Pac-12 M5: 03.29.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 29th, 2013


  1. Another day another UCLA coaching search update. With Shaka Smart officially out of the picture, talk about Butler’s Brad Stevens is starting to heat up. First, ESPN broke the completely obvious news that he is UCLA’s top target, while also briefly reporting that Stevens and UCLA were in contract negotiations. Later, FoxSports reported that Stevens was actually in Westwood in the middle of negotiations with UCLA. This report has not been confirmed anywhere, though. However, as should be expected of the calm and quiet Stevens, he’s not commenting on the job at all, other than to say he is still the coach at Butler. And all Butler president James Danko can offer is that he hopes his head coach stats. Elsewhere, N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried tweeted out that he is “committed” to staying in his current job, which really means nothing, as offering that statement does little but make him have to answer some tough questions if he were to wind up taking the UCLA job. Although you can probably read the tea leaves to find that Gottfried hasn’t received a whole lot of encouragement from those in charge of the UCLA search.
  2. One other thing on the UCLA coaching search: for some reason, writers tangentially associated with the Colorado program keep trying to float Tad Boyle as a candidate for the Bruin job. And for no apparent reason. Certainly he’s a fine coach and the job he has done taking the Buffaloes to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (and, let’s face it, it should be three straight – CU got screwed in 2011) while building up a passionate new fanbase is commendable. But the UCLA job search would probably have to go pretty poorly, with name after name passing on the job, before Boyle gets hired. Again, no offense to Boyle who I think the world of as a coach and expect to have a bright future, but at this point, as a “deranged buffalo” points out, he just hasn’t done enough quite yet to merit the attention of athletic directors at the six elite “blueblood” college basketball programs.
  3. Oh, and in case you forgot, the USC coaching job is also open, though there is nowhere near the speculation about it as there is across town. With some of the top candidates already out of the picture, names like Tommy Amaker, Tubby Smith, Tim Floyd, Mike Hopkins and, get this, Ben Howland, are at the top of the list.
  4. Speaking of coaching searches, Oregon head coach Dana Altman has been a party in a couple entertaining searches. First, there was the extended and wildly optimistic Oregon search that wound up landing Altman, only after like 600 (note: that number is only an estimate) other coaches turned down Nike U. But Pac-12 fans may have forgotten the 2007 debacle where Altman accepted Arkansas’ offer for their head coaching position, only to renege a day later after a change of heart. I only bring this up now because, (1) well, I needed an additional point for my morning five, but also because (2) it goes to show just how drawn out and dramatic these coaching searches can be and (3) it is a testament to how lucky Oregon is to have Altman, one of the best coaches in the nation.
  5. And, as we wrap up another week, we also wrap up the career of some great Pac-12 players, as Arizona’s demise in the Sweet 16 last night ends the college careers of Mark Lyons, Kevin Parrom and Solomon Hill. Hill, for one, did not go down without a fight, as Bruce Pascoe writes. He scored nine-straight in the middle of the half to rescue the Wildcats from a rough patch spanning the half and to keep his team within shouting distance of Ohio State. While his career at UA is done, he does go down in the record books, tied with Kyle Fogg for most games played in Wildcat history.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2013


  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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Morning Five: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 6th, 2013


  1. One of the fundamental signs of intelligence is being able to learn from your mistakes so you can imagine our surprise when it came out that USC was interviewing Tim Floyd for its coaching vacancy. For those of you who may have forgotten Floyd resigned in 2009 amid accusations of his players (see Mayo, OJ) receiving improper benefits. It hasn’t been four years since that fiasco, but if you need a refresher you can check out our post from June 2009 on Floyd’s departure. In Floyd’s defense, the NCAA did clear him of any wrongdoing even if many nonpartisan observers remain skeptical. Outside of the obvious strange circumstance of USC interviewing a coach many feel it forced out the door a few years ago we also have to question the timing of the announcement as Floyd’s current team, UTEP, is doing well at 16-12 overall and 9-5 in Conference USA with two more regular season games remaining. It is beyond us why Floyd would admit to an interview with his team still playing meaningful basketball.
  2. Floyd may steal the headlines from that story, but we might be more interested in the second to last sentence of the story, which mentions that long-time Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins has also interviewed for the job (confirmed to a local radio show). Although Hopkins is widely acknowledged as the eventual successor to Jim Boeheim the actual date that Boeheim leaves the Syracuse does not appear to be that close no matter how many cantankerous post-game press conferences Boeheim has. While we are disappointed that our #DausterForUSC campaign has failed to take off, Hopkins would appear to be an ideal candidate for the job with his experience at Syracuse and southern California roots. As we have said many times USC seems like it is the type of program that is just waiting for the right coach to make it a competitive national program again.
  3. We are a little over a month away from the Basketball Hall of Fame and while this year’s class will not generate the controversy that the baseball class will one potential inductee-Jerry Tarkanian–will raise plenty of issues for voters. We have already discussed the case for and against Tarkanian in this space in the past month and now at least one prominent sportswriter (Dave Kindred) is voicing his support for Tarkanian’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. We are sure that there are some members of the selection committee will hold Tarkanian’s renegade reputation against him, but perhaps the NCAA’s recent public relations struggles will make Tarkanian a more sympathetic figure now.
  4. It turns out that the NCAA Tournament is not just big business for the NCAA and television networks. As Chris Smith of Forbes points out John Calipari could make up to $700,000 in bonuses depending on how Kentucky performs in the NCAA Tournament. In Calipari’s case, he is unlikely to collect on those bonuses as the Wildcats are not expected to make a deep run (or possibly not make the NCAA Tournament at all) and the more significant bonuses come in the later rounds. We do not have access to the contracts of other coaches out there, but we would guess that many of them could see a substantial raise above their base salary with deep runs in the NCAA Tournament (Calipari added 21% last year).
  5. One of the more heavily discussed topics in March is that of the bubble. There are countless forecasters who give predictions on who will make the NCAA Tournament through their secret formulas, but if you are looking for something more transparent (and simple) then the Easy Bubble Solver might be for you. Created by Drew Cannon it simply adds together a team’s RPI and Ken Pomeroy ranking then takes the 37 highest ranked teams as its at-large selections. Its 94 percent success rate over the past six seasons is impressive so even you think it is too simple it is worth taking a look at to see where there may be some disparities between what the analysts expect and what the EBS predicts.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2013


  1. Since the firing of Kevin O’Neill on Monday morning, coaches on the hot seat are on the minds of many around the conference. Bud Withers of The Seattle Times points to Craig Robinson, Johnny Dawkins and Ken Bone as the three remaining Pac-12 coaches most likely to be relieved of their duties following the season, and one of the factors that could play a part in their departures is the relative disinterest of the fan bases, especially at Stanford and Washington State, where small crowds have become a theme. Of note is that Ben Howland is missing from Withers’ list, but rest assured, barring a deep run in the NCAA Tournament (meaning at least past the first weekend), Howland’s position will be reevaluated once the season ends.
  2. Continuing to mine that O’Neill theme, the Arizona Daily Wildcat has a piece about how the state of UA basketball could have been much different had previous events turned out differently. To begin with, O’Neill was the interim head coach at Arizona when Lute Olson took his leave of absence in 2007-08, and, were it not for a change of heart on Olson’s part, the plan was to make O’Neill the head man when Olson retired. When that plan fell through, O’Neill wound up free to take the USC job when Tim Floyd abruptly resigned in the wake of recruiting allegations. And, in that whole regime change, guys who had been committed to USC, namely Derrick Williams and Momo Jones, wound up de-committing and instead enrolling at Arizona, became key cogs in the 2011 Elite Eight team. Solomon Hill was also at one point committed to Tim Floyd and USC, but he backed out of that and switched his allegiance to Arizona prior to the coaching change. In short, were it not for a couple simple twists of fate involving O’Neill, the present face of Arizona basketball would look significantly different.
  3. Aside from that, you know, we actually had some games in the conference tonight. Where Wednesday games were sort of a one-off rivalry-game-only type of thing in the past, these are a regular occurrence every week this year. It takes some getting used to, sure, but really, basketball spread out more evenly through the week? I ain’t complaining. Washington State kicked things off last night by raining down fire from deep on Utah on the way to the Cougs’ first conference win of the season. Coug Center’s got your round-up of all the action, including Mike Ladd’s career night. It’s worth noting that Ladd is starting to pick up the pace offensively and it is he, rather than more popular possibilities like DaVonte Lacy or Royce Woolridge, who has stepped up as the second option on this team behind Brock Motum. Ladd has now scored in double figures in five straight games, averaging better than 16 points per night over that span.
  4. As Sabatino Chen’s desperation three-pointer banked in at the buzzer at the end of Colorado’s conference opener, it appeared that the Buffaloes were ready to be a serious contender for the Pac-12 title. Almost literally since that exact moment, not much has gone right for CU. Moments later, that shot was perhaps erroneously waved off. Soon thereafter the Buffs folded in overtime of that game. And since that night, they’ve proceeded to drop three of their next four, stumbling to a 1-4 conference start, including last night’s 10-point loss at Washington. But, while Colorado gets much of the attention for their sudden failures, the Huskies are out to a surprising 4-0 conference start. But, as Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times notes, while past Husky teams have made their mark with style and flair, this vintage of UW is getting it done with grit, hustle and smarts. And, perhaps not coincidentally, they’re overachieving this year, as opposed to their almost annual recent underachievements.
  5. Lastly, on a day that wasn’t all that great for Oregon sports, there was bad news for the basketball program as well when it came to light that the prep school that 2013 recruit Cristiano Felicio is currently attending may be under scrutiny for its legitimacy as an educational institution. And, the crazy part about this story is that may not be the worst part about it. Aside from possibly being little more than a scam perpetrated on talented basketball players, the president of the school is under investigation for physically abusing some of the schools players by subjecting them to “hands and feet bound with zip ties” and “clothes pins attached to their nipples.” Yikes.
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2012

Ryan Peters is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can find him on Twitter @pioneer_pride and read his musings online at Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.

Top Storylines

  • A Conference in Considerable Flux – Before MemphisHoustonUCF, and SMU defect to the Big East – which officially makes a geographic mockery of the Big East’s name – C-USA will have one final season together as a full-fledged “upper-level” Division I conference. With only six NCAA Tournament teams and zero NCAA tournament victories in the past three seasons, however, can C-USA muster together a respectable showing for the 2012-13 campaign that doesn’t rival most mid-major conferences? Memphis is the only virtual lock to go dancing, yet several other programs (see MarshallUTEP, and Tulane) are on the rise and could conceivably end up on the right side of the tournament bubble come March. Still, it may be overly optimistic to think C-USA will break the two-team NCAA bid barrier that has eluded the conference since 2005.
  • A Run Towards Perfection – In his fourth season as Memphis’ head coach, Josh Pastner has an opportunity to do something his predecessor, John Calipari, did with apparent ease for three straight seasons prior – have his Tigers run the table in C-USA. With the conference slightly weaker heading into this season (according to Ken Pomeroy), Memphis has a real opportunity to put up a perfect 16-0 regular season mark against their conference foes. It will still prove to be difficult, especially when facing UCF and Marshall twice as part of their unbalanced schedule, yet Memphis returns four starters and is sitting on a potential NBA lottery pick in Adonis Thomas if the 6’7” small forward can stay healthy for much of the season.

Josh Pastner leads a talented home-grown roster in Memphis’ final season in C-USA.

  • Welcoming Back a Legend – Anytime you can hire a head coach with a resume such as the 71-year old Larry Brown, I guess you have to do it, given SMU’s desperation to hire a big name. After all, you’re talking about a guy with an NCAA championship and an NBA championship on his resume. The problem is – aside from his age and inability to coach through the initial contract at his last three destinations – Brown has been away from the college game for nearly 25 years, when he won the 1988 NCAA championship coaching Danny Manning (who, interestingly, is a new C-USA coach himself) and the Kansas Jayhawks. How much can the Mustangs reasonably expect from Brown under these conditions? The cupboard is bare with the graduation of leading scorer and most efficient player, Robert Nyakundi, and the removal of four players including starting point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas, so you have to wonder if Brown will have the patience to stick around long enough to fully rebuild a SMU program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1993. One benefit from Brown’s hiring is that he has assembled an impressive coaching staff, which includes the Mustangs possible head-coach-in-waiting in Tim Jankovich.
  • New Coaching Blood – Including Brown, there are four C-USA programs that hired new coaches this offseason, which makes up a whopping one third of the entire league. The most notable new hires are Brown and the aforementioned Danny Manning, who left his assistant post at Kansas in an attempt to push Tulsa out of complacency. Donnie Tyndall (Southern Miss) and Jerod Haase (UAB) complete the list of coaches. It will be an uphill battle in season one; research has shown head coaches typically struggle in their first season at their newest destination. Perhaps these men can buck the trend and adapt quickly, although the more likely scenario has some of the league taking advantage and pushing ahead of these rebuilding programs for the time being. Well, maybe except for Rice (more on that later)…

Reader’s Take I

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Memphis (14-2)
  2. Marshall (12-4)
  3. UTEP (11-5)
  4. UCF (10-6)
  5. UAB (9-7)
  6. Southern Mississippi (8-8)
  7. Tulane (7-9)
  8. East Carolina (7-9)
  9. Houston (6-10)
  10. Tulsa (5-11)
  11. SMU (5-11)
  12. Rice (2-14)
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USC Week: A State Of The Program Address

Posted by AMurawa on July 7th, 2012

We’ve been all around the USC program in the past week, but we’ve got time for one more post. At the end of every week we like to take a step back and look at the overall state of the program – not just how the team performed last year or is expected to perform next year, but what the long term prognosis for the program is. And with USC, much like it has been with their basketball program for some time, the future is cloudy. As we pointed out in the first post of the week, it has been 26 years since the Trojans earned a piece of the Pac-10 title and 51 years since they won a conference title outright (back when there were only four other teams competing in their conference). By comparison, in that same time frame the Trojans have won six national titles in football and vacated another one. It’s absolutely no secret that the importance that the athletic department puts on the success of their basketball program pales in comparison to the football program. Heck, basketball probably isn’t even a second fiddle to football, as numerous other programs around the SC campus have won multiple national titles (baseball, for instance, has won nine national titles since the basketball program last won a conference title outright; men’s water polo has won seven national titles; and men’s tennis has won 16). Let’s call basketball the gong at the back of the orchestra.


The Basketball Program Runs Far Behind Other USC Athletic Programs, Including Their Iconic Football Team

One thing USC’s basketball program does have going for it that it hadn’t had in the past is a beautiful on-campus arena in the Galen Center, which opened in 2006. A definite upgrade from their previous home – the decaying publicly owned Los Angeles Sports Arena – the Galen Center jumps right onto the list of the nicest Pac-12 venues and gives SC a clear recruiting boost. When it opened, there was talk of a newfound commitment to the basketball program around Heritage Hall, and the arrival of O.J. Mayo on campus a year later certainly instilled a level of excitement around the Trojan basketball program that hadn’t really been felt since the days of Harold Miner. But, after three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament under Tim Floyd, any momentum the program had built up was flushed away in controversy, as stories of payments from Floyd to Mayo surfaced, Floyd then resigned in disgrace, and USC self-imposed sanctions on its hoops program, including a one-year ban on any postseason play.

While all of that could go down as just an isolated incident related to one bad egg as head coach, its overall impact may be bigger. The Trojans were on their way to becoming regular NCAA Tournament participants, and had a bead on a strong incoming 2009 recruiting class including future Pac-10 Player of the Year Derrick Williams that surely would have extended USC’s success out a couple more years. Regardless of the history of the program, if SC had been able to string together six or seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances, that could have started a positive feedback loop, setting up USC as a legitimate and attractive landing spot for elite basketball recruits.

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USC Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on July 2nd, 2012

It has now been 20 seasons since the USC Trojans last finished a season with less than 10 losses, 26 years since they earned at least a piece of the Pac-10 title and 51 whopping years since they won their conference outright (then known as the Athletic Association of Western Universities – or the Big Five). Compared to that history of futility, the recent past in USC basketball has been relatively successful. Between the 2006-07 and the 2010-11 seasons, the Trojans posted a combined 103-66 record, finished tied for third twice and never finished lower than a tie for fifth. And then came last season, when the wheels came off the bus entirely, as the team limped home to a school-worst 6-26 record, helped along by an almost unbelievable stretch of injuries. Of the five players who started in USC’s first exhibition game last summer in Brazil, just one was still active when their season wrapped up, and all told, just six scholarship players remained available.

Kevin O'Neill, USC

The USC Basketball Program Had Been Relatively Successful In Kevin O’Neill’s First Two Seasons, But Nothing Went Right Last Year (Rick Scuteri/AP)

Teams are going to have injuries from time to time, and head coach Kevin O’Neill understands that, but last year’s streak of bad luck came at a particularly tough time, with the program left in a fragile state by previous head coach Tim Floyd. In June 2009, Floyd resigned abruptly in the wake of NCAA investigations (and eventual penalties) related to illegal benefits for O.J Mayo, just shortly after starters DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett had all decided to leave school early to pursue professional careers. With the change in staff and the NCAA sleuthing around, the Trojans lost all but one player from their 2009 recruiting class, including Derrick Williams, Momo Jones and Renardo Sidney. The Trojans were able to scrape into the NCAA Tournament in 2011 behind a molasses-slow tempo and stingy defense, but the program was still in recovery mode from the Floyd fiasco, lacking the depth to be able to mask the multiple injuries they endured last year.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 7th, 2012

  1. On the eve of the kickoff of the Pac-12 Tournament comes news that the conference has reached an agreement to move at least the next two conference tournaments to Las Vegas. No official announcement has been made yet, but it could be official as early as Saturday night. The games would be played at the MGM Grand Arena, making it the fourth different conference tournament to be held in Las Vegas (joining the WCC, MW and WAC). Given declining attendance and a reputation for a less-than-thrilling atmosphere at its current home at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, this could be a welcome boost of adrenaline for a flagging event.
  2. Heading into the tournament, we’re still wondering whether the Pac-12 can get two teams, maybe even three, into the NCAA Tournament. Of all the teams, it appears that California is the safest best to get in, with an RPI of #37 and a couple wins over top 50 RPI teams. California Golden Blogs notes that Joe Lunardi says that the Bears can get in even with an opening round loss to Stanford this week, but, of course, if they want to be safe, they get that win and even another one against Oregon (which could, paradoxically, knock the Ducks out of the top 50 in the RPI and knock the Bears back down to 0-3 in that metric) to tighten up their case.
  3. At the Autzen Zoo, they’re making a case for three Pac-12 teams worthy of bids, a stance that is not particularly surprising given that the third team would be their beloved Oregon Ducks. They write that “the Pac-12 isn’t as bad as the biased east-coast fans think it is” and I would agree with that – I think that the top four, maybe even as deep as the top six teams are capable Pac-12 squads, even if there is no one great team here. The problem is of course that the tournament resumes of these teams are not good at all. There are no real statement wins against great teams; there are precious few wins against any teams of NCAA Tournament-caliber; and there are poor RPI numbers right on down the line. If there is disappointment around the conference on Selection Sunday, it is deserved.
  4. John Gasaway takes the stance that, although this conference is literally the weakest major conference in years, it’s not as bad as some make it out to be. What really drags the overall conference numbers down is the bottom of the conference – teams like USC, Utah and Arizona State that have suffered through horrifically bad seasons. Further, he sees the top five or so teams as consistent with what we’ve seen out of similar teams in the past two years in the conference. The bad news is, the past two years in the conference have been down years for the league as well, albeit not as far down as this season. Still, Gasaway sees promise in California and Washington, as well as UCLA, who he notes has been better on a possession-by-possession basis than the Huskies and right in the same general area as Arizona and Oregon.
  5. Lastly, Jeff Faraudo and Jon Wilner try to provide some reasons for the depths to which the Pac-12 has plunged. Among their reasons: 1) the decision to sign a TV contract with Fox instead of ESPN, hurting their national TV exposure and keeping Pac-12 teams off the radar of some recruits; 2) changes in personnel not only on rosters (early NBA entries, outgoing transfers), but on benches (Lute Olson, Tony Bennett, Tim Floyd); 3) UCLA’s well-publicized problems in their program; and 4) the fact that there just haven’t been a ton of elite-level recruits coming out of California in recent years.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.06.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2012

  1. The Pac-12 announced its postseason awards on Monday, handing the Player of the Year award to California’s Jorge Gutierrez and the Coach of the Year to Washington’s Lorenzo Romar for the third time in his career. Gutierrez also claimed the Defensive Player of the Year, earning a spot on the All-Defensive team for the third consecutive season. Washington State’s Brock Motum is the no-brainer for Most Improved Player, while the Huskies’ Tony Wroten was the similarly obvious choice for Freshman of the Year. The All-Conference team was also announced, but at some point, somebody in the league office has got to come to some understanding that you put five players – not 10 – on your basketball All-Conference team. If you want to honor more than just five players, go ahead and name a second team, and even a third if you so choose.
  2. Washington’s Terrence Ross was a strong contender for Player of the Year, and may or may not have been named the RTC Pac-12 POY (check back later today for our conference awards), but upon finding out that Gutierrez had won the award, he said he felt “snubbed.” Ross did congratulate the winner, but felt surprised that neither he nor teammate Wroten won the award. Wroten echoed Ross’ thoughts, saying that he expected his teammate to earn the honor, but said that the Huskies will use the perceived slight as motivation in the conference tournament.
  3. Doug Haller, the Arizona State beat writer at The Arizona Republic, is on the very short list of the best beat writers in the conference, and on Monday he released a barrage of blog posts, giving his thoughts on the official Pac-12 awards, offering up his own picks for All-Pac-12 and some other honors, naming his All-Defensive team, and his All-Freshman team. Now, I certainly don’t agree with his pick of Tony Wroten as the POY and I’ve detailed my objections here in the past (refresher course: He’s not the best player on his team, he’s certainly not the go-to guy in the clutch on his team, his shot selection leaves much to be desired as does his actual shooting, and he turns the ball over too much), but while I would have had picked Tad Boyle as COY a week ago, I’ve shifted to the Dana Altman camp given Colorado’s season-ending slide. But other than that, everything else there looks pretty good; I particularly like the inclusion of USC’s Byron Wesley on his All-Freshman team because, as Haller notes, he’s probably improved more than any other conference freshman over the course of the season.
  4. Reaction to last week’s Sports Illustrated story on the UCLA program continues to roll in. On Sunday, former USC coach Tim Floyd weighed in on Ben Howland’s side, saying that although he and Howland “weren’t close” and “didn’t exchange Christmas cards” (have to admit, I sorta miss Floyd – he’s sure got a way with words, don’t he?), he has great respect for his former adversary and that he is one of the three best coaches he’s ever coached against (with Eddie Sutton and former Colorado State and Fresno State coach Boyd Grant the other two). Check out the whole article though. The last line out of Floyd’s mouth is worth the effort. Elsewhere, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar weighed in on the state of the program as well, calling for the UCLA program to return to the “Wooden way,” something that is far easier said than done. Still, at the heart of his article, the call for Howland to show more interest in the development of his players off of the court should not fall on deaf ears.
  5. Lastly, we talked about it yesterday in our Morning Five, but Arizona’s loss to Arizona State on Sunday is still reverberating throughout Wildcat world. Great line from Scott Terrell of the Tucson Citizen about how “It’s not so much that the Arizona Wildcats lost to Arizona State… Actually, that’s not true. It is that the Cats lost to ASU.” Given how bad the Sun Devils have been for the bulk of this season, he’s right. That result is perhaps the most shocking result of the entire conference schedule. We talked about some of the anomalies that occurred in that game yesterday (ASU’s 1.27 points per possession in that game was a serious outlier compared to their previous results), but Terrell adds a few more: ASU shoots 67% from the free throw line on the year, but shot 92% on Sunday; they hadn’t scored 87 points in a game in 26 months; and Arizona has held opponents to 40% field goal shooting this year, but allowed ASU to shoot 56% on Sunday. Worst of all for the Arizona faithful, the loss leaves the Wildcats needing to win the conference tournament in order to go dancing. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if the Sun Devils can use this win as a springboard for some success in the Pac-12 Tourney.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 27th, 2012

  1. Sometimes, life just ain’t fair. After earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors last week after averaging 28.5 points per game last week, Washington State senior guard Faisal Aden left the Cougars game with Arizona late in the first half Thursday night with a knee injury. While we are by no means doctors here, it is quite possible that Aden has played his final game in a Washington State uniform. Washington State beat writer Christian Caple reports that it is a sprained MCL, but we will get more details later. After what appeared to be a complete makeover in his game the last several games, the prospect that Aden does not get a chance to work towards proving his growth as a player and proving his critics wrong is, in a word, depressing. Who knows? Maybe the injury isn’t as bad as it seemed, and he’ll be back sooner rather than later. We can hope. As for the rest of the game, the Wildcats hit 15-of-27 three-point attempts, shot a 63.6 eFG%, held WSU to 38.5 eFG%, forced 16 Cougar turnovers and committed just nine. In short, a confidence-building performance heading into Saturday’s tough match-up with Washington.
  2. Herb Sendek got excellent effort out of his undermanned Arizona State team Thursday night, but they still struggled to score with consistency, scoring just one point in the first six minutes of the second half as Washington turned a two-point halftime deficit into an 11-point lead. Arizona State got back within four late in the game, but Washington held on for a six-point win. Tony Wroten had a great game for the Huskies, scoring 22 points on 12 field goal attempts (including a serious throw-down late in the game), grabbing six rebounds, handing out four assists, swiping a couple steals, and only turning the ball over twice, in what may have been his second-best all-around game in a U-Dub uniform. Freshman Jonathan Gilling did his best to keep the Sun Devils around, scoring a career-high 20 points and hitting five threes (three in the second half), but it was not to be.
  3. UCLA took apart Utah is a game only a mother could love (and really, that mother would be up for a mother-of-the-year award for pretending to love this thing). After a sluggish Bruin first half (in which they still out-scored the Utes by 15), they really turned it on early in the second half, building their lead up as high as 37 behind balanced scoring. Seven Bruins scored eight points or more, UCLA shot a 68.5 eFG% and held Utah to just 42.4 eFG%. Beyond that, yuck.
  4. At least the game across town was interesting in a train-wreck type of way. USC’s nightmare season continued as they got absolutely owned by Colorado, who earned their first-ever Pac-12 road win in dominating fashion. It’s hard to take a lot out of a win over these Trojans this year, but winning at USC may be a good first step towards further road success for the Buffaloes the rest of the way. Thursday night, they were mighty impressive, holding USC to 36.4 eFG% and killing the Trojans on the boards. Colorado grabbed 92.9% of defensive rebound opportunities and 43.5% on the offensive end. Five Buffs scored in double figures, and five grabbed more than five boards while the trio of Colorado players making a return to their Southern California home (Carlon Brown, Askia Booker, and Spencer Dinwiddie) combined for 34 points and 27 rebounds. Even worse for the Trojans, sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon left early in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. USC has already lost three players for the season to injury.
  5. Lastly, ESPN’s Jay Bilas weighed in on the weakness of the Pac-12, blaming not only the early defections of some conference players to the NBA, but also the number of new coaches up and down the conference. Certainly Arizona has had to deal with the transition from the Lute Olson era to the Sean Miller era, while USC’s struggles in the wake of the Tim Floyd era helped bolster the Wildcats a bit. Then there’s Oregon’s struggles keeping players around the start of the Dana Altman era, and the loss of Tony Bennett from Washington State was a crushing blow, but that explanation does nothing to excuse the problems at UCLA, Washington, or Arizona State.
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