Arizona State Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 4th, 2013

Now that all 12 conference teams are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Today we start with Arizona State.

What Went Right

A lot of things went right for the Sun Devils this year, as they won 12 more games this season, but a lot of those things stemmed from the eligibility and success of freshman point guard Jahii Carson. He was this team’s catalyst from start to finish and many of the areas in which ASU improved can be directly traced back to him. Carrick Felix’s offensive explosion? It certainly wouldn’t have happened without Carson’s play-making ability and the attention he drew from defenses. Herb Sendek’s new slightly-more-uptempo approach? It was almost entirely tied to Carson’s strengths. And best of all, for the first time since James Harden left Tempe, Sun Devils basketball is unabashedly cool again.

Jahii Carson Helped Make Sun Devil Basketball Cool Again (credit: Arizona State)

Jahii Carson Helped Make Sun Devil Basketball Cool Again (credit: Arizona State)

What Went Wrong

Any time you’re ranked below 300th in the nation in free throw percentage (64.9% as a team), you know you’re going to frustrate your coaching staff. The Sun Devils lost seven games this season by five points or less, and their combined free throw percentage in those games was even worse than the season average at 59.6%. Games like their home game against Stanford where they just 8-of-16 from the stripe in a three-point loss have to stick in the craw, even months later.

MVP

While you’ve got to recognize the great impact that Felix had on both ends of the court for the Sun Devils, there is little question that Jahii Carson was the team’s best player and it’s most valuable. He was the only major addition to a team that had won just 10 games in 2011-12 and he was not only the focal point offensively, he also injected the team with confidence and excitement.

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Celebrating Arizona State Senior Carrick Felix

Posted by AMurawa on February 22nd, 2013

It’s that time of the college basketball season when you look up out of nowhere and notice that conference tournaments tip off in a couple weeks, Selection Sunday is in a smidgen over three weeks and before you know it we’ll be crowning a champion and watching a “One Shining Moment” montage. But before we get ahead of ourselves, one of our favorite traditions of the end of the season is Senior Day, a chance to pause for a brief moment, get the student-athlete at the end of the bench that has worked tirelessly for little fame or glory a moment in the spotlight, and recognize the efforts of guys who we have gotten to know over the previous few years one last chance to take a bow in front of the home crowd. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll turn an eye to each Senior Day around the conference and highlight the guys we’ll be saying goodbye to this season.

Carrick Felix Has Exploded With Career High's Across The Board In His Senior Year (USA Today Sports)

Carrick Felix Has Exploded With Career High’s Across The Board In His Senior Year (USA Today Sports)

We start with Arizona State, where the Sun Devils Senior Day (or more fitting, I suppose, Senior Night) comes Saturday as they host Washington. Carrick Felix, Chris Colvin, Ruslan Pateev and Joey Hormes will be the honorees. Of those four, obviously Felix is the big name — he has spent three years in Tempe after beginning his career at the College of Southern Idaho, but until this year may have been most well-known as Mike Krzyzewski’s first junior college signee at Duke (although he never played a minute there). After a slow start to his college career (just 23 points in limited minutes over the course of 11 non-conference games), Felix came alive at the start of Pac-12 play as a freshman, averaging 12.7 points, 3.3 boards and two assists over six games while veterans like Trent Lockett and Jamelle McMillan were banged up. Unfortunately, Felix got sick prior to the Devils’ next road trip, missed a game and was never back at full strength the rest of the way as the team limped home to a 12-19 record. His junior campaign featured much more playing time and production but very little team success. Jump ahead to his senior year and his production is through the roof. He’s averaging career highs across the board (with the notable exception of turnovers, which are actually down despite increased run) and he sits at or near the top of several Pac-12 stats and is in line for strong consideration not only for First-Team Pac-12 Honors, but also Defensive Player of the Year.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VI: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2013

Yesterday we unveiled this week’s honor roll; today we take a look at five teams earning good, solid, average grades. Check in later today for the four teams that will be serving detention this week.

Cal – B-

All things considered, this was a solid week for the Golden Bears. They went down to Arizona for what is considered to be the toughest road trip in the conference this year and came away with a split, including a win over a national top-10 team and a four-point loss to a very good Arizona State squad. That makes three wins in four tries for the Bears and  a team that will likely be playing its best ball of the season as we head into the final month.

Focus on: Jeff Powers. What? You were expecting Allen Crabbe here? Nah, you can read about him as our Pac-12 Player of the Week. Instead, maybe check out what the Golden Bears’ own resident blogger, their junior guard Powers, has to say about his team and their performance in knocking off the Wildcats. Unfortunately, there’s no comment from him about his fine five-minute stretch against Arizona State where he knocked down a three, chalked up an assist and came away with a steal in helping keep his squad close in the second half.

Looking ahead: The Bears have a chance to make a run here, as they host the Los Angeles schools this week. They’ll likely be small favorites in both games and if they can defend their home court at Haas Pavilion, they’ve got a chance to make a bit of a jump up the standings.

He May Not Be A Prolific Scorer, But Jeff Powers Is A Budding Blogger

He May Not Be A Prolific Scorer, But Jeff Powers Is A Budding Blogger

Stanford – C+

Both Cal and Stanford went to the Arizona schools and came away with splits. Why do the Golden Bears come away with a slightly better grade? The Cardinal’s dogged determination (and fortunate failure) to give away a close game against Arizona State was concerning. Still, Johnny Dawkins’ club has now won four of its last five and has got its offense on the move.

Focus on: Dwight Powell. The junior forward has scored in double figures in every game in the conference schedule, but he hadn’t topped 20 since he did it three straight times in December. He broke that streak this week by going for 24 against Arizona and then answering with 22 against the Sun Devils. Even better, he also grabbed double-figure rebounds in both games, giving him seven double-doubles on the year.

Looking ahead: The Cardinal host USC tomorrow night, then see UCLA on Saturday afternoon. Stanford was swept by these teams in Los Angeles back on the first weekend of conference play, leading to an hour-long post-game meeting following the UCLA game, and since then the Cardinal have gone 6-3 in conference play.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume V: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 6th, 2013

Yesterday, Professor Pac handed out good grades to all his pet pupils. Today, he takes a look at a few students who might not be quite as pleased with their most recent grades.

Arizona State – B+

A pair of road games in Washington, a delayed flight out of Pullman to Seattle, and a split with the last game being at least partially decided on a very questionable no-call at the end? There’s no way I’m going to punish the Sun Devils too much for that week. Still, when you shoot, as they did against Washington — a nearly 75% effective field goal percentage — and still come away with a loss, you need to examine exactly what you missed on defense. ASU gave up better than 1.26 points per possession to an often uninspiring offensive team, got absolutely manhandled on the glass (the Huskies grabbed nearly 44% of their own misses and 92% of ASU’s misses), and were outscored from the stripe, 21-6. While there may have been a missed call at the end, the Sun Devils had plenty to do with their eventual demise.

Focus on: Ruslan Pateev.  Not long ago it was in fashion to marvel about how Pateev had come from being invisible in the non-conference to make a nice impact in solid minutes in the middle of conference play. Well, this past week we came to a combination of those two things, wherein Pateev played solid minutes and yet was still invisible. In 20 total minutes against the Washington schools, Pateev grabbed two rebounds and made his only field goal attempt. He’s not the sole reason the Devils got killed on the glass, but he certainly didn’t help much.

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils host Cal and Stanford this week at Wells Fargo Arena and, especially against a suddenly hot Stanford team that doesn’t see all that interested in playing a ton of defense, we could be on our way to seeing ASU both score and give up 90 points or more in a game for the third consecutive week.

After Missing Time Early With A Knee Injury, Shawn Kemp, Jr. May Be Fully Healthy Again (Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times)

After Missing Time Early With A Knee Injury, Shawn Kemp, Jr. May Be Fully Healthy Again (Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times)

Washington – B-

A home split is never a great thing; you want to be able to take care of business at home. But, a home split against the toughest pair of traveling partners in the league where the one loss came by four points to a team that is in the top ten in the nation? I’ll gladly show some mercy on the Huskies, especially since they showed some serious offensive punch against Arizona State.

Focus on: Shawn Kemp, Jr. After starting the season as a spectator due to a knee injury, it has taken some time for the sophomore forward to earn back some minutes in the Washington rotation. But I think we can safely say he’s back now. Kemp has scored 37 points in 65 minutes of action in his last three games making 17 of his 24 field goal attempts over that span while showing a good nose for the ball on the glass. Coupled with Desmond Simmons and Aziz N’Diaye up front, the Husky front line has turned what was a weakness early in the year into one of the team’s biggest strengths.

Looking ahead: The Los Angeles swing is next up for the Huskies, with UCLA on Thursday evening and USC on Sunday. They’ll need that frontcourt trio to bring it against the Bruins in order to exploit one of UCLA’s biggest weaknesses.

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Arizona State Sun Devils

Posted by AMurawa on November 2nd, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Strengths.  The biggest strength the Sun Devils may have this season is enthusiasm, confidence and camaraderie. Two years ago, a combination of bad luck and senioritis killed the team’s season before conference play had even gotten into the grind. Last year, poor team chemistry and low expectations conspired to sap ASU of energy before even the New Year. This year, there is a swagger about the program, in part due to the confidence that newly eligible guys like Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon bring along with them. It also doesn’t hurt that those players have been in the program for a couple of years and know and like their teammates. That injection of talent combined with improving veterans and, as of right now, the Sun Devils have the feel of a team with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. That alone can take some of the 64-61 and 68-65 losses that ASU suffered last year (six of their first nine defeats were by six points or less) and turn those into wins. That newfound attitude coupled with a pretty significant upgrade in talent could equal the first step on the road to redemption for Herb Sendek’s program.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State

With Jahii Carson Leading The Way, This Edition Of The Sun Devils Has More Swagger Than Recent Teams

Weaknesses. A note on the above, all that good will and happiness could go south right quick if a couple bad bounces go against ASU; “here we go again” and all that. There are a couple of other significant areas that the Sun Devils need to improve on, however: turnovers and defense. Last year, ASU was in the bottom half of the country in defensive efficiency. And on the offensive end of the court, ASU turned the ball over more frequently than all but three other teams in Division I (according to KenPom), leading to pretty awful offensive numbers as well. Now, the addition of Carson alone could mean improvements in both of those areas, but with the new point guard comes a new faster-paced offense (just how much faster remains to be seen). And, if the freshman gets a little to amped up in an effort to push the pace, it is possible that those turnovers could stick around as well.

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Arizona State Week: One-on-One With Jahii Carson

Posted by AMurawa on June 13th, 2012

Point guard Jahii Carson signed with Arizona State as the crown jewel of their 2011 recruiting class, a four-star recruit rated by ESPNU as the eighth-best point guard in his class. With lightning quick speed and stunning athleticism, Carson was supposed to provide Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils with a pure point guard, something that the team had been missing in 2010-11. But, after being declared academically ineligible for the 2011-12 season, he spent last season watching from the bench as his new team struggled to a 10-21 season. However, Carson’s academics are back on track and he is expected to slide right into the starting lineup this season for the Sun Devils. RTC’s Andrew Murawa had a chance to talk to Carson last week.

Andrew Murawa: Last year was not a great year for the team and it must have been hard for you sitting out and watching your team as it struggled. Were there any positives you got out of watching your team last year?

Jahii Carson: I like to think of myself as a student of the game. And watching games when I’m not playing, when I’m not on the court, I can see things that I wouldn’t see if I was on the court. I can break down the other team’s defenses, I can look at what type of offenses we can run against those defenses. I can learn my teammates’ skills and their weaknesses. I can learn what offense they thrive in and where and how they want the ball on offense. So, I just became more of a student of the game having to sit on the sidelines.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State

Sun Devil Fans Are Looking Forward To Seeing Jahii Carson Finally Put On An Arizona State Uniform (Aaron Lavinsky)

AM: You got a chance to practice with the team last year as did transfers Bo Barnes and Evan Gordon. Having a year before you actually got a chance to step on the court, does that give you a benefit going into this season?

JC: Being able to practice with the guys, being able to learn their strengths and weaknesses, that helps me figure out how I can be better on the basketball court helping them. Evan Gordon, he’s more of a scorer, a slasher – a smaller, undersized slasher – but he uses his tools to his ability. Bo Barnes is more of a three-point shooter, who is learning to put the ball on the floor and being able to beat defenders off the dribble. And me being able to practice and watch them grow as players every day allowed me to make those assessments about those guys. So, I think that me sitting out last year helped me learn my teammates’ game and their strengths and weaknesses a bit more.

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Arizona State Week: Running Down the Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on June 12th, 2012

Five different players who earned significant playing time in 2011-12 return for Arizona State. While the two players that averaged more than 13 points per game (Keala King and Trent Lockett) are not among them, the Sun Devils return a solid foundation upon which to build their 2012-13 campaign. Below we’ll take a look at those five players, in order of last season’s scoring average.

  • Carrick Felix, Senior, Wing (10.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG) – Felix was a bastion of consistency in one area last season: Of the 29 games that he played in, he played 30+ minutes in 21 of them. Aside from that, however, Felix was up and down most of the year. He certainly had his moments in scoring over 20 four different times, but also had four games in particular where he was borderline invisible, scoring two or fewer points in losses to Fresno State, UCLA, Stanford and Colorado. Still, Felix’s second season in Tempe was a clear improvement over his first. His minutes more than doubled, his efficiency numbers went up a bit, his jumper showed significant improvement, and he showed an ability to influence a game defensively without fouling. All indications are that his senior season could be even better. According to teammate Jordan Bachynski, “He was good last year, but he’s even better now – more athletic, better shot, just an all-around better player.” Throw in the fact that Felix is the type of open-floor athlete who could really stand to benefit from a playmaking point guard like Jahii Carson and he could be an impact player on the wing for the Sun Devils.
Carrick Felix, Arizona State

The Addition of Point Guard Jahii Carson Could Help Carrick Felix Continue His Career's Upward Trend (US Presswire)

  • Jonathan Gilling, Sophomore, Small Forward (7.1 PPG, 1.7 APG, 41.1 3P%) – Gilling’s first season in the desert did not exactly get out to a booming start, as he scored just 12 points in ASU’s first eight games. In his first nine games, he averaged just nine minutes per contest but once the calendar turned and conference play came around, he stepped into a much bigger role, averaging nine points per game the rest of the way. The highlight was 21 points on five-of-six shooting from three in a 87-80 victory over Arizona that was without question the apex of a relatively dismal year. All told, Gilling wound up as the most efficient offensive player on the Sun Devils, in large part due to his dead-eye from deep, but his offensive skills go beyond just the three-ball. “He really is versatile,” said head coach Herb Sendek. “Not only is he a great shooter, but I really love the way he passes. He has a tremendous feel for the game and really makes his teammates better with his playmaking ability.” With a year of experience under his belt, and hopefully sometime in the weight room, the young Dane should be ready to have an even bigger impact as a sophomore.

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Arizona State Week: Evaluating the Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on June 11th, 2012

Over the course of the next 12 weeks, during the dog days of summer while there is relatively little going on in the college basketball world, we’re going to take the opportunity to fill you in on the status of each program in the Pac-12. Beginning this week with Arizona State, we’re going to dedicate a week’s worth of Pac-12 microsite posts to each program in the conference. We’ll take a little bit of a look at the recent history of the program and then dig into what the team is going to look like in 2012-13. Along the way we’ll have some interviews with coaches and players, we’ll take a look at schedules for the upcoming year, and we’ll introduce you to some of the new faces we’ll all be meeting. By the time kids are heading back to school in September, we hope to have kept you entertained while giving you a good primer for the Pac-12 conference in the next college basketball season.

Our first subject, Arizona State, is coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons. When Herb Sendek took over the program in 2006-07, his team struggled to an 8-22 finish as the Sun Devils featured four freshmen in their eight-man rotation. But, for the next three seasons, ASU won at least 20 games, earned an NCAA Tournament appearance (including a first-round win) in 2008-09, and finished as high as second in the conference in 2009-10. Along the way, the Sun Devils sent a couple different players to the NBA, with reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden going third in the 2009 NBA Draft and Jeff Pendergraph turning a second round pick into a couple years worth of NBA experience. “We really experienced a fantastic and very quick turnaround,” said Sendek last week when RTC talked to him. “Three consecutive postseason tournaments, three consecutive 20-win seasons – but then, we’ve had a series of unfortunate things happen.”

Herb Sendek, Arizona State

After Three Straight 20-Win Seasons, Arizona State Has Slipped The Last Two Years (Harry How, Getty Images)

Those series of unfortunate things have led to the last two seasons, where little has gone right for the Sun Devils. In 2010-11, ASU lost 12 of its first 13 conference games on the way to a 12-19 record, as the senior trio of Ty Abbott, Rihards Kuksiks and Jamelle McMillan took a step back from their performances in the previous year and the team could never find replacements for a couple of graduates: big man Eric Boateng and underrated point guard Derek Glasser. Those exact same areas also plagued the Sun Devils in 2011-12.

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Arizona State: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 6th, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Arizona State.

What Went Wrong

Herb Sendek had a ton of bad luck this season. Freshman point guard Jahii Carson fought with the NCAA over eligibility issues well into December before finally being declared ineligible (he came up either one letter grade in a high school class or one ACT point away from eligibility) for the year. And transfer Chris Colvin struggled mightily early in the season (35.3 eFG% and 0.92-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the nine games prior to the Carson ruling), forcing Sendek to turn to wing Keala King at the point. He actually did as good a job as could be expected for a player without any experience there (although he too struggled with turnovers), but bristled under Sendek’s constraints and transferred out of the program after being abruptly suspended (with two other teammates) prior to a January road trip. That left leading scorer Trent Lockett, another wing, as option #4 at the point, and when he went down in late January for six games with an ankle injury it was back to Colvin. All of the uncertainty at the lead guard spot did nothing to make anything easier for the rest of the team. Sophomore Kyle Cain took a step back after a promising rookie campaign (and announced his own transfer out of the program after the season ended), centers Jordan Bachynski and Ruslan Pateev were up and down (at best), and the program is now 22-40 in the past two seasons combined. While it seemed like Sendek’s crew was a walking proof of Murphy’s Law, the time is past for excuses; this program is in bad, bad shape.

Herb Sendek, Arizona State

Not A Lot Went Right For Herb Sendek And The Sun Devils This Year (Harry How, Getty Images)

What Went Right

Really, you’ve got to stretch in order to find positives in this year’s team, but Jonathan Gilling, a freshman forward from Denmark, looked pretty good in his first year on campus as maybe a second-coming of Rihards Kuksiks. Gilling knocked down 53 threes at a 41% clip while playing a shade over 50% of the available minutes, but he’s got work to do not only on the defensive end as well as helping out on the glass. Sophomore center Jordan Bachynski showed some flashes of serious potential, scoring in double figures in eight of his final 13 games and showing a penchant for being able to get to the line, although he needs to add consistency. And, more than anything else, when ASU fans look back on the good parts of the 2011-12 season, they can always point to the regular season finale, when they knocked off Arizona behind solid play from Gilling, Bachynski, Colvin, Lockett and even junior Carrick Felix, effectively eliminating the Wildcats from at-large NCAA consideration. That was sweet for Sun Devil fans.

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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: MLK Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2012

  1. Being the optimists that we are here at RTC, we want to get the week started off on the right foot, so we’ll begin with the best win over the weekend, a dramatic road victory by Oregon over Arizona on Saturday afternoon. After the Ducks built up a 17-point lead early in the second half, they eased up on the gas just a bit and before you knew it, they were down in the final couple minutes. A big three by Garrett Sim stemmed the bleeding and put Oregon back up with under two minutes to play, but he later missed the front-end of a one-and-one to give the Wildcats the ball for the final possession. Sim did his part to make up for his miss by blocking a shot from UA freshman Nick Johnson, and then two other shots by the Wildcats on the final possession came up empty and the Ducks escaped with a valuable road win. Oregon now has three road conference wins, the most in the Pac-12, and have put themselves in good position to stick around in the conference race with the Los Angeles schools visiting next week.
  2. Okay, enough of the sunshine and rainbows, on to the worst loss of the week: Oregon State dropping its fifth conference game in six tries, this time a road loss to Arizona State. It’s not all that long ago, some of us were talking about Oregon State as a possible contender for the conference title. Now, the Beavers have had some bad luck along the way, but Saturday’s loss at Tempe sealed their fate: It is now, almost officially, win the Pac-12 Tournament or dream of an NIT bid for Craig Robinson and company. The Sun Devils rode six three-pointers from sophomore Chanse Creekmur  to overcome the loss of junior wing Trent Lockett, who left midway through the second half with a severe ankle sprain. Herb Sendek was also able to get serious production out of Kyle Cain (16 points, eight rebounds) and Ruslan Pateev (ten points, five rebounds, three blocks) in Lockett’s absence. ASU again struggled with turnovers (they coughed it up 21 times), but were able to ride their own hot shooting (68.4% eFG) and the Beavers’ awful shooting (40.6% eFG and just four-of-21 from three) to their second conference win. While there is no official word from ASU, the loss of Lockett will likely leave the Devils with just eight scholarship players in uniform for their games with Colorado and Utah next week. Meanwhile, the Beavs are left to pick up the pieces while wondering what has gone so wrong in the first few weeks of conference play.
  3. Elsewhere this weekend, we had nothing but blowouts. Washington State actually had Washington on the run for about 28 minutes, leading by as much as 11 points. But then sophomore Terrence Ross got whistled for a charge on a 50/50 play, Lorenzo Romar got pissed and drew a technical, and the Huskies responded with a 15-2 run that turned into a 38-18 stretch for U-Dub to finish the game. Over that stretch, Ross had 16 of his 26 second half points (he scored 30 in the game) and grabbed four of his game high 14 rebounds as the Huskies pulled away. It certainly wasn’t the most balanced game for this Huskies (they shot 26 three-point attempts, and actually shot better from three than from two), but they destroyed the Cougars on the glass on both ends of the floor (55.3% offensive rebounding, 88.5% defensive rebounding) and earned an important win ahead of their chance at hosting league-leading California and Stanford next weekend. However, the Huskies will likely play both of those games without second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox, who missed the WSU game with a stress fracture in his left femur.
  4. While the Cougars at least gave their fans some cause for hope in their rivalry game, USC fans had no such luck, as they were blown out early and often by UCLA Sunday night. While the Bruins were anything but impressive, the Trojans were just dreadful, unable to shoot the ball, unable to rebound and certainly nowhere near the defensive presence they have been in earlier games. The fact that a UCLA team led by the tissue-soft Wear Twins and a foul-and-weight-limited Joshua Smith outrebounded the Trojans as substantially as they did (UCLA rebounded 50% of their own misses and 80.6% of USC’s) should keep Kevin O’Neill awake far longer than I will be tonight.
  5. Lastly, we’ll double up on the Bay Area schools, the two teams atop the conference standings through three weekends. Stanford scored a seriously impressive win on Saturday, turning a six-point halftime lead into a 27-point lead in the middle of the second half against Colorado before calling off the dogs. Stanford just did everything better than the Buffaloes and got a big spark for the second game in a row from sophomore forward Josh Huestis, who tied his career-high (set on Thursday night) with 13 points, adding four blocks. Meanwhile, California just took apart Utah in a game that was never in doubt. After Utah opened scoring with a Cedric Martin three, the Golden Bears scored 24 of the next 29 points in the game, took a 17-point lead into half and eventually won 81-45. Sophomore Justin Cobbs handed out a career-high 11 assists as the Bears combined for 24 assists in the game.
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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Eight

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 3rd, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew and I have compiled after the eighth week of Pac-12 games. Here we go!

1. Stanford, 12-2 (2-0): The Cardinal didn’t spare any hearts after beating the LA schools by a combined nine points this week. On Thursday night it was a grind-it-out, defensive thriller as Stanford stopped UCLA on their final possession for a 60-59 win. Then on Saturday, the Cardinal built a double-digit lead, only to see it be cut down to three with two minutes left. However, Stanford would hit its shots down the stretch to hang on for a 51-43 win. Up Next: 1.5 @ Oregon

2. California, 12-3 (2-0): The only difference between California and Stanford’s week was in their handling of UCLA. First, the Golden Bears needed to take care of USC. The Trojans certainly did make Cal fans nervous down the stretch, but in the end the Trojans had dug just too deep a hole to climb completely out of and fell, 53-49. Two days later it was the visiting Bruins who provided that same feeling, however, this time it was just for the first half. After only leading 40-39 at halftime, the Golden Bears outscored UCLA 45-30 in the final 20 minutes of play to send the Bruins back to LA with an 0-2 record. Up Next: 1,5 @ Oregon State

Sophomore guard Justin Cobbs is averaging 12.4 PPG and 4.6 APG. (AP Photo)

3. Arizona, 10-4 (1-0): It was rivalry week in the desert as the Wildcats and Arizona State met for another installment of the Territorial Cup. This one was all Wildcats however, as Arizona used an early 17-5 run to gain some separation. They never looked back after that, cruising to a 68-51 win. Forward Jesse Perry led the Wildcats with 16 points, while center Ruslan Pateev led the Devils with 12. Up Next: 1.5 vs. UCLA in Anaheim

4. Oregon, 10-4 (1-1): The most surprising result of the week came on Thursday in Spokane, where the Ducks defeated Washington State, 92-75. The Ducks shot a scorching hot 69% from the field in the win, which was good enough to move them up a spot from last week’s rankings despite their loss to Washington on Saturday. Up Next: 1.5 vs. Stanford

5. Oregon State, 10-4 (0-2): It’s hard to imagine the Beavers having a worse week than they did in Washington. The only problem is, the nightmare could very well continue over the next two weeks as the Beavers host the Bay Area schools and travel to Arizona. If they manage to pull out three wins from that stretch, the Big Dance is still in the picture. Up Next: 1.5 vs. California

6. Washington, 8-5 (2-0): The road back to respectability is a long and winding one after you drop games to Saint Louis, Nevada, and South Dakota State, but the Huskies are slowly coming back. After dismantling Oregon State in front of a distracted fan base on Thursday, the Dawgs came back two days later and did the same thing to rival Oregon. Up Next: 1.5 @ Colorado Read the rest of this entry »

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