Friday Q&A: Bill Snyder, No. 1 Arizona and Wrestling Sabermetrics


Congratulations! You made it to Friday, and with it, a new addition in the all-too-seldom updated Q&A column. This being the start of a new month, I have a renewed commitment to Friday Q&A.

Q&A is not possible without you, the reader, so thank yous are in order for this week’s participants. You can ask your questions on college basketball, football, wrestling, movies or just about anything else any time via, or on Twitter.

With that: onto the questions.

We live in a society where a single misstep can be judged so harshly as to unfairly define a person. I don’t intend to let Bill Snyder’s blocking Corey Sutton from release of his scholarship be the single issue by which I assess the Kansas State coach. That said, it’s thoroughly disappointing.

I have railed repeatedly against the absurdity of coaches blocking athletes from transferring to any school, and I don’t believe the decision should be made by coaches, athletic directors nor even conference commissioners. An NCAA-wide universal transfer policy is the most logical solution to limit the power some coaches opt to abuse.

Make no mistake, Bill Snyder denying Sutton a list of 35 schools is an abuse of power. Snyder’s doubling-down compounds the problem, too. His explanation Thursday night came off poorly.

Moreover, it’s somewhat hypocritical for Bill Snyder, of all coaches, to set such draconian restrictions on a transfer. K-State’s entire model for success was built and is maintained on transfer players.

Funny you should offer up the rivalry game for Jim Mora’s potential swan song, considering a 50-0 Trojans romp in 2011 sealed the fate of his predecessor, Rick Neuheisel.

USC isn’t the regular-season finale for UCLA this season, as various scheduling quirks have the Bruins hosting Cal Thanksgiving weekend. However, I tend to agree that a third straight, double-digit loss to USC could end Mora’s tenure in Westwood.

In an interesting twist, Mora’s beaten three different USC head coaches in his time at UCLA: Lane Kiffin in 2012, Ed Orgeron in 2013 and Steve Sarkisian in 2014. However, Mora’s 0-2 against Clay Helton with defeats of 19 and 22 points. With this coming team looking like it’s far-and-away Helton’s best, and UCLA retooling in a few key spots, it isn’t far-fetched to think this year’s game could get ugly.

That said, I’m sure pundits were saying the exact same thing about the USC-UCLA game five years ago at this time when the Trojans were the en vogue preseason No. 1, and the Bruins were unknowns. That game ended with Anthony Barr bringing Matt Barkley’s college career to an unceremonious end, and UCLA beginning a dominant, three-season run atop the series.

As far as Mora’s future with UCLA, the Bruins need to show marked improvement over last season’s 4-8 finish; that’s a given. However, I think some of the criticism of his tenure is more the result of outside expectations not being met than an evaluation of his teams’ accomplishments.

The stretch from 2012 through 2014 was the first in program history wherein the Bruins won at least nine games in three consecutive seasons. The back-to-back 10-win campaigns in 2013 and 2014 marked just the third time that had been accomplished at UCLA.

One issue for Mora is that the losses have been in big games, and under brutal circumstances. In 2013, the Bruins rallied from a big, early deficit to seemingly take control against Arizona State in the de facto Pac-12 South championship. A bevy of plenty flags and lost yardage squashed UCLA’s shot at a game-winning drive.

In 2014, the South was gift-wrapped in the final weekend; then the worst Stanford team of David Shaw’s tenure rolled into the Rose Bowl the day after Thanksgiving to put a three-touchdown beating on the Bruins.

November losses to Washington State at home, and a rout at USC in 2015 again cost UCLA the South, and the Bruins no-showed the Foster Farms Bowl against sub-.500 Nebraska.

The second issue for Mora: UCLA’s recent slide has coincided with USC winning a divisional title and a Rose Bowl. In that regard, the Mora era ending in a high-profile loss at USC would be oddly poetic.

Perhaps I’m a bit too close to the situation as an alum, but I see Arizona’s near-universal No. 1 ranking and part of me thinks, slow your roll. UA has immediate holes I can poke, starting at point guard.

I love Parker Jackson-Cartwright as a distributing point guard. He’s an upgrade from Kadeem Allen on the offensive end of the floor, but a decided downgrade on defense. Allen was arguably the best on-ball perimeter defender the Pac-12 had last season. Meanwhile, Sean Miller being able to bring PJC off the bench gave Arizona a nice two-man dynamic at point I’m not sure the 2017-’18 team can replicate.

Arizona also loses Lauri Markkanen, who was unlike any player in college basketball last year. Seven-footers who stroke the 3 with the consistent of a two-guard, attack the rim off the dribble and still hit the glass aren’t exactly a dime-a-dozen.

At the same time, I understand the No. 1 rankings. Rankings this time of year rely heavily on known commodities, and Arizona scored big in the draft deadline lottery by returning known stars Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins.

Arizona’s recruiting class is also one of the most highly praised coming in this offseason. DeAndre Ayton’s exceptional performance in the McDonald’s All-America Game served to bolster the expectations for UA’s newcomers.

While Arizona’s 2017-’18 roster will be quite comparable to last season’s in terms of sheer talent, the coming team has a distinct advantage: The Wildcats never quite seemed to complete jell in the final two months of the season after Trier returned from suspension.

Markkanen’s production dipped once another primary offensive weapon was in the lineup, and Kobi Simmons became a non-factor. Barring a similarly bizarre episode like the one that sidelined Trier for more than the first half of last season, this Arizona team will be able to fully bond in November and early December, before conference play.

Ayton’s arrival is another reason for heightened expectations. While he won’t match Markkanen’s offensive prowess filling that 4-spot void, he brings a different dynamic as an elite defender and rebounder. Xavier beat Arizona by out-physicaling the Wildcats, and Ayton addresses that.

OK: For the uninitiated, Alexandra York was an early 1990s WCW manager whose gimmick was prepping her wrestlers for matches with statistical models that predicted best practices for beating opponents.

The character was intended to lampoon the late 1980s/early 1990s Wall Street yuppies who contributed to the economic turbulence of the time. To that end, Alexandra York’s most prominent stable member was Mike Rotunda, who took a variation of the gimmick to the WWF as Irwin R. Schyster.

However, the York gimmick’s basic concept was an unwitting precursor to advanced statistical analysis. With the explosion of statistical models across sports, including college basketball, the character has renewed relevance. This is absolutely an idea WWE, or any independent federation should run with.

But it needs to be booked with care, which WCW lacked in its presentation of Alexandra York.

Introduce the 21st version of the character through a series of vignettes, showing the manager studying “game film” on various wrestlers and taking meticulous notes. He or she then breaks down certain nuances for the viewing audience; 60 percent of this wrestler’s losses are by leg-hold submission, 10 minutes or later into a match. His knees wear down over the course of a bout.

This manager’s top star then needs to go on an impressive winning streak, beating his opponents in manners similar to those demonstrated in the video packages. He can get heat choosing to avoid low-percentage moves — i.e., teasing top-rope offense, only to be talked down by a manager, eager to point out the numbers don’t often reward such maneuvers.

Pattern the manager after Theo Epstein, and book him or her to move from wrestler-to-wrestler, leading downtrodden grapplers to World Champions with statistical models. The possibilities are endless!