With the arrival of June, I really get EXCITED, yes as the great pro wrestler Lonnie Mayne use to say, "Excitement is in the Air".
No, it is not because summer is here or the fact everyone's yard looks great or even that the NBA finals are going full steam.
It is the fact that some college basketball schedules are starting to appear on their websites for 2011-12 (UCLA and Washington have posted their schedules already). Granted, I might be the only person in the world who gets excited about such things as basketball schedules, it does signal to myself it is time once again to think about a new season of college basketball for all us who love and appreciate the game.
As small as posting the schedule for 2011-12 might be, I am also excited about what might happen in the 2011-12 season when it comes to west coast basketball and here are some of my thoughts and questions.
UCLA----Always one of the major focal points of west coast basketball, it will be real interesting to see how the Bruins do, when they will play all of their games on the "road" as Pauley Pavilion is currently being remodeled. UCLA will play 14 games in the ancient, Sports Arena and 4 games in the Honda Center as their home schedule.
Utah St.----The Aggies are the biggest tease in college basketball. They always seem to win between 25-30 games during the regular season, then do a disappearing act in the NCAA tournament. It does make you wonder just how good of a coach Stew Morrill is indeed. He gets mentioned quite often when job openings come up, but Stew, please just get some NCAA post season victories. No matter what, best home court atmosphere in college basketball, period.
Oregon Ducks----Can they sustain the great finish they had in 2011-12 ? Will they paint their center line so it is visible to everyone, not just someone who is standing two feet over it using a magnifying glass. And will Dana Altman, change his shirt collar? When Altman removes his coat, as is the case almost every game early on, it is always a white shirt , he reminds us old timers of Ward Cleaver.(Young people, google Ward Cleaver for an explanation). Ok, ok, it is good to laugh a little, I make fun of myself all the time and Altman is a terrific coach.
Oregon State---Staying in the Beaver State, it is time for Craig Robison to produce a winning team and win big. The Beavers were a staple of west coast basketball for years, but have fallen on some real hard times in the last several years. Robison has some talented players on his squad, but he does not seem be able to decide if he wants his teams to play a slow down style or run. Coach, just turn em loose, as you have some incredible athletic players.
New Mexico---Steve Alford has a potential sweet 16 team. He can coach, he has players like he has never had before and "The Pit" (the greatest name for any arena in the country) is a miserable place for visiting teams to win. One other key ingredient, he does not have to face BYU this year in league play, always in the past a big hurdle for all Mt. West teams.
Eastern Washington---Only three other coaches have ever jumped right from D-3 to D-1 basketball as the coach. Jim Hayford will lead the Eagles this year after 10 great years at D-3 Whitworth. He has had a nice recruiting year so far, but it remains to be seen if the adjustment from D-3 will be too much to handle. No one is expecting much out of the Eagles, so he has plenty of room to impress. My take is a winner is a winner, so look for the Eagles to surprise a few people.
Jim Les----To myself, the best coaching HIRE made in D-1 basketball. Les, never should have been let go at Bradley, but the Braves loss is Cal Davis' gain. Unlike other leagues, the Big West does not take a lot to jump up in the standings, Cal Davis is a program to watch on the west coast and Jim Les has the tools to make them a huge success. Sleeping giant in basketball.
BYU---No Jimmer, but they still have a talented team returning. What I will be watching is how they do in the West Coast Conference, joining the league this year for all sports except football. While the opponents might be excited, because BYU is like Kentucky, they have fans everywhere on the planet and will help fill some WCC arenas which normally look like a bunch of people who showed up disguised as empty seats, they might soon wake up to the fact that BYU will become a dominate team in the WCC and say, "why did we ever let BYU in this league"?
Yes Lonnie Mayne, who is my favorite pro wrestler of all time, "Excitement is in the Air", at least for one big college basketball fan who writes this blog each day.