Pac-12 First Weekend Notebook

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 17th, 2014

After a single weekend of games against generally lesser competition, I feel like I could write a book about all the different things I saw this weekend around the Pac-12. But, we’ll let these teams get a few more games – preferably against better competition – before we make any grand proclamations. Still, you have to come away from this weekend pretty impressed with the level of play out of the gates. We saw a lot of teams look better than we had any reason to expect. And we also had USC. Below, we’ll take a look at a few of the bigger non-Arizona takeaways from the first weekend of play around the conference.


Let’s save a more in-depth look at the Utes until after they play San Diego State on Tuesday afternoon, but a couple new names to keep an eye on in that game: First, freshman Jakob Poeltl is going to be a huge factor for the Utes this year. He’s an active and skilled seven-footer who, frankly, is not long for the college game. Because he runs the floor well and is aggressive and confident, he is going to be a challenge for opposing defenses all year long. Then there’s his frontcourt starting partner, JuCo transfer Chris Reyes, a strong and active power forward who is a great combination of skill, athleticism and motor. A lot of the reason people were high on the Utes coming into this year were returnees and maybe freshman Brekkot Chapman, but Poeltl and Reyes are a couple of new elements that may push Utah over the top. And Jordan Loveridge? His body looks better than it ever has before; he’s quicker than he’s been in his first two seasons; and he looks far more comfortable in his role. Let’s put it this way: If I were filling in a Top 25 poll right now, I’d probably have the Utes in the top 15. I think a lot of people are going to have their eyes opened tomorrow afternoon.

Jakob Poeltl's Double-Double Debut Should Raise Eyebrows Across the Conference (Utah Basketball)

Jakob Poeltl’s Double-Double Debut Should Raise Eyebrows Across the Conference (Utah Basketball)


Given the level of competition they were playing against (Drexel is a pretty solid mid-major), what the Buffaloes did to the Dragons was impressive. Josh Scott looks like he took another step forward in his development during the offseason, looking stronger and more aggressive on the glass and on defense while showing more comfort with the face-up jumper (he even hit a three). Pairing him alongside Wesley Gordon in the middle makes for an intimidating one-two punch. Head coach Tad Boyle went with a strange starting lineup due to some disciplinary measures, and Xavier Johnson and Askia Booker as a result never really got in the flow when they entered the game, with Booker in particular looking pretty bad with a 2-of-14 effort. As far as the big question about the point guard spot, one guy that we routinely overlooked in trying to come up with an answer there was junior Xavier Talton. For now, at least, he appears to be the leader for that job. He’s a facilitator who isn’t going to wow anybody with his athleticism or play-making ability, but he’s very good at making the easy play, keeping the offense moving, and playing solid defense. Whether he’ll lock down that spot for good remains to be seen, but he’ll be a big part of the Colorado rotation all year long. Freshman Tory Miller also deserves a mention. His body and athleticism are already Pac-12 ready and as the game slows down for him, he’s got a good chance to become a solid defender and rebounder off the pine this year, with upside for the rest of his career in Boulder as his offensive game develops.


The Cardinal won a pair of games, and although they struggled a bit with South Dakota, the big takeaway is their length. Their starting lineup features 6’6” Anthony Brown at the two, 6’9” Rosco Allen at the three, 6’8” (and built like a defensive end) Reid Travis at the four, and seven-footer Stefan Nastic in the middle. As for Nastic, I’ve had plenty of fun with him over the years (I’ve compared him to a baby deer, Frankenstein and a guy with a perpetually stiff neck at various times), but he has developed into a fine post player who (and I can’t believe I’m writing this) will at least get an NBA look. For the weekend, he averaged 20 points, eight boards, four assists and two blocks, while shooting 73.7 percent from the field and 85.7 percent from the line. He can still get a little flustered when you throw a double-team at him (and with his efficiency in the paint, the double-team will probably become standard operating procedure), but he’s improved as much in four seasons of basketball as anybody I can remember in the history of this conference.

Stefan Nastic's Improvement Over His Time Under Johnny Dawkins Has Been Impressive (Jeff Roberson, AP)

Stefan Nastic’s Improvement Over His Time Under Johnny Dawkins Has Been Impressive (Jeff Roberson, AP)


The depth issue in the UCLA backcourt is going to be something of an issue all season long, but a lot of the other concerns in the preseason can probably start getting put to bed. Bryce Alford is the point guard, and he’s a damn good one. Isaac Hamilton and Norman Powell can chip in handling the ball when needed, but they’re the scorers. Oh, and they’re damn good ones too. Up front, Kevon Looney is spectacular and may already be the team’s best player: long, athletic, instinctive rebounder, good ball-handler, gets to the line by default, should turn into a disruptive defender as the year progresses. And then frontcourt reserves like Wannah Bail and Thomas Welsh look very much ready to contribute solid, if not spectacular, minutes off of the pine. The Bruins are right there with the Utes as the teams that impressed me the most this weekend.


The Golden Bears are another team that I want to wait until their next few games (against Syracuse, then either Iowa or Texas in the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden) before really forming an opinion, but they looked promising in their first few games. Tyrone Wallace is the point guard and looks comfortable there, and he is getting plenty of help from backcourt mates like Jabari Bird (nine assists against Alcorn State) and Jordan Mathews. This is another team without a whole lot of depth on the roster, but my hunch is the Golden Bears can show well in New York this week. Stay tuned.


And then there are the Trojans. It’s only one game, so we won’t dwell on it. But, we will rip this team to shreds like they deserve for that one sad game. There’s talent here, make no mistake, and they’re going to get better, but the floor for this team should be higher than Portland State, right? Their loss on Saturday night was highlighted by turnovers (23, compared with four forced turnovers), soft defense (note those four forced turnovers), incoherent half-court offense (outside of pick-and-roll or a couple back-picks, there was a whole lot of one-on-one or forced action), few coaching adjustments and poor body language. There are a lot of fixable things here. The Trojans were good on the boards. Outside of the turnovers (did I mention there were 23?), they were good in transition. They actually shot a 57.4 percent eFG and held their opponent to 45.3 percent eFG. Jordan McLaughlin (outside of contributing seven of those turnovers) looks like a star in the making. But this doesn’t look like a team that gets along well, at least not yet. And Andy Enfield is going to need to prove that he can coach these guys up now that he has them on campus. I was relatively high on the Trojans coming into this season, but after one game, I can’t jump off this mostly empty bandwagon fast enough.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *