Oregon State Finds Success By Swapping Starting Point Guards

Posted by Kenny Ocker on January 23rd, 2014

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a Northwest-based national columnist for Rush The Court and filed this report Wednesday night from Washington State’s Friel Court in Pullman.

Craig Robinson might have just figured it out just in time to make something of this Pac-12 season. The Oregon State coach, who has struggled for consistent point guard play since taking over in Corvallis back in 2008, has given the reins of the offense to freshman guard Hallice Cooke in the last four games, and it’s paid immediate dividends. After a middling non-conference performance that included losses to Coppin State, DePaul and Hawaii, and an 0-2 start to conference play, Robinson put Cooke in the starting lineup in place of junior Challe Barton, and the Beavers (11-7, 3-3 Pac-12) have looked like a different team.

Oregon State point guard Hallice Cooke (#3) has started the last four games, in which the Beavers have gone 3-1. (AP)

Oregon State point guard Hallice Cooke (#3) has started the last four games, in which the Beavers have gone 3-1. (AP)

Let’s not forget that Oregon State shooting guard Roberto Nelson is the top-scoring player in the Pac-12, putting in more than 21 points per night, and the Beavers’ interior triumvirate of Angus Brandt, Eric Moreland, and Devon Collier each average more than 10 points per game themselves. Cooke doesn’t have to do a lot to help his team. But his skill set – the third-best three-point shooting rate in the country at nearly 56 percent, and the team’s second-best assist rate behind Nelson – fits well within the construct of a team led by three inside scorers and a perimeter scorer (Nelson) who commands double-teams. The Beavers have a 3-1 record in games in which Cooke has started, including home upsets of Stanford and Oregon, and a 66-55 road win at Washington State on Wednesday night.

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Pac-12 Roundup: Week Ten

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 22nd, 2014

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the tenth 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, and the next two spots below the Wildcats were in complete agreement as well. Check the full results below.

Junior Guard Nick Johnson Led The Wildcats With 17 Points In Their Rivalry Win Against Arizona State

Junior Guard Nick Johnson Led The Wildcats With 17 Points In Their Rivalry Win Against Arizona State

  1. Arizona (18-0, 3 Points). Comment: ”The Wildcats have restored championship pride in a city that seemed to be dying on the vine after Lute Olson’s empire crumbled, after the Cactus League pulled up stakes and headed up the interstate.” – Dan Bickley (@danbickley)
  2. California (14-4, 6 Points). Comment: “Pac-12 has changed so much in just three weeks. UO and Colorado no longer contenders & UCLA has been exposed. Cal appears to be the only challenger to Arizona.” – Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28)
  3. UCLA (14-4, 9 Points). Comment: “I’m so over this @UCLAMBB team. Not watching them the rest of the season. See y’all when spring football starts. Peace.” – Miguel Melendez (@MelendezSports)
  4. Stanford (12-5, 13 Points). Comment: “Viewed in isolation, one may argue that Stanford has experienced a few bad breaks with the “injury bug”; however, in the context of the last four seasons, a disturbing trend emerges around Dawkins’ inability to keep his players healthy. In Dawkins’ five and a half seasons, there have been eight season-ending injuries; in the six seasons prior to Dawkins’ arrival, there were three.” – Daniel Jacobson (@danieljacobson_) Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 01.22.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 22nd, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. With everyone around the country beating down Oregon for its recent four-game losing skid, head coach Dana Altman is instead choosing to keep things upbeat in Eugene. There’s been no locker room rampages or huge lineup changes, with the focus instead on staying positive and tuning out the critics. “We have to come together as a team; we can’t worry what people say or write,” Altman said. “We just have to worry about the next game.” That next game is on the road at Washington, and a loss in Seattle would no doubt drop the Ducks onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. Altman desperately needs to turn this thing around, and soon, to avoid that from happening.
  2. Bracketology time! BracketologyExpert is now releasing its projected NCAA field daily, and yesterday’s version has Arizona as a #1 seed, Colorado as a #6, UCLA as a #9, and Oregon all the way down on the #10 line. The conference currently has a pair of teams on the bubble, and both are from the Bay Area. California is listed IN as a #11 seed, while Stanford is the second team left out of the field of 68. Also released Tuesday were John Templon’s updated NIT projections, where we see Arizona State, Washington, and Utah on the #4, #5 and #6 lines, respectively. 
  3. This piece from The Oregonian takes a look at what the future might hold for Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson after the 2013-14 campaign. Robinson told the newspaper in an interview earlier this week that he would have to consider an offer to become Princeton’s next athletic director if he was no longer with the Beavers. He has strong ties to the program, winning a pair of Ivy League Player of the Year honors during his playing days at Princeton. In addition, his daughter has already committed to play basketball there next season. Still, it is doubtful Robinson would leave on his own if he was not terminated by the university, but the fact remains that he has yet to take the program to a major postseason tournament in his time in Corvallis.
  4. The road back for Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie began this week, although he still doesn’t know to what or where that road is going to lead. What’s most important, however, is that he is starting to attack the rehabilitation process with a determination to not have his basketball career end with an awkward step and the buckling of his left knee on the floor of Alaska Airlines Arena. There is a good chance Dinwiddie will return for his senior season in Boulder, but he noted that if his pre-draft evaluations look promising later this spring, he could still take his chances with the NBA. The Buffaloes have posted a 1-1 record in their time without their leading scorer and will play top-ranked Arizona in Tucson on Thursday.
  5. It’s been a strange season across the national landscape in college basketball so far. Oregon, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa State combined to start the season 58-0 and now sit at 58-13. North Carolina has beaten the likes of Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky, and yet has losses against UAB, Wake Forest and Miami (FL). But another odd team that has flown under the radar is Utah. The Utes are perhaps just a few missed shots away from being on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but late-game cold spells and road woes have cost them dearly so far this season. Larry Krystkowiak’s team needs to win away from the altitude-advantaged Huntsman Center in order to be taken seriously in the conference, and the Utes will get their shot over the next two weeks when they visit Arizona State, Arizona, and Colorado. 
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Pac-12 M5: 01.20.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 20th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Much of the time, a demotion of an upperclassman that results in a freshman or sophomore filling the open role can make relationships sour in a hurry. However, that hasn’t been the case for Oregon State junior point guard Challe Barton and freshman Hallice Cooke, who have remained close after Cooke grabbed Barton’s starting spot earlier this month. Despite only averaging 8.8 MPG in Pac-12 play, the junior can typically be seen waving a towel on the bench and one of the first to greet players coming off the floor during a timeout. Barton’s laid-back attitude and easy smile certainly helps, but knowing that playing time on coach Craig Robinson’s squad can flip drastically at the blink of an eye, he knows that he needs to be ready to go and engaged at all times. If Cooke keeps up his current pace, however, that starting job is going to be locked up for awhile. The freshman has provided a much-needed spark to a struggling offense, averaging 10.5 PPG in his last five appearances.
  2. The Beavers got a huge win last night in the Civil War battle against Oregon, jumping out to an early 16-point lead and eventually holding on for an 80-72 upset. Oregon State is now in a tie for eighth in the conference standings and has a great chance of getting back to .500 when it faces Washington State on Wednesday night. On the Ducks’ side of it, things are not going well. The job that Dana Altman has done so far in the month of January is by far the worst in his four seasons with Oregon. His team is currently free-falling down the NCAA Tournament seed lines and desperately needs a sweep at the Washington schools this week.
  3. After suffering a stress fracture in his leg in mid-September, freshman guard Que Johnson got off to a slow start at Washington State. But the redshirt freshman grew more comfortable within the offense as the non-conference season wore on, and he has now become the team’s go-to guy with junior DaVonte Lacy out with various injuries. In this piece examining Johnson’s performance thus far, Jeff Nusser takes a look at his statistics and compares them to former Cougs’ great, Klay Thompson. Johnson is blowing past the freshman Thompson in terms of efficiency, using his aggressiveness to shoot at a 51 percent clip from inside the three-point line. He is also showing some early traits of Thompson’s late-game clutchness, hitting an overtime-forcing three with 10 seconds left against #15 Colorado, then knocking down the final three free throws of a three-point win against Utah a few days later. As Nusser says, putting these comparisons on a freshman may be unfair, but the early returns have been nothing less than terrific. Washington State returns to action Wednesday night against Oregon State in Pullman.
  4. Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist, Daniel Evans, released his updated projections over the weekend, and Arizona claimed his top overall seed once again. Next up are Oregon and Colorado on the five and seven lines, respectively, and California and UCLA coming in at eight and nine. Stanford remains squarely on the bubble and is listed as the second team out of his field.
  5. The Ducks debuted some nice new kicks in last night’s rivalry game with Oregon State, their “JumpDucks.” Long a testing ground for anything Nike has to offer, Oregon was the first one to get a crack at re-doing the Michael Jordan Jumpman logo, replacing it on the shoe’s heel with a shadow Duck mascot. The new Air Jordans look very cool and would be sure to sell quickly if Nike goes down that road. We’ll let you use your wildest imagination to dream up what’s up next for the stylistic offerings of Oregon athletics.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.17.14 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. We’re now two and a half weeks into conference play (my god, these seasons fly by don’t they) and California is inarguably the hottest team in the conference, out to a 4-0 start in league play with three of those wins coming on the road. And our friend Adam Butler of Pachoops.com points to senior big man Richard Solomon’s increased efficiency as a key for the Golden Bears’ emergence. He’s even got a pretty little chart correlating Solomon’s shots at the rim with his offensive efficiency over the past three seasons. And while Solomon is surely improved, some credit has to go to his fellow senior – point guard Justin Cobbs – for putting more emphasis on finding Solomon at the rim as opposed to his primary target last season, Allen Crabbe on the wing. Either way, there is more than enough credit to go around up in Berkeley (more evidence – check out John McLamb’s praise for the Cal bench in the comments section) and with Washington State on tap this weekend, and a road trip to USC next Wednesday, there is every reason to believe the Bears will be 6-0 when they play at UCLA next Sunday. Drool…
  2. Across the bay, Stanford may be starting to play some good ball. After squeezing by Oregon in a well-played game last weekend, the Cardinal returned home and laid a hurting on an overmatched Washington State team on Wednesday night. Which is good, because that’s the type of thing this team should be doing. They had four guys in double-figures (with leading scorer Chasson Randle playing distributor) on their way to a 32-point win, but need to prove they’re capable of stringing together victories in the multiple before they’re really taken seriously. Nevertheless, they’ve found their way into NCAA Tournament conversations, sneaking into Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracket as one of the last four teams in.
  3. Oregon and Oregon State will get it on Sunday afternoon while most of the rest of the country will be focusing in on an NFL Playoff game. But if you’re interested in excitement, minus all that pesky defense that just gets in the way, this might be your game. As Andrew Greif of The Oregonian points out, according to Sports-Reference.com (and we’ll have to take Greif’s word for this as I am not double-checking his facts), seven of the 20 worst Pac-12 defenders over the last four seasons will be playing in this game. Names like Jonathan Loyd, Roberto Nelson, Jason Calliste, Challe Barton and Angus Brandt are no surprise – Loyd’s height makes him a liability; the next three are completely uninterested in defense; and Brandt has all the mobility of a statue. But first and third on that bottom 20 list are OSU freshman Malcolm Duvivier and sophomore Langston Morris-Walker. This is a crime. Neither of those guys has any right to be on such a list unless they just aren’t trying. In which case, neither of those guys brings enough to the table offensively to deserve a crack at the court.
  4. In advance of the bouncyball version of the Civil War, Craig Robinson took the time to offer some pointed comments regarding the current state of NCAA transfer rules. Robinson called the rules unfair to smaller schools and passive-aggressively commented about how he didn’t know how to “go out and poach guys when you really aren’t supposed to be able to talk to them.” Given Dana Altman’s success with transfers down the way in Eugene, clearly such comments can’t be taken as anything other than a direct reference to the Ducks. Altman, of course, defended his program, saying that all of the senior transfers who have wound up choosing Oregon have done so after those players had first initiated the contact with the school.
  5. Lastly, Doug Haller’s Pac-12 Insider column at AZCentral.com is one of the best things covering the conference. This week, he looks at the opportunities for Arizona high school players Jaron Hopkins and Que Johnson to step up in place of injured starters, and also points out that Aaron Gordon, per hoop-math.com, leads the Pac-12 in putbacks. Want to know how dominant the Arizona front line is on the offensive glass? Gordon’s teammate Brandon Ashley is third in the conference with 23 himself. Put it this way (bonus analysis!): Gordon and Ashley between them have more putbacks than more than 160 Division I teams, including Utah (50), Stanford (46), Oregon State (43), and Arizona State (34). For what it’s worth, Kansas, a team with comparable size and athleticism to Arizona, has a total of 37 putbacks. For the entire team, the Wildcats have a total of 84 putbacks!
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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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Pac-12 Roundup: Week Eight

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 7th, 2014

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the eighth 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 the only other unanimous pick is Washington State at the bottom. There is a general consensus among the group as to the top six in the league, but after that, things get very interesting. Check the results below.

Askia Booker, Colorado

Junior Guard Askia Booker Scored 27 Points While Handing Oregon Its First Loss Of The Season On Sunday

  1. Arizona (15-0, 3 Points). Comment: “This doesn’t appear to be one of those blow-the-other-guy-to-smithereens Arizona teams like those that Lute Olson operated, winning by ridiculous, double-figure margins. Saturday’s game might have been the surest preview of what the final 16 games of the Pac-12 season will be.” – Greg Hansen (@ghansen711)
  2. Colorado (13-2, 7 Points). Comment: “The SDSU-Kansas game has a bigger storyline, but this Oregon-Colorado contest is a much better game. Two second-weekend teams squaring off.” – Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan)
  3. Oregon (13-1, 9 Points). Comment: “Colorado wasn’t doing anything different defensively than they had all game in the final 10 minutes — Oregon was just missing, missing, and missing some more.” – David Piper (@atqdaveRead the rest of this entry »
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Takeaways From the Pac-12′s Weekend Games

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 7th, 2014

It was a busy Pac-12 weekend around the conference. Here are some thoughts on each of the weekend’s five games.

Colorado 100, Oregon 91

  • It was a game that largely lived up to the hype, with both teams looking good for long stretches. But over the last 10 minutes of the game, it was – get this – Colorado’s guard play that was the deciding factor in the game. It was supposed to be the undefeated Ducks with the bevy of play-making guards that had the advantage on the perimeter, while the Buffaloes were going to need to take advantage of a weak Oregon frontcourt in order to win this game at home. Instead, over the final quarter of the game, Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 25 of Colorado’s 39 points, sophomore guard Xavier Talton chipped in six more, and Jaron Hopkins was the guy to get everything started with a three off a Dinwiddie dime. All told, the five Colorado guards outscored Oregon’s by a total of 66-52.

    Askia Booker, Colorado

    Big Game Askia? Who Knew? (Patrick Ghidossi, BuffaloSportsNews)

  • Meanwhile up front the Ducks were just okay against that tough Colorado frontcourt. On the offensive end, they were great, grabbing better than 41 percent of their own misses and getting a terrific 24-point performance out of Mike Moser. But the bigger concern is their ability to defend on the interior, and here they were exposed a bit, allowing Colorado to grab better than 46 percent of their misses, leading to lots of easy putbacks for the Buffs. Oregon’s guards are going to keep them in a lot of games, but they need to clean up their frontcourt issues in order to reach their potential.
  • For some of the surprises in this game, the most expected angle proved completely true: Colorado is going to be really, really tough at home. With a strong seven-man rotation plus a couple other guys ready to provide spot minutes, the Buffs are deep, athletic, big, strong and – most importantly – good. And the Coors Events Center is a great homecourt advatange. KenPom.com has the Buffs expected to win their next six games at home by an average of just under 10 points per game, but that only takes us to February 22 when they’ll host Arizona in their last home game of the season. Right now that KenPom projection is Arizona, 68-65, but in what could be Dinwiddie’s final home game, the early inclination is to lean Buffs. Not that trying to project a game seven weeks out is good practice.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.06.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 6th, 2014

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  1. As Drew reported last week, Oregon State decided junior forward Eric Moreland was eligible to return from his 14-game suspension two games early, meaning that he could appear in the Beavers’ Pac-12 opener last Thursday at Colorado. His return sparked some energy into a team that has had an up-and-down non-conference slate, using his lengthy frame to force bad shots and his athletic ability to grab 10 rebounds. Head coach Craig Robinson ended up misunderstanding the terms of the big man’s suspension that was handed down last summer, thinking that it was for half of all games played, when it was actually measured by days of the season. Moreland came back down to earth on Saturday at Utah, only playing 19 minutes as he, along with the entirety of the Oregon State starting lineup, lacked energy. The result was a forgettable one-rebound, four-point performance in an 80-69 loss to the Utes. The return of the junior was expected to lift the Beavers to at least an NIT run, but if the first weekend of conference play is any indication, it could be another long winter in Corvallis.
  2. The nation is now down to six undefeated teams — and the Pac-12 to just one — after Colorado exploded for a 100-point performance against previously undefeated Oregon on Sunday afternoon in Boulder. The Ducks were able to survive despite giving up 105 points to Mississippi and 96 to BYU earlier in the season, but the Buffaloes in their home building proved too much to handle. They now sit at 13-1 and are likely to drop out of the top 10 when the national rankings are released later today.
  3. The USC-UCLA crosstown basketball rivalry wrote another chapter yesterday, with the Bruins throttling USC for a 107-73 win. The 107 points scored by UCLA ties the record for the most points from a winning team in the history of the rivalry. Both teams are of course led by first year coaches, Andy Enfield with the Trojans, and Steve Alford with the Bruins, and it was just the fourth time ever that each entered conference play with new coaches at the same time. Enfield has quickly learned in his stint with at USC that anything and everything he says about the team in Westwood will be reported and scrutinized, and they are surely already looking forward to a rematch at the Galen Center on February 8. UCLA improved to 12-2 with the win, while SC fell to 9-5. Both teams get to stay home this week and will host the difficult Arizona schools.
  4. Sticking with UCLA, Bruins Nation rates the full Bruins’ lineup after non-conference play. The UCLA roster is loaded with talent, but it’s tough to know just how far the team could go in March when it dropped its only two challenging non-conference games. Sophomore guard Jordan Adams leads the team in scoring with 18.5 PPG, while wing Kyle Anderson is contributing at a 14.5 PPG clip and leading UCLA in rebounds with 8.7 boards a game. Next up for the Bruins is what a lot of people assumed would be the Pac-12 game of the year before the season began, a visit from top-ranked Arizona on Thursday at 6:00 PM. This will be the only time that the Bruins and Wildcats will meet in the regular season.
  5. We close today with some recruiting news, as Arizona has emerged as a major player in the courting of class of 2015 power forward Carlton Bragg. Head coach Sean Miller is working hard in preparing for the future, as his talented Wildcat frontline featuring Kaleb Tarczewski, Aaron Gordon and Brandon Ashley won’t be around Tucson forever. Bragg would be a huge addition to the program, a five-star player who already has offers from Michigan State, Indiana, and UCLA, to name a few.
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Thoughts From Opening Night in the Pac-12

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 3rd, 2014

In what was a very entertaining night of basketball around the Pac-12, here are a number of semi-interesting thoughts for Thursday’s five games.

Oregon 70, Utah 68 (OT)

Despite A Step Up In Competition, Delon Wright Continues To Produce Across the Board (George Frey, AP)

Despite A Step Up In Competition, Delon Wright Continues To Produce Across the Board (George Frey, AP)

  • Plenty of words have already been spent dissecting Utah’s final possessions in regulation and then in overtime, but those two possessions took up about two percent of the entire game. There is more to be gleaned from the other 98-ish percent. So let’s spend some time digging into that game. The biggest question coming into it was: “So, are the Utes really any good?” Well, Utah answered that question with a resounding: “I dunno. Maybe!?! Probably?!? Aw, who knows?” Delon Wright wasn’t as athletically dominant against more worthy competition, but still wound up with 14 points, six boards, four blocks, a couple steals and dimes. And, if anything, he was underused. Oregon got the memo about his unreliable jumper and often backed off him, went under screens, and dared him to knock down jumpers, which he did on a couple of occasions. But that’s still far preferable to letting him get to the rim, which he can do against all but the most capable defenders.
  • Elsewhere, Dallin Bachynski really answered the call in the middle (despite that unfortunate play at the end, which can hardly be blamed on him) and was probably the best big on the court throughout the game, something that wasn’t expected.
  • While the Utes played very well as a whole, Jordan Loveridge was not at his best Thursday night, settling for jumpers too often and, worse yet, settling for long jumpers; he took six of his 23 shots from three-point land and made just one of them. While Loveridge is capable inside and out, he relied far too much on his outside game and shunned the inside portion. Perhaps some of this was part of a game plan to keep Mike Moser from being an interior defensive presence, but there were too many times where Loveridge floated to the three-point  line while Wright was clearly trying to set up a post feed.

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Breaking Down The Unbalanced Pac-12 Conference Schedules

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 2nd, 2014

Back in the old days of the Pac-10, comparing the different conference schedules of league teams was largely an academic affair; with an 18-game balanced schedule, each team played every other team in the league both home and away. But with Utah and Colorado now on board, we’re in the era of the unbalanced schedule. Each team in the league still has a travel partner (UCLA and USC, Cal and Stanford, Colorado and Utah, the Arizona schools, the Oregon schools, and the Washington schools), so, for instance, when Arizona goes on the road to play California and Stanford, Arizona State does the same in reverse order. The only difference is that, now in unbalanced schedule land, each set of traveling partners skips a trip to one other set of travel partners and loses a visit from another pair as well. Below we’ll take a look at who skips whom, who gets the benefit of the unbalanced schedule this year, and whatever other little nuggets we can find in the conference slate as we get started tonight.

The Arizona schools

  • Road trip skipped: The Washington schools
  • Homestand skipped: The Los Angeles schools
Arizona Shouldn't Be All That Pumped About Skipping The Washington Road Trip (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Arizona Shouldn’t Be All That Pumped About Skipping The Washington Road Trip. (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

In one form or another, Washington and Washington State are consistently regarded as two of the three worst teams in the conference this season (and, honestly, usually the worst two). In other words, missing out on a couple of dates with the Huskies and the Cougars is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to conference standings. Consider that a strike against Arizona, a team that figures to be very much in the hunt for the conference championship. On the other side of the coin, however, skipping those two will give Arizona State a couple more shots against higher RPI squads, and given that the Sun Devils figure to be bubblicious come March, trading out the two Pacific Northwest RPI killers may come in handy. One other note in favor of the Sun Devils is that they’re possibly in line to benefit from traveling with the Wildcats. Arizona is going to get everybody’s best shot this year, especially as long as they remain atop the national standings, meaning ASU could be a trap game on a regular basis. Imagine, for instance, Oregon hosting Arizona on February 6 — win or lose that night, the Ducks could be in for a serious letdown two days later when they host Jahii Carson and his Sun Devils.

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Pac-12 Team-By-Team Non-Conference Wrap-Up

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 2nd, 2014

It’s the unofficial (and un-mathematically correct) halfway point of the college basketball regular season. Non-conference play is, for the most part, in the past, and we’re getting ready to jump right into conference play with a full slate of Pac-12 games beginning today. So, as we look back at what we’ve learned so far and look ahead at what we think might happen from here until we all head to Las Vegas in early March, today we’re going to take a look at what each team has done and pin some rough odds on their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Teams are ranked below in order of how impressive their resume is to this point.

Following A Successful Non-Conference Slate, The Wildcats Have Put Themselves In A Good Position To Earn A Good NCAA Seed (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Following A Successful Non-Conference Slate, The Wildcats Have Put Themselves In A Good Position To Earn A Good NCAA Seed (Casey Sapio/USA Today Sports)

  • Arizona (13-0, RPI: 11, Best Wins: at Michigan, neutral site vs. Duke, at San Diego State) – The Wildcats may be third in the Pac-12 in RPI at this point, but they’re #1 in the polls and deservedly so. They’ve challenged themselves with a tough non-conference slate featuring a pair of tough true road games, a pair of good neutral-site NIT Tip-Off wins, and some solid visitors to the McKale Center. But even more important than these accomplishments is how good they’ve looked doing it — displaying one of the nation’s best defenses and an offense that still has plenty of upside for a young team that should be much improved by March. At this point, it is hard to imagine a scenario where the Wildcats are left on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 99.9%

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