Pac-12 M5: 12.09.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 9th, 2013

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  1. By the time you read this, odds are good that the new AP poll will have been released with Arizona topping the list for the first time in more than a decade. After Michigan State fell at home to North Carolina earlier in the week, all the Wildcats had to do to solidify their position was to take care of business at home against a UNLV team that has yet to congeal. However, as the game on Saturday entered its 40th minute, the outcome was still very much in doubt. But a spectacular Aaron Gordon block was followed up by a driving layup from Brandon Ashley, and the Wildcats escaped. With newly top-rated teams having a habit of dropping games quickly, watch out for Arizona’s tough road trip to Michigan next Saturday morning.
  2. Oregon was one of several Pac-12 teams with tough road games scheduled for this weekend. But, while UCLA and California came up on the short end of the stick in their first true away games of the season, the Ducks took to the road with aplomb, getting a steady performance from Jonathan Loyd and plenty of production from talented transfers Mike Moser, Joseph Young, Jason Calliste and Elgin Cook to withstand the Marshall Henderson show at Mississippi. With the Bruins’ defeat at the hands of Missouri, Oregon and Arizona now stand alone as the two remaining undefeated teams in the conference.
  3. Colorado, meanwhile, got to spend its weekend at home in frigid Boulder, but their test was no less stringent. The Buffaloes welcomed in a talented Kansas team and came away with their first win over the Jayhawks in more than a decade. That 0-for-19 streak is now in the past, as the Buffaloes rode a surprise contribution from little-used senior center Ben Mills, versatile and efficient play from sophomore center Josh Scott, an inspired performance from sophomore forward Xavier Johnson – including a ferocious early dunk – and, of course, a deep buzzer-beating runner from Askia Booker to inspire a good old-fashioned rushing of the court. Not everybody found the court rushing so fun, as Paul Klee of the Colorado Springs Gazette recounts photographers getting trampled, some near-misses and even Booker himself sustaining a shoulder injury in the celebration.
  4. USC scored a solid win for itself on Sunday night, thumping Boston College behind an impressive second half. While the Trojans got balanced scoring with five different players reaching double figures, junior guard Byron Wesley continues to stand out as the team’s leader. Head coach Andy Enfield regularly praises his veteran wing for his fundamental soundness, while teammate Omar Oraby says that just watching Wesley’s work ethic helps his teammates get better.
  5. Lastly, Utah bounced back from its first loss of the season by scoring 50 second-half points to get past Fresno State. Sophomore Jordan Loveridge broke out of something of a slump by scoring all 13 of his points in the second half, while junior point guard Delon Wright continues to fill up stat sheets, setting a new career high with 12 assists and tying his career high with 23 points for his third double-double of the year. Wright came up four rebounds shy of a triple-double, but with his complete game, expect him to register at least one of those by the time the season is done. Oh, and while we’re on the topic, Wright has made 52 of his 70 shots from the field this season. Combined with his solid free throw shooting, that put’s Wright’s true shooting percentage at 76.6 percent, good for fifth in the nation to this point.
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Previewing Saturday’s Kansas/Colorado Battle

Posted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 6th, 2013

There are a lot of interesting non-conference battles around the country this weekend in advance of finals coming up in the next few weeks. Big 12 correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of one of them: Kansas at Colorado, Saturday 1:15 PM MST on ESPN2.

Kansas will win if… it gets its offense back in order. After beating Wake Forest last week, the Jayhawks turned in underwhelming performances against Villanova and UTEP, shooting less than 40 percent from the field in both games. The reasons behind Kansas’ struggles have gravitated from the odd setting of the Battle 4 Atlantis, to KU’s inexperience, to the fact that Andrew Wiggins played through illness. Bill Self weighed in earlier this week and felt as though last month’s win over Duke “spoiled them a little,” perhaps leading to a more passive attitude than what we’re used to seeing out of Self’s teams. Regardless of what you want to point to as the biggest factor, the Jayhawks need to get their scorers out of their recent funks, and the best way for them to do that is to go inside and test Josh Scott and Wesley Gordon early. If Perry Ellis, Wiggins and Joel Embiid establish inside dominance in the first half, it will go a long way toward opening cleaner looks behind the three-point line, an area where the Jayhawks are much better than what they showed in three games in the Bahamas.

Andrew Wiggins And Company Will Look To Bounce Back From Last Weekend's Disappointment With A Road Win At Colorado

Andrew Wiggins And Company Will Look To Bounce Back From Last Weekend’s Disappointment With A Road Win At Colorado

Kansas will lose if… its backcourt struggles. We haven’t hit winter break yet, but Bill Self is already shaking up his lineup, opting to start freshman Frank Mason over junior Naadir Tharpe, per KUSports.com. Normally, going with potential over experience would be more of a shock, but on this team, in this season, what’s one more freshman being elevated into a more prominent role? Mason has opened eyes in the early going with his fearlessness despite standing just 5’11”, and while he isn’t a pass-first point guard (at least not yet), he can find the open man when defenses collapse on him. The point guard spot hasn’t been a gaping liability for the Jayhawks, but history suggests that Kansas’ best teams have featured floor generals with more of a bulldog mentality in the mold of Sherron Collins or Tyshawn Taylor, and that’s what Mason can provide. Will he embrace that role from the get-go, or will the minutes still shake out to more of a committee setup? While the Jayhawks have talented creators up and down their roster, they’ll be reliant on passers to deliver the ball in high-percentage spots until those playmakers gain the confidence and aggression necessary for Kansas to reach its potential. That’s where Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie can cause problems against a less-experienced guard like Mason. Mix in the altitude and the knowledge that a young Kansas team will be playing its first true road game of the season and we could have a surprise on our hands.

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Is It Time for Colorado Fans to Panic?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 12th, 2013

Prior to the start of the season, Colorado was considered one of maybe three teams in the Pac-12 that was expected to be in the chase to pressure Arizona for a Pac-12 title. Now here we are, four days and two games into the season and the Buffaloes so far have looked, well, not good. Against Baylor on Friday night, they combined to miss 19 of their 21 three-point attempts, they showed no ability to slow a very good Baylor offense, and they crashed back to earth in an ugly 12-point defeat. Sunday night, against a bad UT-Martin team, the Buffs wound up eventually running out to a 26-point win, but along the way, didn’t look a whole lot better. So, after a small two-game sample, should Colorado basketball fans start to panic?

Well, we’re not going to go that far, but, we have spotted three areas for concern in those first three games:

Spencer Dinwiddie And The Buffaloes Have Started Out Slowly (AP Photo)

Spencer Dinwiddie and the Buffaloes Have Started Out Slowly. (AP)

Where’s the Defense? Colorado isn’t missing many players from last season, but in terms of impact, losing Andre Roberson a year early to the NBA is huge. On the very, very short list of best defenders in the conference last season, he was not only capable of locking up his own man defensively, but of offering help defense to his teammates and grabbing what seemed like every rebound. Against Baylor, the Buffs did a fair job of rebounding, but there were plenty of times where they wound up way out of place on defense and allowed good looks, both in the paint and behind the arc. These issues continued against a far less potent UT-Martin team, especially in the first half. For now, let’s just agree to call this year’s defense a work in progress, at least during the period of adjustment, because there are plenty of reasons why Colorado has a chance to become a terrific defensive team. One thing this team does not lack is athletic depth. And, as they’ve already shown, outside of maybe the center spot, this is a team that can switch on everything. Wesley Gordon has already shown his ability to defend effectively on the perimeter, while Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker are a proven defensive backcourt. And those youngsters — guys like Tre’Shaun Fletcher and George King and Jaron Hopkins? These guys need to dial up their consistency of effort, but there is a lot of defensive upside here. The Buffs will be fine defensively.

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Breaking Down Colorado vs. Baylor

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2013

It’s New Year’s Day for college hoops fans. To help celebrate, Big Twelve correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of an interesting opening night game: Colorado vs. Baylor in Dallas.

Baylor will win if… It feeds its stars and contains Colorado’s secondary options. The Bears’ offense under Scott Drew has always been among the nation’s best, and this season should be no different. There may not be a big man in the country that can stretch a defense like Isaiah Austin can, and Cory Jefferson‘s 41-of-56 shooting mark during the NIT should put Colorado on notice. Throw in Brady Heslip‘s three-point prowess and the Buffs will have their hands full. Defensively, it’s hard to say whether Baylor’s guards can contain Spencer Dinwiddie. Heslip has never been known for his defense, Kenny Chery is the Bears’ newest undersized point guard who will be playing his first Division I game, as will heralded freshman tweener Ish Wainright. I’m not sure either of the three can be counted on to keep Tad Boyle‘s emerging star in check, so Baylor’s defensive gameplan should lean more heavily towards containing Colorado’s other options. If Austin, Royce O’Neale and Rico Gathers make Xavier Johnson think twice about driving and keep Josh Scott and redshirt freshman Wesley Gordon from getting easy looks in the paint, it probably won’t matter how well Dinwiddie plays.

Baylor went 13-3 when Cory Jefferson and A Potent Baylor Offense Could Give Colorado's Defense Fits (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Cory Jefferson and A Potent Baylor Offense Could Give Colorado’s Defense Fits. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Colorado will win if… Their veteran backcourt can make life miserable for a couple of Baylor perimeter guys – Chery and Wainright – who are making their Division I debuts. Between Dinwiddie and his junior backcourt mate Askia Booker, the pair of Colorado guards has been through a lot of battles. Dinwiddie has turned into a rock solid presence at the point, capable of creating for himself or finding his teammates in good position. Booker, however, has taken plenty of heat as a guy who is a bit too wild and a bit too in love with his own jumper. With more offensive weapons on this year’s squad, the hope is that Booker dials back his shot-hunting a bit and dials up his shooting percentages in turn. Either way, both of these guys are capable of causing plenty of trouble for young Bear ballhandlers like Chery and Wainright. In a big game right out of the gate where emotions are high, the calming presence of a pair of backcourt greybeards who have been through their fair share of battles may be enough to tip the scales in the Buffaloes favor. Oh, and not to pile on or anything, but in a battle of wits between Boyle and Drew, gimme Boyle.

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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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The RTC Interview Series: Pac-12 Preview with Don MacLean and Miles Simon

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pac-12 Team Preview: Colorado Buffaloes

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

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

Colorado Buffaloes

Strengths: While Colorado has a lot of strengths, its biggest may be balance. They’ve got a veteran backcourt featuring an all-conference point guard in Spencer Dinwiddie, but they’ve also got a frontcourt with size, athleticism and, perhaps most importantly, upside. Sophomores Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson are regarded as possible breakout players, while redshirt freshman Wesley Gordon is ready to get back into the swing of things after spending last year improving his body and his game. They’ve got guards that score in the paint and from deep and they’ve got frontcourt guys who can not only post up, but can step outside and knock down perimeter jumpers. This team has a lot of options.

Xavier Johnson Will Be Chief Among The Players Called On To Help Replace Andre Roberson's Production

Xavier Johnson Will Be Chief Among The Players Called On To Help Replace Andre Roberson’s Production.

Weaknesses: There are a few main concerns for Colorado. First, while Tad Boyle thinks he’s got enough frontcourt bodies to ease the transition away from the Andre Roberson era, there is no one guy who can do all the things that Roberson did. For instance, while Josh Scott was quite effective on the offensive glass last season, he’ll really need to step it up on the defensive end to make up for Roberson. And frankly, there is nobody with the defensive versatility that Roberson had; the Buffs will need to prove that they can defend as well without Roberson’s freak athleticism. Then there remains the concern that Askia Booker still hasn’t seen a shot he didn’t like and is far too inefficient an offensive force (31.2 percent from three and just 39.5 percent from inside the arc) to be monopolizing so many shot attempts (12.7 FGAs per game). With efficient scorers like Dinwiddie, Scott and, to a lesser extent, Johnson around, there are far better options than Booker hunting looks.

Non-Conference Tests: The Buffs open up on Friday with a tough battle against a talented Baylor team in Dallas, and that is just the first of three match-ups against former Big 12 rivals on their excellent non-conference slate; the other two come in December: a visit from Kansas followed by a neutral site game against Oklahoma State in Las Vegas. There are also three Mountain West teams on CU’s schedule: Wyoming, Air Force and Colorado State. None of those teams are world-beaters, but they’ll all help the RPI numbers. Throw in a visit from a very good Harvard team, a visit from an Elon squad that is the favorite in the Southern Conference, and a visit from a middling SEC team in Georgia, and Boyle has put together arguably the best non-conference slate in the Pac-12. Put together a good record before the New Year and the Buffs will be prepped for a solid seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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The Inane Ramblings of a Pac-12 Homer…

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 25th, 2013

So, the other night, I’m sitting around, minding my own business, doing a podcast with Shane and Randy talking about the Pac-12. When out of the blue, I get accused by an attacker who shall remain nameless of being a Pac-12 homer, just because I picked seven conference teams to get invited to the NCAA Tournament next March. And yeah, maybe taking a flyer on Stanford as a Sweet Sixteen team might have been a part of the equation. But, being an upstanding southern (Californian) gentleman, I say this injustice shall not stand! So, I’m taking to the RTC Pac-12 microsite to air my grievances. Because, really, if anything, I’m a Mountain West homer.

You Have Insulted My Honor And I Demand Satisfaction

You Have Insulted My Honor And I Demand Satisfaction

So, let’s get right to the point. I’m entering my fifth season as an RTC Pac-12 correspondent and I’d like to establish my credentials. In 2009-10, I was right there making fun of the inept conference and coming up with scenarios until the last moment where the conference would only earn one bid to the NCAA Tournament. In 2010-11, as Arizona was following Derrick Williams’ lead on the way to the Elite Eight, I was one of the last holdouts, doubting the Wildcats’ supporting cast every step of the way, nevermind the fact that I was dead wrong. I also had the then-Pac-10 correctly pegged as getting just three NCAA Tournament invites, right up until the point where the Selection Committee screwed up and somehow determined USC was worthy of an at-large as well. In 2011-12, I was telling you all that there would be no redeeming qualities about the Pac-12 Tournament. Heck, I was the guy who was regularly driving several hours into the desert to watch the Mountain West Tournament instead of driving 20 minutes to the Staples Center and getting to sleep in my own bed while being forced to watch the Pac-12 version. Does any of this sound like the hallmarks of a Pac-12 homer? God, no. I hated the Pac-12 at its nadir as much as the next guy. Maybe more so.

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Colorado Post-Mortem

Posted by PBaruh on April 23rd, 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. Here’s a look at Colorado.

What Went Right 

Spencer Dinwiddie was key for Colorado's offense this year.

Spencer Dinwiddie was key for Colorado’s offense this year.

Despite losing three starters from last year’s team, the Buffaloes had a lot of things go right for them in 2012-13. Spencer Dinwiddie improved tremendously from his freshman season by becoming the go-to scorer. Dinwiddie led the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game and sported a true shooting percentage at 59.1 percent. His two best games of the year came against NCAA Tournament teams Colorado State and Arizona at the Coors Event Center as he tallied 50 points and nine assists in the two contests. Andre Roberson was once again a double-double machine, averaging 10.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game in another strong season. In what was viewed by some as a possible rebuilding season, the Buffaloes responded with an at-large NCAA bid and a squad that competed if not actually challenging for the Pac-12 title.

What Went Wrong

They were certainly some letdown games from the Buffaloes as they lost to league bottom-dwellers Utah on the road and Oregon State at home. Colorado had a tendency to start lackadaisically against inferior opponents and it hurt them in several games. Individually, Askia Booker disappeared in conference play. The MVP of the Charleston Classic was irrelevant in the Pac-12 and finished with a 42.2 effective field goal percentage on the year. Booker certainly didn’t let his struggles deter him from shooting the ball as he attempted 11 or more field goals in all but two conference games.

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Night Line: Buffs a Dangerous Team, Although Roberson’s Uncertain Status a Concern

Posted by BHayes on March 8th, 2013

nightline2

Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Colorado has underachieved at times this year, but don’t look towards Thursday night for any further proof of that phenomenon. Even without Andre Roberson — their breathing, eating, walking double-double, the Buffaloes blasted the Pac-12 leading Oregon Ducks. The boys from Eugene will take their 23-point thrashing and now head to Utah, where focus for Dana Altman’s crew will shift to earning at least a share of the Pac-12 title. Back in Boulder much of the discussion will center around Roberson’s availability moving forward. Tad Boyle announced that a viral illness has the junior on the mend, with no official timetable set for his return. Roberson’s absence will surely have an impact – he is far too talented and effective for it not to. But if Thursday night taught us anything, it’s that these Buffaloes are more than capable enough to be a headache come Tournament time – with or without Roberson.

With Andre Roberson Sidelined, Tad Boyle Will Look For Even More Production And Leadership Out Of Spencer Dinwiddie

With Andre Roberson Sidelined, Tad Boyle Will Look For Even More Production And Leadership Out Of Spencer Dinwiddie

If the old cliché holds true and good guard play really does win in March, Tad Boyle has to feel pretty good about his odds this month. Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie may not be household names, but the duo makes up one of the best (and most underrated) backcourts in the country. Dinwiddie has seen his numbers rise across the board in his sophomore season, with his 15.2 ppg and 3.0 apg leading the team. He has struggled from the field of late –18-63 in his last five — but his ability to get to the line (and convert) has been a constant this season, as he has gone 39-43 from the stripe over that stretch. Same story for the dynamic lead guard tonight, with his 3-9 line from the field offset nicely by nine made free throws, seven rebounds, and six assists. His backcourt mate Booker is a more limited player, but the fellow sophomore chips in with over 12 points a game and is another capable ballhandler — a definite plus for a team with a relatively raw frontcourt.

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Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week 14

Posted by AMurawa on February 18th, 2013

Another wild week in the Pac-12, with six games decided by five points or less, including a pair of overtime games. Plenty of candidates for all the honors this week, but here’s who we settled on.

Team of the Week – Oregon

Despite breaking a three-game slide at the end of last week, the Ducks faced a perilous trip to their neighbors to the north this week, again without freshman point guard Dominic Artis. Artis’ primary replacement at the point, Jonathan Loyd, was the hero on Wednesday night in a win over Washington, scoring all 11 of his points in the second half to help his team pull away. On Saturday night, there was a bit more drama for the team as, playing without senior center Tony Woods, who was ejected in the first half for an elbow to Brock Motum’s head, Oregon needed overtime, and a significant mental error from their opponent, to get out of Pullman with a two-point win. As is becoming standard for Oregon, they got contributions from all over their roster this week. E.J. Singler was the big scorer on Saturday night (25 points including plenty of clutch free throws), but Arsalan Kazemi continued his strong play (9.5 points, 9.5 rebounds per game this week), Damyean Dotson continued his bounceback from a recent slump (14.5 PPG this week) and Carlos Emory had his best pair of games since his stretch in Las Vegas back in November, averaging 15 points, six boards and a couple of steals this week. While the expectation is that Artis’ return is just around the corner, Dana Altman’s club has found a way to string together wins even without him.

Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

Spencer Dinwiddie Emerged As Colorado’s Unquestioned Leader This Week (Daily Camera)

Player of the Week – Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

In the last three games, Dinwiddie has gotten to the line 31 times. That alone is a pretty impressive statistic. The fact that he’s made all 31 of those attempts is mindboggling. Thursday night against Arizona, was incredible in the second half, making completely sure that the Buffaloes were not going to give up a the lead they had worked so hard to build up. From the moment he got fouled shooting a three and then knocked down three straight free throws to the late shot-clock jumper he drilled with 1:20 to go, Dinwiddie was everywhere against the Wildcats. His second half totals? Nineteen points (on seven free throws, two threes, a layup, a dunk and that game closing jumper), four assists and countless calmed Colorado nerves. On Saturday Dinwiddie responded with another terrific performance, knocking down 14 free throws on the way to 24 points for the game and handing out a nice assist to freshman Xavier Johnson to complete a late-game comeback to force overtime against Arizona State. Then, with eight seconds left in overtime, Dinwiddie powered his way to the hoop and knocked down a tough shot to give Colorado a one-point lead, a lead that, unfortunately for he and his team, did not hold up.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume IV

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2013

Another week of classes, another week of grades from Professor Pac. As midterms approach, only Oregon is on pace for a A this semester.

Arizona State – A

Way back in June, Herb Sendek was talking about how his new Sun Devil team was going to get out and run and be as uptempo as anybody in the Pac-12. But, since getting run off the court by an athletic DePaul team back in early December, Arizona State had gone eight straight games without getting 70 possessions in a ball game. This past week when they hosted USC and UCLA and came away 2-0, they went over 70 possessions in both games and averaged 76 possessions – and 88 points – for the week. Sure, the USC game was aided by an extra five minutes of play, but the Sun Devils still played with more pace this past week than they have done in some time.

Focus on: Jonathan Gilling. We’ve talked a ton about Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski, we’ve touched on Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon on a regular basis, but Gilling is the fifth member of the starting unit, and criminally underrated. While his shooting percentages have dipped compared with his freshman campaign, Gilling is doing everything else better this season. He’s turned into an exceedingly effective rebounder and an underrated passer. He’s one of just two players in the conference to average seven rebounds and three assists per game (the other is Kyle Anderson) and as you could see by this week’s performance when he has 14 dimes, he finds exceedingly good looks for his teammates. Of those 14 assists, eight led to either layups or dunks, while four more ended in threes. And he’s an equal-opportunity distributor; Felix, Bachynski, and Gordon were each on the receiving end of four of Gilling’s assists.

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils are the toast of the conference this week, but with a road trip up north to the Washington schools ahead, things can go south in a hurry. The Cougars and Huskies may not be the most intimidating opponents, but they’re more than capable of knocking off the Sun Devils.

Colorado – A

Don’t look now, but after an extended hangover effect following the debacle in the desert, the Buffaloes have won three straight by an average of 13 points and are back to .500 in the conference. And while the offense has been steadily improving, they’ve been doing it with defense. They’ve held their three opponents in that win streak to a 40.5 eFG%.

Focus on: Xavier Johnson. Doomed to play roughly the same position as the nation’s leading rebounder, Andre Roberson, Johnson has been lurking in the shadows somewhat most of the year. But on Sunday, when Roberson was limited to just two first half minutes due to foul trouble, Johnson had his breakout game, notching his first double-double of his career and scoring 18 points on just ten field goal attempts. In fact, over the course of this Buff winning streak, Johnson has been a major contributor. He’s scored in double figures in every game and has been hyper-efficient; he’s averaging 14.3 points per game and shooting a 74 eFG%.

Looking ahead: The Buffs have a short week, with only a trip to Salt Lake City to face a Utah team coming off its worst performance of the season. If the Buffs don’t have a four-game win streak at this point next week, they may be the recipient of the year’s first F.

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