Washington knocked off a game Seattle squad on Sunday night in its season opener, but the win may turn out to be something of a Pyrrhic victory as sophomore forward Jernard Jarreauleft with a knee injury just two minutes into the season. As of this writing, there is no news on the severity of the injury, but Jarreau is expected to undergo an MRI today. With senior center Perris Blackwell already out after suffering a concussion in their exhibition game last Wednesday, and with junior Desmond Simmons out for up to two months following knee surgery, the Huskies were forced to even turn to sophomore center Gilles Dierickx (sure, just when I figured out how to spell Krystkowiak without thinking twice, you break out this name on me) for frontcourt depth. But, it was mostly newcomer wings like 6’5” JuCo transfer Mike Anderson and 6’4” freshman Darin Johnson who helped the Huskies compete on the glass, as they grabbed 15 rebounds between them.
While the Huskies evaded a potential upset on Sunday night despite being shorthanded, Oregon State wasn’t so lucky. Playing without suspended forwards Devon Collier and Eric Moreland, the Beavers fell to Coppin State despite a career-high 36 points from senior guard Roberto Nelson. Given that the MEAC, Coppin State’s conference, is a mere 1-89 against power conference teams in the last two seasons, this is not a good sign for head coach Craig Robinson in his quest to keep his job. Luckily, Collier will be back in the next game, but Moreland won’t be back until conference play kicks off. Coppin State comes out of a brief weekend as an honorary member of the Pac-12 with a 1-1 record, after California handled them on Friday night.
Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins got excellent news on Friday afternoon when 6’7” 2014 recruit Reid Traviscommitted to the Cardinal early in the day. He’s a bit undersized for a frontcourt prospect, but he can score in the post and hit the face-up jumper. He’s presently the highlight of a three-man Stanford recruiting class that consists entirely of players ranked in the top 100 in ESPN’s 2014 rankings. Now, all Dawkins needs to do is get his team into the NCAA Tournament in order to earn the right to coach those guys next season; if his team fails to make the Dance this season, expectations are that this will be his last season on The Farm. The Cardinal got off to a sketchy start on Friday night, needing to hold off a pesky Bucknell team on the way to a four-point win, but will have a chance to earn a solid non-conference win tonight at home against BYU.
Aaron Gordon officially began his career at Arizona on Friday night, and we’ll have some thoughts about his and the Wildcats’ performance later today. But, in the meantime, Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen has a timeline of Gordon’s first game with the Wildcats. While he did plenty of things very well, let me just give you a hint that the form on his shot causes me quite a bit of distress.
Lastly, while there weren’t a ton of blowouts on behalf of Pac-12 teams this weekend, Arizona Statedid crush its first bit of competition, as they handed UMBC a 35-point defeat on Friday night. Jahii Carson led the way with 19 points and five boards, but the highlight was the fact that everybody in the Sun Devil starting lineup got into double figures, while the bench added an additional 25 points. We’ll see how much this remains a theme as the season goes on, but the Sun Devils drew 30 foul calls from their opponent, getting to the line for 44 free throw attempts. With a guy like Carson, nobody really expects to be able to guard him at all, but with fouls actually being called now, his offensive effectiveness could skyrocket.
This Weekend’s Lede. It started somewhat unceremoniously with a nondescript game between Air Force and Army in something called the All-Military Classic in Lexington, Virginia. But after seven long months of quiet, the early afternoon tip between two of the military academies in a tiny gym on the campus of VMI represented the reappearance of the sport we call college basketball. For years we’ve clamored for an Opening Night with the appropriate pomp and fanfare that the game deserves upon its November arrival, and with the excitement around social media and the number of good games available on the various networks, we’re getting there. Some 225 other games involving D-I teams came throughout the weekend, and even though there were no aircraft carrier games scattered about the land, there was still plenty to get juiced about.
Your Watercooler Moment. The Triumphant Return of Joshua Smith.
Joshua Smith Showed Off His Dominant Post Game in the Armed Forces Classic
Approximately one year ago, the last time any of us saw Joshua Smith, we were subjected to this embarrassing crime against basketball. After a transfer year when he traveled cross-country to Georgetown and received a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately, it was hard to say what to expect this time around. We’ve always known that the 6’10″, 300+ pound center has soft hands, quick feet that belie his size and great touch around the basket, but his weight, and correspondingly, his stamina, have remained problematic. He simply couldn’t stay on the floor at UCLA, averaging only 19.3 minutes per game in a little over two seasons. But on Friday, for at least one night, Smith appeared to be a different player. Although Georgetown lost the Armed Forces Classic game to Oregon, the burly center logged 27 fruitful minutes, shot 10-of-13 from the field, and looked downright unstoppable inside on his way to 25 points. The Hoyas wouldn’t have been within 15 points of the Ducks were it not for Smith’s production, and it begs the question: Has the change of scenery allowed Smith to turn the corner in his development? If so, and what we saw this weekend is any indication, Georgetown has found itself with one of the most talented big men in the nation.
Sights & Sounds. Plenty of great stuff from Friday night, so check out the separate post we put together on Saturday to store it all. The top dunks, buzzer-beaters and some other notable videos and images are all over there, but we saved the best buzzer-beater of the weekend for here. Dayton was down two points as IPFW looked to inbound the ball to ice the big road upset. Then, this happened…
Brutal. And in case you’re too lazy to click through, here’s the best dunk of the weekend for good measure. Michael Qualls!
Top Storyline. Four Freshman Phenoms. We’ve been talking about them all offseason, and the debuts of some of the nation’s top rookies was everything we had hoped it would be. On Friday night, Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins were all playing at the same time, and none disappointed. In a dominant win over Davidson, Parker went for 22/6 on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor that included a silky-smooth 3-of-3 from deep. Randle did Parker one better with a 23/15 performance against UNC-Asheville that included an impressive 11-of-13 from the foul line. He followed that up with another 22/14/3 assts against Northern Kentucky on Sunday, becoming the first freshman to go for consecutive double-doubles in his first two collegiate games since Michael Beasley pulled the trick six years ago. Wiggins didn’t have a dominant performance in Kansas’ win over Louisiana-Monroe, tallying 16/3/3 stls in 34 minutes of action. The trio will all be on display tomorrow night at the Champions Classic, and so far, so good. We also shouldn’t forget Arizona’s star freshman, Aaron Gordon, who put up a 13/10/4 blks double-double himself in the Wildcats’ win over Cal Poly.
Four More Weekend Storylines.
These Games Are Foul. Well, some of them are, at least. There was an awful lot of preseason discussion given to the new hand-checking rules and how coaches, players and officials would have to adjust on the fly. Results have been mixed. One team that many pundits thought would be most impacted, Louisville, only had 14 total fouls in a 62-possession game against Charleston. On the other hand, a Seton Hall-Niagara game on Saturday resulted in a dreadful 73 fouls in an 81-possession game. In fact, there were more free throw attempts (102) than field goal attempts (101) in that game, which two hours and 28 minutes to complete. A total of 24 teams were called for 30 or more fouls over the weekend, while 18 were called for fewer than 15. The national average last season was 17.7 fouls per team per game (or 35.4 fouls per game), so this is definitely a trend worth watching.
ACC Darling Boston College Struggling. BC was a chic pick to make some noise in the ACC this season, and certainly there’s a lot of time left for the Eagles to get things going. But two losses over the weekend revealed that the same issues that Steve Donahue’s team had last season haven’t been solved. They still can’t guard anybody. In losses against Providence and Massachusetts, Boston College gave up 1.04 and 1.20 points per possession, respectively, and an average of 84 points per game. Furthermore, Bryce Cotton (28 points) and Cady Lalanne (27 points) lit their defense up, getting the shots they wanted whenever they wanted. Last season the Eagles finished 192nd in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency; if they don’t figure out a way to limit easy looks from the opposition, they’ll be staring another .500 season in the face not matter how good their offense becomes.
Mr. Robinson May Need a New Neighborhood. It was no secret that Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson came into this season on the hot seat. After yet another embarrassing home loss to a low-major team Sunday night, he may want to go ahead and start picking out his moving company. MEAC teams were 1-89 in the last two seasons against power conference schools (the one victory was Norfolk State over Missouri in the 2012 NCAA Tournament), and they were 0-5 so far this season. That is, until Coppin State went into Oregon State’s Gill Coliseum and used its athleticism and timely three-point shooting to lead for much of the game before walking out with a Pac-12 scalp. Robinson has had a history of these types of awful home losses, and adding another one to his resume surely doesn’t help things for him in Corvallis.
Other Weekend Upsets. Virginia Tech and Miami (FL) suffered tough home losses over the weekend (to USC Upstate and St. Francis (NY), respectively), but both of those programs were expected to be rebuilding this season. The biggest upset of the weekend instead had to have been Kansas State’s shocking home loss to Northern Colorado on Friday night. The jokes about Bruce Weber losing with some of his own players started in earnest immediately after the game, but it was two holdovers from last season’s Big 12 co-champions in Shane Southwell and Will Spradling who were largely responsible for this one. The duo combined to shoot a miserable 4-of-22 from the field and 2-of-12 from behind the arc.
Your Weekend All-Americans.
Julius Randle, Kentucky (NPOY). Consecutive double-doubles to start a collegiate career for the first time since Michael Beasley did it in 2007-08 makes this an easy choice. Through three days of action, he’s the NPOY.
Jabari Parker, Duke. Parker didn’t board like Randle but he scored more efficiently, missing only two shots in his debut.
Joshua Smith, Georgetown. As mentioned above, Smith’s 25/4 on 10-of-13 shooting was his best game in nearly two years.
TJ Warren, NC State. Warren went off for 27/8/3 assts as the Wolfpack beat Appalachian State to start a season of very low expectations.
Arizona received a big boost Tuesday when sophomore stretch forward Zach Peters was cleared by medical personnel to begin practicing with the Wildcats. Peters transferred from Kansas last November before playing a game with the Jayhawks but was sill waiting on clearance after suffering multiple concussions while in Lawrence. The addition is an important one for head coach Sean Miller. Peters is a big body that has the ability to shoot the ball from the outside, and he’ll likely be called upon to fill the absence left by Grant Jerrett. Arizona is losing its top four three-point shooters from the 2012-13 campaign, so there is certainly more than enough room for another shooter on the roster. Peters will open the season behind Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, and Aaron Gordon on the depth chart, but expect him to play solid minutes once he gets a couple weeks of practice in with the Cats. They open the season Friday night at home against Cal Poly in a game to be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
The guys over at Building the Dam met in roundtable form last weekend to discuss what excites them, worries them, and their expectations heading into Craig Robinson‘s sixth season at Oregon State. The return of senior center Angus Brandt is definitely high on the list for excitement in Corvallis after the Aussie missed the majority of last season with a torn ACL suffered against Purdue. As RVM points out, however, there are plenty of question marks with this team, beginning with the fact that there is no proven point guard on the roster.
Andy Enfield takes over at USC after the Trojans finished last year with a 14-18 record, its second straight losing season. Conquest Chronicles previews the 2013-14 team in this piece, focusing on the biggest offensive threats and the keys to getting back to relevance out west. All signs from preseason camp seem to point to the Trojans adjusting well to Enfield’s up tempo, high-flying system, but producing results early on against a challenging non-conference schedule will be difficult. They open the season Friday night at Utah State, and before the month ends they will face Villanova, and possibly, #5 Kansas, in the Bahamas. Keying the offense will be senior guard J.T. Terrell, whose ability to take, and make, tough shots will be of great value for Enfield and company. Expectations are small for this team, but I wouldn’t count a coach like Enfield out at any time.
UCLA put a bow on its exhibition season Monday with a 109-79 win over Cal State San Marcos. Everything went through a slimmer and quicker forward/center Tony Parkeras the sophomore finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Parker dropped about 20 pounds over the summer and is playing with more confidence, and if the early signs prove to hold true throughout the season, he is a legit post threat in the Pac-12. The Cougars held tough with UCLA for about 12 minutes, and actually only trailed by two just over halfway through the first half. A quick scoring burst later in the half put any thoughts of an upset to bed, and Steve Alford‘s team ended up cruising to the 30-point win. Next up for them is a visit from Drexel late Friday night to start the regular season.
Sophomore Jahii Carson and Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall will be the leaders of Arizona State‘s deep backcourt unit this season. That much you probably know. But there are four other guards on the roster that will don the maroon and gold this season, and House of Sparkybreaks down that depth in this preview. Redshirt freshman Calean Robinson will run the offense when Carson leaves the court, and he may be the most intriguing Sun Devil behind Carson. Arizona State meets Maryland Baltimore County to open the season Sunday evening at Wells Fargo Arena.
As a whole, it is pretty easy to see that the Pac-12 is on an upswing, with talent abounding and more than half of the conference teams optimistic about their chances this season. But in four spots around the conference, there are coaches in dire need of success in order to keep their jobs. Last year at this time, there were six coaches whose seats we deemed at least warm. Of those six, two are now gone, while the other four remain seated on toasty chairs. We’ll take a look at those four coaches and tell you just how worried they should be about their jobs this season, then go through the other eight schools briefly and tell you the state of the head coaching position there.
Johnny Dawkins, Stanford – Scalding. Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir made it quite clear last season that, while Dawkins would be returning for his sixth season on The Farm, there would be heavy expectations – namely, make the NCAA Tournament or else, something that Stanford has failed to do since the year before Dawkins arrived. The good news for Dawkins is that he’s got a fine team. The bad news is that this fine team is made up of mostly the same players who limped home to a 19-15 record last season.
Dawkins’ Challenge Is Clear: NCAA Tournament or Bust. (AP)
Ken Bone, Washington State – Scorching. Last spring, Bone had to wait almost three weeks after his season ended to finally get confirmation from athletic director Bill Moos that he would be returning to coach the Cougars in 2013-14. In four seasons on the Palouse, Bone has compiled a tepid 70-65 overall record, winning just 26 of WSU’s 72 conference games over that span. In fact, the only reason Bone may still be around for this year is that Moos’ predecessor gave Bone a seven-year contract that would have required a $2.55 million buyout. With all-conference type Brock Motum gone, Bone will need to get significant improvement out of a guard-dominated lineup in order to stick around past this season.
While the main focus right now for basketball fans around the country may be the return of the NBA regular season, we continue to check off the final days before college basketball returns for real. But, in the meantime, if you’re dying for any kind of action, we do have some exhibition games to pass the time. Tonight, for instance, the Steve Alford era at UCLA gets underway as the Bruins will host Cal State San Bernardino at Pauley Pavilion, giving fans a first glimpse at what the Alford offense is going to look like and whether Kyle Anderson can live up to his hype as the floor general for this squad. As for the new head coach, he’s most looking forward to that first trip down the tunnel from the locker room to the floor.
Meanwhile, Alford has notched his first commitment for the class of 2014, a 6’9″ native of Hungary named Gyorgy Goloman. Given that the Bruins are expected to lose four of their five players who are taller than 6’7″ (those four would be the senior Wear twins, walk-on Sooren Derboghosian, and Anderson, who is expected to leave for the NBA Draft following his sophomore campaign), scoring a big man – even a three-star big man like Goloman – is a major priority. Still, Alford will need to up the talent level in order to get things rolling again in Westwood.
Meanwhile, Oregon State’s first of two exhibition games came last night as the Beavers hosted Corban at Gill Coliseum. Playing without the suspended Devon Collier and Eric Moreland, Oregon State led by as many as 31 before Craig Robinson emptied the bench. Roberto Nelson led the Beavers in scoring (get used to that phrase), but the highlight may have been senior center Angus Brandt’s return from last year’s ACL injury. Brandt only played 13 minutes, but scored eight points and, most importantly, looked healthy. But really, just about the only thing these exhibition games are good for are to remind us that were getting real darn close to games that count.
Stanford and head coach Johnny Dawkins face a daunting challenge this season. Unless the Cardinal make their first NCAA Tournament since 2008 (behind this improbable Brook Lopez last-second jump-hook), Dawkins will be looking for new employment and the Cardinal’s talented senior class will have gone oh-fer-their careers at Stanford. Dawkins points to Stanford’s close misses (six losses by five or fewer points) as reason for hope that a turnaround would not be that drastic. But Stanford will need to significantly improve its shooting (it was last in the conference in field goal percentage at just 41.6 percent last year) in order for that improvement to happen.
Lastly, news came down earlier this week that former USC head coach Kevin O’Neillhas landed a job as a college basketball analyst with Fox Sports 1 for the upcoming season. While O’Neill has a gruff persona and is not exactly a beloved former coach a la Seth Greenberg or Bruce Pearl, the guy has something of a dry sense of humor. And, of course, he knows the game. Unfortunately, with Fox Sports 1 only locked into broadcasting Big East games, Pac-12 fans won’t get to hear O’Neill’s opinions of the cast of characters he coached for and against in recent years. Still, we see a strong future for O’Neill as the next Billy Packer – you can decide for yourself whether or not that is a good thing.
You know, it has come to my attention that we haven’t addressed the big news last week that Houston transfer Joseph Young has been declared eligible by the NCAA to play this season at Oregon. After averaging 18 highly efficient points per game last season (26th in the nation in offensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy), his presence is going to mean huge things for the Ducks. With Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning for their sophomore seasons, and with Jonathan Loyd back for his senior year, and with Detroit transfer Jason Calliste – another prolific and efficient scoring guard – now eligible, the Ducks are on the very short list for the best backcourts in the nation. If Mike Moser, Ben Carter and Waverly Austin can hold down the fort up front, the Ducks are going to be extremely dangerous.
But despite all that talent in the backcourt, we’ll be interested to see exactly what head coach Dana Altman can hammer out as a rotation. The best five players on the team are probably Artis, Dotson, Young, Calliste and Moser, but that combination would leave the Ducks with four guards and a forward in Moser who, while a skilled defender and rebounder, is not exactly your typical low post player for a team hoping to contend for a conference title in a major conference. And with all those guards and more, Altman will have a fun time trying to distribute shots between them all. Stay tuned.
Continuing our all-Oregon themed M5, it is no secret that Altman has made Oregon the grade-A landing spot for the best of the best transfers in Division I basketball. In his three seasons in Eugene, Altman has welcomed in seven transfers who had previous experience at D-I schools (Moser, Young, Calliste, Arsalan Kazemi, Devoe Joseph, Olu Ashaolu, and Tony Woods), as well as junior college transfers like Carlos Emory, Waverly Austin, Richard Amardi, Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit. Along the way, Altman has also become known as a welcome landing spot for “basketball refugees,” as Percy Allen of the Seattle Times calls them. Better yet, while other coaches have shied away from these players, Altman has succeeded in turning around a program that was in the dumps when he took over and having the Ducks back in the national conversation.
Let’s take a brief little jaunt up the I-5 to peek in with Craig Robinson and Oregon State in Corvallis. In a year where Robinson, once a media darling with the Beavers, finds himself in dire need of a productive season in order to hold on to his job, the brother-in-law-in-chief is talking up his sophomore class. Between Olaf Schaftenaar, Langston Morris-Walker, Jarmal Reid and Victor Robbins, there are loads of minutes available, what with Eric Moreland and Devon Collier due to each serve suspensions upon the start of the year. While none of these four should be expected to line up along the front line like their temporarily-departed brethren, each is capable of providing some punch from the wing for the Beavers. And, frankly, Robinson will need some major contributions out of that quartet in order to stabilize his own professional prospects.
Lastly, let’s jump out of the state of Oregon and head somewhere much drier to get a report on the conference favorite Arizona‘s exhibition game last night against Augustana. T.J. McConnell stole the show in the opening game at his new school, scoring 12 points, handing out eight assists, snatching three steals, and getting his team rolling as the floor general for the top-10 Wildcats. Three other players scored in double figures against their Division II opponent in a 32-point win. Sure, it means absolutely nothing, but it is basketball and it was on TV. If you missed it the first time, you can watch the replay on the Pac-12 Networks this morning at 9:00 AM.
We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.
Oregon State Beavers
Strengths. Oregon State boasts one of the finest frontcourts in the conference. Starting the group off is senior Devon Collier, a strong small forward who can score either driving to the hoop or with a nifty little jumper. Senior center Angus Brandt missed the majority of last season after tearing his ACL in the fourth game of the year, and his ability to score from both inside and behind the arc took away a big threat from that team. Finally, there’s Eric Moreland. Moreland’s career in Corvallis has been an up-and-down one, including two “violation of team rules” suspensions in the past 10 months and a declaration for the NBA Draft (which he later pulled out of and decided to return). Now he is serving that second suspension and will miss the first 14 games of the 2013-14 campaign, but will provide a monster boost on both the glass and the defensive end of the court when he returns.
Devon Collier Can Beat Defenders Playing Either As A Physical Small Forward Or Face-Up Four (credit: Andy Wooldridge)
Weaknesses. This team has very little experience on the bench. The backup point guard is Malcolm Duvivier, a true freshman who was originally in the Class of 2014 but reclassified to join the team immediately. Backing up Roberto Nelson at the two will be the newcomer that Beaver fans should be most excited about, Hallice Cooke out of St. Anthony High School (NY). And the best option to spell Brandt will be sophomore Olaf Schaftenaar, who shot a completely unnecessary amount of three-pointers his initial season in Corvallis, and at a 30.9% clip to boot.
Non-Conference Tests. A trip to College Park to face Maryland awaits Craig Robinson’s team just seven days after its season opener. DePaul isn’t exactly a “test,” but the Blue Demons present a challenge at home against the Beavers on December 1. The toughest stretch comes in the four games before Christmas break, beginning with a visit from Towson, a team that came from 19 down last year at Gill Coliseum to top the Beavers in overtime. After that they head to the Islands to face Akron in their Diamond Head Classic opener. Either Iowa State or George Mason will be on tap in the second game, and a solid group of choices, headlined by Saint Mary’s, are in play for the Christmas Day finale.
Four-star power forward ZylanCheatham, a Class of 2014 prospect out of South Mountain High School (AZ), is set to pick a school within the next week, and The Husky Haul breaks down why he would be a great fit at Washington. Cheatham is a tough, physical player that can also get up and down the floor with a great amount of quickness. Lorenzo Romar’s attacking style on the offensive end of the floor fits Cheatham’s game, and if Romar was able to land him, it would be the biggest get so far for next year’s class. New Mexico and San Diego State appear to be in a dead tie with Washington so this is definitely a decision to keep an eye on in the coming days. Cheatham had offers from nearly every big school in the nation and has already ruled out Georgetown, Miami (Florida), and Oregon, to name a few.
A few Pac-12 teams have started to hold at least one open practice so far this October. First year UCLA head coach Steve Alford opened the doors to Pauley Pavilion last Sunday and over 1,000 fans stopping by to see how the team looked under the direction of Alford. The LA Times reported that both freshman Zach LaVine and junior Norman Powell are running the court well and have great athleticism around the rim. In addition, it looks like sophomore Kyle Anderson will once again be getting the ball in key situations for the Bruins in 2013-14. They open the regular season on November 8 against Drexel at Pauley.
The argument can be made that Oregon guard Damyean Dotson is the most experienced sophomore in the conference. Dotson started 36 games last season for the Ducks and was the team’s second-leading scorer as a freshman, so hopes are high in Eugene that he can continue that type of production and not go through the “sophomore slump”. Where he needs to improve is on the glass. It wasn’t much of a problem last year with a solid corps of big men, but with four key rebounders now gone, everyone needs to step up.
Oregon State passed on a traditional “Midnight Madness” event this year (as they have the past seven seasons), but will be hosting a free “for the fans” type gathering next Friday. The event will precede the Beaver football game against USC later that day, and fans can meet the team and get autographs and prizes. It would be nice to see a scrimmage from Craig Robinson‘s team, but this is a good start. Maybe next year.
Last week Drew and I re-started our regular weekly pick ‘em contest. Last week we differed on three selections, and Arizona and Notre Dame ended up coming up big for me. However, Drew did pick Stanford’s big home win against UCLA, so that puts him at 45-14 and myself at 48-11. Our picks are below, and with two Top 25 match-ups being played 45 minutes apart in the state of Oregon, we have two “games of the week” to provide a score for.
When Oregon faces Georgetown on November 8 in Seoul, South Korea, there will be a familiar face on the other side. The NCAA has cleared former UCLA center Josh Smith to start playing immediately for the Hoyas. In addition, Smith now has two years of eligibility remaining after being granted a waiver by the NCAA, since he only played six games last season. Head coach John Thompson made it clear Smith’s old problems in Los Angeles would be a thing of the past, saying he “has to maintain a high level of commitment on and off the court.” The Ducks and Hoyas will meet at 5:00 PM Pacific on that opening Friday in a game televised by ESPN.
“We don’t view Arizona as the top, the cream, and everybody is the rest. We view ourselves as the cream and everybody else can fight for the rest of the spots.” Those are the words of junior Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie speaking at last week’s Pac-12 Media Day. Head coach Tad Boyle says he’s preaching for his team to ignore the preseason expectations and to be “humble and hungry”, which is easier said than done after a 20-win season last year and most everyone picking CU to make its third straight NCAA Tournament. The Buffaloes get all the chances they could every want in non-conference play to prove they are legit with a road game at Baylor, home games against Harvard, Kansas, and Georgia, and a meeting with Oklahoma State in Las Vegas.
Four-star power forward Michael Humphrey (AZ)has narrowed his impressive list of offers down to two, but the Arizona Daily Star reports that there is no timetable for a decision from the Class of 2014 big man. Humphrey visited Arizona over the weekend, and Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins made an in-home visit with him on Monday. It appears that Notre Dame, UCLA, and Vanderbilt, who had offers on the table, are now out of the running.
In the “down the road” department of recruiting, Craig Robinson and Oregon State landed a verbal commitment from Class of 2016 shooting guard JaQuori McLaughlin (WA). Citing his long relationship with the coaching staff at Oregon State and their man-to-man defense, McLaughlin wanted to jump aboard early. He averaged 13 points per game in his freshman season at Peninsula High School, but hopes to raise that average to 25 this year. Whether McLaughlin sticks with his commitment (and whether Robinson is still in Corvallis when McLaughlin finally graduates high school) remains to be seen.
We keep it in Corvallis to close things up, as we learned yesterday they would be holding the annual “Nike N7 game” on November 26 against SIU-Edwardsville. This is the game where Oregon State wears the turquoise jerseys to bring attention to the initiative that helps Native communities across the country get access to products that encourage participation in sports. It is nice to see the tradition continue even after Joe Burton, who grew up on the Soboba Reservation in Southern California, graduated after last season.
This time of year is always preview heavy (we’ll start rolling out our own previews later today), and Athlon Sports breaks down Oregon in this piece. As they point out in the opening, Dana Altman and the Ducks are faced with another quick rebuilding effort, piecing together a roster full of experienced transfers that will keep the Ducks in the top third of the league despite losing key players like E.J. Singler and Arsalan Kazemi. The top priority this October will be finding a player in the post who can make up for the loss of Kazemi’s rebounding ability, and the guy that will get the first crack at it is sophomore Ben Carter. Oregon will take the court on October 27 against Northwest Christian to open its exhibition season and will face Georgetown on November 8 at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, to start regular season play.
Up the road in Corvallis, there are not a lot of preseason previews being published on Craig Robinson‘s Oregon State team, but the omnipotent presidential connection talk still hovers around the program. Robinson embraces it, though, enjoying the publicity that it brings to the school. “The one thing I know is that everybody knows the president’s brother-in-law works for Oregon State University,” said Robinson. “That’s great for a college.” It certainly doesn’t hurt recruiting, but the Beavers head coach will need to start showing better results on the court if he wants to stick around much longer in Corvallis.
California Golden Blogshas spent the last week previewing each facet of the 2013-14 Golden Bears, and this piece takes a look at the group of guards in Berkeley. Senior Justin Cobbs and sophomore Tyrone Wallace are slated to lead Cal at the one and two positions, not a bad combination with Cobbs’ outside shooting and Wallace’s perimeter defense. Click here to view the preview of Cal’s inexperienced post players, and click here to see the outlook on the wings. California opens its regular season on November 8 against Coppin State.
Shhhh. It’s that time of year for secret scrimmages, and one of the better ones this October (as far as we know), featured San Diego State at Stanford on Sunday. We will probably never know a result of the meeting, but if it does come out, know that senior Xavier Thames and sophomore Winston Shepard were questionable for San Diego State in that game. In the regular season, the Aztecs will host Arizona and Washington at Viejas Arena, with the possibility of a meeting with Arizona State in Fullerton.
We close with a fun video from Oregon, made by the Pit Crew student section and starring Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. If you are unfamiliar with the Vine Dunk Cam videos, take a few minutes, check out this one, and this one, and have a good chuckle. Oh, the things we resort to in the offseason.
A day after the news came down that Ben Howland’s days as the UCLA head coach were over, there he was, back in front of the media at the Westwood campus on Monday, giving a farewell press conference. Howland, as expected, was gracious, thanking players and athletic department personnel, including the athletic director who just fired him. Howland said he hopes to continue coaching, although he realizes that his next job will take a step back in prestige. While the growing consensus seems to be that UCLA was right to part ways with the coach, he still gets a lot of respect and will likely kill it wherever he winds up next. Here’s hoping he takes a year off, finds some nice fly-fishing spots and comes back in 2014-15 at either a mid-major or a struggling major conference team and undertakes a successful rebuilding job.
As for the next UCLA head coach, until a contract is signed, sealed and delivered, this coaching search is going to be in the news almost daily. But for now, no real news has come out, other than a ton of marginally sane suggestions s to who the next Bruins coach will be. For instance , when writers from around the Tribune Company (the owner of the Los Angeles Times, among others) came up with their list of potential names, John Calipari was one of the suggestions, along with Anthony Grant, Andy Kennedy and Andy Enfield. Enfield’s probably too green yet to get the UCLA job, Kennedy certainly ain’t happening, and Calipari? Yeah, not buying that at all. But Grant is an intriguing name, should UCLA strike out on their first few targets. Oh, and N.C. State fans? No need to worry.
Arizona is on its way to Los Angeles this week to compete in the Sweet Sixteen at the Staples Center on Thursday. The last time this Wildcats team was in Los Angeles, to face USC and UCLA the week spanning the end of February and the beginning of March, they came away with a pair of losses. And yet, both head coach Sean Miller and sophomore guard Nick Johnson point to that road trip as the time when things started to come together for the team. Johnson in particular says the Wildcats have been a different defensive team since that trip, and the results seem to show it, as they’ve allowed just 0.95 points per possession against four NCAA Tournament teams and one NIT team.
The other Pac-12 team still alive in the NCAA Tournament is Oregon, but they’ve got a tough task ahead as they face the Tournament’s number one overall seed, Louisville, on Friday night. While just getting this far is a success for the Ducks, they’re still focused on getting even further. But in order to do that, they’ll need to take better care of the ball against the Cardinals’ defensive pressure after turning it over 36 times last weekend in their two dominating wins in San Jose. They got away with it last week, but it is likely that if they turn it over 18 times against Louisville, they’ll be back in Eugene on Saturday.
Lastly, we circle back around to the coaching situation, as Percy Allen goes through all the Pac-12 jobs and tries to determine who is and who is not on the hot seat. He lists the obvious ones: Ken Bone, Craig Robinson and Johnny Dawkins, and although the expectation is that all will be back next season, the 2013-14 year will certainly be make-or-break years for each. Also on Allen’s list is Herb Sendek, but he earned himself the benefit of the doubt with this season’s improvement, although if Jahii Carson winds up going pro this season, they’re likely back to square one. And then the final name on his list is Larry Krystkowiak, who is in no way on the hot seat whatsoever, as Utah will almost certainly give him the entirety of his five-year contract to turn things around.
Arizona has become a trendy pick to get upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats will play Belmont on Thursday and analysts of CBS Sports, Yahoo!, ESPN and USA Today have predicted an early exit for Arizona. Solomon Hill and Jordan Mayes don’t seem to be worried, however, noting that analysts are just doing their job and it won’t affect their preparation or performance. Arizona has the talent to compete with anyone in the field of 68, but nothing will come easy starting with Belmont. The Bruins were the Ohio Valley Conference champions and are the 18th best three-point shooting team in the nation at 38.6 percent. That doesn’t bode well for Arizona as they rank 276th in the nation in defending the three with opponents shooting 36 percent from behind the arc.
Cal’s Justin Cobbs has finally found his balance. When the Bears take on UNLV Thursday, it will be a rematch of a non-conference game from earlier in the season when the Runnin’ Rebels came away with a 76-75 victory on a last second tip-in. Cobbs understands his role at this point of the season much better as a combination of a scorer and facilitator for Mike Montgomery’s offense. Earlier in the year, Cobbs was shooting poorly by averaging just 11.4 points per game and couldn’t find his rhythm. Over the past 13 games, however, Cobbs is averaging 17.1 points and 5.7 assists per game. Allen Crabbe is the focal point of the Cal offense, but if the Bears want to get past UNLV this time, they are going to need a strong game from Cobbs.
Craig Robinson started out the season by saying this Oregon State team was the best he has ever had, and now he’s the first to say it was a disappointment. The Beavers finished a lowly 4-14 in the Pac-12, but if any of the Oregon State faithful want a coaching change, it’s unlikely to happen this year. Athletic director Bob De Carolis met with Robinson in Las Vegas last week and confirmed that the administration is still in full support of its head coach. Next year, the Beavers will lose Joe Burton but will return Angus Brandt who had a season-ending knee injury very early in the year. In addition to Brandt, the Beavers will have Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier, and Ahmad Starks all back, but if they can’t make strides in the 2013-14 season, Robinson could find himself on the hot seat.
Arizona State and Herb Sendekplan to make the most of out of their NIT appearance. Tonight the Sun Devils will play Detroit in Tempe and won’t be taking them lightly at all. Although Arizona State is playing in the postseason, there is some disappointment from the fans that the team didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament. Sendek isn’t one of those disappointed, though, mentioning that there is no way Arizona State won’t be motivated as they will get another opportunity to play in front of their home crowd in a postseason setting.
For the first time in a half-century, Colorado is in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. The Buffaloes will be playing in Austin against Illinois on Friday afternoon and will certainly have a significant rebounding advantage. Colorado has Andre Roberson who averages 11.3 rebounds per game while Illinois’ best rebounder is Nnanna Egwu who pales in comparison at only 4.6 rebounds per game. Tad Boyle said after practice yesterday that Roberson will guard Illinois’ leading scorer Brandon Paul, which could spell trouble for the Illini as Roberson has already successfully defended Allen Crabbe and Solomon Hill this year.