Pac-12 Media Day Roundup: Part One

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on October 24th, 2014

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops.com is back for another go-round on his March to Vegas. He covered the Pac-12 Media Day in San Francisco on Thursday. Check back later in the day for his notes on the conference’s other six teams.

In Case You Needed A Reminder, Pac-12 Media Day Means Actual Basketball Games Are Just Around the Corner

In Case You Needed A Reminder, Pac-12 Media Day Means Actual Basketball Games Are Just Around the Corner

USC

Coach Andy Enfield took the stage with his starting power forward (or center, Enfield noted both), Nikola Jovanovic, and provided opening remarks lasting about as long as a USC possession: 16 seconds. It was swift and brief. He was complimentary of his fellow, on-stage Trojan, and left the rest to us. Which is probably indicative of the program he’s building. It is just year two and arguably the least interesting season during a rebuild. It’s neither new and exciting nor developed enough to garner much attention. His team is picked to finish 10th, but he likes what he’s building, “We have more athleticism, better shooting. We have an elite freshman point guard (Jordan McLaughlin) we recruited,” said Enfield. These components, he notes, are and will become major parts of what we presume is the Enfield system, aka Dunk City, aka Galen Dunk Center. The addition of McLaughlin is huge, and, without directly saying it, Enfield knows how important he is to their future, “We’re expecting big things from him. I think he came to USC for that opportunity, to be relied upon as a freshman. He’ll have that opportunity. We’re excited for him.” Which is great because I am, too! I’ll be closely following McLaughlin’s progress as his commitment to USC, rather than UCLA when the Bruins were in dire need for a 2014 point guard, is a fascinating storyline to this season. USC might play in flashes and make swift opening remarks, but they just might be a program to stick around awhile.

Washington State

Easily the most charismatic of the coaches, Ernie Kent considered himself back from sabbatical: “Any coach that has coached 30-plus years needs a sabbatical. I’m just amazed at what it’s done for me in terms of your energy, your spirt.” Energy and spirit he provided. He was colorful and funny, even having a slight back-and-forth with his accompanying star, DaVonte Lacy. The two seemed to understand the challenges ahead considering the roster in Pullman and the depth of the conference. But Lacy believes they have the unique opportunity to come together, build on chemistry and do something special. It’s something he learned in his short stint with the Pac-12 All-Star team while in China and it’s something he expanded upon when I asked him about leadership, “Being someone that’s been through the fire already, preparing [newcomers] to go through it, that’s how I’m approaching leadership.” Lacy hopes to galvanize this group, building chemistry and subsequently surprising a few people with what the Cougars can do. And speaking of surprises, can you imagine a “lost” Ernie Kent knocking on your door looking for directions? “Hi, I’m lost. I’m also your new basketball coach.” It’s something Kent has been doing in trying to energize the Cougars fan base, “I’ve tried to make myself available as much as possible… it’s been fun getting out and meeting people in Pullman.” Like I said, the most charismatic of the 12 lead gentlemen.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.23.14 Edition

Posted by Tracy McDannald on October 23rd, 2014

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  1. Let the dissection of the Pac-12 media poll begin. The league will have its media day from the San Francisco headquarters today, and the schools will be represented by each head coach and a few select players. The Pac-12 Networks and website will have live coverage, and here’s a schedule of when to expect each coach to take the stage and address the media in attendance. Who’s ready for commissioner Larry Scott’s rose-colored declaration about how the league is stronger than it’s ever been and another non-story update on the failed DirecTV negotiations? If there is such thing as suspense on this day, it will come from the predicted order of finish behind the likely favorite, second-ranked Arizona. In fact, the folks in Tucson are already wondering whether the Wildcats can run the table in conference play.
  2. Speaking of Wildcats and running the table, USA Today’s Scott Gleeson highlighted the group from Kentucky and skimmed through its schedule to pinpoint the toughest tests that stand in the way of a perfect season for the preseason No. 1. Among the contests circled was the December 20 matchup with UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic. Quality opponent and neutral court – the game will be played in Chicago – is a good start to the makings for an upset. And, as Gleeson pointed out, the timing of the game should give both programs a fair barometer and good sample size to mesh. That will be particularly important for the Bruins, who add Isaac Hamilton and Kevon Looney to the mix but are short on experience and in search of a defensive identity.
  3. The intrasquad showcases continued Wednesday as Stanford put on a Cardinal and White scrimmage. Head coach Johnny Dawkins has work to do in reloading the program’s first NCAA Tournament qualifier of his six-year tenure. It appears he has already found the breakout star of Year 7, as Rosco Allen turned heads with a winning performance in the dunk contest and 11 points and six rebounds in the 20-minute scrimmage. A team that finished in the top five in the Pac-12 in three-point shooting, the Cardinal have another dead-eye shooter to watch as Dorian Pickens edged out Chasson Randle in the contest. Randle, a first-team all-conference pick last season, led all scorers with 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
  4. In Salt Lake City, Utah hosted its “Night With the Runnin’ Utes.” After a lackluster intrasquad scrimmage last Friday, head coach Larry Krystkowiak said his team is “making progress” and has the ability to go two-deep at each position. Utah played 16-minute halves that include a halftime shakeup in the rosters. It was a good night to be on Jordan Loveridge’s team as the junior scored a combined 27 points in split duty for each squad. The forward finished 8-of-11 from the field, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, and converted all seven of his free throws. The sidebar of the night belonged to 7-foot freshman Jakob Poetl, who returned after missing a week of practice because of a concussion suffered while playing dodgeball during a team dinner at Krystkowiak’s house. The Austrian collected 12 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
  5. At Colorado, sophomore guard Jaron Hopkins is making it a point to be more aggressive. Head coach Tad Boyle, who is looking to fill the void left behind by standout Spencer Dinwiddie, said the notable difference is in Hopkins’ decision-making. Hopkins received a crash course in his first year as the Buffaloes adjusted after Dinwiddie’s season-ending injury, so the transition should be more accelerated and less foreign this time around.
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Pac-12 Offseason Wrap-Up

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 14th, 2014

With basketball season now officially a speck on the horizon, it is time to dig back in and begin the trek that will eventually drop us off at the Final Four in Indianapolis on the first weekend of April. If you, like us, have been away enjoying your summer and you need a refresher on what’s going on in the world of Pac-12 basketball, we’ll get you jump started by trying to sum up every Pac-12 team’s offseason and their big questions for this season in a short paragraph.

Washington State – The Cougars’ big offseason story was etched in stone way back on March 18 when they fired head coach Ken Bone after five increasingly less successful seasons in Pullman. After a tidy two-week search, former Oregon head coach Ernie Kent was named as Bone’s successor. Kent’s got his work cut out for him at the toughest job in the conference, but he’s shown an ability to recruit on the fly, putting together a tidy four-man 2014 class that will at least give the Cougs a chance to surround star senior guard DaVonte Lacy with some decent parts.

Ernie Kent, Now At Washington State, Is One Of Three New Pac-12 Head Coaches (Geoff Crimmins, AP Photo)

Ernie Kent, Now At Washington State, Is One Of Three New Pac-12 Head Coaches (Geoff Crimmins, AP Photo)

California – Likewise, the Golden Bears’ offseason story revolves around a coaching change, what with Mike Montgomery putting an end to his Hall of Fame career following last year’s disappointing season. Athletic director Sandy Barbour wound up with an intriguing hire when he pulled Cuonzo Martin away from Tennessee following his March run from the First Four to the Sweet Sixteen. Martin’s first year in Berkeley will be marked by a short bench, and he’s yet to have any success on the recruiting trail. Furthermore, replacing a fixture like Montgomery is never going to be easy. But Martin immediately gives Cal a completely different feel on the sidelines. Stay tuned.

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Pac-12 Post-Mortems: Utah

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 15th, 2014

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Utah.

What Went Right

For the first time since Larry Krystkowiak took over a shell of a program from Jim Boylen, Utah basketball fans had a team that they knew could be competitive night in and night out. Of the Utes’ 12 losses this season, seven were by a single possession. The talent level is clearly back to the point where the Utes can be competitive in the Pac-12, defense has become a priority, and the future appears bright.

In His Third Season In Salt Lake City, Larry Krystkowiak's Squad Began To Turn The Corner (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

In His Third Season In Salt Lake City, Larry Krystkowiak’s Squad Began To Turn The Corner (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

What Went Wrong

So, those seven losses by a single possession? Well, that’s not good, is it? Time and time again, the Utes had chances to win close games down the stretch, and time and time again they wound up with losses in those games. Their record in games decided by a single possession was 0-7. They lost all three of their overtime games. And only six times all season did they win games decided by fewer than 10 points. In other words, unless the Utes were blowing out their opponent, odds were good that they were losing. Chalk some of that up to bad luck, another portion to a young team still learning to win games, and more to some coaching breakdowns. But the good news is that if next year’s Utes can find some ways to win those close games, they should be looking at a very good record.

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Marching to Vegas: The Final Steps

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on March 7th, 2014

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas.We find ourselves on the penultimate day of the basketball season. A season, like those before it, that has seen highs and low, cliché, cliché, cliché. I’ve been critical of the Pac, supportive of the Pac, predictive, analytical, and funny. I’ve defended it multiple times and sang praise, too. I’ve linked this entire lead. But the point here is that we’re here. The calendar has turned to our favorite month. Our March to Vegas is over. Our season embarks into the madness of sudden death and the promise of possibility. Tournaments begin (ultimately two of them) with abundant hope and now I’m getting lost in Waltonian hyperbole; but if not hyperbole then what is March for? I mean, look at our first and only conference games thus far in the month. The home and road teams have nearly split their contests. To date, home teams had been winning at a greater than 66 percent clip. Suddenly we get to the third month on the calendar and nothing becomes predictable. Each of Wednesday’s road teams won and then, in perhaps the most unexpected of outcomes, the Trojans got their second victory. Indeed we’re knee deep in the madness and we aren’t even in Vegas yet.

Behind A High-Flying Arizona Team, The Pac Is Back, Right? (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

Behind A High-Flying Arizona Team, The Pac Is Back, Right? (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

But before we get there, I’d like to revisit our first thought. When I lauded that the Pac was back before nary a game was played. Is it back? Or, perhaps more aptly said, has it returned? With the benefit of hindsight, I’d say it is. Look at what we have: arguably the best crop of guards in the nation and the best defense the nation has to offer. We watched the emergence of Utah, a budding program under the hard-nosed and determined watch of Larry Krystkowiak. And have you watched Delon Wright? I didn’t see that coming and if you did, link me to what you said about it because I’d like to buy you a drink. What a phenomenal player who is coming back next season. And still has this season to play (I see you, Vegas). Further, we watched what I believe to be the best backcourt in the country. Or at least the most dynamic. Between Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, is there anything they can’t do? And if there is, they could just toss it up to Zach LaVine and it might be all right.

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#rushthetrip Day 15: Ute Revival Put On Hold in Salt Lake City

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 21st, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

Wednesday brought me back into Utah (which is quickly becoming the official home state of #rushthetrip!) for a rendezvous between the Utes and #4 Arizona. As of Tuesday, few bracketologists (including our own Daniel Evans) had Utah in the field — or even in that first crop of teams missing out — but finding a way to nip the Cats would surely thrust Larry Krystkowiak’s group into the bubble discussion. And for the once-spoiled turned long-suffering Utes’ fans (just one NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005 after making 10 of 11 trips from 1995-2005), the opportunity at hand had to make this one of the biggest college basketball games Salt Lake City has seen in the last decade.

The Young Utes Have Yet To Fully Arrive, But The Huntsman Center Offered One Of The Best Atmospheres This Trip Has Seen

The Young Utes Have Yet To Fully Arrive, But The Huntsman Center Offered One Of The Best Atmospheres This Trip Has Seen

The Huntsman Center atmosphere supported that thesis. Fans filled the sizable gym (a listed attendance of 14,266 fell a few seats short of capacity), and despite a first half that featured little in the way of positive developments for the Utes, stayed involved throughout. The student section was amazing, nearly stretching all the way from floor to rafters, a sea of red fully prepped to swallow up the Wildcats. Their consistent engagement would pay off in the latter portions of the second half, as the Utes scrapped their way back into a game that they had trailed by 12 with 13 minutes to play. I was more than happy to be forced to spend most of the final 10 minutes (plus overtime) standing behind the Huntsman Center masses. Once that Ute surge began in earnest, there was nary a seated fanny in the building; I can’t recall too many games where I’ve seen seats used less frequently. Clearly, Utah fans wanted this game.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 5th, 2014

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  1. When sophomore forward Brandon Ashley went up for a rebound Saturday night in Berkeley, his right foot came down on one of David Kravish’s shoes. It was announced the next day that Ashley’s foot was broken, shaking up the national scene and leaving people wondering if the number one team in the country could withstand the devastating injury. Luke Winn breaks down just exactly what Arizona will be missing without the team’s third leading scorer and rebounder, giving us a taste of how limited its offense will be without him. It will be interesting to see how the Wildcats perform this week at home against two of the worst defenses in the conference in Oregon and Oregon State.
  2. Daniel Evans released his latest bracket projections after the completion of last weekend’s games, and he notes that the Ashley-less Wildcats will be evaluated as a new team from this point on by the committee. Evans has UCLA moving up despite its loss to Oregon State on Sunday, reasoning that while the Pac-12 is perceived weak outside of the Wildcats and Bruins, there are still plenty of tournament-caliber towards the bottom of the bracket. Beyond Arizona and UCLA on the one and five lines, there’s California listed as a #8 seed after its upset of the Cats and Stanford as a #11. Arizona State and Colorado are both on the bubble but listed as IN at the moment, drawing intriguing First Four opponents LSU and SMU in Evans’ bracket. Oregon, which started the season 13-0, has now fallen completely out of the field of 68, but is named the “first team out”. Also published on Monday was John Templon‘s NIT projections. Templon has the Ducks in the NCAA’s, so they do not appear, but the Pac-12 is represented by Washington (a two seed) and Oregon State (a seven).
  3. While a rebuilding Utah program would be fine with an invitation to the nation’s second tier tournament, this Block U piece explains why the NCAA Tournament would be the most likely destination for the Utes. If Larry Krystkowiak‘s team is to make any postseason function above the CBI, they’ll need to nearly run the table at home and pick up at least a couple of wins away from Salt Lake City, a task that has proven nearly impossible in the first three months of the season. But as the article details, accomplishing those feats could put Utah on the NCAA bubble, bypassing the NIT completely. First things first, however, it needs to take care of business this week against the Washington schools at the Huntsman Center. Dropping a game, combined with its awful road record and low RPI, will put its longshot dancing hopes to rest.
  4. After playing four straight Sunday games to open Pac-12 play, Oregon head coach Dana Altman expressed his frustration with the conference’s scheduling in a recent interview with The Oregonian. No other Pac-12 team will have to play that many consecutive Sunday games this season, and Altman finds it unfair to both his fans’ schedules and his team’s, as the Ducks get one less day to prepare for their Wednesday or Thursday opener. In order to have all of its games televised by either the Pac-12 Networks, Fox Sports 1, or the ESPN family of networks, the Pac-12 has adopted a more flexible schedule than in year’s past, playing league games on each day of the week except for Monday and Friday. And while playing too many Sunday games is definitely an inconvenience for Oregon, we haven’t heard Utah complain about its Wednesday/Sunday road trip to Seattle and Pullman or Arizona State’s Tuesday/Saturday trip to Eugene and Corvallis.
  5. Sticking with the Ducks, junior guard Joseph Young is working his way out of a shooting slump after having as hot a start as anyone out west. Young scored in double figures in each of Oregon’s first 12 games, including a 36 point performance against Western Carolina, and a 25 point outing against BYU. But ever since conference play began, the shooting guard has battled bouts of inconsistency, with the low point coming in 1-7 performance from the field against Stanford. It sounds as if all he needed was a little quality time back in the gym to get right again, however. That, and trusting his stroke, led to a 25 point game against UCLA last week, and may spark a shot at an upset or two in the desert this weekend.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.22.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 22nd, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. With everyone around the country beating down Oregon for its recent four-game losing skid, head coach Dana Altman is instead choosing to keep things upbeat in Eugene. There’s been no locker room rampages or huge lineup changes, with the focus instead on staying positive and tuning out the critics. “We have to come together as a team; we can’t worry what people say or write,” Altman said. “We just have to worry about the next game.” That next game is on the road at Washington, and a loss in Seattle would no doubt drop the Ducks onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. Altman desperately needs to turn this thing around, and soon, to avoid that from happening.
  2. Bracketology time! BracketologyExpert is now releasing its projected NCAA field daily, and yesterday’s version has Arizona as a #1 seed, Colorado as a #6, UCLA as a #9, and Oregon all the way down on the #10 line. The conference currently has a pair of teams on the bubble, and both are from the Bay Area. California is listed IN as a #11 seed, while Stanford is the second team left out of the field of 68. Also released Tuesday were John Templon’s updated NIT projections, where we see Arizona State, Washington, and Utah on the #4, #5 and #6 lines, respectively. 
  3. This piece from The Oregonian takes a look at what the future might hold for Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson after the 2013-14 campaign. Robinson told the newspaper in an interview earlier this week that he would have to consider an offer to become Princeton’s next athletic director if he was no longer with the Beavers. He has strong ties to the program, winning a pair of Ivy League Player of the Year honors during his playing days at Princeton. In addition, his daughter has already committed to play basketball there next season. Still, it is doubtful Robinson would leave on his own if he was not terminated by the university, but the fact remains that he has yet to take the program to a major postseason tournament in his time in Corvallis.
  4. The road back for Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie began this week, although he still doesn’t know to what or where that road is going to lead. What’s most important, however, is that he is starting to attack the rehabilitation process with a determination to not have his basketball career end with an awkward step and the buckling of his left knee on the floor of Alaska Airlines Arena. There is a good chance Dinwiddie will return for his senior season in Boulder, but he noted that if his pre-draft evaluations look promising later this spring, he could still take his chances with the NBA. The Buffaloes have posted a 1-1 record in their time without their leading scorer and will play top-ranked Arizona in Tucson on Thursday.
  5. It’s been a strange season across the national landscape in college basketball so far. Oregon, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa State combined to start the season 58-0 and now sit at 58-13. North Carolina has beaten the likes of Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky, and yet has losses against UAB, Wake Forest and Miami (FL). But another odd team that has flown under the radar is Utah. The Utes are perhaps just a few missed shots away from being on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but late-game cold spells and road woes have cost them dearly so far this season. Larry Krystkowiak’s team needs to win away from the altitude-advantaged Huntsman Center in order to be taken seriously in the conference, and the Utes will get their shot over the next two weeks when they visit Arizona State, Arizona, and Colorado. 
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Pac-12 M5: 01.16.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 16th, 2014

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  1. After a dust-up last week where NBA scouts were complaining about the seats that UCLA gave them for the battle between the Bruins and Arizona, Draft Express did a poll of NBA scouts to see which schools treated them the best (i.e., gave them good seats and maybe a meal) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, UCLA was atop the heap of the schools that got negative comments. The whole article is really pointed at UCLA: You spend a ton of space in your media guides promoting your former players who are making it big at the next level, but you’re not rolling out the red carpet for the scouts and executive who determine the worth of the next round of NBA prospects. We’re not going to spend a ton of time on this, but doesn’t this whole thing seem a bit absurd? For instance, in some cases where the NBA scouts got seats that didn’t meet their needs, they had to (gasp!) ask  their multi-hundred-million dollar organizations to go onto StubHub and purchase them better tickets. The horror! Even at Arizona, which was among the schools most often mentioned as being good to NBA scouts, somebody had the temerity to complain about the price of the great seats they were given, prices which were likely considerably lower than the amount that could have been charged for those seats. In other words, forgive me if I don’t join this particular hunger strike.
  2. We posted yesterday about the Spencer Dinwiddie injury (too long; didn’t read: it sucks), but that knee injury wasn’t the only one to befall a Colorado player in Seattle on Sunday. Freshman wing Tre’Shaun Fletcher also tweaked a knee in that game, and although he returned to action after the injury, it was later determined that this injury will require surgery, costing Fletcher the next six-to-eight weeks. While this injury is not an ACL injury, it is damaging to the team as Fletcher certainly would have been due for a bump in minutes without Dinwiddie in the lineup.
  3. After ripping off 13 straight wins to start the season, Oregon is now riding a three-game losing streak, with a pair of those losses coming at home. Luckily, the Ducks now have a week where they can focus on just one game — their road trip to face Oregon State in Corvallis on Sunday. Confidence may be dipping, but head coach Dana Altman recalled the last time the Ducks went through a multi-game losing streak: the final two games of last season when they lost on the road to Colorado and Utah. What happened next? The Ducks went to Las Vegas, won the Pac-12 Tournament, and then advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. In other words, it would be very unwise to count out these Ducks in mid-January.
  4. We’ve got another big intrastate rivalry game this week to check out as Arizona State travels to Arizona tonight. Herb Sendek was asked about trying to compete against a team that is recruiting on the elite level that the Wildcats are doing right now. And, not surprisingly, he called it a challenge, noting that what they’re doing is “absolutely astonishing” and “almost unprecedented.” Put it this way; as Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com notes, of the seven players in the rotation at Arizona, five were five-star recruits coming out of high school, while a sixth was a four-star recruit. By comparison, Jahii Carson is the only Sun Devils’ recruit to earn more than three stars coming out of high school.
  5. Lastly, Utah drew rave reviews in its first weekend of conference play, taking Oregon to the wire on opening night before beating Oregon State. But last weekend on their first road trip to the Washington schools, their offense took a major step back. Tonight, as they host USC, goal number one for Larry Krystkowiak and company is to compete better on the offensive end of the court, including getting out in transition more often, something their Trojans’ opponents probably want as well. With talented offensive players like Delon Wright, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor, this shouldn’t be a problem.
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Larry Krystkowiak: Great Coach With Some Head-Scratching Late-Game Decisions

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 3rd, 2014

First things first: the job Larry Krystkowiak has done at Utah has been absolutely remarkable. This team had by far the worst assemblage (or lack thereof) of talent in major conference basketball just a couple years back. He’s scrambled to remake this roster from the smoking ruins that his predecessor Jim Boylen left behind, and he has done a terrific job, so much so that this year (and well ahead of schedule) he’s got his Utes not just very competitive but fun to watch. With a roster that will likely return its most valuable players and with more talent due in the Huntsman Center next year (and likely beyond that), the future that Krystkowiak is constructing in Salt Lake City is bright indeed. What’s more, he’s a terrific coach who gets the most out of the talent that he’s cobbled together and he’s a great game-planner. Fill in whatever other compliments you would like to heap on Krystkowiak here – he’s a fine dresser; his breath probably smells like peaches and his hair like roses; he’s a crime-stopping, upstanding citizen – yes, all this and more is probably true.

I Dunno Coach, I Just Don't Know (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

I dunno coach, I just don’t know (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

But, man, did he screw up the end of that game last night against Oregon. Twice.

Credit where credit is due: He kept his squad fighting when it looked like the Ducks were going to pull away, and he was right there with his team, scrapping and scraping to get his team in a position to take home a W in the conference opener. But, let’s start in regulation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 M5: 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 13th, 2013

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  1. Utah has received, and frankly earned, plenty of criticism over the weakness of its non-conference schedule this season. Games against BYU and Boise State are solid, of course, but past that you’re delving into teams like Fresno State (bad), Idaho State (worse), Savannah State (oh, for crying out loud) and Evergreen State (are you serious? Is that even a place?). But certainly part of the reason for that is the fact that head coach Larry Krystkowiak was welcoming to Salt Lake City an almost entirely new roster, again. Beginning next season, expect things to beef up some, as the Utes will play Kansas in a “neutral” site game in Kansas City, as well as traveling to the Caribbean to compete in a Puerto Rico Tip-Off event. Now all that is well and good, but where the Utes have ditched the possibility of scheduling home-and-homes with in-state schools Utah State and Weber State, they are now struggling to come together with BYU and extend that particular series. And that would be completely unacceptable.
  2. Speaking of scheduling, do you realize that it is now the middle of December and Oregon State has played exactly five games? How does that happen? Sure, it allows Craig Robinson to brag about the fact that his team has only lost twice so far (nevermind that those losses were to Coppin State and DePaul), but after Arkansas Pine-Bluff was kept at home last weekend by an ice storm, the Beavers are in the midst of 12 straight days without a game. They’ll make up for some of it later in the month with three games in four days as part of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, but clearly the Beavers have yet to build any momentum.
  3. Doug Haller of AZCentral.com shares a post comparing the top six assist guys in the Pac-12 and the differences in how those assists are handed out. For instance, Oregon’s Jonathan Loyd, the conference’s assist leader, hands out 31 percent of his assists to Mike Moser, and 34 percent of all his assists lead to layups or dunks. While that last number is certainly a fine amount, UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, on the other hand, creates dunks or layups on better than 60 percent of all his assists.
  4. We’re a little bit late to this unfortunate piece of news, but Stanford took a big loss earlier this week when it was announced that senior point guard Aaron Bright’s season and collegiate career are over due to a dislocated right shoulder. He’ll undergo surgery in January. His loss marks the third Stanford player lost for the season to injury (Andy Brown’s career was ended by yet another torn ACL in the offseason, and Christian Sanders is out for the year with a hip injury), while forward Rosco Allen has yet to play a game due to a stress fracture. None of this makes things any easier for head coach Johnny Dawkins as he tries to keep his job in Palo Alto. As for Bright, the high point of his career will go down as his run to the postseason NIT MVP honors during his sophomore campaign.
  5. Lastly, we’ve got plenty of good match-ups this weekend, but without a doubt, the Pac-12 highlight is Arizona’s trip to Michigan on Saturday where the Wildcats will try to fight through a raucous road crowd in order to defend their #1 ranking. Mitch McGary and company will give Sean Miller’s frontcourt perhaps their biggest test of the season to this point, while guys like Nik Stauskas, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin will test their perimeter defense. Adam Butler of Pachoops.com got together with Dylan Burkhart of UMHoops.com to preview the battle.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.11.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 11th, 2013

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  1. Arizona tips off its first game as the number one team in the nation in more than a decade tonight when the Wildcats host New Mexico State at the McKale Center. And while the Arizona team and their fans are undoubtedly excited about the honor, their opponent tonight is likely pretty happy about the development as well because they’ll get the chance to do something they don’t often have a chance to do — knock off the number one team in the country. Likewise, on Saturday morning, the Wildcats will face a Michigan team with a chip on its shoulder looking to knock the ‘Cats down a peg or two. And, really, even if and when the Wildcats lose, they’re still going to have plenty of foes looking to knock off the Pac-12’s favorite and one of the best teams in the nation.
  2. While the Wildcats are the biggest story in the conference right now, Colorado is riding quite a high themselves in the aftermath of Askia Booker’s game winner against Kansas on Saturday. That win brought the Buffaloes’ record against the Jayhawks to an astonishing 3-53 in the last 25 years. Sure, their former conference mates are one of the sports’ blue-bloods, but that number goes a long way towards showing how little the Colorado basketball program has accomplished historically. But under head coach Tad Boyle, things are beginning to change. And George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated has written a must-read article about how Boyle and the Buffaloes have undertaken that change.
  3. Up north, another strong contender in the Pac-12, Oregon, is about to get a lot stronger. When the Ducks face Illinois in Portland on Saturday evening, it will mark the final game of the nine-game suspensions to be served by sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter. Furthermore, it marks the day after the school’s fall trimester ends, meaning freshman Jordan Bell could be academically eligible on that day as well. Bell may still redshirt this season, since he hasn’t been in the mix with the Ducks yet, but for an undefeated team currently (under-) ranked at #15, that’s a whole heck of a lot of talent that is about to be added to that team.
  4. The other big name in the conference that we haven’t gotten to yet is UCLA. And the Bruins have reinforcements arriving as well. But unlike Oregon, those reinforcements won’t be on the front line until next year. Still, what Steve Alford has done on the recruiting trail in Westwood after getting off to a slow start has been nothing short of impressive. UCLA added a top-50 recruit in Australian Jonah Bolden on Tuesday. Bolden, a skilled 6’9” combo forward, joins a UCLA 2014 class that already includes five-star power forward Kevon Looney, four-star seven-footer Thomas Welsh, and European big man project Gyorgy Goloman. On a team that is somewhat soft up front this season, the influx of talented bigs is a welcome sign. Still, sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson is expected to forgo his final two years of eligibility following this season, and with freshman Zach LaVine’s stock rapidly rising, Alford may wind up shorthanded in the backcourt next season.
  5. Finally, we head to Utah, where head coach Larry Krystkowiak has weathered the storm of rampant roster turnover in his time on campus to rebuild the Utes into a competitive and likable team. Utah fans have responded in a positive way by beginning to fill up the Huntsman Center again. With Krystkowiak garnering commitments from his own top-100 recruits, expect the upswing in Utah basketball to continue.
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