Utah v Arizona

Why losing Brandon Ashley would be a massive blow to Arizona’s title hopes

Leave a comment

No. 1 Arizona’s undefeated season came to an end on Saturday night, losing 60-58 to Cal on a game-winning jumper from Justin Cobbs.

Their bid to become the first Pac-12 team to make it through the conference undefeated since the league was known as the Pac-8 is over.

That No. 1 ranking goes ‘poof’ on Monday morning, taken over by a Syracuse team coming off of a thrilling win over Duke, and Nick Johnson’s bid to be the National Player of the Year takes a blow thanks to a 1-for-14 shooting performance in which he committed five turnovers.

Yuck.

But none of that actually matters in the long run. Arizona still is in commanding position in the Pac-12 standings. They still look destined to be a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday. And Johnson is still an all-american that I would trust taking a shot with the game on the line over all but maybe five players in all of college basketball.

What matters is Brandon Ashley.

More specifically, what matters is Ashley’s right foot.

“We might have lost Brandon Ashley for the year,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said on his radio show after the loss on Saturday. He went on to say that there’s a really good chance that Ashley broke a bone in his foot, and that right now, the Wildcats are waiting to hear about the severity of the injury. “It’s more about the level of break that will be involved,” he said.

If Ashley’s injury keeps him out for six weeks, he may be able to return to the court in time for the Pac-12 tournament, which, in an ideal situation, would allow him to get back into shape for the NCAA tournament, where he wouldn’t really be needed until the second weekend.

That’s a perfect world.

But assuming that Arizona’s wold isn’t perfect, this is just a devastating blow to Wildcat’s title chances.

For starters, Ashley is arguably Arizona’s most talented player. He’s a versatile, athletic 6-foot-10 forward that can score with his back to the basket or step out on the perimeter and knock down a jumper. He averages 12.0 points and 6.0 boards and shoots 52.8% from the field and 39.3% from three. That alone makes Ashley’s loss painful.

But there’s so much more at play here:

  • Arizona’s size makes them so difficult to matchup with. With Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski up front and Aaron Gordon playing the three, they have the biggest front line in the country. Gordon can matchup with fours. He’s a mismatch against threes. Arizona loses that advantage.
  • Ashley’s ability to shoot helped spread the floor. Cal dared Gordon to shoot all night on Saturday, playing a good 10 feet off of him. With Gordon having to play primarily at the four, that allows a bigger body free roam in the paint to double-team Tarczewski.
  • That issue is two-fold. With Gordon at the four, that means Arizona will have to play either Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Gabe York. Hollis-Jefferson is one heckuva defender, but he’s a liability offensively. York can really shoot the ball, but he’s a liability defensively. In other words, without Ashley on the floor, Arizona’s best offensive lineup looks different than their best defensive lineup. With Ashley, that’s not the case.
  • The Wildcats don’t have much depth with Ashley healthy. Without him? Yikes.

It’s too early to write this team off completely as a national title contender, not when they’re coached by someone as smart as Sean Miller and not when they have the kind of talent on the roster that Arizona does.

But if the Wildcats don’t have a healthy Brandon Ashley, the odds of this team winning a national title will take a massive hit.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
Leave a comment

Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.

VIDEO: Jim Boeheim makes TV appearance to talk Carmelo Anthony

Leave a comment

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has drawn attention for some recent comments about former Orange star Carmelo Anthony.

After Anthony captured his record third gold medal with USA Basketball, his former college coach told Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard that Anthony didn’t have a great chance at winning an NBA title.

“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.”

Boeheim maintains that he was speaking of Melo’s legacy being about more than an NBA title and that he’s one of the game’s greats thanks to other accomplishments like the Syracuse title and gold medals. On SportsCenter, Boeheim made sure to stress where those comments were coming from, while also making sure his kids would stop being mad at him.

It’s much easier to understand where Boeheim is coming from in this instance and it clears up something that will probably go away now.

Big Ten releases conference schedule

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The Big Ten released its 2016-17 conference schedule on Thursday as the conference season begins on Dec. 27 with a four-game set.

Conference play will conclude on March 5th before the 20th annual Big Ten Tournament is played at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. from March 8-12.

Some notable games include Penn State hosting Michigan State at the Palestra on Jan. 7.

You can view the full Big Ten schedule here.

Arizona’s Talbott Denny injures knee, out for season

AP Photo
AP Photo
Leave a comment

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Arizona senior forward Talbott Denny will miss the season after tearing the ACL and medial meniscus in his left knee.

The school said Wednesday that the 6-foot-5 graduate transfer from Lipscomb will have surgery.

Denny, from Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic High School, missed all of last season at Lipscomb because of a shoulder injury.

Roy Williams: ‘There’s no question’ more ACC games equal no Kentucky in non-conference

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Back in June, when the ACC officially announced that they would be expanding the league schedule to 20 games in 2019, I tried to warn you that it was going to put a dent into the non-conference schedule and the amount of quality, on-campus games that we’ll get prior to January.

Roy Williams essentially confirmed this as fact this week.

The North Carolina head coach hopped on a podcast with ESPN and more or less said that the bigger league schedule is going to lead to an end of some of UNC’s marquee home-and-home series.

“My feeling right now, and it could change by ’19, heck I could be fired by ’19, but my feeling right now is to play our conference schedule, play one exempt event where you have really good teams, and other than that play home games to help out your revenue and help out your budget,” Williams said. “We have the ACC/Big Ten and that’s not going to go away. So it’s 21 games already scheduled.”

When asked specifically if this would put an end to UNC’s series with Kentucky, Williams said, “Oh yeah, there’s no question. Why would I need to do that?”

There’s two reasons this makes sense. On the one hand, North Carolina needs to fill their home arena a certain number of times to help with the bottom line of the athletic department. They make enough off of ticket sales, merchandise sales, parking fees and food and beverage that they can afford to pay out more than $50,000 to bring a smaller opponent into their arena. More than that, playing a series of weaklings early in the year allows players to gain confidence, it allows Williams to figure out what his rotation will be and who can handle playing at this level, and it gives newcomers a chance to assimilate into his team against players that just aren’t that good.

And when a larger ACC schedule severely limits the number of non-conference games that UNC will be able to play, what’s going to get cut are the contracts that require the Tar Heels to play on the road when they don’t have to.

So buh-bye, Kentucky, it is.