Pac-12 Morning Five: 2.10.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 10th, 2012

  1. It seems like I have spent the last couple days talking and writing about how if Washington could just string together a patch of wins here down the stretch, they could earn themselves an at-large bid regardless of the holes in their résumé. And, typical of what we have come to expect of the Huskies over the past several years, just when you start buying what they are selling in the regular season, they go out and get punked on the road, just like they did Thursday night, losing at Oregon by 25 in a game that was never in doubt. The Ducks scored the first eight points of the game, shot 64.3% from the field in the first half and then coasted in the second half. No Husky who played more than ten minutes in the game shot better than 50% from the field, their top three scorers–Tony Wroten, Terrence Ross, and C.J. Wilcox–combined for 32 points on 12-of-35 shooting, with a ten turnovers between them, and the entire team shot just two-for-16 from deep. The loss drops Washington back into a first place tie while Oregon moves to within a game of first place.
  2. In the other big game of the night, Arizona continued its hot streak, taking care of Colorado by 14 in their third consecutive strong performance. While the Wildcats have struggled to find consistency in the first three months of the season, now they are playing like a cohesive unit, even as they are limited to just a seven-man rotation. Thursday night, the veteran trio of Jesse Perry, Solomon Hill, and Kyle Fogg did the heavy lifting, scoring 17, 16, and 15 points respectively, while guys like Nick Johnson, Josiah Turner, Brendon Lavender, and Angelo Chol slid comfortably into their roles and took care of business. Combined with the other results in the conference, the Wildcats now find themselves within a game of first and rolling at just the right time. Colorado is also a game back of first place, but their struggles on the road will need to be mended if they hope to seriously challenge for the title; they are now 1-4 in Pac-12 road games with the sole win coming against 1-11 USC.
  3. Speaking of USC, they got to 1-11 by getting taken apart in the second half by California last night. After a hard-fought first half that saw the Trojans down by just six going into the locker room, the Golden Bears rode Harper Kamp’s hot streak after the break (he hit his first seven shots of the second half), while freshman forward David Kravish dominated the undermanned Trojan squad on the glass, grabbing a career-high 18 boards. Coupled with the Washington loss, the Golden Bears again find themselves tied at the top of the conference.
  4. UCLA will be Cal’s next opponent on Saturday, and Thursday night the Bruins took care of business against Stanford, using a late 10-0 to finally put away a pesky Cardinal team in a game that saw both teams put together a variety of runs. It was a sloppy affair, with the teams combining for 41 turnovers, but in the end it was the Bruins’ ability to turn Stanford’s turnovers into points that decided the game, as UCLA scored 28 points off of their 22 forced turnovers. Lazeric Jones had 21 points, six assists and six steals, while freshman Chasson Randle was the only Stanford player to score in double figures, with 16.
  5. At the bottom of the conference, Arizona State welcomed back junior guard Trent Lockett with a win over Utah. Lockett had 12 points and six boards in his return, but it was the combination of Jordan Bachynski (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Carrick Felix (15 points, eight rebounds) that put the Sun Devils over the top. Meanwhile, in Corvallis, the maddening Oregon State conference season continued with a ten-point home loss to Washington State, despite Jared Cunningham filling the stat sheet in a big way. The player of the year candidate had 33 points, including five three-pointers, six rebounds, a couple of assists, three steals, two blocks, and even four turnovers for good measure. Teammate Ahmad Starks struggled, however, hoisting 13 threes and only making two on a miserable night. On the other end of the court, however, Washington State’s own POTY candidate, Brock Motum, continued his hot streak, scoring 24 points and adding nine rebounds. Since Faisal Aden’s season ending injury, Motum has averaged 27.3 points and nine rebounds over four games.
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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on February 2nd, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • We’re at the halfway mark of the season this week, and we could be on the verge of finally seeing some separation in the league. Through nine games, California and Washington sit atop the conference standings, a game ahead of Oregon and Colorado, who are sitting a game ahead of Arizona, Stanford and UCLA.
  • However, while their first-place conference standing is a good thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Cal and Washington are in particularly good shape when it comes to NCAA Tournament consideration. Cal is in pretty good shape with an overall record of 17-5 and an RPI of 30, but they still have against their case that pesky little strike that they haven’t beaten anybody of note (they’re 0-3 against teams that are in the top 50 in the RPI).
  • For Washington, the numbers are even worse; their RPI is #71 and they’re 0-4 against top 50 RPI teams. In fact, going down the list, the whole conference is just 3-37 against top 50 RPI teams, with two of those wins coming when Oregon State and Washington State knocked off Cal.
Jorge Gutierrez, California

Jorge Gutierrez and California Have The Best NCAA Tournament Resume In The Pac-12 (Derek Remsburg/The Daily Californian)

  • So, really, in order for the Pac-12 to deserve multiple at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament, they need Cal and Washington to separate themselves from the rest of the Pac. Cal simply isn’t going to be able to wind up with a win against a top-50 RPI team, because they have to play a bunch of Pac-12 teams that aren’t in the top 50. And because of the new unbalanced schedule in the conference, Washington doesn’t get a crack at the Bears in Berkeley, meaning their only chance at earning a win against a top-50 team would come only if they faced Cal in the conference tournament, or if somehow Oregon (currently ranked #69) would string together enough wins to bump up inside the top 50.
  • In short, the picture is pretty grim for the Pac-12. It seems that the Pac-12 is going to have to rely on their historical reputation, a factor that is not supposed to be considered by the NCAA Selection Committee but one that most assuredly is, rather than their bona fides if they hope to send multiple teams dancing. Maybe the best case scenario for fans of the conference is Cal and Washington to string together multiple victories, separate themselves from the crowd, and advance to at least the semis in the conference tournament, and then see another squad take down the title in a mild upset. That’s the only scenario I can see whereby the conference gets more than two teams in the NCAA Tournament, and it may be more likely that only one Pac-12 team gets an invite on Selection Sunday.

What to Watch For

  • With the above in mind, Cal and Washington need to kick start the second half of conference play by taking care of business at home.
  • The Golden Bears see the Arizona schools come to Berkeley Thursday night, with an angry Wildcat team, fresh off a home loss to the Huskies, leading the change.
  • For Washington, it is the Los Angeles schools coming to town, with the matchup with UCLA on Thursday night presenting the biggest challenge. The Stanford matchup with Arizona will also be interesting, while Colorado gets to host the Oregon schools this week, setting up two interesting games that should help clear up some of the confusion in the middle of the conference.
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Stanford at California

Posted by AMurawa on January 29th, 2012

Stanford at California, January 29, 5:30 PM PST, FSN

The Big Game, basketball edition (part one), lost a bit of its luster last weekend when Stanford got swept by the Washington schools, but with California sitting tied atop the conference standings with Oregon, and with the Cardinal sitting just a game back, there is still plenty of importance to go around here.

Aaron Bright, Stanford

Aaron Bright And Stanford Have Slowed A Bit As The Quality Of Opponent Has Increased (photo credit: Liza Hafalia, San Francisco Chronicle)

For the Cardinal, after losing just one of their first 11 games – and that one to Syracuse at Madison Square Garden – the uptick in level of competition over the last few weeks has exposed them a little bit. After beating up on low-majors (like Bethune-Cookman and Central Arkansas) and mid-majors (like Fresno State and Colorado State), and even sneaking out some tough wins over bubble-minded high majors (Oklahoma State and North Carolina State), Johnny Dawkins’ club has lost four of its last nine games, with all four losses coming to teams ranked lower than #80 in the nation by Ken Pomeroy. Throw in some tight wins (a one-point win against UCLA, a four-overtime battle over Oregon State and even a slugfest W over Utah), and it is clear that despite the major strides this Stanford team has made this season, this is certainly not a team that is going to outclass conference opponents on a regular basis. Along the way, their once stellar efficiency numbers on both ends of the court have taken a significant hit — in their last four losses, Stanford has averaged just over one point per possession offensively, while giving up 1.16 PPP. In their first 11 games of the season, they only allowed more than one point per possession once (the NC State win), but in the last nine they’ve done so five times. Part of that is due to the fact that they’ve been facing better athletes. Where they once were able to outclass opponents on the glass, they’ve now been playing teams with their athletic equals, and the rebounding numbers have dipped. Likewise, guys like Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle have been unable to keep up their ridiculously hot shooting paces; Bright was 49% from three in non-conference play and is down to 37% in conference play while Randle has dipped from 42% to 36%.

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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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Morning Five: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 19th, 2012

  1. During their one-point loss on Tuesday Michigan State was called for a controversial backcourt violation with less than 2 minutes remaining when Keith Appling appeared to fumble an in-bounds pass and then picked up the ball in the backcourt. Many people criticized the officials afterwards citing Rule 4, Section 3, Article 6 of the NCAA rulebook that says a team must establish possession in the frontcourt inbounds and then cross into the backcourt to be called for a violation. They noted a similar call had been made against Virginia Tech in the their ACC/Big Ten challenge loss to Minnesota and the Big Ten disciplined the official after that game for making the wrong call. However, this time the Big Ten has come out and said that the official on Tuesday made the right call because Appling had established possession in the frontcourt.
  2. We were not sure it was possible, but the Pac-12 just got weaker. The bigger news in terms of the conference race and the national picture was the announcement by California that it was dismissing Richard Solomon for the rest of the season after he was ruled academically ineligible. Even though Solomon only averages 6 points per game it is a big loss for the Bears as he is their top rebounder at 6.2 rebounds per game and provides some much needed depth off the bench as well as an interior presence. Without him the Bears will need Harper Kamp and David Kravish to step up their games and help balance their team, which relies heavily on its three star guards.
  3. The bigger story from an individual impact on a team is Josh Watkins getting kicked off Utah‘s team for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Based on statements from the Larry Krystkowick it appears that this was more a pattern of behavior than a single incident. Watkins, the team’s leading scorer and lone senior, had already been suspended earlier this season, but apparently he still did not get the message. The Utes were already a historically bad BCS-level college basketball team even before they got rid of the player with the highest usage rate in Division I basketball (38.4%) so we cannot wait to see what they are like without Watkins in the line-up.
  4. If you are not a fan of mid-major basketball you may not be familiar with Dennis Tinnon. Even if do know of the tenth-leading rebounder in Division I you probably are not aware of the unique road that he took to get to Marshall. Luke Winn, in a departure from his usual statistical analysis work, takes a look at how Tinnon went from working at a beef processing plant at the age of 20 after serving four months in jail for a parole violation to being the leading rebounder on what might be the best team in Conference USA. It is an interesting read and does a good job of getting into Tinnon’s struggles while still keeping a focus on his impact on the court.
  5. McDonald’s announced the list of nominees for their coveted All-American designation. When we say list we mean pretty much every decent senior in the country as their list includes over 600 nominees (combined boys and girls). Eventually the list will be whittled down to 24 boys and 24 girls, but for now if you want to see which seniors in your area are the best it might be worth checking out. If you are into state bragging rights, the leaders for the boys team are Iowa (36 nominees) and Washington (30) far outdistancing New York (9) and California (8). We are not exactly sure what the political reasons are behind such a stark disparity, but it is amusing.
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The Latest Pac-12 Personnel Problems: Richard Solomon and Josh Watkins

Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2012

Oh, the headaches of a college basketball coach. Aside from all the things that coaches have to deal with just in terms of practice and games and apart from the inevitable injuries, these guys are also dealing with young men who have often been coddled for much of their adolescence and sometimes experiencing freedoms that they’ve never known before. And, I don’t know about you, but when I was that age, I had some problems with maturity (still do, on my best days at least). Well, immaturity struck again in the Pac-12 today – and twice. First, Utah senior guard Josh Watkins ran afoul of head coach Larry Krystkowiak for the second time this season, and as a result was dismissed from the already moribund Ute basketball team. Later we learned that California sophomore forward Richard Solomon, who had been leading the Golden Bears in rebounding (when not suspended or injured, that is), was ruled academically ineligible and would also miss the rest of the season.

Josh Watkins, Utah

Josh Watkins' College Basketball Career Is Over, After Being Dismissed By Utah Today (photo credit: Rick Egan, AP)

Let’s start with Solomon, who still has a future at Cal, provided he can take care of the academic side of his business between now and next fall.  He had seen his minutes go up and down in part because of getting into head coach Mike Montgomery’s doghouse early in the year before injuring a foot. But when he was on the court, he was far and away the Bears’ best rebounder and interior defender, grabbing 27.3% of all defensive rebound opportunities (a number that would have put him in the top 20 nationally, had he played enough minutes to qualify), 14.3% of all offensive rebound opportunities and blocking shots on over 7% of all of his opponent’s two-point field goals (those last two numbers would have had him in the top 100 nationally). Without him, Monty and the Bears face the prospect of going the rest of the way with Harper Kamp, David Kravish, Robert Thurman and Bak Bak manning the paint. Given that Kamp has a history of injury problem, Kravish is a freshman, Thurman is a junior walk-on and Bak has shown more potential than actual output, the frontline problems of the Bears could be the stone that drags the whole team down.

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Colorado at California

Posted by AMurawa on January 12th, 2012

Colorado at California, January 12, 8:oo PM, Comcast Sports Network – California

The Buffaloes are alone in first place in the Pac-12, after opening conference play with three consecutive home wins, but they’re yet to really earn any believers. They’ve certainly got a chance to fill up their bandwagon this weekend, as they make this year’s toughest road trip in the conference when they head to California Thursday night and Stanford on Saturday afternoon. By the end of the weekend, we should have a good idea whether Colorado deserves mention among the top teams in the conference, or whether this is a team that is still a year away from being taking seriously over the long haul.

In Tad Boyle’s first year as the head coach in Boulder, the Buffaloes opened Big 12 play with three straight wins, including an eye-opening road win at Kansas State, the Wildcats’ only home loss of the year. However, they then proceeded to lose their next four games, including three disappointing road losses against the dregs of the conference, going a long way towards sealing that team’s Selection Sunday fate and an NIT bid. Gone from that squad are the team’s four most prolific offensive players, including NBA lottery pick Alec Burks.

Tad Boyle, Colorado

Tad Boyle Has Colorado Out To A 3-0 Start In Conference Play For The Second Consecutive Year (photo credit: Getty Images)

But similar to last year, this vintage of the Buffaloes again has four players who are scoring in double figures (although none are approaching the 20 PPG Burks averaged last year) and five different players have led the team in scoring in at least one game. Last weekend it was senior wing Carlon Brown leading the way, averaging 23 points per game in a weekend sweep of the Washington schools, but freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie had been featured strongly, scoring in double figures in nine straight games before laying an egg against Washington State. Then there’s manchild Andre Roberson, a 6’7” sophomore forward who is arguably the most athletic player in the Pac-12 and certainly its best rebounder; he has already posted nine double-doubles on the season after posting five in his freshman season. Throw in steady senior forward Austin Dufault, who you can seemingly pencil in for ten points a night, and you’ve got a solid four-man core that has played well throughout the season. The other guard spot is a bit of a concern, as senior Nate Tomlinson, a 43.8% three-point shooter in his first three years in Boulder, is struggling with his shot this season, hitting just 32.7% from deep and having made just two of his last 14 out there. Freshman guard Askia Booker also earns plenty of playing time (he’s the only reserve getting more than 50% of CU’s minutes), and he’s an athletic ball of energy who can provide a scoring punch off the bench, but he needs to dial back his aggressiveness a bit until he cleans up his jumper and begins to take better care of the ball.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Who Is The Favorite?

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week’s topic: After non-conference play, who is the favorite to win the Pac-12 regular season title?

 

Connor Pelton:

In a conference full of mediocre teams (at best), Oregon State is as good a pick as any to win the Pac-12. Led by the conference’s leading scorer in Jared Cunningham, the Beavers are off to a 10-2 start. Their only losses have come against Vanderbilt and Idaho, which is a major improvement from last season’s missteps against teams like Texas Southern, Utah Valley, and George Washington. But even though the Pac-12 is in a major down year, Oregon State will be competing against teams much more athletic than their past few opponents (Chicago State, Portland State, Howard, etc.). So the question is, can the Beavers match up physically with the Pac-12’s biggest and best teams?

Against the previous terrible opponents that we have already mentioned, the Beavers were able to use their three main big men (Joe Burton, Angus Brandt, and Devon Collier) as facilitators around the perimeter. Burton would play the role of “point-center”, dishing the ball around and occasionally driving down the lane when it was open. Brandt would hang out in the corner and drain threes until the defense realized he could shoot, and Collier would just roam around and rebound whenever a shot went up. Unfortunately for the trio, they are going to need to do a lot more work in the paint when they face big and strong Pac-12 teams.

That is why the Beaver bigs will be the key to a conference championship. Cunningham will knock down his jumpers and get the crowd going with a couple highlight-reel dunks while Ahmad Starks and Roberto Nelson will hit their shots and play solid defense. But the games are going to come down to rebounding and points in the paint. So far this season they have been terrible in those categories, but have gotten away with it because of the caliber of the opponent. If they improve, a possible NCAA bid and conference crown is in the picture. If they do not, the Beavers will be headed to another disappointing season in Corvallis.

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Pac-12 Reset As Conference Play Tips Off Tonight

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

Yesterday we looked back at non-conference play and picked out some of the highlights of the first couple months of the season. Today, as conference play gets ready to tip-off, we look forward to what we expect to happen from here until Selection Sunday. Prior to the start of the season, we took a guess at things like conference standings and All-Pac-12 teams based on limited information. Now, we’ve got twelve or thirteen games upon which to base our next set of guesses, but given the state of affairs in the conference so far, may be no closer to having a good idea what is going to happen from here on out than we were back in November. Nevertheless, here goes:

Projected Standings

  1. California 13-5 – While every team in the conference is flawed, the Golden Bears are slightly less flawed than the rest, provided Richard Solomon can return from his injury, Harper Kamp can remain relatively healthy and freshman David Kravish continues to improve. Their quartet of guards (Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Brandon Smith) is the best in the league and head coach Mike Montgomery has a way of squeezing every bit of production out of his players.

    Mike Montgomery, California

    With Mike Montgomery At The Helm And A Talented Backcourt, The Golden Bears Are The Slight Favorite In The Pac-12 (photo credit: Christine Cotter)

  2. Stanford 12-6Johnny Dawkins’ team will prove it is for real, but it may not have the experience or the single elite player capable of scoring with confidence in clutch situations to actually win the title. Chasson Randle or even Dwight Powell could grow into that type of player, but it may be a year or more away from happening. The Cardinal travel to Berkeley on the final day of the regular season in what could be a game rife with title implications.
  3. Arizona 12-6 – It seems like everybody is just waiting for Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson to turn it on, take over this team and turn the Wildcats into an explosive offensive force. They’re talented enough to make that happen, but 13 games into the season, it is looking like Solomon Hill, Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry are going to have to continue as the go-to guys for Sean Miller. And while those guys are nice players, they are all more suited to the role of contributors rather than stars, at least on teams who hope to win a conference title. However, the fact that the Wildcats only have to play Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon once each is definitely a bonus.
  4. Oregon State 11-7Craig Robinson’s has an exciting and young squad that may have only scratched the surface of its talent so far. However, given their history of losing games that they have no business losing, they’ve got to be in the same “prove-it” category that Stanford occupies. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the quintet of Ahmad Starks, Jared Cunningham, Devon Collier, Joe Burton and Angus Brandt turns itself to be the most talented starting five in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Game Of The Week: California @ UNLV

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 23rd, 2011

It’s not often you get a game of this magnitude on the day before Christmas Eve, but there is definitely one this afternoon in Vegas. California came into the season as one of the favorites in the Pac-12, and they lived up to those expectations in their first four games. However, things would turn sour when they faced Missouri in a virtual home game for the Tigers. Missouri blitzed the Golden Bears from the tip and would eventually win by 39, meaning Cal would drop from national relevance for the next few weeks. They have responded well since the devastating loss, with their only other slip-up coming in a one-point heartbreaker at San Diego State. Now they come to a crossroads in a pre-Christmas game just off the Vegas Strip. A win would mean an 11-2 record going into Pac-12 play, and most importantly, getting back onto the national radar. But a loss will just reaffirm the thoughts that most people around the country have about the Golden Bears; as a one-and-done type team that just can’t win the big game.

Senior guard/forward Chace Stanback leads #23 UNLV with 14.5 PPG. (credit: Sam Morris)

If the Golden Bears are to win this one they will need to contain UNLV big men Chace Stanback and Mike Moser. Stanback is the leader of this team, both on the court and in most statistical categories. The thing about Stanback is, he just finds a way to get it done in big games. Chace had 28 points against #1 North Carolina, 19 against UC Santa Barbara, and 16 against #16 Wisconsin. Cal Forward Harper Kamp will get the honor of keeping him in check.

Perhaps even tougher to defend will be Moser. The scary thing about Mike is that when Stanback is having an off-night, he always turns it up a notch. Moser is averaging 13.6 PPG, but take a look at his performances when Stanbeck scores in single digits: 14 points, eight rebounds against Cal Poly, six points, 11 rebounds against UTEP, and 17 points, 11 rebounds against #19 Illinois. With Cal’s arguably best defender taking Stanback, look for seldom-used freshman David Kravish to see an increase from his usual 20-25 minutes. If both Kamp and Kravish hold the Rebels two main offensive sources to single digits, the Golden Bears have a great shot of getting the win. While this is a deep, talented team, the Rebels have relied on the Stanback-Moser combo a little too much, and that’s going to hurt them sooner or later. Read the rest of this entry »

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Set Your TiVo: 12.23.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 23rd, 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.

Las Vegas is the place to be on this Friday night before Christmas. Sin City hosts three quality basketball games at two different venues this evening .

California @ #20 UNLV – 5:00 PM EST on CBS Sports Network (****)

Moser Has Been Outstanding in a UNLV Uniform (LV Sun/S. Morris)

  •  Chace Stanback was simply fantastic for the Runnin’ Rebels on Monday against Louisiana-Monroe, scoring 29 points on 10-13 shooting (including 8-9 from downtown). UNLV needs its swingman to have another solid game against a very good California team. The Rebels play fast and shoot lots of threes but Mike Moser can have the biggest impact on the game in the post. When Moser is playing well, it’s so much easier for Dave Rice’s team to get open looks from deep. Playing that inside-outside game with good distributors at the guard position in Anthony Marshall and Oscar Bellfield, UNLV has no problem getting into an up-and-down game where it’s often easier for them to make shots in transition. The Rebels are a well-balanced team capable of hanging plenty of points on the opposition.
  • California has been dealing with plenty of health issues recently. Senior leaders Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp have been fighting illnesses while Richard Solomon is out with a stress fracture. Gutierrez and Kamp should play tonight and that will be important as the Golden Bears need to show poise in a tough environment on the road. Guards Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs need to play smart and control the tempo by protecting the ball and running efficient half court sets. Cobbs had 25 points on 10-12 FG against UC Santa Barbara on Monday for the 10-2 Golden Bears. California doesn’t shoot many threes but Allen Crabbe is a big time deep threat for Mike Montgomery. The budding sophomore hits on 45.8% of his triples and represents a major threat to a UNLV defense ranked #205 against the three-ball.
  • Cal’s two losses have come against the better teams on its schedule. This is another chance for the Golden Bears to prove they’re the best team in a watered down Pac-12, something they’ve yet to do in convincing fashion. California has a strong interior defense led by Kamp and freshman David Kravish, although the absence of Solomon could cause problems if Cal’s big men get in foul trouble. Cal needs to control the backboards against Moser and company. If Gutierrez and Cobbs can control tempo, Cal will have a good chance to pull off the road victory. One area to watch is if Cal can keep UNLV off the foul line. The Golden Bears have the #4 defensive free throw rate, an important statistic against a Rebels team that shoots 73.4% from the stripe. With all of that being said however, it’s hard to predict a Golden Bears victory in what should be a raucous Thomas and Mack Center. California hasn’t proven it can win a big game yet and until they do, UNLV has to be the choice.

#5 Baylor vs. West Virginia (at Las Vegas, NV) – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: California @ San Diego State

Posted by AMurawa on December 4th, 2011

Sunday afternoon, California makes its first true road trip of the season, heading south to face the San Diego State Aztecs. Since the Golden Bears were embarrassed by Missouri in the championship of the CBE Classic two weeks ago, they haven’t had much in the way of stiff competition, but the Aztecs should change all of that. SDSU is coming off a tough loss Wednesday night in which they blew a 17-point first half lead before succumbing to Creighton, so they’ll be primed to get back to their winning ways, while Cal is ready to prove to fans around the country that the performance against Missouri was an aberration.

Chase Tapley, San Diego State

Chase Tapley Has Been San Diego State's Go-to Scorer This Season (credit: Associated Press)

After losing the bulk of last year’s Sweet Sixteen team, the Aztecs have turned to junior guard Chase Tapley as their primary offensive weapon, but new point guard Xavier Thames – a transfer from Washington State – is getting more and more comfortable every game; in the last two outings, he has gone for a combined 41 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds. Also, sophomore wing Jamaal Franklin has burst on to the scene this year, scoring double figures in all but one of his appearances, while helping out the shorthanded Aztecs on the glass. Steve Fisher really only has four frontcourt players to rely on, with seniors Garrett Green and Tim Shelton getting the bulk of those minutes up front, but he has been unafraid to run three and even four guards out there at a time. As of yet, that plan hasn’t really backfired, because although the Aztecs have come nowhere near duplicating last year’s stellar offensive rebounding numbers, they have been doing an excellent job of taking care of the defensive glass.

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