Award Tour: Doug McDermott Blowing Away the NPOY Competition

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 31st, 2014

AwardTour

Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

Michigan State was so close to landing a player in this week’s Award Tour rankings, but Gary Harris struggled in a loss to Michigan. His day will come… eventually. Providence’s Bryce Cotton and Ed Cooley are also very close to making their debuts on the watch lists as well. Cotton is an ironman who has carried the Friars after taking over as the point guard, while Cooley has kept the team moving forward after a rough start to conference play. Andrew Wiggins is quickly turning into the player everyone expected before the season — he was never bad or mediocre, just not a stud – until now. After 27 points against TCU and 29 more against Iowa State, Maple Jordan is rounding into form as Kansas’ second Big 12 Player of the Year candidate. Pitt’s Lamar Patterson struggled against Duke, but he’ll have several more chances in the coming weeks to prove he’s an ACC Player of the Year candidate.

Player of the Year

Thanks to some outstanding play of late, Justin Jackson (left), Xavier Thames, and Nick Stauskas are all in the POY discussion.

Thanks to some outstanding play of late, Justin Jackson (left), Xavier Thames, and Nick Stauskas are all in the POY discussion.

10. Justin Jackson – Cincinnati. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 11.1 PPG, 7 RPG, 3.3 BPG, 107.5 oRTG

Justin Jackson isn’t going to wow anyone offensively. He can score a few buckets here and there, be a playmaker occasionally, and draw a lot of fouls. So why did he make the Player of the Year rankings? He’s a dominant defender and rebounder. Jackson is arguably the best player on a Cincinnati team that is now 20-2 with wins at Louisville, at Memphis, Pittsburgh and SMU. He’s the only player in the top 50 in the country in block AND steal rate according to KenPom, and his late steal against Louisville helped seal an impressive victory in the KFCYum! Center against the Cardinals.

9. Xavier Thames – San Diego State. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 17.5 PPG, 2.7 APG, 121.6 oRTG

Xavier Thames has emerged as San Diego State’s top player after spending three years toiling in mediocrity thanks to poor shooting and turnovers. But as a senior, Thames has become a much more efficient scorer and distributor. He’s the main reason why the Aztecs could overcome huge personnel losses and improve from last year’s NCAA round of 32 squad.

8. Joel Embiid – Kansas. Last Week: 9
2013-14 stats: 11.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 113.6 oRTG

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Nick Johnson Quietly and Efficiently Continues to Bolster His NPOY Candidacy

Posted by Nick Fasulo on January 30th, 2014

Throughout this week, there was one topic being discussed in the Pac-12: What will it take to knock off the undefeated No. 1 Arizona Wildcats? It is a simple question that provided varying responses from the league’s coaches. But 21 games into their season, that question remains unanswered as the Wildcats stole a 60-57 victory over the Stanford Cardinal, avoiding an upset on the 10th anniversary of that shot, and finding yet another and different way to win. Wednesday, in the latest rendition, the approach was to lean on their star, junior guard Nick Johnson, who led all players with 16 points on a night when the rest of the team shot a dismal 14-of-41 from the field. “[Nick Johnson] is a great leader. He’s the leader of our team, both on and off the court.” said Ryan Reynolds, Arizona’s director of basketball operations. “When the game is on the line, he’s the guy we go to and he’s not afraid of the moment.”

Nick Johnson

Is Nick Johnson is the Least Known Star on a #1 Team Ever?

Earlier this week,  Arizona State coach Herb Sendek was quoted in a piece by USA Today’s Nicole Auerbach exclaiming that Johnson was the team’s best and most talented player, but point guard T.J. McConnell was the guy who “puts it all together.” That quote was representative of last night’s game. McConnell, quiet and unassuming, led the Wildcats in nearly every offensive statistic through the midway point of the second half. The Wildcats were sloppy, outmatched in the post, but the Duquense transfer held it together in the hopes that one of the team’s stars would step up and make a play to ensure victory.

Enter Johnson.

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Marching to Vegas: In Praise of Nick Johnson

Posted by Adam Butler on January 17th, 2014

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas.

I want to submit, if that’s possible, Nick Johnson’s name for National Player of the Year. It’s strange for me to say that – clearly not because I’m an Arizona fan – but because as someone who watches the game at a socially unacceptable level, I did not believe he would have the opportunity for such. Arizona’s system is such that I sincerely did not believe he’d have the touches or scoring veracity to garner such attention. I’ve long felt Derrick Williams’ season was an anomaly within Sean Miller’s style but a necessary “evil” for the success of the 2011 Wildcats. This season, however, Miller had constructed his perfect beast. A defense-oriented group that meshed together in such a way that it didn’t matter who scored but rather who stopped. And that would be predicated on a team effort. Thus, I was quick to believe that no one on Arizona’s roster would win any [honor] of the Year award. But we now find ourselves 18 games deep and Nick Johnson is – well – the best player on the best team in the country. Mark Titus agrees with Bill Walton on this front, and Sean Miller agrees with both of them. As do I.

Nick Johnson's Surprising Candidacy For National Player Of The Year Earns Another Supporter

Nick Johnson’s Surprising Candidacy For National Player Of The Year Earns Another Supporter

First, a little bit on Nick. Here’s a young man who arrived at Arizona as Miller’s most prized – or at least highly rated – recruit. At current pace, prized would indeed seem to be the right word in that the parallels to Sean Elliott seem obvious: local talent, first and greatest success under a new regime at Arizona, the face of the program, etc. I’m well ahead of myself but Johnson came to Tucson with his sights on big things. He was joining a Top 25 team as a part of the fourth-best recruiting class in the nation. Nick Johnson was meant for big things. But an elongated slump from Johnson and a generally underwhelming team chemistry kept his first Wildcats squad from amounting to much (which, when translated into Wildcat means: home loss to Bucknell in the first round of the NIT). Similarly, or at least to some extent, another late slump during his sophomore season would coincide with a 5-5 close to the season in which his field goal percentage dipped nearly 10 percentage points below his season average. Nick Johnson was good, but not there yet.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott Strengthens Grip on POY

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 17th, 2014

AwardTour

Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

As usual, there are many candidates knocking on the door of the Player of the Year race. Florida’s Casey Prather dropped out temporarily after missing the last two games with an injury. He’ll likely be back in the rankings at some point as he’s Julius Randle’s top competition for SEC Player of the Year. After a few rough games, UMass’ Chaz Williams is back on track thanks to a 26-point, eight-assist performance in the Minutemen’s thrilling win against George Mason. Andrew Wiggins is inching closer to the rankings after a monster double-double game against Iowa State, with 17 points and 19 rebounds against the Cyclones. Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Keith Appling have also picked up the slack for the injured Adreian Payne as Sparty continues to roll on.

It's a safe bet that these three guys will be in the mix for POY honors.

It’s a safe bet that these three guys will be in the mix for POY honors.

Player of the Year

10. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 10
2013-14 stats: 18.1 PPG, 4.9 APG, 113.4 oRTG

Russ Smith hasn’t put together a complete game in a while and that trend continued Thursday night against Houston. He hasn’t scored fewer than 18 points since December 17, but his turnovers are out of control. He has committed 19 miscues in his last four games including five more against the Cougars. He’s logged at least four turnovers in seven of Louisville’s last eight games after doing so well with just three times in the Cardinals’ first 10 games. With Chane Behanan’s dismissal and Chris Jones’ recent struggles (10+ points in just one of Louisville’s last nine games), Smith’s production has to remain elite WITHOUT turnovers for Louisville to be considered a national title threat.

9. Lamar Patterson – Pittsburgh. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats:  17.6 PPG, 4.6 APG, 123.4 oRTG

It’s a gamble to add Lamar Patterson to the Player of the Year rankings considering Pitt basically hasn’t played anyone all season. The Panthers’ first major challenge comes Saturday in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse. This weekend will be Patterson’s chance to show he has in fact emerged as one of the best players in the country. He’s currently tearing it up in Oakland to the tune of 58 percent from two, 43 percent from three, and a studly 123.4 offensive rating on a 27.5 percent usage rate. He’s the main reason Jamie Dixon’s squad is the second best team in the ACC.

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Pac-12 Roundup: Week Nine

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 14th, 2014

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

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

Arizona is once again the unanimous top choice this week, but every spot below the Wildcats saw more turmoil than usual. Check the results below.

It Was California Freshman Jordan Matthew's Night At Matthew Knight On Thursday (credit: Chris Pietsch)

It Was California Freshman Jordan Mathews’ Night At Matthew Knight On Thursday (Chris Pietsch/AP)

  1. Arizona (17-0, 3 Points). Comment: “It seemed like there was just an overall lack of focus and too much hero ball going on early. Once everyone settled in and started moving the ball around, there was no way USC was able to get back into it, and Arizona asserted itself by finishing the game with a 25-10 run to win the game by 20.” – Jason Bartel (@jasonbartel)
  2. California (12-4, 6 Points). Comment: “And so the Bears have won three straight conference road games by an average margin of eight points. Who saw that one coming? With three straight winnable games on the horizon, Cal has a sudden and unexpected opportunity to make some serious noise in the Pac-12.” – Nick Kranz (@GoldenBlogs)
  3. UCLA (13-3, 10 Points). Comment: “UCLA enters the AP poll with a loss to Arizona.” – Adam Butler (@pachoopsab)
  4. Colorado (14-3, 14 Points). Comment: “Damn. Dinwiddie news is terrible. Have a feeling Boyle will get this team to respond, but doubt they can make the second weekend now.” – Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa)
  5. Washington (11-6, 18 Points). Comment: “Those who have complained about Romar’s offense definitely have been put to silence. The UW offense looks much improved in the second year of the high post system, as the Huskies have been using an array of screens and cuts to get Wilcox and the rest of the guards open.” – Erik Erickson (@Erik_Erickson)
  6. Stanford (10-5, 19 Points). Comment: “Maybe we start a new segment in here that’s just called WHAT DOES THE STANFORD SAY? and then I just write or link to whatever I want and it’s wildly unpredictable and completely upsetting but you’re attracted to that instability by some unintelligible force that keeps telling you that they’ll change. Did I just describe my ex-girlfriend?” – Adam Butler (@pachoopsab)
  7. Oregon (13-3, 21 Points). Comment: “Oregon could not capitalize on their golden opportunities to steal one from Stanford as their last two shots clanked off the rim; first Johnathan Loyd’s jumper and then a driving layup from Dominic Artis, allowing the Cardinal to escape with an 82-80 win.” – Jake Tabor (@JakeTabor541)
  8. Arizona State (13-4, 22 Points). Comment: “The Sun Devils are in a tough spot going forward, too, as eight of their 14 remaining games come against Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon. Herb Sendek’s crew has a fight on its hands just to get to .500 in the Pac-12.” – Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello (@EyeOnCBB)
  9. Oregon State (9-7, 25 Points). Comment: “The Beavers beat Stanford, 81-72! Great reward for a great week of practice. Really impressed by the team on both ends of the court.” – Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) Read the rest of this entry »
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Thoughts on Arizona’s Big Road Win at UCLA

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 10th, 2014

This is the early conference game that both Arizona and UCLA fans had likely been looking forward to for a couple weeks. It’s the biggest historic rivalry in the conference and it was Arizona’s first road test in Pac-12 play . But really, as people were imagining what this game would look like, this is probably not what they foresaw. UCLA holding its own on the glass, despite almost no help from its pair of senior frontcourt starters? Arizona the team with the deadly outside shooting? Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams struggling, yet the Bruins keeping this close for 40 minutes? Let’s look at each of those things below.

Gabe York's Perimeter Shooting Was a Big Key For Arizona On Thursday Night (Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

Gabe York’s Perimeter Shooting Was a Big Key For Arizona On Thursday Night (Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

  • The Wildcats came into the game eighth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and 13th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, while UCLA is a middling rebounding team with a ton of question marks up front. Therefore the expectation was that Arizona would dominate the glass. While the Cats did make some hay on the offensive boards and wound up dominating the interior on the offensive end (Arizona outscored UCLA 42-22 in the paint), UCLA stayed in the game in large part because it was able to create second chance opportunities of its own. This was a surprise even to Arizona head coach Sean Miller, who pointed to that as one of the keys of the game by saying “They really hurt us on the offensive glass. That was a surprise to us, because we’ve done very well there, and isn’t necessarily a strength of theirs but last night it was. If we had done a better job defensive rebounding, the game wouldn’t have come down to the final plays. One of the reasons that they were in it was because of the number of second shots they got.” Even more surprising, the Bruins did their damage on the glass without much of a contribution from the Wear twins, who combined to grab just four total boards. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 10th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Colorado is 7-11 in league road games since joining the Pac-12, and the 15th ranked Buffaloes will play their first of the 2013-14 season this Sunday in Seattle. The team says they’re ready to take the next step; they’ve beaten a pair of top ten teams at home and took down two solid Mountain West clubs on the road by a combined 29 points. But in order to join the top ten realm themselves, the Buffaloes need to get the Pac-12 road monkey off their back. Things didn’t go too smoothly in Colorado’s first conference game away from home two nights ago, when Washington State took the highly-favored Buffs to overtime in a neutral site game at Spokane Arena on Wednesday. Colorado did escape with the one-point win, but that was with it shooting 33 more free throws than the Cougars. It’ll need a much better effort than that to beat swiftly-improving Washington on Sunday afternoon.
  2. Arizona equaled its school best 16-0 start last night, hanging on for a great 79-75 win at UCLA. The Wildcats had revenge on their minds after suffering three losses to the Bruins last season, and a near-perfect first 34 minutes put Arizona up 68-55 and had a large contingent of fans dressed in cardinal red drowning out the hometown crowd. An insane 15-1 run by the hosts put UCLA up one with 1:45 remaining, but the top-ranked team in the nation proved why they belonged up there, making eight free throws in the final minute to secure the win. Wildcat guard Nick Johnson led all scorers with 22 points.
  3. Joe Lunardi released his now weekly Bracketology report yesterday, and four Pac-12 teams were included in his field of 68. Undefeated and number one Arizona takes the top overall seed, with Colorado next for the Pac as a three. Oregon is just below the Buffaloes on the four line, and it seems likely that those two could be battling for those two spots all the way until March. UCLA is the last Pac-12 team included and is listed as a seven seed, and it gets the most intriguing opening round game (against Harvard) by virtue of having the worst seed of the four. California is Lunardi’s first team left out of the field, although that could change after its 13-point win at Oregon last night. Stanford is included on the “Next Four Out” list along with Arkansas, SMU, and Butler. Be sure to also read the latest edition of Rush the Court’s bracket projections, which are released last Monday.
  4. Transfer wizard Dana Altman pulled another one out of his hat on Thursday, when the Ducks officially announced that a class of 2013 Top 50 recruit, small forward Brandon Austin, would be transferring from Providence to Oregon. Austin had offers from Connecticut, Xavier, and Temple, among others, before deciding on the Friars, but did not see a minute of action in his stint there due to a pair of suspensions. Altman has brought in transfers like Arsalan Kazemi (Rice), Joseph Young (Houston), and Mike Moser (UCLA and UNLV) during his four years in Eugene.
  5. Oregon State junior Eric Moreland showed a bit of rust in his first two games back from a 12-game suspension to open the season, but that was all washed away on Thursday against Stanford. Starting your season with two games in Boulder and Salt Lake City is a difficult chore for a number of reasons, most notably of which is the altitude at which both schools are located. So maybe some home cooking is all the forward needed. Moreland scored 17 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and recorded four blocks and four assists, producing a career night when the Beavers desperately needed one.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.20.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 20th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. UCLA got its big chance on the national stage on Thursday night against Duke at Cameron Square Garden, and the Bruins looked real good for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, those minutes were non-consecutive, and, of course, a college basketball game is still 40 minutes of play. In the end, it was a 17-point win for Duke, another feather in the cap of freshman Jabari Parker on his way to a Player of the Year candidacy, and another opportunity for skeptical Bruins’ fans to distrust the Steve Alford era. UCLA has now struck out in its only two games of national interest in its weak non-conference schedule, and has shown a concerning tendency to lose focus for short stretches of time that ends up costing them.
  2. Steve Alford spoke with CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein prior to UCLA’s game with Duke and addressed, among other things, the comments proffered by cross-town rival Andy Enfield earlier in the year. Alford wouldn’t get as explicit as Enfield got in his discussion of it, but his “one side can talk; the other side will do what we do” comment goes a long way towards reinforcing what has become the popular theme in the rivalry: USC will talk, UCLA will act.
  3. Speaking of USC, after needing every minute on Sunday night to put away Cal State Bakersfield, the Trojans ran into another Cal State school on Thursday night with a bit more talent and couldn’t make up for another uninspired effort. Pe’Shon Howard led the Trojans with 19 points, but took 13 of his 14 field goal attempts from three-point range, including a wayward bomb on SC’s final half-court possession when the team was only down a point. But Howard isn’t the only Trojan who deserves criticism, as junior Byron Wesley was benched for the first 11 minutes of the first half due to a “coach’s decision” and didn’t score his only basket of the night until there were fewer than four minutes left in the game. It was Wesley’s first game under double-figures this year and likely the worst game in his USC career.
  4. So, um. Hmmm. I don’t often read Eamonn Brennan at ESPN.com, but what he wrote on Thursday caught my eye. Apparently, this dude spends a column per week predicting who is at the top of the list for the Wooden Award; you know, the best player in the nation. This week he’s got Arizona’s Aaron Gordon atop that list. Now, I’ve read a lot of dumb things on the Internet (and believe me, I know dumb, because I’ve read Bruins Nation twice today – shudder), but that one takes that cake. I like Gordon a lot and he’s been a great glue guy for the nation’s top-ranked team. But the Wooden Award? I don’t know if Arizona has any name for the award it hands out to its MVP at the end of the year (the Elliott Award?), but if the school were to hand out that award tonight, there are at least two guys (Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley) who would be ahead of Gordon for that honor. Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen even includes T.J. McConnell ahead of Gordon at this point. None of this should be taken as a strike against Gordon, who has been great on a team that has gotten production for all seven players in its seven-man rotation, but how can Gordon be in the lead for the best player in the nation when he clearly hasn’t even been the best player on his team?
  5. Lastly, Oregon was already a deep team in its first nine game of the season, with eight players averaging better than 13 minutes per game. But with Dominic Artis and Ben Carter now back and hungry for some run, how will head coach Dana Altman fold those players back into an already successful rotation? Early reports are that Altman plans to use his team’s depth to its advantage. Eleven guys played at least eight minutes in the Ducks’ recent game against UC Irvine and the coach mentioned afterward that with the added depth he hopes to see his team continue to extend its defensive pressure and up the tempo. While point guard Jonathan Loyd has been excellent this year for the Ducks, Artis in particular will significantly improve Oregon’s ability to apply great defensive pressure.
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Three Thoughts on Arizona’s Win at Michigan

Posted by AMurawa on December 15th, 2013

Imagine this scenario: you’re one of the youngest teams in the nation. You’ve just assumed the number one spot in the polls, and the following weekend, you’re hearding across country to play the equivalent of a 9:00 AM game at the home of the team that was the runner-up for the national championship last year. An opponent that, while talented, has underachieved so far this season despite the presence of one of the best X-and-O coaches in the nation. Worse yet, early in the second half, you look up and figure out you’ve got a 13-point deficit in front of you. Combine all of those factors together and you’ve got the makings of a brief stay at the #1 spot, right? You could easily imagine getting run out of that gym, yes? Instead, Arizona went to Ann Arbor, took a really good shot from Michigan, then rededicated itself to exploiting its advantages and proved again that, not only is this a team that is very much worthy of its current ranking, but it is a team that will likely be within shouting distance of this ranking for the rest of the year. Barring a major surprise, these Wildcats will likely be 15-0 when they head to UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on January 9. In light of all of this, let’s take a look at a few things we learned about Arizona during its big comeback win on Saturday.

Losing A Tough Game At The Road Would Have Been Understandable For A Young Team, But Arizona Pulled Out A Great Win At Michigan

Losing A Tough Game At The Road Would Have Been Understandable For A Young Team, But Arizona Pulled Out A Great Win At Michigan

  1. There’s just under two minutes left. Arizona is down a point. Sean Miller calls a timeout and what happened from there on answered any questions we might have had about who the go-to guys are on this Wildcats team. On the first possession, the Wildcats get the ball to Nick Johnson with Aaron Gordon setting a screen to get Johnson on the same side of the court as Brandon Ashley, where Ashley sets a pick and rolls down the baseline. Johnson then finds him there and lets him go to work; he slides past three Wolverine defenders, including his man Mitch McGary, for a nice bucket and the lead. The next time down, after T.J. McConnell recovered his own miss, Johnson backed things out, settled his team down, and again set up a two-man game for himself and Ashley, waving freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson off before driving, picking up a (questionable) foul and getting to the line where he made two free throws to give his squad a lead it would never relinquish. While freshmen Gordon and Jefferson are hyper-talented players, Johnson and Ashley are the more complete players, especially considering the fact that if either of them gets sent to the free throw line in a close game, Wildcat fans will rightly be confident. But even without that consideration, Johnson and Ashley offer more versatility in the half-court with an ability to take their opponents off the bounce or hit the jumper. Johnson and Ashley may not be the first guys you think of when you think of Arizona this season, but they’re Miller’s go-to guys when it counts. Read the rest of this entry »
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After a Quiet Week On College Hardwood, Weekend Action Set to Heat Things Up

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 14th, 2013

The end of the winter exam period could not come soon enough for college basketball fans. Yes, we know that it’s important for the kids to take care of their academics, but even the most fervent of followers would have to admit they could only take so many more nights of Bryant being featured in the headline contest of the evening. Nothing against the Bulldogs and their tidy 6-5 start, but this weekend’s spate of entertaining match-ups should help us all regain a little sanity Last night’s Hawkeye State battle served as a worthy appetizer for Saturday’s feast of action, but before you grab the remote and plop down in the front row seat in your living room, check out these four storylines to monitor on Saturday.

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Chances For Validation, Redemption In Ann Arbor

It may be hard to believe now, but public perception of Arizona and Michigan was pretty comparable at the start of the year. Needless to say, that is no longer the case. The Wildcats, now also known as the #1 team in the land, get a shot at validating that ranking when they visit Ann Arbor today (12:00 EST, CBS), while the floundering Wolverines will seek to redirect the trajectory of their season. Wins over the #1 team in the country have a way of curing a lot of ills, but it will take a yet-to-be-seen vigor for Michigan to earn that antidote, even on their home floor. Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan will clash with Aaron Gordon and the rest of that vaunted Arizona front line down low, but keep an eye on the battle of the Ni(c)ks. We saw against Duke how crippling a subpar night from Nik Stauskas can be for the Wolverines; if Nick Johnson’s rep as one of the best stoppers out West carries weight in Ann Arbor, Michigan may again find themselves searching for other scoring outlets. For Michigan, Saturday is an opportunity to prove that the Wolverines still might be who we thought they were; for the Cats, it’s another chance to show us that they are exactly who we think they are.

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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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One Month In: Where Are All the Great Teams?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 9th, 2013

This week will see a new team take its turn at the top of the polls, but like their predecessors in the rankings’ top slot, the Arizona Wildcats will seize the reins just days after a performance in which they hardly resembled the best team in the country. The pesky Columbia Lions — also known as the team that nearly ended Michigan State’s reign atop the polls before it even began — may be significantly less talented than the UNLV outfit that gave Arizona fits at the McKale Center on Saturday afternoon, but that shouldn’t provide Sean Miller’s team a free pass on their underwhelming effort. The Runnin’ Rebels, disappointing as they have been, really aren’t that bad (temporarily forgetting the 21-point home loss to UCSB as I write that), and close losses do happen, but there is a presumption that the #1 team in the country will take care of business in a manner befitting an elite unit. Upcoming games against New Mexico State and Michigan will offer the Wildcats a quick chance to validate their lofty ranking, but even with a pair of victories this week, are we really ready to call Arizona truly elite? And if we aren’t ready to offer that declaration for the #1 team in the polls, might we be faced with a college basketball season devoid of a profoundly great unit?

T.J. McConnell And The Wildcats Are The Nation's New #1, But The Wildcats Still Have Plenty To Prove

T.J. McConnell And The Wildcats Are The Nation’s New #1, But Like Many Other Top Teams, The Wildcats Still Have Plenty To Prove

To the point, Arizona’s ascent to the top spot in the polls has had as much to do with the failings of the five preseason teams ahead of them as it has the Wildcats’ own success. True, that preseason top-five grouping has been a bit cannibalistic (Kentucky fell to Michigan State; Duke dropped one to Kansas), but no member of the quintet has yet shown an ability to be consistently great. The new pieces have struggled to fit at Kentucky and Kansas — each team has two losses; while Louisville and Michigan State failed to do something that Belmont and UAB accomplished – beat North Carolina. And Duke, vanquished by the pollsters newest #1 team 10 days ago at the Garden, just picked up its first quality win of the season when the Blue Devils defeated Michigan last week at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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