Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 1st, 2012
Providence has struggled to find wins in conference play, currently sitting in last place at 1-8. However Ed Cooley and company continue to win on the recruiting trail as multiple reports revealed yesterday that Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson will become a Friar. No official announcement was made by the school at the time of this writing, but once all of the Is are dotted and Ts are crossed, Johnson will be slated to make his Providence debut next December. The 6’8” power forward should add much needed frontcourt depth. Johnson, a top 100 prospect in the class of 2011, enhances an already high-profile 2012 recruiting class for Providence that includes two top 25 talents in shooting guard Ricardo Ledo and point guard Kris Dunn to go along with sharpshooter Joshua Fortune. As presently constituted Providence does not have an open scholarship, but rumors have circulated recently that redshirt junior Bilal Dixon will transfer to Towson for his final year of eligibility. Johnson appeared in only three games for Arizona this season (0.3 PPG, 0.7 RPG).
The latest chapter in the Bernie Fine saga has taken a soap-opera-like twist. An affidavit filed byGloria Allred, the attorney representing Fine accusers Robert Davis and Michael Lange in a defamation suit against Syracuse University and head coach Jim Boeheim, alleges that Laurie Fine, wife of Bernie, had sex with a number of Syracuse players over the years. The suit says Boeheim defamed Davis and Lange when he questioned their motives for accusing Fine of molesting them and indicated they were lying for financial gain. In the affidavit, Davis, who is also on record as having consensual sexual relationships with both of the Fines, said Laurie Fine’s activities were common knowledge around the program and therefore Boeheim had to know what was going on. “Players used to talk openly about it as a known fact,” Davis said. Mrs. Fine’s attorney, Edward Z. Menkin, quickly lashed back against Allred and the accusations. “This is both desperate and disgusting, an example of a lawyer flailing about to keep a dying lawsuit in the public eye,” Menkin told The Syracuse Post-Standard.
Never thought you’d see Marquette’s Davante Gardner and the word thin in the same story? Well, Gardner suffered a sprained knee against Villanova on Saturday so the Golden Eagles were without their 6’9”, 290–pound forward/center for last night’s 66-59 victory over Seton Hall. This further depleted an already thin Marquette front line as Gardner had been starting and playing increased minutes in the absence of Chris Otule, who is out for the year after suffering a knee injury in early December. Gardner has responded positively to the increased role (11.4 PPG, 6.3RPG since the Otule injury heading into last night’s game), and is listed as day-to-day. Marquette next plays Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame.
Louisville is another team that has been beset by injuries this season and their lack of bodies has meant trial by fire for freshman forward Chane Behanan. To Behanan’s credit he has responded well and is churning out a solid rookie campaign. While Behanan’s steady progress has perhaps kept him under the radar and overshadowed by bigger freshman names such as Andre Drummond and Moe Harkless, it appears the secret is leaking out. Behanan has started 22 of 23 games and is averaging 24.4 minutes per game. Despite the heavy workload in his first year, rather than wearing down it appears that Behanan is gaining steam, posting averages of 12.7 points and 9.0 rebounds over Louisville’s last four games versus his overall season totals of 9.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
The Big East continues to find itself the subject of realignment fodder as CBSSports.com reported yesterday that Louisville is “aggressively pursuing a Big 12 invitation.” As noted here at the time, Big 12 officials met last week to discuss the possibility of further expansion. While obligatory statements like, “There is nothing imminent” came out of that meeting, you can bet people did not just show up for the free Frescas and wing dings. The Big 12 is sitting at 10 teams right now, or at least will be once West Virginia’s situation with the Big East has been worked out, and needs to decide whether it wants to stand pat or keep adding schools. If they do expand further, doing so with one additional school does not seem to make sense. But get this, the Big 12 actually going to 12 members probably does. If so, the Big East will remain firmly entrenched in the Big 12’s crosshairs for the foreseeable future. As the CBS piece points out, Cincinnati would pop up next on the rolodex after Louisville.
Fresca Fuels Big 12 Expansion, Or Maybe Not (Photo: Fresca.com)
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.
The third weekend in conference play went a long way towards settling the conference into some tentative tiers. With the Bay Area schools’ sweeps of Colorado and Utah, Stanford and California sit atop the conference with 5-1 records and have established themselves, for now, as the teams to beat in the conference. A half-step back sits Washington, winner of four of five conference games, but unproven on the road so far, and Oregon, the sole team in conference play with more than one road win – the Ducks have three. The next tier down is made up of Arizona, Colorado and UCLA, all teams with two losses who have been inconsistent, but have enough talent to leave a mark on the Pac-12 race. We’ll wedge in one more tier before the bottom, with Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon State all seriously flawed teams who for one reason or another are clearly better than the tier of Utah and USC at the bottom of the Pac.
Yesterday we got news of a couple more problem children coming to the end of their ropes with their current teams, as Cal’s Richard Solomon and Utah’s Josh Watkins, both of whom had already been suspended for a game once this season, ran into trouble. Solomon was declared academically ineligible and is done for the year, though he could return next season for his junior year provided he cleans up his grades. Watkins, however, is done. The senior was booted off the Ute team by head coach Larry Krystkowiak for his second behavior-related offense of the season. It’s been that kind of year in the Pac-12, with these two just the latest in a line that includes Reeves Nelson, Jabari Brown, Keala King, Sidiki Johnson and Bruce Barron (and I’m sure I’ve blocked another player or two from my memory), players whose seasons ended early because of their own decisions.
The Loss Of Richard Solomon Is A Potential Major Blow To Cal's Conference Title Chances (pac-12.org)
What to Watch For
Until further notice, we can just assume that whatever games involve the Bay Area schools any week will be the games to keep an eye on, with the two matchups between the rivals potentially being the games of the year. This week, it is the Washington schools hosting California and Stanford, and the Huskies, in particular, should provide a stiff test for both schools. Washington will be without the services of second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox for both games this week, due to a stress fracture in his hip, his loss will rob Lorenzo Romar’s bunch not only of a pure shooter on offense, but also one of the Huskies’ best perimeter defenders, a situation that could spell trouble against talented three-point shooters such as Cal’s Allen Crabbe and Stanford’s Anthony Brown, to name two. Read the rest of this entry »
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.
Personnel Problems – Certainly every team around the country has to deal with some personnel problems of their own. Players get hurt, kids decide to transfer, suspensions get handed out. But, wow. Is it just me or does it seem like an already under-talented conference has been hammered by a string of issues that have robbed them of even more talent? The Reeves Nelson situation at UCLA has been run into the ground, while the Jabari Brown transfer (followed by Bruce Barron’s transfer) is old news in Oregon. Mike Montgomery at California had to suspended forward Richard Solomon just before they traveled to San Diego State, then on the day he was to be reinstated, he and roommate Allen Crabbe overslept and were late to a morning shootaround and began that game on the bench. Josiah Turner has suffered through a benching and a suspension for his inability to get to practices on time (and he potentially cost Arizona a win at Florida in the process). Sean Miller has also had to dismiss freshman Sidiki Johnson, while Utah’s leading scorer Josh Watkins was suspended for a game. Arizona State’s freshman point guard Jahii Carson, who head coach Herb Sendek figured would be the Sun Devils’ starter from day one, was declared ineligible for his freshman season following an insufficient ACT score.
Then there are the injuries – Washington State’s Abe Lodwick has yet to play this season, while Faisal Aden and Mychal Ladd have battled their own injuries in recent weeks. USC is without senior point guard Jio Fontan for the season, while sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon has had his development stunted by a couple injuries that he has played through. This week, just a day after Washington announced that senior Scott Suggs would take a redshirt year after struggling with his recovery from foot surgery, their center Aziz N’Diaye sprained his knee and will miss at least the next four games. Back in Eugene, Tyrone Nared had a knee sprain of his own and is out until conference play. And the above is just a partial list cut short for (relative) simplicity’s sake. Now, none of the above is meant to imply that without the above maladies the Pac-12 would be a great conference, just that on a list of all of the possible things that could have gone wrong for Pac-12 teams so far, the teams have seemingly gone out of their way to check off most of them.
It Has Only Been Two Games, But Devoe Joseph Has Made A Major Impact For Oregon (Chris Pietsch, The Register-Guard)
One Bit of Good News – Dana Altman at least had a bit of good news this week as Devoe Joseph, a senior transfer from Minnesota, played his first games in a Duck uniform and immediately proved his worth. Not only did Joseph lead Oregon in scoring in his first game out against Fresno State, he made a couple of huge momentum changing threes in the second half that helped spur the Ducks to victory. Not to be outdone, he came back on Monday in his second game in Eugene and helped preserve a win as he scored his team’s last eight points after Portland State had closed to within three with 90 seconds left. With Altman now basically trading a freshman (Brown) for the senior Joseph in the backcourt, this Duck team is loaded with veterans and could still make waves in conference play.
Very Few, If Any, Resume Wins – Starting right about now and reaching a crescendo in the early days of March, you’re going to hear a lot about who potential NCAA Tournament teams beat and where they beat them as a major criteria for an invitation to the Big Dance. That fact should have the Pac-12 shaking in its boots. To this point it looks like the best win by a Pac-12 team was Oregon State’s neutral-site victory over a Texas team that (1) was playing in its third game with a completely remade roster, and (2) hasn’t beaten anyone of note yet. Beyond that, what are the other wins the teams in this conference hope to hang their tournament resumes on? Cal knocking off a bad Georgia team? Arizona over a middling Clemson team? Stanford against Oklahoma State or North Carolina State? Worse yet, there just aren’t a whole lot of chances left on the schedule for teams to pick up defining wins in the non-conference. Zona goes to Seattle to play Gonzaga and Oregon hosts Virginia this weekend, while Cal travels to UNLV just before Christmas, and that’s it. The rest of the season is, more or less, flawed Pac-12 teams beating up on other flawed Pac-12 teams. In the end, a team like Washington had better either perform one hell of a lot better in road conference games than they have in the past few years OR make sure they win the Pac-12 Tournament, lest they be making NIT plans come March.
Player of the Year Watch
While no one has yet to step up and grab a lead in this race, Washington State’s Brock Motum did establish himself, albeit against lesser competition, as a legitimate horse in this race. The Cougs are in the midst of a four-game winning streak and Motum has averaged 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds over that stretch. And Motum remains one of two Pac-12 players to score in double figures in each of his team’s games this season. The other? Washington’s Terrence Ross, who not only has proven himself to be a consistent scorer, but also a versatile talent capable of filling the stats sheet. On the season, Ross is averaging 16.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, a couple of threes and a block per night.
Elsewhere Allen Crabbe has continued to be an efficient scorer on a nightly basis for the Golden Bears (15.8 PPG on the season while shooting over 46% from deep), while teammate Jorge Gutierrez continues to lead the conference in intangibles while contributing solid tangible stats to boot (12.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.9 APG). As for dark horse candidates who are just now beginning to go to the whip? Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson has averaged 15 points a contest over his last four, just barely starting to scratch the surface of his potential, while the aforementioned Devoe Joseph could get in the conversation with a strong showing in conference play.
Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 8th, 2011
Big East Recruiting Round-up is a recurring feature that will focus on, well, recruiting. Rumors, buzz, rankings…..everything potentially shiny and new.
Deck the Halls
Seton Hall has been busy looking for some holiday cheer to add to its roster. They were in the house to see Aquille Carr (’13 – 5’7″ point guard – Patterson– MD – Ranks: Rivals: 26 , ESPN: 59) play his first game of the season, according to Alex Kline of The Recruit Scoop. Carr, affectionately known as “The Crime Stopper” because the crime rate in Baltimore plunges when he plays, also has Big East interest from Louisville, Connecticut and Syracuse.
Carr is Being Looked at by a Number of High Majors (Photo Credit: Kelly Kline, ESPNHS)
The Pirates also offered Kris Jenkins (’13 – 6’5″ power forward – Gonzaga– DC – Ranks: Rivals: 26 , ESPN: N/R) per William Gunter via Twitter (@willgunter247). Jenkins holds an offer from Rutgers per ESPN.com and has interest from Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Villanova per Rivals.com.
The Hall has also experienced recruiting success through an unexpected resource called Canarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands. The academy has produced three current Pirates: Patrick Auda, Haralds Karlis and Aaron Germaipoor and coach Kevin Willard is reported to be mining Canarias for a class of 2012 point guard according to southorangejuice.com via Twitter (@SOrangeJuice).
It was another busy weekend for Pac-12 basketball teams, and replicating previous weeks, it was another weekend piled high with losses and roster turnover. To kick things off with relatively happy news, USC had expected sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon to miss four to six weeks with a stress fracture. As it turned out, it was closer to four to six days that Dedmon missed, as he returned to action Saturday when the Trojans traveled to Minnesota, losing 55-40. Dedmon showed up to the game with a boot on his right foot, but played anyway, and although he didn’t contribute much worthwhile, for a roster that needs all the warm bodies it can get, his return is welcome.
We knew well before the season started that this year’s Utah squad would be bad. On Saturday, a 30-point loss to Fresno State dropped the Utes to 1-6, the worst start in the history of the basketball program. The team’s lone win was a 58-55 squeaker over San Diego Christian, a NAIA team that isn’t even much good at that level. Fresno State had previously lost to teams like Texas-San Antonio, Manhattan and North Dakota State, meaning the Utes didn’t even get blown out by a good team. We’ll continue to keep an eye on this squad and root for them to get a win here and there, but it is an awful shame that for the school’s first year in a major conference, they have to be cursed with the worst team in the history of the school.
Okay, enough negatives. There were some positives around the conference this weekend (and yes, this means I won’t even mention Washington’s overtime loss to Nevada or UCLA folding like a tent against Texas). To begin with, Arizona State played its first true road game of the season on Saturday, and came away with a 67-64 win against a Tulsa squad in the middle of an absolutely brutal stretch in their schedule. Still, give credit to the Sun Devils who saw sophomore Keala King notch 18 points, four assists and three steals (nevermind the six turnovers) to lead the team, while junior center Ruslan Pateev scored as many points Saturday as he had in the previous six games combined. ASU was helped by the Golden Hurricane missing six of their nine free throw attempts in the last four minutes, but still, a win is a win. And, just to get ASU fans’ hopes up, the university expects to hear about Jahii Carson’s eligibility on Monday.
There were a couple more big wins this weekend, the first one a literal big win, as Washington State crushed Eastern Washington by 26 points behind 20 points and 13 rebounds from senior center Charlie Enquist. WSU has won its last two games by a total of 58 points, holding its two opponents to an effective field goal percentage below 30%. Enquist, who had scored a total of 50 points and grabbed 41 rebounds in his 54 total games prior to this season, had career highs in virtually every category on the stat sheet. A more impressive win for the conference came Sunday afternoon, when Stanford rallied from a 12-point second half deficit to defeat North Carolina State. Josh Owens led the way for the Cardinal (now 8-1 and knocking on the door of the Top 25) with 19 points and seven rebounds, while freshman guard Chasson Randle continued his strong run, scoring 16 points, grabbing six rebounds and playing some smothering defense during the Cardinal’s second half run. Stanford now takes nearly two weeks off as their student-athletes deal with finals.
Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish on Mondays throughout the season.In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.
Five Things I Loved This Week
I LOVED….a game so good that you’re left wondering if you just saw the National Championship preview. There was plenty of hype involved with Kentucky-North Carolina, and it would have been easy to see the game devolve into a sloppy, up-and-down affair. But instead we got everything we asked for and more. Fans and scouts alike were able to salivate over matchups like John Henson-Terrence Jones, and while lightning fast, the pace was still in control. One point on a non-neutral court certainly doesn’t give us any lasting conclusions, other than we’d all be happy to see these two powers square off again in April.
I LOVED….seeing something new. Every year we witness moments that are absurdly unthinkable, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one like this shot from Detroit’s Ray McCallum, Jr. When in doubt, use the bounce.
I LOVED….seeing a well-balanced attack this early in the year. It’s not shocking that I’m talking about Ohio State, with how much experience and chemistry they have on the court. But still, their dismantling of Duke last Tuesday was a clinic on offensive balance. They may have arguably the best player in the nation in Jared Sullinger, but the Buckeyes spread the ball around so well that it even overshadowed Sullinger’s brilliance on the block.
Apparently there was a pretty big game on Saturday. Unlike many other games, the Kentucky-North Carolina match-up lived up to the hype as it had a little bit of everything including a crazy final sequence that involved a ridiculous block, a brain freeze by UNC, and then a mental lapse by Marquis Teague that should have resulted in a turnover. We posted our recap soon after the game, which you can read here. One thing that has been glossed over in our recap was that it was even match-up that we would be lucky to see in April (not March like everybody keeps saying).
Jeff Goodman has been all over Xavier for quite a while now (more likely due to his obsession with Chris Mack than actually insight), but it might be time for the rest of the nation to take notice. With Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons starting the Musketeers might have best backcourt in the country, praise that was heaped on them even before their remarkable comeback against Purdue. Even though Ken Pomeroy doesn’t love them (ranked #22 at the time this was written), with their remaining schedule the Musketeers could very easily be looking at a #3 seed if they continue to play well given how their schedule works out for them with only two road games against ranked opponents (Memphis and St. Louis) remaining.
On Friday night, after Syracuse‘s win over Florida, Jim Boeheimapologized for his prior criticism the alleged victims of sexual abuse in the Bernie Fine case. Various members of the media have come out on both sides of the debate. Some applauded Boeheim for having the courage (not sure that is the right word) to apologize for his prior statements. Other took it as another opportunity to rip Boeheim for how long it took him (two weeks) to apologize for his callous prior statement and his need to do so with an attorney-prepared script. Unfortunately for Boeheim and Syracuse we doubt that this circus is going to end until the courts make a ruling or Boeheim retires.
Two weeks ago, Jabari Brownleft Oregon taking away one of the top freshman recruits in the Pac-12. Last night, the Pac-12 lost another of its most hyped freshman recruits as Sidiki Johnson decided to transfer from Arizona. The exact reasons for Johnson’s transfer have not been provided yet, but it appears that he did not mesh with the Wildcats or Sean Miller. Johnson, who only played in three games before being suspended on November 21, decided to stay in New York City following the team’s appearance in the 2K Sports Classic before returning to Tucson briefly. Johnson has not announced where he is looking to transfer, but his prior list of schools may give us some indication of where he may end up.
Finally, a tip of the cap to our college football friends who have to spend another off-season trying to explain their mess of a system to determine a champion. Ignoring the fact that LSU would absolutely destroy Oklahoma State, it is amusing that a team with one loss (on the road following a tragic event in their athletic department) and that has more big wins gets passed over for a chance at the title game by a team that already played the #1 team at home and lost. While there are a few critics who want college basketball to expand its postseason to allow more teams to play (read: help more bad coaches keep their jobs) it is worth noting that as long as you don’t lose your last game of the conference tournament you are allowed a shot to play for the title in our sport (ignoring the Ivy League, a few awful teams in super conferences, and schools on probation). As last year demonstrated, you can play fairly mediocre for a stretch of the season, but if you are playing the best at the end of the season, you can walk away with the title.
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.
Problem Children – The overriding theme in the Pac-12 thus far this season has been problems: chemistry problems, behavioral problems, injury problems, and probably problems on top of those problems. (You know how when you repeat the same word a lot you realize how weird it sounds? Problem is a weird word.) The most high-profile of all these categories has been a handful of student-athletes around the conference creating problems for their teams out of thin air. The Reeves Nelson meltdown at UCLA has been the most high profile, with Jabari Brown’s premature defection from Oregon not far behind, but elsewhere around the conference there have been issues as well. At UCLA, senior point guard Jerime Anderson, a guy who should have been in a leadership position for this team, got busted for stealing a laptop this summer, pleading guilty to a couple misdemeanors and was suspended for two games (including one exhibition game) at the start of the year. On the same squad, ultra-talented big man Joshua Smith came back to the team this year ultra-big, looking as big or bigger than the 300+ pounds he showed he was unable to play at last year, then followed a loss to Loyola Marymount loss by making a fool of himself on Twitter. Over in Arizona, Sean Miller has had troubles of his own with freshmen Josiah Turner and Sidiki Johnson. Johnson is currently suspended, while Turner has displayed some chemistry problems of his own, causing him to be banished to the bench for a game by Miller. In short, aside from some bad basketball on the court, there have been a handful of players around the league making negative headlines off the court as well.
Problem Programs – Nobody really expected the Pac-12 to be a great conference this season, but the expectation was that it would be roughly as good as last year and primed for a big upswing next year with a batch of new highly regarded freshmen joining the talented youngsters currently littering conference rosters. Instead, through Tuesday night’s games, the conference had posted a combined 30-18 record, had just one remaining team (Stanford) still sporting an undefeated record and had a handful of teams in line for the title of worst BCS conference team. UCLA’s losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State have been well-documented, while USC’s 36-point disaster of a performance, in which enough bricks to build several wolf-proof houses were produced, is an excellent example of basketball at its ugliest. Nevertheless, as bad as UCLA and USC have been, one could easily envision both of those teams as middle-of-the-Pac contenders in the conference. That alone should tell you how bad the bottom of the conference is, but if further explanation is needed, look no further than Arizona State and Utah. The Sun Devils dropped a game at home to Pepperdine (a team that will challenge for the basement in the WCC) while Utah squeaked by NAIA also-ran San Diego Christian College (seriously, that’s a team that was 8-22 last year and lost 15 of its last 16 games) by three points before getting drilled by Boise State and losing to Montana State. As bad as the Pac-12 is, this Utah team is far and away the worst team in the conference.
We have to start our Turkey Day post by getting right to the team that Pac-12 fans are currently thankful for, the last remaining undefeated team in the otherwise underachieving conference, Stanford. The Cardinal continued their strong start Wednesday night with a thorough 15-point handling of a solid Oklahoma State squad in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Senior forward Josh Owens continued his strong start with 21 points on 10-12 from the field, while below-the-radar point guard Aaron Bright had 15 points on 6-9 shooting, with three three-pointers mixed in there. Further exciting Cardinal fans is the continued emergence of freshman guard Chasson Randle, who played his best game of his young career, scoring 17 points, including three threes of his own. However, while OSU was a step up in competition for Stanford, they should be prepared for another big jump in the talent level of their opponent, as they face RTC’s #5 team in the nation, Syracuse, on Friday afternoon in the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
Elsewhere in the conference Wednesday night, there were two more losses coming from among the four teams considered to make up the top tier of the Pac-12 prior to the season, as UCLAcontinued its disasterous season with its fourth loss on the young season and Arizona dropped its second straight. The Bruins lost by 16 to Michigan in Maui to mercifully end their trip with only a throw-away win over Division II Chaminade and some Hawaiian Airlines frequent flier miles to show for their effort. Meanwhile the Wildcats had their 22-game home winning streak broken by a game San Diego State squad. If there was a bright spot for Arizona, it was their freshman backcourt duo of Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson turning in double-digit performances. While Johnson has been solid from the get-go in Tucson, Turner has had his much publicized struggles. However, he is improving almost every time out and could have his breakout performance in the near future. On the down side for the Wildcats, however, Sean Miller spoke about the Sidiki Johnson suspension following the game and noted that Johnson did not return with the team to Tucson and remains in New York. Miller said that he and Johnson “have an agreement and if he meets this agreement, he could potentially be reinstated.” However, Miller then added, “he could also be dismissed.” Asked later is he was optimistic about Johnson meeting the agreement, he simply said, “no.”
After California’s 39-point loss to Missouri on Tuesday night, Golden Bear fans had to be asking themselves: “Does this really look like a team capable of winning the conference championship?” Upon further research by Jeff Faraudo, no team from any incarnation of what is now the Pac-12 conference (i.e., the Pac-10, Pac-8, AAWU or PCC) dating back to 1950 has ever lost a non-conference game by as many as 39 points and gone on to win the conference championship. Maybe, given the possibly historic weakness of this year’s Pac-12, that streak can be broken. And maybe Tuesday night was simply a matter of a Cal team playing a poor game against a Missouri team that could do no wrong. Still, that was just another in a long line of black eyes for conference teams this season. After Wednesday night, the conference is 33-20 thus far on the season.
The Pac-12 announced their weekly honors on Monday, just as we here at RTC did, and clearly the choice this week was a no-brainer as Jared Cunningham nabbed his first conference Player of the Week honor. For the week, Cunningham was 24-41 from the field and 38-47 from the line in two games, setting a career high with 35 points against Hofstra and then breaking it the next time out with 37 against Texas. But back to that free throw number again – 47 free throws attempted over three games! While Cunningham has not been a consistent jump shooter over his career, he has been solid from the line (77.9% last year). If he can continue to get to the line with anything approaching that regularity, he’ll be a conference player of the year front-runner.
Oregon State took Vanderbilt, the #17 team in the country according to RTC’s latest poll, down to the wire Monday night at the final of the Legends Classic in New Jersey. However, a Brad Tinsley jumper with five seconds remaining put the Commodores over the top and left Beaver fans cold. Vandy senior forward Jeffery Taylor harassed Cunningham all game long, limiting him to just nine field goal attempts, five trips to the line and nine total points, while forcing seven turnovers. Sophomore forward Devon Collier continued his strong early season efforts with 19 points, five rebounds and four blocks, but sophomore point guard Ahmad Starks went a little nuts, hoisting 20 shots on his way to 16 points. Nevertheless, OSU proved its mettle, showing that they are able to hang with Top 25 teams and looking for all the world like a potential NCAA Tournament team. Of course, there are still almost four months to Selection Sunday, so Craig Robinson’s team will need to continue to improve.
Bummed that you had to hunt around to find that OSU game on television tonight? Well, this is the last year you will have to do that. The Pac-12 is in the final year of its current television contract, with its new multi-billion dollar agreement kicking off next year that will include a national network and six regional networks. The Pac-12 promises that every football and men’s basketball game will be televised nationally, meaning that next year if you’re just dying to watch Morgan State at USC on a Tuesday night in November, you will be able to find that game somewhere..
After four games, USC is 1-3, despite the fact that they have held its first four opponents to 55.2 points per game, 31.3% shooting from the field (and to get a little bit more righteous with advanced stats, a 36% effective field goal percentage and 0.87 points per possession). However, the Trojans are lagging far behind on the offensive end, posting an eFG% of 41.2% (good for 291st in the nation), just 54.2 points per game (327th in the nation), 0.85 points per possession and an offensive efficiency rating that places them 274th in the nation. Obviously, head coach Kevin O’Neill is quite pleased with the defensive end of the court, calling it “about as good as it can be” and “some of the best in the country,” but they’ll need to come up with some kind of answers on the offensive end in order to start turning those losses into wins.
The season isn’t even two weeks old, and already we’ve had a boatload of behavioral problems around the conference. There are the ongoing issue with Reeves Nelson (who had one points in 11 minutes in UCLA’s unimpressive Maui Invitational win against Chaminade), the defection of Oregon’s stud freshman Jabari Brown after just two games, and some immaturity with Arizona freshman point guard Josiah Turner that led to him being benched for the Wildcats’ third game. Well, apparently Turner’s problems aren’t the only ones in Tucson, as it was announced on Monday night that Sean Miller had suspended freshman center Sidiki Johnson indefinitely for violations of team policy. Luckily the Wildcats have plenty of depth, so Miller feels free to lay down the law with his freshmen, a step I wish more coaches would take.