It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VII

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 9th, 2012


Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish on Mondays throughout the season. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….a coach getting into the action. Not that we like to see anyone getting hurt, but who doesn’t love a clipboard-toting coach taking his turn in the layup line like Xavier’s Chris Mack? Unfortunately for him, his second uncontested drive to the hoop somehow ended up in knee surgery. We love the spirit, coach, but you’ve gotta remember – two steps, jump, and come down soft.

I LOVED….that a sharp-shooting Kentucky freshman got his $10K prize after all. Count on a big-chain food store to consider not doling out the prize because the participant’s foot was not completely behind the half-court line (Really, Kroger? Really?). Luckily they came to their senses, and the swish just made that freshman a very popular man on campus.

Mike Krzyzewski And Duke Took One On The Chin Over The Weekend (AP)

I LOVED….Duke taking one on the chin against Temple. And no, not because I’m a Carolina grad (though yes, I took pleasure in that capacity as well). Anyone who follows Duke knows that Coach K doesn’t go out of his way to schedule true non-conference road games. He greatly prefers neutral sites (where his team might play during the NCAA tournament) or home games against top competition. Now, Duke didn’t actually play at Temple, but still, a game against the Owls in Philly qualifies in my book. Though Krzyzewski is the one with four titles, I just find it hard to believe that the Blue Devils can’t use 2-3 of these games during the non-conference schedule to toughen them up for the latter part of the season. It’s hard to imagine that this loss won’t be a helpful building block down the road for a young team.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2012

  1. Arizona State came into conference play as one of the least talented teams in the Pac-12. This weekend they played without three of their players, all suspended for “unacceptable conduct” and it was announced Sunday that at least one of those players who had been suspended this weekend will not be returning to the team as Herb Sendek dismissed Keala King from the team. Kyle Cain and Chris Colvin, who were suspended along with King this weekend, apparently will return to the team. King becomes the eighth Sun Devil to leave the program with remaining eligibility since 2008 and the third player in a seven-man 2010 class to leave. It’s a good thing Sendek signed a contract extension earlier in the year, because this program is an absolute mess and will need to start over more or less from scratch next offseason. For what it’s worth, ASU did salvage a weekend split in Los Angeles, knocking off USC on Thursday before getting blown out by UCLA on Saturday.
  2. Saturday night, Stanford and Oregon State played one of the most entertaining games you’ll see this season, as the Cardinal somehow pulled off a 103-101 victory in the fourth overtime at Gill Coliseum. It was a game that was worth watching from the opening tip to the final buzzer, from Roberto Nelson’s shoeless three-pointers early in the first half (that had the OSU announcers way, WAY too excited) to his late body slam of Josh Huestis, to his potential game-winning three-pointer at the end of the fourth OT that just missed. There’s a ton more to be discussed here, and we’ll have something up later this afternoon, but for now enjoy reliving the game with Jeff Eisenberg’s five memorable moments from the game.
  3. There were two Pac-12 games on Sunday afternoon although neither came anywhere near matching the excitement in Corvallis Saturday night. They were, however, important games as the road teams came up with wins in both games. First it was Arizona getting over on USC in one of the uglier games you’ll see this season. The teams combined to shoot 3-of-30 from behind the arc, Arizona turned the ball over 17 times, and Maurice Jones was allowed to shoot the Trojans out of yet another game (he was 3-of-13 from the field and is now shooting a 42.1% eFG this year). Later, it was California going into Oregon and coming away with a 17-point victory that was most notable for Allen Crabbe’s best game of the season – 26 points, 12 rebounds and six three-pointers. In both cases, the road teams earned weekend splits, putting the Bears and the Wildcats, along with Stanford’s Cardinal and perhaps Washington’s Huskies atop the list of conference favorites.
  4. Washington’s on that list above in part due to their road win at Utah this weekend. While a win on the road in this year’s Pac-12 is nothing to scoff at, the Huskies weren’t exactly impressive in their victory. After struggling with the woeful Utes for 39 minutes, Washington at least had some breathing room down the stretch, having built up an eight-point lead with just a minute to play. But then Desmond Simmons missed the front-end of a one-and-one with the Utes in foul mode. And then Terrence Ross missed two more front-ends, allowing Utah to get back to within two points with 12 seconds left. Ross finally capped the game off by drilling a couple free throws, but the Huskies’ performance certainly didn’t inspire much confidence.
  5. Lastly, back to that UCLA/ASU game for a second. Bruin sophomore center Joshua Smith, back after missing Thursday’s game with a minor concussion, had his best game of the season, scoring 18 points in 21 minutes and dominating the undermanned Sun Devils. Thursday night Ben Howland noted that Smith, who has struggled with his conditioning throughout his UCLA career, after much work both in and out of practice, was down to his lowest weight of the season (presumably somewhere north of the 305 pounds at which he is presently listed). Saturday night, the work that he had put in was evident. Not only was he able to play 21 very effective minutes, but he actually dunked a ball – not just once, but twice! Don’t believe me? The proof is in the picture here. Now, this doesn’t mean that all of a sudden Smith is the all-conference performer that he has the talent to be (he did, after all, manage only four rebounds against ASU), but it is a huge step in the right direction both for Smith and the Bruins. I like to think he heard my plea.
Share this story

Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 9th, 2012

  1. Over the weekend it was reported that former Pittsburgh freshman Khem Birch was going to announce on Sunday night, but after giving it a little more thought he decided to postpone his decision until today. According to reports, Birch is deciding between Florida and UNLV. Both programs would appear to be a good fit for Birch as he could potentially pair up with either Patric Young or Mike Moser for the next two seasons. We are not sure what the real reason was for Birch’s decision to leave Pittsburgh, but either school would be just about as good of a landing spot as you could hope for when you are a transfer.
  2. After initially suspending Keala King for its games at USC and UCLA, Arizona State dismissed King, its starting point guard and leading scorer. Playing out of position due to Jahii Carson being academically ineligible, King averaged 13.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game, but as Doug Haller points out he had not fully adapted to running the team as he averaged 3.9 turnovers per game and often held the ball too long. We are assuming that was not the reason for his dismissal and the fact that the other two players (Kyle Cain and Chris Corvin) who were suspended with King remain on the team suggests that King did something in addition to his prior “unacceptable conduct” that led to his dismissal. Like Birch, King should have no shortage of suitors as he was a top-50 recruit coming out of college and plenty of Division I schools would be interested in a high-level point guard who can score and will have at least two years of eligibility remaining.
  3. Less than two years after transferring from Illinois (he left the team once before deciding to rejoin them then finally leaving the school), Jeffrey Jordan has decided to transfer from UCF citing “personal reasons”. Neither Jordan nor anyone affiliated with the school has gone into further detail about what those reasons are, but this appears to be the end of his college basketball career as this was his senior year and we doubt that the NCAA would grant him another year of eligibility. It appears that his younger brother Marcus, who is the more talented of the two and leads the team with 17.2 points per game, will remain with the team. As for Jeffrey we assume he will continue working on his website along with his brother and some friends called Heir-Jordan.com and whatever other business possibilities are open to an heir.
  4. Since the Crosstown Shootout Brawl Xavier has been in a freefall going from a Final Four pick by some to out of the top 25. While many people have been perplexed by the precipitous drop, Luke Winn thinks the Musketeers need to embrace their old mentality. We are sure that some people are going to take this the wrong way like they do with some of Winn’s statistical work, but in essence what he is saying that the team may have become too passive after all the criticism it received. As usual, we tend to agree with Winn on this and it reminds us of how the old Miami Hurricane football teams used to talk about playing with swagger. Playing with too much gets you in trouble by picking up fouls or penalties (or having brawls), but playing without it makes you vulnerable especially if you have grown accustomed to playing that way.
  5. Looking for football analysis after the Wildcard Round of the NFL Playoffs? Well you came to the wrong place. If you were trying to get it this weekend at the Siena-Niagara game you were also out of luck. After Siena initially told fans that they would simulcast the New York Giants game on the scoreboard during their game against Niagara to enable them to follow their favorite college team and favorite NFL team and getting the green light from the local FOX affiliate, Siena was informed by the NFL that doing so would violate the league’s copyright interest so they had to cancel the promotion. As for the actual game, the Saints won 72-60 while the Giants won 24-2. Unfortunately, this could be an issue again next week as the Giants game, which starts at 4:30 PM on Saturday, will probably run into Siena’s next game, which is at Manhattan and starts at 7 PM.
Share this story

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 »
Share this story

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.
Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.19.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 19th, 2011

  1. Busy weekend around the conference, so let’s get right to it. The big story on Sunday was Washington’s blowout loss against Nate Wolters and South Dakota State, the first non-conference home loss for the Huskies in 32 games. Wolters went for 34 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and no turnovers in a full 40 minutes of work, while Tony Wroten led the Huskies in scoring for the third straight game with 23 points. Sophomore Terrence Ross was limited some by foul trouble, but after knocking down the first points of the game, he wound up with just six points on three-of-four shooting, the first game of the year where he failed to score in double figures. Coming off a hard-fought win on Friday night over a tough UC Santa Barbara team in Lorenzo Romar’s 200th win at Washington, U-Dub was looking to string together back-to-back wins for the first time in over a month.  However, aside from Wolters’ excellence, the rest of the Jackrabbits were on fire too, as the team shot 10-of-16 from three and posted a 64.7 eFG% on the night. While the Husky offense is starting to find life with Wroten leading the show (although the relative absence of Ross is disturbing), this team can’t be a consistent winner until they shore up things on the defensive end.
  2. Saturday found Pac-12 schools losing in new and inventive ways. For instance, USC, which has been rock solid all year, allowed Georgia, one of the worst shooting teams in a BCS conference, to shoot a season-best 61.6 eFG% as they came back from an eight-point second half deficit to put the Trojans away. Bulldog freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drilled a late three to ice the game and went for a career-high 21 points. The Trojans owned the glass on both ends of the floor, grabbing 90% of all Georgia misses and even 46.6% of their own, but their inability to get any defensive stops, especially over the last ten minutes of the game, wasted freshman Alexis Moore’s career-high 18 points.
  3. Northern Arizona has traveled to face Arizona State in Tempe for the second time in six years – and came away with their second win in a row in the Sun Devils’ building. Junior point guard Stallon Saldivar not only hit the game-winning three-pointer with under a second left to lift the Lumberjacks, but poured in a career-high 24 points, including six threes, while handing out nine assists and playing every minute of the game. His ASU counterpart, Keala King, did his best to keep the Sun Devils around, scoring 16 and handing out seven assists, but continued to struggle with turnovers, coughing it up five more times on Saturday. However, for the time being, it looks like King is the only real option at the point, as junior Chris Colvin returned from a one-game suspension to play exactly two minutes against NAU.
  4. Skipping over Gonzaga’s “manhandling” of Arizona, and Oregon’s disappointing second half against Virginia, let’s jump to some good news. First, Utah earned its first win over a Division I opponent on Friday night, knocking off Idaho State 71-59 in a game the Utes dedicated to junior guard Glen Dean, who is in a hospital recovering from brain surgery. Even better news that the Utes win is the news that Dean appears to be on the road to recovery and the team hopes to have the transfer, who is sitting out this season due to NCAA rules, back in the fold after the New Year. The other highlight of the weekend around the Pac-12 was the stellar defense job that California and its senior guard Jorge Gutierrez did on the nation’s leading scorer, Damian Lillard, in the Golden Bears’ win over Weber State. Lillard did wind up with 14 points, but he had to take 17 shots to get those, making just four of his field goal attempts in the 20-point Cal win.
  5. Stanford got back on the court after a 12-day hiatus to deal with finals, and handled San Diego with relative ease in a game in which ten of the 13 Cardinal players who got on the court played at least ten minutes. However, despite holding the Toreros to a sub-50 eFG%, head coach Johnny Dawkins was displeased with the team’s defensive effort, citing a lack of communication that allowed USD to score 34 second-half points. A renewed emphasis on the defensive end does not bode well for Bethune-Cookman, the Cardinal’s next opponent on Monday night.
Share this story

Arizona State’s Jahii Carson Declared Ineligible

Posted by AMurawa on December 9th, 2011

After a long drawn-out process, Arizona State freshman point guard Jahii Carson was finally declared ineligible for this season, following the results of an ACT test that came up just short of the score needed to qualify on the NCAA’s sliding scale. Carson was a top 50 national recruit out of Mesa High School in Phoenix, expected to take over the Sun Devil point guard position from day one and give Herb Sendek’s team the speed and electricity necessary to run a higher-tempo style of basketball. However, after Carson’s transcripts from a summer class came up short of qualifying him with his first ACT score, he took the test again and, according to ASUDevils.com, came up either one ACT point or one letter grade in one class away from gaining eligibility. Carson will be allowed to practice with the team from here on out, but will enter next season as a sophomore with a chance to regain the season’s worth of eligibility depending on his academic progress.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State

Jahii Carson Is Able To Practice With The Sun Devils, But Won't Be Eligible To Play Until Next Year (Credit: maxpreps.com)

Arizona State is off to a 3-5 start this season (with some bad losses to Pepperdine and DePaul mixed in there), and, coming off a 12-19 season last year, the hope was that Carson would help begin to turn the team around. However, in his absence, the Sun Devils have struggled to take care of the ball, turning the ball over on over 26% of their possessions (326th in the nation). Junior Chris Colvin and sophomore Keala King have taken the majority of the ballhandling responsibilities, but both of them have turned the ball over on more than 30% of all possessions. With Carson’s help delayed, King and Colvin will need to drastically decrease their turnovers for the Devils to be able to improve on last year’s record.

Looking ahead to next season, Arizona State could return all of this year’s contributors along with Carson and a couple of Division I transfers (Liberty transfer Evan Gordon and Hawaii transfer Bo Barnes) and a trio of incoming freshmen. Trent Lockett, the team’s leading scorer, is on pace to graduate in three years however, and there is the possibility (although Lockett has given no indication that this is his intention) that he could transfer to another Division I program without sitting out a year. If he does return, Sendek will have a trio of talented returnees on the wing in Lockett, King (who would be able to shift back over to an off-the-ball role he is more comfortable with) and Carrick Felix. The Sun Devils would still need to find somebody to give some sort of consistent contribution up front – seven footers Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski have been underwhelming this year, while sophomore forward Kyle Cain remains a work in progress – in order to compete for a tournament bid, but next year’s Sun Devil backcourt should be loaded with talent.

Share this story

Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • More Behavioral Problems – While the struggles of the Pac-12 conference as a whole has been well-documented, the sheer number of off-the-court distractions coaches up and down the conference have had to deal with has been astounding. There’s the ongoing Reeves Nelson soap opera at UCLA. Josiah Turner has been patently unable to get it together in Arizona. Jabari Brown quit on his team after just two games because he was “only” getting about 26 minutes a game. This week Utah suspended Josh Watkins, one of just three players in the Pac-12 to score in double figures in each of his team’s games (Washington’s Terrence Ross and Washington State’s Brock Motum the other two). Then there are lesser lights like Oregon’s Bruce Barron (quit on his team as well), Arizona’s Sidiki Johnson (suspended, dismissed and now transferring out) and Washington State’s D.J. Shelton (suspended). That’s not even including Joshua Smith’s issues, Jerime Anderson’s legal troubles, or Jahii Carson’s inability to get eligible. While the play on the court has been less than stellar around the conference, it is the off-the-court nonsense that is giving the conference the biggest black eye.

Josh Watkins' Troubles Are Only the Latest and Greatest...

  • Surprising Players Stepping Up – In the place of all the missing or invisible players, these teams have needed somebody to step up, and there have been some surprising players that are doing their part. Just looking at the five players that were nominated for the Pac-12 Player of the Week last week gives you a list of surprising names: Charlie Enquist, Ahmad Starks, Anthony Brown, Keala King and, the winner of the award, Solomon Hill. No disrespect to any of those guys, but I don’t think you would have found any of those names on most preseason all-Pac-12 teams. Hill has been a versatile and steadying force for Arizona.  Not only is the junior post leading the team in points (12.4 PPG), assists (3.1 APG) and minutes (31.5 MPG), but Hill is also grabbing the second most rebounds (7.8 RPG), and he’ll likely be a candidate for the Pac-12 award on a semi-regular basis throughout the year. But Charlie Enquist? That’s a guy who had scored a total of 50 points and grabbed a total of 41 rebounds in his 54 games in his previous three years in Pullman. This week he scored 28 and grabbed 19 rebounds. Meanwhile, King was awful at Arizona State last year (36.5% from the field, 1-18 threes, more turnovers than assists), but has scored 65 points in his last three games while posting a 75.8 eFG%. Starks had 16 points and four threes in Oregon State’s win over Montana, and Anthony Brown scored 27 points in two games for Stanford this week. For the underachieving teams in this conference to improve between now and March, they’ll need players to step up and make bigger-than-expected contributions.
  • Stanford For Real? – At the start of the season, it was more or less consensus that there were four teams in the upper tier of the Pac-12: Arizona, Cal, UCLA and Washington. It didn’t take long for one of those four teams to drop from that group (I’ll let you guess which one that was), but with Stanford sporting the best record in the Pac-12 at 8-1 so far (the lone loss a tough six-point defeat at Madison Square Garden to Syracuse), the Cardinal may have jumped up into that group. Of Stanford’s eight victories this season, seven of them have come by 12 or more, with only their most recent come-from-behind win against NC State being a tight one. And at least one RTC correspondent came away from that game impressed enough to confirm that Stanford is good enough, at least defensively, to contend for the conference title. The Cardinal are now in the midst of 13 days off surrounding finals, and really only have one challenging non-conference game remaining (December 22 against Butler). But, if the Cardinal can pick up where it left off, coach Johnny Dawkins‘ squad will be a tough out during conference play.

Player of the Year Watch

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 6th, 2011

  1. With finals taking precedence over basketball at most schools across the country, we hit the doldrums of the college basketball schedule this week. Up next for Pac-12 schools is a big one, though, with Washington set to battle Marquette in Madison Square Garden tonight as the headliner of the Jimmy V Classic. The Huskies had hoped to get senior guard Scott Suggs back from his foot injury in time for this game, but he remains doubtful to play tonight though he could still possibly be back for Duke on Saturday. With the Huskies coming off a late collapse against Nevada on Friday night and Marquette riding high from their win over in-state rival Wisconsin, this game could set up nicely for Lorenzo Romar’s club.
  2. Aside from Washington’s big week, the other huge matchup in the conference this week is Arizona’s trip to Gainesville to face Florida on Wednesday. The Gators have been without forward Erik Murphy for the last three games with a knee injury, but he is expected to return for this game and he’ll present problems for the Arizona bigs, pulling them away from the basket and opening up the lane for the quick Gator guards to penetrate.
  3. Following California’s loss to San Diego State on Sunday, the Golden Bears dropped out of both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, leaving the conference without a single representative in either poll. Stanford, Cal and Arizona earned votes in the ESPN poll, while Oregon State also got a couple of votes in the AP poll. Meanwhile the Pac-12 announced its Player of the Week award on Monday, and Arizona’s Solomon Hill took home the hardware over other nominees like Keala King, Ahmad Starks, Anthony Brown and Charlie Enquist. Really. Did anybody on the planet have that quintet as future Player of the Week nominees even just a month ago?
  4. With UCLA in the midst of some serious struggles, Ben Howland admits he has made some mistakes and will change some things up going forward. To begin with, he now says that, in retrospect, he probably should have left Reeves Nelson at home after the mercurial forward missed the team plane to Maui a couple weeks back. Further, after sticking with his man-to-man defense to this point, Howland interrupted a reporter who was asking a question about how UCLA allowed Texas to shoot 70+% in the second half during the post-game press conference on Saturday, and volunteered the fact that he probably should have recognized earlier that this team needed to play more zone. He added that he’d be spending practice time working on alternatives to the man-to-man defense that currently isn’t working.
  5. Lastly, it seems like it wouldn’t be a Pac-12 Morning Five without some negative personnel situation to talk about. Earlier today Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak announced the indefinite suspension of point guard Jiggy Watkins, and Connor Pelton filled you in on the details of that. Reading the thoughts of some Utah fans indicates that they’ve had enough of Watkins’ antics and are ready to move on. Aside from showing up to school in the fall more than 30 pounds overweight, falling asleep in classes and missing practices, Watkins has been almost the entirety of the Ute offense. Utah averages 60 points a game, and Watkins accounts for 17.7 of those. Meanwhile, Watkins rightfully uses over 39% of Ute possessions (the highest usage rate in the country), takes over 38% of the team’s shots when he is on the court (sixth in the nation) and still manages to hand out assists on more than 52% of all his teammates buckets when he is on the court (good for second in the nation). While Watkins has plenty of holes in his game, the drop from him down to Kareem Storey or Anthony Odunsi will be significant, making a bad Utah team even worse in the short term.
Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.05.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 5th, 2011

  1. It was another busy weekend for Pac-12 basketball teams, and replicating previous weeks, it was another weekend piled high with losses and roster turnover. To kick things off with relatively happy news, USC had expected sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon to miss four to six weeks with a stress fracture. As it turned out, it was closer to four to six days that Dedmon missed, as he returned to action Saturday when the Trojans traveled to Minnesota, losing 55-40. Dedmon showed up to the game with a boot on his right foot, but played anyway, and although he didn’t contribute much worthwhile, for a roster that needs all the warm bodies it can get, his return is welcome.
  2. Okay, enough with the marginally good news; on to the carnage. In Arizona, we can officially close the books on Sidiki Johnson’s run as a Wildcat. Career totals: seven minutes, one point, two rebounds. In news that surprises no one, the university announced Sunday that Johnson has left the program and will transfer out. Meanwhile, up in Berkeley on Saturday, California announced the indefinite suspension of sophomore forward Richard Solomon for behavior “contrary to university and athletic department values.” He didn’t travel with the Golden Bears to San Diego on Sunday, as Cal dropped a one-point game to San Diego State.
  3. We knew well before the season started that this year’s Utah squad would be bad. On Saturday, a 30-point loss to Fresno State dropped the Utes to 1-6, the worst start in the history of the basketball program. The team’s lone win was a 58-55 squeaker over San Diego Christian, a NAIA team that isn’t even much good at that level. Fresno State had previously lost to teams like Texas-San Antonio, Manhattan and North Dakota State, meaning the Utes didn’t even get blown out by a good team. We’ll continue to keep an eye on this squad and root for them to get a win here and there, but it is an awful shame that for the school’s first year in a major conference, they have to be cursed with the worst team in the history of the school.
  4. Okay, enough negatives. There were some positives around the conference this weekend (and yes, this means I won’t even mention Washington’s overtime loss to Nevada or UCLA folding like a tent against Texas). To begin with, Arizona State played its first true road game of the season on Saturday, and came away with a 67-64 win against a Tulsa squad in the middle of an absolutely brutal stretch in their schedule. Still, give credit to the Sun Devils who saw sophomore Keala King notch 18 points, four assists and three steals (nevermind the six turnovers) to lead the team, while junior center Ruslan Pateev scored as many points Saturday as he had in the previous six games combined. ASU was helped by the Golden Hurricane missing six of their nine free throw attempts in the last four minutes, but still, a win is a win. And, just to get ASU fans’ hopes up, the university expects to hear about Jahii Carson’s eligibility on Monday.
  5. There were a couple more big wins this weekend, the first one a literal big win, as Washington State crushed Eastern Washington by 26 points behind 20 points and 13 rebounds from senior center Charlie Enquist. WSU has won its last two games by a total of 58 points, holding its two opponents to an effective field goal percentage below 30%. Enquist, who had scored a total of 50 points and grabbed 41 rebounds in his 54 total games prior to this season, had career highs in virtually every category on the stat sheet. A more impressive win for the conference came Sunday afternoon, when Stanford rallied from a 12-point second half deficit to defeat North Carolina State. Josh Owens led the way for the Cardinal (now 8-1 and knocking on the door of the Top 25) with 19 points and seven rebounds, while freshman guard Chasson Randle continued his strong run, scoring 16 points, grabbing six rebounds and playing some smothering defense during the Cardinal’s second half run. Stanford now takes nearly two weeks off as their student-athletes deal with finals.
Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.18.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 18th, 2011

  1. In an exciting nightcap at Madison Square Garden Thursday night, Arizona turned an eight-point deficit to St. John’s with under seven minutes to play into a nine-point win when it all was said and done. While it was Arizona veterans like Jesse Perry, Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg and Solomon Hill who finished strong for the Wildcats, it was their pair of highly-touted freshman guards who got the 23-6 game-closing run started. Nick Johnson took advantage of the Red Storm’s zone defense to drill a three on an underneath inbounds play, and on the next possession point guard Josiah Turner stepped into a passing lane, made a steal and threw down a slam at the other end to swing momentum. Johnson later added another three in the middle of the run to finish with 11 points off the bench, while Turner had his best game of his young career with eight points, three rebounds, and a couple of steals. He’ll still need to get his game under control more (he turned the ball over four times in 19 minutes), but last night he earned the minutes he played. He and his team will get another chance to take a step forward tonight as they face Mississippi State back at the Garden for the Coaches vs. Cancer championship.
  2. On the other side of the continent, USC came up on the losing end of another exciting game that came down to the final moments. Playing at San Diego State, Trojan sophomore point guard Maurice Jones hit a wild game-tying three pointer with 6.8 seconds left, only to see his team give up a coast-to-coast drive for a bucket from Aztec sophomore point guard Xavier Thames with 1.8 seconds remaining to provide the final margin. Jones played all but a minute of the game for USC and led the Trojans in scoring for the third straight game, but his team fell to 1-2 with the two losses coming by a grand total of five points, including a double-overtime loss to Nebraska in their last outing.
  3. ESPNU’s recruiting guru Dave Telep posted his rundown on the remaining unsigned top 100 recruits in the 2012 class and actually opined that UCLA’s struggles in their first two games of the season may help rather than hinder their pitch to #1 overall recruit, Shabazz Muhammad. Apparently Muhammad is looking for a needy co-dependent suitor, and if that’s the case, maybe the Bruins are employing a strategy similar to the Suck for Luck sweepstakes in the NFL. Elsewhere on Telep’s list, Cal and Oregon seem to be running a bit behind St. John’s for ESPNU’s #30 recruit, Ricardo Gathers, while Washington is one of many still trying to get a commitment from #7 Anthony Bennett.
  4. Arizona State hosts New Mexico tonight, with both teams coming off losses earlier in the week. It’s been said that ASU is ready to play a faster tempo this season (although the first couple of games don’t indicate much of a change) and the Lobos will certainly offer the Sun Devils every opportunity to do so. However, Herb Sendek’s team has plenty of things they’ve got to shore up before they can be considered a different team than last year’s 12-19 squad. First, guards Chris Colvin and Keala King need to buy into Sendek’s gospel of ball movement, something they haven’t done yet. And secondly, somebody along the ASU frontcourt, whether it be Kyle Cain, Jordan Bachynski or Ruslan Pateev, needs to show that they can provide the threat of a scoring punch up front. Until that happens, this is still Trent Lockett and a bunch of inoffensive warm bodies.
  5. Lastly, we head back to the Wildcats, as Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News tells the story of Kevin Parrom’s battle back from the gunshot wounds he sustained in an attack in New York City in September while visiting his mother who was then dying of cancer. Back in New York this week for the Coaches vs. Cancer event, it is a bittersweet homecoming for the junior from the Bronx, coming back to the city where he could have lost his life, and where his mother did lose her life just a month ago.  Parrom first made it back to the court last Sunday against Ball State where he played a key role in helping the Wildcats scrape out a victory. When he left the court at the end of the game to a standing ovation from the McKale Center crowd, he also got a big embrace from his coach Sean Miller, a hug that Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen puts on par with some of the other great moments in Arizona basketball.

Today we’ve got a bonus entry, as I forgot to include our football picks for the weekend. Last weekend was a dismal week for both of us as we each went 3-3, but I’d have to point out that I at least got the Oregon pick in our game of the week right (although I had the game much closer than it turned out. And, it should be noted (if only because I’m the one writing this and not Connor), that although Connor holds a one game lead on the year, I’ve correctly picked all three of our games of the week, while Connor is a mere 2-1). This week we’ll look at Oregon again in our game of the week, this time against bowl-ineligible USC playing another in a long line of what amounts to mid-season bowl games.

Game Connor (12-6) Drew (11-7)
Arizona @ Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
Colorado @ UCLA UCLA UCLA
California @ Stanford Stanford Stanford
Washington @ Oregon State Oregon State Washington
Utah @ Washington State Utah Washington State
USC @ Oregon Oregon 38, USC 21 Oregon 49 USC 30
Share this story

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story