#14 Arizona Wildcats: College Basketball 111 in 111

arizona wildcats cheerleaders

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series.  Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.

We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

With a loaded recruiting class and one key transfer, Sean Miller is stacking talent in Tuscon and should have the Arizona Wildcats competing with UCLA for the Pac 12 title.

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#66 Arizona Wildcats: College Football 77 in 77

arizona wildcats cheerleaders

The Arizona Wildcats made one of the biggest splashes this offseason by hiring Rich Rodriguez as their new coach. Optimism is high in Tucson. Does this mean it’s a college football school now instead of a college basketball University? Not so much. Both sports have been kind of down lately, and I don’t expect the football team to rebound this year.

Maybe RichRod has a plan, and maybe that plan will work in the wide open Pac-12, but not this year. He still doesn’t have enough talent. Plus he has a record of 9-23 during his first year at a school.

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Pac-12 Basketball Preview and Predictions

ucla hot cheerleaders

It’s still weird to write “Pac-12” but in the ever changing college sports landscape, the conference expanded with the additions of Colorado and Utah.  Those two schools won’t help the Pac-12 become a stronger conference during the 2011-2012 season, but the league should be slightly more competitive as a whole.

Here are my Pac-12 predictions for the 2011-2012 season.  Click on the school”s name for an in-depth breakdown of each team.

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College Hoops 101 (11/7/11)

arizona wildcats cheerleaders

The college basketball season starts tonight!  The college basketball season starts tonight!  The college basketball season starts tonight!  To say I’m slightly excited is a gross under-exaggeration; like saying Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries probably should have never gotten married.

If you are unfamiliar with College Hoops 101, it is a weekly feature here at The Sports Bank that breaks down everything you need to know going on in the world of college basketball.  Every Monday I will look back at the previous week’s action, break down what to expect in the week ahead, and most importantly, update you on the obscene amount of games I have watched.

Click here in case you missed my 111 team previews in 111 days to check out the in-depth profiles.

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#14 Arizona Wildcats: College Basketball 111 in 111

arizona wildcats cheerleaders

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series.  Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days.  We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

It didn’t take Sean Miller long to get the Arizona Wildcats back in the national picture.  In his second year as head coach, Miller helped ‘Zona reach the Elite Eight and was a three-point shot away from beating eventual National Champion UConn to earn a spot in the Final Four.  This season, the ‘Cats will rely on a more balanced attack as they try to replace All-American Derrick Williams… and hopefully bounce back from their shocking exhibition loss to Seattle Pacific.

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#16 Arizona Wildcats Stunned By Division II Seattle Pacific

sean miller arizona

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw on Twitter that Arizona‘s exhibition game was being televised Thursday evening.  Imagine my shock when I watched the Wildcats lose to Division II Seattle Pacific, 69-68.  Welcome to the 2011-2012 college basketball season!

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#39 Arizona Wildcats: College Football 77 in 77

Arizona Wildcats cheerleaders

Get ready  for some “white collar football.” I figured since everyone calls run-oriented teams “blue-collar” (yes, it is an annoying cliche) I would call pass-oriented teams “white collar.” And the Arizona Wildcats were first in the Pac-12 in passing last year, 9th overall. And with the most talented WRs group in school history, and a NFL prospect QB in Nick Foles, they will be fun to watch. If they can keep Foles upright that is.

Total career starts among all returning OL- 1!

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Duke vs. Arizona Features Talent and Tradition

kyrie irving nba

We all can’t be as lucky as the fans in Anaheim will be this weekend watching the West Regional.  This regional has all the makings of being a great one, and one matchup in particular could surprise a lot of people – Arizona and Duke.

The Wildcats and Blue Devils are two of the more storied programs in college basketball. Dating back to when Coach K took over this Duke team, and the great Lute Olsen led Arizona to many tournament appearances.  But not only is the past great with these teams, the present and future look pretty bright too.

This game has two of the most talked about and NBA ready players in the country as of now in Duke’s Kyrie Irving and Arizona’s Derrick Williams. But that’s where the similarities stop.

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Illinois, Arizona gone Downhill since Miracle on Mannheim

Today’s link comes to us from Hail to the Orange, the SB Nation Illini blog. And one of the finest Illini blogs around. Remember UI did invent the web browser, so of course there’s bound to be some good weblogs out there, right? Joe Kutsunis’ link recaps the infamous 90-89 OT thriller Elite 8 game in 2005 (the “Champaign Campaign”) and where everyone has gone since. Unfortunately for the Illini and Arizona Wildcats, it’s been down.

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NBA Draft Combine Brings out the Stars

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By Paul M. Banks

When the NBA Draft Combine comes to Chicago, the Second City resembles Beverly Hills for a couple days. Strolling through the Westin Hotel on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, where the Draft Combine’s media activities are held, I encountered basketball’s heaviest hitters. The entire Chicago Bulls front office, Pistons GM Joe Dumars, NBA coaches Mike D’Antoni, Mike Dunleavy, legendary talk show host Larry King (twice) and former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda; and that was just the first hour.

During the actual interview sessions, a draft combine reporter gets up close and personal with every former college basketball star soon to be drafted in a couple weeks. Each player gets his own table in the conference room and journalists rotate like speed-daters to obtain quality face time with everyone. Conversation is much more in-depth than post-game press conferences. It’s about the big picture here- no time to waste on the boringly banal queries from newspaper beat writers.jerel

On top of the media grilling, NBA prospects face tougher inquisitions from the teams themselves. Arizona’s Chase Budinger (projected 23rd) said he faced a psychological aptitude type test from the Bulls. He had to arrange blocks to match a picture they presented. NBA teams want to know if players are single, married, have kids. Multiple players had to reveal if they had a “friend with benefits.” It’s like Torquemada and your Prom date’s father rolled into one. 

The NBA amalgamates feedback from the league’s scouts and personnel, deciding which 50-60 prospects are gauging the most interest. The most elite prospects are then invited to run drills, 3 man weaves and workout (this part is closed to the media). They also take more measurements than a Playboy playmate; each player’s wingspan, vertical reach, height and weight (with and without shoes) become public knowledge. This male version of a beauty pageant can be stressful, but also fun.

Former Marquette guard Jerel McNeal projected 42nd overall in NBA Mock Draft,  “It’s been real intense, it’s been like a circus since I got down here, but it’s also been real fun so far. To be around such a great group of players and unbelievable talent, to be fortunate enough to be in this situation, you can’t help but feel excited and glad about what’s coming in the future,” said McNeal.

Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, projected 10th in this year’s draft spoke about how the combine brings together former AAU, McDonald’s All-American and Summer league teammates. “It’s cool, it’s like a big family reunion everybody reminiscing on the stories we had from summer camps, at the USA team and things like that. We’re all in competition on the court, but off the court it’s a family feeling, we just kick back, chill and talk about the good old days,” Flynn said.

There’s only one thing certain about this draft: Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin is going to the L.A. Clippers at #1. The brightest lights and greatest amount of cameras were naturally on him. And the future franchise player seems ready to become the next media darling. “I don’t mind the media…I hope I’m ready for it. I think I’m ready for it” Griffin said before answering a question about how he’ll soon see his personal privacy disappear. bgriffin2

“You just got to know that people are watching you and you got to be a positive role model and not put yourself in bad situations,” Griffin stated.

I asked Griffin what his favorite aspect of this process has been so far. “Some of the restaurants have been pretty good. That’s a big part of my life. But getting to meet people, different players and taking perspective and getting advice from them has been great,” he responded.

The Second City is famous for its food. The next day I saw him in the restaurant downstairs and asked him about his overall favorite restaurant here. He said he’s a big fan of Ditka’s, prompting another reporter nearby to endorse the joint’s steaks. Griffin then said he’s not eating much red meat right now, so I mentioned their Salmon and Tuna steaks. The future Clipper approved Ditka’s seafood. So this is life in transition to the next level, where everything’s meatier and portions of everything are much bigger. So is the number of people watching you.   

Top Ten Coaching Jobs in College Basketball

By: David K.

Billy Gillespie gets the boot at Kentucky after not meeting expectations in his two seasons.  John Calipari is attempting to pick up the pieces in Lexington as he bolts from Memphis to help re-build UK.  Tony Bennett leaves Washington State for Virginia while VCU’s Anthony Grant makes the jump from mid-major to major conference by taking the reigns at Alabama.  Ah yes, the college basketball coaching carousel is already spinning round and round.

When Tom Crean left Marquette to become the head coach at Indiana last year, his reasoning was simple; “Because It’s Indiana.  It’s Indiana.”  That sparked debate among my friends and me about the top ten coaching jobs in college basketball. Here is my list ranked 1-10, meaning if you left job #8 for job #6, it would be considered a step-up.

I took into consideration the following factors:
-the history of the program’s success
-success of the team under their current coach
-the longevity of past coach’s tenures
-recruiting abilities

10. Indiana-
This position has certainly taken a hit since the whole Kelvin Sampson debacle.  But as Tom Crean demonstrated when he left Marquette for IU, it is still a very desirable destination because “It’s Indiana.  It’s Indiana.”

Bob Knight not only left his stamp on this job by winning three NCAA Championships, but also because of his eccentric personality.  However, since the General took the Hoosiers to the Final Four in 1992, IU has only returned once (in 2002 as a five-seed in a season they finished with 12 losses.)  In fact, the program has had 13 double-digit loss seasons since 1994-’95 and have not made in past the second round of the tourney.

Long-term history helps Indiana’s stock, but if Crean does not get the Hoosiers back on the winning track soon, this job will continue to lose some of its glamour.

9. Arizona-

It is to be assumed that ‘Zona interim coach Russ Pennell will not retained after this off-season.   Arizona has already stated that they intend to hold a national search to fill the up-coming vacancy, and there should be a plethora of quality coaching candidates wanting to come to the desert this off-season.

The legendary Lute Olsen built the Wildcats into a national powerhouse before having to retire due to health reasons.  ‘Zona has made 25 straight trips to the tourney and because of it’s location out west, it is always a hotbed for high school recruits from all over the U.S.

8. Michigan State-
Since 1976 only two men have been in charge of the MSU program, Jud Heathcoate and Tom Izzo.  Izzo took the reigns in ’95 as has led the Spartans to a National Title and eleven straight trips to the Big Dance.  State hasn’t finished with a below .500 record in more than twenty years.

Sparty has taken control as “the team” in the Big Ten due to their success and the recent downfall of Indiana meaning they are the top program in the Midwest.



7. Syracuse-

Jim Boeheim has put Syracuse on the national map.  In his 33 years with the Orange, Boeheim has won 20-plus games in all but one season, won one National Championship, and finished runner-up twice.  All Big East schools get an extra boost in these rankings because it the elite conference in the country.  A lot of players want to play in the Big East and a lot of coaches want to coach in it as well.

When Boeheim decides to hang it up, this job will likely draw interest from numerous major conference coaches.

6. UConn-
What helps the Huskies most is that they are consistently one of the top teams in the premiere country in America.  Year-in and year-out, they bring in some of the top talent in the nation as 13 Huskies are currently in the NBA.

Jim Calhoun deserves much of the credit for bringing UConn to the upper-echelon of college hoops.  Since taking over in 1986, Connecticut has been to ten Elite 8’s and brought home two NCAA Titles.  When Calhoun steps down, probably in the next couple years, expect to see a lot of interest in his job.

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5. Kentucky-
Historically, Kentucky is the winningest college basketball program of all time.  But their “drought” during the past decade has decreased their current prominence.  They have not made the Final Four since 1998 when they won their seventh National Championship.

Adolf Rupp obviously put Kentucky on the map during his 42 year span as head coach.  Since then major names like Eddie Sutton and Rick Pitino have held the job.  But I think the recent defection of Tubby Smith to Minnesota and Billy Gillespie’s getting the quick pink slip hurts the value of this job a little bit.  Of course, with Calipari about to leave Memphis to head to UK, it also shows the value the position still holds.

4. Kansas-
When you look at KU’s coaches since 1983, it’s an impressive list; Larry Brown, Roy Williams, and Bill Self.  Consider that Brown left Kansas for the NBA and Williams for UNC, and it shows just how respected this position is in the college basketball world.  Add in that Bill Self left a prominent Big Ten school in Illinois to take the job, and you can see why it is listed at number four.

What puts Kansas ahead of Kentucky is their recent success; 20 straight NCAA Tourney berths, three Final Fours since 2002, and of course last year’s National Title.

3. UCLA-

I could see the argument that UCLA should be number one because of the success that John Wooden brought to the Bruins in the 1960’s and 70’s, including seven straight National Titles.  But since Wooden retired in 1975, UCLA has had eight head coaches.

The Bruins are still the cream of the crop out West, but despite having made three consecutive trips to the Final Four from 2006-2008, have fallen behind Duke and Carolina in desirable destinations.

2. Duke-
How anxious are Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski for the day that Mike Krzyzewski decides to retire.  While Duke does not have the historic success of a UCLA, or Kentucky, their recent success is second to none.  Since Coach K became head coach in 1981, Duke ranks number one in NCAA Championships (3), Final Fours (10), and NCAA Tournament wins (71).

Coach K has brought Duke to the top of the college basketball world.  Every coach will be drooling over this job when it finally becomes available.

1. North Carolina-
It was a major statement when Roy Williams left a Kansas team that he had just taken to the National Championship game to head to UNC.  Sure, Williams had been an assistant at Carolina under Dean Smith for 11 seasons, but to leave a year-in, year-out National Title contender where you had just spent the last 15 years as head coach to take over the Tar Heels certainly says something.

Dean Smith set the bar at North Carolina, piling up 879 wins in 37 years as head coach.  Carolina is second all-time with 17 Final Four appearances and has won four National Championships.  UNC is always a major player in the recruiting race, pulling in the top high school players from all around the country, including 50 McDonald’s All-Americans.

Honorable Mentions: Georgetown, Louisville, Memphis