Pac-12 Team Preview: Washington State Cougars

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 23rd, 2013

Today we continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

Washington State Cougars

Strengths. What this Washington State team lacks in talent, it makes up with effort and outside shooting ability. The Cougars feature a solid backcourt, headlined by a pair of juniors who will share duties at the one and two. Royce Woolridge and DaVonte Lacy both averaged double figure scoring last season, and true freshman Ike Iroegbu out of Oak Hill Academy (VA) will add some depth, but may not be able to be counted on right away. The challenge will be finding a good distributor for the trio. Junior point guard Danny Lawhorn, the nation’s leader in assists last year at San Jacinto Junior College, was supposed to be that guy, but he left Washington State two weeks ago after being suspended for a violation of team rules in late September.

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Woolridge’s Ability To Score Either On The Drive Or From Three Gives Head Coach Ken Bone Flexibility In The Backcourt. (Getty Images)

Weaknesses. Like I said above, this team has a serious lack of talent. The Cougars only won 13 games last year, and that was with guys like Brock Motum and Mike Ladd on the roster. The four and five spots will be the weakest for Washington State, as head coach Ken Bone will have a tough time finding players who can consistently produce. They will rely on Iowa State transfer and Beaverton, Oregon, product Jordan Railey at center, and senior D.J. Shelton returns to start at power forward. Former walk-on Will Dilorio will see a lot of time at the three, and that should give you an idea of just how thin the Cougars are up front.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.14.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 14th, 2013

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  1. As we ease back into college basketball again, we’re back to Morning Fives every weekday from here until the end of the season. And we picked a good day to start these back up, because there is plenty of news to run down. Since the main preseason storyline is Arizona as the heavy favorite to win the league, we might as well start out with them, as the Wildcats had their annual Red-Blue Game on Saturday, an intrasquad scrimmage that serves as the introduction of the team to the supportive McKale Center crowd. Stud freshman Aaron Gordon put on quite a show, winning the dunk contest and backing that up with 13 points and 12 boards in the scrimmage. His classmate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson also looked good in his first appearance, pouring in 18 points on just 12 shots, and sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski showed improvement, notching 18 points of his own.
  2. The day before Arizona’s showcase, its in-state rival had its own intrasquad scrimmage up the road, as Arizona State got its season underway. Jahii Carson is always going to be the showcase player on this team, and he was as good as usual, scoring 22 points and showing an improved jumper. But the big story came from newcomer Shaquielle McKissic, who poured in 33 points and made a big impression in his first appearance with the Sun Devils. He showed an immediate rapport with Carson on the fast break, displayed an ability to knock down the three, and impressed defensively, forcing turnovers that led to breaks. In the competition to earn some of the minutes vacated by departing senior Carrick Felix, McKissic looks to be out in front.
  3. The news wasn’t as positive everywhere around the conference this weekend, as on Friday Washington State announced that point guard Danny Lawhorn, a junior college transfer expected to slide right into the lead guard role, had left the school. Lawhorn had already been suspended two weeks ago, not that it matters at this point. Minus Lawhorn, it looks like junior Royce Wooldridge, who had hoped to move back off the ball after he helped fill in at the one last year, will once again need to contribute at the point, while DaVonte Lacy (another guy better suited to playing the two) and freshman point Ike Oroegbu also in the mix.
  4. Minus Lawhorn, head coach Ken Bone’s chances of keeping his job inched down a little, and, as Pachoops’ Adam Butler noted, there are quite a few coaches around the league whose jobs may be in trouble. A main part of the reason why those coaches may be looking for work in the near future is their inability to keep local recruits at home. Butler points to four top-75 2014 recruits from the West Coast who have already committed to play basketball in places other than Pac-12 institutions. While the conference as a whole may be on a bit of an upswing, the failure to lock up your own state’s recruits is never a good sign of future prosperity.
  5. Lastly, way back at the end of last year, the big off-the-court story was Pac-12 coordinator of officials Ed Rush putting out a bounty – whether in jest or not – on Arizona head coach Sean Miller, a “joke” that was made seriously unfunny (well, at least Miller’s post-game comments were funny – how long has it been since you’ve watched the “He Touched the Ball” clip?) after Miller got run in suspicious fashion immediately thereafter. The conference’s immediate response (or lack thereof) to the situation was unfulfilling. But, some steps were made over the offseason to improve the officiating situation in the conference, as the Pac-12 has entered into a partnership with the Mountain West to oversee its officiating, and hired Bobby Dibler as the new coordinator of officials. One of Dibler’s first tasks is to make sure that Miller gets treated as fairly as every other coach in the conference.
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Washington State Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 22nd, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Here’s a look at Washington State.

What Went Right

Let’s first stipulate that we’re talking about a team that went 13-19 and finished tied for last place in the Pac-12 this season. Given those parameters, the Cougars actually had some big things go well for them. Mike Ladd, in his senior season, stepped into a leadership role, played out of position quite a bit at the point, and was really good; DaVonte Lacy shook off a couple injuries and a dreadful midseason slump (16-of-63 from the field in the first half of conference play) to take an overall step forward in his game; and Royce Woolridge shook off early inconsistency and lack of confidence to put together a terrific back stretch, going for 16.5 points per game over the last 12 games of the schedule. Considering Wooldridge and Lacy will be back next year and the focal points of that team, Washington State fans are able to take at least something positive away from this season.

Mike Ladd Was One Of Three Backcourt Players To Step Up In The Absence of Reggie Moore (Dean Hare, AP Photo)

Mike Ladd Was One Of Three Backcourt Players To Step Up In The Absence of Reggie Moore (Dean Hare, AP Photo)

What Went Wrong

When head coach Ken Bone dismissed senior point guard Reggie Moore just in advance of the season, you knew this team –without any obvious answers to take Moore’s place – was going to have some problems. And perhaps senior forward Brock Motum, one of the conference’s best and most efficient players in 2011-12, may have been hit the hardest. As the focal point of the offense, Motum certainly didn’t have a bad season (18.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG), but he definitely had to work a lot harder for his production without the services of a floor general to set him up in all the right spots. Bone got the best out of a bad situation, receiving point guard production from a committee including Ladd, Woolridge and Lacy, but none of those three were ever truly dialed in at the one.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.28.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2013

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  1. Arizona helps get the Sweet Sixteen underway tonight when it faces Ohio State before what is expected to be a largely pro-Arizona crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. While there are plenty of non-monetary reasons why this is a huge game, a big weekend in Los Angeles for Arizona head coach Sean Miller could pay big dividends as he is promised a bonus of $50,000 for an Elite Eight appearance and an additional $175,000 for a trip to the Final Four. All that on top of a $2.2 base salary? Hey, it’s good work if you can get it.
  2. One of the main storylines in that Arizona/Ohio State match-up tonight is the relationship between Thad Matta and Sean Miller. Their friendship goes back to 1994 when they were both assistant coaches at Miami (OH) under Herb Sendek (quick sidebar: isn’t it amazing how deep Sendek’s coaching tree is? Eight former Sendek assistants are current Division I head coaches, guys ranging from Matta and Miller to John Groce, Jim Christian, Ron Hunter, Archie Miller, Larry Hunter and Mark Phelps) and continued when, after Matta earned the head coaching spot at Xavier, he hired Miller to join his staff for three seasons. Matta eventually moved on to Ohio State, Miller took over the head position at Xavier, and now, almost 20 years after they first met, they will match wits for just the second time ever as head coaches. The first time? The 2007 Round of 32. The stand-alone game on Saturday afternoon, Xavier had advanced out of the #8/#9 game to get top-seeded Ohio State and Greg Oden. And with three minutes left, the Miller-coached Musketeers were on the verge of closing out the heavily favored Buckeyes. A late three by Ron Lewis completed a fantastic Buckeyes comeback and sent the game to overtime, where the favorites wound up pulling away.
  3. How does Oregon stick close to Louisville tomorrow night? Pacific Takes asked four different bloggers and the consensus was that staying red hot is priority number one, but taking care of the ball against Louisville’s pressure, crashing the boards with reckless abandon, and turning the game into a down-tempo defensive rock-fight are among the other suggestions. We’ll have our take on that game later in the day, so check back to see RTC’s prescription for a Ducks win.
  4. Bruin Nation got around to listing its possible candidates for the UCLA head coaching job and it is predictably hilarious (seriously, the first dude names Rick Pitino as like his seventh choice as a “short-term solution” – good thing they aren’t setting their sights too high). Elsewhere on the Bruins coaching front, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar threw his hat into the ring on Tuesday night on the Jimmy Kimmel show. And, while we’re mentioning that, I’d also like to take this opportunity to throw my hat into the ring. Why not? Everyone else is doing it. This thing has just started; the absurdity to which this story climbs probably knows no bounds.
  5. Up in Pullman, the expectation had been that since there has been no announcement to the contrary, Ken Bone will return as Washington State’s head coach next season. But, it wasn’t until Tuesday that Bone actually met with athletic director Bill Moos to discuss the future of the program. And the prognosis is… that Bone will return for his fifth season at the helm. Bone’s still got three more years on his contract and $2.55 million in guaranteed salary, money that would have been due in the form of a buyout were Bone to have been fired. And, Cougfan.com has five reasons why this was the correct decision all along, in case you were wondering.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.26.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 26th, 2013

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  1. A day after the news came down that Ben Howland’s days as the UCLA head coach were over, there he was, back in front of the media at the Westwood campus on Monday, giving a farewell press conference. Howland, as expected, was gracious, thanking players and athletic department personnel, including the athletic director who just fired him. Howland said he hopes to continue coaching, although he realizes that his next job will take a step back in prestige. While the growing consensus seems to be that UCLA was right to part ways with the coach, he still gets a lot of respect and will likely kill it wherever he winds up next. Here’s hoping he takes a year off, finds some nice fly-fishing spots and comes back in 2014-15 at either a mid-major or a struggling major conference team and undertakes a successful rebuilding job.
  2. As for the next UCLA head coach, until a contract is signed, sealed and delivered, this coaching search is going to be in the news almost daily. But for now, no real news has come out, other than a ton of marginally sane suggestions s to who the next Bruins coach will be. For instance , when writers from around the Tribune Company (the owner of the Los Angeles Times, among others) came up with their list of potential names, John Calipari was one of the suggestions, along with Anthony Grant, Andy Kennedy and Andy Enfield. Enfield’s probably too green yet to get the UCLA job, Kennedy certainly ain’t happening, and Calipari? Yeah, not buying that at all. But Grant is an intriguing name, should UCLA strike out on their first few targets. Oh, and N.C. State fans? No need to worry.
  3. Arizona is on its way to Los Angeles this week to compete in the Sweet Sixteen at the Staples Center on Thursday. The last time this Wildcats team was in Los Angeles, to face USC and UCLA the week spanning the end of February and the beginning of March, they came away with a pair of losses. And yet, both head coach Sean Miller and sophomore guard Nick Johnson point to that road trip as the time when things started to come together for the team. Johnson in particular says the Wildcats have been a different defensive team since that trip, and the results seem to show it, as they’ve allowed just 0.95 points per possession against four NCAA Tournament teams and one NIT team.
  4. The other Pac-12 team still alive in the NCAA Tournament is Oregon, but they’ve got a tough task ahead as they face the Tournament’s number one overall seed, Louisville, on Friday night. While just getting this far is a success for the Ducks, they’re still focused on getting even further. But in order to do that, they’ll need to take better care of the ball against the Cardinals’ defensive pressure after turning it over 36 times last weekend in their two dominating wins in San Jose. They got away with it last week, but it is likely that if they turn it over 18 times against Louisville, they’ll be back in Eugene on Saturday.
  5. Lastly, we circle back around to the coaching situation, as Percy Allen goes through all the Pac-12 jobs and tries to determine who is and who is not on the hot seat. He lists the obvious ones: Ken Bone, Craig Robinson and Johnny Dawkins, and although the expectation is that all will be back next season, the 2013-14 year will certainly be make-or-break years for each. Also on Allen’s list is Herb Sendek, but he earned himself the benefit of the doubt with this season’s improvement, although if Jahii Carson winds up going pro this season, they’re likely back to square one. And then the final name on his list is Larry Krystkowiak, who is in no way on the hot seat whatsoever, as Utah will almost certainly give him the entirety of his five-year contract to turn things around.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 7th, 2013

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  1. Stanford and California met last night in the regular season finale for both teams, and Stanford surprised all with a 13-point road upset of the Golden Bears. The Cardinal outplayed Cal on both sides of the floor, but shooting the ball at a 53% clip from behind the arc is what got it done for Stanford. With 5:05 remaining, a massive skirmish that took over 20 minutes to sort out took place. At the end of it all, players Gabriel Harris and Richard Solomon were both ejected, while four Stanford assistant coaches and one California assistant coach were tossed as well. The Pac-12 has yet to announce any additional punishment.
  2. Arizona combo guard Mark Lyons will play his final game in Tucson on Saturday, and there are mixed feelings about it among Wildcat fans. On one hand, Lyons has been Arizona’s leading scorer, confidence-provider, and has hit the game-winning shots against Florida and San Diego State. But the fact that he is not a true point guard is irksome to many, with those folks yearning for the day when T.J. McConnell takes over in the UA backcourt. They will have to wait a few more weeks, however, as Lyons looks to lead the Cats through Las Vegas and all the way to Atlanta by the beginning of April. True point guard or not.
  3. Sticking in the desert, Wednesday night saw each of the three favorites in Pac-12 games helping Arizona’s case immensely to avoid playing on Wednesday in Las Vegas. The Wildcats can secure a four-seed (and a bye to Thursday) with a win over Arizona State or a Colorado loss to Oregon or Oregon State. If the opposite of all of that occurs, then UA slides down to a five-seed and would face the 12-seed in the opening round on Wednesday.
  4. With just two games left in the Pac-12’s regular season, Oregon is right where it wants to be — in control of its own destiny. The Ducks sit at 12-4 and alone in first place right now, but UCLA is lurking a half-game behind them. If the Ducks drop both games this week, UCLA wins at Washington, and Arizona defeats Arizona State, mass chaos would ensue with a four-way tie atop the standings. With the Ducks facing Utah on Saturday, however, that scenario is most likely not going to happen.
  5. With rumors circling regarding the future of Washington State head coach Ken Bone, the Cougars got their biggest win of the season on Wednesday, a 73-61 home upset of UCLA. WSU had lost seven straight games and was alone in last place coming into the game, and with attendance plummeting, morale around the hoops program was low. This indeed may have been a job-saving win for Bone, the fourth-year coach from Portland State.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.27.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on February 27th, 2013

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  1. The Pac-12 is having one of its best seasons in several years and with only two weeks to go, its two most prestigious programs — UCLA and Arizona — are squaring off to help determine the champion. Cal coach Mike Montgomery believes the common perception around the league is that if the Bruins and Wildcats struggle, the league is down, and if they have success, the league is up. His team is trying to change that mentality, however, as the Bears are playing the best basketball in the conference as of late. Cal is now projected to be in the NCAA Tournament and has risen more than any other team in most NCAA Tournament projections. Although UCLA and Arizona are always the expected conference teams to play deep into March, Cal’s recent run of play has them challenging that perception as well as the top of the conference.
  2. Oregon’s impact freshman Dominic Artis might play sooner than expected as he practiced without a boot on his foot for the first time in a month yesterday, and head coach Dana Altman plans for Artis to log some minutes against Oregon State on Thursday night. Artis’ minutes will be limited against the Beavers, but will gradually increase each game with the ultimate goal that the point guard is playing at full strength in the Pac-12 Tournament.
  3. Tad Boyle isn’t the only one who thinks he has the best defensive player in the country. Last week Boyle said that Andre Roberson was the best defensive player in the Pac-12 and the entire country, and this week Arizona head coach Sean Miller agreed. Miller noted that Roberson’s ability to guard more than one position and great players like Solomon Hill and Allen Crabbe shows how versatile and good he is at locking players up. Miller also mentioned that Roberson reminded him of Dennis Rodman in the sense that he can impact the game so much without scoring. Although Roberson isn’t the unquestioned best defensive player in the country, his numbers certainly back up his success. Roberson leads the nation in rebounding at 11.8 rebounds per game, paces the Pac-12 with 2.27 steals per game, and is seventh in the league with 1.42 blocks per game.
  4. As the regular season comes to a close in the Pac-12, there are certainly a few coaches on the hot seat. At this point, it’s not a foregone conclusion that any coach will be fired, but three in particular are dangerously close to getting relieved of their duties. Oregon State’s Craig Robinson, Washington State’s Ken Bone, and Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins all have had little success as the leaders of their programs. Robinson’s team stands at 3-12 in the Pac-12 and unless the Beavers win two out of their last three games, Oregon State will finish with the fewest wins in Robinson’s tenure in Corvallis. Ken Bone has struggled in Pullman, posting a 24-47 conference record since he has been at the helm. And although Johnny Dawkins hasn’t had any particularly bad seasons, he’s just not cutting it for a program with the history and resources of Stanford. A team that once made the NCAA Tournament 13 times in 14 years under Mike Montgomery is now poised to miss the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive year. Meanwhile, Bay Area rival California (with Mike Montgomery heading the program) is close to clinching its fourth NCAA appearance in the last five seasons.
  5. At one point, USC had Solomon Hill, Lamont Jones, and Derrick Williams committed to play basketball in Los Angeles. Then Tim Floyd left and the downward spiral ensued. Thankfully, the Trojans will be reminded of one part of that colossal mistake after tonight when Solomon Hill and Arizona take on USC for the last time. Hill has been a terrific player his entire career in Tucson and will be starting his 78th consecutive game for the Wildcats. The multi-dimensional forward presents many problems for defenses as he can shoot from the outside as well as score down low. There will always be the thought of what could have been for Hill and the Trojans, but for now the senior will focus on beating USC one last time.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.22.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 22nd, 2013

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  1. Thursday night the Pac-12 race got even tighter as California’s Justin Cobbs took advantage of Oregon’s 5’8” point guard Jonathan Loyd in the waning moments of their meeting, knocking down a game-winning jumper over the smaller man’s outstretched arms. As we head into the weekend, we’ve got three teams atop the conference with four losses while a pair of teams, including those Golden Bears, lurk just one game back in the loss column. The game itself wasn’t pretty, as Cobbs turned the ball over eight times, the teams combined to shoot 3-of-21 from deep and nobody on Oregon shot better than 50% from the field, but Cal continues to be the hottest team in the conference with six victories in its last seven games. As for Oregon, this current group of Ducks still remains winless in their careers against California.
  2. In the wake of Washington State’s seventh straight conference loss on Wednesday night, the talk about whether head coach Ken Bone is the man for the job in Pullman for the long term has reached a fever pitch. The talk has been slowly bubbling up since way back before the season began as Reggie Moore got booted from the team and incoming transfer Brett Kingma ran afoul of the law, highlighting some off-the-court issues that have troubled Bone’s program for some time. But, as CougCenter pointed out a couple weeks back, if the university hopes to go a different way, they’ve got to figure out a way around Bone’s hefty contract, which promises the coach $2.55 million over the remaining three years. Given the amount of money the WSU athletic department already has tied up in paying current and former football coaches, that amount of money may be too much to bear at this point. And, as I pointed out back before the season, expectations in Pullman have to be realistic. The fact of the matter is that prior to this season, Bone had the second-highest winning percentage of any coach in school history who had coached at least 20 games. Unfortunately for him, however, the one guy ahead of him was his predecessor.
  3. USC will take a crack at earning a season sweep of crosstown rival UCLA at the Galen Center on Sunday afternoon. And if they’re going to get it done, they’ll need to lean heavily on senior point guard Jio Fontan who, after dealing with ACL surgery last year and the heavy-handed offensive structure of former head coach Kevin O’Neill, is now thriving with more freedom under interim coach Bob Cantu and more confidence in a knee that gets stronger by the game.
  4. One thing we haven’t talked a lot about here this season is the Player of the Year race in the Pac-12. No worries though, as Pachoops has got you covered on that mark. Adam Butler scouts the candidates out and narrows the race down to two guys: Arizona State’s Jahii Carson and Cal’s Allen Crabbe. I wanted to quibble (Carrick Felix anyone?) but in the end decided that yes, those are the two guys atop the leaderboard right now and somebody from the next pack back (some combination of Solomon Hill, Shabazz Muhammad, Spencer Dinwiddie and Felix) would have to go absolutely nuts for that to change. In my mind, however, Carson is the favorite, as he has been for at least a month; but as Cal has heated up, Crabbe has made a big time charge to the point where it is just about even money right now.
  5. Lastly, in case you forgot, DirecTV has still not come to an agreement with the Pac-12 conference to carry the Pac-12 Networks. I’m sure all of you have done the right thing and dropped DirecTV like a hot potato, but apparently there are people out there sticking with the satellite television behemoth instead of watching tons of Pac-12 action this season. And, if you’re somehow still among that crowd, you’ve missed the 20 out of Arizona State’s 27 games this season that have aired on the Pac-12 Networks. Don’t hold your breath on a deal getting done any time soon as both sides appear entrenched in their positions.
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Arizona Shows Off Its NCAA Tournament Credentials

Posted by Kenny Ocker on February 3rd, 2013

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a journalist based in the Northwest who filed this story after Arizona’s win against Washington State in Pullman on Saturday night.

Halfway through its Pac-12 schedule, Arizona looks like a team prepared to make an impact come March. The Wildcats have wiggled their way back into a tie for the Pac-12 lead with Oregon despite losing in Eugene in mid-January. The one other loss came at home to UCLA two weeks later, but neither snowballed for Arizona. Instead, the Wildcats have run straight through everything that could have derailed the momentum they built up in the non-conference season with wins over Florida, Miami and San Diego State. Even on the road against Washington State, two days after a last-possession win against Washington, with Kevin Parrom ejected for elbowing Cougars guard DaVonte Lacy in the first half and star senior guard Mark Lyons picking up three first-half fouls, Arizona barely blinked, taking a 40-26 lead into halftime in Pullman, which led to a 79-65 win.

Solomon Hill had six three-pointers in the first half to lead Arizona back into a tie for first in the Pac-12.

Solomon Hill had six three-pointers in the first half to lead Arizona back into a tie for first in the Pac-12.

But what makes Arizona so good? Is it having senior leadership? Is it having a talented offense? Is it having a stingy defense? It seems to be all of those things. On a night where Lyons picked up four fouls by the 17-minute mark of the second half and Parrom was booted, fellow senior Solomon Hill filled in the gap for Sean Miller’s squad with six three-pointers – including a three-quarter-court heave at the halftime buzzer – finishing with 18 points. For the season, the trio is averaging around 36 points per game and are three of the Wildcats’ top four scorers, along with sophomore guard Nick Johnson. Arizona’s offense is one that benefits from its best-in-the-conference free-throw shooting, especially thanks to the fouls drawn by ball-handlers Lyons and Johnson, who can get into the lane at will. Once they get there, they capitalize at a team-wide 75 percent rate. That, combined with strong offensive rebounding, leads to the conference’s most efficient offense, despite average two-point and three-point shooting and pedestrian turnover numbers. Where the Wildcats stand out most is on the defensive end. They force turnovers on nearly one in five opponent possessions, allow 40 percent shooting and clear the boards better than anyone in the Pac-12. Johnson’s quick hands lead to more than two steals per game, and Hill averages just more than a steal per game.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2013

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  1. Since the firing of Kevin O’Neill on Monday morning, coaches on the hot seat are on the minds of many around the conference. Bud Withers of The Seattle Times points to Craig Robinson, Johnny Dawkins and Ken Bone as the three remaining Pac-12 coaches most likely to be relieved of their duties following the season, and one of the factors that could play a part in their departures is the relative disinterest of the fan bases, especially at Stanford and Washington State, where small crowds have become a theme. Of note is that Ben Howland is missing from Withers’ list, but rest assured, barring a deep run in the NCAA Tournament (meaning at least past the first weekend), Howland’s position will be reevaluated once the season ends.
  2. Continuing to mine that O’Neill theme, the Arizona Daily Wildcat has a piece about how the state of UA basketball could have been much different had previous events turned out differently. To begin with, O’Neill was the interim head coach at Arizona when Lute Olson took his leave of absence in 2007-08, and, were it not for a change of heart on Olson’s part, the plan was to make O’Neill the head man when Olson retired. When that plan fell through, O’Neill wound up free to take the USC job when Tim Floyd abruptly resigned in the wake of recruiting allegations. And, in that whole regime change, guys who had been committed to USC, namely Derrick Williams and Momo Jones, wound up de-committing and instead enrolling at Arizona, became key cogs in the 2011 Elite Eight team. Solomon Hill was also at one point committed to Tim Floyd and USC, but he backed out of that and switched his allegiance to Arizona prior to the coaching change. In short, were it not for a couple simple twists of fate involving O’Neill, the present face of Arizona basketball would look significantly different.
  3. Aside from that, you know, we actually had some games in the conference tonight. Where Wednesday games were sort of a one-off rivalry-game-only type of thing in the past, these are a regular occurrence every week this year. It takes some getting used to, sure, but really, basketball spread out more evenly through the week? I ain’t complaining. Washington State kicked things off last night by raining down fire from deep on Utah on the way to the Cougs’ first conference win of the season. Coug Center’s got your round-up of all the action, including Mike Ladd’s career night. It’s worth noting that Ladd is starting to pick up the pace offensively and it is he, rather than more popular possibilities like DaVonte Lacy or Royce Woolridge, who has stepped up as the second option on this team behind Brock Motum. Ladd has now scored in double figures in five straight games, averaging better than 16 points per night over that span.
  4. As Sabatino Chen’s desperation three-pointer banked in at the buzzer at the end of Colorado’s conference opener, it appeared that the Buffaloes were ready to be a serious contender for the Pac-12 title. Almost literally since that exact moment, not much has gone right for CU. Moments later, that shot was perhaps erroneously waved off. Soon thereafter the Buffs folded in overtime of that game. And since that night, they’ve proceeded to drop three of their next four, stumbling to a 1-4 conference start, including last night’s 10-point loss at Washington. But, while Colorado gets much of the attention for their sudden failures, the Huskies are out to a surprising 4-0 conference start. But, as Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times notes, while past Husky teams have made their mark with style and flair, this vintage of UW is getting it done with grit, hustle and smarts. And, perhaps not coincidentally, they’re overachieving this year, as opposed to their almost annual recent underachievements.
  5. Lastly, on a day that wasn’t all that great for Oregon sports, there was bad news for the basketball program as well when it came to light that the prep school that 2013 recruit Cristiano Felicio is currently attending may be under scrutiny for its legitimacy as an educational institution. And, the crazy part about this story is that may not be the worst part about it. Aside from possibly being little more than a scam perpetrated on talented basketball players, the president of the school is under investigation for physically abusing some of the schools players by subjecting them to “hands and feet bound with zip ties” and “clothes pins attached to their nipples.” Yikes.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 18th, 2012

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  1. Yesterday was Monday, meaning a pair of new polls were released to lift fans from their post-weekend doldrums. Arizona was of course the highlight for Pac-12 fans, coming in at number four in the AP and fifth in the coaches poll. The argument could be made that there were four Mountain West teams better than the top Pac-12 team at most points in 2011-12, so that shows you just how far the top-tier of our conference has come in a year. The Wildcats are one of just seven undefeated teams ranked in the Top 25. The only other team without a loss is Wyoming, who comes in at #29 in the AP and #30 in the coaches.
  2. Washington State coach Ken Bone has reinstated sophomore guard Brett Kingma following a possession of marijuana arrest and subsequent suspension in late October. The Cougars could certainly use some assistance from Kingma, as DaVonte Lacy has been the only reliable scorer in the Coug backcourt. Kingma was a freshman at Oregon in the 2011-12 season, but transferred within the conference after playing just 9.8 MPG that season. He was arrested in the middle of preseason camp on possession of “several grams” of marijuana, as well as exhibiting the effects of consuming alcohol in a public place.
  3. After taking a 10-day break for Finals, Utah will return to the court tonight to face SMU. Head coach Larry Krystowiak and the Utes focused on a few different items during the layoff, with an emphasis coming in taking care of the ball and rebounding. They’ve turned the ball over at a clip of 14.4 miscues per game, including 17 in their odd, previous meeting with the Mustangs. SMU dropped Utah by a score of 62-55 in that one, but Krystowiak and company will have a chance to avenge the loss in a conference play-like second game of a home-and-home.
  4. UCLA got a nice surprise on Monday morning when former Bruin great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke to the team during its shootaround. Coach Ben Howland asked the all-time scoring leader in the NBA to speak to the team after taping an interview for a local news program. The current Bruins exclaimed that it was an “eye-opening experience” and a clear reminder of the legacy the UCLA program holds. The Bruins, who have started the season a disappointing 7-3, host Long Beach State tonight.
  5. It may seem silly to think about for a team ranked as high as Arizona is, but Pac-12 fans always seem to cringe nowadays when a trap game arrives on the schedule. The Wildcats are doing the best to avoid that situation, quickly getting back to business to prepare for tonight’s meeting with Oral Roberts. The game comes sandwiched in between last Saturday’s thriller against Florida and a trip to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic, where the Cats could face a pair of high-profile teams in Miami (FL) and San Diego State. But first up are the Golden Eagles, a team that won 27 games a year ago. As the article points out, ORU faces its own challenges preparing for the match-up, having to shake off both mental and physical rust that comes from not playing a game in nearly two weeks.
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Pac 12 M5: 12.12.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on December 12th, 2012

  1. Before Sean Miller‘s head coaching career started, he was a part of a group of successful assistants at Xavier under Thad Matta, who is now the current head coach at Ohio State. Several of these assistants like Miller are now head coaches and include John Groce at currently undefeated Illinois as well as Alan Major at currently undefeated Charlotte. Miller noted that all the coaches learned so much from Matta, but most important was the ability to bring out the best in a team by making sure that everyone is enjoying themselves throughout the entirety of the season.
  2. Ben Howland has a career 211-99 record at UCLA and has enjoyed considerable success, but this year the Bruins’ poor start can be attributed to three mistakes. Howland has played the Wear twins too much, and although he gives them constant praise, the reality is that the David and Travis Wear have their limitations on defense and have no consistency on offense — Travis has only put up 14 points in his past two games while David has put up a total of four. Howland also hasn’t found the right fit for freshman Kyle Anderson. With Larry Drew II handling the point guard duties, UCLA hasn’t been able to run a successful offense with Anderson playing off the ball. Lastly, even with the #1 recruiting class this season, Howland has failed to find his staple of tough interior defenders such as previous Bruins Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alfred Aboya, and Lorenzo Mata-Real, any of whom UCLA could so desperately use this season.
  3. Washington is scheduled to play Seattle University this Thursday, but the Huskies are likely to be without freshman point guard Andrew Andrews as he is still suffering from a sprained ankle. Andrews is currently averaging seven points and 3.3 assists per game this year and Washington could use his help with Lorenzo Romar’s team continuing to struggle as evident by their recent home loss to Nevada and their near home loss to Cal State Fullerton in the past two games.
  4. With the early dismissal of Reggie Moore from Washington State this year, Ken Bone knew he would need a replacement at point guard and has turned to sophomore Royce Woolridge to handle the position. But it’s been senior Mike Ladd who has taken the reins in recent games. Bone praised Ladd, but said that the duties will continued to be shared regardless. Additionally, Bone has been pleased so far this year with star player Brock Motum’s improvement on the defensive end as he has become much better defending the post.
  5. Last year, the Pac-12 only had two NCAA Tournament teams in Cal and Colorado who were unable to advance past the round of 32, but esteemed bracketologist Joe Lunardi came out with his latest mock yesterday and he had six Pac-12 teams currently invited into his field of 68. Arizona was a three seed, Colorado was a seven seed, Cal was a nine seed, Oregon was a ten seed, and UCLA and Stanford were twelve seeds. Although it’s only December and things will certainly change in the next three months of action, it’s still impressive to see the Pac-12 putting half its teams in the draw considering the conference’s recent inability to get more than a couple into the NCAA Tournament.
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