Pac-12 M5: 11.14.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 14th, 2013

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  1. Let’s jump right into the bad news, something that we have suspected for a few days now: Jernard Jarreau’s 2013-14 season lasted less than two minutes. Jarreau, a 6’10″ sophomore forward from whom Washington was expecting big things, was helped off the court early on Sunday night in the Huskies season-opener against Seattle with an apparent knee injury. He had to wait a couple days to undergo an MRI and then we had to wait an additional day for confirmation, but the results are in, and are no fun: torn ACL. Jarreau will be out for the year, although he will be eligible for a medical redshirt. With the Huskies already down Desmond Simmons, who is out for about another month with a knee injury of his own, and Perris Blackwell, who may return as early as tonight following a concussion, a once deep Husky frontcourt is now perilously thin.
  2. Colorado, meanwhile, had a very nice Wednesday. Aside from ending a six-game losing streak against border rival Wyoming, head coach Tad Boyle also got his first pair of commitments for his 2014 recruiting class. ESPN Top 100 recruit Dominique Collier is the headliner, a four-star point guard is a Denver product, and his signing continues Boyle’s recent history of locking up the best recruits from the home state (Josh Scott, Wesley Gordon and Xavier Talton being other recent examples). If junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie decides that he’s off to the NBA after this season, Collier will probably be the favorite to start at the one for the Buffs next year. The other signee is three-star power forward Tory Miller, a 255-pound force in the middle who will help add beef to a relatively thin front line.
  3. Meanwhile, more big recruiting news is due on Friday when Stanley Johnson, one of the elite recruits in the 2014 class will decide between Arizona, USC, and Kentucky. Now, sure, John Calipari isn’t really in the habit of losing out in his pursuit of elite recruits, but the scuttlebutt is that the two leaders for Johnson’s services are the two Pac-12 schools. Sean Miller and the Wildcats have long been considered the favorite, but Andy Enfield and the Trojans are making a big push. With a couple of four-star recruits already committed, a signing from Johnson would again push Arizona up near the top of the recruits rankings, while a choice in favor of USC would cement Enfield’s credentials as a difference-maker. Editorial comment: make Arizona the even money favorite, with Kentucky at 2-1 and USC the longshot at 5-1. Place your bets, but leave me the juice.
  4.  At Utah, junior college transfer Delon Wright is already making a big impact for the Runnin’ Utes, coming up three assists and three steals shy of the first-ever recorded quadruple-double in program history with a line of 17 points, ten boards, seven assists and seven steals. Wright has already made it known that he hopes to dial up what would be just the third-ever recorded triple-double from a Ute player, with Andre Miller and Alex Jensen the other two to have accomplished that feat.
  5. Lastly, the preseason watchlist for the Wooden Award was announced on Tuesday, and among those included on the 50-player list are six Pac-12 players. UCLA leads the way in the conference as one of only 11 schools with more than two players included, namely sophomores Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, while Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon (this is the first year the preseason watchlist can include freshmen and transfers), Arizona State sophomore Jahii Carson, Colorado junior Spencer Dinwiddie and Stanford senior Dwight Powell rounding out the conference’s selections.
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Introducing the Preseason Pac-12 Superlatives

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 11th, 2013

We continue our opening weekend coverage with predictions for the major superlatives throughout the conference from the Pac-12 microsite team.

Preseason All-Defense Team

Jordan Bachynski's Shotblocking Ability Makes Him A Lock For Our Preseason All-Defensive Team

Jordan Bachynski’s Shot-blocking Ability Makes Him A Lock For Our Preseason All-Defensive Team

  • G Nick Johnson, Jr, Arizona
  • G Spencer Dinwiddie, Jr, Colorado
  • G Mark Lyons, So, Arizona
  • F Josh Huestis, Sr, Stanford
  • C Jordan Bachynski, Sr, Arizona State

Johnson, now an upperclassmen with Arizona, averaged just short of 2.0 SPG in 2012-13 and had a knack of locking down an opponent’s top threat in big games. Starting in last year’s Charleston Classic, Dinwiddie stepped up his defense and led Colorado to a win and he hasn’t faltered since. Huestis and Bachynski represent the bigs on our list. The senior from Stanford averaged 2.1 BPG last season and was a key cog in the middle, while the 7’2″ Bachynski was even more impressive with 3.4 BPG.

All-Shooting Team

  • G C.J. Wilcox, Sr, Washington
  • G Joseph Young, Jr, Oregon
  • G Jordan Adams, So, UCLA
  • G Jahii Carson, So, Arizona State
  • F Jonathan Gilling, Jr, Arizona State

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Alford Era Begins With a Win But Program Still Lacks Excitement

Posted by Brendan Mulvihill (@themulv) on November 9th, 2013

The Steve Alford era officially began at UCLA in front of a sparse crowd at Pauley Pavilion, as the Bruins kicked off their regular season against Drexel last night. Alford’s team held off the Dragons, 72-67, in a game that was not decided until the final minute of play. While the new coach was extremely positive about his team’s performance and ability to dig out a tough win, there still seems to be lack of urgency and excitement around the UCLA program. On the opening night of college basketball at a program with the history and tradition of UCLA, there should be electricity in the air. Unfortunately, that was not the case at all.

It's a New Era in Westwood (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

It’s a New Era in Westwood (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Alford needs to bring some fire to his program, his players and the fan base. He seems to be re-instilling a defensive toughness back to the Bruins. They held Drexel to 38 percent shooting overall and forced mostly jump shots. However, there isn’t a killer instinct in this team. It’s still early in his tenure, but that is something to keep an eye on as we move towards conference play. UCLA let Drexel hang around in this game, particularly coming out of halftime, but the Bruins will not be able to do that against the better competition in the Pac-12.

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Introducing the Pac-12 All-Conference Teams

Posted by Andrew (@amurawa) on November 8th, 2013

Later today, maybe even by the time you get around to reading this, there will be real live full-fledged regular season basketball to watch. It’s a beautiful thing. As our last little bit of preview before we get into five months of madness (don’t let the marketing geniuses fool you into thinking that only happens in March), we’ll roll out three teams strong (and just five players per team – please take note conferences of all stripes) of All-Pac-12 personnel.

Here goes nothing:

First Team

Arizona State Sophomore Jahii Carson Is A Unanimous Choice As Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year Among RTC Voters. (USA Today)

Arizona State Sophomore Jahii Carson Is A Unanimous Choice As Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year Among RTC Voters. (USA Today)

  • Jahii Carson, Sophomore, Arizona State – Carson is a unanimous selection among our voters as the best player in the conference, topping all three ballots submitted. After averaging 18 points and five assists as a freshman, Carson is hoping an improved jumper, a faster tempo and a deeper roster will help the Sun Devils’ star wrap up his time in Tempe with an NCAA Tournament appearance.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, Junior, Colorado – Dinwiddie’s three-point percentage dipped precipitously as a sophomore, but his aggressiveness and overall effectiveness increased, as he turned into a significantly better finisher and play-maker in his role as lead guard. If his jumper from range returns to anywhere near his freshman year levels, watch out.
  • Jordan Adams, Sophomore, UCLA – Even though Adams was clearly overshadowed by two, if not all three of his UCLA classmates prior to last year, the wing out of Atlanta was arguably the best of the group. He was second on the team in scoring, with 15.3 points per game, but brought along a game varied enough to have a positive impact even when he wasn’t scoring.

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The RTC Interview Series: Pac-12 Preview with Don MacLean and Miles Simon

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2013


Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the Pac-12, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two Pac-12 experts in Pac-12 Network analyst and former UCLA star, Don MacLean, and ESPN analyst and former Arizona star, Miles Simon. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Rush the Court: Arizona is the overwhelming preseason favorite in the league. What is it about Sean Miller’s team that has expectations so high in Tucson?

Don MacLean: The talent level there is very high. Sean Miller has brought in some very high-level recruits. Aaron Gordon brings another dimension for the team with his great athleticism and versatility to play inside and on the perimeter. T.J. McConnell is going to be great for the team. I worked the exhibition game last week and I was really impressed by McConnell. I think he is really good. He is the first true point guard that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. When you have all that talent, you need a pass-first guy to spread the ball around. From what I have seen, McConnell seems to be that guy. Sean Miller is also a great coach. With this roster, the depth that the team has, and Miller’s coaching, I think it is warranted to put Arizona as the best team in the league right now.

Miles Simon: Sean Miller obviously brought in a tremendous recruiting class. Getting Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Elliott Pitts to come in is a good place to start with this team. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is going to be an excellent addition for the team at point guard. When you look at this team, it is just so long and athletic. I think defensively, this might be the best group that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. There are just so many positives with this team going into the season.

RTC: Oregon made a surprise trip to the Sweet Sixteen last March after pulling off upsets over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. Gone from last season’s team are Arsalan Kazemi and E.J. Singler, but the Ducks did secure the services of UNLV transfer Mike Moser. With Moser joining a team that has the talented backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning, should Dana Altman’s squad take a step forward in the Pac-12 this season and should another NCAA Tournament run be expected?

MacLean: You can never expect an NCAA Tournament run, but I think the team should be just as good. Do not forget that Oregon also added Joseph Young, the transfer from Houston. Adding Mike Moser as a fifth-year guy is an important piece and Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson will be better as second-year players. With what Dana Altman does with his style of play and the way he changes up defenses, I think the Ducks will be as good as they were last season.

Simon: I think Oregon will get back to the NCAA Tournament. It really has some nice pieces, but when you lose guys like Arsalan Kazemi, E.J. Singler, Tony Woods and Carlos Emory, you are losing what was the heart and soul of your team. A lot of leadership and toughness left with those guys. If Mike Moser is able to return to where he was with UNLV two years ago, he will be excellent. The backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson should be explosive and one of the best in the league. Johnathan Loyd is the third guard and he has some experience because he had to play a lot when Artis was injured last season. When you consider these pieces, this is a team that should get back to the NCAA Tournament and finish in the top half of the Pac-12.

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Pac-12 Team Preview: UCLA Bruins

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 5th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

UCLA Bruins

Strengths. There is a lot of pure talent on this UCLA roster. Seven players on this roster were considered four-star recruits or better coming out of high school. Two of them – Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams – are expected to have NBA futures, possibly as soon as the next season. And the departures of Shabazz Muhammad and Ben Howland are expected to significantly improve team chemistry around the program. This Bruin roster may be slightly less talented than last season, but expect the gestalt to be an improvement, and expect the increase in tempo that UCLA fans saw in Howland’s final season to continue and even accelerate. The Bruins will be at their best in transition under new head coach Steve Alford, and they’ve got plenty of guards and wings who can get up and down the floor and score.

With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Returning, UCLA Could Again Contend For Conference Supremacy (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Returning, UCLA Could Again Contend For Conference Supremacy (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Weaknesses. Until Anderson proves himself, there are going to be questions about how he’ll fill in for departed senior Larry Drew II at point guard. Anderson is known as a playmaker with the ball in his hands, but it remains to be seen just how effective he can be against this level of competition creating for others. Even more questionable is his ability to guard opposing backcourt players; while the plan will often be for Anderson to switch to guarding threes and maybe even fours on defense, there could be plenty of opportunities for those switches to get crossed up in transition. Also, in the frontcourt, the Bruins have a lack of depth. With senior Travis Wear sidelined for up to a month following appendix surgery and with freshman Wanaah Bail recovering from offseason knee surgery, UCLA is presently limited to just two scholarship players who are bigs: solid senior David Wear and the unproven sophomore Tony Parker.

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2013-14 RTC Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2013

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With the season tipping off Friday night, there’s no better time to roll out our preseason First, Second, and Third All-America Teams. More than anything, these three groups of outstanding players are here to foster and encourage discussion. Our crack panel of eight national columnists provided ballots over the last week or so, and this, perhaps unsurprisingly, is where we ended up.

First Team All-America

team1Andrew Wiggins, Kansas (unanimous) - Wiggins begins his career in Lawrence as one of the more ballyhooed freshmen in recent memory. The 6’8″ swingman, who was unanimously considered the top player in the Class of 2013, committed to Kansas in April following a recruiting process that was primarily kept close to the vest. While some of the hype surrounding the dynamic freshman may be a bit overblown, it is impossible to deny Wiggins’ credentials, as he was named 2013 Naismith Prep Player of the Year, 2013 Gatorade National Player of the Year, and Mr. Basketball USA. Wiggins has already acknowledged that he would like to be a one-and-done and enter the 2014 NBA Draft, so it is logical to see why expectations are so high in Lawrence this season.

Factoid: It is not exactly a surprise that Wiggins is a top-flight athlete when you consider the fact that his father, Mitchell Wiggins, had a lengthy professional basketball career and his mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, won two silver medals for Canada as a sprinter in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games.

Doug McDermott, Creighton (unanimous) - McDermott’s ability to score from anywhere on the court makes him one of the most feared offensive players in the country. It is rare for a two-time First Team All-American to return to school, but that is the case with McDermott, who spurned the NBA to return for his senior season in Omaha. With Creighton making the big move from the Missouri Valley to the Big East this season, the Bluejays are going to be counting on him to fill the stat line each night out – and McDermott is good enough to come through for them.

Factoid: Due to Creighton guard Grant Gibbs receiving a rare sixth-year of eligibility from the NCAA (and thus, needing a scholarship), McDermott will be an extremely talented walk-on for the 2013-14 season.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State – The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year shocked the basketball world when he announced in mid-April that he would return to Stillwater for his sophomore season. The Flower Mound, Texas, native is widely considered the best returning player in all of college basketball. Smart brings a little bit of everything to the floor. His 6’4″ frame is elite for the point guard position and he uses that size as well as any perimeter player in the country. The leadership and intangibles that Smart provides are also second to none. After Oklahoma State finished third in the Big 12 during Smart’s freshman season, it is projected to contend with perennial powerhouse Kansas for the conference crown this season.

Factoid: Making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010, Oklahoma State’s stay in the 2013 event was a short one. The Cowboys, a five-seed, were upset in the Round of 64 by 12-seed Oregon. This loss affected Smart’s decision to return to school, as the setback helped him realize he was not ready to be one-and-done in a Cowboy uniform.

Russ Smith, Louisville - Smith returns to Louisville for his senior season looking to lead the Cardinals to a repeat as national champions. “Russdiculous” is coming off a season that saw him average 18.7 points per game and take home the Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional. While Smith gets a majority of his attention for his performance on the offensive end of the court, he is also a defensive stalwart who keys the relentless full court pressure of the Cardinals. Even though Smith certainly figures to be Louisville’s most explosive player this season, you better believe he will still at times do some things on the court that will drive Rick Pitino crazy.

Factoid: Smith spent his fall interning with WHAS-TV in Louisville, working local high school football games on some Friday nights.

Julius Randle, Kentucky - Kentucky coach John Calipari brought in one of the best recruiting hauls in history for this season and the star of the class is the ultra-athletic Randle. The Plano, Texas, native arrived in Lexington as the second-best prospect in the Class of 2013 – only behind Andrew Wiggins – and early returns on Randle as a Wildcat forward have been overwhelmingly positive. Randle’s talent level is so elite that ESPN‘s Jeff Goodman declared in late September that he would take Randle over Wiggins with the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Factoid: Randle missed three months of his senior season at Prestonwood Christian due to a fractured foot, but he was able to return in time to lead the school to a Texas state championship.

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Marching to Vegas: The Pac is Back

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on November 1st, 2013

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas.

Have you ever seen that Dodge commercial? It’s the one narrated by Dexter for the Durango re-release. And don’t fear – not yet at least – I’m not about to go full Grantland on you. I’m just curious if you’ve seen the commercial? Anyhow, it’s got me thinking about Pac-12 basketball. Now in the interest of full disclosure, few things don’t lead me back to that subject. We can dismiss that evidence. But back to the commercial, here it is. Michael C. Hall opens it by telling us it’s 2011. “Wonder where the Durango’s been for the last two years?” Dexter asks. He goes on to explain how the SUV left to improve itself and how, but to be honest I hadn’t given the Durango much thought. The Pac-12 on the other hand? I’ve been curious about where it had gone. It’s how I opened last season, running through the elite programs of the conference and why their disappearance lowered the bar for the others. In our most recent version of Pac-12 basketball, both Arizona and UCLA were included in the field of 68; along with three other Pac-12 schools. Five of 12 ain’t bad coming off a year in which the conference champion was not invited to dance; begging the question: Is the Pac Back?

How Is Pac-12 Basketball Like The Dodge Durango? Geez, How Isn't It?

How Is Pac-12 Basketball Like The Dodge Durango? Let Us Count The Ways.

If we look at predictive measurements, the answer may be a resounding NO. KenPom doesn’t rate a Pac-12 team until his 23rd slot (Arizona) and has three squads rated outside the top 100 (Washington State, USC, and Utah). Conference by conference, the Pac settles in at number five behind the B1G, the new Big East, the ACC and the AAC (please note that I believe this is the first time I’ve ever written AAC, for whatever that is worth). For comparison’s sake, the Pac-12 finished eighth among conferences in 2012 and third in 2013. Perhaps the Pac returned last March? But these 2014 numbers suggest that the conference is still among the latter half of the big kid conferences. And isn’t this the beauty of predictive stats? They help us tell the story, but cannot become the story. Because if that were the case, you could have stopped a lot closer to “Dodge Durango” (and I thank you for not).

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Pac-12 M5: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 1st, 2013

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  1. Earlier this week, we spent the better part of a Morning Five poking around the state of Oregon. Today, we’re gonna spend most of our time in Los Angeles, where  Steve Alford got his recruiting mojo going on Thursday when five-star recruit Kevon Looney made a verbal commitment to the Bruins. With the UCLA frontline undermanned in 2014-15, Looney’s choice of the Bruins over other big-time programs like Duke, Florida, Michigan State, Tennessee and Wisconsin is a huge boon to the program. ESPN’s scouting report on the big man is glowing: a combo forward who can hit the three, score off the bounce, and pound the boards. Still, after Alford previously got burned when Trevon Blueitt backed out of his commitment to UCLA, just remember that nothing is set in stone until that letter of intent gets signed.
  2. And as Isaac Hamilton proved to UTEP, even a signed letter of intent doesn’t exactly seal the deal. Hamilton, a four-star wing in the 2013 class, was originally the centerpiece of Tim Floyd’s recruiting class in El Paso. But Hamilton second-guessed that decision over the summer and decided that he didn’t want to play at UTEP after all. Floyd refused the youngster’s request to back out of his commitment, but Hamilton petitioned the NCAA for immediate eligibility after he chose UCLA for his college. Hamilton’s petition was rejected on Thursday, meaning that not only will he be ineligible to play for the Bruins this season, but he’ll lose a year of eligibility. He’ll get to practice with the squad this year, but will be relegated to scout team action.
  3. Wrapping up the news at UCLA, the Bruins got their season underway on Wednesday night with an exhibition game against Cal State San Bernardino. Despite playing without senior forward Travis Wear, who is sidelined, perhaps for up to a month, due to surgery to remove his appendix, the Bruins rolled to an easy 30-point win. Jordan Adams returned from his broken foot to lead all scorers with 25 points, while David Wear filled in ably for his brother with a 12-point, 13-rebound double-double. Tony Parker, who will team primarily with David Wear to make up for Travis Wear’s absence, had 10 points, three blocks and three boards. Meanwhile, Kyle Anderson’s debut as the Bruin point guard began with 10 points, 10 boards and five assists along with three turnovers.
  4. We’ll stop over across town before we leave LA, as ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil profiles Andy Enfield and the new USC basketball program. For a guy with a business background, Enfield is not only talking about Xs and Os with the Trojans, but about branding and selling a hip and exciting style of basketball to potential recruits. He did that and more at Florida Gulf Coast with a school that completely lacked a brand prior to last season’s Dunk City run, so Enfield sees his job at USC as different, but perhaps easier, than the task he undertook at FGCU.
  5. Lastly, here’s your reminder to flip the calendar and realize that next week at this time, we’ll be preparing to dig into our first weekend of college basketball. As such, let’s take a peek at the AP Top 25 basketball poll, released yesterday to, well, OK, nobody really cares all that much about polls in a sport where we actually decide the champion on the court of play. But, still, Top 25. Arizona leads the way for the conference, checking in at #6 overall, while Oregon checks in at #19, a few spots ahead of UCLA at #22. Four other Pac-12 schools were in the “others receiving votes” category (Colorado, Arizona State, Washington and Stanford), while California, which Doug Gottlieb notoriously had as his #10 team in the nation, was curiously absent.
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CBS Sports’ Top 100 Players: The Pac-12 Breakdown

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 22nd, 2013

Last week, CBSSports.com’s group of writers announced their picks for the top 100 college basketball players in the 2013-14 season. It’s a fun if meaningless exercise that is created in order to promote some good old-fashioned discussion. And we’re nothing if not compliant here, so we’re going to spend some time looking at each of the 11 Pac-12 players that were selected and tell you if they’re rated too high, too low, or just about right. And when we’re done with that, we’ll give you two other players who should be in the discussion for inclusion on that list.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State

Aside From Being One Of The 10 Best Players In The Nation, Jahii Carson is Also One Of The Most Exciting. (AZ Central)

  • #9 Jahii Carson, Sophomore, Arizona State – Carson got some love, and deservedly so. After a freshman campaign in which he broke out with 18.3 points and 5.0 assists per night, all accounts are that he has tightened up his jumper over the offseason. On this list, you will find Carson as the third point guard behind only Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft. And let’s put it this way, we would all probably love to see Carson get a crack at either of those guys. I can’t argue with where Carson is slotted, but I’ll say this much — of the players returning to college basketball this season, there is not a single one I would rather watch, in terms of potential for amazing plays, than Carson.
  • #10 Aaron Gordon, Freshman, Arizona – We have heard comparisons like “Blake Griffin with a better basketball IQ” and we have seen the nasty highlight reel. His performances over the summer in international play did nothing to reduce expectations and the potential for a ridiculously exciting season in the desert is high. But depending on how Gordon’s jumper is developing, this number may be a little high. He’s definitely within the top 10 prospects in the game right now, but it remains to be seen if his production this season can match his eventual potential. Read the rest of this entry »
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A Bumpy Start for Steve Alford at UCLA, But Plenty of Reason for Hope

Posted by AMurawa on October 9th, 2013

Coaching changes are rarely easy. Aside from the typical human stresses of finding a new home and getting to know your new surroundings, for a head coach at a major college basketball program, there are a bunch of young adults in both high school and college for whom you have to account. More than one new head coach’s job has been made much more difficult by the immediate transfers of key players or decommitments from recruits. And when you’re someone like Steve Alford, walking into a high profile job like UCLA as something other than the program’s first choice, the initial impression can be very important.

Steve Alford, UCLA

Steve Alford’s First Offseason As UCLA Head Coach Has Not Gone Smoothly (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

And, to put it plainly, the first few months of the Alford era in Westwood have been a mixed bag, at best. From the moment the news of the hire came down on the Saturday of last year’s Elite Eight, the wisdom of the decision was questioned. This was a guy just over a week past getting run out of the NCAA Tournament by heavy underdog Harvard, a loss that continued to leave him without a single Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1999. Not long after the hire was announced, many were reliving the questionable decisions Alford made in defending his former player Pierre Pierce against sexual assault charges while both were at Iowa. Alford eventually issued an apology, but it came almost two weeks after he was hired at UCLA and more than 11 years after the initial incident.

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UCLA Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 15th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: UCLA.

What Went Right

All things considered, a lot of things went right for the Bruins this year. Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson were cleared of their eligibility concerns early and both played (mostly) a full season. Ben Howland made the decision to play to his team’s strengths and emphasized an up-tempo offense-first style. Larry Drew II made the most of his lone season in Westwood and ended his college career on a very positive note. And freshman Jordan Adams was far far better than anyone outside of his immediate family had a reasonable right to expect. Still, the season ended with Howland getting fired after a Round of 64 loss in the NCAA Tournament, so that tells you that not everything went well.

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (credit: USA Today)

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Had An Eventful Season In Westwood (credit: USA Today)

What Went Wrong

Well, where to begin? Let’s start with the continued trend of halfway-talented players departing from Howland’s program, leaving the team with just eight scholarship players on the roster at the end of the season. Then, for all the good things Muhammad showed in his ability to do offensively, he didn’t show much of a desire to do anything else (32 games, 27 assists, four blocked shots, 8.5% defensive rebounding percentage,  abhorrent body language and sportsmanship). For the rest of the team, things just never congealed on the defensive end, resulting in the third-worst defensive performance out of a UCLA team in Howland’s career in Westwood. Throw in a little bad luck in the form of Adams’ freak foot injury on the final play of a big win in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals and despite high hopes at the start of the year, it turned into a disappointing result.

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