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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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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Pac-12 Team Previews: Utah

Posted by AMurawa on October 26th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Utah Utes

Strengths.  Size. Oh man, does Utah have a lot of size. Start with a 7’3” behemoth in the middle in David Foster, add 6’10” junior Jason Washburn who can spell Foster or play alongside him, and toss in – well, there’s really not all that much size behind those two. But with those two prowling the lane, the Utes have an imposing frontcourt duo that are a threat to block any shot taken in the paint.

Weaknesses. Where to begin? First, this is an inexperienced squad, featuring three incoming freshman and three junior college transfers who are expected to get time. Second, while the Utes return senior Josh Watkins at the point, he struggled in his first season in Salt Lake City last year, shooting under 30% from beyond the arc while turning the ball over too much. And, lastly (for now at least), even though Foster and Washburn are big, they’re injury-prone, struggle with conditioning and are of limited effectiveness on the offensive end.

David Foster

David Foster Is An Intimidating Defensive Player, But Utah Is Missing Offensive Firepower (credit: Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Nonconference Tests.  The highlight of the nonconference slate is a berth in the inaugural Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas, where they will open with Harvard in the first round before facing either Massachusetts or Florida State on day two, with a third opponent to be determined. Beyond that, there is the in-state rivalry game with BYU, a couple of games at WAC opponents (Boise State and Fresno State) and not much else. Which is good – this team deserves a bit of a break in the non-conference. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 10.26.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 26th, 2011

  1. While college hoops aficionados might be most interested in seeing how guys like Tony Wroten Jr., Terrence Ross and Abdul Gaddy acquit themselves for Washington this season, there is another name on the Husky roster that might ring more of a bell with casual hoops fans: Shawn Kemp. Sure, there’s a “Jr.” attached to the end of that name, but the son of  “The Reign Man” is ready to showcase his own skills. He’s spent a couple of years since he graduated high school getting his academics in order, but now entering his freshman year, he’ll likely earn some minutes in Lorenzo Romar’s frontcourt this season.
  2. California head basketball coach Mike Montgomery received a clean bill of health this week from his doctors, following a surgical procedure that kept him in the hospital for a day and out of the gym for going on a week now. The nature of that surgery hasn’t been disclosed, but the Pac-12’s active leader in wins is expected back with the team by the end of the week.  Considering that Montgomery has led the Bears to two NCAA Tournaments, a Pac-10 regular season championship and an NIT in his three years at the school, Cal fans are hopeful that this health scare is a mere blip on their head coach’s radar.
  3. Montgomery’s old school, Stanford, was among the several Pac-12 schools that held public intrasquad scrimmages this past weekend. In two 12-minute halves, the Cardinal offense was still stilted at best, a trait carried over from last year. But freshman guard Chasson Randle made his debut for head coach Johnny Dawkins and scored six points, tying Josh Huestis (winner of the event’s dunk contest), Dwight Powell and John Gage for the high total in the game.
  4. Everyone’s got their own theory as to who should be the favorite in the conference this year, but Arizona head coach Sean Miller’s opinion might surprise you. Miller pegs California and UCLA as the favorites, mentioning the Bruins’ size and the Bears’ experience as the deciding factors. While it’s hard to argue with that stance, one suspects that Miller might just be playing possum a bit, deflecting attention from his young squad.
  5. If there’s one thing that college kids love, it is to get up bright and early in the morning and getting to work, right? Not so much. But new Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak is getting his team out to practice by 7 AM and so far the response is positive. Senior center David Foster sees the early morning routine as a character building exercise, while freshman guard Kareem Storey says practicing first thing in the morning helps the team remain focused. We’ll see how this plan works throughout the season, as the Utes will need all the help they can get in their first Pac-12 season.
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RTC Summer Updates: Pac-12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 25th, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our Pac-12 correspondent, Andrew Murawa.

Reader’s Take #1

Summer Storylines

  • The More, The Merrier: The Pac-10 is dead. Long live the Pac-12. The conference welcomes in Colorado and Utah for their first season in the conference, the first expansion in the West Coast’s premier conference since Arizona and Arizona State were added 33 years ago. Along with the new teams comes a new schedule – gone is the full home-and-away round robin. While there won’t be divisions in basketball like there are in football, each team will play an 18-game schedule with home and away games against its traditional rival, with six other rotating home-and-away series and four additional single games against the remaining teams. For instance, Colorado and Utah will only play the Southern California schools and the Washington schools once each, while they will play the remainder of the conference twice. While neither of the new schools are expected to make a big splash immediately in the conference, their arrival, coupled with other changes around the conference, such as the huge new $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox that begins in the fall of 2012, makes it an exciting time to be a Pac-12 fan.
  • Is There A Draft In Here?: Last summer, a big story around the conference was the dearth of Pac-10 players picked in the NBA Draft, as just two players from the conference were selected by NBA teams in 2010. After the 21 players that were picked in the conference between the 2008 and 2009 drafts, that was a precipitous fall. And, back before the season started, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of future high draft picks on the horizon. However, the conference had six players picked in the NBA draft, including three first-rounders and two lottery picks. Derrick Williams, the 2010-11 conference player of the year, led the way, getting snapped up by Minnesota with the #2 overall pick. Unfortunately for teams around the conference, 12 seasons of eligibility were left on the table between those six picks and the two early entries who went undrafted: Stanford’s Jeremy Green and Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto. And as a result, what had looked like a potential big-time bounce-back season for the conference now sees somewhat diminished expectations. Perhaps no team was hit harder by early defections than UCLA, who had Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee leave a total of three years of eligibility behind to go get second-round NBA draft picks (and the absence of guaranteed contracts that goes with them) at a time when the NBA labor situation is highly in doubt, but Washington State’s loss of Casto and lottery pick Klay Thompson also leaves the Cougars’ situation fuzzy at best.
  • Replacing Production: Between the early entries to the NBA Draft and departed seniors, the Pac-12 loses its top seven scorers from last season, and 11 of its top 20. Likewise, ten of the top 20 rebounders are gone. However, as always, a new batch of youngsters is ready to show up on campuses this fall and begin contributing immediately. While the Pac-10 inked only nine of the ESPNU top 100 recruits, seven of those players are exciting young guards, all ranked in the top 60 on that list. Arizona leads the way, signing point guard Josiah Turner (#14 overall, according to ESPNU) and Nick Johnson (#21), to go with a couple solid frontcourt signees (Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson, #60 and #91, respectively). But Washington (Tony Wroten, Jr., #16), Oregon (Jabari Brown, #25), Arizona State (Jahii Carson, #49), UCLA (Norman Powell, #51) and Stanford (Chasson Randle, #59) all have their own big backcourt recruits ready to provide a burst of energy.

Derrick Williams' performances were one of the highlights of the 2010-11 season.

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