Pac-12 Post-Mortems: Arizona State

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 10th, 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. Up first, Arizona State.

What Went Right

Jermaine Marshall and Shaquielle McKissic were largely excellent in their only seasons in Tempe (McKissic will be petitioning the NCAA for an additional season of eligibility). Jordan Bachynski capped his stellar Sun Devils career with his best season and an all-time conference record for career blocked shots. And Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils earned their first NCAA Tournament appearance since James Harden was on campus.

Arizona State

Arizona State Went Dancing, But It Ended With a Heartbreaking Putback by Texas

What Went Wrong

Still, despite that major accomplishment, you’ve got to feel that this team left money on the table at the end of the year. First, just the way they lost their NCAA Tournament game, falling to Texas on a buzzer-beater when the Longhorns’ last two buckets came on offensive rebounds after airballs – ouch! And Jahii Carson, the team’s best player and arguably a more talented player than what he showed, struggled through a rough season, with questions about his game confirmed and others about his leadership raised anew. Sendek did a solid job with this team, a squad that had some obvious holes in it. But still, this feels like a team that had an NCAA Tournament win (or two) in them but failed to get the job done.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Texas 87, #10 Arizona State 85

Posted by Walker Carey on March 20th, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

When it mattered most, big #55 Cameron Ridley came up huge. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

When it mattered most, big #55 Cameron Ridley came up huge. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Three Takeaways.

  1. This victory was a team effort from Texas. The Longhorns have been a balanced offensive unit all season and that was again the story for them in the win over Arizona State. Six Longhorns (guards Javan Felix, Demarcus Holland, Isaiah Taylor and big men Jonathan Holmes, Martez Walker, and Cameron Ridley) finished the evening in double figures. Taylor, a freshman, did not show his inexperience at all, as he totaled six assists and only committed one turnover. Ridley was a load inside and his 17 points and 12 rebounds were the production Texas needed in the post. Obviously, Ridley’s biggest two points came on his putback to beat the buzzer, giving his Longhorns the victory and pushing them into the round of 32.
  2. Cameron Ridley vs. Jordan Bachynski was an outstanding post match-up. Ridley will garner nearly all the press due to his game-winning shot, but it must be noted how productive Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski was throughout the game — the Sun Devils’ big man finished the evening with 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting. There were portions of the game where it would alternate between Texas pounding the ball to Ridley on one end and Arizona State pounding it to Bachynski on the other end. It was the most entertaining match-up on the floor all evening. While Ridley ultimately got the best of Bachynski with his final shot, Bachynski was a worthy adversary and the battle between the two center greatly contributed to the game’s entertainment level.
  3. Texas faces a tall task against Michigan on Saturday. The Longhorns do not have much time to relish in their emotional victory, as they now have a match-up with #2 Michigan in the round of 32 on Saturday. The Wolverines play a similar style to that of Arizona State, but they are a much more polished unit than the Sun Devils. Michigan’s ability to shoot from distance is well-known and Texas’ perimeter defense was an issue on Friday night (it allowed Arizona State to shoot 53.3 percent from three). If Texas does not find a way to shore that up a bit before Saturday, it may be in for a long night of Michigan three-pointers. An area where Texas should have an advantage, though, is with its inside play. Ridley and Jonathan Holmes give the Longhorns two legitimate threats in the post and on the glass and those are two areas where Michigan struggles a bit. The Wolverines deserve to be favored, but don’t be surprised if Texas keeps it close and has a chance to ultimately win the game.

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Answering Six Questions About Texas vs. Arizona State

Posted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 19th, 2014

In prepping for Thursday’s #7/#10 matchup between Texas and Arizona State, Big 12 microsite writer Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 correspondent Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) had a little Q&A session about both of these teams.

Andrew Murawa: Arizona State’s offense is dictated by the play of speedy point guard Jahii Carson. What can Texas do to slow him down?

Texas Has Struggled With Speedy Guards Like Jahii Carson This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

Texas Has Struggled With Speedy Guards Like Jahii Carson This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

Brian Goodman:  This season to date, Texas has faced its fair share of dynamic scoring point guards in Juwan Staten, Marcus Foster, Marcus Smart and Marcus Paige, and more often than not, their defense struggled to contain these players. Based on that track record, I’m not confident Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix will be able to check Carson. The bigger question to me is how many of Carson’s shots will come at the basket and how many will come as the result of creating space farther away from the hoop. Joel Embiid and Isaiah Austin have been the Big 12’s best rim protectors, but Ridley is right there behind them. If he can alter Carson’s angles when he attacks, there’s a chance Texas comes out ahead; but if he can’t, it’s going to be a long day for the Longhorns.

BG: We know all about Carson. After the Sun Devils missed last year’s Tournament, it’s a decent bet that he’s going to look to put on a show, but Jermaine Marshall enters Thursday’s game in a funk over his last three outings. Specifically, what’s been different for him lately and how important is it for him to return to form in Milwaukee?

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Pac-12 M5: 03.11.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 11th, 2014

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  1. The Pac-12 announced its conference awards on Monday, and we’ll go right to Doug Haller of AZ Central for the details of an Arizona-heavy set of awards. To begin with, as expected, Nick Johnson of Arizona took down the conference Player of the Year award, and his head coach Sean Miller went home with the Coach of the Year award, standard fare for a champion that won the conference by three games. But the Wildcats weren’t done there, as Aaron Gordon won Freshman of the Year and earned All-Pac-12 first-team honors along with Johnson (nevermind for now the fact that the Pac-12 insists on putting ten guys on its first team). Elsewhere, T.J. McConnell earned second-team honors (which is the equivalent in reality to third-team) and a spot on the All-Defensive team, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a member of the All-Freshman team. But the state wasn’t done there, as Arizona State senior Jordan Bachynski also earned a big award, taking home the Defensive Player of the Year award.
  2. As we turn our collective eye towards Las Vegas and the conference tourney, for Washington, the challenge is clear: win the Pac-12 Tournament or consider NIT (or worse) options. And in order to do that, they’ll need to repeat a feat that only Colorado has accomplished in the nine years since the conference went to first-round byes in 2006: win four games in four days. What are the odds that the Huskies can get that done? Well, KenPom.com puts the odds at 28% that they’re even able to knock off their first-round opponent Utah, with the Huskies’ suspect defense being the primary disadvantage against the Utes.
  3. Washington’s first-round opponent, Utah, is in a similar boat. There is an outside chance that if things fall just exactly right and if the Utes reach the Pac-12 championship game and give a good showing there that they can sneak in as an at-large to the First Four – but nobody should count on that. In order to have any confidence that they’re going to hear their name called on Selection Sunday, the Utes need to win this thing. But for a Ute team that is used to playing with everybody on their schedule (of ten losses, seven were by one possession or an overtime game, an eighth was by four points and just two were by more than four points in regulation), they’re confident. As sophomore guard Brandon Taylor puts it, according to Dirk Facer of Deseret News: “We know that we can compete with everybody in the league.”
  4. Continuing our theme of Pac-12 teams that will need to win four games in four days to win the conference tournament, Oregon is in that boat with Washington and Utah. But unlike those teams, even if the Ducks come up short, and likely even if they lose in their opening game, the Ducks will probably wind up dancing. Still, the Ducks have standards to live up to, as in every Pac-12 Tournament that has been played in Las Vegas, Oregon has come out the champion. Sure, that’s only one tournament, but still. The good news for the Ducks is they are the hottest team in the conference right now, with seven straight wins under their belts. The bad news is that unlike last year when they got a first-round bye, they’ll have to get started on day one with a game against in-state rival Oregon State.
  5. Then there’s Colorado who, as the fifth-seed, earns the advantage of getting to play last-place USC in their opening round tournament game. They’re likely in regardless of what goes down in Vegas, but avoiding a bad loss against the Trojans only makes sense. For head coach Tad Boyle, the prescription, according to Tom Kensler of The Denver Post, is to not play tight but to “play with an edge and understand that… every possession could be our last.”
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Pac-12 Player of the Year and All-Conference Teams

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 10th, 2014

Before we announce our Player of the Year and our all-Pac-12 Teams, a quick note on our methodology here — we had each of our three voters – Andrew Murawa, Connor Pelton, and Adam Butler – rank their top 15 players in the conference and awarded points to each player based on those votes (1st place vote =15 points, 2nd place =14, etc.). Normally, when putting together an all-conference team, we’d make an effort to balance our team by position, with either three guards and two frontcourt players on each team, or vice versa. But in this season’s guard-heavy conference we didn’t get a lot of frontcourt votes, which is why you’ll see a five-guard first team when you scroll down. As for our Player of the Year voting, it was simple enough. The player with the most points in our all-conference balloting was our Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Player of the Year

Nick Johnson, Junior, Arizona – As expected, it came down to a close two-man race for Player of the Year, but Johnson squeaked out the win by one point over UCLA sophomore Kyle Anderson. Johnson is not only the leading scorer on the Wildcats, he is also their key defensive catalyst. As Adam Butler wrote justifying his vote for Johnson over Anderson: “Nick Johnson was the most critical player on the best team in the conference. As he went, the Wildcats went and more often than not (see 28-3), Nick Johnson played well. Nay, great.” To look at it the other way, compare Johnson’s performance in the three Arizona losses to their 28 wins. In those three losses, Johnson averaged fewer than 10 points per game on 23.9% eFG; in the wins, he posted a 50.8% eFG on his way to 16.8 points per win.

Nick Johnson's Prowess On Both Ends Of The Court For The Conference's Best Team Earns Him The RTC Pac-12 Player of the Year (Christian Petersen)

Nick Johnson’s Prowess On Both Ends Of The Court For The Conference’s Best Team Earns Him The RTC Pac-12 Player of the Year (Christian Petersen)

All-Conference

First Team

  • Nick Johnson, Junior, Arizona (16.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
  • Kyle Anderson, Sophomore, UCLA (14.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 6.6 APG, 1.7 SPG, 48% 3FG) – The versatile Anderson has been one of the nation’s most improved players, registering as not only a terrific play-maker but an elite rebounding  guard.
  • Delon Wright, Junior, Utah (16.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.6 SPG, 1.3 SPG, 59.7% eFG) – The junior college transfer came out of nowhere to become arguably the most versatile player in the conference – if not the most versatile in the nation. These three players were almost unanimously the top three players in the conference this season.
  • Justin Cobbs, Senior, California (15.6 PPG, 5.8 APG) – Cobbs ranked no higher than fifth but no lower than eighth on any of the three ballots, a consistency which earned him a first-team all-conference spot.
  • Roberto Nelson, Senior, Oregon State (20.6 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.6 RPG) – Nelson was in the top five on two of three ballots, but was left completely off of a third (ahem, Butler). He still had enough votes to sneak on to the first team.

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Pac-12 Senior Days: Go Ahead and Hate Jordan Bachynski

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on March 5th, 2014

If you’re a college basketball player at a major program, one of the greatest compliments that can be paid to you is to be “hated.” We’re talking sports-hate here, not the real derogatory, run-down, kind of hate, but hate inspired by a player’s ability to act as a thorn in the side of opposing teams. It took some time for Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski to come by that kind of desirable hate, but he certainly has, and he’s come by it honestly. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you play four seasons on your way to becoming the Pac-12’s all-time leading shot-blocker. Just flipping through Twitter on Tuesday night, you read things like “Flopynski” and comparisons to Vlade Divac or soccer players taking dives. Let me remind you, this is a guy with 309 blocked shots in his career, not exactly the kind of stat that indicates a guy that spends a ton of time flopping around the basketball court.

Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State

Jordan Bachynski Is Well-Hated Outside Of Tempe. And He Should Be Proud Of That (US Presswire)

But really, the sheer fact that Bachynski has generated this type of feeling from opponents and opposing fans is proof of the accomplishments the 7’2” Albertan has under his belt. He arrived in Tempe at the age of 21, having completed his LDS mission between the end of high school and the start of his college career, meaning he went almost three years (factor in an ankle injury his senior year in high school that limited his ability to play at Findlay Prep) without playing competitive basketball prior to first donning a Sun Devil uniform. As a result, the long and lanky center needed time to build strength and conditioning, work on coordination and skill, and just get used to the new level of competition. It took him the better part of two years, but down the stretch of his sophomore season, he began to show glimpses of the player he would become. In the last 13 games of 2011-12, he averaged better than 10 points per game, knocked in better than 70 percent of his free throws (quite an accomplishment for a sub-50% guy to that point) and began to show his dominance as a rim protector, rejecting an average of two shots per game over that stretch.

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Arizona and Arizona State: Heading In Different Directions?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 19th, 2014

With Friday night’s defeat to its intrastate rival, Arizona has now lost two of its last four games, not to mention one on their best players to injury for the season. Meanwhile, Arizona State has won six of its last seven; the Sun Devils are another good week away from probably being ranked in the Top 25; and they have senior center Jordan Bachynski playing the best ball of his career with a great second scoring option in Jermaine Marshall. So, the story is easy then, right? Arizona State appears to be ready to peak just in time for March, while Arizona is dead in the water. Is there any truth to both of those easy takeaways? The short answer is “not necessarily, but…” We’ll get to the longer answers below.

Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State

Not Only Is Jordan Bachynski An Elite Rim Protector, But He’s Developed Into A Fine Offensive Center. (US Presswire)

By virtue of its big win on Friday, Arizona State has earned the right to have its status assessed first. Let’s start with the reasons to be suspicious of the Sun Devils. The main reason is certainly one you would not have expected at the start of the season, but it is the play of sophomore point guard Jahii Carson, which has been… sketchy, to say the least. He’s a serious baller capable of being the best point guard in the nation, but right now the Arizona State offense — especially in important possessions at the end of close games — consists of Carson dribbling away the majority of the shot clock on empty forays before creating something very late. The Sun Devils’ attempt at the end of regulation when Carson wasted the entire clock, then jumped in the air to seemingly attempt a jumper, only to decide better of it and toss the ball to Marshall for an even worse look, was just the latest in Carson’s late-game one-on-one antics. There is no reason for this. Certainly you want to give him some opportunities to create off the bounce because he can be spectacular when he does so, but priority one in the half-court (important distinction, because the Sun Devils should always be looking to force tempo and get transition hoops when Carson is in the game) should be finding good offense, either working inside-out through Bachynski, or running Marshall and Jonathan Gilling off screens around the perimeter. Until Carson’s hero-ball tendencies get shelved for the season, there will be some reason to remain suspicious of the Sun Devils.

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Pac-12 M5: Valentine’s Day Edition

Posted by Drew Murawa on February 14th, 2014

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  1. We’ve got a rare Friday night Pac-12 game tonight and, first off, I’m not sure how to feel about this. After years of Thursday/Saturday games and maybe the occasional Sunday game, I’ve had a hard enough time getting used to Wednesday games and 6pm weekday tip-times. And the unbalanced conference schedule is a non-starter. But a Friday night game? And on Valentine’s Day of all days? Suffice it to say I’m not feeling the love. But, my opinion doesn’t matter and so Arizona and Arizona State will go at it tonight. Arizona keeps plugging along in the wake of the Brandon Ashley injury, but what we thought we be one of their biggest weaknesses coming into the season – perimeter shooting –  is now exacerbated. As Steve Rivera of Fox Sports Arizona points out, against Oregon last week, the Wildcats couldn’t hit anything outside of 12 feet or so. But against Oregon State, the perimeter shooting was strong. For the Wildcats to live up to their Final Four dreams, they’ll need to find a way to regularly knock down enough perimeter shots to keep opposing defenses honest.
  2. Meanwhile, for Arizona State, senior center Jordan Bachynski is not only the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week and newly crowned career blocked shots leader, but he’s arguably the hottest player in the conference. This kind of play bordered on unimaginable as he was struggling through his freshman season little more than a tall body getting pushed around and showing no offensive skill. His offensive rating (per KenPom) was 91.6 as a freshman, he was shooting below 50% from the field and right at 50% from the line. This year, that ORtg is over 116, he’s at about 60% from the field and pushing 70% from the free throw line. And, he’s become a better shotblocker and rebounder over the years too. His head coach Herb Sendek goes so far as to call him the most improved player in the nation over the last three and a half years and it is hard to argue with him.
  3. The other rivalry game this weekend is Oregon State at Oregon, a game that could feature some trash talking. And, for Beaver star Roberto Nelson, that talking is welcomed. Last week against Arizona State, after a lackluster first half, Nelson responded to Sun Devil Shaquielle McKissic’s trash talking with a 24-point outburst after halftime, an explosion that Nelson partially attributes to his response to the talk. However, if you’re looking for a similar situation to occur this weekend against the Ducks, don’t hold your breath, as Nelson says this Oregon team is largely free of trash talkers.
  4. Another big factor for the Beavers this weekend will be the play of senior big man Angus Brandt who has bounced back nicely from last year’s ACL injury. However, despite a strong start to the season, his three-point shooting, something he was well-known for prior to the injury, had not entirely returned. But, over the last three games, Brandt has hit four of five from deep. If he can continue to knock his shots in from deep, he’ll help Oregon State stretch out the defense for guys like Nelson to penetrate and for big men Devon Collier and Eric Moreland to work in the paint.
  5. Below is our panel’s selections for this weekend in Pac-12 basketball. We head to the desert for our game of the week, where both Drew and myself are taking upset-minded Arizona State in a rare Friday conference game. Adam is sticking with his Wildcats in the Territorial Cup.
    Game Connor (17-3) Drew (12-8) Adam (11-9)
    Arizona @ Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Arizona
    Utah @ UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA
    Colorado @ USC Colorado Colorado Colorado
    Stanford @ Washington State Stanford Stanford Stanford
    California @ Washington Washington California California
    Oregon State @ Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
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Pac-12 Roundup: Week 13

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on February 12th, 2014

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the 13th week of Pac-12 basketball. 

Power Rankings (as voted upon by Connor Pelton, Andrew Murawa, and Adam Butler)

Arizona is once again the unanimous number one in our weekly power rankings, but no team beyond them is completely agreed upon. Check the results below to see the jumbled mess that is the Pac-12.

Sophomore Forward Xavier Johnson Averaged 23.5 PPG And Propelled Colorado To A Weekend Sweep (credit: Ron Chenoy)

Sophomore Forward Xavier Johnson Averaged 23.5 PPG And Propelled Colorado To A Weekend Sweep (credit: Ron Chenoy)

  1. Arizona (23-1, 3 Points)
  2. Arizona State (18-6, 7 Points)
  3. UCLA (18-5, 8 Points)
  4. Colorado (18-6, 14 Points)
  5. Stanford (15-7, 15 Points)
  6. California (15-8, 18 Points)
  7. Utah (16-7, 20 Points)
  8. Oregon State (13-10, 25 Points)
  9. Oregon (15-8, 27 Points)
  10. Washington (13-11, 30 Points)
  11. Washington State (9-14, 33 Points)
  12. USC (10-13, 35 Points)

Best Game – Oregon @ Arizona: While Arizona State saw one game go to overtime and another featuring a 23-point comeback, the excitement on Thursday night in Tucson was unmatched throughout the league in week 13. Desperate for a win, Oregon came out firing on all cylinders, answering each of #2 Arizona’s mini-runs and eventually taking a 38-37 lead into the locker room at the half. The Ducks opened up a lead as big as seven in the second half but went dry down the stretch, an all-too-familiar scene for their fans. The Wildcats outscored the visitors 13-7 in the final five minutes to escape with a 67-65 win, lifting them to a 22-1 record on the season. Junior guard Nick Johnson led all scorers with 18 points in the victory, while Joseph Young and Jason Calliste paced Oregon with 14 apiece. With the sweep of the Oregon schools, the Cats remain as a solid one seed, while Oregon’s winless trip to the desert puts them on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. With its high RPI, Oregon can still steal an at-large bid, but it needs to find a way to pull out these close games in the final month of the season. Five of its eight losses have come by four points or less, with four coming by two.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.10.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 10th, 2014

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  1. The Marcus Smart incident wasn’t the only negative fan-related problem from this weekend, as the Pac-12 had one of its own. According to reports from the Oregon basketball staff and members of the team, an Arizona State student spit on Oregon assistant coach Brian Fish and trainer Clay Jamieson following that game. University police witnessed the event, followed the Ducks to their locker room and discussed the incident with the Ducks’ staff, but they declined to press charges. According to Fish, the team was also spit on at halftime heading to the visitor’s locker room via a ramp that bisects the Arizona State student section. As college basketball fans, we certainly love the fact that fans are passionate about the game, but we would hope that people have reasonable boundaries. But, knowing full well that all fans won’t always respect those boundaries, and knowing even better that college-aged students will have even further problems with them, schools and their arenas need to do their best to protect the opposition. Odds are good that the location of the student section at Arizona State will be reconsidered, not that a change in that area will prevent all fan abuses in the future.
  2. As for the game on the court, Sun Devil senior center Jordan Bachynski was the key to a weekend sweep of the Oregon schools. Averaging 21.5 points, 12 rebounds, and eight blocks (!!!!!) on 15-of-20 from the field and 13-of-16 from the free throw line, he dominated the paint against the undersized Ducks and even against the talent Oregon State frontline. On a weekend where he became the conference’s all-time leader in blocked shots, Bachynski had his best all-around back-to-back pair of games in his career in Tempe.
  3. Meanwhile, brother Dallin Bachynski is getting the job done up the road a spell for Utah. Together with sophomore center Jeremy Olsen, Bachynski has helped to give the Utes a toughness inside to pair with the talented wing players who have more regularly been the stars. Against Washington State on Saturday night, Olsen and Bachynski combined for 20 points and 11 boards in a dominating win that has the squad now within a game of .500 in conference play. They’re still a longshot, but the Utes have at least kept alive the hope of an NCAA bid this season.
  4. UCLA, meanwhile, looks like a team that is headed to an NCAA Tournament berth, but they’re still a team that is in need of a good old-fashioned paint-peeling half-time dress-down like the one head coach Steve Alford gave them against USC on Saturday night. After an uninspiring first half, the Bruins were down six and clearly not playing to the best of their abilities. But, a 10-0 run out of the halftime locker room, turned into a 27-6 run and UCLA coasted over an overmatched Trojans team from there.
  5. Lastly, with Arizona now shorthanded without Brandon Ashley, a key for head coach Sean Miller from here on out will be the ability to manage minutes, conserve energy and wisely use his main six players. Sunday night in a blowout against Oregon State, each of the starting five played between 28 and 31 minutes, with Gabe York and Elliott Pitts combining for another 37. They’ve now got a full four days to recover before they face Arizona State on Friday night, then another four days before they travel to Utah, but it will be interesting to see not only how Miller manages his team’s game minutes, but its workout minutes off of the court.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.07.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 7th, 2014

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  1. The Inferno turned into The Library for the first 11 and a half minutes of last night’s Oregon State-Arizona State contest at Wells Fargo Arena, where the Sun Devil students decided to pay homage to former star James Harden by staying silent until their team reached the 13 point mark. The only problem? Arizona State struggled to find the hoop early on, and the lack of noise from the crowd let the Beavers relax and jump out to an early lead. No harm, no foul as the Devils would eventually pull out an 86-82 victory in overtime, but head coach Herb Sendek would prefer it if that tradition came to an end.
  2. It’s safe to say Arizona State wouldn’t have topped the Beavers without a record setting performance from senior center Jordan Bachynskiwhose seven blocks put him first on the list of Pac-10/12 swat leaders at 279. Bachynski did even more damage on the offensive end of the court, however, gashing Oregon State’s bigs for 15 points. He passed former great Anthony Cook to become the conference’s leader in blocks, who played for rival Arizona.
  3. Down the road and through the desert, #2 Arizona stormed back late last night to squash an upset bid from a desperate Oregon team, prevailing for a 67-65 victory in its first game without sophomore forward Brandon Ashley. Just as they did against UCLA, Washington, and Stanford, the Ducks failed to close out a game they very well could have won, resulting in another heartbreaking loss. Wildcat guard Nick Johnson led all scorers with 18 points in the win. For additional reading, be sure to check out this postgame piece from our very own Drew Murawa, as he examines just how much Arizona loses without Ashley, and what the Cats will need to do in the final month of the season to earn a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. 
  4. Joe Lunardi released his latest Bracketology yesterday, and while Arizona is no longer the top overall seed in the bracket, it still is a one seed in Lunardi’s projections. UCLA and Stanford follow on the six and nine lines, respectively, and then we get to the bubble. California and Colorado are 10 seeds, while Arizona State sneaks into the field as an 11. Oregon is listed as the first team out of the field, but that could change if it comes back home with a split against the Arizona schools.
  5. Game Connor (11-3) Drew (7-7) Adam (6-8)
    Oregon at Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
    Washington State at Utah Utah Utah Utah
    UCLA at USC UCLA UCLA UCLA
    Oregon State at Arizona Arizona Oregon State Arizona
    Washington at Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado

Those are our selections for this weekend in Pac-12 basketball. Out of the 15 picks, only ONE features a difference in opinion, and that’s thanks to Drew’s pick of Oregon State in our “Game of the Week”.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 29th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Pac-12 play gets back underway tonight with the Arizona schools visiting the Bay Area. And that means Arizona freshman forward and prized recruit Aaron Gordon is making his return to his old high school stomping grounds, where he played at Archbishop Mitty. As he was in high school, Gordon remains a coach’s dream in college, a hard-working, versatile player that is a great teammate who is always improving. Cal head coach Mike Montgomery, who was among the coaches hot in pursuit of Gordon’s commitment, joined Arizona head coach Sean Miller in praising Gordon’s ability. But, more importantly for the Wildcat’s season than one player’s return home is the chance to again prove their mettle in tough conference road games.
  2. As for California, tonight they host Arizona State in an attempt to get back on track. But the Sun Devils provide significant and diverse challenges for the Golden Bears. First, along the frontline, Richard Solomon will need to continue his strong play as he matches up mostly against the Sun Devils’ senior center Jordan Bachynski who has four inches on him. And then in the backcourt, senior point guard Justin Cobbs may have the experience edge on Arizona State’s sparkplug Jahii Carson, but Carson’s got the clear quickness advantage. And, as always when the nation’s #1 team is up next, the Golden Bears need to make sure they’re not looking ahead to Saturday against Arizona.
  3. Good news everyone! Washington State junior guard DaVonte Lacy may return as early as this weekend when they host Washington on Saturday. Lacy has had a rough 2014 so far, missing time following surgery to remove his appendix, returning for 11 minutes and then injring his ribs. And, without their best scorer and leader, the Cougars have been, well, just awful. While it remains to be seen if he’ll actually play on Saturday or possibly wait until next week, it will likely take some time for him to get back to full strength. And until he is back at full strength, the Cougs really don’t have much of a chance to compete on a regular basis. But, assuming he’s back to full strength by March, and assuming Que Johnson’s time in the spotlight has been put to good use, there’s a chance these guys are talented enough to spring an upset on day one of the Pac-12 Tournament. Maybe not a good chance, but a chance.
  4. Tomorrow night, Oregon gets a chance to build upon its win over Washington State last weekend by protecting its homecourt against the invaders from UCLA. While the Ducks shut down the Cougars defensively on Sunday, holding them to 44 points (0.73 points per possession), the Bruins offer a whole different challenge, with talented offensive players up and down their rotation. After the up-tempo Ducks allowed 80 points or more in five consecutive games prior to the Washington State matchup, they welcome in the Bruins, who have scored at least 69 points in every game this year and 80 or more in 12 out of their 20. With both teams in the top 20 in the nation in shortest offensive possession length and with KenPom.com projecting a final score in the upper-80s, this may well be one of the most enticing conference games of the season.
  5. Lastly, yuck. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to do this at all. It has been an emerging policy at least among RTC Pac-12 writers to ignore Bruins Nation, a UCLA “fan” site that has repeatedly shown an ignorance about basic basketball strategy and is a shining beacon in the world of applying actual events to pre-determined narratives, no matter how silly those applications turn out to be. Given that there are so many better sources for news and opinion about UCLA basketball, there is no reason to usher people in the direction of the TMZ of UCLA basketball coverage. But, in the spirit of comedy, they outdid themselves on Tuesday, suggesting that one of the reasons that freshman guard Zach LaVine (regularly projected as a lottery or border-line lottery selection in the 2014 NBA Draft) may be considering entering the draft following this season is because head coach Steve Alford is playing favorites and will hand the point guard position next year (assuming, safely, that Kyle Anderson is NBA-bound) to his son Bryce Alford, regardless of the competition. Now, we’re not actually going to link to this Onion-esque bit of prose (which, among other things, suggests that LaVine, third on the team in minutes this year, might still be relegated to the bench next season if Anderson leaves), but suffice it to say that this is odd, at best. Right now, without any bit of doubt whatsoever, Alford is the team’s second-best point guard. LaVine is terrific off the ball (seriously, coming off a solid screen and squaring up to get a good look at the hoop from deep, there are very few more fearsome shooters in the nation), but has shown an inability to create for himself or others with anything more than one or two dribbles, and is loose with his handle. He’s a terrific pro prospect because of his athleticism, ridiculous upside and potential to improve those glaring weaknesses. And if he winds up forgoing his final three years of eligibility, it is entirely because he is likely to get paid handsomely for such an opportunity. Either way, while he may well develop into a point guard in time, right now, he would struggle running the point – he’s an attacking wing in transition and a deadly catch-and-shoot guy. But the idea that the criminally-underrated Alford is only receiving playing time because his dad has a soft spot in his heart for him indicates a writer who has decided not to spend any time actually watching UCLA basketball.
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