Marching To Vegas: Time to Check the Monitors as the Regular Season Expires

Posted by AMurawa on March 8th, 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.

We set out on this march to get to Vegas to determine a champion. From our armchairs or the stands, we’ve watched and discussed and texted and blogged and done it all over again trying to determine the ins and outs of what’s proven to be quite the march. And if you’ll recall, it all began with Sabatino Chen’s shot. The one where he was frantically trying to not dribble out the clock of a tie game, the ball with him despite having connected on just a handful of career shots, let alone threes. He heaved the ball, right over Kevin Parrom’s outstretched arm – our eyes collectively following its trajectory, our breaths collectively held. Glass. Nylon. The officials would then see something on their monitor replays that perhaps the rest of us did not.

A Season That Started With This Suspense Has Seen Many Surprising Stories

A Season That Started With This Suspense Has Seen Many Surprising Stories.

Which is not unlike the fact that none of us saw Oregon making a run through Pac-12 play as the wire-to-wire conference leader. Projected to finish seventh, the Ducks have spent all of, what, one day not in first place? They’ve received POY-worthy efforts from Arsalan Kazemi and COY-worthy leadership from Dana Altman. Again, if we’re looking into our own monitors, we probably wouldn’t have seen this or even E.J. Singler hitting a season-long shooting slump or Dominic Artis’ MVP value. We also would have missed Arizona’s late season implosion – perhaps a bit steep of a word – but this is a team that was once 14-0 and ranked third among more than 340 D-I teams. Today they’re not third in their own 12-team conference. Never saw that coming. Or that the Wildcats’ own vaunted class of bigs would average just 6.4 PPG and 4.9 RPG.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2013

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  1. So, yeah, quickly, the top candidates for the head basketball coach at USC: something like Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon, Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins, interim head coach Bob Cantu and, um, former USC head coach Tim Floyd? Wait, run that last one by me again. Floyd is currently the head man at UTEP, a position he’s held for a few years after resigning from the USC gig (something about how he didn’t feel supported by then-USC athletic director Mike Garrett in the wake of allegations that guard O.J. Mayo accepted impermissible benefits from an agent). Floyd has long maintained a complete lack of involvement in the issue and plenty of investigations (both by USC and by the NCAA) have failed to turn up any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. Still, let’s not consider Floyd a leading candidate just yet. The meeting between Floyd and now-athletic director Pat Haden may have just been a way for the new AD to build a bridge over the bad blood in the wake of the parting, and Floyd, for his part, is using the surprising news as a way to get the word out publicly that “hey, I didn’t have anything to do with that.” Still, for a stretch there, Floyd put together four straight winning seasons including three in a row with 20-plus wins and NCAA Tournament invitations, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
  2. Across town, UCLA head coach Ben Howland let it slip, rather innocently and honestly, that Shabazz Muhammad was in all likelihood headed for the NBA Draft. And that’s not the only opinion he has on the state of the NBA, as he mentioned on Monday that he would prefer changes to the NBA’s eligibility rules that would end the one-and-done era. Howland’s plan would be similar to the rules presently used by Major League Baseball, whereby players would have the option to go straight from high school to the pros, but that once they wind up in college, they have to stay for a few years before being eligible again. Howland also knows that there’s not a chance that change gets made, at least anytime soon.
  3. Speaking of the NBA Draft, we posted our opinions here yesterday on the draft prospects of potential early entrants around the Pac-12, including Arizona State freshman guard Jahii Carson (we’re hoping he stays and develops a jumper). But Sun Devil head coach Herb Sendek claims that he hasn’t given the idea much thought, preferring instead to focus on this season. Still, we’re not buying the idea that it hasn’t even crossed his mind. Cal’s head coach, Mike Montgomery, however, was right to the point when asked about Carson’s pro prospects: “Doesn’t shoot it well enough yet.” The key there may be the word “yet.”
  4. If Carson does stick around for another season in the desert, he’ll have a new competitor in the state at point guard, as Arizona will unveil Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell as their new lead guard. The Daily Wildcat sees a parallel between McConnell’s skill set and the skills of UCLA point guard Larry Drew II. Compared to present UA point Mark Lyons, McConnell is more of the traditional pass-first, shoot-second floor general (of course, compared to Lyons, Allen Iverson is more of a traditional point guard). As Wildcat fans begin to grow weary of Lyons’ all-or-nothing style, the future is starting to look real good, even if that envisioned future is based on little more than partial information.
  5. Lastly, as we look ahead to this week’s games, Washington may be out of the race for the conference title but it still has a chance for some input, as the Huskies will host UCLA on Saturday night. Head coach Lorenzo Romar is hoping that his team can finish the regular season in style. They’ve put together a 13-3 record in the final four conference games of the previous four seasons, and are well on their way to a repeat of that mark with two wins last week. But with USC and UCLA both playing well, the Huskies have their work cut out for them this week.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.05.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 5th, 2013

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  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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Pac-12 M5: 02.27.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on February 27th, 2013

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  1. The Pac-12 is having one of its best seasons in several years and with only two weeks to go, its two most prestigious programs — UCLA and Arizona — are squaring off to help determine the champion. Cal coach Mike Montgomery believes the common perception around the league is that if the Bruins and Wildcats struggle, the league is down, and if they have success, the league is up. His team is trying to change that mentality, however, as the Bears are playing the best basketball in the conference as of late. Cal is now projected to be in the NCAA Tournament and has risen more than any other team in most NCAA Tournament projections. Although UCLA and Arizona are always the expected conference teams to play deep into March, Cal’s recent run of play has them challenging that perception as well as the top of the conference.
  2. Oregon’s impact freshman Dominic Artis might play sooner than expected as he practiced without a boot on his foot for the first time in a month yesterday, and head coach Dana Altman plans for Artis to log some minutes against Oregon State on Thursday night. Artis’ minutes will be limited against the Beavers, but will gradually increase each game with the ultimate goal that the point guard is playing at full strength in the Pac-12 Tournament.
  3. Tad Boyle isn’t the only one who thinks he has the best defensive player in the country. Last week Boyle said that Andre Roberson was the best defensive player in the Pac-12 and the entire country, and this week Arizona head coach Sean Miller agreed. Miller noted that Roberson’s ability to guard more than one position and great players like Solomon Hill and Allen Crabbe shows how versatile and good he is at locking players up. Miller also mentioned that Roberson reminded him of Dennis Rodman in the sense that he can impact the game so much without scoring. Although Roberson isn’t the unquestioned best defensive player in the country, his numbers certainly back up his success. Roberson leads the nation in rebounding at 11.8 rebounds per game, paces the Pac-12 with 2.27 steals per game, and is seventh in the league with 1.42 blocks per game.
  4. As the regular season comes to a close in the Pac-12, there are certainly a few coaches on the hot seat. At this point, it’s not a foregone conclusion that any coach will be fired, but three in particular are dangerously close to getting relieved of their duties. Oregon State’s Craig Robinson, Washington State’s Ken Bone, and Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins all have had little success as the leaders of their programs. Robinson’s team stands at 3-12 in the Pac-12 and unless the Beavers win two out of their last three games, Oregon State will finish with the fewest wins in Robinson’s tenure in Corvallis. Ken Bone has struggled in Pullman, posting a 24-47 conference record since he has been at the helm. And although Johnny Dawkins hasn’t had any particularly bad seasons, he’s just not cutting it for a program with the history and resources of Stanford. A team that once made the NCAA Tournament 13 times in 14 years under Mike Montgomery is now poised to miss the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive year. Meanwhile, Bay Area rival California (with Mike Montgomery heading the program) is close to clinching its fourth NCAA appearance in the last five seasons.
  5. At one point, USC had Solomon Hill, Lamont Jones, and Derrick Williams committed to play basketball in Los Angeles. Then Tim Floyd left and the downward spiral ensued. Thankfully, the Trojans will be reminded of one part of that colossal mistake after tonight when Solomon Hill and Arizona take on USC for the last time. Hill has been a terrific player his entire career in Tucson and will be starting his 78th consecutive game for the Wildcats. The multi-dimensional forward presents many problems for defenses as he can shoot from the outside as well as score down low. There will always be the thought of what could have been for Hill and the Trojans, but for now the senior will focus on beating USC one last time.
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XI

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 25th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. Ohio State’s Sam Thompson getting so high on this alley-oop against Michigan State on Sunday that he was literally staring at the rim when he got the ball. That would have been enough, but then he chose to hammer home right on a poor Michigan State defender – just for kicks. Definitely one of the more impressive athletic plays I’ve seen this year.

Sam Thompson is not shy about attacking the rim

I LOVED…. the hilariousness that is Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery on set. In this week’s gift from above, Raftery comically asks Bilas if he’s “ever been ridden” before. Take a look – it’s just too much.

I LOVED…. everyone realizing that Miami can be very, very average – or in this case, downright bad in a loss to a Wake Forest team that was 4-9 in the ACC going into Saturday. If Miami and Gonzaga somehow play their way into #1-seeds, I don’t think it’s overkill to say that they could be two of the more susceptible #1-seeds ever for a first-round upset. And Miami could even be the likelier of the two because of how much they love the three-ball.

I LOVED…. glancing at the Georgetown schedule and having my jaw slowly drop lower and lower as I looked at their defensive efficiency during this very impressive nine-game winning streak. Check it out – since losing to South Florida on January 19, the Hoyas have allowed 47, 51, 52, 56, 63, 55, 55, 66 and 46 points. That’s pretty stingy, and it bodes well for a Tournament run if they can continue mustering enough offense. Read the rest of this entry »

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Marching to Vegas: Cal Wins Ugly, But At Least Cal Wins

Posted by AMurawa on February 22nd, 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.

I got a text from my Cal buddy last night, “You’re welcome for Cal again… But 48 points…” This of course set off a chain of text exchanges that culminated in a conversation about whether or not I’d be joining him at Bonnaroo in June – a welcome digression, albeit extremely tangential. But my dear friend had a point. Those 48 points are a less-than-exciting, underwhelming, slow score. It’s for this very count that many of us declare Bo Ryan an eye-ripping excitement-suck for whose style we’d wish the NCAA death penalty upon our own program before enduring a season. The funny thing about that is Bo Ryan wins. Not one of my friends who attended Wisconsin or cheer for the Badgers has seemed to have a problem with his .725 winning percentage. Wisky wins and so too did the Cal Bears on Thursday night. And this is the only stat that matters this time of year.

 It Hasn't Always Been Pretty, But Mike Montgomery Has His Golden Bears Playing The Best Ball In The Pac-12 (credit: Mark J. Terrill)


It Hasn’t Always Been Pretty, But Mike Montgomery Has His Golden Bears Playing The Best Ball In The Pac-12 (credit: Mark J. Terrill)

We are on the cusp of March and by most accounts (check this aggregation out) the Golden Bears are shoving (get it?) their way into the madness. And they most certainly will not be dancing with a statistically intriguing loss. That’s to say, had they shot 48%, outrebounded the Ducks, and committed just 10 turnovers en route to disappointing loss, 74-71, the committee would’ve seen just another loss on a team that’s already wearing nine of them (including a home loss to Harvard). Statistically speaking, Cal had a 27% chance of winning that game. The projected final was 71-64, which is to say that based on the standard game for these two, Oregon was going to win relatively handily. Something different had to happen. So Cal forced a deviation from the norm, limited the game’s possessions, and adjusted the dynamic of the game’s pace.

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Night Line: Cal Pushes Distractions Aside to Become Unlikely Pac-12 Title Contenders

Posted by BHayes on February 21st, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

If you are a college basketball fan and don’t reside under a rock, you know all about Mike Montgomery and Allen Crabbe’s testy exchange on Sunday. An unfortunate incident worthy of at least most of the debate and discussion that followed, but it’s officially time to move on, folks. Don’t despair if you still want to talk Cal basketball, however, as the Golden Bears are providing plenty of reasons on the court to keep the buzz going. A 48-46 win at Oregon tonight now has them winners of four in a row and six out of seven, with wins over Arizona, UCLA, and now a season sweep of Oregon included in the surge. For those keeping track at home, that’s a win over each of the top three teams in the Pac-12 standings, with a respectable loss at Arizona State standing as the only February blemish. Winning hasn’t always been pretty or easy for the Bears, but they are suddenly as likely a candidate as any to steal the Pac-12 regular season title. Yes, you read that right – California, once 3-4 in league play, could wind up as your Pac-12 champs.

Allen Crabbe Was Relatively Quiet On Thursday Night, But His Pac-12 Player Of The Year Profile Grows With Every Golden Bear Victory

Allen Crabbe Was Relatively Quiet On Thursday Night, But His Pac-12 Player Of The Year Profile Grows With Every Golden Bear Victory

Give credit to the collective resourcefulness of the Bears, the coaching of Montgomery, and the proficiency of Crabbe (his Pac-12 POY stock soaring right now), but the reason the recent push has the Bears sitting with realistic championship dreams has far more to do with every other team in the conference. After spending the 2011-12 season facing constant derision (and deservedly so), the Pac-12 conference has bounced back in a big way this year. Recent bracket projections have included as many as six conference teams in the NCAA Tournament field, a development that would be a veritable windfall for a league that sent just one at-large team to the Dance a year ago.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 21st, 2013

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  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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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VII: The Honor Roll

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2013

With the end of the semester in sight, some students are making big strides while others continue to underachieve. This week Professor Pac has a couple of A’s to hand out, while the rest of the conference is bunched together in the B’s and C’s this week. Check back later today for seven different C- performers.

Oregon – A

Still without Dominic Artis, the Ducks reaffirmed the fact that they belong among the teams at the top of the conference by going on the road and taking care of both Washington schools this week. It wasn’t always easy and it wasn’t always pretty, but with five games remaining on their schedule, including the next three at home, the Ducks not only have a one-game lead, but they also have wins over the two teams a game back of them, making it, in effect, a one-and-a-half game lead.

Focus on: Damyean Dotson. When the Ducks lost three games in a row, the easy explanation was that they missed Dominic Artis. While that is certainly true, it is also worth noting that Artis’ freshman backcourt mate hit a slide at the same time as well. In the first four games without Artis, a stretch that included those three losses, Dotson averaged 7.3 points per game and wasn’t even finding any good shots. In conference play, Dotson has only failed to put up 10 or more field goal attempts just five times, and four of those five occasions came in the first four games without Artis. But, over the course of the three-game winning streak, Dotson has regained his mojo, averaging 15 points per game and 13 field goal attempts per night. Certainly part of the reason for Dotson’s slide was the absence of Artis, but don’t forget the fact that Dotson may be just as important to Oregon’s long-term goals as Artis is.

Looking ahead: The Ducks host the Bay Area schools, beginning with the suddenly hot Cal Bears on Thursday night, but also including Stanford on Saturday. That game will be noteworthy because just a few weeks back, Oregon went into Stanford with a 7-0 conference record and got absolutely drilled, losing by 24 to the Cardinal. Oh, and the weekly Artis watch? Still no word as to his status for this weekend.

After Struggling In His First Games Without Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson Has Regained His Form of Late (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

After Struggling In His First Games Without Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson Has Regained His Form of Late (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

California – A

All of a sudden, the Golden Bears, once a team that looked like a lock for a lower division finish, have won three in a row, and five of its last six, including wins over Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2013

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

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 19th, 2013

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Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. As we hit the stretch run of the college basketball season, tight conference races begin to captivate the nation. There are terrific regular season title races going on in a bunch of conferences, including the Atlantic 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten but the best race is happening in the Big East. In the conference’s final season as we have come to know it, three teams are tied atop the league standings at 9-3 heading into Tuesday’s action with three more nipping at their heels. It’s only fitting that two of the Big East’s heavyweight rivals, Syracuse and Georgetown, are among the group at 9-3. Joining them is an upstart Marquette team, picked seventh in the 15-team conference. Right behind the leaders is a team some seem to have forgotten about at 9-4, the Louisville Cardinals. Notre Dame at 9-5 after an important win at Pittsburgh last night and 7-5 Connecticut round out the teams within two games in the loss column. The great thing about this race is the best games are still to come. Syracuse and Georgetown hook up twice down the stretch, including on the final day of the regular season. The Orange have the toughest schedule with the aforementioned games against the Hoyas plus a trip to Marquette and a visit to the Carrier Dome from Louisville still on tap. Marquette plays four of its final six games on the road beginning this evening but gets Syracuse and Notre Dame at home where the Golden Eagles have won 23-straight games since a loss to Vanderbilt last season. Luckily for Marquette, its four road games are against a hit-and-miss Villanova team, St. John’s and two of the teams near the bottom of the league standings. It’s never easy to win on the road but Marquette has a somewhat favorable schedule. In the end, my money would be on a 13-5 logjam between Syracuse, Georgetown and Louisville with tiebreakers determining the team that gets the top seed at Madison Square Garden next month.

    Otto Porter and Georgetown will have a say in the Big East title race (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

    Otto Porter and Georgetown will have a say in the Big East title race (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

  2. For the final time this Saturday, ESPN’s BracketBusters event will pit non-power league teams against one another, some in major need of a resume-building win as the regular season begins to wind down. Denver against Northern Iowa and Ohio at Belmont are solid matchups but the best game by far is Creighton visiting St. Mary’s on Saturday.The Bluejays have lost five of their past nine games heading into tonight’s game with Southern Illinois, one they should win, after a 17-1 start to the season. Quality non-conference wins against Wisconsin, Arizona State and California (all away from Omaha), plus a good home win over a solid Akron club, have Creighton in a pretty good spot for a bid relative to other teams in the mix. The problem for Greg McDermott’s squad is that it hasn’t done much of anything in calendar year 2013. The good news for Creighton is the NCAA Selection Committee says wins in November and December mean just as much as February and March. As long as Creighton splits its upcoming games with St. Mary’s and Wichita State, I feel that should be good enough to merit an NCAA berth no matter what happens in the Missouri Valley Tournament. As for St. Mary’s, it is even more desperate. The only semblance of a quality win on the Gaels’ resume are wins at BYU and Santa Clara, the former coming thanks to Matthew Dellavedova’s miracle buzzer beater in Provo. To have a chance at the NCAA’s I feel St. Mary’s has to beat Creighton and run the West Coast table while making the finals of the conference tournament. There just isn’t enough meat on its resume to justify a bid despite having one of the nation’s strongest offensive attacks. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 02.19.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 19th, 2013

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  1. The big item for the discussion around the Pac-12 is this: Early in the second half of a game against USC on Sunday night, Mike Montgomery greeted Allen Crabbe at the start of a timeout by getting in his face and shoving him in the chest in an effort to wake up his talented junior. As Montgomery said after the game, it worked, eventually. After continuing to float along for several minutes following the incident, Crabbe eventually caught fire at the end of the game and brought his Bears back from a 15-point halftime deficit to beat the Trojans. The Pac-12 officially reprimanded Montgomery for the incident, but the head coach will not face a suspension from the league or his employer. In the wake of the incident, everybody’s got an opinion about it ranging from the hyperbolic “it’s an outrage!” to the “no big deal.” Me? I think it is a big deal, but not necessarily because Montgomery’s behavior was shameful. The problem is, more than once this season now, Montgomery’s emotions have gotten the best of him as he has dealt with mercurial personalities such as Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon. If you’ve watched these guys float through games and underachieve as regularly as they have, you’ve probably wanted to shove them in the chest a time or two as well, even if you’ve got no rooting interest one way or the other. But for now, the hope is that this incident doesn’t overshadow the fact that all of a sudden, Montgomery is beginning to get production out of his group of kids, even if he’s using some unconventional and controversial methods to do so.
  2. In Salt Lake City Sunday, Arizona head coach Sean Miller unveiled a new starting lineup, featuring Kevin Parrom at the three, Solomon Hill at the four and Brandon Ashley moving to a reserve role. While nothing is set in stone, Miller says that he’ll probably stick with that starting lineup going forward. Miller notes that the move wasn’t made out of disappointment with Ashley’s production but rather out of a desire to get Parrom’s veteran leadership more actively involved in the lineup.
  3. Colorado’s Josh Scott suffered a concussion early in the second half of Saturday night’s loss to Arizona State when he and ASU center Jordan Bachynski got tangled up and fell to the floor. Scott took an inadvertent elbow to the head, left the floor and did not return to the game. Head coach Tad Boyle addressed the situation involving his talented freshman on Monday, saying that Scott will be fine but is currently considered day-to-day. Colorado next plays on Thursday night when it hosts Utah in a must-win game in Boulder.
  4. In a week that featured plenty of great basketball games, Saturday’s Washington State/Oregon tussle may have been the most entertaining. For 44 minutes and most of a 45th, the Cougars played the Ducks to a draw. Despite giving up an 18-point first half lead, the Cougs were still right there battling with the conference-leaders, as sophomore guard Royce Woolridge was going off in a career-day kind of way, including his sixth three-pointer that knotted the score up at 77 with just a handful of seconds remaining. As Oregon rushed up the court to attempt a last second potential game-winning shot, WSU sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew intentionally (but inexplicably) fouled E.J. Singler, sending him to the line with under four seconds remaining. Singler made both giving the Ducks the win and Washington State players and fans are left wondering what exactly happened there.
  5. Lastly, just how good has Jahii Carson been this season for Arizona State? Well, compared will all the freshmen in the history of the Pac-12, he’s currently on pace to produce the 10th highest scoring average in the history of the conference. His 17.7 points per game comes in just shy of James Harden’s totals in his first season in the desert in 2007-08. Interestingly enough, UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad is currently seventh on the all-time list at 18.5 PPG. Carson is also now just 22 assists shy of becoming just the 12th freshman in conference history to register 150 assists in a season.
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