Pac-12 Postseason Honors

Posted by AMurawa on March 11th, 2013

With the Pac-12 regular season now two days in the books and with the first Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas on the immediate horizon, we’ve got a brief moment in time to look back at the regular season and wrap up all we’ve gone through over the past 10 weeks. And we’ll start that out by doing what every self-respecting college basketball writer is doing about now – handing out some awards. We’ll get to our all-conference teams a bit later today, but for now, let’s get right to it as Parker Baruh, Adam Butler, Andrew Murawa and Connor Pelton compile their votes and their reasoning as we go through all the usual postseason awards.

Player of the YearAllen Crabbe, Junior, California

Crabbe was a unanimous selection for this award, earning all four votes.

  • Connor Pelton: “He puts up the quietest 18.6 PPG you’ll ever see, but leading the conference in scoring is no small task. And to do it while bringing your team from the bottom fourth of the league all the way to an NCAA Tournament lock in the final month of the year is the icing on the cake.”
  • Adam Butler: “Allen Crabbe was the best player on the most surprising team. He’s the most feared offensive threat in the conference.”
Allen Crabbe, California

The Conference’s Leading Scorer, Allen Crabbe Is Also Our Unanimous Player of the Year. (Ben Margot/AP)

  • Parker Baruh: “A case can be made for Jahii Carson, but given Cal’s resurgence in the Pac-12, Crabbe being the leading scorer in the conference, and his spectacular 31 point, 12-of-15 shooting performance against Arizona on the road, the nod goes to Crabbe.”
  • Andrew Murawa: A month into the conference season, Crabbe probably wasn’t even on my radar for this award. Then came the 31-point explosion in a win at Arizona and the post-shove streak down the stretch against USC, all part of a seven-game winning streak for Cal that found Crabbe, in particular, playing his best ball of the season.”

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Pac-12 M5: 03.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 11th, 2013

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  1. Following UCLA’s terrible performance Wednesday night against Washington State, it looked like the Bruins had tossed away their chance to win the outright Pac-12 regular season title. But with a solid win over Washington on Saturday coupled with Utah upsetting Oregon, the Bruins went down as the Pac-12 champion for the first time since 2007-08. Following the game, the team assembled in the hallway at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, borrowed Washington’s 2011-12 conference championship trophy and staged their own impromptu celebration. While the team still has plenty of goals left to chase, for a day at least, expectations have been met and the criticism can maybe not cease, but at least pause.
  2. In advance of this week’s conference tournament, there is a chance that USC, already an underdog, could be playing shorthanded due to a case of late-season stupidity. There are reports out of Spokane that following USC’s Saturday night blowout loss to Washington State, “several basketball players” were “shouting anti-Spokane rhetoric” (which may well be my favorite phrase of the season) outside of a downtown bar. Fights (at least two) ensued and the end result was four people getting sent to the hospital. No names of players involved have been released as of Midnight on Sunday, but there are reports of a seven-foot, 260-pound center (there are three different USC players who could fit that general description) looking drunk and belligerent and who, according to the reports of an employee of one of the bars in the area, “basically admitted to hitting several people, including two women.” Stay tuned.
  3. Colorado’s conference tournament will start off with a rematch, as they’ll face a last-place Oregon State team that just beat up on them on Saturday. But prior to that game, Tad Boyle will make sure his Buffaloes show up in Las Vegas with something to prove. With Andre Roberson apparently in a battle with mononucleosis which may well end his season, Colorado is going to have to find somebody else to step up and lead this team as tournament play begins. Another point to think about: If the selection committee is going to make choices based on their current rosters, could CU get dinged and perhaps left to the NIT if Roberson’s season is in jeopardy?
  4. If Colorado can get out of that first round game with Oregon State, who will be waiting for them in the quarterfinals but their new-found rival, Arizona. The Wildcats slipped all the way to the fourth seed in this week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Vegas and we could be due for a tiebreaker. After January’s infamous Sabatino Chen monitor-reviewed shot, Colorado bounced back to easily handle the Wildcats in Boulder, but heading into the most important stretch of the season, neither team is playing particularly well.
  5. Later today, we’ll unveil our Pac-12 awards, just as the conference will. But if you want a preview as to what those awards might look like, Peter Yoon of ESPN LA has your rundown. He’s got Allen Crabbe sneaking out the Player of the Year award over Shabazz Muhammad and Jahii Carson, Dana Altman taking down Coach of the Year over Ben Howland and Mike Montgomery and Muhammad squeaking out a win over Carson for Freshman of the Year. Plenty of discussions could be have over all of these picks (and the rest of the picks Yoon makes), as none of the candidates are clear winners in any of the categories.
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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Most Memorable Moment?

Posted by AMurawa on March 9th, 2013

As we get ready for out last weekend of the regular season, we start with a quick look back at the last few months before we get ready to look ahead to the bulk of March. As such, we asked a simple question:

What has been your favorite moment this season?

Adam Butler: The best moment is one of my favorite questions. Certainly at a time of year (I think I’ve used that as a lead like 200 times thus far in just one week of March) when just a single moment can define so much. But across the course of about thirty games per team, over wins and losses, ups and downs, there have been so many. Cobbs, Gordon, and Drew II have all beat the buzzer. Chen tried to. The conference had its first matchup of ranked opponents since March 2009. Game Day visited the Conference and Bill Walton grabbed the torch (or bullhorn) of touting the Pac’s return. There’s been so much to enjoy all the season long and, to be completely honest, the year’s most memorable moment is yet to come. Something is going to happen inside the MGM, or someone is going to do something in the Dance we’ll talk about for years to come, “Remember when…” But to that effect, I’m going to make the homer pick. Because as Arizona had the improbable opportunity to take the lead at home against Florida, I was squatting on top of my couch. I had two friends locked in arms to my left and an air of tension thicker than Kaleb Tarczewski. The Lyons floater fell and we (in my apartment and in Tucson) went controllably wild. And then the backboard went red and we went uncontrollably wild. My kinda moment.

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Morning Five: 03.08.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 8th, 2013

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  1. What appeared to be a historic season for Akron could be on the verge of going down in flames after Alex Abreu, its starting point guard (10.3 points and 6 assists per game), was arrested on drug charges and suspended indefinitely. Abreu was arrested on third-degree felony drug trafficking charges after receiving a shipment of marijuana from undercover officers. With Abreu out the Zips will be susceptible to an upset in the MAC Tournament. Although their record suggests that they could be in the conversation for an at-large bid if they were to lose late in the MAC Tournament, the ongoing absence of Abreu would most likely put them on the outside of the bubble looking in.
  2. Akron is not the only school that will be missing a key piece for a potential March run as Colorado announced that Andre Roberson is out indefinitely after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. The loss of Roberson, the leading rebounder in the country at 11.5 per game, is a big one as he had grabbed over 30% of the team’s total rebounds heading into last night’s game. Like Akron, Colorado is already on the bubble, but thankfully for the Buffaloes they have a bit more wiggle room than the Zips as nobody on the NCAA Selection Committee would have been expecting the Buffaloes to win the Pac-12 Tournament even before Roberson’s illness.
  3. We hear coaches make  ridiculous comments about how important each game is, but we still find Rick Pitino‘s statement that Louisville’s game on Saturday against Notre Dame is the most important home game the school has played during his 12 seasons there amusing. Pitino’s rationale is that not only are the Cardinals playing for at least a share of the Big East regular title and that they will be ” saying goodbye to two really, really special young men.” We can appreciate Pitino’s desire to win the school’s second Big East title since he got there, but we don’t quite get what makes this game so much more important than the others that led to the one that put them in position to win the Big East regular season title. As for the “two really, really special young men” that he is talking about we are assuming he means Peyton Siva (senior) and Gorgui Dieng (a junior, but assumed to be leaving) who the school will be honoring before the game. Again we do not get what puts these two ahead of the other significant players who were played their last home game for the Cardinals during the past 12 seasons. Having said that we wish Pitino the best of luck in their most important home game ever. Until the next one.
  4. It seems like almost every year a handful of writers churn out columns suggesting that there is “parity” in college basketball citing anecdotal evidence. Peter Tiernan decided to take a semi-scientific look at it and based on his analysis of how often non-power conference teams make the NCAA Tournament and how they perform against seed expectation and it is not that clear that there is as much parity as some would think. Breaking the past 28 NCAA Tournaments (when it expanded to 64 teams) into distinct 7-year eras he notes that the most recent era has the fewest non-power conference teams in the NCAA Tournament although those teams do tend to perform much better than their seeding would suggest. Tiernan does point out that the latter is aided by the fact that non-power conference teams tend to have significantly lower seeds than power conference teams making it relatively easier to outperform their seed. We are not sure we buy Tiernan’s assertion that this argues against the idea of parity as it might actually suggest that non-power conference teams are not getting the respect they deserve from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee although that would probably need a matched-pair analysis of performance of teams with similar seedings from power and non-power conferences.
  5. The Super Bowl halftime show is a much bigger announcement, but we doubt that they have a more eclectic mix of musical talent than the Final Four based on the announced line-up–Dave Matthews Band, Sting, Muse, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Flo Rida, Ludacris, and others–for this year’s Final Four. We won’t pretend to be fans (or even that familiar) with all of the acts, but we have to give the NCAA credit for picking a diverse group of bands as the listed line-up seems to cover most of the music genres we think that fans at the Final Four might be interested in outside of country music, but we are pretty sure you can find that in or around Atlanta if you are really looking for it.
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Night Line: Buffs a Dangerous Team, Although Roberson’s Uncertain Status a Concern

Posted by BHayes on March 8th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Colorado has underachieved at times this year, but don’t look towards Thursday night for any further proof of that phenomenon. Even without Andre Roberson — their breathing, eating, walking double-double, the Buffaloes blasted the Pac-12 leading Oregon Ducks. The boys from Eugene will take their 23-point thrashing and now head to Utah, where focus for Dana Altman’s crew will shift to earning at least a share of the Pac-12 title. Back in Boulder much of the discussion will center around Roberson’s availability moving forward. Tad Boyle announced that a viral illness has the junior on the mend, with no official timetable set for his return. Roberson’s absence will surely have an impact – he is far too talented and effective for it not to. But if Thursday night taught us anything, it’s that these Buffaloes are more than capable enough to be a headache come Tournament time – with or without Roberson.

With Andre Roberson Sidelined, Tad Boyle Will Look For Even More Production And Leadership Out Of Spencer Dinwiddie

With Andre Roberson Sidelined, Tad Boyle Will Look For Even More Production And Leadership Out Of Spencer Dinwiddie

If the old cliché holds true and good guard play really does win in March, Tad Boyle has to feel pretty good about his odds this month. Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie may not be household names, but the duo makes up one of the best (and most underrated) backcourts in the country. Dinwiddie has seen his numbers rise across the board in his sophomore season, with his 15.2 ppg and 3.0 apg leading the team. He has struggled from the field of late –18-63 in his last five — but his ability to get to the line (and convert) has been a constant this season, as he has gone 39-43 from the stripe over that stretch. Same story for the dynamic lead guard tonight, with his 3-9 line from the field offset nicely by nine made free throws, seven rebounds, and six assists. His backcourt mate Booker is a more limited player, but the fellow sophomore chips in with over 12 points a game and is another capable ballhandler — a definite plus for a team with a relatively raw frontcourt.

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So Shabazz Is Leaving, But Who Else?

Posted by AMurawa on March 4th, 2013

Saturday night following UCLA’s win over Arizona, Ben Howland admitted that, yes, Shabazz Muhammad had, barring some strange unforeseen circumstances, played his last game at Pauley Pavilion, thus sharing a secret that everybody already knew. One of the nation’s top recruits, Muhammad will be a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft and his time in Westwood will be limited to just this one season. It’s no surprise, and certainly not worth spilling many pixels on. But, it is a good jumping off point to look around the rest of the Pac-12 and project the collegiate futures of other talented underclassmen and ask a couple different questions: First, will they declare for the NBA Draft after this season and, more subjectively, should they? Certainly every player’s own personal situation will have a say in the decision, and far be it from me to tell kids what they should and should not do with their potentially multi-million dollar futures, but it is that time of year when we start thinking about what some of these teams are going to look like next season. So, here’s a look at the players around the conference most likely to be weighing their options when the season ends, with Draft Express’ opinion on where these guys would be slated to go.

  • Allen Crabbe, Junior, California – Crabbe’s gone. The 6’6” wing has taken on a slightly bigger role each season in Berkeley and is one of the purest shooters in the draft. A solid defender as well, he’s got an NBA-ready game and could be a late first-round pick, although Draft Express currently projects him as the #11 pick in the second round. It is doubtful that another year in college would improve his draft stock substantially as Crabbe is mostly a completed player.
Allen Crabbe, California

Allen Crabbe’s Long Frame and Golden Jumper Have A Spot Waiting For Him In The NBA

  • Andre Roberson, Junior, Colorado – Odds are probably good that Roberson will leave after this season, but while he uses his long frame to great effect defensively and on the glass, he’s still a work in progress offensively. He’s a decent enough three-point shooter (35% for his career on limited attempts), but he is a poor free throw shooter, has a questionable handle, and has an unpolished offensive game anywhere inside of the three-point line. Draft Express has him as the seventh pick in the second round of this year’s draft, but I have a hard time projecting this guy’s game to the NBA when he sees players with more size and length and just as much athleticism competing with him for rebounds.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.27.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on February 27th, 2013

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  1. The Pac-12 is having one of its best seasons in several years and with only two weeks to go, its two most prestigious programs — UCLA and Arizona — are squaring off to help determine the champion. Cal coach Mike Montgomery believes the common perception around the league is that if the Bruins and Wildcats struggle, the league is down, and if they have success, the league is up. His team is trying to change that mentality, however, as the Bears are playing the best basketball in the conference as of late. Cal is now projected to be in the NCAA Tournament and has risen more than any other team in most NCAA Tournament projections. Although UCLA and Arizona are always the expected conference teams to play deep into March, Cal’s recent run of play has them challenging that perception as well as the top of the conference.
  2. Oregon’s impact freshman Dominic Artis might play sooner than expected as he practiced without a boot on his foot for the first time in a month yesterday, and head coach Dana Altman plans for Artis to log some minutes against Oregon State on Thursday night. Artis’ minutes will be limited against the Beavers, but will gradually increase each game with the ultimate goal that the point guard is playing at full strength in the Pac-12 Tournament.
  3. Tad Boyle isn’t the only one who thinks he has the best defensive player in the country. Last week Boyle said that Andre Roberson was the best defensive player in the Pac-12 and the entire country, and this week Arizona head coach Sean Miller agreed. Miller noted that Roberson’s ability to guard more than one position and great players like Solomon Hill and Allen Crabbe shows how versatile and good he is at locking players up. Miller also mentioned that Roberson reminded him of Dennis Rodman in the sense that he can impact the game so much without scoring. Although Roberson isn’t the unquestioned best defensive player in the country, his numbers certainly back up his success. Roberson leads the nation in rebounding at 11.8 rebounds per game, paces the Pac-12 with 2.27 steals per game, and is seventh in the league with 1.42 blocks per game.
  4. As the regular season comes to a close in the Pac-12, there are certainly a few coaches on the hot seat. At this point, it’s not a foregone conclusion that any coach will be fired, but three in particular are dangerously close to getting relieved of their duties. Oregon State’s Craig Robinson, Washington State’s Ken Bone, and Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins all have had little success as the leaders of their programs. Robinson’s team stands at 3-12 in the Pac-12 and unless the Beavers win two out of their last three games, Oregon State will finish with the fewest wins in Robinson’s tenure in Corvallis. Ken Bone has struggled in Pullman, posting a 24-47 conference record since he has been at the helm. And although Johnny Dawkins hasn’t had any particularly bad seasons, he’s just not cutting it for a program with the history and resources of Stanford. A team that once made the NCAA Tournament 13 times in 14 years under Mike Montgomery is now poised to miss the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive year. Meanwhile, Bay Area rival California (with Mike Montgomery heading the program) is close to clinching its fourth NCAA appearance in the last five seasons.
  5. At one point, USC had Solomon Hill, Lamont Jones, and Derrick Williams committed to play basketball in Los Angeles. Then Tim Floyd left and the downward spiral ensued. Thankfully, the Trojans will be reminded of one part of that colossal mistake after tonight when Solomon Hill and Arizona take on USC for the last time. Hill has been a terrific player his entire career in Tucson and will be starting his 78th consecutive game for the Wildcats. The multi-dimensional forward presents many problems for defenses as he can shoot from the outside as well as score down low. There will always be the thought of what could have been for Hill and the Trojans, but for now the senior will focus on beating USC one last time.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.25.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 25th, 2013

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  1. Last week saw Washington State lose a dramatic game when an underclassman made a poor decision in the waning moments of the game. This week, Oregon State lost a tight one in part due to a poor decision made by an underclassmen in pregame warm-ups. You see, there’s this fairly ridiculous rule that makes dunking in the layup line prior to the game worthy of earning a technical foul against your team. Beavers freshman Olaf Schaftenaar, a guy well-known for his wide variety of aerial acrobatics (note to editors: please use the sarcasm font for that phrase), just couldn’t help himself and threw one down prior to the game. The refs caught the egregious act, penalized OSU with a technical foul, Allen Crabbe knocked down one of two free throws prior to the game, and the Beavers went on to, you know, lose by one. For a Beavers team that Ken Pomeroy currently has ranked as the third-least lucky team in the nation, Saturday’s bad luck reached ridiculous new lows.
  2. Arizona scored a couple of wins this weekend. First, on Saturday they coasted to victory over Washington State behind terrific shooting from senior Kevin Parrom, although head coach Sean Miller wasn’t entirely thrilled with his team’s effort. Then, on Sunday, Miller got a commitment from five-star recruit in the 2014 class, 5’7” point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. The recruiting coup is not only a big score for what it brings to Tucson, it is also big because the Wildcats beat out Pac-12 rival UCLA for the Los Angeles-area product. Jackson-Cartwright will first play in the 2014-15 season at the same time that Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell plays his senior season in Tucson.
  3. Speaking of UCLA, junior forward Travis Wear missed Sunday afternoon’s battle with USC after spraining his right foot at the start of practice on Saturday. His brother David Wear got the start in place of him, while freshman Tony Parker saw a big increase in minutes and production as a result as well. Travis wore a walking boot on the foot during the game but was ambulatory without crutches and Ben Howland said after the game that he is considered day-to-day. Unfortunately, if the Bruins are going to get him back for their next game, he’ll have to be a quick healer, as they’ll host Arizona State in Westwood on Wednesday night.
  4. For some time now Arizona State has been right on the anticipated border between NCAA Tournament team and NIT participant, but the consensus was that the Sun Devils needed to finish strong in order to maintain that positioning. While they’ve still got cracks on the road at UCLA and Arizona, Saturday’s home loss to Washington may leave Herb Sendek’s team needing to win the Pac-12 Tournament in order to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. Freshman point guard Jahii Carson turned in one of his worst games of his young career, senior Carrick Felix was largely – and surprisingly – ineffective in his senior night, and once again, the poor free throw shooting from the Sun Devils helped conspire to leave them on the wrong side of the ledger at the final horn.
  5. The race for the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award is well under way, with Arizona State’s Carrick Felix and Colorado’s Andre Roberson near the top of the list of contenders. Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle has begun making the case for his guy, by not only listing him as the top defender in the conference, but calling him the best defender in the nation. With guys like Aaron Craft, Victor Oladipo, Russ Smith and Jeff Withey already established and well-recognized as great defenders, there is little doubt that Roberson would fail to medal on the national stage, but in the Pac-12, his rebounding and his ability to guard multiple positions and make insanely athletic plays certainly has him on the short list for the conference award.
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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: 01.28.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 28th, 2013

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  1. The biggest breaking news over the weekend came out of Eugene late Friday night when Bob Clark of the Register-Guard reported that Dominic Artis would be out indefinitely with a foot injury of undetermined severity. Oregon still managed to knock off Washington on Saturday evening (in the first sellout at Matthew Knight Arena in almost two years) with Artis watching from the bench in a walking boot. Junior Jonathan Loyd got the start and was solid, getting to the line 10 times in 31 minutes of action and scoring nine points, but he did turn the ball over five times to go along with his five assists. The other guy who earned some of the Artis’ minutes was freshman Willie Moore, who earned nine minutes, his most since before Christmas, but he too struggled with turnovers. With no timetable announced for Artis’ return, the Ducks will have to rely on those two to step up as they go to the Bay Area schools next week.
  2. The other injury of note over the past week was to UCLA’s Travis Wear, whose concussion suffered in the first half against Arizona on Thursday night kept him out of Saturday’s visit to Arizona State. But, Travis Wear or no Travis Wear, the Bruins were going down hard on Saturday. They struggled with the Sun Devils’ athleticism, size and energy, but mostly, they just weren’t engaged in the game after Thursday night’s big win. ASU outhustled UCLA from the opening tip to the closing buzzer, with Jordan Bachynski, Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon having big games and Jahii Carson, despite struggling from the field, conducting a masterful performance at the point.
  3. Last night in front of a sparse crowd limited by blizzard conditions in Salt Lake City, Stanford’s offense got back on track in a big way against Utah, scoring 46 first-half points, 87 points for the game, and looking for the first time in a long time like the explosive team that ran to last year’s NIT title. On the Utah side of the court, sophomore transfer Dallin Bachynski did not suit up for the game and his future at the school is in doubt. After getting double-figure minutes in his first 12 games as a Ute, he hasn’t seen anywhere near that run in Pac-12 play and has lost his starting job to senior Jason Washburn. Bachynski met with head coach Larry Krystkowiak on Friday to discuss his future with the program, and while there are no immediate answers as to his long-term status, the fact that he did still sit on the bench with the team (although he didn’t dress out), indicates that he isn’t going away permanently quite yet.
  4. Arizona bounced back from its disappointing loss on Thursday by jumping out to a commanding early lead against USC and never looking back. The Wildcats held USC to nine points on its first 23 possessions, forcing seven turnovers and 2-of-19 shooting. Aside from the crispness with which the ‘Cats played, another aspect of the game that pleased head coach Sean Miller was the fact that it gave him a chance to extend his bench and find some minutes for guys like Angelo Chol and Gabe York. After playing in the first 14 games of the year, Chol has slid back to take the ninth-man spot in an eight-man rotation, but he played with energy in his eight minutes against the Trojans, grabbing a couple boards and blocking a shot. York, a high-flying freshman, has now played in nine games this year, but the USC game was his first appearance in Pac-12 play and he followed Miller’s advice by being very aggressive in looking for his shot. York played eight minutes and yet found room for five three-point attempts, knocking down a couple. Miller has talked with both guys about their playing time and has come away impressed with their maturity even when the minutes haven’t been there.
  5. Colorado took it to California on Sunday and did so without the services of Andre Roberson for much of the first half. Despite losing the nation’s leading rebounder to foul trouble, the Buffs rode some hot shooting to a 34-18 halftime lead and never looked back. After the game, Cal head coach Mike Montgomery had plenty of questions about his team, including whether the team even thought it could win the game and what type of mindset it now has. With conference leader Oregon due in Haas Pavilion next weekend and any distant hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament receding into the sunset, the Bears need to get it together, and quick. One good bit of news: senior guard Brandon Smith returned to action this weekend after six games lost due to the effects of a concussion.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume II

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2013

Professor Pac is back to break down and evaluate each team’s performances in the past week. With three pet pupils atop the leaderboard still without a loss, it’s no surprise who is earning the As thus far.

Washington – A

After winning a conference road game over an intrastate rival last week, the Huskies decided to one-up themselves this week, taking down two more road games, this time over slightly more significant competition, to begin the season with a surprising three-game road winning streak.

Focus on: Andrew Andrews. The stats this week weren’t anywhere near mind-blowing for the redshirt freshman (9 PPG, 4 RPG, 0.5 APG), but he brings an energy and athleticism to a Husky backcourt that definitely needed it. Offensively, he is a threat to get to the paint and create opportunities on any possession, and on defense, as his four steals against Stanford on Saturday showed, he is capable of wreaking havoc on the opposition. He’s still green, but look for his role to continue to expand this season.

Looking ahead: For a team with a history of struggling on the road, the Huskies have taken care of business there in recent weeks. Now they have to prove they can win at home, something they have failed to do three separate times in the non-conference schedule. Colorado is the first test tonight with Utah visiting on Sunday.

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Oregon – A

If you wanted to pick one weakness on this Ducks team, it might be the lack of a proven go-to scorer at this point. This week, for instance, in each of their two home wins over the Arizona schools, four of the five starters scored in double figures, with nobody scoring more than 14 points. In fact, only four times all season has a Duck scored 20 or more (Damyean Dotson twice, Arsalan Kazemi once, and E.J. Singler once). I’m not one who thinks this is always necessarily a problem – if you have plenty of good offensive options and you wind up with balanced scoring that way, it certainly keeps the defense guessing – but I think in the Ducks’ case, they have a bunch of good players, none of whom are completely polished offensive options. And against Arizona down the stretch, the possibility of that being a problem raised its head. Part of it has to do with the decision to milk the clock way too early, but at some point they probably need somebody (the best candidate is Dotson) to become the go-to guy down the stretch.

Focus on: E.J. Singler. The senior had a great all-around game in the win over Arizona, going for 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals, while knocking down some key free throws late, but then once again disappeared for the most part against Arizona State, hitting just one of nine field goal attempts and grabbing only one board in 36 minutes of play. That’s been the M.O. for the most part this season for a guy expected to be an all-conference caliber guy: inconsistency.

Looking ahead: The Ducks leave the state of Oregon for the first time in almost a month and just the third game all year when they head down Los Angeles way. They will be the opponent for Bob Cantu’s debut with USC tomorrow night before headlining the Pac-12 schedule on Saturday with a visit to Pauley Pavilion and UCLA for the first conference match-up between Top 25 teams since 2009.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.16.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. We are still probably a couple months away from when USC will announce its next head coach, but everybody’s got an opinion about who that might be. I tossed out the usual suspects and a few sleepers a few days ago, but Andy Katz, who’s certainly far more tied in than I, has a few interesting big name possibilities of his own: Texas’ Rick Barnes, Villanova’s Jay Wright and Washington’s Lorenzo Romar. Katz’s reasoning is that these are all guys who might want to get out of their current jobs ahead of getting fired in exchange for a nice brand new contract and a new landscape, citing Herb Sendek as a real pioneer in this field. While I don’t see Romar as approaching the hot seat yet (although, if he doesn’t land Aaron Gordon, maybe we can talk about that possibility approaching), it is an interesting angle. And, given that Romar is a native southern Californian, anything is possible.
  2. Whoever winds up in the USC job is going to have to do a much better job mining the copious amounts of basketball talent in the Los Angeles area than Kevin O’Neill ever did. In fact, they’re probably going to have to do a better job than even Ben Howland is currently doing at UCLA. As friend-of-the-blog Adam Butler writes, those Los Angeles schools have done a terrible job in recent years keeping elite local talents at home, citing guys like James Harden, Jordan Hamilton, Kawhi Leonard, and Derrick Williams as kids who got away. If Pat Haden can find a guy who can simply land a handful of the high quality recruits right in his own backyard, he has the opportunity to shift the landscape in the Pac-12. And really, everywhere out west.
  3. In the wake of UCLA’s road trip to the Rocky Mountains that coincided with a big snowstorm, the team’s MVP for the week goes to not Shabazz Muhammad, not Kyle Anderson, not Jordan Adams, but… the bus driver? As Rahshaun Haylock of Fox Sports West reports, the Bruins were in danger of not making it to the arena due to adverse weather conditions and a well-placed hill. But the driver saved the day with a lead foot and an iron constitution.
  4. Colorado was UCLA’s last victim on its recent road trip, and in the wake of three losses in four games, the Buffaloes are trying to do everything they can to right their ship, including a players-only meeting on Sunday initiated by Sabatino Chen and Andre Roberson which ran for 30 minutes. The coaches too are trying to figure out what they can do to shift the tide, but one thing Tad Boyle is longing for is the leadership ability of departed senior Nate Tomlinson, who brought a win-at-all-costs nature and a vocal quality to the team that is now missing. Still, Boyle recognizes that this team isn’t far away from being where it needs to be and hopes somebody can grow into the team’s new leader.
  5. Lastly, David Piper of Addicted to Quack has a good statistical profile of what makes Oregon a conference contender. While the Ducks have struggled with turnovers in the early going in part due to a pair of freshman guards, Piper notes that those numbers are dropping while UO’s three-point shooting (which got off to a terrible start) is rising. Combine those factors with rock-solid numbers elsewhere, including a defensive efficiency number good enough for 20th in the nation, and the Ducks are not only understandably good, but they are improving.
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