Pac-12 Post-Mortems: USC

Posted by Andrew Murawa on May 6th, 2014

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

What Went Wrong

The problems of USC basketball in 2013-14 can largely – but not entirely – be attributed to previous administrations and the changing of the guard. New head coach Andy Enfield was, for the most part, left with a roster of ne’er-do-wells and misfits thrown together into a system in which few of them fit. Almost nobody on the roster would have been a guy that Enfield would have thought would fit perfectly into his system, and among the handful of guys who did, there wasn’t a ton of buy-in. Let’s put it this way: The team’s two captains were senior J.T. Terrell and junior Byron Wesley, who between the two of them were suspended for a total of 10 games and couldn’t get out of the program fast enough once the season ended.

J.T. Terrell Wearing A "C" On His Right Shoulder: Never A Good Sign

J.T. Terrell Wearing A “C” On His Right Shoulder: Never A Good Sign

What Went Right

Well, on Wednesday March 12, the Trojans took a three-point loss against Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament, a game which served as a mercy killing of the USC season. Better days likely await the program under Enfield, but man, this season needs to be put in the past right quick. Beyond that snarky answer, Enfield really did begin to implement the type of basketball he would like this Trojans team to play in the future. They got up and down the court, found transition offense on 30 percent of all possessions, and averaged offensive possessions of just 16 seconds, good for 26th in the nation. Once Enfield can begin to fill roster spots with players who will better fit into his scheme, we’ll get a better idea of how the Enfield era will work at USC.

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Your Way-Too-Early 2014-15 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on April 9th, 2014

Another season in the books; another Pac-12 disappointment. We’ve got plenty of time to look back on the 2013-14 season, but it is onward and upward from here as we briefly look ahead to next year. We’re still not entirely sure exactly which of the players we watched this year will move on to greener pastures, and there are sure to be some surprise transfers (both incoming and outgoing) ahead of us, but in the days after the national championship, it is time to start dreaming about the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Below are our way-too-early Pac-12 power rankings.

Arizona's Back In The Familiar Spot of A 1-Seed And An NCAA Favorite (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

McConnell, Hollis-Jefferson, and Tarczewski, Among Others, Make Arizona The Pac-12 Favorite Again (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

  1. Arizona – Sure, Aaron Gordon’s stay in Tucson was brief. And yeah, Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson may join him in the NBA. But barring some surprises, five of the following six players are going to be comprising Sean Miller’s starting lineup next season: T.J. McConnell, Gabe York, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski. Goodness gracious sakes alive, that is a lot of talent. And, the West Regional will not be held in Anaheim next season, so let’s go ahead and pencil Miller and his Wildcats into his first-ever Final Four.
  2. Stanford – Johnny Dawkins and company broke through this year with their first NCAA Tournament appearance under the current regime. And while some important players move on, a returning nucleus of combo guard Chasson Randle, wing Anthony Brown and big man Stefan Nastic is solid. Throw in a recruiting class with four different four-star recruits (as ranked by ESPN) and a bevy of talented returning youngsters and we’ll make the Cardinal the best bet in the league to challenge the Wildcats. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 15th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. With the start of the early signing period well underway, we’re going to spend almost all of this morning’s rundown on recruiting. And to kick things off, not only did Arizona have a big night on Thursday by getting a hard-earned victory over a tough San Diego State team, but they heard whispers of some very good things for the future as well. Stanley Johnson, a top-10 recruit out of Mater Dei in the greater Los Angeles area, will announce his decision on where he will attend school next season and the rumors are that Johnson will select Arizona over competitors like USC and Kentucky. With four-star guys Craig Victor and Parker Johnson-Cartwright already committed, Sean Miller’s got the beginnings of another phenomenal class.
  2. On the other side of the things, Oregon State is struggling through a rough start to the season, but Beaver fans not only can celebrate the signing of a new recruit, but this specific recruit – junior college transfer Gary Payton II – offers up ties to the most recent glory days of the basketball program in Corvallis. While “The Mitten” doesn’t have the accolades that “The Glove” brought to OSU, he is a strong defender like his father and will provide some excitement for the Beavers next season. Meanwhile, there are three other recruits who have already verbally committed to Oregon State who may sign in the coming days. The big question that remains is whether head coach Craig Robinson will still be around to enjoy the fruits of his recruiting labor.
  3. Up in the Bay Area, both Cal and Stanford have signed highly regarded recruits. Mike Montgomery signed four-star point guard Ahmaad Rorie, who had committed to the Golden Bears almost two years ago, while Stanford inked five-star power forward Reid Travis, who just committed to the Cardinal last week. Johnny Dawkins still has a couple four-star recruits in point guard Robert Cartwright and center Michael Humphrey who have already verbally committed, but they still need to make it official. And then, of course, we’ll need to see if Dawkins is still around to welcome them into Palo Alto next season.
  4. Let’s switch from NorCal to SoCal to check out what USC and UCLA got done yesterday. Trojan head coach Andy Enfield signed three players, including big guys Malik Price-Martin and Jabari Craig along with four-star point guard Jordan McLaughlin, all of whom will be significant upgrades in terms of players who fit in with the style of play that Enfield wants. Expect these three to get big roles early for the cardinal and gold. Meanwhile, across town, Steve Alford signed Kevon Looney – a five-star power forward –and Hungarian power forward Gyorgy Goloman, who is spending 2013-14 at a prep school in Florida. Looney, in particular, is a big-time get for UCLA.
  5. Lastly, we’ve got football again tonight. And, while we’ve got sufficient focus on basketball this time of year, we’ll be sure to take a couple breaks this weekend to keep our eye on some exciting Pac-12 football. Connor and I continue our battle for prognosticating supremacy, and we’re in a tight contest. Last week we both went 4-1, with Connor eking out a fun one when Arizona State knocked off Utah, and me riding Myles Freaking Jack !!!!! (yes, I believe those exclamation points are now officially a part of his name) to a UCLA win over Arizona (although I was wishing I was watching a UCLA/Arizona basketball game the whole time). On the season, Connor’s still got a one-game lead on me, with him checking in at 58-15 and me at 57-16. Our game of the week comes tonight, when Washington and UCLA meet up at the Rose Bowl (a 6:00 PM football game at the Rose Bowl on a Friday night? Yeah, calling that thing half full at kick-off will be extraordinarily optimistic). I’m leaving the Bruins bandwagon to hop on Bishop Sankey and company, while Connor’s going with the Bruins at home.pickem_midnov
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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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Welcome Back: Pac-12 Team-By-Team Offseason Wrap

Posted by AMurawa on October 7th, 2013

After a long offseason away from college basketball, we’re back. With practice underway across the country, with “Midnight Madness” events looming and with the start of the season on the not-too-distant horizon, it is time to end our hiatus and dig back into hoops. In a year where the Pac-12 seems to sport one legitimate national title contender and a healthy pack of NCAA Tournament contenders, we can finally say that the conference is back from the recent depths and ready to be a consistent contender on the national stage again. But, in taking an offseason sabbatical, we’ve missed some key storylines. So, in order to get you back in the swing of things, we’ll go team-by-team around the conference and quickly catch you up on some key offseason happenings. Later in the week we’ll break down some of these stories in a little more detail. Next week we’ll be back with our daily Morning Fives, and over the course of the next month, we’ll catch you up on everything you need to know going into the 2013-14 Pac-12 season. Without further ado, here’s what you need to know if you’ve been away from the conference for a few months.

Why Is This Man Smiling? Maybe Because He Has the Best Team in the League.

Why Is This Man Smiling? Maybe Because He Has the Best Team in the League.

Arizona – The conference’s clear preseason favorite got some good news over the offseason when 6’10″ sophomore forward Zach Peters was granted his waiver request by the NCAA for immediate eligibility after transferring from Kansas. A quality recruit in the 2012 class, Peters career never got off the ground in Lawrence largely due to injuries, including multiple concussions. If he can stay healthy, he’s a stretch-four who can provide another offensive threat for the Wildcats. Elsewhere, Sean Miller continued his hot streak on the recruiting trail, landing 2014 four-star power forward Craig Victor, while continuing his pursuit of additional heavy hitters in next year’s class.

Arizona State – It was an offseason roller coaster for the Sun Devils, with Evan Gordon opting to spend his senior season closer to home at Indiana, only to have Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall decide that he’d spend his final season of eligibility in Tempe. Marshall, who averaged 15.3 points per game for a depleted Penn State squad last season, will likely slide right into the spot vacated by Gordon’s departure. It’s not all sunshine and roses for Herb Sendek’s team, however, as Jahii Carson is dealing with a stress reaction in his right leg that will limit him in practice during the early going.

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Commitment of Jordan McLaughlin an Encouraging Sign for Andy Enfield at USC

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 12th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Dunk City was short-lived and it was awesome. Those are the two descriptions that pop into one’s head when you look back on Florida Gulf Coast’s headline-grabbing run to the last season’s Sweet 16. The Eagles didn’t just beat second seeded Georgetown and seventh seeded San Diego State in succession, they played some of the most ostentatious, brazen, high-flying hoops March Madness has ever seen. Florida Gulf Coast would have been a huge national story (which it was) even without the alluring mystery surrounding its Wall Street-bred head coach and his supermodel wife. All the elements – the highlight reel alley-oops, the beach-side campus dorms, the rollicking on-court celebrations, under-recruited point guard Brett Comer’s neglected high school basketball career, the immense branding and academic exposure the Eagles’ run granted the barely two decades-old university, Andy Enfield’s wife – made the Eagles America’s collective sweetheart. Florida Gulf Coast’s reign was brief, but it was brilliant. No one will forget Dunk City.

With his first big recruit in tow, Enfield is acquiting himself well in his new job (AP Photo).

With his first big recruit in tow, Enfield is acquiting himself well in his new job (AP Photo).

Nor did prospective employers believe the man behind the madness, Enfield, just happened to get hot at the right time – the typical formula for big NCAA Tournament upsets. The moment Florida finished off its humbling 12-point Sweet 16 win over the Eagles, Enfield became one of the nation’s hottest head coaching candidates not named Brad Stevens (Speaking of which: miss you, Brad). His name was floated about the college hoops coaching carousel, though for a time it seemed no one was convinced (after just two NCAA Tournament wins), that Enfield had more to prove before landing a high-major job – until USC finally, with immense outside apprehension, took a leap of faith with Dunk City’s creative genius. A lot of people were dubious about USC’s perceived decision to hire a coach because of two impressive wins in a wacky, unpredictable, upset-breeding ground of a single-elimination basketball tournament.

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Morning Five: 09.12.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 12th, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of one of the most horrifying days in American history. You undoubtedly read, heard, or watched many individuals discuss their experiences during that day and afterwards. While most of the coverage focused on first responders and people directly affected by the attack the events of that day affected people in this country in all walks of life including college basketball. Jeff Eisenberg was able to speak with several coaches about their memories of that day. In many ways, we have moved on from the events of that day (for better and worse), but as anybody who is old enough to remember the events of that day will tell you it is something we will never forget.
  2. Over the past month USC has picked up several transfers. Yesterday, Andy Enfield picked up his first significant high school recruit as Jordan McLaughlin committed to play for the Trojans. McLaughlin, the #4 point guard and #18 overall recruit in the class of 2014 [Ed. Note: He is #43 according to Rivals], chose USC over UCLA, Indiana, and Kansas. Given the dearth of backcourt talent at USC, McLaughlin should be able to step right into the role of starter for the Trojans. The one issue this will raise for USC is with Katin Reinhardt, who transferred from UNLV to play point guard to increase his chances of playing in the NBA. The arrival of McLaughlin–an actual point guard–might affect the team’s chemistry if Reinhardt is unwilling to accept a subordinate role in the backcourt.
  3. With McLaughlin committing, there is one less elite point guard recruit available and according to reports another one–Tyler Ulis–is on the verge of committing too. Ulis is said to be deciding between Iowa, Kentucky, and Michigan State. Ulis will make his announcement on Friday at 8:20 PM ET with the live coverage being provided by High School Cube News. The addition of Ulis would be big for any of the three programs, but is considered particularly important for Kentucky who lost out on Emmanuel Mudiay and will likely lose Andrew Harrison to the NBA Draft after this season.
  4.  The team that Bobby Hurley inherited at Buffalo contained some excellent building blocks, but the Duke legend also appears to be quite adept at recruiting as he managed to land Lamonte Bearden, a 4-star point guard out of Wisconsin. Hurley managed to convince Bearden to come to Buffalo over Oregon State, Saint Louis, and San Francisco although there are some reports that his grades may have cooled his recruitment by those schools. If Hurley is able to get Bearden to campus and eligible to play, it would be one of the more impressive recruiting jobs for this year’s class that we have seen.
  5. Sports Illustrated released the second part of its five-part investigative series on Oklahoma State‘s football program yesterday. This part focused on the questionable academic standards required of the team. The series has managed to inspire the expected outrage from Cowboy fans, but as we mentioned on Twitter yesterday the outrage seems to be much less than it was for Miami and almost seems muted. As for our overall reaction to this series and others like it is that while we can appreciate the amount of work that goes into it, we feel as though the work and outrage is incorrectly directed at the programs when instead we as a society should be focusing on the culture around these institutions and society at large that allows this type of behavior to happen.
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