Pac-12 M5: 02.17.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 17th, 2014

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  1. With wins over Marquette, Colorado, California, and Arizona, Arizona State and head coach Herb Sendek think the Sun Devils are an NCAA Tournament team. They currently boast a Top 30 RPI rank, putting them on the right side of the bubble at the moment. The schedule doesn’t get any easier, however, after topping second-ranked Arizona. Four of their final six regular season games will be played away from Tempe, and the two at home are both against teams that currently sit in the top half of the Pac-12 standings.
  2. Oregon used two huge separate runs of 20-2 and 12-3 to propel itself to a Civil War victory on Sunday afternoon against Oregon State, keeping the Ducks slim hopes of dancing alive. The Ducks came out white hot, hitting their first seven attempts from behind the three-point arc. The Beavers did a good job of battling back to keep the game tight but could never get the deficit to below two. 
  3. Oregon is currently not even in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament following its 4-8 start to Pac-12 play, but that can change with a 5-1 finish to the season. Arizona is still a #1 seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of Bracketology, but the Wildcats need to show that they can win on the road without Brandon Ashley in order to stay there. UCLA is the second highest ranked team in the conference, coming in as a #6 seed, and in an interesting twist, the #10 seed line is chalk full with Pac-12 teams. ColoradoArizona StateCalifornia, and Stanford are all ten seeds in Lunardi’s projections, with the Buffaloes being listed as one of the last four teams to receive a bye.
  4. The Buffs dropped four out of their first five games after losing their best player, Spencer Dinwiddie, to a torn ACL on January 12 at Washington. Since then, however, Colorado has turned the tables and won four of its last five games, lifting them to the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Andy McDonnell takes a look at how it is settling into life without Dinwiddie in this piece. The Buffaloes have had to rely on some young guys, namely forwards Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson, to get back to their winning ways, and the production will need to continue this week against the Arizona schools.
  5. This feature takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon, who is widely projected as a lottery pick for the 2014 NBA draft. The praise comes despite some massive struggles from three-point range and the free throw line, where the forward is shooting at 30 and 40% clips, respectively. His strong defensive fundamentals and high athleticism more than make up for his recent shooting struggles in the eyes of professional scouts, however, and as long as he continues to work on his shot, he will be selected high in late June.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.07.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 7th, 2014

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  1. The Inferno turned into The Library for the first 11 and a half minutes of last night’s Oregon State-Arizona State contest at Wells Fargo Arena, where the Sun Devil students decided to pay homage to former star James Harden by staying silent until their team reached the 13 point mark. The only problem? Arizona State struggled to find the hoop early on, and the lack of noise from the crowd let the Beavers relax and jump out to an early lead. No harm, no foul as the Devils would eventually pull out an 86-82 victory in overtime, but head coach Herb Sendek would prefer it if that tradition came to an end.
  2. It’s safe to say Arizona State wouldn’t have topped the Beavers without a record setting performance from senior center Jordan Bachynskiwhose seven blocks put him first on the list of Pac-10/12 swat leaders at 279. Bachynski did even more damage on the offensive end of the court, however, gashing Oregon State’s bigs for 15 points. He passed former great Anthony Cook to become the conference’s leader in blocks, who played for rival Arizona.
  3. Down the road and through the desert, #2 Arizona stormed back late last night to squash an upset bid from a desperate Oregon team, prevailing for a 67-65 victory in its first game without sophomore forward Brandon Ashley. Just as they did against UCLA, Washington, and Stanford, the Ducks failed to close out a game they very well could have won, resulting in another heartbreaking loss. Wildcat guard Nick Johnson led all scorers with 18 points in the win. For additional reading, be sure to check out this postgame piece from our very own Drew Murawa, as he examines just how much Arizona loses without Ashley, and what the Cats will need to do in the final month of the season to earn a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. 
  4. Joe Lunardi released his latest Bracketology yesterday, and while Arizona is no longer the top overall seed in the bracket, it still is a one seed in Lunardi’s projections. UCLA and Stanford follow on the six and nine lines, respectively, and then we get to the bubble. California and Colorado are 10 seeds, while Arizona State sneaks into the field as an 11. Oregon is listed as the first team out of the field, but that could change if it comes back home with a split against the Arizona schools.
  5. Game Connor (11-3) Drew (7-7) Adam (6-8)
    Oregon at Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
    Washington State at Utah Utah Utah Utah
    UCLA at USC UCLA UCLA UCLA
    Oregon State at Arizona Arizona Oregon State Arizona
    Washington at Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado

Those are our selections for this weekend in Pac-12 basketball. Out of the 15 picks, only ONE features a difference in opinion, and that’s thanks to Drew’s pick of Oregon State in our “Game of the Week”.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.16.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 16th, 2014

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  1. After a dust-up last week where NBA scouts were complaining about the seats that UCLA gave them for the battle between the Bruins and Arizona, Draft Express did a poll of NBA scouts to see which schools treated them the best (i.e., gave them good seats and maybe a meal) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, UCLA was atop the heap of the schools that got negative comments. The whole article is really pointed at UCLA: You spend a ton of space in your media guides promoting your former players who are making it big at the next level, but you’re not rolling out the red carpet for the scouts and executive who determine the worth of the next round of NBA prospects. We’re not going to spend a ton of time on this, but doesn’t this whole thing seem a bit absurd? For instance, in some cases where the NBA scouts got seats that didn’t meet their needs, they had to (gasp!) ask  their multi-hundred-million dollar organizations to go onto StubHub and purchase them better tickets. The horror! Even at Arizona, which was among the schools most often mentioned as being good to NBA scouts, somebody had the temerity to complain about the price of the great seats they were given, prices which were likely considerably lower than the amount that could have been charged for those seats. In other words, forgive me if I don’t join this particular hunger strike.
  2. We posted yesterday about the Spencer Dinwiddie injury (too long; didn’t read: it sucks), but that knee injury wasn’t the only one to befall a Colorado player in Seattle on Sunday. Freshman wing Tre’Shaun Fletcher also tweaked a knee in that game, and although he returned to action after the injury, it was later determined that this injury will require surgery, costing Fletcher the next six-to-eight weeks. While this injury is not an ACL injury, it is damaging to the team as Fletcher certainly would have been due for a bump in minutes without Dinwiddie in the lineup.
  3. After ripping off 13 straight wins to start the season, Oregon is now riding a three-game losing streak, with a pair of those losses coming at home. Luckily, the Ducks now have a week where they can focus on just one game — their road trip to face Oregon State in Corvallis on Sunday. Confidence may be dipping, but head coach Dana Altman recalled the last time the Ducks went through a multi-game losing streak: the final two games of last season when they lost on the road to Colorado and Utah. What happened next? The Ducks went to Las Vegas, won the Pac-12 Tournament, and then advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. In other words, it would be very unwise to count out these Ducks in mid-January.
  4. We’ve got another big intrastate rivalry game this week to check out as Arizona State travels to Arizona tonight. Herb Sendek was asked about trying to compete against a team that is recruiting on the elite level that the Wildcats are doing right now. And, not surprisingly, he called it a challenge, noting that what they’re doing is “absolutely astonishing” and “almost unprecedented.” Put it this way; as Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com notes, of the seven players in the rotation at Arizona, five were five-star recruits coming out of high school, while a sixth was a four-star recruit. By comparison, Jahii Carson is the only Sun Devils’ recruit to earn more than three stars coming out of high school.
  5. Lastly, Utah drew rave reviews in its first weekend of conference play, taking Oregon to the wire on opening night before beating Oregon State. But last weekend on their first road trip to the Washington schools, their offense took a major step back. Tonight, as they host USC, goal number one for Larry Krystkowiak and company is to compete better on the offensive end of the court, including getting out in transition more often, something their Trojans’ opponents probably want as well. With talented offensive players like Delon Wright, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor, this shouldn’t be a problem.
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Rushed Reaction: Creighton 88, Arizona State 60

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 29th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after tonight’s Wooden Legacy quarterfinal between Creighton and Arizona State.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Devin Brooks is a Wildcard. Tonight, the junior college transfer was transcendent, scoring 23 spectacular points in just 19 minutes of action. The book on him is “great athlete, great off the bounce, but prone to getting a little out of control, average defensively and with an inconsistent jumper.” All those positives showed through tonight as he was able to beat his man off the dribble with regularity and score at the rim. But all those negatives? Non-existent. He knocked down all four of his three-point attempts (he was 0-for-2 from deep previously), did a quality job defensively, and played like a veteran all night. While Creighton certainly isn’t a team that needed an extra boost offensively, Brooks does give them an athletic and confident scorer unlike anyone else on the roster.

    Devin Brooks Was A Revelation On Thanksgiving Night, Dropping 23 Spectacular Points (WBR, Mike Spomer)

    Devin Brooks Was A Revelation On Thanksgiving Night, Dropping 23 Spectacular Points (WBR, Mike Spomer)

  2. Creighton: Defensive Powerhouse. Arizona State is a very good offensive team, and Creighton, somehow, held the Sun Devils to fewer than 0.9 points per possession. Jahii Carson got 15 points, but it took 12 shots for him to do that and he turned the ball over five times in the process. The game plan for Creighton was simple: Hound Carson with a quick guard like Brooks or Austin Chatman relentlessly, and keep several other sets of eyes on him at all times. And once Carson gave it up, make him work real hard in order to get the ball back and force other guys to beat them. It worked flawlessly, as the rest of the ASU squad shot a combined 17-of-46 (36.9%) from the field. The key for the Bluejays going forward will be to keep the type of defensive intensity they showed tonight on a nightly basis, not something they have proven capable of doing in the past.
  3. Lost Weekend for Arizona State. With the loss to Creighton, the remainder of this weekend for Herb Sendek’s team is about improving as a team; there are no other chances for good wins remaining for the Sun Devils in Orange County. They’ll play Charleston tomorrow and then likely Miami (FL) on Sunday. And god forbid they have a hangover after this game and drop one of those. Sendek will get a chance to see how his team bounces back from its first loss of the season and first taste of adversity this year, but he’ll also want to see his team work on a few weaknesses that were exposed tonight.

Star of the GameDevin Brooks, Creighton. A 23-point night on 9-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-4 from deep, all in just 19 minutes. Yeah, that’ll work. But the bigger story was his confidence in doing so. A New York City guard with the type of game that phrase evokes, Brooks showed no hesitation under the bright lights. He broke down his defenders off the bounce early and finished well at the rim. And then, once he had his mojo going, he drilled three after three despite a scouting report that said to lay back on him and let him take jumpers. Even his own head coach, Greg McDermott, admitted that he cringed the first time Brooks jacked up a three. While the kind of production he laid down tonight isn’t maintainable, if he can be a consistent force on both end of the court, this Bluejays team just got a whole lot scarier.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Arizona State in the Wooden Legacy

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: Don’t look now, but Arizona State may have, to date, the best resume in the Pac-12. They’ve taken care of business against the dregs of their schedule; they scored a solid road win over an underachieving UNLV team; and they grabbed a good win over Marquette earlier this week. With Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall making for a great one-two punch in the backcourt and with nearly everybody else on the roster performing better than average thus far, this is one fearsome offensive team.

Jahii Carson And Arizona State Should Have A Wildly Entertaining Thanksgiving Night (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

Jahii Carson And Arizona State Should Have A Wildly Entertaining Thanksgiving Night (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

First Round Preview: Fittingly, the Sun Devils kick off play in Fullerton on Thanksgiving Day against arguably the most fearsome offensive team in the nation, Doug McDermott’s Creighton squad. Now in his senior year and even with opponents going out of their way to game plan for him, McDermott just keeps marching along — knocking down threes, scoring in the paint, getting to the line and just generally making buckets — he’s scored more than 30 points in half of his games this season and is averaging 27.5 PPG on the season. But while McDermott is clearly the straw the stirs the Bluejays’ drink, there are plenty of other options to keep opponents honest. Fellow senior Ethan Wragge has drilled 14 of his 25 (56%) attempts from behind the arc. Junior point guard Austin Chatman has knocked down 58.3 percent of his threes and is third on the team in scoring with an 11.0 PPG average despite mostly looking to get teammates involved. And senior Grant Gibbs is once again the glue guy for this squad, averaging just four points a game but handing out almost six assists per night and providing the best individual defense on the team. However, we’ve seen this story from Creighton before: great O, poor D. For the Bluejays to really be considered a threat on the national stage, they’ve got to step it up defensively, and in this area the Sun Devils will give them quite a test. Ideally, as a college basketball fan, you’d want to see this game turn into a second half shootout, with McDermott and Carson trading blows on opposite ends of the floor. But from a coaching perspective, both Greg McDermott and Herb Sendek will be more interested in how their respective defenses compete against elite offensive competition. Either way, avoid the turkey hangover to tune in for the nightcap on Thursday evening.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.12.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 12th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. So. Stanford. Out to save Johnny Dawkins’ job and salvage a single NCAA Tournament appearance for its talented senior class. Yeah, that team. Well, they gave up nearly 1.3 points per possession last night in a home loss to BYU, in a regulation game that featured more scoring than any game played last season anywhere, losing 112-103 at Maples Pavilion. A college basketball game that had more scoring than seven of the nine NBA games on the same night. The good news is that scoring is up, and we could attribute that to the new emphasis on enforcing hand-checking rules. Or, maybe Stanford is just a really bad defensive team.
  2. Let’s finish getting the bad news out of the way up front: the Portland Tribune called Oregon State’s home loss to Coppin State on Sunday night “unforgivable.” Considering Beavers head coach Craig Robinson is another Pac-12 coach squarely on the hot seat, “unforgivable” losses are probably not easily forgiven. The fact that the team played without a pair of suspended frontcourt players doesn’t really garner a lot of sympathy, especially since its opponent was playing without its leading scorer and rebounder from last year’s team. Still, Devon Collier is due back tomorrow night and Roberto Nelson is a stud, so there is at least some hope. But that Coppin State loss is something that the RPI is never going to take any excuses for, and, the dip the Beavers will take in the RPI will ripple throughout the conference all season long.
  3. UCLA avoided being painted with the upset victim brush on Friday night, dodging a late deep three-point attempt to hold on for a five-point win over Drexel, but head coach Steve Alford hopes to get in plenty of work on the half-court offense with the Bruins. While Kyle Anderson had some promising moments getting penetration and passing out of the paint, the team often stalled when unable to get into transition. But Alford and senior forward David Wear agree that those problems can be fixed over time with practice. Given that Travis Wear is expected back within the week, the team will have another accomplished half-court weapon.
  4. Two games into the season, Colorado has yet to look very good, and veteran point guard Spencer Dinwiddie has made a total of just four field goal attempts. Head coach Tad Boyle isn’t all that concerned, though, noting that his junior has done plenty of other things well. Even though he’s hit just  over 26 percent of his shots from the field so far, Dinwiddie has been able to get to the line 17 times and make 14 of those attempts in order to add to his production. He’s also regularly recognized as one of the best perimeter defenders in the conference. In other words, he doesn’t always need to score to have a positive impact on the game. That said, Boyle says he’d still like to see Dinwiddie be more aggressive.
  5. Lastly, a bit of a look ahead to tonight, when four conference teams will be in action, including Arizona State, where head coach Herb Sendek will face one of his former teams as Miami (OH) travels to Tempe to face the Sun Devils. Sendek got his start at Miami, spending three seasons in southeastern Ohio. Prior to tonight’s game, Arizona State will honor Charlie Coles, who was an assistant under Sendek at Miami before becoming that program’s head coach. Oh, and just another little tidbit that may help you understand the ASU/Arizona rivalry a bit more: In Sendek’s final season at Miami (OH) before he went to North Carolina State, he led his RedHawk team to a first-round upset of Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
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The RTC Interview Series: Pac-12 Preview with Don MacLean and Miles Simon

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2013


Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the Pac-12, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two Pac-12 experts in Pac-12 Network analyst and former UCLA star, Don MacLean, and ESPN analyst and former Arizona star, Miles Simon. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Rush the Court: Arizona is the overwhelming preseason favorite in the league. What is it about Sean Miller’s team that has expectations so high in Tucson?

Don MacLean: The talent level there is very high. Sean Miller has brought in some very high-level recruits. Aaron Gordon brings another dimension for the team with his great athleticism and versatility to play inside and on the perimeter. T.J. McConnell is going to be great for the team. I worked the exhibition game last week and I was really impressed by McConnell. I think he is really good. He is the first true point guard that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. When you have all that talent, you need a pass-first guy to spread the ball around. From what I have seen, McConnell seems to be that guy. Sean Miller is also a great coach. With this roster, the depth that the team has, and Miller’s coaching, I think it is warranted to put Arizona as the best team in the league right now.

Miles Simon: Sean Miller obviously brought in a tremendous recruiting class. Getting Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Elliott Pitts to come in is a good place to start with this team. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is going to be an excellent addition for the team at point guard. When you look at this team, it is just so long and athletic. I think defensively, this might be the best group that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. There are just so many positives with this team going into the season.

RTC: Oregon made a surprise trip to the Sweet Sixteen last March after pulling off upsets over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. Gone from last season’s team are Arsalan Kazemi and E.J. Singler, but the Ducks did secure the services of UNLV transfer Mike Moser. With Moser joining a team that has the talented backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning, should Dana Altman’s squad take a step forward in the Pac-12 this season and should another NCAA Tournament run be expected?

MacLean: You can never expect an NCAA Tournament run, but I think the team should be just as good. Do not forget that Oregon also added Joseph Young, the transfer from Houston. Adding Mike Moser as a fifth-year guy is an important piece and Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson will be better as second-year players. With what Dana Altman does with his style of play and the way he changes up defenses, I think the Ducks will be as good as they were last season.

Simon: I think Oregon will get back to the NCAA Tournament. It really has some nice pieces, but when you lose guys like Arsalan Kazemi, E.J. Singler, Tony Woods and Carlos Emory, you are losing what was the heart and soul of your team. A lot of leadership and toughness left with those guys. If Mike Moser is able to return to where he was with UNLV two years ago, he will be excellent. The backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson should be explosive and one of the best in the league. Johnathan Loyd is the third guard and he has some experience because he had to play a lot when Artis was injured last season. When you consider these pieces, this is a team that should get back to the NCAA Tournament and finish in the top half of the Pac-12.

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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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