Stanford Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 18th, 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 Stanford.

What Went Right

After three years of showing signs of a mouthwatering combination of skill and athleticism, Dwight Powell exploded in his junior campaign. At 6’10” and a now well-built 235 pounds, Powell displayed the type of versatile game that will have him playing in the NBA following the completion of his college career. He’s always had the hops and size to throw down massive dunks, but he’s now got the ball-handling, basketball IQ and, perhaps most importantly, confidence to complete those types of plays with defenders in the area. Throw in an excellent feel for rebounding the ball, a developing jumper that is slowly approaching the three-point line, improved post moves and a variety of ways to finish in the paint and Powell has established himself as one of the best and most exciting players in the Pac-12.

Dwight Powell, Stanford

Dwight Powell Had A Breakout Season In His Junior Campaign (AP)

Before we leave this topic, we’ve got to spend a second on Andy Brown. After three ACL tears in his left knee, it was just assumed that the chances of the 6’7” forward every being a meaningful on-court contributor at the Division I level had passed. Instead, Brown made for one of the nicest stories in this or any other season. He played in all but one Cardinal game this season, averaged 23 minutes a night, and wasvery effective, displaying a toughness (as if you didn’t already know that a guy who had rehabbed from three torn ACLs was tough) and a feel for the game that can’t be taught. Already 22, he’s got at least one year of college eligibility ahead of him and here’s hoping it is another healthy and productive season.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VII: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2013

Maybe Professor Pac is in a good mood this week, because he couldn’t bring himself to give any of the below teams  D’s.

UCLA – C-

A road split. That’s good right? Yeah, it will work, but the way the Bruins lost their first game of the week (building up a 23-point half-time deficit and never making a serious push in the second half) is pretty inexcusable. They bounced back strong against Stanford and turned in their best offensive performance since, maybe Missouri, but this team is still a mystery.

Focus on: Kyle Anderson. Anderson was terrific against Stanford, scoring 18 points, grabbing 13 boards, handing out four assists, snatching a couple steals and even knocking down a three (he’s now 5-of-26 for the season from back there). That’s the guy that Ben Howland needs to show up on a regular basis for the Bruins. His ability to make plays for himself and teammates makes the Bruins more explosive and his newfound interest in hitting the glass is an absolutely necessity on an otherwise ridiculously poor rebounding team.

The Bruins Need Kyle Anderson's Versatile Game On A More Regular Basis (UCLA Athletics)

The Bruins Need Kyle Anderson’s Versatile Game On A More Regular Basis (UCLA Athletics)

Looking ahead: If the Bruins want to prove to themselves that they have the ability to be a national threat in March, they first have to prove that they can win a big local battle, as they travel 14 miles southeast to face USC on Sunday.

Washington State – C-

So you’re playing the conference leader to a draw. You’ve already got them in overtime and with just seconds left, your sophomore guard who is having a breakout career game knocks down a big three to tie the game and give you a real good chance to go to a second overtime. And then. Ugh. You probably know what happened. I can’t bring myself to repeat it, but suffice it to say, the Cougars went out of their way to ease Oregon’s route to a two-point overtime win. Hey, when you’re 2-11 in conference play, you usually have some bad luck and some ridiculous events. But that? That was above and beyond.

Focus on: Royce Woolridge. So, let’s focus on the positives. After struggling with his shot and his confidence early in the season, this sophomore transfer from Washington State is proving his worth. He has now scored in double figures in six straight games, but the piece de resistance came Saturday against those Ducks as he hit 10-of-15 shots from the field, including six threes on his way to a 36-point total that shattered his previous career-high. As recently as a week ago I was writing off Woolridge as a shooting guard that can’t shoot or a point guard that can’t handle. And clearly, I wrote him off too soon. His confidence is through the roof and he’s showing  that he can be a key part to this program for the next couple years.

Looking ahead: The Cougars travel to Arizona State tonight, then Arizona on Saturday. Nothing is for certain, but this looks like 2-13 is on the way.

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Marching to Vegas: Weighing a Pair of Midweek Upsets

Posted by AMurawa on February 1st, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Settling into my cubicle Thursday morning I was greeted by an instant message from my brain trust, Brad, “Which was the bigger win last night: USC or Stanford?” I will make no bones about this one; Stanford’s win was the bigger of the two. But it did get me to thinking about USC’s season and what it has and will become. Kevin O’Neill’s dismissal came at a truly strange time – as the team appeared to be turning either the cohesive group or easier schedule corner – indicative of the fact that Pat Haden has plans, big or otherwise, for that position.

The games themselves were solid, the respective performances impressive. From a strictly basketball perspective, Stanford may have been the best team in the nation Wednesday night. And with regards to magnitude of victory, it is my belief that Stanford’s win was the biggest. From an expectations standpoint, we thought the Cardinal would be doing this regularly. Their coach demands hard-nosed defense and their skill set – at least on an individual level – suggests an explosive offense. On Wednesday, they were exactly that, a perfect storm. They connected on their highest percentage of shots in a single game (52%) and held an opponent to the opposite, the lowest percentage of made baskets on their defensive season (34%). To say the Cardinal were due would be an understatement. And to acknowledge that the Cardinal were due is to recognize that their effort, while impressive and the best of the year, was not unexpected. Between Randle, Bright, Huestis, and Powell, Stanford can and should compete.

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

On the other hand, the Trojans marched into a “Blue Out” with specialty tops of their own and simply didn’t care to adhere to the guest policy. They handed the ball over 17 times and still won. Sure they shot a shade over their season average but this was a road, rivalry game with an interim staff. What business did the Trojans have even flirting with victory let alone controlling the game? I’ll refrain from going in on the Bruins here. So what do these wins mean? For Stanford, outscoring the Ducks represented an exorcising of the demons. My impression – if not hope – is that this represents a tipping point or springboard by which the Cardinal become the team they were meant to be. Returning NIT champs has got to mean more than a middling Pac-12 squad.

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Humbled: Against Stanford, Oregon’s Problems Come Home To Roost

Posted by mlemaire on January 31st, 2013

Mike Lemaire is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Stanford and Oregon in Palo Alto. 

Those who had watched Oregon eke their way to a 7-0 start in Pac-12 play knew that eventually the team’s offensive struggles and turnover issues would bite them, but no one could have predicted the Ducks’ comeuppance would be so vicious. Even Oregon had to know as it rose to No. 10 in the national polls that their gaudy record was built on a shaky foundation that would struggle to create offense without injured dynamic freshman point guard Dominic Artis. But even without Artis, getting thrashed by Stanford to the tune of 76-52 proves that the young Ducks still have a long way to go if they want to capture a Pac-12 title.

Since conference play began, Dana Altman’s team has made a habit of starting slow before picking up the intensity as the game went on and ultimately finding a way to win. And as if on cue last night, the Ducks turned the ball over four times in the first five minutes and missed a handful of early open jumpers. Oregon tried to turn up the intensity after trailing by double-figures at halftime, but without Artis to create offense in the half-court and facing a veteran team hungry for a big win, things quickly got worse instead of better.

Dominic Artis, Oregon

The importance of Dominic Artis to the Ducks as never more apparent than it was last night.

The Cardinal deserve credit too. Led by guards Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright,  Stanford canned nearly 60 percent of its three-pointers (8-of-14) and harassed Oregon’s perimeter players into a 4-of-16 effort from behind the three-point arc. But Oregon didn’t exactly make Stanford beat them. Offensively they were again plagued by turnovers and poor shooting, and the team’s lackluster defensive effort in the first half — especially on close-outs — allowed Stanford to open up a big lead they would not relinquish. ”It’s the first time we’ve fallen flat on our face this year,” Altman said. “I am not going to lie. I am very disappointed. But a lot of that has to do with Stanford. They just kicked us.”

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume II

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2013

Professor Pac is back to break down and evaluate each team’s performances in the past week. With three pet pupils atop the leaderboard still without a loss, it’s no surprise who is earning the As thus far.

Washington – A

After winning a conference road game over an intrastate rival last week, the Huskies decided to one-up themselves this week, taking down two more road games, this time over slightly more significant competition, to begin the season with a surprising three-game road winning streak.

Focus on: Andrew Andrews. The stats this week weren’t anywhere near mind-blowing for the redshirt freshman (9 PPG, 4 RPG, 0.5 APG), but he brings an energy and athleticism to a Husky backcourt that definitely needed it. Offensively, he is a threat to get to the paint and create opportunities on any possession, and on defense, as his four steals against Stanford on Saturday showed, he is capable of wreaking havoc on the opposition. He’s still green, but look for his role to continue to expand this season.

Looking ahead: For a team with a history of struggling on the road, the Huskies have taken care of business there in recent weeks. Now they have to prove they can win at home, something they have failed to do three separate times in the non-conference schedule. Colorado is the first test tonight with Utah visiting on Sunday.

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Oregon – A

If you wanted to pick one weakness on this Ducks team, it might be the lack of a proven go-to scorer at this point. This week, for instance, in each of their two home wins over the Arizona schools, four of the five starters scored in double figures, with nobody scoring more than 14 points. In fact, only four times all season has a Duck scored 20 or more (Damyean Dotson twice, Arsalan Kazemi once, and E.J. Singler once). I’m not one who thinks this is always necessarily a problem – if you have plenty of good offensive options and you wind up with balanced scoring that way, it certainly keeps the defense guessing – but I think in the Ducks’ case, they have a bunch of good players, none of whom are completely polished offensive options. And against Arizona down the stretch, the possibility of that being a problem raised its head. Part of it has to do with the decision to milk the clock way too early, but at some point they probably need somebody (the best candidate is Dotson) to become the go-to guy down the stretch.

Focus on: E.J. Singler. The senior had a great all-around game in the win over Arizona, going for 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals, while knocking down some key free throws late, but then once again disappeared for the most part against Arizona State, hitting just one of nine field goal attempts and grabbing only one board in 36 minutes of play. That’s been the M.O. for the most part this season for a guy expected to be an all-conference caliber guy: inconsistency.

Looking ahead: The Ducks leave the state of Oregon for the first time in almost a month and just the third game all year when they head down Los Angeles way. They will be the opponent for Bob Cantu’s debut with USC tomorrow night before headlining the Pac-12 schedule on Saturday with a visit to Pauley Pavilion and UCLA for the first conference match-up between Top 25 teams since 2009.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume I

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2013

Starting this week and continuing through the rest of the season, we’ll take a moment in between games to run down every team in the conference, grade their previous week’s performance, highlight the performance of one of their players (either for good or for bad) and look ahead briefly to their upcoming schedule.

Arizona State: A

The Sun Devils put aside concerns that their 11-2 record going into the week was built mostly on wins over bad teams by giving the home folks a healthy dose of optimism to start the conference season.

Focus on: Jahii Carson. While Jordan Bachynski was dominating in Sunday’s win over Colorado, I was most intrigued by Carson’s performance. With CU’s Spencer Dinwiddie keeping him locked down most of the night, Carson didn’t force things, got the ball in the hands of his teammates with better match-ups and kept ASU on point, even while being limited to his lowest number of field goal attempts this season. This proves that he doesn’t need to always score to be a positive force for his team.

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils have shown their improvement, but if we’re to believe that this team’s postseason aspirations should be any higher than the CBI, we’ll need to see them win on the road. A trip to Oregon State on Thursday looks like a possible chance, while getting Oregon following its game with Arizona could mean ASU catches the Ducks in a trap game. Speaking of which, ASU could benefit mightily this year from having the ‘Cats as a traveling partner, as teams could be either looking forward to or recovering from their game with U of A.

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Oregon: A

Any win in conference play is good. Any road win in conference play is great. Any road win in conference play in a rivalry game is a reason for outright celebration. Check all three boxes for the Ducks after one game.

Focus on: Arsalan Kazemi. In his first game back from a concussion, the senior Kazemi temporarily relinquished his starting spot to Carlos Emory and saw limited action. But, even in just 21 minutes, he was an impactful player, making four of his five field goal attempts, grabbing eight boards, handing out a couple assists and, per usual, coming up with a couple steals due to his relentlessly quick hands.

Looking ahead: The consensus, around here at least, is that the Ducks are going to be legitimate factors in the Pac-12 race. They get a chance to prove that this week when they host Arizona in a battle of contrasting strengths. While Zona has been through the ringer a time or two this season, these Ducks feature a pair of freshman guards ready for their first big spotlight. Meanwhile, the Ducks’ frontcourt features plenty of veterans, while the ‘Cats mix their three freshman with senior Solomon Hill.

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 68, Stanford 60

Posted by AMurawa on January 5th, 2013

rushedreactions

Andrew Murawa filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Pac-12 contest between UCLA and Stanford in Pauley Pavilion.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. It’s Not Just Offense. While there were moments today when UCLA looked halfway decent on the offensive end for a couple minutes at a time, this was by no means an explosive scoring performance for a Bruins team that has come to be known for its offensive ability. It took more than 10 minutes for somebody in a white jersey without the name Wear on the back to score a bucket. Then there was a stretch of three minutes late where the Bruins turned it over seven times (after previously coughing it up just six times in the first 35 minutes). Follow that up with Jordan Adams missing three straight front-ends of one-and-one opportunities (this for a guy who made his 33 straight FTs earlier in the year and came into the game shooting almost 87%) and it looked like UCLA was doing their best to give this one away. But, when all was said and done, UCLA limited Stanford to just 0.85 points per possession and, on the weekend (albeit against admittedly pedestrian offenses from the Northern California pair) defended to the tune of just 0.89 PPP. As we mentioned Thursday night, this squad is never going to turn into Howland’s 2007 defensive juggernaut, but this team is improving on an almost game-by-game basis.

    With UCLA's Defense Coming Along Slowly But Surely, They Can Survive Slow Offensive Nights (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

    With UCLA’s Defense Coming Along Slowly But Surely, They Can Survive Slow Offensive Nights (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

  1. Stanford Rotation. Two nights ago, in a loss at USC, the five Stanford players who Johnny Dawkins brought off the bench actually played 51% of the team’s minutes, with Chasson Randle earning just 15 ineffective minutes and Dwight Powell getting just 23 foul-plagued minutes. That game actually marked the third straight game where Dawkins has used the same starting lineup, but this afternoon against UCLA, two of those guys were pulled for replacement. This has been an ongoing issue all year long as Dawkins has played 13 different guys this year (although Anthony Brown is out for the season now), with 12 guys having earned at least 20% of the team’s minutes and only two (Randle and Josh Huestis) earning better than 70% of the minutes. There have been six different starting lineups this year in just 15 games after he fielded 15 different starting lineups last season. Last year’s run to the NIT title was highlighted by fantastic performances by Randle and Bright, as the backcourt duo, who showed great chemistry together, averaged just shy of 60 minutes per game between them. This year, those guys have seen their minutes jerked around, and while admittedly neither has been great when in the game, Dawkins needs to give these guys some semblance of stability so that players can be more comfortable in their roles and build a rapport with their teammates. After the game on Thursday night, some of the UCLA players talked about how with a couple of player defections, the fact that they’re running a seven-man rotation has allowed everybody to get comfortable with their teammates, and roles and into a flow. Dawkins should take some notes. And, give him some credit as today he trimmed his rotation, playing just nine guys and giving all five of his starters at least 27 minutes. Concern about Bright, who earned just 14 minutes and was largely invisible in them (one three-pointer, one assist, one turnover) should persist. Read the rest of this entry »
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Wrapping Up Pac-12 Non-Conference Play By Reassessing Our All-Conference Selections

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2013

Later tonight, the second leg of the Pac-12 college basketball season begins as conference play tips off with the Battle of the Bachynskis, when Utah travels to Arizona State. After last year’s nightmare of a non-conference slate, this season the conference took major strides, with Arizona’s win over Florida, UCLA’s win over Missouri, Colorado’s win over Baylor, and Oregon’s win over UNLV making up the top tier of the best wins for the conference. Before we turn our complete attention to conference play, we thought we’d hand out some awards based on the season to this point, so Connor Pelton, Parker Baruh, Pachoops’ Adam Butler and myself voted and came up with the following results.

Player of the Year

Allen Crabbe, Jr, California – Crabbe’s 20.9 PPG and efficient all-around offensive game earned three of the four votes for our player of the year, with UCLA’s Jordan Adams receiving the other vote from me. Crabbe has been a rock for the Golden Bears (well, aside from that Creighton debacle, at least), scoring in double figures in every game, helping out on the glass and, thus far, knocking down better than 38% of his shots from deep.

The Pac-12's Leading Scorer, Allen Crabbe Takes Down The Mid-season POTY Award (credit: Jeff Gross)

The Pac-12′s Leading Scorer, Allen Crabbe Takes Down The Mid-season POTY Award (credit: Jeff Gross)

Coach of the Year

Dana Altman, Oregon – Despite losing three of last year’s top four scorers, and having the other guy in that quartet – E.J. Singler – struggle through the early part of this year, the Ducks have reeled off wins in 11 of their 13 games. Altman has gotten great production out of his freshman backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, has folded Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi into the mix seamlessly, and coaxed great improvement out of senior center Tony Woods. As a result, he earned three of our four votes for the COY, while Arizona State’s Herb Sendek got my support.

Freshman of the Year

Shabazz Muhammad, Fr, UCLA – After missing the first three games of the season due to an NCAA investigation into his eligibility, Muhammad has come on strong for the Bruins, scoring in double figures in all 10 of the games he’s played in on his way to 19.6 points per night. He’s just beginning to ease into the best physical shape of the season, so the expectation is that conference play will see an even better version of Shabazz. Once again, Shabazz earned three of our four votes for FrOY, with the lone dissenter (again, me) nabbing teammate Jordan Adams.

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Can Stanford Begin to Turn Its Season Around?

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2012

Stanford is halfway through its big two-game non-conference road trip and, heading into their game with Northwestern on Friday night, they’re in a position they certainly didn’t want to be in: The Cardinal almost has to win that game. Their non-conference strength of schedule has been solid, but thus far they’ve played four teams in the top 100 of the RPI and come away with four losses. The game against the Wildcats represents their final chance to make something of a mark prior to Pac-12 play, as NU is currently #72 in the RPI.

Aaron Bright And Backcourt-Mate Chasson Randle Have Struggled Shooting The Ball Thus Far (credit: Zach Sanderson)

Aaron Bright And Backcourt-Mate Chasson Randle Have Struggled Shooting The Ball Thus Far (credit: Zach Sanderson)

Thus far, the Cardinal have found plenty of different ways to lose. Against Belmont it was poor shooting — both from the free throw line and from the field — that doomed them to an upset loss. Missouri killed them on the glass and forced turnovers on roughly a quarter of their possessions. Against Minnesota, it was an inability to keep from fouling, especially in a critical late-game scenario, and mediocrity in all phases of the game, where one additional made play could have been the difference between a win and a loss. Then Tuesday night, the Cardinal found new and inventive ways to drop a game; they committed just six turnovers and shot a 50% eFG, but only earned six free throw attempts for themselves and showed a complete inability to keep their opponent from getting good looks. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Spin Around The Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2012

Now that we’ve got games coming fast and furious, every team around the conference has a story to tell, and often we don’t have time to get to them all. So, in the interest of checking in semi-regularly with every team, we’re going to take a quick spin around the conference and check the temperature of each team, beginning with the spots that have gone the most terribly wrong and working backwards to the success stories.

UCLA – More or less a co-favorite heading into the season, the Bruins are likely the biggest story going in the Pac-12 right now – and not for anything good. Sunday night’s blown 18-point second-half lead en route to a loss to Cal Poly is one (terrible, horrible, atrocious) thing, but the fact that this team is doing this kind of thing with a the level of talent they’ve got is unforgivable. If Ben Howland is going to stick with more or less this personnel in his rotation (you know, the Wear twins, Larry Drew and a pair of wings), he’s gotta just break down and play a ton of zone. Really, this will do two good things: (1) minimize the effect of this team’s low level of overall athleticism, and (2) give them plenty of work on their zone offense in practice, something they desperately need. The other thing that absolutely has to happen for UCLA to even get within shouting distance of its potential ceiling is to find a way to get Kyle Anderson comfortable in this offense, and really that means putting the ball in his hands and letting him create, at least in the halfcourt. Drew has been excellent running the show and in no way should be scapegoated for UCLA’s struggles, but this team needs Anderson to be a factor and, while he’s shown his versatility, his defense has been bad, his shooting has been worse, and he hasn’t done enough elsewhere to make up for those serious drawbacks. There is still plenty of time for this team to turn things around, but UCLA fans have rightly run out of patience with Howland and are demanding immediate success. If this team doesn’t get drastically better, the big story come March will be whether UCLA’s legacy will be enough to pull either Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens away from their current jobs.

Kyle Anderson, UCLA

Ben Howland Needs To Find a Way To Get Kyle Anderson Comfortable, Or He’ll Be Looking For A New Job

Washington – The thinking at the start of the year was that maybe, minus a pair of talented but conflicted wings, the Huskies could be a textbook example of addition by subtraction. Minus Terrence Ross and especially Tony Wroten Jr., the remaining members of the team would know and accept their roles better. Well, somebody forgot to tell guys like Desmond Simmons, Jernard Jarreau and Martin Breunig that a big part of their roles would be to clean the defensive glass. While the Huskies have more or less won the battle of the boards against lesser teams, versus Ohio State and Colorado State they were dominated – in fact, against the Rams, the Huskies actually grabbed fewer defensive rebounds than CSU grabbed offensive boards. Sure, it sucks that Shawn Kemp Jr. went down with an injury just before the start of the year, but either Jarreau or Breuning needs to be ready to step in and do some of the dirty work, lest they be not asked back next season.

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Set Your DVR: Feast Week

Posted by bmulvihill on November 19th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Thanksgiving week, otherwise known as “Feast Week” for college hoops fans tuning into ESPN, provides us a bunch of viewing options while we gorge ourselves with turkey and stuffing. Several of the higher profile preseason tournaments get going or finish up this week including the Maui Invitational, the NIT Tip-Off, and the Battle 4 Atlantis. While we don’t know all the potential match-ups in those tourneys just yet, you can be sure there will be some great games. We’ll take a look today at the first round games for a few of the tournaments but definitely tune into the later rounds as they progress. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#5 Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (PNIT Semifinals) – 9:30 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPN HD (****)

The battle between Michigan’s Trey Burke (above) and Pitt’s Tray Woodall could be the best point guard match-up we see all season(AP)

  • The battle between Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall and Michigan’s Trey Burke at the point guard position could be one of the best we see all season. Woodall is averaging 14 points and seven assists through four games this season and shooting a fantastic 57.1% from inside the arc. Burke is averaging 18 points and eight assists through three games and is also shooting 57% from inside the arc. There are two areas to keep an eye on as these two battle throughout the night – turnovers and three-point shooting. Burke is turning the ball over at a slightly higher rate than Woodall – 20% vs. 15%. While both are excellent distributors of the basketball, the player who wins the defensive battle and can create more turnovers will give his team a huge advantage. Additionally, Burke is extending defenses with his 43.8% shooting from downtown. His ability to continue to hit threes against a Pitt team that has shown weakness against perimeter shooting will be vital to a Michigan victory — particularly so if Michigan wants to free up space on the inside for its frontcourt.
  • Speaking of the frontcourt battle, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford finally give coach John Beilein some rebounding to go along with his penchant for the outside shot. Michigan has been a three-point heavy squad with very little rebounding support under Beilein. With the additions of McGary and Robinson, the Wolverines can go big and hit the offensive boards hard should their outside shooting go cold. They are going to need it because the Panthers bring their own talented frontcourt to the party in Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, and 7’0” freshman center Steven Adams. Offensive rebounding will be a huge factor in this game. Michigan is only allowing opponents to grab 14% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, good for third in the nation. They face a much tougher Pitt frontline however whose offensive rebounding rate is sixteenth in the nation at 46%. Something has to give.
  • Given the great match-ups we are going to see in this game, it should be a close one in Madison Square Garden. The difference could be Michigan’s outside shooting. The Wolverines are currently hitting 49% of their three-point attempts. Outside pressure can come from Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., freshman Nick Stauskas, and even Robinson. If Jamie Dixon’s squad can improve its perimeter defense and get Adams more involved in the offense, they will have a chance to take down the Wolverines. Otherwise, U of M will walk out of the Garden with a victory.

Six Other Games to Watch This Week

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Dwight Powell Emerges But Stanford Struggles

Posted by mlemaire on November 10th, 2012

Mike Lemaire is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday night’s Stanford-San Francisco game in Oakland.

The season-opening matchup against San Francisco was never supposed to be a game where we would learn whether Stanford‘s basketball team had what it took to get over the hump and make  its first NCAA Tournament since 2008. After all, Stanford was the heavy favorite against a USF team that had lost four starters and had watched six players transfer in the offseason. But as the final horn sounded and Stanford left with a 12-point victory, the one thing we did learn is that if Stanford expects to compete for an NCAA Tournament berth, they will need to play better than they did on Friday.The Cardinal opened up multiple large leads in the first half as the Dons struggled mightily to find their rhythm in the early part of the contest. But each time they opened up a large lead, they allowed San Francisco to shoot their way back into the game and at halftime the Cardinal held a very slim 32-31 advantage. In fact, if it hadn’t been for junior forward Dwight Powell decided he couldn’t be stopped in the second half, the Cardinal might have been in trouble.

Powell May Have Saved the Cardinal Last Night

With the team’s star guards — Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle — on their way to shooting a combined 5-17 from the field for the game, Stanford was quick to recognize the inherent advantage Powell had in the post as the biggest and strongest player on the floor, and they took full advantage. The junior big man dumped in 18 second-half points and finished with a career-high 27 points, even smoothly burying two three-pointers in the process. The frontcourt was a major question mark for coach Johnny Dawkins and the Cardinal coming into the season, and if Powell — who averaged 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds as a sophomore — can make the leap to becoming an all-conference player, it bodes well for Stanford’s prospects down the line. Powell won’t always have the privilege of playing against a group of vastly undersized underclassmen in every game, but he has great size and strength, strong hands, and intriguing athleticism and ball skills, which make him a player to watch going forward.

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