Thoughts From Opening Night in the Pac-12Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 3rd, 2014
In what was a very entertaining night of basketball around the Pac-12, here are a number of semi-interesting thoughts for Thursday’s five games.
Oregon 70, Utah 68 (OT)
- Plenty of words have already been spent dissecting Utah’s final possessions in regulation and then in overtime, but those two possessions took up about two percent of the entire game. There is more to be gleaned from the other 98-ish percent. So let’s spend some time digging into that game. The biggest question coming into it was: “So, are the Utes really any good?” Well, Utah answered that question with a resounding: “I dunno. Maybe!?! Probably?!? Aw, who knows?” Delon Wright wasn’t as athletically dominant against more worthy competition, but still wound up with 14 points, six boards, four blocks, a couple steals and dimes. And, if anything, he was underused. Oregon got the memo about his unreliable jumper and often backed off him, went under screens, and dared him to knock down jumpers, which he did on a couple of occasions. But that’s still far preferable to letting him get to the rim, which he can do against all but the most capable defenders.
- Elsewhere, Dallin Bachynski really answered the call in the middle (despite that unfortunate play at the end, which can hardly be blamed on him) and was probably the best big on the court throughout the game, something that wasn’t expected.
- While the Utes played very well as a whole, Jordan Loveridge was not at his best Thursday night, settling for jumpers too often and, worse yet, settling for long jumpers; he took six of his 23 shots from three-point land and made just one of them. While Loveridge is capable inside and out, he relied far too much on his outside game and shunned the inside portion. Perhaps some of this was part of a game plan to keep Mike Moser from being an interior defensive presence, but there were too many times where Loveridge floated to the three-point line while Wright was clearly trying to set up a post feed.
- While Utah went a long way towards proving itself as a legitimate threat, especially at home, the fact is that they’ve got to be kicking themselves for letting this one slip away. And they’ve got more reasons to be upset than just those individual possessions at the end of the clock.
- As for Oregon, there are still plenty of questions about the Ducks, but now is not the time to pick apart this still-undefeated team. They came away with a road win in a conference game despite not playing very well, and the fact is that they may have come into the weekend slightly looking ahead to their Sunday showdown at Colorado.
- Despite their struggles (Moser 1-of-8 from field for three pts; Joseph Young nine points, four turnovers; Jason Calliste, four points, three turnovers), there were three very good signs for the Ducks, highlighted by the re-emergence of their sophomore backcourt duo. Look, Young, Calliste, and Jonathan Loyd have all been absolutely fantastic this season, and they’ll all have huge roles for this team going forward. But are we absolutely sure that Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson aren’t the two best players on this team? Artis, playing in just his fourth game of the season, had his best performance, shaking off the rust for the first time with 5-of-8 shooting, 12 points, and four steals. Loyd is still the better playmaker at this point and likely will remain so for the remainder of the year, but Artis brings a toughness on the defensive end that Loyd will never be able to muster. And Dotson? You may not realize it, what with Young and Calliste, and even guys like Elgin Cook and Moser drawing rave reviews, but he’s now scored in double figures in nine of his last 10 games, and despite supposedly struggling, is still the go-to guy for the Ducks down the stretch. He’s the best “go-get-your-own” wing on this talented team, and perhaps most importantly, he and Artis have terrific chemistry together. Right now, the minutes that Young, Calliste and Loyd are getting dwarfs what Artis and Dotson are getting, but expect those numbers to even up as the year goes on.
- The other big note for the Ducks on Thursday night was the play of Richard Amardi, who got his second start of the year and went for 14 points and seven boards. Ben Carter was supposed to be earning more minutes by now after returning from suspension, but instead Amardi is strengthening his hold on those frontcourt minutes.
Washington 76, Arizona State 65
- Who saw this one coming? Somewhat reminiscent of Arizona State’s dud against Creighton on Thanksgiving night, the Sun Devils seemed committed to out-gunning their offensive-minded opponents rather than playing their own game. ASU fell behind early, tried to make a second-half run, but had already dug themselves into too big of a hole. Jahii Carson was good but not transcendent and a Sun Devils team that had shot better than 40 percent from three on the year made just 2-of-14 attempts last night. Teams that lose to the likes of Miami and Washington (at home, no less), rarely make the NCAA Tournament. The Sun Devils have quite a lot of work to do.
California 69, Stanford 62
- Mike Montgomery’s 119 win in Berkeley tied him with Pete Newell for fourth place on the all-time list at California (Lou Campanelli – watch out, Monty is coming for you next). In other words, just a reminder in case you may have temporarily forgotten that the dude can coach a bit. Which is why counting out Cal just because they’ve got a few injuries (Jabari Bird and Ricky Kreklow sat out Thursday night with injuries of varying severity) and have struggled some in the non-conference slate is unwise.
- Even minus Bird and Kreklow, a foursome of Justin Cobbs, Tyrone Wallace, Richard Solomon and David Kravish is pretty darn good. Cobbs and Wallace combined for 38 points, six assists and five steals in the backcourt and the two of them had a hand in every single point in the 15-6 run on which the Golden Bears closed the game in the final four minutes. Combined for that backcourt duo, just in the final four minutes: 13 points, 2-of-2 from the field, 7-of-9 free throws, one assist, two steals.
- As for Stanford, they led 56-54 at that under-four timeout, following a sketchy flagrant foul on Jordan Mathews. From there on they had more turnovers (three) than field goals (two). For the game, they repeatedly missed point-blank shots, struggled (again) from the free-throw line (10-of-20) and made just 4-of-14 attempts from deep. In no way is this game a deal-breaker or a terrible loss for the Cardinal, but Johnny Dawkins and company seem intent on backing themselves into a corner.
Arizona 60, Washington State 25
- Yes. 25. The leading scorer for the Cougars had six points. Hell, the leading scorer for the Wildcats had 11, and they still won by 35 in a game in which they were never challenged. We should have seen this game comin ga mile away, what with Arizona among the best defensive teams in the nation and an already offensively-challenged Wazzu team playing without its only accomplished offensive threat in DaVonte Lacy. But still, to look up at 12 minutes into the game and see a team without a field goal? That’s disturbing.
Colorado 64, Oregon State 58
- The Buffaloes struggled against Oregon State’s zone at times, hitting just 5-of-20 threes and struggling to get good shots inside from long stretches, but seemed to repeatedly go on bursts just when the Beavers made things close late. Really though, Colorado appeared to be just interested enough to go get the W and ready themselves for a much-anticipated game with Oregon on Sunday.
- Eric Moreland returned from suspension to be the same old Eric Moreland we’ve always known (10 boards, a defensive difference-maker, less-than-zero offense, four turnovers). OSU will be an interesting team going forward, as you can expect its defense to trend upward, but even so, who else is going to help Roberto Nelson score some points?