Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Illinois, Undefeated Teams, A Blown Call Nobody Noticed, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 11th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

  1. Illinois fans, here is my mea culpa. I was wrong not to rank your team. On Saturday night, the Fighting Illini ventured up to Spokane and walked out of the Kennel with the best win of any team to date. Yes, better than Duke’s wins over Louisville and Ohio State. Why? There has not been a road win of this magnitude by any team through this early point in the season. The Illini proved they’re for real with a dominant second half against a very strong Gonzaga team. After taking the opening punch and falling behind 8-0 right out of the gate, John Groce’s team didn’t panic and made fantastic adjustments. Gonzaga’s game plan was clearly to feed the ball inside and try to dominate a less than imposing Illinois front line. Illinois’ defense suddenly picked up later in the first half, swarming the Gonzaga big men and forcing the Bulldogs into an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers. Illinois was able to speed the game up a bit and prevent Gonzaga from setting up its half court offense effectively. The Zags attempted 18 threes which is right about their season average but a lot of them were rushed and not something the game plan should have called for against an Illinois team without a significant inside presence. Brandon Paul looked like an All-America candidate with his performance not just on the offensive end but defensively against Pangos and the Gonzaga guards as well. Can Illinois keep this level of play up? I’m not sure but I know one thing: The Illini are way better than I thought. This team’s over-reliance on the three-point shot is concerning and is bound to catch up with them at some point, but Illinois has already proved it will be a factor in the loaded Big Ten.

    Brandon Paul Looked Like An All-American Candidate On Saturday Night In Spokane. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

  2. Another impressive performance played out in a different fashion on Saturday night in Clemson, South Carolina. Trailing Clemson by six points midway through the second half, Arizona absorbed the hit and put the pedal down in impressive fashion with a 26-5 run down the stretch to come out of rowdy Littlejohn Coliseum with a sneaky good road win. It was an impressive showing because this Arizona team had been highly touted but untested coming into the game. The Wildcats passed that test with flying colors as they head into a Saturday showdown with Florida in Tucson. Mark Lyons took control in the final minutes for Arizona but contributions from Nick Johnson (13 points, five steals) and Solomon Hill (10 rebounds despite an awful shooting night) illustrate the talent and depth of Sean Miller’s team. Although he didn’t have a great game, I was thoroughly impressed with the physique of freshman Kaleb Tarczewski. It was the first time I’ve seen him play and his body appears mature beyond his age. He’ll be a load for any opponent in the post. Arizona is clearly the best team in the Pac-12 and has the pieces to make a deep run in March. With the gritty Miller at the helm and a boatload of talent, this team will keep getting better as the year moves along. Make sure you watch the Wildcats take on Florida this Saturday night in what could prove to be the best non-conference game of the season.
  3. Another week, another confounding loss for Baylor. Just when you thought the Bears were turning the corner after winning at Kentucky, they put together an absolute stinker of a loss at home to a mediocre Northwestern team that had just suffered back-to-back home losses to Maryland and Illinois-Chicago. Baylor was dominated on the glass by a Northwestern lineup that isn’t all that physically imposing and allowed the Wildcats to shoot 51% for the game. It is inexcusable for a team with Baylor’s talent to have three losses at this point in the season but you know what I like to say, nobody does less with more than Scott Drew. When you look at the statistics, Baylor appears to be a pretty good team. But the chemistry and focus clearly is lacking, otherwise this team wouldn’t have lost to Charleston and Northwestern on its home court. Baylor is a highly talented team and has actually improved its turnover numbers significantly from previous years. Pierre Jackson is playing like one of the best point guards in America and Drew has seen junior forward Cory Jefferson take a huge step forward. Baylor has two more non-conference challenges before Big 12 play begins, against BYU in Waco and a tough trip to Gonzaga in back to back games at the end of this month. Even if the Bears enter Big 12 play at 8-4, I still believe this team is good enough to eventually earn a Top 25 ranking and fit solidly in the NCAA Tournament. At this point however, Baylor just isn’t there yet. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 12.10.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 10th, 2012

  1. Following this first weekend where the college basketball didn’t pale in comparison to the college football schedule, we start our week not recounting some of the action on the court, but rather action on a picket line. On Saturday, The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (now there’s a phrase I never expected to type out for the Pac-12 Morning Five) declared a strike against the Pac-12 Network and set up picket lines at USC, Arizona State, Oregon State, Oregon and Washington for those days’ games. The IATSE complaint centers on the fact that the Pac-12 Network has, in some markets, used non-union crews, and that employees on those crews don’t receive the benefits that union employees receive, such as higher wages, benefits and other protections. The Pac-12 issued a statement in response saying that it “respects an individual’s right to decide whether to be represented by a union” and not a whole lot else. Coupled with the conference’s impasse with DirecTV over carriage of their network, this is another bump in the road for the fledgling network. But, I gotta admit, the Pac-12 Networks are really cool. Just for instance, on Saturday you could have turned on the Pac-12 at 11 AM for Cal State Northridge and Arizona State and watched basketball straight through until the USC/Minnesota game wrapped up around 9:30 PM. And, something similar is on tap for next week.
  2. On to actual on-court action, brave basketball fans who showed up at Reliant Stadium for UCLA and Texas may have reason to go on strike against the sport after the two huge programs put on a horrendous display of basketball in front of a largely empty stadium. As Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports writes, the game may have set the record for most empty seats at a basketball game. The game was played at the home of the NFL’s Houston Texans and was capable of fitting some 43,000 fans. Let’s just say that the announced attendance (which was apparently an imaginary figure) missed that mark by somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 people. Why this game was scheduled at that location, I’ll never be sure. There was certainly no chance in hell that, even if UCLA had been playing well, the Bruins were going to bring any significant number of fans to Houston. And Texas, well, you guys know you do have a perfectly good Erwin Center that, even with its 16,000-some capacity would likely not have been filled for this game. As for the game itself, well, let’s just say Texas missed two point-blank layups on breakaways and neither of those likely qualify as the low point in this game.
  3. From one monstrosity to another, for those of you who maybe thought that Washington getting back the services of Scott Suggs and Shawn Kemp Jr. would help turn this team’s season around, consider Saturday night’s loss at home to Nevada the cold water to the face to dissuade you of that illusion. The Huskies have now lost three home games to increasingly bad competition and, while Lorenzo Romar isn’t about to let his team give up, this looks to be headed to a lost season that will put 2007-08’s 16-17 campaign to shame. There were some extenuating circumstances Saturday night, as Abdul Gaddy was abused regularly by Nevada’s Deonte Burton early in the game and picked up three early fouls on a night when Andrew Andrews was out with injury, leaving the Huskies without a true point guard for 10 minutes, but that’s mere explanation rather than excuse. The schedule eases up significantly between here and a December 29 date with Connecticut, but this group is far away from congealing into a quality basketball team.
  4. After knocking off Boise State last week, Utah had a great chance on Saturday night to not only exceed last year’s win total, but also knock off in-state rival BYU to seal up a phenomenal week for the program. At the under-eight timeout, the Utes had a six-point lead, the Marriott Center was quiet and Utah looked to have the Cougars right where they wanted them. But then a pair of Matt Carlino threes and a Craig Cusick three as a chaser brought things back to reality. The Utes wound up scoring just one field goal in the game’s last 11 minutes, turned the ball over seven times and let a very winnable game slip away. But if you take a step back and look at the season as a whole, especially in contrast with last year, it is clear that progress is being made.
  5. Around the college basketball world, we’re into the dreaded time known as Finals Week, where the number of watchable games dwindles to a trickle. But, in the state of Oregon, both Pac-12 schools have wrapped up their exams and are ready to focus on basketball. Oregon’s finals were last week and they celebrated their first day of winter break with a demolition of Idaho State. But, rather than pick up on a whirlwind of cross-country travel in search of games, the Ducks will hunker down for a week, try to clean up some of the mistakes that Dana Altman has seen and prepare for next Saturday’s game against Nebraska. Meanwhile, Oregon State is on slightly different schedule. Having wrapped up their finals, the Beavers crushed Grambling State on Saturday in a game that was drastically different than its first game back from finals last year. But up next for OSU, rather than spend a week practicing in Corvallis, they’ll head up north to face Portland State on Wednesday night.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 5th, 2012

  1. Tonight, prior to its game against Boise State, Utah will pause to commemorate the life of former head coach Rick Majerus, who died on Saturday night of heart failure. The university will observe a moment of silence, then they’ll show a video in the Huntsman Center celebrating Majerus’ time in Utah and the team will wear black patches on their uniforms for the remainder of the season. Later in the year, they’ll raise a replica of the white sweater that Majerus wore during his time there. The athletic department had tried to work out a time to have a ceremony for Majerus last season, while he was still a head coach at Saint Louis, but the two parties could never find a suitable time. Lastly, while there have been a lot of great remembrances of the coaching legend in recent days, it goes without saying that Utah fans, where Majerus enjoyed his greatest success, had a good perspective on the man, and Block U in particular laid down another in a long line of touching tributes.
  2. And speaking of the game against Boise State, that contest kicks off a big week for Utah, as they’ll also travel to face BYU on Saturday. Both games mark significant upgrades in terms of competition for the Utes, and they represent the clear high water mark of the non-conference schedule. Ken Pomeroy gives Utah a 17% chance of knocking off the Broncos and an 8% chance of winning in Provo, but more important to the program may not be the focus on earning any Ws this week, but playing up to their potential and showing improvement from last week’s split of a two-game road-trip to Texas to face SMU (a seven-point loss) and Texas State (a five-point win).
  3. On Monday, we handed out our Pac-12 Player of the Week award to C.J. Wilcox of Washington, but the official POTW award went to Arizona State’s Carrick Felix, who averaged 21 points, nine boards, nearly five assists and a couple of blocks in a pair of wins for the Sun Devils. He was the first ASU player to earn the honor since Ty Abbott won it in March 2011. After a bumpy first couple of seasons in Tempe marked by great athleticism but poor shooting, Felix has dialed in his long-range jumper in a big way this season, hitting nearly two threes a game at a 44.4% clip. As Doug Haller reports, head coach Herb Sendek attributes Felix’s improvement to perseverance and “habits of excellence” as well as understanding his strengths and being comfortable with who he is on the basketball court. Throw in the fact that Felix, a senior now, is surrounded by the most talent he’s seen in his time at ASU and there’s a good chance this run at the start of the year is not just a fluke, but the new normal.
  4. Washington has been without the services of Scott Suggs since before Thanksgiving, and they’ve been without Shawn Kemp Jr. for the entire year. But, both are nearing their returns, and if they can get through practices on Thursday and Friday without any adverse affects (a big if), they will be ready to play on Saturday against Nevada. Kemp tore a patellar tendon in his right knee back in October, and even if he is available for Saturday’s game, it will likely be for limited minutes. Suggs, who has been struggling with plantar fasciitis, is a better bet to play on Saturday, but head coach Lorenzo Romar warns that Suggs’ injury is one that could linger throughout the season.
  5. Finally, Scott Gleeson of the USA Today asked the question yesterday, is the Mountain West better than the Pac-12? Gleeson came up with the right answer, which is, “of course!” And he could have gone a step further with, “and it has been for at least three years now.” But despite three MW teams in the Top 25 compared to just one for the Pac-12 and a current 4-2 advantage on the season, we’ll get a clearer answer to the question this week as we’ll see five different match-ups between the two conferences. We already mentioned the Utah/Boise State game tonight, but there are a pair of other contests between the conferences tonight, as Colorado State visits Colorado and USC visits New Mexico. Then, over the weekend, we’ll see a couple more games, with Nevada traveling to Washington on Saturday and UNLV visiting California. And, there will be at least three other match-ups (and potentially a San Diego State/Arizona Christmas present in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic) between the conferences prior to the start of 2013, giving a large enough sample to declare a winner in the unofficial Pac-12/Mountain West Challenge. My guess on the final tally? The Pac-12 finishes strong and pulls out a 9-6 record in the long run, with Colorado getting back on track tonight against Colorado State and California scoring a key win over UNLV on Sunday.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.26.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 26th, 2012

  1. Things are getting bad up in Seattle. Washington has dropped three of its last four games, and hasn’t won a game in regulation since its opening night back on November 11. Being outplayed on the boards, by a HUGE margin, has been the main problem for the Huskies. Combine the poor effort on the glass with injuries to the likes of Scott Suggs and Shawn Kemp, Jr., and the Dawgs are off to a worse start than the one we saw last season. That campaign saw losses to Saint Louis, Nevada, and South Dakota State all before Christmas. Hopefully Washington gets more competitive as we roll along up until Pac-12 play, if only to help the rest of the conference’s overall RPI. And to help me look better too, as I picked UW and Aziz N’Diaye to be the surprise team/player in the conference this year.
  2. In its first game since the loss of senior center Angus Brandt to a torn ACL, Oregon State took advantage of its lone, pre-Kansas warmup game by outlasting Montana State yesterday. It was “fill-in by committee” for Craig Robinson’s squad, with nearly everyone tasked to the job stepping up nicely to lead the Beavers to a 13-point victory. An energized Joe Burton saw increased touches on his special “N7” night at Gill, and he responded by pouring in 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Freshman forward Olaf Schaftenaar even came off the bench to drain a trio of triples, his first points of the season. The Beavs now have five days to prepare for their meeting with Kansas on Friday night in Kansas City.
  3. A pair of technical fouls in the final two minutes of the game doomed USC’s chances in the Pac-12’s only game against a ranked opponent yesterday. After a terrible first half in which the Trojans only managed 23 points, Eric Wise led the team to a 18-4 run coming out of the locker rooms to cut the deficit to two. The comeback would prove futile, however, as San Diego State pulled out a key interconference 66-60 victory at the Galen Center.
  4. CBSSports’ Matt Norlander sums it up perfectly with this column after UCLA was upset by Cal Poly last night in Los Angeles. Quite frankly, it’s time to panic in Westwood. Of course, Ben Howland has lost some head-scratchers in the past; defeats at the hands of Loyola Marymount, Middle Tennessee, and Montana come to mind, but there’s always been some excuse to explain it. Not this time, not with guys like Jordan Adams, Shabazz Muhammad, and Travis Wear out on the floor. If the Bruins can’t find a way to salvage a split of their next four (Cal State Northridge, San Diego State, Texas, Prairie View A&M), the local grumblings for Howland’s job will start being heard nationwide.
  5. Sunday had already gotten off to a bit of an inauspicious start for UCLA when it was announced that junior guard Tyler Lamb would be transferring. Lamb had trouble working his way back into the rotation after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in October. And with the clearance of Muhammad by the NCAA a little over a week ago, it was widely understood that Lamb would receive very limited action in 2012-13. Lamb did not specifically specify a reason for the move, nor did he release any names of schools he’d be interested in, but the wing averaged 9.o PPG as a sophomore in 2011-12 and will presumably be a nice pick-up for some enterprising team.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 16th, 2012

  1. Great news for the Ducks, as the NCAA has granted transfer Arsalan Kazemi a waiver and he will be available to play for Oregon right away. It’s a good thing, because Oregon has a huge home date with Vanderbilt later tonight. Many figured this was coming since Omar Oraby, a fellow Rice transfer, was not required to sit out a year given similar circumstances. An interesting point of contention with the Oraby and Kazemi transfers is that USC and Oregon alleged that the two faced racial discrimination at Rice, primarily by Rice AD Rick Greenspan. Rice head coach Ben Braun and Greenspan vehemently denied these allegations in a statement from the school, which is posted in full in the CBS Sports article (the first link). Without getting too much into Rice’s situation, the school said it did not sign off on waivers that would allow Oraby and Kazemi to play right away. Whatever is going on there can’t bode well for Braun, the former Cal coach who has seen six players leave his school via the transfer route since the end of last year. In any case, this is a huge positive for the Ducks, as they get a Kazemi who averaged a double-double last year in a conference (C-USA) that was comparable to the level of Pac-12 play. He will add a lot to a front line that already includes Tony Woods and Waverly Austin.
  2. Not so great news for the Washington Huskies, as Lorenzo Romar says he is unsure if Scott Suggs will play this weekend after he suffered a concussion in Tuesday’s loss to Albany. Suggs, whose status is day-to-day, is obviously a big asset to this team, but it would be great for the Huskies to have him available this weekend because the team travels to the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut for the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic. A win against Seton Hall would mean (most likely) a date with No. 4 Ohio State. A loss and it’s a game against lowly Rhode Island, a team that is 0-2 on the season and isn’t expected to do much of anything in a loaded Atlantic 10. And, after losing to the Great Danes, Washington needs all the RPI love it can get. If Suggs is on the floor, the Huskies have one more shooter to space the offense and provide another option for Abdul Gaddy on a penetrate and pitch. If he can’t go, Andrew Andrews will get the starting nod, per Romar.
  3. Not much of a surprise here, but Colorado coach Tad Boyle has received a one-year extension on his contract that now lasts through the 2016-17 season. The folks in Boulder absolutely love Boyle, just ask our very own Parker Baruh. He has turned around a program that was consistently in the bottom tier of the Big 12 and led them to two straight 24-win seasons, the last one in the year after losing a lottery pick in Alec Burks. If Boyle can lead the Buffs to another 24 wins in 2012-13, he would have to be a leading candidate for Pac-12 Coach of the Year, considering he lost Carlon Brown and two other key seniors from last year in Nate Tomlinson and Austin Dufault. Just hours later, Boyle earned his 50th win as the Buffs’ head coach when Colorado beat Dayton in the first round of the Charleston Classic. Good timing for that extension.
  4. Speaking of the Charleston Classic, it’s one of a few non-conference tournaments that houses Pac-12 constituents. While Colorado knocked off Dayton after being behind for most of the game, the same can’t be said for Oregon State, which lost a close one to Alabama in the first game of the 2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden. The other tournament going on, as mentioned earlier, is the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic, which features Washington. Again, these tournaments are largely where conferences make or break its reputation for the season, as most of the other non-conference games come against guarantee-game opponents with a few challenges sprinkled in here and there. For the Pac-12 to have an acceptable weekend, each team needs to win at least one game: Colorado has done the bare minimum, but could really help out the Pac by beating Murray State or St. John’s in the third place game if a victory doesn’t come against Baylor. Oregon State needs to knock off Purdue to even itself up in Madison Square Garden, and that won’t be an easy task. Washington, again, really needs a win against Seton Hall, because a loss to Ohio State would probably look better than a win against Rhode Island. The non-conference tournaments are huge for the Pac-12 this year, especially considering what happened last year, with failures like Washington State going 0-3 against a weak field in the 76 Classic and UCLA going 0-2 against D-I teams in the Maui Invitational.
  5. Connor here, stepping in to finish off the M5 with our weekly Pick’em contest. Unfortunately, with Utah’s uninspiring loss last week in Seattle, I still trail Drew by four games with only 14 left to play. But it ain’t over til it’s over, and I’m pulling out everything I’ve got this week to make up some ground. I’m talking a Washington State upset in the desert. I’m taking a Cal team playing in what will likely be their head coach’s final game at the university. These may be long shots, but I’ve got no choice at this point. Our picks below, with, as always, our game of the week in bold.
Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
Washington at Colorado Washington Washington
Washington State at Arizona State Washington State Arizona State
Stanford at Oregon Oregon 52-20 Oregon 62-24
Arizona at Utah Utah Arizona
California at Oregon State California Oregon State
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Pac-12 M5: Election Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 6th, 2012

  1. Hey, you might have heard about this presidential election thing that is happening today. What with the complete lack of commercials on television, advertisements coming in the mail and signs in front of my neighbors’ houses, I almost forgot about it myself, but I guess it’s true. Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson is the brother-in-law of the guy who currently holds that office, and while he’ll be heading to Chicago to hang out with President Obama and his wife Michelle tonight, the Beaver team doesn’t exactly get to play hooky. Instead, it is business as usual for OSU as it prepares for its opener Friday night against Niagara.
  2. Beaver fans got a good first glimpse of their team on Sunday night when Oregon State hosted Lewis & Clark in an exhibition at Gill Coliseum. The highlight for the coaching staff was the team’s defensive effort, especially from their four newcomers, as they held their opponent to 58 points in 68 possessions. Given how bad the team was on the defensive end last year, that’s a very good sign, even against a clearly inferior opponent. Unfortunately, even against a clearly inferior opponent, the team was not very good on the glass, allowing Lewis & Clark to grab 18 offensive rebounds (40.9% OR). Cleaning the glass on the defensive end was another significant weakness for last year’s team, so you can bet that improving there will be a point of emphasis in practice over the next few days.
  3. During the waning weeks of last year’s 6-26 season, there were some USC basketball fans (yes, a handful of those do exist) calling for the head of coach Kevin O’Neill. However, athletic director Pat Haden looked at all the extenuating circumstances and the overall direction of the program and determined that O’Neill deserved another chance. Now, with a roster almost completely remade by transfers and players returning from injury, the expectation is that the Trojans will be greatly improved. And, it had better be, writes Michael Castillo, because this season may determine O’Neill’s long term viability in Los Angeles.
  4. After playing last season with a starting frontcourt that featured a 6’7” Jesse Perry ostensibly playing center, Arizona is looking forward to life with an imposing frontcourt. The crowning jewel of Arizona’s top five recruiting class last season was seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, and he lived up to expectations in the Wildcats’ exhibition game with Humboldt State, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 boards while playing against an overmatched Division II opponent. However, for a guy whose role will be almost solely down on the block, he’ll still need to prove that he can score over, rebound against, and defend bigger and more athletic competition than what he faced last week. For instance, in the Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage, “Zeus” struggled against the tougher competition, picking up three early fouls as he adjusted to the speed of the game. While he’s got a bright future ahead of him, it remains to be seen just how quickly he’ll develop in the desert.
  5. With stars Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross gone early to the NBA draft, Washington may not be in rebuilding mode but they do have plenty of questions that need to be answered in the early part of the season. Percy Allen picks the five biggest ones, asking who is going to help Aziz N’Diaye rebound the basketball, and a related question, who is going to be the fifth starter? Desmond Simmons started the Huskies’ exhibition game, but he’s got three different guys – Shawn Kemp Jr., Jernard Jarreau, and Martin Breunig – all chasing him for that spot. Another big question is whether the new and improved chemistry around the program could help their defensive weaknesses. Part of their struggles on defense last year could be tied back to Wroten’s tendency to gamble and find himself out of position, but his athleticism and playmaking abilities were undeniable. Senior Scott Suggs will be taking Wroten’s spot and could be a defensive upgrade in that position for UW.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Washington Huskies

Posted by KDanna on November 5th, 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 Washington Huskies.

Strengths: Overall, the Huskies have a solid group of guys. They won’t be as explosive as last year, but a report from the Seattle Times has noted that this year’s team has better chemistry. That probably is due to the presence of Abdul Gaddy, who has really developed into a solid floor general and knows how to find his teammates while taking care of the basketball — his 2.43 assist-to-turnover ratio was second in the Pac-12 last year. One such teammate who will be a benefactor of Gaddy’s decision-making is C.J. Wilcox, who is one of the best pure shooters in the country. Now a junior, Wilcox shot 40 percent from downtown last season, good for ninth in the conference. He will be joined on the wing by Scott Suggs, another good shooter who is returning from a broken foot that forced him to redshirt last year. The Huskies also have one of the most physically imposing returning big men in the Pac-12, as seven-footer Aziz N’Diaye will patrol the paint for head coach Lorenzo Romar, who will transition this year’s team to a high-post offense. That’s a good move for the 2012-13 Huskies, as they are more suited to play in a more structured half-court set than the typical motion offense they ran in previous years. It also doesn’t hurt that the Huskies play in Alaska Airlines Arena, which gives the Huskies a huge home court advantage; in fact, the Huskies have won more games at Hec-Ed than any other NCAA team has won at a single facility.

Wilcox Has No Problem Knocking Down Jumpers With Defenders On Him, But It’s Even Easier When No One Is Within A Five Foot Radius (credit: Dean Rutz)

Weaknesses: Washington loses a ton of firepower in Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross, both of whom left early to become NBA first round draft picks. The loss of the duo is probably as good of a reason as any to move away from a motion look, because these were the two guys who really made the Huskies go. However, the Huskies lost more than just firepower with these guys; they also lost a lot of the patented “U-Dub swag” that has been a feature of Romar-coached teams in recent memory. This is where the loss of Darnell Gant also comes into play, as he probably played to the Hec-Ed crowd as well as anybody on the Huskies. With the power forward spot up for grabs, in addition to losing three of the four guys who averaged five rebounds a game or more from last year, defensive rebounding could turn into an issue for this team; as it was, the Huskies finished eighth in the Pac-12 last year in defensive rebounding percentage.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.30.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on October 30th, 2012

  1. Oregon opened up its exhibition slate last night, and unlike Washington, the Ducks won rather easily in a 102-75 decision over Concordia. After Concordia opened up the game with a 9-2 run thanks to a couple of threes, the Ducks took care of business in large thanks to the new guys. From what I was able to see (the game was streamed live on the Pac-12 website), the most impressive newbie of the bunch was Dominic Artis, who led the way with 17 points. He dished out some flashy passes and absolutely crossed up a couple of Concordia defenders. He was also able to knock down some perimeter jumpers, hitting three of his four three-point attempts. Damyean Dotson recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while another freshman, Willie Moore, scored 15 points. It’s only the preseason and it was a non-Division-I opponent, but Duck fans can come away from that game with some reason to be excited for the future even if this year doesn’t figure to be a banner one for Dana Altman and company.
  2. The Associated Press preseason All-America Team was released yesterday, and probably to the surprise of nobody, no one from the Pac-12 made the list. Instead, comprising the team were Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Crieghton’s Doug McDermott, Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas, Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum and Michigan’s Trey Burke (yes, there were six players named because McCollum and Burke received the same number of votes). The one Pac-12 guy who an argument could be made that he deserves preseason All-America honors from a talent perspective is UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, but, considering his eligibility questions, there was no way Muhammad was going to garner this recognition. There has only been one freshman to be named a preseason All-American by the Associated Press (Harrison Barnes in 2010), and given how that worked out, there might not be another one for a while. The last Pac-12 player to make the AP preseason All-America Team was Darren Collison back in 2008.
  3. Continuing along with its preseason lists, CBS Sports released its top 30 breakout players for 2012-13 yesterday. Two Pac-12 guys found their way on there –Washington’s Scott Suggs (No. 17) and USC’s J.T. Terrell (No. 21), while former Sun Devil-turned-South Florida Bull Victor Rudd checked in at #20. We here at the Rush The Court Pac-12 Microsite tackled this topic on October 19 and not one of us picked Suggs or Terrell to be the top breakout guy in the conference. While both are worthy choices, surely Aziz N’Diaye, Dewayne Dedmon, Nick Johnson, Roberto Nelson and Dwight Powell are deserving of the same sort of recognition. Of course, there are only 30 players on this list and there are more than 30 conferences, so quite a few leagues are feeling more snubbed than the Pac-12 today.
  4. Jon Rothstein took a trip to the Galen Center to watch USC practice and came away highly impressed with the Trojans. Predicting the Trojans will finish in the top-half of the Pac-12 standings, Rothstein is particularly in admiration of the depth USC has thanks to all the transfers who are finally eligible to suit up for Kevin O’Neill. One player who might not be eligible is Omar Oraby, and Rothstein notes that O’Neill said he expects to hear from the NCAA this week with regards to the 7’2’’ transfer from Rice (he is applying for an NCAA hardship waiver to play immediately after transferring in September). If he can play this year, Rothstein writes that O’Neill’s plan will be to play both him and Dewayne Dedmon together in the starting lineup, giving the Trojans two seven-footers on the court at the same time. As far as the rest of the rotation, he expects Jio FontanJ.T. Terrell and Dedmon to start, with the other two spots up for grabs if Oraby isn’t able to play. With such a new-look roster, it’s almost easy to forget that the Trojans were a six-win team in 2011-12 and won only one conference game in perhaps the weakest Pac-12 of recent memory. An article like this will surely have Trojan fans salivating for the beginning of the season.
  5. A bit of unfortunate news out of the Pacific Northwest, as former Oregon State player Daniel Deane has been arrested for a marijuana-related incident… for the third time this year. All three of his arrests have revolved around the transportation of marijuana. Luckily, his jail stint shouldn’t be a long one, as Harney County Jail (where Deane is being held) suggests he will be released on November 7. Deane was a hard-nosed player on the court, one who could be counted on for hustle plays. It’s regrettable that he would commit the same offense three times in a year, but hopefully he will be able to learn from this arrest and at the very least keep his stash at home.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 16th, 2012

  1. Washington picked up the second commitment of its 2013 recruiting class on Sunday, adding shooting guard Darin Johnson out of Sacramento. The Sheldon High School (CA) product chose the Huskies over UCLA, San Diego State, and Gonzaga, among others. Johnson’s style is very much up-tempo, if only because he’s a prolific scorer and the more touches he gets, the more come with it. As the article points out, the in-state Aztecs would have been a very tempting choice considering head man Steve Fisher just landed a pair of Johnson’s AAU teammates. But with Abdul Gaddy and Scott Suggs graduating after the 2012-13 campaign, the minutes will be there immediately for Johnson in Seattle. Johnson joins Findlay Prep (NV) point guard Nigel Williams-Goss as the Huskies’ second Class of 2013 commitment. With the backcourt complete, coach Lorenzo Romar will now turn his attention to five-star power forward Aaron Gordon.
  2. Coming off a 19-14 season that was downright embarrassing at times, UCLA’s summer exhibition trip to China might have come at just the right time. It was there that the new-look Bruins, featuring one of the top recruiting classes in the country, bonded together and dominated their games. They did that without the services of freshmen Tony Parker and Shabazz Muhammad, who sat out the trip due to an injury and eligibility concerns. Parker is now healthy, but it’s scary to think how good Ben Howland’s bunch can be this season if Muhammad is cleared by the NCAA. With a pair of five- and four-stars now residing to Los Angeles, the Bruins should not only compete with Arizona for the Pac-12 championship, but are a likely candidate to make at least the Sweet Sixteen come March.
  3. We showed you a few weeks back how many men’s non-conference games would be televised by the new Pac-12 Networks (89, in fact), so it was good news for those that also like to see the women ball when conference commissioner Larry Scott announced that 61 women’s games would be televised on the networks this season. Needless to say, there’s going to be more than enough Pac-12 basketball for the average and even addicted fan to enjoy this season. If your television provider doesn’t carry the Pac-12 Networks, you can let your voice be heard here.
  4. With the start of practice comes projections of all sorts, and in this Daily Wildcat piece, Zack Rosenblatt breaks down the 10-man Arizona rotation. Newcomers Grant Jerrett and Mark Lyons make up two-fifths of the starting five, but Solomon Hill will be required to carry most of the load with the departure of Jesse Perry. Rosenblatt projects sophomore Angelo Chol to get the start at center over highly touted freshman Kaleb Tarczewski, but notes that “having a talented 7-footer like Tarczewski come off the bench is a nice problem to have.” Most of the “key reserve” list is either filled with freshman or bench players who rarely started last season. Junior guard Jordin Mayes is the exception, whose starts were mostly based off whether he was hot or not coming into a game.
  5. Building on the thing that helped keep Utah competitive toward the end of 2011-12, head coach Larry Krystkowiak is devoting 80% of practice to the defensive facet of the game. Already believing that his team has a “scoring punch” (which may be a bit of a stretch, but we’ll reserve judgement until games start), the Utes want to work on help-side defense and stopping attacks at the rim. A lack of discipline and quickness last year would lead to many back-door attacks on the Ute defense, commonly resulting in finishes at the rim. Taking that away and forcing teams to shoot from outside will keep them in games longer, and the longer they are in those contests, the more of a chance something good will happen for the Utes. After all, jump shots are typically tougher to put down than slam dunks.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.15.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 15th, 2012

  1. With the departure of Tony Wroten, Jr., Washington is currently without a defined leader on the team. When asked who might be the face of the team after the second day of practice, senior guard Abdul Gaddy replied “The team is the face of the team.” That’s a stark change from last season, when Wroten was the go-to guy whenever the Dawgs needed a late bucket or to break out of a dry spell on offense. There’s certainly no problem with having no set leader going into the season; after all, it’s one of the bigger clichés in college sports that every team needs one of them. As long as someone, whether C.J. Wilcox, Scott Suggs or whoever, is willing to have the ball in their hands in the waning minutes and has the ability to make a play, there’s no problem. However, there is such a thing as being too unselfish, and close wins will soon become losses if that happens in Seattle this winter. The Huskies will play their one and only exhibition game on October 24 against Western Washington.
  2. Oregon State finished the month of March last season with a record of 6-2, an eight-game stretch in which leading scorer Jared Cunningham didn’t play very well. With Cunningham now playing for the Dallas Mavericks, that stretch gives Beaver fans the hope that players like Ahmad Starks, Devon Collier, and Angus Brandt can keep up the same offensive output without their star guard. Even more important than the trio above, however, will be the play of junior shooting guard Roberto Nelson. Nelson will be the Beavers’ only non-starter-turned-starter from a year ago, but he did play in all 36 games. According to head coach Craig Robinson, Nelson has matured and built on the experience gained from playing in each and every contest as a sophomore, and is ready to take the next step needed in 2012-13.
  3. Just one year removed from a cancer scare before the start of practice, California head coach Mike Montgomery is healthy and ready for the 2012-13 season to tip off. The tone was much different last year at this time, as Montgomery underwent surgery October 19 for bladder cancer, and subsequently he was declared cancer free and able to work the entirety of his 31st season as a head coach. The Golden Bears were the only Pac-12 team to gain an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament last season, and if they are to return it will be behind the play of sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow and junior guard Allen Crabbe. Both are strong shooters but need to show the ability to get to the free throw line more if the Bears are to compete for a Pac-12 championship.
  4. The air is crisp, the leaves are turning, and practices across the nation are beginning. That means it’s time for some preseason predictions. Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star, like everyone else around the country, said that he’s been wrestling on whether to put Arizona or UCLA at the top of the Pac this year. He eventually went with Ben Howland’s Bruins, with Arizona and the two Bay Area schools rounding out the upper third of the league race.
  5. We close with some recruiting news, and some big news at that. Class of 2013 small forward Jabari Parker, largely considered to be the top recruit in the nation, named Stanford as one of his final five schools on Friday. Parker’s ability to score from anywhere on the offensive end of the floor makes him this year’s can’t-miss prospect. The Simeon Career Academy (IL) product is also considering BYU, Duke, Florida, and Michigan State. Noticeably missing is Kentucky, who just got verbals from the second and fourth best players in the country on October 4 in the Harrison twins.
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