Arizona State Week: Evaluating the Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on June 11th, 2012

Over the course of the next 12 weeks, during the dog days of summer while there is relatively little going on in the college basketball world, we’re going to take the opportunity to fill you in on the status of each program in the Pac-12. Beginning this week with Arizona State, we’re going to dedicate a week’s worth of Pac-12 microsite posts to each program in the conference. We’ll take a little bit of a look at the recent history of the program and then dig into what the team is going to look like in 2012-13. Along the way we’ll have some interviews with coaches and players, we’ll take a look at schedules for the upcoming year, and we’ll introduce you to some of the new faces we’ll all be meeting. By the time kids are heading back to school in September, we hope to have kept you entertained while giving you a good primer for the Pac-12 conference in the next college basketball season.

Our first subject, Arizona State, is coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons. When Herb Sendek took over the program in 2006-07, his team struggled to an 8-22 finish as the Sun Devils featured four freshmen in their eight-man rotation. But, for the next three seasons, ASU won at least 20 games, earned an NCAA Tournament appearance (including a first-round win) in 2008-09, and finished as high as second in the conference in 2009-10. Along the way, the Sun Devils sent a couple different players to the NBA, with reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden going third in the 2009 NBA Draft and Jeff Pendergraph turning a second round pick into a couple years worth of NBA experience. “We really experienced a fantastic and very quick turnaround,” said Sendek last week when RTC talked to him. “Three consecutive postseason tournaments, three consecutive 20-win seasons – but then, we’ve had a series of unfortunate things happen.”

Herb Sendek, Arizona State

After Three Straight 20-Win Seasons, Arizona State Has Slipped The Last Two Years (Harry How, Getty Images)

Those series of unfortunate things have led to the last two seasons, where little has gone right for the Sun Devils. In 2010-11, ASU lost 12 of its first 13 conference games on the way to a 12-19 record, as the senior trio of Ty Abbott, Rihards Kuksiks and Jamelle McMillan took a step back from their performances in the previous year and the team could never find replacements for a couple of graduates: big man Eric Boateng and underrated point guard Derek Glasser. Those exact same areas also plagued the Sun Devils in 2011-12.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2010

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

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Washington (13-5)
  2. Arizona (12-6)
  3. UCLA (11-7)
  4. Washington State (10-8)
  5. Arizona State (10-8)
  6. Cal (9-9)
  7. USC (9-9)
  8. Stanford (6-12)
  9. Oregon State (6-12)
  10. Oregon (4-14)

All-Conference Team

  • G: Isaiah Thomas. Jr, Washington (16.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.2 APG)
  • G: Klay Thompson, Jr, Washington State (19.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG).
  • G: Jeremy Green, Jr, Stanford (16.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG)
  • F: Derrick Williams, Soph, Arizona (15.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG)
  • F: Nikola Vucevic, Jr, USC (10.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG)

6th Man

Ty Abbott, Sr, Arizona State (12.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG)

Impact Newcomer

Josh Smith, Fr, UCLA: Smith is the biggest incoming recruit in the conference, in more ways than one. Ranked the 20th-best recruit in the 2010 class according to ESPNU, Smith also tipped the scales at somewhere over three bills when he stepped onto the UCLA campus this summer. Immediately, head coach Ben Howland put him in a conditioning program and Smith changed his dietary habits as well, putting him on the road towards dropping 40 pounds already. Paired with his soft hands and quick feet, the trimmed-down Smith will play a vital role in the Bruins’ attempts to bounce back from last year’s brutal campaign.

UCLA’s Ben Howland is among several Pac-10 coaches looking to make the conference an NCAA Tournament threat again after a poor showing in 2009-10.

What You Need to Know

  • Pac-10 Blues: Last year, the Pac-10 was saved from the indignity of receiving only one NCAA Tournament berth when Washington won nine of their last 11 games of the regular season, then proceeded to win the Pac-10 Tournament to clinch the automatic berth. Together with regular season champion California, the Huskies represented the Pac-10 well, advancing to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual Final Four team West Virginia, while the Golden Bears fell in the second round to eventual champion Duke. However, the Pac-10’s limited success in the tournament did little to hide the fact that last season was a down year across the conference, and with 11 of last year’s top 20 scorers, and nine of the top 20 rebounders gone, it doesn’t seem that the talent level across the conference is ready to skyrocket.
  • Stability and Youth: But, while there aren’t loads of household names up and down the rosters in the conference, there is some stability, as only Oregon welcomes a new head coach (Dana Altman, formerly of Creighton) and teams across the conference average a total of 3.2 returning starters. And there is plenty of youth, with just 17 seniors on rosters across the conference. Schools will need to see their youngsters step up quickly for the Pac-10 to improve upon last year’s showing. There is a bright side here, though. Even with five members of last year’s all-tournament team (all except the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Isaiah Thomas) and six of the ten All-Pac-10 first team members having graduated, most teams around the conference, with the significant exception of Cal, return the majority of their production – eight of the ten conference schools return more than 50% of their scoring production, and nine of the ten return more than 50% of their rebounding production. If the kids around the conference can put some of that experience they earned last season to use, this could be a much-improved conference, as the veteran coaches around this conference have proven their ability to coach up their players. There are five coaches in the Pac-10 with more than 300 career wins, and that doesn’t even include some of the most respected young coaches in the land like Sean Miller and Lorenzo Romar. While the talent level seems to be down across the conference, expect this lineup of stellar coaches to get the most out of what they do have.
  • Last Roundup: This season marks the end of the Pac-10 conference. Next year the conference will welcome Colorado and Utah, officially becoming the Pac-12. In the process, plenty of tradition will be discarded: no more home-and-home round robin and the resultant crowning of a true regular season champion, the biggest change. There will be years where UCLA doesn’t visit McKale and Oregon won’t visit Hec Ed, for instance. But in the long run, the conference will add a Utah program that has had some significant success over the years (including a run to the national championship game in 1998) and a Colorado program that, well…hey, they made a Final Four in 1955, I’m told. In any event, come 2011-12, basketball season around the conference will have a different feel.

Predicted Champion

Washington (NCAA Seed: #5): The Huskies are pretty much the de facto favorite, given that last year’s regular season champion Cal lost about 85% of its scoring, but Lorenzo Romar’s team, despite having plenty of talent, still has some question marks. Not in question is the team leader, 5’8 junior point guard Isaiah Thomas, a dynamo who is the team’s leading returning scorer and an interesting personality. Paired in the backcourt with 6’0 senior Venoy Overton (8.5 PPG, 3.1 APG. 2.9 RPG), the duo are undersized but form an intimidating pair for opposing ballhandlers, with the quickness and aggressiveness to get up into their opponents, keeping the opposition from getting comfortable in the half-court set and forcing turnovers which the Huskies can use to jump-start their transition game. They can be overpowered by bigger guards in the half-court game, but use their quickness to good advantage defensively. On the offensive end, Thomas plays with a style that belies his stature, getting into the lane and drawing fouls or finishing in often spectacular ways. The Huskies also return sophomore guard Abdul Gaddy (3.9 PPG, 2.3 APG), the second-ranked point guard in the 2009 recruiting class, who struggled finding his rhythm in his rookie campaign. Should he get his swagger back and become a consistent offensive force for Washington, they could have one of the stronger backcourts in the nation, with junior Scott Suggs (4.7 PPG, 1.2 RPG) providing depth and a good long-range threat. However, up front the team still has something to prove, given the graduation of last year’s leading scorer Quincy Pondexter and the retirement from basketball over the summer of forward Tyrese Breshers due to medical issues. Matthew Bryan-Amaning (8.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG) and Justin Holiday (5.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG) figure to start at the forward spots, giving the Huskies an undersized but athletic starting five. Bryan-Amaning will need to prove himself capable of taking over Pondexter’s role, but all signs show that he is ready for that challenge, as he finished his junior season strong and was one of the big reasons for Washington’s improvement down the stretch. Depth up front will come from 6’8 junior scrapper Darnell Gant (2.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG), 7’0 transfer Aziz N’Diaye and 6’6 wing Terrence Ross, one of the conference’s most heralded newcomers, and a guy who could be an offensive weapon immediately for Romar, provided he can earn the minutes. In a conference where the talent level is presently in question, there is little doubt that the Huskies have plenty of talent. But they’d like to come out of the gates more quickly than they did last season and prove that they are ready to win on the road on a consistent basis, something they struggled with in 2009-10, when they lost their first seven games away from the Hec Ed. Odds are, they’ll be improved in that area due to an extra year of experience for their hyper-talented backcourt, but they’ll have a good early season test of that theory when they travel to the Maui Invitational during Thanksgiving week.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2010

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

Standings

  1. California    10-5       18-9
  2. Arizona State     9-5          19-8
  3. USC     8-6          16-10
  4. Washington     8-7          18-9
  5. Arizona      7-7          13-13
  6. UCLA      7-7          12-14
  7. Stanford      7-8          13-14
  8. Oregon State      6-8          12-14
  9. Washington State     6-9          16-11
  10. Oregon       4-10       12-14

We haven’t had a Pac-10 update ‘round these parts since the conference season began, but it is no secret that the one-word summation of the Pac-10 season to this point is “ugly.”  The only team with anything at all to say about potentially receiving an at-large bid is California, and it is increasingly likely that if Cal fails to win the Pac-10 tournament, they’ll be looking at an NIT bid. For the first time in as far back as I care to research, the only Pac-10 team that will be heading to the NCAA tournament is the team that wins the automatic bid as the Pac-10 tournament champion.

A quick rundown of the teams:

California – The Bears currently top the conference, and of all Pac-10 teams have the best chance at an at-large bid given their RPI in the low 20s and the fourth toughest schedule in the country, but every time it looks like this team is going to  reel off a string of victories, they drop a game like they did Thursday when eighth place Oregon State handled them easily in Corvalis, 80-64. The numbers look good for the senior quartet of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin (60.2 ppg between the four, with all averaging double-figures on the season), but each has been inconsistent this season, such as when Randle went just 2-9 from the field, 0-5 from behind the arc and had four turnovers in the OSU game.

Arizona StateHerb Sendek’s squad sits just a half-game back of the Bears in the conference standings, a bit of business that will get sorted out on Saturday when they head to Haas Pavilion, but although they have a top-50 win (something Cal cannot boast) over San Diego State, there just isn’t enough there on the ASU resume to really warrant serious at-large consideration. The Sun Devils have gotten as far as they have on the strength of their guard play; senior point Derek Glasser leads the conference in assists, and he and junior point Jamelle McMillan are one-two in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.

USC – The Trojans are a team that would be a very tough out in the Pac-10 tournament – that is if the Trojans were going to play in the Pac-10 tournament. In an attempt to throw the NCAA hounds off the trail a bit and to make some sort of restitution for the O.J. Mayo, Reggie Bush and how many other incidents, the USC athletic department decided to self-punish the basketball program, stripping them of their chance to play in the postseason this year. Head coach Kevin O’Neill has done a pretty strong job of keeping his kids together and when the Trojans have come out focused they have been very strong this year (they’ve split with Cal, taken their one matchup with ASU, and swept Washington and UCLA), but playing out the string has got to be hard for these kids and as a result, they’ve lost games to Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State, that they might not have lost had a possible NCAA tourney bid been waiting at the end.

Washington – In a season of conference-wide disappointment, the Huskies have got to take home the title of most disappointing Pac-10 team. At the start of the year, Washington was considered something of a co-favorite to win the conference, and seemed to be a team that could make some noise in March. But between then and now, the Huskies have struggled to gain any consistency. They did pull together a four-game win streak in late January/early February, then laid an egg in their big matchup at Cal. Senior forward Quincy Pondexter has likely been the player-of-the-year in the conference (20.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg), but highly-anticipated freshman guard Abdul Gaddy has yet to catch on, and the team has struggled mightily on the road, notching just a 1-6 record so far.

Arizona – At some point in April, right after Sean Miller had accepted the Arizona job, his roster consisted of little more than senior point Nic Wise, junior wing Jamelle Horne, a couple other returning pieces and a boatload of question marks. Miller took advantage of the meltdown at USC and grabbed some of their fleeing castoffs and wound up patching together a pretty strong recruiting class, and actually had this Wildcat team tied for the conference lead not too long ago. Freshman forward Derrick Williams has been the best of the new Cats (15.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and while there are growing pains in the future, especially with Wise getting fitted for cap and gown, folks around Tucson are pretty confident that Miller will be able to get this program back to the heights they are used to.

UCLA – The incongruous facts that the Bruins are 7-7 in conference and two games under .500 on the season and that Ben Howland has done a pretty strong job getting his team that far is a good indication of how bad this Bruin team is. As sophomore Jerime Anderson’s inability to handle the point guard position became apparent, Howland slid another sophomore, Malcolm Lee, over from the two to play out of position. While Lee is still not particularly well suited to the one, he is a definite improvement there. Likewise, as this group as a whole showed that they were incapable of playing the type of man defense that Howland demands, he switched over to run some zone. Still not a great defensive team, but an improvement. Those types of things sum up this season for UCLA. While you still can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, Howland has at least managed to scrape this Bruin squad together to the point where they aren’t consistently getting embarrassed.

Stanford – Senior swingman Landry Fields and sophomore guard Jeremy Green have turned into quite a duo up on the farm. They are the highest scoring duo in the Pac-10 (nearly 40 points a game), and Fields is a serious conference Player of the Year candidate. Sophomore Jarrett Mann has also turned into a nice point guard, and between he and Green, head coach Johnny Dawkins doesn’t have a whole lot of question marks in the backcourt for next season. The problem for the Cardinal has been the interior game. They are one of the worst rebounding teams (and that despite Fields’ second-best in the Pac-10 8.7 rpg) and are the worst shotblocking team in the Pac-10, with only 45 blocks on the season. Dawkins does have some help coming, however, with four forwards already signed in next year’s recruiting class.

Oregon State – In Craig Robinson’s first season, the Beavers took a major step forward. Certainly another seven-win improvement this season would have been more than anyone could have hoped for, but given the return of much of their roster and the decrease in the overall talent level in the Pac-10, expectations had to be higher than a mere repeat of last season for the Beavers. And yet, that’s where they’re at now. At this point in 2008-09, the Beavers were 12-13 and 6-8 in the conference. The only difference this year is one additional non-conference loss. Junior guard Calvin Haynes is the OSU leading scorer with 13.2 ppg this year; last year he averaged 13.0. Senior center Roeland Schaftenaar’s point totals have dropped slightly, while senior swingman Seth Tarver’s are up slightly. In all, it is looking like a huge uptick from Robinson season one to season two followed by a season worth of reruns.

Washington State – Not a lot of fun being a Washington-state sports fan these days. The Sonics are something called a Thunder these days and they play in tornado country somewhere, the Seahawks are at the bottom of the barrel, college football is just about non-existent and their college basketball programs, which were at one point a combined 20-3 this season, have now combined to go 14-17 since then. For the Cougs, sophomore wing Klay Thompson’s production has taken a bit of a dive in conference play (he just scored 10 combined points in a homestand against the Southern California schools), although he is still averaging almost 21 ppg this season. But with freshman point Reggie Moore and sophomore bruiser DeAngelo Casto to pair up with Thompson, head coach Ken Bone has a young nucleus around which to build.

Oregon – There are two more Pac-10 conference games that will be played at McArthur Court. While some of Oregon’s early-season non-conference games will be played there next season, the Ducks homestand against the Washington schools the final week of the Pac-10 season will close the books on the meaningful games played in that phenomenal building. Some sparkling, brand new beauty of an abomination will “replace” it, but the best atmosphere in the Pac-10 is going away. That’s what I’ll remember from this Duck season. Beyond that, head coach Ernie Kent totters toward a termination, the roster is full of guys with talent who aren’t able to string it together for more than a weekend or two, and Tajuan Porter just missed another wild three. But none of it matters. They’re closing Mac Court.

Share this story

Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2009

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

Boy, that was a rough non-conference season, huh? Everybody and their mom jumped on the Pac-10 for underachieving, and there is certainly some merit to that. The teams that were expected to compete for Top 10 spots sometimes looked like they shouldn’t be ranked at all. As a whole, the conference won very few quality games and for the most part waltzed through laughably easy opponents. Then, of course, there were the downright embarrassing losses that began to pile up one after another.

But don’t think for a second that there aren’t dangerous teams in the Pac-10 Conference. We expected California and Washington to be good, but the past few weeks have seen the impressive rise of Arizona State and USC, who now look like at-large bid candidates. And for as dreadful as we all made UCLA out to be, their losses came against good teams and the Bruins are still hovering around .500. In fact, they’re the only sub-.500 team in the Pac-10, so how bad could the conference really be?

Things will get sorted out as conference play begins tonight, and as the weeks go on the cream will likely rise to the top. Let’s catch up on how everyone has been doing, and analyze their chances at winning the league as we get started with play within the ‘family.’

Player of the Week: Quincy Pondexter, Washington – The 6’6 forward scored 47 points in two wins this week to get the #16 Huskies on track heading into Pac-10 play, and is looking like one of the clear frontrunners for conference Player of the Year. Without a third scoring option to complement he and Isaiah Thomas, Washington will need everything Pondexter’s got if they’re going to win the conference.

Power Rankings

#16 Washington (9-2): You have to wonder about the Huskies heading into their conference opener tonight. They’ve played just two games away from home, their two biggest wins are against Wright State and Texas A&M and they still haven’t found a suitable offensive weapon save Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas. They’re talented enough to win the league, sure, but without really challenging themselves in the non-conference it’s tough to know exactly what Washington is all about.

Arizona State (10-3): Similarly, the Sun Devils have played away from home just three times and dropped two of those games. Those losses to Duke and BYU came against good squads, but otherwise their schedule has been soft as cotton candy. They’re riding a three-game winning streak that began with a big win over hot San Diego State, but that is literally Arizona State’s only win of substance. WARNING: leading scorer Derek Glasser has gone cold in the past month after a very hot start.

California (8-4): The Golden Bears have rallied after a surprisingly rough start to win four out of their last five games; the one loss coming in a valiant effort against #1 Kansas and the four wins each coming by 19 points or more. With the return of 6’6 forward Theo Robertson – Cal was 3-3 during his absense – there’s another wing threat to keep defenders honest and give stars Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle a chance to do what they do. Heading into the conference schedule tonight, Cal still has a great chance at winning the Pac-10.

Washington State (10-2): It looked like the Cougars were a fluke thanks to an easy schedule, but they just kept on winning so you’ve got to give them credit for winning the games they should. Still – and this is a definite theme for the Pac-10 so far – they literally have no quality wins unless you count last Tuesday’s overtime victory over a struggling LSU (I don’t).

USC (8-4): Without a doubt, the Trojans are the most dangerous team in the entire conference right now. It looked like USC was off to a terrible season with a 2-4 start, but they’re now riding a six-game winning streak that includes three quality, double-digit wins over Tennessee, St. Mary’s and UNLV. Senior guard Mike Gerrity has become the team’s leading scorer in just four games and lit a fire under the Trojans, who now boast a potent scoring attack to balance one of the conference’s stingiest defenses.

Stanford (6-6): The Cardinal have faltered a little bit, dropping three of their last four games to Oklahoma State, Northwestern and Texas Tech. Shoot, at least they played somebody! You’ve gotta give Stanford credit for a tougher schedule than most. Senior forward Landry Fields leads the conference in scoring and has put up 20 points in each of the last eight games. Watch for Stanford to shock some Pac-10 opponents this season.

Oregon (8-4): The Ducks open their conference season tonight in what is actually one of the most compelling matchups in the Pac-10 against Washington State. Neither team boasts a difficult non-conference schedule and we’ll get to see whether either of them is for real when they face off. Oregon rides a four-game winning streak that featured nary a quality win, so facing the 10-2 Cougars will be a good barometer for the progress of both teams. Leading scorer Tajuan Porter has battled an ankle injury but may finally be getting back into a rhythm after a recent five 3-pointer effort.

Oregon State (6-5): In all truthfulness, this should be a 9-2 Beaver team. I know what you’re thinking, their offense is such a jumbled mess that they might as well just punt on most possessions. But their defense is stellar, even against excellent opposition, and if they get freshman guard Roberto Nelson back (currently ineligible) then Oregon State will be dangerous down the stretch. Still, there was that home loss to Sacramento State; shudder…

Arizona (6-6): You just don’t know what to do with Arizona. Heading into the conference opener against streaking USC tonight, the Wildcats have suffered several losses to good teams – which is more than most of the Pac-10 can say – but still don’t have a defining win and just gave up a 49-point effort to BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. On the other hand, point guard Nic Wise is playing like a conference MVP contender and he makes ‘Zona dangerous on any given night. Then again, a one-point home win over Lipscomb (in overtime!) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

UCLA (5-7): The head-scratching continues in Westwood as Bruin faithful try to digest exactly what is going on. Yes, UCLA’s losses have all come against quality teams, but the Bruins hardly put up a fight in any of them. They get a tough opener tonight hosting Arizona State. Let’s see if Malcolm Lee and his merry band of underachievers can put up a better fight in the conference season.

Share this story

Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 12th, 2009

checkinginon

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Big West conferences.

Player of the WeekNic Wise (Arizona) – The 5-foot-10 warrior has willed the Wildcats to a few victories this season and posted 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists this week with a loss to Oklahoma and a win over 7-2 Louisiana Tech that could point Arizona in the right direction going into a tough stretch of the schedule. Some players score more points, but no player means more to his team than Wise does. He absolutely belongs in the Pac-10’s elite class of point guards with Jerome Randle and Isaiah Thomas.

Power Rankings

  • #16 Washington (6-2) – The Huskies finally got a double-figure performance from highly touted freshman guard Abdul Gaddy when he scored 11 in a win over Cal State Northridge, but he didn’t do much in a tough 74-66 loss against #13 Georgetown today.
  • California (6-3) – The preseason favorite to win the conference is still a damn good team, with losses to three quality opponents and one of the few victories in the lopsided Pac-10/Big-12 Challenge. The Golden Bears righted the ship this week with two blowout wins and have ten days between now and their next game, a true challenge on the road against the #1 Jayhawks. The conference’s deepest squad boasts four players in double figures and a likely Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate in point guard Jerome Randle.
  • Washington State (7-2) – The Cougars rebounded from consecutive losses with a win over Idaho this week. No secret here, but Washington State’s chances almost solely depend on guard Klay Thompson, who is currently balling out loud. The sophomore scores 25.8 per game, but posted just 18.5 in losses to Gonzaga and Kansas State.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: Don’t You EVER Give Up…

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2009

atb

Jimmy V Classic.  As someone whose family and loved ones have been seriously impacted by cancer, this is always one of our favorite events of the season.  We vividly remember the night at the ESPYs in March 1993 when Jim Valvano gave his inspirational speech, and even sixteen years later, it continues to stand the test of time.  “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” became a mantra for people of our generation, and the positive effects that the Jimmy V Foundation has produced over the years gives Valvano a lasting legacy that many of his fellow coaches, many of whom were more successful at coaching basketball, will never know.  As long as this site exists, we’ll do this every year, and we’ll do it for the Green Bay Packers, Coach!

And now, on to the games…  RTC Live was in the building.

  • #13 Georgetown 72, #20 Butler 65.  Georgetown got 25 points and 14 rebounds from Greg Monroe as the Hoyas dominated Butler on the inside, outrebounding the Bulldogs 43-30. Perhaps Monroe’s biggest impact came on the defensive end, as he helped force Matt Howard into one of the worst games  of his career as he finished 1-9 from the floor while looking intimidated in the post before fouling out. Georgetown jumped out to a 52-35 second-half lead, which Butler couldn’t bounce back from. Austin Freeman was 4-5 from deep in adding 18 points for the Hoyas, who picked up a must-needed statement win. Butler, who got 24 and 8 boards from Gordon Hayward, is not the top 10 team that many predicted they would be during the preseason right now, but this is still an impressive win nonetheless. For Butler to be in position to earn an at-large bid should it come to that, they are now probably going to have to beat both Ohio State and Xavier in coming weeks.
  • Indiana 74, Pittsburgh 64.  Indiana picked up their first relevant win over a BCS team (beating Iowa last year doesn’t count) in the Tom Crean era as they thoroughly outplayed Pitt in MSG tonight. Indiana go 20 from Verdell Jones and 18 from Christian Watford as they finally broke through for a good win after losing three heartbreakers this season. The Hoosiers are going to be a dangerous team, as they do have some talented youngsters (we didn’t even get a good feel for Maurice Creek tonight), but IU may still be a year away from really being able to compete and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Pitt, on the other hand, didn’t look like Pitt. They struggled defensively, they were beat up inside, and they settled for tough, deep jumpers. If Ashton Gibbs hadn’t been hitting from three (he had 25 on 8-25 shooting, 5-15 from three), this one could have been ugly (although, uglier than being down 17 to Indiana in this stage of their rebuild is tough to do).

Not an Upset of the Night Illinois 79, #24 Vanderbilt 68. Yes, Vandy was the ranked team, but Illinois was ranked as recently as last week and these teams are roughly even in our eyes.  A very nice intersectional matchup nonetheless.  The Illini shot a lights-out 59% from the field and ran out to a 9-0 early lead that put Vandy behind the eight-ball from the beginning.  Illinois guard Demetri McCamey lit up the Commodore defense for 8-10 from the field and 23/5 assts, while DJ Richardson added 16/3/3 assts in the win.  The Illinois defense has been somewhat maligned thus far this season, but they did a good job tonight of limiting AJ Ogilvy’s (8/3) touches and forced Jermaine Beal into a 4-14 shooting night.

Some Mid-Major Revenge (Some Not).  There were a few good opportunities for mid-majors to take down BCS teams tonight, and the little guys got a split this evening among the four games up for grabs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2009

checkinginon

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big West and Pac-10 Conferences.

Sometimes it’s not so painful to watch a once proud and mighty warrior fall from grace, as it is bizarre.  You may be able to accept that nothing lasts forever, and that eventually the tide must turn. But it’s one thing to have a rebuilding year, and quite another to be a national laughingstock.  Yet, that term best describes the way that Pac-10 teams have performed so far in this early season. It also describes the way that the conference’s flagship program, the UCLA Bruins, has performed so far in this early season.  The Pac-10, we knew, was a conference in decline. But few predicted that the decline would be so far, so fast.

The conference’s two Top 25 teams have each suffered losses to unranked, seemingly-lesser teams.  The conference was soundly beaten in this week’s Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge, losing each of Thursday night’s three games. In fact, until late Friday, the Pac-10 Conference has not won a single game since Monday night, when Arizona State defeated 0-5 Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  Obviously it’s early in the season, and this is a conference that will play its best basketball later in the season, but the Pac-10 was considered mediocre among the power conferences this season and has instead looked dreadful, while the two teams that did possess national potential are obviously flawed and UCLA continues to trip all over itself. It’ll take a lot for the Pac-10 to rebuild its reputation this season, so let’s take a look at what’s transpired thus far.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Floriani: A Tempo-Free Look at the PNIT

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2009

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.  He also regularly covers all levels of basketball in the New York City area.

NEW YORK CITY – The morning started on a Northeast Conference note. I officiated three basketball games in the NJ Goats (love that name!) Thanksgiving Tournament. My partner was Ed Mills, a NEC official who occasionally will do a 12-and-under boys tournament such as this. Our third and final game had a former NEC official, Tony Banks, who stepped down a few years ago due to illness.  Three nice games in the book and off to New York. Forget Black Friday shopping.

A final look back on the Pre-Season NIT finals and consolation. Duke knocked off UConn 68-59 for the championship.

pnit table 3

Think of Duke and the images of motion offense, passes quickly distributed around the perimeter, precision cuts and open shots come to mind. Friday’s Pre-Season NIT final gave us a look at this year’s Duke, a team that will battle you in the paint and contest everything. The offensive rebounding rate is proof enough. Overall the Blue Devils outrebounded UConn 56-43 with a 25-14 edge on the offensive glass. And this was against a Husky team with several skilled, tough big men.  The principal damage on the offensive glass was inflicted by Brian Zoubek (7 off boards) and Lance Thomas (5 off rebs). Zoubek scored only 2 points but impacted things contesting the paint and adding 11 rebounds overall. Coach Mike Krzyzewski noted two of Zoubek’s offensive rebounds resulted in pitches back out to the perimeter that resulted in three point field goals.

UConn shot 0-4 on the afternoon from three. Not a big concern for Coach Jim Calhoun as the gameplan was to attack the basket. Offensively two things stood out for the Huskies: the field goal percentage of 37% (22-59) and worse yet, a 15-28 mark from the charity stripe. Time and again as UConn was in the process of a run a missed free throw or two put a serious dent in their momentum. Two key points were emphasized by Calhoun. “I can’t remember holding an opponent to 28% field goal percentage (for the game) and limiting them to eight second-half field goals and losing.” Calhoun answered his own question looking at the stat sheet and lamenting the loss of the battle of the boards.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Floriani at the Preseason NIT

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2009

Ray Floriani is an occasional contributor and the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.  He covers college basketball in the greater New York City area.

NEW YORK CITY – A few Preseason NIT semifinal impressions as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade marches on. For years it was the Macy’s parade, long before corporate sponsorship entered our stadia and arenas.  UConn looked very good pushing the pace. The Huskies entered the semi with LSU averaging 66 possessions. Against the Tigers, UConn had a 37 possession first half and a 45-29 lead at the break. The final possession total was 69, somewhat misleading as the Huskies started using more clock the last six minutes with the game in hand. Their final offensive efficiency in the 81-55 rout was 117.

alex oriakhi uconn

I’m impressed with the UConn bigs, Gavin Edwards (15 pts), Charles Okwandu and Alex Oriakhi (9 boards). They are all skilled and can run the floor like deer. Don’t forget Stanley Robinson (14 pts, 11 reb), a matchup problem on the wing or in the paint and point guard Kemba Walker (20 pts, 5 assists). It all adds up to a strong cast.  The Huskies had some less than spectacular performances before getting here. LSU saw the Big East refs at their best to date. Coach Trent Johnson was upset that his Tigers could not handle the transition. Coach had to be concerned as well about Tasmin Mitchell (9 pts on 4-12 shooting) and point guard Bo Spencer (5 pts and 2-14 from the floor).  Storm Warren (15 points 7 rebounds) was the lone Tiger consistently productive on this night.  My baseline press vantage point saw Johnson not ranting but in virtual conversation or debate with the officials all night. Clearly, LSU had a lot more issues with execution that needed addressing.

I’m impressed with Arizona State coming out tough. Too often teams are prepared and ready for Duke but play tenuous, afraid to miss a shot or make a turnover. Herb Sendek has plenty of experience facing Duke while at NC State, so he had his team ready and playing the role of aggressor. I was especially impressed with the grit and penetration skills of Sun Devil senior guard Derek Glasser who consistently gained access to the paint.  To their credit on a night they could have been headed to a third place game on Black Friday, Duke was resilient to meet the challenge and respond. Kyle Singler (1-6 first half) hit a huge trey that sparked a mid second half spurt that allowed Mike Krzyzewski’s club to prevail 64-53.

This is Duke’s biggest team in years if not the biggest under Coach K. Still, the motion offense, movement and presentation of great looks is there. I’m looking forward to the big man matchup. UConn blocked 13 shots or 21% of the LSU field goal attempts on Wednesday. Their shot-blocking ability has to be a big concern for Duke.  I’m also interested to see how well LSU can respond after Wednesday as they meet ASU in the consolation.

To all… a happy holiday!!!

Share this story

RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Southwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South, Mid-South, Lower Midwest, Upper Midwest and Mountains) are located here.

It’s time for the ninth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of hot, dry, desert-y states known as the Southwest Region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Southwest Region (NM, AZ, NV, HI, southern CA)

sw_impact_players_v.2

  • Rihards Kuksiks – F, Jr – Arizona State. Advice to Pac-10 coaches writing up their scouting reports for when they go up against Arizona State this season: when Rihards Kuksiks enters the building, get a man on him. Don’t bother waiting until the game actually starts. You don’t want him getting comfortable, because he’s the kind of shooter who can change a game just that quickly. The guy can touch the ball a few times and the next thing you know you’re down nine before the first TV timeout. Or you get a little comfortable with your late-game lead and after Kuksiks gets a couple of touches the lead is gone and you’re wondering how time can tick so slowly. You want numbers? Fine. Kuksiks is third in terms of returning individual leaders in 3-point field goal percentage (44.3%) in the country among players who hit at least two threes a game and finished 8th in that category last year. A recent article on FoxSports.com by Jeff Goodman reveals some other incredible stats: in games decided by 2 points or less, Kuksiks shot 47% from behind the 3-point line; against ranked opponents he shot 46% from beyond the arc, and in the loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament’s second round last year, he put up his career high in points with 20, with 18 of those coming from long range. In other words, the man steps up during big games. If the numbers don’t interest you, then consider the fact that many of these threes are not from a hair behind the line. They are often from distance. And they are often clutch (ask Arizona about a couple of late ones he nailed in that February game last year). Most importantly, watch the form. It should be an instructional video. He gets good height on his jumper but doesn’t overdo it, and you can see how he gets his legs into the shot. He releases the ball out in front just a little bit, but then the follow-through is a perfect example of that “reach into the cookie jar” that basketball coaches start teaching kids from the moment they can lift a basketball. By the way, he’s 6’6 and more than happy to mix it up in the paint, if needed. My favorite bit about Kuksiks comes from an interview he did for a site called EuropeanProspects.com in which he was asked what kind of player he was. The first words out of his mouth? “I am a sharpshooter.”  This is confidence, not cockiness, from the big man from Riga, Latvia. But I think it’s just fine if there actually is a little cockiness there. Long-range shooters are like neurosurgeons. They’re often asked to do the most difficult things in their field…and if I get to the point where I need to depend on one, I want them a little bit cocky.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

South Region Game by Game Previews – 1st Round

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

North Carolina v. Radford (#1 v. #16)

This is probably the most interesting 1 v. 16 in the tournament. North Carolina will be heavily favored, and will probably win the game, but the Radford Highlanders are no slouch. They have four players that score in double digits, led by 7-foot-0 Artsiom Parakhouski, who is leading the team in scoring (16.3), rebounding (11.2). Matching Parakhouski with Tyler Hansbrough will be fun to watch. One analyst said the Tar Heels don’t even need to start Ty Lawson, but this is the NCAA Tournament, if he is ready to go, he will play.

The Tar Heels are more talented and deeper than Radford, so this wouldn’t be the game to hope for a monumental upset. Radford’s best win is against VMI in the Big South Conference Final, and they have been blown out by every team they have played in a major conference. I will still tune in, just to see Hansborough post up Parakhouski.

LSU v. Butler (#8 v. #9)

This game pits two teams that were under-seeded by the NCAA and as a result, will give the viewers a competitive, fast-paced game to watch. Both teams are in the middle of the tournament pack in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency but they both have great athletes and fun players to watch.

The key match-up will be on the wing where Butler’s Gordon Hayward and LSU’s Marcus Thornton will see a lot of each other. Both players can light it up offensively in a number of ways. Matt Howard and Chris Johnson should be a good one down low. Johnson has a significant height advantage, but Howard scores  a lot of points of hustle, and can be a crafty scorer in the post.

Illinois v. Western Kentucky (#5 v. #12)

Everyone’s trendy upset pick is looking even better with the news that the Illini senior point guard, and best defender, Chester Frazier, is a “long shot” to play according to coach Bruce Weber. But, the Hilltoppers are not the same team they were last year when they made it to the Sweet 16 before losing to UCLA; however, they are good.

Illinois has not played well away from home (4-6), and Portland is quite a trip from Champaign. The Illini have not shot well from the field, and they will need to get Mike Davis (11.6 pts/game, 53.2 FG%) involved early if they want to keep up. The Hilltoppers have four players between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-5 who average double digits and they will run away with this one if the Illini aren’t careful.

Gonzaga v. Akron (#4 v. #13)

I don’t think this game will be as close as many people think. The ‘Zags are one of the hottest teams in the country having won 18 out of their last 20 games, and dismantled Saint Mary’s 83-58 in the WCC Final.

The ‘Zags are in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and Akron just does not have the firepower or the athleticism to keep up with Gonzaga for 40 minutes. Akron has the advantage in depth though. The Zips can go ten deep, and defend well. If they can wear down Jeremy Pargo, they have a chance.

Arizona State v. Temple (#6 v. #11)

Anyone who thinks these teams are both one-man shows is sadly mistaken. There is absolutely no doubt the Sun Devils’ James Harden and the Owls’ Dionte Christmas can take over a game offensively, the there will be another battle to keep an eye on down low.

ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph (14.5/8.4/66.5%) and Temple’s Lavoy Allen (10.9/8.9/57.9%) will be banging on the low blocks, and crashing the glass will be extremely important for both teams. The role players will be the deciding factor in this game, and if ASU point guard Derek Glasser minimizes mistakes, and finds Harden often, ASU has the advantage over the surprising Owls.

Syracuse v. Stephen F. Austin (#3 v. #14)

The Orange enter the tournament playing some of their best basketball of the season, and despite their fatiguing run through the Big East Tournament are a heavy favorite over the Lumberjacks. Jonny Flynn and Andy Rautins have been absolutely on fire, and there is no one on the Lumberjacks roster to match up with them.

The Lumberjacks are an interesting case. They are in the top 20 in defensive efficiency, but are 242nd in offensive efficiency. They beat Drake in December, but they also lost by 16 to Arkansas and 14 to Texas Tech, and neither one of those teams are as good as the ‘Cuse. The Lumberjacks will rotate in a lot of guys, and they only stand a chance if Syracuse isn’t fresh and comes out slow.

Clemson v. Michigan (#7 v. #10)

Both teams and their coaches come into the game with something to prove. The Tigers have to prove they are for real this year, and that they can make noise in the tournament, and the Wolverines need to prove their system works outside of the plodding Big Ten.

The game will feature two of the more athletic combo forwards in Clemson’s Trevor Booker and Michigan’s DeShawn Sims. It will be interesting to see if the two guard one another. But, the Wolverine offense goes as Manny Harris goes, but he is inconsistent as he has nine games with single-digit point totals. If Clemson’s KC Rivers can frustrate Harris, the Wolverines will have a tough time offensively.

Oklahoma v. Morgan State (#2 v. #15)

On paper, the Sooners have a clear advantage in every facet of the game, but the Bears have beaten both DePaul and Maryland, and played close games with Mississippi and St. Mary’s. The problem is, they don’t have anyone who can guard Blake Griffin, or Willie Warren.

Oklahoma has been struggling late and if ever there was a time to strike for Todd Bozeman’s club, now is the time. But they might not have enough weapons to keep up with the Sooners, and Griffin will get to have his way on the low blocks.

Share this story

NCAA Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2009

Arizona St. (#6 seed, South, Miami pod)

vs. Temple (#11 seed)

March 20th, at 2:45 P.M

Vegas Line: Arizona St. -5.5

arizona-st-ncaa-graph

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Tempe, Arizona

Conference: Pac-10, at-large bid

Coach: Herb Sendek, 51-42 at Arizona State

08-09 Record: 24-9, 13-8 PAC-10

Last 12 Games: 8-4

Best Win: 74-67, v. UCLA, February 12th

Worst Loss: 64-74, v. Stanford, March 5th

Off. Efficiency Rating: 116.6/ 12th overall

Def. Efficiency Rating: 91.7/ 30th overall

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s): James Harden, 20.8 points/game, 5.4 rebounds/game, 4.1 assists/game, 50.4% FG; Jeff Pendergraph, 14.4 points/game, 8.5 rebounds/game, 66.5% FG

Unsung Hero: ·Derek Glasser, 8.0 points/game, 4.9 assists/game, 2.2/1 assists/turnover, 40.9% 3PT

Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): James Harden, projected 4th overall

Key Injuries: Jamelle McMillan (day-to-day)

Depth: 19.9%/337th overall, and McMillan is included in that statistic.

Achilles Heel: 337th overall as far as bench minutes are concerned is not going to cut it for Herb Sendek;s club. Even scarier is that the players that do come off the bench are not real difference makers, and their best bench player is McMillan. The Sun Devils will only go eight deep if they absolutely have to.

Will Make a Deep Run if…: If James Harden performs like he has all season, if the role players like Glasser and Rihard Kuksiks make their three-pointers, and if Jeff Pendergraph is able to assert himself in the paint, then the Sun Devils could make a deep run. Similar to Duke, Arizona State is thin inside and will need Pendergraph to play huge.

Will Make an Early Exit if…: If they play an athletic team that loves to push the tempo. The Sun Devils aren’t a bad defensive team, but they can be exploited at certain positions (see Glasser and Kuksiks). If a team gets out and runs against them the Sun Devils will eventually get tired, and there won’t be anyone on the bench to bail them out.


NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2003, Lost in 2nd round to Kansas (76-108)

Streak: 1

Best NCAA Finish: They made the Elite Eight in 1975.

Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): n/a

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: None

Distance to First Round Site: 2362 miles away from Miami, Florida

School’s Claim to Fame: Arizona State is a staple in the Top 10 of pretty much every “party” school ranking that has ever been conducted. The warm weather, attractive coed population, and large undergrad enrollment make it a good place to enroll if you are looking for fun and sun/

School Wishes It Could Forget: Along the same line, be careful what you wish for. Although there are tons of babes on campus, the Sun Devils ranked 119th out of 139th in Trojan Condom’s 2008 Sexual Health Report Card. Still better than the basketball team’s depth though.

Prediction: Often, teams that rely so heavily on one player are good bets to make an early exit, even if that player is as good as James Harden. The Sun Devils have a lot of moxie, and point guard Derek Glasser is much better at running the team than people give him credit for. Aside from the loss to USC, they are peaking at the right time and should probably be able to escape a Temple team that doesn’t belong in the tournament. But if they meet Syracuse in the second round their lack of depth will shine through, and they will go down,

Preview written by… Mike Lemaire

Share this story