Pac-12 M5: 11.26.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 26th, 2013

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  1. Feast Week got off to a good start for the Pac-12, as California got the Maui Invitational underway with some strong second half play from its frontcourt to provide the margin in an eight-point win over Arkansas. Richard Solomon picked up a third personal foul early in the second half, but head coach Mike Montgomery trusted his senior, and the mercurial big man responded with 11 second-half points. His frontcourt-mate David Kravish led all players with 19 points and 15 rebounds, and now the Golden Bears will get a chance to avenge last year’s season-ending loss to Syracuse in today’s semifinal round. Some 5,000 miles away and a dozen hours later, Cal’s Bay Area counterpart, Stanford, bounced back from an awful first half against Houston to come up with a semifinal win in the Legends Classic. They’ll play Pitt in the championship game tonight.
  2. Arizona has a big week ahead of it as well, as they’ll compete in the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden beginning tomorrow night against Drexel with a potential date on the line with Duke on Friday. But despite the national accolades (the Wildcats are ranked #4 in the latest AP poll) and hype surrounding freshman Aaron Gordon, this is still about improving and being able to go toe-to-toe with other elite programs for head coach Sean Miller.
  3. Colorado got a big win on Sunday, knocking off a game Harvard team with a 40-20 second half blistering. While the Buffaloes struggled out of the gate defending the perimeter against a sweet-shooting Crimson squad, head coach Tad Boyle had to be pleased with his team’s effort in getting a hand in the face of three-point shooters after some early problems, causing the Crimson to miss 26 of their 30 three-point attempts over the game’s final 36 minutes. Boyle also pointed out his happiness with the boisterous Colorado fans, as nearly 10,000 patrons helped keep the Buffs energy up in that impressive second half.
  4. Oregon may not be playing in one of the more well-known holiday tournaments this weekend, but it does have a three-game homestand over the weekend as part of the Global Sports Hardwood Challenge, where they’ll play Pacific, North Dakota and Cal Poly. Sure, those aren’t exactly the three most exciting games coming up this week, but it will give the Ducks three more chances to get their bevy of newcomers a chance to learn more about playing with each other. While you probably know by now about guys like Mike Moser and Joseph Young, a couple other new faces around Eugene – Jason Calliste and Elgin Cookhave turned into big-time contributors for head coach Dana Altman as well. Cook and Calliste led the Ducks in scoring on Sunday night in a win against San Francisco, and both players have carved out solid roles for themselves on this talented roster.
  5. Lastly, Washington took another loss on Monday. What’s that, you say? They didn’t have a game on the schedule? Correct, but junior guard Hikeem Stewart announced his decision to transfer from the university. Mired deep on the depth chart behind several other talented wings, Stewart had earned just 6.3 minutes per game this year and had only scored in one of their five games. Lorenzo Romar has wished Stewart the best and given him a full release from his commitment to the Husky program.
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Is It Time For Washington to Embrace a Four-Guard Lineup?

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 22nd, 2013

Things have not started well for Washington. After being on the outside looking in the last two seasons come NCAA Tournament time, there was quite a bit of optimism around the program, what with a McDonald’s All-American coming in at point guard, a big-time scorer on the wing returning for his senior season, and a whole host of big men up front to interchange. Now here we are, a couple weeks into the year and the Huskies already have a couple of losses, including an 18-point blowout last night against Indiana, as well as some injury issues along the frontcourt. Right now this team doesn’t look like a squad anywhere near the top of the Pac-12.

Short A Couple of Frontcourt Players And With Shaky Perimeter Defense, Lorenzo Romar And Washington Are Off To A Slow Start (Pac-12)

Short A Couple of Frontcourt Players And With Shaky Perimeter Defense, Lorenzo Romar And Washington Are Off To A Slow Start (Pac-12)

Certainly the injuries are part of the issue. Veteran forward Desmond Simmons is out until Christmas shopping is well underway following a knee surgery, while versatile sophomore big man Jernard Jarreau is out for the year after tearing his ACL two minutes into the season. After those setbacks, Lorenzo Romar was left with just three options up front: senior center Perris Blackwell, junior forward Shawn Kemp, Jr., and sophomore center Gilles Dierickx. Blackwell, a transfer from San Francisco, is a good, skilled post man, but at the end of the day he’s an earthbound 6’8” center. Kemp is nice in theory, but his production has never begun to approach the hype generated by his name. And Dierickx? This isn’t a guy meant to be on the court at this point in his career in big-time college basketball, as his offense lags significantly behind his defense. Thursday night against Indiana, the weaknesses of those three were made abundantly clear. Kemp fouled out in nine minutes, Blackwell had a double-double but was regularly abused by the more athletic Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh, and the team as a whole grabbed a woeful 41.2 percent of their opponent’s missed shots. And despite seven blocked shots, there isn’t a great rim protector on this team.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 16th, 2013

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  1. After a stretch of several months where most of the news coming out of Westwood was of the bad variety, UCLA finally found some good news waiting for them on Tuesday when forward Wanaah Bail was granted eligibility to play immediately for the Bruins after transferring out of the Texas Tech program. While Bail is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, if and when he is healthy enough to go, he’ll be expected to provide much-needed depth in the frontcourt behind the senior Wear twins and sophomore center Tony Parker. Still, despite the good news, some Bruin followers have chosen to paint this as, somehow, another strike against new head coach Steve Alford before the guy has even gotten to the plate. Seriously though, Alford had the temerity to answer a question about comparing John Wooden to his former college head coach, Bobby Knight. I mean, get a rope, right?
  2. Turning back to UCLA’s biggest rival in the conference, Arizona is considered the prohibitive favorite by most prognosticators, but the one weakness most people look to nitpick is the team’s possible lack of outside shooting. The team loses four of their top five three-point shooters from last season and their most ballyhooed newcomers, namely freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, are known for just about anything on the basketball court except long-range shooting. Nevertheless, newly eligible transfer T.J. McConnell is a 41.6% three-point shooter for his career, junior guard Nick Johnson improved to a 39.3% three-point shooter last season, and guys like sophomore Gabe York (despite his one-for-nine shooting in the Red-Blue game) and Kansas transfer Zach Peters are expected to chip in from range. Meanwhile, even sophomore Brandon Ashley has worked to expand his range out toward the three-point line.
  3. Speaking of T.J. McConnell, while anyone who never saw him play in his first two seasons of collegiate eligibility at Duquesne can look at the numbers and see a guy who can knock down the three as well as drop a dime (KenPom, paywall) with the best of them, Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been talking up McConnell’s ability to get after it on defense. The Wildcats’ defensive efficiency has improved every season under Miller (again, KenPom, paywall), but if McConnell can live up to Miller’s hype, he’s definitely got a versatile enough frontcourt to match up with just about any opponent, what with Kaleb Tarczewski’s ability to out-physical true posts, Ashley’s length and athleticism advantage over  most fours, Gordon’s ability to guard any number of positions, and Jefferson’s toughness and length. Throw in the already established Nick Johnson, whose ability to annoy the heck out of opposing ball-handlers far away from the hoop can be disruptive enough on its own, and this Wildcat squad is a good bet to improve on the team’s defensive numbers from a year ago.
  4. For some reason, we haven’t talked a lot about Colorado so far these past couple of weeks (something we will remedy soon enough), but the Buffaloes are one of the handful of teams who can legitimately challenge Arizona for conference supremacy. Things will be a bit easier for the Buffs this season, especially around Boulder, as season tickets for the Coors Event Center have sold out for the first time in CU history. With a student section that has evolved into one of the best in the conference, and now the full Boulder community also committed to supporting the team, expect the Rocky Mountain swing to be one of the least welcoming road trips on the Pac-12 schedule.
  5. We’ll wrap up the morning by pointing you to a thorough rundown on the Washington basketball roster by Ben Knibbe (follow him now) at the UW Dawg Pound. Yesterday he took you through the high post players Jernard Jarreau and Desmond Simmons (and offered the saddest of lines for a Husky fan: “Aaron Gordon would have been…”). Last week he broke down wings C.J. Wilcox, Hikeem Stewart, Darin Johnson and Mike Anderson. And the week before that he filled you in on point guard options Andrew Andrews, Nigel Williams-Goss and Jahmel Taylor. Certainly, we’ll get the breakdown on low posts Perris Blackwell and Shawn Kemp in the near future, but you’ll need to keep up with Ben (seriously, follow him now) in order to get the best position-by-position rundown you’ll find around the Pac-12 team blogs.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Washington Huskies

Posted by KDanna on November 5th, 2012

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

Strengths: Overall, the Huskies have a solid group of guys. They won’t be as explosive as last year, but a report from the Seattle Times has noted that this year’s team has better chemistry. That probably is due to the presence of Abdul Gaddy, who has really developed into a solid floor general and knows how to find his teammates while taking care of the basketball – his 2.43 assist-to-turnover ratio was second in the Pac-12 last year. One such teammate who will be a benefactor of Gaddy’s decision-making is C.J. Wilcox, who is one of the best pure shooters in the country. Now a junior, Wilcox shot 40 percent from downtown last season, good for ninth in the conference. He will be joined on the wing by Scott Suggs, another good shooter who is returning from a broken foot that forced him to redshirt last year. The Huskies also have one of the most physically imposing returning big men in the Pac-12, as seven-footer Aziz N’Diaye will patrol the paint for head coach Lorenzo Romar, who will transition this year’s team to a high-post offense. That’s a good move for the 2012-13 Huskies, as they are more suited to play in a more structured half-court set than the typical motion offense they ran in previous years. It also doesn’t hurt that the Huskies play in Alaska Airlines Arena, which gives the Huskies a huge home court advantage; in fact, the Huskies have won more games at Hec-Ed than any other NCAA team has won at a single facility.

Wilcox Has No Problem Knocking Down Jumpers With Defenders On Him, But It’s Even Easier When No One Is Within A Five Foot Radius (credit: Dean Rutz)

Weaknesses: Washington loses a ton of firepower in Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross, both of whom left early to become NBA first round draft picks. The loss of the duo is probably as good of a reason as any to move away from a motion look, because these were the two guys who really made the Huskies go. However, the Huskies lost more than just firepower with these guys; they also lost a lot of the patented “U-Dub swag” that has been a feature of Romar-coached teams in recent memory. This is where the loss of Darnell Gant also comes into play, as he probably played to the Hec-Ed crowd as well as anybody on the Huskies. With the power forward spot up for grabs, in addition to losing three of the four guys who averaged five rebounds a game or more from last year, defensive rebounding could turn into an issue for this team; as it was, the Huskies finished eighth in the Pac-12 last year in defensive rebounding percentage.

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Washington

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 25th, 2011

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

Washington Huskies

Strengths.  The main thing that jumps off the page is the Huskies’ talent and depth at guard. In order to get all of the talent on the floor at the same time, Lorenzo Romar could go with the rarely used four-guard lineup since both Tony Wroten, Jr., and Terrence Ross have the size to play down low. Watch out for the other freshmen as well. Romar has a stellar recruiting class coming in, led by the aforementioned Wroten Jr., guard Hakeem Stewart, and forward Martin Breunig. All three appeared on the Rivals150 list, while Wroten was considered the fourth-ranked point guard and No. 14 overall player in the country for the class of 2011.

Weaknesses.  In the past six years, the Huskies have always had some sort of leader or go-to guy to build the team around. They don’t have a “set” leader going into this season, so that will be a huge thing to work out in preseason practice. They also need to find a go-to scorer that they can count on late in games as they lose their top three scorers from last season (Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, and Justin Holiday).

Terrence Ross Could be the Key to UW's Season

Nonconference Tests.  The Huskies should fly through their non-conference slate with the exception of two games: Dec. 6 vs Marquette and Dec. 10 vs Duke. There is no break in between for Washington, as they will just stay in the Big Apple for six days and take on a pair of top twenty teams. I’m predicting an 0-2 record in those, but if they can even earn just a split, the Huskies will start to receive national attention.
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