Three Questions Heading into Houston vs. Cincinnati

Posted by Ross Schulz on January 7th, 2014

After tonight’s game, Houston and Cincinnati will already be a sixth of the way through their AAC conference schedules. The winner will join Louisville as the only undefeated team left in the conference race, a surprising fact for only January 7, and for the time being, that team will take sole possession of first place. After losses to New Mexico and Xavier, it appeared Cincinnati was destined for a mediocre season, but since then, the Bearcats won against Pittsburgh in an ugly affair and notched an impressive 16-point road win Saturday at Memphis. Houston came into the season with moderate-to-high expectations given the return of its core nucleus, but after five non-conference losses the Cougars appeared to be just another disappointing team. It now looks like Houston has put its non-conference woes behind them and is starting fresh with the AAC season. The Cougars began conference play with a win against Connecticut and then went on the road to defeat South Florida by nine. It all sets up for a better-than-expected conference season showdown at 9:00 PM in Hofheinz Pavilion, where a few of the following questions will hopefully be answered.

Thomas May Not be a Household Name, But AAC Coaches Know Him

TaShawn Thomas May Not be a Household Name, But AAC Coaches Know Him

  1. Has Houston really turned a corner? A lot was said about the Cougars’ toughness from both the media and head coach James Dickey following Houston’s big win over Connecticut, but we’ll see how tough they really are after playing against the best defensive team in the AAC. Cincinnati ranks sixth in the country in scoring defense and third in defensive efficiency. If Houston is serious about competing for a top three spot in the conference standings, they’ll need to protect the home court tonight and pull off the win. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: And Then There Were 64 — First Four Breakdown

Posted by EJacoby on March 15th, 2012

The First Round Lede. Debate all you want about the structure of the new NCAA Tournament (since last year) – the First Four format is the new norm, and it must be appreciated because of the momentum it can give to the teams that win these play-in games. Of course, last year VCU began its run to the Final Four from the First Four. Over the past two nights, we saw a couple of really interesting games and a couple of blowouts. We’ll analyze the best moments for you here, as well as preview what’s next to come for the four winners. Here’s your First Round wrap-up…

Your Watercooler Moment. BYU Mounts An Enormous Second Half Comeback

Noah Hartsock Brought Intensity to BYU's Second Half Comeback (AP Photo/S. Peterson)

At the 4:00 mark of the first half of their game against Iona, the BYU Cougars trailed 55-31. Not a single soul watching this game on Tuesday night was thinking about a BYU comeback, and even the announcing crew on truTV was discussing how Iona could pose a serious threat to Marquette in the next round. But Dave Rose was not having it; the BYU coach made the necessary adjustments that included putting his defense into a 2-3 zone that it had hardly used during the season. The result was a complete shift in momentum, and the Cougars continued to convert on the offensive end while holding the Gaels to nothing offensively. Just 16 minutes later, at the 8:00 mark of the second half, Iona’s lead had vanished. BYU controlled the game from there and pulled away with a 78-72 victory, a seemingly impossible result after watching the events of the first half. The upperclassmen forward combo of Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies was terrific, combining for 41 points and 20 rebounds against the undersized Iona front line. The Cougars will take this momentum into Friday night when they take on Marquette in the Round of 64.

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Washington State

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 7th, 2011

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

Washington State Cougars

Strengths.  The Cougars return four starters from last year’s NIT Final Four team in junior guard Reggie Moore, senior guard Marcus Capers, and senior forward Abe Lodwick. However, the biggest contributions could come from the three incoming guards, Mike Ladd, DaVonte Lacy, and Dexter Kernich-Drew. Those three will be needed at the two guard since both Moore and Capers will be at the point. Coming into the season as a Top 50 shooting guard, Lacy is the star of the group. In their exhibition on Saturday against Lewis-Clark State, Lacy proved his value with a 21-point performance. The frontcourt will be held down by Lodwick (when he returns from a left foot injury), junior power forward Brock Motum, and junior center Steven Bjornstad. With Motum and Bjornstad at 6’10″ and 6’11″, respectively, opposing defenses will have trouble matching up in the post.

Lacy has proved early on that he is the go-to guy at shooting guard

Weaknesses.  The Cougars lost two of their three best players from last year in forward DeAngleo Casto and guard Klay Thompson. Those two accounted for 45% of the 2010-11 Wazzu offense. The team will be tested early on with six of their first nine games away from Pullman. For a team that is looking to rreutrn to the NIT, that is a very tough start.

Nonconference Tests.  The Cougars have a relatively easy OOC slate, with only three games that should really challenge them. The first is their regular season opener at Gonzaga. The game will be played at 9:00 PM PST and is the first game of ESPN’s annual 25-Hour Tipoff Marathon. The next challenges will come in the second and third rounds of the 76 Classic down in Anaheim during Thanksgiving weekend. On Nov. 25 they will most likely meet New Mexico in the semifinals, and on Nov. 27 a championship meeting with Villanova looks to be in the cards.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.07.11 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 7th, 2011

  1. Real games start TONIGHT, but it was all about the exhibitions this weekend. On Saturday night in Pullman, Washington State hammered Lewis-Clark State, 88-41. Considering that the Cougars were without their best player, junior point guard Reggie Moore, this was a great result for Ken Bone’s team. Moore went down with a groin injury in a scrimmage against Montana on Oct. 30. He and senior shooting guard Fasial Aden, who suffered a concussion in the scrimmage, are both questionable for the Nov. 14 season opener at Gonzaga. In Moore’s place was freshman combo guard DaVonte Lacy, who led the Cougars with 21 points. Another newcomer, Fresno State transfer Mike Ladd, had 14 points for the Cougs.
  2. Arizona State played on the road for its lone exhibition game, something only one other D-I team has done so far this year. The Sun Devils spoiled the opening of Grand Canyon’s new arena, using a 52-point second half outburst to propel them to a 89-69 win on Saturday afternoon. With the lack of a true center, the Devils used a three-guard lineup for most of the game. Three starters — Chris Colvin, Keala King, and Trent Lockett — led the team with 15 points each. Colvin was the biggest surprise, as the Palm Beach CC transfer let everyone know the Devils would be just fine at point for however long Jahii Carson is out. “He played with a lot of confidence,” coach Herb Sendek said. “He does have some good swag to his game.” Next up for Arizona State is their regular season opener against Montana State on Friday.
  3. Seattle Pacific couldn’t possibly do it again, could they? After beating Arizona a couple of weeks ago, they hung with Washington for a half on Friday night, but in the end Tony Wroten, Jr., and company were just too much for the Falcons. The former Garfield High (WA) star stole the show with ten points, six rebounds, and four assists, one of which was an alley-oop that brought all of the 9,481 in attendance to their feet (start at the 5:30 point). Seven freshmen made their debuts in a Husky uniform, but only Wroten, Jr., and wing Martin Breunig had good performances. Breunig had eight points and two turnovers. Next up for Washington is the regular season opener against Georgia State on Saturday.
  4. The surprise of the weekend came in Salt Lake City, where Adams State shocked Utah thanks to a Chris Webber-like technical foul with 11 seconds left. With the game tied, Utah freshman guard Kareem Storey signaled for timeout when the Runnin’ Utes did not have any left, giving Adams State two free throws. Deray Wilson put one of the two away, which would prove to be enough after the Utes threw away the ensuing inbound pass. Even though it is just an exhibition and the players have said all of the right things, this could really hurt a young team’s confidence, especially since they had virtually none to begin with. If they come out with a less-than-stellar performance in their regular season opener against San Diego Christian next Monday, the season might be over before it really even gets started.
  5. If you have not already, be sure to get your votes in for the first round of our microsite ESPNU Pac-12 Logo Tournament. Due to a bigger-than-anticipated response, we expanded the first round so everyone had a chance to vote over the weekend. But the quarterfinals will begin Wednesday, so make sure to check back and vote for your favorite before we close the polls at Midnight tonight!
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Demarquise Johnson Commits to Washington State

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 24th, 2011

Up until Saturday, Ken Bone’s 2012 recruiting class was a solid bunch of two star players. That all changed late Saturday morning when Demarquise Johnson became the Cougars’ fourth commitment of the 2012 class. Johnson is the type of player that can and will make an immediate impact in a Ken Bone system. He is considered by many to be one of the best players in this year’s class from the state of Arizona, and the Cougars beat out schools like Gonzaga, UNLV, and Washington to get him. At 6’5″ and 190 lbs, the Westwind Prep (AZ) product is an explosive scorer, precisely the kind of guy Bone wants to build an offensive attack around. While Johnson may receive comparisons to former Cougar Klay Thompson, do not expect him to light it up by any means as a jump shooter.  He will however get to the basket faster than Thompson and will be more physical in the paint. The only fault in Johnson’s game that I can find is in his rebounding ability and willingness to go up against a 6’7″ guy for the ball, but that is certainly something he can work on by the time he is in a crimson uniform. ESPN had this to say on their scouting report of Johnson:

Johnson Is a Very Nice Pickup for Ken Bone's Program (credit: Husky Haul)

Johnson has that quintessential frame for the two or the three and the skills as well. He can stroke it from deep and he gets great lift and rotation  on his shot. In addition, he has a terrific burst off the dribble and can slash his way to the basket exhibiting excellent body control. Johnson is one of the elite scoring guard prospects in the country. If  he is willing to improve his all-around game (rebounding, defense, making others better) he should be an excellent Division I player.

In addition to Johnson, the Cougars have also gotten commitments from Richard Longrus, Brett Boese, and Richard Peters, who is also from Westwind. The trio are all small forwards, so it appears that Wazzu will have a big logjam at that position. The Cougars will also add Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge, a guard, to next year’s class. Recruiting, especially in basketball, can take on a sort of momentum, and since Washington State is still trying to get three-star small forward Jordan Tebbutt (Oak Hill Academy, VA) and three-star center Zach Banner (Lakes High, WA), this most recent committment is huge.  Johnson, nor anyone else, can’t officially sign on the dotted line until the early signing period begins on Nov. 9. But the fact that his commitment came so late, and he has no more official visits, is a telling sign that he will stay a Coug.

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