Reviewing Day One at the Pac-12 Tournament

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 10th, 2016

The Pac-12 Tournament got underway on Wednesday in Las Vegas. Four games; three total blowouts; one marginal blowout. Still, lots went down. Let’s dig in quickly below.

Washington 91, Stanford 68

Are Johnny Dawkins' Days At Stanford Numbered? (AP)

Are Johnny Dawkins’ Days At Stanford Numbered? (AP)

After losing six of its final eight games in conference play, Washington looked great on Wednesday in jumping out to an early lead, turning on a press against the point-guard-less Cardinal late in the first half and cruising to a rematch with Oregon (who just beat them by 13 in Eugene two weeks ago) in style. We’ll find out plenty more about the Huskies today, but the bigger story out of this game may be at Stanford, where Johnny Dawkins is again in trouble. The Cardinal finish the season on a three-game losing streak; with eight seasons now in the books for Dawkins in Palo Alto, there has still been just one NCAA Tournament appearance. If this is indeed the end for Dawkins, it’s hard to argue it was the wrong decision in light of that fact. The irony, though, is that Dawkins probably just turned in his best season-long coaching performance. This is a Stanford team that lost their only real point guard, Robert Cartwright, to a broken arm just a week before the start of the season. Power forward Reid Travis went down eith a stress fracture after playing just eight games this year. Finally, converted point guard Christian Sanders was suspended indefinitely a week ago for the dreaded “violation of team rules.” And yet still Dawkins, with what was arguably the second-worst roster in the league, got drastic improvement out of guys like Rosco Allen, Dorian Pickens and Michael Humphrey — enough to earn eight conference wins. After a year like this one, bringing Dawkins back for another year wouldn’t be insane. That being said, it’s also true that any recruiting momentum Dawkins once had has now stalled. It may be time to get a fresh start.

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Handing Out Pac-12 Superlatives

Posted by Mike Lemaire (@Mike_Lemaire) & Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on March 8th, 2016

With another Pac-12 season now in the books, it’s time to put a bow on the regular season before we all head to the various pool parties and blackjack tables in Vegas (cue Bill Walton: “Please. Las Vegas!). Let’s hand out all the traditional awards below, listing the top candidates followed by the rationale for our picks. Let’s get right to it.

Player of the Year

  • Ryan Anderson, Sr, Arizona: 15.8 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 118.5 ORtg, 24.8% of possessions, 56.9 eFG%
  • Dillon Brooks, Soph, Oregon: 16.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, 111.5 ORtg, 26.3% of poss, 51.4 eFG%
  • Gary Payton II, Sr, Oregon State: 15.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.4 SPG, 111.5 ORtg, 27.0% of poss, 50.8 eFG%
  • Jakob Poeltl, Soph, Utah: 17.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.6 BPG, 127.1 ORtg, 25.9% of poss, 65.3 eFG%
  • Josh Scott, Sr, Colorado: 16.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.7 BPG, 121.5 ORtg, 23.5% of poss, 53.6 eFG%


Jakob Poeltl's Excellence At Both Ends Of The Court Makes Him The Clear Cut Pac-12 POY (Charlie Riedel, AP)

Jakob Poeltl’s Excellence At Both Ends Of The Court Makes Him The Clear Cut Pac-12 POY (Charlie Riedel, AP)

Andrew Murawa: That’s a pretty solid five-man first team (with guys like Jaylen Brown, Andrew Andrews and Chris Boucher also having arguments for inclusion). But there is one player from this group who stands above the rest, as Jakob Poeltl has been the best offensive player in this conference, ranks among the handful of best defensive players, and has been a rock in leading the Utes to a second-place finish.

Mike Lemaire: My heart wants to pick Gary Payton II, but my head knows the right pick here is Poeltl. The big man has put together a season that rivals that of any Pac center in the past two decades. He is among the league leaders in nearly every statistical category and is the focal point of the Utes’ game plan on both ends of the floor. It isn’t a coincidence that Poeltl is playing his best basketball of the season as Utah has gotten hot.

Coach of the Year

  • Dana Altman, Oregon: 25-6, 14-4
  • Larry Krystkowiak, Utah: 24-7, 13-5
  • Cuonzo Martin, California: 22-9, 12-6
  • Sean Miller, Arizona: 24-7, 12-6

AM: Last year, Dana Altman received the official Pac-12 COY award in somewhat controversial (hey, Tucson) fashion, earning the nod over Sean Miller despite finishing behind him in the standings. This year, arguments can be made for any of the four coaches at the top of the league, but this award should belong to Altman. While yours truly has ranked Oregon as the Best in the West since August, the Ducks were picked fourth by the media. And that was before would-be senior point guard Dylan Ennis missed all but 21 minutes this season because of a foot injury. Altman patched together a seven-man rotation from disparate sources and coached them up to become the best team in the conference. Winning 14 games in such a competitive league this season is commendable.

ML: There are many different ways to evaluate Coach of the Year, but I prefer to pick one based on how his team performed relative to expectations. Parity in the conference meant there was no such coach this season, so, with apologies to Lorenzo Romar, this award should go to the coach of the best team: Dana Altman. He is the architect of one of the better two-way teams in the country and has done so while breaking in a new starting lineup. He is both the most deserving and a semi-obvious choice.

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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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