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

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pac-12 Team Preview: Stanford Cardinal

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on October 30th, 2013

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

Stanford Cardinal

Strengths. Experience and depth. Oh, and a lot of talent. This Cardinal roster is littered with upperclassmen, with seniors Dwight Powell, Aaron Bright and Josh Huestis expected be in a starting lineup joined by a couple of juniors in Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown. More upperclassmen are among the names of  the guys in competition to contribute off the bench – John Gage, Stefan Nastic, Robbie Lemons. And if there are still some holes left after listing those guys – and there definitely are – the freshmen and sophomores on this club are generally highly regarded players who are expected to be able to fill roles around the stars on this team; prospects like Grant Verhoeven, Rosco Allen, Christian Sanders, Elliott Bullock, and twin guards Marcus and Malcolm Allen.

Stanford Basketball Has Enough Talented Veteran Depth To Return To The NCAA Tournament (Steve Solis / PRPhotos.com)

Stanford Basketball Has Enough Talented Veteran Depth To Return To The NCAA Tournament (Steve Solis / PRPhotos.com)

Weaknesses. There’s all that veteran talent, but the most this group has accomplished in their time on The Farm is an NIT title a couple years back. And while that was a genuine accomplishment for a program coming back from the ashes left in the wake of Trent Johnson’s departure, last year the Cardinal failed to improve upon it. The blame for the lack of success comes down on the head of one man: head coach Johnny Dawkins. He’s assembled plenty of talent in Palo Alto, but now is the time for his group to put it all together. A lot of that will have to do with finding a coherent rotation. Last year, 12 different players on this team played in more than 20 games and averaged more than five minutes per game; nine of them averaged more than 10 minutes per contest. Ideally, we’d like to see Dawkins find his eight-man rotation and, depending on the circumstance or the opponent, rotate a ninth guy in there as needed. But these players need to know their roles, and even if it means some of the guys on the bench wind up wearing a redshirt or seeing a year of eligibility go down the tubes, that may be better in the long run for the ultimate goals of the program.

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The Inane Ramblings of a Pac-12 Homer…

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 25th, 2013

So, the other night, I’m sitting around, minding my own business, doing a podcast with Shane and Randy talking about the Pac-12. When out of the blue, I get accused by an attacker who shall remain nameless of being a Pac-12 homer, just because I picked seven conference teams to get invited to the NCAA Tournament next March. And yeah, maybe taking a flyer on Stanford as a Sweet Sixteen team might have been a part of the equation. But, being an upstanding southern (Californian) gentleman, I say this injustice shall not stand! So, I’m taking to the RTC Pac-12 microsite to air my grievances. Because, really, if anything, I’m a Mountain West homer.

You Have Insulted My Honor And I Demand Satisfaction

You Have Insulted My Honor And I Demand Satisfaction

So, let’s get right to the point. I’m entering my fifth season as an RTC Pac-12 correspondent and I’d like to establish my credentials. In 2009-10, I was right there making fun of the inept conference and coming up with scenarios until the last moment where the conference would only earn one bid to the NCAA Tournament. In 2010-11, as Arizona was following Derrick Williams’ lead on the way to the Elite Eight, I was one of the last holdouts, doubting the Wildcats’ supporting cast every step of the way, nevermind the fact that I was dead wrong. I also had the then-Pac-10 correctly pegged as getting just three NCAA Tournament invites, right up until the point where the Selection Committee screwed up and somehow determined USC was worthy of an at-large as well. In 2011-12, I was telling you all that there would be no redeeming qualities about the Pac-12 Tournament. Heck, I was the guy who was regularly driving several hours into the desert to watch the Mountain West Tournament instead of driving 20 minutes to the Staples Center and getting to sleep in my own bed while being forced to watch the Pac-12 version. Does any of this sound like the hallmarks of a Pac-12 homer? God, no. I hated the Pac-12 at its nadir as much as the next guy. Maybe more so.

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Stanford Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 18th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Here’s a look at Stanford.

What Went Right

After three years of showing signs of a mouthwatering combination of skill and athleticism, Dwight Powell exploded in his junior campaign. At 6’10” and a now well-built 235 pounds, Powell displayed the type of versatile game that will have him playing in the NBA following the completion of his college career. He’s always had the hops and size to throw down massive dunks, but he’s now got the ball-handling, basketball IQ and, perhaps most importantly, confidence to complete those types of plays with defenders in the area. Throw in an excellent feel for rebounding the ball, a developing jumper that is slowly approaching the three-point line, improved post moves and a variety of ways to finish in the paint and Powell has established himself as one of the best and most exciting players in the Pac-12.

Dwight Powell, Stanford

Dwight Powell Had A Breakout Season In His Junior Campaign (AP)

Before we leave this topic, we’ve got to spend a second on Andy Brown. After three ACL tears in his left knee, it was just assumed that the chances of the 6’7” forward every being a meaningful on-court contributor at the Division I level had passed. Instead, Brown made for one of the nicest stories in this or any other season. He played in all but one Cardinal game this season, averaged 23 minutes a night, and wasvery effective, displaying a toughness (as if you didn’t already know that a guy who had rehabbed from three torn ACLs was tough) and a feel for the game that can’t be taught. Already 22, he’s got at least one year of college eligibility ahead of him and here’s hoping it is another healthy and productive season.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VIII: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2013

We’ve bragged about our pet pupils yesterday, and we’ll get to the folks in detention later, but for now, here’s the middle of the Pac from last week’s performances.

Washington – B

After getting run off the court on Wednesday night against Arizona, the Huskies rebounded nicely with a strong performance in knocking off Arizona State on Saturday. In recent weeks it has been as simple as equating made shots with wins for the Huskies. In seven games in February they’ve shot a better than 50% eFG three times and won all of those games. Of course, four times they’ve shot lower than 50% and lost all four of those.

Focus on: Scott Suggs. With C.J. Wilcox clearly hurting, the Huskies desperately needed Suggs – their only other proven scorer – to break out of his slump. And, against the Sun Devils, after scoring just four points in four of his previous five games, Suggs did just that. He provided some offensive punch right out of the gate on Saturday night, either scoring or assisting on 12 of the Huskies  first 18 points. With just three games remaining in the regular season of his final collegiate season, you can bet both he and Lorenzo Romar hope he can keep up that type of performance the rest of the way.

Looking ahead: The Huskies host Washington State on Sunday night as the Evergreen State gets to say goodbye to five really good seniors between the two squads in their final Apple Cup (basketball edition) game.

Once Branded A Glue Guy, Josh Huestis' Recent Streak Proves He's An All-Around Player (Ben Margot, AP)

Once Branded A Glue Guy, Josh Huestis’ Recent Streak Proves He’s An All-Around Player (Ben Margot, AP)

Stanford – B-

The Cardinal went on the road and got a split for the week; that’s a good thing, right? It certainly is, but for Johnny Dawkins and company to move themselves into range for an at-large bid, they really needed to get a win Saturday at Oregon. Unfortunately for them, they shot the ball poorly, turned it over far too much and even got beat on the boards as the Ducks backed Stanford into a corner, where they need to win the Pac-12 Tournament lest they be relegated in trying to defend their NIT title.

Focus on: Josh Huestis. He has previously shown the ability to score both inside and out, but with talented scoring guards and emerging star Dwight Powell on the same roster, the expectation was that Huestis was locked into a “glue guy” role. His occasional outbursts of offense, an expectation that was being met through most of January, the junior from Great Falls regularly grabbed more rebounds than he scored points. But, over the last month, Huestis has undergone an offensive renaissance, scoring in double figures in nine straight games, registering seven double-doubles along the way, and averaging 14.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game over that stretch. Somewhat unbelievably, Huestis is a legitimate first-team all-conference contender.

Looking ahead: The Cardinal host Colorado and Utah this week. There really isn’t a scenario whereby they earn an at-large bid to the NCAAs, so while neither of these games are must wins, they must build confidence and coherence if they hope to threaten to win the title in Vegas.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume V: The Honor Roll

Posted by AMurawa on February 5th, 2013

Professor Pac is back again this week with a progress report, but this time we’re going to try something new. Rather than go through all of the teams in one big ol’ honking post, we’re going to split these up into smaller bites: the honor roll (featuring the week’s best students), the solid students (the middle of the Pac), and the delinquents (those pupils that need to put in some extra work). Without further ado, let’s get things started with by checking in with the teacher’s pets.

Arizona – A

The Wildcats earned our team of the week honor by going on the road to Washington and coming away with the rare road sweep. While nothing the ‘Cats did as a team was insanely impressive, coupled with Oregon’s slip-ups in the Bay Area, Sean Miller and company are back into a tie for the conference lead and look like a team that could be about to turn it on.

With The 'Cats In Need Of An Interior Offensive Presence, "Zeus" Has Stepped Up Of Late (Dean Hare, AP Photo)

With The ‘Cats In Need Of An Interior Offensive Presence, “Zeus” Has Stepped Up Of Late (Dean Hare, AP Photo)

Focus on: Kaleb Tarczewski. There has been talk about the need for the Arizona big guys to step up and take on a bigger role, especially offensively. This week Tarczewski was arguably the most effective offensive player for the ‘Cats. On Thursday in a game in which most everybody struggled offensively, “Zeus” had the highest offensive rating (111.0) on his team as he scored 10 points and pulled down eight boards. Against Washington State, he bettered that, posting an ORtg of 131.0 while again scoring 10 points and grabbing four boards. While he’s not exactly polished yet, and he still finds his way into foul trouble more often than not, the big fella is beginning to help take some of the pressure of Arizona’s perimeter players.

Looking ahead: The immediate future could be perilous for the Wildcats, despite a return to the McKale Center. The Bay Area schools come to Tucson and each is capable of causing trouble. Then following that, on Valentine’s Day, they’ll have to visit Boulder and a Colorado team ready to enact revenge for the Debacle in the Desert.

Utah – A

Last we saw the Utes, they were laying an absolute egg in possibly the worst in-conference performance by any team this seasaon in a 31-point loss at Stanford. With a Colorado team coming into the Huntsman Center on something of a roll, expecting the Utes to come away with a win looked to be fantasy territory. But, there they were, three-quarters of the way through their match-up with the Buffs and they held a 22-point lead. Disregard for a second the fact that they seemingly went out of their way to give it all back (they did, after all, hold on for a three-point win) and give credit to a team with any postseason likelihoods long since passed, with their best player watching from the bench with a knee injury and with a locker room experiencing some dissension, for bringing this type of effort.

Focus on: Jeremy Olsen. In the freshman’s first 19 games in a Ute uniform, Olsen never took off his warm-ups in 10 of those. When he did get some run, it was for brief stretches (he played 44 minutes in those nine games) and to little effect (18 points in 44 minutes). But he has played hard and stayed focused and in the midst of the Stanford embarrassment, he kept plugging away even with the game out of reach. Such effort earned him 14 minutes of action against Colorado and he made the most of that time, scoring 12 points on eight field goal attempts and hauling in three boards. That type of performance is likely to earn Olsen a spot in the rotation even with Jordan Loveridge expected back soon.

Looking ahead: With a road stretch ahead, the Utes have a chance to actually turn this one win into a streak, as last place Oregon State is the first stop. And hey, if they get through that, who’s to say that a team that has played a lot of tight games this year couldn’t sneak up and surprise an Oregon team that may still be without freshman point guard Dominic Artis?

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Marching to Vegas: Weighing a Pair of Midweek Upsets

Posted by AMurawa on February 1st, 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.

Settling into my cubicle Thursday morning I was greeted by an instant message from my brain trust, Brad, “Which was the bigger win last night: USC or Stanford?” I will make no bones about this one; Stanford’s win was the bigger of the two. But it did get me to thinking about USC’s season and what it has and will become. Kevin O’Neill’s dismissal came at a truly strange time – as the team appeared to be turning either the cohesive group or easier schedule corner – indicative of the fact that Pat Haden has plans, big or otherwise, for that position.

The games themselves were solid, the respective performances impressive. From a strictly basketball perspective, Stanford may have been the best team in the nation Wednesday night. And with regards to magnitude of victory, it is my belief that Stanford’s win was the biggest. From an expectations standpoint, we thought the Cardinal would be doing this regularly. Their coach demands hard-nosed defense and their skill set – at least on an individual level – suggests an explosive offense. On Wednesday, they were exactly that, a perfect storm. They connected on their highest percentage of shots in a single game (52%) and held an opponent to the opposite, the lowest percentage of made baskets on their defensive season (34%). To say the Cardinal were due would be an understatement. And to acknowledge that the Cardinal were due is to recognize that their effort, while impressive and the best of the year, was not unexpected. Between Randle, Bright, Huestis, and Powell, Stanford can and should compete.

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

On the other hand, the Trojans marched into a “Blue Out” with specialty tops of their own and simply didn’t care to adhere to the guest policy. They handed the ball over 17 times and still won. Sure they shot a shade over their season average but this was a road, rivalry game with an interim staff. What business did the Trojans have even flirting with victory let alone controlling the game? I’ll refrain from going in on the Bruins here. So what do these wins mean? For Stanford, outscoring the Ducks represented an exorcising of the demons. My impression – if not hope – is that this represents a tipping point or springboard by which the Cardinal become the team they were meant to be. Returning NIT champs has got to mean more than a middling Pac-12 squad.

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 68, Stanford 60

Posted by AMurawa on January 5th, 2013

rushedreactions

Andrew Murawa filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Pac-12 contest between UCLA and Stanford in Pauley Pavilion.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. It’s Not Just Offense. While there were moments today when UCLA looked halfway decent on the offensive end for a couple minutes at a time, this was by no means an explosive scoring performance for a Bruins team that has come to be known for its offensive ability. It took more than 10 minutes for somebody in a white jersey without the name Wear on the back to score a bucket. Then there was a stretch of three minutes late where the Bruins turned it over seven times (after previously coughing it up just six times in the first 35 minutes). Follow that up with Jordan Adams missing three straight front-ends of one-and-one opportunities (this for a guy who made his 33 straight FTs earlier in the year and came into the game shooting almost 87%) and it looked like UCLA was doing their best to give this one away. But, when all was said and done, UCLA limited Stanford to just 0.85 points per possession and, on the weekend (albeit against admittedly pedestrian offenses from the Northern California pair) defended to the tune of just 0.89 PPP. As we mentioned Thursday night, this squad is never going to turn into Howland’s 2007 defensive juggernaut, but this team is improving on an almost game-by-game basis.

    With UCLA's Defense Coming Along Slowly But Surely, They Can Survive Slow Offensive Nights (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

    With UCLA’s Defense Coming Along Slowly But Surely, They Can Survive Slow Offensive Nights (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

  1. Stanford Rotation. Two nights ago, in a loss at USC, the five Stanford players who Johnny Dawkins brought off the bench actually played 51% of the team’s minutes, with Chasson Randle earning just 15 ineffective minutes and Dwight Powell getting just 23 foul-plagued minutes. That game actually marked the third straight game where Dawkins has used the same starting lineup, but this afternoon against UCLA, two of those guys were pulled for replacement. This has been an ongoing issue all year long as Dawkins has played 13 different guys this year (although Anthony Brown is out for the season now), with 12 guys having earned at least 20% of the team’s minutes and only two (Randle and Josh Huestis) earning better than 70% of the minutes. There have been six different starting lineups this year in just 15 games after he fielded 15 different starting lineups last season. Last year’s run to the NIT title was highlighted by fantastic performances by Randle and Bright, as the backcourt duo, who showed great chemistry together, averaged just shy of 60 minutes per game between them. This year, those guys have seen their minutes jerked around, and while admittedly neither has been great when in the game, Dawkins needs to give these guys some semblance of stability so that players can be more comfortable in their roles and build a rapport with their teammates. After the game on Thursday night, some of the UCLA players talked about how with a couple of player defections, the fact that they’re running a seven-man rotation has allowed everybody to get comfortable with their teammates, and roles and into a flow. Dawkins should take some notes. And, give him some credit as today he trimmed his rotation, playing just nine guys and giving all five of his starters at least 27 minutes. Concern about Bright, who earned just 14 minutes and was largely invisible in them (one three-pointer, one assist, one turnover) should persist. Read the rest of this entry »
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Wrapping Up Pac-12 Non-Conference Play By Reassessing Our All-Conference Selections

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2013

Later tonight, the second leg of the Pac-12 college basketball season begins as conference play tips off with the Battle of the Bachynskis, when Utah travels to Arizona State. After last year’s nightmare of a non-conference slate, this season the conference took major strides, with Arizona’s win over Florida, UCLA’s win over Missouri, Colorado’s win over Baylor, and Oregon’s win over UNLV making up the top tier of the best wins for the conference. Before we turn our complete attention to conference play, we thought we’d hand out some awards based on the season to this point, so Connor Pelton, Parker Baruh, Pachoops’ Adam Butler and myself voted and came up with the following results.

Player of the Year

Allen Crabbe, Jr, California – Crabbe’s 20.9 PPG and efficient all-around offensive game earned three of the four votes for our player of the year, with UCLA’s Jordan Adams receiving the other vote from me. Crabbe has been a rock for the Golden Bears (well, aside from that Creighton debacle, at least), scoring in double figures in every game, helping out on the glass and, thus far, knocking down better than 38% of his shots from deep.

The Pac-12's Leading Scorer, Allen Crabbe Takes Down The Mid-season POTY Award (credit: Jeff Gross)

The Pac-12′s Leading Scorer, Allen Crabbe Takes Down The Mid-season POTY Award (credit: Jeff Gross)

Coach of the Year

Dana Altman, Oregon – Despite losing three of last year’s top four scorers, and having the other guy in that quartet – E.J. Singler – struggle through the early part of this year, the Ducks have reeled off wins in 11 of their 13 games. Altman has gotten great production out of his freshman backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, has folded Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi into the mix seamlessly, and coaxed great improvement out of senior center Tony Woods. As a result, he earned three of our four votes for the COY, while Arizona State’s Herb Sendek got my support.

Freshman of the Year

Shabazz Muhammad, Fr, UCLA – After missing the first three games of the season due to an NCAA investigation into his eligibility, Muhammad has come on strong for the Bruins, scoring in double figures in all 10 of the games he’s played in on his way to 19.6 points per night. He’s just beginning to ease into the best physical shape of the season, so the expectation is that conference play will see an even better version of Shabazz. Once again, Shabazz earned three of our four votes for FrOY, with the lone dissenter (again, me) nabbing teammate Jordan Adams.

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Can Stanford Begin to Turn Its Season Around?

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2012

Stanford is halfway through its big two-game non-conference road trip and, heading into their game with Northwestern on Friday night, they’re in a position they certainly didn’t want to be in: The Cardinal almost has to win that game. Their non-conference strength of schedule has been solid, but thus far they’ve played four teams in the top 100 of the RPI and come away with four losses. The game against the Wildcats represents their final chance to make something of a mark prior to Pac-12 play, as NU is currently #72 in the RPI.

Aaron Bright And Backcourt-Mate Chasson Randle Have Struggled Shooting The Ball Thus Far (credit: Zach Sanderson)

Aaron Bright And Backcourt-Mate Chasson Randle Have Struggled Shooting The Ball Thus Far (credit: Zach Sanderson)

Thus far, the Cardinal have found plenty of different ways to lose. Against Belmont it was poor shooting — both from the free throw line and from the field — that doomed them to an upset loss. Missouri killed them on the glass and forced turnovers on roughly a quarter of their possessions. Against Minnesota, it was an inability to keep from fouling, especially in a critical late-game scenario, and mediocrity in all phases of the game, where one additional made play could have been the difference between a win and a loss. Then Tuesday night, the Cardinal found new and inventive ways to drop a game; they committed just six turnovers and shot a 50% eFG, but only earned six free throw attempts for themselves and showed a complete inability to keep their opponent from getting good looks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 16th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The second weekend in the college hoops season cools off a bit and settles into some of the preseason tournaments. While the different tourneys play out over the weekend, there are several games you should keep an eye on as we head into Feast Week. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#22 Notre Dame vs. Saint Joseph’s – 9:30 PM EST, Friday on TruTV HD (****)

Notre Dame needs guard Eric Atkins to pick up his scoring against Saint Joseph’s

  • After a 2-0 start, Notre Dame faces its toughest challenge of the young season in a Saint Joseph’s team returning 99% of its minutes from last season. Thus far, the Irish is not getting the production they have come to expect from their two starting guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant. Only Grant has reached double figures once in the two games they have played. Both players averaged 12 points per game last season and coach Mike Brey needs every bit of those 12 points for his Irish team to meet expectations. Since St. Joe’s will still be without suspended guard Carl Jones, look to see if the Irish guards are able to take advantage. It’s critical that they do, because Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley and center Garrick Sherman will face a tough test against the Hawks front line. It will be interesting to see how Cooley and Sherman respond to the much more athletic forwards than they have seen thus far in 2012.
  • While Saint Joseph’s blew out Yale in its first game of the season, Phil Martelli needs to be a little concerned with his team’s offensive performance. The Hawks averaged less than a point per possession, shot a 45.9% eFG, and were only 3-14 from three in that game. Obviously, missing leading scorer Jones is a major factor, but they can ill afford to have another poor offensive showing against the Irish. Look to see if guard Chris Wilson can improve on his three points in 36 minutes and provide St. Joe’s with some backcourt scoring. Guard Langston Galloway was able to drop 20 points against Yale, so keep an eye on his ability to maintain that level of scoring against a much tougher opponent.
  • This should be a close battle between two experienced teams. If St. Joe’s is going to beat Notre Dame, it’ll need to do it on defense.  The key will be the ability of St. Joe’s forwards Halil Kanacevic, Ronald Roberts, and C.J. Aiken to neutralize Cooley and Sherman down low and grab defensive boards. If Notre Dame gets its  typical scoring production from Atkins and Grant, it should win this game. If not, Martelli and the Hawks will come away with a nice win for the Atlantic 10 against its rival Big East.

More Great Hoops

Florida State vs. BYU – 7:00 PM EST, Friday on TruTV HD (****)

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Pac-12 All-Defense Team and All-Newcomer Team

Posted by PBaruh on November 7th, 2012

The college basketball season is now just days away and here are some more of the Pac-12 microsite’s predictions for the season with our All-Defense Team and All-Newcomer Team.

All-Defense Team

  • C Aziz N’Diaye (Sr. 7’0″ 260 lbs.) Washington. N’Diaye was a physical presence and an exceptional defender for the Huskies and Lorenzo Romar last year. He’s a great rebounder and shot-blocker, averaging 7.1 per boards per game and blocking a shot a night last season. N’Diaye covers the paint very well for the Huskies and is legitimate 7-footer who is mobile for his size. As a result, he can recover quickly and play great help defense. His length should cause problems for opposing offenses all year long.
  • F- Andre Roberson (Jr. 6’7″ 210 lbs.) Colorado. The second-best defensive rebounder in the nation last year, Roberson picked up 401 total and 290 defensive rebounds last year. He has been a defensive force ever since he’s arrived at Colorado by blocking everything that comes his way. Roberson averaged 1.9 blocks per game last year and also averaged 1.3 steals a game to boot. It’s very hard to score on Roberson as he never gives up second chances and tips rebounds to himself if necessary, and he can even step outside and guard perimeter players on the wing. Overall, Roberson is an outstanding defender and is underrated defensively because of his size.
  • F- Eric Moreland (So. 6’10″ 215 lbs.) Oregon State. The Pac-12′s leading shot blocker last year is an imposing defender with his size and speed. Moreland averaged 1.9 blocks per game last year and totaled 69 blocks on the season. Although at first glance it may seem Moreland is not a great rebounder due to his 6.8 RPG average last year, he was second in defensive rebound percentage in the Pac-12 at 26.8%. With more minutes possibly headed his way this season, you could see his traditional rebounding numbers jump.

Eric Moreland has a knack for blocking shots and getting the ball.

  • F- Josh Huestis (Jr. 6’7″ 230 lbs.) Stanford. Huestis doesn’t have one particular skill at which he excels on defense. He can block shots and he’s a decent rebounder, but more importantly, he’s just a good all-around defender. When he’s in the game, players rarely score on him. Huestis is a smart player and knows where to play help defense and how to position himself on the floor, and his athletic ability helps him make up for a relative lack of size. With plenty of minutes available in the Stanford frontcourt, Huestis should provide great defense down low for the Cardinal this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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