Oregon State Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 21st, 2012

It’s taken four seasons, but excitement has finally been infused back into a program that lost 20 straight games to close out the 2007-08 season. Craig Robinson, the man charged with rebuilding Oregon State hoops following that infamous campaign, has brought in a feisty defense, up-tempo offense, and good recruiting class after good recruiting class. The Beavers haven’t ranked lower than 34th in the country in the steals category since Robinson has had his own recruits, and they finished fifth and sixth in the last two seasons, respectively. Former guard Jared Cunningham, who was selected in the first round in this summer’s NBA Draft (a first for Oregon State since Corey Benjamin in 1998) led the conference in steals in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Last season saw the Beavers finish in the top 15 nationally in offensive tempo, leading to a Pac-12 leading 78.9 PPG. Along with Cunningham, Robinson has brought in highly touted recruits such as Jarmal Reid, Angus Brandt, and Roberto Nelson. Needless to say, basketball is fun again at Oregon State.

Craig Robinson Has Made Basketball Fun Again At Oregon State. The Next Step Is An NIT or NCAA Tournament Bid. (credit: Bleacher Report)

And while basketball is fun, it could be a lot more fun. Despite all of the things we talked about above, the Beavers have yet to make an NCAA Tournament under the guidance of Robinson. Heck, they haven’t even made the NIT. And there’s some reasons for that. Robinson straddles a line between fun basketball and strong, fundamentally sound basketball. Oregon State finished 328th in the nation last season in three-point defensive field goal percentage, which is one of the main reasons you’ll see losses to conference bottom-feeders and mediocre WAC teams. Robinson and his staff have elected to go with a gambling, trap-based defense, which is fun to watch and works against opposing point guards that freeze up when they are trapped in a corner. But against upper-level Pac-12 teams or even lesser opponents with a solid one man? The Beavers get burned, and they get burned often.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 07.06.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on July 6th, 2012

  1. We skipped last week because of a dearth of news as we head into the dead days of summer, so now we’ve got a couple week’s worth of catching up to do. The biggest news in the past two weeks was the NBA Draft, where more Pac-12 players heard their names called than conference teams did on Selection Sunday. Washington, who won the regular season title but was banished to the NIT, had two players – Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, Jr. – get drafted, while Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham became just the 13th Beaver picked in the first round – the first since Corey Benjamin went with the second-to-last pick of the first round in 1998. The Huskies, meanwhile, have had much more recent success on draft night, with nine players drafted in the past eight years, six of those in the first round, a record that head coach Lorenzo Romar is making sure gets heard. With many elite recruits using college as a mere launching point toward NBA careers, Romar’s success at sending players to the NBA can only help his recruiting efforts.
  2. The Huskies also landed a new player this week when it was announced that seven-foot center Gilles Dierickx would be transferring into the program from Florida International. Dierickx (gee, thanks basketball gods – I only just got used to confidently spelling Krystkowiak) was a freshman last season with FIU, where he played just under 15 minutes a game and averaged 2.6 points and 2.2 rebounds. He’s a face-up stretch four who will be eligible to play for UW beginning in 2013-14. But, as Ben Knibbe at the UW Dawg Pound points out, this leaves Romar with just three open scholarships for the 2013 class, a highly regarded recruiting class in which the Huskies are pursuing several five-star talents. As we’ve seen elsewhere, the fact that a program has a player under scholarship doesn’t preclude the possibility of a coach running off one or more players who are no longer necessary in order to make room for a more desirable prospect, but with the Huskies putting so much emphasis on the 2013 class, this is something of a head-scratcher.
  3. At this point in the summer, no news is generally good news for most collegiate programs. It means that nobody is getting into trouble with the law, nobody’s getting injured while working on their game, and nobody’s making a late decision to transfer. About the only really exciting news for a program at this time of the year is the announcement of the upcoming schedule, something Utah did last week. And, wow, is it ever underwhelming. The first three home games are an exhibition against something called Simon Fraser, then the season opener against Division III Willamette, followed by a match-up with Sacramento State. Now, to be fair, SSU was actually ranked higher than the Utes in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings last season (#292, compared to UU’s #303). The next three home games are part of a four-team round robin event on the Utah campus over Thanksgiving weekend, when the Utes will play Central Michigan, Idaho State and Wright State. Elsewhere in the non-conference schedule are games against Evergreen State of the NAIA and Cal State Northridge. There’s also a home-and-home series with SMU, a visit from Boise State, a trip to Texas State, and their renewal of their annual rivalry with BYU at the Cougars’ Provo campus. In other words, the Utes should be ready to dial up significantly more wins than the three non-conference wins they posted last year, while the ever-important RPI number should still remain in the gutter. Also of note, the Utes also finalized their plans for their trip to Brazil this summer, where they will play five games against Brazilian teams over the course of their 12-day trip.
  4. Another thing to keep an eye on as the summer progresses is landing spots for Pac-12 players who weren’t drafted by the NBA. For instance, former Colorado point guard Nate Tomlinson is heading back home to Australia to play professionally for the Melbourne Tigers. And he’s even trying to do a little recruiting of his own, trying to get former teammate Austin Dufault to follow him along, although he is also considering Europe and China. Meanwhile, Carlon Brown hasn’t yet given up on his NBA dreams despite going undrafted. The 6’5” wing is hoping to catch on with a summer league team and may need to go the D-League route. Elsewhere, Washington State forward Abe Lodwick will be playing professionally in Germany, while Arizona’s Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender both still harbor dreams of NBA careers, with Fogg set to play for Houston’s summer league team and Lavender putting on an Atlanta Hawk jersey for the summer.
  5. Lastly, we’ve got a couple of previews to point you to. First, we did so a few weeks back, but the always-excellent Doug Haller at The Arizona Republic last week broke down the returnees for the Arizona State team. And then there’s Dick Vitale, who gives his thoughts on the Pac-12, eyeing UCLA and Arizona as the clear favorites, while pointing to Stanford as the dark horse and predicting an improved conference from top to bottom.
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Assessing The Rising NBA Draft Prospects Who Could Land In First Round

Posted by EJacoby on June 27th, 2012

As part of our NBA Draft series, we have been breaking down in full scouting reports all the top prospects who could hear their names called in the first round on Thursday. Included in our profiles are the 35 top prospects as consensus-ranked back in mid-May. But now we’re a day away from the draft, and there’s been plenty of movement around the bottom end of those consensus rankings. Teams have gotten to see the prospects go through measurements, tests, and interviews at the Chicago Combine as well as individual and group workouts in private practice settings. As always, there are some guys moving up at the last minute who weren’t in the mix six weeks ago but could find their way into the first round. Who will become this year’s Norris Cole, the guard from Cleveland State who shot up draft boards late in the process last year and got selected #28 overall? We’ll detail these rising prospects who didn’t make our original cut and we didn’t get a chance to break down in full.

Athletic guard Jared Cunningham is gaining some first round buzz (Pac-12 photo)

Some of the players we detailed back in May who were fringe first-rounders at the time are now falling as likely second-rounders. Scott Machado, Kevin Jones, and Darius Miller, especially, are all projected outside of the top 35 by Draft Express and NBADraft.net at this time. That doesn’t mean these guys won’t get selected in the first round, but the buzz simply isn’t as strong leading up to draft night as some other prospects that we overlooked. Three names – excluding foreign players – who are now rising above these players in terms of consensus rankings heading into draft night are Jared Cunningham, Kim English, and Miles Plumlee. We’ll detail each prospect with a quick and dirty breakdown, including what has caused each player to rise in the past few weeks.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 05.20.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on May 20th, 2012

  1. Not only do rosters begin to solidify this time of year, but coaching staffs do as well. Washington State made a big change earlier in the week by demoting assistant coach Jeff Hironaka. As the article points out, Hironaka has seemed close to landing a head coaching job somewhere around the nation the past couple years. His ability to teach and develop players made him one of the top basketball IQ assistants in the conference, but weaknesses in recruiting led to his eventual demotion to the title of director of player development and special assistant to the head coach. With the move solely motivated by recruiting, head coach Ken Bone will look to add an assistant in the coming weeks that has recruiting contacts around the country. Hironaka can no longer recruit off-campus or give instruction during games, but his salary will remain the same.
  2. Sticking on the Palouse, the Cougars learned on Thursday that center Richard Peters out of Westwind Prep International did not qualify academically to make it to Washington State, and will instead pursue a junior college. However, this did not come with much surprise to the Cougar coaching staff. In anticipation of Peters not qualifying, Bone signed a pair of transfer centers in Jordan Railey and James Hunter in recent weeks. In addition to Railey and Hunter, signees for next season include guard Demarquise Johnson and forwards Richard Longrus and Brett Boese.
  3. Oregon State received great news earlier this week when it received an signed letter of intent from small forward Victor Robbins. Robbins was not pursued hard by the Beavers until after Jared Cunningham announced he would forgo his senior season, but the three-star out of Compton High saw a hole to fill and decided to spurn offers from Gonzaga, Washington, and Georgia. Robbins will be the first in line to fill the small forward/shooting guard role left by Cunningham, and his signing will free up shooting guard Roberto Nelson to work solely on his shot this summer.
  4. Robbins and the rest of the Beavers will start the 2012-13 season a little early by taking a summer trip to Spain and France. The trip will take place August 18-28, but most importantly the Beavers will receive 10 additional practices before flying to Europe. Those will be huge as the Beavers add four new players to this year’s roster (small forwards Robbins, Langston Morris-Walker, Jarmal Reid, and center Maika Ostling), along with a pair of players (forward Daniel Gomis and guard Michael Moyer) who sat out the 2011-12 season. One player who won’t be making the trip is forward Rhys Murphy. Murphy requested and was granted a release from his scholarship, and while he intends to graduate from Oregon State, he is reportedly “exploring his options”. The move is an odd one as Murphy was in line to get solid minutes this season. Oregon State’s last foreign trip came prior to the 2007-08 season, when the Beavers traveled to Italy and posted a 2-2 record. Prior to the 2002-03 season, former head coach Jay John led Oregon State to a 4-1 record in Australia in his first year with team. This season, the Beavers plan to several games against “very good teams” according to head coach Craig Robinson. In addition to the basketball, Robinson says “We are hoping that we can get a nice sort of team-bonding experience out of it, as well as some cultural nuances that the guys can look back on as great memories.” The Beavers have been known to incorporate basketball road trips with cultural/educational experiences, as last season the Beavers visited New York City and Washington D.C. in the middle of an 11-day East Coast trip.
  5. In other scheduling news, Arizona State will be playing real, official basketball games in the 2012 Las Vegas Invitational. The other seven teams in the field are Creighton, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Florida A&M, Cornell, Presbyterian, and Longwood. Before all eight teams head to Vegas, the four small/mid-major schools will play a pair of games at the four power conference teams. While in Vegas, the four lower schools will play a two-round tournament, as will the four power conference teams. The only known game for the Sun Devils so far is that Cornell will be traveling to Wells Fargo arena for one of the regional games. Cornell will also travel to Wisconsin.
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Pac-12 2011-12 Post-Mortem Wrap-Up

Posted by AMurawa on May 4th, 2012

Over the last few weeks, we’ve run down each of the teams in the Pac-12, recounting the high and low points of the 2011-12 season, saying goodbye to departing players, introducing you to new faces around the conference, as well as pointing out reasons for hope and concern for the future of each program. Along the way, we also handed out MVP awards for each team, and we graded each team compared with their expectations. In case you’ve missed any of those posts, below you’ll find a link to each team’s post-mortem, along with the MVP and grade we’ve chosen.

  • ColoradoMVP: Andre Roberson, Overall Grade: A
  • CaliforniaMVP: Jorge Gutierrez, Overall Grade A-
  • StanfordMVP: Aaron Bright, Overall Grade: B
  • OregonMVP: Devoe Joseph, Overall Grade: B
  • Washington StateMVP: Brock Motum, Overall Grade: B
  • WashingtonMVP: Tony Wroten, Overall Grade: B-
  • Oregon StateMVP: Jared Cunningham, Overall Grade: C+
  • ArizonaMVP: Kyle Fogg, Overall Grade: C+
  • UtahMVP: Jason Washburn, Overall Grade: C-
  • Arizona StateMVP: Trent Lockett, Overall Grade: D
  • UCLAMVP: Lazeric Jones, Overall Grade: D-
  • USC MVP: Byron Wesley, Overall Grade: F

As for upcoming features, beginning in June, we’ll spend one week on each team taking you through the dog days of the summer looking ahead to the 2012-13 expectations for the Pac-12 conference. Then every Friday throughout the offseason, we’ll also post a Weekly Five, detailing recent news around the league. And, as events warrant, we’ll drop additional posts as needed and may come up with a handful of other ideas to keep us all entertained as we suffer through the Great Sports Desert.

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Oregon State: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 24th, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Oregon State.

What Went Wrong

The calendar turned to February. In a month that can make or break seasons, the Beavers went 1-6. And it wasn’t as if they were playing bad basketball; they did compete and make games close. But when you are on a multiple-game skid it’s tough to finally break through, and the Beavers could just never do that. Of course, there were some key reasons as to why it all went south so quickly, mainly youth, inconsistency, and inexperience. Junior forward/point center Joe Burton lost all sense of touch in his usual silky, smooth offensive game, leading to what appeared to be a rift between he and coach Craig Robinson. Sophomore shooting guard Roberto Nelson had a few good games throughout conference play, but you can’t have your purest shooter on the roster only scoring one and four points against teams like Washington and Oregon. It was that type of inconsistent offensive production that made the Beavers a tough to figure out team throughout Pac-12 play.

After Robinson decided that screaming at his players did not work, the coach directed his anger at the basketball itself. (credit: Victor Decolongon)

What Went Right

The calendar turned to March, and the Beavers turned into a basketball team. Oregon State began the month with a pair of dominant wins over the Rocky Mountain schools before traveling to Los Angeles for the Pac-12 Tournament. While there, the Beavers played their best basketball since November as they began the tournament with wins over both Washington schools. That set up a semifinal game with fourth-seeded Arizona, and while the Beavers played well (leading by as many as eight points), fatigue caught up with them midway through the second half. Despite the setback against the Wildcats, Oregon State bounced back with a pair of huge wins against solid competition in the first two rounds of the CBI. The season would eventually end with a loss to Washington State in the CBI semifinals, but a 6-2 month of March was nothing to be ashamed about for Robinson’s Beavers.

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Pac-12 Afternoon Five: Signing Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on April 11th, 2012

  1. Today’s the big day in college basketball recruiting as the spring signing period officially opens. While most of the 2012 recruiting class is already accounted for, there are a couple teams around the conference today who are waiting on some big decisions. The biggest, of course, is the decision from Shabazz Muhammad – the number two prospect in the class – as to whether he will attend UCLA, Kentucky or Duke. However, he’s not the only unsigned recruit who has a Pac-12 school on his mind. Tony Parker, a 6’9” power forward out of Georgia, is also strongly considering UCLA, but he is not expected to make his announcement on Wednesday. Anthony Bennett, the number seven recruit in the country according to ESPNU is still considering Oregon, but he may be weeks away from making a final decision. ESPNU, for their part, listed the predictions from seven of their recruiting experts as to where each of these guys (and all the other elite unsigned recruits) will land, and they have Muhammad and Parker going to UCLA, with Bennett winding up in Florida.
  2. Arizona’s recruiting class for 2012 was thought to be done, but they added a junior college transferMatt Korcheck – who is expected to sign his commitment this week. Korcheck is a 6’9” forward who is jumping into a crowded frontcourt in Tucson, so he is expected to redshirt next season and retain two years of collegiate eligibility. More importantly for the future of the program, Sean Miller earned a commitment from Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell. McConnell could well be the point guard that Arizona has been lacking, but he’ll have to sit out next year before becoming eligible in 2013-14. The next big question for the Wildcats will be the future of freshman point guard Josiah Turner, who was suspended indefinitely prior to the Pac-12 tournament. With Turner and junior Jordin Mayes the only point guards on the Arizona roster, the fate of the mercurial lead guard could go a long way towards determining just how much should be expected of the Wildcats next season.
  3. Not all of the talk around the conference is of players coming in; at Oregon State, the big news is that junior guard Jared Cunningham will forego his final season of eligibility and enter his name into the NBA Draft. Cunningham was a first-team all-conference selection and averaged nearly 18 points per game, but his decision to remain in the draft is a bit of a head scratcher. Draft Express currently has him being picked towards the back of the second round of the draft, meaning he would not earn a guaranteed contract. He’s got plenty of physical skills, but his inability to consistently hit a jump shot and his gambling style on defense are just two traits that make him a questionable NBA prospect at this point.
  4. In Berkeley, Emerson Murray and Alex Rossi will be transferring out of Mike Montgomery’s program, joining graduates Harper Kamp and Jorge Gutierrez on the way out the door. Murray was unable to earn any significant minutes in his first two seasons on campus, so he’ll move north to play for Cameron Dollar at Seattle. Rossi struggled with health problems during his entire California career and leaves having played 16 minutes in two seasons on campus. A landing spot for Rossi is not yet known, and there is speculation that his hernia injury that limited his minutes with the Bears may limit his basketball playing future.
  5. Lastly, the Pac-12 All-Academic team was announced last week, and not surprisingly featured two Stanford players on the first team, two on the second team and four more among the honorable mentions. The first team was made up of Sabatino Chen from Colorado, Rhys Murphy from Oregon State, Trent Lockett from Arizona State and John Gage and Jack Trotter from the Cardinal. The team featured all 20 players in the conference who were not only regular players for their teams but also students who earned at least a 3.0 GPA. Arizona, Washington, USC and Utah were the only four schools to not have a player anywhere on the list. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
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Morning Five: 04.10.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 10th, 2012

  1. It was not much of a surprise, but yesterday Thomas Robinson officially put his name into the 2012 NBA Draft. A year after coming off the bench due to the Morris twins starting in front of him Robinson became the second best player in college basketball and should be a top five pick in this year’s draft. Kansas fans might have been hoping to have Robinson return for his senior year, but it would be unrealistic to have him return to school when he could help support his sister with his NBA contract (his family story is well-chronicled so we will not go through it here). Of course, this will inevitably raise another offseason of question as to whether Bill Self can win another Big 12 title without a superstar.
  2. Robinson will be joined in the NBA Draft by another Big 12 big man as Baylor‘s Perry Jones III also declared for the NBA Draft. Unlike Robinson, who to be fair was a highly rated recruit, Jones has failed to live up to the exceedingly high expectations placed on him coming into college. Averaging 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game is pretty solid, but not when you were projected as a top five pick coming into the season. Looking at it from Jones’ perspective, leaving now appears to be the right decision as each year he has stayed in college has hurt his stock to the point that he is almost out of the lottery after being a probable top two pick coming out of high school and a consensus top five pick even after last year’s decent, but uninspired season. Fortunately for NBA GMs he has fallen far enough down the mock drafts that selecting Jones probably won’t cost the GM his job unless that GM does something idiotic like take Jones in the top ten.
  3. Jones’ Baylor teammates may not be in such good shape as the basketball programs (both men and women) are being investigated for impermissible phone calls and text messages that are so far out of bounds that Kelvin Sampson would blush. Some analysts might have been able to foresee some suspicious activity at Baylor given their sudden rise to prominence. In an attempt to save itself from severe NCAA punishment the coaches named have acknowledged their role and have taken self-imposed penalties and the school has done the same with scholarship and recruiting restrictions.  Given the degree of punishment other schools have received in the past we would not be surprised to see the NCAA issue even more stiff sanctions.
  4. Two other slightly smaller, but still significant names also put their names in the NBA Draft. Vanderbilt‘s John Jenkins announced yesterday that he would be entering into the NBA Draft and forgoing his senior year. Jenkins is projected to be a borderline first round pick could be an intriguing target for a NBA team as he is probably the best shooter in this year’s Draft and there are plenty of teams that will be picking at the end of the first round who could use a marksman. Jenkins is not the only junior guard who declared for the NBA Draft yesterday as Oregon State‘s Jared Cunningham did the same. Unlike Jenkins, Cunningham likely will not even get close to the first round and its guaranteed contract as he is projected to be a late second round pick or even undrafted. Still his athleticism and defense should be enough to get a look from several NBA teams and some training camp invitations.
  5. With all of the players declaring for the NBA Draft it is good to hear that at least a few players will be staying in school for at least a few more years (or at least that is what we think). The most prominent and interesting is Trey Burke, who is returning to Michigan after initial reports indicated that he was leaving. Burke’s decision means that the Wolverines could be a top ten team next season. Lehigh‘s C.J. McCollum, who gained notoriety with his performance in the team’s upset win over Duke, will also return to school. Learning from our criticism of how word spread that he might be leaving school early, McCollum, a journalism major, took matters into his own hands and wrote his own column for The Sporting News. Tony Mitchell, the one from North Texas not the one who is leaving Alabama, will also return to school after playing a shortened freshman season while his eligibility was sorted out. Out of the three, Mitchell might be the most intriguing NBA prospect and could wind up being a lottery pick if he has a strong sophomore season.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.29.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 29th, 2012

  1. Washington State continued its season on Wednesday night with the second of a three-game series with Pittsburgh for the championship of the CBI Tournament. With the Cougars winning game one on Monday night, they had a chance to sew up the title, but fell at the Petersen Events Center by four, forcing game three on Friday night. Once again, the Cougs had to go without junior forward Brock Motum, who is out with a sprained ankle, but Reggie Moore led the way in trying to cover for his absence. Moore had 18 points and was instrumental in keeping WSU in the game in the second half, getting to the line repeatedly. Still, the Panthers, playing without a star of their own, as Ashton Gibbs sat out with his own ankle injury, did a good job of limiting any type of second option for the Cougs, including Abe Lodwick, who had been steady in the last two games without Motum. The status for both Motum and Gibbs for Friday night’s game remains unclear at this point.
  2. Stanford plays in the final of the NIT tonight, and regardless of what happens in that game against Minnesota, this has already been an important March for the Cardinal program. They’ve won six of their seven games in the month (although their loss in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal to California killed their NCAA dreams) and have earned the right to continue getting extra game action, extra practices and extra confidence, so much so that Stanford could be among the favorites at the top of the conference for next season.
  3. There was a shakeup in the Arizona State athletic department on Wednesday, as Lisa Love is out as athletic director and Steve Patterson, who was previously the chief operating officer of the athletic department, is in. Under Love, both the ASU football and basketball programs have struggled, and given that she was responsible for the hiring of the head coaches who have run those programs since she was brought on board in 2005, her firing is not unexpected.
  4. The McDonald’s All-America game was Wednesday night, and Shabazz Muhammad, currently very much on the radar of the UCLA program, had a big night, scoring 21 points and earning the game’s Most Valuable Player award. Still, Muhammad’s holding out until April 11 to announce his final decision, but he has reportedly narrowed his field down to the Bruins, Duke and Kentucky, with his hometown school, UNLV, dropped. Elsewhere at the McDonald’s game, Arizona commitments Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley did the dirty work in the all-star game, combining to score 14 points and grab 12 rebounds, while UCLA signee Kyle Anderson went for 13 points, eight assists and eight boards.
  5. Lastly, the Oregon State season may be over, ending short of its goal of an NCAA Tournament bid and of a modified goal of a run to the CBI championship, but all things considered, it could be a stepping stone year for the Beavers from conference also-ran to legitimate contender. If guard Jared Cunningham decides to forgo the NBA Draft and return to Corvallis, the Beavs will only lose Kevin McShane, who averaged just eight minutes per game, while bringing in three freshmen and adding the services of redshirt freshman Daniel Gomis, who missed the year with a broken leg.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 27th, 2012

  1. While college basketball as a whole is in that dreaded five-day lull between the Elite Eight games and the Final Four games, we’ve at least got some leftovers to keep us sated as we wait. Last night’s menu featured game one of the three-game CBI championship series, and Washington State, playing without its best player Brock Motum, built a 12-point second-half lead against Pittsburgh, then held on to win, dodging a last-second shot to emerge as a one-point winner. Senior Abe Lodwick picked up the slack for the Cougs, going for 16 points, while junior point guard Reggie Moore had 14. After the opening-game win in Pullman, the Cougs will now have to win just one of the remaining two games at the Peterson Events Center in order to claim the CBI title, with game two coming on Wednesday. Motum, who wore a protective boot on the bench on Monday night, could return for game two, although he’ll be a game-time decision.
  2. Oregon State got news on Monday that junior guard Jared Cunningham would be “testing the waters” with the NBA, meaning that he has until April 10 to announce his intention to return to school rather than become eligible for the June draft. Of course, due to increasingly player-unfavorable rules enacted by the NCAA, this means that Cunningham really will have very little opportunity to get any feedback from NBA executives as to his potential readiness for the league. So, for the next couple weeks, Beaver fans looking forward to an exciting 2012-13 season have plenty of reason for feelings of unease, but can at least comfort themselves in knowing that this has been the plan for Cunningham all along.  All indications are that he’ll return to Corvallis next season, not only in an attempt to improve his own draft stock, but in hopes to get his team to the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek is under fire recently for the unprecedented rate of scholarship players to leave his program early – 12 players in four seasons. However, Sendek still feels that the program is on the right track, noting that only one of those players who left wound up transferring to another power conference school (Victor Rudd to South Florida), with the rest of the players downgrading to a mid- or low-major program that is more in fitting with their talents. While that’s certainly true, the other side of the coin is that Sendek, then, has been recruiting players who aren’t talented enough to be impact players at a Pac-12 school. And, as Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic notes, of the 14 players who have signed with ASU between 2008 and 2010, 11 have left, leaving only Ruslan Pateev, Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski remaining from those recruiting classes.
  4. It may not be a video that Arizona fans would care to watch, but this recap from the Big Ten Network of Arizona’s collapse against Illinois in the Elite Eight seven years ago seemed particularly relevant this weekend as Florida collapsed against Louisville. While Florida’s folly was more of a slow-motion fade, for some reason watching that inevitability on Saturday brought back the exact same feelings I felt in 2005. A team that had fought its way to a well-earned late double-digit lead on the road to a Final Four somehow suddenly found itself in peril; certainly not a great moment in Pac-12 (nee  10) history, but an iconic one.
  5. Just to cheer up Wildcat fans a bit, there is talk that Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell may wind up at Arizona. McConnell announced his intention to transfer from the Pittsburgh school last week, and rumors immediately swirled that Tucson would be a strong possible landing spot for the point guard who averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last year. With Josiah Turner’s status in doubt, the Wildcats are in desperate need of a point guard to pair with their 2012 recruiting class currently ranked as the best in the nation, although McConnell would need to sit out a year before being eligible in the desert. Nevertheless, if Turner does indeed wind up returning to the program, that could preclude McConnell from coming west.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 20th, 2012

  1. Rick Majerus was once again a national story this weekend as his current team, the Saint Louis Billikens, gave Michigan State, the #1 seed in the West Region, all it could handle. But, as the former head coach of Utah, he took the Utes to their most recent Final Four (in 1998) and Block U thinks that it is time the university officially acknowledge the impact Majerus had on the Utah basketball program. In part due to an unhappy ending to the Majerus era (he resigned after a feud with athletic director Chris Hill), he has never been officially recognized by Utah with a plaque, naming the court in his honor, or seeing his name in a ring of honor. Given that he is one of the most important figures in the history of basketball in the state (guys like John Stockton, Karl Malone and Jerry Sloan are certainly somewhere ahead of him), it seems like a worthwhile idea to me.
  2. Yesterday in the Morning Five, I mentioned that only Oregon, Washington and Oregon State were still alive in postseason basketball from the Pac-12. I was, of course, completely wrong about that, as Stanford played last night in the NIT and Washington State hosted Wyoming in the CBI. Apologies to both schools for the oversight, but we’ll rectify that situation this morning. The Cougs handled the Cowboys with ease, scoring a 20-point win over a solid Wyoming defensive team as All-Pac-12 first team member Brock Motum scored 25 points and grabbed seven boards.
  3. Oregon State, who we did remember to mention yesterday, played their quarterfinal game in the CBI on Monday night and ran TCU out of the Gill Coliseum, by a 101-81 margin on a 70.8% eFG. The Beavers were led by Jared Cunningham who went for 27 points. Unfortunately for the Pac-12, the conference will be forced to cannibalize itself early in these tournaments, as the Beavers will advance to face Washington State while Washington and Oregon will meet in the NIT quarterfinals.
  4. Stanford advanced in its NIT game in a battle of the long ball. The Cardinal and its opponent, Illinois State, combined to hit 27 of their 47 three-point attempts on the way to a 92-88 overtime final. While three different Redbirds scored more than 20 points, it was Aaron Bright who led the way for Stanford with 29 points (on 11-of-13 shooting, including six threes) as the Cardinal came back from 11 down midway through the second half to advance to host a quarterfinal matchup against Nevada on Wednesday.
  5. A week ago, we got word that Arizona State forward Chanse Creekmur would be transferring out of the program to play football at a school closer to his home in Iowa. On Monday, we got news that Kyle Cain would also be transferring out of the program. Cain started 17 games last season and averaged 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and was one of three players who were suspended abruptly for the Sun Devils trip to the southern California schools. The loss leaves ASU short-handed up front for next season but, perhaps more importantly, highlights what is seen as a major problem in the program: kids leaving the program early. Cain’s departure marks the eleventh scholarship player to leave Herb Sendek’s program in the last four seasons. That issue, coupled with a 22-40 record over the last two seasons, means that Sendek may need to have his team show some serious improvement in 2012-13.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.15.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2012

  1. Wednesday night was not exactly a banner night in the Pac-12 Conference. Just to tie a bow on a dreadful season, California laid an egg in its opening round NCAA Tournament game, scored just 13 points in the first half against South Florida (which, really, isn’t as much of a crime as allowing USF to score 36 points in the first half – when is the last time USF scored 36 points in any half?) and never really showed up. The Bears only made a run in the final few minutes when the game was already out of reach, causing the final score (65-54) to seem a lot more respectable than it really was. For a team led by seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp, two guys whose careers have been largely based on heart and toughness, to bow out with nary a fight is certainly a disappointing end to their solid Berkeley careers.
  2. Arizona’s season also ended Wednesday night as they lost to Bucknell in the first round of the NIT by the same score. This game was far more competitive, however, until the Bison finished the game on a 7-0 run to put away the Wildcats. With a group of impressive freshmen coming in next season, Arizona hopes it will be its last NIT appearance for quite some time. The biggest question for Sean Miller to answer in the offseason, though, is the future of freshman point guard Josiah Turner. Turner is currently suspended indefinitely, and although he did take in the game on the Wildcat bench in sweats, it is possible that he is not long for the program. With Arizona’s promising recruiting class lacking a true point guard, his fate could have a lot to say about what happens in Tucson next year.
  3. USC announced on Wednesday that sophomore forward Garrett Jackson will be transferring out of the program at the end of the year. Despite the fact that Jackson started the final 14 games of  the season, it has been clear in his two years in Los Angeles that he doesn’t have a bright future playing for head coach Kevin O’Neill. Prior to the rash of injuries that completely sapped the Trojan roster of able bodies, Jackson was just a role player. And with a couple newly eligible senior transfers due in at forward next year, Jackson’s role figured to decline rather than increase in 2012-13.
  4. We’ve discussed the possibility that Dana Altman would be considered for the open Nebraska coaching position, but one thing we never considered was that other Pac-12 coaches might be on the Huskers’ radar as well. As it turns out, Nebraska apparently contacted UCLA’s head coach Ben Howland in regards to the job, but found out that they were barking up the wrong tree there. With Altman and Oregon still alive in the NIT and not playing again until Sunday, it could be some time until we find out for sure whether Altman is all-in or folding early with the Ducks.
  5. Lastly, Oregon State kept its season alive by blowing out Western Illinois in the first round of the CBI on Wednesday night, earning the Beavers their first 20-win season since 1990. For perspective, Jared Cunningham, who led the Beavs with 22 points, wasn’t even born at that time. The win gives the Pac-12 two teams in the CBI quarterfinals, as Washington State advanced on Tuesday night with a 14-point win over San Francisco. Wyoming will travel to Washington State in the next round, while Oregon State will host TCU, two games that could provide trouble for the Pac-12 teams, considering the conference’s struggles against Mountain West teams this season.
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