Date: Today Time: 1 p.m. Tucson time Location: Olson Court, McKale Center (14,538) Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach) [Sirius/XM: 92/190] TV: FSN (Steve Physioc/Marques Johnson)
ESPN.com published a story on UA senior point guard Mark Lyons Wednesday. In the story, Dana O’Neil writes that Lyon’s divorce with Xavier occurred because he wanted to play point guard but his coach Chris Mack wanted him to continue to play the off-guard position. Mack wanted Lyons to stay at that position despite Tu Holloway exhausting his eligibility. Dee Davis, a sophomore, was pegged to replace Holloway instead. O’Neil writes that Mack and Lyons had confrontations in practice. She reports that one time Lyons was kicked out of practice because he refused to run as part of a punishment by Mack for his body language. “He’s a smart kid; he knows right from wrong,” UA coach Sean Miller, who recruited Lyons to Xaver, told O’Neil. “The thing that happens with him, he has a switch inside of him. The good part of the switch, the stakes are really high, the game is on the line and 15,000 people are watching and there is no one who has more confidence than he does. But when things aren’t going well for him personally, he lets that same confidence work against him and his teammates. It’s constant, talking to him about it.” Miller also told O’Neil that Lyons’ transition to point guard is similar to an offensive coordinator working with a running quarterback — “Part of the gift of a good offensive coordinator is to not try and make him something he isn’t, but give him things he can do and try to teach him some of the things he needs to get better at. That’s what we’re doing with Mark.”
Washington State has significant trends/odds to go against. Its last win over a ranked opponent occurred more than two years ago, against No. 18 Washington, Jan. 30, 2011, in an 87-80 victory. The Cougars are 3-37 against ranked Arizona teams and 0-5 against the Wildcats when they are ranked 12th. The Cougars last defeated a ranked Wildcat team Feb. 1, 2007, winning 72-66 over No. 20 Arizona (Washington State was ranked 18th at the time). The Cougars are 0-11 against the No. 12 team in the country, This is their second encounter with a No. 12 team this season. Washington State fell to No. 12 Kansas, 78-41, Nov. 19, 2012. Arizona, 27-8 against Wazzu in Tucson, has a five-game winning streak over the Cougars.
Continuing the theme of Arizona players and national publicity, UA senior forward Kevin Parrom is featured in this week’s Sports Illustrated (see spread pictured above). Kelli Anderson details Parrom’s ability in the last two years to overcome the adversity of losing three close members of his family to cancer — including his mother Edith Williams (Coach Edith, as she was called) — sustaining severe nerve damage from a gunshot wound and enduring his second broken foot in his collegiate career. “Kevin’s not just the comeback player of the year, he’s the most courageous player,” UA assistant Emanuel (Book) Richardson told Anderson. “What he went through would have broken a lot of players.” Parrom was ejected when the UA played Washington State in Pullman on Feb. 2 for a flagrant-2 foul for hitting DeVonte Lacy on the head. That incident and Parrom’s confrontations with former ASU guards Ty Abbott and Derek Glasser are a reflection of Parrom’s competitive nature that has a positive impact on the Wildcats. ASU coach Herb Sendek was complimentary of Parrom’s style in the SI article. “Kevin seems to have a healthy measure of self-confidence that rubs off on his team,” Sendek told Anderson. “Whether it’s a big three or a rebound, or a play on defense, he delivers it.”
Washington State sophomore point guard Royce Woolridge, a Kansas transfer from Phoenix Sunnyslope, has asserted himself in the last seven games. He has averaged 16.9 points in that span, which includes a career-high 36 points in last Saturday’s overtime loss to visiting Oregon. He averages 10 points a game for the season. He is averaging 3.1 assists and 2.4 turnovers a game also in the last seven games. For the season, he’s averaging 2.7 assists and 2 turnovers a game. So while his assist total remains the same, his scoring has increased dramatically. That shows the green light Woolridge has been given by Washington State coach Ken Bone. He also has more scoring opportunities because a knee injury has sidelined Washington State’s productive guard Mike Ladd, who is doubtful for today’s game. Woolridge is one of 43 Arizona-bred players playing for Division I basketball programs other than Arizona and ASU. Former Arizona player Daniel Bejarano (Phoenix North) of Colorado State, Matt Carlino (Gilbert Mesquite) of BYU and Bryce Cotton (Palo Verde) of Providence are some of the more notable players who left the state.
Ten conference victories in the Pac-12 equates to a winning record in conference play (18 games in the regular season) and a better opportunity to make the NCAA tournament. Arizona won its 10th conference game of the season Wednesday against Washington, reaching that mark for the fourth straight year. It marks the 28th time in the 35 years that the school has been a Pac-12 member that the program has won 10 or more league games. UCLA (30) is the only conference school with more. The Bruins can increase that total to 31 tomorrow with a victory at USC. Stanford (19) and California (16) round out the top four. The Wildcats had a run of 23 consecutive seasons of 10 conference wins or more before going 8-10 in 2007-08, the Wildcats’ first season without Lute Olson and Kevin O’Neill as the interim coach. The Wildcats went 9-9 the following season under another interim coach, Russ Pennell. Despite those subpar seasons (by Arizona standards) the Wildcats still advanced to the NCAA tournament both of those seasons. The Wildcats have won at least 10 conference regular-season games in the three previous seasons under Miller but did not make the tournament field in 2010 and last year.
Cal coach Mike Montgomery’s shove of star player Allen Crabbe last weekend during the Golden Bears’ comeback win over USC caused a heated exchange between ESPN College GameDay’s Jalen Rose and Digger Phelps this morning. Rose said Montgomery bullied Crabbe by shoving the player, knowing Crabbe can’t shove back. Phelps defended Montgomery by saying the coach’s action was a form of motivation. From my memory, I can not recall Olson ever getting physical with a player. He chewed them out and some, such as Salim Stoudamire, took residence in his doghouse. Stoudamire matured from that treatment. Oddly, the one time I recall a confrontation between an Arizona coach and a player was after the UA lost at Cal in 1997 before the Wildcats went on their memorable championship run through the NCAA tournament. Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen described the aftermath of that Cal game this way: “The madder March becomes, the more Arizona falls under its lunatic spell. A Wildcat coach and player grab at one another and exchange angry words in the locker room. Opposing athletic directors engage in spirited conversation about a breach in crowd control. Lute Olson, confronted by a mindless idiot who flashes the universal sign of disrespect, and bumped by another fan, shows great restraint by allowing himself to be restrained.”