UCLA Week: Evaluating the Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on August 13th, 2012

There are no two ways around it, so we might as well get right to the punch: The past three seasons at UCLA, even with an NCAA Tournament appearance and win in 2010-11, is in the conversation for the worst stretch of three consecutive seasons in the history of the storied program. Aside from the transition at the end of the Steve Lavin era to the beginning of the Ben Howland era, you have to go back to Wilbur Johns in the World War II era for a string of three such poor seasons in Westwood. All that is bad enough, but if you consider where this program was at the end of the 2007-08 season, coming off three consecutive Final Fours and welcoming in the nation’s #1 recruiting class, such a precipitous fall was highly unlikely.

Kevin Love, UCLA

It Has Been Four Unsatisfying Seasons Since Kevin Love Helped UCLA Last Advance to A Final Four (Mark J. Terril, AP Photo)

So how did Howland and the Bruins go from being on the verge of ushering another great era of UCLA basketball to missing the NCAA Tournament in two out of three seasons? Much of it has to do with underachievement from that 2008 recruiting class. In the 2008-09 season, after future pros like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute departed early (a certain byproduct of the type of success the Bruins were having), the Bruins rode gutsy performances by veterans like Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya to a solid 26-9 overall record, but failed to win the Pac-10 for the first time in three years and were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in resounding fashion by a Villanova team that outhustled and outfought the Bruins. More ominous for UCLA was the fact that none of the highly-regarded freshman class made much of an impact that season. And despite point guard Jrue Holiday’s struggles as a frosh, he couldn’t get out of Westwood fast enough, declaring for the NBA Draft while averaging just eight points and four assists in his lone season.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.01.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 1st, 2012

  1. With the big Sports Illustrated critique of Ben Howland’s handling of the UCLA program dropping on Wednesday, it was a day heavy on reaction to that story. First and foremost, UCLA officials, including Howland, athletic director Dan Guerrero and chancellor Gene Block all responded with disappointment to the article. Howland responded by taking responsibility for the program and noted that he would make whatever changes needed to be made, but Guerrero held out the possibility, in a separate teleconference, that he might not have the coach back to make those changes, saying that he will reassess the situation after the season. Both admit that some mistakes were made within the program, but Guerrero says that by and large, these were isolated incidents restricted to just a few players.
  2. A handful of former UCLA players responded to the article by coming to the defense of their old coach. Lorenzo Mata-Real described Howland as a demanding coach who was there for his players when they needed him and who did well to prepare them for life after college. Michael Roll placed the blame at the feet of the handful of players who “didn’t want to do what was necessary to win.” And even Josiah Johnson, who left the program furious at Howland for having slashed his minutes as a senior, now says that his coach was just trying to foster an environment of accountability.
  3. Lastly, while there was plenty of concern that the negative press surrounding the program might negatively affect recruiting, key recruits confirmed their continued interest in UCLA. Top five recruit Kyle Anderson, who has already signed a letter of intent with UCLA, reaffirmed his commitment to the program on Wednesday, while the nation’s #2 recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, confirmed that UCLA was definitely still in the mix. However, Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, did mention that the issues could be concerning when the final decision is made. More importantly, on the Muhammad trail, was a bombshell on Wednesday that the NCAA is looking into potential eligibility issues with the recruit. Muhammad has had connections with a couple financial advisers – Benjamin Lincoln and Ken Kavanaugh – and that both men may have given improper benefits to the high school senior. It is alleged that Lincoln paid for some of Muhammad’s unofficial visits to college campuses, while Kavanaugh helped fund his AAU team. The NCAA has alerted all of the schools who are still actively recruiting Muhammad, that although they are free to continue doing so, he may wind up ineligible to compete at the college level. While this story may not get the national run that the SI piece did, in the end, it may be more damaging to Howland’s future.
  4. Enough on UCLA for now, onto Washington and their chances of earning an at-large bid on Selection Sunday. In his weekly Bubble Watch, Andy Glockner took a look at recent teams with similar profiles to the Huskies’ and found that half of the six he looked at did not receive an invitation. Of the six teams he looked at, only one was from a BCS conference – California in 2010. That year the Golden Bears won the conference title with a 13-5 record, but had no top 50 wins and just three against the top 100, similar numbers to what the Huskies will have next Sunday. However, unlike the Huskies, that Cal team had an RPI of 20, significantly better than Washington’s will be.
  5. Two years ago, after Washington State finished their season at 16-15, the program turned down an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational – that third postseason tournament that began in 2008. This year, however, head coach Ken Bone is already making it clear that should the CBI come calling for the Cougars (who are currently 14-14 on the season), they’ll be more than happy to listen. Part of the reason the team turned down the invitation in 2010 was that the team was worn down at the end of the year and didn’t have the passion to continue playing. But this year, on a team that expects to have six significant contributors back next year, the team is still working hard and the extra stretch of the year would give their younger players a chance to continue developing. Now, it’s just a matter of Washington State finishing strongly enough to catch the eye of the CBI.
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Pac-10 Tourney Daily Diary: Finals

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. One of our RTC correspondents is at the Pac-10 Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the championship game.

Washington 79, California 75

  • Right before the game started, the Washington band got the fans going with a stirring rendition of the NCAA/CBS lead-in song…  was that prescient or just lucky?  I heard eight different pep bands this weekend, though, and none of the other ones did that song, so maybe they were on to something.
  • This was my first experience at the Pac-10 Tournament, but as someone who has been to the ACC and SEC Tournaments before, I leave completely underwhelmed with the fan support.  The Staples Center does a great job with their facilities and Los Angeles in general is an enticing destination (although not so much the downtown core), but where are all the fans?  I can’t believe that there aren’t more than a couple thousand Washington and Cal fans in the SoCal metro area who can’t be bothered to buy a ticket for an afternoon of exciting basketball that may result in your team making the NCAA Tournament.  I’m willing to give this year a slight pass because of the poor quality of the teams in this league, but I seriously question whether it was all that different in 2008, for example, when there were six or seven really good teams in the conference.  This article written prior to the Tournament touches on some of the problems I too noticed with the choice of venue (downtown LA, not the Staples Center).
  • I noticed about a half-hour before the game that Lorenzo Romar was standing alone in the tunnel area seemingly enjoying the quiet for a few moments.  He was looking out onto the court, but it was clear that his mind was working to take in the moment.  Coaches have a stressful job, and it was an interesting insight into how this particular one deals with the pressure.
  • In the first half, Washington held Cal to 37% shooting and Jerome Randle to 4 pts.  In the second half, it was 48% and 8 pts.  Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin were phenomenal (17-26 for 45 points), but the Cal starting backcourt was completely flummoxed today.  Randle and Patrick Christopher combined for 6-22 shooting and 2-11 from behind the arc for a total of 23 points.  The game really comes down to that.  As Mike Montgomery said after the game, they didn’t hit shots they normally hit.  When Cal has that kind of a night against a good team, they lose.
  • Washington seemed more aggressive most of the day, as if they realized they were in a little more trouble with the Selection Committee.  Quincy Pondexter (18 pts) and Isaiah Thomas (16 pts) both played under control and utilized good shot selection.  It showed, as the Huskies hit 53% for the game and 94% from the line.  I’m not predicting great things for this team as a #12 or #13 seed next week, but if they catch a break and play a relatively unathletic team that isn’t a gifted scoring team as well, they’ll have a chance to pull the upset.
  • In the postgame presser with Mike Montgomery, I referred to Seth Davis’ comment that Cal is one of the more interesting bubble teams in some time, having won the regular season Pac-10 title with ease yet not having a single top-50 win all season long.  Monty visibly bristled at the suggestion that Cal is even being talked about on the bubble.  The word he used was that he would be “astounded” if Cal doesn’t make the NCAAs, and that people (Seth?  me?) need to “do their homework” with respect to evaluating their losses with key players out of the lineup earlier in the year.  He clearly thinks (as many Pac-10 folks do) that if you win the conference regular season title, that should be enough.
  • The All-Tourney team actually had three Bears on it versus two for Washington.  Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin made it, while Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas (the MVP) were the two for UW.  Michael Roll from UCLA was the other player voted on.  Maybe it’s like this everywhere, but they took our sheets with two minutes remaining… what if Cal’s Randle produced a 15-point explosion in overtime?  Seems like a bad way to handle that in a close game.
  • So that’ll close out our trip to the Pac-10 Tournament.  The championship tilt was the best game of the tournament (well, the play-in game was good too, but it was the play-in game so I don’t count it), and it probably ended up as a best-case for the league in that two teams will go dancing.  The hope here is that the league improves the next couple of years so that the fans start coming back to this event and the quality of play will also end up better.
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Pac-10 Tourney Daily Diary: Semifinals

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. One of our RTC correspondents is at the Pac-10 Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the semifinal games.

Washington 79, Stanford 64

  • It’s not difficult to see why Washington (along with Cal) was picked at the top of the Pac-10 this season.  There’s a lot of bounce in those legs.  Basketball is such an athletic sport, it’s easy to be enticed when you see a team like UW sailing around the arena like they are on pogo sticks.  But it’s a game that also requires strategic use of your resources, and wanton jumping around won’t get you very far against teams that understand the game better than you do.
  • I referred to this above, but the athleticism that Washington has is among the top fifteen or twenty we’ve seen this year.  Lorenzo Romar definitely tries to recruit a certain type of player for his system, which makes their defensive shortcomings all the more frustrating.  They’ll turn you over, but they just don’t guard people in the halfcourt like they could or should given the athletes at their disposal.  Supposing they committed to defense, they’d be a top ten team and the bubble would be left to other teams to worry about.
  • Lorenzo Romar was asked about the bubble situation after the game and he said that he doesn’t worry about it much but that he definitely wants to take the decision out of the NCAA Selection Committee’s hands.  Personally, I think they’ve done enough at this point, and both Zach Hayes and Lunardi agree.
  • I know the Stanford band is supposed to be quirky and weird and that’s the point of it all — total irreverence as opposed to what Cal does.  But man, it’s almost like they had to have tryouts to find the weirdest-looking bunch they could find over there.  The tree, however, is, and remains awesome.  Love the tree.

Love the Tree

  • Highlight of the night was UW forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning tomahawking a dunk in the second half over Drew Shiller.  Check it out…

  • Talk about deja vu.  That dunk was remarkably similar to one that MBA threw on Shiller earlier this year.  Hey Shiller, stop trying to take charges under the rim, fella!  This isn’t Duke.

California 85, UCLA 72

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences.

Standings

  1. California    (12-5, 20-9)
  2. Arizona State     (10-6, 20-9)
  3. Washington     (9-7, 19-9)
  4. USC     (8-8, 16-12)
  5. Arizona      (8-8, 14-14)
  6. UCLA     (8-8, 13-15)
  7. Oregon State    (7-9, 13-15)
  8. Stanford    (7-10, 13-16)
  9. Washington State    (6-10, 16-12)
  10. Oregon     (6-10, 14-14)

It may not have been the type of season that Cal head coach Mike Montgomery envisioned at the start of the year when his Golden Bears and their five returning starters were ranked in the top 15, but as the calendar page gets flipped to the only month that really matters in college basketball, his team has just finished clinching at least a part of the Pac-10 regular season title and the top seed in next week’s Pac-10 Tournament. What could be very interesting for the Bears, however, is a scenario that Montgomery has no interest in seeing happen: the Bears failing to win the Pac-10 Tournament and its automatic bid, leaving Cal — a team with an RPI in the 20s but no wins against top-50 RPI teams -– squarely on the bubble for NCAA at-large consideration.

Team Rundowns

  • California – The Bears wrapped up their portion of the Pac-10 title by sweeping the Arizona schools behind strong play from their seniors. Over the course of the weekend, the five Bear seniors (Jamal Boykin, Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Nikola Knezevic) combined for 129 of the 157 Cal points. Boykin led the way and took home Pac-10 player-of-the-week honors behind averages of 17 points and 8.5 rebounds. Cal still needs either a win at Stanford or a loss by Arizona State in one of their games against the Southern California schools to wrap up sole possession of the regular season crown.
  • Arizona State – The Sun Devils hung around for a half at Haas Pavilion on Saturday, but ice-cold second half shooting (just 7-26 from the field) and a complete inability to hit from range throughout the game (only 3-22 from behind the arc) doomed ASU. Only senior Jerren Shipp was able to get off against the Bears, hitting six of his nine shots (including two threes) for 14 points. Senior center Eric Boateng tied a Pac-10 record by hitting all 11 of his field goal attempts (on his way to 24 points) in their win over Stanford on Thursday. The Devils still have the inside track on the number two seed in the Pac-10 tournament, with a one-game lead over Washington.
  • Washington – The Huskies completed a season-sweep over intrastate rival Washington State on Saturday by getting out to a big first half lead (they led 35-21 at the half) and then fighting off a charging Cougar squad for a seven-point win. Sophomore point guard Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 22 points and junior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning continued his recent tear by adding 17 points and 12 rebounds. Bryan-Amaning has now averaged 13/7 over the past six weeks. Washington will head to the Oregon schools to wrap up their regular season, needing to win both games and get some help out of the Southern California schools in order to take over second place.
  • USC – Coming into the week, the Trojans still had an outside shot at winning the regular season Pac-10 title. Those hopes died Thursday night when they scored 12 points in the second half (6/25 FGs, 0/13 3s in the second half) against Oregon. The Trojans followed that up with a similar performance against Oregon State on Saturday, shooting just 25% from the field in the second half (and 29% for the game). Coach Kevin O’Neill will lose senior starters Mike Gerrity, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson off a team that has leaned heavily on its starting five, assuring that things will look different around the Galen Center next season.
  • Arizona – The Wildcats split their trip to the Bay Area this weekend, stealing a game from Stanford on Saturday on a 15-foot bank at the buzzer by freshman guard Lamont “Momo” Jones. Jones had a career high 16 points for the ‘Cats and fellow freshman Derrick Williams added 24 points to push Sean Miller’s club into a three-way tie in the middle of the conference. While senior point guard Nic Wise will be wrapping up his college career this weekend, the Wildcats boast a young team (five freshmen get playing time) that will likely be considered one of the early favorites in the Pac-10 next season.

  • UCLA – Senior day summed up the UCLA season pretty well. Before the game started, senior forward Nikola Dragovic, a couple of days after having his shoulder pop out against Oregon State, tripped over a basketball during warm-ups and sprained his ankle. And then, after battling back from a 10-point halftime deficit to tie the game late, sophomore point guard Jerime Anderson had two bad turnovers in the last minute and the Bruins sank back to .500 in the conference. Senior Michael Roll did go out in style, knocking down six three-pointers on his way to 25 points in his last regular season appearance in Pauley Pavilion.
  • Oregon State – The Beavers shot just 4-31 from 3-pt range this week, hit only 37% from the field, turned the ball over 30 times, and still got a split in Southern California when they forced 20 USC turnovers and held the Trojans to 29% shooting on Saturday. Senior guard Seth Tarver led the Beavs with 15 points in a game that was ugly enough to deserve special mention in a season of ugliness in the Pac-10. Oregon State still has a chance to finish the Pac-10 season at .500 with wins over the Arizona schools in the final weekend of the season.
  • Stanford – Despite senior Landry Fields’ strong last weekend in Maples Pavilion, the Cardinal dropped both games this week and are destined for a lower-division Pac-10 finish. Fields averaged 21.5 points and seven rebounds this week, but against the Sun Devils on Thursday he received very little help. Sophomore guards Jeremy Green and Jarrett Mann combined to score just six points on 2-15 shooting (and, to be fair to Mann, he only accounted for one of those field goal attempts – a miss). They both bounced back against Arizona on Saturday, going for 19 and 13 respectively, but the Cardinal lost a heart-breaker on a shot at the buzzer.
  • Washington State – The Cougars stumbled out of the gate on Saturday and by halftime were down 14 on Senior Night in Beasley Coliseum. But sophomore forward DeAngelo Casto led the Cougars on a second half run to get back in the game and even take their first lead of the game in the middle of the second half. However, the Cougars were unable to contain the Huskies’ Thomas late and the Cougs faded down the stretch. Casto wound up with 19/6, but the Cougs’ leading scorer, sophomore Klay Thompson, struggled all day, missing 12 of his 14 field goal attempts and turning the ball over five times. The Cougars will close the season with a road trip to Oregon.
  • Oregon – The Ducks went on the road to Southern California and swept UCLA and USC, breaking a five-game losing streak in a big way, and now have put themselves in position to climb out of the cellar with a strong closing weekend of the season, as the Ducks host the Washington schools while saying goodbye to senior Tajuan Porter as well as MacArthur Court. Porter averaged 22.5 ppg in the LA sweep and threw in seven threes in the win over the Bruins, leaving him just eight threes behind former Arizona star Salim Stoudamire for the all-time Pac-10 mark.
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ATB: Cornell Loses Its Way in the Phog…

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2010

The (Big) Red Scare. #1 Kansas 71, Cornell 66.  Normally, an early January game between a top-ranked Kansas squad and…well, pretty much any Ivy League school sounds about as thrilling as getting the measles twice.  Tonight was different.  Cornell came into Kansas’ dreaded Allen Fieldhouse already with a few wins over big-conference teams like Alabama, Massachusetts, and St. John’s.  They were riding the momentum of a ten-game winning streak and could boast a kid in Ryan Wittman who is nothing close to a kept secret any more.  Wittman (24/4/3 assts), a 6’6 long-range bomber averaging 19 PPG and 44% from distance, had appeared on various “best outside shooters” lists (including ours) and already had people wondering if Cornell was actually good enough to get in as an at-large team this year.  But this is no ordinary place or opponent.  This is Kansas, and this is Allen Fieldhouse, they of the 50-game home winning streak and current #1-ranking that, to be honest, hasn’t really been challenged yet.  It was close from the start; neither team led by more than three in the first half, and Cornell actually led at the break by that margin.  You still had the feeling, though, that this was one of those games in which Kansas would come out in the second half and end it early.  We’ve all seen this game before, right?  A team hangs around for a half by playing the best 20 minutes of basketball they’ve ever played, like Mike McD thinking he’s going to complete his run on Teddy KGB’s place.  We all know it’s a matter of time until Kansas turns over the two aces and sends whatever upstart they’re facing back to law school, a bratty Gretchen Mol, and Joey Knish’s delivery truck, right?  But when Cornell jumped on the Jayhawks to start the second half and extended their lead to eight, panic began to take root.  With Kansas up 53-47 with 9:45 left, the calls, texts, and more frequent network updates started.  When Kansas had still failed to reclaim the lead with under five minutes left, it was on.  Upset alert.  #1 is in trouble.  And it’s an Ivy League team. I mean, come on — ESPN even broke off of a DUKE GAME to provide bonus coverage!  Kansas, elevated by the home crowd, would eventually break free from Cornell’s expert control of the pace and take a 61-60 lead with 4:03 left, and you got the feeling that Cornell was done.  They would actually take the lead once more at 64-63 with less than a minute left, but Sherron Collins decided it was time to take over.  Handling the ball almost exclusively for Kansas, Collins (33/4/3) scored his team’s last eight points and four out of five FTs down the stretch.  Give Cornell credit for going for the kill, though.  Down 66-64, they found Wittman off a screen with 29 seconds left and he was never thinking about a two.  He would miss that three, and a later one to tie, and Kansas would eventually prevail.  This was probably the worst thing that could happen to the rest of the Big 12, since now Kansas has learned (if they weren’t aware before) not to take their position for granted, and they know there’s no such thing as a night off.  Coaches secretly love these close games early in the season because it empowers and tempers your squad, making them tougher for eventual tournament games.  As for Cornell…if the committee still considers “quality losses,” it doesn’t get much more quality than this one — to #1 Kansas, in their house, a 50-game home win streak on the line.  The Big Red will probably gain Top 25 votes from this, and it should actually help their curb appeal.  So, hands up, who wants to see Cornell opposite them as a first round opponent on Selection Sunday??  Yeah, we thought not.

Evan Turner Triumphantly ReturnsOhio State 79, Indiana 54.  OSU wasn’t going to lose this game at home regardless of whether Turner played or not, but his presence on the court was apparent in terms of inspiring confidence in his teammates and his ability to share the ball.  He played twenty minutes, contributed 8/4/5 assts while committing three fouls, but most importantly, he didn’t really appear rusty out there other than the first few sets.  The only thing that kept him from playing more than half the game was early foul trouble, but the most important takeaway from this blowout game was that it was obvious to anyone who has watched the Buckeyes play without Turner that everyone else appeared comfortable again.  Jon Diebler in particular was the primary beneficiary, as he had a 21/3 assts/3 stls night on 5-8 from three without having to worry about running the offense (along with William Buford) nearly as much.  Turner said afterwards that the eight-week prognosis originally suggested by OSU officials was a bit of a hedge, and he was only out of commission for 4.5 weeks, but all that matters now is that Turner is back in the lineup and OSU should be back in contention for the Big Ten title and the Top 25 in short order.

Unreal Score of the NightSeattle 99, Oregon State 48.  Right now Craig Robinson’s numbers are looking even worse than his brother-in-law’s, as Seattle — barely a D1 school, as a brand-new Independent — came into Corvallis and obliterated the Beavers in their own building.  A 58-21 second half is simply unconscionable for a Pac-10 team playing at home against a mid-major of any kind.  Seriously, even Gonzaga with Adam Morrison, Dan Dickau and Austin Daye all starting shouldn’t be able to do what the Redhawks did to Oregon State tonight.  Cameron Dollar should be proud of his team with road wins over Utah and OSU this season already, and circle 1/26 on your calendar as Seattle will visit crosstown rival Washington for another program-making shot at glory.  

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2009

checkinginon

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big West and Pac-10 Conferences.

Sometimes it’s not so painful to watch a once proud and mighty warrior fall from grace, as it is bizarre.  You may be able to accept that nothing lasts forever, and that eventually the tide must turn. But it’s one thing to have a rebuilding year, and quite another to be a national laughingstock.  Yet, that term best describes the way that Pac-10 teams have performed so far in this early season. It also describes the way that the conference’s flagship program, the UCLA Bruins, has performed so far in this early season.  The Pac-10, we knew, was a conference in decline. But few predicted that the decline would be so far, so fast.

The conference’s two Top 25 teams have each suffered losses to unranked, seemingly-lesser teams.  The conference was soundly beaten in this week’s Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge, losing each of Thursday night’s three games. In fact, until late Friday, the Pac-10 Conference has not won a single game since Monday night, when Arizona State defeated 0-5 Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  Obviously it’s early in the season, and this is a conference that will play its best basketball later in the season, but the Pac-10 was considered mediocre among the power conferences this season and has instead looked dreadful, while the two teams that did possess national potential are obviously flawed and UCLA continues to trip all over itself. It’ll take a lot for the Pac-10 to rebuild its reputation this season, so let’s take a look at what’s transpired thus far.

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ATB: A Strange Sense of Distant Familiarity Fell Over UCLA…

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2009

atb

Word of the Day.  Exposure.  What we’re starting to see throughout this week of holiday hoops as good teams play other good teams is which teams are better than we all thought and which teams aren’t.  Like last night with Kentucky, some teams such as UCLA and Oklahoma are being exposed as works-in-progress with a lot of problems who are a long, long way from making any noise in March.  Others, such as Minnesota and Marquette, might be better than anyone thought they were and could be extremely underrated at this point in the season.  This is what’s great about this time of the year and all of these tournaments — it provides some clarity for how good these teams actually are — much moreso than the standard garbage game against Northeastern State U.

UCLA Gets Waxed in the 76 ClassicPortland 74, UCLA 47. Ben Howland took the worst loss of his UCLA era, as the Portland Pilots shot a blistering 57.9% from three-point land to defeat his Bruins in front of a large fanbase from nearby Westwood.  In a weird irony from the basketball weauxfgods, Steve Lavin, the last coach to get obliterated like this on the UCLA sideline, was there calling the game for ESPN.  Portland’s lead was as great as 31 (!!!) in the second half, and UCLA had trouble against a zone defense for the second time they’ve faced one this season. Pilot guards T.J. Campbell and Jared Stohl (yeah, it really does always go in) led the Pilots with 15 points each, as the former hit three treys and the latter was a perfect 5-5 from downtown — the whole team ripped UCLA for 54% while the Bruins could only muster 33% from the field themselves. Meanwhile, UCLA is searching for leadership that has yet to show itself (Michael Roll?  James Keefe?) and has another tough matchup against Butler on Friday. Portland is beginning to turn some heads and has a chance to make real noise in this tournament if they can  beat #16 Minnesota tomorrow.  As for UCLA, the best way to sum it up may be like this

Portland UCLA Basketball

  • #16 Minnesota 82, #10 Butler 73. Tubby Smith’s team looked the better squad from start to finish of this one.  Minnesota appeared much stronger, more athletic and quicker to the ball as the Gophers repeatedly got production from its deep bench (even with three players currently suspended).  The Minnesota bench contributed 46 pts (to 8 for Butler), but we were struck by how UM’s inside players such as Colton Iverson were getting to the rebounds and physically knocking Butler stars Matt Howard (who fouled out) and Gordon Hayward around.  The Gophers’ defense was in Butler’s face on everything, holding the Bulldogs to a tepid 33% from the field and (ouch) only 5-23 from deep.  While the big three of Hayward, Howard and Shelvin Mack combined for 56 pts, they were hard-earned, and the Minnesota defense was busy locking everyone else on the team up.  If Tubby gets his suspended players back in the lineup, his team could be one of the deepest in the Big Ten this year.
  • #8 West Virginia 85, Long Beach State 62.  LBSU looked completely outmatched today against WVU’s suffocating man-to-man defense and they were never really in the game.  The big story of course was that star forward Devin Ebanks dressed out but did not play, as his ‘personal issues’ seem to still be bothering him (snicker).  The Mountaineers hit twelve threes in a scintillating shooting peformance, led by Casey Mitchell, who went for 18 pts in only fifteen minutes of action.  In a nice sidenote, Jerry West’s son, walk-on Johnnie, also had a career-high eleven points to get in on the action.  Bottom line: WVU has the pieces, but Texas A&M will be a good test tomorrow.
  • Texas A&M 69, #19 Clemson 60. TAMU got into Clemson’s shorts defensively early in this game, and ultimately held the Tigers to 34% for the game and 3-18 from deep in a mild upset for the Aggies.  BJ Holmes and David Loubeau came off the bench to combine for 32 pts and 14 rebounds for Mark Turgeon, but the story of this game was their defense as only Trevor Booker (18/6) and Tanner Smith (14/5/3 assts) were able to get going.  Clemson will get well in a hurry with LBSU tomorrow, but A&M will need that defense against the top ten Mountaineers.

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Checking in on the… Pac-10

Posted by nvr1983 on February 6th, 2009

Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

News and Notes

  • Arizona State‘s Rihards Kuksiks leads the nation in 3-point percentage, but is only third in the Pac-10. How is that possible? Well NCAA statistical leaders need to make a minimum of 2.5 per game from three-point range to qualify, while Pac-10 needs to make one per game and play in 75 percent of the team’s games. Theo Robertson is shooting 56.2% and Michael Roll is shooting 54.5%, both ahead of Kuksiks’s 46.7%. Either way Kuksiks has had a tough time the past two games going 3-for-20 from behind the arc.
  • Ben Howland‘s 13-4 record against California is his best against any team in the Pac-10.
  • UCLA’s recent victory over Stanford was UCLA’s largest victory over Stanford at Pauley Pavilion in over 30 years. It was also UCLA’s highest scoring game under Howland. UCLA shot 73% from 3-point range and only 62% from the free throw line. Maybe they should start taking their foul shots from behind the arc.
  • California, the best three-point shooting team in the nation at 47%, shot 2-for-16 from three-point range against USC.
  • UCLA dominated teams this week. The Bruins went 3-0 with average margin of victory over 21 points.
  • Darren Collison, who earlier this year broke the UCLA record for consecutive free-throws with 43, is shooting 94.4% from the line, which leads the nation.
  • Craig Robinson has turned it around for Oregon State. The Beavers have four wins in the first half of the Pac-10 schedule for the first time since 2002-03.
  • After another week of ups and downs in the Pac-10, there are really only two locks for the tournament at this point: UCLA and Washington. Four others (Arizona, Arizona State, California, and USC) still have work to do.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.17.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 16th, 2009

Set Your Tivos

Game of the Day #1

#12 Georgetown at #2 Duke on CBS at 1:30 PM

John Thompson III might want to think about asking the AD at Georgetown for a new schedule maker. I can understand wanting to get your team ready for the tournament, but this is ridiculous. Coming off a brutal start to their Big East schedule (Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Notre Dame, and Syracuse), the Hoyas get a respite by heading out of conference with a leisurely trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium where the Blue Devils have a 67-game home non-conference winning streak. Normally a trip to Cameron would be a major focus of any team’s season, but with the Hoyas’ recent schedule it will be interesting to see if they have anything left in the tank.

This has the potential to be an entertaining game with great matchups all over the floor. The most interesting matchup will be Greg Monroe against Kyle Singler. While Monroe has more potential and will be a higher NBA Draft pick, Singler is quite talented too and plays at a high level more consistently. I’m not sure how Duke will open up because I don’t think Brian Zoubek has a chance against Monroe, but with Monroe’s tendency to coast it might not be such a big issue for stretches of the game. The matchup will be made more interesting by the fact that Duke was the front-runner for Monroe (the #1 high school recruit at times last year) for most of the recruiting season before committing to Georgetown. If Monroe had joined Singler in the middle, Coach K could have had a legitimate title contender.

If Coach K decides to put Zoubek on Monroe, Singler will end up playing against DaJuan Summers who has really stepped up his game this year (15.1 PPG on 53.8% FG and 44.4% 3FG). Either way, it should be an interesting match-up on the inside. Singler probably has the most complete game of any of the 4 bigs in the starting lineup, but Zoubek is still the weakest link of the Duke starting lineup despite his tremendous improvement since he has been at Duke.  Singler’s ability to shoot from outside brings up another intriguing aspect of this game about whether Monroe can come out and defend Singler if necessary. The Hoyas might be best served to put Summers on Singler to keep Monroe out of foul trouble because they will need Monroe to play 30+ minutes if they hope to pull off the upset in Cameron. In the end, it might be the battle on the inside and who controls the boards that will determine outcome of the game despite the talented guards on both sides.

The backcourts also provide some interesting match-ups: Nolan Smith vs. Chris Wright, Jon Scheyer vs. Jessie Sapp, and Gerald Henderson vs. Austin Freeman. All of these are intriguing match-ups with solid players who are capable of taking over a game at any time. Keep an eye on Henderson in this one since he’s the one world-class athlete on the Duke team and he has stepped it up recently including taking over the 2nd half of the game against FSU last Saturday.

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Checking in on the… Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on January 3rd, 2009

Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

Conference Notes.

  • Last week’s player of the week, UCLA’s Michael Roll, was back in a reserve roll and scored five points in 26 minutes.
  • Early on in the Pac-10 schedule will dictate if the Arizona St. Sun Devils are for real, as , their first two games are at Stanford and Cal.  Four of Arizona State’s wins have come against teams with two wins or fewer,  including winless Mississippi Valley State.
  • In Arizona’s win Chase Budinger played 40 minutes for already the fifth time this season, In all of last year he only played 40 minutes or more four times.
  • Cal is shooting a nation best 50.6 percent from three-point range.  Theo Robertson leads the country at 61.5 percent and Jerome Randle is in fifth at 56.1 percent.
  • Stanford is one of only six teams still undefeated in Division I competition.

Player of the week- Calvin Haynes – Calvin Haynes of Oregon State scored 24 of the Beaver’s 59 points in the victory over Seattle.  He shot 6-for-9 from the field and went 10-for-12 from the stripe.

Honorable Mention: Jrue Holiday of UCLA who scored 12 points, had 10 rebounds, and had 5 assists in the Bruin’s win.  James Harden of Arizona State who scored 24 points this week for the Sun Devils.

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Checking in on the… Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 27th, 2008

Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

Conference Notes.

  • Stanford is the only team left undefeated in the Pac-10 at 8-0.  First year coach Johnny Dawkins has the Cardinal off to their best start since 2003-04 when they ran off 26 straight.
  • USC finally beat a BCS opponent by trouncing Georgia Tech.  The Trojans are still way too inconsistent though, the game before they barely could handle North Dakota State.
  • Arizona freshman stud Jeff Withey must have seen something about Kansas he liked because Withey declared he is transferring there as of next semester.
  • The Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List has been released and it contains five Pac-10 players, senior forward Jon Brockman of Washington, junior forward Chase Budinger of Arizona, senior guard Darren Collison of UCLA, junior forward Taj Gibson of USC, and sophomore guard James Harden of Arizona State. Harden continues to make a strong case for player of the year with his fourth 30-point game this year.  He stands the best chance for it from the Pac-10, with Collison next.
  • The Pac-10 has their defining win with Arizona’s victory over Gonzaga, but still had a weak out of conference showing.  The only teams that are lock for the tournament right now are UCLA and Arizona State, after that Arizona surprisingly looks to be the next best bet, with an ever improving USC closing in.  If Cal or Stanford can keep rolling through once conference play starts they will have a chance.  Washington State needs to win at LSU to stand any chance.

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