Pac-12 Morning Five: Leap Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 29th, 2012

  1. It’s the last day of February, a glorious time to be a college hoops fan, right? But for UCLA fans, not only are they on the verge of being on the outside looking in during the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, but Sports Illustrated today publishes an “extremely negative” article about the Bruin basketball program. Pulitzer Prize winner George Dohrmann – author of “Play Their Hearts Out”, among other things – will publish a piece today, which deals with the downfall of the program, from Final Four installation to Pac-12 also-ran. The bulk of the story deals with destructive behavior from a handful of players in UCLA’s 2008 and 2009 classes (most notably – surprise! – Reeves Nelson), but plenty of blame is laid at the feet of head coach Ben Howland for not dealing with that behavior promptly or fairly. The content of the article certainly didn’t live up to the fears that UCLA fans experienced on Tuesday, when they found out that Dohrmann, breaker of the Minnesota cheating scandal in 1999 and the Ohio State football scandal last season, was dropping a bombshell on the program, but certainly any negative article about the Bruins at this point is not a good thing for the long term prospects of Howland, already regarded as being potentially on the hot seat. Howland commented on Tuesday that he can’t talk specifically about former players, and that “everybody makes mistakes, I’m definitely not perfect” but that he thinks he has “for the most part” handled things correctly. We’ll have more on this story later today and in the future as events warrant.
  2. Sort of annoying that we have to deal with that kind of story right at the start of what should be about a month-long holiday for fans of the sport, so let’s try to wipe away that story by focusing on some good stories. And there may be no better story in the Pac-12 this year than Arizona’s Kyle Fogg. Fogg came from being an afterthought in the 2008 recruiting class, only signed by Lute Olson because the Wildcats were losing Jerryd Bayless after just one year, as well as a couple graduating seniors, and needed some “fresh blood.” Now, four years later, Fogg is well on his way to becoming an All-Pac-12 performer and he already occupies spots in several Wildcat career top ten lists.
  3. Another senior who has come from relative obscurity to claim a spot as one of the conference’s best players is Oregon senior guard Garrett Sim, who just got done torching in-state rival Oregon State, the alma mater of both of his parents, to the tune of 25 points on ten-of-14 shooting. And for one Duck fan, Sim is the perfect player for the home crowd to root for – not only effective, but eminently annoying to opposing teams and opposing fans. And yes, annoying is a good thing in this context.
  4. Sim has certainly turned it on as a senior, but California’s Jorge Gutierrez has got the whole “thorn in the side to opposing teams” thing down pat after four years of experience. Even as a freshman, Gutierrez’s relentless energy, hustle and defensive pestiness drove opposing fanbases crazy, but over the years, as the Golden Bear combo guard developed his game, he has earned grudging respect from up and down the conference. While just about every coach – save one – in the conference will be glad to see Gutierrez’s eligibility expire, we’ll certainly be missing a little fire in our game next season.
  5. Lastly, let’s jump up to Washington State for one last bit of finding that silver lining, because as Jeff Nusser at CougCenter points out, this year’s Cougar team actually improved offensively, despite the losses of Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto to the professional ranks a year early. Of course, what he fails to mention is that the WSU defense took a complete nose dive. They fell from 46th in the nation in defensive efficiency last year to 199th this year, propelled mainly by their inability to do anything particularly well on that end of the court; they’re in the bottom half of the nation in opponent’s effective field goal percentage and in forcing turnovers, while they’re not a whole lot better than that in hitting the defensive glass or keeping their opponents off of the free throw line.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2012

  1. It doesn’t go down as a surprise of any kind, but Colorado’s win over California on Sunday afternoon certainly doesn’t lack in importance. The Buffaloes got off to a strong start and withstood some pushback from the Golden Bears to lead for the final 30 minutes of the game and knock Cal from their perch atop the conference standings. Colorado, meanwhile, kept themselves in the mix for one of the four first-round byes in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Buffaloes were led by Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson, who celebrated their Senior Day in style, as Dufault went for 15, while Tomlinson had 11, four assists, and four boards and had a major hand in throwing a wrench into the Cal backcourt. Jorge Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs were held to a combined three-of-18 from the floor Sunday night, and in both games against Colorado this season, that duo was just eight-of-44 (18.2%) from the field. Lost in all the lovey-dovey Senior Day celebrating was fellow Colorado senior Carlon Brown slumping on the bench and seemingly not all that pleased to watch freshmen Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker finish the game off. Maybe Tad Boyle is already sick of Brown’s act (it is his first year of eligibility in Boulder after transferring from Utah), but with important games still remaining for Colorado (not just their trip to Oregon next week, but the Pac-12 Tournament, which it seems like they will need to win in order to earn an NCAA Tournament invite), Boyle will have to find some way to get something out of Brown, who is just 22-of-76 from the field in the month of February.
  2. The California loss leaves Washington all by its lonesome in first place in the conference. The Huskies needed a second-half comeback to knock off Apple Cup rival Washington State on Saturday, and they earned that victory largely at the free throw line, not bad for a team in the bottom 10% of the nation in free throw percentage. The Huskies made ten of its final 12 free throw attempts while the Cougars hit just 17 of their 32 second half attempts from the charity stripe and U-Dub escaped with a four-point win. Tony Wroten led the way with 21 points (albeit on 6-18 from the field), while Terrence Ross, in his first game after being declared the Pac-12 POY favorite by yours truly, was limited to just 21 ineffective minutes by foul trouble – he was just one-of-five from the field with two points and three rebounds.
  3. It’s been a long, rough season for Utah, with little talent and as a result, little to play for. But, give credit to head coach Larry Krystkowiak who has kept the Utes scraping hard all season long, and give credit to his team, who the head man describes as “resilient.” It took until the middle of December for the Utes to win a game against Division I competition, and there have been two separate eight-game losing streaks, but Utah got back on the right side of the final score on Saturday, knocking off Stanford 58-57. Junior Chris Hines hit a game-winning three with 27 seconds left and Cardinal senior Josh Owens missed a potentially game-tying free throw with eight seconds, and the Utes escaped with just their sixth win of the year. Meanwhile, for a Stanford team that looked brilliant on Thursday in handing Colorado its first home loss in Pac-12 play, it is just the latest in a long line of uneven performances in conference play.
  4. Normally, if there’s an Arizona/UCLA game being played on the last weekend in February, that’s the headliner in this conference. But, the fact is, as go the Bruins and the Wildcats, so goes the Pac-12. There have been more problems around the conference than just some ordinary teams in Westwood and Tucson, but you have to imagine that if these two stalwarts had lived up to their reputations, there would be a lot less jabbering about the weakness in the conference. As far as the game goes, the Wildcat seniors protected their Senior Day with Kyle Fogg leading the way. The senior guard has averaged at least 24 minutes per game every year of his career, but he is certainly wrapping up his eligibility in style. After going for his second double-double in three games against USC on Thurdsay (and the only two double-doubles of his career), Fogg came just one rebound shy of yet another double-double, but still wound up with 20 points and nine rebounds. The ‘Cats tried to give the game away down the stretch, missing four of six free throws in the final minute, but a Jerime Anderson jumper that could have sent the game to overtime was awry.
  5. Elsewhere around the conference this weekend, the nightmare season for USC continued with a four-point loss at Arizona State, as the undersized and undermanned Trojans couldn’t deal with Sun Devil sophomore center Jordan Bachynski who had 19 points and nine boards. However, it was embattled point guard Chris Colvin who iced the game, converting a three-point play with 19 seconds left to seal the win. Freshman guard Byron Wesley has come up big recently for USC, with new career-highs in each of his last two games, but there just isn’t enough help there for now. And, Sunday night, Oregon held off Oregon State in the 337th edition of the basketball version of the Civil War behind 25 points from Oregon senior guard Garrett Sim, whose parents are both Oregon State alumni.
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The Four-Year Growth Of UCLA’s Jerime Anderson

Posted by AMurawa on February 15th, 2012

There are a lot of great things about college basketball. There are the student sections going crazy during conference play, buzzer-beaters to clinch tournament berths during championship week, there’s Dick Vitale dropping babies like a butter-fingered politician. But perhaps my favorite thing about college athletics, and college basketball in particular, is seeing kids improve drastically over a four-year career. Just looking around the Pac-12 this year, we have plenty of seniors worth raving about. Jorge Gutierrez at California is the consummate leader on his team and has gotten better bit-by-bit over his time in Berkeley. At Oregon, Garrett Sim has gone from a shooter who couldn’t shoot on an undermanned team to one of the best shooters and a gritty defender on a championship contender. Darnell Gant has steadily improved over his time in Washington, adding a solid jumper to his “garbage man” persona.

Jerime Anderson, UCLA

After Early Struggles In His UCLA Career, Jerime Anderson Is Now A Team Leader And Solid Point Guard (Elaine Thompson/AP)

But UCLA’s Jerime Anderson has had a career arc that goes further than all of those players. He came to UCLA as the #5 point guard in the 2008 recruiting class, but there was a time, during his first couple years in Westwood, where there was no reason to think that Anderson would ever approach the level of even a solid major conference basketball player. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Anderson was just terrible during his freshman and sophomore years. During his freshman campaign, he averaged less than ten minutes per contest in relief of Darren Collison, so his damage was somewhat limited. But as a sophomore, he was expected to take over at the point for the departed Collison, continuing the line of great UCLA point guards under Ben Howland. Instead, it became very apparent on opening night that he would experience significant growing pains. He was 1-of-11 from the field, missed all three of his threes, turned the ball over three times and was repeatedly exposed defensively in a loss to Cal State Fullerton that was just the start of a disastrous year. It didn’t get a whole lot better from there, as his confidence hit rock bottom. Anderson turned the ball over on a regular basis, and struggled so much defensively that the Bruins had to resort to a zone defense, anathema to a Howland-coached team. But, as the year wore on, he got more comfortable defensively, his turnover numbers moderated and he slowly began to earn back playing time and his confidence.

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Pac-12 Game Of The Week: Washington at Oregon

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 9th, 2012

Looking at the rest of the Pac-12 slate, it’s tough to find a bigger game than the one coming up tonight in Eugene. That’s where first place Washington meets fourth place Oregon in a game with huge conference crown implications. For the visiting Huskies, a loss won’t make or break their chances at a conference crown, but they need every good win they can get if they want to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. On the other side is Oregon, who are losers of its last two games against upper-half conference teams. Not only does that create seperation between the Ducks and the top of the Pac, but it also gives those teams tiebreakers over the Ducks for Pac-12 Tournament seeding. Obviously, a win tonight would be huge for the Ducks. While the ship for an at-large bid has sailed, the Ducks need to do everything they can down the stretch to finish in the top four of the Pac-12. That would mean a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tourney, giving Oregon a solid shot at taking the Pac-12’s automatic bid. There’s no better time to start that journey than tonight.

Oregon guard Devoe Joseph leads the Ducks with 15.8 PPG. (credit: Eric Evans)

If Oregon is to have a chance in this one, it will need to shoot the ball better than it did in the first meeting between these two teams. In that New Year’s Eve ESPN2 affair, the Ducks shot just 21.7% from behind the arc. Guard Devoe Joseph was targeted and shut down by the Husky defense, going 0-5 from three and scoring just four points overall. In order to contend with the plethora of Husky sharpshooters (C.J. Wilcox, Abdul Gaddy, and Terrence Ross, to name a few), Joseph needs to have a huge night shooting the ball; Not to mention Johnathan Loyd and Garrett Sim. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 12

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 1st, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew and I have compiled after the 12th week of Pac-12 games:

1. California, 17-5 (7-2): The Golden Bears hold steady at number one after dispatching rival Stanford on Sunday night, 69-59. Sophomore guard Allen Crabbe led Cal with 18 points. The Bears are currently tied for first in the real conference standings with Washington, a team they beat two weeks ago. Up Next: 2/2 vs. Arizona

2. Stanford, 15-6 (5-4): Despite the aforementioned loss for the Cardinal, Stanford slides into Oregon‘s spot for a couple of reasons. One, California is slightly better than Oregon State, and two, the Cardinal’s loss came on the road while Oregon’s was at home. At this point, I don’t see either the Cardinal or Ducks pulling an at-large bid into the NCAA’s. Up Next: 2/2 vs. Arizona State

Senior forward/center Josh Owens leads Stanford with 12.9 PPG. (Credit: Paul Sakuma)

3. Oregon, 15-6 (6-3): The Ducks fall to number three after an embarrasing loss to rival Oregon State on Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena. The Beavers would trail by as many as ten before mounting a huge comeback midway thru the second half. The run put Oregon State up by as many as 12, and despite great efforts from Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim, the Ducks would never completely close the gap. The final result was a five-point victory for the Beavers, knocking the Ducks to one game back in the Pac-12 standings and moving the Beavs into solid contention for an NIT bid. Up Next: 2/2 @ Utah

4. Washington, 14-7 (7-2): The Huskies moved into a tie for first in the real conference standings this week, which is good enough for a two-spot jump in this week’s power rankings. After a lackluster 60-54 win in Tempe on Thursday, the Huskies went into the McKale Center looking for first place and a signature win to add to their tournament résumé. They got it. The Dawgs were able to build a double-digit lead after playing a tight 26 minutes of basketball, but the Cats would come storming back, in similar fashion as they did against Oregon. In the end it was C.J. Wilcox who saved the day for Washington as the sophomore put home a pair of free throws with five seconds left to build the lead and final result back up to two. Up Next: 2/2 vs. UCLA

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2012

  1. We’re through four weeks of conference play in the Pac-12, and the situation atop the heap is now as clear as mud. We have four teams with a couple of losses and another two with three losses. Oregon is one of our leaders at 6-2 after posting a home sweep over the Los Angeles schools, and the Ducks have stolen three road games while winning all but one at home. On Saturday, they bounced back from a sluggish first half to outscore UCLA by 20 points in the second half behind a career-high 26 points from junior E.J. Singler. But it was Garrett Sim and Tony Woods that turned the momentum around for Dana Altman’s squad, as Sim notched a personal 7-0 run on just two possessions (a four-point play mixed in there) early in the second half, while Woods blocked two shots and slammed back an offensive rebound on the way to the Ducks erasing a 13-point halftime lead right out of the locker room. Oregon gets to stay at home next weekend for a matchup with rival Oregon State.
  2. California is the other leader atop the conference, but Golden Bear fans probably have to feel like they missed an opportunity this weekend. After pulling out an impressive road win at Washington on Thursday, they spit the bit Saturday, losing by two at Washington State. For the Cougars, Faisal Aden was incredible this weekend. We and others have been critical of Aden’s offensive efficiency this year, but this weekend was spectacular, hitting 19 of his 29 field goal attempts and 19 of his 20 free throw attempts on his way to a total of 57 points over the course of two games. Not surprisingly, his Cougs won both of those, and their fans are excited. Not only was Aden very efficient, but he seems to have taken on a new personality. Instead of bombing away this weekend, he attacked the hoop, got to the line and limited his three-point attempts (three three-pointers attempted on the weekend – all on Thursday night). If he can keep up his new offensive personality, the Cougars just got a whole lot tougher.
  3. Washington now sits at 5-2 after it bounced back from its loss on Thursday with a 13-point win over Stanford fueled by a 20-3 second half run. The win was Lorenzo Romar’s 300th in his career and 100th conference win at Washington. While the usual suspects led the way for the Huskies (Tony Wroten had 21 and Terrence Ross had 18), Darnell Gant bounced back from a terrible night on Thursday with 17 points and seven rebounds against the Cardinal. And, the newest Husky, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the starting tight end on the Husky football team who joined the basketball team a couple weeks back, earned his first playing time, getting 16 minutes and grabbing seven rebounds.
  4. Colorado swept through the weekend series with the Arizona schools and is tied with Washington at 5-2. The Buffaloes earned a one-point win over the Wildcats despite sophomore forward Andre Roberson pulling a disappearing act (zero points, 0/8 from the field), as senior Carlon Brown sank a three to give Colarado the lead after Arizona had taken their first lead since the 15 minute mark in the second half on a Kevin Parrom jumper. However, the Buffs still had to withstand a last-second three-point attempt by Parrom to hang on for the win. The last possession was a curious one for the Wildcats, as they gained possession of the ball following a missed Brown three-point attempt with 30 seconds left and Arizona down one. Sean Miller didn’t have a timeout to call in order to set up a final play, and the Wildcats were nonchalant on offense, only able to put up one shot after 30 seconds and leaving no time for the team to score on the offensive rebound that Josiah Turner came up with as time expired. In other words, Arizona needs to spend some time on their late-game situations in practice this week.
  5. Lastly, time to go slumming at the bottom of the conference, as any time Utah comes up with a win, it has to deserve a mention. This weekend it was the Utes winning the battle of the undermanned, handing Arizona State a 21-point loss on Saturday. Freshman Kareem Storey, playing his second game as Larry Krystkowiak’s point guard following the dismissal of Josh Watkins, had a very solid game, scoring 12 points, handing out six assists and turning it over just once in 36 minutes, while senior Cedric Martin drilled five threes to lead all scorers with 17 points. Arizona State, playing without injured guard Trent Lockett, couldn’t get anything going offensively, shooting just 42.1 eFG% and just three-of-15 from deep.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.20.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 20th, 2012

  1. We begin in Seattle, where the Pac-12 Game of the Week took place at Hec Edmunson Pavilion. And while we named it the game of the week, it also happened to be one of the best of the season. It was a tale of two halves with Pac-12-leading California building a quick lead and slowly building on it. The Golden Bears would eventually lead by 10 at halftime, but Washington let them know it wouldn’t last from the outset of the second half. Trailing by 13, the Dawgs went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 47-42. From there both teams played great basketball. Cal led by 11 with 11:30 remaining, but Washington would come right back to cut the deficit to four a few minutes later. A pair of David Kravish free throws with 6:55 to play seemingly put the game as the Bears led by eight, but the Huskies would battle back yet again. A Desmond Simmons layup made the score 66-63 with 1:05 left, and a Terrence Ross three to answer two Cal free throws made the score 68-66. Justin Cobbs would then split his pair of free throws with eight seconds to play, giving Washington one last chance to force overtime. Darnell Gant got a good look at the buzzer but the ball would not go down, sending the Bears to Pullman in sole possession of first place.
  2. It was a good night for both Oregon schools as Oregon and Oregon State both posted victories against their visitors from Los Angeles. The Ducks got their win first, but not without some nail-biting. Neither team played particularly well on Thursday, but the Ducks were able to get some crucial stops late to hang on for a 65-62 victory. Senior guard Garrett Sim led the Ducks with 20 points. Forty-five miles up the road and two hours later, it was the Beavers getting a much-needed win over UCLA. Earlier today I was critical of Ahmad Starks’ play on offense, but he sure proved me wrong tonight. The sophomore guard poured in 13 points to go with three assists and sparked a big Beaver run to give Oregon State some breathing room. Still, the Beavers can’t rely on outshooting their opponent every night if they want to steal an NIT bid.
  3. You wouldn’t be able to tell by the final result, but one of the more entertaining games of the evening was between Arizona and Utah. The Utes came out inspired in their first game without star Josh Watkins and were able to play the Wildcats tough for 22 minutes. That’s when Arizona, leading 35-32 at the time, went on a 20-2 run in just six minutes and seven seconds. The run sucked the energy out off Ute fans and players, but I’ve got to admit, I’m starting to like what I see from coach Larry Krystkowiak. Obviously, this season was lost in the first couple of weeks, but don’t be surprised if the Utes finish the year with two or three more conference wins.
  4. The most surprising result of the night came from Pullman, where Washington State exploded in the second half to blow out Stanford, 81-69. Trailing 50-39 with 13:30 remaining, the Cougars went on a 26-6 run over the next six minutes. From there, it was all Washington State. The Cardinal were able to get within six a couple of times, but those bursts of hope for Stanford were quickly answered with a mini-run for the Cougs. Brock Motum and Fasial Aden were huge for Wazzu, with Motum posting 16 points and six rebounds, while Aden added a ridiculous 33 points and five boards off the bench.
  5. This article is a little old, but with Aden’s outburst last night and considering we could all use a good laugh to start the weekend, I present this. Craig Powers of CougCenter is the mastermind. I’m just trying to pick out my favorite quote. Is it: “When I walk into a living room with some finely woven wicker, I immediately command attention”; or, “And there is an obvious connection to the game of basketball and baskets. I mean, it is right there in the name.”
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Pac-12 Morning Five: MLK Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2012

  1. Being the optimists that we are here at RTC, we want to get the week started off on the right foot, so we’ll begin with the best win over the weekend, a dramatic road victory by Oregon over Arizona on Saturday afternoon. After the Ducks built up a 17-point lead early in the second half, they eased up on the gas just a bit and before you knew it, they were down in the final couple minutes. A big three by Garrett Sim stemmed the bleeding and put Oregon back up with under two minutes to play, but he later missed the front-end of a one-and-one to give the Wildcats the ball for the final possession. Sim did his part to make up for his miss by blocking a shot from UA freshman Nick Johnson, and then two other shots by the Wildcats on the final possession came up empty and the Ducks escaped with a valuable road win. Oregon now has three road conference wins, the most in the Pac-12, and have put themselves in good position to stick around in the conference race with the Los Angeles schools visiting next week.
  2. Okay, enough of the sunshine and rainbows, on to the worst loss of the week: Oregon State dropping its fifth conference game in six tries, this time a road loss to Arizona State. It’s not all that long ago, some of us were talking about Oregon State as a possible contender for the conference title. Now, the Beavers have had some bad luck along the way, but Saturday’s loss at Tempe sealed their fate: It is now, almost officially, win the Pac-12 Tournament or dream of an NIT bid for Craig Robinson and company. The Sun Devils rode six three-pointers from sophomore Chanse Creekmur  to overcome the loss of junior wing Trent Lockett, who left midway through the second half with a severe ankle sprain. Herb Sendek was also able to get serious production out of Kyle Cain (16 points, eight rebounds) and Ruslan Pateev (ten points, five rebounds, three blocks) in Lockett’s absence. ASU again struggled with turnovers (they coughed it up 21 times), but were able to ride their own hot shooting (68.4% eFG) and the Beavers’ awful shooting (40.6% eFG and just four-of-21 from three) to their second conference win. While there is no official word from ASU, the loss of Lockett will likely leave the Devils with just eight scholarship players in uniform for their games with Colorado and Utah next week. Meanwhile, the Beavs are left to pick up the pieces while wondering what has gone so wrong in the first few weeks of conference play.
  3. Elsewhere this weekend, we had nothing but blowouts. Washington State actually had Washington on the run for about 28 minutes, leading by as much as 11 points. But then sophomore Terrence Ross got whistled for a charge on a 50/50 play, Lorenzo Romar got pissed and drew a technical, and the Huskies responded with a 15-2 run that turned into a 38-18 stretch for U-Dub to finish the game. Over that stretch, Ross had 16 of his 26 second half points (he scored 30 in the game) and grabbed four of his game high 14 rebounds as the Huskies pulled away. It certainly wasn’t the most balanced game for this Huskies (they shot 26 three-point attempts, and actually shot better from three than from two), but they destroyed the Cougars on the glass on both ends of the floor (55.3% offensive rebounding, 88.5% defensive rebounding) and earned an important win ahead of their chance at hosting league-leading California and Stanford next weekend. However, the Huskies will likely play both of those games without second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox, who missed the WSU game with a stress fracture in his left femur.
  4. While the Cougars at least gave their fans some cause for hope in their rivalry game, USC fans had no such luck, as they were blown out early and often by UCLA Sunday night. While the Bruins were anything but impressive, the Trojans were just dreadful, unable to shoot the ball, unable to rebound and certainly nowhere near the defensive presence they have been in earlier games. The fact that a UCLA team led by the tissue-soft Wear Twins and a foul-and-weight-limited Joshua Smith outrebounded the Trojans as substantially as they did (UCLA rebounded 50% of their own misses and 80.6% of USC’s) should keep Kevin O’Neill awake far longer than I will be tonight.
  5. Lastly, we’ll double up on the Bay Area schools, the two teams atop the conference standings through three weekends. Stanford scored a seriously impressive win on Saturday, turning a six-point halftime lead into a 27-point lead in the middle of the second half against Colorado before calling off the dogs. Stanford just did everything better than the Buffaloes and got a big spark for the second game in a row from sophomore forward Josh Huestis, who tied his career-high (set on Thursday night) with 13 points, adding four blocks. Meanwhile, California just took apart Utah in a game that was never in doubt. After Utah opened scoring with a Cedric Martin three, the Golden Bears scored 24 of the next 29 points in the game, took a 17-point lead into half and eventually won 81-45. Sophomore Justin Cobbs handed out a career-high 11 assists as the Bears combined for 24 assists in the game.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 11th, 2012

  1. Washington had all sorts of trouble finishing off “the best 3-10 team in America” on Tuesday night, as they were tied with Seattle with less than five minutes to play before sealing up an eight-point win. The Huskies made their hay by getting to the line. Repeatedly. No really. A lot. Like 59 times. The fact that they missed 22 of those attempts certainly kept the game a lot closer than it should have been, but give credit to Seattle and their head coach Cameron Dollar (who will someday be a head coach in the Pac-12, mark my words) for fighting to the end. Tony Wroten shook off an awful game against Utah on Saturday with 24 points and 18 trips to the free-throw line, but he still turned the ball over six times and made a couple bad decisions down the stretch. C.J. Wilcox also bounced back from his worst game of the season by going for 25 points and drilling four threes. The Huskies get back to conference play on Saturday by hosting Washington State.
  2. In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Herb Sendek touched on his decision to dismiss Keala King from the Arizona State team. His comment that “sometimes when you’re a part of a team, you have to make sacrifices and play positions that maybe aren’t ideal” indicates that King was upset at having to play the point after freshman Jahii Carson was declared ineligible and transfer Chris Colvin didn’t pan out as the lead guard. King wasn’t really cut out to be a point guard (he turned the ball over on more than 28% of his team’s possession – a far sight better than Colvin’s 34%), but he appeared to be the best of a bad lot. Now, Sendek turns to junior Trent Lockett at the point. Lockett isn’t an ideal candidate for the point either (he turned it over 11 times in ASU’s two games last weekend, but did hand out eight assists), but at this point, he’s the only legitimate option Sendek has.
  3. For the first month, maybe five weeks, of his freshman year at Arizona, Nick Johnson looked like anything but a freshman. He played with a confidence and a consistency that belied his year. But, here we are in January and Johnson has but up clunkers in four of his last five games and seems to have lost all confidence in his jumper last week in Southern California, hitting just three of his 15 field goal attempts and missing all six of his three-point attempts. But Johnson remains cool and collected and expects to work through this slump and come out better for it on the other side.
  4. Johnson’s teammate, Kyle Fogg, has seen a slump or two in his day too, but now a senior, he is climbing up all manner of career lists in Tucson. When he started on Sunday against USC, it was his 101st career start, moving him into ninth place on the all-time Wildcat list, tied with Steve Kerr and Reggie Geary. If he continues to start the rest of the year, he’ll have a good chance to pass Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye to move into fifth place, but Jason Gardner’s record of 135 career starts is completely safe.
  5. Beginning to look ahead to the weekend, Oregon point guard Jonathan Loyd is questionable for the Ducks’ Thursday night game at Arizona State, after sustaining a bruised knee in Sunday’s loss to California. He may test his knee in practice today, but it looks like he may be a game-time decision tomorrow night. If Loyd is unable to go, Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim will be the only two guards available to Dana Altman who have averaged more than 10 minutes per game. Freshman Brett Kingma, a three-point specialist who has struggled with his shot, would be the guard most likely to pick up the extra minutes if Loyd is out.
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Pac-12 Game Of The Week: Virginia At Oregon

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 17th, 2011

Arizona did meet Gonzaga earlier today in the Battle in Seattle, but the biggest game of the week takes place tomorrow at Matthew Knight Arena. Oregon came into the season with high expectations for their backcourt, led by highly touted freshmen Bruce Barron and Jabari Brown. However, those two left the program in late-November, leaving Garrett Sim and Johnathan Loyd to pick up the minutes and production. They have done a solid job (13 and 6.8 PPG, respectively), but the biggest boost has come from Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph. Joseph had to sit for Oregon’s first six games since he transferred mid-way through last season, but in his previous two appearances he’s averaged 15.5 PPG. Joseph has combo-guard ability and can be the difference between a top six finish in the Pac-12. At small forward it has been all about E.J. Singler.  The junior is averaging 13 PPG and quite possibly has the purest stroke on the team, both behind the arc and at the charity stripe.

Senior forward Mike Scott will draw the majority of the attention from Oregon's defense. Scott is averaging 15.3 PPG and 9.1 RPG. (credit: The Sabre)

Virginia will bring their slow-down, methodical offense into Eugene. Mike Scott leads the Hoos in points, while sophomore guard Joe Harris is also producing great numbers. But those were the guys that were SUPPOSED to produce. One of the main reasons that Virginia is off to such a great start is because of Assane Sene and Jontel Evans. Sene, the 7’0” senior center, has got the job done on the boards by averaging 4 RPG. Evans’ best game came in their December 6th meeting with George Mason, where Jontel logged 36 minutes, 11 points, and three assists. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Oregon

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 31st, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Oregon Ducks

Strengths.  The Ducks return six players from last season’s CBI Championship team, including starters E.J. Singler, Tyrone Nared, and Garrett Sim. Oregon’s depth in the backcourt will only be rivaled by a few other teams in the conference as they feel comfortable with four out of the six guards on the roster ready to contribute immediately. Leading that group is the aforementioned Sim and true freshman Jabari Brown, who spurned offers from Washington and Connecticut (among others) to come to Eugene. The second group features sophomore Johnathan Loyd and freshman Bruce Barron, who turned down Washington and Oklahoma State to join Brown with the Ducks. The foul out/garbage time guy will be Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph, who will be eligible beginning on Dec. 10 when the Ducks host Fresno State. Joseph put up very solid numbers with the Golden Gophers before transferring midway through the year, but with the talent and depth already in place, he will have trouble finding meaningful minutes. In the frontcourt are two returning starters who still haven’t completely lived up to their potential, Singler and Nared. If both guys, Singler especially, can build on the strong finishes they had during the CBI last year, it could be the difference between an NCAA berth and the NIT.

E.J. Singler and Tyrone Nared both showed signs of greatness in last year's CBI tournament. If they can build on those performances then maybe they will be playing in the NCAAs instead next March.

Weaknesses.  Scoring and rebounding in the paint will be tough for the Ducks early on as they look for a replacement for do-everything forward Joevan Catron (15.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG). Senior Jeremy Jacob will be asked to step in for Catron, but a lingering knee injury could hold him from a breakout year. For any team, but especially a young one like the Ducks have, the nonconference schedule is incredibly tough. The Ducks will travel to Vanderbilt and Nebraska and also have a quasi-neutral site matchup against BYU in Salt Lake City.

Nonconference Tests.  Oregon plays 12 nonconference games, and a 10-2 record in those would be a great accomplishment. Oregon’s four tests will be against Vanderbilt (Nov. 11, Nashville), Nebraska (Nov. 23, Lincoln), BYU (Dec. 3, Salt Lake City), and Virginia (Dec. 18, Eugene). If Oregon gets out of that stretch with a 2-2 record, things will be looking up going into conference play. They should roll through the rest of their schedule, though, with a Nov. 29 meeting versus UTEP at Matthew Knight Arena being the toughest game remaining on the slate.
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RTC Summer Updates: Pac-12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 25th, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our Pac-12 correspondent, Andrew Murawa.

Reader’s Take #1

Summer Storylines

  • The More, The Merrier: The Pac-10 is dead. Long live the Pac-12. The conference welcomes in Colorado and Utah for their first season in the conference, the first expansion in the West Coast’s premier conference since Arizona and Arizona State were added 33 years ago. Along with the new teams comes a new schedule – gone is the full home-and-away round robin. While there won’t be divisions in basketball like there are in football, each team will play an 18-game schedule with home and away games against its traditional rival, with six other rotating home-and-away series and four additional single games against the remaining teams. For instance, Colorado and Utah will only play the Southern California schools and the Washington schools once each, while they will play the remainder of the conference twice. While neither of the new schools are expected to make a big splash immediately in the conference, their arrival, coupled with other changes around the conference, such as the huge new $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox that begins in the fall of 2012, makes it an exciting time to be a Pac-12 fan.
  • Is There A Draft In Here?: Last summer, a big story around the conference was the dearth of Pac-10 players picked in the NBA Draft, as just two players from the conference were selected by NBA teams in 2010. After the 21 players that were picked in the conference between the 2008 and 2009 drafts, that was a precipitous fall. And, back before the season started, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of future high draft picks on the horizon. However, the conference had six players picked in the NBA draft, including three first-rounders and two lottery picks. Derrick Williams, the 2010-11 conference player of the year, led the way, getting snapped up by Minnesota with the #2 overall pick. Unfortunately for teams around the conference, 12 seasons of eligibility were left on the table between those six picks and the two early entries who went undrafted: Stanford’s Jeremy Green and Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto. And as a result, what had looked like a potential big-time bounce-back season for the conference now sees somewhat diminished expectations. Perhaps no team was hit harder by early defections than UCLA, who had Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee leave a total of three years of eligibility behind to go get second-round NBA draft picks (and the absence of guaranteed contracts that goes with them) at a time when the NBA labor situation is highly in doubt, but Washington State’s loss of Casto and lottery pick Klay Thompson also leaves the Cougars’ situation fuzzy at best.
  • Replacing Production: Between the early entries to the NBA Draft and departed seniors, the Pac-12 loses its top seven scorers from last season, and 11 of its top 20. Likewise, ten of the top 20 rebounders are gone. However, as always, a new batch of youngsters is ready to show up on campuses this fall and begin contributing immediately. While the Pac-10 inked only nine of the ESPNU top 100 recruits, seven of those players are exciting young guards, all ranked in the top 60 on that list. Arizona leads the way, signing point guard Josiah Turner (#14 overall, according to ESPNU) and Nick Johnson (#21), to go with a couple solid frontcourt signees (Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson, #60 and #91, respectively). But Washington (Tony Wroten, Jr., #16), Oregon (Jabari Brown, #25), Arizona State (Jahii Carson, #49), UCLA (Norman Powell, #51) and Stanford (Chasson Randle, #59) all have their own big backcourt recruits ready to provide a burst of energy.

Derrick Williams' performances were one of the highlights of the 2010-11 season.

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