Pac-12 links: Arizona State’s Chip Sarafin comes out as gay

» Arizona State offensive lineman Chip Sarafin came out on Wednesday, becoming first openly gay active player in Division I football.

» Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon is trying to win Arizona’s starting quarterback — something that would require beating out transfers from USC, LSU and Texas.

» The Ice Bucket Challenge has helped raise $2.3 million for the national ALS association since July 29, and UCLA coach Jim Mora accepted a challenge to join yesterday:

» Washington State crossed the Idaho border for training camp, but wildfires forced the Cougars back to Pullman. Continue reading

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Pac-12 notes: Mike Leach thinks Connor Halliday is better than your quarterback

Connor Halliday is the best quarterback in the country, according to Connor Halliday’s coach.

After talking up the Pac-12′s depth behind center on Wednesday, Washington State’s Mike Leach said he would take his redshirt senior over just about anybody else.

“You might be rooting for your guy, and I don’t care what you think,” Leach said. “He’s better than your guy is.”

Some other Pac-12 Media Day highlights from the conference’s most quotable coach (as well as other coaches and players) …

» Asked how he would pick a bear-hunting partner between Washington coach Chris Petersen and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham: “We get a large bag and we stick in Coach Petersen, Coach Whittingham, and we shake that bag up really high and really hard.”

» On his fishing trip this summer: “My staff and I went fishing up in McCall, Idaho on the Snake River and got a huge 9.5-foot, 350-pound sturgeon, probably 95 years old. Of course, turned him loose so he could pull somebody else’s boat around for a while next time.” Continue reading

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Which players have the best names in the Pac-12?

By now, you’ve read many of the lists that have proliferated in college football’s dry summer months. The best 100 players. The freakiest players. The best coaches, best offseasons, best uniforms.

But this? This is the most important of them all. With Pac-12 Media Days — schedule here — kicking off this morning, I have compiled the five best names from each team in the conference.

Without further ado …

Arizona: Sir Thomas Jackson, Antonio Smothers, Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Brogan Kemmerly, Abraham Mendivil

Not great depth here, as the latter two names sacrifice catchiness in favor of length. Still, Sir Thomas Jackson alone is an MVP candidate.

Arizona State: Ezekial Bishop, Demetrius Cherry, Zane Gonzalez, Jaxon Hood, Jaelen Strong

A solid quintet that lacks a superstar.

Cal: Hardy Nickerson, Avery Sebastian, Bryce Treggs, Brennan Scarlett, Maximo Espitia

A nice throwback in Hardy Nickerson, bookended by a name that makes me want to re-watch Russell Crowe take on a despotic Joaquin Phoenix. Continue reading

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UCLA advances to Pac-12 title game with rout of Stanford

LAS VEGAS — Clear your schedules, everyone. The Pac-12 Tournament is going to end in style.

The two best teams in the conference will meet at the MGM Grand Garden Arena at 3 p.m. Saturday, with top-seeded Arizona matching up against No. 2-seed UCLA.

Stingy defense versus prolific offense.

On Friday night, the Bruins romped to an 84-59 blowout of Stanford — shooting a season-high 65.2 percent in the most lopsided game in league tourney history. Two hours earlier, the Wildcats had shut down Colorado, 63-43, holding the Buffs to a season-worst 29.4 percent shooting performance.

They marked the sixth and seventh of 10 games at the Pac-12 Tournament decided by at least 11 points. Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: UCLA falls short in 79-75 loss to Wildcats

– UCLA can be a much better rebounding team than it has been all season, though what it’ll take to keep that effort consistent is unclear.

Arizona entered the game averaging a +12.1 rebounding margin to UCLA’s +4.3, but it was the latter that held a 20-19 edge on the glass at halftime. The Bruins came out strong on the boards, visibly making the extra effort to box out or jump up and tip the ball to a teammate.

They were especially good on the offensive board, grabbing 16 for the game. The team ended up just one rebound shy of Arizona’s 37.

– Pauley Pavilion was louder than it had been in years, with an announced sellout crowd of 13,238. Continue reading

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What to watch: UCLA vs. No. 1 Arizona

UCLA (12-2, 1-0) vs. No. 1 Arizona (15-0, 2-0)
When: Thursday, 6 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Bill Walton)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

In today’s Los Angeles Daily News, a look at some of the most memorable moments of the UCLA-Arizona rivalry.

No. 1: Battle of the bigs. Arizona’s frontline is almost certainly the best in the Pac-12, especially with the addition of forward Aaron Gordon. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound true freshman hasn’t quite matched the hype of a future lottery pick, but he plays with non-stop energy and is still averaging 12.4 points, 1.0 blocks, and a team-high 8.0 rebounds.

Slot him into the lineup alongside sophomores Brandon Ashley (6-foot-8, 230) and Kaleb Tarczewski (7-foot, 235), and it’s no surprise that the Wildcats clean the glass more thoroughly than any team in the conference. Arizona’s offensive rebounding percentage of 41.4 ranks eighth in the country. The Pac-12′s next-best team is Colorado, which sits way down at 57th (36.2 percent). Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Former Ute succumbing to cancer

– Bronzell Miller might be dead by the time you read this. The former Utah linebacker is battling multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, and may only have a week left to live.

– Bellevue standout and UCLA recruiting target Budda Baker is still waiting for the release of his brother Robert, imprisoned for first-degree robbery and possession of a firearm.

– How did Tad Boyle turn Colorado into a contender?

– “But the difference between being a head football coach in college and the NFL is like the difference between Wal-Mart and Wall Street.” Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Who will head to the Rose Bowl?

– Why Stanford will beat Arizona State for a Rose Bowl berth, according to the Bay Area News Group’s Jon Wilner.

– Steve Sarkisian has already hired two members of his Washington staff. Might defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox be the next to head to USC?

– An older man kicked a younger man in the face at last week’s Territorial Cup game between ASU and Arizona. Continue reading

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