Pac-12 links: USC’s Josh Shaw (doesn’t) save nephew from drowning

» USC cornerback Josh Shaw sprained his ankles saving his nephew from drowning during a family social on Saturday. Remarkably, Shaw leaped off second-story balcony when he saw the 7-year-old struggling, landing on the concrete before crawling into the pool.

UPDATE: Serious doubts about Shaw’s story have surfaced, and USC is investigating further.

» Anu Solomon officially became Arizona’s starting quarterback, marking the first time since freshmen became eligible in 1972 that the Wildcats will open the season with one behind center.

» A closer look at the running ability of Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly, whom Jim Mora called “tough as nails.” Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Judge rules against NCAA in landmark O’Bannon case

» In a landmark case that could change amateurism, a judge ruled in favor of Ed O’Bannon and against the NCAA. Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann breaks down the implications of Claudia Wilken’s decision, as well as the legal road ahead.

» A feature on USC coach Steve Sarkisian, by columnist Mark Whicker: “Some coaches have five and 10-year plans. Sarkisian, 40, has lived in a quick-pivoting sports car, not always using signals, barreling down the roads less traveled, looking straight ahead.”

» Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson is trying to win Utah’s starting quarterback job — and perhaps help redeem the family name. Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Former Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour heads to Penn State

» Just a month after stepping down (or being forced out) as Cal’s athletic director, Sandy Barbour parlayed an uneven tenure in the Bay Area into a bigger job at Penn State — one that will pay her $700,000 per year.

» Stanford’s Josh Huestis went to the Oklahoma City Thunder as the 29th overall pick in the NBA draft, but will head to the D-League rather than sign his guaranteed rookie contract. Grantland’s Zach Lowe explains why.

» Gary Payton II has arrived on the Oregon State campus, where his famous father’s enormous shadow still looms. 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, Philip “Scooby” Wright III

Would be better if Scooby’s real first name weren’t Phillip, but otherwise still 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 blows out Cal for first win at Haas Pavilion since 2010

BERKELEY, Calif. — For a moment in UCLA’s 86-66 win Wednesday night, Cal breathed in hope.

With less than four minutes left until halftime, senior point guard Justin Cobbs hit a running floater against heavy contact. He pumped his fist, and headed to the line. He hit the free throw.

What had been a double-digit Bruin lead less than three minutes ago was cut to four.

It would be Cobbs’ only field goal of the first half. He missed an 18-footer on the Bears’ next possession, and UCLA unleashed a 7-0 run in 88 seconds. The Bruins walked into the locker room with a commanding 44-32 lead, and never felt threatened again through the remaining 20 minutes.

Powered by Jordan Adams’ game-high 28 points, UCLA led by as much as 27 and never by less than nine after the break. Continue reading

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What to watch: No. 23 UCLA at Cal

No. 23 UCLA (20-5, 9-3) at Cal (17-8, 8-4)
When:
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Haas Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Networks (JB Long, Don MacLean, Ashley Adamson)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: Which Cal team will show up? The Bears may be the Pac-12′s most perplexing team. They gave USC its lone Pac-12 victory after winning five straight to start conference play, only to turn around 10 days later and knocked off undefeated Arizona. They then proceeded to lose to Stanford at home by 11 points.

Cal is trending up a bit again with dominant road win at Washington, but the Huskies are on track for their worst record in six years. The Bears do score 59.1 percent of their points on 2-pointers — the second-highest mark in the league — so they’ll need 6-foot-10 forward Richard Solomon to establish himself inside and the rest of the team’s jumpers to fall. In eight losses this season, Cal shot 40.8 percent from the field, down nearly six from their season average.

On paper, UCLA enters tonight with the clear edge. The Bruins have suffered lapses this season, but that’s happened most often on the back end of road trips. Even if they get off to a slow start, they’ve proven that they can flip the switch coming out of halftime.

No. 2: Cal’s fifth starter. The Bears haven’t found a consistent contributor to finish out its first-string unit, with Jordan Mathews, Jabari Bird and Ricky Kreklow getting 12, nine and seven starts, respectively. Injuries to Bird and Kreklow disrupted the lineup for weeks, but the former has seen the court just 29 minutes in his past three games — hardly building off his 12-point second half against UCLA. Continue reading

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Notes: Steve Alford talks Norman Powell’s breakout

Junior guard Norman Powell has steadily improved every part of his game since he arrived at UCLA, but his most dramatic jump this season has come on offense. Still the team’s best man-to-man defender, the San Diego native has bumped his 2-point shooting to 66.4 percent, up from 57.8 last season and 40.5 the year before that.

In conference games, the Bruins rank seventh inside the arc at 48.3 percent, a middling performance that stems at least in part from the roster’s dearth of dominant big men.

Arizona, first in the category, has three starters making more than 56 percent of their 2-point shots. The only UCLA player that clears that mark besides Powell is Tony Parker at 59.8 percent. David Wear and Travis Wear average 52.8 and 46.9 percent, respectively.

Powell scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting in Sunday’s 76-64 win against Cal, an unspectacular but crucial contribution across 30 minutes — the most he has played against a conference opponent.

Head coach Steve Alford talked about Powell’s “breakout year” after the win, pointing out his propensity for driving down the lane and drawing fouls.

That becomes more important in the context of the team as a whole. UCLA’s 37.7 percent free-throw rate ranks just 10th in the conference, and 245th in the country. Powell’s 36.8 percent isn’t exactly hauling that number up, but besides Kyle Anderson (50.0) and Jordan Adams (49.4), he is the best option for generating trips to the line. Continue reading

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UCLA beats Cal, moves into second-place Pac-12 tie

UCLA is now tied for second place in the Pac-12, after a 76-64 win over Cal that saw one big man disappear and another rise.

Three days after scoring a career-high 22 points against Stanford, sophomore Tony Parker was a non-factor early on, picking up two fouls in 85 seconds and sitting most of the first half. He picked up his fourth foul with 11:58 left in the second half, and headed to the bench again.

He finished the game with a rebound, an assist and a missed shot.

His team hardly missed him. It was David Wear who starred, shaking off an illness earlier this week to score a career-high 18 points. He hit 6-of-10 from the field, including two 3-pointers, as well as four free throws. He added seven rebounds. 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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