Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VI: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2013

Yesterday we unveiled this week’s honor roll; today we take a look at five teams earning good, solid, average grades. Check in later today for the four teams that will be serving detention this week.

Cal – B-

All things considered, this was a solid week for the Golden Bears. They went down to Arizona for what is considered to be the toughest road trip in the conference this year and came away with a split, including a win over a national top-10 team and a four-point loss to a very good Arizona State squad. That makes three wins in four tries for the Bears and  a team that will likely be playing its best ball of the season as we head into the final month.

Focus on: Jeff Powers. What? You were expecting Allen Crabbe here? Nah, you can read about him as our Pac-12 Player of the Week. Instead, maybe check out what the Golden Bears’ own resident blogger, their junior guard Powers, has to say about his team and their performance in knocking off the Wildcats. Unfortunately, there’s no comment from him about his fine five-minute stretch against Arizona State where he knocked down a three, chalked up an assist and came away with a steal in helping keep his squad close in the second half.

Looking ahead: The Bears have a chance to make a run here, as they host the Los Angeles schools this week. They’ll likely be small favorites in both games and if they can defend their home court at Haas Pavilion, they’ve got a chance to make a bit of a jump up the standings.

He May Not Be A Prolific Scorer, But Jeff Powers Is A Budding Blogger

He May Not Be A Prolific Scorer, But Jeff Powers Is A Budding Blogger

Stanford – C+

Both Cal and Stanford went to the Arizona schools and came away with splits. Why do the Golden Bears come away with a slightly better grade? The Cardinal’s dogged determination (and fortunate failure) to give away a close game against Arizona State was concerning. Still, Johnny Dawkins’ club has now won four of its last five and has got its offense on the move.

Focus on: Dwight Powell. The junior forward has scored in double figures in every game in the conference schedule, but he hadn’t topped 20 since he did it three straight times in December. He broke that streak this week by going for 24 against Arizona and then answering with 22 against the Sun Devils. Even better, he also grabbed double-figure rebounds in both games, giving him seven double-doubles on the year.

Looking ahead: The Cardinal host USC tomorrow night, then see UCLA on Saturday afternoon. Stanford was swept by these teams in Los Angeles back on the first weekend of conference play, leading to an hour-long post-game meeting following the UCLA game, and since then the Cardinal have gone 6-3 in conference play.

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Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week 13

Posted by AMurawa on February 11th, 2013

Here’s another installment of the weekly Pac-12 honors, as handed out by the Pac-12 microsite.

Team of the Week – Colorado

All season long, the Buffaloes have had problems closing. Dating back to the Charleston Classic when they did their best to give away their semifinal game to  Baylor, continuing most famously through the Arizona game and on several other occasions, end-game scenarios have been downright scary for Tad Boyle’s club. Coupled with the truth that the Buffs have struggled in their two Pac-12 seasons on the road (a record of 4-10 coming into this weekend), the fact that this team went on the road to the Oregon schools and came away with two hard-fought wins in which they performed admirably down the stretch shows that the Buffaloes are indeed making progress — a hallmark of Boyle-coached teams. Against Oregon on Thursday night, a game-winning bucket by Andre Roberson was a good metaphor for this squad’s whole week. After getting his layup attempt swatted from behind by Arsalan Kazemi, Roberson persevered by grabbing the ball and putting it back in for the go-ahead win. On Sunday night, Spencer Dinwiddie was the CU hero, making all of his shots on the night (6-of-6 from the field with four threes, and 8-of-8 from the line) and providing a calming presence down the stretch. With their chance at revenge against Arizona coming up this week in Boulder, the Buffs have a chance to put themselves squarely in the middle of the Pac-12 race.

Allen Crabbe, California

Allen Crabbe’s Big Second Half Helped Cal Knock Off Arizona on Sunday Night (Ben Margot/AP)

Player of the Week – Allen Crabbe, California

When Crabbe’s got it going, he’s one of the nation’s elite scorers. And Crabbe definitely had it going on Sunday night. He and his Golden Bears had a decent first half against Arizona; he scored 12 and Cal was within five of the nation’s #7 team at the break. But the Cal wing earned this honor as a result of what happened after halftime. Crabbe scored 11 points before the first media timeout in the second half as the Bears put together a 17-2 run from which they would never look back. As the half progressed, every time the Wildcats got back within striking distance, Crabbe would hit another big shot, twice drilling threes after Arizona pulled within four then hitting a big jumper late after the ‘Cats had pulled within two. All told, Crabbe wound up with 31 points on the night, missing just three three-pointers out of his 15 attempts from the field. For the week, Crabbe averaged 23.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and a block per game, all while shooting a 63.6% effective field goal rate.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 11th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. It was another wild weekend in the Pac-12 that left the conference standings even more confusing than they were before the weekend, with a three-way tie for first place and five other teams within two games of the lead. Oregon ended its three-game losing streak on Saturday night by sneaking past Utah, as freshman guard Damyean Dotson had his best game in recent weeks, scoring 12 points in the first 11 minutes of the second half to help spark his Ducks. But it is the Ducks’ other starting freshman guard who is the big news. Dominic Artis has now missed five games with a left foot injury, but it appears he may be close to returning. Artis will meet with a doctor today and could possibly be cleared to play at Washington on Wednesday night. But, even if that happens, head coach Dana Altman warns that Artis won’t jump immediately back into his full complement of minutes.
  2. During the Ducks’ three-game slide, Arizona jumped to the top of the Pac-12 standings all by itself, albeit briefly. The Wildcats, after playing a solid first half against Cal on Sunday night, came out of the halftime locker room sleepwalking and were repeatedly burned by Allen Crabbe en route to an eight-point home loss to California. Sean Miller had been trying to get his ‘Cats focused on starting games strong, and they were successful in that area, but maybe the problem was just bumped back 20 minutes?
  3. One of the only Bracketology pieces released on weekends, John Templon’s projections are always fun to look at on Sunday nights. These predictions are focused more on the NIT, but we can of course deduce who is in his Big Dance as well. Templon thinks Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, and Colorado are all in the NCAAs, with Arizona State just missing the cut line and instead getting a one seed in the NIT. Stanford is up next as a four seed, and California and Washington round out the Pac-12’s representation at the six and seven line. Oregon State makes Templon’s list of the “First 16 Out“, meaning the Beavers will need a lot of help, luck, and multiple good wins in the final month of play to avoid another year of the CBI.
  4. Washington center Aziz N’Diaye has quickly tuned into one of the most productive and trusted players on the Huskies in his final season in Seattle. One of the most durable big men in the Pac-12, N’Diaye is averaging 10.7 PPG and 9.7 RPG to give Washington a useful tool in the post. He’s become a well-needed presence on the defensive end of the court, and if UW needs a late two, the ball will definitely touch his hands. For N’Diaye to move on and succeed at the next level (and he should get that chance), the biggest thing he can do is to just slow down and watch the ball go into his hands. Ball control can be tricky at times for big men, and the same is true for him. Once he catches the ball, however, there is no better center in the league at turning to the hoop and getting the ball up on the rim.
  5. It was more of the same on Sunday night for Oregon State, who managed to yet again freeze up in the closing minutes and give up a second half lead. Colorado went into Corvallis and left with a sweep of the Oregon schools, possibly getting them off the bubble for the time being and handing the Beavers their eighth loss by eight or fewer points so far this season. The problems stretch all the way from the coaching staff to the players for the Beavs, who just can’t seem to execute in the final minute. Craig Robinson has tried the “let ‘em play” approach, which both times resulted in Joe Burton turnovers at the buzzer. Last night Robinson used his timeouts down the stretch, but neglected to call a play to free up a shooter. Instead, two of OSU’s final three possessions resulted in a Burton sky-hook or a dribble drive and fumble when threes were the best option. The Beavers travel to Pullman on Wednesday in a game that could decide who gets the #10 or #11 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Note: Drew Murawa also contributed to this article.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume V: The Honor Roll

Posted by AMurawa on February 5th, 2013

Professor Pac is back again this week with a progress report, but this time we’re going to try something new. Rather than go through all of the teams in one big ol’ honking post, we’re going to split these up into smaller bites: the honor roll (featuring the week’s best students), the solid students (the middle of the Pac), and the delinquents (those pupils that need to put in some extra work). Without further ado, let’s get things started with by checking in with the teacher’s pets.

Arizona – A

The Wildcats earned our team of the week honor by going on the road to Washington and coming away with the rare road sweep. While nothing the ‘Cats did as a team was insanely impressive, coupled with Oregon’s slip-ups in the Bay Area, Sean Miller and company are back into a tie for the conference lead and look like a team that could be about to turn it on.

With The 'Cats In Need Of An Interior Offensive Presence, "Zeus" Has Stepped Up Of Late (Dean Hare, AP Photo)

With The ‘Cats In Need Of An Interior Offensive Presence, “Zeus” Has Stepped Up Of Late (Dean Hare, AP Photo)

Focus on: Kaleb Tarczewski. There has been talk about the need for the Arizona big guys to step up and take on a bigger role, especially offensively. This week Tarczewski was arguably the most effective offensive player for the ‘Cats. On Thursday in a game in which most everybody struggled offensively, “Zeus” had the highest offensive rating (111.0) on his team as he scored 10 points and pulled down eight boards. Against Washington State, he bettered that, posting an ORtg of 131.0 while again scoring 10 points and grabbing four boards. While he’s not exactly polished yet, and he still finds his way into foul trouble more often than not, the big fella is beginning to help take some of the pressure of Arizona’s perimeter players.

Looking ahead: The immediate future could be perilous for the Wildcats, despite a return to the McKale Center. The Bay Area schools come to Tucson and each is capable of causing trouble. Then following that, on Valentine’s Day, they’ll have to visit Boulder and a Colorado team ready to enact revenge for the Debacle in the Desert.

Utah – A

Last we saw the Utes, they were laying an absolute egg in possibly the worst in-conference performance by any team this seasaon in a 31-point loss at Stanford. With a Colorado team coming into the Huntsman Center on something of a roll, expecting the Utes to come away with a win looked to be fantasy territory. But, there they were, three-quarters of the way through their match-up with the Buffs and they held a 22-point lead. Disregard for a second the fact that they seemingly went out of their way to give it all back (they did, after all, hold on for a three-point win) and give credit to a team with any postseason likelihoods long since passed, with their best player watching from the bench with a knee injury and with a locker room experiencing some dissension, for bringing this type of effort.

Focus on: Jeremy Olsen. In the freshman’s first 19 games in a Ute uniform, Olsen never took off his warm-ups in 10 of those. When he did get some run, it was for brief stretches (he played 44 minutes in those nine games) and to little effect (18 points in 44 minutes). But he has played hard and stayed focused and in the midst of the Stanford embarrassment, he kept plugging away even with the game out of reach. Such effort earned him 14 minutes of action against Colorado and he made the most of that time, scoring 12 points on eight field goal attempts and hauling in three boards. That type of performance is likely to earn Olsen a spot in the rotation even with Jordan Loveridge expected back soon.

Looking ahead: With a road stretch ahead, the Utes have a chance to actually turn this one win into a streak, as last place Oregon State is the first stop. And hey, if they get through that, who’s to say that a team that has played a lot of tight games this year couldn’t sneak up and surprise an Oregon team that may still be without freshman point guard Dominic Artis?

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Eight

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 9th, 2013

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew, Parker, Adam, and I have compiled after the eighth week of Pac-12 games (delta in parentheses):

  1. Arizona, 14-0 (2-0, -): By the skin of its teeth, Arizona remained undefeated through eight weeks of basketball. Visiting Colorado built up a 17-point lead against the Wildcats, only to see Zona climb all the way back and pull even at 80 with 10 seconds left. It appeared as if Buffalo guard Sabatino Chen banked in the winning three as time expired, but the officials controversially overturned the call on the court and sent the game into overtime. The Wildcats shut down a deflated Colorado squad in the extra session, and would pull out another closer-than-expected game against Utah two days later, 60-57. They now take their spotless record on the road, venturing to the great Northwest to face the Oregon schools. Up Next: 1/10 @ Oregon.
  2. UCLA, 12-3 (2-0,^2): UCLA added to its winning streak by dispatching California and Stanford in week eight. The Bruins didn’t have much trouble in doing so against either, winning by an average of 11 points. On Thursday, the Golden Bears hung with UCLA for 35 minutes before falling apart and eventually losing by 14. The Stanford game ended up with a closer score than it probably should have, thanks to the 11 points scored by Chasson Randle in the game’s final 80 seconds. UCLA’s seven-game winning streak will be put to the test as the Bruins trek to Salt Lake City for their first road game of the year, and that of course will be followed by a visit to the Coors Events Center to face Colorado. Up Next: 1/10 @ Utah.

    Slo-Mo and His Team Are Surging Into Conference Play

    Slo-Mo and His Team Are Surging Into Conference Play

  3. Oregon, 12-2 (1-0, -): Oregon’s week, while short, was a very successful one. The Ducks marched into Corvallis for a Sunday night, nationally televised Civil War battle, and came out with a 66-53 win. Damyean Dotson imposed his will all night long against the Beavers, getting to the rim with ease and single-handedly breaking the Ducks out of multiple scoring slumps. The win now sets up a huge showdown with Arizona on Thursday. Up Next: 1/10 vs. Arizona.
  4. Colorado, 10-4 (0-2, ٧2): Despite coach Tad Boyle‘s best efforts, Colorado just wasn’t the same team in Sunday’s game against Arizona State after losing in that type of fashion against the third best team in the nation. Late woes were again to blame in Tempe, as the Sun Devils went on a 21-13 run in the final eight minutes to defeat the Buffs by nine. Up Next: 1/10 vs. USC. Read the rest of this entry »
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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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Pac-12 M5: 01.09.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 9th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. The NCAA released its first offical RPI rankings of the season late Monday, and of course, Arizona headlines the Pac-12 list at #4. Colorado came in as a bit of a surprise at #6, and then there is a big drop-off before UCLA is spotted at #39. Utah, USC, Oregon State, and Washington State were the teams that landed outside the Top 100. Obviously, things will shift around considerably as we get deeper into conference play in the coming weeks, both in the Pac-12 and on a national scale.
  2. UCLA freshman Tony Parker has seen limited action in the 2012-13 season for a multitude of reasons. There have been back spasms, sprained ankles, and migraine headaches, and when Parker has seen minutes, he has looked lost on both ends of the court and has been extremely foul-prone. All in all, those things aren’t uncommon to see early in one’s first year on campus. Bruins Nation thinks there’s more too it, however, criticizing Ben Howland for not playing Parker in important situations and concluding from a “no comment” that Parker is nearly a certainty to transfer at season’s end. The point is, the majority of college freshmen, whether they are Division 1 athletes or not, get homesick at one point or another. And as I stated above, not every young, hot recruit is going to see immediate action. And while transferring after or during one’s first season seems to be the big thing in college hoops these days, it is still a pretty big jump to assume one will leave because of a couple vague tweets and quotes.
  3. After last year’s debacle, I think I speak for most Pac-12 fans that I’m thrilled to have Arizona in the Top 25, let alone, the top three. But could we be on the brink of having another Top 25 team in the Pac-12? Why that’s madness you say, what is this, the ACC? What’s next, more than one at-large team in the Big Dance? But it’s true, and if Oregon can sweep the Arizona schools at home this week, the hypothetically 14-2 Ducks would surely crack Monday’s rankings. For the sake of our national reputation, we can only hope.
  4. Fresh off a 27-point performance against what is largely considered the Pac-12’s best defensive mind, the Pac-12’s leading scorer now sets his eyes on beating Washington, a game that will be played tonight in Berkeley on ESPN2. Washington has proven that they can at least contain the best of scorers out west on Saturday against Washington State’s Brock Motum, but Allen Crabbe will be a different beast entirely. The junior guard can not only get to the rack off a dribble drive from the perimeter, but he is now even more of a threat to get the ball on a pass in the lane and get an easy bucket with his new-found strength and speed he has been showing off this season. Crabbe is also more than capable of knocking down the mid-range or three-point jumper, but collecting most of his buckets right at the bucket ensures better efficiency.
  5. We close with our weekly Pac-12 Hoops Pick’em selections. Adam continued to cruise last week and now leads the competition by a pair of games over the next closest prognosticator. I am doing a stellar job, showing off my vast college basketball knowledge by sitting all alone in the basement. For our games of the week, we have chosen Minnesota’s trip to Bloomington on Saturday morning and the UCLA-Colorado showdown that will be played immediately after.
Game Connor (53-21) Drew (54-20) Parker (56-18) Adam (58-16)
Washington State at Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
Washington at California California California California California
Arizona at Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
UCLA at Utah UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA
USC at Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado
Arizona State at Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State
Minnesota at Indiana IU 85-75 IU 73-70 IU 68-65 IU 81-73
UCLA at Colorado CU 77-74 CU 79-65 CU 75-69 CU 66-62
Washington State at California California California California California
USC at  Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah
Arizona at Oregon State Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
Washington at Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
Arizona State at Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 79, California 65

Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 2013

rushedreactions

Andrew Murawa filed this report after tonight’s Pac-12 opener between UCLA and California in Westwood.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. UCLA Rebounding. The Bruins come away with the win, but the Golden Bears possibly exposed a fatal flaw: UCLA”s rebounding brawn. After something of a draw on the boards in the first half (albeit aided by one Bruin possession in which they grabbed four consecutive offensive rebounds and still came away empty), Cal destroyed UCLA on the glass for about a 10-minute stretch in the middle of the second half. For the entire last stanza they grabbed almost 50% of their own misses, and were it not for Kyle Anderson taking the rebounding load upon his back (he had eight defensive rebounds in the last eight minutes), it could have been much worse for UCLA. While the Wear twins have the size and do a good job getting into position to rebound, they struggle to secure the ball when challenged. Tonight, while David Wear was limited to just 13 minutes, Travis Wear played 35 minutes and grabbed two defensive rebounds (4.9 DR%) and just one offensive rebound (3.2 OR%) despite regularly getting a hand on the ball.

    With The Bruins Struggling On The Glass, Kyle Anderson Got To Work Rebounding (US Presswire)

    With The Bruins Struggling On The Glass, Kyle Anderson Got To Work Rebounding (US Presswire)

  1. Bruin Defense. While securing opponents’ missed shots is a massive part of good team defense, the Bruins definitely showed signs of rounding into shape on the defensive end tonight. To be clear, I’m not saying they’re a good defensive team yet, but they are improving. They held Cal, a decent offensive team, to 0.94 points per possession and showed that they’re starting to do some of the little things that need to be done to make themselves better. If opponents are able to get just about any of these guys into isolation situations, the Bruins find themselves in trouble. But they’re doing little things like hedging up on the ball-handler on pick-and-rolls, sending over help defense to staunch penetration, and rotating well on passers, among other things. Ben Howland praised Larry Drew II, Shabazz Muhammad, and particularly Norman Powell for their excellent defensive efforts tonight. Powell earned 15 first half minutes and limited Allen Crabbe to 2-of-9 shooting with three turnovers. Said Howland of Powell: “[His] defense in the first half on Crabbe was critical. His defensive effort was absolutely unbelievable. Norman had one of the best games of his career here and a lot of what he did doesn’t show up in the stats.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Wrapping Up Pac-12 Non-Conference Play By Reassessing Our All-Conference Selections

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2013

Later tonight, the second leg of the Pac-12 college basketball season begins as conference play tips off with the Battle of the Bachynskis, when Utah travels to Arizona State. After last year’s nightmare of a non-conference slate, this season the conference took major strides, with Arizona’s win over Florida, UCLA’s win over Missouri, Colorado’s win over Baylor, and Oregon’s win over UNLV making up the top tier of the best wins for the conference. Before we turn our complete attention to conference play, we thought we’d hand out some awards based on the season to this point, so Connor Pelton, Parker Baruh, Pachoops’ Adam Butler and myself voted and came up with the following results.

Player of the Year

Allen Crabbe, Jr, California – Crabbe’s 20.9 PPG and efficient all-around offensive game earned three of the four votes for our player of the year, with UCLA’s Jordan Adams receiving the other vote from me. Crabbe has been a rock for the Golden Bears (well, aside from that Creighton debacle, at least), scoring in double figures in every game, helping out on the glass and, thus far, knocking down better than 38% of his shots from deep.

The Pac-12's Leading Scorer, Allen Crabbe Takes Down The Mid-season POTY Award (credit: Jeff Gross)

The Pac-12’s Leading Scorer, Allen Crabbe Takes Down The Mid-season POTY Award (credit: Jeff Gross)

Coach of the Year

Dana Altman, Oregon – Despite losing three of last year’s top four scorers, and having the other guy in that quartet – E.J. Singler – struggle through the early part of this year, the Ducks have reeled off wins in 11 of their 13 games. Altman has gotten great production out of his freshman backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, has folded Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi into the mix seamlessly, and coaxed great improvement out of senior center Tony Woods. As a result, he earned three of our four votes for the COY, while Arizona State’s Herb Sendek got my support.

Freshman of the Year

Shabazz Muhammad, Fr, UCLA – After missing the first three games of the season due to an NCAA investigation into his eligibility, Muhammad has come on strong for the Bruins, scoring in double figures in all 10 of the games he’s played in on his way to 19.6 points per night. He’s just beginning to ease into the best physical shape of the season, so the expectation is that conference play will see an even better version of Shabazz. Once again, Shabazz earned three of our four votes for FrOY, with the lone dissenter (again, me) nabbing teammate Jordan Adams.

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Rushed Reactions: #16 Creighton 74, California 64

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2012

rushedreactions
Some thoughts from Saturday night’s Creighton-California game in Berkeley…

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Doug McDermott Is As Good As Advertised. This was the first time we’d actually seen him play in person and, needless to say, we came away very impressed. Even though he’s clearly not an elite athlete, he makes up for it because there’s no wasted motion whatsoever in McDermott’s game. He keeps things simple — no excessive dribbling, no exaggerated movements, just catch-and-shoot when the opportunity presents itself. More often than not, the ball goes in the hole. In McDermott’s last three games including this win, he’s averaging 30.3 PPG while knocking down splits of 58%/63%/86% from the field, three and foul line respectively. The scary part is that those numbers aren’t terribly far off of his season averages (23.7 PPG on 55%/53%/87%). He may have started out slowly this season compared to his sophomore campaign, but he’s making a great push again at a NPOY candidacy.
  2. The Frustrating Game of Allen Crabbe. Allen Crabbe continued a career history of shrinking away from the spotlight in big games. In last year’s First Four NCAA Tournament game, for example, he shot 3-of-14 in a horrific 10-point performance. Tonight he ended the game with 14 points and seven rebounds, but he started by making only one of his first 14 attempts, ended with a 6-of-26 nightmare, and much of that falls on his lack of aggressiveness and lack of understanding that he held a distinct size and athletic mismatch over his Creighton defender. The problem is that Cal’s offense depends almost entirely on its guard scoring of Crabbe (21.9 PPG) and Justin Cobbs (17.8 PPG) and when these two struggle — Cobbs shot an ok 8-of-17 for 18 points — the Bears simply don’t have enough offensive answers to challenge good teams.
  3. Scouting Creighton the Rest of the Way. Creighton’s ceiling with the right match-ups is probably the Sweet Sixteen, perhaps a round further if they play a Cinderella in that round. Even with McDermott’s scoring punch, it was apparent that the Bluejays have more offensive weapons than him especially given all the attention defenses throw his way. Grant Gibbs (10 points) and Jahenns Manigat (11 points) both had quiet but sneakily effective games when McDermott was on the bench of otherwise preoccupied. Gregory Echinique ended up with a double-double (10/11). The one major concern we still have with the Bluejays is its softish defense, but it is clearly better than last year’s mediocre performance and it was apparent that they’ve been really working on it. Crabbe was as frustrated a player as we’ve ever seen him, and much of that was due to the Creighton defensive strategy.

Star of the Game. Doug McDermott, Creighton. Really no other choice here, as McDermott picked his spots on the inside early but drifted out beyond the three-point line as the game progressed to find his 34 points. It didn’t matter where he was located on the floor, though, because Cal couldn’t guard him wherever he was. Eighteen exciting first half points were followed by a more pedestrian 16-point second half, but unlike his counterpart on the Cal side, McDermott expertly played his mismatches and made the Bears defense pay for its mistakes (and there were plenty). He’s well on his way to another NPOY candidacy this season.

Quotable.

  • “If that Catholic league goes down, I’m sure we’d love to do it.” – Creighton’s Doug McDermott after the game, referring to the New Big East.
  • “We’re not good enough yet.” – California head coach Mike Montgomery, referring to what he’s learned about his team over the last couple of weeks (losses to Wisconsin, UNLV, and Creighton).

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 14th, 2012

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s been a slow week in college basketball with students hitting the books and getting through finals week. However, things pick up quite a bit this weekend with some great non-conference action led by a marquee match-up in the desert. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend 

#5 Florida at #9 Arizona  10:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Patric Young's Offensive Rebounds Are One Way To Get Additional Touches (Getty)

Will Patric Young Dominate the Wildcats Again This Season? (Getty)

  • Florida won the match-up last season with Arizona in a tough overtime battle. The Gators’ Patric Young dominated the game with a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting. Coach Billy Donovan was disappointed the Gator guards did not get Young the ball more often. It will be interesting to see how Arizona responds this season to defending Young. The addition of 7’0″ freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski to the Wildcats line-up should make a significant difference for coach Sean Miller. His size will at least create problems at the basket for the 6’10” Young. Keep a close eye on Florida’s ability to create turnovers as well. It helped them win last season in Gainesville and will be a big factor again. Finally, three-point shooting will play a key role in the outcome of the game. Approximately 40% of Florida’s field goal attempts are from downtown and U of A gives up more treys than two-thirds of the teams in college hoops. You will want to keep an eye on Gator forward Erik Murphy from beyond the arc. He presents a tough match-up with his 6’10” frame and his ability to stroke the three. If Murphy is hitting from downtown, the Wildcats are in deep trouble.
  • Arizona and Florida are both in the top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage. We mentioned Tarczewski’s defense before, but his biggest contribution to this game may be on the offensive boards. He needs to clean up the glass on missed shots to give Arizona as many looks as possible. Miller’s squad got excellent production last year from it’s backcourt against the Gators and need the same from guards Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons this season. Lyon’s needs to be careful of turnovers as he has a sub-one assist-to-turnover ratio. If he isn’t protecting the ball, Arizona will have trouble again this year.
  • Arizona’s size will allow them to compete all game long with a very talented and good shooting Florida squad. Their ability to go big at guard with Kevin Parrom could be the difference in the game. While the jury is still out on the Wildcats, a home game against Florida will be a great barometer for what we can expect in the future. The team that wins the offensive rebounding battle will take this one.

More Great Hoops

#6 Louisville at Memphis  2:30 PM EST, Saturday on Fox College Sports (****)

  • Louisville won this match-up last season in a close eight-point ballgame. This season however they are without star center Gorgui Dieng due to his wrist injury. Dieng went for 14/14 last year and always makes a major impact on defense. Without Dieng manning the middle, Louisville actually lacks size. Duke took advantage of this size deficiency and was able to beat the Cardinals a few weeks ago as a result. Look for Memphis to try to do the same thing at home this Saturday. Memphis is tall on the inside and a good offensive rebounding team. They are not as good at getting to the free throw line, however, which is also how the Blue Devils beat the Cardinals. Memphis ranks #307 nationally in free throw rate. Guard play from the Tigers will be a key factor in this contest. They need to get to the line and not turn the ball over. In their blowout win against an Ohio team known for turning teams over, the Tigers only committed miscues on over 16% of their possessions. A lot has to go right for the Tigers to pull an upset here, but with Dieng out, this is their best opportunity.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.13.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on December 13th, 2012

pac12_morning5

  1. Despite being ranked #8 in the country and currently 7-0, the Arizona Wildcats haven’t had a home sellout yet this year. All signs point to that changing this Saturday when the 5th ranked Florida Gators come to town. On Tuesday, the assistant director of ticket operations said that Arizona has under 50 tickets remaining for the game, so there’s little doubt it will be a sellout. Despite this fact, Sean Miller has praised the atmosphere in Tucson countless times and pointed out that many other high major programs don’t get the support that Arizona gets early in the year and it’s true. The average attendance this year so far has been 13,557 fans in a McKale Center that has a maximum capacity of 14,538 seats. When Saturday comes around, the McKale Center will definitely be loud and that home court advantage should help the Wildcats throughout the game.
  2. After Washington’s 4-4 start, Lorenzo Romar has realized that he needs to change up his demeanor on the sideline. The Huskies this year have been too laid back for Romar’s taste and he wants them to play with higher energy, more intensity and more consistency. Romar believes his team has played to the level of their inferior opponents’ talent so far this year and it is evident in their close losses to Albany and Nevada and a close win over Cal State Fullerton. It doesn’t help that the Huskies continue to deal with an ankle injury to Andrew Andrews, a knee injury to Shawn Kemp Jr., and planter fasciitis to Scott Suggs, but Romar has been displeased with his team’s start to say the least.
  3. Before the season started, the USC Trojans didn’t have to do much to improve on last year’s performance, but their slow start hasn’t exactly been what they hoped for. The Trojans have struggled moving the ball effectively and their half-court offense has been lacking in efficiency which has resulted in too much isolation. On a brighter note, the team is getting it together in the second half of games as they have outscored their opponents 303-280 in the final 20 minutes despite their 3-6 record. For the Trojans to be successful this season, they are still going to have to find a consistent efficient scorer as their leading scorer J.T Terrell is shooting 30 percent from the field despite leading the team with 11 points per game.
  4. Cal’s Allen Crabbe is the nation’s sixth leading scorer, averaging 21.9 points per game and is set to duel with the fifth leading scorer in the nation as Greg McDermott and Creighton head into Haas Pavilion on Saturday. McDermott is no stranger to scoring as he was the nation’s third leading scorer last year. This also won’t be the first time Crabbe has seen McDermott as the two faced off at the U-19 USA Basketball Camp in 2011. Both McDermott and Crabbe can shoot the lights out from all over the court, and Cal will certainly need all it can get from the talented junior if they want to pull of the upset against #16 ranked Creighton.
  5. All the buzz might be around top recruit Jabari Parker on Thursday when the 2012-13 Geico ESPN High School Basketball Showcase takes place tomorrow night across the ESPN networks, but the Pac-12 will be focusing on a different top 10 recruit. Kentucky, Washington, and Arizona are all still in the hunt to land Aaron Gordon. Gordon will get to prove himself at 8 PM ET against great competition as he will take on Andrew and Aaron Harrison, both top five recruits and current 2013 Kentucky commitsments.
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