So Shabazz Is Leaving, But Who Else?

Posted by AMurawa on March 4th, 2013

Saturday night following UCLA’s win over Arizona, Ben Howland admitted that, yes, Shabazz Muhammad had, barring some strange unforeseen circumstances, played his last game at Pauley Pavilion, thus sharing a secret that everybody already knew. One of the nation’s top recruits, Muhammad will be a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft and his time in Westwood will be limited to just this one season. It’s no surprise, and certainly not worth spilling many pixels on. But, it is a good jumping off point to look around the rest of the Pac-12 and project the collegiate futures of other talented underclassmen and ask a couple different questions: First, will they declare for the NBA Draft after this season and, more subjectively, should they? Certainly every player’s own personal situation will have a say in the decision, and far be it from me to tell kids what they should and should not do with their potentially multi-million dollar futures, but it is that time of year when we start thinking about what some of these teams are going to look like next season. So, here’s a look at the players around the conference most likely to be weighing their options when the season ends, with Draft Express’ opinion on where these guys would be slated to go.

  • Allen Crabbe, Junior, California – Crabbe’s gone. The 6’6” wing has taken on a slightly bigger role each season in Berkeley and is one of the purest shooters in the draft. A solid defender as well, he’s got an NBA-ready game and could be a late first-round pick, although Draft Express currently projects him as the #11 pick in the second round. It is doubtful that another year in college would improve his draft stock substantially as Crabbe is mostly a completed player.
Allen Crabbe, California

Allen Crabbe’s Long Frame and Golden Jumper Have A Spot Waiting For Him In The NBA

  • Andre Roberson, Junior, Colorado – Odds are probably good that Roberson will leave after this season, but while he uses his long frame to great effect defensively and on the glass, he’s still a work in progress offensively. He’s a decent enough three-point shooter (35% for his career on limited attempts), but he is a poor free throw shooter, has a questionable handle, and has an unpolished offensive game anywhere inside of the three-point line. Draft Express has him as the seventh pick in the second round of this year’s draft, but I have a hard time projecting this guy’s game to the NBA when he sees players with more size and length and just as much athleticism competing with him for rebounds.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.04.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 4th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. UCLA head coach Ben Howland confirmed the obvious Sunday, saying that freshman Shabazz Muhammad had played his final game in Pauley Pavilion on Saturday when the Bruins defeated Arizona, 74-69. “That was his last game in Pauley. I knew going into this, this deal was a one-year deal.” Barring a huge reverse in plans or a major injury, Muhammad will be a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft. Freshman guard Kyle Anderson didn’t want to discuss his future plans, saying that he is too caught up in the season to think about that. Muhammad went for 18 points against the Wildcats, with Anderson finishing right behind him at 17.
  2. Even more important than freshman Dominic Artis‘ physical return to the Oregon team on Thursday was the swagger and mental boost he provided to the Duck team. Even if he is not fully functional or playing a full compliment of minutes yet, getting the player back that led you to a 17-2 start is huge. Also big is the effect his return can have on the selection committee, who will take into account the injury for Oregon’s seeding if the Ducks play like they were in the first two and a half months of the season.
  3. On January 14, Bob Cantu took over a 7-10 USC team that was looking dysfunctional and heading nowhere. Since then the Trojans have gone 7-5 and have recorded wins over the likes of UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State. SC is on the NIT bubble, and could very well make the field of 32 with a split in Washington and a win in the Pac-12 Tournament. At the very least, Cantu has at least earned the honor of being considered for the full-time stint in Los Angeles, but some are questioning if he was out of line by not playing senior Renaldo Woolridge during Saturday’s “Senior Night” game against Arizona State. As the piece points out, this was a big, Division I basketball game, and it’s not a time to play people just for the hell of it. But on the other hand, it wouldn’t exactly have hurt either to get Woolridge in for a minute or two. Regardless, Cantu is doing a great job with the SC program and this shouldn’t overshadow its terrific sweep of the Arizona schools this week.
  4. Oregon State will unveil the results of its re-branding efforts across all sports tonight at 6:30 Pacific. New logos, fonts, and uniforms will be revealed at the event that is more than two years in the making. Last month, one of the new logos was leaked, and the reviews were mixed. Whatever the final result is, it has to be better than what Arizona State rolled out earlier this week, right? You can view the festivities at osubeavers.com or follow along on Twitter at #ReBeaved.
  5. It’s Monday morning, which means John Templon’s NIT bracket projections are hot off the presses. Arizona State leads off the four Pac-12 schools that make the list as the top seed in the field, with a first round matchup projected against Northwestern. Stanford is right behind them as a two seed (making both part of the “last eight out of the NCAA”), also with an interesting game against Georgia Tech. Washington got a boost thanks to its Apple Cup win on Sunday, but the Huskies are still on the dangerous seven line, and they’ve got work to do to make sure their spot isn’t taken by an automatic bid. USC finishes off the Pac-12 list as an eight seed, with a projected first round game at Arkansas. The Trojans will need to win at least two of their final games to have a shot at making the field.
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Marching to Vegas: This Is Our Game of the Year?

Posted by AMurawa on March 2nd, 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.

Early on we dubbed this thing the Game of the Year. It was the conference’s two most storied programs set to square off on ESPN in the season’s waning moments with what was presumed to be title implications and a possible top NCAA seed on the line. It was UCLA. It was Arizona. Muhammad. Lyons. Anderson. Hill. With all the perspective of zero games played, this had “Game Of” written all over it; after all it was the necessary return to glory for the Conference of Champions perhaps still reeling from last season’s abomination. Well now it’s here and it sure doesn’t seem that sexy. One team will host with an underwhelming albeit sound 21-7 record wearing a home loss to Cal Poly amidst ambiguous rumblings surrounding the future of their head man. The other enters Pauley with lauded victories from what seems a season past but with just one win over a top-five Pac-12 team while looking the part of effortless softies. No, the aforementioned would not suggest this is anyone’s Game of the Year and certainly not as the producers of the game have hyper-hyped their prime-er time game featuring Duke and Miami.

When Arizona and UCLA Meet On The Hardwood, Pac-12 Basketball Fans Watch

When Arizona and UCLA Meet On The Hardwood, Pac-12 Basketball Fans Watch

This is an improved year by way of Pac-12 product but hasn’t quite lived up to its moderate hype. The conference held its first game featuring ranked opponents (#21 Oregon @ #24 UCLA, 1/19) since March 2009; but that cannot be the barometer by which we measure the conference’s success. It’s in fact a touch embarrassing and we should probably not mention it again, like walking into the women’s restroom. The collective RPI has hovered in the #6 range throughout the year which isn’t great but it’s certainly an improvement. Last year the conference sat in ninth, easily last amongst the power conferences. I mean, the conference champion wasn’t invited to the NCAA Tournament, do I really need to demonstrate that last year was bad again?

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Award Tour: Huge Week Carries Otto Porter to the Top of the NPOY List

Posted by DCassilo on March 1st, 2013

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

As we hit March, the NPOY race looks like it’s down to four players: Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Mason Plumlee and Otto Porter Jr. While it’s almost certain that one of those four will take home the hardware, it’s almost impossible to decide on a clear front-runner. Look around the Internet, and you’ll see each of those players No. 1 somewhere. In a season with no clear-cut best team, a race like this for Player of the Year is fitting. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out over the next 17 days.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Jack Cooley – Notre Dame (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.4 PPG, 11 RPG

Cooley & Martin Will Likely Be Overlooked Again (AP Photo/J. Raymond)

Cooley has had a lot to celebrate this season. (AP Photo/J. Raymond)

One of the few players from a major conference to average a double-double, Cooley has been a quiet force on an overlooked Notre Dame team. He’s not going to make any top 10 highlight reels, but he is going to be the reason the Irish win games. This week: March 2 at Marquette, March 5 vs. St. John’s

9. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 19.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG

The Ohio State junior is what he is — a scorer who can do some rebounding. He does both every single night, regardless of defense. Thomas is a really good college player that is close to being a great one. This week: March 5 at Ohio State

8. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG

Zeller has shown a knack for disappearing in big games, and Tuesday’s loss to Minnesota was no different. He went just 2-of-9 from the floor before fouling out with nine points. He can’t do that in March. This week: March 2 vs. Iowa, March 5 vs. Ohio State

7. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 17.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG

As Gonzaga appears poised to grab the No. 1 ranking, Olynyk is on a tear. The junior has made at least 70 percent of his shots in his last four games. Regardless of competition, that’s pretty impressive. This week: March 2 vs. Portland

6. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 22.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG

At a time when his team desperately needed it, McDermott had one of his best games of the season on Wednesday for Creighton. The junior finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds against Bradley. He will need to do that routinely for this team to go anywhere. This week: March 2 vs. Wichita State

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Pac-12 M5: 03.01.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on March 1st, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Abdul Gaddy has failed to meet expectations at Washington. Gaddy came out of Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma after averaging more than 25 points per game there. He had a subpar freshman year but was improving in his sophomore campaign and appeared as if he was about to turn a corner when he tore his ACL midway through the season. In Gaddy’s first three seasons as a Husky, he averaged no more than eight points a game, but the senior has averaged 11 points and three rebounds per game, both career highs, this year. Ultimately, unless Gaddy can lead the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament by capturing a Pac-12 Tournament title, it’s likely his career at Washington will be viewed largely as a disappointment.
  2. Despite not having any previous head coaching experience, Bob Cantu might be in good position to stay at USC full time as the head coach after his interim year. Although athletic director Pat Haden has interviewed some other candidates, Cantu has certainly done a great job thus far for USC after taking over for Kevin O’Neill. A Pac-12 Tournament title would likely solidify Cantu as the guy at USC and that’s not entirely out of the question. Cantu has coached the Trojans to a one-point loss to Oregon, a win on the road against UCLA, and most recently to a home win against Arizona, showing that USC can play with the best in the conference. As Colorado proved last year, winning four games in four days isn’t impossible and USC might just be the team to accomplish that feat this year.
  3. UCLA beat Arizona State on Wednesday night, but Shabazz Muhammad suffered a sprained ankle in the victory. Muhammad said it was minor and that he should be fine, but the talented freshman is also dealing with pink eye. Neither problem is expected to keep Muhammad out of UCLA’s game against Arizona on Saturday. The Bruins are also dealing with an injury to Travis Wear as he missed his second straight game Wednesday because of a sprained foot. Head coach Ben Howland hopes to have Wear back for the Arizona game too, but he is still listed as day-to-day.
  4. After Arizona’s loss to USC on Wednesday, Oregon is now in prime position to win the Pac-12. With the Ducks’ win over Oregon State last night, they now just have to win their last two games to claim the crown because Oregon has already beaten UCLA to own the tiebreaker. Barring a loss next weekend at Colorado or Utah, Oregon could be heading to Vegas as the #1 seed and will continue to improve with Dominic Artis returning to full health.
  5. Sean Miller said Wednesday night’s defensive play against USC was the Wildcats’ worst performance of the year. Arizona allowed USC to shoot 58 percent in the first half and an even better 65 percent in the second half. The Trojans had five players who scored double figures and at one point the defense was so poor that Miller switched to a zone defense halfway through the second half. The claims at midseason that Arizona was overrated look on point right now. The Wildcats are just 3-5 against the top seven teams in the Pac-12 and are struggling on defense at a very the worst possible time of the year.
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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VIII: The Honor Roll

Posted by AMurawa on February 26th, 2013

This week, Professor Pac is a proud papa, as some of his most prized pupils have turned in a solid week of work. Of the four teams that earned As this week, three of them are within a game of the top of the conference and all four expect to be invited to the Big Dance.

California – A

At the end of the fourth week of conference play, the Golden Bears sat at 3-4 and four games off the pace set by then 7-0 Oregon Ducks. Since then, behind surprisingly balanced production, Cal has gone 7-1 and eked to within one game of the lead. This week they took a road trip to the Oregon schools and didn’t play particularly well, yet still managed to sneak out a pair of wins by a total of three points. And believe me, those two games were even closer than the tight scores could indicate. But, it’s two more wins to add onto the pile. And with a favorable schedule down the stretch, Mike Montgomery and crew are very much in the title hunt, no matter how improbable that may have seemed.

Tyrone Wallace's Shots Haven't Been Falling Lately, But Luckily He Is Capable Of Making Contributions Elsewhere (Lance Iversen, The San Francisco Chronicle)

Tyrone Wallace’s Shots Haven’t Been Falling Lately, But Luckily He Is Capable Of Making Contributions Elsewhere (Lance Iversen/San Francisco Chronicle)

Focus on: Tyrone Wallace. Way back in November and December, if you had told me that the Golden Bears would wind up challenging for a Pac-12 title, I would have figured that the freshman out of Bakersfield had made a quantum leap somewhere around the turn of the calendar. But while Wallace has certainly had his moments this season, over the span of the current Cal five-game winning streak, his only game in double figures came on Saturday against Oregon State with 11. In fact, over the course of conference play, Wallace has shot just 33.8% from the field. While his jumper definitely lags behind other areas of his game, if that gets tightened up, he’s got a promising future.

Looking ahead: The closing stretch for the Bears is fairly manageable. This week they host Utah and Colorado at Haas Pavilion, with the latter of those games obviously being the more perilous, then they wrap up the season next Wednesday by hosting Stanford. We can totally see the Bears earning a sweep this week, then heading into their final game of the regular season looking for a win to keep up with a couple other Pac-12 teams, only to be tripped up by their Bay Area rival.

Arizona – A

The Wildcats hosted the Washington schools and came away with a pair of wins by an average of 17.5 points per game. Now that’s the type of week we’re looking for from a team that wants to be ranked in the top 10 and earn a spot on the one or two seed line next month. And still, there is work to be done, as head coach Sean Miller sees room for more consistent effort on the defensive end. The Wildcats certainly have the talent for a run deep into March, and maybe even April, but we want to continue to see them put away lesser opponents rather than flirt with disaster in the end game.

Focus on: Solomon Hill. We haven’t talked a whole lot about Hill here this season, if only because he’s done the types of things that we’ve come to expect from him – you know, everything. Put it this way – he’s second on his team in scoring, third in assists and rebounds, second in steals and three-pointers made and he leads the team in minutes played. And he’s steady, regularly ready to be penciled in for double-figure points, five boards, three assists and a couple threes over the course of minutes in the mid-30s. Which makes his five-point, two-rebound performance against Washington State confusing. His minutes were somewhat limited by foul trouble, but still in 29 minutes of action, Hill was often invisible.

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Award Tour: Trey Burke And Marcus Smart Rise to the Top

Posted by DCassilo on February 22nd, 2013

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a real college all-star game? First of all, it would give every team a break it needs, and second, seeing the top players face off would be great. Imagine something like Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott, Jeff Withey and Kelly Olynyk against Marcus Smart, Deshaun Thomas, Otto Porter Jr., Mason Plumlee and Cody Zeller. Personally, I would love to see Burke and Smart run their teams against each other. I know there is some lame all-star game during Final Four weekend, but a mid-season game is something that the NCAA should consider.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 15 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.9 SPG

It’s amazing that Smart not only is this great already but also has so much room for improvement. In the double-overtime loss against Kansas on Wednesday, he was the most important player on the floor despite going 2-of-14 from the field. One more offseason of workouts will make him a lethal player. This week: February 23 at West Virginia, February 27 at TCU

9. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 17.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG

Kelly Olynyk's Breakout Year Has Gonzaga As One Of The Nation's Elite Offensive Teams (USA Today Sports Images)

Kelly Olynyk’s Breakout Year Has Gonzaga As One Of The Nation’s Elite Offensive Teams (USA Today Sports Images)

There is likely no better frontcourt tandem in the nation than Olynyk and Elias Harris. The two combine to average 32.5 PPG and 14.4 RPG. There are few teams in the country that will be able to match up with that duo in the NCAA Tournament. This week: February 23 vs. San Diego, February 28 at BYU

8. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 20.1 PPG, 6 RPG

Thomas is just a straight-up gunner. He takes 16 shots per game and has scored in double-figures in every game this season. It seems nearly impossible to completely take him out of a game defensively. This week: February 24 vs. Michigan State, February 28 at Northwestern

7. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 22.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG

For all his accolades as a scorer, McDermott’s ability to rebound often gets overlooked. The 6’8″ junior has eight double-doubles so far this season and has hauled in as many as 13 rebounds in a game. This week: February 23 at St. Mary’s, February 27 at Bradley

6. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 13.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.0 BPG

At the most important part of the season, Withey is playing his best basketball. He’s had double-doubles in his last three games, which is something he hasn’t done all season. The 14 rebounds against Oklahoma State on Wednesday were a season-high. This week: February 23 vs. TCU, February 25 at Iowa State

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Pac-12 Burning Question: Who Can Drop 53?

Posted by AMurawa on February 15th, 2013

Our Pac-12 commentators are back with their answers to the biggest questions around the conference. This week:

“Last week Nate Wolters of South Dakota State went for 53 points in a game. If you had to put your money on one Pac-12 player breaking out for 53 points, who would it be?”

Reader’s Take

 

Adam Butler: There’s a team in Seattle that struggles with their identity some. They’d been built on run-and-gun, a throwback to the Pac-12 of old and the sweet spot for Lorenzo Romar. This year, however, they’ve run into some growing pains as they work to implement a new high post offense; a response to the oft criticized Husky half-court scoring ability. Through those pains they’ve learned to lock things down and play some defense. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get out and run it some and if you force them into it – as Arizona State did two weeks back – they can score with the best of them. As such, when pushed into such a pace, I think their top scorer and certainly one of the conference’s best, C.J. Wilcox, is the man to reach 52. There’s a dedicated effort to get that man the ball and, more often than not, he’s a tremendously capable scorer. Already he’s put up games of 28, 27, 27, and 25 and shoots at a 45% clip. The silky smooth shooter runs in an offense that needs him to succeed. That combination – skill and necessity – makes Wilcox my vote for Most Likely to Drop 53.

With Limited Scoring Options On The Husky Team, Maybe C.J. Wilcox Is The Guy Who Could Go For 53 (Pac-12)

With Limited Scoring Options On The Husky Team, Maybe C.J. Wilcox Is The Guy Who Could Go For 53 (Pac-12)

Parker Baruh: If I have to pick one player to drop 53 this season, I’d have to go with Allen Crabbe. Yes, it’s not a bold choice considering he leads the league in scoring at 19.8 points per game, but Crabbe has the best chance because of his efficiency and his ability to hurt opponents from all parts of the floor. He’s shooting a career high 48 percent from the field this year and his true shooting percentage is also at a career high at 59 percent. Although he’s shooting a career low 35 percent from three, he’s still proved many times this year he’s the best scorer in the conference. Earlier in the season, he had 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting against USC and had 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting against Utah. Recently, in arguably his best performance in a Cal uniform, he was instrumental in the Bears’ upset win over Arizona shooting a ridiculous 12-of-15 from the field while tallying 31 points. Ultimately, no one in the Pac-12 is capable of scoring 53, but if I had to choose one, I’m going with someone who can single-handedly win games for his team when he has the hot hand, and that’s Crabbe.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VI: Honor Roll

Posted by AMurawa on February 12th, 2013

Professor Pac is back, trying to break down the mess that is the Pac-12, a task harder than you might think. This week’s Honor Roll is highlighted by Colorado, a team that bounced back from an awful week last time around to earn this week’s highest grade.

Colorado – A

A week ago, the Buffaloes earned the only F we’ve handed out this season. You can tell a lot about how a team responds to absolute failure. After losing to Utah while earning a 22-point deficit at one point, their F was well-earned. Likewise, this week’s A is appropriate. Colorado wasn’t mind-blowingly effective this week, but they were tough. They played two tight games and, contrary to what they’d done earlier in the year, they finished strong. With an important week ahead (and a chance at revenge against the Utes the following week), the Buffs have an opportunity now to make their case for a continued presence near the top of the Pac-12 standings.

Josh Scott Scored 17 On Sunday Night, But His Rebounding Needs to Improve (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Josh Scott Scored 17 On Sunday Night, But His Rebounding Needs to Improve (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Focus on: Josh Scott. After scoring in double figures in 13 of his first 16 games as a Buff, Scott hit something of a freshman wall in mid-January. His average of 14.5 points per game over those first 16 games has fallen to fewer than eight points per game over the next five, while also contributing just three rebounds per night. While he was merely average against Oregon (seven points, two boards), and while he did little to chip in on the boards against Oregon State (four boards in 32 minutes as his team was outrebounded by a relatively poor rebounding OSU team), he did wake up offensively, scoring 17 points while making 7-of-10 field goals. That type of success needs to continue, preferably with some additional rebounding mixed in there.

Looking ahead: The Buffaloes have been pointing to Valentine’s night ever since the final buzzer sounded in their controversial overtime loss to Arizona on the opening night of conference play. If CU can take care of business at home against the Wildcats and put the demons of the Debacle in the Desert to rest, it could be a springboard for continued success down the stretch. If they get outplayed by a talented Arizona team, that disappointment could snowball, especially with a tough and hungry Arizona State squad waiting on Saturday.

USC – A

For the second straight week, the Trojans earn an A. Once forgotten, this team is now a prized student and a team that could make a mess of things come the second week in March in Las Vegas. The Trojans have now won three in a row, they’re at 6-5 in the conference, and, seemingly like 17 other teams in the Pac-12, they sit within two games of first place.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume V: The Delinquents

Posted by AMurawa on February 6th, 2013

Professor Pac isn’t pleased with all of his pupils. Four teams will be spending time in detention this week for their misdeeds in their most recent performances.

Washington State – D+

Two home losses equal the Cougars third D+ of the year. A really, those grades have probably only been that high out of pity.

Focus on: Brock Motum. There are plenty of problems around Pullman, but perhaps the biggest one is the lack of enough offensive playmakers to create quality looks for and distract opponents from focusing on Brock Motum. While the senior Aussie has still produced at a laudable rate (he’s averaging 18.3 points per night and hasn’t failed to score in double figures yet this season), he’s had to put in much more work to accomplish what he has and as a result, his efficiency has suffered.  Only twice in conference play has he delivered a game with an eFG% better than 50% and he’s probably spending too much time bombing from three.

Looking ahead: The Cougs travel to the Los Angeles schools this week where they’ll need Motum to get help from guys like Mike Ladd, DaVonte Lacy, and Royce Woolridge to have a chance at a successful weekend.

Brock Motum, Washington State

Brock Motum Has Been Putting The Ball In Bucket Regularly, But Needs More Help From His Teammates (Dean Hare/AP)

Oregon State – D+

Five weeks into conference play and this is the Beavers’ second-highest weekly grade. Suffice it to say, this semester is not going well for them. This week they got solid offensive performances, rebounded the ball particularly well and still, just couldn’t stop anybody, giving up 1.23 points per possession. For the year, the Beavers have far and away the worst defense in the conference; they’re the only team in the conference with an adjusted defensive efficiency higher than 100. And that’s happening with two of the longest, most athletic, dialed-in defensive players in the conference in Eric Moreland and Devon Collier. Craig Robinson has been mostly trying to play man-to-man defense, but this weekend we saw much more of his 1-3-1 defense. With Moreland at the point of the attack here and with the ability to sort of hide Joe Burton in the middle, this may be the best solution for the Beavers.

Focus on: Joe Burton. Speaking of Burton, he may not be even remotely useful on the defensive end, but he sure is a fun watch when the Beavers have the ball. He’s got the prototypical old man game. I’m not sure he could leap over an iPhone, but he does a great job of carving out space for himself with his 300-pound frame, he’s got great vision, he’s capable of making spectacular passes and will occasionally even break out the sky hook. This week he averaged 15.5 points, nine rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. Yeah, so he probably assisted in giving up 30 points a game, but it was entertaining at least.

Looking ahead: The Beavers have 11 losses, but only once all season (the Pac-12 opener against Oregon) have they lost by more than ten points. In other words, they’re going to keep things close, they’re going to play entertaining games and they’re going to continue to be worth watching. And, somewhere along the line here, they’re going to string a couple of wins together, even if by accident. This week they host Utah and Colorado. They can win those games.

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Award Tour: Fabulous Week For Freshmen; Jim Larranaga Is New No. 1 Coach

Posted by DCassilo on February 1st, 2013

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

What a couple of days it was for our freshmen across college basketball. On Tuesday, there was Nerlens Noel, who provided one of college basketball’s best performances of the year by blocking 12 shots in Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss. Meanwhile, his teammate Archie Goodwin posted 24 points, six rebounds and four assists. A day later it was Baylor’s Isaiah Austin stealing the show with 19 points and 20 rebounds. Elsewhere in the Big 12, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart had 21 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Anyone who believes talent is down this year for the freshman class just hasn’t been paying attention.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 18.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG

After starting the season on fire, Bennett has not been nearly as dominant in the Mountain West Conference. He clings to a spot this week after averaging 15 points and seven rebounds over his last two games. This week: February 2 at Boise State, February 6 at Fresno State

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Zeller has drawn a lot of criticism this season, mainly because of expectations that were too high in the first place. When the dust settles, he’s still the top scorer and rebounder on the third-best team in the country. This week: February 2 vs. Michigan, February 7 at Illinois

8. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 18 PPG, 6.9 RPG

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season.

With the below-average competition in the West Coast Conference, Olynyk isn’t posting monster numbers lately because he really doesn’t have to. He’s coming off a week in which he averaged 14 points and seven rebounds, while the Bulldogs cruised to two victories. This week: February 2 at San Diego, February 7 vs. Pepperdine

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Early foul trouble against West Virginia on Monday had McLemore destined for his worst game in ages. But he still found a way to finish with a solid 13 points and four rebounds. It must be nice to have a freshman that you can pencil in for at least those numbers every night. This week: February 2 vs. Oklahoma State, February 6 at TCU

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What We Learned This Week In The Pac-12

Posted by PBaruh on January 30th, 2013

Here are some takeaways from the week that was in the Pac-12.

Arizona State Isn’t Going Away

The Sun Devils were impressive once again in another week of Pac-12 action by going 2-0 and continuing to win games they weren’t expected to win. First, Arizona State beat USC 98-93 in overtime by holding off a valiant effort from the Trojans. Then, they picked up their biggest win of the season as they were victorious over UCLA. Yes, UCLA was coming off a huge win against Arizona itself and might not have been particularly excited to play the Sun Devils two days later. Even without the presence of Travis Wear, the Bruins still have a lot of talent but that didn’t stop Arizona State from dominating the entire game. The great play of Jahii Carson has obviously been key in Arizona State’s success, but Carrick Felix’s improvement has been important as well. Felix was named ESPN’s National Player of the Week for his 16-point, 1o-rebound effort against USC and his 23-point, 11-rebound effort against UCLA. He is also second on the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game and first in rebounding with 8.2 boards per contest. Without the maturity and improvement of Carrick Felix, the Sun Devils would not be where they are at right now.

Carrick Felix, Arizona State

Carrick Felix has been a big part of Arizona State’s recent success.

Felix and Carson have had the largest impacts, but Arizona State has also been helped out by the strong play of Jordan Bachnyski. The 7’2″ center has been phenomenal on defense in rejecting 4.3 shots per game and blocking 15.6 percent of the shots taken while he is on the floor. He’s also been great at limiting his fouls as he’s only picked up more than three fouls once in conference play thus far and has yet to foul out all season. And he had his most impressive performance of the year against UCLA, with 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks in the Sun Devils’ big win.

After two consecutive dismal years in the Pac-12 where Herb Sendek’s team only managed 22 total wins, they’ve finally turned it around. Jahii Carson has been incredible, and Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachnyski deserve a majority of the credit as well. Many thought Arizona State would prove that their strong record before conference play was due to an easy schedule, but the Sun Devils are proving their legitimacy with wins over Colorado and UCLA. Up next, Arizona State is on the road against Washington and Washington State. If they can sweep, Arizona State might no longer be on the bubble and could be looking at a great shot to make the NCAA Tournament and contend for a bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.

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