Three Thoughts on the UCLA-Arizona Game From Last Night

Posted by AMurawa on January 25th, 2013

UCLA showed a resolve in Tucson last night that not many could have foreseen from this squad a month ago. Here are three thoughts about the outcome, with the Bruins beating Arizona going away to take over sole possession of second place in the Pac-12.

  1. Thirty-three minutes, five turnovers, zero assists and a 41.2% eFG. There’s your point guard, Arizona fans. I’m not for a minute going to suggest that Mark Lyons was solely responsible for the Wildcats’ 11-point loss at home against UCLA – there’s more than enough blame to go around, beginning with the coaching staff and heading on down the line – but the events of Thursday night showcase in a microcosm the concerns that people have had about Lyons as the lead guard of a team with national championship hopes. Sure, he’s been nails down the stretch in more than a couple games this year (games where, perhaps not coincidentally, he again had more turnovers than assists), but time and again down the court last night, the Arizona offense was unfocused and undisciplined. They’ve got enough playmakers to keep things interesting against quality teams even in the absence of coherent point guard play, but for this team to max out its potential, Lyons either needs to improve his ability to create offense for the Wildcats, or Sean Miller needs to explore using either Solomon Hill or Nick Johnson to more regularly initiate the sets.

    While Mark Lyons Has Been Huge In Late-Game Scenarios For Arizona This Year, He Was A Liability Last Night (Jerry Pillarelli)

    While Mark Lyons Has Been Huge In Late-Game Scenarios For Arizona This Year, He Was A Liability Last Night (Jerry Pillarelli)

  2. Repeatedly this season, when Ben Howland has been asked such things as “Why did Tony Parker only get three minutes tonight?” or “Are there any plans to get Parker more minutes?”, he has responded by saying that, to paraphrase, “there will come a game or two this season when, whether due to injury or to foul trouble, we’ll need Parker to give us some quality minutes off the bench.” Exhibit A came last night when, due to concussion-like symptoms exhibited by Travis Wear after taking an unintentional hit to the head in the first half, Parker earned the most minutes he’s had since the Prairie View A&M game in mid-December. He responded as Howland hoped he would, providing 10 rock-solid minutes, scoring six points, grabbing three boards, blocking a shot, playing good post defense and even knocking down some clutch free throws and an interesting fall-away jumper. While saying that UCLA would not have won without Parker is taking it too far, that game would certainly have been much tighter down the stretch in his absence. The freshman has most certainly earned enough trust from his coach to see a bit of a bump in minutes going forward. While on the topic, give credit to David Wear for stepping in for his fallen brother and scrapping his way to his best game of the year. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 01.14.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 14th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. With all of the Pac-12 microsite correspondents in the middle of battling hellacious flu-like symptoms, we’ve taken some time out over the past few days to have our headquarters fumigated. But, as a new week dawns, we’re grateful that we’ve had some good basketball to distract us from our discomfort and look forward to a week of feeling better and another batch of interesting games. Week two of the Pac-12 season ended Sunday night with Oregon holding off Arizona State in yet another entertaining ball game, with the battle between freshmen point guards Dominic Artis and Jahii Carson headlining. The Ducks vault to 4-0 and a first-place tie with UCLA (with the two teams set to square off on national television Saturday afternoon), but even Sun Devil fans should come out of this game with confidence in their team’s viability in the Pac-12 race.
  2. While folks around these parts have known that the Ducks are legit for some time now, the national audience got a heads up about their credentials on Thursday night when they knocked off previously unbeaten Arizona. The Wildcats bounced back strong on Saturday evening by sending Oregon State off to an 0-3 conference start with a full-team effort. While Sean Miller was loathe to single out one player for recognition, I’ll just mention that this was the first conference game in which the three freshman bigs all played well; Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett combined for 25 points, 17 boards and six blocked shots (well, Jerrett got all of those) on ten-for-16 shooting in 64 minutes of action. Really, that’s about the baseline for that trio ; the ceiling is still to be determined.
  3. Meanwhile, the other traditional Pac-12 heavyweight is getting back to throwing its weight around, as UCLA went on a Rocky Mountain run this weekend and rolled back into LAX with a 4-0 conference record and a nine-game winning streak to show for its troubles. Jeff Goodman writes that where the Bruins were a punchline on Thanksgiving Sunday night, they’re now a team that has the attention of their conference foes and are beginning to remind people why they were considered a potential top ten team prior to the season.
  4. Meanwhile, the Bruins’ last foe, Colorado, has some soul searching to do, after their third loss in four games leaves them looking up from the back half of the conference standings. While there is some solace to take in the fact that the team fought back from a late deficit to give itself a chance on Saturday, Tad Boyle knows that if things are going to get turned around in Boulder, it needs to start with defense and rebounding, two areas that were once thought to be potential strengths for the Buffaloes which have been weaknesses of late.
  5. Lastly, circling back to the 0-3 Beavers, they played their two games against the Arizona schools this week without the services of sophomore forward Eric Moreland, who was suspended indefinitely, along with freshman Victor Robbins, prior to Thursday night’s game against Arizona State for an undisclosed violation of team rules. While Robbins will be cleared for action by head coach Craig Robinson for Saturday’s game against USC (not that Robbins, who has played just 63 minutes this season, is expected to play a big role), the head coach is said he will decide Moreland’s fate today. Moreland is expected back with the Beavs this season and, according to Robinson, both players have responded to the situation “about as good as you can.”
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Pac-12 M5: 01.07.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 7th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. All year long we have seen freshman Damyean Dotson make dazzling plays for Oregon, and last night at Oregon State, he had his best game yet. Dotson scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, a stretch that saw the Ducks transform as a team in breaking a close game open and scoring 51 points. Taking advantage of Oregon State’s slow rotations and help defense, Dotson would drive and either get a layup or kick out for an open three all second half long. The Ducks’ star in the making has a chance to shine even brighter on Thursday when Oregon welcomes Arizona into Matthew Knight Arena.
  2. Although this interview was conducted prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, California Golden Blogs had a great talk with head coach Mike Montgomery. Montgomery says the most challenging part of coaching at Cal is adjusting to the climate of recruiting in college hoops and how kids have changed what they are looking for in a school over the years. They were not able to avoid any NCAA Tournament talk, as he says he’s looking forward to playing in the first round the most, but he also adds towards the end of the discussion that “every game has value, and you should cherish that as a student-athlete.” If the Golden Bears are to go dancing, they will likely need a third or fourth place finish in the conference race to do so. And with the way everyone beat each other up in the initial weekend, that is certainly possible.
  3. Remember back in early December, when UCLA had just posted embarrassing losses to Cal Poly and San Diego State? The once top-15 Bruins were 4-3, and rumors were swirling that coach Ben Howland could be fired before season’s end. Since the debacle in Anaheim, however, the Bruins have won seven straight games and have seen terrific play from freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams. The Bruins are fun to watch again, not only on a regional scale but nationally. Now, we will get to see how Howland can do with his team on the road. UCLA’s first true road game of the season comes Thursday against a suddenly feisty Utah club.
  4. Just like it did against Florida and Oral Roberts, and to some extent Long Beach State, Arizona struggled to close out on three-point shooters in the initial weekend of Pac-12 play. And once again, the Wildcats didn’t have to pay for their poor perimeter defense with a loss. Barely. Freshmen Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley struggled mightily as Colorado shot at a 47.6% clip from behind the arc, and Utah followed that with a fine 43.8% mark. Eventually, the sloppy defense will cost ‘Zona its undefeated record; the question is whether it will it happen this week on the Oregon road trip?
  5. Being one of only four remaining undefeated teams, the Wildcats will have a target on their backs and face hostile crowds for the remainder of the season, as you might expect. The Arizona Daily Star has a cool look back at the team’s 1932 season, when the 16-0 Cats made their way through a snowstorm to meet New Mexico in The Pit. The run would end there, in front of one of the most intimidating environments in college basketball. This year’s version of the Wildcats has nine road games left before Championship Week arrives, including trips to The Inferno, the Dawg Pack, and the Coors Event Center. They will need some more luck, and toughness, to survive each of those battles.
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Four Thoughts On Arizona’s Win Over Florida

Posted by AMurawa on December 17th, 2012

On the heels of Arizona’s thrilling win over Florida on Saturday night, we asked our Pac-12 correspondents, including Adam Butler of Pachoops, to share their takeaways from the game.

Adam Butler: Many are quick to call Arizona a young team and that’s a fair argument. They’re a team whose hype has centered around a phenomenal recruiting class that we’re all very aware of at this point. Saturday night, those three freshmen combined for nine points and nine rebounds. Now I’m most certainly not calling them a disappointment. Grant Jerrett hit two crucial jumpers down the stretch and Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley each had a defensive impact on the game. But the name of that game – outside of it being a tremendous basketball contest – was Arizona’s seniors. Solomon Hill made every big play the Wildcats needed and asserted his game. And Mark Lyons? I won’t even talk about the shot because it’s too easy to gush about. I loved the moment immediately prior as Lyons was screaming for the screen to come. Jerrett was tardy and Lyons was ready to end that game. He knew what needed to happen and everyone in that arena knew who was going to get it done. He did it and after the game he was quick to say that fellow senior Kevin Parrom’s effort was the game changer. Those three went for 39/8/8 on Saturday night. It’s the day and age of one-and-dones but I’ll gladly take these seasoned veterans unrattled by the magnitude or environment they’re in. Saturday was Arizona’s first major test, but it most certainly wasn’t Parrom, Hill, or Lyons’ first exam. The scary part? What happens when those freshmen rise to the occasion, too?

Arizona Kicks Off The Celebration After A Stunning Come-From-Behind Win Saturday Night

Arizona Kicks Off The Celebration After A Stunning Come-From-Behind Win Saturday Night

Andrew Murawa: For me, it is not even so much anything about either of the teams (although there was certainly plenty to be learned about both) that stands out to me about the game, but more about the nature of the sport. While we’ve had a fun first month and a half worth of the college basketball season, and while there have been some fun atmospheres from time to time, can we all not agree that the atmosphere Saturday night in Tucson was electric, and blew the roof off of 99.9% (and I’m probably being generous there) of the games we’ve seen so far this year? I’ve got nothing again some of those Thanksgiving week tournament games that are played in front of a couple hundred people or so; I’d rather have those games played in front of empty arenas than not played at all. And some of these neutral site events that have been conjured up recently have been exceedingly cool (the Crossroads Classic and the Champions Classic are singled out for their awesomeness). But can you imagine the difference in the atmosphere of this game had it been played at, say, the US Airways Center in Phoenix. I get that coaches like to get their team some experience playing in bigger arenas in advance of the NCAA Tournament. But, for the sake of the sport that is being trashed by so many other externalities, can we please try to limit neutral site games in favor of scheduling some challenging non-conference opponents and give the fans who support the sport, not to mention the kids that play in the games, the best possible iteration of college basketball?

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#5 Florida at #9 Arizona: Keys to the Game

Posted by DPerry on December 15th, 2012

In a Pac-12/SEC microsite joint venture, contributors Andrew Murawa and Doug Perry tell us what the Wildcats and Gators need to do to gain the upper hand in this weekend’s premier matchup.

Arizona will win if…

Lyons Will Be Key Tonight (US Presswire)

Lyons’ Handling the Ball Will Be Key Tonight (US Presswire)

  1. They can limit turnovers. Arizona’s turnover numbers look real bad (they’re averaging turnovers on 22.2% of all their possessions), but the fact is, they’ve been inflated by a couple horrific games. Against Southern Miss, they gave it up on better than 38% of their possessions, and against UTEP it was turnovers on 30% of possessions. But, in their biggest game to date last weekend at Clemson, they only turned it over 11 times. Most concerning, however, is the fact that Solomon Hill, the player most responsible for getting the Wildcat halfcourt offense into gear, was responsible for five of those turnovers. Florida does a great job of pressuring opposing ball-handlers, with Scottie Wilbekin in particular harassing opponents into turnovers on a regular basis, so if Arizona can make solid decisions and take care of the ball, that will be a major first step in securing the big win.
  2. They can force bad shots. Florida doesn’t really have a ton of weaknesses, but historically, guys like Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario have been known to go into chucker mode from time to time and throw up baffling shots. While the seniors won’t necessarily be rattled by the spectacle of the McKale Center and the national stage, Arizona can help them along the way to bad shots by using their length to dissuade post-entry passes, by employing physical perimeter defense, and by, perhaps most importantly, sticking with Erik Murphy through picks and pops and rolls and whatever else he does, limiting his good looks at the hoop. If the Wildcats can do their best to limit the impact of guys like Murphy and Patric Young on the offensive end, Boynton and Rosario will have to take it upon themselves to win this game. And frankly, Sean Miller would likely rather take a chance getting beat by those guys than getting beat by the Florida bigs.
  3. The veterans play like veterans. Arizona’s freshman trio of big guys – Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett – are serious gonna-bes. They are all gonna be major players, not only at their current level of basketball but likely at the next level. And, while they’ve shown the ability to make a major impact on the outcome of the current season, this is, in reality, their first big-time game. As such, while each of those guys needs to live up to the responsibilities that the Arizona coaching staff tasks them with, the eventual outcome of this game will be determined by whether Arizona’s vets – seniors Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, and, to a lesser extent, sophomore Nick Johnson – live up to their ends of the bargain. Each of them have been very good this season, but this is the first real test. Not only are these guys going to need to knock down shots, make smart plays, and sell out defensively, they’re going to need to provide a positive example for the youngsters as to how games of this caliber should be approached. If the vets can play as vets should, it will not only bode well for Arizona’s chances in this big game, but it will be the first positive step towards success in the following big games.

Florida will win if…

Can Patric Young have another monster game against the Wildcats?

Can Patric Young have another monster game against the Wildcats?

  1. They limit Arizona’s three-point shots. The Wildcats aren’t shy about putting up shots from long range. Arizona ranks in the top 15 nationally in three-point percentage (40.5%) and three-pointers/game (8.6), and defending perimeter shots is not Florida’s specialty (132nd in opponent three-point percentage). The Gators have a propensity to be aggressive in passing lanes, earning steals on 12.7% of their opponent’s possessions, but they should be careful not to overplay against a team that’s so dangerous from long distance. The McKale Center will be bumping, and a parade of made threes is exactly what Arizona will want to keep their fans as loud as possible. Florida is one of the most experienced teams you’ll see in college basketball’s elite tier, but a passionate fan base eager to see the Wildcats thrust into the national title conversation can rattle even the most seasoned team.
  2. They don’t forget about the big guys. Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario are great perimeter scoring threats, but they aren’t exactly famous for their discerning taste in shot selection. If the two gunners spend the night forcing shots that they shouldn’t, I can’t see the Gators flying back east with a victory. Patric Young has been somewhat of an afterthought in Florida’s offense this season, but I guarantee that Arizona isn’t overlooking him. The junior center had the best game of his career against the Wildcats last season, racking up 25 points and 10 rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting. Admittedly, Arizona’s frontcourt has added a ton of size since last season, so Young’s massive frame won’t be as great of an advantage, but he’s an option that Billy Donovan would be foolish to ignore. Forward Erik Murphy has cooled off a bit since his hot start, but he’s capable of a monster game.
  3. They can handle Mark Lyons. Arizona’s stellar freshman class steals the headlines, and they’ve shown flashes so far, but Sean Miller’s crew can’t hang with Florida on youthful talent alone. No, the Wildcats will go as far as their upperclassmen will take them, and Mark Lyons is the best of the bunch. He isn’t a model of consistency (0-7 from the field against Southern Miss), but the Xavier transfer is coming off his best game of the season, scoring 20 points and adding four rebounds and four assists in a tough road environment at Clemson. He’ll have the home crowd’s support on Saturday night, but the Gators’ defense presents a much tougher challenge. Guards have an especially tough time scoring on Donovan’s sound defense, but outside of maybe FSU guard Michael Snaer, they haven’t yet faced a perimeter scoring threat with the big-game pedigree of Lyons.
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One Year Later: Things in the Pac-12 Haven’t Changed A Bit

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 5th, 2012

Just a little more than a year ago, I wrote this article about the state of the Pac-12 and why the conference isn’t held to a higher standard than the other five power conferences. Seattle Pacific, Adams State, and Cal Poly had all beaten Pac-12 opponents just two weeks into the season. If it sounds familiar, you’re right. Nearly all of the preseason hype the league gained from the signings of guys like Shabazz Muhammad, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Grant Jerrett is gone. Oh yeah, don’t forget about Kyle Anderson, Brandon Ashley, or Josh Scott, all ESPN Top 40 players in their own right. UCLA and Arizona were being picked as Sweet Sixteen locks, and Stanford would definitely make the field of 68. And then there were the Californias and Washingtons, expected to make a run at the Tournament if they could put the right pieces together. But the bigger the hype, the bigger there is a chance of disappointment – and there’s certainly been a lot of that through the first three weeks of basketball in the Pac-12.

Games Like The Ones Colorado Has Played Against Texas Southern and Wyoming Has Tad Boyle Frustrated

The conference has lost a combined 24 games so far in the 2012-13 campaign, and an astounding 11 of those have been to teams in the non-power conferences. Basketball factories such as Sacramento State, SMU, Cal Poly, Pepperdine, Albany, and Wyoming have all notched victories against Pac-12 opponents, and there have been some near misses in other places. A Drake squad that ranks 254th in the nation in rebounding led California with 1:10 to play before eventually falling to the Golden Bears. A 1-7 Texas Southern team took Colorado to double overtime on the road before the Buffaloes pulled out a five-point victory. And then there’s UCLA, who entered the year ranked in at least the Top 20 of every preseason poll, getting taken to overtime by UC Irvine after the Anteaters missed two free throws – either of which would have won the game, with five seconds to play in regulation.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 27th, 2012

  1. With a 10-day break between games for Arizona, head coach Sean Miller is currently in the process of deciding which of the four frontcourt players will get the start for the Wildcats going forward. Brandon Ashley, one of the top surprises so far this season throughout the league, was called on last Monday to start in favor of fellow freshman Grant Jerrett, and he responded by posting Arizona’s first double-double of the season. The three spot is of course occupied by Solomon Hill, with a terrific backup in Kevin Parrom behind him. Freshman Kaleb Tarczewski has been getting the call at center, and has responded by averaging 6.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG thus far. The decision of who starts at power forward isn’t as pressing against Northern Arizona as it will be on Saturday at Texas Tech, so Wednesday’s meeting with the Lumberjacks can be used to mix and match lineups and get all of the kinks worked out. The Cats are desperately in need of a sixth man when Parrom is having an off night, so the decision is critical both for the starting unit and bench rotation.
  2. With the beginning of a new week comes, of course, the new polls. The Pac-12 got some recognition in the AP as Arizona broke into the Top 10 with its 3-0 record. Colorado rose four spots after dispatching Air Force on Sunday night, and Oregon received votes at #31 after its big upset at UNLV on Friday. California’s 6-0 start got them recognized, but they still have a ways to go at #36. Right ahead of the Golden Bears is Wisconsin, a team they’ll meet on Sunday in Madison. As expected, UCLA’s awful loss to Cal Poly dropped them out of the Top 25 completely and down to #29 in the Others Receiving Votes category.
  3. The Portland Tribune’s Kerry Eggers says that the NIT is a realistic goal for this year’s Oregon State team, even with the loss of center Angus Brandt. Sitting at 4-1, Craig Robinson and company have an excellent shot at entering Pac-12 play with an 11-2 overall record. If the Beavers manage a .500 record there (certainly manageable with only one game each against Arizona and UCLA), and can pick up a win in the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, Eggers should be correct in that assumption.
  4. Anytime you add 10 different transfers to a roster, there’s going to be some ups and downs early. USC coach Kevin O’Neill has experienced that firsthand this season through just 17 days of game action. So far, the Trojans have dominated a solid Long Beach State team, defeated Texas, hung with a pair of good teams in Marquette and San Diego State, and got embarrassed against Illinois. And that’s just the first two weeks. As Rich Hammond points out, if SC wants more ups than downs then they need to find someone to pull out these close games; someone willing to take the big shot down the stretch.
  5. We close with a great feature on Arizona graduate manager JayDee Luster, via Bruce Pascoe. Luster is a well-known name for us Mountain West followers out here on the left coast, but he also drew some national attention when his Wyoming Cowboys upset UNLV last February in Laramie. Luster’s fresh credibility gives him instant recognition among the Wildcat roster, and as a former defensive star, he certainly has something to bring to the table during practices and workouts. And who knows — maybe this will be the beginning of a long and illustrious coaching career for Luster.
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Pac-12 M5: The Halloween Edition

Posted by KDanna on October 31st, 2012

  1. Happy Halloween, everyone. Arizona will treat its fans to an exhibition against Humboldt State tonight at the McKale Center. Exhibitions are usually for the die-hards, but probably more than a few casual fans will make their way over to the Tucson campus to catch a glimpse of the third-ranked recruiting class in action for the first time against somebody other than themselves. One question surrounding this class is whether it will be able to live up to the hype better than last year’s class. Remember how highly touted the trio of Nick Johnson, Josiah Turner and Angelo Chol were? All signs point to Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley  and Gabe York as able to deliver in a bigger way this season, but one can never be 100 percent certain until they perform in a game. This contest will also provide Wildcat supporters with a first look at point guard Mark Lyons in an Arizona uniform, as the mercurial senior averaged 15 points per game last year at Xavier. It’s also worth mentioning that the Wildcats lost their exhibition opener last year to Seattle Pacific, but I find it hard to believe that a similar result will be produced against Humboldt State on this night.
  2. The NCAA approved tougher sanctions against those programs and coaches who buck the NCAA law. A couple of the more striking provisions are that NCAA violators who are found to be in “serious breach of conduct” could potentially suffer similar punishments to the one handed out to the Penn State football team (a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine). Also, if an assistant coach commits a serious violation, the head coach must be able to prove that he or she was unaware of the assistant’s actions; if not, the head coach could be suspended for anywhere from 10 percent to the entire season. All changes will go into effect starting August 1, 2013. While the coaches who are quoted in the various articles seem to be largely in favor of these tougher sanctions, it obviously still remains to be seen how effective these changes will be. As has been the case throughout history, cheaters will find a way to continue their cheating ways. Hopefully these tougher penalties will accomplish the NCAA’s and everyone’s goal of a markedly cleaner collegiate athletics scene.
  3. Another day, another CBS Sports list. On Tuesday, it was the top 50 shooters in the country, a list that made space for three current Pac-12 players: Washington’s C.J. Wilcox (No. 11), California’s Allen Crabbe (No. 12) and Stanford’s Chasson Randle (No. 41). Additionally, former Husky and current Texas A&M Aggie Elston Turner made the cut at No. 19. No real gripes here, but perhaps Aaron Bright was also deserving of a nod, especially considering his play during the 2012 NIT, a five-game run that earned him NIT Most Outstanding Player honors. What’s noteworthy with this list is that 35 of the 50 players come from non-power conference schools, including representatives from Texas Pan-American and Texas Southern. For those not curious enough to check out the list, former Razorback-turned-Butler Bulldog Rotnei Clarke holds down the top spot.
  4. Earlier this week, ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan released his top 10 rebounders in the country, and Colorado’s André Roberson topped the list. We’re probably a little biased here at the Pac-12 microsite because we get to see Roberson play so often, but there’s no faulting Brennan for this selection. Roberson is an elite rebounder thanks to his hops, long arms and overall very high basketball IQ. There were spots during last year’s Pac-12 Tournament where Roberson looked like a future lottery pick, especially when he started to knock down a few threes. He certainly has that kind of upside, and big things are expected again of the only guy in the Pac-12 to average a double-double last season. There were no freshmen in Brennan’s top 10, but Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett of Arizona both made his “freshmen to watch” mentions.
  5. Lastly, the Pac-12 announced its talent lineup for the Pac-12 Networks’ men’s basketball coverage for the upcoming season. Headlined by Bill Walton, other analysts include Don MacLean, Ernie Kent, Lenny Wilkens and Detlef Schrempf. The play-by-play lineup doesn’t necessarily include as many big names, but all are very good broadcasters and will not disappoint viewers. The most famous of the play-by-play guys is probably Ted Robinson, a two-time Emmy winner who has done just about every sport imaginable. Overall, it’s a very intriguing lineup of broadcasters and it should keep Pac-12 Networks broadcasts for men’s basketball entertaining.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Arizona Wildcats

Posted by PBaruh on October 29th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Arizona Wildcats.

Strengths: Sean Miller finally has all his pieces down in Tucson. This Wildcat team is talented, filled with depth, and has some serious athleticism. With all Miller teams, great defense is expected and this squad is no different. Offensively, these Wildcats can score, they can get out and run, and execute their offense efficiently in the half-court. With the backcourt stacked with transfer Mark Lyons and returning guards in Nick Johnson, Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes, the Wildcats will be fresh for all 40 minutes and be very hard to stop. Lyons is a much better facilitator than Josiah Turner was, and is very comfortable transferring over from Xavier having been recruited by Sean Miller there. On the front line, Solomon Hill can score down low or stretch the floor with a good mid-range game as well as hit the occasional shot from beyond the arc. To help Hill out, Miller brought in the second best recruiting class overall featuring bigs Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Grant Jerrett. All are expected to contribute right away, but nothing is ever certain with freshman. However, it’s pretty safe to say that based on their talent level the three combined will be able to replace Jesse Perry’s production. Additionally, Angelo Chol returns with another year of experience, and although he is still raw offensively, he can defend and rebound well for his position. Sean Miller is now in his fourth year at Arizona and this team has the potential to become elite.

Solomon Hill could cause multiple matchup problems at the small forward spot this year for opponents.

Weaknesses: It’s hard to point out any weaknesses on this team. But, as of now, the Wildcats don’t have a proven player who can really take over a game — there’s no Derrick Williams here. Yet, at least. Also, they are relying on freshman in the post to help carry some of the scoring burden. And most importantly, while Lyons is certainly a talented ballplayer, he has not yet proven his ability to handle the point guard position full-time. If everything comes together as Arizona fans hope, this Wildcat team may not have many noticeable weaknesses, but there are plenty of questions that need to be answered between now and then.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.24.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on October 24th, 2012

  1. CBS released its 2012 Top 50 Big Men list and a handful of Pac-12 players were scattered throughout. Highest on the list was Andre Roberson at #15, however, some have projected Roberson as a future lottery pick and coming in at that spot seems a little too low for someone with his talent. He averaged a double-double last year, was one of the nation’s best rebounders, and clearly was a major factor in Colorado’s run to the NCAA Tournament last season. The second man from the Pac-12 on the list was Brock Motum at #29, while Josh Smith of UCLA followed at #34. Motum should continue to help Washington State greatly this year, but Smith seems too high in his position. Last year he was only effective in spurts and since his weight issues don’t seem to be going away, foul trouble will continue to plague him most nights out. As the list nears the end, two out of the three Arizona freshman big men made it with Brandon Ashley coming in at #40 and Grant Jerrett landing at #50. Out of the three big freshman for the Wildcats this fall, Kaleb Tarczewski was the only one left off the list although he was the highest ranked recruit for the Wildcats of the group. Overall, five entries on a 50-player list is not exactly staggering, but it does show that the talent level in the Pac-12 is improving.
  2. Can the Pac-12 make its way back to respectability? It’s the oft-repeated question of this offseason, and ESPN the Magazine took its crack at answering it. The conference has been struggling for at least three years now and it certainly was not pretty last season. But the article points out that things might be beginning to round into shape. What hasn’t been noticed as much is that the creation of the Pac-12 Networks should have a major impact going forward. That, coupled with the Pac-12’s new national television agreement with ESPN, will allow all teams to get some consistent national exposure which should aid recruiting and will definitely generate more money for the schools. Additionally, the fact that all the head coaches this season return with another year under their belt at their respective schools should help the conference considerably.
  3. Colorado continues to reap the rewards of Tad Boyle and its move to the Pac-12. Now in their second year in the conference, CU season ticket sales are at an all-time high with more than 5,000 season ticket packages sold thus far. And although the Coors Event Center cannot hold as many fans as other venues in the Pac-12, it’s a continued step in the right direction for the Buffaloes, the Division I school that has seen the greatest percentage attendance increase over the past four years. Since Boyle has arrived, the Buffaloes have gone 32-4 at home and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier to pick up a victory in Boulder this upcoming season.
  4. Finally there is some good news for the Utah Utes: Jason Washburn returned to practice for first time in a week today. After already losing Aaron Dotson for 4-6 weeks and David Foster for the entire year, the return of key players to practice and to get conditioned and prepared for the season is crucial. Washburn had been experiencing concussion-like symptoms, but should be good to go now. Utah needs him to be one of the bright spots on this inexperienced squad and any setback could bring the Utes the same terrible results as last year.
  5. ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan talks about what he can’t wait to see in the Pac-12 this year, particularly mentioning the potential of Arizona and UCLA. It’s generally agreed upon that the Wildcats will be at the top of the conference this year with the Bruins somewhere right above or below them, but will any other team make a run to contend for the Pac-12 title? Although anything can happen in this conference, it seems likely that Arizona and UCLA will go 1-2; however, spots 3-8 are wide open. USC has a team full of talented transfers; Colorado could surprise with its frontcourt depth and backcourt experience; Stanford has the talent to win the conference, but does Johnny Dawkins finally have a title within him? All in all, the Pac-12 is up for grabs and there are various reasons to be excited.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 16th, 2012

  1. Washington picked up the second commitment of its 2013 recruiting class on Sunday, adding shooting guard Darin Johnson out of Sacramento. The Sheldon High School (CA) product chose the Huskies over UCLA, San Diego State, and Gonzaga, among others. Johnson’s style is very much up-tempo, if only because he’s a prolific scorer and the more touches he gets, the more come with it. As the article points out, the in-state Aztecs would have been a very tempting choice considering head man Steve Fisher just landed a pair of Johnson’s AAU teammates. But with Abdul Gaddy and Scott Suggs graduating after the 2012-13 campaign, the minutes will be there immediately for Johnson in Seattle. Johnson joins Findlay Prep (NV) point guard Nigel Williams-Goss as the Huskies’ second Class of 2013 commitment. With the backcourt complete, coach Lorenzo Romar will now turn his attention to five-star power forward Aaron Gordon.
  2. Coming off a 19-14 season that was downright embarrassing at times, UCLA’s summer exhibition trip to China might have come at just the right time. It was there that the new-look Bruins, featuring one of the top recruiting classes in the country, bonded together and dominated their games. They did that without the services of freshmen Tony Parker and Shabazz Muhammad, who sat out the trip due to an injury and eligibility concerns. Parker is now healthy, but it’s scary to think how good Ben Howland’s bunch can be this season if Muhammad is cleared by the NCAA. With a pair of five- and four-stars now residing to Los Angeles, the Bruins should not only compete with Arizona for the Pac-12 championship, but are a likely candidate to make at least the Sweet Sixteen come March.
  3. We showed you a few weeks back how many men’s non-conference games would be televised by the new Pac-12 Networks (89, in fact), so it was good news for those that also like to see the women ball when conference commissioner Larry Scott announced that 61 women’s games would be televised on the networks this season. Needless to say, there’s going to be more than enough Pac-12 basketball for the average and even addicted fan to enjoy this season. If your television provider doesn’t carry the Pac-12 Networks, you can let your voice be heard here.
  4. With the start of practice comes projections of all sorts, and in this Daily Wildcat piece, Zack Rosenblatt breaks down the 10-man Arizona rotation. Newcomers Grant Jerrett and Mark Lyons make up two-fifths of the starting five, but Solomon Hill will be required to carry most of the load with the departure of Jesse Perry. Rosenblatt projects sophomore Angelo Chol to get the start at center over highly touted freshman Kaleb Tarczewski, but notes that “having a talented 7-footer like Tarczewski come off the bench is a nice problem to have.” Most of the “key reserve” list is either filled with freshman or bench players who rarely started last season. Junior guard Jordin Mayes is the exception, whose starts were mostly based off whether he was hot or not coming into a game.
  5. Building on the thing that helped keep Utah competitive toward the end of 2011-12, head coach Larry Krystkowiak is devoting 80% of practice to the defensive facet of the game. Already believing that his team has a “scoring punch” (which may be a bit of a stretch, but we’ll reserve judgement until games start), the Utes want to work on help-side defense and stopping attacks at the rim. A lack of discipline and quickness last year would lead to many back-door attacks on the Ute defense, commonly resulting in finishes at the rim. Taking that away and forcing teams to shoot from outside will keep them in games longer, and the longer they are in those contests, the more of a chance something good will happen for the Utes. After all, jump shots are typically tougher to put down than slam dunks.
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Wrapping Up The Pac-12’s Summer Exhibition Tours

Posted by Connor Pelton on September 13th, 2012

Seven Pac-12 schools took a foreign exhibition trip this summer. We recap them below with Drew taking UCLA, Utah, and Colorado, and Connor taking the rest.

Not Every Team Went Tropical, But All of Them Learned Something

Arizona

  • Where: The Bahamas
  • When: August 11-13
  • What: The Wildcats swept their two games against Bahamian competition.
  • Why: As Arizona transitions from an NIT one-and-done to having at least NCAA Third Round expectations, this trip was all about integrating instant-impact newcomers Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley, Gabe York, and Mark Lyons into the rotation. Setting lineups and seeing what groups of players meshed well together was much more important than the actual play against less than stellar competition.
  • Who: Lyons and fellow senior Kevin Parrom were the stars of the trip, each averaging 18.5 PPG. The most anticipated freshman to don the cardinal red and navy blue in a while, Tarczewski, scored eight points in each game on the trip. Arizona absolutely destroyed their lowly competition, winning both games by a combined 112 points.

Colorado

  • Where: France, Belgium and the Netherlands
  • When: August 11-22
  • What: The Buffaloes went 2-3 in five games against European professional teams.
  • Why: With CU breaking in six scholarship freshmen, the trip gave head coach Tad Boyle a chance to build camaraderie between the talented new guys and their six returnees from last year’s Pac-12 championship team. The trip also gave the freshmen a chance to build an identity of their own, evidenced by the fact that Boyle sat out the core returnees from last year’s squad – Andre Roberson, Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie and Sabatino Chen – in one of the games, allowing five of the freshmen to start the game together.
  • Who: While Roberson was his usual magnificent self – he averaged 14.4 points and 13.8 rebounds – freshman Josh Scott eliminated any doubt that he could be an immediate impact player. Scott led the Buffs in scoring in four of the five games, coming up a point short of the leaders in the opening game; he averaged 17.4 point per game for the trip. His classmate Xavier Johnson also made a statement, averaging more than ten points to go with seven rebounds for the game.

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