Set Your DVR: Feast Week

Posted by bmulvihill on November 19th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Thanksgiving week, otherwise known as “Feast Week” for college hoops fans tuning into ESPN, provides us a bunch of viewing options while we gorge ourselves with turkey and stuffing. Several of the higher profile preseason tournaments get going or finish up this week including the Maui Invitational, the NIT Tip-Off, and the Battle 4 Atlantis. While we don’t know all the potential match-ups in those tourneys just yet, you can be sure there will be some great games. We’ll take a look today at the first round games for a few of the tournaments but definitely tune into the later rounds as they progress. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#5 Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (PNIT Semifinals) – 9:30 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPN HD (****)

The battle between Michigan’s Trey Burke (above) and Pitt’s Tray Woodall could be the best point guard match-up we see all season(AP)

  • The battle between Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall and Michigan’s Trey Burke at the point guard position could be one of the best we see all season. Woodall is averaging 14 points and seven assists through four games this season and shooting a fantastic 57.1% from inside the arc. Burke is averaging 18 points and eight assists through three games and is also shooting 57% from inside the arc. There are two areas to keep an eye on as these two battle throughout the night – turnovers and three-point shooting. Burke is turning the ball over at a slightly higher rate than Woodall – 20% vs. 15%. While both are excellent distributors of the basketball, the player who wins the defensive battle and can create more turnovers will give his team a huge advantage. Additionally, Burke is extending defenses with his 43.8% shooting from downtown. His ability to continue to hit threes against a Pitt team that has shown weakness against perimeter shooting will be vital to a Michigan victory — particularly so if Michigan wants to free up space on the inside for its frontcourt.
  • Speaking of the frontcourt battle, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford finally give coach John Beilein some rebounding to go along with his penchant for the outside shot. Michigan has been a three-point heavy squad with very little rebounding support under Beilein. With the additions of McGary and Robinson, the Wolverines can go big and hit the offensive boards hard should their outside shooting go cold. They are going to need it because the Panthers bring their own talented frontcourt to the party in Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, and 7’0” freshman center Steven Adams. Offensive rebounding will be a huge factor in this game. Michigan is only allowing opponents to grab 14% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, good for third in the nation. They face a much tougher Pitt frontline however whose offensive rebounding rate is sixteenth in the nation at 46%. Something has to give.
  • Given the great match-ups we are going to see in this game, it should be a close one in Madison Square Garden. The difference could be Michigan’s outside shooting. The Wolverines are currently hitting 49% of their three-point attempts. Outside pressure can come from Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., freshman Nick Stauskas, and even Robinson. If Jamie Dixon’s squad can improve its perimeter defense and get Adams more involved in the offense, they will have a chance to take down the Wolverines. Otherwise, U of M will walk out of the Garden with a victory.

Six Other Games to Watch This Week

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 16th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The second weekend in the college hoops season cools off a bit and settles into some of the preseason tournaments. While the different tourneys play out over the weekend, there are several games you should keep an eye on as we head into Feast Week. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#22 Notre Dame vs. Saint Joseph’s – 9:30 PM EST, Friday on TruTV HD (****)

Notre Dame needs guard Eric Atkins to pick up his scoring against Saint Joseph’s

  • After a 2-0 start, Notre Dame faces its toughest challenge of the young season in a Saint Joseph’s team returning 99% of its minutes from last season. Thus far, the Irish is not getting the production they have come to expect from their two starting guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant. Only Grant has reached double figures once in the two games they have played. Both players averaged 12 points per game last season and coach Mike Brey needs every bit of those 12 points for his Irish team to meet expectations. Since St. Joe’s will still be without suspended guard Carl Jones, look to see if the Irish guards are able to take advantage. It’s critical that they do, because Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley and center Garrick Sherman will face a tough test against the Hawks front line. It will be interesting to see how Cooley and Sherman respond to the much more athletic forwards than they have seen thus far in 2012.
  • While Saint Joseph’s blew out Yale in its first game of the season, Phil Martelli needs to be a little concerned with his team’s offensive performance. The Hawks averaged less than a point per possession, shot a 45.9% eFG, and were only 3-14 from three in that game. Obviously, missing leading scorer Jones is a major factor, but they can ill afford to have another poor offensive showing against the Irish. Look to see if guard Chris Wilson can improve on his three points in 36 minutes and provide St. Joe’s with some backcourt scoring. Guard Langston Galloway was able to drop 20 points against Yale, so keep an eye on his ability to maintain that level of scoring against a much tougher opponent.
  • This should be a close battle between two experienced teams. If St. Joe’s is going to beat Notre Dame, it’ll need to do it on defense.  The key will be the ability of St. Joe’s forwards Halil Kanacevic, Ronald Roberts, and C.J. Aiken to neutralize Cooley and Sherman down low and grab defensive boards. If Notre Dame gets its  typical scoring production from Atkins and Grant, it should win this game. If not, Martelli and the Hawks will come away with a nice win for the Atlantic 10 against its rival Big East.

More Great Hoops

Florida State vs. BYU – 7:00 PM EST, Friday on TruTV HD (****)

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Dwight Powell Emerges But Stanford Struggles

Posted by mlemaire on November 10th, 2012

Mike Lemaire is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday night’s Stanford-San Francisco game in Oakland.

The season-opening matchup against San Francisco was never supposed to be a game where we would learn whether Stanford‘s basketball team had what it took to get over the hump and make  its first NCAA Tournament since 2008. After all, Stanford was the heavy favorite against a USF team that had lost four starters and had watched six players transfer in the offseason. But as the final horn sounded and Stanford left with a 12-point victory, the one thing we did learn is that if Stanford expects to compete for an NCAA Tournament berth, they will need to play better than they did on Friday.The Cardinal opened up multiple large leads in the first half as the Dons struggled mightily to find their rhythm in the early part of the contest. But each time they opened up a large lead, they allowed San Francisco to shoot their way back into the game and at halftime the Cardinal held a very slim 32-31 advantage. In fact, if it hadn’t been for junior forward Dwight Powell decided he couldn’t be stopped in the second half, the Cardinal might have been in trouble.

Powell May Have Saved the Cardinal Last Night

With the team’s star guards — Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle — on their way to shooting a combined 5-17 from the field for the game, Stanford was quick to recognize the inherent advantage Powell had in the post as the biggest and strongest player on the floor, and they took full advantage. The junior big man dumped in 18 second-half points and finished with a career-high 27 points, even smoothly burying two three-pointers in the process. The frontcourt was a major question mark for coach Johnny Dawkins and the Cardinal coming into the season, and if Powell — who averaged 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds as a sophomore — can make the leap to becoming an all-conference player, it bodes well for Stanford’s prospects down the line. Powell won’t always have the privilege of playing against a group of vastly undersized underclassmen in every game, but he has great size and strength, strong hands, and intriguing athleticism and ball skills, which make him a player to watch going forward.

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Introducing the Preseason All-Pac-12 Grab-Bag Teams

Posted by KDanna on November 8th, 2012

Yesterday, we released our preseason All-Pac-12 teams. Today, we take a look at some niche teams based on a certain characteristic that makes a player stand out. You won’t see these categories on the official Pac-12 season awards release at the end of the season, but they’re fun to think about nonetheless.

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad shows why he landed a spot on the Rush The Court All-Pac-12 Rim-Rattler Team

All-Rim Rattlers

  • Shabazz Muhammad (Fr., Guard/Forward, UCLA) – 15 votes
  • Nick Johnson (So., Guard, Arizona) – 11
  • Carlos Emory (Sr., Forward, Oregon) – 11
  • André Roberson (Jr., Forward, Colorado) – 11
  • Eric Moreland (So., Forward, Oregon State) – 8

Reasoning for a squad like this is done best by highlights, so here are your explanations for MuhammadJohnsonEmoryMoreland and Roberson. Click on the individual name to see some thrilling dunks for each candidate.

All-Shooter Team

  • Chasson Randle (So., Guard, Stanford) – 17 
  • Allen Crabbe (Jr., Guard, Cal) – 14
  • C.J. Wilcox (Jr., Guard, Washington) – 10
  • Spencer Dinwiddie (So., Guard, Colorado) – 6
  • Aaron Bright (Jr., Guard, Stanford) – 4

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Stanford, the leader in the Pac-12 in three-point field goal percentage as a team, would have two representatives on the all-shooter team. Chasson Randle, who highlights this group, drained seven threes in the first half of a Pac-12 Tournament game against Arizona State last year and is the leading returnee in three-point field goal accuracy in the Pac-12. Expect C.J. Wilcox to have a big year in 2012-13, as he is a guy who has the potential to be close to a 50 percent three-point shooter with such a deadly stroke.

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Introducing the Preseason All-Pac-12 Teams

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 6th, 2012

Over the past four weeks we’ve been preparing you for the season with our team-by-team previews. Now, with ACTUAL GAMES tipping off this Friday, we close out our season preview this week with a number of superlatives. Here are the Pac-12 microsite’s predictions for this season’s all-Pac-12 teams.

First Team

  • G Allen Crabbe, Jr, California - Already with one of the purest outside strokes in the conference, Crabbe has added an explosive drive to the basket and mid-range jumper to his repertoire. The hard work will pay off as Crabbe and fellow guard Justin Cobbs could very well be the conference’s top backcourt duo by season’s end. We think he leads the Golden Bears to a fourth NCAA berth in five years and is named to the all-Pac-12 team for a second consecutive season.

Crabbe Returns As One Of The Top Scoring Threats In The Conference For 2012-13 (credit: Kelley L. Cox)

  • G/F Shabazz Muhammad, Fr, UCLA – One of the most anticipated freshmen in recent Pac-12 history, Muhammad was nearly a unanimous selection by our panel of voters. The five-star freshman out of Bishop Gorman High School (NV) has the explosiveness of a three inside the paint, but the outside touch of a two. The seemingly effortless combination of those two things made him the most sought after prospect in the nation. The only thing holding Muhammad  back from a spot on this list come March is a still-pending NCAA investigation into his recruitment. Assuming he is cleared before the season starts, we likely won’t see the star until UCLA’s November 19 game against Georgetown due to a strained right shoulder.
  • F André Roberson, Jr, Colorado (Pac-12 Player of the Year) – Poised for a breakout season, we think Roberson will be the league’s player of the year in 2012-13. He’s without a doubt the top rebounder in the conference, and has a terrific ability to time blocks when an opponent floats something up in the lane. He has shown the potential to be a good outside shooter as well, making him perfect to be a prototypical three whenever he leaves for the NBA. Roberson has a chance to make a national All-America squad by season’s end if the Buffaloes make the NCAA Tournament.
  • F Brock Motum, Sr, Washington State – Motum jumped from 7.6 PPG as a sophomore to a Pac-12 leading 18 PPG as a junior, so there’s no question he belongs on this list heading into his final year on the Palouse. He’s able to score a number of different ways, sometimes looking like Dirk Nowitzki with the crazy ways he puts the ball through the hoop. Motum will need help from a frontcourt lacking with talent in order to draw some of the attention away from him.
  • F Solomon Hill, Sr, Arizona – Hill played out of position at the four for most of last season and still managed to make 27 three-pointers in Arizona’s final 17 games. He’ll be back on the wing for his senior campaign thanks to the additions of Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, and Kaleb Tarczewski in the post. Hill’s shooting range vastly improved throughout the course of last year in Tucson, and we think it only gets better in 2012-13. Even better for a team that won’t lack in scoring options is Hill’s ability to rebound as a wing, something Draft Express has said he’s one of the best in the nation at.
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Get to Know Them: Ten Players Ready to Break Out This Season

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 2nd, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Every college basketball season brings a new cast of stars. There are freshman, the super-prospects hyped up to disproportionate levels who may or may not live up to their billing. Then there are the returning players, the guys who showed flashes of stardom the previous season and are ready to truly hit their stride after an offseason honing their games. Highlighting these players doesn’t require much insight or deep thought. You know a star when you see one. Discovering under-the-radar gems, the diamonds in the rough, the players who emerge from the depths of the unknown to make a splash on the national stage, is another matter entirely. It requires a comprehensive knowledge of the game – and not just the Kentuckys and the North Carolinas and the Dukes of the world. You know those guys. The focus here is the more unheralded crop of players ready to make the leap into the general college hoops consciousness. What follows is my vain attempt at singling out those very players I described above. You may not know these names now, but by the time March rolls around, my bet is that you will.

*Editor’s note: you will notice there are no freshmen on this list. That is no mistake. This list is geared towards returning players. If you’re interested in a more freshmen-centric preview analysis, check out this list of newcomers who are “ready to play big roles on their new teams.”

Rotnei Clarke – Butler

The Bulldogs three-point shooting will improve immensely with Clarke joining the fold (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Relative to recent history, Butler did not have the best 2011-12 season. Let’s not sell the Bulldogs short: They reached the semifinals of a national postseason tournament for the third straight season. Only this time, it wasn’t the NCAA Tournament. Instead, Butler got bounced in the semifinals of the CBI, a huge downturn from the two preceding Final Four trips. Butler may never again string together that level of Tournament success, but Clarke gives Brad Stevens’ team a much better chance than it had last season. Plain and simple, Clarke, who made 91 of 208 three-point attempts in 2010-11 (he sat out last season after transferring from Arkansas), can shoot the lights out from beyond the arc. And what does Butler desperately need as it enters its debut season in the A-10? Long-range shooting, where last season it finished ranked 341st in three-point field goal percentage.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Georgia

Basically any chance Georgia has of challenging in the SEC this season and making a push for an NCAA bid rests on Caldwell-Pope, whose freshman season was something of a disappointment considering the McDonalds All-American hype he brought to Athens. With a year of experience under his belt, and a greater chance to showcase his talents without being comparatively dwarfed by the likes of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Caldwell-Pope should blossom. Georgia doesn’t offer much help in terms of solid complementary players, so Pope will be asked to carry the load. Kentucky and Missouri are heavy favorites to challenge for the SEC crown this season, but if Pope plays to his recruiting promise, the Bulldogs are more than capable of notching a few wins against the league front-runners. NBA scouts are already drooling over the 6’4’’ guard’s potential. He’ll make good on those claims this season.

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Pac-12 M5: The Halloween Edition

Posted by KDanna on October 31st, 2012

  1. Happy Halloween, everyone. Arizona will treat its fans to an exhibition against Humboldt State tonight at the McKale Center. Exhibitions are usually for the die-hards, but probably more than a few casual fans will make their way over to the Tucson campus to catch a glimpse of the third-ranked recruiting class in action for the first time against somebody other than themselves. One question surrounding this class is whether it will be able to live up to the hype better than last year’s class. Remember how highly touted the trio of Nick Johnson, Josiah Turner and Angelo Chol were? All signs point to Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley  and Gabe York as able to deliver in a bigger way this season, but one can never be 100 percent certain until they perform in a game. This contest will also provide Wildcat supporters with a first look at point guard Mark Lyons in an Arizona uniform, as the mercurial senior averaged 15 points per game last year at Xavier. It’s also worth mentioning that the Wildcats lost their exhibition opener last year to Seattle Pacific, but I find it hard to believe that a similar result will be produced against Humboldt State on this night.
  2. The NCAA approved tougher sanctions against those programs and coaches who buck the NCAA law. A couple of the more striking provisions are that NCAA violators who are found to be in “serious breach of conduct” could potentially suffer similar punishments to the one handed out to the Penn State football team (a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine). Also, if an assistant coach commits a serious violation, the head coach must be able to prove that he or she was unaware of the assistant’s actions; if not, the head coach could be suspended for anywhere from 10 percent to the entire season. All changes will go into effect starting August 1, 2013. While the coaches who are quoted in the various articles seem to be largely in favor of these tougher sanctions, it obviously still remains to be seen how effective these changes will be. As has been the case throughout history, cheaters will find a way to continue their cheating ways. Hopefully these tougher penalties will accomplish the NCAA’s and everyone’s goal of a markedly cleaner collegiate athletics scene.
  3. Another day, another CBS Sports list. On Tuesday, it was the top 50 shooters in the country, a list that made space for three current Pac-12 players: Washington’s C.J. Wilcox (No. 11), California’s Allen Crabbe (No. 12) and Stanford’s Chasson Randle (No. 41). Additionally, former Husky and current Texas A&M Aggie Elston Turner made the cut at No. 19. No real gripes here, but perhaps Aaron Bright was also deserving of a nod, especially considering his play during the 2012 NIT, a five-game run that earned him NIT Most Outstanding Player honors. What’s noteworthy with this list is that 35 of the 50 players come from non-power conference schools, including representatives from Texas Pan-American and Texas Southern. For those not curious enough to check out the list, former Razorback-turned-Butler Bulldog Rotnei Clarke holds down the top spot.
  4. Earlier this week, ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan released his top 10 rebounders in the country, and Colorado’s André Roberson topped the list. We’re probably a little biased here at the Pac-12 microsite because we get to see Roberson play so often, but there’s no faulting Brennan for this selection. Roberson is an elite rebounder thanks to his hops, long arms and overall very high basketball IQ. There were spots during last year’s Pac-12 Tournament where Roberson looked like a future lottery pick, especially when he started to knock down a few threes. He certainly has that kind of upside, and big things are expected again of the only guy in the Pac-12 to average a double-double last season. There were no freshmen in Brennan’s top 10, but Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett of Arizona both made his “freshmen to watch” mentions.
  5. Lastly, the Pac-12 announced its talent lineup for the Pac-12 Networks’ men’s basketball coverage for the upcoming season. Headlined by Bill Walton, other analysts include Don MacLean, Ernie Kent, Lenny Wilkens and Detlef Schrempf. The play-by-play lineup doesn’t necessarily include as many big names, but all are very good broadcasters and will not disappoint viewers. The most famous of the play-by-play guys is probably Ted Robinson, a two-time Emmy winner who has done just about every sport imaginable. Overall, it’s a very intriguing lineup of broadcasters and it should keep Pac-12 Networks broadcasts for men’s basketball entertaining.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 22nd, 2012

  1. We’re still three weeks out from actual basketball games taking place, but more and more it is starting to feel like this is just not going to be UCLA’s year. Aside from the NCAA investigations into recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, the cheap accusations of cheating by certain unnamed media outlets, and the legitimate questions about how some of these pieces fit together, the Bruins are also starting to see some injuries accrue. The newest Bruin laid up is junior forward David Wear, who sprained his right ankle in a practice yesterday, joining junior guard Tyler Lamb (arthroscopic knee surgery) in the infirmary. Of course, the glass-half-full view of this situation could be that it is much better to have these types of things happen now than in February or March. As it is, a simple sprained ankle could just mean a bit of a rest for Wear until the seasons kicks off on November 9.
  2. It didn’t take long for the newest Cougar, Oregon-transfer Brett Kingma, to pick up on how things are done in the Washington State basketball program; early Saturday morning, the sophomore guard was arrested by Pullman police for marijuana possession and “minor exhibiting the effects of having consumed alcohol in a public place” – an oddly specific and yet still confusing charge. Now, we understand there isn’t always a whole lot to do in Pullman, but the marijuana busts for WSU’s basketball program are getting ridiculous. In recent years, off the top of my head, Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto have all been busted for pot. There are two ways for Cougar head coach Ken Bone to deal with this: (1) mostly ignore, offer an obligatory slap on the wrist and pray that Initiative 502 passes, or (2) make an example of Kingma by kicking him off the team. I’m certainly not saying the second option is necessarily the best approach, after all, really what is this arrest about – a college kid was walking home drunk after a Friday night partying and happened to have some dope on him. Stop the presses, right? But the fact of the matter is, this constantly happening in Bone’s program is becoming a black eye.
  3. Arizona unveiled the 2012-13 version of its basketball team to its fans on Sunday afternoon with their annual Red-Blue game. Prior to an intrasquad scrimmage, the school honored its 1988 Final Four team and members of the current team got to meet and learn from previous Wildcat greats like Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler. The game itself was less of a no-defense All-Star game than a hard-fought scrimmage, but Nick Johnson (who our own Parker Baruh nominated as the Pac-12’s breakout player) got hot, hitting four threes and finishing with 20 points to lead all scorers while also chipping in four assists. New Wildcat point guard Mark Lyons also added four assists, while senior wing Kevin Parrom added four three-pointers of his own. Arizona Desert Swarm has some video highlights of the game and the surrounding festivities. But perhaps the biggest part of the day was UA hosting at least eight recruits, including Aaron Gordon, whom Sean Miller (and other coaches around the country) seriously covet. Given that the 2011 version of the Red-Blue game helped the ‘Cats land Kaleb Tarczewski, the game is becoming a way of tying the great history of the program to its bright future.
  4. Arizona wasn’t the only school holding events for their fans this weekend. Stanford held its Friday Frenzy event on, when else, Friday evening, featuring its annual Cardinal-White scrimmage, a dunk contest, and various other events. Oddly enough, the winner of the dunk contest wasn’t even a member of the basketball team, as senior All-American high jumper Jules Sharpe took home the title, edging out junior forward Josh Huestis. As for the scrimmage, junior forward Dwight Powell (our Kevin Danna’s pick for the Pac-12 breakout player) led all scorers with 19 points, getting it done not only from the perimeter but also on the block. It was sophomore guard Chasson Randle, who had 16 points on seven-for-nine shooting, however, who had the last laugh, leading his Cardinal team to an eight-point win over Powell’s White squad.
  5. Lastly, Arizona State’s Maroon-Gold scrimmage was Saturday afternoon, giving Sun Devil fans their first chance to see the long-awaited debut of freshman point guard Jahii Carson. Early reports are that, behind Carson, ASU looks like it may live up to Herb Sendek’s promises of a drastically increased tempo. Carson led all scorers with 18 points in the game, while newly eligible transfer Evan Gordon also impressed. The game featured three different 10-minute periods, with Carson splitting time on each team over the course of the scrimmage, but one good takeaway for how important he’ll be to ASU is the fact that whichever team he was on wound up winning each of the three different periods.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.17.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 17th, 2012

  1. For those who want to take a look at the NIT Champion Stanford basketball team, the Cardinal will be holding their own version of Midnight Madness this Friday. Titled “Friday Frenzy”, the night will feature a Cardinal-White scrimmage, an open women’s practice, and a dunk contest. The scrimmage will certainly be worth the price of free admission as the 2012-13 Cardinal looks to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. They have a potential all-conference backcourt in the duo of Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright, and expect the post play to be much improved as Johnny Dawkins welcomes in Rosco Allen and Grant Verhoeven. The event should get Cardinal fans revved up for a big weekend of sports, as the football team will be playing in the Big Game a mere 18 hours later. Stanford will open up the exhibition season on November 4 against UNC Pembroke.
  2. After finishing 2011-12 with an awful 6-26 record, USC is a trendy pick for “team to surprise” this year in the Pac-12. Excitement took a bit of a hit last month when it was learned that junior guard Maurice Jones would have to sit out the year due to academics, but the return of Jio Fontan from injury will help out the backcourt. The revamped roster will feature five transfers, all of whom can contribute immediately. J.T. Terrell (Peninsula College) and Ari Stewart (Wake Forest), both of whom played together in Winston-Salem before ending up in Los Angeles, are expected to make the biggest impact. Throw in a pair of incoming freshmen in Strahinja Gavrilovic and Brendyn Taylor, junior center Dewayne Dedmon, and senior forward Aaron Fullerand Kevin O’Neill has a pretty nice 10-man rotation to play around with. And while finding valuable minutes for everyone might be tough early on, it will be a welcome challenge for a team that struggled with depth issues all of last season.
  3. Be sure to check all of your Twitter feeds this morning (or whatever you use to follow the decisions of 18-year-old kids), as the Contra Costa Times reported yesterday that Marcus Lee would be announcing his college choice at some point throughout the day. One of the top forwards in the nation, the Deer Valley High School (CA) prospect has narrowed his choices down to California and Kentucky. Lee was supposed to take a visit to Berkeley this weekend and take in the Big Game experience, but he has apparently come to a decision after taking in “Big Blue Madness” last Friday in Lexington.
  4. The guys over at Bruins Nation have put together an extensive look at both the best and worst case scenarios for the 2012-13 UCLA Bruins. On the best case side of things, “DCBruins” has Ben Howland’s bunch going 10-2 in non-conference action with losses to Georgetown and Missouri. The Bruins then go on to win the Pac-12 with a 15-3 record before making the Final Four. The worst case scenario doesn’t go over any specific games or records, but instead focuses on what the Bruin rotation will look like if Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson aren’t cleared to play.
  5. Speaking of Muhammad and Anderson’s eligibility, the Los Angeles Times covered that exact topic this morning. Bill Plaschke‘s column discusses how the team’s media day was monitored by the school’s vice-chancellor for legal affairs, and that the silence being put forth by the program is putting itself under a dark cloud. But as Plaschke states at the end, most everyone “would rather have UCLA chase those big stars and endure the NCAA microscope than settle for the mediocre acquisitions who never are noticed.” And even if recruiting classes like the one Howland brought in this season may label him as a “cheater,” he had no choice. It’s safe to say Howland’s job is on incredibly thin ice, and without guys like Jordan Adams, Tony Parker, Muhammad, and Anderson, Howland very well might not have survived the duration of the 2012-13 campaign. So even if the program is under a cloud now, it’ll be worth it in the long run that Howland brought these big names in.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Stanford Cardinal

Posted by KDanna on October 12th, 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 are the Stanford Cardinal

Strengths: The tandem of junior Aaron Bright and sophomore Chasson Randle in the backcourt is shaping up to be one of the most dynamic duos in the Pac-12. The diminutive Bright has some characteristics reminiscent of other small guys who made names for themselves in the Seattle area, most notably the moxie to take and make big shots for his team. While he might not have the speed of a Nate Robinson or Isaiah Thomas, Bright can still get into the lane and distribute with some flashy passes. However, he doesn’t break down defenses as well as Randle, who may very well be the most significant guard to come through The Farm since Brevin Knight when it’s all said and done. Randle finished second among Pac-12 freshmen in scoring, behind only the NBA-bound Tony Wroten. The Rock Island, IL native displayed an ability to go into “put the team on my back” mode during his freshman campaign, highlighted by the 24 points he scored to lead Stanford in its 103-101 quadruple-overtime victory at Oregon State.

Chasson Randle did more than hold up his jersey during Stanford’s quadruple-overtime victory over Oregon State (credit: Rick Bowmer)

Weaknesses: Stanford is going to be physically light down low with the departures of Josh Owens and Andrew Zimmermann. While the Cardinal have to potential to be a good rebounding team again with guys like Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis still in town to crash the glass, Stanford will have to make up for a lot of toughness lost with Owens and Zimmermann gone. Although Owens was the better athlete, Zimmermann might end up being a bigger loss for head coach Johnny Dawkins. He was a guy who did all of the little things in the paint, including taking charges and talking on defense (he didn’t have a bad jump shot, either). As such, this group also needs to find a vocal leader. That might be tough, considering none of the major rotation players are seniors and haven’t been called on to be captains before.

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Stanford Week: A State Of the Program Address

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 22nd, 2012

We’ve been all around the Stanford program in the past week, but we’ve got time for one more post. At the end of every week we like to take a step back and look at the overall state of the program – not just how the team performed last year or is expected to perform next year, but what the long-term prognosis for the program is. At Stanford, while the short-term future appears to be bright (no pun intended), things could take a turn for the worse quickly. As we pointed out earlier this week, before current head man Johnny Dawkins took over in 2008-09, the Cardinal had made 13 out of the last 14 NCAA Tournaments. They haven’t gone dancing since, but the pieces are there to make it back soon enough. The problem in the past four seasons have been mid-season losing streaks. Not only do they usually kill all excitement around the team, but it ruins any chance at gaining an at-large entry into the Big Dance. Let’s take a look at some of these mid-season collapses:

This Photo May Have Been Taken Prior To The 2008-09 Season, But It’s A Scene That Fans Have Seen Many Times In The Past Four Years (credit: Roundball Nuts)

  • 2011-12 : Started out the season 15-3, including double-figure victories against Colorado State and Oklahoma State. Then immediately dropped five of their next six, all by double figures.
  • 2010-11 : It wasn’t going to be an NCAA Tournament year anyway, but dropping five out of seven games from early January to early February put all postseason dreams to rest.
  • 2009-10 : The Cardinal lost five of six games from late January to mid-February, putting a footnote on Dawkins’ worst season on the Farm.
  • 2008-09 : By far the worst collapse of Dawkins’ tenure came in his first season. Stanford started out the season with an 11-1 record, picking up home victories against Colorado, Northwestern, Texas Tech, and Arizona, while going on the road and beating Colorado State and Santa Clara. Then, out of nowhere, disaster struck. An NCAA Tournament season became a “scrape-your-way-into-the-CBI” campaign after dropping eight of 10 contests in more than a month-long span.

Terrible. Just terrible. And it happens like clockwork every year.

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Stanford Week: What To Expect

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 22nd, 2012

We’re most of the way through our week-long look at the Cardinal and have at least enough information to make some educated guesses about what the 2012-13 season has in store. With four players lost to graduation and a trio of highly rated recruits coming in, we can expect to see a different, and likely better, team than won the NIT Championship last year. But who exactly will lead this team and what will the final results be? Here are our guesses.

Stanford’s Leading ScorerChasson Randle. No doubt about this one. Randle’s average of 13.8 PPG last season might drop a bit due to him trying to become more of a passing threat, but there’s no question that he is the best scorer on the roster. The next step for Randle is to become an All-Pac-12 guard, and he’s got the talent and scoring ability to do so.

Randle’s Ability To Take the Ball To The Rack And Score Will Make Him Stanford’s Leading Scorer For The Second Straight Season (credit: Paul Sakuma)

Stanford’s MVPAaron Bright. Bright is the team’s truest point guard and has shown good growth in his first two seasons on the Farm. If the upward trend continues, he should be averaging around 13 PPG and 5 APG next season. Overall, he’s not a better talent than Randle, but his nose for the ball and on-floor leadership make him one of the most important players on the team.

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