The Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas tips off at Noon PT today and fans are already salivating about the possible semifinals on Friday night. That said, the handful of teams in the second tier — such as Utah — are also serious threats to make some noise in Sin City. Let’s jump into the final Power Rankings of the season.
1. UCLA — Don’t look now, but UCLA is allowing 0.96 points per possession over its last eight games. Considering how much attention has been paid to the Bruins’ defensive issues this season, consider this an encouraging trend. If they can continue to defend at a reasonable level, Steve Alford‘s team will be ridiculously tough to beat in the NCAA Tournament.
Lonzo Ball’s UCLA team is one of the favorites heading into Las Vegas. (USA TODAY Sports)
2. Oregon — This team is stupid good on both ends. The 16-2 Ducks finished the conference season as the only team among the top two in both offensive and defensive efficiency. With the toughest portion of their schedule — five of their last seven games were on the road — now behind them, their focus shifts to being the #1 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. Read the rest of this entry »
In last week’s Pac-5 we discussed the most frustrating of turnovers in an exploration of the teams that cause their coaches and fans the greatest angst. This week we’ll continue that line of inquiry, but instead of considering the victims, we’ll highlight the culprits. The unforced turnover is without a doubt the game’s most frustrating play, but an offensive rebound comes in a close second. Defending your way to a missed field goal simply to have to do it all over again is incredibly disappointing. The offensive rebound is brutal.
Ivan Rabb Has a Knack for the Putback (USA Today Images)
Unless, of course, you’re on the side of the offense! In that case, you’ve refreshed your thirty or put yourself in excellent position for a putback (read: easy bucket).
The Pac-12’s top offensive rebounders as determined by offensive rebounding percentage:
Ivan Rabb, California – 13.4% – Rabb, who was recently omitted from the late-season Wooden Award list, is a fitting first place offensive rebounder. Remember last week when we noted that the Golden Bears were coughing the ball up at wild levels? Rabb’s acquisition of extra possessions is a huge reason why they can endure that frustrating practice.
Thomas Welsh, UCLA – 13.4% – Consider that UCLA leads the nation in eFG% and thus isn’t missing many shots; then consider that it’s borderline unfair that the Bruins have a guy gobbling up extra shots on what few attempts they miss.
Michael Humphrey, Stanford – 11.9% – One thing that I’ve long wondered was whether Jerod Haase would follow in the footsteps of his mentor, Roy Williams. In the instance of offensive rebounds, it’s worth noting that North Carolina has been a top-25 offensive rebounding team for 13 of the last 14 seasons. So while Stanford might not resemble the Tar Heels in many meaningful ways, Humphrey is at least trying to fit the mold.
Kingsley Okoroh, California – 11.8% – With Rabb already listed here, its worth noting that the Bears are collectively the 55th-best offensive rebounding team in college basketball (by rebounding rate).
Dusan Ristic, Arizona – 11.2% – As teams continue to play zone against Arizona, there should be many more opportunities for Wildcats like Ristic to grab misses. Note that Ristic’s teammate, Rawle Alkins, rates as the top offensive rebounding guard in the conference.
After eight seasons of slightly better than mediocre basketball, Stanford finally pulled the trigger after a 15-15 season and fired longtime coach Johnny Dawkins. Although the decision barely made a ripple on the national scene, there are many who believe that Stanford — thanks to its idyllic setting, academic reputation and commitment to athletics — is a sleeping giant in basketball and an attractive landing spot for a rising head coach. Enter Jerod Haase, a former player and coach under Roy Williams at Kansas and North Carolina and a native of Northern California. Haase’s local ties and a coaching resume that includes turning around a flagging UAB program made him a worthy candidate for the job, but that didn’t stop many Stanford fans from saying, “Who?” when he signed. Everyone agreed that it was time to move on from Dawkins, but dreams of luring Mark Few away from Gonzaga or Archie Miller away from Dayton did not come to fruition. Instead, Stanford got a coach who has just one NCAA Tournament win under his belt (although a #14 seed over a #3 seed is a very nice one).
Can Jerod Haase Make Stanford Nationally Relevant Again? (Getty)
This is the challenge that Haase welcomed when he took the job on The Farm. Stanford’s basketball program has enough tradition behind it that its fans have NCAA Tournament expectations and semi-legitimate Final Four hopes. They watched the school’s football program go from Pac-12 also-ran to perennial contender in just a few seasons, and considering that the basketball facilities are equally as appealing, it makes sense to think that Stanford basketball can undergo a similar renaissance. It will have to start with better recruiting. Part of the criticism with Dawkins was that, even though he made a Sweet Sixteen and his teams were usually competitive, he never truly made a name for himself on the recruiting trail like league colleagues Sean Miller, Steve Alford and Lorenzo Romar. He certainly deserves a lot of credit for developing players like Dwight Powell, Josh Huestis, Chasson Randle and several others. He also deserves credit for uncovering quality basketball players like Anthony Brown and Aaron Bright. But Powell and Huestis are Dawkins’ only pupils currently playing in the NBA and the current roster looks a lot like the previous versions — good enough to be competitive, but not good enough to get anyone very excited about their potential. Read the rest of this entry »
The season is back and it is time for what will be a recurring Monday feature here — Bests and Worsts. We usually prefer to spend our weekends watching basketball and save the analysis for the following week so we figured this is the best way to recap some of the good and bad of each weekend. For starters, two teams (UCLA and Stanford) played two games this weekend and everyone else played a single one. One team (Washington) won a potential resume-builder while two other teams (Arizona State and UCLA) lost games that they hope everyone will forget by early February. Let’s take a look at what went down.
Jakob Poeltl Picked Up Where He Left Off In A Season-Opening Win. (Utah Basketball)
Best Early Case For Player of the Year Honors: There is little doubt at this point that Jakob Poeltl is going to be a lottery pick as soon as the end of this season, but for now, let’s make sure to celebrate his outstanding versatility before he is gone. The sophomore filled up the box score with 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting, 11 rebounds and four blocks as the Utes’ frontcourt overwhelmed intrastate foe Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds will probably be one of the least physically imposing teams Poeltl goes up against this season, but if his teammates can continue to shoot well from behind the three-point arc, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a Poeltl 20/10 become a regular occurrence in Salt Lake City.
The Pac-12 microsite will preview each of its league teams over the next few weeks, continuing today with Stanford.
Strengths: Losing an all-league player (Dwight Powell) and one of its premier defenders (Josh Huestis) will be an adjustment, but there is still enough of the group remaining from Johnny Dawkins’ first NCAA Tournament qualifier to make some noise. Look no further than senior Chasson Randle, the team’s top scorer from a season ago and one-half of a seasoned backcourt to go with the Pac-12’s reigning most improved player in Anthony Brown. The duo started all but one of the Cardinal’s 36 games last season. Center Stefan Nastic, a fifth-year senior like Brown, also logged significant minutes as a starter in the run to the Sweet Sixteen.
Chasson Randle (5) and Anthony Brown (21) give Stanford a formidable backcourt high on experience. (Ben Margot/AP Photo)
Weaknesses: Brown just happens to be Stanford’s top returning rebounder at a mere five boards per contest. Those two aforementioned departures, Powell and Huestis, combined to pull down 15 rebounds per game, accounting for 43 percent of the team’s production. Coming into the program will be a pair of top-50 frontcourt recruits, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey, but the boards and their development will be worth watching early. Point guard play is also a concern, despite the abilities of Randle and Brown. Powell led the team in assists last season as a stretch-four, and freshman Robert Cartwright is the only true floor general expected to play a role. Read the rest of this entry »
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Stanford.
What Went Right
It wasn’t always pretty, and you probably still can’t say that this Stanford team ever consistently played up to its potential, but Johnny Dawkins and his senior class finally got to the NCAA Tournament. And they didn’t stop there, beating two solid teams – New Mexico and Kansas – in the Big Dance in order to earn an unlikely Sweet Sixteen appearance. The team was well-balanced on both ends of the court; Chasson Randle took that long-awaited next step in his personal development; and Dwight Powell eventually slid into a new role in order to begin potentially a new era for Stanford basketball.
Chasson Randle Had A Breakout Season In Leading The Cardinal To The Sweet Sixteen (Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP Photo)
What Went Wrong
One major problem plagued the Cardinal all year: team-wide inconsistency. We saw it early in the season when the team decided to forgo any inkling of defense in a loss to BYU while giving up 112 points; or a couple weeks later when they were unable to come up with any more than a half worth of good basketball in Brooklyn in the Legends Classic; or in conference play where they backed up their non-conference accomplishments with an 0-2 start in the Pac-12. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Sweet Sixteen where, coming off of a win over Kansas, the Cardinal had a beatable Dayton team between them and a date with the Elite Eight. What happened? The Flyers scored at will against the Cardinal; Randle was at his brick-tastic worst; and Dawkins and company let a big opportunity slip away without much of a fight.
With the start of the early signing period well underway, we’re going to spend almost all of this morning’s rundown on recruiting. And to kick things off, not only did Arizona have a big night on Thursday by getting a hard-earned victory over a tough San Diego State team, but they heard whispers of some very good things for the future as well. Stanley Johnson, a top-10 recruit out of Mater Dei in the greater Los Angeles area, will announce his decision on where he will attend school next season and the rumors are that Johnson will select Arizona over competitors like USC and Kentucky. With four-star guys Craig Victor and Parker Johnson-Cartwright already committed, Sean Miller’s got the beginnings of another phenomenal class.
On the other side of the things, Oregon State is struggling through a rough start to the season, but Beaver fans not only can celebrate the signing of a new recruit, but this specific recruit – junior college transferGary Payton II – offers up ties to the most recent glory days of the basketball program in Corvallis. While “The Mitten” doesn’t have the accolades that “The Glove” brought to OSU, he is a strong defender like his father and will provide some excitement for the Beavers next season. Meanwhile, there are three other recruits who have already verbally committed to Oregon State who may sign in the coming days. The big question that remains is whether head coach Craig Robinson will still be around to enjoy the fruits of his recruiting labor.
Up in the Bay Area, both Cal and Stanfordhave signed highly regarded recruits. Mike Montgomery signed four-star point guard Ahmaad Rorie, who had committed to the Golden Bears almost two years ago, while Stanford inked five-star power forward Reid Travis, who just committed to the Cardinal last week. Johnny Dawkins still has a couple four-star recruits in point guard Robert Cartwright and center Michael Humphrey who have already verbally committed, but they still need to make it official. And then, of course, we’ll need to see if Dawkins is still around to welcome them into Palo Alto next season.
Let’s switch from NorCal to SoCal to check out what USC and UCLA got done yesterday. Trojan head coach Andy Enfieldsigned three players, including big guys Malik Price-Martin and Jabari Craig along with four-star point guard Jordan McLaughlin, all of whom will be significant upgrades in terms of players who fit in with the style of play that Enfield wants. Expect these three to get big roles early for the cardinal and gold. Meanwhile, across town, Steve Alford signed Kevon Looney – a five-star power forward –and Hungarian power forward Gyorgy Goloman, who is spending 2013-14 at a prep school in Florida. Looney, in particular, is a big-time get for UCLA.
Lastly, we’ve got football again tonight. And, while we’ve got sufficient focus on basketball this time of year, we’ll be sure to take a couple breaks this weekend to keep our eye on some exciting Pac-12 football. Connor and I continue our battle for prognosticating supremacy, and we’re in a tight contest. Last week we both went 4-1, with Connor eking out a fun one when Arizona State knocked off Utah, and me riding Myles Freaking Jack !!!!! (yes, I believe those exclamation points are now officially a part of his name) to a UCLA win over Arizona (although I was wishing I was watching a UCLA/Arizona basketball game the whole time). On the season, Connor’s still got a one-game lead on me, with him checking in at 58-15 and me at 57-16. Our game of the week comes tonight, when Washington and UCLA meet up at the Rose Bowl (a 6:00 PM football game at the Rose Bowl on a Friday night? Yeah, calling that thing half full at kick-off will be extraordinarily optimistic). I’m leaving the Bruins bandwagon to hop on Bishop Sankey and company, while Connor’s going with the Bruins at home.
Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s been a whirlwind two months for four-star forward small forward Trevon Bluiett. On September 3, the No. 12 ranked small forward and No. 41 overall in the class of 2014, announced his commitment to UCLA. One month later on October 3, Bluiett decided to re-open his recruitment and look for a college closer to his hometown of Indianapolis. On Saturday, Bluiett ended his recruitment for a second time and chose to play for the Xavier Musketeers. The commitment gives Xavier one of its top overall recruiting classes along with a big-time scorer.
Bluiett stands at 6’5” and 185 pounds and is one of the top wing scorers in the class of 2014. This past summer, Bluiett played on the Nike EYBL AAU circuit and averaged 19.3 points per game while shooting 38.4 percent from the three-point line and 80.4 percent from the free throw line. He scored 20-plus points in 10 of his 22 games; including one where he went off for 41 points. Not only can Bluiett put the ball in the basket but he also contributes in other ways shown by his 4.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
With Bluiett’s announcement, Xavier now has five commitments from the senior class. Bluiett is the headliner, but the class also includes four-star power forward Makinde London (#71 overall, #17 PF) and four-star shooting guard J.P. Macura (#89 overall, #20 SG) to go along with three-star center Sean O’Mara (#25 center) and three-star shooting guard Edmond Summer (#27 SG). The additions of Bluiett, Macura, and Summer will help tremendously with the Musketeers’ outside shooting. Last season only three Musketeers hit 10 or more three-pointers, and only one of those, junior guard Dee Davis will be around when this renowned recruiting class arrives on campus.
Looney Heading West to UCLA
While Steve Alford might have lost four-star recruit Trevon Bluiett just one month after his commitment in September, he offset that loss this past week with another player from the Midwest in five-star forward Kevon Looney. Just last Thursday, Looney committed to UCLA from his Hamilton (WI) High School in a decision that caught most everyone by surprise. The No. 14 ranked player in the country chose the Bruins over Tennessee, Duke, Florida, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
When Oregon faces Georgetown on November 8 in Seoul, South Korea, there will be a familiar face on the other side. The NCAA has cleared former UCLA center Josh Smith to start playing immediately for the Hoyas. In addition, Smith now has two years of eligibility remaining after being granted a waiver by the NCAA, since he only played six games last season. Head coach John Thompson made it clear Smith’s old problems in Los Angeles would be a thing of the past, saying he “has to maintain a high level of commitment on and off the court.” The Ducks and Hoyas will meet at 5:00 PM Pacific on that opening Friday in a game televised by ESPN.
“We don’t view Arizona as the top, the cream, and everybody is the rest. We view ourselves as the cream and everybody else can fight for the rest of the spots.” Those are the words of junior Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie speaking at last week’s Pac-12 Media Day. Head coach Tad Boyle says he’s preaching for his team to ignore the preseason expectations and to be “humble and hungry”, which is easier said than done after a 20-win season last year and most everyone picking CU to make its third straight NCAA Tournament. The Buffaloes get all the chances they could every want in non-conference play to prove they are legit with a road game at Baylor, home games against Harvard, Kansas, and Georgia, and a meeting with Oklahoma State in Las Vegas.
Four-star power forward Michael Humphrey (AZ)has narrowed his impressive list of offers down to two, but the Arizona Daily Star reports that there is no timetable for a decision from the Class of 2014 big man. Humphrey visited Arizona over the weekend, and Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins made an in-home visit with him on Monday. It appears that Notre Dame, UCLA, and Vanderbilt, who had offers on the table, are now out of the running.
In the “down the road” department of recruiting, Craig Robinson and Oregon State landed a verbal commitment from Class of 2016 shooting guard JaQuori McLaughlin (WA). Citing his long relationship with the coaching staff at Oregon State and their man-to-man defense, McLaughlin wanted to jump aboard early. He averaged 13 points per game in his freshman season at Peninsula High School, but hopes to raise that average to 25 this year. Whether McLaughlin sticks with his commitment (and whether Robinson is still in Corvallis when McLaughlin finally graduates high school) remains to be seen.
We keep it in Corvallis to close things up, as we learned yesterday they would be holding the annual “Nike N7 game” on November 26 against SIU-Edwardsville. This is the game where Oregon State wears the turquoise jerseys to bring attention to the initiative that helps Native communities across the country get access to products that encourage participation in sports. It is nice to see the tradition continue even after Joe Burton, who grew up on the Soboba Reservation in Southern California, graduated after last season.
Good morning and welcome to Pac-12 Media Day. A coach and a player from each of the 12 schools will all be assembled at the Pac-12 Studios in San Francisco today to be grilled by Pac-12 writers from up and down the west coast, including our own representative in Adam Butler. We’ll have plenty of interesting stuff coming your way from this event, but if you’d like to follow along, the conference has set up a live stream for you to watch as each team gets their time on the podium.
One thing you can be sure new USC head coach Andy Enfield will be questioned about today is the line that he used to get his players running in practice, as reported by Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News: “We play uptempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” It’s a great line to be sure, one that the national media picked up on immediately and, aside from the immediate fact that it probably reinforced his overall objective to his team, it also serves as further notice to future recruits, the national basketball populace and certainly to that team in the nicer neighborhood uptown, that the Trojans and their brash new coach aim to be the basketball team in Los Angeles. We’ll have more on this later today.
Yesterday we pointed you to some fine position-by-position breakdowns of the Washington roster. Today, we send you to the start of a similar rundown of the California squad by Scott Chong at California Golden Blogs. Last week he kicked off the series with a look at the wings on that squad, a group highlighted by highly-anticipated freshman Jabari Bird. Despite the fact that the Bears are tasked with replacing Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe, Cal fans have reason to be confident that Bird and company can keep things going strong in Berkeley. Check back with them regularly to see the rest of the series.
It’s no secret that one of the big storylines for Oregon and head coach Dana Altman is the success they are having with transfers, having ridden players like Tony Woods, Arsalan Kazemi, Devoe Joseph and Olu Ashaolu to year-by-year improvement in Eugene. But there’s another aspect to that storyline and a tie between those last two players we mentioned and another pair of senior transfers – Jason Calliste and Richard Amardi – who hope to make their marks in their lone seasons with the Ducks. You see, all four of those guys – Joseph, Ashaolu, Calliste and Amardi – are natives of Toronto who spent time in the Grassroots Elite AAU program. Aside from becoming a home for transfers, Altman has also turned his program into a welcome landing spot for Torontonians.
Lastly, a quick check in on some recruiting news, as Michael Humphrey, a raw top-100 2014 power forward has made visits to three Pac-12 campuses to date. But now, according to Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star, Humphrey has narrowed his list down to just two schools – Arizona and Stanford. Humphrey told Pascoe that he is “in love” with both schools, but expects to come up with a decision sometime soon after he spends his official visit in Tucson this weekend.