UCLA and Arizona: Reasons For Hope and Reasons For Concern

Posted by AMurawa on January 7th, 2012

Thursday night in Anaheim, the two blueblood Pac-12 basketball programs squared off in a battle of deeply flawed teams. While neither UCLA nor Arizona has lived up to either of their historical standards or even their diminished expectations heading into the 2011-12 season, both programs have reasons to believe that not only will things get better in a big way next season, but that they have the ability to improve between now and the Pac-12 Tournament in March. However, at the same time, if changes aren’t made and improvement not shown, both of these teams could continue to disappoint. So, below, the reasons for hope and the reasons for concern for both UCLA and Arizona.

Reasons for Hope – UCLA

The Bruins played without sophomore center Joshua Smith last night, as he was sidelined due to a concussion he suffered in practice on Wednesday. However, in his postgame press conference, head coach Ben Howland noted that Smith was making significant progress in his quest to improve his conditioning, reporting that he was down to his lowest weight in more than a year and that he had been putting in extra running and completed a three-mile run on Sunday. Improved conditioning should keep him on the floor for longer stretches, make him more effective for those stretches, and would hopefully improve his ability to avoid cheap defensive fouls. He still has to prove that on the court, however.  Another positive for the Bruins was the play of the Wear twins last night. The sophomores turned in their best collective performance, combining to score 34 points on 13-of-16 shooting while grabbing ten rebounds and just generally playing more aggressively and actively than they had displayed in the past. As Howland noted, this is really the first time in their career that they’ve played extended minutes, so there is still improvement to be had from both of them. Ideally, Thursday night was a first step towards realizing that improvement.

David Wear, UCLA

David Wear, And His Brother Travis, Are Still Growing Into Full-Time Players (photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho, LA Times)

Reasons for Hope – Arizona

In the previous ten games Solomon Hill had played against the two Los Angeles area schools, the LA native had averaged about five points and three rebounds. Thursday night Hill went for 16 points and 11 rebounds and has clearly matured to the point where he is the team’s go-to offensive player and their team leader. He’s a versatile 6’6” wing capable of scoring off the bounce, rebounding with the big boys (he’s second in the conference in rebounding), and creating for his teammates (he leads the Wildcats in assists and is 14th in the Pac-12). More importantly, he is beginning to lead by example. And perhaps his leadership is starting to rub off on Josiah Turner. The mercurial freshman point guard earned back his starting position which he last held in the Wildcats’ season opener, played the most minutes of his career, and scored nine points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out three assists – not the most impressive of lines, but a start at least. Turner was effective at getting in the lane and drawing contact (he got to the line six times) and also showed a willingness to look to set up his teammates. He’s got plenty of talent; if he can harness it positively, the Wildcats will be better for it.

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Eight

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 3rd, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew and I have compiled after the eighth week of Pac-12 games. Here we go!

1. Stanford, 12-2 (2-0): The Cardinal didn’t spare any hearts after beating the LA schools by a combined nine points this week. On Thursday night it was a grind-it-out, defensive thriller as Stanford stopped UCLA on their final possession for a 60-59 win. Then on Saturday, the Cardinal built a double-digit lead, only to see it be cut down to three with two minutes left. However, Stanford would hit its shots down the stretch to hang on for a 51-43 win. Up Next: 1.5 @ Oregon

2. California, 12-3 (2-0): The only difference between California and Stanford’s week was in their handling of UCLA. First, the Golden Bears needed to take care of USC. The Trojans certainly did make Cal fans nervous down the stretch, but in the end the Trojans had dug just too deep a hole to climb completely out of and fell, 53-49. Two days later it was the visiting Bruins who provided that same feeling, however, this time it was just for the first half. After only leading 40-39 at halftime, the Golden Bears outscored UCLA 45-30 in the final 20 minutes of play to send the Bruins back to LA with an 0-2 record. Up Next: 1,5 @ Oregon State

Sophomore guard Justin Cobbs is averaging 12.4 PPG and 4.6 APG. (AP Photo)

3. Arizona, 10-4 (1-0): It was rivalry week in the desert as the Wildcats and Arizona State met for another installment of the Territorial Cup. This one was all Wildcats however, as Arizona used an early 17-5 run to gain some separation. They never looked back after that, cruising to a 68-51 win. Forward Jesse Perry led the Wildcats with 16 points, while center Ruslan Pateev led the Devils with 12. Up Next: 1.5 vs. UCLA in Anaheim

4. Oregon, 10-4 (1-1): The most surprising result of the week came on Thursday in Spokane, where the Ducks defeated Washington State, 92-75. The Ducks shot a scorching hot 69% from the field in the win, which was good enough to move them up a spot from last week’s rankings despite their loss to Washington on Saturday. Up Next: 1.5 vs. Stanford

5. Oregon State, 10-4 (0-2): It’s hard to imagine the Beavers having a worse week than they did in Washington. The only problem is, the nightmare could very well continue over the next two weeks as the Beavers host the Bay Area schools and travel to Arizona. If they manage to pull out three wins from that stretch, the Big Dance is still in the picture. Up Next: 1.5 vs. California

6. Washington, 8-5 (2-0): The road back to respectability is a long and winding one after you drop games to Saint Louis, Nevada, and South Dakota State, but the Huskies are slowly coming back. After dismantling Oregon State in front of a distracted fan base on Thursday, the Dawgs came back two days later and did the same thing to rival Oregon. Up Next: 1.5 @ Colorado Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.03.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 3rd, 2012

  1. The Pac-12 announced its Player of the Week on Monday, and no surprise, Washington’s Tony Wroten took home the honors for the first and perhaps not last time after averaging 21.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in his first weekend of conference play. What was a surprise, however, was teammate C.J. Wilcox not even being nominated for the award. Wilcox had a fine weekend of his own (19.5 PPG and seven threes), but it was Aaron Bright, Jorge Gutierrez, Jesse Perry, Andre Roberson and E.J. Singler who showed up in the “Also Nominated” mention.
  2. Speaking of Wilcox, he got sent to the bench this weekend after starting the first 11 games of the season for the Huskies. When junior center Aziz N’Diaye went down with a knee injury in the second half of the Huskies’ game against Duke, Wroten came in and earned a starting spot with his play down the stretch, and since then has been the go-to player offensively for UW. But, when N’Diaye was ready to return to the starting five, head coach Lorenzo Romar had to decide who would be the odd man out. The choice was Wilcox, but he took the change in stride, not only finding his shot this weekend, but also turning in two great defensive performances. With his ability to get hot quick and his experience coming off the bench last season, Wilcox is perfectly fine with his new role.
  3. In Salt Lake City, more bad news for the struggling Utes, as Cedric Martin is struggling with plantar fasciitis and may have to miss games in the future due to the injury. Martin, who is second in the team in minutes and is one of just two players to start every game, has been limited in practice and head coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledges that he may need to get a week or more of rest in order to push through the injury.
  4. Arizona head coach Sean Miller already has a stellar 2012 recruiting class lined up, and now he’s working on lining up players for future years, with 2013 wing Jabari Bird (ranked #11 by ESPNU) near the top of the list. Bird lists Arizona, Washington and California as his top three schools and is intrigued by the possibility of playing in the Wildcats’ system, saying that Miller has told him that he would have the ability to be a ball-handling forward at UA. Bird and classmate Aaron Gordon, another Arizona target, play AAU ball for the Oakland Soldiers, the same team that produced current Wildcat players Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson.
  5. Lastly, UCLA fans spent their fair share of time last offseason lamenting the early departures of Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee to the NBA Draft. Checking in with those players, Honeycutt was just assigned by the Sacramento Kings to the NBDL after appearing for four minutes in his one appearance thus far this season, while Lee, who actually signed a guaranteed contract with the Timberwolves despite being drafted in the second round, had to undergo knee surgery and will miss at least the next six weeks.
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Pac-12 Reset As Conference Play Tips Off Tonight

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

Yesterday we looked back at non-conference play and picked out some of the highlights of the first couple months of the season. Today, as conference play gets ready to tip-off, we look forward to what we expect to happen from here until Selection Sunday. Prior to the start of the season, we took a guess at things like conference standings and All-Pac-12 teams based on limited information. Now, we’ve got twelve or thirteen games upon which to base our next set of guesses, but given the state of affairs in the conference so far, may be no closer to having a good idea what is going to happen from here on out than we were back in November. Nevertheless, here goes:

Projected Standings

  1. California 13-5 – While every team in the conference is flawed, the Golden Bears are slightly less flawed than the rest, provided Richard Solomon can return from his injury, Harper Kamp can remain relatively healthy and freshman David Kravish continues to improve. Their quartet of guards (Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Brandon Smith) is the best in the league and head coach Mike Montgomery has a way of squeezing every bit of production out of his players.

    Mike Montgomery, California

    With Mike Montgomery At The Helm And A Talented Backcourt, The Golden Bears Are The Slight Favorite In The Pac-12 (photo credit: Christine Cotter)

  2. Stanford 12-6Johnny Dawkins’ team will prove it is for real, but it may not have the experience or the single elite player capable of scoring with confidence in clutch situations to actually win the title. Chasson Randle or even Dwight Powell could grow into that type of player, but it may be a year or more away from happening. The Cardinal travel to Berkeley on the final day of the regular season in what could be a game rife with title implications.
  3. Arizona 12-6 – It seems like everybody is just waiting for Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson to turn it on, take over this team and turn the Wildcats into an explosive offensive force. They’re talented enough to make that happen, but 13 games into the season, it is looking like Solomon Hill, Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry are going to have to continue as the go-to guys for Sean Miller. And while those guys are nice players, they are all more suited to the role of contributors rather than stars, at least on teams who hope to win a conference title. However, the fact that the Wildcats only have to play Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon once each is definitely a bonus.
  4. Oregon State 11-7Craig Robinson’s has an exciting and young squad that may have only scratched the surface of its talent so far. However, given their history of losing games that they have no business losing, they’ve got to be in the same “prove-it” category that Stanford occupies. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the quintet of Ahmad Starks, Jared Cunningham, Devon Collier, Joe Burton and Angus Brandt turns itself to be the most talented starting five in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.08.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 8th, 2011

  1. It was a busy night around the conference, with six games from coast to coast, but the obvious headliner lived up to and maybe even exceeded expectations, as a gutty, undermanned, undersized Arizona team took Florida to overtime before wearing down. Playing without suspended point guard Josiah Turner, the Wildcats turned to freshman Nick Johnson to play out of position and run the point, and we learned beyond a shadow of a doubt that keeping Johnson at the point is not a long term solution. However, upperclassmen Jesse Perry, Kyle Fogg and Solomon Hill kept the team within striking distance, with Hill knocking down three straight clutch free throws in the waning moments of regulation to force the extra period before the ‘Cats ran out of gas. Florida’s Patric Young exposed the Arizona big men, going for a career-high 25 points paired with ten rebounds in a blatant mismatch up front.
  2. If that was the highlight, the obvious lowlight took place in Salt Lake City, as Utah lost by 31 to Cal State Fullerton, a middling (at best) Big West school that has already lost to Houston Baptist – a team ranked #333 out of 345 teams by Ken Pomeroy. Not that losing by 31 in the worst loss in the 42-year history of the Huntsman Center isn’t indication enough of how bad things were, but the rebounding margins in this game were obscene, as CSUF grabbed 91.9% of their defensive rebound opportunities and 43.5% on the offensive end. That’s a Big West team dominating a Pac-12 opponent, folks. I know Utah has had a ton of turnover in the past couple of years, but come on now. With the basketball edition of the Holy War due up on Saturday, the natives are already getting restless.
  3. A quick run around the rest of the games starts with Deonte Burton getting over on a Pac-12 team for the second time in six days, this time going for 28 points in a win at Arizona State. At Colorado, Andre Roberson double-doubled and scored a career-high 21, Spencer Dinwiddie continued his hot streak, and the Buffaloes made 15 of their last 16 free throws over the last eight minutes in a win over Fresno State. Washington State got a jumper from Reggie Moore in the final second to pull out a two-point win in the Battle of the Palouse. And California took out its frustrations on San Jose State, holding the Spartans to a 21.7% eFG.
  4. A key element to Oregon State’s more successful start this year has been the team’s ability to play man-to-man defense for long stretches. In the past, the Beavers had primarily been a 1-3-1 zone team, but with the significant upgrade in athleticism that Craig Robinson has brought to Corvallis, the coach knew that the time was right to let players like Jared Cunningham and Devon Collier, among others, play to their strengths. Coupled with the athleticism of his players, Robinson also has found a starting five that has gelled as a unit and become much more consistent than last year’s bipolar team.
  5. Down the road apiece from OSU, Dana Altman’s Oregon team gets a much-needed infusion of backcourt talent this weekend as Devoe Joseph gains eligibility Saturday against Fresno State. A transfer from Minnesota who will only have the remainder of this season left in his college career, Joseph steps into a program in dire need of help, following the losses of freshmen guards Jabari Brown and Bruce Barron, both of whom have left the program already this season. Joseph averaged 11.3 points and 3.5 assists per game in 25 minutes during the eight games he played for the Golden Gophers last season, and came to Altman’s program on the recommendation of former head coach Tubby Smith, who accepted at least some of the responsibility for the clash of personalities between he and Joseph.
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Arizona at Florida

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2011

While Washington has a couple of big challenges this week in New York City, we’ve chosen Arizona’s trip to Florida as the Pac-12 game of the week, largely for the contrast in styles and the expectation that these Wildcats are getting close to turning it on. There were high expectations for the freshman backcourt duo of Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson coming into the season, with both players regarded as top 25 recruits. But, as is often the case, both players took some time adjusting to their new surroundings. Johnson has had some ups and down, but has been a pretty consistent scorer for the Wildcats, averaging 10.8 points per game and earning his first start of the season a week ago against New Mexico State. The odds are good that he may never leave the starting five again. Turner, meanwhile, started the opener against Valparaiso, but lost his job to sophomore Jordin Mayes. Just yesterday, however, Sean Miller was hinting that Turner could earn his way back into the starting lineup as early as tonight’s game. Of course, that was all before Turner missed the final practice before the team’s trip to Gainesville and was suspended. With Turner out, sophomore Mayes will retain his starting spot and be called upon to put in plenty of extra minutes against a talented Gator backcourt.

Kenny Boynton, Florida

Kenny Boynton Has Been Hot For Florida And Arizona Will Need To Cool Him Down To Stand A Chance (Credit: Kim Klement, US Presswire)

Even with Turner in the backcourt, the Wildcats were bound to have their hands full with Florida’s athletic and dymanic quartet of guards: Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, and Bradley Beal. All four are capable of knocking down shots from increasingly improbable range, while sure to keep the defense honest with a quickness off the bounce that could earn them easy hoops in the lane or free throw opportunities. Boynton has been criticized at times for being a little too loose with his shot selection, but so far this year he has been knocking down shots at such a high rate (47.3% from three, with an effective shooting percentage of 65.9%) that his green light from Gator coach Billy Donovan has been justified. Walker, the senior point guard, is playing the best ball of his career thus far, handing out assists on over 30% of his team’s hoops while he’s in the game, and knocking down his own shots at a pretty good clip as well (56.6% eFG). Then there’s the freshman, Beal, who may be the best of all of them, despite struggling with his shot at Syracuse this past weekend. A major bonus out of the 6’3” Beal has been his ability to rebound with the big boys while often playing out of position at the three, grabbing double-digit rebounds three times in his seven games and averaging seven rebounds per game.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 10.28.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2011

  1. Over the weekend, three different Pac-12 teams played in eight-team tournaments. Arizona State, Utah and Washington State combined to go 1-8 in the Old Spice Classic, the Battle 4 Atlantis and the 76 Classic. Thankfully ASU was able to come across another BCS conference team that was worse than they were, handing Wake Forest a 28-point beatdown, but other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot to be thankful for in the Thanksgiving tournaments this year. Other tournaments this week had mixed results, as Stanford advanced to the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off and gave Syracuse just about all it could handle before succumbing in the final minutes, and USC also split its two games in Las Vegas, losing to UNLV on Friday in the semifinal, but knocking off South Carolina in the consolation game.
  2. Arizona State did get some sort of good news this weekend, however, as an update on Jahii Carson finally came through. While Carson is still not eligible to play at this point, there is at least some movement here, as Doug Haller clarified in reporting that Carson was waiting on a late ACT score to post. When that score posts, if it is high enough, Carson can begin practicing (and playing) with the team immediately. If the score is not high enough, Carson will be ineligible this season. Stay tuned.
  3. Down the road a piece in Arizona, Sean Miller is promising big changes for the Wildcats. “The same five that started against San Diego State (Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry and Kyryl Natyazhko) “will never start another game (together) at Arizona,” said Miller. Certainly Natyazhko is expected to be out of the starting lineup, although it remains to be seen whether Perry will move over to center or if freshman Angelo Chol will get a chance to start. But Mayes’ tenuous hold on the point guard position may be slipping as well, after he has struggled, handing out just three assists in his last five games. While freshman Josiah Turner has had his struggles adjusting to the new level of competition, his last few games have shown improvement and he may be ready to take over the reins. Likewise, the time could be now for Miller’s other freshman guard, Nick Johnson, who could slide in at the wing if Perry takes over in the middle. We’ll see what Miller has in mind on Tuesday night at New Mexico State.
  4. Oregon State had a fun weekend, wrapping up their week-long east coast road trip with a 20-point win over Towson in front of President Obama, among others. Devon Collier continued his strong start to his sophomore season by scoring 15 points, grabbing five offensive rebounds, handing out three assists and snagging two steals, while sophomore guard Roberto Nelson had by far his best game of the year, scoring 12 points and handing out four assists while playing under control. There were high hopes for Nelson this season, and maybe Saturday was the first sign of promising things to come.
  5. Finally, as if a 1-2 record in the Maui Invitational and a 1-4 start to the season weren’t enough for UCLA, sophomore forward Travis Wear cut his foot while snorkeling in Maui on Thursday and took five stitches. The Bruins’ second-leading scorer on this underwhelming season did not practice this weekend and will be reevaluated today to determine whether he will be able to play tonight when UCLA hosts Pepperdine at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Arizona vs. Mississippi State

Posted by AMurawa on November 18th, 2011

Each week around these parts we’re going to pick one big game involving a Pac-12 team and provide a preview of the game. Last week we took a look at Oregon traveling to Vanderbilt, today we’ll look at a real dog vs. cat matchup as Arizona faces Mississippi State in the final of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament this evening in New York City.

The Bulldogs (3-1) got to this championship game by racing out to a big 22-point lead in the first ten minutes of Thursday night’s semifinal game against Texas A&M, then hanging on from there to post a nine-point win. MSU hit five three-pointers during the opening ten minutes and made 11 of their first 15 shots from the field, then cooled off considerably, hitting just one of seven three-point attempts in the final 30 minutes of the game and only 28.2% of their field goals over that span. Of those two extremes of shooting, the final 30 minutes probably more accurately reflects MSU’s shooting ability, as the best three-point bombers from last year’s MSU club have graduated. Senior point guard Dee Bost is the Bulldogs’ most important player, team leader and leading scorer (18 PPG), but the real strength of the team lies along their frontline with 6’11” center Arnett Moultrie, much-maligned and underachieving 6’10” power forward Renardo Sidney, and 6’9” reserve big man Wendell Lewis.  The Wildcats will need their veteran forwards Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill, along with freshmen bigs Sidiki Johnson and Angelo Chol, to put in a full night’s work on the glass to keep Arizona in touch.

Dee Bost, Mississippi State

Dee Bost Is The Engine That Makes The Mississippi State Offense Go

While the Wildcats are off to a 4-0 start, they’ve yet to really gel. They needed a big 23-6 in the final seven minutes of their semifinal game with St. John’s to advance, and they’ve struggled to not only replace last year’s two leading scorers, but to fold four freshmen into the mix. Offensively, the Wildcats have been decent, with multiple players chipping in on a nightly basis to provide balanced scoring, but things still remain unsettled. Five players (Kyle Fogg, Hill, Perry, Nick Johnson and Jordin Mayes) have averaged double figure scoring thus far, but this team is still a work in progress, albeit with much upside. Junior wing Kevin Parrom just returned from a gunshot wound suffered in September and has yet to get back to 100%; freshman point guard Josiah Turner is getting slightly more comfortable game by game, but he is still too wild to be completely trusted; and the freshman frontcourt duo of Johnson and Chol has shown some serious flashes but not yet the ability to produce on a consistent basis. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.18.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 18th, 2011

  1. In an exciting nightcap at Madison Square Garden Thursday night, Arizona turned an eight-point deficit to St. John’s with under seven minutes to play into a nine-point win when it all was said and done. While it was Arizona veterans like Jesse Perry, Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg and Solomon Hill who finished strong for the Wildcats, it was their pair of highly-touted freshman guards who got the 23-6 game-closing run started. Nick Johnson took advantage of the Red Storm’s zone defense to drill a three on an underneath inbounds play, and on the next possession point guard Josiah Turner stepped into a passing lane, made a steal and threw down a slam at the other end to swing momentum. Johnson later added another three in the middle of the run to finish with 11 points off the bench, while Turner had his best game of his young career with eight points, three rebounds, and a couple of steals. He’ll still need to get his game under control more (he turned the ball over four times in 19 minutes), but last night he earned the minutes he played. He and his team will get another chance to take a step forward tonight as they face Mississippi State back at the Garden for the Coaches vs. Cancer championship.
  2. On the other side of the continent, USC came up on the losing end of another exciting game that came down to the final moments. Playing at San Diego State, Trojan sophomore point guard Maurice Jones hit a wild game-tying three pointer with 6.8 seconds left, only to see his team give up a coast-to-coast drive for a bucket from Aztec sophomore point guard Xavier Thames with 1.8 seconds remaining to provide the final margin. Jones played all but a minute of the game for USC and led the Trojans in scoring for the third straight game, but his team fell to 1-2 with the two losses coming by a grand total of five points, including a double-overtime loss to Nebraska in their last outing.
  3. ESPNU’s recruiting guru Dave Telep posted his rundown on the remaining unsigned top 100 recruits in the 2012 class and actually opined that UCLA’s struggles in their first two games of the season may help rather than hinder their pitch to #1 overall recruit, Shabazz Muhammad. Apparently Muhammad is looking for a needy co-dependent suitor, and if that’s the case, maybe the Bruins are employing a strategy similar to the Suck for Luck sweepstakes in the NFL. Elsewhere on Telep’s list, Cal and Oregon seem to be running a bit behind St. John’s for ESPNU’s #30 recruit, Ricardo Gathers, while Washington is one of many still trying to get a commitment from #7 Anthony Bennett.
  4. Arizona State hosts New Mexico tonight, with both teams coming off losses earlier in the week. It’s been said that ASU is ready to play a faster tempo this season (although the first couple of games don’t indicate much of a change) and the Lobos will certainly offer the Sun Devils every opportunity to do so. However, Herb Sendek’s team has plenty of things they’ve got to shore up before they can be considered a different team than last year’s 12-19 squad. First, guards Chris Colvin and Keala King need to buy into Sendek’s gospel of ball movement, something they haven’t done yet. And secondly, somebody along the ASU frontcourt, whether it be Kyle Cain, Jordan Bachynski or Ruslan Pateev, needs to show that they can provide the threat of a scoring punch up front. Until that happens, this is still Trent Lockett and a bunch of inoffensive warm bodies.
  5. Lastly, we head back to the Wildcats, as Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News tells the story of Kevin Parrom’s battle back from the gunshot wounds he sustained in an attack in New York City in September while visiting his mother who was then dying of cancer. Back in New York this week for the Coaches vs. Cancer event, it is a bittersweet homecoming for the junior from the Bronx, coming back to the city where he could have lost his life, and where his mother did lose her life just a month ago.  Parrom first made it back to the court last Sunday against Ball State where he played a key role in helping the Wildcats scrape out a victory. When he left the court at the end of the game to a standing ovation from the McKale Center crowd, he also got a big embrace from his coach Sean Miller, a hug that Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen puts on par with some of the other great moments in Arizona basketball.

Today we’ve got a bonus entry, as I forgot to include our football picks for the weekend. Last weekend was a dismal week for both of us as we each went 3-3, but I’d have to point out that I at least got the Oregon pick in our game of the week right (although I had the game much closer than it turned out. And, it should be noted (if only because I’m the one writing this and not Connor), that although Connor holds a one game lead on the year, I’ve correctly picked all three of our games of the week, while Connor is a mere 2-1). This week we’ll look at Oregon again in our game of the week, this time against bowl-ineligible USC playing another in a long line of what amounts to mid-season bowl games.

Game Connor (12-6) Drew (11-7)
Arizona @ Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
Colorado @ UCLA UCLA UCLA
California @ Stanford Stanford Stanford
Washington @ Oregon State Oregon State Washington
Utah @ Washington State Utah Washington State
USC @ Oregon Oregon 38, USC 21 Oregon 49 USC 30
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Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week One

Posted by AMurawa on November 14th, 2011

With one (relatively short) week of college basketball in the books, it’s time to hand out our weekly honors. Every Monday throughout the season, we’ll hand out a Pac-12 Player of the Week, Newcomer of the Week and Team of the Week award for the best performances from schools within the conference. Let’s jump right in with this week’s picks.

Player of the Week

Allen Crabbe, Soph, California – In two games this week, Crabbe has established himself as the Golden Bears’ go-to scorer, something we already suspected after his play during the conference season last year. After opening the season with 24 points, including four three-pointers in 30 minutes in a win over UC Irvine, Crabbe upped his efficiency by going for 21 points and five threes while knocking down eight of his 14 field goal attempts in a Sunday night blowout of George Washington. Crabbe posted a 68.1% true shooting percentage this week, knocking down nine of his 17 three-point attempts. While he has yet to fill up other areas of the stat sheet (he didn’t get to the line once in either game, and only posted seven rebounds, two assists and one steal combined between the two), Crabbe has added some solid man defense and figures to be a constant contender for these honors throughout the season.

Allen Crabbe, California

Allen Crabbe Has Got His Jumper Going Early For The Golden Bears

Newcomer of the Week

Dewayne Dedmon, Soph, USC – While the Trojans needed every minute Friday night to edge Cal State Northridge, Dedmon got his college basketball career off to a flying start. Starting just his fourth year of organized basketball, the rumors of Dedmon’s raw skills have been making the rounds for more than a year now. But the 22-year old junior college transfer from Antelope Valley College got a chance to show off his stuff for real this week. Just a couple minutes into his first collegiate game, he took a no-look pass from point guard Maurice Jones and jammed home the first of his three dunks on the night, winding up with 16 points, eight rebounds, and three blocked shots, all while missing just one shot on the night. While Dedmon still has a long way to go and USC has plenty they still have to work on, it was a great opening night for a great story.

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Arizona

Posted by AMurawa on November 5th, 2011

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

Arizona Wildcats

StrengthsSean Miller’s modus operandi in his time in Tucson has been to play a lot of guys every night. This year, he’ll be able to do that again; the only question may be who doesn’t find his way into the regular rotation. This Wildcat team has so much depth, there are 12 players who could rightfully expect consistent minutes. There are two players, junior wing Kevin Parrom and senior center Alex Jacobson, who are still working through injuries, but at least in the case of Parrom, he is expected to be back soon and to be a major contributor. The other great strength of this team is its athleticism, which has only been bolstered over the offseason with the addition of a highly athletic four-man freshman class of Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson. Those four may have their struggles adjusting to the higher caliber of competition, but they likely won’t be fazed by the athleticism of Division I performers.

Solomon Hill, Arizona

Solomon Hill Is Just One Wildcat Who Must Play A Bigger Role

Weaknesses. Not only do the Wildcats lose all-everything forward Derrick Williams, but they also lost their second-leading scorer from last season, Momo Jones. And for all the talent on this team, there is not one standout performer nor is there anyone who has proven his ability to consistently create offensive opportunities for himself. All four of the freshmen have shown flashes of those abilities, but they’ll need to prove they can do it consistently, just as returnees like Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry need to prove that they can handle larger roles.

Nonconference Tests.  Arizona gets their season started with the 2K Sports Classic, which will start with a game against St. John’s on their home floor at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats then will either face Mississippi State or Texas A&M to wrap up that tournament, a good test either way. A tough non-conference slate continues with a visit from San Diego State, then a tough three game stretch in the middle of December where they travel to Florida, then host Clemson before playing Gonzaga in Seattle. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.

 

Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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