Morning Five: 10.06.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 6th, 2014

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  1. If you ever wondered what it would look like if a team played with hockey shifts, John Calipari may have your answer when he discussed the possibility that Kentucky might be deep enough to support two starting lineups. While this is something that people have speculated about for years with various teams this is the first time we have seen a coach come out and say that he would try to do it. According to Calipari this year’s Kentucky team has the depth at various positions to support using two five-man units. Whether this actually turns into the Wildcats substituting their entire team en masse is unclear, but it will be interesting to watch.
  2. Speaking of watching Kentucky, they will have their October 10th NBA combine broadcast on ESPNU, which will also serve as a nationally televised recruiting pitch for the school. According to Calipari all 30 teams will have scouts there and with 10 potential draft picks on Kentucky’s roster we can certainly understand why they would want to be there. We aren’t sure how riveting the telecast will be since it will involve individual and team drills, including a 3-on-3 and a 5-on-5 scrimmage, which might not be that interesting for the general public, but then again, this isn’t for the general public–if it was it would be on ESPN or ESPN2–it’s for the recruits who are looking at Kentucky.
  3. We aren’t sure why the mainstream media is not making a bigger deal of all the issues with Oregon basketball. Maybe it is because they are in the Northwest far away from the East Coast media microscope or maybe it is because it is Oregon basketball, but it certainly seems like Dana Altman  has lost control of his program. Normally, we would be willing to overlook the latest black mark–two players getting arrested for shoplifting–but in light of Oregon’s more recent and serious problems–three players getting kicked out for rape charges that were subsequently dropped, but with questions around how the school handled the timing of its punishment–we have to wonder who if anybody is in control in Eugene. According to the school, the two players–Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit–are being “disciplined internally”. We have no idea what that really means but we hope Altman gets control of his program soon.
  4. On Friday, UCLA announced that it had signed Steve Alford to a contract extension that will run through 2021. We would consider this a bigger deal except it was just a one-year extension of his previous contract that had six more years remaining. We aren’t sports agents or university administrators, but we fail to see the reason why the school would feel the need to offer an extension to someone who went 28-9 in his first season at one of the most storied programs in the sport. In the same way, we aren’t sure what extra security Alford gets out of this new deal.
  5. ESPN gets a lot of criticism for many things that they do, but the one thing of theirs that we have never seen criticized is their acclaimed 30 for 30 series. With that in mind we are looking forward to their latest installment–Playing for the Mob”–which is set to air tomorrow night at 9. The film will look at the Boston College point-shaving scandal that took place during the 1978-79 season. There have been a handful of other point-shaving scandals in the sport since then, but none of this magnitude both in terms of number of games or caliber of the program. Outside of the CCNY point-shaving scandal of 1950–51 we can’t think of anything else that comes close in the sport.
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Pac-12 Post-Mortems: UCLA

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 23rd, 2014

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, UCLA.

What Went Right

Although it took some time to get there, this Bruins team coalesced nicely as the season wore on. Kyle Anderson turned into an All-American talent while the pieces around him were, by and large, rock solid. Team chemistry was light years better than under the previous administration, and eventually Steve Alford’s first team in Westwood won over a wary fan base. While a Sweet Sixteen appearance is not going to earn accolades from the most jaded fans, the first year of the Alford era was definitely a step forward for the program.

Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Were Vital To UCLA's Success (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Were Vital To UCLA’s Success (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

What Went Wrong

Honestly, for this program and with this team, a loss in the Sweet Sixteen to a #1 seed isn’t exactly an underachievement. Sure, maybe a better performance by the Bruins’ frontcourt against Florida could have extended their season, and maybe Alford made some substitution errors in dealing with some minor foul trouble in that game. Certainly there were some defensive breakdowns too (how does Michael Frazier get that wide open that often?). But all told, Alford got about what he should have gotten out of this season’s UCLA club.

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Disappointing Endings For Arizona, UCLA, and Stanford, But The Future Is Bright

Posted by AMurawa on March 31st, 2014

Six NCAA Tournament teams, three Sweet Sixteen seasons, one Elite Eight appearance and yet when the final quartet of teams still standing show up at the Final Four next weekend in North Texas, there will not be a Pac-12 team among them. This will now mark the sixth consecutive season (dating back to the last of UCLA’s three straight last decade) where college basketball’s premier weekend will dance away without a Pac-12 partner. So, yeah, Pac-12 fans, in a year where the hope was that the Pac was back, you’re right to feel some disappointment.

Worse yet, along with outgoing seniors like Roberto Nelson and Justin Cobbs and Mike Moser and C.J. Wilcox, the conference has also seen the last of guys like Kyle Anderson and Aaron Gordon and Jahii Carson and Zach LaVine with guys like Nick Johnson, Jordan Adams, Joseph Young, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson still weighing their options. But you know what? These are good things. It hurts to see guys like these go, but such is the nature of the beast. And in the long run, a program like Arizona providing an appealing and welcoming temporary landing spot for a player the caliber of Gordon will make it more likely that future Aaron Gordons will wind up playing for Sean Miller as well. And, in the great circle of life that is college athletics, out goes Gordon, in comes Stanley Johnson; rinse and repeat.

While Aaron Gordon's Time In Tucson Is Short, His Success Will Pay Dividends For the Arizona Program

While Aaron Gordon’s Time In Tucson Is Short, His Success Will Pay Dividends For the Arizona Program

Below, three quick thoughts on the status of the three Pac-12 schools whose seasons ended this past weekend in the NCAA Tournament.

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Zach LaVine: One-And-Done at UCLA

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 28th, 2014

Not only did UCLA fall to Florida on Thursday night, but Friday morning the news broke that freshman guard Zach LaVine would be joining sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson in leaving school early. Anderson was a lock to leave all along, as he had a spectacular season and is in the discussion for a lottery pick in this June’s NBA Draft. LaVine, however, was more of a borderline case. He’s clearly not ready to make an immediate impact in the NBA, but his length, athleticism and deep shooting range have intrigued scouts since November when he made a big splash early in the season. He’ll need to get stronger, develop a game off the bounce, and improve his defense, and these things will likely require time in the NBA’s Developmental League. But you can bet that LaVine’s upside will earn the attention of somebody at some point in the first round of this year’s draft, meaning a guaranteed contract and time to develop. Sure, selfishly, we would have liked to see LaVine’s high-flying game take the next step at the collegiate level, but that became a pipe dream over the course of the year.

Zach LaVine's Athleticism And Shooting Accuracy Have NBA Scouts Intrigued

Zach LaVine’s Athleticism And Shooting Accuracy Have NBA Scouts Intrigued

LaVine’s departure leaves some big questions for UCLA. First, with Anderson and LaVine both gone and with Jordan Adams potentially mulling a similar jump to the NBA, a deep and impactful Bruins backcourt could turn into a weakness next season. Norman Powell will be back for his senior season, and he’s definitely developed into a fine asset for UCLA. Bryce Alford appears to be the point guard in waiting, and he’s a fine player with plenty of upside even if he appears further and further from winning over the UCLA fan base with every game. And four-star combo guard Isaac Hamilton will be eligible next season and figures to have the ball in his hands a lot. Even if Adams doesn’t return, that group of three is solid, even if the Bruins will likely need to go sign another guard for depth. But clearly, the strength of the team will need to shift to the frontcourt, where Tony Parker will return for his junior season and be joined by four incoming freshmen, highlighted by five-star power forward Kevon Looney and a pair of four-star bigs (Thomas Welsh and Jonah Bolden).

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Assessing the Steve Alford Era at UCLA Almost One Year In

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 26th, 2014

It was a year ago this week that the change was made at UCLA. Ben Howland was dismissed after an opening round NCAA loss to Minnesota, and the following week, on Saturday morning of the Elite Eight to be precise, UCLA announced that it would hire New Mexico head coach Steve Alford – who had just recently agreed to a lengthy contract extension with that school after its own untimely exit from the NCAA Tournament – as the 13th head coach in the storied program’s history.

Steve Alford, UCLA

The Steve Alford Era Had A Bumpy Start, But Has Settled Into A Nice Groove (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Suffice it to say that the beginning of the Alford era in Westwood did not begin smoothly. The hire was greeted with anywhere from an outright disdain for the choice to a more wait-and-see approach, but few if any saw the hire as a home run. (Here, we called it a solid line-drive single, and our response was probably one of the more favorable ones you may have read). From those initial reactions, the temperature dipped dramatically over the next week after an unreceptive opening press conference delved into his handling of a sexual assault case at Iowa 11 years earlier and went downhill from there. A week later Alford finally apologized for his handling of that case and an uneasy truce with the local media began.

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NCAA Regional Reset: South Region

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 25th, 2014

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Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is the NCAA Tournament’s South Region correspondent, which begins Thursday night at FedEx Forum in Memphis with Dayton vs. Stanford followed by UCLA vs. Florida. Look out for the West Regional Reset later today and the East and Midwest Resets tomorrow. Make sure to also follow @RTCSouthRegion for news and analysis from Memphis throughout the week.

As usual, Billy Donovan has his Gators right in the thick of the title chase. (Getty)

Billy Donovan Is On The Verge Of Orchestrating Yet Another Florida Final Four Appearance. Is There A Team Remaining In This South Region That Can Disrupt The Gators’ March To Dallas? (Getty)

New Favorite: #1 Florida. Nothing has changed on this front. The Gators looked as overwhelming as ever in their third round defeat of Pittsburgh, and with only one other top-nine seed remaining in the region, the NCAA Tournament’s #1 overall seed is in fantastic shape to make its way to Dallas. The Sweet Sixteen match-up with UCLA won’t be easy, but more on that later – the Gators are still the South region’s clear favorite.

Horse of Darkness: #11 Dayton. This quadrant offered plenty of candidates for the honor, but with apologies to Stephen F. Austin (only one win) and Stanford (too familiar a brand), the Dayton Flyers advancing to their first Sweet Sixteen since 1984 makes for the South Region’s best Cinderella story. We make loyal Flyer fans pretend like the First Four is a big deal annually – and their love of basketball prevents them from failing in this pursuit – so it’s only fair that they finally get something to cheer about from their own team. On February 1, Archie Miller’s club (1-5 in the Atlantic 10 at the time) wasn’t even one of the top eight teams in their own conference, but after a late-season surge and this unexpected Tourney run, the Flyers will play on Thursday for a chance to be one of the final eight teams left standing in all of college basketball. What. A. Turnaround.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 UCLA 77, #12 Stephen F. Austin 60

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 23rd, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Kyle Anderson (left), Zach LaVine, and Norman Powell had a lot to celebrate about as the Bruins easily advanced to the Sweet 16. (AP)

Kyle Anderson (left), Zach LaVine, and Norman Powell had a lot to celebrate about as the Bruins easily advanced to the Sweet 16. (AP)

  1. UCLA – Sweet Sixteen. Remember back when this program was absolutely rolling under Ben Howland in the middle of the last decade? That went away fast, sure. But, now for the first time since 2008, the Bruins are back in the Sweet Sixteen, this time under first-year head coach Steve Alford — who himself is back in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1999 at Southwest Missouri State. Picky UCLA fans did not take kindly to Alford upon his hire and they took an even longer time to come around to this fun and exciting young team. But this weekend in San Diego, UCLA fans traveled well, were enthusiastic throughout, and seem to be back on the bandwagon. Their biggest nemesis from the last decade – Florida – is once again in the way. And if things do not go well on Thursday in Memphis, there might be a lot of Bruins’ fans with broken ankles as they jump back off the bandwagon, complaining about an easy path to the Sweet Sixteen and other silliness. But for now, UCLA basketball is cool again.
  2. Stormin’ Norman. Under Alford, Norman Powell found increased minutes, an increased role, and a level of freedom that he clearly enjoys. For a guy who was rumored to be considering transferring at the end of last season, he turned into a difference-maker for the Bruins this season. And in the postseason (including Pac-12 Tournament play), he’s taken his game to a new level. He has regularly harassed his man on defense into off games (today for instance, he held Friday night’s star Desmond Haymon to 3-of-11 shooting), he got nine steals in five games, and he made countless highlight-reel plays. Today’s best was putting the ball behind his back in transition just prior to laying the ball in deftly between a couple of defenders for a hoop. And then, rather than celebrate his play, he got back on defense and knocked a pass out of bounds to kill an SFA transition attempt.
  3. Scrappy ‘Jacks. The Lumberjacks, led by sophomore forward Thomas Walkup, are a team that is hard not to like. The bulk of their team is between 6’3” and 6’6”, but they play bigger than their size, they get after it on defense, they sell out for loose balls and they’re just talented enough (seems like everybody can stroke a jumper and make a pretty pass) to play a little finesse game on offense. Walkup in particular won over quite a few fans this weekend. A 6’4” sophomore forward who plays bigger than his size and older than his age, he does just about everything well. He drew early fouls on the bigger UCLA frontcourt, he grabbed eight boards in the first 11 minutes of action he saw, he defended with passion, he was a facilitator for the squad in the high post, he knocked down jumpers; he did everything but hand out water bottles in the huddle. The ‘Jacks lose three seniors, but expect them to be a force in the Southland going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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Bracket Prep: South Region Analysis

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on March 17th, 2014

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) breaks down the South Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC South Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCsouthregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Bennet breaking down the South Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

South Region

Favorite: #1 Florida (32-2, 21-0 SEC). The Gators are the clear front-runner to win the South region, and after winning their last 26 games, should also be the presumptive favorite to cut down the nets in Dallas. Winning four games in a row to reach the Final Four is never an easy chore, but the field’s #1 overall seed has all the necessary ingredients to make a fourth final four run under Billy Donovan.

Billy Donovan And Scottie Wilbekin Are Both Huge Reasons Why Florida Enters The NCAA Tournament As The #1 Overall Seed

Billy Donovan And Scottie Wilbekin Are Both Huge Reasons Why Florida Enters The NCAA Tournament As The #1 Overall Seed

Should They Falter: #2 Kansas (24-9, 15-5 Big 12). The Jayhawks’ case is a tricky one. With Joel Embiid, Kansas is easily the scariest #2 seed in the field and a serious threat to win it all; but the Jayhawks are far more difficult to quantify without their gifted freshman big man. Nothing is definite with Embiid’s prognosis, but if healthy and able to play, Kansas would only be the slightest of underdogs in an Elite Eight rematch with Florida. The outlook gets a little gloomier if the future trumps the present for the potential #1 overall pick in April’s NBA Draft (the one named Joel), but Andrew Wiggins’ recent offensive explosions still make Kansas a threat to run deep in this Tournament. Don’t forget that they will have a nice home court advantage in St. Louis for rounds two and three, and that crutch could help the Jayhawks advance to the second weekend without too much fuss – with or without Embiid. It’s still Bill Self and KU; don’t make the mistake of believing Joel Embiid’s health will be the sole determinant of the Jayhawk’s fate.

Grossly Overseeded: #8 Colorado (23-11, 12-9 Pac-12). There are no egregious examples of overseeding in this region, but Colorado stands out as the South’s most overvalued team. #3 Syracuse and #5 VCU may also have been generously awarded an extra seed line, but as currently constructed, the Buffs deserved to be closer to the cut-line than their #8 seed would suggest they actually were. Since Spencer Dinwiddie went down on January 12, Colorado managed only a .500 record in the Pac-12 and rarely looked competitive in outings against the upper echelon of the league. They are just 64th in KenPom’s rankings (only NC State is worse among at-large selections), and each of their three wins since February 19 was earned by the narrowest of margins (quirky note: all had final scores of 59-56). Askia Booker has remade himself in Dinwiddie’s absence and Tad Boyle deserves a ton of credit for navigating CU through the storm and into this field, but Colorado is just not one of the 32 best teams in college basketball.

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Bracket Prep: UCLA, New Mexico, New Mexico State

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 16th, 2014

As we move through the final stages of Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. Here’s what you need to know about the most recent bid winners. 

UCLA

Steve Alford's Hire Was Met With Resistance Last Spring, But Less Than Twelve Months Later, He Has The Bruins Back On Top Of The Pac-12

Steve Alford’s Hire Was Met With Resistance Last Spring, But Less Than Twelve Months Later, He Has The Bruins Back On Top Of The Pac-12. Next Stop: NCAA Tournament.

  • Pac-12 Champion (26-8, 15-6)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #21/#16/#16
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +13.8
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #4-#5

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. In making Arizona look mortal for the first time all week in Vegas, UCLA became Pac-12 Tournament champions and earned the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA has now scored 75 points against the Wildcats in both meetings this season, and since Michigan is the only other Wildcat opponent to score 70+ points on Sean Miller’s team, it’s an achievement worth noting. If you can score on Arizona, you can score on anyone, and UCLA looks likely to accomplish just that in the Tournament. Each member of Steve Alford’s eight-man rotation is capable of scoring in double figures on any given night, paced by leading scorer Jordan Adams (17.2 PPG, 2.7 SPG). The high game totals that the Bruins’ quick pace generates obscures what has actually been a pretty decent defensive effort (UCLA has the 49th best defense in the country according to Ken Pom), but there’s no hiding that it’s the hyper-efficient offense that makes the Bruins go.
  2. Kyle Anderson (14.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 6.6 APG) is a joy to watch on the court, but it might be even easier to appreciate him on KenPom.com, especially if you like to spend Saturday nights poring through free throw rates and true shooting percentages. The All-Pac 12 selection and Pac-12 Tournament MOP ranks in the top-500 in a whopping 12 of 15 individual categories on the site, with the only average categories being percentage of shots taken (who cares), offensive rebounding percentage, and turnover rate. Figuring out how many players have a similar variety in their statistical profile would take quite a while, but it’s difficult to imagine any player in college basketball even having ten of their fifteen categories among the top-500. He’s as proficient at cleaning the glass as he is setting up teammates, equally likely to knock down a three as he is to a shot block a shot. There will be only one Kyle Anderson is the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and that absurd Ken Pom stat-line is testament to just how diversely special he has been all season.
  3. Steve Alford is a massive part of the UCLA narrative heading into this NCAA Tournament. Alford has done a wonderful job in Westwood this season, but don’t think it’s nearly enough for him to outrun his shaky Tournament resume. Seeing is believing, and the latter will only happen with Alford after the former occurs.  The reticence to trust the UCLA head man stems from Alford’s 3-6 Tournament record at Iowa and New Mexico, a mark that includes exactly zero Sweet Sixteen appearances and one nice ugly upset to #14 seeded Harvard just twelve months ago. Do you want to believe in Alford already? Hang your hat on the differences between this UCLA team and the eleven previous ones he coached at Iowa and New Mexico, because only one of those teams (2004 Iowa) finished among the top-100 teams in possessions per game (and still just 66th). The Bruins are currently 14th in the metric, and there’s little doubt that this is the most up-tempo, offensively efficient basketball team that Alford has ever coached.

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 75, #3 Arizona 71

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 15th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Rare Talent. If you watched the game, you saw it all over the place. You saw it in UCLA’s 6’9” sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson, who had 15 defensive rebounds to go with 21 points, five assists and just one turnover. You saw it in Arizona’s freshman power forward Aaron Gordon, who spent time trying to check the opposition’s point guard as well creating plays of his own, dishing out a whopping eight assists (many of them of the spectacular variety, such as an epic alley-oop to junior Nick Johnson). Speaking of Johnson, this is a 6’3” guy who looks like your average ordinary Joe, right up until the point that his feet leave the ground and then just keep going up and up and up. Jordan Adams, Norman Powell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, T.J. McConnell, Gabe York, and the Wear twins. There was no shortage of talent on the MGM Grand Arena court this afternoon and with many of them turning in elite performances, it was a fantastic game to watch.

    Kyle Anderson and UCLA Took Home The Conference Title In Spectacular Fashion Saturday (Julie Jacobson, AP Photo).

    Kyle Anderson and UCLA Took Home The Conference Title In Spectacular Fashion Saturday (Julie Jacobson, AP Photo).

  2. Toughness. Despite all the high-flying wonderment and spectacular plays, tournament titles require toughness, and there was no shortage of that today. Often things like this are measured in rebounding, and guys like Anderson and Gordon did not disappoint there with Tony Parker (seven boards), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (eight) and Kaleb Tarczewski (seven) chipping in as well. But it is more than just that. It is setting and fighting through hard screens, like the one Parker set to free up Jordan Adams for what would turn out to be the game-winning three. It is getting on the floor for loose ball, as happened several times today, most famously when Travis Wear dug down deep and outraced Gordon to dive for a loose ball near the end line. As Arizona head coach Sean Miller put it afterward, “If you want to love college basketball, just watch that.” And if you want to win championships, you’ve gotta do that too. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 03.07.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 7th, 2014

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  1. At this point last season, UCLA sat at 22-7 and head coach Ben Howland was a dead man walking. The Bruins came into yesterday’s game at Washington with the same exact record, but the coaching situation could not be more different (no matter what Bruins Nation might say). Steve Alford has stepped up the program’s recruiting presence locally, and with the players having fun, the team is definitely going in the right direction. They’ve picked up big wins against the likes of Arizona State, Colorado, and Oregon, and while those haven’t exactly translated into an uptick in attendance, I don’t know if any coach could change that. He’s also got one of the frontrunners for Pac-12 Player of the Year running point guard in sophomore Kyle Amderson, who is helping things immensely in Westwood. The Bruins will close the regular season Saturday night at Washington State. They’ll look to protect the #5 seed that Joe Lunardi currently projects them as.
  2. UCLA improved to 23-7 on the 2013-14 campaign with a 91-82 road win in Seattle last night. Washington actually led 45-41 after an offense-filled first half before the Bruins woke up. Tied at 64 with a little over ten minutes remaining, Kyle Anderson put home a layup to put the visitors in front. That would initiate an 11-3 run, giving them just enough separation to put the Dawgs down. Sophomore guard Jordan Adams dropped a career high 31 points in the victory, which clinched the #2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament for Alford’s squad.
  3. Last February, Adidas unveiled these insane uniforms for six teams to use in the postseason, including UCLA. So when I heard yesterday that the company was rolling out another set of special March uniforms, I was excited to see what was in store. They decided to go with a much more subdued approach this time around, but the results are still decent. You can view the two Bruin jerseys here, and the rest of the set at this link.
  4. A lot of teams suffer some type of burnout at this point in the season, but few have seen a collapse like California this season. The Golden Bears have lost four of their last five, two at home, and all by an average of 17.5 PPG. “Emotionally, we’re really spent,” coach Mike Montgomery said. “We’re having a hard time emotionally sticking with this thing right now.” If you’re looking for a #HOTBRACKETTIP, you may want to avoid picking these guys very deep in a couple of weeks.
  5. Below is our panel’s selections for the final weekend of regular season Pac-12 basketball. We head to the Willamette Valley for our game of the week, where two of us are taking host Oregon, and Adam sticks with his Wildcats. Drew is taking a few road warriors in Colorado, Arizona State, and UCLA on Saturday, while I’ve got all home teams except for the Bruins, who will be heavy favorites on the Palouse.
    Game Connor (34-7) Drew (30-11) Adam (29-12)
    Utah @ Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
    Arizona @ Oregon Oregon Oregon Arizona
    Arizona State @ Oregon State Oregon State Arizona State Oregon State
    USC @ Washington Washington Washington Washington
    Colorado @ California California Colorado California
    UCLA @ Washington State UCLA UCLA UCLA
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Pac-12 M5: 03.03.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 3rd, 2014

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  1. Welcome to March. Jerry Palm’s latest NCAA Tournament projections were released yesterday and Arizona has all but solidified that #1 seed in the West region after taking care of California and Stanford. UCLA follows as a #7 seed, while Arizona State and Stanford are also safely in the field on the eight and nine lines, respectively. We then hit the bubble, where we find Oregon making its way back into the field as a #10 seed after picking up a pair of big wins in Los Angeles. Colorado and California follow as #11 seeds, with the Golden Bears being sent to Dayton to play in the “First Four”, a punishment for dropping three of its last four, with the losses coming by an average of 22 points. According to ESPN‘s Joe Lunardi, Utah is also on the bubble, sitting as the 11th team out of the field at the moment.
  2. Arizona locked up an unshared regular season conference title yesterday (and the all-important NIT automatic bid, if they choose to use it) with a 79-66 win against Stanford at the McKale Center. The Wildcats led by as many as 22 with six minutes remaining and ended up cruising to the championship. Josh Huestis actually led all scorers with 22 points, while freshman forward Aaron Gordon scored 19 to pace the Wildcats.
  3. Head coach Sean Miller decided to give guard Jordin Mayes the start on Senior Night in Tucson, and while Mayes was held scoreless, he did play a season high 15 minutes. Mayes has been with the Wildcats for four seasons, a dwindling feat nowadays in this sport. After starting as a sophomore he has seen his minutes decline and almost completely disappear. Mayes has suffered through multiple stress fracture injuries but has stuck it out, staying committed to his team and coach. Kevin Zimmerman shares a cool story about a young Mayes in this piece and the impact that he has had while at Arizona. Here’s hoping his perseverance is rewarded with a trip to Arlington for the Final Four later this month.
  4. If you’re looking for some hardcore statistical analysis, this post is for you. Our friend Adam Butler over at Pachoops breaks down the facilitating ability of Wildcat junior T.J. McConnell, the program’s first, true pass-first point guard in five years. So far this season he has accounted for the second highest percentage of rim scores in the conference behind Delon Wright, a huge boost for a team who’s one fault can be going significant periods of time without scoring.
  5. UCLA is ratcheting up its defense just in time for the stretch run of the season, and head coach Steve Alford is encouraged by the recent play. The Bruins forced Oregon to shoot at a 38.1 % clip from the field on Thursday, a performance that Alford declared “arguably one of the best of the year.” The Ducks went most of the night without gaining any easy buckets, and the Bruins held them to just two points in the first overtime period. Oregon is one of the best transition teams in the nation and UCLA only allowed four fastbreak points, perhaps the stat that makes Alford most proud. Continued pressure on the defensive end of the floor will be crucial if it looks to avoid the dreaded eight or nine seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
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