Marching to Vegas: Weighing a Pair of Midweek Upsets

Posted by AMurawa on February 1st, 2013

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

Settling into my cubicle Thursday morning I was greeted by an instant message from my brain trust, Brad, “Which was the bigger win last night: USC or Stanford?” I will make no bones about this one; Stanford’s win was the bigger of the two. But it did get me to thinking about USC’s season and what it has and will become. Kevin O’Neill’s dismissal came at a truly strange time – as the team appeared to be turning either the cohesive group or easier schedule corner – indicative of the fact that Pat Haden has plans, big or otherwise, for that position.

The games themselves were solid, the respective performances impressive. From a strictly basketball perspective, Stanford may have been the best team in the nation Wednesday night. And with regards to magnitude of victory, it is my belief that Stanford’s win was the biggest. From an expectations standpoint, we thought the Cardinal would be doing this regularly. Their coach demands hard-nosed defense and their skill set – at least on an individual level – suggests an explosive offense. On Wednesday, they were exactly that, a perfect storm. They connected on their highest percentage of shots in a single game (52%) and held an opponent to the opposite, the lowest percentage of made baskets on their defensive season (34%). To say the Cardinal were due would be an understatement. And to acknowledge that the Cardinal were due is to recognize that their effort, while impressive and the best of the year, was not unexpected. Between Randle, Bright, Huestis, and Powell, Stanford can and should compete.

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

On the other hand, the Trojans marched into a “Blue Out” with specialty tops of their own and simply didn’t care to adhere to the guest policy. They handed the ball over 17 times and still won. Sure they shot a shade over their season average but this was a road, rivalry game with an interim staff. What business did the Trojans have even flirting with victory let alone controlling the game? I’ll refrain from going in on the Bruins here. So what do these wins mean? For Stanford, outscoring the Ducks represented an exorcising of the demons. My impression – if not hope – is that this represents a tipping point or springboard by which the Cardinal become the team they were meant to be. Returning NIT champs has got to mean more than a middling Pac-12 squad.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.18.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2013

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  1. The likely brief Bob Cantu era begin at Southern California last night and, while his Trojans showed plenty of resiliency in sticking around with Oregon and fighting back from a late ten-point deficit to have a chance (okay, more like four chances, three of them point-blank) in the waning moments to win or send the game to overtime, his first game of his interim stretch still goes down in the record book as a loss. For the Top 25 Ducks, they escape the trap game in advance of this weekend’s more celebrated match-up with UCLA, but of concern is their seemingly newfound ability to take comfortable late-game leads and turn them into significantly uncomfortable late-game battles. Certainly much of that has to do with their freshman backcourt, but if UO wants to compete seriously for a Pac-12 title, they need to begin closing games more effectively.
  2. Earlier, up town a piece, UCLA was displaying a similar trait, although nowhere near as dramatically. For at least the fourth time in their five Pac-12 wins, the Bruins surged out to a comfortable lead, only to ease off the gas and let an overmatched opponent back into the game, this time against Oregon State. With the Ducks waiting on Saturday, that will not be an option. Aside from the game, there were other big goings-on at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night, as Jamaal Wilkes became just the eighth player to have his jersey retired at UCLA. On hand for the festivities were other such Bruin luminaries as Bill Walton (who handled the color duties for the ESPN broadcast), Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Mike Warren and Marques Johnson.
  3. The Oregon/UCLA game isn’t the only big-time Pac-12 game this weekend, as Arizona and Arizona State will square off in the battle for the Grand Canyon State Saturday as well. After ASU experienced a couple of very down years, they’re back in the mix in the conference, and their improvement on the defensive end is a large reason. Almost completely forsaking the match-up zone of the past, Herb Sendek has turned his team loose in man-to-man defense with athletic perimeter guys like Jahii Carson, Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon harassing ball-handlers and Jordan Bachynski cleaning up anyone that siphons through.
  4. Washington maybe the biggest story in the early going of conference play off of four straight wins to open Pac-12 in surprising fashion. Ben Knibbe of the UW Dawg Pound writes that the difference between the currently streaking Huskies and the team that lost to Albany and Nevada is that they’re finally beginning to play man-to-man defense at the level expected of Lorenzo Romar-coached teams. Part of that is due to veterans completely buying in, part of it is due to great team chemistry, but whatever the cause, so long as the defense remains a priority, expect the Huskies to keep on winning.
  5. We started the week with the Kevin O’Neill news, and its been a constant theme all week, so we might as well wrap it up by touching on it one last time. Pat Haden told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that not only is USC ready and willing to spend what it takes to land a big-name coach, but that he’s already had contact with people who are potentially interested in the job. But we’re all just going to have to wait and see what happens, because as Haden acknowledged, the guys that he is after aren’t going to be ready to commit to USC until after their NCAA Tournament runs are complete.
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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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The RTC Podcast: Episode Ten

Posted by rtmsf on January 16th, 2013

Welcome to the 10th episode of the 2012-13 version of the RTC Podcast. We’re in the heart of the season and there’s no shortage of things to talk long and hard about, so this week — with Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), per usual, as our host — we went a little long with discussion of such wide-ranging topics as who was snubbed on the Wooden Award midseason watch list, whether Louisville is a legitimate #1 team, and what’s going with those nutty basketball programs in the City of Angels. The entire outline of the podcast is located below, so feel free to skip around.

Check back on Friday of this week for our shorter RTC Podblast, which will run down some of the action from this week and look ahead to the weekend’s biggest games. And don’t forget to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after each recording. Thanks!

  • 0:00-6:47 – Duke Falls for the First Time – What’s next for them and NC State
  • 6:47-10:57 – Michigan Falls for the First Time – What’s next for them and Ohio State
  • 10:57-15:02 – How Do the Top Big Ten Teams Stack Up?
  • 15:02-18:13 – Louisville – Nation’s New Number One
  • 18:13-24:07 – USC Fires Kevin O’Neill
  • 24:07-28:01 – The Most Watchable and Unwatchable Teams
  • 28:01-32:59 – VCU Fun to Watch But How Good Are They?
  • 32:59-35:44 – UCLA Rights the Ship
  • 35:44-39:04 – Pac-12 Hierarchy
  • 39:04-42:00 – Mountain West Discussion/Week Preview
  • 42:00-43:47 – NC State-Maryland preview
  • 43:47-44:42 – Minnesota-Michigan preview
  • 44:42-54:27 – Wooden Award Discussion/Wrap

We welcome any and all feedback on these podcasts including topics for future discussion or if you want to send us any questions for our “May Not Be From Actual Listeners” segment. Hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com or @rushthecourt on Twitter.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume II

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2013

Professor Pac is back to break down and evaluate each team’s performances in the past week. With three pet pupils atop the leaderboard still without a loss, it’s no surprise who is earning the As thus far.

Washington – A

After winning a conference road game over an intrastate rival last week, the Huskies decided to one-up themselves this week, taking down two more road games, this time over slightly more significant competition, to begin the season with a surprising three-game road winning streak.

Focus on: Andrew Andrews. The stats this week weren’t anywhere near mind-blowing for the redshirt freshman (9 PPG, 4 RPG, 0.5 APG), but he brings an energy and athleticism to a Husky backcourt that definitely needed it. Offensively, he is a threat to get to the paint and create opportunities on any possession, and on defense, as his four steals against Stanford on Saturday showed, he is capable of wreaking havoc on the opposition. He’s still green, but look for his role to continue to expand this season.

Looking ahead: For a team with a history of struggling on the road, the Huskies have taken care of business there in recent weeks. Now they have to prove they can win at home, something they have failed to do three separate times in the non-conference schedule. Colorado is the first test tonight with Utah visiting on Sunday.

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Oregon – A

If you wanted to pick one weakness on this Ducks team, it might be the lack of a proven go-to scorer at this point. This week, for instance, in each of their two home wins over the Arizona schools, four of the five starters scored in double figures, with nobody scoring more than 14 points. In fact, only four times all season has a Duck scored 20 or more (Damyean Dotson twice, Arsalan Kazemi once, and E.J. Singler once). I’m not one who thinks this is always necessarily a problem – if you have plenty of good offensive options and you wind up with balanced scoring that way, it certainly keeps the defense guessing – but I think in the Ducks’ case, they have a bunch of good players, none of whom are completely polished offensive options. And against Arizona down the stretch, the possibility of that being a problem raised its head. Part of it has to do with the decision to milk the clock way too early, but at some point they probably need somebody (the best candidate is Dotson) to become the go-to guy down the stretch.

Focus on: E.J. Singler. The senior had a great all-around game in the win over Arizona, going for 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals, while knocking down some key free throws late, but then once again disappeared for the most part against Arizona State, hitting just one of nine field goal attempts and grabbing only one board in 36 minutes of play. That’s been the M.O. for the most part this season for a guy expected to be an all-conference caliber guy: inconsistency.

Looking ahead: The Ducks leave the state of Oregon for the first time in almost a month and just the third game all year when they head down Los Angeles way. They will be the opponent for Bob Cantu’s debut with USC tomorrow night before headlining the Pac-12 schedule on Saturday with a visit to Pauley Pavilion and UCLA for the first conference match-up between Top 25 teams since 2009.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.16.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2013

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  1. We are still probably a couple months away from when USC will announce its next head coach, but everybody’s got an opinion about who that might be. I tossed out the usual suspects and a few sleepers a few days ago, but Andy Katz, who’s certainly far more tied in than I, has a few interesting big name possibilities of his own: Texas’ Rick Barnes, Villanova’s Jay Wright and Washington’s Lorenzo Romar. Katz’s reasoning is that these are all guys who might want to get out of their current jobs ahead of getting fired in exchange for a nice brand new contract and a new landscape, citing Herb Sendek as a real pioneer in this field. While I don’t see Romar as approaching the hot seat yet (although, if he doesn’t land Aaron Gordon, maybe we can talk about that possibility approaching), it is an interesting angle. And, given that Romar is a native southern Californian, anything is possible.
  2. Whoever winds up in the USC job is going to have to do a much better job mining the copious amounts of basketball talent in the Los Angeles area than Kevin O’Neill ever did. In fact, they’re probably going to have to do a better job than even Ben Howland is currently doing at UCLA. As friend-of-the-blog Adam Butler writes, those Los Angeles schools have done a terrible job in recent years keeping elite local talents at home, citing guys like James Harden, Jordan Hamilton, Kawhi Leonard, and Derrick Williams as kids who got away. If Pat Haden can find a guy who can simply land a handful of the high quality recruits right in his own backyard, he has the opportunity to shift the landscape in the Pac-12. And really, everywhere out west.
  3. In the wake of UCLA’s road trip to the Rocky Mountains that coincided with a big snowstorm, the team’s MVP for the week goes to not Shabazz Muhammad, not Kyle Anderson, not Jordan Adams, but… the bus driver? As Rahshaun Haylock of Fox Sports West reports, the Bruins were in danger of not making it to the arena due to adverse weather conditions and a well-placed hill. But the driver saved the day with a lead foot and an iron constitution.
  4. Colorado was UCLA’s last victim on its recent road trip, and in the wake of three losses in four games, the Buffaloes are trying to do everything they can to right their ship, including a players-only meeting on Sunday initiated by Sabatino Chen and Andre Roberson which ran for 30 minutes. The coaches too are trying to figure out what they can do to shift the tide, but one thing Tad Boyle is longing for is the leadership ability of departed senior Nate Tomlinson, who brought a win-at-all-costs nature and a vocal quality to the team that is now missing. Still, Boyle recognizes that this team isn’t far away from being where it needs to be and hopes somebody can grow into the team’s new leader.
  5. Lastly, David Piper of Addicted to Quack has a good statistical profile of what makes Oregon a conference contender. While the Ducks have struggled with turnovers in the early going in part due to a pair of freshman guards, Piper notes that those numbers are dropping while UO’s three-point shooting (which got off to a terrible start) is rising. Combine those factors with rock-solid numbers elsewhere, including a defensive efficiency number good enough for 20th in the nation, and the Ducks are not only understandably good, but they are improving.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Duke, Title Contenders, USC and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 15th, 2013

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Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Over the last week we have seen the number of undefeated teams reduced to zero. Now that every team has a loss, the speculation about which team should be #1 is heating up. Those who adhere to the résumé argument will say that Duke deserves to stay atop the polls despite its Saturday loss to NC State and they are absolutely right. The problem is, in my opinion, that ranking teams based on their résumé  alone is the easy way out. We have a NCAA Tournament Selection Committee who does that for us every year in mid-March. There is more to ranking a team than who it has beat and who it has lost to. There are other factors to consider including statistics and extenuating circumstances. When it comes to the Blue Devils as they are currently constructed, I can’t say they are the best team in the country. Duke is a potent offensive team, but there are other areas for concern. While acknowledging that the efficiency numbers say otherwise, I don’t believe Duke is an elite defensive team. The Blue Devils have allowed 70+ points on only four occasions, but all have come against good competition–Minnesota, Louisville, Santa Clara, and NC State. That tells me when the chips are down against good teams, Duke might not be able to get the stops it needs to win a close game away from Cameron Indoor Stadium. Rebounding is also a concern for Mike Krzyzewski’s team despite having Mason Plumlee in the middle. But perhaps the more immediate concern is the injury to Ryan Kelly who is out indefinitely with a foot injury. Duke has been quiet about it, with Coach K only saying it could be a long-term recovery. This only creates more doubt about a player who is very important to the team’s success. Duke is certainly among the top three or four teams in the country right now, but with Kelly’s uncertainty, some defensive concerns (especially compared to say, Louisville), and the rebounding Achilles heel, I have a hard time saying Duke is the flat out best team in the nation.

    Ryan Kelly's injury is a major concern for Duke.

    Ryan Kelly’s injury is a major concern for Duke.

  2. Watching Connecticut take it to Louisville in the first half of last night’s Big Monday game probably created some doubt about the Cardinals among those watching. Of course, there are two halves to a basketball game and Louisville showed why it was ranked #1 in this week’s poll with a dominant second half against the Huskies. There are two main keys to Louisville’s success: Peyton Siva and team defense. Siva was on the bench for quite some time in the first half with foul trouble, but came back and took over after intermission. Louisville’s defense, after giving up 54% shooting in the first half and likely enduring the wrath of Rick Pitino at halftime, held Connecticut to 24 points on 26% shooting over the final 20 minutes. Louisville’s ability to lock you down is second to none. There is not another team in the nation that combines the quickness and ball pressure of two all-conference guards, tall and agile forwards, depth, and an eraser with a massive wingspan on the back line. If the Cardinals are to win a national championship in Atlanta this April, defense will be the reason why. While Louisville is certainly better offensively than it was last season, I still have some concerns on that end of the floor. Louisville could have a tough time against a team with a good interior defense (Kansas for example) because three-point shooting it a major weakness. Can the Cardinals score in a halfcourt game (as tournament games usually are) against strong competition when they absolutely have to come up with a bucket? In my view, that is still to be determined.  If the answer is yes, Louisville will be your national champion. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 01.15.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 15th, 2013

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  1. The big news on Monday morning was the surpise firing of a Los Angeles area head basketball coach. Less than a month ago, the odds were probably on the rest of this paragraph being about the end of the Ben Howland era in Westwood, but instead, the “other” LA-area Pac-12 basketball program ended the Kevin O’Neill era abruptly. We posted our thoughts on the matter yesterday, but gave scant attention to USC’s new interim head coach, Bob Cantu, who has now outlasted three Trojan head coaches at the institution. Cantu said he plans to try to speed the game up a bit (but really, doesn’t every coach say that?), may opt for more zone defense, and will try to get USC’s two seven-footers (Dewayne Dedmon and Omar Oraby) on the court together at the same time. In addition, he hopes to get transfers Ari Stewart and Renaldo Woolridge, a pair of guys who have been all but forgotten this season, some more run.
  2. Names like Jamie Dixon, Randy Bennett and Dan Monson seem to be the obvious lead choices for the next USC head coaching position, but plenty of other names have surfaced already, including one who is currently employed by another Pac-12 institution: Arizona State assistant Eric Musselman. Musselman, who has been a head coach in the NBA twice, is apparently interested in the job, according to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports. But, the question is, just how far down the list is Musselman? And, as always, Reggie Theus is also on the list, at least, according to Theus, that is. And, how about a really deep cut? Former Laker and Lobo star Michael Cooper is presently the head women’s basketball coach at USC. Like I said, a seriously deep cut.
  3. Meanwhile, across town, Ben Howland has turned it around, getting his team back into the Top 25 riding a nine-game winning streak. David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times has a big feature on Howland that does a good job of slapping a human face on the often introverted coach. The article touches on his relationship with his players, his assistants, and, as always, UCLA fans. But perhaps most interesting is how Howland has made the change from playing the grind-it-out, defense-first style that has characterized his last decade-plus as a head coach, to the more transition-oriented team that has currently got those rather picky Bruin fans interested again.
  4. As for the team that USC just beat, Utah, head coach Larry Krystkowiak’s job is in no immediate danger, but in order to make sure it stays that way, and in order to make sure he has his team on the right track, he held one-on-one meetings with each player this week to ensure that both coach and player were both on the same page. The meetings are in an effort to let the players know what Krystkowiak needs them to work on and to hear back from the players any suggestions that they have for the coaching staff. With an 0-4 start featuring three hotly contested games now in the rear view mirror, the Utes hope to use these meetings as a springboard for future improvements.
  5. It’s about that time of the year where, for one reason or another, suspensions and other little punishments begin to crop up here and there around the nation, especially on teams that have had their struggles. We saw Eric Moreland get suspended last week (and it was announced today that he’ll return Saturday against USC, making it a three-game suspension in total), but we glossed over the fact that Stanford point guard Chasson Randle got a slap on the wrist for being late to a shootaround prior to the game against Washington, having to start the game on the bench. He still wound up earning 28 minutes (and scoring 16 effective points along the way), but it’s something to stick in the back of your mind, given Stanford’s early struggles.
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Morning Five: 01.15.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 15th, 2013

morning5

  1. You can go ahead and recycle your “coaches should not be fired in the middle of the season” because we had the latest addition to the coaching carousel as Kevin O’Neill was fired by USC yesterday. Long-time Trojan assistant Bob Cantu will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season (or as long as it takes for Pat Hayden to get tired of him). Our Pac-12 microsite took a look at the potential long-term replacements yesterday so we will not get into that here (apply here if you are interested). We also will not get into whether or not it is morally correct for college programs to fire coaches in the middle of the season and what message it sends to the student-athletes. We will simply point out that it is interesting that Lane Kiffin has managed to stay around for three-plus seasons without any significant public talk of him losing his job despite the disappointing performance of his football team.
  2. Things went from bad to worse for Wyoming star Luke Martinez as he was suspended indefinitely on Monday after being arrested early on Sunday morning stemming from a bar fight on December 30 that resulted in the broken bone in his right hand that led him to miss time recently. Martinez is currently charged with a felony charge of aggravated assault in a case that was originally deemed “a mutual combat type of thing”, but subsequent information has led to a reinterpretation of events by police that led to Martinez’s arrest. Martinez, who will appear in court tomorrow, is facing a potential monetary fine in addition to a maximum of 10 years in jail although we doubt this will result in much jail time if any based on the fact that it took so long for authorities to even bring charges after being aware of the event and only bringing charges once they got more information from witnesses.
  3. It will not be enough to make Iowa State a threat to win the Big 12, but the Cyclones got some good news when sexual assault charges against junior guard Bubu Palo were dropped. The charges were from an alleged assault that took place on May 18, 2012 when a female claimed that Palo and his co-defendant offered to drive her home, but instead took her to the co-defendant’s house where they raped her. It appears that the case fell apart when a forensic expert examined the shirt that the woman claimed she was wearing that night and reported that the evidence did not fit her story as the shirt she claimed Palo had torn had been washed and the tear had been made after the shirt had been washed. Palo, who had been suspended indefinitely by the school, has already been reinstated although there is no timeline for when he would return to action. In his two years at the school, Palo has put up decent if unspectacular numbers (4 points, 1.5 assists, and 1.5 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game last season), but should add some depth to Cyclones.
  4. It looks like we might be getting another conference-based television network if the ACC gets its way although we may not see if for a long time. According to a report by SportsBusiness Journal, the ACC is exploring the possibility of creating its own television network following in the footsteps of the Big Ten and Pac-12 with several other conferences joining suit in the near future. However, the conference is already in a 15-year contract with ESPN that is worth $3.6 billion so we doubt that it makes financial sense for them to break that contract in the near future. While the idea of a network airing old school ACC games intrigues us we wonder who is going to own and play the footage of great games between teams that are no longer in the conference.
  5. This might not seem like the best time to do so, but C.J. Moore of Basketball Prospectus posted an attempted defense of Rick Barnes, who has been criticized for years for the perceived underperformance of his team’s given the talent that they have had. As Moore points out much of the criticism started in 2007 around the time that Bill Simmons decided to pay attention to college basketball when his Celtics were tanking struggling, but had hope in the form of a pair of freshmen (Greg Oden and Kevin Durant). Simmons became enamored with Durant’s game (rightfully so), but when Texas failed to make a NCAA Tournament run despite having a once in a generation talent playing for them. While Moore does make some interesting points we should note that coaches usually start to get criticized for their in-game coaching when they fail to produce with talent teams with the understanding that the Durant Longhorn team may have not been as loaded as many remember it. We are not sure we can get behind everything Moore says as we still have qualms with many of Barnes’ in-game decisions, but at least he has Scott Drew in the same conference to make him look good.
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Kevin O’Neill Out As USC Head Coach

Posted by AMurawa on January 14th, 2013

Last we saw USC’s basketball team, they were snapping a 14-game road losing streak while demolishing Utah in what was maybe their best performance in about 22 months. Talented junior forward DeWayne Dedmon had just put the finishing touches on a third consecutive excellent performance, the backcourt triumvirate of Jio Fontan, J.T. Terrell, and Byron Wesley had played their best game as a collective unit, and the Trojans found themselves squarely in the middle of the Pac-12 standings. And for these, admittedly diminished, accomplishments, head coach Kevin O’Neill was rewarded on Monday morning with… his walking papers? Really?

Kevin O'Neill Was Canned Monday, Despite A Road Win on Saturday

Kevin O’Neill Was Canned Monday, Despite A Road Win on Saturday

The surprise is not so much that O’Neill’s job was in jeopardy – a 13-36 record over the past year and a half guaranteed that, not to mention his brusque manner and often unappetizing style of play – but that athletic director Pat Haden was so intent on getting rid of O’Neill that he would make the change in the middle of the year and at a time when USC basketball was on a relative upswing. Two reasons for the timing of the change have been speculated upon: First, the idea that O’Neill had lost the locker room, and secondly, the possibility, as speculated by a Jeff Goodman source, that Haden didn’t want to be tied to O’Neill for the long term, so he got rid of him before this team could turn the corner and win enough games to earn the head coach another year. Both of those ideas are a little cynical, so it is fair to point out that perhaps Haden thinks that this team has the capability of playing better than it has to this point, believes that he can get more out of his team with Bob Cantu as the new interim head coach, and, rather than resting on the laurels of a win over Utah as an accomplishment worth celebrating, he was willing to make the hard choice now.

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Pac-12 M5: Christmas Eve Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 24th, 2012

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  1. Ever since the Pac-12 announced that it was moving its conference tournament from the regularly church-quiet Staples Center in Los Angeles to Las Vegas beginning this season, fans from around the conference have been marking their calendars. But the fact that the host venue — the MGM Grand Hotel — had never before hosted a basketball event, was somewhat concerning. However, never let it be said that Larry Scott and company do things without putting in the proper diligence. This weekend the MGM Grand held the first dry run for a basketball game, as Oregon State and San Diego broke the seal on that place. And it was a real dry run, in part because the final announced attendance for the game was a whopping 840 people in a building with a capacity of 16,800. Even after seeing a boatload of empty seats at the Staples Center in recent years, I would bet the farm on the fact that there will be significantly more people in the venue when the conference tourney rolls around (although such a bet is probably less impressive when you consider that I don’t own a farm). But, there weren’t many complaints about the arena, which is good considering there were only 840 people there to possibly complain. Oh, and OSU won but they looked terrible.
  2. Speaking of terrible, USC fell at Georgia on Saturday, slipping back to 4-8 on the year and any “yeah, buts” about their tough schedule need to get put on the back burner until the Trojans beat somebody of importance. Evan Barnes of Rant Sports is more or less on the same page as me. Both of us, apparently, have just been waiting for this talented bunch to turn the corner and play up to their ability, but we’ve both sort of given up on that. And, we’ve both come to the conclusion that Kevin O’Neill bears the full brunt of the blame. At some point, as rosters get completely remade and the team continues to run much of the same stuff to largely the same effect, you’ve got to come to the conclusion that this issue isn’t entirely with the players on the court but may partially be tied back to the guy in the lead chair on the sideline. I’m a fan of O’Neill’s blunt, honest-to-a-fault style off the court, but I no longer have any faith in his ability to get his team, no matter who is out there, to run anything approaching a good offense. While Trojan athletic director Pat Haden has kicked the task of replacing head football coach Lane Kiffin down the line a year, odds are very good that, barring a drastic turnaround, there will be another coaching search in South L.A. this spring.
  3. Meanwhile, up the road a stretch, there may be another, slightly more attractive job opening in Los Angeles come spring. Last week Tracy Pierson of Bruin Report Online referenced anonymous sources who claimed that UCLA head coach Ben Howland’s job may be in jeopardy prior to the end of the season. Howland shrugged off such claims, noting “I can’t help you with substantiating anything that’s written on the boards.” Given that Howland’s got his team starting to click, at least on one end of the floor, and the fact that finding a prime replacement while the season is still in full swing, would be next to impossible, I’m in the camp that thinks it would be safe to just ignore this report. Sure, if UCLA’s season ends at any point prior to Atlanta on the weekend of April 6, you can start tracking the movements of your friendly neighborhood hatchet man, but there’s not a chance this side of Phil Jackson that Howland’s UCLA career ends at any point prior to the end of the season.
  4. Last week, just before we all headed off to wrap up our Christmas shopping, a couple of my colleagues pointed to Utah as the conference’s biggest pleasant surprise. Well, sorry Connor and Adam, but I’ll be passing along your information to Larry Krystkowiak and he’ll be getting in touch with you to personally thank you both for jinxing his team. Because Friday night, after playing a sparklingly good first half, the Utes were outscored by 26 points in laying an egg in the second half, losing to Cal State Northridge and seemingly going out of their way to make sure that they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Still, you gotta remind yourself that this is a Utah team that has already won more games this season than they did all of last year and is still getting used to the idea of actually winning games. But man, that had to put a serious hurting on the beginning of a holiday break. One other note tangentially related to the Pac-12: One of the chief architects in putting that hurting into the Utah basketball program was CSUN freshman point guard Landon Drew, who had a career-high 19 points, including 14 in the second. Landon’s brother is Larry Drew II, the UCLA senior point guard.
  5. As a fan and follower of both the Pac-12 and Mountain West, I’ve had Decembr 25 circled on my calendar for months, not for silly things like Santa Claus and eggnog and jingle bells, but for the possibility of an Arizona vs. San Diego State match-up in the finals of the Diamond Head Classic. And, after both teams have more or less cruised through the opening rounds of that tournament, that game is finally set in stone. While teams like Gonzaga, UNLV and New Mexico will have something to say about it, this may be a match-up to determine the best team west of the Rockies. Merry Christmas, hoops fans.
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Pac-12 Burning Question: Who Has Been the Biggest Disappointment?

Posted by AMurawa on December 14th, 2012

Way back in the preseason, while trying to be objective, we as a group of Pac-12 writers couldn’t help but be optimistic about the immediate future of the conference. Arizona and UCLA were welcoming in elite recruiting classes, Colorado had added a nice group of freshmen to solid returnees, etc., etc. All throughout the conference there were stories of promise and hope. And then the season began. While it has certainly been nowhere near the debacle that last year was, there have been hiccups along the way. You know, a loss to Cal Poly by a team picked by one of us (ahem, me) to be a top five national team, losses elsewhere to Albany, Pepperdine, and Sacramento State. So, to say the least, things have not been all about half-full glasses around these parts. In the interest of getting the negativity out of the way now, in advance of the holiday season, we’ll take a look at the downside of the Pac-12 this week.

“Which team, player, or other entity, has been the most disappointing thus far this year?”

 

Parker Baruh: The biggest disappointment thus far this year in the Pac-12 is the Washington Huskies. I thought the Pac-12 media went too high when they picked them to finish fifth in the conference especially with the losses of Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross. And thus far, Washington has shown nothing this year to prove my hunch wrong. The Huskies were upset at home by Albany, were embarrassed at home by Colorado State, upset again at home by Nevada, and barely pulled out a win against a bad Cal State Fullerton team, once again, right there at home. As you can see, there is a recurring theme here: Washington’s bad play at home. One of the greatest things about college basketball is home court advantage and typically Washington has had it in spades, but this year it ceases to exist at the Alaska Airlines Arena. Washington doesn’t have the talent to win the Pac-12 and I know they are dealing with injuries, but they certainly shouldn’t look this bad. It’s still early and I expect the Huskies to bounce back somewhat, but as of right now, they are my choice for biggest disappointment.

Abdul Gaddy and Washington Have Yet To Get It Together This Year

Abdul Gaddy and Washington Have Yet To Get It Together This Year

Adam Butler: To ask who or what has disappointed the most – particularly in early/mid-December – is baiting us into a crow consumption opportunity. It’s also fresh bait to just rip on UCLA; a task I’ve taken to three times already in this young season. Alas, I won’t take the bait – although by season’s end I will be full of crow – and I find myself most disappointed, to date, by USC. This was a group that had a chip on its shoulder, a squad that Kevin O’Neill called his hardest working team and a group of castoffs who had an opportunity to turn some heads. For the Trojans, I haven’t done much beyond turn the channel. KO teams rarely play a viewer-friendly brand of ball but I do always appreciate their effort. What’s disappointed me the most isn’t that they haven’t given effort, just that they set themselves up to fail. I suppose I could have looked at the schedule and forecast this, but I also felt they had enough dynamic pieces to overcome some of these preseason hurdles. But ultimately, these guys have played about how we unfortunately and unromantically should have figured they would. J.T. Terrell shooting 30%? Jio Fontan with a 24% turnover rate? And maybe I’ve made this selection selfishly. I figured bigger things for what, at least on paper, appeared to be a more competitive group. That said, one can say that this group has competed and maybe, just maybe, partaking in an arguably less competitive Pac-12 season will prove this group better than their non-conference effort.

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