Pac-12 Burning Questions: So… About Those Preseason Predictions?

Posted by AMurawa on December 31st, 2012

With non-conference play all but wrapped up, we start to turn our attention to conference play this week. But, before we do we want to take a look back and see what we talked about prior to the season.

“We made a lot of predictions and bold statements prior to the season. Which prognostication did you nail and which did you completely whiff on?”

Adam Butler: I wish I’d had the stones to say things like “Jordan Adams will be UCLA’s best player” or “Josh Smith will leave the Bruins” or “USC will utterly flop.” No, on each of those insights I was sightless. I was the cool kid picking USC to overachieve and who was gobbling up Shabazz hyperbole like flavored vodka at a sorority house. I went out on the limb to say Arizona and Colorado would be good. I have said Spencer Dinwiddie would be All-Conference and, to date, he’s held up his side of that bargain, and I still love his game when he shows up (although, zero points vs. Fresno?). The one thing I’ve nailed but I don’t think it’s been terribly bold has been that Mark Lyons, no matter what he did numbers-wise, was going to have an overwhelming effect on this Wildcats team. I think it’s safe to say that he’s been a lightning rod of attention and criticism and handled it all in stride, strides that have taken him straight to winning buckets against Florida and SDSU. Lyons brings a dynamic to Tucson that was sorely needed and he has not let them down. As for whiffs? I figured Washington would be better and that Oregon would be worse. I thought Jio Fontan would hover around conference POY talk and that Dewayne Dedmon would be a big surprise: fails. There’s still time to play out but it’s hard to say that any of those thoughts will right themselves in my predictive favor. And in that remaining time, I’m excited to see just what UCLA will do and how Arizona’s freshmen bigs will develop within the routine of Pac-12 play. Moving forward, a few additional thoughts: Can Herb’s team keep up their pace? No. Is Solomon Hill going to win the conference POY award? No (but he may be the MVP). Can Colorado be the second best team in the Pac? Yes. Will Stanford be better then their 8-4 record? Yes. Alas, predictions are meaningless but oh-so-fun.

Jio Fontan In The Player Of The Year Race? Not So Much. (AP Photo)

Jio Fontan In The Player Of The Year Race? Not So Much. (AP Photo)

Connor Pelton: Looking back on it, I made some interesting (to say the least) picks back in October. But I did nail a few of those, starting with the pick of Arsalan Kazemi as an All-Pac-12 performer. I was the only one to include the Rice transfer on my 15-player ballot, and he has answered by averaging 9.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 3.1 SPG so far. In fact, if he had not had been so tentative shooting the ball at the beginning of the season, it is not a stretch to say he would not only be leading the team in rebounds but points as well. Another pick I am liking was that of Jonathan Gilling as an all-conference three-point shooter. Kevin and I were the only ones to include the sophomore on our lists, and he has proved us right by knocking down 30 triples, second highest in the conference. But the pick I am most proud of is selecting USC at 10th in the conference, while everyone else here had the Trojans sixth or seventh. The thing that made me so skeptical about USC at the beginning of the season was the question, “Where do the points come from behind Jio Fontan?” Some said senior forward Aaron Fuller, who’s averaging a stellar 2.9 PPG. Case closed.

Now, onto the whiffs. While Chasson Randle hasn’t had a great season, there is no question he should be second team All-Pac-12 right now. I did not even include him on my list of 15, opting instead for guys like Ricky Kreklow and Kaleb Tarczewski. Whoops. It is easy to look bad when projecting an all-newcomer team, and boy have I done that. I did not include Mark Lyons on my team, or Jahii Carson, or Josh Scott. Those guys are averaging 13.4, 17.9, and 12.5 PPG, respectively. As we move into conference play, the picks that are on the fence of good and bad will begin to clear up. Are the Buffaloes an NCAA Tournament team? I said yes in October, and I still think they are now. Can Washington rebound from an awful start and make the NIT? No. Can California win a big game? It has to happen eventually, right?

Time will answer everything, and before we know it, we will be filling out brackets and talking about surprises and snubs on Selection Sunday.

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Pac-12 Burning Question: Who Has Been the Biggest Disappointment?

Posted by AMurawa on December 14th, 2012

Way back in the preseason, while trying to be objective, we as a group of Pac-12 writers couldn’t help but be optimistic about the immediate future of the conference. Arizona and UCLA were welcoming in elite recruiting classes, Colorado had added a nice group of freshmen to solid returnees, etc., etc. All throughout the conference there were stories of promise and hope. And then the season began. While it has certainly been nowhere near the debacle that last year was, there have been hiccups along the way. You know, a loss to Cal Poly by a team picked by one of us (ahem, me) to be a top five national team, losses elsewhere to Albany, Pepperdine, and Sacramento State. So, to say the least, things have not been all about half-full glasses around these parts. In the interest of getting the negativity out of the way now, in advance of the holiday season, we’ll take a look at the downside of the Pac-12 this week.

“Which team, player, or other entity, has been the most disappointing thus far this year?”

 

Parker Baruh: The biggest disappointment thus far this year in the Pac-12 is the Washington Huskies. I thought the Pac-12 media went too high when they picked them to finish fifth in the conference especially with the losses of Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross. And thus far, Washington has shown nothing this year to prove my hunch wrong. The Huskies were upset at home by Albany, were embarrassed at home by Colorado State, upset again at home by Nevada, and barely pulled out a win against a bad Cal State Fullerton team, once again, right there at home. As you can see, there is a recurring theme here: Washington’s bad play at home. One of the greatest things about college basketball is home court advantage and typically Washington has had it in spades, but this year it ceases to exist at the Alaska Airlines Arena. Washington doesn’t have the talent to win the Pac-12 and I know they are dealing with injuries, but they certainly shouldn’t look this bad. It’s still early and I expect the Huskies to bounce back somewhat, but as of right now, they are my choice for biggest disappointment.

Abdul Gaddy and Washington Have Yet To Get It Together This Year

Abdul Gaddy and Washington Have Yet To Get It Together This Year

Adam Butler: To ask who or what has disappointed the most – particularly in early/mid-December – is baiting us into a crow consumption opportunity. It’s also fresh bait to just rip on UCLA; a task I’ve taken to three times already in this young season. Alas, I won’t take the bait – although by season’s end I will be full of crow – and I find myself most disappointed, to date, by USC. This was a group that had a chip on its shoulder, a squad that Kevin O’Neill called his hardest working team and a group of castoffs who had an opportunity to turn some heads. For the Trojans, I haven’t done much beyond turn the channel. KO teams rarely play a viewer-friendly brand of ball but I do always appreciate their effort. What’s disappointed me the most isn’t that they haven’t given effort, just that they set themselves up to fail. I suppose I could have looked at the schedule and forecast this, but I also felt they had enough dynamic pieces to overcome some of these preseason hurdles. But ultimately, these guys have played about how we unfortunately and unromantically should have figured they would. J.T. Terrell shooting 30%? Jio Fontan with a 24% turnover rate? And maybe I’ve made this selection selfishly. I figured bigger things for what, at least on paper, appeared to be a more competitive group. That said, one can say that this group has competed and maybe, just maybe, partaking in an arguably less competitive Pac-12 season will prove this group better than their non-conference effort.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Best Point Guard?

Posted by AMurawa on December 6th, 2012

No beating around the bush on this one, we’re going to get right to the point as we discuss who the league’s best floor general is.

Who is the best point guard in the Pac-12?

 

Adam Butler: This is an interesting question in and of itself. When it was first proposed to me, I responded with, “What makes a good point guard?” Traditionally we say assists defines a guard and to that point you might argue Larry Drew II. Well that’s not how I’m defining my best point guard. I’m taking Chasson Randle. I love his game as I can watch him do things the other kids can’t. He gets to the rim with an ease few possess. And look, I’m going to struggle to statistically make this argument. He’s ninth in the conference in assist rate (good) and top 15 in the conference in ORtg for players with a usage greater than 24%. To boot, he’s grabbing a handful of boards (3.2) and steals (1.8) per game while playing 30 minutes a night. He gets to the free throw line, too; shooting about six per contest. Maybe I’ve gotten ahead of myself calling him the league’s best PG a month deep, but he’s my guy when push comes to shove. Just you wait and see. I like how the team goes as he goes, to me dictating leadership and that he’s indeed the facilitator of this squad. Every team needs a tone setter and I appreciate that Stanford’s has the ball in his hands more often than not.

Chasson Randle, Stanford

The Statistics May Not Show It, But Chasson Randle’s Skills May His Whole Team Better

Andrew Murawa: It’s early in the year, and early in his career, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Jahii Carson is already the best point guard in the conference, for quite a few reasons. First and foremost, he has been put in a position to succeed by Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek. While there is some talent on this team, Sendek realized last year while Carson was sitting out as a partial qualifier that he needed to put the ball in Carson’s hands from day one. He is the one guy on this team who can not only create scoring opportunities for himself, but also get good looks for his teammates. With Carson putting pressure on the defense either in transition or as a threat off the bounce in the halfcourt or even knocking down jumpers from beyond the arc (though his jumper isn’t always a work of art, he’s hitting better than 40% of his attempts from deep), guys like Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski are having their best offensive seasons in part because Carson gets them the rock in position to make plays, and in part because the opposing defense needs to keep one eye on Carson when those guys have the ball. And, while he’s struggled plenty with turnovers in the early going (he’s turning it over on nearly a quarter of all used possessions), he’s bought into his role. After exploding for 30 (while still handing out seven assists) against Creighton’s dubious defense, Carson laid off looking for his own shot against teams like Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Sacramento State in an effort to get Evan Gordon going and to keep Felix going. While he’s still got plenty of room for improvement (you can bet Sendek is encouraging him to take better care of the ball), Carson is my pick for best point in the conference as well as the most valuable individual player to his team.

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Arizona Week’s Burning Question: What To Make Of Mark Lyons?

Posted by AMurawa on June 28th, 2012

In this week’s Burning Question, along with the usual suspects from your friendly neighborhood RTC Pac-12 microsite, we’ve invited Adam Butler of Pachoops to weigh in on this week’s big question about the Arizona program. Without further ado, here it is:

Mark Lyons arrives in Tucson, along with a heralded freshman class. In the absence of other enticing options at the point guard, can Lyons earn a spot among the great names in Point Guard U’s history? Or is he merely a stopgap solution on the way to something else?

Mark Lyons, Arizona

We Know Some Of What Mark Lyons Can Do, But Can He Run A National Championship Contender? (Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)

Adam Butler: As stop gaps go he’s certainly a better option than Curtis Painter but let’s dive deeper. The kid’s already been to four NCAA Tournaments and three Sweet Sixteens; he’s won three conference titles (counting his redshirt season) and twice been an All-Conference performer. His resume speaks for itself as he’s coming off a 15/3/3 season. But here’s what you aren’t going to read in his player bio: he’s playing for the coach he initially committed to; he’s finally getting a shot to prove he’s a worthy PG; and it’s his last opportunity to demonstrate that he’s not a disruptive malcontent. So what am I getting at? It’s do or die for Mark Lyons who controls his own destiny into PGU-lore. He and Arizona have somewhat serendipitously found one another in their respective time of point guard need and I have to think both parties will thrive. By some accounts Lyons is going to step onto this roster as the most talented player and – as previously stated – he’s stepping onto a pretty talented one. But what I believe makes Lyons more than a stopgap player is the toughness, swagger, grit, that je ne sais quoi that was so glaringly missing from the Wildcats’ 2011-12 team; an imperative component to any Sean Miller squad. Because of this I think Lyons’ role is bigger. He’s some version of a tone setter, helping to re-cement exactly what Arizona Basketball is. Of course all of my aforementioned high reward doesn’t come without high risk. He very well could be a disruptive malcontent on a formative and youthful team. His immediate emergence as starter and primary ball handler could cause discontent amongst the returners. His ballyhooed toughness may upset a team perceived as soft. So as all things high risk/high reward go, we’ll wait and see. Should be a good watch.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Senior Moment?

Posted by AMurawa on March 2nd, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

“In honor of senior days around the conference, which Pac-12 senior will be most missed by his team next year?

Connor Pelton: I’m going to go an interesting route and say Devoe Joseph. Joseph’s contributions have been huge for Oregon this season, as they had lost two of their first six without him. Since then Oregon has gone 16-6, and those losses can hardly be pinned on the senior transfer from Toronto, who has averaged 16.3 PPG. That mark is good enough for fourth in the conference, but perhaps even better than that stat is this: Joseph has only had one game in which he hasn’t scored in double figures this season. That was in their New Year’s Eve meeting with Washington, where he was subject to double teams all night long from a feisty Husky defense. But the reason he will be missed most is not for the jaw-dropping stats, but rather that Oregon doesn’t have a shoot-first player returning next season. E.J. Singler can certainly light it up from behind the arc, but he would still rather attack than shoot from around the perimeter. With both Joseph and Garrett Sim departing, he is going to have to adapt into that type of player, and that could cause some early-season troubles for the Ducks.

Despite Just One Active Season In Eugene, Devoe Joseph Will Be Sorely Missed Next Year (credit: Eric Evans)

Andrew Murawa: I’ll skip some of the obvious choices as well, as while California is sure to miss the work-ethic and passion of Jorge Gutierrez, they should still return a very nice backcourt, and while Arizona will miss the steadiness and leadership of Kyle Fogg, he’s done a good job of beginning to pass the baton to underclassmen like Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner. At Stanford, however, there is no immediately obvious replacement for senior forward Josh Owens. No, Owens isn’t exactly an all-conference performer for the Cardinal, but he brings an interior toughness and physicality that is largely absent from the rest of their roster. While sophomore forward Josh Huestis has athletic gifts that Owens doesn’t, he doesn’t yet have all the tricks of the trade in the middle to make the most of his undersized body. And most of the other returning big men on Johnny Dawkins’ current roster (John Gage, Dwight Powell, Stefan Nastic) are more finesse players. Further, Owens may only average 12.4 points per game, but he is the most efficient offensive player on the Cardinal roster, and a solid choice for the go-to guy when the team needs a bucket down the stretch. Incoming freshman center Grant Verhoeven may eventually eventually grow into that kind of role in the middle, but he’ll need at least a year of the weight room and training table before he gets there. While Owens leaves Palo Alto as one of the most underrated players in the Pac-12, the impact of his loss on the Cardinal could be understated as well.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Surprises and Disappoinments?

Posted by AMurawa on February 23rd, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

 “Which team has had the most surprising season, and which has had the most disappointing? Likewise, which player has had the most surprising season, and which has had the most disappointing?”

Connor Pelton: The most surprising team is Colorado. The Buffaloes were picked by almost every pundit in the nation to finish around tenth in the Pac-12, and here we are with two weeks left in the season looking at a team that is third in the conference and a lock for the NIT. Obviously, their altitude-assisted homecourt advantage has something to do with it, but I think it is great. It is one of the things that make the sport so interesting, so I’m definitely not counting that against them. The most disappointing team has been UCLA. Granted, the Bruins have done better in Pac-12 play, but they have been so wildly inconsistent that you barely notice when they do something good. It took them six games to beat a Division I team, and they had a few head-scratching losses early on.

Andre Roberson, Colorado

Andre Roberson And Colorado Have Soared To New Heights This Year (Matt Caivano/Daily Camera)

The most surprising player has been junior forward Brock Motum from Washington State. Motum has been the key to all but a few of Washington State’s 14 wins, and his stats have been amazing. His 17.8 PPG is up +10.2 points from last season, his 6.5 RPG are a +3.5 improvement, and he is averaging +12.9 MPG. His shooting range and ability to completely take over a game is better than any other big man in the conference. The most disappointing player that has completed a full season (Here’s looking at you, Reeves Nelson, Josh Watkins, Jabari Brown, and Jahii Carson) is junior forward/center Joe Burton from Oregon State. Hopes were high for Burton’s junior year as many thought he would take over the point-center role that the Beavers abandoned last season. Early on however, it became apparent that Burton didn’t have the shooting range to take on that position, and as the season progressed he became more and sloppy with the basketball. He has now lost his starting job and his minutes have severely declined over the past few games.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Pick A Part?

Posted by AMurawa on February 17th, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12.

This week: “While there are no great teams in the Pac-12, there seem to be several teams that are just one key part away from being a Top 25 team. If you could pluck one role player from a Pac-12 team and bring him over to help out another team, who would it be?”

Andrew Murawa: Arizona’s lack of interior size is their biggest weakness. At present, they’re playing a seven-man rotation with only one player bigger than 6’7” – raw 6’9” freshman Angelo Chol – getting any serious time. Jesse Perry, a 6’7” senior best suited to a combo forward spot, is ostensibly the team’s starting center. Enter Washington’s 7’0” junior center Aziz N’Diaye, sliding right into the Wildcats center position, moving Perry to a move natural four-spot, Solomon Hill to the three, and sending freshman Nick Johnson to a sixth-man role. Not only would N’Diaye give Sean Miller a defensive stopper inside, he’s shown his ability to be a solid rebounder on both ends of the court. And, when the Wildcats want to get out and run, N’Diaye has the athleticism and the motor to keep up with their young backcourt. As they are now, the Wildcats are a solid but flawed team, scrapping along to keep in Pac-12 race. Magically drop N’Diaye onto that roster and they’re the favorite in the conference, even with inconsistent freshman Josiah Turner still growing into his role at the point.

Aziz N'Diaye, Washington

Aziz N'Diaye's Length And Athleticism Would Patch A Hole In Arizona's Defense (Ted Copeland/The Daily)

Connor Pelton: I’d like to take Washington State point guard Reggie Moore and bring him over to Stanford. The Cardinal have two solid scorers in forward/center Josh Owens and shooting guard Chasson Randle, but what they are missing is a true point guard. Aaron Bright has his games, but 3.4 assists per outing just isn’t going to cut it if Stanford wants to be a top tier team in the Pac-12. If you bring Moore into the picture, you have by far the best point guard in the Pac-12 (5.7 APG). He also averages 9.2 points per game, which isn’t bad at all for a pass-first type of player. The Cardinal’s new starting lineup would look a lot better as well. The Cardinal would have Moore and Randle at guard, then go with a three forward/center combo of Owens, Anthony Brown, and John Gage. The bench looks solid as well. Bright would come off the bench and could be developed into even more of a combo-guard, and with Andrew Zimmermann and Josh Huestis down low; this Stanford team would definitely have top-tier potential. If only …

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Halfway Heroes?

Posted by AMurawa on February 2nd, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

Halfway through the conference season, who are your picks for Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and who’s going to win the regular season title?

Connor Pelton: Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham is my pick for player of the year. The junior leads the conference in PPG, made free throws, and SPG. More importantly, however, is that he is Oregon State’s only consistent offensive producer. Ahmad Starks, Devon Collier, and Roberto Nelson have their moments, but Cunningham has also been there to hit the big jumper or ice the game at the line.

At this point in the season, the coach of the year is definitely Dana Altman. Altman has persevered despite losing two big recruits just a month into the season, and halfway through Pac-12 play he finds his team tied for third. As I said in the “20 Questions” article, Mike Montgomery and Tad Boyle would also be good choices, but there are still problems with those two. California is 0-2 against the Top 25 and has a bad loss against Washington State, while Colorado doesn’t have a good win outside of the altitude-influenced Coors Events Center. Wait, you’re saying that Oregon doesn’t have a Top 25 win either? God, this conference is awful.

I like Washington to take the regular season title. The Huskies did a good job of managing the first half of their schedule, with the only losses coming at Colorado and home to a good California team. The Golden Bears can’t say the same as their two losses have been against lower-half teams. With Tony Wroten, Jr. and Terrence Ross leading the offense, the Huskies are as good a pick as any to take the Pac-12.

Dana Altman, Oregon

Dana Altman Has His Oregon Team In The Hunt For A Conference Title (photo credit: Associated Press)

Andrew Murawa: At this point, with Oregon State still sitting under .500 in the conference, I can’t in good conscience pick Jared Cunningham for Player of the Year. Instead, I’ll opt for California’s Jorge Gutierrez. He doesn’t score as much as Cunningham, but he uses just as many possessions as his counterpart in Corvallis, and he is every bit as important to his team’s chances as Cunningham is to the Beavers. Gutierrez is the floor general for the Golden Bears, an extension of head coach Mike Montgomery on the floor. He may not have the ridiculous athletic abilities that Cunningham possesses, but he ekes out every last bit of production from the talent he does have. This Cal team would likely not be in the top half of the conference standings without Gutierrez. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Missing A Transfer?

Posted by AMurawa on January 26th, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

“Which recent Pac-12 transfer would do the most to help his former team this year?”

 

Andrew Murawa: Where to begin? There have been so many transfers around the conference in recent years that seemingly every team has been hit hard by one loss or another. Utah has had multiple players transfer out, leaving head coach Larry Krystkowiak with a nearly empty cupboard when he arrived – they could certainly make use of the offensive punch of either current Colorado senior Carlon Brown (although he would have used up his eligibility by now without the transfer) or Marshall Henderson, who will begin his sophomore season at Texas Tech next year. Bryce Jones would give the ridiculously shorthanded USC squad some firepower, but he is currently sitting out his transfer season at UNLV. Arizona State is currently struggling with its backcourt depth, and Demetrius Walker, currently struggling to earn playing time at New Mexico, would certainly be ready to provide minutes for Herb Sendek’s team. And that’s just a partial list.

Mike Moser, UNLV

Mike Moser's Athleticism And Perimeter Abilities Would Greatly Help The Current UCLA Team (photo credit: John Gurzinski, AP Photo)

But really, let’s not get too fancy here. The Pac-12 transfer who would do the most to help his former team is Mike Moser, the best player on the list. Moser left UCLA in April 2010 in search of playing time that Ben Howland either could not or would not find for him. After sitting out last season, he’s become a force at UNLV this year, averaging 14 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, while contributing an athleticism and even a three-point shooting presence that is sorely missing at UCLA. While Moser couldn’t earn consistent minutes as a freshman in 2009-10 on a team that started guys like James Keefe and Nikola Dragovic up front, he would be far and away the most athletic frontcourt player on the squad, and together with freshman guard Norman Powell, one of just two above-average Pac-12 athletes on the team. His ability to rebound has been well documented (he grabs 28.1% of defensive rebounds, good for ninth in the nation, and his 12.9% offensive rebounding rate is somewhat restricted by his tendency to play on the perimeter offensively) but he would also provide some punch outside (he hits slightly more than one three per game at a 32.4% rate). Throw in the fact that he would be the one player on the squad who could effectively match up defensively with athletic threes, freeing up the Wear twins to play primarily at the four and five, and he would be a major boon to a struggling UCLA defense. Moser is a prime example of why it is important for coaches to expand their rotations a bit and at least find a bit of time for youngsters, keeping those guys involved, finding out what they can do and providing them the promise of a chance to contribute to the program in more substantial ways in the future.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Who’s Your Coach?

Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

“If you were starting a program from scratch, which current Pac-12 coach would you target to kick start your program?”

 

Connor Pelton: There’s really no question in my mind about who I would want as the coach of my “start from scratch” program; Oregon’s Dana Altman. Just look at his first one-and-a-half seasons in Eugene. In year one, Altman led Oregon to 21 wins, a 17-point upset of UCLA in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament, and a CBI championship. That was with Ernie Kent’s players. His first step of year number two was to add some of his own players to the mix, so he recruited both high school seniors and transfers to Eugene. The result was three superb transfers in Olu Ashaolu, Devoe Joseph, and Tony Woods, not to mention freshmen Brett Kingma, Jabari Brown, and Bruce Barron. Of course, Brown and Barron left the team earlier this  season, but Altman and the Ducks have been fine without the pair. Now Oregon is 13-5 and fresh off a sweep in the desert.

Dana Altman, Oregon

Dana Altman Has Shown A Great Ability To Build A Team (photo credit: Stephen Dunn, Getty Images North America)

However, the main reason I would want him as my coach is his ability to take a bunch of individuals with large egos and turn them into a team. When Altman took over the Oregon job, the Ducks were in the midst of a serious identity crisis. It seemed as if everyone was just playing for themselves and their futures, with no regard to the team whatsoever. Obviously, Altman has changed that attitude and perception completely around. That’s what makes him the strongest candidate to lead my start from scratch team.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: A One-Bid League?

Posted by AMurawa on January 12th, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

“Is the Pac-12 a One-Bid League?”

 

Connor Pelton: With stats like “0-20 in road games against the RPI Top 100” and the conference’s best road win coming at New Mexico State, a good argument can be made that the Pac-12 is a one-bid league. The way I see it, however, the conference will get a minimum of two bids, and possibly a third depending on the conference tournament. At most, the selection committee will have two at-large bids set aside for the Pac-12 going into championship week. The teams most likely in the conversation for those two are California, Stanford, Colorado, and Arizona, while Oregon and Oregon State will have to win the Pac-12 tourney to get in.

Out of those four, I see Cal and Arizona stealing the bids. But if the ultra-soft bubble that we are hearing about now remains through the next two months, Stanford could pull a third at-large spot by making the championship of the tournament. Colorado doesn’t have a true “bad loss” on their schedule at the moment, but I can only see them winning 19-20 games going into championship week. With a poor RPI, they are going to have to get an automatic bid.

Of course this is pure speculation at this point, but we are coming to the point in the season where games like Colorado-Arizona (January 21 and February 9) and California-Stanford (January 29 and March 4) not only matter for the conference race, but also have a huge impact on the national bubble. I think the Pac-12 will get more than one bid, but it is crucial for all four of these teams to prove they belong night in and night out down this stretch run.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Overreact Much?

Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

Which result (or set of results) from the opening week will cause the biggest overreaction in the conference?

 

Connor Pelton: I know I’ve made this known before, but Oregon State’s 0-2 start to Pac-12 play is definitely cause for overreaction. It would have been one thing if the Beavers gave Washington and Washington State a good game, but the truth is, they got handled in each facet of the game and were lucky to only lose by 15 and six. That’s why those two are such a big deal; the way they lost them was inexcusable. It seems as if everything the team was building towards in their 12 non-conference games suddenly flew out the window.

The team’s star and leader, Jared Cunningham, couldn’t knock down a three-pointer to save his life. You may remember the Beavers 2-7 record in the middle of conference play last year. Coincidentally, Cunningham also had no touch from behind the arc in those games, either. Rebounding, both offensively and defensively, is something that has plagued the team all year, but the Beavs were able to get away with it when they would play smaller and lesser opponents. But this week, we only began to see the downside of scheduling teams like Townson and Chicago State as big men Joe Burton, Angus Brandt, Devon Collier, and Eric Moreland were obviously unprepared to go up against the big and physical Husky forwards. They were pushed around and would occasionally just give up on DEFENSIVE rebounds, which in turn led to a total of 86 points in the paint by the Huskies and Cougars.

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