Pac-12 M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 16th, 2012

  1. Great news for the Ducks, as the NCAA has granted transfer Arsalan Kazemi a waiver and he will be available to play for Oregon right away. It’s a good thing, because Oregon has a huge home date with Vanderbilt later tonight. Many figured this was coming since Omar Oraby, a fellow Rice transfer, was not required to sit out a year given similar circumstances. An interesting point of contention with the Oraby and Kazemi transfers is that USC and Oregon alleged that the two faced racial discrimination at Rice, primarily by Rice AD Rick Greenspan. Rice head coach Ben Braun and Greenspan vehemently denied these allegations in a statement from the school, which is posted in full in the CBS Sports article (the first link). Without getting too much into Rice’s situation, the school said it did not sign off on waivers that would allow Oraby and Kazemi to play right away. Whatever is going on there can’t bode well for Braun, the former Cal coach who has seen six players leave his school via the transfer route since the end of last year. In any case, this is a huge positive for the Ducks, as they get a Kazemi who averaged a double-double last year in a conference (C-USA) that was comparable to the level of Pac-12 play. He will add a lot to a front line that already includes Tony Woods and Waverly Austin.
  2. Not so great news for the Washington Huskies, as Lorenzo Romar says he is unsure if Scott Suggs will play this weekend after he suffered a concussion in Tuesday’s loss to Albany. Suggs, whose status is day-to-day, is obviously a big asset to this team, but it would be great for the Huskies to have him available this weekend because the team travels to the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut for the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic. A win against Seton Hall would mean (most likely) a date with No. 4 Ohio State. A loss and it’s a game against lowly Rhode Island, a team that is 0-2 on the season and isn’t expected to do much of anything in a loaded Atlantic 10. And, after losing to the Great Danes, Washington needs all the RPI love it can get. If Suggs is on the floor, the Huskies have one more shooter to space the offense and provide another option for Abdul Gaddy on a penetrate and pitch. If he can’t go, Andrew Andrews will get the starting nod, per Romar.
  3. Not much of a surprise here, but Colorado coach Tad Boyle has received a one-year extension on his contract that now lasts through the 2016-17 season. The folks in Boulder absolutely love Boyle, just ask our very own Parker Baruh. He has turned around a program that was consistently in the bottom tier of the Big 12 and led them to two straight 24-win seasons, the last one in the year after losing a lottery pick in Alec Burks. If Boyle can lead the Buffs to another 24 wins in 2012-13, he would have to be a leading candidate for Pac-12 Coach of the Year, considering he lost Carlon Brown and two other key seniors from last year in Nate Tomlinson and Austin Dufault. Just hours later, Boyle earned his 50th win as the Buffs’ head coach when Colorado beat Dayton in the first round of the Charleston Classic. Good timing for that extension.
  4. Speaking of the Charleston Classic, it’s one of a few non-conference tournaments that houses Pac-12 constituents. While Colorado knocked off Dayton after being behind for most of the game, the same can’t be said for Oregon State, which lost a close one to Alabama in the first game of the 2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden. The other tournament going on, as mentioned earlier, is the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic, which features Washington. Again, these tournaments are largely where conferences make or break its reputation for the season, as most of the other non-conference games come against guarantee-game opponents with a few challenges sprinkled in here and there. For the Pac-12 to have an acceptable weekend, each team needs to win at least one game: Colorado has done the bare minimum, but could really help out the Pac by beating Murray State or St. John’s in the third place game if a victory doesn’t come against Baylor. Oregon State needs to knock off Purdue to even itself up in Madison Square Garden, and that won’t be an easy task. Washington, again, really needs a win against Seton Hall, because a loss to Ohio State would probably look better than a win against Rhode Island. The non-conference tournaments are huge for the Pac-12 this year, especially considering what happened last year, with failures like Washington State going 0-3 against a weak field in the 76 Classic and UCLA going 0-2 against D-I teams in the Maui Invitational.
  5. Connor here, stepping in to finish off the M5 with our weekly Pick’em contest. Unfortunately, with Utah’s uninspiring loss last week in Seattle, I still trail Drew by four games with only 14 left to play. But it ain’t over til it’s over, and I’m pulling out everything I’ve got this week to make up some ground. I’m talking a Washington State upset in the desert. I’m taking a Cal team playing in what will likely be their head coach’s final game at the university. These may be long shots, but I’ve got no choice at this point. Our picks below, with, as always, our game of the week in bold.
Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
Washington at Colorado Washington Washington
Washington State at Arizona State Washington State Arizona State
USC at UCLA USC UCLA
Stanford at Oregon Oregon 52-20 Oregon 62-24
Arizona at Utah Utah Arizona
California at Oregon State California Oregon State
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Pac-12 M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 15th, 2012

  1. Wednesday marked the beginning of the early signing period for basketball recruits to sign a national letter of intent, and “officially” officially, Oregon State, Colorado, Utah and Washington State have announced whom they have signed thus far. None of the guys from these schools are going to be McDonald’s All-Americans or anything close to it, but not surprisingly, each coach is thrilled about the guys he has brought in. A couple of players to keep an eye on out of this group are soon-to-be Beaver Cheikh N’Diaye and future Ute Delon Wright. N’Diaye is a 7’0’’ center from Senegal who shows off a decent back to the basket game with the ability to hit a fadeaway (though why he’d ever need to shoot a fadeaway in high school, I’ll never know). Wright has had a solid stint at City College of San Francisco and is also the younger brother of current Philadelphia 76er Dorell Wright. At the very least, the JuCo transfer has a good pedigree.
  2. As expected earlier but now confirmed by his mother, Jabari Parker isn’t going to sign during the November period. It may just be empty words, but Parker’s mother says he hasn’t ruled out any of the five remaining schools on his list, which includes Stanford, BYU, Florida, Michigan State and Duke. Having already made visits to those last three schools, Parker will visit BYU over Thanksgiving weekend and Stanford sometime in December, so Johnny Dawkins will have the chance to make a final impression on the No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2013. While many don’t consider Stanford to be a frontrunner, the Cardinal have their advantages: a player-friendly coach, top-notch academics and a Mormon assistant coach who happened to go to a Final Four at Stanford and won a couple of NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.
  3. A bit of sour news on the recruiting front for Washington, as five-star shooting guard Isaac Hamilton has left the Huskies off his final list of three, which is comprised of Baylor, UNLV and UTEP. While the Huskies expect to get their first early signing period recruits since 2010 with four-star guys Darin Johnson and Nigel Williams-Goss, Hamilton would have been a huge get for Washington, which is still in the running for top 10 overall recruit Aaron Gordon out of San Jose. The Huskies have a lot of competition for the services of Gordon, and missing out on Hamilton just compounds on what has been a disappointing week for Washington after losing a heartbreaker to Albany at home.
  4. Speaking of which, the Huskies’ loss to the Great Danes didn’t go unnoticed by the national media, as Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports writes in his column that the Pac-12’s first loss wasn’t a good one. Adam Butler has discussed the situation already for the Pac-12 microsite, but it bears repeating that these are the types of losses that harm the conference’s national reputation, even if Scott Suggs went out with a concussion after two minutes. If the Huskies can make up for the defeat with a win over Ohio State on the back end of the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic, or a win nearing that caliber, the Albany game will be written off as early-season cobwebs. If not, the Huskies better hope the rest of the conference steps up to provide Washington with a multitude of quality win opportunities in Pac-12 play. Otherwise, it might be another trip to the NIT, which was what many probably expected in the first place.
  5. We’ll end today with an update on the Shabazz Muhammad epic: UCLA has officially filed an appeal to the NCAA regarding Muhammad’s ineligibility and hopes to get a response shortly after Friday, the day on which the appeal will be heard. If the NCAA doesn’t side with UCLA on the appeal, then UCLA would have to request reinstatement for Muhammad. As this case has drawn on, Muhammad has received a lot of support, especially from his fellow UCLA freshmen Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Tony Parker, each of whom wore “Free Shabazz” t-shirts during warm-ups before UCLA’s nail-biting overtime victory over UC Irvine Tuesday night. Though it is merely conjecture, I have a feeling Muhammad will be suiting up for the Bruins this year, and sooner rather than later (remember that the LA Times reported earlier this week that requesting reinstatement could mean Muhammad would miss about 10 games). In any case, the Bruins could surely use his presence on the floor if the UC Irvine game result is any indication.
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Colorado vs. Dayton

Posted by KDanna on November 15th, 2012

The non-conference tournaments get under way in earnest this week, and our Pac-12 microsite game of the week takes us to South Carolina for the Charleston Classic, where Colorado will play Dayton in a first round game Thursday afternoon.

Why It’s Important: Get used to this phrase for the next couple of moments, but this is the ultimate RPI boost game for Colorado. Take a look at the bracket for this tournament: If Colorado wins, it will most likely face some two-game combination of Baylor, St. John’s and Murray State. If Colorado loses, then likely dates with Boston College, Charleston and Auburn are on the ledger. Notice the difference in level of competition? Again, the Pac-12, more than any conference, needs as many opportunities to play high-RPI teams as it can get. Going 1-2 in Charleston with a win over Dayton and losses to Baylor and either St. John’s or Murray State is a whole lot better than going 2-1 with a loss to Dayton and wins over Boston College and Charleston or Auburn. Last year, the Buffaloes went 1-2 in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but that win didn’t come until the seventh place game in which they beat Western Michigan after losing to Wichita State and Maryland.

Colorado Player to Watch- André Roberson: An obvious choice, but maybe not for a reason that would be considered obvious going into the season. The only player to average a double-double in the Pac-12 last year, Roberson struggled in the season-opening victory against Wofford, scoring just seven points to go along with six rebounds on 2-8 shooting from the field. After the fact, Roberson agreed with Tad Boyle’s assessment that he didn’t play with enough energy. Never a good thing to hear after the first game of the season, and Roberson can ill afford to give a subpar effort against an Atlantic 10 team that is more than capable of beating the Buffs.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.14.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 14th, 2012

  1. First things first — more on the Shabazz Muhammad saga. Yesterday, the Muhammad family released a statement to the LA Times expressing their displeasure with the NCAA in this process. Probably the most interesting nugget out of this statement was the family’s claim that the NCAA previously promised the family it wouldn’t release a statement on the situation a week prior to ruling that Muhammad is ineligible for competition, and then saying that the NCAA’s accompanying statement on the matter was inaccurate in its portrayal of the investigation. Their main gripe is that they say Benjamin Lincoln (the financial advisor in question) received permission by the NCAA for Lincoln to pay for airline tickets and hotel rooms for Muhammad to take his unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina. Allegations of shady activity on the NCAA’s part is nothing new, and it has been tough to decipher exactly what is going on for the most part, but it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, this latest Muhammad family statement will have on the situation. This is the first time we have heard from the Muhammad family, which did not want to face more repercussions from the NCAA. A direct response by to this statement is highly unlikely, but perhaps it will expedite things in terms of getting Muhammad cleared to play for UCLA.
  2. More good recruiting news came for the Pac-12 when Long Beach Poly prospect Jordan Bell verbally committed to Oregon over Auburn yesterday. Bell is a 6’7’’ three-star power forward who is known for his shot-blocking ability and overall freakish athleticism, but is considered to be very raw with a limited offensive skill set. Another way to judge a recruit, albeit completely unscientific and wholly superficial, is to see which other schools were vying for his services. Auburn isn’t a school that will impress anybody, but Connecdticut and Kansas State were also reportedly in the mix before Bell narrowed it down to the Ducks and Tigers. It could very well be the case where UConn and K-State have better prospects at the “4” and over-recruited the power forward position, but a quick check at their prospect lists reveal that neither team currently has a power forward commitment. Bell now joins twins Tyrell and Tyree Robinson (Tyree is a four-star prospect according to Scout) and unranked shooting guard Fred Richardson as part of the Class of 2013 for Dana Altman; the Robinson brothers also plan on playing football for Chip Kelly.
  3. An injury update in Corvallis: Oregon State sophomore forward Daniel Gomis is still not cleared to play after suffering an ankle injury a few weeks back, though the team should have a better idea on when he will be good to go once Oregon State returns from New York for the 2K Sports Classic. Although Craig Robinson cannot comment directly on the injury, the report suggests that things are looking up for Gomis. The article also mentioned that Gomis was walking around practice earlier this week and helping out in a drill, and it would be good to finally see this kid play after missing last year recovering from a broken leg. He was ranked the 22nd-best power forward and 95th-best player in the nation by Scout out of the famed Oak Hill Academy, so it will be interesting to see what the native Senegalese post can do at the collegiate level. However, it might be tough for him to immediately break into a frontcourt that features Angus Brandt, Eric Moreland and Joe Burton up front.
  4. Pat Forde recently released his 25 most interesting non-conference games to watch in November and December, and it featured a few games involving Pac-12 constituents: the Legends Classic final (which could be between UCLA and Indiana), Florida at Arizona, Missouri at UCLA and San Diego State vs. UCLA. It’s no shock that the non-conference games national writers are most interested in involve the teams that are predicted to go 1-2 in the Pac-12, but there are plenty of other huge non-conference games out there for the Pac-12, some of which we detailed on the Pac-12 microsite weeks ago. That said, it’s of the most benefit to the conference for UCLA and Arizona to win against the big boys of the other power conferences, because these are the games that most people around the country will be watching. As such, these are the games that will largely make or break the reputation of the Pac-12 in 2012-13.
  5. Well there goes the dream of a perfect November and December. It took five days of real competition, but the Pac-12 became the last conference to lose a game this year. It wasn’t a good loss either; Washington lost at home to Albany last night by one point. The Great Danes were picked to finish fourth in the America East, fresh off a 19-15 record as part of a league that finished 29th in conference RPI (out of 32). Granted, you can’t make too much out of one non-conference game — especially one in which Scott Suggs lasted just two minutes before leaving with an apparent head injury — but this certainly isn’t a good look for a league that is desperately trying to repair its national reputation. Our Adam Butler will have more on the story later today, but this isn’t the first time Washington has pulled this stunt.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.13.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 13th, 2012

  1. To the surprise of probably nobody, Oregon State’s Ahmad Starks was named the first Pac-12 Player of the Week for the 2012-13 season. The junior guard from Chicago earned the honor in large thanks to a 33-point effort against New Mexico State on Sunday night, a game that saw him consistently get to the rack and beat the tall-but-slow-footed 7’5’’ Sim Bhullar and others on his way to the paint. Starks is probably known more for his trigger-happy right hand from beyond the arc, something he showed off in the season opener against Niagara during which he hit six three-pointers. In a land chock full of diminutive guards, Ahmad Starks might be the most underrated of them all. This honor (his second such of his career) helps shine some light on Craig Robinson’s perimeter player, and conferences love to heap praise on players from teams that don’t receive a lot of positive national attention (see: Colorado quarterback Jordan Webb being awarded the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honor for the Buffs’ lone win of 2012 against Washington State). It’s a well-deserved honor for Starks, who also averaged six rebounds, three assists, and two steals per contest.
  2. The new AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll came out yesterday and there wasn’t much movement for the Pac-12 constituents. The AP kept Arizona and UCLA and 12 and 13, respectively, while dropping the Wildcats and Bruins a spot in the USA Today to 12 and 14. The reasons for the slight drops in the coaches poll surround Arizona’s too-close-for-comfort victory over Charleston Southern and the news out of Westwood that Shabazz Muhammad has been ruled ineligible. It’s good to see that UCLA didn’t get punished harshly for the ineligibility of a player who has yet to contribute to the program in a game; others like the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one) dropped the Bruins precipitously. Sure, a lot of preseason rankings are based on projections, but these preseason rankings came out with the knowledge that Muhammad might not play in the first place. It would unjust in the humble opinion of this blogger to dock the Bruins any further.
  3. More on that Arizona win over Charleston Southern- it leaves plenty of room for improvement for the Wildcats, according to The Tucson Citizen. Regardless of how good Charleston Southern may be this year, it’s never a good feeling to have to grind one out against a Big South school at home as a top-25 team. This isn’t the first time this has happened for Arizona, either. Look no further than last year, when a preseason top-20 Wildcat squad sweated out victories at home against Valparaiso and Duquesne before eventually dropping off in non-league play with losses in all of their most important non-conference games (Mississippi State, San Diego State, Florida, and Gonzaga). Lessons are always easier to learn in close wins, but a similar effort against UTEP and Long Beach State, two programs that are a notch above Charleston Southern, might not yield as friendly of a result.
  4. The Colorado sports information department has to rank among the best in the conference, partly due to features that move beyond your normal fluffy and propaganda-sounding pieces. Case in point: this B.G. Brooks article concerning André Roberson’s need to play with more energy. He didn’t have a horrific game in the Buffaloes’ 74-59 season-opening victory against Wofford, but it wasn’t the performance many have come to expect from the only guy to average a double-double in the conference last year. Both Boyle and Roberson himself agree that he needs to play with a little more spunk, and it needs to happen right away as Colorado gets ready for the Charleston Classic. It isn’t a loaded field, but Dayton should provide a good test immediately, and the Buffs could also square off against Baylor and Murray State in future rounds.
  5. Lastly, the Stanford basketball team sent out a get-well motivational video to the injured Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. The Cardinal made headlines in the NIT last year when Lewis was caught on tape giving a motivational speech to Stanford right before its semifinal game against UMASS in Madison Square Garden. While this video won’t get anyone pissed off for greatness (even though the players mention the phrase a few times in the video), it’s a nice gesture to an NFL great who really helped put Stanford back on the map of national relevance.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.12.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 12th, 2012

  1. The Pac-12 men’s basketball season got off to an inauspicious start before the first night of games even finished. It wasn’t because of a loss to a low-major school, though; rather, UCLA freshman sensation Shabazz Muhammad was ruled ineligible  before the Bruins took the court for their Pauley Pavilion opener against Indiana State (an eventual blowout victory). The relationship between financial advisor Benjamin Lincoln and the Muhammad family was not deemed to be close enough to warrant Lincoln paying for Muhammad’s visits to Duke and North Carolina. Baxter Holmes of the L.A. Times further reported that Muhammad could miss the first 10 games of the season before he is cleared to compete, according to NCAA reinstatement guidelines. While it certainly isn’t great news, there is perhaps at least a little more clarity on when Muhammad can play and, more importantly, that eventually he can play. If the L.A. Times article is correct, then Muhammad will at least be able to suit up for a couple of non-conference tilts before the Pac-12 slate gets underway in January. However, this means that he won’t be available for arguably the Bruins’ most important non-conference stretch in the Legends Classic against Georgetown and potentially Indiana.
  2. While Arizona State got off on the right foot with a 15-point victory over Central Arkansas on Saturday, the Sun Devils received some not-so-nice news when it was officially declared that freshman guard Calaen Robinson would not play this year. While the three-star recruit wasn’t nearly as highly touted as Jahii Carson, this is now two years in a row that an Arizona State freshman has had to sit out his first year in Tempe. No official reason was given for the decision, but Doug Haller of AZ Central reports that school police had confirmed they were investigating a matter that involved the freshman Robinson (no charges had been filed). He wouldn’t have started, but he could have added some depth in the backcourt with his reported quickness, good defense and nice shooting touch.
  3. On the bright side of things, the Pac-12 survived the first weekend of competition without suffering a bad loss. There were a couple of hairy moments (namely, Arizona sweating one out against Big South favorite Charleston Southern and the end of the Oregon State-New Mexico State game), but with it all said and done for the weekend, the Pac-12 is one of just two conferences in all of Division I (the Big 12 being the other) that can claim to be perfect through three days. And sure, the conference probably only beat three teams that have a chance of sniffing the RPI Top 100 (Stanford over USF, UCLA over Indiana State and Oregon State over New Mexico State), but it’s the first step in the right direction for a conference that has had such a bad competitive reputation around the country over the last three seasons.
  4. The best thing about the 2012-13 season is that you will have plenty of opportunities to watch Pac-12 basketball thanks to the advent of the Pac-12 Networks, which is set to broadcast 150 games, including eight Pac-12 Tournament contests. Bill Walton writes as much in his season primer for the Pac-12 website, sounding exuberant and hyperbolic as always. Out of all the talent hires the Pac-12 Networks made, signing up Walton was probably their best decision. Hearing the former UCLA great call somebody the best inbounds passer or best player at boxing out others in the conference will bring a smile to many a face all over the country. The dividends have already paid off, as we have seen all but UCLA on the Networks and all 12 teams have made a television appearance in the first weekend of play.
  5. A little bit of recruiting news came out late last week when Schuyler Rimmer announced that he was committing to Stanford. A 6’10’’, 255-pound center (according to his Scout profile), Rimmer will give the Cardinal another big body down low, something that looks like a necessity after watching Stanford give up 13 offensive rebounds to USF on Friday night. Originally a Florida commitment, the Orlando prospect becomes the third Stanford recruit in the Class of 2013, following in the footsteps of twin guards Marcus (a top-100 recruit) and Malcolm Allen out of Las Vegas. Of course, the Cardinal aren’t done on the recruiting trail as they hope to land the second-biggest fish in the pond in Jabari Parker, who at last word was likely to make a decision in December.
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Pac-12 Game of the Weekend: New Mexico State @ Oregon State

Posted by KDanna on November 9th, 2012

Finally, after five weeks of covering college basketball news, we are ready to get down to some actual game action. Each week, the Pac-12 microsite will break down a game we feel is the one to keep an eye on. While November and December are perhaps more important for the Pac-12 than any other conference in terms of restoring respectability, the opening weekend of play is largely devoid of any big matchups. However, considering recent history, that doesn’t mean it will be an easy road to a perfect Pac-12 weekend. One such contest that could provide a few worries will play out on Sunday night, when Oregon State hosts New Mexico State as part of the 2K Sports Classic.

Can Craig Robinson get his team to avoid non-conference letdowns in 2012-13? (credit: Don Ryan)

Why it’s important: Perhaps more than any other school in the Pac-12 (last year not withstanding for the most part), Oregon State has struggled in the non-conference portion of its schedule. In the last three years, Oregon State has lost to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Sacramento State (just like football), Illinois-Chicago, Seattle (twice, once by 51 points), Texas Southern, Utah Valley and Idaho, with many of those games taking place in Gill Coliseum. Hence, it is very well within the makeup of this team to lose to New Mexico State, a squad that made the NCAA Tournament last year and won 26 games. Granted, the Aggies lost their top four scorers from last year’s WAC Tournament Championship team (and three of which hit the 1,000-point plateau in their Aggie careers), but Oregon State can’t take anything for granted.

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Solomon Hill: The Next Great Leader of the Pac?

Posted by KDanna on November 8th, 2012

With a new season on the horizon, many teams around the conference will be looking to new leaders to fill in the roles of captains’ past. Solomon Hill indirectly made his case at Pac-12 Media Day as perhaps the most mature and confident team leader out of any in the Pac-12. It’s one of the most-used clichés in all of sports, but upperclassman leadership can really provide that extra boost for a team looking to get to the NCAA Tournament or make some sort of postseason push. Can Hill be next in a long line of postseason heroes – sung or unsung – to lead his team to postseason success? With all signs pointing to the affirmative, here’s a look at some of his recent predecessors in the Pac who took their teams to new heights, as well as further explanation of why Hill is such a viable candidate:

Solomon Hill will be called upon to do more than just score points and grab rebounds in 2012-13 (AP)

  1. Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver- It was the Hawaiian who wanted so badly to play in the Pac-10 and the Wisconsin native who thought there could be a winning program in Pullman that made this the Washington State Cougars nationally relevant for two years, culminating in a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in their final season at Wazzu. There wasn’t any one thing in particular these guys did that blew anybody’s mind, but overall, they were just solid with no real deficiencies in either of their games. They weren’t really rah-rah guys, either, as they just led by example. Before Low and Weaver arrived on the Palouse, the Cougars hadn’t registered a winning season since 1996 and an NCAA berth since 1994, and the Cougars have not returned to the NCAA Tournament since these two graduated. Read the rest of this entry »
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Introducing the Preseason All-Pac-12 Grab-Bag Teams

Posted by KDanna on November 8th, 2012

Yesterday, we released our preseason All-Pac-12 teams. Today, we take a look at some niche teams based on a certain characteristic that makes a player stand out. You won’t see these categories on the official Pac-12 season awards release at the end of the season, but they’re fun to think about nonetheless.

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad shows why he landed a spot on the Rush The Court All-Pac-12 Rim-Rattler Team

All-Rim Rattlers

  • Shabazz Muhammad (Fr., Guard/Forward, UCLA) – 15 votes
  • Nick Johnson (So., Guard, Arizona) – 11
  • Carlos Emory (Sr., Forward, Oregon) – 11
  • André Roberson (Jr., Forward, Colorado) – 11
  • Eric Moreland (So., Forward, Oregon State) – 8

Reasoning for a squad like this is done best by highlights, so here are your explanations for MuhammadJohnsonEmoryMoreland and Roberson. Click on the individual name to see some thrilling dunks for each candidate.

All-Shooter Team

  • Chasson Randle (So., Guard, Stanford) – 17 
  • Allen Crabbe (Jr., Guard, Cal) – 14
  • C.J. Wilcox (Jr., Guard, Washington) – 10
  • Spencer Dinwiddie (So., Guard, Colorado) – 6
  • Aaron Bright (Jr., Guard, Stanford) – 4

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Stanford, the leader in the Pac-12 in three-point field goal percentage as a team, would have two representatives on the all-shooter team. Chasson Randle, who highlights this group, drained seven threes in the first half of a Pac-12 Tournament game against Arizona State last year and is the leading returnee in three-point field goal accuracy in the Pac-12. Expect C.J. Wilcox to have a big year in 2012-13, as he is a guy who has the potential to be close to a 50 percent three-point shooter with such a deadly stroke.

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Washington Huskies

Posted by KDanna on November 5th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Washington Huskies.

Strengths: Overall, the Huskies have a solid group of guys. They won’t be as explosive as last year, but a report from the Seattle Times has noted that this year’s team has better chemistry. That probably is due to the presence of Abdul Gaddy, who has really developed into a solid floor general and knows how to find his teammates while taking care of the basketball — his 2.43 assist-to-turnover ratio was second in the Pac-12 last year. One such teammate who will be a benefactor of Gaddy’s decision-making is C.J. Wilcox, who is one of the best pure shooters in the country. Now a junior, Wilcox shot 40 percent from downtown last season, good for ninth in the conference. He will be joined on the wing by Scott Suggs, another good shooter who is returning from a broken foot that forced him to redshirt last year. The Huskies also have one of the most physically imposing returning big men in the Pac-12, as seven-footer Aziz N’Diaye will patrol the paint for head coach Lorenzo Romar, who will transition this year’s team to a high-post offense. That’s a good move for the 2012-13 Huskies, as they are more suited to play in a more structured half-court set than the typical motion offense they ran in previous years. It also doesn’t hurt that the Huskies play in Alaska Airlines Arena, which gives the Huskies a huge home court advantage; in fact, the Huskies have won more games at Hec-Ed than any other NCAA team has won at a single facility.

Wilcox Has No Problem Knocking Down Jumpers With Defenders On Him, But It’s Even Easier When No One Is Within A Five Foot Radius (credit: Dean Rutz)

Weaknesses: Washington loses a ton of firepower in Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross, both of whom left early to become NBA first round draft picks. The loss of the duo is probably as good of a reason as any to move away from a motion look, because these were the two guys who really made the Huskies go. However, the Huskies lost more than just firepower with these guys; they also lost a lot of the patented “U-Dub swag” that has been a feature of Romar-coached teams in recent memory. This is where the loss of Darnell Gant also comes into play, as he probably played to the Hec-Ed crowd as well as anybody on the Huskies. With the power forward spot up for grabs, in addition to losing three of the four guys who averaged five rebounds a game or more from last year, defensive rebounding could turn into an issue for this team; as it was, the Huskies finished eighth in the Pac-12 last year in defensive rebounding percentage.

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Five Takeaways From Stanford’s Exhibition Game on Sunday

Posted by KDanna on November 5th, 2012

Stanford played an exhibition game against UNC Pembroke on Sunday afternoon at Maples Pavilion, and here are five thoughts on the Cardinal’s performance.

Josh Huestis had a double-double for the Cardinal in 14-point exhibition victory over UNC Pembroke. (credit: Bob Drebin)

  1. Too close for comfort? The final score read Stanford 85, UNC Pembroke 71, but it was a single-digit game for most of the way, and Stanford actually trailed the Braves 8-2 about six minutes into the game. As we discussed with Washington’s exhibition nail-biter, however, the closeness of the game doesn’t really mean too much. Also, Stanford’s Dwight Powell and Stefan Nastic didn’t play in this game for undisclosed reasons. Don’t judge this team before the November 9 opener against San Francisco.
  2. John Gage has diversified his game. The official roster says Gage has put on 10 pounds from last year to this year, and it showed in the way he plays. The junior known for his shooting touch held his own strength-wise against a 255-pound UNC Pembroke post player and had a sequence in the first half where he blocked a shot, stole a post entry pass, got a couple of rebounds, and hit a three. These are exactly the kind of things Gage needs to do to earn more minutes on the floor. As one of the tallest guys on the team, Gage will need to prove he can play in the post and body up with the likes of a Kaleb Tarczewski, Aziz N’Diaye or Josh Smith. If he can hold his own on the defensive end, Gage will be rewarded with more time and hence more opportunities to unleash it from deep on the offensive end. At the end of the day, Gage amassed 11 points and seven rebounds to go along with two blocks and two steals.
  3. Josh Huestis is more confident with the rock. The shooting stroke was already there for Huestis last year, but he was hardly consistent from outside of the key. While he didn’t connect on three three-point attempts, he showed more assertiveness in his jump shot and connected on 50 percent of his field goal attempts, not all of which were bunnies (one left wing 18-footer comes to mind). He also did all the other things that makes Huestis so valuable to the team, grabbing 12 rebounds and swatting away a shot.
  4. It will take some time for the freshmen to get adjusted. Each of the three new guys (Rosco Allen, Christian Sanders and Grant Verhoeven) showed why they were sought by Johnny Dawkins and his staff, but they will all understandably need at least a few games to be able to contribute in a meaningful manner to the Cardinal lineup. The biggest positive for the freshmen is that none of them seemed to shy away from the moment — Sanders swished a jumper on his second offensive possession of the game, Allen calmly stroked a 17-footer, and Verhoeven — as advertised — didn’t mind getting dirty down low and collecting an offensive rebound to go along with six points and two assists.
  5. Free throws. This team only shot 67 percent from the free throw line last year, often missing key tries late in games to keep the opposition alive. It wasn’t any better against the Braves yesterday, as the Cardinal made just 21 of its 33 free throw attempts for the game (64 percent). Yes, it was just an exhibition game and yes, there were probably some first-game jitters involved, but that percentage needs to be around 70% to give the Cardinal the best chance to pull out close games in the regular season.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 2nd, 2012

  1. Yesterday was Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day in San Francisco, and the big news out of the event was the release of the preseason media poll, which has Arizona slotted in the top spot, edging out UCLA by one point even though the Bruins received one more first place vote. California and Washington were the other two schools receiving first place votes, with the Golden Bears garnering three and the Huskies two. It’s hard to argue with the choices for the two top spots and bottom three (Washington State, Arizona State and Utah) in the conference, but places three through nine can certainly be debated. It appears as though Colorado and USC are being underestimated by the media; especially Tad Boyle’s team. The Buffaloes were grossly underestimated last year, picked to finish tied for 10th with Washington State in the preseason. Of course, that prediction was wrong. Sure, the Buffs lost Carlon Brown and a couple of other seniors, but Tad Boyle has dealt with bigger losses before and been just fine. As far as USC is concerned, perhaps some media members got too transfixed on the Trojans’ 6-26 record without taking into account all the injuries last year’s team had combined with all the impact transfers that will be suiting up for Kevin O’Neill this year. On paper, USC at least looks better than both of the Oregon schools.
  2. Nothing too revealing usually comes out of these conference media days, but there were a couple of interesting nuggets. As predicted, Craig Robinson’s relationship with Barack Obama and the upcoming election was a hot-button topic, and the Oregon State head coach had some fun with the media by saying it’s classified information where he will be on Election Night before revealing that he will be in Chicago… but not before a his team practices earlier in the day. He also gave praise to 6’7’’ freshman Jarmal Reid, who he says is a great defender and could play early and often this year. Another interesting playing tidbit came from USC head coach Kevin O’Neill, who said that walk-on Chass Bryan will get minutes as the backup point guard to Jio Fontan. Bryan stands at 5’9’’ and is on a Presidential Scholarship to USC, unrelated to his status on the basketball team. It looks as though the line of diminutive playmakers at USC will continue in some fashion beyond Fontan’s senior year. Bryan’s role has taken on a greater importance over the last couple of months after it was announced that Maurice Jones would transfer from the school. O’Neill still had nothing but kind words for Jones at Pac-12 Media Day, going a little out of his way to compliment him on what he did for the Trojans the past two years and saying he loved him as a person. This writer is still very curious as to what led to his suspension and subsequent departure, though.
  3. George Dohrmann recently caught up with former Arizona State Sun Devil Demetrius Walker for a Q&A for his blog. Now a part of the New Mexico Lobos, it looks as though Walker has found a niche in Albuquerque and is starting to live up to some of the highly unrealistic expectations placed upon him in middle school and high school. As Eamonn Brennan points out, it’s interesting to hear Walker talk more in terms of “we” than “me” as he attempts to turn the page on an AAU culture that built him up to larger-than-life proportions and nearly destroyed him. The knock on Walker at Arizona State was that he was just an athlete and had very limited basketball skills — namely a poor jump shot. Here’s to wishing the star of Dohrmann’s Play Their Hearts Out greater success in 2012-13, as his Lobos try to take down San Diego State and UNLV for a Mountain West Conference championship.
  4. More exhibition news to pass along as two Pac-12 teams kick off their exhibition slates this weekend. Tonight, Utah takes the floor against Simon Fraser University, the first non-US institution to be a full-fledged member of the NCAA. Not surprisingly, coach Larry Krystkowiak’s team was picked to finish last in the conference, but there are plenty of new faces on this team to give the Runnin’ Utes an intrigue factor heading into the start of the season. However, it doesn’t help that one of those transfers — Aaron Dotson -- is scheduled to be out until late November or early December with a stress fracture in his foot. At the very least, the Utes should do considerably better than the 3-9 record they posted in the 2011-12 non-conference slate. The Utes play two non-Division-I teams and do not face a team from another power conference at all this season. Their RPI will certainly take a hit, but I don’t think Krystkowiak is really concerned about that this year. The other Pac-12 exhibition game takes place on Sunday, when Stanford hosts UNC Pembroke. Certainly the Cardinal will have faced much stiffer competition on Thursday night when they played Saint Mary’s in a secret scrimmage, but this game will give Cardinal fans a first look at their team taking on outside competition. Both games are being streamed live on the Pac-12 website, so feel free (and the streams are free) to have a look for yourself online.
  5. Connor here, hijacking this final bit as Drew and I continue our season-long football prognostication contest. It was another gloomy Saturday for me last weekend, as Drew extended his lead to three games. The Jeykll and Hyde Golden Bears neglected to come through for the second straight week, and Oregon State’s upset at the hands of Washington made it a perfect day for Drew. I’ve still got five weeks to come back, however, so I’m taking it conservatively and only differing on one pick here in week 10. Things get going tonight in Berkeley, where California needs a win to keep its flickering bowl hopes alive. Even if they get past the Huskies, the Bears finish the year with a pair of top 15 opponents, making it unlikely their season will continue past November 17. Saturday gets off to a bit of a slow start with Stanford visiting Boulder and Washington State heading into the hornets nest that is Rice Eccles Stadium, but things really get going in the late afternoon. That’s when our game of the week kicks off in Los Angeles, as Oregon tries to keep its perfect season alive with its toughest task yet. We get treated to a tasty pair of nightcaps following that one, as the Wildcats visit UCLA and Sun Devils take on Oregon State. Enjoy your weekend; it’ll be the last before your tasked with balancing hoops and pigskin until December.
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Washington at California California California
    Stanford at Colorado Stanford Stanford
    Washington State at Utah Washington State Washington State
    Oregon at USC Oregon 42-38 Oregon 52-25
    Arizona at UCLA Arizona UCLA
    Arizona State at Oregon State Oregon State Oregon
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