One Game In: Doom and Gloom For the New Arizona?

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on February 7th, 2014

It was Arizona’s first night without Brandon Ashley. While the rest of these Wildcats have spent three months playing with each other, make no mistake — this is the equivalent of a brand new team out there. Minus Ashley, the overwhelming frontcourt advantage that Arizona sported has been lessened; the defensive philosophy has changed; the end-game scenarios now feature as many negatives as positives; and the whole chemistry of the team is different. Really, this is back to exhibition season for the Wildcats; these guys are starting all over.

The New Arizona Team is 1-0, But There Are Concerns (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

The New Arizona Team is 1-0, But There Are Concerns (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

First, while we originally thought guys like Jordin Mayes and Matt Korcheck would see increased roles, neither player took off his warm-ups against Oregon; rather, it was freshman Elliott Pitts who stepped in and played 12 generally solid minutes. Prior to last night, Pitts had played a grand total of six minutes in Pac-12 play: three in mop-up duty in a blowout over Arizona State, and then three more against Cal on Saturday night. His inclusion in the seven-man rotation signals a shift in style; where once this team was predicated on dominating the front line, now you’re going to see Arizona play more three-guard lineups. Pitts brings good energy and what looks like a confident three-point stroke, but at this point in his career, he’s a replacement-level player. Another ripple from the Ashley injury is that it appears Gabe York – a fine player, yes – will shift from a guy earning minute totals somewhere in the mid-teens to the mid-20s. Nothing against York at all, but he’s a significant step down from Ashley’s production. Both of these guys are going to improve and Arizona is going to get used to playing with them in their rotation, but basically it boils down to this: Brandon Ashley’s 28 minutes per game are going to be shifted to about 12 minutes per game for Pitts, maybe eight extra minutes for York, and then eight extra minutes split between Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon.

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Pac-12 Roundup: Week 12

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on February 5th, 2014

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the 12th week of Pac-12 basketball. 

Power Rankings (as voted upon by Connor Pelton, Andrew Murawa, and Adam Butler)

For the first time in more than a month, Arizona is no longer the unanimous number one team in our Power Rankings. Check the results below to see which team placed first, and the rest of the jumbled mess that is the Pac-12.

Cooke, left, and Roberto Nelson have led the Beavers to victory in four of their last five conference games. (Rockne Andrew Roll/RTC)

Cooke, left, and Roberto Nelson have led the Beavers to victory in four of their last five conference games. (Rockne Andrew Roll/RTC)

  1. Arizona (21-1, 4 Points)
  2. California (15-7, 5 Points)
  3. Stanford (14-7, 13 Points)
  4. Arizona State (16-6, 14 Points)
  5. UCLA (17-5, 15 Points)
  6. Colorado (16-6, 16 Points)
  7. Oregon State (13-8, 19 Points)
  8. Oregon (15-6, 25 Points)
  9. Utah (14-7, 26 Points)
  10. Washington State (9-12, 30 Points)
  11. Washington (13-9, 31 Points)
  12. USC (10-12, 35 Points)

Best Game – Arizona @ California: This was undoubtedly the best week of Pac-12 basketball in the 2013-14 campaign. The number one team in the country was nearly taken to overtime last Wednesday. UCLA hit a game-winning jumper with five seconds left at Oregon after winning a jump ball, then lost at Oregon State three days later. And oh yeah, three games actually DID go to overtime. And yet, none of those games rivaled Arizona vs. Cal on Saturday night. Neither team led by more than two possessions in the final 10 minutes, and on the Golden Bears’ bench, it was Justin Cobbs time. He scored the only Cal points in that period, including the fadeaway jumper with less than a second remaining that put his team up 60-58, sending the gold-out Haas Pavilion crowd into a premature court-rushing frenzy. The upset more than made up for California’s setback at USC two weeks ago, and gets them off the bubble for the moment. The Wildcats are now ranked second in the nation behind unbeaten Syracuse, but more important than losing the top spot and their undefeated record is the loss of sophomore forward Brandon Ashley. Ashley is gone for the season after breaking his right foot in Berkeley, and it will be interesting to see how the Wildcats’ offense performs without his services.

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode XI

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 5th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball.

Early Returns on Chris Collins Look Great

When former Duke associate head coach Chris Collins was hired at Northwestern this past spring, many felt it was only a matter of time before the local guy from Northbrook, Illinois, would build up the program to a level where it could achieve its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. After a 7-9 (0-3 Big Ten) start to the season, Collins and Northwestern have righted the ship with wins in five of their past seven games. Most impressive have been the three consecutive wins away from Evanston: at Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota. How have the Wildcats done it? Collins has done what any good coach would do — analyze the strengths and weaknesses of his team and implement a style of play that showcases the strengths while minimizing the weaknesses. Northwestern obviously does not have the same talent level as most other teams in the Big Ten so the way to win games is to slow it down, muck it up and play great defense in low possession games. And that is exactly what the Wildcats have done.

Chris Collins is starting to get it done in Evanston.

Chris Collins is starting to get it done in Evanston.

Collins has gotten this team to buy in defensively as Northwestern is currently ranked No. 10 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. In Big Ten play, the Wildcats lead the conference with a 44.6 percent defensive effective field goal percentage. Since allowing 93 points in a loss at Iowa on January 9, Northwestern has allowed only one opponent (also Iowa) to score more than 56 points in regulation time (Purdue scored 60 in a double-overtime loss to the Wildcats but posted just 46 points in regulation). Northwestern’s games in Big Ten play have averaged only 61.2 possessions with an average possession length of 20.4 seconds, both statistics ranking as the slowest in the Big Ten. Last year’s Northwestern team was dead last in defensive efficiency (in league play) under Bill Carmody which shows you how absolutely remarkable it is that Collins has gotten this group to defend at a high level in such a short period of time. While you never want to get ahead of yourself, at this point it would be a surprise if Northwestern doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament over the next five years when you also consider how well Collins is already doing on the recruiting trail.

Syracuse and Duke Exceeds the Hype

Syracuse’s thrilling overtime victory over Duke last Saturday was one of the best regular season college basketball games I can remember in quite some time. It had everything you would want in a big game: a terrific atmosphere with over 35,000 fans in attendance; two Hall of Fame coaches; league title implications (Syracuse entered the game at 7-0, Duke at 6-2); tons of talent on the floor; and an extremely high level of play. Consider this: Syracuse won an overtime game by two points on its home floor and posted an outrageously high offensive efficiency of 1.34 points per possession. It took that good of an offensive performance to stave off the Blue Devils, which posted 1.31 PPP themselves. It is going to be very difficult to top that game but I am very excited for the rematch at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 22. Duke and North Carolina will always be the best rivalry in the ACC and arguably in all of college basketball, but Duke and Syracuse appear to be on their way to another terrific rivalry in what has become a bloated ACC. This new rivalry has the potential to exceed what Duke and Maryland had going for some time as a secondary ACC rivalry now that Maryland will be moving on to the Big Ten next season.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 5th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. When sophomore forward Brandon Ashley went up for a rebound Saturday night in Berkeley, his right foot came down on one of David Kravish’s shoes. It was announced the next day that Ashley’s foot was broken, shaking up the national scene and leaving people wondering if the number one team in the country could withstand the devastating injury. Luke Winn breaks down just exactly what Arizona will be missing without the team’s third leading scorer and rebounder, giving us a taste of how limited its offense will be without him. It will be interesting to see how the Wildcats perform this week at home against two of the worst defenses in the conference in Oregon and Oregon State.
  2. Daniel Evans released his latest bracket projections after the completion of last weekend’s games, and he notes that the Ashley-less Wildcats will be evaluated as a new team from this point on by the committee. Evans has UCLA moving up despite its loss to Oregon State on Sunday, reasoning that while the Pac-12 is perceived weak outside of the Wildcats and Bruins, there are still plenty of tournament-caliber towards the bottom of the bracket. Beyond Arizona and UCLA on the one and five lines, there’s California listed as a #8 seed after its upset of the Cats and Stanford as a #11. Arizona State and Colorado are both on the bubble but listed as IN at the moment, drawing intriguing First Four opponents LSU and SMU in Evans’ bracket. Oregon, which started the season 13-0, has now fallen completely out of the field of 68, but is named the “first team out”. Also published on Monday was John Templon‘s NIT projections. Templon has the Ducks in the NCAA’s, so they do not appear, but the Pac-12 is represented by Washington (a two seed) and Oregon State (a seven).
  3. While a rebuilding Utah program would be fine with an invitation to the nation’s second tier tournament, this Block U piece explains why the NCAA Tournament would be the most likely destination for the Utes. If Larry Krystkowiak‘s team is to make any postseason function above the CBI, they’ll need to nearly run the table at home and pick up at least a couple of wins away from Salt Lake City, a task that has proven nearly impossible in the first three months of the season. But as the article details, accomplishing those feats could put Utah on the NCAA bubble, bypassing the NIT completely. First things first, however, it needs to take care of business this week against the Washington schools at the Huntsman Center. Dropping a game, combined with its awful road record and low RPI, will put its longshot dancing hopes to rest.
  4. After playing four straight Sunday games to open Pac-12 play, Oregon head coach Dana Altman expressed his frustration with the conference’s scheduling in a recent interview with The Oregonian. No other Pac-12 team will have to play that many consecutive Sunday games this season, and Altman finds it unfair to both his fans’ schedules and his team’s, as the Ducks get one less day to prepare for their Wednesday or Thursday opener. In order to have all of its games televised by either the Pac-12 Networks, Fox Sports 1, or the ESPN family of networks, the Pac-12 has adopted a more flexible schedule than in year’s past, playing league games on each day of the week except for Monday and Friday. And while playing too many Sunday games is definitely an inconvenience for Oregon, we haven’t heard Utah complain about its Wednesday/Sunday road trip to Seattle and Pullman or Arizona State’s Tuesday/Saturday trip to Eugene and Corvallis.
  5. Sticking with the Ducks, junior guard Joseph Young is working his way out of a shooting slump after having as hot a start as anyone out west. Young scored in double figures in each of Oregon’s first 12 games, including a 36 point performance against Western Carolina, and a 25 point outing against BYU. But ever since conference play began, the shooting guard has battled bouts of inconsistency, with the low point coming in 1-7 performance from the field against Stanford. It sounds as if all he needed was a little quality time back in the gym to get right again, however. That, and trusting his stroke, led to a 25 point game against UCLA last week, and may spark a shot at an upset or two in the desert this weekend.
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Pac-12 Weekend Round-Up: Arizona, Justin Cobbs, Hallice Cooke and More…

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 3rd, 2014

What a great sports weekend, am I right? There were 10 Pac-12 basketball games since last Wednesday and eight of them were decided by two possessions or fewer. The #1 team in the nation went down. Outside of the Pac-12, the #2 team survived by the skin of its teeth in overtime. Wichita State and San Diego State continued highly successful (and improbable) seasons. I’m sure there were even some sporting events that didn’t involve basketball, too. Maybe. But before we let the weekend get behind us, let’s spend some time to look back at several of the important things we learned in this week of Pac-12 basketball. Because if you hold a blink a beat too long, the next time you open your eyes, we’re going to be in the middle of conference tournaments. Yes, this season is getting away from us. It’s now February, and every conference school has finished half of its conference slate. And despite all that, we’ve still got more questions than ever.

Brandon Ashley Is Done For the Year, But Arizona Still Has Plenty Of Talent (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Brandon Ashley Is Done For the Year, But Arizona Still Has Plenty Of Talent (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

  • First, Arizona. The Wildcats took their first loss on Saturday night to Cal (and in the process assured that the 1972-73 UCLA squad will remain the last team to go through conference play without a loss), then took an even worse loss on Sunday when it was confirmed that sophomore power forward Brandon Ashley is done for the season with a broken foot. That doesn’t make things any rosier for the Wildcats’ long-term outlook, but there were more than a handful of things from Saturday night’s game that should give Arizona fans plenty of hope. First, as much as junior point guard T.J. McConnell has earned props for his ability to run an offense, contribute defensively and just intangible his way into Arizona fans’ hearts, he hadn’t displayed much of an ability to help out by putting the ball through the hoop. But in a couple of close recent games, he averaged 12 points per night and showed a willingness to get his own when it was appropriate. Hopefully fans across the nation are starting to see just how good this guy is. He’s like Aaron Craft-lite with perhaps a bit more offense. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 02.03.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 3rd, 2014

morning5

  1. Saturday was full of great college basketball action with plenty of upsets and late-game heroics, but the biggest event of the day was Brandon Ashley injuring his foot in a loss to Cal. X-rays in Tucson on Sunday confirmed Arizona’s worst fears as Ashley had suffered a fracture and will be out for the remainder of the season. As Andrew Murawa noted before Arizona officially announced Ashley’s injury, the Wildcats are equipped to deal with Ashley’s absence, but it is unquestionably a big loss for them. Arizona has the two Oregon schools visiting them this week in Tucson so we should get a better idea of where they stand within a week.
  2. In one of the more surprising results on Saturday, Oklahoma State lost at home to Baylor, but their bigger loss may have come later that night after freshman backup point guard Stevie Clark was arrested for “outraging public decency.” If you are unfamiliar with that phrase apparently it means that Clark was urinating out the window of a vehicle. This is the second arrest for Clark in a month as he was arrested on New Year’s Day for possession of marijuana and also was suspended in November for a violation of team rules. Oklahoma State has not released an official comment on this yet, but we would suspect that Clark will be sitting for a while.
  3. Harvard still has a chance at making this a historic season with a NCAA Tournament run, but those odds appear to be getting longer. Kenyatta Smith, who was expected to be their top interior player, is out for the season after fracturing his right foot. This is the same foot that had a hairline fracture that made Smith miss the first 17 games of the season before he came back to play two minutes against Dartmouth before breaking a bone in practice the next day. Since the Crimson had already played most of the season without him they will not necessarily need to make any major adjustments, but Smith’s absence does lower their ceiling considerably.
  4. After a promising start to the season the wheels have come off in Little Rock as Arkansas is starting to fall apart. Having lost four of their past five and six of their past eight, the school announced that they had suspended Michael Qualls and Alandise Harris indefinitely. Given the contributions of Qualls (11.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game) and Harris (9.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game) this is a huge loss for a team in free fall even with their relatively weak SEC schedule (yes, we know that is redundant). The school has not offered much information on why they were suspended outside of the usual PR release so there is a chance that the suspensions will only last for a relatively short period of time.
  5. When teams make deep NCAA Tournament runs we always hear about the financial windfall the school gets with the increased application rates. According to Forbes that was not the case for Wichita State at least in the short term as the school lost money last season from their NCAA Tournament run. The school will almost definitely make more money as the result of this a few years down the road (assuming they make reasonable financial decisions), but it is interesting to see some of the short-term predicaments that smaller programs can find themselves in.
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Brandon Ashley’s Foot Injury and the Long-Term Impact on Arizona

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 2nd, 2014

Arizona lost late Saturday night at California; you probably know that by now. With Syracuse’s win over Duke that kept the Orange undefeated, the Wildcats will likely drop out of the top spot in the national polls for the first time in months (a move which is fated even if it isn’t necessarily mandatory – we’ll get to this point briefly at the bottom of the post). But a single tough road conference loss on the first weekend in February is absolutely nothing to worry about. What is very much something to worry about is the fact that the Wildcats played the final 38 minutes of that game on Saturday night without Brandon Ashley. According to postgame comments by head coach Sean Miller, Ashley landed awkwardly on his foot and things do not look good. Expectations are that x-rays will reveal it is broken, with the severity of the break the only difference between Ashley certainly being done for the year or possibly back in action at less than 100 percent sometime in March. Much like Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury last month, this sucks.

Official Word Is Still Pending, But Brandon Ashley May Be Done For the Year

Official Word Is Still Pending, But Brandon Ashley May Be Done For the Year

Ashley is the team’s third-leading scorer and rebounder, the starting forward who, down the stretch of tight games, has proven himself to be the team’s second-best option to get hoops. He can score in and around the paint; he can step out and hit the mid-range jumper; he’s a good and willing passer; he’s a load on the screen-and-roll or pick-and-pop; and he’s good at drawing fouls and a capable shooter once there, stroking better than 75 percent from the line. And all of that is without even getting into his defense. His long arms and quick feet help Arizona switch on just about everything; he can bang with big guys down low or harass wings on the perimeter. In short, this is not the type of guy you can replace on the fly in the middle of the season. And given the fact that Miller has more or less been rolling out a seven-man rotation all season, it’s not like there is experienced depth ready to slide into his spot.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.17.14 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. We’re now two and a half weeks into conference play (my god, these seasons fly by don’t they) and California is inarguably the hottest team in the conference, out to a 4-0 start in league play with three of those wins coming on the road. And our friend Adam Butler of Pachoops.com points to senior big man Richard Solomon’s increased efficiency as a key for the Golden Bears’ emergence. He’s even got a pretty little chart correlating Solomon’s shots at the rim with his offensive efficiency over the past three seasons. And while Solomon is surely improved, some credit has to go to his fellow senior – point guard Justin Cobbs – for putting more emphasis on finding Solomon at the rim as opposed to his primary target last season, Allen Crabbe on the wing. Either way, there is more than enough credit to go around up in Berkeley (more evidence – check out John McLamb’s praise for the Cal bench in the comments section) and with Washington State on tap this weekend, and a road trip to USC next Wednesday, there is every reason to believe the Bears will be 6-0 when they play at UCLA next Sunday. Drool…
  2. Across the bay, Stanford may be starting to play some good ball. After squeezing by Oregon in a well-played game last weekend, the Cardinal returned home and laid a hurting on an overmatched Washington State team on Wednesday night. Which is good, because that’s the type of thing this team should be doing. They had four guys in double-figures (with leading scorer Chasson Randle playing distributor) on their way to a 32-point win, but need to prove they’re capable of stringing together victories in the multiple before they’re really taken seriously. Nevertheless, they’ve found their way into NCAA Tournament conversations, sneaking into Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracket as one of the last four teams in.
  3. Oregon and Oregon State will get it on Sunday afternoon while most of the rest of the country will be focusing in on an NFL Playoff game. But if you’re interested in excitement, minus all that pesky defense that just gets in the way, this might be your game. As Andrew Greif of The Oregonian points out, according to Sports-Reference.com (and we’ll have to take Greif’s word for this as I am not double-checking his facts), seven of the 20 worst Pac-12 defenders over the last four seasons will be playing in this game. Names like Jonathan Loyd, Roberto Nelson, Jason Calliste, Challe Barton and Angus Brandt are no surprise – Loyd’s height makes him a liability; the next three are completely uninterested in defense; and Brandt has all the mobility of a statue. But first and third on that bottom 20 list are OSU freshman Malcolm Duvivier and sophomore Langston Morris-Walker. This is a crime. Neither of those guys has any right to be on such a list unless they just aren’t trying. In which case, neither of those guys brings enough to the table offensively to deserve a crack at the court.
  4. In advance of the bouncyball version of the Civil War, Craig Robinson took the time to offer some pointed comments regarding the current state of NCAA transfer rules. Robinson called the rules unfair to smaller schools and passive-aggressively commented about how he didn’t know how to “go out and poach guys when you really aren’t supposed to be able to talk to them.” Given Dana Altman’s success with transfers down the way in Eugene, clearly such comments can’t be taken as anything other than a direct reference to the Ducks. Altman, of course, defended his program, saying that all of the senior transfers who have wound up choosing Oregon have done so after those players had first initiated the contact with the school.
  5. Lastly, Doug Haller’s Pac-12 Insider column at AZCentral.com is one of the best things covering the conference. This week, he looks at the opportunities for Arizona high school players Jaron Hopkins and Que Johnson to step up in place of injured starters, and also points out that Aaron Gordon, per hoop-math.com, leads the Pac-12 in putbacks. Want to know how dominant the Arizona front line is on the offensive glass? Gordon’s teammate Brandon Ashley is third in the conference with 23 himself. Put it this way (bonus analysis!): Gordon and Ashley between them have more putbacks than more than 160 Division I teams, including Utah (50), Stanford (46), Oregon State (43), and Arizona State (34). For what it’s worth, Kansas, a team with comparable size and athleticism to Arizona, has a total of 37 putbacks. For the entire team, the Wildcats have a total of 84 putbacks!
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Thoughts on Arizona’s Big Road Win at UCLA

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 10th, 2014

This is the early conference game that both Arizona and UCLA fans had likely been looking forward to for a couple weeks. It’s the biggest historic rivalry in the conference and it was Arizona’s first road test in Pac-12 play . But really, as people were imagining what this game would look like, this is probably not what they foresaw. UCLA holding its own on the glass, despite almost no help from its pair of senior frontcourt starters? Arizona the team with the deadly outside shooting? Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams struggling, yet the Bruins keeping this close for 40 minutes? Let’s look at each of those things below.

Gabe York's Perimeter Shooting Was a Big Key For Arizona On Thursday Night (Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

Gabe York’s Perimeter Shooting Was a Big Key For Arizona On Thursday Night (Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

  • The Wildcats came into the game eighth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and 13th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, while UCLA is a middling rebounding team with a ton of question marks up front. Therefore the expectation was that Arizona would dominate the glass. While the Cats did make some hay on the offensive boards and wound up dominating the interior on the offensive end (Arizona outscored UCLA 42-22 in the paint), UCLA stayed in the game in large part because it was able to create second chance opportunities of its own. This was a surprise even to Arizona head coach Sean Miller, who pointed to that as one of the keys of the game by saying “They really hurt us on the offensive glass. That was a surprise to us, because we’ve done very well there, and isn’t necessarily a strength of theirs but last night it was. If we had done a better job defensive rebounding, the game wouldn’t have come down to the final plays. One of the reasons that they were in it was because of the number of second shots they got.” Even more surprising, the Bruins did their damage on the glass without much of a contribution from the Wear twins, who combined to grab just four total boards. Read the rest of this entry »
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Takeaways From the Pac-12′s Weekend Games

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 7th, 2014

It was a busy Pac-12 weekend around the conference. Here are some thoughts on each of the weekend’s five games.

Colorado 100, Oregon 91

  • It was a game that largely lived up to the hype, with both teams looking good for long stretches. But over the last 10 minutes of the game, it was – get this – Colorado’s guard play that was the deciding factor in the game. It was supposed to be the undefeated Ducks with the bevy of play-making guards that had the advantage on the perimeter, while the Buffaloes were going to need to take advantage of a weak Oregon frontcourt in order to win this game at home. Instead, over the final quarter of the game, Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 25 of Colorado’s 39 points, sophomore guard Xavier Talton chipped in six more, and Jaron Hopkins was the guy to get everything started with a three off a Dinwiddie dime. All told, the five Colorado guards outscored Oregon’s by a total of 66-52.

    Askia Booker, Colorado

    Big Game Askia? Who Knew? (Patrick Ghidossi, BuffaloSportsNews)

  • Meanwhile up front the Ducks were just okay against that tough Colorado frontcourt. On the offensive end, they were great, grabbing better than 41 percent of their own misses and getting a terrific 24-point performance out of Mike Moser. But the bigger concern is their ability to defend on the interior, and here they were exposed a bit, allowing Colorado to grab better than 46 percent of their misses, leading to lots of easy putbacks for the Buffs. Oregon’s guards are going to keep them in a lot of games, but they need to clean up their frontcourt issues in order to reach their potential.
  • For some of the surprises in this game, the most expected angle proved completely true: Colorado is going to be really, really tough at home. With a strong seven-man rotation plus a couple other guys ready to provide spot minutes, the Buffs are deep, athletic, big, strong and – most importantly – good. And the Coors Events Center is a great homecourt advatange. KenPom.com has the Buffs expected to win their next six games at home by an average of just under 10 points per game, but that only takes us to February 22 when they’ll host Arizona in their last home game of the season. Right now that KenPom projection is Arizona, 68-65, but in what could be Dinwiddie’s final home game, the early inclination is to lean Buffs. Not that trying to project a game seven weeks out is good practice.

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Pac-12 Non-Conference Superlatives

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton128) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 1st, 2014

As part of the conclusion of the non-conference slate, it’s time for Connor and Drew to recognize some of the Pac-12 highlights through nearly two months of the regular season. We’ll cover all the basics: Player of the Year; Coach of the Year; Freshman of the Year; an all-conference team to this point; as well as the biggest surprises and disappointments. And we’ll give you our rationale on each. So let’s get right to it, and let us know where you disagree.

Player of the Year – There’s still a lot of hoop left, so we’ll each give you our current top three picks in this category and some reasons why.

Connor’s Picks:

  1. Joseph Young. Young has been the cornerstone of Oregon’s offense, scoring in double figures in each game and acting as the guy to lift them whenever they hit a scoring lull.
  2. Roberto Nelson. The conference’s leading scorer has put up at least 17 points or more in each game the Beavers have played, save the contest against Towson in which he was ejected for attempting to throw a punch eight minutes into the contest.
  3. Jahii Carson. Jahiisus, who just might be the quickest point guard in the country, steps up whenever he is called upon for Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils. Whether it’s been a 40-point performance at UNLV or a 23-point showing to beat nationally-ranked Marquette, no stage is too big for the super sophomore.
Oregon's Junior Transfer Joseph Young Top's Both Of Our Voters' Picks For The Player of the Year Leader At The Halfway Mark (AP Photo)

Oregon’s Junior Transfer Joseph Young Top’s Both Of Our Voters’ Picks For The Player of the Year Leader At The Halfway Mark (AP Photo)

Drew’s Picks:

  1. Joseph Young. Might as well make it unanimous. While Young has had plenty of help in Eugene, he’s been the best offensive player on a team chock-full of them.
  2. Jahii Carson. Expectations were high enough for Carson coming into the year so that his 19.3 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.9 RPG and 51.4 percent three-point shooting are seen as almost a disappointment. Which is ridiculous. Expect him to be a big part of the Pac-12 POY conversation when all is said and done.
  3. Delon Wright. He’s come out of nowhere and hasn’t exactly played against great competition, but his production has been fantastic across the board. If he can keep this up, he’ll be in contention for this award come March.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.20.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 20th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. UCLA got its big chance on the national stage on Thursday night against Duke at Cameron Square Garden, and the Bruins looked real good for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, those minutes were non-consecutive, and, of course, a college basketball game is still 40 minutes of play. In the end, it was a 17-point win for Duke, another feather in the cap of freshman Jabari Parker on his way to a Player of the Year candidacy, and another opportunity for skeptical Bruins’ fans to distrust the Steve Alford era. UCLA has now struck out in its only two games of national interest in its weak non-conference schedule, and has shown a concerning tendency to lose focus for short stretches of time that ends up costing them.
  2. Steve Alford spoke with CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein prior to UCLA’s game with Duke and addressed, among other things, the comments proffered by cross-town rival Andy Enfield earlier in the year. Alford wouldn’t get as explicit as Enfield got in his discussion of it, but his “one side can talk; the other side will do what we do” comment goes a long way towards reinforcing what has become the popular theme in the rivalry: USC will talk, UCLA will act.
  3. Speaking of USC, after needing every minute on Sunday night to put away Cal State Bakersfield, the Trojans ran into another Cal State school on Thursday night with a bit more talent and couldn’t make up for another uninspired effort. Pe’Shon Howard led the Trojans with 19 points, but took 13 of his 14 field goal attempts from three-point range, including a wayward bomb on SC’s final half-court possession when the team was only down a point. But Howard isn’t the only Trojan who deserves criticism, as junior Byron Wesley was benched for the first 11 minutes of the first half due to a “coach’s decision” and didn’t score his only basket of the night until there were fewer than four minutes left in the game. It was Wesley’s first game under double-figures this year and likely the worst game in his USC career.
  4. So, um. Hmmm. I don’t often read Eamonn Brennan at ESPN.com, but what he wrote on Thursday caught my eye. Apparently, this dude spends a column per week predicting who is at the top of the list for the Wooden Award; you know, the best player in the nation. This week he’s got Arizona’s Aaron Gordon atop that list. Now, I’ve read a lot of dumb things on the Internet (and believe me, I know dumb, because I’ve read Bruins Nation twice today – shudder), but that one takes that cake. I like Gordon a lot and he’s been a great glue guy for the nation’s top-ranked team. But the Wooden Award? I don’t know if Arizona has any name for the award it hands out to its MVP at the end of the year (the Elliott Award?), but if the school were to hand out that award tonight, there are at least two guys (Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley) who would be ahead of Gordon for that honor. Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen even includes T.J. McConnell ahead of Gordon at this point. None of this should be taken as a strike against Gordon, who has been great on a team that has gotten production for all seven players in its seven-man rotation, but how can Gordon be in the lead for the best player in the nation when he clearly hasn’t even been the best player on his team?
  5. Lastly, Oregon was already a deep team in its first nine game of the season, with eight players averaging better than 13 minutes per game. But with Dominic Artis and Ben Carter now back and hungry for some run, how will head coach Dana Altman fold those players back into an already successful rotation? Early reports are that Altman plans to use his team’s depth to its advantage. Eleven guys played at least eight minutes in the Ducks’ recent game against UC Irvine and the coach mentioned afterward that with the added depth he hopes to see his team continue to extend its defensive pressure and up the tempo. While point guard Jonathan Loyd has been excellent this year for the Ducks, Artis in particular will significantly improve Oregon’s ability to apply great defensive pressure.
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