USC Week: Reinforcements Arrive Among Seven Newcomers

Posted by AMurawa on July 4th, 2012

Coupled with the three players that the Trojans get back from season-ending injuries last season, Kevin O’Neill welcomes in four newly-eligible Division I transfers, two scholarship freshmen, and a walk-on freshman. This means that the USC team that finished off last season with an opening-round Pac-12 tourney loss to UCLA will bear almost no resemblance to the team that tips off the 2012-13 season in November. Below, we’ll introduce you to each of those seven newcomers, roughly in the order of impact that they’ll have on their new team.

  • J.T. Terrell, Junior, Guard, 6’3” 185 lbs, Wake Forest – Terrell played his freshman season as Wake Forest, scoring 11.1 points per game and finishing second on the team in scoring. But, two months before his sophomore season was to begin, he got busted for a DWI and decided to leave the school. He attended Peninsula College in Washington last season and averaged 24.4 points per game on his way towards earning the rating of the best junior college player in America (according to Swannys Roundball Review). In his single season with the Demon Deacons, Terrell showed a great fondness for shooting the ball, taking nearly 30% of his team’s field goal attempts while he was on the floor, but hitting only 38.8% of those. He showed improvement last season at the JuCo level, making 48% of his attempts from the field, but with this Trojan team featuring plenty of capable scorers, Terrell needs to show that he can be an effective offensive player even when not getting all the looks he wants.
J.T. Terrell, USC

J.T. Terrell Headlines A List of Four Newly Eligible Division I Transfers At USC (Chuck Burton/AP Photo)

  • Ari Stewart, Junior, Small Forward, 6’7” 205 lbs, Wake Forest – Stewart’s freshman season at Wake Forest came a year prior to Terrell’s, but they were remarkably similar. Like Terrell, Stewart took almost 30% of his team’s shots while on the floor (albeit in fewer minutes) and made just 37.5% of those. His sophomore season showed some signs of improvement as he became more judicious with his attempts and as a result shot a higher percentage, but for a guy who shoots a ton of threes, his percentage from behind the arc dipped from a solid 37.1% to a woeful 27.4%. Still, Stewart showed a new side to his game as a sophomore, taking on more of a ball-handling role and actually dishing out some assists; unfortunately, a big bump up in turnovers accompanied that change. At USC, he likely won’t be needed to do a whole lot of handling, but he will be asked to knock down the three from the corner and from the wing. He’ll at least need to bounce back to his freshman year efficiency to live up to expectations. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

USC Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on July 3rd, 2012

The Trojans return six contributors from last season’s team, along with point guard Jio Fontan, who comes back after losing last year to a torn ACL. The returnees range from players whose seasons were cut short, to underclassmen who got big time minutes in the absence of their injured teammates, to role players whose minutes could dwindle in the presence of USC’s newly stocked roster. Below, we’ll take a look at each of these returnees in order of their scoring averages in the last season played.

  • Maurice Jones, Junior, Guard (13.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.8 SPG) – Jones’ season last year was one of the most extreme seasons I can remember from a player. He played 94.7% of the possible minutes, logging 24 games in which he played 37 minutes or more, including a 49-minute epic in a double overtime loss to Nebraska. And those weren’t passive minutes either, as he used 26% of the team’s possessions and took 27% of their shots – only four times all season did he attempt fewer than 10 field goals in a game. Unfortunately, many times those double-digit field goal attempts were accompanied by tiny numbers in the field goals made column – he posted a paltry 39.8% eFG and an offensive efficiency rating of 85.4. We could go on for several more sentences ripping apart Jones’ 2011-12 season, but the fact is, he did more or less what head coach Kevin O’Neill asked of him, taking on a huge offensive role in the absence of other more polished offensive players. And, in some areas, Jones shone, specifically with assists on 23.9% of his teammates hoops (the pessimist could point out that was because he always had the ball in his hands), compared with turnovers on just 15% of his team’s possessions (a number even the pessimists would have to admit is pretty impressive for a guy that handled it as much as Jones). With reinforcements arriving this season, Jones’ role should return to some form of normalcy, and you can expect his efficiency to increase as well. Still, at 5’7”, he’s always going to be something of a liability on defense, so it will be interesting to see just how large of a role he plays this year.
Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Played A Huge Role For USC Last Year, Playing 94.7% Of His Possible Minutes (Brandon Hui/Daily Trojan)

  • Aaron Fuller, Senior, Forward (10.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG) – Fuller was the Trojans’ best offensive player last season, his first year of eligibility after transferring from Iowa. He was the one guy on the team who could get the ball in the post or at the elbow and either make a move or knock down a jumper. And, better still, he excelled on the glass, especially on the offensive end where he could get the Trojans easy buckets. His one major weakness, however, is something that isn’t going to change: He’s a 6’6” power forward. Sure, he can out-hustle and out-scrap a lot of guys, but there is a ceiling to just how good he can be.
  • Jio Fontan, Senior, Point Guard (10.5 PPG, 3.9 APG in 2010-11) – Fontan played 23 games for the Trojans in 2010-11 after transferring over from Fordham, leading the team to a 13-10 record over that span. His USC career got off to a strong start as he scored in double figures in the first four games, but lulled a bit in the meat of conference. At Fordham, he was expected to be the primary offensive force, while the Trojans want him to be more of a pure point, so the last time we saw him play, his game was still a work in progress. But, he’s now had two offseasons to work on his game and he got the blessing-in-a-seriously-good-disguise of being able to watch a season from the sidelines. He’s got the ability to score at a big-time level, but if he can balance his scoring with the ability to create for his teammates, he’ll live up to the high expectations that O’Neill has for him.
Share this story

USC Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on July 2nd, 2012

It has now been 20 seasons since the USC Trojans last finished a season with less than 10 losses, 26 years since they earned at least a piece of the Pac-10 title and 51 whopping years since they won their conference outright (then known as the Athletic Association of Western Universities – or the Big Five). Compared to that history of futility, the recent past in USC basketball has been relatively successful. Between the 2006-07 and the 2010-11 seasons, the Trojans posted a combined 103-66 record, finished tied for third twice and never finished lower than a tie for fifth. And then came last season, when the wheels came off the bus entirely, as the team limped home to a school-worst 6-26 record, helped along by an almost unbelievable stretch of injuries. Of the five players who started in USC’s first exhibition game last summer in Brazil, just one was still active when their season wrapped up, and all told, just six scholarship players remained available.

Kevin O'Neill, USC

The USC Basketball Program Had Been Relatively Successful In Kevin O’Neill’s First Two Seasons, But Nothing Went Right Last Year (Rick Scuteri/AP)

Teams are going to have injuries from time to time, and head coach Kevin O’Neill understands that, but last year’s streak of bad luck came at a particularly tough time, with the program left in a fragile state by previous head coach Tim Floyd. In June 2009, Floyd resigned abruptly in the wake of NCAA investigations (and eventual penalties) related to illegal benefits for O.J Mayo, just shortly after starters DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett had all decided to leave school early to pursue professional careers. With the change in staff and the NCAA sleuthing around, the Trojans lost all but one player from their 2009 recruiting class, including Derrick Williams, Momo Jones and Renardo Sidney. The Trojans were able to scrape into the NCAA Tournament in 2011 behind a molasses-slow tempo and stingy defense, but the program was still in recovery mode from the Floyd fiasco, lacking the depth to be able to mask the multiple injuries they endured last year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

USC: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 13th, 2012

What Went Wrong

Everything. Almost literally. The Trojans lost their senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL on their summer trip to Brazil, a trip that also saw forward Curtis Washington go down with a shoulder injury from which he would not return. Later injuries ended the seasons for sophomore forward DeWayne Dedmon and junior forward Aaron Fuller, leaving a skeleton crew on the court for head coach Kevin O’Neill. And he, in turn, handed over the keys to the car to sophomore point guard Maurice Jones, who started off the season as a bomber sans conscience (two-for 13 in their season opening win over Cal State Northridge) and went out much the same (two-for-eight in their Pac-12 Tournament loss to UCLA). While you have to give credit to Jones for bringing his lunch pail to work every day (he played in every game, only once played less than 30 minutes and 12 times played 40 or more on his way to playing 94.7% of his team’s minutes), there just came a time when you wished that lunchpail didn’t always include something like a four-for-14 sandwich. But, given the dearth of offensive weapons for the offense and O’Neill’s insistence that Jones keep bombing away, it’s hard to blame him for trying.

Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Was A Constant For The Trojans, But Was Typically Inefficient (Brendan Hui, Daily Trojan)

What Went Right

Well. The season did end. Eventually. After a school-worst 6-26 record that included one win in the final 20 games.

MVP

As teammates fell by the wayside around him, freshman wing Byron Wesley stepped up his game scoring in double figures in 11 of the final 13 games and averaging 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds over that stretch while establishing himself as one of the best defenders on the team. And, like Jones, he was an ironman for the team, playing in 85.8% of his team’s minutes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 21st, 2012

  1. The news just keeps getting worse for Arizona State and Herb Sendek, as on Tuesday it was announced that leading scorer Trent Lockett had asked for a release from his scholarship in order to transfer to a school closer to his home. The news isn’t very good for Lockett either, however, as the reason he is headed out is to be closer to his mother who recently found out she has cancer. Lockett is well on his way to graduating, having taken 20 or more credits in recent semesters, so he should be able to play immediately at the school of his choice next year. We speculated as far back as the end of November that this might be an eventuality for Lockett and the Sun Devils, but the manner in which this has gone down is certainly a sad one. We wish nothing but the best for Lockett and his family. But, as for ASU, this is now three players from this season’s already significantly undermanned squad who have just since the end of the season announced their intentions to transfer, making it 12 players in four seasons who have left Sendek’s program early.
  2. ASU isn’t the only school dealing with multiple transfers. USC announced on Tuesday that Alexis Moore and Curtis Washington would both be transferring out of the program. Moore was a freshman this season who played in every game and came into the year with a reputation for being an excellent three-point shooter, although he struggled mightily with his shot this season, especially in conference play. Washington did not play at all this season after injuring his shoulder on that fateful Trojan trip to Brazil, a trip that also saw senior point guard Jio Fontan go down with a season-ending injury. Washington played a total of 11 minutes in three games in his freshman season at USC. Of the two, the loss of Moore is the bigger issue, as he earned plenty of experience as a frosh and could have turned into a nice asset for Kevin O’Neill in later years. With the previous announcement that Garrett Jackson would also be transferring out, a USC team that was expected to be deep next season is suddenly hemorrhaging players.
  3. Utah also has some transfer news, as point guard Anthony Odunsi becomes the first Ute to announce his intention to transfer out of the program. Odunsi played in all but two Ute games as a freshman this season, averaging 15 minutes, three points and putting up the lowest offensive efficiency rating on the team (74.0) as a result of poor shooting, too many turnovers, too few assists, and bad decisions all around. He’ll be better off at a low- to mid-major program. As for head coach Larry Krystkowiak, given that he’s in the middle of rebuilding the program from the ground up, don’t be surprised to find additional outgoing transfers in the near future.
  4. Washington kept its season going on Tuesday night, as it held off northwest rival Oregon 90-86 in the quarterfinal of the NIT to earn a trip back to Madison Square Garden, where it played two unsuccessful games back in December. Freshman guard Tony Wroten awoke from his postseason slumber with a 22-point performance on 15 field goal attempts, while Terrence Ross continued his strong play, chipping in 24 points. Oregon’s season ends with a 24-10 record, as Devoe Joseph wrapped up his collegiate eligibility with a disappointing 4-for-15 performance. Now Duck fans get to hold their breath until Nebraska hires a coach for fear that they may poach Dana Altman. Back to the Huskies: They’ll face the winner of the Middle Tennessee/Minnesota matchup in the NIT semifinals next Tuesday night. Massachusetts has already qualified for another of the spots in the semifinals, with the winner of the Stanford/Nevada matchup taking the fourth and final spot.
  5. Lastly, back to the transfer circuit, but this time contemplating a potential incoming transfer. Two years ago, Trey Zeigler was a four-star recruit in the class of 2010, considering schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Duke, UCLA and Central Michigan. That last school on the list didn’t seem to fit with those other big-time schools, but CMU had a pretty good in: Trey’s dad Ernie was the head coach there. But, two years later, a 21-42 record has earned the head coach a pink slip, and the younger Zeigler is on the move as well. While he already intends to visit Duke this weekend, UCLA, Michigan and Michigan State are among the other schools that could be in on the Zeigler sweepstakes, part two. UCLA could sure use the athleticism and defensive ability that Zeigler provides. I saw him play earlier in the season at Pepperdine, and while his jump shot is certainly still a work in progress, he has plenty of other tools and was easily the best player on the floor in that matchup.
Share this story

Pac-12 Final Power Rankings

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 6th, 2012

1. California (23-8, 13-5) Projected NCAA Seed: #10

Here it is, the only team locked into the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens this week in Los Angeles. With only eight losses and wins against Oregon and Washington on the road and Colorado at home, even a loss to or Stanford or Arizona State on Thursday wouldn’t knock them out of the Tournament. However, I could see them moving up to a nine seed (which is exactly like an eight) if they win two games at Staples and have teams in front of them (Long Beach State, Alabama, and Kansas State, to name a few) lose early on in their respective conference tournaments. While we could see any team from Cal to UCLA win the Pac-12 Tournament, the Golden Bears are the definite favorite coming in. They’ve got a near-elite to elite player in Allen Crabbe, and with a supporting cast made up of Jorge Gutierrez, Justin Cobbs, and a sleeper player that I think will come alive this week, Emerson Murray, the Golden Bears have unrivaled depth in this conference.

Allen Crabbe, California

Allen Crabbe and The Cal Bears Appear To Be Headed To The Big Dance (Ben Margot/AP)

2. Oregon (22-8, 13-5), NIT

The Ducks remain on the outside looking in heading into the Tournament, but I’m of the belief that if they win two games and play in the Pac-12 Championship, regardless of what happens there, the Ducks will be included in the field of 68. Oregon has been on the bubble for the better part of conference play, but the real noise in Eugene began when it went down to the desert and took both games from the Arizona schools. Before that trip, Oregon was embarrassed by a 77-60 loss to California at home. Since then it has gone 11-3, with the biggest margin of defeat coming in a 76-71 loss at home against rival Oregon State. Besides Cal, the Ducks have the best chance to make a run in the Pac-12 Tournament; it’s almost like their team was built for it. To win any college basketball tournament, whether it is the Maui Invitational or NIT, you need to be able to shoot lights out, and two, have depth off the bench. As of late, the Ducks have been making everything they put up, and they put up a lot of shots. Watch for Devoe Joseph, E.J. Singler, and Garrett Sim to go off on any given night, considering all three are capable of creating and making their own shot. Look for junior forward Carlos Emory to have a big tournament coming off the bench.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012

  1. It’s that time of the year when injuries start to play a bigger role for teams around the country. This week we’ve talked about injuries to C.J. Wilcox (hip stress fracture, out this weekend), Brandon Smith (due back from a concussion tonight), Mychal Ladd (thumb injury, doubtful this weekend) and Trent Lockett (sprained ankle, doubtful). But as of yet, we haven’t mentioned USC’s Aaron Fuller, who is dealing with a labral tear in his left shoulder. Given that he is a lefty, this is a nearly debilitating injury and he is considering undergoing season-ending surgery as early as next week. It remains to be seen whether Fuller will play this weekend in Oregon, but given that he is easily USC’s best offensive player, losing him could made an already terrible offensive team even less potent.
  2. Speaking of USC, it’s no secret that Trojan fans are frustrated with their team’s 0-5 conference start and generally atrocious offensive play. Head coach Kevin O’Neill is frustrated too. And, while he is trying to keep this team focused on this season, he thinks he should have a good team on his hands next near. Not only will all of these current Trojan players have an extra year of experience under their belts (and guys like freshmen Byron Wesley and Alexis Moore and sophomore DeWayne Dedmon could sure use them), he expects to have point guard Jio Fontan back from his ACL injury, along with transfers Ari Stewart and J.T. Terrell, both from Wake Forest, and Eric Wise, from UC Irvine.
  3. Tying up a few loose ends, we talked about Richard Solomon’s academic ineligibility and Josh Watkins’ dismissal from Utah yesterday, but thought we’d also pass along some information from the local media on both situations. For Solomon, there isn’t a whole lot to report; he just didn’t make grades, but head coach Mike Montgomery hopes he can patch up those problems and return next season. For Watkins, it’s another story. All indications are that he is a good kid, but head coach Larry Krystkowiak just couldn’t ignore the “accountability issues” with Watkins any longer. He reportedly missed practice again on Monday, and after Krystkowiak had laid down a “zero tolerance” policy following a blowout loss to Colorado on New Year’s Eve, Watkins had to go. Krystkowiak said he hopes Watkins continues at Utah and receives his degree, and I’m sure he does, not just for Watkins’ sake, but for the sake of Utah’s graduation rates that will be in the garbage following all of the recent transfers out of the program.
  4. Washington has a big weekend ahead of it, what with conference-leading California and Stanford headed into Seattle for battles with first place on the lane. And in the midst of that atmosphere, it is possible that freshman forward (and starting tight end on the Husky football team) Austin Seferian-Jenkins could see his first action for the basketball team this weekend, although nothing is set in stone yet. Head coach Lorenzo Romar also confirmed that senior forward Darnell Gant would continue coming off the bench for the Huskies, with center Aziz N’Diaye and forward Desmond Simmons continuing to start up front.
  5. Lastly, we turn our attention to UCLA, who has won three straight games after starting 0-2 in conference play. Bruin players like David Wear and Tyler Lamb attribute the turnaround to a renewed emphasis on defensive intensity, with players taking pride in getting stops and learning to play as a team on that end. While UCLA has held its opponents to just 40.3% shooting from the field over the course of the winning streak, their trip to Oregon this weekend should present a much bigger challenge.
Share this story

Big 12 Thursday Night Preview: Braggin’ Rights and Tricky Road Games

Posted by dnspewak on December 22nd, 2011

GAME OF THE NIGHT

  • Missouri vs. Illinois, 8 p.m. CST in St. Louis (ESPN2)
From 2000 to 2008, Illinois owned Missouri in the Braggin’ Rights series. Year after year, the Tigers found new ways to lose by mishandling a potential game-tying attempt (2006), slipping on watery residue from the Scottrade Center’s hockey rink on the final possession (2007), and shooting 11% from three-point range (2008). One winter, embarrassed MU fans even dumped popcorn on Quin Snyder‘s head. Yes, the series was that ugly. But two years ago, fate shifted to the Tigers’ side. Missouri dominated from start to finish in 2009, and last season, the Tigers edged Illinois thanks to a late-game collapse by Bruce Weber‘s team. The losing streak is a distant memory and the Tigers own this series now.

That brings us to 2011. No matter how confident MU fans may be with their top-10 ranking, undefeated record and two consecutive series victories, the 24th-ranked Illini will provide Frank Haith with his stiffest test of the season. Missouri has not seen size like this before, and it will need to be creative in guarding 7’1” center Meyers Leonard. The Tigers have handled players like Harper Kamp (California) and Mouphtaou Yarou (Villanova), but Leonard is one of the better forwards the Tigers will see all year. He commands respect in the paint, and he’s also a decent passer with the ability to burn Missouri’s double-teams. As usual, Haith’s team will need to use its speed to burn a slower Illinois team. Against one of the fastest rosters in the country, the Illini have to slow the tempo and let Leonard go to work. Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco, no stranger to Scottrade after visiting the arena four years in a row for the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, will also need to settle this young team down as the point guard. He’s been a difference-maker this season as one of the most experienced players on Weber’s team, and it is imperative for him to lead by example.

Phil Pressey Will Lead Missouri Against The Illini Tonight

On Missouri’s side, Phil Pressey will have to serve as the catalyst. He’ll never have a strength advantage against any point guard, but he could run into some trouble with Maniscalco (6’0” but strong), Brandon Paul (6’4”) and D.J. Richardson (6’3”). Again, though, his quickness is unmatched by just about everybody in college basketball, and as the Big 12’s assists leader, he can control the game without scoring a point. That’s what Marcus Denmon is for. The senior All-American candidate struggled against William and Mary over the weekend, but he’s allowed an off night every once in awhile. When he’s set, he almost never misses from three-point land, and if he’s on his game, he will be the best player on the floor tonight.

Unless you’ve attended a Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis, you have no idea how intense the environment is. Haith may have watched last year’s game on tape, but not even he is ready for this atmosphere. There is no non-conference matchup quite like it — the arena is evenly split between Missouri and Illinois fans, and on each basket, one side erupts as if it has won the National Championship. Luckily for the Tigers, they have a more grizzled roster with five seniors, four of whom are now playing in their fourth Braggin’ Rights game.

The key individual matchup is… Meyers Leonard vs. Ricardo Ratliffe. Leonard is the key to this entire contest. Although St. Louis native Tyler Griffey is a starter and key contributor, Leonard is the centerpiece of this team — especially against a smaller opponent in Missouri. If he gets into early foul trouble, Illinois will have a lot of problems since it lacks depth in the frontcourt. Leonard will see double-teams all night when he touches the ball, and Ratliffe will be at least one of those defenders tugging on his jersey for 40 minutes. When Ratliffe has the ball, it will also be interesting to watch how he handles the match-up with Leonard. He scores a lot of his buckets on layups, putbacks and turnaround hook shots off the backboard, but he’s not the kind of player that can always take a 7’1” defender off the dribble and create his own shot. Ratliffe must find a way to utilize his quickness against Leonard, and Phil Pressey must find him on screen-and-rolls since Haith’s offense calls for that play on almost every possession.

Missouri will win if… It scores in transition and forces turnovers. That sounds like a key to the game for a Mike Anderson team, but it’s true for Haith’s team as well. MU is actually converting better in transition than it did a year ago, and that’s what it has to do against Illinois. In his first three wins against Mike Anderson, Bruce Weber did a great job of controlling the tempo and letting his team go to work in the halfcourt. The Tigers don’t utilize full-court pressure anymore, but the basic principles remain: they want to get out and run, and they want to disrupt the opponent defensively. That’s how they dismantled Notre Dame, California and Villanova, and it’s how they must beat Illinois.

Illinois will win if… It makes this game a Big Ten fist fight and stays level-headed. Illinois is bigger and stronger than Missouri at almost every position. It has more physical guards, and it has a more physical frontcourt. If Weber can concoct another game plan to use the shot clock and limit turnovers, the Illini should be able to score at will in the paint and win the rebounding battle. That all hinges on this team’s ability to keep its cool. MU’s defenders will fly all over the place with active hands, trying to deflect every pass in their vicinity. These Illinois guards can counter that by staying poised, and Maniscalco needs to be especially steady here. He’s the guy that everything depends on, even though he’s in his first season playing for Weber. At Bradley, he earned a reputation as a leader and a winner, and he cannot get rattled in the spotlight tonight.

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
  • Texas Tech at Oral Roberts, 7:05 PM CST
Fresh off a blowout victory at Xavier, Oral Roberts is flying high and should be favored in this game against Tech tonight. ORU is used to knocking off Big 12 foes: in the last decade, it has beaten both Missouri and Kansas. Scott Sutton’s program is the class of the Summit League, and it looks like a contender once against this season at 8-4. Billy Gillispie is still trying to figure things out with this Texas Tech team, as it has failed every test presented to it. Without consistent point guard play and a slump from senior Robert Lewandowski, the Red Raiders must find a way to execute better offensively. Otherwise, it could be a long night in Tulsa.
  • St. Mary’s at Baylor, 9 PM CST in Las Vegas
After winning at BYU, we’re pretty sure Baylor is an elite basketball team. There’s a lot of time for that to change, of course, but Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton have been lifesavers at the point guard position. This team is finally playing the kind of selfless basketball Scott Drew has been waiting for, and Perry Jones III has lived up to expectations after returning from a suspension. In five games, Jones is averaging more than 16 per game in the scoring department, and he’s shooting nearly 70 percent from the field. If only the Bears could rebound better– BYU’s forwards embarrassed Jones, Quincy Miller and the rest of the crew by grabbing 16 offensive boards. On paper, a team with this size should not allow that to happen. Baylor can redeem itself by keeping Rob Jones off the glass, as he’s averaging 11 rebounds per game for 10-1 St. Mary’s. Jones, the former transfer from San Diego, is undersized at 6’6” but still tenacious on the court. He has grabbed at least 10 boards in all but one game this season, but it’s important to remember that the Gaels’ schedule has not been challenging. They have played only a handful of decent teams: Northern Iowa (win), Denver (loss) and Weber State (win). That’s why this game may actually be more of a test for St. Mary’s than for Baylor.
  • Kansas at USC, 10 PM CST
In a relatively surprising result, USC actually knocked off an improved TCU team by 24 points on Monday, thanks in large part to a 25-point, seven-assist effort by point guard Maurice Jones. With Jio Fontan out for the season, Jones is the most important player on Kevin O’Neill’s roster. Jones is a 5’7” sparkplug with a lot of quickness, so Tyshawn Taylor and his recovering knee better watch out. Still, this Kansas team is too good to lose this game. And the Jayhawks should have a newfound focus after the debacle against Davidson earlier this week. Taylor gets a lot of grief for his high turnover rate this season, but he wasn’t the only problem against the Wildcats. This team just does not execute like most Bill Self teams do, and that has to improve in a Pac-12 road environment tonight. USC does not have a ton of offensive firepower, and it hardly has any threats from beyond the arc. Still, O’Neill’s a good coach who can gameplan against anybody, and his team will have the home crowd in its favor. This won’t be a cakewalk for Kansas.
Share this story

USC’s Offensive Explosion: A Sign Of Things to Come?

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2011

It’s been a wild couple of games for the USC basketball team. After having established themselves as an excellent defensive squad incapable of scoring through the first ten games of the season, they played against type in consecutive games. First, on Saturday against Georgia, one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, they allowed the Bulldogs to shoot a season-high 61.65 eFG in a come-from-ahead loss for the Trojans. Then, Monday night against TCU, they inexplicably busted out with coherent offense, scoring 83 points with four players scoring in double figures and just four turnovers on the night, all while reverting back to their excellent defensive form. While it is still early in the season, each of these games can easily be taken as little more than blips on the radar, but is it possible that the offensive eruption is a sign of improvement for a young team that is just now getting used to playing with each other?

Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Has Been Everything All The Time For USC, But Needs His Teammates To Help Out More (photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

The Trojans lost senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL during their team trip to Brazil in August, and as a result head coach Kevin O’Neill had to rejigger his plans for the year. With only two healthy players returning from a team that wasn’t very deep to begin with last year, he knew that there would be plenty of growing pains in the early part of this season. O’Neill also knew that sophomore guard Maurice Jones, the only player who earned more than 11 minutes per game last year, would need to play nearly every minute for the Trojans this year. And so far, both of those expectations have been met, with Jones playing 39.3 minutes per night (or 96.3% of all possible minutes) and with the USC offense struggling to gain any consistency. However, the mere fact that this team is playing so hard and so well defensively is a credit not only to the players, but to this coaching staff.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Merry Christmas: What’s In Santa’s Bag For Pac-12 Programs?

Posted by AMurawa on December 20th, 2011

It’s that time of the year where everybody is on the lookout for that one great gift for their friends and family. In the spirit of the season of giving, I’ve been racking my brain, trying to come up with the perfect gifts for all of the Pac-12 basketball programs. My good friend Mr. Claus is willing to help me out, and between the two of us, we think we’ve found just the right thing for everybody around the conference.

Arizona – Is it too much to ask for Derrick Williams back? Because he would go a long way towards curing the Wildcats’ ills up front. But since we don’t want to take Williams’ new contract or endorsement deals away from him, we’re going to have to settle on a babysitter for freshman point guard Josiah Turner. Just somebody who can make sure the kid eats his fruits and vegetables and gets to class and practice on time and in one piece, allowing Turner to simply focus on taking care of business at Point Guard U.

Josiah Turner, Arizona

Josiah Turner Has All The Physical Tools To Be Another Great Arizona Point Guard, But He Needs Help Clearing Up His Off-The-Court Struggles (photo credit: Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

Arizona State – All Sun Devil hoops fans want for Christmas is just one letter grade higher in one class on Jahii Carson’s transcript. The freshman point guard just missed getting a high enough score on his ACT exam to earn eligibility in Tempe, but just one point higher or one letter grade higher on his high school transcript would have made the speedy point ready to play. Santa has assured me that he’s found a minor discrepancy in Carson’s junior year Spanish class that could get him on the court immediately. Sure, Carson isn’t going to turn the Sun Devils into a Tournament team overnight, but they’ll certainly be a lot easier on the eyes.

California – Hey, it’s not much, but this wake-up call service we scored for roomies Allen Crabbe and Richard Solomon should save the Bears countless hours of missed practices and subsequent benchings. And we’re even throwing in a brand new icemaker, which should help Jorge Gutierrez heal up all those bumps and bruises he gets from diving all over the court.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on December 15th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • Personnel Problems – Certainly every team around the country has to deal with some personnel problems of their own. Players get hurt, kids decide to transfer, suspensions get handed out. But, wow. Is it just me or does it seem like an already under-talented conference has been hammered by a string of issues that have robbed them of even more talent? The Reeves Nelson situation at UCLA has been run into the ground, while the Jabari Brown transfer (followed by Bruce Barron’s transfer) is old news in Oregon. Mike Montgomery at California had to suspended forward Richard Solomon just before they traveled to San Diego State, then on the day he was to be reinstated, he and roommate Allen Crabbe overslept and were late to a morning shootaround and began that game on the bench. Josiah Turner has suffered through a benching and a suspension for his inability to get to practices on time (and he potentially cost Arizona a win at Florida in the process). Sean Miller has also had to dismiss freshman Sidiki Johnson, while Utah’s leading scorer Josh Watkins was suspended for a game. Arizona State’s freshman point guard Jahii Carson, who head coach Herb Sendek figured would be the Sun Devils’ starter from day one, was declared ineligible for his freshman season following an insufficient ACT score.
  • Then there are the injuries – Washington State’s Abe Lodwick has yet to play this season, while Faisal Aden and Mychal Ladd have battled their own injuries in recent weeks. USC is without senior point guard Jio Fontan for the season, while sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon has had his development stunted by a couple injuries that he has played through. This week, just a day after Washington announced that senior Scott Suggs would take a redshirt year after struggling with his recovery from foot surgery, their center Aziz N’Diaye sprained his knee and will miss at least the next four games. Back in Eugene, Tyrone Nared had a knee sprain of his own and is out until conference play. And the above is just a partial list cut short for (relative) simplicity’s sake. Now, none of the above is meant to imply that without the above maladies the Pac-12 would be a great conference, just that on a list of all of the possible things that could have gone wrong for Pac-12 teams so far, the teams have seemingly gone out of their way to check off most of them.
Devoe Joseph, Oregon

It Has Only Been Two Games, But Devoe Joseph Has Made A Major Impact For Oregon (Chris Pietsch, The Register-Guard)

  • One Bit of Good NewsDana Altman at least had a bit of good news this week as Devoe Joseph, a senior transfer from Minnesota, played his first games in a Duck uniform and immediately proved his worth. Not only did Joseph lead Oregon in scoring in his first game out against Fresno State, he made a couple of huge momentum changing threes in the second half that helped spur the Ducks to victory. Not to be outdone, he came back on Monday in his second game in Eugene and helped preserve a win as he scored his team’s last eight points after Portland State had closed to within three with 90 seconds left. With Altman now basically trading a freshman (Brown) for the senior Joseph in the backcourt, this Duck team is loaded with veterans and could still make waves in conference play.
  • Very Few, If Any, Resume Wins – Starting right about now and reaching a crescendo in the early days of March, you’re going to hear a lot about who potential NCAA Tournament teams beat and where they beat them as a major criteria for an invitation to the Big Dance. That fact should have the Pac-12 shaking in its boots. To this point it looks like the best win by a Pac-12 team was Oregon State’s neutral-site victory over a Texas team that (1) was playing in its third game with a completely remade roster, and (2) hasn’t beaten anyone of note yet. Beyond that, what are the other wins the teams in this conference hope to hang their tournament resumes on? Cal knocking off a bad Georgia team? Arizona over a middling Clemson team? Stanford against Oklahoma State or North Carolina State? Worse yet, there just aren’t a whole lot of chances left on the schedule for teams to pick up defining wins in the non-conference. Zona goes to Seattle to play Gonzaga and Oregon hosts Virginia this weekend, while Cal travels to UNLV just before Christmas, and that’s it. The rest of the season is, more or less, flawed Pac-12 teams beating up on other flawed Pac-12 teams. In the end, a team like Washington had better either perform one hell of a lot better in road conference games than they have in the past few years OR make sure they win the Pac-12 Tournament, lest they be making NIT plans come March.

Player of the Year Watch

  • While no one has yet to step up and grab a lead in this race, Washington State’s Brock Motum did establish himself, albeit against lesser competition, as a legitimate horse in this race. The Cougs are in the midst of a four-game winning streak and Motum has averaged 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds over that stretch. And Motum remains one of two Pac-12 players to score in double figures in each of his team’s games this season. The other? Washington’s Terrence Ross, who not only has proven himself to be a consistent scorer, but also a versatile talent capable of filling the stats sheet. On the season, Ross is averaging 16.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, a couple of threes and a block per night.
  • Elsewhere Allen Crabbe has continued to be an efficient scorer on a nightly basis for the Golden Bears (15.8 PPG on the season while shooting over 46% from deep), while teammate Jorge Gutierrez continues to lead the conference in intangibles while contributing solid tangible stats to boot (12.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.9 APG). As for dark horse candidates who are just now beginning to go to the whip? Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson has averaged 15 points a contest over his last four, just barely starting to scratch the surface of his potential, while the aforementioned Devoe Joseph could get in the conversation with a strong showing in conference play.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking In On.. the Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. 

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • Tournament Trip-Ups – The early season exempt tournaments are always an exciting time of the year in college basketball. Teams from conferences across the land get a chance to meet, usually on a neutral floor, and play several games against quality competition in a relatively short span, giving coaches a chance to figure out exactly what to make of their new collection of players and giving fans a chance to get introduced to their new teams. For the Pac-12 schools, this season’s batch of early season tournaments was largely a bust. You know when the two best results for the conference in these tournaments were Oregon State’s two-point loss to Vanderbilt in the finals of the Legends Classic and Stanford’s six-point loss to Syracuse in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off, that things didn’t exactly go as planned. And the less we speak about the last place finishes of Utah and Washington State in the Old Spice Classic and the 76 Classic, the better.
  • Oregon’s Growing Pains – Last week, the bombshell out of Eugene was that five-star freshman guard Jabari Brown was leaving Dana Altman’s program after just two games. Then news broke Tuesday night that fellow freshman guard Bruce Barron was also leaving the program – this time after just five games, only three of which Barron played in (seven minutes per game). Those two defections make for six players that have left the Oregon program since Altman’s arrival. Certainly the first four of those transfers make sense, as many coaching changes result in roster changes, but Brown and Barron were Altman recruits, and guys who were getting playing time. The fact that Brown and Barron were close friends does provide something of an explanation for Barron’s decision, though. If there is any good news in this shakeup for Oregon, both players are continuing with their classes at the school for this semester, meaning their defections could have no negative impact on the team’s APR.
Jabari Brown, Oregon

The Trend Of Ducks Flying The Coup Is A Troubling One For Oregon Fans. (Jim Brown/US Presswire)

  • Injuries – The Pac-12 probably hasn’t had any more injuries than any other conference this season, but they have had their share of important ones. USC lost senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL prior to the season, had freshman center Curtis Washington saw his season end with a torn labrum, and just last week saw sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon go down with a stress fracture in his foot that will keep him out for four to six weeks. Utah is missing 7’3” center David Foster, who broke a foot in the Utes’ exhibition game, and he is still deciding whether he’ll return this season or take a medical redshirt. And Washington is still waiting to find out about senior guard Scott Suggs who broke a toe prior to the season. Suggs hopes to begin practicing this week with a possible return December 10 against Duke.

Player of the Year Watch

Last week, Jared Cunningham was coming off consecutive games in which he had set a new career-high for himself, and combined with his defensive prowess, he was the POTY frontrunner. Now, he’s coming off two-straight more modest performances scoring-wise (10.5 PPG), but remains the Pac-12’s leading scorer with 20.8 points per game. The next three spots on the conference scoring list are manned by Utah’s Josh Watkins (18.8 PPG), Arizona State’s Trent Lockett (17.5 PPG) and Washington State’s Faisal Aden (17.0 PPG), good players all, but guys who likely won’t have an impact on the POTY race, simply because they play for bad teams.

Cunningham Remains at the Top of our POTY Watch

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story