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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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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