College Basketball Nation: Johnny Dawkins

3-point shot: Johnny Dawkins' contract

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14

In today's 3-point shot, Andy Katz discusses Johnny Dawkins' contract situation at Stanford, Minnesota having second thoughts about the preseason NIT and the College of Charleston needing to make a decision on coach Doug Wojcik.
Through five years of basketball under Johnny Dawkins, Stanford went unnoticed on the sport’s biggest stage, failing to qualify for the NCAA tournament after a Sweet 16 appearance in the season before the coach’s arrival.

You could argue it’s been more of the same for Stanford through the first weekend of this tournament, despite upset wins as a No. 10 seed over No. 7 seed New Mexico and No. 2 seed Kansas.

[+] EnlargeChasson Randle
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesGuard Chasson Randle, who has averaged 18.7 points per game this season, and the No. 10 seed Cardinal take on No. 11 seed Dayton on Thursday in Memphis, Tenn.
Dramatic finishes at other sites overshadowed the round-of-64 victory. And headlines from Sunday focused more on the circumstances of the second-seeded Jayhawks’ early departure than on what the Cardinal did to force it.

Stanford held star KU freshman Andrew Wiggins to four points on 1-of-6 shooting.

Give Stanford some credit here, primarily senior forward Josh Huestis, a three-time member of the Pac-12 all-defensive team who handled Wiggins for most of the game.

“I challenged him,” Dawkins said of Huestis, “and I thought he really responded. He did a great job defending.”

Stanford, in its first tournament appearance since 2008, remains content to fly under the radar as it prepares for a South Regional semifinal meeting Thursday against No. 11 seed Dayton. The Flyers have grabbed attention already with wins over sixth-seeded Ohio State and No. 3 seed Syracuse. Florida, the top seed overall in the tourney, and UCLA fill out the field in Memphis, Tenn.

Stanford again might go overlooked -- unless, of course, it wins two more games and advances to the Final Four for the first time since 1998.

Don’t count out the Cardinal. Their steady style of play figures to create problems, starting with a frontcourt of 6-foot-7 Huestis, 6-10 senior forward Dwight Powell and 6-11 junior center Stefan Nastic.

Stanford is long and versatile. It beat the Jayhawks without making a 3-point field goal (0-of-9).

Floor general Chasson Randle, who scored a team-high 36 total points in the second- and third-round games, adds an element of creativity. And 6-6 wing Anthony Brown provides another athletic option. He hit five free throws in the final 44 seconds against Kansas.

Powell and Huestis rank atop Stanford’s career chart in games played. Experience, although not in the NCAA tournament -- Stanford won the National Invitation Tournament in 2012 -- has helped carry the Cardinal.

“We’re still in the race,” Powell said, “We’re still playing in March, and it feels great.”

Stanford entered the tournament on something of a roller coaster. It lost 84-59 to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament semifinal round after three straight wins that had followed three straight losses dating to Feb. 26.

“Every season is like a lifetime,” Powell said. “Obviously, you will have your ups and downs. But from day one, before we even started preseason, we always had a goal to make the tournament and make a run. And we never lost sight of that and lost hope.”

Stanford did lose firepower. Forward Andy Brown, who started 20 games last season as a freshman, has missed the entire season with a knee injury; guard Christian Sanders has sat out with a hip injury.

Additionally, guard Aaron Bright, a 22-game starter in 2012-13, missed all but the first seven games, and forward Rosco Allen went down early in the season.

As a result, the starters accounted for more than 85 percent of Stanford’s scoring through the regular season. Against New Mexico and Kansas, they scored 107 of 118 points.

Count Kansas coach Bill Self among the admirers of Dawkins and the job he has done to rebuild Stanford over six years.

“He epitomizes class,” Self said before Kansas faced Stanford. “He conducts himself in that way, and he always has.

“He was a great hire that Stanford made, and he's going to continue to do well. And everybody in our business that knows Johnny is happy for him.”

Also before that game, Wiggins and Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. unintentionally provided extra motivation for Stanford as reporters asked them a series of questions about Randle at the practice-day news conference.

The KU freshmen had no answer, other than a few uncomfortable laughs. Clearly, they weren’t familiar with the name of the Cardinal’s top playmaker -- understandable because the Jayhawks had yet to receive scouting reports from their coaches, but apropos, nonetheless, considering the Cardinal’s somewhat unnoticed run to the Sweet 16.

Randle said after the landmark victory, in which he scored 13 points with six steals in 40 minutes, that he watched footage of the news conference.

“I took it as a challenge,” Randle said. “So did my teammates. It wasn’t just a stab at me. It was a stab at our team.”

Noticed or not, the Cardinal are marching forward.

A conversation with Johnny Dawkins

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
In his sixth season with the program, Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins is trying to position his team to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. Saturday’s 83-74 victory over No. 23 UCLA certainly boosted the Cardinal’s chances. Dawkins’ squad has won five of its past six games as it prepares for its final conference games (at Arizona State, at Arizona, vs. Colorado, vs. Utah). Dawkins, a member of Mike Krzyzewksi’s coaching tree, says he ignores the outside chatter about the significance of a tourney bid for himself and his program.

How important was Saturday’s win?

Dawkins: Well, it was probably -- at this time of the year, having an opportunity to play a ranked opponent on a home court -- I think it was one of our signature wins this year. I think we’ve had a few of those this year. We’ve won at UConn when they were undefeated. We had a win at Oregon. ... I think we’ve beaten three [teams that were ranked in the Top 25 at the time] this season.

Some squads around the country are losing momentum right now. Your team is going the other way. What has been the key to finishing strong?

Dawkins: Well, our guys are excited. We have guys on our team that are seniors that want to leave their legacy on our program. They see it as an opportunity and we’re right in the middle of everything. We still have everything in front of us that we want to play for. The conference is still not decided. The champion is not decided. We still have the conference tournament. So, with everything to look forward to, it’s an exciting time to be playing. …. It shows the type of environment we have. Our kids are still anxious and realize they’re still playing for things.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Dawkins
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezStanford coach Johnny Dawkins says he doesn't pay attention to NCAA bubble talk.
How much easier is the final stretch when you have veterans?

Dawkins: I think it’s huge. Any time you can have some older players who’ve been through it and they want to accomplish something, it can be something that can really help prepare your team to have a really great season. And our guys have stepped up, like Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis. Those guys have really given us a big lift this year in leadership.

How important is an NCAA tourney bid, not just for the program, but for your tenure?

Dawkins: I don’t look at it this way. I look at it as it’s important for our group to make the tournament because these guys are seniors. They’ve been through a lot. We’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs the last few years, injuries and so forth, that have set us back and I’m glad to see the resiliency that we’ve showed. Our kids have fought through all of that. They’ve never made excuses. We’ve never made excuses. We have an opportunity now to continue to strive toward our goals.

In the social media age, how difficult is it to stay away from the pressure when people outside the program are talking about how important a bid is for your program and for yourself?

Dawkins: For me, it’s easy. I don’t follow it all. Even back during my playing days in college, I never read articles, pro or con, with regards to our program or myself. I’m oblivious to all of that. I think that’s a good way to live. There’s so much information floating out there. Who really knows what’s going on? Who really has the answers? Who are the decision-makers? None of that is taken into account. It’s just people assuming and saying things. I don’t get into that. And I try to discourage my players from doing it as much as possible because it can have them focus on things that are inconsequential to what we have to do as a team. During the season, I try to have them understand -- ‘Stay focused on us; don’t focus on anything else’ -- because it can pull a team apart, which is the saddest thing. And it can also, for individual players if you’re not strong-minded, it can kind of get you if you’re disagreeing with things that you’re reading.

What were the benefits of working with Coach K?

Dawkins: I worked for him for 11 seasons. I think he instills a certain passion and desire you have to have to be successful in this profession. Of course, his preparation is second to none and the things that are required to be good, you learn all of that from working under him. And the biggest thing is you learn what this profession is really about. It’s about the young people that we coach. You want to give of yourself to the program. You want to give of yourself to your kids.
The money, the rivalries, the realignment and the constant chatter within college sports can mask the youth of the participants at the center of it all.

The young men at this level are often treated like professional athletes due to national exposure and their roles as ambassadors for prestigious, multimillion-dollar programs.

But they’re still 18- to 23-year-old individuals (usually) who face the same life obstacles as other students. Their non-athlete academic peers, however, don’t endure the same scrutiny.

They’re constantly analyzed and publicly criticized when they make mistakes. And I, along with other sportswriters, play a role in that.

[+] EnlargeAndy Brown
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsCardinal coach Johnny Dawkins calls forward Andy Brown is "a fighter," following this week's news of Brown's latest and fourth ACL tear.
Young athletes, however, also deserve praise when it’s warranted. Still, the latter is sparse because their bad calls and poor decisions tend to garner more attention.

So it’s easy for the courageous plight of an athlete like Stanford’s Andy Brown to be overlooked.

On Wednesday, Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins announced that the forward’s career had come to an end after he’d suffered his fourth anterior cruciate ligament tear during a team workout.

The most recent injury involved his right knee. He’d previously torn the ACL in his left knee three times.

Four. ACL. Tears.

Think about that.

It was obviously a sad day for the program and Brown, who averaged 6.2 PPG last in his first full year with the squad in 2012-13.

From via the Associated Press:
"Everyone associated with our program is saddened by Andy's latest injury," Dawkins said. "Nobody has worked harder to get back into playing shape, having already experienced three tears and waiting two full years before putting on a uniform. What makes this even more disappointing is Andy had already passed the initial test of getting back on the court.

"He was a highly productive player for our team last year and we were fully counting on him to be a key contributor again this season. More importantly, his presence and leadership will be extremely difficult to replace. Andy is a fighter, he will bounce back and has the full support of the Stanford basketball family."

Brown was coming off the first full season of his career, averaging 6.2 points and 2.8 rebounds. He shot a team-best 48.5 percent from the floor.

Brown sat out his freshman year as a medical redshirt after tearing the ACL in his left knee on the first day of practice. He also tore the same ACL in January 2009 at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.

In August 2010, Brown tore his left ACL again during a team workout and missed the entire season. He finally made his Stanford debut during the 2011-12 season, playing limited minutes during the Cardinal's run to the NIT tournament title.

Sports are globally relevant because we can all relate to their most significant principles.

Some of us may not know what it’s like to tear an ACL, but we all understand setbacks and that crucial moment when life demands an answer to this question: Will you get up again?

Brown got up. And then he was knocked down again. But he didn’t stay down. The cycle repeated itself four times. So, he will get up again because that’s all he knows.

Throughout this immense challenge, the young man from Yorba Linda, Calif., continued to chase his dreams.

If you can’t appreciate that level of willpower and determination, then you can’t fully appreciate sports and competition. Brown embodies everything that sports -- on any level -- should be about.

Multiple times, he had every reason to quit.

And who would have faulted him if he’d decided to take his career into a different direction after the first ACL tear?

I’m sure some folks called him crazy when he kept going after the second one. Perhaps people begged him to quit after the third injury.

Brown, however, tried again.

This isn’t the story of a young man who ultimately decided to quit. That’s an unfair characterization of his journey.

This is a tale about a young athlete who decided to fight when quitting seemed like the better choice. It was certainly the easier one.

In his remarks, Brown didn’t express any frustration. He didn’t blame anyone or anything. He didn’t focus on the obvious pain he’s encountered since this saga began in 2009.

None of that.

He just said thanks:
Brown received his undergraduate degree in communication last month. He is now working toward a master's degree in communication and will remain a part of the team next season, which would have been his last.

"I just want to thank all of my teammates and coaches during the past four years who have always been there to support and encourage me," Brown said. "I never would have been able to battle back through these injuries without their help. Even though this is a difficult way to end my career, I feel grateful to have been able to wear a Stanford uniform and contribute to such a great program and university. I will do everything I can to help the team from the sideline this year and am looking forward to all that we will accomplish."

I hope Brown realizes he has already won.
1. Auburn's offseason news has consisted of a point-shaving charge to Varez Ward and now a marijuana arrest for Shaq Johnson. The Tigers haven't been relevant in years and don't get noticed unless something goes awry. Tony Barbee has had a significant turnover rate in the past three seasons, now up to 12 players through transfer or dismissal. Barbee had a respectable run at UTEP in four seasons, going 30 games above .500, reaching the CBI finals before an NCAA tournament appearance. The move to Auburn was a huge pay raise and seemed to be the right thing with the program needing another facelift. But the Auburn job is arguably one of the toughest in the SEC or in a top seven conference. Barbee has won a total of 12 SEC games in three seasons. That number doesn't look like it will climb much higher next season. Barbee didn't suddenly become a poor coach. But his attrition rate proves that selecting the right recruits and vetting them -- even more than normal -- has to be the new charge or else a chance to climb out of the abyss may be futile. Barbee is a reserved person, not one to draw too much attention to himself. He has no choice now but to hunker down and pull off the unexpected by rising above what are sure to be low expectations. The fourth year of a program is a pivotal season. The drama needs to end so the narrative can be about Auburn getting attention it earns on the court, not off.

2. Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins was thrilled with the performance of one of his star players, Dwight Powell, who was second on the Canadian World University Games team in scoring at 12.1 points a game (behind Baylor's Brady Heslip) in Kazan, Russia, earlier this month. Powell lost his mother, Jacqueline Weir, on Sept. 13, 2012. Stanford's team and staff rallied around Powell and attended a memorial. Powell was able to still play his sophomore season and was named the Pac-12's most improved player -- going from 5.8 points as a freshman to 14.9 as a sophomore. The Cardinal have a real shot to finish in the top three of the Pac-12, and a lot of that has to do with the play of Powell. Dawkins is beaming with pride over Powell's development and his progress. He should. He has stuck by him throughout a terrible ordeal, thousands of miles from his Toronto home. These are the good stories, the ones in which a coach rallies around a player in a time of need with a bond built between the two that can have a lasting legacy.

3. As expected, Michigan gave John Beilein a contract extension, which takes him through the 2018-19 season. This is exactly what the Wolverines have needed -- a long-time, consistent coach who is a proven winner. Of course, it helps if he fits and the timing is right. Tommy Amaker came to Ann Arbor after the Brian Ellerbe years and following NCAA sanctions. The expectations were high but hard to meet. Amaker has found his groove at Harvard where he is thriving. Beilein had West Virginia winning at a high clip. He needed time to develop his style at Michigan. And he's rolling. Having Beilein locked in at Ann Arbor and Tom Izzo a fixture in East Lansing gives this in-state rivalry two of the game's best coaches. This should ensure that both programs will be regulars in challenging for Big Ten titles. Beilein made Michigan nationally relevant again by reaching the Final Four, and added a title game appearance to enhance the comeback story. The recruiting is still strong and the staff has settled down into a highly capable recruiting core. The Michigan students who arrived two years ago (and those who are to come) are getting a basketball program/coach combination that are in concert just as well as they were 20 years ago -- but without any of the NCAA enforcement drama.

Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12

March, 1, 2013
Arizona and UCLA were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the preseason Pac-12 media poll. Yet neither team will be in first place when they square off Saturday at Pauley Pavilion on "College GameDay." UCLA (11-4 in conference) trails league leader Oregon (12-4) by a half-game. Arizona is a full game back along with Cal, both at 11-5. Long story short, four teams are still in contention for the Pac-12 crown, which should make for one of the more exciting regular-season finishes in college basketball. Here are this week’s power rankings:

1. Cal. Mike Montgomery’s squad has won six in a row. Included in that stretch are a two-point victory at Oregon and a one-point win at Oregon State. Allen Crabbe (19) and Justin Cobbs (14.9) have combined to average 33.9 points per game for a Golden Bears team that hosts Colorado on Saturday. Cal needs a victory to remain in contention for the Pac-12 crown.

2. Oregon. Thursday’s 85-75 victory over Oregon State was bittersweet for the Ducks. On the same night it welcomed back injured guard Dominic Artis, Oregon lost second-leading scorer Damyean Dotson when he bruised his hip in a nasty fall under the basket. He is listed as day to day. Oregon’s final two league games (against Colorado and Utah) are on the road.

3. UCLA. Would Bruins fans still hate Ben Howland if UCLA won the Pac-12 title? It could happen. UCLA could grab a share of the league lead by defeating Arizona on Saturday night in Westwood. The Bruins beat the Wildcats 84-73 in January. If UCLA beats Arizona again -- and then tops Washington State and Washington on the road -- it will own at least a share of the conference championship.

4. Arizona. Arizona has a gaudy overall record of 23-5, but it seems to have regressed in recent weeks. The Wildcats were whipped 89-78 at USC on Wednesday and nearly lost to Utah two weeks ago. Arizona’s freshmen haven’t developed as quickly as Sean Miller had hoped. And the team lacks a true point guard.

5. Colorado. The Buffaloes have won eight of their past 10 games, with the only defeats coming in a 58-55 upset at Utah and a 63-62 overtime setback against Arizona State. Tad Boyle’s squad faces a huge road test Saturday against Cal, which has won six straight. At this point, Colorado is in good shape to make the NCAA tournament.

6. USC. The Trojans snapped a two-game losing streak by upsetting No. 11 Arizona on Wednesday night and now have won five of their past seven overall. USC (8-7) is in position to finish Pac-12 play with a winning record, which is something no one would have imagined when coach Kevin O’Neill was fired in January.

7. Washington. The Huskies, who are 7-8 in Pac-12 play, have been a huge disappointment. But they still have a chance to finish with a winning record. Washington’s final three games (against Washington State, USC and UCLA) are all at home. C.J. Wilcox averages 17.1 points per game, and Aziz N'Diaye averages 9.5 rebounds.

8. Stanford. A few weeks ago, it appeared the Cardinal were ready to turn the corner, but Johnny Dawkins’ squad has reverted to its old ways and now has lost four of its past five games. The latest setback came in a 65-63 home defeat against Colorado on Wednesday, when Dwight Powell's potential game-tying dunk came one-tenth of a second too late as the buzzer sounded.

9. Arizona State. The Sun Devils’ NCAA tournament hopes were all but shot following back-to-back losses to Washington and UCLA (the latter in overtime). Arizona State struggled to find consistency throughout February, never winning more than two games in a row. Its final two games (against USC and Arizona) are both on the road.

10. Utah. The Utes threw a scare into Arizona and Colorado before being dominated by Cal in Thursday’s 64-46 defeat. Utah plays at Stanford on Sunday before returning home for its final two regular-season games, against Oregon State and Oregon. This team has improved significantly, even though it has yet to surpass last season's Pac-12 win total of three games.

11. Oregon State. The Beavers led Oregon 41-34 at halftime Thursday but couldn’t hold on in an 85-75 loss. Roberto Nelson had 31 points for an Oregon State squad whose only conference wins are against Washington State, Utah and Washington. Nelson is averaging a team-high 17.3 points per game.

12. Washington State. It’s amazing how many bad breaks this team has caught. Seven of the Cougars’ 17 losses are by four points or fewer, and five are by two points or fewer. Two of them came in overtime, and another occurred against Texas A&M on a 25-foot, buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12

December, 21, 2012
Is there any league in the country where the drop-off from No. 1 to No. 2 is so significant? At least the Big 12 has a ranked team (Oklahoma State) chasing Kansas. In the Pac-12 it's Arizona and then, well ... no one. Here are this week's power rankings.

1. Arizona. The Wildcats open play against East Tennessee State in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on Saturday and could face a tough test against an underrated Miami squad in the second round. If the bracket holds form, Arizona would play San Diego State in the title game on Christmas Day.

2. Colorado. UCLA, Oregon and Cal have all been in the No. 2 slot at some point this season -- and so has Colorado, which is making its return despite a 36-point loss to Kansas on Dec. 8. Spencer Dinwiddie is a finalist for the Cousy Award. Andre Roberson averages 12.3 rebounds, which ranks third nationally.

3. Oregon. The Ducks lost at UTEP on Wednesday in three overtimes, but Dana Altman still has to be encouraged with the direction of this team -- and this program. Arsalan Kazemi has three double-doubles in his past five games.

4. UCLA. There is too much talent in Westwood to write off the Bruins this early. UCLA has won four of its past five games, with the only setback coming against San Diego State. A victory over Fresno State on Saturday seems likely. Shabazz Muhammad (17.8 points) and Jordan Adams (17.5) are both putting up impressive offensive numbers.

5. Oregon State. What has happened to Ahmad Starks? The point guard who had 25 points in a single-digit loss to Kansas on Nov. 30 is averaging just 7.5 points in his past four contests. Oregon State should beat its next three opponents (San Diego, Towson and Texas-Pan American) before opening Pac-12 play at home against Oregon on Jan. 6.

6. Cal. Last weekend's loss to Creighton marked the third loss in a three-game skid (since snapped with a win over UC Santa Barbara) for Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, whose best victory is against Georgia Tech at the DIRECTV Classic.

7. Stanford. The Cardinal have played four upper-level teams (Missouri, Minnesota, Belmont and North Carolina State) and lost each time. In other words, unless you count Northern Iowa, Johnny Dawkins' squad has yet to win a game that will impress the NCAA tournament committee.

8. Washington. The Huskies have won five of their past six games thanks, in large part, to C.J. Wilcox. Washington's leading scorer averages 19.2 points. Even more impressive are his figures from the Huskies' last two games: 21 points, 4.5 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2 steals.

9. Arizona State. I still can't shake the image of the Sun Devils getting destroyed at home by DePaul. But hey, everyone has a bad night, right? There is still plenty to like about this team -- mainly point guard Jahii Carson (17.9 points, 5.3 assists), forward Jordan Bachynski (4.8 blocks) and small forward Carrick Felix (15.1 points, 7.5 rebounds).

10. Utah. The Utes avenged an early-season loss to SMU by defeating the Mustangs 62-53 Tuesday in Salt Lake City. Jarred DuBois averages team-highs in points (13.8) and assists (3.2). Jordan Loveridge averages 11.7 points and 7.2 rebounds.

11. Washington State. The Cougars have won five of their past six games. Brock Motum (20.4 points) and DaVonte Lacy (10.1) form a nice 1-2 punch. Going .500 in Pac-12 play might be enough to save Ken Bone's job.

12. USC. The Trojans have way too much talent to be playing as poorly as they did in Thursday's home loss to UC Irvine. Wake Forest transfer J.T. Terrell, who was supposed to be USC's savior, has been benched for his poor defensive effort.

Behind Brown, NC State avoids deja vu

December, 19, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina State point guard Lorenzo Brown admits there may have been a flashback or two, with about 5 1/2 minutes left Tuesday night, when Stanford cut the Wolfpack’s once-17-point lead to seven.

“In the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘I don’t want this to happen again. I don’t want to lose to them two years in a row,’” he said.

So the junior helped make sure they didn’t. Brown scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half at PNC Arena -- including four points during the closeout stretch -- to lead the Wolfpack to its fourth consecutive win (88-79), and perhaps help dull the memories of State’s double-digit West Coast meltdown a year ago.

It was, by far, Brown’s most aggressive game of the year -- a good sign for a 25th-ranked team that finally seems to be putting its talented pieces together after it started the season in the top 10, but slid down the rankings after losses to Oklahoma State and at Michigan.

“I just took it upon myself,” said Brown, who shot 9-for-15, and also had 5 assists, 4 turnovers and a steal. “I know our team needed some quick buckets. They [the Cardinal] were coming down and shooting all types of 3s. So I took it upon myself to make good shots.”

Indeed, State led by as much as 69-52 with 9:19 left, on a jumper from Brown. But the Cardinal (which got 23 points from forward Dwight Powell) countered with a 12-2 run to cut it to 71-64 -- just enough to harken back to last season, when Stanford used a late 16-1 run to overtake the Wolfpack on the West Coast.

This time around, however, NCSU senior big man Richard Howell countered with a layup, followed by a jumper from forward C.J. Leslie and another layup by Brown.

That, along with sharpshooter Scott Wood’s bevy of lane-opening 3-pointers in the first half, was an example of NC State’s veterans coming together to do what they do best, all at the right time.

And the same time.

“They’ve been in games like this,” Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried of his lineup, which returns four starters from last March’s Sweet 16 team. “Throughout their careers, they’ve been in some wars like this. And we expect them to be good in wars like this.”

And now they have been, twice in the past four games with victories against two power-conference opponents in Connecticut (69-65) and Stanford.

“I’m excited,” Gottfried said. “I think it is another win against a team that is going to win a lot of games this year.”

Plus it’s a confidence boost for Brown, who didn’t even start playing point guard full time until last season. (Not that you’d know it by the way he used his size advantage, length and court vision.)

“He reminds me of a guy who used to play back in my time … Sleepy Floyd,” said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, whose team’s winning streak was snapped at three. “ … He’s a terrific player. He has great size, he can really shoot the basketball, he can play the 1, and he creates all sorts of problems for you because he can post you up, because he’s a 6-5 point guard. He can shoot overtop of smaller guards. He handles the ball well to get to places on the floor that are difficult.

“He’s a very talented guard, and based on what I’ve seen today, he’s one of the best guards in the country.”

Brown -- who was also 7-for-8 with 16 points against Norfolk State last Saturday -- said his squad is also still capable of being one of the best teams in the country, if it can continue to build off wins like Tuesday and learn from the memories of bad games in the past.

“Once Scott’s hitting 3s like that, it opens it up for everybody else,” Brown said. “Then you’ve got Rodney [Purvis], who’s faster than anybody I’ve seen. You can’t do much about about C.J. and Richard, so we can be ‘dangerous’ -- that’s the right word.”

3-point shot: Cardinal need momentum

December, 18, 2012
1. This is a huge week for Stanford. The Cardinal are looking for momentum as they start Pac-12 play since they failed to pick up quality wins in games against Missouri and Minnesota in the Battle 4 Atlantis and since they lost a home game to Belmont. The Cardinal are at NC State Tuesday and at Northwestern Friday. Stanford, which won the NIT, is 7-3. "Our effort and defense has been consistent," said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins. "It has allowed us to be very competitive. We need to improve our field percentage (39.8 for 294th overall in Division I)." The Cardinal can’t afford to leave everything to Pac-12 play. The resume needs something from the pre-conference slate.

2. Creighton’s Doug McDermott has been sensational so far this season, averaging 23.7 points a game and scoring more than 30 in consecutive games against Akron and at Cal. But this isn’t a one-man team. Creighton coach Greg McDermott said guard Grant Gibbs (6.3 apg, 0.9 tpg) has had “a floor game that is off the charts. Austin Chatman has filled in well at point guard (4.3 apg, 2.1 tpg). Gregory Echenique has improved inside. I’m just fortunate to have a group of guys that understand what they can and can’t do. Sounds easy but it’s not in this day and age.’’

3. Butler coach Brad Stevens said he thought BU president James Denko’s statement about the school’s possible interest in leaving the A-10 to join the Big East Catholic seven as being “a proactive way to answer what we’ve all been asked a lot in the past few days.’’ Danko made it clear that Butler will look out for Butler wherever that lands the Bulldogs. There wasn’t a commitment to the A-10 in the statement, just a guarantee the Bulldogs will continue to do what is right for the school.

Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12

December, 14, 2012
The Pac-12 has a chance to pick up signature wins Saturday, when Arizona takes on Florida at the McKale Center and Cal hosts Creighton. Otherwise the upcoming weekend is rather humdrum. Here are the latest rankings.

1. Arizona: The No. 8 Wildcats survived their first true test of the season by defeating Clemson on the road, but the Tigers aren’t anywhere close to as good as No. 5 Florida, which defeated its first seven opponents by an average of 25.3 points.

2. Oregon: Much like the downtrodden Big 12, identifying the second-best squad in this conference is tough. Dana Altman’s team gets the nod this week simply because the Ducks are the only school (other than Arizona) that hasn’t suffered an embarrassing loss. Oregon’s only setback came against Cincinnati. Oh, and the Ducks beat UNLV, something Cal couldn’t do.

3. Colorado: OK, so the Buffaloes aren’t as good as we thought. But there’s no way they’re as bad as the team that lost by 36 points to Kansas last weekend. Things just snowballed on them. That can happen at Allen Fieldhouse. I still say this team finishes no worse than fourth in the Pac-12.

4. Cal: The Golden Bears’ performance in a one-point loss to UNLV was actually pretty impressive. This is by no means a great Cal team, but as long as Allen Crabbe keeps playing well, this squad will be able to compete with anyone in the league.

5. Oregon State: Craig Robinson’s team is set to begin a five-game home stretch against a bundle of mediocre opponents. Don’t be surprised if the Beavers enter conference play Jan. 6 against Oregon with an 11-2 record and loads of confidence.

6. UCLA: The Bruins didn’t play great in Saturday’s 65-63 victory over Texas at Houston's Reliant Stadium. But give them credit for showing toughness down the stretch and battling back for a victory. Maybe that was a momentum boost for this team. Shabazz Muhammad will be more effective once he loses 5-10 pounds.

7. Stanford: Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell combined to average 28.9 points for the Cardinal. We’ll know a lot more about Johnny Dawkins’ team after a week that includes road games at NC State and Northwestern.

8. Washington: The Huskies aren’t as talented as they’ve been in the past, but it’s not as if the roster is completely bare. Aziz N'Diaye, Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs are all veterans. And Washington boasts an incredible home-court advantage.

9. Washington State: Two of the Cougars’ four losses (against Gonzaga and Texas A&M) have been in the closing seconds. The return of DaVonte Lacy from a knee injury has given Washington State a huge boost.

10. Utah: The Utes are arguably the most improved team in the Pac-12. They crushed the Boise State team that beat Creighton by 13 points, and Utah lost to BYU by only three points in Provo. On Tuesday, the Utes will try to avenge an earlier loss at SMU when the Mustangs visit Salt Lake City.

11. Arizona State: The Sun Devils fell from No. 6 to No. 11 this week after getting annihilated at home by DePaul, one of the worst teams in the Big East. The game wasn’t nearly as close as the 78-61 score suggests. Even with Arizona State’s 8-2 record, that stomping will be difficult to forget.

12. USC: I don’t believe the Trojans are truly the worst team in the league, but they’ve yet to do anything to deserve a higher ranking. I’m all for playing a tough schedule, but Kevin O’Neill might have overdone it. USC’s past five losses were against Marquette, San Diego State, Nebraska, New Mexico and Minnesota.

Katz Korner: New NCAA restrictions

August, 6, 2012

Mark Gottfried, Johnny Dawkins and Kevin Stallings talk to Andy Katz about the new NCAA rules, including new academic standards.
INDIANAPOLIS -- One is speaking plain English; the other feels lost in a bureaucratic town of Babel.

To one, it is so obvious.

To the other, inscrutable.

On one side sits a group of well-intentioned people in Indianapolis, folks who make rules and standards not to be exclusionary but to encourage academic success.

On the other side sit kids in classrooms -- some in high school, fretting about being allowed to play in college, and some in college, fretting about being able to play the next semester.

And in between is a chasm wider than a 7-footer's wingspan.

How high school athletes become eligible to play Division I sports and how they stay eligible in college is not exactly in lockstep with how the NCAA would like to see either of those two tasks accomplished.

And so the NCAA makes new rules and increased standards and the students and coaches question their fairness.

The latest changes in eligibility standards will apply to this fall's high school freshman class, but we won't know their full effect until 2016, when those students prepare to step foot on college campuses. They are already sending ripples through the college community because they are so drastic -- a jump in the required minimum GPA from 2.0 to 2.3 and, perhaps more challenging, a rule that now requires high school athletes to complete 10 of their 16 required core courses prior to their senior year of high school.

There is recourse for those who can meet the old standards but not the new ones. The NCAA is now calling it an academic redshirt, a sort of nuanced version of a partial-qualifier. Students may receive a scholarship and will be eligible to practice with their teams, but won't be able to compete. Provided they pass nine credit hours in their first college semester, they can compete the following season as a redshirt freshman.

The intent is simple: The NCAA and its Eligibility Center no longer want to see transcripts in which athletes essentially backload the better part of their academic curriculum at the end of their high school careers.

Instead of taking courses in order, kids desperate to earn an eligibility stamp collect classwork like stamps, taking geometry before algebra and English 4 simultaneously with English 3.

Click here for the rest of Dana O'Neil's story.
Yes, that headline is a WWE reference. Deal with it. What can I say? I'm excited. After more than a decade, some of it spent in the NBA, some of it spent overseas, some of it spent as a D-League coach and (most recently) some of it spent in the MBA program on Stanford's campus, Mark "Mad Dog" Madsen is once again an official -- and not just a spiritual -- figure in the Stanford men's basketball program.

On Tuesday, per the Associated Press, Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins hired the former Cardinal star as an assistant coach. Madsen will replace the retired Dick Davey, and will work primarily with post players. That makes sense, as Madsen was once a dominant collegiate big man who averaged an efficient 12.4 points and 8.8 rebounds in three seasons. In 1998, Madsen's play -- including an and-one dunk -- spurred Stanford's epic comeback over Rhode Island in the Elite Eight. (YouTube it. You'll see.)

Why the excitement? It's not just because this news dovetails so nicely with today's discussion about coaches as high-level former players (not to mention the coaches who couldn't hack it, but can still really coach anyway). It's also because Mad Dog presents an opportunity for entertainment not seen in Palo Alto since Tiger Woods was fist-pumping courtside in a win over Arizona. (Again: Just YouTube it.)

His post-championship dance as a Los Angeles Laker is a legendary SportsCenter classic; run a search for "Mark Madsen" and you'll get at least three versions of his infamously goofy, unrestrained gesticulations long before you'll find any actual basketball highlights. As an excitable guy on the sideline for 35 or so games each season, I fully expect Madsen to be screaming, waving his clipboard, and doing that thing bench players do when they pretend to be holding each other back on the sideline.

More likely than not, the Mad Dog has become considerably more docile these days. But we can hope. Welcome back, Mad Dog. I don't often use cliché Facebook quotations and Lee Ann Womack lyrics to welcome assistant coaches to their new jobs, but in this case, it's fitting: Dance like no one's watching, Mad Dog. I hope you dance.
Pardon my saying, but it is the opinion of this blog that you should immediately go read Jason King's distinctly fun collection of pixels ready for your retinas on something called today. Jason looks at college coaches who, despite all their successes leading incredibly talented players, were in fact not very talented players themselves. Some hardly played in high school; some didn't even get that far. Yet they have succeeded in the sport all the same.

This is a uniquely fun concept because most of us -- and by "most of us" I mean "pretty much every dude you played intramural basketball with in college"* -- like to think we can coach. Coaching does not require innate physical gifts we can never possess. It does not require leaping ability or soft touch. It does not require years of youthful physical tweaks to your jumper's mechanics; it is not reliant on your parents' willingness to pay for expensive basketball camps.

It requires knowledge and feel, management skills and a poker face, X's and O's studies and a deft personal touch, the kind of relatable and universal traits you can learn and pass along, the kinds of things that can sell books about corporate management.

(*Remember those guys? My favorites were the guys who coached their frat-house B-squads. They gave their teams five sideline out-of-bounds plays, three junk zones and an emphasis on motion offense ... none of which their hungover players could ever remember. I recall one opponent showing up in a tie, and he was NOT being ironic. Hey, mini-Izzo, it's intramurals. Step away from the clipboard.)

As adults, we can't imagine ourselves as players. But we can, and do, imagine ourselves as coaches. Knowing some of the most successful coaches in the business weren't necessarily great players only strengthens this merry illusion.

That said, it's not like having "being good at basketball" on a résumé ever hurt a young coach's chances of getting in the game, especially early in his career when contacts, guile and experience are all a young coach really has to offer. Naturally, there are plenty of high-level college hoops coaches who were excellent players in their heydays. In fact, according to College Hoopedia, there are 62 active Division I head coaches who were named to at least one all-conference selection as players in a Division I league.

As a complement to Jason's story, then, here's a list of some of the best former players-turned-coaches in college hoops today. In no particular order:

[+] EnlargeSteve Alford
AP Photo\Fred JewellSteve Alford was the first Indiana player to be named team MVP four seasons in a row.
Steve Alford (coach: New Mexico; player: Indiana): One of my favorite parts of last year's ESPN "30 for 30" documentary "Winning Time" came when director Dan Klores found old footage from the 1987 NBA draft, when the Indiana Pacers passed on Steve Alford to draft future Hall of Famer Reggie Miller instead. The reaction from Indiana residents at the time was, shall we say, less than pleased.

But can you blame them? Not only was Alford a native son of New Castle, Ind., a representative of the state's "Hoosiers"-inflected basketball culture, but he also happened to be a massively successful college player. Alford was the first Indiana player to be named team MVP four seasons in a row, was named to three All-Big Ten teams, became the school's all-time leading scorer (before Calbert Cheaney later broke the record) and, in 1987, won the school its fifth national title, shooting 7-of-10 from 3 and scoring 23 points in IU's last-second win against Syracuse. Also, the ladies really loved his hair.

Danny Manning (coach: Tulsa; player: Kansas): The newly appointed head coach at Tulsa will always have a long way to go to live up to his playing days, when he became one of the greatest players in the storied program's history. The list of honors is almost stunning. Manning left KU as its all-time leading scorer and rebounder. He was named to two All-America teams. In 1988, he won the Wooden and Naismith player of the year awards, was the NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player, was named the Big Eight Player of the Decade, and led underdog Kansas to the 1988 national title with 31 points, 18 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 blocks in the national title game against Oklahoma. Knee injuries cut what could have been a stellar pro career short, and it will be interesting to see how Manning translates his once otherworldy college abilities into improvement for the Golden Hurricane.

Johnny Dawkins (coach: Stanford; player: Duke): Mike Krzyzewski's coaching tree has its fair share of branches, but none so decorated in terms of players as Dawkins. The D.C.-area native was Coach K's first true star player in the mid-1980s, when, in his senior season in 1985-86, Dawkins led the Blue Devils to a 37-3 record and a national runner-up finish. He won the Naismith Player of the Year award that season, and finished his career as Duke's all-time leading scorer, a mark that stood until J.J. Redick came along 20 years later.

Billy Donovan (coach: Florida; player: Providence): When Donovan met former coach Rick Pitino in the West Region final of this year's NCAA tournament, it marked a reunion a quarter-century in the making. Pitino took over as a young coach at Providence in 1985, when Donovan was an out-of-shape reserve who wanted to transfer but couldn't find a taker. After shedding some weight and adapting to Pitino's 3-point-heavy up-tempo system, Donovan went on to average 15.1 points as a junior and 20.6 as a senior, when he earned All-Big East honors and led the Friars to the Final Four. And so the legend of "Billy The Kid" was born.

Corliss Williamson (coach: Central Arkansas; player: Arkansas): The marquee player of Nolan Richardson's early-to-mid-90s run at Arkansas, Williamson was a dominant college power forward. He averaged 19.0 points and 7.1 rebounds per game (on 58 percent shooting, no less) in three seasons at the school, where he was named to three All-SEC teams and two All-America teams, while leading the Razorbacks to a national title in 1994 and a runner-up finish in 1995. Also, his nickname was Big Nasty, which is an awesome nickname, and a cursory SI Vault search reveals this awesome quote -- a portent of the '90s NBA to come: "Juwan [Howard] is the best player I've gone against this season, but the best I've ever gone against is Shaquille O'Neal [in an AAU summer tournament]," Williamson told SI's William F. Reed in 1994. "All I remember is getting dunked on hard."

Larry Brown (coach: SMU; player: North Carolina): The majority of Larry Brown's thousands of basketball wins have come as a coach at both levels of the game, but before he embarked on his lifelong coaching journey (latest stop: Southern Methodist), Brown was a star in the early 1960s at North Carolina. He led the team in scoring in 1961, was named All-ACC, was a gold medalist on the U.S. Olympic team in 1964 (and a gold medalist on the U.S. Maccabiah Games team in 1961) and went on to play five seasons in the ABA. It's difficult to compare players from the '70s, '80s and '90s to 5-foot-9 guards from the early '60s, but Brown might be the best Jewish basketball player of all time, and it's just as difficult to leave him off this list.

Bryce Drew (coach: Valparaiso; player: Valparaiso): No historical introductions needed here. If you've ever seen more than a few minutes of the NCAA tournament, you've seen Bryce Drew's legendary shot, simply known as "The Shot," because it needs no further clarification. But Drew was far from a one-trick college hoops pony. He also led Valpo to three straight Mid-Continent regular-season and conference tournament titles. When he returned to take over his father Homer Drew's program last season, he arrived as the school's all-time leader in points, assists and 3-point field goals. The dude could always cook.

Fred Hoiberg (coach: Iowa State; player: Iowa State): Speaking of players who could cook, many remember the most popular player in the history of Iowa State -- who just so happens to now be its head coach -- as a deadly shooter. He was, particularly as a long-range specialist in his 10-year NBA career, but Hoiberg was a more well-rounded player during his days in Ames than many recall. (For example: As a sophomore, the 6-foot-4 guard led the team in rebounds.) As a senior, Hoiberg scored 19.9 points per game on the way to All-America and first-team all-Big Eight honors. In the 1993 Ames mayoral race, Hoiberg received "multiple" write-in votes. He's been the unofficial mayor ever since.

Travis Ford (coach: Oklahoma State; player: Missouri, Kentucky): Fun fact: Missouri fans still know Travis Ford as "Travis the Traitor," thanks to his defection from a talented Tigers team to Kentucky after his 1990 freshman season, when he won All-Big Eight Freshman of the Year honors. Ford went on to star at Kentucky, where he was named All-SEC First Team and became the first player in team history to make more than 100 3-pointers in a single season (101), a record that stood for nearly 20 years.

Tony Bennett (coach: Virginia; player: Wisconsin-Green Bay): For all of the great shooters on the list -- for all of the great shooters in the history of the college game -- you might be surprised to learn which among them holds the NCAA's all-time record for career 3-point field goal percentage. Yep: That's Tony Bennett, who finished his career under his father, Dick Bennett, at Green Bay with a 49.7 percent 3-point mark (the highest among any player with at least 200 attempts and 2.0 3s made per game).

Honorable mentions: Pitt's Jamie Dixon (TCU), Bradley's Geno Ford (Ohio), Ole Miss' Andy Kennedy (UAB), Oklahoma's Lon Kruger (Kansas State), Utah's Larry Krystowiak (Montana), Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin (Purdue), Arizona's Sean Miller (Pitt), San Francisco's Rex Walters (Kansas), Richmond's Chris Mooney (Princeton), Oregon State's Craig Robinson (Princeton)

Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12

February, 6, 2012
Allow me to concur with my colleague, Myron Medcalf, who included the Pac-12's intriguing title race among his five observations Sunday:
2. The Pac-12 race is actually exciting: Let’s ignore the fact this could still be a one-bid league and the overall conference has been bested by multiple mid-major conferences this season. The Pac-12’s title race is compelling right now. Washington beat Arizona on the road last weekend and then overcame a late double-digit deficit to beat UCLA on Thursday. The Wildcats overcame Cal’s early 22-9 lead in one of the better matchups of the week: a 78-74 road win for Arizona, which it followed up with a victory at Stanford. The Pac-12 might end up with the most captivating finish in the country simply because so many teams possess questionable NCAA tourney résumés.

This is entirely true. Sure, the quality of play in the Pacific 12 conference isn't the highest in the country, but so what? If you want to watch the best basketball in the world, played by all of its best players, well, NBA League Pass is right this way. Go wild. If you want your hoops defined as much by imperfection as success, it's hard to do much better than this fascinating and downright weird league.

Anyway, onto the rankings.

1. Washington: For much of the season, yours truly has been pining over the Washington Huskies. Well, not pining, exactly, but at least keeping an eye out. With Tony Wroten, Abdul Gaddy, Terrence Ross and Aziz N'Diaye, Washington has always appeared to be the most talented team in the conference. Of course, talent only goes so far, and for much of the season, this team's talent was undermined by a lack of chemistry and a lack of defense, and not always in that order. Both of those things have changed in conference play. The Huskies are hardly blowing the doors off on offense, but they're allowing the league's third-fewest points per possession on defense, and unlike their mediocre nonconference slate, Lorenzo Romar's team is getting key stops, closing out tight games and winning on the road. As a result -- and thanks to Cal's home loss to Arizona this week -- Washington finds itself alone atop the Pac-12 standings Monday morning. Can the Huskies take that lead to the finish line? It may not matter, this team's at-large tourney profile is still pretty mediocre. But you can't knock Washington's improvement. If things keep going this way, Romar's team will be in excellent position heading into the all-important Pac-12 tournament.

2. California: The Bears have spent the entire Pac-12 season looking like this conference's best, or at least most solid, team. That perception hasn't changed, despite Thursday's home loss to Arizona, which dropped California out of first place in the league standings. Thing is, Cal has reached its ceiling. The Bears are what they are. That's not something we can necessarily say about Washington, which looks capable of greater improvement each time it takes the floor. The Bears are solid (and their total per-possession numbers are solid, if not amazing, particularly in conference play) but unspectacular. Meh.

3. Colorado: Is it time to believe in Colorado? Insofar as "believe in Colorado" means "think they might be the third- or fourth-best team in the Pac-12," then yeah, sure. The Buffaloes are playing solid defense and got a couple of nice wins last week over Oregon State and Oregon (though Saturday night's win over the Ducks featured a controversial last-second foul call on Oregon's E.J. Singler that gave coach Tad Boyle's team two late, game-sealing free throws). In any case, the Buffaloes still need to prove themselves on the road. This team's only Pac-12 road victory came at USC, and five of their final seven games -- including the next three, at Arizona, Arizona State and Utah -- are on the road. We'll see.

4. Arizona: The Wildcats move up the board further than anyone this week thanks to their impressive Bay Area sweep, which began Thursday at Cal and ended Saturday at Stanford. Both were solid wins for coach Sean Miller's improving bunch. The Wildcats are now 7-4 in conference play with the best per-possession defense in the league. Arizona's offense could hold them back (it was uncharacteristically good at Cal, and it didn't prevent a win at Stanford), but the Cats may have found their niche on the defensive end.

5. Oregon: Perception-wise, it's hard to penalize the Ducks too much for losing on the road at Colorado, let alone losing on the road on such a controversial last-second call. Coach Dana Altman's team has an excellent chance to bounce back this week when Washington comes to town, so that's good news. But Oregon has yet to really impress when it comes to efficiency margin in league play, and while Altman and Oregon fans may feel like they are a few missed opportunities away from contention, the Ducks' advanced metrics beg to differ.

6. Stanford: Stanford entered league play with a sluggish offense and what appeared to be the conference's best defense. Since then, coach Johnny Dawkins' team has regressed to the mean on the defensive end, allowing the fifth-most points per possession in Pac-12 play. That wouldn't be so bad if Stanford were playing a bit better on offense. Unfortunately, that's not the case. That's why Arizona was able to win in Palo Alto on Saturday despite scoring well under a point per possession, and that's why Stanford, once a potential title contender, is stuck here at 6-5.

7. Oregon State: It's hard to move the Beavers either up or down after Oregon State lost at Colorado and won at Utah. Guard Jared Cunningham leads an offense that can score in bunches and a defense that is far too permissive both at home and on the road. Last week's win at Oregon was nice, but little else has been impressive.

8. UCLA: Believe it or not, the Bruins score the most points per trip of any team in the Pac-12. Travis and David Wear are providing efficient role scoring, and Joshua Smith remains a load for any defense to handle. Strangely enough for a program that has prided itself on defense in the Ben Howland era, this team is totally mediocre on the defensive end. Losing to Washington on the road, as the Bruins did Thursday, is hardly a crime. But the way UCLA lost -- with a timeout still on the board -- was curious. More importantly, this team hasn't gone anywhere since the turmoil of November and December, and that has UCLA fans questioning the program's future direction.

9. Washington State: Washington State had one thing going for it in early Pac-12 play: home-court advantage. The Cougars were offensively potent at home, and that trait guided them to wins over Stanford and Cal in back-to-back games last month. But Faisal Aden's sad, career-ending ACL injury has robbed them of even that ability, made evident by a meager 60-53 win over USC and a 60-points-in-65-possessions performance in Saturday's three-point loss to UCLA. This was never going to be a tournament team, but that doesn't make Aden's fate, or its effect on this fledgling squad, any easier to swallow.

10. Arizona State: No surprises here. Arizona State had two road games this week -- at Stanford, at Cal -- and lost by 20-plus in both. Those blowouts moved the Sun Devils to 3-8 in league play, good enough to stay atop Utah and USC and no one else.

11. Utah: The Utes will never truly wash off the stink of their horrendous nonconference performance; on a per-possession basis, they've been ranked in the low 300s all season, and they'll be there for the remainder. But they do still own one more league win than USC. Then again, Utah has lost its past four (including at USC), mostly in blowout fashion, and the Utes may return to their seemingly predestined spot at the bottom of these rankings if the trend continues.

12. USC: And then there's Southern California. The Trojans' only win in league play came at home over Utah, and while they kept things relatively close at Washington State (losing 60-53), that's hardly worth much. USC is scoring about 0.83 points per possession in Pac-12 play, a league that hardly specializes in lockdown defense. Unless the Trojans discover a magical way to score the basketball in the next few weeks, their only hopes of avoiding the 2012 Pac-12 wooden spoon award is if Utah somehow plays even worse.