Despite the fact that many people do not even look at west coast college basketball seriously and it has been forgotten by the east coast media in many circles (not whining, just stating a fact), it will be a really interesting year coming up for teams out west in the 2011-12 season. Here are just a few thoughts.
1. Arizona---They have a real chance to challenge for the NCAA championship. There is no question that Sean Miller has established himself as a powerful force in the coaching ranks and he will have his most talented group yet in Tucson. Of course paper only looks good, when your writing on it, but look for Arizona to be in the final four.
2. Eastern Washington---Hiring new coach Jim Hayford from the D-3 ranks was iffy, chancy and anything else you want to call it, but a winner is a winner and Hayford has been highly successful at D-3 Whitworth. In case you have not been watching he is doing a good job of recruiting in his first stint as a head coach at D-1 and it will be good for the Big Sky if he can change the basketball culture in Cheney, Washington.
3. Painting The Line---In my efforts to follow this, I have heard nothing about Oregon showing us a center court line, that we can see. It had an impact on games last year, it will impact games in the future if it is not made more visible. Not to mention it is very hard to watch games on TV that are played at Oregon, with no visible center court line. The center court line is a huge part of the history of college basketball and as I have said, it is always fine to be edgy, but it is not fine to be disrespectful to the great game of basketball. Ducks, you have things going in basketball, just paint your darn center court line, so you don't have to stand two feet from it with a magnifying glass just to see it.
4. Johnny Dawkins----It will be time for Dawkins to show us something at Stanford. To the amazement of lots of people, Dawkins was just given a contract extension, despite a record of .500 in his three years with the Cardinal. Coming out of the Duke basketball program, it was the thought that Dawkins would make a big splash, so far not even a ripple. He might not be the coach we all thought he would be.
5. Oregon State----Are the Beavers going to move out of neutral and once again have an impact on college basketball as they did on a somewhat regular basis prior to 1990, or are we going to see the same old pathetic situation we have seen in Corvallis. Craig Robinson also needs to prove himself as a head coach, he really has done nothing to improve Beaver basketball and the pressure will mount for his teams to produce. With its history, the Pac-12 needs a strong presence in Corvallis.
6. UCLA---How will the Bruins do playing every game on the road. It will test them for sure, most teams who have played games out of their home court for year because of renovation (Pauley Pavilion is undergoing a complete renovation and not available in 2011-12) have not faired well. I would say look for the Bruins to have a down year this season, but bounce back strong next year with what is already a great looking recruiting class.
7. Max Good---My favorite name in coaching and one of my favorite coaches to watch with his sideline antics. It would be nice for his Loyola Marymount team to have some success on the floor this year after being a disaster last year. If Good is bad, then there is a good chance it will be no "good" when it comes to him returning to the Lions' sideline in 2012. At some point in the West Coast Conference, teams besides Gonzaga, St. Mary's and likely BYU, need to make an impact and get the league more spots in the NCAA tournament.
8. Seattle U.---The Redhawks have one of the best traditions in all of college basketball back a few years, well documented in past Craw's Corner columns. It is time though for them to start showing some improvement on the floor and win more games. It hard to move up from D-2 to D-1 as the Redhawks did three years past, but at some point the wins need to come, or else the varnish will wear off quickly and the move will not look good. It will help being in the WAC starting in 2012, a league they could potentially dominate, but so far it is all talk.
9. Steve Alford---Despite some chances to move, Alford has stayed as coach at New Mexico. He has been consistently good with the Lobos and you heard it here first, in the next five years, he will take his team to the final four one of those seasons. He is a great recruiter and now that he does not have to play BYU twice, that will help. The Lobos are one of basketball's sleeping giants. Great fans, great state and always excellent basketball. The next step is coming.
10. Hall of Fame----Will others like myself catch onto the fact that Danny Miles at Oregon Tech deserves and should be in the basketball hall of fame in Springfield, Mass. Going into his 41st season, it is time he got his just do and if I can do my little part to help, then so be it. Media in Oregon should be talking about it more and basketball fans worldwide need to hear his great story. This blog is gaining a huge following and part of my mission is to recognize and honor basketball people who deserve accolades like the hall of fame and have contributed so much. Miles is a perfect fit.
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