Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.16.11 EditionPosted by AMurawa on November 16th, 2011
- Less than a week ago, there was excitement around the UCLA program for the upcoming season. Now, after an opening game loss to Loyola Marymount, the suspension of last year’s leading scorer Reeves Nelson, and last night’s 20-point loss to Middle Tennessee State, the program is officially in freefall. The Blue Raiders shot 71.4% from the field, and made 10 of their 11 three-point attempts for a whopping 78.6 true shooting percentage. (To put that into perspective, when Villanova shot lights out in the 1985 National Championship game to upset Patrick Ewing and Georgetown, the Wildcats shot posted a 82.7 TS%.) Meanwhile, UCLA only managed a 42.9 TS% of their own, and after a 4-20 night from deep, they are now 6-35 from three on the season. Sophomore center Joshua Smith was fairly effective for the Bruins inside, posting 15 points and nine rebounds (with 11 of those points coming in the first half), but the twin faults of being unable to consistently hit perimeter shots and the inability of UCLA defenders to guard, well, anybody or anything, leaves UCLA at 0-2 for the first time since Steve Lavin’s final year. UCLA begins the Maui Invitational on Monday, and Nelson’s status for that trip remains up in the air.
- Things weren’t a whole lot better in Tempe on Tuesday night, as Arizona State dropped a home game to Pepperdine, a team that finished 12-21 last season and was picked to finish last in the West Coast Conference this season. Outside of junior wing Trent Lockett, who had 23 points and nine rebounds, ASU went 10-42 from the field for a 29.8 true shooting percentage. With still no update on the eligibility status of freshman point guard Jahii Carson, it looks like the Sun Devils will have to move forward with their currently eligible players, meaning that this is more or less the same team that struggled to a 12-19 record last season. And after all the offseason talk about significantly upping the tempo, the Sun Devils are still only using about 64 possessions per game, good for putting it right smack dab in the bottom 20% of Division I teams.
- With all the talk about the turmoil in UCLA, the fact that Arizona’s freshman point guard Josiah Turner was never asked up off of the bench in the Wildcats’ win over Ball State on Sunday has been swept under the rug somewhat. Turner has been ineffective so far in Tucson (seven points, four assist and three rebounds combined in UA’s first three games), but while head coach Sean Miller hinted that the DNP may at least be partially behavior-related, Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star points out that most of the great lineage of floor generals at Point Guard U took some time to get going out of the gate. In other words, it is far too soon to write off last year’s #15 recruit (according to ESPNU).
- Up in Corvallis, Oregon State has opened the season with a couple of wins over Cal State Bakersfield and Division II West Alabama by an average of 28.5 points. While neither opponent is much to write home about, the performance of junior center Joe Burton has Beaver fans excited. Burton has averaged 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, five assists, and three steals in those two games, while knocking down a three in each game. Of course, much bigger challenges lie ahead for OSU, but head coach Craig Robinson believes that the hard work that Burton has put in off the court will continue to pay off the rest of the season.
- Finally, a look ahead. We mentioned UCLA’s trip to Maui above, but in the next couple of days we see a couple other Pac-12 teams hit the road to compete in early season tournaments. Arizona will be at Madison Square Garden on Thursday and Friday nights for the final two rounds of the Coaches vs. Cancer (okay, I’ll go ahead and call this thing by its actual name, the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer – name just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?), with a semifinal matchup against St. John’s followed by either Texas A&M or Mississippi State the following night. An Arizona/Texas A&M matchup in the championship seems mighty appealing. Also, Colorado is in the Caribbean as we speak, preparing for their Puerto Rico Tip-Off opening round game against Wichita State on Thursday, with either Maryland or Alabama lying in wait in their next game. The Buffs only have a warm-up against Fort Lewis under their belt, so we’ll get to see by the end of the week whether they have what it takes to compete in the Pac-12 this season.