Takeaways From the Pac-12’s Weekend Games

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 7th, 2014

It was a busy Pac-12 weekend around the conference. Here are some thoughts on each of the weekend’s five games.

Colorado 100, Oregon 91

  • It was a game that largely lived up to the hype, with both teams looking good for long stretches. But over the last 10 minutes of the game, it was – get this – Colorado’s guard play that was the deciding factor in the game. It was supposed to be the undefeated Ducks with the bevy of play-making guards that had the advantage on the perimeter, while the Buffaloes were going to need to take advantage of a weak Oregon frontcourt in order to win this game at home. Instead, over the final quarter of the game, Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 25 of Colorado’s 39 points, sophomore guard Xavier Talton chipped in six more, and Jaron Hopkins was the guy to get everything started with a three off a Dinwiddie dime. All told, the five Colorado guards outscored Oregon’s by a total of 66-52.

    Askia Booker, Colorado

    Big Game Askia? Who Knew? (Patrick Ghidossi, BuffaloSportsNews)

  • Meanwhile up front the Ducks were just okay against that tough Colorado frontcourt. On the offensive end, they were great, grabbing better than 41 percent of their own misses and getting a terrific 24-point performance out of Mike Moser. But the bigger concern is their ability to defend on the interior, and here they were exposed a bit, allowing Colorado to grab better than 46 percent of their misses, leading to lots of easy putbacks for the Buffs. Oregon’s guards are going to keep them in a lot of games, but they need to clean up their frontcourt issues in order to reach their potential.
  • For some of the surprises in this game, the most expected angle proved completely true: Colorado is going to be really, really tough at home. With a strong seven-man rotation plus a couple other guys ready to provide spot minutes, the Buffs are deep, athletic, big, strong and – most importantly – good. And the Coors Events Center is a great homecourt advatange. KenPom.com has the Buffs expected to win their next six games at home by an average of just under 10 points per game, but that only takes us to February 22 when they’ll host Arizona in their last home game of the season. Right now that KenPom projection is Arizona, 68-65, but in what could be Dinwiddie’s final home game, the early inclination is to lean Buffs. Not that trying to project a game seven weeks out is good practice.

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The Quiet Cowboy: Markel Brown Keeps Producing For Pokes

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 23rd, 2013

We all know Marcus Smart. We first met him last winter, when he was busy terrorizing Big 12 opponents as a freshman. However, it turned out we didn’t know everything about Marcus back then, because he wound up shocking us all in April with his decision to eschew the NBA Draft for a year. But boy, have we had the chance to get to know him all over again this winter. By virtue of conducting Oklahoma State’s red-hot start, Smart’s name has dominated headlines for the past six weeks, and rightfully so. After all, among the many individual stretches of Smart’s dominance was this display. And this shot. Many will tell you he is the current favorite for National POY, and if you feel like arguing with them, good luck. So far, Smart has been that good.

Markel Brown -- Not Marcus Smart -- Took Center Stage For The Cowboys On Saturday Night

Markel Brown — Not Marcus Smart — Took Center Stage For The Cowboys On Saturday Night

But hiding somewhere behind the nation’s love affair with Marcus Smart – a fling I’m OK with, for the record – is a pretty freaking good basketball team. That basketball team improved to 11-1 on Saturday night in Las Vegas, dispatching a solid Colorado club (now 10-2) in the process. Smart was his typically proficient self (18 points, three assists), but that night served to remind us that he has some pretty capable teammates as well. Phil Forte, owner of the nation’s third-best individual efficiency rating entering the night, made four threes en route to a 16-point effort. Le’Bryan Nash pitched in with 15 points of his own, and did a little bit of everything else, contributing six rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three LOUD blocks. But of all the Cowboys who contributed to the cause, it was senior Markel Brown who offered the biggest lift. The senior scored 23 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and even chipped in three assists: a domineering effort, indeed, and on a sizable stage. If you didn’t know all that much about the Pokes before Saturday night, Brown’s performance surely rated as eye-catching. But if you did? Just another lethally efficient demonstration from one of the nation’s most underrated players.

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Previewing Saturday’s Oklahoma State vs. Colorado Match-up

Posted by Brian Goodman & Andrew Murawa on December 21st, 2013

There are a lot of interesting non-conference battles around the country this weekend prior to a holiday break for most schools. Big 12 correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of one of them: Colorado vs. Oklahoma State in Las Vegas, Saturday 8:30 PM PST on ESPN2.< Oklahoma State will win if… It capitalizes on its huge advantage offensively and stays out of foul trouble. We haven’t heard a ton about Oklahoma State lately because they haven’t had a marquee match-up since Thanksgiving weekend, but the offense has continued to cruise. Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Phil Forte are doing their thing. On top of that, Le’Bryan Nash has bought in and been a key contributor as of late, averaging 17.3 points per game over his last three contests. This isn’t a good match-up for Colorado because the skill at which they excel the most, defensive rebounding, has a strong chance of being neutralized by one of the best scoring attacks in the country. There aren’t many areas where the Buffaloes will have an edge, but they do get to the line often. Michael Cobbins will need to keep up-and-coming sophomore Josh Scott in check because he’s a very good ball-handler and along with Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie, can make Oklahoma State pay from the stripe.

Marcus Smart Will Be A Priority On Both Ends of The Court for Both Teams Saturday Night (AP Photo).

Marcus Smart Will Be A Priority On Both Ends of The Court for Both Teams Saturday Night (AP Photo).

Colorado will win if… It takes lessons from what Memphis did to Oklahoma State, and it gets a little bit of luck. Clearly, the game plan against Smart all season has been to keep him out of the lane as much as possible and make him shoot jumpers. If Smart can get into the paint, he is deadly — not only in creating shots for himself, but in creating shots for his teammates. If you can keep him shooting jumpers, not only is he still a work in progress there, but he is very much trying to prove that such progress has been made. In his first appearance against Memphis, his jumper was in full effect, as he knocked down five threes in a dominant performance. In the second go-round, he was 0-for-5 from deep and limped home to a 12-point performance. In other words, keep Smart shooting jumpers and trust your scouting report that they largely don’t go in. While the Buffaloes are primarily going to plan man defense, if Tad Boyle thinks a zone will give his guys a better chance at accomplishing that, he’ll give it a try. The Cowboys are still good enough defensively to cause problems for the Buffs even without Smart scoring prolifically, but getting OSU’s best player out of his comfort zone will go a long way towards giving CU a chance.

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Previewing a Sneaky Good Saturday of Basketball on Tap

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 21st, 2013

This Saturday’s schedule may not shimmer like last week’s did – the face-off between Oklahoma State and Colorado stands as the only game featuring two ranked teams – but dig a little bit and you may like what you find. Or better yet, let us do the digging: Here are four storylines to keep an eye on during this sneaky-good Saturday of college hoops.

Phog Allen Fieldhouse Has Hosted Quite A Few Visitors Over The Years, But Never The Georgetown Hoyas. That Will Change On Saturday.

Phog Allen Fieldhouse Has Hosted Quite A Few Visitors Over The Years, But Never The Georgetown Hoyas. That Will Change On Saturday.

Two Storied Programs Meet In Rare Clash

Kansas and Georgetown may have both inhabited the upper reaches of college basketball’s hierarchy for quite some time now, but that doesn’t mean the two programs know each other especially well. Saturday’s meeting at Phog Allen Fieldhouse (12 PM EST, ESPN) will be just the third time the two schools have faced off, although the latest Hoya-Jayhawk matchup was quite recent, coming just two seasons ago at the Maui Invitational. Needless to say, the cast of characters (on both sides) has seen a massive overhaul since that game. While this one is worth watching for the pure novelty of the Hoyas’ maiden voyage to Allen Fieldhouse, there’s more at stake here than just a new twist on history. Kansas seeks to maintain the momentum gained in last weekend’s win over New Mexico, while the Hoyas, firmly off the national radar for the past month, find themselves with a nice opportunity to quell some doubts after a shaky first month. Rock Chalk meets Hoya Saxa – quite a way to kick off the weekend.

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Assessing the Pac-12 After One Month

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 12th, 2013

We’re a month into the season, something basically approaching the quarter-pole of this race, so it seems like a good time to take a look back at what’s happened so far, prognosticate a bit into the future, and reset the season as we move forward.

Overall, coming into the year, we regarded Arizona as the clear-cut favorite in the conference. A month in, the Wildcats have done nothing to dissuade us of that notion; in fact, if anything, they’re probably even a bigger favorite than they were in early November. Seeing the improvement the sophomores have made, the cohesiveness of this team defensively from the get-go, and contemplating the improvement that can still be made – especially on the offensive end – the ‘Cats remain the big boys in the Pac-12. That being said, Oregon, UCLA and Colorado have all established themselves as Top 25 caliber teams with plenty of upside. With the Wildcats needing to make road trips to visit every one of those teams, there will be plenty of chances for Arizona to slip up in conference play.

In The First Month, Arizona Has Solidified Its Reputation As The Pac-12 Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

In The First Month, Arizona Has Solidified Its Reputation As The Pac-12 Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Beyond that group at the top, California sort of sits in a tier by itself; it would be a serious surprise if the Golden Bears compete for a conference title, but at the same time, it would be a stretch to picture this team on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday. However, after the Bears, there are plenty of question marks. Arizona State started off strong, but a couple of slip-ups in the Wooden Legacy damaged their early hopes. Stanford’s got plenty of talent, but this team has done little to give any but the most myopic Cardinal fan hopes of serious change. And while Utah has looked exciting at times, that is a team that is going to be up and down over the course of the year; yes, they may sneak up and bite unsuspecting visitors to Salt Lake City in the butt, but they’ll also turn in a couple stinkers of their own. Beyond that, however, USC, Washington, Washington State and Oregon State are a good bet to make up the bottom third of the standings come March. Below, we’ll take a look at each of those top eight teams and talk about what we’ve learned over the first month and what needs to change going forward. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 POY and FrOY Odds After One Month

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 11th, 2013

We’re a month into the season, something basically approaching the quarter-pole of the year. Let’s take a little time over the next couple days to recount what we’ve seen so far and prognosticate a bit about the rest of this year’s race. We begin with setting odds for both Pac-12 Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

Player of the Year Odds

  • Jahii Carson, Sophomore, Arizona State; Odds 4-1 – Let’s be honest: as good as Allen Crabbe was last season for Cal, it is sort of a crime that he won the conference POY award over Carson. So, with that in the back of voter’s minds, if it is even close come March, give Carson the benefit of the doubt. He’s struggled lately in part due to an ankle injury (he’s still averaging better than 20 points per game, however), but he is a singular talent in the conference, capable of scoring almost at will while still keeping his teammates involved. If ASU is going to make the NCAA Tournament, it is going to be because Carson was transcendent. And luckily for Herb Sendek, Carson is more than capable of transcendence.
After Missing Out Last Year, Jahii Carson is The Odds-On Favorite To Be Player of the Year in The Pac-12 This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

After Missing Out Last Year, Jahii Carson is The Odds-On Favorite To Be Player of the Year in The Pac-12 This Season (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

  • Joseph Young, Junior, Oregon; Odds 5-1– Twenty points per game, sparkling shooting percentages across the board, an offensive efficiency rating through the roof, a surprising commitment to defensive intensity, and a quiet leadership on a squad littered with newcomers. If the Ducks are in the mix for the Pac-12 title, Young will be a big reason why.
  • Kyle Anderson, Sophomore, UCLA; Odds 6-1 – The most versatile player in the conference, Anderson is also one of the most exciting. A visionary passer, strong rebounder, capable scorer and a team leader, if Anderson continues to average something in the neighborhood of 13 points, nine boards and seven assists, he’ll be in the conversation for sure.

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Previewing Saturday’s Kansas/Colorado Battle

Posted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 6th, 2013

There are a lot of interesting non-conference battles around the country this weekend in advance of finals coming up in the next few weeks. Big 12 correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of one of them: Kansas at Colorado, Saturday 1:15 PM MST on ESPN2.

Kansas will win if… it gets its offense back in order. After beating Wake Forest last week, the Jayhawks turned in underwhelming performances against Villanova and UTEP, shooting less than 40 percent from the field in both games. The reasons behind Kansas’ struggles have gravitated from the odd setting of the Battle 4 Atlantis, to KU’s inexperience, to the fact that Andrew Wiggins played through illness. Bill Self weighed in earlier this week and felt as though last month’s win over Duke “spoiled them a little,” perhaps leading to a more passive attitude than what we’re used to seeing out of Self’s teams. Regardless of what you want to point to as the biggest factor, the Jayhawks need to get their scorers out of their recent funks, and the best way for them to do that is to go inside and test Josh Scott and Wesley Gordon early. If Perry Ellis, Wiggins and Joel Embiid establish inside dominance in the first half, it will go a long way toward opening cleaner looks behind the three-point line, an area where the Jayhawks are much better than what they showed in three games in the Bahamas.

Andrew Wiggins And Company Will Look To Bounce Back From Last Weekend's Disappointment With A Road Win At Colorado

Andrew Wiggins And Company Will Look To Bounce Back From Last Weekend’s Disappointment With A Road Win At Colorado

Kansas will lose if… its backcourt struggles. We haven’t hit winter break yet, but Bill Self is already shaking up his lineup, opting to start freshman Frank Mason over junior Naadir Tharpe, per KUSports.com. Normally, going with potential over experience would be more of a shock, but on this team, in this season, what’s one more freshman being elevated into a more prominent role? Mason has opened eyes in the early going with his fearlessness despite standing just 5’11”, and while he isn’t a pass-first point guard (at least not yet), he can find the open man when defenses collapse on him. The point guard spot hasn’t been a gaping liability for the Jayhawks, but history suggests that Kansas’ best teams have featured floor generals with more of a bulldog mentality in the mold of Sherron Collins or Tyshawn Taylor, and that’s what Mason can provide. Will he embrace that role from the get-go, or will the minutes still shake out to more of a committee setup? While the Jayhawks have talented creators up and down their roster, they’ll be reliant on passers to deliver the ball in high-percentage spots until those playmakers gain the confidence and aggression necessary for Kansas to reach its potential. That’s where Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie can cause problems against a less-experienced guard like Mason. Mix in the altitude and the knowledge that a young Kansas team will be playing its first true road game of the season and we could have a surprise on our hands.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 19th, 2013


  1. Utah is off to a 2-0 start with an average margin of victory of 59 points. As you would suspect, the quality of competition hasn’t been stellar so far. And as Mike Sorensen of Deseret News notes, it’s perfectly fine for a program that is working its way back from the depths of a 2011-12 season when the Utes lost 25 out of 31 games, to schedule down a bit. But with six Division I schools in the state of Utah, the only one the Utes will face this year is BYU. Going forward, why not sub out some of these random schools on the roster (e.g., Idaho State, Texas State, Ball State, Savannah State) and replace them with local schools like Weber State, Utah State, Southern Utah and Utah Valley?
  2. Colorado ran out to a workmanlike 93-70 win over Arkansas State last night, in part behind a super-efficient 13 points on just five shots from the field from junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. It is the third time in recent games where Dinwiddie has attempted fewer than five shots from the floor and it is nothing to worry about; it’s all part of the plan. You see, with a bunch of new players stepping into big roles on the wing, Dinwiddie’s just playing the part of the traditional point guard by setting up his teammates. But, he’s also shown that in games when his team needs him to create his own offense, he’s entirely capable of doing that too.
  3. Last night, Arizona opened its NIT Season Tip-Off participation with a 100-50 win over a ridiculously outclassed Fairleigh Dickinson team, but as Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star points out, the Wildcats can’t afford to lose focus tonight when they play Rhode Island in the second round of the tournament. Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, and a quick look at the ‘Cats history in this tournament would provide a good warning sign. Five years ago when Arizona last played in this tournament, a team led by Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger was upset in the second round by a UAB team when Jamelle Horne intentionally fouled an opponent in the waning seconds of a tied game, thinking his team was behind and needed to send the Blazers to the free throw line.
  4. UCLA cruised past Sacramento State on Monday night in a 36-point victory featuring plenty of highlights, but the best news  Bruins fans got is the news that Travis Wear is expected back in the lineup on Friday night when it hosts Morehead State. UCLA was limited to just a seven-man rotation on Monday night, with Wear still recovering from appendix surgery, freshman Noah Allen out with a facial fracture suffered last week against Oakland, and Wanaah Bail yet to play following knee surgery. Bail could return as early as next week.
  5. Joseph Young has been off to a hot start for Oregon, averaging 30 points a game out of the chute and seemingly doing everything well. But with his dad, Michael Young, keeping an eye on everything, there are still plenty of ways for the younger Young to improve. Which is why following his lone missed free throw on the season so far, his dad made him shoot 100 free throws for additional practice. And I’m guessing his dad’s probably got something to do with his mandate to make 1,000 shots a day regularly. But, clearly this attention to detail is working; it may be early still, but Young is sixth in the nation in true shooting percentage – a stat that combines field goal, three-point and free throw shooting – checking in at an astonishing 82.6 percent.
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Marching To Vegas: Are Elite Pac-12 Guards Using Officiating Changes to Their Advantage?

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on November 15th, 2013

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas. 

As soon as Bobby Dibler told us we were going to have “more whistles” this season, I had two thoughts: 1) Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh; 2) Are Spencer Dinwiddie and Jahii Carson going to shoot a gajillion free throws? The rule changes Dibler helped roll out would have more fouls called on the perimeter, hand-checking to be penalized, giving a great advantage to those with the ball in their hands. Sweet moves translated into a whistle. Dinwiddie had already demonstrated a propensity to draw fouls (a 76.7 FT rate which was 19th in the nation last year, while drawing 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes). Carson, meanwhile, is riquickulous and could cause some significant foul trouble in the lane and on the perimeter. Last year his FT rate was 42.4 (405th nationally), while drawing 5.5 fouls per 40 minutes. Yes, my mind wandered here with Dibler on stage. And before we dive too deep into these outstanding Pac-12 guards, let’s take a gander at the state of the whistles, one week into its season.




% Difference




FT Rate




FT % (shooting)




TO %




Steal %




These are the D-I averages according to Ken Pomeroy’s website. To synopsize and analyze, we’re seeing a lot more free throws at a wild rate with fewer of them being made. Meanwhile, defenses are forcing fewer turnovers as a result of likely more fouls or timidity. Davante Gardner of Marquette is drawing nearly 17 fouls per 40 minutes. This game happened. Is Herb Sendek right when he declared these rule changes “revolutionary?” Pretty close. There certainly are some elements to these changes that have affected the game. I mean, anything that shifts an average by 20 percent is significant. The free throw rate change between 2012 and 2013 was just -1.37 percent. It stayed about the same. The game is changing, there have been 152 free throws shot in two Oregon Duck basketball games this season. REVOLUTION! (?)

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Pac-12 M5: 11.14.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 14th, 2013


  1. Let’s jump right into the bad news, something that we have suspected for a few days now: Jernard Jarreau’s 2013-14 season lasted less than two minutes. Jarreau, a 6’10″ sophomore forward from whom Washington was expecting big things, was helped off the court early on Sunday night in the Huskies season-opener against Seattle with an apparent knee injury. He had to wait a couple days to undergo an MRI and then we had to wait an additional day for confirmation, but the results are in, and are no fun: torn ACL. Jarreau will be out for the year, although he will be eligible for a medical redshirt. With the Huskies already down Desmond Simmons, who is out for about another month with a knee injury of his own, and Perris Blackwell, who may return as early as tonight following a concussion, a once deep Husky frontcourt is now perilously thin.
  2. Colorado, meanwhile, had a very nice Wednesday. Aside from ending a six-game losing streak against border rival Wyoming, head coach Tad Boyle also got his first pair of commitments for his 2014 recruiting class. ESPN Top 100 recruit Dominique Collier is the headliner, a four-star point guard is a Denver product, and his signing continues Boyle’s recent history of locking up the best recruits from the home state (Josh Scott, Wesley Gordon and Xavier Talton being other recent examples). If junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie decides that he’s off to the NBA after this season, Collier will probably be the favorite to start at the one for the Buffs next year. The other signee is three-star power forward Tory Miller, a 255-pound force in the middle who will help add beef to a relatively thin front line.
  3. Meanwhile, more big recruiting news is due on Friday when Stanley Johnson, one of the elite recruits in the 2014 class will decide between Arizona, USC, and Kentucky. Now, sure, John Calipari isn’t really in the habit of losing out in his pursuit of elite recruits, but the scuttlebutt is that the two leaders for Johnson’s services are the two Pac-12 schools. Sean Miller and the Wildcats have long been considered the favorite, but Andy Enfield and the Trojans are making a big push. With a couple of four-star recruits already committed, a signing from Johnson would again push Arizona up near the top of the recruits rankings, while a choice in favor of USC would cement Enfield’s credentials as a difference-maker. Editorial comment: make Arizona the even money favorite, with Kentucky at 2-1 and USC the longshot at 5-1. Place your bets, but leave me the juice.
  4.  At Utah, junior college transfer Delon Wright is already making a big impact for the Runnin’ Utes, coming up three assists and three steals shy of the first-ever recorded quadruple-double in program history with a line of 17 points, ten boards, seven assists and seven steals. Wright has already made it known that he hopes to dial up what would be just the third-ever recorded triple-double from a Ute player, with Andre Miller and Alex Jensen the other two to have accomplished that feat.
  5. Lastly, the preseason watchlist for the Wooden Award was announced on Tuesday, and among those included on the 50-player list are six Pac-12 players. UCLA leads the way in the conference as one of only 11 schools with more than two players included, namely sophomores Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, while Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon (this is the first year the preseason watchlist can include freshmen and transfers), Arizona State sophomore Jahii Carson, Colorado junior Spencer Dinwiddie and Stanford senior Dwight Powell rounding out the conference’s selections.
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