Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.21.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 21st, 2011

  1. Let’s face it. It has been an ugly start to the season for the Pac-12 conference. Bad losses have been piled upon off-the-court problems and injuries to create some struggles out of the gate. The UCLA losses are the poster children for this epidemic, while Utah and Arizona State, to name just two, haven’t done much to help either. All that being said, Saturday night’s USC game was a new low. It’s not just that the Trojans lost to Cal Poly, a team that is a halfway-decent, middle-of-the-road Big West team. It is the manner in which the Trojans lost. They scored 36 points in the game. They scored 16 points in the second half (which, really, was only slightly worse than the first half). It’s not like they had a ton of possessions (roughly 54), but still, that works out to 0.67 points per possession. They turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions, and when they didn’t turn it over, they posted a 32.9% eFG. They only grabbed 65.7% of available defensive rebounds and just 16.7% of available offensive rebounds. Their best player, sophomore point guard Maurice Jones hit just one out of 11 field goal attempts, and now has just a 29.7% eFG this season. The good news is that there are some good young players on this USC squad which should provide a good foundation upon which to build this program; the bad news is, Trojans fans might need eyeball replacement surgery if they watch too much of this team this season.
  2. Washington had a bad day from start to finish on Sunday. It started out with the Huskies getting absolutely taken apart by Saint Louis in the morning, a game in which they fell behind by 25 points at the half before making a bit of a run at the end to only lose by 13. While the Billikens are a very good team and played a terrific game Sunday morning, the Huskies were exposed in their first loss. First and foremost, the relentless ball screening by SLU caused Washington all sorts of problems defensively, creating wide-open looks for threes and clean entry passes into the post. Secondly, because the Huskies were forced to take the ball out of the net so many times, they were forced to play a lot of halfcourt offense and struggled to get good looks out of their sets. Really, we know that the Huskies are going to improve as the season goes on and SLU is some good competition so this is by no means a crushing loss, but it does mean that the Huskies will be working their tails off in practice this week. Still, the long day wasn’t done for the Huskies when the final whistle blew because their flight back to Seattle was forced to make an emergency landing in Spokane and wait for an hour for the next jump back home.
  3. Colorado wrapped up their disappointing weekend in Puerto Rico on Sunday by salvaging seventh place in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a win over Western Michigan. The Buffaloes were able to seal the win despite playing much of the game without sophomore forward Andre Roberson, who fouled out in just 11 minutes of game action. Senior forward Austin Dufault and sophomore center Shane Harris-Tunks picked up the slack for Roberson on the glass, each snagging eight rebounds, while senior wing Carlon Brown did the bulk of the scoring, hitting  eight of his 14 field goal attempts for 23 points while adding six rebounds and four assists. The win sends the Buffs home with at least something to feel good about, despite dropping winnable games in the first two rounds against Wichita State and Maryland.
  4. Just when you thought the Reeves Nelson soap opera at UCLA was done (at least until the next thing goes wrong on the court), Nelson missed the team bus to the airport on Saturday for the team’s flight to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. He was allowed to take a later flight to Maui and is expected to play today when the Bruins start the tournament by playing the host, Chaminade. Head coach Ben Howland also confirmed on Sunday that the whole Nelson suspension thing was first started when he was late for a team meeting the day after the Bruins’ season opening loss to Loyola Marymount.
  5. Oregon State is in the middle of an 11-day, three-game east coast trip, and got their travels off to a good start on Saturday night with an overtime win over Texas in the semifinals of the Legends Classic. We’ll have more on the Beavers later today, but this morning we wanted to share with you a peek inside their program from the perspective of the players, specifically senior Kevin McShane and sophomore Roberto Nelson (collectively McBert, apparently) who are keeping a blog about their road trip. The first entry gives you a glimpse at the practice and travel schedule of college athletes, while the second captures the emotions following their big win on Saturday night. Great stuff from an otherwise dismal Pac-12 landscape this weekend.
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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.

 

Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Colorado

Posted by AMurawa on October 24th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Colorado Buffaloes

Strengths.  Tad Boyle’s got a couple of terrific athletes at the wing in Carlon Brown and Andre Roberson, each capable of being offensive threats, strong defenders and excellent rebounders for their positions. While neither of them is a great shooter from range, point guard Nate Tomlinson is, and big man Austin Dufault can also step outside and hit the 18-footer, allowing the Buffs to stretch the defense to clear room for their slashers.

Weaknesses. After losing the top four scorers from last season’s squad, the biggest weakness for the Buffaloes is simply the lack of experience. While this team sports four seniors, only one of them has been a primary offensive option for his team before, and that’s Brown, who did it at Utah two years ago. Beyond that, while this CU roster features four guys listed a 6’9″ or taller, Dufault is the only big man who has earned significant playing time in the past. Finally, you can expect this team’s free-throw shooting, ranked fifth in the nation last season, to take a serious hit this year as Roberson, in particular, has struggled from the line.

Andre Roberson

With last year's top four leading scorers graduated, Colorado will need sophomore Andre Roberson to play a bigger role.

Nonconference Tests.  The Buffs start their season the weekend before Thanksgiving in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where they’ll open with a game against Wichita State, then play either Alabama or Maryland in the second round. All of those games are significant tests, as are Iona, Purdue and Temple, three possible Sunday opponents in that tournament, depending on results of earlier games. Colorado will also travel to Air Force and Colorado State, with a visit from Georgia sandwiched in the middle, before seeing their December slate ease up substantially.

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RTC Summer Updates: Pac-12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 25th, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our Pac-12 correspondent, Andrew Murawa.

Reader’s Take #1

Summer Storylines

  • The More, The Merrier: The Pac-10 is dead. Long live the Pac-12. The conference welcomes in Colorado and Utah for their first season in the conference, the first expansion in the West Coast’s premier conference since Arizona and Arizona State were added 33 years ago. Along with the new teams comes a new schedule – gone is the full home-and-away round robin. While there won’t be divisions in basketball like there are in football, each team will play an 18-game schedule with home and away games against its traditional rival, with six other rotating home-and-away series and four additional single games against the remaining teams. For instance, Colorado and Utah will only play the Southern California schools and the Washington schools once each, while they will play the remainder of the conference twice. While neither of the new schools are expected to make a big splash immediately in the conference, their arrival, coupled with other changes around the conference, such as the huge new $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox that begins in the fall of 2012, makes it an exciting time to be a Pac-12 fan.
  • Is There A Draft In Here?: Last summer, a big story around the conference was the dearth of Pac-10 players picked in the NBA Draft, as just two players from the conference were selected by NBA teams in 2010. After the 21 players that were picked in the conference between the 2008 and 2009 drafts, that was a precipitous fall. And, back before the season started, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of future high draft picks on the horizon. However, the conference had six players picked in the NBA draft, including three first-rounders and two lottery picks. Derrick Williams, the 2010-11 conference player of the year, led the way, getting snapped up by Minnesota with the #2 overall pick. Unfortunately for teams around the conference, 12 seasons of eligibility were left on the table between those six picks and the two early entries who went undrafted: Stanford’s Jeremy Green and Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto. And as a result, what had looked like a potential big-time bounce-back season for the conference now sees somewhat diminished expectations. Perhaps no team was hit harder by early defections than UCLA, who had Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee leave a total of three years of eligibility behind to go get second-round NBA draft picks (and the absence of guaranteed contracts that goes with them) at a time when the NBA labor situation is highly in doubt, but Washington State’s loss of Casto and lottery pick Klay Thompson also leaves the Cougars’ situation fuzzy at best.
  • Replacing Production: Between the early entries to the NBA Draft and departed seniors, the Pac-12 loses its top seven scorers from last season, and 11 of its top 20. Likewise, ten of the top 20 rebounders are gone. However, as always, a new batch of youngsters is ready to show up on campuses this fall and begin contributing immediately. While the Pac-10 inked only nine of the ESPNU top 100 recruits, seven of those players are exciting young guards, all ranked in the top 60 on that list. Arizona leads the way, signing point guard Josiah Turner (#14 overall, according to ESPNU) and Nick Johnson (#21), to go with a couple solid frontcourt signees (Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson, #60 and #91, respectively). But Washington (Tony Wroten, Jr., #16), Oregon (Jabari Brown, #25), Arizona State (Jahii Carson, #49), UCLA (Norman Powell, #51) and Stanford (Chasson Randle, #59) all have their own big backcourt recruits ready to provide a burst of energy.

Derrick Williams' performances were one of the highlights of the 2010-11 season.

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