Washington State Week: Q&A With CougCenter

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 5th, 2012

As part of our Washington State week, we wanted to reach out to the guys at CougCenter for their takes on the upcoming Cougar basketball season. Kyle Sherwood was kind enough to spend some time with us and give us his thoughts.

Rush The Court: How do the Cougars plan on replacing players like Marcus Capers, Abe Lodwick, and Faisal Aden?

CougCenter: Easier than you’d think. Capers, Lodwick and Aden were all high-character guys and great team leaders, but for the most part they were all one-dimensional  players. Those players meant a lot to WSU, but I think this current roster is the first one that really fits into how Ken Bone wants to play. The 2012-13 team is loaded with athletic wings who can create space and hit shots from long-range, so we’re going to replace those guys by running…and running…and running..?

Look For The Fast Cougars To Have Many Transition Opportunities That End With Dunks (credit: Stephen Dunn)

RTC: CBI time! Washington State played four games in three different tough road environments (well, as tough as CBI crowds can get), and ended the tournament with a 4-2 record and runner-up finish. Overall, was this a good experience for the team?

CC: Well, Capers and Lodwick meant so much to the program that it was worth playing as long as they wanted to keep going. The team had really turned a corner around the beginning of February, but it wasn’t showing up in the win column. When they started advancing in the CBI, it wasn’t just that they were winning, it was how dominating they looked. It was nice for the players to see the work they had put in to turn their season around pay off with such lopsided scores. I think we all would’ve liked a tournament win (because you know WSU would hang a flippin’ CBI banner), but the team got what it needed from its success in the first four games.

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Washington State Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 31st, 2012

Seven players earned significant playing time for the Cougars in 2011-12, and three of those will be gone next season. Of those three, each has used up his eligibility and at least one will get an opportunity to play professionally somewhere or another. Gone is Washington State’s second-leading scorer and top shot-blocker along with a big man who could be very effective on the boards at times. With only one incoming recruit who is likely to make an immediate impact, head coach Ken Bone will have a tough time early on replacing the shooting ability and athletic presence provided by those three players. Below we’ll take a look at who will be missed the most and who can step in to make the transition easier.

Capers’ Athleticism And Ability To Handle The Ball Made Him Valuable As Both A Guard And Defender

Marcus Capers – Capers was a fan favorite on the Palouse. While he wasn’t the most prolific of scorers, he was one of the top shooters from the field. However, his main contribution to the team’s success came on defense. Capers was by far the most athletic player on the roster, and he proved it by leading the squad in blocks and coming in second in rebounding last season. Some of Capers’ biggest games as a Cougar came at the end of his career as the combo guard averaged 5.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 3.5 APG in Washington State’s six CBI contests.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 07.06.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on July 6th, 2012

  1. We skipped last week because of a dearth of news as we head into the dead days of summer, so now we’ve got a couple week’s worth of catching up to do. The biggest news in the past two weeks was the NBA Draft, where more Pac-12 players heard their names called than conference teams did on Selection Sunday. Washington, who won the regular season title but was banished to the NIT, had two players – Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, Jr. – get drafted, while Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham became just the 13th Beaver picked in the first round – the first since Corey Benjamin went with the second-to-last pick of the first round in 1998. The Huskies, meanwhile, have had much more recent success on draft night, with nine players drafted in the past eight years, six of those in the first round, a record that head coach Lorenzo Romar is making sure gets heard. With many elite recruits using college as a mere launching point toward NBA careers, Romar’s success at sending players to the NBA can only help his recruiting efforts.
  2. The Huskies also landed a new player this week when it was announced that seven-foot center Gilles Dierickx would be transferring into the program from Florida International. Dierickx (gee, thanks basketball gods – I only just got used to confidently spelling Krystkowiak) was a freshman last season with FIU, where he played just under 15 minutes a game and averaged 2.6 points and 2.2 rebounds. He’s a face-up stretch four who will be eligible to play for UW beginning in 2013-14. But, as Ben Knibbe at the UW Dawg Pound points out, this leaves Romar with just three open scholarships for the 2013 class, a highly regarded recruiting class in which the Huskies are pursuing several five-star talents. As we’ve seen elsewhere, the fact that a program has a player under scholarship doesn’t preclude the possibility of a coach running off one or more players who are no longer necessary in order to make room for a more desirable prospect, but with the Huskies putting so much emphasis on the 2013 class, this is something of a head-scratcher.
  3. At this point in the summer, no news is generally good news for most collegiate programs. It means that nobody is getting into trouble with the law, nobody’s getting injured while working on their game, and nobody’s making a late decision to transfer. About the only really exciting news for a program at this time of the year is the announcement of the upcoming schedule, something Utah did last week. And, wow, is it ever underwhelming. The first three home games are an exhibition against something called Simon Fraser, then the season opener against Division III Willamette, followed by a match-up with Sacramento State. Now, to be fair, SSU was actually ranked higher than the Utes in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings last season (#292, compared to UU’s #303). The next three home games are part of a four-team round robin event on the Utah campus over Thanksgiving weekend, when the Utes will play Central Michigan, Idaho State and Wright State. Elsewhere in the non-conference schedule are games against Evergreen State of the NAIA and Cal State Northridge. There’s also a home-and-home series with SMU, a visit from Boise State, a trip to Texas State, and their renewal of their annual rivalry with BYU at the Cougars’ Provo campus. In other words, the Utes should be ready to dial up significantly more wins than the three non-conference wins they posted last year, while the ever-important RPI number should still remain in the gutter. Also of note, the Utes also finalized their plans for their trip to Brazil this summer, where they will play five games against Brazilian teams over the course of their 12-day trip.
  4. Another thing to keep an eye on as the summer progresses is landing spots for Pac-12 players who weren’t drafted by the NBA. For instance, former Colorado point guard Nate Tomlinson is heading back home to Australia to play professionally for the Melbourne Tigers. And he’s even trying to do a little recruiting of his own, trying to get former teammate Austin Dufault to follow him along, although he is also considering Europe and China. Meanwhile, Carlon Brown hasn’t yet given up on his NBA dreams despite going undrafted. The 6’5” wing is hoping to catch on with a summer league team and may need to go the D-League route. Elsewhere, Washington State forward Abe Lodwick will be playing professionally in Germany, while Arizona’s Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender both still harbor dreams of NBA careers, with Fogg set to play for Houston’s summer league team and Lavender putting on an Atlanta Hawk jersey for the summer.
  5. Lastly, we’ve got a couple of previews to point you to. First, we did so a few weeks back, but the always-excellent Doug Haller at The Arizona Republic last week broke down the returnees for the Arizona State team. And then there’s Dick Vitale, who gives his thoughts on the Pac-12, eyeing UCLA and Arizona as the clear favorites, while pointing to Stanford as the dark horse and predicting an improved conference from top to bottom.
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Washington State: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 16th, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Washington State.

What Went Wrong

Washington State was plagued by inconsistencies in shooting especially from three-point range all season long. Their season was simple in a lot of ways; when they would shoot the three well, they’d win games. But when the touch was missing, boy was it missing. That led to mind-boggling losses against teams like UC Riverside, Utah, and Arizona State, which cost the Cougars a possible NIT bid. Some bad luck struck Pullman in late-January, when just after senior guard Faisal Aden went down for the season with an ACL tear just as he was hitting his stride. He suffered the leg injury after playing just 11 minutes at Arizona on January 26, a game the Cougars would go on to lose by 24. The injury would hurt Washington State physically and mentally, as they would lose four of their next six games. That dropped them to 13-13 with just two weeks to play in the regular season.

Coach Ken Bone wished he could have cut down the nets again after a CBI Championship, but advancing to the three-game championship series of a postseason tournament was still a solid way to end the season. (credit: Don Ryan)

What Went Right

The Cougars were able to develop a pair of hybrid players in junior Brock Motum and senior Abe Lodwick. By seasons end, both were viable threats from both the paint and outside of three-point line, making things incredibly tough on opposing defenses. The newcomers were also solid and came up big at different times throughout the season. Freshman DaVonte Lacy quickly earned playing time as a combo guard early in the year, and did he ever make the most of it. Lacy averaged 8.5 PPG to lead the newcomers in 26.6 minutes of action. Junior shooting guard Mike Ladd came up big at times, and while only averaging 5.4 PPG, he threw in a pair of 13-point performances in hostile environments against Gonzaga and Oregon. Sophomore forward D.J. Shelton had a great season as well, averaging 4.7 PPG to go along with 2.9 RPG. Shelton’s best game by far came against his father’s old school in Washington State’s February 9 meeting against Oregon State in Corvallis. Shelton led the Cougs to an 83-73 victory and added 14 points and nine rebounds.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.29.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 29th, 2012

  1. Washington State continued its season on Wednesday night with the second of a three-game series with Pittsburgh for the championship of the CBI Tournament. With the Cougars winning game one on Monday night, they had a chance to sew up the title, but fell at the Petersen Events Center by four, forcing game three on Friday night. Once again, the Cougs had to go without junior forward Brock Motum, who is out with a sprained ankle, but Reggie Moore led the way in trying to cover for his absence. Moore had 18 points and was instrumental in keeping WSU in the game in the second half, getting to the line repeatedly. Still, the Panthers, playing without a star of their own, as Ashton Gibbs sat out with his own ankle injury, did a good job of limiting any type of second option for the Cougs, including Abe Lodwick, who had been steady in the last two games without Motum. The status for both Motum and Gibbs for Friday night’s game remains unclear at this point.
  2. Stanford plays in the final of the NIT tonight, and regardless of what happens in that game against Minnesota, this has already been an important March for the Cardinal program. They’ve won six of their seven games in the month (although their loss in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal to California killed their NCAA dreams) and have earned the right to continue getting extra game action, extra practices and extra confidence, so much so that Stanford could be among the favorites at the top of the conference for next season.
  3. There was a shakeup in the Arizona State athletic department on Wednesday, as Lisa Love is out as athletic director and Steve Patterson, who was previously the chief operating officer of the athletic department, is in. Under Love, both the ASU football and basketball programs have struggled, and given that she was responsible for the hiring of the head coaches who have run those programs since she was brought on board in 2005, her firing is not unexpected.
  4. The McDonald’s All-America game was Wednesday night, and Shabazz Muhammad, currently very much on the radar of the UCLA program, had a big night, scoring 21 points and earning the game’s Most Valuable Player award. Still, Muhammad’s holding out until April 11 to announce his final decision, but he has reportedly narrowed his field down to the Bruins, Duke and Kentucky, with his hometown school, UNLV, dropped. Elsewhere at the McDonald’s game, Arizona commitments Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley did the dirty work in the all-star game, combining to score 14 points and grab 12 rebounds, while UCLA signee Kyle Anderson went for 13 points, eight assists and eight boards.
  5. Lastly, the Oregon State season may be over, ending short of its goal of an NCAA Tournament bid and of a modified goal of a run to the CBI championship, but all things considered, it could be a stepping stone year for the Beavers from conference also-ran to legitimate contender. If guard Jared Cunningham decides to forgo the NBA Draft and return to Corvallis, the Beavs will only lose Kevin McShane, who averaged just eight minutes per game, while bringing in three freshmen and adding the services of redshirt freshman Daniel Gomis, who missed the year with a broken leg.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 27th, 2012

  1. While college basketball as a whole is in that dreaded five-day lull between the Elite Eight games and the Final Four games, we’ve at least got some leftovers to keep us sated as we wait. Last night’s menu featured game one of the three-game CBI championship series, and Washington State, playing without its best player Brock Motum, built a 12-point second-half lead against Pittsburgh, then held on to win, dodging a last-second shot to emerge as a one-point winner. Senior Abe Lodwick picked up the slack for the Cougs, going for 16 points, while junior point guard Reggie Moore had 14. After the opening-game win in Pullman, the Cougs will now have to win just one of the remaining two games at the Peterson Events Center in order to claim the CBI title, with game two coming on Wednesday. Motum, who wore a protective boot on the bench on Monday night, could return for game two, although he’ll be a game-time decision.
  2. Oregon State got news on Monday that junior guard Jared Cunningham would be “testing the waters” with the NBA, meaning that he has until April 10 to announce his intention to return to school rather than become eligible for the June draft. Of course, due to increasingly player-unfavorable rules enacted by the NCAA, this means that Cunningham really will have very little opportunity to get any feedback from NBA executives as to his potential readiness for the league. So, for the next couple weeks, Beaver fans looking forward to an exciting 2012-13 season have plenty of reason for feelings of unease, but can at least comfort themselves in knowing that this has been the plan for Cunningham all along.  All indications are that he’ll return to Corvallis next season, not only in an attempt to improve his own draft stock, but in hopes to get his team to the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek is under fire recently for the unprecedented rate of scholarship players to leave his program early – 12 players in four seasons. However, Sendek still feels that the program is on the right track, noting that only one of those players who left wound up transferring to another power conference school (Victor Rudd to South Florida), with the rest of the players downgrading to a mid- or low-major program that is more in fitting with their talents. While that’s certainly true, the other side of the coin is that Sendek, then, has been recruiting players who aren’t talented enough to be impact players at a Pac-12 school. And, as Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic notes, of the 14 players who have signed with ASU between 2008 and 2010, 11 have left, leaving only Ruslan Pateev, Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski remaining from those recruiting classes.
  4. It may not be a video that Arizona fans would care to watch, but this recap from the Big Ten Network of Arizona’s collapse against Illinois in the Elite Eight seven years ago seemed particularly relevant this weekend as Florida collapsed against Louisville. While Florida’s folly was more of a slow-motion fade, for some reason watching that inevitability on Saturday brought back the exact same feelings I felt in 2005. A team that had fought its way to a well-earned late double-digit lead on the road to a Final Four somehow suddenly found itself in peril; certainly not a great moment in Pac-12 (nee  10) history, but an iconic one.
  5. Just to cheer up Wildcat fans a bit, there is talk that Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell may wind up at Arizona. McConnell announced his intention to transfer from the Pittsburgh school last week, and rumors immediately swirled that Tucson would be a strong possible landing spot for the point guard who averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last year. With Josiah Turner’s status in doubt, the Wildcats are in desperate need of a point guard to pair with their 2012 recruiting class currently ranked as the best in the nation, although McConnell would need to sit out a year before being eligible in the desert. Nevertheless, if Turner does indeed wind up returning to the program, that could preclude McConnell from coming west.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.22.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 22nd, 2012

  1. While the NCAA Tournament may be a fading memory for Pac-12 teams, the conference is alive and thriving in the NIT, as Stanford became the second team to clinch a trip to Madison Square Garden by demolishing Nevada 84-56 on Wednesday night. They will face Massachusetts in the semifinals next Tuesday. The win was highlighted by four different players scoring in double figures and nine of the 15 players who saw action getting in the scoring column. The win was the Cardinal’s 17th home win this year, good for a school record, quite an accomplishment given the elite Stanford teams of the past.
  2. Washington State’s season continues as well, as they handled Oregon State pretty easily themselves in Corvallis last night. The surprising thing is that Washington  State was able to take care of the Beavers without the services of Brock Motum, who left the game after playing just two minutes (and scoring four points on three field goal attempts in those two minutes) due to an ankle injury. But Abe Lodwick and Reggie Moore picked up the slack for their fallen comrade, combining for 45 points, with Lodwick adding 12 rebounds and five threes. The Cougs now face Pittsburgh in the three-game CBI championship series.
  3. On the heels of yesterday’s announcement out of USC that Curtis Washington and Alexis Moore would be transferring out of the program, Trojan fans got news today that Evan Smith would be leaving the team as well due to an ongoing issue with his shoulder. He’ll say at the school and remain on scholarship, but he won’t count against the team’s scholarship limit. That now makes four players from this year’s roster that won’t be back next year. Still, for a team that just won six games this season, there is quite a bit of hope around the program. Kevin O’Neill released an open letter to Trojan fans on Wednesday thanking them for their support and offering his signs for hope in 2012-13. He also noted that the Trojans are all lined up to play a rough schedule, with teams like San Diego State, Long Beach State, New Mexico, Minnesota, Nebraska, Georgia, and Dayton on the schedule, along with a trip to the Maui Invitational.
  4. We got some other news about future schedules this week as well, as Arizona announced that they have completed a contract with Michigan to begin a two-year home-and-home series beginning in 2013-14. The Wildcats still have five open spots on their schedule and are looking to potentially fill one of those spots by buying a game with Oral Roberts. Of the four other remaining games, it is likely that one of them would be either an away or neutral-site game against a quality opponent.
  5. Lastly, we discussed after the California season ended just how much longer Mike Montgomery would continue to coach. While we don’t have an answer to that question yet, it appears that the 65-year old veteran of 15 NCAA Tournaments isn’t considering hanging up the whistle anytime soon, as he is in talks with athletic director Sandy Barbour to ink an extension to Montgomery’s contact. The coach still has two years remaining on his original contact, so all indications are that his time in Berkeley is still quite a ways from being done.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 24th, 2012

  1. ESPN’s GameDay is on its way to the McKale Center on Saturday for the first time ever to whoop the home crowd into a frenzy in advance of the Washington/Arizona matchup Saturday evening.  But of more importance to Wildcat fans is how, or if, this team currently stuck at sixth place in the conference can turn things around. However, with three losses already, including a missed opportunity this weekend against Colorado, and arguably the two toughest road trips (to the Bay Area and to Washington) remaining on the schedule, maybe it is time for UA fans to back off the expectations of an NCAA Tournament trip that had until recently seemed to be their birthright.
  2. Utah got its second win of the conference season this weekend, knocking off Arizona State on Saturday, and in the wake of the dismissal of senior point guard Josh Watkins, this could be a perfect example of addition by subtraction. In booting Watkins, head coach Larry Krystkowiak loses his leading scorer and biggest offensive threat, but he also cleared minutes for some of the younger players on this squad around whom he’ll need to build future editions of the Utah basketball team. As an added bonus, he showed the rest of his players that there are negative consequences for bad behavior under his reign.
  3. Sticking in Salt Lake City, junior center Jason Washburn has earned a starting spot and the most minutes in his career with the Utes, but despite leading his team in scoring, rebounding, blocks, field goal percentage and free throw percentage, he is still inconsistent. Krystkowiak says he is prone to “disappear and not demand the ball” and that he doesn’t “run the floor consistently.” With Watkins gone, Krystkowiak needs the veteran to step up and become a team leader capable of providing a good example for his younger teammates.
  4. In an announcement that took exactly no one by surprise, Washington State’s Faisal Aden was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday, a sentiment we shared. But Aden wasn’t the only Cougar who lent a big hand in the WSU sweep of the Bay Area schools this weekend; senior guard Abe Lodwick knocked down a couple threes early in the second half to spark the Cougars, plus helped out off of the ball and can be an important complementary piece for Ken Bone’s club the rest of the way.
  5. Oregon and Oregon State will renew the basketball version of the Civil War rivalry on Sunday in their 336th all-time meeting, but in the interim, both teams have a chance to rest up and patch their bones a little bit. Both teams are coming off home sweeps of the Los Angeles area schools, and the Ducks in particular, are in good shape, tied atop the conference with California. The game will be held in Eugene at Matthew Knight Arena, where head coach Dana Altman says the crowd was “unbelievable” in helping to propel the Ducks to a big come-from-behind second half run to beat UCLA on Saturday.
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Pac-12 Honors: Week 11

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2012

Team of the Week

Washington State – There are really three choices here, as Colorado, Oregon and Washington State all went 2-0 this weekend while homestanding. While the Colorado and Oregon performances are arguably more important in terms of the conference race (since each keeps up the pace with just two conference losses), the Cougars’ sweep of the Bay Area school is more impressive. We’ll get to Faisal Aden’s heroics shortly, but the two wins on the Palouse were very much team wins. Brock Motum averaged 15.5 points and eight rebounds per game while being ridiculously efficient; Reggie Moore seems to be buying into his role as point guard, handing out seven assists on Saturday despite failing to score; and guys like DaVonte Lacy, Abe Lodwick and Marcus Capers all made significant contributions to the wins. And, let’s not forget head coach Ken Bone, who was still making adjustments and keeping his team’s attention despite a 1-4 conference start.

Faisal Aden, Washington State

Faisal Aden's Big Weekend Helped Washington State Sweep The Bay Area Schools (photo credit: Dean Hare, AP)

Player of the Week

Faisal Aden, Sr, Washington State – It wasn’t all that long ago that we were killing Aden for taking 37% of his team’s shots. Yet, this weekend he hoisted 41.2% of WSU’s field goal attempts, and in doing so he dragged his team across the finish line in both games. Thursday night against Stanford, Aden missed four of his first six FGAs, including misses on all three of his three-pointers. Over the rest of the weekend, Aden never shot from behind the arc, converted 17 of his 23 remaining field goal attempts and got to the line 18 times. For the weekend he averaged 28.5 points per outing, made 65.5% of his field goal attempts and posted a true shooting percentage (which includes his scoring from the line) of 75.4%. In short, while Aden’s usage numbers went through the roof, he was very efficient. It remains to be seen whether or not he can keep it up, but for one weekend at least, Aden was spectacular.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.21.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2011

  1. Three games in the conference last night, none all that interesting, although I suppose it is worth noting these days when the Pac-12 gets through a weeknight without sustaining any more losses. Arizona faced the toughest competition when they hosted Oakland and their talented and prolific senior point guard Reggie Hamilton, but the ‘Cats survived as they “held” him to 31 often spectacular points. Solomon Hill played just about as well as he’s ever played, scoring 23 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, handing out three assists and refusing to let the Wildcats lose. Elsewhere, freshman Norman Powell had a career-high 19 points as UCLA won its fourth straight and stuck its head over .500 for the first time this year by knocking off UC Irvine by 29. And Oregon used a 19-3 run in the middle of the second half to break open a tie-game against North Carolina Central and escape despite a sluggish performance.
  2. Arizona State junior center Ruslan Pateev was suspended for one game by the NCAA on Tuesday following an altercation (jump to the 30 second mark here) during the Sun Devils’ game Monday night in which he took a swing and connected to the back of the head of Southern Mississippi’s Torye Pelham following a little scuffle under the basket. Pateev was ejected from that game after being given a Flagrant 2 foul, and if he receives another foul of that degree this season he will be suspended the remainder of the year.
  3. Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar is trying to right the ship in Seattle and think he has narrowed down the Huskies’ problems to three areas: 1) defense, 2) ball movement, and, the big one, 3) chemistry. Thing one and thing two can be fixed either through effort or game-planning, but with a ton of scorers who like to have the ball in their hands coupled with a play-making point guard like Abdul Gaddy who needs to have the ball in his hands to be effective, there have been some problems figuring out everybody’s roles. And with Tony Wroten now taking a larger part of the offense, and often doing so by creating for himself off the dribble, guys like Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox have seen their shot attempts diminish. Ross and Wilcox both averaged over 13 field goal attempts per game in the first eight games, but since Wroten entered the starting lineup, Ross has averaged just eight while Wilcox has averaged 10. Wroten, meanwhile, has taken 38 shots from the field in those two games, and although he did so very effectively (scoring 50 points on those shots), a bigger concern is his ability to create for his teammates, having dished out just four assists in 68 minutes.
  4. Across the state, Washington State is back to full strength for the first time this season, as senior captain Abe Lodwick played for the first time, while Faisal Aden and Mychal Ladd returned from injuries in the Cougars’ last game against Western Oregon. In their absence, senior Charlie Enquist stepped up with by far the best stretch of his career, while freshmen DaVonte Lacy and Dexter Kernich-Drew saw dramatic increases in their playing time. Given the fact that the Cougs have now won their last five after starting the season 2-4, head coach Ken Bone has a chemistry test of his own coming up in the future. The players who helped WSU win those five straight have earned the right to continue getting minutes, while the returnees are certainly among the most talented Cougs. It will be interesting to see how those precious minutes get divided up in Pullman over the coming weeks. WSU has just one remaining non-conference game before they host the Oregon schools to open conference play, a week from tomorrow.
  5. Lastly, Lost Lettermen asks the question, is the West Coast Conference better than the Pac-12? Jim Weber says yes, if only for one season, pointing to Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU as the standard bearers. Anthony Olivieri takes the negative (rightly), pointing out that Cal and Stanford appear to be as good as the top of the WCC, while a team like Washington (and I would include Arizona) still has plenty of upside. And as bad as the bottom of the Pac-12 is this season, remember that Utah just beat Portland last night, and Portland (who has struggled through an absolutely brutal non-conference schedule) isn’t anywhere near the worst team in the WCC. Certainly the Zags, Gaels and Cougars are all solid programs, but even with the Pac-12 at its nadir, it is still better than the WCC. If you don’t just believe me, ask Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin and the RPI.
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Checking In On… the Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on December 15th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • Personnel Problems – Certainly every team around the country has to deal with some personnel problems of their own. Players get hurt, kids decide to transfer, suspensions get handed out. But, wow. Is it just me or does it seem like an already under-talented conference has been hammered by a string of issues that have robbed them of even more talent? The Reeves Nelson situation at UCLA has been run into the ground, while the Jabari Brown transfer (followed by Bruce Barron’s transfer) is old news in Oregon. Mike Montgomery at California had to suspended forward Richard Solomon just before they traveled to San Diego State, then on the day he was to be reinstated, he and roommate Allen Crabbe overslept and were late to a morning shootaround and began that game on the bench. Josiah Turner has suffered through a benching and a suspension for his inability to get to practices on time (and he potentially cost Arizona a win at Florida in the process). Sean Miller has also had to dismiss freshman Sidiki Johnson, while Utah’s leading scorer Josh Watkins was suspended for a game. Arizona State’s freshman point guard Jahii Carson, who head coach Herb Sendek figured would be the Sun Devils’ starter from day one, was declared ineligible for his freshman season following an insufficient ACT score.
  • Then there are the injuries – Washington State’s Abe Lodwick has yet to play this season, while Faisal Aden and Mychal Ladd have battled their own injuries in recent weeks. USC is without senior point guard Jio Fontan for the season, while sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon has had his development stunted by a couple injuries that he has played through. This week, just a day after Washington announced that senior Scott Suggs would take a redshirt year after struggling with his recovery from foot surgery, their center Aziz N’Diaye sprained his knee and will miss at least the next four games. Back in Eugene, Tyrone Nared had a knee sprain of his own and is out until conference play. And the above is just a partial list cut short for (relative) simplicity’s sake. Now, none of the above is meant to imply that without the above maladies the Pac-12 would be a great conference, just that on a list of all of the possible things that could have gone wrong for Pac-12 teams so far, the teams have seemingly gone out of their way to check off most of them.
Devoe Joseph, Oregon

It Has Only Been Two Games, But Devoe Joseph Has Made A Major Impact For Oregon (Chris Pietsch, The Register-Guard)

  • One Bit of Good NewsDana Altman at least had a bit of good news this week as Devoe Joseph, a senior transfer from Minnesota, played his first games in a Duck uniform and immediately proved his worth. Not only did Joseph lead Oregon in scoring in his first game out against Fresno State, he made a couple of huge momentum changing threes in the second half that helped spur the Ducks to victory. Not to be outdone, he came back on Monday in his second game in Eugene and helped preserve a win as he scored his team’s last eight points after Portland State had closed to within three with 90 seconds left. With Altman now basically trading a freshman (Brown) for the senior Joseph in the backcourt, this Duck team is loaded with veterans and could still make waves in conference play.
  • Very Few, If Any, Resume Wins – Starting right about now and reaching a crescendo in the early days of March, you’re going to hear a lot about who potential NCAA Tournament teams beat and where they beat them as a major criteria for an invitation to the Big Dance. That fact should have the Pac-12 shaking in its boots. To this point it looks like the best win by a Pac-12 team was Oregon State’s neutral-site victory over a Texas team that (1) was playing in its third game with a completely remade roster, and (2) hasn’t beaten anyone of note yet. Beyond that, what are the other wins the teams in this conference hope to hang their tournament resumes on? Cal knocking off a bad Georgia team? Arizona over a middling Clemson team? Stanford against Oklahoma State or North Carolina State? Worse yet, there just aren’t a whole lot of chances left on the schedule for teams to pick up defining wins in the non-conference. Zona goes to Seattle to play Gonzaga and Oregon hosts Virginia this weekend, while Cal travels to UNLV just before Christmas, and that’s it. The rest of the season is, more or less, flawed Pac-12 teams beating up on other flawed Pac-12 teams. In the end, a team like Washington had better either perform one hell of a lot better in road conference games than they have in the past few years OR make sure they win the Pac-12 Tournament, lest they be making NIT plans come March.

Player of the Year Watch

  • While no one has yet to step up and grab a lead in this race, Washington State’s Brock Motum did establish himself, albeit against lesser competition, as a legitimate horse in this race. The Cougs are in the midst of a four-game winning streak and Motum has averaged 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds over that stretch. And Motum remains one of two Pac-12 players to score in double figures in each of his team’s games this season. The other? Washington’s Terrence Ross, who not only has proven himself to be a consistent scorer, but also a versatile talent capable of filling the stats sheet. On the season, Ross is averaging 16.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, a couple of threes and a block per night.
  • Elsewhere Allen Crabbe has continued to be an efficient scorer on a nightly basis for the Golden Bears (15.8 PPG on the season while shooting over 46% from deep), while teammate Jorge Gutierrez continues to lead the conference in intangibles while contributing solid tangible stats to boot (12.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.9 APG). As for dark horse candidates who are just now beginning to go to the whip? Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson has averaged 15 points a contest over his last four, just barely starting to scratch the surface of his potential, while the aforementioned Devoe Joseph could get in the conversation with a strong showing in conference play.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.14.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 14th, 2011

  1. Oregon State bounced back from its Friday night loss to Idaho by taking out its frustrations on Illinois-Chicago last night, torching the Flames with a 64.9% eFG in their 95-53 win last night. Sophomore guard Roberto Nelson had the second-best scoring game of his career, going for 21 points on 5-of-7 shooting from deep, while redshirt freshman forward Eric Moreland grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds and blocked five shots. Prior to the game, head coach Craig Robinson called the loss on Friday an anomaly due in part to the shock of the death of OSU football player Fred Thompson last Wednesday. After last night’s performance, we’re a bit closer to buying that explanation.
  2. While Oregon came away with a win Monday night against Portland State, they also suffered an injury blow in the second half when senior forward Tyrone Nared went down with a knee injury during a scramble for a loose ball. While the extent of his injury is not currently known, head coach Dana Altman said that he is expecting Nared to miss at least the next four games, taking the team right up to conference play. The Ducks are deeper this season along the front line and Nared is getting less than 20 minutes per game, but he is one of their best frontcourt defenders and a surprisingly efficient offensive player.
  3. Washington State has been on a roll lately, and they’ve been doing it all without some key contributors. Senior guard Faisal Aden has missed the last three games with the after-effects of a concussion, Mychal Ladd has missed the last five games with a sprained thumb, and senior forward Abe Lodwick has yet to play this season due to a fractured foot. But all three of those guys are nearing a return, although head coach Ken Bone made it clear that each of them will have to earn back their playing time. In Ladd’s absence, freshman Dexter Kernich-Drew has stepped into a bigger role, while fellow freshman DaVonte Lacy has helped cover for Aden. But more than any other Coug, it has been little-used senior Charlie Enquist who had stepped up in recent games to spur WSU on to their four-game winning streak.
  4. Washington may have left their temporary New York residency with an 0-2 record, but head coach Lorenzo Romar was able to find some positives in the trip. To begin with, Romar was very appreciative of the fan support his team received in Madison Square Garden, and proud of the national exposure his team has earned. Having played in the last three NCAA Tournaments, the Maui Invitational last year, the two games in New York this past week, and with a spot in the Hall of Fame Classic next year along with Ohio State and others, the Huskies are hopeful that their national presence will help them continue to get recruits from across the country.
  5. In a feature piece on Stanford’s sophomore point guard Aaron Bright in the San Francisco Chronicle, some of last year’s struggles for the Cardinal were laid at the feet of some “friction” between last year’s six-man freshman class and “some upperclassmen who thought their roles were threatened.” Given that said friction is apparently gone this year and that the only player not back from last year’s team is Jeremy Green (last year’s leading scorer who headed off in search of an NBA paycheck a year early), one can read between the lines and consider the decision by Green to depart Palo Alto to be a classic case of addition by subtraction.
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