Pac-12 Burning Questions: Who’s The Biggest Question Mark?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 5th, 2013

At this point, just ahead of actual basketball, those of us who follow the sport closely have plenty of things that we more or less agree we think will happen. We think Aaron Gordon is going to be an all-conference player from day one. We think Jordan Adams is going to pick up where he left off last year. We think the Oregon backcourt is going to be insanely good. But, there are still plenty of areas where question marks abound. We asked our group of Pac-12 experts, including Adam Butler of Pachoops.com, “Who in the Pac-12 do you have the biggest questions about?”

 

Adam Butler: It was reported very early in the process of his transfer that Mike Moser would be attending Washington. This, we quickly felt, was a coup, a quick fix to the Huskies’ frontcourt issues that could elevate them back into the Pac-12 conversation. Instead, he wound up choosing Oregon – another team needing to revamp its frontcourt – and the Ducks instantly became more promise than threat. But Moser is my biggest question mark in the conference because we’ve seen three different versions of this versatile talent across his four collegiate years. Version one was a lost freshman, evidently bullied and uncomfortable on a team with chemistry issues not even Walter White could fix.

Now back in the Pac-12, Mike Moser has one last chance to make a lasting impression. (AP)

Now back in the Pac-12, Mike Moser has one last chance to make a lasting impression. (AP)

He played a pittance of minutes at UCLA and left for Vegas. And who doesn’t rediscover themselves in Vegas? Version two of Moser was one of the best players in the country: 14/11 with equal talents on the block, perimeter and defensive end. He was Kazemi-like (28.1% DR, 9.5% OR) with the ability to get buckets. He was great and then 2012-13 happened. He busted his elbow in Berkeley and never quite found his groove; struggling to find a role on a team with the number one overall pick, Anthony Bennett. V2 > V3 > V1. We now find ourselves with V4 in Eugene and I ask: What is V4 going to look like? To me, that’s the biggest question in the conference because it holds the biggest reward. Can you imagine a legitimate scoring threat on the post with the guards Oregon has? Mike Moser grabbing 30% of rebounds just to let Young, Artis, Dotson and Calliste go off to the races? This team is going to be just fine even if it’s a formidable V3 of Moser, but there is so much upside. He can turn what’s already a Pac-12 title contender into something far greater than that.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.29.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 29th, 2013

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  1. You know, it has come to my attention that we haven’t addressed the big news last week that Houston transfer Joseph Young has been declared eligible by the NCAA to play this season at Oregon. After averaging 18 highly efficient points per game last season (26th in the nation in offensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy), his presence is going to mean huge things for the Ducks. With Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning for their sophomore seasons, and with Jonathan Loyd back for his senior year, and with Detroit transfer Jason Calliste – another prolific and efficient scoring guard – now eligible, the Ducks are on the very short list for the best backcourts in the nation. If Mike Moser, Ben Carter and Waverly Austin can hold down the fort up front, the Ducks are going to be extremely dangerous.
  2. But despite all that talent in the backcourt, we’ll be interested to see exactly what head coach Dana Altman can hammer out as a rotation. The best five players on the team are probably Artis, Dotson, Young, Calliste and Moser, but that combination would leave the Ducks with four guards and a forward in Moser who, while a skilled defender and rebounder, is not exactly your typical low post player for a team hoping to contend for a conference title in a major conference. And with all those guards and more, Altman will have a fun time trying to distribute shots between them all. Stay tuned.
  3. Continuing our all-Oregon themed M5, it is no secret that Altman has made Oregon the grade-A landing spot for the best of the best transfers in Division I basketball. In his three seasons in Eugene, Altman has welcomed in seven transfers who had previous experience at D-I schools (Moser, Young, Calliste, Arsalan Kazemi, Devoe Joseph, Olu Ashaolu, and Tony Woods), as well as junior college transfers like Carlos Emory, Waverly Austin, Richard Amardi, Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit. Along the way, Altman has also become known as a welcome landing spot for “basketball refugees,” as Percy Allen of the Seattle Times calls them. Better yet, while other coaches have shied away from these players, Altman has succeeded in turning around a program that was in the dumps when he took over and having the Ducks back in the national conversation.
  4. Let’s take a brief little jaunt up the I-5 to peek in with Craig Robinson and Oregon State in Corvallis. In a year where Robinson, once a media darling with the Beavers, finds himself in dire need of a productive season in order to hold on to his job, the brother-in-law-in-chief is talking up his sophomore class. Between Olaf Schaftenaar, Langston Morris-Walker, Jarmal Reid and Victor Robbins, there are loads of minutes available, what with Eric Moreland and Devon Collier due to each serve suspensions upon the start of the year. While none of these four should be expected to line up along the front line like their temporarily-departed brethren, each is capable of providing some punch from the wing for the Beavers. And, frankly, Robinson will need some major contributions out of that quartet in order to stabilize his own professional prospects.
  5. Lastly, let’s jump out of the state of Oregon and head somewhere much drier to get a report on the conference favorite Arizona‘s exhibition game last night against Augustana. T.J. McConnell stole the show in the opening game at his new school, scoring 12 points, handing out eight assists, snatching three steals, and getting his team rolling as the floor general for the top-10 Wildcats. Three other players scored in double figures against their Division II opponent in a 32-point win. Sure, it means absolutely nothing, but it is basketball and it was on TV. If you missed it the first time, you can watch the replay on the Pac-12 Networks this morning at 9:00 AM.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.22.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 22nd, 2013

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  1. Instead of an exhibition game or two, the USC‘s men’s and women’s teams announced yesterday they’ll be hosting the “Trojan Tipoff” on Sunday morning. The day will open with a FanFest, which includes a meet and greet with Trojan coaches and players, but the highlight will be the intrasquad scrimmages that come later in the day. It will be the first glance at the new-look Trojans, now under the guidance of uber-promoter Andy Enfield. Hopefully SC provides some type of streaming for the event for us out-of-towners interested to see how Dunk City looks on the west coast. The men’s team opens the season November 8 at Utah State, in a game to be televised by CBS Sports Network.
  2. Across town, the fallout continues from Enfield’s “If you want to play slow, go to UCLA” comment made last week. First year Bruins head coach Steve Alford issued another denial to the quote on Monday, pointing out that his teams at New Mexico were always first or second in scoring in the Mountain West. He also said that while there are no problems between he and the other new coach in Los Angeles, he understands that there is a rivalry between the schools. Before the session was over, however, Alford couldn’t resist getting a low-key shot in at the Trojans. “You look at history and tradition, UCLA and USC, there is quite a bit of difference there.”
  3. Some leftovers from Thursday’s Pac-12 Media Day, as Arizona Desert Swarm sat down with junior guard Nick Johnson recently. Johnson discusses playing in the backcourt with point guard T.J. McConnell, how he handles game-by-game expectations, and the Wildcats’ hidden shooting ability at the three and four spots, among other things. Johnson averaged 11.5 PPG for Arizona last season in over 30 MPG, and if the Wildcats are to live up to the expectations being put upon them in the preseason, he will need to contribute double figures again. Even more important will be his perimeter defense, which gave a huge lift to Arizona at times last season. His pressure and ability to get his team out on breaks energized things whenever the offense struggled. Johnson and the Cats will open regular season play against Cal Poly on November 8.
  4. This is the year that Larry Krystowiak will need to show some of the strides Utah has been making, this being his third year at the helm and the Utes’ third in the Pac-12. He thought that the best way to get started on that this offseason was to get in better shape, and the Deseret News reports that his team has more or less accomplished that. Post players Jordan Loveridge, Renan Lenz, and Marko Kovacevic have lost about 20 pounds each as Krystowiak is looking for more active players inside. As far as the guards go, Brandon Taylor and Parker Van Dyke are no longer two of the smallest players in the conference, with each gaining around 15 pounds over the summer. On the court, Krystowiak reports that the Utes are having “spirited and competitive” practices so far this fall. They will have their annual “Night with the Runnin’ Utes” on Wednesday evening of this week.
  5. Tad Boyle‘s Colorado team has developed a reputation as one of the best teams in the league at taking charges, and Boyle worries that the Buffaloes will be at a disadvantage this season with the NCAA’s new rules on how to interpret the violation. Bobby Dibler, the Pac-12’s new coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, broke down the guidelines at Media Day last week and said that he expects more blocks to be called this season. The modification states that once an offensive player has started an upward motion with the ball, the defender can not move into that player’s path or it will be a blocking foul. This is a welcome change after many players had became masters of sliding under a player already in mid-air to draw the charge. As probably expected, Boyle is not a big fan: “We’re going to have to adjust, but I don’t like the rule.”
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Pac-12 M5: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 16th, 2013

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  1. After a stretch of several months where most of the news coming out of Westwood was of the bad variety, UCLA finally found some good news waiting for them on Tuesday when forward Wanaah Bail was granted eligibility to play immediately for the Bruins after transferring out of the Texas Tech program. While Bail is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, if and when he is healthy enough to go, he’ll be expected to provide much-needed depth in the frontcourt behind the senior Wear twins and sophomore center Tony Parker. Still, despite the good news, some Bruin followers have chosen to paint this as, somehow, another strike against new head coach Steve Alford before the guy has even gotten to the plate. Seriously though, Alford had the temerity to answer a question about comparing John Wooden to his former college head coach, Bobby Knight. I mean, get a rope, right?
  2. Turning back to UCLA’s biggest rival in the conference, Arizona is considered the prohibitive favorite by most prognosticators, but the one weakness most people look to nitpick is the team’s possible lack of outside shooting. The team loses four of their top five three-point shooters from last season and their most ballyhooed newcomers, namely freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, are known for just about anything on the basketball court except long-range shooting. Nevertheless, newly eligible transfer T.J. McConnell is a 41.6% three-point shooter for his career, junior guard Nick Johnson improved to a 39.3% three-point shooter last season, and guys like sophomore Gabe York (despite his one-for-nine shooting in the Red-Blue game) and Kansas transfer Zach Peters are expected to chip in from range. Meanwhile, even sophomore Brandon Ashley has worked to expand his range out toward the three-point line.
  3. Speaking of T.J. McConnell, while anyone who never saw him play in his first two seasons of collegiate eligibility at Duquesne can look at the numbers and see a guy who can knock down the three as well as drop a dime (KenPom, paywall) with the best of them, Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been talking up McConnell’s ability to get after it on defense. The Wildcats’ defensive efficiency has improved every season under Miller (again, KenPom, paywall), but if McConnell can live up to Miller’s hype, he’s definitely got a versatile enough frontcourt to match up with just about any opponent, what with Kaleb Tarczewski’s ability to out-physical true posts, Ashley’s length and athleticism advantage over  most fours, Gordon’s ability to guard any number of positions, and Jefferson’s toughness and length. Throw in the already established Nick Johnson, whose ability to annoy the heck out of opposing ball-handlers far away from the hoop can be disruptive enough on its own, and this Wildcat squad is a good bet to improve on the team’s defensive numbers from a year ago.
  4. For some reason, we haven’t talked a lot about Colorado so far these past couple of weeks (something we will remedy soon enough), but the Buffaloes are one of the handful of teams who can legitimately challenge Arizona for conference supremacy. Things will be a bit easier for the Buffs this season, especially around Boulder, as season tickets for the Coors Event Center have sold out for the first time in CU history. With a student section that has evolved into one of the best in the conference, and now the full Boulder community also committed to supporting the team, expect the Rocky Mountain swing to be one of the least welcoming road trips on the Pac-12 schedule.
  5. We’ll wrap up the morning by pointing you to a thorough rundown on the Washington basketball roster by Ben Knibbe (follow him now) at the UW Dawg Pound. Yesterday he took you through the high post players Jernard Jarreau and Desmond Simmons (and offered the saddest of lines for a Husky fan: “Aaron Gordon would have been…”). Last week he broke down wings C.J. Wilcox, Hikeem Stewart, Darin Johnson and Mike Anderson. And the week before that he filled you in on point guard options Andrew Andrews, Nigel Williams-Goss and Jahmel Taylor. Certainly, we’ll get the breakdown on low posts Perris Blackwell and Shawn Kemp in the near future, but you’ll need to keep up with Ben (seriously, follow him now) in order to get the best position-by-position rundown you’ll find around the Pac-12 team blogs.
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Arizona: King of the Hill In the Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on October 8th, 2013

Still a month away from actual games and a marathon away from March, there are plenty of questions to be asked and answered about the Pac-12. But one thing is beyond debate: Arizona is not only the clear-cut favorite in the conference this year, but they are the strongest program in the conference these days. Maybe by a long shot. Since Lute Olson turned Arizona into a national power with four Final Four appearances and one national title between 1988 and 2001, the conventional wisdom has been that the power in the conference was fairly evenly divided between Tucson and Westwood, what with UCLA’s 11 banners and all. But while three consecutive Final Four appearances are not that far in the rear view mirror for the Bruins, for the time being at least, Arizona is the power conference beacon out west.

Aaron Gordon Is Just The Latest High Profile Recruit To Choose Arizona Under Head Coach Sean Miller (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

Aaron Gordon Is Just The Latest High Profile Recruit To Choose Arizona Under Head Coach Sean Miller (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

Looking up and down the roster, it is easy to see why, as this year’s vintage of the Wildcats will feature three McDonald’s All-Americans (Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley) and and no fewer than four guys (Gordon, Ashley, Nick Johnson and Kaleb Tarczewski) projected by DraftExpress as selections in either this year’s or next year’s NBA Draft. Throw in a polished point guard in T.J. McConnell, newly eligible after a transfer season, and a talented supporting cast, and not only is Arizona picked to win the Pac-12 this year (unanimously here, according to CBS’ cast of characters), but they’re on the short list of teams with a chance to cut down the nets in early April.

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Arizona Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 11th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: Arizona.

What Went Right

You know, after all is said and done, after all the chatter about his strengths and weaknesses, you gotta say that the Mark Lyons experiment turned out pretty well. Yes, the end of the season and a not-quite-buzzer-beating loss to Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen is disappointing, and a fourth-place Pac-12 finish isn’t what was expected, but down the stretch, this team was clicking pretty well behind Lyons. With a dearth of other create-for-themselves offensive players (outside of Solomon Hill), Lyons was a pretty good fit here. He never materialized as the distributing floor general some had hoped, but he was a good version of himself — scoring efficiently, playing hard and zipping people up defensively.

Despite Some Ups And Downs, You've Got To Call The Mark Lyons Experiment A Success, Right?

Despite Some Ups And Downs, You’ve Got To Call The Mark Lyons Experiment A Success, Right?

What Went Wrong

For a team with three hardened veterans among the seven-man rotation, this was a surprisingly inconsistent team. Much of that can be chalked up to three freshmen occupying the rotation at the four and five spots. As talented as Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett are, they were still freshmen growing into their bodies and into their games. There were blown assignments, soft defense and the handful of boneheaded plays. But, the bright side is all three of these guys got tremendous experience, displayed their major upside and are expected to return next season.

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Pac-12 M5: 04.01.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 1st, 2013

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  1. Dan Wetzel broke the news over the weekend that USC is targeting Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield to be hired at the same position. Enfield, of course, led his Eagles to victories in seven of their final eight games on a magical run to the Sweet Sixteen. While there may be some reservations about hiring a coach whose team was inconsistent for the majority of the season, there is no question that Enfield’s high-octane, “Dunk City” offense could appeal to a Los Angeles crowd. And for a team that has struggled mightily to draw the average fan to the Galen Center, Enfield would be a perfect fit. Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins also remains a candidate for the job.
  2. With some preseason projections hailing UCLA as a top 10 team, it would have been nearly impossible for Shabazz Muhammad and company to live up to the expectations bestowed upon them by its ever-demanding fan-base and local media. And while a 20-point upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament isn’t the way any of the Bruins wanted to go out, it shouldn’t stain the superb freshmen season of Muhammad. The guard/forward led the team with 17.8 PPG, and also sprinkled in 5.3 RPG. Sure, he invited criticism and controversy (whether deserved or not) while not going to celebrate with his teammates after Larry Drew II’s game-winner, or wearing a black Gucci backpack after a road victory in Tucson, but all in all, the season was a personal success for the freshman.
  3. Five star small forward Aaron Gordon will announce his long-awaited college decision on Wednesday night during the McDonald’s All-American Game. Gordon appears to now be considering Pac-12 schools exclusively, with the group being Arizona, Washington, and Oregon. Kentucky was in the mix as well, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. There were whispers of the Bruins making a late push to grab the blue-chip prospect out of San Jose (the connection being new coach Steve Alford having coached UCLA transfer and former New Mexico star Drew Gordon, who happens to be Aaron’s brother), but that too is an extreme long shot.
  4. There are 12 teams still playing college basketball in the 2012-13 season, and none of those happen to play in the Pac-12. That means the worst part of the year, the long and torturous off-season, is upon us. But there are also things to look forward to at Arizona, as Bruce Pascoe points out. From the maturing of last season’s freshmen, to point guard T.J. McConnell taking over the offense and providing a true one for the Wildcat offense, to a long shot waiver request, we’ll certainly have our eyes on the desert in the coming months. 
  5. The coaching carousel continued to spin out west this weekend when Cal State Fullerton hired Dedrique Taylor away from his post as the associate head coach at Arizona State. The Titans opted to go with an interim head coach for the entirety of the 2012-13 season, but needed to change that after Andy Newman posted just a 14-18 record. Taylor will be a good fit at CSUF, being a California native and working previous stints at UC Davis and Loyola Marymount. He was named one of Basketball Scoop’s National Coaches of the Year in 2009.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 7th, 2013

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  1. Stanford and California met last night in the regular season finale for both teams, and Stanford surprised all with a 13-point road upset of the Golden Bears. The Cardinal outplayed Cal on both sides of the floor, but shooting the ball at a 53% clip from behind the arc is what got it done for Stanford. With 5:05 remaining, a massive skirmish that took over 20 minutes to sort out took place. At the end of it all, players Gabriel Harris and Richard Solomon were both ejected, while four Stanford assistant coaches and one California assistant coach were tossed as well. The Pac-12 has yet to announce any additional punishment.
  2. Arizona combo guard Mark Lyons will play his final game in Tucson on Saturday, and there are mixed feelings about it among Wildcat fans. On one hand, Lyons has been Arizona’s leading scorer, confidence-provider, and has hit the game-winning shots against Florida and San Diego State. But the fact that he is not a true point guard is irksome to many, with those folks yearning for the day when T.J. McConnell takes over in the UA backcourt. They will have to wait a few more weeks, however, as Lyons looks to lead the Cats through Las Vegas and all the way to Atlanta by the beginning of April. True point guard or not.
  3. Sticking in the desert, Wednesday night saw each of the three favorites in Pac-12 games helping Arizona’s case immensely to avoid playing on Wednesday in Las Vegas. The Wildcats can secure a four-seed (and a bye to Thursday) with a win over Arizona State or a Colorado loss to Oregon or Oregon State. If the opposite of all of that occurs, then UA slides down to a five-seed and would face the 12-seed in the opening round on Wednesday.
  4. With just two games left in the Pac-12’s regular season, Oregon is right where it wants to be — in control of its own destiny. The Ducks sit at 12-4 and alone in first place right now, but UCLA is lurking a half-game behind them. If the Ducks drop both games this week, UCLA wins at Washington, and Arizona defeats Arizona State, mass chaos would ensue with a four-way tie atop the standings. With the Ducks facing Utah on Saturday, however, that scenario is most likely not going to happen.
  5. With rumors circling regarding the future of Washington State head coach Ken Bone, the Cougars got their biggest win of the season on Wednesday, a 73-61 home upset of UCLA. WSU had lost seven straight games and was alone in last place coming into the game, and with attendance plummeting, morale around the hoops program was low. This indeed may have been a job-saving win for Bone, the fourth-year coach from Portland State.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2013

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  1. So, yeah, quickly, the top candidates for the head basketball coach at USC: something like Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon, Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins, interim head coach Bob Cantu and, um, former USC head coach Tim Floyd? Wait, run that last one by me again. Floyd is currently the head man at UTEP, a position he’s held for a few years after resigning from the USC gig (something about how he didn’t feel supported by then-USC athletic director Mike Garrett in the wake of allegations that guard O.J. Mayo accepted impermissible benefits from an agent). Floyd has long maintained a complete lack of involvement in the issue and plenty of investigations (both by USC and by the NCAA) have failed to turn up any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. Still, let’s not consider Floyd a leading candidate just yet. The meeting between Floyd and now-athletic director Pat Haden may have just been a way for the new AD to build a bridge over the bad blood in the wake of the parting, and Floyd, for his part, is using the surprising news as a way to get the word out publicly that “hey, I didn’t have anything to do with that.” Still, for a stretch there, Floyd put together four straight winning seasons including three in a row with 20-plus wins and NCAA Tournament invitations, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
  2. Across town, UCLA head coach Ben Howland let it slip, rather innocently and honestly, that Shabazz Muhammad was in all likelihood headed for the NBA Draft. And that’s not the only opinion he has on the state of the NBA, as he mentioned on Monday that he would prefer changes to the NBA’s eligibility rules that would end the one-and-done era. Howland’s plan would be similar to the rules presently used by Major League Baseball, whereby players would have the option to go straight from high school to the pros, but that once they wind up in college, they have to stay for a few years before being eligible again. Howland also knows that there’s not a chance that change gets made, at least anytime soon.
  3. Speaking of the NBA Draft, we posted our opinions here yesterday on the draft prospects of potential early entrants around the Pac-12, including Arizona State freshman guard Jahii Carson (we’re hoping he stays and develops a jumper). But Sun Devil head coach Herb Sendek claims that he hasn’t given the idea much thought, preferring instead to focus on this season. Still, we’re not buying the idea that it hasn’t even crossed his mind. Cal’s head coach, Mike Montgomery, however, was right to the point when asked about Carson’s pro prospects: “Doesn’t shoot it well enough yet.” The key there may be the word “yet.”
  4. If Carson does stick around for another season in the desert, he’ll have a new competitor in the state at point guard, as Arizona will unveil Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell as their new lead guard. The Daily Wildcat sees a parallel between McConnell’s skill set and the skills of UCLA point guard Larry Drew II. Compared to present UA point Mark Lyons, McConnell is more of the traditional pass-first, shoot-second floor general (of course, compared to Lyons, Allen Iverson is more of a traditional point guard). As Wildcat fans begin to grow weary of Lyons’ all-or-nothing style, the future is starting to look real good, even if that envisioned future is based on little more than partial information.
  5. Lastly, as we look ahead to this week’s games, Washington may be out of the race for the conference title but it still has a chance for some input, as the Huskies will host UCLA on Saturday night. Head coach Lorenzo Romar is hoping that his team can finish the regular season in style. They’ve put together a 13-3 record in the final four conference games of the previous four seasons, and are well on their way to a repeat of that mark with two wins last week. But with USC and UCLA both playing well, the Huskies have their work cut out for them this week.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.25.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 25th, 2013

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  1. Last week saw Washington State lose a dramatic game when an underclassman made a poor decision in the waning moments of the game. This week, Oregon State lost a tight one in part due to a poor decision made by an underclassmen in pregame warm-ups. You see, there’s this fairly ridiculous rule that makes dunking in the layup line prior to the game worthy of earning a technical foul against your team. Beavers freshman Olaf Schaftenaar, a guy well-known for his wide variety of aerial acrobatics (note to editors: please use the sarcasm font for that phrase), just couldn’t help himself and threw one down prior to the game. The refs caught the egregious act, penalized OSU with a technical foul, Allen Crabbe knocked down one of two free throws prior to the game, and the Beavers went on to, you know, lose by one. For a Beavers team that Ken Pomeroy currently has ranked as the third-least lucky team in the nation, Saturday’s bad luck reached ridiculous new lows.
  2. Arizona scored a couple of wins this weekend. First, on Saturday they coasted to victory over Washington State behind terrific shooting from senior Kevin Parrom, although head coach Sean Miller wasn’t entirely thrilled with his team’s effort. Then, on Sunday, Miller got a commitment from five-star recruit in the 2014 class, 5’7” point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. The recruiting coup is not only a big score for what it brings to Tucson, it is also big because the Wildcats beat out Pac-12 rival UCLA for the Los Angeles-area product. Jackson-Cartwright will first play in the 2014-15 season at the same time that Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell plays his senior season in Tucson.
  3. Speaking of UCLA, junior forward Travis Wear missed Sunday afternoon’s battle with USC after spraining his right foot at the start of practice on Saturday. His brother David Wear got the start in place of him, while freshman Tony Parker saw a big increase in minutes and production as a result as well. Travis wore a walking boot on the foot during the game but was ambulatory without crutches and Ben Howland said after the game that he is considered day-to-day. Unfortunately, if the Bruins are going to get him back for their next game, he’ll have to be a quick healer, as they’ll host Arizona State in Westwood on Wednesday night.
  4. For some time now Arizona State has been right on the anticipated border between NCAA Tournament team and NIT participant, but the consensus was that the Sun Devils needed to finish strong in order to maintain that positioning. While they’ve still got cracks on the road at UCLA and Arizona, Saturday’s home loss to Washington may leave Herb Sendek’s team needing to win the Pac-12 Tournament in order to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. Freshman point guard Jahii Carson turned in one of his worst games of his young career, senior Carrick Felix was largely – and surprisingly – ineffective in his senior night, and once again, the poor free throw shooting from the Sun Devils helped conspire to leave them on the wrong side of the ledger at the final horn.
  5. The race for the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award is well under way, with Arizona State’s Carrick Felix and Colorado’s Andre Roberson near the top of the list of contenders. Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle has begun making the case for his guy, by not only listing him as the top defender in the conference, but calling him the best defender in the nation. With guys like Aaron Craft, Victor Oladipo, Russ Smith and Jeff Withey already established and well-recognized as great defenders, there is little doubt that Roberson would fail to medal on the national stage, but in the Pac-12, his rebounding and his ability to guard multiple positions and make insanely athletic plays certainly has him on the short list for the conference award.
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Mark Lyons Could Be the Missing Piece For Arizona

Posted by AMurawa on May 8th, 2012

Despite the fact that Sean Miller had inked a top-three recruiting class, his roster at Arizona was lacking in one key area: point guard. However, this weekend’s news that Xavier transfer Mark Lyons had committed to Miller (for the second time – it was Miller who had originally recruited Lyons to the Musketeers) goes a long way toward not only clearing up the picture in the Wildcat backcourt, but putting the Pac-12 back on the map for the 2012-13 season.

With elite recruits along the frontline like Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, and Brandon Ashley and a group of talented returnees, there was already plenty of reason for Cat fans to be excited going into next year, but the huge hole at point guard left by consecutive offseasons during which the incumbent point guard transferred out of the program (Momo Jones last summer, then Josiah Turner this season) threatened to limit the upside of the roster. But, despite the fact that Lyons is by no means a true point guard, and he butted heads with Chris Mack (resulting in Lyons’ decision to leave the program) the graduating senior could be the missing piece for a season as the program waits on Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell to gain his eligibility in 2013-14.

Mark Lyons

Mark Lyons Gives The Wildcats A Much-Needed Option At Point (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Lyons is a scoring combo guard who spent most of his three seasons at Xavier playing off of the ball. However, he’s got the handle and presence to man the point full-time for the Wildcats and, for a team with a lot of nice pieces but no real go-to scorer, he will be able to fill that need as well. Lyons’ junior season at Xavier was marred by his involvement in the infamous on-court brawl with Cincinnati early in the year, but all told, it was by far his best season. He averaged 15 points, shot nearly 40% from deep and posted the best offensive efficiency rating of his career while taking a higher percentage of his team’s shots than ever before. He excels at getting into the lane and scoring on offense, while he is a pestering on-ball defender. At Arizona, however, he will need to prove that he can play with the ball in his hands on a regular basis and get his new teammates involved. He will have plenty of help in the ballhandling area from guards like sophomore Nick Johnson (who had appeared to be the frontrunner to take over the point guard spot despite his struggles in his handful of chances at that position in his rookie campaign) and Jordin Mayes, as well as point forward Solomon Hill, who led the Wildcats in assists last season, but Lyons has an ability to create for himself and his teammates that those others do not have.

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Pac-12 Comings and Goings: Shabazz Muhammad and Josiah Turner

Posted by AMurawa on April 12th, 2012

It was a big day of comings and goings in the Pac-12 on Wednesday as the picture surrounding the two historic basketball powers in the conference crystallized a bit. UCLA and its embattled head coach Ben Howland got a piece of great news as the nation’s #2 recruit – Shabazz Muhammad – announced his intentions to attend the school next year, while Arizona finally cleared up the status of freshman point guard Josiah Turner when it was announced he would be transferring out of the program.

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad Gives The Bruins Plenty Of Talent And Plenty Of Options

First, the Bruins. Despite UCLA’s struggles over the past three seasons (their 56-43 record since 2009-10 is the worst three-year record in program history since Wilbur Johns went 38-36 from 1945 to 1948 prior to the John Wooden era), Howland was able to add Muhammad to an already strong recruiting class that already featured the #5 recruit in the nation (according to ESPNU) – Kyle Anderson – and highly touted sharpshooter Jordan Adams. And, with the program still in hot pursuit of widebody Tony Parker, their haul could get even gaudier. Muhammad is an explosive offensive talent with the ability to throw down highlight-reel dunks with the best of them as well as knock down threes or score in a variety of ways in between. He will join a roster that features plenty of depth and versatility. Muhammad can play either the two or the three, and he is joined on the wings by returnees like Tyler Lamb and Norman Powell, a pair of nice pieces as well as Adams. Anderson as well can play the two or the three, but he is very adept with the ball in his hands and will play a part at the point, along with controversial North Carolina transfer Larry Drew Jr. And then up front, there are the Wear twins as well as big man Joshua Smith (although there is still a chance, somehow, that Smith could decide on his own or be encouraged to leave early), and perhaps Parker. In short, Howland has put together a ton of pieces in Westwood, but he’ll need to prove his ability to congeal those parts into a gestalt. Is Drew the answer at the point or can Anderson run the Bruin offense? Can Howland open up the offense enough to take advantage of Muhammad’s vast skills in the open court? Can Smith lose half a hundred pounds and be effective for 25 minutes a night? Can the Wear twins develop their offensive games and their defensive toughness? And can Lamb or Powell be counted on to knock down threes when called upon, or will Adams jump ahead of them in the rotation? There are plenty of questions to be answered at UCLA, but one thing is for certain: it should be fun to see it all play out.

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