Pac-12 Player of the Year and All-Conference Teams

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 10th, 2014

Before we announce our Player of the Year and our all-Pac-12 Teams, a quick note on our methodology here — we had each of our three voters – Andrew Murawa, Connor Pelton, and Adam Butler – rank their top 15 players in the conference and awarded points to each player based on those votes (1st place vote =15 points, 2nd place =14, etc.). Normally, when putting together an all-conference team, we’d make an effort to balance our team by position, with either three guards and two frontcourt players on each team, or vice versa. But in this season’s guard-heavy conference we didn’t get a lot of frontcourt votes, which is why you’ll see a five-guard first team when you scroll down. As for our Player of the Year voting, it was simple enough. The player with the most points in our all-conference balloting was our Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Player of the Year

Nick Johnson, Junior, Arizona – As expected, it came down to a close two-man race for Player of the Year, but Johnson squeaked out the win by one point over UCLA sophomore Kyle Anderson. Johnson is not only the leading scorer on the Wildcats, he is also their key defensive catalyst. As Adam Butler wrote justifying his vote for Johnson over Anderson: “Nick Johnson was the most critical player on the best team in the conference. As he went, the Wildcats went and more often than not (see 28-3), Nick Johnson played well. Nay, great.” To look at it the other way, compare Johnson’s performance in the three Arizona losses to their 28 wins. In those three losses, Johnson averaged fewer than 10 points per game on 23.9% eFG; in the wins, he posted a 50.8% eFG on his way to 16.8 points per win.

Nick Johnson's Prowess On Both Ends Of The Court For The Conference's Best Team Earns Him The RTC Pac-12 Player of the Year (Christian Petersen)

Nick Johnson’s Prowess On Both Ends Of The Court For The Conference’s Best Team Earns Him The RTC Pac-12 Player of the Year (Christian Petersen)

All-Conference

First Team

  • Nick Johnson, Junior, Arizona (16.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
  • Kyle Anderson, Sophomore, UCLA (14.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 6.6 APG, 1.7 SPG, 48% 3FG) – The versatile Anderson has been one of the nation’s most improved players, registering as not only a terrific play-maker but an elite rebounding  guard.
  • Delon Wright, Junior, Utah (16.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.6 SPG, 1.3 SPG, 59.7% eFG) – The junior college transfer came out of nowhere to become arguably the most versatile player in the conference – if not the most versatile in the nation. These three players were almost unanimously the top three players in the conference this season.
  • Justin Cobbs, Senior, California (15.6 PPG, 5.8 APG) – Cobbs ranked no higher than fifth but no lower than eighth on any of the three ballots, a consistency which earned him a first-team all-conference spot.
  • Roberto Nelson, Senior, Oregon State (20.6 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.6 RPG) – Nelson was in the top five on two of three ballots, but was left completely off of a third (ahem, Butler). He still had enough votes to sneak on to the first team.

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Arizona and Arizona State: Heading In Different Directions?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 19th, 2014

With Friday night’s defeat to its intrastate rival, Arizona has now lost two of its last four games, not to mention one on their best players to injury for the season. Meanwhile, Arizona State has won six of its last seven; the Sun Devils are another good week away from probably being ranked in the Top 25; and they have senior center Jordan Bachynski playing the best ball of his career with a great second scoring option in Jermaine Marshall. So, the story is easy then, right? Arizona State appears to be ready to peak just in time for March, while Arizona is dead in the water. Is there any truth to both of those easy takeaways? The short answer is “not necessarily, but…” We’ll get to the longer answers below.

Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State

Not Only Is Jordan Bachynski An Elite Rim Protector, But He’s Developed Into A Fine Offensive Center. (US Presswire)

By virtue of its big win on Friday, Arizona State has earned the right to have its status assessed first. Let’s start with the reasons to be suspicious of the Sun Devils. The main reason is certainly one you would not have expected at the start of the season, but it is the play of sophomore point guard Jahii Carson, which has been… sketchy, to say the least. He’s a serious baller capable of being the best point guard in the nation, but right now the Arizona State offense — especially in important possessions at the end of close games — consists of Carson dribbling away the majority of the shot clock on empty forays before creating something very late. The Sun Devils’ attempt at the end of regulation when Carson wasted the entire clock, then jumped in the air to seemingly attempt a jumper, only to decide better of it and toss the ball to Marshall for an even worse look, was just the latest in Carson’s late-game one-on-one antics. There is no reason for this. Certainly you want to give him some opportunities to create off the bounce because he can be spectacular when he does so, but priority one in the half-court (important distinction, because the Sun Devils should always be looking to force tempo and get transition hoops when Carson is in the game) should be finding good offense, either working inside-out through Bachynski, or running Marshall and Jonathan Gilling off screens around the perimeter. Until Carson’s hero-ball tendencies get shelved for the season, there will be some reason to remain suspicious of the Sun Devils.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.17.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 17th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. With wins over Marquette, Colorado, California, and Arizona, Arizona State and head coach Herb Sendek think the Sun Devils are an NCAA Tournament team. They currently boast a Top 30 RPI rank, putting them on the right side of the bubble at the moment. The schedule doesn’t get any easier, however, after topping second-ranked Arizona. Four of their final six regular season games will be played away from Tempe, and the two at home are both against teams that currently sit in the top half of the Pac-12 standings.
  2. Oregon used two huge separate runs of 20-2 and 12-3 to propel itself to a Civil War victory on Sunday afternoon against Oregon State, keeping the Ducks slim hopes of dancing alive. The Ducks came out white hot, hitting their first seven attempts from behind the three-point arc. The Beavers did a good job of battling back to keep the game tight but could never get the deficit to below two. 
  3. Oregon is currently not even in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament following its 4-8 start to Pac-12 play, but that can change with a 5-1 finish to the season. Arizona is still a #1 seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of Bracketology, but the Wildcats need to show that they can win on the road without Brandon Ashley in order to stay there. UCLA is the second highest ranked team in the conference, coming in as a #6 seed, and in an interesting twist, the #10 seed line is chalk full with Pac-12 teams. ColoradoArizona StateCalifornia, and Stanford are all ten seeds in Lunardi’s projections, with the Buffaloes being listed as one of the last four teams to receive a bye.
  4. The Buffs dropped four out of their first five games after losing their best player, Spencer Dinwiddie, to a torn ACL on January 12 at Washington. Since then, however, Colorado has turned the tables and won four of its last five games, lifting them to the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Andy McDonnell takes a look at how it is settling into life without Dinwiddie in this piece. The Buffaloes have had to rely on some young guys, namely forwards Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson, to get back to their winning ways, and the production will need to continue this week against the Arizona schools.
  5. This feature takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon, who is widely projected as a lottery pick for the 2014 NBA draft. The praise comes despite some massive struggles from three-point range and the free throw line, where the forward is shooting at 30 and 40% clips, respectively. His strong defensive fundamentals and high athleticism more than make up for his recent shooting struggles in the eyes of professional scouts, however, and as long as he continues to work on his shot, he will be selected high in late June.
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#rushthetrip Day Two: Exhilaration and Apprehension as McKale Center Watches Cats Escape

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 7th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

West of Lawrence, Kansas, there may be no better home court than either of the two I visited to start this trip. The folks at UCLA, Gonzaga and Utah State might all have reasonable gripes (especially Bruins fans) with that assertion, but back-to-back nights at The Pit and McKale Center is about as good as college basketball can get. Some 450 miles separate the two universities, so six hours of driving (which included a successful journey through Truth or Consequences, New Mexico) brought me to Tucson to watch Arizona host Oregon.

There's No Doubt About It -- Arizona's McKale Center Is One Of College Hoops' Grandest Stages

There’s No Doubt About It — Arizona’s McKale Center Is One Of College Hoops’ Grandest Stages

The obvious storyline entering last night’s game was how the Wildcats would bounce back from not only their first loss of the season, but also the season-ending injury suffered last weekend by Brandon Ashley. Not surprisingly, the hoops-savvy McKale faithful were keyed in on Ashley’s absence (and its impact) throughout the evening. It began in pregame warmups, when Ashley’s crutch-waving at midcourt fomented the student section into a moderate frenzy, and continued when his replacement in the starting lineup, freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, received the loudest ovation of any Wildcat during introductions.

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Who Won the Week? Two Undefeated Teams, But Certainly Not The Third…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on February 7th, 2014

wonweek

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Wichita State

Cleanthony Early was outstanding for the Shockers. (AP)

Cleanthony Early was outstanding this week for the Shockers. (AP)

The nation’s winningest team cleared its toughest conference hurdle Wednesday night in defeating Indiana State in Terre Haute, led by senior forward Cleanthony Early’s 19 points. From here on, the Shockers have better than 50 percent odds to go undefeated in the regular season, according to KenPom.com, and about 35 percent odds to make it to the NCAA Tournament unblemished. Wichita State’s reign over the Missouri Valley has been so strong this year that only two teams – Missouri State and Indiana State – have even finished within 10 points of them. Tomorrow’s game at Northern Iowa is the toughest remaining tilt for the Shockers, which also sandblasted Evansville 81-67 last Saturday.

(Related winners: Gregg Marshall, whose stock will never be higher, even if he never wants to leave; the Missouri Valley, which is certain to get some more NCAA Tournament win shares, even without Creighton in the conference. Related losers: Indiana State, the MVC”s second-best team, which probably has to win Arch Madness to make the NCAAs; Evansville, perpetually anonymous in purple.)

LOSER: Arizona

Of the triumvirate of teams that came into last weekend undefeated, only two came out unscathed. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they weren’t one of them. Their road trip to California, the toughest game left on their schedule at that point, turned out to be undone by a last-second jumper from Golden Bears’ guard Justin Cobbs over center Kaleb Tarczewski, giving Cal a 60-58 win. That news was bad enough, but worse was what came after — that sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, a starter, had broken his foot during the game and would be out for the season. In Thursday’s 67-65 win over Oregon, Arizona looked disjointed offensively and saw star freshman Aaron Gordon injure his leg in a game in which he made just 2-of-11 free throws. The Wildcats actually trailed the disintegrating Ducks with just 90 seconds left before point guard T.J. McConnell made a three-pointer that gave them the lead for good. Sean Miller only played seven players, even accounting for Gordon’s injury, and its lack of depth could be problematic should more injuries arise or should fouls accumulate. It’s a shame to see this happen because a full-strength Arizona team looked to be head and shoulders above all but a few others around the country.

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One Game In: Doom and Gloom For the New Arizona?

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on February 7th, 2014

It was Arizona’s first night without Brandon Ashley. While the rest of these Wildcats have spent three months playing with each other, make no mistake — this is the equivalent of a brand new team out there. Minus Ashley, the overwhelming frontcourt advantage that Arizona sported has been lessened; the defensive philosophy has changed; the end-game scenarios now feature as many negatives as positives; and the whole chemistry of the team is different. Really, this is back to exhibition season for the Wildcats; these guys are starting all over.

The New Arizona Team is 1-0, But There Are Concerns (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

The New Arizona Team is 1-0, But There Are Concerns (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

First, while we originally thought guys like Jordin Mayes and Matt Korcheck would see increased roles, neither player took off his warm-ups against Oregon; rather, it was freshman Elliott Pitts who stepped in and played 12 generally solid minutes. Prior to last night, Pitts had played a grand total of six minutes in Pac-12 play: three in mop-up duty in a blowout over Arizona State, and then three more against Cal on Saturday night. His inclusion in the seven-man rotation signals a shift in style; where once this team was predicated on dominating the front line, now you’re going to see Arizona play more three-guard lineups. Pitts brings good energy and what looks like a confident three-point stroke, but at this point in his career, he’s a replacement-level player. Another ripple from the Ashley injury is that it appears Gabe York – a fine player, yes – will shift from a guy earning minute totals somewhere in the mid-teens to the mid-20s. Nothing against York at all, but he’s a significant step down from Ashley’s production. Both of these guys are going to improve and Arizona is going to get used to playing with them in their rotation, but basically it boils down to this: Brandon Ashley’s 28 minutes per game are going to be shifted to about 12 minutes per game for Pitts, maybe eight extra minutes for York, and then eight extra minutes split between Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon.

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Pac-12 Weekend Round-Up: Arizona, Justin Cobbs, Hallice Cooke and More…

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 3rd, 2014

What a great sports weekend, am I right? There were 10 Pac-12 basketball games since last Wednesday and eight of them were decided by two possessions or fewer. The #1 team in the nation went down. Outside of the Pac-12, the #2 team survived by the skin of its teeth in overtime. Wichita State and San Diego State continued highly successful (and improbable) seasons. I’m sure there were even some sporting events that didn’t involve basketball, too. Maybe. But before we let the weekend get behind us, let’s spend some time to look back at several of the important things we learned in this week of Pac-12 basketball. Because if you hold a blink a beat too long, the next time you open your eyes, we’re going to be in the middle of conference tournaments. Yes, this season is getting away from us. It’s now February, and every conference school has finished half of its conference slate. And despite all that, we’ve still got more questions than ever.

Brandon Ashley Is Done For the Year, But Arizona Still Has Plenty Of Talent (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Brandon Ashley Is Done For the Year, But Arizona Still Has Plenty Of Talent (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

  • First, Arizona. The Wildcats took their first loss on Saturday night to Cal (and in the process assured that the 1972-73 UCLA squad will remain the last team to go through conference play without a loss), then took an even worse loss on Sunday when it was confirmed that sophomore power forward Brandon Ashley is done for the season with a broken foot. That doesn’t make things any rosier for the Wildcats’ long-term outlook, but there were more than a handful of things from Saturday night’s game that should give Arizona fans plenty of hope. First, as much as junior point guard T.J. McConnell has earned props for his ability to run an offense, contribute defensively and just intangible his way into Arizona fans’ hearts, he hadn’t displayed much of an ability to help out by putting the ball through the hoop. But in a couple of close recent games, he averaged 12 points per night and showed a willingness to get his own when it was appropriate. Hopefully fans across the nation are starting to see just how good this guy is. He’s like Aaron Craft-lite with perhaps a bit more offense. Read the rest of this entry »
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Brandon Ashley’s Foot Injury and the Long-Term Impact on Arizona

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 2nd, 2014

Arizona lost late Saturday night at California; you probably know that by now. With Syracuse’s win over Duke that kept the Orange undefeated, the Wildcats will likely drop out of the top spot in the national polls for the first time in months (a move which is fated even if it isn’t necessarily mandatory – we’ll get to this point briefly at the bottom of the post). But a single tough road conference loss on the first weekend in February is absolutely nothing to worry about. What is very much something to worry about is the fact that the Wildcats played the final 38 minutes of that game on Saturday night without Brandon Ashley. According to postgame comments by head coach Sean Miller, Ashley landed awkwardly on his foot and things do not look good. Expectations are that x-rays will reveal it is broken, with the severity of the break the only difference between Ashley certainly being done for the year or possibly back in action at less than 100 percent sometime in March. Much like Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury last month, this sucks.

Official Word Is Still Pending, But Brandon Ashley May Be Done For the Year

Official Word Is Still Pending, But Brandon Ashley May Be Done For the Year

Ashley is the team’s third-leading scorer and rebounder, the starting forward who, down the stretch of tight games, has proven himself to be the team’s second-best option to get hoops. He can score in and around the paint; he can step out and hit the mid-range jumper; he’s a good and willing passer; he’s a load on the screen-and-roll or pick-and-pop; and he’s good at drawing fouls and a capable shooter once there, stroking better than 75 percent from the line. And all of that is without even getting into his defense. His long arms and quick feet help Arizona switch on just about everything; he can bang with big guys down low or harass wings on the perimeter. In short, this is not the type of guy you can replace on the fly in the middle of the season. And given the fact that Miller has more or less been rolling out a seven-man rotation all season, it’s not like there is experienced depth ready to slide into his spot.

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The Annotated Bill Walton: Arizona at Stanford Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 30th, 2014

The Bill Walton Experience has become a regular happening during Pac-12 conference games over the past two seasons. And, while the brash and talkative legend can run some people the wrong way, his commentary during games contains references to classical and pop history, the collected wisdom of one of the handful of the greatest basketball players of all time, and more than a couple off-handed Grateful Dead references – along with a handful of other comments that defy reasonable explanation. For those of you who may not get many of his references, below we’ll take a look at some of Walton’s best comments from Wednesday night’s Arizona/Stanford game and give some backstory to them, when needed.

Bill Walton's Pac-12 Commentary Has Become Must-Watch TV (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

Bill Walton’s Pac-12 Commentary Has Become Must-Watch TV (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

For your listening pleasure while reading, I suggest a little Grateful Dead accompaniment, such as the only time the Dead played at Maples Pavilion: 2/9/73, a classic in Grateful Dead lore. While you can’t go wrong anywhere here, maybe skip ahead to Playin’ in the Band or China Cat Sunflower->I Know You Rider.

First half:

18:32 – “This is a really good team. If they had been able to beat UCLA 10 days ago in a game that they just got pushed around in Pauley Pavilion, it would have been outstanding for Johnny Dawkins.”

Comment: Not a great start for Grateful Red. “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts…”

16:20 – In response to straight man Dave Pasch’s questions about what he did yesterday: “I had a grand time. I went to church – Memorial Church yesterday and prayed for your salvation.”

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Pac-12 M5: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 29th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Pac-12 play gets back underway tonight with the Arizona schools visiting the Bay Area. And that means Arizona freshman forward and prized recruit Aaron Gordon is making his return to his old high school stomping grounds, where he played at Archbishop Mitty. As he was in high school, Gordon remains a coach’s dream in college, a hard-working, versatile player that is a great teammate who is always improving. Cal head coach Mike Montgomery, who was among the coaches hot in pursuit of Gordon’s commitment, joined Arizona head coach Sean Miller in praising Gordon’s ability. But, more importantly for the Wildcat’s season than one player’s return home is the chance to again prove their mettle in tough conference road games.
  2. As for California, tonight they host Arizona State in an attempt to get back on track. But the Sun Devils provide significant and diverse challenges for the Golden Bears. First, along the frontline, Richard Solomon will need to continue his strong play as he matches up mostly against the Sun Devils’ senior center Jordan Bachynski who has four inches on him. And then in the backcourt, senior point guard Justin Cobbs may have the experience edge on Arizona State’s sparkplug Jahii Carson, but Carson’s got the clear quickness advantage. And, as always when the nation’s #1 team is up next, the Golden Bears need to make sure they’re not looking ahead to Saturday against Arizona.
  3. Good news everyone! Washington State junior guard DaVonte Lacy may return as early as this weekend when they host Washington on Saturday. Lacy has had a rough 2014 so far, missing time following surgery to remove his appendix, returning for 11 minutes and then injring his ribs. And, without their best scorer and leader, the Cougars have been, well, just awful. While it remains to be seen if he’ll actually play on Saturday or possibly wait until next week, it will likely take some time for him to get back to full strength. And until he is back at full strength, the Cougs really don’t have much of a chance to compete on a regular basis. But, assuming he’s back to full strength by March, and assuming Que Johnson’s time in the spotlight has been put to good use, there’s a chance these guys are talented enough to spring an upset on day one of the Pac-12 Tournament. Maybe not a good chance, but a chance.
  4. Tomorrow night, Oregon gets a chance to build upon its win over Washington State last weekend by protecting its homecourt against the invaders from UCLA. While the Ducks shut down the Cougars defensively on Sunday, holding them to 44 points (0.73 points per possession), the Bruins offer a whole different challenge, with talented offensive players up and down their rotation. After the up-tempo Ducks allowed 80 points or more in five consecutive games prior to the Washington State matchup, they welcome in the Bruins, who have scored at least 69 points in every game this year and 80 or more in 12 out of their 20. With both teams in the top 20 in the nation in shortest offensive possession length and with KenPom.com projecting a final score in the upper-80s, this may well be one of the most enticing conference games of the season.
  5. Lastly, yuck. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to do this at all. It has been an emerging policy at least among RTC Pac-12 writers to ignore Bruins Nation, a UCLA “fan” site that has repeatedly shown an ignorance about basic basketball strategy and is a shining beacon in the world of applying actual events to pre-determined narratives, no matter how silly those applications turn out to be. Given that there are so many better sources for news and opinion about UCLA basketball, there is no reason to usher people in the direction of the TMZ of UCLA basketball coverage. But, in the spirit of comedy, they outdid themselves on Tuesday, suggesting that one of the reasons that freshman guard Zach LaVine (regularly projected as a lottery or border-line lottery selection in the 2014 NBA Draft) may be considering entering the draft following this season is because head coach Steve Alford is playing favorites and will hand the point guard position next year (assuming, safely, that Kyle Anderson is NBA-bound) to his son Bryce Alford, regardless of the competition. Now, we’re not actually going to link to this Onion-esque bit of prose (which, among other things, suggests that LaVine, third on the team in minutes this year, might still be relegated to the bench next season if Anderson leaves), but suffice it to say that this is odd, at best. Right now, without any bit of doubt whatsoever, Alford is the team’s second-best point guard. LaVine is terrific off the ball (seriously, coming off a solid screen and squaring up to get a good look at the hoop from deep, there are very few more fearsome shooters in the nation), but has shown an inability to create for himself or others with anything more than one or two dribbles, and is loose with his handle. He’s a terrific pro prospect because of his athleticism, ridiculous upside and potential to improve those glaring weaknesses. And if he winds up forgoing his final three years of eligibility, it is entirely because he is likely to get paid handsomely for such an opportunity. Either way, while he may well develop into a point guard in time, right now, he would struggle running the point – he’s an attacking wing in transition and a deadly catch-and-shoot guy. But the idea that the criminally-underrated Alford is only receiving playing time because his dad has a soft spot in his heart for him indicates a writer who has decided not to spend any time actually watching UCLA basketball.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.24.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 24th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Utah hasn’t been to an NCAA Tournament since the 2008-09 season, but a couple of solid wins and a few near-misses against good teams has fans wondering if it is again emerging as a basketball school. Coach Larry Krystkowiak has certainly changed the culture and attitude around the program. Fan interest is growing; the Huntsman Center rocks for big games; and losing is no longer expected in Salt Lake City. It’s going to take more than a couple signature wins to regain the title of a real hoops school, but Krystkowiak definitely has the program headed in the right direction.
  2. With Arizona now sitting at 19-0 and still ranked #1 in the country, Tucson, or Lob Pueblo, is becoming the focus of the college basketball nation. Star freshman forward Aaron Gordon is rolling along with the stardom that goes along with his team’s success, going about his business and not letting it affect his on-court performance. The freshman is second on the team in with 12.4 PPG and first in rebounds at a 7.8 RPG clip. This ESPN feature on Gordon details his life as a child and what comes next for himself and the Gordon family, and also reveals the great tidbit that Aaron was born as an ice hockey player. Next up for his undefeated Wildcats is a visit from Utah on Sunday night.
  3. Arizona was in action last night in an ESPN2 game against Colorado, and the Cats picked up another quality win in front of a big audience. The Buffaloes struggled once again without Spencer Dinwiddie available, falling behind Arizona, 18-4, six minutes into the game. The Buffaloes actually outscored Arizona from that point on, but the hole was too deep and the final was 69-57. Wildcat guard Nick Johnson led all scorers with 18 points.
  4. If UCLA wants to be back in the polls on Monday morning it needs to get sophomore guard Jordan Adams some cleaner looks and Adams needs to convert when given the opportunity. The Bruins’ leading scorer has not scored at or above his average since January 5, and in that time frame he has only shot 31 percent from the field. “He’s a great shooter. We’ve got to work the offense to get him better shots,” head coach Steve Alford said. Long offensive droughts hurt UCLA mightily in its losses against Arizona and Utah, and those need to come to a halt if the Bruins are to contend for a Pac-12 title.
  5. With roughly one and a half months remaining in the season, we thought it would be a good time to start up our basketball pick’em contest. Adam Butler from Pachoops will join us through the end of the year in our prognostications, and important bragging rights are on the line. Each week we will also highlight the top game of the weekend, with a correct pick being worth two wins, and an incorrect selection worth two losses. We head to Los Angeles for that game this week, where UCLA will host in-state rival California.
Game Connor (0-0) Drew (0-0) Adam (0-0)
Oregon State at Washington Washington Oregon State Oregon State
Colorado at Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Colorado
Stanford at USC Stanford Stanford Stanford
Oregon at Washington State Oregon Oregon Oregon
Utah at Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
California at UCLA UCLA California UCLA
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Pac-12 M5: 01.17.14 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. We’re now two and a half weeks into conference play (my god, these seasons fly by don’t they) and California is inarguably the hottest team in the conference, out to a 4-0 start in league play with three of those wins coming on the road. And our friend Adam Butler of Pachoops.com points to senior big man Richard Solomon’s increased efficiency as a key for the Golden Bears’ emergence. He’s even got a pretty little chart correlating Solomon’s shots at the rim with his offensive efficiency over the past three seasons. And while Solomon is surely improved, some credit has to go to his fellow senior – point guard Justin Cobbs – for putting more emphasis on finding Solomon at the rim as opposed to his primary target last season, Allen Crabbe on the wing. Either way, there is more than enough credit to go around up in Berkeley (more evidence – check out John McLamb’s praise for the Cal bench in the comments section) and with Washington State on tap this weekend, and a road trip to USC next Wednesday, there is every reason to believe the Bears will be 6-0 when they play at UCLA next Sunday. Drool…
  2. Across the bay, Stanford may be starting to play some good ball. After squeezing by Oregon in a well-played game last weekend, the Cardinal returned home and laid a hurting on an overmatched Washington State team on Wednesday night. Which is good, because that’s the type of thing this team should be doing. They had four guys in double-figures (with leading scorer Chasson Randle playing distributor) on their way to a 32-point win, but need to prove they’re capable of stringing together victories in the multiple before they’re really taken seriously. Nevertheless, they’ve found their way into NCAA Tournament conversations, sneaking into Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracket as one of the last four teams in.
  3. Oregon and Oregon State will get it on Sunday afternoon while most of the rest of the country will be focusing in on an NFL Playoff game. But if you’re interested in excitement, minus all that pesky defense that just gets in the way, this might be your game. As Andrew Greif of The Oregonian points out, according to Sports-Reference.com (and we’ll have to take Greif’s word for this as I am not double-checking his facts), seven of the 20 worst Pac-12 defenders over the last four seasons will be playing in this game. Names like Jonathan Loyd, Roberto Nelson, Jason Calliste, Challe Barton and Angus Brandt are no surprise – Loyd’s height makes him a liability; the next three are completely uninterested in defense; and Brandt has all the mobility of a statue. But first and third on that bottom 20 list are OSU freshman Malcolm Duvivier and sophomore Langston Morris-Walker. This is a crime. Neither of those guys has any right to be on such a list unless they just aren’t trying. In which case, neither of those guys brings enough to the table offensively to deserve a crack at the court.
  4. In advance of the bouncyball version of the Civil War, Craig Robinson took the time to offer some pointed comments regarding the current state of NCAA transfer rules. Robinson called the rules unfair to smaller schools and passive-aggressively commented about how he didn’t know how to “go out and poach guys when you really aren’t supposed to be able to talk to them.” Given Dana Altman’s success with transfers down the way in Eugene, clearly such comments can’t be taken as anything other than a direct reference to the Ducks. Altman, of course, defended his program, saying that all of the senior transfers who have wound up choosing Oregon have done so after those players had first initiated the contact with the school.
  5. Lastly, Doug Haller’s Pac-12 Insider column at AZCentral.com is one of the best things covering the conference. This week, he looks at the opportunities for Arizona high school players Jaron Hopkins and Que Johnson to step up in place of injured starters, and also points out that Aaron Gordon, per hoop-math.com, leads the Pac-12 in putbacks. Want to know how dominant the Arizona front line is on the offensive glass? Gordon’s teammate Brandon Ashley is third in the conference with 23 himself. Put it this way (bonus analysis!): Gordon and Ashley between them have more putbacks than more than 160 Division I teams, including Utah (50), Stanford (46), Oregon State (43), and Arizona State (34). For what it’s worth, Kansas, a team with comparable size and athleticism to Arizona, has a total of 37 putbacks. For the entire team, the Wildcats have a total of 84 putbacks!
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