USC Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 16th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: USC.

What Went Wrong

The biggest thing that went wrong were lofty expectations for a group of mostly transfers who had failed to have any success as a group in any of their previous stops. Despite the fact that this was a program coming off a six-win season, instead of playing with a chip on their collective shoulders, this team came out not just softly but selfishly. They went to a Maui Invitational with hopes of establishing themselves amid a flawed field, and instead got blown out by 30 in their opening round game against Illinois. They toughened up some after Maui, but then proceeded to blow several chances against good teams in excruciating fashion and took on eight non-conference losses. Senior point guard Jio Fontan looked terrible for the better part of two months after coming off a year lost to a torn ACL, Dewayne Dedmon seemed intent on throwing away his immense talent, J.T. Terrell pouted and fought his way through most of the early part of the year, and then on January 14, USC athletic director Pat Haden had seen enough, pulling the plug on Kevin O’Neill’s time in Los Angeles. The team rebounded somewhat under interim head coach Bob Cantu, winning six of eight games in the middle of the Pac-12 season, but then floundered down the stretch, culminating in an embarrassing brawl in downtown Pullman after the end of the regular season. All told, a mixture of immaturity and oversized egos appears to have done this team in.

The 2012-13 Season Gave Kevin O'Neill Headaches - And A Nice Buyout

The 2012-13 Season Gave Kevin O’Neill Headaches – And A Nice Buyout

What Went Right

Last year when we looked back on the 2011-12 Trojans, we said the best part about the year was that it was ending. This year, despite a net increase of eight wins, it is hard to say much of anything different. Maybe we call Omar Oraby, who quickly became a fan favorite, if not a coach’s favorite after transferring in from Rice, the team’s lone bright spot. Maybe we expand that to include Byron Wesley, who has been a rock for the Trojans in his two seasons there. But the fact is that the best things that have happened to this program have come since their most recent embarrassing season ended.

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Pac-12 M5: 04.09.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on April 9th, 2013

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  1. USC interim head coach Bob Cantu will not be retained on Andy Enfield’s staff. Cantu had been at USC since 2001 and has worked under four different staffs. He took over at midseason when Kevin O’Neill was fired and led the Trojans to upset wins over Arizona and UCLA as the team posted a 7-8 record under his leadership.
  2. Oregon’s Dana Altman received the 2013 Jim Phelan Award from CollegeInsiders.com as its National Coach of the Year over the weekend. Altman’s third year at Oregon was without question his best yet. The Ducks finished with a 28-9 overall record and made the Sweet Sixteen after beating Oklahoma State and Saint Louis to get there. Oregon and Altman were given little respect at the beginning of the season, picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12 media poll. But they were the surprise in the Pac-12 in finishing second and also won the Pac-12 Tournament. Altman was the 2013 Pac-12 Coach of the Year and was a candidate for the 2013 John McLendon National Coach of the Year award as well.
  3. Arizona’s new commitment Aaron Gordon may make next season unlike anything the Wildcats have ever seen. Gordon, who won the McDonald’s All-American Game MVP, is the first Wildcat to win the award and will likely also be the first one-and-done player that Arizona and Sean Miller have had. Some scouts have said that the Bay Area native would go in the top three of this year’s draft if he were eligible. With Gordon’s arrival, expectations will be high in Tucson and it will be up to Sean Miller to get all of his talent to coexist. Although it’s unlikely that this will be a similar situation as with Josiah Turner last year, nothing can be certain with freshmen.
  4. Washington was one of the teams that missed out on Gordon, but with the rumored transfer of Mike Moser to join the Huskies in Seattle, Lorenzo Romar’s team might not miss Gordon as much as they thought. Moser can provide similar athleticism and would help Washington put together arguably one of the best frontcourts in the Pac-12. Moser would bring depth to a front line that already boasts Desmond Simmons, Shawn Kemp Jr., and Jernard Jerrau. More importantly, is the fact that Moser immediately would become the most versatile big man for the Huskies, and although they missed out on the prized recruit, Moser isn’t a bad consolation prize.
  5. UCLA freshman Tony Parker tweeted that he will remain at UCLA. New coach Steve Alford met with Parker and his family at the Final Four and helped persuade the 6’9″ forward to stay in Los Angeles. Alford will have a much more difficult task, however, of trying to get more production out of the freshman. Parker averaged a disappointing 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in his first year as a Bruin. Granted, he also only logged 6.3 minutes per contest, but when he was on the floor he was less than impressive.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.12.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 12th, 2013

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  1. The Pac-12 released its awards and “all-conference teams” on Monday, and I put that in quotes since the conference doesn’t care to follow one of the most simple rules of basketball. Regardless, end-of-the-season awards are always fun to review, so here we go. Leading scorer Allen Crabbe was named the Player of the Year in the conference, with Jahii Carson and Shabazz Muhammad named as Co-Freshmen of the Year. Oregon head coach Dana Altman took home the Coach of the Year award after leading his Ducks to a 23-8 record, and received the honor despite losing their final two regular season games to Colorado and Utah. In addition to Crabbe, Carson, and Muhammad, Spencer Dinwiddie, Solomon Hill, and Dwight Powell headlined the All-Pac-12 first team list. Kyle Anderson, Damyean Dotson, and Josh Scott rounded out the All-Freshmen team. To view the Rush the Court Pac-12 honors and all-conference teams from yesterday, click here and here.
  2. Additional news of a Spokane bar fight featuring several USC players broke on Monday afternoon, and not long after, interim head coach Bob Cantu announced that senior center James Blasczyk and junior forward Dewayne Dedmon had been suspended indefinitely for violating a team rule. In a statement released by the school, the program acknowledged the investigation into the alleged incident but refused to comment until more is known. There was an interesting statement from Spokane Police Officer John Gately, which said, “We had a large fight. We have not been able to find any connection to any sports team.” More on the situation will surely be released in the coming days, but the immediate reality is that the Trojans will lose their top rebounder for their opening Pac-12 Tournament game against one of the hottest teams in the league. Uh-oh.
  3. Washington State senior Brock Motum has dropped an average of 16.5 PPG against Washington so far this season, and Huskies head coach Lorenzo Romar knows the big Aussie will be the biggest road block between his team and a quarterfinal match-up with Oregon. Even more concerning are the recent stats that Motum has been putting up — he’s scored 20+ points (including one 31-point outing) in three of Wazzu’s last four games, and has averaged 8.0 RPG in that timeframe.
  4. The Power Rank has an interesting tool for college basketball addicts, featuring an interactive projected NCAA Tournament bracket and breaking down the probabilities for each of the 68 teams to advance through the bracket. Using Jerry Palm’s projected bracket from March 7 and the site’s calculations from their own rankings, you can see the odds for your favorite team advancing through each round. The calculations say Arizona has the best chance of a Pac-12 team to win the national title, coming in at 2.1%. Oregon and UCLA are the next closest at 0.2%, and just as a point of reference, the team with the best chance of winning it all is at 12.8%, Florida.
  5. Colorado head coach Tad Boyle has never been angrier at a loss during his tenure in Boulder than he was after Saturday’s head-scratching, 64-58 loss at home to Oregon State. And for good reason, too, as the loss sent CU back to the bubble, a place they thought they were done with coming into the final week of the regular season. In an interesting twist, the Buffaloes now must face the Beavers again in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday afternoon, a game that could very well be a must-win in order for the Buffaloes to make the field of 68. On the other end of the court will be the Beavers, which even though they come into the tourney with a #12 seed, are riding some momentum for the first time in a month. Craig Robinson knows all about playing spoiler on Championship Week, as last year the Beavs knocked regular season champion Washington off the NCAA bubble with a quarterfinal win. If history repeats itself, Colorado fans will be wise to root against the likes of La Salle, Virginia, and Alabama in their respective conference tournaments this week, as losses by those teams would help its cause. Going off the same thread, an OSU win would likely mean a second straight trip to the CBI for the Beavers, while a loss could mean being left out of the third-rate tournament.

Steve Politi’s Sunday column in the New Jersey Star-Ledger contains some great anecdotal history from the Big East Tournament’s humble inception. To put this week’s highly orchestrated, sold-out event in perspective, consider the following. In 1981, the second year of the tournament, four ticketless Georgetown fans entered the bowels of the Carrier Dome donning various animal costumes, including a penguin suit. Each told oblivious security guards –– who had no clue what a Hoya was supposed to look like –– that he was the official school mascot. And astonishingly, it worked, which merely underscores how many of the league’s most intimate modern rivalries were predated by striking unfamiliarity, and forged only through time and competitiveness.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2013

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  1. So, yeah, quickly, the top candidates for the head basketball coach at USC: something like Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon, Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins, interim head coach Bob Cantu and, um, former USC head coach Tim Floyd? Wait, run that last one by me again. Floyd is currently the head man at UTEP, a position he’s held for a few years after resigning from the USC gig (something about how he didn’t feel supported by then-USC athletic director Mike Garrett in the wake of allegations that guard O.J. Mayo accepted impermissible benefits from an agent). Floyd has long maintained a complete lack of involvement in the issue and plenty of investigations (both by USC and by the NCAA) have failed to turn up any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. Still, let’s not consider Floyd a leading candidate just yet. The meeting between Floyd and now-athletic director Pat Haden may have just been a way for the new AD to build a bridge over the bad blood in the wake of the parting, and Floyd, for his part, is using the surprising news as a way to get the word out publicly that “hey, I didn’t have anything to do with that.” Still, for a stretch there, Floyd put together four straight winning seasons including three in a row with 20-plus wins and NCAA Tournament invitations, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
  2. Across town, UCLA head coach Ben Howland let it slip, rather innocently and honestly, that Shabazz Muhammad was in all likelihood headed for the NBA Draft. And that’s not the only opinion he has on the state of the NBA, as he mentioned on Monday that he would prefer changes to the NBA’s eligibility rules that would end the one-and-done era. Howland’s plan would be similar to the rules presently used by Major League Baseball, whereby players would have the option to go straight from high school to the pros, but that once they wind up in college, they have to stay for a few years before being eligible again. Howland also knows that there’s not a chance that change gets made, at least anytime soon.
  3. Speaking of the NBA Draft, we posted our opinions here yesterday on the draft prospects of potential early entrants around the Pac-12, including Arizona State freshman guard Jahii Carson (we’re hoping he stays and develops a jumper). But Sun Devil head coach Herb Sendek claims that he hasn’t given the idea much thought, preferring instead to focus on this season. Still, we’re not buying the idea that it hasn’t even crossed his mind. Cal’s head coach, Mike Montgomery, however, was right to the point when asked about Carson’s pro prospects: “Doesn’t shoot it well enough yet.” The key there may be the word “yet.”
  4. If Carson does stick around for another season in the desert, he’ll have a new competitor in the state at point guard, as Arizona will unveil Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell as their new lead guard. The Daily Wildcat sees a parallel between McConnell’s skill set and the skills of UCLA point guard Larry Drew II. Compared to present UA point Mark Lyons, McConnell is more of the traditional pass-first, shoot-second floor general (of course, compared to Lyons, Allen Iverson is more of a traditional point guard). As Wildcat fans begin to grow weary of Lyons’ all-or-nothing style, the future is starting to look real good, even if that envisioned future is based on little more than partial information.
  5. Lastly, as we look ahead to this week’s games, Washington may be out of the race for the conference title but it still has a chance for some input, as the Huskies will host UCLA on Saturday night. Head coach Lorenzo Romar is hoping that his team can finish the regular season in style. They’ve put together a 13-3 record in the final four conference games of the previous four seasons, and are well on their way to a repeat of that mark with two wins last week. But with USC and UCLA both playing well, the Huskies have their work cut out for them this week.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.04.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 4th, 2013

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  1. UCLA head coach Ben Howland confirmed the obvious Sunday, saying that freshman Shabazz Muhammad had played his final game in Pauley Pavilion on Saturday when the Bruins defeated Arizona, 74-69. “That was his last game in Pauley. I knew going into this, this deal was a one-year deal.” Barring a huge reverse in plans or a major injury, Muhammad will be a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft. Freshman guard Kyle Anderson didn’t want to discuss his future plans, saying that he is too caught up in the season to think about that. Muhammad went for 18 points against the Wildcats, with Anderson finishing right behind him at 17.
  2. Even more important than freshman Dominic Artis‘ physical return to the Oregon team on Thursday was the swagger and mental boost he provided to the Duck team. Even if he is not fully functional or playing a full compliment of minutes yet, getting the player back that led you to a 17-2 start is huge. Also big is the effect his return can have on the selection committee, who will take into account the injury for Oregon’s seeding if the Ducks play like they were in the first two and a half months of the season.
  3. On January 14, Bob Cantu took over a 7-10 USC team that was looking dysfunctional and heading nowhere. Since then the Trojans have gone 7-5 and have recorded wins over the likes of UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State. SC is on the NIT bubble, and could very well make the field of 32 with a split in Washington and a win in the Pac-12 Tournament. At the very least, Cantu has at least earned the honor of being considered for the full-time stint in Los Angeles, but some are questioning if he was out of line by not playing senior Renaldo Woolridge during Saturday’s “Senior Night” game against Arizona State. As the piece points out, this was a big, Division I basketball game, and it’s not a time to play people just for the hell of it. But on the other hand, it wouldn’t exactly have hurt either to get Woolridge in for a minute or two. Regardless, Cantu is doing a great job with the SC program and this shouldn’t overshadow its terrific sweep of the Arizona schools this week.
  4. Oregon State will unveil the results of its re-branding efforts across all sports tonight at 6:30 Pacific. New logos, fonts, and uniforms will be revealed at the event that is more than two years in the making. Last month, one of the new logos was leaked, and the reviews were mixed. Whatever the final result is, it has to be better than what Arizona State rolled out earlier this week, right? You can view the festivities at osubeavers.com or follow along on Twitter at #ReBeaved.
  5. It’s Monday morning, which means John Templon’s NIT bracket projections are hot off the presses. Arizona State leads off the four Pac-12 schools that make the list as the top seed in the field, with a first round matchup projected against Northwestern. Stanford is right behind them as a two seed (making both part of the “last eight out of the NCAA”), also with an interesting game against Georgia Tech. Washington got a boost thanks to its Apple Cup win on Sunday, but the Huskies are still on the dangerous seven line, and they’ve got work to do to make sure their spot isn’t taken by an automatic bid. USC finishes off the Pac-12 list as an eight seed, with a projected first round game at Arkansas. The Trojans will need to win at least two of their final games to have a shot at making the field.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.01.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on March 1st, 2013

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  1. Abdul Gaddy has failed to meet expectations at Washington. Gaddy came out of Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma after averaging more than 25 points per game there. He had a subpar freshman year but was improving in his sophomore campaign and appeared as if he was about to turn a corner when he tore his ACL midway through the season. In Gaddy’s first three seasons as a Husky, he averaged no more than eight points a game, but the senior has averaged 11 points and three rebounds per game, both career highs, this year. Ultimately, unless Gaddy can lead the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament by capturing a Pac-12 Tournament title, it’s likely his career at Washington will be viewed largely as a disappointment.
  2. Despite not having any previous head coaching experience, Bob Cantu might be in good position to stay at USC full time as the head coach after his interim year. Although athletic director Pat Haden has interviewed some other candidates, Cantu has certainly done a great job thus far for USC after taking over for Kevin O’Neill. A Pac-12 Tournament title would likely solidify Cantu as the guy at USC and that’s not entirely out of the question. Cantu has coached the Trojans to a one-point loss to Oregon, a win on the road against UCLA, and most recently to a home win against Arizona, showing that USC can play with the best in the conference. As Colorado proved last year, winning four games in four days isn’t impossible and USC might just be the team to accomplish that feat this year.
  3. UCLA beat Arizona State on Wednesday night, but Shabazz Muhammad suffered a sprained ankle in the victory. Muhammad said it was minor and that he should be fine, but the talented freshman is also dealing with pink eye. Neither problem is expected to keep Muhammad out of UCLA’s game against Arizona on Saturday. The Bruins are also dealing with an injury to Travis Wear as he missed his second straight game Wednesday because of a sprained foot. Head coach Ben Howland hopes to have Wear back for the Arizona game too, but he is still listed as day-to-day.
  4. After Arizona’s loss to USC on Wednesday, Oregon is now in prime position to win the Pac-12. With the Ducks’ win over Oregon State last night, they now just have to win their last two games to claim the crown because Oregon has already beaten UCLA to own the tiebreaker. Barring a loss next weekend at Colorado or Utah, Oregon could be heading to Vegas as the #1 seed and will continue to improve with Dominic Artis returning to full health.
  5. Sean Miller said Wednesday night’s defensive play against USC was the Wildcats’ worst performance of the year. Arizona allowed USC to shoot 58 percent in the first half and an even better 65 percent in the second half. The Trojans had five players who scored double figures and at one point the defense was so poor that Miller switched to a zone defense halfway through the second half. The claims at midseason that Arizona was overrated look on point right now. The Wildcats are just 3-5 against the top seven teams in the Pac-12 and are struggling on defense at a very the worst possible time of the year.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.22.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 22nd, 2013

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  1. Thursday night the Pac-12 race got even tighter as California’s Justin Cobbs took advantage of Oregon’s 5’8” point guard Jonathan Loyd in the waning moments of their meeting, knocking down a game-winning jumper over the smaller man’s outstretched arms. As we head into the weekend, we’ve got three teams atop the conference with four losses while a pair of teams, including those Golden Bears, lurk just one game back in the loss column. The game itself wasn’t pretty, as Cobbs turned the ball over eight times, the teams combined to shoot 3-of-21 from deep and nobody on Oregon shot better than 50% from the field, but Cal continues to be the hottest team in the conference with six victories in its last seven games. As for Oregon, this current group of Ducks still remains winless in their careers against California.
  2. In the wake of Washington State’s seventh straight conference loss on Wednesday night, the talk about whether head coach Ken Bone is the man for the job in Pullman for the long term has reached a fever pitch. The talk has been slowly bubbling up since way back before the season began as Reggie Moore got booted from the team and incoming transfer Brett Kingma ran afoul of the law, highlighting some off-the-court issues that have troubled Bone’s program for some time. But, as CougCenter pointed out a couple weeks back, if the university hopes to go a different way, they’ve got to figure out a way around Bone’s hefty contract, which promises the coach $2.55 million over the remaining three years. Given the amount of money the WSU athletic department already has tied up in paying current and former football coaches, that amount of money may be too much to bear at this point. And, as I pointed out back before the season, expectations in Pullman have to be realistic. The fact of the matter is that prior to this season, Bone had the second-highest winning percentage of any coach in school history who had coached at least 20 games. Unfortunately for him, however, the one guy ahead of him was his predecessor.
  3. USC will take a crack at earning a season sweep of crosstown rival UCLA at the Galen Center on Sunday afternoon. And if they’re going to get it done, they’ll need to lean heavily on senior point guard Jio Fontan who, after dealing with ACL surgery last year and the heavy-handed offensive structure of former head coach Kevin O’Neill, is now thriving with more freedom under interim coach Bob Cantu and more confidence in a knee that gets stronger by the game.
  4. One thing we haven’t talked a lot about here this season is the Player of the Year race in the Pac-12. No worries though, as Pachoops has got you covered on that mark. Adam Butler scouts the candidates out and narrows the race down to two guys: Arizona State’s Jahii Carson and Cal’s Allen Crabbe. I wanted to quibble (Carrick Felix anyone?) but in the end decided that yes, those are the two guys atop the leaderboard right now and somebody from the next pack back (some combination of Solomon Hill, Shabazz Muhammad, Spencer Dinwiddie and Felix) would have to go absolutely nuts for that to change. In my mind, however, Carson is the favorite, as he has been for at least a month; but as Cal has heated up, Crabbe has made a big time charge to the point where it is just about even money right now.
  5. Lastly, in case you forgot, DirecTV has still not come to an agreement with the Pac-12 conference to carry the Pac-12 Networks. I’m sure all of you have done the right thing and dropped DirecTV like a hot potato, but apparently there are people out there sticking with the satellite television behemoth instead of watching tons of Pac-12 action this season. And, if you’re somehow still among that crowd, you’ve missed the 20 out of Arizona State’s 27 games this season that have aired on the Pac-12 Networks. Don’t hold your breath on a deal getting done any time soon as both sides appear entrenched in their positions.
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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VI: Honor Roll

Posted by AMurawa on February 12th, 2013

Professor Pac is back, trying to break down the mess that is the Pac-12, a task harder than you might think. This week’s Honor Roll is highlighted by Colorado, a team that bounced back from an awful week last time around to earn this week’s highest grade.

Colorado – A

A week ago, the Buffaloes earned the only F we’ve handed out this season. You can tell a lot about how a team responds to absolute failure. After losing to Utah while earning a 22-point deficit at one point, their F was well-earned. Likewise, this week’s A is appropriate. Colorado wasn’t mind-blowingly effective this week, but they were tough. They played two tight games and, contrary to what they’d done earlier in the year, they finished strong. With an important week ahead (and a chance at revenge against the Utes the following week), the Buffs have an opportunity now to make their case for a continued presence near the top of the Pac-12 standings.

Josh Scott Scored 17 On Sunday Night, But His Rebounding Needs to Improve (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Josh Scott Scored 17 On Sunday Night, But His Rebounding Needs to Improve (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Focus on: Josh Scott. After scoring in double figures in 13 of his first 16 games as a Buff, Scott hit something of a freshman wall in mid-January. His average of 14.5 points per game over those first 16 games has fallen to fewer than eight points per game over the next five, while also contributing just three rebounds per night. While he was merely average against Oregon (seven points, two boards), and while he did little to chip in on the boards against Oregon State (four boards in 32 minutes as his team was outrebounded by a relatively poor rebounding OSU team), he did wake up offensively, scoring 17 points while making 7-of-10 field goals. That type of success needs to continue, preferably with some additional rebounding mixed in there.

Looking ahead: The Buffaloes have been pointing to Valentine’s night ever since the final buzzer sounded in their controversial overtime loss to Arizona on the opening night of conference play. If CU can take care of business at home against the Wildcats and put the demons of the Debacle in the Desert to rest, it could be a springboard for continued success down the stretch. If they get outplayed by a talented Arizona team, that disappointment could snowball, especially with a tough and hungry Arizona State squad waiting on Saturday.

USC – A

For the second straight week, the Trojans earn an A. Once forgotten, this team is now a prized student and a team that could make a mess of things come the second week in March in Las Vegas. The Trojans have now won three in a row, they’re at 6-5 in the conference, and, seemingly like 17 other teams in the Pac-12, they sit within two games of first place.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 12th, 2013

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  1. The rumors were out there. The transfer guard out of Wake Forest by way of community college had a nice stroke, and along with the return of Jio Fontan from injury, would be the spark to ignite the long-dormant USC offense. And for the first eight games of the 2012-13 season, J.T. Terrell was that guy. But when Terrell began to slump, head coach Kevin O’Neill finally had cause to bench the player who didn’t completely fit with his team-first mentality. Terrell averaged just 3.3 points over the next seven games, but found new life when O’Neill was relieved of his duties and Bob Cantu took the reins. Now, Terrell is again shining for the resurgent Trojans, who have played themselves into some postseason whispers over the past two weeks. Even more important than the recent three-game winning streak and Terrell’s increased scoring output is the fact that he’s earned the team’s respect and has become the go-to guy in late-game situations. That bodes well for the future, as the 2013-14 version of the Men of Troy will need a vocal and respected leader once Fontan graduates.
  2. Some other news out of Corvallis, as Oregon Live revealed that Oregon State forward Daniel Gomis has had everything cleaned from his left leg and is feeling the best he has felt in two years. Gomis won’t return this season as he still needs to return to full strength before participating in basketball activities, but barring any setbacks, he will play his first organized basketball for the Beavers next October. As John Hunt notes, the Beavers will have quite an imposing front line in 2013-14, consisting of freshman Cheikh N’Diaye, the sophomore Gomis, junior Eric Moreland, and senior Angus Brandt.
  3. The Monday news day of course means the release of the weekly rankings, and the Pac-12 was represented by Arizona and Oregon in the AP Top 25. UCLA was the only other team to receive votes, coming in at #38 overall. In the USA Today/Coaches’ Poll, Arizona fell to ninth, while Oregon dropped out completely to #27. And as we enter the part of the season where “good wins” are critical to a team’s NCAA Tournament chances, the Pac-12 has posted three victories against Top 25 teams — Arizona against Miami (FL) and Florida and Colorado against Colorado State.
  4. After dropping six of its last seven games, Washington has not only free fallen from the NCAA bubble, but is now on very thin ice for the NIT as well. Poor defense and the inability to get key players going at the same time has Husky players and coaches claiming that a sense of urgency is needed for the final month of the season. It wouldn’t be impossible for LoRo and company to make the NCAAs via the league’s automatic bid, but for that to happen they will need to cut back on turning the ball over and manufacture some momentum heading into the Pac-12 Tourney. Also of help would be a top four finish in the regular season standings, giving the Huskies a first-round bye in Las Vegas. That looks unlikely at this point, but if the Dawgs win out at home and pull off a split in the desert, it’s a reasonable possibility.
  5. Teams that rebound well out of zones have given Arizona fits all season long, and the same proved true on Sunday night when California went into the McKale Center and upset the Wildcats. A big key for the Golden Bears was the off night of senior wing Kevin Parrom, who was turnover prone and cold from outside. The team’s self-proclaimed zone-buster only managed seven points despite numerous open looks in his 21 minutes of action. Colorado will look to copy the blueprint left by the likes of Oregon, UCLA, and California on Thursday when the Wildcats come calling in Boulder.
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Pac-12 Bracketology: February 9 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 9th, 2013

As we dive into the back nine of conference play and approach the home stretch of the season, it’s time to take a look at the three postseason tournaments and where each Pac-12 team fits into the picture. I’ll make my full bracket projections each week (or two) for the NCAAs, NIT, and CBI, and then report where the Pac falls on the list.

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Definitely Dancing: Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA are all locks at this point in the season. I have the Wildcats just a bit higher than most prognosticators at number four in the nation, as they have been one of the few consistently good teams that doesn’t have any bad losses (barely). In an interesting second round matchup, they square off with the best 16 seed, Charleston Southern. Of course, the two teams already met in the season opener, with CSU hanging around for a good portion of the game before fading quietly down the stretch.

Oregon is so much of a lock that it would basically have to lose each of its remaining games to miss the tournament. It may be hanging onto a four seed by a thread, but good wins over the likes of UNLV, Arizona, and UCLA give them the nod over any bubble team if it ever came down to that. I currently have the Ducks matching up against a mildly dangerous Louisiana Tech squad at 13. The Bulldogs have a nearly impeccable 20-3 record, but the schedule has been fairly soft.

UCLA’s recent two game skid has made things much more interesting for the Bruins, but this year’s bubble is so soft that they are fine for now. That’s in part due to their Top 50 RPI standing and good wins against Indiana State, Missouri, Colorado, and Arizona. However, the recent struggles don’t go unpunished. Dropping down to a low eight seed means as challenging a tournament opener as you’re going to get, and that comes in the form of a 19-4 Colorado State team.

Bubble In: Colorado and Arizona State are the other two Pac-12 teams I see making the field of 68, but both will likely be sweating bullets come Selection Sunday. The 15-7 Buffaloes are actually seeded pretty high considering their record, due in part to a Top 25 RPI that’s keeping Tad Boyle and company on the good side of the bubble. There are five remaining key games on CU’s slate (home against  Arizona, Arizona State, and Oregon, at the Bay Area schools), and if the Buffs come out on the good side of three of them they should be a lock for the Big Dance.

Arizona State is on even thinner ice. The Sun Devils are the final team in my rankings before the dangerous 12’s begin, and while their record (17-5) is much better than Colorado’s, an SOS of 110 is holding them down badly. Regardless of where they land in the field, this ASU team will be a sneaky bunch come tournament time. A meeting with head coach Herb Sendek’s former school in the opener would be quite a sight, and a chance for the Pac-12 to get some major recognition on a national level.

Freshman Point Guard Jahii Carson Has Led Arizona State From The Bottom Of The Pac To The NCAA Bubble (credit: Zach Long)

Freshman Point Guard Jahii Carson Has Led Arizona State From The Bottom Of The Pac To The NCAA Bubble (credit: Zach Long)

NIT Locks: Washington is the next team up for the Pac-12, and while its recent poor play means the Huskies won’t be in any NCAA bubble discussion, an NIT lock is definite. The Huskies currently sit at an uninspiring 13-10, but they have been in most every game they’ve played (only two losses were by double digits, and the last three were all by five points or less). Combine those factors with the fact that Alaska Airlines Arena typically draws well, and the Huskies made a run to the semifinals of the same tournament last season, I like Washington right now a solid four seed. That means they would host at least a first round game, and I have them playing an interesting Xavier squad in the opener.

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Marching to Vegas: Weighing a Pair of Midweek Upsets

Posted by AMurawa on February 1st, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Settling into my cubicle Thursday morning I was greeted by an instant message from my brain trust, Brad, “Which was the bigger win last night: USC or Stanford?” I will make no bones about this one; Stanford’s win was the bigger of the two. But it did get me to thinking about USC’s season and what it has and will become. Kevin O’Neill’s dismissal came at a truly strange time – as the team appeared to be turning either the cohesive group or easier schedule corner – indicative of the fact that Pat Haden has plans, big or otherwise, for that position.

The games themselves were solid, the respective performances impressive. From a strictly basketball perspective, Stanford may have been the best team in the nation Wednesday night. And with regards to magnitude of victory, it is my belief that Stanford’s win was the biggest. From an expectations standpoint, we thought the Cardinal would be doing this regularly. Their coach demands hard-nosed defense and their skill set – at least on an individual level – suggests an explosive offense. On Wednesday, they were exactly that, a perfect storm. They connected on their highest percentage of shots in a single game (52%) and held an opponent to the opposite, the lowest percentage of made baskets on their defensive season (34%). To say the Cardinal were due would be an understatement. And to acknowledge that the Cardinal were due is to recognize that their effort, while impressive and the best of the year, was not unexpected. Between Randle, Bright, Huestis, and Powell, Stanford can and should compete.

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

On the other hand, the Trojans marched into a “Blue Out” with specialty tops of their own and simply didn’t care to adhere to the guest policy. They handed the ball over 17 times and still won. Sure they shot a shade over their season average but this was a road, rivalry game with an interim staff. What business did the Trojans have even flirting with victory let alone controlling the game? I’ll refrain from going in on the Bruins here. So what do these wins mean? For Stanford, outscoring the Ducks represented an exorcising of the demons. My impression – if not hope – is that this represents a tipping point or springboard by which the Cardinal become the team they were meant to be. Returning NIT champs has got to mean more than a middling Pac-12 squad.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume III

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2013

Just about one-third of the way through our semester, Oregon is the favorite pupil, having earned all As in their exams. Join Professor Pac as we once again break down our class and see who’s joining the Ducks at the front of the class and who’s in the corner with the dunce cap.

Oregon – A

Before we give props to the Ducks for their 5-0 conference start and vault to the favorite position in the conference, let’s take a minute to mourn the loss of the full 18-game home-and-away round-robin of the Pac-10. You see, with UO’s win at UCLA this week and home win against Arizona last week, the Ducks have wrapped up this seasons’ meeting with those two teams. Neither the Wildcats nor the Bruins will get a chance for revenge, at least until and unless they meet up in Vegas come mid-March. But, that’s not the Ducks fault. No, they’ve done what they’ve needed to do early and they’ve set themselves up well. Now, they’ve still got more than two-thirds of the conference schedule remaining, but here are their remaining road games in conference play: Stanford, Cal, Washington, Washington State, Colorado and Utah. They’ll be favorites in all of those games, as well as all of their home games. Sure, there are probably a couple of losses in the mix there somewhere, but barring some significant slide that Dana Altman-coached teams are not known for, the Ducks are a heavy favorite to be the #1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

Focus on: Jonathan Loyd. Freshman point guard Dominic Artis is the rightful recipient of plenty of positive buzz regarding his play, but the diminutive junior backup deserves some credit for accepting his decreased minutes and filling his role. Sure, he can’t shoot a lick. And his turnovers are through the roof this season. But you can see that his defensive intensity has carried over to his freshman pupil and he always brings energy aplenty when he’s on the court. And, consider this: a 5’8” he swatted away a Larry Drew II fastbreak layup tattempt this weekend

Looking ahead: The Ducks host the Washington schools this week and Ken Pomeroy puts the chances that they win each game somewhere north of 85%. Beware the letdown, Ducks.

Arizona – A-

For three quarters of their battle with in-state rival Arizona State on Saturday, the ‘Cats had a battle on their hands, played basically to a draw. But over the last 10 minutes, a time that coincided almost exactly with Mark Lyons coming back in the game (and, with Lyons drawing the fourth foul on Jahii Carson), they outscored the Sun Devils by 15 and equaled the biggest defeat ASU has suffered this season. Over those ten minutes, Lyons repeatedly got to the hoop, scoring 12 points and handing out three assists in likely his best 10-minute stretch as the UA point guard. The problem is the previous 30 minutes, wherein Lyons had 12 points on 11 field goal attempts, zero assists and four turnovers. Sure, he’s one heck of a closer, but as the season ramps up come March, the ‘Cats will need a more complete performance.

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