USC Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 16th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: USC.

What Went Wrong

The biggest thing that went wrong were lofty expectations for a group of mostly transfers who had failed to have any success as a group in any of their previous stops. Despite the fact that this was a program coming off a six-win season, instead of playing with a chip on their collective shoulders, this team came out not just softly but selfishly. They went to a Maui Invitational with hopes of establishing themselves amid a flawed field, and instead got blown out by 30 in their opening round game against Illinois. They toughened up some after Maui, but then proceeded to blow several chances against good teams in excruciating fashion and took on eight non-conference losses. Senior point guard Jio Fontan looked terrible for the better part of two months after coming off a year lost to a torn ACL, Dewayne Dedmon seemed intent on throwing away his immense talent, J.T. Terrell pouted and fought his way through most of the early part of the year, and then on January 14, USC athletic director Pat Haden had seen enough, pulling the plug on Kevin O’Neill’s time in Los Angeles. The team rebounded somewhat under interim head coach Bob Cantu, winning six of eight games in the middle of the Pac-12 season, but then floundered down the stretch, culminating in an embarrassing brawl in downtown Pullman after the end of the regular season. All told, a mixture of immaturity and oversized egos appears to have done this team in.

The 2012-13 Season Gave Kevin O'Neill Headaches - And A Nice Buyout

The 2012-13 Season Gave Kevin O’Neill Headaches – And A Nice Buyout

What Went Right

Last year when we looked back on the 2011-12 Trojans, we said the best part about the year was that it was ending. This year, despite a net increase of eight wins, it is hard to say much of anything different. Maybe we call Omar Oraby, who quickly became a fan favorite, if not a coach’s favorite after transferring in from Rice, the team’s lone bright spot. Maybe we expand that to include Byron Wesley, who has been a rock for the Trojans in his two seasons there. But the fact is that the best things that have happened to this program have come since their most recent embarrassing season ended.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: So… About Those Preseason Predictions?

Posted by AMurawa on December 31st, 2012

With non-conference play all but wrapped up, we start to turn our attention to conference play this week. But, before we do we want to take a look back and see what we talked about prior to the season.

“We made a lot of predictions and bold statements prior to the season. Which prognostication did you nail and which did you completely whiff on?”

Adam Butler: I wish I’d had the stones to say things like “Jordan Adams will be UCLA’s best player” or “Josh Smith will leave the Bruins” or “USC will utterly flop.” No, on each of those insights I was sightless. I was the cool kid picking USC to overachieve and who was gobbling up Shabazz hyperbole like flavored vodka at a sorority house. I went out on the limb to say Arizona and Colorado would be good. I have said Spencer Dinwiddie would be All-Conference and, to date, he’s held up his side of that bargain, and I still love his game when he shows up (although, zero points vs. Fresno?). The one thing I’ve nailed but I don’t think it’s been terribly bold has been that Mark Lyons, no matter what he did numbers-wise, was going to have an overwhelming effect on this Wildcats team. I think it’s safe to say that he’s been a lightning rod of attention and criticism and handled it all in stride, strides that have taken him straight to winning buckets against Florida and SDSU. Lyons brings a dynamic to Tucson that was sorely needed and he has not let them down. As for whiffs? I figured Washington would be better and that Oregon would be worse. I thought Jio Fontan would hover around conference POY talk and that Dewayne Dedmon would be a big surprise: fails. There’s still time to play out but it’s hard to say that any of those thoughts will right themselves in my predictive favor. And in that remaining time, I’m excited to see just what UCLA will do and how Arizona’s freshmen bigs will develop within the routine of Pac-12 play. Moving forward, a few additional thoughts: Can Herb’s team keep up their pace? No. Is Solomon Hill going to win the conference POY award? No (but he may be the MVP). Can Colorado be the second best team in the Pac? Yes. Will Stanford be better then their 8-4 record? Yes. Alas, predictions are meaningless but oh-so-fun.

Jio Fontan In The Player Of The Year Race? Not So Much. (AP Photo)

Jio Fontan In The Player Of The Year Race? Not So Much. (AP Photo)

Connor Pelton: Looking back on it, I made some interesting (to say the least) picks back in October. But I did nail a few of those, starting with the pick of Arsalan Kazemi as an All-Pac-12 performer. I was the only one to include the Rice transfer on my 15-player ballot, and he has answered by averaging 9.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 3.1 SPG so far. In fact, if he had not had been so tentative shooting the ball at the beginning of the season, it is not a stretch to say he would not only be leading the team in rebounds but points as well. Another pick I am liking was that of Jonathan Gilling as an all-conference three-point shooter. Kevin and I were the only ones to include the sophomore on our lists, and he has proved us right by knocking down 30 triples, second highest in the conference. But the pick I am most proud of is selecting USC at 10th in the conference, while everyone else here had the Trojans sixth or seventh. The thing that made me so skeptical about USC at the beginning of the season was the question, “Where do the points come from behind Jio Fontan?” Some said senior forward Aaron Fuller, who’s averaging a stellar 2.9 PPG. Case closed.

Now, onto the whiffs. While Chasson Randle hasn’t had a great season, there is no question he should be second team All-Pac-12 right now. I did not even include him on my list of 15, opting instead for guys like Ricky Kreklow and Kaleb Tarczewski. Whoops. It is easy to look bad when projecting an all-newcomer team, and boy have I done that. I did not include Mark Lyons on my team, or Jahii Carson, or Josh Scott. Those guys are averaging 13.4, 17.9, and 12.5 PPG, respectively. As we move into conference play, the picks that are on the fence of good and bad will begin to clear up. Are the Buffaloes an NCAA Tournament team? I said yes in October, and I still think they are now. Can Washington rebound from an awful start and make the NIT? No. Can California win a big game? It has to happen eventually, right?

Time will answer everything, and before we know it, we will be filling out brackets and talking about surprises and snubs on Selection Sunday.

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Pac-12 Team Previews: USC Trojans

Posted by AMurawa on October 24th, 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 USC Trojans.

Strengths: Fresh blood. You know the old legend about Keith Richards getting a complete change of blood in order to beat a heroin addiction prior to the Rolling Stones 1973 European tour? Well, if you’ll indulge a tortured analogy for a second: If Keith Richards is the USC basketball team, and his heroin addiction is SC’s 1-17 finish in a historically bad Pac-12, that blood transfusion is USC’s almost completely remade roster. With transfers, freshmen and players returning from seasons lost to injury, head coach Kevin O’Neill will likely only run a player or two out there who was around and active at the end of 2011-12. Instead Jio Fontan, J.T. Terrell, Eric Wise, DeWayne Dedmon, Aaron Fuller, Ari Stewart, Renaldo Woolridge and others will give the Trojans a chance to start anew, and with certainly a larger collection of offensive talent than has ever been assembled in the O’Neill era in Los Angeles. To reference the apocryphal story even further, it should be noted that even if Richards did undergo such a transfusion, it wasn’t his last run-in with addiction. But, nevertheless, that ’73 Stones tour was an undeniable success. And this Trojan team is capable of going from one with no expectations a year ago to one who could get some serious satisfaction this season, so long as that relapse can be withheld until after the tour.

Jio Fontan, USC

Jumpin’ Jio Fontan Is Back For The New Look Trojans, Who Hope A Complete Change Of Blood Will Reverse Their Fortunes

Weaknesses: While the Trojans have been strong defensively in each of O’Neill’s three years as head coach, they’ve been a plodding mess on offense, ranking no better than #93 in the nation in offensive efficiency (as always, per KenPom.com) before dipping to a putrid #326 last year. While he’s got tons of new pieces that could fit perfectly into his team’s jigsaw puzzle, KO’s got to prove that he can get it done with plenty of guys on this squad who have a history of bombing their way to unacceptably low field goal percentages (Fontan’s never even approached a 50% eFG rate, while Terrell, Stewart, Wise and Woolridge all had similar struggles at their previous stops). A newer concern for O’Neill is that, with the departure of last year’s point guard Maurice Jones, there is no margin for error at the point guard position for Fontan. If, god forbid, his surgically repaired knee causes him to miss any time again, the Trojans could be playing with fire.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.17.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 17th, 2012

  1. For those who want to take a look at the NIT Champion Stanford basketball team, the Cardinal will be holding their own version of Midnight Madness this Friday. Titled “Friday Frenzy”, the night will feature a Cardinal-White scrimmage, an open women’s practice, and a dunk contest. The scrimmage will certainly be worth the price of free admission as the 2012-13 Cardinal looks to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. They have a potential all-conference backcourt in the duo of Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright, and expect the post play to be much improved as Johnny Dawkins welcomes in Rosco Allen and Grant Verhoeven. The event should get Cardinal fans revved up for a big weekend of sports, as the football team will be playing in the Big Game a mere 18 hours later. Stanford will open up the exhibition season on November 4 against UNC Pembroke.
  2. After finishing 2011-12 with an awful 6-26 record, USC is a trendy pick for “team to surprise” this year in the Pac-12. Excitement took a bit of a hit last month when it was learned that junior guard Maurice Jones would have to sit out the year due to academics, but the return of Jio Fontan from injury will help out the backcourt. The revamped roster will feature five transfers, all of whom can contribute immediately. J.T. Terrell (Peninsula College) and Ari Stewart (Wake Forest), both of whom played together in Winston-Salem before ending up in Los Angeles, are expected to make the biggest impact. Throw in a pair of incoming freshmen in Strahinja Gavrilovic and Brendyn Taylor, junior center Dewayne Dedmon, and senior forward Aaron Fullerand Kevin O’Neill has a pretty nice 10-man rotation to play around with. And while finding valuable minutes for everyone might be tough early on, it will be a welcome challenge for a team that struggled with depth issues all of last season.
  3. Be sure to check all of your Twitter feeds this morning (or whatever you use to follow the decisions of 18-year-old kids), as the Contra Costa Times reported yesterday that Marcus Lee would be announcing his college choice at some point throughout the day. One of the top forwards in the nation, the Deer Valley High School (CA) prospect has narrowed his choices down to California and Kentucky. Lee was supposed to take a visit to Berkeley this weekend and take in the Big Game experience, but he has apparently come to a decision after taking in “Big Blue Madness” last Friday in Lexington.
  4. The guys over at Bruins Nation have put together an extensive look at both the best and worst case scenarios for the 2012-13 UCLA Bruins. On the best case side of things, “DCBruins” has Ben Howland’s bunch going 10-2 in non-conference action with losses to Georgetown and Missouri. The Bruins then go on to win the Pac-12 with a 15-3 record before making the Final Four. The worst case scenario doesn’t go over any specific games or records, but instead focuses on what the Bruin rotation will look like if Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson aren’t cleared to play.
  5. Speaking of Muhammad and Anderson’s eligibility, the Los Angeles Times covered that exact topic this morning. Bill Plaschke‘s column discusses how the team’s media day was monitored by the school’s vice-chancellor for legal affairs, and that the silence being put forth by the program is putting itself under a dark cloud. But as Plaschke states at the end, most everyone “would rather have UCLA chase those big stars and endure the NCAA microscope than settle for the mediocre acquisitions who never are noticed.” And even if recruiting classes like the one Howland brought in this season may label him as a “cheater,” he had no choice. It’s safe to say Howland’s job is on incredibly thin ice, and without guys like Jordan Adams, Tony Parker, Muhammad, and Anderson, Howland very well might not have survived the duration of the 2012-13 campaign. So even if the program is under a cloud now, it’ll be worth it in the long run that Howland brought these big names in.
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USC Week: Q&A With Pachoops’ Adam Butler

Posted by AMurawa on July 7th, 2012

As we go to wind down our coverage of the USC basketball program, we head back to Adam Butler of Pachoops for the second straight week for his perspective on the Trojan basketball program. Like me, Adam is pretty optimistic about the Trojans’ chances of a major bounce-back this season, although if anything he’s even hotter on SC than I am. Here’s our brief conversation on the immediate future for this new-look club.

RTC: My god, the Trojans were bad last year. But was there anything that happened that could bode well for the future for this team?

AB: The season ended. That was the best possible thing that could’ve happened to that team. That and time to pass as injuries healed and redshirts expired allowing this roster to almost completely re-emerge as one of the most intriguing teams in the conference. I mean, six win teams really have only one place to go.

Dewayne Dedmon

Seven-footer Dewayne Dedmon Could Be A Game Changer For The Trojans

RTC: Four different players suffered season-ending injuries last season. Three of them – Jio Fontan, Aaron Fuller and Dewayne Dedmon – return this year. Of those three, who is most important to USC’s success this season?

AB: I’m a big Jio Fontan fan, particularly on a Kevin O’Neill team. Fontan is a dynamic ball handler and all of that ball control offense that KO runs lends itself to needing a solid point. Look at what Maurice Jones was asked to do last season. Fontan is going to do that but at a higher level. I’m tempted to call him a darkhorse POY candidate and won’t be surprised to at least see him on the conference First Team. But of course any time you can run out a seven-foot athlete, it’s hard not to pay some attention to him. Dewayne Dedmon is probably the game changer for this team – as quality bigs tend to be. The combination of sound PG play and an improved Dedmon is going to make a trip to LA not a lot of fun.

RTC: Along with the players the Trojans get back from injury, they welcome four Division I transfers: J.T. Terrell and Ari Stewart from Wake Forest, Eric Wise from UC Irvine and Renaldo Woolridge from Tennessee. How good is that group of transfers and which of those four will play the biggest role for USC?

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USC Week: What To Expect

Posted by AMurawa on July 6th, 2012

We’re most of the way through our week-long look at the Trojans and have at least enough information to make some educated guesses about what the 2012-13 season has in store. With three players back from season-ending injuries and a whole host of new faces, we can expect to see a vastly different team compared to the walking wounded who wrapped up last season, but who exactly will lead this team and what will the final results be? Here are our guesses.

USC’s Leading ScorerJio Fontan. In Fontan’s three years of play, he’s proven that he is capable of not only creating his own looks, but of also getting good looks for his teammates.  In his one half-season with the Trojans, he played second fiddle to USC’s all-conference big man Nikola Vucevic, but he may be called on to once again be the primary offensive option for his team. He does have plenty of other guys capable of scoring around him (J.T. Terrell, Eric Wise, Maurice Jones, Ari Stewart, Byron Wesley, Aaron Fuller), so we can expect fairly balanced scoring on this Trojan team, but when push comes to shove, we expect Fontan to have the ball in his hands with an eye toward lighting up the scoreboard.

Jio Fontan, USC

After A Season Lost To A Torn ACL, Jio Fontan Will Be Crucial To USC’s 2012-13 Campaign

USC’s MVPAaron Fuller. The Trojans may well live and die with Fontan’s game, but Fuller will not only likely be the team’s most efficient offensive player again, but despite being an undersized four, he is perhaps their best front-line defender and an excellent rebounder. Assuming he returns from his shoulder injury no worse for the wear, Fuller could be the team’s most effective player.

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USC Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on July 3rd, 2012

The Trojans return six contributors from last season’s team, along with point guard Jio Fontan, who comes back after losing last year to a torn ACL. The returnees range from players whose seasons were cut short, to underclassmen who got big time minutes in the absence of their injured teammates, to role players whose minutes could dwindle in the presence of USC’s newly stocked roster. Below, we’ll take a look at each of these returnees in order of their scoring averages in the last season played.

  • Maurice Jones, Junior, Guard (13.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.8 SPG) – Jones’ season last year was one of the most extreme seasons I can remember from a player. He played 94.7% of the possible minutes, logging 24 games in which he played 37 minutes or more, including a 49-minute epic in a double overtime loss to Nebraska. And those weren’t passive minutes either, as he used 26% of the team’s possessions and took 27% of their shots – only four times all season did he attempt fewer than 10 field goals in a game. Unfortunately, many times those double-digit field goal attempts were accompanied by tiny numbers in the field goals made column – he posted a paltry 39.8% eFG and an offensive efficiency rating of 85.4. We could go on for several more sentences ripping apart Jones’ 2011-12 season, but the fact is, he did more or less what head coach Kevin O’Neill asked of him, taking on a huge offensive role in the absence of other more polished offensive players. And, in some areas, Jones shone, specifically with assists on 23.9% of his teammates hoops (the pessimist could point out that was because he always had the ball in his hands), compared with turnovers on just 15% of his team’s possessions (a number even the pessimists would have to admit is pretty impressive for a guy that handled it as much as Jones). With reinforcements arriving this season, Jones’ role should return to some form of normalcy, and you can expect his efficiency to increase as well. Still, at 5’7”, he’s always going to be something of a liability on defense, so it will be interesting to see just how large of a role he plays this year.
Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Played A Huge Role For USC Last Year, Playing 94.7% Of His Possible Minutes (Brandon Hui/Daily Trojan)

  • Aaron Fuller, Senior, Forward (10.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG) – Fuller was the Trojans’ best offensive player last season, his first year of eligibility after transferring from Iowa. He was the one guy on the team who could get the ball in the post or at the elbow and either make a move or knock down a jumper. And, better still, he excelled on the glass, especially on the offensive end where he could get the Trojans easy buckets. His one major weakness, however, is something that isn’t going to change: He’s a 6’6” power forward. Sure, he can out-hustle and out-scrap a lot of guys, but there is a ceiling to just how good he can be.
  • Jio Fontan, Senior, Point Guard (10.5 PPG, 3.9 APG in 2010-11) – Fontan played 23 games for the Trojans in 2010-11 after transferring over from Fordham, leading the team to a 13-10 record over that span. His USC career got off to a strong start as he scored in double figures in the first four games, but lulled a bit in the meat of conference. At Fordham, he was expected to be the primary offensive force, while the Trojans want him to be more of a pure point, so the last time we saw him play, his game was still a work in progress. But, he’s now had two offseasons to work on his game and he got the blessing-in-a-seriously-good-disguise of being able to watch a season from the sidelines. He’s got the ability to score at a big-time level, but if he can balance his scoring with the ability to create for his teammates, he’ll live up to the high expectations that O’Neill has for him.
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USC Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on July 2nd, 2012

It has now been 20 seasons since the USC Trojans last finished a season with less than 10 losses, 26 years since they earned at least a piece of the Pac-10 title and 51 whopping years since they won their conference outright (then known as the Athletic Association of Western Universities – or the Big Five). Compared to that history of futility, the recent past in USC basketball has been relatively successful. Between the 2006-07 and the 2010-11 seasons, the Trojans posted a combined 103-66 record, finished tied for third twice and never finished lower than a tie for fifth. And then came last season, when the wheels came off the bus entirely, as the team limped home to a school-worst 6-26 record, helped along by an almost unbelievable stretch of injuries. Of the five players who started in USC’s first exhibition game last summer in Brazil, just one was still active when their season wrapped up, and all told, just six scholarship players remained available.

Kevin O'Neill, USC

The USC Basketball Program Had Been Relatively Successful In Kevin O’Neill’s First Two Seasons, But Nothing Went Right Last Year (Rick Scuteri/AP)

Teams are going to have injuries from time to time, and head coach Kevin O’Neill understands that, but last year’s streak of bad luck came at a particularly tough time, with the program left in a fragile state by previous head coach Tim Floyd. In June 2009, Floyd resigned abruptly in the wake of NCAA investigations (and eventual penalties) related to illegal benefits for O.J Mayo, just shortly after starters DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett had all decided to leave school early to pursue professional careers. With the change in staff and the NCAA sleuthing around, the Trojans lost all but one player from their 2009 recruiting class, including Derrick Williams, Momo Jones and Renardo Sidney. The Trojans were able to scrape into the NCAA Tournament in 2011 behind a molasses-slow tempo and stingy defense, but the program was still in recovery mode from the Floyd fiasco, lacking the depth to be able to mask the multiple injuries they endured last year.

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USC: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 13th, 2012

What Went Wrong

Everything. Almost literally. The Trojans lost their senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL on their summer trip to Brazil, a trip that also saw forward Curtis Washington go down with a shoulder injury from which he would not return. Later injuries ended the seasons for sophomore forward DeWayne Dedmon and junior forward Aaron Fuller, leaving a skeleton crew on the court for head coach Kevin O’Neill. And he, in turn, handed over the keys to the car to sophomore point guard Maurice Jones, who started off the season as a bomber sans conscience (two-for 13 in their season opening win over Cal State Northridge) and went out much the same (two-for-eight in their Pac-12 Tournament loss to UCLA). While you have to give credit to Jones for bringing his lunch pail to work every day (he played in every game, only once played less than 30 minutes and 12 times played 40 or more on his way to playing 94.7% of his team’s minutes), there just came a time when you wished that lunchpail didn’t always include something like a four-for-14 sandwich. But, given the dearth of offensive weapons for the offense and O’Neill’s insistence that Jones keep bombing away, it’s hard to blame him for trying.

Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Was A Constant For The Trojans, But Was Typically Inefficient (Brendan Hui, Daily Trojan)

What Went Right

Well. The season did end. Eventually. After a school-worst 6-26 record that included one win in the final 20 games.

MVP

As teammates fell by the wayside around him, freshman wing Byron Wesley stepped up his game scoring in double figures in 11 of the final 13 games and averaging 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds over that stretch while establishing himself as one of the best defenders on the team. And, like Jones, he was an ironman for the team, playing in 85.8% of his team’s minutes.

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Morning Five: 01.20.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 20th, 2012

  1. The strange transfer drama around Todd O’Brien appears to have come to an unsatisfying end as he received the official rejection of his appeal for a graduate student transfer late on Wednesday. This does not appear to be any different than the previous rejections as the NCAA continues to reiterate its stance that the decision by Saint Joseph’s not to support the transfer factored in the NCAA’s decision. Since nothing seems to be changing in this story as the school refuses to comment on the situation citing privacy laws despite O’Brien’s insistence that he would waive his rights it seems like the school will continue to take a big PR hit and face the consequences on the recruiting trail. If the school does have a legitimate reason for blocking the transfer, one would assume they would want to get their story out there even if it was leaked through anonymous sources talking to a reputable media organization. Seriously, someone at St. Joe’s e-mail us and we will pretend it was an anonymous source.
  2. Unlike O’Brien DePaul junior forward Tony Freeland will be granted a release for his transfer. Freeland announced yesterday that he would be transferring to a school near Los Angeles to help tend to his ailing grandmother. Freeland, who has been sidelined this season after undergoing shoulder surgery, averaged 9.6 points and five rebounds per game as a sophomore. Despite his injury, he should have plenty of interest from teams in the LA area looking for a solid interior player with Big East experience and two more years of eligibility remaining.
  3. Speaking of forwards in the LA area, USC junior forward Aaron Fuller is expected to miss the rest of the season as he will undergo surgery on his left shoulder next week. Fuller has been one of the bright spots averaging 10.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game for a Trojan team that that has been underwhelming to put it kindly. Fuller, a transfer from Iowa, has done this while playing with a torn labrum in his left (shooting) shoulder. As we mentioned yesterday, we didn’t think that the Pac-12 could get much worse, but it continues to find ways to top itself.
  4. In this week’s edition of his power rankings, Luke Winn examines the relative chances of Syracuse and Murray State going undefeated as well as a variety of topics. The undefeated discussion goes about the way you would expect, but some other areas such as the statistics on blocked shots by Anthony Davis and Jeff Withey may surprise quite a few people. As always it is a great read and we guarantee that if you read his power rankings you will come away having learned something that you didn’t know before (assuming you aren’t some college basketball sabermetric guru).
  5. Is there a storm brewing in the ESPN college basketball family? According to some sources it appears that Jay Bilas is not a fan of Andy Katz based on a tweet that Bilas sent out after Katz made a mistake on-air. While we have no knowledge of their relationship firsthand we have spoken with both at games and they seem very friendly as individuals. In truth, this really isn’t a major news story (nearly every major company has some petty bickering among high-level employees), but it is a slow news day and makes for some amusing discussion.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012

  1. It’s that time of the year when injuries start to play a bigger role for teams around the country. This week we’ve talked about injuries to C.J. Wilcox (hip stress fracture, out this weekend), Brandon Smith (due back from a concussion tonight), Mychal Ladd (thumb injury, doubtful this weekend) and Trent Lockett (sprained ankle, doubtful). But as of yet, we haven’t mentioned USC’s Aaron Fuller, who is dealing with a labral tear in his left shoulder. Given that he is a lefty, this is a nearly debilitating injury and he is considering undergoing season-ending surgery as early as next week. It remains to be seen whether Fuller will play this weekend in Oregon, but given that he is easily USC’s best offensive player, losing him could made an already terrible offensive team even less potent.
  2. Speaking of USC, it’s no secret that Trojan fans are frustrated with their team’s 0-5 conference start and generally atrocious offensive play. Head coach Kevin O’Neill is frustrated too. And, while he is trying to keep this team focused on this season, he thinks he should have a good team on his hands next near. Not only will all of these current Trojan players have an extra year of experience under their belts (and guys like freshmen Byron Wesley and Alexis Moore and sophomore DeWayne Dedmon could sure use them), he expects to have point guard Jio Fontan back from his ACL injury, along with transfers Ari Stewart and J.T. Terrell, both from Wake Forest, and Eric Wise, from UC Irvine.
  3. Tying up a few loose ends, we talked about Richard Solomon’s academic ineligibility and Josh Watkins’ dismissal from Utah yesterday, but thought we’d also pass along some information from the local media on both situations. For Solomon, there isn’t a whole lot to report; he just didn’t make grades, but head coach Mike Montgomery hopes he can patch up those problems and return next season. For Watkins, it’s another story. All indications are that he is a good kid, but head coach Larry Krystkowiak just couldn’t ignore the “accountability issues” with Watkins any longer. He reportedly missed practice again on Monday, and after Krystkowiak had laid down a “zero tolerance” policy following a blowout loss to Colorado on New Year’s Eve, Watkins had to go. Krystkowiak said he hopes Watkins continues at Utah and receives his degree, and I’m sure he does, not just for Watkins’ sake, but for the sake of Utah’s graduation rates that will be in the garbage following all of the recent transfers out of the program.
  4. Washington has a big weekend ahead of it, what with conference-leading California and Stanford headed into Seattle for battles with first place on the lane. And in the midst of that atmosphere, it is possible that freshman forward (and starting tight end on the Husky football team) Austin Seferian-Jenkins could see his first action for the basketball team this weekend, although nothing is set in stone yet. Head coach Lorenzo Romar also confirmed that senior forward Darnell Gant would continue coming off the bench for the Huskies, with center Aziz N’Diaye and forward Desmond Simmons continuing to start up front.
  5. Lastly, we turn our attention to UCLA, who has won three straight games after starting 0-2 in conference play. Bruin players like David Wear and Tyler Lamb attribute the turnaround to a renewed emphasis on defensive intensity, with players taking pride in getting stops and learning to play as a team on that end. While UCLA has held its opponents to just 40.3% shooting from the field over the course of the winning streak, their trip to Oregon this weekend should present a much bigger challenge.
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Pac-12 Reset As Conference Play Tips Off Tonight

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

Yesterday we looked back at non-conference play and picked out some of the highlights of the first couple months of the season. Today, as conference play gets ready to tip-off, we look forward to what we expect to happen from here until Selection Sunday. Prior to the start of the season, we took a guess at things like conference standings and All-Pac-12 teams based on limited information. Now, we’ve got twelve or thirteen games upon which to base our next set of guesses, but given the state of affairs in the conference so far, may be no closer to having a good idea what is going to happen from here on out than we were back in November. Nevertheless, here goes:

Projected Standings

  1. California 13-5 – While every team in the conference is flawed, the Golden Bears are slightly less flawed than the rest, provided Richard Solomon can return from his injury, Harper Kamp can remain relatively healthy and freshman David Kravish continues to improve. Their quartet of guards (Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Brandon Smith) is the best in the league and head coach Mike Montgomery has a way of squeezing every bit of production out of his players.

    Mike Montgomery, California

    With Mike Montgomery At The Helm And A Talented Backcourt, The Golden Bears Are The Slight Favorite In The Pac-12 (photo credit: Christine Cotter)

  2. Stanford 12-6Johnny Dawkins’ team will prove it is for real, but it may not have the experience or the single elite player capable of scoring with confidence in clutch situations to actually win the title. Chasson Randle or even Dwight Powell could grow into that type of player, but it may be a year or more away from happening. The Cardinal travel to Berkeley on the final day of the regular season in what could be a game rife with title implications.
  3. Arizona 12-6 – It seems like everybody is just waiting for Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson to turn it on, take over this team and turn the Wildcats into an explosive offensive force. They’re talented enough to make that happen, but 13 games into the season, it is looking like Solomon Hill, Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry are going to have to continue as the go-to guys for Sean Miller. And while those guys are nice players, they are all more suited to the role of contributors rather than stars, at least on teams who hope to win a conference title. However, the fact that the Wildcats only have to play Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon once each is definitely a bonus.
  4. Oregon State 11-7Craig Robinson’s has an exciting and young squad that may have only scratched the surface of its talent so far. However, given their history of losing games that they have no business losing, they’ve got to be in the same “prove-it” category that Stanford occupies. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the quintet of Ahmad Starks, Jared Cunningham, Devon Collier, Joe Burton and Angus Brandt turns itself to be the most talented starting five in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
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