Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #6 Georgetown

Posted by mlemaire on November 5th, 2012

Georgetown’s three leading scorers from last season – Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson Jr., and Henry Sims – are all gone. But while the trio were excellent college players, none of them were true NBA talents. You know who is a true NBA talent? Hoyas’ sophomore forward Otto Porter (9.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 52.5% FG), who is back on campus and ready to become the star of a young and inexperienced team. Porter is a projected lottery pick expected to make quite a leap this season, and without the precocious forward, John Thompson III would be staring down a very long season. But with Porter in tow and solid complementary pieces like Markel Starks and Nate Lubick, plus freshmen like D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Stephen Domingo, the Hoyas should have enough talent to compete for an NCAA Tournament berth and maybe even a top-six seed.

2011-12 Record: 24-8, 12-6

2011-12 Postseason: 1-1, Lost 66-63 to North Carolina State in Round of 32.

Otto Porter Was Terrific As A Freshman, But He Will Be Better This Season.


Georgetown opens with a stiff test against No. 10 Florida on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Jacksonville and just 10 days later they head to the Legends Classic where they will start with No. 13 UCLA and potentially end with a match-up against No. 1 Indiana if they get past the Bruins. They have two more tough tests, one at home against Tennessee in the SEC/Big East Challenge, and the other in Madison Square Garden less than a week later against Texas. It should be noted that after the season opener against Florida the Hoyas don’t play a true road game until starting conference play after the new year, although it is hard to find fault in that considering how much other traveling the Hoyas will be doing this winter. Their conference schedule doesn’t hold any surprises as they will play Marquette, Syracuse, Rutgers, and St. John’s twice while only facing the rest of the conference once.

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USC Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on July 3rd, 2012

The Trojans return six contributors from last season’s team, along with point guard Jio Fontan, who comes back after losing last year to a torn ACL. The returnees range from players whose seasons were cut short, to underclassmen who got big time minutes in the absence of their injured teammates, to role players whose minutes could dwindle in the presence of USC’s newly stocked roster. Below, we’ll take a look at each of these returnees in order of their scoring averages in the last season played.

  • Maurice Jones, Junior, Guard (13.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.8 SPG) – Jones’ season last year was one of the most extreme seasons I can remember from a player. He played 94.7% of the possible minutes, logging 24 games in which he played 37 minutes or more, including a 49-minute epic in a double overtime loss to Nebraska. And those weren’t passive minutes either, as he used 26% of the team’s possessions and took 27% of their shots – only four times all season did he attempt fewer than 10 field goals in a game. Unfortunately, many times those double-digit field goal attempts were accompanied by tiny numbers in the field goals made column – he posted a paltry 39.8% eFG and an offensive efficiency rating of 85.4. We could go on for several more sentences ripping apart Jones’ 2011-12 season, but the fact is, he did more or less what head coach Kevin O’Neill asked of him, taking on a huge offensive role in the absence of other more polished offensive players. And, in some areas, Jones shone, specifically with assists on 23.9% of his teammates hoops (the pessimist could point out that was because he always had the ball in his hands), compared with turnovers on just 15% of his team’s possessions (a number even the pessimists would have to admit is pretty impressive for a guy that handled it as much as Jones). With reinforcements arriving this season, Jones’ role should return to some form of normalcy, and you can expect his efficiency to increase as well. Still, at 5’7”, he’s always going to be something of a liability on defense, so it will be interesting to see just how large of a role he plays this year.
Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Played A Huge Role For USC Last Year, Playing 94.7% Of His Possible Minutes (Brandon Hui/Daily Trojan)

  • Aaron Fuller, Senior, Forward (10.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG) – Fuller was the Trojans’ best offensive player last season, his first year of eligibility after transferring from Iowa. He was the one guy on the team who could get the ball in the post or at the elbow and either make a move or knock down a jumper. And, better still, he excelled on the glass, especially on the offensive end where he could get the Trojans easy buckets. His one major weakness, however, is something that isn’t going to change: He’s a 6’6” power forward. Sure, he can out-hustle and out-scrap a lot of guys, but there is a ceiling to just how good he can be.
  • Jio Fontan, Senior, Point Guard (10.5 PPG, 3.9 APG in 2010-11) – Fontan played 23 games for the Trojans in 2010-11 after transferring over from Fordham, leading the team to a 13-10 record over that span. His USC career got off to a strong start as he scored in double figures in the first four games, but lulled a bit in the meat of conference. At Fordham, he was expected to be the primary offensive force, while the Trojans want him to be more of a pure point, so the last time we saw him play, his game was still a work in progress. But, he’s now had two offseasons to work on his game and he got the blessing-in-a-seriously-good-disguise of being able to watch a season from the sidelines. He’s got the ability to score at a big-time level, but if he can balance his scoring with the ability to create for his teammates, he’ll live up to the high expectations that O’Neill has for him.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.30.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2012

  1. We’re now officially halfway through the conference season (man, does time ever fly) and after nine games we’ve got a tie at the top of the conference, with both California and Washington sitting at 7-2. For much of the season, the Huskies have been considered a significant disappointment, underachieving despite boasting one of the most talented rosters in the Pac-12. But this weekend, they scored a huge road win at Arizona in front of a prime-time ESPN audience, capping a sweep of the Arizona schools and earning what is their most impressive road victory of the season. But, as is typical of the Huskies, it seems, it didn’t come easy. At the final media timeout, the U-Dub held a 62-52 lead on the Wildcats and appeared to be coasting. But, turnovers, missed free throws, blown layups and porous defense (not to mention a healthy helping of Solomon Hill) found the game tied up with nine seconds left after a Hill three. But, following the three, freshman guard Josiah Turner was called for a blocking foul in the backcourt, some 60 feet from the basket, with just five seconds left, sending C.J. Wilcox, a 90% free throw shooter to the line. He made both of them, but Turner had redemption on his mind, driving the length of the court in the final seconds, getting all the way to the cup, only to have his shot blocked by Washington freshman Tony Wroten at the buzzer. The last time these two teams played in Tucson, it was Zona’s Derrick Williams rejecting Darnell Gant in the closing moments to seal the win for UA. The loss sends Arizona two back of the leaders in the conference, and cements them in a situation where they will need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to earn their 27th NCAA Tournament invitation in the last 28 years. Furthermore, they’ll have to do so without junior forward Kevin Parrom, who broke his foot in the game and is out the rest of the year. Meanwhile, the Huskies are tied for first place, and if nothing else, at least are in the conversation for an at-large tournament bid, even if their overall resume is lacking.
  2. California earned its spot at the top of the midway standings by knocking off rival Stanford Sunday night, using a 20-9 run in the middle of the second half to put the Cardinal away. But senior guard Jorge Gutierrez, who had a career-high 12 rebounds to go with 11 points on the night, said the game with Stanford wasn’t necessarily a rivalry game, claiming that the Golden Bears just want to win games regardless of who they’re playing. Nevertheless, the win not only keeps Cal in first place, but it knocks the Cardinal down a peg; they’re sitting at 5-4 in the conference, two games back of the leaders.
  3. Oregon now sits a game back of Cal and Washington, after blowing a nine-point second half lead and seeing their rival Oregon State run away from them with a blistering offensive performance in the second stanza. The Beavers scored 53 points, shot a 66.1% eFG and hit five of their seven three-point attempts after the half, led by junior guard Jared Cunningham who had 24 of his 27 points after the break. The win brings OSU back within a game of .500 in conference play and marks the team’s first road win in conference play. They’ll get a chance to bolster their road chops next week with a trip to the Rockies for games with Colorado and Utah.
  4. Speaking of Colorado, they’re tied with Oregon a game back of the conference leaders, but they’re coming off a shellacking by UCLA in Los Angeles on Saturday in which the Buffs’ struggles on the road were highlighted. They’ve won just one conference road game in the first half of the schedule, and that was against a struggling USC team, so they’ll have to find a way to earn some road wins the rest of the way if they want to remain among the conference leaders, a task easier said than done with trips to the Oregon and Arizona schools still remaining. As for the Bruins, they’re in a pack along with Arizona and Stanford of talented teams sitting a couple games back of the conference leaders. However, much like those other two teams, they’re in win-the-Pac-12-tourney-or-else mode.
  5. Lastly, back to those Trojans for a second, as they got the job done this weekend for the first time in conference play, knocking off Utah on Saturday. Maurice Jones and Garrett Jackson each scored 16 points (the total a career-high for Jackson), freshman Byron Wesley handed out seven assists and junior Greg Allen hit three threes as Kevin O’Neill’s club broke a nine-game losing streak. But, the news was not all good for the Trojans, as sophomore forward DeWayne Dedmon tore the MCL in his left knee during the team’s loss to Colorado on Thursday night and will miss the remainder of the season. Dedmon’s injury means that the Trojans have now lost five different players to season-ending injuries.
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USC’s Offensive Explosion: A Sign Of Things to Come?

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2011

It’s been a wild couple of games for the USC basketball team. After having established themselves as an excellent defensive squad incapable of scoring through the first ten games of the season, they played against type in consecutive games. First, on Saturday against Georgia, one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, they allowed the Bulldogs to shoot a season-high 61.65 eFG in a come-from-ahead loss for the Trojans. Then, Monday night against TCU, they inexplicably busted out with coherent offense, scoring 83 points with four players scoring in double figures and just four turnovers on the night, all while reverting back to their excellent defensive form. While it is still early in the season, each of these games can easily be taken as little more than blips on the radar, but is it possible that the offensive eruption is a sign of improvement for a young team that is just now getting used to playing with each other?

Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Has Been Everything All The Time For USC, But Needs His Teammates To Help Out More (photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

The Trojans lost senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL during their team trip to Brazil in August, and as a result head coach Kevin O’Neill had to rejigger his plans for the year. With only two healthy players returning from a team that wasn’t very deep to begin with last year, he knew that there would be plenty of growing pains in the early part of this season. O’Neill also knew that sophomore guard Maurice Jones, the only player who earned more than 11 minutes per game last year, would need to play nearly every minute for the Trojans this year. And so far, both of those expectations have been met, with Jones playing 39.3 minutes per night (or 96.3% of all possible minutes) and with the USC offense struggling to gain any consistency. However, the mere fact that this team is playing so hard and so well defensively is a credit not only to the players, but to this coaching staff.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.23.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 23rd, 2011

  1. Another night, another underwhelming set of outcomes around the conference – and that’s me being generous. Let’s start things out in Kansas City, where California got absolutely drilled by Missouri in the championship game of the CBE Classic, losing by 39 points in a game that was equally mismatched in both halves. Not only could the Golden Bears not get anything going offensively, they had no chance of stopping the Tigers on the other end of the court. Mizzou held Cal to a 31.6 effective field goal percentage on the game, posting a 68.6 eFG% of their own, partly a result of some easy shots generated by the 21 turnovers the Tigers forced. Not only was Cal senior guard Jorge Gutierrez harassed into four turnovers and 4-11 shooting, but sophomore wing Allen Crabbe was held to just 1-8 from the field, and the Cal frontcourt was wholly incapable of taking advantage of an undersized Mizzou front line. The Cal loss leaves Stanford as the sole remaining undefeated team in the conference, with the Cardinal prepping for some tough matchups in New York in the NIT Season Tip-Off beginning tonight.
  2. From the middle of the country, let’s head to the middle of the Pacific, where another preseason conference favorite was getting whooped at the hands of another Big 12 school, as UCLA fell by 16 to Kansas in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational. Unlike the Bruins’ first two losses of the year, at least this time out they showed a little bit of fight, coming back from a 20-point deficit to cut the lead to as little as five late, before the Jayhawks woke back up and strode back out to the final margin with ease. Reeves Nelson played 28 minutes, although he is still coming off the bench in the wake of his recent behavioral issues, but showed the good emotion that gets his teammates inspired rather than the negative emotion that helps deflate his teammates. And then there’s sophomore center Joshua Smith who fouled out in 13 minutes of play, scoring one point and grabbing one rebound. That’s an absolute crime for a guy as talented as he is.
  3. The good news of the night for the conference was USC handling Morgan State at home by three and needing last minutes heroics by Maurice Jones and Aaron Fuller to seal a comeback from a 15-point deficit. It was a surprisingly efficient offensive performance for both teams, as each team shot over 50% from the floor, but the difference was the Trojans forcing Morgan State into 21 turnovers. Junior college transfer Greg Allen, a highly-regarded three-point shooter, scored 14 points for the Trojans, including 3-5 shooting from deep, accounting for his first points at the Division I level. With the limited offensive firepower on this USC team, Allen could be an important piece this season for Kevin O’Neill.
  4. Oregon travels to Nebraska tonight for a matchup with the Cornhuskers (6:00 PM PST, Big Ten Network), and they’ll do so without freshman guard Jabari Brown, who quit the team this past weekend. Head coach Dana Altman still maintains the door is open for Brown’s return, with no deadline for a final decision from the youngster. In the meantime, however, the Ducks have a replacement for Brown’s minutes just waiting, as Devoe Joseph, a transfer from Minnesota, regains his eligibility on December 10. The irony that they’ll be replacing a guy who quit on his team in the middle of a season with another guy who quit on his team in the middle of the season isn’t lost on anybody. There was good news for Oregon, however, as X-rays on the injured right ankle of 6’11” center Tony Woods proved negative, and while Woods’ status for the Wednesday night game is still unknown, he at least is well enough to make the trip to Lincoln.
  5. In the wake of Washington’s first loss of the season to Saint Louis on Sunday, head coach Lorenzo Romar plans to clamp down a little on the freedom he gives his players on the offensive end. After the Huskies struggled executing their halfcourt offense, Romar plans to use that game as a learning experience, saying that “offensively now guys probably won’t have get as much freedom… to take chances and experiment.” It’s a fine line for Romar, as his team’s offensive strengths are in an open court, up-tempo system, but at the same time, the Huskies need to make sure they are taking good shots, something that was obviously not the case at times on Sunday. On the injury front, junior wing C.J. Wilcox, who suffered a concussion during the loss on Sunday, did not practice with the team on Tuesday and remains a question mark for Friday night against Houston Baptist.
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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.


Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Pac-12 Team Previews: USC

Posted by AMurawa on October 28th, 2011

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

USC Trojans

Strengths.  Defense. In Kevin O’Neill’s first two years at USC, his teams have ranked 2nd and 28th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. While the Trojans will not look like what O’Neill expected them to look like even a few months ago, you can expect them to be similarly stingy on the defensive end. With 7’0” sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon an intimidating shot-blocking presence inside, O’Neill could play 7’1” James Blasczyk alongside him and Iowa transfer Aaron Fuller, an athletic combo forward who is capable of guarding multiple positions, at the three. And freshman wing Byron Wesley could be the Trojans’ defensive specialist for years to come. And while 5’7” point Maurice Jones is capable of being taken advantage of in the halfcourt, he’ll cause his share of problems for opposing ballhandlers in the open floor.

Weaknesses. If defense is the strength, is it too broad to say that offense will be this team’s weakness? Well, it will be. With senior point guard Jio Fontan out for the season with a torn ACL, the Trojans are left with no one who is an obvious choice as a go-to scorer. Jones is lightning quick and a streaky shooter, but no one expects him to carry this offense. Freshman guard Alexis Moore will play alongside Jones, and while he is a natural scorer, he could stand to work on his jumper and his shot selection. And Fuller, although a versatile forward, gets by more on grit and toughness than a refined offensive game. It seems like every offensive possession could be a struggle for the Trojans.

Maurice Jones

Maurice Jones May Be Small In Stature, But He'll Need To Be Big For The Trojans

Nonconference Tests.  USC plays in the Las Vegas Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend for the first big tests of their season, when they face UNLV in the opening round before playing either South Carolina or preseason #1 North Carolina in the second round. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier from there as they travel to Minnesota early in December before hosting New Mexico, Georgia and Kansas at the Galen Center throughout the month.

Toughest Conference Stretch.  It’s a brutal end to the season for USC. They host California and Stanford early in February, then play three straight road games against UCLA (although that “road” game is literally just down the road from USC’s campus) and the Arizona schools, before wrapping up the season with the Washington schools visiting Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »

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