Basketball: Arizona game preview

TIPOFF: 4 p.m. PT Sunday at McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz. TV/Radio: Pac-12 Networks/910-AM.

What do Arizona point guard Mark Lyons and former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson have in common?

Both utilized NCAA bylaw to transfer to a new school and play one final season without delay as post-graduate student-athletes.

Wilson left North Carolina State before the 2011 football season and threw 33 touchdown passes for the Badgers, leading them to the Big Ten title and a spot in the Rose Bowl. He now is a bright young star for the Seattle Seahawks.

Lyons graduated last spring from Xavier and took advantage of the rule to transfer to Arizona. He also was immediately eligible and has been a key to the No. 7 Wildcats’ rise to the top of the Pac-12 Conference.

On Sunday, he is Cal’s problem, and Bears coach Mike Montgomery doesn’t like the rule that allowed the Cats to instantly plug in a floor leader who had played in three NCAA Sweet 16s and scored more than 1,000 points his first three seasons.

“They’re not nearly the team they are if they don’t get a fifth-year guy, graduate student, to come in and play the point,” Montgomery said. “The ability to get a guy immediately eligible that’s not a freshman, that’s a veteran, that’s a really good player … that’s a huge difference.”

Make no mistake, Lyons’ contribution to the Cats has been nearly as significant as what Wilson provided Wisconsin. Arizona had talent at every other position, but a big question mark at point guard. Lyons has played well enough to be in the conversation for Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Montgomery’s complaint isn’t with Lyons or Arizona. He just doesn’t like the rule, which originally required players to file a waiver request, then in 2010 simply allowed a a graduate to make the move without the player having to sit out a year, as is typically the case with transfer players.

“I think it’s just opened a big can of worms,” Montgomery said. “I’m saying in general that is troublesome because what it’s going to do is people are going to start recruiting from other people’s campuses. It’s just inevitable.”

It’s inevitable, he said, because coaches are always searching for ways to stretch the rules or crawl through a loophole. In the case of this rule, Montgomery is convinced those who created it didn’t understand the possible ramifications.

“What they call unintended consequences are just incredible,” he said. “We take one thing and make it into something it’s totally not designed to be. You can’t blame anybody.”

The response to this, Montgomery predicts, is some coaches will encourage their academic advisors to slow the academic progress of students to assure they don’t graduate with a year of sports eligibility remaining.

“What’s going to happen,” he said, “is nobody’s going to allow their kids to graduate in their fourth year.”

Said NCAA president Mark Emmert, “I’m concerned about all of (the scenarios) that are out there.”

Montgomery has at least a few allies on the topic. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, in an interview with USA Today last year, said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea at all.”

Emmert, in Berkeley last weekend to watch Oregon play Cal, defended the spirit of the rule.

“If you’ve got a student-athlete who’s done everything you want him to do — they’ve gone to school, graduated from class on time or ahead of time, they’ve got some eligibility left — that suggests they ought to have an opportunity to go do something else if they choose,” he said.

Emmert also said the NCAA executive council has been charged this spring and summer with taking a hard look at all transfer rules. Too many athletes transfer, he said, and the rulebook needs streamlining to eliminate the surge of requests for waivers based on a range of issues.

“The fact that in any given year we have hundreds and hundreds of applications for waivers from the existing rules tells you the existing rules aren’t working very well,” he said.

One idea being floated is to allow graduate students to transfer and play a fourth season, but require them to sit out one year first. In other words, give them six years to play four.

“In most cases, grad school tends to be a two-year program,” said Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. “If they’re genuine in their interest in getting a (graduate) degree, they’ll be on scholarship their first year without playing but practicing.

“Our coaches like that better than (players) transferring and becoming immediately eligible.”

Added Emmert, “I think there’ll be a lot of talk about that. I’m sure there’ll be a robust discussion on that.”

ABOUT THE WILDCATS: Senior Solomon Hill has continued to evolve for the Wildcats, and this season is a 41.1-percent 3-point shooter. He is one of four UA players with at least 25 3-pointers. The Cats lead the Pac-12 in 3-pointers per game (7.6) and are second in 3-point accuracy (.358). … Arizona also is first in the conference in FT percentage (.754), second in scoring (74.7) and rebounding margin (plus-7.5) and third in scoring defense (61.9). … Freshman F Brandon Ashley, a Dublin native and one-time Bishop O’Dowd HS star, has scored double digits nine times this season, including a best of 20 points vs. Long Beach State. 

THE SERIES: Arizona leads 55-28. The Wildcats won the only meeting between the teams last year, 78-74, at Berkeley. UA has won the past three, including a 107-105 triple-overtime decision at Berkeley in 2010-11. Cal has lost 15 of its past 16 games in Tucson (winning 83-77 in 2008-09).

ETC: Junior Allen Crabbe has moved to No. 15 on Cal’s career scoring list with 1,354 points. Next up for him: Roy Fisher, who scored 1,382 points from 1987-88 through 1990-91. Already, Crabbe ranks No. 4 in Cal history among players whose careers spanned just three seasons, trailing Lamond Murray, who had 1,688 points from 1991-92 through 1993-94, Russ Critchfield, who totaled 1,437 points from 1965-66 through 1967-68, and Ansley Truitt, with 1,384 points from 1969-70 through 1971-72. … Cal coach Mike Montgomery, with 265 Pac-12 victories, is one shy of equaling Washington’s Hec Edmundson (1921-47) for fourth on the all-time conference wins list. He needs 11 more to tie Oregon State’s Slats Gill for third.

WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays UCLA on Thursday at Haas Pavilion. Tipoff is 6 p.m. PT.

Cal (13-9, 5-5 Pac-12)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SG Allen Crabbe 6-6 Jr. 19.3 5.5
PF Richard Solomon 6-10 Jr. 8.1 6.6
PF David Kravish 6-9 So. 7.9 6.7
PG Justin Cobbs 6-2 Jr. 14.3 4.3*
SG Tyrone Wallace 6-3 Fr. 7.3 4.7
Key reserves
G Brandon Smith 5-11 Sr. 3.1 2.3*
C Robert Thurman 6-10 Sr. 5.2 3.8
F Bak Bak 6-9 Sr. 1.5 1.1

Arizona (20-2, 8-2 Pac-12)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
C Kaleb Tarczewski 7-0 Fr. 6.0 5.6
PF Brandon Ashley 6-8 Fr. 7.8 5.7
SF Solomon Hill 6-7 Sr. 14.0 5.4
SG Nick Johnson 6-3 So. 12.5 3.7
PG Mark Lyons 6-1 Sr. 15.4 3.0*
Key reserves
G Kevin Parrom 6-6 Sr. 8.2 5.0
F Grant Jarrett 6-10 Fr. 4.8 4.0
G Jordin Mayes 6-3 Jr. 2.7 1.1*


Jeff Faraudo

  • Gobears49

    Let’s pray for an upset. The season seems on the line for this game. A second victory over a top 10 team (the last we will probably play this season) would help our RPI a lot. Hope the boys are fired up, Crabbe is not afraid to take an open shot (and makes up for his play at the end of the ASU game), Cobbs takes good shots, Kravish is not shy about taking his, and the big boys around the basket (Soloman and Thurman) have some touch on their shots inside. That and great defense and few turnovers.

    If we win this game, I think we are back in the running, as a sweep at home the following week is very possible (especially hope for a win this Thursday, as my girlfriend bought us great seats for that game.

    I know this is so easy for me to say to do but is very hard to execute. That’s where Monty demanding it be done and exhorting his team to execute the way he told them to come in.

  • SteveNTexas

    Gobears- some objectivity PLEASE. We played Oregon without its guard and they are 2-3 since then. Yes technically they were a top 10 team, but this week they will be out of the top 20. They were behind at the half vs UTAH in Oregon last night it could have been worse.

    Most average mediocre teams have their upsets over the course of a season. TCU certainly did and in the last week the Top 5 Teams all lost to unranked opponents.

    Just by the law of averages we should beat someone decent who hasn’t lost its star.

  • Gobears49


    When I state facts that are true, which anyone can measure as being true, that is being objective, rather than stating an opinion, which may or not be true, which is being subjective.

    We beat Oregon, which was ranked #10 at that time. Just checked and Arizona is currently is ranked #7 in both the AP Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll. So if we beat Arizona today everyone can agree, without a difference of opinion, that we beat another top 10 team. That would be an objective statement.

    I didn’t even say we would beat Arizona, which would be a subjective opinion. I only said I hope we will do so, which is not an opinion at all.

    I agree with you that most decent teams get a win or two over good teams. But I would guess (being subjective) that fewer than twenty teams, and most likely around fifteen, beat two or more teams a year that were ranked #10 or better at the time they played them, which would help their ratings a lot more than if they had not beat them. But I’d love to hear other people’s opinions on that number, as I could be way off on that, though I don’t think so (those stats are not kept, so nobody is going to prove me wrong).

    Today’s game is crucial if Cal wants to finish in the top four, to get a bye in the Pac 12 tournament. If also is crucial to Cal’s RPI ranking, which would be important IF Cal somehow wins most of its remaining games, as it would help them obtain an outside bid to go the NCAA’s this year even if they don’t win the Pac 12 tournament. Note I am not stating my opinion that that will occur.

  • Eric

    Realistically, we are at best a NIT team. We won’t make the tournament unless we win the Pac-12 title, and that is highly unlikely. Arizona is not going to lose at home.

  • SteveNTexas

    GOBEARS I agree if we beat Arizona at Arizona that would be a signature win. Arizona is a legitimate toip team I would probably rank them around 10th.

    Oregon has been horrible without its guard. Because the the major polls have a week lag only Sagarin reflected how bad Oregon was a and had them at 44th.

    We aren’t doing so bad now down by only 5 – Let’s win this and get some momentum.

  • SteveNTexas

    This looks like the victory of the year for Cal – leading with a minute left.

  • Gobears49

    The team that is, at best, an NIT team, still has life to make the dance. I’m so happy we won today, in part because I have great tickets for the UCLA game Thursday with my girlfriend. Could be like the good old days that were not so long ago — Haas should be rockin’.

    The Bear never quits, the Bear never dies.

  • wehofx

    WOW! Great victory. Looks like the team found its heart and stones in second half against osu.

    I knew after all those lousy shooting games of 35% and 40% from the field we’d get hot against somebody good. I was thinking furd but I’ll take zona!

    GoBears, you the DUUUUUUDE!!!

    Go Bears!

  • Gobears49

    Just I recommended, Cal went to Cobbs as a go to guy to compliment Crabbe. I think Cobbs is just as good a shooter as is Crabbe, and almost as good an all-round player. I think he has a future in the pro’s and, while he may not make it, he should give it a try.

  • discdude

    There’s a quality win!!! Did anyone expect that?!? Man, that ASU loss hurts or they’d be right back in this thing. As it stands, only 2 back in the loss column. A couple of Ws this week are necessary to keep them in it.

  • SteveNTexas

    Disc is right if we play well now we have a chance.

    Best day in basketball for me all year. IU wins at Ohio State and Cal beats a real Top Ten team and knocks them down the rankings.

  • 1brsfan

    I was hoping for a road split but did not expect that our win would be against Zona! Go Bears!

  • The Wisdom Cow

    It may not have been Lamond Murry running off the court as his 3 pointer sank at the buzzer, but that was the performance we’ve been waiting for from Crabbe.

    Time to bench him. A couple more games like that he may start thinking NBA.

    I want to see more of THAT Crabbe.

    [How come the comment section broke on the game thread?]

  • SteveNTexas

    Wisdom Juancho clicked “Disable replies” after no one answered his question about TV. In Texas we would just write “Nuff Said” but Juancho took it to an entire new level.

  • Juancho

    Haha what did i do ?

  • covinared

    would have been a great game to see on tv. another casualty of PAC 12 Network.

  • Gobears49


    Because not everyone can get access to watch a game, that’s why God invented sports bars.

  • covinared

    49: you are right. I don’t always have that option at this stage of life.