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September 16, 2020

Grinding Gears: Basketball is struggling in irrelevant conference

first_img“There are a lot of teams [that], if they play well, can beat anybody in the league,” Enfield said. “If you don’t bring your best game, you can lose to anybody in the league. So there’s a lot of teams that, on any given night, can win by 10-15 points and maybe play the same team the next night and lose by 10-15.” It may have been shocking to Enfield, but, 11 games into conference play, USC’s standing is no longer a surprise to the neutral observer. USC is merely part of the group of Pac-12 teams mired in a “meh” season, one as uninspiring as the tepid crowds that have shown up at Galen Center. It was the continuation of a feud that stretches back to last season, when Boyle called Enfield out over USC’s recruiting practices. Enfield fired back with a statement and, during the teams’ next meeting, he called a timeout with 21 seconds left and USC ahead by 12 points to presumably rub in the victory. Boyle took exception to that and made it clear how much defeating USC Saturday meant to him. Washington, which won its first 10 conference games, couldn’t even claim a spot in the AP Top 25 — and it definitely won’t after falling to Arizona State on Saturday. There are three teams tied for second at 7-4 and then USC at 6-5. It would be one thing if the parity across the league was because all the teams were good and beating up on each other, but it is a problem if the parity is because the schools are equally bad. Those were three games that USC had a chance of winning — and probably should have won. But they came down to a couple of plays: a bounce here, a make instead of a miss there. This is what separates an average team from a good team — the ability to close out games, to emerge from a tight battle victorious. In this regard, the Trojans have no consistency. So, the hell with it, Tad Boyle. Bring on the petty drama, the unnecessarily exorbitant celebrations. This Pac-12 basketball season could use some life, anyway. Boyle to Saturday’s game was like the Pac-12 to the rest of the country: flailing its arms, kicking and screaming, attempting to stay relevant. One look at the standings is all it takes to figure out that this conference is, um, not good. But at a school where basketball barely registers on anyone’s radar, this story generated little interest — certainly not enough for two Pac-12 coaches to act petty following victories. And yet, there was Boyle, hollering like Colorado had just won the national championship rather than improved to 5-6 in an unimpressive conference. “I don’t know why Nick and Bennie weren’t in the middle of [the] lane and hedging on the ball screen,” Enfield said. “It’s very shocking. Those guys are juniors and seniors — two big mental breakdowns in the last two minutes of the game. Not going to make excuses for them, because I can’t.” Unfortunately, the latter is where the conference is at. Unless another team starts picking up steam down the stretch, the Pac-12 is looking at just one bid in the NCAA tournament — a woeful outcome for a Power 5 conference.center_img The marquee programs are struggling, and the best school, Washington, can’t get any national love despite being 10-1 in conference play. Arizona State, which knocked off No. 1 Kansas earlier this season, can’t seem to stay consistent. Arizona and Oregon aren’t even in contention. USC has dropped three of four after a three-game win streak showed the team’s flash of promise. Things have gotten so bad at UCLA that alumni and boosters are clamoring for former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino to take over the helm. That is indeed the definition of parity, but not in a good sense. USC’s last seven games are a strong example. Last month, the Trojans rolled past UCLA, Arizona and ASU and jumped to second in the conference. But in the last week and half, they suffered a road loss at Washington and brutal back-to-back home defeats to Utah and Colorado. “I meant no disrespect by it,” Boyle told reporters. “But this game meant a lot to me. I don’t forget what happened last year with the timeout.” Eric He is a senior writing about current events in sports. He is also the features editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Grinding Gears,” runs Mondays. Immediately after the final buzzer sounded on USC’s 69-65 defeat to Colorado Saturday at Galen Center, Colorado head coach Tad Boyle turned to the Buffaloes supporters behind him in the stands and yelled emphatically in celebration. As he went through the handshake line with the USC coaching staff, Trojans associate head coach Jason Hart confronted Boyle, and the two exchanged words. This quarrel is a microcosm of the Pac-12 season. Here are the men in charge of two programs that have been fairly mediocre this season, hovering around .500 in conference play, drumming up beef that nobody really cares about. There is zero buzz on campus surrounding the federal investigation into college basketball, which USC was involved in after former assistant coach Tony Bland was arrested in the fall of 2017. In January, Bland reached a plea deal on charges of conspiring to commit bribery to lure players to specific agents. “Supposedly,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said, “their coach swore at us, and that’s all I know.” In a 69-67 win over ASU last month, senior captain Bennie Boatwright nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer in the clutch. In a 69-65 loss to Colorado Saturday, it was Boatwright and junior forward Nick Rakocevic — two team leaders — who allowed Buffaloes guard McKinley Wright to drive right past them for two crucial layups that gave Colorado the late lead.last_img read more

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July 21, 2019

Southgates brush with monk shows there is no escaping penalty trauma

first_imgMiddlesbrough Southgate’s brush with monk shows there is no escaping penalty trauma Mon 28 Apr 2008 19.08 EDT When Cristiano Ronaldo missed his penalty in Barcelona last week Mia Southgate turned to her father and declared: “Dad, that was lame.” As someone well qualified to sympathise with the Manchester United winger, Gareth Southgate smiled before telling his nine-year-old daughter that she had been watching too many American programmes. Yet as he and Mia sat at home watching the Champions League semi-final first leg, Middlesbrough’s manager was transported back 12 years.Southgate is quick to stress that his infamous penalty shoot-out miss against Germany in the Euro 1996 semi-finals cannot be compared to Ronaldo’s slip-up in Spain. “It’s totally different. He’s got another chance, another game to put things right and get them to the final and he might well win it for United at Old Trafford.” Even so, should Barça prevail tonight the Portuguese may want to cross Bali off his list of potential summer holiday destinations. Back in 1996 Southgate headed to Bali with his wife, Alison, determined to forget the penalty trauma. Having departed with the well meant but possibly ill judged words of his mother – “Why didn’t you blast it, dear?” – still ringing in his ears, he began to relax in what seemed a romantic paradise. Then reality intruded. “One day we found ourselves in an isolated Buddhist temple with lakes and volcanoes nearby,” he recalled. “It was magical but unfortunately I was spotted by a monk who came over and said: ‘You Gareth Southgate, you England penalty drama.’ I reckon he was one of those long-distance Manchester United fans.”Ronaldo has told United supporters, “I’m going to score in Manchester,” but some observers suspect that extreme stress blunts his glorious spontaneity and customary intuition. Perhaps the tension of a European semi-final explains why he struck his penalty high to the right rather than sticking to his tried and trusted method of aiming low into the left corner.But then penalty-takers are sometimes damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Just ask John Aldridge. Twenty years ago he was playing for Liverpool in the FA Cup final against Wimbledon. With the Merseysiders 1-0 down he took a penalty which was saved by Dave Beasant, who later explained that he had made a point of studying Aldridge’s modus operandi from the 12-yard spot and, realising the striker was a creature of habit, knew he would strike it to the left.Wimbledon duly won the FA Cup, just as Brazil lifted the World Cup in 1994 after Italy’s Roberto Baggio – aka the Divine Ponytail – proved that he was a mere mortal by skying the ball over the bar at the conclusion of the shootout. It was horribly cruel on Baggio, who had at times virtually single-handedly dragged a weak and ageing Italy to the final. It would be similarly harsh if Ronaldo, undeniably United’s outstanding player this season, were to be held responsible for a failure to reach Moscow.If such disappointments can come to be seen as good for the soul – Southgate argues that his 1996 nadir has made him a “more understanding” person – different players have varying ways of numbing the pain. Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle, whose failures during England’s 1990 World Cup semi-final shootout against West Germany prevented Sir Bobby Robson’s side from reaching the final, helped exorcise their demons with a spot of self-deprecation, namely joining Southgate in self-mocking Pizza Hut adverts, but Michael Gray required a different sort of therapy.The then Sunderland left-back’s shootout miss in the 1998 play-off final against Charlton cost his side a Premier League place and Gray was so distraught that Peter Reid, Sunderland’s manager, had him stay at his house for several days. Reid and Gray were spotted talking things through in assorted wine bars near the former’s home in Yarm, but Ronaldo might not find being billeted chez Sir Alex Ferguson and watching Barça take on Chelsea or Liverpool from the United manager’s sofa quite so convivial. Louise Taylor Share on Facebook First published on Mon 28 Apr 2008 19.08 EDT Share on Facebook Boro’s manager knows only too well the potential consequences of Ronaldo’s miss, writes Louise Taylor Shares00 Reuse this content Share on LinkedIn Share via Email Share via Email Topics Share on Twitter Share on Messenger Middlesbrough Share on WhatsApp Share on Twitter Share on Pinterestlast_img read more

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