A look around the state at Arizona, Arizona State and Grand Canyon and how their basketball teams fared this past week plus looking at what’s ahead this week on the hardwood. No Northern Arizona this week as their season came to an end two weeks ago.
Even though Arizona didn’t make it to the conference title game, Wildcat faithful have to be pleased with what they saw from their team in those two games against Colorado and UCLA. They played with a sense of purpose and with fire on the defensive end that hasn’t been seen since the beginning of the year. I heard Solomon Hill say multiple time over the course of the last three weeks that they seemed to have lost their way. Well they found it. They one thing to worry about however is they seemed the struggle closing out games. They play lights out for the first three quarters of the game but in the final ten minutes of both games they struggled. It came back to bite them against UCLA. That UCLA comeback, aka the Jordan Adams comeback, was definitely tough to swallow. If you told me that Larry Drew II would have zero points and Brandon Ashley would lead the Cats with 15 but still lost, I wouldn’t believe it.
Wildcats MVP this week: Nick Johnson. Last week he was back. This week he stayed consistent. Played phenomenal on both sides of the floor. it is more than apparent that when he is on his game, the rest of the team is as well.
Believe it or not a six seed might be about right. I was thinking more along the lines of a five seed because I think they are a top 20 team in the nation and have the resume the prove it. But even though they have wins over Miami, Florida and San Diego State, they were 0-5 against the teams that finished ahead of them in the tournament. The first round matchup is with Belmont. One of Arizona’s biggest worries all season could come to fruition in this game. They have really struggled defending the three all year. Belmont comes into this game shooting 38% from three on the season led by Ian Clark how shoots from there at 46% and scores 18 a game. If they get past them, New Mexico waiting in the wings will be extremely tough.
The Sun Devils really put their best foot forward at the Pac-12 Tournament in Vegas last week. Played a very good game against a Stanford team that just hasn’t been a good matchup for them. They experimented with a small lineup with Felix and Gilling in the post and it worked very well for them. And Jahii Carson had a career high in scoring scoring the most points in a game by a freshman since Mario Bennett. He was a warrior and refused to let ASU lose. The Devils came out with even more intensity against UCLA and really had them on the roped for most of the game. But then then it all came apart as they were outscored by the Bruins 45-22 in the final 16 minutes. Carson, Gilling and Bachynski (set the ASU single season record for blocks in a season during the game) all had strong efforts but they couldn’t weather the storm.
Sun Devils MVP last week: Jahii Carson. Named to the All-Pac-12 Tournament team after two masterful performances against Stanford and UCLA in Vegas.
Now the NIT for the Sun Devils. The have been given a three seed and will take on a very good Detroit team on Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena. Detroit is led by Ray McCallum Jr. who is averaging just under 19 points, 5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this season. He is one of the lesser known stars in the nation because he decided to turn away offers from major programs around the country and decided to play for his Dad instead. It will not be an easy first round matchup for the Devils but they do have the luxury of playing at home where they were 6-3 during conference play this season. If they come away victorious, they will take on the winner of Long Beach State and Baylor. More disrespect toward the pac-12 stemming down form the NCAA tournament. ASU had three more wins on the year than Baylor and a lower RPI by a whole 1% but is seeded lower than the Bears in the NIT. So ASU loses out on potentially a second home game. But I guess they can settle that on the court.
Unfortunately for GCU, their poor shooting continued from the Pac West tournament into the first round of the Division II tournament and they were eliminated in a hurry by Seattle Pacific losing 85-59. Pacific shot 57% from the floor compared to the Lopes’ 37% plus were out rebounded 36-20.
Lopes MVP last week: Josh Lowery. Led the lopes with 15 points and was really one of the most consistent players all season.
So begins a new era for GCU basketball. They move to the WAC conference next season and will also begin a new era under head coach Thunder Dan Majerle. I was as surprised as any one to learn of the program parting with Russ Pennell. He really turned the program around and put them back on the map. This season under Pennell, the Lopes finished with 23 wins which is their highest total since the 1996-97 season. But now begins the Majerle era which will bring a lot of buzz to the west side. He is a hometown hero getting his first real shot as a head coach. Many were upset when that first opportunity wasn’t presented to him from the Phoenix Suns, but now Majerle gets the opportunity to stay in his home town and be a head coach which has been his ultimate goal.