On Wednesday afternoon, Ryan Greene of The Dagger put out a list of the top teams out west.
UCLA heads the list, and while I have my reservations about the Bruins next season, it’s tough to argue against the ranking given the amount of talent on Ben Howland’s roster. That said, Arizona has quite a bit of talent on their roster, and if they end up landing Mark Lyons, a Xavier transfer that could fill the void at the point guard spot, the Wildcats have the kind of talent — and balance — that will make them a serious contender for the Pac-12 title.
Arizona was third on Greene’s list, behind San Diego State. The Aztecs return their top four scorers from last season — including their loaded back court and Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin — while adding three impact transfers (Dwayne Polee from St. John’s, J.J. O’Brien of Utah and James Johnson from Virginia) and top 50 recruit Winston Shepard.
That should be enough to make SDSU the favorite in a loaded Mountain West over UNLV (who will be a top 15 team even without bringing in top ten recruit Anthony Bennett) and New Mexico. To get a feel for how good that conference will be next season, think about this: Colorado State — who made this year’s NCAA tournament — returns essentially their entire rotation, changed out Tim Miles for Larry Eustachy (which, with all due respect to Tim Miles, is certainly not a downgrade) and added Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson to bolster the interior and former top 50 recruit and Arizona Wildcat Daniel Bejarano.
And how much hype do the Rams have heading into the summer?
Not a whole lot.
Basketball on the west coast — and the Pac-12 in particular — has been down the past couple of seasons. In the 2012 NCAA tournament, there wasn’t a team in the Sweet 16 from farther west than Waco, TX, where Baylor is located.
I think it’s safe to say that won’t be happening in the 2013 edition of the Big Dance.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
Before traveling to Phoenix for the Final Four festivities, Kentucky head coach John Calipari used his Twitter account in an effort to diffuse the anger members of Big Blue Nation have directed at a referee following a heartbreaking loss in the Elite Eight.
In the days following the season-ending loss to North Carolina, some fans — not all — have harassed official John Higgins. They’ve flooded the Facebook page of his roofing business, leaving negative reviews and lowering his company’s star rating. Some have gone even more extreme, going as far as sending death threats over the phone.
Based on the replies, some have received the message. Others haven’t. The latter, despite it being a small but vocal group, can, unfortunately, paint a fan base with a broad brush.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Late on Wednesday night, the state of North Carolina reached an agreement to repeal the controversial and discriminatory House Bill 2 law, which is commonly known as the bathroom bill.
The NCAA had given the state a deadline of Thursday morning to make a change in this law or they would miss out on hosting NCAA tournament game until the 2022 season, so it’s not hard to connect the dots here. The pressure the NCAA asserted on the state helped create a change.
The question is just how much of a change, as many believe that the repeal does not do enough to change what is discriminatory about the law.
“What distinguished North Carolina,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said, “there were four distinct problems that the board had with that bill, and they removed some of them but not all of them. If you removed two or three of them, is that enough?”
The NCAA Board of Governors have stretched out the process of determining future tournament sites as far as possible, Emmert said, meaning that a decision on this new bill will be made soon.
“Because this happened on such short notice, we have to find a time to get together with the board, and that will probably happen in the next few days,” Emmert said, and in those meetings, the board “will determine if this [new] bill is sufficient change.”
“I’m personally very pleased they have a bill to debate and discuss. Hopefully we can be in a place where we can announce the board’s decision early next week.”
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has added to his program’s banner season with an individual award, being named AP Coach of the Year on Thursday afternoon.
Few led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four. The Zags enter the national semifinal with a 36-1 record. Up until Feb. 25, they were flirting with a perfect season. A loss to BYU is currently the only blemish on their season.
Few also won his 500th career game during the course of the 2016-17 season. Since 2014, two coaches from outside the major conferences have earned his honor. Gregg Marshall was named AP Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Shockers to a perfect regular season.
This was a very competitive race this season. Sean Miller lost two players expected to be key pieces this season — and had Allonzo Trier miss 19 games — but guided Arizona to the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Jay Wright led Villanova to another Big East title despite two cornerstone pieces — Ryan Arcidiancono and Daniel Ochefu — gone from last season’s national championship team. For a while, Baylor’s Scott Drew seemed to be the favorite. The Bears didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason top-25 poll but went on to earn a No. 1 ranking.
Few’s season continues on Saturday against South Carolina.
Kansas point guard Frank Mason III was named the AP Player of the Year on Thursday afternoon.
The senior floor general for the Jayhawks headlined the AP All-American team, which included UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Villanova Swingman Josh Hart, Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson.
Mason averaged 20.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shot 49 percent from behind the 3-point line during the 2016-17 season. He helped guide Kansas to its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.
He becomes the fourth senior in a row to win the award, preceded by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminksy and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.
He had previously been named player of the year by NBC Sports.
UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.
The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.
This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.
The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.