Celebrating The Oregon Seniors

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 28th, 2013

On a night when the biggest story will be the return of an injured freshman, arguably the best group of seniors in the league will play their final home game at Matthew Knight Arena tonight. From a four year, in-state star to a trio of junior or senior transfers, all four graduating Ducks have had major impacts at separate points throughout the season. We break them down below.

Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods Have Dominated The Inside In 2012-13 (credit: Tess Freeman)

Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods Have Dominated The Inside In 2012-13 (credit: Tess Freeman)

Arsalan Kazemi has been Oregon’s difference-maker this year, bringing the Ducks from what most thought would be a bubble team at the beginning of the season to a team vying for the conference crown. The native Iranian spent his first three years at Rice, and if he had stayed put in Houston, he most likely would be named the C-USA Player of the Year. Kazemi is the definition of a hustle player, a constant ball-diving type who leads the team in rebounds and steals. He will be sorely missed by Oregon fans, but his story is far from over, as Kazemi is the type of player that can lead a team through the first week of the NCAA Tournament and beyond.

Tony Woods and Carlos Emory transferred to Eugene two years ago, and have been providing highlight-reel blocks and dunks since their arrival. Woods’ length in the post makes him a viable threat against opposing defenses, but it’s on his defensive end of the court where he makes a difference for the Ducks. Woods is the team co-leader in blocks per game, and his 6’11” frame clogs up the paint with great efficiency. Emory is by far the more athletic of the interior duo, and his versatility allows him to play at the three, four, or five, depending on where he is most needed.

Finally we come to the dean of the Oregon seniors, E.J. Singler. Singler has been a crucial part of Oregon’s six- or seven-man rotation in all four of his seasons with the Ducks, and he has averaged double figures in the scoring column in all but his freshman year. The small forward was Oregon’s Kazemi before Arsalan arrived at Oregon, so he has taken a bit of a back seat in terms of production this season. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been crucial to Oregon’s success at times; his 25 points in Oregon’s 79-77 win at Washington State led the Ducks to a grind-it-out, overtime win on the Palouse; and earlier in the season he poured in 22 as the Ducks demolished Vanderbilt. Singler has played through injuries his entire career and will go down as one of the best four-year players in Oregon history.

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Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week 15

Posted by AMurawa on February 25th, 2013

Another week, another group of Pac-12 honors…

Team of the Week – California

For the first time since way back in November, the Golden Bears earn our Team of the Week honors. Back then, they were coming off winning the DirecTV Classic in an anything but awe-inspiring manner. This time around, however, there is good reason to believe that there are really good things in Cal’s future. And that is partly because there have been really good things in Cal’s recent past. They are the hottest team in the conference, having won five straight games and seven of their last eight.

Justin Cobbs, California

Justin Cobbs’ Game-Winner On Thursday Night Kept Cal’s Hot Streak Alive (Getty Images)

Upperclassmen Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs are beginning to shake off their inconsistency and regularly make winning plays for their team. Up front, Richard Solomon and David Kravish are each playing their best basketball of their respective careers. And best yet, this seems to be a group that is really starting to become a team. Throughout the first couple months of the season, there was regularly terrible body language from this bunch; there was chippiness and an overall lack of cohesion. Nowadays, it looks like everybody has everybody else’s back.

Player of the Week – Justin Cobbs, California

Back when the Golden Bears won that Anaheim tournament, Cobbs won the Player of the Week award then as well. And perhaps it is no coincidence that when the team is playing its best basketball, their point guard is also playing his best basketball. Cobbs’ numbers weren’t stellar this week, although he did average 16 points, six assists and 4.5 rebounds per night in his two games. And there is that pesky little matter of 10 turnovers over the course of the week, including eight in the Thursday night game. But those eight sins on Thursday night were largely absolved in the final moments when the 6’3” guard took advantage of the 5’7” Jonathan Loyd and drilled a game-winning 18-foot jumper with under a second to play to give the Bears the big win. And then on Saturday night against Oregon State, Cobbs was again big late in the game, scoring Cal’s last five points as they held on to their spot just a game back of the conference leaders.

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Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week 14

Posted by AMurawa on February 18th, 2013

Another wild week in the Pac-12, with six games decided by five points or less, including a pair of overtime games. Plenty of candidates for all the honors this week, but here’s who we settled on.

Team of the Week – Oregon

Despite breaking a three-game slide at the end of last week, the Ducks faced a perilous trip to their neighbors to the north this week, again without freshman point guard Dominic Artis. Artis’ primary replacement at the point, Jonathan Loyd, was the hero on Wednesday night in a win over Washington, scoring all 11 of his points in the second half to help his team pull away. On Saturday night, there was a bit more drama for the team as, playing without senior center Tony Woods, who was ejected in the first half for an elbow to Brock Motum’s head, Oregon needed overtime, and a significant mental error from their opponent, to get out of Pullman with a two-point win. As is becoming standard for Oregon, they got contributions from all over their roster this week. E.J. Singler was the big scorer on Saturday night (25 points including plenty of clutch free throws), but Arsalan Kazemi continued his strong play (9.5 points, 9.5 rebounds per game this week), Damyean Dotson continued his bounceback from a recent slump (14.5 PPG this week) and Carlos Emory had his best pair of games since his stretch in Las Vegas back in November, averaging 15 points, six boards and a couple of steals this week. While the expectation is that Artis’ return is just around the corner, Dana Altman’s club has found a way to string together wins even without him.

Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

Spencer Dinwiddie Emerged As Colorado’s Unquestioned Leader This Week (Daily Camera)

Player of the Week – Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

In the last three games, Dinwiddie has gotten to the line 31 times. That alone is a pretty impressive statistic. The fact that he’s made all 31 of those attempts is mindboggling. Thursday night against Arizona, was incredible in the second half, making completely sure that the Buffaloes were not going to give up a the lead they had worked so hard to build up. From the moment he got fouled shooting a three and then knocked down three straight free throws to the late shot-clock jumper he drilled with 1:20 to go, Dinwiddie was everywhere against the Wildcats. His second half totals? Nineteen points (on seven free throws, two threes, a layup, a dunk and that game closing jumper), four assists and countless calmed Colorado nerves. On Saturday Dinwiddie responded with another terrific performance, knocking down 14 free throws on the way to 24 points for the game and handing out a nice assist to freshman Xavier Johnson to complete a late-game comeback to force overtime against Arizona State. Then, with eight seconds left in overtime, Dinwiddie powered his way to the hoop and knocked down a tough shot to give Colorado a one-point lead, a lead that, unfortunately for he and his team, did not hold up.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VI: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2013

Yesterday we unveiled this week’s honor roll; today we take a look at five teams earning good, solid, average grades. Check in later today for the four teams that will be serving detention this week.

Cal – B-

All things considered, this was a solid week for the Golden Bears. They went down to Arizona for what is considered to be the toughest road trip in the conference this year and came away with a split, including a win over a national top-10 team and a four-point loss to a very good Arizona State squad. That makes three wins in four tries for the Bears and  a team that will likely be playing its best ball of the season as we head into the final month.

Focus on: Jeff Powers. What? You were expecting Allen Crabbe here? Nah, you can read about him as our Pac-12 Player of the Week. Instead, maybe check out what the Golden Bears’ own resident blogger, their junior guard Powers, has to say about his team and their performance in knocking off the Wildcats. Unfortunately, there’s no comment from him about his fine five-minute stretch against Arizona State where he knocked down a three, chalked up an assist and came away with a steal in helping keep his squad close in the second half.

Looking ahead: The Bears have a chance to make a run here, as they host the Los Angeles schools this week. They’ll likely be small favorites in both games and if they can defend their home court at Haas Pavilion, they’ve got a chance to make a bit of a jump up the standings.

He May Not Be A Prolific Scorer, But Jeff Powers Is A Budding Blogger

He May Not Be A Prolific Scorer, But Jeff Powers Is A Budding Blogger

Stanford – C+

Both Cal and Stanford went to the Arizona schools and came away with splits. Why do the Golden Bears come away with a slightly better grade? The Cardinal’s dogged determination (and fortunate failure) to give away a close game against Arizona State was concerning. Still, Johnny Dawkins’ club has now won four of its last five and has got its offense on the move.

Focus on: Dwight Powell. The junior forward has scored in double figures in every game in the conference schedule, but he hadn’t topped 20 since he did it three straight times in December. He broke that streak this week by going for 24 against Arizona and then answering with 22 against the Sun Devils. Even better, he also grabbed double-figure rebounds in both games, giving him seven double-doubles on the year.

Looking ahead: The Cardinal host USC tomorrow night, then see UCLA on Saturday afternoon. Stanford was swept by these teams in Los Angeles back on the first weekend of conference play, leading to an hour-long post-game meeting following the UCLA game, and since then the Cardinal have gone 6-3 in conference play.

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Night Line, Weekend Edition: Oregon Hard Pressed To Avoid National Radar Now

Posted by BHayes on January 20th, 2013

nightline2

Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Well, well, well — how about those Oregon Ducks? Dana Altman and company flew under the radar for a good long while, but they can now rest assured that they will be the ones wearing the target from here on out. Blame an East-Coast bias, recent years of mediocrity, or the resurgence of fellow Pac-12 powers Arizona and UCLA if you want, but for one reason or another, this team has been overlooked for the past three months. A win over previously unbeaten Arizona on January 10turned some heads, but yesterday’s road win at red-hot UCLA should have everyone’s, and I mean everyone’s, attention. This may be news to much of the college basketball world, but the Oregon Ducks are all alone at the top of the Pac-12, and (gasp!) should now be considered favorites to win the league.

Dana Altman Has The Ducks Pointed In The Right Direction

Dana Altman Has The Ducks Pointed In The Right Direction

We know what you have done lately Oregon (knock off both conference favorites in the span of 10 days), but why have we not heard about you before? College basketball fans around the country are asking the question, and the Ducks’ body of work over the first two months of the season has no answer for you. The early schedule was relatively weak, but Oregon went 11-2 in the non-conference, which included a dazzling scalp of UNLV in Vegas. Their only losses were to Cincinnati on a neutral court (no shame there) and in triple-OT at UTEP (not a good loss but far from crippling). The rest of the slate featured too many teams with astronomically high RPIs (computer numbers would be much better if the wins had come over moderately bad teams and not the true cellar of Division I), but Oregon did win each of those 10 games by double-digits.

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Rushed Reactions: Oregon 76, UCLA 67

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2013

rushedreactions

Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent and Pac-12 microsite writer. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s UCLA-Oregon game in Westwood.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The Battle for First Place. In the first Pac-12 match-up between ranked teams in almost four years, both teams brought undefeated conference records into Pauley Pavilion. After an up-and-down first half featuring crisp offense and a good flow, things bogged down significantly in the second half, with shooting percentages plummeting, whistles making a big comeback, and the action regularly interrupted. Still, with three and a half minutes left, we had a one-point game and everybody in the place was on the edge of their seats. From there Oregon hit the offensive glass, scored regularly in the middle and and knocked down free throws while UCLA ran poor offense and committed unforced turnovers, leading to a 14-6 Ducks run to end the game. With wins over both UCLA and Arizona in the bag, Oregon is now the team to beat in the Pac-12.

    Former UCLA Commit Dominic Artis Was A Big Reason For Oregon's Win Over The Bruins (Mason Trinca, Daily Emerald)

    Former UCLA Commit Dominic Artis Was A Big Reason For Oregon’s Win Over The Bruins (Mason Trinca, Daily Emerald)

  1. Pressure. With two freshman guards leading the charge, you’re not supposed to be able to go on the road and knock off a Top 25 conference opponent. But make no mistake, without the play of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, the Ducks leave Pauley with a loss. Dotson struggled shooting, making just two threes while missing his nine other attempts from the field, but he chipped in on the glass, did his job in the offense and helped harass Jordan Adams into an 0-of-6 performance. Meanwhile, Artis scored 14 points, pressed the issue on offense and repeatedly found open teammates for good looks on the way to six assists. Perhaps more importantly, he was a constant pestering force on defense, helping to contribute to UCLA’s most turnovers in almost two months.
  2. Rebounding. I’ve harped on it before, but UCLA’s rebounding is a serious Achilles’ Heel for the Bruins. The Wear twins, really UCLA’s only traditional bigs, combined for five rebounds in a total of 53 minutes today. While Kyle Anderson has stepped up as a double-double threat on a regular basis (he posted his sixth of the season today), UCLA was exposed in the paint as Oregon was able to grab better than 35% of their own misses while grabbing almost 80% of UCLA’s misses. In particular, Arsalan Kazemi grabbed 11 boards – four on the offensive glass. All told, the Ducks outscored UCLA 12-2 on second chance points and 38-24 in the paint, with senior center Tony Woods, specifically, repeatedly getting great deep position and scoring in low.

Star of the GameDominic Artis. The freshman point guard, once a UCLA commitment, came into Pauley Pavilion and tormented his former future school. He ran the up-tempo offense like a veteran, pestered Bruins’ ball-handlers and seemingly attempted to make a play on any pass that stayed up in the air too long. With two first-half threes, he set the tempo for the Ducks and is a big reason why they currently sit atop the Pac-12 standings.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume I

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2013

Starting this week and continuing through the rest of the season, we’ll take a moment in between games to run down every team in the conference, grade their previous week’s performance, highlight the performance of one of their players (either for good or for bad) and look ahead briefly to their upcoming schedule.

Arizona State: A

The Sun Devils put aside concerns that their 11-2 record going into the week was built mostly on wins over bad teams by giving the home folks a healthy dose of optimism to start the conference season.

Focus on: Jahii Carson. While Jordan Bachynski was dominating in Sunday’s win over Colorado, I was most intrigued by Carson’s performance. With CU’s Spencer Dinwiddie keeping him locked down most of the night, Carson didn’t force things, got the ball in the hands of his teammates with better match-ups and kept ASU on point, even while being limited to his lowest number of field goal attempts this season. This proves that he doesn’t need to always score to be a positive force for his team.

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils have shown their improvement, but if we’re to believe that this team’s postseason aspirations should be any higher than the CBI, we’ll need to see them win on the road. A trip to Oregon State on Thursday looks like a possible chance, while getting Oregon following its game with Arizona could mean ASU catches the Ducks in a trap game. Speaking of which, ASU could benefit mightily this year from having the ‘Cats as a traveling partner, as teams could be either looking forward to or recovering from their game with U of A.

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Oregon: A

Any win in conference play is good. Any road win in conference play is great. Any road win in conference play in a rivalry game is a reason for outright celebration. Check all three boxes for the Ducks after one game.

Focus on: Arsalan Kazemi. In his first game back from a concussion, the senior Kazemi temporarily relinquished his starting spot to Carlos Emory and saw limited action. But, even in just 21 minutes, he was an impactful player, making four of his five field goal attempts, grabbing eight boards, handing out a couple assists and, per usual, coming up with a couple steals due to his relentlessly quick hands.

Looking ahead: The consensus, around here at least, is that the Ducks are going to be legitimate factors in the Pac-12 race. They get a chance to prove that this week when they host Arizona in a battle of contrasting strengths. While Zona has been through the ringer a time or two this season, these Ducks feature a pair of freshman guards ready for their first big spotlight. Meanwhile, the Ducks’ frontcourt features plenty of veterans, while the ‘Cats mix their three freshman with senior Solomon Hill.

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The Civil War: For Oregon and Oregon State, One Game Says It All

Posted by Kenny Ocker on January 7th, 2013

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker on Twitter) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday night’s Civil War game between Oregon State and Oregon in Corvallis.

After December drags on with a dearth of meaningful games, the first weekend of conference play is a welcome sight for basketball fans. Everybody wants to see how their teams match up against the schools that matter, and are looking for meaningful results to hang their hopes on for the rest of the season. But as tempting as it is to judge how good your favorite squad really is, it’s still too soon to see what each team’s future looks like just yet. That urge to decide what’s in store is magnified when that first game is the 338th edition of the most-played game in college basketball: the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State.

Oregon forward E.J. Singler seems to be back on track after a slow start to 2012-13. The senior had 15 points and nine rebounds, the second-highest total in each stat this season. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll.)

Oregon forward E.J. Singler seems to be back on track after a slow start to 2012-13. The senior had 15 points and nine rebounds, the second-highest total in each stat this season. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll.)

One game into the Pac-12 schedule, it looks like Oregon is an NCAA Tournament-level squad after taking a 79-66 road win against rival Oregon State in Corvallis. The Ducks have a realistic shot at making the school’s first Sweet Sixteen since an Elite Eight run in 2006-07 led by Aaron Brooks and a host of other shooters. But Dana Altman’s Ducks are a different sort of team than Kent’s free-wheeling, fast-break-loving squad of yore. The 2012-13 version thrives on its defense, led by shot-altering Wake Forest transfer Tony Woods and quick-handed Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi. Even if the Ducks play at an above-average tempo, they aren’t hanging up the consistent 80-point scores from those days. Instead, they’ve got a stifling defense currently in the top 10 in defensive points per possession, and have enough offense to get by even with senior leader E.J. Singler struggling to regain the form that helped guide the Ducks to the NIT last season. (I’m thinking he shouldn’t have cut his Samson-like locks after last season. His scoring and rebounding are both down this year, as is his once-stellar free-throw percentage, which finally crested 80 percent again Sunday night.)

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Wrapping Up Pac-12 Non-Conference Play By Reassessing Our All-Conference Selections

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2013

Later tonight, the second leg of the Pac-12 college basketball season begins as conference play tips off with the Battle of the Bachynskis, when Utah travels to Arizona State. After last year’s nightmare of a non-conference slate, this season the conference took major strides, with Arizona’s win over Florida, UCLA’s win over Missouri, Colorado’s win over Baylor, and Oregon’s win over UNLV making up the top tier of the best wins for the conference. Before we turn our complete attention to conference play, we thought we’d hand out some awards based on the season to this point, so Connor Pelton, Parker Baruh, Pachoops’ Adam Butler and myself voted and came up with the following results.

Player of the Year

Allen Crabbe, Jr, California – Crabbe’s 20.9 PPG and efficient all-around offensive game earned three of the four votes for our player of the year, with UCLA’s Jordan Adams receiving the other vote from me. Crabbe has been a rock for the Golden Bears (well, aside from that Creighton debacle, at least), scoring in double figures in every game, helping out on the glass and, thus far, knocking down better than 38% of his shots from deep.

The Pac-12's Leading Scorer, Allen Crabbe Takes Down The Mid-season POTY Award (credit: Jeff Gross)

The Pac-12’s Leading Scorer, Allen Crabbe Takes Down The Mid-season POTY Award (credit: Jeff Gross)

Coach of the Year

Dana Altman, Oregon – Despite losing three of last year’s top four scorers, and having the other guy in that quartet – E.J. Singler – struggle through the early part of this year, the Ducks have reeled off wins in 11 of their 13 games. Altman has gotten great production out of his freshman backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, has folded Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi into the mix seamlessly, and coaxed great improvement out of senior center Tony Woods. As a result, he earned three of our four votes for the COY, while Arizona State’s Herb Sendek got my support.

Freshman of the Year

Shabazz Muhammad, Fr, UCLA – After missing the first three games of the season due to an NCAA investigation into his eligibility, Muhammad has come on strong for the Bruins, scoring in double figures in all 10 of the games he’s played in on his way to 19.6 points per night. He’s just beginning to ease into the best physical shape of the season, so the expectation is that conference play will see an even better version of Shabazz. Once again, Shabazz earned three of our four votes for FrOY, with the lone dissenter (again, me) nabbing teammate Jordan Adams.

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Pac 12 M5: 01.02.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on January 2nd, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. It’s safe to say that Arizona is happy with its performance in non-conference play. Sean Miller gave the Wildcats a later practice at 2:00 PM yesterday to ring in the new year, but the players went about their holiday just like any other day in the season. Miller mentioned in his first press conference of 2013 that he believes his team is focused, but wonders if they can keep playing unselfishly and with so much chemistry in conference play. It’s hard to worry when you have the third ranked team in the country, but Miller stills wants Arizona to get the ball inside more and turn the ball over less in upcoming games.
  2. The one thing that can be said about the Pac-12 this year is that it has certainly improved since last season, but the looming question is how vast has this improvement been? Washington and UCLA have been disappointments thus far, but some of the other strides at the top and the bottom of the conference are quite large. Arizona is a top three team in the nation according to the polls, and Oregon has surprised while Colorado has done more than hold its own in non-conference tests by picking up wins over Colorado State, Baylor, Murray State, and Dayton. The likes of Washington State, Arizona State and Utah, who were all disappointments last year to say the least, are much more competitive this time around, which will certainly help the conference’s overall resume come March.
  3. Colorado standout forward Andre Roberson still hasn’t made his mind up about next summer’s NBA Draft. Roberson has been projected as high as a mid-first rounder and as low as a late second rounder in various mock drafts, but he plans to sit down and talk to Tad Boyle when the season ends and make a decision at that point. However, questions remain about Roberson’s offensive game, which is mostly made up of putbacks and open layups at this point. On the other hand, his strong defensive and rebounding abilities make scouts believe he could eventually become a very good NBA player. Whatever happens, the good news for Buffaloes fans is that Roberson is still at CU this year and has overcome his sluggish start where he only averaged 6.7 PPG his first three games but has averaged 13.7 points per game since.
  4. Top recruit and possible Washington commitment Aaron Gordon keeps playing very well during his senior year. At times, Gordon can get bored with the game because he’s playing against so many inferior players, but when a team only guards him with one player approaching his 6’8″ size, he will take over a game with ease as he did at the Les Schwab Classic in Oregon by racking up a career high 43 points. Unlike some top recruits, Gordon is a humble player and believes he still needs to get better, most notably with his free-throw shooting where he went 3-0f-14 in one game of the tournament. Gordon still doesn’t know where he wants to play in college, but has narrowed it down to Arizona, Kentucky, and Washington as his final three options. Washington seems to be the favorite because of Lorenzo Romar’s connection with Gordon’s father, but Gordon says all three schools are still a distinct possibility.
  5. After finishing up non-conference play with a win against Nevada, the Oregon Ducks are still undefeated at home and it will be tough for teams to come to Matthew Knight Arena this year and pick up a win during conference season. However, if the Ducks play as poorly as they did against Nevada, it might be easier than expected. Oregon turned the ball over 20 times and also had cause for concern as Arsalan Kazemi, who has been spectacular all season long, left the game in the first half after taking an elbow to the head (he did not return). Dana Altman said he looked fine after the game, though, and the Ducks will need him for their conference opener against rival Oregon State in Corvallis on January 6.
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Pac-12 Burning Questions: So… About Those Preseason Predictions?

Posted by AMurawa on December 31st, 2012

With non-conference play all but wrapped up, we start to turn our attention to conference play this week. But, before we do we want to take a look back and see what we talked about prior to the season.

“We made a lot of predictions and bold statements prior to the season. Which prognostication did you nail and which did you completely whiff on?”

Adam Butler: I wish I’d had the stones to say things like “Jordan Adams will be UCLA’s best player” or “Josh Smith will leave the Bruins” or “USC will utterly flop.” No, on each of those insights I was sightless. I was the cool kid picking USC to overachieve and who was gobbling up Shabazz hyperbole like flavored vodka at a sorority house. I went out on the limb to say Arizona and Colorado would be good. I have said Spencer Dinwiddie would be All-Conference and, to date, he’s held up his side of that bargain, and I still love his game when he shows up (although, zero points vs. Fresno?). The one thing I’ve nailed but I don’t think it’s been terribly bold has been that Mark Lyons, no matter what he did numbers-wise, was going to have an overwhelming effect on this Wildcats team. I think it’s safe to say that he’s been a lightning rod of attention and criticism and handled it all in stride, strides that have taken him straight to winning buckets against Florida and SDSU. Lyons brings a dynamic to Tucson that was sorely needed and he has not let them down. As for whiffs? I figured Washington would be better and that Oregon would be worse. I thought Jio Fontan would hover around conference POY talk and that Dewayne Dedmon would be a big surprise: fails. There’s still time to play out but it’s hard to say that any of those thoughts will right themselves in my predictive favor. And in that remaining time, I’m excited to see just what UCLA will do and how Arizona’s freshmen bigs will develop within the routine of Pac-12 play. Moving forward, a few additional thoughts: Can Herb’s team keep up their pace? No. Is Solomon Hill going to win the conference POY award? No (but he may be the MVP). Can Colorado be the second best team in the Pac? Yes. Will Stanford be better then their 8-4 record? Yes. Alas, predictions are meaningless but oh-so-fun.

Jio Fontan In The Player Of The Year Race? Not So Much. (AP Photo)

Jio Fontan In The Player Of The Year Race? Not So Much. (AP Photo)

Connor Pelton: Looking back on it, I made some interesting (to say the least) picks back in October. But I did nail a few of those, starting with the pick of Arsalan Kazemi as an All-Pac-12 performer. I was the only one to include the Rice transfer on my 15-player ballot, and he has answered by averaging 9.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 3.1 SPG so far. In fact, if he had not had been so tentative shooting the ball at the beginning of the season, it is not a stretch to say he would not only be leading the team in rebounds but points as well. Another pick I am liking was that of Jonathan Gilling as an all-conference three-point shooter. Kevin and I were the only ones to include the sophomore on our lists, and he has proved us right by knocking down 30 triples, second highest in the conference. But the pick I am most proud of is selecting USC at 10th in the conference, while everyone else here had the Trojans sixth or seventh. The thing that made me so skeptical about USC at the beginning of the season was the question, “Where do the points come from behind Jio Fontan?” Some said senior forward Aaron Fuller, who’s averaging a stellar 2.9 PPG. Case closed.

Now, onto the whiffs. While Chasson Randle hasn’t had a great season, there is no question he should be second team All-Pac-12 right now. I did not even include him on my list of 15, opting instead for guys like Ricky Kreklow and Kaleb Tarczewski. Whoops. It is easy to look bad when projecting an all-newcomer team, and boy have I done that. I did not include Mark Lyons on my team, or Jahii Carson, or Josh Scott. Those guys are averaging 13.4, 17.9, and 12.5 PPG, respectively. As we move into conference play, the picks that are on the fence of good and bad will begin to clear up. Are the Buffaloes an NCAA Tournament team? I said yes in October, and I still think they are now. Can Washington rebound from an awful start and make the NIT? No. Can California win a big game? It has to happen eventually, right?

Time will answer everything, and before we know it, we will be filling out brackets and talking about surprises and snubs on Selection Sunday.

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Six

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 27th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew, ParkerAdam, and I have compiled after the sixth week of Pac-12 games (delta in parentheses):

  1. Arizona, 12-0 (-): Arizona will be the only Pac-12 team to go through non-conference play undefeated, thanks to three walk-over wins and a last-second thriller in Honolulu in the Christmas-extended week six. After dispatching Oral Roberts in Tucson and East Tennessee State and Miami (Florida) on the islands, the Wildcats met San Diego State in the Christmas night final of the Diamond Head Classic. And if not for a game played 10 days prior in the desert, this one would have made a good choice for game of the non-conference season. Just like Arizona, the Aztecs came into Tuesday winners of their last 11. And at two points in the second half, it looked as if SDSU would leave with its 12th. But trailing 45-37, freshman Brandon Ashley made his mark on an otherwise lackluster night. Ashley scored six points and had a key assist in just over five minutes, and along with some help from Solomon Hill, pulled Arizona even at 52-all. The game would go back and forth from there, with the lead changing nine different times, and both teams tied at seven different points. The Wildcats’ perfect non-conference record was finally secured with an out-of-nowhere Nick Johnson block and controversial Kevin Parrom rebound as time expired. Up Next: 1/3 vs. Colorado.
  2. Oregon, 10-2 (-): Played in front of more fans but a lesser national audience, Oregon was entangled in its own thriller last Wednesday in El Paso. And this time, the Pac-12 team didn’t come out on top. UTEP appeared to be practically begging Oregon to win the game, but the Ducks gave away chance after chance before the reluctant Miners finally closed out a 91-84 triple overtime win. Up Next: 12/31 vs. Nevada Christmas Came Early For UTEP Fans, While Arsalan Kazemi And The Ducks Left The Don Haskins Center Disappointed. (credit: Pac-12.com)

    Christmas Came Early For UTEP Fans, While Arsalan Kazemi And The Ducks Left The Don Haskins Center Disappointed. (credit: Pac-12.com)

  3. Colorado, 9-2 (-): The Buffaloes hold steady at number three after destroying an awful Northern Arizona team, 98-51. Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson led all scorers with 17 points a piece in the victory. Up Next: 12/29 vs. Hartford.
  4. Oregon State, 9-2 (-): Another week, another pair of unimpressive wins for Oregon State. The good news is of course that the Beavers are winning games, and that is the point of playing these contests. The bad news is that if they put out the type of efforts we saw against Howard and in the second half against San Diego, conference play is going to be a disaster. Up Next: 12/29 vs. Towson. Read the rest of this entry »
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