Pac-12 Honors: Week Nine

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2012

Around the conference this week, it was by and large a week in which the teams who had spent the opening games of Pac-12 play in the friendly confines of home had to go out and try to make a living on the road. All, that is, except for one team – our team of the week – a team that has yet to taste the cold strong of a conference road trip this season.

Team of the Week

Colorado – The Buffaloes have played three Pac-12 games in their history, and all three have taken place at the Coors Event Center on their campus in Boulder. Given the difficulty of life on the road in conference play, it has been a nice present for a relatively unknown team. And, give credit to Tad Boyle and his team, they have taken advantage of the schedule-maker’s gift and run out to a 3-0 record in conference play. This week they hosted the Washington schools and took care of business in a big way, handing Washington its first conference loss of the season on Thursday night in an 18-point blowout, then following that up with an 11-point win over Washington State on Saturday in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score. The Buffs post a better than 56% eFG in both games and got help from all up and down their roster, with five players scoring in double figures at least once on the weekend. However, the fun stops here. Colorado hasn’t played a road game since November 30, and they haven’t actually played a true road game out of the state since last year. In order to really compete for a Pac-12 title, they’ll need to prove they can take their fun on the road and get a few wins, and there is no tougher place to start this season than with a trip to the Bay Area schools.

Carlon Brown, Colorado

Carlon Brown Helped Boost Colorado's Pac-12 Record To 3-0 With Nine Three-Pointers This Weekend (Ron Chenoy/US Presswire)

Player and Newcomer of the Week

Carlon Brown, Sr, Colorado – While guys like Andre Roberson (6.5 PPG/10 RPG in last two games), Austin Dufault (15 PPG/4 RPG), Spencer Dinwiddie (9 PPG/4 APG), Nate Tomlinson (11 PPG/APG) and Askia Booker (8.5 PPG/4 RPG/2 APG) all made significant contributions this weekend, it was the senior transfer from Utah who stole the show. Brown had his best game in black and gold on Saturday, going for 28 points, seven rebounds, a couple assists and a couple steals, but his contribution to the team goes way beyond mere numbers. Brown came to Boulder last year with the reputation as an athletic slasher who couldn’t shoot a lick, having shot just over 30% from three in his time in Utah. However, Brown spent last season dedicating himself to cleaning up his jumper and his efforts have clearly paid off. He’s shooting 41.5% from deep on the year, and this weekend hit nine of his 15 attempts from deep including a career-high six threes on Saturday. Brown’s hard work and confidence provide a good example for the talented underclassmen on this team and gives Boyle an extension of himself on the court.

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Pac-12 Reset As Conference Play Tips Off Tonight

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

Yesterday we looked back at non-conference play and picked out some of the highlights of the first couple months of the season. Today, as conference play gets ready to tip-off, we look forward to what we expect to happen from here until Selection Sunday. Prior to the start of the season, we took a guess at things like conference standings and All-Pac-12 teams based on limited information. Now, we’ve got twelve or thirteen games upon which to base our next set of guesses, but given the state of affairs in the conference so far, may be no closer to having a good idea what is going to happen from here on out than we were back in November. Nevertheless, here goes:

Projected Standings

  1. California 13-5 – While every team in the conference is flawed, the Golden Bears are slightly less flawed than the rest, provided Richard Solomon can return from his injury, Harper Kamp can remain relatively healthy and freshman David Kravish continues to improve. Their quartet of guards (Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Brandon Smith) is the best in the league and head coach Mike Montgomery has a way of squeezing every bit of production out of his players.

    Mike Montgomery, California

    With Mike Montgomery At The Helm And A Talented Backcourt, The Golden Bears Are The Slight Favorite In The Pac-12 (photo credit: Christine Cotter)

  2. Stanford 12-6Johnny Dawkins’ team will prove it is for real, but it may not have the experience or the single elite player capable of scoring with confidence in clutch situations to actually win the title. Chasson Randle or even Dwight Powell could grow into that type of player, but it may be a year or more away from happening. The Cardinal travel to Berkeley on the final day of the regular season in what could be a game rife with title implications.
  3. Arizona 12-6 – It seems like everybody is just waiting for Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson to turn it on, take over this team and turn the Wildcats into an explosive offensive force. They’re talented enough to make that happen, but 13 games into the season, it is looking like Solomon Hill, Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry are going to have to continue as the go-to guys for Sean Miller. And while those guys are nice players, they are all more suited to the role of contributors rather than stars, at least on teams who hope to win a conference title. However, the fact that the Wildcats only have to play Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon once each is definitely a bonus.
  4. Oregon State 11-7Craig Robinson’s has an exciting and young squad that may have only scratched the surface of its talent so far. However, given their history of losing games that they have no business losing, they’ve got to be in the same “prove-it” category that Stanford occupies. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the quintet of Ahmad Starks, Jared Cunningham, Devon Collier, Joe Burton and Angus Brandt turns itself to be the most talented starting five in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences.  

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • More Behavioral Problems – While the struggles of the Pac-12 conference as a whole has been well-documented, the sheer number of off-the-court distractions coaches up and down the conference have had to deal with has been astounding. There’s the ongoing Reeves Nelson soap opera at UCLA. Josiah Turner has been patently unable to get it together in Arizona. Jabari Brown quit on his team after just two games because he was “only” getting about 26 minutes a game. This week Utah suspended Josh Watkins, one of just three players in the Pac-12 to score in double figures in each of his team’s games (Washington’s Terrence Ross and Washington State’s Brock Motum the other two). Then there are lesser lights like Oregon’s Bruce Barron (quit on his team as well), Arizona’s Sidiki Johnson (suspended, dismissed and now transferring out) and Washington State’s D.J. Shelton (suspended). That’s not even including Joshua Smith’s issues, Jerime Anderson’s legal troubles, or Jahii Carson’s inability to get eligible. While the play on the court has been less than stellar around the conference, it is the off-the-court nonsense that is giving the conference the biggest black eye.

Josh Watkins' Troubles Are Only the Latest and Greatest...

  • Surprising Players Stepping Up – In the place of all the missing or invisible players, these teams have needed somebody to step up, and there have been some surprising players that are doing their part. Just looking at the five players that were nominated for the Pac-12 Player of the Week last week gives you a list of surprising names: Charlie Enquist, Ahmad Starks, Anthony Brown, Keala King and, the winner of the award, Solomon Hill. No disrespect to any of those guys, but I don’t think you would have found any of those names on most preseason all-Pac-12 teams. Hill has been a versatile and steadying force for Arizona.  Not only is the junior post leading the team in points (12.4 PPG), assists (3.1 APG) and minutes (31.5 MPG), but Hill is also grabbing the second most rebounds (7.8 RPG), and he’ll likely be a candidate for the Pac-12 award on a semi-regular basis throughout the year. But Charlie Enquist? That’s a guy who had scored a total of 50 points and grabbed a total of 41 rebounds in his 54 games in his previous three years in Pullman. This week he scored 28 and grabbed 19 rebounds. Meanwhile, King was awful at Arizona State last year (36.5% from the field, 1-18 threes, more turnovers than assists), but has scored 65 points in his last three games while posting a 75.8 eFG%. Starks had 16 points and four threes in Oregon State’s win over Montana, and Anthony Brown scored 27 points in two games for Stanford this week. For the underachieving teams in this conference to improve between now and March, they’ll need players to step up and make bigger-than-expected contributions.
  • Stanford For Real? – At the start of the season, it was more or less consensus that there were four teams in the upper tier of the Pac-12: Arizona, Cal, UCLA and Washington. It didn’t take long for one of those four teams to drop from that group (I’ll let you guess which one that was), but with Stanford sporting the best record in the Pac-12 at 8-1 so far (the lone loss a tough six-point defeat at Madison Square Garden to Syracuse), the Cardinal may have jumped up into that group. Of Stanford’s eight victories this season, seven of them have come by 12 or more, with only their most recent come-from-behind win against NC State being a tight one. And at least one RTC correspondent came away from that game impressed enough to confirm that Stanford is good enough, at least defensively, to contend for the conference title. The Cardinal are now in the midst of 13 days off surrounding finals, and really only have one challenging non-conference game remaining (December 22 against Butler). But, if the Cardinal can pick up where it left off, coach Johnny Dawkins‘ squad will be a tough out during conference play.

Player of the Year Watch

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.01.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 1st, 2011

  1. Just when you thought things were about to turn around a little bit for the Pac-12, and just when you thought Colorado was on the verge of being able to string together a few wins in a row following a solid win over Georgia on Monday night and a manageable schedule in front of them, the Buffaloes go and shoot 44.8% from the free throw line and lose a tough one against in-state rival Colorado State. CU fought back from a ten-point deficit early in the second half to tighten things up, only to have the Rams jump back out to an eight-point lead with under 90 seconds remaining. However, a 10-1 run over the next 75 seconds capped by a Nate Tomlinson steal of a CSU inbounds pass and an ensuing layup gave the Buffs a brief lead. But CSU’s Dorian Green took the ball out from coast to coast and hit a jumper in the lane to give CSU the lead right back. Tomlinson was almost the hero again, but his three-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out.
  2. The other two games Wednesday night featured Pac-12 wins against uninspiring competition, with USC holding UC Riverside to 35 points in a 21-point Trojan victory at UCR. While Washington State, you know, the same team that lost to the UC Riverside team on Sunday, took out their frustrations on a now 0-6 Grambling team with a 69-37 thrashing. Brock Motum had 11/10 for the Cougs, while point guard Reggie Moore handed out seven assists, but WSU will need to tackle some tougher competition before anybody believes anything they’re selling.
  3. This season hasn’t exactly been the stuff of dreams for Utah in their first season in the Pac-12, and plenty of that can be attributed to a series of defections from the basketball team over the past two seasons. But at least some of their struggles can be attributed to the absence of their 7’3” senior center David Foster in the middle. Foster played six minutes in the Utes’ exhibition game against Adams State on November 4, but left the game with a broken right foot. At present, it is still undecided whether Foster will take a medical redshirt and return for next season or if he will come back when able this season. Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak would prefer to have Foster return this season and play the last four-to-six weeks of the regular season with the Utes, while Foster and his dad are holding out for the possibility that a redshirt season may be the best bet. While his immediate future is unclear, what is clear is that the Utes are significantly worse off without the 3.2 blocks he provided in 20 minutes per game last season. Last year the Utes defense wasn’t great (112th in the nation according to kenpom.com), but this season it is abysmal – 288th in the nation.
  4. You may have heard that the UCLA basketball program is struggling a bit this year. It’s true. With surprising losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee to pair with more predictable losses to Kansas and Michigan, the Bruins are off to a 2-4 start. So, what’s their problem – aside from chemistry issues and a general lack of athleticism or outside shooting, that is? Jeff Eisenberg asked the coach of a team who has already beaten the Bruins this year to give an assessment of Ben Howland’s club. Long story short: Their guards can’t make shots, Joshua Smith’s conditioning is terrible, the Wear Twins are incapable of guarding athletic small forwards and they need to get freshman guard Norman Powell more involved in the offense. Any good news? The coach expects the Bruins to get better as the season goes on, if only because he believes they’re a well-coached team.
  5. Oregon State junior guard Jared Cunningham earned a lot of attention after scoring 37 points in the Legends Classic semifinal, after having scored 35 points in his previous game against Hofstra – both career highs at the times. Since then, Beaver opponents have put their defensive effort into slowing Cunningham’s offensive attack. Vanderbilt sent senior forward and defensive savant Jeffery Taylor at Cunningham with additional eyeballs on him at all times, while Towson put its defensive energy into slowing him as well. Cunningham had better get used to other teams keying on him, because as sophomore guard Roberto Nelson put it, “they’d be stupid if they didn’t.” Still, even if other teams are able to limit his ability to score, Cunningham is still able to influence the game in other ways. He is an excellent defender capable of not only taking the opposition’s best guard out of his rhythm, but also forcing turnovers and creating easy transition opportunities for the Beavers. He is also very capable of drawing defenders to him and finding open looks for his teammates. And, if he can keep improving his jump shot (clearly the main weakness in his game), Cunningham can still get his points.
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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.

 

Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Colorado

Posted by AMurawa on October 24th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Colorado Buffaloes

Strengths.  Tad Boyle’s got a couple of terrific athletes at the wing in Carlon Brown and Andre Roberson, each capable of being offensive threats, strong defenders and excellent rebounders for their positions. While neither of them is a great shooter from range, point guard Nate Tomlinson is, and big man Austin Dufault can also step outside and hit the 18-footer, allowing the Buffs to stretch the defense to clear room for their slashers.

Weaknesses. After losing the top four scorers from last season’s squad, the biggest weakness for the Buffaloes is simply the lack of experience. While this team sports four seniors, only one of them has been a primary offensive option for his team before, and that’s Brown, who did it at Utah two years ago. Beyond that, while this CU roster features four guys listed a 6’9″ or taller, Dufault is the only big man who has earned significant playing time in the past. Finally, you can expect this team’s free-throw shooting, ranked fifth in the nation last season, to take a serious hit this year as Roberson, in particular, has struggled from the line.

Andre Roberson

With last year's top four leading scorers graduated, Colorado will need sophomore Andre Roberson to play a bigger role.

Nonconference Tests.  The Buffs start their season the weekend before Thanksgiving in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where they’ll open with a game against Wichita State, then play either Alabama or Maryland in the second round. All of those games are significant tests, as are Iona, Purdue and Temple, three possible Sunday opponents in that tournament, depending on results of earlier games. Colorado will also travel to Air Force and Colorado State, with a visit from Georgia sandwiched in the middle, before seeing their December slate ease up substantially.

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RTC Summer Updates: Pac-12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 25th, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our Pac-12 correspondent, Andrew Murawa.

Reader’s Take #1

Summer Storylines

  • The More, The Merrier: The Pac-10 is dead. Long live the Pac-12. The conference welcomes in Colorado and Utah for their first season in the conference, the first expansion in the West Coast’s premier conference since Arizona and Arizona State were added 33 years ago. Along with the new teams comes a new schedule – gone is the full home-and-away round robin. While there won’t be divisions in basketball like there are in football, each team will play an 18-game schedule with home and away games against its traditional rival, with six other rotating home-and-away series and four additional single games against the remaining teams. For instance, Colorado and Utah will only play the Southern California schools and the Washington schools once each, while they will play the remainder of the conference twice. While neither of the new schools are expected to make a big splash immediately in the conference, their arrival, coupled with other changes around the conference, such as the huge new $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox that begins in the fall of 2012, makes it an exciting time to be a Pac-12 fan.
  • Is There A Draft In Here?: Last summer, a big story around the conference was the dearth of Pac-10 players picked in the NBA Draft, as just two players from the conference were selected by NBA teams in 2010. After the 21 players that were picked in the conference between the 2008 and 2009 drafts, that was a precipitous fall. And, back before the season started, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of future high draft picks on the horizon. However, the conference had six players picked in the NBA draft, including three first-rounders and two lottery picks. Derrick Williams, the 2010-11 conference player of the year, led the way, getting snapped up by Minnesota with the #2 overall pick. Unfortunately for teams around the conference, 12 seasons of eligibility were left on the table between those six picks and the two early entries who went undrafted: Stanford’s Jeremy Green and Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto. And as a result, what had looked like a potential big-time bounce-back season for the conference now sees somewhat diminished expectations. Perhaps no team was hit harder by early defections than UCLA, who had Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee leave a total of three years of eligibility behind to go get second-round NBA draft picks (and the absence of guaranteed contracts that goes with them) at a time when the NBA labor situation is highly in doubt, but Washington State’s loss of Casto and lottery pick Klay Thompson also leaves the Cougars’ situation fuzzy at best.
  • Replacing Production: Between the early entries to the NBA Draft and departed seniors, the Pac-12 loses its top seven scorers from last season, and 11 of its top 20. Likewise, ten of the top 20 rebounders are gone. However, as always, a new batch of youngsters is ready to show up on campuses this fall and begin contributing immediately. While the Pac-10 inked only nine of the ESPNU top 100 recruits, seven of those players are exciting young guards, all ranked in the top 60 on that list. Arizona leads the way, signing point guard Josiah Turner (#14 overall, according to ESPNU) and Nick Johnson (#21), to go with a couple solid frontcourt signees (Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson, #60 and #91, respectively). But Washington (Tony Wroten, Jr., #16), Oregon (Jabari Brown, #25), Arizona State (Jahii Carson, #49), UCLA (Norman Powell, #51) and Stanford (Chasson Randle, #59) all have their own big backcourt recruits ready to provide a burst of energy.

Derrick Williams' performances were one of the highlights of the 2010-11 season.

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