The Latest Pac-12 Personnel Problems: Richard Solomon and Josh Watkins

Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2012

Oh, the headaches of a college basketball coach. Aside from all the things that coaches have to deal with just in terms of practice and games and apart from the inevitable injuries, these guys are also dealing with young men who have often been coddled for much of their adolescence and sometimes experiencing freedoms that they’ve never known before. And, I don’t know about you, but when I was that age, I had some problems with maturity (still do, on my best days at least). Well, immaturity struck again in the Pac-12 today – and twice. First, Utah senior guard Josh Watkins ran afoul of head coach Larry Krystkowiak for the second time this season, and as a result was dismissed from the already moribund Ute basketball team. Later we learned that California sophomore forward Richard Solomon, who had been leading the Golden Bears in rebounding (when not suspended or injured, that is), was ruled academically ineligible and would also miss the rest of the season.

Josh Watkins, Utah

Josh Watkins' College Basketball Career Is Over, After Being Dismissed By Utah Today (photo credit: Rick Egan, AP)

Let’s start with Solomon, who still has a future at Cal, provided he can take care of the academic side of his business between now and next fall.  He had seen his minutes go up and down in part because of getting into head coach Mike Montgomery’s doghouse early in the year before injuring a foot. But when he was on the court, he was far and away the Bears’ best rebounder and interior defender, grabbing 27.3% of all defensive rebound opportunities (a number that would have put him in the top 20 nationally, had he played enough minutes to qualify), 14.3% of all offensive rebound opportunities and blocking shots on over 7% of all of his opponent’s two-point field goals (those last two numbers would have had him in the top 100 nationally). Without him, Monty and the Bears face the prospect of going the rest of the way with Harper Kamp, David Kravish, Robert Thurman and Bak Bak manning the paint. Given that Kamp has a history of injury problem, Kravish is a freshman, Thurman is a junior walk-on and Bak has shown more potential than actual output, the frontline problems of the Bears could be the stone that drags the whole team down.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.02.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2012

  1. For awhile, as Herb Sendek seemed to be building a new power in Tempe and the Lute Olson regime was falling apart in Tucson, it appeared that the balance of power in the Arizona basketball landscape was shifting. The Sun Devils were ticking up, with James Harden taking ASU to the Second Round and Arizona missing the Tournament for the first time in 25 years. But, after three straight double-figure victories by the Wildcats over their in-state rival, including a 17-point thrashing on Saturday, and with the best recruiting class in the nation headed to play for Sean Miller next season, clearly Arizona is again widening the gap.
  2. In California, the gap is closing, at least temporarily, as California completed its first home sweep of the Southern California schools in eight years by handing UCLA its biggest loss in the series in almost ten years. It is the first time since Walt Hazzard’s final year as the UCLA head coach that the Bruins have started conference play with two losses. While two Bruins went off for career high’s offensively (Tyler Lamb with 26, David Wear 17), Ben Howland stubbornly stuck with an ineffective man defense (although, to be fair, his team’s zone defense wasn’t much better) through most of the loss as all five Cal starters, plus reserve Robert Thurman, scored in double figures, shooting a 71.1% eFG and handing out 28 assists on 34 field goals. In short, California did what they needed to do to begin its chase for a conference title in style, while UCLA left Bruin fans considering a coaching change.
  3. Washington State bounced back from a horrible defensive performance of its own in its conference opener to hand Oregon State its second loss on the weekend. It was a “gut check” game for the Cougs, according to junior forward Brock Motum, and he came through in a big way, scoring 26 very efficient points and grabbing eight rebounds. Freshman guard DaVonte Lacy was also huge for Ken Bone’s squad, scoring 18 points (just a point shy of his 19-point career-high he set in the loss to Oregon on Thursday), while Reggie Moore handled OSU’s pressure defense with aplomb, turning it over just once in 35 minutes while dishing out nine assists.
  4. For Utah, a bad season got worse on Saturday, as the Utes played their first ever Pac-12 conference game and scored its fewest points in a game since 1947 in a 73-33 loss to Colorado. The Utes scored just 11 points in the first half and shot just 24.5% eFG while allowing Colorado to shoot 60%. They allowed CU to grab 42.9% of their own misses, along with 82.1% of the Utes’. Leading scorer Josh Watkins hit just one of his 12 field goal attempts and the whole team was treated to a post-game tirade from head coach Larry Krystkowiak that included threats for future benchings and suspensions for players who were either late to or absent from team-related functions, a problem that has been ongoing and has already resulted in an earlier one-game suspension for Watkins. With 17 games remaining in a season from hell, it remains to be seen how low this proud program can go.
  5. Lastly, while some may attribute Washington’s strong start to the conference season to lessons learned in a home loss to South Dakota State, head coach Lorenzo Romar sees these results growing from lessons planted throughout the season. He’s been preaching defense for weeks now in the hopes of correcting some of their problems, and now that is paying off. Not only are stars like Tony Wroten and C.J. Wilcox buying in defensively, but Romar has gotten redshirt freshman forward Desmond Simmons to play like a “junkyard dog,” killing it on the glass and working hard away from the ball.
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Pac-12 Reset As Conference Play Tips Off Tonight

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

Yesterday we looked back at non-conference play and picked out some of the highlights of the first couple months of the season. Today, as conference play gets ready to tip-off, we look forward to what we expect to happen from here until Selection Sunday. Prior to the start of the season, we took a guess at things like conference standings and All-Pac-12 teams based on limited information. Now, we’ve got twelve or thirteen games upon which to base our next set of guesses, but given the state of affairs in the conference so far, may be no closer to having a good idea what is going to happen from here on out than we were back in November. Nevertheless, here goes:

Projected Standings

  1. California 13-5 – While every team in the conference is flawed, the Golden Bears are slightly less flawed than the rest, provided Richard Solomon can return from his injury, Harper Kamp can remain relatively healthy and freshman David Kravish continues to improve. Their quartet of guards (Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Brandon Smith) is the best in the league and head coach Mike Montgomery has a way of squeezing every bit of production out of his players.

    Mike Montgomery, California

    With Mike Montgomery At The Helm And A Talented Backcourt, The Golden Bears Are The Slight Favorite In The Pac-12 (photo credit: Christine Cotter)

  2. Stanford 12-6Johnny Dawkins’ team will prove it is for real, but it may not have the experience or the single elite player capable of scoring with confidence in clutch situations to actually win the title. Chasson Randle or even Dwight Powell could grow into that type of player, but it may be a year or more away from happening. The Cardinal travel to Berkeley on the final day of the regular season in what could be a game rife with title implications.
  3. Arizona 12-6 – It seems like everybody is just waiting for Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson to turn it on, take over this team and turn the Wildcats into an explosive offensive force. They’re talented enough to make that happen, but 13 games into the season, it is looking like Solomon Hill, Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry are going to have to continue as the go-to guys for Sean Miller. And while those guys are nice players, they are all more suited to the role of contributors rather than stars, at least on teams who hope to win a conference title. However, the fact that the Wildcats only have to play Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon once each is definitely a bonus.
  4. Oregon State 11-7Craig Robinson’s has an exciting and young squad that may have only scratched the surface of its talent so far. However, given their history of losing games that they have no business losing, they’ve got to be in the same “prove-it” category that Stanford occupies. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the quintet of Ahmad Starks, Jared Cunningham, Devon Collier, Joe Burton and Angus Brandt turns itself to be the most talented starting five in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.20.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 20th, 2011

  1. Break up the Utes! After dropping eight straight games and needing ten games to notch its first win over a Division I opponent, Utah has now won two in a row after knocking off Portland Monday night behind a career-high 26 points from senior point guard Josh Watkins. The Utes started hot and never trailed, but needed three big defensive plays – two blocked shots and a drawn charge – in the final two minutes to seal the game. Meanwhile, JuCo transfer Cedric Martin has turned into a solid second scoring option for Larry Krystkowiak’s club, hitting three threes on the night on his way to his third-straight game with double-digit scoring. Their trip to Weber State on Thursday figures to be a bit tougher, but it is good to see this team showing some life.
  2. Once again, we’ve got a Pac-12 team coming up with new and exciting ways to lose basketball games. Well, for Arizona State, I guess this isn’t all that new, as Monday night they lost their second-straight game on a buzzer-beating three. The most recent perpetrator was Southern Mississippi’s Darnell Dodson (formerly of Kentucky), playing in his first game back after having been dismissed from the team in April following a guilty plea to multiple criminal charges. Dodson played just a minute in the first half, but scored 17 points in the second half, including the game winner as time expired. The Sun Devils had rallied from 11-points down with under four minutes to play to tie the game up, after leading for the first 32 minutes. Keala King was spectacular for Herb Sendek’s team down the stretch, scoring five points, grabbing four rebounds, handing out three assists and swiping a couple steals in the final four minutes on his way to his first career double-double and likely his most complete game in a Sun Devil uniform.
  3. Somebody stole USC’s uniforms on Monday night. Either that or the scorekeeper was drunk. One of the two. How else to explain an 83-point outburst for a team that came into the game ranked 340th in the nation with just over 54 points per game. The Trojans scored 36 points in a loss against Cal Poly earlier in the season, but scored more than that in each half last night in its 24-point win over TCU. Maurice Jones led the way with 25 points, but sophomore Dewayne Dedmon chipped in 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, grabbed six boards and was exceptionally active defensively, blocking three shots and getting three steals. Not only did the Trojans put in an unprecedented display offensively (aside from knocking down shots, they only turned the ball over four times), they also got back to playing defense the way they are used to, forcing 20 Horned Frog turnovers.
  4. Weird story out of Eugene today, as ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan posted a story citing quotes supposedly from Dana Altman’s postgame press conference following Oregon’s home loss to Virginia on Sunday, in which Altman apparently ripped everything from the Ducks’ play to the Cavs’ Mike Scott and even the team’s pregame spaghetti. Only problem was, Altman never said any of those things. Oregon sports information director Chris Geraghty said that the Ducks’ website had been “compromised” at some point on Sunday night with a hacker making changes to Altman’s published postgame quotes.
  5. Lastly, let’s put the name Jabari Brown to bed for awhile. Brown, who was Altman’s big program-changing five-star recruit, lasted exactly two games and produced 12 points in his Duck career before suddenly leaving the team in the middle of the semester with the intention to transfer out of the program. On Monday, it became official that Brown has committed to Frank Haith and Missouri, as had been rumored for the last couple weeks, and he will be eligible as a sophomore at the end of the first semester in 2012. In the meantime, Brown threw away a season of eligibility for no obvious reason, and we shall never speak of him again around these parts.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.09.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 9th, 2011

  1. On the heels of Wednesday night’s loss to Nevada, and in the midst of the second straight rough season, Arizona State on Thursday announced a two-year contract extension for head coach Herb Sendek. The timing of the announcement may seem peculiar, but Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic thinks that it was actually the perfect time, assuming the athletic department believes that Sendek is the guy for this program. With further losses expected to pile up this season, especially if freshman point guard Jahii Carson is declared ineligible in the next week, announcing an extension later in the year as the team sinks toward the bottom of the conference would be met with even more consternation from a beleaguered ASU fan base.
  2. On the heels of an historic loss on Wednesday night and with BYU coming up this weekend, Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak announced that senior point guard Josh Watkins, who had been suspended earlier in the week for “conduct detrimental to the team,” had been reinstated and would play against the Cougars on Saturday. The Utes still don’t have a prayer of winning that game, and, as Bill Riley points out, things are going to get worse before they get better because there simply isn’t enough talent on this current Utah roster to compete, even in a weakened Pac-12.
  3. In Tucson, all eyes are on the situation with another suspended point guard, Josiah Turner of Arizona. The talented freshman was on the verge of regaining his starting role earlier in the week before he missed a practice and was suspended for the Wildcats’ trip to Florida on Wednesday. Scott Terrell of the Tucson Citizen points out that despite all of Sean Miller’s success on the recruiting trail, he’ll need Turner to be the man at point if he hopes to see his team live up to all its talent. Nick Johnson slid over to the point on Wednesday and gave a good effort, but he is clearly not the answer at the one, while sophomore Jordin Mayes is best suited to a back-up role. With no true point due to arrive at Arizona next year either, these next couple of Wildcat squads will need to be quarterbacked by Turner.
  4. Oregon State freshman center Daniel Gomis got his first chance to practice as a member of the Beavers on Wednesday after breaking his leg last summer. The 6’10” native of Senegal is still working his way back into game shape and may eventually take a redshirt this year, but OSU head coach Craig Robinson will wait until after December to make a final decision on Gomis’ status for the rest of the season. Gomis is a very athletic big man who runs the floor well and defends hard, but his offensive range doesn’t extend much farther than the distance of a dunk. Barring injury or some other calamity for OSU, expect Gomis to sit out the rest of the season and begin his freshman season next year.
  5. Finally, as if we didn’t know, Jon Wilner puts it into plain black and white just how bad this conference is this year. Among the lowlights, the conference is: 0-9 against ranked teams; 2-8 against the Mountain West; 0-3 against San Diego State; and 9-13 against power conference leagues. And the teams with the two best records in the conference? Stanford (8-1) and Oregon State (6-1) have built their records against schedules ranked 201st and 249th, respectively, by Sagarin.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.07.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2011

  1. Tuesday night saw the Pac-12 conference lose yet another non-conference game, as Marquette knocked off Washington by a bucket in a back-and-forth game that provided a nice nightcap to the Jimmy V Classic in New York. The Huskies had plenty of chances down the stretch to earn a more positive outcome, but three turnovers on their last six possessions, plus a wild Abdul Gaddy attempt on the final play with Lorenzo Romar sitting on his last timeout put the Huskies on their way to their second straight defeat. With Duke on deck on Saturday, Romar’s club has its work cut out for it.
  2. In what is getting to be a tradition here with the P12 M5, we’ve got player suspensions to talk about. Oh boy! First, in an announcement that surprised exactly no one, UCLA suspended Reeves Nelson indefinitely for the second time this season. It was originally reported that Nelson had been dismissed from the team, but head coach Ben Howland corrected that later in the day. Nelson was benched for the second half of Saturday’s loss to Texas for, among other issues, blowing a defensive assignment at the end of the first half that led to a Clint Chapman dunk, then was later seen laughing on the bench as fans in the crowd called out for him. Nevertheless, he remained supportive of his teammates from the bench, leading the cheers down the stretch as the Bruins attempted to mount a comeback. With Howland and Nelson clearly at odds and the end of the semester at hand, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the UCLA program to see if the junior forward becomes the latest Bruin big man to leave the program.
  3. Meanwhile in Tucson, just a day after head coach Sean Miller hinted that point guard Josiah Turner might be on his way back into the starting lineup, the freshman missed practice and was suspended for Arizona‘s game tonight against Florida. Turner had already been benched for a game against Ball State earlier in the season for behavioral issues, and reportedly has been kicked out of practice on one other occasion. Turner had been starting to come around on the court in recent games, and the Florida game would have been an excellent chance for him to announce his arrival to a national television crowd, but despite all his talent, the youngster can’t get out of his own way so far. Jordin Mayes will need to take on a bigger role for the Wildcats in Turner’s absence.
  4. The Daily Wildcat noted that this Arizona/Florida series is the result of a friendship between Miller and Florida head coach Billy Donovan. The two first met when Donovan was a senior at Providence and Miller took a recruiting visit to the school, and has continued throughout the years as the players went on to become two of the best coaches in the land. For now, the series doesn’t extend beyond next year’s game when Florida returns the trip, but here’s hoping these two schools can make this an annual affair. We can never have too many interesting non-conference matchups.
  5. Lastly, in the wake of Monday’s suspension of their leading scorer Josh Watkins, Utah is preparing to take on Cal State Fullerton tonight. While Watkins worked out with assistant coach Andy Hill yesterday, the rest of his team was preparing to move on without him, at least temporarily. Freshman Kareem Storey will take over at the point, and he’ll need to play a big role for the Utes, but more importantly, the team needs to improve their effort, according to head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who noted that the coaching staff has had to “coach effort more than you’d like to.” Junior forward Dijon Farr was less diplomatic, saying that “some people just quit.” With a long slog of likely losses ahead, it would be quite a testament to Krystkowiak if he can get this team back on track, at least in the effort department.
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Morning Five: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2011

  1. You know those anthologies called the Top Fiction/Non-Fiction/Sportswriting/etc. in America that come out every year around the holidays? Have you ever wondered what the best college basketball sportswriting in America looks like (ahem, other than RTC, of course)? Here”s your chance. The USBWA announced its five winners for its Best Writing Contest in 2011, and each selection is well-received. The top column award went to David Teel of the Newport News (VA) Daily Press for a piece on Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith; the top game story award went to David Woods of the Indianapolis Star for his recap of the Butler vs. Florida Elite Eight game last March; the top enterprise piece award went to Dan Wiederer of the Fayetteville (NC) Observer for his three-part look at Mike Krzyzewski; the top magazine length feature award went to Sean Gregory of Time for his reflection on Princeton’s historic 1996 upset of UCLA; and, the top moderate length feature award went to Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated for his poignant story about Kenneth Faried’s life and passion for rebounding. If you have time, we’ll see you again in a half-hour. If not, just bookmark the page and get back to it later. Think of all the garbage you read (willingly or not) every day — if you’re a true college hoops fan, each of these five articles is well worth your time and energy.
  2. Speaking of SI, the magazine released its Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year yesterday and it had a decidedly college basketball theme. The all-time wins leader on the men’s side, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, will add yet another honor to his mantle with his selection, while the all-time wins leader on the women’s side, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, will do likewise. The duo of coaching titans have combined for a total of 1,982 wins, roughly fifty to seventy wins behind the grand total that schools like Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina have had in their entire histories. In the nearly-60 year history of the award, only three other college basketball personalities have been honored — Ohio State’s Jerry Lucas (1961), UCLA’s John Wooden (1972), and North Carolina’s Dean Smith (1997). They will be honored tonight in Manhattan at a special ceremony.
  3. Folks around the college basketball nation are still buzzing about Anthony Davis’ game-winning rejection in the North Carolina-Kentucky game from Saturday, where one of the top storylines involved all the future NBA talent playing in that game. DraftExpress‘ Jonathan Givony (doubling up at Grantland) took a look at the game from an NBA scouting perspective, and here is what he found. Perhaps exhibiting how evenly matched these two teams are, Givony broke down each position and picked a player advantage between each starter — the final tally was a 3-2 advantage. You’ll have to get over to read the piece to see which team “won” the NBA Draft component of Saturday’s blockbuster of a game.
  4. Utah is already on its way to an epically disastrous season, having lost six games against Division I competition by an average of over 20 points per game. How bad has it been? So bad that Utah is rated lower than Utah Valley and Southern Utah within its own state in the KenPom ratings… ugh. On Monday it got worse. Starting point guard Josh “Jiggy” Watkins was suspended indefinitely by head coach Larry Krystkowiak for failure to live up to team expectations (reportedly he was late for practice and had fallen asleep in class). Considering the fact that Watkins is the top usage player (39.7%) and seventh-highest shooting player (37.7% of Utah’s possessions) in America through four weeks of the season, but accounts for over half his teams assists (52%), his benching might be a good thing or a bad thing. Then again, how much worse could the Utes get?
  5. Seth Davis was back yesterday with his Hoop Thoughts column, and as usual, it’s a must-read. The topic this week is ten sophomores who were not stars as freshmen to keep an eye on this season, and he lists many of the most important names. Here are five more that should most definitely be considered as super sophomores after quieter freshman seasons — Terrell Stoglin (Maryland), Trae Golden (Tennessee), Eric Atkins (Notre Dame), Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State), and Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State). All of these guys have made significant strides in their second seasons on campus.
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Josh Watkins Suspended Indefinitely

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 5th, 2011

As if things weren’t already bad enough for Utah, starting point guard and leading scorer Josh Watkins has been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team after arriving late to a team practice this morning. Coach Larry Krystkowiak issued a statement early Monday saying Watkins will not participate in any team activities until he has met certain obligations. Watkins leads the team in scoring with 17.7 PPG, and it is logical to guess that some of the “detrimental conduct” is due to frustrations with his team’s 1-6 record. Even though the suspension could mean that the Utes finish nonconference play with just one win, this is the right move, especially for a new coach. Krystkowiak is sending the right message here, and it will eventually help this team down the stretch.

It's hard to imagine the Utes winning another game with leading scorer Josh Watkins, who has been suspended indefinitely (Credit: Ethan Miller)

 

Life will go on for the Utes, painfully, so expect to see an even bigger role for center Jason Washburn. Washburn is the team’s second leading scorer at 10.7 PPG. Taking on more minutes in the absence of Watkins will be freshmen Anthony Odunsi and Kareem Storey. Odunsi, capable of playing at both the one and two, has averaged 4.4 points in 17.1 MPG. Storey, a pass-first point guard, was originally thought of as a nice change of pace to Watkins’ dribble and shoot mentality. With the suspension, however, Storey will see a major increase in his minutes (currently 19.3 MPG). It will be interesting to see if the Utes can use the suspension as an opportunity to grow their supporting players and help develop them for the future.

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Checking In On.. the Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. 

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • Tournament Trip-Ups – The early season exempt tournaments are always an exciting time of the year in college basketball. Teams from conferences across the land get a chance to meet, usually on a neutral floor, and play several games against quality competition in a relatively short span, giving coaches a chance to figure out exactly what to make of their new collection of players and giving fans a chance to get introduced to their new teams. For the Pac-12 schools, this season’s batch of early season tournaments was largely a bust. You know when the two best results for the conference in these tournaments were Oregon State’s two-point loss to Vanderbilt in the finals of the Legends Classic and Stanford’s six-point loss to Syracuse in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off, that things didn’t exactly go as planned. And the less we speak about the last place finishes of Utah and Washington State in the Old Spice Classic and the 76 Classic, the better.
  • Oregon’s Growing Pains – Last week, the bombshell out of Eugene was that five-star freshman guard Jabari Brown was leaving Dana Altman’s program after just two games. Then news broke Tuesday night that fellow freshman guard Bruce Barron was also leaving the program – this time after just five games, only three of which Barron played in (seven minutes per game). Those two defections make for six players that have left the Oregon program since Altman’s arrival. Certainly the first four of those transfers make sense, as many coaching changes result in roster changes, but Brown and Barron were Altman recruits, and guys who were getting playing time. The fact that Brown and Barron were close friends does provide something of an explanation for Barron’s decision, though. If there is any good news in this shakeup for Oregon, both players are continuing with their classes at the school for this semester, meaning their defections could have no negative impact on the team’s APR.
Jabari Brown, Oregon

The Trend Of Ducks Flying The Coup Is A Troubling One For Oregon Fans. (Jim Brown/US Presswire)

  • Injuries – The Pac-12 probably hasn’t had any more injuries than any other conference this season, but they have had their share of important ones. USC lost senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL prior to the season, had freshman center Curtis Washington saw his season end with a torn labrum, and just last week saw sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon go down with a stress fracture in his foot that will keep him out for four to six weeks. Utah is missing 7’3” center David Foster, who broke a foot in the Utes’ exhibition game, and he is still deciding whether he’ll return this season or take a medical redshirt. And Washington is still waiting to find out about senior guard Scott Suggs who broke a toe prior to the season. Suggs hopes to begin practicing this week with a possible return December 10 against Duke.

Player of the Year Watch

Last week, Jared Cunningham was coming off consecutive games in which he had set a new career-high for himself, and combined with his defensive prowess, he was the POTY frontrunner. Now, he’s coming off two-straight more modest performances scoring-wise (10.5 PPG), but remains the Pac-12’s leading scorer with 20.8 points per game. The next three spots on the conference scoring list are manned by Utah’s Josh Watkins (18.8 PPG), Arizona State’s Trent Lockett (17.5 PPG) and Washington State’s Faisal Aden (17.0 PPG), good players all, but guys who likely won’t have an impact on the POTY race, simply because they play for bad teams.

Cunningham Remains at the Top of our POTY Watch

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.15.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 15th, 2011

  1. On the heels of UCLA’s frustrating opening night loss to Loyola Marymount, there was a report out of Los Angeles Monday afternoon that head coach Ben Howland would have a meeting with junior forward Reeves Nelson to discuss Nelson’s recent behavior and his future with the team. Late Monday night, UCLA issued a statement announcing that Nelson would be suspended indefinitely after he skipped Monday’s practice, with the length of the suspension to be determined pending a face-to-face meeting between the two at a later date. Nelson, who has never been one to hide his feelings on the court, was visibly upset during the game on Friday night, failing to participate in a couple of timeout huddles and making several erratic plays, including a couple of wild three-point attempts as the game dissolved in the second half. While there have been rumors that Nelson is considering leaving the program, nothing has been substantiated to this point.
  2. While the Bruins will get back to business on the court tonight without Nelson against Middle Tennessee State, UCLA fans are in full panic mode. When the results of LMU’s second game against the Bruins’ next opponent, MTSU, came through with the Lions on the losing end of a 58-51 score replete with LMU getting dominated inside by the Blue Raider front court, UCLA fans rightly wondered why the Bruins weren’t able to get that kind of production out of their highly regarded front line. With all the turmoil around the program in the first few days of the new season, it will be interesting to see whether the team responds with passion or lets the poor start compound on itself. Who would have thought just a few days ago that an early-season UCLA/Middle Tennessee State contest would be a game to keep an eye on?
  3. Early in the first half of last night’s USC/Nebraska tussle, injured Trojan point guard Jio Fontan was interviewed by Fox Sports sideline reporter Amy Bender. During the interview, Fontan, who tore his ACL during USC’s trip to Brazil in August and had surgery on his knee on September 12, indicated that he hadn’t given up on foregoing a medical redshirt this year and returning to the team at some point. Nevermind the fact that such talk seems insane, we wish Fontan the best in his rehabilitation. As for the game, the Trojans dropped a nailbiter to the Cornhuskers for the third straight season, this time in double overtime. Sophomore sensation Dewayne Dedmon missed a wide-open free-throw line jumper at the end of regulation, then after sophomore point Maurice Jones made an improbable double-clutch push shot with 6.5 seconds in the first overtime, freshman guard Alexis Moore was called for a foul on the ensuing possession and Nebraska’s Tony McCray sent the game to a second overtime where NU sealed the deal. Jones again led the Trojans with 18 points, but had to take 22 shots to do so. In two games this year, Jones has made just eight of his 35 field goal attempts.
  4. Utah recorded a victory in its first game as a Pac-12 member on Monday night. Sure, it was a three-point victory over NAIA school San Diego Christian, but given how little success the Utes are expected to have this season, we might as well give them a little love while possible. Senior point guard Josh “Jiggy” Watkins led all scorers with 23 points, just one shy of his career high, while freshman guard Kareem Storey added ten points (all on free throws). The other five Utah newcomers combined to score 12 points in 87 minutes, a problem considering that two of the four Utes that got any amount of playing time last season – specifically senior center David Foster and junior guard Chris Hines – are sidelined with injuries.
  5. Washington State was the final Pac-12 team to start its season, kicking off the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon against Gonzaga late last night. Despite allowing Zag freshman Kevin Pangos to knock down nine three-pointers on the way to building a 21-point lead, the Cougars fought back, cutting the GU lead to as low as four at one point before losing steam. WSU played without senior guard Abe Lodwick, who is fighting through a sprained foot, but had five players score in double figures, including freshman guard DaVonte Lacy who poured in 11 points in just 14 minutes of play.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.04.11 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 4th, 2011

  1. Arizona came into the season with big expectations. The Wildcats ranked in the preseason Top 25 with Kyle Fogg and Solomon Hill returning and Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson coming to Tucson. Then Seattle Pacific happened. The Falcons came into the McKale Center last Thursday and shocked the Wildcats, 69-68. On Tuesday, Humboldt State made its way into Tucson and battled the Wildcats for the first 30 minutes before falling, 60-51. The two exhibition games shocked Wildcat fans and sent them into states of confusion and panic, but in reality, the games may have provided a wake-up call for the team. With its regular-season opener coming on Monday against Valparaiso, the coaches are reevaluating the starting lineups and rotation, which most likely would not have happened if not for the exhibition surprises.
  2. A new era is set to begin in Salt Lake City and with it comes a new attitude. “Defense,” says senior Josh Watkins, Utah‘s point guard. “We’re playing way more defense, we pressure the ball.” The team is looking for an identity, and the defensive side is a great place to start considering the Utes were second-to-last in the Mountain West in scoring defense last year. Utah will also be looking to senior center David Foster to plug the middle after averaging 3.2 BPG last season.
  3. Washington guard Terrence Ross didn’t put up outrageous numbers in his freshman year, but all of that changed in the Pac-10 Tournament. Ross averaged 15.3 PPG that week and was named to the all-tournament team. That performance combined with the praise he received over the summer on the progress he made with his jumper has fans expecting big things from him, so much so that he was the number one player in the “Counting Down the Huskies” features that Percy Allen has been rolling out the past couple of weeks. Ross will man the backcourt for the Huskies along with junior Abdul Gaddy and freshman Tony Wroten, Jr.
  4. Earlier this week the Oregon got a commitment from four-star point guard Dominic Artis. Artis comes by way of Findlay College Prep (NV) and is rated as the number eight point guard in the nation in this year’s class. For a team that is looking mighty bare at the point for next season, this was a huge pickup for coach Dana Altman. Bruce Barron and Johnathan Loyd are the only true point guards on the team this season, but while both are solid players, Artis has the talent to come in and take their jobs quickly.
  5. Last week Drew and I began our Pac-12 football predictions and I promptly went 6-0. Drew went 4-2 on the week, so I have a two-game lead already. (It should be noted that Drew changed two of his picks so we wouldn’t both have the same, but whatever… scoreboard, baby). This week there are plenty of interesting games, ranging from Utah-Arizona to Oregon-Washington. Our “predict the score” game will be Stanford-Oregon State, for the pure fun of seeing how many points the Cardinal offense can pin on the depleted Beaver D. Here are our picks for this week:
Game Connor (6-0) Drew (4-2)
USC at Colorado USC USC
Stanford at Oregon State Stanford 49, Oregon State 10 Stanford 31, Oregon State 17
Washington State at California Washington State Washington State
Utah at Arizona Arizona Arizona
Arizona State at UCLA Arizona State UCLA
Oregon at Washington Oregon Oregon
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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.

 

Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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