Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences.  

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • More Behavioral Problems – While the struggles of the Pac-12 conference as a whole has been well-documented, the sheer number of off-the-court distractions coaches up and down the conference have had to deal with has been astounding. There’s the ongoing Reeves Nelson soap opera at UCLA. Josiah Turner has been patently unable to get it together in Arizona. Jabari Brown quit on his team after just two games because he was “only” getting about 26 minutes a game. This week Utah suspended Josh Watkins, one of just three players in the Pac-12 to score in double figures in each of his team’s games (Washington’s Terrence Ross and Washington State’s Brock Motum the other two). Then there are lesser lights like Oregon’s Bruce Barron (quit on his team as well), Arizona’s Sidiki Johnson (suspended, dismissed and now transferring out) and Washington State’s D.J. Shelton (suspended). That’s not even including Joshua Smith’s issues, Jerime Anderson’s legal troubles, or Jahii Carson’s inability to get eligible. While the play on the court has been less than stellar around the conference, it is the off-the-court nonsense that is giving the conference the biggest black eye.

Josh Watkins' Troubles Are Only the Latest and Greatest...

  • Surprising Players Stepping Up – In the place of all the missing or invisible players, these teams have needed somebody to step up, and there have been some surprising players that are doing their part. Just looking at the five players that were nominated for the Pac-12 Player of the Week last week gives you a list of surprising names: Charlie Enquist, Ahmad Starks, Anthony Brown, Keala King and, the winner of the award, Solomon Hill. No disrespect to any of those guys, but I don’t think you would have found any of those names on most preseason all-Pac-12 teams. Hill has been a versatile and steadying force for Arizona.  Not only is the junior post leading the team in points (12.4 PPG), assists (3.1 APG) and minutes (31.5 MPG), but Hill is also grabbing the second most rebounds (7.8 RPG), and he’ll likely be a candidate for the Pac-12 award on a semi-regular basis throughout the year. But Charlie Enquist? That’s a guy who had scored a total of 50 points and grabbed a total of 41 rebounds in his 54 games in his previous three years in Pullman. This week he scored 28 and grabbed 19 rebounds. Meanwhile, King was awful at Arizona State last year (36.5% from the field, 1-18 threes, more turnovers than assists), but has scored 65 points in his last three games while posting a 75.8 eFG%. Starks had 16 points and four threes in Oregon State’s win over Montana, and Anthony Brown scored 27 points in two games for Stanford this week. For the underachieving teams in this conference to improve between now and March, they’ll need players to step up and make bigger-than-expected contributions.
  • Stanford For Real? – At the start of the season, it was more or less consensus that there were four teams in the upper tier of the Pac-12: Arizona, Cal, UCLA and Washington. It didn’t take long for one of those four teams to drop from that group (I’ll let you guess which one that was), but with Stanford sporting the best record in the Pac-12 at 8-1 so far (the lone loss a tough six-point defeat at Madison Square Garden to Syracuse), the Cardinal may have jumped up into that group. Of Stanford’s eight victories this season, seven of them have come by 12 or more, with only their most recent come-from-behind win against NC State being a tight one. And at least one RTC correspondent came away from that game impressed enough to confirm that Stanford is good enough, at least defensively, to contend for the conference title. The Cardinal are now in the midst of 13 days off surrounding finals, and really only have one challenging non-conference game remaining (December 22 against Butler). But, if the Cardinal can pick up where it left off, coach Johnny Dawkins‘ squad will be a tough out during conference play.

Player of the Year Watch

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Checking In On.. the Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. 

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • Tournament Trip-Ups – The early season exempt tournaments are always an exciting time of the year in college basketball. Teams from conferences across the land get a chance to meet, usually on a neutral floor, and play several games against quality competition in a relatively short span, giving coaches a chance to figure out exactly what to make of their new collection of players and giving fans a chance to get introduced to their new teams. For the Pac-12 schools, this season’s batch of early season tournaments was largely a bust. You know when the two best results for the conference in these tournaments were Oregon State’s two-point loss to Vanderbilt in the finals of the Legends Classic and Stanford’s six-point loss to Syracuse in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off, that things didn’t exactly go as planned. And the less we speak about the last place finishes of Utah and Washington State in the Old Spice Classic and the 76 Classic, the better.
  • Oregon’s Growing Pains – Last week, the bombshell out of Eugene was that five-star freshman guard Jabari Brown was leaving Dana Altman’s program after just two games. Then news broke Tuesday night that fellow freshman guard Bruce Barron was also leaving the program – this time after just five games, only three of which Barron played in (seven minutes per game). Those two defections make for six players that have left the Oregon program since Altman’s arrival. Certainly the first four of those transfers make sense, as many coaching changes result in roster changes, but Brown and Barron were Altman recruits, and guys who were getting playing time. The fact that Brown and Barron were close friends does provide something of an explanation for Barron’s decision, though. If there is any good news in this shakeup for Oregon, both players are continuing with their classes at the school for this semester, meaning their defections could have no negative impact on the team’s APR.
Jabari Brown, Oregon

The Trend Of Ducks Flying The Coup Is A Troubling One For Oregon Fans. (Jim Brown/US Presswire)

  • Injuries – The Pac-12 probably hasn’t had any more injuries than any other conference this season, but they have had their share of important ones. USC lost senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL prior to the season, had freshman center Curtis Washington saw his season end with a torn labrum, and just last week saw sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon go down with a stress fracture in his foot that will keep him out for four to six weeks. Utah is missing 7’3” center David Foster, who broke a foot in the Utes’ exhibition game, and he is still deciding whether he’ll return this season or take a medical redshirt. And Washington is still waiting to find out about senior guard Scott Suggs who broke a toe prior to the season. Suggs hopes to begin practicing this week with a possible return December 10 against Duke.

Player of the Year Watch

Last week, Jared Cunningham was coming off consecutive games in which he had set a new career-high for himself, and combined with his defensive prowess, he was the POTY frontrunner. Now, he’s coming off two-straight more modest performances scoring-wise (10.5 PPG), but remains the Pac-12’s leading scorer with 20.8 points per game. The next three spots on the conference scoring list are manned by Utah’s Josh Watkins (18.8 PPG), Arizona State’s Trent Lockett (17.5 PPG) and Washington State’s Faisal Aden (17.0 PPG), good players all, but guys who likely won’t have an impact on the POTY race, simply because they play for bad teams.

Cunningham Remains at the Top of our POTY Watch

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Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.

Reader’s Take

Top Storylines

Problem Children – The overriding theme in the Pac-12 thus far this season has been problems: chemistry problems, behavioral problems, injury problems, and probably problems on top of those problems. (You know how when you repeat the same word a lot you realize how weird it sounds? Problem is a weird word.) The most high-profile of all these categories has been a handful of student-athletes around the conference creating problems for their teams out of thin air. The Reeves Nelson meltdown at UCLA has been the most high profile, with Jabari Brown’s premature defection from Oregon not far behind, but elsewhere around the conference there have been issues as well. At UCLA, senior point guard Jerime Anderson, a guy who should have been in a leadership position for this team, got busted for stealing a laptop this summer, pleading guilty to a couple misdemeanors and was suspended for two games (including one exhibition game) at the start of the year. On the same squad, ultra-talented big man Joshua Smith came back to the team this year ultra-big, looking as big or bigger than the 300+ pounds he showed he was unable to play at last year, then followed a loss to Loyola Marymount loss by making a fool of himself on Twitter. Over in Arizona, Sean Miller has had troubles of his own with freshmen Josiah Turner and Sidiki Johnson. Johnson is currently suspended, while Turner has displayed some chemistry problems of his own, causing him to be banished to the bench for a game by Miller. In short, aside from some bad basketball on the court, there have been a handful of players around the league making negative headlines off the court as well.

Problem Programs – Nobody really expected the Pac-12 to be a great conference this season, but the expectation was that it would be roughly as good as last year and primed for a big upswing next year with a batch of new highly regarded freshmen joining the talented youngsters currently littering conference rosters. Instead, through Tuesday night’s games, the conference had posted a combined 30-18 record, had just one remaining team (Stanford) still sporting an undefeated record and had a handful of teams in line for the title of worst BCS conference team. UCLA’s losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State have been well-documented, while USC’s 36-point disaster of a performance, in which enough bricks to build several wolf-proof houses were produced, is an excellent example of basketball at its ugliest. Nevertheless, as bad as UCLA and USC have been, one could easily envision both of those teams as middle-of-the-Pac contenders in the conference. That alone should tell you how bad the bottom of the conference is, but if further explanation is needed, look no further than Arizona State and Utah. The Sun Devils dropped a game at home to Pepperdine (a team that will challenge for the basement in the WCC) while Utah squeaked by NAIA also-ran San Diego Christian College (seriously, that’s a team that was 8-22 last year and lost 15 of its last 16 games) by three points before getting drilled by Boise State and losing to Montana State. As bad as the Pac-12 is, this Utah team is far and away the worst team in the conference.

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Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week Two

Posted by AMurawa on November 21st, 2011

Before we get to this week’s Pac-12 honors, let’s spend a minute on the dishonors. It has pretty much been an awful week around the conference. The week started with USC losing a heartbreaking double-overtime game to Nebraska and Washington State getting scorched by Gonzaga freshman Kevin Pangos. There was preseason all-conference player Reeves Nelson skipping practice and getting suspended at the start of the week followed up by UCLA dropping its second straight home game of the year this time to Middle Tennessee State the same night that Arizona State lost to WCC afterthought Pepperdine. Colorado dropped its first two games of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off before bouncing back to claim seventh place in the tournament. USC lost another tough one, this time to San Diego State on Thursday before coming back on Saturday night and dropping one of the ugliest games ever to Cal Poly, a game in which the two teams combined to post a 31.5 effective field goal percentage and commit turnovers on 20% of the possessions. Arizona faded down the stretch of the Coaches vs. Cancer Championship while Utah got embarrassed by Boise State and then dropped one to Montana State as well. Washington got lit up by St. Louis Sunday morning, and then Sunday afternoon it was announced that highly-regarded Oregon freshman guard Jabari Brown had left the team in a huff. In short, this was a bad, bad, bad week for Pac-12 basketball.

But still, there have got to be some bright spots, right?

Jared Cunningham, Oregon State

Jared Cunninham And The Beavers Were One Of Few Bright Spots In The Pac-12 This Week

Team of the Week

Oregon State – The good news starts here. After knocking off Texas Saturday night in a thrilling overtime game in the semifinals of the Legends Classic, the Beavers are now one of just three remaining undefeated Pac-12 teams. Behind a stellar career-high performance from junior guard Jared Cunningham (a name you will be reading again after the jump), the Beavers proved that their first three wins over less than stellar competition did indicate that this team had turned a corner and become a much more stable team than last year’s maddeningly inconsistent squad. Aside from Cunningham, sophomore forward Devon Collier has made a quantum leap, displaying an improved offensive game that was only hinted at last season. With junior center Joe Burton’s versatile skill set (10.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, and 1.8 SPG) and a host of solid role players (junior center Angus Brandt had 14 points and three three-pointers in the Texas game, while sophomore point guard Ahmad Starks has been filling the stat sheet as well), this Beaver team could be one to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.21.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 21st, 2011

  1. Let’s face it. It has been an ugly start to the season for the Pac-12 conference. Bad losses have been piled upon off-the-court problems and injuries to create some struggles out of the gate. The UCLA losses are the poster children for this epidemic, while Utah and Arizona State, to name just two, haven’t done much to help either. All that being said, Saturday night’s USC game was a new low. It’s not just that the Trojans lost to Cal Poly, a team that is a halfway-decent, middle-of-the-road Big West team. It is the manner in which the Trojans lost. They scored 36 points in the game. They scored 16 points in the second half (which, really, was only slightly worse than the first half). It’s not like they had a ton of possessions (roughly 54), but still, that works out to 0.67 points per possession. They turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions, and when they didn’t turn it over, they posted a 32.9% eFG. They only grabbed 65.7% of available defensive rebounds and just 16.7% of available offensive rebounds. Their best player, sophomore point guard Maurice Jones hit just one out of 11 field goal attempts, and now has just a 29.7% eFG this season. The good news is that there are some good young players on this USC squad which should provide a good foundation upon which to build this program; the bad news is, Trojans fans might need eyeball replacement surgery if they watch too much of this team this season.
  2. Washington had a bad day from start to finish on Sunday. It started out with the Huskies getting absolutely taken apart by Saint Louis in the morning, a game in which they fell behind by 25 points at the half before making a bit of a run at the end to only lose by 13. While the Billikens are a very good team and played a terrific game Sunday morning, the Huskies were exposed in their first loss. First and foremost, the relentless ball screening by SLU caused Washington all sorts of problems defensively, creating wide-open looks for threes and clean entry passes into the post. Secondly, because the Huskies were forced to take the ball out of the net so many times, they were forced to play a lot of halfcourt offense and struggled to get good looks out of their sets. Really, we know that the Huskies are going to improve as the season goes on and SLU is some good competition so this is by no means a crushing loss, but it does mean that the Huskies will be working their tails off in practice this week. Still, the long day wasn’t done for the Huskies when the final whistle blew because their flight back to Seattle was forced to make an emergency landing in Spokane and wait for an hour for the next jump back home.
  3. Colorado wrapped up their disappointing weekend in Puerto Rico on Sunday by salvaging seventh place in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a win over Western Michigan. The Buffaloes were able to seal the win despite playing much of the game without sophomore forward Andre Roberson, who fouled out in just 11 minutes of game action. Senior forward Austin Dufault and sophomore center Shane Harris-Tunks picked up the slack for Roberson on the glass, each snagging eight rebounds, while senior wing Carlon Brown did the bulk of the scoring, hitting  eight of his 14 field goal attempts for 23 points while adding six rebounds and four assists. The win sends the Buffs home with at least something to feel good about, despite dropping winnable games in the first two rounds against Wichita State and Maryland.
  4. Just when you thought the Reeves Nelson soap opera at UCLA was done (at least until the next thing goes wrong on the court), Nelson missed the team bus to the airport on Saturday for the team’s flight to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. He was allowed to take a later flight to Maui and is expected to play today when the Bruins start the tournament by playing the host, Chaminade. Head coach Ben Howland also confirmed on Sunday that the whole Nelson suspension thing was first started when he was late for a team meeting the day after the Bruins’ season opening loss to Loyola Marymount.
  5. Oregon State is in the middle of an 11-day, three-game east coast trip, and got their travels off to a good start on Saturday night with an overtime win over Texas in the semifinals of the Legends Classic. We’ll have more on the Beavers later today, but this morning we wanted to share with you a peek inside their program from the perspective of the players, specifically senior Kevin McShane and sophomore Roberto Nelson (collectively McBert, apparently) who are keeping a blog about their road trip. The first entry gives you a glimpse at the practice and travel schedule of college athletes, while the second captures the emotions following their big win on Saturday night. Great stuff from an otherwise dismal Pac-12 landscape this weekend.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.11.11 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 11th, 2011

  1. Colorado comes into the season losing their four top-scorers from a year ago, so all five Buffalo newcomers are going to have to play huge roles in 2011-12. Leading the newcomers is senior guard Carlon Brown, a transfer from Utah. Brown averaged 12.6 PPG two years ago with the Utes before transferring due to repeated “clashes” with the coaching staff. Also in the CU backcourt will be freshman Spencer Dinwiddie, who will bring a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio into Boulder. Dinwiddie is a true point guard in every sense of the word, something that the Buffaloes will surely miss after losing star guard Alec Burks.
  2. Washington begins play on Saturday against Georgia State and Clifford Kahn has the season preview. The article focuses on the youth this season on Montlake as 9 out of the 14 players on the roster are either freshmen or sophomoroes. While the five guys that aren’t in that group will certainly make some noise (Abdul Gaddy, Aziz N’Diaye, Brendan Sherrer, Scott Suggs, and Darnell Gant), sophomore Terrence Ross and freshman Tony Wroten, Jr., will be looked at to lead the team on the court.
  3. On a night when games like Central Arkansas-Stanford dominate the Pac-12 slate, no opening night Pac-12 game is anticipated more than Oregon-Vanderbilt. If it wasn’t for a certain game between North Carolina and Michigan State earlier in the evening, UO-VU would be the best game of the day. By far. The new-look Ducks, coming into the season with high expectations, will venture into Memorial Gymnasium Friday night to face the N0. 7 Commodores. The game is full of intrigue, but can the Ducks keep it close?  If their exhibition game last week against Grand Canyon is any indication, then no, Oregon will be lucky to be in it at halftime. But if the Ducks can build an early lead on some hot shooting, who kows, maybe we’ll be talking about a huge upset tomorrow morning.
  4. Down the road in Corvallis on Saturday, the opponent might not be Vanderbilt, but the game will still be huge. It is the second annual Nike N7 Game, an event meant to bring sport to Native American and Aboriginal youth. Oregon State coach Craig Robinson and center Joe Burton (Who grew up in the Soboba Indian reservation) welcomed the idea, originally formed by Sam McCracken, manager of Nike’s Native American business. “We were looking for a cause to get behind, as a program,’’ Robinson said. “Coaches vs. cancer is everywhere – we didn’t think we’d be able to make an impact. We were very supportive, but we wanted something we could put our imprint on.” The game will tipoff at 1:30 PM PST against Cal State Bakersfield.
  5. The battle for the Civapple Axellcup continues into its third week with me clinging on to a one game lead. The pick of the week last weekend belonged to Drew though, who not only correctly picked UCLA to beat Arizona State, but also picked them to win by one point. Low and behold, thanks to missed field goal at the gun, UCLA defeated the Sun Devils, 29-28. This week’s slate is highlighted by two games; Washington-USC and our “predict the score” game, Oregon-Stanford.

Here’s the picks:

Game Connor (9-3) Drew (8-4)
Arizona at Colorado Arizona Arizona
Washington at USC USC USC
Oregon State at California California California
UCLA at Utah Utah UCLA
Oregon at Stanford Stanford 46, Oregon 43 Oregon 41, Stanford 34
Arizona State at Washington State Arizona State Arizona State
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Predicting the Pac-12 All-Newcomer Team

Posted by AMurawa on November 7th, 2011

With eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 first team having moved on to greener pastures, there will be a lot of pressure on new players in the league to step into the shoes of their team’s departed stars. While it is always the case in any sport, and especially at the college level, that old players go and new players arrive, the Pac-12 in 2011-12 seems especially reliant on newcomers. At Washington, UCLA and Arizona – three of the four teams generally regarded in the top tier of the conference – players left those teams with eligibility to spare, as Isaiah Thomas, Malcolm Lee, Tyler Honeycutt and Derrick Williams left early for a chance at the NBA. And at each of those schools, newcomers will be asked to chip in right away to pick up the slack for the departed stars. Elsewhere around the league, at places like Oregon and Stanford, teams that had gone through down periods in terms of talent are restocking their cupboards with new faces. And while many of the newcomers are highly touted freshmen who’ve been on the recruiting radar for years (the Pac-12 has nine incoming freshman that were ranked in the ESPNU top 100), there are also Division I transfers and even junior college transfers who can be impact players immediately in this conference. While it remains to be seen exactly how these players will fit in new environments, here is our best guess as to the Pac-12 All-Newcomer team.

G Tony Wroten, Jr., Fr, Washington – An exciting lefty, Wroten steps into a good situation in Seattle. Alongside veteran point guard Abdul Gaddy, Wroten will have plenty of help in the backcourt with the Huskies. And, with a group of talented athletes around him, Wroten figures to get frequent opportunities to showcase his amazing passing abilities. More of a power guard than a flashy speed merchant, Wroten can post up smaller defenders or slash to the basket and score in the lane, but he’ll eventually need to tighten up his jumper in order to fulfill his potential.

Tony Wroten Jr.

Wroten, The Talented Freshman From Seattle, Doesn't Lack For Confidence

G Josiah Turner, Fr, Arizona – Turner is going to be a major part of Sean Miller’s plans in Tucson. A high-energy, athletic lead guard who excels in the open court, Turner will need to show that he is capable of playing under control and facilitating the Wildcat halfcourt offense. Furthermore, without a proven scorer on the squad, he will need to help shoulder the scoring burden in the wake of Derrick Williams and Momo Jones’ departures. While he figures to suffer some growing pains early in the season (pains already seen in Arizona’s two exhibition games), Turner should be a serious difference-maker by the time conference play rolls around. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Pac-12 Team Previews: Colorado

Posted by AMurawa on October 24th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Colorado Buffaloes

Strengths.  Tad Boyle’s got a couple of terrific athletes at the wing in Carlon Brown and Andre Roberson, each capable of being offensive threats, strong defenders and excellent rebounders for their positions. While neither of them is a great shooter from range, point guard Nate Tomlinson is, and big man Austin Dufault can also step outside and hit the 18-footer, allowing the Buffs to stretch the defense to clear room for their slashers.

Weaknesses. After losing the top four scorers from last season’s squad, the biggest weakness for the Buffaloes is simply the lack of experience. While this team sports four seniors, only one of them has been a primary offensive option for his team before, and that’s Brown, who did it at Utah two years ago. Beyond that, while this CU roster features four guys listed a 6’9″ or taller, Dufault is the only big man who has earned significant playing time in the past. Finally, you can expect this team’s free-throw shooting, ranked fifth in the nation last season, to take a serious hit this year as Roberson, in particular, has struggled from the line.

Andre Roberson

With last year's top four leading scorers graduated, Colorado will need sophomore Andre Roberson to play a bigger role.

Nonconference Tests.  The Buffs start their season the weekend before Thanksgiving in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where they’ll open with a game against Wichita State, then play either Alabama or Maryland in the second round. All of those games are significant tests, as are Iona, Purdue and Temple, three possible Sunday opponents in that tournament, depending on results of earlier games. Colorado will also travel to Air Force and Colorado State, with a visit from Georgia sandwiched in the middle, before seeing their December slate ease up substantially.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 10.24.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 24th, 2011

  1. One of the themes of this Pac-12 basketball season will be the impacts that newcomers make on the conference race. And nowhere will a group of freshman be more important to the team’s eventual success than in Tucson, where Sean Miller welcomes in four top 100 recruits. Josiah Turner is the most highly acclaimed of the four, and he has a chance to step in and grab the starting point guard position from the get-go. Nick Johnson is a seriously athletic two-guard, while Sidiki Johnson and Angelo Chol are a pair of power forwards who should earn minutes immediately. For a little deeper introduction, Casey Crowe at Bleacher Report has the rundown on each of them.
  2. Also in Tucson, Arizona held its Red-Blue Game on Saturday, a scrimmage that also served as a platform for adding Derrick Williams and Chase Budinger into the UA Ring of Honor. Before a sold-out crowd at the McKale Center that included former Wildcat great such as Jason Terry, Andre Iguodala, Richard Jefferson, and Channing Frye, UA fans got their first glimpse at those new freshman, with Sidiki Johnson scoring 18 and Nick Johnson, who won the pre-game dunk contest, adding 17.
  3. Washington invites in six freshman of their own, with explosive guard Tony Wroten, Jr., leading the way. Wroten underwent minor knee surgery this week, but is not expected to miss any games. To get to know Wroten a little bit, check out Searching for Billy Edelin’s exploration of the impact that Wroten has already had on Lorenzo Romar’s program, and the big things in his future. Wroten has been compared to such greats as Magic Johnson in the past, a comparison that Romar doesn’t shy away from.
  4. Not all the impact newcomers in the league are freshman. For Colorado, newly eligible transfer Carlon Brown will not only be a veteran leader, he’ll also be a major part of what the Buffs try to do on the floor. Brown left Utah after struggling through an unhappy junior season during which he was asked to give up his starting role and come off the bench. After spending last year on the practice squad guarding guys like Alec Burks and Cory Higgins, Brown is more than ready to get back on the floor.
  5. At Arizona State, not only are there new players, but there’s also a new pace, as head coach Herb Sendek is implementing a system that operates at a higher tempo than we’re used to seeing his Sun Devil teams play. Last year, ASU’s adjusted tempo was 296th in the nation, but they look to up that substantially this season. It would help if freshman point guard Jahii Carson was around to help push the pace, but Carson is still waiting for his transcripts from an online summer school course to be released.
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RTC Summer Updates: Pac-12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 25th, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our Pac-12 correspondent, Andrew Murawa.

Reader’s Take #1

Summer Storylines

  • The More, The Merrier: The Pac-10 is dead. Long live the Pac-12. The conference welcomes in Colorado and Utah for their first season in the conference, the first expansion in the West Coast’s premier conference since Arizona and Arizona State were added 33 years ago. Along with the new teams comes a new schedule – gone is the full home-and-away round robin. While there won’t be divisions in basketball like there are in football, each team will play an 18-game schedule with home and away games against its traditional rival, with six other rotating home-and-away series and four additional single games against the remaining teams. For instance, Colorado and Utah will only play the Southern California schools and the Washington schools once each, while they will play the remainder of the conference twice. While neither of the new schools are expected to make a big splash immediately in the conference, their arrival, coupled with other changes around the conference, such as the huge new $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox that begins in the fall of 2012, makes it an exciting time to be a Pac-12 fan.
  • Is There A Draft In Here?: Last summer, a big story around the conference was the dearth of Pac-10 players picked in the NBA Draft, as just two players from the conference were selected by NBA teams in 2010. After the 21 players that were picked in the conference between the 2008 and 2009 drafts, that was a precipitous fall. And, back before the season started, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of future high draft picks on the horizon. However, the conference had six players picked in the NBA draft, including three first-rounders and two lottery picks. Derrick Williams, the 2010-11 conference player of the year, led the way, getting snapped up by Minnesota with the #2 overall pick. Unfortunately for teams around the conference, 12 seasons of eligibility were left on the table between those six picks and the two early entries who went undrafted: Stanford’s Jeremy Green and Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto. And as a result, what had looked like a potential big-time bounce-back season for the conference now sees somewhat diminished expectations. Perhaps no team was hit harder by early defections than UCLA, who had Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee leave a total of three years of eligibility behind to go get second-round NBA draft picks (and the absence of guaranteed contracts that goes with them) at a time when the NBA labor situation is highly in doubt, but Washington State’s loss of Casto and lottery pick Klay Thompson also leaves the Cougars’ situation fuzzy at best.
  • Replacing Production: Between the early entries to the NBA Draft and departed seniors, the Pac-12 loses its top seven scorers from last season, and 11 of its top 20. Likewise, ten of the top 20 rebounders are gone. However, as always, a new batch of youngsters is ready to show up on campuses this fall and begin contributing immediately. While the Pac-10 inked only nine of the ESPNU top 100 recruits, seven of those players are exciting young guards, all ranked in the top 60 on that list. Arizona leads the way, signing point guard Josiah Turner (#14 overall, according to ESPNU) and Nick Johnson (#21), to go with a couple solid frontcourt signees (Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson, #60 and #91, respectively). But Washington (Tony Wroten, Jr., #16), Oregon (Jabari Brown, #25), Arizona State (Jahii Carson, #49), UCLA (Norman Powell, #51) and Stanford (Chasson Randle, #59) all have their own big backcourt recruits ready to provide a burst of energy.

Derrick Williams' performances were one of the highlights of the 2010-11 season.

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Checking in on… the Mountain West

Posted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 Conferences.

Standings (as of 3/5)

  1. New Mexico     (28-3, 14-2)
  2. BYU      (27-4, 12-3)
  3. San Diego State    (21-8, 10-5)
  4. UNLV       (22-7, 10-5)
  5. Utah          (14-15, 7-8)
  6. Colorado State      (15-14, 6-9)
  7. TCU          (13-17, 5-10)
  8. Wyoming         (10-19, 3-12)
  9. Air Force          (9-19, 1-14)

Superlatives

Team of the Week. New Mexico. The obvious answer here, as the Lobos this week knocked off BYU at the Marriott Center to clinch at least a portion of the regular season title, then followed that up by knocking off TCU back at The Pit to wrap up their MWC schedule with their 14th straight victory after starting out the conference season 0-2. The Lobos will head to Las Vegas as the #1 seed and have the potential to take home perhaps a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament should they extend their winning streak to 17.

Player of the Week. Darington Hobson, Jr, New Mexico. The junior JuCo transfer wrapped up this title, as well as my vote for the MWC Player of the Year, by leading his team to a win at BYU and a MWC title. Along the way this week, he averaged a mere 20 points, 14 rebounds (he in fact had exactly 20/14 in both games this week) and 5.5 assists, and had the key defensive play at the end of the Lobos win over BYU when he rejected Noah Hartsock’s game-tying attempt in the closing seconds.

Newcomer of the Week. Hobson.

Game of the Week. New Mexico 83 BYU 81. While this game came down to the wire and provided plenty of drama in a game for the conference regular season title, it is unfortunate that this game may be more notable for what didn’t happen than what did, specifically BYU’s junior guard Jimmer Fredette riding the pine for all but 29 seconds in the second half due to an “upset stomach.” The Cougars did have backup point Michael Loyd step up in Fredette’s absence to the tune of 19 points, but there is little doubt that the Cougars were at less than 100% effectiveness without their best player. The other story that came out of this matchup that had little to do with the game was New Mexico head coach Steve Alford aiming an insult at BYU senior forward Jonathan Tavernari after the game. Nevermind that Tavernari’s behavior in the closing minutes of the game was suspect at best, Alford was somewhat out of line. As far as the game goes, there were plenty of great moments, but most fans are left wanting a rematch in Vegas, preferably with a healthy Fredette.

Game of the Upcoming Week. The MWC Tournament Championship Game, March 13, 4pm, Versus. The remaining games in the MWC regular season schedule are all more or less snoozers, although UNLV, San Diego State and BYU will have to avoid slipping up against Wyoming, TCU and Air Force, respectively. But, at this point in the season, all eyes turn toward the MWC Tournament in Las Vegas next weekend, in what should feature some very competitive semifinals and a great final.

League Notes

At this point, there are four teams with NCAA dreams (New Mexico, BYU, UNLV and San Diego State) and a couple others (Utah and Colorado State) with their eyes on the NIT (or potentially, one of the other fourteen lesser post-season tournaments that have popped up recently – ah look, there goes another one now). While that makes for a banner season in the MWC, the concern around the league is not just getting to the tournament, but advancing. With that in mind, a brief look at how high (in terms of NCAA seedings) and how far these teams can go.

  • New Mexico – The Lobos will likely end up somewhere between a #2 and a #4 seed. If they roll through the MWC Tournament and get maybe one or two other breaks, they could potentially get up to a #2, while if they falter, say in the semifinals, they could slide to a #4. Split the difference and put ‘em down for a #3. In terms of how far they can go, clearly a team looking at those kinds of seeds has their eyes on at least the Sweet Sixteen, but a night of cold shooting especially at the foul line could cause the Lobos to underachieve. Their worst potential matchup would be with a team with a lot of size that could neutralize New Mexico’s rebounding strength, a team like Gonzaga, Wisconsin or Georgia Tech. In the end, I say this is a Sweet Sixteen team, but likely no further.
  • BYU – BYU’s lack of great wins will probably knock them down a notch or two in seeding, so even if they are able to run through the MWC Tournament, they probably get a #4 tops. More likely they are looking at a #5 and could slip to a #6. However, BYU may be a more dangerous team in the tournament than New Mexico. The Cougars are one of the most efficient teams on both sides of the court and feature not only a boatload of great shooters, but a strong bench as well, and this is a more athletic team than it is normally given credit for. BYU is also a team that can succeed not only in high-tempo games, but in slower grind-it-out games. I can see this team as a Sweet Sixteen team with a puncher’s chance of going a step further.
  • UNLV – The Rebels have enough good wins this season to more or less ensure inclusion in the tournament and they should draw a first-round battle as a seed somewhere in the #7-#9 range. Their chances of advancing depend a lot on matchups, but this is not a team that is likely to be playing on the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.
  • San Diego State – The big question for the Aztecs is not so much where they will be seeded, but if they will be seeded. A big run through the MWC Tournament is the only way that Steve Fisher will be resting easy on the night of March 13, but a run to the final would at least give SDSU another quality win to hang their hat on. Either way, even if the Aztecs do get to dance, they’ll likely be doing so with a double-digit seed, somewhere from #11 (if they do win the MWC tourney) to #13 (if they are among the last teams in. I’ve got a hunch this team will get a #12 seed, and while they are athletic enough to do some damage, they’ll likely bow out quickly.

Team Roundups

New Mexico

Looking back: Not much else to say here that wasn’t said above. The Lobos have wrapped up their conference schedule and by the time they play again they will not have lost in over two months. Roman Martinez dropped 19 points and five threes on TCU in his senior night performance, and junior point guard Dairese Gary has been big lately as well, having averaged 21ppg over the Lobos last three games and has been clutch down the stretch, routinely being the guy getting to the line and knocking down his shots from the charity stripe in the closing minutes of games.

Looking ahead: The Lobos get a week off to prepare for their trip to Vegas where they will open play with a matchup against the winner of the Air Force/Wyoming game before moving on to more challenging fare.

BYU

Looking back: BYU’s four losses on the season have come at Utah State, at New Mexico, at UNLV, and then at home against New Mexico without their best player for much of the game. They swept the season series against in-state rival Utah, and are all ready to receive a fairly high seed in the NCAA tournament. However, despite a bevy of accomplishments, it will go down as just another season if the Cougars are unable to advance out of the first round of the NCAA tournament, something they have been unable to do in the 11-year life of the MWC. The higher the seed the Cougs get, the easier it will be for them to accomplish that goal, so a strong performance in Vegas next weekend will be vital to BYU’s tournament chances.

Looking ahead: BYU wraps up the regular season by travelling to TCU on Saturday, then will face the Horned Frogs again on March 11th in the quarterfinals of the MWC Tournament.

San Diego State

Looking back: After the BYU loss, the Aztecs had just two games left on their schedule, games that they were expected to win, and they took care of the first half of that equation this week with a win over Colorado State on Wednesday. SDSU got eight straight points from junior point guard D.J. Gay to extend their lead to 33-19 at the half, and the Rams never really challenged again. Gay wound up with a team-high 16 points, while freshman forward Kawhi Leonard added 14 points and 15 rebounds and junior forward Malcolm Thomas added 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Looking ahead: The Aztecs wrap up the regular season with a trip to Air Force, then will travel to the MWC Tournament, where they will be a three-seed with a win and a four-seed if they lose and UNLV wins. Either way, they are locked into a matchup with either Colorado State or Utah in the quarterfinal, and a likely matchup with either BYU or New Mexico in the semifinal, a game which will be huge for the Aztecs NCAA tournament chances.

UNLV

Looking back: Much like the Aztecs, the Rebels are in the midst of a couple games they should win to wrap up the season and they’re halfway there, having polished off Air Force on Saturday by 30 behind a career-high 21 points to go along with eight rebounds from sophomore forward Chace Stanback. The Rebels dominated on the glass and shot 59% from the field, while lighting it up from three as well at a 48% clip. Junior guard Kendall Wallace added five threes.

Looking ahead: The Rebels can move up to the three-seed in the MWC Tournament with a season-closing win over Wyoming paired with an unlikely SDSU loss to Air Force, and like SDSU they’ll face either Colorado State or Utah in the quarters and either BYU or New Mexico in the semis. Unlike the Aztecs, the Rebels seem to already have their ticket to the NCAA tournament punched, barring a bad loss between now and then.

Utah

Looking back: The Utes are all alone in fifth place, the highest they have been this season, thanks to their win over Wyoming on Saturday coupled with a pair of Colorado State losses. Utah got 33 total points from senior Luka Drca and junior Carlon Brown, the two most capable scorers in an inconsistent lineup, and Drca in particular made this win possible with 10 of his 17 points in the last six minutes of the game. However, as if to highlight their inconsistencies, the Utes failed to have a single player score in double figures in their 20-point loss to BYU on Tuesday and the entire team when over 8:30 of game time without scoring a single point ranging from the end of the first half through the start of the second and the team shot just 27% and turned the ball over 17 times.

Looking ahead: Utah will have a chance to get back to .500 on the season and wrap up the fifth seed when they travel to Colorado State on Saturday in a battle of the middle-of-the-pack MWC teams.

Colorado State

Looking back: For the first time all season, the Rams have lost four in a row, following a week in which they dropped a couple road games after giving up big runs. Against TCU on Saturday, the Frogs finished the game on a 20-6 run to come back from an eight-point deficit with 8 minutes left to win by six. Then, at SDSU on Wednesday, the Aztecs finished the first half on a 16-6 run to take a 14-point lead into the half, from which the Rams never recovered. Junior forward Andy Ogide continued his strong play of late, however, averaging 18.5ppg and 12rpg this week. Ogide has scored in double figures in nine of his last ten games, and in the one that he didn’t hit double figures, he was still the team’s leading scorer.

Looking ahead: The Rams host Utah on Saturday in a battle for the five-seed in Vegas, where they will have a tough quarterfinal matchup with either SDSU or UNLV.

TCU

Looking back: This was probably the Horned Frogs’ best week of games since early January, and when you look at the 1-1 record with just a win over Colorado State to show for it, you get why TCU is down here in the dumps. TCU did get some signs of life from senior forward Zvonko Buljan (14.5ppg/11rpg) and senior swing Edvinas Ruzgas (12.5ppg), and rode some hot shooting (7-13 from three) against CSU to the week’s lone win.

Looking ahead: The Frogs are going to get a double-dose of BYU over the next week: they’ll host the Cougs on Saturday then meet them in the quarterfinals of the MWC Tournament.

Wyoming

Looking back: The Cowboys closed out Air Force late on Tuesday night with a 10-2 run to seal, well, nothing more than eighth place in the conference. But, the highlight for Heath Schroyer’s team over the back-end of the schedule has been the emergence of freshman guard Desmar Jackson as a legitimate scoring threat. Jackson had 31 in Wyoming’s loss to Utah on Saturday, then followed that up with 12 points and five assists against the Falcons, and has scored in double figures in nine of his last ten games.

Looking ahead: The Cowboys will be playing the rest of their games this season at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. They’ll face UNLV there on Saturday to wrap up their regular season schedule, then face Air Force there in the first round game of the MWC Tournament.

Air Force

Looking back: It’s been a rough season for the Falcons (again), with injuries decimating a roster that was already the least talented in the conference. And while they will likely finish up with just a 1-15 conference record (a one-game improvement over last year, mind you), they have fought it out right to the end. They put a scare into New Mexico a week ago, and this week (after getting demolished by UNLV in Colorado Springs), got to with a point of Wyoming late on Tuesday before folding down the stretch and cementing their hold on last place.

Looking ahead: The Falcons host SDSU on Saturday, then get a rematch with Wyoming, this time on a neutral court in the MWC Tournament.

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