Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.01.11 EditionPosted by AMurawa on December 1st, 2011
- Just when you thought things were about to turn around a little bit for the Pac-12, and just when you thought Colorado was on the verge of being able to string together a few wins in a row following a solid win over Georgia on Monday night and a manageable schedule in front of them, the Buffaloes go and shoot 44.8% from the free throw line and lose a tough one against in-state rival Colorado State. CU fought back from a ten-point deficit early in the second half to tighten things up, only to have the Rams jump back out to an eight-point lead with under 90 seconds remaining. However, a 10-1 run over the next 75 seconds capped by a Nate Tomlinson steal of a CSU inbounds pass and an ensuing layup gave the Buffs a brief lead. But CSU’s Dorian Green took the ball out from coast to coast and hit a jumper in the lane to give CSU the lead right back. Tomlinson was almost the hero again, but his three-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out.
- The other two games Wednesday night featured Pac-12 wins against uninspiring competition, with USC holding UC Riverside to 35 points in a 21-point Trojan victory at UCR. While Washington State, you know, the same team that lost to the UC Riverside team on Sunday, took out their frustrations on a now 0-6 Grambling team with a 69-37 thrashing. Brock Motum had 11/10 for the Cougs, while point guard Reggie Moore handed out seven assists, but WSU will need to tackle some tougher competition before anybody believes anything they’re selling.
- This season hasn’t exactly been the stuff of dreams for Utah in their first season in the Pac-12, and plenty of that can be attributed to a series of defections from the basketball team over the past two seasons. But at least some of their struggles can be attributed to the absence of their 7’3” senior center David Foster in the middle. Foster played six minutes in the Utes’ exhibition game against Adams State on November 4, but left the game with a broken right foot. At present, it is still undecided whether Foster will take a medical redshirt and return for next season or if he will come back when able this season. Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak would prefer to have Foster return this season and play the last four-to-six weeks of the regular season with the Utes, while Foster and his dad are holding out for the possibility that a redshirt season may be the best bet. While his immediate future is unclear, what is clear is that the Utes are significantly worse off without the 3.2 blocks he provided in 20 minutes per game last season. Last year the Utes defense wasn’t great (112th in the nation according to kenpom.com), but this season it is abysmal – 288th in the nation.
- You may have heard that the UCLA basketball program is struggling a bit this year. It’s true. With surprising losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee to pair with more predictable losses to Kansas and Michigan, the Bruins are off to a 2-4 start. So, what’s their problem – aside from chemistry issues and a general lack of athleticism or outside shooting, that is? Jeff Eisenberg asked the coach of a team who has already beaten the Bruins this year to give an assessment of Ben Howland’s club. Long story short: Their guards can’t make shots, Joshua Smith’s conditioning is terrible, the Wear Twins are incapable of guarding athletic small forwards and they need to get freshman guard Norman Powell more involved in the offense. Any good news? The coach expects the Bruins to get better as the season goes on, if only because he believes they’re a well-coached team.
- Oregon State junior guard Jared Cunningham earned a lot of attention after scoring 37 points in the Legends Classic semifinal, after having scored 35 points in his previous game against Hofstra – both career highs at the times. Since then, Beaver opponents have put their defensive effort into slowing Cunningham’s offensive attack. Vanderbilt sent senior forward and defensive savant Jeffery Taylor at Cunningham with additional eyeballs on him at all times, while Towson put its defensive energy into slowing him as well. Cunningham had better get used to other teams keying on him, because as sophomore guard Roberto Nelson put it, “they’d be stupid if they didn’t.” Still, even if other teams are able to limit his ability to score, Cunningham is still able to influence the game in other ways. He is an excellent defender capable of not only taking the opposition’s best guard out of his rhythm, but also forcing turnovers and creating easy transition opportunities for the Beavers. He is also very capable of drawing defenders to him and finding open looks for his teammates. And, if he can keep improving his jump shot (clearly the main weakness in his game), Cunningham can still get his points.