Morning Five: 09.04.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 4th, 2012

  1. Here’s hoping everyone had a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend, wherever you may have spent it. By now, most colleges are back in session, and the weeks leading up to Midnight Madness (October 12 this year) are often fraught with tales of players getting into all sorts of trouble as the combination of free time and warm weather results in a devilish concoction — let’s cross our fingers that the next six weeks are clean. One player who recently found himself unjustifiably in hot water to the point of school expulsion (at least according to an Ohio grand jury) is Xavier’s Dez Wells. The rising sophomore star spent his holiday weekend flying around and visiting potential new schools — specifically, Oregon, Memphis and Maryland — according to several published reports. Earlier contenders Louisville, Ohio State and Kentucky had been removed from his list for various reasons, and it now appears that Mark Turgeon’s program may be the clubhouse leader as Wells is expected to make his decision in coming days. According to the Washington Post, Wells’ trip to College Park seemed to produce a level of excitement that he didn’t experience (or at least, share) while touring the others. Regardless of where he ends up, that program will receive an unexpected yet instant infusion of talent into its backcourt.
  2. This UCLA situation involving its top recruiting class remains interesting. We mentioned in yesterday’s M5 that the big news over the weekend involved the NCAA investigating potential violations in the recruitments of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker. Athletic director Dan Guerrero fired back at this report on Monday, suggesting that such an investigation is “misleading and inaccurate” but offering little in the way of specific details beyond the simple statement that two Bruin players had yet to receive their amateur certification. A separate Monday report from Peter Yoon at ESPNLosAngeles stated that the two players not yet certified are Muhammad and Anderson (interestingly, Parker has been cleared, according to his source). Whether something substantive actually sticks to one or both of these elite recruits certainly must have UCLA fans nervous right now — the program’s resurgence depends almost entirely on the NBA-quality talent that these two are bringing to Westwood. If they are not available in 2012-13, UCLA likely drops from a top five team to a top 35 team, and Ben Howland’s job would correspondingly be in jeopardy.
  3. No doubt Howland’s blood pressure has risen over the last few days, and with good reason — acting as CEO of a major college basketball program is a stressful job. This is especially true in the midst of a crisis, such as the strong likelihood of a player mutiny that could threaten one’s reputation as well as his employment. Billy Gillispie, as we all now, has been hospitalized since Friday in a Lubbock hospital, and he is not expected to leave the premises soon as he receives ongoing treatment for high blood pressure. An early-morning episode Friday where his BP spiked to “dangerous” levels left the second-year head coach feeling the “worst” he’s ever felt. Presumably aware of what faces him once he returns to campus — to be certain, nothing short of a serious inquiry into how he runs his program — the salve for his long-term health might be to stay in the hospital for as long as possible. We certainly wish him the best in recovery on both his medical and professional counts.
  4. Some vacant assistant coaching positions were filled over the holiday weekend on both coasts, as Arizona State added two new members to Herb Sendek’s staff and Steve Lavin brought on a former one of his players to assist him at St. John’s. As Andy Katz notes on regarding ASU’s new hires, Sendek is clearly trying to make a bold statement in bringing former Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors head coach Eric Musselman in addition to Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach Larry Greer into his program. Three thousand miles away in Queens, Lavin hired former UCLA point guard Darrick Martin to help him with recruiting and coaching up their backcourt. Martin played under Lavin — then an assistant to Jim Harrick at UCLA — in the early 90s, leaving the program as the then-all-time leader in assists and steals before moving on to the NBA for 15 years. He also has ties to the NYC area, having played prep basketball across the Hudson River at Bob Hurley’s famed St. Anthony’s program in the mid-1980s.
  5. It’s not often that the media publishes an in-depth report essentially stating that nothing happened, but that appears to be the case with the bizarre yet compelling story that San Diego State‘s best-ever 34-3 season in 2010-11 was targeted by those involved with the University of San Diego point-shaving scandal as another viable option. FBI agents who at the time were monitoring the key individuals associated with the USD case were also keeping a very close eye on a number of SDSU players — and when we write “close eye,” try this on for size — several players were subjected to “physical and electronic surveillance, GPS tracking devices on cars, phone logs, infiltration of the team by an undercover agent, even recruitment of a player to be a confidential informant.” Uh, yeah — that’s serious stuff. Thankfully, the outcome of all of this surveillance was the aforementioned ‘nothing’ — whether because SDSU players from that illustrious season were never actually approached by point-shavers, or because they were smart enough to turn down those doing the asking — we’re not sure. Still, the FBI never accused any Aztec players of wrongdoing, and the school has been adamant in stating that none of its players were involved in any of the shenanigans that went on across town. Crazy story.
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Morning Five: 08.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 24th, 2012

  1. You know you’re doing something right in a lawsuit if the defendant’s attorneys start attacking the plaintiff’s ringleader long before the discovery phase ends. According to this report from The Birmingham News, the NCAA and its licensees maneuvered hard against marketing guru Sonny Vaccaro in an attempt to discredit him prior to a ruling by a federal court in California about whether the so-called Ed O’Bannon likeness case will become a class action suit. It’s no secret that Vaccaro has encouraged ex-players who feel wronged by the perpetual and ongoing usage of their faces and likenesses to join the suit, but the NCAA questioned whether his financial motives were too inextricably tied to the players to render him prejudicial. The NCAA had requested voluminous records of his communications for years, but ultimately, the two sides agreed that Vaccaro would turn over “custodial records from Vaccaro’s three organizations, communications with the plaintiffs, camp/tournament documents using players’ likeness, and payment records to or from players.” The court plans on making a decision on the class action later this fall, and without question that ruling could have a monumental impact on the future financial solvency of the NCAA.
  2. Thursday was an assistant coach kind of weekday as a number of high-profile schools announced comings and goings among their coaching support staff. Kentucky, a school whose media relations department must work a ridiculous amount of overtime, announced that former Wildcat center Marquis Estill will join the team as an undergraduate student assistant while he finishes his degree. Estill left school early in 2003, after receiving all-SEC honors after his junior season. Meanwhile, across the continent in Seattle, Washington announced that it was adding former Arizona State assistant Lamont Smith to its staff as a top recruiter mere days after adding another new assistant, former D-II head coach Brad Jackson (Western Washington). The key word in the previous sentence is former, as Arizona State lost not only Smith but also Scott Pera, who is leaving the desert to coach closer to his home at Pennsylvania. As Herb Sendek said about the twin departures this week, “the timing isn’t ideal.” More on ASU in a post later today.
  3. Much has been made recently about the Big East’s 60-day window to negotiate a new television deal with ESPN that begins on September 1, but it isn’t the only conference looking forward to making waves with a brand new broadcasting deal. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told media on Wednesday that the league expects to sign a 13-year deal with FOX and ABC/ESPN worth $2.6 billion and will provide “unprecedented” exposure in a much more “widely distributed” manner. Or, in other words, what everyone else says about these deals. From a financial perspective, if this deal turns out to be true, a distribution of over a quarter-bill to each of the 10 member institutions doesn’t sound very bad after all. As Bowlsby suggests, perhaps 10 schools is the right number after all — leagues have been pushing each other out of the way to expand, but maybe they should start thinking about strategic contraction instead?
  4. One school not reaping the tens of millions of dollars that the schools located nearby it are is Creighton, but that isn’t stopping the hot mid-major basketball school from investing in its future while things are going well on the court. Plans were announced earlier this week that the school will build the Fighting McDermotts a brand spanking new 35,000 square-foot practice facility to match what some of its MVC peers have already done. Perhaps more importantly, the school seeks to match what a certain Big Ten school an hour to the southwest is doing — even though Creighton is clearly the more successful basketball program than Nebraska, the spectre of all those BTN dollars at NU certainly keeps the Joneses over in Omaha looking over at their neighbor’s lawn. With possibly two more years of Doug McDermott as a Bluejay, this practice facility could be the recruiting carrot that Creighton needs to bridge its current and pending success with a strong recruiting future.
  5. Last summer the story of Lamont “Momo” Jones‘ transfer from Arizona back home to Iona was a hot topic. The question of how it would ultimately impact both schools was a common refrain, and as it turned out, it was his new school that played in March Madness (losing to BYU in the First Four), while his old school was shipped to the NIT (losing to Bucknell). Jones enjoyed his best season statistically in 2011-12, going for 16/3/3 APG while shooting a career-high 46% from the field. More importantly to the rising senior, though, he spent what he characterizes as the best of year of his life near his family — especially his ailing grandmother in the Bronx — and even became a first-time father of a boy, Jace’, in May. With all the negative stories surrounding college basketball these days, this piece by Dan Greene is one that will send you into the weekend with a smile on your face.
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Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences.  

Reader’s Take


Top Storylines

  • More Behavioral Problems – While the struggles of the Pac-12 conference as a whole has been well-documented, the sheer number of off-the-court distractions coaches up and down the conference have had to deal with has been astounding. There’s the ongoing Reeves Nelson soap opera at UCLA. Josiah Turner has been patently unable to get it together in Arizona. Jabari Brown quit on his team after just two games because he was “only” getting about 26 minutes a game. This week Utah suspended Josh Watkins, one of just three players in the Pac-12 to score in double figures in each of his team’s games (Washington’s Terrence Ross and Washington State’s Brock Motum the other two). Then there are lesser lights like Oregon’s Bruce Barron (quit on his team as well), Arizona’s Sidiki Johnson (suspended, dismissed and now transferring out) and Washington State’s D.J. Shelton (suspended). That’s not even including Joshua Smith’s issues, Jerime Anderson’s legal troubles, or Jahii Carson’s inability to get eligible. While the play on the court has been less than stellar around the conference, it is the off-the-court nonsense that is giving the conference the biggest black eye.

Josh Watkins' Troubles Are Only the Latest and Greatest...

  • Surprising Players Stepping Up – In the place of all the missing or invisible players, these teams have needed somebody to step up, and there have been some surprising players that are doing their part. Just looking at the five players that were nominated for the Pac-12 Player of the Week last week gives you a list of surprising names: Charlie Enquist, Ahmad Starks, Anthony Brown, Keala King and, the winner of the award, Solomon Hill. No disrespect to any of those guys, but I don’t think you would have found any of those names on most preseason all-Pac-12 teams. Hill has been a versatile and steadying force for Arizona.  Not only is the junior post leading the team in points (12.4 PPG), assists (3.1 APG) and minutes (31.5 MPG), but Hill is also grabbing the second most rebounds (7.8 RPG), and he’ll likely be a candidate for the Pac-12 award on a semi-regular basis throughout the year. But Charlie Enquist? That’s a guy who had scored a total of 50 points and grabbed a total of 41 rebounds in his 54 games in his previous three years in Pullman. This week he scored 28 and grabbed 19 rebounds. Meanwhile, King was awful at Arizona State last year (36.5% from the field, 1-18 threes, more turnovers than assists), but has scored 65 points in his last three games while posting a 75.8 eFG%. Starks had 16 points and four threes in Oregon State’s win over Montana, and Anthony Brown scored 27 points in two games for Stanford this week. For the underachieving teams in this conference to improve between now and March, they’ll need players to step up and make bigger-than-expected contributions.
  • Stanford For Real? – At the start of the season, it was more or less consensus that there were four teams in the upper tier of the Pac-12: Arizona, Cal, UCLA and Washington. It didn’t take long for one of those four teams to drop from that group (I’ll let you guess which one that was), but with Stanford sporting the best record in the Pac-12 at 8-1 so far (the lone loss a tough six-point defeat at Madison Square Garden to Syracuse), the Cardinal may have jumped up into that group. Of Stanford’s eight victories this season, seven of them have come by 12 or more, with only their most recent come-from-behind win against NC State being a tight one. And at least one RTC correspondent came away from that game impressed enough to confirm that Stanford is good enough, at least defensively, to contend for the conference title. The Cardinal are now in the midst of 13 days off surrounding finals, and really only have one challenging non-conference game remaining (December 22 against Butler). But, if the Cardinal can pick up where it left off, coach Johnny Dawkins‘ squad will be a tough out during conference play.

Player of the Year Watch

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Pac-12 Media Day Recap: Part Two

Posted by AMurawa on November 1st, 2011

The Pac-12 Basketball Media Day took place on Friday in Los Angeles. Here is part two of our coverage, where we will take a look at the top three quotes from each of the six southern schools.  Yesterday we covered the northern schools.

Arizona (full transcript available here)

  • Coach Sean Miller on the results of the preseason media poll: “There’s no way in the world we’re the third best team in the Pac-12. You can say every coach says something like that. I didn’t say that last year. Hopefully I won’t say it next year, but I’m saying it now. There is no chance at all that’s where we are.
  • Miller on Kevin Parrom: “Not having him hurts us. His status, I really believe he’ll return to the court this year.We’re pointing towards late November, early December if he continues to experience the same progress that he has.”

Parrom is Key to Arizona's Post-Derrick Williams Success

  • Miller on freshman point guards Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner: “I’ll start with Nick Johnson. To me he’s shown early on he’s the most ready [of the team’s four freshmen]. Playing in the high school program that he played at the last two years, to me, has given him a leg up. He was one of the bright spots in last night’s game. He played in the game the way he practices. To me, continuing to develop and give Nick a bigger role was something that we have to do. Josiah, the hardest position, I think, to transfer from high school to college is point guard. With continued work, he’s going to be a much better player four weeks from now, two weeks from now, than he is right now, and I’m confident in saying that.”

Thoughts: Miller’s right when he says that the Wildcats aren’t the third best team in the conference right now. But as Turner, in particular, gets his legs underneath him, and once Parrom returns, the Wildcats will be very good.

Arizona State (full transcript available here)

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Who’s Got Next? More Eligibility Issues, Prospects Discuss Midnight Madness, Big Men Make Big Commitments

Posted by Josh Paunil on October 19th, 2011


Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at

Lead Story: Trio of Class of 2011 Prospects Experiencing Eligibility Issues

This Is Probably How Bill Self Reacted When His Two Top Freshmen Were Ruled Ineligible.

Kansas Duo Out For 2011-12 Season, Louisville’s Blackshear In Danger. Kansas freshmen small forward Ben McLemore  and power forward Jamari Traylor were ruled ineligible by the NCAA, head coach Bill Self announced Friday. The pair of forwards were declared partial qualifiers meaning they can’t take part in any team activities until the beginning of the second semester and can’t participate in any games in the upcoming basketball season. This comes as a shocker since the Jayhawks’ coaching staff thought the duo would indubitably qualify although this isn’t the first time Kansas has had trouble with freshman qualifying. Just last month, the NCAA deemed freshman power forward Braeden Anderson a partial qualifier who can’t accept a scholarship for the 2011-12 school year. Louisville freshman shooting guard Wayne Blackshear is also undergoing eligibility issues. Although Cardinal head coach Rick Pitino remains optimistic regarding Blackshear’s chances of being cleared, this isn’t the first time a Louisville freshman faced eligibility issues either. Last month, shooting guard Kevin Ware (yes, that Kevin Ware) was ruled ineligible for the year although he could play games in the spring semester if his SAT scores increase (which he’ll be re-taking next week).

What They’re Saying [About Midnight Madness]

We’ve had a lot of coverage here at RTC on Midnight Madness from the best events to the best dunks and the best stories via Twitter, but now we get to take a look at what the best prospects in the country had to say about the celebrations to kick off the college basketball year.

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Morning Five: 07.15.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 15th, 2011

  1. As a website victim to a similar infringement of trademark, RTC has a particular compassion for other sites and entities subject to cybersquatters and other bottom-feeders around the web.  But this example involving Arizona State University is a wee bit funny regardless.  It turns out that if you type in into your browser, you’ll end up where you expected, at the official athletics website of the Pac-12 school located in Tempe.  But if you leave off the pronoun “the” and enter (warning: NSFW), you’ll find something entirely different.  Like, as different as Brian Wilson’s leotux at the ESPYs Wednesday night, although equally titillating.  ASU has filed suit against the owner for infringement even though the owner claims that he doesn’t know why it is redirecting to his unrelated site and that he’s never heard from anyone at the university about this problem.
  2. Apparently Georgia Tech was under an NCAA investigation in both football and basketball — who knew?  On Thursday the NCAA released its report finding GT guilty of several violations, resulting in the football team losing its 2009 ACC football title and the school having to pay $100,000 in penalties. The bulk of the violations involved the football program, but new head coach Brian Gregory on the basketball side will have to endure a slightly lower amount of official recruiting visits (10) for each of the next two seasons as well.  The hoops violations related to a handful of impermissible tickets given to recruits, but the bigger issue for the program is that its second major NCAA probation in the last six years.  Since Tech found itself in the NCAA’s crosshairs twice in such a short period of time, it was subject to harsher penalties than normal despite the relatively minor initial violation that got the school in trouble in the first place (a football player received some clothing).   A cautionary tale, indeed.  To read the entire NCAA report, click here.
  3. ACC Sports Journal asks the question: What’s the succession plan for Duke basketball?  Everyone knows that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is still probably several years, a couple hundred more wins, and perhaps even a fifth national championship away from retiring, but as he turns 65 next season, it’s a fair question.  The national pundits believe that Butler’s Brad Stevens is tailor made for the job, and we agree for the most part.  But we also think that Stevens, as a Hoosier born and bred, will settle at one or the other destination job — Duke or Indiana — at some point in the next five to seven years.  For fans of either school, it may become a bit of Faustian bargain — IU fans rooting for Tom Crean to ultimately fail (hoping the job opens prior to Duke), and Duke fans rooting for Crean’s success (hoping the IU job won’t open until after K retires).
  4. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino blogged for the first time in over seven months yesterday, and he found time between complaints about playing at West Virginia for the third year in a row to lay out his idea for how to divide the 17-team Big East into an East and a West division.  The only thing is, though, is that we’re having a little trouble following the geography of Pitino, as his suggested layout has DePaul, Marquette and Notre Dame in the East, while Syracuse, Rutgers and Connecticut reside in the West.  Not sure what’s going on with that.  Anyone?  Perhaps we’ll have to wait another half-year to find out.
  5. Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t again express our gratitude for placing us (well, our Twitter feed) on its list of the Top 100 must-reads for “news, information and entertainment from the sports world.”  Considering the talent on its staff and its ongoing reputation as the home of the best sports writers in the world, we are honored.  Let’s just hope that the extra attention doesn’t make us all self-conscious the next time we fire up the old TweetDeck apparatus…
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RTC Live: USC @ Arizona State

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2011

Game #117.  RTC Live makes its first trip to the desert Southwest with a trip to Tempe for some Pac-10 basketball.

It’s been a trying first half of the Pac-10 season for Herb Sendek’s Arizona State Sun Devils, but there’s a lingering sense that they should be better than they are.  Having only played two home games en route to a 1-6 start, the schedule certainly breaks favorably for a renaissance. Two of the issues are that ASU’s usually staunch defense has been lacking and guard/forward Rihards Kuksiks has been in what seems like a season-long funk.  Tonight’s visit from USC provides an opportunity, as the Trojans come in struggling as well.  After starting off strongly by beating Washington State and UCLA, and nearly knocking off league gorilla Washington, USC lost to both Oregon schools away and split against the Bay Area schools last weekend at home.  Jio Fontan and Nikola Vucevic have played well, but there hasn’t been much consistency beyond those two.  It should make for an interesting game here tonight in Tempe.  Join us for a little Pac-10 hoops from the desert.

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ATB: A Crosstown Blowout!

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2011

The Lede.  As we head into the first weekend where almost every conference will be in action — the ACC, Big 12 and SEC finally kick it into high gear — tonight was a pretty interesting night of hoops with the Crosstown Shootout turning into a blowout, the Pac-10 providing us with a couple of good games, and Northwestern showing everyone once again why you should never count on them to man up and make the NCAA Tournament.  Let’s dive in.

Cincy Had a Lot to Celebrate in This Year's Crosstown Shootout (

Your Watercooler MomentDoes the Crosstown Blowout Legitimize Cincinnati?  Let’s be honest: this was an undefeated Cincinnati team playing at home against a beat-up Xavier squad. On paper, if you covered the names of the teams and players and looked at the stats and what each team had done so far, this wouldn’t have appeared as much of a contest. But this is the Crosstown Shootout. The schools’ names are what matter the most, not the least. Everything else can be thrown out the window of your nearest chili joint. Forget analysis. Forget what it means in terms of the rest of the year. To ask those questions implies that you don’t quite get the depth of this rivalry.

But there was no romanticism tonight. 66-46, Bearcats, and that’s no surprise. Cincinnati’s deeper bench, confidence, and enjoyment of the home atmosphere were too much for the Musketeers, and, even though the game wasn’t truly out of reach until late, you knew at about the 8:00 mark of the first half that there wasn’t much of a fightback coming from XU. When you realize that 6’9/265 pound Yancy Gates (22/14), who looks 7’2 with 35 more pounds of arm when you get up close to him, is hitting outside fade-aways off one foot, and that Tu Holloway (5 pts on 2-13) — he of the 21.4 PPG average — will probably not get to double-figures, well…you know the outcome well ahead of time. Holloway was the most glaring casualty of UC’s intense defensive effort, but he wasn’t the only frustrated Musketeer. On eighteen field goals, XU had only four assists, and they were flummoxed from three-point land, shooting 1-10.

Now that it’s over, we can ask that question: what does this mean? Should a 15-0 Cincinnati team be considered a national championship contender? It would be unwise to let the magnitude of this rivalry make this victory appear bigger than it is. In fact, the Bearcats were warned of this before the game. According to both Gates and reserve guard Larry Davis in their post-game comments, the team adopted an “all-business” approach at the behest of head coach Mick Cronin. His thinking on this is a product of how tough life is in the Big East. “You can’t just be ‘rivalry-tough,'” Cronin said. “We still have to play five teams on the road who are ranked in the top 14 in the country.” In other words, he got across to his team that there is life outside of the Crosstown Shootout. That said, this will probably be filed as yet another win over a mediocre team and won’t do much to persuade UC’s detractors. Does Cincinnati belong in the Top 25? Certainly. Are they a championship contender? Hey, this is a very good team. After a 15-0 start, they definitely deserve a little more attention than they’re getting, but whether they’re 15-0 or 8-7, with a Big East schedule looming, whom could you say that about with any assurance? That record will boost their confidence, and in terms of wins and losses, they’ve given themselves some wiggle room. They deserve credit for possessing more maturity than recent Bearcat squads, and it appears that this group has bought in to what Coach Cronin is teaching them. Cronin has his players’ trust. He’s gotten through to them early. That means a lot, to be sure. But it’s the only definite thing you can take away from their season so far, because what’s to come is so much more meaningful for their season than what’s already happened. Cronin doesn’t mind if you underestimate his team, of course. He knows the value of that, and he said so after the game: “Nobody thinks we’re any good, still, and that’s a good thing. So I’m just going to keep telling them that. As long as I can keep playing that card.”

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • St. Mary’s as the Class of the WCC.  With the Gaels’ easy 98-75 win at LMU tonight, a team that was expected to push St. Mary’s and Gonzaga from the third-place spot, we’re becoming more and more convinced that Randy Bennett’s team is the class of the WCC this year.  From our viewpoint, they simply have more offensive weapons and a more diverse attack than the Zags, and in a league that isn’t known for sticky defense, that should be the difference.  With one of the toughest road venues already out of the way after this evening and a supreme home court advantage at the McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, we’re looking at a 13-1 record for SMC, good enough for the Gaels to knock Gonzaga out of first place for the first time in a decade.
  • The Other Terrence: Terrence Ross.  Washington’s Ross was the much-less-heralded recruit named Terrence out of Portland last year, but in his introductory few games of Pac-10 play, he’s making himself known very quickly.  The 6’6 wing torched his home state Oregon Ducks tonight for 25/4/4 stls, and in his last three games, he’s pouring in 17/3 on 57% shooting.  With Abdul Gaddy done for the season with an ACL injury, Ross and the other backcourt Huskies will be asked to pick up his slack — this rising freshman is showing himself capable of the job.
  • Corey Stokes & Dominic Cheeks En Fuego. Nine treys fired, nine threes entered into the score books tonight against South Florida.  The two Villanova guards have gunner Corey Fisher to blame for the team’s only three misses from outside the arc tonight (9-12).  Not bad for a squad that came into tonight’s game shooting a rather weak 32.8% from deep this season.  The Wildcats have generally played one of the weaker schedules in the Top 25 to date, but that will change soon with unbeaten Cincinnati arriving over the weekend and games against Louisville, Maryland, UConn and Syracuse in successive contests.
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RTC Live: Arizona State @ Oregon

Posted by rtmsf on January 1st, 2011

Game #87.  It’s the end of an era in Eugene as Oregon closes down venerable old McArthur Court with visiting Arizona State.

Arizona State comes into Eugene trying to drown its sorrows by feasting upon the Ducks, and Oregon looks to close McArthur Court with a victory against the Sun Devils. Both teams started out their Pac-10 seasons with blowout losses and are looking to rebound from them Saturday; Oregon lost by 19 at home to Arizona, while Arizona State lost by 22 at moribund Oregon State, although the Sun Devils were missing leading scorer Trent Lockett, who will likely miss this contest as well. The Ducks’ lack of depth and inability to stop teams from shooting well was exposed by Arizona, which limited Oregon big man Joevan Catron to nine points in 11 minutes before he fouled out. The Ducks missed their last 16 three-point attempts after making their first of the game against the Wildcats, and shot 36 percent from the field. Arizona State has a perimeter-oriented offense, but it struggled to convert shots inside and out and could not contain Oregon State center Joe Burton, who had 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting. The lack of effective size and depth for both teams makes this an intriguing matchup, and the backdrop of the final game at The Pit will make for an interesting game.

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences.

A Look Back

  • For the first time this season, the Pac-10 had a week where a handful of teams combined to put together some good efforts, and more importantly, some good wins over quality competition. As of Saturday morning, it looked like more of the same for Pac-10 teams, as USC headed to Lawrence and put up a valiant effort against Kansas, before letting it slip away – a familiar course of action from around the conference. But, later that afternoon UCLA handed BYU its first loss of the season in the Wooden Classic, one of the leading candidates to that point for the best win of the season by a Pac-10 school. The next day, Arizona beat North Carolina State in Raleigh, qualifying as a decent road win. And then on Tuesday, USC wrapped up its tough two-game road trip with a win at Tennessee, probably making the Saturday UCLA win take a back seat. At any rate, while some success has come the Pac-10’s way lately, the conference still sits at 72-39 on the season, with the really quality wins over quality opponents remaining few and far between.
  • Team of the Week.  USC – This award was headed to the Southland one way or another. But USC gets the nod over its L.A. rival after basically playing Kansas and Tennessee to draws on the road, escaping with a win in Knoxville despite coming up short at the Allen Fieldhouse. The Trojan win over Tennessee gives Kevin O’Neill’s club perhaps the two best Pac-10 wins in non-conference play to this point (the other a win over Texas), with the start of Pac-10 play a week away. Junior point guard Jio Fontan saw his first action as a Trojan this week, after sitting out the first semester due to his transfer from Fordham. He was effective in his first two games (he had 15 points at Kansas and 13 points,  four assists and three steals at Tennessee), but is still working on getting comfortable with his teammates. As he settles into his role, he has the ability to make the rest of his team better, meaning the Trojans of February and March should be even more dangerous than they are now.
  • Player of the Week. Klay Thompson, Junior, Washington State – The week started out a little iffy for Thompson, as for most of the Cougars’ game at Santa Clara on Sunday, his shots weren’t falling. Throw in six turnovers and Thompson had his Washington State club on the verge of being upset. But with 17 seconds to go, he hit a three to tie the game at 71. From there the game went to overtime, where Thompson scored another seven points and his Cougs pulled out a tough one by six. Thompson wound up with 23 points (albeit on 5/16 shooting), seven rebounds, six assists, five steals, a couple blocks and four threes along the way. Not bad for a rough night. He followed that performance up with a much crisper performance in the opening round of the Diamond Head Classic on Wednesday, with 28 points and four more threes in a Cougar win over Mississippi State. He is now averaging 21 points per game on the season while hitting 48% of his shots and leading his team in assists and steals.
  • Newcomer of the Week.  Josh Smith, Freshman, UCLA – Smith was a major factor in UCLA’s Saturday win over BYU, scoring 15 points, grabbing eight rebounds and playing gutsy and smart minutes down the stretch, despite playing with four fouls, as UCLA fought off the Cougars. Smith picked up his fourth foul on a questionable call with about 15 minutes left in the game, and after he went to the bench BYU scored 11 straight points to cut the UCLA lead to just two. However, rather than keep Smith on the pine until late in the game, head coach Ben Howland showed a lot of faith in his big kid, putting him back in the game with over ten minutes still to play. Smith responded immediately, rebounding his own miss and getting the put-back just after re-entering on his way to seven points, three rebounds and perhaps the biggest defensive play of the game in a span of just over four minutes. That big defensive play occurred when Smith, playing with those four fouls, slid over in the lane in front of a driving Jimmer Fredette, and drew an offensive foul, the fourth foul on BYU’s All-American candidate. Smith has been up and down in his first month as a collegiate player, but if the Bruins entertain hopes of an NCAA Tournament invitation, they’ll need to continue to get play like this from their big and talented youngster.
  • Game of the Week.  USC 65, Tennessee 64 – In all honesty, that USC/Kansas game was probably the more entertaining game. But in a week where the Pac-10 actually pulled out some big wins, I wanted to mention a Pac-10 win in this space for the first time this season. After leading by as much as eight in the middle of the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena, the Trojans had to hang on down the stretch in order to pull this one out. Senior guard Donte Smith continued his hot play of late by hitting a big three with just over two minutes left to give USC some breathing room at 65-60, but Tennessee pulled back within striking distance with four straight free throws. But USC stepped up the defensive pressure down the stretch and forced a deep Volunteer three which rattled off the rim as time expired to earn the win. USC won despite a rough night for leading scorer Nikola Vucevic who was held to just four points and one rebound before fouling out after just 24 minutes. The Trojans were led by 5’7 freshman guard Maurice Jones and his 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, four steals and three three-pointers.
  • Game of the Upcoming Week.  Washington State in the Diamond Head Classic, ESPN on 12/23 and 12/25 – The Cougs should get a chance or two at some quality opponents in Honolulu. With a win over a short-handed Mississippi State team already under their belts, they get to face Baylor in the semifinal round. Baylor will present quite a challenge for WSU, but it also gives the Cougars a chance to put another good win on their resume. Win or lose, they should then get a chance to face either Butler or Florida State on Christmas Day, either in the championship game or the third-place game. While neither one of those opponents is ranked, they each present Ken Bone’s club with another opportunity to face some big-league competition.

Power Rankings

1. Washington State 9-1.  We mentioned the Cougars’ overtime win at Santa Clara above while awarding the Player of the Week award to Klay Thompson, but several other Cougs contributed in that game. Junior forward Marcus Capers hit all five of his shots in that game, ending up with 14 points and seven rebounds, and front-court mate DeAngelo Casto scored 15, including five in the overtime period, and added ten more rebounds. From Santa Clara, WSU headed to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic, and got things off to a strong start there, taking apart Mississippi State in the second half of their opening round game there. WSU outscored MSU 44-17 in the second half while hitting 12 of their 24 three-point attempts for the game and outrebounding the Bulldogs 39-23.

Looking ahead: Baylor awaits in the second round of the Diamond Head tournament, with Butler or Florida State rounding up the weekend. Once back on the mainland, all thoughts turn to conference play as a trip to Pauley Pavilion opens Pac-10 play next Wednesday.

2. Washington 7-3.  Two wins this week by an average of 29 points over teams with a combined 7-15 record tells us little or nothing about this Husky team. We know they can beat up on bad teams – they’ve made a living out of doing so. Isaiah Thomas led the way for the Huskies as he broke out his own personal 10-0 run to start the second half of Washington’s 30-point victory over San Francisco. And he took that streak and turned it into a season-high 24 points in the 28-point win over Nevada on Wednesday. Thomas’ numbers this season thus far are up nearly all the way across the board. While his scoring average is down a bit, he’s averaging career-bests in assists, steals, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio, with a career low in turnovers. With competition going up a notch as conference play nears, we’ll keep an eye on those numbers to see if Thomas can keep up that level of play.

Looking ahead: A trip to Los Angeles in advance of the new year, with the Pac-10 opener at USC on 12/29 followed by a visit to Pauley Pavilion on New Year’s Eve.

3. UCLA 7-4.  The importance of the UCLA win over BYU can’t be overstated. For a young team, bouncing back from a horrific 09-10 campaign, with an 0-3 record in their three biggest games of the season and a painful loss to Montana to boot, the BYU win showed this young team that they are capable of playing with top-25 caliber programs. But, just as important as their performance in a highly anticipated game was how they would respond in the next game, against a team without as much name recognition. After UCLA’s strong performance in a loss at Kansas a few weeks back, they got caught napping in their next game against Montana. This time, they faced Montana State after the BYU game, and while there were lapses of concentration (after leading by as many as 15 in the first half, UCLA got sloppy and allowed Montana  State to retake the lead), UCLA was able to pull away late and secure a 16-point win behind Malcolm Lee’s 18 points. Ben Howland would have preferred more consistent play in the follow-up game, but at least his team was able to come away with the win.

Looking ahead: The Bruins wrap up their pre-Pac-10 non-conference slate on Thursday with a visit from UC Irvine before hosting the Washington schools in the opening weekend of conference play.

4. Arizona 11-2.  The Wildcats looked pretty bad in knocking off Northern Arizona by five last Thursday, but bounced back with a solid win over NC State on Sunday night, and then a blowout of overmatched Robert Morris on Wednesday. In the NAU game, Arizona was outrebounded 28-18 and had to fight back from a seven-point half-time deficit to get to a tie game with just over a minute left. From there, Kevin Parrom connected on a three-point play, and then Brendon Lavender got a steal that led to a breakaway bucket to complete the final margin. The NC State game was much less dramatic, as the Wildcats never trailed in the second half, but they did get outrebounded again, this time by a 36-28 margin, including an 18-7 deficit on the offensive end. The Robert Morris game was a whole other level of undramatic, as the Wildcats won by 26. Derrick Williams continued his efficient play, scoring almost 19 points per game this week, although his rebounding numbers have fallen off some – he had just eight total rebounds in the first two games before grabbing nine against RMU. The sophomore Parrom was the most impressive Wildcat this week, with his 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and three threes against NAU making up the best line of his young career.

Looking ahead: Nothing but Pac-10 play from here, as the Wildcats open with visits to the Oregon schools beginning on 12/30.

5. USC 7-5.  We’ve talked about USC pretty extensively above, so we’ll just point out here that aside from the addition of Fontan, the Trojans have plenty of room to grow defensively. In each of the last four seasons, USC ranked in the top 25 teams in the nation in terms of defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy, and last year they were number two in the country in that area. This year, they sit at a respectable 44th, but if we know Kevin O’Neill, you can expect that ranking to improve as the year goes on.

Looking ahead: Lehigh on Thursday is the last non-conference game of the regular season, with conference play kicking off Wednesday with a visit from pre-season Pac-10 favorite, Washington.

6. Arizona State 6-4.  The Sun Devils scored a couple of solid wins this week, with a three-point road-win over Nevada and a 17-point home handling of Long Beach State. The concern around Tempe has been the relatively quiet performances from seniors Rihards Kuksiks, Ty Abbott and Jamelle McMillan, but no such worries this week. Kuksiks led the way in the Nevada game with 20 points and four threes. But it was Ty Abbott who hit a clutch three just under a minute to silence a run by the Wolfpack and give the Sun Devils some breathing room. Abbott wound up with 17 in that game, then followed that up with a team-high 15 against LBSU. McMillan was also solid this week, averaging six assists per game and snagging six steals in the Long Beach game alone. Freshman Kyle Cain also had a big game against the 49ers, grabbing 16 rebounds and scoring 12 points.

Looking ahead: North Carolina A&T is the final non-conference visitor prior to Pac-10 play, with a trip to Corvallis kicking things off there next Thursday.

7. Cal 6-5.  Win a game you should win, lose a game you should lose. That’s the story of the Golden Bear week, as a loss to Kansas followed a win over Cal Poly. The bad news is this team doesn’t seem to be improving a whole lot as the season goes on. We knew that this Cal team had some growing pains ahead of it, with a slew of youngsters trying to replace last year’s decorated but now-departed seniors. In the early going, Mike Montgomery has relied on veterans like front-court grinders Markhuri Sanders-Frison and Harper Kamp and backcourt annoyance Jorge Gutierrez to keep the Bears in games out of sheer determination. These guys fight and scrap and bother the opposition (at times to the point of retaliation, as we saw with Kansas’ Marcus Morris and his flagrant elbow on Wednesday night), but they’re just not the type of guys who you can create offensive opportunities, a problem which leads to things like the infamous Cal five-point half. The hope for Golden Bear fans was that freshmen guards Allen Crabbe and Gary Franklin would use the non-conference season to settle in and be ready to break out in Pac-10 play, but while Crabbe has had some moments on his way to averaging 7.4 points and 4.7 assists per game, Franklin has struggled mightily. He’s turned the ball over more than he’s handed out assists and he’s shooting an awful 28.4% from the field. Montgomery keeps running him out there though, for 26-plus minutes a night every night, hoping that his confidence in his talented freshman will rub off some. If it does, this Cal team could surprise some people; if it doesn’t, they’ll just continue to annoy people.

Looking ahead: A meeting with Hartford on Tuesday wraps up the non-conference slate, then it is on to Palo Alto for their Pac-10 opener with Stanford.

8. Stanford 6-4.  From here on down to the last place team in the conference, there is nothing but bad news and losses this week. Stanford’s struggles started Saturday when they were dominated at Butler. After already trailing by 19 at halftime, the Cardinal were outscored 10-0 to start the half by Matt Howard alone as Butler got all over Johnny Dawkins’ club in every aspect of the game. On Tuesday, in what was the final game of an 8-4 Big 12 win in the Big 12/Pac-10 challenge, Stanford tripped up against at Oklahoma State. Juniors Jeremy Green and Josh Owens led the Cardinal again this week, as they have done most of the season, scoring 33.5 points per game between the two of them this week, as opposed to the 28 they normally average. However, there hasn’t been even a semi-consistent third option anywhere else, although freshman guard Aaron Bright threw his hat into the ring for that role against Oklahoma State with 15 points and four assists.

Looking ahead: The Cardinal host Yale on Thursday, then get their conference play opened on the second day of the new year with a battle against Bay Area rival Cal at the Farm.

9. Oregon 7-5.  Losses to Virginia and Idaho this week turn what had been a reasonably good non-conference slate for the Ducks into just a typical ugly record for a team expected to finish near the bottom of the conference. Oregon showed this week that not only are they an undersized team, they’re also simply an under-talented team, as they shot just 34% from the field combined. Senior Joevan Catron continued to produce – he led the Ducks in scoring and rebounding in each game – but he’s still playing out of position and is more or less surrounded by an underwhelming cast.

Looking ahead: The Arizona schools come to town, starting on Thursday, in what should be a long and ugly conference run for the Ducks.

10. Oregon State 5-6.  The Beavers had two very winnable games this week at home, and came away with a 1-1 record. First, the bad news: a loss against George Washington in which they turned the ball over 19 times, forced just nine turnovers and missed 15 of their 19 attempts from three. A forgettable performance, so let’s just forget it, especially since the win this week was a 20-point blowout of Illinois-Chicago, a team that just got done beating Illinois, a top 25 team. Not only is that a pretty good win for the Beavs, the way that did it has to have their fans excited, as four OSU players scored in double figures: a sophomore, a redshirt freshman and two true freshmen. Sophomore Jared Cunningham led the way with 22 points and three steals. Highly-anticipated redshirt freshman Roberto Nelson went from 14 in just his third game in a Beaver uniform. Freshman Ahmad Starks had 12 points, three assists and four threes, and fellow freshman Devon Collier had ten points, seven rebounds and three steals. When Craig Robinson assembled these kinds of recruits in Corvallis, this is what OSU fans had in mind. Throw in guys like senior forward Omari Johnson and sophomore centers Joe Burton and Angus Brandt and all of a sudden you’ve got the makings of a rotation that looks like a passable Pac-10 group. And that’s without even mentioning senior guard Calvin Haynes, a guy capable of going for 27 points, as he did against Charlotte, although just as likely to go for two points on five field goals attempts in 25 minutes, as he did in a blowout loss at Colorado. This is still a bad Beaver team, but there is no reason this team can’t at least be competitive in many games in a down Pac-10.

Looking ahead: It’s all Pac-10 play from here, as the Beavers will host the Arizona schools next week.

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