Pac-12 M5: 03.11.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 11th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. The Pac-12 announced its conference awards on Monday, and we’ll go right to Doug Haller of AZ Central for the details of an Arizona-heavy set of awards. To begin with, as expected, Nick Johnson of Arizona took down the conference Player of the Year award, and his head coach Sean Miller went home with the Coach of the Year award, standard fare for a champion that won the conference by three games. But the Wildcats weren’t done there, as Aaron Gordon won Freshman of the Year and earned All-Pac-12 first-team honors along with Johnson (nevermind for now the fact that the Pac-12 insists on putting ten guys on its first team). Elsewhere, T.J. McConnell earned second-team honors (which is the equivalent in reality to third-team) and a spot on the All-Defensive team, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a member of the All-Freshman team. But the state wasn’t done there, as Arizona State senior Jordan Bachynski also earned a big award, taking home the Defensive Player of the Year award.
  2. As we turn our collective eye towards Las Vegas and the conference tourney, for Washington, the challenge is clear: win the Pac-12 Tournament or consider NIT (or worse) options. And in order to do that, they’ll need to repeat a feat that only Colorado has accomplished in the nine years since the conference went to first-round byes in 2006: win four games in four days. What are the odds that the Huskies can get that done? Well, KenPom.com puts the odds at 28% that they’re even able to knock off their first-round opponent Utah, with the Huskies’ suspect defense being the primary disadvantage against the Utes.
  3. Washington’s first-round opponent, Utah, is in a similar boat. There is an outside chance that if things fall just exactly right and if the Utes reach the Pac-12 championship game and give a good showing there that they can sneak in as an at-large to the First Four – but nobody should count on that. In order to have any confidence that they’re going to hear their name called on Selection Sunday, the Utes need to win this thing. But for a Ute team that is used to playing with everybody on their schedule (of ten losses, seven were by one possession or an overtime game, an eighth was by four points and just two were by more than four points in regulation), they’re confident. As sophomore guard Brandon Taylor puts it, according to Dirk Facer of Deseret News: “We know that we can compete with everybody in the league.”
  4. Continuing our theme of Pac-12 teams that will need to win four games in four days to win the conference tournament, Oregon is in that boat with Washington and Utah. But unlike those teams, even if the Ducks come up short, and likely even if they lose in their opening game, the Ducks will probably wind up dancing. Still, the Ducks have standards to live up to, as in every Pac-12 Tournament that has been played in Las Vegas, Oregon has come out the champion. Sure, that’s only one tournament, but still. The good news for the Ducks is they are the hottest team in the conference right now, with seven straight wins under their belts. The bad news is that unlike last year when they got a first-round bye, they’ll have to get started on day one with a game against in-state rival Oregon State.
  5. Then there’s Colorado who, as the fifth-seed, earns the advantage of getting to play last-place USC in their opening round tournament game. They’re likely in regardless of what goes down in Vegas, but avoiding a bad loss against the Trojans only makes sense. For head coach Tad Boyle, the prescription, according to Tom Kensler of The Denver Post, is to not play tight but to “play with an edge and understand that… every possession could be our last.”
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Pac-12 Superlatives: Coach, Newcomer, Freshman of the Year and More

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 10th, 2014

We announced our Player of the Year and All-Conference teams earlier today, now to dig a little bit deeper with the rest of our All-Conference Awards.

Coach of the Year

Sean Miller, Arizona – This was a no-brainer, as all three of our voters opted for the head coach of the conference champion. Not only did Miller put together a heaping pile of talent in Tucson, but he’s got the group to all buy in to a single goal. They’re all committed defensively, they work together as a single unit, covering for each other. And when Brandon Ashley went down with a broken foot in February, Miller was able to shift on the fly, remaking his team to give it the best chance come March. Many times, a coach is punished in these Coach of the Year votes for having the best talent. This time around, despite Miller having the best team in the league, there should be little argument that he deserves the nod.

Sean Miller Has Done A Brilliant Job Molding The Talented Wildcats Into A True Team (Arizona Athletics)

Sean Miller Has Done A Brilliant Job Molding The Talented Wildcats Into A True Team (Arizona Athletics)

Newcomer of the Year

Delon Wright, Utah – In his first year in Salt Lake City after a stint at the City College of San Francisco, Wright was something of an unknown coming into the season. And then, as the Utes were running roughshod over undermanned opponents in the early schedule, it was hard to tell if Wright’s ridiculous numbers were legitimate. Four months later, there is no such worry;  not only are his numbers legit, he’s one of the handful of best players in the league. He led his team in scoring, assists, steals, blocks and minutes. He posted a 59.7 eFG%, an absolutely ludicrous number for a point guard. And he helped shift the climate in the Huntsman Center from that of a program used to losing to one that now expects to win.

Defensive Player of the Year

Nick Johnson, Arizona – Our three voters are a small sample size, perhaps accounting for this surprising result, but Johnson edged Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski on the basis of his hounding perimeter defense for the most efficient defensive team in the nation.

Nick Johnson: He's Not Just Our Player of the Year, He's Our Defensive Player Of the Year (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

Nick Johnson: He’s Not Just Our Player of the Year, He’s Our Defensive Player Of the Year (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

Freshman of the Year

Aaron Gordon, Arizona – So often, the talk about Gordon is about the things he can’t do, and admittedly, he’s a pretty poor shooter. But, he wouldn’t be our unanimous Freshman of the Year and a second-team all-conference guy if he were defined strictly by what he can’t do. Because, what he can do is pretty special. Athletically alone, he is in the upper 1% of all Division I college basketball players. His versatility – being able to guard not only fours and fives like Josh Scott and Dwight Powell, but also ones and twos like Chasson Randle and Spencer Dinwiddie – allow the Wildcats to switch everything defensively and match up with whatever the opponent puts on the court without tweaking their own personnel. And then his ability to rebound and finish around the rim, or his keen passing eye or developing game off the bounce? It is no wonder NBA scouts drool over his potential.

Sixth-Man of The Year

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona – What you want most from a sixth-man is the willingness to do whatever is needed to help the team achieve its goals. Sometimes that means a gunner coming in off the bench to provide instant offense, like Jason Calliste at Oregon. Or a complete change of blood like Bryce Alford and Zach LaVine provide at UCLA. But Hollis-Jefferson is the consummate sixth-man, so much so that when Brandon Ashley went down for the year, Hollis-Jefferson was ready and willing to step into the starting lineup. And then, three games later, when Sean Miller decided it would be better for him to return to his role off the bench, he did so without complaint. Oh, and it also helps that he’s really good, a terrific defender that fits in perfectly with the rest of the squad, an aggressive rebounder and a skilled slasher.

Most Improved

Davonte Lacy, Washington State – On a team that lost go-to scorer Brock Motum, the junior guard took over the reigns as the Cougars best offensive option. His scoring average jumped from 10 PPG to almost 20, his shooting percentages went up across the board and his usage numbers skyrocketed as well. It may not have been the year Ken Bone envisioned, but it certainly wasn’t Lacy’s fault.

All-Freshman Team

  • Aaron Gordon, Arizona
  • Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
  • Zach LaVine, UCLA
  • Bryce Alford, UCLA

All-Defensive Team

  • Nick Johnson, Arizona
  • Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State
  • Aaron Gordon, Arizona
  • Delon Wright, Utah
  • Jordan Adams, UCLA
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Marching to Vegas: The Final Steps

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on March 7th, 2014

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.We find ourselves on the penultimate day of the basketball season. A season, like those before it, that has seen highs and low, cliché, cliché, cliché. I’ve been critical of the Pac, supportive of the Pac, predictive, analytical, and funny. I’ve defended it multiple times and sang praise, too. I’ve linked this entire lead. But the point here is that we’re here. The calendar has turned to our favorite month. Our March to Vegas is over. Our season embarks into the madness of sudden death and the promise of possibility. Tournaments begin (ultimately two of them) with abundant hope and now I’m getting lost in Waltonian hyperbole; but if not hyperbole then what is March for? I mean, look at our first and only conference games thus far in the month. The home and road teams have nearly split their contests. To date, home teams had been winning at a greater than 66 percent clip. Suddenly we get to the third month on the calendar and nothing becomes predictable. Each of Wednesday’s road teams won and then, in perhaps the most unexpected of outcomes, the Trojans got their second victory. Indeed we’re knee deep in the madness and we aren’t even in Vegas yet.

Behind A High-Flying Arizona Team, The Pac Is Back, Right? (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

Behind A High-Flying Arizona Team, The Pac Is Back, Right? (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

But before we get there, I’d like to revisit our first thought. When I lauded that the Pac was back before nary a game was played. Is it back? Or, perhaps more aptly said, has it returned? With the benefit of hindsight, I’d say it is. Look at what we have: arguably the best crop of guards in the nation and the best defense the nation has to offer. We watched the emergence of Utah, a budding program under the hard-nosed and determined watch of Larry Krystkowiak. And have you watched Delon Wright? I didn’t see that coming and if you did, link me to what you said about it because I’d like to buy you a drink. What a phenomenal player who is coming back next season. And still has this season to play (I see you, Vegas). Further, we watched what I believe to be the best backcourt in the country. Or at least the most dynamic. Between Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, is there anything they can’t do? And if there is, they could just toss it up to Zach LaVine and it might be all right.

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Pac-12 Bubble Watch Heading Into the Final Weekend

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 6th, 2014

There are 10 days until Selection Sunday and no fewer than nine Pac-12 teams have designs on crashing March Madness over the next couple of weeks. Let’s take a look at where each stands heading into the final weekend of regular season play.

Locks

  • Arizona – Right now they’re an obvious #1 seed. A loss at Oregon and a loss in their opening round Pac-12 Tournament game (to Utah or another team like Cal, Stanford, Utah or Washington) and they drop to a #2 seed; otherwise, the Wildcats have earned the #1 seed in the West, with a San Diego/Anaheim route to Dallas. Heck, even if they do find a way to drop to a #2 seed, they’re still in all likelihood bound for San Diego and Anaheim.
Arizona Looks Locked Into A San Diego -> Anaheim Path To The Final Four (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Arizona Looks Locked Into A San Diego -> Anaheim Path To The Final Four (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

  • UCLA – Let’s not pretend the Bruins have finished strongly, with two losses in their last three games. They finish up with two on the road (tonight at Washington and Saturday at Washington State), but the Bruins are in the NCAA Tournament. Finish with a good run and they wind up around a #5 seed (a #4 isn’t out of the question, but unlikely); finish with a 1-1 trip to Washington and an early exit in the Pac-12 Tourney and they’re more apt to be in the #8/#9 game.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 5th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology report is out, and he has Arizona as the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA follows as a #7 seed, while Arizona State is also safely in the field on the #8 line. The Pac-12 dominates the #10 line, with Stanford, Colorado and California all appearing there. The Golden Bears are on Lunardi’s “Last Four Byes” list, and Oregon is listed as one of the last four in the field. John Templon’s NIT projections were also released earlier in the week, and Utah headlines the conference as a #2 seed there. Washington and Oregon State are also in the field as #4 and #6 seeds, respectively.
  2. Both major Top 25 polls were released shortly after we released the M5 on Monday morning. Arizona appears at #3 in both the AP and Coaches’ rankings, and that’s it for the Pac-12 in the Top 25 proper. UCLA did manage enough votes to place 27th and 28th in each poll, and Arizona State follows at #37 in the AP. The only other team to receive votes was Colorado, who came in two spots behind the Sun Devils.
  3. The Sun Devils traveled to Eugene to meet Oregon last night in the first Tuesday conference game in recent memory. Most of the country missed the majority of the first half thanks to that insane Marquette-Providence game going to double-overtime, and so Oregon’s 15-0 binge to open the festivities went unnoticed. And while it was impossible to keep up that kind of pace, the Ducks never trailed Arizona State, cruising to a 85-78 win that is enormous for their NCAA Tournament hopes. Next up is a visit from #3 Arizona, and Dana Altman‘s team needs either a win in that one or on Wednesday in the Pac-12 Tournament to lock up an at-large bid. Jahii Carson actually led all scorers with a 28-point performance, while Mike Moser paced the Ducks with 22. Because of the long gap between games in the state of Oregon, the Devils caught a flight back to Tempe and will return later in the week.
  4. There were 9,125 Ducks fans in attendance last night at Matthew Knight Arena, one of Oregon’s biggest home crowds of the season. You can thank Altman for that, as the fourth-year head coach toured campus on Monday and pleaded with students to turn out for the game. After hearing that ticket sales were low, he met with many students in person, adding a personal touch that was clearly much appreciated.
  5. For a comprehensive preview of the rest of the week’s action, check out this piece from Adam Butler. Butler notes that because of NCAA and Pac-12 Tournament seeding implications, nearly every game this week is must-see television, save maybe USC-Washington State. The meeting between the Ducks and Wildcats on Saturday is the game of the week in my opinion, as Arizona can lock up a #1 seed with a victory. Oregon’s got the most to prove, however, and it took a big step towards an at-large bid last night by knocking off Arizona State.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.03.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 3rd, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Welcome to March. Jerry Palm’s latest NCAA Tournament projections were released yesterday and Arizona has all but solidified that #1 seed in the West region after taking care of California and Stanford. UCLA follows as a #7 seed, while Arizona State and Stanford are also safely in the field on the eight and nine lines, respectively. We then hit the bubble, where we find Oregon making its way back into the field as a #10 seed after picking up a pair of big wins in Los Angeles. Colorado and California follow as #11 seeds, with the Golden Bears being sent to Dayton to play in the “First Four”, a punishment for dropping three of its last four, with the losses coming by an average of 22 points. According to ESPN‘s Joe Lunardi, Utah is also on the bubble, sitting as the 11th team out of the field at the moment.
  2. Arizona locked up an unshared regular season conference title yesterday (and the all-important NIT automatic bid, if they choose to use it) with a 79-66 win against Stanford at the McKale Center. The Wildcats led by as many as 22 with six minutes remaining and ended up cruising to the championship. Josh Huestis actually led all scorers with 22 points, while freshman forward Aaron Gordon scored 19 to pace the Wildcats.
  3. Head coach Sean Miller decided to give guard Jordin Mayes the start on Senior Night in Tucson, and while Mayes was held scoreless, he did play a season high 15 minutes. Mayes has been with the Wildcats for four seasons, a dwindling feat nowadays in this sport. After starting as a sophomore he has seen his minutes decline and almost completely disappear. Mayes has suffered through multiple stress fracture injuries but has stuck it out, staying committed to his team and coach. Kevin Zimmerman shares a cool story about a young Mayes in this piece and the impact that he has had while at Arizona. Here’s hoping his perseverance is rewarded with a trip to Arlington for the Final Four later this month.
  4. If you’re looking for some hardcore statistical analysis, this post is for you. Our friend Adam Butler over at Pachoops breaks down the facilitating ability of Wildcat junior T.J. McConnell, the program’s first, true pass-first point guard in five years. So far this season he has accounted for the second highest percentage of rim scores in the conference behind Delon Wright, a huge boost for a team who’s one fault can be going significant periods of time without scoring.
  5. UCLA is ratcheting up its defense just in time for the stretch run of the season, and head coach Steve Alford is encouraged by the recent play. The Bruins forced Oregon to shoot at a 38.1 % clip from the field on Thursday, a performance that Alford declared “arguably one of the best of the year.” The Ducks went most of the night without gaining any easy buckets, and the Bruins held them to just two points in the first overtime period. Oregon is one of the best transition teams in the nation and UCLA only allowed four fastbreak points, perhaps the stat that makes Alford most proud. Continued pressure on the defensive end of the floor will be crucial if it looks to avoid the dreaded eight or nine seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
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Marching to Vegas: Picking a Dark Horse

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoops) on February 28th, 2014

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.

‘Tis the time of year when we really dive into favorites. It makes sense as those usually come first. We pick our favorite candy, friend, player, etc., first whenever organizing. And with the NCAA Tournament fast approaching (you guys realize tomorrow is March, right?) our immediate dialogue turns to picking the favorites to win the thing. Well let’s take a step back from the NCAAs and away from favorites for a second and get ahead of ourselves and talk about who might be a dark horse winner of the Pac-12 Tournament. Semantics would suggest that I’m just citing the favorite rally through a few upsets in Vegas, but I’d disagree. The favorites to win the tournament are foregone. As Tad Boyle recently said, ““There are 11 other teams in the Pac-12 and then there’s Arizona.” There ya have it folks, the favorites debate is settled. Which isn’t to say that anyone not named “Wildcats” is a dark horse champion candidate. Quite the contrary. I like UCLA’s odds and think a senior-laden Stanford crew could most certainly make noise. Arizona State has one of the most dynamic players in the country in Jahii Carson with a red hot support staff in Jermaine Marshall and the conference’s all-time leading shot blocker in Jordan Bachynski making the Sun Devils another viable title option.

Yeah, Arizona Is The Favorite, We Know That Already. Give Us An Underdog (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Yeah, Arizona Is The Favorite, We Know That Already. Give Us An Underdog. (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

But whoopdie doo, Adam! These guys are all in the top half of the conference. That’s why it’s not too exciting, right now in this column, to discuss the favorites. We know them. So what about those dark horses, the un-favorites. I’d say that the criteria to fit this bill is slim. You have had to show the propensity to: A) beat top teams, B) do something elite, and/or C) get wildly hot with top talent. Let’s get something out of the way: USC and Washington State fit none of these bills. The Trojans have demonstrated that not only can they not beat elite teams, but they can’t beat anyone. They will not win the Pac-12 Tournament. Likewise, the Cougars won’t either. Did you know that they put up 0.46 points per possession in a game this season? They couldn’t even bust the 1.0 PPP mark against Oregon State. At this point we have covered the favorites and the least favorites. Leaving us right where we want to be, looking at my favorite dark horse candidates to win the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada (it’s two weeks away, by the way).

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Pac-12 Roundup: Week 15

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on February 26th, 2014

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the 15th week of Pac-12 basketball. 

Power Rankings (as voted upon by Connor Pelton, Andrew Murawa, and Adam Butler)

Arizona is once again the unanimous number one in our weekly power rankings, but no team except the Wildcats and last place USC were completely agreed upon. Check the results below to see the jumbled mess that is the Pac-12.

Nick Johnson Led Arizona To A Huge Sweep In The Rockies Last Week

Nick Johnson Led Arizona To A Huge Sweep In The Rockies Last Week

  1. Arizona (25-2, 3 Points)
  2. UCLA (21-6, 7 Points)
  3. Stanford (18-8, 8 Points)
  4. California (18-9, 15 Points)
  5. Colorado (20-8, 18 Points)
  6. Arizona State (19-8, 19 Points)
  7. Utah (18-9, 21 Points)
  8. Oregon (18-8, 22 Points)
  9. Washington (15-13, 26 Points)
  10. Oregon State (14-12, 27 Points)
  11. Washington State (9-18, 33 Points)
  12. USC (10-17, 36 Points)

Best Game – Arizona at Utah: This baby ended up being much better than the more-hyped game between Arizona and Colorado that was played three days later in Boulder. Desperate for a resume-boosting win, Utah fought the Wildcats for 45 minutes as hard as anyone has all season. The visitors led by as many as 12 in the second half before the Utes came storming back. Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge split a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 56, and the two teams went to overtime when Wildcat guard T.J. McConnell missed a jumper at the buzzer. Fourth-ranked Arizona would survive in the extra period, making five free throws in the final 20 seconds to win, 67-63. Sean Miller‘s team all but locked up a one seed in the NCAA Tournament with the sweep of Utah and Colorado. The Utes kept their slim at-large hopes alive by blowing out Arizona State on Sunday, but they likely still need to win their final three regular season games thanks to a low RPI.

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#rushthetrip: Wrapping Up 12 Games, 17 Days and 5,476 Miles on the Road

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on February 25th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

They say that all good things must come to an end, and so is the case for my 17-day journey through college basketball’s Western lands. Large cities and small towns alike took turns as temporary homes, while the miles of passing scenery morphed from desert to snowy mountains and back to desert again, with plenty of change in between. The whirlwind ride reinforced the breadth of variety in the towns, arenas, and fan bases that stand behind Divison I’s basketball programs — only further mythologizing the notion of a “typical college town.” They make you work out West (note to future college basketball road trippers: the Heartland will be far kinder to your car’s odometer), but the payoff was worth every exhausting mile. By the numbers and some personal favorites, here’s the story of my trip.

Opening Night Was The Highlight Of This Trip, When The Pit Proved Worthy Of It's Elevated Standing Among The Home Floors Of College Hoops

Opening Night Was The Highlight Of This Trip, When The Pit Proved Worthy Of It’s Elevated Standing Among The Home Floors Of College Hoops

#rushthetrip, By The Numbers

  • Days: 17
  • States: 10
  • Games: 12
  • OT Games: 3
  • Miles Driven: 5,476
  • Distance from Tucson, AZ, to Spokane, WA: 1,494 miles
  • Tickets Received: 2
  • Biggest Arena: BYU (capacity of 20,900, sixth in D-I)
  • Smallest Arena: Sacramento State (capacity of 1,200, 348th in D-I)
  • Most Points (Individual): Stephen Madison, 42 (Idaho)
  • Smallest Margin Of Victory: 1, Boise State over New Mexico
  • Largest Margin Of Victory: 15, Gonzaga over Pepperdine
  • Best Team (by KenPom ranking): Arizona (#1)
  • Worst Team (by KenPom ranking): Southern Utah (#351)

#rushthetrip Favorites

Best Venues

  1. The Pit, Albuquerque, NM
  2. Marriott Center, Provo, UT
  3. McKale Center, Tucson, AZ

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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 M5: 02.24.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 24th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. ESPN visited Pac-12 country this weekend, bringing its pregame show GameDay to Boulder on Saturday in advance of Colorado’s battle with Arizona on Saturday night. Students waited in line overnight, through the type of weather that only college students should try to endure, in order to be among the first inside the Coors Events Center. And while all was good and fun for those fans and the Colorado program certainly enjoyed the national exposure, the game itself didn’t turn out so well. Despite sophomore forward Xavier Johnson predicting a 20-point blowout win for the Buffs, it was the Wildcats that ran roughshod. Colorado missed its first 15 field goals, and then somehow it got worse from there as the Wildcats made 22 of their 26 shots in the second half. As for Johnson? Well, he probably learned that all that talking puts undue pressure on you, pressure of which he didn’t respond well — he was 1-of-10 from the field.
  2. Another Arizona school was involved in a blowout this weekend, as Arizona State went to Utah and wound up on the wrong side of a 23-point margin. Dave Dulberg of ArizonaSports.com breaks down the loss by the numbers, noting that, among other things, Utah blocked 18.4 percent of Arizona State’s field goal attempts on Sunday. To convert that number to KenPom speak, that’s actually a blocked-shot percentage of 31.5 percent, since that stat only takes into account two-point field goals attempted. Speaking of which, I’d add one additional number to Dulberg’s effort: 27. That’s the number of three-point field goals the Sun Devils put up in this game, many of which were wild second-half attempts to erase a 20-point deficit with a single shot.
  3. Oregon played its game on Sunday evening against Washington State without the services of sophomore guard Damyean Dotson, who was busted early Saturday morning for attempting to use a fake ID at Taylor’s Bar and Grill in Eugene. Yup, get this. The security staff at this bar saw through Dotson’s fake ID, and then rather than just turn the guy away, they actually held him and called the cops. Dotson was detained there until the police arrived, at which time he was cited and released. Dotson, as a result, watched the Oregon win from the bench.
  4. Just in case you didn’t realize how deep into the college basketball season we really are, here’s some perspective: Senior Days in the Pac-12 are already officially underway, after Colorado honored its pair of seniors – little used Ben Mills and Beau Gamble – prior to Saturday night’s game against Arizona. Neither guy has had a huge impact on the court, but each has made an impact on his team. We’ll have more on some of the high-profile seniors from here to the end of the regular season, but even though these two aren’t guys we’ve written extensively about, we wanted to recognize them before they head out into the real world.
  5. One senior we’ll certainly highlight in the coming weeks is Stanford’s Josh Huestis, the pride of Great Falls, Montana. The Cardinal forward is now the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots, and Jesse Geleynse of the Great Falls Tribune has a great feature on their city’s native son. It’s 10 pages long and you’ve gotta click through every one, but it is very much worth the effort.
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#rushthetrip Day 15: Ute Revival Put On Hold in Salt Lake City

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 21st, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

Wednesday brought me back into Utah (which is quickly becoming the official home state of #rushthetrip!) for a rendezvous between the Utes and #4 Arizona. As of Tuesday, few bracketologists (including our own Daniel Evans) had Utah in the field — or even in that first crop of teams missing out — but finding a way to nip the Cats would surely thrust Larry Krystkowiak’s group into the bubble discussion. And for the once-spoiled turned long-suffering Utes’ fans (just one NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005 after making 10 of 11 trips from 1995-2005), the opportunity at hand had to make this one of the biggest college basketball games Salt Lake City has seen in the last decade.

The Young Utes Have Yet To Fully Arrive, But The Huntsman Center Offered One Of The Best Atmospheres This Trip Has Seen

The Young Utes Have Yet To Fully Arrive, But The Huntsman Center Offered One Of The Best Atmospheres This Trip Has Seen

The Huntsman Center atmosphere supported that thesis. Fans filled the sizable gym (a listed attendance of 14,266 fell a few seats short of capacity), and despite a first half that featured little in the way of positive developments for the Utes, stayed involved throughout. The student section was amazing, nearly stretching all the way from floor to rafters, a sea of red fully prepped to swallow up the Wildcats. Their consistent engagement would pay off in the latter portions of the second half, as the Utes scrapped their way back into a game that they had trailed by 12 with 13 minutes to play. I was more than happy to be forced to spend most of the final 10 minutes (plus overtime) standing behind the Huntsman Center masses. Once that Ute surge began in earnest, there was nary a seated fanny in the building; I can’t recall too many games where I’ve seen seats used less frequently. Clearly, Utah fans wanted this game.

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