2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2012

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can find him on Twitter at @wildjays.

Top Storylines

  • MVC Untouched — The Missouri Valley Conference has so far survived the first few rounds of changes among the top 15 conferences in Division I basketball (the Ivy being the other one). While every major conference, and some others even further down have been expanding or shifting, the MVC has walked away unscathed and still completely intact. That doesn’t mean there have not been rumors about teams leaving the conference at some point. The latest such mention was late this summer whenthere was a report that Evansville was on the verge of heading to the Horizon League. While some of that was theory based on some relatively weak facts, there are still cards likely to be played on that matter at some point. The question is when it will happen and who will be the first to start the falling dominoes within the league. It may turn out to be a school like Evansville that is looking to get out of the shadow of the other bigger players in the Valley.
  • Can Doug McDermott have an even better season? — Creighton fans are salivating to see what McDermott can do to follow up last season, when he earned first-team All-America honors, averaged almost 23 points a game, and shot an amazing percentage behind the arc while frustrating opponents down low.  The encore may not be so much about increasing his scoring like he did from his freshman to sophomore year, but about how far he can lead the Bluejays come March. McDermott spent the summer at the Amare Stoudamire and LeBron James skills camps, but he also took some time off after almost playing two years without a break including a stint with the Team USA U-19 squad.  With so many expectations on his shoulders, it will be interesting to see if he continues to take everything in stride or listen to the whispers of the NBA and focuses on those areas of his game most likely to take him to the next level.  For the MVC as a whole, the fans probably hope for both. 

Doug McDermott Gives The MVC Something It Hasn’t Had In Many Years: A Bona Fide National POY Candidate.

  • Big Men Instead of Guards—For many years, the Valley has been known as a guard’s league with not as many big-bodied frontcourt players leading the way.  Things have changed at least for the teams at the top. Along with McDermott, the Bluejays boast big man Gregory Echenique, who while topping over 300 pounds when he came to Creighton over three seasons ago, is now down to 260 and very agile. Jackie Carmichael from Illinois State impressed many at the camps he attended this summer after coming up big at the end of the season for the Redbirds. Colt Ryan, though he could be considered a guard, is more of a forward, but he can score in bunches for Evansville. Drake returns center Seth Van Deest from a shoulder injury that kept him out all season. Carl Hall will likely try to hold things down with Wichita State bringing in a bunch of new players.  Then you have Seth Tuttle from Northern Iowa who was the MVC Freshman of the Year last season. When you look at the make-up of the MVC going into this season, it is easily dominated by talented frontcourt players. 
  • Deja vu Times Two—Three years ago, Greg McDermott returned to the conference that originally made him a hot commodity and has experienced success by taking Creighton back to the NCAA Tournament.  This time Southern Illinois hopes Barry Hinson has the same success coming back to the conference that he had marginal success with while at Missouri State.  It is rare that a coach returns to the same conference to coach another school, but the MVC must be a special place where two former coaches do so to coach different teams in a short period of time. Unlike McDermott who came to Creighton with a cupboard somewhat full, Hinson has a little more work to do after the struggles SIU has had for the past four seasons.

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Creighton (27-4, 15-3)
  2. Northern Iowa (24-7, 14-4)
  3. Illinois State (24-7, 13-5)
  4. Wichita State (23-8, 12-6)
  5. Drake (15-15, 9-9)
  6. Missouri State (15-16, 7-11)
  7. Indiana State (15-15, 6-12)
  8. Evansville (15-16, 6-12)
  9. Bradley (13-18, 5-13)
  10. Southern Illinois (11-20, 3-15)

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Utah Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on August 29th, 2012

For the third straight year, Utah underwent rampant roster turnover in the offseason, with six transfers joining one senior (who had been dismissed from the team in the middle of last season) on their way out the door. There is a subtle difference this year, however, as the changes to the roster should benefit the program next season, allowing the new coaching staff to begin building with their own players rather than with the scraps they were able to assemble late in the recruiting period last offseason. In essence, last year was an audition period for all of the players on the roster, determining not only whether the coaching staff wanted each player back, but whether those players were interested in returning to the rebuilding job that is Utah basketball. Below, we’ll take a brief look at all seven players (not including Blake Wilkinson, a freshman last season who departed for an two-year LDS mission in May) from last year who will not return to the Utes.

Josh Watkins – Watkins was dismissed by Larry Ktystkowiak on January 18 last season for an undisclosed team violation which was just another in a long line of issues that brought Watkins to that point. The lone active senior on the roster last season, Watkins was supposed to be an example for his younger teammates, doing all the right things on a team where everything else was going wrong. Still, Watkins played a valuable role for Krystkowiak last year; the dismissal of the team’s most viable offensive threat in the middle of the season showed everybody else that nobody was above the team. Watkins, to his credit, completed his degree in May and acknowledged that despite his dismissal he still regards Krystkowiak as a “great coach.”

Chris Hines, Utah

Chris Hines Was The Utes’ Most Prolific Three-Point Shooter Last Year, But He’ll Be Playing His Senior Year At Drake Instead (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

Chris Hines – Following his graduation in May, Hines took advantage of the NCAA rule that allows graduates to transfer without having to sit out a year. As a result, the team’s most prolific three-point shooter from 2011-12 will be matriculating at Drake this season. While an experienced veteran like Hines could always be valuable, the fact that the Utes have transfers Aaron Dotson, Glen Dean and Jared DuBois ready to step in this season lessens the blow considerably.

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Utah: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 17th, 2012

What Went Wrong

Much of what went wrong in the Utah program that led to this season’s 6-25 debacle happened prior to new head coach Larry Krystkowiak’s first game on the sidelines at the Huntsman Center. Two years ago, following a disappointing and underachieving 14-17 season, five Utes, including the team’s two leading scorers, transferred out of Jim Boylen’s program. Then, following a 2010-11 season that took a step down from there with a 13-18 record that led to Boylen’s demise, six more players, including leading scorer and rebounder Will Clyburn, bolted from Salt Lake City. As a result, when the Krystkowiak era tipped off in November, there was a serious lack of talent in Ute basketball uniforms. Throw in the fact that 7’4” former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year David Foster missed this season with a foot injury and Utah had to rely on just three returnees with any experience– point guard Josh Watkins, center Jason Washburn, and guard Chris Hines – along with six newcomers and a handful of walk-ons. Then Watkins, who was the team’s leading scorer and assist man, was dismissed prematurely in January. In short, this Ute team never really had a chance in its first year in the Pac-12. Even in a conference with a talent level near historic lows, the Utes just didn’t have the horses to hang with the bulk of the conference.

Jason Washburn, Utah

Jason Washburn Was A Lone Bright Spot On An Otherwise Miserable Ute Team (Associated Press)

What Went Right

There was a time, well into December, where it was questionable whether the Utes had a chance at earning so much as a single win against a Division I team. Then they strung together two straight home wins against Idaho State and Portland (admittedly, two really bad teams) before going on to win three conference games, including wins over Washington State and Stanford that go down as significantly improbable events. As absurd as it may seem, that 6-25 record is actually an overachievement for this team.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 04.02.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on April 2nd, 2012

  1. After four consecutive wins to start the CBI tournament, Washington State’s season ended Friday night with a second consecutive loss in the three-game championship series against Pittsburgh. Both teams played without their leading scorers, as Washington State’s Brock Motum and Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs both sat out with sprained ankles. Reggie Moore led the way for the Cougars with his fourth consecutive double-digit scoring output, but his 18 points to go with five assists were not enough to overcome a 12-2 Panther run in the middle of the second half that broke open a tight game. In the end, the Cougs lost by six and wrap up their season with a 19-18 overall record.
  2. With all of the Pac-12 schools having now completed their seasons on the court, and with no coaching changes expected, the biggest question remaining for any of the conference programs is the decisions of Washington’s Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten in regards to the NBA Draft. The first shoe dropped on Sunday for the Huskies, as Ross announced his intention to declare for the NBA Draft. Wroten, however, has yet to announce his choice, although it is widely suspected that his days in Seattle are done as well. And, not only are Huskies fans making peace with that eventuality, there is also talk that they may be better off without him. With Abdul Gaddy due back next season for his senior year and redshirt freshman point guard Andrew Andrews ready to step into the breach as well, UW has plenty of talent in the backcourt. And chemistry-wise, Lorenzo Romar’s team may be better off without the distraction of Wroten around. Sounds like a rationalization to me.
  3. At Utah, however, there is no cache of extra talent lying around Larry Krystkowiak’s roster, so any early defections for the program will sting. On Friday, news came down that three Ute players would be transferring out of the program: Chris Hines, Kareem Storey and Javon Dawson. Given that Krystkowiak had signed more players than he had scholarships available, we all knew that there would be some changeover in the program, but this list of names was something of a surprise. Individually, none of those three players is much of a loss for the Utes, but as a trio of relatively experienced players, it is a hit. Hines, in particular, is a surprise, given that he was expected back as a team leader for his senior season next year, but given that he will graduate this year, he’ll be eligible to play immediately wherever he winds up next season, likely at a program a notch down from the Pac-12 level.
  4. Tonight, Oregon basketball fans will watch the NCAA title game with interest, as two of their own will be playing for Kentucky in their quest for a championship. Terrence Jones and Kyle Wiltjer were both prep stars in Portland, but rather than stick around to play for one of the in-state schools, both opted to head across the country to continue their basketball careers. And next season, another Oregonian – 6’10 center Landen Lucas – will don a Kansas uniform for his collegiate career rather than a Duck or Beaver jersey. It’s easier said than done, but for either program to take the next step, head coaches Dana Altman and Craig Robinson need to find a way to keep elite home-state prospects from looking elsewhere for their collegiate careers.
  5. While Shabazz Muhammad gets the most publicity, there is another elite high school recruit still available who is considering UCLA. Georgia’s Tony Parker is a 6’9” center, currently rated the #21 recruit in the 2012 class who has the Bruins as one of his seven potential landing spots. There is speculation that wherever Muhammad ends up could tip Parker’s hand, as both players have UCLA and Duke among their final choices. After playing in the McDonald’s All-American game last week, Parker is now getting ready for the Jordan Brand Classic in two weeks.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2012

  1. It doesn’t go down as a surprise of any kind, but Colorado’s win over California on Sunday afternoon certainly doesn’t lack in importance. The Buffaloes got off to a strong start and withstood some pushback from the Golden Bears to lead for the final 30 minutes of the game and knock Cal from their perch atop the conference standings. Colorado, meanwhile, kept themselves in the mix for one of the four first-round byes in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Buffaloes were led by Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson, who celebrated their Senior Day in style, as Dufault went for 15, while Tomlinson had 11, four assists, and four boards and had a major hand in throwing a wrench into the Cal backcourt. Jorge Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs were held to a combined three-of-18 from the floor Sunday night, and in both games against Colorado this season, that duo was just eight-of-44 (18.2%) from the field. Lost in all the lovey-dovey Senior Day celebrating was fellow Colorado senior Carlon Brown slumping on the bench and seemingly not all that pleased to watch freshmen Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker finish the game off. Maybe Tad Boyle is already sick of Brown’s act (it is his first year of eligibility in Boulder after transferring from Utah), but with important games still remaining for Colorado (not just their trip to Oregon next week, but the Pac-12 Tournament, which it seems like they will need to win in order to earn an NCAA Tournament invite), Boyle will have to find some way to get something out of Brown, who is just 22-of-76 from the field in the month of February.
  2. The California loss leaves Washington all by its lonesome in first place in the conference. The Huskies needed a second-half comeback to knock off Apple Cup rival Washington State on Saturday, and they earned that victory largely at the free throw line, not bad for a team in the bottom 10% of the nation in free throw percentage. The Huskies made ten of its final 12 free throw attempts while the Cougars hit just 17 of their 32 second half attempts from the charity stripe and U-Dub escaped with a four-point win. Tony Wroten led the way with 21 points (albeit on 6-18 from the field), while Terrence Ross, in his first game after being declared the Pac-12 POY favorite by yours truly, was limited to just 21 ineffective minutes by foul trouble – he was just one-of-five from the field with two points and three rebounds.
  3. It’s been a long, rough season for Utah, with little talent and as a result, little to play for. But, give credit to head coach Larry Krystkowiak who has kept the Utes scraping hard all season long, and give credit to his team, who the head man describes as “resilient.” It took until the middle of December for the Utes to win a game against Division I competition, and there have been two separate eight-game losing streaks, but Utah got back on the right side of the final score on Saturday, knocking off Stanford 58-57. Junior Chris Hines hit a game-winning three with 27 seconds left and Cardinal senior Josh Owens missed a potentially game-tying free throw with eight seconds, and the Utes escaped with just their sixth win of the year. Meanwhile, for a Stanford team that looked brilliant on Thursday in handing Colorado its first home loss in Pac-12 play, it is just the latest in a long line of uneven performances in conference play.
  4. Normally, if there’s an Arizona/UCLA game being played on the last weekend in February, that’s the headliner in this conference. But, the fact is, as go the Bruins and the Wildcats, so goes the Pac-12. There have been more problems around the conference than just some ordinary teams in Westwood and Tucson, but you have to imagine that if these two stalwarts had lived up to their reputations, there would be a lot less jabbering about the weakness in the conference. As far as the game goes, the Wildcat seniors protected their Senior Day with Kyle Fogg leading the way. The senior guard has averaged at least 24 minutes per game every year of his career, but he is certainly wrapping up his eligibility in style. After going for his second double-double in three games against USC on Thurdsay (and the only two double-doubles of his career), Fogg came just one rebound shy of yet another double-double, but still wound up with 20 points and nine rebounds. The ‘Cats tried to give the game away down the stretch, missing four of six free throws in the final minute, but a Jerime Anderson jumper that could have sent the game to overtime was awry.
  5. Elsewhere around the conference this weekend, the nightmare season for USC continued with a four-point loss at Arizona State, as the undersized and undermanned Trojans couldn’t deal with Sun Devil sophomore center Jordan Bachynski who had 19 points and nine boards. However, it was embattled point guard Chris Colvin who iced the game, converting a three-point play with 19 seconds left to seal the win. Freshman guard Byron Wesley has come up big recently for USC, with new career-highs in each of his last two games, but there just isn’t enough help there for now. And, Sunday night, Oregon held off Oregon State in the 337th edition of the basketball version of the Civil War behind 25 points from Oregon senior guard Garrett Sim, whose parents are both Oregon State alumni.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.09.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 9th, 2012

  1. After missing nearly a month due to a severely sprained right ankle, Arizona State junior guard Trent Lockett is set to return to the Sun Devils’ lineup on Thursday when they host Utah. In Lockett’s absence, the wheels fell off an already wobbly ASU bus: They’ve lost five of the six games he’s missed, their scoring dropped by almost 12 points a game, their field goal percentage took a nearly seven-point hit, their assists per game dropped, and their free-throw attempts dropped. It may take some time for Lockett to get back in the swing of things, so it turns out it is fortunate that he returns for the Utah game. Because as bad as things have been for the Sun Devils this year, the Utes are still looking up at them.
  2. Just down the road a piece, Arizona has injury problems of its own. In the past two weeks, both Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes went down with foot injuries, with Parrom being lost for the year and Mayes out indefinitely. The Mayes injury was initially feared to be another fracture on a foot that he had broken last year, but X-rays proved negative. Still, for the foreseeable future, head coach Sean Miller may have to rely mostly on a seven-man rotation, with freshman point guard Josiah Turner being aided with the ballhandling duties by senior Kyle Fogg and fellow freshman Nick Johnson.
  3. Utah junior guard Chris Hines has had more than his fair share of injuries this year himself. He’s hurt his ribs, an elbow, a thumb and an ankle, but through all the bumps and bruises and 18 losses so far, he has missed just two games on the season, and he’s playing nearly 30 minutes a game. As one of only two active players remaining from last year’s squad, Hines has felt the need to keep going out there in order to provide leadership and a scoring punch to a seriously undermanned team.
  4. With the Pac-12 so far down this year, there will really be only one team on Selection Sunday that feels comfortable about making the NCAA Tournament: the team that wins the Pac-12 Tournament. So, while some teams will still worry about winning games to improve their RPI and potentially make themselves more attractive at-large candidates, perhaps the most important goal for the remainder of the conference season is to place in the top four and earn a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Right now Oregon and Arizona are tied for fourth place, but Oregon head coach Dana Altman is trying to dial down the importance of a top four finish, telling his team to just go out and play well.
  5. Lastly, as if Arizona head coach Sean Miller needed additional ammunition in his recruiting tool chest, but a Wall Street Journal article shows that former Wildcats have earned $738 million in the NBA since 1985. Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen disputes that figure, putting the total closer to $770 million, but either way, Arizona places third among all schools, trailing only North Carolina and Duke. Only two other Pac-12 schools of note make the top 25: UCLA (10th place, $497 million) and California (13th place, $404 million).
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 3rd, 2012

  1. When all is said and done in the regular season, a night like Thursday night may be the kind of night that determines our eventual regular season champion. Coming into the evening, both Washington and California were tied for first place in the Pac-12, and both teams were treated to rough-and-tumble battles on their home courts against traditional powers in the conference. But, in the end, only one of those teams was able to pull out a victory. For the first time this season, Washington sits atop the Pac-12 standings, alone in first place after pulling out a thrilling victory over UCLA at the Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Midway through the second half, as the Bruins pulled out to a 10-point lead, it looked like the bad Husky team featuring incoherent offense, lazy defense and out-of-control play on both ends was going to doom Lorenzo Romar’s team again. But, sophomore wing Terrence Ross dragged the Huskies back, scoring 10 of their final 12 points, including a couple of threes from Abdul Gaddy assists, and the Huskies were able to pull out an important win. UCLA got a career-high 24 points out of sophomore center Joshua Smith, who was unusually active throughout, but the Bruins squandered a final opportunity. Down two, after having earned a defensive stop, UCLA has a timeout in the bank and 30 seconds on the clock. Instead of using that timeout to set up a play, the Bruins let the clock run down far enough that they were only able to get one shot as time expired. We’ve seen this on multiple occasions this season in the Pac-12 (Oregon State has done it multiple times, Arizona did it against Colorado), and it doesn’t get any easier to watch. It is just plain old bad game theory that doesn’t make a lick of sense. But, that’s a rant for another time. Also of interest in this game is that Tony Wroten sat out the final eight minutes of the game. While he was limping a bit during the game and perhaps bruised a knee, it remains to be seen whether this was a case of Romar benching an inefficient and wild freshman.
  2. California’s game was just as wild as Washington’s, but in Berkeley it was Arizona that came out on top, behind a season-high 23 points from senior guard Kyle Fogg. Fogg drilled a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:10 remaining, then came up with a huge running block of a potential game-tying three from Cal’s Allen Crabbe with 26 seconds remaining. Freshman Nick Johnson followed that up on the next possession with a swat of his own, this one on a runner by the Bears’ Justin Cobbs. But perhaps the most memorable portion of this game came when Jorge Gutierrez made a diving attempt at saving a loose ball and fell into the Arizona bench, where Wildcat assistant coach Joe Pasternack kicked Gutierrez. Gutierrez then went after Pasternack, yelling and pointing at him, and he had to be held back by Arizona head coach Sean Miller. In the end, no fouls were assessed, but Cal did appear to get some momentum out of the incident. However, the Bears were unable to score on their final three possessions, and now sink back into a traffic jam of three teams tied for second place at 7-3. It wasn’t all good news for Arizona, however, as sophomore point guard Jordin Mayes may have been lost for the season with an injury to his left foot, the same one he broke last spring.
  3. Oregon is in the group a game back of first place after they took care of Utah in Salt Lake City on Thursday night. The Ducks started slowly and still trailed to the 5-17 Utes deep into the second half, but junior wing Carlos Emory, who, along with center Tony Woods, did not play in the first half for disciplinary reasons, sparked a 10-0 run that gave the Ducks control for good. Despite missing the first half, Emory was excellent when it counted, hitting all four of his field goal attempts and all five of his free throws en route to a career-high 14 points. Utah played well, getting 20 points and four threes from junior Chris Hines, while freshman point guard Kareem Storey played his best game of his career, handing out 11 assists against just one turnover.
  4. Colorado is the third team sitting a game back of Washington, following their 22-point drubbing of Oregon State on Thursday night. The Buffaloes used a 22-9 run in the middle of the first half to build a 15-point halftime lead in Boulder, then expanded on that in the second half, running the lead out as far as 28 points in the second half. Sophomore forward Andre Roberson notched his 14th double-double of the season, grabbing 15 boards to go with his 16 points, and the CU defense held the Beaver backcourt combo of Jared Cunningham and Ahmad Starks to just six-of-20 shooting, 15 points, three assists and two turnovers.
  5. Elsewhere, Stanford snapped its three-game losing streak by handling Arizona State with ease, and the Cardinal now sit tied with Arizona two games out of first in the conference. While at the bottom of the conference, Washington State handed USC its ninth loss in 10 games and saw junior Mike Ladd earn his first minutes in five games, returning from a thumb injury that had just this week had the remainder of his season in doubt. He scored six points and grabbed four rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Brock Motum led the way for the Cougars, though, with 26 points and eight boards.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.30.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 30th, 2011

  1. Opening night in conference play was an exciting one, so let’s jump right into it with the game of the night, where Stanford held off UCLA, needing a Josh Huestis block of an attempt by Lazeric Jones to preserve a 60-59 victory. After giving up the first four points of the game, Stanford bounced back with a 15-2 run and never again trailed, although UCLA had multiple attempts to regain the lead in the second half. Jones led the charge for the Bruins, reeling off a career-high 26 points, but it was a couple of threes by Stanford freshman Chasson Randle wrapped around another three by sophomore Anthony Brown that broke a late tie and gave Stanford a five-point lead with five minutes to play. Randle had struggled on the night, hitting just one of his ten other attempts from the field and getting exposed on the UCLA pick and roll throughout the evening, but came up big down the stretch. Prior to the game, Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins announced that junior guard Gabe Harris would miss the rest of the season after having surgery on his injured right knee. Harris had been averaging over 13 minutes per game off the bench.
  2. Up the road a stretch, California had to withstand a late charge from Maurice Jones and USC to pull out a four-point win. Jones hit three 3-pointers in the final four and a half minutes to bring the Trojans back from a 16-point deficit, and were right there, just a point back with the clock running down when Trojan sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon swatted Jorge Gutierrez’s layup attempt. However, the ball wound up in the hands of Allen Crabbe who, in his own words, “just threw it up” from behind the three-point line and was fouled by little-used Eric Stangis. Crabbe hit all three free throws and the Bears escaped. If there was ever a game for Gutierrez to shine in, it was this gritty, hard-fought game, and he certainly stood out, leading his team with 13 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and four steals. However, his uncharacteristic two-of-seven night from the line was crucial in keeping USC in the game. Even more concerning for Mike Montgomery was his team getting absolutely crushed on the glass, allowing USC to grab 50% of the available offensive rebounds and 74.1% of the defensive rebounds. As expected, sophomore forward Richard Solomon did not play for Cal due to a stress fracture in his foot.
  3. Things were significantly less dramatic in the state of Washington last night, although for a brief moment it looked like Oregon State was on its way back from a 20-point deficit to make the Huskies sweat a bit down the stretch. After a wild Ahmad Starks three-pointer brought back to within 83-80, U-Dub closed the game on a 12-0 run to finish off the Beavers. The big story in the game was the played of Husky freshman guard Tony Wroten, who had 26 efficient points on 10-16 shooting, nine rebounds, four assists, just two turnovers, and hit five of his seven free throw attempts. While Wroten has now scored 20 or more in four of his last five games, this was far and away his best game in a young career. Lorenzo Romar also got significant production from the rest of his roster, with five other players – including sophomore wing C.J. Wilcox, who came off the bench for the first time this season – scoring in double figures.
  4. Perhaps the biggest surprise on the night in the conference was Oregon going into Spokane and taking apart Washington State, ending the Cougars six-game winning streak in spectacular fashion. While senior forward Olu Ashaolu gets the honorifics after scoring 23 points and grabbing ten rebounds, it was a total team effort for the Ducks, as they shot a ridiculous 78.6 eFG% and controlled the glass. As Craig Powers at CougCenter points out, Oregon scored about 1.31 points per possession on the night, a number that is a bit out of whack since the Ducks spent the last several minutes trying to run out the clock. In the first half, OU scored almost 1.8 points per possession. There’s a long way to go in the season, but this had to be a concerning outing for Washington State head coach Ken Bone.
  5. When Utah tips off its first conference game in the Pac-12 on Saturday at Colorado, it will do so without senior guard Chris Hines. Hines broke his left thumb three weeks ago against BYU, and has been playing through the injury for the Utes last three games (including its only two wins of the season), but head coach Larry Krystkowiak says he can barely even catch the ball, so Hines will sit for the time being. Unfortunately for the under-talented Utes, Hines’ backups are banged up as well, as walk-on Alex Mortenson is out after suffering a concussion in practice this week and junior Cedric Martin has been struggling with plantar fasciitis this week and will be a game-time decision on Saturday.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.15.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 15th, 2011

  1. On the heels of UCLA’s frustrating opening night loss to Loyola Marymount, there was a report out of Los Angeles Monday afternoon that head coach Ben Howland would have a meeting with junior forward Reeves Nelson to discuss Nelson’s recent behavior and his future with the team. Late Monday night, UCLA issued a statement announcing that Nelson would be suspended indefinitely after he skipped Monday’s practice, with the length of the suspension to be determined pending a face-to-face meeting between the two at a later date. Nelson, who has never been one to hide his feelings on the court, was visibly upset during the game on Friday night, failing to participate in a couple of timeout huddles and making several erratic plays, including a couple of wild three-point attempts as the game dissolved in the second half. While there have been rumors that Nelson is considering leaving the program, nothing has been substantiated to this point.
  2. While the Bruins will get back to business on the court tonight without Nelson against Middle Tennessee State, UCLA fans are in full panic mode. When the results of LMU’s second game against the Bruins’ next opponent, MTSU, came through with the Lions on the losing end of a 58-51 score replete with LMU getting dominated inside by the Blue Raider front court, UCLA fans rightly wondered why the Bruins weren’t able to get that kind of production out of their highly regarded front line. With all the turmoil around the program in the first few days of the new season, it will be interesting to see whether the team responds with passion or lets the poor start compound on itself. Who would have thought just a few days ago that an early-season UCLA/Middle Tennessee State contest would be a game to keep an eye on?
  3. Early in the first half of last night’s USC/Nebraska tussle, injured Trojan point guard Jio Fontan was interviewed by Fox Sports sideline reporter Amy Bender. During the interview, Fontan, who tore his ACL during USC’s trip to Brazil in August and had surgery on his knee on September 12, indicated that he hadn’t given up on foregoing a medical redshirt this year and returning to the team at some point. Nevermind the fact that such talk seems insane, we wish Fontan the best in his rehabilitation. As for the game, the Trojans dropped a nailbiter to the Cornhuskers for the third straight season, this time in double overtime. Sophomore sensation Dewayne Dedmon missed a wide-open free-throw line jumper at the end of regulation, then after sophomore point Maurice Jones made an improbable double-clutch push shot with 6.5 seconds in the first overtime, freshman guard Alexis Moore was called for a foul on the ensuing possession and Nebraska’s Tony McCray sent the game to a second overtime where NU sealed the deal. Jones again led the Trojans with 18 points, but had to take 22 shots to do so. In two games this year, Jones has made just eight of his 35 field goal attempts.
  4. Utah recorded a victory in its first game as a Pac-12 member on Monday night. Sure, it was a three-point victory over NAIA school San Diego Christian, but given how little success the Utes are expected to have this season, we might as well give them a little love while possible. Senior point guard Josh “Jiggy” Watkins led all scorers with 23 points, just one shy of his career high, while freshman guard Kareem Storey added ten points (all on free throws). The other five Utah newcomers combined to score 12 points in 87 minutes, a problem considering that two of the four Utes that got any amount of playing time last season – specifically senior center David Foster and junior guard Chris Hines – are sidelined with injuries.
  5. Washington State was the final Pac-12 team to start its season, kicking off the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon against Gonzaga late last night. Despite allowing Zag freshman Kevin Pangos to knock down nine three-pointers on the way to building a 21-point lead, the Cougars fought back, cutting the GU lead to as low as four at one point before losing steam. WSU played without senior guard Abe Lodwick, who is fighting through a sprained foot, but had five players score in double figures, including freshman guard DaVonte Lacy who poured in 11 points in just 14 minutes of play.
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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.

 

Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Utah

Posted by AMurawa on October 26th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Utah Utes

Strengths.  Size. Oh man, does Utah have a lot of size. Start with a 7’3” behemoth in the middle in David Foster, add 6’10” junior Jason Washburn who can spell Foster or play alongside him, and toss in – well, there’s really not all that much size behind those two. But with those two prowling the lane, the Utes have an imposing frontcourt duo that are a threat to block any shot taken in the paint.

Weaknesses. Where to begin? First, this is an inexperienced squad, featuring three incoming freshman and three junior college transfers who are expected to get time. Second, while the Utes return senior Josh Watkins at the point, he struggled in his first season in Salt Lake City last year, shooting under 30% from beyond the arc while turning the ball over too much. And, lastly (for now at least), even though Foster and Washburn are big, they’re injury-prone, struggle with conditioning and are of limited effectiveness on the offensive end.

David Foster

David Foster Is An Intimidating Defensive Player, But Utah Is Missing Offensive Firepower (credit: Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Nonconference Tests.  The highlight of the nonconference slate is a berth in the inaugural Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas, where they will open with Harvard in the first round before facing either Massachusetts or Florida State on day two, with a third opponent to be determined. Beyond that, there is the in-state rivalry game with BYU, a couple of games at WAC opponents (Boise State and Fresno State) and not much else. Which is good – this team deserves a bit of a break in the non-conference. Read the rest of this entry »

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Conference Report Card: SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 18th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • It was a good year for the Southeastern Conference. After a weak showing in the NCAA Tournament last year, the SEC was the only conference with multiple teams (Kentucky and Florida) in the Elite Eight. The SEC also got five teams into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. It was a major improvement over the sad slump that was 2009 when the SEC only qualified LSU, Tennessee, and Mississippi State at 8, 9, and 13 seeds, respectively.
  • When the season started, I predicted the conference could get five and possibly six teams in the tournament and I still contend that Alabama was snubbed.  But regardless of that, five teams is a good showing and a sign of improvement for a conference that lost a little respect as an elite conference in the past few years.
  • Florida was consistent all year, winning close games by playing calmly even when trailing late, but the biggest turning point for the conference came when Kentucky finally was able to win those same close games.  The Wildcats were sitting at 7-9 in conference play and likely facing a first-round game in the SEC when they won close games against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee finishing the regular season 10-6 and easily marching through the conference tournament.  Kentucky was the favorite at the Final Four in Houston, but poor shooting likely cost the Wildcats their eighth national championship.  And the debate about John Calipari’s ability to win it all with young teams goes on.
Brandon Knight came up big for John Calipari when he needed the star freshman guard the most.

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