USC Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 16th, 2013

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

What Went Wrong

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

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

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

What Went Right

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

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USC’s Hire of Andy Enfield? A Slam Dunk

Posted by AMurawa on April 2nd, 2013

More than two months after USC fired head coach Kevin O’Neill at midseason, the Trojans have hired a replacement. And I can say with absolute certainty that it is not a name that was mentioned by anybody among the list of possible choices in the hours and days following O’Neill’s abrupt end-of-employment. No, former Florida Gulf Coast head coach and new USC hire Andy Enfield’s rise has been fast and sweet. You know Enfield’s story by now. Bounced around the NBA a bit as an assistant coach, spent some time as a minority owner of a successful start-up, married a model, wound up as an assistant coach under Leonard Hamilton at Florida State, then has spent the last two seasons at the head coach of Florida Gulf Coast. And, up until about two weeks ago, 99.9% of the country had never heard of the guy. But, a pair of wild and exciting NCAA Tournament wins out of the 15-hole later, he was the hottest young coach in America and certainly due for a significant step up in pay and in prestige.

A Meteoric Rise for the Florida Gulf Coast Head Coach

A Meteoric Rise for the Florida Gulf Coast Head Coach

Which is where USC comes in; despite canning O’Neill in mid-January ostensibly in an effort to get a head start on their coaching search, it appeared that athletic director Pat Haden had struck out on his first handful of targets, with guys like Jamie Dixon, Josh Pastner and even Steve Alford taking themselves out of the running. In part due to that and in part due to the need to make a big splash with its hire, Enfield winds up as just about the absolute perfect hire for Haden. He’s got the NBA background, he runs a fun style, he’s got the hot wife and he’s a popular name. It’s a slam dunk for a USC program with little history of success.

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 16

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 6th, 2013

Congratulations to UCLA, who used a terrific sweep of the Arizona schools last week to climb atop our latest Pac-12 power rankings. Oregon follows closely behind, using the return of point guard Dominic Artis to boost itself in a rivalry win against Oregon State. California comes in as a unanimous pick at the three spot. The Golden Bears won their sixth and seventh straight games last week, dominating Utah and Colorado for nearly identical 18- and 16-point victories. Colorado, Arizona, and USC make up the second tier of our rankings. The Buffaloes earned an at-large clinching split in the Bay Area, while Arizona fell hard in two games in Los Angeles. USC continued to make its case for an NIT berth as the Trojans earned back-to-back upset wins over the Wildcats and Sun Devils. Arizona State, Washington, Stanford, Oregon State, Utah, and Washington State round out the remainder of the rankings.

Rank School Record Last Week Δ CP PB AB Average Up Next
1 UCLA 22-7 N/A - 1 1 2 1.3 @ Wash St
2 Oregon 23-6 N/A - 2 2 1 1.6 @ Colorado
3 California 20-9 N/A - 3 3 3 3.0 Stanford
4 Colorado 19-9 N/A - 5 4 5 4.6 Oregon
5 Arizona 23-6 N/A - 6 5 4 5.0 Arizona St
6 USC 14-15 N/A - 4 6 7 5.6 @ Wash
7 Arizona St 20-10 N/A - 8 7 6 7.0 @ Arizona
8 Washington 16-13 N/A - 7 8 8 7.6 USC
9 Stanford 17-13 N/A - 9 9 9 9.0 @ California
10 Oregon St 13-16 N/A - 10 10 10 10.0 @ Utah
11 Utah 11-17 N/A - 11 11 11 11.0 Oregon State
12 Wash State 11-18 N/A - 12 12 12 12.0 UCLA
  • Free-falling Cats. Arizona is not in a good place as we head into Championship Week and Selection Sunday. Despite its 23 victories, Arizona has dropped its last two games and fallen to fifth in this week’s rankings. They are also on the five seed line in most bracket projections, but if they close out the season with a thud, a six seed would likely be in the Wildcats’ future. That would mean a Third Round matchup with a team like Kansas State or Michigan State, something Sean Miller and company desperately would like to avoid. To do that they’ll need a Territorial Cup sweep of Arizona State and a quarterfinal P-12 Tourney win in Las Vegas.
  • Rising Trojans. Fighting for their coach’s job and a backdoor bid to the NIT, USC has been playing some good hoops as of late. Eric Wise has been a force down low the past couple of weeks and he makes a great half of a one-two punch with guard Byron Wesley coming off the bench. A road sweep of the Washington schools would do the trick, but with that not likely to happen, they’ll need a win in the first round of the Pac-12 Tourney.
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Rushed Reactions: #14 Minnesota 71, USC 57

Posted by AMurawa on December 9th, 2012

Drew Murawa is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from tonight’s Minnesota-USC game in Los Angeles.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. 500 Wins. Tonight’s win was Tubby Smith’s 500th victory in his career and he becomes the 19th active head coach to reach that mark. Despite a national title, a National Coach of the Year award, and numerous other accomplishments under his belt, Smith gets overlooked regularly since he left Kentucky, but despite some offseason distractions, he looks like he has put together his best team at his current stop. After the game, he paused to reflect briefly and typically understated his accomplishment: “I have been in good situations and on programs who have been committed to basketball. Not everyone has that opportunity.”
  2. Golden Gophers For Real. Balanced scoring, superb athleticism up front, talented and savvy guards, depth and great coaching. Yup, that’s a pretty good recipe for a Top 25 team. Eight players saw seven minutes or more for Smith and seven of those guys scored at least six points. In the early moments of the game, it was clear that one of these teams was ready to go from the opening tip and one was not — Minnesota looked crisp, moving the ball around quickly and getting enough open looks to send USC looking for cover in a 2-3 zone. As it is now, Minnesota has a 10-1 record with wins over Memphis, Stanford, Florida State, and USC, and a loss to #1 Duke the only blemish. We knew teams like Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State were going to be a load, but coupled with Illinois’ big win at Gonzaga on Saturday, it looks like we can throw another pair on the Big Ten pile.
  3. Working Things Out. We’re a month into the season and Kevin O’Neill has no idea what he has here. His rotation seems to be little more than subbing guys in and out based on a whim. Eleven guys played in the first half, and while O’Neill tightened up his rotation to great effect in the second half, it just isn’t feasible to generate a brand new rotation every night out. Guys need to know their roles in order to give the coaching staff what they want. Start with the players you absolutely need to have on the floor (e.g., Byron Wesley, Jio Fontan, and Omar Oraby) and build an eight or nine-man rotation from there. There is enough talent here for the Trojans to make some noise in conference play, but O’Neill’s got to cobble together some type of coherent plan for that to happen. He certainly knows that, as he discussed after the game trimming his rotation based on effort.
Tubby Smith, Minnesota

Tubby Smith Earned His 500th Win Saturday Night With What Appears To Be His Best Minnesota Team

Star of the GameOmar Oraby. You hate to name a player on the losing team the star of the game, but in the second half at least, Oraby was the best player on the floor. He scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, the Trojan offense ran smoothly through him in the post, he crashed the boards and challenged many shots at the rim, including a dunk attempt by Trevor Mbakwe on a breakaway that wound up with both players crashing to the floor. The whistle went against Oraby, but he maintained his innocence, even after the game. Oraby got 14 minutes in the second half and O’Neill sang his praises (except for his woeful free throw shooting) after the game, noting, “he’s gonna have to get a ton of time.”

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Pac-12 M5: 11.28.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 28th, 2012

  1. We are two and a half weeks into the 2012-13 season and coach Kevin O’Neill’s USC squad is still searching for an identity. We heard all offseason long about how this Trojan team had more than enough depth, and how this was the year they got back on track and competed for another NCAA Tournament berth. However, as Evan Budrovich points out, the influx of available bodies has actually hurt SC early on, leaving it far short of its true potential. Budrovich lays out a plan that appears to be foolproof at the end of the article, stating that the Trojans should go big and implement little used freshman forward Strahinja Gavrilovic into the starting lineup instead of Byron Wesley. Gavrilovic’s ability to score consistently from any spot in the paint would help SC when it goes into one of its typical shooting slumps. Wesley would come off the bench and play in his most comfortable shooting guard role, and Renaldo Wooldridge would see increased minutes as a defensive stopper. Whatever O’Neill decides on, he needs to figure it out quickly before SC faces Nebraska, New Mexico, and Minnesota the next three times it takes the floor.
  2. Staying in Los Angeles, Bruins Nation delves into some theories as to what is wrong with UCLA. As DCBruins points out, Ben Howland got his dream recruiting class, and team, this season – so the players are definitely not at fault. And even in the day and age where players transfer one game into the season, it’s not likely that the majority of the team has already “stopped playing” for Howland this quick into the year. Or maybe the quoted Bruin Report Online article is referring to fouling unnecessarily in the final 20 seconds (heyoooooo). Whether true or not, perception is reality, and the perception by most is that theory number four, stating that Howland flat-out can’t coach this group, is true right now.
  3. Something will have to give on Friday night in Kansas City, where an Oregon State team struggling with perimeter defense meets a Kansas squad that has been less than spectacular at the one through three spots on the floor so far this season. Head coach Bill Self compared his player’s ball reversal skills to be worse than that of third and fourth graders playing YMCA ball after the Jayhawks defeated San Jose State on Monday. If those struggles continue against the Beavers at the Sprint Center, Oregon State has a chance to get a marquee win Friday evening.
  4. I had been calling for it all throughout the offseason, and finally the media and opposing teams are catching on – California guard Justin Cobbs is legit. Cobbs has found his role with the Golden Bears and has settled into it perfectly, playing inside himself for a tidy average of 20 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 3.7 APG so far this season. Without a doubt, the mixture of Cobbs and junior Allen Crabbe combines to make the league’s top backcourt duo so far in 2012-13. Also included in Doug Haller’s column is his weekly power rankings, which are pretty close to the ones we released yesterday. Haller, however, has Arizona and Colorado flipped at the top, as he does with Oregon and California just after those two.
  5. Washington received more bad news on Tuesday when it learned that senior guard Scott Suggs would miss Wednesday’s game against Saint Louis due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot. The Huskies were without Suggs’ services against Colorado State on Saturday, and as we all know, that didn’t turn out very well. This already offensively challenged Dawg squad will get all it can handle, and then some, against the Billikens tonight. SLU has gotten off to a slow, 3-2 start, but anyone that tuned in to see them dominate Texas A&M last week for a 21-point victory knows that they are for real.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: USC Trojans

Posted by AMurawa on October 24th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the USC Trojans.

Strengths: Fresh blood. You know the old legend about Keith Richards getting a complete change of blood in order to beat a heroin addiction prior to the Rolling Stones 1973 European tour? Well, if you’ll indulge a tortured analogy for a second: If Keith Richards is the USC basketball team, and his heroin addiction is SC’s 1-17 finish in a historically bad Pac-12, that blood transfusion is USC’s almost completely remade roster. With transfers, freshmen and players returning from seasons lost to injury, head coach Kevin O’Neill will likely only run a player or two out there who was around and active at the end of 2011-12. Instead Jio Fontan, J.T. Terrell, Eric Wise, DeWayne Dedmon, Aaron Fuller, Ari Stewart, Renaldo Woolridge and others will give the Trojans a chance to start anew, and with certainly a larger collection of offensive talent than has ever been assembled in the O’Neill era in Los Angeles. To reference the apocryphal story even further, it should be noted that even if Richards did undergo such a transfusion, it wasn’t his last run-in with addiction. But, nevertheless, that ’73 Stones tour was an undeniable success. And this Trojan team is capable of going from one with no expectations a year ago to one who could get some serious satisfaction this season, so long as that relapse can be withheld until after the tour.

Jio Fontan, USC

Jumpin’ Jio Fontan Is Back For The New Look Trojans, Who Hope A Complete Change Of Blood Will Reverse Their Fortunes

Weaknesses: While the Trojans have been strong defensively in each of O’Neill’s three years as head coach, they’ve been a plodding mess on offense, ranking no better than #93 in the nation in offensive efficiency (as always, per KenPom.com) before dipping to a putrid #326 last year. While he’s got tons of new pieces that could fit perfectly into his team’s jigsaw puzzle, KO’s got to prove that he can get it done with plenty of guys on this squad who have a history of bombing their way to unacceptably low field goal percentages (Fontan’s never even approached a 50% eFG rate, while Terrell, Stewart, Wise and Woolridge all had similar struggles at their previous stops). A newer concern for O’Neill is that, with the departure of last year’s point guard Maurice Jones, there is no margin for error at the point guard position for Fontan. If, god forbid, his surgically repaired knee causes him to miss any time again, the Trojans could be playing with fire.

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USC Week: One-On-One With Kevin O’Neill

Posted by AMurawa on July 5th, 2012

Kevin O’Neill took over the USC program in the wake of Tim Floyd’s abrupt resignation in June 2009.The instability within the program caused USC to lose much of its 2009 recruiting class, but O’Neill helped that team – playing without the hope of a postseason berth due to fallout from the Floyd era – keep it’s head above water, finishing with a 16-14 record. The following season, the Trojans were able to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, claiming a spot in the initial First Four, but last season the team was torn apart by injuries and recorded a program-worst 6-26 record. This year reinforcements arrive and folks around the USC program think they could be due for a big bounce-back season. As part of our week-long look at the Trojan basketball program, we had a chance last week to talk to O’Neill as he looks forward to 2012-13.

Kevin O'Neill, USC

In Three Seasons At USC, Kevin O’Neill Has Established A Tough Defensive Personality For His Trojan Team

Andrew Murawa: Obviously last year was one of those Murphy’s Law kind of years. Despite all of the bad luck and losses, are you able to find any silver lining in an otherwise bad year?

Kevin O’Neill: You know, once Jio (Fontan) got hurt in Brazil it all sort of fell apart. You kind of have to go back a couple of years. When we took over the program, there were no freshmen or sophomores – we lost two classes completely and we were able to piece it together with six guys per year for the first two years. And we knew we had to avoid injury for the third year. And then everyone got hurt. And once everybody got hurt, we didn’t have enough talent or enough players or enough depth. We had played without depth for two years and had been fortunate to avoid injuries, but it just caught up with up with us last year. But, it will make us appreciate this year a whole lot more.

AM: You did get some guys plenty of experience last year. Maurice Jones, for one, was forced into a pretty extreme role last year, playing a ton of minutes, having the ball in his hands a lot and probably taking more shots than he ever expected to take in his college career. With all the firepower you are getting back this year, is he looking forward to getting back to more of a normal role?

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USC Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on July 3rd, 2012

The Trojans return six contributors from last season’s team, along with point guard Jio Fontan, who comes back after losing last year to a torn ACL. The returnees range from players whose seasons were cut short, to underclassmen who got big time minutes in the absence of their injured teammates, to role players whose minutes could dwindle in the presence of USC’s newly stocked roster. Below, we’ll take a look at each of these returnees in order of their scoring averages in the last season played.

  • Maurice Jones, Junior, Guard (13.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.8 SPG) – Jones’ season last year was one of the most extreme seasons I can remember from a player. He played 94.7% of the possible minutes, logging 24 games in which he played 37 minutes or more, including a 49-minute epic in a double overtime loss to Nebraska. And those weren’t passive minutes either, as he used 26% of the team’s possessions and took 27% of their shots – only four times all season did he attempt fewer than 10 field goals in a game. Unfortunately, many times those double-digit field goal attempts were accompanied by tiny numbers in the field goals made column – he posted a paltry 39.8% eFG and an offensive efficiency rating of 85.4. We could go on for several more sentences ripping apart Jones’ 2011-12 season, but the fact is, he did more or less what head coach Kevin O’Neill asked of him, taking on a huge offensive role in the absence of other more polished offensive players. And, in some areas, Jones shone, specifically with assists on 23.9% of his teammates hoops (the pessimist could point out that was because he always had the ball in his hands), compared with turnovers on just 15% of his team’s possessions (a number even the pessimists would have to admit is pretty impressive for a guy that handled it as much as Jones). With reinforcements arriving this season, Jones’ role should return to some form of normalcy, and you can expect his efficiency to increase as well. Still, at 5’7”, he’s always going to be something of a liability on defense, so it will be interesting to see just how large of a role he plays this year.
Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Played A Huge Role For USC Last Year, Playing 94.7% Of His Possible Minutes (Brandon Hui/Daily Trojan)

  • Aaron Fuller, Senior, Forward (10.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG) – Fuller was the Trojans’ best offensive player last season, his first year of eligibility after transferring from Iowa. He was the one guy on the team who could get the ball in the post or at the elbow and either make a move or knock down a jumper. And, better still, he excelled on the glass, especially on the offensive end where he could get the Trojans easy buckets. His one major weakness, however, is something that isn’t going to change: He’s a 6’6” power forward. Sure, he can out-hustle and out-scrap a lot of guys, but there is a ceiling to just how good he can be.
  • Jio Fontan, Senior, Point Guard (10.5 PPG, 3.9 APG in 2010-11) – Fontan played 23 games for the Trojans in 2010-11 after transferring over from Fordham, leading the team to a 13-10 record over that span. His USC career got off to a strong start as he scored in double figures in the first four games, but lulled a bit in the meat of conference. At Fordham, he was expected to be the primary offensive force, while the Trojans want him to be more of a pure point, so the last time we saw him play, his game was still a work in progress. But, he’s now had two offseasons to work on his game and he got the blessing-in-a-seriously-good-disguise of being able to watch a season from the sidelines. He’s got the ability to score at a big-time level, but if he can balance his scoring with the ability to create for his teammates, he’ll live up to the high expectations that O’Neill has for him.
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USC Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on July 2nd, 2012

It has now been 20 seasons since the USC Trojans last finished a season with less than 10 losses, 26 years since they earned at least a piece of the Pac-10 title and 51 whopping years since they won their conference outright (then known as the Athletic Association of Western Universities – or the Big Five). Compared to that history of futility, the recent past in USC basketball has been relatively successful. Between the 2006-07 and the 2010-11 seasons, the Trojans posted a combined 103-66 record, finished tied for third twice and never finished lower than a tie for fifth. And then came last season, when the wheels came off the bus entirely, as the team limped home to a school-worst 6-26 record, helped along by an almost unbelievable stretch of injuries. Of the five players who started in USC’s first exhibition game last summer in Brazil, just one was still active when their season wrapped up, and all told, just six scholarship players remained available.

Kevin O'Neill, USC

The USC Basketball Program Had Been Relatively Successful In Kevin O’Neill’s First Two Seasons, But Nothing Went Right Last Year (Rick Scuteri/AP)

Teams are going to have injuries from time to time, and head coach Kevin O’Neill understands that, but last year’s streak of bad luck came at a particularly tough time, with the program left in a fragile state by previous head coach Tim Floyd. In June 2009, Floyd resigned abruptly in the wake of NCAA investigations (and eventual penalties) related to illegal benefits for O.J Mayo, just shortly after starters DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett had all decided to leave school early to pursue professional careers. With the change in staff and the NCAA sleuthing around, the Trojans lost all but one player from their 2009 recruiting class, including Derrick Williams, Momo Jones and Renardo Sidney. The Trojans were able to scrape into the NCAA Tournament in 2011 behind a molasses-slow tempo and stingy defense, but the program was still in recovery mode from the Floyd fiasco, lacking the depth to be able to mask the multiple injuries they endured last year.

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Pac-12 2011-12 Post-Mortem Wrap-Up

Posted by AMurawa on May 4th, 2012

Over the last few weeks, we’ve run down each of the teams in the Pac-12, recounting the high and low points of the 2011-12 season, saying goodbye to departing players, introducing you to new faces around the conference, as well as pointing out reasons for hope and concern for the future of each program. Along the way, we also handed out MVP awards for each team, and we graded each team compared with their expectations. In case you’ve missed any of those posts, below you’ll find a link to each team’s post-mortem, along with the MVP and grade we’ve chosen.

  • ColoradoMVP: Andre Roberson, Overall Grade: A
  • CaliforniaMVP: Jorge Gutierrez, Overall Grade A-
  • StanfordMVP: Aaron Bright, Overall Grade: B
  • OregonMVP: Devoe Joseph, Overall Grade: B
  • Washington StateMVP: Brock Motum, Overall Grade: B
  • WashingtonMVP: Tony Wroten, Overall Grade: B-
  • Oregon StateMVP: Jared Cunningham, Overall Grade: C+
  • ArizonaMVP: Kyle Fogg, Overall Grade: C+
  • UtahMVP: Jason Washburn, Overall Grade: C-
  • Arizona StateMVP: Trent Lockett, Overall Grade: D
  • UCLAMVP: Lazeric Jones, Overall Grade: D-
  • USC MVP: Byron Wesley, Overall Grade: F

As for upcoming features, beginning in June, we’ll spend one week on each team taking you through the dog days of the summer looking ahead to the 2012-13 expectations for the Pac-12 conference. Then every Friday throughout the offseason, we’ll also post a Weekly Five, detailing recent news around the league. And, as events warrant, we’ll drop additional posts as needed and may come up with a handful of other ideas to keep us all entertained as we suffer through the Great Sports Desert.

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USC: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 13th, 2012

What Went Wrong

Everything. Almost literally. The Trojans lost their senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL on their summer trip to Brazil, a trip that also saw forward Curtis Washington go down with a shoulder injury from which he would not return. Later injuries ended the seasons for sophomore forward DeWayne Dedmon and junior forward Aaron Fuller, leaving a skeleton crew on the court for head coach Kevin O’Neill. And he, in turn, handed over the keys to the car to sophomore point guard Maurice Jones, who started off the season as a bomber sans conscience (two-for 13 in their season opening win over Cal State Northridge) and went out much the same (two-for-eight in their Pac-12 Tournament loss to UCLA). While you have to give credit to Jones for bringing his lunch pail to work every day (he played in every game, only once played less than 30 minutes and 12 times played 40 or more on his way to playing 94.7% of his team’s minutes), there just came a time when you wished that lunchpail didn’t always include something like a four-for-14 sandwich. But, given the dearth of offensive weapons for the offense and O’Neill’s insistence that Jones keep bombing away, it’s hard to blame him for trying.

Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Was A Constant For The Trojans, But Was Typically Inefficient (Brendan Hui, Daily Trojan)

What Went Right

Well. The season did end. Eventually. After a school-worst 6-26 record that included one win in the final 20 games.

MVP

As teammates fell by the wayside around him, freshman wing Byron Wesley stepped up his game scoring in double figures in 11 of the final 13 games and averaging 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds over that stretch while establishing himself as one of the best defenders on the team. And, like Jones, he was an ironman for the team, playing in 85.8% of his team’s minutes.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.06.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2012

  1. The Pac-12 announced its postseason awards on Monday, handing the Player of the Year award to California’s Jorge Gutierrez and the Coach of the Year to Washington’s Lorenzo Romar for the third time in his career. Gutierrez also claimed the Defensive Player of the Year, earning a spot on the All-Defensive team for the third consecutive season. Washington State’s Brock Motum is the no-brainer for Most Improved Player, while the Huskies’ Tony Wroten was the similarly obvious choice for Freshman of the Year. The All-Conference team was also announced, but at some point, somebody in the league office has got to come to some understanding that you put five players – not 10 – on your basketball All-Conference team. If you want to honor more than just five players, go ahead and name a second team, and even a third if you so choose.
  2. Washington’s Terrence Ross was a strong contender for Player of the Year, and may or may not have been named the RTC Pac-12 POY (check back later today for our conference awards), but upon finding out that Gutierrez had won the award, he said he felt “snubbed.” Ross did congratulate the winner, but felt surprised that neither he nor teammate Wroten won the award. Wroten echoed Ross’ thoughts, saying that he expected his teammate to earn the honor, but said that the Huskies will use the perceived slight as motivation in the conference tournament.
  3. Doug Haller, the Arizona State beat writer at The Arizona Republic, is on the very short list of the best beat writers in the conference, and on Monday he released a barrage of blog posts, giving his thoughts on the official Pac-12 awards, offering up his own picks for All-Pac-12 and some other honors, naming his All-Defensive team, and his All-Freshman team. Now, I certainly don’t agree with his pick of Tony Wroten as the POY and I’ve detailed my objections here in the past (refresher course: He’s not the best player on his team, he’s certainly not the go-to guy in the clutch on his team, his shot selection leaves much to be desired as does his actual shooting, and he turns the ball over too much), but while I would have had picked Tad Boyle as COY a week ago, I’ve shifted to the Dana Altman camp given Colorado’s season-ending slide. But other than that, everything else there looks pretty good; I particularly like the inclusion of USC’s Byron Wesley on his All-Freshman team because, as Haller notes, he’s probably improved more than any other conference freshman over the course of the season.
  4. Reaction to last week’s Sports Illustrated story on the UCLA program continues to roll in. On Sunday, former USC coach Tim Floyd weighed in on Ben Howland’s side, saying that although he and Howland “weren’t close” and “didn’t exchange Christmas cards” (have to admit, I sorta miss Floyd – he’s sure got a way with words, don’t he?), he has great respect for his former adversary and that he is one of the three best coaches he’s ever coached against (with Eddie Sutton and former Colorado State and Fresno State coach Boyd Grant the other two). Check out the whole article though. The last line out of Floyd’s mouth is worth the effort. Elsewhere, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar weighed in on the state of the program as well, calling for the UCLA program to return to the “Wooden way,” something that is far easier said than done. Still, at the heart of his article, the call for Howland to show more interest in the development of his players off of the court should not fall on deaf ears.
  5. Lastly, we talked about it yesterday in our Morning Five, but Arizona’s loss to Arizona State on Sunday is still reverberating throughout Wildcat world. Great line from Scott Terrell of the Tucson Citizen about how “It’s not so much that the Arizona Wildcats lost to Arizona State… Actually, that’s not true. It is that the Cats lost to ASU.” Given how bad the Sun Devils have been for the bulk of this season, he’s right. That result is perhaps the most shocking result of the entire conference schedule. We talked about some of the anomalies that occurred in that game yesterday (ASU’s 1.27 points per possession in that game was a serious outlier compared to their previous results), but Terrell adds a few more: ASU shoots 67% from the free throw line on the year, but shot 92% on Sunday; they hadn’t scored 87 points in a game in 26 months; and Arizona has held opponents to 40% field goal shooting this year, but allowed ASU to shoot 56% on Sunday. Worst of all for the Arizona faithful, the loss leaves the Wildcats needing to win the conference tournament in order to go dancing. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if the Sun Devils can use this win as a springboard for some success in the Pac-12 Tourney.
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