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: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 16th, 2012

  1. With California’s defeat in the First Four on Wednesday night, Colorado is left alone to carry the flag for the Pac-12 conference in the NCAA Tournament. And they made a fine showing on Thursday night, roaring out to a 20-point second half lead over UNLV before letting off the gas, and allowing the Rebels back into the game. But, the Buffaloes were able to cobble things back together, sparked by a great block from Andre Roberson that turned into a Carlon Brown slam on the other end. At the end of the regular season, the Buffs were in a do-or-die scenario, needing to win the Pac-12 Tournament to advance even this far. But, it is clear now, as they ride a five-game winning streak that “do” was the choice the team made.
  2. In the wake of California’s loss to South Florida, there is a feeling of disappointment around the Golden Bear program. Heading into the final two weeks of the season, they were tied for first in the Pac-12 conference and seemed to be on the road to a special season. Instead, they lost four of their last five, capped by a terrible performance against the Bulls. Now seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp move on, while head coach Mike Montgomery is, apparently, left to rebuild around guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. But with every season the 65-year-old head coach wraps up, there is some question as to whether he’s nearing the end. Thus far, there are  no indications that he’s planning a retirement party in the immediate future, but, especially after October’s bladder cancer scare, there is the chance that at any time, Montgomery could be ready to move on.
  3. One of the defenses of Johnny Dawkins’ poor showing in his time at Stanford is that he inherited a bare cupboard when he took the program over from Trent Johnson. But Jon Wilner sees through that claim and shoots it down, noting that Dawkins’ first roster included two all-conference honorable mention selections from the previous year (Anthony Goods and Mitch Johnson), an all-conference first-team member from two years previous (Lawrence Hill) and junior forward Landry Fields who was about to turn into an NBA-caliber player. Now, of course Dawkins should get some credit for Fields’ development, but the fact is there was enough talent on the Cardinal roster to finish higher than the ninth-place slot they wound up in.
  4. Utah’s offseason is off to a pretty good start, as head coach Larry Krystkowiak got his first oral commitment from a 2013 recruit on Thursday, from 6’3” point guard Julian Jacobs. With freshman Kareem Storey having taken over the lead guard role in the wake of Josh Watkins’ dismissal this year, he may have the edge on Jacobs when the newcomer arrives, but as Krystkowiak learned this season, you can never have too many point guards.
  5. Arizona State is another program that needs and influx of talent. And while they’ve got some Division I recruits (Bo Barnes and Evan Gordon) that will be eligible next year and freshman point guard Jahii Carson finally able to kick start his career in Tempe, head coach Herb Sendek is spending his NCAA Tournament time hitting the road in search of additional help.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.25.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 25th, 2012

  1. The Faisal Aden Explosion (I’m pretty sure that was a British invasion band, right?) still has Washington State fans buzzing several days later. Back before conference play, Jeff Nusser at CougCenter wrote an excellent piece on the harm that Aden’s bombs-away philosophy on offense was doing to the Cougars’ chance. Yesterday we got his reaction to Aden’s weekend outburst, in which he points out that the player we saw this weekend clearly has stolen the identity of the guy we used to know as Faisal Aden. Or, barring that likelihood, he’s at least changed his game drastically. Going back to the Washington game, Aden has earned trips to the free throw line at a far greater rate and he has dialed back his attempts from behind the three-point line drastically. It will be interesting to see if Aden can keep it up this weekend.
  2. A couple weeks after being dismissed from the Arizona State basketball team, Keala King has landed at Long Beach State. According to his Twitter feed, his first day on campus was yesterday, meaning he should be eligible to play at the end of the fall semester next year for the 49ers, near where he grew up in Southern California.  Given LBSU’s track record of playing any and all comers from anywhere around the country, you haven’t seen the last of King.
  3. In the wake of yet another Pac-12 dismissal, freshman Kareem Storey has taken over as the point guard at Utah. When head coach Larry Krystkowiak dismissed senior point Josh Watkins, he was left with little choice but to hand over the keys to the Ute offense to Storey. And while Storey’s numbers have gone up with the increased playing time (he’s averaging 10.7 points and six assists per game in the three games he has started in Watkins’ absence), Krystkowiak still sees plenty of room for improvement. Nevertheless, the fact that Utah is now spending the rest of this year giving Storey more experience and building him up for next year instead of throwing minutes at a problem child who was going to be gone next year anyway, means this program is officially building for the future now.
  4. Another freshman guard is making a big impact at the other new Pac-12 school this year, as tiny Askia Booker has jumped right into his role as Colorado’s sixth man. Head coach Tad Boyle was the only coach at a power conference school to offer Booker a scholarship, and Booker keeps a chip on his shoulder over that perceived slight with a special grudge held for his hometown school and one of this weekend’s opponents, UCLA. Booker participated in open gym sessions at UCLA and made his interest in playing for the Bruins apparent, but despite helping his team to a state title as a junior, Booker couldn’t turn any heads in Westwood, a decision that looks like yet another questionable personnel decision from Ben Howland’s staff.
  5. Washington is sitting as 12-7 on the season and 5-2 in conference play, numbers that are not sitting well with a lot of Husky fans. At Husky Haul, Jeff Taylor says that despite some of the bad breaks that the Washington program has had to deal with this year, the blame for the Huskies’ mediocrity lies squarely on Lorenzo Romar and some of the bad decisions he has made in previous recruiting classes. Taylor kills Romar for Charles Garcia’s inability to get eligible at Washington, for Elston Turner and Clarence Trent transferring, for not pursuing guys like Jamaal Franklin (who wound up at San Diego State) and Joe Eberhard (who went to Sacramento State). Honestly, there’s obviously some blame to be laid at Romar’s feet (he is, after all, the head coach – the buck stops there), but these several points seem to be stretches, especially when the team’s defensive struggles and chemistry problems seem to be much easier targets. But, it is still an interesting read, and the comments afterward go a long way towards capturing the feeling of frustration in the Husky fan base. And all this for a team that is currently only a half game out of first place in the conference!
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2012

  1. We’re through four weeks of conference play in the Pac-12, and the situation atop the heap is now as clear as mud. We have four teams with a couple of losses and another two with three losses. Oregon is one of our leaders at 6-2 after posting a home sweep over the Los Angeles schools, and the Ducks have stolen three road games while winning all but one at home. On Saturday, they bounced back from a sluggish first half to outscore UCLA by 20 points in the second half behind a career-high 26 points from junior E.J. Singler. But it was Garrett Sim and Tony Woods that turned the momentum around for Dana Altman’s squad, as Sim notched a personal 7-0 run on just two possessions (a four-point play mixed in there) early in the second half, while Woods blocked two shots and slammed back an offensive rebound on the way to the Ducks erasing a 13-point halftime lead right out of the locker room. Oregon gets to stay at home next weekend for a matchup with rival Oregon State.
  2. California is the other leader atop the conference, but Golden Bear fans probably have to feel like they missed an opportunity this weekend. After pulling out an impressive road win at Washington on Thursday, they spit the bit Saturday, losing by two at Washington State. For the Cougars, Faisal Aden was incredible this weekend. We and others have been critical of Aden’s offensive efficiency this year, but this weekend was spectacular, hitting 19 of his 29 field goal attempts and 19 of his 20 free throw attempts on his way to a total of 57 points over the course of two games. Not surprisingly, his Cougs won both of those, and their fans are excited. Not only was Aden very efficient, but he seems to have taken on a new personality. Instead of bombing away this weekend, he attacked the hoop, got to the line and limited his three-point attempts (three three-pointers attempted on the weekend – all on Thursday night). If he can keep up his new offensive personality, the Cougars just got a whole lot tougher.
  3. Washington now sits at 5-2 after it bounced back from its loss on Thursday with a 13-point win over Stanford fueled by a 20-3 second half run. The win was Lorenzo Romar’s 300th in his career and 100th conference win at Washington. While the usual suspects led the way for the Huskies (Tony Wroten had 21 and Terrence Ross had 18), Darnell Gant bounced back from a terrible night on Thursday with 17 points and seven rebounds against the Cardinal. And, the newest Husky, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the starting tight end on the Husky football team who joined the basketball team a couple weeks back, earned his first playing time, getting 16 minutes and grabbing seven rebounds.
  4. Colorado swept through the weekend series with the Arizona schools and is tied with Washington at 5-2. The Buffaloes earned a one-point win over the Wildcats despite sophomore forward Andre Roberson pulling a disappearing act (zero points, 0/8 from the field), as senior Carlon Brown sank a three to give Colarado the lead after Arizona had taken their first lead since the 15 minute mark in the second half on a Kevin Parrom jumper. However, the Buffs still had to withstand a last-second three-point attempt by Parrom to hang on for the win. The last possession was a curious one for the Wildcats, as they gained possession of the ball following a missed Brown three-point attempt with 30 seconds left and Arizona down one. Sean Miller didn’t have a timeout to call in order to set up a final play, and the Wildcats were nonchalant on offense, only able to put up one shot after 30 seconds and leaving no time for the team to score on the offensive rebound that Josiah Turner came up with as time expired. In other words, Arizona needs to spend some time on their late-game situations in practice this week.
  5. Lastly, time to go slumming at the bottom of the conference, as any time Utah comes up with a win, it has to deserve a mention. This weekend it was the Utes winning the battle of the undermanned, handing Arizona State a 21-point loss on Saturday. Freshman Kareem Storey, playing his second game as Larry Krystkowiak’s point guard following the dismissal of Josh Watkins, had a very solid game, scoring 12 points, handing out six assists and turning it over just once in 36 minutes, while senior Cedric Martin drilled five threes to lead all scorers with 17 points. Arizona State, playing without injured guard Trent Lockett, couldn’t get anything going offensively, shooting just 42.1 eFG% and just three-of-15 from deep.
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The Latest Pac-12 Personnel Problems: Richard Solomon and Josh Watkins

Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2012

Oh, the headaches of a college basketball coach. Aside from all the things that coaches have to deal with just in terms of practice and games and apart from the inevitable injuries, these guys are also dealing with young men who have often been coddled for much of their adolescence and sometimes experiencing freedoms that they’ve never known before. And, I don’t know about you, but when I was that age, I had some problems with maturity (still do, on my best days at least). Well, immaturity struck again in the Pac-12 today – and twice. First, Utah senior guard Josh Watkins ran afoul of head coach Larry Krystkowiak for the second time this season, and as a result was dismissed from the already moribund Ute basketball team. Later we learned that California sophomore forward Richard Solomon, who had been leading the Golden Bears in rebounding (when not suspended or injured, that is), was ruled academically ineligible and would also miss the rest of the season.

Josh Watkins, Utah

Josh Watkins' College Basketball Career Is Over, After Being Dismissed By Utah Today (photo credit: Rick Egan, AP)

Let’s start with Solomon, who still has a future at Cal, provided he can take care of the academic side of his business between now and next fall.  He had seen his minutes go up and down in part because of getting into head coach Mike Montgomery’s doghouse early in the year before injuring a foot. But when he was on the court, he was far and away the Bears’ best rebounder and interior defender, grabbing 27.3% of all defensive rebound opportunities (a number that would have put him in the top 20 nationally, had he played enough minutes to qualify), 14.3% of all offensive rebound opportunities and blocking shots on over 7% of all of his opponent’s two-point field goals (those last two numbers would have had him in the top 100 nationally). Without him, Monty and the Bears face the prospect of going the rest of the way with Harper Kamp, David Kravish, Robert Thurman and Bak Bak manning the paint. Given that Kamp has a history of injury problem, Kravish is a freshman, Thurman is a junior walk-on and Bak has shown more potential than actual output, the frontline problems of the Bears could be the stone that drags the whole team down.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.07.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2011

  1. Tuesday night saw the Pac-12 conference lose yet another non-conference game, as Marquette knocked off Washington by a bucket in a back-and-forth game that provided a nice nightcap to the Jimmy V Classic in New York. The Huskies had plenty of chances down the stretch to earn a more positive outcome, but three turnovers on their last six possessions, plus a wild Abdul Gaddy attempt on the final play with Lorenzo Romar sitting on his last timeout put the Huskies on their way to their second straight defeat. With Duke on deck on Saturday, Romar’s club has its work cut out for it.
  2. In what is getting to be a tradition here with the P12 M5, we’ve got player suspensions to talk about. Oh boy! First, in an announcement that surprised exactly no one, UCLA suspended Reeves Nelson indefinitely for the second time this season. It was originally reported that Nelson had been dismissed from the team, but head coach Ben Howland corrected that later in the day. Nelson was benched for the second half of Saturday’s loss to Texas for, among other issues, blowing a defensive assignment at the end of the first half that led to a Clint Chapman dunk, then was later seen laughing on the bench as fans in the crowd called out for him. Nevertheless, he remained supportive of his teammates from the bench, leading the cheers down the stretch as the Bruins attempted to mount a comeback. With Howland and Nelson clearly at odds and the end of the semester at hand, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the UCLA program to see if the junior forward becomes the latest Bruin big man to leave the program.
  3. Meanwhile in Tucson, just a day after head coach Sean Miller hinted that point guard Josiah Turner might be on his way back into the starting lineup, the freshman missed practice and was suspended for Arizona‘s game tonight against Florida. Turner had already been benched for a game against Ball State earlier in the season for behavioral issues, and reportedly has been kicked out of practice on one other occasion. Turner had been starting to come around on the court in recent games, and the Florida game would have been an excellent chance for him to announce his arrival to a national television crowd, but despite all his talent, the youngster can’t get out of his own way so far. Jordin Mayes will need to take on a bigger role for the Wildcats in Turner’s absence.
  4. The Daily Wildcat noted that this Arizona/Florida series is the result of a friendship between Miller and Florida head coach Billy Donovan. The two first met when Donovan was a senior at Providence and Miller took a recruiting visit to the school, and has continued throughout the years as the players went on to become two of the best coaches in the land. For now, the series doesn’t extend beyond next year’s game when Florida returns the trip, but here’s hoping these two schools can make this an annual affair. We can never have too many interesting non-conference matchups.
  5. Lastly, in the wake of Monday’s suspension of their leading scorer Josh Watkins, Utah is preparing to take on Cal State Fullerton tonight. While Watkins worked out with assistant coach Andy Hill yesterday, the rest of his team was preparing to move on without him, at least temporarily. Freshman Kareem Storey will take over at the point, and he’ll need to play a big role for the Utes, but more importantly, the team needs to improve their effort, according to head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who noted that the coaching staff has had to “coach effort more than you’d like to.” Junior forward Dijon Farr was less diplomatic, saying that “some people just quit.” With a long slog of likely losses ahead, it would be quite a testament to Krystkowiak if he can get this team back on track, at least in the effort department.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 6th, 2011

  1. With finals taking precedence over basketball at most schools across the country, we hit the doldrums of the college basketball schedule this week. Up next for Pac-12 schools is a big one, though, with Washington set to battle Marquette in Madison Square Garden tonight as the headliner of the Jimmy V Classic. The Huskies had hoped to get senior guard Scott Suggs back from his foot injury in time for this game, but he remains doubtful to play tonight though he could still possibly be back for Duke on Saturday. With the Huskies coming off a late collapse against Nevada on Friday night and Marquette riding high from their win over in-state rival Wisconsin, this game could set up nicely for Lorenzo Romar’s club.
  2. Aside from Washington’s big week, the other huge matchup in the conference this week is Arizona’s trip to Gainesville to face Florida on Wednesday. The Gators have been without forward Erik Murphy for the last three games with a knee injury, but he is expected to return for this game and he’ll present problems for the Arizona bigs, pulling them away from the basket and opening up the lane for the quick Gator guards to penetrate.
  3. Following California’s loss to San Diego State on Sunday, the Golden Bears dropped out of both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, leaving the conference without a single representative in either poll. Stanford, Cal and Arizona earned votes in the ESPN poll, while Oregon State also got a couple of votes in the AP poll. Meanwhile the Pac-12 announced its Player of the Week award on Monday, and Arizona’s Solomon Hill took home the hardware over other nominees like Keala King, Ahmad Starks, Anthony Brown and Charlie Enquist. Really. Did anybody on the planet have that quintet as future Player of the Week nominees even just a month ago?
  4. With UCLA in the midst of some serious struggles, Ben Howland admits he has made some mistakes and will change some things up going forward. To begin with, he now says that, in retrospect, he probably should have left Reeves Nelson at home after the mercurial forward missed the team plane to Maui a couple weeks back. Further, after sticking with his man-to-man defense to this point, Howland interrupted a reporter who was asking a question about how UCLA allowed Texas to shoot 70+% in the second half during the post-game press conference on Saturday, and volunteered the fact that he probably should have recognized earlier that this team needed to play more zone. He added that he’d be spending practice time working on alternatives to the man-to-man defense that currently isn’t working.
  5. Lastly, it seems like it wouldn’t be a Pac-12 Morning Five without some negative personnel situation to talk about. Earlier today Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak announced the indefinite suspension of point guard Jiggy Watkins, and Connor Pelton filled you in on the details of that. Reading the thoughts of some Utah fans indicates that they’ve had enough of Watkins’ antics and are ready to move on. Aside from showing up to school in the fall more than 30 pounds overweight, falling asleep in classes and missing practices, Watkins has been almost the entirety of the Ute offense. Utah averages 60 points a game, and Watkins accounts for 17.7 of those. Meanwhile, Watkins rightfully uses over 39% of Ute possessions (the highest usage rate in the country), takes over 38% of the team’s shots when he is on the court (sixth in the nation) and still manages to hand out assists on more than 52% of all his teammates buckets when he is on the court (good for second in the nation). While Watkins has plenty of holes in his game, the drop from him down to Kareem Storey or Anthony Odunsi will be significant, making a bad Utah team even worse in the short term.
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Josh Watkins Suspended Indefinitely

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 5th, 2011

As if things weren’t already bad enough for Utah, starting point guard and leading scorer Josh Watkins has been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team after arriving late to a team practice this morning. Coach Larry Krystkowiak issued a statement early Monday saying Watkins will not participate in any team activities until he has met certain obligations. Watkins leads the team in scoring with 17.7 PPG, and it is logical to guess that some of the “detrimental conduct” is due to frustrations with his team’s 1-6 record. Even though the suspension could mean that the Utes finish nonconference play with just one win, this is the right move, especially for a new coach. Krystkowiak is sending the right message here, and it will eventually help this team down the stretch.

It's hard to imagine the Utes winning another game with leading scorer Josh Watkins, who has been suspended indefinitely (Credit: Ethan Miller)

 

Life will go on for the Utes, painfully, so expect to see an even bigger role for center Jason Washburn. Washburn is the team’s second leading scorer at 10.7 PPG. Taking on more minutes in the absence of Watkins will be freshmen Anthony Odunsi and Kareem Storey. Odunsi, capable of playing at both the one and two, has averaged 4.4 points in 17.1 MPG. Storey, a pass-first point guard, was originally thought of as a nice change of pace to Watkins’ dribble and shoot mentality. With the suspension, however, Storey will see a major increase in his minutes (currently 19.3 MPG). It will be interesting to see if the Utes can use the suspension as an opportunity to grow their supporting players and help develop them for the future.

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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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