The Four-Year Growth Of UCLA’s Jerime Anderson

Posted by AMurawa on February 15th, 2012

There are a lot of great things about college basketball. There are the student sections going crazy during conference play, buzzer-beaters to clinch tournament berths during championship week, there’s Dick Vitale dropping babies like a butter-fingered politician. But perhaps my favorite thing about college athletics, and college basketball in particular, is seeing kids improve drastically over a four-year career. Just looking around the Pac-12 this year, we have plenty of seniors worth raving about. Jorge Gutierrez at California is the consummate leader on his team and has gotten better bit-by-bit over his time in Berkeley. At Oregon, Garrett Sim has gone from a shooter who couldn’t shoot on an undermanned team to one of the best shooters and a gritty defender on a championship contender. Darnell Gant has steadily improved over his time in Washington, adding a solid jumper to his “garbage man” persona.

Jerime Anderson, UCLA

After Early Struggles In His UCLA Career, Jerime Anderson Is Now A Team Leader And Solid Point Guard (Elaine Thompson/AP)

But UCLA’s Jerime Anderson has had a career arc that goes further than all of those players. He came to UCLA as the #5 point guard in the 2008 recruiting class, but there was a time, during his first couple years in Westwood, where there was no reason to think that Anderson would ever approach the level of even a solid major conference basketball player. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Anderson was just terrible during his freshman and sophomore years. During his freshman campaign, he averaged less than ten minutes per contest in relief of Darren Collison, so his damage was somewhat limited. But as a sophomore, he was expected to take over at the point for the departed Collison, continuing the line of great UCLA point guards under Ben Howland. Instead, it became very apparent on opening night that he would experience significant growing pains. He was 1-of-11 from the field, missed all three of his threes, turned the ball over three times and was repeatedly exposed defensively in a loss to Cal State Fullerton that was just the start of a disastrous year. It didn’t get a whole lot better from there, as his confidence hit rock bottom. Anderson turned the ball over on a regular basis, and struggled so much defensively that the Bruins had to resort to a zone defense, anathema to a Howland-coached team. But, as the year wore on, he got more comfortable defensively, his turnover numbers moderated and he slowly began to earn back playing time and his confidence.

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Pac-12 Game Of The Week: Washington at Oregon

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 9th, 2012

Looking at the rest of the Pac-12 slate, it’s tough to find a bigger game than the one coming up tonight in Eugene. That’s where first place Washington meets fourth place Oregon in a game with huge conference crown implications. For the visiting Huskies, a loss won’t make or break their chances at a conference crown, but they need every good win they can get if they want to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. On the other side is Oregon, who are losers of its last two games against upper-half conference teams. Not only does that create seperation between the Ducks and the top of the Pac, but it also gives those teams tiebreakers over the Ducks for Pac-12 Tournament seeding. Obviously, a win tonight would be huge for the Ducks. While the ship for an at-large bid has sailed, the Ducks need to do everything they can down the stretch to finish in the top four of the Pac-12. That would mean a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tourney, giving Oregon a solid shot at taking the Pac-12’s automatic bid. There’s no better time to start that journey than tonight.

Oregon guard Devoe Joseph leads the Ducks with 15.8 PPG. (credit: Eric Evans)

If Oregon is to have a chance in this one, it will need to shoot the ball better than it did in the first meeting between these two teams. In that New Year’s Eve ESPN2 affair, the Ducks shot just 21.7% from behind the arc. Guard Devoe Joseph was targeted and shut down by the Husky defense, going 0-5 from three and scoring just four points overall. In order to contend with the plethora of Husky sharpshooters (C.J. Wilcox, Abdul Gaddy, and Terrence Ross, to name a few), Joseph needs to have a huge night shooting the ball; Not to mention Johnathan Loyd and Garrett Sim. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2012

  1. We’re through four weeks of conference play in the Pac-12, and the situation atop the heap is now as clear as mud. We have four teams with a couple of losses and another two with three losses. Oregon is one of our leaders at 6-2 after posting a home sweep over the Los Angeles schools, and the Ducks have stolen three road games while winning all but one at home. On Saturday, they bounced back from a sluggish first half to outscore UCLA by 20 points in the second half behind a career-high 26 points from junior E.J. Singler. But it was Garrett Sim and Tony Woods that turned the momentum around for Dana Altman’s squad, as Sim notched a personal 7-0 run on just two possessions (a four-point play mixed in there) early in the second half, while Woods blocked two shots and slammed back an offensive rebound on the way to the Ducks erasing a 13-point halftime lead right out of the locker room. Oregon gets to stay at home next weekend for a matchup with rival Oregon State.
  2. California is the other leader atop the conference, but Golden Bear fans probably have to feel like they missed an opportunity this weekend. After pulling out an impressive road win at Washington on Thursday, they spit the bit Saturday, losing by two at Washington State. For the Cougars, Faisal Aden was incredible this weekend. We and others have been critical of Aden’s offensive efficiency this year, but this weekend was spectacular, hitting 19 of his 29 field goal attempts and 19 of his 20 free throw attempts on his way to a total of 57 points over the course of two games. Not surprisingly, his Cougs won both of those, and their fans are excited. Not only was Aden very efficient, but he seems to have taken on a new personality. Instead of bombing away this weekend, he attacked the hoop, got to the line and limited his three-point attempts (three three-pointers attempted on the weekend – all on Thursday night). If he can keep up his new offensive personality, the Cougars just got a whole lot tougher.
  3. Washington now sits at 5-2 after it bounced back from its loss on Thursday with a 13-point win over Stanford fueled by a 20-3 second half run. The win was Lorenzo Romar’s 300th in his career and 100th conference win at Washington. While the usual suspects led the way for the Huskies (Tony Wroten had 21 and Terrence Ross had 18), Darnell Gant bounced back from a terrible night on Thursday with 17 points and seven rebounds against the Cardinal. And, the newest Husky, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the starting tight end on the Husky football team who joined the basketball team a couple weeks back, earned his first playing time, getting 16 minutes and grabbing seven rebounds.
  4. Colorado swept through the weekend series with the Arizona schools and is tied with Washington at 5-2. The Buffaloes earned a one-point win over the Wildcats despite sophomore forward Andre Roberson pulling a disappearing act (zero points, 0/8 from the field), as senior Carlon Brown sank a three to give Colarado the lead after Arizona had taken their first lead since the 15 minute mark in the second half on a Kevin Parrom jumper. However, the Buffs still had to withstand a last-second three-point attempt by Parrom to hang on for the win. The last possession was a curious one for the Wildcats, as they gained possession of the ball following a missed Brown three-point attempt with 30 seconds left and Arizona down one. Sean Miller didn’t have a timeout to call in order to set up a final play, and the Wildcats were nonchalant on offense, only able to put up one shot after 30 seconds and leaving no time for the team to score on the offensive rebound that Josiah Turner came up with as time expired. In other words, Arizona needs to spend some time on their late-game situations in practice this week.
  5. Lastly, time to go slumming at the bottom of the conference, as any time Utah comes up with a win, it has to deserve a mention. This weekend it was the Utes winning the battle of the undermanned, handing Arizona State a 21-point loss on Saturday. Freshman Kareem Storey, playing his second game as Larry Krystkowiak’s point guard following the dismissal of Josh Watkins, had a very solid game, scoring 12 points, handing out six assists and turning it over just once in 36 minutes, while senior Cedric Martin drilled five threes to lead all scorers with 17 points. Arizona State, playing without injured guard Trent Lockett, couldn’t get anything going offensively, shooting just 42.1 eFG% and just three-of-15 from deep.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.20.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 20th, 2012

  1. We begin in Seattle, where the Pac-12 Game of the Week took place at Hec Edmunson Pavilion. And while we named it the game of the week, it also happened to be one of the best of the season. It was a tale of two halves with Pac-12-leading California building a quick lead and slowly building on it. The Golden Bears would eventually lead by 10 at halftime, but Washington let them know it wouldn’t last from the outset of the second half. Trailing by 13, the Dawgs went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 47-42. From there both teams played great basketball. Cal led by 11 with 11:30 remaining, but Washington would come right back to cut the deficit to four a few minutes later. A pair of David Kravish free throws with 6:55 to play seemingly put the game as the Bears led by eight, but the Huskies would battle back yet again. A Desmond Simmons layup made the score 66-63 with 1:05 left, and a Terrence Ross three to answer two Cal free throws made the score 68-66. Justin Cobbs would then split his pair of free throws with eight seconds to play, giving Washington one last chance to force overtime. Darnell Gant got a good look at the buzzer but the ball would not go down, sending the Bears to Pullman in sole possession of first place.
  2. It was a good night for both Oregon schools as Oregon and Oregon State both posted victories against their visitors from Los Angeles. The Ducks got their win first, but not without some nail-biting. Neither team played particularly well on Thursday, but the Ducks were able to get some crucial stops late to hang on for a 65-62 victory. Senior guard Garrett Sim led the Ducks with 20 points. Forty-five miles up the road and two hours later, it was the Beavers getting a much-needed win over UCLA. Earlier today I was critical of Ahmad Starks’ play on offense, but he sure proved me wrong tonight. The sophomore guard poured in 13 points to go with three assists and sparked a big Beaver run to give Oregon State some breathing room. Still, the Beavers can’t rely on outshooting their opponent every night if they want to steal an NIT bid.
  3. You wouldn’t be able to tell by the final result, but one of the more entertaining games of the evening was between Arizona and Utah. The Utes came out inspired in their first game without star Josh Watkins and were able to play the Wildcats tough for 22 minutes. That’s when Arizona, leading 35-32 at the time, went on a 20-2 run in just six minutes and seven seconds. The run sucked the energy out off Ute fans and players, but I’ve got to admit, I’m starting to like what I see from coach Larry Krystkowiak. Obviously, this season was lost in the first couple of weeks, but don’t be surprised if the Utes finish the year with two or three more conference wins.
  4. The most surprising result of the night came from Pullman, where Washington State exploded in the second half to blow out Stanford, 81-69. Trailing 50-39 with 13:30 remaining, the Cougars went on a 26-6 run over the next six minutes. From there, it was all Washington State. The Cardinal were able to get within six a couple of times, but those bursts of hope for Stanford were quickly answered with a mini-run for the Cougs. Brock Motum and Fasial Aden were huge for Wazzu, with Motum posting 16 points and six rebounds, while Aden added a ridiculous 33 points and five boards off the bench.
  5. This article is a little old, but with Aden’s outburst last night and considering we could all use a good laugh to start the weekend, I present this. Craig Powers of CougCenter is the mastermind. I’m just trying to pick out my favorite quote. Is it: “When I walk into a living room with some finely woven wicker, I immediately command attention”; or, “And there is an obvious connection to the game of basketball and baskets. I mean, it is right there in the name.”
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: California @ Washington

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012

California @ Washington, January 19, 5:30 PM PST, ROOT Northwest

The Golden Bears head north to Washington tonight in a battle that should help sort out the pecking order at the top of the conference, and both teams come into the big game a little bit shorthanded. For Cal, they’ve lost sophomore forward Richard Solomon for the remainder of the season when he was declared academically ineligible, while the Huskies will be without second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox, whose absence is a little less final – he’s out in the short-term with a stress fracture in his hip. But there are still plenty of talented players on either end of the court who should make this an exciting game.

Washington won both games in this series last season, and by an average of over 31 points per game, so this Golden Bear team which is made up of much the same personnel, will need to prove they can hang with the Huskies’ up-tempo style. Last year, the two games between these teams averaged 75.5 possessions per game (with Washington averaging 1.33 points per possession in those games), and this year Mike Montgomery’s team has struggled in uptempo games again. So far this season, Cal has only played in four games that featured more than 70 possessions, and they’ve lost three of those – and by an average of over 20 points per game.

Mike Montgomery, California

Mike Montgomery And California Will Need To Keep The Tempo Slow Against Washington (photo credit: Associated Press)

Given that the Bears are so guard-oriented, it is surprising that they struggle so much in the open court, but really, athleticism is not the strength of this team. Defensively, they like to lock you down in the halfcourt, pack it in and make you take tough shots over their defense. They’ve got enough size on the perimeter to challenge three-point shooters, and they send all five players to the defensive glass. Offensively, they don’t really have any one player that can break down a defender on a consistent basis, but their guards – Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, especially – are excellent from long range, while Jorge Gutierrez is a guy who just seems to get it done anywhere on the floor. And they even get Brandon Smith back after several missed games due to a concussion.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012

  1. It’s that time of the year when injuries start to play a bigger role for teams around the country. This week we’ve talked about injuries to C.J. Wilcox (hip stress fracture, out this weekend), Brandon Smith (due back from a concussion tonight), Mychal Ladd (thumb injury, doubtful this weekend) and Trent Lockett (sprained ankle, doubtful). But as of yet, we haven’t mentioned USC’s Aaron Fuller, who is dealing with a labral tear in his left shoulder. Given that he is a lefty, this is a nearly debilitating injury and he is considering undergoing season-ending surgery as early as next week. It remains to be seen whether Fuller will play this weekend in Oregon, but given that he is easily USC’s best offensive player, losing him could made an already terrible offensive team even less potent.
  2. Speaking of USC, it’s no secret that Trojan fans are frustrated with their team’s 0-5 conference start and generally atrocious offensive play. Head coach Kevin O’Neill is frustrated too. And, while he is trying to keep this team focused on this season, he thinks he should have a good team on his hands next near. Not only will all of these current Trojan players have an extra year of experience under their belts (and guys like freshmen Byron Wesley and Alexis Moore and sophomore DeWayne Dedmon could sure use them), he expects to have point guard Jio Fontan back from his ACL injury, along with transfers Ari Stewart and J.T. Terrell, both from Wake Forest, and Eric Wise, from UC Irvine.
  3. Tying up a few loose ends, we talked about Richard Solomon’s academic ineligibility and Josh Watkins’ dismissal from Utah yesterday, but thought we’d also pass along some information from the local media on both situations. For Solomon, there isn’t a whole lot to report; he just didn’t make grades, but head coach Mike Montgomery hopes he can patch up those problems and return next season. For Watkins, it’s another story. All indications are that he is a good kid, but head coach Larry Krystkowiak just couldn’t ignore the “accountability issues” with Watkins any longer. He reportedly missed practice again on Monday, and after Krystkowiak had laid down a “zero tolerance” policy following a blowout loss to Colorado on New Year’s Eve, Watkins had to go. Krystkowiak said he hopes Watkins continues at Utah and receives his degree, and I’m sure he does, not just for Watkins’ sake, but for the sake of Utah’s graduation rates that will be in the garbage following all of the recent transfers out of the program.
  4. Washington has a big weekend ahead of it, what with conference-leading California and Stanford headed into Seattle for battles with first place on the lane. And in the midst of that atmosphere, it is possible that freshman forward (and starting tight end on the Husky football team) Austin Seferian-Jenkins could see his first action for the basketball team this weekend, although nothing is set in stone yet. Head coach Lorenzo Romar also confirmed that senior forward Darnell Gant would continue coming off the bench for the Huskies, with center Aziz N’Diaye and forward Desmond Simmons continuing to start up front.
  5. Lastly, we turn our attention to UCLA, who has won three straight games after starting 0-2 in conference play. Bruin players like David Wear and Tyler Lamb attribute the turnaround to a renewed emphasis on defensive intensity, with players taking pride in getting stops and learning to play as a team on that end. While UCLA has held its opponents to just 40.3% shooting from the field over the course of the winning streak, their trip to Oregon this weekend should present a much bigger challenge.
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Set Your TiVo: 12.09.11 to 12.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 9th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It is road test Saturday as Kentucky and Ohio State face strong tests in Bloomington and Lawrence while a fierce intra-city rivalry plays out on the hardwood in Cincinnati. Also, Duke faces a challenge from Washington at MSG while Wisconsin and Gonzaga look to get back on the right track on their home floors. [Editor's Note: There will be no Set Your TiVo on Monday due to the barren nature of that night’s schedule as most schools transition into finals week. We will resume on Tuesday.]

#6 Duke vs. Washington (at New York, NY) – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (***)

Duke is Back at MSG For Another Great Game (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

  • Duke returns to Madison Square Garden for the second time this year to take on a Washington team that also will be playing its second game in the building after a thrilling game against Marquette on Tuesday night. This game will be up-tempo and you can expect guard-heavy Duke to try to take advantage of Washington’s inability to defend the three-point shot. Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly can all knock down the triple at a high rate and they’re the reasons why the Blue Devils rank #19 in that department. They’ll be shooting against a Huskies defense that ranks a paltry #262 (37.1%) against the trifecta. The Huskies used a zone at times against Marquette earlier this week. That may be effective at stopping Duke inside, but the Blue Devil guards can shoot right over it. If Lorenzo Romar goes man-to-man, his team will have to fight its way through the tremendous screening action that is a huge part of Duke’s offense, allowing shooters to get open with ease. If Duke knocks down its threes, it’ll be a long early afternoon for Washington.
  • The defensive matchups don’t look good for Washington, so you would have to think the Huskies will need to put up a lot of points in order to win. They certainly can do that against Duke’s perimeter defense, but the key will be Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox making a bunch of threes to offset the barrage that may come from the Duke shooters. Washington has the height and athleticism necessary to neutralize and even take advantage of Duke in the paint with Aziz N’Diaye and Darnell Gant which will force the Blue Devils to make shots. Offensively, UW’s guards have to be able to penetrate to open up some outside shots while getting N’Diaye and Gant some easy buckets around the rim. That means Abdul Gaddy and (especially) Tony Wroten can’t turn the ball over. The freshman is certainly talented but he turns it over more than four times per game.
  • This is a big chance for Washington (4-3) to snag a crucial victory with hardly anything of note left on its non-conference schedule. Washington must rebound the basketball and push the pace as much as possible. The Huskies do a very good job on the boards, outrebounding Duke by an average of 10 RPG coming into the game. The Huskies need to be tough around the basket on both ends of the floor and should not be afraid to foul Mason Plumlee when he receives the ball in the post. Plumlee is a 42.3% foul shooter and should be in for a battle around the basket. While Washington may not be able to defend the three-ball straight up, the Huskies’ length and athleticism has the potential to bother Duke’s guards. Rivers can break down a defense at will but Curry is susceptible to shaky ballhanding and turnovers. If Washington can rattle Curry and put points on the board, they’ll be in the game for the long haul. We’re looking for a closer than expected game but still have to favor the Blue Devils because of their three-point shooting and the partisan crowd sure to fill Madison Square Garden.

Cincinnati @ #7 Xavier – 12:30 PM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (****)

  • The Crosstown Shootout is one of the perennially underrated rivalries in the game. While the teams aren’t always great, the basketball is intense between two schools that don’t particularly care for one another. Xavier is the better team but can’t afford to take the Bearcats lightly. The Musketeers needed second half rallies to defeat Vanderbilt and Purdue before going on the road and winning at Butler this past Wednesday. Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons do most of the work for this team but the X-men will need an interior presence against Cincinnati big man Yancy Gates. Gates is a load inside but Kenny Frease should be able to match up with him, at least on the defensive end. If Chris Mack’s squad can limit Gates, who is struggling with only 15 total points scored in his last two games, Xavier will be well on its way to a win at the Cintas Center.
  • Cincinnati plays terrific defense but Mick Cronin’s team really struggles to score. The Bearcats have a stunning lack of depth for a team that is supposed to contend for an upper tier finish in the Big East. Since it is putting up only 64 PPG, Cincinnati has to win games with its defense. The good news is Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon can hit from deep with some level of consistency but they’ll face their toughest test to date against a Xavier defense allowing only 25.5% shooting from the three-point line. If the shots don’t fall, Cincinnati doesn’t stand much of a chance, especially if Gates continues his lackluster play of late. To win, the Bearcats must shoot well but they also have to control the glass and the pace of the game. Holloway loves to push the ball, penetrate and get to the line where he’s an 86.2% shooter. He averages nearly ten free throw attempts per game and it’s vital that Cincinnati keep him off the charity stripe if it is to win.
  • These teams are similar with regards to their defense and toughness but Xavier is a more talented and deeper version of Cincinnati. Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, it’s hard to see the Musketeers dropping this game. For the Bearcats to have a chance to pull it out, Gates has to be the player he was towards the end of last season when he was putting up 20+ points a night. In addition, Cashmere Wright can’t be turning the ball over at the rate (3.3 per game) he has so far this season. We may be making a mistake since it is a rivalry game, but Xavier by 10-15 points seems like a good bet.
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Pac-12 SYT: 12.06 & 12.07

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 6th, 2011


See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Week five begins with a pair of great games on the east coast. Tonight we get Washington against #11 Marquette in New York City, and on Wednesday Arizona will travel to #12 Florida. Here’s a quick look at both games.

Washington vs #11 Marquette – Tuesday, 6:00 PM PST on ESPN (***)

Derrick Wilson is just one of many superb defenders on the Marquette roster. (credit: Zhao Lim)

  • All of a sudden Washington finds itself in a new situation. After dropping two of their last three games, the Huskies come into the Jimmy V Classic with zero expectations. They have the talent to pull an upset, but poor offensive performances against mediocre defenses lately has me on the fence. The Huskies have looked confused, and at some points just plain bad, against average defensive teams like Nevada, so what is going to happen tonight when they face one of the best defensive teams in the nation? Marquette likes to play over on pick-and-rolls and push the opposing big men away from the basket, so expect this to be a very physical contest. Look for Darnell Gant and Aziz N’Diaye to be huge in this game. If they can enforce their will and get good looks in the paint, Washington has a good chance of winning this one.
  • This game will go one of two ways. Either Marquette is just going to come out and dominate the Huskies, or Washington hits their outside shots, gets some good looks in the paint, and is in position to win it at the end. I see the latter happening, but Marquette is just too good to lose this one. Give me the Eagles by five. Read the rest of this entry »
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Recapping the Pac-12 Preview

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 14th, 2011

Before we get too deep into the first few weeks of the season, let’s take a quick look back at our preseason coverage here on the Pac-12 microsite.

All-Conference Teams

  • All-Newcomers – Washington freshman Tony Wroten, Jr., and USC junior Aaron Fuller highlight the list Drew and I compiled. Highly touted guards Josiah Turner (Arizona) and Jabari Brown (Oregon) round out the cream of the crop in this feature.
  • All Pac-12 – Four out of the five players (Gutierrez, Cunningham, Kamp, and Crabbe) on our All Pac-12 team were the easy, traditional picks, but Arizona State forward/guard Trent Lockett got the surprise final place instead of UCLA’s Nelson.

Team Previews

  • Washington – The Huskies come into the season with one of the best four-guard rotations in the nation. Tony Wroten, Jr., and Terrence Ross lead the group with Abdul Gaddy and C.J. Wilcox close behind. Aziz N’Diaye and Darnell Gant balance the offense out in the post.
  • Washington StateThe Cougars have been picked to finish in the bottom half of the conference by almost all preseason publications because of the loss of guard Klay Thompson. However, Washington State still returns combo-guard Marcus Capers and point guard Reggie Moore, two of the best defenders in the league last season. With the additions of Mike Ladd and DaVonte Lacy at shooting guard, something tells us that they won’t miss Thompson as much as everyone is predicting.
  • OregonWhile Oregon returns key players like E.J. Singler and Tyrone Nared, it will be all about the newcomers in Eugene. Highly touted freshman Jabari Brown will make an immediate impact at guard, while Louisiana Tech transfer Olu Ashaolu should score major minutes with the departure of Joevan Catron.
  • Oregon StateFor the first time in his tenure in Corvallis, coach Craig Robinson says that he finally has the talent needed to compete in every game the Beavers play in. Combo-guard Jared Cunningham and small forward Devon Collier provide the most hope for Robinson, but he will need to do a better job of coaching in non-conference games if the Beavers want to improve their win-loss totals.
  • CaliforniaThe Golden Bears will be led by seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp, two of the most respected players in the Pac-12. With the addition of Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs at the point, opposing defenses will have a tough time covering all of the options.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Washington

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 25th, 2011

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

Washington Huskies

Strengths.  The main thing that jumps off the page is the Huskies’ talent and depth at guard. In order to get all of the talent on the floor at the same time, Lorenzo Romar could go with the rarely used four-guard lineup since both Tony Wroten, Jr., and Terrence Ross have the size to play down low. Watch out for the other freshmen as well. Romar has a stellar recruiting class coming in, led by the aforementioned Wroten Jr., guard Hakeem Stewart, and forward Martin Breunig. All three appeared on the Rivals150 list, while Wroten was considered the fourth-ranked point guard and No. 14 overall player in the country for the class of 2011.

Weaknesses.  In the past six years, the Huskies have always had some sort of leader or go-to guy to build the team around. They don’t have a “set” leader going into this season, so that will be a huge thing to work out in preseason practice. They also need to find a go-to scorer that they can count on late in games as they lose their top three scorers from last season (Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, and Justin Holiday).

Terrence Ross Could be the Key to UW's Season

Nonconference Tests.  The Huskies should fly through their non-conference slate with the exception of two games: Dec. 6 vs Marquette and Dec. 10 vs Duke. There is no break in between for Washington, as they will just stay in the Big Apple for six days and take on a pair of top twenty teams. I’m predicting an 0-2 record in those, but if they can even earn just a split, the Huskies will start to receive national attention.
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Morning Five: 09.15.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 15th, 2011

  1. SI.com’s Andy Glockner (one of RTC’s favorites) has summarized the prospects of no less than 46 teams for the upcoming season…Twitter-style. Or, as he says in his intro, heh heh, “We’re going to do it quickly, @AndyGlockner-style.” A fun read, this, and a darn good follow if you’re not already among his legion of almost 6,000. This kind of thing isn’t easy, since the 140-character limit forces you to take what you’re trying to say and distill it down to the smallest thimbleful of demi-glace of your original point, and so many teams (Georgetown, this means you) have had extremely interesting summers. Shameless self-promotion: for the past couple of seasons we’ve tweeted a preview (a series we cleverly call “Tweeting the Preview”) every hour on the hour for every Division I team in the 344 hours leading up to the tipoff of the season’s first game, and we’ll be doing it again this October.
  2. Florida State AD Randy Spetman remarked yesterday that while his school was keeping a sharp eye on all the conference realignment happenings and an ear tuned into the latest gossip, FSU is “comfortable in the ACC.” There’s certainly no reason to doubt that, but…it’s that word. “Comfortable.” We’ve known a lot of relationships in our day in which each partner felt comfortable but one of them bolted as quickly as they could when a more exciting option came along. And in the conference realignment game, excitement comes in the form of TV network dollars. With the kind of cash that’s being thrown around these days in the SEC (and Pac-12), which now needs a 14th member, we wouldn’t be surprised if FSU’s seat at the ACC table started to feel a little less comfortable and more on the lumpy side in the near future.
  3. Dan Wiederer has covered the ACC for the past seven seasons for the Fayetteville Observer and, because of both his insight and his humor, has been a required read for any college basketball lover — especially those territorial Tobacco Road types — over that time span. He’s soon leaving his post there to cover something called the Minnesota Vikings (anyone?) for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and he hasn’t much time left. In one of his last articles for the FO, he recalls his five greatest moments during his seven-year run of chronicling ACC basketball. RTC is sorry to see this defection, another example of college basketball suffering at the hands of a football-related decision. Good luck at the new gig, Mr. W, and tell Tubby we said “‘Sup.” He’ll probably play that game, you know, where he acts like he doesn’t know us…
  4. Right now we’re in one of those stretches on the calendar in which one usually sees an increase in the rate of stories about ballers getting into some mischief and ending up suspended for, say, an exhibition game and the season opener. Hey, it happens — these guys are back at school, they’re going to parties, the season is still weeks away, coaches are off recruiting, and all that. Hope we’re not jinxing it, but there hasn’t been much of that so far this year. Not that they’re particularly trouble-prone, but Lorenzo Romar has his charges at Washington occupying their time by helping out at various charities in the community. That alone would merit a link here, but the article also has a small photo of Desmond Simmons, Scott Suggs, and Darnell Gant wearing high heels. It was for a good cause, but we’re sorry, fellas. We couldn’t resist. You can probably expect to see enlarged versions of it at some road games this year, but because it was part of a charity appearance, you gents should be proud.
  5. Even though the NCAA has asked him not to discuss the matter, Missouri head coach Frank Haith told StLToday.com that he “did nothing wrong at the University of Miami.” This is noteworthy because it’s the first public denial that we’ve heard from Haith regarding the allegation that he helped grease the rails for a $10,000 payment from the infamous Nevin Shapiro to then-recruit DeQuan Jones (now a senior) to secure the latter’s commitment to the basketball team. That is, it’s the first public direct denial; his few previous denials have been of the “non-denying” type. In the short linked article, Haith also mentions the effect it’s having on his recruiting efforts. Even though it’s not hard to predict what he said, there’s a pretty somber tone to his comments, as they’re written. If you’re a Mizzou fan, you should probably just skip this one.
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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 24th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences.

A Look Back

This was the week the west was (all but) won. With Arizona’s thrilling victory over Washington Saturday and UCLA’s overtime loss at Cal on Sunday, the Wildcats now own a two-game lead over the Bruins in the Pac-10 with four games to play. And with UCLA having to travel to the Washington schools to close the conference season after hosting the Arizona schools this week, while it is still possible that the ‘Cats could be caught, it would take a Westwood-favorable convergence of events for that to happen.

Team of the Week: Arizona – I’ll admit, I’ve been slow to come around on this version of the Wildcats. Sure, Derrick Williams is on the very short list of Player of the Year candidates, went my thinking, but the rest of that roster is ordinary. Well, looking back at what Arizona has done to this point is impressive. They’ve won eight in a row and 12 of their 14 conference games. Even if this conference isn’t up to the caliber of the 2009 vintage, that’s mighty impressive. Outside of their inexplicable loss at Oregon State on the first Sunday of the year, the other three Arizona losses have come against teams ranked in Ken Pomeroy’s top 11 right now. Momo Jones has stepped up as a legitimate major conference point guard and a good second scoring option, having scored in double figures in eight of his last nine games. Solomon Hill has established himself as a do-everything scrapper up front, Kyle Fogg has proven to be a capable distributor (he’s had six or more assists three times in this winning streak), Kevin Parrom has turned into a deadly three-point shooter (nine-of-16 from deep during the streak) and a terrific defensive presence and Jesse Perry has become an enforcer up front, averaging 8.8 rebounds per game in their last ten. And if all that isn’t enough, Jamelle Horne, the lone senior on the club, has shown a penchant for knocking down big threes when his team needs it the most. Aside from Williams, the individual pieces on this club may not blow you away on a regular basis, but Sean Miller has done a masterful job molding them into a legitimate threat to make a deep run in March.

Player of the Week: Derrick Williams, Junior, Arizona – 26 points in each of his games this week. 19 total rebounds. A couple of assists per game. Fifteen of 26 shooting from the field and 20-21 from the line (this from a guy who shot 68% from the line last year). Oh, and throw in ten points over the last six minutes against Washington, a couple of big threes, including one with just over a minute left to give the ‘Cats the lead back, then a monstrous rejection on the Huskies’ last viable chance, and it was a very good week for Williams. For the season, the guy hasn’t been kept out of double figures once, has nine double-doubles, is shooting 63% from the field, 75% from the line and an absolutely absurd 68% from deep, averages over two points per shot, is one of the most efficient high-use players in the land and is an absolute shoo-in as a first-team All-American.

Newcomer of the Week: Chase Creekmur, Freshman, Arizona State – With apologies to C.J. Wilcox, Maurice Jones and Jay-R Strowbridge, who all had excellent weeks bombing from deep, let’s recognize this freshman wing from Marshalltown, Iowa who had the game of his very short career this week in helping the Sun Devils to just their second conference win. Creekmur played the most minutes of his career against Washington State and came up with 18 huge points on five-of-eight shooting from behind the arc while also grabbing three rebounds and handing out a couple of assists. As Herb Sendek turns his eye towards the future of the ASU program, Creekmur has thrown his hat into the ring as someone to keep an eye on.

Game of the Week: Arizona 87, Washington 86 – Game of the week, for sure. On the short list with the Arizona/Cal three-overtime epic for game of the year in the conference as well. While the Arizona/Cal game had 15 extra minutes and all the drama and scrappiness that you could ask for in a college basketball game, this one had a national television audience and both teams playing for a potential conference championship. Down the stretch, both teams had its stars step up, as Williams carried the Wildcats on home and Isaiah Thomas did the same for the Huskies, handing out in rapid succession three beautiful lob passes that ended in Washington dunks. In the end, however, it was Williams sending back a Darnell Gant attempt in dramatic fashion with under a second left that sealed the game for the Wildcats.

Game of the Upcoming Week: Arizona (23-4, 12-2) at UCLA (19-8, 10-4), 2/26, 1PM, FSN – While this will no longer be a game for the top spot in the conference, following UCLA’s upset loss at Cal on Sunday night, this should still tell us a lot about both teams. UCLA is still a complete cipher. They’ve beaten BYU and St. John’s (arguably the two best wins by any team in the Pac-10 this year – although the crosstown rival has a major bone of contention there), but in their big “up” games in the Pac-10 (at Arizona and at home against Washington), they’ve lost by 11 points each time. They’ve got a loss to a mediocre Montana team on their rap sheet and while clearly a talented team, they turn the ball over at a ridiculous pace (turnovers on almost a quarter of all possessions) and have efficiency numbers of both ends of the court that are merely average. For Arizona, while we have discussed all the good things they have done, there is still a gaping hole in their resume: lack of quality road wins. To this point their best win away from the McKale Center is either at Washington State or Cal, neither a team that is in the NCAA picture any longer. While a win at an average UCLA team is not normally a resume highlight, given the Wildcats’ relatively weak schedule, this win would be very welcome. Oh, and then there’s the fact that an Arizona win here in all likelihood clinches the Pac-10 title.

Power Rankings

1. Arizona (23-4, 12-2): So, the Wildcats are a lead-pipe cinch to get invited to the NCAA Tournament next month, even without a Pac-10 tournament championship. But where do they wind up seeded? They’ve got road games against the Los Angeles schools and home games against the Oregon schools to finish things up, and while a 2-2 record to finish things up is not impossible, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they’ve earned and say they finish up 3-1, then advance to the Pac-10 title game before losing. And that’s the worst-case scenario. If that happens, they wind up at 28-6 on the season with the wins over Washington and UCLA as their sole wins over NCAA Tournament teams (barring some well-placed upsets in Championship Week). What is that good for? Three-seed seems too high for the lack of quality wins, while a six-seed seems too low for a team that won their regular season conference title, finished the season 8-2 (in our scenario) and winds up with a top-20 RPI. I say this team tops out at a four-seed (might have a chance at a three with the Pac-10 tourney title and a couple other dominoes falling ahead of them) with a five-seed the low end.

Looking ahead: While you can’t overlook anything in the Pac-10, this week presents the final large challenges to Arizona’s Pac-10 title dreams. The Wildcats travel to face a suddenly resurgent USC team on Thursday night, then battle UCLA on Saturday with a chance to wrap up the conference championship.

2. Washington (19-8, 10-5): It was a disappointing week for the Huskies, coming up just short in the desert. And while the tightness of the game and the excitement of the final minutes indicate that Washington was right there to the end with the ‘Cats, a close look at the box score reveals some disturbing numbers. To begin with, the Huskies allowed the Wildcats to grab 50% of all offensive rebound opportunities – an unforgivable number – and on the other end, Arizona limited the Huskies to an offensive rebounding percentage of just 24%. While Lorenzo Romar’s team has been just average cleaning the defensive glass this season, in part because they challenge a ton of shots, their inability to positively affect the game on the offensive glass had to be disturbing. That, combined with the fact that Washington wasn’t getting a lot of clean looks from deep, and the looks they were getting weren’t falling, explains the loss. But all things considered, a controversial one-point loss on one of the toughest roadies in the Pac-10 in a game in which you didn’t play all that well is not a terrible result.

Looking ahead: The Huskies are done with the road for the season, and thankfully, as six of their eight losses so far came on the road (the other two were neutral site games in Maui). Back in the friendly confines of the Hec Ed, Washington fully expects to take care of business the rest of the way against Washington State (on Sunday), UCLA (next Thursday) and USC (next Saturday).

3. UCLA (19-8, 10-4): The Bruins are in second place in the conference and the only team with much of a remaining shot at catching Arizona for first place. But I wouldn’t dare put this team as the second strongest team in the conference. They’ve won seven of their last eight, 11 of their last 13, and as referenced above, they’ve got two of the best wins of any team in the Pac-10 this season. This week they got a hard-fought and acceptable road split at the Bay Area schools, but a deeper look at the team reveals serious flaws. But regardless of all that, if the season ended today, the Bruins would be safely in the NCAA Tournament. And yet, the season doesn’t end today.

Looking ahead: Ahead for the Bruins lies danger. This week they’ve got Arizona State and Arizona at home. The Bruins have flirted all season long with giving away conference games against teams that they should beat, but thus far have escaped with perfectly explainable losses. They’ll need to keep up that streak by taking care of business against ASU and not allowing the specter of the Arizona battle to lead to a bad loss. Then come the Wildcats, where a win is a great outcome and a loss is, well, expected. To wrap up the season, Ben Howland takes his team to Washington and Washington State, probably the toughest road trip in the Pac-10 this year. A sweep is almost unthinkable, a split is brilliant and an oh-fer-the-road-trip is a potential nightmare. Even if the worst case scenario comes true and the Bruins go 1-3 down the stretch, winning their first round Pac-10 game to get to 21 wins on the season, paired with wins over BYU and St. John’s, and the Bruins probably limp in. Lose in the first round, and sweat it out on Selection Sunday.

4. USC (15-12, 7-7): From here on down, we are looking at teams that either need to win the Pac-10 Tournament or consider their options for the NIT. And, perhaps most importantly in the short-term for these next five teams, is the fact that teams one through six in the conference receive a first-round bye in the conference tournament. You don’t want to finish seventh here. For the Trojans, they jump from the back of this middle pack last week to the top of it here on the strength of a road sweep of the Bay Area schools. Kevin O’Neill’s club was sparked this week by freshman Maurice Jones, who, after being relegated to coming off the bench for the first time in his college career, took exactly one half to wallow in pity before exploding for 22 second-half points to fend off an attempted-comeback back Cal. Jones followed that game up with another ten points in the win at Stanford, and it looks like he’ll be an asset providing a scoring punch off the bench the rest of the way. Elsewhere, Nikola Vucevic was typically excellent this week, averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds, but also knocking down a surprising five threes this week, which was more than a quarter of his total coming into the game.

Looking ahead: Like the Bruins, the Trojans have a tough row to hoe the rest of the way: Arizona, Arizona State, at Washington State and at Washington.

5. Oregon (14-12, 7-7): The Ducks tore past Oregon State this week to put the wraps on a season-sweep of the Civil War. With the game still somewhat in doubt early in the second half, Jay-R Strowbridge knocked down three straight three-pointers to push Oregon further out ahead. A three by Tyrone Nared followed, as did one by E.J. Singler, then Strowbridge added another and after six straight threes by Oregon, an eight-point Duck lead had turn into a 20-point lead. All in all, Oregon knocked down 13 threes, forced 19 Beaver turnovers and eased home with a 19-point victory.

Looking ahead: Oregon hosts Cal and Stanford in a pair of games that will be very important for Pac-10 Tournament seeding.

6. Cal (14-13, 7-8): The Golden Bears snapped a four-game losing streak on Sunday night, fighting through an improbable buzzer-beating three by Malcolm Lee that sent the game into overtime, to squeak one out in overtime. Junior guard Jorge Gutierrez was phenomenal throughout, scoring 34 points, handing out six assists, grabbing three boards, swiping three steals and just epitomizing toughness and grit. Freshman guard Allen Crabbe returned in that game after missing two straight games and most of a third with a concussion. While Crabbe did not play as well as he had played before the injury, his importance to the club was emphasized during his absence.

Looking ahead: Cal travels to the Oregon schools this week, a good opportunity for a talented club to get right and jump back up the Pac-10 standings.

7. Washington State (17-10, 7-8): Instead of catching the Wildcats looking forward to the Washington game last week, the Cougars found themselves with a post-Arizona hangover when they played Arizona State on Saturday, and my, what a headache that turned out to be. Despite 58 points on the week from junior Klay Thompson, Washington State limped back home with an 0-2 record on the road trip and with any hopes of an NCAA at-large bid dashed upon the rocks. What seemed to be a promising season around Christmastime has turned into utter disappointment, although it is not merely sarcastic to say that this season is a vast improvement over last season’s total collapse.

Looking ahead: The Cougars play two of their final three at home, but it is not an easy stretch by any means. After traveling to play the Huskies in Seattle on Sunday, they’ll host USC and UCLA next week. It looks like they’ll need to win two of those three to feel comfortable about getting a first round Pac-10 bye.

8. Stanford (13-13, 6-9): Getting swept at home in conference play in a week is never a good thing. And now, riding their second losing streak of at least three games this season, the Cardinal find themselves staring up at seven teams above them in the conference standings. Against UCLA, Jeremy Green continued his hot streak, knocking down nine-of-16 shots and five three-pointers on the way to 27 points, his fifth straight 20-point game. But USC was able to get Green off his game, limiting him to 3-13 shooting and just ten points in the 16-point loss.

Looking ahead: The Cardinal travel to Corvallis and Eugene this week for game that border on must-wins.

9. Oregon State (9-16, 4-10): I’ve said enough about the Beavers for the year, I think. They’ve been a fascinating and utterly frustrating team. I’ll throw out bipolar and underachieving as two fairly apt adjectives that I don’t think I’ve used to describe them yet this year. But mostly, I just want to point you to George Dohrmann’s excellent blog post where he spares no quarter in describing the many faults of this Oregon State team. Maybe next week we’ll talk about what the future holds for this Beaver team, but for now they just make me tired.

Looking ahead: Stanford and Cal come calling this week. Who knows what will happen.

10. Arizona State (10-16, 2-12): I love it when we get to wrap up one of these posts on a positive note. There’s not much happy news to report at the bottom of the standings, and certainly one win in a sea of conference losses isn’t much to get excited about, but the ASU win over Washington State on Saturday will have to do. Playing without injured seniors Rihards Kuksiks and Ty Abbott (addition by subtraction much?), the Sun Devils got a career performance by Chase Creekmur (18 points, five threes), the best performance by the team’s leading scorer, Trent Lockett (20 points, eight rebounds), since November and the best performance from freshman guard Corey Hawkins in his brief career (29 minutes, six assists). The Devils knocked down nine threes, outshot the Cougars from the field and played their best defense in about a month and now head into the final weeks of the season with a puncher’s chance at not finishing in last in the conference.

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils travel to UCLA and USC before hosting Oregon and Oregon State. They’ll need to win two of those games and have Oregon State lose all of their to take ninth place, but at least it is something to play for.

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