Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VII: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2013

Maybe Professor Pac is in a good mood this week, because he couldn’t bring himself to give any of the below teams  D’s.

UCLA – C-

A road split. That’s good right? Yeah, it will work, but the way the Bruins lost their first game of the week (building up a 23-point half-time deficit and never making a serious push in the second half) is pretty inexcusable. They bounced back strong against Stanford and turned in their best offensive performance since, maybe Missouri, but this team is still a mystery.

Focus on: Kyle Anderson. Anderson was terrific against Stanford, scoring 18 points, grabbing 13 boards, handing out four assists, snatching a couple steals and even knocking down a three (he’s now 5-of-26 for the season from back there). That’s the guy that Ben Howland needs to show up on a regular basis for the Bruins. His ability to make plays for himself and teammates makes the Bruins more explosive and his newfound interest in hitting the glass is an absolutely necessity on an otherwise ridiculously poor rebounding team.

The Bruins Need Kyle Anderson's Versatile Game On A More Regular Basis (UCLA Athletics)

The Bruins Need Kyle Anderson’s Versatile Game On A More Regular Basis (UCLA Athletics)

Looking ahead: If the Bruins want to prove to themselves that they have the ability to be a national threat in March, they first have to prove that they can win a big local battle, as they travel 14 miles southeast to face USC on Sunday.

Washington State – C-

So you’re playing the conference leader to a draw. You’ve already got them in overtime and with just seconds left, your sophomore guard who is having a breakout career game knocks down a big three to tie the game and give you a real good chance to go to a second overtime. And then. Ugh. You probably know what happened. I can’t bring myself to repeat it, but suffice it to say, the Cougars went out of their way to ease Oregon’s route to a two-point overtime win. Hey, when you’re 2-11 in conference play, you usually have some bad luck and some ridiculous events. But that? That was above and beyond.

Focus on: Royce Woolridge. So, let’s focus on the positives. After struggling with his shot and his confidence early in the season, this sophomore transfer from Washington State is proving his worth. He has now scored in double figures in six straight games, but the piece de resistance came Saturday against those Ducks as he hit 10-of-15 shots from the field, including six threes on his way to a 36-point total that shattered his previous career-high. As recently as a week ago I was writing off Woolridge as a shooting guard that can’t shoot or a point guard that can’t handle. And clearly, I wrote him off too soon. His confidence is through the roof and he’s showing  that he can be a key part to this program for the next couple years.

Looking ahead: The Cougars travel to Arizona State tonight, then Arizona on Saturday. Nothing is for certain, but this looks like 2-13 is on the way.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.19.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 19th, 2013

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  1. The big item for the discussion around the Pac-12 is this: Early in the second half of a game against USC on Sunday night, Mike Montgomery greeted Allen Crabbe at the start of a timeout by getting in his face and shoving him in the chest in an effort to wake up his talented junior. As Montgomery said after the game, it worked, eventually. After continuing to float along for several minutes following the incident, Crabbe eventually caught fire at the end of the game and brought his Bears back from a 15-point halftime deficit to beat the Trojans. The Pac-12 officially reprimanded Montgomery for the incident, but the head coach will not face a suspension from the league or his employer. In the wake of the incident, everybody’s got an opinion about it ranging from the hyperbolic “it’s an outrage!” to the “no big deal.” Me? I think it is a big deal, but not necessarily because Montgomery’s behavior was shameful. The problem is, more than once this season now, Montgomery’s emotions have gotten the best of him as he has dealt with mercurial personalities such as Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon. If you’ve watched these guys float through games and underachieve as regularly as they have, you’ve probably wanted to shove them in the chest a time or two as well, even if you’ve got no rooting interest one way or the other. But for now, the hope is that this incident doesn’t overshadow the fact that all of a sudden, Montgomery is beginning to get production out of his group of kids, even if he’s using some unconventional and controversial methods to do so.
  2. In Salt Lake City Sunday, Arizona head coach Sean Miller unveiled a new starting lineup, featuring Kevin Parrom at the three, Solomon Hill at the four and Brandon Ashley moving to a reserve role. While nothing is set in stone, Miller says that he’ll probably stick with that starting lineup going forward. Miller notes that the move wasn’t made out of disappointment with Ashley’s production but rather out of a desire to get Parrom’s veteran leadership more actively involved in the lineup.
  3. Colorado’s Josh Scott suffered a concussion early in the second half of Saturday night’s loss to Arizona State when he and ASU center Jordan Bachynski got tangled up and fell to the floor. Scott took an inadvertent elbow to the head, left the floor and did not return to the game. Head coach Tad Boyle addressed the situation involving his talented freshman on Monday, saying that Scott will be fine but is currently considered day-to-day. Colorado next plays on Thursday night when it hosts Utah in a must-win game in Boulder.
  4. In a week that featured plenty of great basketball games, Saturday’s Washington State/Oregon tussle may have been the most entertaining. For 44 minutes and most of a 45th, the Cougars played the Ducks to a draw. Despite giving up an 18-point first half lead, the Cougs were still right there battling with the conference-leaders, as sophomore guard Royce Woolridge was going off in a career-day kind of way, including his sixth three-pointer that knotted the score up at 77 with just a handful of seconds remaining. As Oregon rushed up the court to attempt a last second potential game-winning shot, WSU sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew intentionally (but inexplicably) fouled E.J. Singler, sending him to the line with under four seconds remaining. Singler made both giving the Ducks the win and Washington State players and fans are left wondering what exactly happened there.
  5. Lastly, just how good has Jahii Carson been this season for Arizona State? Well, compared will all the freshmen in the history of the Pac-12, he’s currently on pace to produce the 10th highest scoring average in the history of the conference. His 17.7 points per game comes in just shy of James Harden’s totals in his first season in the desert in 2007-08. Interestingly enough, UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad is currently seventh on the all-time list at 18.5 PPG. Carson is also now just 22 assists shy of becoming just the 12th freshman in conference history to register 150 assists in a season.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 12th, 2013

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  1. The rumors were out there. The transfer guard out of Wake Forest by way of community college had a nice stroke, and along with the return of Jio Fontan from injury, would be the spark to ignite the long-dormant USC offense. And for the first eight games of the 2012-13 season, J.T. Terrell was that guy. But when Terrell began to slump, head coach Kevin O’Neill finally had cause to bench the player who didn’t completely fit with his team-first mentality. Terrell averaged just 3.3 points over the next seven games, but found new life when O’Neill was relieved of his duties and Bob Cantu took the reins. Now, Terrell is again shining for the resurgent Trojans, who have played themselves into some postseason whispers over the past two weeks. Even more important than the recent three-game winning streak and Terrell’s increased scoring output is the fact that he’s earned the team’s respect and has become the go-to guy in late-game situations. That bodes well for the future, as the 2013-14 version of the Men of Troy will need a vocal and respected leader once Fontan graduates.
  2. Some other news out of Corvallis, as Oregon Live revealed that Oregon State forward Daniel Gomis has had everything cleaned from his left leg and is feeling the best he has felt in two years. Gomis won’t return this season as he still needs to return to full strength before participating in basketball activities, but barring any setbacks, he will play his first organized basketball for the Beavers next October. As John Hunt notes, the Beavers will have quite an imposing front line in 2013-14, consisting of freshman Cheikh N’Diaye, the sophomore Gomis, junior Eric Moreland, and senior Angus Brandt.
  3. The Monday news day of course means the release of the weekly rankings, and the Pac-12 was represented by Arizona and Oregon in the AP Top 25. UCLA was the only other team to receive votes, coming in at #38 overall. In the USA Today/Coaches’ Poll, Arizona fell to ninth, while Oregon dropped out completely to #27. And as we enter the part of the season where “good wins” are critical to a team’s NCAA Tournament chances, the Pac-12 has posted three victories against Top 25 teams — Arizona against Miami (FL) and Florida and Colorado against Colorado State.
  4. After dropping six of its last seven games, Washington has not only free fallen from the NCAA bubble, but is now on very thin ice for the NIT as well. Poor defense and the inability to get key players going at the same time has Husky players and coaches claiming that a sense of urgency is needed for the final month of the season. It wouldn’t be impossible for LoRo and company to make the NCAAs via the league’s automatic bid, but for that to happen they will need to cut back on turning the ball over and manufacture some momentum heading into the Pac-12 Tourney. Also of help would be a top four finish in the regular season standings, giving the Huskies a first-round bye in Las Vegas. That looks unlikely at this point, but if the Dawgs win out at home and pull off a split in the desert, it’s a reasonable possibility.
  5. Teams that rebound well out of zones have given Arizona fits all season long, and the same proved true on Sunday night when California went into the McKale Center and upset the Wildcats. A big key for the Golden Bears was the off night of senior wing Kevin Parrom, who was turnover prone and cold from outside. The team’s self-proclaimed zone-buster only managed seven points despite numerous open looks in his 21 minutes of action. Colorado will look to copy the blueprint left by the likes of Oregon, UCLA, and California on Thursday when the Wildcats come calling in Boulder.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.08.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on February 8th, 2013

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  1. Despite playing very well on the road against Arizona Wednesday night, Stanford was not happy with what Johnny Dawkins considered a moral victory. The Cardinal fell short to the Wildcats 73-66, but for the majority of the game matched Arizona basket for basket and had a chance to win the game with down the stretch. Dwight Powell said Stanford let up defensively in the end and ultimately were finished after Solomon Hill nailed a three pointer to stretch the lead to four points with three minutes left to go in the game. Even though Stanford could not pull off the upset, they are starting to play up to the level they were expected to at the beginning of the season and proved they can play with anybody in the Pac-12 with their performance in Tucson.
  2. Arizona State’s Jonathan Gilling is out to show that he’s not just a shooter. Although it’s easy to label him that due to the fact that he is second in the Pac-12 making 2.4 three pointers per game, Gilling is providing much more than just shooting this season. After averaging a minuscule 1.8 rebounds as a freshman, Gilling is all the way up to 7.0 rebounds per game in his sophomore campaign. Many will credit Jahii Carson, Carrick Felix, and even Jordan Bachynski for the surprising success of Arizona State, but without Gilling’s overall play, the Sun Devils might not be where they are right now in the Pac-12 standings.
  3. After a slow start to their game against Stanford, Arizona’s Sean Miller is likely to make changes to his starting lineup in their next game against Cal. Miller knows his team isn’t going to be leading after the first media timeout every game, but he wants his players to be confident coming out of the gate. He mentioned someone who always brings the same energy no matter the score is senior Kevin Parrom. Nothing is certain, but if Miller does make a change to his starting lineup for their upcoming game against Cal, it’s likely the senior will be getting the starting nod.
  4. Dana Altman desperately wants his team to cut down on turnovers. With the Ducks getting swept in the Bay Area last week against Stanford and Cal, Altman has been stressing simple play in practice. In their games against Washington, Stanford and Cal, Oregon has committed 65 turnovers, which is more than their field goals made (64) and more than double the amount of assists (30). However, against Colorado, the Ducks only 12 committed turnovers, but lost for the third consecutive game. The Ducks no longer control their fate in the Pac-12 race with three conference losses and need Dominic Artis back as soon as possible.
  5. Oregon State is no longer alone in last place in the Pac-12 and Craig Robinson hopes with their 82-64 victory over Utah on Wednesday night, the Beavers can establish some momentum going into the second half of conference play. The Beavers scored 84 points, 10 more than they had scored in any other Pac-12 game this year, and played their best defensive game of the conference season as well. Although Robinson and Oregon State certainly have been disappointing this year at 2-8 and many have called for Robinson to be fired, there’s still hope. As the past week has proved, anything can happen in the Pac-12 and that could prove very beneficial for Oregon State.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on February 6th, 2013

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  1. At least one UCLA site thinks that Ben Howland‘s time at UCLA is essentially over after this year. But if Dan Guerrero remains athletic director, there’s a slim chance he could stay around. If UCLA were to perform better than expected in the NCAA Tournament — such as a run to the Final Four — the idea is that Guerrero would be inclined keep Howland around. Additionally, Guerrero hasn’t fired Howland yet this year despite some ups and downs from the Bruins. UCLA had its early season struggles, of course, but they were able to turn it around for a little while at least. Now, though, the Bruins have reverted to playing poorly by losing three out of their last four games. If Guerrero is ultimately fired, then Howland would certainly also be replaced by the new athletic director. Whatever the case ends up being, barring a Pac-12 title and a deep NCAA Tournament run, this year could be the end of Ben Howland’s time as UCLA’s head coach.
  2. Shawn Kemp Jr.‘s play down low was a major factor for Washington in its win against Arizona State over the weekend. Aziz N’Diaye suffered an eye injury and was forced to go to the bench for stitches. In came Kemp with a jumper, a dunk, and some precise footwork in the post. The Husky reserve finished with 18 points and six rebounds, but more importantly, he finally looked comfortable for the first time since returning from his patella tendon injury. If Kemp can hit jump hooks in the post and continue to be a threat down low, it could open the floor up for Washington’s guards and propel the Huskies to a strong finish in the Pac-12.
  3. Despite an ejection from Saturday’s game against Washington State, Sean Miller won’t suspend Kevin Parrom. Parrom was dismissed in the middle of the first half for a punch to DaVonte Lacy in the face. Miller said that the officials made the right call in  tossing his player and that he was very disappointed in his senior’s behavior. Parrom is known for being a physical player, but in this case, he lost control and it didn’t benefit him. Ultimately, Miller was displeased with the incident but doesn’t see this as a recurring thing and knows that the Wildcats will need his 8.2 points per game going forward to charge at a league title in the ever-changing Pac-12.
  4. Although Herb Sendek kept his Arizona State team in the locker room later than normal after its weekend loss to Washington to let his team know that they just got out-worked, the Sun Devils’ success cannot be ignored. At the midpoint of conference play, Arizona State is 6-3, something that seemed unimaginable in the beginning of January especially after they were predicted to finish 11th in the league. However, the Sun Devils don’t want to settle for a better than expected finish. Their goal is to make the NCAA Tournament. In Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket projection, Arizona State was one of the last four teams in. But in order to continue their success and stay in the field of 68, the Sun Devils will need to protect their home floor with upcoming games against California and Stanford this week and play well on the road as they finish with five of their last seven away from home.
  5. Oregon’s star freshman Dominic Artis is close to returning from his foot injury. Artis has missed the last three games and his team is just 1-2 in those contests and have committed a dismal 65 turnovers. They lost last weekend to Cal and Stanford and have opened up a Pac-12 race that once heavily favored the Ducks. Oregon’s Johnathan Loyd, who has started in the absence of Artis, is also dealing with an injury and is practicing with a wrap around his hand. Dana Altman wasn’t ready to say that either of them would play Thursday against Colorado, and if neither can go, freshman Willie Moore would get the start.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.04.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 4th, 2013

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  1. What a super game yesterday, right? A back-and-forth affair featuring a terrific comeback from an early deficit and tons of great plays made by both teams. Sure, maybe the offenses seemed to do whatever they wanted to against overmatched defenses, but those kinds of games can be plenty of fun. Yeah, that Stanford eight-point win over Oregon State sure was entertaining. Between Eric Moreland’s shotblocking, Joe Burton’s creative passing and Chasson Randle pouring in shots from deep, the Cardinal and the Beavers churned out yet another thrilling game. Please, basketball gods, find a way to match these two squads up in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament; this five-twelve thing these two teams got going on right now will do just fine.
  2. With Stanford now having strung together three straight wins in the span of eight days and somehow dug their offense out of the mothballs in the process, the Cardinal are not a team that anybody wants to see show up on their schedule right now. But does Johnny Dawkins need to keep his team winning in order to get him another season on The Farm? Miles Bennett-Smith of The Stanford Daily asks the hard questions about the likable coach, noting the lack of NCAA Tournament appearances, the failure to show appreciable improvement from year-to-year and losses to teams at the back-end of the conference standings. But, if Dawkins can keep this team playing like it has for the past week, all of these questions can get put on hold again.
  3. Last week we were discussing the possibility that Utah, despite looking like an improved team, might not match last year’s total of three conference wins this year. On Saturday, however, they turned in a strong performance, running out to a big early lead against Colorado (the Utes led by as many as 22) before hanging on down the stretch for a three-point win. Freshman Jordan Loveridge, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, missed the game with a knee injury, but sophomore Dallin Bachynski, who had been taking a “break from competition” for a couple of games due to an issue of a personal nature, did return, earning ten minutes in Loveridge’s absence. Junior college transfer Renan Lenz also got a boost in playing time due to Loveridge’s misfortune, earning the start and 18 minutes, but it was freshman Jeremy Olsen who had the biggest impact in replacing Loveridge, going for 12 points in just 14 minutes of action.
  4. Kevin Parrom was ejected from Arizona’s Saturday night game against Washington State for a “flagrant two” foul on DaVonte Lacy early in the game. Parrom hit Lacy in the fast with a closed hand while fighting over a rebound and was ejected by the officials after they looked at the video. Sean Miller noted he was “very disappointed” with his senior guard and said that Parrom embarrassed himself by retaliating against Lacy for a previous slight. Miller will look at the video and meet with Parrom before deciding on any further potential punishment, with being held out of Wednesday’s home game against Stanford a possibility.
  5. Usually the closer a recruit gets to decision-making time, the fewer schools he has on his list of potential landing spots. But, for elite 2013 recruit Aaron Gordon, he’s going the opposite direction. After trimming his list of suitors to three – Arizona, Washington and Kentucky – late last year, Gordon has now added Oregon to his list, according to Rivals.com. This is, of course, good news for Dana Altman and the Ducks and may reflect positively on what they have done so far this season, but it remains to be seen where exactly he’ll wind up. But, with three Pac-12 schools on the list, we’ll admit that we’re rooting for the chance to get a good look at this guy next season on a tour of Pac-12 stadiums and arenas. Arizona Desert Swarm has a look at the pros and cons of each possible landing spot on Gordon’s list.
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Pac-12 Burning Question: Arizona or UCLA?

Posted by AMurawa on January 24th, 2013

While this may not be the first of two that will decide the conference race as we postulated in the preseason, tonight we are still looking forward to our first UCLA/Arizona game of the year, with a pair of highly-touted freshman classes — not to mention host of talented veterans — clashing for the first time. And, we can barely contain our excitement. So, let’s get right to the point.

“Arizona/UCLA, Part I tips off Thursday night. Who’s going to win, and why?”

Adam Butler: Arizona and UCLA has been the premier rivalry on the West Coast for the better part of three decades now. I love the statistic that between 1984 and 2008, 19 of 30 conference championship banners hung in McKale or Pauley. That’s impressive. And then it’s also very well-documented how each of these programs has faltered recently. But it would appear they are now back(ish). Arizona is undoubtedly on the up-and-up and is poised to be around for a long time. UCLA is a team with parts that scare Frank Haith almost as much as the NCAA. ESPN cast this match-up for a Gameday appearance before the season even started and will be in attendance when the Wildcats head to Pauley in March (as will I). So when the Bruins and Wildcats tip in Tucson Thursday night, there will be no shortage of storylines or intrigue. The question will center on whether the Bruins’ short bench can hang with Arizona’s depth? Can Travis Wear continue to shoot at the level he’s been connecting on in conference play (59%)? Is Jordan Adams showing us who Jordan Adams really is or just slumping? Per usual, Arizona is going to force a lot of threes and deep jumpers. But UCLA has shot well and often from this distance. They take 48% of their shots in the form of two-point jumpers and make them at a 43% clip, 12th and fifth by national ranking, respectively. Could that haunt the Wildcats? I ultimately think Arizona has too many weapons for the Bruins to combat. Mark Lyons will be able to expose Drew2 and there are too many dynamic athletes defensively, for Arizona to not slow Travis Wear. The grand equalizer, as it always has been against the Wildcats, is the three-pointer. But considering a raucous McKale and the Bruins’ general mediocrity in hitting that shot (35%), I’m picking Sean Miller to beat UCLA for the sixth time in his nine tries.

The McKale Will Be Jumping Thursday Night, Providing Yet Another Boost For The Wildcats (Willy Low, AP Photo)

The McKale Will Be Jumping Thursday Night, Providing Yet Another Boost For The Wildcats (Willy Low, AP Photo)

Connor Pelton: Arizona will win this one because of two reasons. Most importantly, while the Wildcats are a turnover-prone team, they take care of the ball in big games. Only 10 turnovers against Florida, eight against San Diego State, and nine against Arizona State keyed huge wins for Zona, and the increased production also resulted in bigger scoring outputs from primary ball-handler Mark Lyons. With the number of play-makers on the UCLA side, giving the Bruins too many extra possessions will be costly. Not as important but still a big factor for a possible UA win is the McKale effect. UCLA hasn’t won in Tucson since the 2007-08 season, and the Wildcats haven’t dropped a game there all year. It’ll be the annual White-Out game, which traditionally brings the biggest crowd of the season, and as Florida, Colorado, and Utah proved, you don’t want to have to operate your offense late with the Zona Zoo rattling your brain. Give me the Wildcats in a close one.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume I

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2013

Starting this week and continuing through the rest of the season, we’ll take a moment in between games to run down every team in the conference, grade their previous week’s performance, highlight the performance of one of their players (either for good or for bad) and look ahead briefly to their upcoming schedule.

Arizona State: A

The Sun Devils put aside concerns that their 11-2 record going into the week was built mostly on wins over bad teams by giving the home folks a healthy dose of optimism to start the conference season.

Focus on: Jahii Carson. While Jordan Bachynski was dominating in Sunday’s win over Colorado, I was most intrigued by Carson’s performance. With CU’s Spencer Dinwiddie keeping him locked down most of the night, Carson didn’t force things, got the ball in the hands of his teammates with better match-ups and kept ASU on point, even while being limited to his lowest number of field goal attempts this season. This proves that he doesn’t need to always score to be a positive force for his team.

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils have shown their improvement, but if we’re to believe that this team’s postseason aspirations should be any higher than the CBI, we’ll need to see them win on the road. A trip to Oregon State on Thursday looks like a possible chance, while getting Oregon following its game with Arizona could mean ASU catches the Ducks in a trap game. Speaking of which, ASU could benefit mightily this year from having the ‘Cats as a traveling partner, as teams could be either looking forward to or recovering from their game with U of A.

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Oregon: A

Any win in conference play is good. Any road win in conference play is great. Any road win in conference play in a rivalry game is a reason for outright celebration. Check all three boxes for the Ducks after one game.

Focus on: Arsalan Kazemi. In his first game back from a concussion, the senior Kazemi temporarily relinquished his starting spot to Carlos Emory and saw limited action. But, even in just 21 minutes, he was an impactful player, making four of his five field goal attempts, grabbing eight boards, handing out a couple assists and, per usual, coming up with a couple steals due to his relentlessly quick hands.

Looking ahead: The consensus, around here at least, is that the Ducks are going to be legitimate factors in the Pac-12 race. They get a chance to prove that this week when they host Arizona in a battle of contrasting strengths. While Zona has been through the ringer a time or two this season, these Ducks feature a pair of freshman guards ready for their first big spotlight. Meanwhile, the Ducks’ frontcourt features plenty of veterans, while the ‘Cats mix their three freshman with senior Solomon Hill.

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Night Line: Cardiac Cats Continue To Find A Way

Posted by BHayes on January 4th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

March may still be well in the distance and conference play just beginning, but the Arizona Wildcats have already crafted a season’s worth of last-minute escapes. Early December saw Mark Lyons take over a game that was tied with seven minutes to play at Clemson. The Xavier transfer would provide more heroics a week later, as his runner with seven seconds left shocked Florida and erased a six-point, final-minute deficit. Then, in a back-and-forth Christmas Day affair, Nick Johnson delivered Wildcat fans a final Christmas gift when he blocked Chase Tapley’s layup attempt with only ticks remaining, giving Arizona the Diamond Head Classic title in yet another wild final minute.

But none of this drama compared to the scene at the McHale Center on Thursday night. Not only did Arizona need to erase a nine-point deficit in the final two minutes to ultimately win this one, but they also needed to find a bit of good fortune when referees went to the monitor to review Sabatino Chen’s apparent buzzer-beating winner. True to form, the Wildcats ended up on the right side of the bang-bang call, and then (in equally appropriate fashion), Lyons and company displayed the killer instinct that has become a trademark of this unbeaten run.

Mark Lyons Has Brought a Swagger To The Cats, And The Wins Have Followed

Mark Lyons Has Brought a Swagger To The Cats, And The Wins Have Followed

As is usually the case with teams using “imaginative” methods of winning, skeptics will point out that relying on late heroics is not a recipe for sustainability. On the other side of the ledger, Wildcat fans will rightly point out that their team is 13-0 and one of just four unbeaten teams left in the country, so they have to be doing something right. The question then becomes, how good is this Arizona team? The answer, also per usual, falls somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Ultimately however, this is a talented, veteran Wildcat team, and the dramatic nature of their first 13 games should not be held against them.

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Marching to Vegas: The Wildcats, The Buffaloes and The Zebras…

Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 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.

I had this whole thing on Arizona State thought up. I was going to spew some stats about Herb Sendek’s “fastest” team since 2003 and the promise he’d made about playing with more pace and whether or not there was a correlation to victories. After all, his group is off to a 12-2 start. Had I continued on this route of statistically analyzing the Devils, I’d also mention their strength of schedule or lack thereof and direct you to Ken Pomeroy’s blog post about hopping off of Kevin O’Neill’s back for the opposite (too strong of a schedule). ASU has played the nation’s 211th most difficult schedule.

But then Arizona made its comeback. Or did Colorado hand it away? Or did the refs egregiously misuse the monitors? These were the questions that perplexed me Thursday night as I sat in my apartment and tried to wrap my Wildcat mind around that game. On the one hand, I was ecstatic, WHAT A COMEBACK! I knew I’d been presented the ultimate scenario with which to stick Buffalo noses in but that’s not my style; certainly not on an undeserving play. The other thought would be that the Buffaloes lost that game. They wound up scoring fewer points than their opposition and by the definition of competition, that’s a Colorado loss. It’s also not exactly becoming of a winner to forgo a nine-point lead and go 3-of-8 from the free throw line while committing two turnovers in the final 1:47. That is not a recipe for winning. The final thought surrounds the striped men and I never like placing a game on their shoulders but…well… I mean… I suppose… well…

This.

This.

So to revisit my three questions:

  1. Did Arizona win?
  2. Did Colorado lose?
  3. Did the refs blow it?

To answer these questions, of course, would be to get us to the resolution of the contest. Or even better, it could settle our minds about a controversial game in which Colorado spent a grand portion of time exposing Arizona as perhaps a poor shooting team with evolving bigs. Conversely, the Wildcats wore down what may be a group of Buffaloes with a short bench, what could ultimately spell the Buffs’ demise. And there’s the age old debate over Pac officiating…

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Pac-12 M5: 01.03.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on January 3rd, 2013

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  1. Despite being a senior, Kevin Parrom doesn’t mind that he’s coming off the bench for Arizona. Even though Parrom isn’t starting, he’s still averaging over 21 minutes per game and has been a key contributor thus far for the Wildcats, most notably in his last game where he had 17 points in the Diamond Head Classic final against San Diego State. As long as the Wildcats keep winning, Parrom will continue to be happy coming off the bench.
  2. For Utah, there are no more easy games. In the non-conference season, the Utes played teams like Wright State, Texas State, and Idaho State, but that won’t be happening in conference play. The Utes fell on the road to Arizona State last night in overtime, and it won’t get any easier going forward as they will take on a top five Arizona squad on Saturday. If Utah wants to have some success in conference play, they will have to continue to get impressive games out of Jordan Loveridge and Jason Washburn while continuing to play strong defense.
  3. Now that non-conference play is over in the Pac-12, CBS Sports‘ Jeff Goodman believes that it’s clear that the Pac-12 has certainly improved from last year. Arizona is back to being nationally relevant and has a chance to earn a #1 seed come March, while UCLA, Colorado, and Oregon all look poised to receive at-large bids. Stanford and Cal have been inconsistent and will need to prove themselves more in the conference season in order to be in the discussion on Selection Sunday. There still are the disappointments such as Washington and USC, but overall, the conference as a whole has much more respect than it did at this time last year.
  4. Kameron Rooks, a seven-foot center and the son of former Arizona player Sean Rooks, announced Tuesday via Twitter that he has committed to California. Besides the Golden Bears, Rooks had received offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Washington, and Connecticut. Cal could end up being the best fit for him, though, as they don’t have a trio of developing big men like Arizona and will most likely need Rooks’ play right away next year. He is listed as a three-star recruit according to Scout and Rivals, but like most seven-footers he is mostly potential at this point in his career. For Mike Montgomery, Rooks adds to a class already featuring top 25 prospect Jabari Bird and should help Montgomery continue his success at Cal.
  5. Former UCLA center Josh Smith is transferring to Georgetown. It’s no secret that Smith had a troubled career at UCLA in battling weight issues and dealing with criticism from Ben Howland. He averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game his freshman year, but saw his numbers decline with 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game during his sophomore year, followed by a 5.2 point, 4.2 rebounds per game stat line in six games this season. Smith decided to go with Georgetown over Kansas, but if the talented but troubled big man cannot control his weight, it won’t matter whose uniform he puts on next season.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.28.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 28th, 2012

pac12_morning5

  1. After a quiet period surrounding Christmas, things pick back up again beginning tonight with a pair of games involving Pac-12 teams. The most high profile game is UCLA hosting Missouri in a chance to see whether the Bruins’ recent improvements on the offensive end are enough to have them ready to compete with very good teams. Missouri is coming off its most high profile win of the season, a nine-point win over Illinois in the Braggin’ Rights game, but they have also handled Stanford and Virginia Commonwealth in a pair of quality wins in the Bahamas. The Tigers will be playing a bit shorthanded, though, as reserve forward Tony Criswell – he of 18 minutes, six points and five rebounds per game – will miss the game with a broken finger.
  2. Utah is the other Pac-12 team to break its Christmas fast and return to the court tonight, as they will host the College of Idaho, an NAIA school. While the Utes already have more wins this year than they earned all of last season, they still left quite a few on the table. Despite a 7-4 record, if the Utes had simply been able to hang on to three different second-half double-figure advantages, they could be 10-1 at this point. But with a young team that is still getting used to the idea of winning games, closing out victories is still a work in progress.
  3. Oregon State gets back in the swing of things on Saturday when they host Towson at Gill Coliseum. And in a cool bit of marketing for the program, the first 1,000 fans into the venue will get a free Alamo Bowl t-shirt and everyone is invited to stick around after the game and watch the football game (vs. Texas) as well as participate in an autograph session with OSU players and coaches. Way to take a simple, relatively unappealing basketball game for which the students will be out of town and turn it into a blockbuster day for Beaver fans to spend enjoying both of their big-time sports programs.
  4. Oregon got back from its Christmas break and resumed practice yesterday in advance of a meeting with Nevada on New Year’s Eve, and they are hoping to repeat last year’s improvement following their time off. Last year the Ducks got run over by Virginia then coasted through three uninspired wins over bad teams prior to Christmas break, before coming back and tearing through Washington State to kick off a strong conference run. Dana Altman recognizes that the parts are in place for the Ducks to again compete for a conference title, but he’ll have his team spending the next few practices working on offensive execution and defensive communication.
  5. It seems like all week we have had a little something about the big Arizona win over San Diego State on Christmas night, but for the most part we have focused on Nick Johnson’s highlight-reel blocked shot in the waning moments. Head coach Sean Miller notes that, while Johnson’s play was great, senior Kevin Parrom put a bow on the game by running down the loose ball after the block and making sure that the Aztecs were unable to get a second-shot opportunity. That, coupled with Parrom’s offensive contributions, made him a underrated key to Arizona’s Diamond Head Classic title, even though teammates like Johnson, Solomon Hill, and Mark Lyons may normally get more publicity.
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