Pac-12 Post-Mortems: Oregon

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 21st, 2014

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Oregon.

What Went Right

Bringing in offense-first transfers like Joseph Young, Jason Calliste and Mike Moser, it became clear that this was going to have to be a team that outdid opponents with relentless offense before the Ducks even played a game. And, for the most part, Dana Altman’s squad did just that. With little in the way of an offensive post player and few on the roster interested in hard-nosed defense, this became a team that wanted to get up and down the floor, find early looks for any number of shooters, get to the line on a regular basis, and score, score, score. When it worked, which it did often, the result was an entertaining, if at times frustrating, display of basketball.

Joseph Young Led The Way For The Offensive-Minded Ducks (AP Photo)

Joseph Young Led The Way For The Offensive-Minded Ducks (AP Photo)

What Went Wrong

As good as this team was offensively, the Ducks were pretty bad defensively. In 21 of 34 games, the Ducks allowed their opponent to score better than a point per possession and Oregon went just 11-10 in those games. Only five times all year did it hold a top-100 KenPom team under a point per possession. Part of this was a result of the make-up of the roster – undersized players and offense-first (if not –only) mindsets – but part of it also had to do with circumstance. Sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter were suspended for the first nine games of the season for receiving improper benefits, and those two guys, particularly Artis, may have been among the team’s three best defensive players. In the end, while the Ducks poured in a superb 1.18 points per possession against a good Wisconsin defense in the NCAA Tournament, their own lack of defense was their downfall, as they allowed the Badgers to score 1.31 points per possession to win the game. Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking The Panic Meter: Which Teams Should Really Worry About Their January Swoons?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 24th, 2014

As Brian Otskey noted earlier this week, January losing streaks have caused a number of once-top teams to tumble down, and in some cases, out of the polls. The rigors of conference play have deflowered those gaudy late December records, prompting a number of far-sooner-than-expected reality checks. Past history will tell you that some of these January slumps will be reduced to mere blips on the radar by March (e.g., the defending champion Louisville Cardinals lost three in a row in the first month of 2013), while others are indeed the beginning of a fade into college hoops oblivion. Wondering about future prospects for fading powers? Here’s a look at where the panic meter should be (10=High Panic, 1=Nothing to worry about) for five of college basketball’s most downward-trending squads.

Georgetown: Panic Meter=10

John Thompson III, Markel Starks And Georgetown Suddenly Have Their Backs Against The Wall

John Thompson III, Markel Starks And Georgetown Suddenly Have Their Backs Against The Wall

With Jabril Trawick not expected back anytime soon (broken jaw), and Josh Smith out indefinitely due to academics (don’t forget that Greg Whittington’s “indefinite” academic suspension a year ago eventually caused him to miss the Hoyas’ final 19 contests), Georgetown is clearly undermanned right now. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera has been brilliant, and Markel Starks intermittently so, but finding offensive contributions from players who aren’t 6’2” guards has proven impossible since Smith‘s suspension began. With the 10-day forecast looking especially gloomy — top-15 teams Creighton, Villanova and Michigan State are up next for JT3’s club – Georgetown’s season could be very close to finished by the time Super Bowl Sunday arrives. Even if the Hoyas can get Smith and Trawick back by early February, a challenging closing stretch awaits: Six of Georgetown’s final seven opponents are currently ranked in KenPom’s top 75. It’s probably not the way Georgetown wanted to find March peace, but Hoyas’ fans may finally avoid their annual NCAA Tournament heartbreak.

Wisconsin: Panic Meter= 1

If you play basketball in the Big Ten, you are going to lose games. The league is simply too strong top-to-bottom to cruise the entire winter without resistance. Yes, Michigan and Michigan State – losses are coming for you as well (beginning for one of the two on Saturday). In any case, Wisconsin should be just fine. Aside from some struggles from three-point range (likely temporary), the uber-efficient Badgers’ offense has continued to roll, even through their current three-game losing streak. The defense could stand to improve marginally (55th nationally in defensive efficiency), but there is just too much offensive firepower in Madison for Bucky’s train to go too far off the tracks.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.18.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 18th, 2013

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  1. Last night Oregon welcomed back sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter from suspension, as both made their season debuts after sitting out the first nine games. And, while Jonathan Loyd has come to earn plenty of well-deserved respect around the conference, we were reminded that, oh yeah, Artis is pretty darn good himself. Artis got penetration on the regular on one end of the court, then showed his ability to be a completely annoying pest on the other, and then surprised everybody as the 6’1” guard also grabbed eight rebounds in the win. Carter wasn’t bad himself, showing himself to be a solid inside-outside stretch-four for the Ducks, although his offensive production didn’t come easily. As for folding these guys back in with the already established players, Loyd for one continues to look good, although his minutes were hampered by fouls. Meanwhile, guys like Joseph Young and Jason Calliste saw their shot attempts drop ever so slightly, but it looks like in the long run these guys are going to be meshed back into the rotation with ease.
  2. Tomorrow night Kyle Anderson returns home as UCLA travels to New York City to face Duke at Madison Square Garden. Anderson is a native of a community in New Jersey that is part of the NYC metropolitan area, and he’s watched his fair share of games at MSG over the years. Not only does he get to go home (where he’ll have to deal with distributing tickets to his friends and family), but he’ll get to renew his competition with a somewhat familiar foe in Chicago native, Jabari Parker.
  3. Oregon State’s game tonight is their last game on the mainland before the Beavers head out to Honolulu to take part in the Diamond Head Classic on Sunday with an opening round game against Akron. As it is, they’re not the only Oregon State team headed to Hawaii for the holidays, as the Beavers’ football team is also going to paradise. They’ll be facing Boise State on Christmas Eve in the Hawaii Bowl and it just so happens that the Diamond Head Classic features a perfectly coincidental off day. Roberto Nelson and company will not only get a nice trip to the islands for the holidays, but they’ll have a chance to support their fellow OSU athletes.
  4. Colorado doesn’t play again until Saturday against Oklahoma State, but when the team does it will have to lean heavily on sophomore forward Xavier Johnson, who has done a great job helping to fill in for the departed Andre Roberson. As Terry Frei of The Denver Post writes, while Johnson is getting plenty of help from freshman Wesley Gordon, he’s made big strides in shifting his game from that of primarily a perimeter player to one who is expected to make major contributions in the paint as well.
  5. Lastly, while things seem to be going smoothly for Sean Miller and Arizona, the head coach is not about to let his precocious young ‘Cats rest on their laurels. Last year at this time (and weeks into the future), his squad also remained undefeated only to get off to a bumpy start in conference play from which they never truly recovered. He’s using that experience to teach his current team to keep its focus, avoid distractions, and keep improving.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 13th, 2013

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  1. Utah has received, and frankly earned, plenty of criticism over the weakness of its non-conference schedule this season. Games against BYU and Boise State are solid, of course, but past that you’re delving into teams like Fresno State (bad), Idaho State (worse), Savannah State (oh, for crying out loud) and Evergreen State (are you serious? Is that even a place?). But certainly part of the reason for that is the fact that head coach Larry Krystkowiak was welcoming to Salt Lake City an almost entirely new roster, again. Beginning next season, expect things to beef up some, as the Utes will play Kansas in a “neutral” site game in Kansas City, as well as traveling to the Caribbean to compete in a Puerto Rico Tip-Off event. Now all that is well and good, but where the Utes have ditched the possibility of scheduling home-and-homes with in-state schools Utah State and Weber State, they are now struggling to come together with BYU and extend that particular series. And that would be completely unacceptable.
  2. Speaking of scheduling, do you realize that it is now the middle of December and Oregon State has played exactly five games? How does that happen? Sure, it allows Craig Robinson to brag about the fact that his team has only lost twice so far (nevermind that those losses were to Coppin State and DePaul), but after Arkansas Pine-Bluff was kept at home last weekend by an ice storm, the Beavers are in the midst of 12 straight days without a game. They’ll make up for some of it later in the month with three games in four days as part of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, but clearly the Beavers have yet to build any momentum.
  3. Doug Haller of AZCentral.com shares a post comparing the top six assist guys in the Pac-12 and the differences in how those assists are handed out. For instance, Oregon’s Jonathan Loyd, the conference’s assist leader, hands out 31 percent of his assists to Mike Moser, and 34 percent of all his assists lead to layups or dunks. While that last number is certainly a fine amount, UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, on the other hand, creates dunks or layups on better than 60 percent of all his assists.
  4. We’re a little bit late to this unfortunate piece of news, but Stanford took a big loss earlier this week when it was announced that senior point guard Aaron Bright’s season and collegiate career are over due to a dislocated right shoulder. He’ll undergo surgery in January. His loss marks the third Stanford player lost for the season to injury (Andy Brown’s career was ended by yet another torn ACL in the offseason, and Christian Sanders is out for the year with a hip injury), while forward Rosco Allen has yet to play a game due to a stress fracture. None of this makes things any easier for head coach Johnny Dawkins as he tries to keep his job in Palo Alto. As for Bright, the high point of his career will go down as his run to the postseason NIT MVP honors during his sophomore campaign.
  5. Lastly, we’ve got plenty of good match-ups this weekend, but without a doubt, the Pac-12 highlight is Arizona’s trip to Michigan on Saturday where the Wildcats will try to fight through a raucous road crowd in order to defend their #1 ranking. Mitch McGary and company will give Sean Miller’s frontcourt perhaps their biggest test of the season to this point, while guys like Nik Stauskas, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin will test their perimeter defense. Adam Butler of Pachoops.com got together with Dylan Burkhart of UMHoops.com to preview the battle.
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Assessing the Pac-12 After One Month

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 12th, 2013

We’re a month into the season, something basically approaching the quarter-pole of this race, so it seems like a good time to take a look back at what’s happened so far, prognosticate a bit into the future, and reset the season as we move forward.

Overall, coming into the year, we regarded Arizona as the clear-cut favorite in the conference. A month in, the Wildcats have done nothing to dissuade us of that notion; in fact, if anything, they’re probably even a bigger favorite than they were in early November. Seeing the improvement the sophomores have made, the cohesiveness of this team defensively from the get-go, and contemplating the improvement that can still be made – especially on the offensive end – the ‘Cats remain the big boys in the Pac-12. That being said, Oregon, UCLA and Colorado have all established themselves as Top 25 caliber teams with plenty of upside. With the Wildcats needing to make road trips to visit every one of those teams, there will be plenty of chances for Arizona to slip up in conference play.

In The First Month, Arizona Has Solidified Its Reputation As The Pac-12 Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

In The First Month, Arizona Has Solidified Its Reputation As The Pac-12 Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Beyond that group at the top, California sort of sits in a tier by itself; it would be a serious surprise if the Golden Bears compete for a conference title, but at the same time, it would be a stretch to picture this team on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday. However, after the Bears, there are plenty of question marks. Arizona State started off strong, but a couple of slip-ups in the Wooden Legacy damaged their early hopes. Stanford’s got plenty of talent, but this team has done little to give any but the most myopic Cardinal fan hopes of serious change. And while Utah has looked exciting at times, that is a team that is going to be up and down over the course of the year; yes, they may sneak up and bite unsuspecting visitors to Salt Lake City in the butt, but they’ll also turn in a couple stinkers of their own. Beyond that, however, USC, Washington, Washington State and Oregon State are a good bet to make up the bottom third of the standings come March. Below, we’ll take a look at each of those top eight teams and talk about what we’ve learned over the first month and what needs to change going forward. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 M5: 12.09.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 9th, 2013

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  1. By the time you read this, odds are good that the new AP poll will have been released with Arizona topping the list for the first time in more than a decade. After Michigan State fell at home to North Carolina earlier in the week, all the Wildcats had to do to solidify their position was to take care of business at home against a UNLV team that has yet to congeal. However, as the game on Saturday entered its 40th minute, the outcome was still very much in doubt. But a spectacular Aaron Gordon block was followed up by a driving layup from Brandon Ashley, and the Wildcats escaped. With newly top-rated teams having a habit of dropping games quickly, watch out for Arizona’s tough road trip to Michigan next Saturday morning.
  2. Oregon was one of several Pac-12 teams with tough road games scheduled for this weekend. But, while UCLA and California came up on the short end of the stick in their first true away games of the season, the Ducks took to the road with aplomb, getting a steady performance from Jonathan Loyd and plenty of production from talented transfers Mike Moser, Joseph Young, Jason Calliste and Elgin Cook to withstand the Marshall Henderson show at Mississippi. With the Bruins’ defeat at the hands of Missouri, Oregon and Arizona now stand alone as the two remaining undefeated teams in the conference.
  3. Colorado, meanwhile, got to spend its weekend at home in frigid Boulder, but their test was no less stringent. The Buffaloes welcomed in a talented Kansas team and came away with their first win over the Jayhawks in more than a decade. That 0-for-19 streak is now in the past, as the Buffaloes rode a surprise contribution from little-used senior center Ben Mills, versatile and efficient play from sophomore center Josh Scott, an inspired performance from sophomore forward Xavier Johnson – including a ferocious early dunk – and, of course, a deep buzzer-beating runner from Askia Booker to inspire a good old-fashioned rushing of the court. Not everybody found the court rushing so fun, as Paul Klee of the Colorado Springs Gazette recounts photographers getting trampled, some near-misses and even Booker himself sustaining a shoulder injury in the celebration.
  4. USC scored a solid win for itself on Sunday night, thumping Boston College behind an impressive second half. While the Trojans got balanced scoring with five different players reaching double figures, junior guard Byron Wesley continues to stand out as the team’s leader. Head coach Andy Enfield regularly praises his veteran wing for his fundamental soundness, while teammate Omar Oraby says that just watching Wesley’s work ethic helps his teammates get better.
  5. Lastly, Utah bounced back from its first loss of the season by scoring 50 second-half points to get past Fresno State. Sophomore Jordan Loveridge broke out of something of a slump by scoring all 13 of his points in the second half, while junior point guard Delon Wright continues to fill up stat sheets, setting a new career high with 12 assists and tying his career high with 23 points for his third double-double of the year. Wright came up four rebounds shy of a triple-double, but with his complete game, expect him to register at least one of those by the time the season is done. Oh, and while we’re on the topic, Wright has made 52 of his 70 shots from the field this season. Combined with his solid free throw shooting, that put’s Wright’s true shooting percentage at 76.6 percent, good for fifth in the nation to this point.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.29.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 29th, 2013

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  1. You know, it has come to my attention that we haven’t addressed the big news last week that Houston transfer Joseph Young has been declared eligible by the NCAA to play this season at Oregon. After averaging 18 highly efficient points per game last season (26th in the nation in offensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy), his presence is going to mean huge things for the Ducks. With Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning for their sophomore seasons, and with Jonathan Loyd back for his senior year, and with Detroit transfer Jason Calliste – another prolific and efficient scoring guard – now eligible, the Ducks are on the very short list for the best backcourts in the nation. If Mike Moser, Ben Carter and Waverly Austin can hold down the fort up front, the Ducks are going to be extremely dangerous.
  2. But despite all that talent in the backcourt, we’ll be interested to see exactly what head coach Dana Altman can hammer out as a rotation. The best five players on the team are probably Artis, Dotson, Young, Calliste and Moser, but that combination would leave the Ducks with four guards and a forward in Moser who, while a skilled defender and rebounder, is not exactly your typical low post player for a team hoping to contend for a conference title in a major conference. And with all those guards and more, Altman will have a fun time trying to distribute shots between them all. Stay tuned.
  3. Continuing our all-Oregon themed M5, it is no secret that Altman has made Oregon the grade-A landing spot for the best of the best transfers in Division I basketball. In his three seasons in Eugene, Altman has welcomed in seven transfers who had previous experience at D-I schools (Moser, Young, Calliste, Arsalan Kazemi, Devoe Joseph, Olu Ashaolu, and Tony Woods), as well as junior college transfers like Carlos Emory, Waverly Austin, Richard Amardi, Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit. Along the way, Altman has also become known as a welcome landing spot for “basketball refugees,” as Percy Allen of the Seattle Times calls them. Better yet, while other coaches have shied away from these players, Altman has succeeded in turning around a program that was in the dumps when he took over and having the Ducks back in the national conversation.
  4. Let’s take a brief little jaunt up the I-5 to peek in with Craig Robinson and Oregon State in Corvallis. In a year where Robinson, once a media darling with the Beavers, finds himself in dire need of a productive season in order to hold on to his job, the brother-in-law-in-chief is talking up his sophomore class. Between Olaf Schaftenaar, Langston Morris-Walker, Jarmal Reid and Victor Robbins, there are loads of minutes available, what with Eric Moreland and Devon Collier due to each serve suspensions upon the start of the year. While none of these four should be expected to line up along the front line like their temporarily-departed brethren, each is capable of providing some punch from the wing for the Beavers. And, frankly, Robinson will need some major contributions out of that quartet in order to stabilize his own professional prospects.
  5. Lastly, let’s jump out of the state of Oregon and head somewhere much drier to get a report on the conference favorite Arizona‘s exhibition game last night against Augustana. T.J. McConnell stole the show in the opening game at his new school, scoring 12 points, handing out eight assists, snatching three steals, and getting his team rolling as the floor general for the top-10 Wildcats. Three other players scored in double figures against their Division II opponent in a 32-point win. Sure, it means absolutely nothing, but it is basketball and it was on TV. If you missed it the first time, you can watch the replay on the Pac-12 Networks this morning at 9:00 AM.
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How Can Oregon Stay Competitive With Louisville?

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2013

When Oregon takes the floor Friday evening against Louisville, it will do so as a heavy underdog to the top seed. Las Vegas sees the Ducks as 10-point underdogs, while Ken Pomeroy says the Cardinals are 11 points better. But after winning the Pac-12 Tournament and being “rewarded” by the Selection Committee with a 12-seed, the Ducks are used to being counted out. They still think they can win, however, and with head coach Dana Altman pulling the strings, it’s foolish to give up on them, but without question they have their work cut out to knock off the Cardinals.

Dana Altman And The Ducks Have Pulled Off Two Upsets, But A Big Challenge Still Awaits

Dana Altman And The Ducks Have Pulled Off Two Upsets, But A Big Challenge Still Awaits

Priority number one for the Ducks is to take better care of the ball than they did last week. In their upset wins over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis, they did a lot of things really well, but limiting turnovers was not one of them. They turned it over 18 times in each outing, with senior E.J. Singler leading the way with a total of 12. If they are similarly careless against Louisville, those 18 turnovers are liable to turn into 24. And those 24 turnovers could very easily turn into 40 points. And if that happens, even if Louisville struggles shooting the ball — a reasonable occurrence — the Cardinals can still come out of the game with a win by taking advantage of all those Oregon turnovers to earn easy baskets.

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Rushed Reactions: Oregon 78, UCLA 69

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 Conference. He filed this report after Saturday night’s Pac-12 Tournament championship game between Oregon and UCLA.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Jonathan Loyd, The Oregon Point Guard. After slowly returning from injury, this was supposed to be the week when Dominic Artis returned to form in the Oregon starting lineup. He did return to the starting lineup, but it was Jonathan Loyd who was the man at the point for the Ducks. He was terrific all weekend averaging 24 minutes and 11.3 points per game, but was particularly good in the championship, scoring 19 points and bailing out the Ducks at the end of the shot clock by knocking down jumpers. However, is that the type of offense that head coach Dana Altman really wants? After the game, Altman made it clear that there were times that Loyd took some shots that he wasn’t exactly pleased with. To be honest, often in the second half, the Ducks didn’t run particularly good sets but got bailed out either by Loyd late or by offensive rebounds off misses. Ideally, Loyd would be generating good looks for his teammates more regularly than getting his own shots, but it is awfully hard to argue with the results tonight.
  2. Life Without Jordan Adams. In UCLA’s first game following Jordan Adams’ broken foot, the Bruins clearly struggled offensively, to the tune of 0.96 points per possession — their least effective offensive performance since their Valentine’s Night massacre at the hands of California. Some of the problems can be chalked up to fatigue in the face of playing their third game in as many nights with basically just a six-man rotation, and some of it can be explained away by the idea that this team didn’t have much time to game plan for life without Adams. But, let’s just say that game one in the post-Adams era did not go smoothly. Shabazz Muhammad was limited by a defense free to key on him and Kyle Anderson was unable to step into a secondary scorer’s role, leaving Larry Drew II to pick up the scoring slack, which he accomplished to some extent (14 points on 11 field goal attempts). Norman Powell was a pretty bright spot as well, scoring 10 points on six FGAs in 37 minutes. UCLA will probably be more comfortable in its next game out, but the long-term prognosis for the Oregon offense without Adams is not bright.
UCLA's Jordan Adams Had To Spend The Night As A Spectator

UCLA’s Jordan Adams Had To Spend The Night As A Spectator

  1. Pac-12 NCAA Tournament Viability. The conference is in all likelihood going to wind up with five teams dancing, but it is hard to see one of these teams capable of making a run of any sort. UCLA without Adams doesn’t have the depth or offensive firepower to get to the second weekend; Oregon, though they righted the ship somewhat this weekend, is still not playing as well as they were prior to the Artis injury; California’s hot streak is officially over; and Colorado has never been a completely trustworthy team this season. That leaves Arizona, the most talented Pac-12 team and a team that is certainly capable of stringing together some wins should everything break right, but a team that has underachieved for since conference play began. While anything is possible in a one-game setting, none of these teams will be favored to advance past the first weekend of NCAA play. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 02.22.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 22nd, 2013

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  1. Thursday night the Pac-12 race got even tighter as California’s Justin Cobbs took advantage of Oregon’s 5’8” point guard Jonathan Loyd in the waning moments of their meeting, knocking down a game-winning jumper over the smaller man’s outstretched arms. As we head into the weekend, we’ve got three teams atop the conference with four losses while a pair of teams, including those Golden Bears, lurk just one game back in the loss column. The game itself wasn’t pretty, as Cobbs turned the ball over eight times, the teams combined to shoot 3-of-21 from deep and nobody on Oregon shot better than 50% from the field, but Cal continues to be the hottest team in the conference with six victories in its last seven games. As for Oregon, this current group of Ducks still remains winless in their careers against California.
  2. In the wake of Washington State’s seventh straight conference loss on Wednesday night, the talk about whether head coach Ken Bone is the man for the job in Pullman for the long term has reached a fever pitch. The talk has been slowly bubbling up since way back before the season began as Reggie Moore got booted from the team and incoming transfer Brett Kingma ran afoul of the law, highlighting some off-the-court issues that have troubled Bone’s program for some time. But, as CougCenter pointed out a couple weeks back, if the university hopes to go a different way, they’ve got to figure out a way around Bone’s hefty contract, which promises the coach $2.55 million over the remaining three years. Given the amount of money the WSU athletic department already has tied up in paying current and former football coaches, that amount of money may be too much to bear at this point. And, as I pointed out back before the season, expectations in Pullman have to be realistic. The fact of the matter is that prior to this season, Bone had the second-highest winning percentage of any coach in school history who had coached at least 20 games. Unfortunately for him, however, the one guy ahead of him was his predecessor.
  3. USC will take a crack at earning a season sweep of crosstown rival UCLA at the Galen Center on Sunday afternoon. And if they’re going to get it done, they’ll need to lean heavily on senior point guard Jio Fontan who, after dealing with ACL surgery last year and the heavy-handed offensive structure of former head coach Kevin O’Neill, is now thriving with more freedom under interim coach Bob Cantu and more confidence in a knee that gets stronger by the game.
  4. One thing we haven’t talked a lot about here this season is the Player of the Year race in the Pac-12. No worries though, as Pachoops has got you covered on that mark. Adam Butler scouts the candidates out and narrows the race down to two guys: Arizona State’s Jahii Carson and Cal’s Allen Crabbe. I wanted to quibble (Carrick Felix anyone?) but in the end decided that yes, those are the two guys atop the leaderboard right now and somebody from the next pack back (some combination of Solomon Hill, Shabazz Muhammad, Spencer Dinwiddie and Felix) would have to go absolutely nuts for that to change. In my mind, however, Carson is the favorite, as he has been for at least a month; but as Cal has heated up, Crabbe has made a big time charge to the point where it is just about even money right now.
  5. Lastly, in case you forgot, DirecTV has still not come to an agreement with the Pac-12 conference to carry the Pac-12 Networks. I’m sure all of you have done the right thing and dropped DirecTV like a hot potato, but apparently there are people out there sticking with the satellite television behemoth instead of watching tons of Pac-12 action this season. And, if you’re somehow still among that crowd, you’ve missed the 20 out of Arizona State’s 27 games this season that have aired on the Pac-12 Networks. Don’t hold your breath on a deal getting done any time soon as both sides appear entrenched in their positions.
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Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week 14

Posted by AMurawa on February 18th, 2013

Another wild week in the Pac-12, with six games decided by five points or less, including a pair of overtime games. Plenty of candidates for all the honors this week, but here’s who we settled on.

Team of the Week – Oregon

Despite breaking a three-game slide at the end of last week, the Ducks faced a perilous trip to their neighbors to the north this week, again without freshman point guard Dominic Artis. Artis’ primary replacement at the point, Jonathan Loyd, was the hero on Wednesday night in a win over Washington, scoring all 11 of his points in the second half to help his team pull away. On Saturday night, there was a bit more drama for the team as, playing without senior center Tony Woods, who was ejected in the first half for an elbow to Brock Motum’s head, Oregon needed overtime, and a significant mental error from their opponent, to get out of Pullman with a two-point win. As is becoming standard for Oregon, they got contributions from all over their roster this week. E.J. Singler was the big scorer on Saturday night (25 points including plenty of clutch free throws), but Arsalan Kazemi continued his strong play (9.5 points, 9.5 rebounds per game this week), Damyean Dotson continued his bounceback from a recent slump (14.5 PPG this week) and Carlos Emory had his best pair of games since his stretch in Las Vegas back in November, averaging 15 points, six boards and a couple of steals this week. While the expectation is that Artis’ return is just around the corner, Dana Altman’s club has found a way to string together wins even without him.

Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

Spencer Dinwiddie Emerged As Colorado’s Unquestioned Leader This Week (Daily Camera)

Player of the Week – Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

In the last three games, Dinwiddie has gotten to the line 31 times. That alone is a pretty impressive statistic. The fact that he’s made all 31 of those attempts is mindboggling. Thursday night against Arizona, was incredible in the second half, making completely sure that the Buffaloes were not going to give up a the lead they had worked so hard to build up. From the moment he got fouled shooting a three and then knocked down three straight free throws to the late shot-clock jumper he drilled with 1:20 to go, Dinwiddie was everywhere against the Wildcats. His second half totals? Nineteen points (on seven free throws, two threes, a layup, a dunk and that game closing jumper), four assists and countless calmed Colorado nerves. On Saturday Dinwiddie responded with another terrific performance, knocking down 14 free throws on the way to 24 points for the game and handing out a nice assist to freshman Xavier Johnson to complete a late-game comeback to force overtime against Arizona State. Then, with eight seconds left in overtime, Dinwiddie powered his way to the hoop and knocked down a tough shot to give Colorado a one-point lead, a lead that, unfortunately for he and his team, did not hold up.

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Pac-12 M5: Valentine’s Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 14th, 2013

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  1. Last night began the last month of the regular season in the Pac-12. With just four weeks of conference play remaining, everybody is jockeying for placement in advance of March, which makes Arizona State’s loss at Utah last night all the more troubling. For a team already right on that borderline between the NIT and the NCAAs, the Sun Devils rebounded from a lackluster first half that saw them trailing by seven at the break to build up an eight-point lead with under eight minutes to go and a six-point lead with under three to go. And then ASU proceeded to score exactly one basket over its final seven possessions, while allowing the Utes to score 13 points over that same stretch. And in the process, the Sun Devils may have given away the game that could prevent them from dancing on Selection Sunday.
  2. Meanwhile, Oregon has somewhat righted their ship, going into Seattle last night and knocking off Washington for its second-consecutive victory following a three-game slide. Jonathan Loyd was the big star, filling in for Dominic Artis with a big 11-point second half (making for a season-high in points) to help the Ducks cruise past the Huskies. However, at the end of the game with the outcome no longer in doubt, Loyd took a hard foul and appeared to sustain a knee injury as he remained on the ground in pain for some time. After the game, Loyd said that he thinks he’ll be okay and could be in uniform this weekend for Oregon’s trip to Pullman. Artis, meanwhile, will miss one more game but is expected to return next week when the Ducks host the Bay Area schools.
  3. Despite three Final Fours in his past, the drumbeat for the end of Ben Howland’s era as head coach at UCLA grows louder by the week, and last week’s scathing commentary by Bruin legend Bill Walton on an ESPN telecast has ratcheted up the pressure. But, as Ryan Menezes of the Daily Bruin writes, there are more things wrong in the UCLA program that just the head coach. This season in a newly renovated Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins have struggled to fill the house that Wooden built and have often played in front of sparse crowds. Is that a response to Howland’s style of play and recent lack of success? Or is that just the nature of the beast for an aging fan base of a program whose glory days are 40 years in the past? I know this much: Even in the depths of the Billy Gillispie days, Kentucky was still leading the nation in attendance. Even when North Carolina was preparing to divorce Matt Doherty, they were still putting fannies in 18,000-plus seats per night. Even when Mike Davis was turning in a sub-.500 year in Bloomington or Tom Crean was limping home to a 10-win season, they were doing so in front of 16,000 Indiana fans. UCLA fans in no way belong in the same discussion as those blue-blood fan bases (for comparison, as UCLA went to the NCAA Tournament in 2011, they couldn’t reach an average of 8,000 fans in attendance), let along up-and-coming programs like San Diego State in their own backyard. That? That’s on the fans, not the coach.
  4. In advance of tonight’s rematch with Colorado, Arizona is looking forward to playing with Nick Johnson back at full strength. You see, a couple weeks back when the Wildcats traveled to the Washington schools, Johnson was significantly weakened by a stomach virus. And, over the past couple weeks, his numbers have dropped, in part due to that illness; since the virus reared its ugly head prior to the Washington State game, Johnson hasn’t scored in double figures and is just 5-of-18 from the field, quite a dip for a guy who has otherwise shot a better than 53% eFG this season. But, Johnson assures the Daily Wildcat that he is ready to go this week for the trip to the Rockies.
  5. As for Colorado, they’ve waited 42 days for their crack at revenge against Arizona for their controversial loss in Tucson. Not that they’ve been counting or anything. The same evening after refs waved off Sabatino Chen’s apparent game-winning buzzer-beater, the C-Unit has been planning for the Valentine’s Day Massacre in the Coors Event Center. And in the interim, as the Buffaloes have turned in lackluster performances against Arizona State, UCLA, Washington and UCLA, there has been talk that the team was still suffering from the hangover from that game. Well, tonight’s the night they get to take their frustration out, and they better do it well. Because if there’s one thing worse than thinking you’ve had a game stolen from you, it is spending 42 days waiting for your chance to gain revenge and then failing when the chance is finally presented to you.
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