Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Six

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 27th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew, ParkerAdam, and I have compiled after the sixth week of Pac-12 games (delta in parentheses):

  1. Arizona, 12-0 (-): Arizona will be the only Pac-12 team to go through non-conference play undefeated, thanks to three walk-over wins and a last-second thriller in Honolulu in the Christmas-extended week six. After dispatching Oral Roberts in Tucson and East Tennessee State and Miami (Florida) on the islands, the Wildcats met San Diego State in the Christmas night final of the Diamond Head Classic. And if not for a game played 10 days prior in the desert, this one would have made a good choice for game of the non-conference season. Just like Arizona, the Aztecs came into Tuesday winners of their last 11. And at two points in the second half, it looked as if SDSU would leave with its 12th. But trailing 45-37, freshman Brandon Ashley made his mark on an otherwise lackluster night. Ashley scored six points and had a key assist in just over five minutes, and along with some help from Solomon Hill, pulled Arizona even at 52-all. The game would go back and forth from there, with the lead changing nine different times, and both teams tied at seven different points. The Wildcats’ perfect non-conference record was finally secured with an out-of-nowhere Nick Johnson block and controversial Kevin Parrom rebound as time expired. Up Next: 1/3 vs. Colorado.
  2. Oregon, 10-2 (-): Played in front of more fans but a lesser national audience, Oregon was entangled in its own thriller last Wednesday in El Paso. And this time, the Pac-12 team didn’t come out on top. UTEP appeared to be practically begging Oregon to win the game, but the Ducks gave away chance after chance before the reluctant Miners finally closed out a 91-84 triple overtime win. Up Next: 12/31 vs. Nevada Christmas Came Early For UTEP Fans, While Arsalan Kazemi And The Ducks Left The Don Haskins Center Disappointed. (credit: Pac-12.com)

    Christmas Came Early For UTEP Fans, While Arsalan Kazemi And The Ducks Left The Don Haskins Center Disappointed. (credit: Pac-12.com)

  3. Colorado, 9-2 (-): The Buffaloes hold steady at number three after destroying an awful Northern Arizona team, 98-51. Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson led all scorers with 17 points a piece in the victory. Up Next: 12/29 vs. Hartford.
  4. Oregon State, 9-2 (-): Another week, another pair of unimpressive wins for Oregon State. The good news is of course that the Beavers are winning games, and that is the point of playing these contests. The bad news is that if they put out the type of efforts we saw against Howard and in the second half against San Diego, conference play is going to be a disaster. Up Next: 12/29 vs. Towson. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 12.26.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 26th, 2012

pac12_morning5

  1. Saint Nick came through in a big way on Christmas night for Arizona, as sophomore guard Nick Johnson swatted away a potentially game-winning layup attempt by San Diego State’s Chase Tapley to preserve the Wildcats’ perfect season and earn the Diamond Head Classic title. While the first half was stodgy and slow, the two teams lived up to expectations in the second half and delivered a terrific performance. Once again, it was seniors who led UA, this time Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom doing the job as Mark Lyons never really got into a groove, hampered by foul trouble, turnovers and erratic shooting. And then there was, of course, Johnson, who struggled shooting the ball but was terrific defensively, and helped out initiating the offense and made the athletic play in the waning moments to seal the game.
  2. Former Arizona star Miles Simon, who won the Most Outstanding Player in the Wildcats\’ 1997 run to Lute Olson’s sole NCAA Championship, worked the Diamond Head Classic as the color man for ESPN. And, despite the fact that UA’s backcourt may not match up with the traditional ideal of true point and scoring off-guard, Simon is impressed with the duo of Lyons and Johnson. He sees the duo as complementary parts with Johnson capable of helping Lyons out with some areas (initiating offense and getting other players involved) that he is weaker in. I would add that their ability to have Hill also share some of the ball-handling load means that, even without the proverbial “traditional” point, Arizona’s guard play is not a significant concern.
  3. UCLA’s Tony Parker has been a little-used piece for Ben Howland, averaging under nine minutes a game despite his team’s lack of depth along the frontcourt. Following another eight-minute appearance against Fresno State, he tweeted out “A lot of told me this wasn’t for me I wish I would’ve listened.\” Given Howland’s recent issues with players transferring out of his program, this tweet and other recent tweets from Parker referencing homesickness indicate that he may not be long for the Bruin program as well. And, of course, Bruins Nation took this as a chance to rip Howland again. The other side of the coin is that Parker missed time early due to injury and has been inconsistent in the minutes he has received, playing ineffectively on the boards, fouling at far too high of a rate and getting lost defensively, and this type of complaining public message probably does nothing to help him earn more playing time. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, as Howland likely should have found some more minutes against UCLA’s weaker competition, but the fact of the matter is, Parker hasn’t done a whole lot to earn those minutes yet.
  4. Tying up one loose end, Oregon State’s Eric Moreland earned the official Pac-12 Player of the Week honor for his pair of double-doubles and 17-point and 11.5-rebound average last week. We opted for Jordan Adams as our pick (and oddly enough, neither Adams nor any other Bruin was even nominated by the school for the award), but Moreland was certainly a worthy recipient as well. Always known for his defensive ability, Moreland has shown a significantly improved offensive game this season. Where last year he was little more than a garbage man on offense, he’s added the ability to beat his man off the bounce, his jumper is significantly improved and he’s converting shots around the lane at a high rate, all while continuing to defend and rebound like a madman.
  5. And lastly, back to UCLA. As some Bruin fans continue to root for Ben Howland’s ouster as head coach, Bruins Nation put together a post with some of the great moments in his time in Westwood. Worth a look for hoops fans, but sure makes you remember just how good UCLA was going just a few years back. Could you have imagined after Howland’s third straight trip to the Final Four that he would be on the chopping block inside of five years, minus any type of serious NCAA investigation into improprieties in his program? Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Five

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 18th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew, Parker, Adam, and I have compiled after the fifth week of Pac-12 games (delta in parentheses):

  1. Arizona, 8-0 (-): Arizona continued to carry the Pac-12 flag in week five, outlasting fifth ranked Florida in a Saturday night thriller. Thanks to never giving up and some key Gator miscues down the stretch, Arizona erased a six-point deficit in the final minute to pull out a 65-64 win. For a team that gained preseason hype via its recruiting class, Zona relied on its seniors to get the signature victory. While the three true freshmen only averaged three points a piece on the night, guys like Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, and Mark Lyons combined for an average of 13 a piece. Who can forget about sophomore Nick Johnson, either? Not letting the underclassmen be completely outdone, the sophomore went for 15 points and four huge steals. For anyone that was waiting to say so, it’s safe to say now that this Wildcat team is legit. Time and time again they have made late runs in the final eight or so minutes of games to keep their clean record alive. Now the question is; where does it end? Up Next: 12/18 vs. Oral Roberts.
  2. Oregon, 9-1 (-): A terrific defensive performance from Oregon offset its second-to-worst offensive output of the season on Saturday. The stingy Duck defense forced 16 Nebraska turnovers in the 60-38 victory, improving Dana Altman‘s squad to 9-1 as they enter Wednesday’s road test at UTEP. Up Next: 12/19 @ UTEP.

    Senior Forward Arsalan Kazemi Was The Star Of Oregon's Defense On Saturday, Recording Four Steals And 17 Rebounds. (credit: Chris Pietsch)

    Senior Forward Arsalan Kazemi Was The Star Of Oregon’s Defense On Saturday, Recording Four Steals And 17 Rebounds. (credit: Chris Pietsch)

  3. Colorado, 8-2 (^2): The Buffaloes jump up two spots after obtaining a solid road win at Fresno State. Junior Andre Roberson led all scorers with 17 points in the victory. With games against Northern Arizona and Hartford left on the non-conference slate, it looks as if Colorado will enter Pac-12 play with a 10-2 record. Up Next: 12/21 vs. Northern Arizona.
  4. Oregon State, 7-2 (-): Oregon State held steady, but lost a couple of points in this week’s rankings despite going 2-0 and picking up its first road win of the season. Perhaps the panel decided to drop the Beavers due to the closeness of the two outcomes. They were barely able to outlast a Portland State team that hasn’t beaten a division one team so far this season, and sloppy play against 3-9 Chicago State resulted in only a 87-77 win. Up Next: 12/19 vs. Howard Read the rest of this entry »
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#5 Florida at #9 Arizona: Keys to the Game

Posted by DPerry on December 15th, 2012

In a Pac-12/SEC microsite joint venture, contributors Andrew Murawa and Doug Perry tell us what the Wildcats and Gators need to do to gain the upper hand in this weekend’s premier matchup.

Arizona will win if…

Lyons Will Be Key Tonight (US Presswire)

Lyons’ Handling the Ball Will Be Key Tonight (US Presswire)

  1. They can limit turnovers. Arizona’s turnover numbers look real bad (they’re averaging turnovers on 22.2% of all their possessions), but the fact is, they’ve been inflated by a couple horrific games. Against Southern Miss, they gave it up on better than 38% of their possessions, and against UTEP it was turnovers on 30% of possessions. But, in their biggest game to date last weekend at Clemson, they only turned it over 11 times. Most concerning, however, is the fact that Solomon Hill, the player most responsible for getting the Wildcat halfcourt offense into gear, was responsible for five of those turnovers. Florida does a great job of pressuring opposing ball-handlers, with Scottie Wilbekin in particular harassing opponents into turnovers on a regular basis, so if Arizona can make solid decisions and take care of the ball, that will be a major first step in securing the big win.
  2. They can force bad shots. Florida doesn’t really have a ton of weaknesses, but historically, guys like Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario have been known to go into chucker mode from time to time and throw up baffling shots. While the seniors won’t necessarily be rattled by the spectacle of the McKale Center and the national stage, Arizona can help them along the way to bad shots by using their length to dissuade post-entry passes, by employing physical perimeter defense, and by, perhaps most importantly, sticking with Erik Murphy through picks and pops and rolls and whatever else he does, limiting his good looks at the hoop. If the Wildcats can do their best to limit the impact of guys like Murphy and Patric Young on the offensive end, Boynton and Rosario will have to take it upon themselves to win this game. And frankly, Sean Miller would likely rather take a chance getting beat by those guys than getting beat by the Florida bigs.
  3. The veterans play like veterans. Arizona’s freshman trio of big guys – Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett – are serious gonna-bes. They are all gonna be major players, not only at their current level of basketball but likely at the next level. And, while they’ve shown the ability to make a major impact on the outcome of the current season, this is, in reality, their first big-time game. As such, while each of those guys needs to live up to the responsibilities that the Arizona coaching staff tasks them with, the eventual outcome of this game will be determined by whether Arizona’s vets – seniors Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, and, to a lesser extent, sophomore Nick Johnson – live up to their ends of the bargain. Each of them have been very good this season, but this is the first real test. Not only are these guys going to need to knock down shots, make smart plays, and sell out defensively, they’re going to need to provide a positive example for the youngsters as to how games of this caliber should be approached. If the vets can play as vets should, it will not only bode well for Arizona’s chances in this big game, but it will be the first positive step towards success in the following big games.

Florida will win if…

Can Patric Young have another monster game against the Wildcats?

Can Patric Young have another monster game against the Wildcats?

  1. They limit Arizona’s three-point shots. The Wildcats aren’t shy about putting up shots from long range. Arizona ranks in the top 15 nationally in three-point percentage (40.5%) and three-pointers/game (8.6), and defending perimeter shots is not Florida’s specialty (132nd in opponent three-point percentage). The Gators have a propensity to be aggressive in passing lanes, earning steals on 12.7% of their opponent’s possessions, but they should be careful not to overplay against a team that’s so dangerous from long distance. The McKale Center will be bumping, and a parade of made threes is exactly what Arizona will want to keep their fans as loud as possible. Florida is one of the most experienced teams you’ll see in college basketball’s elite tier, but a passionate fan base eager to see the Wildcats thrust into the national title conversation can rattle even the most seasoned team.
  2. They don’t forget about the big guys. Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario are great perimeter scoring threats, but they aren’t exactly famous for their discerning taste in shot selection. If the two gunners spend the night forcing shots that they shouldn’t, I can’t see the Gators flying back east with a victory. Patric Young has been somewhat of an afterthought in Florida’s offense this season, but I guarantee that Arizona isn’t overlooking him. The junior center had the best game of his career against the Wildcats last season, racking up 25 points and 10 rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting. Admittedly, Arizona’s frontcourt has added a ton of size since last season, so Young’s massive frame won’t be as great of an advantage, but he’s an option that Billy Donovan would be foolish to ignore. Forward Erik Murphy has cooled off a bit since his hot start, but he’s capable of a monster game.
  3. They can handle Mark Lyons. Arizona’s stellar freshman class steals the headlines, and they’ve shown flashes so far, but Sean Miller’s crew can’t hang with Florida on youthful talent alone. No, the Wildcats will go as far as their upperclassmen will take them, and Mark Lyons is the best of the bunch. He isn’t a model of consistency (0-7 from the field against Southern Miss), but the Xavier transfer is coming off his best game of the season, scoring 20 points and adding four rebounds and four assists in a tough road environment at Clemson. He’ll have the home crowd’s support on Saturday night, but the Gators’ defense presents a much tougher challenge. Guards have an especially tough time scoring on Donovan’s sound defense, but outside of maybe FSU guard Michael Snaer, they haven’t yet faced a perimeter scoring threat with the big-game pedigree of Lyons.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 27th, 2012

  1. With a 10-day break between games for Arizona, head coach Sean Miller is currently in the process of deciding which of the four frontcourt players will get the start for the Wildcats going forward. Brandon Ashley, one of the top surprises so far this season throughout the league, was called on last Monday to start in favor of fellow freshman Grant Jerrett, and he responded by posting Arizona’s first double-double of the season. The three spot is of course occupied by Solomon Hill, with a terrific backup in Kevin Parrom behind him. Freshman Kaleb Tarczewski has been getting the call at center, and has responded by averaging 6.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG thus far. The decision of who starts at power forward isn’t as pressing against Northern Arizona as it will be on Saturday at Texas Tech, so Wednesday’s meeting with the Lumberjacks can be used to mix and match lineups and get all of the kinks worked out. The Cats are desperately in need of a sixth man when Parrom is having an off night, so the decision is critical both for the starting unit and bench rotation.
  2. With the beginning of a new week comes, of course, the new polls. The Pac-12 got some recognition in the AP as Arizona broke into the Top 10 with its 3-0 record. Colorado rose four spots after dispatching Air Force on Sunday night, and Oregon received votes at #31 after its big upset at UNLV on Friday. California’s 6-0 start got them recognized, but they still have a ways to go at #36. Right ahead of the Golden Bears is Wisconsin, a team they’ll meet on Sunday in Madison. As expected, UCLA’s awful loss to Cal Poly dropped them out of the Top 25 completely and down to #29 in the Others Receiving Votes category.
  3. The Portland Tribune’s Kerry Eggers says that the NIT is a realistic goal for this year’s Oregon State team, even with the loss of center Angus Brandt. Sitting at 4-1, Craig Robinson and company have an excellent shot at entering Pac-12 play with an 11-2 overall record. If the Beavers manage a .500 record there (certainly manageable with only one game each against Arizona and UCLA), and can pick up a win in the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, Eggers should be correct in that assumption.
  4. Anytime you add 10 different transfers to a roster, there’s going to be some ups and downs early. USC coach Kevin O’Neill has experienced that firsthand this season through just 17 days of game action. So far, the Trojans have dominated a solid Long Beach State team, defeated Texas, hung with a pair of good teams in Marquette and San Diego State, and got embarrassed against Illinois. And that’s just the first two weeks. As Rich Hammond points out, if SC wants more ups than downs then they need to find someone to pull out these close games; someone willing to take the big shot down the stretch.
  5. We close with a great feature on Arizona graduate manager JayDee Luster, via Bruce Pascoe. Luster is a well-known name for us Mountain West followers out here on the left coast, but he also drew some national attention when his Wyoming Cowboys upset UNLV last February in Laramie. Luster’s fresh credibility gives him instant recognition among the Wildcat roster, and as a former defensive star, he certainly has something to bring to the table during practices and workouts. And who knows — maybe this will be the beginning of a long and illustrious coaching career for Luster.
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Pac 12 M5: 11.21.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on November 21st, 2012

  1. Although Colorado and Tad Boyle are pleased with their early season performance and championship in the Charleston Classic, not everyone is content on the Buffaloes. Wesley Gordon, a surprising redshirt freshman who many thought would impact the Buffaloes this year due to their lack of depth in the front court, has not been able to help the Buffaloes early on this year. Gordon chose to redshirt, but in the final of the classic against Murray State, the Buffaloes’ Andre Roberson and Josh Scott both got into foul trouble and Colorado had to rely on players like Xavier Johnson and Jeremy Adams to step up. Neither Adams Nor Johnson are 6’8″ and 225 pounds like Gordon and neither has the defensive ability that Gordon possesses. Even though Gordon did choose this on his own for betterment of the program, early on, he seems to be adjusting to his decision slowly.
  2. With the Oregon Ducks losing three starters in Devoe Joseph, Garret Sim, and Olu Ashaolu last year to graduation, there were doubts about this team, but the defense has picked up the slack to start off the year. For the second consecutive game, Oregon held their opposition to 20 points in the first half. Adding Arsalan Kazemi to a team with Tony Woods up front certainly has helped. The Ducks have registered 40 steals in their first four games and blocked 17 shots. Even better for Dana Altman, the players believe they have a long way to go still on defense, which isn’t good news for the rest of the Pac-12.
  3. The other team in Oregon, the Oregon State Beavers, are still dealing with the season-ending injury of Angus Brandt. Coach Craig Robinson seems unfazed by the injury as he still believes his team can make the NCAA Tournament. In Brandt’s absence, the Beavers will have to use more of the 6’9″  freshman Olaf Schaftnaar off the bench and most likely start other 6’7″ freshman Jarmal Reid in Brandt’s place. Additionally, the Beavers will need more out of Joe Burton, Eric Moreland, and Devon Collier. The Beavers are fine from a depth standpoint to replace Brandt, but they’ll need to improve their overall play up front to truly make Craig Robinson forget Brandt’s injury.
  4. As if the Washington State Cougars didn’t have enough trouble last night, getting dominated by Kansas 78-41, they also lost DaVonte Lacy to an apparent knee injury. Lacy left the game after only five minutes and was unable to play tonight in the Cougars’ 55-54 loss to Texas A&M, a result that could have changed were able to play. No news has come out yet on Lacy’s injury as he will be evaluated today in Pullman, but a loss of a starter and 8.5 PPG so far this year would be a major problem for the Cougars if he’s out for a prolonged period of time. Given that was Lacy is a major contributor for the team-wide project of finding a replacement for the dismissed Reggie Moore, the WSU problems at the lead guard position may have just gotten worse.
  5. Everything is still the same for Sean Miller down in Arizona. If you can shoot the lights out and score on offense, it won’t matter if you can’t play defense. That’s exactly Kevin Parrom‘s dilemma. Parrom went 5-5 from three putting up 15 points in 20 minutes, but Sean Miller said his playing time will be predicated on how he plays defense. The Wildcats gave up 14 threes to Long Beach and Parrom’s guarding of Long Beach’s shooting guards was a main reason for this. Parrom knows he has to improve on defense, and if he does, he will continue to see the floor. If not, guys like Jordin Mayes and freshman Gabe York are more than willing to steal some minutes.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Arizona Wildcats

Posted by PBaruh on October 29th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Arizona Wildcats.

Strengths: Sean Miller finally has all his pieces down in Tucson. This Wildcat team is talented, filled with depth, and has some serious athleticism. With all Miller teams, great defense is expected and this squad is no different. Offensively, these Wildcats can score, they can get out and run, and execute their offense efficiently in the half-court. With the backcourt stacked with transfer Mark Lyons and returning guards in Nick Johnson, Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes, the Wildcats will be fresh for all 40 minutes and be very hard to stop. Lyons is a much better facilitator than Josiah Turner was, and is very comfortable transferring over from Xavier having been recruited by Sean Miller there. On the front line, Solomon Hill can score down low or stretch the floor with a good mid-range game as well as hit the occasional shot from beyond the arc. To help Hill out, Miller brought in the second best recruiting class overall featuring bigs Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Grant Jerrett. All are expected to contribute right away, but nothing is ever certain with freshman. However, it’s pretty safe to say that based on their talent level the three combined will be able to replace Jesse Perry’s production. Additionally, Angelo Chol returns with another year of experience, and although he is still raw offensively, he can defend and rebound well for his position. Sean Miller is now in his fourth year at Arizona and this team has the potential to become elite.

Solomon Hill could cause multiple matchup problems at the small forward spot this year for opponents.

Weaknesses: It’s hard to point out any weaknesses on this team. But, as of now, the Wildcats don’t have a proven player who can really take over a game — there’s no Derrick Williams here. Yet, at least. Also, they are relying on freshman in the post to help carry some of the scoring burden. And most importantly, while Lyons is certainly a talented ballplayer, he has not yet proven his ability to handle the point guard position full-time. If everything comes together as Arizona fans hope, this Wildcat team may not have many noticeable weaknesses, but there are plenty of questions that need to be answered between now and then.

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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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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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Arizona Week: What to Expect in 2012-13

Posted by AMurawa on June 29th, 2012

We’ve spent the week with the Wildcats, and if you’ve followed along, you’ve likely got your own opinions about what the 2011-12 season will hold in store for Arizona. Can Mark Lyons strike the right balance between distributor and scorer at the point? How quickly can the three freshmen bigs make an impact? Which, if any, of Nick Johnson, Kevin Parrom or Angelo Chol will have a breakout year? And can this Wildcat team lay the foundation for another long run of consecutive NCAA Tournaments? If you’re anything like us, I’m sure you can’t wait to find out the answers, but for now we’re going to have to settle for a glance into RTC’s quite imperfect crystal ball. From what I can glean, here’s how the Arizona season plays out.

Nick Johnson, Arizona

Nick Johnson Could Be The Wildcat Most Poised For A Breakout Season (Willy Low, AP)

  • UA’s Leading ScorerMark Lyons. It’s possible the Xavier-transfer could blow up and average 20 points a game this season, but that probably wouldn’t be good for Arizona’s team goals or Lyons’ personal goals. Still, he’s a guy who can get his own shot at will, either off the bounce or from deep. And, he’ll have the ball in his hands enough to score plenty. Still, with all the talent on this team, the guess is that this roster winds up producing pretty balanced scoring, with four different players scoring in double figures.
  • UA’s MVPSolomon Hill. Hill’s numbers may take a slight dip as he carves out a new role for himself on a talented roster, but he’ll still be asked to makes plays for himself and for teammates in the halfcourt, get on the glass with abandon, and check big name opponents, with guys like Shabazz Muhammad, Andre Roberson and Dwight Powell among who he’ll likely be asked to guard. And, as the most experienced senior on a team with five newcomers and a couple of sophomores, he’ll be the spiritual leader, called on to be an example for the rest of his team. He’ll likely thrive in such a role. Read the rest of this entry »
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Arizona Week: Q&A With Pachoops’ Adam Butler

Posted by AMurawa on June 29th, 2012

As we head toward closing out our coverage of the Arizona basketball program in our third of a summer-long series of in-depth looks at Pac-12 schools, we’re inviting Adam Butler of Pachoops back in to give us his thoughts on the big questions facing the Wildcats in 2012-13. Adam gave us a hand yesterday with our Burning Question of the week, and we hope to have him back from time to time to add his unique perspective. Without further ado, here’s what we came up with:

RTC: Let’s dig right in here Adam, starting from the top of the program. So, in 29 seasons since Lute Olson took over the Wildcat program, the team has missed the NCAA Tournament exactly three times: Olson’s first year, and then two of the three years under current head coach Sean Miller. Yet, it seems there is a confidence around the program that not only do they have the right coach, but that big things are on the verge of happening again in Tucson. Do you hold that view as well? And why or why not?

Sean Miller, Arizona

Arizona Has Missed The NCAA Tournament In Two Of Sean Miller’s Three Seasons In The Desert, But Arizona Fans Still Have Faith In Their Head Coach (AP Photo)

AB: Oh the Lute years were sweet. Arizona was no worse than a five-seed for 16 straight tournaments. Do you realize how awful March 2010 was for me? I literally fled the country. But I’ve digressed. Yes, I think Sean Miller is on the verge of very big things. He’s a phenomenal coach and has already demonstrated such in very short order. He took a bare cupboard and turned that into an Elite Eight; and before we get too far down the road talking about how that 2009 class fell into his lap, it did fall into his lap and those kids could’ve gone anywhere. But they chose Miller for a reason. And my impression of that reason is that he’s piecing together a very special something in the desert. I like to use Indiana’s rebuilding as a barometer and if you look at where they are following Kelvin Sampson bottoming them out, Tom Crean is in year five with the top team in the country in the preseason. Last season – year four – was their first taste of big success again. Arizona has essentially followed the same trajectory (2010-11 was a glorious anomaly), and finds itself with a very sound roster here in Miller year four and project to have a filthy year five. Here, let me pass you the Kool-Aid.

RTC: While the 2012-13 version of the Wildcats will have five returnees from last season, all of whom should get some run, it is a group of four highly touted freshmen and incoming transfer Mark Lyons who give the program the most cause for optimism. Let’s start with Lyons. He’s not a true point, is more of a shoot-first guy and his most recent head coach, Chris Mack, didn’t seem all that sad to see him transfer. Can he really be the type of point guard to help meld together some talented returnees with a frontcourt-heavy freshman class?

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Arizona Week: Running Down the Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on June 27th, 2012

The Wildcats return five players who earned 10 or more minutes last season and it is a good bet that each of those players will have at least as big a role in 2012-13, with a couple different players perhaps poised for breakout seasons. Today we’ll take a look at each of them, by order of last year’s scoring average, and try to peer into the near future for each of these guys.

  • Solomon Hill, Senior, Small Forward (13.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.6 APG) – In 2011-12, Hill led the Wildcats in rebounding and assists, was second in scoring, posted the highest field goal percentage and defensive rebound percentage, used the most possessions of anyone on the team, knocked down 37 three-pointers at a 39% clip, and did all of that in a highly efficient manner. In other words, the dude’s versatile. And, in a year where Arizona will be breaking in a one-season tire-patch of a point guard in Mark Lyons, a guy who has been known to fall in love with his own shot, Hill’s ability to play the point-forward position could be vital. Further, with a bunch of talented freshman bigs getting ready to make an impact in Tucson, Hill could be pushed out of the paint more, setting up camp more on the perimeter and at the elbows. If he can continue to improve his jumper as he has done, he could prove to be a matchup nightmare, capable of stepping out to hit the three, knocking down the pull-up off a couple dribbles, using a power move to get to the hoop, or feeding the bigs out of the high post. Really, while Hill definitely shone in his junior year, he could be primed to step it up even another notch in his final collegiate campaign. Throw in his ability as a vocal leader on a team with plenty of youngsters (he could, in particular, be a mentor for freshman big Grant Jerrett, who has some of the same skills that Hill possesses) and Hill could be one of the most important players to his team in the entire country.
Solomon Hill, Arizona

Solomon Hill is Arizona’s Most Versatile Player, And Could Be The Team’s Emotional Leader This Season (Ronald Martinez, Getty Images)

  • Nick Johnson, Sophomore, Shooting Guard (9.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG. 2.4 APG) – Johnson’s freshman season got off to a flashy start, with seven double-figure scoring efforts prior to New Year’s Day, copious amounts of highlight-reel dunks, solid defense, and a confident jumper. Unfortunately, once conference play rolled around, he struggled with his jumper (he shot 41.7% from three prior to January 1 and 28% afterward) and his confidence waned. Opponents began playing off him and daring him to shoot, and his entire game at both ends of the floor was negatively impacted by his shooting woes. Still, all things considered, it is hard to be anything but bullish about Johnson’s future. As athletic as any returning guard in the conference, Johnson’s got a strong first step, the ability to throw down a dunk in an opposing big man’s face, and a willingness to make the unselfish play when it presents itself. Add on the ability to be a lockdown defender and, so long as Johnson tightens up his jumper, he could be among the conference’s best players next year.
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