Happy New Conference Year: A Pac-12 Reset

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on December 31st, 2015

Happy New Year’s everyone! May you all celebrate the arbitrary tick of the clock on an arbitrary day on the arbitrarily human-invented calendar in whichever arbitrary fashion pleases you the most! Here in this space we’re turning our attention to something far less arbitrary, a tradition older than the hills, a ritual that goes back to before the first organism crawled out of the ocean and onto dry land however many million years ago: the transition from non-conference college basketball to Pac-12 conference play. At least seven unnamed sources indicate that such a sacrament is timeless. And so, to celebrate, let’s take a spin around the Pac-12 and do a quick reset, preparing you for what will seem, as it always does, like a sprint from New Year’s to March Madness.

All-Conference Team (No Surprises Edition)

Jakob Poeltl and Gary Payton II May Wind Up Fighting Over Conference Player of the Year Honors (Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jakob Poeltl and Gary Payton II May Wind Up Fighting Over Conference Player of the Year Honors. (Godofredo Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

  • G Gary Payton II, Sr, Oregon State
  • G Tyrone Wallace, Sr, California
  • F Josh Scott, Sr, Colorado
  • F Ryan Anderson, Sr, Arizona
  • C Jakob Poeltl, So, Utah

When we put together our preseason all-conference picks back in November, Poeltl and Payton were unanimous choices as first-teamers, and here they are at the turn of the calendar as the heavy Player of the Year favorites in the conference. Wallace was also on our preseason first-team and he’s been fine, if not spectacular. Scott and Anderson were second-team guys and have both been rock-solid as seniors. Scott has struggled some in his team’s two losses, but if he can lead the Buffaloes to an upper division finish, he might yet have a say in the Player of the Year race as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Best and Worst of the Week

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 24th, 2015

It was an eventful opening week in the Pac-12. Here are a few of the highlights — and lowlights — from the early action out west.

Best Showing from a Supposedly Bad Team: Most pundits expected USC to be vastly improved from last season, so it may be a slight mischaracterization to say USC was “supposed to be bad”. But it was still surprising to watch USC dismantle a good New Mexico team so easily on Saturday. The difference for the Trojans has been shooting. Last season, the Trojans’ effective field goal percentage was just 46.8 percent while making only 32.9 percent of their shots from downtown. This season, in a small sample size, USC’s effective field goal percentage is 56.2 percent and the Trojans are shooting 37.9 percent from downtown. The defense is still a work in progress with so many underclassmen in the rotation, but the pieces are there and if the offense can keep up, the Trojans could have a shot to go dancing in March.

Jordan McLaughlin And The Trojans Are Challenging Old Notions About USC Basketball

Jordan McLaughlin And The Trojans Are Challenging Old Notions About USC Basketball. (AP)

Worst Showing from a Supposedly Good Team: Through Miami’s first five games, the Hurricanes have looked like an offensive juggernaut that cannot be slowed down. But if Utah is going to be a team with Sweet 16 aspirations, they should never look as lifeless as they did against the Canes. The Utes turned the ball over 16 times in that game and allowed the Hurricanes to shoot better than 50 percent from everywhere on the floor. Jakob Poeltl and company were also easily out-rebounded. The Utes have struggled shooting the ball from long range this season, and relatedly, senior point guard Brandon Taylor has been an abject disaster on both ends of the floor. Still, there’s reason to be believe that both those early trends are aberrations, and losing to Miami isn’t the end of the world. But there’s no denying it: for the present moment, the way they lost has left Pac-12 supporters with a bitter taste in their mouths.

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Pac Goes 3-0 in Tip-Off Marathon: Thoughts

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 18th, 2015

Three Pac-12 teams participated in very competitive contests in ESPN‘s Tip-Off Marathon earlier this week, each coming away with very good wins for their programs. Below let’s take a quick look at the biggest takeaways from those three performances.

Utah – Before we dig into what Monday night’s win over San Diego State means for the Utes, let’s compare that game to last year’s and see what it might mean for the whole sport. You might remember that last year the Utes and Aztecs battled to a 53-49 final in a game that only a mother could love. This year, even though both teams are transitioning with brand new point guards, the two teams combined for 53 more points. Sure, there were 14 more free throws attempted in this game (a total of 57 were attempted), but we’re already seeing an uptick in possessions per game and, as players adjust to the new whistles, we should continue to see greater flow. The rules still aren’t perfect, but all things considered, it seems like we’ve taken an incremental step in the right direction.

As for the Utes, despite losing do-everything guard Delon Wright, this team is so loaded with talent and skill that this year’s edition may be even better than last year’s Sweet Sixteen team. You know about Jakob Poeltl already, and he’s continued to be spectacular (just see above), to the tune of 20.5 points, 11.5 boards and 2.5 blocks per game as well as 70 percent shooting from the field. Plus the seven-footer who shot 43 percent from the charity stripe last year has improved to a 62 percent marksman in the early going — this will be big. Then there’s senior Jordan Loveridge, who looks poised to have the type of year we’ve been waiting on from him since his promising freshman year, averaging 22.5 PPG and knocking in 10 threes already.

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Colorado Preview: What’s The Point?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 9th, 2015

In the next three weeks leading up to season tipoff, the Pac-12 microsite will be evaluating each of the league’s 12 teams. Today, we head to Boulder.

Colorado Buffaloes

Last year was not good in Boulder. It was understood there were going to be growing pains following the Spencer Dinwiddie era, but at least there were plenty of seemingly good options to step into his old point guard role. Not only did none of those options really pan out, but there were also issues everywhere else. This year, despite the fact that there may be a smidgen less talent on the Colorado roster, the hope is that a little more cohesion will help get Tad Boyle’s program headed back in the same direction it was in a couple of years ago.

Josh Scott Is Arguably The Best Returning Player In The Pac-12 (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Josh Scott Is Arguably The Best Returning Player In The Pac-12. (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Strengths. The Colorado frontcourt has a chance to be among the best in the conference this season. That’s quite a statement given that Xavier Johnson is likely to miss the entire season after tearing his Achilles tendon. Let’s start with senior center Josh Scott, who might be the best returning player in the conference. He’s a highly efficient scorer who can hit mid-range jumpers, score over either shoulder with a jump hook, and also pick up some hustle buckets on the offensive glass. Next to him at the power forward spot will be garbageman extraordinaire Wesley Gordon, who is skilled enough to score more than the 6.6 PPG he averaged last season, but also content to clean the glass, set picks and play hard-nosed defense. Backing up those two spots will be sophomore Tory Miller, who showed flashes of brilliance in limited minutes during his rookie campaign. Miller has drawn rave reviews over the offseason, so a big leap could be coming from him in year two. At the wing position, Boyle will employ a combination of junior Tre’Shaun Fletcher and redshirt sophomore George King, players who are capable of filling lanes in transition, stepping out and hitting threes, or getting dirty work done inside. In fact, there will likely be times this year when Fletcher and King are on the court at the same time with two Colorado bigs, allowing the Buffs to go large and find a way to get their best players the most minutes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is It Time for Colorado Fans to Panic?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 12th, 2013

Prior to the start of the season, Colorado was considered one of maybe three teams in the Pac-12 that was expected to be in the chase to pressure Arizona for a Pac-12 title. Now here we are, four days and two games into the season and the Buffaloes so far have looked, well, not good. Against Baylor on Friday night, they combined to miss 19 of their 21 three-point attempts, they showed no ability to slow a very good Baylor offense, and they crashed back to earth in an ugly 12-point defeat. Sunday night, against a bad UT-Martin team, the Buffs wound up eventually running out to a 26-point win, but along the way, didn’t look a whole lot better. So, after a small two-game sample, should Colorado basketball fans start to panic?

Well, we’re not going to go that far, but, we have spotted three areas for concern in those first three games:

Spencer Dinwiddie And The Buffaloes Have Started Out Slowly (AP Photo)

Spencer Dinwiddie and the Buffaloes Have Started Out Slowly. (AP)

Where’s the Defense? Colorado isn’t missing many players from last season, but in terms of impact, losing Andre Roberson a year early to the NBA is huge. On the very, very short list of best defenders in the conference last season, he was not only capable of locking up his own man defensively, but of offering help defense to his teammates and grabbing what seemed like every rebound. Against Baylor, the Buffs did a fair job of rebounding, but there were plenty of times where they wound up way out of place on defense and allowed good looks, both in the paint and behind the arc. These issues continued against a far less potent UT-Martin team, especially in the first half. For now, let’s just agree to call this year’s defense a work in progress, at least during the period of adjustment, because there are plenty of reasons why Colorado has a chance to become a terrific defensive team. One thing this team does not lack is athletic depth. And, as they’ve already shown, outside of maybe the center spot, this is a team that can switch on everything. Wesley Gordon has already shown his ability to defend effectively on the perimeter, while Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker are a proven defensive backcourt. And those youngsters — guys like Tre’Shaun Fletcher and George King and Jaron Hopkins? These guys need to dial up their consistency of effort, but there is a lot of defensive upside here. The Buffs will be fine defensively.

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