Morning Five: 09.08.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 8th, 2014

morning5

  1. This weekend might have marked the start of the NFL season for some, but it was also a big one for college basketball recruiting. Florida State was the big winner picking up a pair of top-50 recruits in Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley. Both announcements, which were made separately, came on Friday night and gives the Seminoles one of the top classes in the country early in the recruiting season. Louisville also added to its already strong class with the addition of five-star guard Antonio Blakeney. That announcement probably puts the Cardinals in the #1 or 2 spot in the recruiting standing this year with Arizona being the other top choice. We would have considered Oregon State‘s ability to add two top-tier recruits–Trey Tinkle and Stephen Thompson Jr.–last week to be particularly noteworthy except the recruits were the sons of the team’s coaches. Still the addition of those two plus Derrick Bruce is a potential game-changer for the program that has been mired in mediocrity (at best) for quite a while. Texas A&M also picked up a big piece on Sunday night when D.J. Hogg, a five-star small foward, committed to play for the Aggies. While they have not struggled for quite as long as the Beavers, the Aggies haven’t really been relevant since the 2010-11 season.
  2. We have seen a lot of strange movement with top recruits over the years, but Thon Maker‘s international movements appear to be unique. Maker, who is widely considered the top recruit in the class of 2016, came to the United States from Australia (via Sudan) and now is being moved to Canada along with his younger brother Matur, also a top prospect. Maker could conceivably end up reclassifying to the class of 2015, but with all of this movement we don’t know how realistic that is. The decision to move was made by Maker’s guardian, who will also serve as an assistant coach at his new school. We can only hope that this is being made in Maker’s best interest even if we disagree with the general idea behind all of this movement.
  3. After nearly a month Charleston finally found a replacement for Doug Wojcik as it announced its decision to hire Earl Grant. Wojcik was fired in the wake of allegations of abuse against his players, an issue that has become increasingly common. The process to replace Wojcik took longer than expected and likely drove off many of the potential hires that the school looked at. Grant has spent the past four seasons as an assistant at Clemson and at the age of  37 could serve as a potential long-term coach the school needs (or it could be just a stepping stone for him). We normally don’t like to bring race into the discussion of hiring/firing, but as Gary Parrish points out in his background on the situation at Charleston it likely played a role.
  4. We would expect Miami to be a better team with the addition of several key transfers, but they might have lost a big piece last week when Davon Reed underwent surgery after tearing the meniscus in his left knee during an offseason workout that could  keep him out for four to six months. As a freshman last season, Reed started 10 games while averaging 6.6 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists in a little over 20 minutes per game and scored 11.5 points per game in two ACC Tournament games while coming off the bench. The school has not officially announced whether Reed would redshirt so there is a chance we could see him around the second half of conference play.
  5. We are not sure if the decision by certain Georgia Tech coaches to make impermissible calls just three days after their NCAA hearing was brazen or idiotic, but it helped to get the school two more years of probation. The school’s current probation now extends to June 13, 2017 after its coaches, who were already on probation, made hundreds of impermissible calls and texts. We have gotten to the point where we are not really sure what to make of all of these probation announcements. On one hand, the school was already on probation so you would figure that if they mess up again they should get more than a slap on the wrist. On the other hand, these violations are completely unrelated to the other violations and might not even be violations any more.
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Morning Five: 05.13.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 13th, 2014

morning5

  1. It turns out that Ben Howland will not be taking the Oregon State job. Instead, the vacancy remains in Corvallis and according to reports Damon Stoudamire might be the favorite for the job. Howland reportedly told the Oregon State administration that he was no longer interested in the job. While Howland is obviously a bigger name and one with a much better track record as a coach than Stoudamire it is worth noting that he would command a much higher salary than Stoudamire since Howland was making $3.5 million a year when he left UCLA while Stoudamire would reportedly settle for less than $800,000. Regardless of that we don’t think this would be the right job for Howland since he will face an uphill battle creating a winner in Corvallis. We are a little more uncertain with Stoudamire since it would be his first job, but we would think that he is a big enough name that he would want to wait for a better option.
  2. A little over two years after a brawl that threatened the rivalry and catapulted Fake Gimel to national fame, the Cincinnati-Xavier rivalry is heading back on campus. Yesterday, the schools after a two-year trial run having games at a neutral site the games will be coming back on-campus. As we have said in this space many times it made no sense to blame the ridiculous behavior of the two teams that day just on the fact that they were motivated by the fans on-campus. While fan behavior might contribute to on-court aggression it would be an issue at any venue with many fans (the neutral site wasn’t far away from either campus) and to play it front of an empty arena would defeat the entire purpose of the rivalry.
  3. There was quite a bit of significant transfer news over the past few days. The three biggest moves in terms of arrivals were Ryan Anderson, who announced he would be transferring from Boston College to to Arizona, Kareem Canty, who committed to South Florida from Marshall after previous reports indicated that he had committed to Auburn and supposedly was going to visit USF just to see another school, and Seth Allen, who transferred from Maryland to Virginia Tech. Anderson, who has one more year of eligibility left averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season and will sit out this season, opted to head to Arizona over Iowa State and Indiana although he did not visit the latter. Canty, who has three more years of eligibility left averaged 16.3 points and 5.5 assists per game last season and will sit out this season, had also been considering Auburn and Penn State. Allen, who has two more years of eligibility remaining averaged 13.4 points per game will also sit out this season, picked Virginia Tech over Virginia and North Carolina State.
  4. There was also another notable departure as well as Terry Henderson joined Eron Harris in transferring from West Virginia. Henderson averaged 11.7 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while starting 17 games for the Mountaineers last season. Henderson has not indicated where he is planning on visiting, but this is yet another early departure for a Huggins’ signee as he is the 12th of the past 16 Huggins recruits to either transfer or never play a game for Huggins. Huggins’ recent run at West Virginia since his Final Four appearance in 2010 doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence so we wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the proverbial hot seat before too long.
  5. We cannot stress it enough to recruits: do not sign a letter of intent. One prime example of doing it the right way is former Tulsa recruit Mitchell Wilbekin, who committed to play for Danny Manning at Tulsa. When Manning ran off to greener pastures at Wake Forest, Wilbekin backed out of his initial commitment.  After looking around a bit (and having another Wake commit–Shelton Mitchell–back out of his commitment), Wilbekin decided to reunite with Manning. While this only serves to underscore the importance a coach has in shaping a recruit’s decision we have to wonder about Wake, which is signing a two-star point guard.
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Oregon State Fires Craig Robinson… Finally

Posted by Andrew Murawa on May 7th, 2014

In the waning moments of Oregon State’s Pac-12 Tournament-ending loss to Oregon, it seemed to be the final nail in the coffin of Craig Robinson patrolling the sideline as the team’s head coach. A few days later, as Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was announcing that Robinson and his staff would coach a team of barnstorming Pac-12 stars on a trip through China in August, it seemed to be a nod that Robinson would, in fact, and against all odds, be back in Corvallis for the 2014-15 season. A few days afterward, Oregon State lost to Radford in the opening round of the CBI and Robinson joked afterwards that his firing could be imminent. In the weeks that followed, rumors hinted that athletic director Bob DeCarolis was in favor of keeping Robinson for another year, right up until the point when the wind shifted and rumors were that DeCarolis was ready to can him. Then came a letter to program boosters from DeCarolis beseeching them to support Robinson going forward, clearly meaning that the decision had been made, finally, to keep him on for another year, right? Well, no. On Monday morning of this week, DeCarolis had flipped again, announcing that the school was firing Robinson and beginning the search for a new head coach. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? So, what exactly is going on in the Oregon State basketball program? Why the late change of heart; is it the right move; and, well, what now?

After A Wishy-Washy Seven Weeks, Oregon State Finally Decided To Fire Craig Robinson (credit: AP)

After A Wishy-Washy Seven Weeks, Oregon State Finally Decided To Fire Craig Robinson (credit: AP)

As to the first question, what exactly happened since March 28 when DeCarolis sent that letter in support of Robinson? First junior Eric Moreland declared for the NBA Draft and Challe Barton decided to move overseas to play professional hoops. Then promising freshman point guard Hallice Cooke decided to transfer out, and DeCarolis had plenty of time to soak up all the complaints from fans about the state of the program. He ultimately came to the belief that his initial decision to keep Robinson was a wrong one, and he felt strongly enough about it to risk looking weak by flip-flopping on his original decision. According to DeCarolis’ Monday press conference following his decision, there was no late flood of booster money to help pay the $4.2 million still owed to Robinson (although he did admit that money played a role in the decision), and there is no next coach waiting in the wings to take over. It just came down to DeCarolis’ realization that the basketball program had gotten stagnant under Robinson and that it couldn’t afford another year of treading water. Give credit to the man for following his heart in the matter.

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Pac-12 Early Entry Decisions: Winners and Losers

Posted by AMurawa on April 28th, 2014

With Sunday night’s early-entry deadline come and gone, programs have now gotten past one potential source of damage to their rosters. Kids can still announce their transfers or get in trouble or get hurt, so the names on these rosters can still remain in a state of flux, but below we’ll discuss the winners and losers in the conference after the going pro pothole has passed.

Winners

Arizona – It’s not often that you can call a team that lost two players to early entry a winner, but the fact is, the Wildcats lose Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson, but guys like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley passed on the temptation of the NBA to return for another year in the desert. Of the two who left, there was little surprise, as Gordon is a sure-fire lottery pick while Johnson played well enough this season to probably maximize his attractiveness to NBA scouts (he’s projected as a second-rounder). Meanwhile, Hollis-Jefferson in particular was a serious threat to leave early, with a likely first-round selection awaiting. However, with his return to Tucson, he’ll have a chance to not only improve his draft stock, but also keep the Wildcats near the top of the national conversation.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's Decision to Return To School Keeps Arizona Among The National Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s Decision to Return To School Keeps Arizona Among The National Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Oregon – Joseph Young considered forgoing his final season of eligibility for a run at the NBA dream, but the 6’3” shooter likely got word back from scouts to return to school, work on his ballhandling and start playing some defense. As a result, Young will again be a part of what should be a high-flying Duck offense and have a chance to legitimately work himself into NBA Draft consideration next season.

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Your Way-Too-Early 2014-15 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on April 9th, 2014

Another season in the books; another Pac-12 disappointment. We’ve got plenty of time to look back on the 2013-14 season, but it is onward and upward from here as we briefly look ahead to next year. We’re still not entirely sure exactly which of the players we watched this year will move on to greener pastures, and there are sure to be some surprise transfers (both incoming and outgoing) ahead of us, but in the days after the national championship, it is time to start dreaming about the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Below are our way-too-early Pac-12 power rankings.

Arizona's Back In The Familiar Spot of A 1-Seed And An NCAA Favorite (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

McConnell, Hollis-Jefferson, and Tarczewski, Among Others, Make Arizona The Pac-12 Favorite Again (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

  1. Arizona – Sure, Aaron Gordon’s stay in Tucson was brief. And yeah, Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson may join him in the NBA. But barring some surprises, five of the following six players are going to be comprising Sean Miller’s starting lineup next season: T.J. McConnell, Gabe York, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski. Goodness gracious sakes alive, that is a lot of talent. And, the West Regional will not be held in Anaheim next season, so let’s go ahead and pencil Miller and his Wildcats into his first-ever Final Four.
  2. Stanford – Johnny Dawkins and company broke through this year with their first NCAA Tournament appearance under the current regime. And while some important players move on, a returning nucleus of combo guard Chasson Randle, wing Anthony Brown and big man Stefan Nastic is solid. Throw in a recruiting class with four different four-star recruits (as ranked by ESPN) and a bevy of talented returning youngsters and we’ll make the Cardinal the best bet in the league to challenge the Wildcats. Read the rest of this entry »
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Assessing an Awkward Coaching Situation in Corvallis

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on April 2nd, 2014

Craig Robinson said these words following Oregon State‘s season ending loss against Radford, a game played in front of fewer than 1,500 fans in Corvallis.

That game ended his sixth season in Corvallis, with no single campaign resulting in a postseason finish higher than the CBI, and comprising the lowest attendance totals in Gill Coliseum history. Needless to say, Beaver fans aren’t happy and would like to see a change. Still, with that all laid out on the table, I thought Robinson’s joke was hilarious. Timely, self-deprecating, and unexpected — a perfect combination for a laugh in my book. Unfortunately, his boss, athletic director Bob DeCarolis, did not find it as humorous, which is understandable since he has been in Robinson’s corner since day one. “A bad joke at a bad time,” he said the next day. A little over a week later, DeCarolis penned a letter to his biggest boosters, telling them that he had chosen to retain Robinson as head coach for another season.

The relationship between Robinson, the athletic department and Oregon State fans has grown incredibly awkward. The coach needs fans to buy tickets in order to attract recruits. The fans have stopped coming until they start to see a winning product. And there won’t be a winning product until the recruits head to Corvallis. It’s a vicious cycle, one that Robinson has been tasked with breaking. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that his mouth is getting him in trouble. And I’m not talking about his joke to reporters last month. It’s the other quotes like, “Next year’s team could be ranked in the Top 25.” Not likely when he loses Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier, and Angus Brandt. Or, “If Eric Moreland returns, we will be one of the top teams in the conference.” He’s already building in excuses for next season six months before practice even starts. No one wants to hear that. And then there is his agent, Rick Giles, saying that the 2013-14 Beavers were “two wins away from the NCAA Tournament.” Um, try two wins away from the NIT — maybe. The empty promises, excuses, and over-inflated expectations aren’t cute anymore. It’s annoying and a waste of time.

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Pac-12 Coaching Turnover: Montgomery Out; Kent In; Robinson Holds

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on April 1st, 2014

At the end of the Pac-12 Tournament, it seemed like we would get through this offseason with just one Pac-12 head coaching change – Washington State, where Ken Bone’s five-year run in Pullman was coming to an end. There was some smoke around the status of Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson, but conference commissioner Larry Scott seemed to put a damper on that notion prior to the Pac-12 title game when he announced that Robinson and his staff would be coaching a team of barnstorming Pac-12 stars in China later this year. Elsewhere around the conference, it seemed like continuity was the rule of the day.

In 32 Seasons as a Division I Head Coach, Montgomery Had Just One Losing Season (Ben Margot, AP)

In 32 Seasons as a Division I Head Coach, Montgomery Had Just One Losing Season (Ben Margot, AP)

Then on Sunday, as college basketball fans were enjoying a day of great Elite Eight competition, word snuck out that the dean of Pac-12 coaches, Mike Montgomery, was weighing the possibility of stepping down from his position at California. That possibility became a fact on Monday when Montgomery announced his retirement. His accomplishments are legion, including 32 seasons of Division I basketball coaching and winning records in 31 of those campaigns. In 1986, he took over a Stanford program that hadn’t been to an NCAA Tournament in 45 years and was coming off a 23-loss season and turned it into an NCAA Tournament team in just his third season there. All told, there were 12 NCAA Tournament bids at Stanford (including at least one NCAA win in his last 10 seasons on The Farm), one trip to the Final Four (1998, behind Arthur Lee, Kris Weems, Peter Sauer, Mark Madsen and Tim Young), an Elite Eight, and 677 career wins. He coached in the Pac-12 for 24 years and ranks third on the all-time wins list in conference play behind only Lute Olson and John Wooden. He retires as the best coach in Stanford basketball history and the best coach at Berkeley since the legendary Pete Newell.

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NIT and CBI Reaction: Pac-12 Teams

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) & Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 18th, 2014

Three Pac-12 teams that were not invited to the NCAA Tournament ended up receiving NIT or CBI bids. Let’s break them down in this instareaction format.

California – NIT, #2 seed in SMU Quadrant, vs. Utah Valley, 3/19, 7:30 PM PT - The Golden Bears had something of an argument for the NCAA field of 68, but nobody winds up all that shocked that they’re on the outside looking in. So, now, rather than playing for a national championship (at least in theory), Mike Montgomery and company have to shift gears and find something else to play for over their remaining games. For seniors like Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon, such a shift will be difficult, as the NIT is clearly not where those guys hoped to be ending their careers. But, for youngsters like Jordan Mathews, Jabari Bird, and Sam Singer, and even junior Ricky Kreklow, whose career has been limited some by injury problems, maybe they can use the NIT as a springboard towards the inevitably larger roles that they’ll have to take on next season. As for match-ups, they will get a Utah Valley team in the opener that they should be able to outclass on talent alone, but beyond that, they will need to begin bringing their A-games, as either Arkansas or Indiana State could give them a serious push in the second-round game.

California Highlights The Pac-12's Representation In The NIT

California Highlights The Pac-12’s Representation In The NIT

Utah – NIT, #5 seed in Minnesota’s Quadrant, at Saint Mary’s, 3/18, 8:00 PM PT, ESPN2 – The Utes got jobbed. Plain and simple. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Going by the eye test, this team should have been one of the first four or five left out of the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the NIT selection committee relied far too much on strength of schedule and relegated Utah to a first round road game. Saint Mary’s, who most projected to barely sneak into the NIT, receives a better seed and will host the Utes. The Gaels finished fourth in the WCC and fell to Gonzaga in the semifinals of their conference tournament. They opened the year at 9-0, then went to Honolulu, got distracted by the beach, and fell hard from the ranks of the unbeaten. First came a loss against South Carolina. Then Hawaii nipped them, and then George Mason did the same on Christmas morning. And after sneaking past Pacific a few days later, they went up to Spokane and got hammered for a 22-point loss against the Zags. Things have been up and down since, with a little more good than bad, and the Gaels enter the NIT at a 22-11 clip.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.17.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 17th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Junior guard Joseph Young leads his Oregon team with 18.6 PPG, but his style of play in no way represents a dominating ball hog. The Houston transfer’s efficiency isn’t based on over-dribbling, but rather a quick-release jumper and the ability to come off screens as well as anyone else in the conference. He can also force his way into the lane and convert at the rim with ease, which keeps his averages up when he’s cold from outside. Young could very well declare for this June’s NBA draft, as he’s got all the necessary tools to go late in the first round or early in the second. That may ultimately depend on if he can improve his stock even more with an NCAA Tournament run over the next couple weeks. He’s come up clutch in big games throughout his first season in Eugene, scoring 25 points in an overtime win against BYU, and 26 in double overtime to hold off UCLA in Westwood. Tournament run or not, this has been a terrific and rare season for Young, and head coach Dana Altman‘s biggest recruiting job this spring could be trying to convince Young to return for a senior campaign.
  2. After a somewhat boring opening three rounds at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, guard Jordan Adams shot UCLA to the league’s automatic bid in a thrilling 75-71 victory against top-seeded Arizona. Adams had 19 points on Saturday afternoon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, including a three-pointer with 45 seconds left to break a 68-68 tie. While ugly at times in the final few minutes, the game was fast-paced and heart-pounding, and everything about it screamed March. The Bruins finished the regular season at 26-8 with the upset, while the Wildcats dropped to 30-4.
  3. Calling to replace Oregon State coach Craig Robinson? Great, you must not be the guy in charge of doing it. At least that’s what John Canzano says, citing the fact that the Beavers can’t afford to fire their coach, and even if they could, no one worth replacing Robinson would want the job. The fact of the matter is, in some ways, you can’t afford not to let him go. Recruiting is down, and will continue to decline as prospects see a quarter-filled Gill Coliseum night in and night out. That translates into even less wins, and more empty seats. It’s a vicious cycle.
  4. Washington may not have a game scheduled yet for next season, but the 2015-16 campaign does have one. The Huskies and Texas will meet on November 14, 2015 in Shanghai, a day after the regular season begins back home in the United States. The game is part of the conference’s Globalization Initiative, which began in 2011, and will actually be the project’s first regular season basketball game.
  5. Yesterday, of course, was Selection Sunday, and six teams from the Pac-12 were chosen for the NCAA Tournament. Arizona led the conference as a #1 seed, and Pac-12 Tourney champion UCLA was placed on the four line. Oregon and Colorado followed as #7 and #8 seeds, respectively, and the conference’s representation was rounded out by Arizona State and Stanford on the #10 line.
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Eight Predictions For The Pac-12 On Selection Sunday

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 16th, 2014

  • Arizona will get a #1 seed in the West region. This one’s almost too easy. Without a team west of Wichita vying for a seed above the four line, the Wildcats have no competition for this spot. They have been locked into a one seed ever since their dominating performance at Colorado on February 22, and losses to Oregon and UCLA in the final two weeks of the season doesn’t change that. Expect Sean Miller‘s team to also be sent to San Diego for its opening games in the tournament.
  • UCLA is underseeded, and its opponents will pay for it. Without a signature non-conference win and losses like the 18-point one suffered at Washington State dotting its schedule, I think the committee slots UCLA as a #6 seed, instead of the four or five the Bruins probably deserve. This will hurt their second and third round opponents more than anything, as we’ve seen in recent years.

    UCLA Guard Jordan Adams Is Averaging 17.2 PPG And Has Come Up Clutch In Big Games (Stephen Dunn)

    UCLA Guard Jordan Adams Is Averaging 17.2 PPG And Has Come Up Clutch In Big Games (Stephen Dunn)

  • Oregon avoids the 8/9 game, is gifted a #7 seed. The committee loves rewarding teams that finish the season strong, and Oregon closed the year on an 8-1 tear. I think the Ducks avoid the 8/9 game (and therefore a matchup with a top seed in their second game), and will play a #10 seed in their opener.
  • Colorado and Stanford do play the 8/9 game. Both the Buffaloes and Cardinal had a chance to pull an Oregon and avoid the eight or nine line, but some spectacular flameouts in Las Vegas make that impossible. Both will play in an 8/9 game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Thoughts From the First Day of the Pac-12 Tournament

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) & Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) on March 13th, 2014

The opener of the Pac-12 conference tournament was a battle between the eight and nine seeds – Utah and Washington – for the right to keep their faint NCAA Tournament hopes alive and the right to face one-seed Arizona on Thursday. Utah controlled the first half, but then let up and allowed the Huskies back into it, before putting together a 7-1 run in the final minute to provide the final margin of victory. For the Utes, this outcome leaves us with two important questions: 1) can they hang with Arizona on Thursday and 2) what will it take for them to earn an NCAA Tournament bid?

Delon Wright And The Utes Kept Their NCAA Tournament Hopes Alive, But Bigger Tests Loom (Kelley L. Cox, USA Today Sports)

Delon Wright And The Utes Kept Their NCAA Tournament Hopes Alive, But Bigger Tests Loom (Kelley L. Cox, USA Today Sports)

For the first question, let’s give an unabashed “yes.” The last time these two teams met – in Salt Lake City on February 19 – the Utes took the Wildcats to overtime before succumbing by four points. Back in January at the McKale Center, it was a tie game with less than ten minutes to play before the Wildcats turned up the defensive juice and force the Utes to miss eight of their final ten field goal attempts en route to a nine-point win. But on both of those occasions, Utah looked like a team that very much deserved to be on the floor with Arizona. In fact, even last year when the Utes struggled to just five regular season conference wins, they played the Wildcats tight (two losses by a total of seven points). For Utah, the key may be rebounding. In their overtime loss to the Wildcats, the Utes actually got the better end of the deal on the glass, but earlier in the year it was a disaster as the ‘Cats (who still had Brandon Ashley at the time) grabbed 20 offensive rebounds – the difference in an otherwise tight game. Jordan Loveridge, along with the three-headed center of Jeremy Olsen, Dallin Bachynski and Renan Lenz will need to be strong up front against the likes of Aaron Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski, quite a different challenge than the one they faced on Wednesday against an undersized Washington squad.

As for the second question, the Utes still really need to win this tournament if they want to feel secure on Selection Sunday. Yes, a win over Arizona in the quarters would be a nice scalp, and even a win over Colorado or Cal in the semifinals would be nice. But given the overall weakness of their non-conference schedule, the Utes still have a lot of work to do, resume-wise.

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Pac-12 Senior Days: Oregon State Group of Six

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 8th, 2014

On a day when Oregon State looks to secure a bid to the NIT, six Beavers will play their final game at Gill Coliseum. We break them down below.

Senior Roberto Nelson Leads The League In Points Despite Being Tightly Defended All Season (credit: Michael Shaw)

Senior Roberto Nelson Leads The League In Points Despite Being Tightly Defended All Season (credit: Michael Shaw)

Roberto Nelson leads the conference in scoring in his final season in Corvallis, and he has been the difference-maker Oregon State needed to produce one of its best seasons in a decade. Coming out of Santa Barbara, he was the top signee of head coach Craig Robinson’s first recruiting class, one that also included guys like Jared Cunningham, Angus Brandt and Joe Burton. The story of his recruitment is an interesting one in itself, and was actually told in the book “Play Their Hearts Out” by George Dohrmann. The shooting guard’s father received letters while in prison from head coaches attempting to get him to persuade Nelson to sign with their school, and the player himself received 2,161 pieces of mail from his suitors. He decided Robinson’s school was right for him, someone who, ironically enough, didn’t send him as much as a post card. After having to sit out his first season with the team due to NCAA eligibility issues, he averaged 7.5 PPG as a freshman role player. His biggest jump came last season when he became one of the most feared shooters in the Pac-12 and went from 9.3 PPG as a sophomore to a 17.8 PPG clip. Nelson is most known for his unbelievably deep range and perpetual green light from the coaching staff, but he is most effective on the dribble-drive, capable of twisting and turning through the lane without picking up his pivot foot, eventually finding his way to the hoop. Outside of basketball, he was a huge part of a student service trip to Macedonia a few years ago, and brought us this excellent clip from his time there. If Nelson can step up on the defensive end of the floor, he has a good shot of making an NBA roster as a free agent.

Favorite Moment: Hitting back-to-back three pointers without a shoe against Stanford.

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