Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on December 15th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • 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.
Devoe Joseph, Oregon

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 NewsDana 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.

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Big East Recruiting Round-Up: Volume Three

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).

Johnson Headed Back East?

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.05.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 5th, 2011

  1. 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.
  2. Okay, enough with the marginally good news; on to the carnage. In Arizona, we can officially close the books on Sidiki Johnson’s run as a Wildcat. Career totals: seven minutes, one point, two rebounds. In news that surprises no one, the university announced Sunday that Johnson has left the program and will transfer out. Meanwhile, up in Berkeley on Saturday, California announced the indefinite suspension of sophomore forward Richard Solomon for behavior “contrary to university and athletic department values.” He didn’t travel with the Golden Bears to San Diego on Sunday, as Cal dropped a one-point game to San Diego State.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume III

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 5th, 2011

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.

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Morning Five: 12.05.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 5th, 2011

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. On Friday night, after Syracuse‘s win over FloridaJim Boeheim apologized 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.
  4. Two weeks ago, Jabari Brown left 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.
  5. 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.
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Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.

Reader’s Take

Top Storylines

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.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: Thanksgiving Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 24th, 2011

  1. 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.
  2. 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 UCLA continued 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. There is not a whole lot of hope around the conference thus far, but one team that has inspired confidence among its followers, Oregon State, will get its own dash of hope this weekend. The Beavers and head coach Craig Robinson are in the Washington, D.C. area this weekend for a match-up with Towson on Saturday, and, of course, will be spending some time visiting with Robinson’s brother-in-law, some guy by the name of Barack Obama. The Beavers spent some time Wednesday with the First Family working at a food bank in the D.C. area, and will get a chance to visit the White House likely on Friday. And, while we’re on the topic of the Beavers, I would be remiss if I didn’t point you in the direction of Rob Dauster breaking down Jared Cunningham’s defensive work against Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins the other night. Great read and great analysis.
  5. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m going to make sure I keep this post relatively positive. I’m not going to link to Bruin fans absolutely losing it over their team’s oh-for-Division-I start. I wouldn’t possibly send you in search of those same Bruin fans ripping Ben Howland’s personnel decisions (like Norman Powell, Anthony Stover and Brendan Lane are going to turn this team back into a Pac-12 front-runner). And I certainly wouldn’t encourage anybody to take a look at SB Nation’s power rankings of the eight Division I programs in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, in which UCLA is a distant sixth, behind (among others) a Pepperdine team that may finish last in the WCC, a Cal State Fullerton team that already lost to Houston Baptist this season, and a USC team that scored 36 points in losing to Cal Poly. Nah, you don’t want to read those. Go enjoy some turkey instead. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.22.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 22nd, 2011

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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..
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Arizona vs. Mississippi State

Posted by AMurawa on November 18th, 2011

Each week around these parts we’re going to pick one big game involving a Pac-12 team and provide a preview of the game. Last week we took a look at Oregon traveling to Vanderbilt, today we’ll look at a real dog vs. cat matchup as Arizona faces Mississippi State in the final of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament this evening in New York City.

The Bulldogs (3-1) got to this championship game by racing out to a big 22-point lead in the first ten minutes of Thursday night’s semifinal game against Texas A&M, then hanging on from there to post a nine-point win. MSU hit five three-pointers during the opening ten minutes and made 11 of their first 15 shots from the field, then cooled off considerably, hitting just one of seven three-point attempts in the final 30 minutes of the game and only 28.2% of their field goals over that span. Of those two extremes of shooting, the final 30 minutes probably more accurately reflects MSU’s shooting ability, as the best three-point bombers from last year’s MSU club have graduated. Senior point guard Dee Bost is the Bulldogs’ most important player, team leader and leading scorer (18 PPG), but the real strength of the team lies along their frontline with 6’11” center Arnett Moultrie, much-maligned and underachieving 6’10” power forward Renardo Sidney, and 6’9” reserve big man Wendell Lewis.  The Wildcats will need their veteran forwards Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill, along with freshmen bigs Sidiki Johnson and Angelo Chol, to put in a full night’s work on the glass to keep Arizona in touch.

Dee Bost, Mississippi State

Dee Bost Is The Engine That Makes The Mississippi State Offense Go

While the Wildcats are off to a 4-0 start, they’ve yet to really gel. They needed a big 23-6 in the final seven minutes of their semifinal game with St. John’s to advance, and they’ve struggled to not only replace last year’s two leading scorers, but to fold four freshmen into the mix. Offensively, the Wildcats have been decent, with multiple players chipping in on a nightly basis to provide balanced scoring, but things still remain unsettled. Five players (Kyle Fogg, Hill, Perry, Nick Johnson and Jordin Mayes) have averaged double figure scoring thus far, but this team is still a work in progress, albeit with much upside. Junior wing Kevin Parrom just returned from a gunshot wound suffered in September and has yet to get back to 100%; freshman point guard Josiah Turner is getting slightly more comfortable game by game, but he is still too wild to be completely trusted; and the freshman frontcourt duo of Johnson and Chol has shown some serious flashes but not yet the ability to produce on a consistent basis. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Arizona

Posted by AMurawa on November 5th, 2011

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

Arizona Wildcats

StrengthsSean Miller’s modus operandi in his time in Tucson has been to play a lot of guys every night. This year, he’ll be able to do that again; the only question may be who doesn’t find his way into the regular rotation. This Wildcat team has so much depth, there are 12 players who could rightfully expect consistent minutes. There are two players, junior wing Kevin Parrom and senior center Alex Jacobson, who are still working through injuries, but at least in the case of Parrom, he is expected to be back soon and to be a major contributor. The other great strength of this team is its athleticism, which has only been bolstered over the offseason with the addition of a highly athletic four-man freshman class of Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson. Those four may have their struggles adjusting to the higher caliber of competition, but they likely won’t be fazed by the athleticism of Division I performers.

Solomon Hill, Arizona

Solomon Hill Is Just One Wildcat Who Must Play A Bigger Role

Weaknesses. Not only do the Wildcats lose all-everything forward Derrick Williams, but they also lost their second-leading scorer from last season, Momo Jones. And for all the talent on this team, there is not one standout performer nor is there anyone who has proven his ability to consistently create offensive opportunities for himself. All four of the freshmen have shown flashes of those abilities, but they’ll need to prove they can do it consistently, just as returnees like Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry need to prove that they can handle larger roles.

Nonconference Tests.  Arizona gets their season started with the 2K Sports Classic, which will start with a game against St. John’s on their home floor at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats then will either face Mississippi State or Texas A&M to wrap up that tournament, a good test either way. A tough non-conference slate continues with a visit from San Diego State, then a tough three game stretch in the middle of December where they travel to Florida, then host Clemson before playing Gonzaga in Seattle. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 Morning Five: 10.27.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 27th, 2011

  1. While this part of the season is largely hidden to the eyes of the normal basketball fan, it can be very important to the success of a basketball team. During practice, coaches get newcomers on the same page as veterans, build chemistry, install offensive sets and defensive principles, and work on conditioning, all while trying to figure out who can best play which roles on a team. All around the conference these days, coaches are finding out more and more about what their teams will look like this season. At Arizona, for instance, head coach Sean Miller is still trying to figure out who his starters are.  While returning starters Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry are penciled in at the two through four positions, Jordin Mayes and Josiah Turner continue to battle it out for the point guard spot. Miller will need to decide between Sidiki Johnson and Kyryl Natyazhko in the middle, saying that for now, he will not move a forward such as Jesse Perry over to play center. With four new freshmen expected to get more comfortable as the season goes on, Miller’s starting lineup may change a bit, but with ten or more players likely to see significant time, it doesn’t matter as much who starts so much as who finishes.
  2. Up in Tempe, head coach Herb Sendek is playing around with the idea of getting both of his seven-footers on the court at the same time. At the end of the Maroon-Gold game on Saturday, both 7’0” Ruslan Pateev and 7’2” Jordan Bachynski found themselves on the same team, a roster move that ASU has worked on a bit in the offseason. While neither player is anywhere near a finished product (Pateev averaged 3.0 PPG in 12.3 MPG last year, while Bachynski went for 2.8 PPG in 10 MPG), the hope is that one of the two can exploit a size mismatch when they are paired together. Bachynski, in particular, is athletic for his size and has expanded his offensive repertoire a bit since last year. Normally putting two big lumbering centers on the court at the same time could hurt a team’s ability to guard, but Sendek seems pretty confident that “both of [these] guys move pretty well.”
  3. Some teams have a tougher time getting all of their game plan installed, and at Washington a roster featuring seven freshmen has caused some growing pains, reports Percy Allen at The Seattle Times. Husky head coach Lorenzo Romar has been unable to install all of his defensive schemes yet, a process no doubt impeded not only by all the youngsters but by the absence of veteran guard Scott Suggs, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his right foot. Adding to the trouble, freshman guard Tony Wroten, Jr., has missed more than a week of practice after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last week, but due to the miracle of modern medicine, is expected back next week.
  4. Kevin O’Neill’s case is a little different than the above. In the middle of the summer he had a pretty good idea what USC’s offense would look like this year. But, when point guard Jio Fontan tore an ACL on a team trip to Brazil, it was back to the drawing board. Now, instead of pairing Fontan with sophomore Maurice Jones in the back court, Jones has to take over lead guard duties with freshman Alexis Moore as his running mate. Not only will the Trojan offense look different than it was expected to look, but the expectations on Jones are entirely different. Never one to worry about giving his players too much time, O’Neill expects Jones to play almost every minute in a competitive game.
  5. At Oregon State, head coach Craig Robinson has less turnover than most everywhere else in the conference. While he is missing two players who averaged over 20 minutes last year in Calvin Haynes and Omari Johnson, just about everyone else returns. And, for the first time in his stay at Corvallis, everybody on Robinson’s roster is somebody that he recruited. With a young and athletic bunch, Robinson expects to play more man-to-man defense than his customary zone, and he hopes to play at a bit higher pace. But for the most part, while other coaches are putting in new plays and adjusting to newcomers, the Beavers are just tweaking a style of play that most of their players are already familiar with. Perhaps that little extra familiarity can be the difference between the type of results the Beavers have gotten used to and a postseason appearance.
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