USC Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on July 3rd, 2012

In last year’s injury-marred campaign there were nine different players who saw some time under head coach Kevin O’Neill. Of those nine players, one little-used senior graduated and two underclassmen (who each earned more than 50% of the available minutes) transferred out. A fourth player, one of those who missed the season with an injury, also transferred out, while a fifth chose retirement from basketball due to his own injury. All three of the transfers saw the writing on the wall, with the host of new players and guys returning from injury ready to eat up their minutes. When all is said and done, none of these players that the Trojans lose will be difficult to replace, but we’ll fill you in on their details in the order of importance to the program.

  • Alexis Moore – Moore came to USC in the class of 2011 as a solid recruit with a bright future ahead of him. But while earning more than 24 minutes a night primarily because he was one of the last guys standing, Moore struggled mightily shooting the ball, hitting just 28.3% of his three-pointers and – a far worse sin – hitting just 29.1% of his two-pointers. Throw in the highest turnover rate (turnovers on more than 20% of all possessions) on a team whose only offensive strength was the ability to not turn the ball over and it is no surprise that Moore and USC parted ways after just one season. Moore will wind up playing in the Ivy League at Penn, eligible in 2013-14 after sitting out a year, and should fare much better at that level of competition with a couple of years to grow into his new role.
Alexis Moore, USC

Alexis Moore Got Plenty Of Minutes In His Freshman Year, But Struggled To Adjust To The Level of Competition (Chris Pham, Daily Trojan)

  • Garrett Jackson – Jackson spent two seasons under O’Neill and earned some quality minutes in both years. As a freshman, he shot the ball well and chipped in on the glass and defensively but took a step backwards as a sophomore in nearly double the minutes. Part of the problem was that the 6’6” wing was asked to play as more of a power forward due to injuries, and Jackson wasn’t ever the type of guy who seemed to be an athlete on the Pac-12 level. Jackson will wind up at St. Mary’s with eligibility beginning in 2013-14, where he will probably spend a couple of years contributing off the bench for the Gaels.
  • Curtis Washington – A 6’10” power forward, Washington’s Trojan career boiled down to two seasons, 11 minutes, and zero points. He missed all of last season after a shoulder injury in USC’s ill-fated trip to Brazil and after the season decided to transfer to Georgia State. He’s another guy like Jackson who likely wound up at USC only because it was desperate for bodies, as he was regarded as a mid-major-type talent out of high school albeit with high upside due to his size and frame. Given some good health and improvement, he could have an impact in the CAA over the remainder of his eligibility. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 04.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on April 27th, 2012

  1. For the second straight week, the lead story in our Weekly Five is a UCLA recruiting coup, as the Bruins added to their already impressive class by signing 6’9” center Tony Parker – the #20-ranked recruit in the 2012 class – beating out schools like Ohio State, Duke and Parker’s home-state Georgia for his services. After the bizarre 45-minute press conference to announce his choice, ESPNU bumped UCLA’s class up to the top-ranked class in the nation (at least for now, pending other decisions — such as the #7 recruit, Anthony Bennett, possibly choosing Kentucky). One of the controversial parts of Parker’s commitment to the Bruins was his ties to assistant coach Korey McCray, who was hired by head coach Ben Howland last year. That move wound up paying off, as both Parker and former teammate on the Atlanta Celtics, Jordan Adams, wound up committing to UCLA to rejoin McCray. Regardless, the Bruins now feature a deep and talented squad that will not only be on the short list of favorites in the Pac-12, but should be a Top 10 team nationally and a legitimate threat to advance to Howland’s fourth Final Four in his tenure. There are a handful of storm clouds on the horizon though, as Shabazz Muhammad’s eligibility still needs to be sorted out and Kyle Anderson may be on the verge of thumb surgery, a procedure which could keep the point forward sidelined for much of the summer before his freshman season. Elsewhere on the Bruin front, the school announced an agreement for a home-and-home series with Missouri beginning next season at Pauley Pavilion, renewing a matchup that was made famous by an NCAA Tournament classic.
  2. Washington also just announced a new series with an inter-regional rival with whom they’ve had a couple of Tournament classics, agreeing to begin a two-game series with Connecticut next year (starting the series at either Gampel Pavilion or the XL Center). The Huskies of the Big East will repay the favor to the Huskies of the Pac-12, visiting Seattle in 2013-14. Normally, this would seem to be a game to wait for, but given UConn’s ineligibility for next year’s NCAA Tournament and the mass defections that have come along with that, UW could in good position to score an early road win next season.
  3. From the northernmost end of the conference to the southernmost, Arizona had some good news pop up on their radar in their search for a stopgap solution at the point guard position, when it was announced this week that Xavier combo guard Mark Lyons would be transferring out of the program and, provided he completes his coursework in time to graduate this summer, could be eligible to play next season. Given Lyons’ ties to current Arizona head coach and former Xavier head man Sean Miller, Tucson is the early favorite to earn his services although his plans are still up in the air. While Lyons is definitely not a true point guard, he is a capable ballhandler that would give the ‘Cats plenty of scoring punch in the backcourt. There was some uglier news out of the Zona program last weekend when outgoing senior Jesse Perry was arrested and charged with felony domestic violence last weekend. Perry maintains his innocence, but this type of story is never welcome news.
  4. A couple Pac-12 schools landed some other transfers this week, as Arizona State inked Valparaiso forward Richie Edwards and Oregon got a commitment from junior college transfer Coleton Baker. Edwards will have one remaining season of eligibility with the Sun Devils beginning in 2013-14, while Baker will give the Ducks a scoring threat at guard to help replace Devoe Joseph. Meanwhile, we learned the landing spot of outgoing USC transfer Alexis Moore this week, as he announced that he would be heading east to play for Penn, with eligibility starting in 2013-14.
  5. Lastly, in Boulder at the start of the week, Colorado head coach Tad Boyle and athletic director Mike Bohn showed up at a local watering hole to mingle with and congratulate the “OG 50,” a group of 50 students who started a renaissance of the C-Unit – the CU student section – that supported the Buffs from their opening exhibition game against Fort Lewis all the way to their eventual exit against Baylor in Albuquerque in the NCAA round of 32. Bohn promised the group a seat at any Buffaloes home game in the future after the group helped the team outperform expectations all season long, including running through four games in four days in Los Angeles at the Pac-12 Tournament to capture the conference’s automatic bid.
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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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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.22.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 22nd, 2012

  1. While the NCAA Tournament may be a fading memory for Pac-12 teams, the conference is alive and thriving in the NIT, as Stanford became the second team to clinch a trip to Madison Square Garden by demolishing Nevada 84-56 on Wednesday night. They will face Massachusetts in the semifinals next Tuesday. The win was highlighted by four different players scoring in double figures and nine of the 15 players who saw action getting in the scoring column. The win was the Cardinal’s 17th home win this year, good for a school record, quite an accomplishment given the elite Stanford teams of the past.
  2. Washington State’s season continues as well, as they handled Oregon State pretty easily themselves in Corvallis last night. The surprising thing is that Washington  State was able to take care of the Beavers without the services of Brock Motum, who left the game after playing just two minutes (and scoring four points on three field goal attempts in those two minutes) due to an ankle injury. But Abe Lodwick and Reggie Moore picked up the slack for their fallen comrade, combining for 45 points, with Lodwick adding 12 rebounds and five threes. The Cougs now face Pittsburgh in the three-game CBI championship series.
  3. On the heels of yesterday’s announcement out of USC that Curtis Washington and Alexis Moore would be transferring out of the program, Trojan fans got news today that Evan Smith would be leaving the team as well due to an ongoing issue with his shoulder. He’ll say at the school and remain on scholarship, but he won’t count against the team’s scholarship limit. That now makes four players from this year’s roster that won’t be back next year. Still, for a team that just won six games this season, there is quite a bit of hope around the program. Kevin O’Neill released an open letter to Trojan fans on Wednesday thanking them for their support and offering his signs for hope in 2012-13. He also noted that the Trojans are all lined up to play a rough schedule, with teams like San Diego State, Long Beach State, New Mexico, Minnesota, Nebraska, Georgia, and Dayton on the schedule, along with a trip to the Maui Invitational.
  4. We got some other news about future schedules this week as well, as Arizona announced that they have completed a contract with Michigan to begin a two-year home-and-home series beginning in 2013-14. The Wildcats still have five open spots on their schedule and are looking to potentially fill one of those spots by buying a game with Oral Roberts. Of the four other remaining games, it is likely that one of them would be either an away or neutral-site game against a quality opponent.
  5. Lastly, we discussed after the California season ended just how much longer Mike Montgomery would continue to coach. While we don’t have an answer to that question yet, it appears that the 65-year old veteran of 15 NCAA Tournaments isn’t considering hanging up the whistle anytime soon, as he is in talks with athletic director Sandy Barbour to ink an extension to Montgomery’s contact. The coach still has two years remaining on his original contact, so all indications are that his time in Berkeley is still quite a ways from being done.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 21st, 2012

  1. The news just keeps getting worse for Arizona State and Herb Sendek, as on Tuesday it was announced that leading scorer Trent Lockett had asked for a release from his scholarship in order to transfer to a school closer to his home. The news isn’t very good for Lockett either, however, as the reason he is headed out is to be closer to his mother who recently found out she has cancer. Lockett is well on his way to graduating, having taken 20 or more credits in recent semesters, so he should be able to play immediately at the school of his choice next year. We speculated as far back as the end of November that this might be an eventuality for Lockett and the Sun Devils, but the manner in which this has gone down is certainly a sad one. We wish nothing but the best for Lockett and his family. But, as for ASU, this is now three players from this season’s already significantly undermanned squad who have just since the end of the season announced their intentions to transfer, making it 12 players in four seasons who have left Sendek’s program early.
  2. ASU isn’t the only school dealing with multiple transfers. USC announced on Tuesday that Alexis Moore and Curtis Washington would both be transferring out of the program. Moore was a freshman this season who played in every game and came into the year with a reputation for being an excellent three-point shooter, although he struggled mightily with his shot this season, especially in conference play. Washington did not play at all this season after injuring his shoulder on that fateful Trojan trip to Brazil, a trip that also saw senior point guard Jio Fontan go down with a season-ending injury. Washington played a total of 11 minutes in three games in his freshman season at USC. Of the two, the loss of Moore is the bigger issue, as he earned plenty of experience as a frosh and could have turned into a nice asset for Kevin O’Neill in later years. With the previous announcement that Garrett Jackson would also be transferring out, a USC team that was expected to be deep next season is suddenly hemorrhaging players.
  3. Utah also has some transfer news, as point guard Anthony Odunsi becomes the first Ute to announce his intention to transfer out of the program. Odunsi played in all but two Ute games as a freshman this season, averaging 15 minutes, three points and putting up the lowest offensive efficiency rating on the team (74.0) as a result of poor shooting, too many turnovers, too few assists, and bad decisions all around. He’ll be better off at a low- to mid-major program. As for head coach Larry Krystkowiak, given that he’s in the middle of rebuilding the program from the ground up, don’t be surprised to find additional outgoing transfers in the near future.
  4. Washington kept its season going on Tuesday night, as it held off northwest rival Oregon 90-86 in the quarterfinal of the NIT to earn a trip back to Madison Square Garden, where it played two unsuccessful games back in December. Freshman guard Tony Wroten awoke from his postseason slumber with a 22-point performance on 15 field goal attempts, while Terrence Ross continued his strong play, chipping in 24 points. Oregon’s season ends with a 24-10 record, as Devoe Joseph wrapped up his collegiate eligibility with a disappointing 4-for-15 performance. Now Duck fans get to hold their breath until Nebraska hires a coach for fear that they may poach Dana Altman. Back to the Huskies: They’ll face the winner of the Middle Tennessee/Minnesota matchup in the NIT semifinals next Tuesday night. Massachusetts has already qualified for another of the spots in the semifinals, with the winner of the Stanford/Nevada matchup taking the fourth and final spot.
  5. Lastly, back to the transfer circuit, but this time contemplating a potential incoming transfer. Two years ago, Trey Zeigler was a four-star recruit in the class of 2010, considering schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Duke, UCLA and Central Michigan. That last school on the list didn’t seem to fit with those other big-time schools, but CMU had a pretty good in: Trey’s dad Ernie was the head coach there. But, two years later, a 21-42 record has earned the head coach a pink slip, and the younger Zeigler is on the move as well. While he already intends to visit Duke this weekend, UCLA, Michigan and Michigan State are among the other schools that could be in on the Zeigler sweepstakes, part two. UCLA could sure use the athleticism and defensive ability that Zeigler provides. I saw him play earlier in the season at Pepperdine, and while his jump shot is certainly still a work in progress, he has plenty of other tools and was easily the best player on the floor in that matchup.
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Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2012

  1. It did not take Rhode Island long to find a new head coach as they announced Dan Hurley as their new head coach at a press conference yesterday. Hurley has limited coaching experience at the college experience, but the experience he has had so far has been phenomenal as he turned around the Wagner program leading them to a 25-6 record in just his second year there. While almost everybody understands the move by Hurley, Gary Parrish notes that it is interesting in light of comments about how Hurley would not be using Wagner as a launching pad, but then did so just two months later.
  2. The situation at Southern Illinois appears to be a little less clear. Initial reports suggested that Bruce Weber had been offered his old job again. However, later in the day the school denied those reports and said its search was still ongoing. Weber appears to be the leader to become their next head coach, but the school reportedly has up to eight candidates (mostly current assistant coaches) who they would target to become their next head coach.
  3. Scott Sutton interviewed at Nebraska on Monday according to his father. Sutton, who is 250-161 in 13 seasons at Oral Roberts, appears to be one of the hotter names not named Shaka this offseason as we have also seen his name linked to Tulsa and Mississippi State. With so many options on the table, we suspect that Scott will have his choice of leaving Oral Roberts if that is his desire. We should also point out how humorous other reports of this story were that reported “sources” had indicated that Scott had interviewed with the Huskers. While his father is technically a source, he is probably a little more credible than your average anonymous source.
  4. Long time followers of our site are familiar with the musical works of Renaldo Woolridge (aka Baller Vol). Woolridge, who was a senior at Tennessee this season, was granted a hardship waiver and given an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA. Interestingly, Woolridge plans to use that extra year to transfer to another school. We are not sure what his reasons are, but Cuonzo Martin appears to have signed off on the transfer unlike a certain coach in Philadelphia.
  5. There were a couple of big transfers in the Pac-12 yesterday. The biggest was the announcement that Trent Lockett, the leading scorer for Arizona State last season, would be transferring to be closer to his ailing mother. Lockett, who averaged 13 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season, is expected to head back to Minnesota to be closer to his mother although he has not announced which school he intends to transfer to for his remaining eligibility. Lockett is the 12th Sun Devil to leave the program in the past four years although we cannot pin this one on the program as there appears to be more serious family issues at play here. Alexis Moore and Curtis Washington both announced yesterday that they would be the second and third Trojans in a week to transfer from USC. While things may seem really bad for a team that was 6-26 this season and now has lost three of its better players from last season, there is some hope in the form of a talented group of incoming players.
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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 Morning Five: Oh-My-God, I-Better-Start-My-Christmas-Shopping Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 23rd, 2011

  1. There’s not a whole lot you can tell from a 23-point win over one of the worst teams in the Big West, but Washington did address some of the things that needed addressing in their win over CS Northridge on Thursday night. First, their defense was much improved, holding the Matadors to a 26% eFG. Secondly, their chemistry appeared to be better, as their scoring was balanced (10 players scored, and four players scored in double figures) and freshman sensation Tony Wroten notched five assists while Abdul Gaddy dropped eight dimes. However, the Huskies still turned the ball over 20 times (Wroten responsible for six), and for the third time since Wroten entered the starting lineup, failed to get Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox each double-digit field goal attempts in the same game (Ross had 14 attempts, making five, while Wilcox has seemingly reverted to just a shooter – attempting all six of his shots from behind the arc). It’s a win, and it puts the Huskies back above .500 and sends them into their holiday break with a good feeling, but when conference play kicks off next week, they’ve still got plenty of work to do.
  2. The team with the best record in the conference proved that they’ve still got a long way to go as well, as Stanford got outworked and maybe outlucked a bit by two-time defending national runner-up Butler. Last week we talked about how this Cardinal team still needed to learn how to be a winner, and that got reinforced on Thursday night as the Bulldogs, led by a senior point guard in Ronald Nored (who has seen it all in his time in Indianapolis) took advantage of every opportunity and made the smart plays necessary to squeak out a win on the road. Sure, there was the shot-clock-beating desperation three-pointer by Nored that went in, or the putback by Andrew Smith of another late-possession brick that were certain indications of good fortune shining on Butler, but the fact is that the Bulldogs took advantage of those kinds of opportunities while the Cardinal did not. Yet again, we’ve got another Pac-12 team who just wrapped up non-conference play as a complete mystery. They may well be a legitimate contender for the conference title; or they may be just another pretender.
  3. Now there’s the USC we know and, um, love? Three days after scoring 83 points against TCU, the Trojans broke out for a whopping 13 first-half points, although certainly against much stiffer competition with Kansas visiting the Galen Center. Aside from their typical 40.8% eFG, the Trojans turned the ball over 18 times, got killed on the glass, and just generally avoided any semblance of a coherent offensive game plan. The Trojan guards reverted back to their pound-the-ball-into-the-floor-for-30-seconds and throw-up-a-wild-shot default, as Maurice Jones, Alexis Moore and Byron Wesley combined to shoot 5-of-26 from the field (with 10 turnovers mixed in there), while DeWayne Dedmon followed up his solid game Monday with an invisibility trick any magician would be proud of (two field goal attempts, two rebounds and four fouls in 20 minutes). Aaron Fuller again proved to be the only effective offensive threat, hitting 70% of his field goals while going for 19 points and grabbing five rebounds. SC heads into conference play four games under .500, with fans beginning to contemplate another head coaching change.
  4. Oregon finished its stretch of three games in three nights against mediocre competition (well, mediocre, only if North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin rise to the level of mediocrity) with its third consecutive win. Considering the best of those three teams was ranked 219th in the nation by Ken Pomeroy, three wins by an average of 10 points is not exactly an impressive run. However, the Ducks are beginning to figure out where their offense is coming from. In all three games – part of a round-robin tournament called the Global Sports Hoops Showcase that needs not only a better name but a better field – Devoe Joseph and E.J. Singler scored in double figures for the Ducks, while Garret Sim averaged more than 10 per game himself. If head coach Dana Altman can get guys like Olu Ashaolu, Tony Woods and Jeremy Jacob to buy into doing the dirty work for them, and if freshman three-point specialist Brett Kingma can find his stroke, this team is still capable of an upper-division finish.
  5. Lastly, Utah’s two-game winning streak was snapped Thursday night when it dropped a game to in-state rival Weber State by 29, the largest margin of defeat for the Utes in that rivalry. And with the Utes changing their “scheduling philosophy” now that they’re in the Pac-12, this may be the last time they play at Weber State. Utah has yet to schedule any future games either at Weber State or at Utah State, possibly ending some great home-and-home matchups in the Beehive State. Until this point, it’s been easy to feel nothing but sympathy for the struggles of Utah’s basketball program, but without a doubt, their apparent willingness to kill off what have been great rivalries does an effective job of mitigating some of that goodwill.
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USC’s Offensive Explosion: A Sign Of Things to Come?

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2011

It’s been a wild couple of games for the USC basketball team. After having established themselves as an excellent defensive squad incapable of scoring through the first ten games of the season, they played against type in consecutive games. First, on Saturday against Georgia, one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, they allowed the Bulldogs to shoot a season-high 61.65 eFG in a come-from-ahead loss for the Trojans. Then, Monday night against TCU, they inexplicably busted out with coherent offense, scoring 83 points with four players scoring in double figures and just four turnovers on the night, all while reverting back to their excellent defensive form. While it is still early in the season, each of these games can easily be taken as little more than blips on the radar, but is it possible that the offensive eruption is a sign of improvement for a young team that is just now getting used to playing with each other?

Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Has Been Everything All The Time For USC, But Needs His Teammates To Help Out More (photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

The Trojans lost senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL during their team trip to Brazil in August, and as a result head coach Kevin O’Neill had to rejigger his plans for the year. With only two healthy players returning from a team that wasn’t very deep to begin with last year, he knew that there would be plenty of growing pains in the early part of this season. O’Neill also knew that sophomore guard Maurice Jones, the only player who earned more than 11 minutes per game last year, would need to play nearly every minute for the Trojans this year. And so far, both of those expectations have been met, with Jones playing 39.3 minutes per night (or 96.3% of all possible minutes) and with the USC offense struggling to gain any consistency. However, the mere fact that this team is playing so hard and so well defensively is a credit not only to the players, but to this coaching staff.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.19.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 19th, 2011

  1. Busy weekend around the conference, so let’s get right to it. The big story on Sunday was Washington’s blowout loss against Nate Wolters and South Dakota State, the first non-conference home loss for the Huskies in 32 games. Wolters went for 34 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and no turnovers in a full 40 minutes of work, while Tony Wroten led the Huskies in scoring for the third straight game with 23 points. Sophomore Terrence Ross was limited some by foul trouble, but after knocking down the first points of the game, he wound up with just six points on three-of-four shooting, the first game of the year where he failed to score in double figures. Coming off a hard-fought win on Friday night over a tough UC Santa Barbara team in Lorenzo Romar’s 200th win at Washington, U-Dub was looking to string together back-to-back wins for the first time in over a month.  However, aside from Wolters’ excellence, the rest of the Jackrabbits were on fire too, as the team shot 10-of-16 from three and posted a 64.7 eFG% on the night. While the Husky offense is starting to find life with Wroten leading the show (although the relative absence of Ross is disturbing), this team can’t be a consistent winner until they shore up things on the defensive end.
  2. Saturday found Pac-12 schools losing in new and inventive ways. For instance, USC, which has been rock solid all year, allowed Georgia, one of the worst shooting teams in a BCS conference, to shoot a season-best 61.6 eFG% as they came back from an eight-point second half deficit to put the Trojans away. Bulldog freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drilled a late three to ice the game and went for a career-high 21 points. The Trojans owned the glass on both ends of the floor, grabbing 90% of all Georgia misses and even 46.6% of their own, but their inability to get any defensive stops, especially over the last ten minutes of the game, wasted freshman Alexis Moore’s career-high 18 points.
  3. Northern Arizona has traveled to face Arizona State in Tempe for the second time in six years – and came away with their second win in a row in the Sun Devils’ building. Junior point guard Stallon Saldivar not only hit the game-winning three-pointer with under a second left to lift the Lumberjacks, but poured in a career-high 24 points, including six threes, while handing out nine assists and playing every minute of the game. His ASU counterpart, Keala King, did his best to keep the Sun Devils around, scoring 16 and handing out seven assists, but continued to struggle with turnovers, coughing it up five more times on Saturday. However, for the time being, it looks like King is the only real option at the point, as junior Chris Colvin returned from a one-game suspension to play exactly two minutes against NAU.
  4. Skipping over Gonzaga’s “manhandling” of Arizona, and Oregon’s disappointing second half against Virginia, let’s jump to some good news. First, Utah earned its first win over a Division I opponent on Friday night, knocking off Idaho State 71-59 in a game the Utes dedicated to junior guard Glen Dean, who is in a hospital recovering from brain surgery. Even better news that the Utes win is the news that Dean appears to be on the road to recovery and the team hopes to have the transfer, who is sitting out this season due to NCAA rules, back in the fold after the New Year. The other highlight of the weekend around the Pac-12 was the stellar defense job that California and its senior guard Jorge Gutierrez did on the nation’s leading scorer, Damian Lillard, in the Golden Bears’ win over Weber State. Lillard did wind up with 14 points, but he had to take 17 shots to get those, making just four of his field goal attempts in the 20-point Cal win.
  5. Stanford got back on the court after a 12-day hiatus to deal with finals, and handled San Diego with relative ease in a game in which ten of the 13 Cardinal players who got on the court played at least ten minutes. However, despite holding the Toreros to a sub-50 eFG%, head coach Johnny Dawkins was displeased with the team’s defensive effort, citing a lack of communication that allowed USD to score 34 second-half points. A renewed emphasis on the defensive end does not bode well for Bethune-Cookman, the Cardinal’s next opponent on Monday night.
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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.

 

Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Pac-12 Team Previews: USC

Posted by AMurawa on October 28th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

USC Trojans

Strengths.  Defense. In Kevin O’Neill’s first two years at USC, his teams have ranked 2nd and 28th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. While the Trojans will not look like what O’Neill expected them to look like even a few months ago, you can expect them to be similarly stingy on the defensive end. With 7’0” sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon an intimidating shot-blocking presence inside, O’Neill could play 7’1” James Blasczyk alongside him and Iowa transfer Aaron Fuller, an athletic combo forward who is capable of guarding multiple positions, at the three. And freshman wing Byron Wesley could be the Trojans’ defensive specialist for years to come. And while 5’7” point Maurice Jones is capable of being taken advantage of in the halfcourt, he’ll cause his share of problems for opposing ballhandlers in the open floor.

Weaknesses. If defense is the strength, is it too broad to say that offense will be this team’s weakness? Well, it will be. With senior point guard Jio Fontan out for the season with a torn ACL, the Trojans are left with no one who is an obvious choice as a go-to scorer. Jones is lightning quick and a streaky shooter, but no one expects him to carry this offense. Freshman guard Alexis Moore will play alongside Jones, and while he is a natural scorer, he could stand to work on his jumper and his shot selection. And Fuller, although a versatile forward, gets by more on grit and toughness than a refined offensive game. It seems like every offensive possession could be a struggle for the Trojans.

Maurice Jones

Maurice Jones May Be Small In Stature, But He'll Need To Be Big For The Trojans

Nonconference Tests.  USC plays in the Las Vegas Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend for the first big tests of their season, when they face UNLV in the opening round before playing either South Carolina or preseason #1 North Carolina in the second round. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier from there as they travel to Minnesota early in December before hosting New Mexico, Georgia and Kansas at the Galen Center throughout the month.

Toughest Conference Stretch.  It’s a brutal end to the season for USC. They host California and Stanford early in February, then play three straight road games against UCLA (although that “road” game is literally just down the road from USC’s campus) and the Arizona schools, before wrapping up the season with the Washington schools visiting Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »

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