Pac-12 M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2012

  1. Gonzaga’s last second win over Washington State on Wednesday night goes down as one of the best games of the young season so far, and while Ken Bone and the Cougars aren’t big on the concept of the moral victory against a bitter rival, there are some good things they can take away from that game. First and foremost, their stars stepped up in a big way. Brock Motum and DaVonte Lacy combined for five threes in a four-and-a-half minute stretch to bring the Cougs back from an 11-point deficit to tie the game and set up the final scramble. And if WSU has any plans to turn around a slow start to the year, it will need to be on the backs of those two. The other big thing is that, while this team will be without a traditional point guard the whole year, Bone seems to have cobbled together a workable solution. Mike Ladd seems to do most of the play-making in the halfcourt set, but guys like Royce Woolridge, Dexter Kernich-Drew and Lacy have all pitched in and assembled a good point-guard-by-committee group that is doing an excellent job limiting turnovers and getting WSU into their sets. It was bumpy at the start of the year, but the Gonzaga loss proved to me, at least, that the situation is workable.
  2. Meanwhile, Utah, another team expected to finish near the bottom of the conference, was able to come up with its best performance of the year in blowing out Boise State. On a night when the Utes honored former head coach Rick Majerus prior to the game, Utah center Jason Washburn said “we felt like Coach Majerus was with us all night; he was right on the bench with us, smiling down.”  Washburn went 6-of-6 from the field to pace an incredibly hot shooting night for the Utes, in which they shot a ridiculous 78.8% eFG. Block U calls the win the best by the program in the last four years, and, although I could nitpick, it is being taken as a sign by the Ute faithful that Larry Krystkowiak has got this ship headed in the right direction.
  3. We’ve talked a lot about Mark Lyons over the last few days, and Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News has his own take on his transition to the point, which includes the unconvincing argument of “hey, they’re beating a lot of bad teams by a lot of points!” But, DeCourcy does make the point that Lyons is never really the sole ballhandler on the floor for Arizona and that Sean Miller is quite pleased with Lyons’ production. I would maybe go even one step further and say that, while Lyons is the closest thing to a point guard on the team, very rarely is he tasked with being the initiator of the halfcourt offense, a role that just as often falls to either Solomon Hill or Nick Johnson. Lyons may spend a bit more time with the ball in his hands this year than he did last year playing with Tu Holloway at Xavier, but really, Miller hasn’t exactly tried to rebuild Lyons from the ground up.
  4. Even with UCLA’s struggles out of the gate, Shabazz Muhammad still thinks his team is going to make an impact in the Pac-12 this season, even if it has been relegated to sleeper status by their early losses. He told the Petros and Money show on Fox Radio on Wednesday how he feels about the rest of the season. But, the big takeaway from Muhammad’s comments (other than the overwhelming use of the word “really”) may be that Ben Howland has “become a players’ coach.” Muhammad ties that comment to the change that encourages the team to get out in transition more, and it is true that UCLA’s averaging about three more possessions per game this year than last, but certainly Howland is still trying to figure out the sweet spots on both ends of the floor for this team.
  5. Another team that has earned the title “sleeper team” in the Pac-12 is Oregon, off to a 7-1 start behind the production of an all-freshman backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. While senior leader E.J. Singler is quick to praise his younger players, Dana Altman, ever the coach, sees the need for better consistency and better shot selection out of the backcourt duo. Still, he sees them as key cogs in the long-term plans for the Ducks. And, an already deep and talented team expects to get even deeper and more talented, when freshman Arik Armstead is expected to join the team in January. Armstead, a defensive tackle for the Ducks football team, won’t join the team until after Oregon’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl (January 3 against Kansas State) and it’ll take some time for him to get into basketball shape and learn the ins and outs of the teams’ sets, but he’s been spending a bit of time working with team managers. Just how much of an impact he’ll have is unknown, especially with a now deep Ducks big man rotation, but you can never have too much talent, can you?
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A Spin Around The Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2012

Now that we’ve got games coming fast and furious, every team around the conference has a story to tell, and often we don’t have time to get to them all. So, in the interest of checking in semi-regularly with every team, we’re going to take a quick spin around the conference and check the temperature of each team, beginning with the spots that have gone the most terribly wrong and working backwards to the success stories.

UCLA – More or less a co-favorite heading into the season, the Bruins are likely the biggest story going in the Pac-12 right now – and not for anything good. Sunday night’s blown 18-point second-half lead en route to a loss to Cal Poly is one (terrible, horrible, atrocious) thing, but the fact that this team is doing this kind of thing with a the level of talent they’ve got is unforgivable. If Ben Howland is going to stick with more or less this personnel in his rotation (you know, the Wear twins, Larry Drew and a pair of wings), he’s gotta just break down and play a ton of zone. Really, this will do two good things: (1) minimize the effect of this team’s low level of overall athleticism, and (2) give them plenty of work on their zone offense in practice, something they desperately need. The other thing that absolutely has to happen for UCLA to even get within shouting distance of its potential ceiling is to find a way to get Kyle Anderson comfortable in this offense, and really that means putting the ball in his hands and letting him create, at least in the halfcourt. Drew has been excellent running the show and in no way should be scapegoated for UCLA’s struggles, but this team needs Anderson to be a factor and, while he’s shown his versatility, his defense has been bad, his shooting has been worse, and he hasn’t done enough elsewhere to make up for those serious drawbacks. There is still plenty of time for this team to turn things around, but UCLA fans have rightly run out of patience with Howland and are demanding immediate success. If this team doesn’t get drastically better, the big story come March will be whether UCLA’s legacy will be enough to pull either Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens away from their current jobs.

Kyle Anderson, UCLA

Ben Howland Needs To Find a Way To Get Kyle Anderson Comfortable, Or He’ll Be Looking For A New Job

Washington – The thinking at the start of the year was that maybe, minus a pair of talented but conflicted wings, the Huskies could be a textbook example of addition by subtraction. Minus Terrence Ross and especially Tony Wroten Jr., the remaining members of the team would know and accept their roles better. Well, somebody forgot to tell guys like Desmond Simmons, Jernard Jarreau and Martin Breunig that a big part of their roles would be to clean the defensive glass. While the Huskies have more or less won the battle of the boards against lesser teams, versus Ohio State and Colorado State they were dominated – in fact, against the Rams, the Huskies actually grabbed fewer defensive rebounds than CSU grabbed offensive boards. Sure, it sucks that Shawn Kemp Jr. went down with an injury just before the start of the year, but either Jarreau or Breuning needs to be ready to step in and do some of the dirty work, lest they be not asked back next season.

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Rushed Reactions: Texas A&M 55, Washington State 54

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2012

rushedreactions

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. He filed this report from the consolation game of the Edward Jones CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City.

Three thoughts from Texas A&M’s one-point victory in the consolation final against Washington State.

  1. Wazzou Defense Improves, But It’s Still Incomplete: Washington State’s defense held tight in a see-saw battle that saw ten ties and eight lead changes, but couldn’t hold on its final possession, as Texas A&M guard Elston Turner sank a three from the top of the key to send the Aggies back to Lubbock with a 56-54 win (more on him later). The Cougars were especially strong in the backcourt, frustrating Texas A&M into bad shots throughout the game. After getting blown away by the Jayhawk offense on Monday, Ken Bone‘s team did a much better job on short rest, but the Turner’s game-winner proves the importance of playing tight defense each trip down the floor. Washington State’s rebounding must also improve, especially on the defensive end as the Cougars allowed the Aggies to clean up 13 of their 33 misses.
  2. The Turners Hold The Keys To A&M’s Season: The aforementioned Elston Turner shook off a cold shooting night to deliver when his team needed him the most. As one of the senior leaders of an otherwise young team, Turner will have to lead by example, and that means stepping up and maintaining poise even when things aren’t breaking right. Turner had missed 11 of his first 12 shots on the night, but kept his confidence on the final possession. Ray Turner bounced back from a passive game Monday, leading the Aggies with 14 points and eight rebounds Tuesday, three of which came on the offensive glass. The Aggies are at their best when the Turners are clicking, as they did in the early part of the second half. Trailing by five at intermission, Texas A&M went on a 13-5 run, and the Turners were responsible for 11 of those 13 points.
  3. Dexter Kernich-Drew Emerges Off The Bench: If the Cougars’ defensive effort tonight proves to be an aberration, WSU can take solace in the potential of the Australian sophomore to compensate with smooth outside shooting. Kernich-Drew scored 13 of his game-high 16 points in the second half, and hit four of seven from distance, his last three coming from NBA range. The Aggies and Cougars traded buckets throughout the second half down to the very last possession, and Kernich-Drew was right in the thick of it as his contributions kept the Cougars close. Wazzou was much more balanced offensively tonight, with Kernich-Drew, Mike Ladd, Brock Motum, and D.J. Shelton each chipping in. As its defense develops, it will be up to scorers like Kernich-Drew to keep Washington State in games.
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Rushed Reactions: #12 Kansas 78, Washington State 41

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2012

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and correspondent. He filed this report from the second semifinal of the Edward Jones CBE Hall of Fame Classic Monday night.

Kansas throttled the Cougars in an even more impressive fashion than was expected coming into Monday night. Some key takeaways:

  1. Message Received By Jayhawks After Early Bumps: There’s no shame in losing to Michigan State on a neutral floor in Atlanta, but the Jayhawks needed an injection of tough love from Bill Self after falling behind to Chattanooga at home later that week. KU responded in the second half last Thursday and kept the momentum rolling from the opening tip against Washington State Monday night. The Jayhawks shot their way to a 50-point first half with a scorching 64% clip from the floor. Kansas clicked on the glass as well, rebounding five of its nine misses for an incredibly efficient start. Staked to a 29-point lead at the intermission, Self substituted freely throughout the second half, and as a result, his most important players should benefit from the rest with a one-night turnaround. In addition, the extra reps for players like Anrio AdamsAndrew White and Naadir Tharpe will serve the team well in the long run.
  2. Role Players Emerge For Kansas: While it wasn’t surprising to see KU perform well in front of a de facto home crowd, not many predicted the role Travis Releford would play Monday. The senior came into tonight’s contest shooting a bone-dry 26.1% from the floor, but made his first six shots, including a pair of threes, on his way to a game-high 17 points against the Cougars. Defensively, Kevin Young made good on his first start as a Jayhawk. The senior transfer starred alongside Jeff Withey and the two combined to fluster Wazzu in its attempts to penetrate. For KU to keep a lock on its conference championship streak, it needs consistency from its complementary players in addition to Withey and Elijah Johnson, who are expected to lead the team on a regular basis.
  3. Washington State Has Too Many Leaks For Ken Bone To Plug: Beating Kansas in its second home is a tall order for any team, but Washington State’s failure to make the game competitive at any point can’t bode well for Bone’s future in Pullman. While his portrayal of a disciplinarian in removing Reggie Moore from the team in September was admirable, Bone has struggled to pick up the pieces. Based on the combined 7-25 shooting night from Wazzu’s backcourt on Monday, the early returns in the quest for help can’t be much more discouraging. Brock Motum‘s international flavor at center is unorthodox enough to throw opposing big men off their games, but if no other threats emerge for Washington State, teams will simply continue to double Motum, knowing they can hedge away from other personnel. Coaches express emotions in several ways, but all Bone could do was shake his head as he watched Kansas make shot after shot. While it’s not advisable to make too much out of one bad game, Bone needs to find answers if his team is to make a run at a postseason tournament bid. The Pac-12 has climbed back to respectability, but Wazzu is still groping for the light switch.
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How Hot Is That Seat? The Pac-12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2012

After a year like the Pac-12 had last year, with the conference champion missing the NCAA Tournament and – oh, nevermind, I don’t need to run down the litany of lows the conference went through last year – it was bad. But, somehow, amidst all the 6-26’s and 31-point home losses to Cal State Fullerton and 20-point home losses to Middle Tennessee, every single Pac-12 head coach returns to his spot on the bench this season, the first time since 2001-02 that every one will do so. But, before we all get too comfortable with this admittedly quite fine selection of coaches, it is worth understanding that the odds are very much against a similar thing happening next year. We’re definitely in an era in college athletics where memories of good times don’t last very long and expectations for each and every season are high. Up and down the conference this season, you’ll find head coaches with make-or-break seasons ahead of them. Last week, CBS released its list of 12 coaches across the nation who find themselves on the hot seat going into the season, and six of those guys will be prowling the sidelines in the Pac-12. Below, we’ll take a look at each head coach in the league and rank just how hot that folding chair on the sidelines is getting for them, from scalding hot down to icy cold.

  • Ben Howland, UCLA – Scalding. Last year was pretty bad. Back-to-back losses to start the season to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee are never good. The Reeves Nelson embarrassment at the start of the year (really, how did he ever think it would be okay to let Nelson fly out to the Maui Invitational on a separate flight?) was one thing, but it blew up into a huge story when George Dohrmann and Sports Illustrated broke down the dysfunction in the program. Sure, there were some circumstances that were less than ideal last year, including playing away from home in the creaky old Sports Arena, but excuses like that don’t fly just two years after a 14-18 season in Westwood. Those three straight Final Fours are not too far back in the rearview mirror, and yeah, the nation’s best recruiting class will definitely help things, but if somehow this thing blows up in Howland’s face this year, we’ll have a nationwide search for the next UCLA basketball coach to write about come March.
Ben Howland, UCLA

Despite Three Straight Final Fours Earlier In His UCLA Career, Ben Howland Needs A Big Year To Hang On To His Job (Jamie Squire, Getty Images)

  • Herb Sendek, Arizona State – Scorching. There isn’t a ton of basketball success in the history books at Arizona State, but when the Sun Devils reeled in the perpetually underrated Sendek from North Carolina State six seasons ago, it seemed like a big score for ASU. Three straight 20-win seasons followed and the Sun Devils were even scoring big-time recruits (see James Harden and Jahii Carson). But two seasons ago, the wheels came off amidst injuries, poor play from seniors, and youngsters who weren’t quite ready. Last year, the whole dang car went in the ditch. But, somehow in the middle of last year’s 10-21 season, then-Athletic Director Lisa Love extended Sendek’s contract by a couple of years. Well, ASU’s got a new AD in Steve Patterson ready to put his stamp on his department. And if Sendek’s youngsters don’t show some serious improvement this year (which, given the low standards and new talent, shouldn’t be that hard to do), Patterson may get his chance to remake the basketball program.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 22nd, 2012

  1. We’re still three weeks out from actual basketball games taking place, but more and more it is starting to feel like this is just not going to be UCLA’s year. Aside from the NCAA investigations into recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, the cheap accusations of cheating by certain unnamed media outlets, and the legitimate questions about how some of these pieces fit together, the Bruins are also starting to see some injuries accrue. The newest Bruin laid up is junior forward David Wear, who sprained his right ankle in a practice yesterday, joining junior guard Tyler Lamb (arthroscopic knee surgery) in the infirmary. Of course, the glass-half-full view of this situation could be that it is much better to have these types of things happen now than in February or March. As it is, a simple sprained ankle could just mean a bit of a rest for Wear until the seasons kicks off on November 9.
  2. It didn’t take long for the newest Cougar, Oregon-transfer Brett Kingma, to pick up on how things are done in the Washington State basketball program; early Saturday morning, the sophomore guard was arrested by Pullman police for marijuana possession and “minor exhibiting the effects of having consumed alcohol in a public place” – an oddly specific and yet still confusing charge. Now, we understand there isn’t always a whole lot to do in Pullman, but the marijuana busts for WSU’s basketball program are getting ridiculous. In recent years, off the top of my head, Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto have all been busted for pot. There are two ways for Cougar head coach Ken Bone to deal with this: (1) mostly ignore, offer an obligatory slap on the wrist and pray that Initiative 502 passes, or (2) make an example of Kingma by kicking him off the team. I’m certainly not saying the second option is necessarily the best approach, after all, really what is this arrest about – a college kid was walking home drunk after a Friday night partying and happened to have some dope on him. Stop the presses, right? But the fact of the matter is, this constantly happening in Bone’s program is becoming a black eye.
  3. Arizona unveiled the 2012-13 version of its basketball team to its fans on Sunday afternoon with their annual Red-Blue game. Prior to an intrasquad scrimmage, the school honored its 1988 Final Four team and members of the current team got to meet and learn from previous Wildcat greats like Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler. The game itself was less of a no-defense All-Star game than a hard-fought scrimmage, but Nick Johnson (who our own Parker Baruh nominated as the Pac-12’s breakout player) got hot, hitting four threes and finishing with 20 points to lead all scorers while also chipping in four assists. New Wildcat point guard Mark Lyons also added four assists, while senior wing Kevin Parrom added four three-pointers of his own. Arizona Desert Swarm has some video highlights of the game and the surrounding festivities. But perhaps the biggest part of the day was UA hosting at least eight recruits, including Aaron Gordon, whom Sean Miller (and other coaches around the country) seriously covet. Given that the 2011 version of the Red-Blue game helped the ‘Cats land Kaleb Tarczewski, the game is becoming a way of tying the great history of the program to its bright future.
  4. Arizona wasn’t the only school holding events for their fans this weekend. Stanford held its Friday Frenzy event on, when else, Friday evening, featuring its annual Cardinal-White scrimmage, a dunk contest, and various other events. Oddly enough, the winner of the dunk contest wasn’t even a member of the basketball team, as senior All-American high jumper Jules Sharpe took home the title, edging out junior forward Josh Huestis. As for the scrimmage, junior forward Dwight Powell (our Kevin Danna’s pick for the Pac-12 breakout player) led all scorers with 19 points, getting it done not only from the perimeter but also on the block. It was sophomore guard Chasson Randle, who had 16 points on seven-for-nine shooting, however, who had the last laugh, leading his Cardinal team to an eight-point win over Powell’s White squad.
  5. Lastly, Arizona State’s Maroon-Gold scrimmage was Saturday afternoon, giving Sun Devil fans their first chance to see the long-awaited debut of freshman point guard Jahii Carson. Early reports are that, behind Carson, ASU looks like it may live up to Herb Sendek’s promises of a drastically increased tempo. Carson led all scorers with 18 points in the game, while newly eligible transfer Evan Gordon also impressed. The game featured three different 10-minute periods, with Carson splitting time on each team over the course of the scrimmage, but one good takeaway for how important he’ll be to ASU is the fact that whichever team he was on wound up winning each of the three different periods.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 12th, 2012

  1. One of the things we love about college basketball is that every year, there are loads and loads of teams with brand new looks. You’ve got freshmen coming in and transfers and kids back from injuries. The entire makeup of a team can change from year to year, for better or for worse. This year in the Pac-12 is no different, but in some cases, these changes seem to be a bit more extreme than normal, with several teams across the conference ready to unveil a completely remade roster. Today, as practices kick off around the country, we’ll take a look at five of those teams, beginning with Utah, where second-year head coach Larry Krystkowiak welcomes in a roster that returns just two scholarship players from last year’s 6-25 team. Given the depths to which the talent level plunged in Salt Lake City last year, the remake was desperately needed, and Krystkowiak is certain that the team is ready to be much more competitive. With 10 new scholarship faces on the roster, the battle for time is tight and ongoing, with the head man mentioning that the Ute starting lineup may be a shifting five over the course of the year.
  2. As bad as the Utes were last year, USC was even worse, limping (quite literally) home to a 1-17 record. Along the way, the Trojans turned into the walking wounded with dozens, if not hundreds, of players (overstatement is of use here) lost for the season to injury. But not only does Kevin O’Neill have many of those players coming back from last year’s injuries, but he’s got transfers galore and, all told, plenty of talent up and down the bench. Never one for understatement, O’Neill last season called then sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon a future NBA lottery pick, while this year he is going out on a limb and projecting Rice transfer Omar Oraby as a future 12- or 13-year pro, although USC is still waiting on word from the NCAA as to whether he’ll receive a waiver to be able to play this year. But O’Neill is most excited about getting back the services of senior point guard Jio Fontan, whom he calls the heart and soul of the team.
  3. Washington State’s 2011-12 season was slightly more successful than either of the above teams’, but like both USC and Utah, the Cougs will unveil a new-look squad as well. Brock Motum returns after his breakout junior season, as does returning starter DaVonte Lacy and four other players, but things are going to have to be different in Pullman this season. But despite being minus recently-dismissed point guard Reggie Moore, head coach Ken Bone thinks this will be a better team than last year, with the combo of Lacy and Kansas-transfer Royce Woolridge being an upgrade over the would-be senior. And Bone hopes that the Cougs’ underdog status will help the squad “pull together.” Reading between the lines a bit, it seems I may not be the only one who thinks the loss of Moore could turn out to be addition by subtraction.
  4. Oregon advanced to the NIT last season, but after five graduating seniors and three freshmen transferring out of the program last year, the Ducks were in need of a talent infusion of their own. Enter a five-man freshman class, two junior college transfers, and Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi (who is appealing to the NCAA for immediate eligibility), and returnee EJ Singler, for one, is excited about the additional size and athleticism added to Dana Altman’s roster. The number of new players could jump to nine once the football season ends, assuming freshman Arik Armstead joins the team in January, but the number could have even been 10. However, junior college transfer Devon Branch opted not to enroll at UO for the fall semester, instead opting to go the Division II route, which would give him one more season of eligibility than he would have had in Eugene.
  5. The roster makeover for Washington is not as massive as in any of the above four stops, but the Huskies are without their two highest profile stars from last season’s Pac-12 regular season champion. Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. left eligibility on the table when they split for the NBA, but it was no secret that last year’s squad underachieved in part due to chemistry issues that never got fully resolved. Lorenzo Romar commented on Twitter that this team has the chemistry and attitude that the coaching staff appreciates, a remark that seems to draw a direct comparison to last year’s squad. Put on your special glasses and it might as well read: “last year’s team had no chemistry because there were too many guys worried about getting the credit.” There’s still plenty of talent up in Seattle, with proven upperclassmen Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Aziz N’Diaye leading the way, so if the intangibles shift a little in the right direction, the 2012-13 edition of the Huskies could be an improvement on last year’s more talented squad.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 11th, 2012

  1. Arizona State’s media day was on Tuesday, and as always, the ASU sports information department does a great job of getting their information out there. As ASU’s director of media relations Doug Tammaro put it, he’s got over 5,000 words on the Sun Devil basketball team, with tons of quotes from head coach Herb Sendek and players Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon. Given the fact that the team is coming off back-to-back subpar seasons (22-40 in the last two years), the Sun Devils have a lot to prove, but just reading through the enthusiasm that Sendek has about this collection of players and the confidence that Carson has in himself and his teammates, it isn’t that hard to envision this team overachieving its way into an upper-division conference finish. A lot would have to break right for that to happen, and the team needs to break through the Murphy’s Law culture that has seemingly taken hold in Tempe, but this ASU team should be an interesting watch all year long.
  2. Elsewhere in Tempe, Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic published an interview with ASU sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling on Sunday, and it too paints a picture of a Sun Devil squad ready to surprise people. Gilling, who came out of nowhere to start 18 games for the team and score in double figures eight times in conference play (quite an accomplishment as no better than a third option on a low-scoring team), looks around the roster and sees far more threats to give the opposition problems. Beginning with Carson and Gordon, but also extending to rapidly improving big man Jordan Bachynski and another incoming transfer in Bo Barnes, Gilling sees a completely different team. And, once again, we’ve got testimony from inside the program that Sendek’s promises for a more uptempo approach, including significantly more man-to-man defense, are not just lip service.
  3. Up in Pullman, Washington State is ready to plow ahead without the services of recently dismissed point guard Reggie Moore. Moore was head coach Ken Bone’s first recruit to WSU, but there is no use looking back now for him; he needs to begin to plan for the season without an obvious true point. At first glance it appears that it will be a point-guard-by-committee approach, with sophomore combo guard DaVonte Lacy, Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge, senior wing Mychal Ladd and sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew all potentially chipping in to help get the Cougars into their offense. And, while we’re on Wazzu for a second, be honest, how many of you knew that former Oregon wing Brett Kingma landed in Pullman? Clearly, some of you did, but somehow this completely escaped my attention. It’s a good get for Bone, even if his freshman year in Eugene was a little bumpy and even if he’ll lose a year of eligibility by transferring within the conference.
  4. UCLA’s media day was yesterday, but it was significantly less revealing, if only because the biggest question about the Bruins’ season – if and when Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson will be declared eligible – remains presently unanswerable. So much so that UCLA had their vice chancellor of legal affairs, Kevin S. Reed, monitoring the press conference so that schools officials could remind the media whenever necessary that they wouldn’t be answering any questions about the NCAA review of Muhammad and Anderson’s eligibility. On a brighter note, however, it was announced that Pauley Pavilion is not only really, really close to being a completed project, but it is also a project that came in $44 million under budget. So, you know, the next time you’ve got a project that is gonna run you some nine-digit dollar amount, I believe UCLA’s got a contractor they can recommend.
  5. We’re back to the gridiron tonight with a less-than-stellar Thursday night affair between Arizona State and Colorado, and that means it is time for Connor and I to renew our prognosticating battle. I made up another game on Connor last week when USC bounced back from a rough start to pull away from Utah in the second half. Last week’s results leave Connor at 35-13 for the year, while I’m two games back at 33-15. Below are this week’s picks, with our predicted scores for our game of the week (Stanford at Notre Dame) in bold.
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Arizona State at Colorado Arizona State Arizona State
    Utah at UCLA UCLA UCLA
    California at Washington State Washington State California
    Oregon State at Brigham Young Brigham Young Oregon State
    USC at Washington USC USC
    Stanford at Notre Dame Notre Dame 38-31 Notre Dame 19-13
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What Losing Reggie Moore Means for Washington State

Posted by KDanna on September 26th, 2012

News broke out of Pullman earlier this week that Washington State dismissed senior guard Reggie Moore from the basketball team for a violation of team rules.

Moore’s Loss Creates Opportunities For Others at Wazzu (SI/Heinz Kluetmeier)

You can take a look at his stats and see what the Cougars will be missing; their third-leading scorer (10.2 PPG), top distributor (5.2 APG) and one of their best perimeter defenders (his 33 steals led the Cougars) from last year’s 19-18 CBI runner-up squad. Beyond those numbers, however, he was a guy who the Cougars could lean on when the going got tough. In Game 1 of the CBI Championship, Moore hit what would prove to be the game-winning jumper with a little more than a minute to play. He was the second-leading scorer in that 67-66 victory over Pittsburgh, one in which the Cougars were without lead act Brock Motum (the Panthers would take the next two games to win the coveted CBI crown). He was also often the guy who would step up to the line and hit clutch free throws; his career 77 percent accuracy from the line is just the beginning of that story. In the CBI first round game against San Francisco, Moore twice went two-for-two from the line when the Dons had cut the lead down to six late in the second half. He would finish that game 12-13 from the charity stripe, including going 11-12 in the final five minutes. Going back to his freshman year in 2009-10, he went 6-6 from the stripe in the final 33 seconds to hold off a surging Stanford squad that had closed a 20-point halftime deficit down to two in the waning moments. Washington State eventually won that game 77-73.

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Wrapping Up The Pac-12’s Summer Exhibition Tours

Posted by Connor Pelton on September 13th, 2012

Seven Pac-12 schools took a foreign exhibition trip this summer. We recap them below with Drew taking UCLA, Utah, and Colorado, and Connor taking the rest.

Not Every Team Went Tropical, But All of Them Learned Something

Arizona

  • Where: The Bahamas
  • When: August 11-13
  • What: The Wildcats swept their two games against Bahamian competition.
  • Why: As Arizona transitions from an NIT one-and-done to having at least NCAA Third Round expectations, this trip was all about integrating instant-impact newcomers Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley, Gabe York, and Mark Lyons into the rotation. Setting lineups and seeing what groups of players meshed well together was much more important than the actual play against less than stellar competition.
  • Who: Lyons and fellow senior Kevin Parrom were the stars of the trip, each averaging 18.5 PPG. The most anticipated freshman to don the cardinal red and navy blue in a while, Tarczewski, scored eight points in each game on the trip. Arizona absolutely destroyed their lowly competition, winning both games by a combined 112 points.

Colorado

  • Where: France, Belgium and the Netherlands
  • When: August 11-22
  • What: The Buffaloes went 2-3 in five games against European professional teams.
  • Why: With CU breaking in six scholarship freshmen, the trip gave head coach Tad Boyle a chance to build camaraderie between the talented new guys and their six returnees from last year’s Pac-12 championship team. The trip also gave the freshmen a chance to build an identity of their own, evidenced by the fact that Boyle sat out the core returnees from last year’s squad – Andre Roberson, Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie and Sabatino Chen – in one of the games, allowing five of the freshmen to start the game together.
  • Who: While Roberson was his usual magnificent self – he averaged 14.4 points and 13.8 rebounds – freshman Josh Scott eliminated any doubt that he could be an immediate impact player. Scott led the Buffs in scoring in four of the five games, coming up a point short of the leaders in the opening game; he averaged 17.4 point per game for the trip. His classmate Xavier Johnson also made a statement, averaging more than ten points to go with seven rebounds for the game.

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Washington State Week’s Burning Question: How Long Is The Road Back To National Prominence?

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 6th, 2012

It’s that time again, as Adam Butler of Pachoops.com joins us once more with our Burning Question for the Washington State program, concerning the road back to national relevancy for the Cougars and whether Ken Bone is the man to lead them there.

Not too long ago, the Cougars enjoyed the most successful era in the history of their basketball program. But Tony Bennett left for Virginia, Ken Bone came in from Portland State, and Washington State hasn’t gone dancing since they did it back-to-back in 2006-07 and 2007-08. What do the Cougs need to do to not only get back to the NCAAs, but national prominence as well, and is Bone the man to lead them there?

Ken Bone Enjoyed Much success While At Portland State, But So Far It Has Not Translated To The Court In Pullman (credit: Don Ryan)

Adam Butler: Find their identity. The Bone era hasn’t been devoid of talent, but it has been missing consistency. I think I like their style – it’s generally up-tempo – but there’s been an inability to consistently perform and execute what I imagine is Bone-ball. Maybe that’s a result of being an uptempo-ish team in this recent trend (started by Bennett in Pullman) of Pac-12 school’s to slow things down and play deliberately. Nonetheless, if it’s unclear what you’re doing, odds are you’re not going to be particularly successful. The same concept applies to a lot of things, just ask your first girlfriend. But there are a lot of things going for the Cougars, too. I think Reggie Moore could be poised to break out of this two-year funk as senior seasons tend to help people do, and Brock Motum is a Player of the Year front-runner. Am I sold on Ken Bone building a Top 10 team? Not today. But I think it’d be a step in the right direction if there was an identity to what a Cougar game was like as opposed to hoping talent prevails.

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Washington State Week: Q&A With CougCenter

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 5th, 2012

As part of our Washington State week, we wanted to reach out to the guys at CougCenter for their takes on the upcoming Cougar basketball season. Kyle Sherwood was kind enough to spend some time with us and give us his thoughts.

Rush The Court: How do the Cougars plan on replacing players like Marcus Capers, Abe Lodwick, and Faisal Aden?

CougCenter: Easier than you’d think. Capers, Lodwick and Aden were all high-character guys and great team leaders, but for the most part they were all one-dimensional  players. Those players meant a lot to WSU, but I think this current roster is the first one that really fits into how Ken Bone wants to play. The 2012-13 team is loaded with athletic wings who can create space and hit shots from long-range, so we’re going to replace those guys by running…and running…and running..?

Look For The Fast Cougars To Have Many Transition Opportunities That End With Dunks (credit: Stephen Dunn)

RTC: CBI time! Washington State played four games in three different tough road environments (well, as tough as CBI crowds can get), and ended the tournament with a 4-2 record and runner-up finish. Overall, was this a good experience for the team?

CC: Well, Capers and Lodwick meant so much to the program that it was worth playing as long as they wanted to keep going. The team had really turned a corner around the beginning of February, but it wasn’t showing up in the win column. When they started advancing in the CBI, it wasn’t just that they were winning, it was how dominating they looked. It was nice for the players to see the work they had put in to turn their season around pay off with such lopsided scores. I think we all would’ve liked a tournament win (because you know WSU would hang a flippin’ CBI banner), but the team got what it needed from its success in the first four games.

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