Utah Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on August 29th, 2012

For the third straight year, Utah underwent rampant roster turnover in the offseason, with six transfers joining one senior (who had been dismissed from the team in the middle of last season) on their way out the door. There is a subtle difference this year, however, as the changes to the roster should benefit the program next season, allowing the new coaching staff to begin building with their own players rather than with the scraps they were able to assemble late in the recruiting period last offseason. In essence, last year was an audition period for all of the players on the roster, determining not only whether the coaching staff wanted each player back, but whether those players were interested in returning to the rebuilding job that is Utah basketball. Below, we’ll take a brief look at all seven players (not including Blake Wilkinson, a freshman last season who departed for an two-year LDS mission in May) from last year who will not return to the Utes.

Josh Watkins – Watkins was dismissed by Larry Ktystkowiak on January 18 last season for an undisclosed team violation which was just another in a long line of issues that brought Watkins to that point. The lone active senior on the roster last season, Watkins was supposed to be an example for his younger teammates, doing all the right things on a team where everything else was going wrong. Still, Watkins played a valuable role for Krystkowiak last year; the dismissal of the team’s most viable offensive threat in the middle of the season showed everybody else that nobody was above the team. Watkins, to his credit, completed his degree in May and acknowledged that despite his dismissal he still regards Krystkowiak as a “great coach.”

Chris Hines, Utah

Chris Hines Was The Utes’ Most Prolific Three-Point Shooter Last Year, But He’ll Be Playing His Senior Year At Drake Instead (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

Chris Hines – Following his graduation in May, Hines took advantage of the NCAA rule that allows graduates to transfer without having to sit out a year. As a result, the team’s most prolific three-point shooter from 2011-12 will be matriculating at Drake this season. While an experienced veteran like Hines could always be valuable, the fact that the Utes have transfers Aaron Dotson, Glen Dean and Jared DuBois ready to step in this season lessens the blow considerably.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 05.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on May 11th, 2012

  1. We’re at that time of the year when we the rosters start to solidify. Most of the key recruits have made their picks, and teams are beginning to add the finishing touches to their recruiting classes. For instance this week Washington State added junior college big man James Hunter, a guy who will have three seasons of eligibility in Pullman. Hunter is a raw work-in-progress, but he is a good athlete who runs the floor well and could be a good body for the Cougs in future years. Meawhile, Oregon got a commitment from combo guard Willie Moore, the sixth player signed by Dana Altman so far this season. Moore had originally committed to Duquesne, but was released from his letter of intent after the Dukes fired head coach Ron Everhart.
  2. The signing of Moore leaves the Ducks with just one remaining scholarship for the 2012-13 season, and they’re certainly hoping that they get good news about their seventh signee of the year in the coming days, as power forward Anthony Bennett, rated the seventh-best recruit in this class (by ESPNU) is expected to choose between Oregon and UNLV. Oregon is also still in the mix for Chris Obekpa, a center ranked in the top 100 recruits as well, meaning that Moore’s signing likely indicates that the Ducks have received word that they’re unlikely to land one or both of those players. And while some in the UO community seem pleased that the Ducks at least outlasted Kentucky and Florida on Bennett’s list, taking second place in a recruiting battle is no win at all. Bennett is expected to announce his decision in the next week, although he is clearly in no hurry.
  3. The other bit of intrigue remaining in the summer are the landing spots for the multitude of transfers still uncommitted. For Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett, that decision is already in the books, as last weekend he announced his decision to transfer to Marquette. Lockett, who has already earned his degree in business communications, wanted to be closer to his mother, who has been diagnosed with cancer.
  4. Once all the 2012 commitments are complete, the next big thing around the conference will be the summer trips. UCLA announced its long-rumored trip to China this week, a venture that could accomplish plenty for both the team and the conference. Most important for the Bruins is the chance to get in extra work during the summer for a talented team chock-full of newcomers. Ben Howland will get a chance to put his team through 10 practices prior the team’s flight to China on August 21. Once there, the Bruins will play a handful of Chinese teams that are expected to be “the equivalent of NCAA competition,” according to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. The team will likely also get a crack at the Chinese national team during its visit. The other benefit of the trip is the beginning of Scott’s master plan to take the Pac-12 brand to Asia. Scott expects that this will be the first of yearly trips by Pac-12 teams to China for similar summer events. Washington also announced it own plans for a summer international trip, with an itinerary that will take the Huskies to Spain, France, Monaco and Senegal. The visit to Senegal will be especially important, given that it is the home country of senior center Aziz N’Diaye. The Huskies will play one game in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, as well as putting on several basketball clinics elsewhere in the country.
  5. Lastly, a good story to read about. Utah senior guard Josh “Jiggy” Watkins was kicked off the Ute basketball team in January. But, instead of taking the easy route and quitting school, Watkins stuck around Salt Lake City and, last week, earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology. Watkins and his mom met with Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak prior to the ceremony and Watkins admits that, while it was hard to have basketball taken away from him, he harbors no ill will towards his former coach and still thinks of him as a “great coach.” Watkins now expects to pursue a professional basketball career overseas, and we here at RTC wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. It was a rough senior season basketball-wise for Watkins, but in the end, he finished off a major accomplishment. Well done, Josh.
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Utah: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 17th, 2012

What Went Wrong

Much of what went wrong in the Utah program that led to this season’s 6-25 debacle happened prior to new head coach Larry Krystkowiak’s first game on the sidelines at the Huntsman Center. Two years ago, following a disappointing and underachieving 14-17 season, five Utes, including the team’s two leading scorers, transferred out of Jim Boylen’s program. Then, following a 2010-11 season that took a step down from there with a 13-18 record that led to Boylen’s demise, six more players, including leading scorer and rebounder Will Clyburn, bolted from Salt Lake City. As a result, when the Krystkowiak era tipped off in November, there was a serious lack of talent in Ute basketball uniforms. Throw in the fact that 7’4” former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year David Foster missed this season with a foot injury and Utah had to rely on just three returnees with any experience– point guard Josh Watkins, center Jason Washburn, and guard Chris Hines – along with six newcomers and a handful of walk-ons. Then Watkins, who was the team’s leading scorer and assist man, was dismissed prematurely in January. In short, this Ute team never really had a chance in its first year in the Pac-12. Even in a conference with a talent level near historic lows, the Utes just didn’t have the horses to hang with the bulk of the conference.

Jason Washburn, Utah

Jason Washburn Was A Lone Bright Spot On An Otherwise Miserable Ute Team (Associated Press)

What Went Right

There was a time, well into December, where it was questionable whether the Utes had a chance at earning so much as a single win against a Division I team. Then they strung together two straight home wins against Idaho State and Portland (admittedly, two really bad teams) before going on to win three conference games, including wins over Washington State and Stanford that go down as significantly improbable events. As absurd as it may seem, that 6-25 record is actually an overachievement for this team.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 16th, 2012

  1. With California’s defeat in the First Four on Wednesday night, Colorado is left alone to carry the flag for the Pac-12 conference in the NCAA Tournament. And they made a fine showing on Thursday night, roaring out to a 20-point second half lead over UNLV before letting off the gas, and allowing the Rebels back into the game. But, the Buffaloes were able to cobble things back together, sparked by a great block from Andre Roberson that turned into a Carlon Brown slam on the other end. At the end of the regular season, the Buffs were in a do-or-die scenario, needing to win the Pac-12 Tournament to advance even this far. But, it is clear now, as they ride a five-game winning streak that “do” was the choice the team made.
  2. In the wake of California’s loss to South Florida, there is a feeling of disappointment around the Golden Bear program. Heading into the final two weeks of the season, they were tied for first in the Pac-12 conference and seemed to be on the road to a special season. Instead, they lost four of their last five, capped by a terrible performance against the Bulls. Now seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp move on, while head coach Mike Montgomery is, apparently, left to rebuild around guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. But with every season the 65-year-old head coach wraps up, there is some question as to whether he’s nearing the end. Thus far, there are  no indications that he’s planning a retirement party in the immediate future, but, especially after October’s bladder cancer scare, there is the chance that at any time, Montgomery could be ready to move on.
  3. One of the defenses of Johnny Dawkins’ poor showing in his time at Stanford is that he inherited a bare cupboard when he took the program over from Trent Johnson. But Jon Wilner sees through that claim and shoots it down, noting that Dawkins’ first roster included two all-conference honorable mention selections from the previous year (Anthony Goods and Mitch Johnson), an all-conference first-team member from two years previous (Lawrence Hill) and junior forward Landry Fields who was about to turn into an NBA-caliber player. Now, of course Dawkins should get some credit for Fields’ development, but the fact is there was enough talent on the Cardinal roster to finish higher than the ninth-place slot they wound up in.
  4. Utah’s offseason is off to a pretty good start, as head coach Larry Krystkowiak got his first oral commitment from a 2013 recruit on Thursday, from 6’3” point guard Julian Jacobs. With freshman Kareem Storey having taken over the lead guard role in the wake of Josh Watkins’ dismissal this year, he may have the edge on Jacobs when the newcomer arrives, but as Krystkowiak learned this season, you can never have too many point guards.
  5. Arizona State is another program that needs and influx of talent. And while they’ve got some Division I recruits (Bo Barnes and Evan Gordon) that will be eligible next year and freshman point guard Jahii Carson finally able to kick start his career in Tempe, head coach Herb Sendek is spending his NCAA Tournament time hitting the road in search of additional help.
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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Surprises and Disappoinments?

Posted by AMurawa on February 23rd, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

 “Which team has had the most surprising season, and which has had the most disappointing? Likewise, which player has had the most surprising season, and which has had the most disappointing?”

Connor Pelton: The most surprising team is Colorado. The Buffaloes were picked by almost every pundit in the nation to finish around tenth in the Pac-12, and here we are with two weeks left in the season looking at a team that is third in the conference and a lock for the NIT. Obviously, their altitude-assisted homecourt advantage has something to do with it, but I think it is great. It is one of the things that make the sport so interesting, so I’m definitely not counting that against them. The most disappointing team has been UCLA. Granted, the Bruins have done better in Pac-12 play, but they have been so wildly inconsistent that you barely notice when they do something good. It took them six games to beat a Division I team, and they had a few head-scratching losses early on.

Andre Roberson, Colorado

Andre Roberson And Colorado Have Soared To New Heights This Year (Matt Caivano/Daily Camera)

The most surprising player has been junior forward Brock Motum from Washington State. Motum has been the key to all but a few of Washington State’s 14 wins, and his stats have been amazing. His 17.8 PPG is up +10.2 points from last season, his 6.5 RPG are a +3.5 improvement, and he is averaging +12.9 MPG. His shooting range and ability to completely take over a game is better than any other big man in the conference. The most disappointing player that has completed a full season (Here’s looking at you, Reeves Nelson, Josh Watkins, Jabari Brown, and Jahii Carson) is junior forward/center Joe Burton from Oregon State. Hopes were high for Burton’s junior year as many thought he would take over the point-center role that the Beavers abandoned last season. Early on however, it became apparent that Burton didn’t have the shooting range to take on that position, and as the season progressed he became more and sloppy with the basketball. He has now lost his starting job and his minutes have severely declined over the past few games.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 26th, 2012

  1. One of the running themes of life in the Pac-12 this season has been important players leaving their teams, for one reason or another, in the middle of the season. There have been dismissals, academic problems, and abrupt transfers, and there have been enough of them to put together a pretty strong team: try Josh Watkins, Jabari Brown, Keala King, Reeves Nelson and Richard Solomon on for size. Aside from the debilitating headache any coach immediately suffers upon so much as seeing those five names together, that’s an awful lot of talent that has disappeared from Pac-12 rosters just since the start of the season.
  2. Along those same lines, UCLA has been hurt by transfers more than any other Pac-12 program. Currently, former Bruins Drew Gordon, Mike Moser, Chace Stanback, and Matt Carlino are playing – and excelling – at other Division I programs. Throw in J’Mison Morgan, who is redshirting at Baylor after playing limited minutes there last season, and Nelson, who turned pro in Europe rather than transfer, and the Bruins have had a significant talent drain. BruinsNation goes through all the transfers and looks at the causes and effects of the decisions of these players to transfer out of Ben Howland’s program.
  3. As an antidote for the above two stories which may leave a bad taste in your mouth, we turn to a great story about California center Robert Thurman, a former walk-on who is making a big impact for the Golden Bears in the wake of Solomon’s academic ineligibility. Against Washington on Thursday night, the “Thurmanator” posted career-highs of 16 points and seven rebounds helping Cal spring the road upset. Coming into the year, Thurman didn’t expect to have much of a role on this team beyond just working hard in practice, but going forward he will be an important piece on the Bear team.
  4. When Washington visits Arizona State tonight, both teams will have key players regarded as questionable for action. For the homestanding Sun Devils, Trent Lockett has missed the two games after spraining an ankle early in the second half against Oregon State a couple weeks back, and although he is making progress, there is no new update on his status. For the Huskies. C.J. Wilcox has missed U-Dub’s last three games with a stress fracture in his hip. He’ll go through some tests prior to the game on Thursday and will be a game-time decision, based largely on the amount of pain he feels, but may remain out until the Huskies head to Tucson on Saturday.
  5. Lastly, a little something that has little or no effect on the play on the court: snazzy new uniforms for Arizona. Nike announced on Wednesday that they had created new uniforms for nine programs who have won national championships (Arizona, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Syracuse along with the women’s teams from Baylor and Connecticut) that those teams will wear at specially selected games this season. Arizona will wear their “Hyper Elite Platinum” unis at home against UCLA on February 25.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 24th, 2012

  1. ESPN’s GameDay is on its way to the McKale Center on Saturday for the first time ever to whoop the home crowd into a frenzy in advance of the Washington/Arizona matchup Saturday evening.  But of more importance to Wildcat fans is how, or if, this team currently stuck at sixth place in the conference can turn things around. However, with three losses already, including a missed opportunity this weekend against Colorado, and arguably the two toughest road trips (to the Bay Area and to Washington) remaining on the schedule, maybe it is time for UA fans to back off the expectations of an NCAA Tournament trip that had until recently seemed to be their birthright.
  2. Utah got its second win of the conference season this weekend, knocking off Arizona State on Saturday, and in the wake of the dismissal of senior point guard Josh Watkins, this could be a perfect example of addition by subtraction. In booting Watkins, head coach Larry Krystkowiak loses his leading scorer and biggest offensive threat, but he also cleared minutes for some of the younger players on this squad around whom he’ll need to build future editions of the Utah basketball team. As an added bonus, he showed the rest of his players that there are negative consequences for bad behavior under his reign.
  3. Sticking in Salt Lake City, junior center Jason Washburn has earned a starting spot and the most minutes in his career with the Utes, but despite leading his team in scoring, rebounding, blocks, field goal percentage and free throw percentage, he is still inconsistent. Krystkowiak says he is prone to “disappear and not demand the ball” and that he doesn’t “run the floor consistently.” With Watkins gone, Krystkowiak needs the veteran to step up and become a team leader capable of providing a good example for his younger teammates.
  4. In an announcement that took exactly no one by surprise, Washington State’s Faisal Aden was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday, a sentiment we shared. But Aden wasn’t the only Cougar who lent a big hand in the WSU sweep of the Bay Area schools this weekend; senior guard Abe Lodwick knocked down a couple threes early in the second half to spark the Cougars, plus helped out off of the ball and can be an important complementary piece for Ken Bone’s club the rest of the way.
  5. Oregon and Oregon State will renew the basketball version of the Civil War rivalry on Sunday in their 336th all-time meeting, but in the interim, both teams have a chance to rest up and patch their bones a little bit. Both teams are coming off home sweeps of the Los Angeles area schools, and the Ducks in particular, are in good shape, tied atop the conference with California. The game will be held in Eugene at Matthew Knight Arena, where head coach Dana Altman says the crowd was “unbelievable” in helping to propel the Ducks to a big come-from-behind second half run to beat UCLA on Saturday.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2012

  1. We’re through four weeks of conference play in the Pac-12, and the situation atop the heap is now as clear as mud. We have four teams with a couple of losses and another two with three losses. Oregon is one of our leaders at 6-2 after posting a home sweep over the Los Angeles schools, and the Ducks have stolen three road games while winning all but one at home. On Saturday, they bounced back from a sluggish first half to outscore UCLA by 20 points in the second half behind a career-high 26 points from junior E.J. Singler. But it was Garrett Sim and Tony Woods that turned the momentum around for Dana Altman’s squad, as Sim notched a personal 7-0 run on just two possessions (a four-point play mixed in there) early in the second half, while Woods blocked two shots and slammed back an offensive rebound on the way to the Ducks erasing a 13-point halftime lead right out of the locker room. Oregon gets to stay at home next weekend for a matchup with rival Oregon State.
  2. California is the other leader atop the conference, but Golden Bear fans probably have to feel like they missed an opportunity this weekend. After pulling out an impressive road win at Washington on Thursday, they spit the bit Saturday, losing by two at Washington State. For the Cougars, Faisal Aden was incredible this weekend. We and others have been critical of Aden’s offensive efficiency this year, but this weekend was spectacular, hitting 19 of his 29 field goal attempts and 19 of his 20 free throw attempts on his way to a total of 57 points over the course of two games. Not surprisingly, his Cougs won both of those, and their fans are excited. Not only was Aden very efficient, but he seems to have taken on a new personality. Instead of bombing away this weekend, he attacked the hoop, got to the line and limited his three-point attempts (three three-pointers attempted on the weekend – all on Thursday night). If he can keep up his new offensive personality, the Cougars just got a whole lot tougher.
  3. Washington now sits at 5-2 after it bounced back from its loss on Thursday with a 13-point win over Stanford fueled by a 20-3 second half run. The win was Lorenzo Romar’s 300th in his career and 100th conference win at Washington. While the usual suspects led the way for the Huskies (Tony Wroten had 21 and Terrence Ross had 18), Darnell Gant bounced back from a terrible night on Thursday with 17 points and seven rebounds against the Cardinal. And, the newest Husky, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the starting tight end on the Husky football team who joined the basketball team a couple weeks back, earned his first playing time, getting 16 minutes and grabbing seven rebounds.
  4. Colorado swept through the weekend series with the Arizona schools and is tied with Washington at 5-2. The Buffaloes earned a one-point win over the Wildcats despite sophomore forward Andre Roberson pulling a disappearing act (zero points, 0/8 from the field), as senior Carlon Brown sank a three to give Colarado the lead after Arizona had taken their first lead since the 15 minute mark in the second half on a Kevin Parrom jumper. However, the Buffs still had to withstand a last-second three-point attempt by Parrom to hang on for the win. The last possession was a curious one for the Wildcats, as they gained possession of the ball following a missed Brown three-point attempt with 30 seconds left and Arizona down one. Sean Miller didn’t have a timeout to call in order to set up a final play, and the Wildcats were nonchalant on offense, only able to put up one shot after 30 seconds and leaving no time for the team to score on the offensive rebound that Josiah Turner came up with as time expired. In other words, Arizona needs to spend some time on their late-game situations in practice this week.
  5. Lastly, time to go slumming at the bottom of the conference, as any time Utah comes up with a win, it has to deserve a mention. This weekend it was the Utes winning the battle of the undermanned, handing Arizona State a 21-point loss on Saturday. Freshman Kareem Storey, playing his second game as Larry Krystkowiak’s point guard following the dismissal of Josh Watkins, had a very solid game, scoring 12 points, handing out six assists and turning it over just once in 36 minutes, while senior Cedric Martin drilled five threes to lead all scorers with 17 points. Arizona State, playing without injured guard Trent Lockett, couldn’t get anything going offensively, shooting just 42.1 eFG% and just three-of-15 from deep.
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Arizona Does What It Does: Beat Bad Teams

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2012

Kraig Williams is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Arizona-Utah game on Thursday night.

Much like the rest of the Pac-12, the Arizona Wildcats are an enigma in college basketball this season. The Wildcats sit at 13-6 and 4-2 in conference play after blowing by Utah, 77-51, Thursday night.  After leading by just five at halftime, Arizona blasted past an undermanned Utah squad in the second half even without Solomon Hill who was ejected from the game for a flagrant-two foul for an apparent blow to the back of Cedric Martin’s head. Beating overmatched teams has been Arizona’s M.O. all year. In terms of RPI (an admittedly flawed statistic, but one the NCAA selection committee uses), the Wildcats have fallen to the best five teams they have played (Gonzaga, San Diego State, Florida, Oregon and Mississippi State). Against the rest of their schedule, they are 13-1 with the one outlier being a road loss to UCLA. Looking at their NCAA selection sheet shows an average RPI win of #180 and an average loss of #52. The Wildcats beat who they are supposed to and not much else this season.

Arizona Easily Handled Utah On Thursday Night

The problem, of course, is this gives Arizona a resume of a plucky mid-major out of a conference like the WAC, not a perennial Pac-12 powerhouse. The Wildcats’ best win thus far is either at New Mexico State, or in the McKale Center against Duquesne, neither of which will jump off the page at you. That, combined with losing to Oregon and needing overtime to take down Oregon State last week at home, was enough to knock them out of Andy Glockner’s mock bracket this week, placing them precariously on the bubble. That same bracket features a myriad of mediocre bubble squads like Minnesota and Marshall making the cut.

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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • The third weekend in conference play went a long way towards settling the conference into some tentative tiers. With the Bay Area schools’ sweeps of Colorado and Utah, Stanford and California sit atop the conference with 5-1 records and have established themselves, for now, as the teams to beat in the conference. A half-step back sits Washington, winner of four of five conference games, but unproven on the road so far, and Oregon, the sole team in conference play with more than one road win – the Ducks have three. The next tier down is made up of Arizona, Colorado and UCLA, all teams with two losses who have been inconsistent, but have enough talent to leave a mark on the Pac-12 race. We’ll wedge in one more tier before the bottom, with Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon State all seriously flawed teams who for one reason or another are clearly better than the tier of Utah and USC at the bottom of the Pac.
  • Yesterday we got news of a couple more problem children coming to the end of their ropes with their current teams, as Cal’s Richard Solomon and Utah’s Josh Watkins, both of whom had already been suspended for a game once this season, ran into trouble. Solomon was declared academically ineligible and is done for the year, though he could return next season for his junior year provided he cleans up his grades. Watkins, however, is done. The senior was booted off the Ute team by head coach Larry Krystkowiak for his second behavior-related offense of the season. It’s been that kind of year in the Pac-12, with these two just the latest in a line that includes Reeves Nelson, Jabari Brown, Keala King, Sidiki Johnson and Bruce Barron (and I’m sure I’ve blocked another player or two from my memory), players whose seasons ended early because of their own decisions.

The Loss Of Richard Solomon Is A Potential Major Blow To Cal's Conference Title Chances (pac-12.org)

What to Watch For

  • Until further notice, we can just assume that whatever games involve the Bay Area schools any week will be the games to keep an eye on, with the two matchups between the rivals potentially being the games of the year. This week, it is the Washington schools hosting California and Stanford, and the Huskies, in particular, should provide a stiff test for both schools. Washington will be without the services of second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox for both games this week, due to a stress fracture in his hip, his loss will rob Lorenzo Romar’s bunch not only of a pure shooter on offense, but also one of the Huskies’ best perimeter defenders, a situation that could spell trouble against talented three-point shooters such as Cal’s Allen Crabbe and Stanford’s Anthony Brown, to name two. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012

  1. It’s that time of the year when injuries start to play a bigger role for teams around the country. This week we’ve talked about injuries to C.J. Wilcox (hip stress fracture, out this weekend), Brandon Smith (due back from a concussion tonight), Mychal Ladd (thumb injury, doubtful this weekend) and Trent Lockett (sprained ankle, doubtful). But as of yet, we haven’t mentioned USC’s Aaron Fuller, who is dealing with a labral tear in his left shoulder. Given that he is a lefty, this is a nearly debilitating injury and he is considering undergoing season-ending surgery as early as next week. It remains to be seen whether Fuller will play this weekend in Oregon, but given that he is easily USC’s best offensive player, losing him could made an already terrible offensive team even less potent.
  2. Speaking of USC, it’s no secret that Trojan fans are frustrated with their team’s 0-5 conference start and generally atrocious offensive play. Head coach Kevin O’Neill is frustrated too. And, while he is trying to keep this team focused on this season, he thinks he should have a good team on his hands next near. Not only will all of these current Trojan players have an extra year of experience under their belts (and guys like freshmen Byron Wesley and Alexis Moore and sophomore DeWayne Dedmon could sure use them), he expects to have point guard Jio Fontan back from his ACL injury, along with transfers Ari Stewart and J.T. Terrell, both from Wake Forest, and Eric Wise, from UC Irvine.
  3. Tying up a few loose ends, we talked about Richard Solomon’s academic ineligibility and Josh Watkins’ dismissal from Utah yesterday, but thought we’d also pass along some information from the local media on both situations. For Solomon, there isn’t a whole lot to report; he just didn’t make grades, but head coach Mike Montgomery hopes he can patch up those problems and return next season. For Watkins, it’s another story. All indications are that he is a good kid, but head coach Larry Krystkowiak just couldn’t ignore the “accountability issues” with Watkins any longer. He reportedly missed practice again on Monday, and after Krystkowiak had laid down a “zero tolerance” policy following a blowout loss to Colorado on New Year’s Eve, Watkins had to go. Krystkowiak said he hopes Watkins continues at Utah and receives his degree, and I’m sure he does, not just for Watkins’ sake, but for the sake of Utah’s graduation rates that will be in the garbage following all of the recent transfers out of the program.
  4. Washington has a big weekend ahead of it, what with conference-leading California and Stanford headed into Seattle for battles with first place on the lane. And in the midst of that atmosphere, it is possible that freshman forward (and starting tight end on the Husky football team) Austin Seferian-Jenkins could see his first action for the basketball team this weekend, although nothing is set in stone yet. Head coach Lorenzo Romar also confirmed that senior forward Darnell Gant would continue coming off the bench for the Huskies, with center Aziz N’Diaye and forward Desmond Simmons continuing to start up front.
  5. Lastly, we turn our attention to UCLA, who has won three straight games after starting 0-2 in conference play. Bruin players like David Wear and Tyler Lamb attribute the turnaround to a renewed emphasis on defensive intensity, with players taking pride in getting stops and learning to play as a team on that end. While UCLA has held its opponents to just 40.3% shooting from the field over the course of the winning streak, their trip to Oregon this weekend should present a much bigger challenge.
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Morning Five: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 19th, 2012

  1. During their one-point loss on Tuesday Michigan State was called for a controversial backcourt violation with less than 2 minutes remaining when Keith Appling appeared to fumble an in-bounds pass and then picked up the ball in the backcourt. Many people criticized the officials afterwards citing Rule 4, Section 3, Article 6 of the NCAA rulebook that says a team must establish possession in the frontcourt inbounds and then cross into the backcourt to be called for a violation. They noted a similar call had been made against Virginia Tech in the their ACC/Big Ten challenge loss to Minnesota and the Big Ten disciplined the official after that game for making the wrong call. However, this time the Big Ten has come out and said that the official on Tuesday made the right call because Appling had established possession in the frontcourt.
  2. We were not sure it was possible, but the Pac-12 just got weaker. The bigger news in terms of the conference race and the national picture was the announcement by California that it was dismissing Richard Solomon for the rest of the season after he was ruled academically ineligible. Even though Solomon only averages 6 points per game it is a big loss for the Bears as he is their top rebounder at 6.2 rebounds per game and provides some much needed depth off the bench as well as an interior presence. Without him the Bears will need Harper Kamp and David Kravish to step up their games and help balance their team, which relies heavily on its three star guards.
  3. The bigger story from an individual impact on a team is Josh Watkins getting kicked off Utah‘s team for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Based on statements from the Larry Krystkowick it appears that this was more a pattern of behavior than a single incident. Watkins, the team’s leading scorer and lone senior, had already been suspended earlier this season, but apparently he still did not get the message. The Utes were already a historically bad BCS-level college basketball team even before they got rid of the player with the highest usage rate in Division I basketball (38.4%) so we cannot wait to see what they are like without Watkins in the line-up.
  4. If you are not a fan of mid-major basketball you may not be familiar with Dennis Tinnon. Even if do know of the tenth-leading rebounder in Division I you probably are not aware of the unique road that he took to get to Marshall. Luke Winn, in a departure from his usual statistical analysis work, takes a look at how Tinnon went from working at a beef processing plant at the age of 20 after serving four months in jail for a parole violation to being the leading rebounder on what might be the best team in Conference USA. It is an interesting read and does a good job of getting into Tinnon’s struggles while still keeping a focus on his impact on the court.
  5. McDonald’s announced the list of nominees for their coveted All-American designation. When we say list we mean pretty much every decent senior in the country as their list includes over 600 nominees (combined boys and girls). Eventually the list will be whittled down to 24 boys and 24 girls, but for now if you want to see which seniors in your area are the best it might be worth checking out. If you are into state bragging rights, the leaders for the boys team are Iowa (36 nominees) and Washington (30) far outdistancing New York (9) and California (8). We are not exactly sure what the political reasons are behind such a stark disparity, but it is amusing.
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