Pac-12 Bests and Worsts of the Week: Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 4th, 2016

As the rest of us file back for what promises to be a dreary work week, conference play in college basketball is well under way. In the opening weekend, Arizona re-established itself as the team to beat while California reclaimed some of its considerable preseason hype. Washington, a team no one picked to do anything this season, is unbeaten after two games. While Utah, a team several analysts picked to win the conference, is still searching for its first conference victory. The opening weekend of action didn’t reveal anything particularly enlightening about any one team, but it signaled to Pac-12 fans that they are in for a wild couple of months.

Worst Way to Finish Off a Game: There is no way that Utah should have lost to Stanford on Friday night, and especially not at the free throw line. But the conference’s best foul shooting team entering the game made just 11-of-24 freebies, including four key misses down the stretch in regulation and two more in overtime to gift wrap a comeback win for the Cardinal. This loss was an especially tough pill to swallow because the Utes subsequently lost to California on Sunday (despite shooting better than 80 percent from the line, incidentally). A loss in Berkeley is understandable on an at-large resume, but Stanford is expected to finish at the bottom of the conference. Utah is now forced to dig itself out of a self-made 0-2 hole — certainly not the way the team wanted to start the 2016.

Jakob Poetl and the Utes Are Not Off To The Start They Envisioned. (AP)

Jakob Poeltl and the Utes Did Not Start Pac-12 Play The Way  They Envisioned. (AP)

Worst Job of Keeping It Together: At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley looked a little foolish in his ejection from the tail end of the Sun Devils’ weekend loss to Arizona. Hurley’s passion and fire make an impact on his team and are a big reason why Arizona State is overachieving this season, but his team still had a chance to win until his antics erased that with two quick technical fouls. He shouldn’t have to apologize for his fiery personality, as it is a big part of his success as a coach, but it rings somewhat hollow when he simultaneously claims that he “always wants the spotlight on the guys in the game.” Some may argue that there is a fine line between toning it down and losing their edge, but that notion too rings hollow. Hurley should be able to keep the chip on his shoulder without making a spectacle that overshadows his team’s resilience.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Dear Santa: Here’s Our Pac-12 Holiday Wish List

Posted by Mike Lemaire (@Mike_Lemaire) & Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on December 18th, 2015

Here at the Pac-12 microsite we are hardly immune to the allure of a cheesy holiday-themed post, and so in the spirit of the season, we created a wish list for each team in the conference. Although none of the teams are even close to a finished product and it may be too early in the season to thoughtfully examine strengths and weaknesses, everyone has played enough games that we can start to draw worthwhile conclusions from what we’ve seen. As with any holiday wish list, there are some wants and needs that are easier to satisfy than others but hey, you have to dream big when gifts are involved.

Arizona: Another Shooter

Arizona Could Stand To See Mark Tollefsen Dial In His Perimeter Shot (USA Today Sports)

Arizona Could Stand To See Mark Tollefsen Dial In His Perimeter Shot. (USA Today Sports)

Even without post anchor Kaleb Tarczewski, the Wildcats have been and will continue to be the conference’s best defensive team. But the offense has been a work in progress primarily because the outside shooting has been ugly. The team is shooting just 31 percent from downtown, down from 38 percent last season and Gabe York is pretty much the only one making shots behind the three-point line with any regularity. York has been much better of late and is one of the most dangerous shooters in the country when he gets hot, but he is pretty much the only one on the roster who can shoot. The big reason why the Wildcats rank near the bottom of the country in 3PA/FGA is because Sean Miller knows his team can’t really shoot it from there. The best hope is that Mark Tollefson rebounds from a slow start and becomes the 36 percent three-pointer shooter he was coming into the season.

Arizona State: a Personal Offensive Coach for Savon Goodman

Goodman is almost as bad at shooting and passing as he is good at everything else he does on the court. He is a vicious dunker, a suffocating defender, one of the better rebounding wing players in the entire country and a good finisher at the rim. But, like many freak athletes on the basketball court, as he moves farther away from the basket, his effectiveness disappears. Goodman has missed all seven of the three-pointers he has attempted in his collegiate career and he is a career 57 percent free throw shooter. Also, his assist rate is below 5.0, which means once he gets the ball, he isn’t looking to get rid of it again. Goodman’s offensive issues are a good microcosm for Arizona State’s offensive issues. The team is athletic and defends hard, but they don’t have any truly skilled offensive players. Goodman will likely never become a consistent three-point threat but imagine how good he and the Sun Devils could be if he develops some feel for his shot.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Notebook: A Stroll Around the League

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on December 16th, 2015

Every week I check in with the Mountain West by writing a little blurb about each team. I like that format because it provides a chance to follow the development of all the league’s teams and focus in on little things that may not be worthy of a longer post. Some teams may get a few hundred words one week while other teams just get a sentence or two, but it highlights the important things. We’re going to bring that format to the Pac 12, beginning right now. We might as well throw in some power rankings while we’re at it, so let’s check in with the league in order of how these teams rate at this point. Let’s get to it.

Jordan Bell Is Back For The Ducks, But They're Still A Long Way From Healthy (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Jordan Bell Is Back For The Ducks, But They’re Still A Long Way From Healthy. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

  • Oregon – Yes, the Ducks are coming off two losses in their last four games. But I’ve had Dana Altman’s team as the best team in the conference since the middle of the summer and, even playing shorthanded, they’ve done nothing to dissuade me of that so far. Sophomore center Jordan Bell made his season debut Saturday night at Boise State and he looked healthy following surgery over the offseason to repair a broken foot. He ran the court hard, and played big in chasing rebounds and blocked shots. He didn’t appear to be favoring that foot at all. In 17 minutes, he blocked a couple shots, grabbed seven boards and even handed out four assists. Last night against UC Irvine, he was even better with 12 points and three steals. Encouraging debut aside, it is going to take him some time to get back into game shape and to get comfortable with his new teammates. He still also hasn’t played a minute with Tyler Dorsey (out following a knee sprain against UNLV) or Dylan Ennis (still sidelined with a foot injury). This Oregon team remains one that may not reach full strength until mid-February, something that isn’t a problem in a sport that so values March.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

E! True Pac-12 Story: Washington And Its Fouling Problem

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 4th, 2015

When it happened in a season-opening win against Texas, it was okay because it came in an exciting early victory. When it happened again a week later in a blowout win over Penn, it didn’t seem like a big deal because, well, it’s the Ivy League. But then it happened in a loss to Gonzaga, and it started to seem like it actually mattered. When, the very next day, it happened again in a loss in the rematch with the Longhorns, there was no denying the problem. And now, as the team enters the soft part of its non-conference schedule, it’s time to stage the intervention. The first step is admitting the issue, so let’s come out and say it plainly – Washington has a fouling problem.

Washington's Foul Trouble Is Not Fun For Lorenzo Romar. (The Seattle Times)

Washington’s Foul Trouble Is Not Fun For Lorenzo Romar. (The Seattle Times)

Let’s start with the basics. As a team, the Huskies have committed 167 personal fouls through six games. Focusing specifically on the rotation (anyone playing at least 10 minutes per game), nine players are responsible for 163 of those personal fouls and when we do the math (18 fouls per rotation player and six games played), every member of the Washington rotation is essentially committing three fouls per game. As a result of all this hacking, the Huskies have allowed opponents to shoot an unacceptable amount of free throws. At this point in the season, the national average for free-throw rate (FTA/FGA) is 37.1 percent. The free throw rate for Huskies’ opponents this season has been 50.3 percent, which is 312th in the country. Only three teams in Power 5 conferences (TCU, Missouri and West Virginia) have been more generous when it comes to letting opponents camp out at the charity stripe. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Bests and Worsts of the Week

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 30th, 2015

With most of the in-season tournaments now over, there are some definite early Pac-12 observations that can be made. Here are a few:

  • Best Way to Give Yourself a Headache: Commit to being a Washington fan for the whole season. The Huskies may very well become a force to be reckoned with by the time the season is over, but the current iteration of the team is a bit of a mess. The Huskies have six freshmen and newcomer Malik Dime in their rotation, and all the youth shows. They foul seemingly every other time down the court; they turn the ball over regularly; but perhaps most maddeningly, they take plenty of shots that would make any discerning basketball fan roll his eyes. But they also have given themselves chances to win because they are athletic, relentless on the glass and consistently harass opposing shooters. The future may be bright for this program, but the present can be painful to watch.
So far Wayne Tinkle is doing everything right on and off the court in Corvallis. (Getty)

So far Wayne Tinkle is doing everything right on and off the court in Corvallis. (Getty)

  • Best Example of Holiday Spirit: Attendance remains an issue across the Pac-12, but perhaps not for much longer if Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle has anything to do with it. Tinkle handed out four free tickets for the Beavers’ game against Valparaiso last Tuesday because a fan on Twitter told the coach he would be cheering from home because money was tight. The fan, an Oregon native, subsequently brought his father, uncle and aunt with him to the game. Sadly for him and other Oregon State fans, though, the Beavers would end up falling short against an excellent Valparaiso team. The arena still wasn’t full, and drumming up much fan support for a program that has seen little recent success will be harder than Tinkle’s random acts of Twitter kindness. But give the second-year coach some credit. He didn’t have to do anything and the fan would have still supported the Beavers. Instead, he took the time to make someone’s day, and in the process likely winning his program a fan for life.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Week One Honors

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 23rd, 2015

Week one in college basketball is in the books. And yes, we’re counting week one as going back to opening day a couple Fridays back. Sure, that makes 10 days, but this is a sport that claims a Feast Week that runs for 10 days or more, a Championship Week which is actually a fortnight, and a March Madness that stretches into April. All of those semantics now out of the way, our normal Monday Pac-12 Honors post will wrap up the previous week, unveil our weekly power rankings, and anoint a Team, Player, Freshman and Newcomer of the Week. Let’s jump right in.

Team of the Week: Washington

Andrew Andrews And The Huskies Have Been Electric Early (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

Andrew Andrews And The Huskies Have Been Electric Early (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

The Huskies are not the best team in the conference, or at least they probably aren’t. But for a team that wiped the slate clean after last season and brought in eight brand new players, they sure are fun to watch. After going to China and coming away with a win against a veteran Texas team on opening night, the Huskies have poured it on, backing up a 33-point win over Mount St. Mary’s with a 37-point win over Penn. They’ve played three straight games of 80 or more possessions, have the third-highest tempo in the nation, and get in and out of a possession in just over 12 seconds, the quickest such team in college basketball. Loaded down with aggressive free-wheeling freshmen, these Huskies have been a pleasant surprise and everything we want a Lorenzo Romar team to be.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Bests and Worsts: Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 16th, 2015

The season is back and it is time for what will be a recurring Monday feature here — Bests and Worsts. We usually prefer to spend our weekends watching basketball and save the analysis for the following week so we figured this is the best way to recap some of the good and bad of each weekend. For starters, two teams (UCLA and Stanford) played two games this weekend and everyone else played a single one. One team (Washington) won a potential resume-builder while two other teams (Arizona State and UCLA) lost games that they hope everyone will forget by early February. Let’s take a look at what went down.

Jakob Poeltl Does What You Want A Big Man To Do (Utah Basketball)

Jakob Poeltl Picked Up Where He Left Off In A Season-Opening Win. (Utah Basketball)

  • Best Early Case For Player of the Year Honors: There is little doubt at this point that Jakob Poeltl is going to be a lottery pick as soon as the end of this season, but for now, let’s make sure to celebrate his outstanding versatility before he is gone. The sophomore filled up the box score with 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting, 11 rebounds and four blocks as the Utes’ frontcourt overwhelmed intrastate foe Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds will probably be one of the least physically imposing teams Poeltl goes up against this season, but if his teammates can continue to shoot well from behind the three-point arc, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a Poeltl 20/10 become a regular occurrence in Salt Lake City.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Gametime: What We Want to See in Texas vs. Washington

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 13th, 2015

We’re just so excited that games are tipping off today that we had to spend some time thinking about what we’re about to see. As a result, the Pac-12 and Big 12 microsites got together to review this evening’s Texas vs. Washington matchup, the first regular season game in any big-time American sports league to be played in China. Shanghai is hosting the event as part of Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott’s initiative to open up Asia. Aside from the intrigue surrounding the location of the game, it will also feature the debut of Shaka Smart as Texas’s new head coach. On the other bench, almost everything except the head coach, Lorenzo Romar, is new for the Huskies. Ken Pomeroy’s ratings suggests that Texas is a nine-point favorite. Below Brian Goodman and Andrew Murawa discuss what they want to see out of each team tonight.

What We Want to See From Texas

Shaka Smart is all smiles as Texas tips off from China. (UT Athletics)

Shaka Smart is all smiles as Texas tips off from China. (UT Athletics)

True Havoc is still a little ways away, but there should still be some change in store for Texas as they tip off their season in China under new head coach Shaka Smart. At a minimum, the Longhorns’ 300th-ranked tempo from last season should tick up. Just don’t expect Texas’ defense to have the same look of Smart’s classic VCU teams. While the Rams drew heaps of praise for the way the guards pressured the backcourt, Texas’ backcourt defense was apathetic at best a year ago, with defensive turnover and steal percentages among the worst in the game. Instead, the Longhorns relied on their bigs to make life miserable for opponents inside, blocking more of their opponent’s shot than every team in the country. Quite the dynamic. While Isaiah Taylor, Javan Felix and Demarcus Holland should improve under Smart, it’s a good bet that his interior will remain the team’s bread and butter on the defensive end of the court. Ridley rightfully gets praise for his shot-blocking prowess, but Prince Ibeh is a highly effective post defender as well, and should earn a bigger role this season. Whether Ibeh shares the floor with Ridley or slides over when he needs a breather, expect Texas’ frontcourt to be very good once again, especially with Shaquille Cleare available after sitting out his transfer year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 2015 Tip-Off Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2015

morning5

  1. With the start of the college basketball season upon us, we figured it would be a good time to bring back the Morning Five. We apologize for the infrequent nature of these posts the past few months, but we had to deal with a variety of things the past few months (all good). Now that the season is starting we are planning on doing these posts at least a few times a week. If you have not been on the site in a while we encourage you to check out the great work that our microsites have been doing. And if you are in the mood to try something different this season (and potentially win tickets to one of the NCAA Regionals this year), we encourage you to enter into our Survivor Pool. Unlike some other sites, we are not being investigated by any Attorney Generals, you don’t have to pay any money to enter, and we don’t use insider information to try to win our own event.
  2. We often talk about college sports being essentially separate entities from the educational institutions that they represent, but there are many instances in which they are intertwined. One excellent example of this is the WashingtonTexas game that is being played in Shanghai. Many will view this as a way for the basketball teams to grow their brand and possibly even that of the conferences, but the schools also view it as an opportunity to promote their schools as educational options for people overseas. Financially it makes sense for schools to go after individuals who might pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition money instead of hoping to sell a bunch of $20 t-shirts.
  3. Although the season is officially starting tonight there are a handful of notable players who are still in NCAA eligibility limbo. The most significant of these is Cheick Diallo, the highly touted Kansas freshman. We won’t claim to have any inside information/knowledge about the case, but Sam Mellinger’s column on the situation and his proposed solution is a worthwhile read while we wait for the NCAA to hand down a decision. As Mellinger notes the blame here shouldn’t fall as much on the NCAA as it should on the member institutions that allowed it to have this type of unregulated power.
  4. Diallo appears content to wait for the NCAA to make a decision, but two other players (I guess they are technically just students now) have received negative rulings from the NCAA and in a somewhat unique move appear to be ready to call the NCAA on it by threatening lawsuits. Parties representing Central Florida freshman center Tacko Fall and St. John’s freshman Marcus LoVett have both reportedly looked into filing lawsuits against the NCAA. This might sound interesting on paper, but we doubt it will end up doing either athlete much good in the near-future because of the glacial pace that the NCAA and the court systems that deal with its cases move at for these type of things.
  5. Finally, we have been off long enough that we never addressed the Louisville prostitution scandal and it looked like we might be able to avoid the topic since the administration at Louisville obviously doesn’t care about how poorly the situation reflects on the school, but we probably could have figured that out with the way they have handled numerous other things. Now it appears that the school may end up having to deal with the NCAA as Katina Powell, the individual who allegedly supplied the program with the prostitutes, will meet with the NCAA next week in reaction to the high likelihood that she will face criminal charges. Given the way the NCAA usually deals with these things we doubt that they will do anything to the program, but it will be interesting to see if Rick Pitino ever decides that it would be best to move on rather than have to deal with this scandal for the foreseeable future.
Share this story

Washington Preview: Meet the New Pups

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 3rd, 2015

In the next three weeks leading up to season tipoff, the Pac-12 microsite will be evaluating each of the league’s 12 teams. Today, we head to Seattle.

Washington Huskies

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a little too intimidated to start a preview on the Huskies until now. With eight newcomers and just three returnees on the roster, just about everything is going to be new in Seattle this season. Back in 2011-12, Washington won 14 league games en route to the Pac-12 regular season title yet still missed the NCAA Tournament. From there it has been all downhill: back-to-back 9-9 seasons were followed by last year’s 5-13 disaster. In other words, wiping the slate mostly clean and starting over may actually be the best thing head coach Lorenzo Romar can do to save his program.

Blowing It All Up And Starting Over May Have Been Lorenzo Romar's Best Bet (Elaine Thompson, AP)

Blowing It All Up And Starting Over May Have Been Lorenzo Romar’s Best Bet (Elaine Thompson, AP)

Strengths/Weaknesses. Previews typically break into two categories for strengths and weaknesses: one detailing what a program can lean on; one detailing what they need to shore up. In this case, the biggest thing going for Washington may also be its biggest weakness: this complete reboot. Last year’s team was plagued by poor chemistry, infighting and, perhaps worst of all, mediocre talent. In comes that group of eight newcomers to join two sophomores and a senior. If everything goes right, it can be an empowering experience for this new collection of players because there is a lot of talent here. They don’t enter a program where roles have been predetermined and a culture already established. This new group can create the foundation for a new era of Huskies’ hoops. It’s a gamble for sure, but success means setting the table for Romar’s second act in Seattle. If it fails? The show will be closing and Romar’s next role will be in a new theater. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

A Twelve-Pack of Important Pac-12 Newcomers

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 2nd, 2015

At this time of year, it is easiest to get excited about the unknown. We have some idea what to expect from players like Jakob Poeltl and Josh Scott and Bryce Alford and Elgin Cook, but the new guys in their new environments? The sky’s the limit. Below we’ll count down our picks for the 12 guys in a conference of 12 teams who have us most intrigued heading into the season.

12. Bennie Boatwright, Freshman, USC – The Trojans’ offense was abysmal last season. There are plenty of things that need to happen for that to change, but Boatwright’s ability to fill it up from deep could provide an immediate boost. He averaged 27.8 PPG as a high school senior, knocking in eight threes in a single game two separate times.

Bennie Boatwright Getting Ready To Bomb From Deep - Get Used To That Sight (Photo by Kelly Kline/adidas)

Bennie Boatwright Getting Ready To Bomb From Deep – Get Used To That Sight (Kelly Kline/adidas)

11. Lorenzo Bonam, Junior, Utah – Just one of many candidates on the Utah roster to help ease the post-Delon Wright transition, Bonam averaged 16.5 points, 6.8 boards and 3.4 assists per game last season at Gillette College in Wyoming. In his Huntsman Center unveiling last month, he had 16 points in about 32 minutes of action.

10. Dejounte Murray, Washington – On a team loaded with new faces, Murray is the most highly regarded of them. He was the 2015 Washington boy’s high school basketball Player of the Year after averaging 25.0 points and 12.4 boards per game, while notching 24 double-doubles and 14 triple-doubles on the season. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Five Things That Scare Us About the Pac-12

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 30th, 2015

Nothing says Halloween like a hastily constructed list replete with a truly cringe-worthy title…or something. The kickoff to the college basketball season is rapidly approaching and one can never have enough preseason analysis. So without further ado and in honor of everyone’s favorite pseudo-holiday, here are the five scariest things happening in the PAC 12 as we head into the season.

With Lorenzo Romar starting from square one, things could get scary. (USA TODAY Sports)

With Lorenzo Romar starting from square one, things could get scary. (USA TODAY Sports)

Lorenzo Romar’s Job Security

The head coach of the Huskies since 2002, Romar is far and away the longest-tenured coach in the Pac-12 and with pretty good reason. The Huskies won 20 games just once under predecessor Bob Bender. Since Romar took over, the Huskies have won 20 games six times and Romar has been the conference Coach of the Year three times. Unfortunately for Romar, the good times have mostly rolled to a halt in Seattle. The Huskies have barely broken .500 in each of the last three seasons and the team’s best player, Nigel Williams-Goss, transferred in the off-season due to concerns about the direction of the program. To his credit, Romar continues to be an excellent recruiter and has brought in another new crop of talent ready to contribute immediately. Still, even with help from the newcomers, the Huskies figure to finish in the bottom third of the conference standings. If (when?) that happens, Romar’s goodwill may have finally run out.

Watching USC Try To Score

In fairness to the Trojans, almost everyone expects the team’s offense to make a major jump this season. But the flip side of that coin is that making the jump offensively shouldn’t be difficult because of how staggeringly bad the team was on that end last season. In the Pac 12, only Oregon State was less efficient offensively than the Trojans last season. USC also managed to rank near the bottom of the country in every meaningful shooting category (63.4 percent from the free-throw line!). The futility was understandable considering the team was almost exclusively underclassmen, but with a mostly unchanged roster returning, points are likely to still be at a premium. If Jordan McLaughlin is healthy, his shooting should improve, but his shot selection needs a lot of work too. The same can be said for Katin Reinhardt, the team’s most gifted offensive player but also its most trigger-happy. Coach Andy Enfield likes his teams to play with tempo. Last season that led to a lot of running and bricking. Everyone who plans to watch the Trojans this season has their fingers crossed that things will be different this time around.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story