March Madness Raids Golden 1 Center, Is Pac 12's Four Teams 'Title Contenders?'


UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball greets young admirers at Golden 1 Center before the Bruins practices at the facility in downtown Sacramento, Calif., March 16, 2017. No. 3 UCLA will face No. 14 Kent State on March 17, 2017. Publicity Agents photo art by T. Ray Harvey.

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Sacramento, Calif. — In recent years, the Pac 12 Conference has not attracted the notoriety it should, but there is no doubt the four teams that made it to the 2017 NCAA Tournament belong and could make a run for the national title.

The Arizona Wildcats (30-4), Oregon Ducks (29-5), UCLA Bruins (29-4), and USC Trojans (24-9) made it to the Big Dance in earnest. Arizona landed a No. 2 seed while the Ducks and Bruins are No. 3 seeds. USC is listed as a No. 11 seed in the tournament.

Oregon and UCLA play at Golden 1 Center in the first round on March 17. Oregon takes on No. 14 Iona Gaels at 11:00 a.m., and UCLA opens against the No. 14 Kent State Golden Flashes at 6:57 a.m., both Pacific Standard Time.

Cal and Utah didn’t make it out of the Pac 12 due some bad losses despite both teams having favorable records. But the Pac 12 players in the NCAA Tournament know they went through a minefield to get out of their conference.

“The Pac 12 play got us mentally and physically ready for the best part of the season, March,” said Oregon sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey. “The Pac 12 Tournament helped us a lot, and losing that last game (Arizona) helped us mentally to see how we’re going to do without Chris (Boucher). We’re going to use that game as motivation to make this run during March.”

Oregon's Tyler Dorsey, No. 5, and Jordan Bell, No. 1. PA's Photo Art by T. Ray Harvey. March 2016, 2017.

UCLA shooting guard Bryce Alford also agrees that the “Pac 12 hasn’t got a whole lot of respect this year,” he said. The USC Trojans finished with 10-8 record for sixth place in the regular season of the Pac 12.

The Trojans entered the tournament ahead of Utah (20-11 overall, 11-7 Pac 12) and Cal (21-13 overall, 11-7 Pac 12). Both teams finished 5th and 4th respectively.

“USC barely snuck in and I thought they deserved to be in for sure having 24 wins,” Bryce Alford said. “They’re a very good basketball team, and then you’ve got the top three teams in us, Oregon, and Arizona. I think all have a legit shot at being Final Four teams and title contenders.”

No. 2 Arizona beat No. 15 North Dakota State 87-67 on March 16 and advances to the second round.

Lonzo Ball’s Thoughts On Dad’s Michael Jordan Comments

LaVar Ball, the father of UCLA freshman point guard Lonzo Ball, told USA Today a few days ago that he would “kill Michael Jordan one-on-one” in a game of basketball.

During UCLA’s news conference at Golden 1 Center on March 16, Lonzo Ball was asked how he felt about his father’s statement and did he think it was a distraction for him and the Bruins.

“He’s been like that my whole life. It’s nothing new to me,” Lonzo Ball said. “He’s got a camera in front of his face now. So, ya'll are seeing it for the first time. To be honest, he probably could do that. He’s bigger than him (Jordan). That’s his thinking process. He’s never going to change for the cameras.”

UCLA head coach Steve Alford knows that Lonzo’s dad has been the topic of many public discussions, eccentric or otherwise. LaVar Ball has went on record to say Lonzo is better than NBA player Steph Curry and he said that Charles Barkley is not that much more different than he is for saying stuff way out in left field.

Alford said the Ball patriarch’s comments has no bearing on the Bruins. Lonzo Ball has been handling the situation well and that’s all that matters to UCLA.

“It’s been no distraction to us and a lot of that has to do with Lonzo, who he is, a strong-willed kid way beyond his 18-years of age,” Alford said. “He’s a special talent both mentally and physically, and it’s how he’s wired. He’s built this way. He’s built for this.”

Dan Hurley Recalls Brother’s Car Accident In Sacramento

Dan Hurley, the head coach of the Rhode Island Rams (24-9 overall, 13-5 Atlantic 10), knows the city of Sacramento all too well. His older brother Bobby Hurley, a rookie, was a member of the Sacramento Kings and involved in a car accident that nearly took his life.

On Dec. 12, 1993, Bobby Hurley was headed home after a Kings game when he was broadsided by a station wagon. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the car he was driving. Dan Hurley got a little emotional discussing the aftermath of the accident during a new conference at Golden 1 Center.

Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley, left. PA's Photo Art by T. Ray Harvey. March 2016, 2017.

“It was emotional for me just because my last time here I was watching my brother cling to his life in a hospital room surrounded by his family,” Dan Hurley said. “Just amazing now how it’s set up that we’re now out here. I’m not sure how many times Bob has been out here since. But he’ll be out here (March 17).”

As soon as Dan Hurley landed at Sacramento International Airport with his players, who will be playing the Creighton Blue Jays (25-9 overall, 10-8 Big East), his experience with the city brought the dilemma back to his psyche.

“To see Sacramento on that screen in the airport the other day was emotional,” Hurley said. “I’m going to keep it together up here, though.”

Bobby Hurley has recovered well from those life-threatening injuries, which included a collapsed lung. He went on to play with the Kings for three more seasons. He’s now is the head coach of the Arizona State University Sun Devils of the Pac 12. In his second season coaching, the Sun Devils have posted a 30-35 record overall and 12-24 mark in the Pac 12.

Transfers Make Iona Stronger

No. 14 Iona (22-12 overall, 12-8 MAAC)

The Iona Gaels of the MAAC happens to be a great landing spot for transfers. Players Sam Cassell Jr. and Tyler Bessick came from other schools to be with the Gaels. The relocations proved to be a good decisions.

Cassell started out at Chipola College, played for the UConn Huskies as a junior and senior, though decided to transfer to Iona for his last year of eligibility.

Cassell Jr., the son of former NBA player Sam Cassell, didn’t play at Chipola College his freshman year to concentrate on his studies, which gave him an extra year. He graduated from UConn before he transferred. Cassell knew Iona and its players could make to the tournament.

‘That’s the reason why I came to Iona,” Cassell told Publicity Agents. “It’s a winning school (with) a winning background. “When I talked to these guys that’s all they talked about was getting back to the NCAA Tournament. I just had to help to get ’em back here and we’re here.”

Bessick spent two years at James Madison University before transferring to Iona. He sat out the 2015-2016 year due to NCAA regulations and has been on the Gaels’ squad for the last two seasons. This is Bessick third trip to the NCAA Tournament. He was on the JMU team when it made it to the Big Dance.

“I came here as as a freshman with JMU, and then I came to Iona last year,” Bessick said. “I’m grateful to come back here with both schools. It’s a lot of hard work and I just got lucky.”

By T. Ray Harvey | PA Public Information Officer and Photographic Artist

Twitter: Tony Ray Harvey @PublicityAgents

PA’s PUBLIC INFORMATION:

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber weighs in, lightly, on the firing of John Groce at the University of Illinois. Groce took over the program five years ago when Weber was fired.

Groce fell out of favor for the Fighting Illini similar to Groce. Both had off-the-court issues with players and troubles getting Illinois in the NCAA Tournament toward the end of their tenures.

Weber: Well, we loved our time at Illinois. We had a really good run. I think if you really study it, it’s probably the best nine-year run in the history of the program. We did some things no one else has ever done in Illinois basketball history. You never want to leave the place. You see things happening in our business today, coaches losing their jobs. It’s a tough business. It’s a crazy business. It’s gotten tougher. I’m just very fortunate to be at Kansas State. I have a great opportunity, a good group of fans, good administration, and that’s all I worry about.”

#MarchMadness #Final Four

Oregon's Tyler Dorsey, No. 5, and Jordan Bell, No. 1. PA's Photo Art by T. Ray Harvey. March 2016, 2017.

T. Ray (Antonio) Harvey is a Public Information Officer and Photographic Artist for Publicity Agents. Harvey is also the author of The HOMICIDAL HANDYMAN OF OAK PARK: MORRIS SOLOMON JR.

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