Highlights from Tuesday’s Pac-12 men’s basketball conference call:
Coach Sean Miller was on a promote-the-league campaign, saying that since he arrived at the UA, “I feel we’ve had to defend the Pac-10 and Pac-12 constantly.”
Miller makes the point that the aspect of most teams’ capability of winning on any given night this year in the Pac-12 is sometimes seen as a negative, rather than the positive that often radiates from that phenomenon in the Big Ten.
“It’s difficult for all of us as coaches in our conference to stomach any type of criticism, or somebody pointing out that almost anybody can beat anybody, and because of that, mediocrity is associated with it,” says Miller.
Jordan Bachynski, so big a factor in earlier ASU games, has been riding the bench a lot more lately, having played just 38 minutes in the Sun Devils’ last three games and scoring a combined 10 points.
“Two games ago, against Cal,” says Herb Sendek, “Ruslan (Pateev) played great in the second half. Against Stanford, we had some difficulty with them playing two forwards in the front court (featuring quicker players), and we were trailing. (And) he obviously didn’t play his best game against Washington. Their front court really put it on us. It wasn’t just Jordan.”
“Two weeks ago, people probably left us for dead,” said Mike Montgomery. “But you get toward the end of the season, you beat Arizona at Arizona and beat Oregon, it can only help you in the long run. You may be way down (the list of NCAA hopefuls), but at least they have to look at that and know you’re there.”
Montgomery points out that Cal’s 14-9 record would look dramatically better if the Bears hadn’t dropped a 67-62 decision to Harvard late in December and a one-point, gut-shot defeat to UNLV three weeks earlier, in which the Rebels shoveled back in a missed shot inside the final second to win by one.
“We’re close to having a much more respectable record,” Montgomery said, “and people would say, ‘They’re pretty good.’ ”
Here’s Cal’s primary problem: It has a mere 2-9 record against the RPI top 100, which means it has major work to do even as it stands 6-5 in the conference.
The Buffs have inched over the .500 mark at 6-5 in the league after a 1-4 start that was touched off by the controversial, buzzer non-score by Sabatino Chen Jan. 3 at Arizona. Now CU gets Arizona on its home court Thursday night.
“If you look at our record after that game, everybody’s going to point to the fact we had a hangover,” says Tad Boyle. “I don’t think it was. We’ve put it behind us, rebounded and we’re playing pretty well right now.”
Trojan forward Ari Stewart broke his left thumb against Washington Sunday night and will be out about three weeks. “It’s a big loss for us,” said interim coach Bob Cantu, who indicated Eric Wise probably will pick up the majority of the slack left by Stewart.
Big weekend on tap for the Bruins, who venture to the Bay Area to take on resurgent Cal (Thursday night) and Stanford (Saturday afternoon).
Ben Howland was philosophical about criticism Bruins great Bill Walton levied on his team’s style in last Thursday’s ESPN telecast of the Washington game, which Walton said caused the Pauley Pavilion crowd “to sit on its hands.”
“Bill’s been critical since he started doing our games against Missouri (late in December),” said Howland. “He’s an analyst and that’s his job. It’s his right to be critical and I understand that. It’s just part of our business, especially in a high-profile position like being the coach at UCLA.”
Howland added that Walton’s point of reference is John Wooden, “the greatest coach in history,” and the Bruins went 60-0 in Walton’s first two years of eligibility.
The career of former Rainier Beach guard Aaron Dotson continues in fits and starts, with Larry Krystkowiak saying there’s a chance Dotson could make it back before the end of the season after having a January procedure to “scrape some debris off his (knee) tendon.”
Dotson played in Utah’s first three league games, starting two, after missing early time with a stress fracture in his foot. The LSU transfer had already dealt with a major knee surgery, and the procedure last month was on the same knee.
“He’s actually starting to get engaged in a little more activity,” Krystkowiak said. “We’ll see how he responds after some workouts.”