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

Posted by AMurawa on December 31st, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Can Stanford Begin to Turn Its Season Around?

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2012

Stanford is halfway through its big two-game non-conference road trip and, heading into their game with Northwestern on Friday night, they’re in a position they certainly didn’t want to be in: The Cardinal almost has to win that game. Their non-conference strength of schedule has been solid, but thus far they’ve played four teams in the top 100 of the RPI and come away with four losses. The game against the Wildcats represents their final chance to make something of a mark prior to Pac-12 play, as NU is currently #72 in the RPI.

Aaron Bright And Backcourt-Mate Chasson Randle Have Struggled Shooting The Ball Thus Far (credit: Zach Sanderson)

Aaron Bright And Backcourt-Mate Chasson Randle Have Struggled Shooting The Ball Thus Far (credit: Zach Sanderson)

Thus far, the Cardinal have found plenty of different ways to lose. Against Belmont it was poor shooting — both from the free throw line and from the field — that doomed them to an upset loss. Missouri killed them on the glass and forced turnovers on roughly a quarter of their possessions. Against Minnesota, it was an inability to keep from fouling, especially in a critical late-game scenario, and mediocrity in all phases of the game, where one additional made play could have been the difference between a win and a loss. Then Tuesday night, the Cardinal found new and inventive ways to drop a game; they committed just six turnovers and shot a 50% eFG, but only earned six free throw attempts for themselves and showed a complete inability to keep their opponent from getting good looks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Set Your DVR: Week of 12.18.12

Posted by bmulvihill on December 18th, 2012

setDVR

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.

We are in the midst of the calm before the conference season storm. Students are finishing up finals and preparing to head home for the holidays. We have a few interesting match-ups to keep an eye on this week, so make sure to put them on as you finish up your holiday wrapping. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Last year's Cincinnati-Xavier brawl was ugly, so now everyone loses next season (AP Photo)

Let’s Hope We Don’t Have Another Scene Like This in the Xavier-Cincinnati Game on Wednesday (AP)

Stanford at North Carolina State  9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN2 (***)

  • Last season, Stanford was outshot by NC State but ended up winning the game at the free throw line. It’s not reasonable to think they can pull the upset this year on the road given the offensive struggles the Cardinal is having. Since Johnny Dawkins took over the Stanford program in 2009, the Cardinal have never experienced a two-point field goal percentage over 50%. This year is no different, as the team is currently at 46% from two (26% from three). I don’t know the road record of teams shooting under 50% from inside the arc, but I have to imagine it’s not good. With losses to the three best teams they have faced thus far — Belmont, Missouri, and Minnesota — the Cardinal are in desperate need of a signature win prior to the Pac-12 conference season. The shooting and talent gap with NC State may be too difficult for them to overcome, especially in Raleigh. NC State is shooting the ball extremely well and is led by talented offensive threats like C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown. You will still want to keep an eye on the free throw situation, though. In both of their losses this season, the Wolfpack put their opponents on the line much more than they were able to get there. If Chasson Randle is pushing the action and driving to the hoop, Stanford can stay in this game. If the Wolfpack can play solid defense without fouling him, it should be curtains for the Cardinal.

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Four

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 11th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that DrewParkerAdam, and I have compiled after the fourth week of Pac-12 games (delta in parentheses):

  1. Arizona, 7-0 (-): Another week, another spotless slate for Arizona. The easier game of the week actually proved to be a road victory at Clemson on Saturday night. The Tigers hung tough for most of the night, but the Wildcats rode a 25-7 run that stretched from around the 11-minute mark in the second half to just under the two-minute point to put down any hopes of an upset. The Wildcats weren’t able to do the same four nights earlier in Tucson against a tough Southern Miss team, as the Golden Eagles hung around and hung around until UA sealed it with some free throws in the closing minutes. Turnovers again plagued Mark Lyons and the rest of the Wildcats in general, as USM forced an astounding 27 miscues in the near-shocker at McKale. Regardless, Arizona is the only team still perfect in the Pac-12, making them the unanimous pick up at the top. Despite their problem with turnovers, I’ve bought into Sean Miller’s club after a full month of play. For the ones that still haven’t, games against Florida, and possibly Miami (FL) and San Diego State in the coming weeks, will give us a good gauge of just how dangerous this team is. Up Next: 12/15 vs. Florida.
  2. Oregon, 8-1 (-): Oregon’s only game of the week was an absolute massacre, a 87-35 thrashing of Idaho State in Eugene. Freshman guard Damyean Dotson continued his strong play for the Ducks, leading all scorers with 12 points in just 16 minutes of action. Up Next: 12/15 vs. Nebraska.

    Damyean Dotson Is Averaging 11.3 PPG In His Inaugural Season With The Ducks (credit: NW Sports Beat)

  3. California, 6-2 (^1): Despite dropping its only game of the week, California rises a spot in this week’s rankings. That’s mostly thanks to a strong, albeit frustrating, showing on Sunday afternoon against UNLV, but it also helped the Bears that the teams around them either faced poor competition or got blown out last week. The Golden Bears need to break this current losing streak on Saturday against yet another tough opponent. Up Next: 12/15 vs. Creighton.
  4. Oregon State, 5-2 (^2): I’m still not completely sold on this Oregon State team, but it appears that the fact its two losses have come by a combined nine points, both against teams that will likely be dancing come March, has had an effect on the rest of the panel. The Beavers took the week off for finals before hosting an awful Grambling State team on Saturday afternoon. The result was an 85-54 win, a margin that would have been much bigger if not for a 24-4 Tiger run late in the second half. Junior guard Roberto Nelson led the way for OSU, going 5-of-6 from three-point land en route to a 26-point performance. Up Next: 12/12 @ Portland State. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Best Point Guard?

Posted by AMurawa on December 6th, 2012

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

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

 

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

Chasson Randle, Stanford

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

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

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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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