Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 13th, 2011

  1. Once again the dominant story of the day was the fallout from the CincinnatiXavier brawl. The most interesting news was the report that the Hamilton County District Attorney was looking into prosecuting players involved in the the fight. We are not really sure where to begin here except for noting that if charges were brought against the players it would be unusual, but not unprecedented (see the Todd Bertuzzi case in hockey). We are sure that some Musketeer fans are going to point out that Joe Deters, who may end up trying the case, is a graduate of Cincinnati and was previously on the school’s Board of Trustees, but we doubt that it will affect the case because we would expect that the two people most likely to be charged with serious crimes are both Bearcats.
  2. We thought we had gotten over the all-encompassing conference realignment story, but it turns out we were wrong as San Diego State announced yesterday that it would be moving 14 sports including basketball to the Big West from the Mountain West beginning in the 2013 season. The move is a curious one for a number of reasons including the fact that it is a huge step down in prestige for basketball (from 4th in the conference College RPI ratings down to 24th) and San Diego State is going to be playing its football games in the Big East. As strange as some of the other conference realignment stories have been this one has to be the most clear money grab that we have seen. The coaches can say whatever they want about this being good for recruiting, but that seems to be a pretty weak reason since we have never heard of a recruit who would want to go to the Big West over the Mountain West even if the former may get on ESPN more often with this new television deal.
  3. Yesterday, Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe pleaded guilty to violating a restraining order when he sent a Facebook message to a former girlfriend. According to Mbakwe’s attorney, he thought the restraining order had expired after one year, but in fact was two years. Mbakwe, who is out for the year after injuring his knee, was sentenced to one day in jail, which he already served, one year of probation, and given a $300 fine. As you may have noticed, we are not exactly the most lenient group in the world when it comes to people breaking laws/rules, but in this case it appears that Mbakwe’s violation was relatively minor, a thought that we expressed at the time that it happened last year.
  4. Washington got a bit of good news as a MRI revealed that junior center Aziz N’Diaye did not suffer any significant structural injury to his right knee during Saturday’s game against Duke. N’Diaye is listed as questionable (or in the words of Lorenzo Romar “very questionable”) for the Huskies next game, which is on Friday against UC-Santa Barbara, with what has been described as a sprain. When N’Diaye injured his knee the Washington staff had good reason to be concerned as he tore ligaments in that knee, which made him miss the 2009-10 season. While it is possible that N’Diaye could return on Friday, the team probably doesn’t need his size against a team whose top rebounder is 6’5″ so Romar may just decide to let him rest. We would point out that the Huskies have a relatively easy schedule coming up, but they are in the Pac-12 so they will not play a good team the rest of the season unless they make the NCAA Tournament.
  5. Seth Davis chimes in on the Crosstown Shootout brawl and various other college basketball topics in his weekly Hoop Thoughts column. As usual Seth does an excellent job getting information from a coach (in this case Chris Mack) and delves deeper into the ridiculous Tu HollowayMark Lyons post-game press conference. He also briefly touches on the dismissal of Reeves Nelson and a variety of other topics, of which there are too many to name. It is definitely worth a read and will make you think a little even if you don’t agree with everything Seth has to say.
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IV

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 12th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish on Mondays throughout the season. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED… Tom Crean taking a giant step forward with his Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday. Having taken over a disastrous situation in Bloomington, no one deserved that finish more than Crean against the Kentucky Wildcats. Christian Watford’s rainbow swish as the buzzer sounded is one giant recruiting tool for the future, and the only thing better would have been Gus Johnson’s voice on the call. What a game, and what a relief for Crean after several years of frustration.

Christian Watford's Game-Winner Represents IU's Renaissance

I LOVED… seeing Madison Square Garden for the first time. I made it to MSG for Saturday’s Washington/Duke matchup, and there is a different type of atmosphere in that historic arena that takes hold the moment you get your ticket scanned and step inside. Players on both teams were bouncing up and down as soon as they stepped on the floor, which isn’t something you always see at a neutral location. The crowd is basketball-savvy, and you can’t help getting caught up looking at the retired Knicks greats in the rafters. As Coach K said after the game: “I love playing at Cameron, but outside of Cameron, Madison Square Garden is the place.” Very cool.

I LOVED…UCLA coach Ben Howland making a gutsy call by getting rid of Reeves Nelson. It’s a tough situation when one player is setting a terrible example, but your team is still probably better off with him on the floor. We talked about Nelson a couple weeks ago and I questioned whether Howland was going too easy on him, but this is a decision that obviously places principles ahead of short-term benefits. It could be a rough year in LA for Howland, but the Bruin program will be better off in the long run.

I LOVED… trying to decide about Washington freshman guard Tony Wroten. I actually got to watch Wroten play in high school because he went to my alma mater in Seattle, and he’s been a top-5 prospect in his class since about age 14 (he likely would have been top-3 without a football knee injury as a junior, but he seems to have fully recovered). Anyone who caught Washington/Duke saw what I’m talking about – Wroten is usually too showy, at times the best scorer on the floor, at times the best passer on the floor, at times the most selfish on the floor, often times the most unmotivated on the floor, the most exciting, the most excited, and almost always a turnover waiting to happen.

It can be mesmerizing to watch though (when it’s not infuriatingly aggravating), and it will be interesting to see how Lorenzo Romar will develop this uber-talented frosh. If he refines his game and focus, he could be up there with the best in the nation.

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A New Beginning For UCLA

Posted by AMurawa on December 12th, 2011

The theme for UCLA’s game Saturday evening against Penn was a new beginning. Not only were the Bruins playing their first game without junior forward Reeves Nelson, who was dismissed by head coach Ben Howland on Friday following a couple of suspensions for behavioral reasons, but the squad shifted to zone defense for much of the game for the first time this season. While the 77-73 victory was by no means a crisp performance, it was a sign of things to come and a chance for the struggling Bruins to experience some positivity.

Ben Howland, UCLA

Ben Howland: "A Lot Has Happened This Week And We're Getting To Where We're Figuring Stuff Out." (Credit: Blaine Ohigashi)

UCLA went to a 2-3 zone for the first time about midway through the first half while trailing by one, and spent every half-court possession for the next six minutes in that defense. Howland is primarily known as a man-to-man coach, but he confirmed that you’ll be seeing plenty of zone out of UCLA the rest of the way. “Zone is not preferred, but it is what is fitting for our team now,” he said. “It is something that you’ll be seeing when we’re changing things up. We need to use it and it will be helpful for us, especially as we get better at it.” At times the zone gave Penn trouble, as on the first possession where the Quakers were unable to find a good shot and had to settle for a fallaway three-point attempt by senior Tyler Bernardini as the shot clock expired; and true to another theme of the day, the shot dropped. Bernardini torched the Bruins throughout the day, regardless of the defense employed, hitting eight of his 12 shots on his way to a career-high 29 points. At times the defenders on the perimeter of the UCLA zone failed to close out on the three-point shot, not even putting a hand in a face, something that will surely be pointed out in practice this week. UCLA has already displayed terrible perimeter defense this year, and even after Penn shot 38.7% from three against them, they are still allowing their opponents to shoot 48.7% from three-point range on the season.

However, regardless of some of the sloppiness of the zone, it did provide a few tangible benefits to the Bruins. First, it kept the Quakers from getting good looks inside the three-point line (more than 50% of Penn’s shots were from three), an area where UCLA has struggled all year. Secondly, it helped protect a couple of Bruin big men who picked up a couple of early fouls; Joshua Smith and David Wear both had two fouls in the first eight minutes. Also, the zone gave Smith a bit of a reprieve from his own poor conditioning, allowing him to preserve some of his energy rather than having to chase his opponents out to the perimeter, leaving him enough energy in the second half to score on three straight possessions as well as kick one pass back out for what turned into a wide-open three-pointer.

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Morning Five: 12.12.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 12th, 2011

  1. As you may have heard, there was a small fracas at the end of the XavierCincinnati game on Saturday. The two schools suspended four players each for their actions with the suspensions ranging from six games (for Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj) to one game along with unspecified community service obligations. While there are a handful of fans and media members who are saying that the schools did a good job handling the punishments, it seems like a vast majority have been quite critical of the relatively light suspensions especially after what they believed they were hearing from Mick Cronin in his post-game press conference (a topic we wrote about yesterday). Although it has been discussed ad nauseum within the college basketball world, don’t be surprised if this is one of the major stories on sports radio and all the talking head TV shows even if does get buried under Tebow-mania.
  2. It took him long enough, but Ben Howland finally decided to kick Reeves Nelson off the UCLA basketball team on Friday. It does not appear that there was another specific incident that led Howland to finally get rid of Nelson, but instead it appears that it was more the result of a series of discussions that Nelson had with Howland and how Howland felt Nelson was responding to his punishment. We are not sure if this decision will finally spark a lifeless Bruin team as they struggled on Saturday to beat a mediocre Penn team at home. We aren’t sure where Nelson will end up next or if he will ever live up to his potential (our guess: no), but it might be instructive to see how he responded to his dismissal.
  3. On Saturday, Georgetown announced that highly touted freshman center Tyler Adams would be out indefinitely while undergoing tests to work up a potential cardiac abnormality. While we don’t know what Adams is being worked up for, the most likely reasons are for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy or an arrhythmia. We probably don’t need to tell you that cardiac conditions can be serious, but if you missed our prior post on the increased incidence of sudden cardiac death in Division I men’s basketball players it is worth a read. It goes without saying that basketball should be a distant secondary concern for Adams at the time and we hope that whatever triggered this work-up was an isolated event and not a significant medical problem not so much for his basketball career as for the rest of his life.
  4. While Kansas picked up a big victory at home on Saturday against a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State team, they also suffered a blow when it was announced that Tyshawn Taylor had torn his meniscus in his right knee earlier in the week and would be undergoing surgery. According to reports, the surgery, which is a fairly simple procedure, went well and Taylor is expected to be out for three weeks. Until he returns a relatively young Jayhawk team will have to learn to adjust to life without their talented, but mercurial leader, who himself has had trouble with turnovers this season. This majority of the point guard duties will probably be handed over to Elijah Johnson or one of the younger players on the team like Naadir Tharpe. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, they don’t really have another tough opponent until January 16 (five weeks from now) when they play Baylor.
  5. We are always surprised when a coach resigns in the middle of the season and even moreso when it is an established coach so when Northern Arizona‘s Mike Adras abruptly announced that he was stepping down on Friday we were shocked. Adras, who compiled a 193-170 record in 13 seasons at the school, led the team to its second NCAA Tournament appearance ever in 2000, but had not been back to the NCAA Tournament since then and his team started this season 2-7. Adras had very little to say in the school’s official release other than the usual generic stuff about being proud of what he accomplished and leaving to pursue other undisclosed opportunities. Interestingly, Adras never actually told his players about his decision to leave and as of this writing apparently has not talked to the team about it, which makes it seem like he may have actually had a little push from the administration to help him with his decision to resign. For the time being, 70 year-old Dave Brown will act as the interim head coach while the school begins its search for a permanent replacement.
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No Shocker: Reeves Nelson Dismissed By UCLA

Posted by AMurawa on December 9th, 2011

Just a month ago, Reeves Nelson was on just about everybody’s preseason All-Pac-12 team. As of today, according to a CBS Sports report, he’s no longer on the UCLA basketball team. “After much thought and deliberation, I have made the decision to dismiss Reeves Nelson from the UCLA men’s basketball team effective immediately,” said head coach Ben Howland in a statement released Friday morning after the coach met with Nelson following his final exams.

Reeves Nelson, UCLA

Reeves Nelson's Career In Westwood Was Officially Ended Friday With His Dismissal From The UCLA Basketball Program (credit: Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

The fall from grace was swift and unexpected, but there were warning signs prior to this season. In previous years he had been known to openly yell at teammates for mistakes on the court, he famously threw a ball at Brendan Lane’s chest in disgust and just generally showed a lot of emotional immaturity. Even in high school he was repeatedly suspended for behavioral issues. This season things got worse, and fast. In the Bruins’ season-opening loss to Loyola Marymount, Nelson grew visibly frustrated as the game went on, and he failed to participate in a couple of huddles, earning his first “indefinite” suspension of the year. After sitting out the Bruins’ next game (another loss, this one to Middle Tennessee State), he was reinstated in time for the trip to the Maui Invitational, then he showed up late for the team flight. Howland somehow allowed Nelson to catch a later flight, and then benched him for a half in the tournament opener against Chaminade. Last weekend, Nelson blew a defensive assignment just before the end of the first half in a loss to Texas, got into a verbal altercation with Howland in the locker room, was benched for the second half there (during which he drew criticism for his behavior on the bench) and then subsequently suspended indefinitely again. Then today, the divorce became official.

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Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences.  

Reader’s Take


Top Storylines

  • More Behavioral Problems – While the struggles of the Pac-12 conference as a whole has been well-documented, the sheer number of off-the-court distractions coaches up and down the conference have had to deal with has been astounding. There’s the ongoing Reeves Nelson soap opera at UCLA. Josiah Turner has been patently unable to get it together in Arizona. Jabari Brown quit on his team after just two games because he was “only” getting about 26 minutes a game. This week Utah suspended Josh Watkins, one of just three players in the Pac-12 to score in double figures in each of his team’s games (Washington’s Terrence Ross and Washington State’s Brock Motum the other two). Then there are lesser lights like Oregon’s Bruce Barron (quit on his team as well), Arizona’s Sidiki Johnson (suspended, dismissed and now transferring out) and Washington State’s D.J. Shelton (suspended). That’s not even including Joshua Smith’s issues, Jerime Anderson’s legal troubles, or Jahii Carson’s inability to get eligible. While the play on the court has been less than stellar around the conference, it is the off-the-court nonsense that is giving the conference the biggest black eye.

Josh Watkins' Troubles Are Only the Latest and Greatest...

  • Surprising Players Stepping Up – In the place of all the missing or invisible players, these teams have needed somebody to step up, and there have been some surprising players that are doing their part. Just looking at the five players that were nominated for the Pac-12 Player of the Week last week gives you a list of surprising names: Charlie Enquist, Ahmad Starks, Anthony Brown, Keala King and, the winner of the award, Solomon Hill. No disrespect to any of those guys, but I don’t think you would have found any of those names on most preseason all-Pac-12 teams. Hill has been a versatile and steadying force for Arizona.  Not only is the junior post leading the team in points (12.4 PPG), assists (3.1 APG) and minutes (31.5 MPG), but Hill is also grabbing the second most rebounds (7.8 RPG), and he’ll likely be a candidate for the Pac-12 award on a semi-regular basis throughout the year. But Charlie Enquist? That’s a guy who had scored a total of 50 points and grabbed a total of 41 rebounds in his 54 games in his previous three years in Pullman. This week he scored 28 and grabbed 19 rebounds. Meanwhile, King was awful at Arizona State last year (36.5% from the field, 1-18 threes, more turnovers than assists), but has scored 65 points in his last three games while posting a 75.8 eFG%. Starks had 16 points and four threes in Oregon State’s win over Montana, and Anthony Brown scored 27 points in two games for Stanford this week. For the underachieving teams in this conference to improve between now and March, they’ll need players to step up and make bigger-than-expected contributions.
  • Stanford For Real? – At the start of the season, it was more or less consensus that there were four teams in the upper tier of the Pac-12: Arizona, Cal, UCLA and Washington. It didn’t take long for one of those four teams to drop from that group (I’ll let you guess which one that was), but with Stanford sporting the best record in the Pac-12 at 8-1 so far (the lone loss a tough six-point defeat at Madison Square Garden to Syracuse), the Cardinal may have jumped up into that group. Of Stanford’s eight victories this season, seven of them have come by 12 or more, with only their most recent come-from-behind win against NC State being a tight one. And at least one RTC correspondent came away from that game impressed enough to confirm that Stanford is good enough, at least defensively, to contend for the conference title. The Cardinal are now in the midst of 13 days off surrounding finals, and really only have one challenging non-conference game remaining (December 22 against Butler). But, if the Cardinal can pick up where it left off, coach Johnny Dawkins‘ squad will be a tough out during conference play.

Player of the Year Watch

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.07.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2011

  1. Tuesday night saw the Pac-12 conference lose yet another non-conference game, as Marquette knocked off Washington by a bucket in a back-and-forth game that provided a nice nightcap to the Jimmy V Classic in New York. The Huskies had plenty of chances down the stretch to earn a more positive outcome, but three turnovers on their last six possessions, plus a wild Abdul Gaddy attempt on the final play with Lorenzo Romar sitting on his last timeout put the Huskies on their way to their second straight defeat. With Duke on deck on Saturday, Romar’s club has its work cut out for it.
  2. In what is getting to be a tradition here with the P12 M5, we’ve got player suspensions to talk about. Oh boy! First, in an announcement that surprised exactly no one, UCLA suspended Reeves Nelson indefinitely for the second time this season. It was originally reported that Nelson had been dismissed from the team, but head coach Ben Howland corrected that later in the day. Nelson was benched for the second half of Saturday’s loss to Texas for, among other issues, blowing a defensive assignment at the end of the first half that led to a Clint Chapman dunk, then was later seen laughing on the bench as fans in the crowd called out for him. Nevertheless, he remained supportive of his teammates from the bench, leading the cheers down the stretch as the Bruins attempted to mount a comeback. With Howland and Nelson clearly at odds and the end of the semester at hand, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the UCLA program to see if the junior forward becomes the latest Bruin big man to leave the program.
  3. Meanwhile in Tucson, just a day after head coach Sean Miller hinted that point guard Josiah Turner might be on his way back into the starting lineup, the freshman missed practice and was suspended for Arizona‘s game tonight against Florida. Turner had already been benched for a game against Ball State earlier in the season for behavioral issues, and reportedly has been kicked out of practice on one other occasion. Turner had been starting to come around on the court in recent games, and the Florida game would have been an excellent chance for him to announce his arrival to a national television crowd, but despite all his talent, the youngster can’t get out of his own way so far. Jordin Mayes will need to take on a bigger role for the Wildcats in Turner’s absence.
  4. The Daily Wildcat noted that this Arizona/Florida series is the result of a friendship between Miller and Florida head coach Billy Donovan. The two first met when Donovan was a senior at Providence and Miller took a recruiting visit to the school, and has continued throughout the years as the players went on to become two of the best coaches in the land. For now, the series doesn’t extend beyond next year’s game when Florida returns the trip, but here’s hoping these two schools can make this an annual affair. We can never have too many interesting non-conference matchups.
  5. Lastly, in the wake of Monday’s suspension of their leading scorer Josh Watkins, Utah is preparing to take on Cal State Fullerton tonight. While Watkins worked out with assistant coach Andy Hill yesterday, the rest of his team was preparing to move on without him, at least temporarily. Freshman Kareem Storey will take over at the point, and he’ll need to play a big role for the Utes, but more importantly, the team needs to improve their effort, according to head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who noted that the coaching staff has had to “coach effort more than you’d like to.” Junior forward Dijon Farr was less diplomatic, saying that “some people just quit.” With a long slog of likely losses ahead, it would be quite a testament to Krystkowiak if he can get this team back on track, at least in the effort department.
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Morning Five: 12.07.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2011

  1. The Big East is expected to announce today that it will add five schools to its football lineup starting in the 2013 season, and the lucky ‘winners’ are quite literally all over the country. Boise State, San Diego State, Central Florida, SMU and Rice Houston will join the league in two years, with BSU and SDSU opting to join as football-only members, while the other three come on board in all sports, including basketball. We honestly never thought we’d see a day where the mighty hoops conference that Dave Gavitt created among a number of small private Catholic schools in the northeastern corridor would ever become a safe haven for the likes of a Methodist school, Phi Slama Jama, and a Florida commuter school, but the times they-are-a-changin’. Think of it this way — at least we’ll get to see more of Matt Doherty on national television.
  2. Shouldn’t we just go ahead and pre-write the story where UCLA’s Reeves Nelson is permanently booted from the team? For the second time in the young season, the moody Bruin forward was suspended indefinitely by head coach Ben Howland for “conduct unbecoming a UCLA player.” The latest incident that drew Howland’s ire had to do with Nelson’s apparent laughter/smiling on the bench as Texas stormed back to beat his team on Saturday afternoon. If you read the comments from some of Nelson’s teammates and Howland in the LA Times article, you get a strong sense that the enigmatic forward is unlikely to figure it out. It would probably make the most sense for UCLA to move on in trying to rebuild its program without Nelson acting as a regular distraction, but we’ve been surprised with how much patience the head coach has shown with him.
  3. Let’s stay in the Pac-12, also known as the conference of unhappy players, apparently. Merely one day after Arizona head coach Sean Miller noted that his freshman point guard, Josiah Turner, may get the start in tonight’s key game against Florida, the young player was suspended for that game for an undisclosed violation of team policy. Recapping the league’s recent player woes, we already know about UCLA’s Nelson. Arizona’s Sidiki Johnson and Oregon’s Jabari Brown didn’t even make it to their first semester break before deciding to transfer. Utah’s Josh Watson has been suspended indefinitely, as has California’s Richard Solomon. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson still has not been cleared by the NCAA to play this season. Things have already been a disaster on the hardwood for this conference; it appears that the instability of the league carries over to its personnel as well.
  4. It’s rather hard to believe that he’s been around this long, but Coastal Carolina’s Cliff Ellis picked up his 700th career victory on Tuesday night against The Citadel. Nearly 80 of those wins came as the head coach of NAIA’s Cumberland College, but his 622 as the top man at South Alabama, Clemson, Auburn and CCU puts him currently at #8 on the list of active coaches, ahead of such names as Rick Pitino and Mike Montgomery. Ellis always struck us a little bit as a guy who would be happy so long as he was coaching anywhere, but he’s turned the Chanticleer program into a powerhouse in the Big South (64 wins in the last two-plus years), and with a solid core led by Anthony Raffa and Chris Gradnigo, we don’t think he’s going to retire anytime soon.
  5. President Barack Obama made headlines on Tuesday with a speech he gave in Osawatomie, Kansas, yesterday, when he referred to the steadily-shrinking American middle class as having reached “a make or break” moment in its history. Harking back to a speech given 101 years ago by Teddy Roosevelt in the same spot, Obama stated that the crisis of income inequality and opportunity in America was the “defining issue of our time.” We won’t speculate on the merits of his argument, but it’s curious that he delivered one of the more notable speeches of the third year of his presidency immediately after meeting Kansas head coach Bill Self. Perhaps the leader of the free world felt so burned by KU’s NCAA Tournament meltdowns the last two seasons that it stirred up the orator in him to make a compelling speech.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 6th, 2011

  1. With finals taking precedence over basketball at most schools across the country, we hit the doldrums of the college basketball schedule this week. Up next for Pac-12 schools is a big one, though, with Washington set to battle Marquette in Madison Square Garden tonight as the headliner of the Jimmy V Classic. The Huskies had hoped to get senior guard Scott Suggs back from his foot injury in time for this game, but he remains doubtful to play tonight though he could still possibly be back for Duke on Saturday. With the Huskies coming off a late collapse against Nevada on Friday night and Marquette riding high from their win over in-state rival Wisconsin, this game could set up nicely for Lorenzo Romar’s club.
  2. Aside from Washington’s big week, the other huge matchup in the conference this week is Arizona’s trip to Gainesville to face Florida on Wednesday. The Gators have been without forward Erik Murphy for the last three games with a knee injury, but he is expected to return for this game and he’ll present problems for the Arizona bigs, pulling them away from the basket and opening up the lane for the quick Gator guards to penetrate.
  3. Following California’s loss to San Diego State on Sunday, the Golden Bears dropped out of both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, leaving the conference without a single representative in either poll. Stanford, Cal and Arizona earned votes in the ESPN poll, while Oregon State also got a couple of votes in the AP poll. Meanwhile the Pac-12 announced its Player of the Week award on Monday, and Arizona’s Solomon Hill took home the hardware over other nominees like Keala King, Ahmad Starks, Anthony Brown and Charlie Enquist. Really. Did anybody on the planet have that quintet as future Player of the Week nominees even just a month ago?
  4. With UCLA in the midst of some serious struggles, Ben Howland admits he has made some mistakes and will change some things up going forward. To begin with, he now says that, in retrospect, he probably should have left Reeves Nelson at home after the mercurial forward missed the team plane to Maui a couple weeks back. Further, after sticking with his man-to-man defense to this point, Howland interrupted a reporter who was asking a question about how UCLA allowed Texas to shoot 70+% in the second half during the post-game press conference on Saturday, and volunteered the fact that he probably should have recognized earlier that this team needed to play more zone. He added that he’d be spending practice time working on alternatives to the man-to-man defense that currently isn’t working.
  5. Lastly, it seems like it wouldn’t be a Pac-12 Morning Five without some negative personnel situation to talk about. Earlier today Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak announced the indefinite suspension of point guard Jiggy Watkins, and Connor Pelton filled you in on the details of that. Reading the thoughts of some Utah fans indicates that they’ve had enough of Watkins’ antics and are ready to move on. Aside from showing up to school in the fall more than 30 pounds overweight, falling asleep in classes and missing practices, Watkins has been almost the entirety of the Ute offense. Utah averages 60 points a game, and Watkins accounts for 17.7 of those. Meanwhile, Watkins rightfully uses over 39% of Ute possessions (the highest usage rate in the country), takes over 38% of the team’s shots when he is on the court (sixth in the nation) and still manages to hand out assists on more than 52% of all his teammates buckets when he is on the court (good for second in the nation). While Watkins has plenty of holes in his game, the drop from him down to Kareem Storey or Anthony Odunsi will be significant, making a bad Utah team even worse in the short term.
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UCLA’s Bruin Road Show: An Early Assessment

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He filed this column after Texas’ win over UCLA Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles.

Things have been tough enough for the UCLA basketball team this season, without having its home court conspire against it. But, that’s exactly what happened Saturday afternoon as the Bruins hosted Texas at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, one of the temporary homes for UCLA this year as venerable old Pauley Pavilion undergoes much-needed renovations. Just after the under-four minute media timeout, as Longhorn forward Alexis Wangmene headed to the free throw line to shoot the front-end of a one-and-one, the entire arena was plunged into relative darkness due to an area-wide power surge. At that time, the Bruins were up 30-19 and had turned in its best 16-minute stretch of the season. Guards Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson had knocked down some threes. The Wear twins had been hitting the glass and scoring inside. And perhaps most importantly, the Bruins had been diving after loose balls, scrapping for every rebound, and defending like crazy, keeping the quicker Texas guards out of the lane – just generally outworking them to that point.

The LA Sports Arena Serves as UCLA's Home Venue This Season

Over the next 13-plus minutes, as the lights slowly reset to full-power, Texas had a chance in their huddle to start over. “We had a chance to regroup,” said the Longhorns’ freshman point guard Myck Kabongo. “Thank god for those lights. It was a turning point.” Despite, as one fan yelled out just as play resumed, “the greatest icing ever,” Wangmene hit both his free throws and the Longhorns played the final four minutes of the half with a new zeal. Kabongo in particular was like a different player, easily getting penetration against UCLA guards and finding open teammates, notching his first three assists of the day on Texas’ last four possessions of the half. By the intermission, UT has posted a quick 9-4 mini-run and cut the Bruin lead, which had been double-digits most of the first half, to just six. From there, the second half was a mere formality. Texas posted a 75% effective field goal percentage in the second half, the talented but confounding UCLA frontcourt duo of Joshua Smith and Reeves Nelson combined to play just four minutes, and Texas outscored UCLA 50-29 after the power outage.

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