SI Story Highlights UCLA’s Downfall Through Ben Howland’s Shameful Lack of Control

Posted by EJacoby on February 29th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

The historic UCLA basketball program is in a shocking lull right now, and Sports Illustrated magazine has an upcoming feature story on why it’s not just because of poor performance on the court. George Dohrmann’s piece has been released on for an early look, and it is a must-read for all the telling details and anecdotes about the Bruins’ culture from the past five seasons. We’ll give you our reaction to the investigative piece and why coach Ben Howland might not last another season in Westwood.

Here's The Magazine Title Page of the Upcoming Story in Sports Illustrated (SI App)

Mike Moser, UNLV’s star player and the nation’s sixth-leading rebounder; Chace Stanback, the Runnin’ Rebels’ second-leading scorer with the nation’s seventh best three-point shooting percentage; Drew Gordon, New Mexico’s dominant forward and double-double machine; and Matt Carlino, averaging 13.0 points and 4.7 assists for BYU. What do they all have in common? Each of these players was once a highly touted recruit for coach Ben Howland at UCLA before transferring from the program to become star players elsewhere in the West. The departure of these four players is one of the reasons why the Bruins currently sit in sixth place in a weak Pac-12, looking at missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years and just four years removed from a run of three consecutive Final Four appearances. The feature story in Sports Illustrated set for publication later this week details why these players left campus, what kinds of unfortunate treatment other former players received, and how UCLA has struggled so badly recently, referencing mainly the ignorance of head coach Howland towards detrimental player actions.

Dohrmann’s piece, which includes interviews with over a dozen former players and team managers, highlights a general culture of recent disarray surrounding the Bruins’ basketball program. Dohrmann’s interviewees offered “a detailed inside account of how seemingly minor problems, if left unaddressed, can quickly sabotage even a storied program led by one of the nation’s most respected coaches.” The piece details how Howland, though incredibly knowledgeable of the game, fostered poor relationships with his players both on and off the court. The coach ran practices with a double standard, often ridiculing lesser players for mistakes they made while letting similar errors slide when made by stronger players. The reason, as some in the article suggested, was that Howland was afraid of upsetting star players to the point that they might transfer or leave for the NBA as soon as possible. Off the court, players would go out of their way to avoid Howland, such as one player opting to take the stairs if he ever saw the coach waiting for an elevator.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Surprises and Disappoinments?

Posted by AMurawa on February 23rd, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

 “Which team has had the most surprising season, and which has had the most disappointing? Likewise, which player has had the most surprising season, and which has had the most disappointing?”

Connor Pelton: The most surprising team is Colorado. The Buffaloes were picked by almost every pundit in the nation to finish around tenth in the Pac-12, and here we are with two weeks left in the season looking at a team that is third in the conference and a lock for the NIT. Obviously, their altitude-assisted homecourt advantage has something to do with it, but I think it is great. It is one of the things that make the sport so interesting, so I’m definitely not counting that against them. The most disappointing team has been UCLA. Granted, the Bruins have done better in Pac-12 play, but they have been so wildly inconsistent that you barely notice when they do something good. It took them six games to beat a Division I team, and they had a few head-scratching losses early on.

Andre Roberson, Colorado

Andre Roberson And Colorado Have Soared To New Heights This Year (Matt Caivano/Daily Camera)

The most surprising player has been junior forward Brock Motum from Washington State. Motum has been the key to all but a few of Washington State’s 14 wins, and his stats have been amazing. His 17.8 PPG is up +10.2 points from last season, his 6.5 RPG are a +3.5 improvement, and he is averaging +12.9 MPG. His shooting range and ability to completely take over a game is better than any other big man in the conference. The most disappointing player that has completed a full season (Here’s looking at you, Reeves Nelson, Josh Watkins, Jabari Brown, and Jahii Carson) is junior forward/center Joe Burton from Oregon State. Hopes were high for Burton’s junior year as many thought he would take over the point-center role that the Beavers abandoned last season. Early on however, it became apparent that Burton didn’t have the shooting range to take on that position, and as the season progressed he became more and sloppy with the basketball. He has now lost his starting job and his minutes have severely declined over the past few games.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 2nd, 2012

  1. Wednesday was national Letter of Intent signing day in college football, and Oregon made one of the bigger splashes of the day by signing 6’8”, 290-pound defensive end Arik Armstead. While the signing was a boon to head football coach Chip Kelly’s strong class, it may also prove to help out Dana Altman and his basketball program as well, since Armstead expects to shift over from the football field to the basketball court once the Ducks’ football season ends (and, if recent history is any indication, that won’t be until January). While football is his top priority, Armstead didn’t even consider going to schools that wouldn’t have offered him the opportunity to play both sports. It remains to be seen how fresh those wheels will be once he’s done being pounded on by Pac-12 offensive linemen for a year, but Armstead could give Altman’s program a midseason boost next year.
  2. In the wake of Kevin Parrom’s broken foot that will cost him the rest of his junior season, Arizona head coach Sean Miller said that the school will attempt to petition the NCAA for an extra season of eligibility. Although Parrom has already played more than the 30% of games on UA’s schedule, making him ineligible for a redshirt season, Miller thinks that the combination of Parrom’s good academic standing, his 14 missed games as a freshman and his hardships this season (Parrom was shot in the leg while visiting his mother in New York City during the fall, just before his mother died of cancer) make him a good candidate for a fifth year. With another year of eligibility remaining, it may be quite a while before a decision is reached, and the odds are good that the NCAA decision will be negative, but Miller thinks this strategy is at least worth a try.
  3. In a season chock full of transfers and dismissals, we found out the next step in the careers of a couple former Pac-12 players in recent days. First, in the next step of a somewhat surprising downfall, former UCLA forward Reeves Nelson was released on Tuesday by BC Zalgiris, a professional team in Lithuania. Nelson averaged 10 minutes per game in six appearances with Zalgiris but contributed just 2.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting just 28% from the field. Nelson is still eligible for the NBA Draft in June, but the odds that he hears his name called then seem to get slimmer by the day. Meanwhile, former Arizona forward Sidiki Johnson has latched on at Providence. Johnson played a grand total of seven minutes in his Arizona career before been suspended by Miller for a violation of team policy and then leaving the team a couple weeks later.
  4. C.J. Wilcox is expected to be full-steam ahead for Washington’s matchup with UCLA on Thursday night, according to head coach Lorenzo Romar. Wilcox played 26 minutes last Saturday against Arizona after getting ten minutes against Arizona State on Thursday, his first game back after missing three with a stress fracture in his hip. For now, the plan is for Wilcox to skip practices during the week while playing in games, a similar scenario to the way Romar handled Brandon Roy in 2004-05 when he was recovering from knee surgery.
  5. Lastly, it may have been lost in the final outcome on Sunday, but Stanford’s redshirt freshman center, Stefan Nastic, turned in his best game of his career, scoring a career-high 11 points in a 19-minute effort that was by far also his longest stint of the year. Nastic played five games early last season and looked to be a promising prospect before breaking a bone in his foot and missing the rest of the season. Then he got sick at the start of this season and struggled to get started at the outset of the year. But now the seven-footer has put in his ticket for an increased role and could turn into an impact player for Johnny Dawkins.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 26th, 2012

  1. One of the running themes of life in the Pac-12 this season has been important players leaving their teams, for one reason or another, in the middle of the season. There have been dismissals, academic problems, and abrupt transfers, and there have been enough of them to put together a pretty strong team: try Josh Watkins, Jabari Brown, Keala King, Reeves Nelson and Richard Solomon on for size. Aside from the debilitating headache any coach immediately suffers upon so much as seeing those five names together, that’s an awful lot of talent that has disappeared from Pac-12 rosters just since the start of the season.
  2. Along those same lines, UCLA has been hurt by transfers more than any other Pac-12 program. Currently, former Bruins Drew Gordon, Mike Moser, Chace Stanback, and Matt Carlino are playing – and excelling – at other Division I programs. Throw in J’Mison Morgan, who is redshirting at Baylor after playing limited minutes there last season, and Nelson, who turned pro in Europe rather than transfer, and the Bruins have had a significant talent drain. BruinsNation goes through all the transfers and looks at the causes and effects of the decisions of these players to transfer out of Ben Howland’s program.
  3. As an antidote for the above two stories which may leave a bad taste in your mouth, we turn to a great story about California center Robert Thurman, a former walk-on who is making a big impact for the Golden Bears in the wake of Solomon’s academic ineligibility. Against Washington on Thursday night, the “Thurmanator” posted career-highs of 16 points and seven rebounds helping Cal spring the road upset. Coming into the year, Thurman didn’t expect to have much of a role on this team beyond just working hard in practice, but going forward he will be an important piece on the Bear team.
  4. When Washington visits Arizona State tonight, both teams will have key players regarded as questionable for action. For the homestanding Sun Devils, Trent Lockett has missed the two games after spraining an ankle early in the second half against Oregon State a couple weeks back, and although he is making progress, there is no new update on his status. For the Huskies. C.J. Wilcox has missed U-Dub’s last three games with a stress fracture in his hip. He’ll go through some tests prior to the game on Thursday and will be a game-time decision, based largely on the amount of pain he feels, but may remain out until the Huskies head to Tucson on Saturday.
  5. Lastly, a little something that has little or no effect on the play on the court: snazzy new uniforms for Arizona. Nike announced on Wednesday that they had created new uniforms for nine programs who have won national championships (Arizona, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Syracuse along with the women’s teams from Baylor and Connecticut) that those teams will wear at specially selected games this season. Arizona will wear their “Hyper Elite Platinum” unis at home against UCLA on February 25.
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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take


Top Storylines

  • The third weekend in conference play went a long way towards settling the conference into some tentative tiers. With the Bay Area schools’ sweeps of Colorado and Utah, Stanford and California sit atop the conference with 5-1 records and have established themselves, for now, as the teams to beat in the conference. A half-step back sits Washington, winner of four of five conference games, but unproven on the road so far, and Oregon, the sole team in conference play with more than one road win – the Ducks have three. The next tier down is made up of Arizona, Colorado and UCLA, all teams with two losses who have been inconsistent, but have enough talent to leave a mark on the Pac-12 race. We’ll wedge in one more tier before the bottom, with Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon State all seriously flawed teams who for one reason or another are clearly better than the tier of Utah and USC at the bottom of the Pac.
  • Yesterday we got news of a couple more problem children coming to the end of their ropes with their current teams, as Cal’s Richard Solomon and Utah’s Josh Watkins, both of whom had already been suspended for a game once this season, ran into trouble. Solomon was declared academically ineligible and is done for the year, though he could return next season for his junior year provided he cleans up his grades. Watkins, however, is done. The senior was booted off the Ute team by head coach Larry Krystkowiak for his second behavior-related offense of the season. It’s been that kind of year in the Pac-12, with these two just the latest in a line that includes Reeves Nelson, Jabari Brown, Keala King, Sidiki Johnson and Bruce Barron (and I’m sure I’ve blocked another player or two from my memory), players whose seasons ended early because of their own decisions.

The Loss Of Richard Solomon Is A Potential Major Blow To Cal's Conference Title Chances (

What to Watch For

  • Until further notice, we can just assume that whatever games involve the Bay Area schools any week will be the games to keep an eye on, with the two matchups between the rivals potentially being the games of the year. This week, it is the Washington schools hosting California and Stanford, and the Huskies, in particular, should provide a stiff test for both schools. Washington will be without the services of second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox for both games this week, due to a stress fracture in his hip, his loss will rob Lorenzo Romar’s bunch not only of a pure shooter on offense, but also one of the Huskies’ best perimeter defenders, a situation that could spell trouble against talented three-point shooters such as Cal’s Allen Crabbe and Stanford’s Anthony Brown, to name two. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: UCLA at Stanford

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, there was no way we would have picked this game to be the most interesting game of the first week of Pac-12 play. While Stanford has been a pleasant surprise through their non-conference schedule, UCLA was on the very short list of the least enjoyable teams in the conference to watch. However, the Bruins have quietly strung together five straight wins albeit against abominable competition and the Cardinal, coming off a tough home loss to Butler, have to prove that they are capable of contending for the regular season title. In short, while both of these teams have plenty of doubters, and rightfully so, each has a chance to earn a modicum of respect by taking care of business on opening weekend.

Stanford’s loss to Butler last week could be explained away in a variety of ways: it was their first game against significant competition in two and a half weeks; the home crowd was absent most of the students and provided little boost to a sleepwalking team; the Bulldogs got plenty of fortunate bounces; and really, it’s a loss to a fast-improving team that has been the national runner-up the past two seasons. Regardless of the excuses, it serves as a reminder that the Cardinal have largely built their status as one of the conference favorites on a loss – a hard-fought six-point defeat against Syracuse in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship game. They have a win over North Carolina State (in which they had to fight back from a 12-point second half deficit) and a win over Oklahoma State, but neither of those teams look like future recipients of an NCAA Tournament invite. So, there is little so far in the positive results category to indicate that this Stanford vintage is significantly better than last year’s 15-16 team that won seven conference games.

Josh Owens, Stanford

Josh Owens Has Been Stanford's Emotional Leader & Go-To Scorer (Credit: Zach Sanderson)

However, if you dig deeper into the metrics, you see a Cardinal team that is winning games because of excellent defense (only twice this season – in the loss to Butler and the uneven win over NC State – have they allowed more than a point per possession), while doing almost all the things that you want to see an efficient offensive team do (they shoot it well, they hit the offensive glass and they get to the free throw line). Only their turnovers on nearly 22% of their offensive possessions present cause for alarm, and that should be a number that sinks as their primary ballhandlers (sophomore Aaron Bright and freshman Chasson Randle) get more comfortable. And if you trust only the eye test, you see a team that appears to run a lot more smoothly than they did last year, when deep into the season the Cardinal appeared to be out of sync on both ends of the court. Bright has taken over as an extension of head coach Johnny Dawkins on the floor, senior center Josh Owens is the team’s emotional leader and go-to scorer, Randle is a steadily improving freshman, and there are a handful of other nice pieces elsewhere on this roster (Anthony Brown, Josh Huestis, Dwight Powell) ready to make positive contributions on both ends. This is an improved Stanford team, but they’ve still got to prove it and they’ll have plenty of chances, starting tonight.

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Merry Christmas: What’s In Santa’s Bag For Pac-12 Programs?

Posted by AMurawa on December 20th, 2011

It’s that time of the year where everybody is on the lookout for that one great gift for their friends and family. In the spirit of the season of giving, I’ve been racking my brain, trying to come up with the perfect gifts for all of the Pac-12 basketball programs. My good friend Mr. Claus is willing to help me out, and between the two of us, we think we’ve found just the right thing for everybody around the conference.

Arizona – Is it too much to ask for Derrick Williams back? Because he would go a long way towards curing the Wildcats’ ills up front. But since we don’t want to take Williams’ new contract or endorsement deals away from him, we’re going to have to settle on a babysitter for freshman point guard Josiah Turner. Just somebody who can make sure the kid eats his fruits and vegetables and gets to class and practice on time and in one piece, allowing Turner to simply focus on taking care of business at Point Guard U.

Josiah Turner, Arizona

Josiah Turner Has All The Physical Tools To Be Another Great Arizona Point Guard, But He Needs Help Clearing Up His Off-The-Court Struggles (photo credit: Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

Arizona State – All Sun Devil hoops fans want for Christmas is just one letter grade higher in one class on Jahii Carson’s transcript. The freshman point guard just missed getting a high enough score on his ACT exam to earn eligibility in Tempe, but just one point higher or one letter grade higher on his high school transcript would have made the speedy point ready to play. Santa has assured me that he’s found a minor discrepancy in Carson’s junior year Spanish class that could get him on the court immediately. Sure, Carson isn’t going to turn the Sun Devils into a Tournament team overnight, but they’ll certainly be a lot easier on the eyes.

California – Hey, it’s not much, but this wake-up call service we scored for roomies Allen Crabbe and Richard Solomon should save the Bears countless hours of missed practices and subsequent benchings. And we’re even throwing in a brand new icemaker, which should help Jorge Gutierrez heal up all those bumps and bruises he gets from diving all over the court.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.16.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 16th, 2011

  1. What has already been an awful season for Utah basketball took a scary turn this week, as junior guard Glen Dean suffered a ruptured blood vessel in his brain and had to undergo brain surgery Wednesday. Dean, who transferred from Eastern Washington and is sitting out this year, first noticed a problem on December 8 when he was working out with fellow transfer Aaron Dotson (from LSU) and experienced fuzzy vision and a headache. During last Saturday’s game against Utah, he complained further about discomfort with the lights and the noise at the game and was taken to the hospital and has been there since. His surgery has been described as successful, but he remains under observation and no timetable has been established for his return to practice.
  2. There has been a lot of buzz in recent days about Shabazz Muhammad and UCLA. Muhammad is the consensus #1 recruit in this year’s senior class, and he remains undecided with a long list of schools he is considering, including UCLA, UNLV, Duke, Kentucky and others. Yesterday we linked to an interview with UCLA commit Jordan Adams who said that he expected both Muhammad and power forward Tony Parker from Atlanta to wind up at UCLA, making for a killer class that already includes top ten recruit Kyle Anderson. And today, Five Star Basketball posted an interview with Muhammad in which he says “I think with me, Kyle and Jordan, if I was to go there it would be a great combination. Kyle’s a great player and so is Jordan.” At this point, fans from all of the teams that Muhammad is considering are reduced to trying to read the tea leaves, knowing that Muhammad has said all along that he won’t make a final decision until the spring and confirmed in his diary for SLAM Magazine that there has been no change to his list. In the meantime, fans from coast to coast cling to every little hint that Muhammad could be leaning their way.
  3. That’s part of the future of this conference, but we’ve also got to tie up some loose ends regarding the past. First, Reeves Nelson’s future is apparently in Lithuania. Nelson was dismissed from UCLA last Friday, and head coach Ben Howland confirmed on Thursday that Nelson will forgo transferring to another Division I institution and head overseas to play basketball professionally in Lithuania. Given that he’s a long shot ever to play in the NBA, jumping right to a professional career makes some sense, but he’ll certainly need to mature if he ever expects to live up to his potential.
  4. Then there’s news about former Oregon guard Jabari Brown, who is apparently deciding between Missouri and Georgia Tech for his next stop in college. Brown has already visited Missouri and is expected to be in Atlanta for a look at the Ramblin’ Wreck this week. Missouri will be replacing guards Marcus Denmon and Kim English, among others, next season, while Georgia Tech simply needs any kinds of talented players at this point, meaning both of those programs are willing to look past Brown’s ignominious exit from Eugene.
  5. Lastly, there’s this newsflash: USC’s offense isn’t very good. The Trojans are averaging just 53.7 points per game and have a KenPom offensive efficiency rating of 94.7, good for 265th in the country. But defensively, they’re good enough to keep their anemic offense in a lot of games; they are allowing just 54.3 points and their defensive efficiency rating is 90.7, good for 26th in the nation. As a result, the Trojans are playing in a lot of close games that aren’t exactly great examples of beautiful basketball. And despite their 4-6 record, they’ve lost three different games by a single possession. Sophomore point guard Maurice Jones is doing everything he can to keep the Trojans in games, including playing almost every minute, but head coach Kevin O’Neill will need somebody else to step up and become a consistent offensive threat in order to turn those one-possession losses into wins.
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Morning Five: 12.16.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 16th, 2011

  1. While the legal system has decided not to get involved with the XavierCincinnati brawl, the fall-out of the brawl may not be over. A Cincinnati columnist is suggesting that the series be cancelled for two years to let things cool off between the two schools. That may seem like a good idea to some observers based on the fight and subsequent post-game comments of some of the players, but it appears that the schools have no intention of suspending the rivalry according to Xavier’s Athletic Director. We tend to agree that suspending the rivalry would be an overreaction, but everybody (from administrators down to team managers) will need to be on their best behavior when these teams meet over the next few years because the college basketball world will be watching them very closely.
  2. As usual Luke Winn’s Power Rankings are filled with interesting statistical nuggets and as we have said before we look at these more for the information than the rankings since rankings are essentially useless (uh, unless they come from RTC). The most controversial part is an analysis that shows that statistically Kentucky is a little better defensively when Anthony Davis is on the bench than when he is on the floor overall this season. This trend disappears (and actually reverses quite dramatically) in games against top 25 teams, but the analysis managed to create a mini-controversy online yesterday. Of course, this started a verbal sparring match between those who embrace statistical analysis and the college basketball Luddites. As we have said before the numbers and analysis are there for your consumption. How you choose to interpret them (or discard them) is up to you. Blindly accepting the figures because they are out there is no better than ignoring them completely. We prefer to sit somewhere in the middle where we look at the statistical analysis and then try to reconcile it with what we see with our eyes. If the two are incongruent, either we are missing something or someone is doing something funny with the numbers.
  3. The always entertaining Mark Titus, leader of the Club Trillion movement, is out with his latest article for Grantland ranking his top 12 teams in the country. It is an interesting list to say the least and we have a feeling that Ohio State fans won’t be too happy with him, but there are some interesting points in there including the decision by Ohio State and Kentucky to schedule very tough first road games coming back to bite them, which is something that was largely overlooked by the national media. Honestly, though, we think his thought process on his #1 team is a little simplistic unless he is being sarcastic in which case he is doing a very bad job at conveying that. Anyways, as you would expect with Titus it is an amusing read that is worth flipping through to get some insight from a former college basketball “player” on the top teams in the country.
  4. While its member institutions are handling out multi-million dollar contracts every few days to coaches with strong track records of failure, the NCAA is still trying to figure out what to do for compensation for its athletes. For now it appears as if they have hit an impasse as they decided to suspend discussion on the proposed $2,000 stipend until January. The issue will be readdressed when the NCAA’s Board of Directors meets next month after 125 schools voted to override its automatic adoption over the four following issues: “how quickly it was implemented, perceived impact on competitive equity, application of the allowance for student-athletes in equivalency sports, and implications for Title IX.” We suspect that like many other bigger economic problems, the NCAA like other bigger institutions will kick this can down the road to be dealt with another day.
  5. We would like wish our favorite malcontent of the 2011-12 season Reeves Nelson a fond farewell from the college basketball world as the recently dismissed UCLA big man will be taking his talents to Lithuania. We don’t have any more details at this time as a report earlier in the day cited Nelson’s father as saying that his son was heading to Europe, but would not say more until a contract was signed as the details were still being negotiated. We have to say it has been an interesting ride with Reeves during his brief time at UCLA and will leave you with this gem about how he plans on taking care of his mother.
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Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on December 15th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take


Top Storylines

  • Personnel Problems – Certainly every team around the country has to deal with some personnel problems of their own. Players get hurt, kids decide to transfer, suspensions get handed out. But, wow. Is it just me or does it seem like an already under-talented conference has been hammered by a string of issues that have robbed them of even more talent? The Reeves Nelson situation at UCLA has been run into the ground, while the Jabari Brown transfer (followed by Bruce Barron’s transfer) is old news in Oregon. Mike Montgomery at California had to suspended forward Richard Solomon just before they traveled to San Diego State, then on the day he was to be reinstated, he and roommate Allen Crabbe overslept and were late to a morning shootaround and began that game on the bench. Josiah Turner has suffered through a benching and a suspension for his inability to get to practices on time (and he potentially cost Arizona a win at Florida in the process). Sean Miller has also had to dismiss freshman Sidiki Johnson, while Utah’s leading scorer Josh Watkins was suspended for a game. Arizona State’s freshman point guard Jahii Carson, who head coach Herb Sendek figured would be the Sun Devils’ starter from day one, was declared ineligible for his freshman season following an insufficient ACT score.
  • Then there are the injuries – Washington State’s Abe Lodwick has yet to play this season, while Faisal Aden and Mychal Ladd have battled their own injuries in recent weeks. USC is without senior point guard Jio Fontan for the season, while sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon has had his development stunted by a couple injuries that he has played through. This week, just a day after Washington announced that senior Scott Suggs would take a redshirt year after struggling with his recovery from foot surgery, their center Aziz N’Diaye sprained his knee and will miss at least the next four games. Back in Eugene, Tyrone Nared had a knee sprain of his own and is out until conference play. And the above is just a partial list cut short for (relative) simplicity’s sake. Now, none of the above is meant to imply that without the above maladies the Pac-12 would be a great conference, just that on a list of all of the possible things that could have gone wrong for Pac-12 teams so far, the teams have seemingly gone out of their way to check off most of them.
Devoe Joseph, Oregon

It Has Only Been Two Games, But Devoe Joseph Has Made A Major Impact For Oregon (Chris Pietsch, The Register-Guard)

  • One Bit of Good NewsDana Altman at least had a bit of good news this week as Devoe Joseph, a senior transfer from Minnesota, played his first games in a Duck uniform and immediately proved his worth. Not only did Joseph lead Oregon in scoring in his first game out against Fresno State, he made a couple of huge momentum changing threes in the second half that helped spur the Ducks to victory. Not to be outdone, he came back on Monday in his second game in Eugene and helped preserve a win as he scored his team’s last eight points after Portland State had closed to within three with 90 seconds left. With Altman now basically trading a freshman (Brown) for the senior Joseph in the backcourt, this Duck team is loaded with veterans and could still make waves in conference play.
  • Very Few, If Any, Resume Wins – Starting right about now and reaching a crescendo in the early days of March, you’re going to hear a lot about who potential NCAA Tournament teams beat and where they beat them as a major criteria for an invitation to the Big Dance. That fact should have the Pac-12 shaking in its boots. To this point it looks like the best win by a Pac-12 team was Oregon State’s neutral-site victory over a Texas team that (1) was playing in its third game with a completely remade roster, and (2) hasn’t beaten anyone of note yet. Beyond that, what are the other wins the teams in this conference hope to hang their tournament resumes on? Cal knocking off a bad Georgia team? Arizona over a middling Clemson team? Stanford against Oklahoma State or North Carolina State? Worse yet, there just aren’t a whole lot of chances left on the schedule for teams to pick up defining wins in the non-conference. Zona goes to Seattle to play Gonzaga and Oregon hosts Virginia this weekend, while Cal travels to UNLV just before Christmas, and that’s it. The rest of the season is, more or less, flawed Pac-12 teams beating up on other flawed Pac-12 teams. In the end, a team like Washington had better either perform one hell of a lot better in road conference games than they have in the past few years OR make sure they win the Pac-12 Tournament, lest they be making NIT plans come March.

Player of the Year Watch

  • While no one has yet to step up and grab a lead in this race, Washington State’s Brock Motum did establish himself, albeit against lesser competition, as a legitimate horse in this race. The Cougs are in the midst of a four-game winning streak and Motum has averaged 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds over that stretch. And Motum remains one of two Pac-12 players to score in double figures in each of his team’s games this season. The other? Washington’s Terrence Ross, who not only has proven himself to be a consistent scorer, but also a versatile talent capable of filling the stats sheet. On the season, Ross is averaging 16.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, a couple of threes and a block per night.
  • Elsewhere Allen Crabbe has continued to be an efficient scorer on a nightly basis for the Golden Bears (15.8 PPG on the season while shooting over 46% from deep), while teammate Jorge Gutierrez continues to lead the conference in intangibles while contributing solid tangible stats to boot (12.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.9 APG). As for dark horse candidates who are just now beginning to go to the whip? Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson has averaged 15 points a contest over his last four, just barely starting to scratch the surface of his potential, while the aforementioned Devoe Joseph could get in the conversation with a strong showing in conference play.

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