Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012

  1. It’s that time of the year when injuries start to play a bigger role for teams around the country. This week we’ve talked about injuries to C.J. Wilcox (hip stress fracture, out this weekend), Brandon Smith (due back from a concussion tonight), Mychal Ladd (thumb injury, doubtful this weekend) and Trent Lockett (sprained ankle, doubtful). But as of yet, we haven’t mentioned USC’s Aaron Fuller, who is dealing with a labral tear in his left shoulder. Given that he is a lefty, this is a nearly debilitating injury and he is considering undergoing season-ending surgery as early as next week. It remains to be seen whether Fuller will play this weekend in Oregon, but given that he is easily USC’s best offensive player, losing him could made an already terrible offensive team even less potent.
  2. Speaking of USC, it’s no secret that Trojan fans are frustrated with their team’s 0-5 conference start and generally atrocious offensive play. Head coach Kevin O’Neill is frustrated too. And, while he is trying to keep this team focused on this season, he thinks he should have a good team on his hands next near. Not only will all of these current Trojan players have an extra year of experience under their belts (and guys like freshmen Byron Wesley and Alexis Moore and sophomore DeWayne Dedmon could sure use them), he expects to have point guard Jio Fontan back from his ACL injury, along with transfers Ari Stewart and J.T. Terrell, both from Wake Forest, and Eric Wise, from UC Irvine.
  3. Tying up a few loose ends, we talked about Richard Solomon’s academic ineligibility and Josh Watkins’ dismissal from Utah yesterday, but thought we’d also pass along some information from the local media on both situations. For Solomon, there isn’t a whole lot to report; he just didn’t make grades, but head coach Mike Montgomery hopes he can patch up those problems and return next season. For Watkins, it’s another story. All indications are that he is a good kid, but head coach Larry Krystkowiak just couldn’t ignore the “accountability issues” with Watkins any longer. He reportedly missed practice again on Monday, and after Krystkowiak had laid down a “zero tolerance” policy following a blowout loss to Colorado on New Year’s Eve, Watkins had to go. Krystkowiak said he hopes Watkins continues at Utah and receives his degree, and I’m sure he does, not just for Watkins’ sake, but for the sake of Utah’s graduation rates that will be in the garbage following all of the recent transfers out of the program.
  4. Washington has a big weekend ahead of it, what with conference-leading California and Stanford headed into Seattle for battles with first place on the lane. And in the midst of that atmosphere, it is possible that freshman forward (and starting tight end on the Husky football team) Austin Seferian-Jenkins could see his first action for the basketball team this weekend, although nothing is set in stone yet. Head coach Lorenzo Romar also confirmed that senior forward Darnell Gant would continue coming off the bench for the Huskies, with center Aziz N’Diaye and forward Desmond Simmons continuing to start up front.
  5. Lastly, we turn our attention to UCLA, who has won three straight games after starting 0-2 in conference play. Bruin players like David Wear and Tyler Lamb attribute the turnaround to a renewed emphasis on defensive intensity, with players taking pride in getting stops and learning to play as a team on that end. While UCLA has held its opponents to just 40.3% shooting from the field over the course of the winning streak, their trip to Oregon this weekend should present a much bigger challenge.
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Pac-12 Game Of The Week: California @ Oregon State

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 5th, 2012

We may only be two games into the conference season, but tonight will give us a good feel on who is a contender and who is a pretender in the Pac-12. The game that most fits that bill will take place tonight in Corvallis when 2-0 California meets 0-2 Oregon State. For the visiting Golden Bears, a loss won’t make or break their chances at a conference crown, but it could be listed as a bad loss on a tournament résumé that is sure to be on the bubble come March. On the other side is Oregon State, where a victory is crucial after being swept in Washington last week. For the Beavers to have any shot at an at-large into the NCAA Tournament, a 3-1 record over their next four games is a must. So of course, they could lose tonight and win their next three, but that is highly unlikely as Stanford and Arizona are on the horizon. Despite this being one of the best games of the week and boasting multiple talented players on each side, the game will not be televised or webcast. That means the winner may get a little national attention just from being on ESPN’s bottom line, but the loser would likely fall from the nation’s radar for a LONG time.

Junior guard Jared Cunningham leads Oregon State with 17 PPG (credit: Sports Chat Place)

For the Beavers to get a win tonight they will need to rely on their defense. They have played three teams this season that are at Cal’s level offensively, and so far they are 1-2. The one win came against Texas, a game in which the Beavers were able to get out on multiple fast breaks after stepping into the Longhorn passing lanes. The Beavers would score a total of 100 points in a game where they actually didn’t shoot the ball that well, but they got the win because of their great defense. That is what they need to do here if they want to have a chance.

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Pac-12 Honors: Week Eight

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2012

In the first week of conference play, form more or less held, with nine of the ten games being won by the home team. California, Stanford, Washington, and Arizona emerged atop the conference with undefeated records (although the Wildcats played just one game, as opposed to the two played by the other three teams), but the Huskies have to go down as the team with the most impressive weekend, after knocking off not only Oregon State, a team considered by many to be a contender for the conference title, but also Oregon, who was the one road team to score a win in the opening weekend. All things considered, this could not have been a better weekend for the Huskies.

Team of the Week

Washington – Not only did the Huskies score two wins, they earned them over two good teams. And they did so in impressive fashion, winning by 15 over the Beavers and 16 over the Ducks. More importantly, they looked good in doing so. In recent weeks there had been concern over several areas of their performance, notably their defensive effort and their team chemistry; in these two games, those areas were strengths, not weaknesses. After allowing just over a point per possession to a solid OSU offense on Thursday, they held Oregon, who was coming off lightning up the Washington State defense, to just 36.3% 3-point shooting. As for chemistry, six Husky players scored in double figures against the Beavers, and sophomore wing C.J. Wilcox took his shift to the bench (allowing Aziz N’Diaye to regain his starting spot and Tony Wroten to retain his) in stride, scoring 15 points in the opener before lighting up the Ducks for 24 points on just 11 shots. There is still some concern that Wroten may dominate the offense too much, and again, he led the team in attempted field goals in both games, but he also played good defense, handed out nine assists on the weekend and rarely was out of control. The Huskies still have to prove that they’re capable of earning quality conference road wins, but they get to start out that challenge with the training wheels on, as they face Colorado and Utah in their first road trip this weekend. The Buffaloes could present a challenge, but if the Huskies can get out to a 4-0 start in conference play, they will definitely be on the short list of teams leading the conference title race.

Tony Wroten, Washington

Tony Wroten's First Weekend In Pac-12 Play Proved To Be His Most Impressive Back-to-Back Performances Of A Young Career (Credit: Elaine Thompson, Associated Press)

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Pac-12 Morning Five: Conference Tip-Off Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

  1. Picking up where we left off yesterday, we’re continuing to look ahead to tonight and the start of conference play (completely ignoring Colorado’s 92-34 demolition of New Orleans last night). We’ve got CBS’ Matt Norlander picking California and Stanford as the teams to beat (and give him credit for not putting the entire league under his “Still Unproven” category), while Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News also throws his support behind Mike Montgomery’s team. After browsing through all the Pac-12 picks coming from elsewhere and devising our own (which you’ll see later today), it is clear Cal, despite all its flaws, is the clear favorite in the conference.
  2. It’s the first year of unbalanced scheduling in the conference, as the beautiful home-and-away round robin of years’ past is no longer. And, taking into account that California is the favorite in the conference while Stanford and Oregon State are popular choices to challenge for the title, Arizona seems to be sitting in the (wild) catbird seat with regard to scheduling, skipping a trip to the Oregon schools while missing a visit from the Bay Area schools. The Washington schools also seem to be a little fortunate, as they get to skip the trip to the Bay Area, but miss out on a second chance at Utah and Colorado at home.
  3. USC has struggled to a 5-8 start to the season, they’ve got the 248th ranked offense in Division I (according to Ken Pomeroy) and their top five players have played 73.8% of their total minutes. But not to worry, Trojan fans, your intrepid head coach has a plan: try harder! Brilliant! Rather than install any type of coherent offense, Kevin O’Neill says “let’s just do a few more wind sprints.” Certainly USC’s got some incredibly raw parts offensively, but if I were to make a list of the Trojans top five problems in their first 13 games of the season, I’m quite sure effort would not be among them. For instance, tonight when USC travels to California to face the Human Floor Burn, Jorge Gutierrez, it’s a good bet that even he won’t outwork USC. Expect the conference opener between these two teams to be low-scoring, ugly and, well, won by the Golden Bears.
  4. Looking around the rest of the conference, let’s get a quick injury update in advance of opening night. Oregon senior forward Tyrone Nared is not quite ready to return to play after tearing an MCL a little more than two weeks ago, leaving the Ducks with just nine scholarship players for their trip to the Washington schools this weekend. Aziz N’Diaye is back for Washington, having played in their last game against Cal State Northridge, but his return to the starting lineup remains questionable. Richard Solomon still has not practiced for Cal following a stress fracture in his foot two weeks ago, and as a result, is unlikely tonight.  And UCLA’s Lazeric Jones and Norman Powell are expected to play tonight at Stanford after each sprained their ankles during Monday’s practice. Both have been able to practice the last two days and should be good to go.
  5. When Oregon State kicks off conference play tonight with a trip to Washington, they will do so with the most optimism surrounding their program since the days of Gary Payton a couple of decades ago. Their 10-2 record in non-conference play is their best start to a season since 1989-90, Payton’s senior season, and what’s more, this team is fun to watch: They lead the conference in scoring, assists, steals and shooting. The Beavers have never led the conference in scoring (with statistics going back more than 50 years), but with some highly efficient offensive play and a defensive game plan built around forcing turnovers through pressure, this could be their year to do so.
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Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on December 15th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take


Top Storylines

  • Personnel Problems – Certainly every team around the country has to deal with some personnel problems of their own. Players get hurt, kids decide to transfer, suspensions get handed out. But, wow. Is it just me or does it seem like an already under-talented conference has been hammered by a string of issues that have robbed them of even more talent? The Reeves Nelson situation at UCLA has been run into the ground, while the Jabari Brown transfer (followed by Bruce Barron’s transfer) is old news in Oregon. Mike Montgomery at California had to suspended forward Richard Solomon just before they traveled to San Diego State, then on the day he was to be reinstated, he and roommate Allen Crabbe overslept and were late to a morning shootaround and began that game on the bench. Josiah Turner has suffered through a benching and a suspension for his inability to get to practices on time (and he potentially cost Arizona a win at Florida in the process). Sean Miller has also had to dismiss freshman Sidiki Johnson, while Utah’s leading scorer Josh Watkins was suspended for a game. Arizona State’s freshman point guard Jahii Carson, who head coach Herb Sendek figured would be the Sun Devils’ starter from day one, was declared ineligible for his freshman season following an insufficient ACT score.
  • Then there are the injuries – Washington State’s Abe Lodwick has yet to play this season, while Faisal Aden and Mychal Ladd have battled their own injuries in recent weeks. USC is without senior point guard Jio Fontan for the season, while sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon has had his development stunted by a couple injuries that he has played through. This week, just a day after Washington announced that senior Scott Suggs would take a redshirt year after struggling with his recovery from foot surgery, their center Aziz N’Diaye sprained his knee and will miss at least the next four games. Back in Eugene, Tyrone Nared had a knee sprain of his own and is out until conference play. And the above is just a partial list cut short for (relative) simplicity’s sake. Now, none of the above is meant to imply that without the above maladies the Pac-12 would be a great conference, just that on a list of all of the possible things that could have gone wrong for Pac-12 teams so far, the teams have seemingly gone out of their way to check off most of them.
Devoe Joseph, Oregon

It Has Only Been Two Games, But Devoe Joseph Has Made A Major Impact For Oregon (Chris Pietsch, The Register-Guard)

  • One Bit of Good NewsDana Altman at least had a bit of good news this week as Devoe Joseph, a senior transfer from Minnesota, played his first games in a Duck uniform and immediately proved his worth. Not only did Joseph lead Oregon in scoring in his first game out against Fresno State, he made a couple of huge momentum changing threes in the second half that helped spur the Ducks to victory. Not to be outdone, he came back on Monday in his second game in Eugene and helped preserve a win as he scored his team’s last eight points after Portland State had closed to within three with 90 seconds left. With Altman now basically trading a freshman (Brown) for the senior Joseph in the backcourt, this Duck team is loaded with veterans and could still make waves in conference play.
  • Very Few, If Any, Resume Wins – Starting right about now and reaching a crescendo in the early days of March, you’re going to hear a lot about who potential NCAA Tournament teams beat and where they beat them as a major criteria for an invitation to the Big Dance. That fact should have the Pac-12 shaking in its boots. To this point it looks like the best win by a Pac-12 team was Oregon State’s neutral-site victory over a Texas team that (1) was playing in its third game with a completely remade roster, and (2) hasn’t beaten anyone of note yet. Beyond that, what are the other wins the teams in this conference hope to hang their tournament resumes on? Cal knocking off a bad Georgia team? Arizona over a middling Clemson team? Stanford against Oklahoma State or North Carolina State? Worse yet, there just aren’t a whole lot of chances left on the schedule for teams to pick up defining wins in the non-conference. Zona goes to Seattle to play Gonzaga and Oregon hosts Virginia this weekend, while Cal travels to UNLV just before Christmas, and that’s it. The rest of the season is, more or less, flawed Pac-12 teams beating up on other flawed Pac-12 teams. In the end, a team like Washington had better either perform one hell of a lot better in road conference games than they have in the past few years OR make sure they win the Pac-12 Tournament, lest they be making NIT plans come March.

Player of the Year Watch

  • While no one has yet to step up and grab a lead in this race, Washington State’s Brock Motum did establish himself, albeit against lesser competition, as a legitimate horse in this race. The Cougs are in the midst of a four-game winning streak and Motum has averaged 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds over that stretch. And Motum remains one of two Pac-12 players to score in double figures in each of his team’s games this season. The other? Washington’s Terrence Ross, who not only has proven himself to be a consistent scorer, but also a versatile talent capable of filling the stats sheet. On the season, Ross is averaging 16.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, a couple of threes and a block per night.
  • Elsewhere Allen Crabbe has continued to be an efficient scorer on a nightly basis for the Golden Bears (15.8 PPG on the season while shooting over 46% from deep), while teammate Jorge Gutierrez continues to lead the conference in intangibles while contributing solid tangible stats to boot (12.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.9 APG). As for dark horse candidates who are just now beginning to go to the whip? Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson has averaged 15 points a contest over his last four, just barely starting to scratch the surface of his potential, while the aforementioned Devoe Joseph could get in the conversation with a strong showing in conference play.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 13th, 2011

  1. There was a time when the Pac-10 conference was right there with the Big Ten in a race for the most conservative conference in college sports. But since Larry Scott took over as the conference commissioner in the summer of 2009, much of that has changed. Aside from expanding to 12 teams and twice almost jumping to 16 members, Scott has helped the conference ink a huge new television deal and has been working tirelessly to expand the conference’s brand. To that end, on Sunday Scott boarded a jet to work on expanding the Pac-12’s reach, this time to China. While Scott’s exact plans remain to be seen, there is talk of eventually playing regular season games on the other side of the Pacific, although that prospect seems quite far away. Literally.
  2. This past weekend had the sports world buzzing about college basketball with the Indiana/Kentucky finish leading the way, but the unfortunate events in Cincinnati created a stir as well. As the former coach of one of the teams involved in that brawl in the Queen City, Arizona head coach Sean Miller was asked to comment on his former team and he said (among other things), “if Cincinnati tries to do what they did, they’re going to get a fight, so I’m proud of those guys. They have a chance to win it all. It’s just such a great story. I’m really proud of those guys and I watch them any time that I can. No one’s going to bully those guys.” After taking plenty of flak for those comments, Miller tried to clarify their tone, noting that he was responding “to a question as to whether I have been following” Xavier and that he was in no way condoning a fight, merely mentioning his “belief in several players that I once coached and a head coach, Chris Mack, that I have great respect for.”
  3. Up in Seattle, Washington fans are trying to wrap their minds around a 4-4 start, and with freshman guard Tony Wroten’s recent success, one commenter makes the argument that Wroten needs to be the starting point guard in lieu of Abdul Gaddy. Despite Wroten’s struggles shooting and his carelessness with the ball, Husky fans see all that talent and want to plug him in right away. Nevertheless, despite his obvious physical skills, he is still creating more opportunities for himself than for his teammates, turns the ball over more than he dishes out assists, and even his ability to get to the line on cue is diminished by an inability to hit free throws when he gets there. Until Wroten can patch up some of the obvious holes in his game, expect the quieter but more effective Gaddy to continue to lead this team.
  4. Aziz N’Diaye’s sprained right knee, suffered early in the second half of Washington’s loss to Duke on Saturday, is the other big story around the Husky program, and the news on Monday was as good as could have been hoped for. While N’Diaye is expected to miss the team’s next three games, he is hoping to be able to return in time for the conference opener against Oregon State on December 29. N’Diaye missed the entire 2009-10 season with a torn ACL, so it was a great relief when the results of the MRI on Monday showed no tears or serious structural damage to the joint.
  5. Lastly, we here have tried to be pretty fair when it comes to this year’s Utah team. Yes, that’s a bad basketball team, but head coach Larry Krystkowiak came into a bad situation with little returning talent and no time to bring in players who could make a serious impact. Throw in a few untimely injuries and the Utes are well on their way to being a historically bad team. At a school like Utah with a proud basketball tradition, that’s just not going to fly, as Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune goes out of his way to show. Monson lays the blame for the current Ute struggles squarely at the feet of athletic director Chris Hill for botching consecutive hires – Ray Giacoletti and Jim Boylen – but gives Hill credit for taking accountability for the mess that Utah basketball is in.
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Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 13th, 2011

  1. Once again the dominant story of the day was the fallout from the CincinnatiXavier brawl. The most interesting news was the report that the Hamilton County District Attorney was looking into prosecuting players involved in the the fight. We are not really sure where to begin here except for noting that if charges were brought against the players it would be unusual, but not unprecedented (see the Todd Bertuzzi case in hockey). We are sure that some Musketeer fans are going to point out that Joe Deters, who may end up trying the case, is a graduate of Cincinnati and was previously on the school’s Board of Trustees, but we doubt that it will affect the case because we would expect that the two people most likely to be charged with serious crimes are both Bearcats.
  2. We thought we had gotten over the all-encompassing conference realignment story, but it turns out we were wrong as San Diego State announced yesterday that it would be moving 14 sports including basketball to the Big West from the Mountain West beginning in the 2013 season. The move is a curious one for a number of reasons including the fact that it is a huge step down in prestige for basketball (from 4th in the conference College RPI ratings down to 24th) and San Diego State is going to be playing its football games in the Big East. As strange as some of the other conference realignment stories have been this one has to be the most clear money grab that we have seen. The coaches can say whatever they want about this being good for recruiting, but that seems to be a pretty weak reason since we have never heard of a recruit who would want to go to the Big West over the Mountain West even if the former may get on ESPN more often with this new television deal.
  3. Yesterday, Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe pleaded guilty to violating a restraining order when he sent a Facebook message to a former girlfriend. According to Mbakwe’s attorney, he thought the restraining order had expired after one year, but in fact was two years. Mbakwe, who is out for the year after injuring his knee, was sentenced to one day in jail, which he already served, one year of probation, and given a $300 fine. As you may have noticed, we are not exactly the most lenient group in the world when it comes to people breaking laws/rules, but in this case it appears that Mbakwe’s violation was relatively minor, a thought that we expressed at the time that it happened last year.
  4. Washington got a bit of good news as a MRI revealed that junior center Aziz N’Diaye did not suffer any significant structural injury to his right knee during Saturday’s game against Duke. N’Diaye is listed as questionable (or in the words of Lorenzo Romar “very questionable”) for the Huskies next game, which is on Friday against UC-Santa Barbara, with what has been described as a sprain. When N’Diaye injured his knee the Washington staff had good reason to be concerned as he tore ligaments in that knee, which made him miss the 2009-10 season. While it is possible that N’Diaye could return on Friday, the team probably doesn’t need his size against a team whose top rebounder is 6’5″ so Romar may just decide to let him rest. We would point out that the Huskies have a relatively easy schedule coming up, but they are in the Pac-12 so they will not play a good team the rest of the season unless they make the NCAA Tournament.
  5. Seth Davis chimes in on the Crosstown Shootout brawl and various other college basketball topics in his weekly Hoop Thoughts column. As usual Seth does an excellent job getting information from a coach (in this case Chris Mack) and delves deeper into the ridiculous Tu HollowayMark Lyons post-game press conference. He also briefly touches on the dismissal of Reeves Nelson and a variety of other topics, of which there are too many to name. It is definitely worth a read and will make you think a little even if you don’t agree with everything Seth has to say.
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Three Thoughts on Washington and Duke from Madison Square Garden

Posted by mpatton on December 12th, 2011

The DukeWashington game on Saturday was an interesting look at both teams. Here are three thoughts, for each team, that I garnered from each team that will be interesting to follow going forward.

Duke was much better with Tyler Thornton on the floor. Thornton’s stat line at the end of the first half: 18 minutes, 0-0 from the field, two assists and two turnovers. But there’s a reason he played more minutes than any other player: He locked down Abdul Gaddy and the Husky offense. There’s no other reasonable explanation for why Washington’s offense looked so stagnant at that time. Thornton is a sparkplug for this Duke team. He may not fill up the stat sheet, but the team visibly has more energy when he’s on the floor. His on-ball defense also covers up Duke’s mediocrity at defending dribble penetration. The offense also played very well, despite his apparent lack of production. Don’t be surprised to see Thornton start for Duke going forward.

Tyler Thornton

Tyler Thornton is Duke's Leader on the Defensive End (Eugene Tanner/AP).

On a related note, Washington’s offense is almost entirely based on its backcourt’s ability to utilize dribble penetration. Tony Wroten was really the only effective offensive weapon the Huskies had in the first half; luckily, he was a one-man scoring machine then. Wroten is the real deal. He was by far the most talented player on the floor. It remains to be seen whether he just took advantage of a huge mismatch with Duke (he’s a 6’5″ wing with boatloads of athleticism; no one that gets playing time at Duke fits that description), or whether he can be the go-to guy for the Huskies this year. But one thing I do know is that he’s an NBA talent.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.12.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 12th, 2011

  1. It was another wild weekend in the Pac-12, with some disciplinary action, upset losses and low-scoring slugfests. But let’s jump in with some good news: contrary to recent history, Oregon actually gained a player over the weekend. Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph played his first game for the Ducks on Saturday and led his team in scoring with 18 points in his debut. He came off the bench but played the most minutes on the team and was their most effective offensive weapon. He wrapped back-to-back three-pointers around an E.J. Singler block to get the Matt Court crowd jumping and also handed out a key assist to Singler as the shot clock expired in a close game down the stretch. Head coach Dana Altman has had a rough time with personnel matters in the first month of the season, but the arrival of Joseph gives Duck fans reason for optimism.
  2. Not all was rosy in the state of Oregon this weekend, however, as the bad Beavers returned at Oregon State. On the heels of an on-campus tragedy on Wednesday, the basketball team came out flat Friday night against Idaho and trailed almost from start to finish. They allowed the Vandals to shoot a 60.4 eFG% (shooting just 35.8% themselves) and were never closer than ten in the second half. Head coach Craig Robinson didn’t want to tie any of the team’s poor performance to the tragedy, but we’ll give the Beavers a pass on this one. Another poor performance in their upcoming games against Illinois-Chicago, Howard or Portland State, though, and OSU’s squad officially goes on red alert.
  3. Back to some good news, as Arizona bounced back from its loss to Florida with an easy win over Clemson on Saturday. Freshman point guard Josiah Turner was reinstated following his one-game suspension after a missed practice, but it was fellow frosh Nick Johnson who led the way, scoring 14 points and throwing down some massive dunks. With Turner’s game improving by the game and freshman big man Angelo Chol beginning to contribute, these Arizona freshmen are about ready to bust out.
  4. Back to the bad news, and it was a lot of bad news for Washington this weekend. Not only did it lose its third straight game, this time to Duke at Madison Square Garden on Saturday morning, but they lost junior center Aziz N’Diaye to a sprained knee early in the second half of that game. He did not return and no prognosis has been given for his future status. This came on the heels of the announcement Friday that senior guard Scott Suggs, who had foot surgery prior to the season, would be taking a redshirt year this season. If there is any good news out of the weekend, it is that the four-guard attack the Huskies used after the N’Diaye injury was effective, and Tony Wroten, in particular, played the best basketball of his young career. UW has a history of starting slowly for Lorenzo Romar, but the smart money is on this team becoming a tough out come March.
  5. In Berkeley, it was supposed to be forward Richard Solomon’s return from his own indefinite suspension. And while Solomon played in California’s 73-46 win over Jackson State, he and his roommate Allen Crabbe got the day started off on the wrong foot when they both overslept and were ten minutes late to the team’s morning shootaround. While Solomon was going to come off of the bench anyway, Crabbe was punished for his transgression by being benched to start the game, although he did wind up playing 27 minutes and leading all scorers with17 points. Jorge Gutierrez racked up a career-high 10 assists to go with seven points and seven rebounds.
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Set Your TiVo: 12.09.11 to 12.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 9th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It is road test Saturday as Kentucky and Ohio State face strong tests in Bloomington and Lawrence while a fierce intra-city rivalry plays out on the hardwood in Cincinnati. Also, Duke faces a challenge from Washington at MSG while Wisconsin and Gonzaga look to get back on the right track on their home floors. [Editor’s Note: There will be no Set Your TiVo on Monday due to the barren nature of that night’s schedule as most schools transition into finals week. We will resume on Tuesday.]

#6 Duke vs. Washington (at New York, NY) – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (***)

Duke is Back at MSG For Another Great Game (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

  • Duke returns to Madison Square Garden for the second time this year to take on a Washington team that also will be playing its second game in the building after a thrilling game against Marquette on Tuesday night. This game will be up-tempo and you can expect guard-heavy Duke to try to take advantage of Washington’s inability to defend the three-point shot. Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly can all knock down the triple at a high rate and they’re the reasons why the Blue Devils rank #19 in that department. They’ll be shooting against a Huskies defense that ranks a paltry #262 (37.1%) against the trifecta. The Huskies used a zone at times against Marquette earlier this week. That may be effective at stopping Duke inside, but the Blue Devil guards can shoot right over it. If Lorenzo Romar goes man-to-man, his team will have to fight its way through the tremendous screening action that is a huge part of Duke’s offense, allowing shooters to get open with ease. If Duke knocks down its threes, it’ll be a long early afternoon for Washington.
  • The defensive matchups don’t look good for Washington, so you would have to think the Huskies will need to put up a lot of points in order to win. They certainly can do that against Duke’s perimeter defense, but the key will be Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox making a bunch of threes to offset the barrage that may come from the Duke shooters. Washington has the height and athleticism necessary to neutralize and even take advantage of Duke in the paint with Aziz N’Diaye and Darnell Gant which will force the Blue Devils to make shots. Offensively, UW’s guards have to be able to penetrate to open up some outside shots while getting N’Diaye and Gant some easy buckets around the rim. That means Abdul Gaddy and (especially) Tony Wroten can’t turn the ball over. The freshman is certainly talented but he turns it over more than four times per game.
  • This is a big chance for Washington (4-3) to snag a crucial victory with hardly anything of note left on its non-conference schedule. Washington must rebound the basketball and push the pace as much as possible. The Huskies do a very good job on the boards, outrebounding Duke by an average of 10 RPG coming into the game. The Huskies need to be tough around the basket on both ends of the floor and should not be afraid to foul Mason Plumlee when he receives the ball in the post. Plumlee is a 42.3% foul shooter and should be in for a battle around the basket. While Washington may not be able to defend the three-ball straight up, the Huskies’ length and athleticism has the potential to bother Duke’s guards. Rivers can break down a defense at will but Curry is susceptible to shaky ballhanding and turnovers. If Washington can rattle Curry and put points on the board, they’ll be in the game for the long haul. We’re looking for a closer than expected game but still have to favor the Blue Devils because of their three-point shooting and the partisan crowd sure to fill Madison Square Garden.

Cincinnati @ #7 Xavier – 12:30 PM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (****)

  • The Crosstown Shootout is one of the perennially underrated rivalries in the game. While the teams aren’t always great, the basketball is intense between two schools that don’t particularly care for one another. Xavier is the better team but can’t afford to take the Bearcats lightly. The Musketeers needed second half rallies to defeat Vanderbilt and Purdue before going on the road and winning at Butler this past Wednesday. Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons do most of the work for this team but the X-men will need an interior presence against Cincinnati big man Yancy Gates. Gates is a load inside but Kenny Frease should be able to match up with him, at least on the defensive end. If Chris Mack’s squad can limit Gates, who is struggling with only 15 total points scored in his last two games, Xavier will be well on its way to a win at the Cintas Center.
  • Cincinnati plays terrific defense but Mick Cronin’s team really struggles to score. The Bearcats have a stunning lack of depth for a team that is supposed to contend for an upper tier finish in the Big East. Since it is putting up only 64 PPG, Cincinnati has to win games with its defense. The good news is Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon can hit from deep with some level of consistency but they’ll face their toughest test to date against a Xavier defense allowing only 25.5% shooting from the three-point line. If the shots don’t fall, Cincinnati doesn’t stand much of a chance, especially if Gates continues his lackluster play of late. To win, the Bearcats must shoot well but they also have to control the glass and the pace of the game. Holloway loves to push the ball, penetrate and get to the line where he’s an 86.2% shooter. He averages nearly ten free throw attempts per game and it’s vital that Cincinnati keep him off the charity stripe if it is to win.
  • These teams are similar with regards to their defense and toughness but Xavier is a more talented and deeper version of Cincinnati. Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, it’s hard to see the Musketeers dropping this game. For the Bearcats to have a chance to pull it out, Gates has to be the player he was towards the end of last season when he was putting up 20+ points a night. In addition, Cashmere Wright can’t be turning the ball over at the rate (3.3 per game) he has so far this season. We may be making a mistake since it is a rivalry game, but Xavier by 10-15 points seems like a good bet.
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Pac-12 SYT: 12.06 & 12.07

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 6th, 2011

See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Week five begins with a pair of great games on the east coast. Tonight we get Washington against #11 Marquette in New York City, and on Wednesday Arizona will travel to #12 Florida. Here’s a quick look at both games.

Washington vs #11 Marquette – Tuesday, 6:00 PM PST on ESPN (***)

Derrick Wilson is just one of many superb defenders on the Marquette roster. (credit: Zhao Lim)

  • All of a sudden Washington finds itself in a new situation. After dropping two of their last three games, the Huskies come into the Jimmy V Classic with zero expectations. They have the talent to pull an upset, but poor offensive performances against mediocre defenses lately has me on the fence. The Huskies have looked confused, and at some points just plain bad, against average defensive teams like Nevada, so what is going to happen tonight when they face one of the best defensive teams in the nation? Marquette likes to play over on pick-and-rolls and push the opposing big men away from the basket, so expect this to be a very physical contest. Look for Darnell Gant and Aziz N’Diaye to be huge in this game. If they can enforce their will and get good looks in the paint, Washington has a good chance of winning this one.
  • This game will go one of two ways. Either Marquette is just going to come out and dominate the Huskies, or Washington hits their outside shots, gets some good looks in the paint, and is in position to win it at the end. I see the latter happening, but Marquette is just too good to lose this one. Give me the Eagles by five. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: The Jimmy V Classic Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 6th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The V Foundation has been able to give over $90 million to more than 100 cancer research facilities nationwide since the organization was founded in 1993. Tonight means way more than college basketball. So while you are watching the games tonight at home, take a minute to remember what these folks are doing for our friends and family. Let’s take a look at the hoops action this evening at the Jimmy V Classic in NYC.

Marcus Denmon And The Tigers Kick Off the Jimmy V Classic in NYC (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

#10 Missouri vs Villanova – 7 PM EST on ESPN HD (***)

  • Missouri is deadly accurate from the floor. Through seven games, the Tigers are shooting 58.2% from two and 43% from three. Look for Mizzou guards Marcus Denmon and Kim English to continue their hot shooting against a Villanova team that ranks 108th in effective field goal defense. Nova was recently beat-up by another excellent shooting team in the St. Louis Billikens. If Jay Wright does not address his team’s field goal defense quickly, Missouri is going to blow out the Wildcats just like they have every other opponent this season.
  • Villanova has a distinct height advantage against Missouri. If Wright’s club is to have any chance in this game, they are going to have to use that height and grab all the offensive rebounds they possibly can. Missouri’s speed and accuracy on offense puts pressure on the opposing offense to not have any empty possessions. Keep an eye Wildcats’ 6’10” forward Mouphtaou Yarou on the inside. Yarou needs to own the offensive boards. If Villanova is missing shots against an aggressive Tiger defense and not grabbing offensive boards, the game will be over quickly for Wright’s team.
  • Missouri’s speed, accuracy, and experience will prove to be the difference in this game. Thus far, Villanova has not proven they have a defense to stop a team that shoots as well as Mizzou. If Yarou and the rest of the Wildcats can grab offensive boards, they will have a chance but ultimately the pressure Denmon and English put on the team will be too much.

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