Pac-12 Burning Questions: Who Is The Favorite?

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week’s topic: After non-conference play, who is the favorite to win the Pac-12 regular season title?


Connor Pelton:

In a conference full of mediocre teams (at best), Oregon State is as good a pick as any to win the Pac-12. Led by the conference’s leading scorer in Jared Cunningham, the Beavers are off to a 10-2 start. Their only losses have come against Vanderbilt and Idaho, which is a major improvement from last season’s missteps against teams like Texas Southern, Utah Valley, and George Washington. But even though the Pac-12 is in a major down year, Oregon State will be competing against teams much more athletic than their past few opponents (Chicago State, Portland State, Howard, etc.). So the question is, can the Beavers match up physically with the Pac-12’s biggest and best teams?

Against the previous terrible opponents that we have already mentioned, the Beavers were able to use their three main big men (Joe Burton, Angus Brandt, and Devon Collier) as facilitators around the perimeter. Burton would play the role of “point-center”, dishing the ball around and occasionally driving down the lane when it was open. Brandt would hang out in the corner and drain threes until the defense realized he could shoot, and Collier would just roam around and rebound whenever a shot went up. Unfortunately for the trio, they are going to need to do a lot more work in the paint when they face big and strong Pac-12 teams.

That is why the Beaver bigs will be the key to a conference championship. Cunningham will knock down his jumpers and get the crowd going with a couple highlight-reel dunks while Ahmad Starks and Roberto Nelson will hit their shots and play solid defense. But the games are going to come down to rebounding and points in the paint. So far this season they have been terrible in those categories, but have gotten away with it because of the caliber of the opponent. If they improve, a possible NCAA bid and conference crown is in the picture. If they do not, the Beavers will be headed to another disappointing season in Corvallis.

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Pac-12 Reset As Conference Play Tips Off Tonight

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

Yesterday we looked back at non-conference play and picked out some of the highlights of the first couple months of the season. Today, as conference play gets ready to tip-off, we look forward to what we expect to happen from here until Selection Sunday. Prior to the start of the season, we took a guess at things like conference standings and All-Pac-12 teams based on limited information. Now, we’ve got twelve or thirteen games upon which to base our next set of guesses, but given the state of affairs in the conference so far, may be no closer to having a good idea what is going to happen from here on out than we were back in November. Nevertheless, here goes:

Projected Standings

  1. California 13-5 – While every team in the conference is flawed, the Golden Bears are slightly less flawed than the rest, provided Richard Solomon can return from his injury, Harper Kamp can remain relatively healthy and freshman David Kravish continues to improve. Their quartet of guards (Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Brandon Smith) is the best in the league and head coach Mike Montgomery has a way of squeezing every bit of production out of his players.

    Mike Montgomery, California

    With Mike Montgomery At The Helm And A Talented Backcourt, The Golden Bears Are The Slight Favorite In The Pac-12 (photo credit: Christine Cotter)

  2. Stanford 12-6Johnny Dawkins’ team will prove it is for real, but it may not have the experience or the single elite player capable of scoring with confidence in clutch situations to actually win the title. Chasson Randle or even Dwight Powell could grow into that type of player, but it may be a year or more away from happening. The Cardinal travel to Berkeley on the final day of the regular season in what could be a game rife with title implications.
  3. Arizona 12-6 – It seems like everybody is just waiting for Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson to turn it on, take over this team and turn the Wildcats into an explosive offensive force. They’re talented enough to make that happen, but 13 games into the season, it is looking like Solomon Hill, Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry are going to have to continue as the go-to guys for Sean Miller. And while those guys are nice players, they are all more suited to the role of contributors rather than stars, at least on teams who hope to win a conference title. However, the fact that the Wildcats only have to play Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon once each is definitely a bonus.
  4. Oregon State 11-7Craig Robinson’s has an exciting and young squad that may have only scratched the surface of its talent so far. However, given their history of losing games that they have no business losing, they’ve got to be in the same “prove-it” category that Stanford occupies. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the quintet of Ahmad Starks, Jared Cunningham, Devon Collier, Joe Burton and Angus Brandt turns itself to be the most talented starting five in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pierre Jackson: Baylor’s Unlikely Answer in the Clutch

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 29th, 2011

On a team with pre-season All American Perry Jones III, senior Quincy Acy, and heralded freshman Quincy Miller (one of the nation’s most talked about frontlines), Baylor relied on 5’10” junior college transfer Pierre Jackson to beat Mississippi State on Wednesday night. Beating the Bulldogs did not come easily as the Bears struggled to find their shooting stroke in the midst of a defensive slugfest. The #5 team in the country shot 21.4% from the field in the last 20 minutes, but somehow, Baylor found a way to win. The Bears found Jackson.

Pierre Jackson goes up for two to win the game for Baylor (Credit: AP photo/Matt Strasen)

Jackson started out the game with 10 points on four of six shooting, but would miss his first six shots of the second half including a layup that would have tied the game with 2:25 on the clock. Even after his poor start in the last twenty minutes of the game, he wasn’t afraid to have the ball in his hands with under a minute to play and a tie ball game. Neither was his coach.

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Checking In On… the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 29th, 2011

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @CharlieParksRTC.

Ed. Note – This post was written in advance of Wednesday’s action.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was

  • Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton was named as the Lou Henson Award national player of the week (the Award presented to the top Mid-Major Player in Division I college basketball) by  This is very good publicity for the Summit League and Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies are trying to show once again that they are the best team in the conference, and Reggie Hamilton just might will them to another championship with the way he is performing.
  • Alex Young is on the verge of 2,000 career points, and as the current active points leader in the NCAA, it is worth noting. This is a huge accomplishment for Young, who will join just 10 other players in conference history to reach 2,000 points. Young will likely finish in the top five all-time in Summit League history.
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider debates who is the better point guard, Nate Wolters or Reggie Hamilton. We have a chance to find out very soon (see “Looking Ahead”).

Reggie Hamilton Of Oakland Is Off To An Outstanding Start (AP)

Power Rankings

Records reflect only games against Division I opponents.

  1. Oakland (8-6, 2-0) — The only reason I still have Oakland at the top is because nothing has changed as far as conference standings go in the past two weeks. Because of the Holidays there have been very few games played by anyone, but the next two weeks could decide the conference altogether. Back-to-back blowout losses to Arizona and then Western Michigan had me worried. There are other teams like ORU and South Dakota State playing much better. But I could not move them down when Reggie Hamilton continues to dominate the NCAA (23.0 PPG, .423 FG%, .893 FT%), placing him third in the nation in scoring, right behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who may just be the next Jimmer, and is making his own case for Player of the Year. If Hamilton was in the Missouri Valley, he may be getting the same attention as well. Hamilton has Oakland ranked no. 24 in the country in overall offense and the Golden Grizzlies continue to prove they have lost little from the past two dominant seasons.
  2. Oral Roberts (9-4, 1-0) — The Golden Eagles enjoyed one of their best two weeks of success in team history—a half court heave that won the game against UALR, followed by a slim loss to a very good Gonzaga team, and capped off with blowout wins against No.15 Xavier and Texas Tech. The Golden Eagles looked shaky at times during their tough non-conference schedule, but the bottom line is they’re now at 10 wins, all against quality opponents, and very high confidence going into the conference. I expect the Golden Eagles to chew up the Summit. Although they have a brutal upcoming two weeks against the Dakotas and Oakland. They need these next few games badly. The conference will in fact be locked up by somebody in late January, and the Golden Eagles have hit their stride at the right time. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2011

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter (@vbtnBlog)

Ed. Note – This post was written prior to Wednesday night’s action.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • No A-10 Teams in the Top 25: The release of the AP and Coaches polls on Mon., December 26 showed no Atlantic 10 conference member for the first time in 12 weeks (going back to January 31, 2011 – week #13).  A Xavier three-game losing streak, coming on the heels of the bench clearing brawl in the “Crosstown Shootout” dropped the Musketeers from #15 in the December 19 poll right out of the Top 25. Saint Louis’ own five-game winning streak includes a win over Division II Illinois-Springfield, Alabama State and Arkansas State — not a slate of opponents that will wow the voters.
  • Early Season Invitational Tournaments – Final Tally: The only good news out of the Diamond Head Classic was that the Musketeers finally broke their three-game losing streak with a win over Southern Illinois in the invitational tournament’s seventh place game. Invitational tournament formats frequently match A-10 teams with power conference opponents on neutral courts, giving the conference their best opportunity for quality wins. Results for the 2011-12 season:

At the end of the first cycle, the conference held a promising 21-13 (0.600) margin with six first and third place finishes, suggesting the team either swept the field or won the first two games (before dropping the final). The brightest lights were Dayton (winner of the Old Spice Classic) and Saint Louis (who beat three power conference schools on their way to the championship in the 76 Classic). Temple may have disappointed slightly, but the Owls, along with Richmond, George Washington and Saint Joseph’s, posted very respectable results in their tournaments.

  • Free Todd O’Brien? Attention to the resurgence of the Saint Joseph’s program was diverted two days after the Hawks’ best win of the season, a 16-point drubbing of Big 5 rival Villanova, when Sports Illustrated released fifth year senior Todd O’Brien’s side of his attempt to take his post season eligibility at Alabama-Birmingham instead of Saint Joseph’s. Buzz about Phil Martelli’s squad notching 10 wins before the start of conference play (virtually certain given their last two out of conference opponents) was pushed aside with the details of the Todd O’Brien imbroglio. The fifth year senior, a transfer from Bucknell who started 28 games in the 2009-10 season and was a serviceable rotation player last season, completed his undergraduate course work over the summer and enrolled in one of Alabama-Birmingham’s MBA programs and play for Mike Davis in his last season of eligibility. Saint Joseph’s, however, denied O’Brien’s application for a Graduate Student Transfer Exception (a release from his athletic scholarship) with no explanation given. O’Brien went public with his version of events, and so far, Saint Joseph’s, and specifically Martelli, has cited student confidentiality as the reason for not responding.

Fordham (Dereck Whittenburg and Jio Fontan), Providence (Keno Davis and Joseph Young) and Siena (Fran McCaffery and Kojo Mensah) were warning signs that Saint Joseph’s ignored. Though Martelli, as did McCaffrey, Davis and Whittenberg before him, may feel justified in denying O’Brien his release (fans and “program insiders” floated three variations of “Todd O’Brien is a bad boy” in the first 24-48 hours after the story was released), the veteran coach has to understand that the notion of a coach and program were gamed by a scholarship athlete never gets much traction with the public, and the university’s strategy of not talking about it gives O’Brien all of the air time on this issue.

Todd O'Brien (right) and Phil Martelli (left) Have Been Caught In A Verbal Tug-Of-War

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ACC Game On: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 29th, 2011

Last night we got the first glance of how Maryland will play with a full complement of players, and frankly, it looks pretty good compared to the shaky team that started the season. Point guard Pe’Shon Howard managed 11 points on only three field goal attempts while contributing eight assists and six rebounds against overmatched Albany. Meanwhile, Alex Len scored 14 points on nine shots while grabbing a team-high eight rebounds and three blocks. Both players demonstrated a bit of rust, turning the ball over a combined 11 times, but it’s easy to predict that to improve as both players get more live-game experience with their teammates. If these two can mesh with the rest of the team, the Terrapins become a much more dangerous team.

A Surprisingly Competitive Game

  • Yale at Wake Forest at 7:00 PM

The days of the ACC running roughshod over the Ivy League seem to be coming to an end. With a ranked Harvard team taking on a pitiful Boston College team, the honor of the ACC largely rests in the hands of Wake Forest. If this game was in Connecticut, I’d pick Yale in an instant, but in Winston-Salem the game is more evenly matched. Yale is a legitimately talented team with the height and skills to match up against the Demon Deacons. Both teams rely heavily on getting to the free throw line and though this isn’t true 99% of the time people say it, this game may come down to who can make the most free throws.

For Fans Only

  • Harvard at Boston College at 7:00 PM on
  • Elon at North Carolina at 7:00 PM on ESPNU
  • Campbell at North Carolina State at 7:00 PM
  • Georgia Tech at Fordham at 8:00 PM on CBS College Sports

All of these games look to be fairly lopsided affairs, though the one game where the ACC is an underdog (Boston College against Harvard) has the spice of regional rivalry and role-reversal power dynamics. The North Carolina State game will give Wolfpack undergraduates and Campbell Law students an excuse to yell at each other in their shared Hillsborough St. bars. Fordham is not a very good team, but they are playing at home against an inconsistent Georgia Tech team. The Jack Wooten Classic gives another former Tar Heel an excuse to return to the Smith Center, but beyond the appeal of watching a former walk-on serve as an assistant coach, this game should turn into a rout very quickly.

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Baylor Preserves Its Undefeated Record, But Hardly in Encouraging Fashion

Posted by dnspewak on December 29th, 2011

Baylor beat a top-15 team on Wednesday night, and that’s terrific. The undefeated Bears locked down Mississippi State on the final possession of the game to ice the win, holding the Bulldogs to 41% from the field and they actually won the rebounding battle for a change. For good measure, they even threw down a few electric dunks in the second half to give a partisan crowd in Dallas something to cheer about. But this 54-52 win wasn’t anything for Baylor to brag about. In fact, the play on the court at the American Airlines Center hardly resembled a marquee matchup between two ranked squads. After Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson combined for five three-pointers in the first half, the Bears failed to make a trey after halftime and finished with almost twice as many turnovers (15) as team assists (8). With scouts from nearly every NBA franchise in the building, star Perry Jones scored just eight points, and Baylor’s big men looked frustrated all night against the beef and length of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. Scott Drew‘s halfcourt offense was not pretty in the second half, and that was punctuated by several missed layups, missed free throws and silly turnovers near the end of the game.

Baylor Knocked Off Mississippi State, But It Wasn't Pretty (credit: Austin Statesman)

You think that’s bad? Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney committed a technical foul with his team leading by two points in the final minute, and after BU took the lead, the Bulldogs’ final possession consisted of a few passes 30 feet from the basket and a wild, contested mid-range attempt by Rodney Hood to end the game. It was blocked, but you could have guessed that. The Bulldogs scored just 19 points in the second half, one less than Baylor’s 20. Point guard Dee Bost‘s struggles from three-point land continued with a 1-5 effort, and as usual, Sidney dominated when he played but only logged 19 minutes due to foul trouble. Rick Stansbury‘s team shot seven free throws but made just three, and it also finished with just nine team assists.

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: UCLA at Stanford

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, there was no way we would have picked this game to be the most interesting game of the first week of Pac-12 play. While Stanford has been a pleasant surprise through their non-conference schedule, UCLA was on the very short list of the least enjoyable teams in the conference to watch. However, the Bruins have quietly strung together five straight wins albeit against abominable competition and the Cardinal, coming off a tough home loss to Butler, have to prove that they are capable of contending for the regular season title. In short, while both of these teams have plenty of doubters, and rightfully so, each has a chance to earn a modicum of respect by taking care of business on opening weekend.

Stanford’s loss to Butler last week could be explained away in a variety of ways: it was their first game against significant competition in two and a half weeks; the home crowd was absent most of the students and provided little boost to a sleepwalking team; the Bulldogs got plenty of fortunate bounces; and really, it’s a loss to a fast-improving team that has been the national runner-up the past two seasons. Regardless of the excuses, it serves as a reminder that the Cardinal have largely built their status as one of the conference favorites on a loss – a hard-fought six-point defeat against Syracuse in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship game. They have a win over North Carolina State (in which they had to fight back from a 12-point second half deficit) and a win over Oklahoma State, but neither of those teams look like future recipients of an NCAA Tournament invite. So, there is little so far in the positive results category to indicate that this Stanford vintage is significantly better than last year’s 15-16 team that won seven conference games.

Josh Owens, Stanford

Josh Owens Has Been Stanford's Emotional Leader & Go-To Scorer (Credit: Zach Sanderson)

However, if you dig deeper into the metrics, you see a Cardinal team that is winning games because of excellent defense (only twice this season – in the loss to Butler and the uneven win over NC State – have they allowed more than a point per possession), while doing almost all the things that you want to see an efficient offensive team do (they shoot it well, they hit the offensive glass and they get to the free throw line). Only their turnovers on nearly 22% of their offensive possessions present cause for alarm, and that should be a number that sinks as their primary ballhandlers (sophomore Aaron Bright and freshman Chasson Randle) get more comfortable. And if you trust only the eye test, you see a team that appears to run a lot more smoothly than they did last year, when deep into the season the Cardinal appeared to be out of sync on both ends of the court. Bright has taken over as an extension of head coach Johnny Dawkins on the floor, senior center Josh Owens is the team’s emotional leader and go-to scorer, Randle is a steadily improving freshman, and there are a handful of other nice pieces elsewhere on this roster (Anthony Brown, Josh Huestis, Dwight Powell) ready to make positive contributions on both ends. This is an improved Stanford team, but they’ve still got to prove it and they’ll have plenty of chances, starting tonight.

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Past Imperfect: Richie Parker’s 15 Minutes of Infamy

Posted by JWeill on December 29th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Every two weeks, RTC contributor Joshua Lars Weill (@AgonicaBoss|Email) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the saga of New York City prep star and convicted felon Richie Parker.

There was never any middle ground when it came to Richie Parker. Either he was a criminal, a thug who represented everything wrong with the college game – that “win at all costs” mentality – or he was a kid who made a mistake he was overpaying for, a victim of a system rigged to punish and punish again a repentant man, no, a kid because of intense media pressure and political pressure and just flat out pressure.

So which was it? Was he trouble, a felon who shouldn’t be given chances that wouldn’t have been afforded a kid who couldn’t run, dunk and shoot a basketball like he could, or was he the quiet kid without a speck of bad behavior before who lost his senses for fifteen minutes on Jan. 13, 1995, in a high school stairwell when he and a friend intimidated a freshman classmate into performing oral sex?

Or could he be both? Or neither? Everyone had an opinion.

Parker's saga was a Sports Illustrated cover story in 1996.

Tabloids put the story on the cover and sports talk shows had a field day. Women penned editorials detailing their own stories of rape and abuse to show that no matter how repentant Parker was he would never have to suffer the lifelong fate of his victim. Some spoke movingly of second chances and of the mistakes they’d made. Women’s groups around the country mobilized. The victim’s family eventually publicly forgave him. Everyone had a stake, and everyone had firm convictions. And caught in the middle was Parker: 6’5”, athletic, shy, the eye of a storm all about him.

In June, Parker apologized to his victim, pleaded guilty to felony sexual abuse and was sentenced to five years probation and counseling, but that did nothing to quell the furor. Far from it. Now he was officially a felon. The school he’d accepted a scholarship promise from, Seton Hall, reneged on its offer under pressure. Wouldn’t be the right message to send, its president said. George Washington University, whose progressive and creative president offered a scholarship to both Parker and the victim, eventually also caved to intense dissatisfaction from alumni, trustees and student groups outraged by the possibility of a sex offender gaining admittance to their institution. Utah and Oral Roberts and Fresno State and Southern Cal backed off even sooner, the moment administration officials were tipped off of their coaches’ interest in Parker, usually by tabloid reporters like Barry Baum of the New York Post, who made his name breaking Parker stories that year. People lost jobs over Richie Parker.

Ultimately, there were no basketball options left for him after his plea deal. No administration was willing to have its reputation sullied in the press for admitting the radioactive Parker. And the press kept finding out who was interested and with a single phone call would end that interest immediately: ‘Did you know your coaches are recruiting a sex felon?’ Parker’s mother, Rosita, suffered chest pains from all the stress. Parker simply kept staring at his shoes, his once bright future vanishing before him because of those impulsive, those irrational, 15 minutes in the stairwell, a quiet kid now retreating further into his shell.

Rob Standifer, the coach at Mesa Community College in Arizona, took a chance on Parker. But while Parker flew out west, Mesa athletic department and  administration officials learned about him at the last minute and balked. Standifer was forced to resign. The school did allow Parker to matriculate but he couldn’t play ball. But after everything he’d been through, that was OK with Parker. Out there, far away from the turmoil of the city he’d been a basketball star in, he could work on his grades and keep in shape, all with the faint hope that someday he would get the chance to play college basketball, other than the NBA the only thing he’d ever really wanted.

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Who’s Got Next? Jarnell Stokes Volunteers, Torian Graham Confused And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on December 29th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at

Lead Story: Jarnell Stokes Commits To Tennessee, Will Enroll In January

Maybe This Is What Swayed Jarnell Stokes To Tennessee.

Top-25 Senior Picks Volunteers Despite Late Kentucky Push. It’s been a long road for Class of 2012 power forward Jarnell Stokes but the recruiting process for him is finally over. The 6’8″, 250-pound big man committed to Tennessee last Thursday after transferring to Oak Hill Academy (VA) over this summer, then changing his mind and transferring to Southwind Central High School (TN) where he was ruled ineligible to play his senior season of basketball. He will be joining the Vols in January and looks to help them in every phase of the game. Stokes is the type of player who can help Tennessee on both ends of the floor, especially in rebounding — an area that Cuonzo Martin’s team could really use some help in. He picked UT over Memphis and a late push by Kentucky head coach John Calipari. Opposite of what many people many think, the difficult part of the transition for Stokes won’t be the physical aspect, it will be the mental part given the fact that he’ll have to face a sharp learning curve. His impact will be limited this year but he will still be a contributor and he’ll get an early head start on making the jump from high school to college compared to everyone else in the Class of 2012. He was never going to be a four-year player anyway so the Vols are simply getting an extra semester out of the Tennessee native.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Ricardo Ledo (Providence) on recruiting junior star Nerlens Noel and others: “If I could choose any player to commit to Providence, it would be [Class of 2012 power forward] Chris Obekpa and I’m also trying to help out with [Class of 2013 center] Nerlens Noel. I’m trying to get [Class of 2012 small forward] Jakarr Sampson on board and a couple more I haven’t named. I just tell them about the Providence atmosphere and to try to start something new, don’t try to be like everybody else and go to a school just because of the school’s name. I just tell them to be your own man, set your own trend.”

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