Checking in on… the West Coast Conference

Posted by Michael Vernetti on January 1st, 2014

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Looking Back

Every week in a conference season is its own self-contained drama with winners, losers, and in-betweeners. The opening week is more dramatic than most because portents are seen and chances are calculated. After the opening weekend of the nine-week WCC season, some definite winners and losers emerged. Whether they stay that way will depend on what happens from now until March 1.

Marty Wilson and Pepperdine picked up arguably the best win of the weekend. (US Presswire)

Marty Wilson and Pepperdine picked up arguably the best win of the weekend. (US Presswire)

Winners: Loyola-Marymount, Pepperdine, and Gonzaga made the most of opening at home by sweeping both opponents. Most impressive: Pepperdine’s 80-74 win over BYU, which had defeated Stanford and Utah State on the road and Texas at a neutral-site game.

Losers: Portland and Pacific, which blew opportunities to start the season with solid home wins, BYU, which bombed on the road at LMU and Pepperdine, and San Diego, which also lost two road games. It’s a toss-up whether Portland or BYU was most disappointing. Portland had winnable games against San Francisco and Santa Clara, but lost both, and BYU looked like anything but the team that is going to threaten Gonzaga for the conference title. Pacific had a wounded Saint Mary’s that was coming into the Spanos Center after a disastrous Diamond Head Classic performance (0-3) and was without head coach Randy Bennett, who was serving an NCAA-imposed five-game suspension. The Tigers lost anyway, 88-80, blowing a chance to make its debut in the WCC (after a 43-year absence) with a positive statement.

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USC Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on July 3rd, 2012

In last year’s injury-marred campaign there were nine different players who saw some time under head coach Kevin O’Neill. Of those nine players, one little-used senior graduated and two underclassmen (who each earned more than 50% of the available minutes) transferred out. A fourth player, one of those who missed the season with an injury, also transferred out, while a fifth chose retirement from basketball due to his own injury. All three of the transfers saw the writing on the wall, with the host of new players and guys returning from injury ready to eat up their minutes. When all is said and done, none of these players that the Trojans lose will be difficult to replace, but we’ll fill you in on their details in the order of importance to the program.

  • Alexis Moore – Moore came to USC in the class of 2011 as a solid recruit with a bright future ahead of him. But while earning more than 24 minutes a night primarily because he was one of the last guys standing, Moore struggled mightily shooting the ball, hitting just 28.3% of his three-pointers and – a far worse sin – hitting just 29.1% of his two-pointers. Throw in the highest turnover rate (turnovers on more than 20% of all possessions) on a team whose only offensive strength was the ability to not turn the ball over and it is no surprise that Moore and USC parted ways after just one season. Moore will wind up playing in the Ivy League at Penn, eligible in 2013-14 after sitting out a year, and should fare much better at that level of competition with a couple of years to grow into his new role.
Alexis Moore, USC

Alexis Moore Got Plenty Of Minutes In His Freshman Year, But Struggled To Adjust To The Level of Competition (Chris Pham, Daily Trojan)

  • Garrett Jackson – Jackson spent two seasons under O’Neill and earned some quality minutes in both years. As a freshman, he shot the ball well and chipped in on the glass and defensively but took a step backwards as a sophomore in nearly double the minutes. Part of the problem was that the 6’6” wing was asked to play as more of a power forward due to injuries, and Jackson wasn’t ever the type of guy who seemed to be an athlete on the Pac-12 level. Jackson will wind up at St. Mary’s with eligibility beginning in 2013-14, where he will probably spend a couple of years contributing off the bench for the Gaels.
  • Curtis Washington – A 6’10” power forward, Washington’s Trojan career boiled down to two seasons, 11 minutes, and zero points. He missed all of last season after a shoulder injury in USC’s ill-fated trip to Brazil and after the season decided to transfer to Georgia State. He’s another guy like Jackson who likely wound up at USC only because it was desperate for bodies, as he was regarded as a mid-major-type talent out of high school albeit with high upside due to his size and frame. Given some good health and improvement, he could have an impact in the CAA over the remainder of his eligibility. Read the rest of this entry »
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USC: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 13th, 2012

What Went Wrong

Everything. Almost literally. The Trojans lost their senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL on their summer trip to Brazil, a trip that also saw forward Curtis Washington go down with a shoulder injury from which he would not return. Later injuries ended the seasons for sophomore forward DeWayne Dedmon and junior forward Aaron Fuller, leaving a skeleton crew on the court for head coach Kevin O’Neill. And he, in turn, handed over the keys to the car to sophomore point guard Maurice Jones, who started off the season as a bomber sans conscience (two-for 13 in their season opening win over Cal State Northridge) and went out much the same (two-for-eight in their Pac-12 Tournament loss to UCLA). While you have to give credit to Jones for bringing his lunch pail to work every day (he played in every game, only once played less than 30 minutes and 12 times played 40 or more on his way to playing 94.7% of his team’s minutes), there just came a time when you wished that lunchpail didn’t always include something like a four-for-14 sandwich. But, given the dearth of offensive weapons for the offense and O’Neill’s insistence that Jones keep bombing away, it’s hard to blame him for trying.

Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Was A Constant For The Trojans, But Was Typically Inefficient (Brendan Hui, Daily Trojan)

What Went Right

Well. The season did end. Eventually. After a school-worst 6-26 record that included one win in the final 20 games.

MVP

As teammates fell by the wayside around him, freshman wing Byron Wesley stepped up his game scoring in double figures in 11 of the final 13 games and averaging 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds over that stretch while establishing himself as one of the best defenders on the team. And, like Jones, he was an ironman for the team, playing in 85.8% of his team’s minutes.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 21st, 2012

  1. The news just keeps getting worse for Arizona State and Herb Sendek, as on Tuesday it was announced that leading scorer Trent Lockett had asked for a release from his scholarship in order to transfer to a school closer to his home. The news isn’t very good for Lockett either, however, as the reason he is headed out is to be closer to his mother who recently found out she has cancer. Lockett is well on his way to graduating, having taken 20 or more credits in recent semesters, so he should be able to play immediately at the school of his choice next year. We speculated as far back as the end of November that this might be an eventuality for Lockett and the Sun Devils, but the manner in which this has gone down is certainly a sad one. We wish nothing but the best for Lockett and his family. But, as for ASU, this is now three players from this season’s already significantly undermanned squad who have just since the end of the season announced their intentions to transfer, making it 12 players in four seasons who have left Sendek’s program early.
  2. ASU isn’t the only school dealing with multiple transfers. USC announced on Tuesday that Alexis Moore and Curtis Washington would both be transferring out of the program. Moore was a freshman this season who played in every game and came into the year with a reputation for being an excellent three-point shooter, although he struggled mightily with his shot this season, especially in conference play. Washington did not play at all this season after injuring his shoulder on that fateful Trojan trip to Brazil, a trip that also saw senior point guard Jio Fontan go down with a season-ending injury. Washington played a total of 11 minutes in three games in his freshman season at USC. Of the two, the loss of Moore is the bigger issue, as he earned plenty of experience as a frosh and could have turned into a nice asset for Kevin O’Neill in later years. With the previous announcement that Garrett Jackson would also be transferring out, a USC team that was expected to be deep next season is suddenly hemorrhaging players.
  3. Utah also has some transfer news, as point guard Anthony Odunsi becomes the first Ute to announce his intention to transfer out of the program. Odunsi played in all but two Ute games as a freshman this season, averaging 15 minutes, three points and putting up the lowest offensive efficiency rating on the team (74.0) as a result of poor shooting, too many turnovers, too few assists, and bad decisions all around. He’ll be better off at a low- to mid-major program. As for head coach Larry Krystkowiak, given that he’s in the middle of rebuilding the program from the ground up, don’t be surprised to find additional outgoing transfers in the near future.
  4. Washington kept its season going on Tuesday night, as it held off northwest rival Oregon 90-86 in the quarterfinal of the NIT to earn a trip back to Madison Square Garden, where it played two unsuccessful games back in December. Freshman guard Tony Wroten awoke from his postseason slumber with a 22-point performance on 15 field goal attempts, while Terrence Ross continued his strong play, chipping in 24 points. Oregon’s season ends with a 24-10 record, as Devoe Joseph wrapped up his collegiate eligibility with a disappointing 4-for-15 performance. Now Duck fans get to hold their breath until Nebraska hires a coach for fear that they may poach Dana Altman. Back to the Huskies: They’ll face the winner of the Middle Tennessee/Minnesota matchup in the NIT semifinals next Tuesday night. Massachusetts has already qualified for another of the spots in the semifinals, with the winner of the Stanford/Nevada matchup taking the fourth and final spot.
  5. Lastly, back to the transfer circuit, but this time contemplating a potential incoming transfer. Two years ago, Trey Zeigler was a four-star recruit in the class of 2010, considering schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Duke, UCLA and Central Michigan. That last school on the list didn’t seem to fit with those other big-time schools, but CMU had a pretty good in: Trey’s dad Ernie was the head coach there. But, two years later, a 21-42 record has earned the head coach a pink slip, and the younger Zeigler is on the move as well. While he already intends to visit Duke this weekend, UCLA, Michigan and Michigan State are among the other schools that could be in on the Zeigler sweepstakes, part two. UCLA could sure use the athleticism and defensive ability that Zeigler provides. I saw him play earlier in the season at Pepperdine, and while his jump shot is certainly still a work in progress, he has plenty of other tools and was easily the best player on the floor in that matchup.
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Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2012

  1. It did not take Rhode Island long to find a new head coach as they announced Dan Hurley as their new head coach at a press conference yesterday. Hurley has limited coaching experience at the college experience, but the experience he has had so far has been phenomenal as he turned around the Wagner program leading them to a 25-6 record in just his second year there. While almost everybody understands the move by Hurley, Gary Parrish notes that it is interesting in light of comments about how Hurley would not be using Wagner as a launching pad, but then did so just two months later.
  2. The situation at Southern Illinois appears to be a little less clear. Initial reports suggested that Bruce Weber had been offered his old job again. However, later in the day the school denied those reports and said its search was still ongoing. Weber appears to be the leader to become their next head coach, but the school reportedly has up to eight candidates (mostly current assistant coaches) who they would target to become their next head coach.
  3. Scott Sutton interviewed at Nebraska on Monday according to his father. Sutton, who is 250-161 in 13 seasons at Oral Roberts, appears to be one of the hotter names not named Shaka this offseason as we have also seen his name linked to Tulsa and Mississippi State. With so many options on the table, we suspect that Scott will have his choice of leaving Oral Roberts if that is his desire. We should also point out how humorous other reports of this story were that reported “sources” had indicated that Scott had interviewed with the Huskers. While his father is technically a source, he is probably a little more credible than your average anonymous source.
  4. Long time followers of our site are familiar with the musical works of Renaldo Woolridge (aka Baller Vol). Woolridge, who was a senior at Tennessee this season, was granted a hardship waiver and given an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA. Interestingly, Woolridge plans to use that extra year to transfer to another school. We are not sure what his reasons are, but Cuonzo Martin appears to have signed off on the transfer unlike a certain coach in Philadelphia.
  5. There were a couple of big transfers in the Pac-12 yesterday. The biggest was the announcement that Trent Lockett, the leading scorer for Arizona State last season, would be transferring to be closer to his ailing mother. Lockett, who averaged 13 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season, is expected to head back to Minnesota to be closer to his mother although he has not announced which school he intends to transfer to for his remaining eligibility. Lockett is the 12th Sun Devil to leave the program in the past four years although we cannot pin this one on the program as there appears to be more serious family issues at play here. Alexis Moore and Curtis Washington both announced yesterday that they would be the second and third Trojans in a week to transfer from USC. While things may seem really bad for a team that was 6-26 this season and now has lost three of its better players from last season, there is some hope in the form of a talented group of incoming players.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.15.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2012

  1. Wednesday night was not exactly a banner night in the Pac-12 Conference. Just to tie a bow on a dreadful season, California laid an egg in its opening round NCAA Tournament game, scored just 13 points in the first half against South Florida (which, really, isn’t as much of a crime as allowing USF to score 36 points in the first half – when is the last time USF scored 36 points in any half?) and never really showed up. The Bears only made a run in the final few minutes when the game was already out of reach, causing the final score (65-54) to seem a lot more respectable than it really was. For a team led by seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp, two guys whose careers have been largely based on heart and toughness, to bow out with nary a fight is certainly a disappointing end to their solid Berkeley careers.
  2. Arizona’s season also ended Wednesday night as they lost to Bucknell in the first round of the NIT by the same score. This game was far more competitive, however, until the Bison finished the game on a 7-0 run to put away the Wildcats. With a group of impressive freshmen coming in next season, Arizona hopes it will be its last NIT appearance for quite some time. The biggest question for Sean Miller to answer in the offseason, though, is the future of freshman point guard Josiah Turner. Turner is currently suspended indefinitely, and although he did take in the game on the Wildcat bench in sweats, it is possible that he is not long for the program. With Arizona’s promising recruiting class lacking a true point guard, his fate could have a lot to say about what happens in Tucson next year.
  3. USC announced on Wednesday that sophomore forward Garrett Jackson will be transferring out of the program at the end of the year. Despite the fact that Jackson started the final 14 games of  the season, it has been clear in his two years in Los Angeles that he doesn’t have a bright future playing for head coach Kevin O’Neill. Prior to the rash of injuries that completely sapped the Trojan roster of able bodies, Jackson was just a role player. And with a couple newly eligible senior transfers due in at forward next year, Jackson’s role figured to decline rather than increase in 2012-13.
  4. We’ve discussed the possibility that Dana Altman would be considered for the open Nebraska coaching position, but one thing we never considered was that other Pac-12 coaches might be on the Huskers’ radar as well. As it turns out, Nebraska apparently contacted UCLA’s head coach Ben Howland in regards to the job, but found out that they were barking up the wrong tree there. With Altman and Oregon still alive in the NIT and not playing again until Sunday, it could be some time until we find out for sure whether Altman is all-in or folding early with the Ducks.
  5. Lastly, Oregon State kept its season alive by blowing out Western Illinois in the first round of the CBI on Wednesday night, earning the Beavers their first 20-win season since 1990. For perspective, Jared Cunningham, who led the Beavs with 22 points, wasn’t even born at that time. The win gives the Pac-12 two teams in the CBI quarterfinals, as Washington State advanced on Tuesday night with a 14-point win over San Francisco. Wyoming will travel to Washington State in the next round, while Oregon State will host TCU, two games that could provide trouble for the Pac-12 teams, considering the conference’s struggles against Mountain West teams this season.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.30.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2012

  1. We’re now officially halfway through the conference season (man, does time ever fly) and after nine games we’ve got a tie at the top of the conference, with both California and Washington sitting at 7-2. For much of the season, the Huskies have been considered a significant disappointment, underachieving despite boasting one of the most talented rosters in the Pac-12. But this weekend, they scored a huge road win at Arizona in front of a prime-time ESPN audience, capping a sweep of the Arizona schools and earning what is their most impressive road victory of the season. But, as is typical of the Huskies, it seems, it didn’t come easy. At the final media timeout, the U-Dub held a 62-52 lead on the Wildcats and appeared to be coasting. But, turnovers, missed free throws, blown layups and porous defense (not to mention a healthy helping of Solomon Hill) found the game tied up with nine seconds left after a Hill three. But, following the three, freshman guard Josiah Turner was called for a blocking foul in the backcourt, some 60 feet from the basket, with just five seconds left, sending C.J. Wilcox, a 90% free throw shooter to the line. He made both of them, but Turner had redemption on his mind, driving the length of the court in the final seconds, getting all the way to the cup, only to have his shot blocked by Washington freshman Tony Wroten at the buzzer. The last time these two teams played in Tucson, it was Zona’s Derrick Williams rejecting Darnell Gant in the closing moments to seal the win for UA. The loss sends Arizona two back of the leaders in the conference, and cements them in a situation where they will need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to earn their 27th NCAA Tournament invitation in the last 28 years. Furthermore, they’ll have to do so without junior forward Kevin Parrom, who broke his foot in the game and is out the rest of the year. Meanwhile, the Huskies are tied for first place, and if nothing else, at least are in the conversation for an at-large tournament bid, even if their overall resume is lacking.
  2. California earned its spot at the top of the midway standings by knocking off rival Stanford Sunday night, using a 20-9 run in the middle of the second half to put the Cardinal away. But senior guard Jorge Gutierrez, who had a career-high 12 rebounds to go with 11 points on the night, said the game with Stanford wasn’t necessarily a rivalry game, claiming that the Golden Bears just want to win games regardless of who they’re playing. Nevertheless, the win not only keeps Cal in first place, but it knocks the Cardinal down a peg; they’re sitting at 5-4 in the conference, two games back of the leaders.
  3. Oregon now sits a game back of Cal and Washington, after blowing a nine-point second half lead and seeing their rival Oregon State run away from them with a blistering offensive performance in the second stanza. The Beavers scored 53 points, shot a 66.1% eFG and hit five of their seven three-point attempts after the half, led by junior guard Jared Cunningham who had 24 of his 27 points after the break. The win brings OSU back within a game of .500 in conference play and marks the team’s first road win in conference play. They’ll get a chance to bolster their road chops next week with a trip to the Rockies for games with Colorado and Utah.
  4. Speaking of Colorado, they’re tied with Oregon a game back of the conference leaders, but they’re coming off a shellacking by UCLA in Los Angeles on Saturday in which the Buffs’ struggles on the road were highlighted. They’ve won just one conference road game in the first half of the schedule, and that was against a struggling USC team, so they’ll have to find a way to earn some road wins the rest of the way if they want to remain among the conference leaders, a task easier said than done with trips to the Oregon and Arizona schools still remaining. As for the Bruins, they’re in a pack along with Arizona and Stanford of talented teams sitting a couple games back of the conference leaders. However, much like those other two teams, they’re in win-the-Pac-12-tourney-or-else mode.
  5. Lastly, back to those Trojans for a second, as they got the job done this weekend for the first time in conference play, knocking off Utah on Saturday. Maurice Jones and Garrett Jackson each scored 16 points (the total a career-high for Jackson), freshman Byron Wesley handed out seven assists and junior Greg Allen hit three threes as Kevin O’Neill’s club broke a nine-game losing streak. But, the news was not all good for the Trojans, as sophomore forward DeWayne Dedmon tore the MCL in his left knee during the team’s loss to Colorado on Thursday night and will miss the remainder of the season. Dedmon’s injury means that the Trojans have now lost five different players to season-ending injuries.
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USC’s Offensive Explosion: A Sign Of Things to Come?

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2011

It’s been a wild couple of games for the USC basketball team. After having established themselves as an excellent defensive squad incapable of scoring through the first ten games of the season, they played against type in consecutive games. First, on Saturday against Georgia, one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, they allowed the Bulldogs to shoot a season-high 61.65 eFG in a come-from-ahead loss for the Trojans. Then, Monday night against TCU, they inexplicably busted out with coherent offense, scoring 83 points with four players scoring in double figures and just four turnovers on the night, all while reverting back to their excellent defensive form. While it is still early in the season, each of these games can easily be taken as little more than blips on the radar, but is it possible that the offensive eruption is a sign of improvement for a young team that is just now getting used to playing with each other?

Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Has Been Everything All The Time For USC, But Needs His Teammates To Help Out More (photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

The Trojans lost senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL during their team trip to Brazil in August, and as a result head coach Kevin O’Neill had to rejigger his plans for the year. With only two healthy players returning from a team that wasn’t very deep to begin with last year, he knew that there would be plenty of growing pains in the early part of this season. O’Neill also knew that sophomore guard Maurice Jones, the only player who earned more than 11 minutes per game last year, would need to play nearly every minute for the Trojans this year. And so far, both of those expectations have been met, with Jones playing 39.3 minutes per night (or 96.3% of all possible minutes) and with the USC offense struggling to gain any consistency. However, the mere fact that this team is playing so hard and so well defensively is a credit not only to the players, but to this coaching staff.

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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: USC

Posted by AMurawa on October 28th, 2011

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

USC Trojans

Strengths.  Defense. In Kevin O’Neill’s first two years at USC, his teams have ranked 2nd and 28th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. While the Trojans will not look like what O’Neill expected them to look like even a few months ago, you can expect them to be similarly stingy on the defensive end. With 7’0” sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon an intimidating shot-blocking presence inside, O’Neill could play 7’1” James Blasczyk alongside him and Iowa transfer Aaron Fuller, an athletic combo forward who is capable of guarding multiple positions, at the three. And freshman wing Byron Wesley could be the Trojans’ defensive specialist for years to come. And while 5’7” point Maurice Jones is capable of being taken advantage of in the halfcourt, he’ll cause his share of problems for opposing ballhandlers in the open floor.

Weaknesses. If defense is the strength, is it too broad to say that offense will be this team’s weakness? Well, it will be. With senior point guard Jio Fontan out for the season with a torn ACL, the Trojans are left with no one who is an obvious choice as a go-to scorer. Jones is lightning quick and a streaky shooter, but no one expects him to carry this offense. Freshman guard Alexis Moore will play alongside Jones, and while he is a natural scorer, he could stand to work on his jumper and his shot selection. And Fuller, although a versatile forward, gets by more on grit and toughness than a refined offensive game. It seems like every offensive possession could be a struggle for the Trojans.

Maurice Jones

Maurice Jones May Be Small In Stature, But He'll Need To Be Big For The Trojans

Nonconference Tests.  USC plays in the Las Vegas Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend for the first big tests of their season, when they face UNLV in the opening round before playing either South Carolina or preseason #1 North Carolina in the second round. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier from there as they travel to Minnesota early in December before hosting New Mexico, Georgia and Kansas at the Galen Center throughout the month.

Toughest Conference Stretch.  It’s a brutal end to the season for USC. They host California and Stanford early in February, then play three straight road games against UCLA (although that “road” game is literally just down the road from USC’s campus) and the Arizona schools, before wrapping up the season with the Washington schools visiting Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Summer Updates: Pac-12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 25th, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our Pac-12 correspondent, Andrew Murawa.

Reader’s Take #1

Summer Storylines

  • The More, The Merrier: The Pac-10 is dead. Long live the Pac-12. The conference welcomes in Colorado and Utah for their first season in the conference, the first expansion in the West Coast’s premier conference since Arizona and Arizona State were added 33 years ago. Along with the new teams comes a new schedule – gone is the full home-and-away round robin. While there won’t be divisions in basketball like there are in football, each team will play an 18-game schedule with home and away games against its traditional rival, with six other rotating home-and-away series and four additional single games against the remaining teams. For instance, Colorado and Utah will only play the Southern California schools and the Washington schools once each, while they will play the remainder of the conference twice. While neither of the new schools are expected to make a big splash immediately in the conference, their arrival, coupled with other changes around the conference, such as the huge new $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox that begins in the fall of 2012, makes it an exciting time to be a Pac-12 fan.
  • Is There A Draft In Here?: Last summer, a big story around the conference was the dearth of Pac-10 players picked in the NBA Draft, as just two players from the conference were selected by NBA teams in 2010. After the 21 players that were picked in the conference between the 2008 and 2009 drafts, that was a precipitous fall. And, back before the season started, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of future high draft picks on the horizon. However, the conference had six players picked in the NBA draft, including three first-rounders and two lottery picks. Derrick Williams, the 2010-11 conference player of the year, led the way, getting snapped up by Minnesota with the #2 overall pick. Unfortunately for teams around the conference, 12 seasons of eligibility were left on the table between those six picks and the two early entries who went undrafted: Stanford’s Jeremy Green and Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto. And as a result, what had looked like a potential big-time bounce-back season for the conference now sees somewhat diminished expectations. Perhaps no team was hit harder by early defections than UCLA, who had Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee leave a total of three years of eligibility behind to go get second-round NBA draft picks (and the absence of guaranteed contracts that goes with them) at a time when the NBA labor situation is highly in doubt, but Washington State’s loss of Casto and lottery pick Klay Thompson also leaves the Cougars’ situation fuzzy at best.
  • Replacing Production: Between the early entries to the NBA Draft and departed seniors, the Pac-12 loses its top seven scorers from last season, and 11 of its top 20. Likewise, ten of the top 20 rebounders are gone. However, as always, a new batch of youngsters is ready to show up on campuses this fall and begin contributing immediately. While the Pac-10 inked only nine of the ESPNU top 100 recruits, seven of those players are exciting young guards, all ranked in the top 60 on that list. Arizona leads the way, signing point guard Josiah Turner (#14 overall, according to ESPNU) and Nick Johnson (#21), to go with a couple solid frontcourt signees (Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson, #60 and #91, respectively). But Washington (Tony Wroten, Jr., #16), Oregon (Jabari Brown, #25), Arizona State (Jahii Carson, #49), UCLA (Norman Powell, #51) and Stanford (Chasson Randle, #59) all have their own big backcourt recruits ready to provide a burst of energy.

Derrick Williams' performances were one of the highlights of the 2010-11 season.

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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Washington (13-5)
  2. Arizona (12-6)
  3. UCLA (11-7)
  4. Washington State (10-8)
  5. Arizona State (10-8)
  6. Cal (9-9)
  7. USC (9-9)
  8. Stanford (6-12)
  9. Oregon State (6-12)
  10. Oregon (4-14)

All-Conference Team

  • G: Isaiah Thomas. Jr, Washington (16.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.2 APG)
  • G: Klay Thompson, Jr, Washington State (19.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG).
  • G: Jeremy Green, Jr, Stanford (16.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG)
  • F: Derrick Williams, Soph, Arizona (15.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG)
  • F: Nikola Vucevic, Jr, USC (10.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG)

6th Man

Ty Abbott, Sr, Arizona State (12.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG)

Impact Newcomer

Josh Smith, Fr, UCLA: Smith is the biggest incoming recruit in the conference, in more ways than one. Ranked the 20th-best recruit in the 2010 class according to ESPNU, Smith also tipped the scales at somewhere over three bills when he stepped onto the UCLA campus this summer. Immediately, head coach Ben Howland put him in a conditioning program and Smith changed his dietary habits as well, putting him on the road towards dropping 40 pounds already. Paired with his soft hands and quick feet, the trimmed-down Smith will play a vital role in the Bruins’ attempts to bounce back from last year’s brutal campaign.

UCLA’s Ben Howland is among several Pac-10 coaches looking to make the conference an NCAA Tournament threat again after a poor showing in 2009-10.

What You Need to Know

  • Pac-10 Blues: Last year, the Pac-10 was saved from the indignity of receiving only one NCAA Tournament berth when Washington won nine of their last 11 games of the regular season, then proceeded to win the Pac-10 Tournament to clinch the automatic berth. Together with regular season champion California, the Huskies represented the Pac-10 well, advancing to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual Final Four team West Virginia, while the Golden Bears fell in the second round to eventual champion Duke. However, the Pac-10’s limited success in the tournament did little to hide the fact that last season was a down year across the conference, and with 11 of last year’s top 20 scorers, and nine of the top 20 rebounders gone, it doesn’t seem that the talent level across the conference is ready to skyrocket.
  • Stability and Youth: But, while there aren’t loads of household names up and down the rosters in the conference, there is some stability, as only Oregon welcomes a new head coach (Dana Altman, formerly of Creighton) and teams across the conference average a total of 3.2 returning starters. And there is plenty of youth, with just 17 seniors on rosters across the conference. Schools will need to see their youngsters step up quickly for the Pac-10 to improve upon last year’s showing. There is a bright side here, though. Even with five members of last year’s all-tournament team (all except the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Isaiah Thomas) and six of the ten All-Pac-10 first team members having graduated, most teams around the conference, with the significant exception of Cal, return the majority of their production – eight of the ten conference schools return more than 50% of their scoring production, and nine of the ten return more than 50% of their rebounding production. If the kids around the conference can put some of that experience they earned last season to use, this could be a much-improved conference, as the veteran coaches around this conference have proven their ability to coach up their players. There are five coaches in the Pac-10 with more than 300 career wins, and that doesn’t even include some of the most respected young coaches in the land like Sean Miller and Lorenzo Romar. While the talent level seems to be down across the conference, expect this lineup of stellar coaches to get the most out of what they do have.
  • Last Roundup: This season marks the end of the Pac-10 conference. Next year the conference will welcome Colorado and Utah, officially becoming the Pac-12. In the process, plenty of tradition will be discarded: no more home-and-home round robin and the resultant crowning of a true regular season champion, the biggest change. There will be years where UCLA doesn’t visit McKale and Oregon won’t visit Hec Ed, for instance. But in the long run, the conference will add a Utah program that has had some significant success over the years (including a run to the national championship game in 1998) and a Colorado program that, well…hey, they made a Final Four in 1955, I’m told. In any event, come 2011-12, basketball season around the conference will have a different feel.

Predicted Champion

Washington (NCAA Seed: #5): The Huskies are pretty much the de facto favorite, given that last year’s regular season champion Cal lost about 85% of its scoring, but Lorenzo Romar’s team, despite having plenty of talent, still has some question marks. Not in question is the team leader, 5’8 junior point guard Isaiah Thomas, a dynamo who is the team’s leading returning scorer and an interesting personality. Paired in the backcourt with 6’0 senior Venoy Overton (8.5 PPG, 3.1 APG. 2.9 RPG), the duo are undersized but form an intimidating pair for opposing ballhandlers, with the quickness and aggressiveness to get up into their opponents, keeping the opposition from getting comfortable in the half-court set and forcing turnovers which the Huskies can use to jump-start their transition game. They can be overpowered by bigger guards in the half-court game, but use their quickness to good advantage defensively. On the offensive end, Thomas plays with a style that belies his stature, getting into the lane and drawing fouls or finishing in often spectacular ways. The Huskies also return sophomore guard Abdul Gaddy (3.9 PPG, 2.3 APG), the second-ranked point guard in the 2009 recruiting class, who struggled finding his rhythm in his rookie campaign. Should he get his swagger back and become a consistent offensive force for Washington, they could have one of the stronger backcourts in the nation, with junior Scott Suggs (4.7 PPG, 1.2 RPG) providing depth and a good long-range threat. However, up front the team still has something to prove, given the graduation of last year’s leading scorer Quincy Pondexter and the retirement from basketball over the summer of forward Tyrese Breshers due to medical issues. Matthew Bryan-Amaning (8.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG) and Justin Holiday (5.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG) figure to start at the forward spots, giving the Huskies an undersized but athletic starting five. Bryan-Amaning will need to prove himself capable of taking over Pondexter’s role, but all signs show that he is ready for that challenge, as he finished his junior season strong and was one of the big reasons for Washington’s improvement down the stretch. Depth up front will come from 6’8 junior scrapper Darnell Gant (2.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG), 7’0 transfer Aziz N’Diaye and 6’6 wing Terrence Ross, one of the conference’s most heralded newcomers, and a guy who could be an offensive weapon immediately for Romar, provided he can earn the minutes. In a conference where the talent level is presently in question, there is little doubt that the Huskies have plenty of talent. But they’d like to come out of the gates more quickly than they did last season and prove that they are ready to win on the road on a consistent basis, something they struggled with in 2009-10, when they lost their first seven games away from the Hec Ed. Odds are, they’ll be improved in that area due to an extra year of experience for their hyper-talented backcourt, but they’ll have a good early season test of that theory when they travel to the Maui Invitational during Thanksgiving week.

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