Category: Sports

World Golf Championships Quarterfinals has Big Names Absent

RickieAmerican golfer Rickie Fowler wasn’t the only player to find himself in a “sticky” situation on Friday. Several PGA veterans and top-seeded golfers found the Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz. to be difficult in the Sweet 16 matchups.

Of the top 12 seeded players beginning play on Wednesday, only two remain—No. 2 seed Jason Day and No. 3 seed Jordan Spieth.

A third round of upset-laden matches were par for the course on Friday as we bid adieu to two No. 2 seeds, a No. 3 seed and a No. 4 seed—all to higher seeded players. Of the remaining eight golfers, three were considered underdogs receiving a seeding of eight or higher.

 

Rickie Fowler Is Unstoppable

 

One of the more stylishly flamboyant golfers on the PGA Tour, who never fails to bring it with his fashion sense hasn’t brought it when it comes to his golfing.

Fowler’s last and only PGA tour victory was the Wells Fargo Championship in May 2012. His highest finish in a major was tied for fifth in the Open Championship in 2011. Fowler recently finished tied for 10th in last year’s U.S. Open.

So, forgive the powers that be who seeded Fowler at No. 14.

Fowler has shown that he is for real in Marana. He has taken down three of the top 25 golfers in the world, according to Official World Golf Rankings, coming in at No. 56, down three spots from last week.

No.2 seed Sergio Garcia, who was leading 2-up on the front nine, conceded a putt on the seventh hole, in essence, handing the entire match to Fowler. The American would go on to win on the final hole with a birdie while Garcia parred.

After going down three skins through eight holes, Fowler knew what he had to do but would his actions speak louder than words down the stretch?

I would say so.

Fowler birdied holes nine and 10 to bring the deficit back to one and he kept it close with five straight halving holes through 15, including a birdie on 11 as well as a bogey on 14. Fowler finally tied it up with a birdie on the short 16th hole and won it all with a closing birdie on 18.

Fowler’s Saturday opponent will be crowd favorite, University of Arizona alum, Jim Furyk.

8 Is Great in This State

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Ernie Els Out of the Trap
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Two No. 8 seeds, both from South Africa and both intricately intertwined with the other, could meet in the semifinals on Sunday. Both golfers defeated a lower-seeded player on Friday, hot on the heels of knocking out their bracket’s top-seed golfer on Thursday.

Louis Oosthuizen made quick work of No. 5 seed Webb Simpson 5 and 4. Simpson birdied on the fifth hole to take a 1-up lead, but it was his last birdie and last lead of the tournament. Ooosthuizen would win the next three holes and six of the next eight, eventually taking the victory after the 14th hole.

Ernie Els’ journey would take a little longer than 14 holes, but he was surely happy to win on Friday in regulation after needing playoff holes in his previous two matches.

No. 4 seed Jason Dufner took an early 2-up lead after three holes but his bogeys on the fifth and sixth holes brought the golfers back to even. Els would take a 2-up lead of his own after 12 holes before returning to even after 17. Els’ clutch birdie putt on 18 secured a victory—in regulation for the South African veteran.

Oosthuizen will face No. 2 seed Jason Day for the Bobby Jones championship, while Els will take on No. 3 seed Jordan Spieth for supremacy in the Gary Player bracket.

Hometown (Sort Of) Hero Making Good Back in Tucson

Jim Furyk with Heroes' Welcome Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Jim Furyk with Heroes’ Welcome
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The 43-year-old from West Chester, Penn., now makes his residence in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., but he lived in Tucson from 1988 to 1992 attending the University of Arizona. Furyk was a two-time All-American at Arizona and led the Wildcats to the lone NCAA title in 1992.

Chants of “U of A” could be heard across the course by lubricated Tucsonans showing their pride and at the same time, their age.

Furyk struggled mightily to begin Friday’s match, dropping two of the first three to Harris English. Furyk found himself 3-down after six holes but would eventually right the ship, knocking in birdies at seven and 12. Coupled with English’s bogey on 10, the golfers were all square moving to the 13th hole.

A back-and-forth lead change on holes 14 through 16 provided great entertainment for the crowd but when Furyk matched birdies on 17, the crowd went wild. He would maintain the 1-up advantage through 18 to claim victory.

A daunting task for Furyk lies ahead in taking on Rickie Fowler for the Ben Hogan championship on Saturday.

Graeme McDowell Shows His Staying Power

 

No. 4 seed Graeme McDowell and No. 8 seed Hunter Mahan were not the last golfers to tee off on Friday, but they were the last to finish. A marathon 21-hole match was sealed on McDowell’s birdie on the third playoff hole.

Mahan won the first two holes but McDowell evened things back up after five holes were completed, and it was a dogfight from there for the next five holes before Mahan birdied 11 to take the 1-up lead. A rollercoaster ride was in store for Mahan hitting a double-bogey on 14 followed by consecutive birdies.

McDowell needed to take the final two holes to send it to a playoff and Mahan helped with a bogey on 17, but the glory was all McDowell’s when he birdied 18. The golfers halved the first two playoff holes before McDowell sank the birdie on the third hole, claiming the victory.

Facing McDowell in the Sam Snead championship bracket will be No. 7 seed Victor Dubuisson.

The Frenchman Defeats the Good ‘Ol Boy

Watson and Dubuisson Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Watson and Dubuisson
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

George Lester Watson, Jr., otherwise known as “Bubba,” the good ‘ol boy from the “Redneck Riviera” couldn’t catch a break on Friday in Marana.

Victor Dubuisson took an early 2-up lead after as many holes and never looked back. Watson did his best to keep it close, winning five skins, but Dubuisson never relinquished the lead and won 1-up after 18.

When it seemed that Dubuisson was ready to finish off Watson after taking a 3-up lead after 14, Watson responded with birdies on 15 and 17. Watson needed the skin on 18 to bring the golfers even but ended up with a par giving Dubuisson the only wire-to-wire victory of the day.

The Sam Snead bracket will set the Frenchman, Dubuisson against Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.

3 Top Seeds Fall on Day 2 of World Golf Championship

Rory 2

It was another gorgeous southern Arizona day at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain with temperatures nearing the 80-degree mark without going over. The atmosphere in the hospitality tents was raucous but nowhere near that of the “other” PGA golf tournament held in Scottsdale annually on Super Bowl weekend.

The beautiful weather must have convinced the top-seeded players that they would rather be enjoying the lavish confines of the neighboring Ritz-Carlton resort as opposed to playing on its course. The three remaining No. 1 seeds were shown the door Thursday, leaving three No. 2 seeds and two No. 3 seeds as the highest-seeded players heading into Friday’s final eight matches.

No. 8 Seed Louis Oosthuizen Defeats No.1 Seed Henrik Stenson

 

South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 35th ranked golfer in the world according to Official World Golf Ranking, has been having a great time in the southern Arizona desert.

He defeated No. 9 seed Nick Watney 1-up on Wednesday and was rewarded with the task of facing No. 1 seed Henrik Stenson, Sweden’s top golfer and the No. 3 golfer in the world—ahead of Phil Mickelson.

Oosthuizen showed no signs of awe or astonishment and took a quick 3-up advantage after the first four holes. Stenson would birdie six and pull back to within one stroke but the two went on a five-hole par streak leaving Oosthuizen up two after the 11th hole.

Stenson went on to bogey 12 and both golfers birdied 13 then bogeyed 14 to keep Oosthuizen 3-up. Oosthuizen’s birdie on 15 coupled with Stenson’s par ended the day for Stenson.

Oosthuizen will face No. 5 seed Webb Simpson on Friday at 1:43 p.m. ET.

No. 8 Seed Ernie Els Defeats No. 1 Seed Justin Rose

Els

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Ernie Els, another South African golfer, who actually financially supported fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen through his foundation, advanced a step farther on Thursday.

“The Big Easy” has won four major championships; twice at the U.S. Open and twice at the Open Championship, as recently as 2012. Els has had an extremely successful 20-year career dating back to his 1994 PGA Rookie of the Year nod.

Els is one spot above Oosthuizen in the World Golf Rankings at No. 34 and is making his presence known in Marana after convincing victories over Stephen Gallacher and a 20-hole triumph over No. 1 seed Justin Rose.

Els looked like he was going to pull away early after going 2-up through four holes but bogeys on five and seven brought them back to all square, where they stayed over the next four holes. Rose took a 1-up lead when Els bogeyed 12 but a birdie on 15 evened the score again.

The back-and-forth continued over the next two holes and the golfers were all square after the regulation 18 holes.

A birdie on the second playoff hole secured the upset for Els and he will face No. 4 seed Jason Dufner on Friday at 2:07 p.m. ET.

No. 9 Seed Harris English Defeats No. 1 Seed Rory McIlroy

 

The 24-year-old Valdosta, Ga., native won two PGA Tour events in 2013, the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November and the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June, besting Phil Mickelson.

English is ranked No. 39 in the Official World Golf Rankings and defeated PGA veteran Lee Westwood on Wednesday 5 and 3 before knocking off tournament favorite McIlroy 1-up on Thursday.

English had a two-stroke lead twice on Thursday after holes 11 and 13, but McIlroy proved why he was the favorite winning holes 14 through 16. English’s par on 17 brought the golfers back to even and McIlroy apparently folded under the pressure with a double-bogey on the first playoff hole.

English will face local favorite, University of Arizona alum, Jim Furyk in the first group on Friday, teeing off at 12:55 p.m. ET.

No. 14 Seed Rickie Fowler Defeats No. 6 Seed Jimmy Walker

Allen Henry-USA Today Sports

Allen Henry-USA Today Sports

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Rickie Fowler wasn’t expected to play well this weekend, he was supposed to take an early exit against Match play expert Ian Poulter. Yet, here he is, with two straight victories heading into the Sweet 16.

Fowler needed all 18 holes to dispatch of Walker but dispatch of him, he did.

The golfers see-sawed through the first six holes and no clear leader was apparent until Walker took the 1-up lead on the ninth hole. The score stayed the same for the next four holes until Fowler birdied on 14 to square it up.

Cue the see-saw again.

Walker went 1-up after 15 and Fowler took the next two skins to take a 1-up lead into the final hole where both golfers parred and Fowler emerged victorious.

Friday brings another match that Fowler is “supposed to” lose—facing the No. 2 seed, eighth-ranked player in the world, Sergio Garcia. The pair will tee off at 1:07 p.m. ET.

Remaining Sweet 16 Matchups

 

There were other matches on Thursday where the lower seed won but not by any large margin to be considered an upset. The highest seed still remaining in the Sweet 16 is No. 14 seed George Coetzee who defeated No. 11 seed Patrick Reed 1-up after 21 holes.

Coetzee upset Steve Stricker on Wednesday, and he will once again have his work cut out for him on Friday when he faces No. 2 seed Jason Day at 1:55 p.m. ET.

A battle of USWG top 15 golfers face off in the final pairing of the day when No. 2 seed, Matt Kuchar (No. 10 USWG) takes on No. 3 seed Jordan Speith (No. 13 USWG) at 2:19 p.m. ET.

Another balanced pairing to watch at 1:19 p.m. ET is No. 4 seed Graeme McDowell taking on No. 8 seed Hunter Mahan. Both are respected veterans on the PGA Tour that have been the model of consistency in Marana over the past two days.

Directly following Mahan and McDowell at 1:31 p.m. ET is everyone’s favorite Bubba—Watson will be looking to limit upstart Victor Dubuisson.

World Golf Championships Match Play Sees Several 1st-Day Upsets

Rory

The World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play began in Marana, Ariz., Wednesday morning to gray, overcast skies.

The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, 30 miles northwest of downtown Tucson, is a fickle course, not because of tricky pin placements or desert landscape—but because of the weather. The field was welcomed to overcast skies that burned off as the morning wore on en route to a beautiful 80-degree day.

A stark contrast to the 30-degree temperatures and snow—yes, snow—in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains in 2013.

Even with the near-perfect conditions and temperatures, the event saw some of the tournament’s top names go down on the first day and many more double-digit seeds advance.

 

No. 16 Seed Richard Sterne Defeats No. 1 Seed Zach Johnson

Zach Johnson, the 37-year-old Iowa native, entered the World Golf Championship as a top seed, but in the end, he just had a bad day. Johnson took an early 1-up lead after a birdie on the second hole, but he would never increase it.

Three birdies in four holes by Richard Sterne built a sizable lead from which Johnson could not recover. Johnson gained a point back on 10, but Sterne came roaring back to once again birdie on three of the next four holes.

Sterne won 5 and 4 after 14 holes and will face Hunter Mahan on Thursday.

 

No. 15 Seed Peter Hanson Defeats No. 2 Seed Dustin Johnson

Peter Hanson Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Peter Hanson
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

It’s a good thing that they don’t call it “Keeping up with the Johnsons,” as two top-seeded golfers with the surname Johnson lost on Wednesday.

Coastal Carolina alumnus and the No. 8 golfer in the world, according to Official World Golf Ranking, Dustin Johnson, lost 4 and 3 to Peter Hanson.

Hanson birdied and took the advantage on the first hole, gaining a 2-up lead when Johnson double-bogeyed on seven. Johnson would win the 11th hole when Hanson bogeyed but then hit the skids himself with back-to-back bogeys on 13 and 14.

The match was called after 15 holes when both golfers parred the hole.

 

No. 14 Seed George Coetzee Defeats No. 3 Seed Steve Stricker

Steve Stricker has dealt with a lot in the past week.

The 50-year-old brother of the world’s No. 12 player successfully underwent liver transplant surgery last weekend, and Stricker decided to play in the tournament. He was a No. 3 seed and would most likely win the first two rounds.

So much for that line of thinking.

Stricker fell into an early hole, bogeying the first two holes and four on the front nine. When the pressure was on, Stricker responded, winning back-to-back holes on 13 and 14 before ultimately losing 3 and 1 after 17 holes.

George Coetzee will face another upset winner in 11th seed Patrick Reed on Thursday.

 

No. 14 Seed Rickie Fowler Defeats No. 3 Seed Ian Poulter

Rickie Fowler Matt York/Associated Press

Rickie Fowler
Matt York/Associated Press

Rickie Fowler, the 25-year-old from Murrieta, Calif., has been struggling as of late. He recently dropped three spots in the Official World Golf Ranking from 53 to 56 and was paired against OWGR’s 15th-ranked Ian Poulter, a daunting task for any golfer, much less a recently struggling one.

The pair was all-square through the first three holes prior to Fowler nabbing birdies on holes four, six and seven, taking a three-point advantage. Poulter struck back on the back nine, earning the skin on 11 and 14. The pair ended the match as they began it, with three straight matching pars. After 17 holes, Fowler was named the victor, 2 and 1.

Fowler faces No. 6 seed Jimmie Walker on Thursday.

 

No. 12 Seed Matteo Manassero Defeats No. 5 Seed Luke Donald

The youngest player to win a European Tour event struck early and often on Wednesday, defeating No. 5 seed Luke Donald 5 and 4.

The 20-year old phenom from Negrar, Italy broke Bobby Cole’s 1967 record as being the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters Tournament in 2010 at 16 years, 11 months and 2 days. He would turn pro a month later, competing in the BMW Italian Open and won his first title five months later in October, 2010.

It wasn’t so much that Donald had a rough day in Marana, but Manassero had a great one. Manassero birdied four of the first 10 holes while Donald bogeyed on nine and double-bogeyed on the third hole.

After four consecutive all-square holes from 11 to 14, Manassero was declared the winner and will face 4 seed Jason Dufner on Thursday.

 

No. 11 Seed Jonas Blixt Defeats No. 6 Seed Keegan Bradley

Jonas Blixt Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Jonas Blixt
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Rookie of the Year, started his career like a man on fire. He won in his major debut—the PGA Championship, no less. Since then, the 27-year-old New England golfer has only one PGA Tour win, the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Conversely, Swedish golfer Jonas Blixt’s best finish in a major is fourth in the 2013 PGA Championship to go along with two tour wins, the 2012 Frys.com Open and the 2013 Greenbrier Classic.

In one of the closer matches of the day, with four lead changes, Blixt bettered Bradley down the stretch, taking a 3-up advantage after 15 holes. Blixt pulled to all square after nailing a birdie on 11, and Bradley bogeyed the next two holes, giving a three-point swing in as many holes.

Bradley birdied on 16 to pull back within two, but when both golfers parred on hole 17, Blixt was declared the winner, 2 and 1.

Blixt will face everybody’s favorite Bubba—Bubba Watson—on Thursday.

Grading Arizona’s Sean Miller on 2013 Recruiting Trail

Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

 The other two players that Miller released are having a tough time since they left Tucson. Josiah Turner is on his third pro team in six months and Sidiki Johnson is reportedly off the team at Providence College.After the 2010-11 season when he led the Wildcats to a 30-win season and an Elite Eight performance, he was able to secure four players, three of them were ranked by Scout.com in the top ten in the country at their respective positions. Two of those players are still making solid contributions to the team in No. 7 shooting guard Nick Johnson and No. 10 power forward Angelo Chol.

This speaks volumes about Miller’s judgement of character and the Wildcats are fortunate to be rid of them.

Miller’s Wildcats went on to a miserable 2011-12 season finishing with a 23-12, 12-6 Pac-12 record and losing in the first round of the NIT to No. 8 seed Bucknell. This would not hamper Miller on the recruiting trail as he scored arguably one of the best recruiting classes in 2012.

Snagging three 5-star and one 4-star recruit, Miller had once again elevated the Wildcats program to new heights leading them to a 14-0 record and a month straight in the AP top five.

Let’s take a look at the future of Arizona Wildcats’ basketball and grade Miller’s recruiting.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

  • rondaePosition: Small Forward
  • Height: 6’7″
  • Weight: 215
  • Ranking: 5-star according to Scout.com and No. 4 SF in the country

Rondae Jefferson from Chester, Penn. is going to make an immediate impact for the Wildcats.

The five-star recruit is ranked No. 16 on the ESPN 100 as well as the top recruit out of Pennsylvania and the No. 5 small forward in the country.

Jefferson will fill in nicely for the departing Solomon Hill and might even exceed the current production of the starting forward. Jefferson has a dynamic range and can also play shooting guard as well as small forward if coach Sean Miller opts to not have him play the power forward position.

Miller told Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star that he was ecstatic about the new recruits in Jefferson, and Miller said that Jefferson is a physical player and a winner from one of the most competitive regions in the country, where he has led his team to 58-straight victories. He also said this to say of Jefferson in comparison to Hill:

He’s a warrior. He’s similar to Solomon in that he can do a lot of things. He can handle the ball, he has a chance to be a great defensive player, he’s almost 6’7″ and long, very unselfish, can pass and I think he is a player who is a great teammate. He can be at a lot of different spots. His versatility is the greatest thing that he has going for him.

Elliott Pitts

  • Position: Shooting Guard
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 190
  • Ranking: 4-star according to Scout.com and No. 20 SG in the country according to ESPN.com

Pitts is huge at the shooting guard position and has a great eye for the basket regardless of where he is. He can stop and pop from anywhere on the court or turn on a dime and drive the lane. Coach Miller said about Pitts:

The attributes that we love about him as a player is he’s a great passer, very skilled shooter and can play at more than one position.

2013 Grade

Although there is only two recruits committed to Arizona this year, it is still ranked as the No. 17 class in the country according to Scout.com.

They are once again battling a familiar foe in the UCLA Bruins who have the No. 16 class with three players, all of which are ranked in the top 100.

While the Wildcats may never reach the lofty heights of recruiting set forth by the likes of Kentucky, Duke and Kansas, they need to at least be the best in the Pac-12.

Grade: B+

Transfers

There are currently two players on the Arizona bench that are chomping at the bit to get into a game for Coach Miller and the Wildcats.

T.J. McConnell

  • mcconellPosition: Point Guard
  • Height: 6’1″
  • Weight: 190

The junior transfer student from Pittsburgh that played at Duquesne will be a great fill-in for the ‘Cats with the departure of Mark Lyons. The 2011 Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year ranked fourth nationally in steals and had the sixth-highest assist-to-turnover ratio, something that Lyons has been struggling with.

Matt Korcheck

  • Position: Power Forward
  • Height: 6’10”
  • Weight: 225

Korcheck is a local Tucson product and the first junior college student from Tucson recruited in over 30 years, so there must be something that Miller likes in this kid. The power forward position is log-jammed with three top-ranked players vying for minutes in Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Angelo Chol. It is unclear what kind of contribution Korcheck will be able to make in his two remaining years.

Grade: B-

2014 Grade

Parker Jackson-Cartwright

  • PJCPosition: Point Guard
  • Height: 5’8″
  • Weight: 150
  • Ranking: 5-star according to Scout.com and No. 30 overall recruit in the country according to ESPN.com

Jackson-Cartwright is from Los Angeles and was being heavily recruited by UCLA and Gonzaga. He visited Tucson this past weekend and committed to Coach Miller on Sunday.

Eric Cooper, Jr.

  • Position: Shooting Guard
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 160

Cooper committed to Arizona in December, 2010 alongside LaVerne Lutheran teammate Grant Jerrett. Cooper is now playing for St. Anthony High School in Los Angeles and is still as committed today as he was over two years ago.

Pulling big time recruits from the hotbed of Los Angeles is great for Miller and a definite step in the right direction. They are still considered to be in the hunt for the best player to come out of California in Aaron Gordon, but we know all too well about how crowded the team is at the power forward position.

Another big state that Miller needs to do well in is Texas. The 2014 class, according to ESPN.com has several top-ranked players coming out of Texas including the the No. 1 and No. 3 small forwards in Justise Winslow and Justin Jackson. Arizona has made offers to both juniors.

The highest-rated player out of Arizona, power forward Payton Dastrup from Mesa has received offers from eight schools including Arizona, Arizona State, BYU and Florida. A commitment from Dastrup would be huge and ensure that the best players in Arizona stay in Arizona.

Grade: A

Arizona State Football 2013 Spring Game Info

Christian Petersen-Getty Images

The Annual Maroon and Gold Spring Game is just under seven weeks away and the 16 returning Sun Devil starters are already pumped to get back on the field.

Four new players have enrolled in January and will be joining the team for spring drills. The list of new players includes three local products in freshman linebacker Chans Cox from Lakeside, as well as freshman defensive lineman Kisima Jagne and redshirt sophomore Christian Westerman, both from Chandler. Sophomore center Nick Kelly from Orangevale, Calif. rounds out the list of spring enrollees.

Spring practice will begin on Tuesday, March 19 and is scheduled for 14 more dates over the next month with the Annual Spring Game being held on Saturday, April 13 at 11 a.m. local time.

The game will be broadcast nationally on the Pac-12 Network and it doesn’t look as if there will be any deal with DirecTV prior to the game, so if you want your first look at Cox, Jagne, Westerman and Kelly, your best bet is to head down to Sun Devil Stadium for the game—it’s free to attend.

SD StadiumAll practices will be held at the Bill Kajikawa Practice Facility, unless otherwise noted, and are open to the public. Below is the scheduled practice dates and times:

  • Tuesday, March 19 – 8:30 a.m.
  • Wednesday, March 20 – 8:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, March 21 – 8:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, March 23 – 9:00 a.m. – Sun Devil Stadium
  • Tuesday, March 26 – 8:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, March 28 – 8:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, March 30 – Time TBD
  • Tuesday, April 2 – 8:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, April 4 – 8:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, March 23 – Time TBD
  • Tuesday, April 9 – 8:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, April 11 – 8:30 a.m.
  • Tuesday, April 16 – 8:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, April 18 – 8:30 a.m.

Following the Saturday, March 23 practice, Coach Graham and the team will host a Football Youth Experience Clinic at Sun Devil Stadium at 11:30 a.m. The clinic will allow the first 700 boys and girls age 8-13 to participate in skill drills with the Sun Devils coaching staff and current players.

Headlining players that are returning to the Sun Devils include Consensus All-American defensive end Will Sutton and second team All Pac-12 defensive back Alden Darby.

TK-GriceOther notable returning players include quarterback Taylor Kelly, running backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster, tight end Chris Coyle, linebacker Carl Bradford, defensive back Osahon Irabor, offensive linemen Evan Finkenberg and Jaxon Hood. Since they were good enough to be honorably mentioned by the Pac-12 Conference, they also receive mention here.

It will be exciting to see how both sides of the ball operate with the loss of the seniors and prior to the arrival of the full 2013 class. There are many things to be hopeful for in the Sun Devils’ football future, and it is safe to say that they are all due to the environment that Coach Graham has created.

Breaking Down ASU’s Wide Receivers for the 2013 Season

Doug Pensinger-Getty Images

Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly had a great 2012 season, with over 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns.

His top three targets weren’t even wide receivers, and the two leading receivers that did contribute, Rashad Ross and Jamal Miles, have graduated. This leaves a huge opening in the wide receiver position for 2013.

Head coach Todd Graham went all-out in recruiting for the open slots.

I will break down the remaining receivers and also look at the new crop of recruits at the wide receiver position. And I will spice it up with reports on the tight end and running backs out of the backfield.

Chris Coyle

  • coyleHeight: 6’3″
  • Weight: 230
  • Year: Redshirt Senior

The Sun Devils’ leading receiver in the 2012 season came out of the H-Back position in the big, strong Chris Coyle out of Westlake Village, Calif. Coyle’s father, Rick, is a retired Navy man and has taught him well about discipline and mental toughness.

2012 was Coyle’s breakout season, as he finished with 57 receptions for 696 yards and five touchdowns. His 57 receptions also broke the school record for single-season receptions by a Sun Devil tight end. The record was previously held by Seattle Seahawks stud Zach Miller.

Coyle had two multiple-touchdown games in 2012 against Washington State and Illinois. The Illinois game, in which he had 10 receptions for 131 yards, was his best performance of the year. His two touchdowns were quick, goal-line outlets from Michael Eubank.

Coyle led the Sun Devils in receptions with 57, total yards with 696 and average yards per game with 53.5. Look for him to continue his stellar play as he prepares for the 2014 NFL draft.

Kevin Ozier

  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 196
  • Year: Redshirt Senior

Kevin Ozier will be playing in his final season for the Sun Devils in 2013 and will be lining up as the Y receiver once again.

Ozier finished the 2012 campaign with 21 receptions for 324 yards, averaging 15.4 yards per carry. He scored five touchdowns, including two against California on Sept. 29. He has not racked up a 100-yard game in his career, but that’s due to limited receptions.

Ozier’s career-long reception was 52 yards against Utah, but he has had several 20-plus-yard receptions, which garnered him second-highest yards per reception on the team.

Richard Smith

  • r smithHeight: 5’9″
  • Weight: 164
  • Year: Sophomore

Richard Smith is a small but very quick receiver. He will be starting out of the Z position in 2013 with the departure of Jamal Miles. Smith will also be handling return duties left vacant by Miles and Rashad Ross.

Smith played in all 13 games as a true freshman—a true testament to his football acumen and ability to quickly adapt to the football scheme at the Division I level. He recorded 14 receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

In the 2012 season opener against Northern Arizona, Smith also had three rushing attempts for 29 yards, including a 17-yard scamper. Once he hits open field, his speed makes him deadly.

His best game came against Colorado, where he had four receptions for 51 yards and a 31-yard touchdown.

Alonzo Agwuenu

  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 211
  • Year: Redshirt Senior

The junior college transfer from Mt. San Antonio played in 11 games in the 2012 season behind leading wide receiver Rashad Ross. He will be starting his final season at the X position vacated by Ross.

Agwuenu finished with 11 receptions on the year for 115 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came against Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

He was instrumental in the Sun Devils’ final three games and proved that he deserves the starting spot heading into the 2013 season.

Kyle Middlebrooks

  • kyle midHeight: 5’9″
  • Weight: 183
  • Year: Junior

Kyle Middlebrooks was converted from running back to wide receiver in the 2012 season due to the crowded backfield and thin receiver depth.

He saw action in 10 games, but only recorded a single reception on the year in the Sept. 22 game against Utah.

Middlebrooks is very fast and is tough to bring down once he gains separation. He may join Richard Smith in kickoff and punt return duties.

It is unsure if he will make an impact with so many new receivers being signed to the roster. But he has experience and veteran leadership that the younger kids can look to.

Tight Ends

Grant Martinez

  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 210
  • Year: True Freshman

Grant Martinez is a hometown product out of Scottsdale’s Notre Dame Preparatory. He ranked as the No. 12 recruit out of Arizona and the No. 31 tight end in the country, according to Rivals.

De’Marieya Nelson

  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 230
  • Year: Redshirt Junior

De’Marieya Nelson is a junior college transfer from San Joaquin Delta College. He has two years remaining of eligibility. Rated by ESPN as the nation’s No. 8 junior college tight end and No. 78 prospect overall, look for Nelson to fill Coyle’s spot as the No. 1 TE/H-Back in the 2014 season.

Darwin Rogers

  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 243
  • Year: Senior

Darwin Rogers joined the Sun Devils at the beginning of 2012 after graduating from Arizona Western in Yuma, Ariz. He saw action in 12 games last season, starting one against Cal. He recorded three receptions for 31 yards and a touchdown against Cal.

The New Guys

Sun Devil head coach Todd Graham knew that he needed to go strong for wide receivers on national signing day and came away with five receivers that can make an immediate impact.

Graham stated in his national signing day press conference that his “number one offensive goal was dynamic players at wide receiver.”

Along with Martinez and Nelson joining at the tight end position, Graham signed two junior college transfers and three true freshmen at the wide receiver position.

Jaelen Strong

  • jaelenHeight: 6’4″
  • Weight: 205
  • Year: Redshirt Sophomore

The transfer student from Pierce Community College was heavily recruited by 13 different schools. Strong will have four years to play three at Arizona State and joins Pierce teammate Joseph Morris.

He was rated as a 4-star prospect, the No. 6 junior college wide receiver and the No. 15 overall prospect by ESPN.

Coach Graham had this to say about Strong: “He’s the most dynamic receiver I’ve seen in a long time on film. Our fans will love this guy.”

Ronald Lewis

  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 185
  • Year: True Freshman

Ronald Lewis comes to Arizona State all the way from Harvey, La. He was the No. 27 recruit out of Louisiana, according to Rivals, and the No. 127 wide receiver prospect in the nation, according to ESPN. He had many offers, including from Nebraska and Texas A&M, but chose Arizona State to be part of something great.

He will also get time in the return game, as Coach Graham said about him: “You’ll see with watching his film that he is one of the most dynamic play makers in return game. When the ball is in his hand he is electrifying.”

More New Faces

Cameron Smith

  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 185
  • Year: True Freshman

Smith is a very fast and very smart athlete from Coppell, Texas. He had several offers, including ones from Wisconsin, Iowa and Houston and was rated as the No. 123 wide receiver prospect in the country by Scout.com.

Graham on Smith: “He’s a big time deep threat, a guy who can stress the field vertically, a guy who is a dynamic wide receiver, so we’re excited about Cameron.”

Joseph Morris

  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 200
  • Year: Junior

A junior college transfer from Pierce College, Morris signed with Jaelen Strong. He’s rated by ESPN as the country’s No. 16 junior college wide receiver prospect and the No. 61 prospect overall.

Graham on Morris: “One of the most physical wide receivers in the country. We think he will be a very great pack with what we are doing.”

Ellis Jefferson

  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 200
  • Year: True Freshman

Jefferson is the same size as Morris, so that says something about what Graham was looking for in receivers.

The Denton, Texas, native travels to Arizona State after turning down offers from Michigan State, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, among others. Scout.com rated him as the No. 82 wide receiver prospect in the nation, and he was ranked No. 136 by ESPN.

Graham on Jefferson: “He is a guy that comes in and knows what it takes to win.”

Final Wrap-Up

Two of the top three receivers for the Sun Devils in 2012 were running backs.

Marion Grice not only led the team in rushing with 679 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he also pulled in 425 yards receiving and eight touchdowns.

grice RBHe finished No. 24 in scoring in Division I with 114 total points and 12.7 per game. His eight receiving touchdowns were the most by any running back in the country—quite a feat for the senior who was a junior college transfer from Blinn Community College following in Cam Newton’s footsteps.

True freshman D.J. Foster was the team’s No. 3 receiver with 38 receptions for 533 yards and four touchdowns. His average of 14 yards per reception was No. 5 in the nation among running backs. Foster carried for over 500 yards on 102 attempts and tallied two touchdowns on the ground.

With the departure of the heart of the running game, Cameron Marshall, and the addition of several new receivers, will Grice and Foster return to a more conventional running scheme?

That is yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure: It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Two Games That Will Make or Break ASU’s Tourney Bid

evan cu

The Arizona State Basketball team is walking on thin ice right now or should I say a thin bubble.

The Sun Devils (19-7, 8-5 Pac-12) are looking for the elusive 20th victory when they host the Washington State Cougars in Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. EST. This game is a must-win if they hope to keep their tournament hopes alive.

While several teams in the country win 20 games year in and year out, this will be head coach Herb Sendek’s fourth 20-win season in his seven years at the helm. The Devils had only three 20-win seasons in the quarter-century prior to Sendek’s arrival—talk about elusive.

With two home games remaining, the Devils are 14-3 at home and need both of them to tie the school record for most home wins with 16, a feat not accomplished since a beardless James Harden dominated the hardwood.

The home games are not going to be the problem for the Sun Devils; it is a couple upcoming road games that are going to test their mettle and will make or break their NCAA tournament bid. Granted, if they lose to either Washington or Washington State, they can kiss their chances goodbye, but this article is written with the assumption that they win out at home this week.

Jb-uclaArizona State travels to Pauley Pavilion next Wednesday for a late-night matchup with the UCLA Bruins. The game is set for an 11:30 pm EST tip-off and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.

The Bruins (19-7, 9-4 Pac-12) are in the middle of an eight-day break before heading across town to exact revenge on their rival, the USC Trojans. Revenge will also be at the forefront of Ben Howland’s mind when the Sun Devils visit on Feb. 27.

The Sun Devils humiliated the Bruins in Tempe in late January by starting off strong and pummeling them by 18 points when all was said and done. The Bruins shot 34 percent from the field and a miserable 5-of-24 from beyond the arc.

This is a game that has drastic implications for both teams as they are both fighting to stay alive down the final stretch. The Bruins and the Sun Devils both still have to face the No. 12 Arizona Wildcats and it is highly doubtful that they both beat the ‘Cats, so this game takes on even more importance.

Speaking of the basketball team from Tucson, the Devils and Wildcats will each have a week-long break in preparation of the basketball version of the Duel in the Desert.

jahii-catsArizona State held strong with the ‘Cats in their first meeting in Tempe. The Sun Devils even led for a bit in the first half. The final 10 minutes of the game were disastrous for the Devils as they were outscored 25-10 and the crowd was left muttering about “the same old Devils.”

Arizona has struggled as of late, losing two of its last three, but is looking to rebound with wins over the Washington schools at home this week and at the Los Angeles schools next week. The ‘Cats aren’t going to miss the NCAA tournament if they lose at home to Arizona State—it will take a lot more losses for them to be snubbed by the selection committee.

For the Sun Devils, winning out with road wins at UCLA and Arizona would guarantee an invite, but winning the next four and losing to a top-15 team in Arizona might still get them in, and that’s a mighty big might.

Who’s In and Who’s on the Bubble in Pac-12 Basketball?

Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

Pac-12 basketball has done a good job of redeeming itself this year. After a miserable showing in the 2011-12 season, there have been at least two teams in the Top 25 all year long.

There have been some surprises this year, as well. In what was predicted to be a two-team race between the UCLA Bruins and Arizona Wildcats has since turned into a five-team race to the finish with the Oregon Ducks currently holding the top spot.

Who will be dancing come March and NCAA Tournament time? Nobody knows for sure, but with five games remaining in the regular season, here are my predictions of where every team will be spending their time after the Pac-12 Conference Tournament.

Arizona Wildcats: In

  • Record: 21-4, 9-4 Pac-12
  • RPI: 10
  • Strength of Schedule Rank: 15
  • Key Wins: Florida, Miami
  • Tough Losses: Cal, Colorado

The Arizona Wildcats basketball team lit the court on fire, winning their first 14 games including last-second victories over No. 4 Florida and No. 17 San Diego State in Hawaii.

They had reached as high as No. 3 in the AP poll, but have hit hard times lately, losing two of their past three games to Cal and Colorado.

Fortunately, their remaining schedule looks to be winnable with the only possible roadblocks being against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion and the regular season finale at home versus their in-state rival Arizona State Sun Devils.

Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament No. 3 or No. 4 seed

Oregon Ducks: In

  • duck hoopsRecord: 21-5, 10-3 Pac-12
  • RPI: 38
  • Strength of Schedule Rank: 121
  • Key Wins: Arizona, UCLA
  • Tough Losses: UTEP, Stanford

The Oregon Ducks started off the season like a team possessed. They whipped through their non-conference schedule going 11-2, with their only losses being to No. 22 Cincinnati and a triple-overtime heartbreaker to UTEP.

They won their first seven Pac-12 games, including wins over No. 4 Arizona and No. 24 UCLA, and seemed unstoppable until starting point guard Dominic Artis went down with a left foot injury. The Ducks lost three straight, but have rebounded to win their last three games, including a stunner over Washington State in overtime on Saturday.

Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament mid-range seed

UCLA Bruins: On the Bubble

  • Record: 19-7, 9-4 Pac-12
  • RPI: 41
  • Strength of Schedule Rank: 36
  • Key Wins: Missouri, Arizona
  • Bad Losses: Cal Poly, USC

The UCLA Bruins are an anomaly. They struggled out of the gate, losing to Georgetown and San Diego State at neutral sites, but their biggest embarrassment was the 70-68 loss to Cal Poly—at home.

After the loss to SDSU, the Bruins went on to win 10 straight, including an impressive overtime victory against No. 7 Missouri. They won their first five Pac-12 games and six of their first seven with a statement 84-73 win over the No. 6 Arizona Wildcats in Tucson.

They once again stumbled after that, losing two straight to Arizona State and USC in overtime. It seems as if they have recovered, having won three of their last four, and are only a game out of the conference lead.

They don’t need to win out to make the tourney, but they cannot lose more than one or add a bad loss to USC or Washington State.

Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament high seed

California Golden Bears: On the Bubble

  • cal hoopsRecord: 16-9, 8-5 Pac-12
  • RPI: 54
  • Strength of Schedule Rank: 35
  • Key Wins: Oregon, Arizona
  • Bad Losses: Harvard, Washington

The Cal Golden Bears are the giant killers of the Pac-12. They have won five of their past six games, including wins over two top 10 teams in Oregon and Arizona.

Cal won its first six games out of the chute before losing to Wisconsin, UNLV and Creighton. It finished its non-conference schedule at 8-4 with a paltry 4-3 record at home.

It lost four of its first seven Pac-12 games before it caught fire. Its remaining schedule looks easily winnable, with its biggest obstacle coming Thursday night at No. 23 Oregon.

If the Bears sweep Oregon and finish with 21 wins on the season, I can see them getting the invite to the dance.

Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament high seed

Arizona State Sun Devils: On the Bubble

  • Record: 19-7, 8-5 Pac-12
  • RPI: 70
  • Strength of Schedule Rank: 125
  • Key Wins: UCLA, Colorado (twice)
  • Bad Losses: DePaul, Utah

The Sun Devils are one of the biggest surprises this year coming out of the Pac-12. With the infusion of two former NBA coaches to Herb Sendek’s staff and the tremendous play of redshirt freshman Jahii Carson, Arizona State is having a renaissance.

The Sun Devils began the year on a tear and had one of the best starts in school history, starting 14-2. They won their first three Pac-12 games and six of their first eight, with their only losses coming to ranked teams in Oregon and Arizona. They dismantled the UCLA Bruins by 18 points and are a perfect 3-0 in overtime this year.

The bubble may have burst for the Sun Devils after losing three of their past four games, including a loss to a Utah that was 2-9 in conference play before it hosted the Devils.

Arizona State is on very shaky ground and will need to have big wins at home against the Washington schools as well as on the road in Los Angeles. Wins against UCLA and at Arizona will all but ensure a tourney bid.

Postseason prediction: NIT No. 1 seed

Colorado Buffaloes: On the Bubble

  • buff hoopsRecord: 17-8, 7-6 Pac-12
  • RPI: 21
  • Strength of Schedule Rank: 9
  • Key Wins: Baylor, Colorado St.
  • Bad Losses: Wyoming, Utah

The Buffs have the second highest RPI in the Pac-12 and the highest SOS rank; the tournament committee loves those numbers when it comes down to selecting at-large invitations. Unfortunately, they also frown upon teams with win-loss records such as the Buffaloes.

They finished their non-conference schedule with an admirable 10-2 record, losing to Wyoming and getting blown out at Kansas. They began Pac-12 play in Tucson against No. 3 Arizona and all but defeated the Wildcats until the officials waved off Colorado’s last-ditch three-point basket. The Buffs returned the favor, handing the No. 9 Wildcats a 13-point beatdown on Valentine’s Day.

If the Buffs win out, I can see them getting an invite, but playing at Cal and hosting Oregon will be difficult for coach Tad Boyle and crew.

Postseason prediction: NIT No. 1 seed

Outside Looking In

The remaining teams in the conference will have to win the conference tournament in order to punch their ticket to the dance as there is no possibility of them garnering at-large bids.

USC Trojans

  • Record: 12-14, 7-6 Pac-12
  • RPI: 102
  • SOS: 33
  • Remaining games: UCLA, Arizona, ASU, Washington and WSU
  • Postseason prediction: 14-17, 9-9 Pac-12, NIT mid-level seed

Stanford Cardinal

  • card hoopsRecord: 15-11, 6-7 Pac-12
  • RPI: 73
  • SOS: 42
  • Remaining games: Oregon, OSU, Colorado, Utah and Cal
  • Postseason prediction: 17-14, 8-10 Pac-12, NIT mid-level seed

Washington Huskies

  • Record: 14-12, 6-7 Pac-12
  • RPI: 84
  • SOS: 29
  • Remaining games: Arizona, ASU, WSU, USC and UCLA
  • Postseason prediction: 16-15, 8-10 Pac-12, NIT mid-level seed 

Utah Utes

  • Record: 11-14, 3-10 Pac-12
  • RPI: 166
  • SOS: 60
  • Remaining games: Colorado, Cal, Stanford, Oregon and OSU
  • Postseason prediction: 12-18, 4-14 Pac-12, CBI mid-level seed

Oregon State Beavers

  • Record: 13-13, 3-10 Pac-12
  • RPI: 172
  • SOS: 139
  • Remaining games: Stanford, Cal, Oregon, Colorado and Utah
  • Postseason prediction: 13-17, 3-15 Pac-12, no postseason

Washington State Cougars

  • Record: 11-15, 2-11 Pac-12
  • RPI: 188
  • SOS: 99
  • Remaining games: ASU, Arizona, Washington, UCLA and USC
  • Postseason prediction: 11-20, 2-16 Pac-12, no postseason

Is Pac-12 Baseball Too Good for Its Own Good?

Harry How-Getty Images

The Pacific-12 Conference had a great opening weekend on the baseball diamond.

There are currently four teams in the top 10 of National College Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA) Poll and three more in the Top 35.

With seven of the 11 schools (Colorado doesn’t field a team) being ranked in the Top 35, will the Pac-12 do more harm than good when conference play begins in mid-March?

Two other polls, Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball, also have five Pac-12 teams listed in their Top 25, but their top 10 rankings are considerably different with Baseball America only giving Oregon State a nod while Collegiate Baseball has three teams in the top 10.

Let’s take a closer look at the top-ranked teams from the Conference of Champions.

Oregon State Beavers

  • Record: 4-0
  • NCBWA Rank: No. 8
  • Baseball America Rank: No. 6
  • Collegiate Baseball Rank: No. 9
  • Composite Rank: No. 7.66

The Oregon State Beavers participated in the Palm Springs Tournament over the weekend and were victorious beating Utah Valley, Gonzaga and UC Riverside twice.

Next up for the Beavers is a Thursday to Sunday four-game stretch at San Diego State. The Aztecs are 3-0 and ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball.

UCLA Bruins

  • bruin baseRecord: 2-1
  • NCBWA Rank: No. 6
  • Baseball America Rank: No. 12
  • Collegiate Baseball Rank: No. 6
  • Composite Rank: No. 8

The UCLA Bruins dropped their season opener 6-2 to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and then went on to pummel the Gophers by a combined score of 28-1 in the next two games.

The Bruins travel to Waco, Tex. this weekend to take on the Baylor Bears. UCLA then makes the short trip to Santa Barbara to take on the UCSB Gauchos on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Oregon Ducks

  • Record: 4-0
  • NCBWA Rank: No. 5
  • Baseball America Rank: No. 14
  • Collegiate Baseball Rank: No. 5
  • Composite Rank: No. 8

The Oregon Ducks traveled to Honolulu, Haw. and swept University of Hawaii in four straight games, outscoring the Rainbow Warriors 21-11.

Next up for the Ducks is a three-game home stand this weekend against Loyola Marymount and a Tuesday night contest hosting Portland.

Arizona Wildcats

  • cat baseRecord: 3-0
  • NCBWA Rank: No. 10
  • Baseball America Rank: No. 23
  • Collegiate Baseball Rank: No. 15
  • Composite Rank: No. 16

The defending NCAA College World Series Champion Arizona Wildcats are not getting any respect from the polls. They swept their weekend series against Coppin State, scoring 43 runs in three games while only giving up 10.

Next up for the ‘Cats is a short two-game stand at Long Beach State on Tuesday and Wednesday, then back home for a three-game set hosting San Jose State.

The Dirtbags of Long Beach State are a perennially solid team and stole one of three last weekend from a Vanderbilt team that is ranked in the top five of all three polls.

Stanford Cardinal

  • Record: 1-2
  • NCBWA Rank: No. 14
  • Baseball America Rank: No. 15
  • Collegiate Baseball Rank: No. 11
  • Composite Rank: No. 13.33

The Stanford Cardinal had a tough opening weekend in Houston. They lost two of three to the Rice Owls, being outscored 10-4 over the three games.

Rice jumped in all three rankings while the Cardinal took a tumble. The Owls are now ranked above Stanford in all three polls.

The Cardinal were scheduled to play the Cal Bears on Tuesday night, but the game has been postponed until Wednesday night due to rain. Stanford hosts Fresno State this weekend at the Sunken Diamond.

Arizona State Sun Devils

  • devil baseRecord: 2-1
  • NCBWA Rank: No. 22
  • Baseball America Rank: NR
  • Collegiate Baseball Rank: No. 23
  • Composite Rank: No. 22.5

The Arizona State Sun Devils welcomed Bethune-Cookman over the weekend and got a little more than they bargained for from the Daytona Beach school. The Devils needed extra innings to win the season-opener and a late-inning rally fell short in the final game, losing 7-6.

Arizona State travels to Knoxville this weekend to take on the Volunteers in a three-game set. This will be a good test for the new Sun Devil squad that is replacing several players that were drafted by MLB teams.

 

 

California Golden Bears

  • Record: 3-0
  • NCBWA Rank: No. 34
  • Baseball America Rank: NR
  • Collegiate Baseball Rank: NR
  • Composite Rank: No. 34

The Cal Bears had an eventful opening weekend against the Michigan Wolverines. They needed extra innings to finish off the scrappy Wolverines in the first two games and nipped them 2-1 in the series finale.

The Bears will travel to Stanford on Wednesday to take on the Cardinal and then travel to Irvine for a four-game set against the Anteaters.

A Final Thought

In looking at all the ranked teams and which teams they will have to play in conference, it looks as if Oregon and Arizona State are the big winners with four of the six series against ranked teams at home while Oregon State and Arizona play four of the six on the road.

Here is the breakdown for the ranked teams.

Oregon State

  • Home vs. Arizona State and Cal
  • Travel to Arizona, UCLA, Stanford and Oregon
  • Two single games hosting Oregon

UCLA

  • Home vs. Cal, Oregon State and Arizona
  • Travel to Arizona State, Oregon and Stanford

CWS_LogoOregon

  • Home vs. Arizona, Stanford, UCLA and Oregon State
  • Travel to Arizona State and Cal
  • Two single games at Oregon State

Arizona

  • Home vs. Oregon State and Cal
  • Travel to Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State
  • Two single games hosting Arizona State

Stanford

  • Home vs. Arizona, Oregon State and UCLA
  • Travel to Oregon, Arizona State and Cal
  • Two single games hosting Cal

Arizona State

  • Home vs. UCLA, Oregon, Stanford and Arizona
  • Travel to Oregon State and Cal
  • Two single games at Arizona

California

  • Home vs. Oregon, Arizona State and Stanford
  • Travel to UCLA, Arizona and Oregon State
  • Two single games at Stanford

This will be an interesting season to see how well the Pac-12 does in the regular season and more importantly in the postseason. It would be a shame to pit teams against each other in the Super Regionals as it would be great to see as many schools repping the Pac-12 as possible in Omaha.

5 Keys For Arizona Beating Washington in Pac-12 Showdown

Ron Chenoy-USA Today Sports

The Arizona Wildcats (21-4, 9-4 Pac-12) have lost two of their last three games and coach Sean Miller has had enough of the losing.

They went into the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday to face a Utah team that has only won three games in conference and have yet to string two wins together. The Utes stole a game from Arizona State earlier in the week and they were ready to take down the ‘Cats.

Arizona took a 13-point lead in the second half but then allowed Utah back in the game to tie it at 51 with 6:23 remaining. The Wildcats once again turned on the afterburner and pulled away from Utah to win 68-64.

Their shooting against Utah was much more on point than the previous two games when they lost by eight and 13 points respectively.

After closely examining the Wildcats’ past wins and losses, here are the five keys to beating Washington on Wednesday night.

Contain C.J. Wilcox

cjJunior guard C.J. Wilcox is the catalyst for this Husky team. When he is hitting his shots and scoring big, the Huskies are tough to beat.

Wilcox is averaging 20.9 points per game in their six conference wins and only 13.5 per game in their seven conference losses.

It seems that Wilcox can get easily flustered as is evidenced by his 32 percent field goal percentage in the aforementioned conference losses.His 17.6 points per game average is No. 5 in the Pac-12, so it is evident that when he finds his shot, he can light it up.

 

Don’t Allow Aziz N’Diaye to Control the Glass

The senior Senegalese center is a monster on the boards. Checking in at 7’0″ and 260 pounds, N’Diaye is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

His 9.6 rebounds per game is tied for No. 3 in the Pac-12 and his 3.6 offensive boards per game is best in the conference. He also leads the conference in field goal percentage. This is due largely to the fact that his myriad offensive rebounds are turned into points.

Averaging nearly a double-double per game with 10.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, N’Diaye is a big man that gives his all in every game.

Start off Strong and Don’t Let Up

cats 13We have seen it countless times, the Wildcats seem to have a problem with getting primed for games and they start off flat. If they can come out with a big opening and keep the pedal to the medal throughout the game, the Huskies won’t stand a chance.

Senior swingman Kevin Parrom got the start on Sunday against Utah and perhaps that was what they needed to break their two-game losing streak. Parrom played 29 minutes and scored nine points to go along with his nine rebounds and three assists.

Brandon Ashley, who usually starts, also had a good game with 10 points, four rebounds and three steals in 22 minutes of playing time.

Create Turnovers

The Wildcats are the No. 3 team in the Pac-12 with 7.2 steals per game and Nick Johnson’s 2.2 steals per game is the second best in the conference. The Huskies have had troubles in the past keeping a handle on the ball and currently have the third most in the Pac-12 with 13.58 per game.

Forcing turnovers is the quickest way for the ‘Cats to build up a quick lead and bury the Huskies. They have all the skills to do it, it just comes down to execution.

Free Throws, Free Throws, Free Throws

parromArizona has done a great job from the charity stripe this year and it shows in its 21-4 record. As a team, they are No. 2 in the Pac-12 Conference with 74.4 percent and also have the second-most field goals made per game with 15.9.

Senior point guard, Mark Lyons is money at the line, hitting a team-leading 85.3 percent while Solomon Hill, Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley are all hitting over 70-percent from the line.

With as close as Arizona likes to play in games, it is imperative that it makes as many free throws as possible, because a single point here and there can be make a big difference for the “Cardiac Cats.”