Arizona, Memphis and Florida. However, until the court case surrounding Stephenson is resolved at the end of June, Arizona will not be officially or directly recruiting him. (And if it turns out Stephenson plea bargins a guilty response or if he’s found guilty, Arizona will be making an official “he’s no longer being pursued” announcement almost immediately afterward – I would expect that the Media Relations department at the UA already has this announcement written…)

Finally, and unfortunately, the proposed Pac-10 schedule change (8 conference games instead of 9) failed so, the Pac-10 will be tightening their collective belts and hoping that a fifth BCS bowl game (not counting the National Championship) is in the future after this next four-year TV block. I have to say that the ADs who voted against this proposal got it completely wrong. Of course, the ones that voted against it were the ones that had no hope for BCS games to begin with (Washington State, Oregon State, etc), being more concerned with getting guaranteed crowds at their games due to Pac-10 play. Maybe if these teams would schedule teams that are “close” to their locations, they wouldn’t have these issues (read: Boise State, Idaho, Fresno State, San Jose State, etc) because those teams would surely draw fans with them. Or in the case of certain “nationally recognized teams”, they would have fans already there (read: BYU).

The Rose Bowl taking on non-BCS teams

Apparently, there’s a new clause in the Rose Bowl contract (rumored to have been forcibly added by ESPN for the next four year cycle) that stipulates the Rose Bowl MUST take a non-BCS school that has qualified for a BCS game if either the Big Ten champ or the Pac-10 champ is playing in the National Championship game.

As soon as this information was leaked, multiple websites started popping up with opinions on how the Boise State Broncos were going to fill that slot every year, or how Utah was going to run the table in the Mountain West and face USC.

Ah, but there’s problems with that thinking:

  1. The contract clause stipulates that the Rose Bowl must take the non-BCS school the FIRST time the Rose Bowl loses one of their main participants to the Nat’l Championship Game. It specifically states the FIRST time – not EVERY time. This means that a non-BCS school has one shot in the next four years.
  2. The contract clause ALSO stipulates that the non-BCS school must QUALIFY for the BCS – ie. they have to rank in the top 12 of the final BCS standings. So, if an 11-1 Boise State, Utah, or TCU team ends the season at #13, and USC or Ohio State is in the Nat’l Championship Game, too bad, the Rose Bowl can select any of the top 12 teams it wants to instead.
  3. Finally, the contract clause states that the Rose Bowl only has to select ONE non-BCS school. This is important, because there is always the chance that the Pac-10 and Big Ten teams could meet in the National Championship Game, and the Rose Bowl would have to select two teams to play. If the Bowl hasn’t already selected its one non-BCS school in any year prior of this current four year block, it will only have to select one non-BCS team. Again, that means that if Boise State and Utah both end in the top 12, the Rose Bowl gets to choose which of the two would play in it, AND it doesn’t necessarily mean the higher one of the two will play in it, only the one that will bring more fan base to Pasedena will get there (read: Utah).

There is something to be said here about this clause though – it’s an antitrust killer. No more can the non-BCS teams claim “less access” to the major bowls. But remember, the non-BCS teams already have access to the major bowls – they just have to qualify like the rest of the group by being in the top 12 at the end of the season. This clause just opens up one more major bowl to that non-BCS group, whereas before the non-BCS schools only had access to the Orange, the Sugar, and the Fiesta Bowls.

So all those Boise State, Utah, and TCU fans are getting their hopes up for a spot in the Grandaddy of the Them All, right?

Oh, but … wasn’t there something in the news recently about the Pac-10 possibly changing their scheduling? If it comes to fruition, wouldn’t that raise the rankings of all 10 Pac-10 teams headed into conference play? Why, yes, yes it would.

And if there’s only 12 spots at the top to qualify for BCS bowl games, if just two more Pac-10 teams ended up in the top 12, wouldn’t that push the non-BCS Boise States and Utahs out of the loop? Why, yes, yes it would, but ONLY if that non-BCS school had a loss. An undefeated non-BCS school is pretty much going to make it no matter what.

Let’s look at the past three years to see what would have happened:

2006:

  1. Ohio State
  2. Florida
  3. Michigan
  4. LSU
  5. USC
  6. Louisville
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Boise State
  9. Auburn
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Notre Dame
  12. Arkansas

The only non-BCS school was Boise State at 12-0. California was 18th at 8-3. A 9-2 record would have placed them somewhere between 10th and 14th, so Boise State would have been safe.

2007:

  1. Ohio State
  2. LSU
  3. Virginia Tech
  4. OKlahoma
  5. Georgia
  6. Missouri
  7. USC
  8. Kansas
  9. West Virginia
  10. Hawai’i
  11. Arizona State
  12. Florida

The only non-BCS school was Hawai’i at 12-0. Arizona State was #11 at 10-2. An 11-1 record would have easily moved them up to an 8th – 10th spot, but with Hawai’i undefeated, the lowest that Hawai’i would have dropped was to 12, and that’s still a guaranteed berth.

2008:

  1. Oklahoma
  2. Florida
  3. Texas
  4. Alabama
  5. USC
  6. Utah
  7. Texas Tech
  8. Penn State
  9. Boise State
  10. Ohio State
  11. TCU
  12. Cincinnati

Three non-BCS schools here, two of which are undefeated (Utah at #6, Boise State at #9). TCU ended up at #11. Oregon, ranked #17, was 9-3. A 10-2 record would have bounced TCU from the ranks, because Cincinnati was going to end up in the top 12, no matter what since they were the Big East champion at 11-2.

Now, that examination was just an eyeball test. A truer test would be to take the Pac-10 schedules for those years, remove the first Pac-10 game scheduled for each team and replace it with a team from the Sun Belt or Mid-American conference or a Div I-AA team. That means that 5 teams would have one less loss and would definitely increase their ranking going into conference play. The real test is when this actually takes place in the coming years. We will see the effect that scheduling has on the BCS rankings.

And that, ultimately, will affect the participation in the Rose Bowl.

Andy Staples is clueless

So, Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples opined a piece where he states that the Pac-10 needs to expand to 12 teams in order to silence any remaining BCS bashers of the conference. He claims that the best way to do so is also the best way to make money.

His reasons are thus:
1. Bad TV deal puts Pac-10 behind the 8-ball when compared to the other major conferences (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, etc.)
2. No championship game (no “gravy train”, he says).

His suggestions are ludicrous – besides the obvious point of having a championship game, he wants the Pac-10 to expand to include Boise State and Utah as members. He claims that “By inviting the two biggest thorns in the BCS’ side to sit at the big table, the Pac-10 could protect the BCS and its precious Rose Bowl matchup with the Big Ten.” He then goes on to say that Utah and Boise State would make “fine conference rivals”.

Now, by no means do I disagree that the Pac-10’s TV deal with Fox Sports is laughable. Fox Sports got a steal on this contract, but with the new commissioner coming in this year, Fox Sports will not get such a deal any more. In fact, no TV network will get that kind of deal. However, any new schools would have to be able to increase the league’s television market share, according to the outgoing Pac-10 commish. Boise State (121st biggest market) doesn’t quite make the cut. Utah (35th) might.

Second, a championship game depends on location, and the Pac-10 is one of the most geographically spread out conferences (aside from the Sun Belt). A championship “gravy train,” as Staples puts it, completely depends on ATTENDANCE. Assume for just a moment that the Pac-10 even considers expansion, they would have to place the championship game in the location that makes the most sense to get the most attendance – which would be Los Angeles. That’s great, but what if the two schools in the game are NOT from California? Say, Washington State and Arizona? Are you going to tell me that the place would be sold out? I don’t think so.

Third, all the conference rivals are geographically located in proximity to each other. Arizona/ASU. Cal/Stanford. UCLA/USC. Oregon/Oregon State. Washington/Washington State. All of these rivals are only a maximum of 90 minutes away from each other by car. Boise State and Utah is a 4.5 to 6 hr drive, depending on which interstate you take.

Fourth, the Pac-10 will not bring in two schools for athletics for football only. If they’re in, they’re in for ALL sports. Considering that football and basketball are the only money makers right now, Arizona facing Boise State in track and field or UCLA facing Utah in women’s softball, both several times a year, is not cost effective.

Fifth, the Pac-10 conference is also a HUGE research-oriented conference and has high standards for academics, grad school, and other non-athletic requirements. Unless the schools have valuable contributions in the areas of research and development, the Pac-10 would not consider those schools. Unfortunately, Boise State and Utah do not quite fit those categories.

Sixth, if two teams were considered, they also need to bring either a national presence or an extremely huge regional presence. Is Boise State a national presence east of the Mississippi? Unless you’re from Boise, the answer is no. Is Utah? Maybe.

Some good examples – Colorado/Colorado State fits the former, but then again we fall into the geography problem with competing with the remaining members of the conference. Utah/BYU would be a better fit, but would BYU want to leave the Mountain West where they are top dog every year to become second-, third-, or even fourth-fiddle in the Pac-10? Probably not.

If we considered major regional presence, then good fits might be San Diego State and UNLV. Aside from Fresno State there aren’t any other Univ of California at ____ or Cal State ____ schools that play Division I football. The University of Hawai’i also could be a team to consider, seeing as every major market in the Pac-10 has direct flights to Honolulu, and EVERYONE has heard of and knows of Hawai’i.

No, Staples obviously didn’t put any real thought into his piece, he was just spouting off the cuff.

However, the Pac-10 will be taking steps anyway to assure themselves a better BCS shot each year by getting rid of round-robin scheduling and going back to playing only 8 conference teams each season instead of nine. This means that the schools will be scheduling one more “gimme” every season, just like the ACC, the SEC, and the Big 12 do. That means that the Pac-10 schools will head into the meat of their season – ie. conference play – with more wins, making the conference more relevant on a national scale.

They’ll also string out the schedule a little more in the season to allow for final games to be played during “Championship Week” in order to make the conference relevant in BCS discussions – one of the problems currently is that the Pac-10 (along with the Big Ten) wraps up their season a week or two too early. Now, that won’t be an issue.

So, does the Pac-10 need to expand? No, not really. Is there a championship “gravy train”? Maybe on the East Coast (again with the East Coast bias, Mr. Staples?) but not out West. Can the Pac-10 bring themselves back into one of the premiere football conferences? Absolutely, and they can do it all without ANY of Mr. Staples suggestions.

Pac-10 basketball officials suck

I have now watched two Pac-10 games this week (ASU/UCLA, ASU/USC) and watched the zebras literally HAND both games to ASU on blocking fouls that were called offensive charges. Add this to the UA/ASU game that was also handed to ASU by the officials this year on a blocking foul that was called an offensive charge, and you have now the nationwide leader in blown calls.

And I’m not just singing sour grapes here, being a UA fan. All three games had the TV commentators watch the “foul” replayed several times in regular and slo-mo speeds and in all three games, they agreed, as did I, that the officials got it wrong.

And sadly, in all three games, the officials decided the outcome of the games because in each case, the team in question would have tied the game or brought the score to one possession – AND would have had momentum (which is a big deal in college basketball)!

And of course, ASU was the beneficiary of all three.

Now Tim Floyd, the USC coach, just got tossed for this latest travesty, and I really hope that USC sends this tape to the Pac-10 head of officiating, because those zebras REALLY need to put in some extra film time on “What Is and Is Not a Charge.”

UPDATE: The offending idiot ref this time was actually named in a newspaper article – Randy McCall. Hey, Randy, you need a serious retest of your officiating status. Heck, in that same article, the kid that took the “charge” (Jamelle McMillan) even admits “Whether I was moving or not, I was just going to fall. That was my plan the whole time. Fortunately the call went my way, and they got a little angry about it. I had made up my mind when I saw him trying to go by Derek (Glasser) that I was going to fall regardless.”

So, from now on until the end of basketball season, I will be posting every day and using “Randy McCall” as a tag as a protest, because the Pac-10 officials right now suck beyond belief.