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Posts Tagged ‘Arizona Wildcats’

Jennings definitely heading to Europe

Posted by Jeff Nusser on July 9, 2008

As pointed out by Coug1990, Brandon Jennings is indeed heading over to Europe for his (presumably) one season out of high school before heading to the NBA.

We’ve covered at length what this means for the Cougs, but the bigger question is what it means for college basketball. There will be a lot of of hand wringing about it — and I’ll post a bevy of links at the end of the post for your perusal — but I ultimately think it means very little, to be honest.

Think about it this way: Are guys like Carmelo Anthony, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose instant stars signing mega endorsement deals the moment they declare for the draft if they spend their one year out of high school off the hoops radar in Europe?

Not a chance.

The elite players benefit tremendously from the exposure they get to the general American public in NCAA basketball. While they might make more in the short term in salary by heading to Europe — it’s been reported that Jennings’ salary would likely be between $100,000 and $300,000 next year — they stand to gain much more in the long term by taking it in the shorts financially for that one year at a university. Most guys will understand this, if they’ve got any brain at all.

The story might be a little different for the guys who aren’t top-level prospects, since they weren’t likely to get the kind of hype of an Oden or Durant anyway, but the reality is that almost all of these guys view themselves as Oden or Durant. And since they do, they’ll continue to go to college because they will want to have the one big year that will land them that No. 1 pick and endorsement riches beyond their dreams. Consider the story of Rose, who wasn’t even a lock for the No. 1 pick at the end of the season. Now, the hype is larger than life, thanks to his magical run through the NCAA Tournament.

One final thought. These guys absolutely crave attention; top-level basketball recruits have been coddled and worshiped since their junior high days, having been told they’re special pretty much everyday. They feed off the adoration. So, there’s a part of me that thinks Jennings is doing this simply because of the coverage that comes along with being the first. People will follow him to see how he does, given the novelty factor — it’s a unique way to generate hype and market himself.

But the second, third or 10th guy to go over there? No one will care as they watch their favorite college teams or fill out their brackets. And once they see a couple of guys head overseas where they’re viewed as just some snot-nosed kid from the States who isn’t ready to play with men, they’ll quickly realize college basketball is a much better means to their ends than European professional leagues.

Anyway, onto the hand wringing — starting with the one guy who has a well-reasoned agreement:

  • Mike DeCourcey, The Sporting News: “College basketball does not need Jennings to thrive. Arizona will miss him, certainly. The Wildcats might have been fashioned into a national title contender with another elite pro prospect on their roster. But to suggest his experience might lead to a flood of high school players moving to Europe is naive, and to declare that such a flood would irreparably damage NCAA basketball is ludicrous.”
  • Gary Parrish, CBS “Forget what it means to Arizona or Lute Olson. What it means to college basketball in general is what has the industry buzzing, because coaches will now have to approach the recruitment of elite prospects like they used to approach the recruitment of elite prospects, which is to say with great caution and the understanding that there’s a decent chance they’ll never enroll.”
  • Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: “Will he be able to help a top European club over the next year — when he would be a college freshman? It will be a trick for him to get a big deal in Europe, where teams face a lot of pressure to win now, play very intricate offenses, and prefer to develop point guards over several years.”
  • Jeff Goodman, “I don’t expect an influx of players to go this route, because frankly, there’s only a couple of kids each year at the highest level who would even explore this avenue.”
  • Lute Olsen, Arizona coach: “We as coaches warned the NCAA about this when it was first put in place. It’s going to turn into a bigger mess.” He advocates a system similar to baseball’s, where players either come straight out or are bound to go to school for two or three years.
  • Jason Whitlock, “Maybe Brandon Jennings will go down in history as the young man who forced the NCAA to honestly deal with the hypocrisy, stupidity and immorality of its rules.”

Posted in Around the 'Net, NBA Draft, News | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Jennings a lock for Europe?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on July 8, 2008

We’ll be writing up some more detailed updates of each Pac-10 team before too long — I swear! — but I wanted to pass along this little tidbit I ran across, because I think it has a lot of impact on the Cougs.

According to this report in the New York Times, no one thinks Arizona super recruit Brandon Jennings will actually set another foot in Tucson.

Jennings is having difficulty qualifying academically for admission, which has led him to publicly bandy about the idea of playing his (presumably) one season out of high school in Europe. He’s even floated the idea of heading to Europe even if he does qualify.

Why does that matter to us?

Just as Cal figured to be fighting with the Cougs to get into the top half of the Pac-10 and watched their effort to do that take a major hit when Ryan Anderson decided to stay in the NBA draft — a wise decision for sure (and I think New Jersey got an absolute steal late in the first round with him) — Arizona is another team in that situation.

The Wildcats did get a boost when Chase Budinger decided to return to school, but that’s been about all the good news there has been. Lute Olson’s return has been filled with drama, including the exodus of the coach-in-waiting, Kevin O’Neill, and assistant coaches Josh Pastner and Miles Simon, which led to the decommitting of top prospect Emmanuel Negedu. The recruiting class is weaker overall than what generally lands in Tuscon.

The Wildcats do have a very good core in Budinger, Nic Wise and Jordan Hill, and if Jennings arrives, it might really be the return of Arizona to truly elite status, as Olson predicts. Jennings is just the kind of fast-paced point guard Olson loves. But if Jennings doesn’t make it, the Wildcats will have major problems at the point, with the departure of Jarryd Bayless and the graduation of Jawann McClellan.

Wise, who isn’t a natural point, would probably have to slide over. That wouldn’t necessarily be a huge problem for a lot of teams, but Olson promised on his return to get away from O’Neill’s defense-first mentality and get back to “Wildcat basketball,” which means running and running and running. Can Wise do that for them? I doubt it.

So, Wildcat fans will continue holding their collective breath. Probably in futility, if you believe that report.

Curious what all the hype is about? You can seen Jennings in action on a video after the jump. Keep in mind, it’s that cruddy AAU ball that allows players to do pretty much anything they want all game long, but you can clearly see the physical tools. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Around the 'Net, News, Recruiting, Video | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

What the heck is it with Arizona?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on February 25, 2008

I don’t know that I would say Arizona just has our number — I’d put UCLA in that category this year, and I would have put Oregon in that category last year — but man, there is something about playing WSU that absolutely brings out the best in the Wildcats.

Longball referred to them as the “short-handed McDiva All Americans from Arizona,” and maybe that’s a part of what happens. It’s clear that Arizona coach Kevin O’Neill did a good bit of appealing to the Wildcats’ pride, and with a chance to make a very good case for their inclusion in the NCAA tournament, the weren’t about to let a bunch of nobodies from nowhere stop them. Their play almost screamed, “Washington State? Who the heck is Washington State? We’re freaking Arizona. You think you’re the only ones who can play hard? We’ll show you what it’s like to play hard with All-American talent, something you’ll never have.”

And that was the difference on Saturday. Simply, Arizona wanted it more.

Sure, we hung around for a half; despite shooting 28 percent, we only trailed by a point. As I flipped over to watch the end of Memphis/Tennessee, I actually felt pretty good. Our best offense was in front of us and despite the hot start by Chase Budinger, our defense had been very good for most of the half — remember, Arizona scored its 11th point at about the 14 minute mark, but finished the half with just 24. Pretty darn good.

But something funny happened after halftime. The Wildcats just willed themselves to a victory, while we just wilted.

In second chance points, Arizona held just a 4-2 advantage in the first half; in the second half, it was 5-0 Arizona. In points off turnovers, the Cougs held a slim 6-5 advantage in the first half; in the second half, it was 12-2 Arizona. Those are sure signs of one of two things: Either being physically dominated or being caught flat-footed after being outworked. I don’t think the former is the case; Jo-Jo and I were exchanging text messages as we watched the game, and the thing we kept coming back to is we just don’t think Arizona is a better team than we are. So the latter must have been the case, especially in terms of the turnovers. Most of them were of the sloppy variety, and those are the ones that lead to extreme advantages for the offense.

Of course, that’s just the defense, which allowed a 115.9 efficiency after not allowing an opponent to exceed 96 in four games. The offense was even worse; this was by far the worst weekend of offense we’ve seen all season. Our shooting was bad against Arizona State, but it was absolutely horrendous against Arizona — just 39 percent in effective field goal percentage. That is positively brutal. It led to an offensive efficiency rating of just 98.0, easily our lowest of the Pac-10 season.

Against ASU, I was willing to chalk it up to a bad night, especially since I felt like the shots we were getting were good shots that just weren’t falling. Against Arizona, however, not only was it a bad night shooting, but it was a bad night with decisions and schemes. Credit Arizona for doing a great job manning up — seriously, how many screens does Derrick Low have to run through to get open? — but we did not help ourselves. A perfect example is that I think we know by now what Aron Baynes can and can’t do; if his teammates all of a sudden start asking him to do things they should know he can’t do, well, in my book that’s on them and not on him.

Since both were bad for what I see as different reasons, I’m not sure what kind of reasonable conclusions we can draw from the outcomes. What I’m hoping is that this isn’t pointing to what I’m afraid it’s pointing to — tired legs. We’ll know a lot more this weekend, especially against Stanford, and I really hope I’m wrong.

Whether we should be worried going forward will be a subject of a post later today, but I do know this: Enough playing around. Let’s figure out a way to bring it this weekend, starting with some payback against Cal on Thursday.

Posted in Game Analysis | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Set up for a strong, strong finish

Posted by Jeff Nusser on January 29, 2008

There’s something just a little bit disconcerting about the way the Cougs have played at times this year, given their lofty ranking and the way they were outclassed by the two teams they have played that have truly superior athletes, and the close nature of some other games.

But when I get too down, I just remember this: No other major conference college basketball team — not one, not even a bad one — has played as many true road games and as few true home games as the Cougars. They have played nine true road games, and six of them were against teams that either are ranked or have been ranked in the Top 25. And they’ve only played five true home games — out of 19. Scenes like the one to the right have been way too few and far between for a program of our ilk. Among tournament-contending teams, only Butler has played as many road or neutral games as the Cougs. And the Bulldogs are in the Horizon League.

To come away from that schedule with just two losses really is a bigger accomplishment than a lot of people will give them credit for.

Think about it. We just played five of our first seven Pac-10 games on the road and came out of it 5-2. Yes, we were slapped around by UCLA and Arizona, but we survived all the others. In only one of those games can we say that it really looked like the Cougs didn’t come to play, and that’s really saying something in a game with 20- to 22-year-old kids who do — believe it or not — have other things going on in their lives.

It hasn’t come without a price. In watching the end of the game on Saturday, one thought just kept coming to mind: This team is tired. Really, really tired. And Kyle Weaver said as much after the game.

But playing seven of their final 11 games regular season games at Beasley Coliseum is exactly what they need for a strong finish. Why? Because the top six teams in the conference other than the Cougs still have to make a trip to Pullman! That, my friends, is huge.

And consider this: Even with what they’ve gone through, Joe Lunardi still has WSU projected as a No. 2 seed and Jerry Palm has the Cougs projected as a No. 3. The various RPI approximations have them ranked either No. 9 or No. 10. The message? A strong finish bolstered by playing at home can push the Cougs into unheard of territory. If the home court advantage helps as much as I think it might, this team could end up pushing for a No. 1 seed. I feel comfortable saying that: The committee showed with UW a few years ago that it will recognize a team with a not-so-elite record that plays in a brutal conference.

So, get fired up Cougs. We still are in great position to win the Pac-10, just one game back of UCLA, and can put ourselves in an even better position with a sweep this weekend against Cal and Stanford. I believe the best part of the season is still in front of us.

Posted in Breakdowns | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »