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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Pac-12 stock report: UCLA’s on-court opportunities (and challenges), Arizona’s setback and a remarkable retirement

Comment on the developments of the Pac-12 on and off the field, and the court…

Rising: Pac-12 Basketball.

A moment of full disclosure: The hotline submitted its Precision Top-25 ballot to the Associated Press on Wednesday night and placed UCLA at No.

The Bruins are loaded like some Pac-12 teams in the expansion era.

Not only do they return all the key pieces from the Final Four run, including point guard Tiger Campbell and wings Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez, they’re also filling two holes:

Rutgers transfer Miles Johnson should provide the rim protection UCLA lacked last season, while freshman Peyton Watson injects lottery pick talent into the rotation.

The Pac-12 desperately needs to build on the momentum it gained last March with first-class performances in the resuming months of November and December.

It couldn’t have asked for a better position than the 11-time national champion near (et?) at the top of the AP Precision Poll with a stock roster and marquee matchups against Gonzaga, Villanova, and North Carolina.

The Bruins don’t need a three-game sweep; Two out of three will do the trick for the conference.

(Note: My AP ballot will be published early next week ahead of the release of pre-season polls.)

Rising: The Challenge of UCLA.

That said, team dynamics change from year to year, even if the roster is not core.

How will players react to the role of Precision Favorite instead of the post-season underdog?

How many players will have an eye on the NBA Draft?

How many people can be distracted by approval opportunities?

The NCAA runs the result of a harmonious convergence of luck, coaching and chemistry.

The roster is better, sure. But that won’t bring UCLA back to the Final Four.

“It takes talent to get to the top and be there,” Bill Walton told Hotline earlier this week.

“When teams reach a level of achievement, what factors in sustainability? Health, obviously. And a selfless commitment to team goals. Those are the elements you need to deal with adversity.”

Because in some form or the other, calamity is coming.

Fall: Arizona Football

Just when it looked like the Wildcats had found a quarterback they could build on, it’s gone: Jordan McCloud is out for the year, suffering leg injuries in the fourth quarter of his loss to UCLA .

And so it goes for the wildcats, who haven’t lived since October 2019.

In an ideal world, first-year coach Jade Fish would have shown a tangible sign of hope by this point in the season—an upside-down surprise to serve as a launch point for future success.

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Despite northern Arizona’s brutal start and humiliating defeat, McCloud embodied that hope.

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USF was the third stringer to start the transfer season. When the other options (Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer) failed to materialize, he rose to the starting role and helped the Wildcats stay competitive with Oregon for three quarters.

Without McCloud, there’s little chance of the Phish era gaining traction this season. One or two wins are not enough for real momentum.

It’s just a different level of bad.

To secure the foundation of a true revival, the Wildcats need five or six victories; They need to take down a ranked team; They need to be competitive every week to offer a product worth entering.

McCloud’s injury likely delays that process.

Now, it appears that the benchmark will not be reached until 2023 at the earliest.

Fall: Pac-12 Football.

USC announced Wednesday night that Tim Tessalon, its longtime sports information director, would retire at the end of the season.

Hotlines generally do not address campus personnel matters unless they include an athletic director, head coach or coordinator/assistant. But Teslon’s pending departure is different. This convention writ is a blow to the elder.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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