Monday, December 31, 2012

Weekly Pac-12 Rankings

It's (just about) time for conference play to start. Some teams are peaking; some teams are slumping. I'm bullish on the Top-5 and Washington State. As for the rest ... they'll have to establish themselves and build their post-season resumes during conference play.

1 Arizona (12-0) | Last week: #1: Reaffirmed its place in this ranking and the national polls with its Christmas Day victory over San Diego State.
2 Oregon (10-2) | Last week: #3: Took the week off in preparation for its final non-conference bout against Nevada.
3 Arizona State (11-2) | Last week: #4: The Sun Devils must feel good about their record and three-game win streak. We'll now see how that translates against the Pac-12.
4 Colorado (10-2) | Last week: #6: The big game this week at Arizona will be Colorado's first chance since the Kansas game to get back on the national radar.
5 UCLA (10-3) | Last week: #7: The Bruins are clearly back on track after beating Missouri; just in time for Pac-12 play.
6 Oregon State (9-3) | Last week: #2: The Beavers, despite their solid record, simply could not afford to lose to Towson. 
7 Stanford (9-4) | Last week: #8: I haven't detected a lot of change in Stanford since the season began ... which isn't entirely a bad thing. But they definitely need to step it up if they want to be a force in the conference or get into the NCAA tournament.
8 Washington State (9-4) | Last week: #9: The Cougars have reason to be optimistic, having won seven of their last eight. And their first conference game is a winnable match versus Washington.
9 California (8-4) | Last week: #5: After a perfect November, Cal goes 2-4 in December. The loss to Harvard on Saturday leaves the Bears at the low point of their season.
10 Utah (8-4) | Last week: #10: The loss to Northridge still stings. Beating the College of Idaho doesn't change much.
11 Washington (8-5) | Last week: #11: They played well on the road against UConn, but came up short. Not a bad loss, but the Huskies (and the conference) really could have used a win there.
12 Southern Cal (5-8) | Last week: #12: Treated us to an exciting overtime finish against Dayton. It was a quality win to finish a rough non-conference slate.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Utes Beat 'Yotes: On To Pac-12 Play.

Utah closed out pre-conference play with a convincing win over the College of Idaho. The College of Idaho is an NAIA school, so there is not much to learn from the victory. So let's focus on what we have learned from the preseason.

Utah is rebuilding and struggles to score in tight games. While the Utes have had flashes of solid play, especially on the defensive end, Utah is still learning how to be a good team. In three of its four losses (Sac. State, BYU, and Northridge), Utah had big leads and failed to put away its opponent. In each of these games, the Utes went through a cold spell offensively. In these scoreless stretches, the Utes lack of leadership became apparent. While Dubois has tried to take on the leadership role, his inability to create good shots if the offense is not running well makes it difficult for him to carry the team. I don't see this problem being rectified this season. I hope Coach Krystko can prove me wrong.

Utah is strong defensively. The biggest improvement from last season (besides overall talent) has been on the defensive end. While the Utes mostly play man-to-man, they have also effectively gone into a three quarter court press and zone. This was especially effective in the win over SMU. Utah went into the College of Idaho game giving up under 58 points per game, which is 19th in the country and second in the conference. While some of this can be attributed to the schedule, Utah will win some games in the Pac 12 because of its defense.

Utah is well-coached. Utah was well coached last year as well. For that team to win three games in conference play last year was a testament to Coach Krysto and his staff. That was by far the least talented division I team I have ever seen. And this is illustrated by where some of the players from last year's team are currently playing. Utah's second game against SMU is further evidence of Coach Krystko's ability to make adjustments and coach up his kids. While Utah was outplayed in Dallas by the SMU Mustangs, Utah made several adjustments in the second game that led to the victory. I expect to see the Utes steal one or two games in conference play because of the coaches' ability to make adjustments in the second game. Coach Krstko is not perfect and will have to get better as he goes on. He certainly had no answers in the three tough losses. But he and his staff teach the fundamentals and his team respects him. That will go a long way as time goes on.

Utah needs Cedric Martin to be healthy. This may not seem obvious, but Utah is much better defensively when Martin is healthy and in the game. While not a great scorer, he also keeps teams honest with his ability to hit open perimeter shots. His absence really hurt them in the loss to Northridge as the Utes had no answer for Landon Drew in the second half.

I expect Utah to win 7-8 games in conference. This may be good enough to get the Utes into one of the lower tier tournaments (CBI). If they can do that, the tournament experience will be beneficial going into the off-season. If Utah can get to 15 wins and get a berth in the CBI, I would count that as a successful season. If they can get to 9 wins and a .500 record in conference play, then look out for the Runnin' Utes next season.

Week 9 TV Schedule

Salt Lake
Dec. 31st3:00Texas-Pan American at Oregon StatePac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 31st5:00Nevada at OregonPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Jan. 2nd8:00Utah at Arizona StatePac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Jan. 3rd6:00Colorado at ArizonaESPNU755 (HD)141
Jan. 3rd8:00Stanford at USCESPNU755 (HD)141
Jan. 3rd9:00California at UCLARoot Sports693 (HD)418
Jan. 5th1:00Stanford at UCLAPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Jan. 5th3:00Utah at ArizonaPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Jan. 5th6:30Washington at Washington StateESPNU755 (HD)141
Jan. 5th9:00California at USCRoot Sports693 (HD)418
Jan. 6th6:00Colorado at Arizona StatePac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Jan. 6th8:00Oregon at Oregon StateRoot Sports693 (HD)414

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday afternoon notes.

It's gameday for two Pac-12 teams -- including a colossal matchup between UCLA and #7 Missouri at Pauley Pavilion. Here's a few notes to get you up to speed after the long Christmas layoff:

• The Idaho Press-Tribune previews tonight's Utah-College of Idaho game.

• Tonight's UCLA-Missouri game will conjure good memories for Tiger fans. Missouri will be without "key reserve" Tony Criswell.

• Arizona's Mark Lyons is someone you need to know about. The transfer from Xavier has been the biggest (but certainly not the only) difference in the Wildcats' improvement this year. He and Nick Johnson made big plays down the stretch to beat San Diego State on Sunday.

• Huskies' Coach Lorenzo Romar is still haunted by the last two Washington-UConn basketball games.

• Austin Seferian-Jenkins will soon decide whether to join the Huskies' basketball team again now the football season is over.

• USC's next opponent, Dayton, is anxious for more home-and-home series' against high-majors.

• It's been a long road for Melvin Morgan and the Idaho State Bengals, who travel to Kennewick to take on Washington State this weekend.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Utes and Yotes

The final thing standing between Utah and the Pac-12 season is the College of Idaho from the Cascade Collegiate Conference (NAIA, Div. II).

The only question I have about the "Yotes" is how do they pronounce their name: is it pronounced yoh-tees (as in coyotes) or yoats (rhymes with notes)? Guess we'll wait and find out tomorrow.

We'll also find out how our Utes compare with the 'ol Westminster Griffins from down the way on 13th East. The Yotes hosted the Griffins just last month and lost by eighteen, 68-50.

And get this: the 1954-55 basketball team is considered the greatest in C. of I.'s history. They went 23-4 and were led by a little someone known as . . . oh, I don't know . . .  Elgin freakin' Baylor? Maybe you've heard of him?!? He averaged 30.9 ppg that year for the Yotes before going on to complete his college career at Seattle U. And the rest is history.

It's been a big couple weeks for the Yotes. Thirteen days ago, they beat the defending NAIA Div. II National Champion, Oregon Tech, 79-72. The next day, they took the #12 Southern Oregon to overtime before losing, 100-93. Then last week, they just missed another upset bid by falling to #21 Northwest, 76-71.

But what does this all mean? I honestly don't know, but I suspect we'll beat these guys silly tomorrow night. Unless Taylor Pruett (13.1 ppg, 8 rpg) and/or Rodney Delgardo (13 ppg) each turn into the second coming of Elgin Baylor, the Yotes just don't have enough size and fire power to hang with the Utes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Highlights from the Giaco/JimmyBall years, pt. 3

Nos. 15 to 11 | Nos. 10 to 6 | Nos. 5 to 1

5.  at LSU (2009-10): LSU wasn't as good as the year before, when they won the SEC Championship. But they were out to avenge that team, which lost by 30 in Salt Lake. And this time they had the Utes at their place in Baton Rouge. Utah battled back from a 12-point second half deficit to take the lead for good off a Carlon Brown 3-pointer with 1:08 left. LSU missed its chance to tie with 5 seconds left, and David Foster secured the loose rebound under the LSU hoop. Utah 61, LSU 59.

4.  vs. #21 Illinois (2009-10): Fresh off a home loss to Seattle U. days earlier, the Utes were pitted against the ranked Illini in the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena. Utah shot 24% in the first half and trailed at the break, 32-16. But they went on a tear in the second half (shooting 70%) and made it a close game for the final four minutes. Illinois missed a tie-breaking shot with five seconds left. Jay Watkins grabbed the rebound and just as he was about to toss up a desperation shot, he spied Shawn Glover sprinting down the court. Watkins connected on the pass and Glover hit a short glider for the photo-finish game-winner. Luka Drca led the Ute scoring with 16 points. Utah 60, Illinois 58.

3.  vs. #16 Gonzaga (2008-09): The Utes scored the first nine points and led the entire game. A 10-point Gonzaga run in the second half cut the lead to one with about six minutes left and it was a battle the rest of the way. Utah's last FG came at the 4:03 mark, but they converted all eight of their FT attempts from that point on. Luke Nevill had 15-8; Luka Drca had 14 with 7 assists. Fifteen of Utah's 20 FGs came off assists. Utah 66, Gonzaga 65. 

2.  vs. #11 Air Force (2006-07): No one could see this coming. Utah (5-12) shot 70.7% against a ranked Air Force team that boasted a 17-1 record coming into the game. Five Utes scored at least 13 points, and Utah held a comfortable lead nearly the entire game. Freshman David Foster logged three minutes and blocked two shots. This win was the high point of this season, in which Utah finished 11-19 and coachless. Utah 85, Air Force 79. 

1.  vs. San Diego State (2009 MWC Tournament): Even through this difficult era of Ute hoops, we still managed to win a Mountain West Conference championship. We shared the regular season title with BYU and San Diego State, in what was a very strong year for the league. This game was close throughout. The Aztecs hit three three-pointers in the final 26 seconds of play, but Utah countered by connecting on 5 of 6 free throws in that same span. Shawn Green had a clutch steal just before the buzzer to seal the win and the conference crown. Utah 52, San Diego State 50. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Weekly Pac-12 Rankings

Many polls and rankings try to gauge potential or predict where teams will finish at season's end. But I've tried to limit my rankings to the actual performance displayed, giving deference to more recent games. While I think several teams can and will contend for the conference crown, here's how I grade them so far this year:

1 Arizona (11-0) | Last week: #1: Here's a no-brainer.
2 Oregon State (9-2) | Last week: #3: Their schedule isn't helping their RPI, but they keep winning and have no bad losses. Five (active) players average double-digit points led by Roberto Nelson (16.5) and Devon Collier (15.4).
3 Oregon (10-2) | Last week: #2: The 3OT loss at UTEP keeps the Ducks out of the #2 spot this week. It will keep them out of the Top 25 too. They play just twice in the next 17 days.
4 Arizona State (10-2) | Last week: #4: Texas Tech was a potential stumbling block in the non-conference homestretch. But the Sun Devils took care of business nicely.
5 California (8-3) | Last week: #5: Putting their three-game skid in the rear view mirror. Kravish, Solomon and Wallace all had good games this week to compliment Crabbe and Cobbs, constituting a real powerful starting lineup.
6 Colorado (9-2) | Last week: #6: Should destroy Hartford and set up a big time showdown in Tucson to open the conference season.
7 UCLA (9-3) | Last week: #8: Player defections and freshmen development appear to have the Bruins back on track after a rough November. Big time game versus Missouri looms large.
8 Stanford (8-4) | Last week: #7: Loss at NC State tells us the Cardinal isn't better than we thought. The win at Northwestern tells us they aren't worse than we thought either.
9 Washington State (8-4) | Last week: #10: Won three straight, with their last loss being the classic finish against Gonzaga. Brock Motum is among the league's top scorers, as expected. DaVonte Lacy is really chipping in again too after missing four games.
10 Utah (7-4) | Last week: #9: Utah was poised for a dramatic rise after the impressive win against SMU. The first half of the Northridge game confirmed it. But the second half undid it.
11 Washington (8-4) | Last week: #12: The Huskies will take their four-game winning streak on the road for four tough games, beginning at UConn this week.
12 Southern Cal (4-8) | Last week: #11: I understand the Trojans' schedule has been an absolute terror, but evidently it didn't prepare them for a 3-7 Georgia team. So it probably hasn't prepared them for Pac-12 play either.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Week 8 TV Schedule

Salt Lake
Dec. 25th7:30Arizona vs. San Diego StateESPN2669 (HD)144
Dec. 28th7:30College of Idaho at UtahPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 28th8:00Missouri at UCLAESPN2669 (HD)144
Dec. 29thNoonCoppin State at Arizona StatePac-12 AZ
Dec. 29thNoonHartford at ColoradoPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 29th4:00Washington State vs. Idaho StatePac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 29th5:30Washington at ConnecticutESPN2669 (HD)144
Dec. 29th6:00Towson at Oregon StatePac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 29th6:00Harvard at CaliforniaPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 29th8:30Lafayette at StanfordPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 30th5:00Dayton at USCPac-12 Net757 (HD)413

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A "Disheartening" Loss: Northridge 76 Utah 71

Basketball is a game of emotion. Utah played with aggression and confidence in the first half. Northridge played with aggression and confidence in the second half. When the game was on the line, Northridge had the emotional edge and the momentum. Utah had that "deer in the headlights" kind of look. Utah didn't have a chance.

Nervous teams lose games. Utah had 9 turnovers in the second half. Northridge converted those 9 turnovers to 17 points. In the first half, the Matadors played a zone that Utah was able to spread out with crisp passing, penetration, and unselfish play. In the second half, the Matadors played man-to-man pressure. They also took away penetration by sucking its defense to the middle, and forcing Utah to make outside shots. The young Utes missed some shots and started to tighten up. The same pattern that emerged in losses to Sacramento State and BYU emerged in this game. Utah played a solid first half, but as in the Sac State and BYU games, the young Utes couldn't hold off a determined opponent. When a team tightens up, like Utah did, it starts to miss shots and it turns the ball over. Northridge took advantage. 

In his famous article, Bill Simmons described his "levels of losing." While this was a preseason college basketball game, this had the feel of a "broken axle" game. When the wheels come off, there is no putting them back on. And the wheels came off for Utah tonight. As Bill Simmons says, it is always interesting to see how a team responds to a loss in that situation.

So how will Utah respond? As Coach Krystko stated in the post-game, this was a "disheartening" loss. Utah has a week to think about this one. The Utes play the College of Idaho before starting conference play in Arizona. When Utah loses, it is because it stops playing the aggressor, it tightens up down the stretch, and lets the other team take control. This was a tough, tough loss. We'll see if Utah learned anything from these pre-season losses. If they do, I expect them to represent themselves well in conference play. If not, it could be another long season.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday afternoon odds and ends.

It's gameday here at the Special Events Center. And fans throughout the region are gearing up for a big weekend of Pac-12 action. Here are a few links to get you up to speed on things:

• A lot of coverage from's Pac-12 blog today. First, it picks Arizona to defeat Marshall Henderson and the Ole Miss Rebels in the Diamondhead Classic. It also lists Jahii Carson and Shabazz Muhammad among the nation's best freshmen.

• The blog has awarded Utah the distinction of being the Pac-12's Most Improved team. It's the first of many Pac-12 basketball awards for the Utes, I hope.

• It was a great game that ended in a bad loss for the Ducks. UTEP's defensive scheme changes kept the Ducks off balance all night.

• The biggest loser of the whole NCAA investigation of Shabazz Muhammad: the NCAA investigator. What a mess.

• USC hasn't had a lot of wins this year. But they haven't had any bad losses either. Until now. And J.T. Terrill is MIA.

• Jon Wilner recaps the Pac-12's non-conference season so far and explains why RPI is so important at this point in the year.

• Some people remain hopeful the Pac-12 can get more tournament bids this year (note, this article was posted before the Oregon loss to UTEP on Tuesday). Meanwhile, Colorado's Xavier Johnson is trying to keep up his aggression but cut back on the fouls.
+ + +

Halftime ceremony planned for the game tonight. From

Halftime Ceremony. The Utah athletic department will be honoring the 1944 team at halftime as part of the NCAA's 75th Anniversary of March Madness. Artist Opie Otterstad will unveil a painting of Head Coach Vadal Peterson to the team after a video commemorating their accomplishments.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Notes on Northridge

Next up come the Matadors of Cal State Northridge, who hail from the Big West Conference. Like Utah, Northridge has already exceeded its 2011-12 win total (seven) with an 8-3 record. They have a couple guys who can score and rebound -- Stephan Hicks (17.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Stephen Maxwell (12.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg); and a guy who can score and dish -- Josh Greene (12.4 ppg, 7.1 apg). Hicks, in particular, has performed quite well against their tougher opponents; he had 25-8 against BYU and 18-10 against Arizona State.

Also watch for freshman Landon Drew, who contributes off the bench. He had 16-6-5 against Arizona State and 10 points against UCLA. He also happens to be the younger brother of UCLA's Larry Drew II.

Utah Assistant Coach Andy Hill briefly contrasted Northridge's defensive style with SMU during the ESPN700 post-game radio interview on Tuesday night:

"Defensively, [SMU is] really good in the half-court. Northridge is really good defensively but they do it by pressuring you and picking up, full-court, trapping and running and jumping and some odd zones. So it's going to be a completely different game. They want to get the game high in the numbers as far as scoring -- they're a little bit different from SMU that way. We'll have to really concentrate on taking care of the ball because we don't need to give [Northridge] opportunities offensively by turning it over, especially with increasing possessions."
Northridge is good enough to boost Utah's RPI, should the Utes win. Of course, that also means they'll be tough to beat. Like several other teams on Utah's slate (such as Boise State and SMU), the Matadors have proven to be a lot better than we initially thought when the schedule was released.

Get past these guys, and we should have nine wins going into conference play.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Utes over SMU: Defense, Rebounding, and Freshmen Stepping Up

Utah beat SMU on Tuesday night because of defensive adjustments, solid rebounding (for the most part), and solid play off the bench.  This was a solid win against a well-coached, athletic team.  This is how I break down the win.

Defensive adjustments.  With about seven minutes left in the first half, SMU opened up a 21-13 lead.  Utah was struggling to score, and SMU looked to break the game open.  At that time, Coach K put his team into a 1-2-2 three-quarter court press and a 2x3 zone.  Over that seven minute stretch, Utah went on an 18-7 run and took the lead going into half-time.  During that stretch, Utah forced at least six SMU turnovers -- some off the press, some off the zone.  By half-time, Utah had regained the lead 31-28 and had the momentum going into the second half.  Also, Coach K went into a zone during in-bounds plays under the basket.  BYU killed Utah's man-to-man on in-bounds plays under the basket.  SMU did not have nearly as much success.  Utah continued to mix it up in the second half, and these adjustments really made it difficult for SMU to score.

Rebounding.  Utah out-rebounded the Mustangs 30-21.  On the key play of the game, Jordan Loveridge  got a tip-in off the board to put the Utes up by 5.  This play led to two SMU technicals and put the game away.  While SMU had 4 more shots than Utah (53-49), Utah shot nine more free throws and made ten more free throws than SMU (the technicals obviously had an effect on this statistic).  If Utah had not had such a huge advantage on the boards, then SMU could have controlled the pace and got to the line more than the Utes (as happened in Dallas).  But with Utah's solid rebounding, the Utes could run their offense, tire out the Mustangs in high altitude, and control the tempo.

Bench Play, especially from the Freshmen.  Besides Tucker, who had a rough night, Utah's bench played exceptionally well.  Senior Washburn and Freshmen Seymour and Taylor kept Utah in the game when they were down, and then hit some key shots in the second half to help the Utes keep the lead.  Taylor's play down the stretch in the first half (as described above) was excellent.  He led the Utes defensively when they went to the press and zone, and he made some big steals and hit some huge shots.  Washburn and Seymour also hit several big shots out of offensive sets in the second half.  I didn't make practice this week, but I can bet that Coach K saw some things in practice this week that gave him trust in all three of these players.  Taylor especially surprised me with his defensive poise and his efficiency in running the offense.

Overall, I thought this was Coach's best performance this year.  His defensive adjustments, his substitution patterns, and his play calling helped put his team in a position to win.  While SMU may be slipping a bit, this was a solid win and bodes well for the Utes as they prepare for conference play.

Highlights from the Giaco/JimmyBall years, pt. 2

Nos. 15 to 11 | Nos. 10 to 6 | Nos. 5 to 1

10.  at New Mexico (2010-11): It seemed like the MWC had just passed us by -- a terrible feeling to have on the eve of joining the Pac-10. We only won six conference games that season. Remarkably, two of those wins came against New Mexico -- including this one in the Pit. Utah trailed by as many as 13 points, but somehow found itself with a chance to win with just 17 seconds left. They brought the ball up the court and promptly lost control of it. But Chris Hines managed to retain control just in time to hoist up a three-point attempt at the buzzer. It banked in. Utah 62, New Mexico 60.

9.  vs. Washington State (2006-07): Utah wasn't impressed with Washington State's 7-0 record coming into the game. The Utes never trailed and got a double-double performance out of Luke Nevill (16-12). But make no mistake: this was a very good Cougar team. They made it into the dance as a #3-seed and was a double-overtime loss to Vanderbilt away from making the sweet-sixteen. Utah 69, Washington State 55.

8.  vs. Utah State (2009-10): The Aggies brought in a kid named Jared Quayle who shot the lights out. He scored 20 points in the second half en route to a 27-point performance (5/7 from three, 6/6 from the line). The Utes came back from seven down with about eight minutes left; from that point on it was neck-and-neck until the finish. Luka Drca traded free throws with Quayle down the stretch and the Utes held off an Aggie team who finished the season with 27 wins. Carlon Brown led the Utah scoring with 22 points. Utah 68, Utah State 67.

7.  vs. BYU (2006 MWC Tournament): Despite his flaws, Ray Giacoletti did have a winning record against BYU. And who could forget the red sportscoat (the "Giac-et") he would always don for the occasion? By the time the 2005-06 season was winding down, it was clear BYU and Utah were headed in opposite directions. BYU was a bubble team for the NCAA tournament with 20 wins; Utah was fighting to get above .500. It was the quarterfinals of the MWC Tournament in Denver. Luke Nevill had a monster performance (29-14) and took control of the game down the stretch. Seven of his points came in the final 1:53, including a big jumper with 12 ticks left. Utah 74, BYU 70.

6.  vs. New Mexico (2008-09): With apologies to Sesame Street: One of these seasons is not like the others. This list is supposed to be about the best of the bad years. But 2008-09 was actually a good year in which we won the MWC (stay tuned) and got back to the big dance. We played some incredible conference games, but none quite as exciting as this one. Like most Utah-New Mexico basketball games over the last 5-or-so years, this one was an absolute dogfight. And I can still clearly picture Lawrence Borha's baseline jumper with 11 seconds left to win the game. What a freakin' stud. Utah 69, New Mexico 68.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Let's face it: Larry Brown just ain't the coach he used to be.

Tonight, Larry Brown will be patrolling the sideline at the Huntsman Center. I'm sure he'll be sporting his expensive suit and traditional silk necktie. Many people know he's the only coach to win an NBA title and the NCAA Tournament. But most people don't know he's also the only coach to wear overalls and a huge bow tie in the same season.

No joke.

But those days are long gone. In his boring 'ol navy blue Armani, he's not half the coach he once was.

Or is he? I mean, what if he broke out the overalls again tonight? Or even a colorful stripped sweater?

What better way to let the world know that he's still got it? That he's not afraid to rock the basketball world once again? Chances may be slim, but for the next twelve hours, I'm gonna hold out hope to see this guy lead the Mustangs against the Utes tonight:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Weekly Pac-12 Rankings

Just one change from last week.

1 Arizona (8-0) | Last week: #2: Big time win on Saturday completes their ascent to the top of these rankings. I guess it's fair to expect them to win the Diamondhead Classic in Hawaii this week.
2 Oregon (9-1) | Last week: #1: Oregon's resume can't compete with what Arizona did on Saturday. But it's still very good. The dominance shown against Nebraska has them firmly established in second-place.
3 Oregon State (7-2) | Last week: #3: Beavers stay in third with two wins against lower mid-majors. Besides, no one else is exactly challenging for this spot.
4 Arizona State (9-2) | Last week: #4: I expected the Sun Devils to beat DePaul. It was a good opportunity to get a win against the Big East. I guess we'll have to settle for just a win against the Ivy League (Dartmouth).
5 California (6-3) | Last week: #5: In the midst of a three-game skid against three good teams. They need more reliable production out of Wallace, Kravish and Solomon because Allen Crabbe will go 6 for 26 once in a while.
6 Colorado (8-2) | Last week: #6: An ugly win against Fresno State isn't enough to move them up in these rankings.
7 Stanford (7-3) | Last week: #7: Stanford is a big mystery to me -- mainly because they were out of action for nearly two weeks. Aaron Bright shot 3 for 13 from the field against UC Davis on Saturday. Other than that, he appears to be healthy again. They have a chance to move up this week when they travel to take on NC State.
8 UCLA (7-3) | Last week: #8: Holding firm in eighth place with a landslide victory against Prairie View A&M.
9 Utah (6-3) | Last week: #9: The only Pac-12 team that didn't play this week. School comes first, you know!
10 Washington State (7-4) | Last week: #10: Easily handled Jackson State, which is more than some can say (see #12).
11 Southern Cal (4-6) | Last week: #11: UC Riverside in no quality win by any means. But at least the Trojans' losing streak is finally over.
12 Washington (6-4) | Last week: #12: Two wins this week, so that's good. But they made winless Jackson State look pretty good on Saturday.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

And Who Can Forget This ...

Utah hosts Larry Brown and the SMU Mustangs this Tuesday night.

Of course, the greatest game in the history of Utah and SMU happened in the 1997 WAC tournament where Keith Van Horn saved the Utes from an upset with a tip in at the buzzer.  Here are some links to that memorable game.

Keith Van Horn at the buzzer.

Here is the account of the game from the Deseret News

And here is the box score of that game from the Las Vegas Sun

Week 7 TV Schedule

Salt Lake
Dec. 18th7:00Stanford at NC StateESPN2669 (HD)144
Dec. 18th7:00Oral Roberts at ArizonaPac-12 Net410 (SD)413
Dec. 18th7:00SMU at UtahPac-12 MT757 (HD)alt
Dec. 18th9:00Long Beach State at UCLAPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 18th9:00UC Santa Barbara at CaliforniaPac-12 BA
Dec. 19th6:00Oregon at UTEPCBS-College753 (HD)158
Dec. 19th8:00Howard at Oregon StatePac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 20th7:00Cal Poly at WashingtonPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 20th9:00UC Irvine at USCPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 21th6:30Northern Arizona at ColoradoPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 21th7:00Stanford at NorthwesternBig Ten Net754 (HD)439
Dec. 21th8:30Washington State vs. BuffaloPac-12 Net410 (SD)413
Dec. 21th8:30Cal State Northridge at UtahPac-12 MT757 (HD)5454
Dec. 22nd11:30aUSC at GeorgiaFSN-Prime
Dec. 22ndNoonArizona State at Texas TechFCS-Central263 (SD)417
Dec. 22nd1:00Houston Baptist at OregonPac-12 OR
Dec. 22nd3:00Prairie View A&M at CaliforniaPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 22nd5:00Northern Illinois at WashingtonPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 22nd7:00Oregon State vs. San DiegoPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 22nd9:00Fresno State at UCLAPac-12 Net757 (HD)413
Dec. 22nd9:30Arizona vs. East Tennessee StateESPNU755 (HD)141
Dec. 23rd9:30Arizona vs. Miami (FL)ESPN2669 (HD)144

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Up next: SMU and revenge.

Here's an unexpected bit of news from this afternoon: Utah's next opponent, Southern Methodist, fell on the road against Rhode Island. The Mustangs were off to their best start in years and looked quite impressive against the Utes a few weeks ago. But they got creamed by the 2-7 Rams of the A-10 today, 72-50.

So what happened there? Did the Mustangs' two-week layoff catch up with them? Are they a different team when on the road? A few stats jump out -- first, SMU turned the ball over 22 times (they averaged 13.8 going into the game). Second, they allowed the Rams to shoot 49% overall and 43.5% from three (compared to their own 43.2% and 27.3%). Interestingly, SMU had more turnovers (22) than field goals made (19).

Meanwhile, Jalen Jones was up to his typical self. He had 14 points and 9 rebounds (he led SMU against Utah with 20-16, and now averages 15.8-8.3 on the year). On the other hand, Nick Russell, who averaged 15.1 points, had just 7 against the Rams.

Utah has had just three games since playing at SMU, and SMU has had just two. It will be interesting to see how these teams compare against each other when they meet again next Tuesday. And possibly more interesting to gauge how well Utah has developed in the last 20 days.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday afternoon links

 ESPN issued a Pac-12 Power Ranking this morning. Not bad, I suppose. I think it's obvious Oregon State (#5) deserves more love.  And Washington (#8) deserves less ... much, much less. Reasoning "Washington boasts an incredible home-court advantage" ... ?!? Try telling that to Albany or Colorado State or Nevada. Or even Cal State Fullerton, who had the Huskies on the ropes in Seattle only last week.

 Massive game for the conference this weekend as the #5 Florida Gators visit Tucson. Sell-out crowd expected. Wildcats must limit turnovers that lead to transition baskets. [Also of note: Arizona is working on scheduling a future series with Gonzaga. In the opinion of this ghost, Utah should offer to host one of the games as a neutral site here on the hill for old times sake.]

 Really . . . how big is the Florida-Arizona matchup this weekend?  The blog captures the anticipation nicely.

 The Cougars looked shaky but did enough to get past winless Jackson State in the Battle of the Weary.

 Meanwhile in Seattle, the Huskies beat Seattle U. for the fifth time since 2009 when the rivalry was rebooted. In attendance were members of the Washington and Seattle U. teams that met in a classic NCAA Tournament game in 1953.

 Shabazz Muhammad's weight has decreased so far this season.  And so have the Bruins' attendance figures.

 The San Francisco Chronicle highlights Cal senior PG Brandon Smith.

 Colorado "[gets] the taste of the Kansas game out of [its] mouth" with an ugly road win against Fresno State.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Add some music to your day

For the enjoyment of my readers, I wish to share two of my favorite songs. One traditional; one modern. Both get me amped for Runnin' Utes hoop action.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Highlights from the Giaco/JimmyBall years, pt. 1

Every year during the holidays I do some volunteer work as the Ghost of Christmas Past. I make midnight visits to nasty old misers who lack the Christmas spirit and/or treat their employees poorly. Give 'em a hell of a scare; take them out peeping; make them remember some hot girl they used to date then let slip away because they were too busy trying to make money -- basically make them feel like utter crap. The next thing you know, they're buying toy carousels for crippled kids in the neighborhood. But that's another topic for another blog.

But all this emphasis on the past has got me thinking about the good times our Runnin' Utes have enjoyed over the years. Not our glory days, mind you; but rather the occassional good time we've seen since the season Andrew Bogut and Marc Jackson led us to the sweet-sixteen. That was back in 2004-05. It was Ray Giacoletti's first year at the helm.

But from 2005 to 2011, Runnin' Ute fans had very little to cheer about.  From time to time the team would do something that gave us a reason to hope, but that was all.

Looking back, I can think of fifteen games from the era that should be remembered fondly.  Not all-time great moments by any stretch, but solid accomplishments at the least.  Each of which led me to believe good times were just around the corner.

This is the first part of a three-part series reviewing the Top-15 games from the Giaco/JimmyBall era (not counting the aforementioned sweet-sixteen season). 

Nos. 15 to 11 | Nos. 10 to 6 | Nos. 5 to 1

15.  vs. Boise State (2010-11): Utah trailed most of the game. At one point early in the second half, Boise's lead stretched to 16. But the Utes slowly battled back and whittled the lead to one point with over a minute left. They wouldn't finally claim the lead until Will Clyburn's three-point jumper with 11 seconds remaining. It proved to be the game-winning shot. Utah 86, Boise State 84. 

14.  vs. San Diego State (2006-07): This game occurred just as San Diego State was emerging as one of the great western basketball powers. Utah, on the other hand, was 10-17 and had a coach who appeared to be on his way out. It was Ricky Johns' senior night and he broke out for a career-high 30 points to lead Utah to a surprising victory. Luke Nevill chipped in for 16 points and 11 rebounds. Utah 74, San Diego State 68.

13.  at California (2007-08): This game got me excited for the Boylen era. On the road against the Pac-10, Utah actually led by as many as 16. But the Bears got the lead down and eventually went ahead with just a few minutes remaining. With the score tied and only seconds left, Shawn Green stumbled through the lane and chucked up the winning shot. It put Utah at 7-3 on the year, and like I said, got some fans feeling excited for JimmyBall. Utah 67, California 65.

12.  at UTEP (2008 CBI Tournament): Nevermind the fact that no one had heard of the CBI tournament before; Utah was just happy to still be playing basketball in late-March. UTEP hosted this first round game at the Don Haskins Center where they boasted a real good home record that season.  But Utah jumped out to a big lead early and cruised to a 12-point win. Johnnie Bryant led the scoring with 17 points. Luke Nevill had a double-double (16-12). Utah 81, UTEP 69.

11.  vs. San Diego State (2007-08): This game was chosen to celebrate 100 years of Utah basketball. A host of former players (including Utah's All-Century team) were present for a halftime salute and the 14,653 fans in attendance were rewarded with a commemorative cup. Attendees were also treated to an exciting basketball game and a close Utah victory against the improved Aztecs. Lawrence Borha (22) and Johnnie Bryant (17) led the scoring, but I best recall Kim Tillie flying up and down the court and pulling down crucial rebounds. Utah 72, San Diego State 66.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The big "what if . . . "

I love how the team has come together this season. Guys are understanding their roles and playing their parts. Leaders have naturally emerged. We've got our defensive specialists, we've got our shooters and our go-to guys in the paint.

But you've got to ask yourself this question: what if we had David Foster in the mix? We've seen what he can do and know what a difference maker he is on the defensive end.  He's frankly a blocking machine. As a sophomore in 2009-10, Foster set the Utes' single season blocks record with 115 -- an average of four a game, good enough for 4th in the country.  It also helped earn him the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year award. The following year he set the Utes' all-time career mark with 219 blocked shots. He also averaged 5.2 rebounds per game and earned All-MWC Defensive team honors for the second year in a row.

And remarkably, he set these marks while averaging just around 20 minutes a game.

My fondest memory of him came in a game against TCU during the 2010-11 season. Will Clyburn had just put the Utes ahead from the free throw line with nine seconds left. The Frogs then made a mad dash in the final seconds to try to win the game. The ball went to Hank Thorns who drove all the way to the rim. But Foster blocked his lay up attempt with one second left, and Utah held on for its third-straight win.

Foster sat out all of last year after injuring his foot in the exhibition game. He rehabilitated nicely and was poised for the senior year we've all been waiting for. But sadly, he re-injured his foot before the season began and was forced to end his college career.

But imagine what this team would look like with him healthy. His 7'3" presence alone would completely alter an opposing team's gameplan. Imagine how he would have added another dimension to our defense again this year!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Weekly Pac-12 Rankings

More movement than usual, seeing as I took a break last week. Again, these rankings are based on actual performance shown so far this year.

1 Oregon (8-1) | Two weeks ago: #4: The Ducks scare me.  I realize they haven't played the toughest schedule as of late, but they've demolished the teams they have played. We remember what they did against good teams in Vegas; and I think they've even improved since then.
2 Arizona (7-0) | Two weeks ago: #6: The Wildcats got their first real test and passed. I admit I was worried about the game at Clemson because Arizona already had some close calls at home against lower-level opponents. But they took care of business. I can't wait for the home matchup against Florida; it's their chance to really burst onto the scene.
3 Oregon State (5-2) | Two weeks ago: #3: I know: Oregon State keeps playing well but keeps sinking in these rankings. They don't have a single bad loss or letdown against lower caliber opponents. If they keep this up, they won't leave the top-3.
4 Arizona State (8-1) | Two weeks ago: #5: They're making the most of their soft non-conference schedule. I think the momentum and development will pay dividends come conference play.
5 California (6-2) | Two weeks ago: #2: DirecTV Classic champions one week, two-game losing streak two weeks later. They almost beat a ranked UNLV this weekend; they'll get another chance for an upset against Creighton next week. Or maybe lose their third-straight ...
6 Colorado (7-2) | Two weeks ago: #1: Very tough week for Colorado. Lost their first game of the year at Wyoming, then got rolled against former Big XII rival Kansas. That, plus a couple other close-calls, make the Baylor win seem like ages ago.
7 Stanford (6-3) | Two weeks ago: #9: Took the week off. They should smash UC Davis on Saturday before the big road test against NC State next week.
8 UCLA (6-3) | Two weeks ago: #12: Beat their Big XII counterpart deep in the heart of Texas. It's not enough to fix the disastrous season they've had so far, but there's still time to build momentum before big after-Christmas game against Missouri and conference play.
9 Utah (6-3) | Two weeks ago: #8: Stunning victory against Boise State and nearly pulled off a big upset at the Marriott Center. They're certainly holding their own and representing the conference well.
10 Washington State (6-4) | Two weeks ago: #10: Two-point loss to #10 Gonzaga makes three close losses (out of four) already this year.
11 Southern Cal (3-6) | Two weeks ago: #7: The Trojans' schedule has been an absolute murders' row. You can't really blame them for any of those losses. On the other hand, you can't reward them for not winning. That's why they're #11 this week.
12 Washington (4-4) | Two weeks ago: #11: The biggest disappointment of the whole group. Even if they beat the four teams between now and the UConn game, it may not be enough to move out of this 12th spot.