Pac-12 M5: 02.22.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 22nd, 2013

pac12_morning5

  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 M5: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 18th, 2012

pac12_morning5

  1. Yesterday was Monday, meaning a pair of new polls were released to lift fans from their post-weekend doldrums. Arizona was of course the highlight for Pac-12 fans, coming in at number four in the AP and fifth in the coaches poll. The argument could be made that there were four Mountain West teams better than the top Pac-12 team at most points in 2011-12, so that shows you just how far the top-tier of our conference has come in a year. The Wildcats are one of just seven undefeated teams ranked in the Top 25. The only other team without a loss is Wyoming, who comes in at #29 in the AP and #30 in the coaches.
  2. Washington State coach Ken Bone has reinstated sophomore guard Brett Kingma following a possession of marijuana arrest and subsequent suspension in late October. The Cougars could certainly use some assistance from Kingma, as DaVonte Lacy has been the only reliable scorer in the Coug backcourt. Kingma was a freshman at Oregon in the 2011-12 season, but transferred within the conference after playing just 9.8 MPG that season. He was arrested in the middle of preseason camp on possession of “several grams” of marijuana, as well as exhibiting the effects of consuming alcohol in a public place.
  3. After taking a 10-day break for Finals, Utah will return to the court tonight to face SMU. Head coach Larry Krystowiak and the Utes focused on a few different items during the layoff, with an emphasis coming in taking care of the ball and rebounding. They’ve turned the ball over at a clip of 14.4 miscues per game, including 17 in their odd, previous meeting with the Mustangs. SMU dropped Utah by a score of 62-55 in that one, but Krystowiak and company will have a chance to avenge the loss in a conference play-like second game of a home-and-home.
  4. UCLA got a nice surprise on Monday morning when former Bruin great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke to the team during its shootaround. Coach Ben Howland asked the all-time scoring leader in the NBA to speak to the team after taping an interview for a local news program. The current Bruins exclaimed that it was an “eye-opening experience” and a clear reminder of the legacy the UCLA program holds. The Bruins, who have started the season a disappointing 7-3, host Long Beach State tonight.
  5. It may seem silly to think about for a team ranked as high as Arizona is, but Pac-12 fans always seem to cringe nowadays when a trap game arrives on the schedule. The Wildcats are doing the best to avoid that situation, quickly getting back to business to prepare for tonight’s meeting with Oral Roberts. The game comes sandwiched in between last Saturday’s thriller against Florida and a trip to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic, where the Cats could face a pair of high-profile teams in Miami (FL) and San Diego State. But first up are the Golden Eagles, a team that won 27 games a year ago. As the article points out, ORU faces its own challenges preparing for the match-up, having to shake off both mental and physical rust that comes from not playing a game in nearly two weeks.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 22nd, 2012

  1. We’re still three weeks out from actual basketball games taking place, but more and more it is starting to feel like this is just not going to be UCLA’s year. Aside from the NCAA investigations into recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, the cheap accusations of cheating by certain unnamed media outlets, and the legitimate questions about how some of these pieces fit together, the Bruins are also starting to see some injuries accrue. The newest Bruin laid up is junior forward David Wear, who sprained his right ankle in a practice yesterday, joining junior guard Tyler Lamb (arthroscopic knee surgery) in the infirmary. Of course, the glass-half-full view of this situation could be that it is much better to have these types of things happen now than in February or March. As it is, a simple sprained ankle could just mean a bit of a rest for Wear until the seasons kicks off on November 9.
  2. It didn’t take long for the newest Cougar, Oregon-transfer Brett Kingma, to pick up on how things are done in the Washington State basketball program; early Saturday morning, the sophomore guard was arrested by Pullman police for marijuana possession and “minor exhibiting the effects of having consumed alcohol in a public place” – an oddly specific and yet still confusing charge. Now, we understand there isn’t always a whole lot to do in Pullman, but the marijuana busts for WSU’s basketball program are getting ridiculous. In recent years, off the top of my head, Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto have all been busted for pot. There are two ways for Cougar head coach Ken Bone to deal with this: (1) mostly ignore, offer an obligatory slap on the wrist and pray that Initiative 502 passes, or (2) make an example of Kingma by kicking him off the team. I’m certainly not saying the second option is necessarily the best approach, after all, really what is this arrest about – a college kid was walking home drunk after a Friday night partying and happened to have some dope on him. Stop the presses, right? But the fact of the matter is, this constantly happening in Bone’s program is becoming a black eye.
  3. Arizona unveiled the 2012-13 version of its basketball team to its fans on Sunday afternoon with their annual Red-Blue game. Prior to an intrasquad scrimmage, the school honored its 1988 Final Four team and members of the current team got to meet and learn from previous Wildcat greats like Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler. The game itself was less of a no-defense All-Star game than a hard-fought scrimmage, but Nick Johnson (who our own Parker Baruh nominated as the Pac-12’s breakout player) got hot, hitting four threes and finishing with 20 points to lead all scorers while also chipping in four assists. New Wildcat point guard Mark Lyons also added four assists, while senior wing Kevin Parrom added four three-pointers of his own. Arizona Desert Swarm has some video highlights of the game and the surrounding festivities. But perhaps the biggest part of the day was UA hosting at least eight recruits, including Aaron Gordon, whom Sean Miller (and other coaches around the country) seriously covet. Given that the 2011 version of the Red-Blue game helped the ‘Cats land Kaleb Tarczewski, the game is becoming a way of tying the great history of the program to its bright future.
  4. Arizona wasn’t the only school holding events for their fans this weekend. Stanford held its Friday Frenzy event on, when else, Friday evening, featuring its annual Cardinal-White scrimmage, a dunk contest, and various other events. Oddly enough, the winner of the dunk contest wasn’t even a member of the basketball team, as senior All-American high jumper Jules Sharpe took home the title, edging out junior forward Josh Huestis. As for the scrimmage, junior forward Dwight Powell (our Kevin Danna’s pick for the Pac-12 breakout player) led all scorers with 19 points, getting it done not only from the perimeter but also on the block. It was sophomore guard Chasson Randle, who had 16 points on seven-for-nine shooting, however, who had the last laugh, leading his Cardinal team to an eight-point win over Powell’s White squad.
  5. Lastly, Arizona State’s Maroon-Gold scrimmage was Saturday afternoon, giving Sun Devil fans their first chance to see the long-awaited debut of freshman point guard Jahii Carson. Early reports are that, behind Carson, ASU looks like it may live up to Herb Sendek’s promises of a drastically increased tempo. Carson led all scorers with 18 points in the game, while newly eligible transfer Evan Gordon also impressed. The game featured three different 10-minute periods, with Carson splitting time on each team over the course of the scrimmage, but one good takeaway for how important he’ll be to ASU is the fact that whichever team he was on wound up winning each of the three different periods.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 11th, 2012

  1. Arizona State’s media day was on Tuesday, and as always, the ASU sports information department does a great job of getting their information out there. As ASU’s director of media relations Doug Tammaro put it, he’s got over 5,000 words on the Sun Devil basketball team, with tons of quotes from head coach Herb Sendek and players Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon. Given the fact that the team is coming off back-to-back subpar seasons (22-40 in the last two years), the Sun Devils have a lot to prove, but just reading through the enthusiasm that Sendek has about this collection of players and the confidence that Carson has in himself and his teammates, it isn’t that hard to envision this team overachieving its way into an upper-division conference finish. A lot would have to break right for that to happen, and the team needs to break through the Murphy’s Law culture that has seemingly taken hold in Tempe, but this ASU team should be an interesting watch all year long.
  2. Elsewhere in Tempe, Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic published an interview with ASU sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling on Sunday, and it too paints a picture of a Sun Devil squad ready to surprise people. Gilling, who came out of nowhere to start 18 games for the team and score in double figures eight times in conference play (quite an accomplishment as no better than a third option on a low-scoring team), looks around the roster and sees far more threats to give the opposition problems. Beginning with Carson and Gordon, but also extending to rapidly improving big man Jordan Bachynski and another incoming transfer in Bo Barnes, Gilling sees a completely different team. And, once again, we’ve got testimony from inside the program that Sendek’s promises for a more uptempo approach, including significantly more man-to-man defense, are not just lip service.
  3. Up in Pullman, Washington State is ready to plow ahead without the services of recently dismissed point guard Reggie Moore. Moore was head coach Ken Bone’s first recruit to WSU, but there is no use looking back now for him; he needs to begin to plan for the season without an obvious true point. At first glance it appears that it will be a point-guard-by-committee approach, with sophomore combo guard DaVonte Lacy, Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge, senior wing Mychal Ladd and sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew all potentially chipping in to help get the Cougars into their offense. And, while we’re on Wazzu for a second, be honest, how many of you knew that former Oregon wing Brett Kingma landed in Pullman? Clearly, some of you did, but somehow this completely escaped my attention. It’s a good get for Bone, even if his freshman year in Eugene was a little bumpy and even if he’ll lose a year of eligibility by transferring within the conference.
  4. UCLA’s media day was yesterday, but it was significantly less revealing, if only because the biggest question about the Bruins’ season – if and when Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson will be declared eligible – remains presently unanswerable. So much so that UCLA had their vice chancellor of legal affairs, Kevin S. Reed, monitoring the press conference so that schools officials could remind the media whenever necessary that they wouldn’t be answering any questions about the NCAA review of Muhammad and Anderson’s eligibility. On a brighter note, however, it was announced that Pauley Pavilion is not only really, really close to being a completed project, but it is also a project that came in $44 million under budget. So, you know, the next time you’ve got a project that is gonna run you some nine-digit dollar amount, I believe UCLA’s got a contractor they can recommend.
  5. We’re back to the gridiron tonight with a less-than-stellar Thursday night affair between Arizona State and Colorado, and that means it is time for Connor and I to renew our prognosticating battle. I made up another game on Connor last week when USC bounced back from a rough start to pull away from Utah in the second half. Last week’s results leave Connor at 35-13 for the year, while I’m two games back at 33-15. Below are this week’s picks, with our predicted scores for our game of the week (Stanford at Notre Dame) in bold.
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Arizona State at Colorado Arizona State Arizona State
    Utah at UCLA UCLA UCLA
    California at Washington State Washington State California
    Oregon State at Brigham Young Brigham Young Oregon State
    USC at Washington USC USC
    Stanford at Notre Dame Notre Dame 38-31 Notre Dame 19-13
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Oregon Week’s Burning Question: How To Build A Successful Program With Player Uncertainty?

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 13th, 2012

It’s that time again, as Adam Butler of Pachoops.com joins us again for our Burning Question for the Oregon program, concerning whether or not Dana Altman can build a successful program with constant player departures. 

Oregon has become the poster child for one of the biggest problems facing college basketball today: transfers. In his two seasons at Oregon, Dana Altman has seen four players transfer and five more who left the team that still had eligibility remaining when they land elsewhere. That’s an average of four and a half players that have left per year, an astronomical number for a 13-scholarship limit. It’s not like all of these players were sitting on the bench and not making an impact either; Malcom Armstead, Brett Kingma, Jabari Brown, and Bruce Barron were either making an impact or were expected to by the end of the season when they left. So the question is, can Altman build a successful program in Eugene with the constant cloud of player and rotation uncertainty hovering above, or does he need to change the way he recruits and coaches to find and keep players who will stay for three or four years?
 
Player Departures Since Altman Took Over In 2010-11

  • Teondre Williams – Transferred to Clayton State
  • Martin Seiferth – Transferred to Eastern Washington
  • Malcolm Armstead – Transferred to Wichita State
  • Nicholas Fearn – Left team but has yet to enroll in another school
  • Matt Losli – Left team but has yet to enroll in another school
  • John Elorriaga – Left team but has yet to enroll in another school
  • Brett Kingma – Left team but has yet to enroll in another school
  • Jabari Brown – Transferred to Missouri
  • Bruce Barron – Left team but has yet to enroll in another school

Altman Has Had Much To Celebrate In His First Two Seasons At Oregon Despite Losing Nine Players Since He Took The Job

Adam Butler: Yes. Dana Altman has proven he can build a winner – he did so at Creighton – and I believe he’ll do the same in Eugene. He’s already exceeded expectations in his first two years with a pair of postseason appearances after the Ducks took one of the fastest falls from the Elite Eight to a 2-16 conference team that anyone has ever seen. And maybe that’s where we need to start. Sinking ships tend to have jumpers (Never let go, Jack), and so round one of the transfers I’m comfortable chalking up to the old guard recognizing they were Kent guys in the wrong place. Altman isn’t your guy and you’re not his. A mutual parting. To address the others and to do such without making grandiose excuses for nine total transfers in two years, perhaps we need an analogy.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 06.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on June 8th, 2012

  1. A former Pac-12 great is back home, as 2000 Stanford graduate Mark Madsen is returning back to the Farm to become an assistant coach. Madsen was a member of the 1998 Cardinal team that made the Final Four (the first Stanford team to advance that far since the NCAA championship team of 1942), before going on to play nine seasons in the NBA. He’ll take over the spot vacated by Dick Davey, who retired in March. Madsen will work with post players and give current head coach Johnny Dawkins’ staff a tie to the most successful stretch of basketball in the modern history of the program. We’re just guessing that Madsen isn’t going to moonlight as a dance teacher at Stanford.
  2. Oregon fans got bad news yesterday when it was confirmed that sophomore guard Brett Kingma, a sharpshooter who saw limited minutes and limited success as a freshman, would be transferring out of the program. In the wake of the Ducks losing both starting backcourt players from last year, Kingma appeared set for a bump in minutes, but instead he’ll choose to sit out a year and likely take a step down in competition for the remainder of his college career. While it is certainly well within Kingma’s right to find a place more suited to him, this once again appears to be a case of a youngster making a rash decision early in his career as a result of limited playing time. With Kingma’s decision, now three out of four members of Dana Altman’s 2011 recruiting class have left the school before their sophomore seasons.
  3. Arizona’s 2012-13 schedule is rapidly rounding into shape, as they announced an agreement with UTEP this week for a home-and-home series that will begin on November 15 at the McKale Center. The second half of this series won’t take place until 2014-15 in El Paso. With this announcement, the Wildcats have just one remaining open spot on their 2012-13 schedule, which is expected to be another home-and-home series, this one with a power conference school that will begin on the road. With games at home against Long Beach State, Southern Miss, Florida and Oral Roberts already on the schedule, along with a trip to Clemson and visit to the Diamond Head Classic over Christmas weekend, the ‘Cats certainly shouldn’t be hurting for chances to pad their non-conference resume.
  4. Sticking around in Tucson a bit longer, Wildcat head coach Sean Miller won the “Shots From the Heart” championship, a free-throw-shooting contest between NCAA Division I head basketball coaches in support of the American Heart Association and the Skip Prosser Foundation. Miller won the final round of the competition by knocking down 24 of 25 attempts in the final round, defeating Detroit head coach Ray McCallum who made just 21 of his 25 attempts. Over the six rounds of the tournament, Miller made 145 of his 150 attempts, good for 96.7%, an absurd number. If you want to congratulate him, or see if he can drop some free throw shooting tips on you, hit him up on his new Twitter account which he just began a few weeks back.
  5. Lastly, this week ESPN unveiled its list of the most attractive coaching jobs in college basketball, broken down by conference. In the Pac-12, there certainly weren’t a ton of surprises, with UCLA, Arizona and Washington taking the top three spots, but there are definitely some areas to quibble with their rankings. First and foremost, the idea that Utah is the third-worst position in the conference is absurd. For a school in a basketball-crazy state with a sparkling reputation at lower levels, you have to think the Utes should be near the top half of the conference, certainly ahead of a USC job where, although there are plenty of recruits to choose from in the local area, the Trojan basketball team will always play second fiddle to the crosstown UCLA program, not to mention the Trojans’ storied football program.
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Oregon: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 19th, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Oregon.

What Went Wrong

The Ducks couldn’t win a big game. Oregon went 1-7 against 2012 NCAA Tournament teams, and if they could have won just two or three more of those games they could have been playing in the NCAAs, instead of the NIT, in March.

Moves like Dana (credit: Nati Harnik)

What Went Right

Despite Oregon’s struggles to win games against top opponents, they won most of the rest. And because of that, they found themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble heading into Championship Week. A main reason for Oregon’s second place finish in the Pac-12 was the play of Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph. Expected to be just a role player before the season began, Joseph proved that he belonged from his opening minutes against Fresno State on December 10. The senior guard out of Ontario, Canada, finished the season with a team high 16.6 PPG, good enough to garner a spot on the All-Pac-12 first team. As a surprise, Joseph and fellow Toronto senior Olu Ashaolu were honored on Senior Day with the playing of O Canada before the game began.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 11th, 2012

  1. Washington had all sorts of trouble finishing off “the best 3-10 team in America” on Tuesday night, as they were tied with Seattle with less than five minutes to play before sealing up an eight-point win. The Huskies made their hay by getting to the line. Repeatedly. No really. A lot. Like 59 times. The fact that they missed 22 of those attempts certainly kept the game a lot closer than it should have been, but give credit to Seattle and their head coach Cameron Dollar (who will someday be a head coach in the Pac-12, mark my words) for fighting to the end. Tony Wroten shook off an awful game against Utah on Saturday with 24 points and 18 trips to the free-throw line, but he still turned the ball over six times and made a couple bad decisions down the stretch. C.J. Wilcox also bounced back from his worst game of the season by going for 25 points and drilling four threes. The Huskies get back to conference play on Saturday by hosting Washington State.
  2. In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Herb Sendek touched on his decision to dismiss Keala King from the Arizona State team. His comment that “sometimes when you’re a part of a team, you have to make sacrifices and play positions that maybe aren’t ideal” indicates that King was upset at having to play the point after freshman Jahii Carson was declared ineligible and transfer Chris Colvin didn’t pan out as the lead guard. King wasn’t really cut out to be a point guard (he turned the ball over on more than 28% of his team’s possession – a far sight better than Colvin’s 34%), but he appeared to be the best of a bad lot. Now, Sendek turns to junior Trent Lockett at the point. Lockett isn’t an ideal candidate for the point either (he turned it over 11 times in ASU’s two games last weekend, but did hand out eight assists), but at this point, he’s the only legitimate option Sendek has.
  3. For the first month, maybe five weeks, of his freshman year at Arizona, Nick Johnson looked like anything but a freshman. He played with a confidence and a consistency that belied his year. But, here we are in January and Johnson has but up clunkers in four of his last five games and seems to have lost all confidence in his jumper last week in Southern California, hitting just three of his 15 field goal attempts and missing all six of his three-point attempts. But Johnson remains cool and collected and expects to work through this slump and come out better for it on the other side.
  4. Johnson’s teammate, Kyle Fogg, has seen a slump or two in his day too, but now a senior, he is climbing up all manner of career lists in Tucson. When he started on Sunday against USC, it was his 101st career start, moving him into ninth place on the all-time Wildcat list, tied with Steve Kerr and Reggie Geary. If he continues to start the rest of the year, he’ll have a good chance to pass Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye to move into fifth place, but Jason Gardner’s record of 135 career starts is completely safe.
  5. Beginning to look ahead to the weekend, Oregon point guard Jonathan Loyd is questionable for the Ducks’ Thursday night game at Arizona State, after sustaining a bruised knee in Sunday’s loss to California. He may test his knee in practice today, but it looks like he may be a game-time decision tomorrow night. If Loyd is unable to go, Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim will be the only two guards available to Dana Altman who have averaged more than 10 minutes per game. Freshman Brett Kingma, a three-point specialist who has struggled with his shot, would be the guard most likely to pick up the extra minutes if Loyd is out.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: Oh-My-God, I-Better-Start-My-Christmas-Shopping Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 23rd, 2011

  1. There’s not a whole lot you can tell from a 23-point win over one of the worst teams in the Big West, but Washington did address some of the things that needed addressing in their win over CS Northridge on Thursday night. First, their defense was much improved, holding the Matadors to a 26% eFG. Secondly, their chemistry appeared to be better, as their scoring was balanced (10 players scored, and four players scored in double figures) and freshman sensation Tony Wroten notched five assists while Abdul Gaddy dropped eight dimes. However, the Huskies still turned the ball over 20 times (Wroten responsible for six), and for the third time since Wroten entered the starting lineup, failed to get Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox each double-digit field goal attempts in the same game (Ross had 14 attempts, making five, while Wilcox has seemingly reverted to just a shooter – attempting all six of his shots from behind the arc). It’s a win, and it puts the Huskies back above .500 and sends them into their holiday break with a good feeling, but when conference play kicks off next week, they’ve still got plenty of work to do.
  2. The team with the best record in the conference proved that they’ve still got a long way to go as well, as Stanford got outworked and maybe outlucked a bit by two-time defending national runner-up Butler. Last week we talked about how this Cardinal team still needed to learn how to be a winner, and that got reinforced on Thursday night as the Bulldogs, led by a senior point guard in Ronald Nored (who has seen it all in his time in Indianapolis) took advantage of every opportunity and made the smart plays necessary to squeak out a win on the road. Sure, there was the shot-clock-beating desperation three-pointer by Nored that went in, or the putback by Andrew Smith of another late-possession brick that were certain indications of good fortune shining on Butler, but the fact is that the Bulldogs took advantage of those kinds of opportunities while the Cardinal did not. Yet again, we’ve got another Pac-12 team who just wrapped up non-conference play as a complete mystery. They may well be a legitimate contender for the conference title; or they may be just another pretender.
  3. Now there’s the USC we know and, um, love? Three days after scoring 83 points against TCU, the Trojans broke out for a whopping 13 first-half points, although certainly against much stiffer competition with Kansas visiting the Galen Center. Aside from their typical 40.8% eFG, the Trojans turned the ball over 18 times, got killed on the glass, and just generally avoided any semblance of a coherent offensive game plan. The Trojan guards reverted back to their pound-the-ball-into-the-floor-for-30-seconds and throw-up-a-wild-shot default, as Maurice Jones, Alexis Moore and Byron Wesley combined to shoot 5-of-26 from the field (with 10 turnovers mixed in there), while DeWayne Dedmon followed up his solid game Monday with an invisibility trick any magician would be proud of (two field goal attempts, two rebounds and four fouls in 20 minutes). Aaron Fuller again proved to be the only effective offensive threat, hitting 70% of his field goals while going for 19 points and grabbing five rebounds. SC heads into conference play four games under .500, with fans beginning to contemplate another head coaching change.
  4. Oregon finished its stretch of three games in three nights against mediocre competition (well, mediocre, only if North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin rise to the level of mediocrity) with its third consecutive win. Considering the best of those three teams was ranked 219th in the nation by Ken Pomeroy, three wins by an average of 10 points is not exactly an impressive run. However, the Ducks are beginning to figure out where their offense is coming from. In all three games – part of a round-robin tournament called the Global Sports Hoops Showcase that needs not only a better name but a better field – Devoe Joseph and E.J. Singler scored in double figures for the Ducks, while Garret Sim averaged more than 10 per game himself. If head coach Dana Altman can get guys like Olu Ashaolu, Tony Woods and Jeremy Jacob to buy into doing the dirty work for them, and if freshman three-point specialist Brett Kingma can find his stroke, this team is still capable of an upper-division finish.
  5. Lastly, Utah’s two-game winning streak was snapped Thursday night when it dropped a game to in-state rival Weber State by 29, the largest margin of defeat for the Utes in that rivalry. And with the Utes changing their “scheduling philosophy” now that they’re in the Pac-12, this may be the last time they play at Weber State. Utah has yet to schedule any future games either at Weber State or at Utah State, possibly ending some great home-and-home matchups in the Beehive State. Until this point, it’s been easy to feel nothing but sympathy for the struggles of Utah’s basketball program, but without a doubt, their apparent willingness to kill off what have been great rivalries does an effective job of mitigating some of that goodwill.
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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.

 

Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Recruiting Rumor Mill: 09.27.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 27th, 2010

After a prolonged absence from the summer circuit it appears like Sonny Vaccaro, who was once quiet possibly the most powerful man in AAU basketball, is making his triumphant return. As Gary Parrish notes, Vaccaro should make things more interesting.

  • It’s already almost a week old, but ESPN released its team recruiting rankings and you will be shocked to see who is #1.
  • Arizona was able to land some big names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson over the past few weeks, but as we pointed out last week their haul would be coming to an end soon due to the Lute Olson-era sanctions against the program. Now we see the results as Sean Miller has told super recruit LeBryan Nash that there isn’t any room for him in Tucson.
LeBryan isn’t welcome in Arizona
  • Speaking of the Wildcats, last week we mentioned the refreshing case of Norvel Pelle who was just starting to do in-house visits, but now Pelle has moved ahead to planning official visits as he recently expressed interest in St John’s, UTEP, UConn, and “the whole PAC 10 except Arizona according to a phone interview with Adam Zagoria, although Pelle has not committed to any official visits yet.
  • In yet another reaction to Arizona’s filling its scholarships already . . . Quinn Cook, who had been high on Arizona before Turner’s surprise commitment, is now considering Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Villanova, and UNC. In a rather unsurprising surprising comment, Steve Smith, his new coach at Oak Hill, says Cook is “comparable” to Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson, Marcus Williams (hopefully leaving the laptops out of it), and Brandon Jennings who all played at Oak Hill. Cook is a talented prospect, but outside of Williams I think Smith might be stretching the truth a bit. To be fair, I can say my paycheck is comparable to John Paulson’s paycheck, but Paulson made way more than I did (at least before the RTC royalty checks get processed).
  • Last week we noted that Austin Rivers had taken Florida off his list of potential schools and now it seems like he has set dates for his official visits: UNC (October 1st), Duke (October 15th), and Kansas (October 22nd). You can guess that the basketball coaches will be especially interested in the football team’s performances those weekends against East Carolina (could be challenging for the depleted Tar Heels), Miami (this one could be ugly), and Texas A&M (depends on the week for the inconsistent Jayhawks).
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