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Arizona Basketball week one recap

Ronnie Stoffle and Adam Green breakdown both the NAU and UMBC games from last weekend. They also preview the upcoming game against CSU Bakersfield.

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Arizona Football vs. Oregon Preview (Road Show)

Wildcat Radio records on the road in Tucson! We preview the Arizona Football vs. Oregon game, discuss Thalil Tate's continued dominance, talk game day atmosphere, and comment on the lack of clothes worn at Arizona Stadium. 

Plus, Brent Hankins from Rose City Cats (@RoseCityCats) joins the podcast to break down the Pac-12 Week 12 lines, talk about Arizona's alumni club in Portland, and is our guest picker in the sleazy bets segment. 

Pardon our dust as we had to record remotely -- our regular recording quality will return next week!

Follow Wildcat Radio on Twitter @WildcatRadioAZ and Facebook @WildcatRadioAZ

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Slytherin Grayson Allen, FBI Investigations, and Why Arizona Basketball is Better than Duke

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Why Arizona Basketball is Better than Duke
November 11, 2017 | Ryan Ringdahl

In the coming years, the Arizona Basketball program could face major trouble. Allegedly, we were one of only five college basketball teams in the country that had the balls to pay our players a living wage. Our alleged generosity (after all, we are #APlayersProgram) has caused a stir in the NCAA. Progress always does.  

Sure, an inappropriately large and destructive cloud is barreling towards Tucson. It could grow larger, it could turn away. But, YOLO! Arizona fans are content to watch its approach from our outdoor, bottomless brunch. The spread is awesome – much better than that awful vinegar barbeque they have in North Carolina. Cats fans will consume as many oysters, plates of lo mein, and mimosas, as we possibly can. Sure, none of them go together, but who cares? Live in the moment and suffer the consequences later.

Why? 

Because the University of Arizona Men’s Basketball team is going to be better than Duke in the 2017-2018 college season.

To be clear right up front: Marvin Bagley III is awesome. He is a near 7’ man-child who moves like a well-oiled cat. Adding Bagley to a Duke team that was already considered among the five best in the country might well seem like the keystone to a triumphal arch. Duke is going to win a lot of basketball games and they will be impressive. But designating them as the preseason favorite above Arizona is like suggesting Tropic Thunder is a better movie than Lord of the Rings because it had Robert Downey Jr. That isn’t our style around here, so let’s break down a quick Arizona-Duke comparison that appreciates the robust complexity of the college basketball landscape.

The Whole, Not the Parts
In the world of sensationalist propaganda – looking at you, ESPN – it is tantalizing to imagine the way that individual, superior parts might combine to form an unstoppable juggernaut. It’s natural, and it becomes a problem when experts become hypnotized by a hypothetical reality rather than, you know, actual reality. In a perfect world, for example, who wouldn’t want the ability to pump gas and purchase sushi at the same location?

Millions of dollars are lit on fire because very smart and well-intentioned executives fall into this trap. Like in Chicago, where someone thought a Dwayne Wade, Jimmy Butler, Rondo the Elder backcourt could work in a post-merger NBA.

In reality, the ability to become more than the sum of our parts is one of the amazing features of the human species. But it’s difficult. That’s what makes basketball a beautiful sport. Sometimes an annual miracle happens in places like Southern Texas. That's how folk heroes and Disney movies are born (Keegan Michael-Key plays Tony Parker). But such miracles are far from the norm and will not happen this year in Durham.

Coaching
Coaching matters more in college basketball than in the professional version of the game. So naturally, in the collegiate ranks, there are some coaches that move the needle more than others. Both Arizona and Duke boast strong coaches, and the difference between two talented coaches is much smaller than the difference between any elite coach and the average sideline manager like a Bobby Hurley.

Duke fans will immediately protest any comparison between Sean Miller and Coach K. Too bad. This is our artcle. Let's take the Pepsi Challenge starting from the 2010-11 season, the year when Sean Miller got his first real recruiting class and the year when Coach K began adapting to the one-and-done system. 

Sean Miller: 
Total Wins: 204 total wins, 80% win percentage, 4 conference titles
Post Season Record: Elite Eight (10-11), NIT (11-12), Sweet 16 (12-13) , Elite Eight (13-14), Elite Eight (13-14), First Round (14-15), Elite Eight (15-16).

Mike Krzyzewski
Total Wins: 203 total wins, 79.9% win percentage, 2 conference titles
Post Season Record: Sweet 16 (10-11), First Round (11-12), Elite Eight (12-13), First Round (13-14), National Champions (14-15), Sweet 16 (15-16), Second Round (16-17).

Coach K is a legend comfortable in his place in the halls of lore honoring the greats of this game. His work in 2015 should have destroyed any lingering reservations about Coach K being deserving of all the accolades he’s received.

Krzyzewski’s ability to switch to a one-and-done model and incorporating some zone defensive concepts showed a tactical flexibility that is uncommon in the sport, and even less common among successful, established coaches. Coach K’s two major adjustments are not unrelated, a zone defense allows future NBA talents to coast on their elite athleticism to cover their defensive disinterest. It should be noted, however, that Coach K's greatest strength over the course of his career has been his ability to develop players and foster a long-term, cohesive team identity. Shifting towards the one-and-done system has limited some of the traits that make Coach K exceptional. 

Sean Miller may not be a better coach – particularly when one takes into account the full body of both coaches’ respective accomplishments over the course if their entire careers, but, in the one-and-done era, Miller's performance is nearly along par with Coach K. 

No disrespect to all the past great work Coach K has done at Duke, but apart from that lightning in a bottle 2015 campaign, there has been a lot of Ben Howland in his last 7 years. To be clear: no one is saying the legend has been phoning it in…but if a legend dealing with some serious health complications and struggling to adapt to a new collegiate landscape was phoning it in…it would look pretty similar to what we’ve been seeing.

This is not to suggest that Coach K is going to be an obstacle to this team’s success, just that his presence alone might not constitute the automatic advantage that it has in years past, especially when weighed against Sean Miller’s hunger to dump the label of Best Coach never to pass the Elite Eight and the addition of Lorenzo Romar.

It can’t be overstated how much Romar is going to add to the Wildcats championship aspirations this year. He has a lot to add to a program, and he will be a much better associate head coach than he was a head coach. His presence will also free up Miller to be better at the things at which he is already good. All of which is to say that in this particular college basketball season, Arizona's can boast chefs of the same caliber in the kitchen as Duke.

Coaching Edge: Push

General Roster Composition
Arizona is also going to have better ingredients in their kitchen with which to work.

The heart of Duke and Arizona’s rosters are remarkably similar. The strength of each roster is built around a freshman big man and an upperclassman wing. CBSSports declared DeAndre Ayton the best center for the upcoming season, and Marvin Bagley the best power forward. This doesn’t do much to differentiate the two and is even further from being useful in light of the fact that Sean Miller intends for Ayton to, at times, step into the power forward role vacated by Lauri Markenaan. That same CBSSports preseason ranking also listed Trier and Allen as the top two shooting guards in the country.

It is tempting to want to get bogged down with individual comparisons, but this isn’t simply about Ayton vs Bagley.  We can consider them a wash even if the last time they played head to head Ayton was both more impactful and victorious. It isn’t just about Trier vs Allen. We can consider them a wash even if the aforementioned CBSSports ranking and Trier’s stats declare him to be the more effective player. And, you know, he doesn’t have a habitual habit of tripping people.

If we were attempting to discern which roster has the most talent, then we would absolutely set about hammer and nail to determine those sorts of head to head matchups. Plenty of people love to do that sort of thing. The problem is, college basketball’s history is littered with talent laden teams without rings. The best team very often wins (not always, because: Madness), but the most talented team often doesn’t. See: UCLA, The Ben Howland Years; Baylor 2003 to present;  and the vast majority of the John Calipari Experience.

Individual players don’t play basketball. Teams play basketball. Modern basketball features three distinct types of players — Lead Guard, Wings, and the Big Guys. When comparing the relative strength of two teams one must consider how each team’s players will match up in context of the players around them. Individual matchups matter less and less with the increasing fluidity and the blurring of positions in the modern game.

Consider instead what happens when a program with a solid recruiting record manages to keep a couple of key players out of the draft. The benefit of continuity cannot be overstated, nor can the difference between 18 and 22-year-old players. The respective ceilings for Duke and Arizona are not dictated by individual players – they are dictated by experience and continuity. One team, Arizona, will start three (possibly four) tournament tested veterans and a game changing freshman. The other team, Duke, will start four true freshmen and a Grayson Allen.

We have all seen that a couple of dynamic freshmen combined with mature upper classmen can devastate the college basketball landscape. The 2012 Kentucky Wildcats and the 2015 Duke teams both featured brilliant freshman classes while receiving significant contributions from returning players.

This Duke team is returning Grayson Allen and a couple guys who grabbed some garbage minutes last year. If you choose to consider Slytherin Gordon Hayward a bastion of mature leadership it is a reflection of you and not a reflection anything that has happened in Grayson Allen’s college basketball career.

That awful and consistent squeaking that keeps you up at night on your crowded Duke bandwagon is the sound of the wheels falling off the axles of Depth and Versatility. The very areas that comprise the most significant limitations of this Duke squad happens to be Arizona’s greatest strengths. Duke has one lineup, and it’s a really good lineup. Arizona can go big, small, wing heavy, and play at least four different groups that are all competent and cause different problems.

Duke has loads of talent, and some of their bench should be able to provide some functional rotation minutes, particularly against early season minnows.

But, at the end of the day, Duke will stretch to get to an eight-man rotation, whereas Arizona goes ten deep with quality players. The Wildcats will be compounding their advantage over a season of full five-on-five training against Final 4 caliber competition. Again: Duke is going to be good and will play some fun basketball. They just won’t be quite as good as Arizona.

General Roster Composition Edge: Arizona

 

Duke

Arizona

Starting 5

Trevon Duval: 6’3” 186 freshman

Grayson Allen: 6’5” 205 senior

Gary Trent Jr: 6’6” 209 freshman

Marvin Bagley III: 6’11” 225 freshman

Wendell Carter Jr: 6’10” 259 freshman

Parker Jackson-Cartwright: 5’11” 170 senior

Alonzo Trier: 6’5” 205 junior

Emmanuel Akot: 6’7” 200 freshman

DeAndre Alton: 7’1” 250 freshman

Dusan Rustic: 7’0” 245 senior

Backup Point

Jordan Goldwire: 6’2” 172 freshman

Alex Barcello: 6’2” 170 freshman

Backup Wings

Jordan Tucker: 6’7” 212 freshman

Jack White: 6’7” 226 sophomore

Alex O’Connell: 6’6” 171 freshman

Rawle Alkins: 6’5” 220 sophomore (injured, will start if he's cleared)

Dylan Smith: 6’5” 170 transfer from UNC-Asheville

Brandon Randolph: 6’6” 175 freshman

Backup Bigs

Marques Bolden: 6’11” 246 sophomore

Gavin DeLaurier: 6’10” 231 sophomore

Antonio Vrankovic: 7’0” 269 junior

Ira Lee: 6’8” 235 freshman

Keanu Pinder: 6’9” 220 senior

Chase Jeter: 6’10” 217 (practice squad, Duke transfer)

Best 5

See: Starting 5

Alonzo Trier: 6’5” 205 junior

Brandon Randolph: 6’6” 175 freshman

Rawle Alkins: 6’5” 220 sophomore

Emmanuel Akot: 6’7” 200 freshman

DeAndre Ayton: 7’1” 250 freshman

Lead Guard
While both teams will have multiple players handling the ball at times, Arizona and Duke both have one clear-cut lead guard: Freshman Trevon Duval and Arizona senior Parker Jackson-Cartwright.

Trevon Duval is a big part of Duke’s lofty preseason ranking. The 6’3 point guard has a tight handle, an explosive first step, and high school mixtape full of him clowning kids that went to schools like Central Iowa or ASU. Backup point guard Jordan Goldwire, a 6’2 freshman, trades Duval’s electric first step for a little better touch from deep, but he is as likely to see time in competitive games this season as you are.

It is fair to say that lead guard is the place where Duke boasts the greatest advantage over Arizona, but that advantage isn’t as large as the Blue Devils might hope.

Unfortunately for Duke, basketball requires players to both defend and attack. Duval might have some height on Parker Jackson-Cartwright, but the little guy in the desert is a three-year graduate of the Sean Miller Offseason Defensive Intensity Immersion Program. While PJC can get pushed around by larger and more athletic guards, he is tenacious and bothersome, picking bunches of pockets while forcing the ball handler to pay attention the entire game. Let’s just say that highly compensated AAU coaches with strong connections to shoe companies most well-known AAU coaches, don’t teach that level of concentration to their players.

A benefit of bringing back 3 (possibly 4) starters from an Elite 8 squad is that Arizona veterans are no strangers to defending pro-caliber guards. Last year, Arizona faced the top two lead guards in the country and the subsequent first two picks in the draft (Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball). In those matchups with larger lead guards the Cats slid one of their fleet of lengthy wings onto each dynamic freshman, and there is a strong likelihood that Miller would do the same when faced with Duval’s Westbrookian downhill attack.

Just don’t rule out PJC. A big part of the reason Arizona went with bigger defenders is because both Flutz and Ball would have just pulled up right over the 5’11 guard, and Duval just doesn’t have that kind of juice off the bounce.

Speaking of the Scion of Ball, there will be the inevitable comparisons over the course of the year between Lonzo’s unorthodox shooting mechanics and those of Trevon Duval. Don’t listen to any of it.

Ball is right-hand dominant and left-eye dominant: crossing his shooting hand to the left side of his head is the best way to keep his line of sight clear while keeping his shooting elbow inline with his eye and the rim. Duval is right handed and releases his shot from his right ear, which does not aid one’s shooting in any way at all, even actively inhibiting eye-elbow-rim alignment, which is why his next made 3 pointer will be his first.

PJC, on the other hand, has improved his 3pt shot from 37% as a sophomore, 42% as a junior, and has opened the season a scorching 67% from behind the line. Jackson-Cartwright is mature enough to know that, even though he can shoot, his team is loaded with scoring options. PJC is an excellent ball distributor with a 4 to 1 assist to turnover ratio – while he doesn’t boast Duval’s athleticism and size, he is an excellent fit on this team who will keep the ball moving into the hands of Arizona’s talented roster.

Duval is still an elite athlete, but he might not be the kind of elite finisher at the rim into which Westbrook has matured, yet. With the length Arizona will have behind PJC, if Duval can’t prove that he can shoot over smaller defenders with consistency, Duke’s ‘greatest advantage’ is going to shrink even further.

Lead Guard Edge: Duke

Wings
Grayson Allen, habitual asshattedness and petulance aside, is a talented scorer. You might have caught the Michigan St game where he announced his candidacy for the Wooden Award, scoring his career high on national television and raising his season average (25) to only 6 points lower than Allonzo Trier (31).

Allen is joined on the wing by Gary Trent Jr, who might be the best pure scorer to come out of high school last year. If Duke is going to be the team that East Coast talking heads imagine them to be, it will be because almost no one in the country will have the athletes to contain these two on the perimeter.

Almost no one in the country.

This Arizona team has the most quality athletic depth on the wing of any college basketball team in the country. And it isn’t even close.

It all starts with Allonzo Trier, the best player in college basketball. The most terrifying thing about Trier’s hot start to the season is that the majority of his preformance isn’t built on unsustainable shooting numbers. Trier is getting his points with strong shooting from the outside (50% from 3), finishing at the rim, and feasting on free throws (9 attempts a game).  He’s got James Harden’s scoring profile while actually doing stuff on defense.

Remember last year when an overlooked west coast scoring machine got fed up, decided to outwork the whole country, and then peed in Bill Self’s Corn Flakes while doing the Sam Cassel dance in the Elite Eight? Well, Trier is about to unleash a Super Saiyan Dillon Brooks season on everybody.

After Trier you have a three-way fight for playing time between 6’5 Junior, Dylan Smith, a kid who drained 80 three point shots for UNC-Asheville as a freshman; five-star freshman sharp-shooter Brandon Randolph, and Emanuel Akot, who just put your point guard in a glass jar and poked holes in the top so he can breathe.

During the Wildcats preseason they showed a willingness to explore some dirty, dirty wing lineups, the most exciting of which featured Akot, the Sudanese defensive version of Nurse Ratchett, you know, if she were 6’7, never skipped leg day, and could snake a pass to you in traffic.

Akot's reclassification into this season is every bit as big of a deal as Bagley, but with west coast fanfare. Ever since Luke Walton and Andre Iguodala, fielding forwards with an eye for the sleazy dime has been a hallmark of Arizona basketball. Akot has the gift, and also has Miller saying ridiculous things like he might be the best on-ball defender Arizona’s had walk in the door. Miller isn’t a smoke blower; the kid is just that good.

Arizona’s best lineups will feature Akot sliding closer to the power forward position, spreading four capable ball handlers who can shoot (Smith, Randolph, Trier, and Akot have all dabbled at lead guard) around a single big, any of the Wildcat bigs, really.

All of that being said, and for all of the appropriate hype Trier and Ayton are receiving, Rawle Alkins, if he plays this year, can lift Arizona to another level.

Alkins can just straight up do everything there is to do on a basketball court. This guy has a LOT of D Wade in his game. If he makes anything even remotely close to the kind of sophomore leap Trier displayed last year then this Arizona squad will have the chance to be something special, and everyone who got in on the 8/1 national title odds will feel REALLY good about their life decisions.

Over the course of the season we should hope to see more and more lineups featuring three or four of these do-everything wings, particularly if Alkins sees the court and the newer players become more indoctrinated in the Unbending Ways of Tenacious Defending to which Miller adheres.

The book on how to beat Arizona the last couple of years has been to heat up from beyond the arc, and these wing heavy units are going to be able to shut that down, not too dissimilar from how the Wildcat-coached Warriors use their wing-heavy units to spur their defense and kick start their transition game. All those lengthy athletes pressing, then clogging lanes and sprinting out in transition are going to make for a season full of a lot of SportsCenter moments, which the Cats will need in order to get anyone east of the Big River to remember that beautiful basketball still happens after dark.

Definitive Wing Edge: Arizona

Bigs
Trent Jr and Duval are both top-tier prospects with a lot of upside, but the reason that Duke is at the top of all the 2017 rankings is because of the two forwards they are renting from the NBA Lottery.

Marvin Bagley III has received the bulk of the headlines as the preemptive number one draft pick, but Wendel Carter Jr. is also on a bunch of national player of the year watchlists. The problem is that 6’10 Carter is going to have to have a defensive player of the year kind of season to give this defense a shot at being among the nation’s best.

As he showed against the Spartans after Bagley got eye-gouged, Carter can be a force in the post on offense, but he might not have the elite explosivity to make up for his height against the kind of length Arizona has on the inside. The guy got ZBo’s frame and Zbo’s hops, but hasn’t flexed the silky handle and shooting touch of the former Spartan.

Bagley is the real deal, and he’s going to be a real problem for opposing defenses. His game doesn’t have many flaws. The high release on his lefty shooting stroke is so clean at his size it’s easy to see the Chris Bosh comparisons. The kid can just shoot over absolutely everyone that he can’t blow past, and he attacks the offensive glass like he’d give an eye for a board.

Arizona is as well equipped to defend these two dynamic forwards as anyone in the country. 6’9 Keanu Pinder has a high motor and will continue to be useful as a rotation player even against players like Carter and Bagley because he defends well enough for Miller’s high standards and he doesn’t stop the ball on the offensive end. 6’8 freshman, Ira Lee can also slide into the front court rotation, he too has an excellent motor and likes to get filthy down low on defense. He also likes to shoot though, and he’s not, like, good at it yet…so that’s going to be a problem.

And then there’s DeAndre Ayton. He is awesome. He is Joel Embiid if Embiid didn't dump Constitution for Charisma.

Bagley and Ayton are plenty familiar with each other’s game, as they shared a school for a year while Bagley was on his “totally not sketchy three high schools in three years” tour. Corralling Bagley and keeping him off the glass is where Miller’s ability to play Ayton together with offensive specialist, Dusan Ristic, will pay dividends. Ayton is both long enough to be able to bother even Bagley’s shot while being mobile enough to stay in reach while Ristic comes over to help.

The thing is, Arizona has a much better chance of defending Duke in the post than Duke has of defending Arizona.

Bagley and Carter are both eager help defenders and that instinct will work against them when faced with the kind of sophisticated post game Ristic and Ayton have flexed, especially the post-to-post passing that is only going to become more natural as the season progresses. And especially when teams realize that if they don’t double Ayton he will just score every single time.

DeAndre Ayton has been sent to deliver Sean Miller’s Wildcats from the Hopeless Quagmire of Stagnation that has so often plagued Arizona when faced with zone defenses, like the one Coach K has rolled out again this year for his one-and-one crew. (One-and-one. Get it? Because there’s no “d”. I’ll be here all week). 

There is nothing mortal humans can do to prevent Ayton from receiving the ball in the high-post hole in a 2-3 zone, and even less they can do to prevent their immediate demise upon that happening. While looking over the defense to whip the ball to any open shooter or darting cutter, Ayton can turn and bury the elbow jumper so effortlessly it looks whimsical. Things get even more terrifying when the shifty Serbian slides into the hole, though, because Dusan touches the ball the way the full-time gloved escort handles the Stanley Cup – he is an excellent scorer.

If Duke has a slight edge at the lead guard and Arizona has a definitive edge on the wing, Duke would need to have a substantial advantage in bigs in order to justify their place atop the polls. They don’t. Duke is slightly better down low but Arizona has enough high-level talent of its own to cede much ground to Duke  

Slightest of Edges: Duke

Conclusion
This breakdown is chockfull of NBA comparisons because both of these rosters are chockfull of NBA talent. Duke might have a talent edge at the lead guard and in their bigs, but the ability for wings to make up for talent deficiencies in other areas of the squad is the precise reason two-way wings have become such a valuable commodity at the professional level. Even if the conversation were reduced to ‘which team has the most talent’, there is a strong case to be made for the Wildcats, but the wing depth and maturity advantages are what make Arizona the team to beat in the 2017-18 college basketball season.

Duke is going to score a lot of buckets this year, and produce a feature length film worth of highlight clips on their own. In fact, if there is any way to make a dunk contest between these two squads happen before their inevitable national title game then it is our obligation as devotees to truth and beauty and the American Way to make that a reality.

Duke just won’t have the kind of defensive rigor and versatility that this Arizona squad can throw at opponents, and that versatility is all about the well-rounded game the Wildcat wings are bringing to the party this year. This year’s Arizona team is the embodiment of what everyone has been afraid Sean Miller would do in Tucson: produce a whirling rotation of shooting, ball-handling and ball-hawking, lengthy athletes around some big men with a deft passing touch — the PAC12-sized final form of his best Xavier units.

This is going to be an incredible year for college basketball as two of the top five modern programs have loaded up for national title campaigns. Both programs have incredible coaching staffs, a top-three recruiting class, and are going to be electric in the open court. Unlike Duke, the incredible coaching staff at Arizona got a significant upgrade over the offseason. Unlike at Duke, the rich, star studded recruiting class going to Arizona joins a roster that is Elite Eight quality even without them. Unlike Duke, this Arizona squad will throttle teams on the defensive end.

All this talent, Miller’s hunger for the Final Four, and the “us-against-the-world” chip on the shoulder from the FBI shenanigans? Buckle up everyone, this Arizona squad is going to do embarrassing things to teams. They are the best team in college basketball.

Arizona Basketball vs. NAU Preview & Chico State Recap

Ronnie Stoffle and Adam Green preview Arizona Basketball's matchup against Northern Arizona, recap the Wildcat win over Chico State, and talk about the monster that is DeAndre Ayton. 

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Completely Uncalled for Utah Football Mid-Season Review

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Completely Uncalled for Utah Football Mid-Season Review

What might have been...

Ryan Ringdahl | November 9, 2017

 

Overall
In his time at Utah, Kyle Whittingham has won 104 games, secured four double-digit win seasons, and has gone 11-1 in bowl games. He’s the Nic Cage of the PAC-12, never sexy but consistently, like, around. Last year, Utah won nine games with a quarterback who threw just 15 touchdowns. Imagine how good the Utes could be if they had a quarterback for an entire season who could throw the ball. For a brief, happy time (so happy, too brief) we got to live that dream. That dream crumbled with Tyler Huntley’s ankle in the desert night. Now, with Huntley back and a pile of losses surrounding his absence, Utah is trying to figure out how to recalibrate their expectations for the rest of the season.

Quarterback
Three months ago, Wildcat Radio said the following about Utah’s presumed starting quarterback, Troy Williams: “Don’t look for a transformed quarterback unit with players jumping to another level. That’s not realistic… If Williams can make minor inroads, he could snag an extra victory or two.” The joke was on us. Tyler Huntley beat out Cooper Bateman and Troy Williams for the QB1 spot and has been likened to Marcus Mariotta for his willowy grace. Yeah, we know, calm down everyone. Still Huntley’s production on the ground (206 yards/3 touchdowns) combined with his arm (1,648 yards, 12 td/6 int) is exactly the kind of performance we thought was unrealistic in Salt Lake.

Before his injury, Huntley accounted for 66% of Utah’s total offense. His 293.5 YPG was 27th in nation and he was team’s second leading rusher. When Huntley got hurt facing Arizona, Troy Williams was needed finish to off the Cats. Utah won the game and lost their Pac-12 title shot on the same night.

Utah lost the next two games with Williams at the helm. It’s a little unfair to pin the loses on him because Stanford and USC are both pretty good football teams. With that said, the difference between Williams and Huntley is roughly a 20% completion difference and the running thing. It’s enough to account for multiple points in each game which is the difference between Applebee’s Utah (pretty good) and White Castle Utah (flaming trash).

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: C-
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: Was B+, then C-, then C- against ASU, then B+ again 

Running Back
There is something wrong in Utah, and we’re not quite sure what it is. Somehow the Utes lead the PAC-12 in time of possession and, at the same time, are dead last in 3rd down conversions – by a lot. Wildcat Radio thought if Zack Moss couldn’t get the job done it could be possible that wildcard sophomore Devonta’e Henry-Cole could become Utah’s next “devastating monster who was buried on the depth chart.” Zack Moss, who totally listens to Wildcat Radio definitely doesn’t listen to Wildcat Radio, took exception to that. He unleashed 141 yards on 7.1 a carry against the Trojans and his 5 yards per carry has been enough to stave off the Henry-Cole show. But even with Moss’s production this Utah run game isn’t what it has been in the past. And there definitely wasn’t enough pop from Moss or Henry-Cole to prop up the passing attack through all the quarterbacking chaos. Perhaps Huntley can change this down the stretch.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: B
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: B-

Receiver
Want to know the single biggest oversight of Wildcat Radio’s Completely Uncalled for Pac-12 Football Preview? Not devoting five solid pages to the utility and brilliance of Darren Carrington, the sine qua non of the Utah passing game regardless of the starting quarterback. Carrington has been an absolute boss since transferring from Oregon, grabbing 58 catches for 830 yards. After Carrington, the Utes have half a dozen guys with between 19-22 catches and under 350 yards. Whatever. While Troy Williams was QB1, Darren Carrington was the only person keeping Utah from stealing the “Best Rugby Team in the PAC-12 Football Conference” belt from under Rich Rod’s pillow when Brandon Dawkins was Arizona’s QB1. Yes, these two quarterbacks played each other. It was gross.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: C+
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: C for Carrington

Offensive Line
There was a time when Apple was introducing products that were so groundbreaking that Steve Jobs had to tell stupid people like us that cloud computing “just works.” This year, that was supposed to be Utah’s offensive line. It takes years of consistent success to generate that kind of trust. Utah has earned it. But just like with the creepy facescanner, the early struggles of Utah’s offensive line are threatening to shatter that hard-earned trust.

Utah ranks 7th in the Pac-12 in sacks allowed (2.2/game), 7th in tackles for loss allowed (55 total), and feature the 7th best rushing offense (4.25 yards per carry). That’s fine, we suppose. Microsoft products are fine too. We suppose. We expect the quality in this coaching staff to make an increasing impact over the course over the back half of the season, especially with Huntley under center.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: B
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: B-

Defensive Line
The defensive line we expected to see this season, a defensive line that featured new athletes rotating around dynamic veterans, has not emerged. No one on the roster has more than three sacks this year. Defensive end Kylie Fitts has collected three to carry the meagre torch for this once proud pass rush. Lowell Lotulelei hasn’t forced opposing lines into triple teaming him, ghosting the early part of the year for a grand total of 2 solo tackles. At the time, that was 2 fewer solo tackles than punter Mitch Wishnowsky collected. That’s notgreat news for Lotulelei’s All-America hopes.

Fellow returning starter Filipo Mokofisi has at least chipped in 18 tackles, a sleazy pick, and 2.5 tackles for a loss. This group has only dragged the opposing quarterback to the ground a total of 15 times, which is only three more than “Worst Defense (probably) in America” Oregon State and half of what real defenses like USC, Oregon, Washington, and the Pullman Pirates have produced. Ute fans will argue that Utah features the 4th best rushing defense in the Pac-12. That’s true, but it’s not by much. They barely lead the middle of the pack and that’s not what was expected of this unit in 2017.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: A
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: B- 

Linebacker
Seniors Sunia Tauteoli and Kavika Luafatasaga are doing the bulk of the heavy lifting for this defense, combining for 117 tackles, 12.5 for a loss, 2 picks, a forced fumble, and 3 batted passes. It’s a good thing this defense is clearly doing their Peanut Tillman drills because forced fumbles (8) is just about all that is keeping this defense within shouting distance of its traditional redoubtability. Someone, somewhere on this defense needs to pressure the opposing quarterback. If the defensive line won’t do it then the backers will have to find a way.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: C+
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: B 

Secondary
Utah’s secondary looks to be better than expected, partially because many didn’t give this unit, which replaced, like, 170% of its starters with converted quarterbacks and receivers, a chance. Utah’s passing defense currently ranks 4th in the Pac-12. They have almost as many picks (10) as passing touchdowns allowed (11) and have kept most passing offenses at bay, including USC on the road. This is a good unit.

From a raw stats standpoint, this secondary looks even better. Six of the top ten tacklers on Utah’s defense play in the secondary. But in reality, that’s not a good sign. Who even plays six players in their secondary enough to get that many tackles? Is Utah experimenting with a bold new 2-2-7 defensive scheme? No? The front seven are just delegating the actual tackling business to the tiny guys behind them? Oh, got it.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: C+
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: B

Conclusion
You have to feel for half of the Utah fan base. This team is legitimately good with Tyler Huntley. Let’s pump the brakes, though. In hindsight, this team didn’t have the talent to win the Pac-12, even with Huntley. But they are a much more coherent team with him in the backfield. Most fanbases would be completely happy with an invite to the Holiday Bowl or the Sun Bowl (minus the El Paso trip). That’s where this Utah team would have likely ended up with a healthy quarterback. The Pac-12 is better when Utah is humming. We expect this team to be formidable to close out the season.

As for second half of the fanbase. You know, the fans who overreact anytime you mention that Utah has been decidedly above average in the Pac-12, this is a perfect season to highlight that Utah isn’t there yet. They are good, and they belong in the Pac-12. But Utah is not good enough to merit the wailing and gnashing of teeth from Ute fans about respect. If you want to be elite in the Pac-12 – and let it be known, Arizona is not elite – you must recruit depth. Utah hasn’t done that yet. Maybe that day will come. We hope it does.

 

 

Colorado Football Mid-Season Review (Awesome Article)

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Colorado Mid-Season Review
Well…that was fast.
November 7, 2017 | Ryan Ringdahl and Bryant Conger

Overview
Time for some real talk. USC is the father of the Pac-12 South. And he’s a very busy man. He travels all across the country. Six years ago, he suffered a midlife crisis and opened a division of the family business in Shanghai. In his absence, each if his sons: Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, and Colorado (not Utah, lol) have had a turn working in the corner office. Last year it was Colorado’s turn to run the meetings and kick the marketing department into shape. Predictably, the Buffalos lit the place on fire. Sure, things are finally under control. But it took two fiscal quarters to do so and that executive vice president they hired may dress well but he has a habit of folding under pressure.

Quarterback
If there was a corporate America version of Steven Montez, he would be excellent in board meetings. He would have an answer for everyone and would likely deliver on a number of basic promises. But if there was a fire, Montez would yell, “PANIC!” and jump out the fourth floor window. He has been the ultimate good team-bad quarterback, bad team-good quarterback. Ready for a blind player comparison? Let’s look at a couple sophomore of sophmores:

Player A: 62.3% completion, 16:7 td:int, 142.6 passer rating
Player B: 63.6% completion, 20:11 td:int, 147.2 passer rating

One of these quarterbacks is Sam Darnold, who opened the season on Heisman lists and atop draft board. The other one is Steven Montez. They aren’t that far off. Here is the problem, Montez racked up most of his numbers against bad defenses. When he did, he looked great. He can make the Aaron Rodgers throw. You know, the one where the quarterback is athletic enough to out-sprint linemen to the left, and then rips a right-handed throw 40 yards up the seem to drop it in a basket over the wide receiver’s shoulder? Montez has that throw.

But check out Montez’s stat line against UCLA, Washington, and Washington State: 55% completion rate, 1 touchdown, three interceptions. Sure, he got pulled from Washington State. BUT THAT MAKES IT WORSE! This Colorado team is stacked at the skill positions. If they are going to make a bowl this season they will need Montez to improve in the coming games.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: B
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: B-

Running Back
There are two players in the PAC-12 who are averaging over 130 yards from scrimmage per game and who have produced double digit touchdowns through the first half of the season. Phillip Lindsay has already run for 1,334 yards and 12 scores on what is a very respectable 5 yards a carry. He would have an all-conference spot locked up in virtually any other conference. He could even have a shot in the PAC-12 if Bryce Love ever bothers bumping his difficulty setting up from Amateur. Phillip Lindsay is Colorado’s sales guy who is killing it in their Fargo office where everyone else is playing Clash of Kingdoms, eating popsicles, and averaging less than three yards per carry.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: B
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: A

Receiver
The wide receivers in Colorado’s HR department have their act together. They show up on time, they work late, they run the correct routes, etc. But it’s hard to put into place smooth systems of communication and memos on office etiquette when your quarterback individually emails interns about increasing productivity and crashes the company car when things get dicey.

Colorado’s wide receiving corps is a strength, but they can only fly as high as Montez will let them. The three major receiving targets are Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo, and Devin Ross, all with 30+ catches and above 400 yards receiving. If these guys played for Mike Leach in Pullman they would each have a shot at 100 catches on the season. Also, Bobo has thrown a touchdown to Steven Montez and shares a name with the greasiest spoon dinner in Tucson where you can still get an early bird breakfast and bottomless crude oil coffee for under $6. Can Montez improve in the back half of the season? The coaching staff realizes these guys have a chance at every ball in the air. Watching them prove that trust over and again is one of the most exciting parts of watching this Buffs offense.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: C+
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: B+

Offensive Line
The offensive linemen in the sales department are struggling. Their job is to place this team’s stacked skill players in a position to succeed and somehow can’t figure out how to run block for anyone not named Phillip Lindsay. This isn’t the worst unit in the Pac-12. They are ninth in the conference in sacks allowed (26) and eighth in the conference in tackles allowed for a loss (54). But in both instances, they represent the significant drop off between the average teams and the dregs of the conference.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: A-
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: C

Defensive Line
At Colorado, there are no office parties in the backfield. The Buffalo struggle to pressure opposing quarterbacks and have only tallied 41 tackles for a loss – that’s half of what Washington State has produced. Senior defensive end Leo Jackson sneaks into the breakroom to pour a little bourbon in his coffee. But he’s always alone, and that’s depressing – Jackson has eight tackles for a loss, but the rest of the defensive line needs to improve. Colorado’s rushing defense ranks 11th in the Pac-12. Hey, at least they aren’t UCLA, but when a team like the Buffs allow more than five yards a carry it’s tough to slow down opposing offenses which leads to long drives, frustration, exhaustion, and sadness.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: C-
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: C+

Linebacker
As you walk by the linebackers in the IT department make sure to say hello to Rick, Drew, and Dereck. They probably won’t wave back – they are so awkward. Come to think of it, you’ve never seen them eat lunch and you’ve never bumped into them in the restroom. That’s weird. Still, the website never crashes. It’s not sexy. But it doesn’t crash.

Rick Gamboa leads the department. He’s got 78 tackles, five pass breakups, and 3 quarterback hurries. He also wears the same pair of pants to work three days in a row. Also, now that you are piecing things together, Rick looks an awful lot like Drew Lewis who has 76 tackles, 2 pass breakups and five quarterback hurries. You’ve never actually seen them together at the same time…whatever, shake it off. Derek McCartney is also okay.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: C+
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: B

Secondary
You weren’t sure about Evan Worthington. Your buddy told you that he was fired from his old job for publicly urinating on an accountant’s car. And, judging from his LinkedIn profile, he definitely changed his name from “Snakes Worthington” to “Evan Worthington.” You can’t fault him for that, it was a good career move. But frankly, he’s been awesome in the customer service department. He’s racked up 3 interceptions, has swatted away 6 balls, and already has 66 tackles. Cornerback Isaiah Oliver has helped Worthington learn the ropes. Oliver has 10 pass breakups and 2 interceptions. These guys are covering for an otherwise mediocre department.

Wildcat Radio's Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: C+
Wildcat Radio's Midseason Reality Check Grade: B

Conclusion
Look, it was nice for USC to let all the children have a hand at the family business. They will all, Colorado included, learn from their mistakes and emerge bigger and stronger. Except for Utah.

Arizona Football vs. Oregon State Preview w/ Angie Machado

Wildcat Radio previews the Arizona Football vs. Oregon State game with Angie Machado (AngieMachado1) from Dam Podcast and Beaver Blitz. 

Plus, it's Alumni Month! Corey Kesluk from New York City's Metro Cats (@MetroCats) joins to talk about their club. 

And...stick around for our Monday podcast where Arizona football alum Jared Tevis talks Khalil Tate, Oregon State, our loss to USC, and the state of Pac-12 football. 

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Stanford Football Mid-Season Review (Awesome Article)

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Stanford Football Mid-Season Review
Yep, they’re still (kind of) good. But are they good enough?

October 31, 2017 | Bryant Conger

Overview
Imagine for a moment that you’re throwing a party for your big brother. He’s awesome. He does everything: he helps you with the yardwork, fights off bullies, and is on track to make lots money when he graduates college. Your brother loves food, so you recruit three of the most promising young chefs to cater the event and have sold your brother on how good they are.

The doorbell rings. You open the door and standing there are the three chefs. They all made tuna casserole.

Poor Bryce Love. He’s so, so very good. In the first half of the season he has accumulated 1,387 yards, 11 touchdowns, and averages 10.3 yards per carry. Or, to put it another way, Bryce Love averages a first down every time he runs the football.

But this Stanford offense remains one-dimensional, and the defense has slipped. Yes, David Shaw has recruited three blue-chip quarterbacks, but they are either not good enough to expand the playbook or this coaching staff has chosen to ride or die with the run game. This works when you can lockdown opposing offenses, but the Cardinal front seven are simply not good enough to shut teams down as in years past.

In all fairness, Stanford is fine. So is tuna casserole, if you are going to a potluck. But this Stanford coaching staff has raised expectations in Palo Alto. It doesn’t seem like this team is going to meet those expectations. Stanford still has a chance to win the Pac-12 North, but with two losses halfway through the season it looks like a National Playoff berth is out of the question.

Quarterback
As expected, it was the Keller Chryst show to start the season. For the most part, he has made good decisions, collecting 7 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. But at 55.9%, his accuracy is troublesome and can grind Stanford’s offense to a halt. Don’t agree? Re-watch that Stanford vs. San Diego State game. 

Blue-chip sophomore K.J. Costello jumped 2016 starter Ryan Burns to fill in for Chryst when he was injured. Costello’s 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 64.2% completion rate has resurrected David Shaw’s biannual ritual of taking 4 weeks too long to realize who his strongest quarterback is.

As always, Stanford’s passing attack is efficient, but it’s not dynamic. They average just 200 passing yards per game – 11th in the Pac-12. For context, they pass for fewer yards than Oregon State. And, sweet goodness, you don’t want to do anything worse than Oregon State. Yes, Stanford has Bryce Love but Stanford has already dropped two games against teams that have a coherent front seven (USC and San Diego State) and they almost lost a third game to Utah. If the Fighting Trees can manage to take some pressure off Bryce Love and get their passing game going against Washington and Notre Dame then they still have a shot of winning the Pac-12.

Wildcat Radio’s Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: B
Wildcat Radio’s Midseason Reality Check Grade: B

Running Back
It’s a shame Stanford’s games are broadcast alongside infomercials for inflatable cars and above-ground pools. This kid is so fun to watch. There is no other running back in the country that elicits an involuntary shout every time he touches the ball. Consider this, the Pac-12 is stacked with running back talent. Phillip Lindsey, Royce Freeman, Myles Gaskin, Ronald Jones, and Ryan Naal. These players are barely mentioned by the Pac-12 media because Bryce Love sucks up all the oxygen. He is a threat to score every handoff. If you haven’t seen him play yet you need to do so, yesterday.

Stanford’s rushing attack also includes Cameron Scarlett, a bruising back and human vulture who has taken away about 6 touchdowns from Bryce Love.

Wildcat Radio’s Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: B+    
Wildcat Radio’s Midseason Reality Check Grade: OMG

Wide Receiver
Not once in this entire decade has Stanford fielded a 1,000-yard-wide receiver. This trend looks to continue in 2017. Furthermore, no Stanford wide receiver or tight end ranks in the top 15 for receptions or yards. Still, physical receivers Trent Irwin and JJ Arcega-Whiteside are excellent run blockers and have the physicality to get a look in the NFL. Four-star athlete Connor Weddington, who had a great commitment video, has emerged as a reliable third option. And, as always, the Cardinal tight ends are out in force. Kaden Smith, Dalton Schultz, and Colby Parkinson have a combined for 33 receptions, 356 yards, and 7 touchdowns.

Wildcat Radio’s Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: B+
Wildcat Radio’s Midseason Reality Check Grade: B

Offensive Line
It was a dirty little secret that Stanford’s offensive line had regressed in the last couple of years. It was still good, just not a juggernaut. Then David Shaw went out and recruited two of the top five offensive lineman of the 2017 class including David Little, who was good enough to start at left tackle…at Stanford…as a true freshman.

Little joins a veteran line that has been a strength for the Cardinal. They have protected Stanford’s quarterbacks well, given up the third fewest tackles for a loss in the backfield, and have opened holes that have allowed Bryce Love to do wonderful, wonderful Bryce Love things.

Wildcat Radio’s Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: B+
Wildcat Radio’s Midseason Reality Check Grade: A-

Defensive Line
The biggest question headed into the 2017 season was whether or not Stanford’s Defensive Tackle, Harrison Philips, could replace 75% of the production of Man-Bear-Pig Solomon Thomas. The answer appears to be yes, but the rest of Stanford’s defensive line has been average at best. While Philips already has 50 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss, 4 QB hurries, a forced fumble, and a blocked kick, converted tight end Eric Cotton and returning lineman Dylan Jackson have not emerged as the traditional buckets of nasty that one expects from Stanford.

At the end of the day, this normally aggressive Cardinal unit ranks 8th in the conference – tied with Arizona – in tackles for a loss.

Wildcat Radio’s Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: B
Wildcat Radio’s Midseason Reality Check Grade: B-

Linebackers
At the beginning of the year Stanford was supposed to have one of the strongest, deepest, and most cohesive linebacking corps in the Pac-12. But the Cardinals are allowing nearly 200 rushing yards per game – only UCLA and Oregon State are surrendering more yards on the ground. 

It’s important to note that, while Stanford is allowing opponents to run wild they have only allowed 9 rushing touchdowns. Still, a bend-don’t-break rushing defense wasn’t what we expected from this unit and it will likely cost the Cardinal as they head into the back half of the schedule.

Wildcat Radio’s Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: A
Wildcat Radio’s Midseason Reality Check Grade: B-

Secondary
Stanford’s rushing defense has disappointed but their secondary has been one of the best units in the Pac-12. The Cardinal passing defense is well coached and stocked with talent. They are forcing turnovers (11 interceptions, 2nd in the Pac-12) and playing strong, all-around defense (200 passing yards per game, 4th in the Pac-12).

Junior strong safety Justin Reid picked off right where he left off in 2016. He already has five (FIVE!) interceptions and three pass breakups.  Quinton Meeks, the most likely NFL talent in the secondary, has already pulled in two interceptions and his counterpart Alijah Holder has three passes broken up, an interception, and has forced three fumbles. This remains the strongest unit on Stanford’s defense and one of the strongest secondaries in the Pac-12.

Wildcat Radio’s Preseason Wild Speculation Grade: A-
Wildcat Radio’s Midseason Reality Check Grade: A

Conclusion
This breakdown is a bit unfair. Most teams would be thrilled to win 9 or 10 games with a talent like Bryce Love. But Stanford has been so close to finally breaking into the elite echelon of college football programs. There is always something missing – play calling, a quarterback, etc. There is still time to win the Pac-12, but games against Washington, Washington State, and Notre Dame remain on the schedule. This will be another good year, but not the year— again.

Arizona vs. USC Football Preview with Reign of Troy’s Alicia de Artola

Wildcat Radio previews the Arizona vs. USC Football game with Reign of Troy's Alicia de Artola (@PenguinofTroy).

Plus...

Wildcat Radio talks about Arizona Football's win over Washington State and previews all the Pac-12 week ten action. 

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University of Arizona Red Blue Game

Ronnie Stoffle and Adam Green break down The University of Arizona Red Blue Basketball game and the Pac 12 South Conference teams ASU Sun Devils, University of Utah Utes, University of Colorado Buffalos, UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans.

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