Assessing the Pac-12 After One Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share this story

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Arizona State Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 4th, 2013

Now that all 12 conference teams are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Today we start with Arizona State.

What Went Right

A lot of things went right for the Sun Devils this year, as they won 12 more games this season, but a lot of those things stemmed from the eligibility and success of freshman point guard Jahii Carson. He was this team’s catalyst from start to finish and many of the areas in which ASU improved can be directly traced back to him. Carrick Felix’s offensive explosion? It certainly wouldn’t have happened without Carson’s play-making ability and the attention he drew from defenses. Herb Sendek’s new slightly-more-uptempo approach? It was almost entirely tied to Carson’s strengths. And best of all, for the first time since James Harden left Tempe, Sun Devils basketball is unabashedly cool again.

Jahii Carson Helped Make Sun Devil Basketball Cool Again (credit: Arizona State)

Jahii Carson Helped Make Sun Devil Basketball Cool Again (credit: Arizona State)

What Went Wrong

Any time you’re ranked below 300th in the nation in free throw percentage (64.9% as a team), you know you’re going to frustrate your coaching staff. The Sun Devils lost seven games this season by five points or less, and their combined free throw percentage in those games was even worse than the season average at 59.6%. Games like their home game against Stanford where they just 8-of-16 from the stripe in a three-point loss have to stick in the craw, even months later.

MVP

While you’ve got to recognize the great impact that Felix had on both ends of the court for the Sun Devils, there is little question that Jahii Carson was the team’s best player and it’s most valuable. He was the only major addition to a team that had won just 10 games in 2011-12 and he was not only the focal point offensively, he also injected the team with confidence and excitement.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Thoughts On The Pac-12 Quarterfinals, Afternoon Session

Posted by AMurawa on March 14th, 2013

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 Conference. He filed this report from Thursday afternoon’s Pac-12 Tournament session in Las Vegas.

First and foremost, let’s congratulate the Pac-12 conference on finally having a relevant conference tournament. Even in the glory days of the Pac-12 when NBA lottery picks littered rosters up and down the west coast, the tournament at the Staples Center was never a great event. First, while Los Angeles is a fine city to live in (at least according to this Angeleno), it isn’t a great destination for out-of-towners. It’s spread out and the area right around the Staples Center is not exactly the type of place that is incredibly inviting for vacationers. Then there’s the Staples Center itself – a cavernous arena much better suited to the soulless grind of the NBA than the excitement of March college hoops, made even worse when a mere fraction of the seats were occupied. Then there was a theory – which never meant much in practice – that it was a home court advantage for the Los Angeles schools.

The New Home Of The Pac-12 Tournament Has Been A Rousing Success

The New Home Of The Pac-12 Tournament Has Been A Rousing Success

Well, all of those worries are out the door with the move to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It is certainly a destination spot, it offers plenty of affordable and centrally-located hotel options, the arena itself is big enough to welcome in fans from around the conference yet small enough to be intimate and loud, and this is clearly a neutral environment. I can’t imagine that this tournament is going to be held anywhere other than Las Vegas for a long, long time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Burning Questions: Pac-12 Tournament Dark Horse?

Posted by AMurawa on March 13th, 2013

The beginning of a new era in Pac-12 basketball begins today, as the first conference tournament in Las Vegas tips off. With the top four teams receiving a bye, we’ve got teams #5 through #12 in action, so we asked our correspondents:

“Which Pac-12 team playing in the opening round has the best chance of springing the upset and winning the conference’s automatic bid?”

 

Adam Butler: I’ve struggled to figure out exactly what’s happened in Palo Alto this year. They have a very interesting group and a group we thought would play better than to the tune of .500 in conference play. They’ve looked equally good as they have bad at different times throughout the year. And I can’t tell if it’s fortunate or unfortunate for me — and I’ll argue unfortunate with regards to my prognosticating skills — that the two trips I’ve taken to see Stanford play this year were when they hosted Oregon (76-52, W) and visited Cal (83-70, W). Through stretches of these games, if not their entirety, the Cardinal looked unstoppable. For such, as a team capable of playing with any team in the conference, I like the #8 seeded Fighting Dawkins as the top Wednesday playing team to make a run at this thing.

The Pressure Is On For Johnny Dawkins And Company, But Can His Cardinal Spring a Big Upset? (credit: Danny Moloshok)

The Pressure Is On For Johnny Dawkins And Company, But Can His Cardinal Spring a Big Upset? (Danny Moloshok)

Connor Pelton: I actually like #6 Washington to advance furthest and have the best chance of winning the championship out of the eight first round teams. The Huskies have wins over the #2 and #5 seeds in the tournament and have shown they can compete against the other top teams in the field. What you need to win four games in four days are good shooters and a good bench. Scott Suggs and Abdul Gaddy have been shooting the lights out of the gym as of late, and while they may not put up huge numbers, Andrew Andrews and Jernard Jarreau can control the game and score from anywhere on the floor if they are called on to spell the starters. Most importantly, the Dawgs have one of the easiest paths to the title game. Washington State has been playing good ball as of late, but there’s no reason UW can’t pull out a win against the rival Cougars. LoRo and company hung with Oregon in their first two meetings, and I think they pull the upset in their third attempt against a reeling Duck squad. A date with California is likely for the semifinals, and if Washington’s only prior meeting with the Golden Bears is any indication, the Dawgs could be on their way to the title game. And once you get there, no matter who the opponent, anything is possible.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. One side effect of the parity in the conference this season has been a lot of intensity as we head into the stretch run. We saw this most glaringly on Sunday night with Mike Montgomery’s now infamous “shove” of Allen Crabbe, but elsewhere around the conference there were more incidents. In Pullman, Oregon center Tony Woods was ejected for throwing an elbow to the head of Washington State’s Brock Motum. The Pac-12 reviewed the play and decided Woods would face no further suspension. Another pair of bigs got tangled up in Boulder on Saturday when Jordan Bachynski and Josh Scott fell to the floor in pursuit of a rebound. Scott wound up banging his head against the hardwood and sustaining a concussion from which he is still recovering. Colorado head coach Tad Boyle called that game the most physical game he has ever been involved in.
  2. It’s been a tumultuous season for UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad, with an NCAA investigation delaying his debut and the flu catching up with him prior to the USC game back in January. Now, and again in advance of a USC game, Muhammad is dealing with pinkeye, which kept him out of practice on Tuesday. However, this issue isn’t expected to have any impact on Muhammad’s availability for Sunday’s game.
  3. Arizona State has compiled an 8-5 conference record largely on the strength of its starting five. Senior Carrick Felix leads the conference in minutes (38.3 minutes per night), while Jahii Carson and Jonathan Gilling both top out at over 36 minutes per game and are among the top five players in the conference in minutes. While head coach Herb Sendek admits that his heavy reliance on a small number of players is “a concern,” he doesn’t expect much to change for the rest of the year.
  4. Meanwhile, down south a little, Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been increasingly relying on a smaller number of players as well. And with his confidence in Jordin Mayes dwindling, Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson are becoming the only options in the backcourt for the Wildcats. However, unlike Sendek up the road, Miller may be ready for a change and could turn to freshman guard Gabe York for some spot minutes on the perimeter. York earned 16 minutes over the course of three games back at the turn of the month into February, but since then York has never left the bench in the last four games.
  5. Continuing the theme, Lorenzo Romar returned to freshman Jernard Jarreau this past weekend as an option off the bench. Jarreau won the starting power forward spot in preseason practice, but was ineffective while starting the first seven games of the season. Since then his role almost completely evaporated to the point where he played just 17 minutes over the course of six games prior to his emergence against Oregon State on Saturday. And Romar says Jarreau has earned a right to continue getting minutes in the hopes of building up his game to the point where he can be a contributor for the next three seasons.
Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 02.19.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 19th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. The big item for the discussion around the Pac-12 is this: Early in the second half of a game against USC on Sunday night, Mike Montgomery greeted Allen Crabbe at the start of a timeout by getting in his face and shoving him in the chest in an effort to wake up his talented junior. As Montgomery said after the game, it worked, eventually. After continuing to float along for several minutes following the incident, Crabbe eventually caught fire at the end of the game and brought his Bears back from a 15-point halftime deficit to beat the Trojans. The Pac-12 officially reprimanded Montgomery for the incident, but the head coach will not face a suspension from the league or his employer. In the wake of the incident, everybody’s got an opinion about it ranging from the hyperbolic “it’s an outrage!” to the “no big deal.” Me? I think it is a big deal, but not necessarily because Montgomery’s behavior was shameful. The problem is, more than once this season now, Montgomery’s emotions have gotten the best of him as he has dealt with mercurial personalities such as Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon. If you’ve watched these guys float through games and underachieve as regularly as they have, you’ve probably wanted to shove them in the chest a time or two as well, even if you’ve got no rooting interest one way or the other. But for now, the hope is that this incident doesn’t overshadow the fact that all of a sudden, Montgomery is beginning to get production out of his group of kids, even if he’s using some unconventional and controversial methods to do so.
  2. In Salt Lake City Sunday, Arizona head coach Sean Miller unveiled a new starting lineup, featuring Kevin Parrom at the three, Solomon Hill at the four and Brandon Ashley moving to a reserve role. While nothing is set in stone, Miller says that he’ll probably stick with that starting lineup going forward. Miller notes that the move wasn’t made out of disappointment with Ashley’s production but rather out of a desire to get Parrom’s veteran leadership more actively involved in the lineup.
  3. Colorado’s Josh Scott suffered a concussion early in the second half of Saturday night’s loss to Arizona State when he and ASU center Jordan Bachynski got tangled up and fell to the floor. Scott took an inadvertent elbow to the head, left the floor and did not return to the game. Head coach Tad Boyle addressed the situation involving his talented freshman on Monday, saying that Scott will be fine but is currently considered day-to-day. Colorado next plays on Thursday night when it hosts Utah in a must-win game in Boulder.
  4. In a week that featured plenty of great basketball games, Saturday’s Washington State/Oregon tussle may have been the most entertaining. For 44 minutes and most of a 45th, the Cougars played the Ducks to a draw. Despite giving up an 18-point first half lead, the Cougs were still right there battling with the conference-leaders, as sophomore guard Royce Woolridge was going off in a career-day kind of way, including his sixth three-pointer that knotted the score up at 77 with just a handful of seconds remaining. As Oregon rushed up the court to attempt a last second potential game-winning shot, WSU sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew intentionally (but inexplicably) fouled E.J. Singler, sending him to the line with under four seconds remaining. Singler made both giving the Ducks the win and Washington State players and fans are left wondering what exactly happened there.
  5. Lastly, just how good has Jahii Carson been this season for Arizona State? Well, compared will all the freshmen in the history of the Pac-12, he’s currently on pace to produce the 10th highest scoring average in the history of the conference. His 17.7 points per game comes in just shy of James Harden’s totals in his first season in the desert in 2007-08. Interestingly enough, UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad is currently seventh on the all-time list at 18.5 PPG. Carson is also now just 22 assists shy of becoming just the 12th freshman in conference history to register 150 assists in a season.
Share this story

Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VI: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2013

Yesterday we unveiled this week’s honor roll; today we take a look at five teams earning good, solid, average grades. Check in later today for the four teams that will be serving detention this week.

Cal – B-

All things considered, this was a solid week for the Golden Bears. They went down to Arizona for what is considered to be the toughest road trip in the conference this year and came away with a split, including a win over a national top-10 team and a four-point loss to a very good Arizona State squad. That makes three wins in four tries for the Bears and  a team that will likely be playing its best ball of the season as we head into the final month.

Focus on: Jeff Powers. What? You were expecting Allen Crabbe here? Nah, you can read about him as our Pac-12 Player of the Week. Instead, maybe check out what the Golden Bears’ own resident blogger, their junior guard Powers, has to say about his team and their performance in knocking off the Wildcats. Unfortunately, there’s no comment from him about his fine five-minute stretch against Arizona State where he knocked down a three, chalked up an assist and came away with a steal in helping keep his squad close in the second half.

Looking ahead: The Bears have a chance to make a run here, as they host the Los Angeles schools this week. They’ll likely be small favorites in both games and if they can defend their home court at Haas Pavilion, they’ve got a chance to make a bit of a jump up the standings.

He May Not Be A Prolific Scorer, But Jeff Powers Is A Budding Blogger

He May Not Be A Prolific Scorer, But Jeff Powers Is A Budding Blogger

Stanford – C+

Both Cal and Stanford went to the Arizona schools and came away with splits. Why do the Golden Bears come away with a slightly better grade? The Cardinal’s dogged determination (and fortunate failure) to give away a close game against Arizona State was concerning. Still, Johnny Dawkins’ club has now won four of its last five and has got its offense on the move.

Focus on: Dwight Powell. The junior forward has scored in double figures in every game in the conference schedule, but he hadn’t topped 20 since he did it three straight times in December. He broke that streak this week by going for 24 against Arizona and then answering with 22 against the Sun Devils. Even better, he also grabbed double-figure rebounds in both games, giving him seven double-doubles on the year.

Looking ahead: The Cardinal host USC tomorrow night, then see UCLA on Saturday afternoon. Stanford was swept by these teams in Los Angeles back on the first weekend of conference play, leading to an hour-long post-game meeting following the UCLA game, and since then the Cardinal have gone 6-3 in conference play.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Marching to Vegas: Channeling Bill Walton, While Breaking Down The Halfway Mark

Posted by AMurawa on February 8th, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Halfway. The point in a journey when both the finish and start are equidistant and so there is no use in turning back. Onward we go because it’s a journey and, intrinsic to such, there is discovery. A path to the best version of ourselves so that at the conclusion we are prepared; ready for life beyond exploration. But as I said, we’re not there yet. Not even close. Our March to Vegas is no sinusoidal function. It’s exponential growth – rising, rising, rising – to what should culminate into something jaw-slacking, head scratching, and cold blooded. I know you believe me here because I know you were watching last night. You saw Larry Drew II drop the Dawgs and Roberson shock the Ducks and Cobbs give the Devils all they could handle. Pac-12 fans: Who’s got it better than us?

Bill Walton - So Bad, He's Good?

Bill Walton – So Bad, He’s Good?

Maybe Adam's Been Listening To Too Much Bill Walton; Maybe We All Have (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

Maybe Adam’s Been Listening To Too Much Bill Walton; Maybe We All Have (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

Back to this march, the one dragging us to 3/10 and a conclusion on Vegas seeding. That – as proven by Thursday’s games – will be a treat, a delightful treat, chock full of – are you ready for this word? – madness. Yup, I said it, madness. Get excited. And I’m getting ahead of myself because indeed this is a journey to the end. After all, one week ago Oregon was in the Top-10 and asserting themselves an unstoppable force. Today? Well now they find themselves in a three game rut with a broken point guard whose Duckpact (that’s what I call an impact player on Oregon’s roster) is becoming increasingly ominous. To say that Dana Altman and his team miss Dominic Artis would be to Kate Upton is cute. But things will be ok in Eugene.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 02.07.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 7th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. The Pac-12 week got started last night with a couple games, the headliner of which was the conference’s hottest team, Stanford, heading to Tucson to face the conference’s highest ranked team, Arizona. In advance of the game, the Wildcats got some bad news when it was announced that freshman forward Grant Jerrett would sit out the game as a precautionary measure due to some foot pain. Almost unbelievably, in sitting out, he became Arizona’s first player to miss a game this season due to injury. As for the game, the ‘Cats got away with running their thin front court out there, even as fellow freshmen Brandon Ashley fouled out in just 13 minutes and Kaleb Tarczewski was ineffective in 13 minutes of his own. In place of the three freshmen, sophomore big Angelo Chol got his most run of the year, playing 24 very effective minutes and grabbing a career-high eight boards as the Wildcats pulled away from a game Stanford team late. Chol probably earned himself some more minutes in the future, although Jerrett should be available to play on Sunday, per Sean Miller.
  2. The other game Wednesday night took place in Corvallis as Oregon State took out some of their frustrations on Utah in an 18-point win as Roberto Nelson and Joe Burton each continued their streaks of strong offensive basketball of late. But even with that win, Oregon State’s now 2-7 conference mark has some people claiming that head coach Craig Robinson is on the hot seat. While I would agree that now there are legitimate questions as to whether Robinson is the right guy to take this program to the next level, something drastic would have to happen for Robinson to not be coaching the Beavers next season. And, regardless of the current floundering state of the program, Robinson has given this program an identity that it didn’t have when he took over for Jay John. At some point, that’s going to have to translate into wins and a competitive Pac-12 team, but Robinson is in no immediate danger.
  3. As for Utah, as Pachoops’ Adam Butler wrote, despite their struggles this season and the occasional blowout, this is one of the unluckiest teams in the country, an idea substantiated by Ken Pomeroy’s luck measurement. While the Utes’ 10-12 record isn’t going to impress anybody, consider the fact that, putting aside their three blowout losses in conference, they’ve lost the remainder of their conference games by an average of less than a single old-fashioned two-point field goal. If and when the Utes’ begin to make better luck for themselves or get the fortunate bounce here or there that turns a one-point loss into a one-point win, the Utes could be in position to make some noise.
  4. Circling back around to that Arizona/Stanford game again, the Bill Walton Pac-12 bus tour dropped Grateful Red off in Arizona this week where he, among other thing, tipped off ESPN viewers to a little known basketball rule whereupon, if you hit anybody on the court in the face with the ball, he owes you a six-pack. I’m personally going to see how that flies on the playground this weekend. Elsewhere in the Grand Canyon State these past few days, Walton spent some time talking to students at both Arizona State on Tuesday and Arizona on Wednesday. And, at Arizona State, he spent about an hour talking to the Sun Devil basketball team and then later spent time talking to Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski one-on-one.
  5. Lastly, in recognition of national signing day in college football yesterday, we take a look at USC’s current recruiting status in… basketball? Actually, despite the fact that the Trojans are currently a team without a coach, USC’s presently has enough commitments to rank in the top 40 nationally in recruiting. However, that could still change because their top recruit, Kendal Yancy-Harris, the #77 player in ESPN’s top 100 list, has eased off of his commitment somewhat and is now considering ten other teams. Yancy-Harris may yet wind up in South L.A., but we won’t be sure until USC decides who their next coach is.
Share this story

Ten Tuesday (Wednesday) Scribbles: On Underwhelming Teams, Soft Schedules, Wisconsin and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 6th, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. The Super Bowl marks the beginning of a two month stretch where college basketball dominates the national sports scene. From now until April 8, the focus will be squarely on our terrific sport. Sure it can be frustrating for the diehard fans that have been following every game since early November but the attention of the casual fans is what drives coverage and television ratings. The unfortunate reality is that without casual fan interest, college basketball would exclusively be a niche sport. We all have had that NCAA Tournament pool experience where the person who starts watching in February or March and knows very little other than team names and rankings wins the pool while the person who studies the efficiency metrics and knows that Travis Trice is a great three point shooter but awful inside the arc (h/t Luke Winn) finishes near the bottom of the pool standings. Nevertheless, it is an exciting time of year as bubble talk, last four in and last four out quickly creep into the daily sports conversation. Games like Tuesday night’s Ohio State/Michigan classic are what drive interest in the sport. We’ve been treated to plenty of great games this season but this one couldn’t have come at a better time, a time when most of America is now squarely focused on college basketball. Strap in, it’s going to be really fun as we head into the part of the season where every game is so big and teams make their final push towards March.
  2. As we move into this crucial part of the season, the issue of teams peaking early can become a concern for some. The season is a process, an evolution if you will, and not every team is playing its best basketball come March. As I look across the nation, there are a few teams that may have already peaked or are peaking right now and may not be able to sustain their current level of play into March. Oregon, NC State, Miami and Butler come to mind. Two losses to the Bay Area schools have put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Is it a short term blip or a sign of things to come for the Ducks? Their ability to score and propensity for turnovers are causes for concern but Oregon’s defense is surprisingly solid. NC State’s issue is just the opposite. The Wolfpack certainly can score, although their offense was shut down in losses to Maryland and Virginia. However, defense has been a problem all year and NC State’s efficiency, ranked #141 in the country, is simply not at a level where you can win games consistently. Chances are the Wolfpack have already peaked and their inability to stop teams will catch up to them eventually. Miami is a case of a team that may be peaking as we speak. The Hurricanes have won 10 consecutive games in a variety of different ways. This fact (meaning they can play different styles/speeds) combined with a defensive efficiency ranked fourth in the country suggest Miami can sustain this level of play. Concerns for the Hurricanes include three point shooting, free throw shooting and offensive rebounding but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miami hold steady, at least for the next few weeks. Butler is an interesting case. The Bulldogs are 18-4 (5-2) but have lost two of their four games since the emotional win over Gonzaga on January 19 while also struggling through a win over lowly Rhode Island. Butler’s league isn’t as tough as the other teams mentioned here so it will likely enter the NCAA Tournament with a very strong record. Of concern is the BU defense which is not at the elite level it was when the Bulldogs first went to the national title game three years ago. However, it would be foolish to doubt Brad Stevens and his group. With a soft schedule down the stretch, there is still time for Butler to pile up wins and gather confidence heading into the tournament. I would say Butler has not peaked yet despite some major wins already on its resume. Look out for the Bulldogs next month.

    C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)

    C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)

  3. As we head into February and the regular season begins to wind down, I figure this is a good time to look at a few of America’s underwhelming teams. There are teams out there with gaudy records but few quality wins or those who just haven’t gotten on track relative to preseason expectations. Notre Dame, UNLV, UCLA and Missouri come to mind immediately. Notre Dame is 18-5 and 6-4 in the Big East which appears good on the surface but this was a team many thought would finish third in that rugged conference. However, a closer inspection reveals the Irish have just two quality wins on their resume (Kentucky (maybe) and at Cincinnati). In Big East play, Notre Dame has lost twice on its home court, something that has been almost unheard of over the years in South Bend. Notre Dame has never been a defensive juggernaut under Mike Brey but this is arguably his worst defensive team in 13 years at the helm. UNLV is a team with lots of talent that always leaves you wanting more, always following up a stretch of good play with a disappointing loss. The Rebels struggle away from Vegas which is understandable but you would still like to see them beat a few good teams on the road. They have failed to do that. UNLV can still turn it around but I feel like we’ve seen this movie before. Three consecutive first round NCAA flameouts show that UNLV isn’t quite ready for primetime. In fact, the Rebels have not won a postseason game since a first round victory over Kent State in 2008. UCLA is still a work in progress but there is no denying it has been underwhelming. The Bruins have lost three of their last four games since winning 10 straight games after a disappointing 5-3 start. Defense has been a concern all season long but it’s the offense that has scuttled of late. Five of UCLA’s final seven games are on the road and one of the home games is against Arizona. Things could get a little dicey down the stretch for the Bruins. Missouri is the team I feel is the most overrated of all. Despite a resume that lacks one single freaking SEC road win and non-conference wins over fading Illinois and mediocre Stanford, the Tigers continue to be ranked in both major polls. Missouri is not a good defensive team and has given up a lot of points to pretty much every good team it has played. Phil Pressey can be a great distributor but he’s also a turnover machine and a poor jump shooter. Mizzou will probably make the NCAA Tournament but an early departure is highly likely. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story