Pac-10 Tourney Daily Diary – Quarterfinals

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. One of our RTC correspondents is at the Pac-10 Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the quarterfinal games.

UCLA 75, Arizona 69

  • I know that this is a horrific year for the Pac-10, but in terms of the historic caliber of these two programs and the fact that one of them is literally 10.1 miles away from this gym, it’s more than a little disappointing that the lower bowl of the Staples Center wasn’t even filled at tipoff.  Seriously, any of the top eight teams has a shot at winning this event, and with it, the auto-bid.  Bruins and Cats fans need to step up a little more.
  • I’ve seen UCLA play live a handful of times this season, and I continue to be amazed at how unathletic this team is.  How did that happen so quickly to a team that could boast top-drawer athleticism in the form of Arron Afflalo, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, etc.?
  • Cool shirt of the day in the Arizona section…  “The Streak Matters…” referencing UA’s 25-year streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances that is in dire jeopardy short of a Pac-10 championship this weekend.  The guys say that they meet up from all over the country every year to watch the Pac-10 Tournament and have a blast together.  The shirts are to make sure that head coach Sean Miller understands that it’s not a ‘new day’ just because he’s in Tucson now — apparently Miller had made some quotes near the start of the season that they found dismissive of their illustrious history.  Interesting take from the Arizona fans there.

Arizona Fans Will Need to Start a New Streak

  • I continue to have a decent-sized mancrush on freshman forward Derrick Williams for Arizona.  16/7 per game on 59% shooting; he’s rarely out of position, takes care of the ball, draws fouls like a mofo, and has tremendous hands.  He could be one of their all-timers if he sticks around for 3-4 years.
  • Nic Wise tweeted after the Arizona loss today…  in a word: disappointment.  That about sums it up for a senior losing in a tournament setting.

California 90, Oregon 74

  • Jerome Randle is a really fun player to watch play this game.  His bomb from 25 feet followed by a steal and a nifty reverse layup off the ball-around-the-back move was spectacular and happened directly in front of me.  I’ve seen a lot of really good guards play this year, but few have the ability to regularly catch fire from all over the court like he does.  Nice kid, too.
  • It’s the Randle show in the first half here at the Staples Center. with 6:30 left, he already has 20 points, which puts him on a pace for a 70-pt afternoon.  I don’t think I’ve seen a single shot of his touch the rim yet today.  Backcourt mate Patrick Christopher has at least hit rim a little bit, but he’s also blowing up to a certain extent — 14 in the first half on 4-5 threes.  When these two guys are on their game from outside, few teams in America can score with them.  The problem is that good defenses can neutralize one or both of them for parts of the game.  When that happens, the Bears are in trouble.
  • The question I’ve had all year when watching Cal play is how far can a team that relies so abundantly on four perimeter-style players go into the postseason?  It can be done, but it’s not easy.  Villanova has proven that a four-guard set can work pretty well so long as your guards are willing to be tough inside and not give up anything easy.  But what about Cal?  I don’t find their perimeter attack nearly as strong as those Nova teams, nor do they defend anywhere near as well.  Still, it’ll depend on the matchup, but I don’t think they can win more than one NCAA Tournament game, if that.  They would need to play a team that mirrors themselves in terms of perimeter play; otherwise I think they’re likely one-and-done.

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Pac-10 Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

Final Standings

  1. California    (13-5, 21-9)
  2. Arizona State    (12-6, 22-9)
  3. Washington    (11-7, 21-9)
  4. Arizona     (10-8, 16-14)
  5. USC     (8-10, 16-14)
  6. Oregon State     (8-10, 14-16)
  7. UCLA     (8-10, 13-17)
  8. Stanford    (7-11, 13-17)
  9. Oregon      ( 7-11,  15-15)
  10. Washington State     (6-12, 16-14)

Conference Awards

  • Player of the Year: Quincy Pondexter, Sr, Washington. Pondexter won the Pac-10 Player of the Week award a record five times this season while averaging 20 points and eight rebounds a game (second and third in the conference, respectively) for the third place Huskies.
  • Coach of the Year: Herb Sendek, Arizona State. After losing two starters from last year’s team to the NBA, the Sun Devils were expected to take a big step back in the conference. Instead, Sendek kept his team in the race for the regular season title until the last weekend and put his squad in position to possibly earn an NCAA tournament bid.
  • Freshman of the Year: Derrick Williams, Arizona. The freshman from La Mirada High School in Southern California averaged 15.7 point and seven rebounds per game for the Wildcats and connected on 58.8% of his field goal attempts to help coach Sean Miller post a winning record in his first year in Tucson.
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Seth Tarver, Oregon State. Tarver led the Pac-10 with 2.3 steals per game and led his Beaver squad in rebounding, all while manning the point in coach Craig Robinson’s zone defense.

All Pac-10 First Team

  • G Jerome Randle, Sr, California
  • G Nic Wise, Sr, Arizona
  • F Quincy Pondexter, Sr, Washington
  • F Landry Fields, Sr, Stanford
  • F Derrick Williams, Fr, Arizona

All Pac-10 Second Team

  • G Isaiah Thomas, So, Washington
  • G Patrick Christopher, Sr, California
  • G Ty Abbott, Jr, Arizona State
  • G Klay Thompson, So, Washington State
  • F Nikola Vucevic, So, USC

All Pac-10 Freshman Team

  • G Reggie Moore, Washington State
  • G Trent Lockett, Arizona State
  • F Derrick Williams, Arizona
  • F Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA
  • F Reeves Nelson, UCLA

Pac-10 Tournament Preview

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 conferences.

Standings

  1. California    10-5       18-9
  2. Arizona State     9-5          19-8
  3. USC     8-6          16-10
  4. Washington     8-7          18-9
  5. Arizona      7-7          13-13
  6. UCLA      7-7          12-14
  7. Stanford      7-8          13-14
  8. Oregon State      6-8          12-14
  9. Washington State     6-9          16-11
  10. Oregon       4-10       12-14

We haven’t had a Pac-10 update ‘round these parts since the conference season began, but it is no secret that the one-word summation of the Pac-10 season to this point is “ugly.”  The only team with anything at all to say about potentially receiving an at-large bid is California, and it is increasingly likely that if Cal fails to win the Pac-10 tournament, they’ll be looking at an NIT bid. For the first time in as far back as I care to research, the only Pac-10 team that will be heading to the NCAA tournament is the team that wins the automatic bid as the Pac-10 tournament champion.

A quick rundown of the teams:

California – The Bears currently top the conference, and of all Pac-10 teams have the best chance at an at-large bid given their RPI in the low 20s and the fourth toughest schedule in the country, but every time it looks like this team is going to  reel off a string of victories, they drop a game like they did Thursday when eighth place Oregon State handled them easily in Corvalis, 80-64. The numbers look good for the senior quartet of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin (60.2 ppg between the four, with all averaging double-figures on the season), but each has been inconsistent this season, such as when Randle went just 2-9 from the field, 0-5 from behind the arc and had four turnovers in the OSU game.

Arizona StateHerb Sendek’s squad sits just a half-game back of the Bears in the conference standings, a bit of business that will get sorted out on Saturday when they head to Haas Pavilion, but although they have a top-50 win (something Cal cannot boast) over San Diego State, there just isn’t enough there on the ASU resume to really warrant serious at-large consideration. The Sun Devils have gotten as far as they have on the strength of their guard play; senior point Derek Glasser leads the conference in assists, and he and junior point Jamelle McMillan are one-two in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.

USC – The Trojans are a team that would be a very tough out in the Pac-10 tournament – that is if the Trojans were going to play in the Pac-10 tournament. In an attempt to throw the NCAA hounds off the trail a bit and to make some sort of restitution for the O.J. Mayo, Reggie Bush and how many other incidents, the USC athletic department decided to self-punish the basketball program, stripping them of their chance to play in the postseason this year. Head coach Kevin O’Neill has done a pretty strong job of keeping his kids together and when the Trojans have come out focused they have been very strong this year (they’ve split with Cal, taken their one matchup with ASU, and swept Washington and UCLA), but playing out the string has got to be hard for these kids and as a result, they’ve lost games to Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State, that they might not have lost had a possible NCAA tourney bid been waiting at the end.

Washington – In a season of conference-wide disappointment, the Huskies have got to take home the title of most disappointing Pac-10 team. At the start of the year, Washington was considered something of a co-favorite to win the conference, and seemed to be a team that could make some noise in March. But between then and now, the Huskies have struggled to gain any consistency. They did pull together a four-game win streak in late January/early February, then laid an egg in their big matchup at Cal. Senior forward Quincy Pondexter has likely been the player-of-the-year in the conference (20.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg), but highly-anticipated freshman guard Abdul Gaddy has yet to catch on, and the team has struggled mightily on the road, notching just a 1-6 record so far.

Arizona – At some point in April, right after Sean Miller had accepted the Arizona job, his roster consisted of little more than senior point Nic Wise, junior wing Jamelle Horne, a couple other returning pieces and a boatload of question marks. Miller took advantage of the meltdown at USC and grabbed some of their fleeing castoffs and wound up patching together a pretty strong recruiting class, and actually had this Wildcat team tied for the conference lead not too long ago. Freshman forward Derrick Williams has been the best of the new Cats (15.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and while there are growing pains in the future, especially with Wise getting fitted for cap and gown, folks around Tucson are pretty confident that Miller will be able to get this program back to the heights they are used to.

UCLA – The incongruous facts that the Bruins are 7-7 in conference and two games under .500 on the season and that Ben Howland has done a pretty strong job getting his team that far is a good indication of how bad this Bruin team is. As sophomore Jerime Anderson’s inability to handle the point guard position became apparent, Howland slid another sophomore, Malcolm Lee, over from the two to play out of position. While Lee is still not particularly well suited to the one, he is a definite improvement there. Likewise, as this group as a whole showed that they were incapable of playing the type of man defense that Howland demands, he switched over to run some zone. Still not a great defensive team, but an improvement. Those types of things sum up this season for UCLA. While you still can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, Howland has at least managed to scrape this Bruin squad together to the point where they aren’t consistently getting embarrassed.

Stanford – Senior swingman Landry Fields and sophomore guard Jeremy Green have turned into quite a duo up on the farm. They are the highest scoring duo in the Pac-10 (nearly 40 points a game), and Fields is a serious conference Player of the Year candidate. Sophomore Jarrett Mann has also turned into a nice point guard, and between he and Green, head coach Johnny Dawkins doesn’t have a whole lot of question marks in the backcourt for next season. The problem for the Cardinal has been the interior game. They are one of the worst rebounding teams (and that despite Fields’ second-best in the Pac-10 8.7 rpg) and are the worst shotblocking team in the Pac-10, with only 45 blocks on the season. Dawkins does have some help coming, however, with four forwards already signed in next year’s recruiting class.

Oregon State – In Craig Robinson’s first season, the Beavers took a major step forward. Certainly another seven-win improvement this season would have been more than anyone could have hoped for, but given the return of much of their roster and the decrease in the overall talent level in the Pac-10, expectations had to be higher than a mere repeat of last season for the Beavers. And yet, that’s where they’re at now. At this point in 2008-09, the Beavers were 12-13 and 6-8 in the conference. The only difference this year is one additional non-conference loss. Junior guard Calvin Haynes is the OSU leading scorer with 13.2 ppg this year; last year he averaged 13.0. Senior center Roeland Schaftenaar’s point totals have dropped slightly, while senior swingman Seth Tarver’s are up slightly. In all, it is looking like a huge uptick from Robinson season one to season two followed by a season worth of reruns.

Washington State – Not a lot of fun being a Washington-state sports fan these days. The Sonics are something called a Thunder these days and they play in tornado country somewhere, the Seahawks are at the bottom of the barrel, college football is just about non-existent and their college basketball programs, which were at one point a combined 20-3 this season, have now combined to go 14-17 since then. For the Cougs, sophomore wing Klay Thompson’s production has taken a bit of a dive in conference play (he just scored 10 combined points in a homestand against the Southern California schools), although he is still averaging almost 21 ppg this season. But with freshman point Reggie Moore and sophomore bruiser DeAngelo Casto to pair up with Thompson, head coach Ken Bone has a young nucleus around which to build.

Oregon – There are two more Pac-10 conference games that will be played at McArthur Court. While some of Oregon’s early-season non-conference games will be played there next season, the Ducks homestand against the Washington schools the final week of the Pac-10 season will close the books on the meaningful games played in that phenomenal building. Some sparkling, brand new beauty of an abomination will “replace” it, but the best atmosphere in the Pac-10 is going away. That’s what I’ll remember from this Duck season. Beyond that, head coach Ernie Kent totters toward a termination, the roster is full of guys with talent who aren’t able to string it together for more than a weekend or two, and Tajuan Porter just missed another wild three. But none of it matters. They’re closing Mac Court.

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Morning Five: 02.24.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2010

  1. Funny how the landscape of college basketball could have been completely different had then-Lakers GM Jerry West not talked new Nets coach John Calipari out of drafting a 17-year old player from the suburbs of Philadelphia named Kobe Bean Bryant.  With one of the best young players in the world at his disposal in the late 90s, would Coach Cal have been fired in 1999 only to resurface back in the college game at Memphis in 2000 and eventually moving to the Bluegrass in 1999?  Unlikely.
  2. There should be more of this in college basketball.  Quincy Pondexter on Saturday pretty much guaranteed a victory over rival Washington State this coming weekend, and his teammate Isaiah Thomas backed him up in a radio interview on Tuesday morning.  While this game doesn’t mean a whole lot in the national picture, it’s clear that people in the Pacific Northwest are taking it seriously.
  3. Gary Parrish thinks that UConn should just go ahead and offer Jim Calhoun a lifetime contract for as long as he wants it after the last ten days where UConn thrust itself back into the NCAA Tournament picture.  We’ve gone on record showing that this UConn team both before and immediately after Calhoun’s medical leave of absence wasn’t appreciably different, but there can be no question about the post-Calhoun effect.
  4. Pat Forde offers this week’s Forde Minutes column, and we’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to know the number of nasty emails he’s going to get with the following statement near the top of the piece.  Referring to the terrible seasons going on in Westwood and Chapel Hill, he says, “We’ve never seen such simultaneous lousiness from what The Minutes believes are the top two programs in college basketball history.”  Can a whole state go apoplectic at exactly the same moment?  Forde will know soon enough.
  5. Ole Miss students came correct yesterday with their vote to add a new mascot to take over for, um, nothing, because the school hasn’t had Colonel Reb prancing around its games since 2003.  Administrators said that bringing the racially-charged former mascot back is not an option, but reportedly, Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars fame is one of the top candidates.  Love the ironic twist there, but we doubt the very traditional school or the SEC would ever allow it.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.11.10

Posted by THager on February 11th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Ole Miss @ Mississippi State — 9:00 pm on ESPN (***)

This game between in-state rivals could have a big impact on who will be dancing in March.  These teams are in the middle of the SEC standings, but both are within a game of SEC West leader Arkansas.  Their records (17-6 for Ole Miss, 16-7 for MSU) are pretty average, but if one of these teams wins their division it could have a big impact on the selection committee.  Despite their similar records, these two teams could not be much more different.  Mississippi State, who averages less than 73 PPG, ranks 90th in offensive efficiency and but ranks 17th in defense, and second in the country with 8.1 steals per game.  The Rebels average over 80 points per contest, but rank 86th in defensive efficiency.  Four of UM’s top scorers are guards, and Mississippi State may look to take advantage of their small lineup, as the Bulldogs are eighth in the country at over 38 rebounds a game.  The Bulldogs are also playing at home, where they are 10-1 on the year, so look for the Jarvis Varnado (11.3 RPG) to hit the boards hard as usual.  MSU won the first matchup in Oxford, and we expect them to beat a smaller Ole Miss club here.

Washington @ California — 9:00 pm on ESPN 2 (***)

The Pac-10 is a mess at the top of the conference where Cal sits a game ahead of five other teams.  Washington was near the bottom of the conference a few weeks ago, but four straight wins now have the Huskies at the top of the five-loss teams.  All of UW’s wins during the streak came at home, but they will now have to travel to Berkeley, and the Huskies are 0-5 on the road this year.  With the exception of the losses at Texas Tech and UCLA, the games have not even been close.  Cal averages 77.7 PPG and they rank sixth in the nation in offensive efficiency, but their defense is suspect with a defensive ranking of 63.  The Bears have not allowed an opponent to score 75 points in their last seven games, but they will have their hands full with Washington’s offense.  Led by Quincy Pondexter‘s 20.6 PPG, the Huskies have averaged 93.8 PPG during their winning streak.  In the last meeting between the two teams, it was downright ugly (16-48 shooting for Cal, 30-74 shooting for UW).  Jerome Randle, Cal’s leading scorer, only had five points in that game, and he should have a much better night at the Haas Pavilion.

St. Mary’s @ #11 Gonzaga — 11:00 pm on ESPN 2 (*****)

To get a feel for how good these teams are, they have combined for a 15-2 record in the WCC (one of the losses came during their previous matchup) and they have won over 85% of their games this season.  Both teams have won 11 of their last 12, and given the way these two clubs have played, this game will decide the WCC title.  People have been getting on the Zags about their lackluster defense, but they have played solid defense since the game against Loyola Marymount on January 23.  The Gaels, on the other hand, are 105th in defensive efficiency, and gave up 89 points to the Bulldogs in their first matchup.  Although Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre is a bona-fide seven-footer, Omar Samhan exploited the Zags in the post for 31 points.  Elias Harris, who matched Samhan with 31 points of his own in that game, has slowed down since his hot streak at the start of WCC play, but Matt Bouldin has picked up right where Harris left off.  With Bouldin’s ability to snipe three-pointers on fast breaks, both teams rank in the nation’s top 10 in field goal percentage.  St. Mary’s is also third in the country in free throw percentage, while the Zags are having their worst year at the line of the Mark Few era.  With 0.007 points separating these two teams in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, it should go down to the wire.  The key difference in their records?  St. Mary’s schedule is ranked 155th according to Jeff Sagarin, and the Zags have played Michigan State, Wisconsin, Duke, and Wake Forest.  Look for Gonzaga to take this at home.

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The RTC Midseason All-America Team

Posted by rtmsf on January 23rd, 2010

We’re a little past the halfway point of the 2009-10 season now, and we wanted to make sure that we had given the players who had performed at an elite level their due and propers with a little love from the crew here at RTC.  Here is our 2009-10 Midseason All-America Team.

First Team (** unanimous)

  • John Wall** (G), Kentucky (17.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 6.8 APG, 2.1 SPG) – Wall has been the most electrifying and clutch player in America so far this season.
  • Wes Johnson** (F), Syracuse (17.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.8 BPG) – Johnson does it all for Jim Boeheim’s team, proving the cranky old man right.
  • Luke Harangody** (F), Notre Dame (24.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG) – the nation’s scoring leader isn’t just a bomber; he’s also in the top five in overall efficiency.
  • Damion James (F), Texas (17.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG) – James is the clear leader of a Texas roster brimming with talented players.
  • Evan Turner (F), Ohio State (18.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 5.5 APG) - Mr. Triple-Double (two this year) missed a month and still made it onto the first team.

Second Team

  • Sherron Collins (G), Kansas (16.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.3 SPG) – Collins has proved his worth in late-game situations where he’s taken charge.
  • Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas (10.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 3.4 BPG) – Aldrich doesn’t get enough touches, but his impact on the game is invaluable to the Kansas attack.
  • Jon Scheyer (G), Duke (19.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 5.8 APG, 4.0 A:TO ratio) – Scheyer has proven he can handle Duke’s point guard duties exceptionally well.
  • Scottie Reynolds (G), Villanova (18.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 SPG) – Big Shot continues to improve, leading Villanova to 17-1.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu (F), Wake Forest (17.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG) – the Leap that we all expected from Aminu in year two has happened.

Third Team

  • Da’Sean Butler (F), West Virginia (15.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.4 APG) – Butler’s superb numbers get crowded out by the other talented forwards in the Big East.
  • Quincy Pondexter (F), Washington (20.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.4 SPG) – it’s been a disappointing first half for UW, but not because of Pondexter.
  • Jarvis Varnado (F), Mississippi State (14.1 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 5.3 BPG) – the nation’s most feared interior presence continues to erase possessions for the opponent.
  • Patrick Patterson (F), Kentucky (16.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG on 63% FG) – Patterson is not as hyped as Wall or fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins, but he’s more efficient than both.
  • Jimmer Fredette (G), BYU (19.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.6 SPG) – Fredette’s elevated production has helped BYU get off to a fantastic 19-1 start.

Others Receiving Votes:  Jacob Pullen, Kansas State; Ekpe Udoh, Baylor; Xavier Henry, Kansas; Avery Bradley, Texas; Kyle Singler, Duke; Dexter Pittman, Texas; Greg Monroe, Georgetown; Jerome Dyson, Connecticut; Robbie Hummel, Purdue; Ed Davis, UNC; Omar Samhan, St. Mary’s; Klay Thompson, Washington State.

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ATB: Where is the Louisville Defense?

Posted by rtmsf on January 22nd, 2010

Louisville Joins UNC on the Early BubbleSeton Hall 80, Louisville 77.  We realize of course that Louisville has had a tendency in the Pitino era to start off slowly and finish strong, but we have a feeling that isn’t going to happen this year.  The problem is with a Pitino staple, their defense, the efficiency of which is currently the worst in the last five years for his teams.  The Cards allow a very average 46% from two and 35% from three, which mitigates the robust amount of turnovers that they   force in their trapping defense.  And tonight’s game against Seton Hall is a good example of the defensive struggles that Louisville is enduring this year — the Pirates shot 53% from the field, put all five starters in double figures, and even the human cannon known as Jeremy Hazell (25/5) hit a good percentage (9-12 FG) against the Card defense.  So what’s the answer?  We’re not sure that there is one with the personnel Pitino has at his disposal.  In the last three games (all losses), the Cards have given up greater than 1.15 points per possession against teams that do not typically do that well in that regard.  This loss puts Louisville at 12-7 and 3-3 in the Big East, but we could easily see seven or eight more losses in the conference for the Cards should they not tighten up that defense in the next few weeks.  An 8-10 record, even in the loaded Big East, may not be enough given that really hasn’t beaten a “good” team all season (and only three in the KenPom top 100!).  Seton Hall should be proud of itself for stepping up to take this game, which they very nearly let get away from them in the last few minutes.  Having lost four of five, the Pirates could have easily folded up the tent and allowed Louisville to steal a much-needed road win, but Bobby Gonzalez’s group instead showed their mettle and put came out with a win in one of their best performances of the season.

Seton Hall Didn't Back Down From Louisville (AP/Bill Kostroun)

Um, Who? UCLA 62, Washington 61. Someone named Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, a reserve guard who had taken only 22 shots all season coming into tonight’s game, received the ball at halfcourt with three seconds remaining on the clock and does what all players who are thrust in that position do: three dribbles, rise and fire.  His shot from the top of the key at the buzzer was all net, and UCLA earned a hard-fought win over what has to be one of the most disappointing teams (other than these very Bruins) in the country in UW. (see below at 1:00)  We’ve stopped trying to predict the crazy Pac-10 this year, but given just how poorly UCLA has played on both ends of the floor this season, Washington has no excuse for dropping this game, even in Pauley Pavilion.  Quincy Pondexter had 23/6, but he didn’t get much help with Isaiah Thomas only adding 11 and nobody else in double figures.  For a team averaging nearly 80 PPG, they were well below their normal offensive output.  As for UCLA, all we can say is that when a player like Abdul-Hamid is taking your game-winning shots, even if he’s making them, you have tremendous problems to solve.  All that said, it wouldn’t shock us if Washington ran off ten straight in this league now that we’re piling on them here.

Super Mids Keep Rolling.  #10 Gonzaga and #20 Butler got scares in their respective conferences tonight, but as usual, they both came out with another win.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 19th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

I’m taking a bit of a detour from our normal Ten Tuesday Scribbles format this time around. Rather than list and discuss ten players/teams/developments in college basketball that caught my eye this past week, I figure this would be an opportune time to properly gauge the debate-friendly National Player of the Year race. Here’s my top ten ranking of the players I feel are most deserving of capturing this esteemed award when the season comes to a close.

10.  Jacob Pullen (Kansas State)- The 2-15 FG, 0-6 3pt stinkbomb last night against Avery Bradley and Texas puts a bit of a damper on this ranking, but dropping him out of this list would be remiss given his phenomenal junior campaign to date. Pullen has put together some spectacular performances against quality opponents, including 26/5/4 against Dayton in Puerto Rico, 28/6 on 10-16 FG against UNLV in Vegas and one of the best shooting efforts of the season in a win at Alabama: 30 points on 10-15 FG, 4-4 FT and 6-9 3pt. While Pullen has encountered a bit of a shooting slump since, he’s still one of the quickest guards in the nation with one of the smoothest jump shots. Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly led the way last night, and backcourt mate Denis Clemente is also potent, but coach Frank Martin knows how Pullen plays will determine how far the streaking Wildcats can go this season.

9. Jimmer Fredette (BYU)- A bout with mild mononucleosis has slowed down the explosive Fredette in recent weeks, but the complimentary pieces on a super-talented BYU team have certainly picked up the slack en route to a glamorous 18-1 record. Fredette is the catalyst and offensive machine that makes Dave Rose’s offense work, utilizing 31% of BYU’s offensive possessions and scoring at a clip below 20 per contest. Fredette shoots a stellar 44% from deep, 50% from two-point range and a remarkable 91% from the charity stripe. The junior guard isn’t just an explosive scorer, though, ranking 58th in the nation in assist rate. He’s best known for one of the best individual performances of the season at Arizona on December 28. Fredette scored 49 points on 16/23 FG and 9/13 from three to go along with nine assists and seven rebounds. Mono doesn’t seem to be slowing down Fredette too dramatically, either. This past Saturday against Colorado State, Fredette scored 21 points in just 24 minutes.

8. Quincy Pondexter (Washington)- Always a player blessed with tremendous length and talent, Pondexter had been a bit of an enigma during his career at Washington, showing glimpses of stardom but unable to maintain any sort of consistency. This year, the 6’6 senior has molded into a bona fide superstar. The last five Pac-10 games are a perfect example of how important Pondexter is to the fortunes of the Huskies, even more so than sophomore point guard Isaiah Thomas. After defeating Oregon State, Washington lost their next three games in conference and Pondexter totaled just 32 points in those three contests while battling foul trouble. Washington has rebounded nicely with two blowout wins on their rocking home floor in which the lanky forward has scored 52 points on 19/31 FG and 12/12 FT. Overall though, Pondexter’s senior season has been of the consistent variety, scoring 20.3 PPG and grabbing nearly eight boards per game while shooting 56% from the floor.

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2009

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

Boy, that was a rough non-conference season, huh? Everybody and their mom jumped on the Pac-10 for underachieving, and there is certainly some merit to that. The teams that were expected to compete for Top 10 spots sometimes looked like they shouldn’t be ranked at all. As a whole, the conference won very few quality games and for the most part waltzed through laughably easy opponents. Then, of course, there were the downright embarrassing losses that began to pile up one after another.

But don’t think for a second that there aren’t dangerous teams in the Pac-10 Conference. We expected California and Washington to be good, but the past few weeks have seen the impressive rise of Arizona State and USC, who now look like at-large bid candidates. And for as dreadful as we all made UCLA out to be, their losses came against good teams and the Bruins are still hovering around .500. In fact, they’re the only sub-.500 team in the Pac-10, so how bad could the conference really be?

Things will get sorted out as conference play begins tonight, and as the weeks go on the cream will likely rise to the top. Let’s catch up on how everyone has been doing, and analyze their chances at winning the league as we get started with play within the ‘family.’

Player of the Week: Quincy Pondexter, Washington – The 6’6 forward scored 47 points in two wins this week to get the #16 Huskies on track heading into Pac-10 play, and is looking like one of the clear frontrunners for conference Player of the Year. Without a third scoring option to complement he and Isaiah Thomas, Washington will need everything Pondexter’s got if they’re going to win the conference.

Power Rankings

#16 Washington (9-2): You have to wonder about the Huskies heading into their conference opener tonight. They’ve played just two games away from home, their two biggest wins are against Wright State and Texas A&M and they still haven’t found a suitable offensive weapon save Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas. They’re talented enough to win the league, sure, but without really challenging themselves in the non-conference it’s tough to know exactly what Washington is all about.

Arizona State (10-3): Similarly, the Sun Devils have played away from home just three times and dropped two of those games. Those losses to Duke and BYU came against good squads, but otherwise their schedule has been soft as cotton candy. They’re riding a three-game winning streak that began with a big win over hot San Diego State, but that is literally Arizona State’s only win of substance. WARNING: leading scorer Derek Glasser has gone cold in the past month after a very hot start.

California (8-4): The Golden Bears have rallied after a surprisingly rough start to win four out of their last five games; the one loss coming in a valiant effort against #1 Kansas and the four wins each coming by 19 points or more. With the return of 6’6 forward Theo Robertson – Cal was 3-3 during his absense – there’s another wing threat to keep defenders honest and give stars Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle a chance to do what they do. Heading into the conference schedule tonight, Cal still has a great chance at winning the Pac-10.

Washington State (10-2): It looked like the Cougars were a fluke thanks to an easy schedule, but they just kept on winning so you’ve got to give them credit for winning the games they should. Still – and this is a definite theme for the Pac-10 so far – they literally have no quality wins unless you count last Tuesday’s overtime victory over a struggling LSU (I don’t).

USC (8-4): Without a doubt, the Trojans are the most dangerous team in the entire conference right now. It looked like USC was off to a terrible season with a 2-4 start, but they’re now riding a six-game winning streak that includes three quality, double-digit wins over Tennessee, St. Mary’s and UNLV. Senior guard Mike Gerrity has become the team’s leading scorer in just four games and lit a fire under the Trojans, who now boast a potent scoring attack to balance one of the conference’s stingiest defenses.

Stanford (6-6): The Cardinal have faltered a little bit, dropping three of their last four games to Oklahoma State, Northwestern and Texas Tech. Shoot, at least they played somebody! You’ve gotta give Stanford credit for a tougher schedule than most. Senior forward Landry Fields leads the conference in scoring and has put up 20 points in each of the last eight games. Watch for Stanford to shock some Pac-10 opponents this season.

Oregon (8-4): The Ducks open their conference season tonight in what is actually one of the most compelling matchups in the Pac-10 against Washington State. Neither team boasts a difficult non-conference schedule and we’ll get to see whether either of them is for real when they face off. Oregon rides a four-game winning streak that featured nary a quality win, so facing the 10-2 Cougars will be a good barometer for the progress of both teams. Leading scorer Tajuan Porter has battled an ankle injury but may finally be getting back into a rhythm after a recent five 3-pointer effort.

Oregon State (6-5): In all truthfulness, this should be a 9-2 Beaver team. I know what you’re thinking, their offense is such a jumbled mess that they might as well just punt on most possessions. But their defense is stellar, even against excellent opposition, and if they get freshman guard Roberto Nelson back (currently ineligible) then Oregon State will be dangerous down the stretch. Still, there was that home loss to Sacramento State; shudder…

Arizona (6-6): You just don’t know what to do with Arizona. Heading into the conference opener against streaking USC tonight, the Wildcats have suffered several losses to good teams – which is more than most of the Pac-10 can say – but still don’t have a defining win and just gave up a 49-point effort to BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. On the other hand, point guard Nic Wise is playing like a conference MVP contender and he makes ‘Zona dangerous on any given night. Then again, a one-point home win over Lipscomb (in overtime!) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

UCLA (5-7): The head-scratching continues in Westwood as Bruin faithful try to digest exactly what is going on. Yes, UCLA’s losses have all come against quality teams, but the Bruins hardly put up a fight in any of them. They get a tough opener tonight hosting Arizona State. Let’s see if Malcolm Lee and his merry band of underachievers can put up a better fight in the conference season.

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by jstevrtc on December 17th, 2009

checkinginon

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Big West conferences.

Recap:

It was another tough week for the PAC-10 Conference, as their sole remaining Top-25 squad may be unranked by this time next week and the conference won just five of its last twelve games.

It’s also a conference of classes, with Washington and California clearly the best teams (despite recent trouble), then a clear three-team middle class and a dreadful five-team bottom class.  Most teams have scheduled cake opponents to build some confidence before heading into the Pac-10 schedule, but that may not be enough to fool voters into handing out at-large bids come March.  Already, this is looking like a three (ok, maybe four) bid conference.

Power Rankings:

#21 Washington (6-2)

The PAC-10’s last remaining Top-25 team may lose that distinction after a convincing loss to #13 Georgetown at last weekend’s Wooden Classic in Anaheim.  No shame in losing to a very impressive Georgetown team, but you expect a fellow ranked team to put up a fight (I’m getting tired of saying this about the PAC-10 this season).  It’s clear now that there are no offensive weapons besides Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas, and the Hoyas forced 25 Washington turnovers.  Twenty-five!

Washington State (8-2)

The Cougars got another good win this week, beating 5-3 Air Force by a 75-68 score at home.  Leading scorer Klay Thompson put up 19 (six below his average) and Washington State shot 51.0% as a team, with very balanced scoring that puts the PAC-10’s only eight-win team in good position as we near conference play.

California (6-3)

California is out of action this week but will returns with a bang visiting Allen Fieldhouse to take on #1 Kansas next Tuesday.  Obviously, a win would be huge for the sliding Golden Bears.  It’s also extremely unlikely.  Cal hasn’t beaten any of the three best teams they’ve faced so far this season, with losses to Syracuse, Ohio State and New Mexico.  In those three losses, the Bears are allowing 86 PPG.  If California wants to work back into the Top 25, a good showing in Kansas is mandatory.

ASU (7-3)

‘Tis the season to schedule some cake opponents before heading into the conference schedule.  That’s exactly what Arizona State did when they beat lowly Delaware State last week, winning by 40.  It was a morale booster for the Sun Devils after two losses.  But ASU heads right back into its tough schedule with a date against rising San Diego State coming up.  Are the Sun Devils for real?  This game will be a good indicator.

Stanford (5-4)

Stanford continues to surprise and impress, winning a game they should have won (85-69 over UC Davis) and nearly knocking off a very good Big 12 team (71-70 to Oklahoma State).  There’s going to be a great race for third place in the conference this season, with Stanford, Arizona State and Washington State clearly playing some of the best ball in the Pac-10 right now.

Oregon (5-4)

No one expected Oregon to be a Final Four team this year, and for good reason.  The Ducks have a pretty easy schedule and are struggling with it.  This week, they fell to St. Mary’s and then beat up on Mississippi Valley State. That’s all well and good, but consider Oregon’s next three opponents:  Oakland, Idaho State and Arkansas Pine Bluff. Their combined record?  7-21.  All at home!  Someone please tell Oregon that this is the Pac-10 and not the Eugene School District.

USC (4-4)

The Trojans are struggling visibly, but they’ll win some close games in the Pac-10 this season because of their interior dominance.  Forward Alex Stephenson is developing into a force, and Marcus Johnson had a school record 13 blocks in a 59-35 win over Idaho State.  That said, USC only beat Idaho State by six, and suffered through some severe offensive droughts.  The Trojans will likely get steamrolled by Tennessee this Saturday.

Arizona (4-5)

It was going to take some time to evaluate Arizona and determine whether the Wildcats were a poor team, or had just scheduled tough opponents.  After a 63-46 loss to San Diego State, it’s safe to say that Arizona just ain’t that good.  The Aztecs are a very strong mid-major this season, but they played ‘Zona like a mandolin.  They’ll rebound at home against Lipscomb, and then get crushed by North Carolina State and BYU before more of the same in the conference season.

Oregon State (4-5)

The bad news continues with the Beavers’ woeful ways.  Nebraska took a 50-44 win and then Oregon State fell to Illinois Chicago in a 63-61 loss.  Where is the Oregon State team that beat Colorado earlier this season?  They didn’t show up in Nebraska, where the Cornhuskers didn’t score a field goal in the final 6:53 and still weren’t threatened by Oregon State’s laughable offense.  Like the rest of the conference, the Beavers scheduled a pair of juggernauts in Mississippi Valley State and 4-5 Fresno State.  Step your game up, Pac-10.

UCLA (3-6)

The Bruins couldn’t hang with the length or athleticism of Mississippi State in a 72-54 loss, but rebounded with an offensive outburst in a 100-68 win over New Mexico State.  Glory be!  Has coach Ben Howland righted the ship?  The Bruins snapped a five-game skid, had five players in double figures and held the Aggies to 38.9% shooting, but UCLA is hardly out of the woods yet.  They face a high-octane Notre Dame attack and a strong Colorado State before hosting Pac-10 punching bag Delaware State and heading into conference play.

Games To Watch:

  •  #21 Washington vs. Portland – 12/19, 10:00pm
  • Stanford @ Northwestern – 12/19, 2:00pm
  • Arizona State vs. San Diego State – 12/19, 6:30pm
  • USC vs. Tennessee – 12/19, 4:30pm on FSN
  • #21 Washington vs. Texas A&M – 12/22, 11:00pm on FSN
  • Stanford @ #20 Texas Tech – 12/22, 8:00pm
  • Washington State vs. LSU – 12/22 10:00pm
  • Arizona vs. North Carolina State – 12/23, 10:30pm on FSN

 

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2009

checkinginon

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big West and Pac-10 Conferences.

Sometimes it’s not so painful to watch a once proud and mighty warrior fall from grace, as it is bizarre.  You may be able to accept that nothing lasts forever, and that eventually the tide must turn. But it’s one thing to have a rebuilding year, and quite another to be a national laughingstock.  Yet, that term best describes the way that Pac-10 teams have performed so far in this early season. It also describes the way that the conference’s flagship program, the UCLA Bruins, has performed so far in this early season.  The Pac-10, we knew, was a conference in decline. But few predicted that the decline would be so far, so fast.

The conference’s two Top 25 teams have each suffered losses to unranked, seemingly-lesser teams.  The conference was soundly beaten in this week’s Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge, losing each of Thursday night’s three games. In fact, until late Friday, the Pac-10 Conference has not won a single game since Monday night, when Arizona State defeated 0-5 Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  Obviously it’s early in the season, and this is a conference that will play its best basketball later in the season, but the Pac-10 was considered mediocre among the power conferences this season and has instead looked dreadful, while the two teams that did possess national potential are obviously flawed and UCLA continues to trip all over itself. It’ll take a lot for the Pac-10 to rebuild its reputation this season, so let’s take a look at what’s transpired thus far.

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ATB: Can the Big 12 Sweep the Pac-10?

Posted by rtmsf on December 4th, 2009

atb

Who Else is Rooting for 12-0? The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series started tonight (ok, officially it started Sunday when Nebraska defeated USC 52-49, but the bulk of games are over the next four days), and given just how horrible the Pac-10 has been so far this year, there is nothing at all surprising about the Big 12 sweeping tonight’s games to go to 4-0 in the Series.  Can the Big 12 sweep this entire event?  It would be one of the all-time PWNDs if the west coast ballers fail to win a single game, and from our quick analysis, this is a possible, if not plausible, scenario.  In looking at the remaining schedule, there are a couple of sure losses (Kansas at UCLA; Oregon at Missouri), one likely loss (Washington State at Kansas State), three more games where (according to Sagarin’s predictor) the Big 12 team will be favored (Arizona at Oklahoma; Oklahoma State at Stanford; Colorado at Oregon State), and two other games where — admit it — you wouldn’t be shocked if the Big 12 team pulled out two road wins (Iowa State at California; Texas A&M at Washington).  Our curiosity got the better of us thinking about this (see below), and using the Sagarin spreads (which we realize are not fully interrelated yet, but should still give a decent ballpark estimate), we determined that there’s a <1% chance of the Big 12 sweeping the remaining games.  It’s the Iowa State and Texas A&M road games that really hurt, but honestly, we don’t have a lot of faith in any Pac-10 school at this point.  Anyway, that’s the math, but our general sense is that the odds of a sweep are in reality a little greater than that.

big12-pac10 challenge odds

Make Mine a Double (RTC)Texas Tech 99, #10 Washington 92. There weren’t many games tonight, but the matchup between Texas Tech and Washington in Lubbock tonight was a classic.  The game was so nice, the students rushed it twice.  Or something like that.  After TTU’s Mike Singletary rebounded Elston Turner’s second straight miss at the foul line with five seconds remaining, he dribbled it upcourt and appeared to beat the horn with a running three-pointer (see the 1:50 mark in the below video).  The students rushed the court and started celebrating only to be told by the refs that the shot would not count and we were heading to overtime.  After a bizarre interlude waiting for the robotic vacuum to clean off the floor, the players reconvened for the extra period where Texas Tech used a late 6-0 run to pull away and finish off the previously unbeaten Huskies (the last team in the Pac-10 to lose a game), after which the students RTC’d again (good for them).  John Roberson had 25/7 and Mike Singletary had 16/12/4 assts in the winning effort, while Quincy Pondexter dropped 31/5/3 stls for UW.  Quick question — has anyone seen Abdul Gaddy this year?  The freshman phenom had a ridiculously bad 0-point, foul-plagued 10-minute performance tonight, which dovetails nicely with his season averages of 5/3 on 28% shooting (10% from three).  Ouch.  Washington will not reach its goals this season without more production from this talented guard.  As for Texas Tech, the Red Raiders are now 8-0, but tonight was by far their best win of the season.  Still, the defense has been solid, and if they can get through several difficult road games coming up (@ TCU, @ Wichita State, @ New Mexico), then they could be well positioned from an NCAA bid standpoint heading into the Big 12 season.

Other Big 12/Pac-10 Games.

  • #2 Texas 69, USC 50.  Texas’ defense continue to impress, as the nation’s #1 stoppers (according to Pomeroy) held an obviously outmatched Trojan team to 30% from the floor and 10% from behind the line.  Damion James had 19/9 and Dexter Pittman dominated the interior for 13/5/7 blks, including a complete emasculation of USC’s Alex Stepheson (0-8 FG).  UT’s freshman corps didn’t even play well (6-23 FG), but they really weren’t needed tonight, which goes to show just how deep and talented this Longhorn team is.
  • Baylor 64, Arizona State 61.  Baylor’s Tweety Carter remains scorching hot from outside, as he nailed 7-9 threes tonight for 27/4/3 assts in an evenly-matched game between two middling major conference teams.  This gives Carter thirteen treys in his last two games, as he hit six against Xavier the last time out.  ASU led for much of the second half before a 4-minute drought at the 9-minute mark allowed Carter to do his thing, giving the Bears a lead that they would hold onto through the remainder of the game.  Baylor leading scorer LaceDarius Dunn had only 7 pts on a poor 3-10 shooting night.

Was This Really Necessary? Marshall 119, Salem International 35.  We know that it’s not Marshall’s fault that Salem Intl. is going through an especially tough season in terms of breaking in a new coach, suspended players and so on… but did Marshall really need to embarrass them by 84 points tonight?  Even though the Marshall starters barely played, it may have been a good idea to run the clock on possessions after the lead blew up to, oh, say 70 or so.  Can anyone defend this score?  Why is a CUSA team playing a D2 team anyway?  Color us unimpressed.  If there’s any justice in this world, maybe UNC will beat the Thundering Herd by 60 when they visit Chapel Hill in three weeks.

Other Games of National Interest.  After about 100 last night, we had one tonight.

  • Seton Hall 89, Hartford 56.  The Hall has been very quiet in the first month of the season, in part due to their weak schedule, but the Pirates stayed undefeated behind Robert Mitchell’s 15/9 and Jeremey Hazell’s 15/2.
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