Pac-12 M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 5th, 2014

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  1. When sophomore forward Brandon Ashley went up for a rebound Saturday night in Berkeley, his right foot came down on one of David Kravish’s shoes. It was announced the next day that Ashley’s foot was broken, shaking up the national scene and leaving people wondering if the number one team in the country could withstand the devastating injury. Luke Winn breaks down just exactly what Arizona will be missing without the team’s third leading scorer and rebounder, giving us a taste of how limited its offense will be without him. It will be interesting to see how the Wildcats perform this week at home against two of the worst defenses in the conference in Oregon and Oregon State.
  2. Daniel Evans released his latest bracket projections after the completion of last weekend’s games, and he notes that the Ashley-less Wildcats will be evaluated as a new team from this point on by the committee. Evans has UCLA moving up despite its loss to Oregon State on Sunday, reasoning that while the Pac-12 is perceived weak outside of the Wildcats and Bruins, there are still plenty of tournament-caliber towards the bottom of the bracket. Beyond Arizona and UCLA on the one and five lines, there’s California listed as a #8 seed after its upset of the Cats and Stanford as a #11. Arizona State and Colorado are both on the bubble but listed as IN at the moment, drawing intriguing First Four opponents LSU and SMU in Evans’ bracket. Oregon, which started the season 13-0, has now fallen completely out of the field of 68, but is named the “first team out”. Also published on Monday was John Templon‘s NIT projections. Templon has the Ducks in the NCAA’s, so they do not appear, but the Pac-12 is represented by Washington (a two seed) and Oregon State (a seven).
  3. While a rebuilding Utah program would be fine with an invitation to the nation’s second tier tournament, this Block U piece explains why the NCAA Tournament would be the most likely destination for the Utes. If Larry Krystkowiak‘s team is to make any postseason function above the CBI, they’ll need to nearly run the table at home and pick up at least a couple of wins away from Salt Lake City, a task that has proven nearly impossible in the first three months of the season. But as the article details, accomplishing those feats could put Utah on the NCAA bubble, bypassing the NIT completely. First things first, however, it needs to take care of business this week against the Washington schools at the Huntsman Center. Dropping a game, combined with its awful road record and low RPI, will put its longshot dancing hopes to rest.
  4. After playing four straight Sunday games to open Pac-12 play, Oregon head coach Dana Altman expressed his frustration with the conference’s scheduling in a recent interview with The Oregonian. No other Pac-12 team will have to play that many consecutive Sunday games this season, and Altman finds it unfair to both his fans’ schedules and his team’s, as the Ducks get one less day to prepare for their Wednesday or Thursday opener. In order to have all of its games televised by either the Pac-12 Networks, Fox Sports 1, or the ESPN family of networks, the Pac-12 has adopted a more flexible schedule than in year’s past, playing league games on each day of the week except for Monday and Friday. And while playing too many Sunday games is definitely an inconvenience for Oregon, we haven’t heard Utah complain about its Wednesday/Sunday road trip to Seattle and Pullman or Arizona State’s Tuesday/Saturday trip to Eugene and Corvallis.
  5. Sticking with the Ducks, junior guard Joseph Young is working his way out of a shooting slump after having as hot a start as anyone out west. Young scored in double figures in each of Oregon’s first 12 games, including a 36 point performance against Western Carolina, and a 25 point outing against BYU. But ever since conference play began, the shooting guard has battled bouts of inconsistency, with the low point coming in 1-7 performance from the field against Stanford. It sounds as if all he needed was a little quality time back in the gym to get right again, however. That, and trusting his stroke, led to a 25 point game against UCLA last week, and may spark a shot at an upset or two in the desert this weekend.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.03.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 3rd, 2014

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  1. Oregon forced 16 steals in its win against USC on Saturday night in Eugene, setting a Matthew Knight Arena record and falling one short of a program best. The performance was encouraging for a team that had struggled mightily on the defensive end of the floor in the month of January, and while one could easily dismiss the effort as it came against an opponent with a 10-12 record, the required energy and interest was certainly there. Dana Altman turned in one of his best coaching jobs in awhile, pulling the right strings and calling for a full court press that forced the issue and got the Ducks into a rhythm. It’s going to take an equally as impressive game plan and execution if Oregon is to shock Arizona in Tucson on Thursday night.
  2. The Ducks brought in a season high for home attendance for their match-up with the Trojans, drawing a crowd of 11,178. How did a team that had lost six of its last seven manage to do that? By the power of free stuff. The university honored its super donor in honor of Phil Knight’s 76th birthday coming up this month, and the Duck fans flocked on “Appreciation Knight” (get it?). Altman provided what may be the quote of the year after the game: “Make sure the team doesn’t get any so we don’t put it on eBay and sell them.” Dana was of course referring to the reasons for the suspensions of Dominic Artis and Ben Carter, who sat out the first nine games of the year for selling their team gear.
  3. Down the road in Corvallis this weekend, Oregon State scored a huge victory before the Super Bowl on Sunday morning. Down by as many as 11 points, some timely scoring and heady play from freshman point guard Hallice Cooke brought the Beavers all the way back and then some, taking a 65-54 lead with two and a half minutes left. Despite UCLA having a chance to take the lead inside the final 15 seconds (the furious comeback would fall short thanks to a Jordan Adams offensive foul), the Beavers survived for a four point win that lifts them into a five way tie for fourth place in the conference.
  4. Just one week ago, things were looking bleak for the Pac-12 conference. Oregon’s only win since January 2 had come against last place Washington State, a Spencer Dinwiddie-less Colorado team was struggling mightily to even keep games close, and California, once thought to be the second best team in the Pac, had just been swept by the Los Angeles schools. Fast forward seven days and the outlook has completely changed. Arizona State won in overtime at California, and then the same Golden Bear team turned around three days later and defeated top ranked Arizona. Colorado broke its losing streak with a rivalry win over Utah on Saturday morning, and UCLA fell at Oregon State a day later. The conference, while more muddled than ever, is also at its strongest in the projected NCAA Tournament fields, putting seven teams in Joe Lunardi‘s latest bracket.
  5. Did I say this league looks muddled? I leave you with the Pac-12 Wheel of Suck, which shows just how cannibalistic the conference has been in its first half of the season. The wheel wouldn’t have worked without USC’s shocker against California, which begs the question, what will be the Pac’s biggest upset of its final five weeks? I’m taking Washington State over UCLA on the final day of the regular season in Pullman. Leave your prediction in the comments section.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.31.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 31st, 2014

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  1. Oregon fought back late against UCLA on Thursday night to force a tight game, but wound up losing at home. Still, the Dana Altman transfer society is not going to end anytime soon in Eugene, as the Ducks are getting their first glimpse of Providence transfer Brandon Austin in practices and like what they see. Austin was a highly-regarded recruit at Providence, but he never played a minute there after earning a suspension for a violation of the school’s Code of Conduct. He’s been in Eugene since the start of the semester and has shown his teammates and coaches that he will be a force in the future, but he will first have to wait until the end of the fall semester next season in order to gain eligibility for the Ducks.
  2. Arizona remained undefeated on Wednesday night, pulling off a hard-fought road win at Stanford. And with 21 wins in their pocket and no strikes against them, the inevitable contrarian columns begin: Is it actually good to be undefeated? Let’s put these types of things to bed right now. Is it good to be undefeated? Um, yeah. Sure, why not? You play these games to win, right? Now, just because, yes, it is good to be king, it does not necessarily follow that taking a loss is terrible either. It’s a long year. Road games are tough. Odds are good that Arizona (and Syracuse and even Wichita State) will slip up somewhere before March. But if they don’t, that doesn’t really put any more pressure on any of those teams. They’ll continue to get everybody’s best shot regardless of whether they have zero losses or one loss. And once it gets to the NCAA Tournament? It’s not like having a loss – or not – in their past is really going to have any effect on their play down the stretch in a tight tourney game. One of the reasons the Wildcats got out of Palo Alto on Wednesday night with a win was their defense against Stanford guard Chasson Randle, who was harassed by T.J. McConnell and Nick Johnson into a 3-of-15 night from the field. For his career at Stanford, he is now 10-of-42 from the field in three games against the Wildcats. Suffice it to say, that’s not good.
  3. Meanwhile, across the bay in Berkeley on Wednesday night, California fought back from an early deficit to force overtime against Arizona State. But after getting outscored by 11 in the extra period, the once-streaking Golden Bears have now dropped their third straight game. In a game where Justin Cobbs missed a layup in “unusual” fashion, Cal was close, but so far away. For a team that fewer than two weeks ago looked like perhaps the biggest challenger to Arizona’s conference throne, the Golden Bears are now faced with an almost must-win match-up against the nation’s #1 team on Saturday night. And, really, the Bears probably don’t match up very well with the Wildcats.
  4. Lastly, Washington State, perhaps more than any other team in the conference, is in desperate need of good news. And expectations are that they will get it on Saturday, when junior guard DaVonte Lacy is expected to make a return from his rib injury against Washington. Lacy practiced this week and will be a game time decision, but All Coug’d Up asks, if Lacy isn’t back to 100 percent yet, why force him back early if he’s not clearly ready to go. Stay tuned.
  5. We close with the second week of our basketball pick’em contest. Boasted by a Stanford overtime win at USC and UCLA surviving a late comeback attempt by California, Connor swept last week’s selections. Our game of the week to close out the month (worth either two wins or two losses) will feature top-ranked Arizona traveling to a hostile Haas Pavilion to face the Golden Bears. Each member on our three-man panel agrees the Wildcats will take that one.
    Game Connor (7-0) Drew (4-3) Adam (5-2)
    Utah at Colorado Colorado Colorado Utah
    Arizona State at Stanford Stanford Arizona State Arizona State
    Washington at Wash. State Washington Washington Washington
    USC at Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
    Arizona at California Arizona Arizona Arizona
    UCLA at Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State UCLA
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Dana Altman’s Ducks Stop the Bleeding on Sunday

Posted by Kenny Ocker on January 27th, 2014

Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) is a national columnist for Rush The Court. He filed this story Sunday evening after the Oregon Ducks and Washington State Cougars played at Friel Court in Pullman, Washington.

Oregon was a desperate team. Forward Mike Moser said it; Dana Altman said it; both were unprompted. After three-plus weeks of bad shooting, nonexistent defense, or both – and being a last-second dunk away from a winless mark in conference – the team once ranked #10 in the nation was destined to be pressing. But the Ducks, thanks especially to an 8-of-10 shooting performance from reserve guard Jason Calliste, managed to get that monkey off their back, blowing out Washington State 71-44 on Sunday in Pullman.

D.J. Shelton and his Oregon mates deperately needed a win. They played like a desperate team Sunday, outhustling Wazzu to a much-needed W. (Getty)

Elgin Cook (23) and his Oregon mates desperately needed a win. They played like a desperate team Sunday, out-hustling Wazzu to a much-needed W. (Getty)

“We desperately needed that. It was a little bit bigger than a monkey,” Altman said after the game. “I think it turned into a gorilla. I felt good for the guys; they were relieved in the locker room. It’s been a long three weeks.” The Ducks only trailed Washington State for a 21-second stretch early in the first half, a change Altman welcomed after his team has spent most of the conference season trying to chase teams down with little success. But Oregon (14-5, 2-5 Pac-12) only pulled away slowly at first, with Calliste’s perfect 6-of-6 shooting in the first half and 14 points eventually leading to a 13-point halftime lead. “Jason really did a tremendous job. He was the difference in the game,” Altman said of Calliste, who finished with 20 points. “That first half, going 6 for 6 he gave us an advantage and then we could play from the lead.” Though Calliste cooled off, the rest of the Ducks took off in the second half, led by all nine of Moser’s points. If it weren’t for a pair of garbage-time three-pointers from reserve Cougars forward Brett Boese, Oregon’s 41-point second-half barrage would have outscored Washington State (8-12, 1-7) for the game.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.22.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 22nd, 2014

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  1. With everyone around the country beating down Oregon for its recent four-game losing skid, head coach Dana Altman is instead choosing to keep things upbeat in Eugene. There’s been no locker room rampages or huge lineup changes, with the focus instead on staying positive and tuning out the critics. “We have to come together as a team; we can’t worry what people say or write,” Altman said. “We just have to worry about the next game.” That next game is on the road at Washington, and a loss in Seattle would no doubt drop the Ducks onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. Altman desperately needs to turn this thing around, and soon, to avoid that from happening.
  2. Bracketology time! BracketologyExpert is now releasing its projected NCAA field daily, and yesterday’s version has Arizona as a #1 seed, Colorado as a #6, UCLA as a #9, and Oregon all the way down on the #10 line. The conference currently has a pair of teams on the bubble, and both are from the Bay Area. California is listed IN as a #11 seed, while Stanford is the second team left out of the field of 68. Also released Tuesday were John Templon’s updated NIT projections, where we see Arizona State, Washington, and Utah on the #4, #5 and #6 lines, respectively. 
  3. This piece from The Oregonian takes a look at what the future might hold for Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson after the 2013-14 campaign. Robinson told the newspaper in an interview earlier this week that he would have to consider an offer to become Princeton’s next athletic director if he was no longer with the Beavers. He has strong ties to the program, winning a pair of Ivy League Player of the Year honors during his playing days at Princeton. In addition, his daughter has already committed to play basketball there next season. Still, it is doubtful Robinson would leave on his own if he was not terminated by the university, but the fact remains that he has yet to take the program to a major postseason tournament in his time in Corvallis.
  4. The road back for Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie began this week, although he still doesn’t know to what or where that road is going to lead. What’s most important, however, is that he is starting to attack the rehabilitation process with a determination to not have his basketball career end with an awkward step and the buckling of his left knee on the floor of Alaska Airlines Arena. There is a good chance Dinwiddie will return for his senior season in Boulder, but he noted that if his pre-draft evaluations look promising later this spring, he could still take his chances with the NBA. The Buffaloes have posted a 1-1 record in their time without their leading scorer and will play top-ranked Arizona in Tucson on Thursday.
  5. It’s been a strange season across the national landscape in college basketball so far. Oregon, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa State combined to start the season 58-0 and now sit at 58-13. North Carolina has beaten the likes of Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky, and yet has losses against UAB, Wake Forest and Miami (FL). But another odd team that has flown under the radar is Utah. The Utes are perhaps just a few missed shots away from being on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but late-game cold spells and road woes have cost them dearly so far this season. Larry Krystkowiak’s team needs to win away from the altitude-advantaged Huntsman Center in order to be taken seriously in the conference, and the Utes will get their shot over the next two weeks when they visit Arizona State, Arizona, and Colorado. 
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Pac-12 M5: 01.17.14 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2014

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  1. We’re now two and a half weeks into conference play (my god, these seasons fly by don’t they) and California is inarguably the hottest team in the conference, out to a 4-0 start in league play with three of those wins coming on the road. And our friend Adam Butler of Pachoops.com points to senior big man Richard Solomon’s increased efficiency as a key for the Golden Bears’ emergence. He’s even got a pretty little chart correlating Solomon’s shots at the rim with his offensive efficiency over the past three seasons. And while Solomon is surely improved, some credit has to go to his fellow senior – point guard Justin Cobbs – for putting more emphasis on finding Solomon at the rim as opposed to his primary target last season, Allen Crabbe on the wing. Either way, there is more than enough credit to go around up in Berkeley (more evidence – check out John McLamb’s praise for the Cal bench in the comments section) and with Washington State on tap this weekend, and a road trip to USC next Wednesday, there is every reason to believe the Bears will be 6-0 when they play at UCLA next Sunday. Drool…
  2. Across the bay, Stanford may be starting to play some good ball. After squeezing by Oregon in a well-played game last weekend, the Cardinal returned home and laid a hurting on an overmatched Washington State team on Wednesday night. Which is good, because that’s the type of thing this team should be doing. They had four guys in double-figures (with leading scorer Chasson Randle playing distributor) on their way to a 32-point win, but need to prove they’re capable of stringing together victories in the multiple before they’re really taken seriously. Nevertheless, they’ve found their way into NCAA Tournament conversations, sneaking into Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracket as one of the last four teams in.
  3. Oregon and Oregon State will get it on Sunday afternoon while most of the rest of the country will be focusing in on an NFL Playoff game. But if you’re interested in excitement, minus all that pesky defense that just gets in the way, this might be your game. As Andrew Greif of The Oregonian points out, according to Sports-Reference.com (and we’ll have to take Greif’s word for this as I am not double-checking his facts), seven of the 20 worst Pac-12 defenders over the last four seasons will be playing in this game. Names like Jonathan Loyd, Roberto Nelson, Jason Calliste, Challe Barton and Angus Brandt are no surprise – Loyd’s height makes him a liability; the next three are completely uninterested in defense; and Brandt has all the mobility of a statue. But first and third on that bottom 20 list are OSU freshman Malcolm Duvivier and sophomore Langston Morris-Walker. This is a crime. Neither of those guys has any right to be on such a list unless they just aren’t trying. In which case, neither of those guys brings enough to the table offensively to deserve a crack at the court.
  4. In advance of the bouncyball version of the Civil War, Craig Robinson took the time to offer some pointed comments regarding the current state of NCAA transfer rules. Robinson called the rules unfair to smaller schools and passive-aggressively commented about how he didn’t know how to “go out and poach guys when you really aren’t supposed to be able to talk to them.” Given Dana Altman’s success with transfers down the way in Eugene, clearly such comments can’t be taken as anything other than a direct reference to the Ducks. Altman, of course, defended his program, saying that all of the senior transfers who have wound up choosing Oregon have done so after those players had first initiated the contact with the school.
  5. Lastly, Doug Haller’s Pac-12 Insider column at AZCentral.com is one of the best things covering the conference. This week, he looks at the opportunities for Arizona high school players Jaron Hopkins and Que Johnson to step up in place of injured starters, and also points out that Aaron Gordon, per hoop-math.com, leads the Pac-12 in putbacks. Want to know how dominant the Arizona front line is on the offensive glass? Gordon’s teammate Brandon Ashley is third in the conference with 23 himself. Put it this way (bonus analysis!): Gordon and Ashley between them have more putbacks than more than 160 Division I teams, including Utah (50), Stanford (46), Oregon State (43), and Arizona State (34). For what it’s worth, Kansas, a team with comparable size and athleticism to Arizona, has a total of 37 putbacks. For the entire team, the Wildcats have a total of 84 putbacks!
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Best YouTube Moments in Oregon Basketball: The Nominees

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 16th, 2014

Last month we introduced our new project, which is centered around determining the top YouTube moment in Pac-12 basketball history. We continue the nomination portion with Oregon.

[ed note: These are just the top moments we could find on YouTube, which has a vast number and array of videos, but we won't be able to cover the entire 99 years of the conference.]

 

Up until this point, all of our videos have just been single plays. This Oregon nominee features our first real “moment,” which begins with point guard Aaron Brooks dropping a pull-up jumper to put the Ducks ahead of top-ranked UCLA by two with 13.4 seconds remaining. After a Bruins timeout, the Oregon defense stiffened, forcing a wild Josh Shipp three-point attempt at the buzzer that fell well short. Pandemonium ensued as the Pit Crew student section seemed to spill onto the court from all four corners.

This moment starts with the Ducks on defense in game three of the CBI Championship series, with the score tied and 33 seconds left. The ball was inbounded to Creighton guard Antoine Young, who got lost “deep in the woods,” backing up across the non-existent half-court line that was missing from the brand new Matthew Knight Arena in its initial season. Oregon got the ball back on the violation, and with two seconds left on the clock, E.J. Singler banked in a runner to give the Ducks the CBI title. Once again, the Pit Crew was thrown into a frenzy, celebrating wildly as first-year coach Dana Altman knocked off his former team in the tournament final.

This is as close as Oregon basketball will ever get to “The Pick.” With four seconds left and the score even at 68-68 in overtime, guard Damyean Dotson poked away a bad Utah pass and took it the length of the court, slamming the ball home to win the game and keeping the Ducks at a perfect 13-0 record.

If you have any other nominees, put them in the comments and we will add it to the poll. Voting closes a week from now, and the top vote-getter advances to the tournament of champions.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.16.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 16th, 2014

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  1. After a dust-up last week where NBA scouts were complaining about the seats that UCLA gave them for the battle between the Bruins and Arizona, Draft Express did a poll of NBA scouts to see which schools treated them the best (i.e., gave them good seats and maybe a meal) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, UCLA was atop the heap of the schools that got negative comments. The whole article is really pointed at UCLA: You spend a ton of space in your media guides promoting your former players who are making it big at the next level, but you’re not rolling out the red carpet for the scouts and executive who determine the worth of the next round of NBA prospects. We’re not going to spend a ton of time on this, but doesn’t this whole thing seem a bit absurd? For instance, in some cases where the NBA scouts got seats that didn’t meet their needs, they had to (gasp!) ask  their multi-hundred-million dollar organizations to go onto StubHub and purchase them better tickets. The horror! Even at Arizona, which was among the schools most often mentioned as being good to NBA scouts, somebody had the temerity to complain about the price of the great seats they were given, prices which were likely considerably lower than the amount that could have been charged for those seats. In other words, forgive me if I don’t join this particular hunger strike.
  2. We posted yesterday about the Spencer Dinwiddie injury (too long; didn’t read: it sucks), but that knee injury wasn’t the only one to befall a Colorado player in Seattle on Sunday. Freshman wing Tre’Shaun Fletcher also tweaked a knee in that game, and although he returned to action after the injury, it was later determined that this injury will require surgery, costing Fletcher the next six-to-eight weeks. While this injury is not an ACL injury, it is damaging to the team as Fletcher certainly would have been due for a bump in minutes without Dinwiddie in the lineup.
  3. After ripping off 13 straight wins to start the season, Oregon is now riding a three-game losing streak, with a pair of those losses coming at home. Luckily, the Ducks now have a week where they can focus on just one game — their road trip to face Oregon State in Corvallis on Sunday. Confidence may be dipping, but head coach Dana Altman recalled the last time the Ducks went through a multi-game losing streak: the final two games of last season when they lost on the road to Colorado and Utah. What happened next? The Ducks went to Las Vegas, won the Pac-12 Tournament, and then advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. In other words, it would be very unwise to count out these Ducks in mid-January.
  4. We’ve got another big intrastate rivalry game this week to check out as Arizona State travels to Arizona tonight. Herb Sendek was asked about trying to compete against a team that is recruiting on the elite level that the Wildcats are doing right now. And, not surprisingly, he called it a challenge, noting that what they’re doing is “absolutely astonishing” and “almost unprecedented.” Put it this way; as Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com notes, of the seven players in the rotation at Arizona, five were five-star recruits coming out of high school, while a sixth was a four-star recruit. By comparison, Jahii Carson is the only Sun Devils’ recruit to earn more than three stars coming out of high school.
  5. Lastly, Utah drew rave reviews in its first weekend of conference play, taking Oregon to the wire on opening night before beating Oregon State. But last weekend on their first road trip to the Washington schools, their offense took a major step back. Tonight, as they host USC, goal number one for Larry Krystkowiak and company is to compete better on the offensive end of the court, including getting out in transition more often, something their Trojans’ opponents probably want as well. With talented offensive players like Delon Wright, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor, this shouldn’t be a problem.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 10th, 2014

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  1. Colorado is 7-11 in league road games since joining the Pac-12, and the 15th ranked Buffaloes will play their first of the 2013-14 season this Sunday in Seattle. The team says they’re ready to take the next step; they’ve beaten a pair of top ten teams at home and took down two solid Mountain West clubs on the road by a combined 29 points. But in order to join the top ten realm themselves, the Buffaloes need to get the Pac-12 road monkey off their back. Things didn’t go too smoothly in Colorado’s first conference game away from home two nights ago, when Washington State took the highly-favored Buffs to overtime in a neutral site game at Spokane Arena on Wednesday. Colorado did escape with the one-point win, but that was with it shooting 33 more free throws than the Cougars. It’ll need a much better effort than that to beat swiftly-improving Washington on Sunday afternoon.
  2. Arizona equaled its school best 16-0 start last night, hanging on for a great 79-75 win at UCLA. The Wildcats had revenge on their minds after suffering three losses to the Bruins last season, and a near-perfect first 34 minutes put Arizona up 68-55 and had a large contingent of fans dressed in cardinal red drowning out the hometown crowd. An insane 15-1 run by the hosts put UCLA up one with 1:45 remaining, but the top-ranked team in the nation proved why they belonged up there, making eight free throws in the final minute to secure the win. Wildcat guard Nick Johnson led all scorers with 22 points.
  3. Joe Lunardi released his now weekly Bracketology report yesterday, and four Pac-12 teams were included in his field of 68. Undefeated and number one Arizona takes the top overall seed, with Colorado next for the Pac as a three. Oregon is just below the Buffaloes on the four line, and it seems likely that those two could be battling for those two spots all the way until March. UCLA is the last Pac-12 team included and is listed as a seven seed, and it gets the most intriguing opening round game (against Harvard) by virtue of having the worst seed of the four. California is Lunardi’s first team left out of the field, although that could change after its 13-point win at Oregon last night. Stanford is included on the “Next Four Out” list along with Arkansas, SMU, and Butler. Be sure to also read the latest edition of Rush the Court’s bracket projections, which are released last Monday.
  4. Transfer wizard Dana Altman pulled another one out of his hat on Thursday, when the Ducks officially announced that a class of 2013 Top 50 recruit, small forward Brandon Austin, would be transferring from Providence to Oregon. Austin had offers from Connecticut, Xavier, and Temple, among others, before deciding on the Friars, but did not see a minute of action in his stint there due to a pair of suspensions. Altman has brought in transfers like Arsalan Kazemi (Rice), Joseph Young (Houston), and Mike Moser (UCLA and UNLV) during his four years in Eugene.
  5. Oregon State junior Eric Moreland showed a bit of rust in his first two games back from a 12-game suspension to open the season, but that was all washed away on Thursday against Stanford. Starting your season with two games in Boulder and Salt Lake City is a difficult chore for a number of reasons, most notably of which is the altitude at which both schools are located. So maybe some home cooking is all the forward needed. Moreland scored 17 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and recorded four blocks and four assists, producing a career night when the Beavers desperately needed one.
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Larry Krystkowiak: Great Coach With Some Head-Scratching Late-Game Decisions

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 3rd, 2014

First things first: the job Larry Krystkowiak has done at Utah has been absolutely remarkable. This team had by far the worst assemblage (or lack thereof) of talent in major conference basketball just a couple years back. He’s scrambled to remake this roster from the smoking ruins that his predecessor Jim Boylen left behind, and he has done a terrific job, so much so that this year (and well ahead of schedule) he’s got his Utes not just very competitive but fun to watch. With a roster that will likely return its most valuable players and with more talent due in the Huntsman Center next year (and likely beyond that), the future that Krystkowiak is constructing in Salt Lake City is bright indeed. What’s more, he’s a terrific coach who gets the most out of the talent that he’s cobbled together and he’s a great game-planner. Fill in whatever other compliments you would like to heap on Krystkowiak here – he’s a fine dresser; his breath probably smells like peaches and his hair like roses; he’s a crime-stopping, upstanding citizen – yes, all this and more is probably true.

I Dunno Coach, I Just Don't Know (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

I dunno coach, I just don’t know (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

But, man, did he screw up the end of that game last night against Oregon. Twice.

Credit where credit is due: He kept his squad fighting when it looked like the Ducks were going to pull away, and he was right there with his team, scrapping and scraping to get his team in a position to take home a W in the conference opener. But, let’s start in regulation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Team-By-Team Non-Conference Wrap-Up

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 2nd, 2014

It’s the unofficial (and un-mathematically correct) halfway point of the college basketball regular season. Non-conference play is, for the most part, in the past, and we’re getting ready to jump right into conference play with a full slate of Pac-12 games beginning today. So, as we look back at what we’ve learned so far and look ahead at what we think might happen from here until we all head to Las Vegas in early March, today we’re going to take a look at what each team has done and pin some rough odds on their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Teams are ranked below in order of how impressive their resume is to this point.

Following A Successful Non-Conference Slate, The Wildcats Have Put Themselves In A Good Position To Earn A Good NCAA Seed (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Following A Successful Non-Conference Slate, The Wildcats Have Put Themselves In A Good Position To Earn A Good NCAA Seed (Casey Sapio/USA Today Sports)

  • Arizona (13-0, RPI: 11, Best Wins: at Michigan, neutral site vs. Duke, at San Diego State) – The Wildcats may be third in the Pac-12 in RPI at this point, but they’re #1 in the polls and deservedly so. They’ve challenged themselves with a tough non-conference slate featuring a pair of tough true road games, a pair of good neutral-site NIT Tip-Off wins, and some solid visitors to the McKale Center. But even more important than these accomplishments is how good they’ve looked doing it — displaying one of the nation’s best defenses and an offense that still has plenty of upside for a young team that should be much improved by March. At this point, it is hard to imagine a scenario where the Wildcats are left on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 99.9%

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Pac-12 Non-Conference Superlatives

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton128) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 1st, 2014

As part of the conclusion of the non-conference slate, it’s time for Connor and Drew to recognize some of the Pac-12 highlights through nearly two months of the regular season. We’ll cover all the basics: Player of the Year; Coach of the Year; Freshman of the Year; an all-conference team to this point; as well as the biggest surprises and disappointments. And we’ll give you our rationale on each. So let’s get right to it, and let us know where you disagree.

Player of the Year – There’s still a lot of hoop left, so we’ll each give you our current top three picks in this category and some reasons why.

Connor’s Picks:

  1. Joseph Young. Young has been the cornerstone of Oregon’s offense, scoring in double figures in each game and acting as the guy to lift them whenever they hit a scoring lull.
  2. Roberto Nelson. The conference’s leading scorer has put up at least 17 points or more in each game the Beavers have played, save the contest against Towson in which he was ejected for attempting to throw a punch eight minutes into the contest.
  3. Jahii Carson. Jahiisus, who just might be the quickest point guard in the country, steps up whenever he is called upon for Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils. Whether it’s been a 40-point performance at UNLV or a 23-point showing to beat nationally-ranked Marquette, no stage is too big for the super sophomore.
Oregon's Junior Transfer Joseph Young Top's Both Of Our Voters' Picks For The Player of the Year Leader At The Halfway Mark (AP Photo)

Oregon’s Junior Transfer Joseph Young Top’s Both Of Our Voters’ Picks For The Player of the Year Leader At The Halfway Mark (AP Photo)

Drew’s Picks:

  1. Joseph Young. Might as well make it unanimous. While Young has had plenty of help in Eugene, he’s been the best offensive player on a team chock-full of them.
  2. Jahii Carson. Expectations were high enough for Carson coming into the year so that his 19.3 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.9 RPG and 51.4 percent three-point shooting are seen as almost a disappointment. Which is ridiculous. Expect him to be a big part of the Pac-12 POY conversation when all is said and done.
  3. Delon Wright. He’s come out of nowhere and hasn’t exactly played against great competition, but his production has been fantastic across the board. If he can keep this up, he’ll be in contention for this award come March.

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