Archive for: January 2013

The Best Former Sun Devils Wearing Super Bowl Rings

Chris Humphreys-USA Today Sports

Chris Humphreys-USA Today Sports

For the eighth straight year, the Maroon and Gold will be represented in the pinnacle of professional football achievement—the Super Bowl.

This year will also be the 13th year that multiple Sun Devils have been represented in the Super Bowl and the fourth time that three players have been on rosters.

San Francisco 49ers receiver Kyle Williams is on injured reserve after tearing ligaments in his knee in New Orleans last November but long snapper Brian Jennings is ready to start as is Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Of all 41 Sun Devils to reach the summit only 18 have walked away with rings, will there be 19 or 20 on this list come Sunday night?

Here is the list of the best of those that are currently sporting the shine.

Travis Williams

  • Position: Running back/Kick Returner
  • NFL Team: Gren Bay Packers
  • Earned Ring: Super Bowl II, 1968 over the Oakland Raiders

Travis Williams was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1967 and returned four kickoffs for a touchdown in his rookie season including two in one game vs. the Cleveland Browns, both NFL records.

He also holds the record for highest season average return yards with 41.06 yards per carry.

He was posthumously inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

Curley Culp

  • curley-culpPosition: Defensive Tackle
  • NFL Team: Kansas City Chiefs
  • Earned Ring: Super Bowl IV, 1970 over the Minnesota Vikings

Curley Culp was drafted in the second round of the 1968 draft and played seven years for the Kansas City Chiefs and seven years for the Houston Oilers.

Culp has numerous accolades including the Arizona State Ring of Honor and the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame.

He was a AFL All-Star selection in 1969 and a five-time Pro Bowl selection as well as being selected a first-team All-Pro and the NEA Defensive Player of the Year in 1975.

Culp is often credited for the beginning of the 3-4 defense and is a finalist for selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this Saturday.

Bob Breunig

  • Position: Linebacker
  • NFL Team: Dallas Cowboys
  • Earned Ring: Super Bowl XII, 1978 over the Denver Broncos

Bob Breunig was drafted in the third round of the 1975 Draft and played all nine NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. Breunig played in three Super Bowls with the Cowboys but only has one ring to show for it.

Breunig was a local Phoenix product and was an All-American running back in high school. He was also named All-American at Arizona State and a three-time All-WAC selection.

Breuing was selected to the Pro Bowl three times and has been inducted in to Arizona High School and Arizona State University Halls of Fame.

Danny White

  • whitePosition: Quarterback/Punter
  • NFL Team: Dallas Cowboys
  • Earned Ring: Super Bowl XII, 1978 over the Denver Broncos

Danny White was another local product that played football at Westwood High School in Mesa, Ariz. Westwood High School is most notable for producing rock bands Jimmy Eat World and Authority Zero as well as this writer.

White was signed by Arizona State to play baseball and would also take on the punting duties for the football team. He became the starting quarterback mid-way through his sophomore season and went on to be a legendary quarterback and punter.

He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the 1974 Draft as a punter. He signed with the World Football League as a quarterback and returned to the Cowboys in 1976 after the league folded. He played 12 years for the Cowboys and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1982.

He has been inducted into the Arizona State University and College Football Halls of Fame.

Mike Haynes

  • Position: Cornerback
  • NFL Team: Los Angeles Raiders
  • Earned Ring: Super Bowl XVIII, 1984 over the Washington Redskins

Mike Haynes was incredible at Arizona State. He was a three-time All-WAC selection and two-time All-American.

Haynes was drafted No. 5 overall by the New England Patriots in 1976 and played there through the 1982 season garnering numerous accolades including five Pro Bowl selections (nine total in his career), AFC Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Haynes was traded to the Los Angeles Raiders in 1983 and went to the Super Bowl in his first year there. He played with the Raiders until 1989.

He has been inducted into the Arizona State University, College Football, New England Patriots and the NFL Halls of Fame and his jersey number has been retired at ASU and New England.

Darren Woodson

  • woodsonPosition: Safety
  • NFL Team: Dallas Cowboys
  • Earned Rings: Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII, 1993 and 1994 over the Buffalo Bills; XXX, 1996 over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The only player on the list with three rings, and one of the hardest hitting safeties in the game. Woodson was yet another local product having attended Maryvale High School in Phoenix. He was a running back and linebacker in high school that walked on at Arizona State due to academic issues.

Woodson was drafted in the second round of the 1992 draft by the Dallas Cowboys and was quickly slotted into the safety position. For thirteen years, Woodson gave his heart and soul to the Cowboys and is the all-time leader in tackles with 1,350.

He has been inducted into the Arizona State University and Arizona Sports Halls of Fame with consideration into the NFL Hall still lingering.

J.R. Redmond

  • Position: Running Back
  • NFL Team: New England Patriots
  • Earned Ring: Super Bowl XXXVI, 2002 over the St. Louis Rams

Redmond was drafted in the third round of 2000 draft by the New England Patriots and played sparingly. He was however, instrumental in the final drive of Super Bowl XXXVI in setting up the winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri.

His NFL career was short lived at five years but his numbers are deep in the record books at Arizona State and the Pac-10.

Grey Ruegamer

  • greyPosition: Center
  • NFL Team: New England Patriots, New York Giants
  • Earned Ring: Super Bowl XXXVI, 2002 over the St. Louis Rams, XLII, 2008 over the New England Patriots

Grey Ruegamer was a four-year starter on the Sun Devils and played on the championship team in 1996 and the 1997 Rose Bowl with legends Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman.

Ruegamer was drafted in the third round of the 1999 draft by the Miami Dolphins but didn’t play until the 2000 season when he got on with the Patriots. He skipped around a bit and played for the Packers and Giants before hanging up his cleats in 2009.

Marvel Smith

  • Position: Offensive Tackle
  • NFL Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Earned Rings: Super Bowls XL & XLIII, 2006 and 2009 over the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals

Smith was an All-American at Arizona State in 1999 and was drafted in the second round of the 2000 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Smith played his entire nine-year career for the Steelers and was named to the 2004 Pro Bowl.

Back injuries caused him to miss most of the 2008-09 season and his contract was not renewed. He signed on with the San Francisco 49ers but retired in the offseason.

The Rest

Photo courtesy of ASU Athletics

Photo courtesy of ASU Athletics

  • Mike Richardson – Chicago Bears, 1986
  • Kit Lathrop – Washington Redskins, 1988
  • Jon Baker – Dallas Cowboys, 1996
  • Shante Carver – Dallas Cowboys, 1996
  • Craig Newsome – Green Bay Packers, 1997
  • Paul Justin – St. Louis Rams, 2000
  • Jason Kyle – New Orleans Saints, 2010
  • Dmitri Nance – Green Bay Packers, 2011
  • Justin Tryon – New York Giants, 2012

Although I would like to see 20 Arizona State University players with Super Bowl rings, I am pulling for Terrell Suggs and the Baltimore Ravens. I just wish Todd Heap was still on the team.

Arizona Basketball: The Biggest Flaw of Each of the Wildcats’ Starters

az flaw

Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

The University of Arizona men’s basketball team is not perfect.

After 19 games, coach Sean Miller and the Wildcats have gone 17-2 and 5-2 in the Pac-12 Conference. They are currently two games behind the conference-leading Oregon Ducks.

They are ranked No. 8 in both polls and have been ranked as high as No. 3 in the midst of a 14-game win streak to begin the season.

The Cats are the No. 4 team in the RPI rankings and No. 3 in strength of schedule. They have been victorious over five teams in the RPI Top 50, including two teams ranked in the AP Top 25 in Florida and San Diego State.

Why is that they lost to a then unranked Oregon team in Eugene and were blown out at home to an unranked UCLA Bruins team?

az zeusEach member of Miller’s starting five has issues and knowing is half the battle. It is imperative that Miller strives to better each player and make them a better team down the stretch and into the NCAA tournament.

Here is the biggest flaw of each of the Wildcats’ starters.

Mark Lyons

Although Mark Lyons leads the team in scoring and assists, he also leads the team in another category—turnovers, and it isn’t even close.

His 55 turnovers are the most on the team and the third-most in the conference. The 2.9 turnovers per game on average is an area that needs improvement. Unfortunately, since this is senior season, I don’t see much change in the immediate future.

Granted, some of the best point guards in the country have high turnovers, but they also equalize them with an equally high amount of assists. Lyons’ assist to turnover ratio of 1.07 per game is one of lowest in the country.

Solomon Hill

solomonSolomon Hill is the soul of this Arizona team. He is a great player who leads the team in minutes and is always in the lineup come crunch time.

The only issue that I see with Hill is that he goes so hard that he isn’t at peak performance and his shooting suffers. If he didn’t feel that he needed to be the “Iron Man” for the team, he would get the rest necessary to keep him at the peak of his game. The bench is deep enough for him to allow others to cover for him at times.

Going too hard isn’t the worst flaw to have, because it shows a deep desire and what makes a champion. However, it also shows that he isn’t buying completely into the team concept and feels that he has to do it all by himself.

Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson is a speedy player who hits well on both ends of the court. His 42 steals leads the Pac-12 and his 62 defensive rebounds are an amazing testament to how aggressive he plays.

Maybe a little too aggressive.

While he tries to do so much on defense, I have noticed a drop in his offensive production.

He is hitting 47 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc, which are both ranked at No. 20 in the conference. His 75 percent free-throw average also ranks at fourth on the team and No. 16 in the conference.

While I applaud his desire to play defense well among a towering frontcourt, I feel that if he was focused more on being a pure shooting guard, that his percentages would increase.

Brandon Ashley

Brandon Ashley has started 16 games and 15 of the last 16 for Sean Miller. He is a sharp-shooter who leads the team in field goal percentage and although he only takes limited shots behind the arc, he is dead-on, hitting 100 percent.

He also leads the team in rebounds with 111 and is always fighting for the loose ball. His intensity is great and the fact that he only averages 21.7 minutes per game makes it seem even better.

His intensity also leads to him leading the team in personal fouls. While four players on the roster have fouled out this season and he has not, he has been in foul trouble on many occasions.

With such great shooting, he does the team a disservice by getting into foul trouble.

Kaleb Tarczewski

zeusKaleb Tarczewski is a 7’0″ center who has started every game for Arizona. Oddly enough, he doesn’t lead the team in rebounds or blocked shots. He is a close second in both categories and he will improve in those areas once he becomes more settled in Miller’s game plan.

The main area of concern is typical among big men, his free-throw shooting. He is hitting barely over 50 percent from the charity stripe and is giving other teams a reason to foul him at any given time.

In the several close games that Arizona has played this year, the few missed free throws could be the reason that the Wildcats lose the close games in the future.

Nobody wants to see Hack-A-Zeus, but the only way to prevent it is by improving his free-throw shooting.

Bench Players

Kevin Parrom, Grant Jerret and Jordin Mayes make up a solid bench squad that comes in for relief when needed. Parrom has started one game for Brandon Ashley and that ended quickly. Jerrett started the first two games but has given way to Ashley. Mayes is a serviceable backup point guard for when Lyons is catching his breath.

Jerrett has had issues with getting his shots to drop but that is an easy fix—practice, practice, practice. It will come in time as the freshman matures.

parromParrom battles hard under the boards but he could increase his rebounds as his frontcourt mates are out rebounding him in fewer minutes.

Mayes also needs to work on his shooting. He is only shooting 33 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc. The key for a true point guard is to run the court and work on feeding the ball to your scorers and if you are going to take it yourself, you have to hit better than one-third of the time.

The trials and tribulations will come and go, and the best that the Wildcats can hope for is that all the aforementioned players keep working and playing hard.

There is no way to predict if the Cats are going to play horribly like they did on Thursday against UCLA or incredibly like they did against Arizona State on Jan. 19. The only thing we do know that if the players can limit their mistakes, they can perform as one of the best teams in the country, we have seen it before and know that it’s possible.

West’s Best Bets – The Championship

wbb final1

 

 

This is it, ladies and gentlemen. The West’s Best Bets has reached the finals and it has comedown to two great schools. The culmination of four months and 16 cities and their fine institutions of higher learning has come down to this moment.

Will it be the laid-back beach village of Westwood, California or the desert oasis of Tempe, Arizona that brings home the title of the “Best College City in the West?” We examine not only academics, but also look at athletics, bar scene, weather and most importantly, the lovely ladies that attend the school.

The city of Tempe is a suburb of Phoenix situated on the southeast corner and is bordered by Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler on the north, east and south sides respectively. The city is 40.2 square miles and is home to over 161,000 residents.

The main campus of Arizona State University is located on the north side of the city just south of the once-flowing Salt River. The 642 acre campus is home to nearly 60, 000 students and is the heart of the four-campuses thoughout the metroplex.

ASU is a school that had its fair share of notoriety as one of the top party schools in the country in the past. With a new President and culture change, can Arizona State shed its party image and become a respectable institution of higher learning or is it just a facade?

Let’s revisit the rankings and see how ASU fared.

Athletics Teams

  • roblesx-largeFootball – Bowl Record of 12-12-1 with a Rose Bowl record of 1-1, and 17 Conference Championships; seven in the Border Conference, seven in the WAC and three in the Pac-10.
  • Baseball – 35 Tournament appearances and 22 College World Series appearances with five National Championships. They have accumulated 21 regular season championships, including four straight in the Pac-10 from 2007-2010.
  • Softball – 23 Tournament appearances and nine College World Series appearances including the last five with two National Championships. They also have two Conference Championships.
  • Men’s Basketball – 13 tournament appearances, advancing three times to the Elite Eight. They also have eight regular season championships; four in the Border and four in the WAC.
  • 23 Total National Championships
  • Other National Championships (16) – Women’s Golf (7), Women’s Track & Field (3), Men’s Track & Field (2), Men’s Golf (2), Wrestling (1).

Arizona State University seems to be one of those bubble teams when it comes to athletics. They show flashes of brilliance in some areas but suffer from an inability to get over the hump when it comes to maintaining a solid presence in any sport. Notable ASU individual athletes are war hero and former football player, Pat Tillman, golfer Phil Mickelson and undefeated one-legged wrestling champion Anthony Robles. For their lack of consistency, I award ASU 22 out of a possible 30 points.

Women

ASU-girlsASU has the hottest women on campus that I have ever visited. Just think about every hot girl at every high school in every Podunk city across this great country of ours…and they all want to go to Arizona State. Wearing bikini tops and daisy dukes to class isn’t out of the ordinary, it is the status quo. With so many drop dead gorgeous women at this school, even normal, everyday beauties that would blow the minds at many other campuses get overlooked at ASU. Thank God for ASU and the bevy of beauties that grace the campus – 25 out of 25 possible points.

Local Bars & Pubs

Bordering Phoenix to the south east, the city of Tempe caters to the college crowd with several great college hangouts along Mill Avenue, but there is also a wide range of bars, pubs and breweries within a stone’s throw from campus. If you are adventurous, there are literally a thousand other bars, pubs and hangouts a quick freeway ride away. The beautiful people get dressed up and hit Scottsdale, the hipsters head to downtown Phoenix, the music fans stay in Tempe or go to Chandler while the pro sports fans hit up the northwest wide where the Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Coyotes call home. One thing is for sure, you are never going to get bored here – 19 out of 20 possible points.

 Weather            

asu flagTempe and the rest of “the valley of the sun” is a true asphalt jungle in the middle of the desert. Many say that it is a shame having so much urban sprawl in the beauty of the desert and it only adds to the scorching summers. While I see the logic, Tempe is a beautiful city and the heat allows for flip-flops and t-shirts to be worn nearly year–round. With summertime highs hovering around the 110 mark, you don’t want to spend too much time outdoors. The winters are gorgeous with temps rarely, if ever getting below 40 degrees.  – 11 out of 15 possible points.

Academics

Although acceptance to any of the public universities is ensured to residents in the Top 25 percent of their class; Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University is highly selective and is ranked first in the nation among peer institutions and 5th in Overall Excellence among all universities. The Honor College enrolls over 3,500 students including 613 National Merit Scholars. The Schools of Journalism, Business and Nursing are also ranked in the top in the country – 7 out of 10 possible points.

FINAL GRADE 84%

 

The University of California, Los Angeles or more commonly known, UCLA is located in Westwood neighborhood west of Los Angeles. The area is bordered by the extremely affluent towns of Brentwood, Bel-Air, Holmby Hills and Beverly Hills.

The sprawling campus covers 419 acres and is home to nearly 40,000 students. It was originally called the University of California Southern Branch before he name University of California at Los Angeles became the official name in 1927. Finally, they removed the “at” in 1958 for its current name.

The campus is absolutely gorgeous and is a short six-mile trip to Santa Monica and the iconic pier and beach park. It is no wonder that UCLA is the most applied-to university as well as being the most selective public university in the nation. Over 72,000 freshman applications were received for the fall of 2012 with only 17.8% were accepted. Time to revisit the rankings:

 

Athletics Teams

  • john-woodenFootball – Bowl Record of 15-16-1 with a Rose Bowl record of 5-7, one National Championship (shared) and 17 Conference Championships.
  • Men’s Basketball – 44 tournament appearances, 18 Final Fours with 13 National Title Game appearances and 11 National Championships including a streak of seven straight. They also have 40 regular season Championships and three Tournament Championships.
  • Baseball – 18 Tournament appearances and four College World Series appearances.  They have won eight regular season Conference Championships including the past two.
  • Softball – 11 National Championships and seven time runners-up.
  • 108 Total National Championships
  • Other men’s teams National Championships (60) – Volleyball (19), Tennis (16), Track & Field (8) Water Polo (8), Soccer (4), Gymnastics (2), Golf (2), Swimming & Diving (1).
  • Other women’s teams National Championships (26) – Water Polo (7), Gymnastics (6), Track & Field (5), Volleyball (4), Golf (3), Tennis (1).

The University of California, Los Angeles has a tradition of winning. The basketball streak of seven straight National Championships is a record that will never be broken, not to mention the litany of other records including an 88-game regular season winning streak, a 38 game NCAA Tournament winning streak and four perfect, undefeated seasons. Add to that their football team notched eight consecutive Bowl game victories; including three Rose Bowls and the sheer dominance of their Men’s Volleyball and Softball teams, I award UCLA 28 out of a possible 30 points.

Women

UCLABustyCheerleaderWith such close proximity to the beach, Hollywood and Rodeo Drive, it’s no surprise that the women at UCLA are hot. I was thoroughly impressed with the current student body as well as three of my childhood crushes in Winnie Cooper, Jessie Spano, Princess Vespa from Spaceballs and Blossom, well, maybe not Blosssom. I spend most every day with a UCLA alum – the Food Network’s Giada de Laurentiis. Another notable UCLA hottie is Bridget Marquardt from the Girls Next Door and you know what they say “If she’s good enough for Hef, that’s good enough for me.”   – 22 out of 25 possible points.

Local Bars & Pubs

It seems like there is always a party going on with all levels of beautiful people and celebrities galore within a couple miles of campus. So, if you are looking to see and be seen, LA-LA Land is right up there with the best scenes in the country. However, if you are looking for your neighborhood sports bar or college bar head to nearby Barney’s Beanery or O’Hara’s (the old Maloney’s), you will not be disappointed – 17 out of 20 possible points.

Weather      

Beautiful beach weather with a wide range of temperature changes are the norm in the city of Westwood and nearby Los Angeles.  Sunny and warm weather keep the co-eds in shorts and sundresses for most of the year and the beach at night is a crisp and cool alternative –13 out of 15 possible points.

 Academics

UCLA-CheerleadersAs previously stated, UCLA is the most selective of all public universities in the nation and for good reason. Ranked as the #25 University in the country by U.S. News & World Report, #9 on the list of top research universities and #14 by the London Times for International Universities, UCLA is definitely a top tier school. Their roll call of alumni, students & faculty includes 12 Nobel Laureates, 12 Rhodes Scholars, 12 MacArthur Fellows and 3 Pulitzer Prize Winners – 8 out of 10 possible points.

FINAL GRADE 88%

UCLA has it all, a beautiful campus with legendary bars, close proximity to the beach and all that Hollywood has to offer. The women are beautiful and the academic standards are a lot higher than many private schools throughout the country. The history of great athletic teams and the most National Championships by any school make UCLA the victor. I am by no means saying that Arizona State is not a great place to go to school, it was good enough for yours truly and enjoyed it thoroughly, if only it had been on the beach.

Arizona Basketball: The Biggest Strength of Every Wildcat

cat strength

Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

The No. 8 Arizona Wildcats (17-2, 5-2 Pac-12) are preparing to embark on their second conference road trip on Thursday as they travel to the Evergreen State to take on a pair of struggling teams.

The Washington Huskies were riding high at 4-0 in the Pac-12 after a resounding 10-point victory over the Colorado Buffaloes at home. Then the Utah Runnin’ Utes came to Seattle and took the wind out of their sails, beating them by nine. This led to a horrible road trip for the Huskies wherein they lost back-to-back games to the Oregon schools.

The Washington State Cougars have been struggling, as anticipated, in Pac-12 play. They are currently 2-5 in conference, with wins over Utah and Oregon State.

As the ‘Cats prepare for this road trip, let’s take a look at the good and bad of each player in Sean Miller’s rotation.

Since it is best to start with the good news first, here is the biggest strength of every Wildcat.

Mark Lyons

lyons UCLAMark Lyons is clutch.

Save for last Thursday night’s game against UCLA, he has been the go-to guy when needed. His poor performance in that game had nothing to do with the fact that he fouled out, but it didn’t help either.

He leads the Wildcats in scoring with 14.9 points per game as well as assists with 3.1 per game. Lyons is the man that the Wildcats trust—if and when they are trailing in the final minutes—and he pulls through.

When the game is close, one tends to look at how a team has shot from the charity stripe. In such games, a miss or two here and there can be the difference in the game. Lyons also leads the team in free throws and is No. 2 in the Pac-12.

Solomon Hill

Solomon Hill is a monster on the court for Coach Miller and the ‘Cats. He leads the team in minutes and is the “Iron Man” when it comes to crunch time.

His senior leadership is paramount and when he is up, the team is up; when he is struggling, so are the Wildcats.

Other than minutes per game, Hill doesn’t the lead the team in any category, but he is No. 2 or No. 3 in every category.

His leadership and strong overall play are his biggest contribution to this team.

Nick Johnson

Nick UCLANick Johnson is a quick defender that will burn you whenever he can. The team leader in steals plays at such a quick tempo that it’s difficult for many to keep up with him.

His 2.21 steals per game not only lead the Wildcats, but he also tops the conference and is No. 35 in the nation.

Johnson’s strong defensive play affords him the opportunity to be third on the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game and tied for second in assists with 2.7 per game.

Kevin Parrom

Although Kevin Parrom has only started one game, his presence has been felt in many ways in every game.

The senior swingman/sixth man provides the necessary spark coming off the bench. He is electric and motivates his team like no other.

Miller can trust Parrom to keep a good handle on the ball as he rarely commits turnovers, averaging only 1.1 per game. He also plays a smart game by keeping the fouls to a minimum with an average of less than two fouls per game.

His smart, consistent play is what makes Parrom a strong candidate for the NCAA sixth man of the year.

Brandon Ashley

ashleyBrandon Ashley is looking to be the top freshman of the vaunted 2012 recruiting class. Although projected one spot behind Grant Jerrett on the ESPN 100, Ashley has outperformed Jerrett.

His 111 total rebounds lead the team as well as his 84 defensive boards. He also gets back on offense with precision accuracy. He leads the team in field goal percentage, hitting 54 percent and has made every three-point shot he has attempted.

Ashley took over the starting power forward position from Jerrett after the first two games and has yet to relinquish it. His remarkable play at both ends of the court is a testament to his hard work and sharp eye.

Kaleb Tarczewski

The 7’0″ center rebounded nicely in Saturday’s game against the Trojans.

I am not just talking about the seven boards that he pulled down that afternoon, but also the 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting.

Tarczewski trails fellow freshman Ashley in rebounds and field goal percentage for second best on the team.

Where Zeus excels is keeping the ball in play for the Wildcats by pulling down a team-leading 46 offensive rebounds. The big man will only get better once he starts to build his confidence against the lesser teams in the conference over the next four games.

Grant Jerrett

jerrett uscThe highly touted freshman started the first two games for coach Sean Miller but struggled a little bit out of the gate. He was replaced by fellow frosh Brandon Ashley and has found his groove coming off the bench.

Averaging only 18.2 minutes per game, his defensive prowess is so much that he leads the team in total blocks with 16. He also averages over four rebounds per game and has 10 total steals.

His offensive output could improve but I see that happening as he gets more comfortable with Miller’s grand scheme.

Jordin Mayes

Jordin Mayes is a reliable backup point guard to Mark Lyons. He comes in off the bench and makes the most of his minutes.

The 6’3″ junior out of Los Angeles has seen his fair share of ups and downs with the Wildcats and has become stronger coming off the bench when necessary.

In the 13.1 minutes that he averages per game, his 13 total steals are impressive as is his 25 total assists.

Remaining Bench Players

Due to the depth on the Wildcats roster, there are many other contributors to the team, just not on an every game basis.

  • cholAngelo Chol—has played in 16 games, strong rebounder.
  • Gabe York—has played in nine games, good eye for the basket, strong passer.
  • Max Wiepking—has played in five games, sharp-shooter.
  • Quinton Crawford—has played in five games, tough on defense.
  • Jacob Hazzard—has played in five games, still learning.
  • Drew Mellon—has played in five games, good speed.

The Wildcats have a strong team that is one of the deepest in the conference, if not the nation. The combination of Lyons and Johnson in the backcourt paired with five amazing front court players is what makes this team the No. 8 team in the country.

The main concern that seems to occur with so many high-quality players is they all try to carry the load of the team when a more concerted team effort is called for. If all players’ strengths were to come together at the same time in harmony, this team would be unstoppable.

Sun Devils’ Top Priority on National Signing Day

sparky NSD

Mark Kartozian-USA Today Sports

Arizona State Football has done a good job in recruiting this offseason. Coach Todd Graham and company have made a marked improvement over past years, but it’s still nothing to write home about.

Here is where their class ranks on the three major recruiting sites:

  • Scout.com—No. 7 in the Pac-12, No. 29 in the nation.
  • Rivals.com—No. 6 in the Pac-12, No. 29 in the nation.
  • 247 Sports.com—No. 6 in the Pac-12, No. 35 in the nation.

The Devils have bulked up considerably on the defensive side of the ball and are only one of two schools in the Pac-12 with more defensive recruits than offensive. They also have the second-most junior college players in the Top 50 schools according to Scout.com with nine. The University of Kansas is first with 16.

martinezWhen Arizona State began the 2012 season, they were thin at the wide receiver position after losing three of their top receiving targets in Gerrell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad and Mike Willie. The 2012 season saw the top three leaders in receptions were not wide receivers. To add insult to injury, the top wide receivers on the team graduated after the 2012 season.

This was a glaring hole to fill for Coach Graham and he went out and received commitments from four 3-star receivers and two additional tight ends including the No. 14 ranked player in Arizona—Grant Martinez.

Priority filled.

Another concern for the Devils after the 2012 season was in the secondary and at the linebacker position since three excellent starters finished their careers at Arizona State. Looking to replace linebacker Brandon Magee will be tough, but Coach Graham went all out and received commitments from two 4-star linebackers including the No. 3 ranked recruit in Arizona—Chans Cox.

Priority filled. 

Filling out the secondary was also a priority with Keelan Johnson and Deveron Carr leaving, but once again, the Sun Devils went out and received four 3-star commits including two safeties and two corners. Will Earley is the No. 55 cornerback in the country while Jayme Otomewo is the No. 56 safety.

Priority filled.

marcusThe defensive line for Arizona State is the strongest that it has ever been with Will Sutton returning for his senior season. Jaxon Hood, Davon Coleman and Junior Onyeali are also studs on the defensive line. It was amazing to see that such great talent committed to the Sun Devils even though that is the area that is the deepest. It’s great to see 4-star Junior College transfer Marcus Hardison as well as two other 3-star recruits.

Priority exceeded.

Lastly, the one area that needed help was the offensive line. With the graduation of starters Andrew Sampson and Brice Schwab, the right side of the line is open. A couple of early signees in Nick Kelly and Josh Tremblay made it seem like the offensive line would be fine.

westermanAdd into the mix that Christian Westerman, the No.1 recruit in the state of Arizona in 2011, has returned home to play for Arizona State. Westerman left for Auburn to play for Gene Chizik but left amidst the controversy involving possible NCAA sanctions and the departure of Chizik. If Auburn is levied with sanctions, Westerman could be in the clear to start in 2013 for the Devils.

Recently, Tremblay decommitted from Arizona State and Coach Graham went out and recruited 3-star defensive end Jack Powers to come over to the offensive side of the ball. If Westerman is cleared to play for the Devils, the offensive line recruiting class could be considered filled, but as it stands right now, the only new recruits brought in are Powers and Kelly, with Kelly playing center.

What is perhaps more troubling is that the Devils aren’t in the hunt for any additional help on the line, so it looks as if they are putting their hopes on Westerman playing or they feel that veterans Vi Teofilo and Sil Ajawara will be immediate plugs on the right side of the line.

Priority pending. 

ASU vs. UCLA Start Time, TV Info, Preview and More

herb

Christian Petersen-Getty Images

The Arizona State basketball team is prepping for yet another Saturday afternoon showdown with a familiar conference foe.

Fresh off a 98-93 overtime victory over the USC Trojans, the Sun Devils (15-4, 4-2Pac-12) are prepping for a big-time challenge from the UCLA Bruins (16-4, 6-1 Pac-12).

The Bruins have taken their fans on quite the roller coaster ride this season and nobody is sure which team will show up on Saturday; Coach Herb Sendek and Sun Devil Nation hope that it is the one that lost to Cal Poly in late November.

The Bruins took down the No. 6 Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night with little problem. If you believe in the associative property of mathematics, this means that the Bruins are going to destroy the Sun Devils.

Thankfully, this isn’t math—this is sports. Any given team on any given day can win if all the pieces fall properly into place.

The Details

  • Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz.
  • When: Saturday, Jan. 26 at 2 p.m. ET
  • Watch: FOX Sports Net
  • Listen: 620-AM in the metro Phoenix area, Sirius 94/XM 190 

The Competition

evan uscTraditionally, this has been a lopsided series with the Bruins winning 13 of the last 16 meetings. The Devils have lost four straight to the Bruins but took three of the previous four when James Harden was on the roster.

This is a much different team than the Sun Devils remember, different as in better. The Bruins only compiled 19 wins last season and did not participate in an any postseason tournaments. With 16 wins in their first 20 games, the Bruins could finish the regular season with 27 wins—incredible.

The Bruins lead the conference with 78 points per game and are tied with Saint Mary’s College for No. 18 in the nation. They also lead the conference in field goal percentage and assists.

Freshman phenom Shabazz Muhammad leads the conference in three-point shooting at 47 percent and is fourth in scoring, averaging 18.2 points per game.

Point guard Larry Drew II leads the conference in assists and is No. 3 in the country averaging an incredible 8.2 dimes per game.

The Devil’s in the Stats

Arizona State is averaging 73 points per game, No. 5 in the Pac-12. They are also hitting 46 percent of their field goals, good enough for No. 2 in the conference—with UCLA at the top. They lead the conference by a large margin and are No. 4 in the nation with 7.26 blocks per game.

jahiiFreshman sensation Jahii Carson leads the team in scoring with 17.5 points per game, one spot behind Muhammad in the conference in the No. 5 spot. He also leads the team in assists and is No. 2 in the conference with 5.3 per game, behind another Bruin, Larry Drew II. He also leads the team in minutes and free throw percentage.

Senior swingman Carrick Felix had a tough game against Arizona on Saturday but returned to form on Thursday night. He also leads the team in three-point percentage, steals and rebounds with 8.1 per game. He is the only player in the Pac-12 that is in the top 10 in five different categories (scoring, rebounds, field goal percentage, steals and blocks).

Big man Jordan Bachynski’s 59 percent field goal percentage leads the team as does his 80 total blocks or 4.21 per game. This astounding number leads the conference and is No. 3 in the country. He is a master clean-up artist with a team-leading 47 offensive rebounds keeping the ball in play for the Sun Devils.

The Prediction

This is going to be a tough game for the Sun Devils, and they will need to come out strong at the outset of the game. With backup point guard Chris Colvin still believed to be riding the pine on Saturday, it will extremely important for shooting guard Evan Gordon to continue his hot streak. Reserve guard Bo Barnes will also need to step up and fill in at the shooting guard spot when Gordon spells Carson.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Defense will need to be the highest priority for Sendek and crew as we saw how Shabazz Muhammad and company carved up the Wildcats on Thursday night. The Sun Devils can run a fast-paced high-octane game without having to live and/or die by the three-point basket.

If the Sun Devils can get off to a good start and not have to spend the game playing catch-up with the Bruins, they have all the components to win this game; it just depends on if they fall perfectly into place.

UCLA 82, Arizona State 76

Where the Sun Devils’ Recruiting Fits in the Pac-12

pac-12 NSD

Christian Petersen-Getty Images

The Pac-12 is alive and kicking on the recruiting trail.

With National Signing Day rapidly approaching on Feb. 6, the country’s top recruits are lining up to commit to their schools of choice. As expected, the SEC is leading the way with nine 5-star recruits and 28 of the Top 100, according to Scout.com.

With the announcement of two of the country’s top recruits committing to UCLA on Wednesday in Tahaan Goodman and Priest Willis, the Pac-12 is in a solid second place with eight 5-star recruits and 20 of the Top 100.

But where are the Sun Devils? Where do they rank with such talent as Chans Cox, Viliami Latu and Joshua Dobbs? It will take a couple years before Arizona State starts pulling in the top talent, but I can see it coming, trust me.

In the meantime, here is a look at where the Sun Devils fit within the scope of Pac-12 recruiting.

After tumultuous endings for both L.A. schools in 2013, the two have done well to keep the past in the past and focus solely on the future. They top the conference with the best classes, and here is the rundown of how all of the schools are doing in the all-important recruiting game.

1. UCLA Bruins

1023121104tlb PNI1026-spt hsmainThe team’s only 5-star recruit, Priest Willis, hails from UCLA’s chief out-of-state rival—Tempe, Ariz., home of Arizona State University.

The Tempe native spurned his hometown team to join Rancho Cucamonga’s Tahaan Goodman, Tyler Foreman from Encino and Fresno’s Johnny Johnson in what looks to be a strong secondary. All four players are ranked in the top 10 at their positions nationally.

UCLA’s defense gave up an average of 27.6 points per game last season and was tied for sixth in the Pac-12 with 15 interceptions.

The Bruins have also received “soft verbal” commitments from five additional 4-star recruits, including the country’s No. 4 outside linebacker in Myles Jack (6’3″, 230 lbs) out of Bellevue, Wash.

The Bruins have a total of five players in the Top 100, with 16 4-star recruits and six 3-star recruits.

2. USC Trojans

Although the Trojans’ 2013 class is relatively small with only 10 commits and three “soft verbals,” they are obviously more concerned with quality over quantity.

All of the recruits come with either four or five stars next to their name, and nine players are from the Top 100.

Their six 5-star recruits are the most of any team in the country and more than all but two conferences’ combined totals. Among their ranks is the country’s No. 1 safety, Su’a Cravens (pictured) from Murrieta, Calif., and the No. 1 quarterback in Max Browne from Sammamish, Wash.

Other notable recruits are the country’s No. 2 cornerback, Jalen Ramsey from Brentwood, Tenn., the No. 2 defensive tackle, Kenny Bigelow from Elkton, Md., and a pair of running backs; Justin Davis from Stockton, Calif., and Ty Isaac from Joliet, Ill., ranked No. 6 and No. 7, respectively.

3. Washington Huskies

TroyWilliamsThe Huskies come in third in the Pac-12 with a good-looking class, including three players from the Top 100. Their class of 21 includes nine 4-star and 11 3-star recruits. They have nabbed the nation’s No. 10 quarterback in Troy Williams (pictured) of Harbor City, Calif., along with the nation’s No. 3 center and No. 5 kicker.

They also have a soft verbal commitment from ex-Texas Longhorns commit Daeshon Hall from Lancaster, Texas. Hall, the No. 6 defensive end in the country, would be a great addition to Steve Sarkisian’s 2013 class. Other standouts for the Huskies include 4-star Demorea Stringfellow, the No. 11 wide receiver in the country, and 4-star Elijah Qualls, the nation’s No. 11 defensive tackle.

4. California Golden Bears

Four-star quarterback Jared Goff from Kentfield, Calif., leads Cal’s impressive class of 25 recruits. A total of four 4-star recruits and a conference-leading 18 3-star recruits will be making their way to Berkeley as it stands today.

Other standouts for the Bears include 4-star Cameron Hunt from Corona, Calif., the No. 15 offensive guard in the country, and the No. 2 kicker in the country, Matt Anderson from Danville, Calif.

Two more 4-star California natives are headed to Cal in running back Khalfani Muhammad from Sherman Oaks and defensive back Darius Allensworth from Romoland.

5. Arizona Wildcats 

anuRich Rodriguez has done well in recruiting this year, even after seeing his team fall apart toward the end of the 2012 season.

Four-star quarterback Anu Solomon is the 35th-ranked quarterback in the country by Scout.com but comes in as the No. 2 QB in the country according to Rivals.com, as well as a Top 100 recruit.

Solomon is joined by other top recruits Logan Stott, the No. 14 offensive guard from St. George, Utah; Derek Babiash, the No. 25 cornerback from Poway, Calif., and Pierre Cormier, the No. 29 running back from San Diego.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils

The Sun Devils are going big on defense with the 2013 class.

They are the only school in the Pac-12 with more defensive commits than offense and also have the highest amount of junior college transfers in the conference.

The Devils secured Arizona’s No. 3 player and the nation’s No. 13 middle linebacker, Chans Cox (pictured). He also played fullback in high school and is ranked as the No. 1 fullback in the nation.

Other top-ranked recruits headed to Tempe are 4-star quarterback Joshua Dobbs, the No. 12 quarterback in the country from Alpharetta, Ga., 4-star linebacker Viliami Latu from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and 4-star defensive end Marcus Hardison from Dodge City Community College in Kansas.

7. Oregon Ducks – Thirteen total recruits, including 5-star running back Thomas Tyner and six 4-star recruits. Who knows which ones will stay now that Chip Kelly has bolted for the NFL.

8. Stanford Cardinal –  Another small class of only 12 so far, but there are four 4-star recruits, including two of the top 10 middle linebackers in the country in Peter Kalambayi and Kevin Palma.

9. Oregon State Beavers – A good-sized class of 21 recruits, including 4-star cornerback Dashon Hunt from Westlake Village, Calif., and the No. 21 offensive guard in the nation in Sean Harlow from San Clemente.

10. Utah Utes – The largest class in the Pac-12 so far with 28 commits, including 4-star JUCO transfer wide receiver Andre Lewis. The Utes also wrangled 16 3-star recruits.

11. Washington State Cougars – The Cougars scored a big-time commit in 4-star quarterback Tyler Bruggman from Phoenix, Ariz. The Cougars also nabbed 12 3-star recruits.

12. Colorado Buffaloes – How do you sell a team that had one win all year long and finished 100-plus in all four major categories: rushing, passing, rush defense, pass defense? They have 15 total recruits, and seven of them are 3-star.

Pac-12 MBBThere are less than two weeks left until National Signing Day, and there are still 11 players in the Top 50 and 22 total in the Top 100 who are undecided. The big names like Robert Nkemdiche, Reuben Foster and A’Shawn Robinson will most likely stay in the SEC, but watch out for the Pac-12.

The conference is making a serious run at the big boys and has already left power conferences, like the Big Ten and the Big 12, in its rear-view mirror.

Report Card Grades for the Wildcats’ Loss to UCLA

Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

The Arizona Wildcats basketball team likes living close to the edge.

The excitement is so much more palpable when the Cardiac Cats bring the team back to life after so many have written them off—time and time again.

They weren’t so lucky on Thursday night.

The No. 6 Wildcats (16-2, 4-2 Pac-12) started off with a 1-0 lead yet never led the rest of the game. It wasn’t until four minutes later that they scored their first field goal and another four minutes until they scored their second. By that point, the UCLA Bruins had opened up a huge 21-5 lead.

Arizona would pull within five but trailed by 10 going into the intermission. The second half saw many swings by both teams, with the Bruins going up by as many as 15 and the ‘Cats pulling within four.

There were no late-game heroics this time for the Wildcats as they hit only 1-of-7 from beyond the arc in the final 2:22 and turned it over twice before falling 73-84.

Here is the analysis of where the breakdown came into play for Coach Miller and the ‘Cats.

Nick Johnson

nickJNick Johnson had a nice game finishing with 23 points, but like all Wildcats on Thursday night, he struggled from the field hitting only 9-of-19 and an abysmal 1-of-5 from three-point land.

Johnson was a perfect 4-of-4 from the line, and the Wildcats fared well from the line, hitting 75 percent.

He added five rebounds, two assists and two steals while only committing one turnover, so all in all, not a bad game for Johnson.

Grade: B+ 

Solomon Hill

Solomon Hill is the heartbeat of this Wildcats team, and it showed Thursday night when he played all but three minutes. Hill leads the team averaging 32.3 minutes, but Coach Miller only rested him sparingly throughout the game as his leadership was needed on the court.

Hill finished with a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards. His field-goal percentage of 50 percent was tops on the team, but his 1-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc was a far cry from his team-leading 42 percent.

He committed four turnovers, with two coming in the final minute of the game.

Grade: B-

Brandon Ashley

ashleyBrandon Ashley once again proved that he was the best freshman on the court for the Wildcats, although he also showed that there are areas needed for improvement.

Ashley fared well on defense grabbing eight rebounds and two steals, but defense for the Wildcats was all but non-existent against this Bruins team on Thursday night.

He tallied nine points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field but unfortunately had the same numbers from the line. Fifty percent shooting from the field is acceptable. Fifty percent from the line is abhorrent.

Grade: C+

Kevin Parrom

Once again, Kevin Parrom came into Thursday night’s game ready to provide that spark from the bench to ignite the Wildcats. He came in after the first media timeout and drew a quick foul.

He finished the game with six points on 2-of-7 shooting and was 3-of-4 from the charity stripe. Parrom, like the rest of the Wildcats, couldn’t find his range, missing all three shots that he took from three-point territory.

He did, however, lead the team in assists with four and added to what little defense Arizona showed with six rebounds, a block and a steal.

Grade: C 

Grant Jerrett

GJerrettGrant Jerrett played well above his average of 18 minutes on Thursday night with 24 minutes in the game, including the final two minutes of crunch time.

He finished the game with 10 rebounds, six defensive, but that was his only high point. The 6’10” forward and sometime center had zero blocks and zero steals.

His range was also off the mark, hitting only basket from the field and one from beyond the arc to finish with five points.

Grade: C

Mark Lyons

Mark Lyons had arguably the worst game of his Wildcat career on Thursday night.

Although he finished with 16 points in 33 minutes, he just couldn’t get his shots to fall. His 35 percent shooting from the field included an abysmal 2-of-7 from beyond the arc including two misses in the final minutes before he fouled out.

The real story of this game was the number of assists the point guard tallied on the night—zero. Yes, you read that right, the point guard had zero assists. In fact, the entire team only had 10 assists on the night, UCLA’s point guard, Larry Drew II had nine by himself.

Lyons bettered his average in one area— turnovers. He was averaging 2.88 turnovers per game, he had five on Thursday night.

Grade: D

Kaleb Tarczewski

Zeus started at center in both halves and really didn’t do much of anything in the game.

The 7’0″ freshman looked overwhelmed and outmatched whenever he took the court. He did finish the game with two blocks, but when the center grabs only one rebound in the game, there is a problem.

Granted, he only played 15 minutes in the game, giving way to fellow freshman Jerrett, but come on, one rebound?

I have talked about the other players missing on their range, but Zeus’ range was right under the basket, and he missed both gimmes that he took.

Grade: F

Overall

Sloppy play, bad defense and poor execution of plays led to a disappointing performance all around.

az millerCoach Miller had this to say in the postgame press conference:

We ran into a really good team tonight. No excuses.… Did we miss a few shots early that we normally make? Yes. But they did a lot of things throughout that game that caused us problems, and we have to learn from it.

He went on to say:

It was hard for us to adjust once we got down that big, and to me, we played a style that just isn’t going to work against a team that’s good. We needed much more poise, much better execution, much better passing. From a defensive perspective, we had no answer for them.

What makes Thursday night’s loss any different than the prior games when the ‘Cats put in into overdrive and finished strong? We may never know the answer to that.

Grade: C

catsThe key to moving forward is having a very short memory. Block out the game and focus on the next task at hand. Arizona welcomes the USC Trojans to McKale Center on Saturday night. Although the Trojans are a measly 8-12 and 3-4 in the conference, they put on quite a show in Tempe on Thursday night.

The Trojans hit on all cylinders and showed incredible range from downtown, shooting 54 percent from beyond the arc, including three super shots in the final 22 seconds to force overtime. That type of finish is akin to the game the Wildcats have played all year.

If the Wildcats are to beat the scrappy Trojan team, they cannot live so close to the edge as is their M.O. They need to score early and often and get back to the defense that they showed last weekend against the Sun Devils.

Sun Devils Football National Signing Day Wish List

Ron Chenoy-USA Today Sports

Ron Chenoy-USA Today Sports

Arizona State Football had a tough day on Wednesday.

Coach Todd Graham had his sights set on two phenomenal defensive backs, two men that he felt he had a good shot to sign. Unfortunately, both Tahaan Goodman and Priest Willis committed to UCLA.

Goodman, a four-star recruit by Scout.com played high school ball at Rancho Cucamonga High School, an hour west of UCLA.

Goodman played at the same high school as twins Viliami and A.J. Latu, who both committed to Arizona State back in October. Apparently, that wasn’t enough for Goodman to leave Los Angeles.

It seemed that as anxious as Goodman was to stay home, Tempe native Priest Willis couldn’t wait to leave his hometown. The top-ranked recruit in Arizona once again left the state to play elsewhere.

The five-star Willis announced Wednesday night in front of hundreds gathered at his high school gym and more watching an online stream that he was committing to UCLA.

While this one-two punch was tough for a blossoming Arizona State football program, there are still plenty of attractive players on the wish list for the Sun Devils.

Devon Allen

  • DevonPosition: Wide Receiver
  • Size: 6’1″, 190 pounds
  • Hometown: Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Rivals.com Rank: 4-star, No. 36 WR in nation
  • Scout.com Rank: 5-star, No. 16 WR in nation

A super quick receiver with great hands from exclusive Brophy College Prep in downtown Phoenix. He is also a state champion track star in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles.

Allen is widely sought after for his speed and ability to leap over corners and safeties that are looking to go low on him. He has received numerous offers, but Allen has only made visits to Oregon, Stanford and UCLA.

Allen has an official visit scheduled with Arkansas on Feb. 1st to meet with football coach Bret Bielema and track coach Chris Bucknam.

L.J. Moore

  • Position: Corner Back
  • Size: 6’1″, 175 pounds
  • Hometown: Fresno, Calif.
  • Rivals.com Rank: 4-star, No. 17 CB in nation
  • Scout.com Rank: 4-star, No. 24 CB in nation

Fresh off his visit last weekend to Arizona State, L.J. Moore would be a nice addition to the secondary now that Willis and Goodman are going to be in Westwood.

The Fresno native still has an official visit planned to Cal this weekend, but it is believed that Moore has narrowed his choices to Oregon State and Arizona State.

Jamel James

  • jamelPosition: Running Back
  • Size: 6’0″, 215 pounds
  • Hometown: Katy, Texas
  • Rivals.com Rank: 3-star, No. 97 RB in nation
  • Scout.com Rank: 3-star, No. 43 RB in nation

The former Notre Dame commit from Cinco Ranch HS in Katy, Texas is a big bruising running back that will fit in wonderfully well in the Sun Devil backfield with fellow Houstoner Marion Grice and also D.J. Foster.

His 4.45-second time in the 40-yard dash is incredible due to his size. Since decommitting from Notre Dame, James has received several offers but has only made one visit—to Tempe and the Sun Devils.

Fellow Pac-12 schools USC and Washington are pushing for him as well as national powerhouses FSU, LSU and Arkansas.

Marcus Ball

  • Position: Athlete
  • Size: 6’3″, 205 pounds
  • Hometown: Westerville, Ohio
  • Rivals.com Rank: 3-star, No. 24 ATH in nation
  • Scout.com Rank: 3-star, No. 47 ATH in nation

The brother of Wisconsin’s Montee Ball gave a soft verbal commitment to Bret Bielema and the Badgers in mid-November. Since then, Bielema left Wisconsin and Ball has visited Michigan, Michigan State and most recently Arizona State.

Damarious Randall

  • RandallPosition: Corner Back
  • Size: 6’1″, 185 pounds
  • Hometown: Mesa, Ariz.
  • Rivals.com Rank: 3-star
  • Scout.com Rank: 2-star

Although not as vaunted as 5-star DB Priest Willis, Damarious Randall has a year of experience at the junior college level and performed extremely well.

A short trip from Tempe and Arizona State is Mesa Community College where Randall put on a display of explosiveness in the secondary. Randall was a first team NJCAA All-American and Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

He also excelled in punt returns averaging 19.5 yards per return and garnered two first team selections for his role as a defensive back and returner.

It would be great to see Randall and Moore to commit together like Goodman and Willis. Randall and Moore had a conversation via Twitter on Tuesday and on Wednesday, he stated that he had made his decision.

Recap

Graham RecruitsCoach Todd Graham has done a great job with recruiting with only one year under his belt.

I have said it time and again, but it still rings true. There is a new attitude of discipline, honor and accountability in Tempe and things are looking up. But, Rome wasn’t built overnight.

UCLA has won the Pac-12 South the past two years in a row and it is truly a magnificent school. What the Devils need to do is start off strong and continually build towards greatness and the recruits will come, or stay, for that matter.

Here is the list of the top 10 commits with Scout.com Rankings:

  • 4-star Linebacker Chans Cox
    • 6’3″, 230, No. 1 in position
  • 4-star Quarterback Joshua Dobbs
    • 6’3″, 190, No. 12 in position
  • 3-star Linebacker Viliami Latu
  • 3-star Defensive End Marcus Hardison
  • 3-star Linebacker Antonio Longino
    • 6’3″, 230, No. 32 in JuCo Rankings
  • 3-star Wide Receiver Jaelen Strong
    • 6’4″, 205, No. 49 in JuCo Rankings
  • 3-star Cornerback William Earley
    • 6’2″, 190, No. 37 in position
  • 3-star Tight End Grant Martinez
    • 6’5″, 210, No. 48 in position
  • 3-star Safety Jayme Otomewo
    • 6’2″, 190, No. 51 in position
  • 3-star Receiver Ellis Jefferson
    • 6’4″, 200, No. 82 in position

The total for Graham and the Sun Devils is up to 24 recruits with a total of two four-star and 16 three-star recruits. Hopefully, we can add some more to the four-star column come National Signing Day.

Arizona Basketball: Will Weak Pac-12 Doom Wildcats in NCAA Tournament?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats played one game in the past week and won it in convincing fashion. They traveled to Tempe to take on their in-state rival Arizona State Sun Devils and played some of the best defense that I have seen this year.

The Wildcats moved up one spot in both polls to No. 6 but are still behind a two-loss Louisville team. This begs the question: “Will the ‘Cats get a chance to move up in the rankings since the Pac-12 Conference is nowhere near as strong as the rest of the country?”

Arizona will be host to the UCLA Bruins on Thursday night, who had won 10 straight games and was ranked at No. 24. The Bruins’ nine-point loss to the Oregon Ducks at home on Saturday undid all the hard work of the past six weeks and all the talk of a resurgent Bruins team has stopped.

The Bruins (15-4, 5-1 Pac-12) are a half-game ahead of the Wildcats in the conference and are a big underdog heading to Tucson. If the Wildcats win this game as predicted, their remaining schedule looks to be a cakewalk.

The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 2 in the RPI with a 5-1 record against the RPI Top 50. Other than two games against UCLA and one at Colorado, the Wildcats don’t face any other teams in the Top 50. The remaining teams on the Wildcats’ schedule, excluding Arizona State (whom they recently exerted their dominance upon), either have a losing conference record or overall losing record.

miller

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Come March, the selection committee does not look kindly on teams, through no fault of their own, that play soft schedules. No. 1 Duke also has a less-than-competitive schedule remaining but still has to face a North Carolina State team that handed the Blue Devils their first loss on Jan. 12. The true surprise of the ACC this season is the Miami Hurricanes (13-3, 4-0 ACC) who are ranked for the first time at No. 25.

Michigan, Kansas, Syracuse, Louisville, Florida and Indiana all have tough schedules ahead of them and could move up in the RPI and polls with big wins, while Arizona plays the likes of 8-11 USC and 9-9 Utah.

In looking at the AP Poll, the Big Ten has the most teams represented in the Top 25 with five, the Big East has four while the ACC and the SEC have three teams each.

The SEC—in basketball? What used to be a University of Florida-only conference now has a 13-4 Missouri team and a 15-2 Mississippi to contend with.

Even more surprising than the SEC in basketball is the Miami Hurricanes with the No. 1 strength of schedule ranking and a No. 4 RPI ranking going 7-2 against the RPI Top 100. It seems that LeBron James isn’t the only one that has taken their talents to South Beach.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

But back to the Wildcats, they have played amazingly well up to this point with only one small blemish on their record. The 70-66 loss at Oregon on Jan. 10 was a tough loss for the ‘Cats, but it also served it purpose. Coach Miller and his squad are no longer worried about if they can remain undefeated. If they hadn’t lost that game, they would undoubtedly be ranked No. 1 in both polls and the pressure would be immense.

The only thing left to worry about now is playing well and coming together as a more cohesive unit as they approach the Pac-12 Conference Tournament and the NCAA tournament. As long as they focus on winning and getting better, where they end up in the tournament is out of their control.

Will they get a No.1 seed? It’s not looking good right now, but who knows what the future will bring for Coach Miller and company? Stranger things have happened.