Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VIII: The DelinquentsPosted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2013
We’ve had plenty of good students this week, but we’ve got four squads that need to put in some extra work. Professor Pac breaks them down, here.
Arizona State – D+
The Sun Devils have unquestionably been a great story all year long. This is a team that won 22 games over the last two seasons combined that is now sitting at 20 wins already this season. If #1 seeds were handed out based on improvement, ASU would be very much in the mix. As it is, however, the Sun Devils’ last three losses – on Saturday at home to Washington, two weeks ago at Utah, and just prior to that at home to Stanford – have combined to leave them likely on the outside looking in when it comes to bubble talk. At present they’re near the bottom of the barrel in terms of free throw percentage in the nation, making just 62% from the charity stripe.
Focus on: Carrick Felix. The senior has done a lot of amazing things this season, from his elite defensive performance to his improvement on the glass to his career-best 58.1% eFG and 37% three-point shooting. But, somewhat inexplicably, Felix is shooting a career-worst 62.9% from the free-throw line. Somehow, someway, as his shooting while people attempt to guard him has been consistently rocketing upwards, his shooting while no one can guard him plummets.
Looking ahead: For all the talk about how the Sun Devils have taken themselves out of contention for an at-large bid, I can’t help but think if they win at UCLA tonight, win at USC on Saturday and handle Arizona next Saturday, they’ll be in pretty good position. Yeah, so, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s three road wins over teams who are a combined 12-5 in the past month.
Oregon State – D+
If you wanted to get a feel for how the 2012-13 Beavers season has gone, you could probably just watch Saturday’s game against Cal. Before the clock operator even had a chance to start the clock, OSU found itself down a point after freshman Olaf Schaftenaar picked up a technical for dunking in pregame warm-ups. Then, over the course of the next 20 minutes of action, they built themselves a nine-point deficit, a jumped up to 13 early in the second half. But behind Joe Burton, celebrating his senior day in style, the Beavers fought most of the way back against the hottest team in the conference, getting to within one point with 43 seconds remaining. But an ugly final possession that resulted in a wild Ahmad Starks three as time expired ensured that the lead remained in Cal’s possession. And yup, that’s right, the final margin was that one point that OSU sacrificed before the game even began.
Focus on: Ahmad Starks. With the emergence of Roberto Nelson into an all-conference type scorer, is it possible there is no room remaining on this squad for Starks? Nelson is the type of guy who needs the ball in his hands to score and Starks, likewise, is the type of point guard who is loath to give up the ball. As Nelson’s shot attempts have skyrocketed of late, Starks’ numbers have dipped. After taking double-digit FGAs in the first three Pac-12 games, only twice in February has Starks found 10 or more shots. In the 49 times he has scored in double figures in his career, only nine times has he done so while taking less than ten FGAs. If those shots are going to go to Nelson, and if Starks remains incapable of creating for others, why bother having the defensive liability on the court?
Looking ahead: The Beavers will start a three-game road trip to finish the season with a jaunt over to Eugene on Thursday night. They’ll then have a week to rest before doing the Rocky Mountain circuit on the final weekend of the regular season.
USC – D+
Before the Trojans woke up for their 12:30 PM start against UCLA on Sunday, they were already down 12 points. By halftime, the deficit was 21. They made a push in the middle of the second half to at least get the Bruins’ heart rate up, but after a great effort in Pauley Pavilion earlier in the year, the follow up was underwhelming.
Focus on: Dewayne Dedmon. I’ve been firmly in Dedmon’s camp since he first step on the court for USC last season, recognizing him as a hard-working talent who just needed more reps to hone his skills on the way to great things. Sure, there were brainfarts and meltdowns along the way, but he was a good kid putting out good effort. On Sunday, however, Dedmon’s effort wasn’t always there. On one play, after turning the ball over on the offensive end, he slowly jogged back upcourt while the Bruins chugged ahead on their way to a basket on the secondary break. Dedmon made is just past halfcourt in approximately ten seconds it took UCLA to score in a 5-on-4 situation, then as the Trojans took the ball out of the net and pushed it upcourt themselves, he finally turned around and laid into a full-on sprint in an effort to get an easy cherry-picked basket that never came. On another play, while Omar Oraby and David Wear scrapped for a loose-ball rebound, Dedmon stood watching five feet away while other players from both teams rushed in to help. Most frustrating part about both occasions? Interim coach Bob Cantu never batted an eye and left Dedmon in the game to half-ass it (except when he spied an opportunity to get a dunk) for 28 minutes while Oraby, who gave everything he had on every play, earned just 12 minutes.
Looking ahead: The Trojans host Arizona tonight, then Arizona State on Saturday. If the ASU game comes anywhere near approaching the intensity of the first matchup in Tempe, it will be a game you want to watch.
Washington State – D
With Mike Ladd still reduced to spectator due to a knee injury, the undermanned Cougars lost a pair of road games to the Arizona schools by an average of 14.5 points. Royce Wooldridge backed up his breakout game with a total of 22 points in the two games, while DaVonte Lacy went for 25. That’s the type of production that Ken Bone needed from that pair all season long.
Focus on: Dexter Kernich-Drew. You gotta hope this kid bounces back from his bone-headed play at the end of the Oregon game, but the initial results were not good. In 29 minutes, the Aussie was almost completely silent, making two of six shots, scoring five points, handing out a couple assists and grabbing zero rebounds. The eight minutes he played against Arizona were the fewest minutes he has played this season
Looking ahead: The Cougars travel to Seattle on Sunday to wrap up their road schedule with a battle with the hated Huskies.