Oregon Basketball and The Season of New: Seniors that Surprise

Posted by Rockne Roll on December 26th, 2012

Welcome to Oregon Basketball and The Season of New, a weekly Pac-12 microsite column from Rockne Roll (@raroll). His column will focus on the various issues facing college basketball through the prism of the Oregon Ducks, a program ostensibly on the rise with top-notch facilities and coaching but still subject to many of the same problems suffered by many of the other high-major programs around the country. 

Christmas has come and probably gone by the time you read this, so instead of focusing on “the spirit of the season” and joy and all that, it’s time to discuss the real reason that Christmas is such a popular holiday: gifts. Everyone likes receiving gifts, and college basketball coaches are no exception. Quite a few coaches have been reveling in the gifts they received from Recruiting Claus way back in the offseason as their freshman prospects have blossomed into powerhouse college players. But gifts come in all shapes, sizes and amounts of remaining eligibility for coaches. As the season has unfolded, a number of seniors that were previously talented but not quite superstar players have emerged as unexpected studs that have propelled their teams to unexpected success.

Miles Plumlee Has Been a Gift to Duke Fans (AP Photo)

The most prominent example of this phenomenon nationally has been Mason Plumlee.  Notching just over 11 points and nine boards in last year’s campaign, the middle of the Plumlee brothers was expected to headline the Blue Devil’s frontcourt this year, but not to factor into the hunt for national honors nor was Duke seen as a serious national title contender. How times change: Plumlee now averages nearly 20 points per contest and is the leading scorer and rebounder for the best team in the country. “Mason Plumlee’s improvement in a year’s time is extraordinary,” Elon coach Matt Matheny told reporters after Plumlee scored 21 and notched 15 boards in Duke’s 76-54 win over the Phoenix at Cameron Indoor Stadium. “He has done a tremendously good job of developing into a really, really good college player.” “Really good” is an understatement here, as Plumlee has gone from potential All-American to the short list for the Naismith Award.

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Oregon Basketball and The Season of New: Giving Thanks and Getting Transfers

Posted by Rockne Roll on November 27th, 2012

Welcome to Oregon Basketball and The Season of New, a weekly Pac-12 microsite column from Rockne Roll (@raroll). His column will focus on the various issues facing college basketball through the prism of the Oregon Ducks, a program ostensibly on the rise with top-notch facilities and coaching but still subject to many of the same problems suffered by many of the other high-major programs around the country.

Thanksgiving is a time to take a step back from the grind and routine of life and appreciate that which we often take for granted. Family, friends, employment, even simple things like food and shelter are worth thinking of on days like this in times like these, not to mention the opportunity we get to experience and chronicle something as exciting and beautiful as college basketball. In wet and soggy Eugene, Oregon, the Ducks have someone and something to be thankful for, too, as they wind through their early non-conference schedule. Arsalan Kazemi, who transferred from Rice just before the start of the season, put on an Oregon uniform for the first time just a day after his waiver request was approved by the NCAA.

Arsalan Kazemi starts off his second game as a Duck with a dunk against Jacksonville State. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

Once a rarity, the upper-class transfer has become as big of a part of the college basketball landscape as the one-and-done. According to CBS Sports, more than 400 Division I basketball players have transferred schools this year, and ESPN cites an NCAA report saying that 40 percent of all college freshman basketball players will eventually change schools.  Some of these players are taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule, some are exiting Division I to one of the lower tiers of college hoops, and some are either planning to sit out a year or hoping to receive the gift of a hardship waiver from the NCAA, relieving them and their new teams from the burden of an academic year in residence.

The process by which the NCAA approves and denies these requests is a mystery even to those who follow college ball religiously. Earlier this month, the NCAA published new guidelines on its granting of waivers for players who are changing schools to move closer to ailing family members, clearing up some nagging issues but making some language even more confusing. Currently, ESPN reports that about half of the waiver requests made in the last five years have been approved, a figure that is expected to rise under the new regulations.

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Oregon Basketball and the Season of New: A Cold Start

Posted by Rockne Roll on November 16th, 2012

The weather in Oregon can do strange things. In the week leading up to the Ducks’ home opener against Northern Arizona, the weather shifted from cool and rainy to downright cold, and it was frequently the topic of conversation across the western half of the state. In the span of a day, high temperatures dropped from the mid-50s to the low 40s in what would turn out to be a bit of an omen for the Ducks as they faced Northern Arizona Saturday night.

Willie Moore loses control of his dribble as the Ducks take on Northern Arizona in their home opener.

The weather has been weird throughout the country, with two scheduled carrier games amounting to one half of actual basketball between them (Ohio State vs. Marquette was cancelled before its scheduled tip aboard USS Yorktown, while Florida vs. Georgetown was cancelled just before the start of the second half due to unmanageable condensation aboard USS Bataan), not to mention Hurricane Sandy. But many of the top teams in the country seemed to open up their seasons with some cold moments, even if it was not reflected in the thermometer.

It took a late first half rally and a close second half for No. 15 Missouri to beat Southern Illinois–Edwardsville by 14. Yale dominated the first half of their match against Sacred Heart, taking a 44-28 lead to the break, but went on to lose 85-82 after the Pioneers mounted a monumental comeback. And Arizona struggled to put away Charleston Southern until late, eventually winning 82-73. In early-season games like these, the scene is frequently set the same way: A team playing its home opener against a team it underestimates doesn’t play as hard as they might have against a big-name team. They’ll either come out soft, or build a lead and leave it to take care of itself, slacking off late and not just leaving the door open to a comeback, but propping it wide with a doorstop and hanging a welcome sign over it. On the other side of the coin, opponents come into the big-time arenas ready to go, eager to show their stuff and pushing every possible advantage.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 16th, 2012

  1. Great news for the Ducks, as the NCAA has granted transfer Arsalan Kazemi a waiver and he will be available to play for Oregon right away. It’s a good thing, because Oregon has a huge home date with Vanderbilt later tonight. Many figured this was coming since Omar Oraby, a fellow Rice transfer, was not required to sit out a year given similar circumstances. An interesting point of contention with the Oraby and Kazemi transfers is that USC and Oregon alleged that the two faced racial discrimination at Rice, primarily by Rice AD Rick Greenspan. Rice head coach Ben Braun and Greenspan vehemently denied these allegations in a statement from the school, which is posted in full in the CBS Sports article (the first link). Without getting too much into Rice’s situation, the school said it did not sign off on waivers that would allow Oraby and Kazemi to play right away. Whatever is going on there can’t bode well for Braun, the former Cal coach who has seen six players leave his school via the transfer route since the end of last year. In any case, this is a huge positive for the Ducks, as they get a Kazemi who averaged a double-double last year in a conference (C-USA) that was comparable to the level of Pac-12 play. He will add a lot to a front line that already includes Tony Woods and Waverly Austin.
  2. Not so great news for the Washington Huskies, as Lorenzo Romar says he is unsure if Scott Suggs will play this weekend after he suffered a concussion in Tuesday’s loss to Albany. Suggs, whose status is day-to-day, is obviously a big asset to this team, but it would be great for the Huskies to have him available this weekend because the team travels to the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut for the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic. A win against Seton Hall would mean (most likely) a date with No. 4 Ohio State. A loss and it’s a game against lowly Rhode Island, a team that is 0-2 on the season and isn’t expected to do much of anything in a loaded Atlantic 10. And, after losing to the Great Danes, Washington needs all the RPI love it can get. If Suggs is on the floor, the Huskies have one more shooter to space the offense and provide another option for Abdul Gaddy on a penetrate and pitch. If he can’t go, Andrew Andrews will get the starting nod, per Romar.
  3. Not much of a surprise here, but Colorado coach Tad Boyle has received a one-year extension on his contract that now lasts through the 2016-17 season. The folks in Boulder absolutely love Boyle, just ask our very own Parker Baruh. He has turned around a program that was consistently in the bottom tier of the Big 12 and led them to two straight 24-win seasons, the last one in the year after losing a lottery pick in Alec Burks. If Boyle can lead the Buffs to another 24 wins in 2012-13, he would have to be a leading candidate for Pac-12 Coach of the Year, considering he lost Carlon Brown and two other key seniors from last year in Nate Tomlinson and Austin Dufault. Just hours later, Boyle earned his 50th win as the Buffs’ head coach when Colorado beat Dayton in the first round of the Charleston Classic. Good timing for that extension.
  4. Speaking of the Charleston Classic, it’s one of a few non-conference tournaments that houses Pac-12 constituents. While Colorado knocked off Dayton after being behind for most of the game, the same can’t be said for Oregon State, which lost a close one to Alabama in the first game of the 2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden. The other tournament going on, as mentioned earlier, is the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic, which features Washington. Again, these tournaments are largely where conferences make or break its reputation for the season, as most of the other non-conference games come against guarantee-game opponents with a few challenges sprinkled in here and there. For the Pac-12 to have an acceptable weekend, each team needs to win at least one game: Colorado has done the bare minimum, but could really help out the Pac by beating Murray State or St. John’s in the third place game if a victory doesn’t come against Baylor. Oregon State needs to knock off Purdue to even itself up in Madison Square Garden, and that won’t be an easy task. Washington, again, really needs a win against Seton Hall, because a loss to Ohio State would probably look better than a win against Rhode Island. The non-conference tournaments are huge for the Pac-12 this year, especially considering what happened last year, with failures like Washington State going 0-3 against a weak field in the 76 Classic and UCLA going 0-2 against D-I teams in the Maui Invitational.
  5. Connor here, stepping in to finish off the M5 with our weekly Pick’em contest. Unfortunately, with Utah’s uninspiring loss last week in Seattle, I still trail Drew by four games with only 14 left to play. But it ain’t over til it’s over, and I’m pulling out everything I’ve got this week to make up some ground. I’m talking a Washington State upset in the desert. I’m taking a Cal team playing in what will likely be their head coach’s final game at the university. These may be long shots, but I’ve got no choice at this point. Our picks below, with, as always, our game of the week in bold.
Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
Washington at Colorado Washington Washington
Washington State at Arizona State Washington State Arizona State
USC at UCLA USC UCLA
Stanford at Oregon Oregon 52-20 Oregon 62-24
Arizona at Utah Utah Arizona
California at Oregon State California Oregon State
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Oregon Ducks

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 22nd, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Oregon Ducks.

Strengths: After having to share the spotlight with Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim last season, E.J. Singler will get all the touches he can handle in 2012-13. The senior forward has the skill set to make an All-Pac-12 list by season’s end, but he’ll need some help so opponents don’t key in solely on him all game long. That’s where Arsalan Kazemi comes in. A late transfer from Rice, Kazemi had been projected by many to win the C-USA Player of the Year award in many preseason publications. Now he’s in Eugene, where head coach Dana Altman has described him as the best player in practice so far this October. Assuming the NCAA grants him a hardship waiver to play immediately, the Ducks go from a fringe NIT team to the NCAA bubble.

Weaknesses: If you’re wondering who will start in the backcourt, you’re in the same boat as Altman. Junior Johnathan Loyd will get the nod at the one spot, but while his passing game is one of the best in the league, his scoring ability leaves much to be desired. Whoever starts at the two is anyone’s guess, and we likely won’t know until the season opener against Northern Arizona. It could be junior walk-on Nicholas Lucenti, who played in all of five games last year for an astounding average of 0.0 PPG. Or it could very well be one of the six newcomers at the guard spot for 2012-13. Either way, the Ducks are going to be relying heavily on post play to put some points on the scoreboard.

It’s Tough To Find A Picture Of A Guy That Only Played 14 Minutes in 2011-12, But We Did It. Lucenti Could Possibly Be Oregon’s Starter At Shooting Guard Come November 10. (credit: Eric Evans)

Non-Conference Tests: The Ducks will face four stiff non-conference tests this season, three of which will come in an eight-day span in late November. Oregon will host Vanderbilt on November 16, and just seven days later will face #17 UNLV (RTC Poll used in this post) in the Thomas & Mack Center. Their strength of schedule would get a major boost if they faced a fringe Top 25 club in Cincinnati the next day instead of Iowa State. The final test will come on New Year’s Eve at Matthew Knight Arena against a possible NCAA bubble team in Nevada.

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Oregon Week: What To Expect

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 12th, 2012

We’ve gone through the Oregon roster and told you about the returnees and the newcomers, but let’s put it all together today: What does the 2012-13 season hold for the Ducks? Just how good will returnees like E.J. Singler, Tony Woods, and Carlos Emory be, and which of the newcomers will emerge as major contributors? And most importantly, can these Ducks match or improve upon last year’s NIT appearance? Let’s break out that old crystal ball again and see what it says.

Singler’s A Small Forward That Can Knock Down The Three (credit: Andy Wooldridge)

UO’s Leading ScorerE.J. Singler. With Devoe Joseph now out of the picture, Singler will get all the touches he can handle in the Duck offense. That can be both good and bad as opponents will surely key in on the senior until another consistent scorer emerges. Singler is an athletic three who is able to get open on the wing, so he needs a good point guard to get him the ball. Johnathan Loyd will start the season there and showed flashes of brilliance last season. Incoming freshman Dominic Artis will back him up, a slashing one-guard who can use his small frame to cut through seams in a defense.

UO’s MVPCarlos Emory. Emory emerged as a major scoring threat towards the end of 2011-12 and will be the go-to guy in the post this season. Emory can play both the three and four, but due to a serious lack of scoring big men on the roster, he’ll spend most of his time as a power forward.

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Oregon Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 9th, 2012

Oregon returns four players who were part of the extended rotation last year, highlighted by E.J. Singler – a second-team All-Pac-12 player – but also extending down to a center back for his senior season who made tremendous strides towards the end of 2011-12, another senior big man who became a major part of the offense in the second half of conference play, and a junior-to-be point guard who is ready to become the team’s main distributor. We’ll go through all of those guys below, in order of last year’s scoring totals.

E.J. Singler, Shown Here Battling His Brother Kyle Singler For A Rebound, Will Be The Key To Any Duck Success In 2012-13 (credit: Jonathan Ferrey)

E.J. Singler, Senior, Forward (13.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.4 BPG) – With his brother already starring at Duke, Singler entered his freshman year in Eugene with high expectations. But despite being a major part of the rotation, his freshman campaign could have been classified as a disappointment. However, he bounced back to average 11.7 PPG and 5.6 RPG in his sophomore year, and he was arguably the team’s top defender as well. In 2011-12, Singler combined with guard Devoe Joseph to make a perfect scoring combination. The two kept opponents guessing on the defensive end, and combined with Garrett Sim, were unstoppable throughout stretches of a game. Now that Joseph and Sim have graduated, it will be interesting to see how the offense runs early on with only one known scorer. Johnathan Loyd can shoot the ball, but he is more of a true one guard. The job of replacing the points left by Joseph and Sim will likely fall to incoming freshman Fred Richardson III, and if he can step out and hit the three consistently, the pressure on Singler’s shoulders will be lifted.

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Pac-12 Game Of The Week: Washington at Oregon

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 9th, 2012

Looking at the rest of the Pac-12 slate, it’s tough to find a bigger game than the one coming up tonight in Eugene. That’s where first place Washington meets fourth place Oregon in a game with huge conference crown implications. For the visiting Huskies, a loss won’t make or break their chances at a conference crown, but they need every good win they can get if they want to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. On the other side is Oregon, who are losers of its last two games against upper-half conference teams. Not only does that create seperation between the Ducks and the top of the Pac, but it also gives those teams tiebreakers over the Ducks for Pac-12 Tournament seeding. Obviously, a win tonight would be huge for the Ducks. While the ship for an at-large bid has sailed, the Ducks need to do everything they can down the stretch to finish in the top four of the Pac-12. That would mean a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tourney, giving Oregon a solid shot at taking the Pac-12’s automatic bid. There’s no better time to start that journey than tonight.

Oregon guard Devoe Joseph leads the Ducks with 15.8 PPG. (credit: Eric Evans)

If Oregon is to have a chance in this one, it will need to shoot the ball better than it did in the first meeting between these two teams. In that New Year’s Eve ESPN2 affair, the Ducks shot just 21.7% from behind the arc. Guard Devoe Joseph was targeted and shut down by the Husky defense, going 0-5 from three and scoring just four points overall. In order to contend with the plethora of Husky sharpshooters (C.J. Wilcox, Abdul Gaddy, and Terrence Ross, to name a few), Joseph needs to have a huge night shooting the ball; Not to mention Johnathan Loyd and Garrett Sim. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 3rd, 2012

  1. When all is said and done in the regular season, a night like Thursday night may be the kind of night that determines our eventual regular season champion. Coming into the evening, both Washington and California were tied for first place in the Pac-12, and both teams were treated to rough-and-tumble battles on their home courts against traditional powers in the conference. But, in the end, only one of those teams was able to pull out a victory. For the first time this season, Washington sits atop the Pac-12 standings, alone in first place after pulling out a thrilling victory over UCLA at the Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Midway through the second half, as the Bruins pulled out to a 10-point lead, it looked like the bad Husky team featuring incoherent offense, lazy defense and out-of-control play on both ends was going to doom Lorenzo Romar’s team again. But, sophomore wing Terrence Ross dragged the Huskies back, scoring 10 of their final 12 points, including a couple of threes from Abdul Gaddy assists, and the Huskies were able to pull out an important win. UCLA got a career-high 24 points out of sophomore center Joshua Smith, who was unusually active throughout, but the Bruins squandered a final opportunity. Down two, after having earned a defensive stop, UCLA has a timeout in the bank and 30 seconds on the clock. Instead of using that timeout to set up a play, the Bruins let the clock run down far enough that they were only able to get one shot as time expired. We’ve seen this on multiple occasions this season in the Pac-12 (Oregon State has done it multiple times, Arizona did it against Colorado), and it doesn’t get any easier to watch. It is just plain old bad game theory that doesn’t make a lick of sense. But, that’s a rant for another time. Also of interest in this game is that Tony Wroten sat out the final eight minutes of the game. While he was limping a bit during the game and perhaps bruised a knee, it remains to be seen whether this was a case of Romar benching an inefficient and wild freshman.
  2. California’s game was just as wild as Washington’s, but in Berkeley it was Arizona that came out on top, behind a season-high 23 points from senior guard Kyle Fogg. Fogg drilled a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:10 remaining, then came up with a huge running block of a potential game-tying three from Cal’s Allen Crabbe with 26 seconds remaining. Freshman Nick Johnson followed that up on the next possession with a swat of his own, this one on a runner by the Bears’ Justin Cobbs. But perhaps the most memorable portion of this game came when Jorge Gutierrez made a diving attempt at saving a loose ball and fell into the Arizona bench, where Wildcat assistant coach Joe Pasternack kicked Gutierrez. Gutierrez then went after Pasternack, yelling and pointing at him, and he had to be held back by Arizona head coach Sean Miller. In the end, no fouls were assessed, but Cal did appear to get some momentum out of the incident. However, the Bears were unable to score on their final three possessions, and now sink back into a traffic jam of three teams tied for second place at 7-3. It wasn’t all good news for Arizona, however, as sophomore point guard Jordin Mayes may have been lost for the season with an injury to his left foot, the same one he broke last spring.
  3. Oregon is in the group a game back of first place after they took care of Utah in Salt Lake City on Thursday night. The Ducks started slowly and still trailed to the 5-17 Utes deep into the second half, but junior wing Carlos Emory, who, along with center Tony Woods, did not play in the first half for disciplinary reasons, sparked a 10-0 run that gave the Ducks control for good. Despite missing the first half, Emory was excellent when it counted, hitting all four of his field goal attempts and all five of his free throws en route to a career-high 14 points. Utah played well, getting 20 points and four threes from junior Chris Hines, while freshman point guard Kareem Storey played his best game of his career, handing out 11 assists against just one turnover.
  4. Colorado is the third team sitting a game back of Washington, following their 22-point drubbing of Oregon State on Thursday night. The Buffaloes used a 22-9 run in the middle of the first half to build a 15-point halftime lead in Boulder, then expanded on that in the second half, running the lead out as far as 28 points in the second half. Sophomore forward Andre Roberson notched his 14th double-double of the season, grabbing 15 boards to go with his 16 points, and the CU defense held the Beaver backcourt combo of Jared Cunningham and Ahmad Starks to just six-of-20 shooting, 15 points, three assists and two turnovers.
  5. Elsewhere, Stanford snapped its three-game losing streak by handling Arizona State with ease, and the Cardinal now sit tied with Arizona two games out of first in the conference. While at the bottom of the conference, Washington State handed USC its ninth loss in 10 games and saw junior Mike Ladd earn his first minutes in five games, returning from a thumb injury that had just this week had the remainder of his season in doubt. He scored six points and grabbed four rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Brock Motum led the way for the Cougars, though, with 26 points and eight boards.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2012

  1. We’re through four weeks of conference play in the Pac-12, and the situation atop the heap is now as clear as mud. We have four teams with a couple of losses and another two with three losses. Oregon is one of our leaders at 6-2 after posting a home sweep over the Los Angeles schools, and the Ducks have stolen three road games while winning all but one at home. On Saturday, they bounced back from a sluggish first half to outscore UCLA by 20 points in the second half behind a career-high 26 points from junior E.J. Singler. But it was Garrett Sim and Tony Woods that turned the momentum around for Dana Altman’s squad, as Sim notched a personal 7-0 run on just two possessions (a four-point play mixed in there) early in the second half, while Woods blocked two shots and slammed back an offensive rebound on the way to the Ducks erasing a 13-point halftime lead right out of the locker room. Oregon gets to stay at home next weekend for a matchup with rival Oregon State.
  2. California is the other leader atop the conference, but Golden Bear fans probably have to feel like they missed an opportunity this weekend. After pulling out an impressive road win at Washington on Thursday, they spit the bit Saturday, losing by two at Washington State. For the Cougars, Faisal Aden was incredible this weekend. We and others have been critical of Aden’s offensive efficiency this year, but this weekend was spectacular, hitting 19 of his 29 field goal attempts and 19 of his 20 free throw attempts on his way to a total of 57 points over the course of two games. Not surprisingly, his Cougs won both of those, and their fans are excited. Not only was Aden very efficient, but he seems to have taken on a new personality. Instead of bombing away this weekend, he attacked the hoop, got to the line and limited his three-point attempts (three three-pointers attempted on the weekend – all on Thursday night). If he can keep up his new offensive personality, the Cougars just got a whole lot tougher.
  3. Washington now sits at 5-2 after it bounced back from its loss on Thursday with a 13-point win over Stanford fueled by a 20-3 second half run. The win was Lorenzo Romar’s 300th in his career and 100th conference win at Washington. While the usual suspects led the way for the Huskies (Tony Wroten had 21 and Terrence Ross had 18), Darnell Gant bounced back from a terrible night on Thursday with 17 points and seven rebounds against the Cardinal. And, the newest Husky, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the starting tight end on the Husky football team who joined the basketball team a couple weeks back, earned his first playing time, getting 16 minutes and grabbing seven rebounds.
  4. Colorado swept through the weekend series with the Arizona schools and is tied with Washington at 5-2. The Buffaloes earned a one-point win over the Wildcats despite sophomore forward Andre Roberson pulling a disappearing act (zero points, 0/8 from the field), as senior Carlon Brown sank a three to give Colarado the lead after Arizona had taken their first lead since the 15 minute mark in the second half on a Kevin Parrom jumper. However, the Buffs still had to withstand a last-second three-point attempt by Parrom to hang on for the win. The last possession was a curious one for the Wildcats, as they gained possession of the ball following a missed Brown three-point attempt with 30 seconds left and Arizona down one. Sean Miller didn’t have a timeout to call in order to set up a final play, and the Wildcats were nonchalant on offense, only able to put up one shot after 30 seconds and leaving no time for the team to score on the offensive rebound that Josiah Turner came up with as time expired. In other words, Arizona needs to spend some time on their late-game situations in practice this week.
  5. Lastly, time to go slumming at the bottom of the conference, as any time Utah comes up with a win, it has to deserve a mention. This weekend it was the Utes winning the battle of the undermanned, handing Arizona State a 21-point loss on Saturday. Freshman Kareem Storey, playing his second game as Larry Krystkowiak’s point guard following the dismissal of Josh Watkins, had a very solid game, scoring 12 points, handing out six assists and turning it over just once in 36 minutes, while senior Cedric Martin drilled five threes to lead all scorers with 17 points. Arizona State, playing without injured guard Trent Lockett, couldn’t get anything going offensively, shooting just 42.1 eFG% and just three-of-15 from deep.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: Oh-My-God, I-Better-Start-My-Christmas-Shopping Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 23rd, 2011

  1. There’s not a whole lot you can tell from a 23-point win over one of the worst teams in the Big West, but Washington did address some of the things that needed addressing in their win over CS Northridge on Thursday night. First, their defense was much improved, holding the Matadors to a 26% eFG. Secondly, their chemistry appeared to be better, as their scoring was balanced (10 players scored, and four players scored in double figures) and freshman sensation Tony Wroten notched five assists while Abdul Gaddy dropped eight dimes. However, the Huskies still turned the ball over 20 times (Wroten responsible for six), and for the third time since Wroten entered the starting lineup, failed to get Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox each double-digit field goal attempts in the same game (Ross had 14 attempts, making five, while Wilcox has seemingly reverted to just a shooter – attempting all six of his shots from behind the arc). It’s a win, and it puts the Huskies back above .500 and sends them into their holiday break with a good feeling, but when conference play kicks off next week, they’ve still got plenty of work to do.
  2. The team with the best record in the conference proved that they’ve still got a long way to go as well, as Stanford got outworked and maybe outlucked a bit by two-time defending national runner-up Butler. Last week we talked about how this Cardinal team still needed to learn how to be a winner, and that got reinforced on Thursday night as the Bulldogs, led by a senior point guard in Ronald Nored (who has seen it all in his time in Indianapolis) took advantage of every opportunity and made the smart plays necessary to squeak out a win on the road. Sure, there was the shot-clock-beating desperation three-pointer by Nored that went in, or the putback by Andrew Smith of another late-possession brick that were certain indications of good fortune shining on Butler, but the fact is that the Bulldogs took advantage of those kinds of opportunities while the Cardinal did not. Yet again, we’ve got another Pac-12 team who just wrapped up non-conference play as a complete mystery. They may well be a legitimate contender for the conference title; or they may be just another pretender.
  3. Now there’s the USC we know and, um, love? Three days after scoring 83 points against TCU, the Trojans broke out for a whopping 13 first-half points, although certainly against much stiffer competition with Kansas visiting the Galen Center. Aside from their typical 40.8% eFG, the Trojans turned the ball over 18 times, got killed on the glass, and just generally avoided any semblance of a coherent offensive game plan. The Trojan guards reverted back to their pound-the-ball-into-the-floor-for-30-seconds and throw-up-a-wild-shot default, as Maurice Jones, Alexis Moore and Byron Wesley combined to shoot 5-of-26 from the field (with 10 turnovers mixed in there), while DeWayne Dedmon followed up his solid game Monday with an invisibility trick any magician would be proud of (two field goal attempts, two rebounds and four fouls in 20 minutes). Aaron Fuller again proved to be the only effective offensive threat, hitting 70% of his field goals while going for 19 points and grabbing five rebounds. SC heads into conference play four games under .500, with fans beginning to contemplate another head coaching change.
  4. Oregon finished its stretch of three games in three nights against mediocre competition (well, mediocre, only if North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin rise to the level of mediocrity) with its third consecutive win. Considering the best of those three teams was ranked 219th in the nation by Ken Pomeroy, three wins by an average of 10 points is not exactly an impressive run. However, the Ducks are beginning to figure out where their offense is coming from. In all three games – part of a round-robin tournament called the Global Sports Hoops Showcase that needs not only a better name but a better field – Devoe Joseph and E.J. Singler scored in double figures for the Ducks, while Garret Sim averaged more than 10 per game himself. If head coach Dana Altman can get guys like Olu Ashaolu, Tony Woods and Jeremy Jacob to buy into doing the dirty work for them, and if freshman three-point specialist Brett Kingma can find his stroke, this team is still capable of an upper-division finish.
  5. Lastly, Utah’s two-game winning streak was snapped Thursday night when it dropped a game to in-state rival Weber State by 29, the largest margin of defeat for the Utes in that rivalry. And with the Utes changing their “scheduling philosophy” now that they’re in the Pac-12, this may be the last time they play at Weber State. Utah has yet to schedule any future games either at Weber State or at Utah State, possibly ending some great home-and-home matchups in the Beehive State. Until this point, it’s been easy to feel nothing but sympathy for the struggles of Utah’s basketball program, but without a doubt, their apparent willingness to kill off what have been great rivalries does an effective job of mitigating some of that goodwill.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.22.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 22nd, 2011

  1. Let’s start things off with a wrap-up of the latest Shabazz Muhammad buzz. Five Star Basketball reported on Wednesday that he had cut his list to six schools: Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Arizona and UNLV, in the order in which he mentioned them, for those wishing to come up with yet another clue as to his intentions. USC and Texas A&M were among the schools trimmed off the list. Muhammad confirmed that Sean Miller still had the Wildcats in the running, even with (or maybe because of) the already stacked recruiting class headed to Tucson. But if you ask Nerlens Noel (currently the #2 rated recruit in the 2013 class, according to ESPNU) or Brandon Bibbs, either UCLA or Kentucky are the favorites. There had been a report last week from Jerry Meyer that Muhammad was losing interest in UCLA, however, so as always, this story is a long ways from being decided.
  2. USC hosts Kansas tonight at the Galen Center, and if recent history is any indication, the Trojans might have a chance. Although the Pac-12 is just 9-37 against ranked teams the last three seasons, USC owns four of those nine wins. And with the Trojans coming off their best offensive performance of the season, and Kansas coming off a loss to Davidson and still working to get point guard Tyshawn Taylor back in the groove after knee surgery, perhaps Kevin O’Neill has his team primed to pull a whopper.
  3. Arizona State lost on a late three-pointer for the third time in as many games on Wednesday night, when Fresno State’s Kevin Olekaibe hit a go-ahead three with 30 seconds left to send the Sun Devils to their third straight loss. But ASU head coach Herb Sendek wanted to look beyond the play in the final minute, as the team blew a 17-point lead and played “despicable” defense in the second half. Olekaibe scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half and sparked a 23-4 Bulldog run that put FSU up, prior to ASU responding and taking the lead back. After a Kyle Cain three-point play put the Sun Devils back up, Olekaibe drove the final nail in the ASU coffin, sending them to 4-8 on the year.
  4. More good news out of Salt Lake City on Wednesday, as junior guard Glen Dean, just one week removed from brain surgery to repair a ruptured blood vessel, was able to watch Utah practice. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak hopes Dean, a transfer who is sitting out this season, will be able to return to practice fully sometime in early January, and a complete recovery is expected.
  5. Lastly, Tony Woods is getting a second chance at a college basketball career at Oregon, after transferring from Wake Forest following a guilty plea to a charge of assault on his girlfriend. While Woods’ game is still raw, head coach Dana Altman is hoping to mold a difference maker out of the 6’11” junior, building his post-up game while keeping on him to give consistent effort on the defensive end. And Woods is buying in and happy, saying that “life is good here.”
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