USC basketball head coach Kevin O'Neill, right, speaks as senior… (Eric Risberg / Associated…)
SAN FRANCISCO — USC's Kevin O'Neill has often called point guard Jio Fontan his team's best and most important player.
The USC coach took that praise a step further Thursday. "I feel like we have the best point guard in the league — I would say that any time, anywhere — in Jio," O'Neill said at Pac-12 Conference men's basketball media day.
Fontan didn't play last season because of a knee injury he sustained in the preseason, but he said he won't play tentatively.
In fact, Fontan said, he plans to play "a little harder than usual."
Fontan will be playing without his backcourt partner Maurice Jones, who was declared academically eligible before this season and transferred to Iowa State.
Walk-on point guard Chass Bryan, a 5-foot-9 freshman from Westlake Village Oaks Christian High, has come out of nowhere — "I guess you could say he's shocked all of us," O'Neill said — and could play extensively.
Oregon State Coach Craig Robinson is also known as the First Brother-in-Law — his sister is Michelle Obama.
So where will Robinson be on Tuesday?
"That's classified information," Robinson joked before saying that he'd be in Chicago, where President Obama has planned an election-night rally.
Robinson expects Obama to be reelected but predicted the vote would be "pretty close."
The Pac-12 Networks and DirecTV are in a stalemate that isn't expected to end any time soon.
Pac-12 Enterprises Chief Gary Stevenson said the Pac-12 was working to get "full distribution as soon as possible," but little apparent progress has been made in weeks.
Stevenson said 142 men's basketball games would be televised this season — 46 games by ESPN networks, 22 on Fox Sports Net, two on CBS and the rest on the Pac-12 Networks.
Arik Armstead is a name USC fans know well — and one that makes them cringe.
The football defensive end decommitted last year from USC, where his brother Armond played, and he ultimately signed with Oregon, where this season he has 19 tackles for the No. 2-ranked Ducks entering Saturday's game against the Trojans.
Oregon basketball Coach Dana Altman said he expects the 6-foot-9, 290-pound Armstead to join the basketball team in mid-January.
Altman said Armstead is a strong rebounder with "great hands" and a good shooting touch, but the coach added that conditioning requirements are different for basketball.
"But if we're facing some injuries, or just need some added strength inside, he definitely is … a physical presence in there," Altman said.