24 May 19
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Reaction to Pac-12 developments on and off the field (and court) …
Rising: Stanford-Notre Dame football series.
While researching a column on Pac-12 non-conference football schedules into the 2030s — it’s an impressive lineup — the Hotline noticed Notre Dame doesn’t appear on Stanford’s schedule beyond 2024.
Is the series ending? That wouldn’t make sense for Notre Dame, which receives a recruiting boost from the end-of-season appearances in California (USC and Stanford).
Nor would it make sense for Stanford on either the competitive or financial (ticket sales) fronts.
It just so happens that the Hotline recently chatted with Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir about a different topic — the implementation of non-conference basketball schedule standards — and before we hung up, I asked about Notre Dame.
Muir, who used to work in UND’s athletic department, didn’t discuss specifics of contract negotiations but said: “We’re continuing to work with them. All indications are that we’ll be playing them for many years to come.”
Rising: Washington basketball recruiting.
Coach Mike Hopkins secured his second 5-star recruit in the class of 2019 with a commitment from forward Jaden McDaniels of Federal Way.
Except McDaniels is really the Huskies’ third incoming 5-star.
In addition to big man Isaiah Stewart, who’s considered one of the top-five prep players in the class, the Huskies have landed point guard Quade Green, a transfer who will be eligible in December.
Green originally picked Kentucky over Syracuse and Villanova, and he will undoubtedly be a central piece of UW’s rotation for conference play.
The quality of incoming talent is such that the Huskies just might be the team to beat in the Pac-12 next season even if Jaylen Nowell stays in the NBA Draft (which is the expectation).
But McDaniels’ commitment points to a larger issue for Washington, one that is central to sustained success during the Hopkins era: An apparent uptick in local talent.
The Seattle area produced a bevy of elite prospects in the mid-2000s (Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Jon Brockman, Spencer Hawes), then seemed to experience a dip.
But UW’s success the past two seasons was built on locals (Nowell, Matisse Thybulle and David Crisp), and there are more coming:
In addition to McDaniels, the Huskies are the favorite (per 247sports) for Garfield High School’s MarJon Beauchamp, a 5-star wing from the class of 2020, and for O’Dea High’s Paolo Banchero, a 5-star big man.
If the Puget Sound pipeline keep producing elite talent and Hopkins can keep ’em home, the Huskies should remain at, or near the top of the conference for years to come.
Rising: Utah football investment.
Last month, the Utes announced a $17.5 million donation earmarked for the Rice-Eccles renovation.
This week, the Salt Lake Tribune reported new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig will receive a three-year, $2.5 million contract, instantly propelling him to the top tier of coordinator compensation in the Pac-12.
At $833,000 per year, Ludwig will earn 50 percent more than any Utah assistant in 2018, according to figures listed in the USA Today database.
Both the donation and Ludwig’s salary, although different in practical application, speak to the same essential development unfolding in SLC:
Whether it’s facilities or staff, the Utes appear committed to the resource allocation needed to compete (on a sustained basis) at the top level of the conference.
The next step is the non-conference schedule.
There are numerous openings in the second half of the 2020s, and those must be filled with Power Five opponents in home-and-home series.
BYU, Weber State and Wyoming was a suitable noncon lineup for the Utes when they joined the Pac-12 and were compiling a Power Five-level roster.
But the program has reached the point — it’s past the point, frankly — that Utah should have an A-level game every year.
“I don’t think there’s any question that what we’re going to try to work for is more P5 home-and-homes,” first-year athletic director Mark Harlan recently told ESPN700.
“It’s something that we know is in our future … It’s something that we need to do.”
Rising: Colorado football recruiting.
This week, Buffaloes corralled the most important recruit of Mel Tucker’s young tenure, a 4-star offensive lineman from Georgia who had previously committed to Ohio State.
Yep: 4 stars, from Georgia, committed to OSU, now headed to Boulder.
And if Jake Wray merely becomes a solid starter, he will remain a deeply significant recruit for Tucker.
Number of 4- and 5-star prospects in Colorado in the classes of 2017-20 (combined): Nine.
Number of 4- and 5-star prospects in Georgia in the class of 2020: 35
The Buffaloes cannot rely on a steady flow of players from SEC country, but Tucker’s roots throughout the region from his tenures at Alabama and Georgia should, in theory, result in a handful each year.
Combine a few signees from the southeast, a few from Texas, a handful from California and the top in-state players, and CU would have a workable recruiting model.
Wray’s commitment could open the path from the talent-rich Atlanta suburbs to Boulder.
Falling: Oregon basketball.
There was a realistic scenario by which Oregon would have entered the 2019-20 sports cycle as the conference favorite in both football and men’s basketball.
With Justin Herbert, the first-class offensive line and a veteran defense, the Ducks have the ingredients to achieve that status in football, although Utah will assuredly receive strong support when the preseason hype machinery kicks in.
But the basketball program needed a series of personnel moves — not only internally but across the Pac-12 — to fall into place for the Ducks to emerge as the conference favorite.
Instead, everything is breaking wrong:
Washington (as noted above) is reloading nicely.
Arizona escaped the federal trial with its immediate future intact.
And the Ducks have taken one hit after another with NBA Draft decisions.
We figured Louis King would remain in the draft — he was a one-and-done all along — but the news this week that big man Kenny Wooten won’t return to school is a major blow to a roster that’s also losing key contributors Paul White and Ehab Amin.
And don’t forget: Point guard Payton Pritchard’s status remains uncertain.
(He has less than one week to decide if he’s staying or going.)
Dana Altman’s roster isn’t barren, but it lacks the proven talent to support a lofty preseason assessment.
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The Hotline will publish revised Pac-12 projections after the May 29 draft deadline, but it’s difficult to envision the Ducks landing on the top tier after Wooten’s departure.
Falling: Football transfers.
Have you checked the transfer portal recently?
There are dozens of Pac-12 players without a confirmed destination, including four quarterbacks: USC’s Matt Fink and Holden Thomas, Washington State’s Connor Neville and Washington’s Colson Yankoff.
And it’s getting a bit late in the transfer cycle.
Leaving is easy, but you need a place to go … a program with not only interest but availability: Scholarship limitations reduce flexibility.
Hopefully, the the uncommitted transfers are working on backup plans, in case they don’t land with FBS programs.
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