Morning Five: 06.09.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 9th, 2014

morning5

  1. The upcoming 10-year anniversary of the 2005 North Carolina Tar Heel basketball team just got a little bit more awkward on Friday when ESPN released allegations by Rashad McCants that he had been enrolled in fake classes and been given A’s in these classes without having to do any work. Even more damaging was his claim that Roy Williams was aware of this and had essentially signed off on it. Many were quick to point out that McCants had previously given a very different statement comparing his time at UNC being imprisoned back in 2004. Although this does not absolve UNC of any potential wrongdoing it does raise questions about McCants’ credibility as do his past actions. Williams, UNC, and many former players were quick to deny McCants’ allegations. While we agree that it’s reasonable to question McCants’ motivations and whether or not he is telling the truth we do not agree with the large group of people who are calling out McCants for being a snitch. If nothing else this will add another layer of complexity to the ongoing scandal surrounding North Carolina and its issues academic fraud. We are unsure if the NCAA will ever go after North Carolina unless North Carolina reports itself on these issues; however, many will question the NCAA for not being more aggressive in their pursuit of UNC when they have been so strict against players and schools who are involved in payments to those players.
  2. The day that the NCAA and its member institutions have been dreading is finally here. After years of legal maneuvering including a deal by EA Sports to pay student-athletes a nominal sum for using their likeness in games, the “Ed O’Bannon case” will begin later today. By now you are undoubtedly familiar with case, but if you need a refresher or just want to be more educated on the case we suggest that you check out Lester Munson’s excellent article on the case. Having said all of that we would not expect this case or the penalties from it to be decided for a very long time. If you are looking for something interesting to come of it in the near-term, you will probably be disappointed.
  3. On Friday, Manhattan reinstated Steve Masiello as its head coach. Masiello made national headlines in March when he accepted the job at South Florida, but then had the offer rescinded when the school discovered that he had never actually graduated from college. Manhattan eventually accepted him back, but he was on leave until he completed the work necessary to graduate from Kentucky. Masiello will officially receive his degree from Kentucky in August, but apparently was able to produce enough documentation to make Manhattan believe that he has already done the necessary work. Now all Masiello has to do is convince the team, fans, and school that he wants to be there even though it was clear from his decision in March that he does not want to be there.
  4. Maryland fans won’t recognize their team next year. Outside of moving to a new conference, they probably won’t recognize most of the roster. The loss of five players transferring out of the program certainly hurt, but they will be bringing what is in the eyes of many a top-10 recruiting class that includes four four-star recruits. Then in the 2015-16 season, they will be adding Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter Jr., who announced his intent to transfer to Maryland on Friday. Carter Jr. averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore despite missing ten games during the middle of the season due to a torn meniscus. Assuming the incoming freshmen stick around (not a certainty given the way others have transferred out), Maryland could be a dangerous team in the Big Ten in a few years.
  5. If the Oregon administration thought that the sexual assault case involving three basketball players was going away after they dismissed the three players–Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson, and Brandon Austin–they were mistaken. The alleged victim wrote a scathing letter to The Daily Emerald (the school newspaper) stating that the school “prioritizes winning over safety of our students.” The issue (particularly this issues) goes well beyond this case and beyond athletics too, but hopefully it will add to the ongoing discussion of why events like this in their various forms happen at schools across the country.
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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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Pac-12 Post-Mortems: Oregon

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 21st, 2014

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Oregon.

What Went Right

Bringing in offense-first transfers like Joseph Young, Jason Calliste and Mike Moser, it became clear that this was going to have to be a team that outdid opponents with relentless offense before the Ducks even played a game. And, for the most part, Dana Altman’s squad did just that. With little in the way of an offensive post player and few on the roster interested in hard-nosed defense, this became a team that wanted to get up and down the floor, find early looks for any number of shooters, get to the line on a regular basis, and score, score, score. When it worked, which it did often, the result was an entertaining, if at times frustrating, display of basketball.

Joseph Young Led The Way For The Offensive-Minded Ducks (AP Photo)

Joseph Young Led The Way For The Offensive-Minded Ducks (AP Photo)

What Went Wrong

As good as this team was offensively, the Ducks were pretty bad defensively. In 21 of 34 games, the Ducks allowed their opponent to score better than a point per possession and Oregon went just 11-10 in those games. Only five times all year did it hold a top-100 KenPom team under a point per possession. Part of this was a result of the make-up of the roster – undersized players and offense-first (if not –only) mindsets – but part of it also had to do with circumstance. Sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter were suspended for the first nine games of the season for receiving improper benefits, and those two guys, particularly Artis, may have been among the team’s three best defensive players. In the end, while the Ducks poured in a superb 1.18 points per possession against a good Wisconsin defense in the NCAA Tournament, their own lack of defense was their downfall, as they allowed the Badgers to score 1.31 points per possession to win the game. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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The Pac-12 Season: It’s Been A Wild Ride So Far

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 25th, 2014

Well, at long last, after an up-and-down season, we can probably pretty safely say: The Pac is Back! Fully buying into the fact that NCAA Tournament performance alone does not equate to the quality of a conference, it is still fun to have three teams dancing in the second week of the tourney. The last time our fair conference had as many teams in the Sweet Sixteen was back in 2008, when it was still just the Pac-10 and also the last time a conference team made the Final Four (UCLA). Between 2009 and 2012, a total of just three teams made the Sweet Sixteen over that four-year span. Things finally ticked up last year with Oregon and Arizona representing us well, and now, we’re back to the promised land. So, how did we get here? Let’s take a quick look back and see.

Pac-12First, I want to admit that I’ve jumped on and off this bandwagon several times this season. Back in the preseason I made the call of seven Pac-12 teams getting invited to the NCAA Tournament and Stanford advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. The former prediction just missed, but the latter actually came true. Still, no use in me taking credit (or blame, for that matter) for either, because god knows I’ve tried to walk both of those back time and again. In early February, I was sitting through a UCLA blowout of Colorado in Pauley Pavilion and began a post (that I never got around to finishing) writing off the concept of seven Pac-12 NCAA Tournament teams entirely, and making the argument that the conference was closer to winding up with just three teams in the field. So there’s that.

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What’s Trending: NCAA Tournament First Weekend

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on March 24th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Welcome to the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Only this meme can succinctly capture it all…

Capture

h/T @WorldOfIssac

Aaron Craft

I am not a mean person (I’m also not a Photoshop wiz). But this was very mean, despite being funny. It also felt necessary due to all the positive publicity the great Aaron Craft has received during his four years in Columbus.

Mark Gottfried

NC State had it locked up. TJ Warren was more or less rolling and the Billikens couldn’t keep up. But some horrific free throw shooting and what appeared to be apathetic coaching doomed the Wolfpack to the cruelest of NCAA Tournament losses.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Wisconsin 85, #7 Oregon 77

Posted by Walker Carey on March 22nd, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

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.

The Wisconsin Home Crowd Carried the Badgers Through to Victory

The Wisconsin Home Crowd Carried the Badgers Through to Victory

  1. Wisconsin’s second half comeback was monumental. An Oregon offensive flurry had the Ducks leading 49-37 at halftime, but Wisconsin responded with its own flurry to begin the second half. The Badgers went on a 22-9 run to begin the second stanza to take a 59-58 lead at the 13:26 mark. The two teams battled back-and-forth for the rest of the game until a three-pointer from Wisconsin guard Ben Brust gave the Badgers a 77-75 lead with 1:07 to play. That was a lead they would not relinquish. There were many reasons why Wisconsin was able to charge back in the second half, but none was more important than its increased intensity on both ends of the court. After allowing Oregon to shoot 55.6 percent from the field in the first half, the Badgers tightened the screws on their defense and only allowed the Ducks to make 9-of-22 field goals in the second half. The increased intensity on the offensive end of the court was highlighted by its 11 second half offensive rebounds and seven second half three-pointers.
  2. This was essentially a home game for the Badgers and that environment played a role in the team’s comeback. The Bradley Center in Milwaukee is only 75 miles from Wisconsin’s campus in Madison, and that resulted in the Badgers being extremely well-represented at the arena. For the game with Oregon, a reasonable estimation would be that the crowd was 99-to-1 in favor of Wisconsin. The crowd was raucous at the start of the game, but you could sense a nervous energy when Oregon took a 12-point lead into the half. With Wisconsin’s scorching start to the second stanza, however, the crowd once again regained its mojo and made the Bradley Center a hostile environment for the remainder of the game. If you did not know better, the environment would have made you believe that the game was being played in Wisconsin’s home arena. When the victory was in hand in the final seconds, Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker made a point to salute the crowd in a pretty grand fashion.
  3. Wisconsin’s inconsistent defense is going to be an issue in Anaheim. During the Bo Ryan era at Wisconsin, defense has been this team’s calling card. This season’s more offensive-minded personnel has resulted in a shift in mantra. Consequently, Wisconsin’s defense has been a bit all over the place this season. For example, the Badgers held American to just 35 total points and 29.7 percent shooting in Thursday’s round of 64 victory. And while Oregon is a much more talented team, it not arguable that Wisconsin’s defense played with far less intensity in the first half Saturday. Oregon took advantage of a plethora of open looks to put up 49 first half points on a sizzling 55.6 percent shooting. The Badgers made some adjustments in the second half and had far more success containing the high-powered Oregon offense. If Wisconsin is not able to string together more consistent defensive efforts this coming week at the West Regional, the Badgers’ stay in Anaheim could only last a single night.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Oregon 87, #10 BYU 68

Posted by Walker Carey on March 20th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

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.

All game long, Elgin Cook and Oregon were one step ahead. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

All game long, Elgin Cook and Oregon were one step ahead. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Oregon’s reserves played an important role. Dana Altman has used his bench very effectively all season and that continued against BYU. Redshirt sophomore forward Elgin Cook, a Milwaukee native, turned in a career-best performance at the Bradley Center. Cook finished the afternoon with 23 points and eight rebounds in just 23 minutes. The Ducks also received a boost off the bench from senior guard Jason Calliste. Calliste entered the afternoon as the team’s most consistent bench player, averaging 12.4 points per game in limited minutes, and that did not change against BYU. Calliste finished with 14 points and four assists in 26 minutes. The senior also displayed his free throw shooting prowess, as he was 11-of-12 from the charity stripe. To advance in March, you normally need good play from your bench to win. Cook and Calliste provided that against BYU and that is a major reason why the Ducks advanced to the round of 32.
  2. Oregon actually performed well on the defensive end of the court. Oregon’s defense was a concern all season, but it actually equated itself quite well in Thursday’s victory. Part of the reason why the Ducks were able to build a first half lead that was never relinquished was because BYU shot just 28.1 percent from the field over the first 20 minutes. The Cougars ended the afternoon at just 32.8 percent from the field, as the Oregon defense made it difficult for them to establish any sort of offensive rhythm. BYU guard Matt Carlino had a forgettable afternoon. He struggled all game to finish just 4-of-16 from the field. BYU leading scorer Tyler Haws also had difficulties getting on track and finished just 7-of-18 from the field. While it would be inappropriate to say the Oregon defense is “fixed” after just one game, the Ducks’ effort on that side of the court Thursday afternoon certainly gives the team something to build upon as the Tournament continues. Read the rest of this entry »
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Four Keys For Oregon Against BYU Today

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 20th, 2014

Oregon certainly has no shortage of guys that can put the ball in the hoop, with Joseph Young and Jason Calliste among the nation’s most efficient scoring threats. But looking beyond Oregon’s ability to knock in shots from all over the court, below we offer three other keys to Oregon’s chances to advance to the round of 32 by knocking off BYU today.

Mike Moser – For much of Mike Moser’s sophomore season at UNLV, the transfer from UCLA was not only on the very short list of the best players in the Mountain West, but he was in the conversation for All-American consideration. However, his junior year in Vegas was never quite right, with injuries and chemistry problems plaguing him throughout the season. For much of his lone season in Eugene, he looked more like the Moser we saw in his junior season than the one we saw as a sophomore. But then, somewhere in the middle of the season, things began to click for Moser. And, unsurprisingly, it was about the same time things began to click for the Ducks as a whole. Over the course of Oregon’s eight-game winning streak (prior to their Pac-12 quarterfinal loss), Moser averaged 16.6 points and 10.1 boards. And as his offensive game locked in, his focus and effectiveness on the defensive end also improved. In that quarterfinal loss, the passive and ineffective Moser was the rule as he floated around the perimeter offensively and was inattentive and soft defensively. The Ducks will most definitely need the good Moser to show up from here on out in order to survive and advance.

Mike Moser's Play Is A Key For Oregon's Tournament Chances (credit: Michael Shaw)

Mike Moser’s Play Is A Key For Oregon’s Tournament Chances (credit: Michael Shaw)

Defense – It is no secret that Oregon’s defense isn’t the college basketball equivalent of the ’84 Bears. They allow better than a point per possession on the season and ranked 93rd in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency numbers. But the difference between good Oregon and bad Oregon is pretty startling. In their nine losses, the Ducks have allowed 1.14 points per possession. But even those losses shouldn’t all be taken as equal; Dana Altman has clearly had this team work on their defense throughout the year, so they’re better now than they were at the start of January when they began their mid-season swoon. In those first five consecutive losses, the Ducks allowed 1.19 PPP, a number that would put them squarely in the conversation for worst defensive team in the nation. In the Ducks’ 23 wins, they’ve allowed an average of 0.99 points per possession: certainly not great, but the type of number that can allow the Ducks to win. Now, against a potent offense like BYU’s, odds are good that the Ducks won’t meet that kind of number, but the point is this: Oregon’s defense doesn’t have to be great against the Cougars, but it can’t be awful.

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 17th, 2014

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

West Region

Favorite: Arizona, #1, 30-4. The Wildcats are the nation’s best defensive team – this is beyond debate. In 34 games to this date, they’ve allowed teams to score better than a point per possession just six times all year (and seven times they’ve held their opponent to less than 0.8 points per possession). They’ve got freshman Aaron Gordon, who is on the short list of most versatile defenders in the nation, capable of guarding players from power forward to point guard. Likewise, guys like Nick Johnson, T.J. McConnell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are terrific athletic defenders, while sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski is a rugged rim protector. Point is that it is going to be very hard for any opponent to score consistently on this team. Throw in the fact that the Wildcats are a quality offensive team as well (only six times all season have they scored less than a point per possession in a game) and that they’re playing arguably their best ball of the season at the right time for rising star Sean Miller, and the West is theirs to win.

Arizona Earned A #1 Seed In The West Region And Fortunate Geographic Placement

Arizona Earned A #1 Seed In The West Region And Fortunate Geographic Placement. (AP)

Should They Falter: Wisconsin, #2, 26-7. Aside from a head-scratching downturn in the middle of the season when the Badgers lost five out of six games, Bo Ryan’s squad has been excellent. Only once in the last 12 seasons has Wisconsin had a more efficient offense (2011, and even then, it is a razor-thin margin), but what is different about this team is an increased tempo, a sparkling shooting percentage, and a complete avoidance of turnovers. However, all of this offensive wonderment does not come without a price, as this is also the worst Badgers team on the defensive end in those same dozen years, with the team – especially in that bad stretch in January – failing to contain dribble penetration and regularly getting scorched. This happened again this past weekend against Michigan State, so the Badgers are not here without concerns. But in a region where there are few teams without some blemishes, the Badgers are the safest bet – beyond Arizona – to wind up in Dallas.

Grossly Overseeded: BYU, #10, 23-11. Let’s just refer back to 2012 in the West region and read what I wrote then. Sure, some of the details have now changed, but the gist of this is the same: Why is BYU in the field again? They’ve got a solid win over Gonzaga, they beat Stanford and Texas in the non-conference. Sure. But all of those good spots are balanced out by atrocious losses to Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Portland and Pacific. There aren’t a ton of other great options to go into BYU’s spot, for sure, and rewarding them for playing a tough non-conference slate is fine. But if anything, the Cougars should have to win their way into the field of 64 by getting through the First Four in Dayton.

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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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NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Pac-12 Teams

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 16th, 2014

Six Pac-12 teams were invited to the NCAA Tournament today. Let’s break down each of them in this instareaction format.

Arizona – NCAA, #1 seed in West region, San Diego pod, vs. Weber State, 3/21 - The Pac-12’s regular season champion earns a #1 seed and gets to play in San Diego and Anaheim until the Final Four in Arlington. The selection committee didn’t throw us any curveballs with this one, as each of the major prognostications have had the Wildcats on the top line and staying out west for some time now. They get Big Sky champion Weber State in the opener, and while the potential Third Round game is much more interesting, we’ll get to that in a moment. The Wildcats from Ogden finished the year at 19-11 and won both conference tournament games by an average of 12 points. Senior guard/forward Davison Berry is their only main offensive threat, averaging 19.1 PPG. Weber lost by 23 at UCLA in their final game before Christmas break, it’s only Pac-12 competition of the season.  Sean Miller’s team will face either Gonzaga or Oklahoma State in that one. The Bulldogs are the only team besides Creighton in this region that will travel as well as Arizona fans, so that potential matchup wouldn’t necessarily be a “home game” for the Cats. If it’s Oklahoma State in that second game, the one seed gets a hot Cowboy team; always a dangerous matchup come tournament time. They have won five of their last seven, with the two losses coming against Top 20 opponents in overtime. Sophomore point guard Marcus Smart is a difficult matchup for anybody, and Senior Markel Brown is averaging over 17 PPG. Oklahoma State went 3-1 against opponents shared with Arizona (Colorado and Texas Tech), while the Wildcats are 3-0.

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

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

UCLA – NCAA, #4 seed in South region, San Diego pod , vs. Tulsa, 3/21 – When UCLA fans saw their team pop up on the #4 line in San Diego, they had to be pleased; their team not only earns a high seed, but also gets to play just a quick jaunt down Interstate 5. That pleasure, however, was probably short-lived, as Tulsa appearing on the #13 line across from them likely brought back some bad memories of a game 20 years ago in 1994, when a Tubby Smith-coached Tulsa team hung 112 on Ed O’Bannon, Tyus Edney and Jim Harrick’s squad and booted the Bruins in round one. Back in 1994, UCLA was a young and talented team that had yet to consistently live up to its vast potential despite flashes of brilliance, quite similar to the Bruins 20 years later. Back then, Tulsa was a team that went 15-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference largely on the stretch of an up-tempo offense and a pair of big-time scorers (Gary Collier and Shea Seals – who combined for 54 in the win over UCLA) for an up-and-coming head coach. This time around, second-year head coach Danny Manning has Tulsa getting it done mostly on the defensive end, with undersized grinders keeping the Golden Hurricane in the top 30 nationally in defensive efficiency. The Pac-12 team with roughly the same type of efficiency numbers as Tulsa would be Colorado, a team that UCLA beat in their two meetings by an average of 15.5 points per game. Tulsa will certainly test UCLA, but the Bruins are used to playing teams with defenses in the same vicinity and then going out there and simply outscoring them. Plus, for whoever winds up seeing UCLA across the court from them this postseason, the big question is: who checks Kyle Anderson? An answer is not immediately apparent for the Golden Hurricane. Looking further down the line for UCLA, Virginia Commonwealth potentially awaits in the round of 32, a team that can cause all sorts of matchup problems in a quick turnaround. And if the Bruins are fortunate enough to get out of the first weekend, they can expect to see #1 overall seed Florida in the Sweet Sixteen. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, but that is an utterly winnable game for the Bruins.

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