Farewell, and Thank You, to Pac-12 Writer Connor Pelton

Posted by AMurawa on April 9th, 2014

As the 2013-14 season wraps up, so too does the third season of the Rush the Court Pac-12 microsite. And, as we put a bow on another great college basketball season, we also have reached an end of an era here in our own small little corner of the college hoops universe, as my right-hand man here for the past three seasons, Connor Pelton, will be moving on to greener pastures. Connor and I have had more than a little help manning the RTC Pac-12 beat (dap to Parker Baruh, Adam Butler, Kenny Ocker, and others), but by and large, if you’ve read much about Pac-12 basketball at Rush the Court the past three years, it’s likely been the two of us you’ve been reading. Along the way, we’ve spent time disagreeing about Tony Wroten, Jahii Carson and Joseph Young, etc., bemoaning the failures of the conference we write about, and generally having a lot of fun. While Connor’s input here will be greatly missed, we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. And you can bet we’ll be bugging him on the regular to send us over a guest post every now and then.

As for the offseason plans, we’ve got team-by-team post-mortems planned for the near future and posts as events warrant them, so be sure to check back in between now and next season as we continue to keep you up to date on the trials and tribulations of the Pac-12 conference.

Share this story

Stanford Week’s Burning Question: Is Dawkins’ Seat Warming Up?

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 21st, 2012

Pachoops’ Adam Butler joins us once again to chime in with his thoughts on our Burning Question. This is now his fourth straight appearance after giving us answers on the programs of Arizona, USC, and Washington. As for Stanford’s question, here goes:

Stanford made the NCAA Tournament in 13 out of 14 seasons before current head coach Johnny Dawkins took over in 2008-09. In his four seasons on the Farm, Dawkins has yet to lead the Cardinal back to the Big Dance, which has dropped the program down a step in terms of national prominence. How many more times can he go without dancing before his seat begins to heat up?

Dawkins Needs To Bring Stanford Back To National Prominence In A Hurry (credit: Danny Moloshok)

Connor Pelton: It’s tough to stand out and become a prominent team nationally in college basketball. In college football, an average fan will watch roughly 70 out of 125 FBS teams play at least one game throughout the season. That number is about the same for college basketball, but  it’s out of 345 Division I teams. If you think of it as a huge pie, there are about 30 large slices, 40 medium slices, and the rest are crumbs. Stanford used to be one of those coveted large slices, one that would without a doubt hear their name called on Selection Sunday year in and year out. But since Dawkins has taken over, the Cardinal have taken a step down to just one of the medium slices. Fans around the nation know who they are, but they don’t care enough to stay up until Midnight (on the east coast) to watch them play. The same goes for recruits, and if you find yourself in one of those six or seven-year droughts without going dancing, your four- and five-stars are going to become twos and threes.

With that said, Dawkins was able to pump some life into a program that was a little sleepy by winning the NIT Championship last season. That will buy him some time, if only because he can point to it and say, “Hey, we’re on the road back to success.” But if he doesn’t get back to the promised land within the next two seasons, it might be time to move on in Palo Alto.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Washington Week’s Burning Question: How To Replace A Pair Of First Round Draftees?

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 14th, 2012

Pachoops’ Adam Butler is once again back to assist with our Burning Question, along with Washington basketball insider Ben Knibbe of UW Dawg Pound. Here’s our question of the week:

In this “one-and-done” era of college basketball (or two-and-queue, or even three-and-leave), it is pivotal for upper-tier teams like Washington to reload, not rebuild, after losing two guards to the NBA Draft. It looks as if the Huskies have the pieces in place to do just that, as Abdul Gaddy and C.J. Wilcox return, Scott Suggs comes back from injury, and newcomers Andrew Andrews and Mark McLaughlin are there to back them up. But of course, replacing a pair of first-rounders is much more difficult than it may seem. Do you think the Dawgs will be able to make a smooth transition that leads to a fourth NCAA Tournament bid in five years, or will they be relegated to the NIT in back-to-back seasons?

Terrence Ross (right) and Tony Wroten, Jr. (left) were selected eighth and 25th in the 2012 NBA Draft, respectively. (credit: Ted S. Warren)

Connor Pelton: By the end of the season I expect the Huskies to be right on the NCAA bubble, and most likely on the good side of it. But while I do expect them to put out a solid group of guards night in and night out come January, there are bound to be struggles early on after replacing Tony Wroten, Jr. and Terrence Ross. I don’t think they will miss a beat at shooting guard, as C.J. Wilcox has ridiculous range, and although he isn’t as great a rebounder (which is why Ross went in the top 10), the Huskies have enough bigs in Aziz N’Diaye, Desmond Simmons, Shawn Kemp, Jr., and Austin Seferian-Jenkins to take care of those loose boards. Even if Wilcox is having an off night, Lorenzo Romar can pull the Mark McLaughlin lever, who just happened to lead all junior college players in scoring last season, or even go to Scott Suggs, who sat out last year with a stress fracture in his foot. The problem lies at the one spot. Wroten was solid in all three phases of the game — scoring, rebounding, and passing — so replacing him is going to be a much tougher task. Abdul Gaddy may be a more pure point guard, but his ability to take the ball into the lane and consistently put it in the hoop is nowhere near Wroten’s; at least it wasn’t last year. Wroten’s ability to force his way into the paint also clogged things down low, constantly leaving Ross open. Overall, the Dawgs have a fine group of guards, but the one thing missing is that special take-over ability, and that could lead to a few extra losses. Losses that were turned into wins by Wroten last season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Washington Week: One-on-One With Shawn Kemp, Jr.

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 13th, 2012

Forward Shawn Kemp, Jr. will be a sophomore for Washington next season. With Darnell Gant graduating, Kemp will see a major increase in playing time and enter October competing with Austin Seferian-Jenkins for the backup spot at forward. RTC’s Connor Pelton had a chance to talk to Kemp this week.

Connor Pelton: Describe your game for people who didn’t get to see you play last season. Similar to your father’s?

Shawn Kemp, Jr.: Our games are kind of different. I’ve been working on my game, trying to change it up a little bit. I’m trying to be able to shoot the outside shot and also bang in the post. I mean, our game is different, but in a way it’s kind of the same. People expect to see the same but it’s not exactly identical.

Kemp, Jr. Will Get More Playing Time In 2012-13 After The Departure Of Darnell Gant (credit: Dean Rutz)

CP: You didn’t see the floor much as a freshman. Will that change in 2012-13 with Brendan Sherrer and Gant departing?

SK: It should change because we’ve had a couple big guys leave. I should be looking at a lot more time this year because I’ve been working a lot this summer. I should be on the court more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Basketball Fantasy League Voting: Round One, Game Three

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 7th, 2012

Our third matchup of the summer pits the third seed, myself, Connor Pelton, up against sixth seeded Ben Knibbe (UW Dawg Pound). The winner of this one is off to the semifinals, where it will meet the winner of our matchup to be revealed on Tuesday. Below are the rosters, followed by some commentary:

Connor Pelton

  • Head Coach – Slats Gill, Oregon State
  • Guard – Reggie Miller, UCLA
  • Guard – Isaiah Thomas, Washington
  • Guard – Chauncey Billups, Colorado
  • Guard – Baron Davis, UCLA
  • Forward – Kiki Vandeweghe, UCLA
  • Forward – Klay Thompson, Washington State
  • Forward – Richard Jefferson, Arizona
  • Forward – Jon Brockman, Washington
  • Center – Steve Johnson, Oregon State
  • Center – Robin Lopez, Stanford

Connor’s Take:

Before I tell you why my team is so much better than Ben’s, let’s first take a look at my seven-man rotation; which is undoubtedly the best in this entire fantasy league. We start in the backcourt, where I was able to pick up two of the clutchest players in not only Pac-12 history, but the NBA as well. Chauncey Billups is our designated starting point guard, if only because Reggie Miller needs to be available at any time to knock down the three. In late-game situations, however, Lute Olson’s famed zone defenses won’t be able to match up and prevent both of these clutch guards from knocking down the winning jumper. You surely already know of Miller’s exploits in the waning minutes of a game (eight points in 11 seconds, anyone?), but Billups hasn’t gotten the nickname “Mr. Big Shot” for no reason. In one of Billups’ best NBA seasons’ (2007-08 with Detroit), he averaged 38.5 points per 48 minutes of clutch time (defined as fourth quarter or overtime, less than five minutes left, and neither team ahead by more than five points).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

California Week’s Burning Question: Which Player Are You Most Excited To See in 2012-13?

Posted by Connor Pelton on June 24th, 2012

The 2012-13 California team will feature a lot of untapped talent, both in newcomers and players who started to break the surface last season, but are primed to have a breakout season next year. While there should be some growing pains early, this team’s potential has Cal fans excited. Which player are you most excited to see (new or returning), and what story will they have written by next April?

Connor Pelton: Sophomore-to-be forward David Kravish showed incredible strides last season as a true freshman, so I’m excited to see whether he is ready or not to be one of the top forwards in the conference in 2012-13. The coaching staff did a tremendous job in just the three short weeks they had to get Kravish ready for his freshman season, and he responded immediately by putting up good numbers on the glass. By December, the wiry freshman was also enough of a scoring threat that opposing defenses had to stop focusing on Richard Solomon and Harper Kamp and devote a lot of time in the game-plan to him. Now, Kamp is gone, and the next step in Kravish’s growth as a player will be to increase his buckets on a more consistent basis. That will be tough, as he will no longer be the off-the-radar freshman. But if he can improve his face-up game and bulk up over the summer, there is no doubt that he will be the man in the middle for the Golden Bears when they need a late basket.

Justin Cobbs Gets Ready To Put Home A Layup, And David Kravish Is Prepared To Get The Rebound If It Doesn’t Fall. (credit: AP)

Andrew Murawa:  For the past two seasons, Jorge Gutierrez was a focal point of the Golden Bear backcourt, playing something of a combo guard for Mike Montgomery’s team and acting as a cult of personality on which fans up and down the Pac-12 conference all had an opinion on. With Gutierrez’s graduation, however, the Cal backcourt is firmly in the hands of a couple of juniors: Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. While Crabbe is the one with the brightest future (6’6” shooting guards who can stroke the three at 40% tend to draw the interest of NBA general managers), Cobbs most piques my interest, and he may be the guy who has the biggest impact on the 2012-13 Golden Bears. While it took Cobbs some time to get comfortable in his new Berkeley digs after transferring from Minnesota,  by mid-season he was often the best player on the team, carrying the team to a blowout win over UC Santa Barbara in the absence of Gutierrez (25 points on 10-12 shooting), and twice notching double-digit assist games in conference play while consistently playing nearly 40 minutes a night. In his sophomore year he showed a great rapport with Crabbe in the backcourt, able to find his teammate for clean looks, while still maintaining his own dangerous offensive game. While Cobbs may not quite rise to the level of a first team Pac-12 performer next season (at least in any reasonable five-man first team, i.e. not the 28-man first team that the conference regularly puts out), by next April he’ll have the reputation of a guy who is as important to his program as any player in the conference, a guy just as comfortable playing the role of distributing point guard as he is knocking down threes at a high rate, getting to the line on a regular basis and being one of the most efficient guards in the conference.

Share this story

Pac-12 Basketball Fantasy League: Recapping Round One

Posted by Connor Pelton on June 2nd, 2012

In an attempt to pass time throughout the long summer months without basketball, eight Pac-12 writers will be attempting something different this offseason. Beginning this week, the following Pac-12 writers (in first round drafting order) will participate in a fantasy style snake draft of the all-time Pac-12 players and coaches:

1. Andy Wooldridge (Building the Dam)
2. Jack Follman (Pacific Takes)
3. Ben Knibbe (UW Dawg Pound)
4. Connor Pelton (Rush the Court)
5. Drew Murawa (Rush the Court)
6. Mark Sandritter and Jeff Nusser (CougCenter)
7. Adam Butler (Pachoops)
8. David Piper (Addicted to Quack)

The purposes of the fantasy league are: (1) to determine the top 80 players and eight coaches to have ever played/coached for a current Pac-12 school, and (2) to have fun and pass time throughout the long summer months without anything but MLB and soccer. The only guidelines for the draft are that a coach must have been a HEAD COACH at a current Pac-12 school to be eligible, while players have had to PLAYED at a current school to be eligible. After the draft, all eight teams will be placed into a bracket and will advance based on a vote by you, the readers. So far, one round of the draft is complete. We recap it below.

Round One

#1 (Andy Wooldridge) – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Lew Alcindor, Center, UCLA

No question on this one. Two-time Player of the Year, three-time First Team All-American, three National Championships, and three NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player awards make Abdul-Jabbar/Alcindor an easy choice at number one.

Lew Alcindor is Our Overall #1 Pick

#2 (Jack Follman) – Bill Walton, Center, UCLA

Walton’s accomplishments are very similar to that of Abdul-Jabbar’s. Walton was named Player of the Year twice, was a three-time First Team All-American, and won a pair of National Championships. While Jabbar was a no-doubter at number one, Walton was the easy second choice.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Who’s Going Where

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 13th, 2012

Here’s a look at each Pac-12 team’s postseason capsule, by order of each team’s tip-off. Enjoy!


Who, When, Where: vs. LSU (18-14) in Eugene, Oregon, NIT First Round, 3/13, 6:30 PM PDT, ESPN

First Up: What the Tigers lack in scoring they make up in rebounds and points in the paint. LSU averages 37 RPG and they are led by big men Justin Hamilton and Storm Warren. What makes the Tigers dangerous is their ability to adapt to a certain style. They will play at the pace you want the game at, and then beat you with your own style.

Best Case Scenario: With the way Oregon has been playing of late (Pac-12 Tournament notwithstanding), the Ducks can easily make a run in this tournament. With players like Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim that are able to create and knock down their own shots, Oregon should be able to beat LSU in the first round. After that things get much more tough, but I can’t see the Ducks losing a “best case scenario” game until they would likely meet either Seton Hall or Arizona in the championship.

Worst Case Scenario: Even if the Ducks do not play well against the Tigers, home-court advantage should pull them through to the next round. However, they would likely have to travel to Dayton in the second round, and the Flyers pose matchup problems all over the court for Oregon. Expect an Oregon-Dayton matchup to be much like last Thursday’s Colorado-Oregon game. The Flyers stingy defense and potent offense should build a large lead early on against the Ducks, and while Oregon battles to cut the deficit to three with four minutes left, it is never able to come all the way back after a long road trip and an emotinal comeback drians all of its energy.

Devoe Joseph's offensive prowess has the Ducks dreaming of a trip to Madison Square Garden. (credit:Jayne Kamin)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story