Rating the Pac-12 Coaching Hot Seats

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 31st, 2013

As a whole, it is pretty easy to see that the Pac-12 is on an upswing, with talent abounding and more than half of the conference teams optimistic about their chances this season. But in four spots around the conference, there are coaches in dire need of success in order to keep their jobs. Last year at this time, there were six coaches whose seats we deemed at least warm. Of those six, two are now gone, while the other four remain seated on toasty chairs. We’ll take a look at those four coaches and tell you just how worried they should be about their jobs this season, then go through the other eight schools briefly and tell you the state of the head coaching position there.

Johnny Dawkins, Stanford – Scalding. Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir made it quite clear last season that, while Dawkins would be returning for his sixth season on The Farm, there would be heavy expectations – namely, make the NCAA Tournament or else, something that Stanford has failed to do since the year before Dawkins arrived. The good news for Dawkins is that he’s got a fine team. The bad news is that this fine team is made up of mostly the same players who limped home to a 19-15 record last season.

Dawkins' Challenge Is Clear: NCAA Tournament or Bust (AP)

Dawkins’ Challenge Is Clear: NCAA Tournament or Bust. (AP)

Ken Bone, Washington State – Scorching. Last spring, Bone had to wait almost three weeks after his season ended to finally get confirmation from athletic director Bill Moos that he would be returning to coach the Cougars in 2013-14. In four seasons on the Palouse, Bone has compiled a tepid 70-65 overall record, winning just 26 of WSU’s 72 conference games over that span. In fact, the only reason Bone may still be around for this year is that Moos’ predecessor gave Bone a seven-year contract that would have required a $2.55 million buyout. With all-conference type Brock Motum gone, Bone will need to get significant improvement out of a guard-dominated lineup in order to stick around past this season.

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Pac-12 Team Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on October 29th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Strengths. The combination of the lightning-quick Jahii Carson and sharpshooter Jermaine Marshall gives head coach Herb Sendek one of the top one-two punches in the conference. Carson, arguably one of the top 10 point guards in the nation, will run the offense and is as dangerous as anyone in the Pac-12 in crunch time. Complementing the sophomore in the backcourt will be the Penn State transfer Marshall, whose ability to score from the perimeter and by driving to the basket will take some of the load off Carson. Sendek will employ a faster offense this season looking to maximize the speed and talent the pair provides. If Carson develops a strong left hand and even just on occasion forces defenses to play him more honestly, Arizona State can score enough points to compete with anyone in the Pac-12. All of this should result in its first NCAA Tournament trip since the 2008-09 campaign.

Everything Will Go Through Carson For Arizona State This Season (credit: Zach Long)

Everything Will Go Through Carson For Arizona State This Season (credit: Zach Long)

Weaknesses. As good as Carson and Marshall are, there will be nights when a little depth is required. And that’s where ASU could get into trouble. The next best guard is cornerman Shaquielle McKissic, who is in from Edmonds Community College. McKissic has some raw talent and athleticism, but he will be called upon often and doesn’t appear to be Pac-12 ready.

Non-Conference Tests. Arizona State starts the year with a trio of cupcakes before playing seven consecutive solid opponents. That’s almost unheard of in power conference basketball, so it will be interesting to see how the Sun Devils fare during the brutal two-and-a-half week stretch. Known games with UNLV (in Las Vegas), Marquette (in Tempe), and Creighton (in Fullerton) highlight the slate, while possible match-ups with San Diego State and Miami (FL) are also possible. They’ll remain on the road following the Wooden Legacy for a game at DePaul, which is still a Big East road game no matter how bad the Blue Demons might be.

Toughest Conference Stretch. Sendek’s team will get to face the two toughest teams in the Pac-12 back-to-back on the road near the front end of the league schedule. They’ll get a brief reprieve when hosting Utah following the Arizona game, but a visit from dangerous Colorado two days later accelerates things once more.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 28th, 2013

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  1. As we’ve discussed before, at this time of year everybody and their brother has some ranking or another to succinctly represent their predictions about the upcoming college basketball season. We’ve got AP polls and various media polls for different conferences, and all the national sites have some kind of poll. We’ll of course be unveiling our picks in the coming days, but nowadays, one of the most highly anticipated set of preseason prognostications comes from Ken Pomeroy, and he just released his 2014 preseason rankings this weekend. Pac-12 fans might be a little disappointed as they look through the rankings and have to drop all the way down to #23 before the first conference team, Arizona, pops up. There are a total of nine conference teams in the top 75, but seeing an Arizona team regularly talked about as a top 10 team that far down is interesting, to say the least. Pomeroy explains it away as a quirk of his system that doesn’t count freshmen or transfers in very high regard. That quirk also explains why Oregon, despite having arguably the second most talented roster in the conference, is languishing as the eighth-ranked team in the conference and 56th in the nation.
  2. For what it’s worth, even Pomeroy himself points to other ranking systems, like Dan Hanner’s, that probably include those newcomers more fairly. In Hanner’s ranking system, Arizona is 8th, UCLA is the only other Pac-12 team in the top 25 (#20), and there are six other Pac-12 teams ranked between #26 and #50. Oregon is 33rd according to Hanner. Pomeroy also points to Team Rankings as another good example of analytics-based preseason rankings, although, like anything else, even those can be wild guesses at times. Exhibit A, check UCLA at the fifth spot in Team Rankings’ preseason list last year.
  3. We had some fun last week arguing about how many Pac-12 teams will be in the discussion for NCAA Tournament invitations come March and Arizona State is one of those teams of which there is some disagreement. But Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reports that point guard Jahii Carson and head coach Herb Sendek think that this year’s vintage of the Sun Devils will have more depth and weapons for the team to play with. If ASU is indeed improved over last season, they could be in a good mood come Selection Sunday because last year they were one of the first dozen or so teams on the wrong side of the bubble.
  4. USC held a public scrimmage on Sunday that served not only as the unveiling of the new style of Trojans basketball under head coach Andy Enfield, but also of freshman Julian Jacobs, who threw down five dunks in his debut with the program. While senior transfer Pe’Shon Howard is still expected to be the main man at the point for Enfield, you can never have too many capable and explosive ball-handlers in his type of offense. Jacobs’ debut bodes well, as the Trojans will need some of the newcomers to step up and provide offense immediately for a team that has recently struggled to put the ball in the hoop.
  5. Lastly, the Daily Camera has a good piece on Colorado redshirt freshman forward Wesley Gordon, one of a handful of Buffaloes who will chip in to try to replace Andre Roberson’s departed production. Gordon sat out last season in order to get stronger to handle the physical rigors of playing up front in the Pac-12. He added 15 pounds of muscle and, having played against center Josh Scott for a year, he’s more confident in his abilities now, especially on the defensive end. While Gordon certainly can’t do all of the things that Roberson provided to the team, he’ll be counted on mainly to help out on the glass and become a defensive force inside.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.18.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 18th, 2013

  1. pac12_morning5Pac-12 Media Day is in the books, meaning, if nothing else, we’re another day closer to actual games. We’ll have some info in the coming days from there, but for this morning, Percy Allen of The Seattle Times has a rundown of the highlights of each speaker’s time in the spotlight. As for the media poll, there were no real surprises as Arizona received 21 of the 23 first-place votes while UCLA and Colorado each grabbed one on the way to second and third place, respectively. Oregon, California, and Stanford rounded out the upper half of the league, with Arizona State not far behind.
  2. In order for Arizona State to break into that upper-half of the league (they finished in a four-way tie for sixth last season), they’re going to need Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall to be a scoring threat on the wing. But unfortunately for Marshall and the Sun Devils, the senior has been sidelined with a case of coccidiodomycosis, or “Valley fever”, for the past week. With point guard Jahii Carson having previously missed some time with leg problems, what could be a dynamic backcourt duo for the Sun Devils have not had quite as much time to get used to each other as would have been ideal.
  3. While there is no doubt that Carson is the Sun Devils’ point guard and floor general, head coach Herb Sendek recently talked up the idea of junior forward Jonathan Gilling as the team’s quarterback because of his ability to get everybody on the floor operating in unison. While he’s not the kind of guy who is going to bring the ball up court or rack up a lot of assists, Gilling is a guy who, according to his coach, gets the most out of his ability while flying under the radar.
  4. Meanwhile, Utah’s backcourt is expected to take on an unconventional look this season, what with 6’5 junior college transfer Delon Wright expected to man the point, while much smaller sophomore Brandon Taylor is likely to play the shooting guard spot, despite his just 5’10 frame. In the offseason it was unknown exactly who would step up and take over the point guard spot for the Utes this year, but word is that Wright has looked impressive in his time in practice and is the heavy favorite to play the lead guard. Meanwhile Taylor, who spent his fair share of time as the lead guard last year for the Utes, has been one of the team’s best shooter and could be expected to make a bigger impact playing off of the ball.
  5. And, since we are back to doing our regular Morning Fives, now is the time of the year where Connor and I re-spark our regular weekly pick ‘em contest. So far this year (and you will have to take our word on this), Connor and I have battled it out elsewhere to the tune of a 40-12 record for myself and a 42-10 record for my opponent (although, in my defense, we would have been tied at 41-11 if Washington had completed their final drive at Stanford). With the UCLA/Stanford match-up clearly the game of the week, we will try to pick a score on that game, while just picking winners everywhere else. pickem_firstweek
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Arizona State Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 4th, 2013

Now that all 12 conference teams are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Today we start with Arizona State.

What Went Right

A lot of things went right for the Sun Devils this year, as they won 12 more games this season, but a lot of those things stemmed from the eligibility and success of freshman point guard Jahii Carson. He was this team’s catalyst from start to finish and many of the areas in which ASU improved can be directly traced back to him. Carrick Felix’s offensive explosion? It certainly wouldn’t have happened without Carson’s play-making ability and the attention he drew from defenses. Herb Sendek’s new slightly-more-uptempo approach? It was almost entirely tied to Carson’s strengths. And best of all, for the first time since James Harden left Tempe, Sun Devils basketball is unabashedly cool again.

Jahii Carson Helped Make Sun Devil Basketball Cool Again (credit: Arizona State)

Jahii Carson Helped Make Sun Devil Basketball Cool Again (credit: Arizona State)

What Went Wrong

Any time you’re ranked below 300th in the nation in free throw percentage (64.9% as a team), you know you’re going to frustrate your coaching staff. The Sun Devils lost seven games this season by five points or less, and their combined free throw percentage in those games was even worse than the season average at 59.6%. Games like their home game against Stanford where they just 8-of-16 from the stripe in a three-point loss have to stick in the craw, even months later.

MVP

While you’ve got to recognize the great impact that Felix had on both ends of the court for the Sun Devils, there is little question that Jahii Carson was the team’s best player and it’s most valuable. He was the only major addition to a team that had won just 10 games in 2011-12 and he was not only the focal point offensively, he also injected the team with confidence and excitement.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.26.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 26th, 2013

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  1. A day after the news came down that Ben Howland’s days as the UCLA head coach were over, there he was, back in front of the media at the Westwood campus on Monday, giving a farewell press conference. Howland, as expected, was gracious, thanking players and athletic department personnel, including the athletic director who just fired him. Howland said he hopes to continue coaching, although he realizes that his next job will take a step back in prestige. While the growing consensus seems to be that UCLA was right to part ways with the coach, he still gets a lot of respect and will likely kill it wherever he winds up next. Here’s hoping he takes a year off, finds some nice fly-fishing spots and comes back in 2014-15 at either a mid-major or a struggling major conference team and undertakes a successful rebuilding job.
  2. As for the next UCLA head coach, until a contract is signed, sealed and delivered, this coaching search is going to be in the news almost daily. But for now, no real news has come out, other than a ton of marginally sane suggestions s to who the next Bruins coach will be. For instance , when writers from around the Tribune Company (the owner of the Los Angeles Times, among others) came up with their list of potential names, John Calipari was one of the suggestions, along with Anthony Grant, Andy Kennedy and Andy Enfield. Enfield’s probably too green yet to get the UCLA job, Kennedy certainly ain’t happening, and Calipari? Yeah, not buying that at all. But Grant is an intriguing name, should UCLA strike out on their first few targets. Oh, and N.C. State fans? No need to worry.
  3. Arizona is on its way to Los Angeles this week to compete in the Sweet Sixteen at the Staples Center on Thursday. The last time this Wildcats team was in Los Angeles, to face USC and UCLA the week spanning the end of February and the beginning of March, they came away with a pair of losses. And yet, both head coach Sean Miller and sophomore guard Nick Johnson point to that road trip as the time when things started to come together for the team. Johnson in particular says the Wildcats have been a different defensive team since that trip, and the results seem to show it, as they’ve allowed just 0.95 points per possession against four NCAA Tournament teams and one NIT team.
  4. The other Pac-12 team still alive in the NCAA Tournament is Oregon, but they’ve got a tough task ahead as they face the Tournament’s number one overall seed, Louisville, on Friday night. While just getting this far is a success for the Ducks, they’re still focused on getting even further. But in order to do that, they’ll need to take better care of the ball against the Cardinals’ defensive pressure after turning it over 36 times last weekend in their two dominating wins in San Jose. They got away with it last week, but it is likely that if they turn it over 18 times against Louisville, they’ll be back in Eugene on Saturday.
  5. Lastly, we circle back around to the coaching situation, as Percy Allen goes through all the Pac-12 jobs and tries to determine who is and who is not on the hot seat. He lists the obvious ones: Ken Bone, Craig Robinson and Johnny Dawkins, and although the expectation is that all will be back next season, the 2013-14 year will certainly be make-or-break years for each. Also on Allen’s list is Herb Sendek, but he earned himself the benefit of the doubt with this season’s improvement, although if Jahii Carson winds up going pro this season, they’re likely back to square one. And then the final name on his list is Larry Krystkowiak, who is in no way on the hot seat whatsoever, as Utah will almost certainly give him the entirety of his five-year contract to turn things around.
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Four Thoughts on the Pac-12 Tournament First Round

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 14th, 2013

Day one of the Pac-12 Tournament is complete, and we received good games all throughout from the basketball gods. From an overtime thriller to start the day, to the discovery of a possible Cinderella in the Pac-12 field, it was a solid start to the league’s little version of March Madness. Here are four things that stood out on day one of the Pac-12 Tournament.

Colorado Used Its Height Advantage To Advance To The Quarterfinals (credit: Julie Jacobson)

Colorado Used Its Height Advantage To Advance To The Quarterfinals (credit: Julie Jacobson)

  1. The Charity Stripe – The free throw line was the X factor in Arizona State‘s 88-87, overtime win over Stanford today. The Sun Devils made 14 of 17 free throws in the win. Stanford? It made one. ASU also shot 50% from behind the arc and got a 34-point performance from star point guard Jahii Carson. If Herb Sendek and company can keep up this kind of production on offense, their mediocre play on the defensive end of the court will be forgotten.
  2. Climbing the Bubble - The Devils also kept alive their flickering at-large hopes with the win, improving to 21-11 on the season and giving themselves a chance to pick up a quality win against UCLA tomorrow. A game late on Wednesday just down the road helped their chances as San Diego State bested Boise State, although the committee might still favor the Broncos’ résumé over that of ASU’s. Tomorrow the bubble action will pick up even more as Iowa faces Northwestern and Southern Miss plays UAB. Even with an upset of the Bruins, it’s tough to see Arizona State making the field if both the Hawkeyes and Golden Eagles get victories Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 03.08.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 8th, 2013

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  1. Following Wednesday’s awful loss to the hands of Washington State, UCLA fans are once again calling for head coach Ben Howland‘s job. The fact that UCLA had won four games in a row, including a road win at rival USC and a home sweep of the Arizona schools, not to mention getting back into the top 25 for the first time since November, apparently doesn’t matter to a fan-base that openly dislikes its coach and athletic director. In late December it was revealed that UCLA was leaning toward replacing Howland, but those talks appeared to cool when the Bruins rolled off 10 straight wins. Now that we have reached the time of year where the coaching carousel begins to spin, the question is, how deep does Howland have to take UCLA in the NCAA Tournament to keep his job? Anything further than the Sweet Sixteen would seem to be enough, but with Bruins fans, you never know.
  2. After the reports that USC athletic director Pat Haden met with former Trojans coach and current UTEP head man Tim Floyd earlier in the week, the search continues to heat up. It was revealed yesterday that Haden was now targeting two coaches back east; Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh and Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins. Jeff Goodman says the Orange’s coach-in-waiting would be a perfect fit for SC, being a California kid that can recruit the Southern California hotbed well. As Goodman notes, the Trojan program has the possibility of being a sleeping giant if the right man is in place. Both Dixon or Hopkins would be ideal fits and have the tools to quickly turn things around in Los Angeles.
  3. The Territorial Cup has long been one of the more intense rivalries in the conference, but it’s not exactly recognized as one on a national level. Arizona State assistant Eric Musselman thinks differently, saying “The passion of both universities makes it really unique. There are only so many rivalries like this one across the United States.” Musselman is in his first season on the bench under Herb Sendek, with his latest coaching stops including stints with the Venezuela national team, Los Angeles D-Fenders, and Reno Bighorns. He picked a good year to get acquainted with the rivalry, as tensions will be high on Saturday with ASU needing a win to stay in the NCAA Tournament hunt. As of Thursday night, the Devils are currently in the “Next Four Out” category, according to ESPN Bracketologoist Joe Lunardi.
  4. CougCenter broke down the anatomy of an upset on Thursday, following of course Washington State‘s 12-point victory over UCLA. The key for the Cougars was not settling for shots on the perimeter, and instead working the ball inside to the tune of attempting 45 two-pointers. They made 56% of those twos, and when they did miss, they picked up 62% of the available offensive rebounds. These are numbers that tournament-bound teams put up – good tournament-bound teams – not teams that are on the wrong side of the CBI bubble. But congrats to the Cougs, and who knows, maybe they can continue this type of production and make some noise next week in Vegas.
  5. We close with some important news straight out of Walnut Creek, where the Pac-12 announced yesterday that there would be no additional penalties handed down for Wednesday’s skirmish between California and Stanford. The incident occurr with just over five minutes remaining in the blowout game, and after sorting everything out, six technical fouls were assessed and two players and three assistant coaches were ejected. With Wednesday’s meeting being the final regular season game for both teams, some were worried the altercation would cost the teams later in the Pac-12 Tournament. That turns out not to be the case, and as Adam Butler points out, there is a scenario when we could see these two teams meet again in six days. Now that would be madness.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2013

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  1. So, yeah, quickly, the top candidates for the head basketball coach at USC: something like Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon, Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins, interim head coach Bob Cantu and, um, former USC head coach Tim Floyd? Wait, run that last one by me again. Floyd is currently the head man at UTEP, a position he’s held for a few years after resigning from the USC gig (something about how he didn’t feel supported by then-USC athletic director Mike Garrett in the wake of allegations that guard O.J. Mayo accepted impermissible benefits from an agent). Floyd has long maintained a complete lack of involvement in the issue and plenty of investigations (both by USC and by the NCAA) have failed to turn up any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. Still, let’s not consider Floyd a leading candidate just yet. The meeting between Floyd and now-athletic director Pat Haden may have just been a way for the new AD to build a bridge over the bad blood in the wake of the parting, and Floyd, for his part, is using the surprising news as a way to get the word out publicly that “hey, I didn’t have anything to do with that.” Still, for a stretch there, Floyd put together four straight winning seasons including three in a row with 20-plus wins and NCAA Tournament invitations, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
  2. Across town, UCLA head coach Ben Howland let it slip, rather innocently and honestly, that Shabazz Muhammad was in all likelihood headed for the NBA Draft. And that’s not the only opinion he has on the state of the NBA, as he mentioned on Monday that he would prefer changes to the NBA’s eligibility rules that would end the one-and-done era. Howland’s plan would be similar to the rules presently used by Major League Baseball, whereby players would have the option to go straight from high school to the pros, but that once they wind up in college, they have to stay for a few years before being eligible again. Howland also knows that there’s not a chance that change gets made, at least anytime soon.
  3. Speaking of the NBA Draft, we posted our opinions here yesterday on the draft prospects of potential early entrants around the Pac-12, including Arizona State freshman guard Jahii Carson (we’re hoping he stays and develops a jumper). But Sun Devil head coach Herb Sendek claims that he hasn’t given the idea much thought, preferring instead to focus on this season. Still, we’re not buying the idea that it hasn’t even crossed his mind. Cal’s head coach, Mike Montgomery, however, was right to the point when asked about Carson’s pro prospects: “Doesn’t shoot it well enough yet.” The key there may be the word “yet.”
  4. If Carson does stick around for another season in the desert, he’ll have a new competitor in the state at point guard, as Arizona will unveil Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell as their new lead guard. The Daily Wildcat sees a parallel between McConnell’s skill set and the skills of UCLA point guard Larry Drew II. Compared to present UA point Mark Lyons, McConnell is more of the traditional pass-first, shoot-second floor general (of course, compared to Lyons, Allen Iverson is more of a traditional point guard). As Wildcat fans begin to grow weary of Lyons’ all-or-nothing style, the future is starting to look real good, even if that envisioned future is based on little more than partial information.
  5. Lastly, as we look ahead to this week’s games, Washington may be out of the race for the conference title but it still has a chance for some input, as the Huskies will host UCLA on Saturday night. Head coach Lorenzo Romar is hoping that his team can finish the regular season in style. They’ve put together a 13-3 record in the final four conference games of the previous four seasons, and are well on their way to a repeat of that mark with two wins last week. But with USC and UCLA both playing well, the Huskies have their work cut out for them this week.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.25.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 25th, 2013

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  1. Last week saw Washington State lose a dramatic game when an underclassman made a poor decision in the waning moments of the game. This week, Oregon State lost a tight one in part due to a poor decision made by an underclassmen in pregame warm-ups. You see, there’s this fairly ridiculous rule that makes dunking in the layup line prior to the game worthy of earning a technical foul against your team. Beavers freshman Olaf Schaftenaar, a guy well-known for his wide variety of aerial acrobatics (note to editors: please use the sarcasm font for that phrase), just couldn’t help himself and threw one down prior to the game. The refs caught the egregious act, penalized OSU with a technical foul, Allen Crabbe knocked down one of two free throws prior to the game, and the Beavers went on to, you know, lose by one. For a Beavers team that Ken Pomeroy currently has ranked as the third-least lucky team in the nation, Saturday’s bad luck reached ridiculous new lows.
  2. Arizona scored a couple of wins this weekend. First, on Saturday they coasted to victory over Washington State behind terrific shooting from senior Kevin Parrom, although head coach Sean Miller wasn’t entirely thrilled with his team’s effort. Then, on Sunday, Miller got a commitment from five-star recruit in the 2014 class, 5’7” point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. The recruiting coup is not only a big score for what it brings to Tucson, it is also big because the Wildcats beat out Pac-12 rival UCLA for the Los Angeles-area product. Jackson-Cartwright will first play in the 2014-15 season at the same time that Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell plays his senior season in Tucson.
  3. Speaking of UCLA, junior forward Travis Wear missed Sunday afternoon’s battle with USC after spraining his right foot at the start of practice on Saturday. His brother David Wear got the start in place of him, while freshman Tony Parker saw a big increase in minutes and production as a result as well. Travis wore a walking boot on the foot during the game but was ambulatory without crutches and Ben Howland said after the game that he is considered day-to-day. Unfortunately, if the Bruins are going to get him back for their next game, he’ll have to be a quick healer, as they’ll host Arizona State in Westwood on Wednesday night.
  4. For some time now Arizona State has been right on the anticipated border between NCAA Tournament team and NIT participant, but the consensus was that the Sun Devils needed to finish strong in order to maintain that positioning. While they’ve still got cracks on the road at UCLA and Arizona, Saturday’s home loss to Washington may leave Herb Sendek’s team needing to win the Pac-12 Tournament in order to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. Freshman point guard Jahii Carson turned in one of his worst games of his young career, senior Carrick Felix was largely – and surprisingly – ineffective in his senior night, and once again, the poor free throw shooting from the Sun Devils helped conspire to leave them on the wrong side of the ledger at the final horn.
  5. The race for the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award is well under way, with Arizona State’s Carrick Felix and Colorado’s Andre Roberson near the top of the list of contenders. Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle has begun making the case for his guy, by not only listing him as the top defender in the conference, but calling him the best defender in the nation. With guys like Aaron Craft, Victor Oladipo, Russ Smith and Jeff Withey already established and well-recognized as great defenders, there is little doubt that Roberson would fail to medal on the national stage, but in the Pac-12, his rebounding and his ability to guard multiple positions and make insanely athletic plays certainly has him on the short list for the conference award.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2013

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  1. One side effect of the parity in the conference this season has been a lot of intensity as we head into the stretch run. We saw this most glaringly on Sunday night with Mike Montgomery’s now infamous “shove” of Allen Crabbe, but elsewhere around the conference there were more incidents. In Pullman, Oregon center Tony Woods was ejected for throwing an elbow to the head of Washington State’s Brock Motum. The Pac-12 reviewed the play and decided Woods would face no further suspension. Another pair of bigs got tangled up in Boulder on Saturday when Jordan Bachynski and Josh Scott fell to the floor in pursuit of a rebound. Scott wound up banging his head against the hardwood and sustaining a concussion from which he is still recovering. Colorado head coach Tad Boyle called that game the most physical game he has ever been involved in.
  2. It’s been a tumultuous season for UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad, with an NCAA investigation delaying his debut and the flu catching up with him prior to the USC game back in January. Now, and again in advance of a USC game, Muhammad is dealing with pinkeye, which kept him out of practice on Tuesday. However, this issue isn’t expected to have any impact on Muhammad’s availability for Sunday’s game.
  3. Arizona State has compiled an 8-5 conference record largely on the strength of its starting five. Senior Carrick Felix leads the conference in minutes (38.3 minutes per night), while Jahii Carson and Jonathan Gilling both top out at over 36 minutes per game and are among the top five players in the conference in minutes. While head coach Herb Sendek admits that his heavy reliance on a small number of players is “a concern,” he doesn’t expect much to change for the rest of the year.
  4. Meanwhile, down south a little, Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been increasingly relying on a smaller number of players as well. And with his confidence in Jordin Mayes dwindling, Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson are becoming the only options in the backcourt for the Wildcats. However, unlike Sendek up the road, Miller may be ready for a change and could turn to freshman guard Gabe York for some spot minutes on the perimeter. York earned 16 minutes over the course of three games back at the turn of the month into February, but since then York has never left the bench in the last four games.
  5. Continuing the theme, Lorenzo Romar returned to freshman Jernard Jarreau this past weekend as an option off the bench. Jarreau won the starting power forward spot in preseason practice, but was ineffective while starting the first seven games of the season. Since then his role almost completely evaporated to the point where he played just 17 minutes over the course of six games prior to his emergence against Oregon State on Saturday. And Romar says Jarreau has earned a right to continue getting minutes in the hopes of building up his game to the point where he can be a contributor for the next three seasons.
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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VI: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2013

Yesterday we unveiled this week’s honor roll; today we take a look at five teams earning good, solid, average grades. Check in later today for the four teams that will be serving detention this week.

Cal – B-

All things considered, this was a solid week for the Golden Bears. They went down to Arizona for what is considered to be the toughest road trip in the conference this year and came away with a split, including a win over a national top-10 team and a four-point loss to a very good Arizona State squad. That makes three wins in four tries for the Bears and  a team that will likely be playing its best ball of the season as we head into the final month.

Focus on: Jeff Powers. What? You were expecting Allen Crabbe here? Nah, you can read about him as our Pac-12 Player of the Week. Instead, maybe check out what the Golden Bears’ own resident blogger, their junior guard Powers, has to say about his team and their performance in knocking off the Wildcats. Unfortunately, there’s no comment from him about his fine five-minute stretch against Arizona State where he knocked down a three, chalked up an assist and came away with a steal in helping keep his squad close in the second half.

Looking ahead: The Bears have a chance to make a run here, as they host the Los Angeles schools this week. They’ll likely be small favorites in both games and if they can defend their home court at Haas Pavilion, they’ve got a chance to make a bit of a jump up the standings.

He May Not Be A Prolific Scorer, But Jeff Powers Is A Budding Blogger

He May Not Be A Prolific Scorer, But Jeff Powers Is A Budding Blogger

Stanford – C+

Both Cal and Stanford went to the Arizona schools and came away with splits. Why do the Golden Bears come away with a slightly better grade? The Cardinal’s dogged determination (and fortunate failure) to give away a close game against Arizona State was concerning. Still, Johnny Dawkins’ club has now won four of its last five and has got its offense on the move.

Focus on: Dwight Powell. The junior forward has scored in double figures in every game in the conference schedule, but he hadn’t topped 20 since he did it three straight times in December. He broke that streak this week by going for 24 against Arizona and then answering with 22 against the Sun Devils. Even better, he also grabbed double-figure rebounds in both games, giving him seven double-doubles on the year.

Looking ahead: The Cardinal host USC tomorrow night, then see UCLA on Saturday afternoon. Stanford was swept by these teams in Los Angeles back on the first weekend of conference play, leading to an hour-long post-game meeting following the UCLA game, and since then the Cardinal have gone 6-3 in conference play.

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