Pac-12 Burning Question: Arizona or UCLA?

Posted by AMurawa on January 24th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.21.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 21st, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We just had one of the most memorable weekends in recent memory in college hoops. Every game seems to be up for grabs and it’s making for an exciting season. This week should be no different as each conference has its share of important match-ups. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Cincinnati at #3 Syracuse – 3:30 PM PM EST, Monday on ESPN (***)

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Jim Boeheim’s Team Looks Great After This Weekend

  • Cincinnati barely snapped a three-game home losing streak on Saturday with an overtime win against Marquette. The Bearcats were without star guard Cashmere Wright as he continues to heal up from a knee injury. Wright is day-to-day so we don’t know quite yet if he will be available against Syracuse, though. If he is unable to play, his three-point shooting will be missed greatly against the Orange’s match-up zone defense. Although, even if he plays, the size of the Orange backcourt will surely create issues for the 6’0″ guard. In its huge win at Louisville over the weekend, Syracuse proved its size and length on defense makes Jim Boeheim’s team a clear title contender. Both of these teams excel on the offensive glass, so keep a close eye on which team is getting more second-chance opportunities and making the most of them — this could be another place where the Syracuse size makes a difference. More than likely this game will be won on the defensive end.  However, if the Bearcats don’t find a better shooting stroke quickly, this game will not be close regardless of their defensive effort. They shot 41.4% eFG against Marquette, so a shooting number like that won’t cut it against Syracuse.

#12 Michigan State at Wisconsin – 7:00 PM PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • It felt like Iowa was due for a big win at home and it happened to come against Wisconsin on Saturday. After the Badgers’ huge win against Indiana last week, the weekend loss to Iowa brought the team back to reality, but they don’t get much rest with the Spartans coming to town. In order for the Badgers to beat the Spartans, they must play their typically great defense. Bo Ryan‘s squad is 1-4 against teams that shoot over 50% eFG against them so it’s clear that they do not have the offense to go back and forth with teams. Luckily, the Spartans are not a great shooting team with nine games under 50% eFG themselves on the season. This should make for a very close defensive-oriented contest in Madison. Keep an eye on free throws, as they will be a major factor in determining the outcome. Wisconsin must play good defense without fouling; if they are sending Michigan State to the line early in each half, they could very easily drop two games in a row. Look for Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix to be all over Wisconsin forward Jared Berggren, forcing someone else on the Badgers to beat them. This should be another slugfest in the Big Ten.

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 79, California 65

Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 2013

rushedreactions

Andrew Murawa filed this report after tonight’s Pac-12 opener between UCLA and California in Westwood.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. UCLA Rebounding. The Bruins come away with the win, but the Golden Bears possibly exposed a fatal flaw: UCLA”s rebounding brawn. After something of a draw on the boards in the first half (albeit aided by one Bruin possession in which they grabbed four consecutive offensive rebounds and still came away empty), Cal destroyed UCLA on the glass for about a 10-minute stretch in the middle of the second half. For the entire last stanza they grabbed almost 50% of their own misses, and were it not for Kyle Anderson taking the rebounding load upon his back (he had eight defensive rebounds in the last eight minutes), it could have been much worse for UCLA. While the Wear twins have the size and do a good job getting into position to rebound, they struggle to secure the ball when challenged. Tonight, while David Wear was limited to just 13 minutes, Travis Wear played 35 minutes and grabbed two defensive rebounds (4.9 DR%) and just one offensive rebound (3.2 OR%) despite regularly getting a hand on the ball.

    With The Bruins Struggling On The Glass, Kyle Anderson Got To Work Rebounding (US Presswire)

    With The Bruins Struggling On The Glass, Kyle Anderson Got To Work Rebounding (US Presswire)

  1. Bruin Defense. While securing opponents’ missed shots is a massive part of good team defense, the Bruins definitely showed signs of rounding into shape on the defensive end tonight. To be clear, I’m not saying they’re a good defensive team yet, but they are improving. They held Cal, a decent offensive team, to 0.94 points per possession and showed that they’re starting to do some of the little things that need to be done to make themselves better. If opponents are able to get just about any of these guys into isolation situations, the Bruins find themselves in trouble. But they’re doing little things like hedging up on the ball-handler on pick-and-rolls, sending over help defense to staunch penetration, and rotating well on passers, among other things. Ben Howland praised Larry Drew II, Shabazz Muhammad, and particularly Norman Powell for their excellent defensive efforts tonight. Powell earned 15 first half minutes and limited Allen Crabbe to 2-of-9 shooting with three turnovers. Said Howland of Powell: “[His] defense in the first half on Crabbe was critical. His defensive effort was absolutely unbelievable. Norman had one of the best games of his career here and a lot of what he did doesn’t show up in the stats.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 97, #9 Missouri 94 (OT)

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2012

rushedreactions

It was one of the more thrilling games of the young season, an up-and-down affair featuring great individual performances, scoring in bunches, and little of that pesky defense that can serve just to ugly things up. No, this was a track meet, a sprint. And one that needed some extra distance to decide a winner.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. This is What The Buzz Was About. We spent much of the offseason hearing about how great this UCLA recruiting class was and just how high the ceiling was for this team, but for much of the first month and a half of the season, the Bruins just didn’t live up to the hype. But quietly over the last couple weeks, UCLA has gotten on an offensive roll, racking up efficient offensive performances against questionable competition. Leading the way has been Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top two recruits in this year’s freshman class, depending on whom you ask. Tonight was his, and really, the entire UCLA team’s chance to show the strides that they have made. Muhammad poured in 27 points, including seven of UCLA’s nine points in overtime, and flashed the athleticism and killer instinct that was long rumored about him. While there is still plenty of room for improvement (case in point, he grabbed just one rebound in 34 minutes of play), we’re starting to see what we expected to see. And in proximity to the rumors that had been swirling about Ben Howland’s job being in jeopardy, this win may have come at just the right time.
  2. Phil Pressey. He Good. Phil Pressey, on the other hand, was a guy who had been largely living up to the high standards that he had previously set for himself. Tonight, he found himself facing a team with an up-tempo, minimal defense in which he can thrive. And thrive he did, wowing Tiger and Bruin fans alike to the tune of 19 points and 19 assists, setting a Missouri record for dimes in a game. The assists are the big story, and they came in a variety of ways: whip-aheads on the fast break; drive-and-dish jobs creating easy looks for big guys like Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers; and crisp passes to spot-up shooters for threes. And when he wasn’t handing out assists, he was creating for himself. He knocked down a late three (one of three on the night) in the face of Larry Drew II, he got into the lane and flipped in runners, and he knocked down pull-up jumpers. Just looking at the 8-for-22 effort in the box score could give one pause, but he was everything for the Tigers, accounting for 67 of their 94 points on just his shots and assists alone.
  3. Defense? What Defense? Much of the talk during the game on Twitter was about the lack of defense being played. And, yeah, there is little arguing that this was not exactly a fine example of defensive basketball. When all was said and done, the two teams combined to give up 1.18 points per possession. But you know what? At least for UCLA, that’s something to be okay with — at least there were signs of improvement. While they allowed far too much dribble penetration, at least it was to a point guard the quality of Pressey. And UCLA forced 17 turnovers (five from Pressey) which led to 36 points, quite possibly the difference in the game. At no point is this UCLA team going to be a shining example of Howland’s great defensive coaching, but if the Bruins can bolster its already potent offense by forcing turnovers and creating fast break opportunities, at least that can help to mitigate some of the easy points they give up.

Stars of the GameThe Wear Twins. Yeah, this should probably go to Pressey. Or maybe if you really want to hand it out to a player on the winning team, Muhammad. But I’ve already talked plenty about those two. How about the Wear twins though? Though they are a pair much maligned by large fan bases on both coasts, they were both excellent tonight. Travis Wear set a new career high, knocking in 22 points, grabbing nine boards and swatting a couple of shots. His brother, despite some early foul trouble, made all seven of the shots he attempted from the field on his way to 16 points and six boards. And, while a guy like Alex Oriakhi will get more attention as the big athletic dude in the middle, the Wears outplayed him, frustrated him, and, frankly, out-toughed him. Now there’s a sentiment I never thought I’d have. And, finally, with the game on the line, it was not Muhammad, it was not Jordan Adams (who was on the bench with leg cramps after being the guy called on at the end of regulation), it was not Kyle Anderson to whom the Bruins turned in the final moments of overtime. It was Travis Wear, who responded with a nice turnaround jumper to put UCLA up three with 13 seconds remaining.

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Missouri at UCLA

Posted by AMurawa on December 28th, 2012

As conference plays looms around the corner, the last real big game on the Pac-12 non-conference schedule tips off tonight at 7:00 PM PST on ESPN2 as the as-yet underachieving Bruins take on the Tigers, currently ranked #9 in the RTC Top 25. I’ll (@AMurawa) be on hand at Pauley Pavilion to report on the action, but in advance, let’s run down what to keep an eye on tonight.

Why It’s Important: While Missouri may have some solid wins on their non-conference resume (Virginia Commonwealth, Illinois and Stanford), UCLA is very much in need of heading into conference play with something positive in the rear view mirror. While they’re riding a four-game winning streak now and the offense has picked up over most of that stretch, defensively they are still struggling. And Missouri’s efficient offensive, run by playmaker par excellence Phil Pressey, is going to give the Bruins all the test they want. The hyped freshman class of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams has been explosive, but they’ll need to prove their toughness tonight in order to establish any national cred.

Phil Pressey's Quickness and Court Vision Will Test UCLA's Unproven Defense (US Presswire)

Phil Pressey’s Quickness and Court Vision Will Test UCLA’s Unproven Defense (US Presswire)

Missouri Player to Watch – Phil Pressey: The point has been made before, but I don’t mind repeating it: Pressey is the type of player who can, even in the midst of a poor shooting night, have a positive effect on his team on both ends of the court. The most recent example of such came on Saturday when Pressey missed his first 15 shots, wound up just 3-of-19 from the field (and an oh-fer from behind the arc) and yet was still almost universally regarded as the most important player in the Tigers’ nine-point win over Illinois. Why? Because his ability to create good looks for his teammates (and yes, part of that is being a constant threat to shoot the ball) is almost unparalleled. He hands out assists on better than 32% of his teammates baskets, good for better than six assists per night. Given UCLA’s record of struggling to stop penetration, priority number one for Ben Howland and his senior point guard Larry Drew II will be slowing Pressey, forcing bad shots and making other players beat them.

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Pac-12 M5: Christmas Eve Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 24th, 2012

pac12_morning5

  1. Ever since the Pac-12 announced that it was moving its conference tournament from the regularly church-quiet Staples Center in Los Angeles to Las Vegas beginning this season, fans from around the conference have been marking their calendars. But the fact that the host venue — the MGM Grand Hotel — had never before hosted a basketball event, was somewhat concerning. However, never let it be said that Larry Scott and company do things without putting in the proper diligence. This weekend the MGM Grand held the first dry run for a basketball game, as Oregon State and San Diego broke the seal on that place. And it was a real dry run, in part because the final announced attendance for the game was a whopping 840 people in a building with a capacity of 16,800. Even after seeing a boatload of empty seats at the Staples Center in recent years, I would bet the farm on the fact that there will be significantly more people in the venue when the conference tourney rolls around (although such a bet is probably less impressive when you consider that I don’t own a farm). But, there weren’t many complaints about the arena, which is good considering there were only 840 people there to possibly complain. Oh, and OSU won but they looked terrible.
  2. Speaking of terrible, USC fell at Georgia on Saturday, slipping back to 4-8 on the year and any “yeah, buts” about their tough schedule need to get put on the back burner until the Trojans beat somebody of importance. Evan Barnes of Rant Sports is more or less on the same page as me. Both of us, apparently, have just been waiting for this talented bunch to turn the corner and play up to their ability, but we’ve both sort of given up on that. And, we’ve both come to the conclusion that Kevin O’Neill bears the full brunt of the blame. At some point, as rosters get completely remade and the team continues to run much of the same stuff to largely the same effect, you’ve got to come to the conclusion that this issue isn’t entirely with the players on the court but may partially be tied back to the guy in the lead chair on the sideline. I’m a fan of O’Neill’s blunt, honest-to-a-fault style off the court, but I no longer have any faith in his ability to get his team, no matter who is out there, to run anything approaching a good offense. While Trojan athletic director Pat Haden has kicked the task of replacing head football coach Lane Kiffin down the line a year, odds are very good that, barring a drastic turnaround, there will be another coaching search in South L.A. this spring.
  3. Meanwhile, up the road a stretch, there may be another, slightly more attractive job opening in Los Angeles come spring. Last week Tracy Pierson of Bruin Report Online referenced anonymous sources who claimed that UCLA head coach Ben Howland’s job may be in jeopardy prior to the end of the season. Howland shrugged off such claims, noting “I can’t help you with substantiating anything that’s written on the boards.” Given that Howland’s got his team starting to click, at least on one end of the floor, and the fact that finding a prime replacement while the season is still in full swing, would be next to impossible, I’m in the camp that thinks it would be safe to just ignore this report. Sure, if UCLA’s season ends at any point prior to Atlanta on the weekend of April 6, you can start tracking the movements of your friendly neighborhood hatchet man, but there’s not a chance this side of Phil Jackson that Howland’s UCLA career ends at any point prior to the end of the season.
  4. Last week, just before we all headed off to wrap up our Christmas shopping, a couple of my colleagues pointed to Utah as the conference’s biggest pleasant surprise. Well, sorry Connor and Adam, but I’ll be passing along your information to Larry Krystkowiak and he’ll be getting in touch with you to personally thank you both for jinxing his team. Because Friday night, after playing a sparklingly good first half, the Utes were outscored by 26 points in laying an egg in the second half, losing to Cal State Northridge and seemingly going out of their way to make sure that they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Still, you gotta remind yourself that this is a Utah team that has already won more games this season than they did all of last year and is still getting used to the idea of actually winning games. But man, that had to put a serious hurting on the beginning of a holiday break. One other note tangentially related to the Pac-12: One of the chief architects in putting that hurting into the Utah basketball program was CSUN freshman point guard Landon Drew, who had a career-high 19 points, including 14 in the second. Landon’s brother is Larry Drew II, the UCLA senior point guard.
  5. As a fan and follower of both the Pac-12 and Mountain West, I’ve had Decembr 25 circled on my calendar for months, not for silly things like Santa Claus and eggnog and jingle bells, but for the possibility of an Arizona vs. San Diego State match-up in the finals of the Diamond Head Classic. And, after both teams have more or less cruised through the opening rounds of that tournament, that game is finally set in stone. While teams like Gonzaga, UNLV and New Mexico will have something to say about it, this may be a match-up to determine the best team west of the Rockies. Merry Christmas, hoops fans.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.20.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 20th, 2012

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  1. Larry Drew II‘s collegiate career will come to a close this season, and UCLA head coach Ben Howland regrets not having Drew for a longer amount of time in Los Angeles. While in the middle of his senior season at Woodland Hills Taft High School, Howland offered Drew a scholarship but only kept it on the table for “roughly one week.” Wanting to keep his options open, the kid that grew up a Bruins fan decided to wait out the recruitment process. He eventually landed in Chapel Hill, a place Drew “never really liked.” Five years later the point guard is back in the City of Angels, and as I pointed out a few weeks ago, has been one of the few bright spots for the Bruins in 2012.
  2. If you felt like you were dreaming while watching Arizona knock off a top 10 Florida team last Saturday, it’s probably because of this statistic: The last time a Pac-12/10 team beat a top 10 non-conference opponent was back in 2009, when USC beat #9 Tennessee. A lot of things have happened in those three years, including the slow demise of our conference’s national reputation and RPI rankings. Perhaps that’s why coaches from all around the league were excited by the Wildcats’ triumph. It had already been a disappointing November and December with losses to the likes of Albany, Cal Poly, and Sacramento State dotted throughout the league, so hopefully the rest of the Pac-12 can follow Zona’s suit and keep the quality wins coming.
  3. With Ahmad Starks slumping and Angus Brandt out for the year with a torn ACL, Oregon State has desperately needed the energy provided by Devon Collier, both on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. Collier has been doing a terrific job coming off the bench so far this season, but he actually got the start last night against Howard as Craig Robinson was looking for more energy to begin the game. The plan worked, with the Beavers jumping out to a 14-2 lead, including six points from Collier. They still couldn’t escape their early lull, however, as the Bison jumped right back to pull within three at 20-17. It will be interesting to see how Robinson plays with the lineup in the future as Pac-12 play nears.
  4. Oregon State’s rival was also in action Wednesday night, but instead of playing 48 miles to the south, Oregon nearly went south of the border to face UTEP.  Remember when we were discussing how the conference was beginning to turn around? The Ducks set that back a bit, giving away opportunity after opportunity against the Miners before UTEP finally pulled out a triple-overtime victory. As David Piper mentions at the end, this is a bad loss. Sure, UTEP nearly beat UNLV on Monday, but that’s a Runnin’ Rebels team that Oregon had already posted a victory against. On the road. Also noted was UTEP’s 24-point loss to Vanderbilt, a team Oregon destroyed by 26. Bottom line, Oregon’s shooting woes were going to cost them eventually at some point, and that happened in El Paso last night. You hate to make assumptions bubble-wise this early in the season, but this makes the Ducks’ New Year’s Eve date with Nevada a near must-win to keep its at-large hopes alive.
  5. We close with our weekly Pac-12 Hoops Pick’em selections. Adam and Parker continued to cruise last week and now lead the competition with records of 31-6. I am currently a game behind, while Drew is stuck three games out. For our games of the week, we have chosen Stanford’s trip to Evanston on Friday night and the Kansas-Ohio State showdown on Saturday.
Game Connor (30-7) Drew (28-9) Parker (31-6) Adam (31-6)
Cal Poly at Washington Washington Washington Washington Washington
UC Irvine at USC USC USC USC USC
Northern Arizona at Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado
Stanford at Northwestern NW 71-69 Stan 77-59 Stan 65-58 Stan 74-61
Washington State vs Buffalo Washington State Washington State Washington State Washington State
Cal State Northridge at Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah
USC at Georgia Georgia USC Georgia USC
Arizona State at Texas Tech Texas Tech Arizona State Texas Tech Arizona State
Houston Baptist at Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
Kansas at Ohio State OSU 80-75 OSU 65-63 KU 78-73 OSU 80-77
Prairie View A&M at California California California California California
Northern Illinois at Washington Washington Washington Washington Washington
Oregon State vs San Diego Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State
Arizona vs East Tennessee State Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
Fresno State at UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA

 

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 89, Long Beach State 70

Posted by AMurawa on December 19th, 2012

rushedreactions

Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent and a Pac-12 Microsite writer. He filed this report after tonight’s UCLA-Long Beach State game in Westwood.

Three Key Takeaways.

Ben Howland Called Larry Drew II's Performance Tuesday Night The Best Of the Season (Alexa Smahl, Daily Bruin)

Ben Howland Called Larry Drew II’s Performance Tuesday Night The Best Of the Season (Alexa Smahl, Daily Bruin)

  1. Defensive Woes. Offensively, UCLA had a lot to be happy with. Defensively, not so much. While there were stretches of defensive intensity (mostly midway through the second half), the effort wasn’t sustained throughout the game. There were the typical things like not fighting through screens, failing to box out and being late on rotations at times, but the perimeter defense was by and large solid. The most glaring issue was along the front line. Where UCLA’s frontcourt was once considered a possible strength, tonight the Wear twins were owned by Dan Jennings on the block time and again, rarely putting up much of a fight against his power moves. The only possible hope for reinforcements up front would be if Tony Parker were to earn some minutes, but tonight, after playing 18 minutes on Saturday, he only played two minutes with the game in doubt before three minutes worth of mop-up duty.
  2. Dropping Dimes. Larry Drew II continued his excellent play at the point for the Bruins, as his redemption tour continues. Aside from a pretty brutal game against Texas, Drew has been excellent running the offense this year. With another nine assists tonight, he’s leading the Pac-12 with 8.4 assists per game. But Drew’s game tonight was complete: He knocked down open jumpers (6-of-7 from the field with a couple threes), he grabbed four defensive boards, he only turned the ball over once, and he earned the praise of his coach for his defensive effort.
  3. Comparing UCLA to LBSU’s Other Opponents. Long Beach State has played four other big time opponents this year: North Carolina, Arizona, Syracuse and Ohio State – all currently ranked in Ken Pomeroy’s top 20. Against those teams, LBSU has not been a good team offensively, averaging just 0.83 points per possession; against UCLA, however, the 49ers scored 1.09 PPP. The good news for UCLA is that those elite teams scored an average of 1.18 points per possession themselves, but UCLA scored 1.39 PPP. Take those numbers for what they’re worth – which probably is not much given the small sample size.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Best Point Guard?

Posted by AMurawa on December 6th, 2012

No beating around the bush on this one, we’re going to get right to the point as we discuss who the league’s best floor general is.

Who is the best point guard in the Pac-12?

 

Adam Butler: This is an interesting question in and of itself. When it was first proposed to me, I responded with, “What makes a good point guard?” Traditionally we say assists defines a guard and to that point you might argue Larry Drew II. Well that’s not how I’m defining my best point guard. I’m taking Chasson Randle. I love his game as I can watch him do things the other kids can’t. He gets to the rim with an ease few possess. And look, I’m going to struggle to statistically make this argument. He’s ninth in the conference in assist rate (good) and top 15 in the conference in ORtg for players with a usage greater than 24%. To boot, he’s grabbing a handful of boards (3.2) and steals (1.8) per game while playing 30 minutes a night. He gets to the free throw line, too; shooting about six per contest. Maybe I’ve gotten ahead of myself calling him the league’s best PG a month deep, but he’s my guy when push comes to shove. Just you wait and see. I like how the team goes as he goes, to me dictating leadership and that he’s indeed the facilitator of this squad. Every team needs a tone setter and I appreciate that Stanford’s has the ball in his hands more often than not.

Chasson Randle, Stanford

The Statistics May Not Show It, But Chasson Randle’s Skills May His Whole Team Better

Andrew Murawa: It’s early in the year, and early in his career, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Jahii Carson is already the best point guard in the conference, for quite a few reasons. First and foremost, he has been put in a position to succeed by Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek. While there is some talent on this team, Sendek realized last year while Carson was sitting out as a partial qualifier that he needed to put the ball in Carson’s hands from day one. He is the one guy on this team who can not only create scoring opportunities for himself, but also get good looks for his teammates. With Carson putting pressure on the defense either in transition or as a threat off the bounce in the halfcourt or even knocking down jumpers from beyond the arc (though his jumper isn’t always a work of art, he’s hitting better than 40% of his attempts from deep), guys like Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski are having their best offensive seasons in part because Carson gets them the rock in position to make plays, and in part because the opposing defense needs to keep one eye on Carson when those guys have the ball. And, while he’s struggled plenty with turnovers in the early going (he’s turning it over on nearly a quarter of all used possessions), he’s bought into his role. After exploding for 30 (while still handing out seven assists) against Creighton’s dubious defense, Carson laid off looking for his own shot against teams like Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Sacramento State in an effort to get Evan Gordon going and to keep Felix going. While he’s still got plenty of room for improvement (you can bet Sendek is encouraging him to take better care of the ball), Carson is my pick for best point in the conference as well as the most valuable individual player to his team.

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UCLA Unveils New Roster, New Pauley

Posted by AMurawa on November 10th, 2012

It was to be a celebration of UCLA basketball. They were opening New Pauley Pavilion, complete with the newly unveiled statue of legendary coach John Wooden. There were numerous Bruin greats on hand for the festivities, as Lucius Allen, Marques Johnson, Rod Foster, Reggie Miller, Don MacLean, Ed O’Bannon and Wooden’s great-grandson Tyler Trapani were all introduced in the lead-up to tipoff, while others like Tyus Edney (the UCLA basketball director of operations), Baron Davis, Cedric Bozeman, Dijon Thompson and even former head coach Jim Harrick were spotted as well. Outside they were projecting footage of past great UCLA contests (I spied some of the ’73 national championship game) on the front façade of the building. Heck, even the choice of opponent was a nod toward the past, as Indiana State is the only other head coaching job Wooden ever held. The cheerleaders and the band helped Chancellor Gene Block welcome the fans in and all was grand in UCLA land, as aside from the sparkling new facilities, the Bruins were welcoming in a talented batch of newcomers with a load of expectations upon them.

John Wooden, UCLA

The UCLA Band Meets Up Underneath The New John Wooden Statue Outside Pauley Pavilion

Then, shortly after the doors opened to let the fans in and take a poke around, athletic director Dan Guerrero met with the media and issued a statement announcing the NCAA decision declaring Shabazz Muhammad ineligible. While expected, the timing of the announcement cast something of a pall over the party. Then the game started. And it got worse. UCLA scored two points in its first seven possessions and 36 points in a 37-possession first half. Freshman phenom Kyle Anderson missed a handful of layups, a pair of free throws, and got beat off the bounce a couple of times. He did, however, deliver a couple of deft passes in the lane, each of which led to a blown layup. The Wear twins combined to remind everybody of their propensity to miss bunnies, Larry Drew II was largely invisible, and a crowd that was pumped just before tip-off sat on their hands and yawned.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 5th, 2012

  1. Perhaps the most tantalizing events of the preseason practice schedules are the “secret scrimmages” that take place between teams, apparently under the cover of darkness. Fans and media aren’t allowed to attend, but sometimes you get some great matchups between significant teams with the caveat that no one is supposed to talk about these games. Jeff Goodman at CBS posted a list of some of the secret scrimmages that different teams have played, but perhaps the biggest bout came yesterday. Just prior to the time that UCLA was blowing the doors off of Arizona at the Rose Bowl in front of a near-capacity crowd, the Bruin basketball team was across town hosting UNLV in front of, well, really just the players, coaches and training staff. You’ll never see a box score for this game, but the story is that the Bruins pulled away from the Rebels in the second half of that scrimmage for an 18-point win. My prayer to the basketball gods at this point is for these teams to meet up for a rematch, right around the Sweet Sixteen somewhere. And, hey, it might be interesting if super-recruit Shabazz Muhammad is allowed to play in that one.
  2. Kyle Anderson was able to play in that exhibition game and he’s now ready to go for the rest of the year, where he is expected to team with Larry Drew II to man the point guard spot for UCLA. While Drew is the more traditional point, Anderson is very much the playmaker with all the offensive skills that any coach is looking for in a point. Still, at 6’9” and with some defensive limitations, Anderson will likely spend much of his time this season guarding either the opposing small forward, or whichever opposing wing is the least fleet of foot. Expect Anderson and Drew to spend a lot of time on the floor together, but when Drew goes to the pine, the Bruins could be just fine playing two other wings alongside Anderson – either Muhammad, Norman Powell, Jordan Adams or the presently injured Tyler Lamb.
  3. The exhibition game is basically a secret scrimmage than ain’t so secret and also ain’t so appealing, normally coming against teams from lower divisons. Utah knocked out its exhibition game on Friday night with a rout of Simon Fraser. Sure, the competition wasn’t much, but considering that the Utes lost to Adams State last year in an exhibition, this is definitely progress. Sophomore center Dallin Bachynski, who in the wake of the career-ending injury to David Foster will be counted on in a big way this season, led all scoring for UU, dropping in 16 and grabbing six boards on the way to a 71-36 final. Utah’s season opener is Friday night, and, frankly, the competition isn’t all that much greater then when they host Willamette University. The difference then will be that a win on Friday night will actually count on the record.
  4. There has been plenty said about Arizona’s gifted incoming freshmen, but what makes the Wildcats the preseason favorite in the conference is their combination of young talent and veteran leadership. The most obvious leader for Sean Miller’s club is senior forward Solomon Hill, who has been warning the youngsters against getting too caught up in the numerous social opportunities available to them in their new environment. Last year, highly touted point guard Josiah Turner saw his career in Tucson wash out in a haze of misaligned priorities and Hill wants to make sure his new group of teammates doesn’t run into a similar situation. The vet’s presence on the team should ease Miller’s mind, knowing that not only does he have a coach on the floor in Hill, but he’s also got a coach off the floor to help keep his players out of trouble.
  5. With expected starter Ricky Kreklow out for the start of the season with a foot injury, it looks like California coach Mike Montgomery will look to freshman guard Tyrone Wallace to play a big role early. While Wallace won’t step into Kreklow’s starting spot, he will be the first guard off the bench and the head man has plenty of confidence in him, saying that so far Wallace has been as good as advertised. While his best chance at a bright future may come manning the point, right now Wallace is earning time at all three perimeter positions and should be a fixture in Haas Pavilion for years to come.
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 5th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….Tom Crean getting his due. After stepping into a situation that fits right into a Halloween house of horrors, Crean should rightfully take a full, oh, 20 minutes and bask in the satisfaction of planting Hoosierville right back on top of the college basketball world. Seriously, this is pretty remarkable. It’s not like Indiana had just been down for a few years before he stepped onto the scene – other than the freak run to the NCAA finals in 2002, this program hadn’t made the Sweet Sixteen since 1994. And to deal with sanctions and penalties on top of everything else…. soak it up Tommy, because they’re coming for you now.

Tom Crean Has the Nation’s #1 Team in the Preseason Polls (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images).

I LOVED…. finding about this awesome tradition at John Brown University, as the fans pelt the court with toilet paper following the team’s first home basket of the year. For all hype that fan bases at the big schools get, this might top them all in the originality column.

I LOVED…. how John Calipari continues to make us learn at least five new names every year. His latest freshmen class looked fine in its debut, and I’m excited for another season to see how sustainable his one-and-done championship model really is. Maybe he’s figured it out and will see more vindication this season. Or maybe we’ll be left wondering again how realistic it is to build chemistry and tourney success in six months. Chalk me up as one guy hoping for the latter.

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