Tag Archives: Andy Enfield

Pac-12 Embarrassment at the NCAA Tournament

Being a fan and writer of the Pac-12 Conference I want the conference to do well when the chips are on the line for its teams, but after viewing the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament I had to come to conclusion that the Pac-12 just was not very good in 2016. Was the Pac-12 overrated by the tournament committee? I think so. Were they over seeded? Most definitely.

Watching plenty of Pac-12 basketball this year I saw that the conference was very average, but not horrible in any respect. I thought we would get about five or six teams into the Big Dance, but I thought any more than that would be over stretching the talent level in the conference. Now, I am not saying that the talent level was absolutely lacking, but lets face facts here, the college game has become diluted due to the “one and done” player.

Watching the Pac-12 perform over the weekend I thought,  “Am I being punked here?” It didn’t appear to be the same conference I had seen during the regular season and they paid a heavy price in this year’s Tournament.

The NCAA Tournament has not been kind to Pac-12 in the past and once again it wasn’t in 2016. The last team standing are the Oregon Ducks, the number one seed in the West region, and almost the first number one seed to bow out. The Ducks got all they wanted from a determined Saint Joseph team on Sunday night and now have a date with the Duke Blue Devils.

Just about every time March Madness rolls around the Pac-12 sends a couple of legit prospects to the dance and just about every time thereafter the conference is let down by those prospects. The expectations are not even met, forget about the teams even coming close to exceeding them.

What really cemented the Pac-12 as being largely overrated for this tournament was on Saturday night when three seed Utah, was crushed by 11 seed Gonzaga. Saying the Utes were crushed is putting it politely. It also may have proved the point about how some of these Pac-12 teams may have been overvalued by the committee. The final score of the Utah/Gonzaga game 82-59. Really? The seeding for that game should have been flip flopped. The Utes played like they were the 11 seed and Gonzaga played like they were the tougher three seed.

Say what you want about Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few, but he gets his teams ready to play regardless of their seeding and it showed against Utah.

The conference got seven teams into the Tournament and most of those teams were bounced in the first round. Oregon State, Arizona, California, USC and Colorado were all put to rest on Thursday and Friday. Only Oregon and Utah were left standing at that point.

Oregon is left holding up the conference flag at this point and to say that they are a difficult number one seed to bounce out may be a bit of a lie at this point. After their performance against Saint Joseph, picking Duke to win against Oregon is not a big stretch to take. I do think that match-ups matter for teams as well, so for the teams that were bounced early let’s take a look at their individual games.

Oregon State: The Beavers were a pretty good story for the conference. It was the first time they had been invited to the Tournament in 26 years and had played some decent basketball, but a seven seed? Really? They were matched up against a Virginia Commonwealth team that had been to the tournament before, had some success, but were regulated to a 10 seed. Oregon State was certainly over seeded, no doubt about it.

Arizona: Being a six seed for the Wildcats was something that wasn’t really looked at as a bad thing by their fans. I did not hear many complaints coming from Tucson about it, but their downfall was playing a Wichita State team that wasn’t playing like an 11 seed. They were playing more like a five or six seed. The Cats were not even favored in that game.

Utah: For a team that I thought had the potential of getting to the Final Four, they really screwed the pooch against Gonzaga and this was only a couple of games removed from getting waxed by Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game.

California: The Golden Bears were dealt a major blow by having their point guard, Ty Wallace, suffer a broken hand a day before their first round game. He was their Senior leader, he filled up the stat sheet for them, and then in a blink of an eye he was gone. That’s the reason, not an excuse for them because they still had enough talent to win that game.

USC: They were in a tough match up with Providence and then lose at the buzzer. It was the 8 seed versus the 9 seed and those games are a toss-up as it is, but in this game Providence was the better team. USC underperformed in my opinion all year with the good talent that they have on that squad.

Colorado: Sometimes the better team just underperforms. It was a pick’em type of game with Connecticut and the Buffs just didn’t play to their capabilities. When you don’t come to play, negative things happen and they did for Colorado.

In the end, the Pac-12 needs to have better showings in the Tournament than they have been giving us. The committee will remember this next year and may not give the Pac-12 the benefit of the doubt. Even though they are supposed to evaluate a team on their merits for that year I am almost certain that they will remember putting seven teams into the Tournament and remembering that six were out by the end of the first weekend of play. That will play a part in their thinking next year.

Imagine if Oregon had lost to Saint Joesph. What would people be thinking of the Pac-12 then? Let that thought swish around in your head for a bit.

Email Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

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Pac-12 Basketball: Who Gets into the Big Dance?

Basketball is played out here in the West, many people may forget about that. That is understandable since teams out here in the Pac-12, outside of the Arizona Wildcats or the UCLA Bruins don’t have any name brand recognition when it comes to basketball. It’s a tough road for the Pac-12 in basketball. Their games come on late in the east, the teams are not winning titles, and most people who follow college basketball don’t regard the conference as one high in talent. The urge to watch Pac-12 basketball is not there. That is especially the case in 2015-2016 with the Pac-12. However, the talk that I hear is that seven or eight teams may make the NCAA Tournament. Really? Does the Pac-12 really have that many teams that are “Big Dance” worthy? Let’s explore.

When you talk Pac-12 basketball, there is always ONE team that comes to mind. The Arizona Wildcats are the brand of the Pac-12. No question to me. Ever since Lute Olson took over the program and now with Sean Miller, the Wildcats have had the most talent, been ranked high, and gone deep into the tournament

Do they deserve a bid this year? Absolutely, without question. Even though they lost a ton of talent from last year’s squad, they are still at the top of the Pac-12 Conference. However, they have struggled this year to really separate themselves from the rest of the conference because of the lack of “lights out talent” they have enjoyed in past years. The Cats will get in, they have quality wins, they have an excellent shot at winning the conference tournament, and depending on match-ups in the Big Dance, they could create some anxious moments for teams the deeper they go in the tournament.

The Oregon Ducks. Well, people like seeing them because of what? The uniforms. Having seen this team in person, I heard many a fan say “I wonder what the uniforms will look like tonight?” and to that I merely laughed. Until Oregon goes deep in the tournament multiple times, that is what the fans will be asking.

Do they get into the tournament? No doubt about it. They have the record to get in. The Ducks are 22-6, 11-4 in the Pac-12 right now and have some people thinking they are dark horse to get to the Final Four. I am not sure I would go that far with Oregon, but they have athletes. They’ve got a solid point guard, in sophomore Casey Benson, good big men in Dwayne Benjamin and Dillon Brooks, and a quality Head Coach in Dana Altman. The one thing the Ducks lack is a prototypical big man. Their post players are slight in stature and will be pushed around by a big man of size when the tournament starts. The Ducks get into the tournament with no problem, but how far they go is anybody’s guess.

The Utah Utes will get into the tournament as well. They are in second place in the Pac-12 and have a huge game with Arizona coming up to determine the final standings in the conference. The Utes have a 22-7 overall record and 11-5 conference record, so they will get a bid. The Utes are solid team, with solid players, but I am not sure if they will strike fear in too many teams when the conference tournament or the NCAA tournament starts. At most, I see Utah getting to the round of 16 in the Big Dance. To go any further they need good match-ups and/or some upsets to occur. Bottom line, they will need some help to advance deep in the NCAA tournament.

Here come the Trojans. The Trojans have some great bigs who are athletic. They have four guys over 6’10” who are long, athletic, and can play ball. To me the Trojans are on the “bubble” to get into the NCAA Tournament. They have an overall record of 19-9, but have a conference record of 8-7. When you are barely above the break-even mark in college basketball in your own conference the trip to the tourney is riddled with doubt. The Trojans have a must-win game against California that they have to get. For the Trojans to get this much-needed win they need to execute their offense on a high level. Head Coach Andy Enfield has shown concern for this execution at different points in the year.

“Our effort level is good but our execution is not good sometimes. We have never had to coach effort with this team, but execution wins games,” said Head Coach Andy Enfield.

The road to the Pac-12 Tournament is not easy either. The Trojans finish up with the Oregon schools, both of whom have beaten them already this season. Oregon State can certainly compete with USC and play a major spoiler role for them. The Ducks are currently leading the conference and will be looking to carry momentum into postseason play.

The California Golden Bears are wanting to make the Big Dance as well and in my opinion they should make it. With an overall record of 20-8 and a conference record 10-5 the Golden Bears will be looking to solidify their position by beating USC on Sunday. One of things that California certainly has going for itself is that it has beaten all of the Pac-12 teams currently ranked, Arizona, Oregon, and Utah. Those are three impressive wins for the tournament committee to look at. They are also one more weekend sweep away from finishing in the Top 25, which would be a great step forward for a program that has not finished in the Top 25 in quite a long time. Should the Golden Bears get into the tourney? I believe so. They have the wins, the record, and the steady play to garner an invite.

Last, but certainly not least, there are the Colorado Buffaloes. I also believe they get in, but in my opinion they just might be one of the most overlooked teams in the country. Why? With a Pac-12 Conference being a bit down this year, that doesn’t help, but being in Colorado doesn’t help either. With an overall record of 20-9, a conference record of 9-7, and some quality wins against Arizona, California, Stanford, and Oregon the Buffaloes should have enough to get into the tournament, maybe a 10-12 seed. Senior Josh Scott will do everything in his power to maintain the steadiness that he has given them all season. He is the Buffs leading scorer and rebounder for the second time during his tenure at Colorado. His leadership has helped the Buffs develop as a team and he tries to lead by being a vocal example.

“One thing for me this year is that if you have the experience, you have to share those experiences. I’ve tried to be vocal about everything,” Josh Scott said.

With a game against Arizona State on Sunday, the Buffaloes should lock up their third NCAA invite in four seasons. They do have a remaining game against rival Utah that will be a highly entertaining game. If they get that win, they should have no doubt about getting into the Big Dance.

All in all, the teams that have been mentioned should be in, with USC being the only one that may be on the bubble. Since the Pac-12 is down this year, I don’t see any of these teams making a deep run into the NCAA Tournament. Some people think the conference gets as many as eight teams into the tournament. I say no way. After Arizona, California, Colorado, all of them need better players, recruiting, and wins against other big Power 5 teams to garner that type of consideration. I am Pac-12 fan and want to see the conference succeed on a national level, but I am also a realist. If the conference doesn’t have it with its talent level, then we don’t have it. Doesn’t mean we won’t get it, but it just means players and coaches will have to work harder to get that success for the Pac-12.

Arizona State Puts the Fork to the USC Trojans

Coming into this weekend’s games against the Los Angeles schools, Arizona State is on the outside looking in. They are playing for pride more or less at this point with their record only two games above .500. The talk about a possible NIT bid to me is all talk. This team has to look at playing spoiler the rest of the Pac-12 season. With the USC Trojans in town on Friday night it was a major opportunity to play the spoiler role due to the Trojans being in second place behind the Oregon Ducks in the conference.

The Trojans needed a win to keep pace with Oregon in the Pac-12, but coming out of the gate they acted like they could just show up and win the game. Not so fast USC. The Sun Devils came out and made life miserable for the Trojans by challenging shots and getting some early turnovers. However, if you are going to swim with the big dogs in the conference you have to hit some shots yourself.

The Devils thought the three ball was the way to go to beat the Trojans. They tried, and tried, and tried, but their three point attempts would not go down for them. It was a brick laying show for the Devils and the crowd was getting restless with all the three ball shots. One of the reasons for all the outside shots was the size of the Trojans.

Head Coach Andy Enfield has some good, athletic size on his Trojan squad. They have four guys who are 6’10” or bigger, they all play, and they all CAN play. In fact, the Trojans have 11 out 12 players that are 6’5” or bigger. If you are going to go inside on USC you better have some good size yourself. The Sun Devils don’t have the size that Trojans do, so getting inside was tough for them.

What the Sun Devils did was try and use some of the quickness they possess and get around the bigs of the Trojans. It worked a bit for them and they were getting “hustle” baskets by not giving up on plays and at the half the Trojans were only down three 30-27.

Much like the Oregon game, the Sun Devils were hanging tough at the half, only to get blown out in the end. Could they turn their fortunes around this time?

Instead of coming out flat and letting USC dictate tempo, the Sun Devils took it right to the Trojans and steadily built a lead of anywhere of five to nine points. Every little threat the Trojans made the Sun Devils turned away.

The hustle plays made a difference for the Sun Devils on Friday night. Arizona State was diving on the floor for balls, getting balls that were just bouncing around loose, and these bounces were finally bouncing the Devils way.

“We were forcing turnovers and our activity was really good. I am very happy with the effort tonight.” Said Sun Devil Head Coach Bobby Hurley.

What do the Trojans have to do now?

They absolutely have to win in Tucson against Arizona, so they don’t go back to Los Angeles being swept by the Arizona schools. The loss tonight gives the Oregon Ducks breathing room at the top of the conference for right now. Anything can happen in the Pac-12 Conference, so the Trojans are not out of it, but they made it a little tougher on themselves on Friday night.

The Trojans have to get better at playing with a sense of urgency, taking every opponent seriously, and from what I saw in this game they have to improve their defensive rotations. They were slow all night against the Sun Devils and if they want to win the conference and make any noise in the NCAA tournament they have to lock down better on the defensive end.

The Devils won this game with timely shooting, hustle for loose balls, and good free throw shooting in the second half. This is the first time all season that the Sun Devils looked like a team. All facets of the game came together against a quality opponent. Like I said earlier, the role of spoiler is what the Sun Devils are pretty much relegated to for the remainder of the season, but any win is a good win and the Sun Devils will enjoy this 74-67 win over the USC Trojans.