Posted by AMurawa on December 28th, 2011
- Looking ahead to conference play, we’re getting picks from up and down the conference as to who is now the favorite in the Pac-12. Connor and I have our own ideas which we’ll share with you tomorrow, but for today, have a look at what Bud Withers of The Seattle Times and Bob Clark of The Register-Guard think. Both guys pick California as the favorite, and somewhat surprisingly, both guys pick UCLA to finish in the top half of the conference, with Clark being bold enough to pick them second. Also noteworthy is that both writers place Arizona, California, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and Washington in the top six in some order. Where it looked like we had a top tier of four teams (Arizona, Cal, UCLA and Washington) prior to the season, we now seem to have six teams in that top tier, with none of the lot looking like serious contenders to make a push in the NCAA Tournament.
- Colorado may be a lower division pick in both of the above projections, but they are something of a sleeper in the conference. With Andre Roberson, Carlon Brown and Spencer Dinwiddie at least in the discussion for all-conference performers, there is no lack of talent on this team, and with six players in their rotation either freshmen or sophomores, there is plenty of upside. And head coach Tad Boyle sees one obvious thing that the Buffaloes need to do in order to improve during conference season: play hard for 40 minutes. The young Buffs have been capable of putting together strong halves, but have yet to really put it all together for a full game.
- For UCLA to have any chance of competing for a Pac-12 title (and color me, for one, unconvinced that they can), they’ll need to have a full complement of players, especially in a shorthanded backcourt. The fact that both senior guard Lazeric Jones and freshman guard Norman Powell suffered sprained ankles on Monday is cause for serious concern. Both players are questionable for UCLA’s conference-opening visit to Stanford on Thursday night, and if both are somehow unable to go, the Bruins would have Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb and Kenny Jones (14 total minutes in four seasons in Westwood) as their only scholarship guards available.
- The UCLA game at Stanford will be a huge test for both teams, and it is our RTC Pac-12 Game of the Week, which we will preview in depth tomorrow. However, Oregon State’s visit to Washington on Thursday night may be equally important to figuring out this Pac-12 landscape. Oregon State has a 10-2 record, tied for best in the conference with the Cardinal, while Washington has limped to a 6-5 record minus any type of quality non-conference wins. And yet it is OSU that has the most to prove in this game, going on the road against arguably the most talented roster in the conference. However, head coach Craig Robinson sees his Beavers as a confident bunch, ready to take a figurative swing at anybody in the conference. It should be an exciting game between the two most up-tempo teams in the league, with each team averaging over 70 possessions per game.
- Lastly, Washington and head coach Lorenzo Romar have been very quiet on the recruiting front for the 2012 class with nobody signed for next year yet. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not active elsewhere, as they’ve already offered to at least three players in the 2014 class, with Justin Jackson, a possible top 10 recruit in his class, the latest to receive an offer from the Huskies. Jackson is a 6’6” wing from Houston who has earned interest from elite programs across the country, ranging from Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor in his home state, to Ohio State and now Washington, with other elite schools still in the mix. The other two players Romar has offered in 2014 are Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who has the interest of schools like UCLA, USC and Arizona State as well, and Josh Martin.
Posted by AMurawa on November 17th, 2011
- The Reeves Nelson suspension lasted a total of one game, as the mercurial junior power forward was reinstated on Wednesday after having missed UCLA’s Tuesday night loss to Middle Tennessee State. He’ll practice with the team today and travel with the team to play in the Maui Invitational early next week. In a statement announcing the decision, head coach Ben Howland said that Nelson “expressed to me in our meeting earlier that he desires to be a better person and better teammate going forward and, given that, I feel as though I should give him that opportunity.” Nelson issued his own statement saying that he is “grateful to Coach Howland to have this opportunity to improve and work on being a positive force for our team.” With all the negativity surrounding the Bruin program in recent days, it remains to be seen just how long this kumbaya moment will last.
- Utah played its first real competition of the season on Wednesday night when it traveled to Boise State, and not surprisingly, the young Utes (I can’t type that phrase without thinking of Joe Pesci) struggled mightily, losing by 21 points to a similarly inexperienced Bronco squad. In looking for a bright spot for Larry Krystkowiak’s team, one might point to either freshman guard Anthony Odunsi (14 points, four assists, three threes) or junior college transfer Dijon Farr (12 points, five rebounds), but the fact is that Utah turned the ball over 19 times on roughly 69 possessions, grabbed just 16% of their offensive rebound opportunities and didn’t do a great job on the defensive glass either (63.3 DR%). Single digit wins on the season are the unfortunate likelihood for Utah.
- Things went much better for Oregon State in the final regional game of the Legends Classic pseudo-tournament, as the Beavers outlasted Hofstra behind a career-high 35-point performance from junior guard Jared Cunningham. Sophomore forward Devon Collier also posted a career-high with 25 points, and junior center Joe Burton continued his strong start to the season with five points, ten rebounds and a career-high of his own in assists, with 11. OSU now heads to the Meadowlands for the championship rounds of the tourney, with a matchup with Texas awaiting in the semifinals on Saturday and either Vanderbilt or North Carolina State in the next round on Monday.
- With the early signing period now officially closed, every school in the conference has at least one 2012 recruit committed. Every school save for Washington, that is. But Lorenzo Romar still has a couple lines in the water, with Anthony Bennett and Zena Edosomwan a couple of top 100 recruits still on the Huskies’ radar. On Wednesday, another name reappeared as a possibility for Romar again, as former St. John’s commitment Norvel Pelle, who was unable to qualify immediately for the Red Storm, officially de-committed and reopened his recruiting. The 6’10”, 210-pound power forward originally chose St. John’s over Washington, so as long as he can get his academic house in order, it seems like the Huskies would have a good shot at landing him the second time around.
- We started in Los Angeles at the top of the Morning Five, and we’ll wind up there again as I want to take a moment to highlight one of my favorites youngsters thus far in the season: USC’s freshman wing Byron Wesley. Wesley has been compared to last year’s senior defensive stopper Marcus Simmons repeatedly by head coach Kevin O’Neill, and he’s been a stalwart already on the defensive end in just his first two collegiate games. His offensive game is still very much a work in progress, but he’s got a strong frame that belies his youth and a motor that does not stop. If Wesley can carry over the work ethic he displays during games to practice and beyond, he has the ability to be an all-conference performer on both ends of the floor by the time he is an upperclassman.