Pac-12 M5: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 1st, 2013

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  1. Earlier this week, we spent the better part of a Morning Five poking around the state of Oregon. Today, we’re gonna spend most of our time in Los Angeles, where  Steve Alford got his recruiting mojo going on Thursday when five-star recruit Kevon Looney made a verbal commitment to the Bruins. With the UCLA frontline undermanned in 2014-15, Looney’s choice of the Bruins over other big-time programs like Duke, Florida, Michigan State, Tennessee and Wisconsin is a huge boon to the program. ESPN’s scouting report on the big man is glowing: a combo forward who can hit the three, score off the bounce, and pound the boards. Still, after Alford previously got burned when Trevon Blueitt backed out of his commitment to UCLA, just remember that nothing is set in stone until that letter of intent gets signed.
  2. And as Isaac Hamilton proved to UTEP, even a signed letter of intent doesn’t exactly seal the deal. Hamilton, a four-star wing in the 2013 class, was originally the centerpiece of Tim Floyd’s recruiting class in El Paso. But Hamilton second-guessed that decision over the summer and decided that he didn’t want to play at UTEP after all. Floyd refused the youngster’s request to back out of his commitment, but Hamilton petitioned the NCAA for immediate eligibility after he chose UCLA for his college. Hamilton’s petition was rejected on Thursday, meaning that not only will he be ineligible to play for the Bruins this season, but he’ll lose a year of eligibility. He’ll get to practice with the squad this year, but will be relegated to scout team action.
  3. Wrapping up the news at UCLA, the Bruins got their season underway on Wednesday night with an exhibition game against Cal State San Bernardino. Despite playing without senior forward Travis Wear, who is sidelined, perhaps for up to a month, due to surgery to remove his appendix, the Bruins rolled to an easy 30-point win. Jordan Adams returned from his broken foot to lead all scorers with 25 points, while David Wear filled in ably for his brother with a 12-point, 13-rebound double-double. Tony Parker, who will team primarily with David Wear to make up for Travis Wear’s absence, had 10 points, three blocks and three boards. Meanwhile, Kyle Anderson’s debut as the Bruin point guard began with 10 points, 10 boards and five assists along with three turnovers.
  4. We’ll stop over across town before we leave LA, as ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil profiles Andy Enfield and the new USC basketball program. For a guy with a business background, Enfield is not only talking about Xs and Os with the Trojans, but about branding and selling a hip and exciting style of basketball to potential recruits. He did that and more at Florida Gulf Coast with a school that completely lacked a brand prior to last season’s Dunk City run, so Enfield sees his job at USC as different, but perhaps easier, than the task he undertook at FGCU.
  5. Lastly, here’s your reminder to flip the calendar and realize that next week at this time, we’ll be preparing to dig into our first weekend of college basketball. As such, let’s take a peek at the AP Top 25 basketball poll, released yesterday to, well, OK, nobody really cares all that much about polls in a sport where we actually decide the champion on the court of play. But, still, Top 25. Arizona leads the way for the conference, checking in at #6 overall, while Oregon checks in at #19, a few spots ahead of UCLA at #22. Four other Pac-12 schools were in the “others receiving votes” category (Colorado, Arizona State, Washington and Stanford), while California, which Doug Gottlieb notoriously had as his #10 team in the nation, was curiously absent.
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A Bumpy Start for Steve Alford at UCLA, But Plenty of Reason for Hope

Posted by AMurawa on October 9th, 2013

Coaching changes are rarely easy. Aside from the typical human stresses of finding a new home and getting to know your new surroundings, for a head coach at a major college basketball program, there are a bunch of young adults in both high school and college for whom you have to account. More than one new head coach’s job has been made much more difficult by the immediate transfers of key players or decommitments from recruits. And when you’re someone like Steve Alford, walking into a high profile job like UCLA as something other than the program’s first choice, the initial impression can be very important.

Steve Alford, UCLA

Steve Alford’s First Offseason As UCLA Head Coach Has Not Gone Smoothly (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

And, to put it plainly, the first few months of the Alford era in Westwood have been a mixed bag, at best. From the moment the news of the hire came down on the Saturday of last year’s Elite Eight, the wisdom of the decision was questioned. This was a guy just over a week past getting run out of the NCAA Tournament by heavy underdog Harvard, a loss that continued to leave him without a single Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1999. Not long after the hire was announced, many were reliving the questionable decisions Alford made in defending his former player Pierre Pierce against sexual assault charges while both were at Iowa. Alford eventually issued an apology, but it came almost two weeks after he was hired at UCLA and more than 11 years after the initial incident.

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UCLA Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 15th, 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: UCLA.

What Went Right

All things considered, a lot of things went right for the Bruins this year. Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson were cleared of their eligibility concerns early and both played (mostly) a full season. Ben Howland made the decision to play to his team’s strengths and emphasized an up-tempo offense-first style. Larry Drew II made the most of his lone season in Westwood and ended his college career on a very positive note. And freshman Jordan Adams was far far better than anyone outside of his immediate family had a reasonable right to expect. Still, the season ended with Howland getting fired after a Round of 64 loss in the NCAA Tournament, so that tells you that not everything went well.

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (credit: USA Today)

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Had An Eventful Season In Westwood (credit: USA Today)

What Went Wrong

Well, where to begin? Let’s start with the continued trend of halfway-talented players departing from Howland’s program, leaving the team with just eight scholarship players on the roster at the end of the season. Then, for all the good things Muhammad showed in his ability to do offensively, he didn’t show much of a desire to do anything else (32 games, 27 assists, four blocked shots, 8.5% defensive rebounding percentage,  abhorrent body language and sportsmanship). For the rest of the team, things just never congealed on the defensive end, resulting in the third-worst defensive performance out of a UCLA team in Howland’s career in Westwood. Throw in a little bad luck in the form of Adams’ freak foot injury on the final play of a big win in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals and despite high hopes at the start of the year, it turned into a disappointing result.

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Pac-12 M5: 04.09.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on April 9th, 2013

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  1. USC interim head coach Bob Cantu will not be retained on Andy Enfield’s staff. Cantu had been at USC since 2001 and has worked under four different staffs. He took over at midseason when Kevin O’Neill was fired and led the Trojans to upset wins over Arizona and UCLA as the team posted a 7-8 record under his leadership.
  2. Oregon’s Dana Altman received the 2013 Jim Phelan Award from CollegeInsiders.com as its National Coach of the Year over the weekend. Altman’s third year at Oregon was without question his best yet. The Ducks finished with a 28-9 overall record and made the Sweet Sixteen after beating Oklahoma State and Saint Louis to get there. Oregon and Altman were given little respect at the beginning of the season, picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12 media poll. But they were the surprise in the Pac-12 in finishing second and also won the Pac-12 Tournament. Altman was the 2013 Pac-12 Coach of the Year and was a candidate for the 2013 John McLendon National Coach of the Year award as well.
  3. Arizona’s new commitment Aaron Gordon may make next season unlike anything the Wildcats have ever seen. Gordon, who won the McDonald’s All-American Game MVP, is the first Wildcat to win the award and will likely also be the first one-and-done player that Arizona and Sean Miller have had. Some scouts have said that the Bay Area native would go in the top three of this year’s draft if he were eligible. With Gordon’s arrival, expectations will be high in Tucson and it will be up to Sean Miller to get all of his talent to coexist. Although it’s unlikely that this will be a similar situation as with Josiah Turner last year, nothing can be certain with freshmen.
  4. Washington was one of the teams that missed out on Gordon, but with the rumored transfer of Mike Moser to join the Huskies in Seattle, Lorenzo Romar’s team might not miss Gordon as much as they thought. Moser can provide similar athleticism and would help Washington put together arguably one of the best frontcourts in the Pac-12. Moser would bring depth to a front line that already boasts Desmond Simmons, Shawn Kemp Jr., and Jernard Jerrau. More importantly, is the fact that Moser immediately would become the most versatile big man for the Huskies, and although they missed out on the prized recruit, Moser isn’t a bad consolation prize.
  5. UCLA freshman Tony Parker tweeted that he will remain at UCLA. New coach Steve Alford met with Parker and his family at the Final Four and helped persuade the 6’9″ forward to stay in Los Angeles. Alford will have a much more difficult task, however, of trying to get more production out of the freshman. Parker averaged a disappointing 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in his first year as a Bruin. Granted, he also only logged 6.3 minutes per contest, but when he was on the floor he was less than impressive.
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Steve Alford To UCLA: More Of The Same?

Posted by AMurawa on March 31st, 2013

Less than a week after he removed Ben Howland from his job as the UCLA head coach and after taking on a couple of strikes with his top two candidates, athletic director Dan Guerrero dug in and roped a solid line-drive single in hiring former New Mexico head coach Steve Alford. It is in no way a home run hire, but it is a workmanlike chance at bat. Maybe it turns into a forgettable event if there are strikeouts and pop-ups down the road, but if Alford and UCLA play their cards right, maybe this single is the start of a big inning.

The Hiring Of Steve Alford May Not Be The Home Run UCLA Fans Hoped For, But It Could Be The Start Of Big Things (AP)

The Hiring Of Steve Alford May Not Be The Home Run UCLA Fans Hoped For, But It Could Be The Start Of Big Things (AP)

To begin with, let’s put this idea of “UCLA should have just kept Howland” to bed. That was not an option, a change had to be made; it was a matter of finding the best possible new coach for the program, not a matter of finding a better coach than Howland. But, there are plenty of areas in which Alford compares negatively with Howland. For instance, it is true that Howland had more success in his brief pre-UCLA career (four years at Pitt, five at Northern Arizona) than Alford has had in his 18 years at his three previous stops. Despite getting to the NCAA Tournament three times at both Iowa and New Mexico, the only time Alford has made the Sweet Sixteen was in his final season at then Southwest Missouri State (now just Missouri State). Even more disturbing, that record comes despite some regular season success that four times earned him a five-seed or higher. So yeah, for a UCLA program that prizes success in March far more than success in the regular season, Guerrero just hired a guy with a shakier postseason record than Howland or his predecessor, Steve Lavin, who was fired after reaching five Sweet Sixteens in seven seasons.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.05.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 5th, 2013

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  1. Championship Week Fortnight begins today, and the Pac-12 Tournament is right around the corner as well. This year’s tournament promises to be one of the more crazy ones in history, as any team seeded one through nine has the talent and potential to take the conference’s automatic bid. Washington is going to need that aut0-bid in order to go dancing, and rising fifth-year senior Scott Suggs looks to be an integral part of that run. The shooting guard had a streak going in February in which he only scored four points per game for four out of five games, but starting back on February 23 against Arizona State, Suggs found his stroke and no longer appeared lost within the Husky offense. He went for 16 points against the Sun Devils and for 23 points eight days later in the hardwood Apple Cup. If he can continue this kind of output through the next two weeks, the combination of he and C.J. Wilcox will make the eighth-seeded Dawgs a tough out.
  2. As we teased yesterday, Oregon State and Nike unveiled the results of a nearly two-year long re-branding of the Beaver program. The changes to the basketball uniforms were positive but minimal, as you can see here. The Beavers now have an all-white uniform in their repertoire and have the option of having “OSU” across the front of the jersey. The shorts are simple and clean-looking, with the new logo featured on the bottom side. The back of the tops are what I think is the highlight of the whole thing, as a basketball net and “ghost beaver” logo run from top-to-bottom. Even outside of basketball, a general change for all sports uniforms is the addition of metallic bronze as an accent color. The football uniforms were the highlight of the event, and I’ll leave you with those pictures here.
  3. Even if Arizona did not find a true point guard, the addition of Mark Lyons was a good one, and the right idea at the time by Arizona head coach Sean Miller. The Wildcats are in desperate need of a true point who can break down a defense and be a “pass-first, shoot-second” type of player, but that’s just not going to work with Lyons. So, UA fans will take what they can get at this point in the season. Right now, that’s a team full of shooters, and if that’s what can take them to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond, so be it.
  4. California is 9-1 since it was thoroughly outplayed on a late January afternoon in Boulder. At that point in the season, the Golden Bears were playing with no heart or hustle, sported a middling 11-8 record, and were on the outside looking in for an NIT bid. But there has been a remarkable turnaround, one that will likely result in Cal’s second straight NCAA bid, as Mike Montgomery has done some of his finest work as a head coach to get them to this point. California closes out the regular season with a visit from rival Stanford on Wednesday night, where the Bears will go for their eighth straight victory.
  5. UCLA may not need a Pac-12 Tournament championship to make the NCAA Tournament, but like Washington, the Bruins could use a big boost from junior forward Travis Wear in the coming weeks. Wear is still plagued by a right foot injury that sidelined him for two games stretching back to February 24, and coach Ben Howland is having to make up for his absences on the floor by playing brother David Wear for nearly the whole contest, or placing rarely-used Tony Parker in the game when Wear needs rest. The return of Travis Wear in a full capacity will be crucial for the Bruins, as it would be nearly impossible to win three games in three days without his big body on the court.
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UCLA Gets Production From Reserve Bigs in Absence of Travis Wear

Posted by AMurawa on February 25th, 2013

On Saturday night, news leaked out of Los Angeles that junior forward Travis Wear, UCLA’s most-used and most-capable post player, had injured a foot and would likely miss Sunday’s game with USC. When he walked out onto the court in street clothes and a walking boot just prior to the game, Bruins’ fans worst fears were confirmed, leaving a squad that was already significantly short-handed in the frontcourt having to rely on just two players – Travis’ twin David Wear and little-used freshman center Tony Parker – to man the post against a Trojan team that features two seven-footers earning regular time.

In The Wake Of Travis Wear's Foot Injury, Tony Parker Played A Big Role On Sunday (Mark J. Terrill, AP Photo)

In The Wake Of Travis Wear’s Foot Injury, Tony Parker Played A Big Role On Sunday (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

But the duo of the other Wear and Parker quickly put those concerns to rest with good production right out of the gates. In the first four minutes of play, David Wear scored four points, grabbed three boards and dished out an inside-out assist while playing with great energy on both ends of the floor. When Tony Parker made his debut, he went straight to work as well, scoring four points in his first four minutes as UCLA point guards Larry Drew II and Kyle Anderson repeatedly looked for him on screen-and-roll opportunities. All told, the duo combined for 18 points and 14 rebounds in a combined 50 minutes of action as the Bruins rolled over their cross-town rival. With Travis Wear currently considered day-to-day and with a couple of very big games coming up this week against the Arizona schools, the Bruins may have to face time with Parker and Wear as the sole bigs. But their performances in the game on Sunday had to have given head coach Ben Howland and UCLA fans confidence that their thinner frontcourt could hold up under pressure.

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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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Three Thoughts on the UCLA-Arizona Game From Last Night

Posted by AMurawa on January 25th, 2013

UCLA showed a resolve in Tucson last night that not many could have foreseen from this squad a month ago. Here are three thoughts about the outcome, with the Bruins beating Arizona going away to take over sole possession of second place in the Pac-12.

  1. Thirty-three minutes, five turnovers, zero assists and a 41.2% eFG. There’s your point guard, Arizona fans. I’m not for a minute going to suggest that Mark Lyons was solely responsible for the Wildcats’ 11-point loss at home against UCLA – there’s more than enough blame to go around, beginning with the coaching staff and heading on down the line – but the events of Thursday night showcase in a microcosm the concerns that people have had about Lyons as the lead guard of a team with national championship hopes. Sure, he’s been nails down the stretch in more than a couple games this year (games where, perhaps not coincidentally, he again had more turnovers than assists), but time and again down the court last night, the Arizona offense was unfocused and undisciplined. They’ve got enough playmakers to keep things interesting against quality teams even in the absence of coherent point guard play, but for this team to max out its potential, Lyons either needs to improve his ability to create offense for the Wildcats, or Sean Miller needs to explore using either Solomon Hill or Nick Johnson to more regularly initiate the sets.

    While Mark Lyons Has Been Huge In Late-Game Scenarios For Arizona This Year, He Was A Liability Last Night (Jerry Pillarelli)

    While Mark Lyons Has Been Huge In Late-Game Scenarios For Arizona This Year, He Was A Liability Last Night (Jerry Pillarelli)

  2. Repeatedly this season, when Ben Howland has been asked such things as “Why did Tony Parker only get three minutes tonight?” or “Are there any plans to get Parker more minutes?”, he has responded by saying that, to paraphrase, “there will come a game or two this season when, whether due to injury or to foul trouble, we’ll need Parker to give us some quality minutes off the bench.” Exhibit A came last night when, due to concussion-like symptoms exhibited by Travis Wear after taking an unintentional hit to the head in the first half, Parker earned the most minutes he’s had since the Prairie View A&M game in mid-December. He responded as Howland hoped he would, providing 10 rock-solid minutes, scoring six points, grabbing three boards, blocking a shot, playing good post defense and even knocking down some clutch free throws and an interesting fall-away jumper. While saying that UCLA would not have won without Parker is taking it too far, that game would certainly have been much tighter down the stretch in his absence. The freshman has most certainly earned enough trust from his coach to see a bit of a bump in minutes going forward. While on the topic, give credit to David Wear for stepping in for his fallen brother and scrapping his way to his best game of the year. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 01.25.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on January 25th, 2013

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  1. UCLA had been waiting on Tony Parker to make an impact this season. Fellow freshmen Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams, and Kyle Anderson have all done their part to help the Bruins this season, but Parker had largely struggled mightily to this point. At one point this year, Parker tweeted that he was ready to return to his home state of Georgia and intimated that everyone who told him UCLA was a bad fit was correct. Recently, things have been a little different for Parker as he says he’s fine in Westwood, but the Bruins have only just begun to take advantage of his physicality and presence inside, highlighted by a few decent minutes against Arizona last night. After the departures of Josh Smith and Anthony Stover earlier this season, UCLA has had to work with the Wear twins and Kyle Anderson to bolster its rebounding. Anderson has boarded surprisingly well for the Bruins, but the Wear twins have not improved their rebounding woes. Going forward, if the Bruins want to compete with the bigger teams around the country, they’ll need to have Parker provide the type of presence inside that he did against Arizona.
  2. Despite having the best record in the Pac-12, Matthew Knight Arena hasn’t had the same home court advantage that the Ducks hoped for this year. Oregon’s home court holds 12,346 people and the building had a good showing when the Ducks upset Arizona with 9,554 in attendance. On the other hand, on Wednesday a disappointing 6,946 showed up for the win over Washington State. It could be that the new arena doesn’t have the same feel as the venerable Mac Court; it could be that the fan base is spoiled because of the football team; or, it could be that the fans don’t know all the new faces on this Oregon team. Whatever the case, a team that has the record and talent of Oregon should be hauling in a lot more fans than they are now and eventually that could come back to hurt them.
  3. For the second straight game, Washington allowed its opponent to pick up its first conference win this season. The Huskies lost to Utah on Saturday and followed that up with a defeat on Oregon State Wednesday. The Huskies remain an unknown team in the Pac-12 — they responded to wins over Cal, Stanford, and Colorado with two terrible losses. Washington had extra motivation this week and had said they were out to get revenge on the Beavers for their loss in the Pac-12 Tournament last year, but that wasn’t the case at all; instead, UW allowed Oregon State to jump out to a 10-point lead only four minutes into the game. Ultimately, Lorenzo Romar’s team looks like the most inconsistent team in the Pac-12 and might be wildly up and down all season long.
  4. Oregon State‘s starters have been underperforming all season long and Craig Robinson is letting them know it. In practice, the bench, also known as the “White Team,” was beating the starters. Robinson responded with a simple message to his five: Prove that you deserve to start And that they did. In the second half of the Washington game, Roberto Nelson and Eric Moreland played so well that Robinson sat them for fewer than two minutes combined. Ahmad Starks and Joe Burton each showed they deserved to playing as they sat for less than three minutes. Ultimately, Robinson’s direct message proved to be a big factor in Oregon State’s big win and could have signaled a turning point in the season.
  5. A player at the size of 6’10″ is not usually known for his sharp-shooting, but that’s not the case with Stanford’s John Gage. Gage doesn’t score much as he’s only averaging 5.o points per game this season, but he leads the Cardinal in shooting 44 percent from three and has excited his teammates according to Johnny Dawkins. Recently, Gage had a career high 14 points against Cal and continues to provide the Cardinal with some much needed three-point shooting off the bench. If Stanford purports to put a run together at the NCAA Tournament in what has so far been a disappointing campaign, the Cardinal will need Gage’s shooting off the bench.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.09.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 9th, 2013

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  1. The NCAA released its first offical RPI rankings of the season late Monday, and of course, Arizona headlines the Pac-12 list at #4. Colorado came in as a bit of a surprise at #6, and then there is a big drop-off before UCLA is spotted at #39. Utah, USC, Oregon State, and Washington State were the teams that landed outside the Top 100. Obviously, things will shift around considerably as we get deeper into conference play in the coming weeks, both in the Pac-12 and on a national scale.
  2. UCLA freshman Tony Parker has seen limited action in the 2012-13 season for a multitude of reasons. There have been back spasms, sprained ankles, and migraine headaches, and when Parker has seen minutes, he has looked lost on both ends of the court and has been extremely foul-prone. All in all, those things aren’t uncommon to see early in one’s first year on campus. Bruins Nation thinks there’s more too it, however, criticizing Ben Howland for not playing Parker in important situations and concluding from a “no comment” that Parker is nearly a certainty to transfer at season’s end. The point is, the majority of college freshmen, whether they are Division 1 athletes or not, get homesick at one point or another. And as I stated above, not every young, hot recruit is going to see immediate action. And while transferring after or during one’s first season seems to be the big thing in college hoops these days, it is still a pretty big jump to assume one will leave because of a couple vague tweets and quotes.
  3. After last year’s debacle, I think I speak for most Pac-12 fans that I’m thrilled to have Arizona in the Top 25, let alone, the top three. But could we be on the brink of having another Top 25 team in the Pac-12? Why that’s madness you say, what is this, the ACC? What’s next, more than one at-large team in the Big Dance? But it’s true, and if Oregon can sweep the Arizona schools at home this week, the hypothetically 14-2 Ducks would surely crack Monday’s rankings. For the sake of our national reputation, we can only hope.
  4. Fresh off a 27-point performance against what is largely considered the Pac-12′s best defensive mind, the Pac-12′s leading scorer now sets his eyes on beating Washington, a game that will be played tonight in Berkeley on ESPN2. Washington has proven that they can at least contain the best of scorers out west on Saturday against Washington State’s Brock Motum, but Allen Crabbe will be a different beast entirely. The junior guard can not only get to the rack off a dribble drive from the perimeter, but he is now even more of a threat to get the ball on a pass in the lane and get an easy bucket with his new-found strength and speed he has been showing off this season. Crabbe is also more than capable of knocking down the mid-range or three-point jumper, but collecting most of his buckets right at the bucket ensures better efficiency.
  5. We close with our weekly Pac-12 Hoops Pick’em selections. Adam continued to cruise last week and now leads the competition by a pair of games over the next closest prognosticator. I am doing a stellar job, showing off my vast college basketball knowledge by sitting all alone in the basement. For our games of the week, we have chosen Minnesota’s trip to Bloomington on Saturday morning and the UCLA-Colorado showdown that will be played immediately after.
Game Connor (53-21) Drew (54-20) Parker (56-18) Adam (58-16)
Washington State at Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
Washington at California California California California California
Arizona at Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
UCLA at Utah UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA
USC at Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado
Arizona State at Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State
Minnesota at Indiana IU 85-75 IU 73-70 IU 68-65 IU 81-73
UCLA at Colorado CU 77-74 CU 79-65 CU 75-69 CU 66-62
Washington State at California California California California California
USC at  Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah
Arizona at Oregon State Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
Washington at Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
Arizona State at Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
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College Basketball By The Tweets: Kentucky/Louisville, Nick Johnson and Two Freshman Phenoms…

Posted by Nick Fasulo on January 2nd, 2013

bythetweets

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Full disclosure: I grew up a grossly obnoxious Duke basketball fan. UNC was evil, but a necessary evil, making up one half of what I believed to be the greatest rivalry in all of sports. But as of late,  I can confidently say that the happiness felt from the hate of that lighter shade of blue has been usurped by another in-state rivalry. The build-up to Kentucky and Louisville’s annual late December battle was popcorn-making worthy. Twitter was abuzz all week, with profanity laced rants 140 characters at a time being hurled back and forth between the 80-mile stretch of I-64.

Never stop this hatred ever, guys. We’re all better for it.

More on Kentucky – Louisville

Per the usual, the build up was full of jabs that make this rivalry great.

Louisville fans secured home court for their team, as there was no Sea of Blue present at the Yum! Center.

Kentucky was down early, clueless against Louisville’s full court press, but foul trouble for the Cardinals and the emergence of Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein in the second half kept the game interesting.

But in the end, the experience of Rick Pitino’s club prevailed. A freakishly fast-paced game left everyone involved exhausted.

Nick Johnson To The Rescue

Perhaps the most exciting game of the holiday break was the finals of the Diamond Head Classic, where Arizona slipped past San Diego State, due in large part to a game-saving block by the Wildcats’ Nick Johnson. A 6’3″ guard, these are the types of plays a taller frontcourt player is supposed to make, meaning Sean Miller has a special athlete in his rotation.

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Johnson’s block drew such oohs and aahs that fans started drawing comparisons with that play and another game saving swat by a former Wildcat, Derrick Williams.

My pick? Gotta go with Johnson. He’s no imposing big man, but a perimeter player who used his incredible hops to turn and make a play without even thinking.

Ben McLemore & Anthony Bennett:Two Stars In The Making

If you’ve seen Kansas and UNLV play this season, then you’ve probably noticed two freshman who have established themselves as clear-cut pros. Over the last 10 days, if you saw Ben McLemore drop 22 with ease on Ohio State, and Anthony Bennett show his versatility against North Carolina, you told yourself multiple times that these may be two of the best young basketball players in the country, regardless of level.

As part of a freshman class that few were psyched about following the litany of spring All-American games, the Jayhawks and Rebels seem to have the two most obvious one-and-done players as we enter the new year. McLemore, who is drawing comparisons to Dwayne Wade, seems to get less attention on Twitter because he makes it look so easy. He scores from anywhre on the floor, but doesn’t necessarily incite hashtag-inducing plays.

Conversely, Bennett has established himself as a must-see-TV player. He blows people away with his ability to create his own shot despite his girth, and his game compels people watching to immediately turn to social media…

Tony Parker Wanted To Be Home For Christmas

The curse of the overweight, overhyped Bruins big man continues. Just a few weeks after sophomore Josh Smith left the UCLA school and program, freshman Tony Parker aired, albeit cryptically, some grievances about his feelings about his first year in Westwood.

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Parker soon defended his tweets, saying he was just a homesick college kid unable to be back in his native Atlanta for the holidays… which, let’s be honest, is completely understandable. Parker has not had an impact this season, getting only eight minutes of run a game. He finished with two points in just three minutes played Friday night in UCLA’s thrilling overtime victory over Missouri, meaning on the court he’s still got a ways to go to meet his potential and expectations.

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