Pac-12 Weekly Roundup: Week Five

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 17th, 2013

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the fifth week of Pac-12 basketball.

Power Rankings (as voted upon by Connor Pelton, Andrew Murawa, and Adam Butler)

For the second consecutive week, we’ve got the same four teams at the top of the poll. We’ve also got consensus on all of those teams, with every ballot listing the top four teams in the same order. From there, however, things get tricky, but there is very clearly a second tier of four teams, with Arizona State, California, Utah and Stanford all bunched together before there is another drop off to Oregon State, Washington State, USC and Washington locked into a group. But perhaps the most notable thing, and likely the most surprising occurrence around the conference this season, is Washington polling last. Expectations were not particularly high for the Huskies this season, but I doubt many expected that.

Arizona's Big Win At Michigan Has Them Firmly Entrenched As The Pac-12's Top Team (AP Photo)

Arizona’s Big Win At Michigan Has The Wildcats Firmly Entrenched  as the Pac-12’s Top Team. (AP)

  1. Arizona
  2. Oregon
  3. Colorado
  4. UCLA
  5. Arizona State
  6. California
  7. Utah
  8. Stanford
  9. Oregon State
  10. Washington State
  11. USC
  12. Washington

Team of the Week

Arizona – The Wildcats are the no-brainer here, not only for their #1 national ranking but also for the way in which they maintained that ranking — by going on the road to an unfriendly arena; bouncing back from a slow start that led to a double-figure second half deficit; fighting through a key injury and some foul trouble on an already intentionally short rotation; and making enough big-time plays down the stretch to knock off last year’s national runner-up. Yes, Arizona earned this honor.

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Oregon Thrives on Offense, Dumps Illinois Despite Defensive Rebounding Struggles

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 15th, 2013

The Oregon Ducks have gotten off to their undefeated start in 2013-14 primarily on the strength of their staggeringly efficient offense. The Ducks ranked third in the nation in effective field goal percentage and were seventh in the nation in free throw rate before Saturday night’s game against Illinois at the former Rose Garden in Portland.

Oregon Stayed Unbeaten on Saturday Night in Portland

Oregon Stayed Unbeaten on Saturday Night in Portland

Aspects of Oregon’s defense are also strong, including a top-50 steal rate and a top-75 block rate. But one thing stands out in the Ducks’ statistical profile: a lack of proficiency on the defensive glass. Despite only playing one top-25 offensive rebounding team this season (San Francisco), Oregon ranks a pedestrian 235th in defensive rebounding rate. Against the Illini, that vulnerability showed up early – six offensive rebounds surrendered in the first half, which ended tied at 32 – and late, when they got a rebound putback from Joseph Bertrand to close the game within three points with less than a minute to go. But Oregon’s scoring was able to again cover for its defensive rebounding deficiency in a 71-64 win.

Oregon (9-0) certainly misses graduated senior transfer Arsalan Kazemi, who led the nation in defensive rebounding rate in 2012-13, but another senior transfer is attempting to fill that void. Mike Moser – a Portland native who previously played at both UCLA and UNLV – has led the Ducks on the defensive glass all season, including a team-high eight Saturday night, which also came with 14 points, tied for the team lead with fellow senior transfer Joseph Young. The performance of the 6’8” power forward Saturday is made more impressive when considering that Illinois’ starting frontcourt of Nnanna Egwu, Jon Ekey and Joseph Bertrand each gather eight percent or more of available offensive rebounds, and the Illini ranked 36th nationally in offensive rebound rate before the game.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 13th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Utah has received, and frankly earned, plenty of criticism over the weakness of its non-conference schedule this season. Games against BYU and Boise State are solid, of course, but past that you’re delving into teams like Fresno State (bad), Idaho State (worse), Savannah State (oh, for crying out loud) and Evergreen State (are you serious? Is that even a place?). But certainly part of the reason for that is the fact that head coach Larry Krystkowiak was welcoming to Salt Lake City an almost entirely new roster, again. Beginning next season, expect things to beef up some, as the Utes will play Kansas in a “neutral” site game in Kansas City, as well as traveling to the Caribbean to compete in a Puerto Rico Tip-Off event. Now all that is well and good, but where the Utes have ditched the possibility of scheduling home-and-homes with in-state schools Utah State and Weber State, they are now struggling to come together with BYU and extend that particular series. And that would be completely unacceptable.
  2. Speaking of scheduling, do you realize that it is now the middle of December and Oregon State has played exactly five games? How does that happen? Sure, it allows Craig Robinson to brag about the fact that his team has only lost twice so far (nevermind that those losses were to Coppin State and DePaul), but after Arkansas Pine-Bluff was kept at home last weekend by an ice storm, the Beavers are in the midst of 12 straight days without a game. They’ll make up for some of it later in the month with three games in four days as part of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, but clearly the Beavers have yet to build any momentum.
  3. Doug Haller of AZCentral.com shares a post comparing the top six assist guys in the Pac-12 and the differences in how those assists are handed out. For instance, Oregon’s Jonathan Loyd, the conference’s assist leader, hands out 31 percent of his assists to Mike Moser, and 34 percent of all his assists lead to layups or dunks. While that last number is certainly a fine amount, UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, on the other hand, creates dunks or layups on better than 60 percent of all his assists.
  4. We’re a little bit late to this unfortunate piece of news, but Stanford took a big loss earlier this week when it was announced that senior point guard Aaron Bright’s season and collegiate career are over due to a dislocated right shoulder. He’ll undergo surgery in January. His loss marks the third Stanford player lost for the season to injury (Andy Brown’s career was ended by yet another torn ACL in the offseason, and Christian Sanders is out for the year with a hip injury), while forward Rosco Allen has yet to play a game due to a stress fracture. None of this makes things any easier for head coach Johnny Dawkins as he tries to keep his job in Palo Alto. As for Bright, the high point of his career will go down as his run to the postseason NIT MVP honors during his sophomore campaign.
  5. Lastly, we’ve got plenty of good match-ups this weekend, but without a doubt, the Pac-12 highlight is Arizona’s trip to Michigan on Saturday where the Wildcats will try to fight through a raucous road crowd in order to defend their #1 ranking. Mitch McGary and company will give Sean Miller’s frontcourt perhaps their biggest test of the season to this point, while guys like Nik Stauskas, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin will test their perimeter defense. Adam Butler of Pachoops.com got together with Dylan Burkhart of UMHoops.com to preview the battle.
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Assessing the Pac-12 After One Month

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 12th, 2013

We’re a month into the season, something basically approaching the quarter-pole of this race, so it seems like a good time to take a look back at what’s happened so far, prognosticate a bit into the future, and reset the season as we move forward.

Overall, coming into the year, we regarded Arizona as the clear-cut favorite in the conference. A month in, the Wildcats have done nothing to dissuade us of that notion; in fact, if anything, they’re probably even a bigger favorite than they were in early November. Seeing the improvement the sophomores have made, the cohesiveness of this team defensively from the get-go, and contemplating the improvement that can still be made – especially on the offensive end – the ‘Cats remain the big boys in the Pac-12. That being said, Oregon, UCLA and Colorado have all established themselves as Top 25 caliber teams with plenty of upside. With the Wildcats needing to make road trips to visit every one of those teams, there will be plenty of chances for Arizona to slip up in conference play.

In The First Month, Arizona Has Solidified Its Reputation As The Pac-12 Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

In The First Month, Arizona Has Solidified Its Reputation As The Pac-12 Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Beyond that group at the top, California sort of sits in a tier by itself; it would be a serious surprise if the Golden Bears compete for a conference title, but at the same time, it would be a stretch to picture this team on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday. However, after the Bears, there are plenty of question marks. Arizona State started off strong, but a couple of slip-ups in the Wooden Legacy damaged their early hopes. Stanford’s got plenty of talent, but this team has done little to give any but the most myopic Cardinal fan hopes of serious change. And while Utah has looked exciting at times, that is a team that is going to be up and down over the course of the year; yes, they may sneak up and bite unsuspecting visitors to Salt Lake City in the butt, but they’ll also turn in a couple stinkers of their own. Beyond that, however, USC, Washington, Washington State and Oregon State are a good bet to make up the bottom third of the standings come March. Below, we’ll take a look at each of those top eight teams and talk about what we’ve learned over the first month and what needs to change going forward. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 POY and FrOY Odds After One Month

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 11th, 2013

We’re a month into the season, something basically approaching the quarter-pole of the year. Let’s take a little time over the next couple days to recount what we’ve seen so far and prognosticate a bit about the rest of this year’s race. We begin with setting odds for both Pac-12 Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

Player of the Year Odds

  • Jahii Carson, Sophomore, Arizona State; Odds 4-1 – Let’s be honest: as good as Allen Crabbe was last season for Cal, it is sort of a crime that he won the conference POY award over Carson. So, with that in the back of voter’s minds, if it is even close come March, give Carson the benefit of the doubt. He’s struggled lately in part due to an ankle injury (he’s still averaging better than 20 points per game, however), but he is a singular talent in the conference, capable of scoring almost at will while still keeping his teammates involved. If ASU is going to make the NCAA Tournament, it is going to be because Carson was transcendent. And luckily for Herb Sendek, Carson is more than capable of transcendence.
After Missing Out Last Year, Jahii Carson is The Odds-On Favorite To Be Player of the Year in The Pac-12 This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

After Missing Out Last Year, Jahii Carson is The Odds-On Favorite To Be Player of the Year in The Pac-12 This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

  • Joseph Young, Junior, Oregon; Odds 5-1– Twenty points per game, sparkling shooting percentages across the board, an offensive efficiency rating through the roof, a surprising commitment to defensive intensity, and a quiet leadership on a squad littered with newcomers. If the Ducks are in the mix for the Pac-12 title, Young will be a big reason why.
  • Kyle Anderson, Sophomore, UCLA; Odds 6-1 – The most versatile player in the conference, Anderson is also one of the most exciting. A visionary passer, strong rebounder, capable scorer and a team leader, if Anderson continues to average something in the neighborhood of 13 points, nine boards and seven assists, he’ll be in the conversation for sure.

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Pac-12 Roundup: Week Four

Posted by Connor Pelton & Andrew Murawa on December 10th, 2013

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the fourth week of Pac-12 basketball.

Power Rankings (As voted upon by Connor Pelton, Andrew Murawa, and Adam Butler):

Arizona is once again the unanimous favorite, with Oregon the unanimous runner-up. From there, things get muddied, but we all agree that while there isn’t a lot of difference between Washington State and, say, USC, the Cougars have the basement sewn up tight.

booker dinwiddie

Askia Booker And Spencer Dinwiddie Led A Balanced Buffaloes Attack In Their Upset Of Kansas On Saturday.

  1. Arizona
  2. Oregon
  3. Colorado
  4. UCLA
  5. Stanford
  6. Arizona State
  7. California
  8. Utah
  9. USC
  10. Oregon State
  11. Washington
  12. Washington State

Game of the Week: Kansas @ Colorado: Marshall Henderson and Mike Moser trading punches and going to overtime deep in the heart of SEC country might have taken this title any other week, but this spot belongs to the thrilling meeting between Kansas and Colorado in Boulder over the weekend. The Buffaloes came in as winners of their last eight, but they had been handled easily by their only other Big 12 opponent on their schedule, Baylor, on the first night of the season. In front of a raucous sold-out home crowd on Saturday, they were determined not to let it happen again. It appeared as if coach Tad Boyle and Colorado had the signature win locked up with 1:40 remaining, up 68-62, but a 10-4 Jayhawks’ run, made possible by some crucial missed free throws, tied the game with five seconds to go. That was just where the Buffs wanted their old Big 12 mates. Askia Booker received an inbounds pass and took two dribbles and a euro-step before launching a three-pointer that sent the C-Unit into a frenzy, dog-piling and rushing the court.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.09.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 9th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. By the time you read this, odds are good that the new AP poll will have been released with Arizona topping the list for the first time in more than a decade. After Michigan State fell at home to North Carolina earlier in the week, all the Wildcats had to do to solidify their position was to take care of business at home against a UNLV team that has yet to congeal. However, as the game on Saturday entered its 40th minute, the outcome was still very much in doubt. But a spectacular Aaron Gordon block was followed up by a driving layup from Brandon Ashley, and the Wildcats escaped. With newly top-rated teams having a habit of dropping games quickly, watch out for Arizona’s tough road trip to Michigan next Saturday morning.
  2. Oregon was one of several Pac-12 teams with tough road games scheduled for this weekend. But, while UCLA and California came up on the short end of the stick in their first true away games of the season, the Ducks took to the road with aplomb, getting a steady performance from Jonathan Loyd and plenty of production from talented transfers Mike Moser, Joseph Young, Jason Calliste and Elgin Cook to withstand the Marshall Henderson show at Mississippi. With the Bruins’ defeat at the hands of Missouri, Oregon and Arizona now stand alone as the two remaining undefeated teams in the conference.
  3. Colorado, meanwhile, got to spend its weekend at home in frigid Boulder, but their test was no less stringent. The Buffaloes welcomed in a talented Kansas team and came away with their first win over the Jayhawks in more than a decade. That 0-for-19 streak is now in the past, as the Buffaloes rode a surprise contribution from little-used senior center Ben Mills, versatile and efficient play from sophomore center Josh Scott, an inspired performance from sophomore forward Xavier Johnson – including a ferocious early dunk – and, of course, a deep buzzer-beating runner from Askia Booker to inspire a good old-fashioned rushing of the court. Not everybody found the court rushing so fun, as Paul Klee of the Colorado Springs Gazette recounts photographers getting trampled, some near-misses and even Booker himself sustaining a shoulder injury in the celebration.
  4. USC scored a solid win for itself on Sunday night, thumping Boston College behind an impressive second half. While the Trojans got balanced scoring with five different players reaching double figures, junior guard Byron Wesley continues to stand out as the team’s leader. Head coach Andy Enfield regularly praises his veteran wing for his fundamental soundness, while teammate Omar Oraby says that just watching Wesley’s work ethic helps his teammates get better.
  5. Lastly, Utah bounced back from its first loss of the season by scoring 50 second-half points to get past Fresno State. Sophomore Jordan Loveridge broke out of something of a slump by scoring all 13 of his points in the second half, while junior point guard Delon Wright continues to fill up stat sheets, setting a new career high with 12 assists and tying his career high with 23 points for his third double-double of the year. Wright came up four rebounds shy of a triple-double, but with his complete game, expect him to register at least one of those by the time the season is done. Oh, and while we’re on the topic, Wright has made 52 of his 70 shots from the field this season. Combined with his solid free throw shooting, that put’s Wright’s true shooting percentage at 76.6 percent, good for fifth in the nation to this point.
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Pac-12 All-Freshmen and All-Transfer Teams

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 7th, 2013

It’s become a new era in college sports, especially in basketball. The fortunes of a program can change almost overnight, not only with the addition of big-time one-and-done freshmen, but also with proven entities transferring from one program to another with immediate eligibility. In recent years, it has become almost mandatory for coaches to not only pound the pavement in search of high school recruits, but to also keep their nose to the ground with the possibility of landing some immediate impact transfers. In our fair conference, some coaches, most prominently Dana Altman at Oregon, have turned into a welcome landing spot for those quality transfers. So, in the interest of recognizing that, as we unveil our official RTC Pac-12 All-Freshman Team, we’ll also turn you on to our All-Transfer team as well.

Arizona's Aaron Gordon Was A Unanimous Freshman Of The Year Selection

Arizona’s Aaron Gordon Was A Unanimous Freshman Of The Year Selection

All-Freshman Team

  • Aaron Gordon, forward, Arizona – Gordon is the unanimous selection as our preseason Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12. A five-star recruit out of the Bay Area, he is expected to be the primary offensive weapon for Sean Miller’s Wildcats. Right now he’s dealing with a “nagging groin strain” which will likely limit his outstanding athleticism early, but once he gets healthy, watch out.
  • Jabari Bird, guard, California – The Golden Bears lose last year’s Pac-12 Player of the Year in Allen Crabbe and are fortunate enough to be able to plug four-star freshman guard Bird right into his place. He may not have quite as sweet a stroke as Crabbe did, but he is more athletic and should be able to an contribute big things right away.
  • Nigel Williams-Goss, guard, Washington – A five-star point guard out of Findlay Prep, Williams-Goss is expected to take over the vacant Husky lead guard spot from day one. He’s big and heady and if he can handle the pressure, he’ll make the Huskies a contender right away.

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Breaking Down Oregon vs. Georgetown

Posted by Andrew Murawa & Brian Otskey on November 7th, 2013

Can you believe it? Games! Actual games! And tomorrow! We’re excited too, so Big East correspondent Brian Otskey (@botskey) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of one of opening night’s most buzzworthy games: Oregon vs. Georgetown in South Korea.

Georgetown will win if… It controls tempo, dominates the paint and takes advantage of Oregon’s misfortune. The Hoyas would love nothing more than to play a conservative, halfcourt game where Oregon’s athleticism and quickness can be neutralized. Fortunately for John Thompson III’s team, that is something they have done very well over the years. Hallmarks of Georgetown basketball are strong defense and offensive discipline, two strengths that can do significant damage to Oregon’s chances. It is a fairly safe bet to count on point guard Markel Starks to control the ball and run the offense efficiently. Starks turned the ball over just two times per game last year, bad news for a Ducks team that thrives in the open court and was one of the more athletic teams in the entire nation. With Dominic Artis and Ben Carter suspended, along with Damyean Dotson and Mike Moser possibly not at 100% (injury-related), Georgetown is primed to shut down Oregon’s primary strength and take advantage of Dana Altman’s misfortune. The Ducks are light in the frontcourt aside from center Waverly Austin and Moser so this is a prime opportunity for Josh Smith to show a national audience that he is serious about basketball in the more disciplined Georgetown program. If Smith can stay on the floor, control the glass and win the battle against Austin, the Hoyas should not have much of a problem coming out on top.

John Thompson III And The Hoyas Will Try To Slow The Game Down And Dominate The Halfcourt

John Thompson III And The Hoyas Will Try To Slow The Game Down And Dominate The Halfcourt

Oregon will win if… Their guards, primarly Dotson, Joseph Young and Jason Calliste can score regularly and efficiently against a stingy Georgetown defense highlighted by a trio of defensively rock solid guards in Starks, Jabril Trawick and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. With Artis out due to suspension, it will fall to Jonathan Loyd, the senior point and last year’s Pac-12 Tournament MVP, to get some penetration in the halfcourt against the stingy Hoya defense and find open shots for the Ducks’ scorers. Young, in particular, is a highly efficient shooter, a guy who will keep defenses honest by dead-eying from deep, while Dotson is best using his chiseled body in the mid-range game, an area that may be tough to exploit here. But the Ducks will be at their best if they can force turnovers and get out in transition to take advantage of their athletic advantage in the open court. While a relatively thin (not another Josh Smith joke, I promise) Duck frontcourt could get pounded by the physical Georgetown group if this grinds into a halfcourt game, Moser and those talented guards could break this game open if they can get easy hoop in transition. One strike against this line of thinking: The suspended Artis is the Ducks’ best guard at creating defensive havoc in the open court.

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The RTC Interview Series: Pac-12 Preview with Don MacLean and Miles Simon

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2013


Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the Pac-12, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two Pac-12 experts in Pac-12 Network analyst and former UCLA star, Don MacLean, and ESPN analyst and former Arizona star, Miles Simon. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Rush the Court: Arizona is the overwhelming preseason favorite in the league. What is it about Sean Miller’s team that has expectations so high in Tucson?

Don MacLean: The talent level there is very high. Sean Miller has brought in some very high-level recruits. Aaron Gordon brings another dimension for the team with his great athleticism and versatility to play inside and on the perimeter. T.J. McConnell is going to be great for the team. I worked the exhibition game last week and I was really impressed by McConnell. I think he is really good. He is the first true point guard that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. When you have all that talent, you need a pass-first guy to spread the ball around. From what I have seen, McConnell seems to be that guy. Sean Miller is also a great coach. With this roster, the depth that the team has, and Miller’s coaching, I think it is warranted to put Arizona as the best team in the league right now.

Miles Simon: Sean Miller obviously brought in a tremendous recruiting class. Getting Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Elliott Pitts to come in is a good place to start with this team. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is going to be an excellent addition for the team at point guard. When you look at this team, it is just so long and athletic. I think defensively, this might be the best group that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. There are just so many positives with this team going into the season.

RTC: Oregon made a surprise trip to the Sweet Sixteen last March after pulling off upsets over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. Gone from last season’s team are Arsalan Kazemi and E.J. Singler, but the Ducks did secure the services of UNLV transfer Mike Moser. With Moser joining a team that has the talented backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning, should Dana Altman’s squad take a step forward in the Pac-12 this season and should another NCAA Tournament run be expected?

MacLean: You can never expect an NCAA Tournament run, but I think the team should be just as good. Do not forget that Oregon also added Joseph Young, the transfer from Houston. Adding Mike Moser as a fifth-year guy is an important piece and Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson will be better as second-year players. With what Dana Altman does with his style of play and the way he changes up defenses, I think the Ducks will be as good as they were last season.

Simon: I think Oregon will get back to the NCAA Tournament. It really has some nice pieces, but when you lose guys like Arsalan Kazemi, E.J. Singler, Tony Woods and Carlos Emory, you are losing what was the heart and soul of your team. A lot of leadership and toughness left with those guys. If Mike Moser is able to return to where he was with UNLV two years ago, he will be excellent. The backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson should be explosive and one of the best in the league. Johnathan Loyd is the third guard and he has some experience because he had to play a lot when Artis was injured last season. When you consider these pieces, this is a team that should get back to the NCAA Tournament and finish in the top half of the Pac-12.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Who’s The Biggest Question Mark?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 5th, 2013

At this point, just ahead of actual basketball, those of us who follow the sport closely have plenty of things that we more or less agree we think will happen. We think Aaron Gordon is going to be an all-conference player from day one. We think Jordan Adams is going to pick up where he left off last year. We think the Oregon backcourt is going to be insanely good. But, there are still plenty of areas where question marks abound. We asked our group of Pac-12 experts, including Adam Butler of Pachoops.com, “Who in the Pac-12 do you have the biggest questions about?”

 

Adam Butler: It was reported very early in the process of his transfer that Mike Moser would be attending Washington. This, we quickly felt, was a coup, a quick fix to the Huskies’ frontcourt issues that could elevate them back into the Pac-12 conversation. Instead, he wound up choosing Oregon – another team needing to revamp its frontcourt – and the Ducks instantly became more promise than threat. But Moser is my biggest question mark in the conference because we’ve seen three different versions of this versatile talent across his four collegiate years. Version one was a lost freshman, evidently bullied and uncomfortable on a team with chemistry issues not even Walter White could fix.

Now back in the Pac-12, Mike Moser has one last chance to make a lasting impression. (AP)

Now back in the Pac-12, Mike Moser has one last chance to make a lasting impression. (AP)

He played a pittance of minutes at UCLA and left for Vegas. And who doesn’t rediscover themselves in Vegas? Version two of Moser was one of the best players in the country: 14/11 with equal talents on the block, perimeter and defensive end. He was Kazemi-like (28.1% DR, 9.5% OR) with the ability to get buckets. He was great and then 2012-13 happened. He busted his elbow in Berkeley and never quite found his groove; struggling to find a role on a team with the number one overall pick, Anthony Bennett. V2 > V3 > V1. We now find ourselves with V4 in Eugene and I ask: What is V4 going to look like? To me, that’s the biggest question in the conference because it holds the biggest reward. Can you imagine a legitimate scoring threat on the post with the guards Oregon has? Mike Moser grabbing 30% of rebounds just to let Young, Artis, Dotson and Calliste go off to the races? This team is going to be just fine even if it’s a formidable V3 of Moser, but there is so much upside. He can turn what’s already a Pac-12 title contender into something far greater than that.

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Pac-12 Team Preview: Oregon Ducks

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 4th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

Oregon Ducks

Strengths. The talent that Dana Altman has assembled in the post can compete with anyone in the Pac-12. Headlining that frontcourt is UNLV transfer Mike Moser, who just might be the biggest one-year pickup in the country this season. Moser is the fifth senior to transfer into Altman’s program in the past three years, and he brings star power, quickness and explosiveness as a face-up four along with him. Starting at small forward will be Northwest Florida State transfer Elgin Cook. Cook is replacing the do-everything E.J. Singler, and he provides a varied skill set that gives point guard Dominic Artis a lot of options. Finally, there’s forward/center Ben Carter. Carter may be the least talented of the trio at the start of the year, but he is highly-valued in Eugene as the designated “hustle player,” much like Arsalan Kazemi last season.

Moser Will Get A Chance To Fly Above California As A Member Of The Ducks In 2012-13 (credit: Stephen Lam)

Moser Will Get A Chance To Fly Above California As A Member Of The Ducks In 2012-13 (credit: Stephen Lam)

Weaknesses. As good as those above three will be in the post, the depth behind them is incredibly thin. With a solid one-two punch at the one and two and talent at small and power forward, the backups in the frontcourt could be the thing that drops this team from a top two Pac-12 finish to in the top four. Senior Richard Armadi has the body of a center but will have to play at the four, and sometimes even the three, because of the lack of depth. Armadi has some raw talent but it may be tough to display in a new role. And that’s the highlight of the second-string forwards and centers. Junior Jalil Abdul-Bassit and redshirt freshman Arik Armstead will also see time in the post, but only when needed.

Non-Conference Tests. All of Oregon’s acquired talent will be on full display on opening night in a made-for-ESPN tilt with Georgetown from Camp Humphreys, South Korea. Things ease up a bit after that, but a four-game stretch in mid-December may be one of the toughest in the Pac. Oregon goes to Mississippi, then meets Illinois in Portland before finishing the stretch by hosting a pair of likely NCAA Tournament teams, UC Irvine and BYU.

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