Pac-12 M5: 02.19.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 19th, 2014

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  1. So, late on Monday night I am navigating my way through the college basketball hub on ESPN.com, and I find this piece with different writers making predictions for the rest of the season that will either make them look smart or stupid. About a quarter of the way down the page is the headline “Take notice of the champs… and Oregon State“. John Gasaway’s “prediction that will make him look stupid” is centered around the Beavers upsetting UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament championship, giving the program its first trip to the Big Dance since 1990. Stupid or not, a prediction is a prediction, and Oregon State fans will take it. Also included in this predictions post is C.L. Brown’s prognostication that Arizona will not receive a one seed for that NCAA Tournament. With four of its final six on the road and its performance without Brandon Ashley not exactly inspiring, this isn’t a bad pick.
  2. Joe Lunardi released his latest edition of Bracketology on Monday, and the Wildcats remain as a #1 seed in his projections. UCLA follows as a #5 seed, and then four Pac-12 teams (Stanford, Arizona State, California, and Colorado) are represented on the #9 and #10 lines. John Templon released his NIT projections as well earlier this week, and Oregon, Washington, Oregon State, and Utah appear in that field.
  3. Shortly after we talked to you on Monday morning, both the AP and Coaches polls were released and saw Arizona drop two spots to #4 after falling at Arizona State last Friday. The only other team to appear inside the Top 25 were the Bruins after their sweep of Colorado and Utah, but both Arizona State and Cal appear in the “Also Receiving Votes” section. Click here to check out Rush the Court‘s weekly rankings, where the Cats once again appear at fourth, the Bruins take 22nd, and Arizona State comes in at #29.
  4. Stanford guard Aaron Bright will be transferring to St. Mary’s and be eligible to play immediately next season in Moraga. The senior appeared in seven games this season for the Cardinal before dislocating his right shoulder during a late November practice. In order to be able to play immediately, Bright has to find a graduate degree program that is offered by St. Mary’s and not by Stanford. According to this tweet, the Gaels have at least three of those; Kinesiology, an MA in Leadership, and an MFA in Creative Writing. Oh, and Australian Basketball Recruiting.
  5. I must warn you, the next link is a bit disturbing. Coaches at both Arizona and Arizona State are proposing the ridiculous notion that Pac-12 court rushes be prevented, possibly by as soon as next season. Sean Miller thinks the situation is a threat to the visiting team’s safety and inconveniences them when trying to get back to the locker room after the game is over. My thoughts? Who cares if you have to wait by the bench for a few extra minutes after the buzzer sounds? Have security in place like the ACC does to surround the staff and players, and let the kids have their fun on the floor.
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Morning Five: 02.19.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 19th, 2014

morning5

  1. With the way this season has been going some of the more overzealous Indiana fans might be feeling like the sky is falling and yesterday they were right as a large metal beam fell from the ceiling onto the seats yesterday. Fortunately, this happened earlier in the afternoon before their scheduled game last night. As a result and perhaps out of concern for additional danger, yesterday’s game between Iowa and Indiana was postponed. What has not been postponed is tonight’s women’s basketball against Michigan will go on as scheduled with fans kept away from the corner. We suspect that the crowd at Assembly Hall will be even thinner than usual tonight.
  2. Wyoming may have suffered a major setback late last night when Larry Nance Jr. injured his right knee in a win against Fresno State. Nance, who leads the Cowboys in scoring (15.3 per game), rebounds (8.8), blocks (2.1), and steals (1.4), was injured with 14:51 left in the game. The extent of Nance’s injury is unknown at this point, but he was on the floor for several minutes and had to be helped off unable to bear weight on that leg. We are expecting that Nance will get imaging on his knee and some sort of prognosis within the next 48 hours, but it does not look good at the time being for the Cowboys star.
  3. Chris Obekpa‘s right ankle sprain comes at a particularly bad time for St. John’s as the Red Storm have turned their season around and are at least on the bubble in many mock brackets. Obekpa’s injury–a sprain and a bone bruise–is expected to keep him out for 10 to 14 days. That will Obekpa, the team’s leading shot blocker at 3.2 per game (11th in the nation), out for Saturday’s game against Villanova and next Tuesday’s game against Xavier. Even though St. John’s was able to beat Butler easily without Obekpa their next two games will not be nearly as easy.
  4. We have heard of NCAA bracket pool winners employing a variety of deep analytic methods–picking which mascot would win a fight is a popular one–to win significant office pools. With Warren Buffett’s $1 billion perfect contest being announced a few months ago, Chris Jones of ESPN The Magazine reached out to Craig Gilmore, last year’s ESPN Tournament Challenge winner, to find out how he did it (winning the pool not going undefeated, which he didn’t). Gilmore’s strategy–four pints of Guinness–is certainly not unique (we assume at least a few college students might have had something to drink around the time they filled out their brackets), but it might be the first time we have seen it cited as a strategy. In Gilmore’s case he claims that going with his gut and not overanalyzing his bracket was the key to his success. We are expecting that we will see plenty of columns like this in the coming months with various writers trumpeting some method to help you win a billion dollars, but in the end it all comes down to one thing: luck.
  5. At this point we are very familiar with athletes using the graduate student transfer waiver. So when we heard that Aaron Bright was using it to transfer from Stanford to St. Mary’s we were not particularly surprised. That is until we tried to figure out what graduate programs St. Mary’s offered that Stanford did not. We are not trying to knock St. Mary’s which is an excellent school, but we were just curious as to what programs a school as prestigious as Stanford would not offer that a nearby school would. The best answer we have comes from RTC correspondent C.D. Bradley who pointed out that St. Mary’s offers three masters programs–Kinesiology, MA in Leadership, and MFA in Creative Writing–that Stanford does not. Honestly, we never really doubted that Bright would end up in a program that Stanford didn’t offer, but it made us wonder (even before seeing the options) how many players end up getting majors in things that they have no interest in just to obtain a graduate student waiver.
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Marching to Vegas: Stanford’s Senior Class Ready to Shine?

Posted by Adam Butler on February 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.

Why do we love this sport? The short answer rests within a month; a present of madness and that anything-can-happen hope few other sports present. The immediacy of that tournament draws us in. It’s a battle of survival, gladiators set forth before us to discover the last man standing. It’s an arena where the end could come at any moment and thus the opportunity to continue on is cherished. Indeed we love that tournament but maybe that’s just because it represents the entire sport. March Madness highlights just how quickly the college experience goes. We learn of these athletes from before they commit and when they join our school they become our guys. Sometimes they stay and sometimes they go but either way we know they’ll only be here for the briefest of times. And then it’s on to the next. For us, the fans, it’s the next recruit. The next kid in a mix-tape we text about and set unrealistic expectations for. But for him, for the kid who has put in the hours and the work and the sweat and the effort, what of him? We enjoy his pursuit of the tournament but he wants that tournament. We might take a long lunch for that tournament but he worked through lunch to get his invitation, if he was ever invited at all.

If Stanford's Seniors Are Going To Dance, They Need To Finish Strong (Kirby Lee, US Presswire)

If Stanford’s Seniors Are Going To Dance, They Need To Finish Strong (Kirby Lee, US Presswire)

And with that note I turn our attention to Stanford and Johnny Dawkins’ 2010 recruiting class. Dawkins invited and signed the 15th-ranked class per Scout’s rankings and every member of that class remains a rostered player for him. That’s both rare and special. But more importantly, it’s ending and that class – those that are healthy – looks to be staring down that reality. On Wednesday night in Berkeley, Stanford seniors accounted for 73 percent of the points, 59 percent of the rebounds, and 92 percent of the assists. That output, in their final trip to Haas, resulted in Stanford beating Cal, 80-69. Begging the question: In their final trip through college basketball, what will this team do?

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Ho Ho Ho: Delivering Christmas Presents To Each Pac-12 Team

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 23rd, 2013

We here at the Pac-12 wing our in the holiday spirit, so we decided to give a gift to each team in the conference. I took the six “north” schools, Drew took the six “south” ones, and the results are below. Happy Holidays, everyone.

Washington - Here’s hoping 12th year head coach Lorenzo Romar wakes up Christmas morning to a clean bill of health for his Huskies inside his stocking. Washington has been unfairly plagued by injuries all season long, and it started in early November when junior forward Desmond Simmons went under the knife for arthroscopic knee surgery. Simmons did return this weekend against Connecticut, but he was definitely needed a couple weeks back when the Huskies lost a tight one at San Diego State. Three days after the Simmons news, Romar learned they lost another big man who was poised for a breakout season, Jernard Jarreau. Jarreau tore his ACL in the season opener against Seattle and will miss the entire season. There’s been others on the Husky roster with some dinks and bruises throughout the year, causing headache after headache for Romar.

Washington State - What’s that under the tree? Just what you wanted Cougar fans; a new shooting coach! And boy does Washington State need one. It ranks dead last in the conference in shooting percentage, and it’s not just the simple fact of shots not falling. They are off target, rarely close to going in, and with terrible backspin. The Cougars need to go back to the basics or they’ll find themselves dead last come March and looking to replace Ken Bone.

Oregon - What do you give the team that already has everything? Some help for coach Dana Altman setting his ten-deep rotation would be nice. While the Ducks have looked terrific so far, roles are still being defined, and that could spell trouble come Pac-12 play.

Dana Altman, Oregon

Altman’s Ducks Are 11-0, But They Have Yet To Set A Solid Ten-Deep Rotation. (credit: Drew Sellers)

Oregon State - Beaver fans are the naughty kids that find their parents’ present stash before Christmas morning. But they like what they see as they get the return of junior forward Eric Moreland, who will come back from a 14 game suspension on January 9 against Stanford. The Beavers are an upper half Pac-12 team with the big man in the lineup, using his long wing span on the defensive end of the court to deny any shots inside the paint. On the other side, Moreland has improved his offensive game and can power his way to the hoop. It will be interesting to see how much he can improve even more with the new block/charge rule, something that got him in trouble a lot last season.

California – Santa’s bringing the Golden Bears a dose of consistency this Christmas. The first two month’s of California’s season has been a roller coaster ride, starting with a five game winning streak, then a stretch where it lost three of four games. Cal now enters the holiday on a one game skid after a pathetic showing at Creighton, a game it lost 68-54.

Stanford - The Cardinal enter the holiday break after a brutal road trip, topping Connecticut in Hartford and losing a nail-biter to Michigan in New York City. What they did show was some great defense, coming as a huge surprise after giving up 112 and 88 points to BYU and Pittsburgh earlier this season. So, Johnny Dawkins gets a re-gift of sorts; the continuation of solid defensive play. If their long perimeter defenders continue to play tight defense, this is a team that can compete for a league title, even without the services of senior guard Aaron Bright, who is out for the year with a dislocated right shoulder.

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The State of Stanford Basketball Heading Into a Huge Road Trip

Posted by AMurawa on December 18th, 2013

Way back before the start of the season, I got caught up saying some silly things: Stanford Sweet Sixteen this, Stanford Pac-12 contender that. And everybody I mentioned that kind of thing to just sorta blew me off, not even really bothering to offer up much of a reason why such notions were wrong-headed. I stuck to my guns, seeing a potentially potent offense and enough athleticism and depth to improve upon a poor defensive effort last season. While a nonchalant four-point win in the opener over Bucknell wasn’t impressive, it was easily written off with excuses about “first game of the year” and “oh, Bucknell’s pretty tough,” both of which were probably true to some extent. But then, against BYU in the second game, Stanford scored 103 points at home. And lost. In regulation. By nine. Alarm bells went off.

While Stanford Has Had Plenty of Offensive Reasons For Excitement Early, Their Defense Has Let Them Down

While Stanford Has Had Plenty of Offensive Reasons For Excitement Early, Their Defense Has Let Them Down

The Cardinal got back on track briefly, plowing through four mediocre teams and setting up a meeting with another significant challenge against Pittsburgh in Brooklyn. And it was not good. The team showed no heart in giving up 1.33 points per possession, and the same old questions about Johnny Dawkins’ ability to either: (a) gameplan to take advantage of his players’ strengths, or (b) coach his players up to the point where they can improve from season to season re-emerged. Stanford was officially buried until it could do something to prove that the team deserved to be taken seriously this season.

Since that time, the Cardinal have taken care of some bad teams, worked through a tough finals week and lost senior guard Aaron Bright to a season-ending dislocated shoulder suffered in practice. But beginning tonight and continuing on Saturday, this team has a chance to prove that it should be taken seriously. Fail in these two games – tonight at Connecticut, and Saturday against Michigan in Brooklyn – and we’ll check back in with Stanford in early February to see if anything has really changed. Otherwise, throw these guys on the scrap heap.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.16.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 16th, 2013

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  1. We’re in the midst of a real good streak in the Pac-12. As ESPN’s Roxy Bernstein noted on Sunday night, the conference has now gone 18 straight games without a loss since last Sunday when Washington fell to San Diego State. So as we enter a new week, we’ve got nothing but good things to talk about. We discussed Arizona’s big win over Michigan this weekend, and you heard about Oregon’s offensive fireworks in a win over Illinois, so we’ll skip those high-profile games and jump to the next biggest game of the weekend, in which Utah put the beatdown on in-state rival BYU. By the time all the attendees in the Huntsman Center had shaken the cold out of their bones, the Utes were already up double-figures behind an early explosion from sophomore Jordan Loveridge. He had 15 points before the under-12 media timeout; the Utes had a 21-8 lead; and the Cougars were never within single digits again.
  2. Stanford bounced back from not only the loss of senior guard Aaron Bright to a season-ending injury, but an extended break due to finals to rough up UC Davis by 27 points on Saturday. Four guys scored in double figures; the team handed out 22 assists on 31 field goals; and the Cardinal rolled. With Connecticut and Michigan due up next for Johnny Dawkins’ team, it was a chance to put the start of the year behind it and begin building toward a strong second act.
  3. Across the bay, it was California’s senior Richard Solomon who was guiding the Golden Bears to a solid win over a tough Fresno State team. Solomon’s 17 points and 14 boards only begin to tell the whole story. Solomon was an efficient offensive option, scoring those 17 points on just nine field goal attempts and dominating an undersized Bulldog front line, accounting for three steals, a couple of blocks, and regularly contesting jumpers from the smaller Fresno players.
  4. On Sunday night Washington State got back to business, handling Pepperdine with ease in a 17-point victory. Rather than DaVonte Lacy leading the scoring per usual, though, it was junior wing Royce Woolridge who had his best game of the year by scoring 20 points and handing out four assists. Likewise, Que Johnson dialed things up, scoring 14 points in his best performance as a Coug. While it’s been a slow start this season, there are signs of life around the Wazzu basketball team. For the first time all year, they’re pretty clearly not the worst team in the Pac-12.
  5. So, who is the worst team in the Pac-12 this season? USC put its case on display on Sunday night with an unimpressive four-point win over Cal State Bakersfield in which junior wing Byron Wesley was the only Trojan who was physically superior to the opposition. The other option for worst in the league is a Washington team that showed off its awful defense against a bad Idaho State squad on Saturday. While they had no trouble scoring, they also allowed four Bengals to score in double figures and just looked completely disinterested. Again.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 13th, 2013

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  1. Utah has received, and frankly earned, plenty of criticism over the weakness of its non-conference schedule this season. Games against BYU and Boise State are solid, of course, but past that you’re delving into teams like Fresno State (bad), Idaho State (worse), Savannah State (oh, for crying out loud) and Evergreen State (are you serious? Is that even a place?). But certainly part of the reason for that is the fact that head coach Larry Krystkowiak was welcoming to Salt Lake City an almost entirely new roster, again. Beginning next season, expect things to beef up some, as the Utes will play Kansas in a “neutral” site game in Kansas City, as well as traveling to the Caribbean to compete in a Puerto Rico Tip-Off event. Now all that is well and good, but where the Utes have ditched the possibility of scheduling home-and-homes with in-state schools Utah State and Weber State, they are now struggling to come together with BYU and extend that particular series. And that would be completely unacceptable.
  2. Speaking of scheduling, do you realize that it is now the middle of December and Oregon State has played exactly five games? How does that happen? Sure, it allows Craig Robinson to brag about the fact that his team has only lost twice so far (nevermind that those losses were to Coppin State and DePaul), but after Arkansas Pine-Bluff was kept at home last weekend by an ice storm, the Beavers are in the midst of 12 straight days without a game. They’ll make up for some of it later in the month with three games in four days as part of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, but clearly the Beavers have yet to build any momentum.
  3. Doug Haller of AZCentral.com shares a post comparing the top six assist guys in the Pac-12 and the differences in how those assists are handed out. For instance, Oregon’s Jonathan Loyd, the conference’s assist leader, hands out 31 percent of his assists to Mike Moser, and 34 percent of all his assists lead to layups or dunks. While that last number is certainly a fine amount, UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, on the other hand, creates dunks or layups on better than 60 percent of all his assists.
  4. We’re a little bit late to this unfortunate piece of news, but Stanford took a big loss earlier this week when it was announced that senior point guard Aaron Bright’s season and collegiate career are over due to a dislocated right shoulder. He’ll undergo surgery in January. His loss marks the third Stanford player lost for the season to injury (Andy Brown’s career was ended by yet another torn ACL in the offseason, and Christian Sanders is out for the year with a hip injury), while forward Rosco Allen has yet to play a game due to a stress fracture. None of this makes things any easier for head coach Johnny Dawkins as he tries to keep his job in Palo Alto. As for Bright, the high point of his career will go down as his run to the postseason NIT MVP honors during his sophomore campaign.
  5. Lastly, we’ve got plenty of good match-ups this weekend, but without a doubt, the Pac-12 highlight is Arizona’s trip to Michigan on Saturday where the Wildcats will try to fight through a raucous road crowd in order to defend their #1 ranking. Mitch McGary and company will give Sean Miller’s frontcourt perhaps their biggest test of the season to this point, while guys like Nik Stauskas, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin will test their perimeter defense. Adam Butler of Pachoops.com got together with Dylan Burkhart of UMHoops.com to preview the battle.
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Morning Five: 12.09.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 9th, 2013

morning5

  1. When we hear about Allan Chaney‘s latest setback (a misfiring defibrillator) we hoped that it would be a minor issue, but unfortunately it appears this latest setback led Chaney to announce his retirement. It is an unfortunate end to Chaney’s career given all that he has battled back through (viral myocarditis before being denied medical clearance by Virginia Tech then going to High Point where he was allowed to play) before collapsing on November 24 in a game against Wofford when he defibrillator misfired. We have no idea how much the respective parties — Chaney, his family, and the school — played in him making his final decision, but we wish him the best of luck in his post-basketball life.
  2. We typically do not go for gimmicks, but every year that we fall for Taylor University‘s Silent Night and this year’s edition was no different. For those of you who are not familiar with the tradition, it is held the Friday before fall semester finals week begins. The students at the school remain completely silent until the team scores its tenth point at which point all sorts of craziness happens. To some it may be a little over the top to some, but we will never criticize people showing their enthusiasm for basketball especially when it is done in a constructive way.
  3. With the way that Oregon has been playing so far this season they are going to start to get national recognition. And things could get even better with the new additions to the roster that could make them even more dangerous. In addition to sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter who only have one more game remaining in their nine game suspensions for selling school-supplied shoes, the Ducks may also be adding 4-star power forward Jordan Bell who qualified academically and can start practicing immediately, but might redshirt. Regardless of whether Bell plays this year, the Ducks appear to be one of the top teams in the country and might end up as Arizona’s biggest threat in the Pac-12.
  4. It was a rough week for Stanford and senior guard Aaron Bright. Last week, Bright dislocated his right shoulder during practice and will require season-ending  surgery. That brings the Cardinal body count to three (players out for the year with season-ending injuries). To add insult to injury it appears Bright, who is taking a medical redshirt year to preserve his eligibility, may have to transfer as Stanford’s roster for the 2014-15 season would already be full. Even though we understand it is a numbers game at some level we have a hard time believing that the Stanford staff would not be able to find a way to keep Bright on the team next year.
  5. Heading into an important perception-building home game against Kansas tomorrow night, Billy Donovan appears to finally be turning the corner on getting his roster settled for this season. First, point guard Scottie Wilbekin is due back from the ankle injury he suffered in last week’s loss at Connecticut, offering the Gators some stability at a position that has been nothing short of a headache all season long. Next, according to Gator Country on Sunday, Damontre Harris and the program have officially parted ways. The South Carolina transfer had not suited up at all this season as he tried to fulfill obligations related to his suspension during the offseason, but it appears that he was unable to meet those expectations. The final piece of the puzzle concerns the eligibility of star freshman Chris Walker, who is expected to start practicing with the team as soon as final exams are over next week. With all the players shuffling in and out of the Florida lineup (and roster), we’re sure Donovan will be pleased to see some stability in that regard so he can focus on improving the team he actually has this season.
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Cardinal Sin: More Non-Conference Struggles For Stanford and Dawkins

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 27th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC national columnist. He filed this report after Tuesday night’s Pittsburgh vs. Stanford game from the Legends Classic. 

As our own Chris Johnson noted last week, Johnny Dawkins and the Stanford Cardinal have had little issue of late on the recruiting trails. The same cannot be said for their life on the hardwood. After a shaky Legends Classic semifinal victory over Houston on Monday, the Cardinal were blasted in last night’s championship game, losing 88-67 to Pittsburgh. The Panthers deserve much of the credit for the lopsided result. Dawkins’ went so far as to label Pitt a “buzzsaw” in the post-game presser, and Jamie Dixon’s team really was that clinical in dispatching the Cardinal. But while a loss to said buzzsaw won’t do too much harm to the Cardinal NCAA Tournament resume, Tuesday’s loss is just the latest example in a troubling trend of missed opportunities. The talent has been there at Stanford, especially of late, but they have yet to find their way out of the cloud of mediocrity that has followed Dawkins to the Bay Area. The half-decade with the former Duke assistant at the reins has been an era sans signature victory – sorry, those don’t come in the NIT – and after the not-so-well disguised ultimatum offered in the offseason by Stanford AD Bernard Muir, it’s an epoch that may need at least one such win to survive. Needless to say, Dawkins and the Cardinal couldn’t find it at the Barclays Center on Tuesday night.

It Didn't Happen On Tuesday Night Against Pittsburgh, But Johnny Dawkins Needs To Find Stanford A Marquee Victory Or Two. The Consequences Of Not Doing So? Dawkins Doesn't Want To Find Out.

It Didn’t Happen On Tuesday Night Against Pittsburgh, But Johnny Dawkins Needs To Find Stanford A Marquee Victory Or Two. The Consequences Of Not Doing So? Dawkins Doesn’t Want To Find Out.

Dawkins was effusive with praise for Pittsburgh after the game, and he may be right that his team “just ran into a team that was playing very, very well” on this night. But unfortunate timing or not, this wasn’t the first non-conference test that the Cardinal have failed in recent years. Two seasons ago, Stanford dropped its sole showcase game to Syracuse. Last year, attention-grabbing opportunities went by the wayside in losses to Missouri, Minnesota, and NC State – all teams that finished in KenPom’s top 35. In fact, Dawkins has just one non-conference win against a team that ended the season in KenPom’s top 50: a 2011 home victory over an NC State team that wouldn’t end up hitting its stride until February. December dates with Connecticut and Michigan should allow for two more chances to improve upon that distressing total, but the early season losses to BYU and Pittsburgh fit right in with recent history.

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Stanford Basketball: What Needs to Change?

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 15th, 2013

So, Stanford. You, me and just about everybody the both of us know were ready to write them off on Monday night, following their pitiful defensive performance against an admittedly very good offensive team in BYU. But, given the underachieving we’ve seen from the Cardinal in recent years, given the questionable coaching from Johnny Dawkins, and given their uninspired performance on a pretty big ESPN-created stage, one couldn’t have been blamed for just throwing in the towel and moving on to greener pastures. But here’s the thing. It’s one loss early in the year to a team that will likely be pretty firmly in the NCAA Tournament picture in four months. Come Selection Sunday, a loss to BYU, even a home loss, is not going to kill anybody.

Stanford's Defensive Struggles Against BYU Were Well-Publicized, But All Hope Is Not Lost (George Nitkin, AP)

Stanford’s Defensive Struggles Against BYU Were Well-Publicized, But All Hope Is Not Lost (George Nitkin, AP)

Meanwhile, last night, Stanford looked, well – certainly not dominant or anything, certainly not good enough to completely erase the memory of Monday night’s non-existent defense – but they looked, at the very least, like they understood that defense mattered. They blocked six shots, they snatched six steals, they forced 16 turnovers, and they held a halfway decent offensive Northwestern team (albeit in the midst of a coaching transition) to less than 0.90 points per possession. Now the preceding are not necessarily stats upon which hats are hung, but they show progress. And they show that the team is capable of dialing in the defense.

But, there are concerns. Many, many concerns. We could start anywhere, but let’s start where BYU exposed the most glaring weakness on Monday: defense. The most egregious place where the Cardinal got exposed against the Cougars was a simple one: effort. The Cardinal repeatedly failed to box out rebounders; they showed no inclination to stop the ballhandler in transition; there was no communication between teammates. These are simple fundamentals. And sure, it’s November and in most cases you could say, oh, this team will improve as they get used to each other. But this is a team made up of mostly juniors and seniors. How do these guys not have a grasp of those fundamentals by this stage? As mentioned before, there was improvement last night, although against a lesser offensive opponent, but we’ll need to keep an eye on how this effort issue progresses this season.

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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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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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