Marching to Vegas: The Wildcats, The Buffaloes and The Zebras…

Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

I had this whole thing on Arizona State thought up. I was going to spew some stats about Herb Sendek’s “fastest” team since 2003 and the promise he’d made about playing with more pace and whether or not there was a correlation to victories. After all, his group is off to a 12-2 start. Had I continued on this route of statistically analyzing the Devils, I’d also mention their strength of schedule or lack thereof and direct you to Ken Pomeroy’s blog post about hopping off of Kevin O’Neill’s back for the opposite (too strong of a schedule). ASU has played the nation’s 211th most difficult schedule.

But then Arizona made its comeback. Or did Colorado hand it away? Or did the refs egregiously misuse the monitors? These were the questions that perplexed me Thursday night as I sat in my apartment and tried to wrap my Wildcat mind around that game. On the one hand, I was ecstatic, WHAT A COMEBACK! I knew I’d been presented the ultimate scenario with which to stick Buffalo noses in but that’s not my style; certainly not on an undeserving play. The other thought would be that the Buffaloes lost that game. They wound up scoring fewer points than their opposition and by the definition of competition, that’s a Colorado loss. It’s also not exactly becoming of a winner to forgo a nine-point lead and go 3-of-8 from the free throw line while committing two turnovers in the final 1:47. That is not a recipe for winning. The final thought surrounds the striped men and I never like placing a game on their shoulders but…well… I mean… I suppose… well…

This.

This.

So to revisit my three questions:

  1. Did Arizona win?
  2. Did Colorado lose?
  3. Did the refs blow it?

To answer these questions, of course, would be to get us to the resolution of the contest. Or even better, it could settle our minds about a controversial game in which Colorado spent a grand portion of time exposing Arizona as perhaps a poor shooting team with evolving bigs. Conversely, the Wildcats wore down what may be a group of Buffaloes with a short bench, what could ultimately spell the Buffs’ demise. And there’s the age old debate over Pac officiating…

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Pac-12 Season Preview: Colorado Buffaloes

Posted by PBaruh on October 8th, 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 are the Colorado Buffaloes.

Strengths: Tad Boyle is starting to build up quite a reputation in Boulder. In his two years at Colorado, he’s gone 32-4 at the Coors Event Center and after being snubbed from the NCAA Tournament in his first year, he proceeded to win the Pac-12 Tournament and upset UNLV in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year. Boyle has a system that relies on getting out in transition while playing great team defense, and everyone on this team fits that mold.

From a roster standpoint, a returning trio of Andre Roberson, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Askia Booker will certainly help the Buffaloes try to overcome their lack of experience. The core of this team is very strong; Booker and Dinwiddie provide quickness, power, and efficient shooting while incoming freshman Josh Scott should present a good complement to Roberson with his rebounding ability. The biggest strength in the starting five is Roberson, as he averaged a double-double last year and continues to improve in every facet of the game. There is no one better than him defensively in the post in the Pac-12 and his rebounding skills are hard to match.

Andre Roberson is a candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year. (AP)

Weaknesses: It’s safe to say this team is very young. There are no impact seniors and only one impact junior. Consequently, the youth of this team could very well affect its depth. However, when you take a look at last year’s team, the same things were said and look where the Buffs ended up. Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson, two projected starters, are incoming freshmen and will be expected to make an impact immediately. Although college basketball is a sport where freshmen can be influential right away with the most ease, it’s no sure thing. The bench of this team is still very much in question. Sabatino Chen can shoot the ball well when open and Jeremy Adams can get a bucket here and there, but the bench’s ineptitude is going to hurt the Buffaloes early on until someone proves they can contribute. The depth and youth of this team will determine how successful the Buffaloes will be this year.

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Wrapping Up The Pac-12′s Summer Exhibition Tours

Posted by Connor Pelton on September 13th, 2012

Seven Pac-12 schools took a foreign exhibition trip this summer. We recap them below with Drew taking UCLA, Utah, and Colorado, and Connor taking the rest.

Not Every Team Went Tropical, But All of Them Learned Something

Arizona

  • Where: The Bahamas
  • When: August 11-13
  • What: The Wildcats swept their two games against Bahamian competition.
  • Why: As Arizona transitions from an NIT one-and-done to having at least NCAA Third Round expectations, this trip was all about integrating instant-impact newcomers Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley, Gabe York, and Mark Lyons into the rotation. Setting lineups and seeing what groups of players meshed well together was much more important than the actual play against less than stellar competition.
  • Who: Lyons and fellow senior Kevin Parrom were the stars of the trip, each averaging 18.5 PPG. The most anticipated freshman to don the cardinal red and navy blue in a while, Tarczewski, scored eight points in each game on the trip. Arizona absolutely destroyed their lowly competition, winning both games by a combined 112 points.

Colorado

  • Where: France, Belgium and the Netherlands
  • When: August 11-22
  • What: The Buffaloes went 2-3 in five games against European professional teams.
  • Why: With CU breaking in six scholarship freshmen, the trip gave head coach Tad Boyle a chance to build camaraderie between the talented new guys and their six returnees from last year’s Pac-12 championship team. The trip also gave the freshmen a chance to build an identity of their own, evidenced by the fact that Boyle sat out the core returnees from last year’s squad – Andre Roberson, Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie and Sabatino Chen – in one of the games, allowing five of the freshmen to start the game together.
  • Who: While Roberson was his usual magnificent self – he averaged 14.4 points and 13.8 rebounds – freshman Josh Scott eliminated any doubt that he could be an immediate impact player. Scott led the Buffs in scoring in four of the five games, coming up a point short of the leaders in the opening game; he averaged 17.4 point per game for the trip. His classmate Xavier Johnson also made a statement, averaging more than ten points to go with seven rebounds for the game.

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Colorado Week: Six-Man Recruiting Class Bolsters Solid Set Of Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on July 25th, 2012

On the heels of last year’s surprisingly good recruiting class, head coach Tad Boyle landed a huge six-man class this season, signing three terrific home-state talents, while also stealing a couple more players from out of the Los Angeles area and landing an intriguing talent from Michigan. The six of these guys are all over the place in terms of their positions and their strengths, making this an incredibly balanced recruiting class that should be able to step in and immediately contribute. We’ll break all six of them down below, roughly in the order of the contributions we expect from them.

Josh Scott, Freshman, Power Forward, 6’10” 215 lbs, Lewis-Palmer High School, Monument, CO – Last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year and Mr. Basketball in Colorado, Scott led his high school team to the state 4A championship while averaging 28.5 points per game (best in the state), 11 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. He’s a super athlete with good fundamentals and a good feel for the game. A four-man with some of the offensive skills of a three, he can score in the post with jump hooks from either side, or can face up his man and take him off the dribble in short bursts. Like most freshmen, he needs to get stronger and he could stand to improve his jump shot, but just on his combination of athleticism and basketball IQ alone, he should be ready to play a big role right out of the gate. He should be in line for some of the minutes left behind by Austin Dufault, and could even help Andre Roberson man the front line while guarding the other team’s center. He’s got the skill set that could make him a future NBA player and all accounts are, he’s got the hard-working commitment to go with those skills.

Josh Scott, Colorado

The Reigning Gatorade Player Of The Year in Colorado High School Basketball, Josh Scott Could Step Right Into A Major Role Up Front For The Buffaloes (Eric Bellamy, ESPNHS)

Xavier Johnson, Freshman, Combo Forward, 6’6” 220 lbs, Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana, CA – Johnson is one of two players who played high school ball at Southern California power Mater Dei. Over his four years at the school, he helped his team compile a sterling 129-9 record, including state championships in each of his final two seasons. As a senior, he averaged 18.1 points and 9.2 rebounds and won the CIF Player of the Year honors. And he is, in short, a beast, with dunks over Shabazz Muhammad and Austin Rivers studding his resume. He’s got a body that is ready to step in an immediately take the pounding of a 30-plus game schedule and CU coaches have raved about his competitiveness, his maturity, and his willingness to learn. And, he’ll need to learn, because while athletically he is ready to go, he’s still needs to dial in his offensive game. Nevertheless, he’ll likely step directly into a major role immediately for the Buffs, spending most of his time at the three, but displaying the toughness that allows him to spend time as an undersized four.

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Colorado Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on July 24th, 2012

Colorado returns six players who were part of the extended rotation last year, highlighted by Andre Roberson – likely a preseason All-Pac-12 player – but also extending down to two talented guards back for sophomore seasons, a seven-foot Aussie ready for more action and a couple wings who will probably enjoy similar roles this year as they did last year. We’ll go through all of those guys below, in order of last year’s scoring totals.

Andre Roberson, Colorado

Andre Roberson Has Proven His Rebounding Prowess, But Will Need To Play A Bigger Role For The Buffs This Year

Andre Roberson, Junior, Forward (11.6 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 1.9 BPG) – When Roberson arrived on campus two years ago, not much was expected of him immediately. He was long and athletic, yes, but also skinny and raw. And, with a veteran lineup, he figured to at best earn some minutes at the back end of the rotation. But once fall practice began, CU coaches knew he was going to force his way onto the court, and in his first game he pulled down 11 boards in 21 minutes. He remained heavily in the rotation the rest of the way, dominated on the glass (try a 25.5% defensive rebounding percentage and 15.1% on the offensive end), wreaked havoc defensively, leading the team in both blocks and steals (oh, and also fouls – committing more than five fouls per 40 minutes), and found nearly every possible way to contribute mightily to his team without ever once having a play run for him. As a sophomore, his usage shot way up and, as happens, his offensive efficiency numbers dropped a bit, but his rebounding numbers were just as impressive – he was second in the nation in grabbing 29.6% of all opponents’ missed shots, while also grabbing 12.7% of his own team’s misses. Now, heading into his junior season, he is squarely on the NBA’s radar and ready to show off even more skills. With Carlon Brown and Austin Dufault now gone, expect Roberson to find even more shots.  And, with his NBA future likely tied to the small forward spot, expect to see him show off his improving perimeter jumper as well as his solid handle in the halfcourt; however, he needs to be careful that he doesn’t completely abandon the dirty work he does inside while he shows off his newfound skills on the wing.

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Pac-12 Afternoon Five: Signing Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on April 11th, 2012

  1. Today’s the big day in college basketball recruiting as the spring signing period officially opens. While most of the 2012 recruiting class is already accounted for, there are a couple teams around the conference today who are waiting on some big decisions. The biggest, of course, is the decision from Shabazz Muhammad – the number two prospect in the class – as to whether he will attend UCLA, Kentucky or Duke. However, he’s not the only unsigned recruit who has a Pac-12 school on his mind. Tony Parker, a 6’9” power forward out of Georgia, is also strongly considering UCLA, but he is not expected to make his announcement on Wednesday. Anthony Bennett, the number seven recruit in the country according to ESPNU is still considering Oregon, but he may be weeks away from making a final decision. ESPNU, for their part, listed the predictions from seven of their recruiting experts as to where each of these guys (and all the other elite unsigned recruits) will land, and they have Muhammad and Parker going to UCLA, with Bennett winding up in Florida.
  2. Arizona’s recruiting class for 2012 was thought to be done, but they added a junior college transferMatt Korcheck – who is expected to sign his commitment this week. Korcheck is a 6’9” forward who is jumping into a crowded frontcourt in Tucson, so he is expected to redshirt next season and retain two years of collegiate eligibility. More importantly for the future of the program, Sean Miller earned a commitment from Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell. McConnell could well be the point guard that Arizona has been lacking, but he’ll have to sit out next year before becoming eligible in 2013-14. The next big question for the Wildcats will be the future of freshman point guard Josiah Turner, who was suspended indefinitely prior to the Pac-12 tournament. With Turner and junior Jordin Mayes the only point guards on the Arizona roster, the fate of the mercurial lead guard could go a long way towards determining just how much should be expected of the Wildcats next season.
  3. Not all of the talk around the conference is of players coming in; at Oregon State, the big news is that junior guard Jared Cunningham will forego his final season of eligibility and enter his name into the NBA Draft. Cunningham was a first-team all-conference selection and averaged nearly 18 points per game, but his decision to remain in the draft is a bit of a head scratcher. Draft Express currently has him being picked towards the back of the second round of the draft, meaning he would not earn a guaranteed contract. He’s got plenty of physical skills, but his inability to consistently hit a jump shot and his gambling style on defense are just two traits that make him a questionable NBA prospect at this point.
  4. In Berkeley, Emerson Murray and Alex Rossi will be transferring out of Mike Montgomery’s program, joining graduates Harper Kamp and Jorge Gutierrez on the way out the door. Murray was unable to earn any significant minutes in his first two seasons on campus, so he’ll move north to play for Cameron Dollar at Seattle. Rossi struggled with health problems during his entire California career and leaves having played 16 minutes in two seasons on campus. A landing spot for Rossi is not yet known, and there is speculation that his hernia injury that limited his minutes with the Bears may limit his basketball playing future.
  5. Lastly, the Pac-12 All-Academic team was announced last week, and not surprisingly featured two Stanford players on the first team, two on the second team and four more among the honorable mentions. The first team was made up of Sabatino Chen from Colorado, Rhys Murphy from Oregon State, Trent Lockett from Arizona State and John Gage and Jack Trotter from the Cardinal. The team featured all 20 players in the conference who were not only regular players for their teams but also students who earned at least a 3.0 GPA. Arizona, Washington, USC and Utah were the only four schools to not have a player anywhere on the list. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.23.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 23rd, 2012

  1. After some speculation that Oregon head coach Dana Altman might be interested in returning to his Nebraska roots and taking the open Cornhusker position, it seems set in stone now that he will remain in Eugene. However, even after two seasons in which his teams have exceeded expectations, Duck fans may be beginning to get a little impatient. Already. Complaints include his inability to bring in big time recruits and, somewhat unbelievably, an inability to develop talent. Such is the culture of college basketball at this point that even coming into a program with cupboards completely barren, results are expected immediately and any disappointments are chalked up to some perceived failures with the head coach. To me, the fact that Altman had his team earn a postseason berth last year with that mishmash of a roster with nobody taller than 6’6” playing more than 50% of the team’s minutes was incredible and worthy of conference Coach of the Year consideration. And in fact this season, we gave him our Pac-12 COY for his work in the regular season. However, for some people, anything short of immediate deep runs into the NCAA Tournament is unacceptable. Of course, this seems like the same type of instant gratification mindset that led Altman’s top recruit Jabari Brown to leave the program after just two games.
  2. Across the conference at one of the newest Pac-12 schools, Colorado has no such disappointments with its head coach, Tad Boyle. After the team’s second consecutive 20-win season and an NCAA Tournament win, Boyle appears to have the Buffaloes on the fast track to success. In the first two parts of a series, The Ralphie Report pays respect to the seniors who have used up their eligibility, while looking ahead to the future of the program. Starting with a core of Andre Roberson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, there are some good pieces returning for Colorado. Shane Harris-Tunks made big strides down the stretch this year after missing last season with a torn ACL. He’s still got two years of eligibility remaining and he could possibly turn into a very solid Pac-12 big man. Elsewhere, Sabatino Chen and Jeremy Adams return, while there is some talk that Shannon Sharpe and Ben Mills, two little-used players, could transfer out of the program. With a strong freshman class coming in (which will be the topic of part three of that series), fresh minutes for Mills and Sharpe could be hard to come by.
  3. At Arizona, there’s time to pay respect to senior guard Kyle Fogg as his eligibility in the desert has expired. A key player in the transition from the Lute Olson era to the Sean Miller era, Fogg goes down in the Arizona record books as an unlikely figure among other more widely recognized Wildcat greats. But now, going forward, this program is truly Sean Miller’s with all of the key components in Tucson as a result of the new head coach.
  4. As part of the Utah plan to rebuild its program from the depths of a 6-25 season, the team will be heading on an international trip in August, with either a tour of France and Italy or a trip to Brazil still in the planning stages. NCAA rules allow schools to make such a trip once every four years and with the Utes expecting to break in a heap of new players next season, including transfer from Southern Utah Dallin Bachynski (brother of ASU center Jordan Bachynski), returning LDS missionary Jeremy Olsen and three high school seniors, the trip will serve as a chance for the team and head coach Larry Krystkowiak to get in ten extra practices, as many as seven games and a bunch of time bonding as a team.
  5. Lastly, back on the hunt for clues as to Shabazz Muhammad’s mindset, the father of incoming UCLA recruit Kyle Anderson says that he expects Muhammad to pick UCLA, if only because his parent are from Los Angeles and they might want to get back there. The elder Anderson admits that he has no inside information and is just throwing out opinions, but even with the problems in the Bruin program lately, it still appears that UCLA has been the choice all along for Muhammad.
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