Pac-12 Thoughts: On Jahii Carson, Colorado Without Dinwiddie and Richard Solomon…Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 20th, 2014
Here are some notes from around the Pac-12, coming out of another busy weekend.
Arizona State is off to a 2-3 start in conference play. It is not ideal, but then again, the Sun Devils have played three road games and two at home, so that record is not terrible. And given that Herb Sendek’s team probably plays the toughest opponents in the unbalanced schedule (along with traveling partner Arizona, Arizona State is the lucky team that only gets to play Washington, Washington State and USC once), they’ll probably be just fine if they get to 9-9 in conference play, because that means they’ll have some quality wins under their belt. But. All of that being said, the elephant in the room right now is Jahii Carson, who is definitely slumping. He hasn’t hit better than 50 percent from the field in a game in over a month. He’s turning the ball over; he’s generally not making his teammates better; and most disturbingly, he’s not scoring and seemingly not as explosive. We pointed to these trends before, but it is clear that as Carson goes, so go the Sun Devils. Need proof? Check out the numbers below:
Need an explanation? Let’s not beat around the bush. Carson has been awful in Arizona State’s five losses. And Carson is not an awful player; in fact he’s very, very good. In order for the Sun Devils to take the next step, however, and get into the NCAA Tournament, Carson needs to up his game and be the type of consistent performer he was as a freshman. Carson toyed around with the idea of leaving for the NBA Draft last season, but he returned to Tempe with the hope of tightening up his jumper and proving his NBA credentials. Unfortunately for his prospects and team, a sophomore slump has left more questions than answers.
We got a first glimpse this weekend of Colorado sans Spencer Dinwiddie, and the initial results are… well, let’s just wait a little bit longer before judging this team. Jaron Hopkins slid into the starting lineup and was terrible against UCLA, turning it over five times and doing little else to balance those negatives out. But, on Saturday against USC, he took a back seat, letting the game come to him, and was solid. More importantly for the future, however, were Askia Booker and Josh Scott. Last week we recommended that Booker go out of his way to calm his freewheeling ways at least temporarily in deference to building some confidence for his teammates. And, despite launching 11 field goals against UCLA (on his way to 21 points), he stepped aside when necessary and allowed guys like Scott, in particular, to take the lead. For the weekend, Scott was spectacular, averaging 23.5 points per game, shooting 60 percent from the field, and looking like a star. Likewise, players like Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson looked very good against a bad USC team. This week the Buffs have a couple of major challenges ahead: at Arizona on Thursday followed by Arizona State on Saturday. Odds are that the Wildcats are out of their league right now, but it will be interesting to see how this team handles a tough road game without its leader.
Don MacLean pointed this out during the Pac-12 Networks broadcast on Saturday night, and it was sort of mind-blowing and worthy of repeating: Richard Solomon is one of two players in the power conferences who is currently averaging a double-double (Julius Randle of Kentucky is the other). Richard freaking Solomon! He’s played in 16 games this season and the Golden Bears are 14-2 when he suits up, logging six double-doubles, 13 double-figure scoring nights and eight double-figure rebounding outings while shooting 58.6 percent from the field. Oh, and he’s had at least one block in 13 of his 16 games. In short, he has provided an interior presence in Berkeley the likes of which haven’t been seen since… well, Ryan Anderson fell a rebound short of a double-double season average in 2007-08, but nobody regarded him as an interior presence. Maybe Leon Powe in 2005-06? We can quibble about who the most recent great Cal big man is, but there’s no doubt that Solomon is ready to throw his name into the hat.
Brief thought on Washington State and USC: they’re the two worst teams in the conference, this much is clear. They’re bad. There isn’t much talent on either team. And to make matters worse, there is no confidence on either team. The Trojans were seemingly demoralized by their conference opener when they lost to UCLA by 34 points, and it hasn’t gotten any better since then. They’re losing by an average of more than 22 points per game and head coach Andy Enfield is either uninterested or incapable of making any adjustments. USC isn’t very good, but based on pure talent alone, they shouldn’t be this bad. As for Washington State, they’ve got the excuse that their best player, DaVonte Lacy, has been sidelined for the better part of a month with initially appendix surgery followed by a rib injury. He’s played a grand total of 11 minutes since December 21. Without him, this already talent-poor roster is anemic. Really. Who on this roster would even get minutes at any other school in the Pac-12? Que Johnson probably. Royce Woolridge maybe (although he would drive his coach nuts). Perhaps D.J. Shelton would be a valuable asset if he were used more appropriately. Beyond that, nobody on this roster is a Pac-12 talent. Nobody.