NCAA

Pac-12 hoops: Who and what to look for in '11-'12

572350.jpg

Pac-12 hoops: Who and what to look for in '11-'12

For the college sports fan, there is nothing better than the confluence of football and basketball seasons. While we in the Bay watch Stanford chase perfection and Cal struggle with mediocrity on the gridiron, its fair to wonder whether the reverse will be true on the hardcourt.The Bears are among the favorites in the inaugural go-round of the Pac-12. Allen Crabbe destined for stardom in his sophomore season; Harper Kamp has emerged as one of the conferences top post players; Jorge Gutierrez is an experienced leader not to mention a mega-pest on the defensive end; Brandon Smith has blossomed into a solid point guard. Both Crabbe and Gutierrez are on the Wooden Award Watch List.As it turns out, Cals biggest asset is also its biggest question mark: will Mike Montgomerys health allow him to coach at the start of the season? Montgomery underwent a surgical procedure last Wednesday, and the school has not released any further information.UPDATE: Montgomery had cancer surgery
Regardless, expect Cal to challenge UCLA and Arizona for tops in the Pac.Across the Bay, Stanford is moving in the right direction. Last years epic recruiting class is now a year older, with a lot of experience under its collective belt. Anthony Brown spent his summer playing for the US Under-19 team at the World Championships. Dwight Powell is a freak athlete, though admittedly still somewhat raw. Keep an eye on Josh Huestis, a get after it wing player who might well lead the team in rebounds if he gets enough minutes.The Cardinal also have a huge luxury in four experienced seniors they had none last season. Josh Owens is the face of the franchise. He needs to stay aggressive and be a guy who can put this team on his shoulders if need be. Oh, and freshman Chasson Randle will have an immediate impact.RELATED: Stanford Basketball Preview ShowStanford will be back in the NCAA Tournament next season. Question is, are the Fab 5 sophomores ready to lead them there now?Burning questions from around the conference:Arizona: Will freshmen Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson live up to expectations?UCLA:How many black eyes will Josh Smith and Reeves Nelson cause? Bonus question: Will that number eclipse the number of Nelsons (visible) tattoos? Washington: Can Abdul Gaddy and Tony Wroten Jr. co-exist in the backcourt? Oregon: To what extent will the new toned down court at Matthew Knight Arena cut migraine recurrence in Eugene? Oregon State: Did Calvin Haynes, Omari Johnson, and Lathem Wallace finally use up their 8 years of eligibility? If so, outside of Jared Cunningham, whos left?USC: Brazilian tour felt more like Brazilian wax when Jio Fontan tore his ACL. How will depleted Trojans replace his production?Colorado: Will 2011 NCAA tournament snub be the closest the Buffs get to Dancing for foreseeable future? Washington State: Are Marcus Capers, Reggie Moore, and Abe Lodwick enough to compete without Warriors first-round pick Klay Thompson and low-block-menace DeAngelo Kasto?Arizona State: Why are the Solar Satans playing a road exhibition game? Grand Canyon University demanded a home-and-home?Utah: Will Utahs hoop team win more games than its football team? Welcome to the Pac-12, friends.

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

cal-usc-ap.jpg
AP

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.

THE TAKEAWAY

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.

UP NEXT

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

harrison-phillips-drive.jpg

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.

"He does everything at a high level.”

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.

“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”

Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.

“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”

Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.

“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.

And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.

“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”

No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”

Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.

“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”

One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.

“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”

Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.

“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”