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

pac12_morning5

  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.

Statistic

2013

2014

% Difference
FT

20.4

23.3

14.22%

FT Rate

35.9

43.1

20.06%

FT % (shooting)

69.4

68.4

-1.44%

TO %

20

18.1

-9.50%

Steal %

9.9

8.7

-12.12%

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

pac12_morning5

  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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Is It Time for Colorado Fans to Panic?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 12th, 2013

Prior to the start of the season, Colorado was considered one of maybe three teams in the Pac-12 that was expected to be in the chase to pressure Arizona for a Pac-12 title. Now here we are, four days and two games into the season and the Buffaloes so far have looked, well, not good. Against Baylor on Friday night, they combined to miss 19 of their 21 three-point attempts, they showed no ability to slow a very good Baylor offense, and they crashed back to earth in an ugly 12-point defeat. Sunday night, against a bad UT-Martin team, the Buffs wound up eventually running out to a 26-point win, but along the way, didn’t look a whole lot better. So, after a small two-game sample, should Colorado basketball fans start to panic?

Well, we’re not going to go that far, but, we have spotted three areas for concern in those first three games:

Spencer Dinwiddie And The Buffaloes Have Started Out Slowly (AP Photo)

Spencer Dinwiddie and the Buffaloes Have Started Out Slowly. (AP)

Where’s the Defense? Colorado isn’t missing many players from last season, but in terms of impact, losing Andre Roberson a year early to the NBA is huge. On the very, very short list of best defenders in the conference last season, he was not only capable of locking up his own man defensively, but of offering help defense to his teammates and grabbing what seemed like every rebound. Against Baylor, the Buffs did a fair job of rebounding, but there were plenty of times where they wound up way out of place on defense and allowed good looks, both in the paint and behind the arc. These issues continued against a far less potent UT-Martin team, especially in the first half. For now, let’s just agree to call this year’s defense a work in progress, at least during the period of adjustment, because there are plenty of reasons why Colorado has a chance to become a terrific defensive team. One thing this team does not lack is athletic depth. And, as they’ve already shown, outside of maybe the center spot, this is a team that can switch on everything. Wesley Gordon has already shown his ability to defend effectively on the perimeter, while Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker are a proven defensive backcourt. And those youngsters — guys like Tre’Shaun Fletcher and George King and Jaron Hopkins? These guys need to dial up their consistency of effort, but there is a lot of defensive upside here. The Buffs will be fine defensively.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.12.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 12th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. So. Stanford. Out to save Johnny Dawkins’ job and salvage a single NCAA Tournament appearance for its talented senior class. Yeah, that team. Well, they gave up nearly 1.3 points per possession last night in a home loss to BYU, in a regulation game that featured more scoring than any game played last season anywhere, losing 112-103 at Maples Pavilion. A college basketball game that had more scoring than seven of the nine NBA games on the same night. The good news is that scoring is up, and we could attribute that to the new emphasis on enforcing hand-checking rules. Or, maybe Stanford is just a really bad defensive team.
  2. Let’s finish getting the bad news out of the way up front: the Portland Tribune called Oregon State’s home loss to Coppin State on Sunday night “unforgivable.” Considering Beavers head coach Craig Robinson is another Pac-12 coach squarely on the hot seat, “unforgivable” losses are probably not easily forgiven. The fact that the team played without a pair of suspended frontcourt players doesn’t really garner a lot of sympathy, especially since its opponent was playing without its leading scorer and rebounder from last year’s team. Still, Devon Collier is due back tomorrow night and Roberto Nelson is a stud, so there is at least some hope. But that Coppin State loss is something that the RPI is never going to take any excuses for, and, the dip the Beavers will take in the RPI will ripple throughout the conference all season long.
  3. UCLA avoided being painted with the upset victim brush on Friday night, dodging a late deep three-point attempt to hold on for a five-point win over Drexel, but head coach Steve Alford hopes to get in plenty of work on the half-court offense with the Bruins. While Kyle Anderson had some promising moments getting penetration and passing out of the paint, the team often stalled when unable to get into transition. But Alford and senior forward David Wear agree that those problems can be fixed over time with practice. Given that Travis Wear is expected back within the week, the team will have another accomplished half-court weapon.
  4. Two games into the season, Colorado has yet to look very good, and veteran point guard Spencer Dinwiddie has made a total of just four field goal attempts. Head coach Tad Boyle isn’t all that concerned, though, noting that his junior has done plenty of other things well. Even though he’s hit just  over 26 percent of his shots from the field so far, Dinwiddie has been able to get to the line 17 times and make 14 of those attempts in order to add to his production. He’s also regularly recognized as one of the best perimeter defenders in the conference. In other words, he doesn’t always need to score to have a positive impact on the game. That said, Boyle says he’d still like to see Dinwiddie be more aggressive.
  5. Lastly, a bit of a look ahead to tonight, when four conference teams will be in action, including Arizona State, where head coach Herb Sendek will face one of his former teams as Miami (OH) travels to Tempe to face the Sun Devils. Sendek got his start at Miami, spending three seasons in southeastern Ohio. Prior to tonight’s game, Arizona State will honor Charlie Coles, who was an assistant under Sendek at Miami before becoming that program’s head coach. Oh, and just another little tidbit that may help you understand the ASU/Arizona rivalry a bit more: In Sendek’s final season at Miami (OH) before he went to North Carolina State, he led his RedHawk team to a first-round upset of Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
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Introducing the Preseason Pac-12 Superlatives

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 11th, 2013

We continue our opening weekend coverage with predictions for the major superlatives throughout the conference from the Pac-12 microsite team.

Preseason All-Defense Team

Jordan Bachynski's Shotblocking Ability Makes Him A Lock For Our Preseason All-Defensive Team

Jordan Bachynski’s Shot-blocking Ability Makes Him A Lock For Our Preseason All-Defensive Team

  • G Nick Johnson, Jr, Arizona
  • G Spencer Dinwiddie, Jr, Colorado
  • G Mark Lyons, So, Arizona
  • F Josh Huestis, Sr, Stanford
  • C Jordan Bachynski, Sr, Arizona State

Johnson, now an upperclassmen with Arizona, averaged just short of 2.0 SPG in 2012-13 and had a knack of locking down an opponent’s top threat in big games. Starting in last year’s Charleston Classic, Dinwiddie stepped up his defense and led Colorado to a win and he hasn’t faltered since. Huestis and Bachynski represent the bigs on our list. The senior from Stanford averaged 2.1 BPG last season and was a key cog in the middle, while the 7’2″ Bachynski was even more impressive with 3.4 BPG.

All-Shooting Team

  • G C.J. Wilcox, Sr, Washington
  • G Joseph Young, Jr, Oregon
  • G Jordan Adams, So, UCLA
  • G Jahii Carson, So, Arizona State
  • F Jonathan Gilling, Jr, Arizona State

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Breaking Down Colorado vs. Baylor

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2013

It’s New Year’s Day for college hoops fans. To help celebrate, Big Twelve correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of an interesting opening night game: Colorado vs. Baylor in Dallas.

Baylor will win if… It feeds its stars and contains Colorado’s secondary options. The Bears’ offense under Scott Drew has always been among the nation’s best, and this season should be no different. There may not be a big man in the country that can stretch a defense like Isaiah Austin can, and Cory Jefferson‘s 41-of-56 shooting mark during the NIT should put Colorado on notice. Throw in Brady Heslip‘s three-point prowess and the Buffs will have their hands full. Defensively, it’s hard to say whether Baylor’s guards can contain Spencer Dinwiddie. Heslip has never been known for his defense, Kenny Chery is the Bears’ newest undersized point guard who will be playing his first Division I game, as will heralded freshman tweener Ish Wainright. I’m not sure either of the three can be counted on to keep Tad Boyle‘s emerging star in check, so Baylor’s defensive gameplan should lean more heavily towards containing Colorado’s other options. If Austin, Royce O’Neale and Rico Gathers make Xavier Johnson think twice about driving and keep Josh Scott and redshirt freshman Wesley Gordon from getting easy looks in the paint, it probably won’t matter how well Dinwiddie plays.

Baylor went 13-3 when Cory Jefferson and A Potent Baylor Offense Could Give Colorado's Defense Fits (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Cory Jefferson and A Potent Baylor Offense Could Give Colorado’s Defense Fits. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Colorado will win if… Their veteran backcourt can make life miserable for a couple of Baylor perimeter guys – Chery and Wainright – who are making their Division I debuts. Between Dinwiddie and his junior backcourt mate Askia Booker, the pair of Colorado guards has been through a lot of battles. Dinwiddie has turned into a rock solid presence at the point, capable of creating for himself or finding his teammates in good position. Booker, however, has taken plenty of heat as a guy who is a bit too wild and a bit too in love with his own jumper. With more offensive weapons on this year’s squad, the hope is that Booker dials back his shot-hunting a bit and dials up his shooting percentages in turn. Either way, both of these guys are capable of causing plenty of trouble for young Bear ballhandlers like Chery and Wainright. In a big game right out of the gate where emotions are high, the calming presence of a pair of backcourt greybeards who have been through their fair share of battles may be enough to tip the scales in the Buffaloes favor. Oh, and not to pile on or anything, but in a battle of wits between Boyle and Drew, gimme Boyle.

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Introducing the Pac-12 All-Conference Teams

Posted by Andrew (@amurawa) on November 8th, 2013

Later today, maybe even by the time you get around to reading this, there will be real live full-fledged regular season basketball to watch. It’s a beautiful thing. As our last little bit of preview before we get into five months of madness (don’t let the marketing geniuses fool you into thinking that only happens in March), we’ll roll out three teams strong (and just five players per team – please take note conferences of all stripes) of All-Pac-12 personnel.

Here goes nothing:

First Team

Arizona State Sophomore Jahii Carson Is A Unanimous Choice As Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year Among RTC Voters. (USA Today)

Arizona State Sophomore Jahii Carson Is A Unanimous Choice As Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year Among RTC Voters. (USA Today)

  • Jahii Carson, Sophomore, Arizona State – Carson is a unanimous selection among our voters as the best player in the conference, topping all three ballots submitted. After averaging 18 points and five assists as a freshman, Carson is hoping an improved jumper, a faster tempo and a deeper roster will help the Sun Devils’ star wrap up his time in Tempe with an NCAA Tournament appearance.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, Junior, Colorado – Dinwiddie’s three-point percentage dipped precipitously as a sophomore, but his aggressiveness and overall effectiveness increased, as he turned into a significantly better finisher and play-maker in his role as lead guard. If his jumper from range returns to anywhere near his freshman year levels, watch out.
  • Jordan Adams, Sophomore, UCLA – Even though Adams was clearly overshadowed by two, if not all three of his UCLA classmates prior to last year, the wing out of Atlanta was arguably the best of the group. He was second on the team in scoring, with 15.3 points per game, but brought along a game varied enough to have a positive impact even when he wasn’t scoring.

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The RTC Interview Series: Pac-12 Preview with Don MacLean and Miles Simon

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2013


Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the Pac-12, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two Pac-12 experts in Pac-12 Network analyst and former UCLA star, Don MacLean, and ESPN analyst and former Arizona star, Miles Simon. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Rush the Court: Arizona is the overwhelming preseason favorite in the league. What is it about Sean Miller’s team that has expectations so high in Tucson?

Don MacLean: The talent level there is very high. Sean Miller has brought in some very high-level recruits. Aaron Gordon brings another dimension for the team with his great athleticism and versatility to play inside and on the perimeter. T.J. McConnell is going to be great for the team. I worked the exhibition game last week and I was really impressed by McConnell. I think he is really good. He is the first true point guard that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. When you have all that talent, you need a pass-first guy to spread the ball around. From what I have seen, McConnell seems to be that guy. Sean Miller is also a great coach. With this roster, the depth that the team has, and Miller’s coaching, I think it is warranted to put Arizona as the best team in the league right now.

Miles Simon: Sean Miller obviously brought in a tremendous recruiting class. Getting Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Elliott Pitts to come in is a good place to start with this team. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is going to be an excellent addition for the team at point guard. When you look at this team, it is just so long and athletic. I think defensively, this might be the best group that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. There are just so many positives with this team going into the season.

RTC: Oregon made a surprise trip to the Sweet Sixteen last March after pulling off upsets over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. Gone from last season’s team are Arsalan Kazemi and E.J. Singler, but the Ducks did secure the services of UNLV transfer Mike Moser. With Moser joining a team that has the talented backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning, should Dana Altman’s squad take a step forward in the Pac-12 this season and should another NCAA Tournament run be expected?

MacLean: You can never expect an NCAA Tournament run, but I think the team should be just as good. Do not forget that Oregon also added Joseph Young, the transfer from Houston. Adding Mike Moser as a fifth-year guy is an important piece and Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson will be better as second-year players. With what Dana Altman does with his style of play and the way he changes up defenses, I think the Ducks will be as good as they were last season.

Simon: I think Oregon will get back to the NCAA Tournament. It really has some nice pieces, but when you lose guys like Arsalan Kazemi, E.J. Singler, Tony Woods and Carlos Emory, you are losing what was the heart and soul of your team. A lot of leadership and toughness left with those guys. If Mike Moser is able to return to where he was with UNLV two years ago, he will be excellent. The backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson should be explosive and one of the best in the league. Johnathan Loyd is the third guard and he has some experience because he had to play a lot when Artis was injured last season. When you consider these pieces, this is a team that should get back to the NCAA Tournament and finish in the top half of the Pac-12.

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