Rushed Reactions: #4 UCLA 77, #12 Stephen F. Austin 60

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 23rd, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Kyle Anderson (left), Zach LaVine, and Norman Powell had a lot to celebrate about as the Bruins easily advanced to the Sweet 16. (AP)

Kyle Anderson (left), Zach LaVine, and Norman Powell had a lot to celebrate about as the Bruins easily advanced to the Sweet 16. (AP)

  1. UCLA – Sweet Sixteen. Remember back when this program was absolutely rolling under Ben Howland in the middle of the last decade? That went away fast, sure. But, now for the first time since 2008, the Bruins are back in the Sweet Sixteen, this time under first-year head coach Steve Alford — who himself is back in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1999 at Southwest Missouri State. Picky UCLA fans did not take kindly to Alford upon his hire and they took an even longer time to come around to this fun and exciting young team. But this weekend in San Diego, UCLA fans traveled well, were enthusiastic throughout, and seem to be back on the bandwagon. Their biggest nemesis from the last decade – Florida – is once again in the way. And if things do not go well on Thursday in Memphis, there might be a lot of Bruins’ fans with broken ankles as they jump back off the bandwagon, complaining about an easy path to the Sweet Sixteen and other silliness. But for now, UCLA basketball is cool again.
  2. Stormin’ Norman. Under Alford, Norman Powell found increased minutes, an increased role, and a level of freedom that he clearly enjoys. For a guy who was rumored to be considering transferring at the end of last season, he turned into a difference-maker for the Bruins this season. And in the postseason (including Pac-12 Tournament play), he’s taken his game to a new level. He has regularly harassed his man on defense into off games (today for instance, he held Friday night’s star Desmond Haymon to 3-of-11 shooting), he got nine steals in five games, and he made countless highlight-reel plays. Today’s best was putting the ball behind his back in transition just prior to laying the ball in deftly between a couple of defenders for a hoop. And then, rather than celebrate his play, he got back on defense and knocked a pass out of bounds to kill an SFA transition attempt.
  3. Scrappy ‘Jacks. The Lumberjacks, led by sophomore forward Thomas Walkup, are a team that is hard not to like. The bulk of their team is between 6’3” and 6’6”, but they play bigger than their size, they get after it on defense, they sell out for loose balls and they’re just talented enough (seems like everybody can stroke a jumper and make a pretty pass) to play a little finesse game on offense. Walkup in particular won over quite a few fans this weekend. A 6’4” sophomore forward who plays bigger than his size and older than his age, he does just about everything well. He drew early fouls on the bigger UCLA frontcourt, he grabbed eight boards in the first 11 minutes of action he saw, he defended with passion, he was a facilitator for the squad in the high post, he knocked down jumpers; he did everything but hand out water bottles in the huddle. The ‘Jacks lose three seniors, but expect them to be a force in the Southland going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Thoughts on UCLA’s Win Over Colorado

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 14th, 2014

Here are three thoughts from UCLA’s convincing win last night over Colorado at Pauley Pavilion.

  1. Kyle Anderson’s 22 points, 11 assists and seven boards; Bryce Alford’s second-half explosion behind a perfect four-of-four from deep; Jordan Adams and Norman Powell out-physicalling Colorado defenders around the paint on the way to a combined 27 points, ten boards, eight assists and five steals: these were the flashy performances, the things that probably caught the most eyeballs. Did anyone ever realize any UCLA frontcourt players showed up to this game? Did anyone notice the Wear twins and Tony Parker combine for 26 points and 14 boards (not to mention four blocks)? Did anyone realize that between the three of them, they made 12 of their 14 field goal attempts and knocked in a couple of threes on the way to a 92.9 eFG%? Well, they did. And with guys like Anderson and Adams and Powell being highly consistent offensive performers around the perimeter and with Alford and fellow freshman Zach LaVine capable of offensive explosions on a regular basis, if the Bruins can get that type of performance from their frontcourt in any way, they are going to be awful hard to beat. How hard? Let’s put it this way: UCLA has not lost a game this season when the trio of the Wears and Parker have combined for at least either 21 points or 13 rebounds. That’s not a high bar to meet. You figure the UCLA wings and guards are going to get theirs; if Steve Alford can continue to just cobble together a solid combined performance out of his trio of bigs, this team is a serious sleeper come March.

    Kyle Anderson's Impact Is Flashier, But The UCLA Frontcourt May Be As Important For thei Team's Long-Term Hopes

    Kyle Anderson’s Impact Is Flashier, But The UCLA Frontcourt May Be As Important For thei Team’s Long-Term Hopes

  2. Kyle Anderson has gotten, and deserved, a lot of press this season for his versatile game. You know about his great passing ability (he hands out assists on better than 35% of his teammates buckets when he’s on the court). You know he’s a floor general for a flashy offensive team. You may not realize he’s shooting 52.4% from three on the year, but you probably have recognized that his perimeter jumper is vastly improved. You know he uses his 6’9” frame and long arms to rebound at high rates on both ends of the court; in fact he’s particularly good on the defensive end (his 24.5 DR% is in the top 50 in the nation). But that last point, his defensive rebounding, really only barely begins to scratch the surface of what he’s doing on the defensive end. The scouting report on Anderson has long been that he’s an amazing offensive talent, but that he can’t guard. And sure, if you try to make him check Jahii Carson or Chasson Randle, he’s going to struggle with their quickness over the course of a game. But given that he is regularly checking the opponent’s forwards, he’s actually turned into a really good defender. Thursday night, he was on Colorado’s Xavier Johnson for the bulk of his 36 minutes of action. In the first half, Johnson was largely absent on his way to four points. Then in the second half, Johnson’s back-to-back buckets on either side of the under-eight media timeout came when Anderson was getting a blow. Anderson used his length and growing stretch to deny Johnson the ball repeatedly. And then when he did get the ball, he used that length to bother Johnson into either bad shots or giving the ball back up. While Anderson is certainly not the type of defender than can guard the smaller and quicker point guards, that needn’t be held as a strike against him, as he is solid enough when he gets switched onto those guys on occasion and if above-average when defending a three or a less physical four. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 2.12.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 12th, 2014

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  1. So, after a week without Brandon Ashley, one thing has become pretty clear for Arizona: Odds are good that the injured big man will be back for his junior campaign in the desert. He told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman recently that it is very likely he’ll be back in Tucson next season instead of pursuing an NBA career, but for head coach Sean Miller, a guy who has seen his fair share of players leave early, he’s not taking anything for granted. The coach, player and his family plan on gathering together after the season to discuss the big man’s future, however, and the decision then may turn out differently.
  2. One interesting bit out of the Wildcats’ Sunday evening win over Oregon State was the contribution of little-used senior guard Jordin Mayes, who earned just five minutes of action but may have put in his application for future minutes with a nine-point outburst in that limited time. With Miller claiming to already trust Mayes defensively and that seventh and/or eighth spot in the rotation available, it’s possible that the stretch run of Mayes’ Wildcats career could be more impactful than previous results had led us to believe.
  3. Utah also has a player who was formerly on the outs now competing for a bigger role in junior wing Princeton Onwas. After his friend and position-mate Ahmad Fields began to earn a bigger role at the expense of his minutes, Onwas returned to practice with a new focus and set about regaining a larger role. Early results are good, as he earned 25 minutes against Washington and harassed C.J. Wilcox into an off night followed by a highly efficient 10 points on seven field goal attempts in 13 minutes against Washington State on Saturday night.
  4. Tomorrow night Colorado visits UCLA and head coach Tad Boyle is particularly concerned about Bruins junior guard Norman Powellwho had a big second half in UCLA’s win over USC on Saturday night. Powell is the team’s best perimeter defender, its most ferocious dunker, and an emerging all-around offensive force. Boyle recognizes that without the Buffs’ best perimeter defender in Spencer Dinwiddie, Powell’s athleticism and skill will make him someone of whom his team is going to need to pay extra attention.
  5. Another UCLA wing who has raised eyebrows this season is freshman Zach LaVine. But after a fantastic start to the season that had some calling him an immediate lottery pick, the exciting wing has settled back to earth. His three-point shot is beginning to fall a little less frequently (he’s 2-of-11 in the past two weeks); teams are realizing he’s not much of a threat off the bounce; and he’s even started to blow some occasional dunks. Is it still a surefire certainty that he’s NBA-bound after a single season in Westwood? On upside alone, you’ve got to figure he’s gone. But in a year with a deep draft, maybe LaVine wants to return to work on his handle, half-court game and other weaknesses in order to ensure a lottery pick next year? Possibly, but the smart money is still on a rather brief stay with the Bruins.
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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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Three Questions Previewing Duke and UCLA Tonight

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 19th, 2013

When Duke and UCLA lock horns for the first time in 11 years tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York City (7:30 PM EST, ESPN), plenty of offensive fireworks figure to be on display. These teams are elite offensively with UCLA ranking third nationally in points per game at 89.1 and Duke not too far behind at 86.0. For as potent as these teams are offensively, their defenses leave a lot to be desired. What we have is a recipe for an up-tempo game, lots of points, and a fun viewing experience. There are also plenty of intriguing match-ups in this game when you look at each squad’s style of play. While their statistics are similar, the teams are constructed very differently. Let’s take a look at three key questions that will decide the result of this contest.

Steve Alford, UCLA

Steve Alford Brings His Bruins to MSG to Face Duke Tonight (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

1. Can UCLA guard the three-point line?

Much has been made of Duke’s defensive issues but defense has also been a problem for Steve Alford’s Bruins, especially when it comes to guarding the all-important three-point line. The Bruins’ 2-3 zone was torched by Missouri in their only loss of the season back on December 7. Missouri made 10 threes which proved to be the primary difference in the game. As a whole, Duke shoots 42 percent from beyond the arc and 45 percent of all Blue Devils’ field goal attempts are triples. Mike Krzyzewski’s team features four lethal perimeter threats and that may be too much for the Bruins to handle. While UCLA’s zone may help contain Duke’s versatile forwards from cutting to the basket, it opens the door for a Blue Devil three-point bombardment. Alford may be forced to extend the zone but his team’s performance will come down to the effort of guards like Norman Powell and a pair of freshmen (Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford) getting out to cover Duke’s shooters.

2. Will Duke be able to prevent UCLA from getting into the paint?

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UCLA Needs to Answer Some Defensive Questions In Order to Meet Its Potential

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on December 5th, 2013

When UCLA was dominating the then Pac-10 and reeling off three consecutive Final Four appearances under Ben Howland, it did so largely on the strength of defense. Not that the Bruins’ offense wasn’t strong as well, but for those three years, UCLA ranked in the top five nationally in defensive efficiency (according to KenPom). When the wheels first came off the bus under Howland beginning in 2009-10, the complete inability of UCLA to stop anyone was largely the culprit (although, really, that team was awful on both ends of the court). Since that year, while the team’s defense has certainly improved to respectable levels, they’ve never approached elite on that end of the court. Although, really, for that matter, they’ve not been elite on either end of the court.

Behind Talented Wings And Savvy Floor General Kyle Anderson, UCLA Is  Fearsome Offensive Squad (UCLA Athletics)

Behind Talented Wings And Savvy Floor General Kyle Anderson, UCLA Is Fearsome Offensive Squad (UCLA Athletics)

This season? It still remains to be seen how this will all shake out as UCLA’s schedule ramps up soon, but at this early point it appears that the Bruins will be one of the better teams in the nation at putting the ball in the basket. They’ve got a bevy of shooters, plenty of athletes, a savvy play-maker in Kyle Anderson, and some serviceable big guys. Thus far, they’ve been ridiculously exciting — and efficient — on the offensive end, but for this team to challenge Arizona for a Pac-12 title, a solid defense needs to be a part of the equation.

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Pac-12 Team Preview: UCLA Bruins

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 5th, 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.

UCLA Bruins

Strengths. There is a lot of pure talent on this UCLA roster. Seven players on this roster were considered four-star recruits or better coming out of high school. Two of them – Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams – are expected to have NBA futures, possibly as soon as the next season. And the departures of Shabazz Muhammad and Ben Howland are expected to significantly improve team chemistry around the program. This Bruin roster may be slightly less talented than last season, but expect the gestalt to be an improvement, and expect the increase in tempo that UCLA fans saw in Howland’s final season to continue and even accelerate. The Bruins will be at their best in transition under new head coach Steve Alford, and they’ve got plenty of guards and wings who can get up and down the floor and score.

With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Returning, UCLA Could Again Contend For Conference Supremacy (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Returning, UCLA Could Again Contend For Conference Supremacy (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Weaknesses. Until Anderson proves himself, there are going to be questions about how he’ll fill in for departed senior Larry Drew II at point guard. Anderson is known as a playmaker with the ball in his hands, but it remains to be seen just how effective he can be against this level of competition creating for others. Even more questionable is his ability to guard opposing backcourt players; while the plan will often be for Anderson to switch to guarding threes and maybe even fours on defense, there could be plenty of opportunities for those switches to get crossed up in transition. Also, in the frontcourt, the Bruins have a lack of depth. With senior Travis Wear sidelined for up to a month following appendix surgery and with freshman Wanaah Bail recovering from offseason knee surgery, UCLA is presently limited to just two scholarship players who are bigs: solid senior David Wear and the unproven sophomore Tony Parker.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on October 25th, 2013

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  1. Four-star power forward Zylan Cheatham, a Class of 2014 prospect out of South Mountain High School (AZ), is set to pick a school within the next week, and The Husky Haul breaks down why he would be a great fit at Washington. Cheatham is a tough, physical player that can also get up and down the floor with a great amount of quickness. Lorenzo Romar’s attacking style on the offensive end of the floor fits Cheatham’s game, and if Romar was able to land him, it would be the biggest get so far for next year’s class. New Mexico and San Diego State appear to be in a dead tie with Washington so this is definitely a decision to keep an eye on in the coming days. Cheatham had offers from nearly every big school in the nation and has already ruled out Georgetown, Miami (Florida), and Oregon, to name a few.
  2. A few Pac-12 teams have started to hold at least one open practice so far this October. First year UCLA head coach Steve Alford opened the doors to Pauley Pavilion last Sunday and over 1,000 fans stopping by to see how the team looked under the direction of Alford. The LA Times reported that both freshman Zach LaVine and junior Norman Powell are running the court well and have great athleticism around the rim. In addition, it looks like sophomore Kyle Anderson will once again be getting the ball in key situations for the Bruins in 2013-14. They open the regular season on November 8 against Drexel at Pauley.
  3. The argument can be made that Oregon guard Damyean Dotson is the most experienced sophomore in the conference. Dotson started 36 games last season for the Ducks and was the team’s second-leading scorer as a freshman, so hopes are high in Eugene that he can continue that type of production and not go through the “sophomore slump”. Where he needs to improve is on the glass. It wasn’t much of a problem last year with a solid corps of big men, but with four key rebounders now gone, everyone needs to step up.
  4. Oregon State passed on a traditional “Midnight Madness” event this year (as they have the past seven seasons), but will be hosting a free “for the fans” type gathering next Friday. The event will precede the Beaver football game against USC later that day, and fans can meet the team and get autographs and prizes. It would be nice to see a scrimmage from Craig Robinson‘s team, but this is a good start. Maybe next year.
  5. Last week Drew and I re-started our regular weekly pick ‘em contest. Last week we differed on three selections, and Arizona and Notre Dame ended up coming up big for me. However, Drew did pick Stanford’s big home win against UCLA, so that puts him at 45-14 and myself at 48-11. Our picks are below, and with two Top 25 match-ups being played 45 minutes apart in the state of Oregon, we have two “games of the week” to provide a score for.
Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
Utah at USC USC Utah
UCLA at Oregon Oregon 52, UCLA 41 Oregon 45, UCLA 31
Arizona at Colorado Arizona Arizona
Stanford at Oregon State Oregon State 31, Stanford 28 Stanford 26, Oregon State 19
California at Washington Washington Washington
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Pac-12 M5: 03.22.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on March 22nd, 2013

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  1. With UCLA’s Jordan Adams out for the year, Norman Powell was inserted into the starting lineup and the 6-foot-4-guard will need to step up against Minnesota today. Ever since Powell has come to UCLA, he’s drawn comparisons to notable former guard Russell Westbrook because of his 6-f00t-11-inch wingspan and extreme athleticism. But when Powell was replaced in the starting lineup after some strong early season play from Jordan Adams, he lost confidence and never regained his role in the first five. In his first game back as a starter against Oregon in the Pac-12 semifinals, however, he had 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting and had four rebounds. The sophomore seems more determined than ever after his second go as a starter and if he can match the production of Jordan Adams, the Bruins might just advance to the next round.
  2. Tad Boyle believes all his freshmen at Colorado are ready for their first NCAA Tournament game. Boyle says that they are not really freshmen anymore and that holds most true with starters Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson. Scott has averaged 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this year while Johnson averages 9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Johnson has saved some of his best games for big moments as well. He had 19 points and 22 points in Colorado’s wins over Arizona and Oregon respectively. Illinois will obviously try to stop Colorado’s two best players Spencer Dinwiddie and Andre Roberson today, and that will leave the game up to the two starting freshmen.
  3. Oregon head coach Dana Altman has always been a model of consistency. When Altman was lured from Creighton to Eugene, he didn’t change his hard-working and confident style despite the increased budget and popular Nike brand. In his time at Creighton, Altman brought the Blue Jays to the NCAA Tournament seven times in 16 years and continued to improve his team. And his time at Oregon has been exactly the same. The Ducks were in the CBI in Altman’s first year, the NIT in his second, and made the NCAA Tournament this year and picked up a win over Oklahoma State yesterday. Needless to say, Altman knows what he is doing and continues to do so in a selfless, yet confident way.
  4. UCLA’s Larry Drew II doesn’t look at the championship ring he won at North Carolina as a freshman often. That’s because Drew’s career as a Tar Heel was never too successful. He failed to meet expectations as a sophomore after the national championship and was replaced by freshman Kendall Marshall in his junior year. Then, Drew decided to transfer to UCLA. Although the Bruins’ heralded freshmen have been critical this season, Drew might be the most valuable player for UCLA. After USC beat UCLA by forcing Drew to shoot, he changed his game. Since then, Drew has shot 51 percent from the field and 61 percent from three in 12 games.
  5. Andre Roberson was largely ignored as a recruit when he played high school basketball in Texas. Now as one of the nation’s top rebounders, Roberson heads back to his home state to play in the NCAA Tournament, but the scenario is quite different. No team from the state of Texas made the field of 68 this year while Roberson has led Colorado to its second consecutive tournament appearance making all those teams second guess themselves once again for passing on the local talent.
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Rushed Reactions: Oregon 78, UCLA 69

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 Conference. He filed this report after Saturday night’s Pac-12 Tournament championship game between Oregon and UCLA.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Jonathan Loyd, The Oregon Point Guard. After slowly returning from injury, this was supposed to be the week when Dominic Artis returned to form in the Oregon starting lineup. He did return to the starting lineup, but it was Jonathan Loyd who was the man at the point for the Ducks. He was terrific all weekend averaging 24 minutes and 11.3 points per game, but was particularly good in the championship, scoring 19 points and bailing out the Ducks at the end of the shot clock by knocking down jumpers. However, is that the type of offense that head coach Dana Altman really wants? After the game, Altman made it clear that there were times that Loyd took some shots that he wasn’t exactly pleased with. To be honest, often in the second half, the Ducks didn’t run particularly good sets but got bailed out either by Loyd late or by offensive rebounds off misses. Ideally, Loyd would be generating good looks for his teammates more regularly than getting his own shots, but it is awfully hard to argue with the results tonight.
  2. Life Without Jordan Adams. In UCLA’s first game following Jordan Adams’ broken foot, the Bruins clearly struggled offensively, to the tune of 0.96 points per possession — their least effective offensive performance since their Valentine’s Night massacre at the hands of California. Some of the problems can be chalked up to fatigue in the face of playing their third game in as many nights with basically just a six-man rotation, and some of it can be explained away by the idea that this team didn’t have much time to game plan for life without Adams. But, let’s just say that game one in the post-Adams era did not go smoothly. Shabazz Muhammad was limited by a defense free to key on him and Kyle Anderson was unable to step into a secondary scorer’s role, leaving Larry Drew II to pick up the scoring slack, which he accomplished to some extent (14 points on 11 field goal attempts). Norman Powell was a pretty bright spot as well, scoring 10 points on six FGAs in 37 minutes. UCLA will probably be more comfortable in its next game out, but the long-term prognosis for the Oregon offense without Adams is not bright.
UCLA's Jordan Adams Had To Spend The Night As A Spectator

UCLA’s Jordan Adams Had To Spend The Night As A Spectator

  1. Pac-12 NCAA Tournament Viability. The conference is in all likelihood going to wind up with five teams dancing, but it is hard to see one of these teams capable of making a run of any sort. UCLA without Adams doesn’t have the depth or offensive firepower to get to the second weekend; Oregon, though they righted the ship somewhat this weekend, is still not playing as well as they were prior to the Artis injury; California’s hot streak is officially over; and Colorado has never been a completely trustworthy team this season. That leaves Arizona, the most talented Pac-12 team and a team that is certainly capable of stringing together some wins should everything break right, but a team that has underachieved for since conference play began. While anything is possible in a one-game setting, none of these teams will be favored to advance past the first weekend of NCAA play. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume I

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2013

Starting this week and continuing through the rest of the season, we’ll take a moment in between games to run down every team in the conference, grade their previous week’s performance, highlight the performance of one of their players (either for good or for bad) and look ahead briefly to their upcoming schedule.

Arizona State: A

The Sun Devils put aside concerns that their 11-2 record going into the week was built mostly on wins over bad teams by giving the home folks a healthy dose of optimism to start the conference season.

Focus on: Jahii Carson. While Jordan Bachynski was dominating in Sunday’s win over Colorado, I was most intrigued by Carson’s performance. With CU’s Spencer Dinwiddie keeping him locked down most of the night, Carson didn’t force things, got the ball in the hands of his teammates with better match-ups and kept ASU on point, even while being limited to his lowest number of field goal attempts this season. This proves that he doesn’t need to always score to be a positive force for his team.

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils have shown their improvement, but if we’re to believe that this team’s postseason aspirations should be any higher than the CBI, we’ll need to see them win on the road. A trip to Oregon State on Thursday looks like a possible chance, while getting Oregon following its game with Arizona could mean ASU catches the Ducks in a trap game. Speaking of which, ASU could benefit mightily this year from having the ‘Cats as a traveling partner, as teams could be either looking forward to or recovering from their game with U of A.

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Oregon: A

Any win in conference play is good. Any road win in conference play is great. Any road win in conference play in a rivalry game is a reason for outright celebration. Check all three boxes for the Ducks after one game.

Focus on: Arsalan Kazemi. In his first game back from a concussion, the senior Kazemi temporarily relinquished his starting spot to Carlos Emory and saw limited action. But, even in just 21 minutes, he was an impactful player, making four of his five field goal attempts, grabbing eight boards, handing out a couple assists and, per usual, coming up with a couple steals due to his relentlessly quick hands.

Looking ahead: The consensus, around here at least, is that the Ducks are going to be legitimate factors in the Pac-12 race. They get a chance to prove that this week when they host Arizona in a battle of contrasting strengths. While Zona has been through the ringer a time or two this season, these Ducks feature a pair of freshman guards ready for their first big spotlight. Meanwhile, the Ducks’ frontcourt features plenty of veterans, while the ‘Cats mix their three freshman with senior Solomon Hill.

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 79, California 65

Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 2013

rushedreactions

Andrew Murawa filed this report after tonight’s Pac-12 opener between UCLA and California in Westwood.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. UCLA Rebounding. The Bruins come away with the win, but the Golden Bears possibly exposed a fatal flaw: UCLA”s rebounding brawn. After something of a draw on the boards in the first half (albeit aided by one Bruin possession in which they grabbed four consecutive offensive rebounds and still came away empty), Cal destroyed UCLA on the glass for about a 10-minute stretch in the middle of the second half. For the entire last stanza they grabbed almost 50% of their own misses, and were it not for Kyle Anderson taking the rebounding load upon his back (he had eight defensive rebounds in the last eight minutes), it could have been much worse for UCLA. While the Wear twins have the size and do a good job getting into position to rebound, they struggle to secure the ball when challenged. Tonight, while David Wear was limited to just 13 minutes, Travis Wear played 35 minutes and grabbed two defensive rebounds (4.9 DR%) and just one offensive rebound (3.2 OR%) despite regularly getting a hand on the ball.

    With The Bruins Struggling On The Glass, Kyle Anderson Got To Work Rebounding (US Presswire)

    With The Bruins Struggling On The Glass, Kyle Anderson Got To Work Rebounding (US Presswire)

  1. Bruin Defense. While securing opponents’ missed shots is a massive part of good team defense, the Bruins definitely showed signs of rounding into shape on the defensive end tonight. To be clear, I’m not saying they’re a good defensive team yet, but they are improving. They held Cal, a decent offensive team, to 0.94 points per possession and showed that they’re starting to do some of the little things that need to be done to make themselves better. If opponents are able to get just about any of these guys into isolation situations, the Bruins find themselves in trouble. But they’re doing little things like hedging up on the ball-handler on pick-and-rolls, sending over help defense to staunch penetration, and rotating well on passers, among other things. Ben Howland praised Larry Drew II, Shabazz Muhammad, and particularly Norman Powell for their excellent defensive efforts tonight. Powell earned 15 first half minutes and limited Allen Crabbe to 2-of-9 shooting with three turnovers. Said Howland of Powell: “[His] defense in the first half on Crabbe was critical. His defensive effort was absolutely unbelievable. Norman had one of the best games of his career here and a lot of what he did doesn’t show up in the stats.” Read the rest of this entry »
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