Pac-12 M5: 02.13.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 13th, 2013

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  1. The roster for the 2013 Jordan Brand Classic was announced yesterday, with two Pac-12 signees making the cut. Future Arizona power forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson highlights the pair of future Pac-12 stars, choosing to sign with the Cats last September after turning down the likes of Florida, Syracuse, and Temple, among others. Longtime Washington signee Nigel Williams-Goss will also compete in the game, showing off his elusive ball-handling skills to the rest of the nation. The four-star point guard’s offer list was highlighted by UCLA, UNLV, and Oklahoma, but he eventually chose to stay near his original home in the Northwest and play for Lorenzo Romar’s Huskies. The Classic is one of the more interesting and compelling high school showcases out there, and will feature an International and Regional game in addition to the All-America Game on April 13 in New York City.
  2. BruinsNation takes a look in this piece how UCLA‘s current recruiting class would fare if head coach Ben Howland were fired sometime between now and April. With two high-level four star prospects already committed to the UCLA program and not necessarily Howland in particular, it would be a priority for the next Bruins coach to work on keeping Zach LaVine and Allerik Freeman on board. After keeping those two, then it would be time to go after either Gavin Schilling or Rysheed Jordan, as the article states.
  3. Whether Oregon point guard Dominic Artis has a doctor’s appointment, walks around in a boot, is listed as “doubtful,” or simply isn’t heard from for a day, the status of the star ball-handler is a news-worthy event. And yesterday was another rough one for Ducks fans in the now two and a half week rollercoaster ride regarding Artis’ health that they’ve been on. Artis is doubtful to play against Washington tonight in Seattle, as he was seen walking with a boot at practice on Tuesday. The Ducks were able to rally behind each other last time they faced the Huskies without Artis, which was the first the game the freshman missed in this run. If they can do it a second time tonight, it would be a huge help for Oregon’s Pac-12 championship hopes.
  4. Does Lorenzo Romar still think his Huskies have a shot at an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament? As unlikely as it sounds, Romar alludes to it without actually saying it (probably to avoid getting laughed at) in response to the first question given at his weekly radio show. While the Dawgs have some good wins so far in the 2012-13 campaign, they are so far off the NCAA bubble that anything less than a 6-1 finish to the regular season and a win in the Pac-12 Tourney would likely keep them from dancing for the second straight season.
  5. We close with the rebirth of our weekly Pac-12 Hoops Pick’em selections. We pick up the standings with Adam out in front, hanging on to a two game lead over Parker. Drew and I are further back, to say the least, and need to do some major work in the next couple weeks to have a chance. For our games of the week, we have chosen Arizona’s trip to Boulder on Valentine’s night and the Georgetown-Cincinnati showdown that will be played the following evening.
    Game Connor (53-21) Drew (54-20) Parker (56-18) Adam (58-16)
    Arizona State at Utah Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
    Oregon St at Washington St Washington State Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State
    Oregon at Washington Washington Oregon Oregon Oregon
    UCLA at California California UCLA UCLA UCLA
    Arizona at Colorado UA 75-70 UA 68-60 CU 78-72 UA 72-58
    USC at Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
    Georgetown at Cincinnati GU 68-66 GU 71-70 GU 67-64 GU 66-63
    UCLA at Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
    Oregon at Washington State Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
    Arizona State at Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado
    Oregon State at Washington Washington Washington Washington Washington
    Arizona at Utah Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
    USC at California California USC California California
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Pac-12 M5: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 31st, 2013

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  1. Losses to teams like Albany and Utah yet victories over the likes of Stanford and Colorado have Washington fans confused and wondering what the next step is for a program with potential and frustration at every turn. The immediate future likely holds an NIT berth for the Dawgs, but as The Husky Haul points out, this year’s recruiting class could answer the question of when Washington returns to national prominence, and if Lorenzo Romar is the one to lead it there. Landing Archbishop Mitty (CA) wing Aaron Gordon would be a big first step in that direction, as the five-star senior has the bounce and athleticism to turn a team around instantly. At the moment, however, the Huskies have more important things to worry about, as number eight Arizona comes calling tonight in Seattle.
  2. Behind Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, and Brandon Ashley, Gabe York played a bit of the role of “forgotten freshman” early in the 2012-13 season. But York has improved his play significantly the past couple of weeks in practice, and he has continued his success in game situations. The freshman guard dropped a pair of threes on Saturday against USC en route to a career high seven points in Arizona‘s 24-point thrashing of the Trojans. As the feature points out, York needs to step up his play on both ends of the court (averaging just 0.2 SPG) before he sees any extended action for the Cats. But you can never be too deep once we hit the home stretch of the season, and York provides a nice option on Sean Miller’s bench.
  3. Drew noted yesterday of yet another Pac-12 Player of the Week award for Arizona State wing Carrick Felix, and House of Sparky takes a wider look here at how the senior has led the Sun Devils from a 10th place finish last season to the NCAA bubble in 2012-13. Felix’s constant positivity and willingness to give up some of his touches to freshman Jahii Carson has paid dividends for Arizona State, as the Sun Devils find themselves at 16-4 and 5-2 in conference play heading into the final month and a half of basketball. The duo is now one of the most fun to watch in the league, as opposing defenses have to continually be on high alert for a streaking or backdooring Felix awaiting a dime from Carson. And then there’s this, which is on the short list for my favorite play of the season thus far. The Sun Devils visit Pullman tonight and will look to add to their two-game winning streak.
  4. DISASTER. For once, that’s not exactly hyperbole surrounding the UCLA hoops program. In front of a lackluster blued-out crowd at the new Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday, Bruin fans felt extra blue as they fell behind by as many as 15 points and were upset by crosstown rival USC in overtime. UCLA is still safely in the field of 68 at this point, but it has to be careful in eight days when Washington comes calling. Another trip-up against the Huskies would mean a three-game skid and the rumblings would be back in earnest in the Los Angeles basin.
  5. Utah will honor the late Rick Majerus on Saturday by hanging a replica sweater inside the Huntsman Center during its “rivalry” game with Colorado. Majerus took the Utes to seven NCAA Tournaments while in Salt Lake City and will be the first coach honored with a retirement ceremony by the university. “We need Rick in the building. The sweater is going to be there and some of what he has created around here,” current head coach Larry Krystkowiak said about the pending events.
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Are Washington’s At-Large Hopes Dead?

Posted by AMurawa on January 24th, 2013

A week ago at this time, Washington was in the midst of confusing Pac-12 pundits, having locked down Colorado on their way to its fourth straight win to start Pac-12 play. At that time, despite some ugly non-conference performances that included losses to Albany and Nevada along with blowout losses to Colorado State and Ohio State, the Huskies were firmly in the conversation for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament field. Granted, that conversation is little more than bluster at this point in the season, but improbably, and with not a little help from a general mediocrity in the middle of the pack nationally, the Huskies were in that conversation. And then they came out Saturday night and laid an egg against Utah, never leading in the game and riding poor shooting and a disinterested defense to a nine-point home loss. And then last night, they went on the road to Corvallis against a team without a conference win and, yup, you guessed it, went a long way towards repeating that effort. They trailed by as many as 20 in the first half and, despite a late run, again never led in the game. So, are the Huskies’ at-large hopes officially dead?

Lorenzo Romar, Washington

After A Strong Conference Start, A Couple of Bad Losses Leave Washington In Trouble (Geoffrey McAllister, AP)

According to Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology, Washington is among the first four teams out. Andy Glockner’s most recent Bubble Watch includes the Huskies still in the mix. Both of those were published before the Oregon State loss, but one road loss in conference play in the middle of January is by no means enough to eliminate a team from Tournament contention. The Huskies still have two-thirds of their conference schedule ahead of them and with six games against Oregon, Arizona and UCLA remaining, they’ve got plenty of chances to add big wins in the future. And, with teams like BYU, Iowa, Indiana State and Texas A&M hanging around the bubble, there is plenty of room for a team with UW’s current flawed resume to remain in the discussion, with a couple of caveats. First, losses to the back end of the Pac-12 need to cease. The Huskies play Oregon State and Washington State once more and they’ve still got USC on the schedule twice; those all need to be Ws. Secondly, they need to score a couple of good conference wins against those three top teams. Their best chances will be at home, but it sure wouldn’t hurt the Huskies’ resume if they could go on the road and steal a win, like for instance, against Oregon on Saturday (and, if they did that, UCLA and Arizona would probably send the Huskies’ a nice gift basket or something). Long story short, despite a mediocre 12-7 record with some befuddling losses mixed in there, the Huskies aren’t dead yet. But man, do they have a lot of work to do.

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Marching to Vegas: Washington Out-Frustrating Opponents on Road to 4-0

Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

A few months ago, while watching a dog-days, locally-broadcast San Francisco Giants game with my roommate, we witnessed a four-pitch walk. As former baseball players, we both recognized the innate frustration within the competitive-less play. And seeing as this was a local and homered broadcast, our own commentary was necessary and grew into a conversation about the most frustrating plays in sport. Quickly we came up with the following list: offensive rebound, double fault, gutter ball, three-and-out, charge, catcher’s interference, missed PK, bases loaded double play, shorthanded goals, a member bounce. Sports have a manner of ripping your heart out in a moment’s notice and a manner of getting your hair out of your scalp.

Aziz N'Diaye Contests A Shot From Colorado's Xavier Johnson (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

Aziz N’Diaye Contests A Shot From Colorado’s Xavier Johnson (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

But back to the list and its first item. On Wednesday I watched the new look Washington Huskies grind their way to a fourth consecutive Pac-12 win. That game turned into a defensive battle, one that the Huskies managed to maintain a lead in largely due to the remarkable talents of C.J. Wilcox (23 PPG in conference, 25 against CU). But Tad Boyle, along with every other Buff quoted in this article, spoke extensively on the gut-wrenching, game-wrecking, momentum-sucking offensive rebounds collected by UW. On the whole, 15 were collected by the purple team who grab those annoyances at a 38% clip – best in the conference. Following that game, I got to discussing momentum and its inability to be quantified. We can understand possession-by-possession efficiencies and their effect on a game. However – and this is where it gets interesting – can we quantify that ill-advised three that drops and blows the roof off? The charge that leads to a four-point swing? The open-court dunk? These can be moments that define games and sometimes seasons (we’ll see just how that monitor discussion ultimately affects Colorado). And while a solitary offensive rebound isn’t going to define a ton, regularly collecting them could. It’s debilitating to an opponent’s game plan and just a good old ass pain. But among the top 30 offensive rebounding teams in the nation (by rate), just 13 are ranked teams. Looking deeper into, say, upsets, Oregon was outrebounded by Arizona whilst beating them. Wisconsin was doubled on the offensive boards by Indiana in Bloomington on Tuesday night; yet the Badgers still managed to win.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 M5: 01.18.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. The likely brief Bob Cantu era begin at Southern California last night and, while his Trojans showed plenty of resiliency in sticking around with Oregon and fighting back from a late ten-point deficit to have a chance (okay, more like four chances, three of them point-blank) in the waning moments to win or send the game to overtime, his first game of his interim stretch still goes down in the record book as a loss. For the Top 25 Ducks, they escape the trap game in advance of this weekend’s more celebrated match-up with UCLA, but of concern is their seemingly newfound ability to take comfortable late-game leads and turn them into significantly uncomfortable late-game battles. Certainly much of that has to do with their freshman backcourt, but if UO wants to compete seriously for a Pac-12 title, they need to begin closing games more effectively.
  2. Earlier, up town a piece, UCLA was displaying a similar trait, although nowhere near as dramatically. For at least the fourth time in their five Pac-12 wins, the Bruins surged out to a comfortable lead, only to ease off the gas and let an overmatched opponent back into the game, this time against Oregon State. With the Ducks waiting on Saturday, that will not be an option. Aside from the game, there were other big goings-on at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night, as Jamaal Wilkes became just the eighth player to have his jersey retired at UCLA. On hand for the festivities were other such Bruin luminaries as Bill Walton (who handled the color duties for the ESPN broadcast), Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Mike Warren and Marques Johnson.
  3. The Oregon/UCLA game isn’t the only big-time Pac-12 game this weekend, as Arizona and Arizona State will square off in the battle for the Grand Canyon State Saturday as well. After ASU experienced a couple of very down years, they’re back in the mix in the conference, and their improvement on the defensive end is a large reason. Almost completely forsaking the match-up zone of the past, Herb Sendek has turned his team loose in man-to-man defense with athletic perimeter guys like Jahii Carson, Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon harassing ball-handlers and Jordan Bachynski cleaning up anyone that siphons through.
  4. Washington maybe the biggest story in the early going of conference play off of four straight wins to open Pac-12 in surprising fashion. Ben Knibbe of the UW Dawg Pound writes that the difference between the currently streaking Huskies and the team that lost to Albany and Nevada is that they’re finally beginning to play man-to-man defense at the level expected of Lorenzo Romar-coached teams. Part of that is due to veterans completely buying in, part of it is due to great team chemistry, but whatever the cause, so long as the defense remains a priority, expect the Huskies to keep on winning.
  5. We started the week with the Kevin O’Neill news, and its been a constant theme all week, so we might as well wrap it up by touching on it one last time. Pat Haden told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that not only is USC ready and willing to spend what it takes to land a big-name coach, but that he’s already had contact with people who are potentially interested in the job. But we’re all just going to have to wait and see what happens, because as Haden acknowledged, the guys that he is after aren’t going to be ready to commit to USC until after their NCAA Tournament runs are complete.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Since the firing of Kevin O’Neill on Monday morning, coaches on the hot seat are on the minds of many around the conference. Bud Withers of The Seattle Times points to Craig Robinson, Johnny Dawkins and Ken Bone as the three remaining Pac-12 coaches most likely to be relieved of their duties following the season, and one of the factors that could play a part in their departures is the relative disinterest of the fan bases, especially at Stanford and Washington State, where small crowds have become a theme. Of note is that Ben Howland is missing from Withers’ list, but rest assured, barring a deep run in the NCAA Tournament (meaning at least past the first weekend), Howland’s position will be reevaluated once the season ends.
  2. Continuing to mine that O’Neill theme, the Arizona Daily Wildcat has a piece about how the state of UA basketball could have been much different had previous events turned out differently. To begin with, O’Neill was the interim head coach at Arizona when Lute Olson took his leave of absence in 2007-08, and, were it not for a change of heart on Olson’s part, the plan was to make O’Neill the head man when Olson retired. When that plan fell through, O’Neill wound up free to take the USC job when Tim Floyd abruptly resigned in the wake of recruiting allegations. And, in that whole regime change, guys who had been committed to USC, namely Derrick Williams and Momo Jones, wound up de-committing and instead enrolling at Arizona, became key cogs in the 2011 Elite Eight team. Solomon Hill was also at one point committed to Tim Floyd and USC, but he backed out of that and switched his allegiance to Arizona prior to the coaching change. In short, were it not for a couple simple twists of fate involving O’Neill, the present face of Arizona basketball would look significantly different.
  3. Aside from that, you know, we actually had some games in the conference tonight. Where Wednesday games were sort of a one-off rivalry-game-only type of thing in the past, these are a regular occurrence every week this year. It takes some getting used to, sure, but really, basketball spread out more evenly through the week? I ain’t complaining. Washington State kicked things off last night by raining down fire from deep on Utah on the way to the Cougs’ first conference win of the season. Coug Center’s got your round-up of all the action, including Mike Ladd’s career night. It’s worth noting that Ladd is starting to pick up the pace offensively and it is he, rather than more popular possibilities like DaVonte Lacy or Royce Woolridge, who has stepped up as the second option on this team behind Brock Motum. Ladd has now scored in double figures in five straight games, averaging better than 16 points per night over that span.
  4. As Sabatino Chen’s desperation three-pointer banked in at the buzzer at the end of Colorado’s conference opener, it appeared that the Buffaloes were ready to be a serious contender for the Pac-12 title. Almost literally since that exact moment, not much has gone right for CU. Moments later, that shot was perhaps erroneously waved off. Soon thereafter the Buffs folded in overtime of that game. And since that night, they’ve proceeded to drop three of their next four, stumbling to a 1-4 conference start, including last night’s 10-point loss at Washington. But, while Colorado gets much of the attention for their sudden failures, the Huskies are out to a surprising 4-0 conference start. But, as Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times notes, while past Husky teams have made their mark with style and flair, this vintage of UW is getting it done with grit, hustle and smarts. And, perhaps not coincidentally, they’re overachieving this year, as opposed to their almost annual recent underachievements.
  5. Lastly, on a day that wasn’t all that great for Oregon sports, there was bad news for the basketball program as well when it came to light that the prep school that 2013 recruit Cristiano Felicio is currently attending may be under scrutiny for its legitimacy as an educational institution. And, the crazy part about this story is that may not be the worst part about it. Aside from possibly being little more than a scam perpetrated on talented basketball players, the president of the school is under investigation for physically abusing some of the schools players by subjecting them to “hands and feet bound with zip ties” and “clothes pins attached to their nipples.” Yikes.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.16.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2013

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  1. We are still probably a couple months away from when USC will announce its next head coach, but everybody’s got an opinion about who that might be. I tossed out the usual suspects and a few sleepers a few days ago, but Andy Katz, who’s certainly far more tied in than I, has a few interesting big name possibilities of his own: Texas’ Rick Barnes, Villanova’s Jay Wright and Washington’s Lorenzo Romar. Katz’s reasoning is that these are all guys who might want to get out of their current jobs ahead of getting fired in exchange for a nice brand new contract and a new landscape, citing Herb Sendek as a real pioneer in this field. While I don’t see Romar as approaching the hot seat yet (although, if he doesn’t land Aaron Gordon, maybe we can talk about that possibility approaching), it is an interesting angle. And, given that Romar is a native southern Californian, anything is possible.
  2. Whoever winds up in the USC job is going to have to do a much better job mining the copious amounts of basketball talent in the Los Angeles area than Kevin O’Neill ever did. In fact, they’re probably going to have to do a better job than even Ben Howland is currently doing at UCLA. As friend-of-the-blog Adam Butler writes, those Los Angeles schools have done a terrible job in recent years keeping elite local talents at home, citing guys like James Harden, Jordan Hamilton, Kawhi Leonard, and Derrick Williams as kids who got away. If Pat Haden can find a guy who can simply land a handful of the high quality recruits right in his own backyard, he has the opportunity to shift the landscape in the Pac-12. And really, everywhere out west.
  3. In the wake of UCLA’s road trip to the Rocky Mountains that coincided with a big snowstorm, the team’s MVP for the week goes to not Shabazz Muhammad, not Kyle Anderson, not Jordan Adams, but… the bus driver? As Rahshaun Haylock of Fox Sports West reports, the Bruins were in danger of not making it to the arena due to adverse weather conditions and a well-placed hill. But the driver saved the day with a lead foot and an iron constitution.
  4. Colorado was UCLA’s last victim on its recent road trip, and in the wake of three losses in four games, the Buffaloes are trying to do everything they can to right their ship, including a players-only meeting on Sunday initiated by Sabatino Chen and Andre Roberson which ran for 30 minutes. The coaches too are trying to figure out what they can do to shift the tide, but one thing Tad Boyle is longing for is the leadership ability of departed senior Nate Tomlinson, who brought a win-at-all-costs nature and a vocal quality to the team that is now missing. Still, Boyle recognizes that this team isn’t far away from being where it needs to be and hopes somebody can grow into the team’s new leader.
  5. Lastly, David Piper of Addicted to Quack has a good statistical profile of what makes Oregon a conference contender. While the Ducks have struggled with turnovers in the early going in part due to a pair of freshman guards, Piper notes that those numbers are dropping while UO’s three-point shooting (which got off to a terrible start) is rising. Combine those factors with rock-solid numbers elsewhere, including a defensive efficiency number good enough for 20th in the nation, and the Ducks are not only understandably good, but they are improving.
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Pac-12 M5: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by PBaruh on January 1st, 2013

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  1. It might not be a big rivalry yet, but contests between Colorado and Arizona since CU’s move to the Pac-12 have been intense every time. The last time these two teams met was at the Pac-12 Tournament final last March, with Colorado pulling out the victory. The next time these teams will meet will be the conference opener for both teams on January 3 down in Tucson. Arizona is heavily favored in this game as they are ranked third in the nation and are clearly the better team, but Sean Miller has mentioned that he has a great deal of respect for Tad Boyle and his Colorado team and won’t take this game lightly.
  2. Shabazz Muhammad is living up to the hype these days and is getting rewarded for it. He was named the Pac-12 and ESPN player of the week, the first time Muhammad has received this award. If he continues to play like he did against Missouri the rest of the season, he should receive more of these awards as the year goes along. Muhammad scored 27 points in UCLA’s win against Missouri last Friday night and the Bruins will need him to continue on as their leading scorer if they are going to contend with Arizona and others for the Pac-12 title.
  3. Some believe that it’s time for Lorenzo Romar to go. Last year did not bode well for Romar as he had two first round draft picks on his team in Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross and won the Pac-12 regular season title, but couldn’t make the NCAA Tournament because of less than stellar play in the non-conference slate. This year Romar has talented players once again in Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs, and C.J. Wilcox, but hasn’t managed to do much with it and has picked up some embarrassing home losses along the way to Nevada and Albany. Romar will need to turn this season around quickly and make sure his team steps it up in conference play if he wants to avoid underwhelming back-to-back years that could possibly end his tenure at Washington.
  4. Arizona is rolling into conference play at 12-0 and the conference schedule that they have this season could benefit them substantially by pushing the Wildcats to receive a very high seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats will play Cal, Stanford, Oregon, and Oregon State — all teams that should place somewhere near the top of the conference — only once, and they will face the Bay Area teams at home. They’ll have to take on the Ducks and Beavers on the road as well as Colorado on the road, but other than that, Arizona has a relatively easier road and overall schedule. They’ll play Washington and Washington State, both who have been unspectacular in non-conference play, twice and will play Utah and USC, who look like they’ll be the bottom teams once again, twice as well.
  5. Could UCLA miss the NCAA Tournament for two straight years? CBS bracketologist Jerry Palm came out with his latest projections and had only three Pac-12 teams making it — Colorado, Oregon and Arizona. Arizona was listed as a #1 seed, but the most alarming part of his projection had to be UCLA not anywhere in the field. Despite their shortcomings so far this year, the Bruins have too much talent to not make the Tournament and if for some reason that did happen, that would certainly be the end of Ben Howland’s career in Westwood.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 27th, 2012

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  1. Following their thrilling Christmas night win over San Diego State, Arizona is the talk of the college basketball world in this downtime before hoops picks back up again. Coming on the heels of their similarly enjoyable win over Florida, the win over the Aztecs puts the Wildcats in the driver’s seat for the meaningless title of “Best in the West” and NBC Sports’ Daniel Martin lays out the four best contenders. Arizona leads the pack, but Gonzaga and UNLV have their names in the mix as well, while SDSU, despite the razor-thin loss, needs to be considered among the contenders too. Notably (and understandably) missing are any other Pac-12 teams. The sad thing is that this is an improvement over last season where no Pac-12 team deserved to be in such a conversation at this point in the season.
  2. Elsewhere on the Arizona front, CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman wrote a great piece about how Sean Miller has taken that program from a team with questionable talent and turned it into a program that is on the move again. While the Derrick Williams-led run to the Elite Eight two seasons back was impressive, it was also just a fortunate blip on the radar for the ‘Cats. But, with this year’s talented recruiting class, future stars in the queue, and the program back near the level of national importance it regularly enjoyed under Lute Olson, odds are that Arizona is again going to be a regular fixture near the top of the national rankings for years to come.
  3. The Wildcats aren’t the only team in the Grand Canyon State that has its fans excited for the future. Arizona State, after a couple years lost in the basketball wilderness, is back on the map again behind freshman point guard Jahii Carson (who saluted himself as the best point guard in the Pac-12 on Christmas night) and Sun Devil fans are ready to be optimistic again about the direction of the program. As Ben Haber at House of Sparky points out, even if this team’s 10-2 record is built on the back of a somewhat weak schedule, the mere fact that the Sun Devils are an entertaining team to watch (and, yeah, let’s be honest, wins help too) is a significant upgrade over the past two seasons.
  4. As the non-conference seasons winds down, the number of interesting games on the slate begins to dwindle. We have Missouri and UCLA tomorrow night, and then on Saturday a couple of interesting East-West match-ups as Harvard visits California and Washington heads out to visit Connecticut. The latter match-up between a couple of groups of Huskies is an inter-regional rivalry with plenty of history behind it. And, for the UW folks, memories of those match-ups aren’t pleasant — the history includes Rip Hamilton’s buzzer-beater in 1998 and a 2006 Sweet Sixteen overtime game that again sent Washington home in crushing fashion. The first one hurt Lorenzo Romar just because of his status as a fan and an alum of UW, but the latter goes down as Romar’s toughest loss.
  5. Lastly, it is about that time where we begin to look full-bore at conference play, reassess where we were oh-so-wrong in the preseason, celebrate our few moments of clarity and come up with a whole new batch of guesses for the rest of the year. We’ll delve into that plenty early next week, but The Register-Guard already has its team-by-team Pac-12 preview ready to digest. Arizona’s clearly the favorite, but beyond that, I’d say the surprises are Oregon at #5 (too low), Washington at #6 (too high) and USC at #10 (the Trojans still play basketball?).
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Pac-12 M5: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 17th, 2012

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  1. It’s not often you hear a coach say they almost feel guilty after a win, but that was the case on Saturday after Arizona‘s thrilling, come-from-behind victory against Florida. “There’s a side of me that almost feels guilty because they were the better team for most of the game, but it doesn’t always work out that way,” said Wildcat head coach Sean Miller. While there’s no argument against the Gators being the better team for the majority of the night, Arizona played hard and made some crucial stops in the final minutes to put themselves in a position to win it. And Mark Lyons did just that, dropping a floater with seven seconds to play to give Zona its first lead since the 17:35 mark of the first half. They likely won’t need any late-game heroics in their next two outings against Oral Roberts and East Tennessee State, but possible match-ups against Miami (FL) and San Diego State await the cardiac Cats.
  2. Two three-pointers and 16 turnovers. A solid power conference opponent. A half-filled arena with students on break. These factors alone could have combined for an Oregon upset on Saturday, but a terrific defensive performance by the Ducks negated their second-lowest scoring output of the season. While Dana Altman may not have been pleased with the outcome, escaping with another résumé-building victory by 22 points, is nothing to be too down about. The Cornhuskers did play the game how they wanted to play it, dominating the pace and successfully denying most Oregon opportunities inside the paint. But the Ducks answered on the other side of the court, forcing all those Husker turnovers and a 30.6% clip from the field. It will be interesting to see how Altman’s bunch bounces back on Wednesday against UTEP, another team that will try to play the game at an agonizing pace.
  3. Arizona State’s 17-point home loss at the hands of DePaul on Wednesday took a lot of excitement out of its 9-2 opening mark, but there have been a pair of significant stories coming out of the desert early in the season. One of those belongs to senior guard Carrick Felix, who has been the man on the side holding everything together while freshman sensation Jahii Carson shines in the spotlight. Without this duo, even against this type of schedule, the 9-2 Sun Devils could be a 7-4 type of team similar to the past. If Herb Sendek can get some continued production out of Jordan Bachynski, ASU has the pieces in place to surprise a lot of people come Pac-12 play.
  4. It was another case of “one step forward, two steps back” at Washington over the weekend. After a solid win at Seattle U. on Thursday, the Huskies came out slow and looking ugly against Jackson State two days later. They would eventually pull out a 75-67 victory against the 0-8 Tigers, who are still in the midst of a three-game road trip through the state of Washington, and an 11-game trip to start the season. What’s most concerning is the fact that Lorenzo Romar sensed his team needed Saturday off after a draining game against the Redhawks. Get used to it boys, conference play is right around the corner.
  5. Is it another underachieving season in Los Angeles, or has USC fallen victim to a challenging non-conference schedule and still has time to turn it around? Junior Omar Oraby believes the latter, saying that the difficult slate of opponents has prepared the Trojans for a bounce back in Pac-12 action. It’s concerning that SC’s best game so far has been an overtime win against a 6-4 Texas squad, but we’ll take Oraby’s word for it. They did certainly make some strides in Saturday’s game against UC Riverside, which resulted in a 70-26 thrashing of the Highlanders.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.13.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on December 13th, 2012

pac12_morning5

  1. Despite being ranked #8 in the country and currently 7-0, the Arizona Wildcats haven’t had a home sellout yet this year. All signs point to that changing this Saturday when the 5th ranked Florida Gators come to town. On Tuesday, the assistant director of ticket operations said that Arizona has under 50 tickets remaining for the game, so there’s little doubt it will be a sellout. Despite this fact, Sean Miller has praised the atmosphere in Tucson countless times and pointed out that many other high major programs don’t get the support that Arizona gets early in the year and it’s true. The average attendance this year so far has been 13,557 fans in a McKale Center that has a maximum capacity of 14,538 seats. When Saturday comes around, the McKale Center will definitely be loud and that home court advantage should help the Wildcats throughout the game.
  2. After Washington’s 4-4 start, Lorenzo Romar has realized that he needs to change up his demeanor on the sideline. The Huskies this year have been too laid back for Romar’s taste and he wants them to play with higher energy, more intensity and more consistency. Romar believes his team has played to the level of their inferior opponents’ talent so far this year and it is evident in their close losses to Albany and Nevada and a close win over Cal State Fullerton. It doesn’t help that the Huskies continue to deal with an ankle injury to Andrew Andrews, a knee injury to Shawn Kemp Jr., and planter fasciitis to Scott Suggs, but Romar has been displeased with his team’s start to say the least.
  3. Before the season started, the USC Trojans didn’t have to do much to improve on last year’s performance, but their slow start hasn’t exactly been what they hoped for. The Trojans have struggled moving the ball effectively and their half-court offense has been lacking in efficiency which has resulted in too much isolation. On a brighter note, the team is getting it together in the second half of games as they have outscored their opponents 303-280 in the final 20 minutes despite their 3-6 record. For the Trojans to be successful this season, they are still going to have to find a consistent efficient scorer as their leading scorer J.T Terrell is shooting 30 percent from the field despite leading the team with 11 points per game.
  4. Cal’s Allen Crabbe is the nation’s sixth leading scorer, averaging 21.9 points per game and is set to duel with the fifth leading scorer in the nation as Greg McDermott and Creighton head into Haas Pavilion on Saturday. McDermott is no stranger to scoring as he was the nation’s third leading scorer last year. This also won’t be the first time Crabbe has seen McDermott as the two faced off at the U-19 USA Basketball Camp in 2011. Both McDermott and Crabbe can shoot the lights out from all over the court, and Cal will certainly need all it can get from the talented junior if they want to pull of the upset against #16 ranked Creighton.
  5. All the buzz might be around top recruit Jabari Parker on Thursday when the 2012-13 Geico ESPN High School Basketball Showcase takes place tomorrow night across the ESPN networks, but the Pac-12 will be focusing on a different top 10 recruit. Kentucky, Washington, and Arizona are all still in the hunt to land Aaron Gordon. Gordon will get to prove himself at 8 PM ET against great competition as he will take on Andrew and Aaron Harrison, both top five recruits and current 2013 Kentucky commitsments.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Illinois, Undefeated Teams, A Blown Call Nobody Noticed, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 11th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

  1. Illinois fans, here is my mea culpa. I was wrong not to rank your team. On Saturday night, the Fighting Illini ventured up to Spokane and walked out of the Kennel with the best win of any team to date. Yes, better than Duke’s wins over Louisville and Ohio State. Why? There has not been a road win of this magnitude by any team through this early point in the season. The Illini proved they’re for real with a dominant second half against a very strong Gonzaga team. After taking the opening punch and falling behind 8-0 right out of the gate, John Groce’s team didn’t panic and made fantastic adjustments. Gonzaga’s game plan was clearly to feed the ball inside and try to dominate a less than imposing Illinois front line. Illinois’ defense suddenly picked up later in the first half, swarming the Gonzaga big men and forcing the Bulldogs into an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers. Illinois was able to speed the game up a bit and prevent Gonzaga from setting up its half court offense effectively. The Zags attempted 18 threes which is right about their season average but a lot of them were rushed and not something the game plan should have called for against an Illinois team without a significant inside presence. Brandon Paul looked like an All-America candidate with his performance not just on the offensive end but defensively against Pangos and the Gonzaga guards as well. Can Illinois keep this level of play up? I’m not sure but I know one thing: The Illini are way better than I thought. This team’s over-reliance on the three-point shot is concerning and is bound to catch up with them at some point, but Illinois has already proved it will be a factor in the loaded Big Ten.

    Brandon Paul Looked Like An All-American Candidate On Saturday Night In Spokane. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

  2. Another impressive performance played out in a different fashion on Saturday night in Clemson, South Carolina. Trailing Clemson by six points midway through the second half, Arizona absorbed the hit and put the pedal down in impressive fashion with a 26-5 run down the stretch to come out of rowdy Littlejohn Coliseum with a sneaky good road win. It was an impressive showing because this Arizona team had been highly touted but untested coming into the game. The Wildcats passed that test with flying colors as they head into a Saturday showdown with Florida in Tucson. Mark Lyons took control in the final minutes for Arizona but contributions from Nick Johnson (13 points, five steals) and Solomon Hill (10 rebounds despite an awful shooting night) illustrate the talent and depth of Sean Miller’s team. Although he didn’t have a great game, I was thoroughly impressed with the physique of freshman Kaleb Tarczewski. It was the first time I’ve seen him play and his body appears mature beyond his age. He’ll be a load for any opponent in the post. Arizona is clearly the best team in the Pac-12 and has the pieces to make a deep run in March. With the gritty Miller at the helm and a boatload of talent, this team will keep getting better as the year moves along. Make sure you watch the Wildcats take on Florida this Saturday night in what could prove to be the best non-conference game of the season.
  3. Another week, another confounding loss for Baylor. Just when you thought the Bears were turning the corner after winning at Kentucky, they put together an absolute stinker of a loss at home to a mediocre Northwestern team that had just suffered back-to-back home losses to Maryland and Illinois-Chicago. Baylor was dominated on the glass by a Northwestern lineup that isn’t all that physically imposing and allowed the Wildcats to shoot 51% for the game. It is inexcusable for a team with Baylor’s talent to have three losses at this point in the season but you know what I like to say, nobody does less with more than Scott Drew. When you look at the statistics, Baylor appears to be a pretty good team. But the chemistry and focus clearly is lacking, otherwise this team wouldn’t have lost to Charleston and Northwestern on its home court. Baylor is a highly talented team and has actually improved its turnover numbers significantly from previous years. Pierre Jackson is playing like one of the best point guards in America and Drew has seen junior forward Cory Jefferson take a huge step forward. Baylor has two more non-conference challenges before Big 12 play begins, against BYU in Waco and a tough trip to Gonzaga in back to back games at the end of this month. Even if the Bears enter Big 12 play at 8-4, I still believe this team is good enough to eventually earn a Top 25 ranking and fit solidly in the NCAA Tournament. At this point however, Baylor just isn’t there yet. Read the rest of this entry »
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