Pac-12 M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 29th, 2012

  1. UCLA lost its second player in just four days on Wednesday when it was announced that junior center Joshua Smith had left the team. After not practicing on Tuesday due to weight issues and to mull over his future with the program, it was revealed mid-day Wednesday that Smith was gone for good. As we mentioned above, Tyler Lamb left the program on Sunday, just another example of players leaving in droves, something that has become all too familiar the past few seasons in Westwood. Smith said he was departing Ben Howland’s team for “personal reasons.” So, what does UCLA lose in the big man? Smith was a decent rebounder for his size, averaging 4.2 RPG so far in 2012-13; however, his inability to stay on the court for long periods of time resulted in dwindling minutes, and when he was on the floor he wasn’t exactly Mr. Productive for the Bruins’ offensive game. Freshman forward/center Tony Parker will see an increase of about five minutes per game in the coming weeks with Smith’s departure.
  2. Oregon State received bad news as well when it was revealed that freshman center Daniel Gomis would need season-ending surgery on his left leg. Gomis is the second Beaver center to be lost in just over two weeks, as senior Angus Brandt tore his ACL against Purdue on November 16. This is actually Gomis’ second year in Corvallis, but he was lost for all of the 2011-12 season with a broken leg. Expect to see a continued increase in freshman Jarmal Reid’s minutes without Gomis.
  3. In yet more depressing big man news, junior wing Anthony Brown will miss the rest of Stanford’s season with a hip injury. Brown will have surgery in mid-December according to head coach Johnny Dawkins. The guard/forward averaged 3.0 PPG in Stanford’s first four outings before sitting out the next three.
  4. Former Oregon head coach Ernie Kent will call nine Duck games for the Pac-12 Networks in 2012-13, six of which to be played in the arena he helped build. And when Oregon meets Texas-San Antonio tonight at Matthew Knight Arena, it will be only the second time Kent’s been inside Oregon’s posh new palace. His return home will hopefully be marked by many chants from the Pit Crew and a long standing ovation; after all, while the ending of his time in Eugene may have been ugly, this is the coach that led the resurgence of Oregon basketball. Kent, who doesn’t know whether he’ll ever coach again, was a finalist for the Colorado State job last spring before it went to Larry Eustachy. What we do know is that he looks pretty comfortable, and is also very good at his new job as a commentator and studio analyst with the Pac-12.
  5. We close with something new for our Pac-12 microsite as we introduce a Pac-12 Hoops Pick’em that will run from now up until Championship Week. Between Adam, Parker, Drew, and I, the four of us will post our picks for the weekend basketball games and keep track of our records as we go along. Also included will be a national and conference game of the week, where we will include our score prediction. For the opener, we have selected Thursday’s Kentucky-Notre Dame match-up and Saturday’s UCLA-San Diego State showdown in Anaheim for those respective games.
Game Connor (0-0) Drew (0-0) Parker (0-0) Adam (0-0)
Texas-San Antonio at Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
Kentucky at Notre Dame UK 85-75 UK 70-63 UK 75-62 UK 81-67
Utah at Texas State Texas State Utah Utah Utah
Oregon State vs Kansas Kansas Kansas Kansas Kansas
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
Arizona at Texas Tech Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
Sacramento State at Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
UCLA vs San Diego State SDSU 73-71 UCLA 70-63 SDSU 63-61 UCLA 67-61
Colorado at Wyoming Wyoming Colorado Colorado Colorado
Portland at Washington State WSU WSU WSU WSU
California at Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin
Denver at Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
Cal State Fullerton at Washington Washington Washington Washington Washington

 

Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 11.26.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 26th, 2012

  1. Things are getting bad up in Seattle. Washington has dropped three of its last four games, and hasn’t won a game in regulation since its opening night back on November 11. Being outplayed on the boards, by a HUGE margin, has been the main problem for the Huskies. Combine the poor effort on the glass with injuries to the likes of Scott Suggs and Shawn Kemp, Jr., and the Dawgs are off to a worse start than the one we saw last season. That campaign saw losses to Saint Louis, Nevada, and South Dakota State all before Christmas. Hopefully Washington gets more competitive as we roll along up until Pac-12 play, if only to help the rest of the conference’s overall RPI. And to help me look better too, as I picked UW and Aziz N’Diaye to be the surprise team/player in the conference this year.
  2. In its first game since the loss of senior center Angus Brandt to a torn ACL, Oregon State took advantage of its lone, pre-Kansas warmup game by outlasting Montana State yesterday. It was “fill-in by committee” for Craig Robinson’s squad, with nearly everyone tasked to the job stepping up nicely to lead the Beavers to a 13-point victory. An energized Joe Burton saw increased touches on his special “N7″ night at Gill, and he responded by pouring in 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Freshman forward Olaf Schaftenaar even came off the bench to drain a trio of triples, his first points of the season. The Beavs now have five days to prepare for their meeting with Kansas on Friday night in Kansas City.
  3. A pair of technical fouls in the final two minutes of the game doomed USC’s chances in the Pac-12′s only game against a ranked opponent yesterday. After a terrible first half in which the Trojans only managed 23 points, Eric Wise led the team to a 18-4 run coming out of the locker rooms to cut the deficit to two. The comeback would prove futile, however, as San Diego State pulled out a key interconference 66-60 victory at the Galen Center.
  4. CBSSports’ Matt Norlander sums it up perfectly with this column after UCLA was upset by Cal Poly last night in Los Angeles. Quite frankly, it’s time to panic in Westwood. Of course, Ben Howland has lost some head-scratchers in the past; defeats at the hands of Loyola Marymount, Middle Tennessee, and Montana come to mind, but there’s always been some excuse to explain it. Not this time, not with guys like Jordan Adams, Shabazz Muhammad, and Travis Wear out on the floor. If the Bruins can’t find a way to salvage a split of their next four (Cal State Northridge, San Diego State, Texas, Prairie View A&M), the local grumblings for Howland’s job will start being heard nationwide.
  5. Sunday had already gotten off to a bit of an inauspicious start for UCLA when it was announced that junior guard Tyler Lamb would be transferring. Lamb had trouble working his way back into the rotation after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in October. And with the clearance of Muhammad by the NCAA a little over a week ago, it was widely understood that Lamb would receive very limited action in 2012-13. Lamb did not specifically specify a reason for the move, nor did he release any names of schools he’d be interested in, but the wing averaged 9.o PPG as a sophomore in 2011-12 and will presumably be a nice pick-up for some enterprising team.
Share this story

Pac 12 M5: 11.21.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on November 21st, 2012

  1. Although Colorado and Tad Boyle are pleased with their early season performance and championship in the Charleston Classic, not everyone is content on the Buffaloes. Wesley Gordon, a surprising redshirt freshman who many thought would impact the Buffaloes this year due to their lack of depth in the front court, has not been able to help the Buffaloes early on this year. Gordon chose to redshirt, but in the final of the classic against Murray State, the Buffaloes’ Andre Roberson and Josh Scott both got into foul trouble and Colorado had to rely on players like Xavier Johnson and Jeremy Adams to step up. Neither Adams Nor Johnson are 6’8″ and 225 pounds like Gordon and neither has the defensive ability that Gordon possesses. Even though Gordon did choose this on his own for betterment of the program, early on, he seems to be adjusting to his decision slowly.
  2. With the Oregon Ducks losing three starters in Devoe Joseph, Garret Sim, and Olu Ashaolu last year to graduation, there were doubts about this team, but the defense has picked up the slack to start off the year. For the second consecutive game, Oregon held their opposition to 20 points in the first half. Adding Arsalan Kazemi to a team with Tony Woods up front certainly has helped. The Ducks have registered 40 steals in their first four games and blocked 17 shots. Even better for Dana Altman, the players believe they have a long way to go still on defense, which isn’t good news for the rest of the Pac-12.
  3. The other team in Oregon, the Oregon State Beavers, are still dealing with the season-ending injury of Angus Brandt. Coach Craig Robinson seems unfazed by the injury as he still believes his team can make the NCAA Tournament. In Brandt’s absence, the Beavers will have to use more of the 6’9″  freshman Olaf Schaftnaar off the bench and most likely start other 6’7″ freshman Jarmal Reid in Brandt’s place. Additionally, the Beavers will need more out of Joe Burton, Eric Moreland, and Devon Collier. The Beavers are fine from a depth standpoint to replace Brandt, but they’ll need to improve their overall play up front to truly make Craig Robinson forget Brandt’s injury.
  4. As if the Washington State Cougars didn’t have enough trouble last night, getting dominated by Kansas 78-41, they also lost DaVonte Lacy to an apparent knee injury. Lacy left the game after only five minutes and was unable to play tonight in the Cougars’ 55-54 loss to Texas A&M, a result that could have changed were able to play. No news has come out yet on Lacy’s injury as he will be evaluated today in Pullman, but a loss of a starter and 8.5 PPG so far this year would be a major problem for the Cougars if he’s out for a prolonged period of time. Given that was Lacy is a major contributor for the team-wide project of finding a replacement for the dismissed Reggie Moore, the WSU problems at the lead guard position may have just gotten worse.
  5. Everything is still the same for Sean Miller down in Arizona. If you can shoot the lights out and score on offense, it won’t matter if you can’t play defense. That’s exactly Kevin Parrom‘s dilemma. Parrom went 5-5 from three putting up 15 points in 20 minutes, but Sean Miller said his playing time will be predicated on how he plays defense. The Wildcats gave up 14 threes to Long Beach and Parrom’s guarding of Long Beach’s shooting guards was a main reason for this. Parrom knows he has to improve on defense, and if he does, he will continue to see the floor. If not, guys like Jordin Mayes and freshman Gabe York are more than willing to steal some minutes.
Share this story

Scouting the Pac: Chass Bryan, Devon Collier and Kaleb Tarczewski

Posted by AMurawa on November 19th, 2012

Let’s take a few minutes to scout some of the new faces in the Pac-12 this season.

Chass Bryan – When Maurice Jones was suspended and left the USC basketball team in September, it appeared that one of the biggest holes on the roster would be the backup point guard position; there seemed no obvious solution behind senior guard Jio Fontan. But, as the Trojans head to Maui, it’s pretty clear that the walk-on freshman from Oaks Christian is the man there. What’s more, he’s not just a place-filler. He’s a tiny guy, yeah, and young, but he plays with a maturity and a confidence beyond his years. He’s got all the speed you’d expect of a guy listed at 5’9” and 165 pounds, capable of getting past most defenders and getting into the lane, but what makes him a really great prospect is his basketball IQ and great court vision. And he’s able to create for himself as well as for his teammates; once he’s got a step on his man, he is just as likely to pull up for a mid-range jumper as he is to drop a nice dime. Head coach Kevin O’Neill has been talking this kid up since the middle of summer, but many still didn’t know what to expect from him. While Bryan shouldn’t expect a ton of minutes this season, he’ll help earn Fontan some rest while still giving O’Neill a solid floor general. And, frankly, he may already be an upgrade over the departed Jones, at least in terms of basketball IQ. Not to mention, size.

Chass Bryan, USC

After Chass Bryan’s First Two Games, It Looks Like USC Has An Answer Behind Point Guard Jio Fontan (Steve Solis, PR Photos)

Devon Collier – Last year, Collier started 33 of the 36 games for the Beavers. This season, however, he had been asked to take on a new role, coming off the bench. But, with the news Sunday that senior center Angus Brandt had been lost for the season with a knee injury, it appears Collier will find his way back into the starting lineup. A junior from the Bronx, Collier made a return to New York this past weekend and had moments of excellence mixed in with a few head-slappers. Yeah, he went for 27/14 in an inspired performance on Friday night, and is clearly a physically gifted athlete. At 6’8” with terrific athletic ability, Collier is able to rebound with the best of them, score in an efficient manner around the paint, drop the occasional brilliant dime and hold his own defending guards from time to time. And his maturity was made evident by the grace with which he took his new role coming off the pine this season. However, from time to time, his athletic ability is undermined by some poor decision-making. In Thursday night’s loss to Alabama, he turned the ball over five times, a pair of which came when after he made great plays grabbing rebounds he then just decided to throw the ball to the first guy in the same color jersey he could find, whether that be somebody expecting an outlet pass or not, and whether or not there was somebody in the opposite color uniform that was in the vicinity. While his physical skills can often overcome these lapses in judgment, for him to be a consistently reliable upperclassman for the Beavers, he’ll need to improve the mental side of the game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Game of the Weekend: New Mexico State @ Oregon State

Posted by KDanna on November 9th, 2012

Finally, after five weeks of covering college basketball news, we are ready to get down to some actual game action. Each week, the Pac-12 microsite will break down a game we feel is the one to keep an eye on. While November and December are perhaps more important for the Pac-12 than any other conference in terms of restoring respectability, the opening weekend of play is largely devoid of any big matchups. However, considering recent history, that doesn’t mean it will be an easy road to a perfect Pac-12 weekend. One such contest that could provide a few worries will play out on Sunday night, when Oregon State hosts New Mexico State as part of the 2K Sports Classic.

Can Craig Robinson get his team to avoid non-conference letdowns in 2012-13? (credit: Don Ryan)

Why it’s important: Perhaps more than any other school in the Pac-12 (last year not withstanding for the most part), Oregon State has struggled in the non-conference portion of its schedule. In the last three years, Oregon State has lost to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Sacramento State (just like football), Illinois-Chicago, Seattle (twice, once by 51 points), Texas Southern, Utah Valley and Idaho, with many of those games taking place in Gill Coliseum. Hence, it is very well within the makeup of this team to lose to New Mexico State, a squad that made the NCAA Tournament last year and won 26 games. Granted, the Aggies lost their top four scorers from last year’s WAC Tournament Championship team (and three of which hit the 1,000-point plateau in their Aggie careers), but Oregon State can’t take anything for granted.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 11.01.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 1st, 2012

  1. Finally, some good news for one of UCLA’s freshmen: Kyle Anderson has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season. The main questions surrounding Anderson’s eligibility had to do with his father’s relationship with agent Thad Foucher, in addition to concerns about who paid for Anderson’s unofficial visits to UCLA (along with how many he took). Though Anderson’s father was confident all along that his son would be cleared to play, assuredly there were more than a few UCLA supporters who heaved a deep sigh of relief Wednesday. It has been a long four months for the Anderson family and UCLA, but there is now one less cloud hanging over the Bruins’ 2012-13 season. All of a sudden, the Bruins’ perimeter lineup looks a lot stronger and bigger, as the 6’9’’ Anderson is known for his great court vision and passing abilities. Now all that’s left is for the NCAA to clear Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 2 overall recruit in the class of 2012 according to Scout and No. 1 recruit according to Rivals. At the very least, the Bruins are in a much better position to live up to the preseason hype as a top 15 team in the country and potentially make a push deep into the NCAA Tournament next spring.
  2. Another Pac-12 exhibition contest is in the books as Arizona defeated Humboldt State 108-67 in its exhibition opener last night. If this game is any indication (and it probably isn’t), our Kevin Danna might have nailed it on the head in last week’s burning question when he said Kaleb Tarczewski will be the best newcomer to the Pac-12 this year. The seven-footer had the game’s lone double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He seemed to always be in the right spot down by the bucket to collect rebounds and also showed off a very nice drop-step, albeit against a non-Division-I post player. Mark Lyons also looked comfortable handling Sean Miller’s offense and, as usual, he wasn’t afraid to look for his own shot either, finishing with 15 points. Nick Johnson filled up the stat sheet in just about every way imaginable with 14 points, five rebounds, five steals and four assists, as well as throwing down a couple of nice dunks as icing on the cake. If any other school in the conference wants to claim they have the best fans in the conference, then show an attendance figure surpassing 12,431 for an exhibition game. From the best I could tell on the stream (which, by the way, was much less laggy than Oregon’s stream on Monday night), the Wildcat crowd was very into it aside from just showing up in large numbers to a meaningless game on Halloween night. Supporters in Tucson surely sense that Sean Miller has a potentially great team on his hands.
  3. And then there are the “secret scrimmages” that never seem to be too much of a secret. Later tonight, Stanford will travel to Moraga to take on the Saint Mary’s Gaels in a game that fans and reporters are prohibited from attending. While many Cardinal followers would prefer this to be an actual game on the non-conference slate, perhaps it could be the first step towards setting up a home-and-home with the Gaels in the near future. In the immediate future, this game will give the Cardinal some sort of idea how they stack up with a team that is more or less thought to be on the same level. Big things are expected out of the junior class that features Aaron Bright, Dwight Powell, Anthony Brown, and Josh Huestis, and this game provides the class with a chance to get some positive momentum rolling into the beginning of the season. A “win” against St. Mary’s in the scrimmage could provide a nice confidence boost, even if it’s not a real game setting and both coaches might tweak the lineups more than usual.
  4. The newest CBS Sports list deals with the best defenders in the nation and, unlike previous ones, this one is not ordered. Rather, 30 guys are separated into different categories of defenders, and two of the 30 defenders reign from the Pac-12: Colorado’s André Roberson and Washington’s Aziz N’Diaye. Roberson gets a nod under the “best glass cleaning defenders” category, for pretty much the same reason why Eamonn Brennan tabbed the Colorado forward the best rebounder in the nation. N’Diaye is filed under the “best rim protecting defenders” department. We talked about Roberson yesterday, so N’Diaye is a guy who has done a solid job as a lane-clogger for Lorenzo Romar during his first two years in Seattle, but you would expect a guy his size to finish better than 12th in the conference in blocks as he did last season. No love for Pac-12 perimeter defenders, but right now, there isn’t any guard in the conference that could feel too slighted by not receiving CBS Sports’ recognition.
  5. Finally, it’s Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day today, taking place this morning and afternoon in the Pac-12 Enterprises offices in San Francisco. All 12 coaches will be there, along with one player from each team: Solomon Hill, Carrick Felix, Allen Crabbe, André Roberson, E.J. Singler, Angus Brandt, Aaron Bright, David Wear (you didn’t think UCLA would take Shabazz, did you?), Jio Fontan, Jason Washburn, Abdul Gaddy and Brock Motum. Nothing earth-shattering usually takes place at these events, but it will be a good chance to get some more nuggets on Washington’s high-post offense, Craig Robinson’s role in the Obama re-election campaign, and an official “no comment” comment on the Shabazz situation now that Anderson is cleared to play. Most importantly, the preseason Pac-12 media poll will be released. Which team will the media pick to take home the Pac-12 regular season crown: UCLA or Arizona?
Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 10.15.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 15th, 2012

  1. With the departure of Tony Wroten, Jr., Washington is currently without a defined leader on the team. When asked who might be the face of the team after the second day of practice, senior guard Abdul Gaddy replied “The team is the face of the team.” That’s a stark change from last season, when Wroten was the go-to guy whenever the Dawgs needed a late bucket or to break out of a dry spell on offense. There’s certainly no problem with having no set leader going into the season; after all, it’s one of the bigger clichés in college sports that every team needs one of them. As long as someone, whether C.J. Wilcox, Scott Suggs or whoever, is willing to have the ball in their hands in the waning minutes and has the ability to make a play, there’s no problem. However, there is such a thing as being too unselfish, and close wins will soon become losses if that happens in Seattle this winter. The Huskies will play their one and only exhibition game on October 24 against Western Washington.
  2. Oregon State finished the month of March last season with a record of 6-2, an eight-game stretch in which leading scorer Jared Cunningham didn’t play very well. With Cunningham now playing for the Dallas Mavericks, that stretch gives Beaver fans the hope that players like Ahmad Starks, Devon Collier, and Angus Brandt can keep up the same offensive output without their star guard. Even more important than the trio above, however, will be the play of junior shooting guard Roberto Nelson. Nelson will be the Beavers’ only non-starter-turned-starter from a year ago, but he did play in all 36 games. According to head coach Craig Robinson, Nelson has matured and built on the experience gained from playing in each and every contest as a sophomore, and is ready to take the next step needed in 2012-13.
  3. Just one year removed from a cancer scare before the start of practice, California head coach Mike Montgomery is healthy and ready for the 2012-13 season to tip off. The tone was much different last year at this time, as Montgomery underwent surgery October 19 for bladder cancer, and subsequently he was declared cancer free and able to work the entirety of his 31st season as a head coach. The Golden Bears were the only Pac-12 team to gain an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament last season, and if they are to return it will be behind the play of sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow and junior guard Allen Crabbe. Both are strong shooters but need to show the ability to get to the free throw line more if the Bears are to compete for a Pac-12 championship.
  4. The air is crisp, the leaves are turning, and practices across the nation are beginning. That means it’s time for some preseason predictions. Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star, like everyone else around the country, said that he’s been wrestling on whether to put Arizona or UCLA at the top of the Pac this year. He eventually went with Ben Howland’s Bruins, with Arizona and the two Bay Area schools rounding out the upper third of the league race.
  5. We close with some recruiting news, and some big news at that. Class of 2013 small forward Jabari Parker, largely considered to be the top recruit in the nation, named Stanford as one of his final five schools on Friday. Parker’s ability to score from anywhere on the offensive end of the floor makes him this year’s can’t-miss prospect. The Simeon Career Academy (IL) product is also considering BYU, Duke, Florida, and Michigan State. Noticeably missing is Kentucky, who just got verbals from the second and fourth best players in the country on October 4 in the Harrison twins.
Share this story

Pac-12 Team Previews: Oregon State Beavers

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 10th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release are the Oregon State Beavers.

Strengths: Oregon State returns four starters from last year’s squad, all of whom had terrific finishes to the 2011-12 season. Ahmad Starks, a shoot-first, pass-later point guard, will be the key to making the Beaver offense run in the post Jared Cunningham era. As Cunningham’s offensive control began to wear down in postseason play last March, Starks stepped up and averaged 11.3 PPG in his final seven outings. If he is able to show that lights-out ability once again, defenses will have to give Angus Brandt and Devon Collier some space in the post. Both can go to work on either side of the hoop, and Brandt also has the luxury of a soft jumper to extend defenses even more. The Beavers should once again shine in the stealing and shot-blocking facets of the game, even if they do lose arguably the top defender in the conference. Starks will take Cunningham’s role of the feisty, energetic man up top, while Collier and Eric Moreland’s long wingspans make it virtually impossible for anyone to float up a shot in the lane.

Weaknesses: After Starks, the guard position gets downright scary for Oregon State. Junior Roberto Nelson will join Starks as the other starter in the backcourt, and while Nelson can certainly shoot the ball, doing it with consistency and becoming a triple threat are completely separate issues. Freshman guard/forward Victor Robbins will be next in line for backcourt minutes, and he is the player most like Cunningham on the current roster. Robbins’ athleticism and ball-handling ability made him a great late get in the 2012 recruiting class, but it’s never good when you might have to count on a true freshman at significant times throughout a game.

Roberto Nelson’s (right) Ball Handling Left Something To Be Desired Throughout The 2011-12 Season (Jae C. Hong)

Non-conference Tests: The Beavers loaded up their slate with five challenging non-conference opponents in 2012-13, four of which will be played away from home. Starting off the list is a visit from New Mexico State on November 11, followed just four days later by a matchup with Alabama in New York City. They’ll face either Villanova or Purdue the next day at the same site, then get a small break before playing a top five Kansas squad in Kansas City on November 30. The final “test” will be the easiest of the five; a 90-minute road trip up to Portland to face Portland State on December 12.

Toughest Conference Stretch: The Beavers will play arguably five of the toughest six teams throughout a 19-day stretch in January. The stretch starts off with a visit from Arizona on January 12, and continues five nights later with a trip to Pauley Pavilion to face vaunted UCLA. A tricky USC team is next, followed by a pair of home games against the Washington schools. Finally, they’ll face California in Berkeley on the last day of January. If Oregon State can come out of these six with a 3-3 split, the schedule lightens up enough for the Beavers to make a run at a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Anything less and coach Craig Robinson proves once again his team isn’t ready to hang around with the conference’s elite.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Wrapping Up The Pac-12′s Summer Exhibition Tours

Posted by Connor Pelton on September 13th, 2012

Seven Pac-12 schools took a foreign exhibition trip this summer. We recap them below with Drew taking UCLA, Utah, and Colorado, and Connor taking the rest.

Not Every Team Went Tropical, But All of Them Learned Something

Arizona

  • Where: The Bahamas
  • When: August 11-13
  • What: The Wildcats swept their two games against Bahamian competition.
  • Why: As Arizona transitions from an NIT one-and-done to having at least NCAA Third Round expectations, this trip was all about integrating instant-impact newcomers Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley, Gabe York, and Mark Lyons into the rotation. Setting lineups and seeing what groups of players meshed well together was much more important than the actual play against less than stellar competition.
  • Who: Lyons and fellow senior Kevin Parrom were the stars of the trip, each averaging 18.5 PPG. The most anticipated freshman to don the cardinal red and navy blue in a while, Tarczewski, scored eight points in each game on the trip. Arizona absolutely destroyed their lowly competition, winning both games by a combined 112 points.

Colorado

  • Where: France, Belgium and the Netherlands
  • When: August 11-22
  • What: The Buffaloes went 2-3 in five games against European professional teams.
  • Why: With CU breaking in six scholarship freshmen, the trip gave head coach Tad Boyle a chance to build camaraderie between the talented new guys and their six returnees from last year’s Pac-12 championship team. The trip also gave the freshmen a chance to build an identity of their own, evidenced by the fact that Boyle sat out the core returnees from last year’s squad – Andre Roberson, Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie and Sabatino Chen – in one of the games, allowing five of the freshmen to start the game together.
  • Who: While Roberson was his usual magnificent self – he averaged 14.4 points and 13.8 rebounds – freshman Josh Scott eliminated any doubt that he could be an immediate impact player. Scott led the Buffs in scoring in four of the five games, coming up a point short of the leaders in the opening game; he averaged 17.4 point per game for the trip. His classmate Xavier Johnson also made a statement, averaging more than ten points to go with seven rebounds for the game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Oregon State Week: Q&A With Building The Dam

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 27th, 2012

As part of our Oregon State week, we wanted to reach out to the guys at Building The Dam for their takes on the upcoming Beaver basketball season. Andy Wooldridge was kind enough to spend some time with us and give us his thoughts.

Rush The Court: Let’s get the most important topic out-of-the-way first. Jared Cunningham was the team’s top defender and threat on offense. How do you replace him, and is there any chance at improvement with him gone?

Building The Dam: There’s no one player who can replace Cunningham on this team. He was a rare player, the type who only comes along once every decade or so at programs like Oregon State. That doesn’t mean that the Beavers can’t collectively step up to the challenge, though. Ahmad Starks and Roberto Nelson must both find better consistency, and more consistent offense from the frontcourt wouldn’t hurt either. Defensively, Cunningham wasn’t a lockdown defender, and it wasn’t that unusual for some of the better guards in the conference to break him down with the dribble. Cunningham wasn’t that great at denying the perimeter shot either. These are two things Oregon State needs to improve on this season as a team, and that would have been the case even if Jared had returned for his senior season. But what he did have was both the anticipation and the acceleration to make opponents pay for a mistake, often explosively. It wouldn’t just be a four- to five-point swing, it would be a momentum changer. That’s going to be the toughest thing to replace. Challe Barton has a huge opportunity to step up and fill the void Cunningham left; we should know by Christmas whether he’s up to it.

Barton Will Have A Huge Opportunity To Step Up in 2012-13 (credit: Amanda Cowan)

RTC: Considering he’s churned out good recruiting class after good recruiting class and is already four years into his tenure, is there any pressure on Craig Robinson to make at least an NIT appearance in 2012-13?

BTD: Pressure? No. Expectations, yes. By that I mean there isn’t immediate pressure from the Athletic Director or the University President, who are the ones who matter. Remember, Robinson just delivered the best season in 22 years, and only the second winning record in that time frame. And they played an entertaining, high scoring style of ball in doing so. Both Bob De Carolis and President Ray remember the Jay John days very clearly. But fans are having expectations of even better things to come, at least the newer generation of them. Continued growth in attendance, which translates to continued growth of income, will only come with wins, and actual quality non-conference opponents, which only wins and fuller houses can deliver. If Robinson suffers another fallback as happened in the 2010-11 season, then the pressure will start to mount in the 2013-14 campaign in direct inverse to ticket sales and donations. Oregon State does not have a “quick hook” management style, so Robinson, like most coaches on campus, has more time to work with than would be the case at several other schools in the conference in any number of sports.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Oregon State Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 23rd, 2012

Six significant Beavers return for Craig Robinson this season, a group that will be called upon to quickly meld with four freshmen and a newly eligible transfer. Below we’ll break down those returnees in order of their per-game scoring averages last season.

Devon Collier, Junior, Forward (13.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.3 BPG) – Collier graduated from starting all but seven games as a freshman to all but just three as a sophomore. His scoring totals nearly doubled in 2011-12, going from 7.0 PPG to 13.1 PPG. He was by far the team’s best scoring option in the post, and at times when Jared Cunningham couldn’t find his jumper, the best option, period. The next step on the road to becoming an all-conference performer is to finish more of his opportunities off the glass. That should come as he makes the transition to an upperclassman, and he already showed some improvement in the Beavers first European Tour game, going six-for-six from the field against Saint Charles Basketball Club. If he can continue anywhere near that kind of production, he has a solid passer in Ahmad Starks to get him the ball on the block. Collier can also run the court and is a great dump-off option in transition. On the other end of the court, Collier’s defense will be just as important to Oregon State’s success this season. The combination of Eric Moreland and Collier’s long wingspans made it nearly impossible for opponents to have any success in the lane, with Devon himself having one four-block game and three three-block outings.

Once Starks Begins To Get Going, There Isn’t A Better Shooter In The League (credit: Andy Wooldridge)

Ahmad Starks, Junior, Point Guard (12.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG) – Along with Collier, Starks is the only other player from Robinson’s 2010 freshman class still with the team. Starks is a shoot-first point guard, the best of his kind in the Pac-12. Despite only standing a generous 5’9″, he is able to get up and make shots consistently with his unique fadeaway jumper. Starks was the main reason for Oregon State’s late success in 2011-12, as the Beavers went 6-2 in their final eight games. With Cunningham struggling to put down his three-point shot, Starks averaged 11.3 PPG in the seven games he played during that stretch. Not surprisingly, Oregon State’s two losses came in games where Starks scored only four points or sat out. The guard is at his best when he catches the ball on a wing or is able to create separation by stopping on a dime, pulling up, fading away, and shooting. More of this, and less of the jacking up random shots outside of the offensive flow, will result for more offensive production for both Starks and the Beavers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Oregon State Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 21st, 2012

It’s taken four seasons, but excitement has finally been infused back into a program that lost 20 straight games to close out the 2007-08 season. Craig Robinson, the man charged with rebuilding Oregon State hoops following that infamous campaign, has brought in a feisty defense, up-tempo offense, and good recruiting class after good recruiting class. The Beavers haven’t ranked lower than 34th in the country in the steals category since Robinson has had his own recruits, and they finished fifth and sixth in the last two seasons, respectively. Former guard Jared Cunningham, who was selected in the first round in this summer’s NBA Draft (a first for Oregon State since Corey Benjamin in 1998) led the conference in steals in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Last season saw the Beavers finish in the top 15 nationally in offensive tempo, leading to a Pac-12 leading 78.9 PPG. Along with Cunningham, Robinson has brought in highly touted recruits such as Jarmal Reid, Angus Brandt, and Roberto Nelson. Needless to say, basketball is fun again at Oregon State.

Craig Robinson Has Made Basketball Fun Again At Oregon State. The Next Step Is An NIT or NCAA Tournament Bid. (credit: Bleacher Report)

And while basketball is fun, it could be a lot more fun. Despite all of the things we talked about above, the Beavers have yet to make an NCAA Tournament under the guidance of Robinson. Heck, they haven’t even made the NIT. And there’s some reasons for that. Robinson straddles a line between fun basketball and strong, fundamentally sound basketball. Oregon State finished 328th in the nation last season in three-point defensive field goal percentage, which is one of the main reasons you’ll see losses to conference bottom-feeders and mediocre WAC teams. Robinson and his staff have elected to go with a gambling, trap-based defense, which is fun to watch and works against opposing point guards that freeze up when they are trapped in a corner. But against upper-level Pac-12 teams or even lesser opponents with a solid one man? The Beavers get burned, and they get burned often.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story