Pac-12 Season Preview: UCLA Bruins

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 3rd, 2014

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams, from worst to first. Today: UCLA.

UCLA Bruins

Strengths. There’s plenty of talent here, no doubt. Norman Powell, Bryce Alford and Tony Parker return as players who earned at least 40 percent of the team’s minutes last year and were all highly efficient offensive players on a high-powered offensive squad. They’ll be joined by freshmen Kevon Looney and Isaac Hamilton, both of whom are highly-regarded recruits expected to slip seamlessly into the starting lineup. Throw in guys like Wannah Bail and Noah Allen, who played bit parts efficiently last year, and another highly regarded freshman in Thomas Welsh (who may be more of a project than his classmates) and there is plenty of reason for excitement in Westwood. The Bruins once again should be a high-flying, entertaining ballclub.

Norman Powell's Athleticism On The Wing Will Be A Big Part Of UCLA's Offense (Harry How/Getty Images)

Norman Powell’s Athleticism On The Wing Will Be A Big Part Of UCLA’s Offense. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Weaknesses. Two immediately jump off the page: a lack of depth and defensive uncertainty. First, the depth thing is pretty clear. Freshman Jonah Bolden and senior transfer Jonathan Octeus were both supposed to play significant roles off the bench for the Bruins, but they ran into academic problems that will keep them out of UCLA uniforms this year (Octeus wound up at Purdue as a transfer after being denied admission). That leaves Bail, Allen and Welsh as the top three players off the bench. The Bruins could survive one well-placed and well-timed injury, but any significant health problems beyond that could lead to raw freshmen or even walk-ons playing big roles. Throw in the fact that Looney has battled injuries in early workouts already and this coiuld get scary. The second issue is on the defensive end. Powell is a fantastic defender, but just about everybody else on the roster has question marks. Alford is a terrific offensive player but he can get outquicked or overpowered by better athletes. Parker has a history of foul trouble. Hamilton and Looney are talents more known for their offensive abilities who still need to prove their defensive merits. On down the line, questions loom.

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Wrapping Up Pac-12 Performance in Thanksgiving Week Tournaments

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 3rd, 2013

The early season exempt tournaments are a great opportunity for teams to get in several games over the course of a few days, often against pretty good competition. By the time these events are over, we begin to have a good idea about the overall quality of teams, how their resume is shaping up, and what they will need to do from here on out. Pac-12 teams had some mixed results over the past week, but below we will take a quick look at how some of the teams from the conference fared in their events.

Arizona – The Wildcats are the one Pac-12 team that had an unquestionably great event. They swept through four games against increasingly tough competition in the NIT Season Tip-Off, capping it off by scoring an impressive win over Duke at Madison Square Garden on Friday. Sean Miller’s club has done everything you want a young team to do early in the year: improve every game, compete hard, and maintain focus, all while piling up the wins. As a result of last week’s performance, Arizona now finds itself at #2 in both major national polls, with two #1 votes in the AP and a single #1 vote in the Coaches poll.

Arizona Got Balanced Scoring And Great Defense In A Big Win Over Duke (USATSI)

Arizona Got Balanced Scoring And Great Defense In A Big Win Over Duke (USATSI)

Arizona State – While their in-state rival had a great tournament, the Sun Devils’ weekend at the Wooden Legacy was disastrous. Getting blown out in the opening game against Creighton is one thing; certainly not ideal, but at least against a good team. The problem was that put Arizona State in the consolation bracket with a bunch of teams that would provide little benefit if beaten, but a major strike if defeated by. After knocking off College of Charleston on Friday night and looking solid in the first half against Miami on Sunday, it looked like the Sun Devils would get out of Orange County with just disappointment rather than disaster. But then Jahii Carson turned it over three times and went 0-for-9 in the second half, including a couple of missed layups in the final minute, and Arizona State fell to Miami. Now, with no remaining non-conference games that will do anything to improve their resume, the Sun Devils will head into Pac-12 play with a win over Marquette last week as the lone victory against a team in KenPom’s top 100.

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Big 12 Team Preview #9: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 31st, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Monday, Danny Spewak (@dspewak) took care of previewing the TCU Horned Frogs. Today, Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso) previews the cellar-dwellers from a year ago: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were not a unanimous choice among the Big 12 microsite writers to finish ninth in the conference but we’re guessing we still won’t find much argument with this selection either. 

The Skinny: 

  • 2011-12 Record: 8-23 record, 1-17 in the Big 12
  • Key Contributors Lost: G Javarez Willis, F Robert Lewandowski
  • Head Coach: Chris Walker, 1st season
  • Projected Finish: 9th

Walker now makes three different coaches in three seasons. (Associated Press/Zach Long)

Interim head coach Chris Walker undoubtedly has a tough act to follow but at the same time he doesn’t. Former head coach Billy Gillispie had as tumultuous of a season that a coach can have. He broke NCAA practice rules more than once, was reprimanded by his athletic director for those trangressions, and his team stunk it up on the basketball court. Since the bar isn’t set very high at this point, I’m sure Walker can win more than eight games and look somewhat competitive in Big 12 play. This is Walker’s first opportunity at a head coaching job but like many first-timers, he too was a well-traveled assistant coach. He started off at Loyola Marymount in 1992 (this was the post-Paul Westhead/Kimble/Gathers era), left for Vanderbilt in 1996, went to Pepperdine in 1999, back to his alma mater Villanova in 2000, then headed to UMass in 2001, before going to New Mexico in 2007, and then back to Villanova in 2009 before arriving last season in Lubbock. For a man thrust into as awkward a situation as any, Walker is saying all the right things and then some. On “wearing” the interim tag:

“It’s all about attitude. I was remarking to somebody the other day there are a lot of interim coaches out there, they just don’t know it. I look at this situation, and people look at it as if I’ve been diagnosed with cancer. It took me six months to live. I’ve really flipped it and said it’s six months to give. I’m head coach for the first time in the Big 12. I’m going to give everything I have to the University, to the players and the community of Lubbock.”

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Big 12 Summer Update: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by dnspewak on August 6th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — Texas Tech. 

2011-12 record: 8-23, 1-17

Billy Gillispie knew he had a major reclamation project on his hands at Texas Tech when he took over prior to the 2011-12 season. The program, which has always traditionally lagged behind the rest of the Big 12 in attendance and overall support, had slowly faded from a perennial NCAA Tournament team under Bob Knight to a cellar-dwellar under Pat Knight in just a few seasons. So when Gillispie landed in Lubbock after Knight’s firing and brought in a boatload of junior college transfers and freshmen, it was no surprise his team finished with eight victories and showed almost no signs of life in his first season. Apparently, that did not sit well with half the team, since six players decided to transfer during the offseason. Gillispie had originally oversigned with his 2012 recruiting class, so it’s not certain what exactly transpired this spring, but it wasn’t strong publicity for Gillispie. Before you accuse him of losing control of his program, though, look at the actual defections that occurred. He’s not losing his entire team by any means. Only one starter (Javarez Willis) transferred. That’s not good, obviously. But the others? As harsh as it sounds, they’re replaceable. And the fact is, Gillispie’s best player and leading scorer returns for his sophomore year in Jordan Tolbert, and he inked eight — yes, eight — newcomers, a class with decent potential on paper. There are still roster questions and other potential defections to worry about this summer, so much that the team hasn’t even officially published its roster online yet. But minus Billy G’s tumultuous tenure at Kentucky, the rest of his track record affords him the benefit of the doubt at Texas Tech. It might not be all that pretty in 2012-13, but the rebuilding process has entered its critical first steps here. Now, we just need to figure out who’ll actually play on the team next year.

Billy Gillispie’s Program Can’t Go Anywhere But Up

Summer Orientation:  As much potential as this Class of 2012 may have, it already lost one member when juco forward Rodrigo Silva left the team this summer to pursue a pro career in Brazil. It’s important to note that the move isn’t yet official, but the word around Texas Tech circles is Silva’s father is ill, and his family has serious financial needs. Understandable. On the court, it’s difficult to lose a 6’10” forward with the largest frame of any recruit in the class, and he’s not the only one who might not make it back to Texas Tech. Fellow forward Wannah Bail, one of the most highly-touted freshman in this bunch, had problems in the classroom this summer and had to temporarily go home. Gillispie said he expects to see him on campus for the fall semester, but this situation poses a serious problem for everybody involved. Bail, a 6’8” tweener and a top-150 prospect, needs to add considerable strength but has the athleticism and defensive potential to log a lot of minutes in his first season– if he plays. That’s why this is such an important development for Gillispie right now. He played high school ball with Michael Carey, who also committed to Tech in February but may not qualify. To be quite frank with you, we’ve attempted to look into Carey’s status for the 2012-13 season, but it appears completely unknown at this point. We know he signed, and we know there’s questions about his eligibility, but that’s all we know. Again, that’s a trend this summer. Who in the heck will really play for this team this season? Here’s another example: Blake Nash, who did officially transfer to Texas Tech but may or may not play in 2012-13. The former South Florida guard wants a hardship waiver after logging decent minutes as a backup during USF’s NCAA Tournament run in March. If he’s eligible, he’ll likely find his way into the rotation in some capacity for Gillispie in his first season and will help stiffen that point guard battle in off-season and fall practice even more.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 02.14.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on February 14th, 2012

  1. You are probably sick of these “will-they-won’t-they” articles about the Border War, but here’s another look at the state of the Missouri-Kansas rivalry. In particular, check out the comments from former Missouri coach Norm Stewart at the bottom of the article. “I really understand why Kansas would not want to play Missouri if we’re not in the conference. I really would understand that,” Stewart told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week. “I hope Missouri people do, too, because if you don’t, then you’re never going to play.” No matter what Stewart or anyone else says, though, we know this: Missouri and Kansas won’t play each other any time soon. So let’s savor the February 25 match-up coming up in less than two weeks.
  2. Speaking of conference realignment, not everybody agrees that Missouri and Texas A&M‘s moves to the SEC will benefit the respective schools. The article says Missouri will “miss” Big 12 basketball, solely because the league’s tournament is held in Kansas City. In the end, both programs will be just fine in every sport. There’s a reason the SEC accepted them– they can both play at that level. To think otherwise sounds a bit like sour grapes.
  3. Sticking with our theme of repeating ourselves each morning, here’s yet another look at the state of Texas‘ NCAA Tournament hopes. The Longhorns are now a 12-seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology, thanks in large part to that win over Kansas State this weekend and a solid RPI. Rick Barnes‘ team hasn’t suffered any bad losses, and that’s why it’s right in the hunt for that elusive at-large bid.
  4. Oklahoma isn’t anywhere near an at-large bid, mostly because it cannot close games or figure out a way to upend top competition in the final minutes. Any post-season chances may be dwindling right now, but this article outlines the ways Lon Kruger’s guys can end the season with modest improvement. With the majority of the roster presumably returning in 2012-13, don’t underestimate the importance of these final six games for Oklahoma. It could be a real momentum-builder for a somewhat young team heading into next season.
  5. Texas Tech hasn’t gotten much good news this season, but got a big boost yesterday as Wannah Bail and Michael Carey, teammates from a school in Houston, Tx., committed to Billy Gillispie. Bail is a big-time get for Gillispie, as he’s rated in the top-100 by Rivals and was nominated for McDonald’s All-Americans honors. Carey isn’t shabby either, and both were courted by major schools like Oregon. According to the article, Marquette and Florida State were also in the running for Bail.
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Who’s Got Next? Jarnell Stokes Thinking College, Andrew White To Kansas & More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on December 8th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Jarnell Stokes Going To College In January ‘Definitely An Option’

Jarnell Stokes Has A Lot On His Mind. (Nation of Blue)

Stokes Exploring His Options. Class of 2012 power forward Jarnell Stokes saw his chances of playing high school basketball for Southwind High School (TN) disappear last week, and this week he’s strongly considering graduating high school early and enrolling in college in January. Remember, Stokes has yet to commit and has a top six of Kentucky, Memphis, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida and Connecticut so he’d have to commit very soon. The 6’8″, 250-pounder says he’s been preparing to attend college next semester and that he has other options available to him that he doesn’t want to reveal just yet. Four of the schools Stokes is considering — Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida and Tennessee — have athletic scholarships available for Stokes if he were to enroll in January and he could also qualify for an academic scholarship at Memphis, leaving Kentucky as the only school that he’d have to pay for. Stokes says he has no timetable right now and doesn’t know when he’s going to commit, but he’s going to have to make a decision in the next few weeks regardless of what he wants to do.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Andrew White on committing to Kansas: “I think it was a huge opportunity there to play. I have a great relationship with the staff. They’ve been good to me.”

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