Good afternoon, college hoops fans, and welcome to another version of Boom Goes The Dynamite. What does that mean? If there’s a game on my television, I’m watching it. I’m even monitoring games on about five different online game-trackers. John Stevens, here, holed-up in the RTC Midwestern Compound. Normally you have to wait until Tuesday for me to force my opinions and exert my influence on you in my weekly column; on this particular Saturday, NVR1983 (the Zelig of college basketball fandom — the man can literally pop up anywhere in the country with a press pass and do a live broadcast and duck out before you’ve noticed he’s been there, and probably eaten half your food) is probably somewhere setting himself on press row for a game tonight, and RTMSF (the guru of RTC) is, from what I understand, probably laying under a big pink blanket watching Mad About You or Sex And The City DVDs with his wife at a spa somewhere. Poor b—ard.
(Just kidding, Mrs. RTMSF…)
Anyway, where I am in the Midwest, it’s cold again, it’s grey, and it’s starting to snow. Sounds like good basketball-watching weather (but what isn’t?). I’ve got a television, I’ve got a cooler, and I’ve got a couch. Let’s watch some hoops. I invite you to join me.
We’re getting a little bit of a delayed start because of a techincal difficulty on my end (long story — suffice to say, I am easily distracted and/or confused by things like shapes and colors), but now that we’re up and rolling, in a moment we’ll catch up on what’s happened so far in today’s games. Welcome!
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
News and Notes
Arizona State‘s Rihards Kuksiks leads the nation in 3-point percentage, but is only third in the Pac-10. How is that possible? Well NCAA statistical leaders need to make a minimum of 2.5 per game from three-point range to qualify, while Pac-10 needs to make one per game and play in 75 percent of the team’s games. Theo Robertson is shooting 56.2% and Michael Roll is shooting 54.5%, both ahead of Kuksiks’s 46.7%. Either way Kuksiks has had a tough time the past two games going 3-for-20 from behind the arc.
Ben Howland‘s 13-4 record against California is his best against any team in the Pac-10.
UCLA’s recent victory over Stanford was UCLA’s largest victory over Stanford at Pauley Pavilion in over 30 years. It was also UCLA’s highest scoring game under Howland. UCLA shot 73% from 3-point range and only 62% from the free throw line. Maybe they should start taking their foul shots from behind the arc.
California, the best three-point shooting team in the nation at 47%, shot 2-for-16 from three-point range against USC.
UCLA dominated teams this week. The Bruins went 3-0 with average margin of victory over 21 points.
Darren Collison, who earlier this year broke the UCLA record for consecutive free-throws with 43, is shooting 94.4% from the line, which leads the nation.
Craig Robinson has turned it around for Oregon State. The Beavers have four wins in the first half of the Pac-10 schedule for the first time since 2002-03.
After another week of ups and downs in the Pac-10, there are really only two locks for the tournament at this point: UCLA and Washington. Four others (Arizona, Arizona State, California, and USC) still have work to do.
John Stevens is featured columnist for RTC. His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.
Ask any college basketball coach what a team needs to succeed in March and you’ll get a variety of answers — solid point guard play, a big inside threat, conditioning, luck, a guarantee that John Stevens will NOT bet on you – all popular answers. A “go-to” guy is also a popular response, but I think history has shown that simply one standout player will not prove sufficient. These days you have to have a balanced squad in addition to having at least two players you can call actual “go-to” guys. A viable third option can have you breathing rarified air, indeed. This season has proven incredibly interesting in that we have a lot of teams that are being seemingly led — whose very identities are made — by a couple of standout players. In addition, if these teams that are led by Dynamic Duos see a helpful third option emerge — watch out. There’s at least one of these teams in each of the major conferences, so let’s take a look at them.
ACC — Miami (FL)
True, the Hurricanes’ schedule is a little bland, but you can’t ignore a team with tough wins both at Kentucky and at Boston College. Jack McClinton (16.9/2.8/3.1) and Dwayne Collins (12.1/7.8/1.3) have propelled this Miami team that has eleven guys who average at least 10 minutes a game which means that they have many options in terms of developing that third option. Cyrus McGowan is an efficient player who provides 7.2/6.1 and he does it averaging 5 minutes less than the other significant scorers on that team, but the most likely candidate here to step up as the third option is James Dews, who averages 9.2/2.7 but upped his game in those big wins above against UK and BC by contributing 18 and 12, respectively. You gotta give props to a guy who elevates himself in the big games.
Big 12 — Missouri
On their way to a 13-3 record so far, Missouri hasn’t exactly been sleeping on the job schedule-wise, tallying wins against USC and a surprising California side and losing a tough one to Xavier. To that end, DeMarre Carroll (16.1/6.6) and Leo Lyons (14.6/6.2) have been a true Dynamic Duo for the Tigers because after that the production falls off to Matt Lawrence (9.6/2.3), especially in terms of rebounding (note: of course, Lyons needs to get this recent traffic thing sorted out). Along with J.T. Tiller, Lawrence represents the most likely candidate to be the next option; Tiller averages the third most minutes on the team but Lawrence is actually more productive despite playing 4 fewer minutes per game.
I bet Demarre can beat me at curls. (photo credit: kansan.com)
Big East — Notre Dame
I know I don’t have to tell you about Luke Harangody; despite the special player he is I personally find more excitement watching Kyle McAlarney (16.6/2.6/3.4) because the man just has locker-room range. Seriously, he’d shoot from his dorm room if they’d let him. And even then you better get a guy on him. ND might not seem like a Dynamic Duo-led team because they have two other starters — Tory Jackson and Ryan Ayers — averaging over 30 minutes a game (Jackson actually plays more than Harangody, by the numbers), but the offensive dropoff is certainly evident after McAlarney and the team is defined by those top two fellows. Jackson is the obvious third option candidate, here; he puts together a good floor game on the whole (4.6 rpg/5.9 apg/1.5 spg). It’s not like he doesn’t do enough, but if he became even more of a third scoring option to take even just a little of the heat off of the Harangody/McAlarney exacta, Notre Dame will become an even bigger Final Four threat come March.
Big Ten — Michigan State
People still seem to be defining the Fighting Izzos by that rectal-exam-with-an-audience that UNC gave them a while back. This is a mistake. Raymar Morgan (15.1/7.1) and Kalin Lucas (13.9/5.9 apg) have been the Dynamic Duo for Sparty so far, as everyone knows, but these guys have reeled off nine straight since getting tuned-up by the Tar Heels and they basically have their third option back, now, in the form of Goran Suton, already averaging 9.2/6.8 in only nine games back. This will likely continue to rise. It makes Michigan State a team you cannot ignore as we enter the second half of the season. They’ve obviously put the North Carolina game behind them. Everyone else should, too.
Pac-10 — Arizona State
We all know James Harden (23.1/5.8/4.7) and we’re getting to know Jeff Pendergraph (13.6/7.1). After that, the offensive production and glasswork drops off a little to Richard Kuksiks (10.9/3.6), the apparent choice for presumed third option, here. He’s up to playing even more minutes than Pendergraph on the average, and he’s shooting a pretty tasty 53% from 3-point range. I am, however, going to anoint Derek Glasser as the best option for third-man-in; he’s only contributing 6.4 points (fifth on the team) but he’s a great distributor of the ball (5.3 apg, leads team), has shown a tendency to come up with a timely pilfer, and is darn reliable at the line (81.1%, second on team) — all important qualities during tournament time. Even the slightest increase in his point production would make ASU even more dangerous than they already are.
SEC — Kentucky
The textbook Dynamic Duo team. Probably not a better example in all of college basketball this season. We’re not even going to talk about Jodie Meeks’ (24.2/3.4, 90.1% FT) legendary performance last night and Patrick Patterson (18.9/9.3) is creeping up every online NBA mock draft, a bittersweet fact for Wildcat fans. After that, the offensive production falls all the way down to Perry Stevenson at 7.1ppg. Heck, Patterson is actually third on the team in assists (2.6). As far as possibilities for third-option status, with this team that’s a tough question. They are absolutely loaded with pure, talented athletes, but UK followers have waited all year for a third player to assert himself. Still hasn’t happened. It has to for this team, because Meeks can’t score 54 every night and there will probably be more than one night where Meeks goes cold and Patterson is well-defended (or vice-versa). My choice for third option for this team is DeAndre Liggins, the team’s assist leader at only 3.6 apg. If he can cut down on freshman mistakes and provide even a small increase in his point production, Kentucky will be formidable — and that means this year, not next year. Without a third option, Selection Sunday might get a little tense for this Kentucky team.
It will be especially interesting to see if Miami (FL), Missouri, and Kentucky eventually see a third player emerge for them, since they’re…well, it’s too early to use the “b-word,” but let’s just say they’re fighting for tournament entry right now. Even if it isn’t the player I’ve predicted, if any of these squads see a third person elevate his game in hopes of providing more assistance to the Dynamic Duo already leading them, you best keep an eye out for them. These teams are close to making the jump, even now. Adding a good third option to their particular Dynamic Duo will improve them exponentially, and I wouldn’t want to see any of them in my sub-bracket.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
Darren Collison has hit a UCLA school-record 40 consecutive free-throws. The previous record was 36 straight by Henry Bibby in 1972
Washington is bringing a nine-game winning streak into the game of the week against California, who is riding an eight-game winning streak. One streak will come to an end.
Cal is still first in three-point percentage shooting 98-for-194 as a team for a 50.5 % clip. The next closest team is Miami Ohio shooting 42.9 %
This could be the first time Arizona fails to start 2-2 through the first four games in Pac-10 play since 1983-84
The Pac-10 Men’s Basketball Hall of Honor just announced the new inductees. Led by Detlef Schrempf and Lute Olson, there are ten new inductees.
Player of the week- Patrick Christopher. Christopher put up three 20 point games this week. He had 23 against Arizona, 20 against Arizona State, and 22 at Washington State. The Golden Bears went 3-0 in the games.
Honorable Mention:Darren Collison averaged 18 points and 6.5 assists in the Bruins two wins this past week. He shot 13-for-19 from the field and a perfect 9-for-9 from the charity stripe. Jeff Pendergraph averaged 18 points and 7.3 rebounds a game in the three games this week. The Sun Devils went 2-1 and Pendergraph fought through injuries in the last two games.