Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week 15

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2012

Team of the Week

Washington – In coming back from what was a 13-point deficit with just 11 minutes left, the Huskies not only managed to pull off a season sweep of Apple Cup rival Washington State, they also, combined with California’s loss on Sunday, vaulted themselves into sole ownership of first place in the Pac-12. While their win over WSU certainly wasn’t a thing of beauty, the Huskies managed to gut one out, overcoming Terrence Ross’ foul trouble and ineffectiveness to put it away down the stretch. Despite shooting just 62.2% from the line for the season, the Huskies shot made 78.9% of their 19 second-half free throws, including 58%-free-throw-shooter Tony Wroten knocking down seven of his nine attempts in the second half. With a road trip to the Los Angeles schools the last remaining hurdle on the Husky schedule, it looks like it comes down to this: beat UCLA at the Sports Arena on Saturday and claim the regular season conference title.

Kyle Fogg, Arizona

Kyle Fogg Is Wrapping Up His Arizona Career With His Best Basketball Yet (Chris Morrison/US Presswire)

Player of the Week

Kyle Fogg, Senior, Arizona – Fogg has been rock-steady in his four seasons in Tucson, but with his career rapidly coming to a close, he has begun showing a newly developing personality: glass-eating double-double machine. After going 130 games as a Wildcat without once grabbing 10 or more rebounds, in the past four games Fogg has recorded two double-doubles, two near-misses with nine rebounds and has averaged 15.8 points and ten rebounds per game over that stretch. This week it was 18 points and 10.5 rebounds per night in helping to orchestrate a home-sweep of the Los Angeles schools and keeping the Wildcats in line for a opening-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. He came to Tucson as a Lute Olson recruit, but never played a minute for the icon whose health forced him to retirement. But over the years, Fogg has become a fixture in Tucson. When the Wildcats eventually open up the Pac-12 Tournament, Fogg will tie Jason Gardner for most games played in Arizona basketball history and he ranks in the top ten in the school’s list for minutes played and three-pointers.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2012

  1. It doesn’t go down as a surprise of any kind, but Colorado’s win over California on Sunday afternoon certainly doesn’t lack in importance. The Buffaloes got off to a strong start and withstood some pushback from the Golden Bears to lead for the final 30 minutes of the game and knock Cal from their perch atop the conference standings. Colorado, meanwhile, kept themselves in the mix for one of the four first-round byes in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Buffaloes were led by Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson, who celebrated their Senior Day in style, as Dufault went for 15, while Tomlinson had 11, four assists, and four boards and had a major hand in throwing a wrench into the Cal backcourt. Jorge Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs were held to a combined three-of-18 from the floor Sunday night, and in both games against Colorado this season, that duo was just eight-of-44 (18.2%) from the field. Lost in all the lovey-dovey Senior Day celebrating was fellow Colorado senior Carlon Brown slumping on the bench and seemingly not all that pleased to watch freshmen Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker finish the game off. Maybe Tad Boyle is already sick of Brown’s act (it is his first year of eligibility in Boulder after transferring from Utah), but with important games still remaining for Colorado (not just their trip to Oregon next week, but the Pac-12 Tournament, which it seems like they will need to win in order to earn an NCAA Tournament invite), Boyle will have to find some way to get something out of Brown, who is just 22-of-76 from the field in the month of February.
  2. The California loss leaves Washington all by its lonesome in first place in the conference. The Huskies needed a second-half comeback to knock off Apple Cup rival Washington State on Saturday, and they earned that victory largely at the free throw line, not bad for a team in the bottom 10% of the nation in free throw percentage. The Huskies made ten of its final 12 free throw attempts while the Cougars hit just 17 of their 32 second half attempts from the charity stripe and U-Dub escaped with a four-point win. Tony Wroten led the way with 21 points (albeit on 6-18 from the field), while Terrence Ross, in his first game after being declared the Pac-12 POY favorite by yours truly, was limited to just 21 ineffective minutes by foul trouble – he was just one-of-five from the field with two points and three rebounds.
  3. It’s been a long, rough season for Utah, with little talent and as a result, little to play for. But, give credit to head coach Larry Krystkowiak who has kept the Utes scraping hard all season long, and give credit to his team, who the head man describes as “resilient.” It took until the middle of December for the Utes to win a game against Division I competition, and there have been two separate eight-game losing streaks, but Utah got back on the right side of the final score on Saturday, knocking off Stanford 58-57. Junior Chris Hines hit a game-winning three with 27 seconds left and Cardinal senior Josh Owens missed a potentially game-tying free throw with eight seconds, and the Utes escaped with just their sixth win of the year. Meanwhile, for a Stanford team that looked brilliant on Thursday in handing Colorado its first home loss in Pac-12 play, it is just the latest in a long line of uneven performances in conference play.
  4. Normally, if there’s an Arizona/UCLA game being played on the last weekend in February, that’s the headliner in this conference. But, the fact is, as go the Bruins and the Wildcats, so goes the Pac-12. There have been more problems around the conference than just some ordinary teams in Westwood and Tucson, but you have to imagine that if these two stalwarts had lived up to their reputations, there would be a lot less jabbering about the weakness in the conference. As far as the game goes, the Wildcat seniors protected their Senior Day with Kyle Fogg leading the way. The senior guard has averaged at least 24 minutes per game every year of his career, but he is certainly wrapping up his eligibility in style. After going for his second double-double in three games against USC on Thurdsay (and the only two double-doubles of his career), Fogg came just one rebound shy of yet another double-double, but still wound up with 20 points and nine rebounds. The ‘Cats tried to give the game away down the stretch, missing four of six free throws in the final minute, but a Jerime Anderson jumper that could have sent the game to overtime was awry.
  5. Elsewhere around the conference this weekend, the nightmare season for USC continued with a four-point loss at Arizona State, as the undersized and undermanned Trojans couldn’t deal with Sun Devil sophomore center Jordan Bachynski who had 19 points and nine boards. However, it was embattled point guard Chris Colvin who iced the game, converting a three-point play with 19 seconds left to seal the win. Freshman guard Byron Wesley has come up big recently for USC, with new career-highs in each of his last two games, but there just isn’t enough help there for now. And, Sunday night, Oregon held off Oregon State in the 337th edition of the basketball version of the Civil War behind 25 points from Oregon senior guard Garrett Sim, whose parents are both Oregon State alumni.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.24.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 24th, 2012

  1. And then there were two. After skating through its first seven home conference games, Colorado turned in a stinker on Thursday night, getting thoroughly dominated by Stanford in front of their home crowd. The Buffaloes shot just a 33.3% eFG and got badly outrebounded (Stanford grabbed 81.4% of their defensive rebound opportunities and 40% on the offensive end), as sophomore forward Andre Roberson got no help on the boards. CU still has a chance to have a significant impact on the eventual winner of the conference, since they host league-leading California on Sunday afternoon, but barring a wild swing down the stretch, the Buffs are out of the title race. Worse yet, given their tough three-game stretch the rest of the way, they could be well on their way to losing the opening-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Chasson Randle led the Cardinal with 20 points, and was one of three players to knock down three three-pointers on the game.
  2. Meanwhile, California did what they needed to do, handling Utah in order to set up a battle with the aforementioned Buffaloes on Sunday. Leading scorer Allen Crabbe was held without a point from the field and Justin Cobbs was limited to just five points, but the Golden Bears forced 17 Ute turnovers, took care of the ball on their own end and gutted out a win. The win temporarily puts the Bears alone in first place, with Washington off tonight in advance of their Apple Cup rivalry with Washington State on Saturday.
  3. While the race for the conference title is rapidly clearing up, we’ve still got some gridlock among the next tier of teams, of which Colorado is now one, as the teams vie to avoid the #5 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament and miss out on the four byes through the opening round. Arizona did its homework on Thursday night, putting in a workmanlike effort in a 70-54 win over USC. Freshman point guard Josiah Turner did not start the game, but came off the bench strong and turned in the best game of his career, scoring a career-high 15 points and adding six assists – one shy of his career high – with no turnovers in 31 minutes of action. Senior guard Kyle Fogg also excelled, posting his first career double-double in his second-to-last home game, with 16 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Prior to the game, head coach Sean Miller announced the suspension junior center Kyryl Natyazkho, who had only earned a total of five minutes in the last nine games, for a violation of unspecified team rules.
  4. A bit up the road in Tempe, Lazeric Jones showed he takes instruction well after head coach Ben Howland encouraged him during the week to shoot more. Jones did just that against Arizona State, shooting 15 times on his way to 20 points and taking over down the stretch as UCLA pulled away from the short-handed Sun Devils. Jones scored 13 of his points in the second half as his team turned a one-point halftime lead into a lead as big as 17. ASU played without junior wing Carrick Felix due to an illness.
  5. Interesting take from Bud Withers of the Seattle Times on a possible reason why the Pac-12 is down this year, and why it may not get better in the future: demographics. In short, the idea is that because success in basketball is largely dependent on African-Americans, and because the western United States has a lower proportion of African-Americans than other regions, the schools in the Pac-12 may be at a bit of a competitive disadvantage to schools in other regions. At best, this is probably just one of the drops in an otherwise large bucket, as Withers rightly points out that allowing high school recruits from their own backyard to matriculate elsewhere certainly doesn’t help their cause. But, there could be something to look at here going forward.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.13.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2012

  1. This weekend, for once in the Pac-12, all of the upper echelon teams still competing for a conference title took care of the lower-tier teams. The only losses among the top five teams in the conference came against other top five teams – Colorado’s loss to Arizona and Washington’s loss at Oregon, both on Thursday night. But now, with five games left on everyone’s conference schedule, we’ve got five teams all within a game of first place. California earned its spot at the top of the standings by building up a 17-point second half lead against UCLA and then withstanding a late charge, earning its 20th win of the year. With the win, head coach Mike Montgomery became the first Cal coach to win 20 or more games in three of his first four years at the school, while the Golden Bears also completed a regular season sweep of the Los Angeles schools for the first time since 1959. UCLA sophomore center Joshua Smith got off to a strong start in that loss against Cal, scoring five points on his first three possessions and racking up two fouls on Cal freshman forward David Kravish and another on senior Harper Kamp. But, over the next 35 minutes he managed just five more points and was frustrated by Golden Bear double teams and his own conditioning issues. While it isn’t exactly breaking news that Smith is overweight and in poor physical condition, leave it to Bill Plaschke to get Smith on record as saying he “didn’t do anything” to prepare for this year over the offseason. Smith claims that he’ll be putting in the work this offseason in preparation for his junior year, but we’ll have to wait and see just how well that goes.
  2. Washington got back on track and maintained its own hold on a piece of first place with a 75-72 win at Oregon State last night. The game was sloppy on both ends, but was intensely competed and the Huskies had to hit 10 of 15 free throws down the stretch to hold on to the lead. Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox and Tony Wroten led the scoring for the Huskies with 50 points between them, but they all struggled from the field, hitting just 15 of their 44 field goal attempts (37.5% eFG) on the night. Jared Cunningham led all scorers with 23 points, be he too was inefficient, needing 20 shots to get his points. While the Huskies are technically tied with Cal for first place, the Golden Bears beat U-Dub earlier in the year, and that game will not be returned due to the unbalanced schedule in the Pac-12, meaning Cal holds the tiebreaker.
  3. Arizona pulled out a win on Saturday over Utah, but it was in no way a win that left Sean Miller feeling pleased with his team. The Wildcats trailed the 5-20 Utes for the first 27 minutes of the game, and didn’t claim the lead for good until a Nick Johnson three with 1:24 remaining put Zona up 64-61. Six free throws down the stretch provided a final margin of nine points, but UA was definitely fortunate to come away with the win. The Wildcats’ problems began well before tipoff, as senior guard Kyle Fogg was late for a pregame walk-through and was removed from the starting lineup as a result. As for the game itself, Miller described his team’s play as “alarming,” “disappointing,” and “pathetic” and mentioned that at least half of his seven-man rotation was not playing with maximum possible energy. The Wildcats travel to the Washington schools next week, so they’ll need to put out a much better effort to extend their four-game winning streak.
  4. The other two teams sitting a game back of the leaders also took care of business on Saturday, as Colorado earned its second road win of the conference season by taking care of Arizona State, and Oregon completed a sweep of the Washington schools by outlasting Washington State. E.J. Singler led the way for the Ducks with 23 points and four threes and also had a major hand in limiting the Cougs’ leading scorer, Brock Motum, to just 15 points, and just one point in the final 15 minutes. In Tempe, it was freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie leading the way for the Buffaloes with 15 points, five rebounds and three threes. The Buffs will pick back up next week on the road again, with a trip to Salt Lake City to face Utah scheduled for Saturday. After that, however, the final four games of the season will go a long way towards determining CU’s fate: they host Cal and Stanford before traveling to the Oregon schools the last week of the regular season.
  5. Lastly, Stanford won for just the second time in seven games on Sunday when they took apart a struggling USC team, 59-47. The Cardinal dominated on the glass, grabbing 97% of their defensive rebound opportunities and 41.3% of the rebounds on the offensive end, and they held the Trojans to just 35.4% eFG. But, with Stanford now out of the race for the conference title, the highlight of the game had to be junior forward Andy Brownhe of the three knee surgeries – scoring the first field goal of his Stanford career. Brown played eight minutes on Sunday, and has now played 21 minutes on the season, but his battle back despite injuries could be something to build on for the Cardinal going forward. Quickly, on the USC front, after a solid 8-for-13 performance Thursday night, sophomore guard Maurice Jones returned to form, hoisting 14 shots and hitting only two against the Cardinal. He’s now shooting just a 41.3% eFG on the season.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 2.10.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 10th, 2012

  1. It seems like I have spent the last couple days talking and writing about how if Washington could just string together a patch of wins here down the stretch, they could earn themselves an at-large bid regardless of the holes in their résumé. And, typical of what we have come to expect of the Huskies over the past several years, just when you start buying what they are selling in the regular season, they go out and get punked on the road, just like they did Thursday night, losing at Oregon by 25 in a game that was never in doubt. The Ducks scored the first eight points of the game, shot 64.3% from the field in the first half and then coasted in the second half. No Husky who played more than ten minutes in the game shot better than 50% from the field, their top three scorers–Tony Wroten, Terrence Ross, and C.J. Wilcox–combined for 32 points on 12-of-35 shooting, with a ten turnovers between them, and the entire team shot just two-for-16 from deep. The loss drops Washington back into a first place tie while Oregon moves to within a game of first place.
  2. In the other big game of the night, Arizona continued its hot streak, taking care of Colorado by 14 in their third consecutive strong performance. While the Wildcats have struggled to find consistency in the first three months of the season, now they are playing like a cohesive unit, even as they are limited to just a seven-man rotation. Thursday night, the veteran trio of Jesse Perry, Solomon Hill, and Kyle Fogg did the heavy lifting, scoring 17, 16, and 15 points respectively, while guys like Nick Johnson, Josiah Turner, Brendon Lavender, and Angelo Chol slid comfortably into their roles and took care of business. Combined with the other results in the conference, the Wildcats now find themselves within a game of first and rolling at just the right time. Colorado is also a game back of first place, but their struggles on the road will need to be mended if they hope to seriously challenge for the title; they are now 1-4 in Pac-12 road games with the sole win coming against 1-11 USC.
  3. Speaking of USC, they got to 1-11 by getting taken apart in the second half by California last night. After a hard-fought first half that saw the Trojans down by just six going into the locker room, the Golden Bears rode Harper Kamp’s hot streak after the break (he hit his first seven shots of the second half), while freshman forward David Kravish dominated the undermanned Trojan squad on the glass, grabbing a career-high 18 boards. Coupled with the Washington loss, the Golden Bears again find themselves tied at the top of the conference.
  4. UCLA will be Cal’s next opponent on Saturday, and Thursday night the Bruins took care of business against Stanford, using a late 10-0 to finally put away a pesky Cardinal team in a game that saw both teams put together a variety of runs. It was a sloppy affair, with the teams combining for 41 turnovers, but in the end it was the Bruins’ ability to turn Stanford’s turnovers into points that decided the game, as UCLA scored 28 points off of their 22 forced turnovers. Lazeric Jones had 21 points, six assists and six steals, while freshman Chasson Randle was the only Stanford player to score in double figures, with 16.
  5. At the bottom of the conference, Arizona State welcomed back junior guard Trent Lockett with a win over Utah. Lockett had 12 points and six boards in his return, but it was the combination of Jordan Bachynski (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Carrick Felix (15 points, eight rebounds) that put the Sun Devils over the top. Meanwhile, in Corvallis, the maddening Oregon State conference season continued with a ten-point home loss to Washington State, despite Jared Cunningham filling the stat sheet in a big way. The player of the year candidate had 33 points, including five three-pointers, six rebounds, a couple of assists, three steals, two blocks, and even four turnovers for good measure. Teammate Ahmad Starks struggled, however, hoisting 13 threes and only making two on a miserable night. On the other end of the court, however, Washington State’s own POTY candidate, Brock Motum, continued his hot streak, scoring 24 points and adding nine rebounds. Since Faisal Aden’s season ending injury, Motum has averaged 27.3 points and nine rebounds over four games.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.09.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 9th, 2012

  1. After missing nearly a month due to a severely sprained right ankle, Arizona State junior guard Trent Lockett is set to return to the Sun Devils’ lineup on Thursday when they host Utah. In Lockett’s absence, the wheels fell off an already wobbly ASU bus: They’ve lost five of the six games he’s missed, their scoring dropped by almost 12 points a game, their field goal percentage took a nearly seven-point hit, their assists per game dropped, and their free-throw attempts dropped. It may take some time for Lockett to get back in the swing of things, so it turns out it is fortunate that he returns for the Utah game. Because as bad as things have been for the Sun Devils this year, the Utes are still looking up at them.
  2. Just down the road a piece, Arizona has injury problems of its own. In the past two weeks, both Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes went down with foot injuries, with Parrom being lost for the year and Mayes out indefinitely. The Mayes injury was initially feared to be another fracture on a foot that he had broken last year, but X-rays proved negative. Still, for the foreseeable future, head coach Sean Miller may have to rely mostly on a seven-man rotation, with freshman point guard Josiah Turner being aided with the ballhandling duties by senior Kyle Fogg and fellow freshman Nick Johnson.
  3. Utah junior guard Chris Hines has had more than his fair share of injuries this year himself. He’s hurt his ribs, an elbow, a thumb and an ankle, but through all the bumps and bruises and 18 losses so far, he has missed just two games on the season, and he’s playing nearly 30 minutes a game. As one of only two active players remaining from last year’s squad, Hines has felt the need to keep going out there in order to provide leadership and a scoring punch to a seriously undermanned team.
  4. With the Pac-12 so far down this year, there will really be only one team on Selection Sunday that feels comfortable about making the NCAA Tournament: the team that wins the Pac-12 Tournament. So, while some teams will still worry about winning games to improve their RPI and potentially make themselves more attractive at-large candidates, perhaps the most important goal for the remainder of the conference season is to place in the top four and earn a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Right now Oregon and Arizona are tied for fourth place, but Oregon head coach Dana Altman is trying to dial down the importance of a top four finish, telling his team to just go out and play well.
  5. Lastly, as if Arizona head coach Sean Miller needed additional ammunition in his recruiting tool chest, but a Wall Street Journal article shows that former Wildcats have earned $738 million in the NBA since 1985. Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen disputes that figure, putting the total closer to $770 million, but either way, Arizona places third among all schools, trailing only North Carolina and Duke. Only two other Pac-12 schools of note make the top 25: UCLA (10th place, $497 million) and California (13th place, $404 million).
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 8th, 2012

  1. Oregon’s loss at Colorado on Saturday night was not the type of game from which it is easy to bounce back. The last-second loss on a controversial foul call left the Ducks tied for fourth place in the conference with Arizona, an especially precarious position to be in, since the top four teams in the conference will earn an opening round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament in March. Still, Dana Altman knows that his team doesn’t have much time to feel sorry for itself with a big game against bitter rival and current conference leader Washington due up tomorrow night.
  2. Arizona’s defense was a big key to their sweep of the Bay Area schools last weekend with Kyle Fogg, Nick Johnson, and Josiah Turner providing stellar perimeter defense at every turn. But a new weapon for Sean Miller’s squad lays waiting for intrepid souls find their way into the paint against the Wildcats, as freshman forward Angelo Chol has seen a bump in his minutes in the wake of Kevin Parrom’s season-ending injury. Against Stanford and California this weekend, Chol played a total of 36 minutes (his highest total in consecutive games since Arizona’s first two games), blocked six shots, and provided a disincentive for opponents to challenge him inside. As a high-schooler in San Diego, Chol blocked 1,120 shots in his career (good for second all-time at that level), but has been unable at Arizona to earn significant minutes, and hasn’t been all that effective in his time, until this past weekend. If he can turn into a strong presence in the paint for the Wildcats, they’ll be much better off as a result.
  3. Another freshman who is starting to earn some more minutes for his team is Washington’s Shawn Kemp Jr. Kemp played 24 minutes over the weekend against the Los Angeles schools and scored ten points in and around the paint. The son of the former SuperSonic superstar has taken a circuitous route to Lorenzo Romar’s team, committing to both Alabama and Auburn in the past, but failing to get his grades together in order to play at either school. Now, two years later, Kemp is working hard on his game to earn playing time and may be a significant piece to the Husky puzzle in 2012-13.
  4. Following a home loss against Arizona on Saturday, Stanford has now lost four of its last five games, falling from first place to a tie for sixth with UCLA. But, as Jon Wilner notes, this is more or less par for the course for the Cardinal thus far in the Johnny Dawkins era. Last year Stanford lost four in a row after starting conference play 3-1. The year before it was a 4-3 start and another four-game slide,while in 2009 the Cardinal dropped eight of their last ten after starting 3-3 in the conference. While Dawkins’ job is likely safe for the time being, at some point this Stanford team needs to prove that progress is being made.
  5. The conference announced the 2012 inductees into the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Hall of Honor on Tuesday, and there are some great names on the list. One inductee from each member institution will be honored during the Pac-12 Tournament in March. Here’s the list: Richard Jefferson (Arizona), Kurt Nimphius (Arizona State), Lamond Murray (California), Burdette Haldorson (Colorado), Jim Barnett (Oregon), A.C. Green (Oregon State), George Selleck (Stanford), Ed O’Bannon (UCLA), Sam Barry (USC), Arnie Ferrin (Utah), George Irvine (Washington), and Steve Puidokas (Washington State). While there are some great names on that list that most college basketball fans are very familiar with (Jefferson, Murray, O’Bannon, Green, for starters), it is fun to go back through the brief bios on the Pac-12 site and read about guys you may not be all that familiar with. Just as a “for instance”, did you know that former USC head basketball coach Sam Barry helped the Trojans post 32 consecutive victories over UCLA and helped push for the elimination of the center jump after every made basket, as well as the implementation of the ten-second rule? Good stuff from the Pac-12, but my concern is that by inducting one player from every school every year (and this has been going on for many ten years already), it’s not going to be long before the Eugene Edgersons, George Zideks, and Isaac Fontaines of the world have to wind up in the Hall of Honor as well.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 7th, 2012

  1. Last week at this time, California sat at #30 in the RPI, one of the factors that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee uses to determine at-large participants. However, after losing at home to Arizona on Saturday, its RPI fell to #48, giving us an excellent example of just how tenuous of a claim Pac-12 schools have toward an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. The win did bump Arizona up to #62 from #85, while Washington, the conference leader, still sits at #72. For perspective, an RPI in the 30s will very likely get you in, while pushing up into the 40s will leave you wondering on Selection Sunday eve. In short, odds are getting stronger that the only team that will be truly comfortable when they tune into CBS on Selection Sunday is the winner of the conference tournament.
  2. We gave our Pac-12 Player of the Week award to Joshua Smith for his big weekend in Washington, but the Pac-12 handed out the hardware to Arizona senior guard Kyle Fogg, a worthy recipient based on his well-rounded weekend leading the Wildcats to a road sweep of the Bay Area schools. It is Fogg’s first ever POTW honor, and the 83rd all-time selection for an Arizona player.
  3. Yesterday we mentioned the injuries that Cal’s Allen Crabbe and Harper Kamp suffered in their game against Arizona State on Saturday, but today Mike Montgomery confirmed that the injuries aren’t anything to worry about and that both players will practice and play this weekend when the Golden Bears head to the Los Angeles schools. Meanwhile, Arizona State junior guard Trent Lockett will likely return to action this week for the Sun Devils after missing six games with a badly sprained right ankle. The team’s leading scorer took over the point guard duties for Herb Sendek following the team’s dismissal of Keala King, but may be able to return to more of a wing role now that junior guard Chris Colvin has had some success running the point. Nevertheless, ASU has gone 1-5 in Lockett’s absence.
  4. The Pac-12 is probably no different than other leagues around the country in that fans from one end of the conference to the other think the officiating, um, isn’t very good. Oregon fans are the latest to take up the call for better officiating, following their loss to Colorado Saturday night on a controversial last-second foul call. Conference commissioner Larry Scott made it a priority to work on improving the work of Pac-12 football officials last year, and here’s hoping a similar initiative is in the works for the basketball side of things. However, there is a significant barrier in the way: Basketball officials aren’t tied to or affiliated with any one conference, but rather work a variety of games with teams from different conferences involved. But, to this point, Scott has worked wonders in his time with the conference, so hope remains that he can work on improving the state of officiating in Pac-12 basketball.
  5. And lastly, speaking of the commissioner, he was awarded with a contract extension to 2016 yesterday, unanimously approved by all 12 university presidents. In his first two years as the Commish, he has expanded the conference to 12 schools (and twice almost bumped it up to 16), scored a huge new television deal with ESPN and Fox that begins next year and will include a Pac-12 television network, and just generally done a great job marketing and promoting the conference not only around the West, but nationally and even internationally. Now, USC fans may not be all that enamored of Scott, but the rest of the conference seems to be mighty pleased with the way things are being done under the new commissioner.
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Pac-12 Honors: Week 13

Posted by AMurawa on February 6th, 2012

Team of the Week

Arizona – This was a complete and total no-brainer. The Wildcats, who up until this weekend had shown themselves to be a fairly mediocre team with plenty of different flaws, went on arguably the toughest road trip in the conference this year and came away with a pair of solid wins. Senior guard Kyle Fogg took this team by the reins and simply would not let them lose. Against California on Thursday night, he hit a three with 1:10 remaining that put the ‘Cats ahead for good, then protected that lead by coming up with a great block, hustling across the court from off of his own man to get a finger on a three by Allen Crabbe and help preserve the win for his team. He came back Saturday and led his team’s best defensive performance of the year, helping to hold Stanford to just a 27.8 effective field goal percentage. Arizona still sits two games back of conference leader Washington, but they’ll get their crack at them in two weeks, meaning that although the Wildcats need some help, they’re still very much alive in the race for the conference title.

Kyle Fogg, Arizona

Kyle Fogg Helped Arizona Earn A Key Road Sweep Of The Bay Area Schools (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Player of the Week

Joshua Smith, Sophomore, UCLA – This is the 13th time I’ve had to pick a POTW for the conference this year, and this is the first time I’ve waffled back and forth all day Sunday over who to pick. The nod goes to Smith, but Arizona’s Kyle Fogg certainly has just as much of a right to this spot as Smith does, and that’s before even considering Washington State’s Brock Motum (25.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 67.2 eFG%) or Colorado’s Andre Roberson (11.5 PPG, 13 RPG, 4.5 BPG). Smith earns this award on the basis of his first set of really dominating performances this season, hitting 77.3% of his field goal attempts in UCLA’s split with the Washington schools on his way to 21.5 points and seven rebounds per game. Smith played 48 total minutes on the weekend, including 26 in a loss to Washington, his most minutes played this season. After struggling with abysmal conditioning early in the season, Smith showed an energy and a stamina this weekend that is a testament to the work he has put in over the past couple months to get into reasonable basketball-playing condition.

Newcomer of the Week

Askia Booker, Fr, Colorado – Booker’s numbers on the weekend are very good: 46 minutes, 32 points, 50% from the field, 14-of-15 from the line, 111 boards, five assists and four steals. But, per usual, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Booker harassed opposing guards on both ends of the court repeatedly this weekend, forcing tempo for the Buffaloes and providing his team with ready-made injections of energy at key times. The freshman out of Los Angeles may be just 6’1”, 160 pounds, but his astounding leaping ability and prodigious heart helps him play bigger and bolder than players of larger physical stature. And combined with fellow freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie, Booker should help provide a platform for future successes in Boulder.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: Super Bowl Hangover Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 6th, 2012

    1. Washington sits all alone at the top of the Pac-12 standings after completing a home sweep of the Los Angeles schools this weekend. After struggling in nonconference play, the Huskies now control their own fate in the league and have one of the easier remaining schedules in conference play. While they only have two of their remaining seven games at home, the combined conference record of their remaining opponents is just 33-44. It is interesting to note that the two teams directly behind them in the standings, California and Colorado, are in a similar boat, having to play five of their final seven games on the road as well. Washington has historically struggled on the road in recent years, but this year they are 3-1 away from home in conference play.
    2. Colorado is one of the teams lurking a game back of the Huskies, and they are there on the strength of a last-second victory over Oregon on Saturday night. The Buffaloes remained perfect at home in Pac-12 play when senior guard Nate Tomlinson, with the game tied and just four seconds remaining, took the ball the length of the floor and drew a block from Oregon junior E.J. Singler with just one second left on the clock. He hit the first of his two free throws, then purposefully missed the second one, and the Buffaloes escaped with a hard-fought win. The call on the Tomlinson/Singler play at the end of the game was controversial, to say the least. The video is below. Jump to the 45 second mark for the full final scenario and decide for yourself. My call? Swallow the whistle, ref, and let’s play five more.

Video: Highlights: Oregon – Colorado

3.  California is tied with the Buffs in second place after putting a hurting on an undermanned Arizona State squad on Saturday. Cal forced 20 ASU turnovers, converted those miscues into 34 points and were never seriously challenged in a 68-47 victory. The only downsides of the game for the Golden Bears were a couple of injuries, a sprained ankle suffered by leading scorer Allen Crabbe in the second half, and a dislocated finger for Harper Kamp. Mike Montgomery dismissed the injuries after the game, but they may be something worth keeping an eye on next week as the Bears travel south for games with the Los Angeles schools next weekend.

4.  The biggest accomplishments of the weekend belong to Sean Miller and his Arizona team, who went into the Bay Area and came out with a two-game road sweep. The Wildcats capped off the weekend by completely discombobulating the Stanford offense, holding the Cardinal to just a 27.8% eFG and just six assists on their 16 field goals. Kyle Fogg was excellent all weekend for the ‘Cats, displaying heady defense in both games and coming away with 37 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, three steals, a couple blocks and eight three-pointers for the trip. The young Wildcat backcourt tandem of Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner also displayed excellent defensive intensity throughout the road trip, and while their offense is still a work in progress, they may be playing their best ball as a duo of their young careers.

5.  Lastly, we have a Joshua Smith sighting. UCLA’s sophomore big man had his first set of back-to-back double-figure scoring games in Pac-12 play this weekend, backing up his career-high of 24 points on Thursday night with another 19 in a three-point Bruin win at Washington State. Despite dealing with constant good-natured verbal abuse from the home crowd in his return to his home state this weekend, Smith seems to be coming along just in time for a stretch run for UCLA. He hit 17 of his 22 field goal attempts this weekend, averaged seven rebounds a night, and was actually seen sprinting down the court on a semi-regular basis. Given the depths to which Smith’s conditioning plummeted at the start of this season, whether you’re a UCLA supporter or not, it is good to see a kid who is working towards being able to fulfill his ample potential.

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Arizona vs. California: The Pac-12 Is Still Anyone’s Game

Posted by mlemaire on February 3rd, 2012

On February 5, 2011, then-Findlay Prep star Nick Johnson tuned in from Nevada to watch his future team, Arizona, travel to Berkeley to face off against California. What he witnessed was a wild, back-and-forth, triple-overtime game that Arizona eventually won, 107-105. So Thursday, when the now-freshman starter Johnson and his teammates headed to Berkeley  for the rematch, he was ready. Johnson scored 11 points and dished out five assists, and senior Kyle Fogg played what coach Sean Miller called “his best game since I have been at Arizona,” and the Wildcats held off a furious rally by late to win, 78-74, proving that there are still at least seven teams who have legitimate chances at winning the conference title.

Arizona Picked Up Its Biggest Pac-12 Win In Berkeley (AP/J. Chiu)

“I was telling the guys, I watched the game last year,” Johnson said. “So I knew it was going to be crazy, and I prepared for that.” Despite Johnson’s claims, it didn’t look like he or his teammates were prepared for the start of the game as they let the Bears jump out to an early 22-9 lead, looking lost on offense and uninspired on defense. But then, with Haas Pavilion rocking and their team looking to deliver an early knockout blow to an inexperienced opponent, Arizona methodically climbed back into the game and then Fogg took over. In the last 10 minutes of the first-half, Fogg had 10 points, two assists, two steals, and a rebound as Arizona stormed back (with the help of some generous whistles) to take a 45-34 lead at the half.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 3rd, 2012

  1. When all is said and done in the regular season, a night like Thursday night may be the kind of night that determines our eventual regular season champion. Coming into the evening, both Washington and California were tied for first place in the Pac-12, and both teams were treated to rough-and-tumble battles on their home courts against traditional powers in the conference. But, in the end, only one of those teams was able to pull out a victory. For the first time this season, Washington sits atop the Pac-12 standings, alone in first place after pulling out a thrilling victory over UCLA at the Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Midway through the second half, as the Bruins pulled out to a 10-point lead, it looked like the bad Husky team featuring incoherent offense, lazy defense and out-of-control play on both ends was going to doom Lorenzo Romar’s team again. But, sophomore wing Terrence Ross dragged the Huskies back, scoring 10 of their final 12 points, including a couple of threes from Abdul Gaddy assists, and the Huskies were able to pull out an important win. UCLA got a career-high 24 points out of sophomore center Joshua Smith, who was unusually active throughout, but the Bruins squandered a final opportunity. Down two, after having earned a defensive stop, UCLA has a timeout in the bank and 30 seconds on the clock. Instead of using that timeout to set up a play, the Bruins let the clock run down far enough that they were only able to get one shot as time expired. We’ve seen this on multiple occasions this season in the Pac-12 (Oregon State has done it multiple times, Arizona did it against Colorado), and it doesn’t get any easier to watch. It is just plain old bad game theory that doesn’t make a lick of sense. But, that’s a rant for another time. Also of interest in this game is that Tony Wroten sat out the final eight minutes of the game. While he was limping a bit during the game and perhaps bruised a knee, it remains to be seen whether this was a case of Romar benching an inefficient and wild freshman.
  2. California’s game was just as wild as Washington’s, but in Berkeley it was Arizona that came out on top, behind a season-high 23 points from senior guard Kyle Fogg. Fogg drilled a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:10 remaining, then came up with a huge running block of a potential game-tying three from Cal’s Allen Crabbe with 26 seconds remaining. Freshman Nick Johnson followed that up on the next possession with a swat of his own, this one on a runner by the Bears’ Justin Cobbs. But perhaps the most memorable portion of this game came when Jorge Gutierrez made a diving attempt at saving a loose ball and fell into the Arizona bench, where Wildcat assistant coach Joe Pasternack kicked Gutierrez. Gutierrez then went after Pasternack, yelling and pointing at him, and he had to be held back by Arizona head coach Sean Miller. In the end, no fouls were assessed, but Cal did appear to get some momentum out of the incident. However, the Bears were unable to score on their final three possessions, and now sink back into a traffic jam of three teams tied for second place at 7-3. It wasn’t all good news for Arizona, however, as sophomore point guard Jordin Mayes may have been lost for the season with an injury to his left foot, the same one he broke last spring.
  3. Oregon is in the group a game back of first place after they took care of Utah in Salt Lake City on Thursday night. The Ducks started slowly and still trailed to the 5-17 Utes deep into the second half, but junior wing Carlos Emory, who, along with center Tony Woods, did not play in the first half for disciplinary reasons, sparked a 10-0 run that gave the Ducks control for good. Despite missing the first half, Emory was excellent when it counted, hitting all four of his field goal attempts and all five of his free throws en route to a career-high 14 points. Utah played well, getting 20 points and four threes from junior Chris Hines, while freshman point guard Kareem Storey played his best game of his career, handing out 11 assists against just one turnover.
  4. Colorado is the third team sitting a game back of Washington, following their 22-point drubbing of Oregon State on Thursday night. The Buffaloes used a 22-9 run in the middle of the first half to build a 15-point halftime lead in Boulder, then expanded on that in the second half, running the lead out as far as 28 points in the second half. Sophomore forward Andre Roberson notched his 14th double-double of the season, grabbing 15 boards to go with his 16 points, and the CU defense held the Beaver backcourt combo of Jared Cunningham and Ahmad Starks to just six-of-20 shooting, 15 points, three assists and two turnovers.
  5. Elsewhere, Stanford snapped its three-game losing streak by handling Arizona State with ease, and the Cardinal now sit tied with Arizona two games out of first in the conference. While at the bottom of the conference, Washington State handed USC its ninth loss in 10 games and saw junior Mike Ladd earn his first minutes in five games, returning from a thumb injury that had just this week had the remainder of his season in doubt. He scored six points and grabbed four rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Brock Motum led the way for the Cougars, though, with 26 points and eight boards.
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