Big East M5: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 10th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Creighton let out a huge sigh of relief on Wednesday. First, Doug McDermott‘s shoulder injury turned out to be a shoulder sprain. He is expected to play on Saturday and downplayed the injury, a good sign for the stud. Later, fellow senior Grant Gibbs received good news as his scary knee injury was revealed to be a dislocated kneecap. The worst case scenario some were fearing was a torn ACL, but luckily the sixth year senior will be able to play in his final year. Gibbs is expected to be out about a month, returning in time for the final month of the Big East season and postseason tournaments. The Creighton offense has been playing spectacularly and the team will feel the loss of Gibbs, but should survive without him, as several players like Jahenns Manigat, Austin Chatman, and Devin Brooks have stepped up their games this year. Each is averaging at least seven points, three rebounds and two assists per game. 
  2. Georgetown center Joshua Smith did not travel with the team to Providence due to academic reasons. The Hoyas ended up getting run out of the gym against a Friars team that started 0-2 in the Big East. The Hoyas had their worst offensive performance of the season, shooting 39.6% from the floor while committing 15 turnovers. This situation looks similar to the suspension Greg Whittington was dealt after the first semester because of grades, and he ended up not playing the rest of the year. Hopefully Smith resolves the academic issue and returns back to the lineup because the Hoyas need his offensive presence down low to open up the floor for Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who is having a breakout year. 
  3. Doug McDermott is gaining traction as a leading candidate for National Player of the Year honors. With all the early season buzz about the top freshman across the country, McDermott is earning more recognition from the press for his remarkable season. Seth Davis wrote a great piece highlighting him as the top senior and SI.com‘s Brian Hamilton wrote about the star bucking the one-and-done trend to continue to hone his game,  and his relationship with his coach, who is also his father. CBSSPORTS.com‘s Gary Parrish gave Doug a ton of attention this week by looking at whether he will win his first scoring title as well as putting him at the top of his list for NPOY, pointing out the last player to have the numbers he is putting up was Kevin Durant.
  4. The world’s most famous bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, published his latest bracketology yesterday. He has four Big East teams in the field, with Villanova leading the way with a #2 seed. Creighton improved to a six seed and Xavier moved up to an eight seed. Georgetown regressed down to the 10 line after their loss to Providence. Butler was the eighth team out before they lost to DePaul, likely setting them back farther. Creighton and Xavier have impressed and should continue rising if their recent play continues. Seth Davis thinks the league will end up receiving five bids, but the rest of the league’s teams have not been helping their case. As unlikely as it seems now, don’t be surprised if Marquette and Providence make serious runs for berths as both have seemed to turn a corner and have the talent to win big resume boosting games.
  5. Seton Hall solidified their 2014 recruiting class with the addition of Northwestern transfer Chier Ajou. The Sudan native is 7’2″, but failed to see the court often while in Evanston. Ajou has a great story, coming to the United States after being held hostage in his home country. He will be eligible after the first semester next season and joins one of the nations top recruiting classes. The one missing piece for Kevin Willard’s team was at the center position, and he now will have a player in conference play to battle in the post. He has great size and physical tools, and will have the next year to get to know Willard’s system and improve his game. Ajou has the genes as his cousin is Luol Deng, but it will take more than that for him to play big minutes next year.
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D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera Ready to Become a Household Name

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 6th, 2014

Markel Starks is the leader; Joshua Smith is the enigma; and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR) is the scorer. These are the identities of each of Georgetown’s three best players this season. In Saturday afternoon’s blowout win against St. John’s, Smith-Rivera fulfilled his role by dropping 31 points on a remarkable 12 shots. It was a big game for the sophomore guard from Indianapolis — not only did he score in buckets, but he also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists. After watching Georgetown through several games, it’s hard to conclude otherwise that Starks, the senior point guard and unquestioned leader of the team, is the most important player on the Hoyas’ roster. He was the reason Smith-Rivera was able to score as much as he did, by setting him up with clean passes right as he came off screens with enough space to get his shot off. But it’s equally just as difficult to come away from the weekend game without realizing the offensive powerhouse that Smith-Rivera has become and concluding that he’s poised to join the national conversation as  an elite scorer.

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is JTIII's most efficient scorer. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is JTIII’s most efficient scorer. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Smith-Rivera is part of a superb 2012 recruiting class from the state of Indiana that includes names like Yogi Ferrell, Gary Harris, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. Not as highly regarded as his Hoosier State peers, several Big Ten coaches recruited Smith-Rivera but did not make him a top priority. As a result, he decided to stay east, where he was attending Oak Hill Academy, ultimately committing to Georgetown. We need only look at Smith-Rivera’s performance for the season to understand the impact he’s had on the Hoyas’ offense. According to sportsreference.com, he leads the Big East in offensive efficiency (1.27 points per possession) and effective field goal percentage (59.7%). Among conference players, he is in the top five in the following categories: field goal percentage (48.2%), three-point field goals made (32), points per game (17.1), and win-shares (.231 per 40 minutes). These numbers alone would be impressive for any sophomore playing in a major basketball conference, but it is even more so from a player who’s considered a longshot to make the NBA (DSR is listed as the 74th-ranked sophomore at draftexpress.com) due to his physical shortcomings.

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Takeaways from the Big East Opening Day

Posted by George Hershey on January 1st, 2014

What an opener for the new Big East. The league had two overtime thrillers, there was an upset, and all three of the new members impressed. Here are some takeaways from a great day of hoops.

St. John’s vs. Xavier

St. John’s is great in transition, but struggles mightily in the halfcourt:  The Johnnies rushed out to a big lead in the first eight minutes, in large part to their transition offense. They scored their first seven points in transition off of turnovers or running after rebounds. Throughout the game it was evident that the halfcourt offense was not working well and often times ended with a contested jump shot. The Red Storm made a push in the second half by pushing the ball up-court, but ended up settling for tough shots as the game winded down. D’Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan, and Orlando Sanchez all are capable of running the break and Jordan had a great game as he got to the rim, hit some outside shots, and showed a nice pull-up jumper. Many talk about this team’s great talent, but their halfcourt offense is limiting their ability to use their athleticism. If the Johnnies want to win go from an under-achieving team to an NCAA Tournament one, they need to get out in transition, while they improve their offensive sets.

Seton Hall vs. Providence 

Seton Hall can get out of the cellar in the new Big East: What a game! A great double overtime thriller on opening night. Seton Hall showed incredible fight and resolve yesterday as they saw their double digit lead dissolve in the final minutes. Some questionable calls did not help them in the extra sessions, but they made winning plays when it mattered. With starting center Eugene Teague our for the game, Kevin Willard was without his best post player. The Pirates forced the Friars into 14 turnovers, eight in the first half, which helped create  most of the early offense. They limited Bryce Cotton to 1-8 from three and the Friars struggled all night to score. The win should give the team a ton of confidence going forward as Brian Oliver, Brandon Mobley, and Jaren Sina stepped up to make crucial baskets. Sina came off the bench in overtime to hit a three with two minutes left to spark the Pirates. Oliver was the player of the game as his hot shooting provided most of the offense in the second half and Mobley came up time after time, especially with his three free throws with a minute left. This team may have suffered injuries to every significant player thus far, but their win over a high quality opponent while shorthanded is impressive, and there is no reason they cannot build off this win.

Smith Should Be A Bigger Force For Georgetown

DePaul vs. Georgetown:

Joshua Smith needs to produce more offensively: The big fella came in and dominated in his first game against Oregon, but since he was beaten up by Kansas, he has struggled mightily, and yesterday was no difference. Against a smaller and inexperienced front line, he only had five points and one assist, without even recording a rebound. There is no reason why Smith, who has been heralded as an excellent low post scorer since he arrived in UCLA, should not average at least 10 points during conference play. The Hoyas have struggled at times to score so far and Smith is a player who can provide instant offense. He also can create for his teammates by attracting double teams and finding them. Smith needs to get to the line, to get opponents in foul trouble and also get some easy points. The Hoyas have a good team with many pieces that make a winning team, but they could use a player you can dump it down to and let go to work on the block.

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Nate Lubick, Todd Mayo, Semaj Christon Lead Big East Players Who Need to Step Up

Posted by Jameson Fleming on December 28th, 2013

With the exception of Villanova and perhaps Butler, every Big East team at this point probably wishes its season was going a little better. Still, with the exceptions of Seton Hall and DePaul, the league’s teams as a whole have done enough to avoid resume-killing losses entering conference play, and therefore eight teams have a reasonable chance to dream about making the NCAA Tournament field in mid-March. But every team, including top 10 Villanova, has its weaknesses and struggling players, so here’s a look at who needs to step up on each squad if it hopes to achieve its postseason goals.

Villanova

Villanova (U.S. Presswire)

Villanova Has Had a Great Preconference Season – Can It Continue? (U.S. Presswire)

The Wildcats haven’t been shy about shooting the three-pointer this year. During the past six years, Jay Wright’s club has dedicated about 34 percent of its field goal attempts to the long ball. This year, that number has skyrocketed to 45.7 percent, seventh highest in the country. The problem? The Wildcats are shooting only 32.7 percent from three, 204th best nationally. Jay Wright has role players who are capable shooters – Josh Hart, Dylan Ennis, and Kris Jenkins each drills at least 38 percent of his attempts – but his top two volume shooters have struggled from beyond the arc. James Bell and Ryan Arcidiacono have taken a combined 140 three-pointers, but also hit just 28.5 percent of them. Overall, Bell and Arcidiacono have improved considerably from last season, but if Wright is going to continue to let those two bomb away from distance, they’ll need to at least improve their percentages to last year’s level (Bell at 36 percent; Arcidiacono at 33 percent).

Creighton

The Bluejays have become the new Gonzaga: All offense and little defense. The last time Creighton was a better defensive team than offensive one was 2008 when it ranked 70th in defensive efficiency and 106th in offensive efficiency under previous head coach, Dana Altman. This year is much of the same: Creighton ranks fourth offensively and 59th defensively. But to give the team some credit, this appears to be their best defensive team since 2007 when they ranked 37th nationally. However, that still won’t be good enough to make a deep run in March. Greg McDermott’s team doesn’t force many turnovers or block many shots. The guards need to interrupt passing lanes better, and the bigs, especially NPOY candidate Doug McDermott, who hasn’t blocked a shot the whole season, need to be a more imposing defensive force around the basket.

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Georgetown’s Big Three Replacing Otto Porter’s Offense Nicely

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 19th, 2013

Georgetown is on a six-game winning streak after defeating Elon at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night. Elon gave John Thompson III’s squad all it could handle after hitting eight three-pointers in the first half, but in the second half, the Hoyas’ “Big Three” of Joshua Smith, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and Markel Starks led the team back from a possible upset by scoring 36 of their 46 second half points. In a previous post on the topic, I discussed how Thompson was using these three players in tandem to replace the loss of Otto Porter by committee. Now that a quarter of the season is complete, this strategy has become even more apparent. While Smith, Smith-Rivera and Starks provide the offensive punch, JTIII relies on his role players and bench to shore up the Hoyas’ rebounding and defense.

georgetown hoyas

Georgetown’s Otto Porter By Committee Approach

The Big Three accounts for 45.2 points of the team’s 75.5 PPG, or 60 percent of the overall scoring. When Porter left after last season, he took 16.2 PPG with him. This season, Smith has added 13.6 PPG, Smith-Rivera has improved his average by 7.7 PPG, and Starks has improved his by 2.2 PPG; the sum of these is an increase of 7.3 points more than Porter’s average. While the trio has more than replaced their former teammate’s points, they have fallen well short of replacing his rebounding and defense. Last season, Porter grabbed 7.5 RPG and had a defensive rating of 85 (which means he would allow 0.85 points per possession). This season’s rebounding contribution from the Big Three — accounting for the addition of Smith and the improvement in boards from the other two — is 3.6 RPG, which is nearly four rebounds per game short of what Porter was contributing. Additionally, all three players are lacking in defensive effectiveness — Smith is the closest to Porter with a defensive rating of 94.1. The gap in defensive rating may even understate the impact of Porter’s absence since he was used extensively against the opponent’s best player, which is not captured in the rating.

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The Opportunity Cost of Georgetown’s Josh Smith

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 9th, 2013

The last time I wrote about Georgetown, I described Josh Smith as slow and uninterested on defense against Wright State. Nearly a month later, when I watched the Hoyas blow out High Point late last week, Smith was much more energetic on both ends of the floor. He was forceful in the paint, putting down a rim-shaking dunk early in the game, finishing the night with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He made a couple of standout defensive plays too – registering a steal by intercepting a lob pass in the paint, and putting a nasty block on a High Point player’s attempted layup. The problem was that Smith was also in foul trouble the entire night and played a total of only 18 minutes. It was a similar story on Saturday in a win against Colgate — 14 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes of action. The opportunity cost of Smith unable to play starter’s minutes remains the narrative for the talented but enigmatic junior — not just for this pair of games, but for his entire playing career.

Joshua Smith is playing great offense, it's playing more minutes that's the challenge. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Josh Smith is playing great offense but more minutes remains a challenge. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

By all accounts, the transfer big man is having his best start to a season so far and might be the best offensive player for the Hoyas. He is averaging a career-high 13.6 PPG while shooting 70 percent from the field, easily the best such mark on the team. If we look at the more advanced statistics, his numbers are just as impressive. Smith has an offensive player efficiency rating of 121.9 — second on the team only to D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera at 125.1 — and an average plus-minus of +10.8 points per game – trailing Smith-Rivera by only 0.2 points with significantly less time. But as previously mentioned, the issue is not Smith’s effectiveness for the minutes that he’s on the court; it’s getting him on the court and keeping him there. Whether the issue is foul trouble (he averages 7.7 fouls per 40 minutes, and has fouled out of two games) or his stamina, Smith has only managed to average 19.4 MPG through the Hoya’s first eight contests. This begs the obvious question: How much is Georgetown missing in production by not having Smith play starter’s minutes?

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Georgetown is Replacing Otto Porter by Committee

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 14th, 2013

Alex Moscoso is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Georgetown-Wright State game on Wednesday evening.

The Georgetown Hoyas are dealing with some changes this season. For starters, they are in a “new” Big East conference. While they still play many of the same opponents, the Hoyas will have new teams and a round-robin format to adjust to. Secondly and more significantly, they are trying to replace superstar Otto Porter, who left early to become the third overall pick in last summer’s NBA Draft. Porter led the team in points (16.2 PPG) and rebounds (7.5 RPG) last season, and helped them win a share of the Big East Championship. Now, with Porter gone, they are in search of a new identity. It was thought that Greg Whittington would be the next player in line to take the reins. But Whittington tore his ACL over the summer and will most likely not play this season. After two games, Joshua Smith, D’Vauntes Rivera-Smith and Markel Starks have emerged as the candidates most likely to fill Porter’s shoes, even if by committee. In order to do so, they will need to foster enough chemistry between them to become a consistently effective offense.

D'Vauntes Rivera-Smith will be part of a triumvirate leading the Hoyas offense this season.

D’Vauntes Rivera-Smith will be part of a triumvirate leading the Hoyas offense this season.

In his first game for the Hoyas, a loss to Oregon in South Korea, Smith made his presence known on the block by erupting for 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting. But in last night’s game against Wright State, Smith looked more like his old UCLA self — slow and uninterested. He ended his night with only six points. What may be more worrisome is that in both contests he only managed to grab four rebounds per game and was a liability on defense. Rivera-Smith, on the other hand, had the inverse problem. Against Oregon, his shooting was ice-cold as he went 2-of-10 from the field and 0-of-5 from deep. Last night, he was simply unconscious. Smith-Rivera scored 25 points by shooting 8-of-12 from the field including three bombs from deep. However, it has been the senior point guard Starks who has been the Hoyas’ steady hand. Starks has scored 16 and 23 points and dished out four and six assists in both games, respectively.

The loss of Whittington and Smith’s weaknesses on the defensive end means this team will have to rely on their offense to win games. This should not be a problem as the trio complements each other well. Smith’s soft touch and great hands not only make him effective on the block, but they also make him a superb passer for a big man. When he is double-teamed, he is easily able to kick the ball out to Smith-Rivera in the perimeter or hit Starks running the baseline from the weak side. If these three can find their timing and rhythm with one another to the point where they’re all consistently producing in the scoring column, they have enough pieces around them to get John Thompson III his fourth Big East title this season.

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After the Buzzer: Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2013

ATB

This Weekend’s Lede. It started somewhat unceremoniously with a nondescript game between Air Force and Army in something called the All-Military Classic in Lexington, Virginia. But after seven long months of quiet, the early afternoon tip between two of the military academies in a tiny gym on the campus of VMI represented the reappearance of the sport we call college basketball. For years we’ve clamored for an Opening Night with the appropriate pomp and fanfare that the game deserves upon its November arrival, and with the excitement around social media and the number of good games available on the various networks, we’re getting there. Some 225 other games involving D-I teams came throughout the weekend, and even though there were no aircraft carrier games scattered about the land, there was still plenty to get juiced about.

Your Watercooler Moment. The Triumphant Return of Joshua Smith.

Josh Smith Showed His Dominant Post Game in the Armed Forces Classic

Joshua Smith Showed Off His Dominant Post Game in the Armed Forces Classic

Approximately one year ago, the last time any of us saw Joshua Smith, we were subjected to this embarrassing crime against basketball. After a transfer year when he traveled cross-country to Georgetown and received a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately, it was hard to say what to expect this time around. We’ve always known that the 6’10”, 300+ pound center has soft hands, quick feet that belie his size and great touch around the basket, but his weight, and correspondingly, his stamina, have remained problematic. He simply couldn’t stay on the floor at UCLA, averaging only 19.3 minutes per game in a little over two seasons. But on Friday, for at least one night, Smith appeared to be a different player. Although Georgetown lost the Armed Forces Classic game to Oregon, the burly center logged 27 fruitful minutes, shot 10-of-13 from the field, and looked downright unstoppable inside on his way to 25 points. The Hoyas wouldn’t have been within 15 points of the Ducks were it not for Smith’s production, and it begs the question: Has the change of scenery allowed Smith to turn the corner in his development? If so, and what we saw this weekend is any indication, Georgetown has found itself with one of the most talented big men in the nation.

Sights & Sounds. Plenty of great stuff from Friday night, so check out the separate post we put together on Saturday to store it all. The top dunks, buzzer-beaters and some other notable videos and images are all over there, but we saved the best buzzer-beater of the weekend for here. Dayton was down two points as IPFW looked to inbound the ball to ice the big road upset. Then, this happened…

Brutal. And in case you’re too lazy to click through, here’s the best dunk of the weekend for good measure. Michael Qualls!

Top Storyline. Four Freshman Phenoms. We’ve been talking about them all offseason, and the debuts of some of the nation’s top rookies was everything we had hoped it would be. On Friday night, Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins were all playing at the same time, and none disappointed. In a dominant win over Davidson, Parker went for 22/6 on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor that included a silky-smooth 3-of-3 from deep. Randle did Parker one better with a 23/15 performance against UNC-Asheville that included an impressive 11-of-13 from the foul line. He followed that up with another 22/14/3 assts against Northern Kentucky on Sunday, becoming the first freshman to go for consecutive double-doubles in his first two collegiate games since Michael Beasley pulled the trick six years ago. Wiggins didn’t have a dominant performance in Kansas’ win over Louisiana-Monroe, tallying 16/3/3 stls in 34 minutes of action. The trio will all be on display tomorrow night at the Champions Classic, and so far, so good. We also shouldn’t forget Arizona’s star freshman, Aaron Gordon, who put up a 13/10/4 blks double-double himself in the Wildcats’ win over Cal Poly.

Four More Weekend Storylines.

  • These Games Are Foul. Well, some of them are, at least. There was an awful lot of preseason discussion given to the new hand-checking rules and how coaches, players and officials would have to adjust on the fly. Results have been mixed. One team that many pundits thought would be most impacted, Louisville, only had 14 total fouls in a 62-possession game against Charleston. On the other hand, a Seton Hall-Niagara game on Saturday resulted in a dreadful 73 fouls in an 81-possession game. In fact, there were more free throw attempts (102) than field goal attempts (101) in that game, which two hours and 28 minutes to complete. A total of 24 teams were called for 30 or more fouls over the weekend, while 18 were called for fewer than 15. The national average last season was 17.7 fouls per team per game (or 35.4 fouls per game), so this is definitely a trend worth watching.
  • ACC Darling Boston College Struggling. BC was a chic pick to make some noise in the ACC this season, and certainly there’s a lot of time left for the Eagles to get things going. But two losses over the weekend revealed that the same issues that Steve Donahue’s team had last season haven’t been solved. They still can’t guard anybody. In losses against Providence and Massachusetts, Boston College gave up 1.04 and 1.20 points per possession, respectively, and an average of 84 points per game. Furthermore, Bryce Cotton (28 points) and Cady Lalanne (27 points) lit their defense up, getting the shots they wanted whenever they wanted. Last season the Eagles finished 192nd in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency; if they don’t figure out a way to limit easy looks from the opposition, they’ll be staring another .500 season in the face not matter how good their offense becomes.
  • Mr. Robinson May Need a New Neighborhood. It was no secret that Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson came into this season on the hot seat. After yet another embarrassing home loss to a low-major team Sunday night, he may want to go ahead and start picking out his moving company. MEAC teams were 1-89 in the last two seasons against power conference schools (the one victory was Norfolk State over Missouri in the 2012 NCAA Tournament), and they were 0-5 so far this season. That is, until Coppin State went into Oregon State’s Gill Coliseum and used its athleticism and timely three-point shooting to lead for much of the game before walking out with a Pac-12 scalp. Robinson has had a history of these types of awful home losses, and adding another one to his resume surely doesn’t help things for him in Corvallis.
  • Other Weekend Upsets. Virginia Tech and Miami (FL) suffered tough home losses over the weekend (to USC Upstate and St. Francis (NY), respectively), but both of those programs were expected to be rebuilding this season. The biggest upset of the weekend instead had to have been Kansas State’s shocking home loss to Northern Colorado on Friday night. The jokes about Bruce Weber losing with some of his own players started in earnest immediately after the game, but it was two holdovers from last season’s Big 12 co-champions in Shane Southwell and Will Spradling who were largely responsible for this one. The duo combined to shoot a miserable 4-of-22 from the field and 2-of-12 from behind the arc.

Your Weekend All-Americans.

First Team

  • Julius Randle, Kentucky (NPOY). Consecutive double-doubles to start a collegiate career for the first time since Michael Beasley did it in 2007-08 makes this an easy choice. Through three days of action, he’s the NPOY.
  • Jabari Parker, Duke. Parker didn’t board like Randle but he scored more efficiently, missing only two shots in his debut.
  • Joshua Smith, Georgetown. As mentioned above, Smith’s 25/4 on 10-of-13 shooting was his best game in nearly two years.
  • TJ Warren, NC State. Warren went off for 27/8/3 assts as the Wolfpack beat Appalachian State to start a season of very low expectations.
  • Khem Birch, UNLV. Birch has the whole frontcourt to himself in Vegas now, and he made the most of it, going for 13/17/4 blks and showing some leadership in the Runnin’ Rebels’ victory over Portland State.

Second Team

  • Kadeem Jack, Rutgers. Jack went for 30/12 to help new head coach Eddie Jordan earn his first collegiate win over Florida A&M on Friday night.
  • Rodney Hood, Duke. Hood had 22/9 in his own Blue Devils’ debut, missing only a single shot from the field as Duke blitzed Davidson.
  • Sam Dower, Gonzaga. Dower had the best games of his career on Friday against Bryant, dropping a 21/17 night in the easy win for the Bulldogs.
  • Drew Crawford, Northwestern. Crawford went for 25/11 on 8-of-14 from the field against Eastern Illinois to give new head coach Chris Collins his first professional win.
  • Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State. Nash began his junior season with a 21/10 performance that the Cowboys would like to see more of to meet their goals this season.
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Marching to Vegas: Joshua Smith Will Not Be Joining Us

Posted by AMurawa on November 30th, 2012

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

With news of Josh Smith’s departure earlier this week, UCLA’s departure numbers since their 2008 Final Four has reached 11 players. Just a week earlier, teammate Tyler Lamb left the team as well. Now I’m not going to turn this into a “UCLA has transfer issues” column. There are thousands of those across the interwebs for three years now. No, college basketball has a transfer issue and the spotlight just shines brightly on UCLA because they’re arguably the greatest program in the history of the game. For that reason, the spotlight shines brighter and it’s quickly turning into an interrogation lamp as Ben Howland has to answer spicier and spicier questions about his spiraling program. I know I’ve already spent an M2V piece examining the state of this program but these days it appears about as volatile and complex as Paula Broadwell’s “unprecedented access.”

Joshua Smith, UCLA

Joshua Smith’s Mid-season Departure Again Shines The Spotlight On Ben Howland And Begs The Question, “What’s Going On?” (Gary A. Vasquez, U.S. Presswire)

So with Smith’s departure we’re disappointed. I wrote about it on my blog, how Josh Smith is our selfish tragedy because we choose to believe we’d never let that happen to us. Me? Squander innate NBA talents? Never! But that’s the thing: Leaders are there to lead and while success is driven from within, great leadership helps you find that desire deep inside your gut. Thus the question is now perpetually being brought up – Bruins Nation kills it – as to what’s going on in Westwood? Stemming from the theories proposed by Bruins Nation, the one that strikes me as most poignant is that it is well-documented that playing for Ben Howland is joyless. Now this didn’t come to me as a tremendous surprise, A) I’ve watched Howland teams for years now and see it myself, and B) I’ve heard rumblings of such. Not a shocker. But Josh Smith’s transfer, among so many of the others, really brought to light the fact that this is a significant concern. Winning masks most everything but at the end of the day, this is a game being played, shouldn’t it be fun? Go ahead and call me an idealist because I most certainly am. I choose to believe my superstars are playing for championships not contracts and kids stay in school a year longer because they love the experience. That’s how I see sport.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 29th, 2012

  1. UCLA lost its second player in just four days on Wednesday when it was announced that junior center Joshua Smith had left the team. After not practicing on Tuesday due to weight issues and to mull over his future with the program, it was revealed mid-day Wednesday that Smith was gone for good. As we mentioned above, Tyler Lamb left the program on Sunday, just another example of players leaving in droves, something that has become all too familiar the past few seasons in Westwood. Smith said he was departing Ben Howland’s team for “personal reasons.” So, what does UCLA lose in the big man? Smith was a decent rebounder for his size, averaging 4.2 RPG so far in 2012-13; however, his inability to stay on the court for long periods of time resulted in dwindling minutes, and when he was on the floor he wasn’t exactly Mr. Productive for the Bruins’ offensive game. Freshman forward/center Tony Parker will see an increase of about five minutes per game in the coming weeks with Smith’s departure.
  2. Oregon State received bad news as well when it was revealed that freshman center Daniel Gomis would need season-ending surgery on his left leg. Gomis is the second Beaver center to be lost in just over two weeks, as senior Angus Brandt tore his ACL against Purdue on November 16. This is actually Gomis’ second year in Corvallis, but he was lost for all of the 2011-12 season with a broken leg. Expect to see a continued increase in freshman Jarmal Reid’s minutes without Gomis.
  3. In yet more depressing big man news, junior wing Anthony Brown will miss the rest of Stanford’s season with a hip injury. Brown will have surgery in mid-December according to head coach Johnny Dawkins. The guard/forward averaged 3.0 PPG in Stanford’s first four outings before sitting out the next three.
  4. Former Oregon head coach Ernie Kent will call nine Duck games for the Pac-12 Networks in 2012-13, six of which to be played in the arena he helped build. And when Oregon meets Texas-San Antonio tonight at Matthew Knight Arena, it will be only the second time Kent’s been inside Oregon’s posh new palace. His return home will hopefully be marked by many chants from the Pit Crew and a long standing ovation; after all, while the ending of his time in Eugene may have been ugly, this is the coach that led the resurgence of Oregon basketball. Kent, who doesn’t know whether he’ll ever coach again, was a finalist for the Colorado State job last spring before it went to Larry Eustachy. What we do know is that he looks pretty comfortable, and is also very good at his new job as a commentator and studio analyst with the Pac-12.
  5. We close with something new for our Pac-12 microsite as we introduce a Pac-12 Hoops Pick’em that will run from now up until Championship Week. Between Adam, Parker, Drew, and I, the four of us will post our picks for the weekend basketball games and keep track of our records as we go along. Also included will be a national and conference game of the week, where we will include our score prediction. For the opener, we have selected Thursday’s Kentucky-Notre Dame match-up and Saturday’s UCLA-San Diego State showdown in Anaheim for those respective games.
Game Connor (0-0) Drew (0-0) Parker (0-0) Adam (0-0)
Texas-San Antonio at Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
Kentucky at Notre Dame UK 85-75 UK 70-63 UK 75-62 UK 81-67
Utah at Texas State Texas State Utah Utah Utah
Oregon State vs Kansas Kansas Kansas Kansas Kansas
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
Arizona at Texas Tech Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
Sacramento State at Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
UCLA vs San Diego State SDSU 73-71 UCLA 70-63 SDSU 63-61 UCLA 67-61
Colorado at Wyoming Wyoming Colorado Colorado Colorado
Portland at Washington State WSU WSU WSU WSU
California at Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin
Denver at Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
Cal State Fullerton at Washington Washington Washington Washington Washington

 

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Morning Five: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 29th, 2012

  1. The announcement that Louisville is heading to the ACC should not come as too much of a surprise given how far the Big East has fallen, but it is still huge news when one of the top 10 programs historically in college basketball and a top 25 program in college football (for now) moves conferences. The loss of Maryland to the Big Ten will have an impact on the conference (mainly the loss of the Duke-Maryland rivalry even if some members do not view it as much of a rivalry), but we cannot really view this as anything other than a major upgrade on the playing fields for the ACC. With the reported size of the Big Ten’s upcoming football contract it makes you wonder why they wouldn’t go after Louisville instead of Maryland (we think the impact of the D.C. media market is highly overrated).
  2. With the power conferences fighting over the marquee programs and the losing conferences pillaging the lower conferences for their top programs, the lower-tier conferences are often forced to do what essentially amounts to dumpster diving. Such is the case of Conference USA, which is reportedly set to add Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee State in 2014 to offset the losses of East Carolina and Tulane to the Big East. From a basketball standpoint this could be a slight win for Conference USA given the strength of the Middle Tennessee State program right now, but from an overall financial standpoint it is a considerable downgrade. Given all the movement we have seen in the past few days we would not be surprised to see much more in the near future.
  3. There has been so much going on with conference realignment and the NCAA’s investigations into incoming freshmen that we had almost forgot that Myck Kabongo was still sitting out until we heard that the NCAA is expected to release a statement about his eligibility later today with the likely punishment being a 10-game suspension. Kabongo’s eligibility issues stem from a trip he took to Cleveland earlier this year that was reportedly financed by a professional agent. If Kabongo is given the 10-game suspension he would not be able to return until the team’s game on December 19 at home against North Carolina and would allow him to play the entire conference schedule, but would mean he would miss the team’s upcoming games against Georgetown and UCLA.
  4. Normally we would have plenty of jokes about Joshua Smith, who has decided to stop playing for UCLA, but with all that has been going on with the Bruins lately we are seriously questioning whether Ben Howland has any control over this program. Outside of the recent ugly losses, this is the second high-profile departure from the program in the past week (Tyler Lamb was the other). Smith has apparently not decided whether he will stay at UCLA or transfer to another school to finish up his basketball career. If this is in fact the last that we have seen of Smith on the basketball court, this sequence will be his enduring legacy.
  5. We didn’t expect Clemson to be very good this year and their hopes of surprising us and other analysts took a hit when senior guard and leading scorer Milton Jennings was arrested for possession of marijuana early yesterday morning and he was suspended by the team for the third time in the past 13 months. From the details we have seen (he was arrested after police noticed the smell of marijuana when responding to a call about someone removing a smoke detector), it sounds like a relatively small violation in comparison to some of the other drug arrests that we see, but since it is Jennings’ third suspension in just over a year we are inclined to believe that this may be the last that we have seen of Jennings in a Clemson uniform.
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A Peek Into The UCLA Pecking Order

Posted by AMurawa on November 21st, 2012

With the newly eligible Shabazz Muhammad joining the rotation, it was unclear exactly how Ben Howland would fold the highly-regarded freshman into a wing-heavy lineup. Fellow freshman Jordan Adams had established himself in the first three games as the team’s best pure scorer. Sophomore Norman Powell had earned the starting two-guard spot, while last year’s incumbent Tyler Lamb was recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. And then there’s freshman Kyle Anderson, a man without a position who is mostly a point guard (or point forward, or just a point) on the offensive end and some sort of wing player defensively. With David Wear going down with injury at the end of the semifinal game in the Legends Classic against Georgetown, the consolation game against Georgia provided a glimpse into Howland’s estimate of the strengths of his team and where the priorities may lie in his rotation. Would clear interior guys like junior Joshua Smith and freshman Tony Parker slide up the depth chart to fill the departed Wear’s spot, or would Howland find room for all his talented perimeter guys to work together.

David Wear, UCLA

With David Wear Out Following An Injury. Ben Howland Was Forced To Tip His Hand On His Rotation

The answer was clearly the latter, although it is open to evolve based on improvement and opposition. While Travis Wear earned 32 minutes of action, Smith and Parker combined for 19 minutes, meaning there were 11 minutes of action where UCLA had a pair of big guys on the floor. Larry Drew II is clearly locked in at the point guard, with his 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and solid defense providing plenty of ammunition for that decision, while Anderson, Muhammad, Powell and Adams are in the mix for the minutes at the two through four spots. It remains likely that Howland will opt for two big guys (meaning some combination of two of the Wears, Smith and Parker) for the majority of minutes, although last night’s game provides some precedent for going with the four-out, one-in model (not that this conglomeration of players would make for the traditional example of that style). The biggest concern brought to light by the results of last night’s game were the rebounding numbers, where Georgia made an impact on the offensive glass, especially in the second half, and the relatively undersized Bruin front line failed to regularly secure defensive rebounds.

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