Reece Davis and Jay Bilas of ESPN’s College GameDay arrived to Tucson, Arizona today and talked a bit about the show and Saturday’s game between Washington and Arizona.
“The kids and the students make the show works,” Davis said. “In terms of television I think it works because we all like each other and respects each other. … The guys love the game, study the game. Their insightful and they’re smart.”
The GameDay crew, which features Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis, Davis and Bilas are the Beatles of college basketball. (Google that kids).
The production crew rolls around the country in an oversize bus with their faces painted on the side. This is the eighth year for the traveling show, which makes eight stops in places such as Florida State, Missouri, Michigan and Connecticut.
“In some cases, they (students) come out 10 hours before the game,” Davis said.
“When we did the show early on the goal was to see how loud we could make it,” he said. “While it might have created an exciting atmosphere in the building when you’re sitting in our living room it wasn’t as good TV as you might imagine.
“Now we take a different approach.”
Bilas also talked about Tony Wroten Jr., how to stop Washington and why the Pac-12 is so bad.
(On Wroten) “Last year in high school, I thought he was the best passer. I watched him last night, I went to the Arizona State game last night and he had a different gear. Late in that game it got to be sort of one these grind-it, possession games. I thought Arizona State did a really nice job of staying in it and he kind of made some plays late in the game. He had a dunk late in the game, which energized his team and they were able to pull away a little bit and win it.
“He can get to the bucket any time he wants. Really good with the ball. Terrific athlete. Long. He’s got a lot of ability. I think the next step for Tony is – he’s a tremendous passer – but I do think that a lot of times the easy play is what he needs to make more often. He can hit the home run. Can he hit a double? Can he hit a single? He needs to make the easy plays to get his teammates in the right spot and take advantage of their abilities. But he’s a teenager. It’s a marvel that we’re talking about these kids as teenagers.”
Bilas said Arizona State legend Lafayette ‘Fat’ Lever averaged 3.6 points as a freshman. Thirty-three years later, the Sun Devils retired his No. 12 jersey Thursday.
(On defending Washington) “I think if you can take them out transition and make them a half-court team, which is really what Arizona State did last night. They made it a half-court game and wound up staying with the team. Being within a few points in that game with a team that was vastly superior to them is because they didn’t allow them a lot transition baskets. They didn’t have any live ball turnovers that you could take the other way. Their turnovers went out of bounds. I think that’s a big key against Washington. If you can take them out of transition and make them a half-court team I think you got a chance.”
(On the Pac-12) “Some of this stuff about (being) a one-bid league I think is unfair because I think it’s way too early for that kind of thing. I just don’t see that happening. But facts are facts. The league doesn’t have, it has one win against an RPI (Oregon State beat Vanderbilt 64-62). The league. And that’s never happened before. I can’t imagine that’s happened in years past. Two years ago, the green room at the NBA draft looked like a Pac-10 reunion. Among the leagues last year, the league that took the biggest hit was the Pac-12. Other leagues have all-league players returning and they’re not returning anybody. Everybody left.
“Plus the league has a bunch of new coaches. That’s not reflective of how good those coaches are. What’s reflective to me is any time there’s a coaching change almost always continuity takes a hit. Recruiting takes a hit for a short period of time. Then you got to get that back going. The whole league is new it seems like. Craig Robinson has been at Oregon State four years? He might be the fifth longest tenured coach in the league. Everybody else is new.
“I don’t see it as a long-term issue, but the numbers are fair. The ninth rated league and all that stuff, that’s all empirical data. It’s fair. It’s just something that the Pac-12 has to deal with.”
(On ESPN’s TV contract with the Pac-12) “I think it’s great. I can wear shorts for GameDay and that’s a good thing. In all seriousness the reason I like it is I live on the East Coast now and I’ve always been sensitive to the East Coast bias. Growing up in in LA, I grew up watching the Pac-8 when I was a kid and the Pac-10. I grew up a UCLA fan. When you went back east, people didn’t seem to understand it and realize how good things were out here. … Being out here and we at ESPN – we live in a ESPN-centric world – we think that maybe we can help shine a bigger spotlight on the Pac-12 and how good they always have been.”