Big Ten Tournament: The Future Looks Bright For Illinois

Posted by Walker Carey on March 13th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday’s first round Big Ten Tournament game between Illinois and Indiana in Indianapolis.

Both Illinois and Indiana entered Thursday afternoon’s match-up with winning the conference tournament as their only hope of earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament, so Illinois’ 64-54 victory might be viewed as a ticket to play top-seeded Michigan in the quarterfinals on Friday. While true at some level, it’s misleading at another — Illinois showed in today’s win through a variety of signs that it will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten as soon as next season. The player of the game for the Illini on Thursday afternoon was junior guard Tracy Abrams. Abrams, who entered the game averaging 10.5 points per contest, exploded for a game-high 25 points (17 of which came in the second half). The Chicago native also showcased his ability to hit big shots by nailing a huge three-pointer with 2:06 to play that increased the Illini’s lead to four and all but secured the victory, as Indiana scored just two more points over the remainder of the game.

Abrams and the Illini Appear to Have a Bright Future (B.Tse)

Abrams and the Illini Appear to Have a Bright Future (B.Tse)

While Abrams led the charge in the scoring column for Illinois, John Groce’s squad also received contributions from several other underclassmen. Junior big man Nnanna Egwu was limited offensively – he managed just two points on 1-of-8 shooting – but he found a way to impact the game in other facets by collecting seven rebounds and blocking five shots. Redshirt junior guard Rayvonte Rice added 13 points and helped key the defensive effort that forced Indiana into an 0-of-10 performance from behind the arc in the second half. Freshmen guards Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn showed a bit of why John Groce felt comfortable inserting them into the starting lineup back in early February. Hill finished Thursday’s win with eight points and four rebounds, while showcasing his outside shooting prowess by knocking down both of his three-point attempts. Nunn added 10 points to the winning effort and was primarily responsible for the outstanding defensive effort on Indiana star guard Yogi Ferrell. Ferrell finished the afternoon just 3-of-13 from the field and 2-of-9 from three.

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Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: Oregon and Oregon State

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 9th, 2013

October is here, and that means we are just weeks away from real, live basketball games. In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’re going to break down all 12 non-conference slates over the next couple of weeks. Up next; the Oregon schools.

Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.

Oregon

Dana Altman's Oregon Team Is On The Rise, But They Have A Few Tests To Handle Before Pac-12 Play Begins In January. (credit: Alex Brandon)

Dana Altman’s Oregon Team Is On The Rise, But They Have A Few Tests To Handle Before Pac-12 Play Begins In January. (credit: Alex Brandon)

Cream of the Crop: vs Georgetown (11), vs Illinois (40)

Oregon has managed to get two high profile, neutral site games on its non-conference schedule. The Ducks will face Georgetown on opening night at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, in a game to be televised by ESPN. The Hoyas finished 2012-13 with a 25-7 record and notched six victories over Top 25 opponents. Of course, the last time we saw Georgetown, it was getting dunked all over by Florida Gulf Coast in an NCAA Tournament opener. Oregon’s second marquee opponent is Illinois, who they will meet in Portland on December 14 at 6:00 PM in a game also televised by the ESPN family of networks. It looked as if this would be a return game for former Oregon State point guard Ahmad Starksbut his transfer waiver was denied last week by the NCAA. The Fighting Illini are still loaded at guard, with both Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand returning.

Solid Names: San Francisco (167), Pacific (97), Cal Poly (164), @ Mississippi (48), UC Irvine (126), BYU (63)

Mississippi headlines the second group, and the Ducks and Rebels will meet December 8 in Oxford. The game will tipoff at 2:00 PM and be carried by ESPNU. Dynamite senior Marshall Henderson is back after leading Ole Miss with 20.1 PPG last year, and while the guard is currently suspended, he will likely be back by December. Outside of him, however, the Rebels are pretty thin, and a finish in the lower half of the SEC is likely. BYU presents a challenge for Oregon. The Ducks and Cougars will play December 21 in Eugene, and the team that won 24 games in the 2012-13 campaign is expected to compete with Gonzaga for the WCC title. Pacific is the only other team on Oregon’s non-conference slate with a double digit RPI.

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Morning Five: 10.02.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 2nd, 2013

morning5

  1. The drumbeat of pay-for-play continues echoing through the chambers of college athletics. The latest and greatest: Jay Bilas tweeted out an article last night called “Money Madness: Why and How NCAA Athletes Should Be Paid” from Duke Political Review, a piece that probably wouldn’t have otherwise been seen by anyone beyond a small group of policy wonks. Zach Gorwitz argues that the free market should allow for college football and basketball programs to pay its players a reasonable salary beyond the cost of a full scholarship — he suggests $10,000 to $60,000 for football players, as an example — limited by an NCAA-wide salary cap and organized through negotiations with a players’ union. It’s an interesting idea, for sure, if for no other reason than it provides specific ideas beyond the “they should be paid without consideration of cost” crowd. Expect more. This is only just beginning. Meet Jeff Kessler.
  2. Wake Forest is one of the forgotten schools in the new-look ACC. Aside from a single Orange Bowl trip in 2008, the Deacs are not a regular football power like Clemson or Florida State; nor are they a basketball power like Duke or North Carolina (or Syracuse; or Pittsburgh; etc.). Since a brief but halcyon stretch in early 2009 when Wake hit #1 in both major basketball polls, it’s been mostly downhill on both the hardwood and gridiron ever since. The football team hasn’t had a winning season in five years and the hoops program has reached a level of moribundity under fourth-year head coach Jeff Bzdelik that it hasn’t seen in nearly three decades. As such, Wake alumni and fans are none too happy with their athletic director, Ron Wellman. After sowing their oats with an anti-Bzdelik billboard/publicity stunt at last year’s ACC Tournament, they are now planning to attack this coming weekend with a an aerial banner assault circling over the school’s football stadium during a game with NC State. The details, should you choose to consider them, are posted on a public Google Doc that was sent to us by a concerned Twitter follower. Best of luck with your endeavor, Wake fans. You are a forlorn lot.
  3. As we mentioned on the national site, Oregon State’s Craig Robinson announced suspensions on Tuesday for two of his most prominent returnees, Eric Moreland and Devon Collier. For unspecified internal reasons, Moreland will sit out half of the team’s regular season games (14), while Collier will only miss one. The two forwards represent the bulk of the Beavers’ returning frontcourt this season (with both players averaging more than 25.0 MPG), and thus their benchings is quite the gamble for a head coach who might be on the hottest seat in all of major D-I college basketball. Moreland in particular is an elite rebounding presence, ranking fifth in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage last season (27.5%) and more than holding his own on the offensive window (10.5%). Luckily for Robinson, he expects to have both back at full strength in time for the bulk of the Pac-12 season in early January, and the non-conference schedule other than a trip to Maryland and a mediocre field at the Diamond Head Classic does not appear terribly daunting.
  4. One of the players that Robinson had hoped to have returning this season was former guard Ahmad Starks, a 5’9″ whirlwind of a player who took care of the ball, made free throws, and knocked down long-range shots for the Beavers. The Chicago native headed back east in May to play at a school closer to his ailing grandmother, hoping that the NCAA’s transfer exception would allow him to play immediately at his new, closer destination. He ultimately decided to play for John Groce at Illinois but, according to ESPN’s Andy Katz, the NCAA on Tuesday denied his waiver, citing the distance in mileage from Champaign to Chicago (roughly 135 miles) as too far to justify the exemption. It’s been somewhat rare for the NCAA to deny these waiver requests, so this is a peculiar turn of events given that Starks is realistically only a couple-hour drive away from his grandmother. Katz cited a “100-mile” standard that perhaps signals that the NCAA is going to use for future adjudications of these decisions, which although an arbitrary distance, would still create some much-needed clarity to the rule. Let’s see if they stick to it in future iterations of this decision. Tough break for Illinois too, seeking to replace much of its backcourt this season after the losses of Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson.
  5. Although we still find preseason material to be a bit too early for prime time on this early October date, that hasn’t stopped the college hoops writing cabal from putting in some work. We’ll mention some of the more interesting items as we get closer to the traditional time for Midnight Madness in a couple of weeks, but here are a couple of things you should see now. First, The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg released his preseason Top 25 yesterday, with his top five,  in order: Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, Michigan State, and Kansas. For each team he lists both their best-case and worst-case scenarios, and by our count, he lists those five teams as the group with enough upside to win the national title. Over at Sporting News, Mike DeCourcy lists seven key players who have something to prove this season. As always, the dreaded slideshow format is mitigated by strong writing and analysis by the longtime hoops scribe. Give both a look.
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Morning Five: 05.29.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. If you threw a dart at a map of the United States and it landed somewhere in the hills of Eastern Kentucky or Southwestern Virginia, then drew a circle around that location with a radius of roughly 500 miles in distance, you’d pretty much have nailed down the ‘fertile crescent’ of college basketball. With powerful and tradition-rich programs like North Carolina, Duke, NC State, Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana, Cincinnati, and Ohio State, along with other well-supported programs like Tennessee, Xavier, Dayton and Wake Forest all within that circle, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that nine of ESPN‘s top 10 rated television markets for college basketball fall within its boundaries. The top 10: Louisville, Greensboro, Raleigh/Durham, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, Charlotte, Knoxville and Nashville. KC, with Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Creighton and Wichita State all somewhat nearby is the only outlier among this group.
  2. You know it’s gotten out of hand if politicians are getting involved, and that appears to now be the case at Rutgers in the latest scandal enveloping the school’s athletic department. Or not getting involved. Or getting involved to say that they’re not getting involved. Whatever. New Jersey governor Chris Christie told listeners on his “Ask the Governor” radio show Tuesday night that he has no plans to intervene in the hiring of new athletic director Julie Hermann. While it’s no doubt true that Christie has much bigger fish to fry than micromanaging every hiring decision at the state university, it’s worth asking whether any senior athletic department staff is paying attention at all (certainly Christie’s political opponents are doing so). The Mike Rice situation followed by the flub with Eddie Jordan’s resume and now this debacle is highly suggestive of an environment where leadership can’t see what they don’t want to see. It’s incumbent on university president Bob Barchi to get this problem fixed, and soon.
  3. The SEC Tournament may seek to reproduce the success that its football and baseball championships have had at permanent sites — Atlanta and Hoover, Alabama, respectively — by moving to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for good following the 2014 event in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Commissioner Mike Slive was careful to avoid saying the word “permanent,” opting instead to call Music City the “primary” site, but the point is that SEC puppet-masters feel that the relatively central geographic location and easy access for large traveling basketball fan bases such as Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and home team Vanderbilt would merit this (as yet unofficial) decision. Can’t say we disagree. The best conference tournaments are generally in a city that really embraces the event every year, and Nashville seems to enjoy its status as a big-time basketball stronghold during the few times it has gotten to hold the event there.
  4. It’s not often we dig into Division II basketball on this site, but it’s also not common for there to be a formal indictment by a grand jury against a player for murder either. San Francisco State wing Decensae White – formerly of Texas Tech and Santa Clara in 2006-09 — was indicted in Georgia on Tuesday for his alleged role in gunning down a rapper named Lil Phat (nee‘ Melvin Vernell III) as he sat outside a hospital where his girlfriend underwent labor in Atlanta. White gained some degree of national notoriety for hitting a half-court game winner against Cal Poly back in February of this season, as the clip was featured on ESPN’s Sportscenter. White and four other men are due for presentment on these charges later this week.
  5. There was one notable bit of transfer news from Tuesday, as Oregon State’s Ahmad Starks has announced that he will spend the last year of his career at Illinois. He will apply for a family illness waiver to play immediately, as his grandmother is reported to be sick in Chicago. This is a good pickup for John Groce’s squad, as the Illini could use some experienced talent — Starks averaged 10.4 PPG and hit 62 threes last season for the Beavers — to pair in the backcourt with returnees Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand as part of a three-guard set. It may not be a group as talented as last year’s Paul/Richardson/Abrams trio, but it should work well within Groce’s trey-happy system.
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Morning Five: 04.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. There were so many early-entry decisions over the past three days that we will have break them into groups. The first group will be the guys who left. Perhaps the most notable is Shane Larkin, who is leaving Miami after a sophomore year in which he took his stock from not being on the NBA’s radar to being a potential first round pick. We are not quite sold on Larkin as a NBA point guard–his limitations were exposed in a few games this season–but we do not see his NBA Draft stock getting much higher especially with how little Miami will be returning next season so it made sense for him to leave. On a smaller scale, but probably more important in terms of the landscape of his conference Ray McCallum Jr. announced that he is leaving Detroit after his junior season. McCallum is in a similar Draft position or possibly a little worse than what Larkin is based on the mock drafts that we have seen, but given the information that his father (Detroit’s coach) has we would expect that he has some pretty good information on where he could expect to be selected. Finally, there is Andre Roberson, Tad Boyle’s first recruit in Boulder, who announced that he will forgo his senior season at Colorado to enter the NBA Draft. Roberson’s draft stock appears to be similar to the other two although Roberson’s position in mock drafts has varied more than the other two.
  2. While a trio of players announced their departure from the college game another trio announced that they will be staying. The most significant in terms of the national championship picture is Adreian Payne, who announced that he will return to Michigan State for his senior season. Out of all of the players considering entering the NBA Draft early opinion on Payne may have been the most divided. He probably could have come out and been a first-round pick, but if he returns and improves his game he should be a lottery pick next year. The next biggest announcement was the Isaiah Austin will be returning to Baylor for his sophomore season. Austin seemed to be a fairly safe bet to be a first-round pick so his decision is a bit surprising, but it has been reported that he was diagnosed with a torn labrum, which would affect his NBA Draft workouts, and he clearly has some areas to work on his game so it doesn’t seem unreasonable. We will leave the question of coming back to Scott Drew to work on those deficiencies for another column. Shabazz Napier may not garner the same headlines as the other two players that we mentioned, but his decision to return to Connecticut for his senior season may have an equally significant impact on his team’s success. We are glad that Napier decided to return to school because he was at best a late second round pick although the fact that he waited so long to announce might suggest that someone was putting thoughts in his head that he could have been a first-round pick. Fortunately he did not listen to those voices and will return to finish his college career in Storrs.
  3. Most of the attention has been focused on NBA Draft decisions, but there were a pair of notable transfers. On Friday, Ahmad Starks announced that he is transferring from Oregon State. Starks, who has one more season of eligibility left is reportedly looking at Bradley or Illinois to be close to his ailing grandmother. Starks would be a huge addition for either program and given the way the family hardship waivers have been getting cleared by the NCAA we have no doubt that he would be able to play next season. The other transfer announcement is more of an update as Rutgers transfer Eli Carter has narrowed his list down to Florida and Maryland. Normally we would assume that Carter would have to sit out a year, but after the NCAA’s ruling on the players at Rice and how they received a waiver due to the abuse they alleged at the school we would not be surprised to see Carter and other Rutgers transfers to try for a similar waiver given the video evidence against Mike Rice.
  4. We may have finally moved past conference realignment, but it appears that conferences are looking at creating their own version of Manifest Destiny as the ACC is looking at expanding its brand into Europe by playing games there. As the article notes the entire idea is in the preliminary stages so a lot of work needs to be done, but other schools have played games overseas with some success. Our big qustion is how this would work at the conference level. It works great when teams are playing glorified exhibition games or when there is well-defined revenue-sharing the way that professional leagues do, but what happens when a school loses a lucrative home-game that could be the difference between them becoming bowl-eligible or being on the right side of the bubble. Obviously pro sports teams deal with this issue too, but they have more well-defined revenue-sharing agreements and have a much stronger central leadership structure that allows them to issue edicts that will be followed.
  5. It is a move that probably will not attract much attention on the coaching carousel, but UNC-Asheville filled its head coaching vacancy as it introduced Nick McDevitt as its next head coach. McDevitt, who played for the school from 1997 to 2001, had been an assistant with the team before taking over the head coaching responsibilities when the former coach left to take a job on the staff at UNC-Wilmington. McDevitt has no experience as a head coach so we are withholding judgement on his ability to coach so hopefully his alma mater gives him a chance to prove himself.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.15.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 15th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. With Wednesday’s season-ending, 64-58 loss to Colorado, Oregon State dropped 15 of its final 19 games in the 2012-13 season. For a coach in his fifth season that hasn’t taken his team to a postseason tournament better than the CBI, that’s enough for some serious hot seat discussion. Grady Garrett hits it right on the head in this column, stating that while Craig Robinson may not deserve a sixth year, blowing up the team with so much potential is not worth it. So Robinson has one more chance. Roberto Nelson returns. So do Devon Collier, Angus Brandt, and Ahmad Starks. The pieces are there, and it’s up to Robinson to put them together.
  2. Ken Goe has an interesting piece up on the move from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament, and more specifically, the move to the MGM Grand Garden Arena. All 12 teams are staying at the MGM Grand, and with the hotel operating a sports book accepting bets on Pac-12 Tournament games, one wonders what kind of trouble a player could get into with a little downtime and close proximity to sports book, boosters, and gamblers. The league office said that it’s not something they have even talked about, especially in light that the players aren’t allowed in in the sports book. Still, an interesting situation that only the Pac-12 and WCC (playing at Orleans Arena) find themselves in.
  3. With California‘s overtime loss against Utah on Thursday night, it’s time to panic for Golden Bears fans. The general consensus is that the bad loss dropped Cal squarely back onto the bubble, and while that may be true, I still like their résumé over most of the other bubble teams. The only worrisome item at play is the loss of their final two games. Teams like Tennessee (winners of its last three) and Mississippi (won its last two) are hot and can make a reasonable case over Cal because of the way they completed the regular season.
  4. After one of his worst first halves of basketball ever, Oregon forward Arsalan Kazemi wondered if he’d get a chance to redeem himself in the final 20 minutes against Washington on Thursday night. Kazemi only had one point at halftime, but once he got on the court again, the energy was at a level rarely seen. Feeding off fellow big man Tony Woods, the pair answered everything Washington threw at them and eventually pulled out a three-point win in overtime. Woods and Kazemi ended up combining for 17 rebounds and 33 points on the night.
  5. We close with an update from our Pac-12 Tournament Pick’Em, where our regular season champion is taking it to the rest of us again. Parker leads everyone with nine points, with the next closest competitors being Adam and I at seven. Drew is currently in last place, struggling to get past the five-point mark. The two projected champions by the four of us are still alive (UCLA and Arizona), but of course, one of those teams will be eliminated when they face off tonight.
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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VIII: The Delinquents

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2013

We’ve had plenty of good students this week, but we’ve got four squads that need to put in some extra work. Professor Pac breaks them down, here.

Arizona State – D+

The Sun Devils have unquestionably been a great story all year long. This is a team that won 22 games over the last two seasons combined that is now sitting at 20 wins already this season. If #1 seeds were handed out based on improvement, ASU would be very much in the mix. As it is, however, the Sun Devils’ last three losses – on Saturday at home to Washington, two weeks ago at Utah, and just prior to that at home to Stanford – have combined to leave them likely on the outside looking in when it comes to bubble talk. At present they’re near the bottom of the barrel in terms of free throw percentage in the nation, making just 62% from the charity stripe.

Focus on: Carrick Felix. The senior has done a lot of amazing things this season, from his elite defensive performance to his improvement on the glass to his career-best 58.1% eFG and 37% three-point shooting. But, somewhat inexplicably, Felix is shooting a career-worst 62.9% from the free-throw line. Somehow, someway, as his shooting while people attempt to guard him has been consistently rocketing upwards, his shooting while no one can guard him plummets.

Looking ahead: For all the talk about how the Sun Devils have taken themselves out of contention for an at-large bid, I can’t help but think if they win at UCLA tonight, win at USC on Saturday and handle Arizona next Saturday, they’ll be in pretty good position. Yeah, so, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s three road wins over teams who are a combined 12-5 in the past month.

Carrick Felix, Arizona State

Carrick Felix’s Numbers Are Up Almost Across The Boards – Except From The Free Throw Line (US Presswire)

Oregon State – D+

If you wanted to get a feel for how the 2012-13 Beavers season has gone, you could probably just watch Saturday’s game against Cal. Before the clock operator even had a chance to start the clock, OSU found itself down a point after freshman Olaf Schaftenaar picked up a technical for dunking in pregame warm-ups. Then, over the course of the next 20 minutes of action, they built themselves a nine-point deficit, a jumped up to 13 early in the second half. But behind Joe Burton, celebrating his senior day in style, the Beavers fought most of the way back against the hottest team in the conference, getting to within one point with 43 seconds remaining. But an ugly final possession that resulted in a wild Ahmad Starks three as time expired ensured that the lead remained in Cal’s possession. And yup, that’s right, the final margin was that one point that OSU sacrificed before the game even began.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume IV

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2013

Another week of classes, another week of grades from Professor Pac. As midterms approach, only Oregon is on pace for a A this semester.

Arizona State – A

Way back in June, Herb Sendek was talking about how his new Sun Devil team was going to get out and run and be as uptempo as anybody in the Pac-12. But, since getting run off the court by an athletic DePaul team back in early December, Arizona State had gone eight straight games without getting 70 possessions in a ball game. This past week when they hosted USC and UCLA and came away 2-0, they went over 70 possessions in both games and averaged 76 possessions – and 88 points – for the week. Sure, the USC game was aided by an extra five minutes of play, but the Sun Devils still played with more pace this past week than they have done in some time.

Focus on: Jonathan Gilling. We’ve talked a ton about Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski, we’ve touched on Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon on a regular basis, but Gilling is the fifth member of the starting unit, and criminally underrated. While his shooting percentages have dipped compared with his freshman campaign, Gilling is doing everything else better this season. He’s turned into an exceedingly effective rebounder and an underrated passer. He’s one of just two players in the conference to average seven rebounds and three assists per game (the other is Kyle Anderson) and as you could see by this week’s performance when he has 14 dimes, he finds exceedingly good looks for his teammates. Of those 14 assists, eight led to either layups or dunks, while four more ended in threes. And he’s an equal-opportunity distributor; Felix, Bachynski, and Gordon were each on the receiving end of four of Gilling’s assists.

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils are the toast of the conference this week, but with a road trip up north to the Washington schools ahead, things can go south in a hurry. The Cougars and Huskies may not be the most intimidating opponents, but they’re more than capable of knocking off the Sun Devils.

Colorado – A

Don’t look now, but after an extended hangover effect following the debacle in the desert, the Buffaloes have won three straight by an average of 13 points and are back to .500 in the conference. And while the offense has been steadily improving, they’ve been doing it with defense. They’ve held their three opponents in that win streak to a 40.5 eFG%.

Focus on: Xavier Johnson. Doomed to play roughly the same position as the nation’s leading rebounder, Andre Roberson, Johnson has been lurking in the shadows somewhat most of the year. But on Sunday, when Roberson was limited to just two first half minutes due to foul trouble, Johnson had his breakout game, notching his first double-double of his career and scoring 18 points on just ten field goal attempts. In fact, over the course of this Buff winning streak, Johnson has been a major contributor. He’s scored in double figures in every game and has been hyper-efficient; he’s averaging 14.3 points per game and shooting a 74 eFG%.

Looking ahead: The Buffs have a short week, with only a trip to Salt Lake City to face a Utah team coming off its worst performance of the season. If the Buffs don’t have a four-game win streak at this point next week, they may be the recipient of the year’s first F.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume III

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2013

Just about one-third of the way through our semester, Oregon is the favorite pupil, having earned all As in their exams. Join Professor Pac as we once again break down our class and see who’s joining the Ducks at the front of the class and who’s in the corner with the dunce cap.

Oregon – A

Before we give props to the Ducks for their 5-0 conference start and vault to the favorite position in the conference, let’s take a minute to mourn the loss of the full 18-game home-and-away round-robin of the Pac-10. You see, with UO’s win at UCLA this week and home win against Arizona last week, the Ducks have wrapped up this seasons’ meeting with those two teams. Neither the Wildcats nor the Bruins will get a chance for revenge, at least until and unless they meet up in Vegas come mid-March. But, that’s not the Ducks fault. No, they’ve done what they’ve needed to do early and they’ve set themselves up well. Now, they’ve still got more than two-thirds of the conference schedule remaining, but here are their remaining road games in conference play: Stanford, Cal, Washington, Washington State, Colorado and Utah. They’ll be favorites in all of those games, as well as all of their home games. Sure, there are probably a couple of losses in the mix there somewhere, but barring some significant slide that Dana Altman-coached teams are not known for, the Ducks are a heavy favorite to be the #1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

Focus on: Jonathan Loyd. Freshman point guard Dominic Artis is the rightful recipient of plenty of positive buzz regarding his play, but the diminutive junior backup deserves some credit for accepting his decreased minutes and filling his role. Sure, he can’t shoot a lick. And his turnovers are through the roof this season. But you can see that his defensive intensity has carried over to his freshman pupil and he always brings energy aplenty when he’s on the court. And, consider this: a 5’8” he swatted away a Larry Drew II fastbreak layup tattempt this weekend

Looking ahead: The Ducks host the Washington schools this week and Ken Pomeroy puts the chances that they win each game somewhere north of 85%. Beware the letdown, Ducks.

Arizona – A-

For three quarters of their battle with in-state rival Arizona State on Saturday, the ‘Cats had a battle on their hands, played basically to a draw. But over the last 10 minutes, a time that coincided almost exactly with Mark Lyons coming back in the game (and, with Lyons drawing the fourth foul on Jahii Carson), they outscored the Sun Devils by 15 and equaled the biggest defeat ASU has suffered this season. Over those ten minutes, Lyons repeatedly got to the hoop, scoring 12 points and handing out three assists in likely his best 10-minute stretch as the UA point guard. The problem is the previous 30 minutes, wherein Lyons had 12 points on 11 field goal attempts, zero assists and four turnovers. Sure, he’s one heck of a closer, but as the season ramps up come March, the ‘Cats will need a more complete performance.

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Oregon State Facing Another Lost Season After Arizona Loss

Posted by Rockne Roll on January 14th, 2013

Rockne Roll (@raroll) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday’s game between Arizonan and Oregon State in Corvallis.

Coming into this season, things were looking up for Oregon State. Its senior core was comprised of solid players; it had a contingent of younger players with high potential; and all signs pointed to the team as ready to turn things around in Corvallis. A significant remodel of Gill Coliseum and the reappearance of the Beaver Dam, OSU’s student section, seemed to be harbingers of the Beavers finally making some serious noise in the conference, or at least posting a winning conference record, something the school hasn’t done in 20 years.

Solomon Hill sidesteps Roberto Nelson on his way to the basket.

Solomon Hill sidesteps Roberto Nelson on his way to the basket. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

But after a promising start (including smoking Niagara by 19 in the opener), things have slowly been growing glum in Corvallis. First, senior center Angus Brandt tore his ACL in the Beavers’ win against Purdue. Brandt, a 6’10″ center with a solid three-point stroke, had been averaging double-figure scoring this year, and his injury was a massive blow to the team’s overall talent base. Things got worse when OSU announced that Brandt’s backup, Daniel Gomis, would lose the entire season to a leg injury. Their replacement in the starting lineup, 6’7″ senior Joe Burton, routinely has issues dealing with the size and athleticism of opposing centers.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume I

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2013

Starting this week and continuing through the rest of the season, we’ll take a moment in between games to run down every team in the conference, grade their previous week’s performance, highlight the performance of one of their players (either for good or for bad) and look ahead briefly to their upcoming schedule.

Arizona State: A

The Sun Devils put aside concerns that their 11-2 record going into the week was built mostly on wins over bad teams by giving the home folks a healthy dose of optimism to start the conference season.

Focus on: Jahii Carson. While Jordan Bachynski was dominating in Sunday’s win over Colorado, I was most intrigued by Carson’s performance. With CU’s Spencer Dinwiddie keeping him locked down most of the night, Carson didn’t force things, got the ball in the hands of his teammates with better match-ups and kept ASU on point, even while being limited to his lowest number of field goal attempts this season. This proves that he doesn’t need to always score to be a positive force for his team.

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils have shown their improvement, but if we’re to believe that this team’s postseason aspirations should be any higher than the CBI, we’ll need to see them win on the road. A trip to Oregon State on Thursday looks like a possible chance, while getting Oregon following its game with Arizona could mean ASU catches the Ducks in a trap game. Speaking of which, ASU could benefit mightily this year from having the ‘Cats as a traveling partner, as teams could be either looking forward to or recovering from their game with U of A.

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Oregon: A

Any win in conference play is good. Any road win in conference play is great. Any road win in conference play in a rivalry game is a reason for outright celebration. Check all three boxes for the Ducks after one game.

Focus on: Arsalan Kazemi. In his first game back from a concussion, the senior Kazemi temporarily relinquished his starting spot to Carlos Emory and saw limited action. But, even in just 21 minutes, he was an impactful player, making four of his five field goal attempts, grabbing eight boards, handing out a couple assists and, per usual, coming up with a couple steals due to his relentlessly quick hands.

Looking ahead: The consensus, around here at least, is that the Ducks are going to be legitimate factors in the Pac-12 race. They get a chance to prove that this week when they host Arizona in a battle of contrasting strengths. While Zona has been through the ringer a time or two this season, these Ducks feature a pair of freshman guards ready for their first big spotlight. Meanwhile, the Ducks’ frontcourt features plenty of veterans, while the ‘Cats mix their three freshman with senior Solomon Hill.

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The Civil War: For Oregon and Oregon State, One Game Says It All

Posted by Kenny Ocker on January 7th, 2013

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker on Twitter) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday night’s Civil War game between Oregon State and Oregon in Corvallis.

After December drags on with a dearth of meaningful games, the first weekend of conference play is a welcome sight for basketball fans. Everybody wants to see how their teams match up against the schools that matter, and are looking for meaningful results to hang their hopes on for the rest of the season. But as tempting as it is to judge how good your favorite squad really is, it’s still too soon to see what each team’s future looks like just yet. That urge to decide what’s in store is magnified when that first game is the 338th edition of the most-played game in college basketball: the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State.

Oregon forward E.J. Singler seems to be back on track after a slow start to 2012-13. The senior had 15 points and nine rebounds, the second-highest total in each stat this season. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll.)

Oregon forward E.J. Singler seems to be back on track after a slow start to 2012-13. The senior had 15 points and nine rebounds, the second-highest total in each stat this season. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll.)

One game into the Pac-12 schedule, it looks like Oregon is an NCAA Tournament-level squad after taking a 79-66 road win against rival Oregon State in Corvallis. The Ducks have a realistic shot at making the school’s first Sweet Sixteen since an Elite Eight run in 2006-07 led by Aaron Brooks and a host of other shooters. But Dana Altman’s Ducks are a different sort of team than Kent’s free-wheeling, fast-break-loving squad of yore. The 2012-13 version thrives on its defense, led by shot-altering Wake Forest transfer Tony Woods and quick-handed Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi. Even if the Ducks play at an above-average tempo, they aren’t hanging up the consistent 80-point scores from those days. Instead, they’ve got a stifling defense currently in the top 10 in defensive points per possession, and have enough offense to get by even with senior leader E.J. Singler struggling to regain the form that helped guide the Ducks to the NIT last season. (I’m thinking he shouldn’t have cut his Samson-like locks after last season. His scoring and rebounding are both down this year, as is his once-stellar free-throw percentage, which finally crested 80 percent again Sunday night.)

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