Three Questions Previewing Duke and UCLA Tonight

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 19th, 2013

When Duke and UCLA lock horns for the first time in 11 years tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York City (7:30 PM EST, ESPN), plenty of offensive fireworks figure to be on display. These teams are elite offensively with UCLA ranking third nationally in points per game at 89.1 and Duke not too far behind at 86.0. For as potent as these teams are offensively, their defenses leave a lot to be desired. What we have is a recipe for an up-tempo game, lots of points, and a fun viewing experience. There are also plenty of intriguing match-ups in this game when you look at each squad’s style of play. While their statistics are similar, the teams are constructed very differently. Let’s take a look at three key questions that will decide the result of this contest.

Steve Alford, UCLA

Steve Alford Brings His Bruins to MSG to Face Duke Tonight (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

1. Can UCLA guard the three-point line?

Much has been made of Duke’s defensive issues but defense has also been a problem for Steve Alford’s Bruins, especially when it comes to guarding the all-important three-point line. The Bruins’ 2-3 zone was torched by Missouri in their only loss of the season back on December 7. Missouri made 10 threes which proved to be the primary difference in the game. As a whole, Duke shoots 42 percent from beyond the arc and 45 percent of all Blue Devils’ field goal attempts are triples. Mike Krzyzewski’s team features four lethal perimeter threats and that may be too much for the Bruins to handle. While UCLA’s zone may help contain Duke’s versatile forwards from cutting to the basket, it opens the door for a Blue Devil three-point bombardment. Alford may be forced to extend the zone but his team’s performance will come down to the effort of guards like Norman Powell and a pair of freshmen (Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford) getting out to cover Duke’s shooters.

2. Will Duke be able to prevent UCLA from getting into the paint?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 12.11.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 11th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Arizona tips off its first game as the number one team in the nation in more than a decade tonight when the Wildcats host New Mexico State at the McKale Center. And while the Arizona team and their fans are undoubtedly excited about the honor, their opponent tonight is likely pretty happy about the development as well because they’ll get the chance to do something they don’t often have a chance to do — knock off the number one team in the country. Likewise, on Saturday morning, the Wildcats will face a Michigan team with a chip on its shoulder looking to knock the ‘Cats down a peg or two. And, really, even if and when the Wildcats lose, they’re still going to have plenty of foes looking to knock off the Pac-12’s favorite and one of the best teams in the nation.
  2. While the Wildcats are the biggest story in the conference right now, Colorado is riding quite a high themselves in the aftermath of Askia Booker’s game winner against Kansas on Saturday. That win brought the Buffaloes’ record against the Jayhawks to an astonishing 3-53 in the last 25 years. Sure, their former conference mates are one of the sports’ blue-bloods, but that number goes a long way towards showing how little the Colorado basketball program has accomplished historically. But under head coach Tad Boyle, things are beginning to change. And George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated has written a must-read article about how Boyle and the Buffaloes have undertaken that change.
  3. Up north, another strong contender in the Pac-12, Oregon, is about to get a lot stronger. When the Ducks face Illinois in Portland on Saturday evening, it will mark the final game of the nine-game suspensions to be served by sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter. Furthermore, it marks the day after the school’s fall trimester ends, meaning freshman Jordan Bell could be academically eligible on that day as well. Bell may still redshirt this season, since he hasn’t been in the mix with the Ducks yet, but for an undefeated team currently (under-) ranked at #15, that’s a whole heck of a lot of talent that is about to be added to that team.
  4. The other big name in the conference that we haven’t gotten to yet is UCLA. And the Bruins have reinforcements arriving as well. But unlike Oregon, those reinforcements won’t be on the front line until next year. Still, what Steve Alford has done on the recruiting trail in Westwood after getting off to a slow start has been nothing short of impressive. UCLA added a top-50 recruit in Australian Jonah Bolden on Tuesday. Bolden, a skilled 6’9” combo forward, joins a UCLA 2014 class that already includes five-star power forward Kevon Looney, four-star seven-footer Thomas Welsh, and European big man project Gyorgy Goloman. On a team that is somewhat soft up front this season, the influx of talented bigs is a welcome sign. Still, sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson is expected to forgo his final two years of eligibility following this season, and with freshman Zach LaVine’s stock rapidly rising, Alford may wind up shorthanded in the backcourt next season.
  5. Finally, we head to Utah, where head coach Larry Krystkowiak has weathered the storm of rampant roster turnover in his time on campus to rebuild the Utes into a competitive and likable team. Utah fans have responded in a positive way by beginning to fill up the Huntsman Center again. With Krystkowiak garnering commitments from his own top-100 recruits, expect the upswing in Utah basketball to continue.
Share this story

Previewing Saturday’s UCLA/Missouri Contest

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 6th, 2013

In advance of UCLA’s visit to Missouri on Saturday morning, Pac-12 correspondent Andrew Murawa and his SEC counterpart Greg Mitchell had a few questions for each other about the teams they’ve been watching so far this year. Read on to find out all you’ll need to know about the intriguing intersectional matchup, with tips on  Saturday at 11:30 AM CST on CBS.

Andrew Murawa: Last year, UCLA fans were wowed by Phil Pressey’s playmaking ability in the Tigers’ loss at Pauley Pavilion. With Pressey now gone, who’s running the show for Mizzou and how does he stack up compared to Pressey?

Greg Mitchell: Pressey was a Keion Bell missed layup away from 20 assists in that game, and it would end up being his best statistical night of 2012-13. Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson is the Tigers’ new starting point guard, and he ended up at Mizzou because of a childhood friendship with Pressey. He brings a very different skill set to the table. Where Pressey broke defenses down with his speed, Clarkson can back down smaller guards because of his 6’5” frame. He doesn’t have the vision Pressey did (few in the sport do) but he is a much better finisher and scorer. He’s off to an excellent start, and looks for his shot far more than Pressey did: In fact, he is currently leading the SEC in field goal attempts.

Jordan Clarkson Is A Different Player Than Phil Pressey, But Maybe A More Efficient Player (Jordan Henriksen, AP Photo)

Jordan Clarkson Is A Different Player Than Phil Pressey, But Maybe A More Efficient Player (Jordan Henriksen, AP Photo)

AM: UCLA’s been on fire offensively and is currently ranked among the top 10 most efficient offensive teams in the nation. What can Missouri do to slow down the athletic UCLA offense?

GM: Defense hasn’t necessarily been Mizzou’s strong suit this season. The Tigers’ starting backcourt, however, is big and athletic. Clarkson, Jabari Brown, and Earnest Ross are all 6’5” and can bother opponents. West Virginia, which was on fire from three this season, was noticeably flustered by this length on Thursday night. The Tigers can also more or less switch effectively at all positions when forwards Jonathan Williams III and Tony Criswell are paired with those three.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Marching to Vegas: On Kyle Anderson and Offensive Efficiency

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on December 6th, 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.

When I tuned in to the UCLA-UCSB game Tuesday night, time was running out on the upset-minded Gauchos. What was once a three point lead had diminished to an eight-point deficit. Or nine or 10, or whatever the case, UCSB was falling victim to a methodical death at the hands of the more talented Bruins. Their solution was a press. Up the pace, obtain some possessions that might not have otherwise been theirs, and convert. They needed points in a hurry and what better way to get them than to force a team without a true or traditional point guard to prove their abilities as ball-handlers. It didn’t work.

While The Competition Hasn't Been Great, Kyle Anderson Has Gone A Long Way Towards Proving His Point Guard Credentials (David Becker, AP Photo)

While The Competition Hasn’t Been Great, Kyle Anderson Has Gone A Long Way Towards Proving His Point Guard Credentials (David Becker, AP Photo)

Kyle Anderson is the most unique talent in college basketball. He’s 6’9” with the handles of a guard, the length of a slashing wing, and the timing of an elite rebounder. His basketball IQ – a phrase I tend not to love but it serves its function here so let’s roll with it – is off the charts. As UCSB upped the pressure, the game slowed down for Anderson. His lanky frame bent over, handling the ball below his knees with his head up, above outstretched defenders, he navigated the chaos like Clooney at a cocktail party. Cool. And did you see this? He’s ranked nationally in just about every category available on KenPom (there’s so much yellow on his player page you’d think it was an alternate Oregon jersey). He’s the primary ball-handler and he leads the team in defensive rebounding and block percentage. He has the worst facial hair on the team. If there is such a thing as the consummate point forward, he’s it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Misperceptions and Missed Perceptions: Reviewing Some Preseason Predictions

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 5th, 2013

With four weeks of basketball now in the books, it’s time to take a quick glance back at some of the things we thought we knew in the preseason. Some notions have proved accurate, but early results have tested a slew of preseason hypotheses that we once felt confident in. Here are a few examples, on both sides of the ledger:

We Thought We Knew…

Andy Enfield Was the New Coach Bringing Exciting Offensive Basketball to LA

There Has Been Nothing Slow About Steve Alford's And UCLA's First Four Weeks

There Has Been Nothing Slow About Steve Alford’s And UCLA’s First Four Weeks

We weren’t the only ones who thought it was USC, with Andy Enfield now at the helm – and not UCLA, with new head man Steve Alford — which was going to be lighting up Pac-12 scoreboards in the City of Angels this winter. Back in October, Enfield told his players, “if you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” Well, USC isn’t playing slow – they are 33rd nationally in possessions per game –but they are playing slower than the Bruins, which are six spots ahead of them in that category. And if this first month means anything, perhaps Enfield should have also advised any of his players who enjoy scoring, winning, or both, to plan that transfer across town. USC is 5-3, with just one win against a team in KenPom’s top 230 (!!!) and an offensive efficiency that ranks them 170th nationally. UCLA, on the other hand, is 8-0 and averaging more than 90 PPG behind the 7th-most efficient offense in the country. Now, there is a necessary asterisk here: Alford inherited significantly more talent at his disposal than Enfield did. Even so, it was Enfield – not Alford — who invited the cross-town comparisons. The Dunk City architect better have something besides his mouth working by the time USC visits Pauley Pavilion on January 5; otherwise, his Trojans are firmly at risk of getting run out of Westwood, and contrary to popular belief, there would be nothing slow about it.  

The Complection of the Top of the Big 12

At this point, expecting Kansas to win the Big 12 generally equates to peeping out a Southern California window and looking for the sun in the morning. The Jayhawks may not have played their way out of the preseason expectation to win the Big 12 again this year, but they should have company at the top this time around. Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State, post play deficiencies aside, have looked every bit the part of Big 12 title contenders themselves, and many would now peg the Cowboys as Big 12 favorites (including yours truly). Kansas State and Baylor were next in line after the Pokes and Jayhawks a month ago, but the Wildcats have suffered through a miserable opening month, while Baylor has looked as shaky as a 7-1 team with two top-40 victories can look, with two of those wins coming against non-D-I competition and three of the other five earned with a final margin of victory of five points or fewer. Iowa State now looks like the team ready to take a step up in class. The Cyclones, 7-0 with a pair of top-40 victories of their own, could easily enter the Big 12 season undefeated and prepared to further shake up a suddenly unpredictable conference race.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 12.03.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on December 3rd, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. California Golden Blogs meets in roundtable form to discuss some leftovers (get it?) from California‘s recent trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. Included is some projections as to how the Golden Bears would have fared with senior forward Richard Solomon playing in the final two games, as well as the impression David Kravish made on everyone during the trip. While the tournament ended on a bit of a downer thanks to an 18-point loss against Dayton, Monday’s victory over Arkansas was huge as it not only gave the Cal an extra notch in the win column but also put it in the winner’s bracket and match-ups with a pair of solid RPI-enhancing opponents. Where the Golden Bears go from their performance in Maui before conference play is very important. Finishing 10-3 against the non-conference slate is definitely possible, but Mike Montgomery has to make sure the team avoids slip-ups against intrastate rivals UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, and Fresno State.
  2. UCLA‘s Steve Alford has led the Bruins to a 7-0 start this season, and believe it or not, that is a record among first-year coaches in Westwood. And while critics will be quick to point out that the best UCLA win has probably come against Drexel or Northwestern, 7-0 is still 7-0. This article takes a look at other Bruin head coaches and how each started their careers. The Bruins will go for their eighth consecutive victory tonight against UC Santa Barbara.
  3. Arizona joined the 7-0 club on Friday with its NIT Season Tip-Off Championship victory over Duke, and the Wildcats climbed to number two in the week five AP poll as a result. The poll can be found in full here, where you’ll see the Cats also earned two first place votes. A couple of other 7-0 Pac-12 teams, Oregon and UCLA, checked in at #13 and #18, respectively. If you go down to the “Also Receiving Votes” category you’ll find 7-1 Colorado garnering enough votes to put itself at #36. Arizona State remains without a vote despite having already won seven games, including a victory at UNLV and at home against Marquette.
  4. Sticking in Tucson, USA Today‘s Nicole Auerbach says Arizona is in midseason form three weeks into the season. Head coach Sean Miller didn’t back away from high expectations back in October, and for good reason, because with a true point guard in junior T.J. McConnell and a do-everything scorer in shooting guard Nick Johnson, the Wildcats are winning games and looking good while doing it. A second straight undefeated non-conference season is possible if Arizona can get past Michigan on December 14.
  5. We close with this feature on Utah guard Parker Van Dyke. Van Dyke, a freshman from Salt Lake City, was planning on a two-year church mission immediately after graduating from high school, but decided that his best opportunity for playing time for the Utes would come this season. The mission was put on hold, and the decision has paid off in spades. Van Dyke is typically one of the first guards off the bench for coach Larry Krystkowiak and has already emerged as one of the top shooters on the undefeated Utes.
Share this story

Morning Five: 11.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. When Andy Enfield made his statements criticizing Steve Alford and Tim Floyd we figured that he would hear about them. We just never figured it would be in a public place in front of journalists. As Seth Davis detailed, Floyd approached Enfield and began yelling at him in front of Enfield’s wife and a group of onlookers. Assistants for both schools had to step in to separate the two. It’s unfortunate that the two had to air out their differences so publicly, but Enfield had to expect some blowback after his arrogant comments.
  2. It appears that the Chane Behanan 2012 Final Four controversy has come to a rather abrupt end. Upon hearing about the auction Behanan’s mother called his grandmother, who he had given the ring to. She said that she had put it in a box in her bedroom, but when she checked she discovered that it was not there. When the family contacted Gray Flannel saying that the ring had been stolen the company promptly returned the ring to Behanan. While it is a plausible story it does seem strange that the company gave the ring to Behanan so quickly if they did any investigation at all into his claims.
  3. Floyd and Enfield may have embarrassed themselves with their actions, but they were not the only ones in the college basketball community to embarrass themselves. Craig Neal‘s wife, Jean, has been accused of attacking a school administrator and could be heading to court as a result of it. Former El Dorado High School assistant principal Susana Stanojevic has filed a lawsuit claiming that Janet Neal assaulted her after a high school basketball game in February in which Janet’s son played. Stanojevic is claiming that the school board knew that Janet had a history of such outbursts and did not protect Stanojevic from her. It is worth noting that this is not the first time that Stanojevic has filed a lawsuit against the school board.
  4. When Dalonte Hill was arrested for the third time for a DUI we figured it was only a matter of time before he stepped down (or was forced to do so). On Wednesday, after having taken a leave of absence from the team from quite some time, Hill finally officially resigned. Hill’s primary role was to help the team in recruiting in the D.C. metro area, which is something that he did to a degree, but not at the level that was needed to make the Terrapins competitive in the upper echelon of the ACC (and soon to be Big Ten). Although the news is certainly negative for Maryland as they attempt to increase their reach in recruiting, they did get one positive as they announced that Maryland legend Juan Dixon was joining the staff as a special assistant to Mark Turgeon.
  5. We have heard a lot of strange excuses for why a player is not eligible, but that of two Egyptian players–Aly Ahmed and Ahmed Hamdy–is a new one. They claim that they were misled by former Rice and FIU assistant Marco Morcos who told them to spend a second year in prep school prior to entering college despite NCAA rules arguing against that. For his part, Morcos denies any influence. Although the schools where the two players are waiting at now (Cal State Bakersfield for Ahmed and Houston for Hamdy) appear to be confident that the NCAA will change their mind based on the report that Morcos misled the two players we tend to agree with John Infante that the two are out of luck because they need to know the rules.
Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 11.25.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 25th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Welcome to Feast Week! It’s already been a great November of basketball with high quality hoops from coast to coast (and beyond), but we have still got one of the best weeks of the regular season ahead of us, with wall-to-wall ball and great tournament action. There will be plenty of Pac-12 action this week, but Cal and Stanford tip things off today, and the two cross-bay rivals will be playing in a pair of games about 5,000 miles apart from each other. The Golden Bears will get things underway in the Maui Invitational today just after 9 AM local time, while the Cardinal will face Houston at roughly 9:30 PM in Brooklyn this evening in the semifinals of the Legends Classic. But for both schools, it will be a chance to measure themselves against good competition and get some national publicity.
  2. Utah got to 5-0 this weekend after sweeping through the Global Sports Hoops Showcase, an exempt event hosted by the university that featured less than stellar competition. Over the course of three days, the Utes knocked off Grand Canyon, Lamar, and finally Savannah State to win the event. And yet, despite the relatively unappetizing appeal of the opponents, the Utes announced attendances averaging better than 7000 every night. Either that is some very creative accounting, or there are a few fan bases around the conference that could learn from the Ute fans.
  3. USC head coach Andy Enfield made a big splash on Friday with some loaded quotes in an article published in Men’s Journal. The money quotes are straight trash talking about fellow coaches, like cross-town rival Steve Alford and former USC head coach Tim Floyd, currently that head man at UTEP. About Floyd, Enfield dropped this bomb: “Tim Floyd shows up every day at work and realizes he lives in El Paso, Texas. And he’s pissed off that he didn’t get the USC job [again].” While Alford received this treatment: “I’ve made it to one Sweet 16 in two years, and he’s made it to one Sweet 16 in 18 years.” Just a reminder: you may want to circle January 5 on your calendar, as Enfield’s Trojans will visit Alford’s Bruins that day. You probably won’t have to watch the second half.
  4. Speaking of USC, with the news that J.T. Terrell was declared academically ineligible for the rest of the fall semester dropping last week, Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports writes that the gamble that former USC head coach Kevin O’Neill took on Terrell and his former Wake Forest teammate Ari Stewart most decidedly did not pay off. Stewart saved the drama and earned himself an academically ineligible designation prior to the season. The duo had run into problems – both academic and otherwise – previously in their college careers.
  5. Lastly, Arizona head coach Sean Miller weighed in Friday on his 2014 recruiting class, the latest in an increasingly long line of unabashed successes. His class features 6’6” wing Stanley Johnson (the #9 overall recruit according to ESPN), 6’7” power forward Craig Victor (#29) and 5’8” mighty-mite point guard Parker Johnson-Cartwright (#60), along with off-the-radar JuCo guard Kadeem Allen. But, Miller says scoring a big recruiting class like this just buys a coach a little more time, but that he’s still got to go out next year and do it all over again. Meanwhile, former Arizona head coach Lute Olson can relate and says one of the big things he doesn’t miss about coaching is having to deal with the new dynamics in recruiting.
Share this story

It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 18th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. starting this year off with what for my money was the best preseason event in recent memory. Combining the history of the Duke/Kansas/Kentucky/Michigan State programs with the incredible talent those squads have this year was a November treat for any college basketball fan who has grown tired of the NFL’s unthinkably terrible Monday/Thursday schedule this fall. Michael Wilbon said it right in his column after the game — this type of night makes college basketball relevant earlier in the year and gets people paying attention before January. I think you saw that same sentiment from those coaches, too, in their postgame interviews – this was not your ordinary non-conference event.

I LOVED…. Jabari Parker. When I look at freshmen now, I put them through what I call the Kevin Durant Eye Test. When you saw Durant during his unbelievable freshman year at Texas, you stopped doing whatever it was you were previously doing. You thought, no way is this kid this big with these type of perimeter skills and that feathery stroke. No way is he only 18, and no way would he not be making an impact on an NBA team right now. Parker passed that test, and this year is going to be fun.

Parker and Friends are Worth Stopping What You’re Doing to Watch Them

I LOVED…. that I still had to think about if the night’s star was Parker, because UK’s Julius Randle (Zach Randolph should sue for post-game style patent infringement) and KU’s Andrew Wiggins (who woke up for the second half against Duke to remind us what all the hype was about) delivered similarly eye-opening performances. I also loved that for how great Parker and Randle were, it was the more-balanced Jayhawks and Spartans that came out on top.

I LOVED…. Kevin Ware back on the floor. It’s hard to remember the last time that everyone wanted to see a kid back on his feet more than Ware, whose gruesome injury last March caused America to collectively turn their heads away from the TV set. Making his first three-pointer was pretty great, but I loved this past week even more when Ware cut into the lane and bounced off of a two-foot jump stop for a high-flying finger roll at the cup. What a great story.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 15th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. With the start of the early signing period well underway, we’re going to spend almost all of this morning’s rundown on recruiting. And to kick things off, not only did Arizona have a big night on Thursday by getting a hard-earned victory over a tough San Diego State team, but they heard whispers of some very good things for the future as well. Stanley Johnson, a top-10 recruit out of Mater Dei in the greater Los Angeles area, will announce his decision on where he will attend school next season and the rumors are that Johnson will select Arizona over competitors like USC and Kentucky. With four-star guys Craig Victor and Parker Johnson-Cartwright already committed, Sean Miller’s got the beginnings of another phenomenal class.
  2. On the other side of the things, Oregon State is struggling through a rough start to the season, but Beaver fans not only can celebrate the signing of a new recruit, but this specific recruit – junior college transfer Gary Payton II – offers up ties to the most recent glory days of the basketball program in Corvallis. While “The Mitten” doesn’t have the accolades that “The Glove” brought to OSU, he is a strong defender like his father and will provide some excitement for the Beavers next season. Meanwhile, there are three other recruits who have already verbally committed to Oregon State who may sign in the coming days. The big question that remains is whether head coach Craig Robinson will still be around to enjoy the fruits of his recruiting labor.
  3. Up in the Bay Area, both Cal and Stanford have signed highly regarded recruits. Mike Montgomery signed four-star point guard Ahmaad Rorie, who had committed to the Golden Bears almost two years ago, while Stanford inked five-star power forward Reid Travis, who just committed to the Cardinal last week. Johnny Dawkins still has a couple four-star recruits in point guard Robert Cartwright and center Michael Humphrey who have already verbally committed, but they still need to make it official. And then, of course, we’ll need to see if Dawkins is still around to welcome them into Palo Alto next season.
  4. Let’s switch from NorCal to SoCal to check out what USC and UCLA got done yesterday. Trojan head coach Andy Enfield signed three players, including big guys Malik Price-Martin and Jabari Craig along with four-star point guard Jordan McLaughlin, all of whom will be significant upgrades in terms of players who fit in with the style of play that Enfield wants. Expect these three to get big roles early for the cardinal and gold. Meanwhile, across town, Steve Alford signed Kevon Looney – a five-star power forward –and Hungarian power forward Gyorgy Goloman, who is spending 2013-14 at a prep school in Florida. Looney, in particular, is a big-time get for UCLA.
  5. Lastly, we’ve got football again tonight. And, while we’ve got sufficient focus on basketball this time of year, we’ll be sure to take a couple breaks this weekend to keep our eye on some exciting Pac-12 football. Connor and I continue our battle for prognosticating supremacy, and we’re in a tight contest. Last week we both went 4-1, with Connor eking out a fun one when Arizona State knocked off Utah, and me riding Myles Freaking Jack !!!!! (yes, I believe those exclamation points are now officially a part of his name) to a UCLA win over Arizona (although I was wishing I was watching a UCLA/Arizona basketball game the whole time). On the season, Connor’s still got a one-game lead on me, with him checking in at 58-15 and me at 57-16. Our game of the week comes tonight, when Washington and UCLA meet up at the Rose Bowl (a 6:00 PM football game at the Rose Bowl on a Friday night? Yeah, calling that thing half full at kick-off will be extraordinarily optimistic). I’m leaving the Bruins bandwagon to hop on Bishop Sankey and company, while Connor’s going with the Bruins at home.pickem_midnov
Share this story

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.
Share this story

Alford Era Begins With a Win But Program Still Lacks Excitement

Posted by Brendan Mulvihill (@themulv) on November 9th, 2013

The Steve Alford era officially began at UCLA in front of a sparse crowd at Pauley Pavilion, as the Bruins kicked off their regular season against Drexel last night. Alford’s team held off the Dragons, 72-67, in a game that was not decided until the final minute of play. While the new coach was extremely positive about his team’s performance and ability to dig out a tough win, there still seems to be lack of urgency and excitement around the UCLA program. On the opening night of college basketball at a program with the history and tradition of UCLA, there should be electricity in the air. Unfortunately, that was not the case at all.

It's a New Era in Westwood (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

It’s a New Era in Westwood (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Alford needs to bring some fire to his program, his players and the fan base. He seems to be re-instilling a defensive toughness back to the Bruins. They held Drexel to 38 percent shooting overall and forced mostly jump shots. However, there isn’t a killer instinct in this team. It’s still early in his tenure, but that is something to keep an eye on as we move towards conference play. UCLA let Drexel hang around in this game, particularly coming out of halftime, but the Bruins will not be able to do that against the better competition in the Pac-12.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story