Pac-12 Morning Five: 10.28.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2011

  1. Over the weekend, three different Pac-12 teams played in eight-team tournaments. Arizona State, Utah and Washington State combined to go 1-8 in the Old Spice Classic, the Battle 4 Atlantis and the 76 Classic. Thankfully ASU was able to come across another BCS conference team that was worse than they were, handing Wake Forest a 28-point beatdown, but other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot to be thankful for in the Thanksgiving tournaments this year. Other tournaments this week had mixed results, as Stanford advanced to the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off and gave Syracuse just about all it could handle before succumbing in the final minutes, and USC also split its two games in Las Vegas, losing to UNLV on Friday in the semifinal, but knocking off South Carolina in the consolation game.
  2. Arizona State did get some sort of good news this weekend, however, as an update on Jahii Carson finally came through. While Carson is still not eligible to play at this point, there is at least some movement here, as Doug Haller clarified in reporting that Carson was waiting on a late ACT score to post. When that score posts, if it is high enough, Carson can begin practicing (and playing) with the team immediately. If the score is not high enough, Carson will be ineligible this season. Stay tuned.
  3. Down the road a piece in Arizona, Sean Miller is promising big changes for the Wildcats. “The same five that started against San Diego State (Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry and Kyryl Natyazhko) “will never start another game (together) at Arizona,” said Miller. Certainly Natyazhko is expected to be out of the starting lineup, although it remains to be seen whether Perry will move over to center or if freshman Angelo Chol will get a chance to start. But Mayes’ tenuous hold on the point guard position may be slipping as well, after he has struggled, handing out just three assists in his last five games. While freshman Josiah Turner has had his struggles adjusting to the new level of competition, his last few games have shown improvement and he may be ready to take over the reins. Likewise, the time could be now for Miller’s other freshman guard, Nick Johnson, who could slide in at the wing if Perry takes over in the middle. We’ll see what Miller has in mind on Tuesday night at New Mexico State.
  4. Oregon State had a fun weekend, wrapping up their week-long east coast road trip with a 20-point win over Towson in front of President Obama, among others. Devon Collier continued his strong start to his sophomore season by scoring 15 points, grabbing five offensive rebounds, handing out three assists and snagging two steals, while sophomore guard Roberto Nelson had by far his best game of the year, scoring 12 points and handing out four assists while playing under control. There were high hopes for Nelson this season, and maybe Saturday was the first sign of promising things to come.
  5. Finally, as if a 1-2 record in the Maui Invitational and a 1-4 start to the season weren’t enough for UCLA, sophomore forward Travis Wear cut his foot while snorkeling in Maui on Thursday and took five stitches. The Bruins’ second-leading scorer on this underwhelming season did not practice this weekend and will be reevaluated today to determine whether he will be able to play tonight when UCLA hosts Pepperdine at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Share this story

Pac-12 Team Previews: Arizona

Posted by AMurawa on November 5th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Arizona Wildcats

StrengthsSean Miller’s modus operandi in his time in Tucson has been to play a lot of guys every night. This year, he’ll be able to do that again; the only question may be who doesn’t find his way into the regular rotation. This Wildcat team has so much depth, there are 12 players who could rightfully expect consistent minutes. There are two players, junior wing Kevin Parrom and senior center Alex Jacobson, who are still working through injuries, but at least in the case of Parrom, he is expected to be back soon and to be a major contributor. The other great strength of this team is its athleticism, which has only been bolstered over the offseason with the addition of a highly athletic four-man freshman class of Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson. Those four may have their struggles adjusting to the higher caliber of competition, but they likely won’t be fazed by the athleticism of Division I performers.

Solomon Hill, Arizona

Solomon Hill Is Just One Wildcat Who Must Play A Bigger Role

Weaknesses. Not only do the Wildcats lose all-everything forward Derrick Williams, but they also lost their second-leading scorer from last season, Momo Jones. And for all the talent on this team, there is not one standout performer nor is there anyone who has proven his ability to consistently create offensive opportunities for himself. All four of the freshmen have shown flashes of those abilities, but they’ll need to prove they can do it consistently, just as returnees like Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry need to prove that they can handle larger roles.

Nonconference Tests.  Arizona gets their season started with the 2K Sports Classic, which will start with a game against St. John’s on their home floor at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats then will either face Mississippi State or Texas A&M to wrap up that tournament, a good test either way. A tough non-conference slate continues with a visit from San Diego State, then a tough three game stretch in the middle of December where they travel to Florida, then host Clemson before playing Gonzaga in Seattle. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.


Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Arizona Scores Big With Kaleb Tarczewski Commit

Posted by AMurawa on October 31st, 2011

Monday was a big day on the recruiting front in the Pac-12, with Arizona garnering the biggest headlines by getting a commitment from 7’0” center Kaleb Tarczewski – the sixth rated 2012 recruit according to ESPNU and eighth according to Scout. Tarczewski puts a nice bow on Sean Miller’s second-straight top-five recruiting class and likely seals up the top overall ranking for Arizona. Joining Tarczewski in Tucson next year will be 6’8” power forward Brandon Ashley (Scout’s #3 recruit, ESPNU’s #4), 6’10” center Grant Jerrett (Scout #23, ESPNU #9) and 6’2” shooting guard Gabe York (Scout #42, ESPNU #36). And, Miller’s still got a line in on the recruitment of the top recruit in the 2012 class, Shabazz Muhammad, although it appears UA trails a few others schools in that race. Most impressive, perhaps, about the job Miller has done is the fact that the Wildcats are once again recruiting on a national basis, pulling not only kids from California and the Southwest, but going back east and stealing Tarczewski away from Kansas, among others.

Sean Miller, Arizona

Miller Just Scored The Sixth-Ranked Recruit In The 2012 Class

Regardless, Miller has put together an impressive cast of characters in the desert. With his four-man 2011 recruiting class still just getting its feet wet, the Wildcats could have an impressive two-deep roster next year, allowing him to play a full ten-man (or more) rotation, as he seems to prefer. Check out this potential depth chart for 2011-12:

  • PG          Josiah Turner/Jordin Mayes
  • SG          Nick Johnson/Gabe York
  • SF           Kevin Parrom/Solomon Hill
  • PF           Brandon Ashley/Angelo Chol
  • C             Kaleb Traczewski/ Sidiki Johnson
Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 10.27.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 27th, 2011

  1. While this part of the season is largely hidden to the eyes of the normal basketball fan, it can be very important to the success of a basketball team. During practice, coaches get newcomers on the same page as veterans, build chemistry, install offensive sets and defensive principles, and work on conditioning, all while trying to figure out who can best play which roles on a team. All around the conference these days, coaches are finding out more and more about what their teams will look like this season. At Arizona, for instance, head coach Sean Miller is still trying to figure out who his starters are.  While returning starters Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry are penciled in at the two through four positions, Jordin Mayes and Josiah Turner continue to battle it out for the point guard spot. Miller will need to decide between Sidiki Johnson and Kyryl Natyazhko in the middle, saying that for now, he will not move a forward such as Jesse Perry over to play center. With four new freshmen expected to get more comfortable as the season goes on, Miller’s starting lineup may change a bit, but with ten or more players likely to see significant time, it doesn’t matter as much who starts so much as who finishes.
  2. Up in Tempe, head coach Herb Sendek is playing around with the idea of getting both of his seven-footers on the court at the same time. At the end of the Maroon-Gold game on Saturday, both 7’0” Ruslan Pateev and 7’2” Jordan Bachynski found themselves on the same team, a roster move that ASU has worked on a bit in the offseason. While neither player is anywhere near a finished product (Pateev averaged 3.0 PPG in 12.3 MPG last year, while Bachynski went for 2.8 PPG in 10 MPG), the hope is that one of the two can exploit a size mismatch when they are paired together. Bachynski, in particular, is athletic for his size and has expanded his offensive repertoire a bit since last year. Normally putting two big lumbering centers on the court at the same time could hurt a team’s ability to guard, but Sendek seems pretty confident that “both of [these] guys move pretty well.”
  3. Some teams have a tougher time getting all of their game plan installed, and at Washington a roster featuring seven freshmen has caused some growing pains, reports Percy Allen at The Seattle Times. Husky head coach Lorenzo Romar has been unable to install all of his defensive schemes yet, a process no doubt impeded not only by all the youngsters but by the absence of veteran guard Scott Suggs, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his right foot. Adding to the trouble, freshman guard Tony Wroten, Jr., has missed more than a week of practice after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last week, but due to the miracle of modern medicine, is expected back next week.
  4. Kevin O’Neill’s case is a little different than the above. In the middle of the summer he had a pretty good idea what USC’s offense would look like this year. But, when point guard Jio Fontan tore an ACL on a team trip to Brazil, it was back to the drawing board. Now, instead of pairing Fontan with sophomore Maurice Jones in the back court, Jones has to take over lead guard duties with freshman Alexis Moore as his running mate. Not only will the Trojan offense look different than it was expected to look, but the expectations on Jones are entirely different. Never one to worry about giving his players too much time, O’Neill expects Jones to play almost every minute in a competitive game.
  5. At Oregon State, head coach Craig Robinson has less turnover than most everywhere else in the conference. While he is missing two players who averaged over 20 minutes last year in Calvin Haynes and Omari Johnson, just about everyone else returns. And, for the first time in his stay at Corvallis, everybody on Robinson’s roster is somebody that he recruited. With a young and athletic bunch, Robinson expects to play more man-to-man defense than his customary zone, and he hopes to play at a bit higher pace. But for the most part, while other coaches are putting in new plays and adjusting to newcomers, the Beavers are just tweaking a style of play that most of their players are already familiar with. Perhaps that little extra familiarity can be the difference between the type of results the Beavers have gotten used to and a postseason appearance.
Share this story

RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Washington (13-5)
  2. Arizona (12-6)
  3. UCLA (11-7)
  4. Washington State (10-8)
  5. Arizona State (10-8)
  6. Cal (9-9)
  7. USC (9-9)
  8. Stanford (6-12)
  9. Oregon State (6-12)
  10. Oregon (4-14)

All-Conference Team

  • G: Isaiah Thomas. Jr, Washington (16.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.2 APG)
  • G: Klay Thompson, Jr, Washington State (19.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG).
  • G: Jeremy Green, Jr, Stanford (16.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG)
  • F: Derrick Williams, Soph, Arizona (15.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG)
  • F: Nikola Vucevic, Jr, USC (10.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG)

6th Man

Ty Abbott, Sr, Arizona State (12.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG)

Impact Newcomer

Josh Smith, Fr, UCLA: Smith is the biggest incoming recruit in the conference, in more ways than one. Ranked the 20th-best recruit in the 2010 class according to ESPNU, Smith also tipped the scales at somewhere over three bills when he stepped onto the UCLA campus this summer. Immediately, head coach Ben Howland put him in a conditioning program and Smith changed his dietary habits as well, putting him on the road towards dropping 40 pounds already. Paired with his soft hands and quick feet, the trimmed-down Smith will play a vital role in the Bruins’ attempts to bounce back from last year’s brutal campaign.

UCLA’s Ben Howland is among several Pac-10 coaches looking to make the conference an NCAA Tournament threat again after a poor showing in 2009-10.

What You Need to Know

  • Pac-10 Blues: Last year, the Pac-10 was saved from the indignity of receiving only one NCAA Tournament berth when Washington won nine of their last 11 games of the regular season, then proceeded to win the Pac-10 Tournament to clinch the automatic berth. Together with regular season champion California, the Huskies represented the Pac-10 well, advancing to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual Final Four team West Virginia, while the Golden Bears fell in the second round to eventual champion Duke. However, the Pac-10’s limited success in the tournament did little to hide the fact that last season was a down year across the conference, and with 11 of last year’s top 20 scorers, and nine of the top 20 rebounders gone, it doesn’t seem that the talent level across the conference is ready to skyrocket.
  • Stability and Youth: But, while there aren’t loads of household names up and down the rosters in the conference, there is some stability, as only Oregon welcomes a new head coach (Dana Altman, formerly of Creighton) and teams across the conference average a total of 3.2 returning starters. And there is plenty of youth, with just 17 seniors on rosters across the conference. Schools will need to see their youngsters step up quickly for the Pac-10 to improve upon last year’s showing. There is a bright side here, though. Even with five members of last year’s all-tournament team (all except the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Isaiah Thomas) and six of the ten All-Pac-10 first team members having graduated, most teams around the conference, with the significant exception of Cal, return the majority of their production – eight of the ten conference schools return more than 50% of their scoring production, and nine of the ten return more than 50% of their rebounding production. If the kids around the conference can put some of that experience they earned last season to use, this could be a much-improved conference, as the veteran coaches around this conference have proven their ability to coach up their players. There are five coaches in the Pac-10 with more than 300 career wins, and that doesn’t even include some of the most respected young coaches in the land like Sean Miller and Lorenzo Romar. While the talent level seems to be down across the conference, expect this lineup of stellar coaches to get the most out of what they do have.
  • Last Roundup: This season marks the end of the Pac-10 conference. Next year the conference will welcome Colorado and Utah, officially becoming the Pac-12. In the process, plenty of tradition will be discarded: no more home-and-home round robin and the resultant crowning of a true regular season champion, the biggest change. There will be years where UCLA doesn’t visit McKale and Oregon won’t visit Hec Ed, for instance. But in the long run, the conference will add a Utah program that has had some significant success over the years (including a run to the national championship game in 1998) and a Colorado program that, well…hey, they made a Final Four in 1955, I’m told. In any event, come 2011-12, basketball season around the conference will have a different feel.

Predicted Champion

Washington (NCAA Seed: #5): The Huskies are pretty much the de facto favorite, given that last year’s regular season champion Cal lost about 85% of its scoring, but Lorenzo Romar’s team, despite having plenty of talent, still has some question marks. Not in question is the team leader, 5’8 junior point guard Isaiah Thomas, a dynamo who is the team’s leading returning scorer and an interesting personality. Paired in the backcourt with 6’0 senior Venoy Overton (8.5 PPG, 3.1 APG. 2.9 RPG), the duo are undersized but form an intimidating pair for opposing ballhandlers, with the quickness and aggressiveness to get up into their opponents, keeping the opposition from getting comfortable in the half-court set and forcing turnovers which the Huskies can use to jump-start their transition game. They can be overpowered by bigger guards in the half-court game, but use their quickness to good advantage defensively. On the offensive end, Thomas plays with a style that belies his stature, getting into the lane and drawing fouls or finishing in often spectacular ways. The Huskies also return sophomore guard Abdul Gaddy (3.9 PPG, 2.3 APG), the second-ranked point guard in the 2009 recruiting class, who struggled finding his rhythm in his rookie campaign. Should he get his swagger back and become a consistent offensive force for Washington, they could have one of the stronger backcourts in the nation, with junior Scott Suggs (4.7 PPG, 1.2 RPG) providing depth and a good long-range threat. However, up front the team still has something to prove, given the graduation of last year’s leading scorer Quincy Pondexter and the retirement from basketball over the summer of forward Tyrese Breshers due to medical issues. Matthew Bryan-Amaning (8.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG) and Justin Holiday (5.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG) figure to start at the forward spots, giving the Huskies an undersized but athletic starting five. Bryan-Amaning will need to prove himself capable of taking over Pondexter’s role, but all signs show that he is ready for that challenge, as he finished his junior season strong and was one of the big reasons for Washington’s improvement down the stretch. Depth up front will come from 6’8 junior scrapper Darnell Gant (2.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG), 7’0 transfer Aziz N’Diaye and 6’6 wing Terrence Ross, one of the conference’s most heralded newcomers, and a guy who could be an offensive weapon immediately for Romar, provided he can earn the minutes. In a conference where the talent level is presently in question, there is little doubt that the Huskies have plenty of talent. But they’d like to come out of the gates more quickly than they did last season and prove that they are ready to win on the road on a consistent basis, something they struggled with in 2009-10, when they lost their first seven games away from the Hec Ed. Odds are, they’ll be improved in that area due to an extra year of experience for their hyper-talented backcourt, but they’ll have a good early season test of that theory when they travel to the Maui Invitational during Thanksgiving week.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 07.23.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 23rd, 2010

  1. We hope to have more up on this later today, but this article by Dana O’Neil quoting prominent college coaches (anonymously, of course) about what is wrong with college basketball is reaching an epic level of buzz right now.  There is so much good material here that it’s difficult to pinpoint the best part, but one particular quote stuck out…  “One of my players [who left early for the draft] was working out with another top-five draft pick,” a coach said. “They got to talking and my kid said something about not having money or whatever on campus. The other kid said, ‘My coach set up expense accounts all over town for me. Yours didn’t?” If we assume that the coach is referring to the 2009-10 season, he’s got to be talking about Kentucky, Ohio State, Georgia Tech or Syracuse, right?  Who is your money on?
  2. Luke Winn gets all the tough assignments.  This week he’s reporting back the Alps of Austria with the twenty NCAA players who performed the best in the European Under-20 Championships.  Ok, maybe he wasn’t actually there (we have no idea, actually), but he still comes up with a good list.   Leading the way is… say it with us, now…  Arizona’s Kyryl Natyazhko from the Ukraine.  The 6’11 rising sophomore averaged 17/8 in the tournament, which is great news for Sean Miller’s team as they bring back a deep front line with Derrick Williams, Jamelle Horne and Solomon Hill.  Natyazhko only played eleven minutes per game last year, but with numbers like that, there are signs that he could have a breakout year in the desert in 10-11.
  3. In this article, Seth Greenberg comments on the First Four expansion of the NCAA Tournament, which some folks are humorously calling the Virginia Tech Invitational.  You have to figure that the Hokies would have gotten a bid in two of the last three seasons had there been a 68-team field, so there’s probably some truth to that quip.
  4. Rob Harrington of USA Today takes a look at the summer recruiting circuit to see what themes have emerged as Las Vegas gears up with over 600 AAU teams in town for its various events this weekend.  A quick primer — Michael Gilchrist is still #1, there has been no apparent “Butler Effect,” and players are milking the process to announce in made-for-tv style events.
  5. CBS Sportsline is doing an interesting piece called the Flourishing Five to while away the summer months where they break down the top five college programs in America who are at the top of the heap in both basketball and football.  Their #5 choice is Pittsburgh, an interesting one to say the least.  The obvious choices for the top two are Texas and Ohio State, but who are the others?  Florida has to be considered among the top four, but the other one is a bit perplexing.  Would UNC be an option with Butch Davis now at the helm in football?  How about Wisconsin with Bo Ryan and Bret Bielema getting it done?  The top four should be released over the next couple of weeks.
Share this story