NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.21.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 21st, 2014

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March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

South Region

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 75, #3 Arizona 71

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 15th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Rare Talent. If you watched the game, you saw it all over the place. You saw it in UCLA’s 6’9” sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson, who had 15 defensive rebounds to go with 21 points, five assists and just one turnover. You saw it in Arizona’s freshman power forward Aaron Gordon, who spent time trying to check the opposition’s point guard as well creating plays of his own, dishing out a whopping eight assists (many of them of the spectacular variety, such as an epic alley-oop to junior Nick Johnson). Speaking of Johnson, this is a 6’3” guy who looks like your average ordinary Joe, right up until the point that his feet leave the ground and then just keep going up and up and up. Jordan Adams, Norman Powell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, T.J. McConnell, Gabe York, and the Wear twins. There was no shortage of talent on the MGM Grand Arena court this afternoon and with many of them turning in elite performances, it was a fantastic game to watch.

    Kyle Anderson and UCLA Took Home The Conference Title In Spectacular Fashion Saturday (Julie Jacobson, AP Photo).

    Kyle Anderson and UCLA Took Home The Conference Title In Spectacular Fashion Saturday (Julie Jacobson, AP Photo).

  2. Toughness. Despite all the high-flying wonderment and spectacular plays, tournament titles require toughness, and there was no shortage of that today. Often things like this are measured in rebounding, and guys like Anderson and Gordon did not disappoint there with Tony Parker (seven boards), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (eight) and Kaleb Tarczewski (seven) chipping in as well. But it is more than just that. It is setting and fighting through hard screens, like the one Parker set to free up Jordan Adams for what would turn out to be the game-winning three. It is getting on the floor for loose ball, as happened several times today, most famously when Travis Wear dug down deep and outraced Gordon to dive for a loose ball near the end line. As Arizona head coach Sean Miller put it afterward, “If you want to love college basketball, just watch that.” And if you want to win championships, you’ve gotta do that too. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Senior Days: The Wear Twins at UCLA

Posted by AMurawa on March 3rd, 2014

I’ve been thinking about how to write a piece on the college careers of the Wear twins for several days now, and, well, it just isn’t coming to me, so I’ll just start writing and see what happens. You see, it’s hard. This is supposed to be a piece honoring their college careers, looking back fondly on what they’ve accomplished, but it is no secret that there are many – on both coasts – who view this pair of former McDonald’s All-Americans as disappointments in college. So this is an exercise in balancing honesty about their faults with optimism about their accomplishments.

Even After Three Years Of Watching The Wears At UCLA, It Is Hard To Figure Out What To Make Of Them

Even After Three Years Of Watching The Wears At UCLA, It Is Hard To Figure Out What To Make Of Them. (AP)

Because, really, when you get right down to it, measured up against even most high-major recruits, the Wear twins have had strong careers. (Now is as good of a time as any to apologize to David and Travis for probably never having written their first names in the past three years, but rather just referring to them as The Twins. They’ve been judged not as individuals, but as a singular entity, and that probably won’t change much here either.) Combined, they’ve started 144 of the 242 games in which they’ve played. They’ve each put up offensive ratings over 100.0 for the final three years of their career. And they’ve never caused trouble and generally always done whatever it is their coaches asked them to do. And yet, for some reason, from sea to shining sea, from blue-blood program North Carolina to blue-blood program UCLA, fans remain disappointed in the Wears’ production.

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Breaking Down the Seven Pac-12 Teams with Tournament Hopes

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on February 24th, 2014

Way back before the start of the season, I made the bold prediction that seven Pac-12 teams would wind up in the NCAA Tournament. Some three months later, we’re looking at six teams that can be confident in packing their bags for the Big Dance, while that lucky number seven is still a strong possibility. After a busy week in the conference, below we’ll go through the teams that still have NCAA at-large aspirations, checking in on where they stand both on the court and in terms of their NCAA hopes.

It Has Taken Some Time For Arizona To Recalibrate, But The Talent Level Here Is Still Great (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

It Has Taken Some Time For Arizona To Recalibrate, But The Talent Level Here Is Still Great (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

Arizona – On Wednesday night, as UCLA was putting the hammer down at California and Arizona was getting fortunate bounces in order to pull out a win at Utah, the sentiment that “UCLA is the best team in this conference” was not an insane statement to make. The Bruins’ impressive collection of talent is congealing nicely in time for the sport’s money month, but remember that Arizona is continuing to rack up wins, starting to adjust to playing without Brandon Ashley, and is still one of the best and most versatile defensive teams in recent history. That isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Sean Miller’s club will continue to make things very difficult for its opponents’ attempts to put the ball in the bucket (only four times in 27 games have they given up more than one point per possession), while their offense will readjust to life without Ashley. This team doesn’t have the offensive upside that it had with their 6’9” big man in the lineup, but things are beginning to get recalibrated, as their 88-point explosion against Colorado on Saturday evening showed. Sure, the Buffaloes are a bad defensive team right now, but that was still the best any team has performed against them all season. The Wildcats just took them apart, getting buckets in transition, getting easy looks at the rim in the halfcourt, and even knocking in eight threes (at a 47% clip) to dominate the Buffs. Oh, and you want one more statistic that sums up just how thoroughly the Wildcats broke Colorado’s spirit? There were about 20 times in the game when, following a Buffaloes’ made basket, the Wildcats took at least 10 seconds off the shot clock. The Wildcats’ eFG% in those 20 possessions? 84.4%, per the great website hoop-math.com. So, basically, Colorado scored, Arizona brought the ball upcourt, worked its offense, and regularly negated the Buffaloes’ previous score. Demoralizing.

NCAA Seeding Outlook: Arizona is still very much in the conversation for a #1 seed, and its remaining schedule is favorable (Cal/Stanford, at Oregon/Oregon State), with every remaining game winnable. Questions about depth may make Arizona something other than the favorite to win the Pac-12 Tournament, so let’s chalk them up for a loss at some point in Las Vegas. And let’s say they go 3-1 in their remaining regular season games. That puts them at something like 28 or 29 wins against four losses, but with all four coming without Ashley. One could see an argument for dropping them to a #2 because of it, but odds remain strong that these Wildcats are a #1 seed come Selection Sunday.

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Pac-12 Non-Conference Superlatives

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton128) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 1st, 2014

As part of the conclusion of the non-conference slate, it’s time for Connor and Drew to recognize some of the Pac-12 highlights through nearly two months of the regular season. We’ll cover all the basics: Player of the Year; Coach of the Year; Freshman of the Year; an all-conference team to this point; as well as the biggest surprises and disappointments. And we’ll give you our rationale on each. So let’s get right to it, and let us know where you disagree.

Player of the Year – There’s still a lot of hoop left, so we’ll each give you our current top three picks in this category and some reasons why.

Connor’s Picks:

  1. Joseph Young. Young has been the cornerstone of Oregon’s offense, scoring in double figures in each game and acting as the guy to lift them whenever they hit a scoring lull.
  2. Roberto Nelson. The conference’s leading scorer has put up at least 17 points or more in each game the Beavers have played, save the contest against Towson in which he was ejected for attempting to throw a punch eight minutes into the contest.
  3. Jahii Carson. Jahiisus, who just might be the quickest point guard in the country, steps up whenever he is called upon for Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils. Whether it’s been a 40-point performance at UNLV or a 23-point showing to beat nationally-ranked Marquette, no stage is too big for the super sophomore.
Oregon's Junior Transfer Joseph Young Top's Both Of Our Voters' Picks For The Player of the Year Leader At The Halfway Mark (AP Photo)

Oregon’s Junior Transfer Joseph Young Top’s Both Of Our Voters’ Picks For The Player of the Year Leader At The Halfway Mark (AP Photo)

Drew’s Picks:

  1. Joseph Young. Might as well make it unanimous. While Young has had plenty of help in Eugene, he’s been the best offensive player on a team chock-full of them.
  2. Jahii Carson. Expectations were high enough for Carson coming into the year so that his 19.3 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.9 RPG and 51.4 percent three-point shooting are seen as almost a disappointment. Which is ridiculous. Expect him to be a big part of the Pac-12 POY conversation when all is said and done.
  3. Delon Wright. He’s come out of nowhere and hasn’t exactly played against great competition, but his production has been fantastic across the board. If he can keep this up, he’ll be in contention for this award come March.

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Marching to Vegas: On Accusations of Softness

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on December 20th, 2013

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas.

Coaches love to talk about playing hard. It’s generally not quantifiable and it sometimes doesn’t really mean much. They also evidently like to talk about their wives’ abilities, but leadership in and of itself is a fascinating topic we can cover another time. I broached the subject this week with regards to the Utah Utes and their coach, Larry Krystkowiak’s comments from earlier this season. He believed that playing hard is a talent and I wonder what playing hard really looks like? Is it something we just say to support a moral victory? Let inferior teams feel better about themselves? I didn’t like Larry’s comments but I do appreciate the sentiment. Alas, what’s sending me down the path we’re about to walk down was a comment on a different post I wrote (I swear this isn’t a bunch of plugs for Pac Hoops or Adam Butler). The premise of the comment was that Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona’s seven-foot center, was soft. Otherwise known as the type of player who perhaps doesn’t play hard. And so full circle we come, what does it mean to play hard?

Does This Guy Look Soft To You? (USATSI)

Does This Guy Look Soft To You? (USATSI)

To examine this I want to use this perception that Tarczewski is soft. After all, this was not the first time I’d heard this thought. I’m also going to toss Colorado’s big Josh Scott into this glimpse of softness because I’ve heard similar about him. His nickname is Jelly. What’s more, it would seem that big men often get labeled as soft more than others. They’re the ones expected to bang in the paint and to be labeled such is to say they’re not doing their job. Are Josh Scott and Kaleb Tarczewski indeed soft? Let’s do this.

Here are two large gentlemen tasked with manning the paint for their respective teams. In Scott’s case, he’s left somewhat alone down there in the absence of Andre Roberson, whereas Tarczewski has some other solid post help; but he’s the only one among the Arizona lot that’s spending the bulk of his time down low (the others have jumpers or are Aaron Gordon). That should do for introductions of these perceived softies. Now first of all, I’d like to note that both players, as compared to their freshman campaigns, are committing fewer fouls per 40 minutes this season. I think this is an interesting statistic in that fouls can be considered an element of “hard,” but they’re also detrimental to one’s playing time. It’s a double-edged sword for bigs in that they’re soft if they don’t foul, otherwise if they don’t. Interestingly enough, both players this season have managed to improve their block percentages while lowering their number of committed fouls.

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Three Questions Previewing Duke and UCLA Tonight

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 19th, 2013

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

Steve Alford, UCLA

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

1. Can UCLA guard the three-point line?

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

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

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Assessing the Pac-12 After One Month

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 12th, 2013

We’re a month into the season, something basically approaching the quarter-pole of this race, so it seems like a good time to take a look back at what’s happened so far, prognosticate a bit into the future, and reset the season as we move forward.

Overall, coming into the year, we regarded Arizona as the clear-cut favorite in the conference. A month in, the Wildcats have done nothing to dissuade us of that notion; in fact, if anything, they’re probably even a bigger favorite than they were in early November. Seeing the improvement the sophomores have made, the cohesiveness of this team defensively from the get-go, and contemplating the improvement that can still be made – especially on the offensive end – the ‘Cats remain the big boys in the Pac-12. That being said, Oregon, UCLA and Colorado have all established themselves as Top 25 caliber teams with plenty of upside. With the Wildcats needing to make road trips to visit every one of those teams, there will be plenty of chances for Arizona to slip up in conference play.

In The First Month, Arizona Has Solidified Its Reputation As The Pac-12 Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

In The First Month, Arizona Has Solidified Its Reputation As The Pac-12 Favorites (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Beyond that group at the top, California sort of sits in a tier by itself; it would be a serious surprise if the Golden Bears compete for a conference title, but at the same time, it would be a stretch to picture this team on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday. However, after the Bears, there are plenty of question marks. Arizona State started off strong, but a couple of slip-ups in the Wooden Legacy damaged their early hopes. Stanford’s got plenty of talent, but this team has done little to give any but the most myopic Cardinal fan hopes of serious change. And while Utah has looked exciting at times, that is a team that is going to be up and down over the course of the year; yes, they may sneak up and bite unsuspecting visitors to Salt Lake City in the butt, but they’ll also turn in a couple stinkers of their own. Beyond that, however, USC, Washington, Washington State and Oregon State are a good bet to make up the bottom third of the standings come March. Below, we’ll take a look at each of those top eight teams and talk about what we’ve learned over the first month and what needs to change going forward. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 19th, 2013

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  1. Utah is off to a 2-0 start with an average margin of victory of 59 points. As you would suspect, the quality of competition hasn’t been stellar so far. And as Mike Sorensen of Deseret News notes, it’s perfectly fine for a program that is working its way back from the depths of a 2011-12 season when the Utes lost 25 out of 31 games, to schedule down a bit. But with six Division I schools in the state of Utah, the only one the Utes will face this year is BYU. Going forward, why not sub out some of these random schools on the roster (e.g., Idaho State, Texas State, Ball State, Savannah State) and replace them with local schools like Weber State, Utah State, Southern Utah and Utah Valley?
  2. Colorado ran out to a workmanlike 93-70 win over Arkansas State last night, in part behind a super-efficient 13 points on just five shots from the field from junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. It is the third time in recent games where Dinwiddie has attempted fewer than five shots from the floor and it is nothing to worry about; it’s all part of the plan. You see, with a bunch of new players stepping into big roles on the wing, Dinwiddie’s just playing the part of the traditional point guard by setting up his teammates. But, he’s also shown that in games when his team needs him to create his own offense, he’s entirely capable of doing that too.
  3. Last night, Arizona opened its NIT Season Tip-Off participation with a 100-50 win over a ridiculously outclassed Fairleigh Dickinson team, but as Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star points out, the Wildcats can’t afford to lose focus tonight when they play Rhode Island in the second round of the tournament. Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, and a quick look at the ‘Cats history in this tournament would provide a good warning sign. Five years ago when Arizona last played in this tournament, a team led by Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger was upset in the second round by a UAB team when Jamelle Horne intentionally fouled an opponent in the waning seconds of a tied game, thinking his team was behind and needed to send the Blazers to the free throw line.
  4. UCLA cruised past Sacramento State on Monday night in a 36-point victory featuring plenty of highlights, but the best news  Bruins fans got is the news that Travis Wear is expected back in the lineup on Friday night when it hosts Morehead State. UCLA was limited to just a seven-man rotation on Monday night, with Wear still recovering from appendix surgery, freshman Noah Allen out with a facial fracture suffered last week against Oakland, and Wanaah Bail yet to play following knee surgery. Bail could return as early as next week.
  5. Joseph Young has been off to a hot start for Oregon, averaging 30 points a game out of the chute and seemingly doing everything well. But with his dad, Michael Young, keeping an eye on everything, there are still plenty of ways for the younger Young to improve. Which is why following his lone missed free throw on the season so far, his dad made him shoot 100 free throws for additional practice. And I’m guessing his dad’s probably got something to do with his mandate to make 1,000 shots a day regularly. But, clearly this attention to detail is working; it may be early still, but Young is sixth in the nation in true shooting percentage – a stat that combines field goal, three-point and free throw shooting – checking in at an astonishing 82.6 percent.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.12.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 12th, 2013

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  1. So. Stanford. Out to save Johnny Dawkins’ job and salvage a single NCAA Tournament appearance for its talented senior class. Yeah, that team. Well, they gave up nearly 1.3 points per possession last night in a home loss to BYU, in a regulation game that featured more scoring than any game played last season anywhere, losing 112-103 at Maples Pavilion. A college basketball game that had more scoring than seven of the nine NBA games on the same night. The good news is that scoring is up, and we could attribute that to the new emphasis on enforcing hand-checking rules. Or, maybe Stanford is just a really bad defensive team.
  2. Let’s finish getting the bad news out of the way up front: the Portland Tribune called Oregon State’s home loss to Coppin State on Sunday night “unforgivable.” Considering Beavers head coach Craig Robinson is another Pac-12 coach squarely on the hot seat, “unforgivable” losses are probably not easily forgiven. The fact that the team played without a pair of suspended frontcourt players doesn’t really garner a lot of sympathy, especially since its opponent was playing without its leading scorer and rebounder from last year’s team. Still, Devon Collier is due back tomorrow night and Roberto Nelson is a stud, so there is at least some hope. But that Coppin State loss is something that the RPI is never going to take any excuses for, and, the dip the Beavers will take in the RPI will ripple throughout the conference all season long.
  3. UCLA avoided being painted with the upset victim brush on Friday night, dodging a late deep three-point attempt to hold on for a five-point win over Drexel, but head coach Steve Alford hopes to get in plenty of work on the half-court offense with the Bruins. While Kyle Anderson had some promising moments getting penetration and passing out of the paint, the team often stalled when unable to get into transition. But Alford and senior forward David Wear agree that those problems can be fixed over time with practice. Given that Travis Wear is expected back within the week, the team will have another accomplished half-court weapon.
  4. Two games into the season, Colorado has yet to look very good, and veteran point guard Spencer Dinwiddie has made a total of just four field goal attempts. Head coach Tad Boyle isn’t all that concerned, though, noting that his junior has done plenty of other things well. Even though he’s hit just  over 26 percent of his shots from the field so far, Dinwiddie has been able to get to the line 17 times and make 14 of those attempts in order to add to his production. He’s also regularly recognized as one of the best perimeter defenders in the conference. In other words, he doesn’t always need to score to have a positive impact on the game. That said, Boyle says he’d still like to see Dinwiddie be more aggressive.
  5. Lastly, a bit of a look ahead to tonight, when four conference teams will be in action, including Arizona State, where head coach Herb Sendek will face one of his former teams as Miami (OH) travels to Tempe to face the Sun Devils. Sendek got his start at Miami, spending three seasons in southeastern Ohio. Prior to tonight’s game, Arizona State will honor Charlie Coles, who was an assistant under Sendek at Miami before becoming that program’s head coach. Oh, and just another little tidbit that may help you understand the ASU/Arizona rivalry a bit more: In Sendek’s final season at Miami (OH) before he went to North Carolina State, he led his RedHawk team to a first-round upset of Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
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The RTC Interview Series: Pac-12 Preview with Don MacLean and Miles Simon

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2013


Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the Pac-12, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two Pac-12 experts in Pac-12 Network analyst and former UCLA star, Don MacLean, and ESPN analyst and former Arizona star, Miles Simon. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Rush the Court: Arizona is the overwhelming preseason favorite in the league. What is it about Sean Miller’s team that has expectations so high in Tucson?

Don MacLean: The talent level there is very high. Sean Miller has brought in some very high-level recruits. Aaron Gordon brings another dimension for the team with his great athleticism and versatility to play inside and on the perimeter. T.J. McConnell is going to be great for the team. I worked the exhibition game last week and I was really impressed by McConnell. I think he is really good. He is the first true point guard that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. When you have all that talent, you need a pass-first guy to spread the ball around. From what I have seen, McConnell seems to be that guy. Sean Miller is also a great coach. With this roster, the depth that the team has, and Miller’s coaching, I think it is warranted to put Arizona as the best team in the league right now.

Miles Simon: Sean Miller obviously brought in a tremendous recruiting class. Getting Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Elliott Pitts to come in is a good place to start with this team. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is going to be an excellent addition for the team at point guard. When you look at this team, it is just so long and athletic. I think defensively, this might be the best group that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. There are just so many positives with this team going into the season.

RTC: Oregon made a surprise trip to the Sweet Sixteen last March after pulling off upsets over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. Gone from last season’s team are Arsalan Kazemi and E.J. Singler, but the Ducks did secure the services of UNLV transfer Mike Moser. With Moser joining a team that has the talented backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning, should Dana Altman’s squad take a step forward in the Pac-12 this season and should another NCAA Tournament run be expected?

MacLean: You can never expect an NCAA Tournament run, but I think the team should be just as good. Do not forget that Oregon also added Joseph Young, the transfer from Houston. Adding Mike Moser as a fifth-year guy is an important piece and Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson will be better as second-year players. With what Dana Altman does with his style of play and the way he changes up defenses, I think the Ducks will be as good as they were last season.

Simon: I think Oregon will get back to the NCAA Tournament. It really has some nice pieces, but when you lose guys like Arsalan Kazemi, E.J. Singler, Tony Woods and Carlos Emory, you are losing what was the heart and soul of your team. A lot of leadership and toughness left with those guys. If Mike Moser is able to return to where he was with UNLV two years ago, he will be excellent. The backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson should be explosive and one of the best in the league. Johnathan Loyd is the third guard and he has some experience because he had to play a lot when Artis was injured last season. When you consider these pieces, this is a team that should get back to the NCAA Tournament and finish in the top half of the Pac-12.

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Pac-12 Team Preview: UCLA Bruins

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 5th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

UCLA Bruins

Strengths. There is a lot of pure talent on this UCLA roster. Seven players on this roster were considered four-star recruits or better coming out of high school. Two of them – Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams – are expected to have NBA futures, possibly as soon as the next season. And the departures of Shabazz Muhammad and Ben Howland are expected to significantly improve team chemistry around the program. This Bruin roster may be slightly less talented than last season, but expect the gestalt to be an improvement, and expect the increase in tempo that UCLA fans saw in Howland’s final season to continue and even accelerate. The Bruins will be at their best in transition under new head coach Steve Alford, and they’ve got plenty of guards and wings who can get up and down the floor and score.

With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Returning, UCLA Could Again Contend For Conference Supremacy (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams Returning, UCLA Could Again Contend For Conference Supremacy (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Weaknesses. Until Anderson proves himself, there are going to be questions about how he’ll fill in for departed senior Larry Drew II at point guard. Anderson is known as a playmaker with the ball in his hands, but it remains to be seen just how effective he can be against this level of competition creating for others. Even more questionable is his ability to guard opposing backcourt players; while the plan will often be for Anderson to switch to guarding threes and maybe even fours on defense, there could be plenty of opportunities for those switches to get crossed up in transition. Also, in the frontcourt, the Bruins have a lack of depth. With senior Travis Wear sidelined for up to a month following appendix surgery and with freshman Wanaah Bail recovering from offseason knee surgery, UCLA is presently limited to just two scholarship players who are bigs: solid senior David Wear and the unproven sophomore Tony Parker.

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