The Inane Ramblings of a Pac-12 Homer…

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 25th, 2013

So, the other night, I’m sitting around, minding my own business, doing a podcast with Shane and Randy talking about the Pac-12. When out of the blue, I get accused by an attacker who shall remain nameless of being a Pac-12 homer, just because I picked seven conference teams to get invited to the NCAA Tournament next March. And yeah, maybe taking a flyer on Stanford as a Sweet Sixteen team might have been a part of the equation. But, being an upstanding southern (Californian) gentleman, I say this injustice shall not stand! So, I’m taking to the RTC Pac-12 microsite to air my grievances. Because, really, if anything, I’m a Mountain West homer.

You Have Insulted My Honor And I Demand Satisfaction

You Have Insulted My Honor And I Demand Satisfaction

So, let’s get right to the point. I’m entering my fifth season as an RTC Pac-12 correspondent and I’d like to establish my credentials. In 2009-10, I was right there making fun of the inept conference and coming up with scenarios until the last moment where the conference would only earn one bid to the NCAA Tournament. In 2010-11, as Arizona was following Derrick Williams’ lead on the way to the Elite Eight, I was one of the last holdouts, doubting the Wildcats’ supporting cast every step of the way, nevermind the fact that I was dead wrong. I also had the then-Pac-10 correctly pegged as getting just three NCAA Tournament invites, right up until the point where the Selection Committee screwed up and somehow determined USC was worthy of an at-large as well. In 2011-12, I was telling you all that there would be no redeeming qualities about the Pac-12 Tournament. Heck, I was the guy who was regularly driving several hours into the desert to watch the Mountain West Tournament instead of driving 20 minutes to the Staples Center and getting to sleep in my own bed while being forced to watch the Pac-12 version. Does any of this sound like the hallmarks of a Pac-12 homer? God, no. I hated the Pac-12 at its nadir as much as the next guy. Maybe more so.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Stanford Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 18th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Here’s a look at Stanford.

What Went Right

After three years of showing signs of a mouthwatering combination of skill and athleticism, Dwight Powell exploded in his junior campaign. At 6’10” and a now well-built 235 pounds, Powell displayed the type of versatile game that will have him playing in the NBA following the completion of his college career. He’s always had the hops and size to throw down massive dunks, but he’s now got the ball-handling, basketball IQ and, perhaps most importantly, confidence to complete those types of plays with defenders in the area. Throw in an excellent feel for rebounding the ball, a developing jumper that is slowly approaching the three-point line, improved post moves and a variety of ways to finish in the paint and Powell has established himself as one of the best and most exciting players in the Pac-12.

Dwight Powell, Stanford

Dwight Powell Had A Breakout Season In His Junior Campaign (AP)

Before we leave this topic, we’ve got to spend a second on Andy Brown. After three ACL tears in his left knee, it was just assumed that the chances of the 6’7” forward every being a meaningful on-court contributor at the Division I level had passed. Instead, Brown made for one of the nicest stories in this or any other season. He played in all but one Cardinal game this season, averaged 23 minutes a night, and wasvery effective, displaying a toughness (as if you didn’t already know that a guy who had rehabbed from three torn ACLs was tough) and a feel for the game that can’t be taught. Already 22, he’s got at least one year of college eligibility ahead of him and here’s hoping it is another healthy and productive season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 27th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. News on this UCLA head coaching search is moving quickly with Pete Thamel reporting that the Bruins are moving on down the list as Shaka Smart is working on an extension with VCU and Brad Stevens is reportedly not interested in the job. From out of the blue, apparently UCLA boosters are interested in their former assistant coach and current N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried. Gottfried is fresh off of leading a team with arguably more talent that this year’s UCLA team to a fourth-place tie in the ACC and an early NCAA Tournament exit. Throw in his four other exits from the NCAA Tournament in his team’s first game, one Sweet Sixteen and one Elite Eight in nine Tournament appearances, and it is clear just what an upgrade he would be over UCLA’s former coach.
  2. Across town, one of USC’s potential targets for its open head coaching position is now officially off the market, as Memphis head coach Josh Pastner has committed to staying in his current position at Memphis and is working on details for a new five-year contract. But as the search for a new coach continues, you’ve got to wonder exactly what athletic director Pat Haden has been doing for the last couple months. Ostensibly, part of the reason that Kevin O’Neill was fired abruptly in the middle of the season was so that USC could get a jump start on finding a new guy. Apparently, that hasn’t worked out so well, which is just one reason I get a kick out of seeing things like “USC is a better job than UCLA” every so often these last couple days.
  3. The Pac-12 conference announced its All-Academic teams for basketball today and, before we get to the names on those teams, let’s just say we’re grateful that these teams only have five players on each team. Good to see that whoever is putting these teams together has more sense than those who come up with the 10-man All-Conference team. Anyway, here’s the five-man first team, with all players checking in with a GPA above 3.5: Sabatino Chen from Colorado, Carrick Felix from Arizona State, Jeremy Olsen from Utah, and John Gage and Robbie Lemons, both from Stanford. The second team features four additional Stanford players (Andy Brown, Stefan Nastic, Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle), with a seventh player from that roster (Anthony Brown) earning honorable mention. Special congratulations go out to Powell for being the only guy on these lists to also earn RTC All-Pac-12 first team honors. And, taking in that impressive haul makes it a lot clearer why Johnny Dawkins is getting another chance on The Farm.
  4. California’s season ended on Saturday with a loss to Syracuse in the round of 32, equaling the program’s best NCAA Tournament finish in the last 16 years. And so the question that California Golden Blogs asks is, does that make the season a success? The answers are almost resoundingly positive, with people noting that in the middle of January, the Golden Bears probably weren’t even on the radar for an NCAA invite, but that first stat – no Sweet Sixteen since 1997 – that’s gotta sting a little bit.
  5. Lastly, we’ve offered up our opinions on what we hope many of the Pac-12 underclassmen decide with regards to the NBA Draft, but Jack Follman of Pacific Takes also offers up his observations, suggesting that, aside from Shabazz Muhammad, who is already gone, Dewayne Dedmon and Allen Crabbe may well be the only other guys around the conference who leave early. While we hope that would ultimately be the case, as Eric Moreland has already shown us, there are always a couple of guys that come from off the radar to make peculiar decisions to leave early. Stay tuned.
Share this story

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

ATB: The Debate Over #1, Duke’s Comeback Win and Creighton’s Defense…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 29th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Don’t Get Worked Up Over #1. Over the past two nights, the two best teams in the country stated their case for #1 by knocking off quality opponents in nationally televised games. Indiana’s 83-59 win over North Carolina prompted an onrushing of praise for the Hoosiers’ high-powered offense. The debate was settled – Indiana was the best team in the country. That was the prevailing consensus heading into Wednesday night’s showdown at Cameron Indoor, where Ohio State outplayed Duke for 30 minutes yet ultimately succumbed to a blistering second-half run led by Mason Plumlee and Rasheed Sulaimon. It was an impressive win to add to an already impressive resume. So who’s #1 today? It’s anybody’s guess, frankly. When you have two teams playing as well as Duke and Indiana, the distinction need not matter. The ups and downs of a 30-game season have a way of parsing the upper crust of elite teams. We may not know who the #1 team in the country is right now. And you know what, it really doesn’t matter, nor will it matter in March. My recommendation: Soak in every last minute of Duke and Indiana basketball, watch Plumlee and Cody Zeller dominate the paint, observe Sulaimon’s precocious maturity, and Jordan Hulls’ deadeye three-point marksmanship. Take it all in. These are two excellent teams playing at the highest level. The difference between them is a matter of degree, not type.

Your Watercooler Moment. The Year’s First RTC!!!!….Was Uncalled For.

 

There are no universal guidelines or restrictions for court rushes. The criteria are unique to each school, influenced by circumstance. The true bluebloods of the world – the Dukes, Kansases, Kentuckys and so on – do not rush the court, because doing so requires an implicit acknowledgement of reverential respect for the visiting opponent. They don’t excessively celebrate big victories, because victories are nothing to celebrate. It really is that simple. For schools like Miami, with diffuse basketball histories and tradition, on-court celebrations are totally within bounds. That’s not to say the act doesn’t require a special occasion. Beating an opponent of exalted stature, in comparative terms, is a fundamental precondition. Hurricane fans may have violated that Wednesday night after Miami’s 67-59 victory over Michigan State. The Spartans are a very good team; they beat likely Big 12 champion Kansas on a neutral floor earlier this year to prove it. That said, this Miami team – which, given how wide-open the top of the ACC looks with NC State and North Carolina taking its lumps in non-league play – does not lag far enough behind the Spartans to grant them that level of deference. Thing is, the Hurricanes didn’t beat Michigan State on some fluky sky-high shooting percentage. They beat the Spartans because the talent disparity between these two teams isn’t all that far off. Beating Michigan State is a praiseworthy cause, particularly in light of the Hurricanes’ not-so-hot start to the season. But it does not fall into the “special” category. Fuzzy and unclear and vague as the stipulations may be, court rushes happen because they feel right. It’s a carpe diem exercise; you do it when you know. Wednesday night was not one of those nights.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Why Stanford’s Anthony Brown Will be a Top 50 Wing Next Season

Posted by KDanna on October 25th, 2012

In what is starting to become a trend on Rush The Court, we have another response to a CBS Sports preseason list. Yesterday, CBS Sports released its ranking of the top 50 wings in the country, which revealed five guys from the Pac-12: Shabazz Muhammad as the top-ranked wing, Allen Crabbe at No. 16, Solomon Hill at No. 21 (personally, I’d flop Crabbe and Hill, but that’s neither here nor there; both are very good), J.T. Terrell at No. 31, and C.J. Wilcox at No. 46. This post isn’t to argue the credibility of their choices — they look pretty sound to me — but rather to state the case for why one Pac-12 wing in particular may be on a similar list next year; that player being Stanford’s Anthony Brown.

Anthony Brown has a chance to be a premier wing in the conference and garner some national attention. (credit: CSN Bay Area)

After a decent freshman season where he garnered Pac-10 All-Freshman Team honors, Brown experienced a slight production dip in a disappointing sophomore campaign of about a half of a point per game and two percentage points in field goal percentage. While there were some factors that led to these results — nagging injuries and struggling at times to find consistent minutes in a rotation that sometimes expanded to 11 men — the bottom line is that Brown didn’t progress at the rate that many thought the No. 41 overall recruit in the Class of 2010 would.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Team Previews: Stanford Cardinal

Posted by KDanna on October 12th, 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 Stanford Cardinal

Strengths: The tandem of junior Aaron Bright and sophomore Chasson Randle in the backcourt is shaping up to be one of the most dynamic duos in the Pac-12. The diminutive Bright has some characteristics reminiscent of other small guys who made names for themselves in the Seattle area, most notably the moxie to take and make big shots for his team. While he might not have the speed of a Nate Robinson or Isaiah Thomas, Bright can still get into the lane and distribute with some flashy passes. However, he doesn’t break down defenses as well as Randle, who may very well be the most significant guard to come through The Farm since Brevin Knight when it’s all said and done. Randle finished second among Pac-12 freshmen in scoring, behind only the NBA-bound Tony Wroten. The Rock Island, IL native displayed an ability to go into “put the team on my back” mode during his freshman campaign, highlighted by the 24 points he scored to lead Stanford in its 103-101 quadruple-overtime victory at Oregon State.

Chasson Randle did more than hold up his jersey during Stanford’s quadruple-overtime victory over Oregon State (credit: Rick Bowmer)

Weaknesses: Stanford is going to be physically light down low with the departures of Josh Owens and Andrew Zimmermann. While the Cardinal have to potential to be a good rebounding team again with guys like Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis still in town to crash the glass, Stanford will have to make up for a lot of toughness lost with Owens and Zimmermann gone. Although Owens was the better athlete, Zimmermann might end up being a bigger loss for head coach Johnny Dawkins. He was a guy who did all of the little things in the paint, including taking charges and talking on defense (he didn’t have a bad jump shot, either). As such, this group also needs to find a vocal leader. That might be tough, considering none of the major rotation players are seniors and haven’t been called on to be captains before.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Stanford Week: What To Expect

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 22nd, 2012

We’re most of the way through our week-long look at the Cardinal and have at least enough information to make some educated guesses about what the 2012-13 season has in store. With four players lost to graduation and a trio of highly rated recruits coming in, we can expect to see a different, and likely better, team than won the NIT Championship last year. But who exactly will lead this team and what will the final results be? Here are our guesses.

Stanford’s Leading ScorerChasson Randle. No doubt about this one. Randle’s average of 13.8 PPG last season might drop a bit due to him trying to become more of a passing threat, but there’s no question that he is the best scorer on the roster. The next step for Randle is to become an All-Pac-12 guard, and he’s got the talent and scoring ability to do so.

Randle’s Ability To Take the Ball To The Rack And Score Will Make Him Stanford’s Leading Scorer For The Second Straight Season (credit: Paul Sakuma)

Stanford’s MVPAaron Bright. Bright is the team’s truest point guard and has shown good growth in his first two seasons on the Farm. If the upward trend continues, he should be averaging around 13 PPG and 5 APG next season. Overall, he’s not a better talent than Randle, but his nose for the ball and on-floor leadership make him one of the most important players on the team.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Stanford Week: Q&A With Pachoops’ Adam Butler

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 22nd, 2012

As we go to wind down our coverage of the Stanford basketball program, we head back to Adam Butler of Pachoops for his perspective on the Cardinal basketball program. Adam and I go over every pressing topic surrounding the team’s immediate future, including how they plan on replacing three key seniors and expectations for sophomore-to-be extraordinaire, Chasson Randle. Here’s our conversation:

RTC: How do the Cardinal replace players like Josh Owens, Jarrett Mann, and Andrew Zimmerman?

AB: First of all, you don’t replace an Andrew Zimmerman. Beards like that don’t come around often, but when they do, they’re irreplaceable. On the court, however, Mann and Zimmerman were very solid role players and integral to the success of a Johnny Dawkins team in which hustle and defense would seem to be heavily rewarded. How else does a guy averaging 3 PPG and 3 RPG (Mann) play 20 MPG? So replacing those guys in some respects is easy in that they brought effort to the table. Guys like Josh Huestis, Gabriel Harris, and John Gage should be able to fill those roles. But it’s Owens who leaves the most gaping hole in the Cardinal lineup. Hustle, effort, all of the Tebow stuff, cannot replace talent, and Josh Owens had that. I loved his game and believe he’ll be tough to replace. But this is a roster seemingly full of eligible Owens replacements. My favorite of those candidates is Dwight Powell, who has length and athleticism for days but basketball IQ for minutes. Some more floor time for the rangy Canadian should go a long way in helping the Cardinal replace Owens. I’ll talk about Anthony Brown later.

Before Playing Basketball At Stanford, Zimmerman Starred As The Geico Caveman

RTC: Through some luck and upsets along the way, Stanford never faced a team seeded higher than fifth in the NIT. Do you think it would have won the whole thing if they had to face teams like Mississippi, Arizona, and Seton Hall instead of Illinois State, Nevada, and Massachusetts?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Stanford Week’s Burning Question: Is Dawkins’ Seat Warming Up?

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 21st, 2012

Pachoops’ Adam Butler joins us once again to chime in with his thoughts on our Burning Question. This is now his fourth straight appearance after giving us answers on the programs of Arizona, USC, and Washington. As for Stanford’s question, here goes:

Stanford made the NCAA Tournament in 13 out of 14 seasons before current head coach Johnny Dawkins took over in 2008-09. In his four seasons on the Farm, Dawkins has yet to lead the Cardinal back to the Big Dance, which has dropped the program down a step in terms of national prominence. How many more times can he go without dancing before his seat begins to heat up?

Dawkins Needs To Bring Stanford Back To National Prominence In A Hurry (credit: Danny Moloshok)

Connor Pelton: It’s tough to stand out and become a prominent team nationally in college basketball. In college football, an average fan will watch roughly 70 out of 125 FBS teams play at least one game throughout the season. That number is about the same for college basketball, but  it’s out of 345 Division I teams. If you think of it as a huge pie, there are about 30 large slices, 40 medium slices, and the rest are crumbs. Stanford used to be one of those coveted large slices, one that would without a doubt hear their name called on Selection Sunday year in and year out. But since Dawkins has taken over, the Cardinal have taken a step down to just one of the medium slices. Fans around the nation know who they are, but they don’t care enough to stay up until Midnight (on the east coast) to watch them play. The same goes for recruits, and if you find yourself in one of those six or seven-year droughts without going dancing, your four- and five-stars are going to become twos and threes.

With that said, Dawkins was able to pump some life into a program that was a little sleepy by winning the NIT Championship last season. That will buy him some time, if only because he can point to it and say, “Hey, we’re on the road back to success.” But if he doesn’t get back to the promised land within the next two seasons, it might be time to move on in Palo Alto.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Stanford Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 19th, 2012

The Cardinal return five players from last season’s main rotation. Below, we’ll take a look at each of these returnees in order of their scoring averages in the last season played.

  • Chasson Randle, Sophomore, Guard (13.8 PPG, 2.1 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG) – Looking for the reason why Stanford won 26 games in 2011-12? Look no further than Randle, the freshman sensation who took over this team from the day he arrived on campus. Even when he would have a rough day putting the ball in the hoop (those days came few and far between), his body language and leadership displayed by the freshman would have neutral observers thinking he was a uppperclassman. Randle led the team with 13.8 PPG but could easily explode for many more on any given night. In Stanford’s first round game of the Pac-12 Tournament against Arizona State, Randle dazzled the Staples Center crowd, going for 30 points and picking up three steals on the defensive end. Randle is a “score first” type of point guard, but expect that role to change slightly in 2012-13. Johnny Dawkins needs to keep the ball in Randle’s hands, but if there was one ongoing problem last year, it was that the offense could become stale and bogged down at times because they didn’t have a true passing guard at the one. Randle will still have all the freedom he can handle in the Cardinal offense, because quite frankly they can’t afford for him not to, but he needs to distribute better. Once he proves to opponents that he can do that, there will be even more of an opportunity to score off the dribble or on a jump shot.

    Randle Can Be Even More Dangerous In His Sophomore Season If He Can Distribute The Ball Better In 2012-13 (credit: Jae Hong)

  • Aaron Bright, Junior, Guard (11.7 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 3.6 APG) – Bright was the Cardinal’s best passer last season, but he also fit in perfectly within Dawkins’ system of “everyone on the floor has to be able to score” basketball. He saw the floor for an average of 28.4 MPG yet wasn’t always a full-time starter. That will change next season with the departure of Jarrett Mann. The balance of distributing and scoring in the offense that Bright has shown needs to be copied by the younger guards, mainly Randle. If Bright and Randle are both triple threats in 2012-13, Stanford could easily find itself dancing come March.
  • Anthony Brown, Junior, Guard/Forward (8.1 PPG, 1.0 APG) – Brown has played identical minutes in his two seasons on the Farm. While a freshman in 2010-11, Brown seemed to focus a bit more on his play as a guard, but that changed last year. Brown played much more as a spread-out small forward who was willing to do anything to get the rebound. With Josh Owens, Andrew Zimmerman, and Jack Trotter all graduating, Brown will continue to play in that role for the most part. He’s got tremendous upside and looks prime for a breakout junior season.
Share this story

Stanford: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 25th, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Stanford.

What Went Right

The Cardinal dominated its non-conference schedule, winning 15 of their 17 games outside of the Pac-12. It wasn’t the toughest non-conference schedule in the world, but Johnny Dawkins’ team did wind up with a pair of wins against NCAA Tournament teams (Colorado State and North Carolina State) prior to their conference slate, then ripped through a field of also-rans in the NIT in March. All told, the Cardinal displayed a pretty drastic improvement on the defensive end of the court, finishing in the top 20 nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency numbers. And for a team that relied heavily on underclassmen (five different freshmen and sophomores played at least 40% of the team’s total minutes), there should still be plenty of room to improve, especially on the offensive end, in the near future.

What Went Wrong

While all that youth should pay off next year, it was the undoing of the Cardinal during the conference season. After getting off to a 5-1 start in Pac-12 play, the Cardinal lost five of their next six and struggled mightily, especially on the offensive end. Between Martin Luther King Day and Valentine’s Day they scored just 0.92 points per possession, highlighted by sophomore Aaron Bright’s 22-of-70 shooting during that stretch, good for just a 37.9% eFG.

In A Solid Year, As Aaron Bright Went, So Did The Cardinal (credit: Zach Sanderson)

MVP

On a squad that was a model of a team effort (11 different players averaged at least eight minutes per game, with six different players averaging somewhere between five points and 13 points per night), it is hard to pick out just one player, but the Cardinal were clearly a team whose fates aligned closely with Bright’s performance. He averaged four more points per game, one more assist and shot the ball nearly 20% better from behind the arc in wins than in losses. When Bright was going good, he was a tough defender, a confident floor general, and a deadly three-point shooter who made opposing defenses pay for collapsing in on interior players like senior Josh Owens. While there is something to be said for Owens’ 11.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 57.1% field goal percentage (not to mention freshman Chasson Randle’s team-leading 13.8 points per game), Bright was really the most important player on this team, as evidenced by his near-perfect run through the NIT when he averaged 16.8 points, 4.2 assists and shot a whopping 79.5% eFG.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story