Pac-12 Burning Questions: What Has Been the Biggest Surprise So Far This Year?Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2012
Last week it was all about negativity, as we dwelled on the biggest disappointments in the Pac-12 this year. This week, with the holiday season in full swing, it’s all about happiness and light, as well discuss the year’s biggest surprises.
“Which team, player, or other entity, has been the biggest surprise thus far this year?”
Andrew Murawa: Everybody loves to see a kid succeed against the odds, and I’m certainly no different in that respect, which is why Stanford’s Andy Brown has been one of the highlights of the season for me. After three torn ACLs in his left knee over the course of three seasons, there was very little chance that Brown would ever make a significant contribution on the basketball court for the Cardinal. Through no fault of his own, I’d certainly written him off. But this season, he has been Johnny Dawkins’ most consistent contributor off the bench. He’s played in all but one game and averaged better than 20 minutes per night when out there, including better than 20 in each of the last six games. He’s shown a nice three-point stroke, a great ability to poke a ball lose every now and then and a hustle and savvy that any ball club could use. And, best of all, he’s shown no ill effects from his previous injuries out there. Watching the kind of season that Brown is having in what is technically his senior year (academically at least, he can probably play a couple more seasons for Dawkins if he so desires) is not only the biggest surprise in the conference, it is also exactly the kind of thing that keeps me coming back to college athletics.
Adam Butler: There have been some surprises this year to be certain. In answering this BQ I’m quick to hat tip the State of Oregon, Jordan Adams, and the Utes. Each of these entities has exceeded early expectations – if we even bothered to have any in Utah’s case – and should be commended for such. However, the biggest surprise thus far, to me, has been the progress of ASU’s Jordan Bachynski. The big man has nearly doubled his rebounding and scoring numbers from a season ago and, most impressively, has been swatting shots away at an alarming rate; 17.6% to be exact (4.6 per game), good for fourth in the nation. His triple double (13 points, 12 boards, 12 blocks) was the first in the conference since 2007 and the first ever at ASU. He’s an integral piece to the Sun Devils’ surprising 9-2 start. We were pretty aware of what Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix were going to bring to this team. We even had a clue what Evan Gordon could deliver. But really for this squad to improve on their 10-win 2011-12, they were going to need to see some improvement from the existing pieces of this roster. They’ve received such from Bachynski and Jonathan Gilling. While ASU hasn’t quite been challenged yet and flopped in their biggest test to date (DePaul), any time you’re getting this kind of production out of a seven-foot-two-inch man, things tend to go surprisingly well.
Parker Baruh: I’m never one to count out Dana Altman, and so far this year he has proved himself once again as his Oregon Ducks are the biggest surprise in the Pac-12. The Ducks have been successful because of Altman’s coaching but also because of the play of Arsalan Kazemi, Damyean Dotson, and Dominic Artis. Kazemi didn’t play in Oregon’s first two games because he hadn’t been cleared by the NCAA, but the transfer from Rice doesn’t look like a newcomer and continues to be Mr. Everything for Oregon, leading them in rebounds and steals while almost averaging a double-double with 9.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Despite Artis’ high turnover rate, he has still been quite successful for a freshman point guard putting up 10.6 points and 3.7 assists per game; and, Damyean Dotson, also a freshman, is leading the team in scoring at 11.8 points per game. They’ve also done all this with the experienced E.J. Singler continuing to struggle, and the team is sitting at 9-2 with a strong chance of hitting 11-2 before heading into conference play. Schedule-wise, most of their games have been at home, but they’ve beaten all their opponents handily and were able to pick up a major win on the road against UNLV. If the Ducks continue to play like this, they should be right in the thick of the Pac-12 race in March and might even hear their name called on Selection Sunday, which would be quite impressive considering their offseason losses and potential for inconsistency with their young backcourt.
Connor Pelton: Maybe you haven’t seen a ton of Utah basketball this season, but when you do, there are two guys on the court you notice – Freshman forward Jordan Loveridge, and the graduate transfer senior, Jarred DuBois. DuBois is my pick for biggest surprise at this point for the fact that he has come virtually out of nowhere to average 13.8 PPG and 3.2 APG. The 6’3″ point guard runs the floor and handles the ball with ease, and can get a nice two-man game going with Loveridge, something the Utes so dearly missed in last year’s dismal campaign. DuBois had a fine career at Loyola Marymount, but after a very good freshmen season, his game became inconsistent. That hasn’t been the case in Salt Lake City, as even on the nights he struggles to put the ball through the hoop, he uses his size to crash the glass or becomes more of the traditional one inside Larry Krystowiak’s offense. We’ll see soon if the fifth-year senior can keep up the good work when he is thrust into the spotlight night in and night out once we reach conference play.