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Arizona shows it has the potential to win a national title

by - Published November 30, 2013 in Columns
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NEW YORK – The game was all anyone could have wanted, especially after having to wait a little extra time because of a triple overtime affair right before it. Two top teams battled it out for much of the game, each with a much-talked-about freshman. The end result confirmed what some suspected beforehand: Sean Miller has Arizona primed to make a national title run.

It may be November, and coaches and players are loathe to make such pronouncements now. But we’ll say it: Arizona’s 72-66 win over Duke in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship shows us how good this Wildcat team can be.

… Continue Reading

Baylor is clearly third in the Big 12

by - Published February 12, 2012 in Columns
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At this time of the year, we find out who teams are. The importance of each game in the standings is clearer, teams have injuries, seniors are playing their final games and freshmen have about 20 games under their belt.

Every season, there are some teams that look very good for a while, even good enough in our minds to be Final Four and/or national championship contenders. They have the talent, experience and early on a few good wins. They might not lose a game for a while, even beating some good teams. Then sooner or later, they get tested, and we find that they’re not quite at that level.

Enter this year’s Baylor Bears, 72-57 losers at Missouri on Saturday. … Continue Reading

Notre Dame reminds us that we don’t play the games on paper

by - Published February 5, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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We always talk about how the games aren’t played on paper when looking at teams that don’t do what we expect. It’s a cliché, and it sticks around because everyone loves to predict how things will turn out in sports, no matter how wrong we could wind up being. All the while, the teams that end up better than we project can just laugh at us all they want.

Enter the 2011-12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame lost a great deal from last season’s team that entered the month of March playing about as well as any team in the country. Gone from that team are Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough and important role players Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott, the latter a big defensive leader for that team and a surprise early defection. Already, projections for this team were going to be that they were unlikely to contend for the top of the Big East. When they went 0-2 in Kansas City, including an 87-58 thrashing at the hands of Missouri, it looked like they would be who many thought they would be.

That wasn’t all. The Fighting Irish were not certain to have Tim Abromaitis back, as he played in two exhibition games in the 2008-09 season where he redshirted. But the NCAA granted him this year, so that helped as he was an experienced player and was second on the team in scoring last season. Then in late November, he tore the ACL in his right knee in practice, putting him out for the season.

At that point, the outlook was decidedly not good. But no one told head coach Mike Brey and his team that, and after Saturday’s convincing 76-59 win over Marquette, the Fighting Irish are alone in fourth place in the Big East.

“From the start of the season, no one thought we would be here,” said sophomore point guard Eric Atkins.

Notre Dame hasn’t compiled its record by beating up on the bottom feeders of the conference. Along the way, they have knocked off Louisville, Seton Hall and Connecticut on the road, and now Syracuse and Marquette at home.

“I am very proud of my group,” said Brey, who at this point looks like the runaway Coach of the Year in the Big East, if not nationally. “I told them in one of the final media timeouts that I felt like I was coaching men today. Last year’s team was men. That had a look of more than one fifth year senior on the court. I am thrilled where we are.”

Notre Dame can only get better given that this is a young team with a lot of players who are just finding themselves. Scott Martin is the only other senior besides Abromaitis on the team, while the emerging perimeter unit of Atkins, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton are sophomore, sophomore and freshman respectively. Connaughton wasn’t expected to play much, but he scored 21 points on Saturday and now starts on the hardwood as well as the mound (the San Diego Padres drafted him last year).

“Right now, we’re really confident that we can beat any team – we can play with any team,” said Grant. “Our team confidence is really high right now, and I’d like to keep it that way because we are playing really well.”

That’s one thing no one can doubt at this point. The Irish have proven that to this point, and as a more confident team they will be even tougher to beat.

 

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Arizona had a big weekend, sweeping their trip to northern California after a 56-43 win at Stanford on Saturday. The Wildcats may be starting to come alive at a good time.

Syracuse got Fab Melo back for Saturday’s game, and they rolled to a 95-70 blowout win at St. John’s. The win was the 879th in Jim Boeheim’s career, tying him with Dean Smith for third on the all-time list.

Seton Hall’s struggles continued as Connecticut annihilated them 69-46 in Hartford.

Kentucky had an easy time at South Carolina, committing just three turnovers in their blowout win.

The Big 12 gets a little more interesting at Missouri rallied to knock off Kansas in a big rivalry showdown. Both teams are now 8-2 in conference play.

Who’s on top of the ACC? No, not Duke, although the Blue Devils will be tied if they beat Miami on Sunday. North Carolina is in a tie after a big 83-74 win at Maryland to move into a tie for that spot. The team they are tied with is Florida State, as the Seminoles are 7-1 after a 58-55 win over Virginia.

Temple is now alone in first place in the Atlantic 10 after a 73-56 win at Rhode Island, combined with Saint Joseph’s knocking off La Salle earlier in the day. Temple’s perimeter trio continues to be the driving force for this team.

Wyoming knocked off road-weary UNLV in a close one after the Runnin’ Rebels ran into snow-related travel delays en route to Laramie.

Northern Iowa beat Creighton on a buzzer-beater, right after Creighton had tied it on a big shot.

Iona won a big showdown against Manhattan for the lead in the MAAC.

George Mason grabbed a share of the lead in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 54-50 win over Old Dominion in a first-place showdown. The Patriots are joined by VCU, 59-56 winners over Northeastern, and Drexel, 65-57 winners at Towson, at 11-2 in the conference.

Mississippi Valley State is now 10-0 in the SWAC and two games ahead in the standings, after knocking off Alabama State.

 

Sunday’s key matchups:

  • Michigan at Michigan State
  • Miami at Duke
  • Northwestern at Illinois
  • Stephen F. Austin at McNeese State
  • The biggest one of all: New York Giants vs. New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI

Percolating hoops intrigue makes February a fantastic month for sports

by - Published February 1, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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It’s February — one of the most underrated sports months of the year.

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, the biggest event in U.S. sports will command the attention of tens of millions of viewers, generating tens of millions of dollars for everyone associated with the event.

A few weeks later, the NBA All-Star game will show the NFL how exhibition weekends should be run. In my opinion, the NBA All-Star weekend festivities are the best of any pro sport, with baseball coming in a close second. Did anyone actually watch the Pro Bowl last weekend?

We don’t have any winter Olympics this year, but that’s a February event, too.

And then we have college hoops. To casual fans, March is the month of joy. But February is the month that sets the table for March. Dozens of teams are jockeying for position right now, fighting for a better seed and location or merely a bid to the Big Dance.

The schedule-makers know what they’re doing, too. Next Wednesday — just days after the Super Bowl — the top rivalry in college hoops will go down for the first of two meetings in a month when Duke visits North Carolina. That’s a nice way for the NCAA to tell America: “Guess what? Football is over. It’s time to set your sights on the hardwood.”

And of course, as we work through the thick of conference play, we’ll have the rush of bracket projections to feed the hoops addiction. Hoopville will join the fray as usual, starting this Friday. We choose to wait until February because it just feels right. By now, we have a large enough sample size to judge teams’ résumés and make projections that have a good shot of standing up during the final few weeks before Selection Sunday.

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Get ready for more technical fouls and a shorter leash on players or coaches who act out. Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog reports that John Adams, the NCAA’s national officiating coordinator, sent a notice to all officials that implored them to clamp down on bad behavior.

Clemson has indefinitely suspended junior Milton Jennings, a former McDonald’s All-American, because of academic reasons, according to the Associated Press. Jennings averages 8.9 ppg and 5.4 rpg.

Arizona will finish the season without junior Kevin Parrom, who broke his foot in a loss to Washington last weekend, according to a CBS Sports.com report. He averaged 4.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg and 1.7 apg this season.

Iona is looking to remain one of the premier programs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and the university extended the contract of coach Tim Cluess to help make that happen, according to a CBS Sports.com report.

Don’t mess with a player’s routine. North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes shared some of the details of his routine with Andrew Jones of Fox Sports to explain why he changed his shoes at halftime of the Tar Heels’ win against Georgia Tech. Like the rest of the team, Barnes started the game with pink shoes to help promote breast cancer awareness. But he went with his usual Kobes in the second half.

VCU coach Shaka Smart stirred some commotion in the commonwealth during a teleconference Monday, writes Myron Medcalf for ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. Smart asserted that Virginia’s best schools reside in the CAA. He didn’t call out the ACC teams in Blacksburg or Charlottesville by name, but Smart felt compelled to give UVA coach Tony Bennett a call to clarify his comments.

The NCAA won’t be seeking any further action against Connecticut freshman guard Ryan Boatright regarding an investigation into his eligibility because of money and benefits that he and his mother received, according to the Associated Press. But the AP reports that the Boatrights’ lawyer isn’t finished with his actions against the NCAA, lambasting the organization for releasing private information.

The only coach to ever lead Canisius to an NCAA Tournament win died Saturday, according to the Associated Press. Joseph Curran, 89, passed away in Mystic, Conn. He led the Golden Griffins to a 76-66 record in six seasons, which included a shocking four overtime victory against No. 2 North Carolina State in the 1956 NCAA Tournament.

Coaches vs. Cancer: A final look

by - Published November 20, 2011 in Columns

NEW YORK – A brief note on the four teams in the recently completed Coaches vs. Cancer classic. The scores:

Semifinals:

Mississippi State 69, Texas A&M 60

Arizona 81, St. John’s 72

 

Consolation:   Texas A&M 58, St. John’s 57

Championship:  Mississippi State 67, Arizona 57

… Continue Reading

Coach K closes in on D-I record, passing his mentor en route

by - Published November 15, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

From the hallowed hardwood in Madison Square Garden, a pupil could surpass the master tonight.

When Duke takes on Michigan State in the Champions Classic in New York City, coach Mike Krzyzewski will have an opportunity to pass his mentor, Bob Knight, for the most Division I wins in NCAA history. The Blue Devils beat Presbyterian Saturday to give Coach K win No. 902. A third consecutive victory to open the season would be the record-setter.

In a press conference Monday, Coach K said that “somebody asked me this morning about where would this be in a list of things that you feel really good about, and I said, ‘It’s behind every championship. And not just national championships but league championships.’”

That doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal. Krzyzewski, who turns 65 in February, has been one of the top coaches in the game for several decades after a slow start to his career in Durham. His perseverance and determination are a model of leadership that extends far beyond a basketball arena. In a sport filled with unsavory characters and frequent recruiting violations, Coach K keeps Duke on the up and up. He takes pride in his players’ high graduation rate, and he cares more about the accomplishments of specific Blue Devil teams than his own accolades.

“You want to win a championship with the team that you coach that year, and those are the things that you remember are championship moments — whether they be league championship moments, regular season, ACC,” Krzyzewski said. “Obviously the biggest thing that you can remember easily is national championships. But championships are things that I look back on because that’s a real accomplishment.”

Another coaching legend, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, won’t make it easy for Coach K to celebrate his record-breaking victory. But whenever Krzyzewski gets No. 903, it will be one of the major highlights of the entire 2011-12 season.

We go coast to coast with other news from the college basketball nation.

  • Louisville junior guard Mike Marra will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL against Lamar Sunday, according to an Associated Press report. Marra’s loss is significant as he was an important member of coach Rick Pitino’s backcourt rotation, averaging 6.4 points per game last season.
  • The good news for Louisville is that freshman guard Kevin Ware has his academics in order now and will be eligible to play for the Cardinals starting in mid-December, after the university’s fall semesters concludes, according to a Lexington Herald-Leader report.
  • Arizona had to dig deep to rally past Ball State, which held a nine-point halftime lead against the Wildcats Sunday. With junior swingman Kevin Parrom back in the lineup just seven weeks after being shot in the leg and hand while visiting family in New York City and four weeks after his mother died, according to the Associated Press, the Wildcats found the will to lock down the Cardinals in the second half for a 73-63 win. Parrom contributed six points and four rebounds in 18 minutes to help get the Wildcats the victory.
  • Instant replay might slow down the game in the NFL, but at least the officials get the calls right more often than not. Vermont probably wishes more stadiums had replay capabilities after falling victim to a lack of technology in a 61-59 loss to South Florida played at Division II University of Tampa. After calling a timeout, the clock ran for an extra second or two, but the referees couldn’t review the time on the clock because there were no available video feeds, writes ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan. The Catamounts hit a would-be game-tying tip-in on their final possession — just after the buzzer.
  • Texas A&M will be without one of the best players in the Big 12, Khris Middleton, while the junior forward recovers from a knee injury suffered during the Aggies’ 81-59 win against Liberty, according to an Associated Press report.
  • According to a CBS Sports.com wire report, Marquette will play its first three games without freshman Juan Anderson for a rules violation. The oftense? Accepting a free ticket to see the Milwaukee Brewers in the Major League Baseball playoffs.

Globetrotters’ Basketball Soul Outshines Rash of Rough News

by - Published April 15, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a round up of the nation’s top stories.

1. Although Phil Jackson seems pretty convinced that there won’t be a next season for the NBA next season, several college players are gambling that they’ll still be making NBA money within a few months. Here are a few of the players who announced during the past few days that they’ll be entering the NBA Draft.

2. ESPN.com’s Andy Katz breaks down the NCAA Legislative Committee’s proposal to move up the deadline for declaring for the draft. If the Board of Directors approves the measure, players will need to decide by April 10 whether they intend to declare for the draft — and they can’t turn back. It essentially ends the test-the-waters approach, which isn’t good for the kids, Katz writes.

3. One player who won’t be testing the waters this season is Baylor’s Perry Jones, ESPN.com’s Andy Katz writes. Somewhat surprisingly, Jones will return to the Bears, who had a disappointing season but will return a start-studded team, anchored by Jones.

4. Despite the uproar about the early entry deadline, that’s small change compared to the fiasco in San Diego. The Associated Press reported this week that the FBI is investigating former members of the Toreros program for running a sports betting business, and 10 people have been charged in the case, including the team’s all-time leading scorer, Brandon Johnson. In addition to Johnson, former player Brandon Dowdy is accused of fixing games.

5. Jorts-mania could be coming to a town near you. Kentucky’s Josh Harrellson will be launching a Jorts Tour — after his now-famous nickname — to sign autographs and hawk his clothing line, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog.

6. As Nebraska prepares to move to the Big 10 next season, the Huskers have reworked coach Doc Sadler’s deal to pay him an extra $100,000 per year, making his salary $900,000 per year through 2015-16, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report.

7. One of Nebraska’s former Big 12 rivals, Iowa State, is dealing with some drama after police arrested freshman center Jordan Railey for punching a man late Wednesday night along a hot spot for Ames restaurants and bars, according to the Associated Press. Coach Fred Hoiberg has suspended Railey while gathering more information about the incident.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

Man, what a rough week for news in the world of college basketball.

Several players landed in trouble with the law (Nebraska, Florida). An NBA-minded freshman skipped his team’s season-closing banquet to work out in Vegas (Kansas). And speaking of Sin City, the gambling bug apparently migrated south to San Diego, where the very integrity of the game is in question after the FBI unearthed a supposed sports business ring that included former Torero players who are accused of fixing games.

And just to pile on, the NCAA looks pretty selfish and uninterested in the welfare of student-athletes after moving forward with a proposal to give players until about a week after the championship game to decide whether they want to return to school or enter the NBA Draft. Needing only an affirmative vote by the NCAA’s Board of Directors to become official, the proposal applies tortured logic that benefits schools and coaches but not players. And the players already are limited because the NCAA won’t let them profit from their name or likeness in commercial products, such as video games. However, the NCAA is happy to take its cut from those sales.

That’s enough to get you pretty down about the game.

Thankfully, I watched the Harlem Globetrotters play tonight on ESPN. And that evaporated my creeping cynicism. The figure-eight weaves, between-the-legs passes and crowd-pleasing interludes don’t look like traditional basketball. All those fancy moves make for great entertainment, and everyone in the arena is having fun — even the tough-luck Generals.

Basketball is supposed to be fun. Yes, the game can be a means to a career — and a small fortune — for the most talented players. But for the 99 percent of players who don’t come within sniffing distance of an NBA pay check, the game needs to be fun. If it’s not, why play? The Globetrotters take fun to an extreme, but they embody the soul of the game.

Despite the spate of bad news, the game goes on. By November, optimism will be the mood du jour as nearly 350 Division I teams embark on the journey toward a 2012 championship. And with any luck, most of them will have plenty of fun along the way.

Bracket Breakdown: Critical Questions for the Elite Eight

by - Published March 26, 2011 in Columns

Let’s dive right into today’s Elite Eight match ups between Florida and Butler, followed by Connecticut and Arizona.

(8) Butler 74 (2) Florida 71 OT

In each of the past two NCAA Tournaments that Florida played Butler, the Gators reached the national title game, winning it in 2007 and losing to Michigan State in 2000. These two teams are different from their recent counterparts, and the winner will be one step away from the championship game. … Continue Reading

Breaking the Studious Silence

by - Published December 17, 2010 in Full Court Sprints

FULL COURT SPRINTS

BASELINE TO BASELINE

LAST SHOT

Go coast to coast with our roundup of the nation’s top stories.

  1. Get ready for DeeNardo! Mississippi State will soon have Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney on the court at the same time, which should make the Bulldogs a force in the weak SEC West, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com.
  2. After Montana upset UCLA in early December, Montana coach Wayne Tinkle (hee hee…) wanted to make sure the Grizzlies kept the good times rolling with a home win against Oregon State, writes ESPN.com’s Diamond Leung. Tinkle turned to YouTube to urge Grizzly students to show up for what became the team’s second win against a Pac-10 school this season.
  3. Kansas’ depth has taken a hit with the indefinite suspension of guard Mario Little after he was charged with battery, criminal damage and trespassing as a result of a fight with his girlfriend, according to CBSSports.com. Little contributes more than a little, with 6.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game
  4. ESPN’s Jay Bilas gives props to several teams and players, especially Butler’s Ronald Nored, who is the scrappy leader of the Bulldogs.
  5. Arizona coach Sean Miller was fired up after his team’s disappointing blowout loss to BYU, and Arizona Daily Star reporter Bruce Pascoe posted Miller’s comments from a press conference on Pascoe’s blog. One nugget: “We shot six airballs against BYU. You can go a season and not shoot six airballs.”
  6. Oklahoma bids adieu to freshman T.J. Taylor, who didn’t log a single minute for the Sooners, according to the Associated Press. Taylor suffered a concussion during the preseason and intended to sit out this season as a medical redshirt.
  7. Mississippi State isn’t the only team adding post-semester firepower. According the Associated Press, Tennessee will now have the services of sophomore forward Jeronne Maymon, who sat out the second semester of 2009-10 and the first semester of this season after transferring from Marquette in 2009.
  8. Kudos to ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan for finding this Silent Night phenomenon at Taylor University. Yes, a gym full of silent people — until the home team’s 10th point.
  9. More greatness from YouTube, courtesy of Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg, who finds the wonders of Colorado State’s Blues Brothers wanna-be.
  10. ESPN’s Andy Katz reports that the SEC and Big East are expanding their interconference clash to include all 12 SEC teams. In addition, the games will move from quasi-neutral courts to the hostile confines of teams’ home arenas.
Most of the players throughout Division I were immersed in finals this past week, so we had a relatively light week of action. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have plenty of important games and surprising results. Here’s a sampling, in case you missed it.

  • Louisville 77, UNLV 69
  • Santa Barbara 68, UNLV 62
  • Tennessee 83, Pittsburgh 76
  • Oakland 89, Tennessee 82
  • Michigan State 77, Oakland 76
  • Drexel 52, Louisville 46
  • Coastal Carolina 78, LSU 69 OT
  • UNC Wilmington 81, Wake Forest 69
  • Fordham 84, St. John’s 81
  • Texas A&M 63, Washington 62
  • BYU 87, Arizona 65
  • Villanova 84, La Salle 81
  • Kent State 56, South Florida 51
  • Boston College 79, Maryland 75
  • Wisconsin 69, Marquette 64
  • Richmond 72, VCU 60
  • Florida State 75, Clemson 69
  • Virginia Tech 79, Penn State 69

STUDY SESSION

OPENING TIP

Ray Floriani picks the five lessons you needed to learn from the Jimmy V Classic, with an emphasis on the color — and team — Orange.

Phil Kasiecki chats with La Salle’s John Giannini, who wants you to know that the Explorers aren’t a surprisingly good team, they’re an expectedly good team.

Michael Protos serves up a buffet of articles on rankings, including Big 12 and SEC rankings and analysis of Vanderbilt’s wonder reserve. He also delivers a quick recap of the Big South season thus far.

The holiday season gives us a handful of wonderful gifts this week, with exciting match ups of elite teams, like Kansas State vs. Florida and Texas vs. North Carolina. Here are some more great games to look forward to this week.

12/18:

  • South Carolina at Ohio State
  • Kansas State vs. Florida
  • Gonzaga vs. Baylor
  • Texas vs. North Carolina
  • Central Florida vs. Miami
  • Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State
  • Western Kentucky at Murray State

12/21:

  • UNLV at Kansas State
  • BYU at Weber State
  • IPFW at Purdue
  • VCU at UAB
  • Morehead State at Austin Peay

12/22:

  • Missouri at Illinois
  • Texas at Michigan State
  • Harvard at Connecticut
  • Drexel at Syracuse
  • Xavier at Gonzaga
  • Washington State vs. Mississippi State

12/23:

  • Georgetown at Memphis
  • UTEP at BYU

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

It’s finals season for college students from Maine to San Diego State, which makes it an appropriate time to remind ourselves that our favorite players are also student-athletes.

It’s no easy task to balance the rigors of a season that starts with practices in mid-October and, for the best teams, runs through the first weekend of April. That’s just about the entire academic year. So schools must do their best to provide these students with the resources and time necessary to hone their academic skills and perform at the highest level in the classroom in addition to on the court.

And if they don’t, there will be consequences.

The NCAA’s Academic Progress Report is not a perfect tool for measuring academic standards at athletic programs, but it’s a good start. As the first semester ends, now is a good time to take a peak at the APRs of the 26 teams in the AP or coaches top 25 polls — the coaches like Florida while the writers prefer Texas A&M.

Of those 26 teams, nearly half have APRs north of the average for all Division I sports: 967. Kansas, Michigan State and Texas lead the way with a perfect 1,000. Congratulations to Bill Self, Tom Izzo and Rick Barnes for keeping academics at the forefront of perennially successful programs.

Ten other teams fall below the Division I average but still have acceptable rankings, north of 925. Below that, the NCAA will be watching closely. So four teams — Kansas State, San Diego State, Purdue and Syracuse — had better start making academics a bigger priority. Syracuse already has faced a scholarship reduction because of its inability to meet NCAA academic standards.

It’s no easy task to keep students focused on academics when they routinely face physically exhausting games and practices. But it’s critically important to do so, especially because the vast majority of Division I players won’t be taking those skills beyond college.

Bracket Breakdown: Pac-10′s Struggles Will Benefit Mountain West, Atlantic 10

by - Published January 30, 2010 in Columns

With the Pac-10 experiencing more upheaval than the conference has had in 20 years, it’s increasingly likely that the Pac-10 won’t field more than one team in the NCAA Tournament if California wins the conference’s automatic bid.

Since 1989, the Pac-10 has had no fewer than three bids in the NCAA Tournament, and that only happened twice. In the past three tournaments, the Pac-10 has placed six teams in the field. With the sudden decline of traditional powerhouses such as Arizona and UCLA, a couple other conferences stand to benefit, specifically the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West.

Entering the final weekend of January, only one Pac-10 team, California, has an RPI better than 50. And Cal’s solid computer profile — an RPI of 18 — largely depends on the second toughest schedule in the country. But the Golden Bears have fared poorly against those tough teams, losing all four games against top 50 opponents. Only half the conference has any wins against teams in the RPI top 50.

Besides California, every other Pac-10 team has significant hurdles to overcome. The second-place team, Arizona, already has nine losses and is only two games better than .500. The Wildcats probably need to win eight or nine of their final 10 conference games to have a legitimate shot at the NCAA Tournament. Part of the problem is that with so many struggling teams, it’s hard for a team like Arizona to notch any résumé-building victories.

Meanwhile, the Mountain West has four teams in contention for at-large bids. BYU is 20-2 and has an RPI of 22.  The second-place team, New Mexico, is 19-3 and has a higher RPI, at 11. UNLV and San Diego State also are in the top 50 and figure to remain in the at-large discussion until Selection Sunday. In existence since 1999, the conference has never fielded four teams in the NCAA Tournament.

On the East Coast — and Midwest and Southeast — the Atlantic 10 Conference, which has 14 teams, looks ever stronger. The conference’s pre-season favorite, Dayton, sits at seventh place entering the final weekend of January. The Flyers match the Pac-10′s best, California, with a 14-6 record, but Dayton has two wins against teams in the RPI top 50. The team’s non-conference strength of schedule is excellent at No. 20, and the best win is against surging Georgia Tech. No offense to the Ohio Valley Conference’s premier program, but California’s best win is against Murray State on opening day. If you had to pick right now, whom do you want in the NCAA Tournament — California or Dayton?

Besides the Flyers, Temple, Xavier, Charlotte and Rhode Island all have compelling arguments for automatic bids. Temple has the best victory of any team in the Atlantic 10, Mountain West or Pac-10 with an upset of Villanova — the Wildcats’ only loss entering the last weekend of January.

So while the Pac-10 could flirt with one-bid conference status, several strong teams in the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West are poised to seize an opportunity to grab more automatic bids for two non-power conferences. Based on the Pac-10′s performance this season, it’s hard to consider it a power conference on par with the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten and SEC.

College Basketball Tonight

COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, who will be joined by former Manhattan and Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez and many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show will air on AM 970 The Answer in New York City from 7-9 p.m. on every Sunday from Selection Sunday to the Final Four. You can listen to the show here.

Your Phil of Hoops

Watson’s transfer will sting BU the most

April 11, 2014 by

bostonuniversity

Boston University recently saw three players transfer. The impact of the departure of one of them will be felt more than the other two.

Mihalich’s first year at Hofstra is over but will have plenty of value

March 9, 2014 by

hofstra

The first year for Hofstra under Joe Mihalich is in the books. Many expected that wins would be hard to come by, and they were, but this season was about more than that and is hardly a throwaway year.

Cornell’s future can only be better

March 2, 2014 by

cornell

Cornell has had a rough season, as could be expected given some personnel losses. It’s almost in the books, and the future at least looks brighter.

2013 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: St. Andrew's
Sept 10: Tilton
Sept. 11: South Kent School and Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 12: Putnam Science Academy
Sept. 16: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 17: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 23: New Hampton School
Sept. 24: Brimmer and May
Sept. 25: Proctor Academy
Sept. 26: Notre Dame Prep and Cushing Academy
Sept. 29: Worcester Academy and Vermont Academy
Oct. 6: Charlestown High School and Milton Academy
Oct. 13: Tabor Academy
Oct. 15: Brooks School

Hoopville Archives

Even More: City Hoops Recruiting

Travel team profile: Blackstone Valley Chaos

Size and options on the wing are not lacking for this year’s junior team

Travel team profile: Expressions Elite

Expressions Elite has quickly become one of the deeper programs in New England

Cesar Fulcar commits to Wentworth

The senior guard led Watertown to the state semifinal this past season

Travel team profile: Bay State Magic

Bay State Magic doesn’t have much size on their junior team this season, so they’ll have to win with execution and intangibles

Travel team profile: Mass Elite

Mass Elite is one of the largest travel teams in the state despite being relatively new

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is already moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter