Pac-12 Morning Five: Oh-My-God, I-Better-Start-My-Christmas-Shopping EditionPosted by AMurawa on December 23rd, 2011
- There’s not a whole lot you can tell from a 23-point win over one of the worst teams in the Big West, but Washington did address some of the things that needed addressing in their win over CS Northridge on Thursday night. First, their defense was much improved, holding the Matadors to a 26% eFG. Secondly, their chemistry appeared to be better, as their scoring was balanced (10 players scored, and four players scored in double figures) and freshman sensation Tony Wroten notched five assists while Abdul Gaddy dropped eight dimes. However, the Huskies still turned the ball over 20 times (Wroten responsible for six), and for the third time since Wroten entered the starting lineup, failed to get Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox each double-digit field goal attempts in the same game (Ross had 14 attempts, making five, while Wilcox has seemingly reverted to just a shooter – attempting all six of his shots from behind the arc). It’s a win, and it puts the Huskies back above .500 and sends them into their holiday break with a good feeling, but when conference play kicks off next week, they’ve still got plenty of work to do.
- The team with the best record in the conference proved that they’ve still got a long way to go as well, as Stanford got outworked and maybe outlucked a bit by two-time defending national runner-up Butler. Last week we talked about how this Cardinal team still needed to learn how to be a winner, and that got reinforced on Thursday night as the Bulldogs, led by a senior point guard in Ronald Nored (who has seen it all in his time in Indianapolis) took advantage of every opportunity and made the smart plays necessary to squeak out a win on the road. Sure, there was the shot-clock-beating desperation three-pointer by Nored that went in, or the putback by Andrew Smith of another late-possession brick that were certain indications of good fortune shining on Butler, but the fact is that the Bulldogs took advantage of those kinds of opportunities while the Cardinal did not. Yet again, we’ve got another Pac-12 team who just wrapped up non-conference play as a complete mystery. They may well be a legitimate contender for the conference title; or they may be just another pretender.
- Now there’s the USC we know and, um, love? Three days after scoring 83 points against TCU, the Trojans broke out for a whopping 13 first-half points, although certainly against much stiffer competition with Kansas visiting the Galen Center. Aside from their typical 40.8% eFG, the Trojans turned the ball over 18 times, got killed on the glass, and just generally avoided any semblance of a coherent offensive game plan. The Trojan guards reverted back to their pound-the-ball-into-the-floor-for-30-seconds and throw-up-a-wild-shot default, as Maurice Jones, Alexis Moore and Byron Wesley combined to shoot 5-of-26 from the field (with 10 turnovers mixed in there), while DeWayne Dedmon followed up his solid game Monday with an invisibility trick any magician would be proud of (two field goal attempts, two rebounds and four fouls in 20 minutes). Aaron Fuller again proved to be the only effective offensive threat, hitting 70% of his field goals while going for 19 points and grabbing five rebounds. SC heads into conference play four games under .500, with fans beginning to contemplate another head coaching change.
- Oregon finished its stretch of three games in three nights against mediocre competition (well, mediocre, only if North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin rise to the level of mediocrity) with its third consecutive win. Considering the best of those three teams was ranked 219th in the nation by Ken Pomeroy, three wins by an average of 10 points is not exactly an impressive run. However, the Ducks are beginning to figure out where their offense is coming from. In all three games – part of a round-robin tournament called the Global Sports Hoops Showcase that needs not only a better name but a better field – Devoe Joseph and E.J. Singler scored in double figures for the Ducks, while Garret Sim averaged more than 10 per game himself. If head coach Dana Altman can get guys like Olu Ashaolu, Tony Woods and Jeremy Jacob to buy into doing the dirty work for them, and if freshman three-point specialist Brett Kingma can find his stroke, this team is still capable of an upper-division finish.
- Lastly, Utah’s two-game winning streak was snapped Thursday night when it dropped a game to in-state rival Weber State by 29, the largest margin of defeat for the Utes in that rivalry. And with the Utes changing their “scheduling philosophy” now that they’re in the Pac-12, this may be the last time they play at Weber State. Utah has yet to schedule any future games either at Weber State or at Utah State, possibly ending some great home-and-home matchups in the Beehive State. Until this point, it’s been easy to feel nothing but sympathy for the struggles of Utah’s basketball program, but without a doubt, their apparent willingness to kill off what have been great rivalries does an effective job of mitigating some of that goodwill.