ATB: Bruins Fall in Brooklyn, Chaminade Beats Rick Barnes Again, and Indiana Finds Other Scoring Options…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 20th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC National Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Shabazz Muhammad Gets A Harsh Welcome. In light of Friday night’s 11th hour news of freshman super-prospect Shabazz Muhammad’s reinstatement, an immediate upward revision of UCLA’s season expectations was very much in order. After all, Muhammad is, depending on your source, arguably the top freshman in the country, and a huge difference-maker for the Bruins’ chances of a major rebound to the upper echelon of the Pac-12 after several uncharacteristically down seasons. We got our first look at the Bishop Gorman product tonight, and the results were mostly what you’d expect from a guy getting his first taste of major college hoops. The potential was readily there — Muhammad scored 15 points in 25 minutes; the polish – that’ll come in time, with more game action and meaningful repetitions. The larger takeaway from Monday night wasn’t Muhammad’s debut. It was Muhammad’s team, and the way it dropped the ball in its first showcase game of the season. How did the Bruins, No. 1 recruiting class in tow, get worked at the Barclays Center? We shall explore…

Your Watercooler Moment. UCLA Not A Finished Product.

The debut of the No. 1-ranked recruit in the country, Muhammad, was overshadowed my Georgetown’s offensive execution (Photo credit: Getty Images).

The obligatory modifier for college hoops teams at this time of the year is one you’ve heard time and again: it’s still early. Teams need time to develop, to guess at different schematic adjustments and lineups, to grow comfortable in their respective offensive and defensive systems. This logic applies for most every team, but most of all for young and inexperienced ones. Which brings us to UCLA, and the Bruins somewhat surprising loss to Georgetown. The Hoyas spoiled Shabazz Muhammad’s debut by shooting over 50 percent from the field, getting 23 points from junior Markel Starks and unleashing sophomore Otto Porter from relative medical obscurity to great effect (18 points, 11 rebounds). UCLA looked disengaged and unorganized defensively. The Bruins didn’t click on the other end of the floor. Muhammad’s debut brought the mostly expected reality that this year’s No. 1 recruit is not – despite what this UCLA fan’s widly popular t-shirt solidarity might have you believe – a LeBron James-type basketball destroyer of worlds. If this was the Pac-12 championship game, or an NCAA Tournament contest, all measures of criticism and conclusion-drawing would be fair game. In this instance, UCLA’s first real run with a new roster against quality competition, chalk it up as a learning experience. UCLA will tighten things up defensively – Ben Howland’s coaching track record is a documental embodiment of defensive improvement. And Muhammad will learn how to play with rising star Jordan Adams. Missing out on a potential Final matchup with No. 1 Indiana isn’t the outcome Howland had in mind. It’s also not a doomsday scenario. Not in the least.

Also Worth Chatting About. Buzzer-Beating Madness in Maui. It didn’t take long for college hoops to provide us the first truly memorable slice of buzzer-beating hysteria. This one came courtesy of Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke, whose uncharacteristically poor shooting streak (he finished 7-of-21 and 4-of-14 from three) did a complete 180 when Butler needed it most. Butler trailed Marquette by two with eight seconds remaining in regulation when Clarke received the inbound pass, drove the length of the floor and netted a one-handed off-balance leaner – after which his teammates, expectedly, piled on to celebrate. The dismissal of Chrishawn Hopkins late this offseason left Butler with a dearth of perimeter scoring. It made Clarke’s transfer even more crucial. He may not own Hopkins’ ability to create and score off the bounce. What he does have is a lethal three-point stroke, and apparently one that glosses over whatever struggles felled him the previous 40 minutes.

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Breaking Down the Five Best Non-Conference Tournaments

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 22nd, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

For the first time this offseason, thanks to new NCAA legislation allowing coaches to work with their teams over the summer, coaches began official practice with a good grip on what to expect from their teams this season. This is a generally positive development. It helps eliminate some of the rust players typically carry into fall workouts, allows coaches to begin formulating and implementing tactical tweaks earlier than usual, and gives incoming freshmen a chance to leave a positive first impression while benefiting from a longer and more relaxed transition into their college careers. Sadly, this takes some of the luster off Midnight Madness, which is traditionally viewed with excitement and anticipation as the official start of hoops practice and the symbolic commencement of another season-long slate of hardwood drama. But from a coaches perspective, getting an early look at your team before the usual date would seem like a positive change of pace, if nothing else.

All the Hoosiers need to do is sneak by Georgia to do battle with a promising UCLA squad in the Legends Classic final (Photo credit: Sandra Dukes/US Presswire)

With teams starting preseason preparations early this year, some of the usual sloppiness of non-conference play should be replaced by a more crisp and disciplined brand of basketball. This hypothesis may or may not bear fruit, but whatever the effect of the rule – whether it better conditions teams for promising starts, or eliminates the intensity of fall preseason workouts – the value of an extended offseason program will be put to the test in rather abrupt fashion with the annual slate of non-conference tournaments. These little events spring up stateside just as much as they do in island states and commonwealths, from Las Vegas to Brooklyn, Hawaii to Puerto Rico, and pretty much anywhere with a basketball court, hotels and some bleachers. It’s awful hard to keep track of them all, so I’ve chosen five events to narrow your focus. Each fixture is intriguing in its own way, and a variety of factors went into constructing the list. Exciting games between top teams carried the most weight.

On a side note: I decided to exclude mega-events such as the ACC/Big Ten and SEC/Big East Challenges, as well as the Preseason NIT. Those are great events, no doubt, but they’re great events each and every year. Plus, they don’t fit the categorical purpose of this exercise, so listing them here is unnecessary. I also excluded mini-events such as the Gotham Classic, Jimmy V Classic, Champions Classic and Wooden Classic in favor of actual tournament-style events.

1. Legends Classic 

  • Where: Barclays Center; Brooklyn, New York
  • Teams: Indiana, Georgia, UCLA, Georgetown
  • When: November 19-20
  • Bracket

Before we get to breaking down the matchups, the venue – the state of the art Barclays Center, which offers a cutting-edge food-ordering app, free wi-fi and the very real possibility you might spot hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, 2013 Super Bowl halftime diva Beyonce, or both – is a spectacle on its own, an urban hoops palace taking a lead role in modernizing the sports viewing experience with unprecedented technological amenities. Watching basketball played on that court is exciting no matter what teams inhabit it. Then you take a shiny new stadium and put two Top 25 squads on the floor, both of whom will still be figuring out their lineups and rounding into form, and it’s hard to envision anyone being disappointed by the end product. If Indiana can get by Georgia in one semifinal and UCLA takes care of business against Georgetown in the other (which, admittedly, is far from a guarantee), the championship game could make for one of the upcoming college hoops calendar’s best non-conference games altogether, let alone the bracketed tournament variety. Indiana will get its first real test of the season, while UCLA may still be feeling things out with an expected freshman-heavy lineup. If I had my druthers, I’d rather see this game played later on in the  schedule, mostly because of the very real possibility that No. 1 recruit Shabazz Muhammad won’t be available due to an ongoing NCAA review of possible violations committed during his recruitment. With Muhammad, the potential Indiana-UCLA Final is a Final Four-worthy bout. Without him, it’s exciting but incomplete, insofar as it won’t accurately gauge the Bruins at full strength against another legitimate national title contender.

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UCLA Week: Scheduling 101

Posted by AMurawa on August 16th, 2012

UCLA’s schedule was just about finalized last week when their regional matchups for the Legends Classic were announced (UC Irvine and James Madison). There are still times and television schedules that need to get cleared up, but for the most part we now know their opponents. Below, we’ll highlight a handful of games and stretches of the season that could determine the eventual fate of the 2012-13 Bruins.

Early-Season Tournament: The regional round games for the Legends Classic sure aren’t much on paper, but then again, in the last three seasons UCLA has lost in early non-conference play to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee (2011), Montana (2010), and Cal State Fullerton and Portland (2009). In other words, while many will count UC Irvine and James Madison as wins for the Bruins, let’s actually see them get it done first. But, much more interesting are the Bruins’ games once they make the trip to Brooklyn for the Legends Classic. They’ll open the elimination portion of the tournament with a Georgetown team that features a group of talented youngsters before facing either Indiana or Georgia in the second game in as many days. Of course, everyone is eyeing that potential UCLA/Indiana matchup in the championship game, but most importantly, if everything comes together for the Bruins early, they could have two quality wins prior to Thanksgiving.

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Breaking Down a Potential UCLA-Indiana Final in the Legends Classic

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 7th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Playing formidable competition in early season invitational tournaments is the best way to build a solid RPI foundation upon which to base the rest of your non-conference schedule. In recent years, as teams have adjusted to the notion that non-league scheduling does, in fact, have an appreciable affect on the bubble cut line come Selection Sunday, these tournaments have provided some intriguing matchups featuring national title contenders. The Legends Classic, one of the more anticipated tournaments in the early season college hoops calendar, released its bracket Monday. The 12-team field, on the whole, is a bit underwhelming, but tournament organizers did do us the favor of setting up a potentially epic finale on November 20 at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Indiana and UCLA, after staging two regional round games on their respective home courts, will need to win only one game against a power conference team before meeting in the tournament’s final game. If UCLA can sneak by Georgetown and Indiana takes care of business against Georgia, the two surefire preseason top-five outfits will put it all on the line for the Legends Classic crown.

Joshua Smith, UCLA

The Legends Classic bracket features two national championship contenders in Indiana and UCLA (Credit: Associated Press).

That’s must-see viewing for any college hoops fan, a tantalizing early season matchup of Final Four-worthy opponents. With more than three months remaining before the bracket kicks off, there’s plenty of time to salivate over this enticing showdown. But in these news-bereft late summer months, where Midnight Madness can’t come soon enough, I’m bringing you a way-too-early positional breakdown of what figures to be one of the best non-league fixtures in the upcoming season. To take this a step further, I’ll provide a prediction, score included, as a way of sparking the debate for which team is better positioned to make good on their considerable preseason hype. Remember, Georgetown or Georgia could knock off UCLA and/or Indiana in the semifinals and thus prevent the more favorable and altogether more entertaining finals matchup. But if the Hoosiers and Bruins are indeed what most preseason prognosticators are making them out to be, they should both advance to the championship round. Still, there’s no guarantee, so take this predictive exercise at face value.

Point guard: Yogi Ferrell/Jordan Hulls vs. Kyle Anderson/Larry Drew II

If Ferrell outplays hulls in preseason practice, Crean likely will insert him into the starting lineup in time for this highly-touted matchup. Ferrell is a true point guard who penetrates and finishes at the rim, but scoring won’t be his primary responsibility this season; facilitating the group of talented finishers around him—guys like Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller—is the first order of business. Hulls has been around long enough to remember discernibly darker days in Bloomington, the pre-Kentucky upset era—faraway as it may seem—and can make up for his deficiencies on defense with experience, leadership and pinpoint three-point marksmanship. He may ultimately start alongside Ferrell at the two. Countering the Hoosiers’ duo is Anderson, one of the more intriguing skills-to-size prospects in the 2012 class. At 6’7″, Anderson poses a major athletic and size advantage over most every point guard, yet he also boasts the shrewd ball handling, court vision and mid-range touch to excel at the position. He functions efficiently on the low block, posting up defenders and finding open shooters on the perimeter. Drew II, a year after transferring from North Carolina, will challenge Anderson for the starting job. Both players should see significant floor time this season, and they could split minutes in this early nonleague tournament.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 06.01.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on June 1st, 2012

  1. UCLA and Arizona have their 2012 blockbuster recruiting classes all sewn up, with up  north, Washington mostly struck out. But all eyes begin to turn to the 2013 class, and it could be Lorenzo Romar and the Huskies who are in a position to score big. Romar landed his first verbal commitment this week as 6’3” guard Nigel Williams-Goss, regarded as a four-star prospect, chose Washington over UCLA, Oregon  State, and UNLV (a school he once committed to prior to head coach Lon Kruger’s defection to Oklahoma). While one four-star guard does not a recruiting class make, Romar still has his eyes on players like Jabari Parker (the number one overall prospect), Aaron Gordon (the number two rated power forward), Jabari Bird (the fourth rated off-guard), and Isaac Hamilton (the fifth rated off-guard) among others.
  2. Aside from offseason trouble, some typically minor tweaks to rosters and the shaping of the 2013 recruiting class, the other big news that can be expected throughout the summer is the trickling out of teams’ 2012-13 schedules. UCLA’s calendar dropped on Thursday, with the highly-regarded Bruins reopening Pauley Pavilion on November 9 with a visit from Indiana State. Ben Howland’s club will also host Long Beach State and Missouri (along with a handful of low-major schools), play San Diego State in the Wooden Classic in Anaheim, and participate in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with potential matchups against Indiana, Georgetown, and Georgia. Here’s hoping the Bruins find matchups with both the Hoosiers and the Hoyas awaiting them in New York.
  3. Elsewhere around the conference, schedules are starting to take shape. Late last week, it came out that Colorado after a year away, would be renewing its competition with long-time opponent Kansas. While nothing is official yet, both schools have confirmed that an agreement is in place for the Buffaloes and Jayhawks to schedule a home-and-home series in each of the next two seasons. It’s unclear yet exactly where the 2012-13 edition will be played, but while Kansas has had Colorado’s number on a regular basis in their meetings, head coach Tad Boyle certainly has the Buffs on the upswing and his squad should be able to give the Jayhawks a couple interesting games. Down south, Arizona has added games with Charleston Southern, Long Beach State and Southern Miss. While none of those three teams is a huge name, both Long Beach State and Southern Miss made the NCAA Tournament last year and should provide solid challenges for an already strong Arizona schedule. The Wildcats are still looking to add two more games, both of which are expected to be home-and-home series’.
  4. Continuing our tour around the conference, Oregon State is on the verge of breaking ground on a new basketball practice facility. The structure will be a four-story structure with a couple different regulation-sized basketball courts layer in with locker rooms, support areas, offices and an entrance to the facility that will feature an Oregon State basketball hall of fame. With the upgrade in facilities, head coach Craig Robinson hopes to be able to induce a higher caliber of recruit to Corvallis.
  5. Lastly, last week Pacific Takes unveiled a feature on the ten best sleeper recruits in the last decade, with Kyle Weaver of Washington State leading the way. Interesting to note that of the 14 players on the list (including a four-man honorable mention), six of the players (Weaver, Derrick Low, Brock Motum, DeAngelo Casto, Robbie Cowgill and Reggie Moore) matriculated to Washington State. This speaks well for the Cougar coaching staffs’ (beginning with Dick and Tony Bennett and continuing to current head coach Ken Bone) ability to target under the radar players and develop the talent once it arrives on campus. Given that five-star recruits are rarely going to find their way to Pullman, that is a must for the Cougs.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.09.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 9th, 2012

  1. Once again this morning, since we have got a couple other correspondents writing about the actual games at the Pac-12 Tournament, we will be focusing just on some off-the-court stuff in the Morning Five. For instance, in the wake of Josiah Turner’s indefinite suspension at Arizona, the question needs to be asked: is he ever going to be invited back? Turner picked up a first strike early in the season for being late to a team walkthrough, then was suspended for a single game and left behind from the Wildcats’ trip to Florida in December for strike two. With strike three coming at such an important time for the team, there’s a strong chance that head coach Sean Miller will find that it is time to cut bait on the talented young point guard. And if Miller doesn’t make that decision, maybe Turner, who played at multiple high schools, might make it himself.
  2. One guy who is coming back, apparently, is UCLA sophomore center Joshua Smith. Smith told reporters after the Bruins’ quarterfinal loss to Arizona that he would be returning to the school for next year rather than entertain thoughts about the NBA Draft. While some have made fun of Smith for making this statement, since he is unlikely to draw much interest from NBA scouts due to his inability to get in shape and his limited production as a result, it seems to me that the blame lies more with whichever reporter had the audacity to suggest that Smith might be in a position to leave for the professional ranks. However, Smith seems to recognize that in order to live up to his potential, he needs to shed significant weight and get into prime physical condition. Whether or not he does it remains to be seen, but he has been speaking with former Bruin Kevin Love, who drastically reshaped his doughy body since his high school days.
  3. Kevin O’Neill is also coming back. It hasn’t exactly been a secret, but USC athletic director Pat Haden made it clear on Thursday that O’Neill, whose team endured a 6-26 season, would still be the school’s head basketball coach going forward. With loads of players due back from injury next year and a couple of newly eligible Division I transfers, expect the Trojans to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid next season.
  4. In the wake of Washington’s quarterfinal loss to Oregon State on Thursday, Lorenzo Romar and his squad are left to play the “waiting game,” needing to wait until Sunday’s Section Show to find out if they make the final NCAA Tournament bracket or not. Despite winning the Pac-12 regular season title, the Huskies have a sub-par RPI of 57 and just one win over a top 50 RPI team (Oregon – a team who is currently ranked #49 and may drop out of the RPI top 50). Meanwhile, Tony Wroten, who missed four free throws down the stretch in that loss to Oregon State, deleted his Twitter account in the wake of the loss, after retweeting multiple terrible messages that he received after the game. The fact that supposed “fans” would do this kind of stuff to any 18-year-old kid is just sick. But it should also be noted that the Huskies would never have even been in position to lose that close of a game without Wroten’s career-high 29 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. I have been a critic of Wroten’s game throughout the season, but the kind of hateful, negative comments directed at him in the wake of a heartbreaking loss are disgusting.
  5. Lastly, a quick look ahead to some early-season tournament matchups for next season that have been announced in recent days. First, UCLA will be one of the regional hosts for the 2012 Legends Classic, along with Georgetown, Indiana, and Georgia, with all four of those teams guaranteed passage to the semifinal round at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Also, Oregon State will be one of the regional hosts for the 2K Sports Classic, along with Villanova, Alabama, and Purdue. Like the Legends Classic, the hosts of the early round games in the 2K Sports Classic will also earn automatic advancement to the semifinal round, with those games being held at Madison Square Garden.
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Pac-12 Early Season Tournament Round-Up/Preview

Posted by AMurawa on November 22nd, 2011

It’s a great time to be a college hoops fan. This week in college basketball is arguably the fifth best week in the season, you know, right behind the three weeks of the NCAA Tournament and the week of the conference championships. We’ve got a chance to see teams, often for the first time, matched up with other schools from disparate corners of the country in tournament play, with the opportunities for teams to snag resume-boosting wins in rapid-fire fashion. Sure, we’ve already got a few tournaments wrapped up, and there are even a handful that come along later, but for the most part we’re right in the wheelhouse for the early season tournaments. So, we’ll take a quick look at all the Pac-12 teams and either preview or review the early season tournaments that each team is participating in.

  • Arizona – The Wildcats got things started right off the bat with an appearance in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. After dispatching of Valparaiso and Duquesne in the first week of the season, they rallied from behind in the semifinal against St. John’s to advance to the championship game, but folded down the stretch there, losing to Mississippi State.
  • Arizona State – The Sun Devils are in Orlando over the Thanksgiving weekend for the Old Spice Classic. They’ll get things started with Fairfield, expected to battle Iona for the MAAC title this year, before facing either Dayton or Wake Forest on Friday.  Texas Tech, Indiana State, Minnesota and DePaul make up the other side of what looks to be a relatively weak bracket, but given ASU’s poor start to the season, expecting them to do much damage in Orlando seems to be a pipe dream.
  • California – The Golden Bears are in the middle of the CBE Classic tournament in Kansas City this week, where they will play Missouri tonight in the championship game at 7 PM PST. They got to the final by demolishing Georgia last night 70-46, after handling George Washington and Austin Peay with ease in Berkeley last week.
Brandon Smith, California

Brandon Smith And The Cal Bears Take On Missouri In The Finals Of The CBE Classic Tonight

  • Colorado – A seventh place showing in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off wasn’t what Buffalo head coach Tad Boyle had in mind, but that’s exactly what he got last weekend, after dropping the first two games of the week to Wichita State and Maryland in relatively close games before taking care of Western Michigan to avoid a winless trip to the tropics.
  • Oregon – The Ducks spend their tournament time in something called the Global Sports Hoops Showcase, December 20-22 in Eugene, with games against North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin doing absolutely nothing to help their at-large chances. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.22.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 22nd, 2011

  1. The Pac-12 announced their weekly honors on Monday, just as we here at RTC did, and clearly the choice this week was a no-brainer as Jared Cunningham nabbed his first conference Player of the Week honor. For the week, Cunningham was 24-41 from the field and 38-47 from the line in two games, setting a career high with 35 points against Hofstra and then breaking it the next time out with 37 against Texas. But back to that free throw number again – 47 free throws attempted over three games! While Cunningham has not been a consistent jump shooter over his career, he has been solid from the line (77.9% last year). If he can continue to get to the line with anything approaching that regularity, he’ll be a conference player of the year front-runner.
  2. Oregon State took Vanderbilt, the #17 team in the country according to RTC’s latest poll, down to the wire Monday night at the final of the Legends Classic in New Jersey. However, a Brad Tinsley jumper with five seconds remaining put the Commodores over the top and left Beaver fans cold. Vandy senior forward Jeffery Taylor harassed Cunningham all game long, limiting him to just nine field goal attempts, five trips to the line and nine total points, while forcing seven turnovers. Sophomore forward Devon Collier continued his strong early season efforts with 19 points, five rebounds and four blocks, but sophomore point guard Ahmad Starks went a little nuts, hoisting 20 shots on his way to 16 points. Nevertheless, OSU proved its mettle, showing that they are able to hang with Top 25 teams and looking for all the world like a potential NCAA Tournament team. Of course, there are still almost four months to Selection Sunday, so Craig Robinson’s team will need to continue to improve.
  3. Bummed that you had to hunt around to find that OSU game on television tonight? Well, this is the last year you will have to do that. The Pac-12 is in the final year of its current television contract, with its new multi-billion dollar agreement kicking off next year that will include a national network and six regional networks. The Pac-12 promises that every football and men’s basketball game will be televised nationally, meaning that next year if you’re just dying to watch Morgan State at USC on a Tuesday night in November, you will be able to find that game somewhere..
  4. After four games, USC is 1-3, despite the fact that they have held its first four opponents to 55.2 points per game, 31.3% shooting from the field (and to get a little bit more righteous with advanced stats, a 36% effective field goal percentage and 0.87 points per possession). However, the Trojans are lagging far behind on the offensive end, posting an eFG% of 41.2% (good for 291st in the nation), just 54.2 points per game (327th in the nation), 0.85 points per possession and an offensive efficiency rating that places them 274th in the nation. Obviously, head coach Kevin O’Neill is quite pleased with the defensive end of the court, calling it “about as good as it can be” and “some of the best in the country,” but they’ll need to come up with some kind of answers on the offensive end in order to start turning those losses into wins.
  5. The season isn’t even two weeks old, and already we’ve had a boatload of behavioral problems around the conference. There are the ongoing issue with Reeves Nelson (who had one points in 11 minutes in UCLA’s unimpressive Maui Invitational win against Chaminade), the defection of Oregon’s stud freshman Jabari Brown after just two games, and some immaturity with Arizona freshman point guard Josiah Turner that led to him being benched for the Wildcats’ third game. Well, apparently Turner’s problems aren’t the only ones in Tucson, as it was announced on Monday night that Sean Miller had suspended freshman center Sidiki Johnson indefinitely for violations of team policy. Luckily the Wildcats have plenty of depth, so Miller feels free to lay down the law with his freshmen, a step I wish more coaches would take.
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RTC Live: Legends Classic Finals & Consolation

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2011

RTC Live is back at the IZOD Center this evening for another double-header involving four teams with a lot on the line in the early going of this season. In the third place game, Texas will face NC State, followed by the championship game featuring Vanderbilt and a surprising Oregon State squad.  Join us for the conversation on a busy Monday of Feast Week, after the jump.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.21.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 21st, 2011

  1. Let’s face it. It has been an ugly start to the season for the Pac-12 conference. Bad losses have been piled upon off-the-court problems and injuries to create some struggles out of the gate. The UCLA losses are the poster children for this epidemic, while Utah and Arizona State, to name just two, haven’t done much to help either. All that being said, Saturday night’s USC game was a new low. It’s not just that the Trojans lost to Cal Poly, a team that is a halfway-decent, middle-of-the-road Big West team. It is the manner in which the Trojans lost. They scored 36 points in the game. They scored 16 points in the second half (which, really, was only slightly worse than the first half). It’s not like they had a ton of possessions (roughly 54), but still, that works out to 0.67 points per possession. They turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions, and when they didn’t turn it over, they posted a 32.9% eFG. They only grabbed 65.7% of available defensive rebounds and just 16.7% of available offensive rebounds. Their best player, sophomore point guard Maurice Jones hit just one out of 11 field goal attempts, and now has just a 29.7% eFG this season. The good news is that there are some good young players on this USC squad which should provide a good foundation upon which to build this program; the bad news is, Trojans fans might need eyeball replacement surgery if they watch too much of this team this season.
  2. Washington had a bad day from start to finish on Sunday. It started out with the Huskies getting absolutely taken apart by Saint Louis in the morning, a game in which they fell behind by 25 points at the half before making a bit of a run at the end to only lose by 13. While the Billikens are a very good team and played a terrific game Sunday morning, the Huskies were exposed in their first loss. First and foremost, the relentless ball screening by SLU caused Washington all sorts of problems defensively, creating wide-open looks for threes and clean entry passes into the post. Secondly, because the Huskies were forced to take the ball out of the net so many times, they were forced to play a lot of halfcourt offense and struggled to get good looks out of their sets. Really, we know that the Huskies are going to improve as the season goes on and SLU is some good competition so this is by no means a crushing loss, but it does mean that the Huskies will be working their tails off in practice this week. Still, the long day wasn’t done for the Huskies when the final whistle blew because their flight back to Seattle was forced to make an emergency landing in Spokane and wait for an hour for the next jump back home.
  3. Colorado wrapped up their disappointing weekend in Puerto Rico on Sunday by salvaging seventh place in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a win over Western Michigan. The Buffaloes were able to seal the win despite playing much of the game without sophomore forward Andre Roberson, who fouled out in just 11 minutes of game action. Senior forward Austin Dufault and sophomore center Shane Harris-Tunks picked up the slack for Roberson on the glass, each snagging eight rebounds, while senior wing Carlon Brown did the bulk of the scoring, hitting  eight of his 14 field goal attempts for 23 points while adding six rebounds and four assists. The win sends the Buffs home with at least something to feel good about, despite dropping winnable games in the first two rounds against Wichita State and Maryland.
  4. Just when you thought the Reeves Nelson soap opera at UCLA was done (at least until the next thing goes wrong on the court), Nelson missed the team bus to the airport on Saturday for the team’s flight to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. He was allowed to take a later flight to Maui and is expected to play today when the Bruins start the tournament by playing the host, Chaminade. Head coach Ben Howland also confirmed on Sunday that the whole Nelson suspension thing was first started when he was late for a team meeting the day after the Bruins’ season opening loss to Loyola Marymount.
  5. Oregon State is in the middle of an 11-day, three-game east coast trip, and got their travels off to a good start on Saturday night with an overtime win over Texas in the semifinals of the Legends Classic. We’ll have more on the Beavers later today, but this morning we wanted to share with you a peek inside their program from the perspective of the players, specifically senior Kevin McShane and sophomore Roberto Nelson (collectively McBert, apparently) who are keeping a blog about their road trip. The first entry gives you a glimpse at the practice and travel schedule of college athletes, while the second captures the emotions following their big win on Saturday night. Great stuff from an otherwise dismal Pac-12 landscape this weekend.
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