Dear Santa: Here’s Our Pac-12 Holiday Wish List

Posted by Mike Lemaire (@Mike_Lemaire) & Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on December 18th, 2015

Here at the Pac-12 microsite we are hardly immune to the allure of a cheesy holiday-themed post, and so in the spirit of the season, we created a wish list for each team in the conference. Although none of the teams are even close to a finished product and it may be too early in the season to thoughtfully examine strengths and weaknesses, everyone has played enough games that we can start to draw worthwhile conclusions from what we’ve seen. As with any holiday wish list, there are some wants and needs that are easier to satisfy than others but hey, you have to dream big when gifts are involved.

Arizona: Another Shooter

Arizona Could Stand To See Mark Tollefsen Dial In His Perimeter Shot (USA Today Sports)

Arizona Could Stand To See Mark Tollefsen Dial In His Perimeter Shot. (USA Today Sports)

Even without post anchor Kaleb Tarczewski, the Wildcats have been and will continue to be the conference’s best defensive team. But the offense has been a work in progress primarily because the outside shooting has been ugly. The team is shooting just 31 percent from downtown, down from 38 percent last season and Gabe York is pretty much the only one making shots behind the three-point line with any regularity. York has been much better of late and is one of the most dangerous shooters in the country when he gets hot, but he is pretty much the only one on the roster who can shoot. The big reason why the Wildcats rank near the bottom of the country in 3PA/FGA is because Sean Miller knows his team can’t really shoot it from there. The best hope is that Mark Tollefson rebounds from a slow start and becomes the 36 percent three-pointer shooter he was coming into the season.

Arizona State: a Personal Offensive Coach for Savon Goodman

Goodman is almost as bad at shooting and passing as he is good at everything else he does on the court. He is a vicious dunker, a suffocating defender, one of the better rebounding wing players in the entire country and a good finisher at the rim. But, like many freak athletes on the basketball court, as he moves farther away from the basket, his effectiveness disappears. Goodman has missed all seven of the three-pointers he has attempted in his collegiate career and he is a career 57 percent free throw shooter. Also, his assist rate is below 5.0, which means once he gets the ball, he isn’t looking to get rid of it again. Goodman’s offensive issues are a good microcosm for Arizona State’s offensive issues. The team is athletic and defends hard, but they don’t have any truly skilled offensive players. Goodman will likely never become a consistent three-point threat but imagine how good he and the Sun Devils could be if he develops some feel for his shot.

Savon Goodman's Been Good, But A Little More Offense Polish Would Help

Savon Goodman’s Been Good, But A Little More Offense Polish Would Help. (Getty)

California: Some Defensive Opportunism

It is almost unbelievable how consistently bad Cuonzo Martin-coached teams are at creating and forcing turnovers and steals. Dating back to his last season at Missouri State, no team coached by Martin has finished better than 256th in the country in defensive turnover percentage. In his two seasons at the Cal, the Bears have turned their opponents over less than 15 percent of the time, which ranks them among the worst 20 teams in the country in that category. How can a coach who is always able to recruit elite athletes never turn them into a defensively disruptive team? The Bears have players with above-average defensive potential at almost every position yet they are still a mediocre defensive team because they don’t put any pressure on opponents. Also, turnovers lead to fast break opportunities and it just so happens that Cal is well-suited to succeed in transition.

Colorado: Another Year of Eligibility for Askia Booker

It might be easier on the psyche of fans who still have nightmares about Booker’s reckless chucking to say that Colorado really would love to have a true point guard on the roster. At his best, Booker was a solid floor general and took good care of the ball, which is more than the current backcourt of the Buffaloes can say about itself.  Dominique Collier who has done an admirable job as the Buffaloes’ de facto point guard this season but he belongs off the ball. He is hardly the only culprit, but he leads the team in turnovers and is 6th in the conference in turnover rate. He has shown flashes but he plays point guard primarily because Tad Boyle doesn’t have other options. Colorado has shot the ball very well this season, particularly from downtown, but the offense is still being held back by the fact that the team turns the ball over roughly once every five possessions. A true point guard, Booker or maybe Chauncey Billups if he still has eligibility, would give the team a much-needed steady hand to run the offense.

Oregon: Health and Cheer… But Mainly Health… OK, Only Health

Jordan Bell is already back and making a difference defensively but just as he comes back, Dana Altman lost Tyler Dorsey to injury and Dwayne Benjamin is dealing with a leg issue as well. Don’t forget, Dylan Ennis hasn’t played a game yet this season and he may very well be one of the best players on the team once he is healthy. Ennis has been re-tweeting not-so subtle hints that his return is imminent and at full strength, the Ducks boast one of the most complete rosters in the country. Ennis brings shooting and defense but perhaps most importantly, he will allow Altman to manage Dorsey’s minutes and keep him fresh for the important parts of the season. Bell was one of the better shot-blockers and rebounders in the conference as a freshman in 2015 and he gives Oregon a very legitimate interior complement to Chris Boucher.

Dylan Ennis - Get Healthy! (Matt Slocum, AP)

Dylan Ennis – Get Healthy! (Matt Slocum, AP)

Oregon State: A Few More Quality Non-conference Opportunities

Wayne Tinkle and the Beaver basketball program definitely scheduled appropriately for the typical Oregon State team. The only problem is, this is not your typical Oregon State team. In Tinkle’s second season in Corvallis, he may have a once in a generation team. The problem is, the Beavers only had one major conference team on their non-conference schedule, a “neutral” game that was anything but against Kansas in Kansas City. Outside of that, games against Iona (win), Valparaiso (loss) and Tulsa (pending, on Saturday) are the only quality non-conference opponents. Sure, GPII and company will have plenty of chances to score resume wins as a member of a power five conference, but a little more meat on the non-conference bones would give them more room for error.

Stanford: My Kingdom for a Point Guard, Any Point Guard

When Robert Cartwright went down for the year with a compound fracture in his arm in preseason, the Cardinal were left without any clear Plan B in reserve. Senior Christian Sanders has done a terrific job sliding over to patch the point guard hole, but he’s limited in that role, leaving Johnny Dawkins without a ball-handler who can also do any one of take following: take a guy off the bounce and get his own shot at the end of the shot clock; defend small, quick points; knock in threes off the extra pass. Between Reid Travis, Roscoe Allen and Michael Humphrey, there are intriguing parts in the frontcourt. But man, with no disrespect to the excellent job Sanders has done on short notice, they’re missing that one proven guy at the ultra-important spot.

UCLA: Can We Get a Little Love?

At the risk of harping on the lack of fan support that one of our sports greatest institutions endures, we point you to an article in The Daily Bruin, the UCLA student newspaper, wherein Claire Fahy contrasts the vocal support that Gonzaga’s student section, The Kennel, provided when that team hosted UCLA last Saturday night with the level of support that The Den, UCLA’s student section, mustered when the Bruins hosted Kentucky. Really though, the UCLA’s student section is doing yeoman’s work compared with non-student Bruin supporters. This is a fun and exciting team that is laying the groundwork for what could be the start of a very successful stretch. Can a college basketball blueblood get a little respect?

USC: An Extra Year of College Experience for Bennie Boatwright

Ten games into the season, it is obvious that Boatright is going to be an excellent player sooner rather than later. The beanpole freshman is averaging 12.6 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game and he is shooting nearly 45 percent from the floor. But for all the readily apparent talent that Boatright possesses, he is still learning how to be more consistent. He still has more turnovers than assists, he has fouled out of a game three times already including in the loss to Xavier and his offensive production graph looks like a roller-coaster. He is just as likely to go for 22 points and 5 rebounds (as he in the win over Wichita State) as he is to shoot 2-of-8 from the field and finish with eight points (as he did against the Musketeers). This isn’t surprising, precious few freshmen handle the transition from high school to college basketball seamlessly. But it would still be nice for the Trojans to have perhaps their most gifted player become more consistent on both ends of the floor.

Bennie Boatwright Just Needs A Little Experience (USC Athletics)

Bennie Boatwright Just Needs A Little Experience. (USC Athletics)

Utah: Whoever Took Brandon Taylor, Please Bring Him Back

In the senior guard’s career in Salt Lake City, he has never shot less than 39.9% from three in a season. Last year, he had the highest eFG% and TS% in the Pac-12 in conference games, was third in KenPom offensive rating and eighth in assist rate. This year, through 10 games, the guy out there masquerading in a #11 uniform has made just 12 of his 51 attempts from deep, is turning it over nearly as much as he’s dropping dimes and he’s got the type of O-Rating that would make Xavier Talton blush. Okay, that was admittedly a cheap shot on a guy who’s having a great start to his own senior season. But, was there an invasion of the body snatchers or something in the Rockies this summer that switched up Taylor and Talton somehow?

Washington: A Year of Experience Without the Wait

The talent’s there, no doubt; watch Marquese Chriss, Dejounte Murray, David Crisp and the rest of the Huskies freshman class and that much is apparent quickly. Improvement is there as well; the team was far better on December 12 than it was on November 13. But in order for the Huskies to be able to compete night-in, night-out with a deep and talented Pac-12 conference, they need experience pronto. If the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes in one day, is there any way the Huskies’ experience level can double overnight? If so, this Husky team could find the strength of 10 Huskies, plus two.

Washington State: Something, Anything Good; Surprise Us

The Cougars are in a spot in the second year of Ernie Kent‘s regime, where just about anything worthwhile would be good. Washington doesn’t need another high-flying, talent youngster. Oregon doesn’t need another impossibly long shot blocker. Utah doesn’t need another 6’7″ offensive-minded wing. UCLA doesn’t need another post option. Washington State? There is really nothing that Santa could put under the tree that this program is in a position to turn down. If you could drop a Pac-12 replacement-level talent who is a good teammate and a good citizen onto this Washington State roster, there is not a position at which he would not be able to earn minutes. Even if he was a Josh Hawkinson clone, you can bet Kent could find a use for him.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

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