Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.29.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 29th, 2012

  1. Washington State continued its season on Wednesday night with the second of a three-game series with Pittsburgh for the championship of the CBI Tournament. With the Cougars winning game one on Monday night, they had a chance to sew up the title, but fell at the Petersen Events Center by four, forcing game three on Friday night. Once again, the Cougs had to go without junior forward Brock Motum, who is out with a sprained ankle, but Reggie Moore led the way in trying to cover for his absence. Moore had 18 points and was instrumental in keeping WSU in the game in the second half, getting to the line repeatedly. Still, the Panthers, playing without a star of their own, as Ashton Gibbs sat out with his own ankle injury, did a good job of limiting any type of second option for the Cougs, including Abe Lodwick, who had been steady in the last two games without Motum. The status for both Motum and Gibbs for Friday night’s game remains unclear at this point.
  2. Stanford plays in the final of the NIT tonight, and regardless of what happens in that game against Minnesota, this has already been an important March for the Cardinal program. They’ve won six of their seven games in the month (although their loss in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal to California killed their NCAA dreams) and have earned the right to continue getting extra game action, extra practices and extra confidence, so much so that Stanford could be among the favorites at the top of the conference for next season.
  3. There was a shakeup in the Arizona State athletic department on Wednesday, as Lisa Love is out as athletic director and Steve Patterson, who was previously the chief operating officer of the athletic department, is in. Under Love, both the ASU football and basketball programs have struggled, and given that she was responsible for the hiring of the head coaches who have run those programs since she was brought on board in 2005, her firing is not unexpected.
  4. The McDonald’s All-America game was Wednesday night, and Shabazz Muhammad, currently very much on the radar of the UCLA program, had a big night, scoring 21 points and earning the game’s Most Valuable Player award. Still, Muhammad’s holding out until April 11 to announce his final decision, but he has reportedly narrowed his field down to the Bruins, Duke and Kentucky, with his hometown school, UNLV, dropped. Elsewhere at the McDonald’s game, Arizona commitments Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley did the dirty work in the all-star game, combining to score 14 points and grab 12 rebounds, while UCLA signee Kyle Anderson went for 13 points, eight assists and eight boards.
  5. Lastly, the Oregon State season may be over, ending short of its goal of an NCAA Tournament bid and of a modified goal of a run to the CBI championship, but all things considered, it could be a stepping stone year for the Beavers from conference also-ran to legitimate contender. If guard Jared Cunningham decides to forgo the NBA Draft and return to Corvallis, the Beavs will only lose Kevin McShane, who averaged just eight minutes per game, while bringing in three freshmen and adding the services of redshirt freshman Daniel Gomis, who missed the year with a broken leg.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 27th, 2012

  1. While college basketball as a whole is in that dreaded five-day lull between the Elite Eight games and the Final Four games, we’ve at least got some leftovers to keep us sated as we wait. Last night’s menu featured game one of the three-game CBI championship series, and Washington State, playing without its best player Brock Motum, built a 12-point second-half lead against Pittsburgh, then held on to win, dodging a last-second shot to emerge as a one-point winner. Senior Abe Lodwick picked up the slack for the Cougs, going for 16 points, while junior point guard Reggie Moore had 14. After the opening-game win in Pullman, the Cougs will now have to win just one of the remaining two games at the Peterson Events Center in order to claim the CBI title, with game two coming on Wednesday. Motum, who wore a protective boot on the bench on Monday night, could return for game two, although he’ll be a game-time decision.
  2. Oregon State got news on Monday that junior guard Jared Cunningham would be “testing the waters” with the NBA, meaning that he has until April 10 to announce his intention to return to school rather than become eligible for the June draft. Of course, due to increasingly player-unfavorable rules enacted by the NCAA, this means that Cunningham really will have very little opportunity to get any feedback from NBA executives as to his potential readiness for the league. So, for the next couple weeks, Beaver fans looking forward to an exciting 2012-13 season have plenty of reason for feelings of unease, but can at least comfort themselves in knowing that this has been the plan for Cunningham all along.  All indications are that he’ll return to Corvallis next season, not only in an attempt to improve his own draft stock, but in hopes to get his team to the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek is under fire recently for the unprecedented rate of scholarship players to leave his program early – 12 players in four seasons. However, Sendek still feels that the program is on the right track, noting that only one of those players who left wound up transferring to another power conference school (Victor Rudd to South Florida), with the rest of the players downgrading to a mid- or low-major program that is more in fitting with their talents. While that’s certainly true, the other side of the coin is that Sendek, then, has been recruiting players who aren’t talented enough to be impact players at a Pac-12 school. And, as Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic notes, of the 14 players who have signed with ASU between 2008 and 2010, 11 have left, leaving only Ruslan Pateev, Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski remaining from those recruiting classes.
  4. It may not be a video that Arizona fans would care to watch, but this recap from the Big Ten Network of Arizona’s collapse against Illinois in the Elite Eight seven years ago seemed particularly relevant this weekend as Florida collapsed against Louisville. While Florida’s folly was more of a slow-motion fade, for some reason watching that inevitability on Saturday brought back the exact same feelings I felt in 2005. A team that had fought its way to a well-earned late double-digit lead on the road to a Final Four somehow suddenly found itself in peril; certainly not a great moment in Pac-12 (nee  10) history, but an iconic one.
  5. Just to cheer up Wildcat fans a bit, there is talk that Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell may wind up at Arizona. McConnell announced his intention to transfer from the Pittsburgh school last week, and rumors immediately swirled that Tucson would be a strong possible landing spot for the point guard who averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last year. With Josiah Turner’s status in doubt, the Wildcats are in desperate need of a point guard to pair with their 2012 recruiting class currently ranked as the best in the nation, although McConnell would need to sit out a year before being eligible in the desert. Nevertheless, if Turner does indeed wind up returning to the program, that could preclude McConnell from coming west.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.22.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 22nd, 2012

  1. While the NCAA Tournament may be a fading memory for Pac-12 teams, the conference is alive and thriving in the NIT, as Stanford became the second team to clinch a trip to Madison Square Garden by demolishing Nevada 84-56 on Wednesday night. They will face Massachusetts in the semifinals next Tuesday. The win was highlighted by four different players scoring in double figures and nine of the 15 players who saw action getting in the scoring column. The win was the Cardinal’s 17th home win this year, good for a school record, quite an accomplishment given the elite Stanford teams of the past.
  2. Washington State’s season continues as well, as they handled Oregon State pretty easily themselves in Corvallis last night. The surprising thing is that Washington  State was able to take care of the Beavers without the services of Brock Motum, who left the game after playing just two minutes (and scoring four points on three field goal attempts in those two minutes) due to an ankle injury. But Abe Lodwick and Reggie Moore picked up the slack for their fallen comrade, combining for 45 points, with Lodwick adding 12 rebounds and five threes. The Cougs now face Pittsburgh in the three-game CBI championship series.
  3. On the heels of yesterday’s announcement out of USC that Curtis Washington and Alexis Moore would be transferring out of the program, Trojan fans got news today that Evan Smith would be leaving the team as well due to an ongoing issue with his shoulder. He’ll say at the school and remain on scholarship, but he won’t count against the team’s scholarship limit. That now makes four players from this year’s roster that won’t be back next year. Still, for a team that just won six games this season, there is quite a bit of hope around the program. Kevin O’Neill released an open letter to Trojan fans on Wednesday thanking them for their support and offering his signs for hope in 2012-13. He also noted that the Trojans are all lined up to play a rough schedule, with teams like San Diego State, Long Beach State, New Mexico, Minnesota, Nebraska, Georgia, and Dayton on the schedule, along with a trip to the Maui Invitational.
  4. We got some other news about future schedules this week as well, as Arizona announced that they have completed a contract with Michigan to begin a two-year home-and-home series beginning in 2013-14. The Wildcats still have five open spots on their schedule and are looking to potentially fill one of those spots by buying a game with Oral Roberts. Of the four other remaining games, it is likely that one of them would be either an away or neutral-site game against a quality opponent.
  5. Lastly, we discussed after the California season ended just how much longer Mike Montgomery would continue to coach. While we don’t have an answer to that question yet, it appears that the 65-year old veteran of 15 NCAA Tournaments isn’t considering hanging up the whistle anytime soon, as he is in talks with athletic director Sandy Barbour to ink an extension to Montgomery’s contact. The coach still has two years remaining on his original contact, so all indications are that his time in Berkeley is still quite a ways from being done.
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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Pick A Part?

Posted by AMurawa on February 17th, 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: “While there are no great teams in the Pac-12, there seem to be several teams that are just one key part away from being a Top 25 team. If you could pluck one role player from a Pac-12 team and bring him over to help out another team, who would it be?”

Andrew Murawa: Arizona’s lack of interior size is their biggest weakness. At present, they’re playing a seven-man rotation with only one player bigger than 6’7” – raw 6’9” freshman Angelo Chol – getting any serious time. Jesse Perry, a 6’7” senior best suited to a combo forward spot, is ostensibly the team’s starting center. Enter Washington’s 7’0” junior center Aziz N’Diaye, sliding right into the Wildcats center position, moving Perry to a move natural four-spot, Solomon Hill to the three, and sending freshman Nick Johnson to a sixth-man role. Not only would N’Diaye give Sean Miller a defensive stopper inside, he’s shown his ability to be a solid rebounder on both ends of the court. And, when the Wildcats want to get out and run, N’Diaye has the athleticism and the motor to keep up with their young backcourt. As they are now, the Wildcats are a solid but flawed team, scrapping along to keep in Pac-12 race. Magically drop N’Diaye onto that roster and they’re the favorite in the conference, even with inconsistent freshman Josiah Turner still growing into his role at the point.

Aziz N'Diaye, Washington

Aziz N'Diaye's Length And Athleticism Would Patch A Hole In Arizona's Defense (Ted Copeland/The Daily)

Connor Pelton: I’d like to take Washington State point guard Reggie Moore and bring him over to Stanford. The Cardinal have two solid scorers in forward/center Josh Owens and shooting guard Chasson Randle, but what they are missing is a true point guard. Aaron Bright has his games, but 3.4 assists per outing just isn’t going to cut it if Stanford wants to be a top tier team in the Pac-12. If you bring Moore into the picture, you have by far the best point guard in the Pac-12 (5.7 APG). He also averages 9.2 points per game, which isn’t bad at all for a pass-first type of player. The Cardinal’s new starting lineup would look a lot better as well. The Cardinal would have Moore and Randle at guard, then go with a three forward/center combo of Owens, Anthony Brown, and John Gage. The bench looks solid as well. Bright would come off the bench and could be developed into even more of a combo-guard, and with Andrew Zimmermann and Josh Huestis down low; this Stanford team would definitely have top-tier potential. If only …

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.14.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 14th, 2012

  1. Jeremy Lin’s emergence as the point guard of the NBA’s New York Knicks has been, arguably, the biggest sports story since the Super Bowl. He went undrafted out of Harvard, then bounced around the league a few years before landing in New York, and even then, only getting a chance when other guards before him struggled. But, did Pac-12 schools also miss an opportunity with Lin? After all, Lin played high school ball in the shadow of Stanford at Palo Alto High School, but was never offered more than an opportunity to walk on there or UCLA. Still, with all the recruiting misses that Pac-12 schools could bemoan right now, it seems something of a reach to say the Cardinal or the Bruins should have seen something in Lin that nobody else did.
  2. Speaking of Lin, former Oregon State superstar Gary Payton wants to take just a little bit of credit for the all the Linsanity, noting that he spent time working with Lin during the past summer, honing his ballhandling and pick-and-roll skills. Good news for Beaver fans, as Payton plans to spend time with current OSU guard Jared Cunningham over the summer, going through some similar drills. Even if Payton isn’t exactly solely responsible for the strides that Lin has made in his game this season, the presence of such an accomplished tutor should be a significant positive for Cunningham’s development.
  3. With Washington in a dog fight with California and three other teams for the Pac-12 regular season title, Steve Kelley of The Seattle Times thinks it is time that sophomore wing Terrence Ross takes the next big step for the Huskies and becomes the team’s leader, filling the role that previous Washington greats like Brandon Roy, Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter have played. He certainly has the game to be the Huskies’ best player, and he’s shown his ability to take over games down the stretch, both in the win over UCLA and the win over Washington State, but does he have the force of personality to take over this team from precocious freshman Tony Wroten?
  4. It’s been a while since we talked about the status of Ben Howland at UCLA, but there is a small segment of the fanbase that thinks it is time for a change of direction in the program. With UCLA’s second subpar season in three years and an invitation to a second-tier post-season tournament a best-case scenario, could UCLA possibly be looking elsewhere? From my perspective, odds are that he gets another year especially with a solid recruiting class on its way to Westwood, with the potential to land Shabazz Muhammad, once the top recruit in the 2012 class (he may have dropped to the #2 recruit since Nerlens Noel reclassified up a year).
  5. Lastly, we named E.J. Singler our Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday, and conference voters agreed, giving Singler his first ever such honor. Singler averaged 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists this week, while shooting 61.1% from the field and 62.5% from deep. He earned the award over other nominees such as Nick Johnson of Arizona, Harper Kamp of California, Jared Cunningham of Oregon State, Chasson Randle of Stanford, Terrence Ross of Washington and Reggie Moore from Washington State. Surprising that WSU’s Brock Motum (20.5 PPG, 7 RPG, 2.5 APG) and Cal’s Justin Cobbs (14 PPG, 5 APG, 2.5 RPG) were not even nominated.
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Pac-12 Honors: Week 11

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2012

Team of the Week

Washington State – There are really three choices here, as Colorado, Oregon and Washington State all went 2-0 this weekend while homestanding. While the Colorado and Oregon performances are arguably more important in terms of the conference race (since each keeps up the pace with just two conference losses), the Cougars’ sweep of the Bay Area school is more impressive. We’ll get to Faisal Aden’s heroics shortly, but the two wins on the Palouse were very much team wins. Brock Motum averaged 15.5 points and eight rebounds per game while being ridiculously efficient; Reggie Moore seems to be buying into his role as point guard, handing out seven assists on Saturday despite failing to score; and guys like DaVonte Lacy, Abe Lodwick and Marcus Capers all made significant contributions to the wins. And, let’s not forget head coach Ken Bone, who was still making adjustments and keeping his team’s attention despite a 1-4 conference start.

Faisal Aden, Washington State

Faisal Aden's Big Weekend Helped Washington State Sweep The Bay Area Schools (photo credit: Dean Hare, AP)

Player of the Week

Faisal Aden, Sr, Washington State – It wasn’t all that long ago that we were killing Aden for taking 37% of his team’s shots. Yet, this weekend he hoisted 41.2% of WSU’s field goal attempts, and in doing so he dragged his team across the finish line in both games. Thursday night against Stanford, Aden missed four of his first six FGAs, including misses on all three of his three-pointers. Over the rest of the weekend, Aden never shot from behind the arc, converted 17 of his 23 remaining field goal attempts and got to the line 18 times. For the weekend he averaged 28.5 points per outing, made 65.5% of his field goal attempts and posted a true shooting percentage (which includes his scoring from the line) of 75.4%. In short, while Aden’s usage numbers went through the roof, he was very efficient. It remains to be seen whether or not he can keep it up, but for one weekend at least, Aden was spectacular.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.12.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 12th, 2012

  1. Colorado is out to a 3-0 start in Pac-12 play and has earned plenty of respect from some of the coaches around the conference. The question has been asked is whether Colorado is actually good, or is the rest of the conference that bad? Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune points out that according to both Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin, Colorado is no better than the seventh best team in the conference and that their schedule, which started with three consecutive home games, makes their current first place standing a little misleading.
  2. When Arizona State hosts Oregon on Thursday night, the Sun Devils will be back nearly to full strength – at least as close to the new definition of full strength, following the dismissal of Keala King, as they’re going to get. But ASU faithful are beginning to question the direction of Herb Sendek’s program and wonder, “what’s wrong with ASU hoops?” Certainly Sendek has had some bad luck in Tempe, and the team has a couple transfers, three incoming freshmen and Jahii Carson ready to go next season, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Sun Devils have been downright awful the last two seasons.
  3. Arizona has turned the ball over on almost 25% of their possession in conference play, and it is driving head coach Sean Miller crazy, especially when his three most experienced players – Solomon Hill, Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry – have combined for 26 turnovers in those three conference games, more than half of the team’s total. Miller blames the problem on carelessness with the ball and miscommunication, but expects that the problem could ease a bit as freshman point guard Josiah Turner grows into a heavier role.
  4. Washington State has struggled out of the gates in the Pac-12, not only losing a home game to Oregon the first weekend but getting swept at Utah and Colorado this past weekend. With head coach Ken Bone looking to make some changes to kick-start his team, he may be looking for junior point guard Reggie Moore to pick up more of the scoring load. Moore came off the bench on Saturday for just the second time this season, but Bone expects Moore to return to the starting lineup Sunday against Washington.
  5. After two weeks of conference play, Gary Horowitz of The Statesman Journal wants to begin comparing Oregon and Oregon State. His conclusion: Oregon State may have the lesser record (they are 1-3, the Ducks are 2-2), but the Beavers have more upside. While I would tend to agree with him, it is also easier to find things to like about the flashier, more athletic Beavs – they’re more fun to watch and they can certainly put the ball in the basket much more easily than the Ducks. But if I had to pick one of these two teams to win one game with my mortgage payment riding on it, you can bet I’d trust Dana Altman to get the job done much more readily than Craig Robinson, regardless of the talent differential.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.02.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2012

  1. For awhile, as Herb Sendek seemed to be building a new power in Tempe and the Lute Olson regime was falling apart in Tucson, it appeared that the balance of power in the Arizona basketball landscape was shifting. The Sun Devils were ticking up, with James Harden taking ASU to the Second Round and Arizona missing the Tournament for the first time in 25 years. But, after three straight double-figure victories by the Wildcats over their in-state rival, including a 17-point thrashing on Saturday, and with the best recruiting class in the nation headed to play for Sean Miller next season, clearly Arizona is again widening the gap.
  2. In California, the gap is closing, at least temporarily, as California completed its first home sweep of the Southern California schools in eight years by handing UCLA its biggest loss in the series in almost ten years. It is the first time since Walt Hazzard’s final year as the UCLA head coach that the Bruins have started conference play with two losses. While two Bruins went off for career high’s offensively (Tyler Lamb with 26, David Wear 17), Ben Howland stubbornly stuck with an ineffective man defense (although, to be fair, his team’s zone defense wasn’t much better) through most of the loss as all five Cal starters, plus reserve Robert Thurman, scored in double figures, shooting a 71.1% eFG and handing out 28 assists on 34 field goals. In short, California did what they needed to do to begin its chase for a conference title in style, while UCLA left Bruin fans considering a coaching change.
  3. Washington State bounced back from a horrible defensive performance of its own in its conference opener to hand Oregon State its second loss on the weekend. It was a “gut check” game for the Cougs, according to junior forward Brock Motum, and he came through in a big way, scoring 26 very efficient points and grabbing eight rebounds. Freshman guard DaVonte Lacy was also huge for Ken Bone’s squad, scoring 18 points (just a point shy of his 19-point career-high he set in the loss to Oregon on Thursday), while Reggie Moore handled OSU’s pressure defense with aplomb, turning it over just once in 35 minutes while dishing out nine assists.
  4. For Utah, a bad season got worse on Saturday, as the Utes played their first ever Pac-12 conference game and scored its fewest points in a game since 1947 in a 73-33 loss to Colorado. The Utes scored just 11 points in the first half and shot just 24.5% eFG while allowing Colorado to shoot 60%. They allowed CU to grab 42.9% of their own misses, along with 82.1% of the Utes’. Leading scorer Josh Watkins hit just one of his 12 field goal attempts and the whole team was treated to a post-game tirade from head coach Larry Krystkowiak that included threats for future benchings and suspensions for players who were either late to or absent from team-related functions, a problem that has been ongoing and has already resulted in an earlier one-game suspension for Watkins. With 17 games remaining in a season from hell, it remains to be seen how low this proud program can go.
  5. Lastly, while some may attribute Washington’s strong start to the conference season to lessons learned in a home loss to South Dakota State, head coach Lorenzo Romar sees these results growing from lessons planted throughout the season. He’s been preaching defense for weeks now in the hopes of correcting some of their problems, and now that is paying off. Not only are stars like Tony Wroten and C.J. Wilcox buying in defensively, but Romar has gotten redshirt freshman forward Desmond Simmons to play like a “junkyard dog,” killing it on the glass and working hard away from the ball.
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Pac-12 ATB: Weekend in Review

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 12th, 2011



The Lede. 
Picked by almost all preseason pundits as a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, Washington finds itself at .500 through eight games. There was the embarrassing double-figure loss at Saint Louis, an overtime heartbreaker at Nevada, and some questionable coaching at the end of the Jimmy V Classic against Marquette. Now the Huskies are on the wrong side of the bubble and slipping fast. In order for the Dawgs to get back into the NCAA picture, blowout victories in their final three nonconference games (UC Santa Barbara, South Dakota State, and Cal State Northridge) are vital, and 12 or 13 wins in the Pac-12 will also be necessary.

Washington's Run Against Duke Came a Bit Too Late Saturday

For the sake of comparison, and because I have a degree in Bracketology, here’s a look at Washington’s current résumé compared to the three other teams that I have on the wrong side of the bubble:

Washington

  • Record: 4-4
  • RPI: 78
  • SOS: 28
  • Quality Wins: N/A
  • Bad Losses: @ Nevada

Oklahoma State

  • Record: 6-3
  • RPI: 86
  • SOS: 80
  • Quality Wins: N/A
  • Bad Losses: N/A

Nebraska

  • Record: 6-3
  • RPI: 97
  • SOS: 105
  • Quality Wins: @ TCU
  • Bad Losses: Wake Forest

Clemson

  • Record: 4-4
  • RPI: 170
  • SOS: 171
  • Good Wins: N/A
  • Bad Losses: South Carolina

Looking over the résumés, it appears that Washington, Oklahoma State, and Nebraska are all pretty even at this point, while Clemson is a few steps behind. I am big on strength of schedule so if I had to fill one spot with any of those three teams, I would go with Washington. The Cornhuskers do have a nice win at TCU, but a home loss against a terrible Wake Forest team cancels that out. The Cowboys boast a nice record and a mediocre RPI, but with no quality wins and an SOS that is far behind Washington’s, I don’t feel good putting them in the field.


What we have not yet mentioned was the great game that took place on Saturday between Duke and the Huskies. It took Washington 15 minutes into the second half to FINALLY make some baskets, but they grouped that with great defense and some poor Blue Devil shooting to cut a deficit that was as big as 19 in the second half all the way down to three with a minute left. Unfortunately for Washington, Duke eventually found their touch at the line in the final minute, and the only time they would get back within six was on a Terrence Ross three as time expired.
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Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week Five

Posted by AMurawa on December 12th, 2011

This week’s honors head north, with the state of Washington sweeping the awards despite the fact that the Evergreen State’s teams had widely divergent weeks. While the Huskies came up short against some top-shelf competition in New York City, the Cougars continued their road back from near-ruin at the 76 Classic by taking care of some quality mid-majors.

Washington State

Washington State Has Won Four In A Row Following Their Last Place Finish At The 76 Classic

Team of the Week

Washington State – Since the Cougars’ lost weekend in Anaheim, this team has regained focus and turned a corner. They have now won four straight, including three wins at Beasley Coliseum by an average of 32 points, and are rolling. This week they took to the road on Wednesday and beat a solid Idaho team (just ask Oregon State) when junior point guard Reggie Moore hit a jumper with under a second left to give the Cougars the win. Then they came back and just killed a good Santa Clara team by 38 points behind a career-high 27 points from Brock Motum. Senior forward Charlie Enquist continued his astonishing emergence, posting 18 and 10 in that win. Head coach Ken Bone will still need Moore to play a lot more like he did as a freshman than as he has so far this season (his turnover numbers are way up while his free throw rate is way down), especially when the level of competition goes back up. But after the last couple of weeks, that late-game collapse against UC Riverside in the 76 Classic is becoming increasingly befuddling.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.08.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 8th, 2011

  1. It was a busy night around the conference, with six games from coast to coast, but the obvious headliner lived up to and maybe even exceeded expectations, as a gutty, undermanned, undersized Arizona team took Florida to overtime before wearing down. Playing without suspended point guard Josiah Turner, the Wildcats turned to freshman Nick Johnson to play out of position and run the point, and we learned beyond a shadow of a doubt that keeping Johnson at the point is not a long term solution. However, upperclassmen Jesse Perry, Kyle Fogg and Solomon Hill kept the team within striking distance, with Hill knocking down three straight clutch free throws in the waning moments of regulation to force the extra period before the ‘Cats ran out of gas. Florida’s Patric Young exposed the Arizona big men, going for a career-high 25 points paired with ten rebounds in a blatant mismatch up front.
  2. If that was the highlight, the obvious lowlight took place in Salt Lake City, as Utah lost by 31 to Cal State Fullerton, a middling (at best) Big West school that has already lost to Houston Baptist – a team ranked #333 out of 345 teams by Ken Pomeroy. Not that losing by 31 in the worst loss in the 42-year history of the Huntsman Center isn’t indication enough of how bad things were, but the rebounding margins in this game were obscene, as CSUF grabbed 91.9% of their defensive rebound opportunities and 43.5% on the offensive end. That’s a Big West team dominating a Pac-12 opponent, folks. I know Utah has had a ton of turnover in the past couple of years, but come on now. With the basketball edition of the Holy War due up on Saturday, the natives are already getting restless.
  3. A quick run around the rest of the games starts with Deonte Burton getting over on a Pac-12 team for the second time in six days, this time going for 28 points in a win at Arizona State. At Colorado, Andre Roberson double-doubled and scored a career-high 21, Spencer Dinwiddie continued his hot streak, and the Buffaloes made 15 of their last 16 free throws over the last eight minutes in a win over Fresno State. Washington State got a jumper from Reggie Moore in the final second to pull out a two-point win in the Battle of the Palouse. And California took out its frustrations on San Jose State, holding the Spartans to a 21.7% eFG.
  4. A key element to Oregon State’s more successful start this year has been the team’s ability to play man-to-man defense for long stretches. In the past, the Beavers had primarily been a 1-3-1 zone team, but with the significant upgrade in athleticism that Craig Robinson has brought to Corvallis, the coach knew that the time was right to let players like Jared Cunningham and Devon Collier, among others, play to their strengths. Coupled with the athleticism of his players, Robinson also has found a starting five that has gelled as a unit and become much more consistent than last year’s bipolar team.
  5. Down the road apiece from OSU, Dana Altman’s Oregon team gets a much-needed infusion of backcourt talent this weekend as Devoe Joseph gains eligibility Saturday against Fresno State. A transfer from Minnesota who will only have the remainder of this season left in his college career, Joseph steps into a program in dire need of help, following the losses of freshmen guards Jabari Brown and Bruce Barron, both of whom have left the program already this season. Joseph averaged 11.3 points and 3.5 assists per game in 25 minutes during the eight games he played for the Golden Gophers last season, and came to Altman’s program on the recommendation of former head coach Tubby Smith, who accepted at least some of the responsibility for the clash of personalities between he and Joseph.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.01.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 1st, 2011

  1. Just when you thought things were about to turn around a little bit for the Pac-12, and just when you thought Colorado was on the verge of being able to string together a few wins in a row following a solid win over Georgia on Monday night and a manageable schedule in front of them, the Buffaloes go and shoot 44.8% from the free throw line and lose a tough one against in-state rival Colorado State. CU fought back from a ten-point deficit early in the second half to tighten things up, only to have the Rams jump back out to an eight-point lead with under 90 seconds remaining. However, a 10-1 run over the next 75 seconds capped by a Nate Tomlinson steal of a CSU inbounds pass and an ensuing layup gave the Buffs a brief lead. But CSU’s Dorian Green took the ball out from coast to coast and hit a jumper in the lane to give CSU the lead right back. Tomlinson was almost the hero again, but his three-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out.
  2. The other two games Wednesday night featured Pac-12 wins against uninspiring competition, with USC holding UC Riverside to 35 points in a 21-point Trojan victory at UCR. While Washington State, you know, the same team that lost to the UC Riverside team on Sunday, took out their frustrations on a now 0-6 Grambling team with a 69-37 thrashing. Brock Motum had 11/10 for the Cougs, while point guard Reggie Moore handed out seven assists, but WSU will need to tackle some tougher competition before anybody believes anything they’re selling.
  3. This season hasn’t exactly been the stuff of dreams for Utah in their first season in the Pac-12, and plenty of that can be attributed to a series of defections from the basketball team over the past two seasons. But at least some of their struggles can be attributed to the absence of their 7’3” senior center David Foster in the middle. Foster played six minutes in the Utes’ exhibition game against Adams State on November 4, but left the game with a broken right foot. At present, it is still undecided whether Foster will take a medical redshirt and return for next season or if he will come back when able this season. Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak would prefer to have Foster return this season and play the last four-to-six weeks of the regular season with the Utes, while Foster and his dad are holding out for the possibility that a redshirt season may be the best bet. While his immediate future is unclear, what is clear is that the Utes are significantly worse off without the 3.2 blocks he provided in 20 minutes per game last season. Last year the Utes defense wasn’t great (112th in the nation according to kenpom.com), but this season it is abysmal – 288th in the nation.
  4. You may have heard that the UCLA basketball program is struggling a bit this year. It’s true. With surprising losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee to pair with more predictable losses to Kansas and Michigan, the Bruins are off to a 2-4 start. So, what’s their problem – aside from chemistry issues and a general lack of athleticism or outside shooting, that is? Jeff Eisenberg asked the coach of a team who has already beaten the Bruins this year to give an assessment of Ben Howland’s club. Long story short: Their guards can’t make shots, Joshua Smith’s conditioning is terrible, the Wear Twins are incapable of guarding athletic small forwards and they need to get freshman guard Norman Powell more involved in the offense. Any good news? The coach expects the Bruins to get better as the season goes on, if only because he believes they’re a well-coached team.
  5. Oregon State junior guard Jared Cunningham earned a lot of attention after scoring 37 points in the Legends Classic semifinal, after having scored 35 points in his previous game against Hofstra – both career highs at the times. Since then, Beaver opponents have put their defensive effort into slowing Cunningham’s offensive attack. Vanderbilt sent senior forward and defensive savant Jeffery Taylor at Cunningham with additional eyeballs on him at all times, while Towson put its defensive energy into slowing him as well. Cunningham had better get used to other teams keying on him, because as sophomore guard Roberto Nelson put it, “they’d be stupid if they didn’t.” Still, even if other teams are able to limit his ability to score, Cunningham is still able to influence the game in other ways. He is an excellent defender capable of not only taking the opposition’s best guard out of his rhythm, but also forcing turnovers and creating easy transition opportunities for the Beavers. He is also very capable of drawing defenders to him and finding open looks for his teammates. And, if he can keep improving his jump shot (clearly the main weakness in his game), Cunningham can still get his points.
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