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


  • 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.


  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hope is Running Out in Corvallis

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 19th, 2012

Just three short years ago, Oregon State coach Craig Robinson led the Beavers to a CBI Championship in his first year as head coach in Corvallis. A year later, the Beavers went to the CBI for a second straight season and Robinson was given a two-year extension thru 2015-16. Then things went south. The Beavers won a total of 11 games in 2010-11, with head-scratching losses to opponents like Texas Southern, Utah Valley, and George Washington. That season had Beaver fans questioning Robinson and the direction in which the program was going, but rest assured Robinson said, next season would be the year. The team was entirely his, and in his words, “We have the talent to compete in every game we play in.”

Fast forward to three months later. The Beavers are 11-7, which is not a bad record by any means, but not very good either. Their best win was over a mediocre Texas squad on a neutral court, and they have lost five out of their six conference games. But worst of all, the team (all of Robinson’s guys) have stopped playing for him. And it’s because, quite honestly, the guy isn’t a very good coach. Beginning on the offensive side of the ball, the Beavers look completely lost. Robinson has fallen in love with Ahmad Starks, and the team is suffering mightily because of it. Forget the offense that got you ten wins in nonconference play, why not just give the ball to Starks, let him dance around the perimeter for however long he deems necessary, and throw up a shot? This might be a good idea when you need a barrage of threes late in the game, but in the first half? Why not work the ball in and out, maybe get it to the guy who is the supposed “leader of the team” in Jared Cunningham? Robinson has completely abandoned Cunningham on offense, and opponents have picked up on this.

This guy needs to shoot more. (credit: Andy Wooldridge)

Defenses are more than willing to simply pack the key and let Starks shoot away for two reasons. One, he’s incredibly streaky. Starks loves to shoot, obviously, and when he’s making them, that’s fine. But those moments are few and far between. Secondly, when the defense already has three players in the paint, it makes it pretty easy to get a rebound. But when Starks is launching threes with the Beaver bigs (especially Devon Collier) out on the wings or on top of the free throw line, it is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to get offensive rebounds and second chance points. You’d think Robinson would work on this in practice, but yet we see Collier and Brandt reaching and going over the back every single game because they are never in position.

Another reason offensive production has gone down in conference play is because of Eric Moreland. While Moreland is a great defender, he has no clue what to do on offense and should not be taking up minutes until he learns some basic offensive skills. To Starks’ credit, he does do a good job of slashing through the paint and creating options for everyone. But Moreland is constantly clogging the lane and that takes a way too many possibilities. Players like Angus Brandt and Joe Burton have to get more playing time since they can not only score and pass but also move around and open up the offense. Read the rest of this entry »

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Questioning Craig Robinson’s End-Game Decisions Against Stanford

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2012

In any four-overtime game that is eventually decided when a three-pointer at the buzzer goes astray, the losing coach is going to have plenty of decisions that didn’t pan out that he can blamed for. Even the winning coach probably has a decision or two that could have ended the game earlier had they been made in a different fashion. But Saturday night’s four-overtime epic in which Stanford outlasted Oregon State left me repeatedly befuddled with the decisions that OSU head coach Craig Robinson made in crunch time. Below is a partial list (believe me, there were more) of head-slappingly poor decisions in the overtimes alone that helped to leave Oregon State at 1-3 in conference play.

Craig Robinson, Oregon State

Craig Robinson's Questionable Decisions May Have Cost Oregon State A Game

  1. At the end of the first overtime, with the game tied, Oregon State uses one of its four remaining timeouts between a pair of Chasson Randle free throws (this decision actually goes in the good decision column, as Randle missed the second free throw following the TO, keeping the game tied), but apparently in the timeout, the play that Robinson set up was to give the ball to Ahmad Starks and let him mount a wild drive to nowhere leading to a turnover. There was no ball screen, no player movement, no real plan, and Stanford was able to get through to a second overtime without even needing to dodge a bullet at the end of the first OT. Another timeout in the halfcourt to set up the final play would have been a good decision.
  2. At the end of the second overtime, OSU was up one point and playing defense with twenty-some seconds left. After a sequence that winds up with the ball out of bounds off of the Beavers, Devon Collier was injured and needed to be replaced. OSU had a boatload of timeouts should they have wanted to make an offense/defense substitution later, so the obvious decision for Robinson was to get his best defensive squad in the game. But, instead of replacing Collier with Eric Moreland, Robinson subbed in Angus Brandt to pair with Joe Burton up front, alongside three guards. Now, nothing against Brandt or Burton, both of whom are nice players, but are you really telling me that Moreland is not a better interior defender than either of them? In the end, Randle scored the go-ahead basket in the middle off a dish from Dwight Powell. It seems that even Robinson realized his mistake when on the final possession with three seconds left, following a game-tying free throw from Burton, he switched things up and got Moreland in the game in lieu of one of the guards and he came up with a third-overtime-inducing block. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Overreact Much?

Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

Which result (or set of results) from the opening week will cause the biggest overreaction in the conference?


Connor Pelton: I know I’ve made this known before, but Oregon State’s 0-2 start to Pac-12 play is definitely cause for overreaction. It would have been one thing if the Beavers gave Washington and Washington State a good game, but the truth is, they got handled in each facet of the game and were lucky to only lose by 15 and six. That’s why those two are such a big deal; the way they lost them was inexcusable. It seems as if everything the team was building towards in their 12 non-conference games suddenly flew out the window.

The team’s star and leader, Jared Cunningham, couldn’t knock down a three-pointer to save his life. You may remember the Beavers 2-7 record in the middle of conference play last year. Coincidentally, Cunningham also had no touch from behind the arc in those games, either. Rebounding, both offensively and defensively, is something that has plagued the team all year, but the Beavs were able to get away with it when they would play smaller and lesser opponents. But this week, we only began to see the downside of scheduling teams like Townson and Chicago State as big men Joe Burton, Angus Brandt, Devon Collier, and Eric Moreland were obviously unprepared to go up against the big and physical Husky forwards. They were pushed around and would occasionally just give up on DEFENSIVE rebounds, which in turn led to a total of 86 points in the paint by the Huskies and Cougars.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Who Is The Favorite?

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week’s topic: After non-conference play, who is the favorite to win the Pac-12 regular season title?


Connor Pelton:

In a conference full of mediocre teams (at best), Oregon State is as good a pick as any to win the Pac-12. Led by the conference’s leading scorer in Jared Cunningham, the Beavers are off to a 10-2 start. Their only losses have come against Vanderbilt and Idaho, which is a major improvement from last season’s missteps against teams like Texas Southern, Utah Valley, and George Washington. But even though the Pac-12 is in a major down year, Oregon State will be competing against teams much more athletic than their past few opponents (Chicago State, Portland State, Howard, etc.). So the question is, can the Beavers match up physically with the Pac-12’s biggest and best teams?

Against the previous terrible opponents that we have already mentioned, the Beavers were able to use their three main big men (Joe Burton, Angus Brandt, and Devon Collier) as facilitators around the perimeter. Burton would play the role of “point-center”, dishing the ball around and occasionally driving down the lane when it was open. Brandt would hang out in the corner and drain threes until the defense realized he could shoot, and Collier would just roam around and rebound whenever a shot went up. Unfortunately for the trio, they are going to need to do a lot more work in the paint when they face big and strong Pac-12 teams.

That is why the Beaver bigs will be the key to a conference championship. Cunningham will knock down his jumpers and get the crowd going with a couple highlight-reel dunks while Ahmad Starks and Roberto Nelson will hit their shots and play solid defense. But the games are going to come down to rebounding and points in the paint. So far this season they have been terrible in those categories, but have gotten away with it because of the caliber of the opponent. If they improve, a possible NCAA bid and conference crown is in the picture. If they do not, the Beavers will be headed to another disappointing season in Corvallis.

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Pac-12 Reset As Conference Play Tips Off Tonight

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

Yesterday we looked back at non-conference play and picked out some of the highlights of the first couple months of the season. Today, as conference play gets ready to tip-off, we look forward to what we expect to happen from here until Selection Sunday. Prior to the start of the season, we took a guess at things like conference standings and All-Pac-12 teams based on limited information. Now, we’ve got twelve or thirteen games upon which to base our next set of guesses, but given the state of affairs in the conference so far, may be no closer to having a good idea what is going to happen from here on out than we were back in November. Nevertheless, here goes:

Projected Standings

  1. California 13-5 – While every team in the conference is flawed, the Golden Bears are slightly less flawed than the rest, provided Richard Solomon can return from his injury, Harper Kamp can remain relatively healthy and freshman David Kravish continues to improve. Their quartet of guards (Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Brandon Smith) is the best in the league and head coach Mike Montgomery has a way of squeezing every bit of production out of his players.

    Mike Montgomery, California

    With Mike Montgomery At The Helm And A Talented Backcourt, The Golden Bears Are The Slight Favorite In The Pac-12 (photo credit: Christine Cotter)

  2. Stanford 12-6Johnny Dawkins’ team will prove it is for real, but it may not have the experience or the single elite player capable of scoring with confidence in clutch situations to actually win the title. Chasson Randle or even Dwight Powell could grow into that type of player, but it may be a year or more away from happening. The Cardinal travel to Berkeley on the final day of the regular season in what could be a game rife with title implications.
  3. Arizona 12-6 – It seems like everybody is just waiting for Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson to turn it on, take over this team and turn the Wildcats into an explosive offensive force. They’re talented enough to make that happen, but 13 games into the season, it is looking like Solomon Hill, Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry are going to have to continue as the go-to guys for Sean Miller. And while those guys are nice players, they are all more suited to the role of contributors rather than stars, at least on teams who hope to win a conference title. However, the fact that the Wildcats only have to play Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon once each is definitely a bonus.
  4. Oregon State 11-7Craig Robinson’s has an exciting and young squad that may have only scratched the surface of its talent so far. However, given their history of losing games that they have no business losing, they’ve got to be in the same “prove-it” category that Stanford occupies. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the quintet of Ahmad Starks, Jared Cunningham, Devon Collier, Joe Burton and Angus Brandt turns itself to be the most talented starting five in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on December 22nd, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take


Top Storylines

  • Non-Conference Play Winding Down – Can you believe we’re a week away from the start of the conference season? Tonight there are eight games involving Pac-12 teams (highlighted by Kansas at USC and Butler at Stanford), there are another couple tomorrow night (Richmond at UCLA and California at UNLV), a throwaway game next Wednesday (New Orleans at Colorado), and then we’re into conference play next Thursday with the Southern California schools traveling to the Bay Area and the Oregon schools heading to the Washington schools. There are a couple of unappealing non-conference games jammed into the middle of the Pac-12 schedule (literally, a couple: Seattle at Washington on January 10 and UCLA at St. John’s on February 18), but that’s it. No more non-conference games for the Pac-12 to boost its resume.
Lorenzo Romar, Washington

Lorenzo Romar's Huskies Have Struggled To A 5-5 Start, With An Uncharacteristic Home Loss To South Dakota State Mixed In There (photo credit: Geoffrey McAllister, AP)

  • What’s Up With Washington? ­– Coming into the season, the Huskies were considered one of four teams in a bunch at the top of the conference, each with a relatively equal chance to win the regular season title. Since that time, however, UCLA has dropped clean out of the discussion, and with Washington’s 19-point loss on Sunday night to South Dakota State dropping them to .500 on the year, Lorenzo Romar’s team is right there with the Bruins in having earned its share of doubters. Aside from neutral-site losses to top 15 teams Duke and Marquette, the Huskies had previously also dropped road games at Saint Louis and at Nevada. But the home blowout to Nate Wolters and the Jackrabbits was a whole new, entirely unexpected low. While the Huskies have had their share of troubles on the road in recent years under Romar, a home loss to a team the caliber of South Dakota State is unprecedented.
  • Arizona State, USC, Utah – Not only has the Pac-12 been bad this year, (19-7 since we last did that, with losses to South Dakota State and Northern Arizona mixed in there), they’ve been entirely unpredictable. For example, after Arizona State knocked off North Dakota State on a buzzer-beater two Saturday’s ago, they lost two straight games, victims of buzzer-beaters on both occasions. Then last night, they were spared the indignity of a third straight buzzer-beater loss only because the game winning three-pointer, this time from Fresno State’s Kevin Olekaibe, came with 30 seconds left. For USC, they allowed one of the worst shooting teams in Division I, Georgia, to shoot over 60% against them on Saturday, very much an out-of-the-ordinary occurrence for any team facing the tough Trojan defense. SC came back on Monday night to score 83 points against TCU, this after scoring over 60 only three times in regulation prior to that outburst. Then there’s Utah, who last week at this time were 0-8 against Division I opponents. Since then, they’ve won both their games and appear to at least be making some progress.

Player of the Year Watch

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