Pac-12 M5: 01.16.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 16th, 2014

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  1. After a dust-up last week where NBA scouts were complaining about the seats that UCLA gave them for the battle between the Bruins and Arizona, Draft Express did a poll of NBA scouts to see which schools treated them the best (i.e., gave them good seats and maybe a meal) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, UCLA was atop the heap of the schools that got negative comments. The whole article is really pointed at UCLA: You spend a ton of space in your media guides promoting your former players who are making it big at the next level, but you’re not rolling out the red carpet for the scouts and executive who determine the worth of the next round of NBA prospects. We’re not going to spend a ton of time on this, but doesn’t this whole thing seem a bit absurd? For instance, in some cases where the NBA scouts got seats that didn’t meet their needs, they had to (gasp!) ask  their multi-hundred-million dollar organizations to go onto StubHub and purchase them better tickets. The horror! Even at Arizona, which was among the schools most often mentioned as being good to NBA scouts, somebody had the temerity to complain about the price of the great seats they were given, prices which were likely considerably lower than the amount that could have been charged for those seats. In other words, forgive me if I don’t join this particular hunger strike.
  2. We posted yesterday about the Spencer Dinwiddie injury (too long; didn’t read: it sucks), but that knee injury wasn’t the only one to befall a Colorado player in Seattle on Sunday. Freshman wing Tre’Shaun Fletcher also tweaked a knee in that game, and although he returned to action after the injury, it was later determined that this injury will require surgery, costing Fletcher the next six-to-eight weeks. While this injury is not an ACL injury, it is damaging to the team as Fletcher certainly would have been due for a bump in minutes without Dinwiddie in the lineup.
  3. After ripping off 13 straight wins to start the season, Oregon is now riding a three-game losing streak, with a pair of those losses coming at home. Luckily, the Ducks now have a week where they can focus on just one game — their road trip to face Oregon State in Corvallis on Sunday. Confidence may be dipping, but head coach Dana Altman recalled the last time the Ducks went through a multi-game losing streak: the final two games of last season when they lost on the road to Colorado and Utah. What happened next? The Ducks went to Las Vegas, won the Pac-12 Tournament, and then advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. In other words, it would be very unwise to count out these Ducks in mid-January.
  4. We’ve got another big intrastate rivalry game this week to check out as Arizona State travels to Arizona tonight. Herb Sendek was asked about trying to compete against a team that is recruiting on the elite level that the Wildcats are doing right now. And, not surprisingly, he called it a challenge, noting that what they’re doing is “absolutely astonishing” and “almost unprecedented.” Put it this way; as Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com notes, of the seven players in the rotation at Arizona, five were five-star recruits coming out of high school, while a sixth was a four-star recruit. By comparison, Jahii Carson is the only Sun Devils’ recruit to earn more than three stars coming out of high school.
  5. Lastly, Utah drew rave reviews in its first weekend of conference play, taking Oregon to the wire on opening night before beating Oregon State. But last weekend on their first road trip to the Washington schools, their offense took a major step back. Tonight, as they host USC, goal number one for Larry Krystkowiak and company is to compete better on the offensive end of the court, including getting out in transition more often, something their Trojans’ opponents probably want as well. With talented offensive players like Delon Wright, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor, this shouldn’t be a problem.
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Larry Krystkowiak: Great Coach With Some Head-Scratching Late-Game Decisions

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 3rd, 2014

First things first: the job Larry Krystkowiak has done at Utah has been absolutely remarkable. This team had by far the worst assemblage (or lack thereof) of talent in major conference basketball just a couple years back. He’s scrambled to remake this roster from the smoking ruins that his predecessor Jim Boylen left behind, and he has done a terrific job, so much so that this year (and well ahead of schedule) he’s got his Utes not just very competitive but fun to watch. With a roster that will likely return its most valuable players and with more talent due in the Huntsman Center next year (and likely beyond that), the future that Krystkowiak is constructing in Salt Lake City is bright indeed. What’s more, he’s a terrific coach who gets the most out of the talent that he’s cobbled together and he’s a great game-planner. Fill in whatever other compliments you would like to heap on Krystkowiak here – he’s a fine dresser; his breath probably smells like peaches and his hair like roses; he’s a crime-stopping, upstanding citizen – yes, all this and more is probably true.

I Dunno Coach, I Just Don't Know (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

I dunno coach, I just don’t know (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

But, man, did he screw up the end of that game last night against Oregon. Twice.

Credit where credit is due: He kept his squad fighting when it looked like the Ducks were going to pull away, and he was right there with his team, scrapping and scraping to get his team in a position to take home a W in the conference opener. But, let’s start in regulation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Penn State Proving It’s More Than a Two-Man Show

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 29th, 2013

With its win Tuesday night, Penn State upped its record on the young season to 5-1. As they head into their weekend mini-tournament in Brooklyn tonight, they will be tested by the likes of St. John’s and either Ole Miss or Georgia Tech. These are all “power conference” teams, but they are all beatable. If the Nittany Lions want to continue the roll that they’ve gotten on this season, they will need to continue to get contributions from their starting frontcourt. Players like Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor, and Donovon Jack are not household names outside of State College, but they have all been huge factors in the team’s play as of late.

Brandon Taylor has gotten off to a hot shooting start for Penn State thus far (Jesse Johnson, USA Today).

Brandon Taylor has gotten off to a hot shooting start for Penn State thus far (Jesse Johnson, USA Today).

In its victory over La Salle, Penn State had all five starters in double figures. With a pass-first type of point guard getting them great looks with his dishing prowess, Taylor, Jack, and Travis have shown they can take advantage and hit shots. While none of these three is very physically imposing, they all have certain useful skill sets that they’ve displayed in the early going. Travis is a banger and a slasher, leading the team in rebounds at a 7.3 RPG clip. He has a nice mid-range game and can get to the basket, but his main role is that of someone to do a lot of the heavy lifting on the boards. Taylor went for 25 points in the team’s lopsided win against Longwood, mostly on the strength of his 5-of-9 shooting from deep. He too showed in that game and in others that he can knock down an open shot from mid-range, and displays athleticism and length defensively. Taylor is 11th in the B1G in block rate (5.78%) going into Brooklyn, and has a high of four in one game. Jack has a season high of 18 points, and while he tends to get pushed around a some in the low block, he works well in a high pick-and-roll situation with Frazier. Jack has also become a big fan of taking three-pointers from the top of the key, which will at times bring a center or power forward away from the basket and allow the others to crash the offensive boards.

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Big Ten M5: 11.21.13 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 21st, 2013

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  1. Thad Matta thought he had a team that could play spectacular defense this year, and holding Marquette to 35 points on Saturday certainly proved it will be this team’s strength. What may be scary, though, is some Ohio State players think it can get better. Shannon Scott told reporters he would rank it “as an A playing that game (against Marquette). If we get to A-plus, we can beat all the best teams out there.” With his veteran squad, led by the well-known defensive stalwart Aaron Craft, Matta has players that know how to rotate and play help defense. Even with an offense that is still shaky (the 52 points against Marquette and 63 against American last night indicate that), if the Buckeyes can get to an “A-plus” level it may not matter.
  2. Mitch McGary is still working his way back and John Beilein plans to continue to ease him back into games. After playing 22 minutes in Michigan’s loss against Iowa State over the weekend, McGary will likely come off the bench in the Wolverines first game at the Puerto Rico Tip-off against Long Beach State today. His play is needed for Michigan to reach similar heights as it did last season, but as Beilein indicated in the article, it could take up to a month before McGary is completely back up to speed with conditioning and feeling comfortable with everyone on the court. The quicker that happens, the better for Michigan.
  3. Everyone is talking about Wisconsin’s scoring output this season (even if Bo Ryan and the Badgers players indicated before the season the team will be playing faster) and it’s 103-point game with Frank Kaminsky setting the single-game scoring record with 43 points. What’s been overlooked in the Badgers getting more baskets, though, is how this team has been giving up more as well. North Dakota shot 54.5 percent as it scored 83 points against Wisconsin. It may not be a huge issue for Wisconsin if it can continue to score at this rate, but North Dakota had players getting dribble penetration and hitting 3-pointers. Part of the issue could be inexperience on the inside and go away with time, but for a team that has been known for slow play and defense under Ryan, it certainly seems like an issue that could manifest itself later.
  4. It hasn’t always been easy for Purdue this season like it was last night in its 83-55 win over Eastern Illinois. That isn’t necessarily the worst thing according to Matt Painter, who likes that his team has had to face some adversity in its 1-point win over Northern Kentucky and 4-point win over Rider. It has also helped him see how strong his entire line-up is in pressure situations. This experimentation with rotations and different player groups is helping Purdue to build some depth for later this year. With the new rules and fouls increasing so far, it certainly helps Purdue to have players like Jay Simpson, Bryson Scott, and Sterling Carter getting meaningful minutes now should they be called upon for large stretches during the Big Ten season.
  5. Everyone knew about Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill coming into this season for Penn State. Well, at least everyone following Big Ten basketball new of the Nittany Lions backcourt duo, but these two haven’t been the only ones scoring so far. As Penn State has gotten off to a 3-1 start, including a solid 79-72 win over A-10 competitor LaSalle, it has gotten contributions from multiple players on its roster. Donovon Jack, Ross Travis, and Brandon Taylor contributed more than half of the team’s points in the LaSalle win and are making sure Frazier and Newbill don’t have to carry this team. For Penn State to be competitive in the B1G it will need this trend to continue. Certainly Frazier will still be the go-to player, but a solid starting cast surrounding them could help pull Penn State from cellar-dweller to middle of the pack.
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Marching to Vegas: Who Will Break Out Along the Way?

Posted by AMurawa on November 7th, 2013

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas.

To date we’ve prognosticated on the known. We know that UCLA and USC have new coaches and that Mike Montgomery has a track record of winning almost regardless of the talent on his roster. It’s clear to us that Arizona has a very talented group because they’ve been talented in the past. Same goes for Oregon and its army of transfers. We can say that Washington has a good shooter in C.J. Wilcox because we’ve seen him shoot well. Through these good-as-known pieces we’ve come to conclusions on the inconclusive: preseason rankings, All-Conference Teams, Best This and Best That. But what about what we maybe don’t know? What of the unknown? Those elements of a season and team that we like to call “breakouts” (with apologies to puberty). First, let’s try to define what exactly that means; a difficult task considering it’s a subjective, predictive analysis we’re about to embark upon. A breakout player or team exceeds general expectations. Sure we can expect a sophomore to improve over his freshman season. But if he puts up 3.4/0.8/0.7 as a freshman and then 12.7/3.9/4.3 as a sophomore? Well then we can say that Russell Westbrook broke out. So which players across the conference have we seen glimpses of brilliance, flashes of genius, doses of effective?

Can We Just Go Ahead And Call The Biggest Pac-12 Breakout Player The "Westbrook"? (Lisa Blumenfeld, Getty Images)

Can We Just Go Ahead And Call The Biggest Pac-12 Breakout Player The “Westbrook”? (Lisa Blumenfeld, Getty Images)

When the Pac-12 Microsite brain trust threw out our list of five breakout players, the composite five resulted in – shocker – five sophomores (actually it was six as teammates Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson tied and David Wear received votes and was the only non sophomore on the list). Like the aforementioned Westbrook scenario, the following players fit pretty neatly into a familiar mold. This naturally makes sense as we have just a small sample size by which to judge them. Players often make their biggest statistical leap from freshman to sophomore year; having gained that ever precious “experience.” Here’s how our voting shook out along with their inaugural season outputs:

Player Points/rebounds/assists ORtg/Usage
Tyrone Wallace 7/4/3 88.5/19.3
Brandon Ashley 8/5/1 109.1/19.8
Brandon Taylor 7/2/2 98.1/20.8
Kyle Anderson 10/9/4 102.5/20
Josh Scott 10/6/1 114.3/20
Xavier Johnson 9/5/0 105.1/20.5
David Wear 7/5/1 104.5/17.2

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Pac-12 Team Preview: Utah Utes

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 24th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

Utah Utes

Strengths. Balance. The fact that it is hard to pin down one specific strength for this team should not be taken as a strike against the squad. As opposed to Utah teams in recent years, there are a lot of solid options here, and on both ends of the court. Sure, sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge is the kingpin here, an inside/outside threat who is just scratching the surface of his potential, but this Ute team has a lot of good things going for it. They have size, with the ability to start a frontline of a couple 6’10″ big guys alongside the 6’”7 Loveridge, and a 6’5″ man running the point. They have a healthy contingent of player capable of knocking down shots from three, alongside a group of players who will be most comfortable in the paint. And in the backcourt, they have a group of three players in particular – Delon Wright, Brandon Taylor, and Parker Van Dyke – who can mix and match between themselves at the two-guard spots. When all is said and done, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see maybe six players average better than eight points per game for Larry Krystkowiak.

Jordan Loveridge Is The Kingpin For An Undertalented Utah Squad

Jordan Loveridge Is The Kingpin For An Undertalented Utah Squad

Weaknesses. The biggest strike against this squad is inexperience. There isn’t a guy on this roster who has more than a single season of experience in a Ute uniform. Given the rampant roster turnover in Salt Lake City in recent years, this shouldn’t be a surprise, but it does limit the total upside from the program. On the plus side, there are quite a few older players on this team, either transfers or guys who have taken their LDS mission, meaning there are eight guys on the roster old than 20 – some of them significantly older.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.22.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 22nd, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Instead of an exhibition game or two, the USC‘s men’s and women’s teams announced yesterday they’ll be hosting the “Trojan Tipoff” on Sunday morning. The day will open with a FanFest, which includes a meet and greet with Trojan coaches and players, but the highlight will be the intrasquad scrimmages that come later in the day. It will be the first glance at the new-look Trojans, now under the guidance of uber-promoter Andy Enfield. Hopefully SC provides some type of streaming for the event for us out-of-towners interested to see how Dunk City looks on the west coast. The men’s team opens the season November 8 at Utah State, in a game to be televised by CBS Sports Network.
  2. Across town, the fallout continues from Enfield’s “If you want to play slow, go to UCLA” comment made last week. First year Bruins head coach Steve Alford issued another denial to the quote on Monday, pointing out that his teams at New Mexico were always first or second in scoring in the Mountain West. He also said that while there are no problems between he and the other new coach in Los Angeles, he understands that there is a rivalry between the schools. Before the session was over, however, Alford couldn’t resist getting a low-key shot in at the Trojans. “You look at history and tradition, UCLA and USC, there is quite a bit of difference there.”
  3. Some leftovers from Thursday’s Pac-12 Media Day, as Arizona Desert Swarm sat down with junior guard Nick Johnson recently. Johnson discusses playing in the backcourt with point guard T.J. McConnell, how he handles game-by-game expectations, and the Wildcats’ hidden shooting ability at the three and four spots, among other things. Johnson averaged 11.5 PPG for Arizona last season in over 30 MPG, and if the Wildcats are to live up to the expectations being put upon them in the preseason, he will need to contribute double figures again. Even more important will be his perimeter defense, which gave a huge lift to Arizona at times last season. His pressure and ability to get his team out on breaks energized things whenever the offense struggled. Johnson and the Cats will open regular season play against Cal Poly on November 8.
  4. This is the year that Larry Krystowiak will need to show some of the strides Utah has been making, this being his third year at the helm and the Utes’ third in the Pac-12. He thought that the best way to get started on that this offseason was to get in better shape, and the Deseret News reports that his team has more or less accomplished that. Post players Jordan Loveridge, Renan Lenz, and Marko Kovacevic have lost about 20 pounds each as Krystowiak is looking for more active players inside. As far as the guards go, Brandon Taylor and Parker Van Dyke are no longer two of the smallest players in the conference, with each gaining around 15 pounds over the summer. On the court, Krystowiak reports that the Utes are having “spirited and competitive” practices so far this fall. They will have their annual “Night with the Runnin’ Utes” on Wednesday evening of this week.
  5. Tad Boyle‘s Colorado team has developed a reputation as one of the best teams in the league at taking charges, and Boyle worries that the Buffaloes will be at a disadvantage this season with the NCAA’s new rules on how to interpret the violation. Bobby Dibler, the Pac-12′s new coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, broke down the guidelines at Media Day last week and said that he expects more blocks to be called this season. The modification states that once an offensive player has started an upward motion with the ball, the defender can not move into that player’s path or it will be a blocking foul. This is a welcome change after many players had became masters of sliding under a player already in mid-air to draw the charge. As probably expected, Boyle is not a big fan: “We’re going to have to adjust, but I don’t like the rule.”
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Pac-12 M5: 10.18.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 18th, 2013

  1. pac12_morning5Pac-12 Media Day is in the books, meaning, if nothing else, we’re another day closer to actual games. We’ll have some info in the coming days from there, but for this morning, Percy Allen of The Seattle Times has a rundown of the highlights of each speaker’s time in the spotlight. As for the media poll, there were no real surprises as Arizona received 21 of the 23 first-place votes while UCLA and Colorado each grabbed one on the way to second and third place, respectively. Oregon, California, and Stanford rounded out the upper half of the league, with Arizona State not far behind.
  2. In order for Arizona State to break into that upper-half of the league (they finished in a four-way tie for sixth last season), they’re going to need Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall to be a scoring threat on the wing. But unfortunately for Marshall and the Sun Devils, the senior has been sidelined with a case of coccidiodomycosis, or “Valley fever”, for the past week. With point guard Jahii Carson having previously missed some time with leg problems, what could be a dynamic backcourt duo for the Sun Devils have not had quite as much time to get used to each other as would have been ideal.
  3. While there is no doubt that Carson is the Sun Devils’ point guard and floor general, head coach Herb Sendek recently talked up the idea of junior forward Jonathan Gilling as the team’s quarterback because of his ability to get everybody on the floor operating in unison. While he’s not the kind of guy who is going to bring the ball up court or rack up a lot of assists, Gilling is a guy who, according to his coach, gets the most out of his ability while flying under the radar.
  4. Meanwhile, Utah’s backcourt is expected to take on an unconventional look this season, what with 6’5 junior college transfer Delon Wright expected to man the point, while much smaller sophomore Brandon Taylor is likely to play the shooting guard spot, despite his just 5’10 frame. In the offseason it was unknown exactly who would step up and take over the point guard spot for the Utes this year, but word is that Wright has looked impressive in his time in practice and is the heavy favorite to play the lead guard. Meanwhile Taylor, who spent his fair share of time as the lead guard last year for the Utes, has been one of the team’s best shooter and could be expected to make a bigger impact playing off of the ball.
  5. And, since we are back to doing our regular Morning Fives, now is the time of the year where Connor and I re-spark our regular weekly pick ‘em contest. So far this year (and you will have to take our word on this), Connor and I have battled it out elsewhere to the tune of a 40-12 record for myself and a 42-10 record for my opponent (although, in my defense, we would have been tied at 41-11 if Washington had completed their final drive at Stanford). With the UCLA/Stanford match-up clearly the game of the week, we will try to pick a score on that game, while just picking winners everywhere else. pickem_firstweek
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Utah on the Slow Road Back to Basketball Relevance

Posted by AMurawa on October 10th, 2013

If you’re strictly a fan of Pac-12 basketball, you may not know it, but Utah basketball has a long and storied tradition. There are the 36 regular season conference championships, 27 NCAA Tournament appearances, 15 Sweet Sixteens, four Final Fours and even the 1944 national championship. Names like Keith Van Horn, Andre Miller, Tom Chambers, Andrew Bogut and Mike Newlin have gone on to enjoy significant success in the NBA. The thing is, all of that occurred prior to the Utes accepting its membership in the Pac-12. Since they’ve been in our fair conference, the team has gone a combined 21-43 overall and 8-28 in conference play in two seasons. But, rest assured, Utah basketball will be back sooner rather than later.

You May Not Remember It, But Utah Has Quite A History Of Basketball Success (Getty Images)

You May Not Remember It, But Utah Has Quite A History Of Basketball Success (Getty Images)

The beginning of Larry Krystowiak’s reign as the head coach of the Utah basketball program coincides neatly with their inaugural season in the Pac-12, but unfortunately it also coincided with a need for a nearly complete roster overhaul. In the offseason before previous head coach Jim Boylen’s final season, four players (including names like Carlon Brown and Marshall Henderson) transferred out of the program. In the aftermath of the Boylen-to-Krystkowiak transition, seven more players left Salt Lake City. After Krystkowiak’s first season, six additional players transferred and still another headed off on an LDS mission. And this past offseason, continuing the trend, three more players alighted, all of whom had only played one year at Utah. What is left is a roster that has only one player who has been in the Utah program longer than a year. And that guy – 6’10″ redshirt sophomore Jeremy Olsen – has spent as many years away from the program on an LDS mission as he has in Salt Lake City.

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Utah Post-Mortem

Posted by PBaruh on April 26th, 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. Here’s a look at Utah.

What Went Right

After winning only three games in its inaugural 2011-12 Pac-12 season, Utah improved by finishing the season on a high note in beating both Oregon State and Oregon to go 5-13 in conference play. The Utes were still one of the worst teams in the Pac-12, but they upset Washington on the road and Colorado at home. They also scared Arizona twice as they lost to the Wildcats only by a combined seven points in the two contests. Utah found a player to build its team around with freshman Jordan Loveridge who averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game during the season. Jason Washburn had a successful senior campaign himself, averaging 11.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game too. When the Pac-12 Tournament came around, the Utes were lucky enough to face USC without DeWayne Dedmon and defeated the Trojans in the first round before landing the surprise of Vegas by upsetting Cal in the quarterfinals 79-69.

Utah has found something to build on with Jordan Loveridge

Utah has found a potential star with Jordan Loveridge.

What Went Wrong 

Utah had some troublesome losses in non-conference play against Sacramento State and Cal State Northridge and headed into the conference season overmatched. They lost five straight games to start off the Pac-12 and were a woeful 3-13 before beating Oregon and Oregon State. The Utes’ guard play was inconsistent; Glen Dean and Aaron Dotson, who were supposed to be two of the Utes’ best players this year, disappointed tremendously. Dotson sat out some of the season with a foot injury, but could never gain traction in Larry Krystkowiak’s rotation as he averaged 2.7 points in 17.3 minutes per game. Dean only scored 5.5 points per game in over 25 minutes a game — both guards are now leaving the school.

MVP

Jordan Loveridge was the Utes’ best and most valuable player this year. The 6’6″ freshman used his 230-pound frame to out-muscle smaller players and was a major part of Utah’s offense as he used 24.7 percent of the team’s possessions during the season. He played his best basketball down the stretch by tallying games of  17, 14, 15, and 20 points against Oregon State, Oregon, USC, and Cal, respectively. He logged the highest amount of minutes per game on the team at 31.7 MPG and despite only shooting 40 percent on twos, Loveridge was successful from behind the arc by shooting 36 percent and shot 76 percent from the free throw line.

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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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Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week Ten

Posted by AMurawa on January 21st, 2013

Here’s this week’s rendition of the Pac-12′s peak performers…

Team of the Week – Oregon

This week the Ducks flew south and swept through a tough Los Angeles-area road trip, extending their winning streak to seven, including a perfect 5-0 record in the Pac-12. Along the way, with wins over pre-conference favorites Arizona and UCLA in their back pockets and neither of those teams remaining on the schedule the rest of the way, Dana Altman’s team became the favorite to earn the regular season title and the top seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. Behind a pair of freshman guards who are playing beyond their years and a veteran frontcourt that is locking up the boards and providing some scoring punch, the Ducks as they stand right now are very much a complete team, but they’ve still got room for improvement – a scary thought for the rest of the conference.

Brandon Taylor's Big Week Makes Him The Surprise Winner of The Pac-12 Player of the Week (Elaine Thompson, AP)

Brandon Taylor’s Big Week Makes Him The Surprise Winner of The Pac-12 Player of the Week (Elaine Thompson, AP)

Player (and Newcomer) of the Week – Brandon Taylor, Utah

Not a name I expected to be writing in this space this season, there were questions when Taylor signed with the Utes this past offseason whether he was up to competing at the Pac-12 level. Those questions have been answered time and again this season, as Taylor has steadily earned more minutes from head coach Larry Krystkowiak, with this past week against the Washington schools being the high-water mark. Over the course of the two games (which Utah split), Taylor earned 56 total minutes, scored 32 points, handed out nine assists, snatched four steals, and knocked down six of his nine three-point attempts on the way to a 81.3% effective field goal rate for the week. It remains to be seen if Taylor can duplicate any of those numbers in the future, but if nothing else, the freshman has proven himself a trustworthy option off the bench if any of the Ute veterans run into injuries, foul trouble or prolonged slumps.

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