Pac-12 Game of the Week: Arizona at Washington

Posted by AMurawa on February 17th, 2012

Arizona at Washington, February 18, 12pm PST, FSN

The last time these two teams played in the regular season, the games were decided at the buzzer by great defensive plays. Last time out, it was Tony Wroten rejecting Josiah Turner at the buzzer (just to the 10:45 mark to check it out) and the time before it was Derrick Williams swatting Darnell Gant to save the game. So, can we expect more of the same this time out? Another hard-fought classic that comes right down to the wire? Don’t bet against it.

However, it is worth noting that in the previous matchup this season, Washington went into McKale Center and controlled the action for much of the game, jumping out to an early lead and later taking a ten-point lead into the final media timeout, before some sloppy play combined with some Solomon Hill heroics conspired to set up a wild final minute. The Wildcats had trouble keeping the Huskies off of the offensive glass in that first meeting (U-Dub grabbed over 41% of their offensive rebound opportunities), and they again struggled with turnovers, coughing it up 15 times, or an almost a quarter of all of their possessions. Sean Miller will no doubt want to see his team improve in both of those areas. But one spot where the Wildcats did excel in the previous game was in getting to the free throw line: they got to the line 29 times, made 21 of those attempts and outscored the Huskies by two touchdowns from the charity stripe. Getting to the line and earning easy points is almost assuredly another key to the ‘Cat gameplan.

Solomon Hill, Arizona

Solomon Hill Almost Singlehandedly Kept Arizona In The Game In Their First Matchup With Washington (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

For the Huskies, they’ll need to find a better solution for Hill, who wound up with 28 points on a highly efficient 9-of-10 from the field and 8-of-9 from the line). They limited everybody else on the Arizona roster to just 12-of-40 shooting and a 32.5 eFG%, but Hill almost singlehandedly kept the ‘Cats around. Further, Hill went a long way towards putting the Huskies in foul trouble, drawing two fouls each on Terrence Ross and Darnell Gant. There’s no single great matchup on the Washington roster for Hill, but redshirt freshman Desmond Simmons could see a significant chunk of face-time with him.

With Oregon’s loss to California on Thursday night, we’re down to four teams sitting within one game in the loss column of first place in the conference. Depending on the outcome here on Saturday afternoon, we’ll either go a long way towards eliminating Arizona from the title hunt (in the event of a Washington win), or the race will tighten up even more, with California leading the way a game ahead of a pack of three other teams (if Arizona wins). Given all that is on the line for both teams, expect this one to be a knock-down, drag-out fight.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.16.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 16th, 2012

  1. Larry Scott has made quite a splash in his two-plus years in his current job. Aside from being partially responsible for making the Pac-10 obsolete and ushering in the era of the Pac-12, he helped the conference ink a huge new television deal with ESPN and Fox that made presidents, trustees and other administrators all up and down the conference very happy. That television deal begins next year, and as part of it, the conference will be unveiling a Pac-12 Network, and we got some more details on Wednesday about how that will look when the conference held the groundbreaking ceremony for the network’s future studios. There will be one national channel and six regional channels, and together they will air approximately 850 live events next year, including every football game and every men’s basketball game that does not appear on other national networks (i.e., ESPN or Fox). Additionally, all of those games will be available on mobile devices. Now, we just need to get some recruits into these schools so we’ll have some significantly more watchable games.
  2. Case in point: I write about Pac-12 basketball, I live in Los Angeles, I love college basketball rivalry games and I may or may not have had a rooting interest in the UCLA/USC basketball game on Wednesday night. But rather than being excited about watching the game, I took a look at it from time to time, merely out of a sense of duty. And the fact that I put my precious eyes in the precarious position of having to watch that mess should show just how dedicated I am. UCLA led the whole way, building its lead as high as 23 points in the second half, before fading back into a 10-point win. Still, despite the lopsidedness of the game, head coach Ben Howland never really called off the dogs, playing just seven players the whole way. The Bruins dominated on the glass (41.2% OR, 88.2% DR) and were led by the Wear twins, who combined for 30 points and 24 rebounds, each registering a double-double. And, Maurice Jones is still gunning away: 3-for-11 tonight.
  3. As we head down the stretch, we start saying goodbye to seniors, little by little. For Washington’s Darnell Gant, his final homestand of his career comes this weekend, as the Huskies finish the season with three straight road games. Gant has been in Seattle for five years now, after taking a redshirt his first year under Lorenzo Romar. But after an inauspicious beginning, Gant has the opportunity to become the first player in Washington history to go to four NCAA Tournaments. While he came into college dreaming of an NBA future, those plans are a longshot now. However, Gant already has a diploma in his pocket, earning a performing arts degree last June and could have another type of entertainment career ahead of him.
  4. Just like the Huskies, every other team in the top five of the conference standings have two home games and three road games remaining on their schedule. And fans of each team are probably all coming up with some sort of formula that will not only put that team in NCAA Tournament contention, but also give them a chance to take down the regular season title. For Colorado, that formula begins with a win at Utah on Saturday. While the Buffaloes have struggled on the road this year, that is a very winnable must-win game. For there, CU returns home, where they are 7-0 in conference, to host California and Stanford. Beating the Golden Bears will be tough no matter where they play, but the Buffs will need to extend their home record to 9-0. To this point, all of this is very reasonable; where Tad Boyle’s club will need to break form is in the final week of the season, when they’ll have to travel to the Oregon schools to wrap up the year. Winning at a lower division team like Oregon State in the final game of the season is very doable, leaving the game on March 1 at Oregon as the lone game where the Buffs would need to significantly overachieve to get the job done.
  5. Lastly, while Arizona is by no means giving up on the rest of the season, they are already making plans for the offseason: namely, the Bahamas. Schools are allowed to take an exhibition tour once every four years, and Sean Miller is planning to take his Wildcats on a short trip to the Bahamas in August. While the team will only play a handful of games there, the major bonus for the squad is the additional practices and extra time together than the team will get to experience. With a group of four talented freshmen coming in next season and needing to be merged with a team that will be missing three senior contributors on this year’s team, the offseason trip should make the Wildcats that much more difficult to handle next year.
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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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