Four Thoughts on the Pac-12 Tournament Semifinals

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 16th, 2013

Day three of the Pac-12 Tournament is complete, and teams have made their may through the 12 team field to tonight’s championship game. The first team through was top-seeded UCLA, who used an 18-7 run late in the second half to erase an 11-point deficit and pull out a two point win over Arizona. In the second game of the night, Oregon took advantage of a tired Utah team and led the Utes by 14 at halftime before cruising to a 64-45 win.

Here are four things that stood out on day three of the Pac-12 Tournament:

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (credit: USA Today)

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (USA Today)

  1. Adams’ Last Game? – UCLA freshman Jordan Adams may have played his last game as a Bruin last night after breaking his fifth metatarsal in his right foot on the final play of the game. Adams led all scorers with 24 points before breaking the foot trying to defend Solomon Hill’s last shot. A few weeks back Adams said he did not want to discuss his future and just wanted to focus on finishing the rest of the season. With his season complete, look for an announcement in the coming days on whether the star guard will go to the NBA this summer.
  2. Pac-12 Refs - With 4:35 remaining in the game and Arizona leading 56-54, point guard Mark Lyons drove into the lane, had the ball slightly dislodged by a Bruin defender, caught the ball, and resumed his dribble. This was inexplicably called a double-dribble by the officiating crew, and then the officials compounded their mistake by T’ing up head coach Sean Miller. The calls resulted in two made free throws to knot up the score, the first time the score was not an Arizona lead since the 14:30 mark in the first half. Pac-12 refs gonna Pac-12 ref – nuff’ said.  Read the rest of this entry »
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The RTC Pac-12 All-Conference Teams

Posted by AMurawa on March 11th, 2013

Earlier today we released our picks for the conference awards, handing out, among others, Player of the Year to Allen Crabbe and Freshman of the Year to Jahii Carson. Not surprisingly, those two players lead our picks for the All-Conference team as the only two players to wind up on the first teams of all four of our voters’ ballots. While the Pac-12 goes a little insane this time of year and somehow decides to put together a 10-man All-Conference First Team, we’re going to follow, you know, the rules of basketball and field a five-man team (with a second team for good measure).

First Team All-Conference

  • Jahii Carson, Freshman, Arizona State (17.7 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG) – Our Freshman of the Year, Carson led a resurgence for the Sun Devils, helping his team double its win total from last season and likely earning it a spot in some postseason tournament somewhere. He played 91% of his team’s minutes, and was a catalyst repeatedly for all of his team’s offense.
  • Allen Crabbe, Junior, California (18.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG) – Our Pac-12 Player of the Year, Crabbe paired up with backcourt partner Justin Cobbs to turn around the season for a once-floundering Golden Bears team helping reel off 11 wins in the team’s final 13 games to put them firmly in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, Sophomore, Colorado (15.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 SPG) – A skillful leader for Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes, Dinwiddie earned a spot on the first team on two of our four ballots. Nearly equally adept at scoring from behind the arc or in the lane as he is at creating for teammates or getting to the line, Dinwiddie blossomed in his sophomore campaign.
Spencer Dinwiddie Took Over As The Buffaloes' Leader In His Sophomore Campaign (David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

Spencer Dinwiddie Took Over As The Buffaloes’ Leader In His Sophomore Campaign (David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

  • Shabazz Muhammad, Freshman, UCLA (18.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG) – The most-talked-about freshman in the nation, Muhammad came to Westwood with a reputation as a great scorer and he did not disappoint. The nation’s leading scorer among freshmen, Muhammad’s offensive punch was a key factor in UCLA’s run to the conference title. Muhammad was picked as a first team member by three of our four voters.
  • Dwight Powell, Junior, Stanford (15.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.1 BPG) – A 6’10” jumping jack who averaged less than 20 minutes per game last season, Powell exploded into the upper echelon of Pac-12 players this season, establishing himself as a versatile threat with a promising future on his way to winning RTC’s Most Improved Pac-12 Player award.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Most Memorable Moment?

Posted by AMurawa on March 9th, 2013

As we get ready for out last weekend of the regular season, we start with a quick look back at the last few months before we get ready to look ahead to the bulk of March. As such, we asked a simple question:

What has been your favorite moment this season?

Adam Butler: The best moment is one of my favorite questions. Certainly at a time of year (I think I’ve used that as a lead like 200 times thus far in just one week of March) when just a single moment can define so much. But across the course of about thirty games per team, over wins and losses, ups and downs, there have been so many. Cobbs, Gordon, and Drew II have all beat the buzzer. Chen tried to. The conference had its first matchup of ranked opponents since March 2009. Game Day visited the Conference and Bill Walton grabbed the torch (or bullhorn) of touting the Pac’s return. There’s been so much to enjoy all the season long and, to be completely honest, the year’s most memorable moment is yet to come. Something is going to happen inside the MGM, or someone is going to do something in the Dance we’ll talk about for years to come, “Remember when…” But to that effect, I’m going to make the homer pick. Because as Arizona had the improbable opportunity to take the lead at home against Florida, I was squatting on top of my couch. I had two friends locked in arms to my left and an air of tension thicker than Kaleb Tarczewski. The Lyons floater fell and we (in my apartment and in Tucson) went controllably wild. And then the backboard went red and we went uncontrollably wild. My kinda moment.

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Celebrating Arizona’s Seniors: Kevin Parrom, Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons

Posted by AMurawa on March 8th, 2013

In advance of Arizona’s senior day, Adam Butler of Pachoops.com offers up his thoughts on Arizona’s three big-time seniors getting ready to play their final home game in front of the McKale Center crowd.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Kevin Parrom play. It was mid-December 2009 and the young New Yorker was tentatively back from a foot injury sustained during preseason practice. He’d played just two minutes in the game prior – his season debut – at NC State. There was significant hype around this one; after all, he was touted as the player Sean Miller had been recruiting the longest who had been released from his Letter of Intent to play for him at Xavier. He followed Miller to the desert and became the first Wildcat in the Sean Miller era. Back to the game, many of the details are fuzzy. I can tell you that I’d finagled phenomenal seats and that the final score was a helluva lot to a little. Jimmer Fredette scored many points and my lasting Parrom memory – one of two memories from this game – was his missing of a banked free throw. He’d go 0-of-5 from the line that night. “Indeed a freshman,” I thought. Oh, and my second memory? The four rounds of projectile vomiting I spread through multiple locations across the McKale Center as a result of a bad – nay, miserable – pastrami sandwich from earlier that day. I’d spend the following 36 hours consumption-less, motionless in bed.

Kevin Parrom Has Helped Bring A Helping Of Toughness To Sean Miller's Program

Kevin Parrom Has Helped Bring A Helping Of Toughness To Sean Miller’s Program

OK, so enough about me. Kevin Parrom has lived a life of resiliency. This is the young man that has thrice sustained foot injuries that have kept him out of the lineup for extended periods. That’s rough. But it doesn’t hold a candle to Kevin off the court. The Cliff Notes version will have me tell you that in the course of just a handful of months, Kevin lost his grandmother and mother and survived a murder attempt – a  moment he’s reminded of every day with the bullet lodged in his leg. I can’t do the story its due tragic justice, so please, read this. These events were more than a curve ball. They were a Mariano cutter dealt to break this young man. But it didn’t. Kevin Parrom is still here and he plays basketball for Arizona and he plays it well. His style is a direct extension of his coach: thorough, hard nosed, direct, and competitive. An even more direct extension of the woman who raised him, Lisa Williams. Which is the backstory to one of the toughest Wildcats we’ve ever had the privilege to watch; the off court resilience just confirming the player who won’t quit on it. Parrom has played any and every role for the Wildcats, most recently being moved into the starting lineup to better capture the energy he plays with. He’s been the spark Arizona needed on countless nights and is a basketball enthusiast’s dream. One might call him a jack-of-all-trades, master of none; to which I might not argue (although he holds the 34th highest ORtg in the nation). But he’s master of knowing which trade his team needs most and when, an asset any coach would want. Whatever Parrom’s legacy is, he’ll be remembered for his guts and his heart. What more could we have asked for from our first – new – Wildcat?

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Pac-12 M5: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 7th, 2013

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  1. Stanford and California met last night in the regular season finale for both teams, and Stanford surprised all with a 13-point road upset of the Golden Bears. The Cardinal outplayed Cal on both sides of the floor, but shooting the ball at a 53% clip from behind the arc is what got it done for Stanford. With 5:05 remaining, a massive skirmish that took over 20 minutes to sort out took place. At the end of it all, players Gabriel Harris and Richard Solomon were both ejected, while four Stanford assistant coaches and one California assistant coach were tossed as well. The Pac-12 has yet to announce any additional punishment.
  2. Arizona combo guard Mark Lyons will play his final game in Tucson on Saturday, and there are mixed feelings about it among Wildcat fans. On one hand, Lyons has been Arizona’s leading scorer, confidence-provider, and has hit the game-winning shots against Florida and San Diego State. But the fact that he is not a true point guard is irksome to many, with those folks yearning for the day when T.J. McConnell takes over in the UA backcourt. They will have to wait a few more weeks, however, as Lyons looks to lead the Cats through Las Vegas and all the way to Atlanta by the beginning of April. True point guard or not.
  3. Sticking in the desert, Wednesday night saw each of the three favorites in Pac-12 games helping Arizona’s case immensely to avoid playing on Wednesday in Las Vegas. The Wildcats can secure a four-seed (and a bye to Thursday) with a win over Arizona State or a Colorado loss to Oregon or Oregon State. If the opposite of all of that occurs, then UA slides down to a five-seed and would face the 12-seed in the opening round on Wednesday.
  4. With just two games left in the Pac-12′s regular season, Oregon is right where it wants to be — in control of its own destiny. The Ducks sit at 12-4 and alone in first place right now, but UCLA is lurking a half-game behind them. If the Ducks drop both games this week, UCLA wins at Washington, and Arizona defeats Arizona State, mass chaos would ensue with a four-way tie atop the standings. With the Ducks facing Utah on Saturday, however, that scenario is most likely not going to happen.
  5. With rumors circling regarding the future of Washington State head coach Ken Bone, the Cougars got their biggest win of the season on Wednesday, a 73-61 home upset of UCLA. WSU had lost seven straight games and was alone in last place coming into the game, and with attendance plummeting, morale around the hoops program was low. This indeed may have been a job-saving win for Bone, the fourth-year coach from Portland State.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  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 M5: 03.05.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 5th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Championship Week Fortnight begins today, and the Pac-12 Tournament is right around the corner as well. This year’s tournament promises to be one of the more crazy ones in history, as any team seeded one through nine has the talent and potential to take the conference’s automatic bid. Washington is going to need that aut0-bid in order to go dancing, and rising fifth-year senior Scott Suggs looks to be an integral part of that run. The shooting guard had a streak going in February in which he only scored four points per game for four out of five games, but starting back on February 23 against Arizona State, Suggs found his stroke and no longer appeared lost within the Husky offense. He went for 16 points against the Sun Devils and for 23 points eight days later in the hardwood Apple Cup. If he can continue this kind of output through the next two weeks, the combination of he and C.J. Wilcox will make the eighth-seeded Dawgs a tough out.
  2. As we teased yesterday, Oregon State and Nike unveiled the results of a nearly two-year long re-branding of the Beaver program. The changes to the basketball uniforms were positive but minimal, as you can see here. The Beavers now have an all-white uniform in their repertoire and have the option of having “OSU” across the front of the jersey. The shorts are simple and clean-looking, with the new logo featured on the bottom side. The back of the tops are what I think is the highlight of the whole thing, as a basketball net and “ghost beaver” logo run from top-to-bottom. Even outside of basketball, a general change for all sports uniforms is the addition of metallic bronze as an accent color. The football uniforms were the highlight of the event, and I’ll leave you with those pictures here.
  3. Even if Arizona did not find a true point guard, the addition of Mark Lyons was a good one, and the right idea at the time by Arizona head coach Sean Miller. The Wildcats are in desperate need of a true point who can break down a defense and be a “pass-first, shoot-second” type of player, but that’s just not going to work with Lyons. So, UA fans will take what they can get at this point in the season. Right now, that’s a team full of shooters, and if that’s what can take them to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond, so be it.
  4. California is 9-1 since it was thoroughly outplayed on a late January afternoon in Boulder. At that point in the season, the Golden Bears were playing with no heart or hustle, sported a middling 11-8 record, and were on the outside looking in for an NIT bid. But there has been a remarkable turnaround, one that will likely result in Cal’s second straight NCAA bid, as Mike Montgomery has done some of his finest work as a head coach to get them to this point. California closes out the regular season with a visit from rival Stanford on Wednesday night, where the Bears will go for their eighth straight victory.
  5. UCLA may not need a Pac-12 Tournament championship to make the NCAA Tournament, but like Washington, the Bruins could use a big boost from junior forward Travis Wear in the coming weeks. Wear is still plagued by a right foot injury that sidelined him for two games stretching back to February 24, and coach Ben Howland is having to make up for his absences on the floor by playing brother David Wear for nearly the whole contest, or placing rarely-used Tony Parker in the game when Wear needs rest. The return of Travis Wear in a full capacity will be crucial for the Bruins, as it would be nearly impossible to win three games in three days without his big body on the court.
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Marching to Vegas: This Is Our Game of the Year?

Posted by AMurawa on March 2nd, 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.

Early on we dubbed this thing the Game of the Year. It was the conference’s two most storied programs set to square off on ESPN in the season’s waning moments with what was presumed to be title implications and a possible top NCAA seed on the line. It was UCLA. It was Arizona. Muhammad. Lyons. Anderson. Hill. With all the perspective of zero games played, this had “Game Of” written all over it; after all it was the necessary return to glory for the Conference of Champions perhaps still reeling from last season’s abomination. Well now it’s here and it sure doesn’t seem that sexy. One team will host with an underwhelming albeit sound 21-7 record wearing a home loss to Cal Poly amidst ambiguous rumblings surrounding the future of their head man. The other enters Pauley with lauded victories from what seems a season past but with just one win over a top-five Pac-12 team while looking the part of effortless softies. No, the aforementioned would not suggest this is anyone’s Game of the Year and certainly not as the producers of the game have hyper-hyped their prime-er time game featuring Duke and Miami.

When Arizona and UCLA Meet On The Hardwood, Pac-12 Basketball Fans Watch

When Arizona and UCLA Meet On The Hardwood, Pac-12 Basketball Fans Watch

This is an improved year by way of Pac-12 product but hasn’t quite lived up to its moderate hype. The conference held its first game featuring ranked opponents (#21 Oregon @ #24 UCLA, 1/19) since March 2009; but that cannot be the barometer by which we measure the conference’s success. It’s in fact a touch embarrassing and we should probably not mention it again, like walking into the women’s restroom. The collective RPI has hovered in the #6 range throughout the year which isn’t great but it’s certainly an improvement. Last year the conference sat in ninth, easily last amongst the power conferences. I mean, the conference champion wasn’t invited to the NCAA Tournament, do I really need to demonstrate that last year was bad again?

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on March 1st, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

This weekend has several important conference re-matches and as well as first time clashes between conference leaders. It should be an action packed weekend. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#10 Louisville at #11 Syracuse – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (*****) 

  • Syracuse has lost two straight and five of their last nine. They have been inconsistent on offensive, particularly from the outside. They go up against a Louisville squad that is no stranger to struggles this season either. The Cardinals hit a three-game slide at the end of January that had a few folks questioning where this team was headed. Since that time though, they are 7-1 and only one game back in the Big East. Syracuse beat Louisville 70-68 in January in a close contest that came down to the final possession. The Cardinals have clearly struggled against long, athletic teams. Asking 6’0″ Russ Smith and 6’0″ Peyton Siva to guard 6″6″ Michael Carter-Williams and 6’4″ Brandon Triche is a tall order to say the least. Look for the Orange to exploit the mismatch at guard all night. Rick Pitino must game plan to help his guards, otherwise it could be another tough one for Louisville. The Cardinals also need Gorgui Dieng to contribute more on the offensive end. His size will help free up Smith and Siva on the outside. Expect another close battle at the Carrier Dome as these two teams battle for conference and tournament seeding.

    Peyton Siva orchestrated Louisville's offense with 10 points and 10 assists

    Peyton Siva has a lot to prove in the second go around with the Orange.

#20 Butler at Virginia Commonwealth – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN2 (****) 

  • While Butler has amazing wins against Indiana and Gonzaga, they have struggled against the top Atlantic 10 teams. They are 0-3 against Saint Louis and LaSalle and now face VCU for the first time this season. VCU is also winless against Saint Louis and LaSalle, so Butler is not alone in their struggles. The key to this match-up will be turnovers. VCU creates turnovers on 27.3% of an opponents possessions. Butler turns the ball over on 20% of its offensive possessions. The Bulldogs cannot afford to empty possession in this game, otherwise they will lose. They must get into the half-court offense and establish 6’11″ Andrew Smith early. Smith’s match-up against VCU’s Juvante Reddic will be critical. Butler needs Smith’s offense to win this game. 

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Pac-12 M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 21st, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Shove-gate, day four. With California getting back into action tomorrow night, thankfully this overreaction to Mike Montgomery’s regrettable decision to physically contact his star player, Allen Crabbe, is ready to come to a close. The final words on the incident from both sides: First, Montgomery regrets his action, if for no other reason than the fact that all the focus this past week has been on that incident rather than on the fact that his team has risen from mediocrity to, well, more mediocrity, but at least mediocrity that is in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid. Meanwhile, on the other side, Allen Crabbe has brushed off the incident with the brand of typical Crabbe-esque nonchalance that got Montgomery so riled up to begin with. His parents, however, were not so quick to put it behind them. While both his mom and dad have handled the situation with class, each has indicated that Montgomery’s action didn’t sit entirely well with them. Nevertheless, Montgomery’s apology coupled with Crabbe’s mature response to the incident make this story completely ready to be put to bed.
  2. Last night was perhaps the biggest snoozer on the Pac-12 conference schedule thus far, as both Arizona schools handled their opponents from Washington with relative ease, so in lieu of wasting pixels on games that we already spent time watching, I’ll instead refer you to a Dana O’Neil piece about how Mark Lyons wound up back with Sean Miller in the desert after blowing off Miller’s final meeting at Xavier three years earlier and ignoring his former coach’s texts out of anger with him for leaving the Cincinnati school. But now they’re reunited at Arizona and have a chance to accomplish something special together in Lyons’ last go-round in college.
  3. Looking ahead to tonight, Dana Altman and Oregon host California in what will be Altman’s first crack at attempting to reach the 600-win mark for his career. Just 66 of those have come in Eugene, and only 476 were chalked up at the Division I level, but with the 54-year-old Altman seemingly having a lot of basketball left in him, we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him top the mark in Division I victories alone in the relatively near future. Unfortunately, Duck fans, we also wouldn’t be all that surprised to see him eventually top that 600 mark somewhere back close to his Midwestern roots. As for tonight’s game, if the Ducks can pull off the win, it will mark the first time that anybody on this current roster, including Altman and his 599 career wins, has ever beaten Cal. And if that’s going to happen, it’ll likely have to happen without the services of point guard Dominic Artis, who appears to be on the verge of missing another week of basketball. Unlike Duke’s Ryan Kelly, however, Artis is making visible progress, as his crutches are at least a thing of the past and he is reported to be doing some minimal basketball-related drills.
  4. Oregon State, meanwhile, will host Stanford tonight, and in doing so Joe Burton will play his second-to-last game in front of the home crowd in his career. Yep, believe it or not, we’re to that point in the season where senior days (or nights, I suppose, depending on when the game is played) begin to crop up. As for Burton, he’s a special kid. The first Native American to earn a scholarship to a Pac-10/Pac-12 school for men’s basketball, Burton has made a name for himself as a below-the-rim space-eater and a phenomenal passer. The first recruit signed by Craig Robinson, Burton is on track to become the first OSU player to ever amass 1,000 points, 700 rebounds and 300 assists in his career. It’s always bittersweet this time of year, knowing that we’re seeing some of these guys that we’ve gotten to know and love over recent years play their last basketball games for us (even though many, likely including Burton, who aren’t destined for NBA futures have the chance for a pro career somewhere else should they so choose), but it is also a great time to be thankful for the moments we’ve been able to experience.
  5. Lastly, Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register writes that with Ben Howland having drastically simplified his offense, UCLA is experiencing smooth sailing on the offensive end. Now, apparently, Mr. Kartje skipped the recent Arizona State, USC, Washington and Cal games in favor of simply watching the Stanford game, but his note that Howland has thrown away 36 of the 45 sets he had set up for teams in years past in order to focus on executing a simplified game plan is an interesting one.
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Arizona Shows Off Its NCAA Tournament Credentials

Posted by Kenny Ocker on February 3rd, 2013

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a journalist based in the Northwest who filed this story after Arizona’s win against Washington State in Pullman on Saturday night.

Halfway through its Pac-12 schedule, Arizona looks like a team prepared to make an impact come March. The Wildcats have wiggled their way back into a tie for the Pac-12 lead with Oregon despite losing in Eugene in mid-January. The one other loss came at home to UCLA two weeks later, but neither snowballed for Arizona. Instead, the Wildcats have run straight through everything that could have derailed the momentum they built up in the non-conference season with wins over Florida, Miami and San Diego State. Even on the road against Washington State, two days after a last-possession win against Washington, with Kevin Parrom ejected for elbowing Cougars guard DaVonte Lacy in the first half and star senior guard Mark Lyons picking up three first-half fouls, Arizona barely blinked, taking a 40-26 lead into halftime in Pullman, which led to a 79-65 win.

Solomon Hill had six three-pointers in the first half to lead Arizona back into a tie for first in the Pac-12.

Solomon Hill had six three-pointers in the first half to lead Arizona back into a tie for first in the Pac-12.

But what makes Arizona so good? Is it having senior leadership? Is it having a talented offense? Is it having a stingy defense? It seems to be all of those things. On a night where Lyons picked up four fouls by the 17-minute mark of the second half and Parrom was booted, fellow senior Solomon Hill filled in the gap for Sean Miller’s squad with six three-pointers – including a three-quarter-court heave at the halftime buzzer – finishing with 18 points. For the season, the trio is averaging around 36 points per game and are three of the Wildcats’ top four scorers, along with sophomore guard Nick Johnson. Arizona’s offense is one that benefits from its best-in-the-conference free-throw shooting, especially thanks to the fouls drawn by ball-handlers Lyons and Johnson, who can get into the lane at will. Once they get there, they capitalize at a team-wide 75 percent rate. That, combined with strong offensive rebounding, leads to the conference’s most efficient offense, despite average two-point and three-point shooting and pedestrian turnover numbers. Where the Wildcats stand out most is on the defensive end. They force turnovers on nearly one in five opponent possessions, allow 40 percent shooting and clear the boards better than anyone in the Pac-12. Johnson’s quick hands lead to more than two steals per game, and Hill averages just more than a steal per game.

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Marching to Vegas: UCLA Outwills Arizona In Tucson

Posted by AMurawa on January 25th, 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.

When a bell is rung, the door is to be answered. Whatever that means, UCLA responded to every single effort Arizona had in response to the Bruins’ shellacking. From the opening tip, Ben Howland’s team played as if they knew they were there to win. And then they did. Because sometimes winning is about as simple as knowing you will. Leading into such a bout, certainly from an Arizona fan’s perspective, the buzz wasn’t quite there. UCLA appeared to be a middling program with little to look forward to on the heels of a home loss. That is not how they presented themselves in Tucson.

Jordan Adams And Shabazz Muhammad Were More Than Ready For Thursday Night's Game (Gary A. Vasquez, USA Today Sports)

Jordan Adams And Shabazz Muhammad Were More Than Ready For Thursday Night’s Game (Gary A. Vasquez, USA Today Sports)

While Arizona’s season will not be defined by this game, it may serve as the contrarian point to any forthcoming ego inflation allotted by a winning streak. The Wildcats, despite Thursday’s effort, are still a good team. They have room for improvement and will, if they want to fulfill the hype, do such. But to dwell on Arizona and its effort or lack thereof, would be a disservice to UCLA, Howland, and the work they collectively did. Shabazz Muhammad, earlier this week, said he would take it upon himself to win this game. You know what he subsequently did? He won that game with 23 points on 50% shooting. That’s what one does when they take victory upon themselves. When winning is not self-mandated? Your effort looks something in the realm of 6-of-17, zero assists, and five turnovers. That was Mark Lyons’ night, which was his worst as a Wildcat. Bigger picture, 10 assists in comparison to 14 turnovers as a team is not indicative of a group looking to collectively beat an opponent.

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