Pac-12 M5: 03.25.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 25th, 2013

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  1. On Saturday evening, word began to trickle out through various national reports that UCLA had fired head coach Ben Howland. Later that night, UCLA issued a statement disputing those reports. And then Sunday evening, the school officially announced his firing. It counts as “news” only in the strictest sense of the word, as exactly nobody was surprised by the announcement, but it does open up what should be an entertaining coaching search as the Bruins shoot for the stars and then wind up with… Mike Brown? Certainly, Jeff Goodman has better sources than I as to the UCLA coaching search, but if Mike Brown is the next UCLA head coach, I’ll walk down Sunset Boulevard in my boxers. Right after I join the UCLA fans rioting and looting with pitchforks and torches at the Morgan Center. Most reports indicate that Shaka Smart is the first choice for UCLA, though it remains to be seen whether he is interested. Other names associated with the search include Brad Stevens, Jay Wright and Washington’s Lorenzo Romar.
  2. The college basketball guys at CBS Sports also have their opinions on who will wind up with the vacant USC coaching job and, as we learned this weekend, it isn’t going to be Jamie Dixon. Other candidates for the job include Smart (apparently on everyone’s wish list), Memphis’ Josh Pastner and Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins, although with the UCLA job open, it may be awhile before the USC decision is made.
  3. Certainly by now you all know that Arizona and Oregon are still marching along, while California, Colorado and those Bruins have all bowed out of the NCAA Tournament. But what about those lesser tournaments? Well, after winning the NIT title last season, Stanford’s attempted run to a second-straight lesser title ended on Saturday at Alabama. Arizona State, likewise, bombed out in the second round of the NIT in a barnburner at Baylor, while Washington got dropped by BYU in the first round.
  4. The other thing we see this time of year when teams’ seasons begin to end are players announcing their intentions for the NBA Draft. Oregon State’s Eric Moreland became the first Pac-12 player to officially declare (aside from Shabazz Muhammad having Howland declare for him, that is) his intentions to explore his NBA appeal without the help of an agent, leaving him with a chance to return to Corvallis. However, speculation is that Moreland’s time at OSU is done and that he’ll be playing for pay next season. While there’s little chance that the offensively raw Moreland will earn a guaranteed first round money even in what is considered a weak draft class, his athletic ability could earn him a second round flyer or, more likely, D-League or overseas offers.
  5. Meanwhile, Arizona State fans will have to sweat out Jahii Carson’s decision over the next couple weeks. Carson expects to consult with the NBA to suss out his draft status and “test the waters,” but depending on what he hears back, he could return. Carson’s got the speed, athleticism and moxie to be a very good NBA player, but at the end of the day, right now he’s a sub-6’0” point guard who lacks a completely reliable jumper. The odds are in favor of Carson returning for his sophomore season, but all he needs is one NBA GM to profess his undying love to convince Carson to follow the money. Stay tuned.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2013

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  1. So, yeah, quickly, the top candidates for the head basketball coach at USC: something like Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon, Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins, interim head coach Bob Cantu and, um, former USC head coach Tim Floyd? Wait, run that last one by me again. Floyd is currently the head man at UTEP, a position he’s held for a few years after resigning from the USC gig (something about how he didn’t feel supported by then-USC athletic director Mike Garrett in the wake of allegations that guard O.J. Mayo accepted impermissible benefits from an agent). Floyd has long maintained a complete lack of involvement in the issue and plenty of investigations (both by USC and by the NCAA) have failed to turn up any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. Still, let’s not consider Floyd a leading candidate just yet. The meeting between Floyd and now-athletic director Pat Haden may have just been a way for the new AD to build a bridge over the bad blood in the wake of the parting, and Floyd, for his part, is using the surprising news as a way to get the word out publicly that “hey, I didn’t have anything to do with that.” Still, for a stretch there, Floyd put together four straight winning seasons including three in a row with 20-plus wins and NCAA Tournament invitations, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
  2. Across town, UCLA head coach Ben Howland let it slip, rather innocently and honestly, that Shabazz Muhammad was in all likelihood headed for the NBA Draft. And that’s not the only opinion he has on the state of the NBA, as he mentioned on Monday that he would prefer changes to the NBA’s eligibility rules that would end the one-and-done era. Howland’s plan would be similar to the rules presently used by Major League Baseball, whereby players would have the option to go straight from high school to the pros, but that once they wind up in college, they have to stay for a few years before being eligible again. Howland also knows that there’s not a chance that change gets made, at least anytime soon.
  3. Speaking of the NBA Draft, we posted our opinions here yesterday on the draft prospects of potential early entrants around the Pac-12, including Arizona State freshman guard Jahii Carson (we’re hoping he stays and develops a jumper). But Sun Devil head coach Herb Sendek claims that he hasn’t given the idea much thought, preferring instead to focus on this season. Still, we’re not buying the idea that it hasn’t even crossed his mind. Cal’s head coach, Mike Montgomery, however, was right to the point when asked about Carson’s pro prospects: “Doesn’t shoot it well enough yet.” The key there may be the word “yet.”
  4. If Carson does stick around for another season in the desert, he’ll have a new competitor in the state at point guard, as Arizona will unveil Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell as their new lead guard. The Daily Wildcat sees a parallel between McConnell’s skill set and the skills of UCLA point guard Larry Drew II. Compared to present UA point Mark Lyons, McConnell is more of the traditional pass-first, shoot-second floor general (of course, compared to Lyons, Allen Iverson is more of a traditional point guard). As Wildcat fans begin to grow weary of Lyons’ all-or-nothing style, the future is starting to look real good, even if that envisioned future is based on little more than partial information.
  5. Lastly, as we look ahead to this week’s games, Washington may be out of the race for the conference title but it still has a chance for some input, as the Huskies will host UCLA on Saturday night. Head coach Lorenzo Romar is hoping that his team can finish the regular season in style. They’ve put together a 13-3 record in the final four conference games of the previous four seasons, and are well on their way to a repeat of that mark with two wins last week. But with USC and UCLA both playing well, the Huskies have their work cut out for them this week.
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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VII: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2013

Maybe Professor Pac is in a good mood this week, because he couldn’t bring himself to give any of the below teams  D’s.

UCLA – C-

A road split. That’s good right? Yeah, it will work, but the way the Bruins lost their first game of the week (building up a 23-point half-time deficit and never making a serious push in the second half) is pretty inexcusable. They bounced back strong against Stanford and turned in their best offensive performance since, maybe Missouri, but this team is still a mystery.

Focus on: Kyle Anderson. Anderson was terrific against Stanford, scoring 18 points, grabbing 13 boards, handing out four assists, snatching a couple steals and even knocking down a three (he’s now 5-of-26 for the season from back there). That’s the guy that Ben Howland needs to show up on a regular basis for the Bruins. His ability to make plays for himself and teammates makes the Bruins more explosive and his newfound interest in hitting the glass is an absolutely necessity on an otherwise ridiculously poor rebounding team.

The Bruins Need Kyle Anderson's Versatile Game On A More Regular Basis (UCLA Athletics)

The Bruins Need Kyle Anderson’s Versatile Game On A More Regular Basis (UCLA Athletics)

Looking ahead: If the Bruins want to prove to themselves that they have the ability to be a national threat in March, they first have to prove that they can win a big local battle, as they travel 14 miles southeast to face USC on Sunday.

Washington State – C-

So you’re playing the conference leader to a draw. You’ve already got them in overtime and with just seconds left, your sophomore guard who is having a breakout career game knocks down a big three to tie the game and give you a real good chance to go to a second overtime. And then. Ugh. You probably know what happened. I can’t bring myself to repeat it, but suffice it to say, the Cougars went out of their way to ease Oregon’s route to a two-point overtime win. Hey, when you’re 2-11 in conference play, you usually have some bad luck and some ridiculous events. But that? That was above and beyond.

Focus on: Royce Woolridge. So, let’s focus on the positives. After struggling with his shot and his confidence early in the season, this sophomore transfer from Washington State is proving his worth. He has now scored in double figures in six straight games, but the piece de resistance came Saturday against those Ducks as he hit 10-of-15 shots from the field, including six threes on his way to a 36-point total that shattered his previous career-high. As recently as a week ago I was writing off Woolridge as a shooting guard that can’t shoot or a point guard that can’t handle. And clearly, I wrote him off too soon. His confidence is through the roof and he’s showing  that he can be a key part to this program for the next couple years.

Looking ahead: The Cougars travel to Arizona State tonight, then Arizona on Saturday. Nothing is for certain, but this looks like 2-13 is on the way.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2013

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  1. One side effect of the parity in the conference this season has been a lot of intensity as we head into the stretch run. We saw this most glaringly on Sunday night with Mike Montgomery’s now infamous “shove” of Allen Crabbe, but elsewhere around the conference there were more incidents. In Pullman, Oregon center Tony Woods was ejected for throwing an elbow to the head of Washington State’s Brock Motum. The Pac-12 reviewed the play and decided Woods would face no further suspension. Another pair of bigs got tangled up in Boulder on Saturday when Jordan Bachynski and Josh Scott fell to the floor in pursuit of a rebound. Scott wound up banging his head against the hardwood and sustaining a concussion from which he is still recovering. Colorado head coach Tad Boyle called that game the most physical game he has ever been involved in.
  2. It’s been a tumultuous season for UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad, with an NCAA investigation delaying his debut and the flu catching up with him prior to the USC game back in January. Now, and again in advance of a USC game, Muhammad is dealing with pinkeye, which kept him out of practice on Tuesday. However, this issue isn’t expected to have any impact on Muhammad’s availability for Sunday’s game.
  3. Arizona State has compiled an 8-5 conference record largely on the strength of its starting five. Senior Carrick Felix leads the conference in minutes (38.3 minutes per night), while Jahii Carson and Jonathan Gilling both top out at over 36 minutes per game and are among the top five players in the conference in minutes. While head coach Herb Sendek admits that his heavy reliance on a small number of players is “a concern,” he doesn’t expect much to change for the rest of the year.
  4. Meanwhile, down south a little, Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been increasingly relying on a smaller number of players as well. And with his confidence in Jordin Mayes dwindling, Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson are becoming the only options in the backcourt for the Wildcats. However, unlike Sendek up the road, Miller may be ready for a change and could turn to freshman guard Gabe York for some spot minutes on the perimeter. York earned 16 minutes over the course of three games back at the turn of the month into February, but since then York has never left the bench in the last four games.
  5. Continuing the theme, Lorenzo Romar returned to freshman Jernard Jarreau this past weekend as an option off the bench. Jarreau won the starting power forward spot in preseason practice, but was ineffective while starting the first seven games of the season. Since then his role almost completely evaporated to the point where he played just 17 minutes over the course of six games prior to his emergence against Oregon State on Saturday. And Romar says Jarreau has earned a right to continue getting minutes in the hopes of building up his game to the point where he can be a contributor for the next three seasons.
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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.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.18.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2013

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  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

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  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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