Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2012

  1. It doesn’t go down as a surprise of any kind, but Colorado’s win over California on Sunday afternoon certainly doesn’t lack in importance. The Buffaloes got off to a strong start and withstood some pushback from the Golden Bears to lead for the final 30 minutes of the game and knock Cal from their perch atop the conference standings. Colorado, meanwhile, kept themselves in the mix for one of the four first-round byes in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Buffaloes were led by Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson, who celebrated their Senior Day in style, as Dufault went for 15, while Tomlinson had 11, four assists, and four boards and had a major hand in throwing a wrench into the Cal backcourt. Jorge Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs were held to a combined three-of-18 from the floor Sunday night, and in both games against Colorado this season, that duo was just eight-of-44 (18.2%) from the field. Lost in all the lovey-dovey Senior Day celebrating was fellow Colorado senior Carlon Brown slumping on the bench and seemingly not all that pleased to watch freshmen Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker finish the game off. Maybe Tad Boyle is already sick of Brown’s act (it is his first year of eligibility in Boulder after transferring from Utah), but with important games still remaining for Colorado (not just their trip to Oregon next week, but the Pac-12 Tournament, which it seems like they will need to win in order to earn an NCAA Tournament invite), Boyle will have to find some way to get something out of Brown, who is just 22-of-76 from the field in the month of February.
  2. The California loss leaves Washington all by its lonesome in first place in the conference. The Huskies needed a second-half comeback to knock off Apple Cup rival Washington State on Saturday, and they earned that victory largely at the free throw line, not bad for a team in the bottom 10% of the nation in free throw percentage. The Huskies made ten of its final 12 free throw attempts while the Cougars hit just 17 of their 32 second half attempts from the charity stripe and U-Dub escaped with a four-point win. Tony Wroten led the way with 21 points (albeit on 6-18 from the field), while Terrence Ross, in his first game after being declared the Pac-12 POY favorite by yours truly, was limited to just 21 ineffective minutes by foul trouble – he was just one-of-five from the field with two points and three rebounds.
  3. It’s been a long, rough season for Utah, with little talent and as a result, little to play for. But, give credit to head coach Larry Krystkowiak who has kept the Utes scraping hard all season long, and give credit to his team, who the head man describes as “resilient.” It took until the middle of December for the Utes to win a game against Division I competition, and there have been two separate eight-game losing streaks, but Utah got back on the right side of the final score on Saturday, knocking off Stanford 58-57. Junior Chris Hines hit a game-winning three with 27 seconds left and Cardinal senior Josh Owens missed a potentially game-tying free throw with eight seconds, and the Utes escaped with just their sixth win of the year. Meanwhile, for a Stanford team that looked brilliant on Thursday in handing Colorado its first home loss in Pac-12 play, it is just the latest in a long line of uneven performances in conference play.
  4. Normally, if there’s an Arizona/UCLA game being played on the last weekend in February, that’s the headliner in this conference. But, the fact is, as go the Bruins and the Wildcats, so goes the Pac-12. There have been more problems around the conference than just some ordinary teams in Westwood and Tucson, but you have to imagine that if these two stalwarts had lived up to their reputations, there would be a lot less jabbering about the weakness in the conference. As far as the game goes, the Wildcat seniors protected their Senior Day with Kyle Fogg leading the way. The senior guard has averaged at least 24 minutes per game every year of his career, but he is certainly wrapping up his eligibility in style. After going for his second double-double in three games against USC on Thurdsay (and the only two double-doubles of his career), Fogg came just one rebound shy of yet another double-double, but still wound up with 20 points and nine rebounds. The ‘Cats tried to give the game away down the stretch, missing four of six free throws in the final minute, but a Jerime Anderson jumper that could have sent the game to overtime was awry.
  5. Elsewhere around the conference this weekend, the nightmare season for USC continued with a four-point loss at Arizona State, as the undersized and undermanned Trojans couldn’t deal with Sun Devil sophomore center Jordan Bachynski who had 19 points and nine boards. However, it was embattled point guard Chris Colvin who iced the game, converting a three-point play with 19 seconds left to seal the win. Freshman guard Byron Wesley has come up big recently for USC, with new career-highs in each of his last two games, but there just isn’t enough help there for now. And, Sunday night, Oregon held off Oregon State in the 337th edition of the basketball version of the Civil War behind 25 points from Oregon senior guard Garrett Sim, whose parents are both Oregon State alumni.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.01.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 1st, 2012

  1. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it is still disappointing; Faisal Aden’s career at Washington State is now over, after an MRI on the knee he injured against Arizona on Thursday night showed a torn ACL. In the end, this goes down as a story interrupted in the middle with no satisfactory ending. Just as Aden was playing his best basketball of his career, and doing so in a manner far different than the wild, erratic style he had cultivated in his first year and a half in Pullman. Now we don’t get to see the final act, to see if the changes were just a temporary flash in the pan, or a sign of a change that would bring the player’s redemption. The basketball gods can be cruel at times.
  2. While Aden’s year ends early, David Foster’s season never had a chance to really get underway. Utah’s 7’3” center broke a bone in his foot just six minutes into the Utes’ opening exhibition game, and he’s still in a walking boot three months later. There had been some talk earlier in the year that head coach Larry Krystkowiak might not want Foster to return to the program next year, in part because he has been notoriously injury prone over his career, but also because it would free up another scholarship for the program to rebuild with. And Foster himself considered leaving his basketball career behind. But both Foster and Krystkowiak decided that both the program and the player would be better served by his attempted return next year. Krystkowiak, in particular, notes that he wants “to do right by the kids in the program” and to keep from “kicking anybody to the curb.” You hear a lot about coaches making harsh personnel decisions in which the interests of the program supercede the interests of the player, but in this case it is good to hear a story about a coach taking the best interests of a player into consideration. Now let’s just hope Foster can stay healthy for a full year.
  3. California sophomore guard Allen Crabbe missed practice on Tuesday and was seen wearing a protective boot on his right foot. Mike Montgomery declined to give any comment about the injury, so prior to the Bears’ meeting with Arizona in Berkeley on Thursday night, Crabbe’s status has to be in question. Crabbe is Cal’s leading scorer, averaging 15.8 points per game and hitting 43.6% of his three-point attempts. Last season he missed all or part of three different games with a concussion; the Golden Bears lost all three of those games.
  4. Nobody likes injuries in sports, but I’m pretty sure if USC head coach Kevin O’Neill could read the above three stories, sit back in his chair and say, “that’s nothing.” You see, O’Neill has had five players have their seasons ended prematurely due to injury. In fact, of the five players the Trojans started in their first exhibition game during their summer trip to Brazil, only sophomore guard Maurice Jones remains standing (and shooting – always shooting). If USC had been able to sneak through this season in relative health, they probably would be in the top half of the conference; instead, they just earned their first conference win last weekend against a lowly Utah team. Still, all of those players should be back next season, along with a trio of incoming transfers (Eric Wise from UC Irvine and J.T. Terrell and Ari Stewart from Wake Forest), meaning the Trojans should be a vastly different team in 2012-13.
  5. Lastly, keeping with the injury theme, Arizona State junior wing Trent Lockett has missed the last four games with a right ankle sprain, and there is a good chance he will miss two more this weekend. But, if there is good news about that story, the Sun Devils have seen point guard Chris Colvin take up the reigns in recent games and play his best basketball of his short career in Tempe. Given that Colvin has already been suspended twice by head coach Herb Sendek, it’s good to see him make some positive changes.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.17.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2012

  1. Arizona State came out of Saturday’s action with a big win over Oregon State, but along the way they took a loss as well, as junior guard Trent Lockett sprained his ankle with ten minutes left and did not return. Lockett, who had taken over as the team’s point guard in the wake of the dismissal of Keala King, is currently questionable for ASU’s games next week. But Herb Sendek hopes that Chris Colvin, who handed out five assists in the ten minutes that Lockett missed on Saturday, can use his performance against OSU as a springboard to better things. Colvin began the season as the team’s point guard in the wake of Jahii Carson’s eligibility issues, but struggled early and often, eventually losing his starting spot, getting suspended on two different occasions and being relegated to a minor role in the three conference games he has played in.
  2. Elsewhere in the infirmary, California’s junior point guard Brandon Smith has missed the Bears’ last three games after suffering a concussion against Oregon State on January 5, but could be due for a return soon. Head coach Mike Montgomery said that Smith will returns once he can pass his concussion battery tests, and currently his reaction times are not quite up to snuff. Justin Cobbs, in particular, has been excellent in Smith’s absence, handing out a career-high 11 assists in the Bears’ win over Utah on Saturday.
  3. The Pac-12 handed out its Player of the Week award on Monday morning, and Terrence Ross of Washington was this week’s recipient. We here at RTC opted for Josh Huestis of Stanford, but Ross’ 30-point outburst Sunday night in helping the Huskies come back from a second-half deficit against Washington State was certainly deserving. Ross became the third Husky to win the award this season; he was preceded in the honor by teammates C.J. Wilcox and Tony Wroten.
  4. At this time last week, Colorado was the talk of the conference, having jumped out to a 3-0 start in conference play. But, this week the Buffaloes set out on the road for the first time and were treated rather rudely in the Bay Area, losing both their contests. Head coach Tad Boyle said that he was pleased with CU’s effort in a seven-point loss at California, but that Saturday’s 20-point defeat to Stanford was something of a step back. Senior guard Carlon Brown noted that the Buffs let the road environment get them out of their game, but teammate Austin Dufault thinks the Buffs will improve on the road as the season progresses.
  5. Lastly, in the wake of USC’s 0-5 conference start and, most recently, a 19-point home loss to cross-town rival UCLA, some Trojans fans are beginning to talk about needing a new coach. But athletic director Pat Haden promises that he’ll show patience with head coach Kevin O’Neill, blaming some of SC current troubles on the mess that Tim Floyd left this program in. But even Haden admits that there is some frustration with the team’s complete inability to produce any type of offense. Nevertheless, for those Trojan fans hoping for a new basketball coach: Don’t expect any changes any time soon.
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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 12th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • This past weekend likely saw the best regular season game of the Pac-12 schedule, as Stanford battled Oregon State for four exciting overtimes before finally securing an all-important road victory.
  • Given the relative homogeneity of the conference, the recipe for winning the regular season title is going to be: 1) take care of business at home; and 2) steal a handful of road games against the middle and bottom of the Pac. On both of those fronts, Stanford is looking good now, sitting with California, Washington, and Arizona atop the conference. What’s that you say? Colorado actually leads the conference with a 3-0 record? Sorry Buffs, but get back to me once you have tasted the road in the Pac-12. Right now all three of their wins have come at home.
Chasson Randle, Stanford

Stanford's Four Overtime Win Over Oregon State Helped Keep Them Among The Contenders In The Pac-12 (Rick Bowmer/AP)

  • Elsewhere this past weekend, Thursday night was upset central as all six underdogs came away with victories that night, before things got back to normal, as only Stanford was able to spring the upset. UCLA got back to .500 in conference after sweeping the Arizona schools, making the Bruins and Buffs the only homestanders to win both of their games last weekend.
  • And, lastly, the Pac-12 lost another promising player to immaturity this week, as Keala King was dismissed by Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek after being left back from the Sun Devils’ trip to the Los Angeles-area schools week along with Kyle Cain and Chris Colvin. In Sendek’s press conference on Tuesday, he referred to King being unhappy with being forced to play point guard in the absence of ineligible freshman Jahii Carson and butting heads with Sendek over his role. As a result, King joins the growing list of Pac-12 players who have divorced their programs this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 11th, 2012

  1. Washington had all sorts of trouble finishing off “the best 3-10 team in America” on Tuesday night, as they were tied with Seattle with less than five minutes to play before sealing up an eight-point win. The Huskies made their hay by getting to the line. Repeatedly. No really. A lot. Like 59 times. The fact that they missed 22 of those attempts certainly kept the game a lot closer than it should have been, but give credit to Seattle and their head coach Cameron Dollar (who will someday be a head coach in the Pac-12, mark my words) for fighting to the end. Tony Wroten shook off an awful game against Utah on Saturday with 24 points and 18 trips to the free-throw line, but he still turned the ball over six times and made a couple bad decisions down the stretch. C.J. Wilcox also bounced back from his worst game of the season by going for 25 points and drilling four threes. The Huskies get back to conference play on Saturday by hosting Washington State.
  2. In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Herb Sendek touched on his decision to dismiss Keala King from the Arizona State team. His comment that “sometimes when you’re a part of a team, you have to make sacrifices and play positions that maybe aren’t ideal” indicates that King was upset at having to play the point after freshman Jahii Carson was declared ineligible and transfer Chris Colvin didn’t pan out as the lead guard. King wasn’t really cut out to be a point guard (he turned the ball over on more than 28% of his team’s possession – a far sight better than Colvin’s 34%), but he appeared to be the best of a bad lot. Now, Sendek turns to junior Trent Lockett at the point. Lockett isn’t an ideal candidate for the point either (he turned it over 11 times in ASU’s two games last weekend, but did hand out eight assists), but at this point, he’s the only legitimate option Sendek has.
  3. For the first month, maybe five weeks, of his freshman year at Arizona, Nick Johnson looked like anything but a freshman. He played with a confidence and a consistency that belied his year. But, here we are in January and Johnson has but up clunkers in four of his last five games and seems to have lost all confidence in his jumper last week in Southern California, hitting just three of his 15 field goal attempts and missing all six of his three-point attempts. But Johnson remains cool and collected and expects to work through this slump and come out better for it on the other side.
  4. Johnson’s teammate, Kyle Fogg, has seen a slump or two in his day too, but now a senior, he is climbing up all manner of career lists in Tucson. When he started on Sunday against USC, it was his 101st career start, moving him into ninth place on the all-time Wildcat list, tied with Steve Kerr and Reggie Geary. If he continues to start the rest of the year, he’ll have a good chance to pass Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye to move into fifth place, but Jason Gardner’s record of 135 career starts is completely safe.
  5. Beginning to look ahead to the weekend, Oregon point guard Jonathan Loyd is questionable for the Ducks’ Thursday night game at Arizona State, after sustaining a bruised knee in Sunday’s loss to California. He may test his knee in practice today, but it looks like he may be a game-time decision tomorrow night. If Loyd is unable to go, Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim will be the only two guards available to Dana Altman who have averaged more than 10 minutes per game. Freshman Brett Kingma, a three-point specialist who has struggled with his shot, would be the guard most likely to pick up the extra minutes if Loyd is out.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2012

  1. Arizona State came into conference play as one of the least talented teams in the Pac-12. This weekend they played without three of their players, all suspended for “unacceptable conduct” and it was announced Sunday that at least one of those players who had been suspended this weekend will not be returning to the team as Herb Sendek dismissed Keala King from the team. Kyle Cain and Chris Colvin, who were suspended along with King this weekend, apparently will return to the team. King becomes the eighth Sun Devil to leave the program with remaining eligibility since 2008 and the third player in a seven-man 2010 class to leave. It’s a good thing Sendek signed a contract extension earlier in the year, because this program is an absolute mess and will need to start over more or less from scratch next offseason. For what it’s worth, ASU did salvage a weekend split in Los Angeles, knocking off USC on Thursday before getting blown out by UCLA on Saturday.
  2. Saturday night, Stanford and Oregon State played one of the most entertaining games you’ll see this season, as the Cardinal somehow pulled off a 103-101 victory in the fourth overtime at Gill Coliseum. It was a game that was worth watching from the opening tip to the final buzzer, from Roberto Nelson’s shoeless three-pointers early in the first half (that had the OSU announcers way, WAY too excited) to his late body slam of Josh Huestis, to his potential game-winning three-pointer at the end of the fourth OT that just missed. There’s a ton more to be discussed here, and we’ll have something up later this afternoon, but for now enjoy reliving the game with Jeff Eisenberg’s five memorable moments from the game.
  3. There were two Pac-12 games on Sunday afternoon although neither came anywhere near matching the excitement in Corvallis Saturday night. They were, however, important games as the road teams came up with wins in both games. First it was Arizona getting over on USC in one of the uglier games you’ll see this season. The teams combined to shoot 3-of-30 from behind the arc, Arizona turned the ball over 17 times, and Maurice Jones was allowed to shoot the Trojans out of yet another game (he was 3-of-13 from the field and is now shooting a 42.1% eFG this year). Later, it was California going into Oregon and coming away with a 17-point victory that was most notable for Allen Crabbe’s best game of the season – 26 points, 12 rebounds and six three-pointers. In both cases, the road teams earned weekend splits, putting the Bears and the Wildcats, along with Stanford’s Cardinal and perhaps Washington’s Huskies atop the list of conference favorites.
  4. Washington’s on that list above in part due to their road win at Utah this weekend. While a win on the road in this year’s Pac-12 is nothing to scoff at, the Huskies weren’t exactly impressive in their victory. After struggling with the woeful Utes for 39 minutes, Washington at least had some breathing room down the stretch, having built up an eight-point lead with just a minute to play. But then Desmond Simmons missed the front-end of a one-and-one with the Utes in foul mode. And then Terrence Ross missed two more front-ends, allowing Utah to get back to within two points with 12 seconds left. Ross finally capped the game off by drilling a couple free throws, but the Huskies’ performance certainly didn’t inspire much confidence.
  5. Lastly, back to that UCLA/ASU game for a second. Bruin sophomore center Joshua Smith, back after missing Thursday’s game with a minor concussion, had his best game of the season, scoring 18 points in 21 minutes and dominating the undermanned Sun Devils. Thursday night Ben Howland noted that Smith, who has struggled with his conditioning throughout his UCLA career, after much work both in and out of practice, was down to his lowest weight of the season (presumably somewhere north of the 305 pounds at which he is presently listed). Saturday night, the work that he had put in was evident. Not only was he able to play 21 very effective minutes, but he actually dunked a ball – not just once, but twice! Don’t believe me? The proof is in the picture here. Now, this doesn’t mean that all of a sudden Smith is the all-conference performer that he has the talent to be (he did, after all, manage only four rebounds against ASU), but it is a huge step in the right direction both for Smith and the Bruins. I like to think he heard my plea.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.19.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 19th, 2011

  1. Busy weekend around the conference, so let’s get right to it. The big story on Sunday was Washington’s blowout loss against Nate Wolters and South Dakota State, the first non-conference home loss for the Huskies in 32 games. Wolters went for 34 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and no turnovers in a full 40 minutes of work, while Tony Wroten led the Huskies in scoring for the third straight game with 23 points. Sophomore Terrence Ross was limited some by foul trouble, but after knocking down the first points of the game, he wound up with just six points on three-of-four shooting, the first game of the year where he failed to score in double figures. Coming off a hard-fought win on Friday night over a tough UC Santa Barbara team in Lorenzo Romar’s 200th win at Washington, U-Dub was looking to string together back-to-back wins for the first time in over a month.  However, aside from Wolters’ excellence, the rest of the Jackrabbits were on fire too, as the team shot 10-of-16 from three and posted a 64.7 eFG% on the night. While the Husky offense is starting to find life with Wroten leading the show (although the relative absence of Ross is disturbing), this team can’t be a consistent winner until they shore up things on the defensive end.
  2. Saturday found Pac-12 schools losing in new and inventive ways. For instance, USC, which has been rock solid all year, allowed Georgia, one of the worst shooting teams in a BCS conference, to shoot a season-best 61.6 eFG% as they came back from an eight-point second half deficit to put the Trojans away. Bulldog freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drilled a late three to ice the game and went for a career-high 21 points. The Trojans owned the glass on both ends of the floor, grabbing 90% of all Georgia misses and even 46.6% of their own, but their inability to get any defensive stops, especially over the last ten minutes of the game, wasted freshman Alexis Moore’s career-high 18 points.
  3. Northern Arizona has traveled to face Arizona State in Tempe for the second time in six years – and came away with their second win in a row in the Sun Devils’ building. Junior point guard Stallon Saldivar not only hit the game-winning three-pointer with under a second left to lift the Lumberjacks, but poured in a career-high 24 points, including six threes, while handing out nine assists and playing every minute of the game. His ASU counterpart, Keala King, did his best to keep the Sun Devils around, scoring 16 and handing out seven assists, but continued to struggle with turnovers, coughing it up five more times on Saturday. However, for the time being, it looks like King is the only real option at the point, as junior Chris Colvin returned from a one-game suspension to play exactly two minutes against NAU.
  4. Skipping over Gonzaga’s “manhandling” of Arizona, and Oregon’s disappointing second half against Virginia, let’s jump to some good news. First, Utah earned its first win over a Division I opponent on Friday night, knocking off Idaho State 71-59 in a game the Utes dedicated to junior guard Glen Dean, who is in a hospital recovering from brain surgery. Even better news that the Utes win is the news that Dean appears to be on the road to recovery and the team hopes to have the transfer, who is sitting out this season due to NCAA rules, back in the fold after the New Year. The other highlight of the weekend around the Pac-12 was the stellar defense job that California and its senior guard Jorge Gutierrez did on the nation’s leading scorer, Damian Lillard, in the Golden Bears’ win over Weber State. Lillard did wind up with 14 points, but he had to take 17 shots to get those, making just four of his field goal attempts in the 20-point Cal win.
  5. Stanford got back on the court after a 12-day hiatus to deal with finals, and handled San Diego with relative ease in a game in which ten of the 13 Cardinal players who got on the court played at least ten minutes. However, despite holding the Toreros to a sub-50 eFG%, head coach Johnny Dawkins was displeased with the team’s defensive effort, citing a lack of communication that allowed USD to score 34 second-half points. A renewed emphasis on the defensive end does not bode well for Bethune-Cookman, the Cardinal’s next opponent on Monday night.
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Arizona State’s Jahii Carson Declared Ineligible

Posted by AMurawa on December 9th, 2011

After a long drawn-out process, Arizona State freshman point guard Jahii Carson was finally declared ineligible for this season, following the results of an ACT test that came up just short of the score needed to qualify on the NCAA’s sliding scale. Carson was a top 50 national recruit out of Mesa High School in Phoenix, expected to take over the Sun Devil point guard position from day one and give Herb Sendek’s team the speed and electricity necessary to run a higher-tempo style of basketball. However, after Carson’s transcripts from a summer class came up short of qualifying him with his first ACT score, he took the test again and, according to ASUDevils.com, came up either one ACT point or one letter grade in one class away from gaining eligibility. Carson will be allowed to practice with the team from here on out, but will enter next season as a sophomore with a chance to regain the season’s worth of eligibility depending on his academic progress.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State

Jahii Carson Is Able To Practice With The Sun Devils, But Won't Be Eligible To Play Until Next Year (Credit: maxpreps.com)

Arizona State is off to a 3-5 start this season (with some bad losses to Pepperdine and DePaul mixed in there), and, coming off a 12-19 season last year, the hope was that Carson would help begin to turn the team around. However, in his absence, the Sun Devils have struggled to take care of the ball, turning the ball over on over 26% of their possessions (326th in the nation). Junior Chris Colvin and sophomore Keala King have taken the majority of the ballhandling responsibilities, but both of them have turned the ball over on more than 30% of all possessions. With Carson’s help delayed, King and Colvin will need to drastically decrease their turnovers for the Devils to be able to improve on last year’s record.

Looking ahead to next season, Arizona State could return all of this year’s contributors along with Carson and a couple of Division I transfers (Liberty transfer Evan Gordon and Hawaii transfer Bo Barnes) and a trio of incoming freshmen. Trent Lockett, the team’s leading scorer, is on pace to graduate in three years however, and there is the possibility (although Lockett has given no indication that this is his intention) that he could transfer to another Division I program without sitting out a year. If he does return, Sendek will have a trio of talented returnees on the wing in Lockett, King (who would be able to shift back over to an off-the-ball role he is more comfortable with) and Carrick Felix. The Sun Devils would still need to find somebody to give some sort of consistent contribution up front – seven footers Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski have been underwhelming this year, while sophomore forward Kyle Cain remains a work in progress – in order to compete for a tournament bid, but next year’s Sun Devil backcourt should be loaded with talent.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.29.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 29th, 2011

  1. It’s a new week and a new day for the Pac-12. Nothing but sunshine from now on, right? There hasn’t been a whole lot of good news to report around the conference, so we’ll take the occasion of four wins and zero losses in a single night to be grateful for. Sure, most of the wins came against teams that major conference teams should have no reason to fear, but one of the newest Pac-12 teams posted the most impressive victory of the night as Colorado came out of the halftime locker room with a 28-14 run over the first 17 minutes of the second half against Georgia. The Buffs held on to seal a 70-68 victory that was nowhere near as close as the final score. Buffalo freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie led all scorers with 16 points and fellow freshman Askia Booker added 14, while Andre Roberson had 15/15 in his fourth double-double of the year.
  2. Meanwhile down south, UCLA earned its first win of the season over a Division I opponent with a 62-39 victory over Pepperdine in a game whose score looks a lot more impressive than the actual play on the court. Sure, the Waves were never in this game at all, getting outscored 28-11 in the first half, but still, for UCLA, the two guys who were supposed to be the heart and soul of this team – Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith – combined for six points and eight rebounds in 22 total minutes. Nevertheless, there were good signs for the Bruins, namely Travis Wear, who took some time off from exploring coral reefs to grab ten first-half rebounds (including five on the offensive end) and freshman guard Norman Powell, who earned 22 minutes and rewarded the coaching staff with ten points, a couple of threes and a ton of defensive energy. There’s still a long way to go, and Pepperdine is certainly no Loyola Marymount, but it is baby steps for the Bruins at this point.
  3. Down the street from the Bruins’ temporary home, their cross-town rival, USC, got some good news Monday as their sophomore point guard Maurice Jones was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week, mostly on the strength of his 28-point outburst against South Carolina in the consolation game of the Las Vegas Invitational this weekend. Jones hit all seven of his three-point attempts in that game, getting his three-point percentage for the season back in the respectable range (he started the year 8-32 from deep) and more importantly, getting his team back within one game of .500.
  4. Sticking around Troy for a bit, Rick Majerus was back in the Southland this weekend, taking his Saint Louis team to the 76 Classic in Anaheim, and while there he was asked to talk about his reasons for backing out of the USC job just four days after he had accepted it in 2004. Long story short, despite his claims at the time that it was his own health that caused him to back out, in fact Majerus’ mother was fighting cancer at the time and she asked him to not accept the job so that he could remain closer to her. Perhaps just as interesting was Majerus’ claim that he thought he could have won a national championship at USC. After seeing what Majerus did with Ball State, Utah and now Saint Louis, I’m inclined to trust him.
  5. Finally, Jeff Borzello takes a closer look at the struggles that Arizona State has been going through this season and ties it back to its inability to take care of the ball. So far ASU is turning the ball over on 26.9% of its possessions, an abysmal figure good for 325th in the country. Part of the problem can be chalked up to the Sun Devils missing Jahii Carson, the heir apparent at point guard who has yet to be declared academically eligible. But Iowa State transfer Chris Colvin, who has handled most of the point guard duties so far and who the coaching staff spoke highly of in the offseason, has yet to display any comfort as the lead guard, turning the ball over 23 times thus far in 150 minutes of action. And every other starter for the Sun Devils has averaged at least two turnovers a game thus far. If Carson isn’t coming through that door, and if ASU continues to turn the ball over at this rate, this season is not going to get any better.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.18.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 18th, 2011

  1. In an exciting nightcap at Madison Square Garden Thursday night, Arizona turned an eight-point deficit to St. John’s with under seven minutes to play into a nine-point win when it all was said and done. While it was Arizona veterans like Jesse Perry, Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg and Solomon Hill who finished strong for the Wildcats, it was their pair of highly-touted freshman guards who got the 23-6 game-closing run started. Nick Johnson took advantage of the Red Storm’s zone defense to drill a three on an underneath inbounds play, and on the next possession point guard Josiah Turner stepped into a passing lane, made a steal and threw down a slam at the other end to swing momentum. Johnson later added another three in the middle of the run to finish with 11 points off the bench, while Turner had his best game of his young career with eight points, three rebounds, and a couple of steals. He’ll still need to get his game under control more (he turned the ball over four times in 19 minutes), but last night he earned the minutes he played. He and his team will get another chance to take a step forward tonight as they face Mississippi State back at the Garden for the Coaches vs. Cancer championship.
  2. On the other side of the continent, USC came up on the losing end of another exciting game that came down to the final moments. Playing at San Diego State, Trojan sophomore point guard Maurice Jones hit a wild game-tying three pointer with 6.8 seconds left, only to see his team give up a coast-to-coast drive for a bucket from Aztec sophomore point guard Xavier Thames with 1.8 seconds remaining to provide the final margin. Jones played all but a minute of the game for USC and led the Trojans in scoring for the third straight game, but his team fell to 1-2 with the two losses coming by a grand total of five points, including a double-overtime loss to Nebraska in their last outing.
  3. ESPNU’s recruiting guru Dave Telep posted his rundown on the remaining unsigned top 100 recruits in the 2012 class and actually opined that UCLA’s struggles in their first two games of the season may help rather than hinder their pitch to #1 overall recruit, Shabazz Muhammad. Apparently Muhammad is looking for a needy co-dependent suitor, and if that’s the case, maybe the Bruins are employing a strategy similar to the Suck for Luck sweepstakes in the NFL. Elsewhere on Telep’s list, Cal and Oregon seem to be running a bit behind St. John’s for ESPNU’s #30 recruit, Ricardo Gathers, while Washington is one of many still trying to get a commitment from #7 Anthony Bennett.
  4. Arizona State hosts New Mexico tonight, with both teams coming off losses earlier in the week. It’s been said that ASU is ready to play a faster tempo this season (although the first couple of games don’t indicate much of a change) and the Lobos will certainly offer the Sun Devils every opportunity to do so. However, Herb Sendek’s team has plenty of things they’ve got to shore up before they can be considered a different team than last year’s 12-19 squad. First, guards Chris Colvin and Keala King need to buy into Sendek’s gospel of ball movement, something they haven’t done yet. And secondly, somebody along the ASU frontcourt, whether it be Kyle Cain, Jordan Bachynski or Ruslan Pateev, needs to show that they can provide the threat of a scoring punch up front. Until that happens, this is still Trent Lockett and a bunch of inoffensive warm bodies.
  5. Lastly, we head back to the Wildcats, as Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News tells the story of Kevin Parrom’s battle back from the gunshot wounds he sustained in an attack in New York City in September while visiting his mother who was then dying of cancer. Back in New York this week for the Coaches vs. Cancer event, it is a bittersweet homecoming for the junior from the Bronx, coming back to the city where he could have lost his life, and where his mother did lose her life just a month ago.  Parrom first made it back to the court last Sunday against Ball State where he played a key role in helping the Wildcats scrape out a victory. When he left the court at the end of the game to a standing ovation from the McKale Center crowd, he also got a big embrace from his coach Sean Miller, a hug that Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen puts on par with some of the other great moments in Arizona basketball.

Today we’ve got a bonus entry, as I forgot to include our football picks for the weekend. Last weekend was a dismal week for both of us as we each went 3-3, but I’d have to point out that I at least got the Oregon pick in our game of the week right (although I had the game much closer than it turned out. And, it should be noted (if only because I’m the one writing this and not Connor), that although Connor holds a one game lead on the year, I’ve correctly picked all three of our games of the week, while Connor is a mere 2-1). This week we’ll look at Oregon again in our game of the week, this time against bowl-ineligible USC playing another in a long line of what amounts to mid-season bowl games.

Game Connor (12-6) Drew (11-7)
Arizona @ Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
Colorado @ UCLA UCLA UCLA
California @ Stanford Stanford Stanford
Washington @ Oregon State Oregon State Washington
Utah @ Washington State Utah Washington State
USC @ Oregon Oregon 38, USC 21 Oregon 49 USC 30
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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.

 

Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Arizona State

Posted by AMurawa on November 1st, 2011

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

Arizona State Sun Devils

Strengths.  The Sun Devils are big. They’re capable of playing a couple of seven-footers (Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski) at the same time, with a 6’5” off-guard in Trent Lockett, a 6’3” point in Chris Colvin, and your choice of 6’5”-plus guys at the wing. Additionally, several of those guys are long for their size and guys like Lockett, Keala King, Carrick Felix or starting power forward Kyle Cain have some good hops to pair with their length.

Trent Lockett, Arizona State

Trent Lockett's Athleticsm Allows Him To Play Bigger Than His Size

Weaknesses. Of the many weaknesses ASU displayed last season, its inability to rebound the ball was the most damning. They rebounded just 27.8% of their own missed shots, good for 302nd in the nation, but worse they allowed their opponents to grab 33% of their misses. While Herb Sendek-coached teams don’t typically pound the offensive glass, their struggles cleaning the defensive glass need to be fixed, pronto.

Non-Conference Tests.  The Devils have a very manageable non-conference schedule, with only a visit from Mountain West favorite New Mexico on 11/18 and a trip to the Old Spice Classic on Thanksgiving weekend providing major challenges. They open the Old Spice with a sneaky-tough matchup against Fairfield (one of the favorites in the MAAC), then get either Dayton or Wake Forest on Friday. Really, if ASU can play well in Orlando, they have a puncher’s chance to make some hay in that tournament, given a relatively weak field.

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