A Pair Of Defections In Los Angeles: No Major Surprise?

Posted by AMurawa on April 25th, 2013

In the wake of a pair of new hires in Los Angeles – each met with varying degrees of approval – both USC and UCLA saw their first bit of player-personnel defections under their new regimes Wednesday.  But in each of these cases, the headline – player leaves program – may sound worse than the actual impact on the teams. The biggest news came from the Trojans’ camp, as junior forward DeWayne Dedmon announced that he would skip his final year of eligibility in order to “chase” the NBA dream. But Steve Alford and company also got some bad news this week, as 2013 recruit Allerik Freeman announced that he would be asking for a release from his letter of intent and would be exploring other options for college.

Dewayne Dedmon, USC

Dewayne Dedmon’s Career At USC Will End With Eligibility On The Table, But Whither His NBA Future? (Ethan Miller, Getty Images North America)

Dedmon’s story got the most attention, and most of that attention was negative, as some saw the announcement as a poor decision by a kid unlikely to earn the first-round status that former SC head coach Kevin O’Neill once forecast. But there was likely much more to the decision than just simply looking for an NBA contract. Dedmon, who didn’t begin playing basketball until age 18, is a seven-footer with great athleticism and upside but extremely raw skills and little innate basketball IQ. While he has improved quite a bit in his time at USC, he’s still a guy who is a long way from being able to contribute to an NBA team. But there are other issues: He’ll be 24 by the time the next basketball season kicks off, he’s wading through the consequences of a bar brawl following the Trojans’ final regular season game, and there were indications that USC wasn’t exactly falling all over itself in an effort to encourage Dedmon to return. Sure, if Dedmon set aside his immaturity and bought into new head coach Andy Enfield’s dunktastic new system, maybe he could have improved his stock and helped the Trojans to a few more wins next year. But with a roster lacking in talent, Dedmon’s attitude issues could just as easily have been the kiss of death for a young coach and a young team. In other words, the separation at this point may make a lot of sense, and probably shouldn’t be considered much of a surprise.

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Morning Five: 04.25.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. Wednesday was a big day on the NBA Draft early entry front, although perhaps in a few ways that we didn’t anticipate. First and foremost, two of the bigger stars of this season’s NCAA Tournament made their decisions, and — egads! — college basketball will definitely be the beneficiary in 2013-14 because of it. The Midwest Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, Russ Smith, has decided to return to Louisville for his senior season, stating in a press conference that it was time to get “back in the lab” over the summer to revamp his game yet again so that he’ll rise onto first round NBA Draft boards by this time next year (oh, and also graduate and potentially leave school as a Louisville legend). If this offseason’s improvement is anything like that of the last two for the mercurial Cardinal guard, then we’re excited to see what other wrinkles he’s added to his overall game. Put simply, his progression from an incredibly inefficient human cannon to that of a hybrid defensive dynamo/pure scorer has been nothing short of remarkable. It also makes the defending national champs extremely dangerous again next season, with enough talented holdovers to give Rick Pitino a legitimate shot at his third trophy.
  2. The other NCAA Tournament stud who made a decision on Wednesday to return to college is Syracuse’s leading scorer and rebounder, CJ Fair. According to the junior forward, he went back and forth on his decision “at least five teams” in the course of the last week before finally deciding that his draft standing (#22 to #40) was too uncertain to risk dropping to the second round. Fair was without question the Orange’s most consistent player this season, earning all-Big East second team honors in his first full year as a starter. Whether Fair can actually improve his draft stock on what appears to be a considerably weaker Syracuse team next season is open for debate, but he’ll need to continue to show that he has range in his outside shooting (30 threes at a 46.9% clip last year) and improve his finishing ability inside the paint in order to ensure himself a 2014 first round selection. As for Syracuse, his return prevents Jim Boeheim from facing a complete rebuild next season.
  3. A few other players were on the move around the nation Wednesday, with USC’s DeWayne Dedmon deciding to take his seven-foot frame and commensurate seven points and seven rebounds per game to the NBA, or whatever professional league in the world that will have him. Dedmon was already in trouble and had been suspended for his alleged role in a Spokane incident at the end of the season, so new head coach Andy Enfield may not have wanted him back anyway. Over at Indiana,  senior guard Maurice Creek will use the graduate transfer rule to attend another school next season. Creek started his Hoosier career like a house of fire, averaging 16.4 PPG over 12 games in 2009-10, but a series of injuries over the next few seasons steadily reduced his playing time to the point he was a complete afterthought on this year’s team. While on the subject of injuries, Penn State star Tim Frazier has been granted a fifth season of eligibility after rupturing his Achilles tendon four games into the season. Frazier is an all-Big Ten caliber guard who will join an already talented backcourt of DJ Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, the top two scorers returning in the league next season. Could the Nittany Lions be dangerous in 2013-14?
  4. The ACC’s long-term grant of rights (GOR) deal appears to have shored up its member institutions for a while, at least until the Internet becomes the major revenue stream supporting college sports and all these deals are torn up at some point. Still, we’re a fan. For the immediate future, there should be some stability among the power conferences after several years of insanity. The University of Maryland may also be quite the fan of this deal. As the Washington Post reported Wednesday, the improved strength of the league after adding Louisville and Notre Dame and approval of the GOR suggests that the ACC has become more stable in the months after Maryland’s departure. This line of thought could provide Terp attorneys a sliver of hope in arguing at court that the school should not be required to pay the entire $52 million exit fee that the league required upon its departure. Time will tell.
  5. We’ll finish up today with a neat story about a sixth grade teacher named Paul Nadeau from Garden City Elementary School in Cranston, Rhode Island. It turns out that his class had a unit on probability approaching earlier this year, so he took the opportunity to tie in the NCAA Tournament’s unpredictability by assigning his students bracket analyses based on mathematical probabilities and backed up by their persuasive writing. Not only did the students embrace the assignment and often forget that they were, you know, learning, but many of them also got excited for the idea of eventually attending college as well. Joey Brackets is probably safe for now, but he’d better watch himself in about 10 years!
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USC Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 16th, 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. Next on our list: USC.

What Went Wrong

The biggest thing that went wrong were lofty expectations for a group of mostly transfers who had failed to have any success as a group in any of their previous stops. Despite the fact that this was a program coming off a six-win season, instead of playing with a chip on their collective shoulders, this team came out not just softly but selfishly. They went to a Maui Invitational with hopes of establishing themselves amid a flawed field, and instead got blown out by 30 in their opening round game against Illinois. They toughened up some after Maui, but then proceeded to blow several chances against good teams in excruciating fashion and took on eight non-conference losses. Senior point guard Jio Fontan looked terrible for the better part of two months after coming off a year lost to a torn ACL, Dewayne Dedmon seemed intent on throwing away his immense talent, J.T. Terrell pouted and fought his way through most of the early part of the year, and then on January 14, USC athletic director Pat Haden had seen enough, pulling the plug on Kevin O’Neill’s time in Los Angeles. The team rebounded somewhat under interim head coach Bob Cantu, winning six of eight games in the middle of the Pac-12 season, but then floundered down the stretch, culminating in an embarrassing brawl in downtown Pullman after the end of the regular season. All told, a mixture of immaturity and oversized egos appears to have done this team in.

The 2012-13 Season Gave Kevin O'Neill Headaches - And A Nice Buyout

The 2012-13 Season Gave Kevin O’Neill Headaches – And A Nice Buyout

What Went Right

Last year when we looked back on the 2011-12 Trojans, we said the best part about the year was that it was ending. This year, despite a net increase of eight wins, it is hard to say much of anything different. Maybe we call Omar Oraby, who quickly became a fan favorite, if not a coach’s favorite after transferring in from Rice, the team’s lone bright spot. Maybe we expand that to include Byron Wesley, who has been a rock for the Trojans in his two seasons there. But the fact is that the best things that have happened to this program have come since their most recent embarrassing season ended.

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USC’s Hire of Andy Enfield? A Slam Dunk

Posted by AMurawa on April 2nd, 2013

More than two months after USC fired head coach Kevin O’Neill at midseason, the Trojans have hired a replacement. And I can say with absolute certainty that it is not a name that was mentioned by anybody among the list of possible choices in the hours and days following O’Neill’s abrupt end-of-employment. No, former Florida Gulf Coast head coach and new USC hire Andy Enfield’s rise has been fast and sweet. You know Enfield’s story by now. Bounced around the NBA a bit as an assistant coach, spent some time as a minority owner of a successful start-up, married a model, wound up as an assistant coach under Leonard Hamilton at Florida State, then has spent the last two seasons at the head coach of Florida Gulf Coast. And, up until about two weeks ago, 99.9% of the country had never heard of the guy. But, a pair of wild and exciting NCAA Tournament wins out of the 15-hole later, he was the hottest young coach in America and certainly due for a significant step up in pay and in prestige.

A Meteoric Rise for the Florida Gulf Coast Head Coach

A Meteoric Rise for the Florida Gulf Coast Head Coach

Which is where USC comes in; despite canning O’Neill in mid-January ostensibly in an effort to get a head start on their coaching search, it appeared that athletic director Pat Haden had struck out on his first handful of targets, with guys like Jamie Dixon, Josh Pastner and even Steve Alford taking themselves out of the running. In part due to that and in part due to the need to make a big splash with its hire, Enfield winds up as just about the absolute perfect hire for Haden. He’s got the NBA background, he runs a fun style, he’s got the hot wife and he’s a popular name. It’s a slam dunk for a USC program with little history of success.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 27th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. News on this UCLA head coaching search is moving quickly with Pete Thamel reporting that the Bruins are moving on down the list as Shaka Smart is working on an extension with VCU and Brad Stevens is reportedly not interested in the job. From out of the blue, apparently UCLA boosters are interested in their former assistant coach and current N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried. Gottfried is fresh off of leading a team with arguably more talent that this year’s UCLA team to a fourth-place tie in the ACC and an early NCAA Tournament exit. Throw in his four other exits from the NCAA Tournament in his team’s first game, one Sweet Sixteen and one Elite Eight in nine Tournament appearances, and it is clear just what an upgrade he would be over UCLA’s former coach.
  2. Across town, one of USC’s potential targets for its open head coaching position is now officially off the market, as Memphis head coach Josh Pastner has committed to staying in his current position at Memphis and is working on details for a new five-year contract. But as the search for a new coach continues, you’ve got to wonder exactly what athletic director Pat Haden has been doing for the last couple months. Ostensibly, part of the reason that Kevin O’Neill was fired abruptly in the middle of the season was so that USC could get a jump start on finding a new guy. Apparently, that hasn’t worked out so well, which is just one reason I get a kick out of seeing things like “USC is a better job than UCLA” every so often these last couple days.
  3. The Pac-12 conference announced its All-Academic teams for basketball today and, before we get to the names on those teams, let’s just say we’re grateful that these teams only have five players on each team. Good to see that whoever is putting these teams together has more sense than those who come up with the 10-man All-Conference team. Anyway, here’s the five-man first team, with all players checking in with a GPA above 3.5: Sabatino Chen from Colorado, Carrick Felix from Arizona State, Jeremy Olsen from Utah, and John Gage and Robbie Lemons, both from Stanford. The second team features four additional Stanford players (Andy Brown, Stefan Nastic, Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle), with a seventh player from that roster (Anthony Brown) earning honorable mention. Special congratulations go out to Powell for being the only guy on these lists to also earn RTC All-Pac-12 first team honors. And, taking in that impressive haul makes it a lot clearer why Johnny Dawkins is getting another chance on The Farm.
  4. California’s season ended on Saturday with a loss to Syracuse in the round of 32, equaling the program’s best NCAA Tournament finish in the last 16 years. And so the question that California Golden Blogs asks is, does that make the season a success? The answers are almost resoundingly positive, with people noting that in the middle of January, the Golden Bears probably weren’t even on the radar for an NCAA invite, but that first stat – no Sweet Sixteen since 1997 – that’s gotta sting a little bit.
  5. Lastly, we’ve offered up our opinions on what we hope many of the Pac-12 underclassmen decide with regards to the NBA Draft, but Jack Follman of Pacific Takes also offers up his observations, suggesting that, aside from Shabazz Muhammad, who is already gone, Dewayne Dedmon and Allen Crabbe may well be the only other guys around the conference who leave early. While we hope that would ultimately be the case, as Eric Moreland has already shown us, there are always a couple of guys that come from off the radar to make peculiar decisions to leave early. Stay tuned.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.12.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 12th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. The Pac-12 released its awards and “all-conference teams” on Monday, and I put that in quotes since the conference doesn’t care to follow one of the most simple rules of basketball. Regardless, end-of-the-season awards are always fun to review, so here we go. Leading scorer Allen Crabbe was named the Player of the Year in the conference, with Jahii Carson and Shabazz Muhammad named as Co-Freshmen of the Year. Oregon head coach Dana Altman took home the Coach of the Year award after leading his Ducks to a 23-8 record, and received the honor despite losing their final two regular season games to Colorado and Utah. In addition to Crabbe, Carson, and Muhammad, Spencer Dinwiddie, Solomon Hill, and Dwight Powell headlined the All-Pac-12 first team list. Kyle Anderson, Damyean Dotson, and Josh Scott rounded out the All-Freshmen team. To view the Rush the Court Pac-12 honors and all-conference teams from yesterday, click here and here.
  2. Additional news of a Spokane bar fight featuring several USC players broke on Monday afternoon, and not long after, interim head coach Bob Cantu announced that senior center James Blasczyk and junior forward Dewayne Dedmon had been suspended indefinitely for violating a team rule. In a statement released by the school, the program acknowledged the investigation into the alleged incident but refused to comment until more is known. There was an interesting statement from Spokane Police Officer John Gately, which said, “We had a large fight. We have not been able to find any connection to any sports team.” More on the situation will surely be released in the coming days, but the immediate reality is that the Trojans will lose their top rebounder for their opening Pac-12 Tournament game against one of the hottest teams in the league. Uh-oh.
  3. Washington State senior Brock Motum has dropped an average of 16.5 PPG against Washington so far this season, and Huskies head coach Lorenzo Romar knows the big Aussie will be the biggest road block between his team and a quarterfinal match-up with Oregon. Even more concerning are the recent stats that Motum has been putting up — he’s scored 20+ points (including one 31-point outing) in three of Wazzu’s last four games, and has averaged 8.0 RPG in that timeframe.
  4. The Power Rank has an interesting tool for college basketball addicts, featuring an interactive projected NCAA Tournament bracket and breaking down the probabilities for each of the 68 teams to advance through the bracket. Using Jerry Palm’s projected bracket from March 7 and the site’s calculations from their own rankings, you can see the odds for your favorite team advancing through each round. The calculations say Arizona has the best chance of a Pac-12 team to win the national title, coming in at 2.1%. Oregon and UCLA are the next closest at 0.2%, and just as a point of reference, the team with the best chance of winning it all is at 12.8%, Florida.
  5. Colorado head coach Tad Boyle has never been angrier at a loss during his tenure in Boulder than he was after Saturday’s head-scratching, 64-58 loss at home to Oregon State. And for good reason, too, as the loss sent CU back to the bubble, a place they thought they were done with coming into the final week of the regular season. In an interesting twist, the Buffaloes now must face the Beavers again in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday afternoon, a game that could very well be a must-win in order for the Buffaloes to make the field of 68. On the other end of the court will be the Beavers, which even though they come into the tourney with a #12 seed, are riding some momentum for the first time in a month. Craig Robinson knows all about playing spoiler on Championship Week, as last year the Beavs knocked regular season champion Washington off the NCAA bubble with a quarterfinal win. If history repeats itself, Colorado fans will be wise to root against the likes of La Salle, Virginia, and Alabama in their respective conference tournaments this week, as losses by those teams would help its cause. Going off the same thread, an OSU win would likely mean a second straight trip to the CBI for the Beavers, while a loss could mean being left out of the third-rate tournament.

Steve Politi’s Sunday column in the New Jersey Star-Ledger contains some great anecdotal history from the Big East Tournament’s humble inception. To put this week’s highly orchestrated, sold-out event in perspective, consider the following. In 1981, the second year of the tournament, four ticketless Georgetown fans entered the bowels of the Carrier Dome donning various animal costumes, including a penguin suit. Each told oblivious security guards –– who had no clue what a Hoya was supposed to look like –– that he was the official school mascot. And astonishingly, it worked, which merely underscores how many of the league’s most intimate modern rivalries were predated by striking unfamiliarity, and forged only through time and competitiveness.

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So Shabazz Is Leaving, But Who Else?

Posted by AMurawa on March 4th, 2013

Saturday night following UCLA’s win over Arizona, Ben Howland admitted that, yes, Shabazz Muhammad had, barring some strange unforeseen circumstances, played his last game at Pauley Pavilion, thus sharing a secret that everybody already knew. One of the nation’s top recruits, Muhammad will be a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft and his time in Westwood will be limited to just this one season. It’s no surprise, and certainly not worth spilling many pixels on. But, it is a good jumping off point to look around the rest of the Pac-12 and project the collegiate futures of other talented underclassmen and ask a couple different questions: First, will they declare for the NBA Draft after this season and, more subjectively, should they? Certainly every player’s own personal situation will have a say in the decision, and far be it from me to tell kids what they should and should not do with their potentially multi-million dollar futures, but it is that time of year when we start thinking about what some of these teams are going to look like next season. So, here’s a look at the players around the conference most likely to be weighing their options when the season ends, with Draft Express’ opinion on where these guys would be slated to go.

  • Allen Crabbe, Junior, California – Crabbe’s gone. The 6’6” wing has taken on a slightly bigger role each season in Berkeley and is one of the purest shooters in the draft. A solid defender as well, he’s got an NBA-ready game and could be a late first-round pick, although Draft Express currently projects him as the #11 pick in the second round. It is doubtful that another year in college would improve his draft stock substantially as Crabbe is mostly a completed player.
Allen Crabbe, California

Allen Crabbe’s Long Frame and Golden Jumper Have A Spot Waiting For Him In The NBA

  • Andre Roberson, Junior, Colorado – Odds are probably good that Roberson will leave after this season, but while he uses his long frame to great effect defensively and on the glass, he’s still a work in progress offensively. He’s a decent enough three-point shooter (35% for his career on limited attempts), but he is a poor free throw shooter, has a questionable handle, and has an unpolished offensive game anywhere inside of the three-point line. Draft Express has him as the seventh pick in the second round of this year’s draft, but I have a hard time projecting this guy’s game to the NBA when he sees players with more size and length and just as much athleticism competing with him for rebounds.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VIII: The Delinquents

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2013

We’ve had plenty of good students this week, but we’ve got four squads that need to put in some extra work. Professor Pac breaks them down, here.

Arizona State – D+

The Sun Devils have unquestionably been a great story all year long. This is a team that won 22 games over the last two seasons combined that is now sitting at 20 wins already this season. If #1 seeds were handed out based on improvement, ASU would be very much in the mix. As it is, however, the Sun Devils’ last three losses – on Saturday at home to Washington, two weeks ago at Utah, and just prior to that at home to Stanford – have combined to leave them likely on the outside looking in when it comes to bubble talk. At present they’re near the bottom of the barrel in terms of free throw percentage in the nation, making just 62% from the charity stripe.

Focus on: Carrick Felix. The senior has done a lot of amazing things this season, from his elite defensive performance to his improvement on the glass to his career-best 58.1% eFG and 37% three-point shooting. But, somewhat inexplicably, Felix is shooting a career-worst 62.9% from the free-throw line. Somehow, someway, as his shooting while people attempt to guard him has been consistently rocketing upwards, his shooting while no one can guard him plummets.

Looking ahead: For all the talk about how the Sun Devils have taken themselves out of contention for an at-large bid, I can’t help but think if they win at UCLA tonight, win at USC on Saturday and handle Arizona next Saturday, they’ll be in pretty good position. Yeah, so, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s three road wins over teams who are a combined 12-5 in the past month.

Carrick Felix, Arizona State

Carrick Felix’s Numbers Are Up Almost Across The Boards – Except From The Free Throw Line (US Presswire)

Oregon State – D+

If you wanted to get a feel for how the 2012-13 Beavers season has gone, you could probably just watch Saturday’s game against Cal. Before the clock operator even had a chance to start the clock, OSU found itself down a point after freshman Olaf Schaftenaar picked up a technical for dunking in pregame warm-ups. Then, over the course of the next 20 minutes of action, they built themselves a nine-point deficit, a jumped up to 13 early in the second half. But behind Joe Burton, celebrating his senior day in style, the Beavers fought most of the way back against the hottest team in the conference, getting to within one point with 43 seconds remaining. But an ugly final possession that resulted in a wild Ahmad Starks three as time expired ensured that the lead remained in Cal’s possession. And yup, that’s right, the final margin was that one point that OSU sacrificed before the game even began.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VI: Honor Roll

Posted by AMurawa on February 12th, 2013

Professor Pac is back, trying to break down the mess that is the Pac-12, a task harder than you might think. This week’s Honor Roll is highlighted by Colorado, a team that bounced back from an awful week last time around to earn this week’s highest grade.

Colorado – A

A week ago, the Buffaloes earned the only F we’ve handed out this season. You can tell a lot about how a team responds to absolute failure. After losing to Utah while earning a 22-point deficit at one point, their F was well-earned. Likewise, this week’s A is appropriate. Colorado wasn’t mind-blowingly effective this week, but they were tough. They played two tight games and, contrary to what they’d done earlier in the year, they finished strong. With an important week ahead (and a chance at revenge against the Utes the following week), the Buffs have an opportunity now to make their case for a continued presence near the top of the Pac-12 standings.

Josh Scott Scored 17 On Sunday Night, But His Rebounding Needs to Improve (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Josh Scott Scored 17 On Sunday Night, But His Rebounding Needs to Improve (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Focus on: Josh Scott. After scoring in double figures in 13 of his first 16 games as a Buff, Scott hit something of a freshman wall in mid-January. His average of 14.5 points per game over those first 16 games has fallen to fewer than eight points per game over the next five, while also contributing just three rebounds per night. While he was merely average against Oregon (seven points, two boards), and while he did little to chip in on the boards against Oregon State (four boards in 32 minutes as his team was outrebounded by a relatively poor rebounding OSU team), he did wake up offensively, scoring 17 points while making 7-of-10 field goals. That type of success needs to continue, preferably with some additional rebounding mixed in there.

Looking ahead: The Buffaloes have been pointing to Valentine’s night ever since the final buzzer sounded in their controversial overtime loss to Arizona on the opening night of conference play. If CU can take care of business at home against the Wildcats and put the demons of the Debacle in the Desert to rest, it could be a springboard for continued success down the stretch. If they get outplayed by a talented Arizona team, that disappointment could snowball, especially with a tough and hungry Arizona State squad waiting on Saturday.

USC – A

For the second straight week, the Trojans earn an A. Once forgotten, this team is now a prized student and a team that could make a mess of things come the second week in March in Las Vegas. The Trojans have now won three in a row, they’re at 6-5 in the conference, and, seemingly like 17 other teams in the Pac-12, they sit within two games of first place.

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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 Burning Questions: So… About Those Preseason Predictions?

Posted by AMurawa on December 31st, 2012

With non-conference play all but wrapped up, we start to turn our attention to conference play this week. But, before we do we want to take a look back and see what we talked about prior to the season.

“We made a lot of predictions and bold statements prior to the season. Which prognostication did you nail and which did you completely whiff on?”

Adam Butler: I wish I’d had the stones to say things like “Jordan Adams will be UCLA’s best player” or “Josh Smith will leave the Bruins” or “USC will utterly flop.” No, on each of those insights I was sightless. I was the cool kid picking USC to overachieve and who was gobbling up Shabazz hyperbole like flavored vodka at a sorority house. I went out on the limb to say Arizona and Colorado would be good. I have said Spencer Dinwiddie would be All-Conference and, to date, he’s held up his side of that bargain, and I still love his game when he shows up (although, zero points vs. Fresno?). The one thing I’ve nailed but I don’t think it’s been terribly bold has been that Mark Lyons, no matter what he did numbers-wise, was going to have an overwhelming effect on this Wildcats team. I think it’s safe to say that he’s been a lightning rod of attention and criticism and handled it all in stride, strides that have taken him straight to winning buckets against Florida and SDSU. Lyons brings a dynamic to Tucson that was sorely needed and he has not let them down. As for whiffs? I figured Washington would be better and that Oregon would be worse. I thought Jio Fontan would hover around conference POY talk and that Dewayne Dedmon would be a big surprise: fails. There’s still time to play out but it’s hard to say that any of those thoughts will right themselves in my predictive favor. And in that remaining time, I’m excited to see just what UCLA will do and how Arizona’s freshmen bigs will develop within the routine of Pac-12 play. Moving forward, a few additional thoughts: Can Herb’s team keep up their pace? No. Is Solomon Hill going to win the conference POY award? No (but he may be the MVP). Can Colorado be the second best team in the Pac? Yes. Will Stanford be better then their 8-4 record? Yes. Alas, predictions are meaningless but oh-so-fun.

Jio Fontan In The Player Of The Year Race? Not So Much. (AP Photo)

Jio Fontan In The Player Of The Year Race? Not So Much. (AP Photo)

Connor Pelton: Looking back on it, I made some interesting (to say the least) picks back in October. But I did nail a few of those, starting with the pick of Arsalan Kazemi as an All-Pac-12 performer. I was the only one to include the Rice transfer on my 15-player ballot, and he has answered by averaging 9.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 3.1 SPG so far. In fact, if he had not had been so tentative shooting the ball at the beginning of the season, it is not a stretch to say he would not only be leading the team in rebounds but points as well. Another pick I am liking was that of Jonathan Gilling as an all-conference three-point shooter. Kevin and I were the only ones to include the sophomore on our lists, and he has proved us right by knocking down 30 triples, second highest in the conference. But the pick I am most proud of is selecting USC at 10th in the conference, while everyone else here had the Trojans sixth or seventh. The thing that made me so skeptical about USC at the beginning of the season was the question, “Where do the points come from behind Jio Fontan?” Some said senior forward Aaron Fuller, who’s averaging a stellar 2.9 PPG. Case closed.

Now, onto the whiffs. While Chasson Randle hasn’t had a great season, there is no question he should be second team All-Pac-12 right now. I did not even include him on my list of 15, opting instead for guys like Ricky Kreklow and Kaleb Tarczewski. Whoops. It is easy to look bad when projecting an all-newcomer team, and boy have I done that. I did not include Mark Lyons on my team, or Jahii Carson, or Josh Scott. Those guys are averaging 13.4, 17.9, and 12.5 PPG, respectively. As we move into conference play, the picks that are on the fence of good and bad will begin to clear up. Are the Buffaloes an NCAA Tournament team? I said yes in October, and I still think they are now. Can Washington rebound from an awful start and make the NIT? No. Can California win a big game? It has to happen eventually, right?

Time will answer everything, and before we know it, we will be filling out brackets and talking about surprises and snubs on Selection Sunday.

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Scouting the Pac: DeWayne Dedmon, Andy Brown and the Arizona Point Guard

Posted by AMurawa on November 14th, 2012

Occasionally this season, we’ll take a brief spin around the conference and take a look at some players, teams and trends that have caught our eye over the course of recent games.

DeWayne Dedmon – I play in a pickup game with guys from my work every week or more often, and we’ve got this one guy who is a good athlete but has never really played much basketball before. And, what basketball he has played has been of the playground variety. As a result, we’ve been trying to teach him the difference between playing physical defense and fouling; the difference between pounding the boards and going over your opponent’s back. And, slowly but surely, with a few arguments mixed in, we’re making progress. My little anecdote is only there by way of reminding you all that Dedmon, USC‘s seven-foot junior center, hasn’t exactly played a lot of basketball. His first taste of organized basketball came when he was a senior in high school, when he earned limited minutes. He played a season at Antelope Valley Junior College, but had his season ended early due to injury. The next year he took the season off to keep some college eligibility, but practiced with USC in the second semester, then last year, he again saw his season end early due to injury. So, yeah, he hasn’t played a lot of meaningful basketball. And, there are times that it shows. Dude is a physical freak and he is certainly picking up the big parts of the game pretty darn quickly (he’s averaging 11 points and a 1.5 blocks per game thus far), but he is still somewhat foul-prone if only because he doesn’t quite get where the line is between legal play and foul. For instance, near the end of the first half of USC’s opener against Coppin State, just after Dedmon had made a couple smart plays in previous possessions, he threw down a great dunk on a follow of a missed shot. Only problem is, the play was waved off because Dedmon went over the opponent’s back (in reality, I thought the call was questionable, but I saw a couple other more blatant examples that weren’t called of Dedmon doing the same thing). However, there is progress. On that foul call, Dedmon ran back down the floor with a smile on his face, laughing off the call, when early last year he might have picked up a technical arguing with the ref. It is only a matter of time (specifically, playing time) until these types of things click for him, and when they do, watch out; not only is he that athletic freak, but he’s also quite a skilled player with a good looking jumper, a good eye for his teammates and a solid handle for a seven-footer. And, best yet, with loads more offensive threats around him this season, and far better passers as well, Dedmon is going to get free from time to time for thunderous alley-oop finishes in the halfcourt.

DeWayne Dedmon, USC

He May Be Still Learning Some Of The Intricacies of The Game, But Dedmon’s Got The Physical Tools To Shine (AP Photo/Bret Hartman)

Andy Brown – Prior to arriving in Palo Alto, Brown tore the ACL in his left knee as a senior in high school. In his first two years on the Stanford campus, Brown tragically repeated the feat twice, missing the entirety of both seasons. Now, academically a senior after earning limited minutes in just nine games last year, Brown is well on his way to earning himself some real live minutes this season. In the opener against San Francisco, he made all three of his field goal attempts, including a couple nice spinning numbers in the lane, on his way to eight points in 10 minutes of action. Against Cal State Fullerton on Monday night, Brown’s minutes more than doubled and his production kicked up a notch as well, as he added four boards and five steals to his now-standard eight points a game. He’s got a nice jumper, he can handle a little bit and he’s a hustle guy ready and willing to get his hands dirty. It’s not something that I expected prior to the season, but it looks like there is a good chance that Brown will chip in and provide head coach Johnny Dawkins some good help off the bench.

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