Tag Archives: College Basketball

Smith To UCLA

The disappointing news came across the news wire that local standout Josh Smith is headed to UCLA, not the hometown Washington Huskies.

Basically I was prepared for this news for awhile, but it is still disappointing that a big local talent like Smith will not be staying home to represent his city and state. A lot of players on the Husky team today take pride in that because Seattle and the Huskies have always been flying under the radar of the national spotlight.

I actually have had a opinion piece saved in the queue for whenever Smith finally announced his decision about how Terrence Jones is a much better fit for the team, and has a higher ceiling than Smith as well. I didn’t want to run it until Smith finally announced, so expect seeing that article soon.

But now the focus shifts to Jones, who will be announcing soon whether or not he will sign in the fall or the spring. There has been much speculation that Smith and Jones were waiting for the other to announce before making their decision known, so maybe Smith declaring UCLA will push Jones to make his announcement and let his recruiting saga end as well

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The Morning After: Central Washington

Since this was an exhibition, here is a condensed version of what will be the usual next day coverage of the Huskies after a game. We’ll start off to see if yesterday’s questions were answered.

How does Matthew Bryan-Amaning play as a starter?

The play of MBA left something to be desired offensively, although his rebounding play was very strong with 10 boards, an encouraging sign that the team will maintain their high rebounding abilities from last year despite the loss of Jon Brockman. But in order for the Huskies to make a deep run, there needs to be a legitimate low post scoring threat to keep the pressure off of the guards on the perimeter, and MBA is the most logical guy to fill that role. MBA needs to pick it up offensively, but for rebounding it was an encouraging night.

How does Abdul Gaddy handle playing off the bench?

The play of Gaddy is what should be expected the entire season, and that was running the offense and dishing a high amount of assists. The play of Overton showed why he is starting, but it still would not surprise to see Gaddy starting the games soon. Its certain though that the play of the guards is the strength of the team as Gaddy, Overton, and Isaiah Thomas were often the best players on the floor. Any combination of the three will work it seems like.

How will Tyreese Breshers play in his first game back in over a year?

The play of Breshers was perhaps the best part of the night as Husky fans saw his Brockman like ability down in the paint. Breshers hustled and fought for baskets and rebounding, at one point leading the Huskies offensive charge. Along with MBA, Breshers will need to step up to replace the presence of Brockman, and if last night was any indication, Breshers is headed in the right direction.

Will free throws be an issue?

The least encouraging stat of the night, Washington shot just 18/37 from the line, bringing back memories of 2007/2008 when the poor shooting from the line literally killed their season. This has to be fixed if the Huskies are to repeat as Pac-10 champions, its called the charity stripe for a reason.

How will Scott Suggs play?

Suggs’ play was encouraging. He was able to hit a three pointer and put down another two points, ending the night with five points on 2/6 shooting. It should be interesting to see how much he plays in the first few games, only then will we get an indication as to how much he is going to play and how much his abilities have grown.

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Exhibition Today, Overton Named Starter

Today finally brings the day MFB and the rest of Husky basketball fans have anxiously waited for, and that is the return of Husky basketball.

Sure its in the form of an exhibition game against an inferior Central Washington, but any college basketball should commence celebration, especially in Seattlle where there is no longer any professional basketball.

The preview will be short because it is an exhibition and against a small school opponent like CWU, but here are some things to look for during the game…

  1. How does Matthew Bryan-Amaning play as a starter? His play could be the difference between a deep tourney run and a season that ends sooner than it should, the Huskies need MBA to step up down in the paint and replace some of the post scoring lost in Jon Brockman’s departure.
  2. How does Abdul Gaddy handle playing off the bench? Today delivered the somewhat surprising news that Gaddy would start on the bench, something few projected although Romar has said all along that Gaddy and Overton were battling for the final spot. He says Gaddy, Overton, and Isaiah Thomas should be considered three starters, but it will be the first time in a long time that Gaddy has not started for a team, should be interesting to see how he reacts.
  3. How will Tyreese Breshers play in his first game back in over a year? Breshers is going to have to step up this season and help in the replacement of Brockman. His style of play is very similar to Brockman’s so maybe he will excel, but we will no know till we see him on the court.
  4. Will free throws be an issue? This was the problem that plagued the team two years ago and then was fixed for the most part last season. But for a team as highly regarded as Washington, they must maintain their free throw success to build towards a deep tournament run. Last season they fixed it by getting to the line often and converting, but this season sees the departure of the best free throw shooter on the team last season, Justin Dentmon. At the end of games someone will have to step up and be that guy to take those crucial free throws at the end of games.
  5. How will Scott Suggs play? There may not be a more intriguing story line to follow this season than the development of Suggs. He came in last year as the highest ranked incoming recruit, but saw the least amount of time out of the entire group of freshman who were eligible to play (Breshers obviously redshirted). Suggs admitted that he though of transfer at one point, but has come in this year greatly improved according to coaches and teammates. Tonight could be the preview of him writing a new chapter in his Husky career.

Just to touch on the Gaddy/Overton situation a bit more; it really should not be a big deal in the end Husky fans. It was known from the beginning that the three guards would play a huge amount of minutes, so starting really is not that big of an issue when all three will receive such heavy minutes. But I must admit, I like the idea of having Overton come off the bench and be the energy to help turn around games. There has been no one else on the internet that has praised Gaddy the way I have over the off-season, so this was something I was not necessarily anticipating. But in the end it should just be small potatoes.

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New Husky: Walk-On Brendan Sherrer

Lorenzo Romar added one more player to the roster yesterday, meaning that the open tryouts produced at least one success story in sophomore Brendan Sherrer.

Sherrer comes from Archbishop Murphy High School and will be able to provide depth for the team and add another big body for practice. Sherrer stands at 6’9″, making him a logical walk on with his height and past basketball success in high school.

“He’s got size and that is something that will help us when practicing,” said Romar. “He’s strong enough to push the other guys and he’s only a sophomore, so he has a chance to grow with the guys. He also has a great attitude and work ethic.”

It has not been made entirely clear what will happen to the other player given an extended tryout in Rudy Sharar.

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Pac-10 Projections: #10 Stanford Cardinal

08/09 Record: 20-14

Head Coach: Johnny Dawkins

Top Returning Scorer: Landry Fields (12.6 PPG)

Top Returning Rebounder: Landry Fields (6.6)

Key Losses: Anthony Goods (16.2 PPG), Lawrence Hill (13.6 PPG), Mitch Johnson (6.6 PPG)

Season Outlook:

After losing three of the four top players from last year’s team, things are looking a little dim in Paolo Alto for 2009/2010. In Johnny Dawkins’ second year as Stanford head coach it figures to be a difficult season with anything above a seventh place finish likely being a tremendous success for this team.

Losing Anthony Goods, the leading scorer from last years team, would hurt any team. Goods was among the top scorers in the conference last season and a more than capable three ball shooter, making him one of the more dangerous players in the Pac-10.

Lawrence Hill’s departure meant that the Cardinal were losing their second leading rebounder and scorer. The talented forward could have been a serviceable player on any team, but his impact on Stanford was immense and replacing him will be difficult.

The fact that Mitch Johnson is gone means that Stanford is losing a tremendously effective guard that has the ability to control games. Johnson played big minutes for Dawkins in his final season as a Cardinal, averaging 30 minutes a game. While Johnson was never a big time scorer, he was dependable and a key loss.

Now while the departures of those players are not exactly the same as say North Carolina’s graduating class last season, the fact that those three players were arguably among the top four on the team hurts. The fact that Cardinal team with those players went 6-12 in Pac-10 play hurts even more. The fact that there are not any clear players to replace them hurts the most.

If Stanford wants to not be the laughingstock of the conference there is going to have to be a superhero effort from top returning player Landry Fields. Last season Fields was arguably Stanford’s best player, and losing him could have meant Stanford was headed towards a .000 win percentage in the Pac-10. But Fields returns to bring in his steady scoring and rebounding ability, making him a strong possibility for Pac-10 first team at the end of the season now that the Cardinal will be relying on his abilities even more.

If Stanford was going to build off of last season there would of had to been a recruiting class that was highly ranked. However a class of forward Andy Brown, guard Gabriel Harris, and JUCO forward Andy Zimmerman figures to be one of the weaker incoming classes in the conference. Out of the three recruits, Zimmerman is the only one who appears to have a chance to make an impact for the Cardinal.

The players around Fields are not ones to get too excited about, but there is some potential.

The front court will likely be led by Josh Owens, who started 28 games for the Cardinal last season. Now that Hill has left Paolo Alto, Owens will be the primary scoring option down in the post. He will likely be the #2 option for Stanford behind Fields and could make a nice inside-out combination.

Zimmerman will get playing time in his first season, and could be the “x-factor” for the Cardinal if they want to get out of #10 spot in the Pac-10. Zimmerman began his career at Santa Clara before transferring to a JUCO where he only practiced with the team. He stands at 6’8″ but is a feeble 215 pounds, probably making it difficult for him when matching up against players like Oregon’s Michael Dunigan, Washington’s Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Tyreese Breshers, and UCLA’s Drew Gordon.

The backcourt may be the biggest question for Stanford. Jeremy Green was supposed to be Fields’ sidekick for the season, but was just suspended indefinitely by Dawkins for violating team rules. Green was a selection to the All Pac-10 freshman team last season and was expected to improve on his 6.4 PPG to help lead the Cardinal out of the cellar. But it appears that Green will have to sit while Dawkins looks for someone on the bench to fill his role.

That role could have gone to the incoming Brown, but on the second day of practice the freshman suffered a season ending knee surgery that makes the Stanford bench and backcourt even weaker. This means that the other freshman, Harris, could see much bigger minutes this season than anyone would have guessed.

After Fields and Owens, the player who played the most minutes per game for Stanford (not counting the suspended Green) was Drew Shiller at 11.6 minutes per game. Because of the suspension to Green and injury to Brown, Shiller may now find himself as a starter despite only averaging 2.5 points and 1.5 assists per game last season.

The Bottom Line:

Stanford’s depth is probably the worst in the conference and has only suffered even more because of the recent developments to Green and Brown. Dawkins and Fields will have to put in legendary performances for anything higher than a seventh place finish, and Owens would have to raise his game to maybe an unreachable level.

As far as their schedule, they will likely come in to Pac-10 play with a winning record. Stanford has some tough games for themselves against Virginia, Oklahoma State, Portland State, Northwestern, and Texas Tech.

In Pac-10 play, the conference is weak enough to where is is safe that they will win a few games. Its safe to say that five wins is probably their ceiling in the conference.

However Dawkins is bringing in a highly rated class for 2010 that includes two local produces (John Gage and Aaron Bright) and two top-100 players (Dwight Lewis and Anthony Brown). Things may not be as bad for the Cardinals in 2010/2011, but prepare for a long season Paolo Alto.

Projections:

Top Scorer: Landry Fields (15.0-18.0 PPG)

Top Rebounder: Landry Fields (6.0-7.5 RPG)

X-Factor: Josh Owens

Award Worthy: Landry Fields

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Ten of the Pac-10: Long Term Stability

10. USC

They almost were not number ten because have Dwight Lewis and Alex Stephenson on the roster, meaning that they have some sort of shot at being competitive in the Pac-10 this year. With a somewhat positive year they can allow new coach Kevin O’Neill to go out and bring some guys in and assure them that being a Trojan will not be a complete failure in their four years on campus.

The problem with USC is a lack of passion behind the program from fans and the athletic department, it will always have the least amount of history compared to their California rivals, and it will always be a second thought compared to football. Recruits will not sign up for that, as Tim Floyd proved, the only way they would is if they were being paid to.

O’Neill however is a big problem for the future of the program. I just do not see him being a Pac-10 coach that will go out and lead the Trojans to the NCAA Tournament on a consistent basis or be among the top-five in the conference annually. Maybe a good season here or there, but nothing significant. In his one seasons as Arizona’s interim coach he was incredibly testy with his players, leading to unhappiness among players who expected to be playing under a legend in Lute Olson when they signed their letter of intent.

I remember people out of L.A. were saying the USC wanted to make a splash with their next coaching hire, a national guy. Names such as Jamie Dixon and Jeff Capel were being raised as potential targets. It was a ludicrous idea from the beginning that one of those guys would leave great situations for a future of sanctions that will be placed on the Trojans very soon as a result of Floyd’s wrongdoings.

USC basketball may witnessed its peak under Floyd, it does not look good in L.A.

9. Oregon

After last season’s debacle, it is pretty amazing to see Ernie Kent is still the man leading the charge in Mac Court’s final season. Some have speculated that it was new A.D. Mike Bellotti wanting to protect his friend in his first year in his new job, but I have always wondered why Duck fans have wanted Kent out so often. The guy has delivered in the past, most recently an Elite Eight run in 2007 (although I would have understood a firing after last season).

The team has some nice players to build off of, most notably big man Michael Dunigan who could be a force for the next three years in the Pac-10. But any time there is a coaching situation that is up in the air, the long term outlook for a team is normally bleak and recruiting normally suffers. Use our Husky football team last year with Tyrone Willingham as an example. It took a very long time to pick up a commitment, and after Keith Price became the first to jump on only a few were willing to make a verbal commitment to a program that would have a new coach by the time they would arrive on campus.

It is no different for the Ducks as they have yet to pick up a recruit for the 2010 class, something that is very concerning for Kent if he wants to keep his job and for the future of the basketball program as any potential successor will be left scrambling and filling spots with players not necessarily Pac-10 quality basketball players.

If Kent can lead the team to a fifth or sixth place finish, maybe he can keep his job and earn one more year to get back to the top of the standings. He has proven he can recruit in the past, and if recruits can believe he will be coaching them when they arrive in Eugene then the Ducks have a future.

But right now Duck fans and the athletic department are probably fantasizing about the idea of opening up the new basketball arena with a new head coach to bring some excitement back to Eugene.

8. Stanford

The Cardinal are near the bottom of this list for many reasons, but no reason is bigger than head coach Johnny Dawkins.

Stanford has proven in the past that it can be an outstanding team on the national level. Some of the most obvious being the near undefeated season in 2003 that was so “rudely” interrupted by the Huskies and the 2008 team in Trent Johnson’s final season as head coach.

Dawkins is not the longterm future as head coach because he will always be next in line for the Duke job once Mike Krzyzewski retires. It will be incredibly difficult for Stanford to achieve any long term success with the possibility of Dawkins leaving is possible at any time.

While Stanford was able to recently gain two commitments in local standouts John Gage and Aaron Bright, they will likely never be the leading players of a tournament or conference title winning team. Stock will lie in Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown to take the team to the top.

In a day when the relationship between coach and player is by far the most important aspect of a player’s recruitment (i.e. Memphis and John Calipari), it will be much more difficult for Dawkins to continually bring in high caliber guys when the players could doubt if he will even be around before they graduate. Especially if the Cardinal fail to put together a couple of successful seasons in a row, which is doubtful with the current outlook of the team.

7. Arizona State

I have a lot of faith in Herb Sendek and love him as a coach, but it appears that a perfect storm is brewing to the point where it will be more difficult than before to lead the Sun Devils back to among the top in the conference. Losing James Harden is a fatal blow to most teams who do not have someone immediately behind to take over as the star of the team. Add the loss of Jeff Pendegraph, one of the most under-appreciated players in the Pac-10 in his career (he got love, but he was a bona fide star for the Sun Devils), and it should be a long season for Sendek and the Sun Devils.

But what is most concerning for Arizona State is the rise of the Arizona program once again. Sean Miller was the perfect choice for the Wildcats, and it appears he has them ready to completely own the state once again. It is no surprise that Arizona State was able to improve and become the Pac-10 title contenders they were while Arizona was going through its most difficult period in a long time.

Sendek will have to bring in some stellar recruits over the next two years if he wants to see the Sun Devils be a perennial challenger for the title.

6. Oregon State

There are two reasons why Oregon State is not higher on the list despite the incredible debut of Craig Robinson as head coach last season. The first is the idea that Robinson may not be the head coach for Oregon State if he continues to have such great success. Any big time school that has a position will be salivating at the idea of adding him as coach and willing to offer him the national spotlight and big money. The second is that it is hard to recruit players to Corvallis in a state that is more willing to rock the green and yellow as opposed to the black and orange.

Robinson did everything right last season to get the Beavers back to respectability, but the next step is more difficult than the first, and that is making the Beavers into a potential conference champion. To do that he needs to recruit, and while he had success in his first class by bringing in a guy like Roberto Nelson, until he gets to the top of the conference it will be tough to convince top tier players to turn down schools in bigger markets with more recent success in the NCAA tournament.

But if anyone can get it done, its Robinson. I just find it hard to picture him staying the coach at Oregon State if he continues to succeed, and right now he is all that is going for them for any hope for the future.

If Robinson stays long term, the Beavers are higher on the list. If the Beavers take the next step and make it to the tournament and Robinson takes a job elsewhere, put them right next to Stanford on this list.

5. Washington State

Washington State has a pretty darn good chance at being a pretty consistent NCAA tournament team. It may be because I think that Ken Bone could become one of the top coaches in the country; I just see him as a guy that will be at Washington State a long time and it is known that he can coach very well based on what he was able to accomplish with Portland State and his stay in Montlake as an assistant.

Losing someone like Taylor Rochstie is always hard to replace, as well as solid contribution guys like Caleb “Sucker Punch” Forrest and Daven Harmeling. But there are some nice young pieces that have higg upside for Bone to work with.

Bone will be coaching a pretty good team this year with some solid recruits coming in. Klay Thompson is the obvious guy that gives Washington State some serious potential, as well as DeAngelo Casto, someone who dominated high school basketball when playing for Ferris. But don’t sleep on Reggie Moore, he has the ability to become one of the better guards in the conference if he can reach his potential. A backcourt of Moore and Thompson could become one of the best in the conference in the next few years.

If Bone can bring in the recruits then the Cougs could become someone that is among the top-5 in the conference annually and occasionally challenge for the top spot. But that is the tought part for any Cougar coach, convincing 18-year-olds that Pullman is a great place to live.

Bone definitely has nice young foundation to build off of in his first season as a Pac-10 head coach.

4. California

The Golden Bears have a lot of good things going for them right now. Mike Montgomery has them positioned to potentially win the Pac-10 this year, they are gaining national recognition in polls right now, and they have one of the best backcourts in the country in Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher.

Before Montgomery took over it is very unlikely Cal would ever be this high on a list when discussing the future of Pac-10 teams, but Montgomery is one of the best college coaches in the country and turned the Golden Bears around quicker than anyone expected.

If Cal can make a tournament run into at least the Sweet Sixteen, then recruits will have much more motivation to moving to the Bay. Montgomery has begun to assemble a nice 2010 class with the likes of Allen Crabbe and Gary Franklin signing on to be maybe the next great backcourt for Cal.

The only way it appears Cal could lose is if he is unable to convince recruits from attending the next three schools on our list. He was already able to convince Franklin to turn down Arizona and forward Richard Solomon turned down Boston College, but there will be more recruiting battles in the future if Montgomery wants to make Cal into a national title contender. One thing that is for certain is that no matter what, in California, the Golden Bears will always be the little brother to the Bruins of UCLA.

3. Arizona

The Wildcats made out like bank robbers in hiring Sean Miller to be the coach for the foreseeable future. Miller already was leading a very successful Xavier team, but now walks into a situation where he will be leading a program with national prominence, a stellar history, and strong recruiting base. With what he was able to accomplish at Xavier, it could be dangerous what he will do with a school with the stature of Arizona.

While at the end of last year I thought Arizona would be among the cellar dwellers of the Pac-10, even with Miller, the new Arizona coach has made me think twice by bringing in a highly ranked recruiting class and convincing Nic Wise to stay another year. It will be tough for Arizona to win games, especially with a lack of post presence now that Jordan Hill is off with the New York Knicks, but with Wise they will always be able to at least compete in any game they play.

Long term the future is very bright. They are among the favorites for Ray McCallum, one of the top remaining players for 2010. Miller proved he could recruit at Xavier, now imagine what he will be able to do with a school like Arizona. Could be scary.

After a brief hiatus, it appears the Arizona program is back on track to once again be one of the perennial favorites to win the conference.

2. Washington

Lorenzo Romar has brought the Huskies to a level of stature in the college basketball world many thought never would be possible. Once an average program at best, Washington is now on the fringe at becoming a perennial tournament team that can challenge for a Final Four run any year.

The run-and-gun system just flat out works for the Huskies, and that is what the team is back to doing, reminiscent of the Brandon Roy/Nate Robinson days. With a backcourt of Abdul Gaddy and Isaiah Thomas the Huskies will be in position to beat almost any team in the country, both have the ability to take over games at any time.

The biggest thing that the Huskies have going for them is Romar. It appears as if he could be a lifer as coach for the Huskies, no other job interests him because he has his dream job at his alma mater. The Kings came calling, but he politely turned them down. With his offensive style of play and defensive tenacity, that will not be the last time the NBA comes calling, but Romar is where he wants to be.

The other big thing going for Washington is the local talent that has made the Seattle area one of the best places in the country for basketball. Aaron Brooks, Jon Brockman, Will Conroy, Jamal Crawford, Aaron Dotson, Spencer Hawes, Adam Morrison, Venoy Overton, Luke Ridnour, Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Rodney Stuckey, Jason Terry, Marvin Williams, Martell Webster, Terrence Williams, Avery Bradley, Peyton Siva, Josh Smith, Tony Wroten, Gaddy, and Thomas are all some of the names that have come out of the area over the past decade. Romar has the ability to tap into the recruiting base whenever which should ensure that the Huskies are able to stay near the top of the conference. Romar has proven to be one of the best recruiters in the country, so convincing even prominent out of state players could become more likely.

Washington has a bright future, I continue to say that someday the team will be playing on Lorenzo Romar court. It could be fun for a long time Dawg fans.

1. UCLA

While the may not win the title every year, I do not see the Bruins ever relinquishing this top spot. At least for a very long time.

UCLA has everything, which is why it is one of the top programs in the country and maybe the best program of all time. Recruits are just drawn to the team because of its history, market, prominence, and ability to challenge for a Final Four every year. This a school that fired Steve Lavin when he made the Sweet Sixteen almost every year as a head coach and was released after one stinker of a season.

Under Ben Holwand the great recruiting and winning have only continued. Like I said in the “NEXT”article, there appears to be an interesting rivalry brewing between the Bruins and the Huskies. But for now UCLA can say they beat out the Huskies in this category.

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Cal Picked To Win Pac-10 By Media, Washington 2nd

The media poll for the Pac-10 was released yesterday at the conference’s media day, and the Washington Huskies saw themselves projected to finish second in the conference to the California Golden Bears.

It was widely assumed that the media would choose between Washington and Cal in a weaker Pac-10 conference. Cal received 25 first place votes, Washington received 7, and UCLA received five. No other team was given a first place vote.

Here is the full media projection…

  1. California
  2. Washington
  3. UCLA
  4. Arizona
  5. Oregon State
  6. Oregon
  7. Arizona State
  8. Washington State
  9. USC
  10. Stanford

Among the notable quotes from coaches during yesterday’s press conferences were Ernie Kent saying that Michael Dunigan has dropped more than 40 pounds from last year, Herb Sendek saying that offense is going to be more of a group effort for the Sun Devils, Craig Robinson said that the Beavers will have to be careful not to expect wins to come easier now that they are a sleeper pick, and Lorenzo Romar saying that Isaiah Thomas has greatly improved his defense.

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