Celebrating Utah Senior Jason Washburn

Posted by AMurawa on March 9th, 2013

When Utah hosts Oregon today at the Huntsman Center, it will not only be a game that has a major impact on our eventual Pac-12 regular season champion, it will also be the day where five Ute seniors will be honored in their final home game. Among that group will be one guy – David Foster – who hasn’t played a minute in either of the school’s two seasons in the Pac-12 (and yet who still will go down as the all-time leader in blocks at the school), another – Ryan Osterloh – who has earned a total of six minutes this season (and in his career), a third – Jarred DuBois – who only played one season in Salt Lake City, after parts of four at Loyola Marymount, and a fourth – Cedric Martin – who spent just two years wearing the Block U and is averaging just 7.4 points per game this year. All of these guys have their own stories and all make for an interesting take (until just moments ago, Foster was going to be the main target of this post), but today we’re going to look at the career of senior center Jason Washburn.

There Hasn't Been Much Team Success, But Jason Washburn Has Steadily Improved In His Four Seasons

There Hasn’t Been Much Team Success, But Jason Washburn Has Steadily Improved In His Four Seasons

After a redshirt season to start his career with the Utes under then-head coach Jim Boylen, Washburn got his playing time started in 2009-10, at the same time as Foster returned from his LDS mission for his sophomore season, giving those Utes their version of a twin tower frontcourt. That year’s Utah team also featured Marshall Henderson as a freshman in near-constant danger of slipping into meltdown mode and  junior Carlon Brown in the midst of yet again failing to live up to the potential he had flashed as a freshman two years earlier. Washburn was clearly playing second fiddle in the middle to Foster in his first year, earning just a third of the minutes available to him, but flashed plenty of potential in posting a career-high offensive rating (according to Ken Pomeroy), shooting free throws at an unsustainable 86% rate, and blocking better than 6% of his opponents two-point field goals, that last one a number that stayed pretty steady.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 8th, 2012

  1. We’re back to do the Morning Five five days a week again, with an eye towards games tipping off just over a month from now. However, for many Pac-12 fans around the country, the question of how and where to watch many of the basketball games this season remains a big question mark. The Pac-12 Networks have been live for months now, but many television viewers, particularly customers of the nation’s largest satellite television provider, DirecTV, are still shut out. The conference and DirecTV have been going back and forth since late August over terms of a proposed deal, but with football season chugging along and basketball on its way, it appears likely that DirecTV is ready to be stubborn as long as necessary in the hopes that the Pac-12 caves. Jon Wilner is as good of a go-to guy as there is on this topic, and he not only sees through DirecTV’s fact-challenged statements and loaded proposals, but fully expects that any changes to the situation are not readily approaching. In other words, if you’re a Pac-12 basketball fan and you’ve still got DirecTV, it is time to explore other options.
  2. After Reggie Moore’s promising freshman season, it looked like Washington State was not going to skip a beat after the graduation of Taylor Rochestie. However, after lackluster sophomore and junior campaigns that failed to ever show serious improvement over his rookie year, Moore was dismissed from the Cougar basketball team, as we detailed a couple weeks back. To put a bow on Moore’s WSU career, the mercurial point guard sent a statement to columnist Vince Grippi at The Spokesman-Review, owning up to an unnamed “costly mistake” that led to his dismissal and apologizing to the university and its fans. He’s still in school working towards a degree, with eyes on a future in basketball at some level. These kinds of things always have that bittersweet feel to them. On one hand, you hate to see a collegiate career end like this, but on the other, given the fact that Moore has had some disciplinary problems during his time at Pullman, you hope he uses this event as a wake-up call to get his act together. He’s been a frustrating player to watch over the last couple of years, but at this point, I’m sure there are many Pac-12 fans, including this writer, who are hoping for Moore to make the best of a bad situation.
  3. Another veteran Pac-12 player’s senior season is over before it even began. In Thursday’s Morning Five we mentioned that 7’6” center David Foster of Utah reinjured the same foot that kept him out of action last year and will have to undergo surgery that will keep him on the sideline again this year. But, rather than disappear into the ether, on the sidelines is exactly where Foster will stay. Citing the strong chemistry between the largely new roster in Salt Lake City, Foster will sit on the bench during games and do whatever he can to help out the young team, albeit in a non-playing role. Foster still hopes to have his foot recover well enough so that Utah’s all-time lead in blocked shots can pursue a professional basketball career overseas.
  4. We’ll have a more comprehensive recruiting post later in the week, but we wanted to mention Tad Boyle’s latest signings at Colorado. After getting a commitment from 6’5” three-star wing Tre’Shaun Lexing at the end of September, last week Boyle got a commitment from 6’8” power forward Dustin Thomas out of Texarkana, Texas. Thomas is a four-star talent according to ESPN, a skilled big man capable of playing the pick and pop game or defending and rebounding inside. Along with guard Jaron Hopkins, these two make for a strong three-man class already for the Buffs, which is getting to be a habit for Boyle. Boyle credits the fact that he has been able to consistently send guys off from Boulder to play professionally as part of the reason for his recent success on the recruiting trail. With former Buff Alec Burks entering his second season in the NBA and with six of the seven graduating seniors over the last two years playing professionally somewhere (the lone non-pro is Trey Eckloff, who is pursuing a law degree), Boyle can certainly sell the fact that four years in Boulder preps basketball players for professional careers.
  5. Lastly, it was announced last week that former UCLA great Bill Walton has agreed to a book deal. The book will be named Back From the Dead, and knowing Walton’s history, not only in Westwood, but including his high school career in San Diego, his injury-riddled professional career including a tumultuous time in Portland and his off-the-court adventures in and around the counterculture, this is going to be a must-read. Pac-12 fans will get plenty of chances this season to reacquaint themselves with Walton, as he has agreed to work with both ESPN and the Pac-12 Networks in doing color commentary on Pac-12 games.
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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 10.04.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 4th, 2012

  1. We’re still about a week out from the start of practices, but Utah already has to recalibrate its plans for the year, as 7’3” fifth-year senior David Foster reinjured the foot that kept him on the sidelines last year and will prepare to undergo another surgery on that foot next week. That surgery will not only keep him out of action this year, it effectively ends his career as a Ute. Foster, who goes down as the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots with 219, was never much of an offensive threat, but his size and shot-blocking ability made him a force on the defensive end. Minus the services of Foster, the Utes still boast plenty of size, but instead of 6’10” senior Jason Washburn starting out at the four opposite Foster, he’ll have to man the post, with 6’9” junior power forward Renan Lenz likely being bumped into the starting lineup. The Utes will still feature plenty of size, however, with 7’0” center Dallin Bachynski being the obvious choice to eat up many of the minutes vacated by Foster.
  2. While it has become common for schools to celebrate the beginning of basketball practice with a Midnight Madness event, Arizona’s got a little tradition of their own. The Red-Blue game, an intrasquad scrimmage and hardwood festival, this year will also commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1987-88 Final Four team, with luminaries such as Lute Olson, Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler, Kenny Lofton, Tom Tolbert, Sean Rooks and Matt Muehlebach all expected back in Tucson for the event. Throw in the fact that it will be Wildcat fans’ first good look at newcomers like Mark Lyons, Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley and Gabe York on a team that could put all of the pieces together to make its own Final Four run, and Sunday, October 21 is a date to circle for UA fans.
  3. California head coach Mike Montgomery picked up his third commitment for the Bears’ 2013 recruiting class Tuesday. Ransom Everglades point guard Sam Singer chose the Bears over Harvard, NC State, Stanford, and USC, among others. Despite the fact that Singer might be behind California’s first two commits (Jordan Matthews and Jabari Bird) in scoring and athleticism, his passing ability and decision-making makes him a good candidate to see early minutes as a freshman. As Rob Dauster points out, the Miami native does have a solid three-point stroke, but with Brandon Smith playing his final season in Berkeley this year, there is no question Singer’s ability at the one spot will be much-needed. Now with three guards in the Class of 2013, Montgomery will likely turn to a big man to fill out the slate.
  4. It’s preview magazine time, which behind playing actual games is one of the best parts in the college basketball year. Percy Allen gives a quick breakdown of Athlon‘s thoughts on the Pac-12 in this post. Of note is their pick of Arizona to take the conference crown, which is all the sudden becoming the trendy pick instead of the all-star UCLA squad that Ben Howland has assembled. The Bruins are projected to finish second, just ahead of the two Bay Area schools to round out the upper third of the league.
  5. So, after five weeks of college football, Connor holds a three-game lead in our prognostication battle. Drew shaved a game off his deficit with a pair of solid picks in Washington and Arizona State, but Oregon State came through in the desert to prevent a huge disaster on Connor’s side. Picking the game of the week proved to be a quandary in week six. Washington-Oregon wins out, being a rivalry between two Top 25 teams, but oddly, every other game will likely be closer than that one. Make sure to tune in to tonight’s battle in Salt Lake City, as it is the only pick that we differ on. Here’s our picks for this week, with our game of the week pick in bold:
Game Connor’s Pick (32-11) Drew’s Pick (29-14)
USC at Utah Utah USC
Washington State at Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State
Arizona at Stanford Stanford Stanford
UCLA at California UCLA UCLA
Washington at Oregon Oregon 45-24 Oregon 53-27
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Morning Five: 10.02.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 2nd, 2012

  1. Monday was Media Day around the NBA, and why would anyone here give a whit about what professional basketball players have to say? One clear reason is that former Duke forward Lance Thomas is a second-year member of the New Orleans Hornets, and his recent agreement with a New York City jeweler involving a $67,800 loan while he was a senior was bound to come up. First, despite a confidentiality agreement in place, Thomas said he didn’t believe he was involved in an NCAA violation regarding the transaction; he then added, “There’s more to it, but I’m not going to comment on it right now. Everything will unfold once everything is taken care of the right way.” He went on to say that he would eventually speak to both Duke and the NCAA about the incident, but kept referring to doing things “the right way.” What is Thomas talking about here? The settlement is already in place, and we’ve been told that it includes a confidentiality agreement. What does he anticipate will change that would allow him to comment on this matter, and why would he expose himself or his beloved alma mater by talking anyway? Thomas’ comments here make very little sense, but then again, very little about this entire incident does.
  2. DePaul basketball has to go back a long way to find its glory days, as the program in the last two decades has largely been an unmitigated disaster (one NCAA win since 1990). Still, with a deep and rich local prep talent pool and no real collegiate rival within the Chicago metropolitan area (Northwestern, of course, has zero NCAA wins to match its number of historical appearances), the school continues to believe that better days are ahead. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Monday what many supporters of the program have been thinking for years — one of the school’s biggest negatives is that its home court is located in suburban Rosemont, some 15 traffic-clogged miles from DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus on the north side. A new arena near campus or even regular games at the United Center near downtown might help Chicagoans start to feel like DePaul is their college basketball team. With this idea, we’re totally in favor — to really develop great fan and student support, most campus gyms should be right on campus or as near to it as possible.
  3. It appears that either dad or kids have won out in the continuing saga over the biggest package deal in college basketball since the goofy Lopez twins showed up at Stanford in the fall of 2006. After months of hemming and hawing about their announcement date (most recently: late October) and various reports suggesting that the players and father were at odds of their preference of school, it appears that someone in the (Andrew and Aaron) Harrison family has made a final decision. The top-rated point guard and shooting guard will without question infuse a backcourt with talent in much the same way that UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson are expected to do this year. Whether their choice will be Kentucky or Maryland is still anybody’s guess, but ESPNU will televise their decision on Thursday afternoon at 5 PM on its “Recruiting Nation” show.
  4. Just yesterday we mentioned that Louisville’s Mike Marra had torn his ACL for the second time in under a year, ending his senior season before it got started, and effectively, his college basketball career. That disappointing news was followed up by the report that Utah center David Foster had broken his right foot, also for the second time in under a year, ending his season before it got started, and effectively, his college basketball career. Ugh. Like Marra, Foster was of limited usefulness offensively, but the 7’3″ big man averaged 3.5 blocks per game in his three-year career, ultimately rejecting 219 total shots and leaving the program as its all-time blocked shots leader. His return from injury for Larry Krystkowiak’s 2012-13 squad was anticipated to provide some defensive help for a team that gave up a putrid 51.3% on shots within the arc last season; Foster’s loss now leaves that up to the more offensively-oriented Jason Washburn (11/6/1.4 BPG).
  5. The more we read about Kevin Ollie‘s tryout season as the head coach of Connecticut with his former coach, mentor and legend Jim Calhoun poking around the program he built, the more we believe that the interim coach may not get a fair shot there. According to this AP report about Ollie and Calhoun’s adjustment period, Calhoun seems to be having a little too much fun staying involved. What happens when the inevitable losing streak happens and reporters start asking for the venerable ex-coach’s opinions? At what point do the envelopes full of sand turn into stocking full of coal? It’s just a weird position for Ollie to suffer, and this is especially true because Calhoun knows he will need considerable help.
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Wrapping Up The Pac-12’s Summer Exhibition Tours

Posted by Connor Pelton on September 13th, 2012

Seven Pac-12 schools took a foreign exhibition trip this summer. We recap them below with Drew taking UCLA, Utah, and Colorado, and Connor taking the rest.

Not Every Team Went Tropical, But All of Them Learned Something

Arizona

  • Where: The Bahamas
  • When: August 11-13
  • What: The Wildcats swept their two games against Bahamian competition.
  • Why: As Arizona transitions from an NIT one-and-done to having at least NCAA Third Round expectations, this trip was all about integrating instant-impact newcomers Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley, Gabe York, and Mark Lyons into the rotation. Setting lineups and seeing what groups of players meshed well together was much more important than the actual play against less than stellar competition.
  • Who: Lyons and fellow senior Kevin Parrom were the stars of the trip, each averaging 18.5 PPG. The most anticipated freshman to don the cardinal red and navy blue in a while, Tarczewski, scored eight points in each game on the trip. Arizona absolutely destroyed their lowly competition, winning both games by a combined 112 points.

Colorado

  • Where: France, Belgium and the Netherlands
  • When: August 11-22
  • What: The Buffaloes went 2-3 in five games against European professional teams.
  • Why: With CU breaking in six scholarship freshmen, the trip gave head coach Tad Boyle a chance to build camaraderie between the talented new guys and their six returnees from last year’s Pac-12 championship team. The trip also gave the freshmen a chance to build an identity of their own, evidenced by the fact that Boyle sat out the core returnees from last year’s squad – Andre Roberson, Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie and Sabatino Chen – in one of the games, allowing five of the freshmen to start the game together.
  • Who: While Roberson was his usual magnificent self – he averaged 14.4 points and 13.8 rebounds – freshman Josh Scott eliminated any doubt that he could be an immediate impact player. Scott led the Buffs in scoring in four of the five games, coming up a point short of the leaders in the opening game; he averaged 17.4 point per game for the trip. His classmate Xavier Johnson also made a statement, averaging more than ten points to go with seven rebounds for the game.

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Utah Week: What To Expect

Posted by AMurawa on September 1st, 2012

This ol’ crystal ball of mine may be on the fritz, but we’ve got to put it through its paces one last time as we check on the immediate future for the Utah basketball program. After a week or running down the comings and goings over the offseason, we’re ready to guarantee improvement for the Utes – not necessarily going out on a huge limb for a team that won just six times last year. But, for more specifics on how it will all go down, read on.

Utah’s Leading ScorerGlen Dean. There is enough evenly spaced talent on this Utah roster that predicting some balanced scoring atop the statistics is the easiest bet, with guys like Aaron Dotson, Jarred DuBois, Jordan Loveridge and perhaps leading returning scorer Jason Washburn all in the mix for double-figure scoring averages. But Dean will likely have the ball in his hands quite a bit and he’s got a history of using possessions and taking shots, something that Dotson and Washburn, for example, do not. And Dean has proven himself capable of not only creating offensive opportunities for others, but also for himself. He’s an efficient scorer who can connect from deep or get into the lane and score and he should be expected to average somewhere near the 12 or 13 points he averaged in his time at Eastern Washington. On this Utah team, those 12 or 13 points may be enough to narrowly edge out two or three other teammates for the leading scorer title.

Glen Dean, Utah

Glen Dean Is Just One Of Many Capable Scorers On The Remade Utah Roster

Utah’s MVPJordan Loveridge. On Utah’s recent Brazil trip, not only was Loveridge the Utes’ leading scorer over the course of the four games, there has been talk that he was the team’s best player. A true combo forward capable of rebounding with the big boys and scoring in the lane or stepping outside and converting deep jumpers, Loveridge will help give the Utes an athleticism, coupled with an ability to create offensive opportunities from the frontcourt, that was largely missing from last year’s squad.

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Utah Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on August 29th, 2012

Just three players return who have spent time in a Utah uniform before, but between the three of them Larry Krystkowiak will welcome back three seniors, hopefully destined for leadership roles. We’ll break down those three guys below in order of their most recent scoring averages.

Jason Washburn, Senior, Power Forward (11.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.4 BPG) – There is likely little argument that Washburn was the Utes’ best player last season. Their lone player who could be classified as an efficient offensive talent, his shooting percentages dipped a bit as he got more shots and saw more possessions run through him. Still, he nearly doubled his previous career high in points and bumped up his rebounding average by more than two per night. Physically, he’s certainly not the most dominant force ever, but at 6’11” he couples a nice touch on his mid-range jumper with decent post moves and an ability to disrupt opponents on the defensive end. With 7’3” David Foster expected back from a foot injury this year, the Utes should be not only the tallest Pac-12 team in the middle, but the most experienced one. Problem is, they’ll also be one of the least athletic ones.

Jason Washburn, Utah

Jason Washburn Led The Utes in Points, Rebounds and Blocked Shots And Was The Only Player To Shoot Better Than 50% From The Field Last Year (Associated Press)

Cedric Martin, Senior, Shooting Guard (7.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.9 APG) – Last year was Martin’s first in Salt Lake City after using his first couple of seasons of eligibility at Lee College in Texas. He jumped right into the fray immediately and wound up averaging more than 30 minutes per game and turned into one of the team’s better offensive players. He knocked down 49 three-pointers (at a 37% clip), filled the stat sheet in other areas and, by the end of the year, was the team’s best perimeter defender. With three newly eligible Division I transfers coming in around the perimeter, not to mention a couple freshmen guards, Martin will have more competition for minutes, but with his experience he should be able to earn minutes at the wing.

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Utah: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 17th, 2012

What Went Wrong

Much of what went wrong in the Utah program that led to this season’s 6-25 debacle happened prior to new head coach Larry Krystkowiak’s first game on the sidelines at the Huntsman Center. Two years ago, following a disappointing and underachieving 14-17 season, five Utes, including the team’s two leading scorers, transferred out of Jim Boylen’s program. Then, following a 2010-11 season that took a step down from there with a 13-18 record that led to Boylen’s demise, six more players, including leading scorer and rebounder Will Clyburn, bolted from Salt Lake City. As a result, when the Krystkowiak era tipped off in November, there was a serious lack of talent in Ute basketball uniforms. Throw in the fact that 7’4” former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year David Foster missed this season with a foot injury and Utah had to rely on just three returnees with any experience– point guard Josh Watkins, center Jason Washburn, and guard Chris Hines – along with six newcomers and a handful of walk-ons. Then Watkins, who was the team’s leading scorer and assist man, was dismissed prematurely in January. In short, this Ute team never really had a chance in its first year in the Pac-12. Even in a conference with a talent level near historic lows, the Utes just didn’t have the horses to hang with the bulk of the conference.

Jason Washburn, Utah

Jason Washburn Was A Lone Bright Spot On An Otherwise Miserable Ute Team (Associated Press)

What Went Right

There was a time, well into December, where it was questionable whether the Utes had a chance at earning so much as a single win against a Division I team. Then they strung together two straight home wins against Idaho State and Portland (admittedly, two really bad teams) before going on to win three conference games, including wins over Washington State and Stanford that go down as significantly improbable events. As absurd as it may seem, that 6-25 record is actually an overachievement for this team.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.01.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 1st, 2012

  1. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it is still disappointing; Faisal Aden’s career at Washington State is now over, after an MRI on the knee he injured against Arizona on Thursday night showed a torn ACL. In the end, this goes down as a story interrupted in the middle with no satisfactory ending. Just as Aden was playing his best basketball of his career, and doing so in a manner far different than the wild, erratic style he had cultivated in his first year and a half in Pullman. Now we don’t get to see the final act, to see if the changes were just a temporary flash in the pan, or a sign of a change that would bring the player’s redemption. The basketball gods can be cruel at times.
  2. While Aden’s year ends early, David Foster’s season never had a chance to really get underway. Utah’s 7’3” center broke a bone in his foot just six minutes into the Utes’ opening exhibition game, and he’s still in a walking boot three months later. There had been some talk earlier in the year that head coach Larry Krystkowiak might not want Foster to return to the program next year, in part because he has been notoriously injury prone over his career, but also because it would free up another scholarship for the program to rebuild with. And Foster himself considered leaving his basketball career behind. But both Foster and Krystkowiak decided that both the program and the player would be better served by his attempted return next year. Krystkowiak, in particular, notes that he wants “to do right by the kids in the program” and to keep from “kicking anybody to the curb.” You hear a lot about coaches making harsh personnel decisions in which the interests of the program supercede the interests of the player, but in this case it is good to hear a story about a coach taking the best interests of a player into consideration. Now let’s just hope Foster can stay healthy for a full year.
  3. California sophomore guard Allen Crabbe missed practice on Tuesday and was seen wearing a protective boot on his right foot. Mike Montgomery declined to give any comment about the injury, so prior to the Bears’ meeting with Arizona in Berkeley on Thursday night, Crabbe’s status has to be in question. Crabbe is Cal’s leading scorer, averaging 15.8 points per game and hitting 43.6% of his three-point attempts. Last season he missed all or part of three different games with a concussion; the Golden Bears lost all three of those games.
  4. Nobody likes injuries in sports, but I’m pretty sure if USC head coach Kevin O’Neill could read the above three stories, sit back in his chair and say, “that’s nothing.” You see, O’Neill has had five players have their seasons ended prematurely due to injury. In fact, of the five players the Trojans started in their first exhibition game during their summer trip to Brazil, only sophomore guard Maurice Jones remains standing (and shooting – always shooting). If USC had been able to sneak through this season in relative health, they probably would be in the top half of the conference; instead, they just earned their first conference win last weekend against a lowly Utah team. Still, all of those players should be back next season, along with a trio of incoming transfers (Eric Wise from UC Irvine and J.T. Terrell and Ari Stewart from Wake Forest), meaning the Trojans should be a vastly different team in 2012-13.
  5. Lastly, keeping with the injury theme, Arizona State junior wing Trent Lockett has missed the last four games with a right ankle sprain, and there is a good chance he will miss two more this weekend. But, if there is good news about that story, the Sun Devils have seen point guard Chris Colvin take up the reigns in recent games and play his best basketball of his short career in Tempe. Given that Colvin has already been suspended twice by head coach Herb Sendek, it’s good to see him make some positive changes.
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Checking In On.. the Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. 

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • Tournament Trip-Ups – The early season exempt tournaments are always an exciting time of the year in college basketball. Teams from conferences across the land get a chance to meet, usually on a neutral floor, and play several games against quality competition in a relatively short span, giving coaches a chance to figure out exactly what to make of their new collection of players and giving fans a chance to get introduced to their new teams. For the Pac-12 schools, this season’s batch of early season tournaments was largely a bust. You know when the two best results for the conference in these tournaments were Oregon State’s two-point loss to Vanderbilt in the finals of the Legends Classic and Stanford’s six-point loss to Syracuse in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off, that things didn’t exactly go as planned. And the less we speak about the last place finishes of Utah and Washington State in the Old Spice Classic and the 76 Classic, the better.
  • Oregon’s Growing Pains – Last week, the bombshell out of Eugene was that five-star freshman guard Jabari Brown was leaving Dana Altman’s program after just two games. Then news broke Tuesday night that fellow freshman guard Bruce Barron was also leaving the program – this time after just five games, only three of which Barron played in (seven minutes per game). Those two defections make for six players that have left the Oregon program since Altman’s arrival. Certainly the first four of those transfers make sense, as many coaching changes result in roster changes, but Brown and Barron were Altman recruits, and guys who were getting playing time. The fact that Brown and Barron were close friends does provide something of an explanation for Barron’s decision, though. If there is any good news in this shakeup for Oregon, both players are continuing with their classes at the school for this semester, meaning their defections could have no negative impact on the team’s APR.
Jabari Brown, Oregon

The Trend Of Ducks Flying The Coup Is A Troubling One For Oregon Fans. (Jim Brown/US Presswire)

  • Injuries – The Pac-12 probably hasn’t had any more injuries than any other conference this season, but they have had their share of important ones. USC lost senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL prior to the season, had freshman center Curtis Washington saw his season end with a torn labrum, and just last week saw sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon go down with a stress fracture in his foot that will keep him out for four to six weeks. Utah is missing 7’3” center David Foster, who broke a foot in the Utes’ exhibition game, and he is still deciding whether he’ll return this season or take a medical redshirt. And Washington is still waiting to find out about senior guard Scott Suggs who broke a toe prior to the season. Suggs hopes to begin practicing this week with a possible return December 10 against Duke.

Player of the Year Watch

Last week, Jared Cunningham was coming off consecutive games in which he had set a new career-high for himself, and combined with his defensive prowess, he was the POTY frontrunner. Now, he’s coming off two-straight more modest performances scoring-wise (10.5 PPG), but remains the Pac-12’s leading scorer with 20.8 points per game. The next three spots on the conference scoring list are manned by Utah’s Josh Watkins (18.8 PPG), Arizona State’s Trent Lockett (17.5 PPG) and Washington State’s Faisal Aden (17.0 PPG), good players all, but guys who likely won’t have an impact on the POTY race, simply because they play for bad teams.

Cunningham Remains at the Top of our POTY Watch

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.01.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 1st, 2011

  1. Just when you thought things were about to turn around a little bit for the Pac-12, and just when you thought Colorado was on the verge of being able to string together a few wins in a row following a solid win over Georgia on Monday night and a manageable schedule in front of them, the Buffaloes go and shoot 44.8% from the free throw line and lose a tough one against in-state rival Colorado State. CU fought back from a ten-point deficit early in the second half to tighten things up, only to have the Rams jump back out to an eight-point lead with under 90 seconds remaining. However, a 10-1 run over the next 75 seconds capped by a Nate Tomlinson steal of a CSU inbounds pass and an ensuing layup gave the Buffs a brief lead. But CSU’s Dorian Green took the ball out from coast to coast and hit a jumper in the lane to give CSU the lead right back. Tomlinson was almost the hero again, but his three-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out.
  2. The other two games Wednesday night featured Pac-12 wins against uninspiring competition, with USC holding UC Riverside to 35 points in a 21-point Trojan victory at UCR. While Washington State, you know, the same team that lost to the UC Riverside team on Sunday, took out their frustrations on a now 0-6 Grambling team with a 69-37 thrashing. Brock Motum had 11/10 for the Cougs, while point guard Reggie Moore handed out seven assists, but WSU will need to tackle some tougher competition before anybody believes anything they’re selling.
  3. This season hasn’t exactly been the stuff of dreams for Utah in their first season in the Pac-12, and plenty of that can be attributed to a series of defections from the basketball team over the past two seasons. But at least some of their struggles can be attributed to the absence of their 7’3” senior center David Foster in the middle. Foster played six minutes in the Utes’ exhibition game against Adams State on November 4, but left the game with a broken right foot. At present, it is still undecided whether Foster will take a medical redshirt and return for next season or if he will come back when able this season. Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak would prefer to have Foster return this season and play the last four-to-six weeks of the regular season with the Utes, while Foster and his dad are holding out for the possibility that a redshirt season may be the best bet. While his immediate future is unclear, what is clear is that the Utes are significantly worse off without the 3.2 blocks he provided in 20 minutes per game last season. Last year the Utes defense wasn’t great (112th in the nation according to kenpom.com), but this season it is abysmal – 288th in the nation.
  4. You may have heard that the UCLA basketball program is struggling a bit this year. It’s true. With surprising losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee to pair with more predictable losses to Kansas and Michigan, the Bruins are off to a 2-4 start. So, what’s their problem – aside from chemistry issues and a general lack of athleticism or outside shooting, that is? Jeff Eisenberg asked the coach of a team who has already beaten the Bruins this year to give an assessment of Ben Howland’s club. Long story short: Their guards can’t make shots, Joshua Smith’s conditioning is terrible, the Wear Twins are incapable of guarding athletic small forwards and they need to get freshman guard Norman Powell more involved in the offense. Any good news? The coach expects the Bruins to get better as the season goes on, if only because he believes they’re a well-coached team.
  5. Oregon State junior guard Jared Cunningham earned a lot of attention after scoring 37 points in the Legends Classic semifinal, after having scored 35 points in his previous game against Hofstra – both career highs at the times. Since then, Beaver opponents have put their defensive effort into slowing Cunningham’s offensive attack. Vanderbilt sent senior forward and defensive savant Jeffery Taylor at Cunningham with additional eyeballs on him at all times, while Towson put its defensive energy into slowing him as well. Cunningham had better get used to other teams keying on him, because as sophomore guard Roberto Nelson put it, “they’d be stupid if they didn’t.” Still, even if other teams are able to limit his ability to score, Cunningham is still able to influence the game in other ways. He is an excellent defender capable of not only taking the opposition’s best guard out of his rhythm, but also forcing turnovers and creating easy transition opportunities for the Beavers. He is also very capable of drawing defenders to him and finding open looks for his teammates. And, if he can keep improving his jump shot (clearly the main weakness in his game), Cunningham can still get his points.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.15.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 15th, 2011

  1. On the heels of UCLA’s frustrating opening night loss to Loyola Marymount, there was a report out of Los Angeles Monday afternoon that head coach Ben Howland would have a meeting with junior forward Reeves Nelson to discuss Nelson’s recent behavior and his future with the team. Late Monday night, UCLA issued a statement announcing that Nelson would be suspended indefinitely after he skipped Monday’s practice, with the length of the suspension to be determined pending a face-to-face meeting between the two at a later date. Nelson, who has never been one to hide his feelings on the court, was visibly upset during the game on Friday night, failing to participate in a couple of timeout huddles and making several erratic plays, including a couple of wild three-point attempts as the game dissolved in the second half. While there have been rumors that Nelson is considering leaving the program, nothing has been substantiated to this point.
  2. While the Bruins will get back to business on the court tonight without Nelson against Middle Tennessee State, UCLA fans are in full panic mode. When the results of LMU’s second game against the Bruins’ next opponent, MTSU, came through with the Lions on the losing end of a 58-51 score replete with LMU getting dominated inside by the Blue Raider front court, UCLA fans rightly wondered why the Bruins weren’t able to get that kind of production out of their highly regarded front line. With all the turmoil around the program in the first few days of the new season, it will be interesting to see whether the team responds with passion or lets the poor start compound on itself. Who would have thought just a few days ago that an early-season UCLA/Middle Tennessee State contest would be a game to keep an eye on?
  3. Early in the first half of last night’s USC/Nebraska tussle, injured Trojan point guard Jio Fontan was interviewed by Fox Sports sideline reporter Amy Bender. During the interview, Fontan, who tore his ACL during USC’s trip to Brazil in August and had surgery on his knee on September 12, indicated that he hadn’t given up on foregoing a medical redshirt this year and returning to the team at some point. Nevermind the fact that such talk seems insane, we wish Fontan the best in his rehabilitation. As for the game, the Trojans dropped a nailbiter to the Cornhuskers for the third straight season, this time in double overtime. Sophomore sensation Dewayne Dedmon missed a wide-open free-throw line jumper at the end of regulation, then after sophomore point Maurice Jones made an improbable double-clutch push shot with 6.5 seconds in the first overtime, freshman guard Alexis Moore was called for a foul on the ensuing possession and Nebraska’s Tony McCray sent the game to a second overtime where NU sealed the deal. Jones again led the Trojans with 18 points, but had to take 22 shots to do so. In two games this year, Jones has made just eight of his 35 field goal attempts.
  4. Utah recorded a victory in its first game as a Pac-12 member on Monday night. Sure, it was a three-point victory over NAIA school San Diego Christian, but given how little success the Utes are expected to have this season, we might as well give them a little love while possible. Senior point guard Josh “Jiggy” Watkins led all scorers with 23 points, just one shy of his career high, while freshman guard Kareem Storey added ten points (all on free throws). The other five Utah newcomers combined to score 12 points in 87 minutes, a problem considering that two of the four Utes that got any amount of playing time last season – specifically senior center David Foster and junior guard Chris Hines – are sidelined with injuries.
  5. Washington State was the final Pac-12 team to start its season, kicking off the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon against Gonzaga late last night. Despite allowing Zag freshman Kevin Pangos to knock down nine three-pointers on the way to building a 21-point lead, the Cougars fought back, cutting the GU lead to as low as four at one point before losing steam. WSU played without senior guard Abe Lodwick, who is fighting through a sprained foot, but had five players score in double figures, including freshman guard DaVonte Lacy who poured in 11 points in just 14 minutes of play.
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