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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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August 26, 2020

NBA playoffs 2019: Damian Lillard warns Blazers, up 2-0, of tough road ahead

first_img NBA playoffs 2019: Nuggets’ Jamal Murray ‘phenomenal’ in win over Spurs These three Warriors face more pressure with DeMarcus Cousins out The Trail Blazers may have a 2-0 series lead over the Thunder, but Damian Lillard knows they have to perform on the road if they want to progress in the NBA playoffs. A 114-94 victory Tuesday at Moda Center backed up the Game 1 win in Portland, with Lillard contributing 29 points, four rebounds and six assists.  “I’ve had experience of being 2-0 before,” he told reporters. “I’m happy about it but I really don’t care.  “I know how quickly things can change. I know that a series doesn’t start until you win a game on the road. And I also know how capable their team is. “We’ve just got to maintain our focus, stay sharp and understand that how we’ve played in the first game and second game is not going to be good enough in the third game, especially on their home floor. “We’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep working.” On to OKC.#RipCity pic.twitter.com/FJwNYtkjUF— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) April 17, 2019Portland is unbeaten in its last five games after finishing the regular season on a roll, and Lillard credited the work done in practice for their impressive run. “It’s the preparation,” he added. “When you’re in the right place and doing the right things that you prepare for, a lot of times the ball ends up in your hands. “We’ve been really sharp in our preparation and in going out there and executing it.  center_img Only CJ McCollum had better stats for Portland as the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed gained the momentum in their first-round series. However, Lillard called for caution given that they have not made it through to the conference semifinals since 2016.  Related News “We’ve been sharp and a lot of things have come for us in a positive way because of that.”Games 3 and 4 are scheduled for Friday and Sunday in Oklahoma City.last_img read more

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