Posted on: March 7, 2010 1:18 am
UCLA's regular season concluded Saturday with a resounding thud in Tempe against ASU. The Bruins face resurgent Arizona in the opening game of the Pac-10 tournament, with the winner, likely, advancing to play league champion Cal. In this bizarro world of Pac-10 seasons, all nine teams have to feel they have a realistic chance to string together a couple of wins and find themselves playing for a ticket to the Big Dance. Due to USC admitting they run a corrupt, outlaw athletic program the Trojans are sitting out the post season. Without further adieu, my fearless predictions on UCLA's outlook next week as well as the school I feel will win the conference's automatic bid into the 2010 NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Wed. 3/10: 8 Oregon (15-15) vs 9 Washington State (16-14)
The Ducks swept the Cougars in the regular season and are coming off a 74-66 win versus Wazzu that closed the curtain on venerable McArthur Court. Look for the Ducks to continue their improved play of late and move on to face California in the quarter finals.
Prediction: UO 72 - WSU 63.
Thurs. 3/11: 4 Arizona (16-14) vs 5 UCLA (13-17)
The Wildcats enter the Pac-10 tourney needing to win the automatic bid to run their amazing NCAA tournament appearance streak to 26 consecutive seasons. The Bruins are looking for a measure of revenge after getting swept by the Tucson Kitties this season. UCLA hung tough with U of A last week without Reeves Nelson and, likely, would have won the game if not for the untimely leg cramps suffered by Malcolm Lee. Kyle Fogg has been a three-point shooting thorn in the side of Ben Howland, lighting up the Bruins for career highs his last two times facing the 11-time National Champions. For UCLA to win the Bruins need to hold their own on the boards, limit turnovers and take advantage of opportunities in the open court. Arizona has integrated some talented freshman with veteran point guard Nic Wise, but their inexperience shows more away from the McKale Center. Gut tells me familiarity with the opponent and the return of Nelson gives UCLA a real shot at the upset. Look for Fogg to not get comfortable shooting in the cavernous Staples Center, and the Bruins to advance.
Prediction: UCLA 71 - Arizona 67
Thurs. 3/11: 1 California (21-9) vs 8 Oregon (15-15)
The Golden Bears captured their first league crown in fifty years and look like the only conference team that has wrapped up an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Cal swept the Ducks during the regular season and just match up extremely well with Ernie Kent's squad. Look for Oregon to attempt to take advantage of their superior inside play. Cal is prone to lapses on both ends of the court, but have to be concerned with the leg injury suffered by versatile sixth man Jorge Gutierrez.
Prediction: Cal 83 - Oregon 69
Thurs. 3/11: 3 Washington (21-9) vs 6 Oregon State (14-16)
The Huskies are finally playing like many predicted they would to start the season. UW is the deepest and most athletic team in the conference but took a while to adjust to the losses of Justin Dentmon and Jon Brockman. The Beavers are a program on the come under Craig Robinson, but just don't have the horses to keep UW off the boards and out of transition. Due in large part to the late season collapses of bubble teams across the country, the Huskies stand a great shot of receiving an at-large invitation to the Big Dance if they can make it to the conference final.
Prediction: UW 75 - OSU 64
Thurs. 3/11: 2 Arizona State (22-9) vs 7 Stanford (13-17)
Herb Sendek, the runaway choice for conference Coach of the Year, has the Sun Devils playing solid ball on both ends. ASU center Eric Boteng has emerged as a consistent low post presence and a quartet of snipers surround him. ASU uses a match up zone defense to frustrate the opposition, slow tempo and create easy offense. However, Stanford is precisely the type of team that will give the Devils fits. Led by outstanding performers Landry Fields and Jeremy Green the Cardinal play smart and will make the most of open looks they get. Boteng had a career night against Stanford in Palo Alto a couple weeks ago, but Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins is an underrated strategist and look for the Cardinal to bust the bubble of Sendek's Devils.
Prediction: Stanford 67 - ASU 64
Fri. 3/12: 1 California vs 5 UCLA
The teams split their regular season meetings, both teams winning on the opposing home courts. UCLA figures to go as long as its uneven guard play will allow. Cal will look to flood Nikola Dragovic's side of the zone with Jamal Boykin and Theo Robertson/Patrick Christopher. The Bears have had a lot of success attacking the Bruins zone from the baseline and wings, penetrating to the foul line and kicking out for wide open threes. UCLA, again if it limits turnovers, has the personnel to make this a game. Dragovic and Bruins MVP Mike Roll have to step up big if UCLA has any chance to beat the Golden Bears. Look for the Bruins to play a spirited game, only to fade in the final five minutes as their shaky ball handling and inconsistent free throw shooting do them in.
Prediction: Cal 77 - UCLA 69
Fri. 3/12: 3 Washington vs 7 Stanford
The Huskies swept the Cardinal during the regular season on the strength of Quincy Pondexter and too much ball pressure from their guards. Look for the formula to not change too much. Stanford makes some threes and puts a scare in Lorenzo Romar's crew, but in the end Washington's athleticism and depth wear down the Cardinal.
Prediction: UW 80 - Stanford 69
Sat. 3/13: 1 California vs 3 Washington
The Bears and Huskies split their two meetings during the year, both winning on their home courts. Washington has the quickness at guard to bother, likely, Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle. Randle torched the Huskies in their last contest. The game comes down to the boards. UW has played at entirely different level once it reinserted Matthew Bryan-Amaning back into the starting lineup. MBA goes post graduate on the Berkeley Bears, teaming with Pondexter to lead Washington to the title.
Prediction: UW 78 - Cal 73
Pac-10 gets two teams into the dance. Cal, in my opinion, under seeded as, likely, a 10 seed and Washington rides its late season momentum to an 11 seed and becomes one of the sexy picks nationally to knock off a team or two and advance to the Sweet 16. It won't really seem like March Madness without our Bruins in the party.
Posted on: December 4, 2009 4:31 pm
I was under the false assumption that last year was our blip year – a predictable dip following three consecutive Final Four appearances. Observant Bruins fans could see the flaws in last year’s team: uneven play on the road, difficulty containing dribble penetration, long dry stretches on offense, lack of rebounding. Those same flaws are alarms this year.
I’m a proud UCLA alumnus and will always support the school and athletic programs. I’m not unrealistic about where the basketball program is, where Ben has taken it from or what the possibilities are for the school moving forward. But, we’ve had six full season of Benball and, undeniably, the man can coach defense. I’ve yet to see the consistency on offense that it will take to clear the last hurdle.
Developing an offensive identity is every bit as important as garnering one on defense. I’m not certain it’s all about a lack of talent, the Bruins have had several players move on to play professionally so the that cannot be the sole reason for the choppy play. Our floor spacing and movement off the ball isn’t very good – that’s a coaching issue. Again, I respect CBH and what he’s brought to Westwood. In no way, shape or form would I want another coach at the helm. UCLA has the same caliber athletes UNC, Kansas and Duke has, let’s be unafraid to play offense like those teams do.
Posted on: November 11, 2009 1:28 am
The offense flowed, as expected, with the return of Jerime Anderson and Michael Roll. Malcom Lee was in foul trouble and couldn't find his groove. Roll was the best player on the floor. Drew Gordon looked really nice on the offensive end, displaying a nice touch out to 15 ft and some quickness. Troubled by the lack of defensive pressure and the inability to rebound against Humboldt.
Posted on: October 27, 2009 6:08 pm
The Angels enter the off season with $50 million in expiring contracts. The club, roughly, had a payroll of $114M in 2009. I will give my suggestions on what the team needs to do as they prepare for 2010. Note: Current player age in parenthesis, followed by 2009 salary.
Chone Figgins (32) $5.77M - Love Figgins' versatility, but as an everyday third baseman Figgy is valuable but not at the reported price tag of five years and $50M. I'd roll the dice on Brandon Wood and, worse case scenario, have Macier Izturis as a platoon - back up option. If Troy Glaus can prove his shoulder is healthy, he'd be welcomed back in Anaheim on an incentive laden deal.
Darren Oliver (39) $3.7M - D.O. might retire, he'd be worth a one year deal at about the same terms. The free agent market is heavy with quality south paw relievers Mike Gonzalez, Joe Beimel, Billy Wagner and John Grabow.
Rob Quinlan $1.1M - Quinny has seen his role decrease the past few years. He's still a decent bench bat and can play the corner infield and OF spots. The club could offer him another one year deal or fill the same role internally. Juan Uribe might be an interesting choice to replace Quinlan and provide insurance for the Brandon Wood experiment at 3B.
The $50M ($41 if counting the salary due Scott Kazmir) can wisely be spent on four very good players - Hank Blalock ($8.5M 2 yrs + option), Jason Bay ($18.5M 4 years + option), Rich Harden ($9M 2 yrs + option), John Grabow ($3.7 M 2yrs) - still leaving room for extensions, in season trades and the draft budget. The Angels will get back Scott Shields to fortify the bullpen.
Posted on: October 14, 2009 1:31 pm
Great article in Slam Magazine about the UCLA Baby Bruins. Click on link:
Posted on: October 14, 2009 1:31 pm
Great article in Slam Magazine about the UCLA Baby Bruins. Click on link:
Posted on: March 7, 2009 8:05 pm
Another competitive year in the most underrated basketball conference in the country. These are a few of my observations on the 2008-09 season, predictions of how certain teams will fair in the NCAA tournament and my choices for various conference awards.
2009 Pac Ten Player of the Year
James Harden (ASU) - Harden carried a pretty ordinary supporting cast to an expected bid to the NCAA tournament and was the conferences most dominant player. Harden edges out Arizona's Jordan Hill and UCLA's Darren Collison for POY honors.
2009 Pac Ten 1st Team
G James Harden (Arizona State)
G Darren Collison (UCLA)
C Jordan Hill (Arizona)
F Jon Brockman (Washington)
F Chase Budinger (Arizona)
2009 Pac Ten 2nd Team
G Jerome Randle (California)
G Isaiah Thomas (Washington)
F Jeff Pendegraph (Arizona State)
F Taj Gibson (USC)
F Josh Shipp (UCLA)
Honorable Mention: Nic Wise (Arizona), Roeland Schaftenaar (Oregon State), Anthony Goods (Stanford), Taylor Rochestie (Washington State), Patrick Christopher (California), Justin Dentmon (Washington), Tajuan Porter (Oregon), Lawrence Hill (Stanford).
2009 Pac Ten Coach of the Year
Mike Montgomery (California) - The Golden Bears were expected to finish in the bottom half of the conference after losing its best two players. Montgomery implemented an up tempo offensive scheme built around Cal's strong group of returning perimeter players. The results were a return to the NCAA tournament. Oregon State's Craig Robinson and Lorenzo Romar of Washington were close runners up.
2009 Pac Ten All Freshman Team
G Isaiah Thomas (Washington)
G Klay Thompson (Washington State)
G Jrue Holiday (UCLA)
C Michael Dunigan (Oregon)
F DeMar DeRozan (USC)
2009 Pac Ten Defensive Player of the Year
Jordan Hill (Arizona) - Hill averaged nearly 2 blocks per game, was a monster on the defensive boards and the most dominating presence in the conference.
2009 Pac Ten Most Improved Player
Alfred Aboya (UCLA) - Aboya displayed his senior leadership on both ends of the floor and established himself as a bona fide offensive low post presence for the Bruins. Aboya edges out Landry Fields (Stanford) and Calvin Haynes (Oregon St.) for the honor.
2009 Conference Game of the Year
California 88, Washington 85 (4-OT) - The Bears victory was the only home loss suffered by the Huskies.
2009 Conference Pest of the Year
The award is shared by Venoy Overton of Washington and Daniel Hackett of USC.
Team Most Likely to win 2009 Pac Ten Tournament
UCLA Bruins - Bruins benefit from a mostly home crowd advantage, their depth and experience in this environment.
Darkhorse pick to surprise in Pac Ten Tournament
USC Trojans - They might not like each other, but they can fake it long enough to string together three wins. Their lack of a bench doesn't help them in this type of tournament. Coach Floyd's crew has to be the most disappointing team in the conference.
Team most likely to advance furthest in NCAA Tournament
I expect UCLA and Washington to advance past the first weekend. Without seeing match ups or venue, I'd say Washington has the best chance to advance past the Sweet 16 because of their rebounding and defensive pressure.
It wouldn't surprise me...
If Arizona went on a run if invited to the NCAA. When the Wildcats aren't in a true road game they are extremely dangerous and their big three of Hill, Wise and Budinger is as good as any in the country.
Posted on: March 5, 2009 3:58 pm
Predicting the outcome of games is always a dicey proposition, but given my track record I'm confident that this will reflect the final Pac Ten basketball standings on Sunday:
1. Washington (14-4) - Defeat Wazzu on Senior Day for Brockman and Dentmon.
2. UCLA (13-5) - Make NCAA seeding statement against the Oregon schools.
3. California (11-7) - Take a close loss versus the Tucson Kitties and rebound against the Devils.
4. Arizona State (11-7) - Throttle Stanford, then lose a nail biter to the Bears.
5. Arizona (10-8) - Jump off the NCAA bubble with home sweep of the Bays.
6. Southern Cal (9-9) - Home cooking agrees with Trojans as they dispatch Oregon and OSU.
7. Washington State (8-10) - Miracle three game run ends with thud in Seattle.
8. Oregon State (7-11) - Play competitive games in Los Angeles, but leave 0-2.
9. Stanford (5-13) - After getting swept in Arizona the Cardinal lick wounds in prep for CBI tourney.
10. Oregon (2-16) - Saved some face by beating OSU last Sunday, not so much against the LA schools.
Anyhow, the Pac Ten quarter final match ups would be incredible and the tournament is wide open. Under the seeding format I forsee this is how I predict the tournament playing out.
1. Washington vs. Oregon State - UW advances to semis
2. UCLA vs WSU - Bruins get revenge for earlier loss at Pauley
3. California vs USC - Trojans upend Golden Bears in mild surprise
4. ASU vs Arizona - Arizona finally figures out how to win late against Sendek's crew.
UW vs Arizona - Washington's depth too much for the Cats, and a still gimpy Jordan Hill, to overcome
UCLA vs USC - UCLA displays its depth and ability behind the arc versus Men of Troy
UW vs UCLA - National audience entertained by wide open game and get introduced to super frosh battle between a confident Jru Holiday and Isaiah Thomas. Home crowd backs the Bruins who narrowly escape with a 76-72 win and a likely #4 seed in West.