The biggest difference between this season and last on display as Arizona rolls

Leave a comment

TUCSON – To say the least the 2011-12 season for the Arizona Wildcats was one that didn’t go as expected. With four highly-touted freshmen and a few solid returnees, Sean Miller’s bunch was expected to contend for a Pac-12 title.

No need to rehash what happened despite being one win away from the NCAA tournament, but one of the big problems for that group was the fact that there weren’t many available solutions if something went wrong.

Three games into the 2012-13 season, it’s safe to say that won’t be an issue for this group (knock on wood).

Taking on a Long Beach State squad with just nine available players the Wildcats jumped the 49ers early, and another run in the second half put the game away as the Wildcats won 94-72.

Brandon Ashley, inserted into the starting lineup in place of fellow freshman Grant Jerrett, scored the first nine points of the game and finished with a game-high 20 points and ten rebounds for his first double-double as a Wildcat.

In total four Wildcats reached double figures and as a team Arizona shot 53.6% from the field, with 17 of their 30 field goals being assisted.

And just one game after out-rebounding UTEP by an dominant 35-15 margin, Arizona took advantage of Long Beach State’s rebounding issues to the tune of a 41-23 margin.

To say the least it was a good night for the Wildcats.

“We did some great things tonight,” said Miller. “Offensive I believe we got the ball inside better than we have in any of our games we’ve played. That’s a work in progress and I have no doubt we’ll continue to develop and get smoother at being able to do that.”

As noted above Long Beach State was down to just nine players, and it didn’t help matters that leading scorer James Ennis sat the first five-plus minutes as punishment for being late for the team bus.

But he was on the floor when Arizona put together their first run to establish a solid working margin, as they went on an 18-3 run to take a 37-16 lead with 7:10 remaining in the half.

From that point Arizona would lead by no fewer than 11 points, extended their lead to as many as 30 in the second half.

Senior wing Solomon Hill became the program’s 47th player to reach the 1,000-point mark and finished the game with 15 points, but the fact that he shot just 2-of-8 from the field (11-of-11 FT) didn’t matter. When you can go ten deep and have players like Kevin Parrom come off the bench and knock down four three-pointers, it becomes far easier to account for one player’s off night.

While Arizona certainly had stretches of excellent play there are things to work on, most notably their three-point defense. Long Beach State knocked down 14 shots from distance, essentially keeping the game from getting really out of hand.

“Giving up 14 threes is bad. It wasn’t that they got hot; they earned it,” noted Miller. “But it’s not just Long Beach. If you look at the two exhibition games and three regular season games we’ve played, that’s a problem right now.

“And with this break that’s a big focus for us, to be able to take away the three-point shot not at the expense of the other things we’re doing well but just [to] improve that.”

Defending the three isn’t an issue along the lines of what Arizona attempted to navigate last season, and when you’ve got ten talented players at your disposal it becomes easier to find answers to some of the issues that will pop up during games.

And given the youth of some of the players in the rotation, Arizona’s bound to get better as the season wears on.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Crash survivor Austin Hatch back in LA with Michigan hoops

AP Photo/Tony Ding
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Austin Hatch finished high school less than two miles from Staples Center, playing basketball at Loyola High and golfing throughout the warm California winter four years ago.

But he mostly spent his one year in Los Angeles simply learning how to live again after surviving the second tragic plane crash of his young life, a crash that killed his father and stepmother.

When Michigan’s run to the Sweet Sixteen brought Hatch back to downtown LA this week, he was grateful for the chance to see his uncle, his extended family and his Loyola coach, Jamal Adams. They all plan to be in the stands Thursday when Michigan faces Texas A&M, with Hatch helping the Wolverines from his spot on the bench.

“It was only a year of my life, but it was a big year of my life,” Hatch said Wednesday before going through a workout with his teammates. “It was the year that prepared me for Michigan. Great people out here. I was very, very blessed to be a part of it.”

Hatch scored one point in his Michigan playing career, which ended in 2015. He is a student assistant coach now, watching the Wolverines in a suit and tie — except on Senior Day last month, when he suited up and received a stirring ovation at Crisler Center.

With the Wolverines needing only two wins in LA to reach the Final Four, Hatch is grateful to play any small role in their success.

“Obviously what I contribute to the team doesn’t show up in the stat sheet,” Hatch said. “But the fact that I’ve been able to add something has given me a sense of fulfillment, if you will. I couldn’t control what happened to me, but I knew I could control how I responded to it. And I think that given the circumstances, I’ve done my best to make the most of it. I know all my teammates appreciate that.”

Hatch’s impact has been immeasurable on the Michigan program and coach John Beilein, who lived up to his scholarship commitment to the promising prospect from Fort Wayne, Indiana, after the June 2011 crash that left him in a coma for weeks. Hatch had already survived a 2003 crash in which his mother, brother and sister died.

Given the traumatic circumstances in which he arrived on the West Coast, his return is a reminder of his resilience. Hatch healed during his year in Los Angeles — and he relished the chance to hit the links in January while Michigan was buried under snow.

“In hindsight, I’m really glad I was here,” Hatch said. “It broadened my horizons a little bit. I’m from the Midwest. I’m from Fort Wayne, a small town. Now I’m in Ann Arbor, which is relatively small in comparison to LA. It was good to come out here and experience a different way of life.”

While his time with the Wolverines will end soon, Hatch isn’t slowing down. He is getting married to former Michigan volleyball player Abby Cole in the summer, and he’ll explore a career in business while deciding what he wants to do next.

But first, he’s hoping for two more weeks of hoops ending in a national title.

“My chapter at Michigan has been incredible,” Hatch said. “I wouldn’t change anything about it. I have no regrets. There’s nothing I wish I would have done. Everyone here has invested so much in me, and I’ve really done my best to show my appreciation by working hard.”

CBT Podcast: 2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview, Picks and Predictions

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sam Vecenie of the Athletic and the Game Theory podcast stopped by to chat with Rob Dauster about the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. The two went through each of the eight Sweet 16 matchups, detailing how each one of those eight games projects to play out and going over which lines — spread and over-unders — they like.

Dan Hurley will accept UConn head coaching position

Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley will be the next head coach at UConn, replacing the 2014 national title winner, Kevin Ollie.

Hurley will be signing a six-year deal, according to multiple reports, that could be valued as much as $18 million. Hurley picked UConn over Pitt, who had also offered him a similar amount of money.

Hurley turned the Rhode Island program around during his six-year tenure, capped off with a pair of seasons where the Rams won a game in the NCAA tournament. UConn, which is one of the best jobs but has not been one of the best teams in the AAC in recent years, should be a place where he can continue to recruit talent. Under Ollie, the Huskies have been able to get players. The issue has been the performance and development of those players once they get to campus.

The Huskies finished 14-18 this past season.

Dan Hurley is the son of New Jersey high school coaching legend Bob Hurley and the brother of former Duke guard and current Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley.

VIDEOS: Villanova team bus stuck on icy roads trying to leave campus

Getty Images
1 Comment

Villanova’s road to the Sweet 16 hit its roughest patch yet on Wednesday as the team attempted to leave campus for the team’s flight to Boston.

Since the Philadelphia area has been slammed with a snowstorm, the Wildcat team bus had issues leaving to get to the team’s chartered flight.

A struggle between team bus and ice ensued. The bus was delayed by 30 minutes before finally being able to leave.

Villanova continues its NCAA tournament journey on Friday when the No. 1 seed Wildcats play No. 5 seed West Virginia in Boston.

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.