Pac-12 M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. After little more that just the news that Dominic Artis was out indefinitely, Oregon head coach Dana Altman shed a bit more light on the freshman point guard’s injury, putting the number of games that Artis will miss at “anywhere from three to five games.” But Altman isn’t overly concerned. Even without the talented freshman, he still wants his team to get up and down the court and he has complete trust in junior Jonathan Loyd and freshman Willie Moore to handle Artis’ duties in his absence. However, you can bet that the lack of Artis will make it that much more difficult for the Ducks to break their 37-year streak of not earning a sweep at the Bay Area schools, starting tonight at Stanford.
  2. Carrick Felix has won so many Pac-12 Player of the Week awards this season that he’s starting to lose count. “Half the time, I don’t even know when I get the player-of-the-week award,” Bud Withers of The Seattle Times quotes Felix as saying. Given that he’s won it three times this year already (the most since Derrick Williams was a three-time winner in 2011), you can hardly blame the senior if it has become passé, because without a doubt, Felix has been a huge part of ASU’s vast improvement this season. After a couple years of relative mediocrity in Tempe, Felix is on pace to earn an easy berth on the all-Pac-12 teams, especially since, like, 35 people make the Pac-12 first team.
  3. ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil spent some time with UCLA’s Ben Howland last week and is apparently flabbergasted by the fact that the Bruins are enjoying some success despite playing a different brand of basketball than Howland became known for in his years at Pitt and his early years in Westwood. Howland told O’Neil that he’s enjoying coaching this team even if he is still trying to find some way to coax more defense out of his team. And, apparently, all the changes are making him a bit insane. Following the Arizona win, he brushed off questions about the team’s youth, claiming “our young guys aren’t freshmen anymore… They’re playing like veterans.” But then after laying an egg at Arizona State, he fell back on the team’s inexperience as something of an excuse, saying “they’re all learning for the first time.”
  4. A couple other random bits of news from the UCLA program. First, the Bruins will be unveiling their all-new all-blue basketball uniforms against USC tonight in front of a “blue-out” crowd. But perhaps more importantly, they might be doing so with only six players in the rotation. Travis Wear still hasn’t been cleared for participation following a concussion suffered last Thursday, and now Shabazz Muhammad is potentially out while struggling with the flu. Some of his teammates think Muhammad will play, although Howland isn’t too sure, while the smart money seems to be on Wear missing another game.
  5. And while UCLA unveils their blue-out plans, Arizona head coach Sean Miller seems ready to retire the “white-out” game that the Wildcats have now lost in the past two seasons. Whether he said that in jest or in reality, it matters not (he backed off his initial comments later in the day, essentially saying, “we’ll see”) because Miller is more focused on the cause of the loss during the most recent white-out, not whatever color shirts his team’s fans were wearing. Still, Miller said he felt good about the UA home stand, taking pleasure in the fact that his team bounced back from the bad Thursday loss and played one of their best games in conference play Saturday in a blowout win over USC.
Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 01.28.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 28th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. The biggest breaking news over the weekend came out of Eugene late Friday night when Bob Clark of the Register-Guard reported that Dominic Artis would be out indefinitely with a foot injury of undetermined severity. Oregon still managed to knock off Washington on Saturday evening (in the first sellout at Matthew Knight Arena in almost two years) with Artis watching from the bench in a walking boot. Junior Jonathan Loyd got the start and was solid, getting to the line 10 times in 31 minutes of action and scoring nine points, but he did turn the ball over five times to go along with his five assists. The other guy who earned some of the Artis’ minutes was freshman Willie Moore, who earned nine minutes, his most since before Christmas, but he too struggled with turnovers. With no timetable announced for Artis’ return, the Ducks will have to rely on those two to step up as they go to the Bay Area schools next week.
  2. The other injury of note over the past week was to UCLA’s Travis Wear, whose concussion suffered in the first half against Arizona on Thursday night kept him out of Saturday’s visit to Arizona State. But, Travis Wear or no Travis Wear, the Bruins were going down hard on Saturday. They struggled with the Sun Devils’ athleticism, size and energy, but mostly, they just weren’t engaged in the game after Thursday night’s big win. ASU outhustled UCLA from the opening tip to the closing buzzer, with Jordan Bachynski, Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon having big games and Jahii Carson, despite struggling from the field, conducting a masterful performance at the point.
  3. Last night in front of a sparse crowd limited by blizzard conditions in Salt Lake City, Stanford’s offense got back on track in a big way against Utah, scoring 46 first-half points, 87 points for the game, and looking for the first time in a long time like the explosive team that ran to last year’s NIT title. On the Utah side of the court, sophomore transfer Dallin Bachynski did not suit up for the game and his future at the school is in doubt. After getting double-figure minutes in his first 12 games as a Ute, he hasn’t seen anywhere near that run in Pac-12 play and has lost his starting job to senior Jason Washburn. Bachynski met with head coach Larry Krystkowiak on Friday to discuss his future with the program, and while there are no immediate answers as to his long-term status, the fact that he did still sit on the bench with the team (although he didn’t dress out), indicates that he isn’t going away permanently quite yet.
  4. Arizona bounced back from its disappointing loss on Thursday by jumping out to a commanding early lead against USC and never looking back. The Wildcats held USC to nine points on its first 23 possessions, forcing seven turnovers and 2-of-19 shooting. Aside from the crispness with which the ‘Cats played, another aspect of the game that pleased head coach Sean Miller was the fact that it gave him a chance to extend his bench and find some minutes for guys like Angelo Chol and Gabe York. After playing in the first 14 games of the year, Chol has slid back to take the ninth-man spot in an eight-man rotation, but he played with energy in his eight minutes against the Trojans, grabbing a couple boards and blocking a shot. York, a high-flying freshman, has now played in nine games this year, but the USC game was his first appearance in Pac-12 play and he followed Miller’s advice by being very aggressive in looking for his shot. York played eight minutes and yet found room for five three-point attempts, knocking down a couple. Miller has talked with both guys about their playing time and has come away impressed with their maturity even when the minutes haven’t been there.
  5. Colorado took it to California on Sunday and did so without the services of Andre Roberson for much of the first half. Despite losing the nation’s leading rebounder to foul trouble, the Buffs rode some hot shooting to a 34-18 halftime lead and never looked back. After the game, Cal head coach Mike Montgomery had plenty of questions about his team, including whether the team even thought it could win the game and what type of mindset it now has. With conference leader Oregon due in Haas Pavilion next weekend and any distant hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament receding into the sunset, the Bears need to get it together, and quick. One good bit of news: senior guard Brandon Smith returned to action this weekend after six games lost due to the effects of a concussion.

Share this story

Pac-12 Report Card: Volume III

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2013

Just about one-third of the way through our semester, Oregon is the favorite pupil, having earned all As in their exams. Join Professor Pac as we once again break down our class and see who’s joining the Ducks at the front of the class and who’s in the corner with the dunce cap.

Oregon – A

Before we give props to the Ducks for their 5-0 conference start and vault to the favorite position in the conference, let’s take a minute to mourn the loss of the full 18-game home-and-away round-robin of the Pac-10. You see, with UO’s win at UCLA this week and home win against Arizona last week, the Ducks have wrapped up this seasons’ meeting with those two teams. Neither the Wildcats nor the Bruins will get a chance for revenge, at least until and unless they meet up in Vegas come mid-March. But, that’s not the Ducks fault. No, they’ve done what they’ve needed to do early and they’ve set themselves up well. Now, they’ve still got more than two-thirds of the conference schedule remaining, but here are their remaining road games in conference play: Stanford, Cal, Washington, Washington State, Colorado and Utah. They’ll be favorites in all of those games, as well as all of their home games. Sure, there are probably a couple of losses in the mix there somewhere, but barring some significant slide that Dana Altman-coached teams are not known for, the Ducks are a heavy favorite to be the #1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

Focus on: Jonathan Loyd. Freshman point guard Dominic Artis is the rightful recipient of plenty of positive buzz regarding his play, but the diminutive junior backup deserves some credit for accepting his decreased minutes and filling his role. Sure, he can’t shoot a lick. And his turnovers are through the roof this season. But you can see that his defensive intensity has carried over to his freshman pupil and he always brings energy aplenty when he’s on the court. And, consider this: a 5’8” he swatted away a Larry Drew II fastbreak layup tattempt this weekend

Looking ahead: The Ducks host the Washington schools this week and Ken Pomeroy puts the chances that they win each game somewhere north of 85%. Beware the letdown, Ducks.

Arizona – A-

For three quarters of their battle with in-state rival Arizona State on Saturday, the ‘Cats had a battle on their hands, played basically to a draw. But over the last 10 minutes, a time that coincided almost exactly with Mark Lyons coming back in the game (and, with Lyons drawing the fourth foul on Jahii Carson), they outscored the Sun Devils by 15 and equaled the biggest defeat ASU has suffered this season. Over those ten minutes, Lyons repeatedly got to the hoop, scoring 12 points and handing out three assists in likely his best 10-minute stretch as the UA point guard. The problem is the previous 30 minutes, wherein Lyons had 12 points on 11 field goal attempts, zero assists and four turnovers. Sure, he’s one heck of a closer, but as the season ramps up come March, the ‘Cats will need a more complete performance.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Oregon Basketball and The Season of New: And Away We Go…

Posted by AMurawa on October 31st, 2012

Welcome to Oregon Basketball and The Season of New, a weekly Pac-12 microsite column from Rockne Roll (@raroll). His column will focus on the various issues facing college basketball through the prism of the Oregon Ducks, a program ostensibly on the rise with top-notch facilities and coaching but still subject to many of the same problems suffered by many of the other high-major programs around the country.

As October slides towards November and the fall grows cooler, a great yearly tradition begins to take shape. From Cameron Indoor to Pauley Pavilion, young men across the country focus their attention not on the orange of the leaves, but on the orange ball and orange rim of their chosen game. The cooler weather not only signals that it’s time to break out the sweaters and scarves, but that college basketball season has once again arrived. This phenomenon is no different in Eugene, Oregon, where the turning leaves have been mostly washed away into gutters and down storm drains by the ever-present rain. As water drips off of the high, sharp roof of Matthew Knight Arena, the University of Oregon Ducks team within works to prepare for the new season.

Oregon

The opening tip of the 2012-13 basketball season for the Oregon Ducks, at home Monday against Concordia University.

“New” really is an operative term for the beginning of basketball season at many schools. Whether due to graduation, transfers, or the lure of fame and fortune in the NBA, a new year invariably means a new roster. The best of college hoops often have to deal with this sort of turnover more than others: Last year’s national champion, Kentucky, must replace its entire starting lineup and then some, with seven players graduating and/or entering the NBA Draft. When the season begins anew, their replacements are assembled and then given only a few weeks of official practice to adapt to the new environment, get into shape, and meld themselves into the larger team.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on February 23rd, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

Last week at this time, we had five teams who were still serious contenders for the Pac-12 regular season title, all of them within a game of the conference lead. This week, the picture has cleared up considerably, but there is still plenty of intrigue out there. California and Washington both scored big wins over two of the other five contenders (Oregon and Arizona, respectively), in turn not only more or less knocking those teams out of the race for the title, but also cementing their status at the top of the heap. Colorado remains in the mix as well, a game and a half back of the co-leaders. The other component of the race at the top of the conference is the jostling for the #4 spot, which will earn the last first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Oregon and Arizona are currently tied for the fourth spot, but the Ducks own the tiebreaker there on the basis of their earlier win at the McKale Center.

Washington

Washington's Win Over Arizona On Saturday Gave The Huskies Reason For Celebration (Elaine Thompson/AP)

What to Watch For

There is really only one big remaining matchup between teams at the top of the conference over the final two weeks of the season: California’s trip to Colorado on Sunday. Other than that, the Bears go on the road to Utah on Thursday before wrapping up their season with a trip to Stanford on the final day of the regular season.

Likewise, Washington will also be spending its last three games on the road, this week against Washington State and next week against USC and UCLA. Depsite the fact that all of those games are on the road, all of those are eminently winnable games for the co-leaders, with the Colorado/Cal game being the sole time when either Cal or Washington will likely not be favored. For the Buffaloes, however, it is going to be an uphill climb. Along with California, they also face Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State, with the latter two on the road – no pushovers anywhere among that group.

As it is, if the Pac-12 Tournament began with the current standings, this is what we’d be looking at. Certainly some pretty interesting semifinals, but my goodness is that Wednesday slate of games awful bad. The best game of the day is at noon and the Staples Center is virtually guaranteed to be whatever the opposite of “rocking” is that day.

Player of the Year Watch

There are a couple of questions here: 1) who is going to win the POTY award, and 2) who deserves to win the POTY award?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Game of the Week: Oregon at Colorado

Posted by AMurawa on February 4th, 2012

Oregon at Colorado, February 4, 7 PM PST, ROOT-NW/ROOT-RM

After both the Ducks and the Buffaloes took care of business on Thursday night, they sit tied with California a game back of Washington in the Pac-12. And provided the Ducks can get to Boulder from Salt Lake City (their original flight on Friday morning was cancelled due to weather), we should be in for a good fight for Saturday evening. While Colorado has yet to lose a Pac-12 game in their Coors Event Center (aka, the Foam Dome), the Ducks have been the best road team in the conference thus far, winning four of their five tests away from Eugene. However, the combination of the travel problems that Oregon is experiencing and the 5300-foot elevation in Boulder combine to give Dana Altman and his crew a unique challenge. CU head coach Tad Boyle hasn’t shied away from giving some credit to the elevation for his team’s success at home, but whether it is physical or psychological, there is no doubt that a significant advantage exists for at home. The Buffaloes have won their six conference games at home by an average of 28 points, compared with a 1-3 record away from home and the three losses coming by an average of almost 15 points. At home, the Buffs have scored 1.12 points per possession and held conference opponents to a stingy 0.85 points per possession; those numbers get flipped on the road to just 0.93 points per offensive possession while allowing a more reasonable 1.01 points per defensive possession.

Coors Event Center, Colorado

The Combination Of Some Rough Travel And The Coors Event Center Could Spell Road Trouble For Oregon

Altman’s crew, however, has been excellent on the road so far this season, handing losses to both Arizona schools, as well as Washington State and Utah. Altman credits his team’s maturity for their play away from home (the team is the 15th most experienced team in Division I, according to Ken Pomeroy) and Boyle sees their mental toughness as their biggest road asset as well. Another significant strength for the Ducks is their ability to not only get to the free throw line on a regular basis offensively, but also to prevent their opponents from getting to the line. The Ducks are in the top 50 nationally in FTA-to-FGA ratio, setting up an interesting conflict, as the Buffaloes rank 20th nationally in their offensive FTA-to-FGA ratio; in short, the Buffs want to attack the opposition and get to the line on a regular basis, while the Ducks want to play solid defense without fouling. Whichever team is most successful in getting to the line may earn an advantage in an otherwise remarkably even matchup.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 11th, 2012

  1. Washington had all sorts of trouble finishing off “the best 3-10 team in America” on Tuesday night, as they were tied with Seattle with less than five minutes to play before sealing up an eight-point win. The Huskies made their hay by getting to the line. Repeatedly. No really. A lot. Like 59 times. The fact that they missed 22 of those attempts certainly kept the game a lot closer than it should have been, but give credit to Seattle and their head coach Cameron Dollar (who will someday be a head coach in the Pac-12, mark my words) for fighting to the end. Tony Wroten shook off an awful game against Utah on Saturday with 24 points and 18 trips to the free-throw line, but he still turned the ball over six times and made a couple bad decisions down the stretch. C.J. Wilcox also bounced back from his worst game of the season by going for 25 points and drilling four threes. The Huskies get back to conference play on Saturday by hosting Washington State.
  2. In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Herb Sendek touched on his decision to dismiss Keala King from the Arizona State team. His comment that “sometimes when you’re a part of a team, you have to make sacrifices and play positions that maybe aren’t ideal” indicates that King was upset at having to play the point after freshman Jahii Carson was declared ineligible and transfer Chris Colvin didn’t pan out as the lead guard. King wasn’t really cut out to be a point guard (he turned the ball over on more than 28% of his team’s possession – a far sight better than Colvin’s 34%), but he appeared to be the best of a bad lot. Now, Sendek turns to junior Trent Lockett at the point. Lockett isn’t an ideal candidate for the point either (he turned it over 11 times in ASU’s two games last weekend, but did hand out eight assists), but at this point, he’s the only legitimate option Sendek has.
  3. For the first month, maybe five weeks, of his freshman year at Arizona, Nick Johnson looked like anything but a freshman. He played with a confidence and a consistency that belied his year. But, here we are in January and Johnson has but up clunkers in four of his last five games and seems to have lost all confidence in his jumper last week in Southern California, hitting just three of his 15 field goal attempts and missing all six of his three-point attempts. But Johnson remains cool and collected and expects to work through this slump and come out better for it on the other side.
  4. Johnson’s teammate, Kyle Fogg, has seen a slump or two in his day too, but now a senior, he is climbing up all manner of career lists in Tucson. When he started on Sunday against USC, it was his 101st career start, moving him into ninth place on the all-time Wildcat list, tied with Steve Kerr and Reggie Geary. If he continues to start the rest of the year, he’ll have a good chance to pass Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye to move into fifth place, but Jason Gardner’s record of 135 career starts is completely safe.
  5. Beginning to look ahead to the weekend, Oregon point guard Jonathan Loyd is questionable for the Ducks’ Thursday night game at Arizona State, after sustaining a bruised knee in Sunday’s loss to California. He may test his knee in practice today, but it looks like he may be a game-time decision tomorrow night. If Loyd is unable to go, Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim will be the only two guards available to Dana Altman who have averaged more than 10 minutes per game. Freshman Brett Kingma, a three-point specialist who has struggled with his shot, would be the guard most likely to pick up the extra minutes if Loyd is out.
Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.30.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 30th, 2011

  1. The Pac-12 conference has turned over a new leaf this week, actually winning games that they are supposed to win. After Tuesday night’s games, the conference is now 6-0 on the week. There aren’t a whole lot of impressive wins in the mix there, but at this point in the game, any win is a good win. The biggest news on the floor came in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where Arizona did just about everything they could to give away a late ten-point lead, but scraped out a seven-point win in a game that could go down as the game that saw the changing of the guard for the Wildcats – quite literally. Freshman guard Nick Johnson got the first start of his career against the Aggies and also stepped right into the role of the Wildcats’ go-to player on the offensive end, hitting eight of his team-high 14 field goals on his way to a career-high 19 points. Further, this was the first game of the season in which freshman point guard Josiah Turner was clearly the best point guard on the roster. While he still hasn’t regained the starting role from sophomore Jordin Mayes, that day is likely just around the corner. Turner is still a work-in-progress (he had a career-high 12 points, but still turned it over four times, including two times after the last media timeout and just before fouling out), but his ability to create offense for himself and for his teammates is undeniable.
  2. The other Pac-12 game last night saw Oregon hold off a game UTEP team behind Jonathan Loyd‘s career-high six three-pointers. It has been a slow start to the season for Loyd, and with Devoe Joseph becoming eligible in ten days, he’ll see more competition for the Ducks’ precious backcourt minutes. But the 5’7” guard’s quickness combined with his ability from deep means he’ll continue to provide energy for Dana Altman in whatever role he plays. And, we learned after the game that even more backcourt minutes have opened up for the Ducks as it was announced that freshman guard Bruce Barron had left the team too, making him the second backcourt recruit to leave Oregon abruptly in the first month of the season. Jabari Brown left the team ten days ago. While Altman had previously said that the door was open for Brown to return to the team, he offered no such option this time, saying “we’re past that point” and confirming that the team would be comfortable moving forward with the players remaining on the roster.
  3.  Injury problems have plagued Kevin O’Neill and USC all season; they struck again on Tuesday when it was announced that sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon had suffered a stress injury in his right foot and would be out four to six weeks. Not only is this a blow to USC’s chances, it is a blow to the inexperienced Dedmon, who already suffered a broken hand prior to the season but did not miss any games as a result of that injury. USC will shift 7’1” junior James Blasczyk from the bench into Dedmon’s spot, with sophomore Garrett Jackson finding more minutes for himself and 6’5” freshman Byron Wesley possibly getting some time at the four.
  4. Bouncing back across town to UCLA for a moment, Jeff Eisenberg reported on Tuesday that there were exactly 34 UCLA students at the Bruins’ temporary home at the Sports Arena when their game against Pepperdine tipped off Monday night. And in the 14,500 seat facility, the announced crowd was 3,885 – a generous number at that. With UCLA struggling to find any rhythm early in the season, the fact that the team can’t even count on a student section to stir up some momentum seems to cast an even more dire glow over an already disappointing season.
  5. Finally, there’s some interesting news out of Arizona State, as their star wing Trent Lockett is taking 21 credits both this semester and next in the hopes of graduating after three years. Clearly the kid has an amazing work ethic, because in addition to handling such a huge class load, he has improved his basketball game every season he has been in Tempe. But – and this is just pure speculation – one has to wonder if maybe, just maybe, the reason he is so intent on finishing up his degree in three years is so he can take advantage of the rule that allows graduates to transfer between academic institutions without having to sit out a year. And really, who could blame a guy as good as Lockett who is mired in a pretty miserable situation with the Sun Devils.
Share this story

Oregon Opens Season With Road Test At Vanderbilt

Posted by AMurawa on November 11th, 2011

Welcome to hoops season, Pac-12 fans. Yeah, we’ve had seven games this week so far (including a couple featuring Arizona), but let’s face it: tonight is the real opening night. We’ve got 131 games on the docket involving Division I teams, and we’ve got seven Pac-12 teams in action (Oregon State and Washington hold their openers on Saturday evening, while Washington State and Utah will wait until Monday to get going). And while fans of each team will be interested to see exactly how their teams look in their first official competition, the one Pac-12 game tonight that should have fans around the country interested is Oregon’s trip to Nashville to face the #7 in the latest RTC poll, Vanderbilt. And while the basketball matchup with the Commodores may only serve as prelude to the main event for most Duck fans this weekend, for us hoops junkies, this is every bit as worthwhile.

While Oregon head coach Dana Altman was hoping to put together a solid schedule this season, opening the year on the road in one of the tougher places in the country to play, Memorial Gymnasium, was not necessarily the goal. But a road game with Auburn fell through in August and Oregon had to scrape around to find a replacement, eventually landing on Vandy (the ‘Dores will return the favor with a trip to Eugene in future years).

John Jenkins, Vanderbilt

John Jenkins With A Clean Look At The Hoop Is Not A Sight Oregon Fans Want To See Tonight

For Oregon fans, it is their first look at a remade roster, featuring three newly eligible Division I transfers, four incoming freshmen and one junior college transfer to pair with the six returnees from last year’s CBI championship team. While one of those transfers, point guard Devoe Joseph, won’t be eligible until the middle of December, 6’7” senior forward Olu Ashaolu and 6’11” junior center Tony Woods should play big minutes right away and give Altman an element of size up front that was missing last year. And, given that Vanderbilt’s starting center Festus Ezeli is out for this game with a knee injury (he would have missed the game even without the injury due to an NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits), that could be a strength for the Ducks. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 10th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences.

A Look Back

It was another one of those weeks in the Pac-10. Just when you thought the wheat had been separated from the chaff, everything gets all mixed up again. Conference-leading Washington drops two games in stunning fashion. Oregon rises up from the back of the pack to sweep the Washington schools, marking their fourth win in five games and getting back to within a game of .500. Oregon State shows signs of life, while Washington State, after seemingly being back in the mix, looks horrible in earning a split and UCLA has now having won seven of eight. And through it all, Arizona just keeps winning games and now finds itself at 20-4 on the season, 9-2 in the Pac-10, a game and a half ahead of UCLA, and #16 in the latest RTC poll despite not having beaten a team ranked in KenPom’s top 40 this season.

  • Team of the Week: Oregon – With all due respect to Arizona, this recognition has to go to the Ducks this week. All season long we’ve noted that this team probably has the least talent in the conference, yet they keep doing everything necessary to give themselves the best chances to stick around and maybe even beat you in the end. And then, on Thursday night, they throw that book right out the window and just pummel Washington State, 69-43, their largest margin of victory in the conference in almost five years. Joevan Catron continues to amaze, going for 37 points and 18 rebounds over the week, while getting help from all over the roster. Jay-R Strowbridge continued his recent run of providing instant and efficient offense off the bench, scoring 27 points on 11-21 shooting this week. Malcolm Armstead has taken his move to the bench in stride (take note Drew family), going for 16 points, eight assists and ten steals this week, while still getting plenty of minutes off the pine. E.J. Singler: 26 points, ten rebounds, six assists. Tyrone Nared: 14 points and six boards against Washington. Garrett Sim: 13 points and four assists against Washington State. And then solid contributions from Jonathan Loyd and Teondre Williams. All this and we haven’t even gotten to head coach Dana Altman who is on his way to running away with the Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors and throwing his name in the hat as a potential longshot National Coach of the Year contender. While this program has a long ways to go to get back to the level it wants to be at, clearly Altman and these Ducks have gone a long way towards taking that first step.
  • Player of the Week: Lamont “Momo” Jones, Sophomore, Arizona – With Arizona down three in the waning moments of regulation against Cal on Saturday night, Jones drove the baseline, drew a bump from Cal’s Markhuri Sanders-Frison, and flipped in a runner, then proceeded to the line and confidently knocked down the game-tying free throw. In the second overtime, with the ‘Cats again down three and with time dripping off the clock, Jones this time pulled up from deep and drilled the game-tying three. And then in the decisive third overtime, Jones put Arizona ahead for good with a layup at the one-minute mark. When Zona’s 107-105 triple-overtime victory was done, Jones had gone for a career-high 27 points. “I’ve played like this my whole life,” Jones boasted after the game. “To other people it might be something new, but to me it’s just another day in the life of Momo Jones.” Nevermind the fact that a quick glance through Jones’ game log in his two seasons with the Wildcats disproves that statement, but for one night at least, Jones was the best player in the Pac-10.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Jay-R Strowbridge, Senior, Oregon – Strowbridge is used to being a newcomer. He was a newcomer-to-be at Murray State, where he originally signed, before decommitting and enrolling at Nebraska, where he was a newcomer as a freshman. Then he was a newcomer at Jacksonville State after transferring there after Nebraska. Then, he was briefly a newcomer at Arkansas State, after using the NCAA rule that allows graduates to transfer to a school offering a graduate program not offered at his current school, but left there when ASU turned out to be under NCAA investigation. Now, he’s officially a newcomer at Oregon. Despite what that history of transfers and travels may suggest, he’s been a strong veteran presence for the Ducks, while providing some good offensive firepower off the bench. In Oregon’s four wins in their last five games, he has averaged 13.8 PPG and posted a 59.5 effective field goal percentage, and it seems at long last, Strowbridge has found a good home.
  • Game of the Week: Arizona 107, Oregon State 105 (3OT) – Not only is this the game of the week, it is the leader in the clubhouse for game of the year in the Pac-10, and a strong contender for game of the year in the country. 14 ties, 17 lead changes, numerous clutch plays on both sides of the ball, career-highs littering the stat sheets. And RTC Live was lucky enough to be there.
  • Game of the Upcoming Week: California (13-10, 6-5) at Washington (15-7, 7-4), 2/10, 6PM PST, FSN – Around this time of year, it starts to seem that every game is a huge one. For the Huskies, riding a three-game losing streak, they need to stop the free fall immediately. They’ve dug themselves a hole in the race for the conference title, but there is still plenty of time to dig back out, provided they can turn things around. For the Golden Bears, there is still hope of getting back in the NCAA Tournament at-large discussion, but following the heart-breaking loss to Arizona on Saturday, they’ll need to bounce back right away. For one of these teams, the bad luck streak continues, while the other has temporarily righted the ship.

Power Rankings

1. Arizona (20-4, 9-2): Last week in this space, I said that a road sweep of the Bay Area schools would be mighty impressive, and I stand by that claim. While Stanford and Cal both gave them a run, the Wildcats did what was necessary to come away with a pair of wins. Most impressive of all, however, was getting the win at Cal, despite playing without Derrick Williams for the last 15+ minutes of the game, after he had fouled out. Throwing aside the perception that this was Williams and a bunch of guys riding his coattails, Jones, Kevin Parrom and Brendon Lavender took over the game in the overtime periods and willed the Cats to victory. Between those three, they had 33 of the 34 Arizona points scored after Williams fouled out (Jones 15, Parrom 13, Lavender 5), proving once and for all that this team is capable of beating good teams in tough environments, even without Williams.

Looking ahead: The ‘Cats travel to Tempe to face in-state rival Arizona State in a game that looks like it should be a breather. But we’ve already learned this season that there is nothing that should be taken for granted in this conference, especially in a road environment against your heated rival.

2. Washington (15-7, 7-4): Let’s not go crazy with Washington and kill them for their performance last week in Oregon. Sure, for the team that was the favorite in the conference, losing back-to-back games to those teams is alarming. But, as Lorenzo Romar was quick to point out following their loss Saturday at Oregon, this type of play in the middle of the season is typical for the Huskies. Maddening, for sure, but typical. In 2006, the Huskies lost three games in a row in the middle of Pac-10 play, dropping to 5-5, then proceeded to heat back up again, finish second in the conference and advance to the Sweet 16. Last year, the Huskies lost three in a row near the start of conference play, dropping as far as 3-5 in the conference, before winning 12 of their last 14 in the regular season and again advancing to the Sweet 16. We had been promised that this year would be different, and when the Huskies powered through the distractions of a sexual assault case (which, incidentally, has been dropped by the King County prosecutor) and a season-ending loss of their starting point guard, Abdul Gaddy, we bought into that idea for a while. But now, the Huskies have lost three in a row again and look for all the world to be the same old Huskies. You know, the Sweet 16 variety.

Looking ahead: The Huskies invite Cal and Stanford into the Hec-Ed, with all parties looking to rebound from last weekend’s disappointments.

3. UCLA (16-7, 7-3): We haven’t talked much about the Bruins to this point, but they are coming off a big week for them. First, on Wednesday they broke a four-game losing streak to cross-town rival USC. Then, on Saturday they came back and defeated former head coach Steve Lavin in his return to the sidelines at Pauley Pavilion as the first-year head coach of St. John’s. We detailed the USC game in last week’s Pac-10 Check-in, but the game against the Johnnies on the weekend was a case of the good Bruins getting the better of the bad Bruins. The good Bruins? Try grabbing 51.9% of all offensive rebounds, getting four players in double-digit scoring and outscoring their opponent from the charity stripe 27-5. The bad Bruins, however, showed up in repeated turnovers (19 total, although I swear it seemed like double that) and allowing the Red Storm to grab nearly 37% of their own offensive rebounds. In the end, Ben Howland’s crew needed an unlikely three by Reeves Nelson (who had 12 points and 17 rebounds on the day) to finally put St. John’s away, after they had cut an 11-point Bruin lead at the five-minute mark to just three in the final minute.

Looking ahead: The Bruins host the Oregon schools this week, and you can bet the coaching staff will use Washington’s struggles last week as a major teachable moment: these are not teams to overlook.

4. Washington State (16-7, 6-5): The Cougars loss at Oregon on Thursday night was just disgusting. They posted a sub-30% effective field goal percentage, got killed on the boards and look passive defensively. Junior Klay Thompson turned the ball over six times, missed nine of his 13 field goal attempts (including six of his eight three-pointers) and was frustrated repeatedly by Oregon’s Malcolm Armstead. All of which led to an entirely forgettable 26-point loss. If there was good news for Ken Bone this week, it was that the Cougars were able to put that monstrosity behind them and still go to Oregon State a couple of days later and come away with a hard-fought win. The performance was only marginally better looking (Thompson was just 2/7 in this game and he turned the ball over five times, while his teammates coughed it up 15 other times), but they did just enough work on the boards to escape from Oregon with one win in a completely unimpressive weekend.

Looking ahead: The Cougars host Stanford and Cal this week, and really need to get both of these in order to begin re-establishing their tournament credentials.

5. Cal (13-10, 6-5): There were so many times during the Arizona game on Saturday night where Bear fans had to be telling themselves: “We’re this close to being just a game out of first place in the conference.” Unfortunately for them, in each of those cases, they just couldn’t close the door. Sure, the foul called on Sanders-Frison on the Momo Jones runner at the end of regulation was iffy at best. But the Bears have to be kicking themselves for Jorge Gutierrez’s charge (and fifth foul) on a fast break in the first overtime, for failing to get a hand in Jones’ face at the end of the second overtime, for missed free throws and missed jumpers at the end of the third overtime, and many other plays down the stretch. The fact is, Cal had numerous chances to dance into the night with a victory, but each time it was the Wildcats who made the plays to get the job done. Now, all that being said, this is still a good Golden Bear team that, provided they can shake this loss off and learn from it, could be very much a factor in the final month of the regular season and into the Pac-10 Tournament.

Looking ahead: A trip up north to visit a couple of very angry Washington squads does not make a bounce-back victory easy to come by for Mike Montgomery and company. But if they want to keep their distant NCAA at-large hopes on life support, they’ll need to get right back to business.

6. Oregon (12-11, 5-6): We covered it all above in the Team of the Week section, but let me just repeat how amazed I am that this team has a winning record on the season, is just a game below .500 in the Pac-10 and is worthy of being ranked #6 in the conference; just a stunning coaching job by Altman.

Looking ahead: At UCLA on Thursday, at USC on Saturday – the Ducks have proven that they are capable of winning these types of games, and they have won two of their last three on the road.

7. Stanford (12-10, 5-6): The Cardinal just keep plodding along. Win a game, lose a game, rinse and repeat as necessary. Aside from getting swept in their Southern California road trip, the Cardinal have earned a split in every other week in the Pac-10 schedule thus far. This week, it was a home loss against Arizona after hanging tight for much of the game, then taking care of business against last-place Arizona State on Saturday. Jeremy Green woke up from a slump by scoring 20 or more in back to back games for the first time since before Thanksgiving. He poured in 21 against the Wildcats in a volume shooting effort, taking 21 shots on the night. But against ASU, he was incredibly efficient, knocking down six of his eight field goals, including all five of his attempts from behind the arc, and six of his eight free throw attempts on his way to a 23-point effort. Josh Owens was again his right-hand man, averaging 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds this week. And junior point guard Jarrett Mann had his best week of the season, doing a little of everything: 25 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds, and five steals on the week.

Looking ahead: Stanford takes to the highway with visits to highly motivated Washington squads this week. If they can continue their affinity for weekly splits, this week will have to be considered a success.

8. USC (12-11, 4-6): The Trojans are a disappointment, in a lot of ways. KenPom says their defensive efficiency is 43rd in the nation – you can bet that’s at least a couple dozen notches lower than what Kevin O’Neill had hoped. But, worse than that has been their offense, currently the 73rd most efficient offense in the country. The Trojans simply don’t have the firepower offensively to keep up in the Pac-10. It was expected that junior point guard Jio Fontan would provide them with a spark in the backcourt, but while he has done a pretty good job feeding big men Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson, he just hasn’t provided the scoring punch that he showed in his freshman season at Fordham. Right now, the best offense the Trojans can muster on a regular basis is a missed shot, as Vucevic and Stepheson have both been good – albeit not great – offensive rebounders. In just four of their ten Pac-10 games have they averaged more than a point per possession, but surprisingly, they have only won one of those games. They’ve got a 1-3 record in their four best offensive games, but a 3-3 record in the games in the games in which they score less than a point per possession. I know their best chance at winning is to ugly up their games, but that is ridiculous.

Looking ahead: The Trojans host Oregon State and Oregon in an effort to prove that they haven’t quit on the season.

9. Oregon State (9-13, 4-7): This Beaver team makes an art out of being inconsistent. It seems like at every point this season when I’ve written them off completely, they respond with an improbable victory. I overreact to their win, pronounce them one of the top-five most talented teams in the conference, and then they proceed to stink up the gym for a week or two. This week, they added the win over Washington to their hysterically schizophrenic resume. Yes, they’re a young team. But after four months of playing together, you’d think they’d at least be marginally predictable. Obviously, Craig Robinson has a lot of rope in Corvallis, given that there is at least some life in this once moribund program, but I’m ready to see some results – the talent is there.

Looking ahead: A trip to sunny southern California, the home of four of the Beavers best players.

10. Arizona State (9-14, 1-10): Herb Sendek is deep in the middle of a terrible nightmare, and nobody will even do him the solid to wake him up. Nobody thought this was going to be the Arizona State team that would make Sun Devils fans forget all about James Harden or Super Mario or Byron Scott and Fat Lever. But likewise, nobody thought that they would be this bad. The Devils didn’t look great in the non-conference schedule, but they had wins over UAB and Long Beach State and Nevada at least, they played Richmond and St. John’s well. You figured, maybe a lower division Pac-10 finish, but they’ll be right around .500 when all is said and done. They opened Pac-10 play with a home split against the Oregon schools, not great, but not exactly time to slit the wrists. They mixed in a win over a decent Tulsa team in the midst of conference play, but beyond that, they’re left staring at a nine-game conference losing streak. How? This team had three senior returning starters, almost more than the rest of the league combined. This team had, and still has, some good young pieces. How is this team so bad in a year when the Pac-10 is not exactly great? Just look at their Ken Pom page and it all becomes clear. They don’t do anything well, they’re efficiency numbers are mediocre on both ends of the court, they’re terrible at getting to the line and getting on the offensive glass (although that last one is at least by design), and they’ve only got four players on the roster who just squeak over the century mark in offensive efficiency. And worst of all, for a team that relies so heavily on the three (over 40% of their field goal attempts come from behind the arc), they’re just not a very good three-point shooting team, hitting just 34.7% of their attempts from back there, good for 145th in the country. Ouch.

Looking ahead: The massacre continues when Arizona comes to visit on Sunday. Although, you have to figure, if those three-pointers ever start falling at a higher-than-historical rate, they’ll beat somebody. Right?

Share this story