Thoughts From Opening Night in the Pac-12

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 3rd, 2014

In what was a very entertaining night of basketball around the Pac-12, here are a number of semi-interesting thoughts for Thursday’s five games.

Oregon 70, Utah 68 (OT)

Despite A Step Up In Competition, Delon Wright Continues To Produce Across the Board (George Frey, AP)

Despite A Step Up In Competition, Delon Wright Continues To Produce Across the Board (George Frey, AP)

  • Plenty of words have already been spent dissecting Utah’s final possessions in regulation and then in overtime, but those two possessions took up about two percent of the entire game. There is more to be gleaned from the other 98-ish percent. So let’s spend some time digging into that game. The biggest question coming into it was: “So, are the Utes really any good?” Well, Utah answered that question with a resounding: “I dunno. Maybe!?! Probably?!? Aw, who knows?” Delon Wright wasn’t as athletically dominant against more worthy competition, but still wound up with 14 points, six boards, four blocks, a couple steals and dimes. And, if anything, he was underused. Oregon got the memo about his unreliable jumper and often backed off him, went under screens, and dared him to knock down jumpers, which he did on a couple of occasions. But that’s still far preferable to letting him get to the rim, which he can do against all but the most capable defenders.
  • Elsewhere, Dallin Bachynski really answered the call in the middle (despite that unfortunate play at the end, which can hardly be blamed on him) and was probably the best big on the court throughout the game, something that wasn’t expected.
  • While the Utes played very well as a whole, Jordan Loveridge was not at his best Thursday night, settling for jumpers too often and, worse yet, settling for long jumpers; he took six of his 23 shots from three-point land and made just one of them. While Loveridge is capable inside and out, he relied far too much on his outside game and shunned the inside portion. Perhaps some of this was part of a game plan to keep Mike Moser from being an interior defensive presence, but there were too many times where Loveridge floated to the three-point  line while Wright was clearly trying to set up a post feed.

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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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Feast Week Mission Briefing: California in the Maui Invitational

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 25th, 2013

With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: There hasn’t been a whole lot of flash on the California schedule so far, with Denver and Oakland (no, not the Broncos and the Raiders) headlining the early slate. As a result, the Bears are out to a 4-0 record, with only Oakland having thrown a challenge their way. But for a team breaking in five freshmen and replacing Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe, that recipe has been just fine. The mostly highly regarded freshman of the bunch, Jabari Bird, is the primary guy replacing Crabbe and he’s been great out of the gate, averaging 13.5 points per game while stroking 50 percent of his shots from three. Meanwhile, versatile sophomore wing Tyrone Wallace looks like he’s working on a breakout season, having made great strides with a previously broken jump shot. Finally, the veteran frontcourt tandem of Richard Solomon and David Kravish has also combined to account for about 20 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks per night, and it is all held together by senior point guard Justin Cobbs, who hasn’t yet had to take on a big scoring burden but is capable if needed.

Jabari Bird Has Adapted To The College Game Quickly (

Jabari Bird Has Adapted To The College Game Quickly (

First Round Preview: Arkansas is first up for the Golden Bears to tip off the Maui Invitational this morning and this game will be a clash of tempos. While Cal is more than willing to slow things down and grind it out in the half-court with set plays and lock-down defense, the Razorbacks want to get up and down the court with alacrity. Junior wing Alandise Harris leads the way for the Hawgs, averaging 18 points per game, earned mostly on the attack, whether making tough shots from penetration or getting to the line to take advantage of his excellent free throw shooting. Bird and/or Wallace will be primarily responsible for checking Harris and they’ll need to make sure to keep out of foul trouble, as he is one of the best players in the nation at drawing fouls. Luckily, Cal teams under Mike Montgomery are not known to foul recklessly. The one spot where the Bears can take advantage of Arkansas is on the offensive glass, where Solomon and Kravish have done a good job this season; Arkansas, meanwhile, is not great at cleaning their defensive glass. Still, while the Bears are the slightly more talented team here, if they’re not on top of things early on the island, this is a game they could lose.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.13.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 13th, 2013


  1. Did everyone survive the tipoff marathon? Only one team from the Pac-12, Stanford, got to participate this season, and the showing was not a good one. BYU took an eight point lead into the locker rooms at halftime at Maples Pavilion, and the deficit was held right around there for the final 20 minutes. The Cardinal defense was atrocious, allowing 112 points and allowing two Cougar players to score over 25 points.
  2. Nike unveiled its turquoise “N7” uniforms on Tuesday, and Oregon State will be one of five teams to don them this November. Florida State, New Mexico, and both the Nevada men’s and women’s teams had unis designed for them by Nike. Click here for a closer view at the Beaver threads, featuring a blue, ghost Beaver on the back and an orange and black tartan print running all the way from top to bottom. The Beavers will debut the jerseys against Southern Illinois Edwardsville on November 26.
  3. Oregon head coach Dana Altman raised a few eyebrows when saying that he wasn’t disappointed in two of his starters, Dominic Artis and Ben Carter, for selling their team-issued shoes. The violation earned a nine game suspension for each of them, but Altman said he is only disappointed for the pair, and not in them. The suspension didn’t come around to hurt the Ducks in their opener, an 82-75 triumph over Georgetown in South Korea.
  4. While the rest of the nation was watching Michigan State-Kentucky and Kansas-Duke, California was busy handling a Denver team that made the NIT last season. The Golden Bears got their second win on the young season thanks to a tremendous performance on the defensive end of the floor, something rarely seen across the NCAA this year with the new fouling rules. Sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace recorded three steals, while both Justin Cobbs and Sam Singer added two more. Down low, forward Richard Solomon had two blocked shots and pulled down 16 rebounds.
  5. If you grill it, they will come. That’s the plan brought forth by the Colorado athletic department, who will be giving out 10,000 free strips of bacon to students who attend the Jackson State game on Saturday. This definitely goes down as one of the top college hoops promotions of all time.
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Marching to Vegas: Who Will Break Out Along the Way?

Posted by AMurawa on November 7th, 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.

To date we’ve prognosticated on the known. We know that UCLA and USC have new coaches and that Mike Montgomery has a track record of winning almost regardless of the talent on his roster. It’s clear to us that Arizona has a very talented group because they’ve been talented in the past. Same goes for Oregon and its army of transfers. We can say that Washington has a good shooter in C.J. Wilcox because we’ve seen him shoot well. Through these good-as-known pieces we’ve come to conclusions on the inconclusive: preseason rankings, All-Conference Teams, Best This and Best That. But what about what we maybe don’t know? What of the unknown? Those elements of a season and team that we like to call “breakouts” (with apologies to puberty). First, let’s try to define what exactly that means; a difficult task considering it’s a subjective, predictive analysis we’re about to embark upon. A breakout player or team exceeds general expectations. Sure we can expect a sophomore to improve over his freshman season. But if he puts up 3.4/0.8/0.7 as a freshman and then 12.7/3.9/4.3 as a sophomore? Well then we can say that Russell Westbrook broke out. So which players across the conference have we seen glimpses of brilliance, flashes of genius, doses of effective?

Can We Just Go Ahead And Call The Biggest Pac-12 Breakout Player The "Westbrook"? (Lisa Blumenfeld, Getty Images)

Can We Just Go Ahead And Call The Biggest Pac-12 Breakout Player The “Westbrook”? (Lisa Blumenfeld, Getty Images)

When the Pac-12 Microsite brain trust threw out our list of five breakout players, the composite five resulted in – shocker – five sophomores (actually it was six as teammates Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson tied and David Wear received votes and was the only non sophomore on the list). Like the aforementioned Westbrook scenario, the following players fit pretty neatly into a familiar mold. This naturally makes sense as we have just a small sample size by which to judge them. Players often make their biggest statistical leap from freshman to sophomore year; having gained that ever precious “experience.” Here’s how our voting shook out along with their inaugural season outputs:

Player Points/rebounds/assists ORtg/Usage
Tyrone Wallace 7/4/3 88.5/19.3
Brandon Ashley 8/5/1 109.1/19.8
Brandon Taylor 7/2/2 98.1/20.8
Kyle Anderson 10/9/4 102.5/20
Josh Scott 10/6/1 114.3/20
Xavier Johnson 9/5/0 105.1/20.5
David Wear 7/5/1 104.5/17.2

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Why is Doug Gottlieb Picking Cal as a Top Ten Team?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 23rd, 2013

It’s the time of year where everybody and their brother are locking in their picks for the upcoming college basketball season. You’ve got All-America teams and conference projections and Top 25s. And it is all good fun. And I get it, you don’t want to have roughly the same picks as everybody else; at some point you want to go out on a limb and say, “Hey, this may be completely wrong, but I’ve got a hunch about Player A or Team B.” And that’s cool. And that’s fun. But. Doug Gottlieb, who is more often right than he is wrong and has probably forgotten more about the sport than I’ll ever know, picked California 10th – in the nation, mind you, not the conference. And now I’m completely befuddled and I’m looking at the Golden Bears and I’m thinking to myself: “What the hell is he seeing that I am missing?”

California? Tenth In The Nation? Am I Missing Something? (credit: Mark J. Terrill)

California? 10th In The Nation? Am I Missing Something? (Mark J. Terrill)

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is clearly plenty of talent on that roster. Point guard Justin Cobbs returns for his senior year. Freshman Jabari Bird is one of the most highly regarded rookie wings in the nation. There’s a pair of returning upperclassman starters up front in Richard Solomon and David Kravish. And there are plenty of other interesting pieces, like versatile sophomore wing Tyrone Wallace, and talented, if oft-injured shooter Ricky Kreklow. And Bird’s not the only freshman expected to make an impact, with Jordan Mathews likely to step right into a big role and seven-footer Kameron Rooks coming along far more quickly than had been previously expected. And, perhaps most importantly, head coach Mike Montgomery is a wizard who routinely gets the most out of his teams. But 10th? In the nation? Huh?

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Pac-12 M5: 10.21.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 21st, 2013


  1. This time of year is always preview heavy (we’ll start rolling out our own previews later today), and Athlon Sports breaks down Oregon in this piece. As they point out in the opening, Dana Altman and the Ducks are faced with another quick rebuilding effort, piecing together a roster full of experienced transfers that will keep the Ducks in the top third of the league despite losing key players like E.J. Singler and Arsalan Kazemi. The top priority this October will be finding a player in the post who can make up for the loss of Kazemi’s rebounding ability, and the guy that will get the first crack at it is sophomore Ben Carter. Oregon will take the court on October 27 against Northwest Christian to open its exhibition season and will face Georgetown on November 8 at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, to start regular season play.
  2. Up the road in Corvallis, there are not a lot of preseason previews being published on Craig Robinson‘s Oregon State team, but the omnipotent presidential connection talk still hovers around the program. Robinson embraces it, though, enjoying the publicity that it brings to the school. “The one thing I know is that everybody knows the president’s brother-in-law works for Oregon State University,” said Robinson. “That’s great for a college.” It certainly doesn’t hurt recruiting, but the Beavers head coach will need to start showing better results on the court if he wants to stick around much longer in Corvallis.
  3. California Golden Blogs has spent the last week previewing each facet of the 2013-14 Golden Bears, and this piece takes a look at the group of guards in Berkeley. Senior Justin Cobbs and sophomore Tyrone Wallace are slated to lead Cal at the one and two positions, not a bad combination with Cobbs’ outside shooting and Wallace’s perimeter defense. Click here to view the preview of Cal’s inexperienced post players, and click here to see the outlook on the wings. California opens its regular season on November 8 against Coppin State.
  4. Shhhh. It’s that time of year for secret scrimmages, and one of the better ones this October (as far as we know), featured San Diego State at Stanford on Sunday. We will probably never know a result of the meeting, but if it does come out, know that senior Xavier Thames and sophomore Winston Shepard were questionable for San Diego State in that game. In the regular season, the Aztecs will host Arizona and Washington at Viejas Arena, with the possibility of a meeting with Arizona State in Fullerton.
  5. We close with a fun video from Oregon, made by the Pit Crew student section and starring Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. If you are unfamiliar with the Vine Dunk Cam videos, take a few minutes, check out this one, and this one, and have a good chuckle. Oh, the things we resort to in the offseason.
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California Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 17th, 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: California.

What Went Right

In 2011-12, the Golden Bears got 27.8 points per game out of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs on a team that featured a pair of veterans who also chipped in with the scoring load. This season everyone knew that the veteran backcourt was going to have to take another step forward, and they did so, upping their combined average to 33.5 PPG despite increased attention from opposing defenses. All the extra attention may have hurt their efficiency somewhat, but credit Cobbs and Crabbe for filling the void.

Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs Were The Sole Consistent Performers For The Golden Bears

Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe Were The Sole Consistent Performers For The Golden Bears

What Went Wrong

Nobody else stepped up as a consistent third scoring threat to ease the pressure on the backcourt. Richard Solomon again exhibited flashes of brilliance, but never really put it together consistently; Missouri transfer Ricky Kreklow struggled with foot injuries all season long; and freshman Tyrone Wallace showed the athleticism and feel for the game necessary to become a very good player, but a jumper that needs a lot of work. And no matter how much head coach Mike Montgomery and his two veteran guards tried to get other players involved (regularly in the middle of the year, Cobbs and Crabbe would go through an entire first half with limited field goal attempts), the production just wasn’t coming. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VIII: The Honor Roll

Posted by AMurawa on February 26th, 2013

This week, Professor Pac is a proud papa, as some of his most prized pupils have turned in a solid week of work. Of the four teams that earned As this week, three of them are within a game of the top of the conference and all four expect to be invited to the Big Dance.

California – A

At the end of the fourth week of conference play, the Golden Bears sat at 3-4 and four games off the pace set by then 7-0 Oregon Ducks. Since then, behind surprisingly balanced production, Cal has gone 7-1 and eked to within one game of the lead. This week they took a road trip to the Oregon schools and didn’t play particularly well, yet still managed to sneak out a pair of wins by a total of three points. And believe me, those two games were even closer than the tight scores could indicate. But, it’s two more wins to add onto the pile. And with a favorable schedule down the stretch, Mike Montgomery and crew are very much in the title hunt, no matter how improbable that may have seemed.

Tyrone Wallace's Shots Haven't Been Falling Lately, But Luckily He Is Capable Of Making Contributions Elsewhere (Lance Iversen, The San Francisco Chronicle)

Tyrone Wallace’s Shots Haven’t Been Falling Lately, But Luckily He Is Capable Of Making Contributions Elsewhere (Lance Iversen/San Francisco Chronicle)

Focus on: Tyrone Wallace. Way back in November and December, if you had told me that the Golden Bears would wind up challenging for a Pac-12 title, I would have figured that the freshman out of Bakersfield had made a quantum leap somewhere around the turn of the calendar. But while Wallace has certainly had his moments this season, over the span of the current Cal five-game winning streak, his only game in double figures came on Saturday against Oregon State with 11. In fact, over the course of conference play, Wallace has shot just 33.8% from the field. While his jumper definitely lags behind other areas of his game, if that gets tightened up, he’s got a promising future.

Looking ahead: The closing stretch for the Bears is fairly manageable. This week they host Utah and Colorado at Haas Pavilion, with the latter of those games obviously being the more perilous, then they wrap up the season next Wednesday by hosting Stanford. We can totally see the Bears earning a sweep this week, then heading into their final game of the regular season looking for a win to keep up with a couple other Pac-12 teams, only to be tripped up by their Bay Area rival.

Arizona – A

The Wildcats hosted the Washington schools and came away with a pair of wins by an average of 17.5 points per game. Now that’s the type of week we’re looking for from a team that wants to be ranked in the top 10 and earn a spot on the one or two seed line next month. And still, there is work to be done, as head coach Sean Miller sees room for more consistent effort on the defensive end. The Wildcats certainly have the talent for a run deep into March, and maybe even April, but we want to continue to see them put away lesser opponents rather than flirt with disaster in the end game.

Focus on: Solomon Hill. We haven’t talked a whole lot about Hill here this season, if only because he’s done the types of things that we’ve come to expect from him – you know, everything. Put it this way – he’s second on his team in scoring, third in assists and rebounds, second in steals and three-pointers made and he leads the team in minutes played. And he’s steady, regularly ready to be penciled in for double-figure points, five boards, three assists and a couple threes over the course of minutes in the mid-30s. Which makes his five-point, two-rebound performance against Washington State confusing. His minutes were somewhat limited by foul trouble, but still in 29 minutes of action, Hill was often invisible.

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Eight

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 9th, 2013

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew, Parker, Adam, and I have compiled after the eighth week of Pac-12 games (delta in parentheses):

  1. Arizona, 14-0 (2-0, -): By the skin of its teeth, Arizona remained undefeated through eight weeks of basketball. Visiting Colorado built up a 17-point lead against the Wildcats, only to see Zona climb all the way back and pull even at 80 with 10 seconds left. It appeared as if Buffalo guard Sabatino Chen banked in the winning three as time expired, but the officials controversially overturned the call on the court and sent the game into overtime. The Wildcats shut down a deflated Colorado squad in the extra session, and would pull out another closer-than-expected game against Utah two days later, 60-57. They now take their spotless record on the road, venturing to the great Northwest to face the Oregon schools. Up Next: 1/10 @ Oregon.
  2. UCLA, 12-3 (2-0,^2): UCLA added to its winning streak by dispatching California and Stanford in week eight. The Bruins didn’t have much trouble in doing so against either, winning by an average of 11 points. On Thursday, the Golden Bears hung with UCLA for 35 minutes before falling apart and eventually losing by 14. The Stanford game ended up with a closer score than it probably should have, thanks to the 11 points scored by Chasson Randle in the game’s final 80 seconds. UCLA’s seven-game winning streak will be put to the test as the Bruins trek to Salt Lake City for their first road game of the year, and that of course will be followed by a visit to the Coors Events Center to face Colorado. Up Next: 1/10 @ Utah.

    Slo-Mo and His Team Are Surging Into Conference Play

    Slo-Mo and His Team Are Surging Into Conference Play

  3. Oregon, 12-2 (1-0, -): Oregon’s week, while short, was a very successful one. The Ducks marched into Corvallis for a Sunday night, nationally televised Civil War battle, and came out with a 66-53 win. Damyean Dotson imposed his will all night long against the Beavers, getting to the rim with ease and single-handedly breaking the Ducks out of multiple scoring slumps. The win now sets up a huge showdown with Arizona on Thursday. Up Next: 1/10 vs. Arizona.
  4. Colorado, 10-4 (0-2, ٧2): Despite coach Tad Boyle‘s best efforts, Colorado just wasn’t the same team in Sunday’s game against Arizona State after losing in that type of fashion against the third best team in the nation. Late woes were again to blame in Tempe, as the Sun Devils went on a 21-13 run in the final eight minutes to defeat the Buffs by nine. Up Next: 1/10 vs. USC. Read the rest of this entry »
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Wrapping Up Pac-12 Non-Conference Play By Reassessing Our All-Conference Selections

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2013

Later tonight, the second leg of the Pac-12 college basketball season begins as conference play tips off with the Battle of the Bachynskis, when Utah travels to Arizona State. After last year’s nightmare of a non-conference slate, this season the conference took major strides, with Arizona’s win over Florida, UCLA’s win over Missouri, Colorado’s win over Baylor, and Oregon’s win over UNLV making up the top tier of the best wins for the conference. Before we turn our complete attention to conference play, we thought we’d hand out some awards based on the season to this point, so Connor Pelton, Parker Baruh, Pachoops’ Adam Butler and myself voted and came up with the following results.

Player of the Year

Allen Crabbe, Jr, California – Crabbe’s 20.9 PPG and efficient all-around offensive game earned three of the four votes for our player of the year, with UCLA’s Jordan Adams receiving the other vote from me. Crabbe has been a rock for the Golden Bears (well, aside from that Creighton debacle, at least), scoring in double figures in every game, helping out on the glass and, thus far, knocking down better than 38% of his shots from deep.

The Pac-12's Leading Scorer, Allen Crabbe Takes Down The Mid-season POTY Award (credit: Jeff Gross)

The Pac-12’s Leading Scorer, Allen Crabbe Takes Down The Mid-season POTY Award (credit: Jeff Gross)

Coach of the Year

Dana Altman, Oregon – Despite losing three of last year’s top four scorers, and having the other guy in that quartet – E.J. Singler – struggle through the early part of this year, the Ducks have reeled off wins in 11 of their 13 games. Altman has gotten great production out of his freshman backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, has folded Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi into the mix seamlessly, and coaxed great improvement out of senior center Tony Woods. As a result, he earned three of our four votes for the COY, while Arizona State’s Herb Sendek got my support.

Freshman of the Year

Shabazz Muhammad, Fr, UCLA – After missing the first three games of the season due to an NCAA investigation into his eligibility, Muhammad has come on strong for the Bruins, scoring in double figures in all 10 of the games he’s played in on his way to 19.6 points per night. He’s just beginning to ease into the best physical shape of the season, so the expectation is that conference play will see an even better version of Shabazz. Once again, Shabazz earned three of our four votes for FrOY, with the lone dissenter (again, me) nabbing teammate Jordan Adams.

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A Spin Around The Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2012

Now that we’ve got games coming fast and furious, every team around the conference has a story to tell, and often we don’t have time to get to them all. So, in the interest of checking in semi-regularly with every team, we’re going to take a quick spin around the conference and check the temperature of each team, beginning with the spots that have gone the most terribly wrong and working backwards to the success stories.

UCLA – More or less a co-favorite heading into the season, the Bruins are likely the biggest story going in the Pac-12 right now – and not for anything good. Sunday night’s blown 18-point second-half lead en route to a loss to Cal Poly is one (terrible, horrible, atrocious) thing, but the fact that this team is doing this kind of thing with a the level of talent they’ve got is unforgivable. If Ben Howland is going to stick with more or less this personnel in his rotation (you know, the Wear twins, Larry Drew and a pair of wings), he’s gotta just break down and play a ton of zone. Really, this will do two good things: (1) minimize the effect of this team’s low level of overall athleticism, and (2) give them plenty of work on their zone offense in practice, something they desperately need. The other thing that absolutely has to happen for UCLA to even get within shouting distance of its potential ceiling is to find a way to get Kyle Anderson comfortable in this offense, and really that means putting the ball in his hands and letting him create, at least in the halfcourt. Drew has been excellent running the show and in no way should be scapegoated for UCLA’s struggles, but this team needs Anderson to be a factor and, while he’s shown his versatility, his defense has been bad, his shooting has been worse, and he hasn’t done enough elsewhere to make up for those serious drawbacks. There is still plenty of time for this team to turn things around, but UCLA fans have rightly run out of patience with Howland and are demanding immediate success. If this team doesn’t get drastically better, the big story come March will be whether UCLA’s legacy will be enough to pull either Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens away from their current jobs.

Kyle Anderson, UCLA

Ben Howland Needs To Find a Way To Get Kyle Anderson Comfortable, Or He’ll Be Looking For A New Job

Washington – The thinking at the start of the year was that maybe, minus a pair of talented but conflicted wings, the Huskies could be a textbook example of addition by subtraction. Minus Terrence Ross and especially Tony Wroten Jr., the remaining members of the team would know and accept their roles better. Well, somebody forgot to tell guys like Desmond Simmons, Jernard Jarreau and Martin Breunig that a big part of their roles would be to clean the defensive glass. While the Huskies have more or less won the battle of the boards against lesser teams, versus Ohio State and Colorado State they were dominated – in fact, against the Rams, the Huskies actually grabbed fewer defensive rebounds than CSU grabbed offensive boards. Sure, it sucks that Shawn Kemp Jr. went down with an injury just before the start of the year, but either Jarreau or Breuning needs to be ready to step in and do some of the dirty work, lest they be not asked back next season.

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