Marching to Vegas: This Is Our Game of the Year?

Posted by AMurawa on March 2nd, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Early on we dubbed this thing the Game of the Year. It was the conference’s two most storied programs set to square off on ESPN in the season’s waning moments with what was presumed to be title implications and a possible top NCAA seed on the line. It was UCLA. It was Arizona. Muhammad. Lyons. Anderson. Hill. With all the perspective of zero games played, this had “Game Of” written all over it; after all it was the necessary return to glory for the Conference of Champions perhaps still reeling from last season’s abomination. Well now it’s here and it sure doesn’t seem that sexy. One team will host with an underwhelming albeit sound 21-7 record wearing a home loss to Cal Poly amidst ambiguous rumblings surrounding the future of their head man. The other enters Pauley with lauded victories from what seems a season past but with just one win over a top-five Pac-12 team while looking the part of effortless softies. No, the aforementioned would not suggest this is anyone’s Game of the Year and certainly not as the producers of the game have hyper-hyped their prime-er time game featuring Duke and Miami.

When Arizona and UCLA Meet On The Hardwood, Pac-12 Basketball Fans Watch

When Arizona and UCLA Meet On The Hardwood, Pac-12 Basketball Fans Watch

This is an improved year by way of Pac-12 product but hasn’t quite lived up to its moderate hype. The conference held its first game featuring ranked opponents (#21 Oregon @ #24 UCLA, 1/19) since March 2009; but that cannot be the barometer by which we measure the conference’s success. It’s in fact a touch embarrassing and we should probably not mention it again, like walking into the women’s restroom. The collective RPI has hovered in the #6 range throughout the year which isn’t great but it’s certainly an improvement. Last year the conference sat in ninth, easily last amongst the power conferences. I mean, the conference champion wasn’t invited to the NCAA Tournament, do I really need to demonstrate that last year was bad again?

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VI: The Delinquents

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2013

These four teams will need to be spending time extra time this week hitting the books.

Arizona – D+

Over the course of 80 minutes against the Bay Area schools, the Wildcats looked like a top-10 team for about, what, eight minutes? Four minutes at the end of the Stanford game and four minutes in the middle of the first half against Cal? But then again, this Wildcats team has made a season out of playing poorly for long stretches and still coming away with wins, even against good teams. Against the Golden Bears, however, that wasn’t the case. And, long-term, that type of play is not going to be enough to max out this team’s ability. Sure, the freshman bigs still have room to grow, but with the core of this team a veteran bunch, at some point you have to take this team at face value; maybe these ‘Cats are destined to underachieve. Then again, I’m also saying this about a team with only three losses in the middle of February.

With Other Arizona Bigs Limited By Circumstance, Angelo Chol Stepped Up Against Stanford (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star)

With Other Arizona Bigs Limited By Circumstance, Angelo Chol Stepped Up Against Stanford (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star)

Focus on: Angelo Chol. On Thursday night, with Grant Jerrett out with injury, Brandon Ashley fouled out in 13 minutes and Kaleb Tarczewski ineffective, the sophomore big man earned 24 minutes, the most in his career. And, he came through in a pinch, grabbing eight boards and scoring six points over that stretch. He slid back to just six minutes of action against Cal on Sunday, but it must be comforting to know that he’s available to produce when needed.

Looking ahead: Thursday night, the Wildcats head to Colorado and enter a lion’s den, where the Buffaloes have the chance they’ve been looking forward to for more than a month — to gain revenge for the Debacle in the Desert. But for the Wildcats, they have the opportunity to rip the hearts out of an opponent. We’ll see if they have the killer instinct to do so.

Washington State – D

Against USC on Thursday night, the Cougars played the Trojans to a draw for about 35 minutes before fading down the stretch. At UCLA on Saturday night, they weren’t even that lucky, going more than 10 minutes in the first half without a field goal, not scoring their first two-point field goal for more than 16 minutes, and never really finding themselves in the game. With a four-game losing streak in progress and Ken Bone’s first losing season on the Paloose a distinct possibility, WSU fans are relegated to discussing the head coach’s future with the university.

Focus on: D.J. Shelton. A 6’10” athletic power forward putting up 9.5 rebounds per game? Sure. Nothing unusual about that. But that same guy handing out 11 assists over the course of a pair of games? That’s intriguing. Shelton still can’t put the ball in the basket on a regular basis anywhere around the key, a disturbing trend for a big guy, but he is the team’s most accurate three-point shooter, knocking down 41% of his 39 three-point attempts this year.

Looking ahead: Hosting Oregon State and Oregon this week (albeit in front of a largely empty Beasley Coliseum) likely presents the Cougars with their last best chance at a home sweep this year.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.07.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 7th, 2013


  1. The Pac-12 week got started last night with a couple games, the headliner of which was the conference’s hottest team, Stanford, heading to Tucson to face the conference’s highest ranked team, Arizona. In advance of the game, the Wildcats got some bad news when it was announced that freshman forward Grant Jerrett would sit out the game as a precautionary measure due to some foot pain. Almost unbelievably, in sitting out, he became Arizona’s first player to miss a game this season due to injury. As for the game, the ‘Cats got away with running their thin front court out there, even as fellow freshmen Brandon Ashley fouled out in just 13 minutes and Kaleb Tarczewski was ineffective in 13 minutes of his own. In place of the three freshmen, sophomore big Angelo Chol got his most run of the year, playing 24 very effective minutes and grabbing a career-high eight boards as the Wildcats pulled away from a game Stanford team late. Chol probably earned himself some more minutes in the future, although Jerrett should be available to play on Sunday, per Sean Miller.
  2. The other game Wednesday night took place in Corvallis as Oregon State took out some of their frustrations on Utah in an 18-point win as Roberto Nelson and Joe Burton each continued their streaks of strong offensive basketball of late. But even with that win, Oregon State’s now 2-7 conference mark has some people claiming that head coach Craig Robinson is on the hot seat. While I would agree that now there are legitimate questions as to whether Robinson is the right guy to take this program to the next level, something drastic would have to happen for Robinson to not be coaching the Beavers next season. And, regardless of the current floundering state of the program, Robinson has given this program an identity that it didn’t have when he took over for Jay John. At some point, that’s going to have to translate into wins and a competitive Pac-12 team, but Robinson is in no immediate danger.
  3. As for Utah, as Pachoops’ Adam Butler wrote, despite their struggles this season and the occasional blowout, this is one of the unluckiest teams in the country, an idea substantiated by Ken Pomeroy’s luck measurement. While the Utes’ 10-12 record isn’t going to impress anybody, consider the fact that, putting aside their three blowout losses in conference, they’ve lost the remainder of their conference games by an average of less than a single old-fashioned two-point field goal. If and when the Utes’ begin to make better luck for themselves or get the fortunate bounce here or there that turns a one-point loss into a one-point win, the Utes could be in position to make some noise.
  4. Circling back around to that Arizona/Stanford game again, the Bill Walton Pac-12 bus tour dropped Grateful Red off in Arizona this week where he, among other thing, tipped off ESPN viewers to a little known basketball rule whereupon, if you hit anybody on the court in the face with the ball, he owes you a six-pack. I’m personally going to see how that flies on the playground this weekend. Elsewhere in the Grand Canyon State these past few days, Walton spent some time talking to students at both Arizona State on Tuesday and Arizona on Wednesday. And, at Arizona State, he spent about an hour talking to the Sun Devil basketball team and then later spent time talking to Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski one-on-one.
  5. Lastly, in recognition of national signing day in college football yesterday, we take a look at USC’s current recruiting status in… basketball? Actually, despite the fact that the Trojans are currently a team without a coach, USC’s presently has enough commitments to rank in the top 40 nationally in recruiting. However, that could still change because their top recruit, Kendal Yancy-Harris, the #77 player in ESPN’s top 100 list, has eased off of his commitment somewhat and is now considering ten other teams. Yancy-Harris may yet wind up in South L.A., but we won’t be sure until USC decides who their next coach is.
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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


  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


  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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