Washington State: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 16th, 2012

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

What Went Wrong

Washington State was plagued by inconsistencies in shooting especially from three-point range all season long. Their season was simple in a lot of ways; when they would shoot the three well, they’d win games. But when the touch was missing, boy was it missing. That led to mind-boggling losses against teams like UC Riverside, Utah, and Arizona State, which cost the Cougars a possible NIT bid. Some bad luck struck Pullman in late-January, when just after senior guard Faisal Aden went down for the season with an ACL tear just as he was hitting his stride. He suffered the leg injury after playing just 11 minutes at Arizona on January 26, a game the Cougars would go on to lose by 24. The injury would hurt Washington State physically and mentally, as they would lose four of their next six games. That dropped them to 13-13 with just two weeks to play in the regular season.

Coach Ken Bone wished he could have cut down the nets again after a CBI Championship, but advancing to the three-game championship series of a postseason tournament was still a solid way to end the season. (credit: Don Ryan)

What Went Right

The Cougars were able to develop a pair of hybrid players in junior Brock Motum and senior Abe Lodwick. By seasons end, both were viable threats from both the paint and outside of three-point line, making things incredibly tough on opposing defenses. The newcomers were also solid and came up big at different times throughout the season. Freshman DaVonte Lacy quickly earned playing time as a combo guard early in the year, and did he ever make the most of it. Lacy averaged 8.5 PPG to lead the newcomers in 26.6 minutes of action. Junior shooting guard Mike Ladd came up big at times, and while only averaging 5.4 PPG, he threw in a pair of 13-point performances in hostile environments against Gonzaga and Oregon. Sophomore forward D.J. Shelton had a great season as well, averaging 4.7 PPG to go along with 2.9 RPG. Shelton’s best game by far came against his father’s old school in Washington State’s February 9 meeting against Oregon State in Corvallis. Shelton led the Cougs to an 83-73 victory and added 14 points and nine rebounds.

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Pac-12 Midseason Awards

Posted by AMurawa on December 28th, 2011

With non-conference play involving Pac-12 teams all but wrapped up and the tip-off of the conference season bearing down on us, we have a good chance today to look back at the first half of conference play. If you have been reading the RTC Pac-12 microsite this season, you know how bad the conference has been, so we are not going to spend a lot of time rehashing every suspension, defection, or other soap opera, nor are we going to remind you every loss to a Middle Tennessee State or South Dakota State. For the most part we are going to reward the best performances to this point, and tomorrow we’ll also spend a bit of time trying to forecast what should be a wide-open and relatively unpredictable conference race. But first, the awards from the non-conference portion of the Pac-12 schedule.

Player of the Year, Non-conference Edition:

F: Devon Collier, Oregon State – Among the most improved players in the conference, he is second in blocks, 11th in points, and boasts a stellar 127.8 offensive rating.

Devon Collier, Oregon State

Collier Was A Defensive Specialist Last Year, But Has Turned Into An Efficient Offensive Player In His Sophomore Campaign (Credit: Stephen Dunn, Getty Images North America)

The rest of our 1st team All-Pac-12, non-conference edition:

F: Solomon Hill, Arizona – The versatile junior leads the Wildcats in points, rebounds, and assists, and he is the emotional heart of his team.

C: Josh Owens, Stanford – He has been a stud up front for the Cardinal, leading the team in points and rebounds while hitting nearly 62% of his shots from the field.

G: Jared Cunningham, Oregon State – He is the Pac-12’s leading scorer. He leads the league in steals. And he’s the best perimeter defender. We will find a spot for him on our first team.

G: Terrence Ross, Washington – The only player in the conference in the top ten in both points and rebounds, he also blocks more than a shot per game and is capable of connecting from deep.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.21.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2011

  1. Three games in the conference last night, none all that interesting, although I suppose it is worth noting these days when the Pac-12 gets through a weeknight without sustaining any more losses. Arizona faced the toughest competition when they hosted Oakland and their talented and prolific senior point guard Reggie Hamilton, but the ‘Cats survived as they “held” him to 31 often spectacular points. Solomon Hill played just about as well as he’s ever played, scoring 23 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, handing out three assists and refusing to let the Wildcats lose. Elsewhere, freshman Norman Powell had a career-high 19 points as UCLA won its fourth straight and stuck its head over .500 for the first time this year by knocking off UC Irvine by 29. And Oregon used a 19-3 run in the middle of the second half to break open a tie-game against North Carolina Central and escape despite a sluggish performance.
  2. Arizona State junior center Ruslan Pateev was suspended for one game by the NCAA on Tuesday following an altercation (jump to the 30 second mark here) during the Sun Devils’ game Monday night in which he took a swing and connected to the back of the head of Southern Mississippi’s Torye Pelham following a little scuffle under the basket. Pateev was ejected from that game after being given a Flagrant 2 foul, and if he receives another foul of that degree this season he will be suspended the remainder of the year.
  3. Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar is trying to right the ship in Seattle and think he has narrowed down the Huskies’ problems to three areas: 1) defense, 2) ball movement, and, the big one, 3) chemistry. Thing one and thing two can be fixed either through effort or game-planning, but with a ton of scorers who like to have the ball in their hands coupled with a play-making point guard like Abdul Gaddy who needs to have the ball in his hands to be effective, there have been some problems figuring out everybody’s roles. And with Tony Wroten now taking a larger part of the offense, and often doing so by creating for himself off the dribble, guys like Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox have seen their shot attempts diminish. Ross and Wilcox both averaged over 13 field goal attempts per game in the first eight games, but since Wroten entered the starting lineup, Ross has averaged just eight while Wilcox has averaged 10. Wroten, meanwhile, has taken 38 shots from the field in those two games, and although he did so very effectively (scoring 50 points on those shots), a bigger concern is his ability to create for his teammates, having dished out just four assists in 68 minutes.
  4. Across the state, Washington State is back to full strength for the first time this season, as senior captain Abe Lodwick played for the first time, while Faisal Aden and Mychal Ladd returned from injuries in the Cougars’ last game against Western Oregon. In their absence, senior Charlie Enquist stepped up with by far the best stretch of his career, while freshmen DaVonte Lacy and Dexter Kernich-Drew saw dramatic increases in their playing time. Given the fact that the Cougs have now won their last five after starting the season 2-4, head coach Ken Bone has a chemistry test of his own coming up in the future. The players who helped WSU win those five straight have earned the right to continue getting minutes, while the returnees are certainly among the most talented Cougs. It will be interesting to see how those precious minutes get divided up in Pullman over the coming weeks. WSU has just one remaining non-conference game before they host the Oregon schools to open conference play, a week from tomorrow.
  5. Lastly, Lost Lettermen asks the question, is the West Coast Conference better than the Pac-12? Jim Weber says yes, if only for one season, pointing to Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU as the standard bearers. Anthony Olivieri takes the negative (rightly), pointing out that Cal and Stanford appear to be as good as the top of the WCC, while a team like Washington (and I would include Arizona) still has plenty of upside. And as bad as the bottom of the Pac-12 is this season, remember that Utah just beat Portland last night, and Portland (who has struggled through an absolutely brutal non-conference schedule) isn’t anywhere near the worst team in the WCC. Certainly the Zags, Gaels and Cougars are all solid programs, but even with the Pac-12 at its nadir, it is still better than the WCC. If you don’t just believe me, ask Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin and the RPI.
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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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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 6th, 2011

  1. With finals taking precedence over basketball at most schools across the country, we hit the doldrums of the college basketball schedule this week. Up next for Pac-12 schools is a big one, though, with Washington set to battle Marquette in Madison Square Garden tonight as the headliner of the Jimmy V Classic. The Huskies had hoped to get senior guard Scott Suggs back from his foot injury in time for this game, but he remains doubtful to play tonight though he could still possibly be back for Duke on Saturday. With the Huskies coming off a late collapse against Nevada on Friday night and Marquette riding high from their win over in-state rival Wisconsin, this game could set up nicely for Lorenzo Romar’s club.
  2. Aside from Washington’s big week, the other huge matchup in the conference this week is Arizona’s trip to Gainesville to face Florida on Wednesday. The Gators have been without forward Erik Murphy for the last three games with a knee injury, but he is expected to return for this game and he’ll present problems for the Arizona bigs, pulling them away from the basket and opening up the lane for the quick Gator guards to penetrate.
  3. Following California’s loss to San Diego State on Sunday, the Golden Bears dropped out of both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, leaving the conference without a single representative in either poll. Stanford, Cal and Arizona earned votes in the ESPN poll, while Oregon State also got a couple of votes in the AP poll. Meanwhile the Pac-12 announced its Player of the Week award on Monday, and Arizona’s Solomon Hill took home the hardware over other nominees like Keala King, Ahmad Starks, Anthony Brown and Charlie Enquist. Really. Did anybody on the planet have that quintet as future Player of the Week nominees even just a month ago?
  4. With UCLA in the midst of some serious struggles, Ben Howland admits he has made some mistakes and will change some things up going forward. To begin with, he now says that, in retrospect, he probably should have left Reeves Nelson at home after the mercurial forward missed the team plane to Maui a couple weeks back. Further, after sticking with his man-to-man defense to this point, Howland interrupted a reporter who was asking a question about how UCLA allowed Texas to shoot 70+% in the second half during the post-game press conference on Saturday, and volunteered the fact that he probably should have recognized earlier that this team needed to play more zone. He added that he’d be spending practice time working on alternatives to the man-to-man defense that currently isn’t working.
  5. Lastly, it seems like it wouldn’t be a Pac-12 Morning Five without some negative personnel situation to talk about. Earlier today Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak announced the indefinite suspension of point guard Jiggy Watkins, and Connor Pelton filled you in on the details of that. Reading the thoughts of some Utah fans indicates that they’ve had enough of Watkins’ antics and are ready to move on. Aside from showing up to school in the fall more than 30 pounds overweight, falling asleep in classes and missing practices, Watkins has been almost the entirety of the Ute offense. Utah averages 60 points a game, and Watkins accounts for 17.7 of those. Meanwhile, Watkins rightfully uses over 39% of Ute possessions (the highest usage rate in the country), takes over 38% of the team’s shots when he is on the court (sixth in the nation) and still manages to hand out assists on more than 52% of all his teammates buckets when he is on the court (good for second in the nation). While Watkins has plenty of holes in his game, the drop from him down to Kareem Storey or Anthony Odunsi will be significant, making a bad Utah team even worse in the short term.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.05.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 5th, 2011

  1. It was another busy weekend for Pac-12 basketball teams, and replicating previous weeks, it was another weekend piled high with losses and roster turnover. To kick things off with relatively happy news, USC had expected sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon to miss four to six weeks with a stress fracture. As it turned out, it was closer to four to six days that Dedmon missed, as he returned to action Saturday when the Trojans traveled to Minnesota, losing 55-40. Dedmon showed up to the game with a boot on his right foot, but played anyway, and although he didn’t contribute much worthwhile, for a roster that needs all the warm bodies it can get, his return is welcome.
  2. Okay, enough with the marginally good news; on to the carnage. In Arizona, we can officially close the books on Sidiki Johnson’s run as a Wildcat. Career totals: seven minutes, one point, two rebounds. In news that surprises no one, the university announced Sunday that Johnson has left the program and will transfer out. Meanwhile, up in Berkeley on Saturday, California announced the indefinite suspension of sophomore forward Richard Solomon for behavior “contrary to university and athletic department values.” He didn’t travel with the Golden Bears to San Diego on Sunday, as Cal dropped a one-point game to San Diego State.
  3. We knew well before the season started that this year’s Utah squad would be bad. On Saturday, a 30-point loss to Fresno State dropped the Utes to 1-6, the worst start in the history of the basketball program. The team’s lone win was a 58-55 squeaker over San Diego Christian, a NAIA team that isn’t even much good at that level. Fresno State had previously lost to teams like Texas-San Antonio, Manhattan and North Dakota State, meaning the Utes didn’t even get blown out by a good team. We’ll continue to keep an eye on this squad and root for them to get a win here and there, but it is an awful shame that for the school’s first year in a major conference, they have to be cursed with the worst team in the history of the school.
  4. Okay, enough negatives. There were some positives around the conference this weekend (and yes, this means I won’t even mention Washington’s overtime loss to Nevada or UCLA folding like a tent against Texas). To begin with, Arizona State played its first true road game of the season on Saturday, and came away with a 67-64 win against a Tulsa squad in the middle of an absolutely brutal stretch in their schedule. Still, give credit to the Sun Devils who saw sophomore Keala King notch 18 points, four assists and three steals (nevermind the six turnovers) to lead the team, while junior center Ruslan Pateev scored as many points Saturday as he had in the previous six games combined. ASU was helped by the Golden Hurricane missing six of their nine free throw attempts in the last four minutes, but still, a win is a win. And, just to get ASU fans’ hopes up, the university expects to hear about Jahii Carson’s eligibility on Monday.
  5. There were a couple more big wins this weekend, the first one a literal big win, as Washington State crushed Eastern Washington by 26 points behind 20 points and 13 rebounds from senior center Charlie Enquist. WSU has won its last two games by a total of 58 points, holding its two opponents to an effective field goal percentage below 30%. Enquist, who had scored a total of 50 points and grabbed 41 rebounds in his 54 total games prior to this season, had career highs in virtually every category on the stat sheet. A more impressive win for the conference came Sunday afternoon, when Stanford rallied from a 12-point second half deficit to defeat North Carolina State. Josh Owens led the way for the Cardinal (now 8-1 and knocking on the door of the Top 25) with 19 points and seven rebounds, while freshman guard Chasson Randle continued his strong run, scoring 16 points, grabbing six rebounds and playing some smothering defense during the Cardinal’s second half run. Stanford now takes nearly two weeks off as their student-athletes deal with finals.
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