Hi everybody. Thanks again for stopping by to chat about the Pac-12 and the Arizona Wildcats this week. It's a huge coupla days for the conference; we'll know the league winner (or winners) by Saturday night, and then they'll seed the Pac-12 Tournament, which, for some teams, will be their only way into the Big Dance.
Fire away with questions, and I'll try to get to all of them in the next hour. Bonus points for making me laugh.
The money is very good. Schools will receive, on average, $20.8 million annually from ESPN and Fox, though it's not to that figure in the early years, plus whatever the Pac-12 Networks can make. I believe more playing high-profile ESPN games has helped the league immensely. The way college sports works these days, leagues and teams NEED ESPN to be talking about them. Were Direct TV signed on, I would call the media deal a home run. Until then, it's a stand-up triple.
The MGM Grand. I was joking the other day that strolling through the lobby should be, um, interesting, especially late at night. Though coaches told me yesterday they didn't think the temptations of Sin City were that much worse than being any other place. Also, there's a lion in the lobby. That's pretty awesome.
If by "we," you mean the UA, I'd argue that they're already good. When are they going to be great? We'll see. The good news is that, nationwide, nobody's awesome. Indiana has lost two of three, and most people consider them the nation's best team. More than any other March I can remember, I think there are probably a dozen teams capable of getting hot and winning the Big Dance. If Arizona gets hot — and that's a big if — I think they might join that group. They wouldn't be on my list as of today, though.
UCLA's freshmen have, unquestionably, been better. Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson were ranked in Scout.com's top 4, while Arizona's big three all were in the top 10. But they're guards, and guards are different than forwards, in terms of speed of development. Jahii Carson has really grown this season, but he had a year of practice, so that's not apples-to-apples.
I'm not sure we've talked about the idea of pressing here before. I've maintained that it might be a good idea. And the pressure seemed to work in the final minutes in LA. As you said, Arizona can go 10-deep, and nine — maybe all but Tarczewski — have the footspeed to do it. That said, Miller's thinking appears to be that if the UA can't guard in the half-court, they can't do it full-court either. It might force more possessions, but that's not a good thing, necessarily.
The trend, seemingly all season, is that players are reticent to dump the ball inside to him if he bobbles a pass or two early in the game. It's interesting to watch the UA early in games, though — they almost always make a conscious effort to go down low in the first coupla minutes.
Our own Bruce Pascoe wrote a story about Lyons in today's paper. Give it a read, if you haven't already. My thought: Lyons isn't an ideal point guard, but Nick Johnson certainly isn't, either. Fact is, Momo Jones leaving two years ago after reading the writing on the wall that Josiah Turner would play last season, and then Turner being a complete dumpster fire and leaving, hurt the Wildcats this year. They weren't going to have a true PG regardless of whether Lyons transferred or not.
I don't know about the Ollie story — off topic: he's done a wonderful job at UConn, and should be a national coach of the year finalist — but Miller has spoken over and over this year about how York should fit nicely on next year's team. Will he transfer? Who knows. But his mom moved to Tucson before the season started, so it would require, essentially, uprooting his family.
I think this is the year that almost anybody can pull an upset like that in the tournament.
I would bet on Hill. He played out of his mind Wednesday at USC, and then struggled at UCLA. Miller said Hill probably put too much emphasis on his last regular-season game in his hometown. I can't see him doing that again in the tournament. The bigger question, in my mind, isn't leadership or talking or motivation — it's, who's going to defend like their life depends on it?
I see them being more productive next year because they'll be sophomores. Big guys rarely, rarely star as freshmen. (Anthony Davis, I think, might have colored our opinion a little too much the other way; he's the exception, not the rule.) Maybe having a pass-first PG will help; it's hard to imagine it won't. But with Hill, Parrom and Lyons gone, there will simply be more shots to be had, too. Lyons and Hill have combined for 271 field-goal attempts this year.
Quick softball aside: Kenzie Fowler (back injury) could redshirt if she wanted and return to play next season. That's not the plan right now; she's said she wants to see if she can return this year. OK, back to hoops.
Wow. I will put that down as a RANT. Longest rant of the year, too. And it ain't close. I won't address all the points in the question, but ... In retrospect, the Wildcats woulda been better off with two years of Momo Jones than one of Turner and one of Lyons. But give Miller credit for patching the PG hole with Lyons. He's not a true point, but the dude is averaging 15.1 points per game. Where else would that have come from, on a one-year rental? As for McConnell, let's not put unreasonable expectations on the kid. He's a very good point guard. Not a world-beater.
I haven't seen the set up at MGM yet. They've played one day of hoops there EVER — and that was Dec. 22 in a mini-tourney that featured the Beavs and USD Torreros, among others. Craig Robinson spoke glowingly of the atmosphere, and the arena, yesterday. And have you been in Staples Center's upper deck — it's the second-highest point in the US, behind Mt. McKinley. This promises to be closer. Or at least, less steep.
Can I pick neither? The Beavers' new logo is oddly-shaped, and OSU doesn't have a secondary logo that says, you know, O, S or U. The new Sparky looks like Ned Flanders and Bumblebee Man from the Simpsons had a baby. I'll probably go Beavs — their new football unis are sweet. As for the makeover question, it's Cal. And, from what I've heard, Nike's got at least a football overhaul coming for this season.
No, rants are good here. Happy to have 'em. Just my way of clarifying a question vs. a statement.
I think that, with the chips down and the stakes high (there's a Pac-12 Tourney bye on the line, probably), Miller is far more apt to rely on the veteran Mayes than the freshman York. I think Lyons guards Jahii to start; Mayes will probably inherit that role when he checks in for him
I don't think Mayes is a viable long-term replacement for Lyons at this point. But if he can contribute 15 minutes off the bench with a bit of scoring and a lot of defense, I think everyone would be pretty geeked about it.
We're on a run of Mayes questions. One thing to remember about guarding Carson: He's small and quick as hell, so help defense, especially into the lane, is going to be huge. When the UA hedges toward him, he'll have to decide to kick or shoot. If he kicks, let's see how quickly the Wildcats can rotate. That'll be a huge part of the game.
Nope. I think Sendek has bought himself at least another year. They were picked to finish 11th (media? what do we know?), and as of today have 20 wins. Ken Bone is the one I'd worry about. His team has the fewest wins of any in the league (both in overall play and conference ball), and his AD isn't the guy that hired him. BAD combo.
Sean Miller inherited a bad situation here (so bad that multiple coaches turned the UA down, either formally or otherwise), reached the Elite Eight and recruited well. Those are problems that all but 5 fan bases in the world would love to have.