Pac-12 M5: 10.16.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 16th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. The most intriguing thing about preseason preview time in college basketball is finding out about all the new faces you’re about to get to know and trying to make sense of how they’re going to fit in with their new teams. We more or less know what to expect of guys like Chasson Randle and Kaleb Tarczewski and Askia Booker, but in this first Morning Five of the new season, we’ll take a quick five-stop tour around the conference to meet some of the new guys. First stop: Eugene, where Dana Altman welcomes in six new faces (four freshmen and two junior college transfers), but five-star guard JaQuan Lyle is not among them. Lyle’s struggled with academic eligibility questions all summer, questions that were apparently answered when he did not enroll at Oregon for the fall semester. Similarly, freshman forward Ray Kasongo was denied admission to Oregon and is now at Southern Idaho. Still, after a tumultuous offseason, the Ducks are happy to be back on the court and look forward to contributions from all of their newcomers. Freshmen Casey Benson and Ahmaad Rorie will share duties at point guard, while freshmen Jordan Bell and Dillon Brooks should expect time there as well. Likewise, JuCo transfer Dwayne Benjamin appears to be in for a big role, while the other JuCo transfer, Michael Chandler, is dealing with knee problems early that have prevented him from getting in much work.
  2. Like the Ducks, Arizona State is also going to be dealing with a number of fresh faces, as seven newcomers have chances to earn playing time for head coach Herb Sendek. And, as Connor Pelton of The House of Sparky writes, despite new faces in the backcourt, Sendek appears primed to stick with the more up-tempo offense we saw during the last two seasons. Point guard Tra Holder and off-guard Kodi Justice are a pair of freshmen who have a good chance to jump right into the meat of the Sun Devils’ backcourt rotation, with JuCo transfer Gerry Blakes in the mix as well. And given that Sendek says that this team is the fastest and most athletic team he’s coached in his time in Tempe, that up-tempo style could fit them well.
  3. As USC heads into its second season under head coach Andy Enfield, even the most die-hard USC basketball fan probably wouldn’t recognize any of the players on this year’s squad if they walked by on campus. But while the talent level on this squad is still in need of an upgrade, this team is slowly but surely starting to fit Enfield’s vision. Last year, Enfield inherited some players whose style did not fit his, but with freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin – whose services Enfield beat out cross-town suitors UCLA for – leading the way, this year’s Trojans should at the very least play the type of pace that the second-year head coach is looking for.
  4. While there are plenty of familiar faces on the Arizona squad, freshman point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright is a new one with a lot to prove. You see, not only is Jackson-Cartwright a 5’10” player in a sport dominated by giants and a point guard in a program known for the consistent excellence of their point guards, but he is a young man looking to bounce back from a rough senior season in high school. You see, in the middle of the season, he left his high school because of an academic misconduct investigation and spent the remainder of the year finishing up his prep education at a different school without the benefit of basketball to fall back on. In the process, Jackson-Cartwright may have proven his maturity for the way he handled the situation.
  5. Rounding out our Morning Five by landing back in Central Oregon again, new head coach Wayne Tinkle may not have a ton of true newcomers on his first Oregon State team, but they will largely be new faces even to the most dedicated Pac-12 basketball fan. The most experienced player on his roster – Langston Morris-Walker – averaged just 18 minutes per game last season. Nobody on this roster can rightfully dodge the “unproven” tag, so they’re all embracing it and hoping to use this year — and the opportunities for playing time that come with an unproven roster — to do some proving. Check back later today for RTC’s Oregon State team preview.
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Pac-12 Post-Mortems: USC

Posted by Andrew Murawa on May 6th, 2014

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, USC.

What Went Wrong

The problems of USC basketball in 2013-14 can largely – but not entirely – be attributed to previous administrations and the changing of the guard. New head coach Andy Enfield was, for the most part, left with a roster of ne’er-do-wells and misfits thrown together into a system in which few of them fit. Almost nobody on the roster would have been a guy that Enfield would have thought would fit perfectly into his system, and among the handful of guys who did, there wasn’t a ton of buy-in. Let’s put it this way: The team’s two captains were senior J.T. Terrell and junior Byron Wesley, who between the two of them were suspended for a total of 10 games and couldn’t get out of the program fast enough once the season ended.

J.T. Terrell Wearing A "C" On His Right Shoulder: Never A Good Sign

J.T. Terrell Wearing A “C” On His Right Shoulder: Never A Good Sign

What Went Right

Well, on Wednesday March 12, the Trojans took a three-point loss against Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament, a game which served as a mercy killing of the USC season. Better days likely await the program under Enfield, but man, this season needs to be put in the past right quick. Beyond that snarky answer, Enfield really did begin to implement the type of basketball he would like this Trojans team to play in the future. They got up and down the court, found transition offense on 30 percent of all possessions, and averaged offensive possessions of just 16 seconds, good for 26th in the nation. Once Enfield can begin to fill roster spots with players who will better fit into his scheme, we’ll get a better idea of how the Enfield era will work at USC.

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Marching to Vegas: The Final Steps

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on March 7th, 2014

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas.We find ourselves on the penultimate day of the basketball season. A season, like those before it, that has seen highs and low, cliché, cliché, cliché. I’ve been critical of the Pac, supportive of the Pac, predictive, analytical, and funny. I’ve defended it multiple times and sang praise, too. I’ve linked this entire lead. But the point here is that we’re here. The calendar has turned to our favorite month. Our March to Vegas is over. Our season embarks into the madness of sudden death and the promise of possibility. Tournaments begin (ultimately two of them) with abundant hope and now I’m getting lost in Waltonian hyperbole; but if not hyperbole then what is March for? I mean, look at our first and only conference games thus far in the month. The home and road teams have nearly split their contests. To date, home teams had been winning at a greater than 66 percent clip. Suddenly we get to the third month on the calendar and nothing becomes predictable. Each of Wednesday’s road teams won and then, in perhaps the most unexpected of outcomes, the Trojans got their second victory. Indeed we’re knee deep in the madness and we aren’t even in Vegas yet.

Behind A High-Flying Arizona Team, The Pac Is Back, Right? (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

Behind A High-Flying Arizona Team, The Pac Is Back, Right? (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

But before we get there, I’d like to revisit our first thought. When I lauded that the Pac was back before nary a game was played. Is it back? Or, perhaps more aptly said, has it returned? With the benefit of hindsight, I’d say it is. Look at what we have: arguably the best crop of guards in the nation and the best defense the nation has to offer. We watched the emergence of Utah, a budding program under the hard-nosed and determined watch of Larry Krystkowiak. And have you watched Delon Wright? I didn’t see that coming and if you did, link me to what you said about it because I’d like to buy you a drink. What a phenomenal player who is coming back next season. And still has this season to play (I see you, Vegas). Further, we watched what I believe to be the best backcourt in the country. Or at least the most dynamic. Between Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, is there anything they can’t do? And if there is, they could just toss it up to Zach LaVine and it might be all right.

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Battle of Basement in Pac-12 Features Coaches Heading in Opposite Directions

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) on March 7th, 2014

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist for Rush The Court. He filed this report after USC and Washington State played Thursday night in Pullman, Washington.

What do you expect when you watch two teams who are in the bottom half of their conference in nearly every rate statistic, the two bottom teams in offensive and defensive efficiency, two teams that have combined for three wins since January? Let’s just call this one “aesthetically challenged” and leave it at that. Whether it’s giving up an and-one off an inbounds play or airballing a free throw, there was nothing that made Washington State look good in its 79-68 home loss to rebuilding USC on Thursday night. Having taken a 36-35 lead into halftime and starting the second half with an 8-0 run including three-pointers from guards DaVonte Lacy and Dexter Kernich-Drew and a dunk from forward D.J. Shelton, the Cougars looked to be on track for an easy victory against a Trojans team that hadn’t won since January 22. But USC came out with a 1-2-1-1 zone press that disrupted Washington State’s flow, and a 15-2 USC run turned the tide of the game.

It's been a up-and-down first year for Andy Enfield, but the Trojans did pick up a solid road win Thursday evening. (AP)

It’s been a up-and-down first year for Andy Enfield, but the Trojans did pick up a solid road win Thursday evening. (AP)

“We knew that they would press at some stage,” Kernich-Drew said. “We got lazy.” In the 12 minutes following the Cougars’ 8-0 run, the Trojans turned a 44-35 deficit into a 70-53 lead, capped off by a three-pointer from USC guard Byron Wesley, who finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds. From there, head coach Andy Enfield’s team weathered a too-little-too-late run and held on for its  first road victory since Valentine’s Day 2013 at Stanford. (Back then, Enfield was just a coach at a small Division I school that nobody had heard of unless they were die-hard fans of accurate free throw shooters.) The victory gave USC the tiebreaker for 11th place in the Pac-12, with each two-win team far adrift of the rest of the conference.

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Best YouTube Moments in USC Basketball: The Nominees

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 3rd, 2014

Last month we introduced our new project, which is centered around determining the top YouTube moment in Pac-12 basketball history. We continue the nomination portion with USC.

[Ed note: These are just the top moments we could find on YouTube, which has a vast number and array of videos, but we won't be able to cover the entire 99 years of the conference.]

We open with a comeback that could very well go on to win this entire tournament. Down 84-79 with 2.8 seconds left, USC small forward Adam Spanich caught a pass in the corner and hit a three-pointer with just 0.8 remaining to pull the Trojans within two. What happened next will go down in Pac-12 lore, as Spanich then intercepted Oregon’s inbound pass at half-court, dribbled once, and flung up a long shot. The ball hit nothing but net, and just like that the Trojans had scored six points in under three seconds to shock Oregon. Some may say that if you pause the video just as the clock hits triple zeros, the ball was still in Spanich’s hands. That may or may not be true, but it doesn’t take away from the spectacular feat.

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#rushthetrip Day Four (Continued): Inventive If Nothing Else, Enfield Takes Aim at LA

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 11th, 2014

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

Malibu made for a relaxing Saturday afternoon, but I was hoping the evening’s Galen Center visit would provide a little more in the way of energy and passion. After all, LA’s two biggest programs were set to renew pleasantries, with the new shine of the offseason coaching hires not yet worn off. UCLA had pounded USC at Pauley Pavilion a month earlier, but a recent string of competitive USC efforts and a supportive home crowd (I hoped) offered a chance for a closer result this time around. That hope found a basis on the floor in the first half when USC, one of the worst three-point shooting teams in Division I basketball, uncharacteristically connected on five of its 10 attempts from long range, propelling them to a six-point halftime lead. That cushion quickly disappeared after intermission, however, as crisp UCLA offense and a more typical Trojans’ shooting performance led to a 24-5 Bruin run to open the half. USC never really threatened after that, ultimately falling to their crosstown rivals by 10.

The Galen Center's Aesthetics Stand Out, But The Overall Atmosphere At USC Lags Well Behind The Alluring Facility

The Galen Center’s Aesthetics Stand Out, But The Overall Atmosphere At USC Lags Well Behind The Alluring Facility

In its totality, the Galen Center experience was an odd one. The crowd was about 75 percent pro-USC, but they were never totally engaged, even during a first-half that should have given them plenty to cheer about. USC writers told me that this was the loudest the building had been all season, which, given the Trojans’ struggles in Andy Enfield’s first season, isn’t too surprising. Another strange, random observation: The student section was almost entirely male. I don’t typically calculate the student section gender ratio (although I’d assume there are usually more men than women), but it was that striking Saturday night. It may not really matter who comes to games, but the dearth of female students hints at basketball’s lowered place within USC’s extracurricular hierarchy. Any power conference program will attract its share of sports fans (a male-dominated population), but the consistently successful ones have students attending games as a result of school spirit. Right now, USC basketball has little to do with the typical USC undergraduate’s college experience.

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Pac-12 Thoughts: On Jahii Carson, Colorado Without Dinwiddie and Richard Solomon…

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 20th, 2014

Here are some notes from around the Pac-12, coming out of another busy weekend.

Jahii Carson (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

Jahii Carson is Slumping Right Now (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

Arizona State is off to a 2-3 start in conference play. It is not ideal, but then again, the Sun Devils have played three road games and two at home, so that record is not terrible. And given that Herb Sendek’s team probably plays the toughest opponents in the unbalanced schedule (along with traveling partner Arizona, Arizona State is the lucky team that only gets to play Washington, Washington State and USC once), they’ll probably be just fine if they get to 9-9 in conference play, because that means they’ll have some quality wins under their belt. But. All of that being said, the elephant in the room right now is Jahii Carson, who is definitely slumping. He hasn’t hit better than 50 percent from the field in a game in over a month. He’s turning the ball over; he’s generally not making his teammates better; and most disturbingly, he’s not scoring and seemingly not as explosive. We pointed to these trends before, but it is clear that as Carson goes, so go the Sun Devils. Need proof? Check out the numbers below:

carsonstats2Need an explanation? Let’s not beat around the bush. Carson has been awful in Arizona State’s five losses. And Carson is not an awful player; in fact he’s very, very good. In order for the Sun Devils to take the next step, however, and get into the NCAA Tournament, Carson needs to up his game and be the type of consistent performer he was as a freshman. Carson toyed around with the idea of leaving for the NBA Draft last season, but he returned to Tempe with the hope of tightening up his jumper and proving his NBA credentials. Unfortunately for his prospects and team, a sophomore slump has left more questions than answers.

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Takeaways From the Pac-12’s Weekend Games

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

It was a busy Pac-12 weekend around the conference. Here are some thoughts on each of the weekend’s five games.

Colorado 100, Oregon 91

  • It was a game that largely lived up to the hype, with both teams looking good for long stretches. But over the last 10 minutes of the game, it was – get this – Colorado’s guard play that was the deciding factor in the game. It was supposed to be the undefeated Ducks with the bevy of play-making guards that had the advantage on the perimeter, while the Buffaloes were going to need to take advantage of a weak Oregon frontcourt in order to win this game at home. Instead, over the final quarter of the game, Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 25 of Colorado’s 39 points, sophomore guard Xavier Talton chipped in six more, and Jaron Hopkins was the guy to get everything started with a three off a Dinwiddie dime. All told, the five Colorado guards outscored Oregon’s by a total of 66-52.

    Askia Booker, Colorado

    Big Game Askia? Who Knew? (Patrick Ghidossi, BuffaloSportsNews)

  • Meanwhile up front the Ducks were just okay against that tough Colorado frontcourt. On the offensive end, they were great, grabbing better than 41 percent of their own misses and getting a terrific 24-point performance out of Mike Moser. But the bigger concern is their ability to defend on the interior, and here they were exposed a bit, allowing Colorado to grab better than 46 percent of their misses, leading to lots of easy putbacks for the Buffs. Oregon’s guards are going to keep them in a lot of games, but they need to clean up their frontcourt issues in order to reach their potential.
  • For some of the surprises in this game, the most expected angle proved completely true: Colorado is going to be really, really tough at home. With a strong seven-man rotation plus a couple other guys ready to provide spot minutes, the Buffs are deep, athletic, big, strong and – most importantly – good. And the Coors Events Center is a great homecourt advatange. KenPom.com has the Buffs expected to win their next six games at home by an average of just under 10 points per game, but that only takes us to February 22 when they’ll host Arizona in their last home game of the season. Right now that KenPom projection is Arizona, 68-65, but in what could be Dinwiddie’s final home game, the early inclination is to lean Buffs. Not that trying to project a game seven weeks out is good practice.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.06.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 6th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. As Drew reported last week, Oregon State decided junior forward Eric Moreland was eligible to return from his 14-game suspension two games early, meaning that he could appear in the Beavers’ Pac-12 opener last Thursday at Colorado. His return sparked some energy into a team that has had an up-and-down non-conference slate, using his lengthy frame to force bad shots and his athletic ability to grab 10 rebounds. Head coach Craig Robinson ended up misunderstanding the terms of the big man’s suspension that was handed down last summer, thinking that it was for half of all games played, when it was actually measured by days of the season. Moreland came back down to earth on Saturday at Utah, only playing 19 minutes as he, along with the entirety of the Oregon State starting lineup, lacked energy. The result was a forgettable one-rebound, four-point performance in an 80-69 loss to the Utes. The return of the junior was expected to lift the Beavers to at least an NIT run, but if the first weekend of conference play is any indication, it could be another long winter in Corvallis.
  2. The nation is now down to six undefeated teams — and the Pac-12 to just one — after Colorado exploded for a 100-point performance against previously undefeated Oregon on Sunday afternoon in Boulder. The Ducks were able to survive despite giving up 105 points to Mississippi and 96 to BYU earlier in the season, but the Buffaloes in their home building proved too much to handle. They now sit at 13-1 and are likely to drop out of the top 10 when the national rankings are released later today.
  3. The USC-UCLA crosstown basketball rivalry wrote another chapter yesterday, with the Bruins throttling USC for a 107-73 win. The 107 points scored by UCLA ties the record for the most points from a winning team in the history of the rivalry. Both teams are of course led by first year coaches, Andy Enfield with the Trojans, and Steve Alford with the Bruins, and it was just the fourth time ever that each entered conference play with new coaches at the same time. Enfield has quickly learned in his stint with at USC that anything and everything he says about the team in Westwood will be reported and scrutinized, and they are surely already looking forward to a rematch at the Galen Center on February 8. UCLA improved to 12-2 with the win, while SC fell to 9-5. Both teams get to stay home this week and will host the difficult Arizona schools.
  4. Sticking with UCLA, Bruins Nation rates the full Bruins’ lineup after non-conference play. The UCLA roster is loaded with talent, but it’s tough to know just how far the team could go in March when it dropped its only two challenging non-conference games. Sophomore guard Jordan Adams leads the team in scoring with 18.5 PPG, while wing Kyle Anderson is contributing at a 14.5 PPG clip and leading UCLA in rebounds with 8.7 boards a game. Next up for the Bruins is what a lot of people assumed would be the Pac-12 game of the year before the season began, a visit from top-ranked Arizona on Thursday at 6:00 PM. This will be the only time that the Bruins and Wildcats will meet in the regular season.
  5. We close today with some recruiting news, as Arizona has emerged as a major player in the courting of class of 2015 power forward Carlton Bragg. Head coach Sean Miller is working hard in preparing for the future, as his talented Wildcat frontline featuring Kaleb Tarczewski, Aaron Gordon and Brandon Ashley won’t be around Tucson forever. Bragg would be a huge addition to the program, a five-star player who already has offers from Michigan State, Indiana, and UCLA, to name a few.
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Morning Five: Christmas Day 2013 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. Since we are essentially at the end of non-conference play it seems like a reasonable time to assess some of the top freshmen in the country. We do this with the understanding that players can improve drastically in the second half of the year. It goes without saying that the most criticized member of this freshmen class–Andrew Wiggins–is also its most hyped member. As Peter Bukowski points out, some of that is due to Wiggins’ reluctance to take over games like he (presumably) can. When Wiggins has asserted himself (admittedly too infrequently for most people’s taste) he has shown the skill that still puts him at or very close to the top of every draft board out there. As for the rest of the top freshmen, they all have basically been as advertised.
  2. Taking a step back from all of the NBA Draft talk, Kelli Anderson has been taking a look at the top candidates for this season’s Wooden Award. Although her list of candidates is not particularly remarkable, she does raise some interesting points about Marcus Smart‘s development. Smart’s point guard numbers (assists and turnovers) have been unremarkable as they do not show much change from last season, but Smart has shown growth in his ability to control the flow of the game more by himself rather than with the assistance of his coaches. While Travis Ford and other Smart supporters may have a point in today’s era of advanced metrics, Smart might need to show more statistical improvement before getting others to buy into him as a next level prospect along the lines of a Wiggins or Parker.
  3. There is a tendency for many people to view the holidays as a time for celebration, but for others it is also a time for reflection. According to Mike DeCourcy the latter is something that new USC coach Andy Enfield has been doing recently. Enfield made national headlines as the affable coach of the Florida Gulf Coast team that captured the nation’s attention with Dunk City and leveraged those two wins into a better job at USC. Since arriving at USC things have not gone that smoothly for Enfield most notably with his comments that were published in Men’s Journal that set off a verbal then nearly physical war with Tim Floyd. Although we were more cautious on Enfield than most after his two-game stretch, we are aware of his ability to coach and hope he can use the lessons he learned over the past few months to make USC into the legitimate program that it should be.
  4. By now you have probably seen quite a few variations of the “Can Wichita State go undefeated?” columns. As usual Ken Pomeroy has a slightly different take on it. Unlike other Pomeroy posts this one is based on a statistical fallacy as it looks at when the Shockers are likely to lose their first game based on how many games they have already won. The real utility of the charts are to look at how much Wichita State’s chances of going undefeated (at least for the regular season) improve when they get through specific tough stretches. At any rate, if the Shockers can build on their current undefeated record this might be useful to look at to figure out just how long they might go undefeated.
  5. As you can imagine yesterday was a slow day for college basketball news, but it also allowed us to catch up on some stuff that we normally would not have gotten around to. One of those things was an excellent longform piece by Alexander Wolff exploring the world of 3-on-3 basketball. Most of us know 3-on-3 as a practice drill or more often a pick-up game, which is often devoid of rules, but the world that Wolff explores is one of FIBA-governed tournaments and individuals seeking inclusion in the Olympic Games. Now we don’t see the Olympics happening or it even becoming a NCAA sport since there would be too many issues with cannibalizing the current offering, but it is an interesting read into a different basketball culture.
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Ho Ho Ho: Delivering Christmas Presents To Each Pac-12 Team

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 23rd, 2013

We here at the Pac-12 wing our in the holiday spirit, so we decided to give a gift to each team in the conference. I took the six “north” schools, Drew took the six “south” ones, and the results are below. Happy Holidays, everyone.

Washington – Here’s hoping 12th year head coach Lorenzo Romar wakes up Christmas morning to a clean bill of health for his Huskies inside his stocking. Washington has been unfairly plagued by injuries all season long, and it started in early November when junior forward Desmond Simmons went under the knife for arthroscopic knee surgery. Simmons did return this weekend against Connecticut, but he was definitely needed a couple weeks back when the Huskies lost a tight one at San Diego State. Three days after the Simmons news, Romar learned they lost another big man who was poised for a breakout season, Jernard Jarreau. Jarreau tore his ACL in the season opener against Seattle and will miss the entire season. There’s been others on the Husky roster with some dinks and bruises throughout the year, causing headache after headache for Romar.

Washington State – What’s that under the tree? Just what you wanted Cougar fans; a new shooting coach! And boy does Washington State need one. It ranks dead last in the conference in shooting percentage, and it’s not just the simple fact of shots not falling. They are off target, rarely close to going in, and with terrible backspin. The Cougars need to go back to the basics or they’ll find themselves dead last come March and looking to replace Ken Bone.

Oregon – What do you give the team that already has everything? Some help for coach Dana Altman setting his ten-deep rotation would be nice. While the Ducks have looked terrific so far, roles are still being defined, and that could spell trouble come Pac-12 play.

Dana Altman, Oregon

Altman’s Ducks Are 11-0, But They Have Yet To Set A Solid Ten-Deep Rotation. (credit: Drew Sellers)

Oregon State – Beaver fans are the naughty kids that find their parents’ present stash before Christmas morning. But they like what they see as they get the return of junior forward Eric Moreland, who will come back from a 14 game suspension on January 9 against Stanford. The Beavers are an upper half Pac-12 team with the big man in the lineup, using his long wing span on the defensive end of the court to deny any shots inside the paint. On the other side, Moreland has improved his offensive game and can power his way to the hoop. It will be interesting to see how much he can improve even more with the new block/charge rule, something that got him in trouble a lot last season.

California – Santa’s bringing the Golden Bears a dose of consistency this Christmas. The first two month’s of California’s season has been a roller coaster ride, starting with a five game winning streak, then a stretch where it lost three of four games. Cal now enters the holiday on a one game skid after a pathetic showing at Creighton, a game it lost 68-54.

Stanford – The Cardinal enter the holiday break after a brutal road trip, topping Connecticut in Hartford and losing a nail-biter to Michigan in New York City. What they did show was some great defense, coming as a huge surprise after giving up 112 and 88 points to BYU and Pittsburgh earlier this season. So, Johnny Dawkins gets a re-gift of sorts; the continuation of solid defensive play. If their long perimeter defenders continue to play tight defense, this is a team that can compete for a league title, even without the services of senior guard Aaron Bright, who is out for the year with a dislocated right shoulder.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.20.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 20th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. UCLA got its big chance on the national stage on Thursday night against Duke at Cameron Square Garden, and the Bruins looked real good for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, those minutes were non-consecutive, and, of course, a college basketball game is still 40 minutes of play. In the end, it was a 17-point win for Duke, another feather in the cap of freshman Jabari Parker on his way to a Player of the Year candidacy, and another opportunity for skeptical Bruins’ fans to distrust the Steve Alford era. UCLA has now struck out in its only two games of national interest in its weak non-conference schedule, and has shown a concerning tendency to lose focus for short stretches of time that ends up costing them.
  2. Steve Alford spoke with CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein prior to UCLA’s game with Duke and addressed, among other things, the comments proffered by cross-town rival Andy Enfield earlier in the year. Alford wouldn’t get as explicit as Enfield got in his discussion of it, but his “one side can talk; the other side will do what we do” comment goes a long way towards reinforcing what has become the popular theme in the rivalry: USC will talk, UCLA will act.
  3. Speaking of USC, after needing every minute on Sunday night to put away Cal State Bakersfield, the Trojans ran into another Cal State school on Thursday night with a bit more talent and couldn’t make up for another uninspired effort. Pe’Shon Howard led the Trojans with 19 points, but took 13 of his 14 field goal attempts from three-point range, including a wayward bomb on SC’s final half-court possession when the team was only down a point. But Howard isn’t the only Trojan who deserves criticism, as junior Byron Wesley was benched for the first 11 minutes of the first half due to a “coach’s decision” and didn’t score his only basket of the night until there were fewer than four minutes left in the game. It was Wesley’s first game under double-figures this year and likely the worst game in his USC career.
  4. So, um. Hmmm. I don’t often read Eamonn Brennan at ESPN.com, but what he wrote on Thursday caught my eye. Apparently, this dude spends a column per week predicting who is at the top of the list for the Wooden Award; you know, the best player in the nation. This week he’s got Arizona’s Aaron Gordon atop that list. Now, I’ve read a lot of dumb things on the Internet (and believe me, I know dumb, because I’ve read Bruins Nation twice today – shudder), but that one takes that cake. I like Gordon a lot and he’s been a great glue guy for the nation’s top-ranked team. But the Wooden Award? I don’t know if Arizona has any name for the award it hands out to its MVP at the end of the year (the Elliott Award?), but if the school were to hand out that award tonight, there are at least two guys (Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley) who would be ahead of Gordon for that honor. Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen even includes T.J. McConnell ahead of Gordon at this point. None of this should be taken as a strike against Gordon, who has been great on a team that has gotten production for all seven players in its seven-man rotation, but how can Gordon be in the lead for the best player in the nation when he clearly hasn’t even been the best player on his team?
  5. Lastly, Oregon was already a deep team in its first nine game of the season, with eight players averaging better than 13 minutes per game. But with Dominic Artis and Ben Carter now back and hungry for some run, how will head coach Dana Altman fold those players back into an already successful rotation? Early reports are that Altman plans to use his team’s depth to its advantage. Eleven guys played at least eight minutes in the Ducks’ recent game against UC Irvine and the coach mentioned afterward that with the added depth he hopes to see his team continue to extend its defensive pressure and up the tempo. While point guard Jonathan Loyd has been excellent this year for the Ducks, Artis in particular will significantly improve Oregon’s ability to apply great defensive pressure.
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