|Posted 4/6/2009 1:42 AM ET|
Arizona was certain to generate as much or more news in the first weeks of the basketball offseason as any team in the Pac-10. This isn't what the Wildcats had in mind.
Just days before the Final Four, it appeared Arizona had its new coach. Southern Cal's Tim Floyd was flown in for a visit three days before the national semifinals in Detroit -- and word leaked from Tucson media sources that he would take the job.
By the next morning, Floyd called USC athletic director Mike Garrett to inform him he was staying in Los Angeles.
UA athletic director Jim Livengood was back to Square One in his search.
Floyd, long an admirer of former Arizona coach Lute Olson, said all the right things about the Wildcats' program.
"They will be a measuring stick in terms of the type of athlete that we want to have in this program. How they conduct themselves is how we wanted to try to build the program," Floyd said after confirming he would return to USC for a fifth season.
"After going over there I can understand, it's a great place," he said. "They have great facilities, the athletic director is a great guy, the president is a great guy, but at the end of the day, I have a great situation here."
It was a tough knock for Arizona, and not landing No. 2 target Sean Miller of Xavier left a mark, too.
UA was still looking for a coach while openings around the country were being filled.
The program that was ranked No. 1 in the nation six years ago is accustomed to having things go its way. Before the start of the 2005-06 season, the Cats had been in the national top-25 poll for 336 of 365 weeks, including 312 in a row.
But Arizona hasn't been in the polls for 31 consecutive weeks, dating back to the middle of the 2007-08 campaign. Now the Cats cannot seem to find a coach.
Livengood understands the importance of hiring more than just a solid replacement for Olson at a school where basketball is more critical to an athletic department's financial success than football.
"It's more important to get the right person than to rush," Livengood said as the season ended.
That next coach will be anxious to know which players are returning for next season, and as many as three of them could be gone even before the new boss moves into his office at McKale Center.
Juniors Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger are widely expected to enter the NBA draft, and junior point guard Nic Wise said after the Wildcats' 103-64 loss to Louisville in the NCAA regional semifinals that he may enter his name in the draft, at least to gauge interest.
If all three depart, the Wildcats could be looking at lean times.
Russ Pennell, who gets high marks for his performance as the Cats' interim coach, said he has no interest in remaining at Arizona as an assistant.
FINAL RECORD: 21-14, 9-9, tied 5th in the Pac-10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Arizona's players responded well to a second year of coaching upheaval, with Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson announcing his retirement just prior to the start of practice last fall. Interim coach Russ Pennell circled the wagons effectively and got the players to compete hard for him, not worrying a bit about anything beyond this season. "The Big Three" -- Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Nic Wise -- combined to average 52 points per game for the Wildcats.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The Cats simply didn't have enough depth. Budinger, Hill and Wise played heavy minutes all season and could not afford a rest, much less foul trouble. And as good as Arizona was offensively much of the time, the Cats were susceptible on defense, especially vulnerable to stopping the 3-point shot.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "A loss like that does not define our season. We were the only Pac-10 team in the Sweet 16. We had (long) odds of getting into the tournament and getting this far. This game doesn't mean anything." -- Junior guard Nic Wise after the 39-point defeat to Louisville in the regional semifinals.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: The Wildcats will start fresh -- just as soon as athletic director Jim Livengood settles on a permanent replacement coach. There will be no cloud of uncertainty hanging over the program. If the Cats hire the right man, they should be able to piggyback the quarter-century of tradition Olson established in Tucson and rebuild a program that has been the equal to almost any over that span.
THE BAD NEWS: Whoever comes on board as the next coach could find a cupboard that is, by Arizona standards, fairly bare. Juniors Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger are almost certain to depart for the NBA, and Nic Wise will consider his options. If he leaves, the Wildcats will return no one who averaged more than 6.8 points this season. It may take a couple years for Arizona to regain its spot near the top of the Pac-10. Without a permanent head coach on staff, the Cats have been unable to sign any 2009-10 prospects so far.
KEY RETURNEES: If Wise comes back, the Wildcats will have a great starting point with a senior point guard who can score and distribute. Otherwise, 6-6 sophomore forward Jamelle Horne (6.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg), freshman guard Kyle Fogg (6.1 ppg) and sophomore forward Zane Johnson (4.6 ppg) will be the club's most experienced players.
--Junior power forward Jordan Hill averaged 18.3 points and 11.0 rebounds, assembling 20 double-doubles and 14 games of 20 points or more. He is projected as a top-five pick in the NBA draft by most online draft sites.
--Junior small forward Chase Budinger contributed 18.0 points and 6.2 rebounds and has totaled 1,697 points over three seasons. Budinger had 16 games of 20 points or more. Budinger entered the NBA draft then withdrew his name a year ago, meaning that if he puts his name in again he cannot return to college.
--Junior point guard Nic Wise averaged 15.7 points and 4.6 assists, and was at his best late in the season. He scored at a 21.8-per-game clip the final five games.
--Sophomore forward Jamelle Horne, who considered transferring last summer, said after the Louisville game he will definitely be back next season.
After the second-winningest season in Arizona State basketball history was suddenly over, everyone wanted to put a happy spin on things.
Sophomore James Harden, the Pac-10 player of the year and a projected lottery pick in the NBA draft, said he hasn't decided whether he'll stay or leave.
And senior Jeff Pendergraph suggested the Sun Devils will be on solid ground a year from now, adding, "I'm really proud of our guys. They left it on the line for me, and I couldn't have asked for a better senior year."
But ASU's 78-67 loss to Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament more likely signals a dramatic change in direction for the Sun Devils.
They were 25-10 this season, just one victory shy of equaling the school record of 26, set by the 1962-63 squad. The Devils got to 25 wins for the first time since Lionel Hollins led them to a 25-4 mark in 1974-75.
"I didn't want to think about savoring anything, because I'd probably start crying or something," Pendergraph said.
Playing in the NCAAs for the first time since 2003, the Sun Devils toppled Temple, 66-57, in the first round, but could not get past Syracuse, which effectively clamped down on their two big stars.
Harden and Pendergraph, who combined for just 19 points against the Orange, are certainly on their way out. That won't leave the Sun Devils without experience, but it will deprive them of their two headliners.
Without them, it's hard to imagine ASU fighting its way into the upper division of the Pac-10 next season.
All the more reason why losing to being ousted from the NCAAs hurt so much.
Held scoreless in the first half, Harden only wound up with 10 points.
"I usually let the game come to me. But in the second half I should've forced it a little bit more," he said.
"Just to see the game slipping away towards the end and there's nothing I can do about it, that hurt," Pendergraph added.
Point guard Derek Glasser understood this was a difficult assignment.
"I don't know if we needed to play a near-perfect game," he said, "but we knew we had to play a really, really good game to beat them."
FINAL RECORD: 25-10, 11-7, tied for third in the Pac-10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: James Harden was the most difficult, most versatile player in the Pac-10. Teams designed their defenses to slow him down, and still few did. F Jeff Pendergraph, who has improved each season, enjoyed a very solid senior season, earning All-Pac-10 honors. PG Derek Glasser provided a steady hand out front, and added some scoring punch over the second half of the season.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The Sun Devils simply ran into a team good enough to neutralize their two best players. Against Syracuse, Harden was scoreless in the first half and had just 10 points, while Pendergraph totaled only nine points and two rebounds before fouling out. ASU resorted to tossing up 35 shots from 3-point range, and not enough of them went in.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They did a great job of covering a lot of ground. It doesn't seem like they're there, and then all of a sudden they've got two guys there." -- Arizona State point guard Derek Glasser on Syracuse's zone defense.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: Glasser has proved himself to be a good floor leader and capable scorer. Sophomores Rihards Kuksiks and Ty Abbott both came on strong late in the season, especially Abbott, who shot 22.7 percent from 3-point range through 30 games, then was 15-for-26 over the final five games. ASU's three-man recruiting class includes highly touted 6-11, 235-pound Russian center Ruslan Pateev, a native of Moscow who played prep school ball in the U.S. this year.
THE BAD NEWS: The Sun Devils will badly miss Harden and Pendergraph, not only their two leading scorers but also players who took the pressure off everyone else. Glasser, Kuksiks and Abbott now must prove they can deliver as the primary targets of opposing defenses, not as complementary players. All four of them are perimeter players, suggesting the Sun Devils' interior game will be very much a work in progress.
KEY RETURNEES: Glasser, Kuksiks and Abbott form three-fifths of a starting lineup. G Jamelle McMillan, a part-time starter with Abbott this season, also returns. The only other returning player who saw more than 10 minutes per game is Jerren Shipp, the younger brother of graduating UCLA senior Josh Shipp.
--Sophomore James Harden, expected to leave for the NBA, averaged 20.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists for the season. But he scored at just a 9.7-point per clip clip the final three games, shooting 6-for-27 from the field against teams who geared their defenses to stop him.
--Senior Jeff Pendergraph had just nine points in the loss to Syracuse, but had 22 points and seven rebounds in a first-round NCAA victory over Temple. He averaged 14.5 points and 8.2 rebounds this season, finishing his ASU career with 1,588 points.
--Sophomore small F Rihards Kuksiks had a career-high 20 points in the loss to Syracuse. He shot 6-for-13 from 3-point range, finishing the year at 44.3 percent from beyond the arc. Kuksiks figures to be the team's top returning scorer at 10.3 points.
With everyone returning next season except center Jordan Wilkes -- who averaged just 4.7 points and 4.0 rebounds -- the Golden Bears expect to be in the mix again near the top of the Pac-10 Conference.
But can the Bears be better?
More importantly, can they be different?
Cal's final two games of the season -- a 79-75 loss to USC in the Pac-10 tournament and its 84-71 loss to Maryland in the NCAA Tournament -- exposed flaws that the Bears must address before next season.
This team needs to be tougher -- mentally and physically -- and must find a way to diversify its offensive attack.
Against USC, the Bears were back on their heels from the start and fell almost hopelessly behind before mounting a late comeback. Maryland also was the aggressor, as evidenced by repeated instances where the Terps outscrambled the Bears for loose balls.
"We got hurt with physical teams," coach Mike Montgomery acknowledged. "We've got to get tougher-minded, and some of that comes in the weight room."
Likewise, the Bears must become more versatile on offense. They led the nation in 3-point shooting accuracy at 42.7 percent. Jerome Randle made a school-record 82 3-pointers and Theo Robertson converted 48.7 percent from beyond the arc.
But Maryland became the latest in a recent string of teams that knew how to defang the Bears. Cal shot 7-for-24 from 3-point distance and no low-post complement.
"We've got to get better at what we do," Montgomery said, "and we've got to get a whole lot better at what we don't do."
FINAL RECORD: 22-11, 11-17, tied 3rd in the Pac-10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Randle became a far more efficient point guard, averaging 18.3 points and 5.0 assists. He Patrick Christopher and Robertson gave the Bears a perimeter threesome that averaged a combined 45.9 points and stretched defenses with its 3-point prowess. The Bears bought into first-year coach Montgomery's plan from the outset, as evidenced by a 15-2 start.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Cal was too dependent on 3-point shooting. The Bears never developed a low-post scoring game and their defense, even by Montgomery's reckoning only OK. Opponents began to figure out the Bears' limitations, explaining Cal's 7-9 record over the second half of the season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The basic message was just that we have a lot of work to do.. There's a lot of growth that needs to go on. The little things. For everything we do well, there's just twice as much we need to improve on." -- Sophomore forward Harper Kamp on what coach Mike Montgomery told the team after the loss to Maryland.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: The Bears return 93.9 percent of their scoring and 88.5 percent of their rebounding. Four starters and their entire bench will be back in 2009-10. Cal now knows Montgomery's system and should be able to spend its time fine-tuning rather than learning everything from scratch.
THE BAD NEWS: Even with the arrival of 6-7, 265-pound JC center Markhuri Sanders-Frison and 6-10 freshman Bak Bak, Cal doesn't figure to have a great interior game next season. The Bears remain a work in progress on defense.
KEY RETURNEES: Besides the four returning starters, freshman guard Jorge Gutierrez figures to be a key man for the Bears next season. He is their best defender and a tough guy who doesn't back down from anything. Sophomore Harper Kamp, the club's top backup forward, should be more effective if a chronically sore right knee gets healthy.
--All-Pac-10 guard Patrick Christopher skidded into the offseason, shooting just 15-for-50 from the field over the final four games, including 4-for-26 from 3-point range. The 6-5 wing averaged 14.5 ppg for the season.
--Point guard Jerome Randle finished the season as the Pac-10's No. 3 scorer at 18.3 points per game. He averaged 5.0 assists and shot 46.3 percent from 3-point range.
--Junior Theo Robertson had 22 points in the Bears' loss to Maryland, finishing the year at 13.1 ppg.
Oregon was the only Pac-10 team assured of not advancing to the postseason, and when its long nigxmlare of a season finally ended, the Ducks wanted to play some more.
"We weren't ready for it to be over," LeKendric Longmire told reporters after the Ducks lost 60-42 to Washington State in the opening round of the Pac-10 tournament. "There's no relief that it's over. It was disappointing."
Disappointing is a word that could be used to describe much of the Ducks' 8-23 campaign. They went 0-15 against teams that finished better than eighth in the Pac-10, and they lost three times to seventh-place WSU by an average margin of 21 points.
In compiling a 2-16 record in regular-season conference games, the Ducks lost 11 times by at least 14 points.
Junior guard Tajuan Porter doesn't know what the future holds the Ducks.
"The coach is on the hot seat and the players are on the hot seat right there with him," said Porter, referring to coach Ernie Kent. "Scholarships are renewable each year. Somebody else can come in and play better, there's no guarantee."
Sophomore LeKendric Longmire said he has no idea about the status of Kent.
"I don't worry about that aspect. I'm here to play to play basketball," Longmire said. "Of course I hope he's (still the coach), but that's out of my control."
Kent expects substantial improvement from a roster that featured five scholarship freshmen.
"None of them are (accustomed to losing), but talk is one thing and doing something about it is another thing," Kent said.
"The only thing we know right now is that we can go into the preseason with nobody sitting around saying, 'I've got my spot,' or 'I'm a starter.' There's too much talent coming in the door and there's too much work to be done."
FINAL RECORD: 8-23, 2-16, 10th in the Pac-10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Ducks continued to play hard for coach Ernie Kent through the end of the season, no small achievement for such a young team struggling so much of the time. The club's general attitude bodes well for the future, assuming player development continues. Junior guard Tajuan Porter, after a very slow start to the season, found his shooting touch midway through the Pac-10 season and became a dependable scorer.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The Ducks simply relied too heavily on freshmen, and they weren't ready to compete on an every-night basis in the Pac-10. Michael Dunigan, a highly rated center prospect, struggled to even stay on the floor, often picking up fouls through over-aggression. The Ducks played their share of close games, but did not have sufficient experience to get over the hump in most of them.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's been the same thing all season. It's been the same thing coming out of my mouth, it's been the same thing you're putting in the paper -- what do you want me to say?" -- Junior guard Tajuan Porter, on the team's struggles.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: Four freshmen are among the top nine scorers, who are all expected to return. The Ducks signed 6-6 forward E.J. Singler, the younger brother of Duke star Kyle Singler. Oregon also is moving forward on the Matthew Knight Arena, its new on-campus facility scheduled to open during the 2010-11 season as a replacement for charming but ancient McArthur Court.
THE BAD NEWS: The Ducks don't need to merely be a year older, they must be a year better. Freshman center Michael Dunigan, one of the top post recruits in the country a year ago, had a disappointing rookie season, averaging just 8.4 points. He battled foul problems constantly and has an under-developed offensive game. Oregon ranked as one of the Pac-10's poorest rebounding teams, and it will be up to Dunigan and fellow freshman Josh Crittle to alter that equation.
KEY RETURNEES: Freshmen accounted for 41 percent of the Ducks scoring this season, and Oregon's backcourt of the future might be point guard Garrett Sim and wing Matthew Humphrey. Sim started 26 games, and Humphrey showed flashes of great potential. One major key will be the development of freshman post players Michael Dunigan and Josh Crittle, who were erratic this season. Guard Tajuan Porter returns for his senior season after a strong finish over the final several weeks of this year.
--G Tajuan Porter will enter his senior season needing just six 3-point baskets to break the Oregon career record of 282, held by Orlando Williams (1992-95). With 1,435 career points, only two Ducks have scored more entering their senior season.
--Sophomore G LeKendric Longmire averaged 12.5 points over four straight games entering the Pac-10 tournament before being held scoreless in the season-ending loss to Washington State.
--Freshman G Garrett Sim needs to spend long hours shooting the ball over the offseason. He converted just 24 percent from the field (18-for-75) over the Ducks' last 14 games.
No one in the Pac-10 had a more improbable, more satisfying season than the Beavers.
One year after setting the wrong kind of history by going 0-18 in the Pac-10, the Beavers closed out a turnaround season by winning the College Basketball Invitational with an 81-73 road victory over Texas-El Paso on the eve of the NCAA Final Four.
"I'm so proud of them, I just don't know what to say," first-year coach Craig Robinson said. "This is beyond any expectations I could have had for this first year."
The Beavers (18-18) won more games than in any season since Gary Payton led them to 22 victories and the Pac-10 title in 1989-90.
Oregon State's only senior starter, guard Rickey Claitt, scored a career-high 28 points in the championship game of the best-of-three CBI finals against UTEP. Claitt shot 5-for-6 from 3-point range as OSU converted 12-for-19 from deep.
"This is extremely special," Claitt said. "I told coach if we made it to a postseason tournament I was going to do everything in my will to win it."
The championship was the first in OSU postseason history.
"This meant a lot to our guys," Robinson said. "We know it wasn't the NCAA or the NIT, but it was still a tournament where you had to win a lot of games. Considering where (his players) came from, and where they ended up, this season has been so unexpected."
The Beavers should be ready to take another step forward next season with the return of eight players who either started or played substantial minutes. Robinson also welcomes a five-man recruiting class that was rated the 22nd-best in the nation by rivals.com.
The CBI title should only enhance the Beavers' efforts to attract talent and build their program.
"There's no question," Robinson said, "it has helped the program, and I think it will help us with recruiting."
FINAL RECORD: 18-18, 7-11, 8th in the Pac-10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Beavers bought into new coach Craig Robinson from Day 1, and were transformed into a team that overcame its talent shortcomings to execute a patient, Princeton-style offense and a sticky 1-3-1 zone defense. Junior center Roeland Schaftenaar was a perfect fit for Robinson's offensive scheme, allowing the Beavers to run their attack through him at the high post. Guard Calvin Haynes, academically ineligible the first semester, came alive quickly to provide much-needed offensive punch.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The Beavers weren't a real good perimeter shooting team (35.6 percent from 3-point), nor were they a great rebounding squad. They were prone to offensive struggles, scoring more than 60 points just once in their 11 Pac-10 defeats.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Oh, he picked Oregon State to win the CBI. They just didn't film that." -- Coach Craig Robinson on his brother-in-law, President Barack Obama, whose NCAA Tournament picks were shown on ESPN.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: Aside from point guard Rickey Claitt, everyone who played a significant role this season is expected to return. Eight of nine players who averaged at least 5.3 points will be back. Robinson's first recruiting class features four-star guards Jared Cunningham and Roberto Nelson, center Joe Burton, and Australians Angus Brandt and Rhys Murphy, which will help the Beavers build good depth.
THE BAD NEWS: Not much aside from perhaps heightened expectations for next season and talk that coach Craig Robinson will be tempted by other schools to exit after just one season. "My name's rumored in everything," Robinson told the Oregonian, "and it's just ridiculous. It's not fair to these guys, it's not fair to (athletic director) Bob De Carolis and it's not fair to me. But it's the way the business works."
KEY RETURNEES: Among four returning starters are center Roeland Schaftenaar and guards Seth and Josh Tarver. Guard Calvin Haynes, who missed the first six games of the season with academic problems, will provide the Beavers with greater continuity next season, assuming he is available from the start.
--Sophomore guard Calvin Haynes scored in double digits 19 times in 30 games, leading the Beavers at 13.0 ppg. He had a spectacular weekend in OSU's road sweep of Stanford and Cal, totaling 46 points.
--Junior center Roeland Schaftenaar, named MVP of the three-game CBI championship series, averaged 10.5 ppg for the season and had 17 games of at least four assists.
--Guard Seth Tarver averaged 8.0 points and 5.4 rebounds for the season and had seven double-digit scoring games in Pac-10 play.
Now the Johnny Dawkins era truly begins, and it may be rough sledding for a while.
Stanford's first season under Dawkins ended with a 65-62 overtime loss at Oregon State in the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational, and next season promises to be more challenging.
Three starters recruited by Trent Johnson have played their final games for the Cardinal, which went 20-14 but finished ninth in the Pac-10. With just seven returning scholarship players -- only one of them who averaged double-digit scoring this season -- Stanford seems certain to finish in the league's second division once more.
Dawkins, the former Duke star and longtime Mike Krzyzewski assistant, has nothing but fond feelings for departing seniors Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill and Mitch Johnson.
"A lot of these guys played for Trent Johnson, and now they are playing for me. They were amazing. They gave everything they had," Dawkins said after the loss at Oregon State. "They changed systems, changed styles, defense and offense. Those kids have been remarkable, and I wanted to share that with the younger guys from the standpoint that they have set an amazing example about what Stanford is all about.
"We cried together and we shared an amazing moment, and that's what it should be like. You should end the season laughing, or you should end the season crying."
Forward Landry Fields and guard Jeremy Green project as the team's top players a year from now, but there is a huge question at point guard, with no clear front-running candidate.
"We're going to work on that," Dawkins said.
The most likely starter is junior Drew Shiller, although freshman Jarrett Mann or sophomore Da'Veed Dildy will also get a look. None of them showed indications this season of being ready to be a starting Pac-10 point guard.
Stanford lost four of five games headed into the Pac-10 tournament, then regrouped to close the season with three wins in its final five games, including two in the CBI tournament.
"We had some tough times during the stretch of Pac-10 play, but our kids never wavered and they never quit," Dawkins said. "They were able to rebound from that and were very competitive in every game. I am really proud of that. It really shows the type of character of the kids."
FINAL RECORD: 20-14, 6-12, ninth in the Pac-10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Certainly the Cardinal scheduled right in the non-conference, where it was 13-0, including two early-round victories in the College Basketball Invitational. Senior G Anthony Goods finished the season strong, and junior F Landry Fields had a breakthrough season. To the club's credit, the Cardinal played hard in the CBI after a disappointing ninth-place Pac-10 finish.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Stanford was 0-5 in games decided by five points or less, had a losing conference record for the first time in 16 years and failed to earn an NCAA Tournament berth for just the second time since 1993. Given that standard, no one could have been happy when even the NIT bypassed the Cardinal.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They were recruited to play a certain way, and then I come in and bring a new style. That's not easy." -- first-year coach Johnny Dawkins on the team's transition.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: Johnny Dawkins became the first Stanford rookie coach to win 20 games and the team was undefeated outside the Pac-10. Looking forward, there's not a lot of good news. Landry Fields played very well as a junior and the Cardinal got encouraging play, especially late in the season, from freshman G Jeremy Green. Dawkins is hoping to add 6-foot-9 Andrew Zimmerman, who played one season at Santa Clara but redshirt this year while attending junior college. Zimmerman, who could move into the frontcourt rotation, had not been admitted to school as of March 27.
THE BAD NEWS: Stanford loses three senior starters and has just one player returning who averaged as much as 7.0 points per game. There is no obvious choice to run the team at point guard next season, and Dawkins' only fall signee, 6-8 F Andy Brown, suffered a torn ACL in January. The Cardinal has just seven returning scholarship players. Year 2 under Dawkins figures to be tougher than this was.
KEY RETURNEES: The Cardinal will build around senior-to-be F Landry Fields, who emerged this season to average 12.6 points and a team-best 6.6 rebounds. G Jeremy Green, who made the Pac-10 all-freshman team, figures to start at shooting guard, and center Will Paul and power forward Josh Owens also are favorites for starting positions.
--Senior PG Mitch Johnson finished No. 2 on Stanford's all-time assists list with 534, behind only Brevin Knight, who dished 780.
--Senior F Lawrence Hill averaged 13.6 points and wound up 16th on the Cardinal's career scoring chart with 1,404 points.
--Senior G Anthony Goods, who scored 20 points in the season-ending loss at OSU, led the squad this season with a 16.2 scoring average. Ranked 22nd on Stanford's career list at 1,236 points, he was the seventh different player to lead the club in scoring the past seven seasons.
After three straight Final Four seasons, the Bruins crashed back to earth this time and now face a dramatic rebuilding project.
Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya, the senior anchors in a program that won 123 games the past four season, were rudely exited from the NCAA Tournament after an 89-69 loss to Villanova in a second-round game at Philadelphia.
"It was really hard to see your last game end this way," Aboya said. "They were always driving, driving, driving . . . it was just hard."
"We came out with no heart," freshman guard Jrue Holiday said. "We just didn't come out and play today."
The defeat was the worst by UCLA in coach Ben Howland's six seasons in Westwood.
"When you think about Darren and Josh and Alfred and what they've meant to the rogram, it's just painful for us to lose in this fashion," Howland said.
Villanova went after the Bruins without mercy from the start, delivering hard blows to Collison and Shipp on their way to the basket.
Said Villanova's Dante Cunningham, "That was us telling them, `This is how it is going to be.' "
So, how's it going to be starting next year for the Bruins?
"Five freshmen coming back, five new freshmen coming in, next year we'll be ... really young," Howland said.
FINAL RECORD: 26-9, 13-5, 2nd in the Pac-10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Even after three underclassmen defected to the NBA a year ago, the Bruins won 26 games, finished second in the Pac-10 and showed themselves capable of playing at a high level. They improved offensively as the season unfolded and got especially strong late-season play from senior Josh Shipp.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The Bruins never developed the interior defensive toughness they showed during their three Final Four seasons. Villanova figured that out on the way to scoring 46 points in the paint in their second-round NCAA victory. UCLA's depth was iffy, composed mainly of freshmen who played with little consistency.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They outshot us, they outrebounded us, they out-hustled us. We couldn't stop anything. We couldn't do anything." -- UCLA junior Nikola Dragovic after the loss to Villanova.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: The current freshman class was ranked among the nation's best and should mature nicely by next season. The incoming freshman group is also highly rated and provides some size, including 6-10 Brendan Lane and 6-7 Reeves Nelson, a pair of power forwards from the California Central Valley.
THE BAD NEWS: The experience provided by Collison, Shipp and Aboya, the last links to the three straight Final Four clubs, will be tough to replace. Leadership likely will have to come from someone in the current freshman class.
KEY RETURNEES: The big unknown is whether freshman guard Jrue Holiday returns. "As of right now, I'm coming back," he said in the locker room after the Villanova said. "I'm saying I'm coming back because I really haven't (thought) about it. I'm telling you I really don't know. I actually have no clue because my season just ended." Also back are junior sharpshooters Nikola Dragovic and Michael Roll, along with freshmen Jerime Anderson, Malcolm Lee, Drew Gordon and J'mison Morgan.
--In his final UCLA game, point guard Darren Collison scored 15 points on 4-for-10 shooting but had five turnovers. The NCAA leader in free-throw accuracy at 91.5 percent entering the game, Collison shot just 5-for-8 from the line. Collison finished his UCLA career with 1,639 points and 577 assists.
--Senior forward Josh Shipp led the Bruins with 18 points and completed his career with 1,734 points.
--Freshman guard Jrue Holiday, who is contemplating the NBA draft, averaged 8.5 points, 3.7 assists and shot 30.7 percent from 3-point range this season. He shot 1-for-6 and scored four points against Villanova, finishing the season with single-digit scoring performances in seven of the Bruins' final nine games.
The Trojans couldn't get over the hump and into the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons, losing 74-69 to Michigan State.
But USC basketball is on the move. The Trojans have appeared in three straight NCAA Tournaments and have won 20 games or more each of those seasons. That's never happened before.
"We started something, a new brand," junior forward Taj Gibson said. "USC teams have been good here and there. We've changed that and are doing that every year."
The Trojans aren't going away, either, although no one can predict this early just what they might look like by next fall.
Freshman small forward DeMar DeRozan never did turn into O.J. Mayo, last year's superb USC rookie. But by the end of the season, DeRozan was terrific, averaging 19.1 points and shooting 58 percent from the field over the final seven games.
Will he back? No one knows, although most NBA mock draft boards suggested DeRozan will be a high first-round pick.
Gibson is an excellent athlete at power forward -- long, quick and agile -- and inclined to do the dirty work. He rebounds and blocks shots. He has one year left, but will turn 24 this summer and may decide it's time to turn pro.
Coach Tim Floyd understands there is no way to know what his roster will look like from year to year. That's the price of recruiting the elite-level player, and it's a price he's been willing to pay.
"In today's times, it gets difficult because of today's early departures," Floyd told the Los Angeles Times. "(Assistant coaches) Gib Arnold and Bob Cantu have done a terrific job of bringing in reinforcements that can play on this stage. That's hard to do when you're not Duke and North Carolina and Kentucky."
The Trojans don't belong in their company yet. But they're making progress, and should continue to be a factor at the top of the Pac-10, regardless of the variables they cannot predict.
FINAL RECORD: 22-13, 9-9, tied for fifth in the Pac-10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Trojans finished strong, winning six straight -- including three games to capture the Pac-10 tournament title -- before losing to Michigan State in the NCAA second round. Four of USC's five starters were virtual ironmen, playing heavy minutes and producing on a consistent basis. Freshman DeMar DeRozan hit his stride the final month of the season.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The Trojans simply didn't have enough players. Their loss to Michigan State, which goes 10 deep, came two days after three USC players went all 40 minutes against Boston College and Taj Gibson played 36 minutes. When Gibson got into foul trouble against the Spartans, USC had no way to adequately replace him. The Trojans got beat 33-23 on the boards by Michigan State and shot just 1-for-10 from 3-point distance.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They are an elite program, and have been an elite program for a long time. The idea when I came here was to make USC an elite program." -- USC junior guard Daniel Hackett, referring to Michigan State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: If everyone who is eligible to return does so, the Trojans could be the Pac-10 favorites next season. They started three juniors and two freshmen much of the season. Tim Floyd has recruited well again, landing three players rated among the nation's top 50 prospects by rivals.com, including 6-foot-10, 250-pound center Renardo Sidney, rated No. 10 nationally.
THE BAD NEWS: It's anyone's guess which of the current Trojans will be back for next season. Freshman DeMar DeRozan is projected as a first-round NBA draft pick, and speculation is that junior power forward and Pac-10 defensive player of the year Taj Gibson may also leave. If both defect, the Trojans still would be good, but perhaps not quite the powerhouse they could be.
KEY RETURNEES: Presumably, junior guards Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis both will return. Hackett is an underrated point guard who does a bit of everything for the Trojans, and made the Pac-10's all-defense team. Lewis overcame a midseason shooting slump to finish strong. Both are 6-5 and provide the Trojans with an imposing backcourt. Freshman F Leonard Washington could be back, but is expected to play football for the Trojans next fall. Junior-to-be Marcus Simmons, a 6-6 guard, played well late in the season, as did 6-10 freshman forward Nikola Vucevic.
--Southern California coach Tim Floyd was offered the Arizona head-coaching job on April 1, but he turned it down the next day. He said he would remain with the Trojans.
--DeMar DeRozan had 18 points and five rebounds in the loss to Michigan State after totaling 18 points and nine rebounds against Boston College.
--F Taj Gibson was a perfect 10-for-10 from the field and had 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks vs. B.C. But he got into foul trouble against Michigan State and wound up with just three points -- all free throws -- and zero rebounds in 23 minutes.
--G Dwight Lewis scored 20 points against Boston College and 19 vs. Michigan State. He had five rebounds in each game.
The torch was passed from senior Jon Brockman to freshman Isaiah Thomas after Washington's second-round exit from the NCAA Tournament.
"This isn't the last time that I'll be here," Thomas promised after scoring 24 points in the Huskies' 76-74 loss to Purdue.
But it's the last time he or any of the returning Huskies will get the chance to play alongside Brockman, the best security blanket any team could have.
"I'm going to go out on a limb and say we'll never get a player like Jon Brockman," UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Maybe as talented, but not like him. He is unlike anyone I've ever seen or played with."
The 6-7, 251-pound power forward finished his career as Washington's all-time rebounder, its No. 2 career scorer.
"The saddest thing about the whole thing, when you look at everything, it's the last time this group will play together," 'Brockman said. "And that probably hurts more than anything."
This Washington team returned to the NCAAs after a two-year absence, and Brockman was the key bookend to the 2006 club that featured Brandon Roy.
That team reached the Sweet 16, this one fell a game short.
"It's funny," Brockman said. "There's only one real happy team at the end of the NCAA tournament."
FINAL RECORD: 26-9, 14-4, 1st in the Pac-10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Jon Brockman and guard Justin Dentmon had excellent senior seasons, leading the Huskies to their first outright regular-season conference title since 1953. Thomas' ability to take over the point guard duties as a freshman allowed Justin Dentmon to move off the ball, creating a dangerous backcourt combination. The Huskies were the Pac-10's best rebounding team and developed the league's deepest bench.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The Huskies were only an average 3-point shooting team and ranked near the bottom of the Pac-10 in scoring defense. Dentmon and Thomas both fell into shooting slumps late in the season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I knew at halftime we were going to get back in the game. And I knew, as soon as we started rolling, I really believed we were going to get over that two-point hump and take the lead. I really thought we were going to win it. That's one of the reasons why it's so hard to take. We were right there." -- UW senior Jon Brockman after the Huskies trailed by 14 points early in the second half.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: Forward Quincy Pondexter, after two seasons where he often appeared lost on the floor, found his niche. He became a blue-collar player around the basket and an "energy" guy for the Huskies, averaging 12.1 points and 5.9 rebounds. He had 20 points and 10 rebounds against Purdue. Isaiah Thomas, better than anyone could have expected, averaged 15.5 points and was named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. The Huskies welcome an excellent recruiting class, topped by Seattle-area guard Abdul Gaddy.
THE BAD NEWS: The Huskies lose two key players with the upcoming graduation of Brockman and guard Justin Dentmon. Both were freshmen on the 2006 team led by Brandon Roy that reached the Sweet 16. Brockman became UW's career rebounding leader and No. 2 all-time scorer.
KEY RETURNEES: Thomas, Pondexter and freshman forward Darnell Gant, who does interior dirty work, all return from the starting lineup. Also back is sophomore guard Venoy Overton, the club's sixth man and top defender on the perimeter. Freshman guard Elston Turner played a bigger role as the late season unfolded.
--Senior Jon Brockman had 20 points and 18 rebounds in his final college game, the 60th double-double of his UW career. Brockman wound up with 1,805 points and 1,283 rebounds.
--Freshman guard Isaiah Thomas, who had been mired in a shooting slump, was 8-for-20 and scored a team-high 24 points in the loss to Purdue.
--Sixth man Venoy Overton, the Huskies' backcourt defensive specialist, got into early foul trouble against Purdue and played just 16 minutes
Seemingly in a flash, coach Tony Bennett was out the door and Washington State fans were reeling, wondering who their next coach would be and whether the Cougars could maintain what has been built.
Bennett, who guided WSU to 52 victories and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in his first two seasons, is gone to Virginia after his third campaign.
No one saw it coming, and that made the shock greater.
"I'm sure there are a lot of hurt feelings and misunderstandings," Bennett told the Spokane Spokesman Review. "I hope this is a situation over time that, instead of the hurt and maybe the anger in what happened, they'll look back and say there were some real good things that happened.
"And this program is in a different place and we enjoyed a heck of a run and a heck of a ride with coach Dick Bennett and Tony."
Tony Bennett replaced his dad as coach three years ago, and helped complete the rebuilding process. Even this past season, without three key starters from the previous seasons, the Cougars were competitive at 17-16.
Next year's squad would be without seniors Taylor Rochestie and Aron Baynes, but there is young talent returning. And hope.
A week after Bennett's departure, speculation focused on three lead candidates: Alabama-Birmingham coach Mike Davis, former Phoenix Suns coach Terry Porter and Portland State's Ken Bone.
The Birmingham (Ala.) News reported that Davis met with WSU officials in Detroit on Final Four Saturday. Porter, who was reported by the Spokesman Review as being on the WSU campus earlier in the week, played for Dick Bennett at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The Seattle Times wrote that Bone would be interviewed on the eve of the national championship game.
The new coach will have to soothe the feelings of four recruits signed by Bennett last fall. Among them, only Xavier Thames, a 6-3 point guard from Elk Grove, Calif., has said he wants out of his letter-of-intent. Thames' father told a WSU fan Web site that his son may still be interested in the Cougars, but wants the chance to look elsewhere.
A year after much of the college basketball world was pursuing Bennett, no one saw this move coming.
Bennett said the opportunity at Virginia was just too good to turn down. The 15,219-seat John Paul Jones Arena, which opened in 2006, is among the best in the nation. The school boasts a great academic tradition, and proximity both to a strong recruiting base and to family for Bennett and his wife.
"There were a lot of positives about it that really seemed right when we just thought about that side of it," Bennett said. "Though, you know, a great challenge, there's a lot of things in place. Laurel and I both felt kind of a strange peace towards it, and then wrestled with it, weighed it."
No one was worried about Bennett's exit after the Cougars' season ended with a 68-57 loss at Saint Mary's College in a first-round NIT game.
But the game highlighted a season-long problem for the Cougars, who failed to reach 60 points for the 19th time this season.
The new coach will build around Klay Thompson, a 6-6 freshman guard who has the pedigree to become an excellent player. Thompson initially said he wasn't sure if he'd remaining at WSU, but his father, former NBA top draft choice Mychal Thompson, later said his son isn't going anywhere.
FINAL RECORD: 17-16, 8-10, 7th in the Pac-10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Cougars finished strong, including victories over UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State over their final five games. They continued to play the kind of defense WSU fans are accustomed to seeing. Guard Taylor Rochestie enjoyed an all-conference senior season and freshman Klay Thompson showed potential to become an elite player.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Senior center Aron Baynes averaged 12.7 points and 7.5 rebounds, but seemed to fade out of the picture at times. Senior forward Daven Harmeling, a valuable role player the two previous seasons, never adjusted to an expanded role and finished the season shooting 29.3 percent from the 3-point line. The offense produced seven points per game fewer than a year ago.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "(Patrick) Mills was as good as advertised, their offensive rebounding was terrific, their physical play, how hard and tough-minded they were, was impressive. On the other hand, we didn't handle the ball well, did not keep them off the glass and we weren't together enough defensively." -- Then-WSU coach Tony Bennett after the NIT loss to Saint Mary's College.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: The next generation of WSU players saw action, and the Cougars finished with a winning record for the third straight season. Thompson is a future all-conference player who only needs to expand his offensive repertoire. Four freshmen are signed for next season, including 6-9 Aussie forward Brock Motum, who follows in Aron Baynes' steps.
THE BAD NEWS: The Cougars will need to find a new head coach after Tony Bennett's surprise exit. They also will miss Rochestie's smarts and Baynes' bulk. Those two players were key holdovers from the back-to-back NCAA Tournament teams. The Cougars will be very young next season, with part-time starter Nikola Koprivica returning as the club's lone senior.
KEY RETURNEES: Thompson returns with one of the purest shooting strokes of any player in the Pac-10. He hasn't figured out how to get to the basket -- explaining the fact that he attempted just 31 free throws in 33 games -- but he's so smooth from the perimeter he should be able to take defenders off the dribble. Forward DeAngelo Casto, who averaged 4.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in just 16 minutes per game, should make a huge leap a year from now, and freshman guard Marcel Capers figures to battle for a starting job after an encouraging rookie season.
--Senior Taylor Rochestie, the Cougars' all-Pac-10 guard, had 14 points on 6-for-16 shooting and was just 1-for-7 from 3-point range. Rochestie finished the season at 13.2 points and 4.5 assists per game.
--Freshman guard Klay Thompson skidded into the off-season, failing to reach double digits in any of the Cougars' final four games. Owner of one of the Pac-10's sweetest shooting strokes, Thompson followed his 1-for-11 effort vs. UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament with a 2-for-11 performance against Saint Mary's in the NIT.
--Senior center Aron Baynes, in his final WSU game, had 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting and 10 rebounds.
|Posted 4/6/2009 1:42 AM ET|