UCLA Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 15th, 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: UCLA.

What Went Right

All things considered, a lot of things went right for the Bruins this year. Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson were cleared of their eligibility concerns early and both played (mostly) a full season. Ben Howland made the decision to play to his team’s strengths and emphasized an up-tempo offense-first style. Larry Drew II made the most of his lone season in Westwood and ended his college career on a very positive note. And freshman Jordan Adams was far far better than anyone outside of his immediate family had a reasonable right to expect. Still, the season ended with Howland getting fired after a Round of 64 loss in the NCAA Tournament, so that tells you that not everything went well.

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (credit: USA Today)

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Had An Eventful Season In Westwood (credit: USA Today)

What Went Wrong

Well, where to begin? Let’s start with the continued trend of halfway-talented players departing from Howland’s program, leaving the team with just eight scholarship players on the roster at the end of the season. Then, for all the good things Muhammad showed in his ability to do offensively, he didn’t show much of a desire to do anything else (32 games, 27 assists, four blocked shots, 8.5% defensive rebounding percentage,  abhorrent body language and sportsmanship). For the rest of the team, things just never congealed on the defensive end, resulting in the third-worst defensive performance out of a UCLA team in Howland’s career in Westwood. Throw in a little bad luck in the form of Adams’ freak foot injury on the final play of a big win in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals and despite high hopes at the start of the year, it turned into a disappointing result.

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Pac-12 M5: 04.01.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 1st, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Dan Wetzel broke the news over the weekend that USC is targeting Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield to be hired at the same position. Enfield, of course, led his Eagles to victories in seven of their final eight games on a magical run to the Sweet Sixteen. While there may be some reservations about hiring a coach whose team was inconsistent for the majority of the season, there is no question that Enfield’s high-octane, “Dunk City” offense could appeal to a Los Angeles crowd. And for a team that has struggled mightily to draw the average fan to the Galen Center, Enfield would be a perfect fit. Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins also remains a candidate for the job.
  2. With some preseason projections hailing UCLA as a top 10 team, it would have been nearly impossible for Shabazz Muhammad and company to live up to the expectations bestowed upon them by its ever-demanding fan-base and local media. And while a 20-point upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament isn’t the way any of the Bruins wanted to go out, it shouldn’t stain the superb freshmen season of Muhammad. The guard/forward led the team with 17.8 PPG, and also sprinkled in 5.3 RPG. Sure, he invited criticism and controversy (whether deserved or not) while not going to celebrate with his teammates after Larry Drew II’s game-winner, or wearing a black Gucci backpack after a road victory in Tucson, but all in all, the season was a personal success for the freshman.
  3. Five star small forward Aaron Gordon will announce his long-awaited college decision on Wednesday night during the McDonald’s All-American Game. Gordon appears to now be considering Pac-12 schools exclusively, with the group being Arizona, Washington, and Oregon. Kentucky was in the mix as well, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. There were whispers of the Bruins making a late push to grab the blue-chip prospect out of San Jose (the connection being new coach Steve Alford having coached UCLA transfer and former New Mexico star Drew Gordon, who happens to be Aaron’s brother), but that too is an extreme long shot.
  4. There are 12 teams still playing college basketball in the 2012-13 season, and none of those happen to play in the Pac-12. That means the worst part of the year, the long and torturous off-season, is upon us. But there are also things to look forward to at Arizona, as Bruce Pascoe points out. From the maturing of last season’s freshmen, to point guard T.J. McConnell taking over the offense and providing a true one for the Wildcat offense, to a long shot waiver request, we’ll certainly have our eyes on the desert in the coming months. 
  5. The coaching carousel continued to spin out west this weekend when Cal State Fullerton hired Dedrique Taylor away from his post as the associate head coach at Arizona State. The Titans opted to go with an interim head coach for the entirety of the 2012-13 season, but needed to change that after Andy Newman posted just a 14-18 record. Taylor will be a good fit at CSUF, being a California native and working previous stints at UC Davis and Loyola Marymount. He was named one of Basketball Scoop’s National Coaches of the Year in 2009.
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Pac-12 M5: 03.22.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on March 22nd, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. With UCLA’s Jordan Adams out for the year, Norman Powell was inserted into the starting lineup and the 6-foot-4-guard will need to step up against Minnesota today. Ever since Powell has come to UCLA, he’s drawn comparisons to notable former guard Russell Westbrook because of his 6-f00t-11-inch wingspan and extreme athleticism. But when Powell was replaced in the starting lineup after some strong early season play from Jordan Adams, he lost confidence and never regained his role in the first five. In his first game back as a starter against Oregon in the Pac-12 semifinals, however, he had 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting and had four rebounds. The sophomore seems more determined than ever after his second go as a starter and if he can match the production of Jordan Adams, the Bruins might just advance to the next round.
  2. Tad Boyle believes all his freshmen at Colorado are ready for their first NCAA Tournament game. Boyle says that they are not really freshmen anymore and that holds most true with starters Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson. Scott has averaged 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this year while Johnson averages 9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Johnson has saved some of his best games for big moments as well. He had 19 points and 22 points in Colorado’s wins over Arizona and Oregon respectively. Illinois will obviously try to stop Colorado’s two best players Spencer Dinwiddie and Andre Roberson today, and that will leave the game up to the two starting freshmen.
  3. Oregon head coach Dana Altman has always been a model of consistency. When Altman was lured from Creighton to Eugene, he didn’t change his hard-working and confident style despite the increased budget and popular Nike brand. In his time at Creighton, Altman brought the Blue Jays to the NCAA Tournament seven times in 16 years and continued to improve his team. And his time at Oregon has been exactly the same. The Ducks were in the CBI in Altman’s first year, the NIT in his second, and made the NCAA Tournament this year and picked up a win over Oklahoma State yesterday. Needless to say, Altman knows what he is doing and continues to do so in a selfless, yet confident way.
  4. UCLA’s Larry Drew II doesn’t look at the championship ring he won at North Carolina as a freshman often. That’s because Drew’s career as a Tar Heel was never too successful. He failed to meet expectations as a sophomore after the national championship and was replaced by freshman Kendall Marshall in his junior year. Then, Drew decided to transfer to UCLA. Although the Bruins’ heralded freshmen have been critical this season, Drew might be the most valuable player for UCLA. After USC beat UCLA by forcing Drew to shoot, he changed his game. Since then, Drew has shot 51 percent from the field and 61 percent from three in 12 games.
  5. Andre Roberson was largely ignored as a recruit when he played high school basketball in Texas. Now as one of the nation’s top rebounders, Roberson heads back to his home state to play in the NCAA Tournament, but the scenario is quite different. No team from the state of Texas made the field of 68 this year while Roberson has led Colorado to its second consecutive tournament appearance making all those teams second guess themselves once again for passing on the local talent.
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Rushed Reactions: Oregon 78, UCLA 69

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2013

rushedreactions

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 Conference. He filed this report after Saturday night’s Pac-12 Tournament championship game between Oregon and UCLA.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Jonathan Loyd, The Oregon Point Guard. After slowly returning from injury, this was supposed to be the week when Dominic Artis returned to form in the Oregon starting lineup. He did return to the starting lineup, but it was Jonathan Loyd who was the man at the point for the Ducks. He was terrific all weekend averaging 24 minutes and 11.3 points per game, but was particularly good in the championship, scoring 19 points and bailing out the Ducks at the end of the shot clock by knocking down jumpers. However, is that the type of offense that head coach Dana Altman really wants? After the game, Altman made it clear that there were times that Loyd took some shots that he wasn’t exactly pleased with. To be honest, often in the second half, the Ducks didn’t run particularly good sets but got bailed out either by Loyd late or by offensive rebounds off misses. Ideally, Loyd would be generating good looks for his teammates more regularly than getting his own shots, but it is awfully hard to argue with the results tonight.
  2. Life Without Jordan Adams. In UCLA’s first game following Jordan Adams’ broken foot, the Bruins clearly struggled offensively, to the tune of 0.96 points per possession — their least effective offensive performance since their Valentine’s Night massacre at the hands of California. Some of the problems can be chalked up to fatigue in the face of playing their third game in as many nights with basically just a six-man rotation, and some of it can be explained away by the idea that this team didn’t have much time to game plan for life without Adams. But, let’s just say that game one in the post-Adams era did not go smoothly. Shabazz Muhammad was limited by a defense free to key on him and Kyle Anderson was unable to step into a secondary scorer’s role, leaving Larry Drew II to pick up the scoring slack, which he accomplished to some extent (14 points on 11 field goal attempts). Norman Powell was a pretty bright spot as well, scoring 10 points on six FGAs in 37 minutes. UCLA will probably be more comfortable in its next game out, but the long-term prognosis for the Oregon offense without Adams is not bright.
UCLA's Jordan Adams Had To Spend The Night As A Spectator

UCLA’s Jordan Adams Had To Spend The Night As A Spectator

  1. Pac-12 NCAA Tournament Viability. The conference is in all likelihood going to wind up with five teams dancing, but it is hard to see one of these teams capable of making a run of any sort. UCLA without Adams doesn’t have the depth or offensive firepower to get to the second weekend; Oregon, though they righted the ship somewhat this weekend, is still not playing as well as they were prior to the Artis injury; California’s hot streak is officially over; and Colorado has never been a completely trustworthy team this season. That leaves Arizona, the most talented Pac-12 team and a team that is certainly capable of stringing together some wins should everything break right, but a team that has underachieved for since conference play began. While anything is possible in a one-game setting, none of these teams will be favored to advance past the first weekend of NCAA play. Read the rest of this entry »
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Thoughts On The Pac-12 Quarterfinals, Afternoon Session

Posted by AMurawa on March 14th, 2013

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 Conference. He filed this report from Thursday afternoon’s Pac-12 Tournament session in Las Vegas.

First and foremost, let’s congratulate the Pac-12 conference on finally having a relevant conference tournament. Even in the glory days of the Pac-12 when NBA lottery picks littered rosters up and down the west coast, the tournament at the Staples Center was never a great event. First, while Los Angeles is a fine city to live in (at least according to this Angeleno), it isn’t a great destination for out-of-towners. It’s spread out and the area right around the Staples Center is not exactly the type of place that is incredibly inviting for vacationers. Then there’s the Staples Center itself – a cavernous arena much better suited to the soulless grind of the NBA than the excitement of March college hoops, made even worse when a mere fraction of the seats were occupied. Then there was a theory – which never meant much in practice – that it was a home court advantage for the Los Angeles schools.

The New Home Of The Pac-12 Tournament Has Been A Rousing Success

The New Home Of The Pac-12 Tournament Has Been A Rousing Success

Well, all of those worries are out the door with the move to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It is certainly a destination spot, it offers plenty of affordable and centrally-located hotel options, the arena itself is big enough to welcome in fans from around the conference yet small enough to be intimate and loud, and this is clearly a neutral environment. I can’t imagine that this tournament is going to be held anywhere other than Las Vegas for a long, long time.

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The RTC Pac-12 All-Conference Teams

Posted by AMurawa on March 11th, 2013

Earlier today we released our picks for the conference awards, handing out, among others, Player of the Year to Allen Crabbe and Freshman of the Year to Jahii Carson. Not surprisingly, those two players lead our picks for the All-Conference team as the only two players to wind up on the first teams of all four of our voters’ ballots. While the Pac-12 goes a little insane this time of year and somehow decides to put together a 10-man All-Conference First Team, we’re going to follow, you know, the rules of basketball and field a five-man team (with a second team for good measure).

First Team All-Conference

  • Jahii Carson, Freshman, Arizona State (17.7 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG) – Our Freshman of the Year, Carson led a resurgence for the Sun Devils, helping his team double its win total from last season and likely earning it a spot in some postseason tournament somewhere. He played 91% of his team’s minutes, and was a catalyst repeatedly for all of his team’s offense.
  • Allen Crabbe, Junior, California (18.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG) – Our Pac-12 Player of the Year, Crabbe paired up with backcourt partner Justin Cobbs to turn around the season for a once-floundering Golden Bears team helping reel off 11 wins in the team’s final 13 games to put them firmly in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, Sophomore, Colorado (15.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 SPG) – A skillful leader for Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes, Dinwiddie earned a spot on the first team on two of our four ballots. Nearly equally adept at scoring from behind the arc or in the lane as he is at creating for teammates or getting to the line, Dinwiddie blossomed in his sophomore campaign.
Spencer Dinwiddie Took Over As The Buffaloes' Leader In His Sophomore Campaign (David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

Spencer Dinwiddie Took Over As The Buffaloes’ Leader In His Sophomore Campaign (David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

  • Shabazz Muhammad, Freshman, UCLA (18.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG) – The most-talked-about freshman in the nation, Muhammad came to Westwood with a reputation as a great scorer and he did not disappoint. The nation’s leading scorer among freshmen, Muhammad’s offensive punch was a key factor in UCLA’s run to the conference title. Muhammad was picked as a first team member by three of our four voters.
  • Dwight Powell, Junior, Stanford (15.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.1 BPG) – A 6’10” jumping jack who averaged less than 20 minutes per game last season, Powell exploded into the upper echelon of Pac-12 players this season, establishing himself as a versatile threat with a promising future on his way to winning RTC’s Most Improved Pac-12 Player award.

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Marching To Vegas: Time to Check the Monitors as the Regular Season Expires

Posted by AMurawa on March 8th, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

We set out on this march to get to Vegas to determine a champion. From our armchairs or the stands, we’ve watched and discussed and texted and blogged and done it all over again trying to determine the ins and outs of what’s proven to be quite the march. And if you’ll recall, it all began with Sabatino Chen’s shot. The one where he was frantically trying to not dribble out the clock of a tie game, the ball with him despite having connected on just a handful of career shots, let alone threes. He heaved the ball, right over Kevin Parrom’s outstretched arm – our eyes collectively following its trajectory, our breaths collectively held. Glass. Nylon. The officials would then see something on their monitor replays that perhaps the rest of us did not.

A Season That Started With This Suspense Has Seen Many Surprising Stories

A Season That Started With This Suspense Has Seen Many Surprising Stories.

Which is not unlike the fact that none of us saw Oregon making a run through Pac-12 play as the wire-to-wire conference leader. Projected to finish seventh, the Ducks have spent all of, what, one day not in first place? They’ve received POY-worthy efforts from Arsalan Kazemi and COY-worthy leadership from Dana Altman. Again, if we’re looking into our own monitors, we probably wouldn’t have seen this or even E.J. Singler hitting a season-long shooting slump or Dominic Artis’ MVP value. We also would have missed Arizona’s late season implosion – perhaps a bit steep of a word – but this is a team that was once 14-0 and ranked third among more than 340 D-I teams. Today they’re not third in their own 12-team conference. Never saw that coming. Or that the Wildcats’ own vaunted class of bigs would average just 6.4 PPG and 4.9 RPG.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. So, yeah, quickly, the top candidates for the head basketball coach at USC: something like Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon, Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins, interim head coach Bob Cantu and, um, former USC head coach Tim Floyd? Wait, run that last one by me again. Floyd is currently the head man at UTEP, a position he’s held for a few years after resigning from the USC gig (something about how he didn’t feel supported by then-USC athletic director Mike Garrett in the wake of allegations that guard O.J. Mayo accepted impermissible benefits from an agent). Floyd has long maintained a complete lack of involvement in the issue and plenty of investigations (both by USC and by the NCAA) have failed to turn up any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. Still, let’s not consider Floyd a leading candidate just yet. The meeting between Floyd and now-athletic director Pat Haden may have just been a way for the new AD to build a bridge over the bad blood in the wake of the parting, and Floyd, for his part, is using the surprising news as a way to get the word out publicly that “hey, I didn’t have anything to do with that.” Still, for a stretch there, Floyd put together four straight winning seasons including three in a row with 20-plus wins and NCAA Tournament invitations, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
  2. Across town, UCLA head coach Ben Howland let it slip, rather innocently and honestly, that Shabazz Muhammad was in all likelihood headed for the NBA Draft. And that’s not the only opinion he has on the state of the NBA, as he mentioned on Monday that he would prefer changes to the NBA’s eligibility rules that would end the one-and-done era. Howland’s plan would be similar to the rules presently used by Major League Baseball, whereby players would have the option to go straight from high school to the pros, but that once they wind up in college, they have to stay for a few years before being eligible again. Howland also knows that there’s not a chance that change gets made, at least anytime soon.
  3. Speaking of the NBA Draft, we posted our opinions here yesterday on the draft prospects of potential early entrants around the Pac-12, including Arizona State freshman guard Jahii Carson (we’re hoping he stays and develops a jumper). But Sun Devil head coach Herb Sendek claims that he hasn’t given the idea much thought, preferring instead to focus on this season. Still, we’re not buying the idea that it hasn’t even crossed his mind. Cal’s head coach, Mike Montgomery, however, was right to the point when asked about Carson’s pro prospects: “Doesn’t shoot it well enough yet.” The key there may be the word “yet.”
  4. If Carson does stick around for another season in the desert, he’ll have a new competitor in the state at point guard, as Arizona will unveil Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell as their new lead guard. The Daily Wildcat sees a parallel between McConnell’s skill set and the skills of UCLA point guard Larry Drew II. Compared to present UA point Mark Lyons, McConnell is more of the traditional pass-first, shoot-second floor general (of course, compared to Lyons, Allen Iverson is more of a traditional point guard). As Wildcat fans begin to grow weary of Lyons’ all-or-nothing style, the future is starting to look real good, even if that envisioned future is based on little more than partial information.
  5. Lastly, as we look ahead to this week’s games, Washington may be out of the race for the conference title but it still has a chance for some input, as the Huskies will host UCLA on Saturday night. Head coach Lorenzo Romar is hoping that his team can finish the regular season in style. They’ve put together a 13-3 record in the final four conference games of the previous four seasons, and are well on their way to a repeat of that mark with two wins last week. But with USC and UCLA both playing well, the Huskies have their work cut out for them this week.
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Celebrating UCLA Senior Larry Drew II

Posted by AMurawa on March 1st, 2013

It was February 4, 2011. The North Carolina Tar Heels were sitting at 16-5 for the year and 6-1 in conference play. They were just days removed from a 32-point win over Boston College during which former starting point guard Larry Drew II handed out nine assists in just 19 minutes of action off the bench. And yet, on that day, Drew announced via a written statement that he would be leaving the North Carolina program and transferring elsewhere to complete his eligibility. The common cry heard around the land was that Drew had quit on his team because he had lost his starting job to freshman Kendall Marshall. Criticisms around the Chapel Hill area were certainly even more pointed, and as the Tar Heels proceeded to win 13 of their next 16 games, eventually losing in the Elite Eight to Kentucky, Drew, a former McDonald’s All-American, was nearly written off as an afterthought in college basketball circles.

Once An Outcast, Larry Drew II Closes Out His College Career As A Leader On An NCAA Tournament Team

Once An Outcast, Larry Drew II Closes Out His College Career As A Leader On An NCAA Tournament Team

Fast forward a year and nine months. UCLA is opening a newly remodeled Pauley Pavilion with one of the nation’s best freshman classes, hoping to rebound from a mediocre season. With head coach Ben Howland’s job in jeopardy in the face of demanding Bruins fans, who is it that he relies on to lead his young club? Yup, Larry Drew II, albeit it an older, wiser and more mature Larry Drew II. North Carolina fans aren’t going to want to hear this, and there are plenty around the country who will still pick apart the holes in the senior’s game, but as UCLA gets ready to celebrate the Senior Night of their for-one-year-only point guard, you better believe the Bruins wouldn’t even have the record they currently have sans Drew’s presence.

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UCLA Gets Production From Reserve Bigs in Absence of Travis Wear

Posted by AMurawa on February 25th, 2013

On Saturday night, news leaked out of Los Angeles that junior forward Travis Wear, UCLA’s most-used and most-capable post player, had injured a foot and would likely miss Sunday’s game with USC. When he walked out onto the court in street clothes and a walking boot just prior to the game, Bruins’ fans worst fears were confirmed, leaving a squad that was already significantly short-handed in the frontcourt having to rely on just two players – Travis’ twin David Wear and little-used freshman center Tony Parker – to man the post against a Trojan team that features two seven-footers earning regular time.

In The Wake Of Travis Wear's Foot Injury, Tony Parker Played A Big Role On Sunday (Mark J. Terrill, AP Photo)

In The Wake Of Travis Wear’s Foot Injury, Tony Parker Played A Big Role On Sunday (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

But the duo of the other Wear and Parker quickly put those concerns to rest with good production right out of the gates. In the first four minutes of play, David Wear scored four points, grabbed three boards and dished out an inside-out assist while playing with great energy on both ends of the floor. When Tony Parker made his debut, he went straight to work as well, scoring four points in his first four minutes as UCLA point guards Larry Drew II and Kyle Anderson repeatedly looked for him on screen-and-roll opportunities. All told, the duo combined for 18 points and 14 rebounds in a combined 50 minutes of action as the Bruins rolled over their cross-town rival. With Travis Wear currently considered day-to-day and with a couple of very big games coming up this week against the Arizona schools, the Bruins may have to face time with Parker and Wear as the sole bigs. But their performances in the game on Sunday had to have given head coach Ben Howland and UCLA fans confidence that their thinner frontcourt could hold up under pressure.

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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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Marching to Vegas: Channeling Bill Walton, While Breaking Down The Halfway Mark

Posted by AMurawa on February 8th, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Halfway. The point in a journey when both the finish and start are equidistant and so there is no use in turning back. Onward we go because it’s a journey and, intrinsic to such, there is discovery. A path to the best version of ourselves so that at the conclusion we are prepared; ready for life beyond exploration. But as I said, we’re not there yet. Not even close. Our March to Vegas is no sinusoidal function. It’s exponential growth – rising, rising, rising – to what should culminate into something jaw-slacking, head scratching, and cold blooded. I know you believe me here because I know you were watching last night. You saw Larry Drew II drop the Dawgs and Roberson shock the Ducks and Cobbs give the Devils all they could handle. Pac-12 fans: Who’s got it better than us?

Bill Walton - So Bad, He's Good?

Bill Walton – So Bad, He’s Good?

Maybe Adam's Been Listening To Too Much Bill Walton; Maybe We All Have (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

Maybe Adam’s Been Listening To Too Much Bill Walton; Maybe We All Have (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

Back to this march, the one dragging us to 3/10 and a conclusion on Vegas seeding. That – as proven by Thursday’s games – will be a treat, a delightful treat, chock full of – are you ready for this word? – madness. Yup, I said it, madness. Get excited. And I’m getting ahead of myself because indeed this is a journey to the end. After all, one week ago Oregon was in the Top-10 and asserting themselves an unstoppable force. Today? Well now they find themselves in a three game rut with a broken point guard whose Duckpact (that’s what I call an impact player on Oregon’s roster) is becoming increasingly ominous. To say that Dana Altman and his team miss Dominic Artis would be to Kate Upton is cute. But things will be ok in Eugene.

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