Although Colorado and Tad Boyle are pleased with their early season performance and championship in the Charleston Classic, not everyone is content on the Buffaloes. Wesley Gordon, a surprising redshirt freshman who many thought would impact the Buffaloes this year due to their lack of depth in the front court, has not been able to help the Buffaloes early on this year. Gordon chose to redshirt, but in the final of the classic against Murray State, the Buffaloes’ Andre Roberson and Josh Scott both got into foul trouble and Colorado had to rely on players like Xavier Johnson and Jeremy Adams to step up. Neither Adams Nor Johnson are 6’8″ and 225 pounds like Gordon and neither has the defensive ability that Gordon possesses. Even though Gordon did choose this on his own for betterment of the program, early on, he seems to be adjusting to his decision slowly.
With the Oregon Ducks losing three starters in Devoe Joseph, Garret Sim, and Olu Ashaolu last year to graduation, there were doubts about this team, but the defense has picked up the slack to start off the year. For the second consecutive game, Oregon held their opposition to 20 points in the first half. Adding Arsalan Kazemi to a team with Tony Woods up front certainly has helped. The Ducks have registered 40 steals in their first four games and blocked 17 shots. Even better for Dana Altman, the players believe they have a long way to go still on defense, which isn’t good news for the rest of the Pac-12.
The other team in Oregon, the Oregon State Beavers, are still dealing with the season-ending injury of Angus Brandt. Coach Craig Robinson seems unfazed by the injury as he still believes his team can make the NCAA Tournament. In Brandt’s absence, the Beavers will have to use more of the 6’9″ freshman Olaf Schaftnaar off the bench and most likely start other 6’7″ freshman Jarmal Reid in Brandt’s place. Additionally, the Beavers will need more out of Joe Burton, Eric Moreland, and Devon Collier. The Beavers are fine from a depth standpoint to replace Brandt, but they’ll need to improve their overall play up front to truly make Craig Robinson forget Brandt’s injury.
As if the Washington State Cougars didn’t have enough trouble last night, getting dominated by Kansas 78-41, they also lost DaVonte Lacy to an apparent knee injury. Lacy left the game after only five minutes and was unable to play tonight in the Cougars’ 55-54 loss to Texas A&M, a result that could have changed were able to play. No news has come out yet on Lacy’s injury as he will be evaluated today in Pullman, but a loss of a starter and 8.5 PPG so far this year would be a major problem for the Cougars if he’s out for a prolonged period of time. Given that was Lacy is a major contributor for the team-wide project of finding a replacement for the dismissed Reggie Moore, the WSU problems at the lead guard position may have just gotten worse.
Everything is still the same for Sean Miller down in Arizona. If you can shoot the lights out and score on offense, it won’t matter if you can’t play defense. That’s exactly Kevin Parrom‘s dilemma. Parrom went 5-5 from three putting up 15 points in 20 minutes, but Sean Miller said his playing time will be predicated on how he plays defense. The Wildcats gave up 14 threes to Long Beach and Parrom’s guarding of Long Beach’s shooting guards was a main reason for this. Parrom knows he has to improve on defense, and if he does, he will continue to see the floor. If not, guys like Jordin Mayes and freshman Gabe York are more than willing to steal some minutes.
Pac-12 basketball exhibition games are generally meaningless affairs where a big school beats up on an overmatched foe while the former’s head coach tinkers around with different lineups and different styles. Usually the Pac-12 team wins going away and no one loses too much sleep about the result one way or the other. Still, valuable information can be gleaned from some of these games: Which returnee has made the biggest strides, which of the newcomers can make an impact early in their careers, and who is getting passed up for playing time? For Arizona, with three new and talented freshman big men, sophomore forward Angelo Chol is battling for a spot in the lineup and he’s had some struggles in the team’s two exhibitions. He’s missed some point-blank shots and has lost some confidence, but head coach Sean Miller is still relying on him to earn minutes while senior leader Solomon Hill is doing his best to keep Chol’s head in the game. Hill, on the other hand, was nearly flawless in his latest outing against Chico State (an Arizona win, 98-60) , with only a late missed free throw and a single turnover as blemishes on his performance.
We’ve all got our favorite Pac-12 blogs, but one of my personal favorites is Coug Center. There are times when it seems like you’ve got to hunt down information about Washington State, and over the years I’ve found Coug Center to be by far the best place to keep up to date with all things WSU. While football is still king there (and a lot of other places) for the time being, Kyle Sherwood, Jeff Nusser and Craig Powers did a great job running down their thoughts on the upcoming season. In light of the Reggie Moore dismissal, topic number one was who will play point guard and they’ve got no better answer than anyone else, other than the fact that Royce Woolridge, DaVonte Lacy and Mike Ladd are going to be forced into a lot of minutes and a point guard-by-committee situation. Who knows, it could work, but just remembering Arizona State last year without any real point guard leaves plenty of room for doubt.
We’ve talked in the past about Utah’s complete remaking of its roster, and there is little doubt that Larry Krystkowiak has upped the talent level there. But with many other programs around the conference improved as well, the question remains whether his new roster will result in additional wins. Based on a ridiculously week non-conference schedule, one would hope the Utes would be able to notch at least six wins prior to conference play, but can they improve on last year’s three Pac-12 wins? Many around the conference are picking Utah at the back of the pack — they were 12th in the preseason Pac-12 poll — but with capable offensive players like Jarred DuBois, Aaron Dotson and Jordan Loveridge as well as a deeper bench than the Utes have had in a couple of years, you can probably expect their improved talent to be reflected in their final record, even if they’re still almost certainly doomed to a lower-division finish.
Back on the recruiting trail, UCLAlanded three-star wing Noah Allen in the Class of 2013 on Tuesday. A one-time Harvard commitment, Allen certainly isn’t the type of player that head coach Ben Howland landed last year — Scout.com recruiting guru Evan Daniels calls him “a four-year guy” who is more of a long-term project than an immediate impact player. Interestingly enough, apparently Howland made the offer without ever having seen Allen play in person. We’re guessing that there won’t be any eligibility concerns with this prospect roughly a year from now.
Lastly, we’ll hop across town where USC head coach Kevin O’Neill has named junior J.T. Terrell as the starter at the two-guard, beating out returning starter Byron Wesley for the job. Wesley is still expected to get plenty of run, both in relief of Terrell and at the other wing spot, but, man, sometimes the things that O’Neill says just makes you shake your head in disbelief. “He’s finally starting to play hard,” said O’Neill, inferring that for the longest time, Terrell wasn’t playing hard. O’Neill then went on to say that Terrell is “more intelligent than I thought he was.” Goodness. It makes you wonder if O’Neill thought he was complimenting the transfer player, or if he was going out of his way to get a few jabs in his ribs. Terrell’s certainly a talented offensive player, but you know in order to play for K.O.’s Trojans, you’ve got to be committed to give good effort on the defensive end. I would suspect Terrell’s defensive intensity, or lack thereof, is where these latest back-handed compliments stem from.
Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Washington State Cougars.
Strengths: This category starts and ends with senior forward Brock Motum. The Australian lefty led the Pac-12 in scoring in 2011-12 and took home the title of most improved player in the conference, but it will be interesting to see how he performs without the team’s best guard to draw some attention on the perimeter. Motum was able to handle just about any big man in league play last year, taking opponents both inside and out. He became famous for some incredible, off-balance jumpers, reminiscent of Dirk Nowitzki with some of his shots. With the dismissal of Reggie Moore, Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge will start the year at combo guard. Big things are expected of the former Jayhawk, who may just be the best shooter Washington State can put on the roster.
Weaknesses: Behind Motum and Woolridge, it’s tough to look at the Cougars and point out a guy that oozes confidence. Sure, guys like DaVonté Lacy and D.J. Shelton are solid athletes, but it’s going to be a long year when you’re counting on them for big-time production. Ken Bone does have some interesting newcomers to play around with, but what roles they fit into and how much they can immediately contribute will be tough to figure out. Gillette Junior College transfer James Hunter looks to be a banger that will start the year at power forward, but the Cougs are awfully thin after that for someone who can bang on the glass. Shelton and Hunter better not be on the bench at the same time, because things could get ugly down there for Wazzu.
James Hunter (15) Will Have To Avoid The Bench In 2012-13 For The Cougars To Have A Rebounding Presence In The Post (credit: Gillette College)
Non-Conference Tests: The Cougars will face four stiff non-conference tests this season, three of which will all come in a row away from home in late November. Washington State will travel to Malibu to face Pepperdine on November 16, and while the Waves might struggle this season, not many teams venture into Firestone Fieldhouse and come out with an easy win. Just three days later the Cougars will go into the Sprint Center and play a top 5 Kansas squad in front of what will be a 99% Jayhawk-friendly crowd. Less than 24 hours later they’ll play on the same court against either Saint Louis or Texas A&M, two teams that are at least NIT locks this season. Finally, the Cougs get a three game reprieve before having to take on in-state rival Gonzaga on December 5 in Pullman.
One of the things we love about college basketball is that every year, there are loads and loads of teams with brand new looks. You’ve got freshmen coming in and transfers and kids back from injuries. The entire makeup of a team can change from year to year, for better or for worse. This year in the Pac-12 is no different, but in some cases, these changes seem to be a bit more extreme than normal, with several teams across the conference ready to unveil a completely remade roster. Today, as practices kick off around the country, we’ll take a look at five of those teams, beginning with Utah, where second-year head coach Larry Krystkowiak welcomes in a roster that returns just two scholarship players from last year’s 6-25 team. Given the depths to which the talent level plunged in Salt Lake City last year, the remake was desperately needed, and Krystkowiak is certain that the team is ready to be much more competitive. With 10 new scholarship faces on the roster, the battle for time is tight and ongoing, with the head man mentioning that the Ute starting lineup may be a shifting five over the course of the year.
As bad as the Utes were last year, USC was even worse, limping (quite literally) home to a 1-17 record. Along the way, the Trojans turned into the walking wounded with dozens, if not hundreds, of players (overstatement is of use here) lost for the season to injury. But not only does Kevin O’Neill have many of those players coming back from last year’s injuries, but he’s got transfers galore and, all told, plenty of talent up and down the bench. Never one for understatement, O’Neill last season called then sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon a future NBA lottery pick, while this year he is going out on a limb and projecting Rice transfer Omar Oraby as a future 12- or 13-year pro, although USC is still waiting on word from the NCAA as to whether he’ll receive a waiver to be able to play this year. But O’Neill is most excited about getting back the services of senior point guard Jio Fontan, whom he calls the heart and soul of the team.
Washington State’s 2011-12 season was slightly more successful than either of the above teams’, but like both USC and Utah, the Cougs will unveil a new-look squad as well. Brock Motum returns after his breakout junior season, as does returning starter DaVonte Lacy and four other players, but things are going to have to be different in Pullman this season. But despite being minus recently-dismissed point guard Reggie Moore, head coach Ken Bone thinks this will be a better team than last year, with the combo of Lacy and Kansas-transfer Royce Woolridge being an upgrade over the would-be senior. And Bone hopes that the Cougs’ underdog status will help the squad “pull together.” Reading between the lines a bit, it seems I may not be the only one who thinks the loss of Moore could turn out to be addition by subtraction.
Oregon advanced to the NIT last season, but after five graduating seniors and three freshmen transferring out of the program last year, the Ducks were in need of a talent infusion of their own. Enter a five-man freshman class, two junior college transfers, and Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi (who is appealing to the NCAA for immediate eligibility), and returnee EJ Singler, for one, is excited about the additional size and athleticism added to Dana Altman’s roster. The number of new players could jump to nine once the football season ends, assuming freshman Arik Armstead joins the team in January, but the number could have even been 10. However, junior college transfer Devon Branchopted not to enroll at UO for the fall semester, instead opting to go the Division II route, which would give him one more season of eligibility than he would have had in Eugene.
The roster makeover for Washington is not as massive as in any of the above four stops, but the Huskies are without their two highest profile stars from last season’s Pac-12 regular season champion. Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. left eligibility on the table when they split for the NBA, but it was no secret that last year’s squad underachieved in part due to chemistry issues that never got fully resolved. Lorenzo Romar commented on Twitter that this team has the chemistry and attitude that the coaching staff appreciates, a remark that seems to draw a direct comparison to last year’s squad. Put on your special glasses and it might as well read: “last year’s team had no chemistry because there were too many guys worried about getting the credit.” There’s still plenty of talent up in Seattle, with proven upperclassmen Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Aziz N’Diaye leading the way, so if the intangibles shift a little in the right direction, the 2012-13 edition of the Huskies could be an improvement on last year’s more talented squad.
Arizona State’s media day was on Tuesday, and as always, the ASU sports information department does a great job of getting their information out there. As ASU’s director of media relations Doug Tammaro put it, he’s got over 5,000 words on the Sun Devil basketball team, with tons of quotes from head coach Herb Sendek and players Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon. Given the fact that the team is coming off back-to-back subpar seasons (22-40 in the last two years), the Sun Devils have a lot to prove, but just reading through the enthusiasm that Sendek has about this collection of players and the confidence that Carson has in himself and his teammates, it isn’t that hard to envision this team overachieving its way into an upper-division conference finish. A lot would have to break right for that to happen, and the team needs to break through the Murphy’s Law culture that has seemingly taken hold in Tempe, but this ASU team should be an interesting watch all year long.
Elsewhere in Tempe, Doug Haller of The Arizona Republicpublished an interview with ASU sophomore forwardJonathan Gilling on Sunday, and it too paints a picture of a Sun Devil squad ready to surprise people. Gilling, who came out of nowhere to start 18 games for the team and score in double figures eight times in conference play (quite an accomplishment as no better than a third option on a low-scoring team), looks around the roster and sees far more threats to give the opposition problems. Beginning with Carson and Gordon, but also extending to rapidly improving big man Jordan Bachynski and another incoming transfer in Bo Barnes, Gilling sees a completely different team. And, once again, we’ve got testimony from inside the program that Sendek’s promises for a more uptempo approach, including significantly more man-to-man defense, are not just lip service.
Up in Pullman, Washington State is ready to plow ahead without the services of recently dismissed point guard Reggie Moore. Moore was head coach Ken Bone’s first recruit to WSU, but there is no use looking back now for him; he needs to begin to plan for the season without an obvious true point. At first glance it appears that it will be a point-guard-by-committee approach, with sophomore combo guard DaVonte Lacy, Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge, senior wing Mychal Ladd and sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew all potentially chipping in to help get the Cougars into their offense. And, while we’re on Wazzu for a second, be honest, how many of you knew that former Oregon wing Brett Kingmalanded in Pullman? Clearly, some of you did, but somehow this completely escaped my attention. It’s a good get for Bone, even if his freshman year in Eugene was a little bumpy and even if he’ll lose a year of eligibility by transferring within the conference.
UCLA’s media day was yesterday, but it was significantly less revealing, if only because the biggest question about the Bruins’ season – if and when Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson will be declared eligible – remains presently unanswerable. So much so that UCLA had their vice chancellor of legal affairs, Kevin S. Reed, monitoring the press conference so that schools officials could remind the media whenever necessary that they wouldn’t be answering any questions about the NCAA review of Muhammad and Anderson’s eligibility. On a brighter note, however, it was announced that Pauley Pavilion is not only really, really close to being a completed project, but it is also a project that came in $44 million under budget. So, you know, the next time you’ve got a project that is gonna run you some nine-digit dollar amount, I believe UCLA’s got a contractor they can recommend.
We’re back to the gridiron tonight with a less-than-stellar Thursday night affair between Arizona State and Colorado, and that means it is time for Connor and I to renew our prognosticating battle. I made up another game on Connor last week when USC bounced back from a rough start to pull away from Utah in the second half. Last week’s results leave Connor at 35-13 for the year, while I’m two games back at 33-15. Below are this week’s picks, with our predicted scores for our game of the week (Stanford at Notre Dame) in bold.
We’ve gone through the Washington State roster and told you about the returnees and the newcomers, but let’s put it all together today: What does the 2012-13 season hold for the Cougars? Just how good will returnees like Reggie Moore, DaVonte Lacy, and Mike Ladd be, and which of the newcomers will emerge as major contributors? And most importantly, can these Cougs improve upon last year’s CBI appearance? Let’s break out that old crystal ball again and see what it says.
Motum Will Lead The Cougars In Scoring For The Second Straight Year
WSU’s Leading Scorer – Brock Motum. No reason we shouldn’t think the Pac-12′s leading scorer in 2011-12 wouldn’t lead his own team in his senior year. With Motum’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor and the fact that he touches the ball so many times on each possession, this is the only pick here. Even with a pair of confident newcomers like Royce Woolridge and Demarquise Johnson who will take a way some of his looks, Motum will still be the go-to guy.
WSU’s MVP – Royce Woolridge. This is a tad bold, but we don’t want to give two awards to Motum even if he may deserve it. Players and coaches called Woolridge the best player on the practice court last season, and the word out of Pullman is that he’s not afraid to shoot the ball. If he can give the Cougars 12 points a night, four rebounds, and maybe a couple steals here and there, Woolridge and Motum will make quite the one-two punch.
Washington State returns four players who were part of the rotation last year, highlighted by Brock Motum – a preseason candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year – but also extending down to a guard that is back for his senior season after leading the team in minutes per game, a sophomore shooting guard primed to build off a solid freshman campaign, and yet another guard who will probably enjoy a similar role to what he saw last year. We’ll go through all of those guys below, in order of last year’s scoring totals.
Brock Motum Will Be The Key To Any Cougar Success In 2012-13
Brock Motum, Senior, Forward (18.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 0.4 BPG) – After a quiet first two seasons at Washington State, Motum exploded onto the scene in 2012-13. The junior forward took on the minutes left by departing senior DeAngelo Casto, and he showed the Cougar coaching staff immediately what he could do with them. From the very beginning of the year, he introduced a new style of game to the team’s offense. Motum led the team in scoring in the Cougars’ first two games, dropping 17 in a nationally televised contest at Gonzaga, and 23 in their second game against Sacramento State. He took on a “point-center” type role, one where the big man could handle the ball up top and act as a triple threat against opponents. His ability to drive and hit a pull-up jumper made him one of the toughest forwards to defend in the Pac-12, evident by his 18.0 PPG, the conference’s best. Not only a threat to score, but also a force on the glass, Motum pulled down a very respectable 6.4 RPG. Those two feats combined earned him the title of “Most Improved Player” in the Pac-12. Some of Motum’s critics will say he took a lot of defenses by surprise last season, but the truth is, the Cougars were just a tough team to defend. With Faisal Aden and Reggie Moore able to score the ball consistently, Motum was bound to get a few extra looks a game. And he took advantage, making him one of the deadliest players in the league.
Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future.Today’s subject: Washington State.
What Went Wrong
Washington State was plagued by inconsistencies in shooting especially from three-point range all season long. Their season was simple in a lot of ways; when they would shoot the three well, they’d win games. But when the touch was missing, boy was it missing. That led to mind-boggling losses against teams like UC Riverside, Utah, and Arizona State, which cost the Cougars a possible NIT bid. Some bad luck struck Pullman in late-January, when just after senior guard Faisal Aden went down for the season with an ACL tear just as he was hitting his stride. He suffered the leg injury after playing just 11 minutes at Arizona on January 26, a game the Cougars would go on to lose by 24. The injury would hurt Washington State physically and mentally, as they would lose four of their next six games. That dropped them to 13-13 with just two weeks to play in the regular season.
Coach Ken Bone wished he could have cut down the nets again after a CBI Championship, but advancing to the three-game championship series of a postseason tournament was still a solid way to end the season. (credit: Don Ryan)
What Went Right
The Cougars were able to develop a pair of hybrid players in junior Brock Motum and senior Abe Lodwick. By seasons end, both were viable threats from both the paint and outside of three-point line, making things incredibly tough on opposing defenses. The newcomers were also solid and came up big at different times throughout the season. Freshman DaVonte Lacy quickly earned playing time as a combo guard early in the year, and did he ever make the most of it. Lacy averaged 8.5 PPG to lead the newcomers in 26.6 minutes of action. Junior shooting guard Mike Ladd came up big at times, and while only averaging 5.4 PPG, he threw in a pair of 13-point performances in hostile environments against Gonzaga and Oregon. Sophomore forward D.J. Shelton had a great season as well, averaging 4.7 PPG to go along with 2.9 RPG. Shelton’s best game by far came against his father’s old school in Washington State’s February 9 meeting against Oregon State in Corvallis. Shelton led the Cougs to an 83-73 victory and added 14 points and nine rebounds.
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.
Last week at this time, we had five teams who were still serious contenders for the Pac-12 regular season title, all of them within a game of the conference lead. This week, the picture has cleared up considerably, but there is still plenty of intrigue out there. California and Washington both scored big wins over two of the other five contenders (Oregon and Arizona, respectively), in turn not only more or less knocking those teams out of the race for the title, but also cementing their status at the top of the heap. Colorado remains in the mix as well, a game and a half back of the co-leaders. The other component of the race at the top of the conference is the jostling for the #4 spot, which will earn the last first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Oregon and Arizona are currently tied for the fourth spot, but the Ducks own the tiebreaker there on the basis of their earlier win at the McKale Center.
Washington's Win Over Arizona On Saturday Gave The Huskies Reason For Celebration (Elaine Thompson/AP)
What to Watch For
There is really only one big remaining matchup between teams at the top of the conference over the final two weeks of the season: California’s trip to Colorado on Sunday. Other than that, the Bears go on the road to Utah on Thursday before wrapping up their season with a trip to Stanford on the final day of the regular season.
Likewise, Washington will also be spending its last three games on the road, this week against Washington State and next week against USC and UCLA. Depsite the fact that all of those games are on the road, all of those are eminently winnable games for the co-leaders, with the Colorado/Cal game being the sole time when either Cal or Washington will likely not be favored. For the Buffaloes, however, it is going to be an uphill climb. Along with California, they also face Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State, with the latter two on the road – no pushovers anywhere among that group.
As it is, if the Pac-12 Tournament began with the current standings, this is what we’d be looking at. Certainly some pretty interesting semifinals, but my goodness is that Wednesday slate of games awful bad. The best game of the day is at noon and the Staples Center is virtually guaranteed to be whatever the opposite of “rocking” is that day.
Player of the Year Watch
There are a couple of questions here: 1) who is going to win the POTY award, and 2) who deserves to win the POTY award?
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.
Parity abounds in the Pac-12. After four weeks of conference play, no less than five teams sit within a game of first place. Last weekend California had a chance to snatch the outright lead in the conference for themselves on Saturday night after pulling off a big road win against Washington on Thursday, but they were shot down in Pullman by Pac-12 Player of the Week Faisal Aden and his Washington State team. Oregon, meanwhile, put together a home sweep of the Los Angeles schools, has now won four straight and is tied atop the conference with the Golden Bears at 6-2. Sitting just back of the leaders are Colorado (off a 2-0 weekend against the Arizona schools) and Washington (split against the Bay Area schools), while Stanford drops back to fifth in the conference after getting swept in Washington.
Faisal Aden's Big Week Helped Washington State Sweep The Bay Area Schools (AP)
Outside of the top five, you could make arguments for any of the next four teams getting hot and making a run. Arizona sits at 4-3, but is one of just three conference teams with at least two road wins in the first four weeks. Washington State is 3-4, but they’re on a two-game streak and Aden’s outburst has Cougar fans hoping for a turnaround. UCLA also sits at 3-4, but their road trips to Oregon and the Bay Area are in the past. And Oregon State got off to a terrible start in conference play, but they’ve now won two straight, and if they can make a splash in their next three games (all road games against Oregon, Colorado and Utah), they’ve got five of their last seven at home.
The rest of the conference is looking ahead to spring break and next season. USC, in particular, sits at 0-7 in the conference, 5-15 on the year and all but left for dead, while Arizona State and Utah, despite similar overall records and a similar lack of talent, are at least overachieving.
What to Watch For
The biggest games of the weekend come on Sunday this week, with a couple of late afternoon rivalry games. Oregon State heads to Oregon hoping to break the Ducks’ two-game winning streak in the series and get their mojo back. After that, we’ve got the game we’ve all been waiting for, the basketball version of The Big Game, as California hosts Stanford in an attempt to hang on to their hold on first place in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
Washington State – There are really three choices here, as Colorado, Oregon and Washington State all went 2-0 this weekend while homestanding. While the Colorado and Oregon performances are arguably more important in terms of the conference race (since each keeps up the pace with just two conference losses), the Cougars’ sweep of the Bay Area school is more impressive. We’ll get to Faisal Aden’s heroics shortly, but the two wins on the Palouse were very much team wins. Brock Motum averaged 15.5 points and eight rebounds per game while being ridiculously efficient; Reggie Moore seems to be buying into his role as point guard, handing out seven assists on Saturday despite failing to score; and guys like DaVonte Lacy, Abe Lodwick and Marcus Capers all made significant contributions to the wins. And, let’s not forget head coach Ken Bone, who was still making adjustments and keeping his team’s attention despite a 1-4 conference start.
Faisal Aden's Big Weekend Helped Washington State Sweep The Bay Area Schools (photo credit: Dean Hare, AP)
Player of the Week
Faisal Aden, Sr, Washington State – It wasn’t all that long ago that we were killing Aden for taking 37% of his team’s shots. Yet, this weekend he hoisted 41.2% of WSU’s field goal attempts, and in doing so he dragged his team across the finish line in both games. Thursday night against Stanford, Aden missed four of his first six FGAs, including misses on all three of his three-pointers. Over the rest of the weekend, Aden never shot from behind the arc, converted 17 of his 23 remaining field goal attempts and got to the line 18 times. For the weekend he averaged 28.5 points per outing, made 65.5% of his field goal attempts and posted a true shooting percentage (which includes his scoring from the line) of 75.4%. In short, while Aden’s usage numbers went through the roof, he was very efficient. It remains to be seen whether or not he can keep it up, but for one weekend at least, Aden was spectacular.
A couple weeks back, Jeff Nusser at CougCenter made a compelling argument that Faisal Aden, despite being the team’s second leading scorer, was actively hurting Washington State’s chances. Why? Because despite the fact that Aden is one of the least efficient offensive players on the Cougars, he was taking at that time 37.5% of his team’s shots when he was on the floor. That number has since fallen to 37.2% (fourth in the nation), but the fact remains that Aden is taking too many shots and using too many possessions while other more efficient offensive threats go relatively unused. And to be clear, his position was not so much that Aden was to blame for his role in the offense, but that head coach Ken Bone was putting his team and Aden into a bad position by using him as the focal point of the offense.
Faisal Aden Has Been Carrying The Load For Washington State's Offense, But Should His Role Be Scaled Back? (photo credit: Dean Hare, Spokesman Review)
WSU is now four games into Pac-12 play and Nusser’s theory looks pretty spot on. In the Cougars’ three conference losses, Aden’s trigger finger has actually gotten itchier. He has put up 33 field goal attempts in 65 minutes of action, good for 38.8% of his team’s shots. He’s also turned the ball over five times while handing out just two assists, but that’s another issue. In the sole WSU Pac-12 win over Oregon State, Aden only played nine minutes and attempted just one field goal. He did somehow turn the ball over three times in that stretch though. Couple that little bit of information with the fact that the Cougars played arguably their best stretch of the season this year when Aden was on the bench for three games recovering from a concussion (for those keeping track at home, Aden had 0.0% of his team’s shots in those games) and it seems pretty clear that he would be more suited to a more limited role in the WSU offense.
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Former US olympian Karch Kiraly would even be impressed by this rejection from St. Louis’ Jordair Jett (talk about living up to your name)…